Exiles Gate
By Elizabeth Carter

Chapter 9

The Shadows Falling

Sam heard the door behind her hiss open. The chill of the steel floor under her had sapped what strength she'd had left, leaving her too stiff to move. A strange mixture of scents wafted over her. She tried to open eyes that were gritty and swollen. Jerkily, she pulled her arm up and pawed at her face, hearing the pattering stop then hastily retreat.

A thrumming hum became audible, quickly turning into a burst of sound that was instantly recognizable as speech. She raised her head to look catching sight of a cloud of gauzy strips of cloth aside which she could glimpse thick armored legs in red scale-mail and wing tips…

"What the-----."

Hands bound behind her Sam was dragged by an armored guard toward the center of the room. No not a Malakim but a Remnant? The hand holding her scruff pulled her head painfully back claws gouging her flesh as she was hauled to a stop. In front of her a ginger-brown headed human female with eyes the color of a storm. She was an average height standing five inches over five feet. Her hair hung over her face to the left, covering what might have been a scare. Her full lips were pulled back into a smile as the female studied Sam as intently as the young blonde studied her. There was a smugness to the autocrat that spoke of years born to privilege and pampering. The female had gotten where she was by climbing the backs of other's greed, not by her own merits.

"You are Samantha, and you are SG1 and you are my prisoner," the human said. "You wear a collar around your neck that prevents you from futility using your gifts, unless you like pain I suggest you don't use them. The usage of your empathic powers also alerts my wrist unit. I will then administer more pain. I control the amount, the severity and its duration. In short I control you." There was a single to the angelic guard who dropped Sam to the hard floor. Kobal's hand slid to the wrist unit and slightly touched the button.

Pain exploded at the base of her scull coursing down her spine then out to her limbs. As the spasms racked her body, she yowled in fear and shock. She was falling but back arched and limbs rigid, she was unable to move to save herself. She slammed to the floor, the impact knocking any remaining from her lungs. Wave upon wave of fiery agony surged through her body as she lay there unable to gasp for breath, it stopped and her body went limp. But the pain remained.

Whimpering softy, she attempted to move her trembling limbs, tried to curl herself into a ball. Every movement, no matter how small hurt; where her body touched the floor, where her limbs touch each other, it felt as she were sill being consumed by the fire that had surged through her.

"Remember that taste of death, so you will recognize it again when it comes. Remember, the control is mine, Samantha Carter."

Sam tried to speak but her throat was so dry and sore that she began to cough, sending fresh agony lancing through her body. When the coughing ceased, she pushed herself up on her hands until her head and chest were clearer of the floor. Human grey eyes regarded her dispassionately.

"What do you want with me?" She whispered.

"I am your Inquisitor, in service to the Calabim. I already suspect you know what I am."

"Your name is Kobal. Where are my companions?"

"I have told you all you need to know. Stand up." Kobal ordered. "The Diabolical Zipcana who handed you over to us was generous enough to allow you to be healed in his sarcophagus. Fortunate so that, the pain you now feel is generated by me."

The pain was beginning to subside at last, and as she slowly pushed herself upright on her still shaking limbs, she realized just exactly where she was. She was in some sort of dungeon, under the control of the alliance of Goa'uld and Remnants under control of the human perhaps a Jaffa Calabim. If she was here, Sam knew she was dead.

Pain gripped her gain, felling her to the floor. Her nerves already inflamed by the previous punishment, this time it felt a thousand times worse. She lay there, keening her agony, unable to stop because somehow it helped lessen the pain. Finally it ceased.

"You took too long." Said Kobal. "Now get up."

Every muscle in her body shrieked its objections as still hypersensitive she tried to move. Hands slick with sweat slipped on the tiled floor, unable to gain purchase. She clawed at the gaps between the tiles, finally managing to get a grip and lift her head and shoulders. Kobal reaching from her wrist unit again.

"No! For the love of God, no more," she gasped, pushing herself onto her haunches. "I'll never be able to stand if you do that again!"

"Praying?" said Kobal, thoughtfully. "Interesting concept. I have no religion," she said, her voice suddenly cold. She pressed the button, releasing it again almost instantly. "I am surprised what you know of the System Lords you have any faith at all."

This time, when the brief jolt of energy from the collar surged through Sam's system, her body arched upward and she found herself staggering to her feet.

"See how quickly you learn?" The Inquisitor said, "Now the rest should be easy. Simply tell me what I want to know."

"I will tell you nothing."

The next moment, she was staggering backward, her face burning from the force of Kobal's slap. Colliding with the side of the wall, she found her self abruptly sitting back down.

"You were given an order woman, you will obey it instantly." said the Inquisitor, her skin darkening with anger.

Too shocked by the pain and the speed with which the human had moved to answer she merely nodded. Sam struggled to stand once more using the corner of the wall to pull herself up as she had seen the hand of her tormentor go for the wrist unit. "Shall we begin again? Why are you on this planet? You were carrying Naquaada. Why? Now, I can make this simple. Even if you try to use your mental gifts it will alert the collar. Every time you feel any emotion but fear, it will trigger the collar and my wrist unit. You know what happens then. Pain."

Sam tried to take the enormity of what the Calabim was saying, her mind seemed to have shut down again and she could only stare blankly at her tormentor. "I just simply want to know what you and your crew were doing in this sector."

"We are explores only."

Another blow to her face sent her sprawling sideways to the floor.

"Make no mistake, I will find out what I need to know, eventually. How much pain are you willing to go through to give what I want?" Kobal hissed.

Sam braced herself for the pain that was about to come.

When it was finally stopped, she lay there panting, waiting for the agony to subside.

"Oh, and you lied to me. No one lies to me." She heard the Inquisitor say coldly. "I know you traveled the Stargate. I know that you smuggled the Naquaada ore from the mines of Ridgeback Mountains. You only hurt yourself by lying to me."

"Then why ask me?"

"What we're your people doing here?

"Just a trading mission" She barely finished speaking before the pain started again. She felt disembodied, unable to concentrate on what the inquisitor was saying as her hearing and consciousness kept fading in and out. Gradually she became aware of a throbbing in her face as she felt it being repeatable slapped in an effort to bring her round. Eventually she found the strength to lift an arm to try and fend off the blows.

"We came only to trade." She repeated slowly. "We are only explores."

"You were in the forbidden zone because you are exploring? Convenient. You are wanted for crimes against the System Lords. You were the one reasonable for the death of Ra and of Apophis. You committed treason."

Sam began to laugh as she squinted up at the inquisitor, it hurt, but she couldn't help it. She was going to executed and the inquisitor was threatening to torment her with pain, to get answers to questions she already knew. Pain exploded through Sam's body again, but this time, mercifully, she passed out.

For Pain was the first thing she was aware of when she came to. Sam tried to open her eyes, panicking until she remembered she'd been hit by the Remnant. She barely recalled the collar, but after she had laughed in the face of her tormentor the Remnant guard had backhanded her, the blow had been hard enough to send her spiraling across the room, the angelic male or female impossible to tell, had struck another blow at the side of her head. His next blow sent her staggering across the bunk. She landed unconscious heap. Blood seeped slowly from the cut of her rapidly swelling eye.

Putting a hand experimentally up to her face, she gently probed the blood-encrusted cut on her forehead and the puffy eyes beneath it. No wonder she couldn't open it. Licking her fingers, she gently eased the eyelashes apart and attempted to open her eyes again. Only a crack, but it was enough. She could still see.

Sam tried moving then; unable to stop a groan escaping her as she pulled herself free from the tangle of bedding she had been thrown. Landing on hands and knees, she collapsed to the floor, every muscle and joint a jangle of pain.

Physical pain was not the only agony she had felt in the four days she had, had nothing to eat, only small glasses of water that were stale and lukewarm, but to here they tasted as sweet as the finest wine. She could feel the walls of her stomach closing in on her. The effects of her torture and the lack of food were beginning to tear at her. She was losing all hold of her strength.

Sam sat in the corner of her cell, her knees drawn up to her chest her arms folded atop of them making a pillow for her head

Sam was alive, but for how much longer?

"Good you're awake." Kobal's voice was filled with saccrin. "I want to ask you some more questions. And I think you learned what happens when you ignore my requests. I can show mercy Sam. I am not an unkind woman. Surly an alien female like yourself can understand pressures of carrying a role of leadership."

Sam titled her head up, her mind foggily wondering what new pain would she be introduced to today.

"Now before we start is there anything I can get for you?" The voice filled with false care was a bitter taste in Sam's throat. She was loath to ask, but she was starving.

"Food. You can't keep starving me. . ."

"Lets get one thing strait Colonel . . . You are a prisoner. Prisoners do not have rights they have privileges. Privileges that can be given or taken away. Take a look at your magnificent quarters, complete with a privy, and a sink. You have water, a cot and even blanket. These are privileges. Feel fortunate that you have them. You answer the questions, and I may consider feeding you." The woman smiled. "You are indebted to they System Lords."

"Indebted? To the Goa'uld?!"

"Indeed. They gave you a hunger. You can survive a long time on hatred. They gave you that hatred. Hate them but be honest about it." Kobal leered closer to her captive. "Free will is a folly, lie that leaches the flow of True Faith. You and your race are repugnant. Your altruism is worth nothing. Remember your rage at the crash site Colonel Samantha Carter. Let it guide your hand."

Sam looked up, finding the place in the mind that stand against her indignantly, her weakness and offer what she could. In finding her center, she may find that portion of her mind that simply blocks everything out and she'll become numb.

"Tell me about the Stargate Command and what you are doing here."

"My Name is Samantha Carter, Colonel of the United States Air Force, serial number 66-789-7876-324…"

Sam screeched as Kobal pressed the button on her wrist unit.

"What value is this place to you?"

"My Name is Samantha Carter..."

The button was pressed once more, causing Sam to laps into a convolution.

"I will ask you only one last time Samantha. What value is this planet to SG1 and the alliance? And this time, the pain will stop only when you give me the correct answer, and this time you wont pass out."

The white tiled halls erupted into ear-pricing screams.

"Samantha, just tell me what I want to know and I can give you mercy. You bring this pain onto yourself." The inquisitor let loose the button, allowing Sam to catch her breath. And even as she did, the button was pressed once more causing Sam to arch her back up only her heels of her feet and her head touched the floor.

"Now tell me, I wish to give you mercy Samantha, truly I do. But you force my hand. Just tell me, and you wont feel the pain any more. What value is this planet to the alliance of Asgaurd, Malakim and Stargate Command? Every time you feel any emotion but fear, it will trigger the collar and my wrist unit. You know what happens then. Pain."

