It was two a.m. when Egeria was awakened by an outcry of anguish. She turned to see Daniel apparently in the throes of a nightmare. He was breathing heavily, and tears were leaking from the corners of his eyes, an expression of devastating grief on his face.
Egeria quickly sat up and began stroking his face. "Wake up, Daniel. I am here. It is just a dream." When her soothing words failed to rouse him, she shook his shoulder.
Daniel gasped, his eyes flying open, their blue depths filled with horror and pain. Then he saw Egeria. In the next instant, she was in his arms. Daniel held her tightly as his thundering heart quieted and the nightmare images faded. At last, he loosened his grip enough for her to look at him. She wiped the tears from his cheeks.
"I'm sorry I woke you," he said. "I should have warned you that it might be best if you didn't stay with me tonight."
Egeria frowned. "You suspected that you would have a nightmare about yesterday's events?"
"Yeah. I'm no stranger to bad dreams, not since my parents were killed."
"It distresses me that you suffer such nightmares. Is there nothing I can do to ease them?"
"Nothing more than what you did this time. Having you here when I wake up helps a lot. If you weren't here, I'd want to go to your quarters just to assure myself that you're okay."
"Then not a night will pass that I am not here with you, my Daniel."
They shared a kiss, then Egeria laid back down with her head on Daniel's shoulder. With her body close to his, her warm breath wafting across the bare skin of his chest, he relaxed and slowly drifted back to sleep.
Daniel slept peacefully throughout the rest of the night. He and Egeria were heading to breakfast when there was an unscheduled off-world activation. A few moments later, SG-1 was called to the briefing room, where they were told that it was the Tok'ra who'd dialed in with the news that it had been agreed by all members of the High Council that Aranae should stay at the SGC until a system to detect a cloaked Ashrak could be put in place at her present location.
An hour and a half later, the team gated through to the primary Tok'ra base, where they were met by Jacob.
"Things are a little tense around here," he told them as they walked to the tunnel entrance. "Most of the Tok'ra have been armed with TERs, both here and at the secondary base, and sizable forces are guarding the entrances. We've contacted many of the spies we have positioned within the ranks of the System Lords, but, so far, we haven't learned which Goa'uld sent the Ashrak. In fact, none of the System Lords have been talking about Egeria at all, at least not within earshot of our spies."
"Isn't that kind of strange?" Daniel asked. "I'd think that, once they found out about her, she'd be a hot topic."
Jacob nodded. "You're right about that, which leads us to believe that the System Lord who found out about her and sent that Ashrak may not have told the other Goa'uld."
"Why keep it a secret?" Sam questioned.
"Perhaps the System Lord wishes to be the one to have the pleasure of bringing about her death and fears that, if the others learn of her existence, one of them will succeed in doing so first," Teal'c suggested.
"Considering the size of their egos and their delight in one-upmanship, you may very well be right," Jacob responded. "After she was dead, they'd crow to the others about their achievement."
When they entered the tunnel, SG-1 saw that Jacob wasn't kidding about the guard. Ten Tok'ra were stationed a few yards from the entrance, every one of them with a TER in their hands. They were taking turns scanning the entrance with the devices, assuring that no Ashrak would get past unseen.
SG-1 was met by three other members of the High Council in the council chambers.
"We wish to thank you for your timely warning," Delek said. "Though we cannot be sure that our new queen is a target, we must assume that she is. Have you succeeded in putting in place the added security measures on your base?"
Sam nodded in reply. "A modified TER has been installed at the second checkpoint. For right now, it will scan the entrance continually, though the sooner we can get a sensor set up the better."
"Now, you do know that we can't have Aranae making any babies while she's there, don't you?" Jack asked.
"Yes, of course," Ka'resh replied. "She will not spawn during her stay with you. Hopefully, that stay will be a brief one."
"We're already trying to get our hands on a personal cloaking device," Jacob told the team.
