Vala Unbound
by Eilidh17

“That’s what you said last time.”
“One more week.  Now, that’s not too much to ask for is it, Tenat?  Besides, what would you prefer—another cargo ship or a shiny Al’kesh?”  Vala feigned disinterest by rolling her shoulders and inspecting her fingernails.  On the viewscreen in front of her, Tenat—a thoroughly hideous and crooked little weasel of a… actually, Vala wasn’t quite sure what he was—stared blankly at her.  Oran, Tenat’s homeworld, wasn’t one she was familiar with, and if Tenat and his partner in crime, Jup, were the best their planet could offer, well, she wasn’t about to add it to her list of vacation destinations.
“An Al’kesh?”  Tenat’s throaty laugh made a mockery of what she thought was a clever trade-up from the battered cargo ship she’d previously offered him.  Of course, when the deal had been struck, the cargo ship had been made to seem like a sweet trade.  Anyone scanning the vessel would find it loaded with the type of technology reserved for Hat’aks.  Unfortunately for Vala, the program she’d acquired to give off such false readings had released a virus into the ship’s computer and left her stranded on a flea-ridden trading planet for the better side of a week.  Hence the need for extra time.
Vala leaned in close to the viewscreen and smiled widely.  “Surely you remember what an Al’kesh is, don’t you?  Funny, round little vessel.  The Goa’uld are rather quite—”
“I know what they are!” Tenat hissed.  “I’m just not sure why you would think Netan would consider a cache of weapons grade naquadah to be a fair trade for an Al’kesh?  It’s not as if the Alliance doesn’t already have quite a few in their fleet.”
“Ah, but this Al’kesh is quite different.”
“Really?  In what way?”
“Well,” she whispered, leaning in even closer, as though they might be overheard, “I’m rather reliably informed that Anubis has had it outfitted with stolen beaming technology, but you didn’t hear that from me.”
Tenat’s eyes went wide and his jaw dropped, which Vala found to be quite a disturbing sight.  In the background, and out of her view, she could hear Jup banging about the cargo ship’s small cabin and whooping in what she assumed was delight. Truly, these two were quite the intergalactic oddity.
Smothering his excitement as quickly as he’d released it, Tenat waggled a finger at Vala. “You have your one week, but use it well.  Vosh would like nothing more than to report your untimely death to Netan.”
“I thought he wanted me alive?” she protested.
“He’s not fussy.”
Vala swallowed hard.  “I guess not.”
Shutting down the com link, Vala toggled the viewscreen display to bring up an image of the vessel she was tracking through hyperspace.  The Al’kesh—far from the technological wonder she purported it to be—held the key to her cunning plan.  Quite by accident, she’d discovered its small Jaffa crew were transporting one of Anubis’ Kull warriors to several of his newly conquered worlds, probably to clean up any pockets of resistance.  Why they weren’t using the ‘gate was a mystery, but she wasn’t one to knock the hand of fate.
She’d been shadowing the Al’kesh now for a good week, all the time praying that what little information she’d gleaned on the life span of the soldiers was at least semi-correct.  Her plan, devilish simple in her mind, was to wait until the ship landed at the next planet, board it, dispose of its Jaffa crew and capture the Kull warrior when he… it, reboarded.  She’d lock it in the cargo hold of her pretty new Al’kesh and wait for it to expire, before enacting part two of her plan—donning its armor for the rendezvous with Tenat and liberating the naquadah without handing over the ship.  After all, what good was the naquadah if you had no means of transporting it?
“Simple really!” she scoffed, smiling nervously and chewing a hangnail.
The door vibrated so loudly that Vala was starting to doubt Goa’uld craftsmanship and her own common sense.  What was she thinking!  On the other side, the Kull warrior was likely taking a rather short run-up in preparation for launching himself through the bulkhead.  She’d hardly call it a bid for freedom, more like ending her miserable life once he tore through the toughened hull and wrapped his fingers around her neck.
She rubbed her neck in sympathy.
After a short intermission, in which Vala was all the while wishing the Al’kesh had internal sensors so she could at least know what the warrior was doing, he resumed his attempt to punch through the bridge doors.  The Al’kesh being much larger than her last ride, Vala tried to count off all the possible hiding places she could utilize, hoping that one would elude him just long enough for her to…
“Me to what?  Face it, Mal Doran, you’ve been beaten by your own not so clever plan!”  Her first mistake was thinking she could take the ship while it was on the planet.  Wrong!  This time around, the Jaffa didn’t even bother to land, instead choosing to ring the warrior down while the ship was still in orbit.
Okay, well, she could live with that, even though it meant she’d have to board the Al’kesh the same way and hope she could dispose of the crew before they could do the same to her.
Wrong again!
The galaxy was conspiring against her.
