Godless Provenance: Chapter 9
See Chapter 1 for disclaimers and ratings.O o O o O o O
There really is a lot to be said for death - at least the kind that ends with the dimming lights of a sarcophagus that has just finished its appointed duty of making a guy less dead. Pain, malnourishment, exhaustion - even aching joints are at least given a temporary reprieve from that seeming one-way trip through Death's door. If Jack was more whimsical, he might have even wondered at the Reaper's frustration when so many of his newly acquired charges disappeared from his cold grasp. It was all thanks to whichever race had developed the sarcophagus technology which the goa'uld had then taken for their own maniacal purposes - for they sure as hell couldn't have done it on their own. He also wondered how long dead a person had to be, or how mangled the body, before the sarcophagus failed in its duty. He also hoped that he never had the opportunity to find out.
All these thoughts and many more raced through Jack's head as the lips of the stone lid parted to reveal a dark ceiling that remained shadowed in the dim light. He felt good - great even - and yet he couldn't seem to work up the energy to sit up and greet whoever no doubt waited for him. His team was long gone, possibly even dead - or so whispered the darkest, most ignored part of his mind - and they certainly were not coming to the rescue. They were brilliant, they were courageous, they were dedicated, and damn them if they hadn't become something frighteningly close to family in the two years they had been working together.
And they weren't coming.
They couldn't, for the sad truth was that if they had been able, they would have come, guns blazing, a long, long time ago. Someone had once told him that hope was the denial of reality, and Jack figured that it was high time that he stopped denying his own reality.
Unless things had drastically changed while he was dead - again
- Apophis was out of the picture and some new snake named Sokar was now calling the shots. He knew squat about Sokar aside from the obvious fact that he had kicked Apophis' ass - which, okay, scored him a few points in Jack's book. Then again, Buffy's new alter ego, Harry, a.k.a. Haremakhet - and who thought of these names, anyway? - seemed pretty terrified of being back under Sokar's thumb, which surprisingly didn't lead him down that twisted trail, but onto a whole new, far more painful route.
With that one thought, Jack felt his chest grow tight. She had held on for an impossibly long time. Her courage had surprised him, and he had unconsciously drawn strength from her quirky smiles and sarcastic wit, just as he hoped she had done with him. And yet the fact remained that she was just a kid - a kid that had been overrun by the same things that had taken Skaara, stolen Sha're, and killed Kawalsky. The goa'uld threatened the people he worked with, and by extension, his entire freaking planet. They were his enemy, and the memory of Buffy's flashing gold eyes reminded him that they had won that battle.
But what about the war?
What about Buffy's war?
"Hey, watch it!" Jack growled, his thoughts rudely interrupted by the Jaffa muscle that had apparently grown tired of waiting for Jack to crawl out of the sarcophagus that he hadn't climbed into in the first place. Receiving only a glare for his troubles, Jack allowed the guards - nondescript merely by the fact that after a while, all Jaffa who worked for the enemy tended to look the same - to manhandle him from the confining stone box to reveal a room that was even more dim and depressing than those found on Apophis' ship. And there was no doubt in Jack's mind that he definitely was not
on Apophis' ship.
Apophis was many things - most not suitable to be mentioned in polite company - but even that snakehead preferred to drape himself and his surroundings in things that reeked of pretentiousness and eye-searing gaudiness. His domain glittered with gold. Walls, jewels, concubines - all were lavish to the point of ostentatious, but it was vastly apparent that Sokar had hired another interior decorator altogether.
As Jack was 'encouraged' down one hallway after another, his cursory inspection proved that while the basic floor plan was the same (another reminder that the goa'uld entirely lacked in creativity or originality), the effect was anything but. The lighting was dimmed and shadows reigned. What light there was came in shades of red and burnt orange, giving off an appearance of open flame. Even the hieroglyphs, or pictographs, or whatever they were called, seemed different somehow. More dark. More ominous.
And that was before he heard the screams.
