A/N: Two things: firstly, I think it's best if you reread the previous epilogue to refresh your memory about some details that will become apparent in rest of the story, that is if it's been a while since you've last read it. Secondly: I know... the first couple of pages don't even sound like stargate at all. Hopefully though, you can get through the first boring paragraphs and to the rest of the story where all will be clarified. Enjoy!

The coarse, grainy sand digs into the soles of her feet. It crunches loudly beneath her weight, sinking and dispersing as she treads over it. Its granules are tinged with a dreamy pink, merely remnant of the emperor oyster that erosion had managed to crush into miniscule fragments, and mingle with the shore. The shell fragments infuse the sand with a glossy sheen, conquered only by the brilliance of light reflected off the calm ocean water.

She looks around her, smiles. Her lungs expand with the tangy salt saturated air, and she feels at ease. She knows this place: she has been here before.

She recognizes the desultory mud huts, thatched with hay, that are speckled by an invisible artist's hand along the shoreline. Many a time has she walked down the long wooden jetties stretching out over the ocean. She knows the rustle of the light breeze against her loose clothes, and the smell of char grilled fish permeating the air. She knows Quedessa, its people, and they know her.

Nevertheless, the innate awareness that in two minutes, she will begin walking down to the end of nearest jetty, basket handles clenched tightly within her fist, extends beyond the context of inductive knowledge. She knows that as soon as she begins to head off, one of the locals will run after her with a package of spicy fish wrapped in large aromatic leaves, not because the event has happened so many times in the past, but rather for the same reason she knows that she will have the fish for her lunch in exactly 3 hours and 12 minutes, and that it will rain this evening on her way back to the city. Her mind somehow flips through the day's impending events as though through worn out, faded illustrations of an old book. And because she remembers what is to come, she deludes herself into thinking that she knows the future.

But in reality, she only knows the past.

She suddenly realizes why today is so familiar. Isn't today the same day she experienced when she returned to Quesdessa three years ago? It doesn't make sense to her. How has her past suddenly become her present? Are the ocean, the sand, and the huts, just memories replaying themselves in her mind?

No. Something is certainly different; an anomaly interrupts the familiarity of time and place, and it voices its presence.

"Mother?" Someone asks beside her, a child's voice.

She turns to gaze into the hazel brown eyes of the nine-year-old girl skipping alongside her, and wonders why the child is here, and why she looks so disquietingly familiar.

"Can I come with you this time? Please?"

She pauses, considers.

"Mother!" the child whines, frustrated, " You taught me to swim two summers ago. You know I can hold my breath for an entire 40 seconds. And I can dive!"

"Alright, you can come. But if you want to help, you'll have to find a basket, and fast, because the tide is coming in."

The child blinks at the unexpected acquiescence, and then allows a smile to embellish her lips. She jumps up excitedly, and runs back to one of the huts for a basket, skimming the surface of the sand with hurried little footprints.

When the child returns, her mother places a straw hat atop her lavish brown curls, a vain attempt to protect her lightly freckled skin from the sun. They are now ready to set out. Wait! The mother had almost forgotten him, but there he is, the sun-burnt villager running after them with not one, but two, neatly packaged lunches.

The sun had risen early today, and had already warmed the wooden planks of the jetty. The further they walk, the hotter the planks become, and towards the last stretch of the jetty, mother and daughter pick up the pace to reduce the burning impact of the hot wood against their bare feet.

The child does not hesitate once they reach the end of the jetty, but throws the basket and hat down onto the wooden planks.

"Look at me, mother!" she yells excitedly, and, with a running start, dives off the jetty into the silvery waters of the ocean. The ocean ripples around her vanishing body, and happily deposits a silvery spray on the jetty, and on the mother. Feeling slightly peeved, the mother prepares for her descent into the water more carefully. After stripping down to the waterproof suit beneath her clothes, she surveys the ocean with a scrupulous eye, looking through the crystal clarity of its surface at the exuberant coral reef below. While the child splashes around in the water cheerfully, beneath her, and all around her, the ocean teams with life. Colorful reefs spring out of the ocean floor, like aquatic jungles of sorts, housing a multitude of marine creatures. On first glance, the mother can spot yellow beaked turtles, blue-tipped muttlefish, little schools of streamlined chintetts, anemone, and, of course, scores of emperor oyster lining the coral beds. Quedessa is famous for its emperor oyster: they are the main reason she frequents this planet so often.

