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by Tasha - A Highlander/SG-1 Xover


Part 2

O'Neill did not like playing baby-sitter, but he could see the reasoning behind the General's order. Pierson acted as if he was perfectly calm and in control of the situation; he would be a hard nut to crack, but the kid let every thought flow across his face. Relax him a little and Ryan might actually let something slip.

Jack was not happy, but he managed a vaguely friendly expression when he walked into the room where Ryan was being kept. He had waited until Daniel had been along and moved Pierson, and he had to admit that the kid was looking a little dejected when he walked in. The background check had so far come up with a juvenile record, an age and a list of foster homes: the young man's recent history seemed to be a little more difficult to track down. That he was nearly 24 had been quite a surprise when Jack had skipped through the kid's file, come to think of it he was going to have to stop thinking of Ryan as a kid. He had the face of a teenager, but he clearly wasn't.

"Hi," Jack opened the conversation when the "guest" looked up, "I suppose you're having a bad day."

"That's an understatement," Richie replied, and O'Neill decided dejected was also an understatement.

"Well, I can't guarantee that it's going to get much better," Jack told him, almost feeling something for the puppy dog eyes, "but I am allowed to let you out of this room. How does lunch sound?"

"You serious?" the question was wary and Jack noted that this guy seemed to have a healthy suspicion of authority.

Ryan's expression was edgy, but he didn't look as if he was going to refuse out right. O'Neill registered the fact that the kid seemed to prefer anything but being locked up. Well even a Special Forces trained Colonel could sympathise with that. Considering his background, O'Neill couldn't blame him. Ryan's file was nothing if not interesting, and his juvenile record had probably given him a lot of experience with The Establishment.

"As I ever am," Jack told his charge. "Now the mess food is as likely to kill you as nourish you, but most of us take our chances."

Ryan grinned at that and managed to look even more like a kid.

"Well I'm just about hungry enough to risk it," the young man replied, "but I warn you when I start to eat I've been known to cause a famine."

O'Neill found himself grinning back before he realised it and decided that maybe he was going to have to watch this kid a bit more closely than he had thought. Ryan's wit and unorthodox manner could be disarming.

"Well this way then," Jack told him and indicated the door, "I'll tell you to close your eyes if we go past anything top secret."

Richie rolled his eyes and Jack congratulated himself on a sharp move as he saw the young man let his guard down just a touch more.

The two men made their way to what served as a mess hall 28 floors down inside a mountain, and O'Neill was surprised to find out that Ryan had not been exaggerating too much when it came to how much he could eat. They talked as they ate and Jack found that Richie was shrewder than he would have given him credit for. He diverted questions with much more skill than O'Neill expected, and on his part he didn't ask any probing questions of his own. He asked the odd thing, but it was all harmless small talk, as if he was making sure Jack knew he was not a threat. Ryan did let slip that he had ridden motorcycles on the professional circuit for a while, and he'd travelled extensively over Europe. O'Neill made mental notes of anything that Intelligence might find useful in a background check, and made small talk for the rest.

By the end of the meal, Jack was actually beginning to believe that Richie was as clueless about the Stargate as he had claimed to be. As they walked back towards the bunkroom cum holding cell, O'Neill had to admit that if the situation had been different he could actually like the kid. Jack was just considering trying to find something else for them to do so he could learn more about his companion, when a Sergeant accosted them.

"General Hammond wants to see you in the briefing room, sir," the young woman told O'Neill brusquely with practised efficiency. "I've been ordered to take the," she almost said 'prisoner', but caught herself when Jack glared at her, "guest back to the secure area."

"Very well, sergeant," O'Neill replied, "treat him nicely."

O'Neill had just reached the bottom of the stairs in the briefing lounge when the klaxon sounded to announce that someone was coming though the Stargate. Everyone in the room, including Daniel, Carter, Teal'c and the General looked through the now-open blast shield towards the control room and the gate.

"Party has SG-2's signature," the controller announced before anyone could react. "Iris deactivated."

The Gate room itself contained four marines on semi-alert, and a whole group of technicians to help with the equipment SG-2 would be bringing back with them.

"At least now we can ask those on the ground exactly what they found," Daniel commented, and Jack realised he had missed an earlier conversation.

"Get SG-2 up here as soon as they've handed over their gear," Hammond ordered through the intercom. "I want to know if what you found, Carter, was a glitch or whether we may have attracted some unwanted attention."

The Stargate burst into life and flicked with its strange watery sound. What stepped through was not what anyone watching was expecting. Two Jaffa in lion head shaped helmets were the first revealed, and they took down the marines without a second thought. All the alarms sounded and the blast shield started to come down automatically. The last thing O'Neill was able to see were three more figures appearing from the gate. Another Jaffa carrying what looked like the body of one of SG-2, and what had to be two Goa'uld.

With training that had been instilled into Jack over years he took in every detail he could with one glance. One of the Goa'uld was female, the other male. She wore a headdress in the style of a lioness, which framed her cold but beautiful face, he a circlet with two feathers moulded in metal. O'Neill was trying to get a better look as the shield blocked the view completely. Before it finally shut there was the sound of numerous staff weapons being discharged.

The facility was shutting down faster than a turtle into its shell. The sergeant had drawn her gun the moment the alarm had sounded and she had moved Richie into a side corridor. She took hold of Richie's arm and he had the distinct impression that a bull elephant couldn't have stopped her taking him wherever she wanted him to go. Richie didn't even try and stop her, but they didn't make it more than a few feet: The lights dimmed, sparked, and the junction box beside both of them exploded. The last thing Richie felt was heat, and then there was complete blackness.

"I guess, Adam was telling the truth," Daniel said as the fail-safes went into action around them.