Sam tried to take the enormity of what the human was saying, her mind seemed to have shut down again and she could only stare blankly at her tormentor. "I just simply want to know what you and your crew were doing in this sector."

"We are only explores." Sam braced herself for the pain that was about to come.

She heard the Inquisitor say coldly. "I know you are apart of a military faction called SG1. I know you are allies with the Malakim and the Asgaurds. You only hurt yourself by lying to me."

"Then why ask me?" God the woman was asking me the same damn questions again and again, saying the same things over and over…

"What we're your people doing on this planet…what value dose it hold for you?

"Just a trading mission." She barely finished speaking before the pain started again. She felt disembodied, unable to concentrate on what the inquisitor was saying as her hearing and consciousness kept fading in and out. Eventually she found the strength to lift an arm to try and fend off the blows.

"Come Samantha, be wise. You want the pain to stop? Tell me what I want to know." Kobal kneeled by the painting sweaty forever-young blonde. Her hand brushed the mattered hair away from her face almost tenderly. "You force me, Samantha. You don't actually think I wan to hurt you, do you? No...I don't, but you force me you hurt you, Samantha. You force my hand." Her voice contained sympathy of pure falseness. "Now just tell me, and it will all be over…Um, I'll give you the injection and you'll be free of your pain. Just tell me, and it will end."

Sam shivered under the touch of her tormenter, she wanted the floor to open up and swallow her whole. The blood and sweat was nothing in comparison to Kobal's hand upon her, wherever the hand touched, Sam felt soiled and befouled.

The voice of her tormentor continued to coo. "Just tell me, and it will all be over. Just tell me the truth."

"I have been." Sam coughed, her lungs raw, the very motion caused a wave of nausea to wash over her. "We are just explores."

"You expect me to believe that?!" The voice was shrill and filled with distain. "You came here to construct a military outpost to destroy the fortresses of the Serpent Lords."

"No it's a neutral planet, a trading post"

The Remnant guard hoisted Sam up by the throat dangling her over the floor, before he flung her across the room, she hit hard against the far wall before she crumbed to the floor as a puppet with its strings cut. "I am telling you the truth!" Sam roared from a parched throat. She climbed to her feet using the wall to support her lithe broken frame. "It's the truth."

"You lie again woman! Now tell the truth you mortal whore!" Kobal's shrill voice cut as sharp to the Colonel's sharp ears as any of the blows the impious being had dealt her. Holding onto walls where they formed a corner, Sam managed to remain on her feet. She tried to steady her breathing; she knew that she had suffered broken ribs. Last night she had a temperature, she was positive that something was very, very wrong within her. She was bleeding internally she would not have long. If she didn't have medical attention soon she would become poisoned by her own blood. After that . . . three days maybe.

"We are on a diplomatic mission, to set up a trade with the Malakim and Asgaurds." Sam gasped for breath the pain was increasing.

"You take me for a fool, Samantha! We know the three races were already here, you have come to build a military outpost bent on the destruction of the system lords, you are not constructing a commerce station."

"We are only interested in exploring. I can't…tell you what I don't know."

The Remnant backhanded blow came so fast Sam didn't have time to doge, the strike his her along side her head sending her to the flood one more. She felt her lungs burn as she began to cough uncontrollably. Each movement made her ribs scream out in pure white agony, she began to cough up blood.

'Good. It wont be long now . . .I dying . . . not fast enough . . .' Sam, held her damaged side, cursing her weakness, her agony, she couldn't move, she could scarily breath. Each breath was a new definition of pain and suffrage.

"Never tell me you can't do something!" Kobal screamed at her. "You will do what ever I tell you to do, when I tell you to do it! Understand!?"

Sam didn't say a word. She simply let the world spin around her until she felt like vomiting. She suppressed the urge, knowing, fearing the pain that would follow if she did. Her breath was forced out in a grunt of pain.

"The Inquisitor asked you a question!" The Remnant approached her.

Sam tried not to cause herself more pain by gasping for the air she needed. "Yes. I understand."

"You made a start, Samantha, don't stop now. Be a realist and make it easer on yourself. You have learned that you are dependent upon me, and upon the collar. Let's face it; you know by the end of the chase we'll have everything we want from you. It's just a matter of time, and we have plenty of that. We can keep this up for hours, can you hold out that long?"

Sam remained silent, aware that the level of pain she was suffering was rising beyond her ability to cope- and it was making her incautious. She was tired, deadly tired. She blinked her puffy swollen eyes repeatedly. Trying to work the grit from her eyes. The room was beginning to take on a surreal glow

"Now if you answer the questions, you can rest. Eat. You want that don't you? Just tell me, what are you doing here!"

"I told you! We are on a diplomatic trade mission!"

Kobal's had moved to the wrist unit as she pressed the button, sending the surge into the collar, causing Sam to go into convolutions, her body screamed into new defining pain as the broken ribs became aggravated. The pain form the collar was only a brief jolt but, the compound injures were more then Sam would sustain.

"What are you doing here?!"

"I already told you. . ." Sam mumbled.

The hand moved once more, a small jolt but the pain was everlasting, Tears flowed from Sam's eyes. "I . .I told you."

The collar would surge again, and Sam's cries echoed throughout the prison block.

Even the most hardened criminal's heart went out for the tormented soul. Uniformed voices whispered out, called out:

"Tell her…tell her anything!"

"For god's sake let her go!"

"Let her go, you god-damn bitch!"

"Give her mercy!"

"I already told you." Sam was now whimpering. "I told you. . ." Any words she was to say erupted in screams of pain, as Kobal had used the device once more.

"Tell me! You're not helping yourself." Kobal hissed. "Just tell me, and this all ends. What are you protecting? Just tell me the truth and you have my mercy. Tell me, Samantha, and it ends. Don't you want it to end? Humm?" The voice was a sickening coo.

"Alright!" Sam wanted to roar out her defiance, but it came out as a hoarse chock. "Alright, I'll tell you what you want to know . . ." her breath ugly ragged gasps. "I'll tell you . . .. I'll tell you." She managed to push herself up to a semi sitting position on the floor. Swallowing back the bile and blood, she began. "We came here to . . .summon the dragons…before the Exiled could." her breathing was becoming shallower . . .slower, she fought for conscience, as she coughed up more blood. "The Dragons couldn't be controlled by the Remnants if they didn't know where they were…we were going to create a feed back loop between the two Stargates before the Goa'uld blew it up so they would be trapped within." Sam paused once more for a ragged breath. Her mind thinking how stupid her tormentor was. She had been telling the truth all along…what she was saying now was a complete fabrication. But is seemed to please Kobal. And Sam was lying through her teeth, as she was making everything up.

"A feedback loop. Brilliant. Go on, Samantha you are doing so well now."

"You need to feed the Dial up device the . . .heading…of the other Gate from the other side of the barrier of the Event Horizon...in the feedback loop, the traveler would forever be lost in the Wormhole. By fooling the computer, make it believe one thing when something else is true." Sam stopped as another spasm of coughing over took her. She would laps in a tunnel of pain unable to continue further.

What she said must have placated her tormentor, as Kobal did not use the device again.

"We'll talk again. To prove to you, that we mean no true harm, you'll be fed. And you'll come to understand that your corporation will be rewarded."

Sam waited in anticipation. For the first real meal she had in nearly ten days of her imprisonment, five of those days had been kept in constant torture. She knew that a soul could last only two weeks tops without food. The constant attacks, would lessen her survival.

The door swished open, the Inquisitor and her guard left, moments latter another inmate brought in a small tray of food.

"You have to eat slowly . . .or you'll get sick." The young dark haired woman said. Sam looked up to the speaker almost amazed at the true sincerity in her voice. The female was a young human, as near in Terren years to Sam's forty, though to the eye Sam Carter looked no more then perhaps thirty one, for the Nox had changed her.

With a pathetic eagerness, Sam took the plate of food that was offered her. It took every once of her willpower not to gorge herself.

"My name is Olivia, I was sent to assist you." She cast her eyes down; she couldn't stand to see Sam eat in such eagerness. Even a criminal deserved some amount of dignity, to see that stolen from a fellow inmate, a fellow female galled the young woman. There was something about Sam that triggered a distant memory in Olivia.

Then she blinked in realization. As she recalled; "You are her... aren't you? The one who defeated the Serpent Lords? You are she."

Sam was silent for a moment. Then she spoke. "That's what some say." Sam mumbled around a bit of meat. She was still trying to force herself to slowly eat, but she was too famished to even think of beyond filling her hollow stomach. Her hands shook as she brought the scraps of food to her mouth.

The hands that touched her face were gentle, yet she was aware of the strength within them that was being held in check. With a touch as light as a feather, the fingers trailed down her cheek, brushing her neck only hesitantly, before coming to rest on her shoulders. Her body pressed against hers, her warmth gradual dispelling the chill that seemed to hold her in it thrall. She felt Janet's breath against her cheek, the touch of her face against hers. Her skin silky smooth and soft against her skin. She said her name as if it were a caress.


"I dream."

"Yes, my love this is a dream."

"Janet, I love you."

"I know lover. I love you too."

" I can't find you…Janet! Janet! Baby I can't find you…where are you!? Janet!"

With a stifled cry, Sam bolted up right in bed, shaking and sweaty. Her body screamed as the jerking movements cause her immense pain. She lay back down panting into searing flashes of agony it was overwhelming. The corners of her eyes glistened in blood crusted tears.

The sound of her Janet saying her name still echoed inside her mind as she pulled the covers around herself. Dawn lite in the sky it was nearly morning. She dreaded what was to come today. She knew that in an hour the Inquisitor would come with the intent of delivering pain and torment. It was clockwork. Something Sam could depend on. One hour after sunrise, Kobal would come for her, by second meal she would leave. It was always the same. Day in and day out for Sam knew not how long; days…weeks? She couldn't tell anymore.

A wave of nausea and dizziness swept through her, a reaction to the pain she's suffered. Her stomach began to convulse and she sat up abruptly, making her pounding head throb even more. She moved to fall from the bed to her knees onto the floor; the bruised and broken ribs jarred her into immobility. For several minutes her stomach spasmed each time stopping just short of throwing up its meager contents. Gradually the seizures stopped and she leaned against the cold wall of her cell, gasping.

She blinked, grunting with each breath. The pain was constantly stabbing her insides now. Each breath she took agony. "Oh. . .God . . .it hurts. . ." The voice of a child to her mother. "Let me die, Oh god. . . please. . ." The chilled emptiness of her cell was her only answer.

The cell door slid open, with its usual whoosh. Sam waited silently as two human guards entered. "Get up. Face the rear of the wall!" The nearer guard orders. "Hands behind your back!"