She carefully remembers the position of oyster clusters along the coral reefs, and with baskets tucked underneath her arm, climbs down the ladder attached to the end of the jetty. She stops halfway to hang the two baskets from hooks attached to the underside of the wooden planks, just high enough to allow for accessibility from the water.

It's time to let go, to let herself fall into the water. But she hesitates. What could she possibly be afraid of? She must have gone into these placid waters a dozen times before. A nagging voice reminds her that this time is different. Don't do it, it whines in her ears. You'll be relinquishing your last grasp on reality. You'll drown in your own fabricated memories of the past. But she chooses to ignore the voice's cryptic warning, and lets go of the ladder rungs, allowing the ocean waters to claim her as she plunges into their crystal depths. The exhilaration of the release rushes through her veins, like an antidote to life's incessant disappointments.

Disappointments. She knows she has some festering in the back of her mind, but instinct tells her they are different from those she had once before, when she performed the exact same task on the exact same day. Somehow the disappointments shirk away from her attempts to recall them: they lurk in the shadows of her consciousness, untouchable.

No matter, the water is cool, soothing, and therapeutic. She lets it immerse her limbs, lets it wash away all traces of her initial doubt, and all traces of the chaotic, turbulent world around her. The water envelops her with open arms, and she flips onto her back, arms spread wide to return its embrace. As she closes her eyes, she can feel the steady waves rise and fall beneath her body, calming her … rocking her tenderly. Back … and forth, rise … and fall, the ocean is a primal drum, evoking a rhythm she feels deep in her bones.

She imagines that she has the power to slow her heart rate down, to match the pounding rhythm of the waves against the shore. Rise… and fall, inhale … exhale, contract … relax. She pretends that the child and herself are the only two beings left in the universe, and nearly sinks into a blissful forgetfulness.

But the child reminds her of the task at hand by paddling up to her, and mischievously pulling down on her leg in a feigned attempt to drown her. The child's laughter is infectious, and in an instant it has them both giggling uncontrollably, upsetting the established rhythm of the waves. Their laughter lingers in the air long after they stop.

But the mother recognizes that they have serious work to do. At her instruction, they both begin diving into the water towards the corals no more than three meters below them, gathering the bluish grey bivalves, and promptly depositing them in the hanging baskets. The oysters are smooth, slippery to the touch. The mother points out how rare they are to the child, and how special Quedessa's oceans are for cultivating them in such numbers without any human interference. They continue their harvest in silence, both adhering to a tacit competition they set up between themselves, attempting to beat the other by gathering the largest number of oysters.

The child wins.

She triumphantly makes her conquest known to the world as they both sit cross-legged on the jetty, 3 hours and 12 minutes after they had first set out, noisily chomping down their respective lunches. But the verdict is close, with 26 oysters in the child's basket versus her mother's 23. The mother playfully boasts that she will beat the child the next time around. But today, the child is crowned victor.

After lunch, they walk back to the shoreline, sufficiently dried off and wrestling with the now significantly heavier baskets. The sand feels cooler beneath their feet, and the breeze from the ocean picks up, gently caressing the large auburn leaves of the Kimangu tree they choose to sit beneath. Sunlight trickles towards them from between the luscious branches of the tree, fades in and out, in … and out. It bounces off the motley set of tools the mother ceremoniously unpacks from the small case she had brought with her. She finds it strangely soothing to place the tools in front of her on the sand, one by one, side by side, as though performing some form of ancient ritual. The child watches her intently, little droplets of sunshine illuminating the fascination in her clear hazel eyes.

"Can we open them now, mother?" The child asks, barely containing her excitement.

