Chapter 3 summary: Jolinar discovers that two minor Goa'uld - Sernoh and Kherum - are conspiring with Apophis against Cronus, in order to gain power. 



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[ Chapter 1: Goodbyes | Chapter 2: An Audience | Chapter 3: A Conspiracy | Chapter 4: Promotion | Chapter 5: Minor System Lord | Chapter 6: An Old Acquaintance | Chapter 7: Diversions | Chapter 8: Plans | Chapter 9: Happy Moments | Chapter 10: Culmination | Chapter 11: Complications | Chapter 12: Daily Life | Chapter 13: Exposed | Chapter 14: A New Host - and a New Master | Chapter 15: New Challenges | Chapter 16: A Necessary Sacrifice | Chapter 17: Information Gathering | Chapter 18: A Surprise Visit | Chapter 19: Bad News | Chapter 20: War and Power | Chapter 21: Emergencies | Chapter 22: Found Out | Chapter 23: In the Tunnels | Chapter 24: Undercover at Bastet's Court | Chapter 25: Discovered! | Chapter 26: Rosha | Chapter 27: Host | Chapter 28: Getting Along | Chapter 29: Safe | Chapter 30: Lantash | Chapter 31: Shared Missions | Chapter 32: Taking A Chance | Chapter 33: Danger and Betrayal | Chapter 34: Some Realizations | Chapter 35: Hiding | Chapter 36: Time for the Truth | Chapter 37: Home | Chapter 38: Together | Chapter 39: Martouf ]


*I am sorry. I truly believed I would be able to handle this better.* Sannya sounded apologetic.

*You have nothing to apologize for. I feared this would happen. You are doing much better than I would have. We have been here almost eight months, and you have probably not been in control for more than an hour totally during this time.* Jolinar sighed. *I grow weary of this 'position' - perhaps this was a bad idea. Do you wish us to return to the Tok'ra? I am sure they will have work for us on one of the bases, and we could always go on shorter missions.*

*No...* Sannya answered after a moment. *Few are willing to take on the long undercover missions, and I am not giving up. I do agree this is the way it must be done...it is just going so slowly!*

*I, too, had hoped we would have been in a better position by now...though I realize that was naive. The Goa'uld hierarchy is quite rigid, and given our long lives...* Jolinar froze.  *Please, quiet!* She hurriedly hid behind a large pillar.

At the other end of the corridor, two Goa'uld appeared, coming out of separate doors. They were behaving quite suspiciously - looking in all directions and being very quiet.

The distance to them was just over 50 feet - around the upper limit symbiotes could sense each other. Jolinar pressed herself against the wall, trying to get as far away from them as possible, without stepping out and being seen.

The two Goa'uld - Jolinar now recognized them as Sernoh, Lord of Merlona, and Kherum, chief of diplomacy for Cronus - exchanged something and spoke together in a low voice, which was barely audible.

She strained her ears, trying to hear what was being said. She caught the words 'Cronus', 'noon in three days', and 'Apophis will send...' Then one more short fragment of a sentence; '...promises us a third of Cronus's domain...'

Jolinar felt her heart beat faster. A conspiracy!

*They will kill Cronus? A conspiracy with Apophis?* Sannya wondered.

*Yes, it certainly sounds like it.*

The two Goa'uld left - fortunately through the same doors they had arrived from, so they did not get any closer to where Jolinar was hiding.

She let out a relieved breath and hurried to her rooms, where she sank down on the bed, her legs suddenly feeling like rubber.

*I suddenly remembered - Cronus is meeting with Artemis in three days. Secretly. I only know because I was tasked with ordering the delicacies for the meeting. Cronus is hoping for an alliance, no doubt.* Jolinar concluded.

*And he cannot bring more ships than his mothership, or Artemis will suspect him of foul play. He will be vulnerable to an attack, so it is done in utmost secrecy. No one even knows where this meeting will be held.*

*All true...no one knows...except Cronus's brother Oceanus, who is above suspicion - and his chief of diplomacy, Kherum! I am guessing the meeting will be held on Merlona, and that is why Sernoh is involved. They are no doubt keeping Apophis informed. He is Cronus's worst enemy, and would jump at a chance like this.*

*So...Apophis shows up. Captures or kills Cronus...takes over most of his empire, and gives part of it to Kherum and Sernoh. Neat plan.*

*Yes...* Jolinar answered, deep in thought.

*What do you intend to do? Ignore it and pretend we did not hear it? Approach them and join the conspiracy? Tell Cronus? Flee?* Sannya continued, when Jolinar did not answer.

Jolinar sighed.

*That is the question. Honestly, I do not know. The first two options are dangerous. We would need to convince them - or Apophis - that we are willing to change our allegiance. I admit that might not really be hard, giving out position and the normal ambition among Goa'uld. However, it would likely also be very difficult getting them to trust us.*

*Because we would already have betrayed one master.* Sannya noted.

