Godless Provenance: Chapter 3
See Chapter 1 for disclaimers and ratings.O o O o O o O
Sighing listlessly, Jack twisted the rim of his cap between his clenched hands. Hours had passed and still they'd had no word of Carter, or even any mindless torture to pass the time. Patience had never been a virtue that he had before attributed to the snakes, but now he was forced to wonder if he had misjudged the slimy bastards all along. Unless this was a new method of torture that Apophis had devised for his victims. Why maim and kill when he could instead force them to sit and wait and wonder what was being done to their fourth member?
"ONeill, someone approaches."
"About damn time," Jack grumbled as he pulled on his rumpled hat and backed further into the cell. Shifting slightly, he leaned back casually against the far wall, automatically adopting an unconcerned air as Daniel twittered nervously beside him. Teal'c, as always, stood as an unmovable rock on his other side.
It had taken at least the first hour for Jack to admit that an ambush was out of the question. The cell was long and narrow, about ten foot by fifteen - no bigger than his living room - and absolutely barren of anything even resembling a bench to sit or lay on, with the shielded opening allowing a clear view into the hall beyond, and an even better view into their little prison. There was simply no place to hide, which meant that surprising their guards was an impossibility. Then again, when had things ever been that easy for his team?
Straightening imperceptibly, Jack watched as two large serpent guards came into view, a small, limp form hanging between them. A small someone that was unmistakably not their missing Captain, her size and the long shroud of blond hair being a dead giveaway. Brow arching in confusion, he glanced quickly at his team as the guards stopped outside their cell, triggered the barrier controls, and then threw the body in before turning and disappearing back the way they had come, and all without a word being spoken. "Well... that was unexpected," Jack stated dryly as Daniel hurried forward and gently eased the small form onto her back, revealing the delicate features of a pretty young woman.
"She's breathing," Daniel murmured as he brushed a few golden strands of hair from her tanned face.
"Okay..." Jack acknowledged as the younger man cradled the girl's head in his lap. The stranger seemed more woman than girl, despite her petite size, as the angles of her face were more severe and lacked the chubbiness of youth. She wore a halter of wispy material that bared more skin than it covered, as did the long skirt that pooled beneath her, and both revealed muscles that were firm and toned - an athletic build. Yet most strange of all were the heavy gold chains that encircled her long neck and around her slender wrists and ankles, all of which spoke of the lavish wealth most commonly associated with the Goa'uld, and not the human slaves that lived in close proximity to the slimy snakes. "So who is she and why did they put her with us?" he continued as Teal'c tipped his head to one side.
"How should I know?" came the archeologist's muttered retort.
Frowning, Jack turned swiftly from the stranger and crossed the distance to the invisible barrier to their prison in a few long strides, careful not to touch the energy shield. "Hey, I think you guys made a mistake!" he called out as he craned his neck to try and peer down the deserted hallway. "Our blonde is much... bigger than this one. Taller," he amended as he turned and looked back to where Daniel was trying to arrange the girl's garments to cover as much as possible "And she's wearing more clothes," he added, his eyes falling upon one bared thigh.
"Jack," Daniel sighed as he hurriedly drew a length of cloth over the eyeful of toned leg.
"Daniel," Jack returned with his usual patience.
"Jack, do you really think that's going to help?"
"Do you really think it'll hurt?" Jack returned as the young woman groaned softly, interrupting their banter as her dark lashes fluttered against the high curve of her cheek.
"Or perhaps we should instead ask her who she is and what she has done to merit her incarceration," Teal'c advised with a small arch of one dark brow that implied much more than his solemn expression.
Rocking back on his heels, Jack beamed at the large Jaffa. "I knew there was a reason we kept you around," he stated, ignoring Daniel's annoyed glare as he turned back to the young woman, his expression sobering as a pair of large, hazel eyes blinked confusedly at him.
"Hi there," Daniel greeted, drawing the girl's attention away from Jack and to the fact that her head was lying in some stranger's lap. Almost immediately the confusion cleared and was replaced by a surge of something that was both fearful and predatory as she rolled to the side and scooted awkwardly away until her back slammed against the lurid gold wall. Reaching back, she used the wall to support her as she awkwardly climbed to her feet. Her features flashed with barely controlled pain and she swayed drunkenly and then began to teeter sideways.
Reacting instinctively, Jack stepped forward to steady her before she toppled, but Teal'c was quicker, and as the larger man reached out a steadying hand the girl quickly backpedaled, her eyes growing even wider. "No!" she shouted, her voice firm as she shoved Teal'c back, the momentum throwing her off balance and finally sending her to her knees.
