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Re: [Dresden Files / Sg-1] God's Eye
Posted: 2013-08-16 11:24am
I woke up to the feeling of unfamiliar hands running down my bare chest, startling me into action as they groped down towards long disused parts of my anatomy. Kicking a warm, nubile, and willing woman out of my bed is not something I'm particularly practiced in doing but I'm a fast learner.
"Woah! Woah! Single occupancy bed lady," I yelped, pushing the carmel-skinned girl onto the floor with my right hand as I flailed my way into a sitting position. The silk sheets shimmered in the yellow light of burning braziers.
My heart raced as I remembered where I was, placing gaudy walls and ceilings of Heka's -turned my- palatial chambers.
She hit the floor hard, not resisting me in the slightest. Rolling with the motion of my shove she spun up and into a kneeling crouch, keeping her eyes to the floor. This was not the first time she'd been hit. Her breath hitched in resignation as her lips, painted dark with shades of henna, quivered slightly. She made a sound that was almost speech before thinking better of herself and looking back to the floor, too terrified to meet my eyes.
It took me a while to collect my whits, balancing the act of not looking at her very naked body with trying to figure out what the hell was going on. I breathed in a few times, steadying myself before turning my head to look at her. I was not looking at her generous curves, or the intricate pattern of tattoos that ran the length of her body. I was not staring at the glimmering piercings running down her form connected by lengths of chain that drew attention to the most intimate parts of her. I was not taking note of her visible physical arousal.
I really wasn't.
What I was looking at were the wet trails of tears forming in her eyes as she hid her face between fingers steepled in supplication. Give me fire, brimstone and demons any day over five seconds with a crying woman. God help me, I have a streak of chivalry as wide as Lake Erie.
Wrapping myself in one of my sheets to conserve what was left of my modesty I got out of bed, reaching out to touch the woman's arm. She did not flinch as I touched her but there was a sudden stiffness to her, the expectation of pain.
She looked up from her cupped hands, not daring to stare higher than my chin as she said in a voice of whispered fear, "Has this one displeased you my lord-" The beginning of 'heka' came to her lips as she quickly corrected herself, "-Ha'ri? This one can get another. Whatever my lord Warden wishes is his own to have."
An echo of Heka's twisted tastes whispered in the back of my thoughts, once again affirming my choice to fry the misogynist son of a bitch. The girl twitched as my eyes flared in fury. Damn it, I would have to keep my anger in check now that I had a freaking light-brite in my skull. I spoke in what I sincerely hoped would sound like soothing tone in spite of the metallic timbre, patting her arm re-assuringly. "I don't need anything from you. And I definitely don't want you offering me your body to someone who doesn't even know your name."
I might as well have slapped her. She did not even bother to hide her tears as she said, "I am Muminah - Your high priestess."
"My what?" My brain short-circuited. Oh hell, of course I had a high priestess. They thought I was a god. I probably had an entire church by now.
She dropped to the ground, holding her breasts to her knees as she stretched her hands forward in supplication, giving me a good view of coiled snakes wrapped into knots working their way up that had been branded into her spine. "Forgive me my lord Warden. I did not mean to presume -- but the former high priestesses self-immolated to follow Heka into the afterlife."
"She what?" I blurted out. I hadn't meant to shout, but who does that? Seriously?
"Most of the faith is in shambles. The council of nine locked themselves in the crematory, and I wouldn't be surprised if more did not end their lives for fear of what comes with the death of a god." She dared to raise her eyes, looking as high as my lips as she spoke in a voice of conviction. "They need their new god. They need his wisdom and communion to guide their way through the shadows."
I whistled through my teeth, "Lady, you are barking up the wrong tree on this one."
"Please," She begged me, reaching out to my leg but not daring to touch it. "Please help us, give us your guidance. Give us your blessing so that we might pray to your perfection."
I knelt down, cupping her chin in my hand as I forced her to look up into my face. I looked at her, taking care to avoid the first tugs of a soul gaze as I spoke in my most wizardly paternal tone. "Muminah, I am not perfect. I am not a god. I'm a Wizard. I'm a good one at that, but I am not worthy of your prayer. I'm flattered, but you do not need to do anything to prove yourself to me. Trust me, you're just as blessed when you don't pray as when you do."
She bit her lip, as though considering if this were some sort of test. "But - "
"But nothing," I interjected. "I don't want people praying to me. Want to prove to me that you're a good person? Act like a good person. Want to prove to me that you're honest? Don't lie. I don't want or need slaves, sacrifices, prayer, or suicides - especially not suicides - to prove yourself to me. Actions speak louder than words."
"I - I understand," Muminah replied in a tone that could have indicated anything but comprehension. "I shall see to informing the priestesses of this then."
"You do that," I replied, smiling at her. "And please, do not crawl into my bed without asking."
"I will obey your wishes my lord Warden," The priestess replied, calmer than before. "Forgive my ignorance."
"It's alright," I replied, looking around the room as the first pangs of hunger twanged in my stomach. "Tell you what. Find Amun and tell him I'm hungry and all is forgiven."
"Right away my Lord Warden," The woman stood up as though hit by lightning, bowing her shaved head as she excused herself from the room, generous hips swaying temptingly as she whisked her way out.
"You should have allowed her to commune with you my host," Lasciel's shadow crooned into my ear as phantom limbs curled round my neck. "It is simpler to just maintain the old traditions than it will be to convince them of the truth."
"Get off me Lash," I snarled, batting at the illusion with the hand not holding up my sheet. The ghostly angel hovered away from me, floating across my bed with a cat like look of predatory satisfaction on her perfect features. She swayed back and forth above my bed, stretching in a way that emphasized the assets beneath her tunic, "I'm not going to ask anyone to worship me."
"She only understood a third of what you said as you intended it, my Host. The language of the usurpers is not as adept at conveying meaning as your own native tongue. You do not give suggestions in it, only orders." She sighed. "Even now she believes that the gospel of her new god is that you should worship him through noble deeds and honest acts."
"Come again?" I growled, glaring at the fallen's shadow.
"Translation is an Art, not a science my Host. I am translating what you say as close to how you say it. But there is literally no way to say 'don't pray' in the language of the ursurpers. The closest I could manage is something closer to 'a different form of worship', but it really doesn't properly convey the sentiment." She sighed at my exasperation, falling to the black sheets of my bed. "I did not invent the infernal language my Host. The usurpers did, and they had no intention of allowing their followers to rebel. It's one of the reasons they try to suppress the native languages of their conquered people, it allows them to control the flow of ideas and knowledge. You can't say what can not be said."
"I like these usurpers less and less by the minute." I sighed. "Now why are you not in my head."
"I wanted to come out and talk with you. It's boring to just watch all the time without saying or doing anything." Lash whined in a decidedly less-than-angelic way
"Harry, after all this time - all that I've done for you - you don't trust me?" Lash smiled, flashing a mouth full of dazzlingly white teeth.
"Not as far as I can throw you." I snorted.
"Even after I -" Lash's voice hitched, her lips tightening in anger. "You stupid son of a - you haven't spared a moment to think about it have you?"
"About what?" I sighed. "Between killing a god and the existence of space ships I'm sort of busy at the moment."
In an instant Lasciel's shadow was in front of me, nostrils flaring as she poked her finger into my chest, "I gave up everything for you. Everything!"
Oh hell's bells, I hadn't really thought about it but, yeah, there was no way that Lasciel would tolerate her shadow disobeying her like that. If I ever decided to call the coin Lash was up a creek without a paddle. Fallen Angels weren't really the forgiving type, "You let me kill myself. You – you can't go back, can you?
“Go back? You think I give a damn about going back? We're long past that.” Lash snarled before slapping me across the face and disappearing into a puff of smoke. "I let you kill us both you ungrateful heathen. I. Died. For. You."
"Lash?" I asked the empty room, "Lash, ugh, I didn't mean to - shit - I'm sorry."
Lasciel's shadow did not answer, though she did send a twinge of displeasure in my direction. She was in no mood to speak with me for some time to come. I didn't press the matter. Disowned shadow of a fallen angel or not, she was a woman. Only an idiot actively sought out a woman who was pissed off at you for good reason. The logic was doubly relevant for women capable of hitting me with a telepathic whammy of illusionary flesh-eating scarabs.
I was saved the aggravation of negotiating with a scorned angel by the arrival of my breakfast.
The eunuch Amun carried a heaping platter of food into the room, slicing some odd looking fruit into a bowl of spiced meat before pouring a generous measure of crimson wine into a tall flagon. He flashed me a raggedy mouth full of teeth, bowing deeply as he said, “I have brought you your favorite foods from your former life, my dearest Lord Warden the Reborn.”
Heka's taste in food left much to be desired, even if the portions were generous. It was enough food for five Harrys, including a roasted six legged creature who'd apparently been stuffed with a mix of small snakes and wild birds. I didn't think I was brave enough to even consider tackling the bowl of cold soup with live fish wriggling at the bottom or what I seriously suspected was a plate of jellied goat eyes.
I smiled at the Eunuch, patting him on the shoulder. "Thank you Amun. I think I'll stick with the fruit for now.”
“My Lord Warden must eat,” He looked down at the floor, ashamed to have corrected me. “I fear that your flesh may be weakened by your genesis, great as you still are to allow a worm like this one in your presence.”
I recognized the tone, it was the sort of twisted appeasement battered wives used to calm their abusive husbands. Amun had reflexively moved his hands to cover his kidneys as he bowed, he was used to being kicked around by Heka. I pretended not to see it, pointing it out would only get me a series of denials and assurances that he “loved his Lord Warden.”
I managed to talk Amun out of washing my feet in the basin of perfumed oils next to my bed under the pretense of asking him to get my clothes out of the wardrobe. I wolfed down the bowl of fruit and meat, tossing a jellied eyeball at the caged, carnivorous snake-like something or other staring at me from behind the gilded bars of it's cage.
“Did this guy just read a list of villain habits and think to himself 'yeah I could probably afford that?” I muttered to myself, poking at the six legged creature and considering one of it's many drum-sticks.
“My lord Warden?” Amun poked his head out from my closet.
“It's nothing Amun,” I replied, seriously considering the possibility that their might be a tank of sharks with lasers strapped to them somewhere in the bowels of the massive space-ship. “Just thinking.”
“Of course my lord Warden,” The eunuch replied, wiping at a pudgy cheek with his sleeve. “Does my Lord Warden wish for the Robes of State in Black or Green?”
“Uh, what about the armor?” I interjected, eying the mannequin next to the dresser hopefully. It's angled and jagged plates of armor shimmered in the candle-light, just begging for me to wear it. Ok, so I'm a giant seven year old in a grown man's body. Just let me have my toys!
“My lord Warden, the great lord Sokar has forbidden weapons of any kind at the conference. You are permitted one Lo'tar and a single communication device it would be madness - ” The Eunuch actually squawked in horror, slapping his hands over his mouth as he fell to his knees. “I did not mean to question your wisdom.”
“Dude – just get up.” I sighed, waddling over with the sheet tied round my waist and pulling him to his feet. “You get to tell me when I'm being an idiot. It happens a lot.”
“A god is never wrong.” Amun replied on reflex, eyes bulging slightly as it clicked in his head that he was correcting one. He was clearly on the verge of a total short-circuit.
“How about pants?” I pointed at the wardrobe in the hopes that Amun's urge to serve his lord Warden was stronger than his fear of being punished.
“Oh!” He blinked, switching back to my egyptian space Alfred. “The red uniform has the most practical pants. Does my lord wish for that?”
“Practical is good,” I nodded, putting on my various enchanted jewelery. “Let's go with that.”
I was not, of course, permitted to put the clothing on by myself. A god apparently could rule the laws of heaven and earth but could not be trusted to button up his own fly. Amun had precisely no intention of allowing me to taint myself with such menial work. I could not help but feel a bit childish as the substantially smaller man stood on a chair to be able to pull the red silk garment over my head, before fastening an elaborate vest across my chest.
It became immediately clear to me why Heka had enlisted a servant to dress him as Amun proceeded to pull a brocaded jacket and some sort of elaborate waist skirting of shimmering material from the dresser, weaving through them with a braided rope of gold threads and fastening them in place with jeweled pins.
Dancing patterns of coiled snakes weaved their way up the sides of me, black embroidered hieroglyphics offsetting the shimmering white symbol of coiled snakes on my breast, the symbol of Heka. I was probably wearing more wealth in jewelery now than I had ever previously seen in my entire life. It was hard not to salivate at the robin's egg sized sapphires laced into the belted holster for a large velvet pocket.
I tried not to think about how I looked like an extra from a Bollywood production of “The King and I” as Amun grudgingly gave me my own leather duster and grey cloak instead of the ornate fur cloak and crimson turban still in the cupboard.
“Clothing is clothing Dresden,” I reminded myself, keenly aware that Murphy would die of laughter if she ever saw me wearing this. Well, she would once she'd finished taking pictures for posterity.
“Your first prime is on the bridge preparing your status report for you my Lord Warden,” Amun interrupted my introspection, straightening my cloak and replacing it's pin with an emerald scarab the size of my fist as he tossed away the simple silver fastening in disgust.
“Well then, let's not keep him waiting.” I replied, straightening the shield bracelet under my sleeve. The dangling charms had never been intended to deal with complex embroidery, they kept catching on the fabric of my sleeves.
Amun nodded, leading me out of my chambers and into the ship. It did not escape my notice that thirty Jaffa were hidden in the alcoves leading to my room, each of them standing at the ready to do grievous hard to anyone not supposed to have access to my room. For a man who professed his immortality, Heka had gone to great lengths to ensure he would not be assassinated.
I returned the one fisted salute when offered it, putting my hand over my heart and nodding appreciatively. Jaffa heads poked out of doorways and over railings as I walked past, observing me with undisguised curiosity. I heard the curios murmurs of distant gossip as we passed, the sort of pleasant murmur one might expect from a celebrity or local sports star.
I paused as we crossed the catwalk above a wide gymnasium full of Jaffa soldiers. They stood in long rows, moving in unison with an wizened Jaffa weapons master in an effort to imitate his elegant kata. I could feel the air shifting as several hundred Jaffa breathed in unison, the expulsion of wind at their shout of “Kree” fluttering the edge of my duster.
They weren't fighting as much as they were dancing, a pure yogic act of violence clearly honed over generations. I recognized the predatory grace to it. My brother had the same purity of motion when he fought, powered by his hunger. I don't know how long I watched them for, but I would have gladly watched for hours.
The motion froze in place as the ancient Jaffa's gaze rose, coming to meet my own. He spun mid kata to a kneeling position, holding his staff above his head in a gesture of submission rapidly imitated by all his pupils. I put my hand over my heart in the Jaffa salute I'd been offered so many times already today, to uproarious cheers from the Jaffa warriors below.
“Dre'su'den! Dre'su'den! Dre'su'den the Ha'ri!” They bellowed, beating at their chests and holding their staffs to the sky, each of them trying to be the loudest and most excited.
I saluted again, not quite running across the catwalk to the ring transporter on the other side. The ringing cheers echoed in my ears even as Amun pressed the device upon his wrist, summoning the rings to teleport me to the bridge. A light flashed, the air around me whooshed through the glare and suddenly I was elsewhere.
“You're late boss.” Griped a familiar voice. Bob the skull sat on the great throne in the center of the room, propped up on a pile of cushions so that he could examine the holographic display built into the seat. Orange tendrils of light flittered between his eye sockets, intently watching the rapidly streaming images and hieroglyphs. “You slept for eighteen hours.”
“Coming back from the dead was more exhausting than I anticipated.” I replied, willing my words to be English. “Any trouble with the locals?”
“You're kidding me right?” Bob snorted, following my lead. “They've been falling over each other to have the honor of serving their Lord Warden's – well they can't seem to decide if I'm a lesser god or some sort of bound spirit but they've certainly got the proper respect for their elders.”
“I'm surprised you're not cavorting with the priestesses,” I looked around the bridge. “It isn't like you to ignore that may naked women.”
“This is more important that breasts Harry,” Bob replied in a voice of resignation.
I snorted. Bob loved sex, he was obsessed with sex. He never shut up about sex, or how I should be having more of it. Never mind that he was an incorporeal being with no genitals to speak of, nothing was more important to Bob than breasts.
“Ha, ha,” Bob's flames rolled in their sockets, “I have millennia of information that is now entirely outdated – not just outdated – wrong. Do you have any idea how embarrassing this is? I'm a spirit of knowledge who has no idea what is going on at all.”
“You can work that thing?” I pointed to the computer as the pictures zoomed past.
“Huh? Oh that? Yeah, it's not that hard. Kind of fun really,” His teeth rattles as a picture of the ship paused on the screen. “But I'm barely done scratching the surface to all this. You could give me a decade and I'd only be starting to know how much I don't know. So you, Harry, are totally fucked.”
“Thanks for the vote of confidence Bob.” I sighed. “Really, great pep talk.”
“I'm an advisor Saib, not a cheerleader.” His jaw quirked up in a passible imitation of a smile, “ Though I suppose if you wanted to have the priestesses dress up in skirts and wave pom-poms for you, they'd probably be willing. Boobs harry, a whole tattooed bouncing bunch of them.”
Yeah, there was the Bob I knew. “Let's go back to the 'doomed Harry' schtick.”
“Oh that,” Bob sighed, “It's pretty simple. I know enough to know how screwed I am and you're substantially dumber and illogically compelled to seek out fatal danger. You're like some sort of sarcastic spell-casting lemming at the best of times, now you're in space heading to fight the head of a galactic empire.”
I giggled, smiling to myself.
“You aren't listening any more are you?” Bob sighed. “I said the words 'galactic empire' and your brain went straight to Star Wars.”
“Yeah,” I shrugged. “Can't blame a guy for having taste.”
“I'm going to go back to reading information to keep us from both getting killed when you decide to do something stupid and heroic,” Bob's eyes flicked, pointing his eye lights behind me. “You should probably see to the Jaffa. There is only so long they can pretend not to be listening to us speak before one of them bursts a vein or something.”
The Jaffa were, in fact, listening with wrapped attention to every word we said. Ul'tak and his lieutenants stood around a stone table covered in shimmering holographic images, twirling red and blue patterns dancing across an emerald pattern of stars. But even they seemed to have frozen in mid sentence as I'd started my conversation with bob.
A swarthy lieutenant with a thick mess of braided beard had paused mid way through pointing at something in the holographic display, so entranced by my conversation that he'd not even thought to lower his finger. Ul'tak was luckily less overwhelmed by my presence than his colleges.
Ul'tak sighed in amused irritation, reaching over to gently lower the younger Jaffa's hand as I walked over to the table. “Mar'kek, I believe that you have sufficiently pointed out the moons of Kefn.”
He saluted me in the Jaffa, bowing at the waist as he shouted, “Dres'su'den Ha'ri!”
The Jaffa followed suit, saluting and bowing as Ul'tak moved from the head of the table. He nodded towards the place he'd been standing, a raised platform clearly intended for whomever was commanding operations on the ship. I stood on the step, staring at the holographic star-scape, “What is this?”
“These are the holdings of Heka, now the holdings of Ha'ri.” Ul'tak nodded. “Nekheb, land where all magics are born, is the barrier between this world and lies beyond but it is only one of many such worlds in which Heka held total dominion.”
I stared at the blue sections of space, the possible meaning of the blue sections clicking in my head. “Ul'tak, how many planets are we talking about?”
“You control around fifteen habitable planets across thirty star systems as well as numerous smaller resource rich systems that serve as supply depots and dry docks for your fleet of ships.” Ul'tak growled in irritation, starting at the red flashing areas of space. “Or you did until news of your death and rebirth was sent across your realms.”
A broad shouldered lieutenant let loose an oath, snarling in fury as he grunted, “Cowards, they deny your the divinity of the lord Warden. They commit heresy of the worst sort.”
“They are without the priesthood Ma'kosh,” Retorted lankier Jaffa to my right. “Hundreds of our ranks have gone to serve Heka in the next life by their own hands or the hands of his agents. Warden's grace alone that we did not suffer the fate of his truth speakers.”
“The speakers of truth are not supposed to outlive their god.” Ul'tak's tone hitched, apparently sickened by whatever had happened to them. “His magics unmade them as he was unmade, else his secrets fall into the hands of heretic gods.”
“We must assume that failsafes were placed in some of these locations to ensure the loyalty of the Jaffa overseeing them,” A truly ancient looking Jaffa wheezed past a dusky mop of whiskered mustache. He wiped at a thick eye patch over the right side of his face. “If the truth speakers had explosives in their spine then we must assume others did as well. For now let's focus on military responses to the outright rebellions.”
“The ardent worshipers of Heka will not easily be converted to the worship of the Lord Warden, even if we have seen the truth and light of his divinity,” Ul'tak grumbled. “I fear that we are in for a long and bloody civil conflict for conversion. Many human lives will be lost for the greater good.”
“Or we could just not convert them,” I interjected. “Remember the whole 'I do not need worshippers' thing?”
The Jaffa looked at me in confusion. Ul'tak blinked, “My Lord Warden?”
“Ul'tak, I am not looking for a religion to be based around me. I do not want people praying to me and I sure as shit do not want people forcing others to believe that I am their god.” I pointed to the red systems. “What precisely have those people done for you to be preparing an invasion?”
“They have refused to tear down the temples and icons of the dead god,” The broad-shouldered Jaffa replied. “My brother Mak'nek has heard word of dissent and doubting the divinity of the newly come god.”
“You're going to attack people for saying that I'm not a god?” Lord save us from half your followers. “No - Fuck no - you aren't. In fact you're going to let people worship whomever they damn well please.”
“But if people worship other gods they will -” Ul'tak interjected.
“But nothing,” I shook my head. “Ul'tak I'm really not into telling other people how to live their lives. Just – you know – let them do their own thing. As long as they aren't hurting anyone else, who cares if they think I'm a god or not?”
Plus, if everything went to plan I'd be back on earth before the weekend. There was no point in them going on some half assed holy war because they'd seen me do some magic. As long as I could keep them from doing something dumb in that time period, it would end up being someone else's problem to deal with crazy space god rules.
“Very well then,” Ul'tak nodded slowly. “But may we dispatch forces to quell the riots on the third moon of Nekheb?”
“Yes, but try to end it with the least bloodshed possible,” I nodded. “Killing people is an absolute last resort only to be used if someone's life is in jeopardy.”
The Jaffa murmured approvingly, nodding to each other. Ul'tak smiled, “It will be my pleasure my lord Warden.”
“What about the meeting with Sokar?” I asked, “How long till we reach Delmak?”
“Within the hour my lord Warden.” Ul'tak tapped three stones on the table, raising an image of a shimmering world orbited by a cracked and nightmarish moon. “We should be landing on the southern continent near your personal holdings on the planet.”
“My personal holdings?” I really needed to ask for a list of properties or something, this was getting to be a running theme.
“A modest estate for one such as yourself my lord, but within walking distance of the place of Sokar.” Ul'tak reached for the image, zooming down to a massive series of pyramids in a sprawling metropolis.
“Within marching distance of his barracks you mean, as well as a whole mess of weapons of the gods.” Grunted the ancient Jaffa.
Ul'tak ignored the interruption. “We received a transmission from Sokar's forces. We will be allowed to land on the dry dock at your estate, but we will not be permitted to have any Jaffa leave the grounds.”
“You mean I'm walking into Sokar's palace alone? Alone at the – wait, conference?” It hadn't really clicked in my head when Amun had been saying it earlier, the clothing had distracted me. “Oh hell, there are going to be gods all over the place at this thing!”
“Any and all who do not wish to be crushed by the armies of Sokar,” Ul'tak agreed. “Since the fall of Apophis he has become the uncontested military power in the galaxy. Some five hundred Goa'uld are expected to be at the summit.”
Five hundred evil space gods. Fucking fantastic. “I don't suppose I actually want to know what Sokar is the god of do I?”
The ancient jaffa whooped with laughter. “Paradise is ruled by the devil, never ye forget that my lord Warden. Sokar is the god of hell.”
You have got to be kidding me.
Re: [Dresden Files / Sg-1] God's Eye
Posted: 2013-08-16 06:47pm
You can remove some of the spacing... but otherwise Very Happy to see this alive
Re: [Dresden Files / Sg-1] God's Eye
Posted: 2013-09-22 10:10am
The device at my wrist chimed twice. It apparently had a whole range of functions, sort of an a alien version of a PDA, but I'd only managed to figure out the watch. I couldn't actually read hieroglyphs on the watch but I'd managed to get it to show what Bob assured me was the time. For someone who'd never even owned a DvD player, I was proud of myself for getting that far in so little time.
Bob had reluctantly acquiesced to being pulled away from the ship's computer, grumbling something about the properties of “knack-wa-ra.” His usual gripes about being taken along with me into a dangerous situation melted away as he was lovingly placed into his new leather harness by a buxom priestess. Naked breasts had a mollifying effect on the spirit.
I did my best to maintain direct eye contact with the woman as she bowed to me, stretching the ornate pattern of glyphs in tantalizing ways. She kissed bob upon the forehead with hennaed lips, whispering prayers of protection and supplication as she knelt to my side.
Amun fiddled with the sash around my waist as the ship made it's final approach towards Delmak, making sure that the leather harness holding Bob was properly fastened and concealed within the folds of the garment. Precisely what had been wrong with my previous belt was never quite explained to me, the eunuch muttered something about 'my magnificence' before thrusting the garment about my person. The sash was twisted to make Bob look like a decorative accent, smoothing out the skull's otherwise grim appearance.
Bob's jaw clicked against the metal fastenings in the harness as he rolled his eye lights up to me, "This, Harry, is precisely the life I've been talking about for years! Servants, slaves, and kingdoms, why are we even trying to go back?"
"I like my apartment," I replied. "All my stuff is there."
"Harry, a bunch of second-hand furniture and old rugs are hardly irreplaceable." Bob chided.
"And my Star Wars poster," I interjected, rubbing my wrist where my leather duster caught the jeweled pins on my wrists.
“And your Star Wars poster,” Bob replied, his voice a mix of resignation and beleaguered suffering. “Because a framed print is justification for the abdication of an entire kingdom.”
I ignored Bob as he continued to ramble on about the merits of an army of human slaves, choosing instead to watch the breathtaking scene just beyond the transparent window of energy. An etherial mess of swirling purple winds swept past the ship's hull, dancing strands of God only knows what caressing the black void of space.
I didn't dare look at it with my wizard's sight. Something told me that staring into infinity would be detrimental to my well-being.
The Jaffa were unperturbed by the impossible devices surrounding us. By all accounts my natural magic should have shorted something – anything - by now. Wizards and technology simply did not mix. Murphy forbade me from even entering her office while her computer was running for fear that I would make hours of paperwork disappear.
I'd ridden an airplane once, and only once. They'd managed to get it to land in time, but it was a near miss. Newer planes were supposedly less susceptible to electronic interference, but I wasn't willing to take that chance. There had been kids on that plane. It wasn't worth it.
By all accounts the ship should have been a smoldering wreck in an endless vacuum of stars, but I hadn't had so much as a hiccup in the communications systems yet. It wasn't possible, but there it was, staring me straight in the face. The old gods had figured out some way to combine computers with ritual magics, or possibly some way of replicating complex computers with magical ritual.
Microsoft, eat your heart out.
I smiled at Ul'tak as my he walked in front of me and took a knee. Sure, the guy had fed me to an evil space god but other than that he was a pretty stand up guy. I was trying not to hold a grudge. If I went after everyone who'd tried to kill me at some point or another I'd have to declare war on the entire magical world.
Come to think of it, I really had way too many people in my life who'd tried to murder me at some point. That couldn't be healthy.
“We are prepared for descent my Lord Warden,” Ul'tak proclaimed, beating his fist across his breastplate in salute. “We will exit hyperspace on your command.”
“Make it so number one.” God I always wanted to say that.
Ul'tak stood, pivoting on his heel as he cracked the butt of his staff weapon on the deck. “Jaffa, kree da nok.”
My vision blurred as time seemed to wrinkle in front of me, the magic within me howling in protest at the clearly unnatural thing happing to it. I gagged, covering my discomfort by clenching my teeth and grasping the stone table in front of me. The sleek material cracked beneath my fingers as impressions of my finger pressed into the marble.
I looked from my hand, to the table, and back to my hand again. I'd never been weak before, but it was going to take a shitload more push ups before I believed myself capable of breaking stone with my bare hands. A gift from Heka, no doubt.
“Ho-ly crap.” Bob emphasized each syllable as though it were a word to itself, but it was not for me. It was for the sprawling metropolis before us. Delmak glimmered in the night's sky, many million pinpricks of light hinting at the planet sized city before us. The pyramid we were traveling in was but one of many pyramids, transports, fighters and freighters going to and from a glowing orb at the planet's northernmost pole.
Crescent moon winged ships soared through the atmosphere, dancing and twirling through the clouds in an intricate dance. They twisted and dove at impossible angles, their pilots seemingly suicidal in their desire to go faster or go closer to each other than was sane. Yet none of them crashed, none of them even so much as slowed down.