Gagging her strength, Sam used the wall to climb to her feet; her whole body trembled in her pain. She slowly turned her back to them and waited while he came across the narrow room. She was roughly grasped; first by one hand then the other as the metal wrist restraint was locked into place.

"What is this now!?" She demanded

"You'll find out in due time," he lead her out of the cell.

In her weakened condition, her legs buckled from under her, it hurt too much to walk, to move. Each guard slung their pulse riffles over their backs and moved to hoist Sam by her elbows, but she yowled in pain, they ignored her pleas as they half carried her, half dragged her down the hall. She was used to taunts over the last two weeks, didn't bother answering the jeers the guards played at her. What was left? Kobal had beaten everything she had out of her. Her execution then? Thank god if that were true, at least then it would be all over. She was brought into a smaller cell that the one she had occupied, about the size of a walk-in closet. The guards stepped away from her; Sam immediately crumbled to the hard floor. She didn't move. She almost laughed, as the guards pointed their riffles at her. In this conditions what possible danger could she pose? She was no threat to them.

The door whooshed open a second time, and Kobal entered a wide grin on her face. Sam rolled her eyes, groaning, despising the woman who stood before her.

"Just get it over with." Sam mumbled, beyond caring.

Kobal's hand slipped to the button on the wrist unit, sending Sam into spasms of biting anguish. The moment seemed to last forever, when it would stop, Sam fought for consciousness.

"I ask the questions! Remember?"

Sam closed her eyes, chocking back the bile caught in her throat. Her breath was rasp, gargled in blood. She knew death was so close. So near. She could almost smell it.

"No! Not yet! You are not going to die on me!" The Inquisitor shrilly ordered as if she had the power over Life and Death. "Sit up. I want to see your face, Samantha." Kobal pushed the young Colonel into a sitting position.

"See those guards?" Kobal pointed to the two men behind her. "They'll take great pleasure in beating you. And for a reward, for their services, I may give them permission to fuck you."

Sam paled.

"I do believe that they hope that you will disobey my orders, they need a bit of fun. And don't let it cross your mind they won't care a bit if you were dead, they'd still fuck you." Kobal smiles widely, licking her full lips as she leaned close to Sam's ever whimpering, "You belong to me, Sam to do with as I please." She pulled back watching the young Colonel. "What pleases me is the three tons of Naquaada ore I gained in trade for you." She sneered. "You see, the Science guild is interested in you, it seems you are more then mortal, but less then a Celestial. This is very strange…you see the Calabim are very hopeful you are the one they want…but you will need to be tested first. It doesn't matter to me, Samantha; you were a very valuable commodity to me. Still I think I shall miss you."

"Go to hell." Sam whispered under her breath. She berated herself for the inability to fight, but the act of proper nourishment bad taken its toll. She looked gaunt and wraith like. No amount of healing could repair the after effects the starvation. In her near two week incarceration Sam had, had one meal and that meager, even by squatter standards. She was fortunate to be alive. She needed fluids and food if she could eat. She needed true rest.

She was still in the cuffs when the two guards hauled her from the small closet chamber to her former cell. Again they hoisted her to her feet, at least this time it was all fresh pain she felt and none of the old wounds. They tore off her blood, sweaty clothing then began roughly to bath her with cold water, soap and a sponge until the caked on blood came away. In the same gruff manor they would wash her mattered hair.

It was Olivia who came in to help her dress in a very unflattering black jump suit. At least it wasn't a scantly slip of cloth that pretended to be garments. She was given a pair of clean socks and her own boots had been restored to her. But as for her ALICE vest and BDUs Sam doubted she see that set again. A moment latter there was a thunk at the door and winged guards gestured for the attendant to leave the cell. Olivia hesitated for a moment, before she followed the guards from the cell. As if she wanted to say something . . .She winced, closed her eyes and softly stole away.

Sam thought of her future. And it was bleak, and beyond hope. What was the body but bone and tissue? It wasn't the soul. Once her spirit was gone, the only thing left was a shell. It didn't matter what happened after that, it never would.

Finding a new resolve within herself, Sam was prepared to face the alien that had bought her. She had to find that piece in her mind that could make all this go a way. Sam began to build the barriers and walls she could shield herself. She would completely divorce herself, her spirit from her body. She would become absolutely numb.

The door whooshed open allow for Kobal to come in. "I was generous today, Sam. I allowed you a few moments freedom. Did you appreciate my kindness?"

'Damn her! But I want to strangle her!' Sam without realizing it had stepped forward, facing Kobal. She shirked back once she heard the growls coming from the winged guard. In his hand his pulse riffle pointed at her chest. Sam was quickly running out of options. Her hands were still bound behind her back. The Remnant was faster then she was, Sam maybe able to give Kobal a good swift roundhouse kick to her head but she would be done for after that.

As she thought about it, being killed by a pulse riffle was far better then what was ahead of her. Teal'c once said that the target feels pure agony at the moment of disintegration but better a moment then several hours of torment, rape and pain. Sam rushed Kobal leapt into the air her foot concerted to Kobal's head spinning the human to the floor. The nest moment Sam was shot with the phaser fire. The Remnant pounced on her, pinning her to the ground.

"No! Do not mark her!" Kobal coughed climbing to her feet. The winged being pulled back as Kobal's hand slammed down hard upon the wrist unit. The ever-familiar pain surged through out Sam's body.

"That was a very big mistake!" Kobal screeched. She turned the intensity of the collar Sam continues to wither on the floor, experiencing new torture after new torture. The pain was intensified. She cried out until her voice could cry no more.

"Anymore and it would kill you!" Kobal shrilled above the screams of pain. "Thank your god that you have value to me, whore." The intensity of the collar went up another degree. Sam unable to contain the pain, passed out.

Beleth Andrealphus heart went out to her prisoner. There was such fear in those beautiful bright eyes that it made her almost weep. The smaller woman wanted to take her into her arms, and tell her all was well.

"I wont hurt you." She said as she watched the tall blonde.

Sam held her breath as she watched her captor lifted a silver gloved hand up, revealing a key to unlock the fastening of the collar.

Sam's hands immediately went around her throat and ripped the collar from her. She dropped it to the ground as if it was a viper around her neck. Red angry welts covered her skin were the collar had chafed. Instinctively she tenderly touched the sourness. Sam let out a gasp of utter relief and her lips curled into the most bewitching smile the Calabim had ever seen, as Sam drew her first taste of freedom in what had seemed like eons.

Andrealphus heart was again pulled as she saw the bruises and welts around Sam's long neck. She wanted to heal her, to make it all right. She reached for her, but almost instinctively Sam flinched once more, and Andrealphus could understand why. This woman standing before her had never known a gentle touch. A hand raised bent pain, not softness, not comforts, not care.

"I will not hurt you, Samantha" Andrealphus purred softly using her velveteen voice to sooth the skittishness from her prisoner. She looked like she was about to bolt at any moment. Fears yet instinctively afraid of being struck. Once again, she would wonder what she had suffered in the hands of her counterpart.

"I'll send a physician in to see to your wounds. Kobal had the wrong intentions I fear. You are not meant to be a host to the Goa'uld as she had assumed. You are to stay with us, you're knowledge of the temple is too dangerous to let out. But I can help you. For now, you'll be given therapy to help calm you."

Still weakened she could not fight as she felt her body becoming injected with some unrecognizable drug. Her captors may have changed methods but the colonel realized that her condition had not. She was still a prisoner; this was just another method of interrogation. Bad keeper, good keeper, it was just another game. She had been trained to withstand such interrogations, she would tell them nothing.

There was no fear in her eyes, or dread-just a kind of stripped look, as if a shield behind which she had hidden had been taken away, leaving her to face a foe unarmed. Doctor Beleth Andrealphus felt herself enthralled by the depth of the vivid blue of her eyes, as they coolly set upon her, unblinking. The doctor could feel her gaze diving into her soul studying her their power unnerved her. She wanted to look away, but found that she could not; the captive's gaze was pulling her in, drawing her. How was it she could do this?

The cold expression on her beautiful angelic face had not wavered. It stayed steady watching Beleth as a predator watches another. She deified her every movement, her every breath. There was loathing in her eyes, pure scorn for her new master. She said noting, shrank from nothing. Her courage astounded the Calabim psychologist. Perhaps she was the one to call forth Malphas; there was only one way to find out. She had to somehow gain this warrior's trust. Where Kobal had been the tormenter, Andrealphus would play the nurturer.

Sleep hadn't come; she tossed and turned, wrapping the sheets and the wool blanket around her legs. The absolute dead silence was deafening. She had finally fallen into an uneasy doze, filled with disturbing figments of dreams. Dreams that she had trouble recalling, and that bothered her. She never had difficultly recalling her dreams. So why now?

Two men dressed in white uniforms and another older man, who had trouble keeping his glasses in place, approached him. "Colonel Carter, my name is Farland. I am the nurse on this ward. I've been asked to collect you. You've been scheduled for a few tests. Please come with us."

The two large, burly men accompanying Nurse Farland, gave Sam little alternative. He had no doubt in his mind that if she refused to go, that the orderlies would pick her up and haul her away. So she tugged at the lapels of her robe and nodded slowly.

"Of course."

The nurse did not take the lead was Sam would have assumed, but instead, fell in behind her. She was lead into a typical medical office. Nurse Farland took her blood pressure, and blood. Examined her ears, eyes, and reflexes. Documenting everything he did meticulously on a clipboard. The doctor came in, did everything the nurse had done, and gave Sam a series of questions of her health.

The doctor also pulled fluid from her brainpan, bone marrow samples as well as a tissue sample. She was told simply that they would be used in a medical examination. Sam silently questioned it, as they had pulled blood, tissue, fluid and marrow for the last three consecutive days. They put her through word-association, inkblot tests, hand-eye coordination, and logic examines, and memory recall. As they studied the results, they gave her a thick telephone book sized, word-puzzles, containing ten thousand puzzles, guaranteed for hours of fun. It took Sam an hour to complete the book, and the Psychologists were still, going over her records, when she interrupted asking if she might have something to eat.

She was told that she had missed breakfast, which was served promptly at 7:30. And she should be more observant of the time. And that she would have to wait until, noon.

She responded. "I damn well can not take breakfast, when I am sitting in an office informing you doctors, what sort of image I imagine, I see when I look at ink folded between cotton-fiber, rag-stock paper. Now can I? " She was given a cup of tea.

After which she was brought into another room where once again she was questioned. On philosophy, science, history, religion, not once did they mention the Goa'uld or the Malakim They placed electrodes at his temples, scanning the brainwave patterns quickly marked thick black blotches on reams of paper. A CAT-scan followed. She was set through another battery of tests a multiple-task evaluation. It took her well into the evening. She was sent back to her room after Director Vapul, himself shot Sam with Thyroxin, and what he described as a vitamin supplement. Then left to his room.

