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A Storm of Shadows
Jacob had received word from his contacts that Ba’al and Kutkh were headed back to Neowe. He soon arrived at the SGC with the news, along with the one man he felt could help them rescue Jessie. However, not everyone was convinced of the new arrival’s value as far as a rescue was concerned.
"You brought in a camel trader to help us?" Cam was incredulous, but an unmistakable thread of anger was woven into that question.
Jacob pinched the bridge of his nose, at the moment ignoring Selmak’s chattering. "It’s a way in…" he began.
"In case you haven’t noticed, Jessie isn’t a camel, and I highly doubt those who are dealing in human trafficking are going to give a fat rat’s ass about some smelly camel jockey!"
The little man in question burred up like a puffer fish. "I’ll have you know, I am highly respected amongst all the traders, and I only deal with camels I can swear to a purity of lineage and ownership!"
Jacob stepped in between Mitchell and Tivka, the trader he had enlisted to help with Jessie’s rescue. The way Mitchell was eying the man, Jacob was afraid he was going to attack him. "It’s okay, Tivka. Most here aren’t familiar with camel trading, and I will personally vouch for your spotless reputation."
Tivka snorted, raising his chin in Cam’s direction. "He thinks I trade mediocre camels. I only deal in the best, ones given prestigious awards for their elegance and beauty. Many factors combine to make a perfect camel—the curve of the humps, the length of the neck, the body, the height. Mine are above reproach!" Looking Mitchell up and down, he added with a sneer, "I highly doubt you would have the funds to purchase one of my beauties."
The way Cam was looking at them, Jacob revised his train of thought, wondering who Cam was going to attack first—Tivka, or himself. Trying to defuse the situation, Jacob cleared his throat. "The last several camels Tivka traded sold for the equivalent of $4 million dollars…each."
Cam returned Tivka’s stare, from the wild array of hair sticking out in odd directions, the weathered leather overcoat, twill tunic and trousers, to the scuffed leather boots that had seen better days. "Riiiiight," he replied, deliberately drawing out the word, adapting an extra heavy Southern accent. "I’m sure he has the purtiest camels this side of Saturn."
"Cam, going by what Casey said, the rescue mission will only work with "tiv", and this is the only "tiv" I know! Not only is he a trader and can blend in perfectly on Neowe," Jacob stepped forward until he was nose-to-nose with the young Colonel, "he personally knows Kutkh." Those last four words jerked Cam out of his snit. "As a trader, Tivka can get us an audience with Kutkh with a request to purchase an odalisque. The fact that Kutkh owes Tivka a few favors might be what we need to ensure that odalisque is Jessie." Jacob turned back to Tivka. "You’ll have to forgive the Colonel, Tivka. The woman in question is the one he plans to take for a wife, and has been held by the Goa’uld for eight weeks. She’s also a highly valued colleague and friend to all of those here. Needless to say, things have been…tense." He breathed a sigh of relief when he saw the trader relax his stance.
The little man nodded in understanding, crossing his arms over his chest. After a few moments of silence, he relented. "I will help."
Several hours later, Tivka was questioning the sanity of his decision. Whereas he thought he was going to be leading a rescue party undercover into Neowe, it turned out it was only going to be that Mitchell character. He felt sorry for the young man, but if the truth be known, he didn’t think the Colonel was going to be able to keep his emotions in check. Regardless of how he personally felt, Tivka had spent the better part of an hour going over the ins and outs of trading, what Cam should expect. Although the man seemed to be ignoring him as he prepared for the mission, he was able to repeat the descriptions and instructions when asked. Still, Tivka went through it one more time, emphasizing the important parts.
"If I am going to take you in, you HAVE to act like a trader, do you understand? You cannot show any connection to this woman whatsoever…you do, we all die! If it wasn’t for Jacob, I wouldn’t even be here, much less risking my life for this." Tivka paced back and forth. "If there is any doubt in your mind that you can pull this off, do us all a favor and back out now. Find someone else to take your place."
Cam pulled on the leather overcoat. "There is no one else. I’m the only one who hasn’t had contact with Ba’al before. And I would rather cut my own throat than risk Jessie’s life," he spat out, "so you have nothing to worry about, Tivka." He sat down on a bench so he could pull on the boots he had been given.
The scruffy man got in Cam’s face. "You must understand what could happen in there, what you could see. Kutkh may take your woman right there in front of you, and there is nothing you can do about it. Will you be able to handle that?"
Cam hoisted the leather bag of gold coin in his hand, testing its weight. "I’ll handle whatever I have to in order to bring her home. You ready to go?" Securing a zat at the small of his back, he let the overcoat cover the weapon.