"This brings up a question," Fennol said. "You stated that you killed the Ashrak who attempted to kill Egeria. Why were you unable to retrieve the cloaking device he had?"
"Because there was nothing left of it or him," Jack answered. "He was blown to smithereens."
Ka'resh got to her feet. "Come. It is time that we go to the Stargate for Aranae's arrival."
SG-1 and the council members went to the surface, then walked to the gate, accompanied by a dozen armed Tok'ra.
They'd been waiting at the gate for around five minutes when it dialed up. Moments after the wormhole was established, Aranae came walking through with her mate, Nefer, and four other Tok'ra who were acting as her personal guard. The Tok'ra queen smiled brightly upon seeing Daniel.
"It's good to see you again . . . Daniel," she said, the deliberate pause and the twinkle in her eyes telling the archeologist that she was actually thinking a different word. Grateful that she hadn't said "Father" instead, Daniel greeted her.
Aranae came down the steps. "I'm looking forward to spending some time on your base and with Mother. It will be a nice change of pace."
"Yeah, I bet," Jack said. "It must be a drag constantly being pregnant and giving birth."
Aranae smiled. "I'm not doing that every day, Colonel. In fact, I have had only three spawning cycles to date. I can spawn no more children than there are willing Jaffa to carry them."
Sam turned to her father. "Yes, how is that going? We know that Bra'tac was going to talk with the rebel Jaffa about it."
"So far, we have around four hundred Jaffa who are carrying Tok'ra larvae," Jacob replied. "We're expecting to get more volunteers soon. Using only females severely limits the numbers we can get, but we're very hesitant to use male Jaffa because of their mortality rate."
"So, shall we go?" Jack asked. "I don't know about the rest of you, but I'll feel a lot more secure once we're back at the SGC."
Daniel dialed the gate, and Sam sent the IDC. SG-1, Aranae, Nefer, Jacob and the four Tok'ra bodyguards all went through the gate. Hammond was in the gate room to greet them.
"Welcome to Earth and Stargate Command," he said to the Tok'ra queen with a smile.
"Thank you, General Hammond," she responded. "It is a pleasure to be here."
"Your room has been prepared for you. Once you're settled, I'll be happy to give you a tour of the base."
"I would like that, although I would like to visit with Egeria first."
"Of course." The general turned to Daniel. "Doctor Jackson, would you like to show her to her room, then take her to see Egeria?"
After getting the room number, Daniel took Aranae and Nefer to the quarters that they'd be sharing. Jacob, Sam and the Tok'ra bodyguards went with them. The archeologist wondered if the guards planned on staying the whole time that Aranae would be there.
Nefer chose to stay in the room, and Sam's presence was requested over the PA system by one of the other scientists, so it was just Daniel, Jacob, Aranae and her four guards who went to Egeria's lab. The guards remained outside, guarding the door, as the others entered.
Upon seeing Aranae and Jacob, Egeria came forward with a happy smile. She and her daughter greeted each other with a long hug.
"It is wonderful to see you," Egeria said. She then gave Jacob a hug. "We must go someplace where we can talk. There is so much I have to tell you."
"I'd love to join you, but I have a staff meeting scheduled in less than an hour," Daniel said. He smiled. "Of course, this means that you'll be free to talk about me behind my back." He gave Aranae a hard stare. "Don't you speak one word about you-know-what. My teammates and Hammond are the only ones here who know about that, and I don't want it made common knowledge."
Aranae grinned. "Not a word of it will pass my lips," she promised, "at least while we are within hearing distance of others."
The archeologist stared at her for a while longer. "I guess that's about as much as I can hope for from you."
After Daniel had left, Egeria went with Jacob and Aranae to the commissary, the contingent of guards shadowing them. The bodyguards remained at the entrance as the others got some beverages and took a seat.
Aranae studied her mother's face. "You look happy. Does this mean that you and Daniel are together now?"