"It's incredible. This woman uses thirty-five present of his mind." Doctor Beleth said, the astonishment apparent in her voice.

Director Vapul said. "Her intelligence though astounding is not the issue here. The Calabim wish for her presence in their…search for answers."

Beleth scowled. "We can't give her over to them…"

"Tomorrow, I am scheduling her for another battery of tests. I want to test out a few theories, before I have to give her up. Besides the Calabim want answers. With her intelligence she simply could be telling us what we want to hear. I am going to insure she is forthright with us."

Doctor Beleth didn't like it, but she had to admit, that Director Vapul had a very good point. Sam Carter could be telling, them exactly what they needed to hear. So she kept her protests to herself.

There was another however, who did not, a robust man who had problems keeping his glasses on his nose. He had witnessed the tests and heard the conversation between the two doctors. What sort of tests would they subject Samantha to? And what sort of drug had Director Vapul pumped into the beautiful woman? He would need to get a sample. The problem the drug was locked securely in the director's office, which was kept, locked, at any time the man wasn't in it. And the only set of keys belonged to the director. Getting in was not going to be an easy task. Shedim Farland knew something was terribly wrong with the drug being used.

"Well that was a bit unexpected." It was Sam who spoke. When she had touched her door she relieved a small electrical shock. She stood back, shaking her hands. They were still stinging.

"Each time you touch that door you'll relieve a more potent shock." It was a voice that came from the monitoring camera mounted in the corner of the cell.

"Not exactly procedure is it?" Sam challenged.

"It is to risk patients." The voice said

"Now, I am a risk?"

"You always were a risk, Colonel. Only I know the truth."

"And what is the truth?"

"The truth is such a precocious, abstract thing. The truth is a dangerous thing to you."

"So it is." Sam admitted to the axiom. "Tell me, what you see?"

"A woman who knows the name of death."

"Now you are being myopic and ambiguous."

"How dose it feel?"

Sam didn't answer.

"I am trying to keep you alive. The less you know the better. And when this is over. Not a soul will believe you."

And Sam woke up. Her world had recently gone deeply weird. One-minute life was life filled with family, SGC, friends, Science. The next minute it had become fear and violence, an anarchic lawlessness that extended down to the level of the fundamental physical laws. She was far from home. As far from home as it is possible for a human being to get. Not a far place, a place apart, a place not touching reality, isolated. Forget the normal. Normal was gone. Normal belonged to the real world. If she closed her eyes and lost consciousness, she was transcended in to the other world. Or back again. She never slept; she was in one world or the other, always awake. She knew she had to be in another world. If a dream...why then did she feel pain? You do not feel pain in a dream. So logically she was in another reality.

From time to time, Sam had seen even in her world, the real world, there were degrees of reality. Not throw out Newton or Galileo out the window, but tiny gaps in the structure of reality. The Tunnels of SGC had been a prime example, the Malakim another the SG1 yet a third and the Grove a fourth. Yes reality. How it all changed. Just peeks and glimpses of strangeness, all somehow caused by the comings and goes in her cell. Her world had become opaque. Fall asleep over there in Otherworld, lose consciousness, and suddenly you're back in the real world, or even the other way round. That seems to be the key. Consciousness that kept her there. But knowing that, or at least believing that, didn't tell her how she can avoid going back, how she can grab on and hold on to her own world. And she did want to hold on.

The first thing she did was to touch her door. She did not receive a shock. But the door would not open. She didn't think it would. Still it hadn't stopped her from trying. Or hopping. But the door was locked, and so she could only wait until they came for her. And then they would only run more tests. The same tests. Everyday, the same tests: blood, bone marrow, tissue, urine, and brain-fluid. Then they would test her memory. Her mettle reflexes. Ask her questions. Never once had they asked her of SGC or her teammates, as had her first inquisitor. Never once had they asked her of the Malakim. Never once had they said anything of her mission.

The doctors murmured and muttered over her records, over the biochemistry findings. They couldn't believe what the lab reports told them. Not entirely human.... what the hell did that mean? The doctors began running theories after theories. Most of it sounded like something out of science fiction. Was she a genetic experiment? She was a genetic mutation or perhaps the next step in the evolutionary scale. She was.

The more tests they ran, the more incorporative, Sam became, until finely she stopped speaking altogether. And so they took away the privilege of books, writing material, anything remotely interesting. She had nothing but what the tests gave her. And desperate for any sort of stimulation she preformed the tests as a trained monkey. She was doing it out of behavioral patterns, without emotion, without heart. Colonel Samantha Carter experienced something she had never experienced before. Boredom.

The doctors' speech drummed in her ears. Sam forced it into their voices into the static of white noise. She forced the thrumming to fade. She concentrated on her heart, the thumb…thump of her heart, and the steady rhythm of her blood flowing in and out.

Sam lost consciences, in her own self-hypnotism.

"Welcome…So you have returned. Willingly. I am surprised to see you."

"You have answers." Sam challenged the disembodied voice coming out of the black box.

"And you think, I'll give them to you."

"No...I do not. But I will take them from you."

"I want an answer myself. Tell me Samantha, what is reality?"

"Reality is the truth of the world around you. Reality is not fantasy. Reality is existence"

"And are you in fantasy or reality? What reality are you in?"

Sam was silent. She couldn't answer, what she didn't know. She turned from the box, ashamed. "I...do...not know."

"Than you do not exist." The voice teased.

"Yes I exist! I exist! Pain is real! Blood is real! I feel pain. I bleed. I am real!"

"Pain and blood. Blood and pain...Yes. Simple. And so life is the blood and blood is the life?"

"Admittedly…Where there is life you will find blood, yes. A tree, it has sap...it is its blood. The earth... she has rivers, oceans, seas, and lakes...magma it is her blood. Carbon based-life forms have iron based plasma...yes blood is equated to life. A being cannot live with out blood. A tree with out sap withers and dies. A planet with out water has no life. Carbon-based beings cannot live with out plasma. So yes, life must have blood, in order to exist. Now, I have answered one of your questions. You will answer one of mine. The drug, that has been give to me. There is a hallucinogen, in it. And it is opium based. What is it?"

"I think, I'll let you deduce that on your own. You have done so well, so far. Considering, you don't exist."

"I do exist! I do exist!" It became a mantra. "I do exist! I do exist! I do exist! I do exist!"

"Of course you exist, Colonel Carter." Doctor Vapul gently said.

Once again, Sam had lost conscience. Or had she gained it? She wasn't arguing with the box, she was under the long banquette table, the sort you can buy at Wal-Mart, hugging her knees to her chest. She became suddenly aware of how she came to be under the table. The drone of voices, her heart beat, then she slipped from her chair and closed her eyes. And woke up.

"Nurse. Take two orderlies and escort the Colonel back to her room. She is clearly distressed and needs her rest."

"I do not need rest!" Sam snapped. "I need stimuli. You have put me in a cell with nothing to enliven the mind."

"Colonel.... Samantha." Vapul said a mouthful of saccharine. "We disgust this didn't we?"

"Not that I recall."

"We decided you need rest. And that distractions will only impede your return to heath."

"I am healthy. I was before they sent me to Bedlam."

"They? Colonel there is no they." More artifice. "Are you feeling persecuted Samantha?"

"No. I am not! I am prisoner of war! You know why? Because hoards of demon-worshiping enthusiasts have stretched out their vile hand and swept the world into a stupor. You do not see it, because you do not want to admit such horrors exist. But they do. I have fought them! I know the tapestry they weave. It pulls in threads of other people's lives. And it will destroy them. I know it. I have seen it happen and it will again. I demand you release me at once. I am not a lunatic. But if my incarceration continues, I soon will be."

Doctor Vapul put a hand on Sam's arm, squeezing it. "We will let you go, as soon as you're well. But demons... a conspiracy? Come, come Samantha you don't truly believe in such rhetoric nonsense do you? You are a woman of letters. A scientist. Surly logic, tells you that the improbability of the things you spoke of don't exist."

"Science instructs me that such things must exist. Yes, I am a scientist, a colonel, and a woman of logic. And, I am a woman who knows that this darkness is out there."

"Religious persecution?" The doctor made marks on his clipboard, tsking his tongue as he did so. The man outstretched his arm to glance at his watch. It was then that Sam noticed a marking on the other's inside arm. A tattoo of sorts: a Goa'uld snake facing the viewer with six eyes and a pair of wings. It was small, about the size of a pen-cap.

"You are one of them!" Sam lunged for the arm, showing the tattoo. And orderly snatched his baton and clubbed Sam in the back of the knees, sending her to the floor in a muffled cry. She was on her hands and knees, when she felt a kick go into her stomach. She was on her side candling her new wound. "He is Calabim! You ware the mark! Bastered!" She was up, lunging for the doctor, but the orderly picked her up, slammed her onto the banquette table holding her baton over Sam's throat.

"He...is one of them!" She choked out.

Vapul, had a hypo ready, filled with a tranquilizer. He stabbed the needle into the meaty part of Sam's chest. "Calabim!" Sam snarled.

The doctor had another hypo filled with the vitamins, there was tipple the dosage in it.

Even as Vapul came closer, Sam kicked the guard hovering over her, leapt from the table, her legs buckled as the tranquillizer had taken effect. She was on the floor unable to move more than an inch. Vapul enclosed the distance. One last desperate action, a push sent Vapul on his backside, the contents of his pockets spilled onto the floor.

One green liquid filled vile hit Shedim's white shod foot. Causally the nurse picked up the vile and shoved it into his own pocket. "Doctor. That dosage..." He began protesting. Moving between doctor and patient. But Vapul's goon took the hypo from the doctor's hand and jabbed it into Sam's chest, pumping full of the green drug.

Sam clutched her heart. The whites of eyes wide. Shock. Her body froze in rigidness. Stiff pain. Then all too suddenly she collapsed.

Adam's rose to his feet, straightening his tie. "Farland. This patient is hostile. For the safety of others and herself, she is to be transferred to one of the padded wards, and restrained in a straight-jacket.

"Doctor.. I don't think that's necessary. She was provoked. The drug you've been giving her. It isn't vitamins. It's affecting her. That, with the thor..."

"Farland, you want to continue your employment here?"


"Then shut-up and do as your told. I, not you, am the doctor here. And, I know what is best for the patient. If you can't do it, I'll find some one who can. Understood?"

Shedim looked away, his eyes on the near-comatose form of Sam. He couldn't help her, if he was terminated. Quietly he shook his head, mumbling. "Of course doctor. I'll do what you say."

"Excellent. Oh, and John, will help you."

