Godless Provenance: Chapter 5
See Chapter 1 for disclaimers and ratings.O o O o O o O
"Daniel!" Sam cried as she and Jack hurried to their friend's side, her pale fingers frantically pushing against the artery in his neck, searching for a pulse. Teal'c made a threatening step forward, a low growl rumbling from deep in his throat, but he halted as the staffs of the guards waiting outside split open with a crackle of energy.
It had happened so fast, and Buffy felt her guilt battle the wave of anger that caused her hands to bunch into fists. Perhaps if she hadn't of looked quite that weak and frightened, perhaps if she hadn't downplayed her strengths that much, then maybe Daniel wouldn't have been prompted to such unbelievably stupid heroics. Then again, maybe that was just another facet of his personality. It's not like she had known the man long enough to predict his every action. She had been working alongside her friends for so many years that there had never been a need to explain The Plan, even when the plan was to fly by the seat of their pants. She never would have had to explain to the others that she was merely playing possum, for they would have recognized it as the farce that it was. They knew her strengths and weaknesses almost as well as she did, for she was the Slayer and they had always known her in this role. She was the protector, not the protectorate, and stupidly she had allowed herself to relax and fall into a role - into a strategy - that was inherently flawed due to the simple fact that these people - these unfortunate strangers - despite her shocking revelations, still didn't know her from the next bubble-headed co-ed. She was an unknown to them, an outsider, while they were the team - they were family - and she had just gotten one of them whammied so hard that she wasn't sure if he'd ever be getting back up again.
Channeling her anger, Buffy allowed her hands to tremble as she lifted them in what she hoped was a sign of obvious surrender. "I'm coming, I'm coming," she assured as one of Daniel's assailants gripped her arms with brutal hands and propelled her towards the two guards that waited in the hallway beyond, while the other aimed a primed zat at the downed archaeologist - as if Daniel could still do harm.
In just a few steps she was out in the shadowed hallway, finally free of their prison, and with a quick, shuttered glance she saw that at the very least Daniel's stupidly heroic efforts weren't going to be in vain. Jack and Sam were of no interest to the guards as they attended to their fallen teammate, but Teal'c's towering menace was so fierce that he drew the attention of the waiting Jaffa, the ends of their staff weapons parted and bristling with some sort of static charge that promised nothing but unbridled pain. Buffy, however, was ignored - which was just the way she liked it.
Four power-stoked Jaffa that were armed to the teeth while she was at about 65 percent.
With a fluid roll of her shoulders, Buffy quickly got to work as she shrugged out of her captor's hold and snapped her fist back into his face, breaking his nose and sending him crashing to the floor. With something far less than lightening-fast speed, she then reversed her momentum and threw her fist forward in a punch that, while not carrying her usual power, still managed to rock the other guard into the newly armed doorway to their cell. The reaction was instantaneous as the Jaffa began to scream, bright, fiery electricity arcing around his smoking frame. The smell of burned flesh reached her long before the still-active doorway dropped the unfortunate guard into an unconscious heap, but Buffy had already shaken off her shock and was moving toward her third opponent - different scenarios running through her head.
She was weakening, and she recognized this fact as she stepped into a solid side-kick that lacked her usual flair and instead channeled a greater force into the Jaffa's stomach - an apparent weak spot, as it knocked him into a heaving bundle in one go. And yet she was still moving too slow. She knew this even as she cursed her lingering weakness and the dead thing that rotted inside her, turning to find the remaining guard only to have the remaining guard's zat fire find her first.
For the next few moments Buffy knew nothing but pain as the remembered electricity coursed down her nerve endings, dropping her to the floor and ripping a hoarse scream from her throat. It was worse than she remembered, and she was on the verge of blacking out as the world was reduced to a tunnel of pain and the roar of the ocean - so loud that everything else became lost under that crushing swell. Instinctively she fought the darkness, for to succumb meant more pain and terror, and inch by inch the darkness receded and the world crept back. It felt like it had taken forever, but as Buffy became aware of the hard floor, now refreshingly cool against her flushed skin, she saw that the Jaffa was only now lowering his zat, and that mere seconds had passed. That moment in which her opponent believed her to be subdued, that moment in which he paused, was his first mistake - and also his last.