A brilliant smile lit Egeria's face. "Yes, and I cannot tell you how wonderful it is. For so long I dreamed of this, believing that it would never be. Now that it has finally come true, the joy it gives me is even greater than what I had imagined."
Aranae smiled happily and took her mother's hands. "I am so happy for you. It is wonderful to see you truly happy after all these centuries."
"I agree," Selmak said. "There are still a few Tok'ra who do not agree with your decision, but I think that, if they knew how happy this has made you, they would change their minds."
"How are things with my children?" Egeria asked. Noticing a look that passed between Jacob and Aranae, she asked, "Is there a problem?"
"There was . . . a situation," Selmak admitted, "one that I am not happy about. I just recently learned that one of our spies has infiltrated Olokun's inner circle. He's been in that position for over a month, but the other members of the High Council chose not to tell me."
"I wanted to tell him at the time, but I was outvoted," Aranae quickly said. "Now that I'm the queen, however, I was not going to put up with secrets being kept from any member of the High Council."
Egeria was frowning severely. "Why was Selmak not told immediately?"
"Because they are questioning my objectivity," Selmak replied. "They have concerns about my close ties with Earth and Stargate Command because of Jacob. They believe that, if I knew about the spy, I would pass on the information to Earth."
"But I do not understand. The Tok'ra and Earth are allies. Why would the Tok'ra wish to keep such important information from Stargate Command?"
It was Aranae who answered. "Most of the High Council believe that we need to keep secret where our spies are even from Earth for fear that the information might be leaked."
Egeria was still frowning. "I am not happy about this. It is not wise to keep such secrets from ones who are our allies in the fight against the Goa'uld. Not knowing where they can turn to for aid within the ranks of a Goa'uld could make the difference between success and failure in any strike Stargate Command makes against that Goa'uld. It could even result in the death or capture of an SG team."
Selmak's head bowed for a moment, signaling that Jacob was taking control. "I couldn't agree more. In Earth's history, there have been many times when knowing what allied spies we had in enemy territory made all the difference in the world. Selmak and I have talked about this a lot, and we're both in agreement. The problem is that the Tok'ra have operated under this cloak of secrecy for so long that many are not willing to budge an inch. They're failing to see the advantages of sharing information like that with Earth."
"I am with Selmak and Jacob on this," Aranae said. "I have been putting pressure on the other council members to change it." She smiled slightly. "There are advantages to being the queen. It gives me more clout."
"If my words still hold any weight, then I will add my recommendations to yours," Egeria said.
"I'm sure that they would, Mother. Though you are no longer a Tok'ra, you will always be respected and revered by us."
They moved on to other, more pleasant topics. Egeria told them about the work she had been doing and some of the fun things that she had done in these weeks that she'd been living on Earth.
"When we are able, Daniel and I plan to visit Rome," she said with a smile.
"Rome still exists?" Aranae asked with a smile.
Jacob was the one who replied. "There's still a city there, and there are ruins of ancient Roman structures, but the Rome of today is a lot different from when Egeria lived there."
Egeria nodded. "Yes, this is true, but it will still be wonderful to see it. Daniel has told me that there are still some remnants of the things that Numa had constructed." She smiled. "He does not know this yet, but my plan is that, someday, we will go to Egypt. It is where he was born, and he spent most of his life there until the deaths of his parents. I know that the land and its people still have a great deal of meaning to him, and I want him to share with me all his memories of his years there and show me the places that are important to him."
They talked for another twenty minutes, during which Egeria asked if Jacob would be staying at the SGC for a while or heading back to the Tok'ra base. He answered that he planned on leaving tomorrow.
"And what of the Tok'ra who accompanied you?" the former queen asked.
"Though I said that it was not necessary, the High Council insisted that they remain with me," Aranae replied. "However, I do not intend to put up with them following me all over the place. Jacob has told me much of Earth, and, before I leave, I would very much like to see at least a little bit of it. That will not be possible if I have four very serious Tok'ra going wherever I go."