Shedim cast a spiteful glare to the orderly, who only responded with a smile filled with bad teeth, and even fowler breath.

"I am so sorry. Samantha...I am going to get you out of here. You just got to hang on.'"

"You learned something today." It was that voice. The voice of Nightmare.

It had a name now. It spoke to a man, to a woman. It spoke, to a shadow on silent vigil, to a cowering, frightened child. "You learned the lamentation of torment."

"I learned.... Go away. Leave me in peace."

"Oh...? Nothing, you say?

"It begins very small, seems like nothing much at all. Just a germ, just a speck, just a grain, but the seed has been sown, and before you know it, it had grown. It has spread through your life like a stain. And its power will strangle your love and joy, and its hunger consumes for it lives to destroy. Hate. It becomes who you are. Not the hated, but the hater, it has a torment that is greater. It will eat you alive. Consume you and spit you out. Hate is going to win, of that there is not doubt. Learning to hate is an art, even people who are smart can be caught, can be crushed. Hate was swallowed you whole. Did you really believe you were in control? Hate you thought. Hate you spoke. Hate you dreamed. All your hate has given me substance. Your lives are undone. It is the eve of your destruction. Your hate was won!"

"Who are you!?"

"I am Malphas, Keepers of the Lambent Reproach are my followers they are mortals who call themselves the Calabim."

"One of the Remnants…Traitors to the Virtues…defiled of the Malakim!"

It was a horrible experience when the nightmares came at you when you are awake. Four lives, knew the truth of that statement, better than anyone. Never underestimate the power of the Darkness.

"Shedim this sample…you were right." Doctor Beleth murmured softly "It is amphetamine / hallucinogen. It has a base in opium. And something more...I tested it on some plasma; on the cellular level it was as a hyper-accelerate, the same as any amphetamine. An antidote would be thyroxin or a depressant, as it would with a hallucinogen. I didn't understand why Doctor Vapul would use the two together, until I tested the chemical on a sample of Samantha's blood. It acted as pure adrenaline it aggravated the effects. It would have a euphoria effect, at first. Then there would be a gross change of effects. There would be disassociation, a lapse in judgment, and a seeming heightened sensation of strength, dexterity and stamina. Leaps in logic. An over dose would normally result in uncontrollable shaking and shivering, difficultly in breathing, high heart-rate blood pressure, possibly leading to a heart attack or stroke. She'll go through: paranoia, loss in judgment, inability to make realistic risk assessments and a willingness to try suicidal maneuvers. A person under the influence will fixate on a subject or a single task with myopic vision. And she'll have an altered perception of time. Minutes could last forever, and hours fly by. In time her heart will stop from atropine-toxicity."

Shedim looked grave. "She will die."

The older woman nodded. "Shedim, if the Vapul prescribed this poison, that man has no business in medicine, especially mental health. Shedim, he can program Samantha. He'll turn her insane. And she will die. I am going to have to find a way to talk to her."

Sam struggled to find her way, through the illusions of sleep, more to the point, through the illusions of waking. She was cringing in the corner of her cell, her hands clutching the sides of her head. Her weight rocked her back and forth on her heels. "Life...Love...Truth...Stay to the truth... The Truth... I am. I am. There is life. There is light. The Darkness will not prevail. Hate will not win. Do you hear me! Hate, will not win!" She leapt to her feet, screaming the pledge.

"It is useless. You must realize this." The voice said, in its ever-detached tone. It was a creature born of a nightmare, a monstrous snakelike beast with leathery skin, dull-feathered bat wings and metallic fangs. It slithered around the small cell, testing its strength. It possessed limited power, but what power it had was focused on the being who's night terrors had called to it. Patiently, with the diligence of something that has no concept of time, it waited, settling finally in the darkness of the corner of the padding, coiled ready to spring. A name formed in its mind.

"Samantha--Sam, Samantha-Sam, Samantha-Sam."

"Leave me, Malphas." Sam ordered."

"You can expect the mercy, of my house, if you surrender to me now. Your rebellion has failed."

"I, intend to go on fighting. You, risk oblivion, Malphas, as I am not alone."

The dark scaled, serpent threw back his head and laughed, his voice deranged and reckless as his nature. When his laughter died, he leaded down and lapped at Sam's face. "I, risk nothing," he replied, "Because I have nothing. Already, I am branded forsworn, and no atonement can rid me of that shame." Its mouth curled upward in a hideous semblance of a sneering smile. "Perhaps I will make it a badge of Honor. The Forsworn Prince has a certain ring to it, dose it not?"

"That, particular title has already been taken by your master."

"They will send their armies after you."

Sam nodded. "I expected no less."

"You can not stand alone against them."

"I will do what I must, regardless of the cost."

"You've already paid dearly. Come home to me, Sam. And I can uplift you."

"No, I do not think so. As you said, you have nothing. So you have nothing to offer, me. You are in no position to grant, anything. And, I am in no position to accept anything."

"What about your freedom? The life of your woman? Or the life of the woman who has followed you? What, is her name...Cassandra? Yes. Lt. Cassandra Fraiser, of the United States Air Force Stargate Command SG1. Wouldn't you, like to save her life?"

Sam's, face grew white, as she realized the import of the demon's, words. "If honor were expedient it would not be so highly prized." Sam retorted.

"You are what I am not. Keep your honor at the sacrifice of innocence. Stay then, if you must. Perhaps there will come another chance when you can save yourself."

"You will not win, demon. We will war, and we will win."

"You will condom a woman to death for your honor, Samantha? I have already won."

"You are a deceiver. And I, have a power you can not hope to achieve."

The demon laughed at the puniness at the human's words.

"You are desperate, little mortal."

"I also have not fallen from Grace. Tell me fallen one. What is it like to lose the ability to talk to the Heavens? To lose the feeling of World Symphony? You pose nothing in Virtues light, in its glory. You are a pathetic, fallen servant, who has no honor. And you have no power over me."

Malphas roared. One mighty arm swung out, clubbing Sam across the head, spiraling the colonel to the floor with tremendous force. Blood trickled out of the blonde's ears. Malphas's talons swooped in the air, slamming down across her chest. Visceral agony shot through Sam's body. She shuttered in the trauma of searing pain. Blood spilled thickly over her hands as she tried vainly to keep her intestines in his lower body. "Only the power of Death. Die here Samantha, die in the Otherworld."

The Colonel watched as the creature drifted, crossing an intangible border into a darker version of the world into what she had been so recently freed. It was the land of the dead, she thought, or at least the borderlands where spirits still hovered. She sensed the presences of other hungry spirits, filled with longing, for what they could no longer have. The demon fed on their longing, drinking in their unfulfilled love, hate, despair, and hope, and growing stronger. The taste of their dreams was like ashes in its mouth; soon she would be back into the world of the living.

Darkness settled between Sam's mind and the conscience world.

Doctor Beleth looked through the glass panel into the padded cell. She saw Sam curled in the fetal position, huddled in the furthest corner of the room. She was still wrapped in the straitjacket, but she seemed to be hugging herself, more out of pain, than the confining restrictions of the security garment. Her face, she couldn't make out as it was hidden. But, she recognized the spasms of what looked like an epileptic seizure.

She fumbled for her swipe-key to open the lock, when a hand closed around her's.

"No. Leave her be." It was director Vapul.

"She's in seizure."

"Take another look." The director gestured with an uplifted chin. "She was having a nightmare."


"Doctor Beleth, Colonel Samantha Carter, is no longer your patient, she is mine. And, in case you have forgotten, I am the head resident doctor on staff and the director. You are to have no contact with this patient. Have, I made myself clear?"

"Very clear." Beleth chillingly responded."

"Excellent. I would loath to have to see you leave our faculty on the grounds of insubordination. Now, don't you have rounds to attend to?"

Beleth gave a last look to the gentle woman behind the door. Something was terrible wrong. She could feel it. But she couldn't do anything. The director would have her out on her ear, before she could blink. Then where would she go?

"Yes. I, have my rounds."

"Than, snap to it."

"On my way director." Beleth tilted her head, as she slowly left the ward. Vapul watched her leave, before he turned his attention back to the patient. Sam was shuddering once more, convulsing, to what looked like pain. Pain that was purely psychological but no less real. A pain that caused permanent emotional and cerebral damages the psychoses of a tortured survivor. It was fascinating to witness. Just at that moment Director Vapul's pager went off. He unclipped, it from his belt and looked at the number, contemplating whether or not he was going to answer it. If it was his wife, she could wait. The green digital letters displayed a number that Director Vapul would not miss, if he were in a conference with God himself.

Sam fumbled for her own sense of control. The presence of Malphas had baffled her. It was not enough that she switch from the mythic realm of past memory, and the cold iron reality of the sanitarium, but now she was being haunted by the very creature she meant to put down. "I am not injured. It was but a phantasm, and nothing more." Sam rose to her feet. It wasn't an easy thing to accomplish; she was after all, bound by a straight jacket.

After living so many years, existence could become quite dull. Malphas was not to be the first, nor would he be the last to be inflected with the ailment of boredom. Much entertainment could be harvested from the creation of confusion, tension and general madness. The humanity squalor should be grateful for the entertainment he was to bestow upon them. He would give their jejune little lives, a bit of flavor.

But first thing first, there were things that needed to be attended to.

Wyvern Manor was an eccentric abode from a more civilized day. The house, gothic on one side, classical on the other was the apparent result of a matrimonial disagreement that was to end in separation. The exuberant plasterwork, suggests an architect with a touch of genius: bold, naive, and charming in its rusticity. It is a balanced masterpiece of late eighteenth century architecture a culmination of the Palladian traditions, yet strictly Neo-Classical in its chaste ornament and its noble austerity. The quality of the craftsmanship is breathtaking, from the masonry of the walls, with scarcely a hairline of mortar showing between the great ashlar blocks, to the carving or the massive Ionic capitals of the portico, from the exquisitely modeled plasterwork ceilings and friezes, to the large mahogany double doors, and evens their chased brass escutcheons and keyplates.

Wyvern Manor, belonged not to a single person, but to a hidden order, they call themselves, "The Keepers of the Lambent Reproach." They founded themselves on the encroachment of the finale nights. They had only existed for a short three hundred years, and despite that, they a sound membership. Most of the associates had been there since its conception. That included Malphas.

Malphas walked up the twelve-step entrance. He need not knock to announce his arrival; he had already been seen through the surveillance systems even as he had approached the edifice. Even so, he would not be allowed entry, not without proper identification. After all there were many, who possessed the ability of illusion and masquerade. Taking the identity of another was a great and acute art and thus several precautions had to be met. Retina scans, fingerprints, voice identification and even DNA scans could all be bypassed with the proper care.

