There's a Fine, Fine Line
Given there are references to iPods, iPhones, modern music and movies, etc. in this, I figure it should be clear that this didn't take place in the nineties or even the early years of the twenty-first century. This chapter contains another, very definitive time marker. Make of it what you will. And yes, I know that every ha'tak interior we've seen is nigh identical but for the sake of this story, I figure that given we see Egyptian, Greco-Roman, Hindi, Celtic, and Asiatic mythology in play… what are the odds that a Goa'uld playing at being a Greek god wants a ship coated in gold and covered in hieroglyphs?
"You know, considering we just saved the damn world, you'd think people would be a lot more grateful. You know, a trip to the White House to get some medals or something. Not 'Wahh, Cordelia, you blew the secrecy of our little project with a bad cover story that wouldn't have held up in the long run anyways'."
From her spot beside Cordelia in the Humvee escorting them back to where the Bennu
was currently parked out in the desert, Qetesh offered a Gallic shrug. "And now you know why I prefer to rule my worlds with an iron fist, darling. There's no politics, no dissent, none of these 'committee meetings' you complain about or 'feasibility studies'. I just decide what I want, tell people to do it, and anyone who doesn't gets executed for disobeying their goddess."
Cordelia pondered that for a moment before discarding it as a viable option. As nice as it sounded, taking over Earth would just get her smited - or was that smitten, or maybe smote? - by the Asgard and the sole planet of Ishtar's that she had access to at the moment had nothing worth ruling over. Maybe that planet full of girl Jaffa? "Yeah. Can't do that here, though, and here is where my one lonely ha'tak is stuck for the time being. So for now at least I have to play nice, including helping Dubya, the Penguin, and their minions figure out how to explain this whole mess."
"A wizard did it?" Cordelia blinked slowly before turning to stare at Qetesh in disbelief, who was blushing - blushing! - and looking down at her hands. "I attempted to entice Colonel O'Neill into joining Faith and I during the evening we spent on-base before flying out here. He managed to distract me quite successfully with the cartoon you call 'The Simpsons
That… sounded like Jack all right. Cordelia scowled. No more letting him near her Jaffa, her off-world allies, or… well, anyone else useful. The last thing she needed was a bunch of beer-swilling hockey nuts who responded to her orders with 'Yeahsureyoubetcha'. "Somehow, I doubt that'll fly with the American public, even if a demon was…" Suddenly, there was a flash of white light and Cordelia found herself falling to the floor in front of a window that overlooked Earth. "…involved." Counting to three, she took a deep breath and pasted on a fake smile before rising to her feet and turning to face her abductor. "Supreme Commander. You should have called first; I would have worn something nicer for our little get together."
Thor simply stared at her for a moment, blinking several times, before ignoring her greeting and pressing on. "I find myself curious, Cordelia Chase, why you were so eager to negotiate for Earth's inclusion in the Protected Planets Treaty if you intended to violate it so casually."
"What do you… oh, you have got to be kidding me. I'm gonna get bitched at over that whole 'no introducing humans to alien shit' thing because I used the Bennu
to destroy a bona fide intergalactic threat?" Cordelia's scowl returned as she stared at the little grey bastard. Some days it just didn't pay to get out of bed. First the president and the joint chiefs, now this. "You know what? Fine. Next time someone wants to blow open an interdimensional portal on Earth and let all kinds of demons out so they can take over the world and then run through the stargate and spread across the entire Milky freaking Way, I'm just going to let them. I'm going to curl up on my divan on Nineveh and have someone feed me grapes and let them."
There was another long pause before Thor continued. "Regardless of the supposedly noble intentions behind your actions, you have still violated the Treaty. Your fate lies not with me, though; I am merely the messenger and mediator of talks. The System Lords will be coming to this world themselves to decide your future. You have three days to prepare your case."
And then Cordelia found herself back in the Humvee beside Qetesh, the vehicle swerving wildly as the flash of light spooked the driver but quickly straightening back out between its escort vehicles. The older host simply raised an eyebrow and Cordelia shook her head. "Well, at least you won't have far to travel." The other eyebrow rose as well and Cordelia elaborated for her. "Broke the Treaty by bringing the Bennu
to Earth. The System Lords are coming to Earth to decide what happens to me."
With Thor's grudging help, the Lao stargate and modified MDM were soon moved to a specially prepared chamber inside the damaged Bennu
, allowing the System Lords to arrive via gate without the gathering needing to take place within Stargate Command again. Quarters were picked out, cleaned, and decorated on the off chance that some or all of the System Lords opted to stay overnight - or her case took that long to decide - and a handful of Tok'ra even came through the stargate to help upgrade the fairly primitive kitchen to have a large number and range of power outlets that fed off the ship's main power grid. From there, Cordelia had brought in a civilian catering company used to doing very high class gigs in Hollywood - after making them sign non-disclosure forms, of course - and had gotten them to submit a list of what equipment they'd need to pull off their magic. It had cost her a trio of the two and a half kilogram gold bars she'd recovered from Ishtar's cave, but it was worth it in her mind; it wasn't like the ship would never need to store and cook food again in the future.