Saying goodbye to each other, the three of them went their separate ways, Egeria returning to her lab, Jacob going off in search of his daughter, and Aranae going back to the VIP quarters – accompanied by her ever-present bodyguards.
Egeria had been in her lab for around half an hour when Daniel came in.
"So, did you have a nice chat?" he asked.
"Yes, we did."
Daniel took a seat. "How is Aranae doing? Is she settling into the job of being queen?"
"She is, although she misses being an active part of planning missions." Egeria smiled. "She says that her life is a lot more boring now."
"I bet. Maybe she should take up a hobby."
Egeria laughed. "I will suggest that to her."
Daniel grew serious. "I've been thinking a lot about this situation. I'm really wondering how it is that one of the System Lords found out about you. It wasn't from us, and they certainly didn't get the information from the Asgard."
Egeria studied him closely. "You fear that it was one of the Tok'ra who betrayed me."
"I don't think that we can rule it out."
Egeria's eyes left his. "The thought of one of my own children betraying me is very upsetting."
Seeing the look on her face, Daniel laid a hand on her arm. "It may not have been willingly, Egeria. If one of the Tok'ra spies was found out, the Goa'uld might have managed to get them to talk. Anubis has technology that allows him to get any information he wants straight from someone's brain, and Osiris is in league with him."
"Even so, I hope that it was not a Tok'ra."
That evening, SG-1 had dinner with the Tok'ra, including the four guards, whom Aranae insisted did not need to stand guard at the entrance of the commissary. Afterwards, Daniel, Egeria and Jacob joined Aranae and Nefer in their VIP quarters. The guards were absent, Aranae having all but ordered them to go off to their own quarters and relax for the rest of the evening.
The Tok'ra queen very much enjoyed the sight of Daniel and Egeria sitting close together, exchanging little looks and touches from time to time. It was clear to see how deeply in love they were, and she did not doubt that a day would come when she was invited to attend their wedding.
Aranae's gaze went to the man who was her love. The Tok'ra did not marry, but they did declare life bonds. That was something that she and Nefer had not yet done, but she believed that it would happen eventually.
A knock on the door interrupted the conversation, and Nefer rose to answer it. When he opened the door, however, no one was there.
Suddenly, Nefer cried out in pain and staggered back. The others were shocked to see a dagger protruding from his chest.
"Nefer!" Aranae screamed as he fell.
As the door slammed shut, a masked figured appeared out of thin air, a zat gun in his hand. The zat was fired, and Aranae went down. As the weapon was turned in Daniel and Egeria's direction, the archeologist grabbed Egeria and dove to the floor, knocking over the table in the process. The blast hit the table harmlessly.
Taking cover behind the table with Daniel and Egeria, Jacob grabbed the zat gun that he'd been carrying at the insistence of the other council members. He peeked around the table to fire off a shot, but his target was no longer visible. He fired anyway, shooting off several blasts around the room, hoping that he'd hit the man who was trying to kill them.
With an invisible assailant in the room, Daniel knew that their only hope was to get help. He looked across the room at the telephone. There was no way that any of them would be able to make it to the phone without getting hit. The only advantage they had was that the would-be assassin had to uncloak in order to fire the zat. That limitation, however, did not apply to him using a weapon like a knife.
Jacob fired off another round of zat blasts, apparently hoping to keep the attacker at bay. Daniel looked at the still form of Aranae. If the assailant shot her again, he'd kill her. They needed to get her undercover.
"Jacob, cover me!" Daniel cried.
As Sam's father blasted the room with his zat, Daniel made a dash for Aranae, grabbed her up, and dove back behind the table.
"We can't hold him off forever," Jacob said. "He can sneak right up to us without us even seeing him." He followed up those words with another volley of zat gun fire.
Daniel's mind scrambling to come up with a way for them to get out of this, his gaze went to the door that was just a few feet away. It was the door to the bathroom.
