Seshat stepped out of the wormhole and looked around the gateroom with avid curiousity as she stepped out of the event horizon. O'Neill had warned her before they had embarked that the SFs who met them meant business. She kept her hands in the open, and when Hammond gave the order to stand down, she handed her sword and ribbon device over to the airmen who were taking O'Neill and Teal'c's weapons and survival gear. Teal'c helped her out of her heavy armor. She was wearing her laskarat-pelt shirt and a heavy pair of wool trousers under it. Teal'c and O'Neill kept their combat knives so she kept hers too, and Hammond pointedly didn't ask her for it. That courtesy went a long way with her.
"Welcome to Earth, Lady Seshat. I'm Major General George Hammond, commander of this facility."
Seshat wasn't sure about Tau'ri rank and privelege, but she decided a General was probably about equal to a First Prime and nodded a bow, one arm across her chest. "Thank you, General."
"The briefing room is this way. We can speak privately there."
Seshat took her place at the large table. +Talira, something feels wrong here.+
Her host guessed, +Bad news.+
Hammond nodded to Carter, who took a deep breath and summarized the Tartarus mission to check out the homeworld of Anubis new super-soldiers. "Dad came across a Goa'uld working in Anubis' service. I'm sorry to have to tell you this, but he was calling himself Thoth."
"It can't have been my husband," she denied. "What was he doing?"
"He was working on the super-soldier project and the planet's defense satellites. Selmac couldn't be certain it was your husband, this person had a different host. But if it was him, and if he knew where you took your people, then you could be in danger from Anubis."
"Is he dead?"
Carter nodded. "I'm sorry, he was when we left him. We zatted him once, but he wouldn't stay down. He had a ribbon."
"He wanted to die," Seshat concluded. She bowed her head and gave control over to Talira. Her host said, "Please forgive my lady. All this time we thought him dead. Did you leave a body? Might Anubis have revived him?"
"Yes, everything happened very quickly. It's possible."
Talira said, "If he was indeed Thoth, for his sake I hope not. He was a good man, he never would have joined forces with Kronus or Anubis willingly."
Sam said, "Dad said he was definitely afraid of Anubis."
Hammond asked, "In light of this new intel, is there anything we can do?"
Talira handed off to Seshat, who had gotten herself under control, but still was obviously shaken. "They could have known where we've been all along. Damn! Anubis may be using me and my people as hostages against my husband--his cooperation buys our survival. I have to know one way or the other. He'd have put a surveillance satellite in orbit. Do you have access to a ship with a cloaking device?"
Hammond nodded, "An alkesh, yes."
She looked at O'Neill. "I'll have to trust whoever flies it with my people's location. I believe these people to be trustworthy."
Hammond said, "I'm sorry, but the team is on medical stand down."
O'Neill shifted in his chair and said unwillingly, "If we take Sirikat along, she can heal everyone while we're in transit."
Hammond nodded. He didn't like the idea any more than Jack did, but they were short on options. Time was of the essence, and only SG-1 had any experience flying Goa'uld spacecraft like the captured alkesh. "She should be fairly safe on board the alkesh, as long as you stay cloaked."
Two hours later, they were in a C-130 on its way to Groom Lake. Seshat looked grim and drawn. If this recon mission discovered what she feared it would, she and her people had another evacuation ahead of them. She was trying to juggle the merciless balance sheet of lives saved now and provisions necessary to keep them alive later. It was still a month before harvest. And where were they to go, that Thoth could not be forced to tell Anubis where to find them?
She closed her eyes and leaned back against the side of the plane, with only a cargo net for seat padding.
Sirikat sat beside her and brought her a cup of something hot. Talira was glad to wrap cold fingers around the styrofoam cup. Seshat was surprised to discover that this small girl was not just a host, but the host of a queen. Had she unintentionally slighted someone who could clearly influence the Tau'ri against her? "My queen! Pardon me, I didn't know!"