The voice was feminine, and yet it was also goa'uld - harsh, echoing, and completely tortured. He had no reason to recognize the screams, and yet he did. Intimately. And he wished he hadn't.
Unconsciously he quickened his steps - no longer the slow shuffling he had adopted for no other reason than to antagonize his escort. Now he
was leading them
as he turned a corner and stepped into a doorway - and froze on the threshold as his eyes took in the scene with one narrowed sweep of his gaze.
Buffy was on her hands and knees, but gone was the confident air of the goa'uld that had possessed her. Her skin was dotted with perspiration, her fine clothing rumpled and torn in places, and bruises and wet blood marred her face and the arms that were planted on the floor before her. Her breathing was ragged, and her body quivered as though it was on the brink of collapse. She looked like she had been put through hell. In the next moment, Jack saw why.
"Again," a cold voice ordered, dragging Jack's attention away to finally take in the rest of the room. They were on the helm of the ship - the room large and littered with few Jaffa that bore the pentagram seal of Sokar. Behind Buffy stood a man who bore the same marking, only in a burnished gold that marked him as the first prime. On the viewscreen before them, the one that usually displayed the dark of space, was the image of someone that could be no less than Sokar himself.
The goa'uld on the display was only visible from the shoulders up, but the disturbing view of unnaturally white skin, protruding veins, and dark, dead eyes that could have been red, depending on the light, was more than enough for Jack to realize that he had been absolutely right earlier: they were so screwed.
Catching movement to his right, Jack turned in time to watch as Sokar's first prime pressed the flickering blue end of what looked like a giant cattle prod into Buffy's back. Instantly she straightened, her muscles becoming corded bands of pain as her lips parted in the same horrific, tortured scream that had drawn him there in the first place, blue electricity dancing in her open mouth.
"Stop!" Jack ordered, the words escaping before he even registered the Jaffa that were holding him back. He felt good, full capacity, but even that meant nothing against the muscled guards that restrained him with ridiculous ease. Still, it seemed that his words had some effect as Sokar waved for Buffy's torture to be put on hold as he was manhandled to her side.
Grunting, he felt his knees protest as he was forced to kneel beside the petite blonde and before the viewscreen from which Sokar seemed to be doing a silent appraisal. Not that Jack really cared at the moment. He was too concerned with the fact that Buffy was now sagged forward, her entire body trembling from where she held most of her weight on her forearms.
"This is the Tau'ri you spoke of?" Sokar demanded, and while Jack wasn't sure what he was expecting, he was still unaccountably disappointed when Buffy rolled her head weakly to the side to meet his eyes for the first time since he had entered the room.
"It is, my Lord," she returned in that same, echoing goa'uld voice, and as Jack searched her eyes, he saw that it wasn't really her at all. The hazel eyes that met his were cold, impassioned, and they flashed with golden light when Harry responded.
"You spoke of value. How?" Sokar pressed, and Jack couldn't help the arch of his brow at the question. It was a damn good one - one that he would have liked the answer to himself.
"I... I am not certain, my Lord," Harry admitted, an answer that obviously didn't impress Sokar any more than it did for Jack. "The host, my Lord," Harry hurried on in an effort to avoid another encounter with the cattle prod. "The host is keeping things from me, somehow hiding things," he hastened to explain.
"Impossible," Sokar stated, and with another impatient wave Jack was once more forced to watch as Buffy was mercilessly tortured just inches to his right. He knew that Harry was still in control, but by his answer, he also knew now without a doubt that Buffy was in there too, still fighting. And somehow he doubted that Harry was shielding her from the torture that was being inflicted upon her body.
Not that there was a damn thing that Jack could do about it.
This time when the torture stopped, Harry was now sobbing for breath in a way that was very unmanly, and even too pathetic to be called girly. "No, please my lord," he gasped as he strained to lift Buffy's head long enough to deliver his passionate plea. "I have served you for many thousands of years, and I have served you well. Apophis conquered my army and forced-"
"Apophis is being dealt with," Sokar interrupted, obviously growing bored. "I should kill you now and be done with you. You are weak, Haremakhet."