"Jacob," Daniel whispered. "The bathroom. If we can get in there. . . ."
"Gotcha," the Tok'ra said. "Okay, you grab Aranae. We go on three."
With Egeria's help, Daniel managed to get the unconscious woman over his shoulder as Jacob fired off another half dozen shots around the room.
"Ready?" Jacob asked. Getting a nod from the other two, he said, "Okay. One . . . two . . . three!"
As Jacob yelled the last number, he, Daniel and Egeria surged to their feet, Sam's father firing repeatedly. Egeria reached the bathroom door first and flung it open. She rushed into the room, followed by Daniel. As Jacob made his move to follow them, he was struck by a zat blast coming from behind the bed and fell. Having no other choice, Daniel shut the bathroom door and locked it, leaving Jacob outside.
"Daniel, what are we going to do?" Egeria asked as the archeologist gently laid Aranae on the floor. "We have no weapon now and no way to call for help. If this Ashrak has a weapon like the one carried by the man who attacked us on Egerania, that door will not stop him for long."
Before Daniel could answer, the sound of someone trying the doorknob turned his and Egeria's attention to the door. Fearing that it would be blasted open at any second, the two trapped people held their breath. When the door remained intact, the archeologist relaxed fractionally. But then he remembered something, what happened on the day that Secundus Marcellus attempted to kill him on Estrania. Their attacker didn't need a weapon like the Ashrak on Egerania had. He could disintegrate the door with the zat gun.
Just then, Daniel's eyes fell upon the bathroom vanity, and an idea leaped into his mind. He rushed over to it and flung open the door under the sink. He gave silent thanks to the janitorial staff when he saw a small collection of cleaning supplies. He scooped up the can of spray disinfectant and set it on the vanity top.
"Get in the shower stall," he told Egeria as he picked up Aranae and put her in the stall.
Egeria's expression firmed. "No. I will not hide as you face him."
"Egeria, you have to protect Aranae." He handed her a couple of the things from underneath the sink. "Aim for his eyes."
Knowing that he was right and hating the fact that he was, the former queen grabbed hold of him, pressing her lips to his in a hard kiss. She then got inside the shower stall and shut the door.
Daniel picked up the disinfectant and positioned himself beside the bathroom door, his back against the wall. He did not have long to wait. Three zat blasts hit the door in rapid succession.
Even as the door disintegrated, Daniel swung around, aerosol can raised. He pressed the button and hit the startled attacker square in the eyes. The man cried out in pain, a hand going to his eyes. Knowing that he didn't have the luxury of not fighting dirty, Daniel then kicked the guy in the one place that the archeologist figured might slow him down – right in the groin.
As expected, the man grabbed his injured privates, the zat gun falling from his grasp. Daniel made a grab for the weapon, but, even as he curled his hand around it, an agonizing blow to his side sent him crashing to the floor.
Expecting another blow, Daniel was surprised by a loud clunk. He looked up, and his eyes encountered the sight of Egeria wielding the toilet tank lid, which she had just used to brain the attacker. The man was on his back, apparently stunned.
Daniel was thinking that he should zat the guy for good measure when the would-be assassin abruptly disappeared. Cursing, Daniel shot the place where the man had been, then fired off several more blasts around the room as he yelled at Egeria to get back in the stall. He scrambled into the bathroom, pressing his back against the vanity, the zat gun raised before him and his eyes searching for something he could not see. Had he succeeded in hitting the guy? There was no way for him to know. If he left this room, he'd be completely open to attack, although his present situation wasn't much better, not with the doorless opening right there in front of him.
Daniel thought about Jacob's zat gun and the knife that had been used to stab Nefer, two weapons that the assailant could use against him. Into his memory came the day he died at the hands of Spurius, the terrible agony of being stabbed to death. Was that how he would die again?
At that moment, the blessed sound of someone knocking frantically on the VIP room's door came to Daniel's ears, followed by a voice asking if they were okay.