"No offense taken, Lady Seshat. I am of Daltregon. We're much more relaxed about precedence than the Empire is. Try this, it's good. They call it coffee. If it's too bitter for you, they have creamer and sweetening here. I like lots of both."
Seshat took an experimental sip. It was bitter, but pleasantly so. "It's fine as it is. It must have quite a kick, as small as these cups are. Will I sleep for a week after I drink this?"
"Well, maybe not, but the real reason is, if you drink a lot of it you may need the midden, and the midden isn't! Not until we land."
Seshat laughed in spite of herself. "I've heard of Daltregon but never met anyone from there before." She thought of the stories she'd heard. Murderous barbarians. That seemed an unlikely description for this young girl. The queen, she thought, was as young as her host.
In some amusement, Talira asked, +We were never that young, were we, Seshat?+
+No, of course not.+
Sirikat replied, "We had no reason to leave Daltregon, until the System Lords came and gave us reasons."
The pilot yelled back, "Y'all set down back there! Gonna hit some turbulence shortly."
Sirikat claimed the next empty jumpseat and they finished their coffee before the plane started bouncing around. Seshat concentrated on the miracle of aeronautical engineering that was powered flight pre-antigravity technology. That way she distracted Talira and herself from speculating about how easily this primitive thing could fall right out of the sky. Both of them were happy when they reached Groom Lake in one piece.
She looked around the alkesh's cockpit. "I've never been inside one of these things before. It's nothing like a teltac, is it?"
Teal'c said, "More like an udajeet, my lady, for all that it is so much larger."
Carter took her place at the navigator's station while Daniel took comms. Seshat got out of the way, back in the missile bay with Sirikat.
O'Neill always took second seat on a Goa'uld plane. He could fly damn near anything but that didn't equal Teal'c's years of experience. It was a short flight out to the black. The hyperspace window formed against a backdrop of stars like diamonds scattered across black velvet. Seconds later, they disappeared from normal space, en route to Seshat's new homeworld. They would be in hyper two days.
Daniel cursed as he tried to lever himself out of the comms chair, then he got his good leg under him and limped back into the missile bay to find a place to make himself comfortable. Sirikat jumped up to help him.
Curiousity got the better of him. He had never seen Sirikat do anything more complicated than a light spell. He watched as she got her large bloodstone out of a leather bag at her belt. "How does this work? Is it like setting blocks?"
"It starts out the same. It the same link you would use to set blocks for someone else."
"I've never learned how to do that, only for myself. I don't know if I can learn more now."
Sirikat said, "You do magick like Karumai. Not with spells--pure will directly turned to action. But Karumai five hundred years old. Plenty of time to practise."
"Oma Desala taught me," Daniel said.
"Not everyone apprenticed to an avatar of the Goddess," the young queen replied.
Her blocks formed and he relaxed as the pain stopped. The Darvocets that Dr. Warner had given him had taken the edge off, but that was all.
He found himself closing his eyes to concentrate on what Sirikat was doing as she began to sing her spell. The area of the gunshot wound started to feel warm, then uncomfortably hot. He could tell it was working. And he knew it was hard work for Sirikat. Instinctively he turned to the white-light energy within himself to try to help. Sirikat controlled the energy he sent. In turn she showed him how to raise energy from the universe around him, and how to ground back what he didn't use for the spell.
"You will be many years learning the basics that you jumped over when you ascended, I think."
Daniel said in sudden comprehension, "That's probably one good reason why Oma let the Others make me forget."
Sirikat nodded. "That makes sense. Karumai has done things that I would burn myself to a cinder if I tried. And Karumai is still mortal. I think this...forgetting...you remember when the time is right."
Daniel rolled up his pants leg. The stitches were itching now that they were no longer needed.
Seshat jumped back and swore in Goa'uld as Sirikat picked up a large clear crystal and sparked flame over her knife blade to sterilize it. Daniel snickered as she used its sharp tip to cut the stitches.