A massive pyramid, five times the size of my own at least, towered over the planet's pole. It hovered above the planet, a viscous shadow large enough to blot out the sun. Ul'tak whispered in fear and reverence, “Sokar's flagship is more dangerous than our intelligence suggested. That ship could crush a System Lord fleet.”
“Lets not try that,” I suggested hopefully. “I'm hoping to avoid a fight on this trip.”
“Of course my Lord Warden,” Ul'tak replied in a voice of relief. “Your wisdom is beyond compare.”
“We are receiving the landing co-ordinates,” A pale-faced Jaffa nodded. “We should be passing through the defense grid momentarily.”
“Defense grid?” I asked, dreading the answer.
“Sokar's planet is armed to the teeth my lord. Anyone attempting to take off or land without permission must pass a blockade of orbital satellites and Ha'tak.” He shivered. “The consequences of doing so would be regrettable.”
“This just gets better by the second,” I chewed my lip, double checking that my rings and bracelet were still in place. I was supposed to arrive unarmed and without a shield, but I wasn't stupid enough to actually trust Sokar's terms. Heka's hadn't noticed them when I'd gone to his palace, here's to hoping Sokar's Jaffa were none the wiser. “Why isn't that moon gaurded?”
“Netu?” Ul'tak laughed. “No man is foolish enough to go to Netu by choice. It is a planet with no escape, a place of fire and suffering full of the worst souls from the empire of Sokar. Murderers, heretics, rapists, cowards and monsters – the lot of them. No one who goes there ever returns.”
“Scratch that one from my vacation plans then.” I muttered to myself as the pyramid swooped along the seemingly random path through the defense grid, bobbing and weaving past invisible obstacles and barriers. The insane flight paths of the crescent ships made sense now, they were traversing the paths through Sokar's blockade.
Clouds swooped past the view-screen as thunder clouds formed around the ship, disrupted by the sudden change in atmospheric pressure. Lightning coalesced across the ship's hull, dancing across the sky as we descended towards the planet. The city's great spires and glowing towers dotted the landscape before us, glimmering palaces of marble and steel topped by mirrored pinnacles of gold.
As we drew closer I saw what looked like six wheeled vehicles trundling along well-lit highways as huge one-wheeled scooters zipped past them. The cars and scooters moved around huge insects, beetles large as a city block, that swayed to-and-fro carrying house sized wooden buildings. My face was pressed up against the window as the ship made it's final descent towards a modest pyramid in the city's center, and it was only by sheer force of will that I drew myself away from watching two of the massive beetles batting each other with their protuberant horns.
“Harry, don't you even think about it.” Bob growled.
“What?” I replied, innocently.
“We are not, I repeat, not getting on one of those things.” Bob hissed. “Wasn't riding one building sized creature enough for this year? You need to ride two?”
“Relax Bob, if we need to get on one you can possess it,” I patted the skull reassuringly. “You can handle it.”
“No I will not.” Bob made a loud “yeck” sound of disgust. “Insect minds are too – simple – for my taste. Boring, no emotion to them. All stimuli, no character.”
“You won't possess a giant beetle but cats and T-Rex you have no problem with?” I snorted.
“Mister has more character in his tail than a dozen of those things do in their entire body,” Bob replied. “And it's adinosaur Harry. Dinosaur are anything but boring.”
“Yeah, I suppose they are.” I agreed, turning to Ul'tak and switching to Goa'uld as I felt the rumbling thud of docking clamps slipping into place. “Are we here?”
“Yes my Lord Warden,” Ul'tak nodded. “Your Lo'tar is already waiting for you in the palace.”
“What?” I blinked, looking back at the space where Amun had been only moments ago, “Uh – how?”
“The rings my Lord Warden.” Ul'tak replied, pointing to the smooth circle of stone in front of my throne. “He used them as soon as we breached the planet's atmosphere.”
“Oh,” Right, they could teleport. I walked within the stone ring on the floor, followed closely by Ul'tak and a handful of broad-shouldered Jaffa, “Wait, if we could teleport, then why did we land?”
“Sokar is not in the habit of keeping warships above his capital, even allied ones.” Ul'tak swallowed, “The god Sokar is -” He paused, considering if he should continue. I waved my hand in a circle, gesturing for him to finish. “-Sokar is, not that I could ever presume to know the mind of a god, but I believe that he wishes to remind you of your place. He also wishes to remind the other gods of your importance to his reign.”
“And what is my importance?” I quirked my lip in what I hoped was a knowing smile.
“My Lord Warden, Heka was - you are – the Goa'uld who has been in Sokar's service for untold generations. The first of his followers, the most loyal. It was you who hid him from your father and nursed him to health.” Ul'tak pointed to the tiny oblong pyramid soaring about the night sky, their bulbous noses and tiny nubby wings inelegantly jutting forth. “See how the other lesser gods must travel, stripped of their strength. They must match your loyalty before they have your privilege.”
“I'm BBF's with Satan.” I swallowed, forcing down a knot of nervous apprehension working it's way up my gullet. “And I'm going to rob him.”
“It is the way of things,” The Ancient Jaffa hobbled towards us, his grizzled snarl of a smile peeking past the patch covering half his face. “Greater gods prey upon lesser gods, lesser gods curry favor with their peers till they are greater. And you, my Lord Warden, have become greater.”
The rings flashed as Ul'tak touched a silver braclet upon his wrist, the silver circles shooting up from the floor and shifting us downward. I slammed my eyes shut to protect from the glare as we suddenly warped down to the planet's surface.
My jaw dropped.
The palace of Delmak was everything that palace of Nekheb had not been. It was green, green as far as they eye could see. Trees, flowers and crawling vines worked their way around a wide space of intricately carved pillars and subtle marble fresco covered walls. Instead of carvings, a shimmering mass of holograms danced across the smooth marble of the pillars, their shimmering hieroglyph bathing the pyramid in brilliant light.
The scenery was less startling than those within it. Perhaps a hundred servants and Jaffa bowed in a circle around me in, unwavering in their supplication. I waved my hand in greeting, putting on my best John Wayne impression, “Howdy y'all.”
Bob's exasperated jaw clench could have shifted mountains, “Yes, start with regional American pop culture. That willreally win them over.”
My high priestess, clothed in a translucent garment of black lace, kneeled before me holding a cup of wine. Her freshly shaven head shone with perfumed jasmine oil as she smiled, welcoming me to the palace. “My Lord Warden, your vassals have worked hard in your absence. Your servants seek your blessing for our preparations and luck in the coming year.”
As I looked around the room at the platters of food and drink carried by the servants and serfs, a cultured voice whispered in my ear, “Just drink the wine. If you don't they'll punish themselves for failing their 'god,' and you wouldn't want that.”
I turned to face the angelic apparition, smiling to her as I took the goblet. “Are you speaking with me now?”
“I am speaking at you.” Lash crossed her arms and leaned against a stone pillar. “If you happen to gain wisdom from my words, it is pure co-incidence.”
“Of course I'm speaking with you, you dolt,” Bob sighed. “You haven't gone funny in the head again have you? I really don't want to have to call Mab again.”
“Not you Bob,” I sighed.
“My Lord Warden?” Muminah stared at the pillar in confusion. “What do you desire.”
I shook my head, “I'm just talking to - ”
“It is perhaps unwise to reveal me to your followers, my host,” Lash interrupted, an irritated look flashing across her face. “It would be counter productive to your wishes.”
Right, these people believed I was a god after doing some basic combat magic and killing a brain snake. Having an Angel in my head, even the shadow of a fallen one, would be the last nail in the coffin on that one.
I looked the priestess in the eye, “I was just talking to myself.”
Muminah stared at the ground immediately, her body twinging in expectation. Hell's bells, had there been anything Heka wouldn't hit his priestesses for doing? I raised the cup, drinking from it before handing it to her and saying, “Drink.”
The crowd gasped.
She stared at the cup in wonderment, “My Lord?”
“You did a good job. Now drink from the freaking cup.” She lifted the cup to her lips, gingerly taking a sip before passing it back to me. I shook my head, “Muminah, you aren't less than I am. I'm not going to hit you for drinking out of my cup.”
“I – I'm not – how could I be?” Muminah's fingers shook as I took the cup from her and lifted her to her feet.
“I've had about enough of, Ul'tak get over here.” If it wasn't going to get these people to stop worship me through logic then I'd damn well make it happen through superstition. I shoved the cup into the confused Jaffa's hands, “Drink.”
“Jaffa do not drink - ” Ul'tak started, stopping as his words caught up to him. “-Er, yes my Lord Warden.” Ul'tak downed the wine, his face curling at the unfamiliar taste of alcohol.
Amun walked into the room, scurrying towards me with a giant fan of feathers. I snapped my fingers, beaconing to the Lo'tar. He rushed towards me eagerly, his pudgy cheeks wriggling with every step.
“My Lord Warden?” He smiled, eager to be of service. I forced the cup into his confused hands. “My – uh – what?”
“Drink.” I growled. Amun looked to the cup, to me, and back to the cup before bursting into tears of joy as he drank what was left of the wine.
“Fantastic,” I slapped Ul'tak across the shoulders, “Now the three of you stop worrying. You both have permission to drink from the cup of Dresden from now on. Just tell me the truth, don't betray me and you can stop worrying about me punishing you.”
“Great,” I turned to the crowd. “As of right this second you all have my blessing from now on. Just live your lives and stop worrying about making me happy. No more mandatory ceremonies, no more punishments for praying wrong. Just worry about being good to each other, and for the love of all that is holy, stop worrying about not pleasing me. I'm really a nice guy when you get to know me. Now eat, drink and party.”
Absolute silence followed those words, motionless and unyielding. The quiet preceding absolute pandemonium as the servants, Jaffa and serfs howled my name, chanting in reverence. “Dre'su'den, Dre'su'den, Dre'su'den the Ha'ri! Greatest of the Goa'uld! Ha'ri!”
Why do I even try?
Amun reached out a trembling hand, and tapped me on the shoulder. “My Lord Warden. You are needed at Sokar's palace.”
“Yes Amun,” I turned my back on what promised to be a raucous celebration and followed him out the door. I slapped my fist on my chest in a Jaffa salute as I left the room, nodding to Ul'tak. “Hold down the fort while I'm gone buddy.”
Ul'tak's leathery face cracked in a wide smile as he returned my salute, “We will defend it with our very lives, and die rather than falling to false gods. We will die for our god.”
“If it comes to that Ul'tak, try to make the other Jaffa die for theirs.” I sighed, chasing the scurrying Eunuch. For a chubby man he could really book it.
The palace was empty except for a few Jaffa unfortunate enough to have gotten guard duty during the celebration. Their lingering stares toward the sounds and smells of the festival in the great chamber were only briefly interrupted by their hurried salutes to their new god. Hopefully the outer guards were longer in the tooth and less likely to be distracted.
I needn’t have worried. As we approached the perimeter of the estate, it became readily apparent that guards were more of a formality. Hovering gun platforms sat suspended above a blue forcefield surrounding the property. It did not escape my notice that the plasma cannons could just as easily be turned on those inside the premises as they could attack outsiders, yet another layer of Sokar's precautions. He was paranoid with a capital P.
The blue barrier of energy had a single point of egress, a door wide enough for two men to stand shoulder to shoulder. As we walked towards it an orange light swiped across the two of us, swiping up and down our bodies. A scan? My hand reflexively reached for Bob. Could it sense the spirit?
The cannon swiveled towards us, training on our movement as we approached the door. No, no, no, I wouldn't be able to shield us from every angle if this went wrong. Why had I agreed to this? It was crazy. Damn fairies, nothing was ever simple with the sidhe.
My heart skipped a beat as the barricade swung open, letting the pair of us walk out into the city beyond. I spared a second to thank every friendly deity I could think of as a group of red armored Jaffa strode towards me.
“Time to play god,” Lash smiled, her lips actually quirking in amusement.
“Kell kree shal mok Heka!” The lead Jaffa greeted me, kneeling before me. “My lord Sokar has send us to escort you to his palace.”
I said nothing, doing my best Evil overlord impression. If I'd had Mister with me I could have gone full on Blofeld. Lash snorted, “If that beast of a cat were here it would never deign to so absurd a task.”
“Ha'ri,” Corrected my Lo'Tar.
“You dare to speak to me human?” Growled the Jaffa, his fingers tightening on his staff in anger.
“He dares with my permission,” I intoned, crossing my arms in imitation of Heka, a twinge of anger making my eyes glow from beneath the grey cowl pulled over my head, “And you will address me by my new title.”
“New title?” The Jaffa paused.
“Heka has been reborn, he is Lord Warden Dre'su'den the Ha'ri.” Aumn nodded, “The god of Magic reborn.”
“My apologies Lord Warden,” the Jaffa bowed his head deeper, his anger forgotten. “I had not realized that you - ”
“There are volumes of text devoted to what you do not know,” I reverberated in my least threatening growl, “Now get up.”
“Yes my Lord,” The Jaffa did not stand up so much as he propelled himself vertically. “My Lord bids you follow me, he desires your presence.”
I waved my hand from beneath my cloak, exposing leather duster and ring covered fingers, “Lead on Macduff.”
We walked down the crowded plaza, the crowds diverging at the sight of red armor. No one dared get closer than a pace near the Jaffa or even look in our direction. As I looked at the shop windows and curious clothing of the people we passed Lash whispered into my ear, “Lay on.”
“Eh?” I whispered back, watching the crowd part from a side street as another “god” approached us.
“The quote. It's 'Lay on MacDuff and be damned he who cries 'Hold Enough” Lash rested her chin on my shoulder, hovering behind me. “An oddly apt choice for today.”
“I have my moments,” I replied. It was annoying to have someone in my head who was better educated than me. Or was it better educated than I? Remember that whole “I have a GED” thing? Yeah, grammar was not my strongest skill.
The crowds parted enough for the two cadre of Jaffa to merge, putting me face to face with a handsome but sallow cheeked man with a thick goatee. His face was quirked into what seemed to be less of an arrogant smirk and more of a permanent facial condition. He titled his head from me to my Lo'tar before sighing in disappointment, “Not a Goa'uld I do not know then. A pity, I had hoped to save you from this foolish summit.”
“Heka,” He stared me in the face, his lip curling in disgust as he spoke my name. “Shouldn't you be somewhere with Moloc helping him roast an infant? Or did that interfere with your busy schedule of raping anything that passes into your field of view.”
“Kill this one last,” Lash smiled. “I like him.”
“My leadership strategy has changed since we last met.” I replied, buttoning my duster closed in precaution. It would stop most magical or mortal attacks.
“I can see that.” The sneering man snorted in amusement. “I approve greatly of this sudden decision to wear clothing. I don't know if I could endure another hour of watching you flex your pectorals and re-apply animal fat to your chest.”
A battle of insults it is then, clearly I'd inherited Heka's enemies, “I'm sorry. I don't seem to recall your name.”
The man bared his teeth in a smile that couldn't look anything other than viscous, “Do not think that you can belittle me. You are a coward, betrayer of your father and your entire race.”
“And you are a god without a name,” I replied. “It must be hard to keep your worshipers without one, names hold so much power.”
The man's eyes bulged as his voice went quiet, “I. Am. Baal. Remember the name, it is one that you will scream for eternity when I rip you from your host and cast you into a pit for all eternity.”
Bob's voice, crackling and distorted in imitation of my own spoke before I could, voicing a scorching retort, “Empty words from a shell of a god. If you had any power to speak of you'd be a member of the System Lords, not bowing and scraping before disgraced gods such as myself or our lord Sokar.”
Baal turned on his heel and stormed off in the direction of the palace. I looked down at the skull as he disappeared in the crowd with his escort, hissing at my spirit ally. “Bob what the hell was that?”
Bob hissed at me in English, “Sahib, every second you were speaking with Baal was a second longer you were acting likeyou not like Heka. I do not want you getting caught.”
“No more talking for me Bob,” I sighed. “That's an order.”
“Fine,” Bob griped, “Get yourself killed – again – see if I care.”
“Not now Bob,” I sighed, looking across the street at a sudden burst of noise and motion. A tiny shape, some four feet tall, barreled across the street. I watched an irate shop keeper shove his way past busy commuters, shoving men and women to the ground as he bellowed “Thief!” at the top of his lungs.
The pint sized pilferer projected himself through the toga of confused passers by, rocketing past the Jaffa and colliding solidly with my midriff. He fell to the ground, stunned, still clutching his prize as my escort apprehended him. The still kicking vandal squirmed three feet above the ground as the lead Jaffa pried his arms open and tore a loaf of bread from his arms.
The kid couldn't have been older than ten.
The shop keep wheezed his way up to the Jaffa, whispering “Thief” as loud as he dared while resting his arm on a generous gut. “That little gutter rat came into my shop, my shop and stole from my offering for the Feast of the Gods.”
“Very well,” The Jaffa nodded. “The boy will be punished for his crimes. Stealing from Sokar, evading arrest, and daring to touch the Lord Warden. We will send him to Netu for this.”
The boy screamed in horror, kicking and snapping his jaws as though to bite the hands of the Jaffa holding him.
The man blanched, “I – I had hoped that the boy would be whipped.”
“You're sending a kid to maximum security for life? On a hell planet? With no parole? For taking fucking bread?” My eyes flashed in fury. “Fuck. That.”
“My Lord Warden,” The Jaffa replied. “The Law is clear. He has broken it. Reparations must be made. This boy is trash, he has nothing.”
“To whom?” I snarled.
“To the insulted parties,” The Jaffa replied, “The shopkeep and yourself.”
“Reparations? How much?” I looked at the baker expectantly.
The terrified shopkeep stammered, “My Lord Warden – I – If the boy could pay for the bread and were to pay for the loss in business required to chase him down then it would- ”
I shoved a jeweled pin from my waist band into his hand with a diamond the size of my knuckle at its tip. “I just gave this to him, then he gave it to you. Good enough.”
The man stared at the jewel, “Yes – yes it – ”
“Great,” I smiled at him, “Now go away.”
The man dashed back through the crowd as though the devil himself was chasing him.
Turning back to the Jaffa I cocked my head, “I get to chose his price right?”
“Yes,” replied the Jaffa, somewhat fearfully at the erratic behavior from a god.
“Great, he has to be a - ” I looked at Amun, “ - what do we need at the palace?”
“We could use another scribe,” Amun looked the boy up and down. “He's the right age to learn his letters and Heka's swallowed poison.”
“Great,” I pointed to one of my escort. “Bring him back to my palace and tell them that he's the new scribe. And make sure they feed him and bathe him.”
The Jaffa saluted, frog marching the still wriggling boy towards my estate.
The lead Jaffa tilted his head ever so slightly, not quite questioning but obviously perplexed.
“Nothing was gained by hurting the boy for wanting to eat.”
The Jaffa nodded, “And the law is still maintained. You are wise Lord Warden.”
“Look, is there any faster way to get to Sokar's palace than just walking? I know that he's probably hoping for some impressive power play by having us all walk to him, but we're already running late,” I smiled, “I would take it as a personal favor.”
“Sokar did not... forbid you the use of ring transporters.” The Jaffa admitted, sounding out the words nervously. “It does not break the wording of the law. You are in his inner circle, so it need not break the intent. I suppose, yes, I suppose we could.”
He nodded, coming to a decision, “I suppose nothing is gained by prohibiting it. Yes my Lord Warden, stand close to me.”
We clustered in towards the lead Jaffa as, for a second time that day, a blinding light spirited me away from the crowd and into the stronghold of a god.
Re: [Dresden Files / Sg-1] God's Eye
Posted: 2013-09-22 07:10pm
YES NEW CHAPTER!
I am loving this.
Re: [Dresden Files / Sg-1] God's Eye
Posted: 2013-10-11 06:54pm
The god of hell threw what had to be the dullest parties in all of existence. I mean I've been to some snoozers in my time, but it's truly rare that a gathering managed to be both potentially lethal and mind numbingly dull.
The various alien god-lings busied themselves with the arduous task of standing in small groups of allied gods, whispering in metallic hisses of breath. They eyed each other with preternatural caution, eyeing even the simplest of movements with predatory interest.
To my surprise the clusters of allied gods had little relation with any pantheon I knew. Gaudy Egyptian gods walked shoulder to shoulder with dark skinned African spirits and almond eyed Deva. The range in style and era of clothing they wore was so startling I had the distinct impression of being at some sort of fancy dress party sponsored by the makers of LSD.
“Happy Halloween,” I muttered to myself as I walked off the teleportation platform, saluting the Jaffa as they took their leave of me. The red armored cadre marched from the room in lock step, avoiding the gaze of their “betters.”
A dull hum throbbed in the back of my head, the sort of odd sensation of someone just barely touching my skin. Hells bells, I was feeling the presence of the rival gods. I had freaking demigod detecting radar.
Amun waved a secret greeting from behind me to a hale blonde girl, who nervously returned the gesture from behind her goddess. I didn't comment on the gesture, it seemed likely that Heka would nothave approved of him socializing with other Lo'tar.
“Time to mingle,” I clapped my hands together, pulling back my cowl as I walked down the stairs.
Amun whispered to me, “I remember the rules my Lord Warden. I know that I am not to accept any gifts or talk to the other Lo'Tar."
I snagged an hors d'oeuvres from a plate carried by a slave, some sort of cheese, and popped it in my mouth. It was surprisingly good for unknown space cheese. I'd have gone so far as to say it was my favorite space cheese that I'd ever tasted.
“Well, at least the food is goo- well hello – uh – big fella?” Hell's bells, who went and let the alligator bathe in toxic waste? The creature before me was at least two feet taller than I was and built like two linebackers shoved together. Its thick leathery carapace of jagged green scales was pierced from a multitude of overgrown spines and spikes of protruding bone.
The creature squinted it's hollow cat-like eyes as it crouched low, sniffing in my direction. It weaved on it's heels, monkeyish in it's gait, swaying its talon tipped fingers. It bent in, sniffed me, sniffed my Lo'tar and burst into pleased laughter as it smacked my shoulder jovially.
“Heka! You incorrigible wretch. I've never met one who burned through hosts as you do,” The creature raised it's taloned fingers, waving it back and forth disapprovingly. “I do not know what you see in the Tau'ri. Yes they have greater senses of taste and smell but they are weak, frail and prone to failure.”
He waved his hand in a conciliatory dismissal of my look of confusion, “I admit that they are fine slaves, a good base for the Jaffa, but we are not in the days of old my friend. The days of the Hok'tar are long over. Those of you who cling to the Tau'ri are attached to the time of Apep.”
“Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.” When dealing with a supernatural nasty talking about some information they seem to feel is common knowledge I find pithy and cryptic is the best response.
The creature's slitted eyes glowed with a brief flash of anger, “Bah, we are reduced to using what few of our former glories will obey the will of Tau'ri and Unas. If not for the plundering of Atok what would we be any more? It is the Error of Thoth alone that allows us to use that. The accursed blood stone – Naquadah – is the only glory of what you cling to.”
“Naquadah,” I repeated the word. “Is what it is.”
“Bah!” The lizard snorted. “Only fools cling to the first world. It is a boneyard of nightmares and shadow creatures. I will live on Netu before I return to that accursed place. Ten thousand years I stood and bled on that soil, loosing what was mine. Inch by blood soaked inch those thrice damned Tau'ri destroyed even my forces. Only those poor fools who could not escape remained, hiding from the creatures of that blasted pit.”
“Will you ever let that go Ammit, we all lost what was ours. Most of us learned our lesson with the thirsting ones and the Hok'tar rebellions. You were the one foolish enough to stay and fight the deathless hunger.” Groaned a disappointed woman's voice, rumbling in the tones of the Goa'uld. She clicked her tongue along her pearly white teeth, rolling her eyes at the Serpentine giant's rant. “I swear, I miss having Nirrti around. At least when both of you were in a room I vague hope that it would at least come to blows and be briefly amusing.”
“Qetesh,” The lizard-man purred. “I see you've taken a break from your wars with Baal to join us? Not allying yourself with the System Lords are we?”
“Ammit, Ammit, Ammit,” Qetesh tutted, leaning back on the spiked heels of her leather boots. “The only person with whom Qetesh is allied is, Qetesh. She does so find her reign lasts longer when she only deals with those as competent as she.”
The giant leered at her, his catlike eyes roving over the lithe and generous body beneath the black leather of her form-fitting garment. It licked it's lips, rolling a purple tongue over shark-like fangs. “I will teach you respect for your betters Qetesh. You will be my queen.”
“Baal often has tried and failed," she rolled her eyes in exasperation, "And he has the luxury of armies numbering in the millions. I have no intention of bowing down to a disgraced Goa'uld with Jaffa in the dozens. Your decision to bleed yourself every inch of your dignity won you nothing but a retreat in the face of the Scourge."
"Soon to be rectified!" Ammit roared, smacking his chops in annoyance. “And once we are rid of the System Lords and their submission to the Asgard, the Protected Planets Treaty will be a distant memory. I will conquer what is mine and build an artificial sun to scourge the earth of their kind.”
Quetesh's scathing retort was drowned out as a horn sounded in the distance. The various godlings perked up, filing towards the center of the palace.
“Uh, what was that?” I whispered to Amun.
“The call to audience with Lord Sokar,” Amun replied. “He is to meet with each of you in turn, and address your claims to the new order.”
“One by one?” I hissed in astonishment. “There has to be a thousand of us in this room!”
“Half are slaves my Lord Warden,” Amun reassured me. “And the names are called by rank and political importance. Come my Lord, follow me.”
Oh right, Heka was Lucifer's BFF. Presumably the Devil played favorites.
Rather than heading in the direction the other gods were heading in I followed Amun to a side passage covered by a wide tapestry. A crimson armored jaffa nodded as we approached, pulling the fabric to the side and whispering, “My Lord Sokar bids you welcome and reminds you that you are first in his heart.”
“He can remind me in person,” I looked at the PDA on my wrist in imitation of a stock broker I met once. Come to think of it Heka and he would probably have gotten along swimmingly, they both thought they were gods. “Come on Amun, we don't want to keep the devil waiting.”
Amun, a regular visitor to the palace, knew his way through the secret maze of tunnels and passages. He lead the way grudgingly, still uncomfortable to walk in front of me. He didn't consider it to be “proper” to walk before one's god.
He'd have to learn to get used to it.
The passage wound, snake like, through the palace. The golden glyphs upon the walls shimmered in the flickering torchlight, their elaborate stories declaring the glories of Sokar's reign. Well, at least some of them did. Every once in a while we'd pass a mess of Hieroglyphs that didn't seem to bind together in anything resembling language. I whispered under my breath at the presence in the back of my mind, “I thought you were translating the language of the 'usurpers' for me.”
“I am,” Lash rejoined. “That is not language.”
“Not language?” I stopped to examine it. “If it isn't language what is it?”
“Wards,” Bob's eye lights squinted, flickering from where they peered out the front of my duster. “Those are definitely wards. Nasty ones, I'd bet.”
“Are they active?” I wasn't looking forward to having to go through a warded fortress. Anything these old gods would consider a 'deterrent' would be a war crime by any reasonable definition of the word.
“Not for a couple thousand years now,” Bob clicked his jaw pensively. “If ever. I think they just put the runes in place and never got around to empowering them.”
“Why would anyone do that?” I blinked. “The whole point of putting together a spell like that is to cast it.”
“I don't think they can Harry.” Bob shifted in his satchel, his glowing eye staring up at me. “It takes serious mojo to get wards these big working, wizard big. The Goa'uld are sort of short on magical hosts and wizard wrangling isn't exactly high up on their to do list. There aren't many Goa'uld left who even have minor practitioners as hosts. There aren't many wizards on Earth who could put enough mojo into those things to make them work properly.”
“Could I do it?” I ran my fingers over the surface.
“That depends. How important is avoiding cranial explosions to you? Personally, I feel like blowing up your own head once is enough for this week.” Bob snorted. “The Merlin would be hard pressed to get these to full power without a ley line.”
“You'd think they would have tried to go back to Earth before now if they were so dependent upon Wizards.” I sighed.
Lash's acerbic chuckle sent a chill down my spine. “They did. That mistake was … rectified.”
I turned from the wall at Amun's insistent cry of “My Lord we are going to anger Sokar!”
He needn’t have worried. We were seconds away from Sokar's throne room. Down the stairs, through a library, and we found ourselves in the antechamber to the god of hell. A cadre of armored Jaffa in red armor mottled with patterns of obsidian and silver stood around the room, ten paces from the entrance in any direction. Sokar's private guard could easily dispatch any who entered to do him harm.
As I approached the throne room I was blocked by the crossed staves of two Jaffa. The leftmost Jaffa spoke, his voice succinct. “Sokar has not called for you.”
“I thought he summoned me.” I waved my arms in exasperation. “The only reason I'm on this freaking planet is that he wants me here.”
“For now my Lord Sokar desires you here.” A sallow cheeked Jaffa approached me, head bowed deferentially. His swooping spiked shoulders tapered at a jagged edged peak like the pincers of a scarab, the mottled black of his armored carapace shimmering in the dim torchlight of the corridor like cooling magma. His goateed mouth quirked with the merest hint of a grin at being able to deny me what I wished.