"Perhaps, but I still have value," Harry countered, the snake obviously growing bold in its desperation. "This host knows much, and if I were only granted the time to learn her secrets, I am certain that they would prove most valuable to you. Already I have learned that she is known as She-Ra
to her people, and that she comes from a land called Eternia
. She is ruler to a people there known as the Hologram Girls
, a position that she inherited from the matriarch of their society, Gem
For a moment, Jack struggled fiercely to hold in his snort of disbelief, trying in vain to smother it into a choking cough. He felt both Sokar and Haremakhet's eyes burning down upon him, but he found that by this point he really couldn't care. The worst part was that Harry had revealed all of the information with such strident passion that it was obvious he believed every single word he spoke, his enunciation of each name so very careful.
The guy was a chump, plain and simple, and somehow Buffy was playing him so expertly that she had him believing that she was a cartoon heroine that was somehow related to He-Man, Champion of the Universe. Even though Charlie had been born in the late 80s, and he had thankfully been spared from most of the cartoons from that decade, he still would have had to of been a lot farther away than even Iraq to miss the cartoon references. Even the mention of Gem and the Hologram Girls ignited a mental image of a cartoon woman with pink, punk rocker hair that he probably should have been embarrassed to have.
"And what of the Tau'ri? What is his value?"
"I... I do not yet know, but he has value," Harry quickly hurried on, causing Jack's brow to arch higher. "She values him greatly, and if I were given just a little more time I could learn her secrets and-"
"If time is all that you require, then time is what you shall have," Sokar interrupted with a negligent wave. Instantly Harry sagged beside him, the creature's relief palpable. Jack, however, wasn't so easily reassured as he waited patiently for the other shoe to drop. If he had learned anything with his two years with the Stargate program, it was that with the goa'uld, there was always
another shoe. When Sokar continued, Jack found himself nodding along with the freaky-looking goa'uld. "I will grant you two hundred years in which to learn her secrets."
The other shoe.
"No, my Lord. Please, I beg you," Harry quickly pleaded as Buffy's blonde head began to shake desperately back and forth.
"Two hundred years shall be granted to you to learn the secrets of your host and of this valuable Tau'ri," Sokar continued, the mocking in his voice evident to even the most dense of listeners, i.e. Harry, as the overlord spoke right over Harry's increasingly frantic pleas. "Two hundred years - on Netu," he finished pompously, obviously dropping his bombshell and allowing the true theatrics to begin.
As Jack watched in growing disbelief, Harry began to honest-to-god wail
at Sokar's declaration. And not just wail. The goa'uld began to piteously
wail in a manner that was unbecoming of a little girl, let alone the supposedly big, bad, mad scientist that now inhabited Buffy's body. However, as the goa'uld somehow contorted Buffy's features into a mix of such abundant fear, Jack forewent his annoyance at Harry's display and skipped right onto the feeling that whatever had just happened was bad. Very, very bad.O o O o O o O
Time passed, as it always did, giving Jack the opportunity to ponder life's many mysteries, to contemplate what his future had in store once they were finally off of Sokar's ship and on Netu, whatever that
was, and of course to try and raise any kind of reaction from Harry as he heckled the goa'uld mercilessly in their small, two-person prison cell. It was strange, really, for once again there was the appearance that he was enclosed in a cell with Buffy as his cellmate, but though it was Buffy's body, it was also quite apparent that Harry was still in charge - and he made for less than an amusing companion.
"I mean, where's the dignity in that?" he asked as he lounged lazily against the back wall of their impossibly small six foot by four foot closet. The walls were gold, of course, but in this small prison there was no light to illuminate the dreary surroundings, and the floors didn't gleam like they did back on Apophis' ship, leaving Jack to believe that they were instead covered with dried stains that were better left unexplored. Really, he was just lucky that Buffy was so short, as he had barely enough room to stretch out against the back wall provided that Harry kept his host sitting in a small huddle near the invisible shielding on their door. "I've met school children who would have faced their sentencing with more panache then you've shown."
