John sat on his dais and drank Lord Yu’s tea. A year or so of the piss water, and he was getting used to it. While he could order a beer in the privacy of his quarters, when he was in Yu’s audience chamber, he had to be more careful to imitate the system lord. John couldn’t afford any errors.
Rodney came hurrying in, not even looking up as he rushed. One of the jaffa put out a hand to detour Rodney around a pillar, and Rodney’s latest assistant trailed behind him with a look of panic. Completing a month with Rodney before being allowed to work in the warehouses gave academics a status they could not hope to claim any other way, but few made a full month. Rodney put the jaffa master to shame in his willingness to demote and humiliate anyone who failed him.
Luckily the shamed academics simply returned home. A few had committed suicide, but John tried to discourage that.
“Is he here?” Rodney asked, finally looking up from his computer.
“No,” John said, speaking for Lord Yu since he hadn’t woken yet. With Rodney and Teal’c in the same room, John assumed he would want to take the meeting, but so far, John didn’t even have a tickle at the back of his head. One of these days Yu was going to die and take John with him. Sadly, that might take a century or two.
But at least John wouldn’t have to endure what the last host had. There was no way Yu would make it longer than a couple of hundred years. John frowned as he realized Rodney wasn’t leaving.
“Your presence is not required, Dr. McKay.”
Rodney got one of his stubborn expressions. “I’m the one who found the recording device with the coordinates.”
John continued to stare at Rodney. He was ashamed of how good he had become at intimidating others, but being inside Yu when he looked at others with contempt had allowed John to find the exact combination of facial muscles that allowed him to project Yu’s disdain. Rodney started to shift from foot to foot as the discomfort set in. However, Rodney was not one to back down.
“It’s not like I’m going to rush him and ask him to take me back,” Rodney said mulishly. He walked over and sat on the edge of Yu’s dais. “General Landry is not my biggest fan. I thought O’Neill hated me, but Landry…” Rodney made a face.
Sadly, John agreed. If there had ever been a window where forgiveness could happen, that window had closed. Rodney had no place on Earth except the inside of a jail cell because the various officers who answered their communications made it clear they considered John a prisoner and Rodney a traitor. John hated that more than he hated his own captivity.
Two jaffa came in and bowed deeply. “My lord, the shol’va comes.”
John raised his tea, Yu’s gesture to his guards that all was as he expected. The two guards took positions on either side of the door, and here came Teal’c. He wore the clothing of a free jaffa rather than an SGC uniform. That made no sense. For not the first time, John wondered what was going on back home. Their confrontations with the Lucian alliance certainly didn’t make for a good tactical position; however, Lord Yu didn’t care as long as it kept those vultures away from his planets. And since Lord Yu didn’t care, there was little or nothing John could do.
Teal’c stopped in front of the dais and inclined his head respectfully. “I come under a sign of peace and as an emissary of the Free Jaffa.”
“Hey, Teal’c,” Rodney said, but he didn’t seem surprised when everyone ignored him.
John put his tea down and pulled Lord Yu’s personality around him like a cloak. “I invited the tau’ri to send you.”
Teal’c twitched an eyebrow, and John was immediately homesick. “They declined to send a messenger. They felt that anything you had to say could be relayed using the communication devises.”
“Such gratitude, and after I have shared such bounty with them,” John said as though disappointed. In all honesty, he was. Lord Yu had sent a number of weapons back to the SGC, along with schematics for power units and a number of Ancient tools. Lord Yu remembered more than one disaster that resulted from the head of weapons research being unhappy, so he was willing to indulge Rodney’s desire to help the tau’ri. In return, the tau’ri were strengthened. That mattered little to Yu because his empire was growing even stronger. They had even pushed the Ori off one world and destroyed an Ori mothership.
True, the Ori had retaliated by killing three million people by obliterating the entire planet, but since then, the Ori had kept out of Yu’s territory. They would not risk such losses while the tau’ri posed a threat. John hated the loss of life; Yu barely registered it. He really was an asshole.
However, they both agreed that they needed more effective weapons, and they needed the tau’ri to have more effective weapons.
The one nice thing about Teal’c was that he had patience born of serving the goa’uld. John needed time to figure out what to say. Lord Yu did not take failure well, and he wanted access to the Earth gate. Unfortunately, this was not a good start. The communication device they used was nothing more than a flat screen, proper for Rodney and Radek to compare notes on some piece of tech as long as a wormhole connected the planets, but system lords spoke in person. Landry had to know that.