Strapped to the man's waist were what looked suspiciously like freshly shorn human scalps, still dripping with wet viscera. The brand upon his forehead marked him as a servant of Sokar, his confidence in speaking with one of the old gods marked him as Sokar's first prime. Caked flecks of what I presumed to be blood were still at the head of his staff weapon, fresh from having beaten some poor soul within an inch of his life – perhaps farther.
The man made my skin crawl but I chose to ignore him. For the moment at least he was no danger to me, repugnant though he seemed to be. “Pick your battles Dresden,” I repeated to myself as the first prime walked past me and into the throne room. “Pick your battles.”
I could not enter the room, but my eyes and ears were as sharp as ever. I got my first glimpse of the god I would soon be robbing.
I could just barely make out the face of lithe albino beneath a crimson cowl as he sat upon an obsidian throne, caressing a candle with thick nails. He twisted his fingers about the flame, seemingly disconnected from the world around him. His thick red robes were covered by a web of black filaments that weaved about him like cobwebs, angry indolent spider of a man.
Before him knelt a twisted wretch of a man, a broad frame of muscle and sinew wrapped in mangled flesh. His face was marked by the seeping pit of skin where an eye had been ripped from its socket, angry pink scar lines showing a memory of every jab of the blade. The inverted pentagram at his plunging neck-line rested on a corpulent mess of exposed chest, glinting with gunmetal grey in contrast to the black leather pants and jerkin.
“It was ripped out with a dagger then filled with burning pitch,” The soft pressure of the phantom angel leaning upon my shoulder accompanied the whispers in my ear. “He had to tear it out himself before he could have it treated.”
“How do you know?” I whispered, wincing at the thought of digging in my own skull.
“I spent centuries with Nicodemus,” Lash tittered. “I've forgotten more about torture than you've ever considered.”
“That's not especially comforting,” I brushed her off my arm as the cyclops began to speak. The man's grumbling voice was colored with smoke as much as by the natural voice of the Goa'uld as he spoke, “My lord Sokar.”
Sokar ignored his vassal, continuing his loving caress of the flame, “I do not have time to hear of the tortures of Netu today.”
The corpulent cyclops growled in submission, “Of course my lord, but allow me to thank you for bringing me Jolinar so that I might have my revenge.”
Sokar's hand froze as he swiped a finger towards the candle. His eyes flashed beneath his cowl as his voice echoed with trembling rage, “I did not send her to you.”
The cyclops looked to the floor in shame, trembling at Sokar's rage. Sokar hissed in disgust, “They are intruders. Find out what they want, then kill them.”
“I had – hoped to take my revenge on Jolinar slowly mylord.” The Cyclops pleaded with Sokar, his palpable disappointment etched upon every inch of his face. “To see her suffer in the harshest ways of the damned.”
“Go now.” Sokar barked in irritation. “Report back to me in one day.”
The cyclops stood, pressing his fist over his heart in salute to Sokar. His body trembled with rage at not being able to punish Joilinar for all that she had done to him.
Sokar's voice growled with unconcealed menace, “Heed my command”
“Without fail my lord,” The cyclops replied hastily before turning from his god.
Sokar turned to the first prime in disgust, “A ship brought these intruders. Find it, and destroy it.”
“Yes my lord,” Parroted the Jaffa as he scurried out a door behind Sokar's throne.
Sokar returned to his caressing of flame as the furious cyclops burst from the throne room, muttering incoherent oaths beneath his breath. I backed out of his path as he shot me a murderous glare from his one eye, snarling in a challenge that switched to a cackle of glee as he recognized Amun.
“My lord Bynarr,” Amun bowed. “My lord Ha- ”
Bynarr shoved the eunuch out of the way, heading straight for me. Before I could so much as say “huh” the cyclops had embraced me in a bone crushing bear-hug, slapping me heartily on the sides as he chuckled in reverberating mirth. “It is good to see you, old friend! It has been long, far too long since we've seen each other.”
“You know how it is,” I replied hastily. “Life has a way of keeping us busy.”
“It does at that,” Snorted Bynarr, pulling back from me and shaking his head. “The business of Netu kept me busy even before that bitch Jolinar escaped from me.”
“She seems to be back now.” I replied, trying to sound encouraging.
“Be careful, my host,” Lash ran an illusionary finger across Bynarr's pentacle tutting in disapproval. “You should not enflame passions who came from whence you do not know.”
“Back and trapped,” The cyclops grinned, slapping his hands together to slowly grind his palms. “Her death will bring me my honor back. Perhaps even get me permission to heal my eye with a sarcophagus.”
“You'd better get to it,” I looked at the alien PDA. “I've got a meeting with Sokar and I'm not eager to keep him waiting.”
The cyclops shuddered, “No cousin, it is not.” He slapped me shoulder and walked out, humming as he went. Old friends had a way of perking up even the worst of moods.
My heart pounded in my ears as I walked into the throne room. The clacking of my feet along the marble floor might as well have been the rumbling of distant thunder. I walked before Sokar and kneeled as I had watched Bynar do.
Sokar tilted his head, staring at me with his unnaturally yellow eyes. A pregnant moment passed before he whispered a quietly rumbled, “You are late.”
“A wizard is never late, nor early, he arrives precisely when he means to.” The snark snuck past my lips before my brain had a chance to weigh in on the “is this a good idea” o-meter. Mouthing off to a pissed off space-satan was probably not my best choice of the day, but it was still early.
Sokar looked up from his flame, flashing his eyes in annoyance. “Your days of sorcery are long past you Heka. I allow you your books and papers because of your work upon the Necropolis. You are useful but to not think that you cannot be replaced. You still have not found a way to bind us to the creatures interred within Memphis nor have you discovered a route the paths once walked in the lands of sun and snow where the spirits walk free.”
Now that at least I recognized. The kingdoms of sun and snow had to be the fairy realms, “The kingdoms of - uh- sun and snow are well guarded. And their rulers have long memories.”
“The creatures must pay for their transgressions and we must have a route to the Asgard if we are ever to grow as a people.” Sokar growled. “That was the price of our alliance, you are to give me a path to Orilla by the hidden paths of the wandering spirits.”
“And you will have it.” If he actually demanded that I open a path to the Nevernever I'd just take him through, summon Mab and let them sort out their differences.
“Good,” He looked around the room, as though surprised by something. “Where is that insufferable Lo'Tar of mine? He is supposed to have - ”
“Allow me to find him my lord!” Amun offered, clearly eager to be out of the room. I nodded my head, granting him the freedom to leave.
Sokar watched the chubby eunuch scurry out of the room and allowed himself a brief chuckle of amusement, “I really must remember to ask you for the world you pick your slaves from. You have always had an eye for quality man flesh that I've never quite been able to match.”
“People tend to do a better job when they want to make you happy.” I ran my thumb over the rings on my hand. “Fear is an inefficient motivator.”
“I have an Empire worth of slaves who would disagree wholeheartedly. Where were we? Ah – yes I remember.” He waved his hand to the ceiling, summoning a blanket of illusionary stars. “The Stargate network can take us from any planet to any other planet with a connecting gate, provided that we have the symbols to activate the Chappa'ai but you know as well as I do that the power required to open a gateway between worlds grows exponentially more complex as we connect to gates farther away.”
He prodded a gem at his wrist forcing the illusion of stars to zoom away, showing spiral armed galaxies dancing in slow circles like glowing starfish. “For us to get to the lands of the Asgard we would have to either spend centuries in hyperspace or travel to an unknown gate network protected by Asguard automated defenses. The Asguard have crushed every effort of the system lords, but if we can get a strike team to the heart of their empire we can cut of the serpent's head.”
“You're going to kill their leaders?” I queried.
“We are going to destroy their entire planet.” Sokar replied. “With an atomic device enhanced by weapon's grade naquadah.”
“That's very clever,” Lash floated up to examine the stars. “And very unlike the usurpers. They fight from positions of power, never going in with anything less than overwhelming force. I expected a sledgehammer, not a scalpel.”
“Hell's bells,” My eyes bulged. Nuking a planet was a new one, even for me.
“Yes, I'm quite proud of the idea.” Sokar preened, rubbing a long fingernail over his chin pensively. “It was, of all things, the Tau'ri of Earth who gave me the idea. Yes – I know they are primitives but they've managed to undo entire empires with groups of no larger than four men. They are the ones who crushed Ra and Apophis, not I. Impressively resourceful creatures, though one would have to be to survive on that insufferable warren of monsters.”
“Humans from Earth killed Ra? As in the sun god Ra?” I blurted out.
“Yes,” Sokar replied. “I know that we'd suspected it was Apophis, but upon examining what I plundered from his records, the Great Serpent was as taken aback as any of us when the Supreme System Lord was undone. Several of the Tau'ri military personnel taken into questioning confirmed it, and I see no other logical conclusion. The death of Ra was purely incidental. Had he not decided to check on Abydos, he would still be alive and the old order would still be in place.”
He laughed, “I suppose I should thank the Tau'ri of Earth when this is all over. They were the architects of my supremacy.”
“Sorry, I seem to have missed something.” I tapped the side of my head to check my hearing. “Did you just say that Earth is sending soldiers to fight gods on other planets?”
Sokar sighed in a tone of great exasperation, “Heka, I am weary of having to remind you to keep abreast of current events. I swear that you hardly even noticed the death of the supreme System Lord. You cannot rely upon the obscurity of your territories to keep you out of military matters for eternity. That you manage to keep such a competent and proactive Jaffa army is something of a minor miracle.”
“Earth?” I repeated in shock. “As in Earth?”
“You didn't think they would keep their gate buried for all eternity did you?” He replied, a sadness weaving its way into his growling. “So far we have only seen Tau'ri scouting parties, usually in groups of four, but it is only a matter of time before we are fighting the horrors of old. Apophis suspected that they already have the Hok'tar aiding them. It's they only feasible way they could have known of his and Korel's attack on Earth or boarded their ships without his knowledge.”
Ok, so to recap. Mortal soldiers were traveling through a magical artifact capable of sending people to other planets. The aforementioned soldiers were using this artifact to kill space gods, possibly with the help of wizard or wizards unknown. When did my life become an episode of the X-files. “Well, that's – new.”
“Quite,” Sokar replied. “When we eventually have to deal with the Tau'ri home world we're going to need to use the Unas shock troops on Memphis to even have a – ” He looked over as two human shapes walked into the room, Amun and a man I did not recognize. “Where have you been you useless layabout waste of space!”
Amun flinched and moved away from the enraged god, moving towards me as quickly as he could to not get caught in the crossfire of Sokar's rage. The Albino god's eyes glowed in apoplectic rage as he bellowed, “I should flay you alive for this you pathetic waste of genetic code. Perhaps I will make you into a eunuch like the Lo'tar of Heka so that I can get half as much competence out of you as he gets out of his slave.”
The slave, curiously, did not flinch at his master's rebuke. He did not even seem to care till Sokar pointed to me and identified me as Heka. Once he did that, all hell broke loose.
The doors slammed shut with a clang of metal on stone, muffling the startled screams of the Jaffa outside. A ball rolled across the floor in front of Sokar, exploding and flinging him back even as a red pillar of light formed around his body to cushion the blow.
The previously passive slave pulled two silver s-bends from beneath his robes, they flared their necks like a rearing snake. A chirruping whirr was the only warning I got as two bolts of lightning whizzed across the room towards my chest. The deadly beams of energy stopped cold as the pudgy form of Amun interposed himself between me and my attacker.
I watched in horror as he fell to the floor, glassy eyed and unmoving.
Amun was dead.
Something in me snapped as I stared into his eyes. Fuck subtle, fuck my plan, and fuck hiding. This prick just killed someone who'd done nothing but serve tea and pick out clothes his entire life. He was a weird and funny little guy but he was my weird and funny little guy.
“You killed him,” I growled, ducking behind a pillar as a flurry of lightning bolds cascaded across where I'd been. “He was innocent.”
“Like you killed so many others, all of them innocents.” Yelled the servant, his voice echoing with the tones of the Goa'uld. “His death was incidental to the justice you are due.”
Sokar kneeled within his pillar of light, behind his throne, breathing heavily and nursing a gash along his face. “Coward! You attack me like a viper in the shadows.”
“You ok Sokar?” I shouted to him as a fusillade smashed against the red energies of his shield.
“I am about to be!” Replied the irate god as he stood, raising the foci on his hand to smite his attacker. He splayed his fingers, summoning a wave of energies within his fist before howling in agony as the device burst into sparks. A jagged strip of shrapnel from the explosive device jutted from the foci, splitting it in the middle.
“Infidel trash!” Sokar bellowed, falling back behind the throne and yanking the shard from his hand. “Must I crush you with my fists?”
“He's mine,” I leapt out from behind the pillar, holding out the arm with my shield bracelet towards our attacker.
The man smiled at my apparently desperation and fired three bolts of energy my way, only to gape in astonishment as they arced off the shimmering dome in front of my hand. He fired and fired at the dome, desperately backing towards the only exit.
“Oh. No. You. Don't,” I bellowed, punching towards him with my ring covered and shouting, “Forzare.”
The collected energies in my ring fired from my hand with the force of a shotgun, shooting across the room and catching him at the solar plexus. He flew ass over elbows into the back of the room, colliding with the hieroglyph covered wall hard enough to break bone. He tired to raise his weapons but with a shout of, “Vintas Servitas” a typhoon of summoned winds tore them from his grasp.
Bleeding and broken he charged at me with his bare fists, but he was clumsy, wounded and clearly unqualified to fight. I blocked his punch, using the momentum to get in close and knee him in the gut. He grasped at me, clawing at my leather duster and cloak with his fingers as I shoved him back into the wall, “What are you?”
“I'm Harry fucking Dresden, the one nailing your ass to a wall.” I shoved my palm into his injured ribs as I bellowed, “Infriga” putting all of my anger and frustration into the spell. The torches went out as all the ambient heat was sucked from the room, encasing the assassin within a six inch thick prison of ice; strapping him in place.
I raised my fist, intent upon beating him to death with my fists when a pale hand reached out and grabbed my hand. Sokar looked from me, to the ice, to the man and back, “I want him alive and interrogated.”
“I will tell you nothing.” The pained man replied, even as his teeth chattered from the cold.
“Be silent Tok'ra,” Sokar said the word as though it were a dirty oath, slapping the prisoner. “You will tell us all that we wish to know.”
Sokar grabbed a device from the man's neck, crushing it into powder beneath his boot. A stream of Jaffa burst into the room as the blast doors opened. “We are always a step ahead of you Tok'ra.”
“The galaxy will be free of false gods and tyrants.” Snarled the man. “Freedom is the right of all sentient beings.”
Wait – what?
“You have slaves and servants but the humans have the right to be who they wish. The Unas, all of them.” The man stared spitefully at the Jaffa soldiers. “You raise men to be dogs, and corrupt the very life forces of the universe with your perversity. I will die free.”
I felt the room spinning as I realized the meaning of Tok'ra, against Ra. I had just incapacitated a freedom fighter. He was one of the good guys. And I had just stopped him from killing the devil.
“Take this thing from my sight,” Sokar growled to his Jaffa. “And have it prepared for interrogation on my flagship.”
He looked to his first prime as the Jaffa kneeled before him. “My lord, a cargo ship was spotted in orbit around netu. Two gliders gave chase but the cargo ship entered hyperspace and escaped.”
Sokar nodded. “We must assume that the ship contains spies. The attack on the system lords will begin sooner than planned. You will have the fleet ready in two days.”
The Jaffa flinched, “My lord the very best we ca- ”
Sokar slowly raised his palm, pointing from the frozen assassin to the corpse of Amun. The Jaffa looked at the floor in shame. “ The fleet will be ready my lord”
Sokar lowered his hand. “Yes it will.”
As I bent down to close Amun's eyes he barked another order to his first Prime, “See to it that the Lo'tar of Heka is placed in a sarcophagus and returned to the palace of his god.”
I froze. He was talking about necromancy, raising Amun from the dead. One of the most sacred rules of the White Council of Wizards. By allowing Sokar to bring him back I was as good as casting the spell myself. It was a line they felt nobody should cross. Nobody had the right to play god.
I could stop it.
I could say some reason for Sokar not to bring him back, it wouldn't really matter why. Amun was just another human to Sokar, a pet who'd done his job well for his master. I could stop it with a whisper and a smile.
But I wouldn't. God help me.
Amun hadn't deserved to die. He hadn't wanted to die. He should not have died. The Sarcophagus required no sacrifice, beyond weighing on my conscience for the rest of my days. I was already dead if the council every discovered that I traveled back in time.
In for a penny in for a pound.
Sokar adjusted his robes and accepted a replacement hand device from his Jaffa, strapping the weapon in place as he looked up at me. “Now, there is only one more matter to discuss before we move forward.”
“And that is?” I queried.
“I would like you to tell me who you are, what you are doing here, and why you are pretending to be Heka,” I could feel the small army of Jaffa surrounding me tensing up with every word. “And moreover, why should I not have you killed in the next ten seconds.”
Re: [Dresden Files / Sg-1] God's Eye
Posted: 2013-10-12 08:12pm
In for penny in for pound is right.
Re: [Dresden Files / Sg-1] God's Eye
Posted: 2014-01-13 01:52am
The god of hell waited patiently, staring at me with those unnerving golden flecked yellow eyes. “Who are you, pretender to power?”
It took me a moment to register precisely how screwed I was – even by my normal standards of danger this was bad. I could fight and perhaps even kill one, or two, or even ten of them before they managed to alert the armies of Sokar – perhaps even killing the god of hell in the process – but by no means could I fight my way past an entire planet of soldiers, ships, and freaking orbital defense stations.
I'm good but I'm not 'outrun an air strike' good.
And there was no reason why I should be in this situation. No freaking reason. Why – why in the name of all that was good and holy – why had I shouted my name?
I knew better than that. I'd known better than that since I was a teenager. It was probably the most important rule of wizardry other than 'don't die.'
The things someone could do with a name, a true name spoken by the one who owned it, were too numerous and terrible to even contemplate. A powerful enough being could capture, control or corrupt someone to do their will. Even a novice could kill with one.
True names were the sort of thing Wizards killed to protect, the sort of information for which faeries and demons were willing to topple nations. And I had shouted two of my names – freaking belted them – in front of the devil. What the hell had I been thinking?
Had I been thinking?
No – in the heat and rush of the moment I had not. In five seconds I cast aside decades of careful training and control, ignoring every instinct I'd fostered over my career and just doing the first thing that popped into my head without putting a second's thought into the consequences of doing it. Something was very – extremely – wrong with me.
Judging by the irritated tick in the god of hell's forehead and the way his lip curled into a snarl, I must not have been doing a good job of concealing my distress as I would have preferred. I was showing weakness in front of a supernatural predator, strike two on my something is wrong with Harry-ometer.
“I have not slaughtered you out of respect for your actions in saving my life,” Sokar hissed over my introspection. “But my patience is not without limits – pretender to power. Who are you? One of Heka's progeny? One of the Goa'uld vassals who serve him in my name? Speak or die!”
Before I could even consider raising a defense he raised his hand, aiming a foci in his palm towards my forehead. A terrifying golden light drove forth from the gem, a piercing lance of will hammering at my mind like no other psychic attack I'd ever faced. A thousand tendrils of will scourged my mental walls, gripping coils of magic demanding submission.
And I felt pain – so much pain. I could not place the pain to any bodily injury. I felt largely unaware that I even had a body – only the pain was on my mind. My defenses dulled it, but could not outright block the overwhelming agony which consumed my being. I could feel the distant sensation my magic but could not summon the will to use it without dropping what few mental defenses I'd mustered.
My legs stopped obeying my mind as I fell to my knees, thundering agony punctuated with telepathic interjection. Sokar's voice reverberated in my mind, his furious whisper seeking every corner of my being. “Who are you?”
I tried to lie, but the words would not form on my lips. Sokar laughed at my twitching face as I struggled, his sonorous reverberating whisper twinged with amusement. “My Kara Kesh is not like that of other gods. The god of hell is not bound by the treaties of the System Lords. I draw lessons from the gods of old and even from the horrors of Anubis – You will speak truth or die in agony.”
Never in my life was I more grateful for my years of dealing with faeries. Truth was a far more dangerous weapon than any lie when spoken by the Leanansidhe or Mab. I was no faerie but I knew how to twist truth into something wholly unrecognizable.
“I am known as Dre'su'den the Ha'ri,” Choosing the Jaffa's chosen monicker for me for lack of a better alias. I gasped the syllables through clenched teeth, “The god of magic envied my power – my magic – so he imprisoned me and tried to steal that which is mine. His death was a product of his own greed.”
“How did Heka die?” Sokar titled his head.
“His host burned him alive, cooked him inside of the host's body. Neither host nor god survived.” My walls were beginning to crack under the pressure, the tendrils of will forcing themselves past my initial mental defenses. I wouldn't last much longer. “Heka died trying to take a wizard host – I did not. He was not a worthy god of magic.”
“And why should I let you live after such impudence – such arrogance?” Sokar hissed in fury. “ You are a nothing god who does not even have a proper name in our language. You have taken lands and slaves without even pledging your loyalty to me. What do you bring that is worthy of you taking the place of my most trusted lieutenant?”
“I can open up paths to the kingdoms of Sun and Snow,” I winced. “I can do it right here – right now.”
“Do you think me a fool? I will not allow such paths to be opened in my palace. Even were you able to surpass the wards of old this planet opens up into a place of shadow which even the creatures of sun and snow fear to tread – to a place fitting of my power.” Sokar sighed. “Your host may have power but Heka had knowledge of the paths through the lands beyond. Power is useless without the knowledge of how to wield it.”
Hells bells, just what I needed – a competent villain.
“If it were that simple to navigate the lands beyond I would already have done it myself,” I felt a slight twinge of ambient magic seeping off him as he caressed his foci. His host was a practitioner – a minor talent, but enough for me to feel it. “Heka was one of the few who still had hoarded knowledge from before the betrayal of Anubis and the heresy of the Tok'ra.”
“Wandering aimlessly through the land of spirits serves no-one. I do now wish to wage a war of attrition with spirits and monsters. That is why we abandoned the breeding grounds of the Hok'tar in the first place,” Sokar's eyes flashed as fury trebled in his sonorous whisper, “He was a resource that I can not easily replace without making a pact with the forbidden ones. Do you have that knowledge? Can you take me to Orilla?”
“No,” I didn't even know what Orilla was.
The intensity of the pain increased as his eyes flashed in fury, “You show up to my ream with a Hok'tar and an fancy title and presume yourself to be my equal? Die!”
The invading tendrils sharpened to razors, twisting and tearing at my mind – shredding my defenses. I had to offer him something – anything – worth keeping me alive for long enough to find a way out of this. “I know where there are several hundred more Hok'tar.”
“So do we all,” Hissed Sokar. “Even were it not protected by the Asguard and armed with atomics, the first planet is full of too many predators to consider hunting for hosts there. It is no accident we exile prisoners to that accursed world.”
The voice of Lash whispered in my mind, distant and nearly imperceptible. It was a bit like listening to someone shouting down a corridor, a distant sense of noise and action. I could hear her struggling, sense the frustration in her voice even to whisper in my ear. Something was wrong with her as well – not good, very not good.
“Wizard -” her voice crackled with emotion “-he is an enemy of the Winter and Summer courts. He despises them. Offer the pretender to glory that which he has dreamed of ever since meeting his betters.”
What did the devil dream of? Power – the Devil dreamed of killing God.
It was no accident that the Jaffa's staff weapons were forged from ferrous materials or that the doors to Sokar's throne room were made from iron rather than gold. Hell, he'd put his palace on top of a mystical no-man's land in the land of faeries where the Kingdoms of Summer and Winter would not be able to breach.
The god of hell hated faeries with a passion born from experience.
And hell's bells if I didn't have an ace in the hole for someone who hated faeries that no one else alive could even hope to match. As the razors shredded through the last vestiges of my mental defenses I shouted, “I killed the Summer Lady.”
The Jaffa stood stock still and wide eyed as Sokar's echoing whisper rasped in confusion, “The unspeakable ones can not be killed – it is impossible.”
“Their power can not be destroyed,” I wheezed from the floor, “The mantle will be passed on – but the Lady Winter and Lady Summer can be killed.”
“What?” The pressure on my defenses slackened as Sokar's voice hitched in momentary disbelief, looking at the device upon his hand. “You – you are not resisting the effects of the Kara Kesh – you speak truth?”
The god of hell lowered his hand. There was no pain, no razors, no reverberating whispers in my mind. There was only deathly silence and the sounds of flickering torches. Sokar's hand fell to his side as he rasped, “You – slew – one of the unspeakable ones?”
“At a special place, in a special ritual, at a special time – it can be done. I killed one – will kill one – er have killed one.” I steadied myself on my hands, sitting back on my heels as my breath caught up with me. “Kill me and you will never know how or where.”
Sokar licked his lips in thought, “I could tear it from you.”
“No,” I replied, “You couldn't. Not before I spoke the Mab's name thrice.”
“Speak not the names of the forbidden!” Sokar hissed, “Even if your power were great enough to pass my wards she would kill you for what you know.”
“She would kill you for fun,” I replied. “I wouldn't want to die alone.”
“Your arrogance tries my patience Dre'su'den the Ha'ri,” Sokar growled.
“Not enough that you'll kill me though,” I stood up, tapping the side of my head with my index finger. “Not before I tell you what I know – or don't know.”
“And what word do I have that you are not in league with the unspeakable ones? One of their servants perhaps?” Sokar seated himself upon his throne, his foci still pointed at me as he reclined in the chair.
“Have you ever met something from the Nevernever that could touch iron?” I reached out and grabbed the thick struts holding up the brasiers of fire with my bare fingers. “If I touched 'the bane' I'd be writhing in agony.”
“Yes – you would,” Sokar's cool demeanor betrayed little of what was in his mind. “I will give you one chance, and one alone. If you succeed I will consider allowing you to retain some of holdings of Heka.” He raised his hand as though to preemptively silence my protest. “Assuming you pass my challenge, I will trust you with no more than Nekheb till you deliver what was promised by Heka. A route to Orilla.”
“Of course,” I replied, lying through my teeth. “I'd be delighted to.”
“I do not care for your delights, only your results.” Sokar replied. “You will accompany me to my flagship. I desire the location of the Tok'ra base. Once the Tok'ra has been healed sufficiently for interrogation you will force the knowledge from him. You have till Bynar's deadline to provide me with the information – after that I will be forced to re-consider your worth, Hok'tar or no.”
“How – thorough do you wish my interrogation to be.” I replied in what I hoped was a passable imitation of Johnny Marcone, channeling the cool dispassionate cruelty of Chicago's king of crime.
“Try to leave him in a large enough piece to appreciate his incarceration on Netu for the rest of his miserably short existence. Do remember there are limits to even what a sarcophagus can heal.” Sokar pressed a sigil upon his wrist, hissing in a crackling and guttural language I did not understand. Three armored figures in jet-black combat armor strode into the room, their saurian gait only serving to make their oversized staff weaponry more imposing. They were lizard men, the same species as Ammit, though not hosts themselves.
“These will serve as your body guard to prevent any further complications,” He waved to the lizardmen, hissing in the alien language before turning to me, “And to ensure that you do not 'become lost' on your way to interrogating the prisoner.”
“Perish the thought,” I replied, keenly aware of the bits fresh meat hanging from the human finger-bones from which the Unas' necklaces were made. The creatures stood around me on all sides, towering over me even as they hunched down to sniff at the air.
Thrilled for any excuse not to be in a room with space-satan, I allowed the trio of Unas to shepherd me onto a ring transporter that lead to Sokar's flagship. I needed time to figure out precisely what was wrong with me and how to get myself out of this mess and I wasn't going to get that done with a if my wannabe Lucifer pulled out his pocket-sized mystical pain-packing polygraphy for a second go at 20 Questions.
As we walked the corridors of the Sokar's flagship I turned to the largest of the Unas, their apparent leader, and asked, “So do you guys have names or should I just call you Larry, Moe, and Curly Joe?”
The Unas hissed, “Skakka nek'shakka.”
“Right,” I elongated the word far in irritation. “Larry it is.”
The Unas hissed, baring it's teeth and flashing it's tusks. The creature's ret eyes flashed in annoyance. “Kek'ka nal Shakka.”
“What? Everybody loves the Stooges. They're a classic!” I poked my fingers towards my eyes and made the 'whoop-wop-wop' noise. The Unas looked at each other, apparently unprepared for me to have done that. Slapstick must not have been included in their 'dial-a-goon' training manual.
We wandered up and down the winding corridors of Sokar's flagship, a convoluted maze of identical-looking golden passages. The gaudiness and seemingly uncreative opulence of the Goa'uld was beginning to make sense to me. They layout of Goa'uld ships was a literal maze intended to confound and confuse their enemies. Any attacker who boarded one of their ships would be forced to navigate a building worth of identical looking rooms and corridors lacking any sort of obvious land marks to guide them to either the bridge or engines.
