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7.

A few hours after Sam and the others had set up camp near the ruins - an area of little interest to the inhabitants of the planet as well as to the Lucian Alliance - they were contacted by communicator by Vala. She reported that the Jaffa working for Tikna had now arrived and were attacking the palace.

She and her group had decided it was too dangerous to stay, and had escaped to their Teltac. They would be leaving the planet soon. The Jaffa were a very large group and they were taking the direct route. The local leader, Refan, had told them he would not allow them to search the palace. They had killed him immediately and now fought the rest of the people from the Lucian Alliance. It would probably not be long before the survivors were forced to make a deal with the Jaffa.

"How long do you think it'll take them to search the place?" Daniel wondered when Vala had ended the communication.

"Depends. It's doubtful they have as good a scanner as we have, so they'll probably have to search the palace manually. They also do not know the place. However, if they are as many as Vala thinks, then it won't take them long," Sam answered, thoughtfully.

"Question is, will they be coming here next?" O'Neill said.

Sam considered it. "They may. It's not the first place they'll look after they finish in the palace, since they don't know the planet, but they'll soon realize there are few other places that makes sense as a hiding place. The caves and mountains are not stable enough. A landslide following heavy rain - which is common in many places around here - would endanger the stasis jar. It has to be in a safe place, and the palace and the ruins are in some of the only really stable areas."

"Okay. How long, then?" O'Neill demanded.

"I'd say a day, at most," Sam told him.

"Then we start at dawn - and I guess you better leave that damn thing on." He pointed to the memory recall device. "You mentioned Jolinar had searched the ruins - we'll need any help we can get. If you can deduce the most likely places from her memories, then I'll take that."


The next day they began searching through the ruins. The field was extensive, and they quickly realised it would easily take them a week to go through, even under the best of circumstances.

"Carter - any idea where to look? Because otherwise we won't have a chance in Hell of finding the snake before the area is crawling with Jaffa," O'Neill said.

"Sorry, sir. Except for a vague feeling I may have been here before, nothing rings a bell."

"Okay. We'll have to do this the hard way, then. Daniel, Carter, any suggestions? Or do we just start from one end and work our way through - and hope we get lucky and find snakey in a jar before the other guys?"

"Perhaps over there?" Daniel pointed at some mostly-whole buildings near a group of trees.

"Why not." O'Neill shrugged and began walking, the others following.


They had searched for most of the day without finding anything. No one had disturbed them, or even passed by, except for a few of the local inhabitants. They had barely spared a glance at the people studying the ruins, used as they were to one leader or another ruling over them. To them there was little difference between Apophis, Zipacna - or the Lucian Alliance.

Now it was almost evening and the sun would be setting in a few hours.

Sam and the others had not found the stasis jar yet, nor did they even have an idea where it could be. It would soon be too dark to continue the search, and tomorrow, at the latest, the Jaffa would almost certainly show up.

They had been searching through a part of the ruins where the buildings were reasonably whole, passing over those completely in ruins, on the theory they would have been destroyed long before any Goa'uld had hid anything there.

"Wait, Sam's not with us!" Daniel suddenly observed.

O'Neill sighed and turned around, looking about for her. They soon spotted her some 80-90 feet away, behind a large group of bushes. She was slowly wandering further away.

"That damn recall device!" O'Neill exclaimed.

"Sam!" Daniel called, as they hurried towards her.

She slowly turned around and looked at them, a distant expression on her face. Slowly, her focus returned, as if from far away.

"Carter?" O'Neill asked.

"I have been here before..." She shook her head. "I mean, Jolinar has been here before. I see her, with Egeria... and several other Tok'ra."

She walked towards some ruins that were almost completely overgrown.

"You're remembering something we can use?" O'Neill wondered.

"Yes..." Sam looked at the mixture of rubble and plants. "I believe there is a secret hiding place here, a place where Jolinar, Egeria, and a few other Tok'ra once hid."

"Wouldn't that place only have been known to them, though?" Daniel said, joining Sam in her search.

"Maybe someone found it? I don't remember if Jolinar and the others were detected."

O'Neill helped them search as well, and about an hour later, when the sun was just setting, Sam found the entrance. It was so well hidden that she would likely not have found it, had she not suddenly recognized the place.

She ran her scanner over it. "Remarkable! It is completely shielded - no energy signatures at all, despite the fact that I know there's naquadah powered technology down there!"

"Doesn't that also guarantee no one else has found it?" O'Neill asked.

Sam nodded, looking defeated. "I suppose so, sir."

"Uh, guys?" Daniel said.

"What now?" O'Neill turned to see what it was Daniel was looking at. "Ah... damn!"

Sam looked up and saw them as well. "Jaffa!"

They crouched down behind the bushes.

"Yeah, and we have no where to go or hide!" O'Neill hit his communicator. "Malek? You had better be up there!"