"Are we to assume that these are Shu and Tefnut, Doctor?" Hammond asked as he was handed a print out of stills from the close circuit cameras. The surveillance devices had been destroyed, but not before they picked up some nice close ups.

Daniel nodded. "An exact match," he told everyone in the room. "Shu is usually shown with between one and four feathers on his head, and you all saw the big cat touches. Tefnut usually has the head of a lioness." He peered at the pictures the General had placed on the desk. "My god, they have golden eyes."

"All Goa'ulds have funny eyes," O'Neill pointed out.

"No look," Daniel insisted and pointed at a particularly good still of Tefnut, "they've changed their eye colour: it's like a cat."

"And teeth," Sam offered as she leant over, "look at this, they have fangs."

She was indicating a shot of the triumphant looking Shu smiling at the chaos around him.

"These people really like the old lions, don't they," Jack said, his tone more than a little sarcastic.

"Maybe they got caught up in their own propaganda," Daniel mused aloud, "anyway, it doesn't seem that these Goa'ulds have changed their images lately."

The General didn't waste any time.

"Get down there, Colonel," he ordered, "and make sure they don't get out of that room. We have to contain this situation, or this mountain is the last place any of us with ever see."

Just as Jack ran to the stairs yet another alarm sounded.

"Stargate closed," one of the controllers announced, "but they brought through at least another ten people. They used something we haven't seen on the door, they're into the main complex."

It had only been five minutes since the original break through the Stargate, but already there was chaos. The intruders had split into two groups and they were causing havoc. One group seemed to be almost suicidal, and they were attacking anything that moved. This included air conditioning, and cameras as well as the humans they came across.

The other group, which included Shu and Tefnut, were working their way to a goal, which seemed to be anything and everything to do with the control of the facility. The defenders could only guess that someone, possibly members of SG-2, had given them information on the layout of the facility. The marines seemed to be having better luck at keeping this group under control, the Jaffa were protecting their royal commanders as well as fighting, and it slowed them down. They had with them three of the technicians from the Gate room and they were using them as shields whenever the need arose.

Shu was not pleased, not pleased at all. The initial intelligence had revealed that the technology of these humans should have been no match for theirs, and yet they were not winning as swiftly as he wanted. It seemed that maybe Apophis had not been trying to cover his own bungling with the reports he had sent to his brethren. Apophis and Shu had never been friends, although they were not open enemies, and Shu had assumed his royal cousin had been either covering up his incompetence or hiding something about the humans. All the observations from most sources had shown that humans could not match Goa'ulds, but they seemed to be doing just that.

"We must regroup," he ordered suddenly, and stepped over the charred remains of one of the enemy. "This enterprise is not going as planned."

Tefnut turned and her brother saw the momentary anger in her eyes: they glowed with Goa'uld power, but she soon contained her wrath.

"You are right, beloved," she said, calming herself, "maybe we have miscalculated."

There was a groan from Shu's feet and he looked down. It seemed the body on the ground wasn't as dead as it had seemed. His golden eyes scanned the burnt face, and he almost raised his hand to put the creature out of its misery. It wasn't from any feeling of compassion; Shu just enjoyed reminding himself of his own supremacy every now and then. A spark of blue fire stopped him, and something very unexpected happened; part of the injury on the human healed.

"My love," Shu said slowly, "look at the slave."

Tefnut looked down, but there was contempt in her eyes, only when the blue spark appeared again did she really take notice.

"He heals so quickly," she commented. "Our intelligence from Apophis' campaign did not mention this. This enterprise may not have been fruitless after all."

"Jaffa, carry the slave, we are returning through the gate," Shu ordered without pausing.

"As you command, Master," the nearest guards responded and effortlessly threw the charred human over his shoulder.

The other Jaffa began clearing their way back to the gate room, which took the marines by surprise. Taken off guard by the sudden change in objective, the soldiers really didn't stand much of a chance.

"They do not use our technology to activate the Stargate," Tefnut pointed out as the royal party moved towards their escape, "how will we remove ourselves from this place."

Shu smiled and glanced at the three terrified technicians they were still dragging along.

"They will value these lives," the Goa'uld told his companion with a smile, "we will bargain, using them to gain our return home. It is not difficult to fool humans."

O'Neill stormed into the control room.

"They just broke back into the gate room," he told the General, more than a little exasperated. "They just turned around and fought their way back in."

"But that can't use the gate," Daniel pointed out, blissfully ignoring military protocol as usual.

"Quite right, doctor," Hammond concluded, "the question we have to ask is what is their game?"

Command had moved into the control room, and now the whole of SG-1 was gathered there. Hammond had refused to let Carter and Teal'c join the fighting, he wanted their expertise with him, and now that Jack had returned the group was complete. O'Neill couldn't help feeling just a little like it was them against the rest of the universe ... again. Suddenly the com. system hissed nastily.

"What the hell..." Jack never completed the comment.

"Humans, we will speak with you."

The voice was as cold and as ruthless as any Goa'uld Jack had heard before. There was a monster the other side of the blast shield and O'Neill had to swallow his urge to blow up the speaker that issued its voice. Hammond hesitated only a second and then reached for the microphone.

"Why should we speak with invaders?"

There was a laugh from the other end of the communication.

"Because you wish to avoid further bloodshed," the voice returned, "and because we have several of your people. Their deaths will not be pleasant."

"Harm any one of them and there will be no talking at all," Hammond told them very quickly.

The same contemptuous laugh greeted the words.

"However you wish to see it," the negotiator replied. "Call your people off and I will guarantee their safety ... for now."

Hammond looked at O'Neill and they both knew they were being led by the nose, but they had no choice.

"Lieutenant," Hammond turned to one of the soldiers stood at the back of the room, "make sure our people hold their positions, but tell the commanders there are to be no offensives until I tell them differently."

The officer saluted and left.