On reflex alone she seized the primed zat that lay by her twitching fingers, the one which had been dropped by the Jaffa she had fried against the doorway, and fired it at the remaining guard, shooting the stun gun again, and again, and again - only to freeze in horror as the large man disappeared in a flash of blue light, as though he had never been.
"Oh God," she heard as the gun fell out of her trembling hands, and it took a moment, but in time she realized that the voice had been her own. With that realization, the world once more rushed in. She heard the wet breathing of the Jaffa with the broken nose, and the pained moan of the one she had kicked, but the guard who had been fried by the doorway was silent. He was lying beside her, and with a start she realized that his glassy, unseeing gaze had been staring at her all this time. "Oh God," she repeated, the cardinal slayer sin, that for which she had once condemned Faith, staring her blankly in the face. She had killed them. She had-
"SlayerBuffy, you must open the door!"
Startled, Buffy looked beyond the dead man's gaze to find Teal'c crouched on the floor opposite her, a hair's breath beyond the invisible doorway that had fried Mr. Crispy. "I- what?" she asked slowly, dumbly, as her gaze traveled curiously up the smooth dark planes of his somber face and to the gold tattoo that was stamped on his forehead.
"You must open the door so that we may be of assistance to you," he repeated, his words now coming slow and steady. "You must come here," he urged as he stood gracefully and waved to the right of the door, "and turn the symbol that resembles a coiled serpent."
"Right," Buffy agreed as she forced trembling limbs to hold her. "Gotta open the door," she continued as she crawled in the direction indicated. Slowly, and with anything but grace, she somehow managed to stand long enough to find and twist the snake before sliding down into a miserable ball on the floor.
The gold-plated hall no longer felt refreshing, but unbearably cold against her sweat-soaked skin - burning, achingly cold. It was now so cold that she had a hard time focusing on anything but the cold, until the whine of a discharging zat gun filled her with a wave of something deep and bitter. "No, Teal'c, don't!" she stammered as the Jaffa used her discarded zat to drop the two living guards with a single blast each.
"Don't worry, he's just stunning them," Jack assured as he slowly stepped into the hall, one of Daniel's arms over his shoulder and the archaeologist's head lolling against the older man's side.
Wincing at Daniel's gray pallor, she turned for a moment, watching as Sam collected weapons from the downed guards while Teal'c rolled them into their empty cell, before turning back. "Is he-"
"He's got a hard head. He'll be fine once we get him to Doc Fraiser," Jack interrupted as Teal'c bent low and accepted the colonel's burden as though it was a precious gift. Gently the tall Jaffa adjusted the younger man until he was hoisted over Teal'c's shoulders in a fireman's carry. "You okay?" Jack persisted as she dazedly met his eyes - eyes that were a wondrous shade of brown, and so filled with concern as he held a zat gun out for her to take.
"Yeah, fine," she returned as she shakily accepted the weapon, and then his hand as he pulled her to her feet and proved how much she had been lying. Immediately her knees buckled, and her vision was once more lined with gray as she felt Jack's strong arms arrest her fall and hoist her against his side.
"I'm lucky you're such a lightweight," he grunted as he wrapped her free arm around his shoulder, his long fingers curling her smaller digits into the black material of his shirt while the other arm wrapped tight around her waist. "I don't think my knees could take someone Danny's size," he muttered as Sam stepped before them and pressed another zat into her CO's free hand.
"Sir, we gotta go," she urged as she nodded her head towards where Teal'c was already making his way down the hall.
"Where we going?" Buffy breathed as she struggled to put one foot in front of the other, knowing that despite her efforts Jack still shouldered most of her weight.
