DISCLAIMER: I don't own the ladies and I'm making no money from them.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Being taken as a host wasn't as bad as this. I waited outside the cell, grateful that these clueless noobs have no concept of strategy and no idea what to do with a valuable prisoner. A double guard would be appropriate, and restricted access. Instead the Captain treated her like a petty thief who'd stolen a goose, and waited for some wacko with a wizard stick and cataracts to tell him what to do with his future.
Being taken as a host was bad - very bad indeed; but at the time I was sure I'd get out of it. I was sure there'd be a way to purge my body of the vile thing that seized my spinal column in a grip of slimy tendrils and controlled my every move, my voice, even the focus of my eyes. There had to be a way, I decided; and eventually there was, though not before I'd had some moments of despair at the vicious things the goa'uld did while it raped my will.
No, that moment was not as bad as this, because at the time I didn't realise what dreadful things Qetesh would do with my body in the months and years that followed.
But now, standing on a forward deck of an Ori battleship, with an Ori child kicking inside me - no less an invader than the parasite which seized my body before - I knew.
We were dying in droves out there. The explosions were beautiful: flashes of blood-red fire and brilliant orange that fled so quickly in the vacuum, taking alloys and polymer into wild, unpredictable orbits... I'm sure I glimpsed a body once - a black silhouette against the oxygen-starved heat, the definitive shape of a man.
A dead man.
So many died as our ships exploded under the Ori attack; our ships - a strange concept. I counted at least two Earth vessels battling it out beside a fleet of ha'taks from the Free Jaffa and the Lucien Alliance, and even an Asgard which turned tail and ran. Our galaxy is getting desperate.
I couldn't see how many of them we lost, to tell the truth. The chaos was an impressionist's dream, fluid in its bright confusion, and all lit from behind me by the shimmering, translucent blue of the super-gate's even horizon.
I should have been an artist. Well, I am... a con-artist. I can appreciate the beauty of exquisite workmanship, whether it's a fool-proof scheme or a stolen jewel.
Yes, it was so beautiful, and so terrifying.
So very bad.
Perhaps those that escaped had a fall-back plan to re-group - I don't know. What I do know is that as we retreated the Ori ships moved out to consolidate their foothold around the super-gate, preparing for the next wave. Tomin joined me as soon as he could, his eyes full of youthful excitement despite the fact that he is not a young man. He was flush with their victory, elated and inspired. His voice brimmed with fervid joy and faith and pride.
'We did it! Vala, we won the first battle! We're taking their galaxy and we're going to win!'
Murderer. Dupe. Fool.
'Hallowed are the Ori,' I said in a breath that could not soothe the sting building at the back of my throat.
His broad smile softened and he embraced me tenderly. 'Of course, you're right. It could only be this way. I never doubted, I'm just so...'
'Happy.' I finished his ineffectual explanation for him, letting my chin fall on my chest so that I did not have to look into his face.
'Yes, Vala.' His fingers brushed my abdomen, smoothing my robe over the swell of my belly. He was so gentle. It took all my resolve not to flinch from his touch. 'Very happy.'
Tomin's new role as a conscripted soldier called him back almost straight away. They had detected an enemy life-sign close to the super-gate and were bringing the fugitive on board. My delightfully happy husband was called to security duty.
I needed to learn all I could. 'I'll come with you,' I said, making it as much of a statement as I dared.
A look of doubt crossed his wholesome features. I reassured him. 'I may be able to contribute, Tomin. I was forced to communicate with these people, remember?'
It no doubt helped that it wouldn't be his decision in the end. At any rate he did not object when I fell into step at his side. We passed teams of warriors in the ship's halls and I did all I could to avert my gaze and avoid their attention. The peasants brought along to serve their needs were doing all they could to avoid their attention too. A familiar feudal hierarchy was establishing itself inside these technological marvels.
The enemy prisoner was Sam Carter, the Lieutenant Colonel on SG-1. They were pulling her out of her space-suit when we arrived. She seemed small next to its overgrown boots and clumsy limbs; fragile, even. Tomin and another man seized her arms and dragged her barefoot before the Captain of their guard.
'What were you doing at the Stargate?' he demanded.
I watched her pull herself to her full height, which put her on a level with him. Suddenly she didn't look fragile at all. A muscle twitched in the Captain's pock-marked cheek - I don't think he liked the fact that this woman appeared his equal. He pressed the tapered fork of his staff-weapon to her chin, forcing her head back. She spoke against its cruel pressure.
'I was trying to determine its power source.'
There wasn't a trace of a tremor in her voice but of course I knew she was lying. We knew the super-gates were powered by a singularity, and she more than anyone understood how. I wondered how far she'd got with her sabotage.
The Captain did not have the imagination to disbelieve her explanation, apparently, and signalled to his men. 'Kill her.'