The ancient stood only for a moment in front of the great double doors. If he wasn't recognized, the doors would not be opened, and he would be attacked and killed. For the past three decades, no one had successfully infiltrated the sanctum of the order.

The mahogany barrier clicked signifying to Malphas he was granted entry. Even then he would be tested. In this modern age, heartbeat algorithms could be detected and scanned. And again if Malphas did not pass, he would be set upon by the Order's defenses.

Malphas passed through the marble hall, his mind distracted. He watched the black and white checkered tilling pass beneath his feet. It had always reminded the old one of a chessboard. Strangely enough it was the dark tiles, that would possess some sort of measure of safety, as the white squares would fall way, leaving gaping holes, if Malphas had not passed the second battery of tests. It was one of the many snares and traps that Wyvern Manor, exhibited, for its patrons' protection. A single cherry wood door creaked open into a chilled chamber, the great parlor. Malphas paid little attention to the rooms as he passed through them. The conference was being held in the old chapel, which had insolently been converted into a cottier hall. Crimson Persian tapestries, hung against cold marble walls, giving the room the look of warmth it lacked. The pews had been cleared away, replaced an eighteenth centaury Portuguese banquet table, the white marble slap was held aloft by gold embossed, oak gilded legs that ended in lions' claws. Seven high backed thrown like chairs surrounded the matching table. Each chair save one was occupied.

Starting from the left, nearest the door Malphas, had scarcely entered, was a man of seemingly forty years of age. His hair he wore in blond stringy strips around a withered head. His name was Director Vapul, also a magus.

The next, a winged warrior of noble bearing was a tall and well muscled, Balder, presents an imposing figure to those who meet him. His glossy tawny hair and rugged futures make him handsome, except for the jagged scar on his right cheek and the patch over his right eye that had been bolted into his scull. He appears fierce and uncompromising. He is a ruthless leader in the Remnants general to Malphas.

The last to occupy the left was Caspian Gravenhurst Magus of House Balmung. With gelled, sandy hair and a, a tall broad frame, Caspian cuts an attractive figurer. His long-lashed, hazel eyes are strangely compelling. He has a square jaw and set features. He could have easily replaced, Christopher Reeve in the title roll of Superman. He is a man in his late thirties, embraced in the prime of his life. His hypnotic stare, and his unconscious habit of drumming his fingers lightly on any flat surface were enough to drive even the most patient into agitation.

Rounding the corner to the right was a lithe shrouded female; the arch of her wings could just be made out in the dim light she too was obviously of the fallen Malakim. Her body had the build of an athlete. Her movements predatory, as she would stare down her opposition. She was the youngest of the gathered.

Seated next to her, Kobal. There are spies and then there are assassins, and then there is Inquisitor Kobal. She was responsible for at least two-dozen noble deaths. Her face was elongated, and covered in tight leather, pale skin, her black eyes but beads. Her voice almost was a whisper, and nothing more. She was covered in a shroud of layers of black lace. Her skulking unnerved even the most stable of minds.

To her side, Lord Aubery, no longer young is still incredibly magnanimous. Tall, angular muscled, Aubery fashions himself of regal elegance. His silver mane flows down the long expanse of his back. He has dark-blue eyes that flash with wisdom and icy power. His majestic arrogance is worn like a mantle, a man comfortable with his power, and grace.

The last chair, headed the table, left open for the head of the Society. Malphas's voice would be respected as the most dominate. Even as the ancient entered the chamber, heads turned starring with cool tolerance.

It was Aubery, who spoke first. "Why, have you called us, Lord Malphas?"

"We have found the Chosen one." Malphas gleamed. "She was at war with the Diabolicals, against insurmountable odds she faced them down. She would lay down her life to protect not only those she loves, but also her own Liege Commander, and her beliefs. Her beliefs...her Virtues, and adherence to them are unquestionable and unshakable. She is a guardian of justice.

"I have been within her mind. On countless occasions she had been forced because of her honor to her duty as a warrior to carry deeds that were distasteful to her. Though she complied she did so under duress. She harbored an enemy in her gates and shown the virtues of benevolence and compassion. She dose not take a life lightly, though she will not hesitate to do so. She will commit no atrocities with a willing heart. She is more than a warrior she is a Malakim Knight born to a mortal shell. She is empathic and has been most resilient to my tempting of her. She will not Fall."

"Her mind is astounding. I have rarely encountered such brilliance. Even with the drug therapy I have given her she withstood much." Vapul followed Malphas's assessment. "And she is very resourceful. She has been able to withstand the conditioning.

"The medical tests I have run, she isn't entirely Tau'ri. Se has been through a gestalt, a gene alteration. She has the protean markers of a Diabolical within her, but there is more. . Her cellarer regeneration is so acute that it has effectively slowed her aging process. I have run extensive tests on this; the only answer I can fathom is spontaneous evolution. Down to the molecular level she had been deliberately altered. But not by her kind I warrant."

"I don't know about gene-altered gestalts or her empathic abilities, but she is resilient. That I can attest. Even under my more…influential questing she had been able to with stand it. What is more impressive is her ability to remain coherent enough not to betray her people, indeed she went as far as to fabricate a mendacity to protect her own. I must say I was most impressed with her rigidity when she was within my custody. She has the most remarkable ability to withstand much." Kobal smiled slithering smirk.

"I know her heart." Said the shadowed female. "She is the Chosen One. In her death Achelous will rise again. And the Ruminates will be liberated from the torment of the Malakim. At last we will have our vengeance."

"We waste our breath speaking. Gather her and be done with it." Balder's timber tone barked. "I am sick onto death of talking and waiting." His wings fluttered with his impatience.

Lord Aubery nodded. "We will call the summoning of all Calabim. Our allies amongst the Diabolicals will also be notified. After all had it not been for them destroying the Stargate, we would not have our Prize now. Their payment is little enough, merely eggs of the Wyrms.

"It will take time to make all of the preparations." Caspian Gravenhurst remarked. "There is much to do before the Summoning of Achelous. It will take time for the others to gather."

Seven days pasted.

Sam had remained silent, speaking to none. Now, they were sitting in a small workroom, with little furniture, only two chairs, a table, an easel, complete with brushes, canvases and paints.

"Do you know how many strings I, had to pull to let you in here. To get you alone, unsupervised."

Sam, tilted her head gesturing too the double mirror. Doctor Beleth Andrealphus followed her eyes; she saw their reflections looking back at them. "A precaution only. Hospital regulations."

Still Sam said nothing. Beleth leaned closer to the blonde.

"Tell me." She took her hand. "Tell me, what they did to you." She touched the side of her face. "Tell me, let me help you. I can't help you, if you don't speak." She urged.

She didn't speak. Instead she was looking at the mirror and the reflection of a tree. She dipped her fingers into a blend of browns and began to paint. Not on the canvas to her right, but on her skin not only on her skin but also on the hospital issued sweatshirt.

In her experiences, doctor Andrealphus, had seen many things, including the marking of one's self. She would allow the tall blonde to play it out, using the quirk to help her through what ever it was she was trying to reconcile.

"Samantha…" She said softly once more. "You're not going to be released, unless you talk."

Nothing. She contently, continued to paint herself.

Andrealphus was losing her complacency, more at what the director had done to this brilliant woman, than Samantha herself. The doctor took hold of her hand, darning her to protest. She gave her negligible attention, instead she switched hands and began painting her skin with her other hand.

The redhead watched, fascinated by her ease of nimbleness, and coordination. She simply adjusted and resumed, still not saying a single word.

A knock at the door startled Beleth, so much that she dropped Sam's hand. It fell hard against the table, she didn't cry out in pain, but simply shook the stinging sensation from her, and continued to paint.

"Doctor...Nelsons' at it again..." A nurse popped her head in the room, after buzzing the locking magnetic mechanism.

Beleth, growled an intangible curse, she slammed her fist on the table. "Can't you handle it?"

"He's out of control, doc." The nurse was persistent.

Beleth Andrealphus rolled her eyes. She cut a glance to Sam who has still paining herself in patterns of browns, and reds. "Guess your not going to argue that I am, gone." She said to the silent blonde.

Even as she walked out the door, she could hear, Nelson yelping at the top of his lungs, signing, "I am Henry the Eighth." Andrealphus knew he was running around in circles in the buff. It was always easier when doctor Andrealphus calmed him, rather than having the orderlies restrain him, so they had been commanded to leave him be and let the doctor handle him. Nelson had the body of linebacker and the mind of a four-year-old child.

"...I got married the widow next door. And she's been married seven times a' fore, and every one of em' a Hennery…Hennery! Second verse, same as the first..." Nelson was skipping around the day room, with a tablecloth wrapped around him like a roman toga.

"This is new." Dr. Andrealphus commented from the side of her mouth.

The orderlies had posted themselves at every door to the room, watching with detached faces as another nut went wacko. The official technical language of the doctors behind closed doors.

"I am Hennery the Eighth, I' am, I am. I am Hennery the Eighth, I' am, I am...."

"Hey Nelson, buddy." Andrealphus started.

"...I got married the widow next door. And she's been married seven times a' fore, and every one of em' a Hennery…Hennery! Second verse, same as the first..."

Andrealphus could have kicked herself in the butt. When she got like there, she only answered to one name. "Henry, my friend. What's up?"

Nelson stopped, and padded over to her doctor. "I just got married to the widow next door..." "Yes I know. Nelson.... Henry come on lets go sit down and we'll talk. You can tell me all about her."

Every year, on the anniversary of her wife's murder, Nelson Brucato went into a binge. In his case he really did marry the widow next door a very lovely lady who was a kindergarten teacher. Nelson at one time had been a talented lawyer. Then one day while walking in the park, a psychotic gunman killed Mrs. Brucato. Her brain had splattered over, Nelson's face. He was never the same. The stray bullet that had lodged in his own brain had rendered the man, an imbecile. His law firm had committed him, as he had no living relatives, and he had been instituted ever since. He did however have her in-laws that visited once a month, twice in the spring.

Andrealphus had persuaded Nelson to sit and talk, to sit a cry. Soon, he was his quiet self, once more. It was a little more than a half an hour before, Andrealphus returned to Sam. She unlocked the door, walked in the room and starred. A clipboard clattered to the floor. A pen rolled to an empty chair. A chair Sam had been sitting in.

"Shit!" Andrealphus snapped and dodged out of the room. She grabbed nurse Farland by the arm. "Where the hell did she go?'


"Samantha!" She pointed to the vacant chamber. "Where, the hell is she?! "

Shedim, stumbled as he saw, or rather didn't see, what the doctor was referring. The room was devoid of life.

"How did she get out? The door was locked the whole time...wasn't it?" It had been. She knew it was. It had an automatic lock.