The trader hung his head, cursing the fact he had gotten out of bed that morning. Regardless of the man’s assurances, he couldn’t get past the fact that this was the man’s betrothed they were going after, a woman who had been the clutches of the Goa’uld for nearly two months. He knew exactly what they would have done with her, and there was no certainty in his heart that he wasn’t going to witness a bloodbath by the time this was over. Still, Jacob had saved his life, and he couldn’t turn down his request because of it. It would just be a shame for him to forfeit it now, in this manner, should things go bad.
Cam sat in the corner of the room, diligently practicing the techniques Teal’c had taught him to maintain a detached demeanor. It was working…barely. It probably would have been more effective if he could have downed a few shots of whiskey. From the time he left the SGC with Tivka and Jacob, it had taken almost 24 hours to reach Neowe. That it didn’t have a Stargate was a definite disadvantage, but with the amount of ship traffic arriving and departing due to trading activities and such, it was fairly easy to blend in. However, it was another two-day delay until Tivka could obtain an audience with Kutkh. As a result, Cam’s patience had been stretched to the breaking point.
When the time had come, however, he did what he had to do, as there was no way he was going to give the trader a reason not to take him in. He stood through a few hours of Tivka ‘networking’ with his trading contacts, going through the list of new camel arrivals, inspections, auctions, and most importantly, funding. Cam waited stoically, resisting the urge to wring Tivka’s neck as he discussed the ‘rare golden highlights’ of some freaking camel he was trying to sell. By the time Tivka was finished, Cam’s fingers were numb from having them clenched together so tightly. Luckily, Tivka was none the wiser.
The meeting with Kutkh had been challenging, trying to appear calm, cool and collected, interested yet detached. When Kutkh had taken him to the viewing room where they could observe the women without their knowledge, it had taken a monumental effort not to go ballistic. About a dozen women were present, but it had taken Cam no time at all to find Jessie. She was sitting on the ledge of what was basically a hollowed out circle in the stone wall, her forearms resting on her knees. She was wearing…well…not much at all. A teal-colored fabric crisscrossed over her breasts, the thin strips barely covering anything, and extended down the sides to what appeared to be a very low cut bikini bottom. That she had lost weight was evident, but it was the expression on her face that ripped his heart out. There was no light in her eyes, no anger, no sadness, just a complete absence of emotion. Forcing himself back to the task at hand, Cam inquired about three of the other women before he asked about Jessie.
"That one, Miele," Kutkh replied, "is…different." He let out a sigh as he crossed his arms over his chest. "She came into my possession as a gedikli, though she hadn’t been completely trained as one. I thought perhaps she was one of the local servants trying to rise up through the ranks, but I could never confirm that with certainty. She was reticent when it came to training, but with the use of daninha and stimulants, she would perform as desired. Unfortunately, she never cared for the touch of another woman, nor engaging in activities of that sort."
Cam was itching to wrap his fingers around the zat, point it at Kutkh and fire it three times. Instead he replied, "That wouldn’t be a problem. I have no plans on sharing the one I purchase with anyone else."
"She can be willful at times."
"I haven’t found a woman yet who isn’t," Cam said, watching as Jessie just stared straight ahead.
"Are you interested in her?" When the man nodded, he continued. "You’d actually be doing me a favor if you purchase her. There has been interest from another individual, and it has become increasingly difficult for me to keep her from him." Seeing the puzzled look, he added, "He gets pleasure from inflicting pain; I had promised her if she pleased me, she would be safe. If you buy her, he won’t have the opportunity to take her from me. It works out all the way around."
Cam’s thoughts were jerked back to the present as Kutkh entered the room, a box in hand. Watched as the Goa’uld sat down on the futon before opening the lid and sorting through the contents of the container. Cam’s brow furrowed as he observed Kutkh’s actions. If he didn’t know better, he’d have sworn the snake was rolling a joint. Just as he was about to ask him what he was doing, the door opened once again.
Jessie had sat dejectedly with the other women in the antro dos deuses…the den of the gods. Since she had been at Kutkh’s beck and call the entire time of her captivity, she knew being placed in the antro dos deuses wasn’t a good sign. There was still enough of her analytical mind functional to realize it probably meant she was to be sold. The timeline fit…eight weeks between auctions of the odalisques and gediklis…eight weeks since her capture. Now that they had returned to Neowe, she assumed business would resume as usual, which meant it was time for the latest auctions. She guessed she should consider herself fortunate as Kutkh hadn’t had time to retaliate since her "gift" to him. Then again, maybe selling her was his way of retaliation. Either way, she didn’t give a damn; she was too tired to care.