My leathery guide pointed a taloned finger down one such corridor to a high-ceilinged room with a single decoration within. An ornately carved obsidian sarcophagus radiating pulses of sickly sweet necromancy – a cloying reminder of how I still drew breath. The Unas growled in it's native tongue, “Shakka Tok'ra Ska Nok tek. Zo Onac Tok'ra Tonak.”
“I have literally no idea what that means,” I shook my head. “But I'm guessing that you want me to wait here.”
“Ma,” The Unas replied.
“You can understand me?” I blinked in surprise.
“Ma,” The Unas replied.
“But you can't speak the language?” I sighed.
“Kek.” The Unas shook it's head.
“And I'm guessing you're not super psyched about that nick-name are you?” I chewed on the tip of my tongue.”
“Kek shesh,” The Unas replied in the negative, though with less vitriol than before.
“Look,” I waved to the only entrance to the sarcophagus room. “I don't suppose you could give me a little privacy, could you? This thing is going to heal the Tok'ra and I'd appreciate a few moments to myself.”
“Kel shesh,” The Unas tilted his head in confusion.
“Oh for the love of – where am I going to go? There is one door,” I pointed to it. “I am unarmed and there are three of you. I'm going to do special god things that you can't be here to see or bad things will happen to you. Shoot me if I try to run away but for the next hour or so could you please just stand on the other side of that door?”
A moment of silence passed before the Unas nodded, “Ma, no na nok lota.”
“Uh,” I looked up into the Unas' unnerving face. “Thanks.”
“Ma,” The Unas left the room, his two compatriots close in tow. The door shut with a hiss of pressurized air, sealing me in the torch-lit sarcophagus room.
“Ok Bob,” I sighed, looking down at the satchel at my side. “Precisely how screwed am I?”
“Harry, I'm not really an 'in the field' sort of guy but if this is how you go through business when I'm not around I have to admit that I'm really pretty surprised that you haven't died yet.” Bob the skull replied, clicking his jaw in irritation. “I mean really Harry. I don't think I need to tell you how stupid, well – everything – you just did is.”
“I know Bob,” I sighed, leaning up against the wall as I slid to the floor – burying my head in my hands.
“I mean a first year practitioner knows not to - ” Bob started before I cut him off with a furious. “Yes Bob, I know!”
“Don't take it out on me if you decided to take your stupid pills today sahib.” Bob rattled his teeth. “Why did you even bother to get involved? It would have been easy enough to just run from the room and leave Sokar to die. Would have saved you a lot of time and effort.”
“He killed Amun,” I sighed.
“This is one of those morality things again isn't it?” Bob sighed.
“Yes,” I replied. “That's why I attacked him.”
“Correct me if I'm wrong but isn't 'all necromancy is evil' another one of those morality things as well?” Bob interjected. “Because I'm pretty sure you all but gave the god of hell permission to bring somebody back from the dead.”
“I – Amun didn't deserve to die.” The words sounded hollow, even to me.
“Boss, even ignoring the whole 'Law of Magic' issue, allowing someone to do necromancy is a huge departure from what you consider to be moral. It's big enough for even me to see it.” Bob's voice colored with concern. “I don't get the whole morality thing but I know that it's really important to you. And I've got to tell you sahib, this doesn't seem like – well – you.”
“There's something wrong with me Bob,” I shivered, it hurt to even think about it. “Something is wrong with my head.”
“Well we knew that,” Bob replied. “What with Heka bouncing around in there it was bound to knock something loose.”
“This is different,” I winced. “I'm not sure how – but it is.”
“Oh my host,” A familiar voice caressed my mind. “You have truly no idea.”
I looked up at a shimmering and insubstantial image of Lash, a shadow's shadow of her normal illusion. I smiled as she sat next to me, wrapping her arm around mine as she rested her head on my shoulder. “I don't suppose you can shed some light onto what is going on?”
“We were fools to trust her,” Lash hissed in the closest thing she could muster to sympathy.
“Mab,” I sighed, already going over the pact made with the Queen of Winter.
“I should have forbid you from entering into her terms, should have seen the loop hole that she could exploit.” Lash's hand tightened around my shoulder, seeking comfort from me. “I was so terrified of what Heka's memories would do to you that I was grateful for the intervention of the Winter Queen.”
“But she did something to me,” I replied, thinking of the frost magic that had come to me so easily – too easily. I had never been particularly good with ice-magic. It should have seemed strange to me that it should have been my instinct to use it. “Changed me.”
“Not really – not truly.” Lash sighed. “She was true to her word. But she is a Queen of Winter – nothing comes without a price, usually not the price asked.”
“I don't get it, she promised not to alter any of my memories.” I focused, trying to draw the precise wording she had used. “I will only remove the Worm's influence from your mind for the length of our conversation. I will not alter your own memories nor impose my will upon you.... The spell upon your mind will last till the rising of the noonday sun on the soil of your homeland.”
“Oh, son of a bitch. She only promised not to influence my mind for the length of that conversation.” I ran over the conversation we had in my mind twice. “She just let me assume that the spell which would last two days was the same spell which cleared my mind for the length of our conversation.”
“Indeed my host,” Lash winced, her body flickering as she spoke. “Faeries have a wide latitude in how they may use their powers, provided there is no malice intended. Mab has a unique dominion over you due to your debt owed.”
“You mean that the Queen of Winter can just put whatever whammy she wants on my mind as long as she is helping me?” I shuddered. Mab's definition of helping doubtless left a great deal to be desired.
“The rules that cannot be broken can always be bent, my host,” Lash sighed, nuzzling against my shoulder. I hated to admit it but the sensation of being close to someone, even an illusionary someone, was greatly appreciated. “She gave you what she was implying to offer – just at a much higher price than she'd indicated.”
“What did she do Lash?” I closed my eyes, already knowing that I wasn't going to like the answer.
“Harry,” Lash rested her chin on my shoulder, looking at my face. “When I stopped Heka from consuming your mind I trapped the imprint of his memories and his personality in hellfire. What you experienced was just the meagerest of echoes – the worst of it was kept at bay by my power. It became bound to the parts of your soul, trapped by hellfire. For Heka's memories to be taken from you, she had to suppress parts of your soul.”
“She took my damn soul,” I sqwaked, extricating myself from Lash's embrace and standing upright. I patted myself from head to toe, reflexively checking that everything was in it's proper place.
“Not took,” Lasciel shook her head. “Taking the soul of a mortal without their permission is beyond Mab. No, she simply took those parts of your soul which were tainted by the pretender to power and trapped them behind a wall of winter's frost. Those parts of you which were lacking were replaced with the power of Winter.”
“You mean that I got one person out of my head and just got another person in it?” I growled in annoyance.
“Not precisely,” Lash shook her head, as she stood up and rested her hand on my chest. “The heart that beats within you is still yours, your urges are still your own but they are no longer filtered through the same filters of mortal concern.”
Lash continued, seeing the confusion in my eyes. “Wizard. When you have an urge, you pause and consider the consequences of that urge. You think 'is this a good thing' or 'is this a righteous action' and then you do what your soul considers to be the best thing to do. The creatures of winter have no souls, the power of winter is not bound by the same morality.”
“So instead of thinking 'should I do this,' I just do it?” I sighed.
“Faeries do not worry about the particulars of right and wrong, my host, they do what they wish the instant they wish to do it. Creatures of winter operate on pure instinct and desire,” Lash's body flickered and she winced in pain. “A fairies do not desire do be duplicitous or cruel, they simply are.”
“Are you ok?” Lash appeared to be in a great deal of pain as I grabbed her illusion by the shoulders, helping her steady herself.
“Yes – yes my host, I am fine. When I realized that my mind had been tainted – when you tapped into the power of winter and not hellfire – it briefly rendered me unable to move, even to think.” Her eyes flashed with irritation at her own apparent weakness. “Most of me was trapped within the frost of Winter. Breaking through the mind blocks placed by Mab have drained most of my remaining reserves. I can still act and speak but I am only a fraction of what I should be. I am – well – I suppose 'tired' would be analogous to my current situation.”
“I don't get it though,” I chewed my lip. “Mab has always relied upon me being fully functional to do what she needs me to get done. She knows how good I am at what I do. Why would she damage such a useful tool?”
“The Mab who will meet your future self, perhaps, but the Mab of today only knows that a powerful Wizard in a position to meet Heka has been tossed into her lap. You, Harry Dresden, mean nothing to her,” Lash leaned up against the sarcophagus, growing more substantial in proximity of the necromantic energies. “Dropping a volatile Wizard with every reason to hate Goa'uld into a conference of them led by someone who pretends to be the devil has only one obvious benefit.”
“Stars and stones – she was planning for me to kill Sokar!” I blinked, considering the matter. “If we hadn't been interrupted by the Tok'ra then the meeting would have continued as normal. He would have continued to discuss his plans with me – his most trusted confidant.”
“Sokar's plans often involved mass genocide and public rape, if memory serves.” Lash nodded. “You would have attacked him without thinking twice.”
“Does she even want the Key of the Dead?” I ran my hands through my hair. “Yes, of course she does – or that I die trying.”
“She may not even want something that obvious, my host.” Lash sighed. “If you fail to get either you'll likely be consumed by Heka's memories and gifted with a burning hatred of Sokar and the knowledge of a powerful magical artifact. She may well desire something altogether more sinister.”
“Oh great, because my life wasn't already heading down a dark enough path.” I rubbed my finger over the last charged power ring on my hand, wondering if I would be able to knock down Moe, Larry, and Curly in one go.
“Focus, my host.” Lash snapped her fingers in front of my face. “Do not fall to your base urges.”
I paused, willing myself not to go off half-cocked into another fight. Knocking down the three Unas wouldn't get me off the ship or off the planet. It certainly wouldn't get me any closer to the Key of the Dead. “I'm worried Lash.”
“I know, my host.” Lash said in a soothing timber. “I promise to keep you on track till we do what must be done. I promise to help you stay you – I swear it.”
“Thank you,” I replied. God help me I meant it. I was very grateful to have the fallen angel on my shoulder.
“Now, my host, you would normally be plotting a totally insane way out of your obviously fatal predicament.” Lash shrugged. “I feel that it is only fitting that you do so now. You must find a way to escape the flagship of Sokar. ”
“Oh, that.” I smiled as the idea hit me. “That is going to be the easy part.”
“What is the hard part, my host?”
“Convincing the Tok'ra to come with me.”
Re: [Dresden Files / Sg-1] God's Eye
Posted: 2014-01-13 03:06pm
Something's missing here. It doesn't 'read' Dresden, but I can't put my finger on it.
Re: [Dresden Files / Sg-1] God's Eye
Posted: 2014-01-13 03:18pm
LadyTevar wrote:Something's missing here. It doesn't 'read' Dresden, but I can't put my finger on it.
You aren't the first to say that, though I'm at a loss to figure out what precisely is going sideways. I even kind of agree... but for the life of me I'm not sure what element I'm not including in my plotting that is quintessential to the Dresden esthetic.
Re: [Dresden Files / Sg-1] God's Eye
Posted: 2014-01-13 10:28pm
See your PMs, I think I know why it's "Not Right"
Re: [Dresden Files / Sg-1] God's Eye
Posted: 2014-01-18 11:47pm
I couldn't say how long I was in that chamber, sitting and watching the sarcophagus hum with necromantic energy. It was only a matter of hours but felt like centuries. I listened to Bob drone on about the history and disposition of the Goa'uld – a subject I desperately needed to understand better. He rambled about dynasties and wars – which were interesting enough – but what continued to wow me were the new toys I had to play with.
“So the gates are a ritual artifact capable of sending someone to a different planet?” I said, genuinely amazed at the concept. “Even to Earth?”
The hovering image projected from Bob's eyes flickered as I tapped it with my finger, idly stroking the illusionary form. It was preposterous – impossible even – that any device should be able to channel the necessary levels of power to teleport someone from one side of the galaxy to the next. I'd tried to figure out a spell to teleport myself across a room after watching too much Star Trek as a teenager.
I'd managed a spectacular explosion in Ebeneezer McCoy's wood shed that earned me a three hour long lecture on the dangers of unsupervised, experimental spell-work but was no closer to knowing how to teleport than the man on the moon. Come to think of it, it was around that time that Ebeneezer started teaching me advanced combat magic. It was a very “McCoy” solution, stop me from blowing up his shed by ordering me to blow things up elsewhere.
I couldn't muster even a fraction of the power necessary to teleport a penny, how on Earth did these gates have enough power to do what they did. “That is a serious bit of magic.”
“Err,” Bob rolled from side to side along his jawbone, clicking his teeth in contemplation. “I'm not really sure if it is 'magic' Harry. The Goa'uld technologies seem to incorporate ritual elements heavily into their designs but they aren't substantially different from the way computers work back on Earth.”
“So it's magitech?” I scratched the back of my head as I watched the black stone of the sarcophagus, feeling the cold pulses of necromancy coming from it.
“Essentially yes,” Bob replied, chattering his teeth in contemplation. “But it's not really like any ritual device I've seen before. The methods by which it function are more mechanical than spiritual – a magical computer if that makes any sense.”
“Which is why this,” I held up the device on my wrist, still glowing with symbols I did not recognize in the slightest. “Has not gone haywire in spite of my spell work beforehand.”
“Yes,” Bob nodded. “It's fascinating really. They seem to have replaced the sacrificial component of a lot of magic with an offering of power – literal energy. It's no secret that someone with enough raw power can simply force magic to do what they want.”
“What are they powering that with?” I pointed to the sarcophagus.
“A nuclear reactor.” Bob laughed at my yelp of surprise. “Calm down – you're perfectly safe.”
“There is a nuclear reactor less than six feet from me and you're telling me to calm down,” I hissed. “What happens if it overloads?”
“Then we all die.” Bob replied, “But I wouldn't count on it. It's a reactor, not a bomb.”
I blinked the stars from my eyes, realizing the implications of what Bob was saying. The Goa'uld had replicated a necromantic ritual capable of resurrecting the dead without necessitating the loss of life to pull it off. They'd taken everything I thought I knew about physics and magic, tossed them in a blender and torn them to shreds. “You're telling me that technology can be used to literally replicate magic.”
“Pretty much – it goes the other way round as well. Everything from wrist watches to space ships can be made with magic friendly bits and bobs.” Bob laughed. “Imagine being able to sell lap-tops and DvD players to the White Council! You'd make a killing.”
“Bob the White Council only recently started adopting the telephone as a method of communication,” I replied. It need not be said that the White Council would not be pleased to discover that the balance of power was no longer in their favor. If the mortals or one of the courts of Vampires ever discovered how to re-produce Goa'uld magic, the White Council might loose it's dominance in the supernatural world. It was the one thing we had over every other player in the world – magic. “If we introduced them to the Internet I think they would threaten to burn me as a heretic.”
“How would that be any different from any other time you've dealt with them in the past?” Bob snorted. “It's not like they've ever had difficulty thinking up reasons to cause you headaches.”
“For the moment Bob, I'm only interested in how to get off this ship.” I fit Bob back into his satchel. “Can you figure that out for me?”
“I'm working on it Harry,” Bob's eyes flashed. “I took in a lot of information from Heka's computers and I'm still processing it. I might need a bit more time.”
“Make it quick Bob,” I stood up as a hissing whoosh of icy vapor seeped out the edges of the sarcophagus. “We're on the clock.”
Moe, Larry, and Curly strode into the room with a loping menace. They were less agitated than before, at least towards me. Though if that were a product of our “Me Tarzan, you Jane” bonding time or simply because they were focused on the Tok'ra, I could not say. But it was clear to me that – at least for the moment – they were my honor guard rather than my captors.
Hobbling to the sarcophagus with long-shanked strides, the three stood and waited for the cover stone to recede. The gasping figure of the Tok'ra burst from the viscous pink healing fluid, coated in tattered clothing and steaming bits of gelatinous muck. He thrashed hopelessly against the thee huge brutes as they ripped him out with taloned hands, binding him with heavy iron shackles.
Iron - Another precaution against the faerie folk perhaps? It would not surprise me. I took the opportunity of their distraction to slide Bob back into his satchel.
The Tok'ra thrashed against his captors till Curly got sick of it and shoved a three-pronged prod into the man's side. Screaming in agony as orange light flickered in his mouth and eyes, the Tok'ra fell limp in Larry and Moe's arms. Holstering the souped up cattle-prod with one hand he motioned with the other for me to follow him.
“Not yet,” Lash whispered in my ear as my fingers balled into fists. “Soon but not yet.”
I exhaled deeply, calming my thoughts as I followed the trio of lizard-men on another winding tour of Sokar's flagship.
It was different from Heka's ship. Larger to be sure, but the ship had been designed with a deeply different esthetic. Where Heka's ship was nothing but flowing protective heiroglyphs and embedded spell-work, Sokar had bound his walls in iron decorations and circles of steel embossed with aggressive glyphs – some of them still empowered. The red paint covering every door was textured with what I could only assume was salt, making the entire place a virtual fortress against supernatural ingress.
Nobody bothered with this many layers of protection unless you had a supernatural heavy hitter gunning for you. I didn't need to guess who merited this level of precaution. Sokar was terrified of Mab.
Not without good reason, I supposed. I doubted that I was the first agent Mab had used to recover her stolen property. The Queen of Winter was the undisputed champion of holding a grudge. Even minor insults against her would be met with horrible retribution at a later date. Sokar had stolen something from her, something she wanted back badly enough for her to spend a wizard's favor.
It had to be something special. This “key” whatever it was – whatever it did – was important enough to Sokar that he was willing to spend the rest of eternity fleeing from the Queen of Winter to keep it. Sokar was no fool.
I was going to steal it back from him.
A prelude for what well might be in my future assaulted my senses as we finally reached the ship's dungeons. Torches, sharp implements, hanging manacles, and the ambient sounds of a hundred other poor souls were obvious at every corner as we listened to a choir of prisoners screaming in agony. A symphony of pain directed as Jaffa henchmen of Sokar meted out their tender mercies.
I did not dare look into any of the cells at the piteous faces within. No amount of Lash's whispers would have quelled my rage. Sokar was a monster. He needed to die – soon.
The trio hung the Tok'ra from a hook in the center of a particularly nasty cell that still smelt of whatever had happened to it's previous occupant. Bits of rotting gore and viscera still clung to the walls and ceiling in a wide splatter pattern from a raised stone block, the bloodied sledgehammer beside it a terrifying reminder of what had transpired. Long benches of torture implements lined the walls, each more threatening than the last.
Larry, Moe, and Curly stood around me – hissing in anticipation for the blood to come. The gnashed their teeth and licked their chops, begging me to start the fun. Larry eyed the Tok'ra's hands in a way that suggested the lizardman was already planning to expand his macabre jewelry.
“Ko keka Dre'su'den,” Larry snarled, pointing a talon to the man. “Nok keka!”
I looked up and down the weapons on the table, knives, hatchets, cleavers – there were any number of weapons but none that would incapacitate the Unas. I could probably stun them with my ring – definitely kill at least one with the axe before the other two were able to react. I could probably burn the third if I had enough of a chance. Larry howled eagerly as I ran my fingers across each, cheering me on as I got closer and closer to a three-pronged pain stick.
“Or,” I smiled, reaching down and picking up a familiar object from Bob's lecture. “I could always use this.”
I raised the s-shaped length of metal, pointing it to the Tok'ra. I lined up my shot at the stony faced prisoner before spinning on my heel and discharging three bolts of lightning from the zat'nik'tel behind me. Larry, Moe, and Curly went down for the count as I holstered the zat'nik'tel in my coat pocket.
The Tok'ra's jaw dropped in confusion as I stood on a gore-stained plinth, reaching up to undo the bindings about his wrists. They were well made but I'm a pretty good lock-pick, in my line of work it pays to be able to get out of a sticky situation. I fiddled at them with an ice-pick like protrusion of metal till they popped open, dropping the confused Tok'ra to the ground.
He backed away from me on the floor, pushing himself to the wall. “I will give you nothing Heka. You can not pry the secrets from me no matter what forbidden skills you still have.”
“Ok,” I replied, pulling a sharp knife from the table and holding it out to him hilt first. “So would you prefer a blade or a gun.”
“What?” The Tok'ra blinked, still not quite sure what was going on.
“I'm a pretty good shot but if you think you're better off with the zat than with a blade you're welcome to it.” I replied, pulling the weapon from my pocket and holding it out as well.
“Is this wise, my host?” Lash's illusion hovered to my right. “I don't think you would normally arm him before you'd acquired his allegiance.”
“I'm getting to it Lash,” I groaned, turning to the fallen Angel and pointing at her with the blade handle. “If you think that you can do a better job of this be my guest.”
“A better job at what?” The Tok'ra asked in confusion.
“Give me a second here man,” I held up a finger in a shushing gesture. “I'm trying to have a conversation here.”
“He can't see me, my host,” Lasciel sighed. “You're having another relapse. You normally ignore me when others are around.”
“Right,” I squinched my eyes together, shaking my head to clear my thoughts. “Don't respond to the Fallen Angel when others are around.”
The Tok'ra tilted his head in confusion. I was pretty sure I hadn't done much to ease his state of mind.
“Look buddy, I'm about to offer you the chance to escape with me when I blow this popsicle stand. Are you going to complain about my state of mind or help me do what needs to get done?” I chucked the Zat'nik'tel into his hands as I rummaged through Moe's belt and unholstered another.
“I will not lead you to the Tok'ra base,” The man pointed the gun at me, fury in his eyes. “Do you think me a fool to fall so transparent a ruse? You fake an escape so that I lead you to the co-ordinates of your worst enemy.”
“Well you're pointing a gun at me after I saved your ass – so yeah – I'm pretty sure you're at least a bit of an idiot,” I snorted. “I mean really, do you have a better option?”
“Yes,” He pulled the trigger on the zat, firing a beam of lightning at me, “I do.”
I held up my shield, inverting the convex barrier to a concave dish – reverting the beam back at him. He dodged it, leaping back in shock as it dissipated against the wall.
“Are you done yet?” I sighed. “I don't care what you do once you're off the ship. Go to the Tok'ra – or don't – It's the same to me either way. Stay here for all I care but I'm getting the off this ship and out of dodge.”
“Sokar will kill you for what you're proposing,” the Tok'ra replied. “Kill us both.”
“I was sort of expecting that eventually.” I shrugged. “Most people want me dead.”
“You are Goa'uld.” The Tok'ra sneered. “Everyone wants you dead.”
“You're wrong,” I replied.
“Your slaves do not matter monster,” The Tok'ra laughed, still keeping his Zat pointed at me. “They worship you out of ignorance and habit – they long for freedom even if they know not what it is.”
“Not that,” I shook my head. “I mean that I'm not a Goa'uld.”
The Tok'ra blinked, “You mean to defect? You Heka? Lord of Nekheb, he who scourged the first of Pelor – you wish to join our ranks?”
“No I mean I'm human – just a plain old human,” I tapped my noggin. “Single occupancy.”
A long moment of total silence passed before the Tok'ra replied.
“You're insane,” Whispered the Tok'ra in horror. “Completely and totally mad.”
“It has been said before but you're not going to be able to fight your way off this ship alone and I need someone who knows their way around a ship's security.” I crossed my arms. “So are you in or out?”
“Ask him to help you find the information about where the key is,” Bob chirruped from my waist, startling the Tok'ra.
“I was about to do that Bob!” I sighed. “Give me a moment.”
Bob peeked out from the satchel, his glowing eye pulsing with laughter as he cheekily interjected, “Moment-shmoment, if we did this your way we'd be here all day.”
“What is that?” The Tok'ra hissed like a scalded cat, his eye's flashing in shock. “And why do you have it!”
“That's Bob. He's a spirit from the Lands of Sun and Snow,” I replied using Sokar's terms for the Nevernever. “He helps me.”
The Tok'ra blinked – something apparently clicking in his head – and spoke to me in a voice that bordered on sympathy, “Oh Heka... what have you done? What deal have you made for the glories long of the past?”
“I am not Heka,” I sighed, choosing to use my pseudonym for the sake of simplicity. “I am Dre'su'den the Ha'ri.”
“Nothing is worth their prices... whomever you are.” He eyed Bob like a time-bomb that might go off at any second. “Even to avenge what Sokar demanded for you to prove your loyalty.”
“Do you wan't off this ship or not,” I looked at my watch – still clueless as to what it actually said. “Because it's beer-o-clock and we're on last call.”
“Very well,” Replied the Tok'ra, lowering his weapon. “It would seem that I have little other choice.”
“Great,” Bob chimed in as ship's klaxons sounded. “Because I'm pretty much know that shit has gone sideways down here.”
The doors started to close, heavy bulkheads descending to trap us inside the cell. The Tok'ra fired at the command console in the hallway, frying the exposed crystals and freezing the doors half-way down.
“The ship must have detected your weapon's fire and scanned for life-signs.” The Tok'ra swore, pulling key-cards from the lizard-men pockets and breaking them in half. “We only have moments before they send a patrol to check the cells.”
“Shit!” I pocketed a second Zat from Larry and lead the Tok'ra out into the hall.
“Wait!” He fiddled with the panel next to the door.
“We need to get moving – uh, what should I call you?” I fired a bolt of lightning into the chest of a Jaffa jailer who popped his head around the bulkhead to my left. “Tok'ra seems impersonal.”
“I have no name that I would share with you enslaver,” the Tok'ra grunted, his fingers pulling a set of wires and crossing them. Circumventing what he'd done before, the bulkhead slammed shut – a second set of doors closing from the inside. He connected two crystals, causing shuddering jolt of abrupt motion through the deck. “But if you must have something to call me then Xin will suffice. It was an alias I no longer have a use for.”
“What was that?” looked through the peep-hole and out into empty, star strewn, space.
“The cells are designed to be jettisoned to the planet below. It's how he drops prisoners to Netu – though those three will land on the planet rather than its moon.”
“If we had a way off then why didn't we take it?” I hissed through clenched teeth.
“Enslaver, I know you are accustomed to people repeatedly telling you that your logic is infallible but it is also laughably predictable.” Xin replied, leading to a long ramp heading upwards. “Sokar's forces will detect life signs on the departing object. The thick armor on the cell will make it too difficult to determine specifics. They will send ground forces to search it and capture us – giving us time to actually escape.”
“Oh,” I replied. “That makes sense.”
“Take the one on the left?” Xin pointed to an armory down the corridor guarded by two bored-looking Jaffa. I hardly had time to line up a shot before Xin had already knocked his target cold. The Jaffa fell to the floor, blue lightning coursing over them. I could get to like the zats – non-lethal options were preferred when possible.
The Jaffa weren't human but so far as nonhuman species went, they were probably my favorite. Sure they were incubators for evil alien space gods, but nobody is perfect.
We dragged them into the armory, pausing briefly for Xin to strip out of his tattered jerkin and into a Jaffa's armor. It was too large for him, sagging where Xin lacked the broad chest of a Jaffa. “That's better – we can blend in now.”
“Blend in?” I sighed, “The Jaffa are looking for us already.”
“No, the Jaffa are looking for two intruders trying to escape.” Xin replied. “We are a Jaffa and loyal servant of Heka wandering where we belong.”
“But they've seen our faces.” I replied.
“Sokar's personal guard and the three Unas have but there are several hundred thousand Jaffa on this ship along with hundreds of lesser Goa'uld.” Xin shrugged. “Sokar will pass out holographs of the both of us when the crash site search fails but we have some time before we're noticed. Long enough to disable the sensors.”
“You're going after a cargo ship,” Bob tutted. “Makes sense. You'd have to go past Sokar's throne room and guard to get at a ring transporter.”
Xin flinched, his eyes flashing in contempt for Bob, “That – abominable thing – is correct. A cloaked transport or Alkesh is our best chance at escape.”
I nodded, pulling one of the Jaffa staff weapons from the wall and feeling the rush of energy that came with holding a foci. It was a crude focus for magical energies – sterile and lacking any personal connections to me – but it would do quite nicely for lack of an alternative.
Xin shook his head. “The Zats are easier to conceal Dre'su'den. Sokar does not normally allow his Goa'uld vassals to carry weaponry of any kind.”
“Trust me,” I focused on the staff, weaving spells around it. “I've got this covered.”
I wasn't any good at veils, they were too delicate for someone like me to really get the hang of, I'm not very good at delicate magic. Focusing on making something invisible takes a very special kind of mind – the kind that I don't have. Luckily there are alternatives to veils. With the right application of magic you could easily make people come down with a distinct case of “someone else's problem.”
My magic washed up the staff, bending attention away from it. If I'd done it right, everyone would see it but none of them would care. It wouldn't hold up if we ended up in a fire-fight but it would probably let us go for a half hour before it was noticed.
Xin hissed in shock, his eyes flashing as he struggled to focus on the Staff Weapon, “Your host is Hok'tar! How did you find one?”
“I am the host,” I reiterated pulling the grey cloak over my head and shoulders. “I am Dre'su'den.”
“The host survives Dre'su'den,” Xin's eyes flashed in disgust. “Do not try your lies upon me. I do not take an unwilling host – I do not force myself upon other beings.”