"I will assume you are negotiating in good faith," the voice from the gate room said. "The deal is this: you will activate the gate for the co-ordinates we give you, and we will pass through, leaving your people and this facility behind us."

"That's impossible," Hammond told them plainly.

"Then you will hear the screams and see the blood of many more of your people," the voice replied. "Bring the woman here." The Goa'uld had definitely left the mike open so that those in the command centre could hear exactly what was going on. "We shall execute them one by one, and then we shall destroy this place."

There was the scream of a woman from inside the room, and the sound of her being dragged where she did not wish to go.

"Wait," Hammond could not let anything happen to his people, and Jack could feel the conflict radiating from him.

Opening the gate, and aiding the invaders would be in direct violation of all protocol, but that had never stopped the General doing the right thing. O'Neill did not envy his superior at all.

"What guarantee do we have that you will not harm our people after we open the Stargate?" the General asked.

"There is none," the voice returned, "only the knowledge that we wish to leave, and disposing of your people would slow us down. If they do not try and obstruct us, we will let them live. Any attempt to prevent us leaving will, however, result in their deaths."

There was no emotion in the voice, it was cold and calculating, Jack did not doubt that it would carry out its threat. Hammond cut the mike and looked at his companions.

"With all due respect, General," O'Neill told him, "getting them out of this facility is our first priority. We may not exactly win if we open the Stargate, but it's a better scenario than fighting it out."

The General looked at him silently for a moment, and Jack almost decided that he had been out of line. Then Hammond nodded.

"I happen to agree with you, Colonel."

He opened the mike once more.

"We'll open the gate," he told the enemy, "but I want our people out of that room first."

"Do you think we are fools, human?" the voice sounded angry.

"You have my word as an officer of the US Air Force, that once our people are free the gate will be activated," Hammond returned sincerely. "We do it our way or not at all."

There was silence from the other side of the communication.

"You give us little choice, human," the voice said slowly. "If your word is worth nothing you will pay with the lives of all your people."

"Colonel, go down and make sure those technicians are safe," the General instructed calmly. "Everyone else, prepare to open the Stargate."

The moment the three terrified hostages walked through the half-open gate room door into the safety of their comrades, O'Neill signalled Hammond and the Stargate jumped into life. The medical team swooped down on the three technicians, and Jack followed as the two men and one woman were whisked off to sickbay. Military efficiency and a desire to make sure none of them had been booby trapped, meant no one was paying much attention to them. Every five seconds someone would ask them a question, and like the good little soldiers they were they'd answer, but nobody really gave them much chance to speak on their own. It was only as they were sat down in sickbay that anyone actually started to listen to them.

"They took someone," one of the two men said suddenly, "they took someone with them."

O'Neill blanched and turned on the spot. Once again the Goa'uld had betrayed any trust in them. Hammond had to know about this.

SG-1, Dr Faiser and General Hammond sat round the briefing table, and no body was looking happy with the world. Sam couldn't help trying to assess how her friends were dealing with this, as they sat in silence waiting for the General to finish scanning the report in front of him. O'Neill looked angry, something nasty had happened on his watch, and he didn't like it one little bit. For his part Daniel was coping better than Jack, and although he looked agitated, he definitely didn't look like he wanted to kill anyone. Teal'c was looking like he always did, but Sam knew him well enough to know that if he ground his teeth any harder there would be squeaking noises coming our of his mouth. Then there was Janet, Florence Nightingale to SGC, and at the moment thoroughly pissed off with the world. If a Goa'uld had appeared at that moment, Sam decided there would have been little between whether Janet, or O'Neill got to it first.

"These variations on the ribbon device they use," Hammond asked in a tone that revealed no matter how calm he looked, he was as wound up as everyone else, "do we have any idea how they work?"

"From the eye witness reports and analysis of the residues left behind," Dr Faiser offered the explanation, "in Shu's case his weapon seems to use some form of energy to remove all water from a body. All that was left of Private Selby was a small pile of minerals. Tefnut's ribbon device is even nastier; it transmits a form of fungal growth. On it's own it's not a danger to human life, but the assumption is that she then uses the device to accelerate it's formation. Once it has a hold on something it decomposes it, reducing it to base substances. Lieutenant Hallow was a small pool of ooze when we found him."

Sam tried very hard not to think about exactly what the doctor was describing, it was just too horrible. Instead of letting her imagination run away with her she just filed the information under the dangerous weapons section in her brain and waited for the conversation to continue.

"Nice people," O'Neill commented as Janet finished her description.

"It's part of their image," Daniel gave his input. "In ancient Egyptian culture, Shu is the god of dry air, desert winds, he holds up the sky. What better way to enforce your power than turn people to sand. Tefnut is his opposite, goddess of moisture, often associated with the corruption of decay. These Goa'uld seem to take their roles very seriously."

"And they're just as slippery and underhand as all the others we've ever met," Jack concluded. "What I want to know is why they took the kid."

"As do I," the General agreed. "Do we have anything on that?"

It had been Sam's job to interview those who had come in contact with the invaders, but she wasn't exactly happy with the amount of information she had gleaned.

"The three technicians who were used as human shields all agree that the Goa'uld seemed to think there was something unusual about Ryan," the Major began her report. "Unfortunately they were under fire at the time and they were more worried about being shot at than exactly what Shu and Tefnut were doing. Private Kilner remembers seeing two bodies when they were forced into the corridor and at the time both appeared dead. It really doesn't make much sense for the Goa'uld to take an interest in a downed man."

"Unless there's something more to this enemy thing," O'Neill suggested with a shrug.

Everyone looked at Teal'c who merely raised an eyebrow.

"I have told you all I know about the Enemy," the Jaffa told the rest of the room. "They appear in legend as Tau'ri opposition to the Goa'uld invaders. The stories mention that they are different in some way, but I have never heard how. It is told in such a way that I do not believe it is truly known. The only one who can answer your questions is Adam Pierson."