"We're under attack!" Daniel yelled as loudly as possible.
Apparently, his voice was heard, because the person started slamming against the door, apparently trying to break it down. And then a base-wide alarm began blaring. After three blows, Daniel heard the door cave in. There was the sound of a zat gun firing, a body hitting the floor, and then running feet.
Afraid to move, Daniel stayed right where he was, eyes fixed upon the bathroom doorway. When someone suddenly came into view, the archeologist nearly shot him, but then saw that it was a Marine.
"Doctor Jackson! What the hell's going on? Some guy just shot Busfield with a zat, then vanished."
Daniel struggled to his feet, ignoring the fiery pain in his side. He saw Egeria open the shower door, her gaze going straight to him. Beside her was Aranae, who had regained consciousness.
"Someone just tried to kill us," he told the Marine. "He's got a cloaking device, so you need to get people armed with TERs."
The Marine went to the phone as Daniel left the bathroom, followed by Egeria and Aranae. When the Tok'ra queen saw Nefer, she let out a cry and ran to him, falling to her knees at his side. She was weeping as she felt for a pulse.
"He is alive!" she cried. She picked up his hand and held it to her chest as she began stroking his face.
At that moment, Jacob roused from unconsciousness and got unsteadily to his feet. By then, several airman and Marines had arrived in response to the alarm, along with Janet and a medical team, who began working on Nefer. And then Jack was there. He strode up to Daniel, Jacob and Egeria.
"What happened?" he asked sharply.
"Somehow, an Ashrak got on the base," Sam's father replied.
"What?! But how?"
"There's only one way I can think of. He must have been at the Tok'ra base and snuck through the gate with us. He's probably been here all day, waiting for the perfect time to strike and get both Egeria and Aranae at the same time."
"I agree that's how he got here," Daniel said, "but I don't think he's an Ashrak."
"Why do you say that?"
"Well, first of all, he had his face covered. An Ashrak would have no reason to hide his identity. Secondly, if it had been an Ashrak, I don't think that any of us would be alive. I read the report about the Ashrak attack on the Alpha Site. Those guys are superhuman, even for a Goa'uld. Do you really think that we'd have been able to stand against one of them as well as we did? With the one that attacked us yesterday, we got lucky. He'd already been seriously injured, so he couldn't attack us the way that the one at the Alpha Site did."
Jacob let out a sigh. "I'm afraid that you're right. But that can mean only one thing."
"Which is?" Jack asked.
"That the guy who attacked us was a Tok'ra, one who didn't want his identity known in case one of us survived his attack."
"Crap. This is definitely not good."
Nefer was being put on a gurney. Concerned about the Tok'ra, the others went over there.
"How is he?" Egeria asked, her heart aching for Aranae, whose face was pale with fear for the man she loved.
"He's lost a lot of blood," Janet replied. "If he was human, he'd probably be dead. We need to get him into surgery to repair the damage."
She and the medical team left with the injured Tok'ra, Aranae accompanying them. Teal'c had arrived and was relieved to see that the others were okay.
Just then, Daniel thought of something. "Where are Aranae's guards? I'd have thought that they would have come running when the alarm went off."
They checked the guards' rooms, but found no trace of the four men.
"Where the hell are they?" Jack wondered.
"Uhhh . . . I just had a terrible thought," Daniel said. "What if that guy used the zat on them?"
Jack grimaced. "You mean . . . three times?"
Horrified and anguished over the death of four of her children at the hands of another, Egeria closed her eyes in grief.
"As much as I hate to think about it, he probably planned on doing the same thing to us," Jacob said. "Nobody would have known that something was wrong until the morning. Once it was discovered that we were missing, a search would have been started."
"And, in the meantime, the killer could have escaped through the Stargate when SG-15 left on their mission," Daniel said.
Teal'c's expression hardened. "He must be apprehended. He cannot be allowed to escape."