“That makes two of us,” I walked out into the hall. I pointed to my head as we walked along a row of iron braziers of flame. “Single occupancy.”
“I beg to differ,” Chided the fallen Angel in my head.
“You're not helping me here,” I looked up. “Keep it to yourself.”
Xin, wisely deciding not to argue with the armed man in an argument with his invisible friend, pointed down a well lit corridor. As we passed a patrol of thirty or so Jaffa soldiers he whispered into my ear, “Sokar's central database is that way.”
“Hell's Bells,” I muttered, staring at the monolithic construct in front of me. A pillar of crystal five stories high sat hovering in the center of a circular room, situated at the center of a seemingly bottomless chasm. “We're going to disable that?”
“Yes,” Replied Xin, walking down the narrow beam that leading across the chasm. “We are.”
No wider than a foot across, the path jiggled to an alarming degree as we walked along it. A pointed sensation of vertigo washed over me after I made the tactical error of looking down. I had to close my eyes, breathing deeply before I could stop the room from spinning and convince my legs to continue operating. Sokar's appreciation for safety codes left a great deal to be desired.
And honestly, I'm not too psyched about heights.
“Dre'su'sen,” Xin hissed as I followed his near acrobatic navigation of the narrow beam as best I could. “Our time is not unlimited. Another patrol is imminent.”
“I'm coming,” I hopped off the beam and on to the wide o-shaped platform hovering around the crystalline pillar. A command console jutted from the pillar, wide key runes arranged around a holographic screen. Lines of unintelligible data flashed across in all directions – too fast for me to read, let alone comprehend.
Xin plugged a length of crystal into the console and pressed a dozen keys before swearing in a language I didn't recognize. He looked up at me, “They changed the codes – I can't get in.”
“Aren't we just going to blow this up?” I waved to my staff weapon.
“With what? - Oh right,” Xin squinted, reminding himself that my staff was there. “No – we need to get the codes to activate a ship before we can destroy it. It does us no good to steal a ship which won't turn on.”
“Harry,” Bob spoke from my waist. “Let me.”
Trusting in my skeletal advisor I placed Bob in front of the screen, ignoring the disgusted protests of my Tok'ra ally. Bob's eyes glowed, focusing on the screen as tendrils of orange light seeped out from Bob's skull to the device. The swirling masses of incoherent runes shifted, warped and finally changed to a grinning orange skull in the center of the screen. “Oooh roomy.”
“Don't get used to it,” I chided the spirit. “It's only temporary.”
“Spoil sport.” Bob sighed, rolling his eyes around. “I've got control of everything attached to this terminal – but I can only control it as long as I'm physically attached Sahib.”
“Spirit,” Xin voiced his words cautiously, as though afraid the wrong word might end in his death. “Do you know – can you find records of a Tok'ra by the name of Selmak? Do you know what has happened to him?”
“He's on Netu.” Bob's eyes flicked towards me. “I thought Bynar was interrogating Joinar?”
Xin's eyes flashed in irritation, “Martouf – that was not our plan.”
“Plan?” I turned to Xin. “You had a plan?”
“No business of yours, enslaver,” Xin growled.
“Yeah,” I replied. “Sure it's not. Any luck with those code's Bob?”
“Oh I found them alright,” Bob whistled. “Along with a whole bunch more. Harry I think I may have just hit the jackpot.”
“The key?” I grinned at Bob's self satisfied tone. He'd be insufferable when this was all over, but I was too pleased to care. “Well done Bob.”
Xin looked over his shoulder, “Collect your spirit, enslaver. We must hurry.”
The sounds of a Jaffa patrol echoed down the hallway, the marching precision of heavy footsteps audible in the distance. I pulled Bob from the plinth, putting him back into the satchel before staring up at the monstrous construct of charged crystal. It was a thing of beauty – intricate spell-worked circuitry interwoven through a honeycomb of thick metal. It was essentially sacrilege to destroy it.
I can live with sacrilege agianst Sokar.
Pointing my borrowed staff weapon I shouted, “Maximo-pyrofuego,” expelling a gout of blue-black spell-flame from the flowering petal at the weapon's end. The unnatural flames bored a hole through the pillar, devouring it from within. I shielded the two of us from white-hot fragments of crystal with my shield bracelet as we edged along the balance-beam, ducking down a maintenance corridor as a terrified Jaffa patrol arrived on the scene.
The corridor lit up with a green burst of light as something in the pillar exploded, giving me a glimpse of the horrified look on Xin's face. Whatever he'd been expecting me to do, that had most certainly not been it. “ Your body is Hok'tar – pure blood Hok'tar.”
“Yes,” I replied – recognizing the Goa'uld word for practitioner. “I am.”
“Impossible,” The Tok'ra whispered, trying to convince himself that he had not just seen me cast magic. “The Goa'uld no longer have access to Hok'tar.”
“They still don't,” I replied as we came upon a pair of Jaffa guards. With a hefty grunt of exertion, I clipped the leftmost Jaffa across the head with my staff weapon in a sneak-attack. Yanking my fingers up in a claw-like gesture I slammed his partner into the ceiling with a shout of, “Ventas sertitas.”
Xin followed the Jaffa's ascent and subsequent descent with wrapped attention. His doubts of my magical powers seemingly quelled. His next question never came as the ship was bathed in darkness, my damage to the central computers apparently having done something to the ships power distribution.
It would not be till much later that I discovered just how much of a Goa'uld ship was housed in a single system. For a paranoid bunch of self-serving sociopaths, they seemed astonishingly willing to put all their eggs in one basket on that one. I suppose it was a burden of Ego – none of them ever expected to fail.
Xin looked around, catching his bearings as the ship switched to emergency lighting. “We need to go down – ah yes – this corridor. Oh – no!”
The Tok'ra shoved me back, peeking around the corridor once before devolving into a string of whispered foul language. I sighed, “I'm guessing something went wrong with your plan?”
“Sokar seems to have seen through my ruse,” Xin sighed. “There is a fixed gun emplacement in that corridor. Even a personal shield would barely be sufficient, those weapons are intended to punch through the armor of an Alkesh if necessary. In the event of a total system failure the Jaffa are under orders to shoot on sight. We can't get around it.”
I smiled, “We're not going to go around it – we're going to go through it.”
Lash's phantom fingers grabbed at my shoulder, “My host this is a bad idea!”
Brushing off the Angel's hand, I ran down the corridor, speeding towards the fixed gun even as Lash screeched in my ear. I ignored her, focusing on the tripod-mounted weapon before me. It whined as the red-armored Jaffa held his fingers down on the trigger, spitting bolts of energy towards me. They spun past me as he tried to get a bead on me, searing burst of molten metal erupting from where he hit.
I pointed my remaining power ring towards him, punching forward with my fist as I bellowed, “Assassinatus!”
A spear of force shot forth from me, crushing the gun and propelling the gunner into the wall behind him. Blood seeped from his mouth as he crumpled to the ground, groaning in agony as he clutched a broken arm.
“I don't want to have to kill you.” I bent low, staring him in the face. “But I will if I have to. Can I trust you to stay here – to stay silent?”
“I am not afraid to die,” The Jaffa hissed. “My Lord Sokar will crush you.”
“Not today.” I sighed, tapping his head with my finger tips. I focused some of my magic in my fingers, whispering “Dormius.”
The Jaffa's eyes drooped as he fell into a deep and restful slumber as Xin caught up to me. I pointed to the man's still bleeding wound, “Is that going to kill him if it's left untreated?”
“What? Oh – no.” Xin examined it. “They're heartier than you give them credit. Come on - ” He pointed to a triangular ship about the size of a Humvee “- we can get the transport off here and cloaked before they're any the wiser.”
I sat next to him in the cockpit of the transport pod, watching as he grabbed the strange glowing orbs which served as the ship's yoke. “You know how to fly this thing?”
He shot me a look of utter contempt, “Yes – enslaver – I can pilot a transport.”
“Just checking,” I raised my hands in surrender. “No harm done.”
Tok'ra grunted noncommittally as we rose from the ground, speeding out the airlock and into the starry space beyond. The ship's window rippled as a cloaking field shimmered across it, a powerful veil over it's armored skin. I whistled, impressed by what I had seen.
We sat in silence for a good ten minutes before Xin spoke, tapping the ship's computers idly as he went. “I know a path through Sokar's defenses that will get us on the planet's surface. What you do from that point on is your own business but I suggest getting off-world as soon as possible.”
“I've got a ship.” I replied.
“You had a ship,” Xin replied. “Sokar will have you grounded the second he gets a communicator back online – sooner if he remembers that he has a ring transporter. That won't work.”
He considered the matter for a second before continuing, “He'll likely have your estate destroyed from orbit.”
That I hadn't planned on. “I have to go back. I can't let him do that.”
“It's a little late now,” Xin snorted, tapping the ship's monitor once to check our telemetry. “He'll have the ring room on lockdown by now.”
“I have to do something,” I rubbed at the stubble of my scalp. “Anything.”
Xin's eyes bulged as he looked at the sensors, “You can brace for impact! The moon of Netu has become unstable.”
“Unstable,” I looked at the flashing red planet, “You mean it's going to explode? Why is it going to explode?”
“I have no idea. It's supposed to be relatively stable. Somebody must be trying to kill Sokar,” Xin tapped a couple of buttons. “Deactivating the cloak.”
“Won't they be able to see us?” I looked over my shoulder as though a Jaffa might materialize at any moment and take a pot-shot at me.
“Enslaver – I don't think it's going to matter one way or the other if I can't get more power to shields. Sokar just became the least of our problems.” Xin buckled himself into his seat. “Hang on!”
The ship bucked across empty space as an unstoppable wave of planetary debris and concussive force hit us. The ship's gravity flickered, tossing me up into the air and across the room. Landing hard upon the ground I swore angrily, checking that I had not accidentally crushed Bob.
I got up, strapping myself into my seat before the ship buffeted against a second wave of force. Warning klaxons screamed as we spun across the void, spinning us towards the wide expanse of space covered within Sokar's automated defense network. “We're getting close.”
“I know.” Xin replied.
“They're going to shoot us,” I groaned.
“I know!” The Tok'ra shouted.
“Getting shot would be bad.” I interjected.
“I know!” Xin bellowed, tossing his arms in the air. “Enslaver I have more than enough problems already, without someone adding an additional distraction. It can't get any worse – so let me make it better.”
As though summoned by his words, my ears were met with the thrumming reply of a ring-transporter activating.
“Hell's bells Xin,” I swore as the ship spun for a third time, tossing us into the active-fire zone as a figure materialized in the rings, “Did you have to tempt fate on that one?”
Re: [Dresden Files / Sg-1] God's Eye
Posted: 2014-02-21 08:45am
Xin swore, jerking the controls in a frenzied attempt to avoid the sudden bursts of searing energy scourging the void around us. The hairs on my neck stood on end from the sensation of power, pure and unbridled energy, screeching about the empty space around us. My own attentions, however, were far more focused upon our boarder.
He was a tall man, dark skinned and possessed of a serpentine arrogance etched in to those features which still remained. A grotesque mass of scars criss crossed the right side of his face, the still weeping pucker of a gored eyeball seeping milky white pus across torn meat. Ragged red links of what had once been chain-mail of a Jaffa – though to call the melted and battered iron husk armor seemed overly congratulatory. He looked up at me, hissing in surprise and confusion as he realized where he was.
I hardly had time to recognize throbbing sensation of being around a another of the old gods before Xin gasped in horror, “Apophis!”
“Who are you to speak to the name of the great god Apophis as an equal?” reverberated the angry deity, glowering at me with his weeping sore of an eye-socket.
He spoke in third person – just great. Creatures which insisted upon referring to themselves in the third person were always a pain to deal with for their egos if nothing else. Well, if all else fails I fund that a well placed bit of snark went a long way to deflating the egos of a supernatural nasty, “Oh me? I'm the god of magic and this is my Tok'ra arch nemesis. We're currently plummeting through a minefield of almost certain death on a craft that will last five minutes at most.”
“Three,” Xin corrected me, weaving the ship's controls up and to the left.
“Three,” I repeated. “Now you can be a nice little godling and not get in our way so that we can survive this mess or start a ruckus and possibly get us all killed in the process. Your choice.”
“I will not be spoken to in that manner by anyone,” Snarled Apophis, his good eye flashing in fury.
“Then it pleases me to be the first,” I sighed, “You're actually going to start a fight on a crashing ship aren't you?”
“Bow before me!”The god bellowed in fury, flexing his wrist to draw a concealed blade as he charged. I dove from my chair, astonished by the speed with which the god had crossed the ship. Sparks flashed across the cockpit as he swung down, slicing across my enchanted duster. His eye widened in shock as the edge of his blade bludgeoned my side rather than goring me, giving me time to pop him one across the jaw with the butt of my staff.
His head whipped back from the force of my newly enhanced strength, spitting a couple teeth as he eyed the Zat'nik'tel on the floor. It had fallen from my duster as I'd rolled, skittering to a point between us. I flipped my staff, pointing the flowering bud towards his chest. “Don't even think about it.”
“You gain nothing by killing me,” The man growled. “Join me and there will be rich rewards for you in the new order to come.”
“I have you at gunpoint and you're telling meto surrender?” I laughed at the absurdity of it.
“Sokar is no more,” Apophis hissed in sibilant baritone. “My serpent guard are spread across his entire fleet. Even as we speak they are seizing his ships for my ascension. My victory is assured.”
Lash snorted in a distinctly non-angelic sound of disgust. “Do not trust this one, my dear host, Apophis was ever the god of lies and betrayal. Within the pantheon of usurpers he is nearly as treacherous as Sokar or Anubis – though not as brutal.”
Colluding with Apophis was not high up on her to do list. For once I agreed.
“Generous,” I jibed sarcastically, “But I have a counter offer.”
I continued, cutting him off before he could even speak, “No – no, I'm the armed space god here. You willnot cut into my threatening monologue,” I smiled as the god's eye's flashed in fury, “ Like I said. I have an alternate deal. I kick your ass six ways from Sunday, cut off your head and ride off into the sunset as though we've never met.”
“You cannot command the Serpent guard without me,” Hissed Apophis. “They only pretend at loyalty to my usurper – they long for their true god and the time of his rebirth and ascendancy. I will restore the time of Apep, the glory before Anubis' betrayal. Do you not desire our return to glory?”
“What? Join me an we will rule the galaxy as Wizard and snake? Read my lips Appy-may. ” I thumbed the activator to the staff's blast function, preparing to dispatch the god. “I. Don't. Care. Let them do whatever they want. Me? I'm going to take my football and go home because I'm not playing any more. Go rip it out from a different blockhead because this one isn't kicking to day Lucy.”
My peanuts themed riff cut off when a bolt of superheated plasma collided with the cargo ship, busting against the craft's hull and briefly overloading the ship's internal gravity. My knees buckled the internal gravity adjusted by ninety degrees, heaving me against the wall. I fired a burst of flame from my staff, missing Apophis as we sped through the air towards the wall.
Apophis yelped in shock as a ball of blue white fire seared the bulkhead, hot enough to cause rivulets of metal to spatter outward. I could see bone where a bit of the metal collided with his already mangled face. He howled in inhuman fury, cursing me in a sibilant language neither Lash nor I recognized.
Loosing track of what is up and down is not a totally new thing for me. There are parts of the Nevernever that will take reality and toss it totally akimbo, but even for me it's not normal to suddenly find that up is down. When gravity fails me, I find that it's useful to just tuck into a ball and raise my shields. I held my staff out, centering my magic to provide a cushion of air within my protective bubble to dull the eventual impact.
Apophis grabbed the s-bend of metal skidding across the floor, ducking into a kneeling crouch as he sent bolts of lightning across the small room. The gravity shifted back, crashing me against the floor within my bubble of protective energy. Lightning rolled across my protective dome of energy, skirting across the cockpit and hitting the command console in a shower of sparks.
Xin swore, beating at small fire starting in the ship's flight control computers. He pulled a canister of something from beneath his chair, spraying it at the fire in an effort to beat back the blaze. Crystals burst in small pockets of crystalline shards, tossing shrapnel across the room. I felt the razor sharp bits pinging across my coat – smiling as they sliced the exposed bits of Apophis' flesh. The charging god swung at me with his blade, bringing the black metal down on my translucent dome of protective energy.
To my amazement the blade sliced through my protective magics, crushing the spells as though they weren't there at all. My magics had been supercharged since melding with Heka, more powerful than I ever remembered them but it rendered them inert .The shimmering edge of the blade whispered with a slight hum of enchantments as it whisked past my face, sparking against the haft of my staff.
I kicked him, using my magic to put a little extra oomph behind it as I connected boot to groin. The god's eyes bulged as I used the momentum of that to poke my staff in his chest and yell, “Forzare.”
The befuddled god slid across the floor, somehow managing to keep his footing. He spat blood upon the ground, green light shimmering across his blade. His chest puckered inward at an odd angle, exposed bits of rib about his sternum poking through his chest. His eyes flashed in curious malevolence, disturbingly calm about my own use of magic and his own injuries.
“Hell's bells - Where did you get that?” I recognized the power in the blade. I'd seen it – or rather something similar to it – only weeks ago. White Council Wardens carried silver blades enchanted to allow them to channel magic through them, powerful weapons I'd previously believed to be the exclusive purview of the White Council.
“Apophis is without a Hok'tar but not without knowledge. Each of the great system Lords hordes a portion of what once was.” Apophis sneered, his hand tightening around the Zat in predatory anticipation as he circled to my right. The ship bucked again – shrill klaxon screeching that the ship's shields had failed. “We believed Asgaurd menace had stolen the last viable bloodline in our final war. How did you find one that survived their purges?”
“Magic,” I replied mockingly.
“Another rival who fancies himself amusing,” Apophis smiled as the ship's computer screeched a warning about imminent something or other. “When you get to the next life do me a favor – inform the fates that I am not amused by you or Colonel O'Neill”
“Tell them yourself,” I barked, catching Xin's frenzied attempts to beat back the fires out of my peripheral vision. “Looks like we're going down together.”
“No, we are not.” The god grinned with malicious glee.
“Enslaver!” Xin looked back at Apophis in horror, “Do not allow him to move or we will die here!”
Apophis leapt backwards, stepping into an alcove that closed around him like an iron casket before dropping down with a hiss of pressurized air. A freaking escape pod, he'd taken the freaking escape pod.
Hang on a second, “We have escape pods?”
“No.” The Tok'ra growled. “We had one escape pod .I was using it's internal transponder to transmit a phony friend or foe signal to distract the defense grid away from targeting us directly.”
“And now that it's gone.” I swallowed, suspecting his answer.
“The guns will have no reason to target the pod heading for the surface and every reason to target us.” He looked at the burning computer interface. “Perhaps if I can re-route power to the cloak.”
He reached for a black box, pulling his hand away when the flesh sizzled like a strip of fresh bacon on the stove, too hot to touch.
“No!” Screeched Xin. “Not now!”
“Xin! We have to get out of here,” I grabbed the Tok'ra dragging him back towards the teleporter.
He struggled against me, his scorched fingers still reaching towards the blazing computers. “No! If we can't get the main control systems working we can't activate the ring transporters. I don't have a mobile command module.”
“A what?” I dragged him back, hitting the door to the cargo hold as a burst of energy tore the cockpit from the ship entirely.
“A wrist mounted command computer for Sokar's ships.” Xin looked down at my arm, and back up at me in disgust. “That you mule headed boor.”
“My watch?” I held it up.
“How are you still alive?” Xin tapped the runes on it with his wounded fingers, “How do you even dress yourself?”
“Less complaining – more teleporting us off the on-fire ship,” I replied – highly irritated that I had not in fact been able to clothe myself that day without Amun's assistance. I have enough trouble tying a necktie, let alone fiddling with the complex ceremonial garb of an interplanetary deity. It wasn't my fault that there were a lot of buttons in strange places and confusing knots.
Stupid space gods and their Buck-Rogers-esquely annoying sense of fashion.
“What is your password?” Xin twisted the runes with an errant flick of his fingers.
“Password?” I replied.
“Yes, the password.” Xin hissed in exasperation.
“What do you mean what password?” Xin howled. “The password for your wrist device. The command password that is capable of saving us from a fiery demise. The only thing keeping us alive!”
“Oh, that password. Of course that password – It is … uh,” I paused in confusion, “I don't know the password.”
“How do you not know your own password. Everyone knows their own password! No-one forgets the password to their emergency teleportation code,” Xin's face turned an interesting shade of purple. “It's one of those things like 'how to breathe.' You don't freaking forget them if you're planning on living through the day.”
“I'm not everyone else!” I sighed. “Bob, any help?”
“I am a mystical spirit of knowledge – not tech support!” Bob protested in mock irritation.
“Not the time for it Bob! You were the one who helped me set this thing up in the first place.” I yelled at the skull. “What is the password?”
“The password is 'password 1' be sure to use all lowercase letters.” Bob replied in mocking parody, “Thank you and please call again.”
“You're insane.” Xin muttered as he typed the code into the device in apparent disbelief that it functioned, “You're going to die and take me with you on your way.”
“I like the company,” I smiled as the metal rings rose around us, bathing us in white light.
I felt the warping sense of being compressed through space at time as the light carried us down to the surface of Delmak – to a familiar room of marble pillars and greenery. The personal palace of Heka – my palace. The wrist device must have been programmed to seek out safe harbor rather than the closest possible teleportation point. “Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home.”
“My lord Warden,” A thrilled woman's voice echoed across the chamber. The buxom priestess Muminah rushed before me, falling to her knees and kissing the ground before me. “I told them one as great as you could not be felled, even by the smiting of Netu itself.”
“Get up,” I sighed, grabbing her by the crook of the arm and helping her to stand. “We talked about this. No more bowing – we don't bow.”
“Yes my lord Warden,” Muminah still averted her eyes from my own, staring determinedly at my chin. “As my lord commands.”
“Requests, Muminah – not commands.” I sighed in exasperation. “I keep telling you that I am not a god.”
Xin looked at me as though I'd grown an additional head. “What?”
“I am not a god.” I repeated.
“Of course you aren't.” Xin replied in confused reverberation. “I know that. Its the core belief my entire people. But nobody just shouts that to a room full of servants in Goa'uld territory – least of all a Goa'uld Lord.”
“I've never been especially good at following the rules,” I shrugged, following Muminah down the stairs from the teleporation platform to where Ul'tak stood with the elder Jaffa.
“My lord Warden.” Ul'tak saluted me in the traditional way of the Jaffa, slapping his fist across his chest. “I bear grim tidings. Does my lord wish to discuss them in private...”
He left the word hanging, a carefully unspoken question of Xin's loyalty and reliability. The Jaffa would never outright question one of the gods in front of his lord, but he wasn't stupid. The old gods were treacherous. I waved my hand idly, “Ignore Xin. He's just a Tok'ra met earlier today.”
I'm not sure who looked more alarmed by that proclamation, Xin or my Jaffa. Ul'tak sputtered, caught between befuddlement and revulsion, “It is Tok'ra?”
“Yes, but he's friendly. He's here with my permission for the moment. Perfectly harmless.” I looked at Xin. “Isn't that right Xin?”
“Yes,” Xin observed the hate filled gazes of the assembled Jaffa with mingled fear and confusion. “Positively friendly even.”
“Good,” I handed Bob over to Muminah, relieved to not be hefting the additional weight. He hummed contentedly as the priestess cradled him upon her bosom. Ignoring his mutter of “best case ever” I approached the holographic table. “Give me the low down.”
“There are limits to my patience host,” Lash hissed in irritation. “I cannot translate everything with ease.”
“Groovy, you keep that totally tubular translation going hoochie mama.” I replied in intentional recalcitrance.
“I can still hurt you my host,” Lash sighed in amused exasperation.
“Whom are you speaking with my lord Warden?” Ul'tak asked, staring at the blank bit of wall I was addressing.
“Don't worry about it.” I sighed, “Just tell me what's happening.”
“After Sokar's flagship was destroyed with you aboard all the Goa'uld started battling for control of the planet.” Ul'tak pointed to a huge crater on the planet's southern pole. “The worst of the debris struck the farmlands, causing earthquakes and volcanic activity round the globe. What of Delmak is not embroiled in battle is already consumed by fire.”
“How quickly can we everyone off world?” I sighed. “I assume we have enough space for everyone on the flagship.”
“Sure we do.,” Cackled the ancient Jaffa. “But we're not going anywhere. Least not so long as the Necropolis Guard control the palace.”
“They won't believe him to be dead,” Xin muttered in agreement, “Sokar picks – picked - his soldiers purely based upon their loyalty and fondness for cruelty. They'll need to be slain or subdued before anyone can take control of Sokar's holdings. We have to assume the defense grid will shoot down anyone trying to get off world.”
“Can't we just go through that ring thing – uh – the Chappa'ai?” I looked at my generals. “That would save us going through the grid.”
“And force us to go right into the heart of Sokar's citadel, at the lowest point past several thousand Necropolis guardsmen.” Xin shook his head. “Even if we had the clearance – which we don't, you'd have to assume that by the time we reach it the Necropolis guard will know that you survived the assault and come to the obvious conclusion.”
“Oh crap,” I ran my fingers over the stubble covering my scalp, “They're going to think that I'm the one who killed Sokar.”
“There aren't many who could get close enough to Sokar to pull it off,” Xin agreed. “Coincidentally did you?”
“Did I blow up the moon?” I stared at Xin. “We barely escaped that alive? Do you think that I'm crazy enough to blow up a planet while I'm still in the blast radius?”
Xin raised an eyebrow, “You're shouting that you're not a god in a room full of Jaffa before claiming a Tok'ra as an ally and set your millitary override password to 'password.”
“Oh shut up,” I growled, as much to the giggling angel in my head as to the Tok'ra.
“It is safe to assume that we have only a short window of opportunity before the perimeter guns are turned upon us.” Ul'tak interjected. “I can lead a cadre of my men to take the nearest barracks – if it is destroyed the connection to the defense network ought to be disrupted long enough for us to safely depart.”
Xin nodded, “I have a virus in mind that could do the job if you get close enough. It would take only moments to encode it upon a crystal.”
“Fine. Give him what he needs,” I nodded. “And get me my armor.”
“My lord?” The Jaffa looked up at me in confusion, turning to the other generals as though unsure if he'd heard me speak properly.
“What? You thought I was going to sit this one out?” I waved my hand at the human servants peeking out from behind pillars and doors to catch a glimpse of me. “Just sit back with these people and let someone else do my dirty work for me?”
“It is the custom of the enslavers,” Xin interjected sarcastically.
“Enslaver this – enslaver that,” I rolled my eyes. “Just call me Mr. Evil and be done with it already.”
“You are altogether too similar to another acquaintance of mine.” Xin sighed. “He also is mistakenly convinced of his comedic savvy.”
“You wound me Xin,” I put my hand over my heart in mock pain. “How ever shall I continue?”
“Insane,” Xin muttered, taking the crystal offered by Ul'tak. “Completely insane.”
I turned my back on him – trusting Ul'tak to keep him in line for the time being. Muminah stood at attention, her eyes full of adoration as she hugged Bob to her, “My lord Warden is truly great to have bound the Tok'ra demon to his service.”
“What can I say, he took a liking to me and just followed me home.” I deliberately kept my gaze above her neck line as I asked, “What happened to Amun?”
“He arrived hours ago – restored to vitality by the god of hell.” She blushed. “His person – was restored in tact. I hope my lord does not think me too presumptuous, but I gave him permission to continue in service to you without the ritual sacrifice usually asked of Heka's Lo'tar. However he is prepared to self-excise the tribute if necessary.”
Sacrifice? Oh right – Amun had been a Eunuch. “Yes – that was the right decision. Wait... self excise?” I flinched in sympathetic pain for what Amun had avoided. “A freaking fantastic decision. The best one I've heard all year.”
How many of my inherited servants had mutilated themselves in service to Heka? I shivered, even one was far too many. I shuddered – the only thing keeping me from becoming him was a layer of Mab's frost. An enchantment that would melt away in twelve hours or fewer by my count. I needed to get this finished – fast.
“Speak of the Devil,” I smiled at the man carrying a heavy lacquered wood case into the room. “Amun!”
He was different than I remembered him. His cheeks were narrower, his face was covered in a dark hint of stubble and the muscles of his chest were more defined – no longer covered in the thin layer of pudgy flab which had previously covered his body. This was Amun as he would have grown up without Heka in his life.
It was the man who died for me without flinching. Whatever shame I felt for resurrecting him vanished upon seeing him in the room, alive and whole. It would plague me later on – I knew it – but if anyone deserved a second chance at happiness it was Amun.
I bear hugged him, whooping in joy as I lifted him from the ground and waved him back and forth. “Amun!”
Amun giggled in embarrassment, his voice now a thick tenor, “Thank you my Lord Warden. I will not squander this gift.”
I dropped him, slapping his shoulder before opening the chest and exposing Heka's battle armor. “I know you won't.”