Sam swung her gaze towards Daniel, and out of the corner of her eye saw everyone else do the same.

"As far as I knew he was just another linguist," the anthropologist said slowly after a moment's pause, "a very good one at that, but just another academic all the same. I've never noticed anything strange about him. I suggest we just tell him the truth and ask him."

Sam wasn't so sure they'd get a straight answer out of their guest. She hadn't really trusted him the moment she'd laid eyes on him, and whether it had been woman's intuition or a healthy dose of paranoia didn't matter any more: Pierson had too many secrets. The Major suspected that to get any straight answers out of their guest they would have to back him into a corner.

"He's more likely to open up to Daniel," Sam found herself saying. "I don't think he's going to talk to the rest of us."

"You may be right, Major," General Hammond agreed. "We need to know exactly what we're dealing with here. We've lost some good people today, and I don't want to loose anymore. There's no way we can risk sending a rescue party, but at least we can find out why the Goa'uld took Ryan. Will you do it Dr Jackson?"

Daniel nodded even though he didn't look too pleased.

"Of course," he said quietly.

Sam could sympathise with him, sometimes the line between friends and duty could be a hard one.

Daniel walked towards where he had left Adam three hours previously, very slowly. The anthropologist didn't know how he was going to tell his friend about Richie's disappearance, let alone broach the subject of why the Goa'uld might have wanted the young man in the first place.

"What the hell's been going on?" were the first words out of Adam's mouth as Daniel walked through the door.

"We were invaded," the archaeologist told his companion evenly. "You were right, Shu and Tefnut came through the gate instead of SG-2."

That seemed to take the fight right out of Adam, and he sat down.

"What happened," he asked, "were they killed?"

Daniel shook his head slowly.

"They had hostages," he explained, still trying to figure out how to tell Adam the whole truth. "They negotiated passage back the way they came and retreated."

His friend looked him straight in the eye, and Daniel knew he was caught.

"What aren't you telling me?" he asked simply.

"We didn't realise at the time," Daniel finally admitted, "but they had another prisoner other than the technicians with them in the gate room. They took Richie with them, I'm so sorry."

Adam looked totally stunned and the archaeologist watched as the colour drained out of his face.

"But why?" he said very quietly.

"According to the other hostages," Daniel explained, "they found him when they were trying to invade the facility. He was caught in an explosion and was hurt. They remember Shu thinking there was something unusual about Richie. More than that we don't know."

Adam's eyes went totally cold, and Daniel suddenly didn't recognise the man sitting in front of him. The normally relaxed, friendly lines of his friend's face were suddenly hard and Daniel knew Adam was now deadly serious.

"We have to get him back," the man who had become a stranger said with absolute clarity. "This is more important than you could possibly imagine."

Daniel didn't know why, but he believed him instantly. There was one snag, however - he might believe, but how could he convince the military. Hammond had already vetoed O'Neill's request to retrieve Richie. Jack had asked as soon as they'd found out someone was missing, he hadn't cared who it was. The General had refused point blank.

"I have to know why," Daniel said after several seconds' silence. "General Hammond won't let a rescue party through the gate. We'll need a damn good reason."

For a moment the archaeologist almost recognised his friend again as the man took a moment to think.

"Can your General be trusted?" he asked slowly. "If I put my life and the lives of others in his hands will he stand by us?"

Teal'c's situation immediately sprung into Daniel's mind and he did not hesitate. "Yes."

Adam was silent for a moment longer, as if considering a very heavy question.

"How about the rest of SG-1?" he asked.

"You can trust them as much as you trust me," Daniel told him.

"Then I need to see them all," Adam said emphatically, "and quickly."

Daniel had left quickly after Methos' ultimatum, and the Immortal was left to his own thoughts. He had made the decision that these people would have to be told something as soon as he'd heard what had happened, but that didn't mean he knew what to explain. How could he tell military officers about the threat that Richie could pose and not end up with a witch-hunt on his hands? Daniel had been adamant that his friends could be trusted, but Methos had been betrayed before in his life, and he sure as hell didn't want it to happen again.

The problem was, the possibilities Richie's kidnap threw into his head were much worse than most other things he could imagine. The idea of Immortals being pursued by humans was one thing, but the thought of a planet subjugated by the Goa'uld, their minions seeking out every Immortal they could find: it was just too horrible. Goa'uld in Immortal bodies just didn't bear thinking about. The Game would be irrelevant, hell, just about everything but staying alive would be irrelevant.

What choice was there? He'd seen the power of the Goa'uld before, and it had taken many lives and a lot of luck to fight them then. With an incentive like Immortal hosts to back their armies what hope would Earth have at all? It was time to make a stand, whether Methos liked the idea or not. The oldest living Immortal knew he was going to have to reveal what he was and his devious mind began to form a plausible story that would give him knowledge but play down his part in the Stargate mystery. There was no way he was going to admit that he was a commander of a legion in the rebellion.

The only people in the briefing room were Hammond, O'Neill, Carter, Jackson, Teal'c and Adam. The security monitors were off, the room was as sealed as it could be, and the SGC personnel waited for Adam to begin whatever it was he had to say. Daniel watched as his friend made sure he had everyone's attention.

"What I'm about to tell you can go no further than this room," he finally started. "I mean, it can't go up, it can't go sideways, and it definitely can't go down. The one and only reason I am telling any of you any of this is because the Goa'uld took Richie."

He caught each face in succession and Daniel didn't feel very comfortable under his gaze when he reached him.

"Now, Richie is a friend, but that has nothing to do with why we *have* to get him back," Adam continued slowly. "The real reason is very simple: it's possible that Richie could become a very powerful weapon for the Goa'uld, and if he does they're not going to leave this planet alone ... ever."