So now here she stood, seventy-one hours and fifty-eight minutes after the Asgard had informed her of the System Lords' impending visit, awaiting the arrival of the twelve people who would decide the future of Earth's status as a protected planet. Qetesh had returned through the gate both to ensure the modified MDM was working properly and for appearance's sake; even if her alliance with Cordelia was well known, there was no need to advertise that her vote in the upcoming proceedings was already decided.
Taking a deep breath, Cordelia exhaled slowly and nodded to Cassie, the redhead pushing a new button they had added to the MDM and connecting it to the stargate to establish it as the planet's primary gate. Within seconds, the inner track began to rotate and lock in a string of coordinates that Cordelia recognized from several jaunts that she herself had made through the gate. Once the connection to Chulak was established, a pair of figures stepped through and Cordelia found herself glad that she had asserted herself and banned SG-1 from the Bennu
for the duration of her trial. "Apophis. Amaunet."
"Cordelia Chase." Apophis gave her a curt nod as he descended the few steps of the stargate's dais, the gate deactivating behind him. "I assume you will call upon the debt which you are owed to ensure your continued presence on this world?"
To be honest, Cordelia had considered that option… but she was innocent, dammit. Well yes, sure, she'd broken the stupid treaty. To save the entire galaxy - Goa'uld included - from an incredible danger. She shouldn't have to use up valuable favors just to convince people of that. "No. I'm going to tell the System Lords the whole story. And if that doesn't convince them that I did the right thing and they should overlook what I did… well, maybe I should be removed from Earth and sent somewhere else."
Apophis pondered that for a moment before nodding again. "Very well." He gestured to his unanticipated companion. "Would there be someone available to escort Amaunet to wherever it is that you acquire your clothing? After taking her new host, she informed me…"
"She can speak for herself, darling." Amaunet's eyes burned yellow as she stared down a sheepish Apophis before turning back to Cordelia. "I doubted your people would allow me to journey here to investigate the clothing and jewelry I saw you and your First Prime wearing, but now that I am here…"
Pondering that, Cordelia debated the pros and cons. It'd earn her even more goodwill with one of the dominant local System Lords - albeit one who already owed her, but you could never be owed too many favors - but she knew the SGC would be unhappy about letting yet another Goa'uld - the consort of their biggest enemy, nonetheless - wander around on Earth. Finally, the perfect solution hit her. "I think Qetesh might be bringing her consort, a Tok'ra whose host is a girl my age from Earth. You, Faith, and Cassie can go out shopping while Apophis, Qetesh, and I are busy with the System Lords."
The pair departed without any further conversation, leaving the ship's gateroom behind for the hallway where Cordelia had stationed the rest of her Jaffa to funnel the System Lords to the chamber where they'd be meeting, the stargate's inner track restarting its movement mere seconds after the pair had left. The address for the incoming wormhole was unfamiliar to either her or Ishtar, but the two Goa'uld who stepped through the gate were recognizable enough. "Kali. Bastet." The pair, one of distinct Hindi descent and the other a tanned woman with dark hair who reminded Cordelia of Sha're, nodded but were otherwise silent as they swept past her and out into the hallway. Cordelia snorted and shook her head. "Friendly." The next connection was from another address that Cordelia recognized and made her doubly glad that SG-1 was nowhere to be found. "Cronus. Aphrodite."
Personally Cordelia couldn't figure out how there were Greek Goa'uld, considering they'd been flushed off the planet before the actual Greeks came to be, but it was a nice change from Egypt-o-rama, so she couldn't complain. Standing at the top of the stargate's dais, Cronus surveyed his surroundings before sneering and stepping down. "It's a pity you chose to ally yourself with Qetesh. Her ships are a tad… tacky… for my tastes."
Cordelia just eyed the System Lord incredulously; even disregarding the fact that he flew around in giant pyramid ships externally identical to this one, he was standing there in front of her in shiny metal armor with fur trim. Tacky? If she went and found a dictionary, his picture would probably be next to the entry for it. Instead, she just smiled diplomatically and did her best to avoid pissing off someone who controlled one-twelfth of her future. "Well, the Bennu
might not be salvageable. I won't betray Qetesh, but you two seem to get along well enough that if you wanted to negotiate a breeding agreement that involved me getting a Cronus-approved ha'tak, I might be interested."
Letting out a snort of amusement, Cronus gestured to his companion. "You are aware that Aphrodite is a true queen and not a waste of space like Apophis's companion, yes?"