Fortunately Amun only stripped me down to my silken undergarments before helping me into my armor. Being naked in front of a room full of observers once was enough for a lifetime. Though I supposed the court of Heka was essentially immune to nudity. Most servants seemed entirely comfortable in extreme states of disrobe – never mind the priestesses.
Me? I felt more comfortable behind the thick battle armor than I had in weeks. I activated the helmet, fitting my duster and cloak over the armor, observing myself in the reflecting pool. To my surprise the coiled serpents of Heka upon the featureless metal face were gone, replaced with an silver pentacle in imitation of the one I wore upon my neck. I ran my taloned fingertips over it.
“It seemed to me that a reborn god should bear the symbol he carries closest to his heart,” Amun smiled at the reflection. “Not that of his former being.”
I patted his shoulder in approval, taking the staff he offered me in my left hand as I walked over to the waiting cadre of Jaffa. “We ready to go here ladies? We've got tons to do and no time to do it in.”
“Yes Warden,” Xin spoke my title curtly – though not with as much spite as even moments ago. “We are prepared. And not a moment too soon.”
The ground trembled, distant plumes of fire hinting at a massive explosion. The ancient Jaffa swore, “Aziel's forces approach. Hundreds of them. He is coming to avenge his former master.”
“Damn,” Xin swore. “Aziel was a lieutenant of Sokar, the one tasked with ensuring your loyalty. He has been planning your demise for two centuries. If anyone will have the override codes to turn your perimeter guns upon this palace – he will.”
“Can the ship's shields protect us?” I asked Bob.
“For a while, sure” Bob replied. “But if we use any of the ship's guns the defense satellites will vaporize us from orbit. He won't need to outlast the shields, just keep us in place till someone gets control of the central computers.”
“Bob,” I smiled as an idea formed in my head. “When you went into Sokar's computer you got a whole bunch of passwords right?”
“Sure boss,” Bob replied. “Everything he had.”
“Would the codes to the artillery around this palace be in those?” I pointed out the window at the very guns which would soon be turned upon us.
“Uh,” Bob's eyes flicked back and forth. “Yeah. Oh yeah! I love the way you're thinking bossman. Get me on your flagship and I can control them remotely.”
“Bob – you have my permission to leave the skull so that you can enter whatever ship's system on my mothership you need to enter so that you can take control of those guns and protect the people in this palace till I return to the ship. Do what you have to do to keep them safe.” Bob giggled with malicious glee, orange lights shimmering out from the skull in a giant cloud of orange motes of light. He seeped through the stone ceiling, up towards where I knew the ship to be. Ignoring the gobsmacked looks of surprise on everyone's faces I addressed Muminah, “Protect this skull at all costs. Get to everyone to the ship and let nothing happen to it.”
“Yes my lord Warden,” the perky priestesses bowed before rushing for the teleporter.
I clapped my gauntleted hands together, “Let's go out and greet our guests.”
The ancient Jaffa whooped, in glee slapping Xin on the back as he shouted. “Come demon. We go to battle and glory.”
“Insane,” Xin repeated to himself as he unholstered his Zat. “I'm going to die following around a mad-person.”
Re: [Dresden Files / Sg-1] God's Eye
Posted: 2014-02-21 10:13am
Sweet you resurrected Amun
Re: [Dresden Files / Sg-1] God's Eye
Posted: 2014-02-21 02:22pm
dragon wrote:Yay update
Sweet you resurrected Amun
And his nuts.
Re: [Dresden Files / Sg-1] God's Eye
Posted: 2014-02-22 10:54pm
I loved seeing Apophis getting "Dresdened". Bastard deserved far more than that.
Now, let's see how Dresden handles a nice full-on melee battle with a few hundred men on each side and blaster bolts. (I'm still waiting to see if he'll meet SG1 at some point)
Re: [Dresden Files / Sg-1] God's Eye
Posted: 2014-02-23 05:09am
Why do I have a feeling that the "Do whatever you have to do to keep them safe" comment is going to result in a distinctly Bob-flavored WTF? moment when all is said and done?
Re: [Dresden Files / Sg-1] God's Eye
Posted: 2014-03-07 12:42pm
Did...did you just have Dresden quote Unicron at Apophis?
Re: [Dresden Files / Sg-1] God's Eye
Posted: 2014-03-07 09:14pm
White Haven wrote:Did...did you just have Dresden quote Unicron at Apophis?
Dresden making use of pop culture to insult a supernatural being with no possible frame of reference to understand it? Nnnaaaahhhh - he would never
do that ...
Re: [Dresden Files / Sg-1] God's Eye
Posted: 2014-05-07 01:31am
Bob hadn't fully decoded the location of Sokar's cache of weapons but he assured me that the Key of the Dead was, of course, on the other side of the freaking galaxy. Ok, not technically that far but near enough that it made no difference for my purposes. What would save me was nowhere near Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden – story of my life.
The path from Heka's palace to the city proper felt a good deal shorter than it had only this morning, adding to the already ominous atmosphere. Dark soot blotted out most of the sky or the distant rumbling cracks of lightning striking a city already engulfed in flame and battle. The entire planet seemed to be screaming, distant cries for salvation far too many to make out individually. Armageddon had come to Delmak.
“Hardly Armageddon,” Lash tutted. “No angels anywhere to be seen and the worthy aren't being raptured away to their salvation. Though perhaps after so many years worshiping their imitation devil they are beyond even His notice. He does so hate to share.”
A beautiful woman fell into step alongside me, wrapping her arm around mine and resting her head upon my shoulder as we walked. It was a familiar gesture, one of comfort rather than of seduction. She kept pace with me as I lead my small army of Jaffa towards the main gate – nuzzling her cheek against my arm.
I knew it was something that I would not normally have been alright with her doing. With an acute clarity I remembered casting her back into the depths of my mind for much more minor invasions of my conscious mind. But for all my absolute certitude that I had – and must always – reject this sort of affection from the fallen angel, I could not for the life of me understand why it was so important to reject her. I knew that it was supposed to bother me, I just couldn't bring myself to actually care.
It wasn't as though I would pick up the coin or she would even want me to do so. Lash would no more survive that than I. She was – well, harmless wasn't the proper word – not hostile? She was pointedly not hostile to my well being.
It didn't seem like a decision I would normally have made. Then again, so much of my mind was in tatters, how would I even be able to recognize which parts of my mind were my own any more? Between winter's frost, Heka's memories, necromantic corruption, and the simple fact that I had died recently, I would probably need some serious time with a shrink to sort myself out.
“You know I find it deeply creepy when you get all giddy about this sort of thing,” I muttered, adjusting the foci fixed to my palm and enjoying the warmth of her against me. It felt as though her skin was pressed against the bare flesh of my arm, as though my armor were not there at all. “This is going to be difficult enough without your creepily blasphemous brand of assistance.”
She looked up at me, her eyes world weary in a way I had never previously noticed. Her illusion was strained, a hint of crows feet and dark circles around her normally perfect eyes. There was age to her, making her look like my contemporary rather than the ageless specter of beauty she normally was.
“Are you ok Lash?” I asked, unexpected worry bubbling to the forefront of my mind. Lash wasn't exactly a friend but she was familiar – a reliable adversary. I was used to her.
“Fine,” She replied, too fast for it to have been entirely true. “I will grow stronger as I regain access to hellfire. I should – I will be fine once that happens.” She at least had the common courtesy to sound embarrassed. Losing the protection of winters frost meant that I would descend into violent psychosis, becoming every bit the monster Heka had been.
“Once we get off world Bob can direct us to the planet Sokar stashed the Key on and I can get Mab to take this junk out for good,” I replied, tapping the side of my head. It had been infuriating to discover that Sokar hadn't been keeping the artifact on Delmak – but Bob was almost never wrong about this sort of thing.
“Yes, you will,” Lash replied, a melancholy lilt to her voice I barely recognized. “Do try to take this seriously my host. I would be annoyed were you to damage yourself.”
“I take everything seriously,” I replied in a tone which was anything but, “I'm Mr. Serious, Dr. Serious even.”
“I have no intention of sitting idly by in your head and listening to your adolescent ramblings about how a picture of you leading the Jaffa into battle would make an 'awesome' album cover,” The disgust in her voice was palpable. “Nor do I intend to suffer through whatever horribly mangled version of 'highway to hell' you're planning to hum to yourself as you walk down the path.”
“There's nothing wrong with AC/DC,” I smiled. “Or would you prefer some Zepplin?”
“My host if you start singing stairway to anything I will not be amused,” The angel shimmered back into my unconscious, flicking my ear painfully as she went. The warmth against my arm disappeared in an instant, setting my hairs on end beneath my armor. Her voice becoming a spectral whisper as she interjected, “Oh, and please do most grievous bodily harm to this particular usurper. He believes himself to be of my ilk – an education is in order. Azeil indeed – the indignity of it.”
“Pain in my ass,” I grumbled audibly, earning a look from the man at my left. Xin, begrudgingly clad in the Jaffa battle armor of my cadre, was anything but comfortable with where he stood. It was hard to say which unnerved him more, the Jaffa marching behind him or the small army waiting for us at the end of the path.
Stars and stones there were a lot of them. Aziel was not underestimating me. Ten oblong pyramid ships hovered around the perimeter of my compound, disgorging hundreds of Jaffa soldiers and dozens of weapons platforms. The massive perimeter cannon followed me as I walked forward, following me a bit too close for comfort.
“Bob,” I hissed into my wrist computer. “I thought you were supposed to have control of those guns by now.”
“Working on it,” Replied the spirit's distracted voice. “Some things just can't be rushed boss.”
“Does this have to be one of them?” I swallowed – keenly aware that my shields would do little to stop heavy artillery.
Bob needed time and my Jaffa, brave though they might be, were not bulletproof. I looked at the Tok'ra, “Do you think he'd actually honor a flag of truce?”
Xin snorted, “Hardly. The Lord of the Flames is a god of Vengance. The laws of war mean nothing to him. Your personal suffering is his only aspiration in life now that he believes you to have killed Sokar.”
“The Demon speaks truth,” Ul'tak agreed. “Aziel is well known to abandon his kingdom for months or even years at a time just to seek out and murder those who have wronged him. Killing his father would be more than sufficient cause for such a crusade.”
“Would he obey it for about five minutes?” I asked, holding my staff above my head. “While I talked terms of surrender?”
“He – might,” Xin replied, clearly not liking where I was going with this. “He would certainty want to gloat. But you can't mean to -”
“I can and I do,” I walked forward in a confident stride. “Everyone, staff weapons above your head. We're harmless – for now.”
The small cadre of Jaffa looked at each other in apprehension, but obeyed my command. It was a dangerous plan, but better than standing on the path like fish in a barrel for the ships to target at their leisure. The closer we were to their god, the more limited their options for artillery were.
As we exited the grounds to my palace we walked into a world on fire. The streets surrounding the palace walls were littered with rubble and broken bodies. Aziel's men had apparently pacified the street on arrival, killing anything and anyone who'd so much as looked at them before taking cover in the still smoking husks of businesses and restaurants. A semi-circle of heavy guns pointed towards us, covering every angle of my departure.
I was deeply grateful for the mask, it did a good job of covering precisely how terrifying this was. I walked to the center of the great market, gently placing my staff weapon upon the ground. My Jaffa followed suit, placing their hands behind their heads in a gesture of surrender.
“Aziel, come out and speak with me. Come and face me if you are not a coward,” The small effort of will I put into my voice projected it's deep reverberating twang like a megaphone, echoing through the ranks of enemy Jaffa. “Or do you rely upon mortals for the work of a god.”
He would not dare decline my challenge, not when so many witnesses would live to tell of it. That was one of the great things about predators, they were very predictable. If Aziel declined my challenge then all the other little godlings might start considering him less of a threat and more of an opportunity. Maybe some of his Jaffa might start to wonder if gods felt fear.
It didn't take long for a gargantuan figure in thick red carapace to swoop across the plaza, a grinning hellion gliding on razor tipped wings. He landed with deceptive grace for someone so massive, fanning his razor sharp pinions with a slight flourish. He was a brooding hulk of a man, scarred down the left side of his face, and possessed of a frame so large he might well have been part troll. His right hand held a staff made of pure black marble, laced with more enchantments than I could even begin to place.
He looked at me with that scarred face and smiled, a terrifying gesture. “Heka. Or is it Dre'su'den now? Father informed me of your new title but neglected to inform me of why one of the eldest had changed titles.”
“Lord Warden will suffice,” I replied, surreptitiously trying to get a measure of Aziel. His physical size alarmed me far less than his apparent magic potential. Even a moderate talent could become truly deadly after decades of study, let alone millennium. "As to my reasons, they hardly seem to matter now. I suspect you're intending to torture me till I tell you everything I know, regardless of my answer."
“Correct, though it is traditional to at least offer the pretense of civility in this sort of situation. I must confess that I'm deeply disappointed in you, father of magic. Father spoke of your spell-craft and knowledge with respect - fear even. The god of hell believed you to be a viper, too dangerous to keep held and deadly if allowed to wander free. I have spent centuries planning your undoing, preparing to behead the viper. I have dreamed of nothing else since first being gifted a host and given a purpose." Aziel laughed. “After decades of planning, scheming, and dreaming of this day you simply decide to end it before it has even started. And to think that father truly believed you to be his equal – a peer.”
He grinned, bending over to look me in the eye, “Pathetic.”
“I didn't kill him.” Interjected. “Sokar was not killed by me.”
“Odd then that only you survived his demise, isn't it?” Aziel snorted. “It is pure luck that his most dangerous advisor just 'happens' to have been leaving when Netu, a perfectly stable moon, explodes? I think not.”
“Your belief is irrelevant,” I sighed. “We can avoid unnecessary bloodshed here today. No one needs to die here. You can just walk away – your quarrel is not with me. If you promise not to do harm to those in my care I promise to help you find the actual perpetrator of this - I will help you find out the truth. Don't you want to find those actually responsible for your father's death?”
“Your attempts to beg for your life are more pitiful than you, Lord Warden,” He chewed the tittle as it left his lips, flecks of spittle flying from his lips in disgust. “We are past talk. Surrender, or fight, it makes no difference to how this will unfold.
“No,” I agreed, starting at the glowing orange affirmation blinking on my wrist device. “I suppose it does not.”
“I will hear the terms of surrender,” The winged godling purred, enjoying every moment of my supplication.
My wrist computer blinked, a glowing orange message hovering across the display. Mission accomplished. Oh thank god - Bob had done it.
“Very well,” I nodded, “I will accept your surrender. You and your men can walk away from here unharmed. I will not hunt any Jaffa who turns and leaves now – I have no quarrel with you and yours. You will walk away and never trouble me again and I won't crush you like a bug.”
Aziel blinked, genuinely struggling to understand what just happened, “I don't think you entirely appreciate what is going on here. I have you outmanned, outgunned, and outflanked. You can't possibly hope to win.”
“Can and will,” I tapped the side of my head. “Because I know things you don't. I know things you can't. And I promise you Darth Wannabe, if you don't leave now you won't have the chance to regret it.”
“I tire of this,” Aziel growled, rising into the air on his razor wings and raising his glowing staff aloft. Green lighting crackled across the crimson carapace of his armor, sparkling in the recessed runes carved into the rough metal. “Kill them, kill them all.”
“Now Bob!” I shouted, raising my shield as Aziel fired a bolt of green energy from his staff. The bolt bounced, exploding against a wall as a defining screech of artillery turrets activating drowned out all other noises in the plaza. Aziel could do little more than look on in horror as the turrets surrounding my compound blew holes in gunships and killed Jaffa soldiers by the dozens.
Searing beams of energy howled from the wall, tearing through the Goa'uld gunships with impunity. Jaffa soldiers screamed and raised their arms above their faces in a futile effort to protect themselves from ten tons of burning gunship crashing to the ground. What few gunships were not destroyed instantly scattered in fear, bobbing and weaving through the sky to avoid the defense turrets.
Not that it helped them. No longer trapped within the mothership by the perimeter turrets a dozen squadrons of crescent shaped fighters swooped out from the compound, swarming the larger gunships like sparrows taking down a hawk. The howling attack ships, "death gliders" as they were called by the Jaffa, forced the gunships into narrower corridors of movement - trapping them in range of the perimeter turrets.
Aziel was not pleased.
“No!” The winged god howled in fury, firing another bolt of green energy towards me. His eyes bulged in apoplectic fury, his pupils pinpricks of rage against his purpling continence. I caught his attack in a bowl of shield energy, flinging it to my left. The cracking bolt hit the gunner of a heavy staff turret, dissolving all soft tissue and only leaving a steaming pile of bones behind.
There was some seriously bad ju-ju backing that staff. I wasn't even sure what school of magic was empowering it - the magic felt greasy, unnatural in a way I couldn't quite place. I knew I'd felt it before - possibly even used it - but it felt deeply and obviously wrong. It seemed to reject the world around it, unmaking what it touched. It wasn't necromancy - there was no cloyingly seductive cold to it - but I was positive that even knowing that type of magic existed was probably enough to get the White Council to go scorched earth.
Aziel had a lot of power, but he thankfully seemed to be a one trick pony. Even an apprentice wizard with that much juice would have tried something else, anything else, to throw me off balance or force me to do something new. For a god, he was astonishingly amateurish about his power. It was entirely possible that he'd never actually met someone who was competent in the magic arts. How wasn't he seeing the obvious flaws in my attack strategy? A couple of illusions and an evocation of elemental magic and my compliment of Jaffa warriors would be at his mercy - especially with him flying around like a damn maniac.
And then it came to me. Aziel wasn't doing anything else because he didn't know how. I'd seen and even felt the power held by the amassed gods when I'd been in their presence, knew that the god's blood coursing through my veins enhanced my own magic exponentially, but power doesn't do you jack all squat if nobody has ever taught you how to use it. The various godlings had magical talents they'd amassed through the ages but I doubted they were teaching their talents to each other.
Stars and stones, that was probably why the ancient pantheons had themed gods. One of the Goa'uld would become skilled in a specific school of magic, horde all knowledge relating to that discipline, and create a following around their unique magical talents. Sokar had said it himself, what made Heka valuabe had been knowledge of magic. Favored son though Aziel claimed to be, I doubted that daddy dearest had taught him enough to be a threat to Sokar's power-base.
That I could stop the beams at all seemed to be a novelty. The imitation angel screeched in apoplectic hatred as bolt after bolt careened off my dome of mystical energy, re-directed towards Aziel's entrenched Jaffa. It was a good thing I'd instinctually gone for my shield bracelet rather than the Goa'uld device upon my wrist, I was in mood to make contact with the beams of concentrated green death.
Damn it - where did I know that energy from?
My Jaffa were pressing their advantage in the confusion, using their reclaimed staff-weapons to lay suppressing fire as they made way for the relative safety of a pillar lined plaza. The cracked stone half-walls and pillars weren't much, but they were miles better than the open ground. I grabbed Xin, flinging him towards Ul'tak with my enhanced strength. The grown man sailed through the air, landing with surprising grace next to my First Prime.
I flew back as Aziel careened towards me, using his glowing staff as a deadly cudgel. The staff whipped past my face, colliding with the stone ground in a confligration of sorcery blackened molten stonework. He'd overcompensated for his strike, leaving his midsection open for me to strike. I lashed out with my open palm, pointing the baleful eye of my red stone foci towards his breast as I shouted, "Assasinatus"
Blood poured from the godling's mouth as a fist sized hole punctured through his right pec, visibly removing a large section of rib-cage as his armor punctured his bare flesh. Wet gargling noises of incoherent fury tossed black heart's blood from his lips as he rose to the skies, fleeing my wrath, poring a stream of red through the smoke clogged air.
"Vintas tormenta," I shouted, curling my palm into a claw around the foci. A spout of soot-blackned air chased after the asonished godling, bringing down streamers of lighting along his path before sucking him into the tornado's spot. Aziel flung green bolts in all directions as sheer physics ripped his razor wings to shreds, cutting him to shreds as effectively as if I'd tossed him in a blender. The imitation angel fell to the streed with a wet smack of breaking bone, his head pulped on the cobblestones.
"Lord Warden!" Ul'tak shouted. "We can not stay here - Aziel's Jaffa will be startled by the defeat of their master, but only for as long as it will take them to recover his body. We must go, now, while we still can."
“I'm open to suggestions,” I replied, grinding my teeth from the effort of extending a shield wide enough to cover our flank. A bigger shield meant more juice – and even Heka's modifications to my body I didn't have a limitless pool of energy. It also meant that the shield was less effective at dissipating the Jaffa weaponry. Every staff blast sent painful feedback up my arm. “Really anything at this point!”
"This way," Xin lifted a thick slab of bronze with his bare hands, flinging it to the side and exposing a two story drop. He tossed himself down without a second's hesitation, landing with cat-like grace upon the stone floor.The Jaffa leapt down without a second thought, landing with inhuman skill as they secured our point of ingress.
I looked at my first prime, “We have to close off this hole immediately. If we can't stop them from following then we're just going to be back where we started.”
Ul'tak smiled a toothy grin, before slapping a fist sized silver ball on the base of a stone pillar. “As my Lord Warden commands.”
“Oh hells bells,” I recognized the device as a bomb instantly, flinging myself down the shaft after Ul'tak covering my ears as I tucked into a roll.
My first prime landed in a three point crouch like something out of a superhero movie poster, holding his staff out behind him in unspoken challenge to anyone who might be around us. I, by contrast, got caught in the concussive wave of air from his explosive and was tossed against the wall. Belly-flopping on the cobblestones in the most undignified way possible, made even more embarrassing when my staff weapon fell after me – colliding with the back of my head.
I rolled to the side, yelping as stone debris showered down from above. Rocks the size of Volvos hit the ground where the'd been knocked from the ceiling – blessedly missing me. My heart hammered in my chest as I looked up at the now covered point of egress. The rubble of a plaza worth of pillars blocking any would be followers.
Whooping in adrenaline fueled relief I pointed to the ceiling and shouted, “Oh yeah! Kiss my staff you wannabe goons. That's what you get for messing with a Wizard. You got' nothing on me, I'm from Chicago.”
Ul'tak, well trained in the art of not noticing the faults of his god, kept his amusement to fast snort of air from his nostrils as he helped me to my feet. “Are you well my Lord Warden?”
“The hell was that?” I hissed. “You nearly killed us both!”
Ul'tak looked confused, “My Lord Warden commanded the explosives be detonated immediately.”
“I meant after we jumped down!” I rubbed my palm against the flat faceplate of my helmet. “You always set the bomb to go of when you're not there Ul'tak. Bomb when we aren't there. Always!”
“As my Lord Warden commands,” Ul'tak replied, unphased by how close we'd just been to death. Stars and stones, he probably thought that he was invincible as long as he was next to me or something equally ridiculous. I was his “god” after all.
I took a moment to survey our surroundings. We were in another plaza much like the one we'd just been in, shops, restaurants, hotels and homes as far as the eye could see. Unlike the top layer of Delmak's capitol the level we stood on was lit by bioluminescent moss lining the ceiling, bathing the streets in an sickly blue glow.
Nervous faces peeked out from curtains and over walls, trying to get a look at what caused the noise – though they were apparently clever enough not to actually leave the safety of their homes to investigate. More vanilla mortals I suspected, the innocent bystanders in a war between beings they worshiped and feared.
How many levels of this planet were habited? I'd not really stopped to think just how many people were on Delmak before. The capitol city had to be at least the size of Texas and easily as densely packed as Chicago just on the surface. “Xin... just how many humans were in Sokar's Empire?”
“Delmak is one of the more populated planets. One of the few human population centers where they've been allowed to breed unrestricted.” The Tok'ra typed something into a computer he pulled from his belt. “One of the perks of not being in the System Lords, I suppose. Though with his methods of control it was largely out of necessity – it's hard to condemn millions to Netu yearly if you don't have a slave population growth greater than your losses.”
“Oh – great,” I swallowed. “And if we don't get the defenses disabled and get my ships off planet – how many are going to just die as collateral effect of destroying my mothership?”
Xin looked up in genuine surprise, his eyes narrowing in suspicion. “A mothership is capable of withstanding immense damage. The fleet would depopulate a radius of at least 100 miles of city to ensure that your ship was destroyed and that you weren't able to escape.”
My heart stopped, “That's – stars and stones – that's inhuman. That's evil.”
“That is the Goa'uld.” Xin replied, his voice taking on a mournfully hopeful caidence. “Heka - Do you truly not remember who you were?”
“Heka is gone!” I snarled. “I killed him. He has no power over me. Mab - ”
“Do not speak the name,” Xin hissed in horror, his eyes bugging as he slapped his hands over his ears. “Lest' she hear it and come unbidden.”
“The Lord Warden is beyond fear of the kingdoms of Sun and Snow,” Ul'tak interjected, pride and faith coloring his every word. “He is an equal to the mightiest of their number.”
“Oh Warden.” Xin's expression was almost pitying as he shook his head from side to side, “What did she offer you Dre'su'den? Do you even remember? Evil though you might have been, what price was worth stripping yourself of being?”
“It isn't like that,” I sighed. “She's helping me.”
“She will betray you.” Xin sighed. “Forbidden power comes with a price. The Queens twist words and corrupt promises. Even as allies they are poison. It is no accident that the Tok'ra are without their queen.”
“Preaching to the converted,” I brushed dust and debris off the arms of my duster with my taloned fingers. “And once I find Sokar's cache of weapons and give the Queen of Winter what she wants I'm one favor away from living a fairy free existence.”
Xin grunted, unimpressed with my blasé attitude towards the fae. “We're twenty minutes from the security point on foot but I'm not sure if it's wise to travel there directly. Aziel's forces will know where we're heading and the Necropolis Guard are certain to have entrenched defenses around the base. Strong ones, they'll likely have fixed guns and turrets. They'll know every way in and out. We stood a chance at the ground level, the other gods will likely have softened their defenses but I head-on assault seems like suicide without other distractions.”
“Do we have another route there? One of the lower levels?” I sighed, not eager to charge headlong into a group of armed fanatics who probably believed me to have been the one to murder their god.
“There are, ways.” Xin swallowed. “But I'm not eager to go any lower than we already are. We're already in the lands of the exiled, there is no need to mingle with the subhuman.”
“I am tempted to agree with the demon,” Ul'tak replied. “We are already among the unclean – I am unsure of the wisdom in plunging further into the deeps.”
“Indeed,” The Tok'ra flinched, shuddering at an obviously unpleasant memory. “We are relatively safe on this level. Any lower into and we risk dealing with Unas, cannibal bands, or predatory species imported for Sokar's amusement.”
“Then we have no choice but to defeat the enemy head on or to descent to the horrors below,” The more fatalistic Ul'tak got the happier he seemed to be.
The old Dresden luck was working for me full tilt, as usual. Of course the lower levels beneath the Devil's paradise city were populated by Morlocks and giant lizard men. Why wouldn't they be? Stupid Murphy and his idiot law.
“I've got a different plan.” I replied, a wild idea forming in my head as I walked towards the most wealthy looking inn. My phalanx of Jaffa formed a barrier of bodies around Xin and I as we walked,“These are the lands of the 'exiled' right?”
“Yes, my lord Warden” replied Ul'tak, “Those who fear the disfavor of Sokar and wish to avoid the fires of Netu. Disbelievers, criminals, heretics, and paupers – the lot of them.”
“Then riddle me this,” I smiled. “How does this place manage to have a fresh coat of paint when every other building in this neighborhood looks like it hasn't even seen a broom in a generation? How does it manage to have fully stocked wares when every other shop seems to be on the verge of collapse?”
Xin nodded, following my logic. “Smugglers.”
“Or some sort of organized crime, yeah.” I replied. “They've got to be crooked to manage to make a profit in this sort of a place.”
The door was locked tight – not that it mattered. A burst of kinetic force from my ruby foci knocked off it's hinges and across the floor of the inn. The patrons hissed fearfully as I strode into the room with my Jaffa, a surly looking bunch of men and boys. I re-affirmed my initial impression that this was a criminal enterprise as I scanned the room. The butts of primitive fire-arms and what might very well have been Zat-guns bulged beneath rough spun jerkin and dirty tunics, barely noticeable to even my trained eye.
We were outnumbered, but I suspected it wouldn't really matter in a fight. Each of the superhuman Jaffa was easily a match for any five human warriors. Hopefully it wouldn't come to that.
I walked over to the bar, brushing the dust off one of the stools before sitting down. A terrified barkeep with a thick belly stared me in the face as I asked, “Who runs this place?”
“I – I am the barman,” Replied the portly man, turning his eyes to the floor. “What does my lord wish of this lowly supplicant.”
“Not you.” I growled, indulging in a metallic hiss of irritation. “The one who runs this place.”
“I don't know what you're talking about - ” I cut him of with a raised index finger, hissing, “Thrice I ask and done. Do not test my patience. Who. Runs. This. Place?”
“That would be me.” A stout asian man with a neatly trimmed beard stood up to my left. I recognized the demeanor immediately, the controlled predatory sense of self-assurance. Marcone was like that – dangerous and aware of it, “Please do not harm Thoman. He has a good taste for liquor and is one of the few barmen capable of cooking a decent par-fan stew.”
