SG-1 left for the planet Sifnus, where they hoped to find Martouf/Lantash.
Back at Stargate Command, Freya/Anise gave Janet an overview of her work on zatarc detectors, and possible treatments. They would be working together on the project, just as Freya/Anise had told the Tok'ra Council - the research were no less necessary, even if it also served as a cover.
Sifnus was a very green world, with a pleasant climate. It was easy to see that it was an agricultural world, with fields stretching out from them in all directions.
Sam pointed towards a hilly terrain in the distance. "According to Anise, the nearest village is behind those hills, about 3 clicks away. Martouf and Lantash will probably be there, as it's the location of the local Council."
"Okay, off we go, then," O'Neill said.
"Over there." Sam pointed towards a young man at the far end of the plaza. He was talking to two older men, and all seemed pleased with whatever they were discussing. When the young man turned his head a little, it was clear to all of them it was Martouf.
"Let's wait until he's finished talking to the locals," O'Neill said.
A couple minutes later, Martouf bowed his head respectfully to the two locals, and turned to walk away from the plaza, while the locals left in another direction, towards a large building.
SG-1 immediately hurried in the same direction as Martouf, but before they had caught up with him, he suddenly turned and stepped through the door to a seemingly random house.
"Damn - he sensed Teal'c's symbiote!" Sam realized.
They had barely started towards the building, when Martouf left the house again, having clearly seen who it was that that was approaching. He stopped just outside the building, and bowed his head in acknowledgment of their presence.
Martouf waited until they reached him, then greeted them. "Hello, Samantha, Colonel O'Neill, Daniel Jackson, and Teal'c. I presume you are here looking for me?"
"Martouf. Yes, we are. Listen, can we go somewhere... private?" Sam said.
"Yes..." Martouf was quiet for a few moments, considering where to go, then decided on the usually empty temple just outside the village. "Come, this way."
Martouf frowned, then nodded "I understand. I will not return to my base until after the summit, at least. I do see that I would be a likely target." He sighed. "I really hope this can be resolved quickly. It is... disquieting to think that there are Tok'ra traitors. Almost unbelievable."
"Yeah, I hear you. Learning your friends or colleagues have betrayed you and your cause really sucks," O'Neill said, thinking of Colonel Makepeace and the other SG team members that had been discovered to work for the NID.
Martouf nodded slowly. "I just don't understand how this could have happened. Why would they help the Goa'uld? Our enemies, who represent all that we despise?"
"Maybe it's not their fault? Couldn't they have been... I don't know... brainwashed? Just like what they're apparently doing to others now?" Sam suggested.
"It's possible, I suppose." Martouf sighed. "We should prepare for our mission. I believe our best chance to procure a symbiote, is to go to Tlaloc's homeworld. There will be guards around or near the tanks with the larvae, but usually it will not be a heavily guarded place. It is considered a holy place to both humans and Jaffa, besides, no one on these worlds willingly approaches an unhosted symbiote." He gave them a wry grin.
"Yeah, I can understand that!" Daniel exclaimed.
"The larvae at the sepulchers are too young to take hosts, are they not?" Teal'c asked.
"They are, yes, but most humans do not know this, or they choose to... err on the side of caution, as I believe your expression is?" Martouf said.
"So, how do we go about this?" O'Neill asked. "Any ideas?"
"The chaapa'ai will be guarded, but it is not uncommon for traders to go to Tlaloc's homeworld, so we could masquerade as such," Martouf suggested.
"That should get us there, but it won't help us when we get to the point of grabbing one of the larvae, will it?" O'Neill said.
"No, we will need a different disguise for that. Perhaps as priests of the temple of life, coming to fetch larvae for implantation..." Martouf looked thoughtful.
"Temple of life?" Daniel asked.
"The name usually given to the temple that is in charge of taking care of symbiote larvae, as well as implantation," Martouf explained.
O'Neill made a face, not liking the images that brought into his head. "We could just zat the guards, get the, ah, snakelet, and get out of there quick. Couldn't we?"
"Snakelet?" Martouf raised an eyebrow at him, getting a faintly amused expression on his face. "Regardless, your plan is dangerous. I do not know how far away the chaapa'ai is from the temple, but it will be a fair distance. We are unlikely to avoid detection and capture - shooting the guards will call attention from the priests and other attendants at the temple."
"We've done it before - on Chulak," Sam told him.
"Really? Nevertheless, Apophis is a more powerful System Lord. Tlaloc is only a minor System Lord, with no queen working solely for him. He can ill afford losing the larvae he needs for his Jaffa, as he may not easily be able to replace them in time."
"Meaning he'll guard them better," Sam guessed.
"Yes," Martouf confirmed.
"Okay, I guess we're trying your plan - but we're keeping my plan as plan B," O'Neill said.