"Whoa! Easy, easy!" Daniel implored as he started forward, but Jack recognized the caged look in her eyes and easily pulled his teammate back. "We're not going to hurt you," Daniel explained as he tried to shake off Jack's restraining grip.
"No," the girl argued as she sagged weakly against the wall, one trembling hand lifting to point to where Teal'c stood cautiously against the back of their prison. "Demon," she stated, her eyes turning expectantly towards them as she struggled to catch her breath.
Sighing in relief, Daniel threw a knowing glance to his friends. "She must recognize the symbol of Apophis," he hurriedly explained as the girl shook her head in frustration.
"No, demon," she insisted as she lowered her finger until this time she was pointing unwaveringly at the Jaffa's hidden pouch and to where Junior resided.
Frowning, Jack waved for Teal'c to remain back as he waited for Daniel to do his thing. If she really understood what Teal'c was carrying, then her fear was understandable - however the look in her eyes wasn't just about fear, and strangely he found himself wishing for his gun. Her eyes were much older than they should have been, and while there was fear there, he also recognized pain, grief, and something predatory that caused the fine hairs on the back of his neck to prickle in warning.
"No, Teal'c is a friend," Daniel asserted as he flashed her his usual disarming smile - the one that caused many a native to swoon or reach for their pitchfork, depending on which way their luck was running that week. "I'm Daniel, and that's Jack," the archaeologist continued with a small wave in his direction.
For a moment, it looked as though the girl wasn't going to answer as she wrapped a small arm around her waist, her chest heaving with each pained breath. Her body was coiled, her muscles quivering as though she was prepared to defend any attack made against her, but by her ashen complexion and the sweat that beaded her brow, Jack knew that she was a hair's breath from falling over yet again. "Buffy," she finally stated, the word sounding strange and foreign as he turned expectantly to his resident genius in all things strange and foreign.
"I'm unfamiliar with the word," Daniel admitted with a small shrug, as though sensing Jack's expectant stare. "It could be Gaelic in origin, but-" he began, his usual tirade interrupted by the girl's amused snort.
"I believe that to be her name, DanielJackson," Teal'c stated calmly, causing the girl's eyes to dart quickly in his direction before lingering uneasily on his hidden pouch.
"Oh," Daniel muttered, obviously flustered. "Of course, Buffy," he repeated as he tried another of his winning smiles on the girl - one that was obviously having little to no effect as the girl merely sagged back against the wall, her eyes blinking wearily before focusing once more on Teal'c.
"Daniel," Jack prodded, his frown deepening as the archaeologist visibly floundered before seizing onto the familiar threads of his welcome speech.
"Right," he murmured, straightening imperceptibly as he turned his attention back to the young woman. "Well, Buffy, we are of the Tau'ri," he started again, relying on the goa'uld translation. "We are peaceful explorers who came through the chapp'ai and.... well, we were, uh, captured by Apophis," he finished weakly, wincing as Jack glared in his direction. Just because they were captured by Apophis didn't mean that Daniel had to broadcast it to the world. It just made them sound so... incompetent.
"Yeah, met him," Buffy agreed with a tired nod, distracting Jack from his silent tirade as she looked at them with renewed interest. "Didn't like him much," she added with a small frown. "He wanted to be my father-in-law, but I wasn't very receptive to the idea."
"Wait," Jack interrupted, his frown deepening as something about the girl's speech threw him off. He took a step closer, stopping only when he noted how she tensed at his approach, her eyes sliding warily from him to where Teal'c stood quietly against the far wall. "You're telling me that Apophis wanted you to - what? Marry Klorel?" he asked as his thoughts slid to Skaara. Apparently both father and son had survived the destruction of their ships the year before - and even though Klorel was an enemy, his host, Skaara, was anything but.
"More like become his snake-bride," Buffy muttered, a haunted look flitting across her features before she hugged her arm tighter around her small waist, her expression turning stony. "One minute I'm home, then I'm dead, and now I'm here - which manages to top even my scale of weird."
"And where is your home?" Teal'c enquired, his simple question once more causing the girl to draw further against the wall, her eyes narrowed suspiciously upon him.
"A little place we like to call the Hellmouth," she returned, her eyes searching his before reluctantly turning away. "But the real question is, where does Glory fit into all of this? Are we in her hell dimension - and is Apophis one of the hell gods that kicked her out of this dimension? Why does it look like we're in space?" she demanded as she glared back and forth between him and Daniel.