Daniel was listening very hard. No one chose to ask questions, they knew the answers were coming.

"I'm not exactly what I appear to be," suddenly Adam really was a stranger to Daniel. "I'm older than I look by a long way and some of the people I have known were older. I don't know about the rebellion because I'm the latest in a long line of people who passed the knowledge down. I know because I was mentored by someone who was there."

There was total silence and Daniel tried desperately to rationalise what Adam had said. He thought of the mirror that had sent him to an alternate dimension, and his mind shifted to ideas of alien technology.

"What do you mean someone who was there?" Hammond asked the question.

"My mentor was in the rebellion," Adam replied evenly. "He and several of our kind were recruited by the Lenerai to fight against Ra. He lead a resistance group in the rebellion, he watched the Stargate being buried, and he hoped it would never be uncovered. He told me about it because he knew there was a possibility of exactly what you're doing."

"What was this guy?" O'Neill asked quickly. "Some sort of time traveller?"

Adam actually laughed at the question. "No," he said slowly, "He was alive before the rebellion began and he was still standing when it ended. He was Immortal, and so am I and so is Richie."

Daniel looked at his companions and tried to gauge their reactions. It appeared very much as if General Hammond was caught halfway between laughter at the ludicrous suggestion and anger at having his time wasted.

"Don't worry, General," Adam continued, "I don't expect you to take what I say on faith, I can prove what I say."

Without warning the man reached out across the table and grabbed the pen that was sat in front of Daniel. Much to the archaeologist's horror Adam then rapidly stabbed the object through his hand.

"What in heaven's name ...," Hammond started and O'Neill tried to grab the so called Immortal to stop him injuring himself further.

They obviously both thought they were dealing with a lunatic. Adam just took a step back, and with a grunt pulled the pen out of the wound.

"Just watch," he said calmly, and moved back to put his hand flat on the table.

Daniel had trouble believing what he was seeing as right in front of his eyes the wound began to close. Even most of the blood was somehow reabsorbed.

"Compared to my mentor I'm just a kid and Richie's only a baby," Adam told them, "he's exactly who his record says he is, but he's Immortal like me. Imagine a Goa'uld that doesn't need a sarcophagus to heal, one that really is Immortal, who's immune to staff weapons, and at best will only be dead for a while if you fire bullets at them. Imagine what the Goa'uld will do if they think there are more like Richie on Earth."

Most people had their mouths open and were just staring, until Hammond turned to O'Neill.

"Colonel," he said slowly, "we have a rescue to plan."

Richie opened his eyes slowly and tried to focus on the world around him. The last thing he remembered was an explosion behind him, and falling, but he definitely wasn't on the floor now. It took his muddled mind a few seconds to realise he was in a half upright position, strapped to some sort of frame. He began to get a very bad feeling about the whole situation, and when his eyes finally focused it became much worse.

"We were wondering how long it would take you to regain consciousness," the very strange looking man in front of him said.

Whatever was going on, Richie was sure it had something to do with the Stargate. Most military personnel did not go around dressed as if they had just stepped out of the "Mummy's Curse", and they most definitely didn't have golden eyes.

"Who are you supposed to be, King Tut?" Richie retreated to his smart mouth for cover.

For a moment the man just stared at him, and then he smiled. The long fangs he revealed did nothing to calm Richie's disquiet. Then reality took a left turn as the man's eyes glowed white almost obscuring all but the pupil.

"I am Shu, Lion god, master of the dry air, son of Ra" Richie had decided it was a creature not a man, "and I find you most interesting. You heal with a speed unknown before in your kind, and with such completeness as to be almost miraculous. Yes, I find you very interesting indeed."

The Immortal went cold. This thing knew at least part of his secret, and it didn't look as if it was being friendly about the matter.

"I will know the extent of these healing powers," Shu continued, "and if you are satisfactory you will be given the greatest gift of all. You will be made a god."

For some reason Richie didn't find that comforting at all. For the first time he noted a smaller man off to the left, and this individual was eyeing him up and down like a piece of meet.

"Find out all you can, Amar," Shu told the man, "and be careful with him: he is a valuable prize."

"Of course, Master," the man responded and almost prostrated himself on the floor.

Shu, whatever he really was turned and strode out of the room. Richie didn't like the look in Amar's eye as he walked up to him. The man picked up a knife from a table beside the frame to which the Immortal was tied, and Richie knew he wasn't about to carve an apple.

"Now we shall find out just how well, and how fast you heal," Amar said coldly, and lifted the knife.

"Y'know there are easier ways to get answers than this," Richie tried desperately. "I will tell you how well I heal."

"And how would I know if you were lying?" Amar's reply was so logical as to be ice cold.

At some point most of Richie's clothes had been removed, there was nothing stopping the blade as Amar pushed it against the bare skin of the Immortal's chest. The first wound was shallow, and Richie just grunted at the pain, but the second was deeper, and the third deeper still--by then Richie was screaming.

Time was measured in how many different forms of pain Amar chose to inflict. There had been the knife, flames, some sort of energy Richie had never seen before. As the minutes crawled by each successive torture became worse, and the Immortal's wracked body took longer to heal. Nothing seemed to be beyond Amar's twisted imagination, and yet he went about his work like a scientist, noting things as he worked. At one point he had been about to cut off several fingers to see what happened, but Richie's vehement promises that it would be permanent stopped him. It was only later that he finally made a mistake.

Amar was testing the combination of knife wound and quarterisation and the knife slipped: he cut too far and Richie felt the cold, welcoming embrace of death.

Shu stood in front of Amar, his eyes flaming. The body of the slave hung limply from the x frame, eyes closed in death, and Amar trembled beside it. It had taken the Jaffa on guard less than a minute to report Amar's mistake, and Shu had wasted no time in appearing.