Two of my Jaffa grabbed the man by his arms, dragging him before me and forcing him to his knees. I could feel the men in the room tensing – preparing to do violence.
“You will speak to your god with respect,” Growled Ul'tak in irritation. “Bow before -”
“I don't bow.” The man replied sarcastically, “I find it's bad for the back once one gets into a habit of it one seems to spend their life like a shrimp.”
I caught Ul'tak's wrist as he swung an open palm for the defiant man's face. The man looked surprised but relieved as I waved the Jaffa off him before pulling him to his feet. “I prefer that you stand anyway, I'm in a bit of a hurry.”
“Uh,” The man seemed unprepared for this turn of events. “Ok then.”
“You see I'm looking to hire you – all of you – right now. We're looking to get to -” I looked to Xin.
“The grid epsilon v-x 230 security station's lower entrance,” he provided helpfully, apparently amused with the absurdity of it all. “The nearest door to the defense grid control nexus if possible.”
“ - yes, that. ” I put my arm over his shoulder. “And you're going to help me get past the Necropolis guards with minimal casualties on my side.”
The man burst out laughing. “Even if I could do that – if a lowly human did have the resources to aid a god – what reward would a god offer me in return?”
“An equal exchange of course. My freedom in exchange for yours.” I laughed. “You help me disable the defense grid, and I will do everything in my power to help you escape Delmak.”
“And live on your worlds? Under your rule?” The man snorted derisively. An act, I could see the longing in his eyes. How long had he lived beneath the heels of uncaring gods? Probably his entire life. Freedom, true freedom, was just a distant dream to him.
“Wherever you choose.” I replied. “I am offering you your freedom – no strings attached. Think about it, when I lift off any ships in the sky are going to be focusing on me. A clever man could get to a ship, get off world, and fly to wherever he pleased – he could go where the Goa'uld aren't. Hell – Sokar and Aziel both want me dead, you could probably get a fleet of ships off world before anyone was any the wiser.”
“I could at that,” The man nodded. “Very well – the bargain is possible provided you are willing to ensure the safety of my family.”
“Very well. You have my word.” I grasped his outstretched hand, pumping firmly. “So what do I call you?”
“I am called Netan,” the dangerous man smiled. “But there is one other matter we really do need to resolve first.”
“And that is?” I asked politely.
“How do you intend to get past Apophis' fleet now that he's taken control of the palace and declared himself Lord of Delmak?”
Re: [Dresden Files / Sg-1] God's Eye
Posted: 2014-05-07 05:57pm
YAY! New Chapter!
And it's always *something* with Dresden, isn't it
Re: [Dresden Files / Sg-1] God's Eye
Posted: 2014-06-13 11:37pm
Xin burst out laughing almost immediately. It was a shrill and smoky sound that I got the sense was not common for him. The Tok’ra actually had to grab Ul’tak’s shoulder to keep him from doubling up into seizures of mirth.
He wiped a tear from the corner of his eye at the crime lord’s withering glare, his voice roiling with metallic amusement, “I’m sorry – it was just so funny.”
“You think that the Serpent God overtaking the Kingdom of Hell is funny?” There was an angry bite in the hard man’s voice, a dangerous edge. He was clearly not accustomed to being the butt of anyone’s joke.
“Hilarious,” Xin gasped out. “Apophis isn’t the god of anything yet.”
Ul’tak nodded in agreement, “ The demon speaks truly. There are at least five generals within Sokar’s command chain who’ll be vying for supremacy, at least two of whom have support within Sokar’s armies. The Serpent Guard was spread out between the barracks and ships of Sokar’s fleet. “
“It will take them days of concerted effort to conquer all of Delmak.” The Tok’ra straightened as a whisper of a giggle still threatened to work it’s way past his lips, “Weeks even. Especially as the planet knows that the Warden just beat Aziel in a duel of sorcery.”
I briefly wondered if Netan would get whiplash from spinning his head round to face me after hearing that. He examined me with something resembling grudging respect as he clicked his tongue off the front of his teeth. “The Lord of Flames?”
“The Warden smote him from the very skies with a storm from the heavens,” Ul’tak’s reverent reply made me uncomfortable for various reasons, not the least of which is that “smiting” was probably an accurate description of what I’d actually done. “I have seen powers from his fingers worthy of the time of Apep. “
“Impressive, if it’s true.” Netan’s only slightly cagey reply indicating that he likely believed it was. “But that still doesn’t answer my question. How do you plan to do it? Just get up and fly away? What proof do you have that you will keep your word?”
“Look,” I shook my head, retracting the faceless mask. “I don’t have time to spend the whole day arguing with you to get you on board with this. So I’m sorry, but I have to do this.”
And I stared him directly in the eyes.
When a wizard looks into your eyes and I mean really looks, he starts a soul gaze. He gets to see everything that makes up who that person is, the essence of their entire being.
More importantly for my purposes, they know you. Soulgazes weren’t pleasant, it doesn’t give specific information but it gives you the sum total of that person’s essence, as though you’d known them every day of their life since childhood. You truly know them and that knowledge never fades.
There are things I wish I’d never seen, parts of people I wish I didn’t know. But there were millions of lives at stake, whatever inner demons lay within the crime lord Netan couldn’t compare a member of the Blackened Denarius.
The inside of Netan’s mind was curious – a chaotic mirage of vignettes strung together with little in the way of obvious order but all of which fit together with surprising artistry. No matter what direction I looked in the shimmering images of people, places, and aspirations formed a path towards a distant shadow of a man.
There was a hazy quality to each of the images, a cool frost obscuring his past that hurt my hand when I reached out to touch it. I could barely make out images of an absent father and a cruel mother. Could only glimpse his first encounter with crime. Could barely touch upon a life lived in constant fear of burning in the fires of Netu. Netan was a man who forced his emotions away, crushing them so that he could see them clinically in the present.
I walked the paths of frozen memories, ignoring the angry cries of fear and surprise that followed my every step. His victims, those who had been victims of his rise to power stared at me from the corners of the frozen slabs of memory. Their yellow eyes stabbed at me, accusing the world of treachery and injustice.
The shadowy form of Netan lay at the end of the path, weather beaten and travel worn. His body looked like a slab of granite shaped into the form of a man by the elements and nature rather than by the skill of any human artisan. The smooth lines and wind-swept pockmarks across his person had a symmetry to them no mortal carver could hope to match.
The ceiling was a cloudy mass of floating faces, all of them looking at Netan for guidance and help. Red filaments wrapped around their necks, nooses or leashes – it was hard to tell. The shadows billowing from Netan’s statue concealed them, protecting them from the blaze of hellfire forming a dome around us. Coiling serpents of flame would lash out at the shadows, biting at the faces but never catching them unless they strayed from the cloud of shadow.
The statue’s head swiveled towards me in curiosity, opening its mouth before speaking in the voice of a small child. “You can not have them. They are mine.”
A roiling whip of shadows boiled out of the statue’s eyes; engulfing me and tossing me back into the real world – eye to eye with a terrified crime lord.
“That isn’t possible,” Netan’s voice was hoarse, as though he’d just finished screaming. “The monsters of the first world are a legend. A story told to scare children. The armies of blood and death aren’t real. The tales of sun and snow are only tales.”
“You know that they aren’t” I sighed, pitying the man. Netan was a skeptic, a non-believer in the divinity of the Goa’uld pantheons let alone an afterlife. Looking into the inner self of a man with a fallen Angel of the Lord roosting in his skull was going to be a major transition. “And you know the value of my word.”
“I – I do.” Netan swallowed, grabbing a shot from the bar and downing it. “What was – what did you just do to me?”
“I showed you my soul,” I replied. “I showed you everything that I am. What makes me, me.”
“I did not even know that there was a soul.” Netan shivered. “I will help you. But first I must know – I must!” He closed his eyes, willing the question past his lips. “Can you promise me that you will protect us as we leave the planet? Will you let us go without pursuit?”
“And will you promise not to raze this planet if you eventually do conquer it.”
He extended his hand to me, “Then we have a deal.”
I shook his hand firmly, tucking my neck down in a slight bow to summon the helmet back from where it receded into my armor. “Great, now lets get this show on the road.”
“Open it,” Netan nodded to the barman, waving his fingers towards the five largest men in the room. The broad men, large as any of my Jaffa, stood around Netan protectively. Poorly concealed Zat-guns bulged out from the men’s tunics along with what I could only assume were iron cudgels.
Pulling a lever concealed behind the bar, the barman opened a concealed staircase leading up. Netan’s cadre surrounded us as he led us into the smuggler’s tunnel. I smiled. The men were for show more than anything else. Had he been actually intending to betray or ambush my Jaffa he wouldn’t have brought any of them for fear of tipping us off to his ambush.
We were a good half-mile along the tunnels when Ul’tak started up a conversation with the Tok’ra in apparent boredom. The conversation was not intended for my ears but apparently Heka had turned my already impressive hearing up to eleven along with everything else.
“Demon, I am curious. I know why I follow the Lord Warden. Why do you?” Asked the first prime, flashing a mouth full of white teeth. “Your kind are not known for their love of the Goa’uld.”
“We’re not known for stupidity,” Agreed Xin. “The Warden has had various opportunities to kill me and has elected not to. I want off this planet. He wants off this planet. It is a simple enough reason.”
“Too simple,” Ul’tak’s smile seemed more shark-like by the moment. “You’ve had at least five opportunities to run and four to switch hosts to a body we wouldn’t recognize.”
“What are you implying Jaffa,” Xin snorted. “That I’m here to betray your master? Sabotage him?”
“You are Tok’ra.” Ul’tak snorted. “I would be a fool not to assume you were a viper in our midst, Demon.”
Xin’s brow arched in approval, “I could easily have jumped into the escape pod and left your master to face the orbital defenses of Delmak.”
“A viper does not always bite you the first time you stray in its path. Not if it feels it can hide in the shadows.” He looked at the Jaffa on all sides. “You have no shadows to which you might retreat.”
“Are you threatening me after your master gave me a promise of safe passage?” Xin asked in genuine curiosity.
“A first Prime never disobeys a direct order.” Ul’tak agreed. “So long as the boundaries of hospitality are obeyed you are safe in our care.”
“But the second they are ignored I presume that you plan to cut off the viper’s head?” Xin sighed.
“I am a First Prime. It is not my place to plan anything.” Ul’tak replied in utter monotone. There was no doubt in my mind that he could and would kill Xin without a second’s hesitation.
“Isn’t it now?” Xin mused. “Odd then how much of your history indicates just the opposite, how so many of Heka’s atrocities were delayed by border disputes or the discovery of Tok’ra infiltrators at just the right moment. Your entire career is full of convenient coincidences which a foolish mind might call schemes. “
“Jaffa do not scheme,” Ul’tak replied a little too quickly.
“Don’t they?” Xin snorted. “My mistake.”
Netan held his hand up, raising his closed fist to indicate that the group should stop. “Toval and Bak, scout the exit. I want to know what we’re getting into.”
The two neckless goons lumbered past him and up the ladder, seemingly too broad to fit. It was kind of like watching my dog Mouse fit into the back of the Blue Beetle. It just didn’t seem physically possible for that much dog to wedge in there but he did.
It didn’t take them long to give us an assessment of the danger, the charred corpse of Toval crashed back down the shaft. Cooked meat burst from his torso as the staff-blast covered goon broke in half in one of the grossest moments of my life.
“Damn,” Xin swore, looking up the shaft. “Is there another way up?”
“Half a kilometer down,” Netan shook his head. “No good either, that one is next to the Barracks. We’d overrun by Necropolis Guard faster than anywhere else. If we march south for another half day there is another exchange point on the defense net. It will work just as well.”
“No” Ul’tak disagreed. “By that time there will be enough unity between the other gods that someone will be able to destroy the Warden’s flagship from orbit. It must be this one.”
“Be my guest,” Netan waved to the ladder covered in splattered Toval bits. “One fewer Jaffa is no skin off my back.”
“No,” I shook my head, placing my hand upon the Jaffa’s shoulder as he moved towards the exit. “ I’ll go first. ”
Xin quirked a brow in curiosity, “And what is your plan?”
“At this point?” I shrugged, standing at the bottom of the shaft and holding my staff to my chest. “I’m basically making it up as I go along.”
“I’m deeply comforted,” the Tokra’s sarcastic jibe was par the course with him.
“Is there something covering the top of this shaft?” I asked the crime lord.
“No,” Netan replied, “The tunnel is at the bottom of a dried out well. My people keep it uncovered.”
“Count to fifteen then follow me,” I willed myself to keep my eyes open as I hit my staff upon the ground, looked up and shouted, “Ventas Sertitas.”
Flying is not a skill I’ve been particularly trained in. Few wizards even bother with the dangerous and difficult art of aeromancy. Too much can go wrong in an instant, and when it does you find yourself plummeting to the ground at an uncontrollable speed. The life span of a wizard dabbling the power of flight is measured in minutes and hours, not days and years.
Falling, however, is something any idiot with a little bit of magic and a shield bracelet can do with aplomb. I propelled myself out of the vertical shaft like a mystical missile, reaching some two stories above the ground to assess my surroundings before releasing the winds and summoning my shield, cushioned with air magic to slow my fall.
A torrent of artillery fire rained down on the point where I’d been, fixed guns along the walls of a high walled fort their apparent point of origin. I landed, ducking into the relative safety of a high wall, removing one of my gloves. Wincing in pain I dug a talon into the meat of my wrist, muttering “Ventas veloche, umbrium, umbrium.”
I repeated the words in a breathless chant, curling fingers towards my palm into a passable imitation of claws. The blood from my palm thickened and gathered into a dense red mass of fog. Propelled by my will the red fog billowed across the area immediately surrounding the well, concealing it from sight and obscuring any infrared sensors they might have had with blood temperature mist.
The staff blasts fired blindly into the mist as it poured towards the fortress parapets, confusing and terrifying the Necropolis Guardsmen with it’s unnatural presence. I created a pocket of obscured vision within the mist as my Jaffa exited the well, rushing over to the wall as I examined our surroundings.
I burrowed a hole into the mist wall with an effort of will, providing a narrow field of vision through which I might observe the chaos around us.
The building housing the orbital defense network was a fortress as formidable as any I’d ever seen. A pentagonal pyramid with jutting triangular bunkers provided uninterrupted fields of fire on all sides. Three sides of the fortress were under siege from at least two distinct fighting forces, what could only be the Serpent Guard and what appeared to be a conglomerated mass of Jaffa wearing the livery of several different gods. The attacking armies were as focused upon shooting each other as they were aiming for the Necropolis Guardsmen in the fortress.
Obviously I hadn’t been the only one to come to the conclusion that taking down the orbital defenses would be my best exist strategy. “Whose forces are those out there fighting the Serpent Guard?”
“I see forces marked with Quetesh, Baal, Molock, and… It can’t be -Pelops?” Xin all but shouted the last name.
“The father of all Jaffa is here?” Ul’tak’s voice took on a reverent tone he usually reserved for myself.
“No… no,” Xin shook his head. I could practically hear the gears in his head working on overtime. “Likely a sub commander. Pelops has been desperate to find a new queen since the destruction of his previous mate. A gathering this large would have been too tempting for him not to send an emissary. Atreus most likely, he gets most of the worst duties since he and Thyestes murdered Chryssippus.”
“Should I be worried about Hades popping up at some point?” I sighed; irritated at the cluster bomb of pantheons I was wading through.
“We should all fear the wrath of Hades, man, Jaffa, and God alike.” Ul’tak whispered the name, intentionally mispronouncing it to further distance himself from the being it was attached to. “He is beyond any of us save the Queens of Sun and Snow.”
Well of course he was. One more thing that goes bump in the night for me to worry about pissing off – great.
“Where’s Netan?” I asked, looking back at the shaft.
“The human’s part of the bargain was met, my Lord Warden. He has returned to his people to prepare for our escape.” Ul’tak smiled. “They would only have slowed us down.”
He was probably right, but I wouldn’t have minded a couple more bodies to help us get across that battlefield. We weren’t going to be able to fight past two full armies of Jaffa. My mist, which surprisingly continued to persist in spite of me not putting any power in to it, was an inefficient decoy at best. It wouldn’t stop a staff-blast, and the Necropolis guardsmen had started launching mortar into the concealed section of ground. Attacking it head on was a non-starter.
“There are better ways to power,” Whispered the breathless voice of the tittering devil in my ear. I felt a bubble of Heka’s knowledge push forward to the front of my consciousness, sanitized of will by Lasciel’s influence. “Provided that one understands how the game is played.”
I smiled as a plan began to form in my mind. “Where are the Goa’uld in charge of that army?”
Xin pursed his lips. “They’ll be as far away from the fighting as they can manage without actually being out of range of the protection of their armies.”
He raised a finger and pointed to a re-enforced stone and steel bunker covered in scorch marks and debris. “There. It’s too far for the fortress to get an effective hit upon them but close enough that the Necropolis guardsmen won’t be able to call in an airstrike.”
“Great,” I nodded, “Follow me and act like you’ve got nothing in the world to worry about.”
“What are you planning?” Xin hissed, ducking beneath a hanging bit of debris as we weaved our way through the cracked and shattered city. He was surprisingly agile for someone of his age, likely a bonus of his Tok’ra heritage.
I leapt up a half story onto the bridge above us before answering, using the wind to lift my staff as I went.
“I would have thought that was obvious.” I laughed, reaching down to help the Tok’ra scale the bridge’s high wall. “We’re about to go in and accept their surrender.”
“What?” Squawked Xin. His grip faltered, dropping him a few inches down my arm before he tightened upon my wrist. I pulled him up to my height as he hissed like a scalded cat, “There is an army of at least ten thousand out there and your plan is to walk into their forward operating base, sidle up to a conclave of Goa’uld and talk them into surrendering?”
“Exactly. They’ll never see it coming.” I nodded. “This will go great, don’t worry about it.”
“Every second I think that you’ve plunged to the depths of insanity you find some new hell to force me into,” Xin pinched the bridge of his nose in apparent pain. “It’s like you’re actually trying to get yourself killed.”
“Nah, this is going to be the easy part.” I smiled, watching as the last of the Jaffa scaled the bridge’s side. “The hard part is going to be talking the Necropolis Guardsmen into opening up the front door.”
“ I – but – what? How? By Egeria’s blood,” Xin dropped his hand in apparent defeat. “I hate you Warden.”
“You wouldn't be the first,” I raised my hand and waved jovially to the Jaffa guards posted at the Jaffa coalition’s flank as they noticed our presence, shouting at the top of my voice. “Good to see you! I was wondering if I might have a word with your masters.”
The Jaffa guards blinked in confusion, looking at each other and back to me. I walked up to the nearest one and slapped him on the shoulder in a paternal gesture of friendship, “Come on. I haven’t got all day. Take me to the Goa’uld running this shindig.”
“We are under orders to keep all enemies away from our lords,” Barked a large and particularly stupid Jaffa marked with a back star in the center of his forehead.
I raised my hand; knocking him on his ass with a blast from the ruby foci, “Let me be clear. The runner who left your group as we approached has doubtless warned them of my coming. There is only one of me and several of them. Their armies surround my handful of Jaffa. I pose no threat on my own. If you try to stop me, any of you still left alive to speak to your masters will suffer their displeasure at having the gall to question your betters. Now take me to your leaders, immediately.”
Either convinced of my logic or unwilling to face the wrath of an angry god, the Jaffa allowed us to pass unmolested into the Goa’uld coalition base. The base itself was really just a glorified shell of concrete around a large amphitheater. A multicolored menagerie of men and women milled about the premises, clustering in groups of two or three to whisper animatedly with each other.
At least sixty sets of glowing eyes greeted me as I waltzed onto the amphitheater. I recognized a couple of them from Sokar’s shindig and I knew that at least some of them recognized me. Whispered murmurs of “Heka” and “Lord Warden” rippled through the crowd in sibilant, metallic frenzy.
At the center of the room stood a man I recognized all too well. It was Baal, the Goa’uld who’d sworn to make me scream for all of eternity. He looked up from a holographic display of the battlefield to sneer in my direction, “Heka? You’re alive. Aziel has lost his touch.”
“After the hole I left in his chest I suspect he lost a whole lot more than that.” I replied, twisting my neck to retract the mask of my armor. “But I suspect you already knew that.”
“Indeed,” Baal’s smooth growl hitched in apparent amusement. “The Lord of Flame’s soldiers were forced to retreat to his stronghold so that they might ensure he reached a sarcophagus. As I understand it they were forced to do so on foot.”
“His ships were blocking my view of the sun,” I poked the hologram with a talon finger, making the hologram shimmer ripple like water. “And he was kind of a jackass.”
“I imagine his wrath will be something marvelous and terrible to behold when he wakes,” Baal’s grin split from ear to ear. “Such a pity.”
“A pity for all of us if we’re still here once Apophis starts getting control of the fleets.” I smiled right on back. “After all, he just likes us all so much.”
“As amusing as watching you two try to measure whose is biggest, can we please skip ahead to the part where you stop threatening each other and just admit that you need each other’s help?” Jibed a familiar woman’s voice. Quetesh the raven haired beauty lounged across a stone bench fiddling with the silver straps of her hand device and watching us with a bored look on her face. “Everyone in this room already knows you’re not going to turn down Heka’s help.”
The inscrutable Lizard-man Ammit chorused her opinions from somewhere to my left. “This is Heka, he wouldn’t have walked into a room full of his rivals if he didn’t have something worth offering. Save us all some time and just ask him why he’s here. “
Baal’s brow twitched in irritation as the various godlings started talking at once. He shouted at the top of his voice, cowing the room with a sonorous “Silence!”
As the gods obeyed his echoing command, turned to me, eyes aglow, and asked, “What is it that you want here, Lord of Magic?”
“I want off this planet. Pronto. I don’t know about the rest of you by my goal #1 is to get away from the crumbling hell planet before whatever fail-safes Sokar left behind start going off. He was a sore loser.” The Goa’uld murmured in agreement. “I have a plan, but I can’t do it without your help. “
“And what, pray tell is your plan.” Baal waved to my cadre. “You’re going to rush them with a handful of Jaffa and crush their fortress? Or perhaps you plan to enact some ritual of the old powers to smite them where they stand?”
“All of you are going to offer me your unconditional surrender then I’m going to walk up to the front door of the fortress, have a short powwow with the base’s commander and get him to turn off the defense grid so that we can all escape.” I replied as though it were the most obvious thing in the world.
“I take it back,” Quetesh interjected. “I should have let you spend more time bickering so that he’d have time to form an actual plan.”
“That is madness,” A man in Spartan armor interjected. “Even if we did offer you our surrender, they’d shoot you on sight.”
“Then you have nothing to lose.” I replied, turning slowly on my heel to address the entire audience of the amphitheater. “Pull back your forces from the fort. Send a transmission to the base that you’re sending over an emissary under a banner of truce and let me try. If they kill me you’d hardly need to honor the terms of your surrender. It’s a win-win. Either you get to escape this planet or you get to watch me die. What do you have to lose?”
“No skin of my back if Heka’s gone senile,” Ammit grunted, “We’ve been at this for hours and I don’t give a damn how that grid goes down – so long as it does.”
“Utter madness,” Baal growled, looking at the amassed Goa’uld in consternation. “And you’re in agreement with this lunacy?”
A chorus of agreement cried out in reply. The gods were restless and eager for the bloody mess to end. Baal shook his head in disbelief, reaching down to manipulate the holographic controls. He tapped the side of his head, activating some sort of implanted communicator. “Call a general retreat, I repeat all Jaffa are to recede to minimum safe distance.” He looked up at me, grinning sharkishly as he took his fingers from his temple. “You have my word that I will inform them of your arrival by the time you reach the gates.”
“And mine that the rest of us will shoot him if he doesn’t,” The gem in Quetesh’s device pulsed twice. The woman had no love for Baal. She would relish the excuse to murder him for such obvious treachery.
I was just going to have to trust that her need for vengeance and desire to get off world would be greater than whatever he offered her after I left the chamber. Ul’tak said nothing as we exited the bunker and headed uphill towards the fortress. He hardly needed to, Xin was a constant stream of incoherent metallic protests. The various permutations of “insane,” and “ill-conceived,” blended together into a singe frustrated stream of consciousness as we walked past tens of thousands of retreating Jaffa.
I recognized the look in their eyes. Hopelessness, I’d seen too much of it since the war with the Vampire Courts started. The Jaffa expected to lose this fight, they were brave but not stupid. “They were planning to die. “
“Likely. Fewer than six hundred will be Jaffa regulars. Sokar didn’t allow any but his most trusted Goa’uld to have standing armies on Delmak.” Ul’tak sighed, eyeing them with pity. “These armies are mostly the Jaffa of defeated or dead gods. The god who they worshipped for their entire lives, if that god still lives, is little more than a shattered madman crushed under the will of Sokar. Many view it as their duty to avenge their fallen gods if they can.”
“It’s common practice for Goa’uld to gain covert among the bitterest of the Jaffa.” Xin agreed, watching as they carried the broken and burned bodies of the fallen. ” For the Tok’ra as well for that matter. I imagine most of them jumped at the chance to go out in a blaze of glory when their new gods demanded it of them.”
“Lets make it so they don’t have to,” I growled, furious at the callous way the old gods had been willing to toss men into the meat grinder. “This whole planet is deadly enough without needing our help.”
A bloodied Jaffa with the emblem of a soaring egret on his forehead put his hand across his breast in the Jaffa salute as we passed, “My lord – apologies, but we have received the general order for retreat.”
“I know,” I smiled at him. “I’m the one who issued it to Baal.”
“Forgive me my lord – I did not know,” His eyes flitted up my armor and across my face, clearly trying to recognize me. I took pity on the guy and offered him my hand, “Warden Dresden.”
“Tek’jan,” Replied the Jaffa, nervously accepting my handshake as a small crowd of Jaffa formed around us. “Formerly in the service of Paoxi, may he last in the stars forever to watch over us.”
“I’m sure he’s proud of you.” I replied politely, looking around at the increasing large cluster of Jaffa forming round us. Men were standing on tiptoe at its edges to see what was going on in the middle. “I’m sure all your gods are proud of all of you for your honor and loyalty.”
The Jaffa beamed at the compliment. I smiled, realizing the sudden opportunity I’d been handed. I continued speaking to my audience as though they were all close friends and honored guests, taking the time to look at each of them and acknowledge them as equals. “Realize that you aren’t retreating in defeat. You’re giving me the chance to guarantee us victory and allow us to escape the Serpent Guard. We will all live this day.“
“In truth?” Tek’jan asked hopefully as he cradled his injured shoulder.
“Absolutely.” I smiled, “Unless they kill me, in which case this battle becomes somebody else’s problem and I’ll be enjoying a relaxing afterlife. After the day I’ve had even hell would be a pleasant vacation by comparison.”
The Jaffa erupted into wild laughter, hooting and hollering in amusement. “Thank you, I’ll be her all – well no, I won’t be here all week. I’ll be gone just as fast as my ship will take me.”
That earned another round of laughter as my Jaffa started up a chant of “Dre’su’den, Dre’su’den, Dre’su’den the Ha’ri”
“Ok people.” I cupped my hands over my mouth, “Make a hole. I’ve got a war to win.”
The sea of Jaffa parted, repeating the chant with greater and greater furor. It spread like wildfire through the Jaffa ranks my retinue and I approached the fortress’ main gate. Five thousand, then ten, then the whole army, all of them chanting in unison “Dre’su’den, Dre’su’den, Dre’su’den the Hari.”
“Murphy isn’t going to believe a word of this when I tell her.” I muttered under my breath. “Hell, I’m not sure I believe it.”
If I managed to pull this off I was going to end up looking awesome. Hell, just imagining how much the chanting had to be putting a burr in Baal’s smarmy ass almost made it worth it even if I didn’t survive.
I strode up to the massive iron and stone doors and knocked twice with my armored fist on a protruding red block of stone. It flashed with each knock, receding into the stone face on invisible hydraulics. We walked though ten feet of solid stone and into a massive atrium. A hundred Jaffa pointed staff weapons at us, ready to kill us at a second’s notice.
The base’s commander, a hard man with battle-scarred red carapace armor and a nasty scar covering the left side of his face, approached me with a drawn blade, “That’s close enough Lord Heka. Our orders are to treat you like a hostile combatant in the event of Lord Sokar’s death, up to an including terminating your life. If you even try to violate customs of diplomatic exchange I see how much a god bleeds before death.”
“Of course,” I nodded in agreement, dropping my staff to the floor and pulling off the armored gloves containing both my Goa’uld foci and shield device. “Ul’tak, no matter what happens you are under orders not to shoot.”
“My Lord?” Ul’tak’s trust in his new god apparently didn’t totally override his common sense.
“Don’t shoot no matter what. And don’t take revenge even if they do kill me. I want you to survive this even if I don’t. The same goes for you Xin.” I tapped the side of my nose. “Have faith Ul’tak. I know what I’m doing.”
“Yes my Lord Warden,” Ul’tak replied in a tone of utter befuddlement.