"Um, couldn't Lantash just pretend to be a Goa'uld and order the guards away from the symbiotes?" Daniel asked.
Martouf looked around, making sure no one else was nearby, then dipped his head, giving Lantash control.
"Possibly, though a minor Goa'uld like Tlaloc would not have a lot of underlings, and a strange, unknown Goa'uld would not be allowed near anything of value. Besides, why would a Goa'uld go to the temple of life of a rival - or any temple of his - even if it was a potential ally? What would be my possible interest in those larvae? The most likely answer would be because I wanted to harm them, in order to harm Tlaloc. In any case, it would be highly suspicious."
"Okay, forget that, then. Where do we get costumes for his priests? Do you know how they look?"
"I have only a vague idea," Lantash admitted. "Short, colourful robes, black cloaks, a feathered headdress..."
"Like the one Zipacna wears?" Sam asked.
"Yes, much like that one, though only the highest priests would have gold decorations on it."
"Tlaloc... he's an Aztec deity. He's infamous for child sacrifices - and his priests wore the flayed skin of the sacrificial victims for twenty days..." Daniel suddenly said.
"Thank you, Daniel. That's encouraging." O'Neill grimassed.
"While Tlaloc is a very unpleasant Goa'uld, I do not know of any child sacrifices performed in his name. I am not saying they do not happen, but I do not believe it is a common occurance - nor do I believe human skin will be a suitable costume for us, when we pretend to be his priests. Fortunately," Lantash said.
"Not only Aztec gods, but all Mesoamerican gods are generally known for human sacrifices - though I guess it might just mean the Goa'uld gathered up hosts?" Daniel asked.
Lantash nodded. "Yes, all Goa'uld will sometimes have humans captured and brought to them, so they can choose hosts and, ah, personal slaves. Usually, those who are not picked, will be killed, and it is true that among some Goa'uld that may indeed happen publically, and in a ritualistic way. The intention is, I believe, to make their human subjects believe it's a necessary sacrifice to protect them against evil, and make their fields fertile... that kind of thing. So... yes, human sacrifices happen, even if it happens as a... side effect."
O'Neill snorted. "Do you want to stay here and continue talking about these 'pleasant' things, or can we get going? I'd like to get this over with!"
First they went to fetch valuables from one of the stashes the Tok'ra had hidden on several planets, so operatives who were for one reason or another unable to return to their base, could still get what they needed to carry out their missions.
Besides shes'ta - Goa'uld currency - Martouf took a hand device and a healing device. He also took a zat'nik'tel for each of them, which they hid in their clothes.
The next stop was the planet Shorren, which had a large market. Here they bought clothes fitting of traders, as well as spices and herbs for selling on Tlaloc's homeworld. While they were not going to impersonate traders longer than they had to, the Jaffa guards at the Stargate might very well ask to see what they would be selling.
They changed to the new clothes on a stop-over world, where they also hid their own clothing, as well as their Earth weapons and equipment.
"Okay, that went well," O'Neill said, when they had walked far enough from the Stargate that the Jaffa there could not overhear them. "Time to find that temple."
"We should continue to the nearby city, and there hopefully learn the location of the temple," Martouf said.
"Can't we just ask? I mean, it's a temple, right? Perhaps we want to, uh, pray?" Daniel suggested.
Martouf looked surprised. "Pray? Worship is not offered at that kind of temple, so that will not work as an excuse."
"Okay, so why don't we just, you know, go look for it?" O'Neill said, a bit exasperated.
"There will be several temples, some close to the city, some quite a bit further away. Not only would it take a long time, it would look very suspicious if we go to each of them - and especially if we approach the temple of life openly," Martouf insisted.
"Whatever, we'll think of something - let's go to the city and see if they have a place where we can get something decent to eat," O'Neill said.
A few hours later, they had found a guesthouse, rented a room, and eaten a simple, but filling dinner. Unsurprisingly, they had not heard anyone discuss the temple with the larvae.
The place was holy, and not a place humans usually came - nor did they generally want to. All the priests at the 'temple of life', as well as their assistants, would be Jaffa.
"Tomorrow we'll go to the marketplace and find a place where we can sell our goods. If we are fortunate, priests will come by, as they are also in charge of healing the sick. For this they use herbs, and many of those we have brought to sell are used for this purpose," Martouf said.
"So that's why we bought herbs for selling? Why didn't you tell us this little tidbit? You know I hate surprises and secrets!" O'Neill grumbled.
Martouf looked somewhat affronted. "My apologizes, O'Neill, but I did not think it was important."
"Hmph," O'Neill scoffed, then added in a lower voice. "Not important! Typical Tok'ra arrogance!"
Martouf sent him an unhappy look, but clearly decided to ignore the comment.