After almost an hour in the antro dos deuses, the women were allowed to return to the general quarters, except for Jessie. Instead, Akari came to prepare her before being taken to Kutkh’s chambers. The older woman said little out loud, but the fact she dressed Jessie in the exact same garb she had worn the last time she was with Kutkh didn’t bode well. In fact, the only thing Akari said to her after she had finished crisscrossing and tying the sheer black silk over her torso was, "An opportunity has come for circumstances to change." She then hugged her before taking her to Kutkh’s room.
It was an odd sense of déjà vu, entering Kutkh’s chambers. The lights were low, and he was sitting on the futon, rolling a joint. It immediately brought back thoughts of the first night they had been alone together, especially when he spoke in that dual-tone voice.
"Kree tal lok."
More of an autonomic response than anything else, Jessie walked over to him and knelt down between his legs, awaiting further commands. Watched as he lit the joint, before he leaned forward and threaded his fingers through her hair at the base of her neck. She knew what was to come without him saying a word, him reversing the joint, placing the lit end in his mouth and holding it with his teeth before slowly shotgunning a strong hit into her mouth. Out of reflex Jessie grasped his knees, steadying herself against the wave of lightheadedness she knew was coming. Instead of him requesting her to give the hit back to him, after setting the joint down he immediately closed the distance between them, his tongue seeking hers out, doing an intimate dance before inhaling, taking her breath from her as he plundered her mouth.
He broke off the kiss just as suddenly as he had taken it, holding her gaze with his own. "Miele," he breathed softly as he stared at her, almost as if he was trying to memorize her features. "When you arrived here, I made a promise to you…a promise I’ve been able to keep, until now. Ba’al has become most insistent about taking you for his own. I’ve been able to hold him off, because I had something he wanted. Unfortunately, that ends today. He is currently obtaining what he wanted, and I no longer have anything to hold over Ba’al to keep to keep you safe." Bringing both hands up, he drew his fingers through her hair, watching the silken strands slip through his hands. "I keep my promises. And right now, the only way to keep Ba’al from you is to get you off Neowe. Although it pains me to do so, I have to let you go in order to protect you." Leaning in once again, he kissed her softly, savoring the sensation. Drawing back finally, he then said, "What do you think?"
"I think she’s absolutely perfect."
Jessie stiffened. That voice. Surely her mind playing tricks on her. Jessie kept her eyes downcast, not daring to look at Kutkh. She couldn’t afford to give any sign, any recognition, even if it was just her imagination. She heard the muffled clink of coins as a leather pouch was handed to Kutkh, who in turn smiled.
"Quite generous. If you’re ever back in the area, feel free to contact me. Maybe we can do business again."
"I don’t mind paying extra for quality. You have a reputation for having the best available."
"Do you wish to partake of your new consort? That way if any issues arise, they can be addressed here."
"As much as I would like to do just that, I’m afraid I don’t have time. The reason Tivka requested a special audience now is because I have other appointments I must keep."
"If that’s the case, then I won’t delay you any longer." He shook hands with Cam, ignoring the look of surprise from the other man. He then helped Jessie to her feet.
Freedom? Could it actually be that close? Raising her eyes to Kutkh’s, she dared to ask, "What about Candrima?" as she felt Cam grasp her upper arm.
"She’ll be fine."
Jessie stubbornly stood her ground. "Promise me."
Kutkh raised an eyebrow. "I promised to keep you from Ba’al, and that is what I have done. By selling you to this man, it will get you off of Neowe and get Ba’al off my back." He watched the mutinous expression grow on her face, and the puzzled look from Cam. Addressing him he said, "It’s a child I put Miele in charge of watching."
"You won’t let Ba’al have her, will you?" Jessie asked.
He considered whether he should tell her or not, but ultimately decided it would put her mind at ease. Or so he thought. "I can promise you there is no way I would let Ba’al have my daughter."
Jessie stared at him. "Your…she’s…" Her shock was so great she couldn’t get the words out.
With a slight smirk he looked at Cam. "She’s very protective of children. By thinking her compliance kept Candrima safe, it made her easier to train."
If Cam had had the urge to kill Kutkh before, it was even stronger now. But he realized he had to get Jessie out of there before she recovered. From what the Goa’uld was implying, Cam knew Jessie would kill Kutkh when what he had done sunk in. "As much as I would like to stay and exchange pointers, I have a deadline to meet." Tightening his grip on Jessie’s arm, he pulled her towards the door.
"Kree’sha, Miele. Tak mal arik tiak." (Goodbye, Miele. You will not be forgotten.)
Jessie blindly allowed Cam to guide her out of the room. It was as if her brain had gone into vapor-lock; shutting down, refusing to process anything. She paid no attention to which way they went, nor to the servant handing Cam a cloak for her to put on. She was completely numb, which in retrospect was probably a good thing.
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