"I'll open one. You watch first, then do exactly what I'm doing"

With silent awe, the child watches her mother pick out one metal tool from the set laid out before her, and use it to intricately coerce a rather unremarkable grey oyster open. But the heart of the shell reveals an exquisite prize: a rounded blue-black pearl, breathtaking in its luster, and marvelous in its perfection. The mother plucks it out, and after rinsing it in freshwater, examines its surface to determine its market worth, and places it gently in one of three black sacks laid down before her.

After the demonstration, and a couple of trial runs, both mother and daughter become absorbed in the process of extracting the pearls, and placing them in one of the sacks based on their quality, luster and roundness. They continue working as the shadows around them gradually elongate, and the sun inches away from the center of the sky.

"Mother?"

"Yes, darling."

"Why are we taking these pearls from the villagers?"

The mother pauses. Should she venture into the complex economics of her current arrangement? Would the child understand?

"The villagers and I have an agreement. They let me have free access to their pearl harvest, as long as they get a sizable share of the profits I make when I sell them."

She deliberately leaves out the role of the Rosthus Conglomerate, and their watchdog tactics in monitoring the pearl harvest on Quedessa. She conveniently forgets to mention how her agreement with the villagers is illegal under conglomerate law. But, she tells herself, she isn't selfish for wanting the pearls for her own personal gains, but rather, is providing the poor Quesdessan farmers with an extra source of income to supplement their meager salaries. Both her gains and the farmers' are mutual.

"The Quedessan villagers are very poor. Although the Rosthian officials, who are in charge of this system, sell the pearls at a high price, they leave the pearl farmers of Quesdessa little money for their pains. That's where I come in." she tells the child, adopting a simple, explanatory tone.

Yes, she does fancy herself as the villagers' savior, rescuing them from the imminent pangs of poverty. To Rosthians, the fifth planet of their system is a backward, underdeveloped one, useful only for exploitation. The Quedessans are merely slave laborers in an economically driven giant. But how can she be the savior of a people, who, despite of their poverty, still maintain their unmarred innocence, an innocence that resonates throughout their captivating landscape? They are really a people who exude all signs of contentment, even happiness, despite their misfortune.

She avoids telling the child that their task is in fact a very dangerous one, that they are in risk of getting caught by the conglomerate's henchmen who didn't take kindly to pearl poachers. She had been lucky enough to slip undetected through planet's protection grid. Had she waited until harvest season a few weeks from now, the place would be swarming with conglomerate guards, sent to monitor the pearl harvest on Quedessa and ensure its safe deliverance to the capital Zehral via the old, worn out mono-rail to the city.

She glances at the child, hoping she has satisfied her curiosity. But the child isn't listening to her anymore. Instead, her attention seems to be held captivate by the current shell she is delicately forcing open.

"Look, mother! Look at the color of my pearl!"

Creamy white, the pearl winks at the mother with a bluish hue from within the upturned lower half of the shell resting snugly in the child's palm. Bluish-white pearls are extremely rare in this corner of the universe. She feels her heart flutter excitedly.

If she can locate that filthy, poor excuse for a trader, Volin, he will be sure to hook her up with some very wealthy buyers and possibly acquire a sizable amount of naquadah. In fact, it would probably be large enough to buy a new –

"Can I keep it?" says the child, her eyes growing wide. " Please?"

It is not until much later, as she sits cross-legged beside the open door of the mono-rail to Zehral, the child's head resting languorously in her lap, that she feels an inexplicable swelling in her chest, a feeling of pride, even of, dare she say it, contentment. Yet, she is perplexed by the nature of her newfound emotion: it all feels so refreshing, so easy, so remarkably natural. She lets her fingers caress the child's flowing brown curls as she watches her peaceful slumber, as she watches her chest rise … and gently fallShe watches the Quedessan landscape melt before her eyes into rushing streaks of color, and the sky explode into a multitude of oranges, purples and reds to herald the setting of the sun. Her eyes drift to the gleaming white pearl hanging loosely around the child's neck, its chain crafted by a villager from a special lustrous metal shortly before they left. She smiles to herself. Yes, it is a gift befitting someone so small, yet so uniquely precious. Then why does she feel an inexplicable sadness? An innate knowledge that this moment is fleeting, and will soon, like the rosy Quedessan sand, escape through her fingers? She tries to cling to it, but the moment eludes her, and the grey clouds in the distant horizon warn of a storm.