"Wha- dimensions?" Daniel stammered, confusion clouding his features as he turned to Jack for help.
Lifting his hand to stop the barrage of questions, Jack played the girl's words back in his head as he looked at her in growing suspicion. There was something off about all of this - he just couldn't put his finger on what it was. "The reason why it looks like we're in space is because we are
in space," he replied, taking control of the situation as he pushed his hands deeper into the pockets of his BDUs. "We're on a spaceship that belongs to Apophis, I have no idea what kind of glory you're looking for, and as far as I know, there's only one dimension, and we're sitting in it."
Shaking her head in confusion, Buffy looked from Daniel to Jack and back again. "I don't understand," she admitted with a small frown. "Giles said that the ritual was going to break down the doorways between all dimensions. Once the blood started, the doorways would open and it would only close again when the blood stopped flowing."
"I think you're talking about the chapp'ai," Daniel stated, his voice uncertain as he looked questioningly to Teal'c, as though the Jaffa could confirm."And though your culture may believe that a blood sacrifice is necessary to open the... uh, doorway, I can assure you that blood isn't needed to make it work. It's what we call a stargate, and it's actually a device that enables a wormhole between different points all over the galaxy. Each stargate is capable of forming a connection with another, and a person or object can then travel instantly between the two points."
"But Glory was a hell god," Buffy argued, her eyes beginning to look lost, as though Daniel was single-handedly responsible for destroying the world she had always believed in - which was entirely possible, Jack realized with a small, sympathetic sigh.
"No, more likely this Glory was a Goa'uld - same as Apophis and Klorel," Daniel instructed, his words soft. "The Goa'uld are a parasitic race that need a human host to survive. They are self-proclaimed gods that use humans as slaves, and the Jaffa as their soldiers. Teal'c is a Jaffa," he added, nodding towards their friend. At Buffy's curious look, he quickly explained. "The Jaffa carry a goa'uld symbiote until it reaches maturity. Teal'c used to be the First Prime of Apophis, but he turned his back on the Goa'uld and has been helping us fight against them ever since."
"So you're a good guy now," Buffy surmised as Teal'c slowly inclined his head. "And you're not a demon, but an alien, and the evil vibes I'm picking up are actually because of the evil alien snake that you're carrying."
"Wait, are you saying you can sense-" Daniel began, only to have his question interrupted as Buffy lifted a single finger in the universal sign of silence.
"Hold on - I'm absorbing," she stated, her features drawn and pensive before, with a falsely bright smile that did little to erase the pained lines the creased her forehead, she once more lifted her eyes. "Okay, all absorbed," she concluded. "So all this time the bad stuff hasn't been coming from different hell dimensions, but from different worlds, and I haven't been kicking demon butt, but alien butt... and how cool is that?" she demanded, her smile growing more assured, though Jack noticed that it never once reached her eyes. "I'm an Alien Slayer - I slay the nasty aliens that go bump in the night."
"You do battle on your world?" Teal'c asked from his position against the far wall, and this time Jack didn't have to look to know that the Jaffa's brow was going to be as arched as high as it could go - not that he could fault his friend for his skepticism. Buffy looked to be all of 5'2" and maybe 105 pounds when soaking wet. Not to mention that at the moment, it didn't look as if she'd be able to stand let alone hold her own against any of the warriors they had faced in the past two years of gate travel.
"Oh, I'm a lot stronger than I look," Buffy returned with a wry smile that held none of her previous suspicion or wariness for his team member. "I'm the Slayer - the Chosen One."
"The Chosen One?" Jack returned with a healthy dose of his own skepticism.
"It could be that her culture is a female-dominant society," Daniel ventured with a helpful shrug. "One in that the women-" he continued, only to be interrupted by another snort.
"While we've certainly had our moments, I think you're missing the point to the whole Chosen One
- as in me, myself, and I alone," Buffy explained with a small shrug - but this time Jack wasn't laughing as the familiar, slaughtered saying had him looking at her in confusion. "I take it that you aren't a part of the Initiative then... or rather, what's left of it?" she asked as she looked at them before shrugging slowly, her slow movements doing little to hide the tremors that shook her smaller frame. "Well, the short version is that we don't have a bunch of super girls," she continued. "Just one girl who's 'lucky' enough to be chosen by the Powers That Be and given the power to keep the bad stuff at bay. When one girl dies, another is called - or so goes the speech."