Jack got on the phone to the control room and warned them that a man with a cloaking device might try to get through the gate. He told them to contact General Hammond, who had left for the night, and get some people armed with TERs down there.
"Jack, Aranae and Egeria are still at risk," Daniel told him.
"Right. I'll send a team up to the infirmary. You stay here with Egeria, and I'll put a couple of men at the door."
As soon as two men with TERs arrived to guard the door of the VIP room, Jack, Jacob and Teal'c left to join the manhunt.
Daniel righted the table, wincing at the pain it caused in his side. Egeria noticed the wince.
"You are hurt," she said in alarm.
"He managed to hit me in the side. I'll probably have a humdinger of a bruise, but I'm all right."
Egeria insisted that he sit and rest. He lowered himself into one of the chairs, doing his best to hide how much he was really hurting. He suspected that he might have a couple of cracked ribs, but, if he told Egeria, she'd try to make him go to the infirmary, and there was no way that he was going to leave her alone, not until after the man who'd tried to kill her was no longer a threat. He knew that he'd have hell to pay from Janet for not going to the infirmary right away, but so be it.
"I wish that I could be with Aranae," Egeria said, sitting in one of the other chairs. "She must be so terribly worried about Nefer." She grasped Daniel's hand. "As I stood in that shower stall, I was terrified, not for myself but for you. When I heard you fighting with the one I thought was an Ashrak, I could not simply stay in that stall as you fought for our lives."
Daniel smiled ever so slightly. "Interesting choice of weapons that you used."
A similar smiled curved Egeria's lips. "There were not many options available." The smile did not last for long. "Even as I wielded it, I feared that I would not have enough strength to stop him. For the first time since becoming human, I felt weak and wished that I was still a Tok'ra so that I would have the strength that I did as one."
"You're not weak, Egeria. Okay, so, as a human, you don't have the physical strength that you did as a symbiote in a host, but that doesn't make you weak. You still managed to get that guy off me and probably saved my life."
A long moment of silence followed Daniel's statement. It was broken by Egeria.
"Why would one of my children do this, Daniel?" she asked, a tone of anguish in her voice.
"I wish I knew. Killing both you and Aranae would be a devastating blow to the Tok'ra. Unless Thor kept some of the DNA sample from your symbiote body, the Tok'ra would not be able to create another queen, and if he didn't keep the scan of your consciousness, we'd be unable to download it into another body. The Tok'ra would be back to the situation they were in before, except for having gained a few hundred new Tok'ra larvae. I can understand why the Goa'uld would want that, but not why a Tok'ra would . . . unless he is in league with a Goa'uld. One thing's for sure. We need to find him. As long as he is free, you and Aranae are at risk. It also means that we can't dial the gate since he could escape through it unless we have guys stationed in the gate room with TERs."
A knock startled both of them. Daniel cautiously approached the door and asked who it was. It was one of the guards stationed there who answered.
"Sir, there is a Tok'ra here who says that he is among the ones who came through with the queen. He's claiming that the man who tried to kill her and Egeria ambushed him and left him for dead, and he only just now regained consciousness."
Daniel and Egeria exchanged a long look.
"Dare we trust him?" the former queen wondered aloud. "He may be the assassin."
"I was thinking the same thing. We're just going to have to be careful."
Daniel opened the door. He immediately recognized the Tok'ra as one of Aranae's four bodyguards. The man's eyes went to Egeria.
"I am relieved that you are unharmed," he said. "I understand that Queen Aranae is all right as well. May I enter?"
"Forgive us, Ushsen," Egeria replied, "but your trustworthiness is in question. We cannot be certain that you are not the man who attempted to kill us."
The Tok'ra nodded his head once. "Of course. That is to be expected."
"Where have you been all this time?" Daniel asked.
"In the men's lavatory in one of the stalls. I was attacked by a man I could not see. I believe that his intention was to kill me, but I can only assume that something prevented him from making sure that I was dead. Even so, it took all of this time for me to regain consciousness, and there was serious damage to my host's body that needed to be healed. I understand that the other members of Aranae's guard are missing and presumed dead."