She suddenly jerks to attention, remembers that she needs to be fully alert, and urgently rouses the child.

"Wake up, darling … Come on…. I need you to do something for me, alright?"

As the child wakes up, and gets to her feet, the mother kneels down, looks into her hazel eyes, and says: "I need you to hide behind those empty crates over there. You'll have to be really quiet, and completely still. Don't utter any sound, even if you hear something unpleasant." She straightens up, still holding the child's gaze: "Promise you'll be quiet?"

The child looks confused, but she groggily agrees: "I promise."

"Wonderful. Now hurry, and get behind those crates."

The child nods sleepily, and quickly clambers behind a large wooden crate at the opposite end of the car, completely disappearing from view. Satisfied, the mother hurriedly locates her 'zat amongst her belongings, and arms it in anticipation of the ambush she remembers will occur at this time.

Sure enough, the monorail suddenly screeches to a grinding halt, stopping beside a rusty metal construct that usually serves as a conglomerate checkpoint during the harvest season. The voices of three, no four, probably heavy set thugs, reach the mother's ear, noisily making their way to her car. Someone must have tipped off these mercenaries about her: how else do they know exactly where to find her?

But she knows this question will go unanswered for years to come, so she quickly positions herself with her back to the car's wall, a few feet to the left of its open door, her 'zat in combat position, ready to discharge.

Strangely enough, she is calm. After all, if she were reliving her past, then wouldn't the past repeat itself? If the scene about to unfold matches the exact scene entrenched in her memory, then she knows she will be the victor of the upcoming skirmish.

"Show yourself, thief! Right now, out of the car, with your upturned palms facing us!"

She holds her breath, refusing to grace them with a response.

The breeze rustles.

The waves crash against the distant shore.

A minute passes.

Suddenly, she hears another voice guffaw menacingly.

" You fool Marick, when did women start taking orders from you?"

Two other guffaws join the cacophony, and it swells above the tranquil murmur of the ocean in the distance.

"You laughing at me? You actually think you can do better?"

"Perhaps."

"Well then, Silan, go ahead and show us how it's done."

"If you insist."

She hears the second man clear his throat loudly, giving away his position as only a couple of centrums from the door of her car.

"What my friend has graciously failed to mention, is that you have no where to escape. If you surrender yourself and the pearls right now, your punishment shall be, oh I don't know, a mere ten-year conglomerate prison sentence. But if you don't –"

"We're going to get in there, reclaim the pearls by force, and then take a perverse pleasure in tearing all the flesh off your bones, " a third voice intercedes, this time from a location dangerously close to the door.

"Come now, Tirb, there's no need to get ahead of ourselves. But then again, option two sounds infinitely more entertaining."

A faint glimmer catches her eye, and she looks up, stifling a gasp when she realizes that she can see her assailants' reflections. If she believed in the Gods of luck, she would have thanked them immensely right now, because, had the rays of the setting sun penetrated her car at any other angle, she would have never discovered her advantage. But, of course! These monorails have always been fitted with a small convex mirror in each separate car, attached at a 45-degree angle with respect to the car's sliding door, offering a narrow view of the surrounding area behind each car and to the right of it. Conglomerate soldiers had used these mirrors during the Great War to detect ambushes, and pinpoint any potential attacker's position. But that was long before the protection grid ever came into existence, and long before the Moecian treaty ended a civil war that had lasted thirty years. Now, the mirrors are mostly covered with mud and dust from lack of use.

She quickly identifies a short, bearded brute, probably "Tirb", cautiously advancing up to the door, his weapon drawn, and keeping close to the side of the monorail.

"Are we sure she's even in there? Our informant could have been mistaken …"

In response, she swiftly pulls the upper half of her body around the side of the doorway, and fires with deadly precision. One shot. Two shots.

A surprised Tirb crumbles to the ground.

She resumes her position behind the car's doorway in the nick of time, because, in a matter of seconds, the air beside the open doorway sizzles with returning fire, and the side of the car rumbles with the impact of stray shots.