I had no choice. I had to make a move. I racked my memory for the Captain's name but couldn't find it - perhaps I'd never heard it. I went with the next best thing I could think of. 'Sir...'
Sam Carter's gaze jumped towards me as I stepped forward. Her eyes showed a glimmer of surprise but she held her expression as still as chiselled stone.
Tomin and his comrade paused. They were not experienced soldiers. Even those used to acting as village militia had never undertaken a campaign like this before. They followed orders without question because that was the nature of their blind faith in their crusade, but they weren't drilled enough to follow them without interruption... yet.
The Captain turned in my direction. He was irritated, but not enough of a seasoned officer to know that this undermined his position. I remembered that until recently he'd been a magistrate in a nearby market town.
'Sir,' I repeated as I drew closer, 'are we to slaughter all we find here, enemy or not?'
He stared at me, uncomprehending. 'She is the enemy.'
I lowered my eyes meekly, just long enough to appease his puzzlement, then raised them again to capture his attention. 'How are we to know yet? We came to destroy those who defy the gods and bring new worshippers into their light. This woman raised no weapon against us...'
The Captain frowned, put off balance by my simple observation. I pressed home my advantage. 'Her interest may be unnecessary and misguided, but does it warrant a death sentence?'
The Captain pondered this for a few moments, and then his mouth turned up in a self-congratulating sneer. 'That depends on what she intended to do with the knowledge.' He was clearly very proud of his reasoning. He turned back to Carter. 'Why were you trying to determine the Stargate's power source?'
She answered without hesitation. 'To shut it down.'
I resisted my instinct to roll my eyes and yell at her. Of course she'd expected them to torture her for every ounce of information she possessed about our galaxy's defences. A quick death to ensure the security of such intelligence was a welcome option for a captured soldier.
The Captain grinned. His chest swelled at what he perceived to be a vindication of his professional instincts. Carter had seconds.
I interrupted again. 'Perhaps our Prior will want to interrogate her first.'
Now it was Carter's turn to show her exasperation. She only just kept a lid on it.
My gamble had the desired effect. The Captain wavered, suddenly wary of displeasing his master. His hesitation was embarrassing.
Tomin spoke up. 'Shall we lock her up, Sir?'
After a few more moments of awkward uncertainty the Captain took the easiest route and ordered them to do exactly what Tomin suggested. 'Lock her up!'
They pulled her away. As an afterthought he called after them in a blatant attempt to reassert his authority. 'She should still be punished for her interference. Flog her.'
I winced inside. Carter was going to have my guts pot-roasted.
It's only the Ori's transcendental power which gives these warriors their victory. They'd just be tilling fields without it.
I let my back slide down the wall until I was resting on my haunches. I didn't have to see it. I've seen it enough on Tomin's world where it is a common public spectacle. But it was harder not to hear the sound of cloth ripping, and then every harsh crack punctuated by a gasp or half-swallowed cry of pain.
When the two men came out I levered myself back up the wall to stand again. Tomin's comrade was folding the knotted thongs of a whip under his armour and Tomin himself looked a little pale. Despite his eagerness to slaughter in the name of religion, my husband does not like to witness suffering up close and personal.
'Do you still want to question her?' he asked me.
Like I said: clueless. I nodded.
'I'll lock the door behind you. Caleb here will be on guard first, so let him know when you're done.'
My heart was in my mouth when I went in. I put up my hands as I approached, palms outward. 'Now Sam, before you...'
'Just...' She stopped me abruptly. She shut her eyes tight, then slowly relaxed her clenched jaw just enough so that she could continue. 'Just get me down.'
I reached up and unclipped her wrists from the bar above her head. Her hands fell to my upper arms and gripped them as her knees buckled for a moment. She reclaimed her balance and we moved towards the wall. We must have looked like a clumsy pair as I tried to shoulder her weight before we sank to the floor. I ended up with my back against the bulkhead with Carter on her side next to my hip, her head resting on my left shoulder.
'I'm going to kill you, Vala.'
'You're welcome,' I said. 'I just saved your life... and I didn't know they were going to beat you.'
She growled. I'm sure I felt the vibrations. 'I think we could've predicted something along those lines, don't you?'
'Yeah whatever.' I shifted into a more comfortable position, careful to avoid touching the raised welts on her back.
'Stop moving, it fucking hurts.'
I stilled. I couldn't blame her for her anger. I adopted a more serious tone. 'Our galaxy is in deep shit, Sam. To have a hope of climbing out of it, you're one of the people we need alive.'
'I'll try to hold that thought when your Prior's pulling my toe-nails. I'm sure it will make me feel better.'
I closed my eyes. 'It won't come to that.'
'Easy for you to say.'
