The Long Haul

Chapter 13: Tok'ra or not Tok'ra

Outside the SGC brig

Two days later

Ro'Pita bit her lip nervously and shifted in her wheelchair, straightening the claret colored 'regal' outfit Sam had picked out for her. "I'm s-still not sure I'm ready for this," she voiced her concern to Sam for the hundredth time.

"Sure y'are!" Jack reassured her cheerily. "You aced the poker test." He turned his pockets inside out to indicate she'd cleaned him out.

"You've probably been observing body language and facial expressions for years without realizing it, Princess," Sam told her. "You're a great judge of character, gift or no gift. Teal'c's the only one who has even come close to fooling you with a lie. I really believe you've a great chance of keeping your secret. Just remember that you mustn't let your own body language give away a lack of confidence."

"There is nothing to fear, Princess Ro'Pita. The prisoner is securely confined and cannot harm you," Teal'c reminded her. "Should he even try, we are well armed." He raised his zat gun.

"I suppose if he 'calls my bluff' as Daniel put it, I will at least know where I stand," Ro'Pita stated resignedly. "Let us go inside."

Sam gestured to the guard to wait a moment before opening the door.

Colonel O'Neill tilted his head to one side in silent query.

"Sir, if we're all supposed to be acting like nothing's changed, I think we should call Ro'Pita 'Highness' again, and..." she turned to the young lady in question, "your Highness should revert to using the 'royal we' when self-referencing."

The Princess sighed, "It has taken me two days to remember not to use it, now you want me – us – to unlearn the uh... the humility?"

"Personally, Princess, I like you a whole heap better with a healthy dose of humility," Jack told her candidly. "But I guess Carter's right about keeping up appearances. All's I'm gonna say is try to put the 'we' back in your words without sticking the rod back up your butt, eh."

"Colonel! Sir!" Captain Carter admonished him with a hard stare. This was not the way to address royalty, especially someone like Ro'Pita. Two weeks ago, she'd have had him flogged for less.

"'We' forgive Jack," Ro'Pita inclined her head benevolently, "he cannot help trying to sound clever, it comes naturally to him."

"Thanks," Jack smiled, but then wiped the grin from his face. "I think." He leaned toward Carter and whispered, "Did she just insult me?"

Sam's eyes sparkled with merriment, but it was to Ro'Pita she addressed her comment, "Shall we get this over with?"

"By all means. Proceed."

SGC brig

"The renowned Princess Ro'Pita finally deigns to grace me with her royal presence!" The prisoner bowed reverentially, though there was a hint of impatience and sarcasm in his tone, and the briefest flash of yellow in his eyes. "It is a relief to be in the presence of someone who will vouch for me at last. Gaborth of Delanosh at your service, Highness. My host is known as Rostif."

Sam felt a chill run down her spine. It hadn't been all that long since the fateful mission that had resulted in her being held prisoner in this very cell, host to a symbiote who claimed – as this one did – to be Tok'ra. Jolinar of Malkshur had proven genuine, ultimately giving its life to save Sam's.

So far, all Carter knew for certain about the man before them was that he carried a symbiote. That the host had knowledge of Jolinar proved nothing. The Tok'ra operative had been hiding out on Nassya precisely because the Goa'uld had set an Ashrak on Jolinar. This one could have been involved in organizing the hunt for all they knew.

They really knew very little of the Tok'ra. Jolinar had died before they'd had a chance to learn much more than Jaffa legend had already taught Teal'c. Colonel O'Neill remained highly skeptical, maintaining that the only good Goa'uld was a dead one. Sam was more inclined to be sympathetic. Jolinar's self sacrifice had left her with a deep sense of loss that she was still trying to work through; though at times she could almost feel a lingering presence, like the phantom pain of a lost limb. Once or twice she'd had dreams that seemed more like shared memories, but vague and ethereal, nothing she could latch onto. She wanted to believe this guy was Tok'ra. If so, she was hoping to learn more about Jolinar. Nevertheless, she remained guarded.

"You have heard of... us?" Ro'Pita studied the prisoner carefully.

"These fools told me I had to wait for your seal of approval before I could regain my freedom and complete my vital mission," he glared at Colonel O'Neill, his hands gripping the bars of his cell. "But word of your 'gift' has reached the Council's ears before. Your Highness would make a most valuable addition to the ranks of the Tok'ra."

The trio responded as one, without need for an order. At the perceived threat they instantly moved between the prisoner and the princess, raising their weapons.

Gaborth lifted his arms in the universal gesture of appeasement. "Only if she desired it, naturally."

"Sure,' sneered Colonel O'Neill, clearly not buying it.

"Relax, we are in no danger," Ro'Pita declared. "Gaborth and Rostif are Tok'ra, not Goa'uld."

Jack wanted to ask her, "Are you sure?" but bit the question back. She was supposed to be infallible. He couldn't afford to express any reservations or her secret would be out.

"I think the Colonel here still needs a little more convincing," Gaborth had experienced enough of Jack's hostility during questioning to know that he would not easily accept his prisoner as an ally, despite the Princess' assurance. He smiled somewhat smarmily at O'Neill, "Fetch me the healing device you took from me, and I will repair the damage to the Princess's ankle and head. Will that satisfy you of my honorable intentions?"

"Yeah right, Gabby. Like we're gonna let you loose on the Princess with a goa'uld device. How stupid do you think we are?" Jack caught the twinkle in Ro'Pita's eye and hastily instructed, "Don't answer that. You can just think again, buster."

"Sir?" Carter gave a little jerk of her head to indicate she wanted a quiet word with her superior. They moved to one side.

"Let's hear it, Captain," O'Neill ordered.

"I was thinking we shouldn't be too hasty, sir," Carter began. "Remember Daniel's feet are still in a bad way. If this guy can heal them..."

"You really think we can trust him, Carter?" Jack looked her in the eye, his expression clearly indicating how important her answer was.

Sam glanced over at the prisoner, then back to the colonel. "I believe so, sir, yes." Carter met his gaze confidently. "We can keep him covered. Zat him if he tries anything hostile."

Jack pondered a moment.

"Okay, but I'm still not gonna risk the Princess right off. He can heal Daniel... if and only if Danny agrees to it."

"Understood, sir."

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