She watches the reflections of the three remaining figures take cover behind some rocks and the metal structure of the checkpoint.

"Does that answer your question, fool? Of course she's in there!"

"She's killed Tirb."

"Pity."

"I thought that blasted protection grid was supposed to detect all firearms. How'd she manage to sneak one across?"

"Well," she shouts back, before she can stop herself, "She's been known to be very intelligent, and quite resourceful."

A yet-to-be-named thug decides to take this chance and make a run for it, attempting to close the distance between himself and her car. She catches him mid-sprint, just before he can reach the shelter of a closer set of rocks. But she only manages to fire one shot this time, before a fresh volley of weapon fire forces her behind the wall of her car once more.

It is then that she realizes her mirror shows no signs of the remaining two henchmen. She begins to panic. Could they have changed positions while their overzealous friend distracted her? She frantically scans the mirror again, and determines they must be lurking somewhere beyond the mirror's field of vision, a little farther away from the side of the train. She decides to take a cautious glance outside the train to make sure.

But then, her mirror shatters.

She barely registers the flash of light from an energy weapon before she sees the shards flutter down to the floor, like a multitude of glass leaves, and hears the child utter a muffled scream.

"I'm blind," she whispers to herself, "My eyes are gone."

Nevertheless, she can hear a thumping of footsteps growing louder. She can hear both Marrick and Silan make a dash towards her car, one of them keeping up the rear, but both their boots pounding loudly against the gravel.

Marick appears at her doorway first, but she surprises him by aiming a strong forward kick at his bald skull, taking full advantage of the raised position of her car above the ground. She watches him stumble backwards and fall, and hopes he will remain there while she deals with his companion.

But Silan dives into the car head first, and tackles her, sending her zat flying across the floor, and knocking the wind out of her. Somehow, her flailing arms dislodge Silan's weapon in turn, and it falls off the car's edge and out of the train. She tries to collect herself, tries to breathe in, but the pain in her back and head pulsates through her entire body from the point collision with the floorboards, and for a couple of seconds, she feels paralyzed.

Silan's chapped lips widen into a nasty sneer. He pins down her legs with his weight, and very slowly, very deliberately, unsheathes a small knife from his belt. He leans forward so that she can feel his foul moistened breath against her ear:

"My, my, what a nasty temper you've got."

He pulls back, and she winces when she feels his free hand stroke the side of her hair.

" Yet, I'm rather glad you've eliminated my competition. Now, you and I can enjoy each other's company alone. And you can prove to me how resourceful you really are …"

Her options exhausted, she knows there is only one thing she can do. It had worked before as far as she can remember. Why shouldn't it work now?

She lets her arms slither seductively up his chest, whilst focusing what she hopes to be smoldering eyes upon his face. Then, she abruptly grabs a fistful of his oil-stained shirt, and pulls him down towards her, inclining her head upwards ever so gently. When her nose is only half an intrum away from his, she parts her lips slightly, freezes him with her sultry smile, and whispers:

"Your wildest dreams have no idea of what I'm capable of, darling."

Silan can only blink at her, mouth agape, expression torn between bewilderment and an irrepressible need to give in to her. She almost laughs at the confusion in his eyes, the trepid desire in his stance. But she doesn't fail to notice that in his distraction, his grip on his knife has become loose and his balance on top of her precarious. Seizing her opportunity, one hand shoots for Silan's knife wielding wrist, while she uses her body to tip him off balance, twisting around so that she ends up on top. She forcefully slams his wrist against the floorboards several times until he relinquishes his hold on the knife, but as she leans in to grab it, he suddenly kicks her off of him with both his legs.

She instantly clambers to her feet, kicks away at Silan's attempts to grab her legs, and rushes to the corner of the car where her zat had fallen. She manages to retrieve it successfully, exactly as she remembers she would. "Now, it will all be over," she tells herself. She triumphantly whips around, so that she can take down the irksome Silan once and for all.

But when she faces the far end of the car, when she takes in the scene before her, her blood solidifies into lead and sends her heart free falling into the pit of her stomach.