"Outta here," Jack returned, his voice curt. "Just as soon as we find out where they hid the stargate - that and our point of origin," he amended, to which Buffy could only quirk a confused brow.O o O o O o O
When they got back to Earth, Jack was going to get on both knees and kiss the concrete floor of the gate room. While his team had only been together for two years now, he knew without a doubt that they were the luckiest kids to walk the planet - or any planet, for that matter. Yes, they had a nasty habit of finding trouble, and poor Danny seemed to get whomped on more than anyone really deserved, but they also managed to find a way to waltz their way out again, and usually not too much the worse for wear. If their current luck continued, it looked as though this adventure would just be another mark on their scorecard.
They had been out of their cell and stealthily moving through Apophis' ship for a good twenty minutes now, and so far the alarm had yet to be raised. The architecture of the snakehead's new ship once more proved to work in their favor as there were plenty of places to hide whenever a troupe of Jaffa came by, their heavy, echoing steps providing plenty of warning. True Daniel had yet to stir, and Buffy was still staggering more than walking, but Teal'c seemed to know where he was going and that was good enough for him. This was the opportunity that they had been waiting for... and this time they had the petite, scantily dressed blonde that was hanging on his arm to thank for it.
As the team ducked behind yet another grouping of pillars to allow a small Jaffa squad to march past - where were they always marching to, anyhow? - he risked a glance to the young woman that leaned beside him. Her features were pale and dark rings lined her eyes, sweat beaded her brow, and her lips were set into a thin line. He could feel the zat-induced tremors from where her fingers were curled into the thin material at his neck, and despite her best efforts, he knew that he was supporting most of her weight - and yet the hand that held the zat was as steady as possible and her eyes focused as the clueless Jaffa passed their hidden alcove. She had taken down three Jaffa in hand to hand combat, had endured a close-range zat blast when she was already weakened, and yet she was still somewhat on her feet with her mind obviously still in the game.
Impressive didn't even begin to cover it. Impossible more closely fit the bill.
Buffy No-Last-Name, citizen of Sunny Hell, California in the good ole United States of America, was a study of contradictions. All of 5'2" with petite features, a girlish smile and haunted eyes, she packed a punch that could down a trained Jaffa and moved with deadly grace - and she had nearly shattered when faced with the death of her enemies. She acted like a trained soldier, a veteran of war, and yet she appeared the rookie when faced with the inevitable conclusion of a fight to the death. Contradictions all around, which led to many, many questions - questions that he intended on getting the answers to just as soon as he was done kissing the concrete of the gate room. Well, and maybe after Doc Fraiser got done sticking them full of holes with her big needles, patching up Danny, again, and pronouncing them fit for debriefing. Hmm... maybe he could squeeze in a shower and some clean clothes, as well.
"This way, ONeill," Teal'c cut in, breaking him from his musings as the tall Jaffa moved confidently down yet another corridor, Carter patiently waiting for him to get a move on so that she could effectively cover their six.
Without a word, Jack tightened his hold around Buffy's slender waist and followed suit, his zat primed and held ready in his free hand.O o O o O o O
The door slid open with a quiet rumble and nimbly the small group slid through, Teal'c sealing the door behind them. The room was large and impressive, the ceiling at least two stories high, with the stargate sitting in a place of honor on a platform three steps up. To the side sat the DHD, quiet and nearly overlooked with the many oversized boxes and crates of the same golden metal sitting to either side. With a mute shake at the overconfidence of all snakeheads, or perhaps Apophis in particular, Jack couldn't help but wonder at why, after the last time, Apophis would once more riddle the gate room with plenty of places to hide.
"This it?" Buffy whispered, her voice both weak and raspy and sounding utterly unimpressed.
"That she is," Jack returned as he looked down upon her tired features. "You don't remember your last trip through?"
"I'm pretty sure I was dead," Buffy admitted before crinkling her nose. "Though I'm still a little hazy on what came between the dying and not dead."