"You killed him you fool," Shu raged. "The most interesting find in centuries and you killed him. To revive him could damage the experiment."

"I am sorry, master," Amar tried to get out his excuses, but Shu was not about to listen.

"You have failed me, Priest," he spat coldly, "and I do not accept failure."

Shu held out his arm, and the errant priest looked on the crystal in his palm with terror.

"It is time to die, Amar," he said mercilessly.

The energy ripped out of the device like a ribbon and touched Amar's head: instantly the man began to scream. Shu bared his fangs in a snarl and turned the full force of his personal weapon on the priest. First the man's skin became dry and wrinkled like parchment, flaking off where his hands reached desperately to his face. Then his eyeballs shrivelled, caving in on themselves as his cry rose as a warning to others who might fail their god. All the fatty tissue of his body began to disappear, and his clothes started to hang loosely on a frame close to a skeleton. His fingernails turned yellow and cracked, and the muscles and tendon in his body began to crumble. His scream died as his lungs and larynx ceased to function and slowly what was left of him fell in on itself. As it did so it turned to dust.

Shu stared at his handiwork for a few seconds and then turned his back on it.

"Clean up this mess," he ordered the nearest Jaffa.

He was annoyed, no more than annoyed, very angry. The new human specimen had seemed so promising, and he had been looking forward to taking the advantage over his royal cousins. Now he would have to start again and find a new specimen. Shu moved to leave the disaster behind him and then he heard something. With lightening speed he turned on the spot and looked at the captive. Shu was amazed, the human was breathing, and there had been no outside help what so ever. As the Goa'uld realised the truth of the situation he began to laugh.

Changing hosts was not something a Goa'uld did often, or without serious thought, but this chance was far too good to ignore.

"Prepare him for implantation," he ordered quickly, "today your god becomes truly invulnerable."

The rescue was a relatively simple plan with little or no subtlety. SG-3 and SG-7 would go through first, taking positions and laying down covering fire. SG-1 plus Methos were the rescue party, being the only ones who knew the truth, and whilst battle was joined they would attempt to locate and remove Richie from Goa'uld hands. How to find him would be a problem solved once they were on the other planet in one piece.

In their arrogance the Goa'uld had not expected an attack. They had increased the guard on the Stargate slightly, but the armour of the four Jaffa killed in the attack on SGC had provided enough of a disguise to secure the position. Reinforcements soon arrived, but by that time SG-1 were long gone.

"Y'know I have a bad feeling about this," Methos said as the group moved towards the temple. "Diversionary tactics don't usually work unless the enemy is really stupid."

"Well we have to look for him somewhere," O'Neill countered, "and this is about the likeliest place as any."

"I didn't say we had any other choice," Methos shot back, "I just said I have a bad feeling."

Carter just glared at him. The Immortal was carrying a gun and his sword, which looked rather strange in conjunction with the camouflage gear he had borrowed. Unfortunately for the group his words were somewhat prophetic. They crept towards the outer wall of the large structure and suddenly, out of the undergrowth, like so many ghosts, seven lion helmeted Jaffa appeared.

"We're in trouble," was all O'Neill could say.

Okay, so being thrown at the feet of a beautiful woman might be some guys idea of a good time, but Methos had to side with the fact that it was a bad idea when that woman was a homicidal maniac. Tefnut had taken residence in one of the large halls of what could only be described as a fairytale castle, and there were lion Jaffa everywhere. What had happened to Richie and where Shu might be were both questions the ancient Immortal would rather have answered sooner than later.

In her favour, Tefnut was an incredibly beautiful specimen of the human species. She was the kind of woman who would have made super models grind their teeth in envy. She had a main of jet-black hair which was platted ornately over her scalp and hung in long tresses down her back. The golden headdress that she wore to frame her exquisite face was of the finest craftsmanship and if Methos had been in a whimsical mood he might almost have believed he could hear the lioness roar. The ancient Immortal would also have been letting his own gender down if he hadn't noticed just how few clothes she was wearing. Inside, away from the temperate climate of whatever planet they were on, the air was warm, and the Goddess of moisture was clothed only in a bejewelled bikini and light silk skirts which did nothing to hide her shapely legs.

As the prisoners were thrown to their knees at the base of her throne she looked at them with cold golden eyes. The smile that adorned her face gave her expression no warmth, and her gaze chilled Methos' soul.

"Ah, the invaders," she said, her voice edged with Goa'uld power. "A rescue party, how touching."

She walked down the steps of the dais on which her throne stood and wandered around the prisoners. Watching her could have had fatal consequences, but Methos still had to clamp down on all his instincts to keep his eyes towards the front. Losing sight of Tefnut was something that made the Immortal very nervous.

"How is it you managed to cause Apophis so much trouble?" her voice was as cold at her stare, and the only emotion it contained was amusement. "Your motives are so transparent."

She wandered back into Methos' line of vision and he watched her surreptitiously. Tefnut was every bit the Goddess.

"I must admit that your defeat of Apophis was impressive," she continued as if she had no intention of ever stopping, "but we, unlike the Serpent Lord, think before we act. You will feel the retribution of the Lion Gods."

She moved up one step on the dais and put her hands on her hips, sweeping her gaze over the prisoners. Methos made sure his eyes were down when she came to him. The last thing he needed was to be noticed.

"The question is how should I kill you," the amusement was gone from Tefnut's voice; she was deadly serious now.

There was absolutely no doubt in Methos' mind that this Goa'uld had no compassion what so ever. Her tone only went to confirm that he was listening to something that couldn't even conceive of a conscience, let alone have one.

"I could have you thrown in a cell and leave you to starve to death," she pondered aloud. "Or I could have you tortured in the market place as an example to others who would consider rebellion."