"Well, well, well…. what's this you've been hiding away behind those crates?"

No. This couldn't be happening.

"Mother!"

She can't breathe. Her words fizzle away in her throat, as she attempts to regroup, to think fast. She forces herself to inhale, forces herself to remain calm.

"I realize, Silan darling, that you haven't grown beyond the mental age of five, but really, this is beneath you. You and I, we're adults: we make deals. What would you say to a 50-50 cut in the profits I make from selling my pearls? Just release the girl, then we can talk business."

But Silan's filthy fingers slide further across the child's exposed neck. The mother swallows back a scream: she cannot bear the sight of his knife poised so alarmingly close to the girl's jugular, or the terrified tears streaming freely down the child's face. The child whimpers, her gaze fixed upon her mother, quietly hoping she would set her free.

"I'm sorry," Silan croons, sarcastically, "You seem to be under the impression that you're in control here. Obviously, you're mistaken. Now, kindly lower your zat before I slit the girl's throat."

"My zat's gone, Silan. Now let go of the girl."

"Not quite yet. Marrick, you idiot! Are you still cowering out there? Get in here right now, and frisk her!"

A fuming Marrick arrives at the door. He shakily climbs up onto the raised floor of the car, clutching the side of his head, and grimacing with pain. He then shoots the mother a dirty look, before punching her squarely across the jaw. She stumbles backwards, her eyes watering from the pain of the blow, but then, rather than give her any respite, Marrick proceeds to violently grope around in her pockets, stopping only when he manages to retrieve all her pearl satchels.

"You have the pearls now, Silan. Release her at – "

"By Teninth! Marrick, did you see this? She's wearing a white pearl!"

The mother watches with horror as Silan uses the tip of his knife to pull out the child's white pearl from beneath her shirt. He yanks at the chain with the knife, breaking it, and startling the child, who gulps back a frightened sob. Silan greedily grabs at the pearl, clutching it tightly in his left hand.

"It seems that we've made quite a catch here Marrick." Silan says, smirking at the mother.

"Tennith be damned! Silan, any pearls we retrieve belong to the conglomerate."

"Who says we've managed to retrieve anything?" replies Silan, a mischievous grin illuminating his features, "You see, although we tried to capture the notorious pearl thief, she sadly managed to get away with nearly all the pearls. Somehow, for no fault of ours, her pearls were sold in the black market for a sizable fortune. But then again, we lowly employees of the conglomerate have salaries that barely cover the dangerous nature of our professions. Who would blame us if the sizable fortune somehow made it into our pockets?"

"On the other hand, we did manage to capture the thief's child. I hear child labor is a rather valuable commodity these days. There's a thriving market for juvenile slaves in this corner of the galaxy, and I'm sure we can make quite a profit from selling off this pretty little thing." Silan continues, as he mockingly pinches the child's sun-kissed cheeks.

No, no, no! This couldn't be happening. Her mind tells her that she should be walking out of the train, pearls in hand, after kicking each of her assailants' respective asses. That's how it had happened before. Why is it different now? Why is this happening?

"Silan, you lay one more filthy finger on the girl, and I swear to you, I'll – "

"You'll what? It seems to me you can barely care for this child yourself. I'd say she'd be better off with me. What do you think Marrick?"

" I can be her Uncle Marrick!"

"Silan, darling," her tone is suddenly desperate, suddenly pleading, "Just let her go. I know you'd rather take me instead. I'm worth much more that she'll ever be. Do you even know how much the Kells of Herassia are offering for my capture?"

But her pleas fail to elicit anything but an uninterested scowl on Silan's face.

"She's beginning to annoy me, Marrick. What do you say we get out of here?"

She is about to protest again, when the corner of her eyes catch a glimpse of Marrick picking up a rather large metal tube from the side of the train. Before she can react, she feels the loud whoosh of air being displaced beside her right ear, and knows that Marrick is taking a swing at her head.

A hot flash of pain reverberates throughout her scull, and light explodes behind her eyes. The force of the blow knocks her off her feet and she feels her limbs collide against the floorboards. But, the child's petrified face is the last thing she feels seared within the core of her mind … before she feels nothing at all.