John leaned back and considered his options. Earth expected goa’uld to be selfish—which was handy because they were. So John needed to lead with that. “Penglai was destroyed by the Ori.”
“I had heard,” Teal’c said calmly. If he worried about the guards behind him, he gave no sign of it.
“The university there provided technical experts.” John let the silence fill in the blanks. No doubt Teal’c would believe that was the only university doing such work. The other goa’uld kept their people ignorant, educating only the bare minimum required to maintain their technology. Lord Yu did not believe in keeping people ignorant, and many planets had educational facilities equally as able to prepare technicians. However, by implying that Penglai was more important than it was, John provided a motivation the SGC would understand.
“And you destroyed an Ori ship. Your new host appears to have improved your tactics.” Teal’c raised an eyebrow in challenge.
John stared at Teal’c. Another goa’uld would kill him for even suggesting the host mattered. Yu might do the same. However, John had no idea what he was supposed to do. The last thing he wanted to talk about was himself, so he chose to ignore the comment.
“Earth has suffered more losses. You have few allies left, and much of the galaxy looks to Origin.” John put his tea cup down and gave Teal’c all his attention. “Much of the Free Jaffa nation looks to Origin.” John could tell he had scored with that. There was a subtle tensing of the muscles around Teal’c eyes. He was watching their hard fought freedom vanish. John hated that he had to hurt the people he respected the most, but his feelings didn’t matter. Nothing mattered as much as the real goal here. Atlantis. Rodney had found Atlantis.
Teal’c waited, his anger poorly hidden, and John drank more tea.
“Aren’t you going to tell him about—”
“*Doctor* McKay,” John snapped out in his best imitation of an annoyed Yu. Rodney immediately fell silent. Much as John had predicted, Yu’s willingness to allow John to spend two hours a day hanging out with Rodney had given him the perfect leverage. One warning, and Rodney swallowed all his complaints and bitching rather than risk having Yu ban John from spending time with him.
And the one time John had decided to ignore Yu’s orders and go drag Rodney out for dinner and an hour of television picked up by their spy satellite orbiting Earth, Yu had been furious when he’d next awoken. John spent the next day hanging from chains in pain and Rodney had to endure a good month of Yu’s bad temper without ever understanding why. He’d ask John what he’d done wrong, and John could only promise that Yu was angry at someone else and Rodney was the nearest person he could yell at.
John glanced over at Oshu who watched—always silent, always ready to step in if John failed in his task.
None of this was going to plan, and John wasn’t sure how Yu would react, but if the damn snake wanted to handle this differently, he could wake his scaly ass up. John lifted his hand, and a servant brought him an elaborate scroll with information John could just as easily get from a tablet. However, appearances would be maintained. John read the information slowly.
“The Lucian Alliance has made exploring Ancient outposts particularly difficult,” John observed. Yu had spies in the Alliance, so John knew how much trouble they were making for earth.
“It is no more troublesome than our inability to explore sites within your borders,” Teal’c observed.
John gave Teal’c a slow, cruel smile. “That did not work well for you last time.”
Rodney flinched, and John regretted that, but he enjoyed getting a little dig in. Teal’c and O’Neill—they always got rescued no matter how impossible the situation. No rescue was coming for John. Even if O’Neill wanted to do something, there’s no way the IOC would give up Yu’s steady flow of technology.
“No,” Teal’c said, “it did not.”
John leaned forward. “You still hope the technology of the Gatebuilders can save you from this new threat.”
Teal’c didn’t disagree.
“What would the tau’ri do with access to the lost city of Atlantis?” John asked. Teal’c stared back as though waiting for some sort of punchline. John waited as the knowledge settled into Teal’c. Yes, Yu had the keys to Atlantis, but the tau’ri had the only doorway that would lead them there. It was a difficult situation, to say the least.
“I am unsure,” Teal said eventually. It was as much of an answer as he could give because he wasn’t the IOC. John understood that.
John gestured for the guards, and after a respectful bow, Teal’c left, his honor guard trailing behind him.
“But, what about Atlantis?” Rodney asked in a bewildered voice. John ignored him. When he had to play Yu, he really disliked dealing with Rodney. It hurt too much to pretend disinterest when it came to his only friend—the one friend who had given up his own freedom rather than abandon John to this prison. With another gesture, John had one of the jaffa take Rodney by the arm and escort him back to his labs, his nervous assistant still trailing behind.