She paused and Methos took the chance of peering up at her again. She had a thoughtful expression on her face; she really was trying to decide how to execute them all. This wasn't a game; it was very real.

"Then again, maybe I should just kill you now," she said and a malicious smile curved her lips upwards. "How would you like to watch as I kill you one by one ... and you'll never know who I'll choose next?"

She moved off the step onto the main floor once more.

"But who to choose first," she said, and Tefnut was playing games.

Methos kept his eyes firmly on the floor; if she chose him they were in real trouble. Two Immortals in Goa'uld hands was a very bad scenario.

"Maybe the woman," Tefnut mused as much to herself as everyone else. "Or should I let you watch the Jaffa die first? You haven't seen anything quite so entertaining until you've seen a Jaffa without his larva."

"Lady, whatever you're gonna do, just get on and do it," O'Neill growled, which wasn't much of a surprise to Methos.

The Immortal knew if anyone would try and attract Tefnut's wrath it would be the Colonel. Surprisingly enough his attempt to annoy her enough to focus her anger didn't quite work. The Goa'uld laughed.

"You would dare to speak in my presence?" she said, amusement tinged with surprise in her voice.

"I'll speak where the hell I please," Jack returned and Methos heard the thud of a Jaffa staff on flesh as the Colonel was rewarded for his impertinence.

"You must think me a fool if you believe you can goad me into a choice of victim," Tefnut said and her tone was once again emotionless. "For that you will see at least one of your comrades die, maybe even all of them, and at some point I will kill you the most slowly of all."

She moved closer to them all, and Methos began silently praying to any and all gods that might hear him as she stood next to him. The ancient Immortal was not afraid to die, but the fact that he probably wouldn't was what worried him.

"You," she said coldly, and stopped in front of Daniel. "You have a face full of knowledge, and knowledge is dangerous. I shall kill you first."

As Tefnut reached out her left hand with its ornate, but deadly ribbon device, Methos saw O'Neill move out of the corner of his eye. The leader of SG-1 didn't even get two feet as a Jaffa hit him over the back of the head with his staff. The Colonel dropped like a stone and didn't move. Tefnut just looked down at him.

"Trying to spoil my entertainment will make his death all the more painful," she said coldly. "Oh well, I'm sure I can save at least one of you for when he wakes up, but I tire of this game. Prepare to die, human."

Her hand moved a second time, and then Methos felt the presence of another Immortal.

"Wait," said a familiar, but horribly distorted voice.

Methos' blood froze as he saw the figure which had just entered the hall behind the thrones. The blonde hair and boyish features were still the same, but that was about all the ancient Immortal recognised about Richie. Emotionless golden eyes flicked over Methos as he stared, and as his one time friend smiled long fangs were revealed. Tefnut for her part looked slightly annoyed at the interruption, but as the newcomer smiled her expression softened slightly. Richie was wearing a short Egyptian style skirt, an ornate collar, and the headdress of two feathers. His skin had been oiled, and he was armed with a ribbon device. With complete certainty, Methos knew he was looking at Shu, god of the dry air.

"I did not mean to upset you, my love," the Goa'uld said calmly and walked further into the room, "forgive me for interrupting."

Methos knew the skilful handling of a psychopath when he saw one, and he wasn't quite sure if he was pleased with this new arrangement. At the plea for forgiveness Tefnut caved, and she smiled back at what had once been Richie.

"Shu, my darling," she said sweetly, "you I would forgive anything."

It might all have been romantic if it hadn't been for the fact that it was two alien parasites talking to each other in stolen bodies. Methos tried to hide any emotion, and prayed that he was not about to be singled out.

"I have an alternative suggestion," Shu said, and walked up to his consort. "I believe it may be wise to save the prisoners. Their deaths will be of much more use to us if our brethren witness it. It would not hurt for the others to know that we succeeded where Apophis failed."

Methos didn't quite believe it, but Tefnut almost pouted. The only way the ancient Immortal could describe her was a spoilt child.

"My love," Shu said and reached out his hand to touch the woman's face, "it pains me to see you so disappointed. Maybe if you just keep one."

It was as if they were talking about toys, not sentient beings. The Goa'uld's eyes swung across the prisoners and settled on Methos.

"That one is not really part of this group," Shu said evenly, "and is therefore of no value to us. I am sure you could amuse yourself with him."

Tefnut's eyes brightened as she too stared at Methos, and the Immortal felt like a slave in the market.

"I would kill him now," the woman said coldly and went to move forward, but Shu caught her arm.

He leant towards her with a conspiratorial grin and whispered something in her ear. Her face went from passive to smiling brightly as Shu spoke to her. Methos definitely didn't like that expression, especially when it was directed towards him.

"You have such wonderful ideas, beloved," Tefnut said brightly.

Without even pausing she barked some orders at the Jaffa and Methos found himself being dragged in the opposite direction to his comrades. Shu had made no mention of Immortality, of Methos being the same as Richie, or anything that would suggest he even knew the truth. Possibilities kept going round in the ancient man's head, and most of them were not good. Even as he was dragged to his unknown destination, the last thing he saw before the door closed behind him was Shu kissing Tefnut.

Tefnut watched her husband as he moved around their private apartments as if exploring them for the first time. She had never seen Shu so affected by a new host, but in a way it made her happy.

"Beloved, this new body pleases you?" she enquired.

Shu turned to her and smiled.

"Beyond words," he told her and walked to where she lounged on a couch. "He is strong and virile. I have not felt this alive in centuries."

He took her hand and she smiled as he kissed her fingers. He moved up her arm slowly, placing his lips a few millimetres up each time.

"There is desire in this body you would not believe," he told her.

She let him kiss her, savouring the taste of the new host and then she broke away. Her own passions could be roused quite easily, but today there were other needs.

"Should we not oversee the repulsion of the Tau'ri, my love," she purred in his ear. "War and then passion."