She's drowning. She must be drowning because she can sense the rise of water, and a biting iciness that soaks up her limbs. She thinks she is sinking beneath the surface, that she is becoming submerged by an unfathomable darkness. She instinctively gasps for air.

But her lungs inflate on command, and when she tastes the salty droplets against her tongue, she knows: she isn't drowning. It is only the rain.

Her eyes are closed, her head is pounding heavily, but she can still feel the pitter patter of the water against her skin. She can hear the thunder rumble in the distance and the downpour bouncing off the gravel. Nevertheless, she is still cold. She is still drenched and shivering.

But, why is she here? She opens her eyes, and remembers instantly. The child … her daughter! They had taken her. They were intending to sell her in the slave market.

She needs to find her. She needs to get up.

When she does, she has to fight off a wave of nausea that undulates upwards from deep within her. She has to struggle with darkness so absolute it suffocates her. How can darkness become this deep? Is she really awake? Yes, she must be drowning, not in water, but rather, in darkness itself. She struggles to stay afloat the shadows tugging at her flailing limbs, pulling her downwards into their depths.

The angry clouds must have shrouded the light from Quedessa's two moons, obscuring her path. How long has she been unconscious? They must have thrown her off the monorail, before continuing with her daughter along the track. Where was the track? Which direction should she take?

She knows her best chance is to get to Zehral, and fast. Gathering her strength, she ventures forward, stumbles rather, blindly\against the forceful gale, and ignores her shuddering body and the complaining migraine. The rain punishes her, lashes against her face violently, forcing her wet hair to cling to the sides of her face. But, she just needs to find her daughter. She needs to get her back. She needs to continue walking, regardless of whether she knows where she is going or not.

A concealed tree-branch juts out of her blind path, and sends her tumbling into the mud, sends her resolve, her courageous front crashing down upon her like the stormy ocean upon Quedessa's shore. The darkness absorbs any remnant traces of her self-control, her will power: she cannot get up anymore.

It's no use. The futility of her current situation seeps into her bones insidiously, like the damp chill of the mud and the water: she will never manage to find her daughter in time. She's probably been forced off the planet by now. "My daughter …" she says out loud, to the howling wind, to the rain and the sky.

Hades has never seen a creature more pathetic than she. All of this is her fault … all her own doing. Was it a momentary lapse of judgment, or was it sheer stupidity that allowed her to drag a child into the midst of a gunfight? What had possessed her to bring her daughter to this planet in the first place? She curses herself loudly, and curses herself again as her voice breaks. Then her eyes and the clouds become one, shedding away their despair, their tremendous self loathing, in a tumultuous downpour of tears…

Her vision, or what's left of it, begins to blur, and she doesn't know if it's a result of her tears, or her sanity finally bailing out on her. But somehow, the scene before her fades from her senses, beginning with its black and white edges at the peripheries of her vision. Soon, a new scene materializes around her, but this time, she can see a cave, low hanging stalagmites, a young lady with hazel eyes and …

"Why do you hate the Ori, mother?"

She replies almost mechanically, unaware of what she is saying, her words slurring with the heaviness of her sobs: "I hate them because of what they've … done … to …"

And just like that, realization slaps her squarely across the face and she smarts at the pain of it.

"Adria?"

As the young woman in question stares at her mother's kneeling form, her lips twitch with a bemused, slightly disdainful smile. Vala tries to compose herself, to sound enraged, but her voice sounds fractured, vulnerable:

"None of this is real, is it?"

"No."

Damn Adria, and her superior calmness.

"Where am I? Have I been taken prisoner?"

Adria laughs, letting her head tilt back slightly. "Don't be absurd, mother, you are safely asleep in your own bed at the Tau'ri base."

"What have … why have you done this to me?"

"You once asked me whether I knew how the sands of Quedessa feel beneath my feet. I wanted to know, and now I do. "

Vala rises from her knees, brushes off the dust from her pants, but she can do nothing about the drying mud, her trembling limbs, or the moistness lingering in her eyes. Her mind instinctively searches for some joke, some witty comeback to put her daughter in her place, but her sense of humor fails to answer her summons, and her mind is demoralized by all the tricks that have been played against it. Her bitterness, on the other hand, responds quite promptly.