"Oh, that. Yeah, we can explain that when we get home. Well, that and after we get you to sign about a million non-disclosure forms," Jack amended with a small smile. "Most people have to get clearance before
they see the things you have in the last 24 hours - or get shot by them."
"Yeah, my clearance from the last top-secret military project must still be in effect," she returned dryly, and at his questioning glance, she merely waved her zat in a listless flop. "Later. For now I'm more interested in what comes next. I don't know if you noticed, but these clothes are kind of drafty."
With a curt shake of his head at her glib response, Jack added yet another twenty questions to his already long list and turned to where in 2IC was inspecting the DHD. "Carter?"
"Everything looks fine here, sir, but we're still missing a point of origin," she returned with a helpless shrug. "Without that, there's nothing that I can do."
"So you're saying that we should have stopped and asked for directions?" Jack returned, the captain apparently unperturbed by his scowl as she arched a dark blonde eyebrow in a singularly Teal'c imitation.
"ONeill, we are no longer using the hyper-drives," the Jaffa added solemnly as he knelt beside Daniel.
"If we can determine the point of origin for our current position, we will be able to dial out of here," Carter supplied.
"So how do we determine-" Jack broke off as the inner ring of the stargate ground to life.
"Well, that would be one way," he heard the captain mutter as he tightened his hold on Buffy and hustled for the nearest cover he could find.
"There is no way
we're that lucky," he grumbled as he eased the girl to the floor behind a stack of crates. Crouching beside her, his admiration for the small blonde only climbed as she angled her body so that she could cover the spinning gate with her primed zat.
"I'm guessing that since we're hiding we don't want the big stone ring to be doing that," she muttered as the sixth chevron locked into place.
"I wouldn't say that," he returned, checking on his team. Teal'c and Carter were sheltered by a similar pile of crates, this one closer to the DHD, with Daniel most likely sprawled out of sight beside them. Then the seventh symbol locked into place, and as the gate exploded outward in a rush of roaring water, he knew that Carter now had the information that she needed.
"Wow - now that's something you don't see everyday. And coming from me, that's saying quite a lot," Buffy muttered, her eyes locked upon the vertical-standing wormhole.
"Actually, that all depends on what you do for a living," Jack returned as a garishly dressed, snide-looking man stepped through the wormhole, pausing for the briefest of moments before stepping forward. Eyes narrowed, Jack watched as four Jaffa followed in his wake, all wearing the serpent armor of Apophis.
"Lord Haremakhet, our god Apophis waits for you in his chambers," one of the men intoned, his rough voice sounding distant through his closed helmet as he led the goa'uld and the others to the door.
"I know that name," Buffy whispered as the five stepped into the hall, the door sliding closed in their wake.
"What?" Jack asked, distracted as he met Carter's eyes and jerked his head to the DHD.
"That name," Buffy repeated. "Daddy Snakehead mentioned it after they- uh oh," she finished, voicing his thoughts aloud as an alarm sounded throughout the ship.
"Looks like someone finally noticed that we're not where we're supposed to be," Jack sighed, realizing that it really had been too good to be true as he waved his hand at his 2IC. "Carter, dial it up," he ordered as he turned and pulled the small slayer to her feet, once more steadying her against his side. "Someplace friendly," he added, knowing that without their GDOs, home just wasn't an option at the moment. For now they would just have to do a bit of gate-hopping until they were sure they didn't have any tag-alongs, and then it would be off to the Alpha site.
"Yes sir!" Carter returned, shouting to be heard over the blaring siren as she punched in the seven coordinates and then pushed the transmit on the DHD, bringing the gate to life once again - which was, of course, when all hell broke loose.
He was already half way to the open wormhole when the door opened behind them, a tide of Jaffa nearly stepping on their heels. All it took was one staff blast to his side and he and Buffy were both on the ground, the smell of burnt flesh filling his nostrils before the searing agony took his very breath away.