"I am unfamiliar with this speech," Teal'c returned with his usual equanimity while he and Daniel merely stared at the girl in disbelief.
"Not many people are," Buffy responded glibly, a wince pulling at her features. "It's supposed to be all hush-hush, and while I'm usually secret identity girl, I figure that since I'm already known to some of you, what will a few more hurt? And besides, I'm not really seeing the point of secrecy anymore," she admitted as she cast a pointed glance around their small prison, a glance that seemed responsible for causing her to deflate before their very eyes. With a move that made her seem so much younger than her years, Buffy drew her knees up to her chest and cradled her head in her arms. "I just want to go home," she admitted, her voice flat.
Frown deepening, Jack shared a questioning glance with Daniel before he shrugged out of his jacket and draped it over the girl's shoulders. She was an enigma - every answer she gave just seemed to cause more questions - and her mannerisms and speech nagged at something that he couldn't quite put his finger on. All the same, there was no denying that there was something wrong with her. She was sick. Very, very sick, and her eyes spoke of a pain that he had seen in the mirror too many times himself. And then there was also the matter of their missing Captain to worry about.
Sighing, Jack watched as Daniel settled unobtrusively by the young woman while Teal'c returned to his stationary position before the cell's shielded doorway. For the moment it looked as though there was nothing more to do but wait - and if there was one thing that Colonel Jack O'Neill hated, it was waiting.O o O o O o O
It was the distant echo of metal-shod feet that first alerted them that company was coming. Thanks to slayer-enhanced hearing, Buffy heard them coming long before Jack or Daniel, but Teal'c warned them before she had a chance to even open her mouth. Immediately her cellmates were a whirl of movement to her pain-addled mind as Daniel scrambled to his feet and hurried to the back of the cell where Teal'c took up an unobtrusive stance that somewhat shielded the archaeologist from view - though Buffy doubted that Daniel was even aware of the gesture. If anything, the younger man seemed more worried about everyone else as he looked at her and Jack impatiently, which was when she first noticed the hand that the older man had extended towards her.
They were trying to shield the weak, Buffy realized with a flash irritation as she understood that for the first time in a long time, she was being lumped into that category. Scowling at the helping hand, Buffy chose to ignore the colonel - for all of the two seconds it took her to swallow her pride and admit that this time they were right. The snake that had wormed inside her neck and invaded her mind, albeit briefly, was dead and rotting wherever it lay coiled within her - but that didn't mean that she was as good as new. The battle for dominance had weakened her, and added to that there was something else that wasn't allowing her to bounce back with her usual gusto. She felt weak, shaky, and cold, inside and out, and if she was honest with herself, she realized that she was in no condition for a fight.
With a resigned sigh, Buffy allowed Jack to pull her to her unsteady feet, her other hand clenching his borrowed jacket around her small frame. Immediately she felt a wave of crippling nausea that caused her to sag weakly against the colonel's side, her equilibrium completely blown by the thing that was busy decaying inside her own body.
"Coming," Jack returned as he wrapped his arms around her waist, supporting her against his side and hurriedly maneuvering them towards the back of their cell. Yet they had only gone a few steps when Buffy heard the footsteps slow behind them.
"Colonel O'Neill, get away from her!"
Groaning aloud as Jack swung them both towards the door to their cell, Buffy covered her mouth and resisted the urge to vomit on the man's scuffed black boots.
"Sam!" Daniel cried out, relief coloring his words, and with what felt like a tremendous effort, Buffy turned her eyes to the opening of their cell and the familiar blonde woman that was standing between her Jaffa guards. For a moment the slayer couldn't place how she knew the woman, her mind muddled with exhaustion and pain, but then everything cleared as she remembered the only person who had bothered to help her in her desperate bid for freedom against their captors.
"Carter, you okay?" Jack asked as the Jaffa triggered the shield controls and shoved the tall woman into their narrow cell.
"I'm fine," she assured as Daniel hurried to her side, as though to see for himself the truth of her words. "But, sir, you need to get away from her," she repeated as she glared at Buffy. "She's a goa'uld."
For a moment Buffy found herself absolutely flummoxed by the woman's declaration. Her? One of those snake things? The idea was at once both so repulsive and ridiculous that she was stunned into silence just long enough for Jack to drop his supportive hand and backpedal towards his friends. Yet without his help, Buffy found herself doing a slow wobble that quickly degenerated into a drunken careening towards the nearest wall. Grunting as her bared shoulder collided with the rough moldings on the lurid gold wall, Buffy spun about and glared obstinately at the reunited team even as she slid into a pitiful lump on the floor.