"You haven't come here to learn about Quesdessa. You're using this twisted ploy to make a point."

"What point would that be?"

"Oh, how so very clever of you to feign ignorance. Shouldn't your point involve some sort of Ori rhetoric we're all tired of hearing? Regardless, your plan has worked, daughter dear. Now you can rest assured that you've evaded a particularly grim childhood. And a terribly irresponsible mother."

As soon as her words leave her lips though, she wishes she could take them back, anything, to wipe off the smug, patronizing pity on her daughter's face.

"Is that how you truly see yourself?" says Adria, sidling up to her, invading her personal space.

"You should know that I didn't influence the events from your memory in any way. I merely inserted myself into its fabric and observed as your dreams played out exactly as you own mind dictated."

Vala swallows, her tears still fresh in her eyes. She feels completely exposed, and she hates it.

"The memory is old. It's different … I'm different now, you know."

Adria only stares at her, devours her deepest, darkest insecurities, making her shudder where she stands.

"Are you truly different, mother?"

She cannot respond. Her own silence reverberates off the walls of the cave, and she stands there, letting the echoes scar her, feeling them shatter the last of her defenses with a deadly stroke.

Then, she feebly tries to switch gears, attempts to sound stern. Failing miserably, her voice croaks out:

"Don't come back here again." Don't invade my memories. Don't interfere with my dreams.

Adria's brow softens slightly. Vala can almost say she looks repentant. Almost.

"Do not worry: I will not return. I have learned all that I needed. I did not intend to cause you any discomfort. In the future, your dreams will be your own."

And, before Vala can do anything to stop her, Adria gently raises her hand, and brushes a stray tear from her mother's face.

"Do not cry, mother …."

Wake up, mother.


And sure enough, Vala's eyes flutter open.

She finds herself in her own bed, but –

Nothing had been real.

In fact the grayness of reality astounds her, the bareness and starkness of it, seeping in from every corner of her empty room. She feels that the colors are somehow darker, far removed from the vibrant hues of the Quedessan landscape. But her cheeks are damp, and her pillow moist.

Only her tears were real.

She is cold and noxious. But, she isn't disoriented, or confused, as is usually the case when she wakes up from a long slumber. No, she is completely lucid, and painfully so. The clarity of it all leaves a bad taste in her mouth. She feels sick.

"I should just remain in bed, " Vala thinks, and it would have been a good idea too. But she reconsiders, somehow manages to pull herself out of her covers, to dig a hole in the hollows of her consciousness, and bury all her emotions within it.

Little does she know that theirs is a shallow grave, and that when it rains, they will surge upwards from the earth in full force, bubbling towards the surface in vehement streams, perhaps even floods.

But today it will not rain. The sun may be shielded, but there will be no storms beyond the horizon. Not today, the day she will realize that she should have stayed in bed after all, beneath the shelter of her blankets.

Not today, the day she will discover that the Ori have invaded the Tau'ri designated planet PX-412, along with its entire system, the planet known to the rest of the galaxy as Queda Rosus…

Today will only be the day where she suddenly breaks, snapping at Mitchell for making a snide comment about Adria when she would have normally laughed about it. Today will be the day where she hates how Mitchell lets her comment slide, how he doesn't chide her for it at all, the day where she hates how the rest of the team tip-toes around her, afraid to provoke her irritable temper in any way.

Vala should have really stayed in bed.

Because, later, she will lie awake in her sleeping bag on the bog-ridden PS-359, refusing to fall asleep to the sound of alien crickets.

However impossible, she will vow to purge her dreams.

Yes, no matter how unconceivable, she will promise herself, to never, never let herself dream of anything again.

A/N: Phew. This story somehow took me forever to write. But regardless, please review! I'd like to particularly know if the plot was confusing a times, especially the fact that Vala was dreaming, and reliving her past. Also, grammar issues towards the end. Liked it? Hated it? Let me know!