"General, we cannot lower the shields to transport you up at the moment," Malek said. "We are under attack by four Ha'tak!"

"Ha'tak?! The Jaffa brought that kind of firepower and no one told me?!" O'Neill complained. "Or did the Lucian Alliance send them?"

"The Lucian Alliance had sent one, which was quickly destroyed. Three of those in orbit belongs to the Jaffa, one of them to Tikna. He has told me in no uncertain terms what he thinks of me for flying a human ship and serving in their fleet... be that as it may, we had not expected this kind of resistance."

"You need to get us out of here!" O'Neill insisted.

"We are doing our best!"

They heard some shuffling and another voice came to the microphone. "This is Mitchell. General, he's right. We'll call you as soon as we can lower the shields."

O'Neill sighed. "It better be soon - or our asses will be toast!" He shut off the communicator. "Damn!"

The bushes they hid behind would not provide cover for much longer, and there were no other places to hide nearby, as the ruins in this area was mere rubble. The Jaffa were many, and there was no was they would miss finding Sam, Daniel, and O'Neill.

"We can hide down there," Sam said in a low voice and pointed at the entrance to the hide-out Jolinar and Egeria had used so long ago.

"And get trapped down there!" O'Neill sighed. "But I guess it's the only option. We'll just have to hope the Jaffa don't find the entrance, and then wait them out."

"We wouldn't have noticed it if Sam hadn't remembered its presence and location," Daniel reminded him. "And maybe Malek can beam us out from down there?"

"I doubt that, due to the shielding," Sam said.

"Well we don't have a lot of other options. Come on, guys!"

Sam opened the door and they hurried down the stairs, the door beginning to close behind them. It did not close completely, though, as O'Neill noticed when the turned to look.

"Carter - the door!"

Sam gazed in horror at the small opening still visible. She ran back up the stairs. "It's stuck - on something." She crouched down to take a look.

She fiddled with it for a moment, then it slid the rest of the way closed. She ran down the stairs and joined the others.

"Good job. What was wrong?" O'Neill asked.

"A damn rock! It was stuck on a damn rock!" Sam exclaimed. "Worse, I think one of the Jaffa saw the door slide shut. We should hurry and see what we can find. I think maybe there's a back door somewhere."

"There better be!" O'Neill said with empathy.

"Well, perhaps the Jaffa can't open the entrance?" Daniel suggested.

"They'll just blow it up, you know that! Now move it!" He grabbed Daniel's arms and pushed him ahead to make him run, as they hurried deeper into the corridors.

They weaved through several tunnels, checking the few rooms they passed for anything useful.

"It's not constructed using Tok'ra crystals," Daniel observed, slightly out of breath.

"No, this place was built before that invention," Sam answered.

All rooms they had looked at had contained little except a bed, a table, a chair, and a few assorted items. It was obviously personal quarters.

"Where's that backdoor?" O'Neill demanded.

"Sorry, sir. I just don't remember. I also thought there should be some weapons down here," Sam said.

They continued searching, finally getting to a room Sam recognized as having been Jolinar's.

"Looks nothing special," O'Neill said, glancing around the small quarters. "And she was a System Lord!"

"Former System Lord! She was Tok'ra!" Sam pointed out, as she searched through the room. Suddenly, as if on a spur of the moment, she turned around and went to the wall on the left, just beside the bed.

She stared, as if transfixed, on a spot that to Daniel and O'Neill looked identical to the rest of the wall. Then she stretched out both hands and pressed two points simultaneously.

A low humming could be heard, and a crack appeared, then the door to a hidden cupboard swung open.

"Neat! What's in there?" O'Neill wondered.

"Some of my personal items." Sam blushed and for the umptenth time considered ripping out the memory recall device. "Some of Jolinar's personal things were here, as well as some data crystals with important intel and other things."

She opened the small door completely and peered inside. She gasped.

"What is it?" Daniel stepped closer, trying to see over her shoulder.

"Um, it still just a few personal items. Some of them were just pretty important to Jolinar. She must have had to leave quickly, or she would have brought them with her."

Sam took out a small jewelry box, which she put on the bed, then took out a few other things. A small vase, a figurine, and a reading tablet. She then removed a box of data crystals from the cupboard and added it to the pile on the bed.

"So... just stuff? Old junk?" O'Neill shrugged.

"Oh, I wouldn't say that!" Daniel fingered the vase and the figurine. "These are exquisite!"

"And mine, so be nice to them," Sam said, a warning in her voice, as she reached into the cupboard again. She saw what looked like another compartment, something which was verified when she touched it and it opened.

"Yours!" O'Neill snorted. "I think it's time for you to take that memory recall thingie off! Not that you aren't welcome to the junk, of course." He rolled his eyes. "But if there isn't anything more useful in there, perhaps we should continue?"

"Whoa!" Sam carefully took something out and held it before her.

"A stasis jar!" Daniel exclaimed.