"Haven't you learned anything
about your host?" Jack persisted, a sly smile pulling at his thin lips. "Buffy didn't get to be She-Ra just by waving a fancy sword around. There were important words to be called out, flashy lights, and revealing leotards. Plus, those Hologram Girls aren't easily fooled by just another pretty-"
"You mock me," Harry interrupted in a flat, deadened tone that echoed in their small chamber as Buffy's hazel eyes flashed with golden light. "Do you feel threatened by everything that I have already learned about this host?"
Jack struggled to keep a neutral expression, a smile twitching just out of reach. "No, of course I don't feel threatened. So you've learned Buffy's title and what her people call her world. Eternia, was it?" he persisted, this time the corners of his lips revealing him ever so slightly. "That doesn't mean a lot in the grand scheme of things. And it obviously didn't keep you from acting like a pussy when being called out by your old boss."
"Foolish slave," Harry returned, his expression wearied. "You have no idea of the hell to which we have been sentenced."
"Nope, not really," Jack admitted with a careless shrug. "But at least I didn't act like such a girl about it," he deadpanned, taking a ridiculous amount of joy from the deepened scowl. If he was going to be stuck with Harry, and thereby possibly forever be denied the comfort and joy of Buffy's company, the least he could do was get some kicks and giggles from the experience. The only alternative was to finally succumb to the hysteria that simmered so closely beneath the surface.
No, he'd rather antagonized the enemy, as was his due, any time.O o O o O o O
Hours later, the bored silence that had fallen on the small cell was broken as Harry scrambled from his seated position and scurried back from the door. "Hey, watch it," Jack growled as he stood up quickly in an attempt to avoid being trampled by all of Buffy's 5'2" frame.
"They come for us," Harry whispered, the hollow, echoing tones doing little to disguise the naked fear that was evident in the goa'uld's voice.
"About time," Jack sighed as he made a show of stretching out his long limbs. "I was starting to get a cramp," he admitted, only to become disappointed when his comments didn't even earn himself a sneer. No, Harry now had eyes only for the Jaffa that appeared at their shielded doorway. In fact, the goa'uld didn't even wait for the field to be lowered before he began pleading for another audience with Sokar. Rolling his eyes, Jack became the model prisoner as he followed their burly escort with his back straight and head held high. Somewhere deep down he realized that it was rather stupid trying to make a point to a goa'uld, but he couldn't help the rush of satisfaction as Harry did the opposite - his pleas turning to bribes as Buffy's small frame was prodded forward with open staff weapons. In moments they were led into a room that was lined with small pods - and that was when Jack's proud stature began to waver.
Each pod was made of dark metal and looked like a rounded coffin that was standing on its head. He had seen something like this in one sci-fi movie or another, and the dark, barren interior did little to make him want to climb inside, as his escort so obviously desired. Harry seemed even less inclined as the goa'uld finally put Buffy's slayer strength to use in a clumsy attempt to break free of their captors and make a bid for freedom. That attempt was stopped even before it had a chance to begin as Harry was zatted into submission and then shoved into one small pod - leaving Jack with no choice but to settle into the one right beside it.
"Not good," he whispered, leaning back against the smooth metal that was cold against his arms and leached the warmth from his worn pants and torn tee-shirt. In seconds he was shivering, the hairs on his forearms standing on end as one Jaffa flashed him a cocky smile before a door slid closed and encased him in darkness. "Not good," he repeated, wanting to wrap his arms around his chest, but finding that he didn't have room in the small capsule to do more than press his hands uselessly against the sealed door. "Not good," he uttered for one last, final time before there was an ominous hiss before a heavy pressure slammed him back against the metal, his head cracking off of one smooth panel before an even deeper darkness settled around him.