Shedim shook his head, he didn't understand. "I don't know." He truly didn't know. But he couldn't say that he wasn't unhappy. He himself would have like to know how it happened.

"Search the area! She couldn't have gotten far, not with those drugs in her system. They are supposed to make her placid and controllable" Andrealphus shrilled. Farland dashed the halls, calling to a few of the orderlies he knew he could trust. Andrealphus stayed behind looking around in the room. Then she looked to the mirror. What was it that had so captivated Samantha? She sat in the chair she had vacated, and stared into the reflection. She saw herself, the corner beyond and the large oak tree out in the lawn outside.

She stood up, a new frown on her face as she looked out the window, then back to the mirror, than back again. She left the room once more and went into the apartment beyond the glass, where a video camera was set up. She played the tape back, watching was Sam was paining herself. The cassette had run out of tape, just after she had left the room. But, Beleth didn't need too see any more, to know what was the outcome.

She went back into the room, just as Shedim Farland approached her.

"I, arranged for a hospital wide search, floor by floor doc..."

"Call it off." Andrealphus said. "She never left the room."


Andrealphus entered and stepped onto the table. She reached her hand out to touch the glass of the window, but instead she made contact with solid flesh. Paint coated flesh. Paint coated cloth.

The tree opened its eyes and starred out. Shedim leapt back, startled. It was the best damn camouflage job he had ever seen, even when he was in the military. Nothing came close. This woman could teach the Infiltrators a few things.

Sam, had somehow managed to paint herself, and her clothing so exacting, that she had become the tree. She was perfectly cloaked.

"I am impressed, Samantha. You really are amazing, even with the lithium you show remarkable reliance." Andrealphus smiled, giving her patient a hug, effectively smearing her paint job. "What, am I going to do with you?" She laughed, pulling her, compliantly down off the table.

Sam didn't even speak then. Nor did she utter a word when Shedim took her to the washroom; to have one of the female nurses clean her up. Once, Shedim knew he was in the privacy of the room he leaned close. "You have to be quiet." The nurse almost laughed. He was telling a woman who hadn't spoke for seven days to keep her mouth shut. "I am going to get you out tonight. You have to do everything, I say, got it?"

Dead silence.

"I'll take that, as a yes. You, know that was a real fancy trick you did with the paint, back there. I must say I am awed. I, never seen anything like it."

"No, I suppose you have not"

"You, cheat!" Shedim laughed. "Why, are you pulling the silent act?"

Sam smiled. "To boggle the minds of the doctors as well to cling to my own sanity. The drug the director has been inducing with has tainted my mind, Shedim. I can't trust myself…"Whatever Sam was going to say was lost, when the door opened, by another nurse wheeling in Nelson from the dayroom to his cell. After his talk with Doctor Andrealphus, he had gone catatonic.

"Look, tonight in your cell, you'll have a window of eighty-five seconds in order to get out of your restraints which I wont buckle and crawl into the air vent…you'll have to move fast okay? I'll be able to loop a video feed of you in your room, so you can maneuver thru the ducts to the outside. By the south wall in the garden you will find new clothing, I buried there, you have five minutes to get out of the garden before the sensor sweep and to the motor pool. I have a friend there who will wait for you, he'll take you out of the complex, after that you're on your own."

"Why are you doing this?"

"I am not Calabim…" He smiled. "The Malakim are my friends. I stay here to do what I can to help others…they are looking for the Sacrifice…I can't let them hurt innocents. That includes you Samantha. Look I can't do much…it will jeopardize my position here and an infiltrator…if Malphas is successful there will be a lot more scarifies, he intends to allow all the Calabim and the prisoners here to be used as hosts to the Serpent lords…I can't let that happen…I can't go with you…nor can I do more then give you a chance to you escape, you'll have to be on you're own."

"Thank you." Sam smiled. "I owe you one. And when I get out…perhaps I can return the favor, help you protect the innocents."

True to his word Farland had not tired her restraints, nor had he given her the drug to subdue her.

When the lights snapped shut, it was a cue for Sam to move. She had so little time to make a brake for it. At the very least, she felt more like herself then she had in the three weeks of her capture.

Sam pried the vent grating from the wall, and then slipped into the shaft, pulling the grate closed behind her. She didn't know how long she had before the Calabim guard learned of her disappearance, she'd wager it wouldn't be long. Hopeful by that time, she would out of the building, and into safety.

So dark. So quiet. So empty.

The stillness in the metal tunnels had an eeriness to it…it was the anticipation of a woman sentence to death, by guillotine. There was something more; Sam knew that she must keep the fear, from tainting her. Sam had quickly learned the rules to the game. The rules underlying all she saw and experienced she had come to understand them, all to well. Things make sense once you know the rules. That was the human experience: that mysteries evaporate once if you pay close enough attention. Sam was very good at paying attention.

You want control? Learn the software.

There was a duct dividing itself from the rest of the conduits, just barely visible in the minimal light offered by tributaries of airshafts, a geometrical, serpentine path leading down from the junction. Sam couldn't see if it joined the outside, couldn't prove that the duct lead directly from that opening to the junction, but in the absence of definitive facts you can infer from your own experience.

Or maybe she just knew because something down in the deep recesses of her unique mind, something buried way beneath all the layers of reason and rationalization and denial and skepticism, something down there just knew the danger. The danger of the truth. The danger of hope. All too sudden the conduit that clearly lead to the outside world!

Freedom was but a hair's breath away. And yet it was so completely distant. Freedom was a twenty-five-story drop. Her heart broke. Freedom, had cruelly been snatched away. She had been teased, taunted jeeringly into trying to make it to the outside world. Now hope of that had diminished.

An irrational fear shot, white hot through Sam. What if she was trapped? Couldn't find away out. She'd be lost in the conduits like the rats and spiders. Stop it Carter! You're a warrior a solider…you're supposed to be able to handle anything. Since when did you become a doomsayer?

In the face of adversity, sometimes, pride, proved to be one of the best motivators, too continue on, when all hope seems lost. Sam took a mental survey of their situation. She were five stories above the ground, which meant she had to at least descend two more too be able to jump from the air-vent with any relative safety. And that was still very risky, too mention, the Calabim security must surly realize that she was gone missing by now, and most assuredly hunting for her. She was a solider trained to handle dangerous circumstances, she could handle this.

Turning around in the vent proved more of an acrobatic feat, then, Sam was prepared for. At the first junction, she crossed; Sam would have to back out, until she crossed the first interchange.

Sam, had no way of knowing how long she, had been running the tin-maze gauntlet, but knew at the very least a several minutes had past. She tried to take a mental note of the time, knowing she had so little of it left. Dust and cobwebs, marred the way. At last the reached a duct, that descended. Sam slipped down carefully, pressing her back against one side and her hands and feet against the other. She went half her body length down. In this fashion she inched their way down. Every ten feet, she would stop and rest in the alcove of a conduit.

Seventeen grueling minutes latter, Sam could feel her own strength vanquishing, her arms felt like jelly. The last ten feet didn't have a junction in which they might take a respite. And so she had to simply continue. She looked down briefly and saw an 'L' shaped conduit. The shaft split. Just another five feet and she could rest.

She made it three feet.

All at once, Sam, felt her arms give, and she dislodged tenuous hold. She was falling and falling fast. She was plummeting, uncontrollably. The cramped space, proved more of a deterrent, than aid. Sam fought desperately to catch hold. But the speed of her decent, burned her hands, was impossible to navigate around. She continued her hellish fall. Then a bone-jarring crash jolted through her legs. Mettle groaned, screeching, biting against flesh. She cried out, betraying herself to the pain.

Timber. Plaster. A new pain shocked her spine as she landed, suddenly, shockingly. Debris smacked hard against her, whooshing her breath away, nanoseconds zoomed and she was suddenly drenched in stale warm water. Somewhere in the recesses of her mind, Sam knew she had landed on a waterbed and broke it. The deluge swamped her. Sam's own mouth was filled with the fusty water coughed sputtering as water forced itself into her lungs. The wind knocked from her lungs, unable to dislodge the water, Sam would drown in inch of water. Her stomach violently protested. She vomited, spewing black foulness, from her empty stomach. Forcing the water out, greedily sucking in the air.

Sam became painfully aware of her own injures. Her clothing was in tattered shreds. A grey shard of mettle had penetrated her thigh, lancing it through. Its jagged edges would make it impossible to pull out. Her only alterative was to push it through, the side-side. When she tried to move to floor, she found she was wracked with searing white-hot pain. She bit her lower lip, trying to keep from crying out. Tears sprang to the corner of her eyes. A wave of dizziness swarmed to her head, she doubted her ability to continue, the will to escape vanquished. All she wanted to do was to lie there and slowly sink into the darkness, that cold welcoming darkness. But she couldn't. Not, with her team depending on her.

Sam's leg and found it bleeding, with an arrow shaped wedge of mettle sticking out of it. Sam held her breath, wincing at the biting-brutal pain. Sam, for the first time looked at the debris around her. The fall bullet fast had plunged her through not only the thin mettle of the conduit, but she had shattered the dilapidated plaster of the ceiling. Bits of wood, plaster, stucco and mettle littered the floor and the wreaked waterbed.

She yanked the coverlet from the debris, and swooped it off. The blonde leaned over and took a small fragment of wood and put it on her lap. Sam wrapped the ends of the mettle with the edges of the blanket. She then put the wooden bar between her teeth.

With, all her might, Sam pushed with her one good hand at the mettle shrapnel impaling her leg. She let out a heart-wrenching cry. The wood fell from her mouth. The mettle fragment came free with a sickening slurp as a knife cutting threw a flank of meat. Sam's head swooned. Blood rushed thundering in her ears, her heart beating loudly, she could feel it coursing in her limb.

Her hand was shaking, as she reached behind her, taking a sheet. What little strength she had left, she ripped a scrap of it free, and used the wood she had in her mouth and used it to tighten in into a tourniquet. She then tied it off with another bit of cloth.

Using the sideboard, Sam, lifted herself up trying to gather what she needed to help. She took a bit of the sheet and created a crude ace-bandage. She wrapped the leg as gently as she could, and as tightly as she as she could manage with out cutting off the circulation.

"Okay think…just think…I have to get out." The very question preoccupied Sam's mind. With her leg marred as it was, she had no idea how she would manage the escape now. The young officer pushed herself up on to her good leg, jarring her wounded one as she did. Wracked with a new flash of pain, Sam crumbled to the floor once more. Biting her teeth feeling the numbness. Compared too this, she'd rather have a root-cannel with out anesthetic.