Yes, she’d rung aboard successfully, caught a Jaffa sleeping on the job and zatted him twice.  She was a take no prisoners kind of gal… well, at least for this little heist.  There had been no resistance as she’d wormed her way to the bridge, finding only one of Anubis’ minions standing guard over the helm.  He’d sensed her approach only a split second before she’d taken him out, the look of surprise on his face had stayed with him even in death.
“Okay!”  She counted off the Jaffa on the fingers of one hand and found herself coming up short.  “Hmm… I seem to be missing one.  Now where could you be?”  It was at that moment that the bridge console sounded an alarm, alerting her to the activation of the rings.  Moments later, the Al’kesh was rocked by weapons fire from her own cargo ship.
“Oh,” she said, looking out the viewscreen as the cargo ship sped past and swung about in a tight turn to face her.  “There you are.”
Slipping into the pilot’s seat, she quickly engaged the engines and made a hasty exit.  So she didn’t get the Kull warrior, but she had traded up to an Al’kesh.
Double-crossing Tenat into parting with the naquadah wasn’t looking hopeful once he realized the ship had no beaming technology.
Vala guided the ship out of the system, hoping to put some distance between her and the planet before jumping into hyperspace.  But, like the rest of her impressively awful planning, she’d no sooner punched in the coordinates, when the ship was once again rocked by weapons fire.  Pre-occupied with her own increasingly bad predicament, she’d failed to notice the cargo ship closing in on her.
“Well, this isn’t good.”
Events happened all at once.  Fire from the cargo ship grazed the hull, short circuiting the Al’kesh’s crystal circuitry and leaving Vala dead in space, but not before she’d managed to fire back and return the favor.  Moments later the rings activated again, followed a few short seconds after that by the telltale clomping sound of Kull warrior boots on the metal floor plating of the ship.  There was no mistaking their distinct heaviness.
Vala quickly sealed the bridge and rummaged through the weapons locker.
“Great,” she sighed angrily at her meager hoard of weapons.  “Zat, zat, and, oh yes, another zat.  And they’ve always proven so useful in the past.”
So, here she was.  Kull warrior on one side of the door, her on the other, and hours of listening to him headbutt himself into a sure brain bleed… assuming he had a brain in the first place.
Amusing herself with the knowledge that she’d be depriving Vosh of the opportunity to kill her, Vala didn’t notice the silence for quite some time.  Whether the soldier had given up—unlikely, but a girl could dream—or, he was content to wait her out, she wasn’t sure.
She stepped up to the door and tapped it with a zat.  “Ah, hello?”
The silence was unnerving.
The imminent failure of the ship’s life support systems was even more so.  Choiceless, she did the only thing she could think of.
“Stranded and adrift. Help.  Require assistance.  Engines have failed and I am losing power to life support.  Repeat, stranded and adrift.  Help!  Require assistance…”  Vala set the recording to loop continuously, in the hopes some passing ship might pick up her hail.
Hours later, each breath a chore, and the bleak silence of space pressing down on her, Vala dragged herself out of the command chair and over to the doorway.  In the ship’s cargo hold there was a slim chance of prolonging her misery.  All Goa’uld ships carried portable oxygen supplies in case of emergencies.  As a general rule, those supplies were reserved for the Goa’uld and their First Primes, with the lives of the Jaffa coming a very distant last, but she was sure there was no one around to complain too.
There was, however, the little matter of a Kull warrior behind door number two.
“Nothing to lose.”  Vala entered in the door code and primed her zats, one in each hand.  The door groaned its complaint from the beating the warrior had given it, but finally forced itself open enough to let her slip through.  What she found on the other side was… different.
Several feet passed the door, sprawled bonelessly on the floor, the Kull warior was doing a vastly superior impersonation of being dead.  Vala approached cautiously, zatting him twice for good measure, before kicking at the arm closest to her.
“Hmm… nothing.”  Which didn’t mean a whole lot because she knew their suits deflected zat blasts.  Tempting fate, she kept one zat aimed at him for her own reassurance, and reached behind to the release button on the underside of his helmet, wincing squeamishly as the face plate fell away to reveal soulless eyes underneath.
“Yep, very much dead.”
Relief flooded through her, and she rocked back on her heels and slid down against the wall, staring through the partially open bridge door and right at the image of a large ship floating off her bow.
“Well,” Vala smiled, teeth bared, “hello there!”  She shifted her gaze from the screen back to the dead warrior.  “Cunning plan number two.  Strip soldier of his armor, zat liberally to ensure that he is, in fact, dead, and liberate a much larger vessel!  Vala Mal Doran, you are a genius!”

The End


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