Sirikat laughed and told Seshat, "Sorry, I forgot to warn you! Now you believe in magic."
"Now I believe you're doing something!" Was her skeptical reply.
"That's a beginning."
"Magic is any phenomenon that science hasn't yet explained."
Sirikat got the stitches out. Some of them had stuck, but that was better than trying to get them out beforehand and starting it bleeding again.
Seshat asked, "Do you believe in soulmates?"
Sirikat nodded. "Your husband--?"
Sirikat put her hand on Seshat's. "You would do well to ask my grandmother. Karumai is far wiser than I. All I know is how dark the world can become for the one left behind. She helped me to believe in a light that I had not yet seen--that a love that is real is never lost."
"Thoth became something other than the man I married...he had to, or he never would have been cooperating with Anubis."
Jack spoke up, quietly. "Believe me when I tell you that wasn't his fault, Seshat."
"I haven't been a believer in anything beyond myself for a thousand years," was Seshat's thoughtful reply. "But now the very people in all the galaxy who can help me save my people come walking through my door precisely when you're needed. Maybe I'm rethinking the whole subject of belief."
Sirikat excused herself to take a nap. Everyone else made themselves comfortable as well. They would be in hyperspace for two days. It was Daniel's turn to cook, and like all of them, after all these years he had become pretty resourceful about making MREs taste edible. Jack opened a traveling chess set and he and Teal'c started a game.
Sam didn't like a noise she heard and opened a panel. Seeing that she was having trouble with her arm in a sling, Seshat came over to help. "What do you think, one of those relays might be closing a little too slowly?"
Sam nodded. "Sounds like it, but everything looks okay. Let's watch them cycle through a few times."
The noise didn't repeat itself and the power distribution sequence was operating perfectly now. "Has it been sitting for a while? I've got a generator that does that when you first power it up, but after it runs a while it's fine."
Carter said, "Could be. I don't know how much the boys at Area 51 have been flying it. What do you do about it?"
"Be careful not to look at it crosseyed. I haven't been able to get parts for it in sixty or seventy years." Seshat closed up the panel.
O'Neill asked, "Problem, Carter?"
"Probably not, sir. Did you notice any low power indicators or tripped breakers when you were flying her home?"
"Neither did I, O'Neill."
Sam listened for a while longer. "It probably did just need to warm up a little." She moved her arm in its sling, trying to find a more comfortable position.
About then, lunch was ready. After that, Sirikat worked on Carter's shoulder and healed it enough that she could dispense with the hated sling. Sirikat said apologetically, "Cartilege is harder to heal than bone, and you had quite a tear in your rotator cuff. It's going to be sore for a while."
Carter took it in stride, for SG-1 that was a relatively minor injury.
Whatever had been acting up earlier, the alkesh didn't give them any more trouble. The remainder of the journey to Kalimar was uneventful. Seshat found herself enjoying the trip and the company. She knew that SG-1 didn't trust her, O'Neill especially, but that was understandable. The system lords had descended into barbarism in her day, and from all reports the millennium of her exile had done nothing to improve them. Something of the ancient glory that had once been the Empire still remained in the courts of Yu and Bast, but for the most part only decadence, corruption and cruelty remained. They had all experienced too much of that cruelty for trust to come easily, if at all. Even so, she had common ground with O'Neill in their responsibility for their people. Teal'c reminded her a lot of Marna'c, that same quiet strength and subtle humor. She and Carter had connected immediately as scientists. Jackson was the hardest to get to know. There was something otherworldly and mystical about him, as if he wasn't completely at home in a logical universe ruled by the laws of physics. Even so, her first impression of him was a man of great strength and compassion. It would be well worth the time it took to get to know him.