Now sitting in a darkened, ruin of a room, she felt, death close. It would be too easy too let it come. Too surrender. Half of her wanted nothing more. But, there was her duty. Giving up wasn't an option. It would never be an option. Never give up; they would not take her without a fight. Not ever. More than duty called to her. 'Janet…my love…you're sweet face rests in my heart…my hope…my love.'

Sam, pushed herself up onto her elbow pain, horrible pain wracked through her spine as she pushed herself up onto her elbows, trying to gain hold of her psyche. The lacerations in her leg from the mettle shrapnel, excruciating as it was, Sam forced it from her mind. She couldn't allow it to dominate her senses.

She gave a wiry smile. "I only need a moment to think." Pain lanced through her body; her whole skin felt slashed. She burned as though the sun had flared to crisp her like bacon in a pan. Having trying to stop herself from falling she had scalded, her hands with heat blisters. She stumbled to her feet, gritting her teeth against the torment her left leg rushed to her. Like a b-rated movie mummy, the young Colonel, dragged her way to the only window in the room. Hand trembling, she touched the ledge of the window. She parted the blinds, with a happy realization that she was on the second floor.

Had she been in sound body, it would have been an easy jump. Hell she had done such a thing before, both on and off the force. As a child, she with Mark, and cousins, had leapt from her Aunt Morgan's hayloft into a great honey-hued hay heaps, during summer vacations. They would swing from a thick, twisted, braided hemp rope, into the mounds of straw. When it was winter the hay, was exchanged for banks of powder-soft, snow. It was a trill. It scarred the hell out of her every time she swung and jumped; she must have jumped a thousand times.

The jump from the window in the Temple was even lower to the ground than the hayloft had been. Healthy, it wouldn't have been a problem. Now? She could barely stand without fainting. There was no way she could make the jump. She had to find another alternative, to jumping.

The young officer, focused on her surroundings. Debris, from the ruined ceiling and air-duct lay in scattered heaps it was a testament of failure. But amongst the rubble, lay the sheets and quilt. A crude rope could be fashioned from such. She tied the ends of the sheets together, with knots evenly spaced, approximately three feet apart.

At the end of the linen rope, Sam created a sort-of loop to safely descend. Safely . . . No, safe was a relative term. Sam's upper-body strength was fleeting. The agonizing pain in her left thigh was nearly unbearable. She had lost a lot of blood, and was now feeling the effects. Her head swooned, from the onset of shock. She felt light and distant, and heavy, all at the same time. It was a bizarre and disconcerting sensation. It was proving more difficult to concentrate, each passing moment.

Sam spun into awareness. Her whole body throbbed in shrieking agony. Her left leg had lost all feeling in it. She head swam in and out of blackness. She reached tentatively for the top of her head, fearful of what she might find. Her hand came down drenched in blood. Head wounds, from her training had taught her often bleed a lot despite the minor damage done. A mild concussion, an excruciating headache, but she'd live. Maybe, if she could avoid any further stupid mistakes.

She tried to move, but each action, each motion rewarded her with searing pain. Her body didn't want to move. Sam didn't want to argue with it. She had lost so much blood, that her mind was already spiraling in a fog. The concussion hadn't helped. The world was in a blanket of grayness.

She couldn't stay where she was. She had to get out. She had to move on her own strength. She was alone. It was the only way it had to be. The room she emerged into was at the very least silent. She could regain her strength and her composure. If only the world would stop spinning . . . If only she could breath . . .

Something moved by the window, Sam, managing to keep her eyes open long enough to register the winged shadow that had entered.

"Holy Hanna!" She smiled when she saw Arion standing before her in all her winged glory.

"Liege Commander, you are gravely hurt!" The warrior whispered as she quickly darted to her commander's side.

"Falling several stories will do that do you." Sam tried to laugh, but the pain ebbing through out her body came out a house whispered cry.

"I have come to remove you from this place."

"You wont get any arguments from me." Sam tried to regain her feet, but the pain in her leg would condemn her to the floor. Arion was there immediately sweeping the tall blonde into her arms. "Oh god…" Sam blinked away tears of violent agony. She clamped her teeth down, trying to swallow her pain, trying to make the world stop spinning, but it was a rebellious affair and would not heed the blonde's will. A wave of nausea hit her as Sam only just barely managed to keep from blacking out.

"Do not tax you're self." The winged being softly cooed. "It is not necessary, as I said I am here to take you."

Sam nodded, and immediacy regretted the slow action. She attempted to smile instead as Arion held her Liege Commander close to her body. Pain exploded once more, contaminating Sam's body and mine. She gave no resistance as Arion made her way back to the window. Sam's leg was throbbing. Screaming in pain. She had lost most of the feeling below her knee in her left limb. She fought the fear of losing the its use too the fear of losing her own life. But nothing else. The door to the room thudded open with a bang!

Two Calabim, Kobal and Balder rushed the confines of the suite, each taking point on either side of Arion and Sam. The latter, felt her heart suddenly stop, from the pure unadulterated terror. Arion looked as if she was going to vomit, when she saw Malphas enter, flanked by two more Calabim. The Master of the Ruminates, the Keepers of the Lambent Reproach stood before them. His face set in chiseled ice. In his eyes, Sam found her death warrant. Arion set her down so she was standing on her own power.

Fear paralyzed you, or it motivated you. Swallowing hard, Sam faced her tormenter, with intrepid heart. She would not give him her fear. With her dread displaced, the young woman could face her tormenter, with a solidarity, that he found most disturbing.

A single nod of Malphas's yellow jaundice balding head, and his rear guards, took their positions, on either side of Sam, with effective proficiency, each taking a shoulder and elbow, locking their grips. Healthy, she might have been able to resist their restraints. With her leg, mangled as it was, she was completely vulnerable. It was a sensation she loathed. In the Air Force academy, they thought you to make fear your friend. Your ally. It would help you keep you alive. Fear in its ultimate purity was coursing through Sam's blood, freezing her heart. It was thumbing, deafening her own ears.

Malphas stepped lightly as a shadow of death, into Sam's face. His hand stroked the left side of her cheek. He leaned his gaunt head to her ear. His foul breath whispering with a graveled voice of pure hatred. "I am rumor. It is a blessed condition believe me, to be whispered about on street corners. To live in other people's dreams, but not to have to be." His thin lips peeled back, stretching his jaundice skin taut against his skull. He drew back; his soulless shark's eyes pierced Sam's emerald-blue orbs. "Do you understand?"

Her heart was racing. He placed his gnarled, skeletal hand over her breast, closing his eyes as he did do, enjoying the rich sensation of her terror immensely. He breathed in her fear as a perfume of roses. Malphas did not change his expression for another. He didn't move. He didn't even seem to breath. The entire night held its breath. He turned his head slowly: a cobra's hypnotic movement. His bony hand slowly brushed Sam's smooth cheek once more. It was all she could do to remain locked in place, to remain cold and as limpid as he. Malphas waved the validity of the assassins concerns with no more than a wave of the hand. "I, have what I want." He looked to Sam once more.

Arion, having been silent and unmoving, since the arrival of the death squad, now made a bold move toward her former master. She gauged the distance between she and the two Calabim nearer her, as stepped into Malphas's own space.

Sam, braced herself, for the impending altercation too follow. If Arion meant to take on the Calabim, she would need help, wounded leg or no. The young Colonel had seen first hand, what the winged beings could do, and how fast. There wouldn't be a lot of time. With out a weapon, even less.

A wave of confusion washed over, Sam as watched the Malakim warrior placed her hand over, Malphas's heart. She was agog when Arion knelt before the Ruminate Master. Placing her hand over her heart in a Malakim solute to sovereignty causing Malphas grin in delight despite himself. The winged woman, turned her head, and defiantly smiled in Sam's direction.

"I told you in the beginning," she said now walking up to her; she paused kissing Sam full on the lips, "that you, shouldn't trust the Ruminates." She deepened her kiss as if to siphoned the very breath from the broken blondes' body. A wave of disorientation captured Sam into a tsunami of utter wonder and disbelief. And for a moment, Sam had relieved her torment from Kobal to the Sanitarium verbatim in every detail. The experience left her teetering and weakened.

Sam was livid. Rage boiled her blood into frenzy. Still, too her credit she remained rigidly still. Gathering the saliva from the back of her throat, she spat in Arion's face. The other simply smiled. Gracefully she raised the back of her hand, wiping the spittle from her cheek, as in the manner of a feline, cleaning its whiskers. Her hand barely lowered, struck out lighting quick, smacking Sam hard across her own cheekbone, sending her head to one side. There was an instant coppery sweet tang of blood seeping from the corner of her lip, into her mouth.

"My Lord, I deliver into your hands, Colonel Samantha Carter." Arion said. "Your, coveted truth-sayer the Chosen One"

Kobal padded forward a silver garrote in hands.

"Not today." His raised hand halted the warrior in midstep. "I think you'll live awhile longer."

The only argument, Kobal gave, was in her dark eyes. She enjoyed the rapture killing gave her. Being denied made her despise, the woman before her all the more. Still, she would make no move, until her master bade her so. Then she would take the woman's head clean off. It would be a glorious trophy, the head of a truth-sayer, the only bane of a Calabim. Still, the young woman didn't give the appearance of challenge. Why then, did her master fear her, as he did?

Kobal was very much intrigued.

"If you kill me now or latter, Malphas, it wont change a thing. It will end."

"As it had for, Ra or Apophis?" He waited for some sign from The Colonel, and was pleased when her eyes betrayed her surprise. "They lost, yes. You know why? They were too incompetent too win. I'll not make the same mistake."

"No. You'll make all new ones. And when it's all over, you'll end up the same. Dead."

Malphas laughed at the precariousness of the young captive. "Sooooo, now you're a seer, as well as a truth-sayer."

"I am a Colonel of the United States Airforce." Sam defied. "That's all." She surprised Malphas when she left her guards, and approached him with a definitive strength. Her voice---- a flat, unfriendly monotone: deliberate, controlled----- responded, "Your summoning of your demon dragon will be your undoing."

"Your faith in your friends is yours." He retorted hotly. "It is my ascension that befalls me, little truth-sayer, not my end."

"Do you really believe that?" Sam challenged.

"Do you really believe that you will live?" He didn't wait for an answer. "Take her away!" Malphas roared the last command. The Calabim still holding her, easily hoisted her up off her feet, and carried her off her feet, and carried her toward the door. She gave little protest. It would give dignity to her captors. "I thought not." She said as they were leaving.

Her defiance, Malphas considered, was wearing thin. "See her to the infirmary. We need her as healthy as possible, for the summoning. Make certain that her leg, is mended."

"It will be as thou commands." Kobal said. The other Calabim bowed in conformity, leaving Arion alone with their master.

Part 10

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