*Yes - and another thing; as Apophis's vassal we would never be trusted by Ra, given their past history. Staying and doing nothing would surely lead to our capture - and likely execution at the hands of Apophis. He cares little for a lowly underling of his worst enemy. No, we have to either expose the conspirators to Cronus - or flee. And I do not feel like giving up.*

*Exposing them should make Cronus feel more certain of our loyalty, do you agree? We may get a more trusted position.*

*Yes, if he believes us.*

*Well, I suppose we first need to be absolutely sure of one thing - that they are actually plotting against Cronus. Then we can decide how to expose them.*

*Hmmm...if I come right out and accuse them, they will only say I am lying...and they are in a higher and more trusted position.* Jolinar lay down on the bed to think. *We can not allow Apophis to grow too strong and powerful. It would work against the Tok'ra plan to eventually take them down. They have to be kept fighting, their powers balanced and divided. Yes, we do need to find a way to convince Cronus.*

*Could not a trap be set? I realise we would need to involve Cronus in that, but I vote we take the chance. Perhaps he could secretly move the meeting. Postpone it maybe? Then his fleet could be there waiting for Apophis, hidden behind a moon or something.*

Jolinar thought it over. *Possibly...but he would have to admit to Artemis that two of his vassals were plotting against him. It would be embarrassing to him - and weaken his position as a potential ally. Cronus would hold that against me, even if I succeeded.*

*Then why not just convince Sernoh and Kherum the meeting is one day earlier? Cronus could say Artemis has some affairs to take care of and so the meeting must be held sooner. Then his fleet can stand by to fight off Apophis and capture the traitors before it is time to meet with Artemis.*

*You are a genius! That might actually work!* Jolinar sent warm feelings to her host.

They spent a few hours going over their plan, sketching out the details, and making sure it was sound. Then they left to approach Cronus.

-----
Cronus had become furious at first, and would not believe Jolinar. However, as he always suspected his underlings was plotting against him, he eventually agreed to follow Jolinar's plan. It also helped that she had dressed in her most alluring clothing, and kept telling him how great and inspiring a leader he was.

When he had become convinced Jolinar's plan might be true, he - flattered by her words - invited her to accompany him, when he went to carry out her plan. Jolinar knew well there was another reason - he wanted her there so she could be immediately punished, and eventually killed - if what she had told him was not the truth. It was a gamble, and she felt a little nervous, despite being almost completely certain the conspiracy was real.

The fleet hid behind Merlona's largest moon, waiting for the sign. A very realistic double had been found for Cronus, and he was sent down to the fake meeting in Cronus's mothership, together with a group of Jaffa.

The double had been found among the same people Cronus originally had taken his host from. They were some of his most fanatic worshippers, who did not for a moment doubt Cronus was a god, despite the atrocities he regularly committed. Somehow, it only made them more dedicated. Jolinar found them more than slightly insane in their dedication, but she admitted they were useful.

However, no human could believable play a Goa'uld, without the ability to talk like a Goa'uld. This meant Cronus had been forced to trust another Goa'uld to take on this role - a potentially dangerous situation, as you would have a Goa'uld, with a host who looked much like the host Cronus had used for millennia.

A solution had been found, however. One of Cronus's Jaffa had a mature symbiote, who would otherwise - as the vast majority of symbiotes - not have been given the chance of getting a host. He had been offered the double as a temporary host - with the promise of a permanent host if he did his job well. He had accepted, and gratefully jumped into the double. 

The real Cronus stayed on one of the other ships, while his mothership - with the double in his place - landed on the platform constructed for it near the palace. The fake Cronus, followed by Jolinar, Cronus's First Prime, as well as a relatively large Jaffa guard, walked out from it, with self-assured looks on their faces.

Sernoh's First Prime approached them, and knelt down before 'Cronus', greeting him.

"My Lord Cronus, I welcome you to Merlona. I must apologize on behalf of Lord Sernoh and Lord Kherum...they were unable to welcome you in person, due to important affairs - ah - having to due with assuring the success of this meeting. They will be receiving you in the throne room shortly." 

It was quite a grave insult, and Jolinar was surprised they had dared it. Of course, the fact they expected to have Cronus in their clutches very soon probably had something to do with it. Most likely they were occupied with sending a message to Apophis - and the ships he had no doubt hidden in the nearest neighbouring star system - telling him Cronus was here and the trap was ready to be sprung.

The fake Cronus looked furious, seeing the insult for what it was. He looked like he was about to explode, despite the insult not being against him in person. Jolinar took note of it, suspecting he might not enjoy being demoted to a lowly underling after this, if he saw himself as a mighty Lord now. She doubted he was that good an actor.

*His resulting resentment might make him useful...he could perhaps be goaded into some ill-advised scheme that might seem to give him more power...* Jolinar suggested.

*Yes, we should definitively watch him in the future. What was his name...?*

*Cerberus.*

"How fortunate you were here to take care of things, then..." Cerberus said, his voice silky - and very dangerous. "I shall look forward to meeting the Lord of this world." His eyes flashed.

The Jaffa had looked relieved for a moment, but now saw the fury in the eyes of the Goa'uld. He paled, and bowed deeply.