Sirikat was no more trusting than O'Neill, yet she was still open and caring for all her wariness. All the stories that Seshat had heard about the people of Daltrigon painted them as warlike, savage head hunters, but she soon saw through that for the propaganda it was. Seshat understood all too well what it meant to be chosen too soon for leadership and responsibility, and she also knew what it was like to survive a great loss. She and Talira were both fascinated by the relationship between host and symbiote, so close that they considered themselves one person. Neither of them could quite see how that worked. Neither of them could imagine giving up their individuality to that extent, but for Sirikat it clearly worked very well. And then there was the whole issue of magic, she was curious to learn more about that.
Not that there was time to study much of anything. When Daniel announced that they were coming back into normal space, everyone headed for the cockpit.
It was Seshat's first glimpse of Kalimar from space. It was a world of pristine blue and white, not unlike Earth. In the hemisphere they could see, there were two islands large enough to grace with the title of continents, and thousands of smaller ones. She said, "Ancestors...I never knew before how beautiful it is."
Sam asked, "Where is the stargate? If I were going to put a spy satellite here, I'd probably put it in a geosynchronous orbit there to see who was coming and going."
"It's on the northeast coast of the northern island, see where the river delta is? On the southern side."
Sam configured the passive scanners, everything that they wouldn't have to decloak for. Five minutes later, her expression told them the bad news before she gave it voice. "There it is."
Seshat said in Goa'uld, "Have not my children suffered enough?!"
Daniel replied in the same language, "We will do everything we can, Seshat. We can act in secret before they know we have cause to do anything."
O'Neill asked, "Major, can you determine what intel they're collecting?"
"As soon as I lock onto the frequency the satellite is using to send data, we'll get everything they're getting, sir." She worked on it for several minutes before she brought it in and decoded it. The transmission was visual only, visible light and infrared. As they watched, a bunch of ore carts and empty water tankers came through the gate one by one. People who looked like tiny stick figures from the satellite's altitude caught them as they came through the gate and arranged them into daisy chains of three or four carts pulled by teams of what looked like water buffalo. After the wormhole disengaged, they dialed out and started pushing a line of yesterday's carts back through, some of them laden with supplies and the rest empty.
"Wait a minute, those carts are--what, about six feet long?" O'Neill asked.
"Can they tell where that wormhole goes?"
"No, sir. There isn't a clear view of the DHD with that big tree in the way."
"Seshat, are there always the same number of supply carts going back to the mine on Aravis?"
"No, it all depends on what supplies we need. That was a light shipment. There are a lot more when we're bringing in timbers to open a new area of the mine. Frequently we use a lot more water than that, when we need to top off the hydraulics or something....you're the hells' own genius, O'Neill."
"I've been accused of a lot of things, but that's a new one on me," he said, but he was grinning like the cat that ate the canary.
Mystified, Sirikat asked, "What--"
"Anubis doesn't know we're onto him, Punkin. That means we've got time for a slow, orderly evacuation through the gate. We can sneak the people and their stuff out hiding under thermal blankets in the ore carts. We'll have to leave the big stuff and the farm animals for last, but most of the people should be relocated before Anubis figures out anything's up."
Seshat said, "Several inches of cold lake water should hide human IR signatures. We'll cut down some water tanks and make room under them for people to sit. We can probably get five or six people in a cart."
At Carter's direction, Teal'c laid in a course for several orbits of the planet at intervals that would detect any other satellites. They didn't find any. Teal'c was familiar with that type of surveillance satellite, and he knew that it would need maintenance only once in every ten years or so. It was unlikely that anyone would come insystem to work on it in the month before the harvest.
Teal'c suggested, "If we were to replace many of the non-combatants that we take offworld with warriors so that the situation appears to be normal, it may be months before Anubis discovers that an evacuation has taken place. We can then continue to carry out mining operations on Aravis without Anubis' knowledge until he discovers the source of Alliance trinium."
Seshat asked, "Where are we to go then?"
O'Neill said, "We've got a list of about a hundred uninhabited planets with stargates, that the Goa'uld don't know about. Pick one."
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