"Well duh. Still. You're the one complaining about the décor. Figured it was worth a try." Cronus let out a hearty laugh at that and Cordelia gestured to the doorway, where Harmony was waiting for them. "Speaking of things that are pretty but useless…" Harmony let out a loud huff. "…oh hush, dear, you know I'm only teasing. But anyways, if you'll follow the bouncing blonde, Harm will take you to the meeting chamber. Aphrodite, Amaunet is here and Qetesh will probably bring her consort. My First Prime is taking them out to go shopping among the humans. You can go with them if you want." Cordelia paused and looked the buxom blonde up and down, particularly the nearly transparent pink lingerie that she was wearing. "We might need you to change first, but after that, you'll be free to go with them. Oh, and I need to talk to you later."
Aphrodite eyed her curiously but nodded, following Cronus as he made his way over to Harmony. As they left, Cordelia let out a sigh of relief. Four down, six Goa'uld in her ha'tak, at least eight more to go. The arrivals of Olokun, Yu, and to a lesser extent Ba'al went off without a hitch; Ba'al hadn't been entirely thrilled to see her, but that was more because she was an open ally of Qetesh than any true enmity towards her. As Nirrti arrived, Cordelia extracted a promise for a private meeting when the main event was concluded before sending the woman on her way. Heru'ur wasn't at all thrilled to see her, but then again she had threatened to shoot his mother, so that was probably to be expected. The second to last arrival, though, was a face she had been looking forward to seeing. "Amaterasu! What have you been up to?"
Approaching the brunette, Amaterasu returned the smile Cordelia was giving her. "Nothing as exciting as what you have been accomplishing, it appears. I absorbed Tsukuyomi's territory a few years ago." She studied Cordelia for a long moment before leaning in. "I have heard rumors but my territory is greatly removed from the rest of the System Lords' and clear across the galaxy from this world, so I find it difficult to confirm what I hear… do you prefer Cordelia or Ishtar?"
"Cordelia. Ishtar… if she didn't respond when I poked her, I would honestly think she'd committed suicide or something. She's awful quiet these days." Cordelia waited, but Amaterasu's grin didn't diminish. "Shouldn't you be upset that one of us uppity Tau'ri are enslaving your friend or something?"
Amaterasu just laughed. "Ishtar made a sport of finding the most beautiful but most spirited hosts and trying to break them. When they finally stopped fighting, she would give the body to one of her subordinate Goa'uld and jump to a new host. I always told her that it would be her undoing." As the gate began dialing again, she leaned closer. "Don't think I don't remember who donated most of what you found wherever she first entered your body. We'll discuss repayment later."
The gate engaged for the tenth time and Amaterasu made to leave, only to pause when Cordelia laid a hand on her wrist. When a fierce looking redhead in a black dress emerged, Cordelia met her imperious stare without flinching. "Phantom Queen."
"Usurper Queen." That… wasn't an entirely bad title, Cordelia mused. And it was true. She had usurped Ishtar's place in what the Goa'uld probably perceived to be the 'natural order' of things. "You may count on my vote." Cordelia's eyebrows shot up to her hairline; that was unexpected as all hell. "Even if the others have become soft and complacent, content to ignore their own past, I remember the creatures that stalked the land Ra granted to Danu and her offspring. I was glad to leave them behind and would have been most unhappy to find them arriving in my territory should you have stood by and done nothing. For this at least… I stand with you."
Stunned as she was, Cordelia managed to release Amaterasu's arm and bow to the redhead. "Thank you, Morrigan." Racking her brain, she struggled to find a fancy way of phrasing what she wanted. While normally she cared little for matching the Goa'uld's more formal manner of speaking, there was no reason to antagonize a new - albeit temporary - ally. "Perhaps you could grant me one additional, small boon?" She looked up to find Morrigan staring at her, waiting. "May we speak after my fate has been decided about a matter of great import to us both?"
Morrigan nodded once. "We may. For now, I will join the others and begin assessing where they stand on the matter of your future. Amaterasu. Walk with me." Striding past the younger Asian Goa'uld, she set a fast pace that left a surprised Amaterasu scrambling to keep up as she made her way out of the gateroom.
"Eleven down, one to go." Cassie made her way out from the MDM as the gate began to dial in again, hugging Cordelia from behind. "We're going to be fine, you know. You'll win them over. You always do."
Cordelia sighed, resting her hands atop Cassie's. "I know. I shouldn't have to, though. Saving the galaxy from being overrun with demons shouldn't be the kind of thing that gets you yelled at." As the 'kawoosh' shot forward - and she still couldn’t think of a better nickname to use and force upon Jack - and then settled down into a stable connection, she drew herself up a bit. "I'd say hello, but I saw you two hours ago."
Chuckling, Qetesh quickly descended the stairs and gave Cordelia a hug - one that lacked inappropriate touching, surprisingly enough - before making way for Faith to do the same. "So, are you ready?"
"As much as I'll ever be." Pulling out of Cassie's arms, Cordelia extended one of her own for Qetesh to take as her girlfriend wandered over and disconnected the MDM, taking the gate offline for the time being. "Oh, and Faith, I offered you and Cassie as native guides to take Amaunet and Aphrodite shopping. Amaunet liked my style, so be prepared for Abercrombie and the like."
"…Qetesh, make sure you vote for her to get banished from Earth."