"If you will follow me, my Lord."

He hurriedly began walking in the direction of the palace.

"Stop!" Cerberus bellowed. "How dare you turn your back on me?"

He raised his hand device, activating it and hitting the Jaffa with a low-power blast. The push was strong enough to throw the First Prime off balance and Cerberus reached him in a few steps. He immediately started ribboning him to death, the Jaffa gasping in pain, but not able to make any other sounds.

Jolinar winced at the scene, remembering the times she had spent on both the receiving end of a hand device - and the times, long ago, when she had used it on enemies, or slaves...

Sannya comforted Jolinar, reminding her she was a different person now. Tok'ra.

Jolinar studied the other people in their group, as well as the Jaffa that had accompanied Sernoh's First Prime. None of them seemed willing to interfere - and most of them looked away uncomfortably. Jolinar was the only other 'Goa'uld' - the rest were Jaffa, and they obviously felt empathy for the man being ribboned to death. Knowing they could well end up in a similar situation - dying for what was not their fault, but really that of their master.

Of course, a god could do no wrong, and a Jaffa was just a tool to use - to die for the master if needed. If Jolinar interfered, stopped Cerberus, she would appear very un-Goa'uld. So, she could do nothing.

Cerberus finished killing the First Prime, letting out a satisfied grunt when the man fell to the ground. Jolinar threw the Goa'uld a revolted look, quickly hidden.

"Now..." Cerberus smiled cruelly, looking to the remaining Jaffa sent by Sernoh. "Take me to your Lord."

-----
They entered the throne room and Cerberus walked directly up to Sernoh, who was sitting on his throne, Kherum standing beside him. They both looked smug.

"Ah, Lord Cronus...welcome." Kherum smiled.

"It is an honour receiving you in my palace." Sernoh added.

"A great honour." Cerberus agreed, an edge to his voice. "And if you know this, then why was I treated like a lowly underling? A position-less has'shak? Kal shaka mel! You are dishonouring me!"

"Please accept our apologies - we did not mean any disrespect. We only wished to ensure all was as well prepared as possible for the important meeting you, Lord Cronus, are going to have here with a potential ally. It is of utmost importance to both Lord Sernoh and myself to ensure this is the case..."

"Smooth talking...the words of a diplomat, Kherum. It does not change the fact that Sernoh sent his First Prime - and not even a Goa'uld underling - to meet me. The pleasure of killing him was only a small consolation to my wounded feelings!"

"An unfortunate oversight - I had told the fool to send my house master, Isash, but good Jaffa are hard to find, as you well know. He must have decided to go himself."

"Unfortunate indeed - this time Sernoh's choices in servants...ah, well. Perhaps we should focus on the matters at hand."

"Yes, when does Lord Artemis make her appearance? There is much that needs to be taken care of before hand."

"No doubt. Siwa, contact the ship."

Jolinar turned to the Jaffa carrying a box, and nodded at them. They opened the box and took out the large version of the Goa'uld long-range visual communications device. Jolinar activated it.

"My Lord, what is the status?"

"Several of Apophis's ships appeared out of hyperspace a short time ago. We were waiting for them and won easily. The cowards ran when they saw my mighty fleet!" Cronus grinned.

"What is this trickery?" Lord Sernoh demanded angrily.

"Yes." Jolinar said, stepping forward. "You allowed yourself to be fooled by a double. This is not the real Cronus! Your betrayal has been discovered. Lord Cronus was warned of your unforgivable treason - with Apophis, no less - and decided to test your loyalty. You have failed! The forces sent by Apophis have been destroyed. Surrender!"

"Apophis is a far mightier Lord than the cowardly Cronus!" Sernoh exclaimed. "He will free us and give us our rightful reward!"

Khenum rolled his eyes and looked as if he regretted allying with Sernoh - though he had not had a choice, since he did not have a planet for Cronus to use for negotiations. On a signal from Jolinar, the Jaffa stepped forward and captured Sernoh.

Suddenly, Khenum pulled out a small weapon and would have shot the false Cronus, if Jolinar had not been faster.

She raised her hand and sent out a low-power blast with her hand-device, tripping Khenum and allowing the Jaffa to capture him. She turned towards the communications device.

"The conspirators have both been captured."

"Excellent." Cronus said from the screen, looking satisfied. "Bring the traitors to me, so I can punish them!"

Jolinar motioned at the Jaffa, and they lead the two Goa'uld back to the ship. Soon they would meet the real Cronus, and she doubted they would survive it.

She glanced at the fake Cronus. He also did not look happy. He would soon be in another host, no longer able to easily pass himself off as Cronus. Starting out near the bottom of the Goa'uld hierarchy, just as Jolinar had. He was obviously not looking forward to it - and he seemed to have forgotten he should be grateful the situation had meant him getting a host at all. He would still have a host - were it not for the need of a Cronus double, Cerberus would likely already have been dead. One of countless symbiotes maturing each year and not getting the chance to take a host. 



Chapter 4: Promotion