It sounded as though the panicked voices of his team were coming to him from miles away, their words so very distant and echo-y from beneath the roar that surrounded him. Dimly he heard Buffy's vehement curses as she fired her zat from the floor beside him, but when an enemy zat blast clipped her shoulder, her tortured scream was enough to finally make the roar subside. Numbly he looked from Buffy's small, jittering limbs to were his team continued to lay down desperate cover fire from their scant cover near the open wormhole.
"Go," he whispered, seeing the brave futility of their actions in the moment it took for him to recognize the hopelessness of his situation and that of the girl that was battling to stay conscious beside him. They were too far from the gate, and he didn't have to look at his smoking side to know that they would never make it. But Carter and Teal'c were only steps away from freedom, with poor, unconscious Danny sprawled between them. There was only one way for this to go, and it was only his team's stubbornness that refused to allow them to acknowledge it. "Go, damnit!" he roared, his pain fueling his words as he caught and held the bleak, large blue eyes of one Samantha Carter. "That's an order, Captain," he rasped, knowing that while she couldn't possibly hear his voice over the sound of the weapons' discharge, she would understand nonetheless.
With a sharp nod, Carter turned to Teal'c, and while their exchange was lost to him, he felt his relief buoy his aching body as the large man cradled Daniel in his arms and made for the gate while she provided cover fire. Once they were safely through, she met his eyes again only briefly, her gaze promising their swift return - a promise that they both knew that she wouldn't be able to keep - before she, too, made for the gate, the wormhole disengaging only seconds after she had disappeared.
And just like that, it was over.
Serpent guards surged forward and kicked away their weapons, leaving both he and Buffy pained and defenseless, lying on the hard floor. She had won her battle with consciousness somehow, someway, but as Apophis stormed into the room, Klorel following in his father's footsteps, Jack was quite sure that the young woman would come to regret not allowing the darkness to claim her. At the snakehead's bidding, Jack felt strong hands dig into his arms and force him to his knees, charred flesh stretching, and then tearing open the cauterized wound. Distantly he knew that the pain took his breath away as the copper scent of his blood mingled with the nauseating stench of the staff burn, but his concentration was fractured and the world murky.
He was going into shock, and not even Apophis' furious tirade, or the gold-encrusted hand device was enough to pull him through. Instead, his thoughts only became more distant and fractured as the hand device activated, the searing heat blistering the skin on his forehead and destroying his mind.
So this is what death feels like, he mused, his last coherent thought before the darkness claimed him.O o O o O o O
Buffy didn't know it, but Jack had been right. Already weakened by the goa'uld symbiote, she had then pushed her body well beyond its limitations, so that even kneeling was a chore that could only be accomplished thanks to the two Jaffa that held her swaying body upright. But she was conscious, and she was coherent in a world filled with sound and motion. The others were gone - escaped - but she and Jack were well and truly screwed. Apophis had paced, he had ranted and raved, and then he had taken his anger out on the colonel that was already so deep in shock that he didn't even seem aware of what was happening.
And then he was dead.
For a moment, Buffy could only stare at the older man's crumpled form. Jack's eyes were open, but his gaze was unseeing in a way that reminded her too much of her mother that day that she had found her on the couch, only a few months past. Jack was dead, and that meant that Buffy was well and truly alone. And it was Apophis' fault.
From somewhere deep inside, Buffy found the strength to lunge free of her captors' hold as she surged forward and punched the smug grin off of Apophis' face. It was a stupid move that wasn't intended on gaining anything but the satisfaction that came when she saw the snakehead wipe a trickle of blood from his lips - a trickle of blood that he repaid her in kind as he backhanded her with the strength of a vampire.
"Take her to Haremakhet - and deal with this," he hissed as he waved his hand negligently at Jack's body, like the ending of the colonel's life wasn't anything more than an inconvenience.
"Yes, my Lord," one of the Jaffa quickly replied, his head bowed low in his subservience. "It shall be done," he intoned - but at that moment, Buffy found that she no longer had the strength to care.