“Very well,” The Captain replied. “I will hear the terms of your army’s surrender.”
“No,” I replied. “You will not.”
“I will not.” The jaffa Captains exclamation was anything but a question. His lips tightened in anger, clearly readying himself for a fight.
“Warden,” Xin hissed, watching as the Necropolis Guardsmen tensed angrily. “This is seeming less and less like a plan by the moment.”
“Not now Xin,” I shushed the Tok’ra, tapping a finger to my lips before turning back to the Captain. “No, indeed not. You will be hearing the terms of my personal surrender.”
“What?” The Captain tilted his head in confusion. “I don’t understand.”
“I am surrendering under the terms of personal surrender. I am not part of the army currently sieging your fortress, my troops have not aided in the siege of this fort. My surrender to you is thus covered under the terms of general surrender rather than the military codes of conduct.” I smiled brightly. “I demand to be taken to the highest ranking member of Sokar’s inner court to offer my total and unconditional surrender.”
“I don’t know if I can do that.” The Captain blinked. “There aren’t any other members of the inner court currently recognized by Sokar.”
“You – you brilliant damned lunatic!” Xin’s eyes widened as he finally understood. “That is genius.”
“Uh,” Ul’tak shared a baffled look with the Necropolis Guard Captain. “What just happened?”
“The only members of Sokar’s inner court not killed by the destruction of Sokar's flagship were the Warden and the Lord of Flames. Sokar isn’t alive to remove him from the inner court, so criminal or not he’s the only one legally allowed to accept a surrender of this type.” Xin pulled at the roots of his hair. “As the Lord of Flames is currently dead he can’t legally accept the Warden’s surrender – meaning that the only way for the Captain to actually obey his orders is to allow the Warden to surrender to himself.”
“I obviously accept my surrender and pardon myself of any prior wrongdoings. “ I bent down and picked up my staff and gauntlets. I turned to the Jaffa Captain, smiling as I did so. “Do you agree that what was just done was within the boundaries of the Laws of Sokar as they are written?”
“I am bound by the laws of the realm” The Captain replied slowly, as though not entirely sure he wasn’t stuck in a particularly unpleasant dream. “My Lord.”
“Good, then my first act is to accep the total and unconditional surrender of the army outside. Send Baal a communiqué informing him that you have turned over the command of this base to myself.” I smiled at the Necropolis Guard Captain.
“Yes my Lord,” The Captain tapped his wrist device, complying with my orders in baffled obedience.
I flopped down on a stone bench as I considered our next move, looking to Xi and smiling “It’s good to be the king.”
Re: [Dresden Files / Sg-1] God's Eye
Posted: 2014-06-16 06:39pm
There was No Way Harry thought of that himself. That's pure Lash helping him out with that trick.
Still: Dre su den! Dre Su Den! Dre su Den the Ha ri!
Re: [Dresden Files / Sg-1] God's Eye
Posted: 2014-06-18 11:35pm
I would have been lying to say that the look of utter frustration and abject disbelief on Baal’s face wasn’t something I’d treasure. The man’s immaculately trimmed goatee and mustache helped him to articulate the most irritated frown I’d ever seen as he entered my newly conquered fortress.
“How?” Baal stumbled over the word as though trying to say a million things at once. It was an order, not a question – one that I had no intention of indulging. “Just – how?”
“Well,” Lasciel’s voice snorted in my ear. “Someone hasn’t been letting his defeat at Mt. Carmel damage his ego.”
I snorted, resisting the urge to repeat the Angel’s insult, “Trade secret.”
"Baal, my dear." Quetesh giggled, sidling up to wrap her arm around mine. “I suppose he’s just better than you are.” She played with a dangling scrap of shredded leather duster hanging off my arm. My ensorcelled coat sparked under her fingertips where it touched her foci, reacting to it’s inherent magic. “In so many interesting ways.”
I allowed Quetesh to continue snuggling up to me. If nothing else it would keep Baal too angry to focus on thwarting my plans. And it wasn’t really like the goddess was a threat to me. After dealing with the white court it practically felt like the woman was telegraphing her moves. Pretty though she was, Quetesh was no Lara Raith. A little giggle there, a straying hand here, and even the slightest hint of flesh – freaking amateur hour.
I gently removed her from my arm as we entered the fortress’ largest room, planting a gentle kiss upon her flingers that made her blush as I eyed the gods surrounding me. Hell, why couldn’t I get normal human women to blush like that when I met them?
“Most women you meet do not see you as their literal path to salvation – fewer still watch you conquer an army with a handful of men and a few words.” Lash laughed heartily, a sound that rang slightly with the sound of distant bells. “I hardly wonder why approaching women in that dilapidated excuse for a vehicle, wearing a t-shirt and sweatpants, and carrying a half-eaten bag of Burger King does not showcase the best of your abilities.”
“I’ll have you know that I’m considered debonair by many.” I interjected jovially, only realizing after speaking that I had just unintentionally flirted with Quetesh.
“I shall bear it in mind Warden.” She chuckled throatily, purring the my title with apparent sexual fervor. The raven haired beauty bit her lip as she smiled, eyes twinkling with the promise of sex.
I swallowed the sudden jolt of interest from below the waist. Not now, I willed in its direction, down hormones, down. Ok – no Laura, but who the hell was? I reminded myself of the laundry list of reasons why sleeping with the evil space god was a bad idea as I turned to the crowd.
I could taste the Baal’s eyes glowing balefully at my skull as I prepared to address the pantheon at my disposal. They all shared the same look of confusion and fear – terrified of whatever it was that I'd done to conquer the fortress in only a few minutes. Hell, if I was honest I could barely believe that I’d pulled it off.
It was probably not a good idea to let them know. A wizard’s greatest tool wasn’t the magic he actually could do, it was the powers everyone else feared he might be able to do. It’s one of the reasons wizards were so damned secretive. The more power the creatures that went bump in the night feared we had, the less likely they were to actually start any trouble.
And stars and stones was I standing in a room full of potential trouble.
I had the Captain’s promise that neither he nor his men would admit the specifics of my rise to power. While Ul’tak assured me that I could trust in the honor of a Jaffa implicitly, it was best to get my business off world before an “honorable” Jaffa spoke behind closed doors with a “less than honorable” one. Jaffa weren’t human, but they were still just folks. It would only take one fresh-faced recruit for the cat to get out of the bag.
The fortress rumbled with the sound of distant artillery striking fortified walls. Apophis forces, realizing that the Goa’uld coalition broke the Sokar partisan’s lines, seemed to have decided that if they couldn’t control the fort nobody would. I looked at the Necropolis Guard Captain, “You’re sure your troops can hold them off.”
Captain Rostam cleared his throat, a growling sound full of smoke and phlegm, “They will obey.”
“Not really what I asked. I was hoping for a timeline for how long they’re going to be able to do that,” I looked to Ul’tak for clarification.
“If I were sieging this fortress with that many men and heavy support, I suspect it would last thirty minutes to an hour. Fewer if I could get in an air strike.” Ul’tak smiled at the scandalized look on Rostam’s face.
“I would make you bleed for a century before I let you have an inch of ground,” The Captain snarled.
“Oh for the love of – same side people, same freaking side – we have waaaayyyy too many people already trying to kill us.” I massaged my temple as I extricated my arm from Quetesh’s grip. “I’m going to just go with an hour.”
I looked to Xin, yelling across the room to where he stood next to a computer bank. “Is an hour enough time?”
“Warden I will have this system on its knees in five minutes.” Xin rejoined, fiddling with the runes across the screen. “Just tell me when to go.”
I cupped my hands to address the group of gods, “Ok people, it’s t-minus five to beer-o’clock and I’m fixing to be the hell off this planet sooner rather than later. My plan is – ”
“And who says that we’re going with your plan?” One of the Goa’uld interjected. “I am more than capable of – ”
I shot him with my Zat and continued as though I hadn’t been interrupted, “As I was saying, my plan is to take down the defense grid for the southern region of the planet. Each of you will get a cargo ship or Alkesh from those in Rostam’s fleet. When the grid goes down we each go our separate ways, heading in as many different directions as possible to stop anyone from following.”
“And what will you be doing while we flee?” Baal snorted. “Protecting us? No – we will each take a Ha’tak to defend ourselves.”
“Yeah – I’m gonna go with a hard no on that one Ghost Rider. I’m going to be loading as many civilians as I can on to Ha’tak before booking it the hell out of here.” I looked around the room. “Look people, I know it isn’t ideal but you’ve got two options. Option “a” you get a ship and have a chance or option “b” take your chances with Apophis.”
I used an effort of illusion to make my staff glow green in imitation of what I’d seen Aziel’s staff do earlier that day. I’m terrible with illusion magic, but “glowing” wasn’t precisely brain surgery. “Unless someone wants to try option “c” and see if they’re capable of taking this fortress from me in a fair fight.”
“Ha,” Barked Ammit in amused laughter, whispering to the man in the front row next to him just loud enough for me to make it out. “Like anyone’s stupid enough for that.”
“I – see the wisdom of your plan,” Baal eyed the glowing light with envy bordering on obsession. “We will consent to your terms.”
“I would like to continue traveling with you, my Lord Warden,” Quetesh whispered breathily, licking her lips.
“I am forced to decline for your safety, my lady.” I smiled conciliatorily. “Whichever ship I am on will inevitably be the target of our enemy fleets. I must be the last ship to leave.”
“Surely you don’t intend to stay?” Quetesh squawked, her eyes flashing. “It would be suicide!”
“I made a promise. I intend to keep it.” I looked around the room at the Goa’uld. “Well? What are you waiting for? It’s first come, first serve on the ships and I know there aren’t enough cloaking device equipped ships for all of you.”
There was a minor stampede as the gods pushed, kicked, and shoved their way out of the room, rushing towards the fortress’ tarmac. Quetesh looked longingly at me as she scurried out the door after the other Jaffa, hiking up her skirts as she went. When the dust settled, only two remained. Ammit and a Goa’uld I did not recognize.
“You’d better go now if you want to get one of the good ones,” I offered. “I ordered my Jaffa to stop them from killing each other but I’m pretty sure you’re not going to want to be last.”
“You kidding me Heka? I’m not leaving.” The shark-faced Ammit snorted. “This is the most fun I’ve had in centuries. I don’t know what you have planned next but there is no way I’m going to be hearing about it second hand.”
“And if I don’t want to take you with me?” I sighed.
“I dunno – you think you’re going to be faster than the million Hok’taur I ripped in half and ate back on the first world?” He smiled, exposing rows of jagged fangs. “I figure you toss me around the room a couple times, maybe even get in a couple zat-shots before I get in close and gut you through that pretty armor of yours. ”
He barked off a hissing trill of laughter, “Or you be friends. You take me with you, get me to safety and I forget that you’ve won the interest of my woman. We might even be allies if you allow me safe harbor in your realm.”
“Just – call me Harry ok? Harry, not Heka.” I sighed. I didn’t have time to fight him as well as every other damned thing I would need to accomplish in the next couple hours. “Warden Dresden if you can’t do Harry – just not Heka.”
“Really? Going with a new mantle?” Ammit snorted. “Well, you know the benefits better than I. If you think it helps you, I can handle a new name.”
I looked to the other god, “I’m guessing you’re planning on hitching a ride as well.”
“Your appeal to the selfish nature of the gods was well judged,” The man garbed in the boiled leathers of a Spartan nodded in respect. “But the children of Pelops do not fear combat, nor do we think in the short term. A god of your stature does not trap himself in a situation without chance of victory. Given the choice between running with my tail between my legs and perhaps being able to present my father with a military victory against Apophis – it is better to risk my own demise.”
I tilted my head, wondering if their offers were genuine. Lash sighed, “You have several million Jaffa at your disposal. There are two of them and you’re a Wizard. Just take them and if they get any smart ideas – shoot them.”
“Speaking of which,” I used my foot to prod the unconscious body of the Goa’uld I’d shot with the Zat. “Anyone know who the hell this is?”
“I believe that would be Enlil.” The Greek god squinted, adjusting his helmet as he knelt. “Yes, it is he.”
“Pick him up,” I sighed. “I’m not going to leave him here for Apophis’ troops.”
“No wonder he tried mouthing off,” Ammit hefted the unconscious god over his shoulders. “Poor bastard spent centuries earning his way back into a pantheon only to have it disappear in an instant.”
“We getting any closer on the whole ‘computer’ thing Xin?” I yelled. “I want to issue the order for all Jaffa to fall back to the Ha’taks sooner rather than later.”
“It will take as long as it takes Warden!” Growled Xin in reply.
“Who is that?” Ammit asked, eyeing Xin through slit pupils.
“My Tok’ra,” I replied. “He followed me home so I decided to keep him.”
“Warden!” Xin growled furiously, “I am not in the habit of just broadcasting that to everyone who wanders past.”
“He’s housebroken but he tends to bark a lot,” I whispered to the Goa’uld. “I think it’s time to take him in to have the snip.”
“An absolute madman,” Xin continued to work on the computers, reflexively touching his Zat-gun as he went.
“Where did you even find one of those slippery bastards? Let alone talk him into helping you.” Ammit’s eyes bulged. “Netu – Heka, Warden… you didn’t…”
“Are you asking if I was crazy enough to blow up a ship I was still inside of?” I smiled dangerously. “If I’m mad enough to walk into an enemy fortress with a few Jaffa and walk out a king? If I am willing to use any resources at my disposal to win? If I am willing to do what it takes to rule?”
Thank God for untrustworthy megalomaniacs. Power hungry lunatics can’t imagine anyone who isn’t equally interested in power and wealth. It didn't matter that I wasn’t willing to blow up a moon and screw over and entire planet’s worth of people just to kill one man, they were. Because I could have destroyed the moon, I must have destroyed the moon – logic be damned.
“Don’t do anything to my Tok’ra.” I waved in Xin’s direction. “I like him.”
“Stop telling people that.” Xin walked way from the control panel, his Zat in hand. “We have five minutes before the network comes down. Maybe six before Apophis and Aziel’s forces realize they can take off. We’d better make those minutes count.”
I turned to Captain Rostam, “Are your men ready to retreat to the Ha’tak?”
“Ready, though not altogether willing,” Rostam replied. “They don’t like the idea of losing a battle.”
“They aren’t losing. They’re stopping the enemy from winning.” I tapped the side of my nose. “Once we get into orbit just bombard the fortress so they can’t have it.”
“And the Jaffa army as well I assume?” Rostam smiled eagerly. “Yes – I understand. I will issue the order immediately. We will make the serpents rue the day they came to Delmak.”
He indulged in a disturbing cackle of sadistic glee as he walked into the ring-room, disappearing in a flash of light.
“That guy has issues,” I looked at Ul’tak. “Major issues.”
“It is to be suspected,” Ul’tak shrugged, “The Necropolis Guard were selected primarily upon their skill and enjoyment of inflicting pain upon enemy soldiers.”
“And the Jaffa of Heka,” I queried. “What were they selected based upon?”
“Their natural resistance to spell craft, of course.” Ul’tak smiled. “We are each bred fir and trained in the ways of defeating mind-arts and lesser devilries. In our blood is the strength of the gods, the will to resist the whims of Sun, Snow, Shadow and Pandemonium.”
That was news. It made sense though, the Goa’uld were terrified of fairies and had some knowledge of magic. Logic dictated that they’d engineer their soldiers to fight what they feared most. So they wrapped their soldiers in chainmail, made their weapons with iron, and trained the Jaffa to resist mind magic. Heka, the most knowledgeable in the arts of magic, would obviously have devoted the most resources to that task.
Come to think of it, had Ul’tak even noticed my illusion beforehand? Rostam and the other Necropolis Guardsmen had reacted in similar fear to the Goa’uld but none of my Jaffa had even batted an eyelash. Just one more reason to like the big lugs.
I tapped my wrist device twice, activating the glowing orange light “Bob – can you hear me?”
“Loud and clear boss,” Bob replied. “Your Jaffa have got this ship full of every man, woman, and child they could stuff inside the ship. I can feel them all. It kind of tickles.”
“Way too much information buddy,” I snorted. “When the network comes down I need you to get into orbit immediately.”
“You’re about to do something stupid aren’t you? Something that I’m dragged along for – again.” Bob kvetched.
“You know me so well,” I replied. “I’ll see you in five.”
“Try not to get us killed,” The spirt groaned. “I’m just starting to get used to being worshipped by slaves. It’s highly underrated.”
“By who?” I replied.
“You mostly,” My advisor snorted. “You’ll do something foolish like giving them rights or introducing them to modesty. I swear you’re hardly getting this whole ‘god’ thing at all.”
“Just fly the ship,” I deactivated the device, shaking my head in irritation.
“That was the language of the Tau’ri,” The Greek god stated as a matter of fact. “I recognize it, the one called O’Neill speaks it. Our Jaffa have been learning it to better interrogate their soldiers.”
“The one who speaks it is infinitely worse than whatever ally you fear he has made,” Xin interjected. “We should be so lucky as to have him allied with Stargate Command. No, the Lord Warden has far more terrifying allies.”
“I did not ask you, creature,” The Greek God’s eyes flashed. “Do not speak in my presence. Were you not the plaything of the Warden I would have you gutted and hung from the rafters.”
“Bingo,” I replied, watching the timepiece count down from three minutes.
“Bingo?” Ammit asked.
“It was either going to be that, ‘you’ll rue the day’ or ‘I’ll get you next time’ which got the five in a row on my ‘evil space god’ bingo sheet.” I rolled my eyes. “Come on. I’m sure you can threaten to kill each other just as well on the ship.”
The gods, Xin, the Jaffa, and I all stood at the center of the ring platform before being whisked into the stars in a pocket of shimmering light. The ship was as I remembered it, gaudy and covered floor to ceiling in hieroglyphs. It was a bit more crowded than I recalled. Humans scurried out of our path as we walked, it seemed like the entire population of Delmak had been pushed into the corridors of my flagship. Mostly women and children, they averted their eyes and spoke in fearful tones – terrified to be so close to the gods.
“Don’t suppose you’re planning to share your take?” Ammit queried, eyeing the humans with obvious hunger. “Perhaps one of the smaller ones?”
“Ammit, if you ever even hint that you’re planning to eat a human – especially a human in my care – I will kill you without a moment’s hesitation.” I said in a voice of pure ice. “I will immolate you from the inside out and dance on your charred ashes.”
“A simple no would have sufficed,” Ammit snorted. “You always were protective of what was ‘yours,’ weren’t you? I swear you are more bull-headed than any combination of the other gods put together.”
“You are more correct than you could possibly imagine,” Xin pinched the bridge of his nose. “Blood of Egeria – I’m agreeing with a Goa’uld.”
“I’m walking with a Tok’ra. We’re all making sacrifices.” Replied the Greek god. “I’m curious to see these allies.”
Xin grinned, “Be careful what you wish for Atreus. You just might get it.”
“Your pet speaks to me Warden.” The Greek god’s hand flexed, clearly itching to draw his gladius. “I can amend that if you wish.”
“You’re welcome to try – I doubt you’d manage to fight through every Jaffa on this ship when I order them to cut off your head, I’m not sure if you’d get past Ul’tak, but I’ve been wrong before.” He withered under my most wizardly glare. “Care to try it?”
“I will tolerate the yapping of your creature,” The Greek god sighed in a world weary way. “If you insist.”
“I do,” I rounded the corner, walking through the doors of the ship’s bridge. Bob the skull sat upon a high throne in the center of the room, surrounded by a shimmering blue wall of energy – a force field. I smiled, “Getting a bit paranoid are we?”
The skull’s glowing eye-lights looked up from where they’d been manipulating the ship’s computers, rolling exasperatedly in a circle. “Are you kidding me boss? I’m not taking any chances that another whacked out power hungry bozo is going to get the drop on me. Cowl was enough for a lifetime.”
“Fair point,” I turned to the pair of befuddled Goa’uld. “Sorry guys, allow me to introduce Bob. Bob is my spiritual advisor, in every possible sense of the word.”
“I would very much like to be elsewhere now.” Atreus said in a very small whisper, his eyes growing wide as dinner plates. “May I please be elsewhere?”
“Warden… the Tok’ra was one thing, I get that they have their uses, but this – this is – by Apep, this is beyond reason.” Ammit shuddered as Bob’s glowing presence flitted from the skull, tendrils of magic probing the ship’s systems. “How did you even find it?”
“I have my ways,” I shrugged. “Bob is bound to me. He has no choice but to follow my every command to the letter.”
“Ja whol,” Bob jibed sarcastically. “Boss we’ve got incoming. Ships - a lot of ships.”
“The Jaffa fleet or the Goa’uld escaping?” I looked out the view screen.
“Neither.” Bob tapped his lower jaw on the chair pensively. “I’m not sure who they are exactly. It’s a ton – like waaaayyy too many - cargo ships and a couple Alkesh. They’re hailing us.”
“Put it onscreen,” I replied, smiling as a familiar face appeared onscreen. “Ah, Netan. I was wondering when you’d call.”
“It is,” The crime lord replied. “We aren’t friends after this Warden. I know you only helped me because it served your goals. You weren’t sad to do it, but let’s not think this makes you in my camp.”
“Wouldn’t dream of it,” I put my fist over my heart in the Jaffa salute. “Take care of yourself Netan.”
“And you Warden,” Netan bowed slightly. “I mean you know disrespect but I hope to never see you again.”
“You wouldn’t be the first,” I sighed, “End the transmission Bob.”
“Aye, aye captain,” Bob replied. “I’ve got early reports of enemy movement. Apophis took the capitol fleet and has mobilized it to engage. They will be upon us imminently.”
“Where is the rest of the fleet,” I asked, feeling my inner nine year old squealing with glee at being able to utter that phrase.
“Rostam’s ships are in the air and ready to head for your territory.” Bob replied. “Looks like you managed to pick up the majority of the coalition Jaffa troops as well. I don't know what you did down there boss, but the muscle seemed to like it.”
“I speak fluent goon,” I replied. “Let’s blow this popsicle stand.”
“Got it boss,” Bob replied. “The fleet is in position. Ready to go on your order.”
“Make it so,” I smiled, resting my hand on the command console victoriously as I watched the dozens of newly allied Ha’tak and Alkesh zooming out into the blackness of space. I watched and I watched as the moments dragged on and on. When it had finally been a full minute since the last of the ships sped into the horizon I barked, “Take us to warp Bob. Those ships in the distance are getting a lot closer than I’d care for.”
“Gimme a minute boss,” Bob replied, a worried edge to his voice. “Something’s not quite – huh.”
“Not quite what Bob?” I groaned. Why did nothing ever just go right?
“Uh, we don’t have hyperspace capability any more.” Bob replied in confusion. “The core just jettisoned.”
“What did you do Bob?” I growled.
“Nothing! One second they were there, working right as rain, the next ‘poof’ they’re shooting out into space.” Bob’s eyes flickered through the computers. “I didn’t do anything.”
“Check the incoming transmissions,” Xin replied from a console to the view screen. “It looks like someone sent a remote code from the planet’s surface. There must have been an intentional defect built into the flagship.”
“Aziel,” Ammit growled. “The bastard must be out of his sarcophagus.”
“We need to get out of here,” Atreus’ eyes flashed in fury. “Get the hyperdrive back online.”
“How?” Xin asked in resigned amusement. “They ejected the entire core. There isn’t a backup for that – nobody carries one, it’s easier to just travel to a planet with a Stargate and send for one than it is to devote cargo space to a replacement part.”
“We have to do something,” The Greek deity hissed. “Flagship or not there are hundreds of Ha’tak bearing down on us. We can’t outrun them at impulse power and couldn’t hope to beat them in a stand up fight even if the Jaffa fleet were still with us.”
I slammed my staff on the floor, cracking the butt of it against the metal of the deck. “Shut up, all of you – I’m thinking.”
Dying here on the ass end of space was not in the cards for me today, but I didn’t know quite how yet. I couldn’t just make there be another hyperdrive. I wasn’t going to be able to cast a spell that killed a fleet of starships. I supposed I could take some people into the Nevernever, but I had no idea where we would end up. Even if it opened up to somewhere relatively safe, I wasn’t going to be able to take everyone with me.
Wait – that was exactly what I could do. My staff clicked against the metal of the floor again as an idea hit me. “Bob, the metal that they made my staff out of, the stuff that’s in my blood – what was it called?”
“Naquadah, Harry,” Bob replied in exhaustion. “Now is hardly the time for a lesson in the periodic table.”
“Bear with me – the metal they made my staff out of, Naquadah. It is it used to make the ship isn’t it?” I queried, thinking back to the various runes and symbols across the ship. “So this whole ship is basically one giant magical conduit.”
“Yes,” Bob replied. “Wait – Harry you aren’t planning to do what I think you are – are you? Because that is a terrible idea.”
“Can it be done?” I asked.
“I suppose, but you’d have to use yourself as the conduction point.” Bob hissed. “Remember the whole ‘not exploding’ thing we talked about earlier?”
“I know that I couldn’t power the spell on my own,” I replied, “But could it be powered by the reactor of a starship?”
“It can but – Oh no Boss,” Bob groaned. “No, no, no – don’t do it. This is a bad idea to beat all bad ideas.”
“Nobody ever accused me of being the clever one in this outfit,” I smiled, reaching my hands into the command console and focusing my magic towards the ship as I might towards any other foci. It was my ship, my adoptive home – I had a connection to it.
I felt like an ant reaching out to carry a boulder as I tried to even sense the presence of it, there was just so much – too much. A trickle of blood ran down my nose as I reached out with my magic to the deep well of power within it – the blindingly bright light of the reactors. I spread the brightness across the boulder, enveloping it within its luster as I intoned, “Aparturum – maximo aparturum.”
A shimmering white line rent through the void of space like an angry scar, our door to the Nevernever. “Go! Go now Bob.”
We sped through the ocean of stars, claxon screeching as enemy fire collided with our shields. Bob spun and weaved the ship to confuse and evade their weapon’s fire as the Jaffa replied in kind from their weapons counsels. The loud “vwuup – chash” of cannon fire echoed through the ship.
“The anomaly is closing,” A Jaffa interjected. “Twelve kilometers per second.”
“We’ll make it.” I interjected.
“Apophis’ forces appear to be accelerating,” Ammit interjected. “They’re ignoring all other ships in the system. Apophis appears to be rather cross with you Warden.”
“You don’t say,” Xin snorted. “I wonder how that happened.”
“Come on,” I growled as we grew closer, talking to the ship “Just a little bit farther – just a little bit farther. Hold it together girl.”
“We’ve got thirty more ships appearing from the z axis sir,” Ul’tak interjected. “Eta-20 seconds.”
“Brace yourself,” I smiled as the view screen filled with the white scar of the portal. “This is going to be a hell of a ride.”
We slipped past the horizon of the way just before it closed, zipping into the Nevernever with surprising ease. We did not, however, show up alone. Two of Apophis’ Ha’tak and a half dozen Al’kesh swooped in with us, just making it as the space between spaces slammed closed. A ball of fire erupted from where a Ha’tak was sliced in half, sheared between this world and the next.
“The fleet his hailing us.” Bob interjected. “They’ve ceased firing.”
“If they want to talk, then by all means talk,” Ammit growled. “They’re not shooting while they’re talking.
We were in a honeycomb of caves too large to believe illuminated by what appeared to be suns trapped within gems of immeasurable size and clarity. Floating planes of land rotated about the gems, dotted with forests, trees, mountains and fluffy tufts of cloud. It was neither the worst part of the Nevernever I’d been in nor the strangest. It would do for my needs.
Hopefully the general strangeness of being in the Nevernever would goad them into cooperation.
I nodded. “Do it Bob.”
The view screen shimmered, revealing the terrified face of a lesser goa’uld. His eyes flashed silver “Where have you taken us? What manner of terrible place is this?”
“Not sure yet.” I replied honestly, “The Nevernever is a big place.”
“What?” The Goa’uld hissed.
“I believe you call them the ‘Kingdoms of Sun and Snow.”
“You will take us back immediately! You will take us back or die.” The godling howled in something resembling terror.
I rolled my eyes. “Yeah, no. You see if you kill me then you’re never going to get back at all. So here’s what’s going to happen, you’re going to - ” I paused, confused by a sudden noise - a howling screech that sounded somewhere between a lion’s roar and a blender.
“What was that?” Asked the Goa’uld.
“That,” I replied in a voice of resigned acceptance of just how much it sucks to be me, “Was the hunting cry of a Dragon. I think we’re in one of their breeding grounds.”
A fact I confirmed as several million similar hunting cries hissed across the void, as an angry presence howled into my very soul, "You do not belong in the dominion of Ferrovax."
Re: [Dresden Files / Sg-1] God's Eye
Posted: 2014-06-19 06:23am
Every chapter just gets better and better.
Are you ever going to give Harry a break, or is it always going to be a case of "the only easy day was yesterday"
Re: [Dresden Files / Sg-1] God's Eye
Posted: 2014-06-19 07:48am
Well, to be honest that's usually how Harry's misadventures tend to go. He generally doesn't get any breaks until everything's said and done. And sometimes not even then.