"Carter?" Jack demanded, pronouncing the woman's surname as a question that caused the older woman to straighten with a familiar military poise that reminded Buffy painfully of Riley.
"Apophis and Amonet gathered a group of women from which Klorel selected a new host for the symbiote of his betrothed," the woman explained, her glance darting sympathetically towards Daniel at some reference that had the archaeologist looking both hopeful and devastated at the same time. "She was selected," Carter continued as she gestured to where Buffy watched in disbelief. "The host was brought down by two zat blasts before being taken for implantation, and that was approximately four hours ago."
"But if this is Klorel's mate, what is she doing with us?" Daniel asked, his arms wrapped tightly around his waist in a manner that was so similar to Dawn when she had been younger, and their parents were fighting - a move that begged comfort and yearned for protection from being hurt any further. The unexpected movement from a man at least ten years older than herself had Buffy already forgiving them for looking at her like she was a particularly nasty looking demon, even as the reminder of her sister brought a whole new wave of loss. "And why bother pretending to be human when they blew her cover the moment they put Sam back with us?" the younger man continued logically as Buffy slowly pushed herself into a more dignified heap, the back of her head resting wearily against the cold wall.
"Maybe because I wasn't pretending
to be human, I'm not anyone's
mate, and I am definitely not
a goa'uld," Buffy responded as she drew Jack's jacket tighter around her with shaking hands. She felt miserable, like the thing that was dying inside of her was poisoning her. She had once had the misfortune of suffering from a nasty case of food poisoning from some undercooked chicken strips, and there was no doubt in her mind that this was ten times worse.
"Captain?" Jack prodded, his sharp brown eyes never moving from Buffy's defeated slump.
"Sir, I can sense the goa'uld-"
"Yeah, well I can tell that you're not of the norm, either," Buffy interrupted with a tired sigh, "but you don't see me jumping up and down and pointing fingers." Not that she was in any shape to be jumping anywhere, she admitted to herself as the woman flinched from the rebuke. "Look, I understand why you guys are freaking out, but you try having some snake curl up and die inside your head and see how you feel," she grumbled as she pulled the jacket even closer around her trembling body, all the while pretending that she didn't see the way the team looked at one another, silently holding an entire conversation, before Sam hesitantly moved forward to kneel beside her.
"The symbiote is-"
"Dead as a doornail," Buffy confirmed as Sam laid a gentle hand on her sweaty forehead, her blue eyes meeting her own. At first Buffy could find only suspicion in the other woman's clear gaze, but as the tremors shook her body, she could see it melt to be replaced by something that was both haunted and filled with saddened understanding.
"Sir, I think she's telling the truth," the older woman admitted, her features grave and her eyes never leaving Buffy's own. "She seems to be experiencing similar symptoms to when Jolinar was killed - only more extreme. I imagine that your symbiote didn't give up their life willingly," she ventured as Buffy gave her a small grin.
"Not so much," she agreed. And just like that, it was as though the suspicion had never been raised as Jack resumed his pacing, Teal'c stood solemnly to one side, and as Daniel settled comfortably beside her, his back against the same hideous wall and his warmth leeching into her from where he was pressed up against her miserable, huddled form.
"This is completely fascinating," he declared as Sam flashed her a sympathetic smile, as though commiserating with her weariness in the face of his unending enthusiasm. "In the time since the people of your world were taken from Earth, something must have changed to make your physiology incompatible to the goa'uld. If we could just figure out-"
With a snort of disbelief, Sam eased herself onto the floor across from Buffy. "Daniel, she's not from another planet," she stated before casting Buffy a quick, questioning glance. "You're not, are you? Because your speech, your clothing, and even your accent are too reminiscent of Earth. California, if I'm not mistaken."
"Southern California," Buffy agreed as Jack drew dangerously still and as Daniel gaped at her in disbelief. "Why? You guys actually thought I was an alien?" she asked, her nose scrunched as she turned from stony-faced colonel to flustered archaeologist and non-plussed Jaffa. "I mean, you guys are obviously military, and while apparently not Initiative, I figured that the good professor had filled everyone in on the big Slayer secret. Besides, I thought you were just joking earlier with the whole 'my society' bit. You know, kind of like my generation..." she trailed off, her babbling faltering as she took in Jack's rigid form. "Okay, what's the big deal?"