I sighed. 'No it isn't. And he's not my Prior. Please remember that.'
We lay in silence for a while. I could feel the warmth of her body seeping through my robe. I found her presence comforting in the dark, desolate place we found ourselves, and I think she was starting to find mine the same. After all, we were pretty much in limbo.
'Are the rest of SG-1 alive?' I asked eventually.
She hesitated. 'I don't know.' I could hear her fear for them in her voice.
My belly quivered suddenly.
Carter stiffened. 'Did the baby just move?'
Without thinking I took her hand and pressed it to my abdomen, right on the spot where I knew the baby's heel would most likely kick again. It did. Carter's eyes widened a little. 'Oh.'
Suddenly I felt overwhelmed. It was all so beyond my control - this baby, Tomin, the Priors, the invasion, the deaths outside... I felt my face screwing up into an unwelcome grimace, tears prickling under my eyelids.
'Vala? You okay?'
'Fuck it!' I pulled her into me and hid my face in her blonde hair, needing the human contact but not wanting her to see me cry. A sob erupted in my throat.
She didn't pull away, and I soon realised that my outburst had affected her in kind. She was hiding her own anguish. Before I knew what I was doing I ducked my head and found her open lips with my mouth, brushing them softly.
My tongue touched the tip of hers, tentatively.
'Vala,' she repeated in a voice hushed by uncertainty, 'what are you doing?'
'I don't know,' I whispered, 'I'm supposed to be interrogating you.'
'You're not the Prior...'
Even at this point my brittle mask found some purchase. 'I can make you feel better than he can,' I whispered, echoing her previous flippancy, and then I captured her mouth and kissed her properly.
Seduction is one of my finest tools. I am a master, and it is a tool that can be put to many uses. I seduce to encourage, to motivate, to placate, to confuse. Occasionally I seduce to save my own hide, as I was forced to do with Tomin. I can seduce anyone... almost.
This wasn't a seduction. When I kissed Carter, it was just a kiss. When I caressed her breast through her thin shirt, it was just a caress. When I slipped my hand inside her pants and found her ripening beneath my fingertips, it was just a simple, urgent need I felt do something of my own free will, and to like it for its own sake.
And I did like it. I didn't really have the chance to appreciate it before, but Sam Carter is a very beautiful piece of work. Her soft, fair skin over firm muscles and her bright blue eyes are quite exquisite.
The soft sounds she made into my ear when I brought her to climax were all I needed to confirm that she liked it too. And when I guided her hand beneath my robe and encouraged her to return the favour, something taut detached from my spirit at the moment she released me. My body shuddered in time with my gasps of pleasure, while my womb contracted and the unknown life inside me wriggled in its tightening confines.
We lay still afterwards, breathing steadily. We'd hardly moved our position, and after a few minutes I could almost doubt that we'd done it. I would not have been so surprised to learn that I'd imagined it, and we were simply lying in a cell in an alien ship while we worked out our escape plan.
After a while Carter broke the precarious illusion. 'Why?' she asked quietly.
I didn't really know, so I just told the truth about myself for once. 'I'm sick of being violated. Qetesh and now this freak of a baby... even Tomin's touch feels like a violation now, despite the fact that I encouraged him. I consent in our bed, but not because I want to.'
She was silent for a long time. I think she understood, because with her next few words she started to skewer the heart of the matter. She rested her palm on my abdomen again.
'When we were taken as hosts against our will, we understood the violation. We could hate what the symbiote did to us without complication. But this baby is more than that, isn't it?'
It was, but the thing that had snapped from my spirit wasn't revealing itself clearly yet. 'What do you mean?'
'What Cam said - about being surprised that a part of you wanted the baby to survive - you're afraid that your maternal instincts will make you love your worst enemy. It doesn't just violate your body and your will, it could rape your emotions.'
And there it was. The liminal space in which I was floundering, so much so that I'd clung to Sam Carter's survival like a life-raft in the turbulence.
'I'm sorry they hurt you,' I said sincerely.
She brushed it off. 'Not the first time, doubt it will be the last... especially with Cam on the team,' she added drily.
I didn't follow her morbid humour but I was glad to hear it.
'I think I am feeling better,' she said.
'It's the endorphins. Do you think they'll last to get you off this ship okay?'
'Don't tell me you have a key for this cell!'
'No, but when I knock on the door the lone and inexperienced guard will open it.'
She blinked. 'Really?'
'I'm sure you can persuade him to give you his staff weapon.'
I waited outside the cell, grateful that these clueless noobs have no concept of strategy and no idea what to do with a valuable prisoner. A double guard would be appropriate, and restricted access. Instead the Captain treated her like a petty thief who'd stolen a goose, and waited for some wacko with a wizard stick and cataracts to tell him what to do with his future.
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