Knowing that they still couldn't trust him, Daniel let the man inside, telling one of the guards to remain in the room as well.
With the SF watching the Tok'ra like a hawk, his hand resting on his sidearm, Daniel and Egeria questioned Ushsen further. He seemed to be sincere in his regret and dismay over his failure to be at Aranae's side when she needed him, but Daniel knew that the guy might just be a good actor.
"Would you be willing to submit to a Zartarc test?" Egeria asked the man, also not having relaxed her guard.
"Of course. I will do what is necessary to prove my innocence."
"Until we do that, you'll have to stay in a holding room, under guard," Daniel said.
The Tok'ra nodded, apparently accepting that. "I wish to see the queen and express my regret that I was not at her side to protect her."
Daniel decided that it wouldn't be wise to let this guy anywhere near Aranae until the truth of his story was verified.
"I think that can wait," he responded. "We'll let her know what happened to you. After the test clears you, you can speak with her."
The Tok'ra frowned slightly, then said, "Very well. You are wise to take all precautions. If you do not wish to question me further, I will take leave of you now."
The man turned to go. As he passed the SF, he suddenly grabbed the man and, with a quick, brutal movement, snapped the airman's neck. An instant later, the Tok'ra had Daniel in his grasp, a knife at the archeologist's throat.
"No!" Egeria cried, taking a quick step toward the man she loved.
"Stay where you are," Ushsen commanded. She did as he said, though every fiber of her being wanted to wrest that knife away from Daniel.
"Why are you doing this?" she asked. "You are Tok'ra, sworn to fight against the Goa'uld. What you are doing makes you no better than them."
Ushsen sneered. "The Tok'ra are fools, just as you were when you chose to forsake your heritage and the power you possessed on some misguided quest to please this weak human."
Egeria's eyes hardened in anger. "My quest was anything but misguided, and Daniel is far from weak. Though physically less powerful than you, he has more inner strength than one such as you could ever dream of possessing."
"No amount of inner strength will keep this blade from slicing his throat if you do not do as I say."
"What do you want?"
"I want you to summon Aranae here."
"Don't do it, Eger—" Daniel's voice broke off with a sharp hiss as the knife cut slightly into his neck. He could feel a trickle of blood begin coursing down his skin.
The sight of the blood made a cold knot of fear coil in Egeria's belly. She met Daniel's eyes. The look he gave her was clearly saying not to do it, but how could she refuse when his life was on the line? Yes, there was the sarcophagus, but she knew as well as Daniel that it could stop functioning at any time. She could not count on it to bring him back to life if Ushsen killed him. Yet to do as the man asked would certainly lead to the death of her daughter, herself and probably Daniel as well.
"What assurance do I have that, if I do as you say, you will not kill Daniel anyway?" she asked.
"He is not the one whose death I seek, though I should kill him merely for the insolence he showed in daring to tell a Goa'uld queen what she should do. I will leave him alive."
Thinking that the man was sounding more and more like a Goa'uld every second, Daniel ventured to speak. "And what about Egeria?"
"Her death is long overdue," Ushsen answered coldly, "something that Ra should have done instead of placing her is stasis."
Daniel wanted to tell Egeria not to make the call. He suspected that Ushsen intended to kill him regardless of what the Tok'ra had said. Once Egeria and Aranae were dead, he'd have no reason to leave Daniel alive.
Egeria suspected this as well, but she was in a difficult position. If she refused to make the call, Daniel would be dead for sure, and she would likely soon follow him. Ushsen might then find another opportunity to kill Aranae. If, on the other hand, she did make the call, it would give them a little time to find a way to defeat the traitor. And perhaps there would be some way to get a message to Aranae that something was amiss.
"Very well," the former queen said, hoping that she wasn't making a terrible mistake. "I will make the call."