Shu's smile grew wider as if considering her proposal, but then he caught her under the chin and looked straight into her eyes. His golden irises almost sparkled, and she could not fail to see the desire they contained.

"Let the soldiers worry about the humans," he said and growled at her quietly. "They will be defeated soon, and then we shall enjoy the destruction of any survivors. I want to feel this new body as it caresses my beloved, and then I want to plan some executions."

Tefnut leant into him as he ran his hand down her breastbone. She could control her passion only so far, and Shu's argument was convincing. She let a growl rumble in the back of her throat and curled her lip to reveal her long fangs. After millennia Shu knew just how to react to his wife, and he seized her by the shoulders. He pulled her into a fierce embrace, and kissed her hard on the lips. She responded by running her long sharp nails down his back. She savoured the taste of the new host for a while, enjoying the different feel of this extraordinary male body. On impulse she pulled out of the deep kiss slightly, and quite deliberately sank one fang into the soft lips, which caressed hers. The metallic taste of blood ran into her mouth even as Shu pulled back in surprise.

Tefnut smiled at her beloved and watched fascinated, as the small puncture mark on his lip vanished as fast as she had created it. She laughed, her wonder sparking a new wave of desire. Shu's surprised expression turned into a smile as he looked back at her, and then he pushed her down onto the couch.

Methos was not exactly feeling sorry for himself: the puzzle that was Shu was far too interesting for that, but the Immortal was slightly worried. The ancient man had been dragged to a holding cell, and chained to the wall. He had no idea what his captors had planned for him, and he had been trying to figure out a way in which he could avoid it. It was the fact that Shu didn't seem to know any of the details of his own Immortality that really had Methos' attention. Why the Goa'uld had not denounced Methos for what he was, and for that matter didn't seem to have any idea of the Immortal call sign, were the questions that plagued the oldest living of them all.

If Shu really was ignorant of the truth then it was possible that Methos might get out of this situation with his head. The way to freedom might be very unpleasant, and dying would probably be on the list of things that would happen in between, but it was nothing the ancient Immortal couldn't cope with. He had been pondering these ideas most of the night right up until the point when his royal visitor had arrived.

Shu entered the cell closely flanked by a Jaffa, and just stood there staring at his prisoner. If anything it was the golden eyes which bothered Methos the most; they appeared empty as if where the soul should have been there was nothing. It was an eerie feeling and one that the Immortal did not like.

"How do you like the accommodations?" the Goa'uld finally chose to speak.

Methos decided silence was the better course of action, and just seethed quietly at the alien thing in front of him. Standing up all night chained to a wall was not Methos' idea of fun, but he could think of worse things, and he really didn't want to start a verbal war with the enemy.

"Not full of bravado like your Colonel?" Shu jibed with a superior smile.

"Just better at controlling my tongue," Methos couldn't help himself, which he found quite ironic considering what he chose to say.

Shu laughed at him and stepped closer.

"We have great plans for you," the Goa'uld told him as if Methos really wanted to know, "you will draw quite a crowd in the market place when you are executed. Tefnut wishes to kill you herself, and my Queen is very good at what she does. I always find it best to indulge her whims."

The Immortal bit his tongue to keep the comment that jumped into his head finding verbalisation.

"But before I let her have you I would like to talk to you," Shu continued and then turned to his guard. "Wait outside," he instructed.

The royal Goa'uld went back to staring at his prisoner as the Jaffa did as he was instructed. The superior behaviour of the creature that wore his friend's body was beginning to annoy Methos, so he stared right back. It was probably not the most sensible of actions, but he was tired, and Shu seemed to find it amusing anyway. The arrogance in the face that looked at him just basically pissed him off.

Then as the door shut something changed. Methos had to blink to make sure he wasn't imagining things and he stared at Shu for a long moment and the Goa'uld stared back in silence. Something wasn't quite right here.

"You know you're slipping, Old Man," Shu said suddenly.

It took a moment to realise that the Goa'uld's tone had changed completely and then an idea slowly resolved in Methos' mind. He couldn't quite believe what he was thinking, but he had to find out.

"Richie?" he asked slowly.

"The very same," his friend replied, and actually smiled. "Some rescue party you turned out to be."

Suspicion was Methos' immediate reaction, and he narrowed his eyes at the other Immortal.

"Is this your idea of a game?" he said tersely.

"No game," the Goa'uld replied. "If I ever get a handle on what's happened I will explain it, but let's just say I think it was bad when larva met Immortal."

He sounded so much like Richie, and the expression he was wearing definitely wasn't Shu's. Methos actually let himself hope.

"What happened?" he asked, not quite willing to trust just yet.

"I don't really remember," Richie told him with what looked like total honesty. "They dragged me off to some ritual chamber, tied me down and Shu transferred into me. I panicked like you would not believe, I felt him try to take over, and then everything gets really hazy. The next thing I knew I was lying in the royal apartments with Tefnut hovering by my side. It's funny, but I knew exactly how I was supposed to react, what I was supposed to do. It's like Shu's memory is part of me, but whatever was actually him is toast."

Methos looked thoughtfully at his companion for a moment.

"I suppose it is possible," he said slowly.

His mind continued to muse on the problem, but he didn't voice any of the thoughts.

"Well I figured you guys would like to get off this planet," Richie said to fill in the gap, "so I thought I'd come find you. It shouldn't be too difficult to get out of here with a royal escort."

"What about Tefnut?" the question sprang to Methos' lips before he really thought about it.

"She shouldn't be up for another couple of hours," Richie replied, "it was a long night."

The older Immortal stared at his companion after that comment and watched as Richie's cheeks slowly coloured.

"Isn't that usually known as fraternising with the enemy?" Methos asked with a dead straight face.

End of Part 2
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