"Do you think that thing is, uh, inhabited?" O'Neill looked at it with some concern.

"I'm sure it is - it's sealed." Sam looked closely at it.

"You think that's the queen Tikna is after?" Daniel asked. "Do you remember?"

"Well, no idea. I'm sure this stasis jar wasn't here when Jolinar lived here," Sam insisted.

"I thought you said no one could find this place?" O'Neill said.

"I... didn't think they could. I don't think so."

"Then... how?" Daniel asked.

Sam thought about it after carefully putting the stasis jar on the floor. "The only explanation must be that someone who was here with Jolinar went back later." She shrugged off her backpack and began putting Jolinar's things into it.

"Any idea who? Or why?" O'Neill asked, just as they heard a loud, but muted thump.

"Oh, no!" Sam said.

"Dammit! The Jaffa did see the door close - and have given up on trying to open it, so they're trying to blow a hole. Any idea how long it will hold?" O'Neill asked.

They heard another explosion, sharper this time, and everything shook slightly. Some dirt drizzled to the floor.

"Not long!" Sam closed the backpack and threw it back on her shoulders before grabbing the stasis jar. "We'd better get out of here!"

"How!?" Daniel exclaimed.

I think I remember where the secret door is!" Sam began walking, then half-running as another explosion was heard.

The others followed quickly.

Sam entered a room at the far end of the corridor, put down the stasis jar, and started searching the opposite wall. "Damn - I know it's supposed to be here!"

Daniel helped her search, while O'Neill took up a defensive position, realizing the Jaffa could enter the corridors at any time.

There was a huge explosion, and lots of rocks fell down all over the place.

"Now would be a good time to find that damn door, guys!" O'Neill called out, spotting the first of the Jaffa.

"Got it!" Sam said, happily. "Just need to get it opened!"

"Great!" O'Neill fired off a round towards the oncoming Jaffa. "Get a move on! I'm following you in a moment!" He shot at the Jaffa again.

Sam and Daniel fumbled with the door for a moment longer, but now when they knew where it was, it did not take long before they got it opened.

"Open!" Sam exclaimed.

"Okay... coming!" O'Neill pressed down on the trigger of his P90 and held it for a few moments, making the Jaffa jump into some of the rooms. They were getting uncomfortably close.

He ran down the secret tunnel, after Sam and Daniel, with the Jaffa hot on his heels.

It was a long, dimly lit tunnel, with a few turns. O'Neill stopped now and then and fired off several shots at the Jaffa, who each time withdrew around a corner.

Eventually, they reached the end. Sam and Daniel had found the exit, and had managed to get it opened just as the Jaffa rounded the last corner and started firing. Sam, Daniel, and O'Neill tumbled out, a staff blast singing Sam's shoulder.

She cried out and dropped the stasis jar, just as O'Neill shut the door to the tunnels after them.

"Oh, no!" Sam exclaimed, wincing from the pain in her shoulder. "The jar's seal broke!"

"So what! At least neither the Jaffa nor Tikna will get the snake if she's dead - we don't even need to worry if it's a queen or not!" O'Neill said.

"What if she's Tok'ra? She almost has to be! No one else knew about that place. Egeria could have come back and..." Sam said.

"Listen, I don't care who or what it is! We need to go. Now!" O'Neill ordered.

Sam closed her eyes for a moment, then opened them again, having made her decision. Before Daniel or O'Neill could stop her, Sam had taken off the lid of the stasis jar and poured out some of the soporific liquid. Moments later the head of a symbiote appeared, looking somehow groggy.

"I... volunteer," Sam said, swallowing her fear, wincing again from the pain in her shoulder as she lifted the jar to her open mouth.

"No! Are you crazy?!" O'Neill lounged for her, wanting to pull the jar away from her, but he did not reach it before the symbiote had launched herself into Sam's mouth.

She fell back, the long body of the queen symbiote quickly disappearing into her. Moments later, Sam's eyes flashed.

"Shit!" O'Neill exclaimed. "That's taking me back!"

"Um... that door's not gonna hold..." Daniel pointed at the exit they had just closed behind them. It made a creaking noise.

"Okay, let's get out of here. We'll solve the Goa'uld-problem later!" O'Neill said.

He grabbed one of Sam's arms and Daniel took hold of the other, and they began to run, half-dragging the still dazed Sam between them.

They ran to the nearest group of trees, and jumped behind them just as the door from the tunnels was blasted open and the Jaffa spilled out. The first of them spotted the open jar, lying on the floor. As luck would have it, as a result of the explosion, rocks from beside the doorway had fallen on top of it, smashing it and hiding part of it.

The Jaffa kicked at the shards and saw the wetness from the soporific liquid that had been in the stasis jar. "The ha'shaks found the queen and she has been crushed through their stupidity and clumsiness!" he reported.

"They shall pay for this outrage!" the Jaffa leader cried. "Find them and bring them to me!"


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