They had arrived at the airport, and Sam reminded Lantash to either leave Martouf in control, or to use his host’s voice when speaking, so no one would become suspicious.
“Do they wish to see my, ah, passport, now?” Martouf asked in a low voice.
“No, Los Angeles is not in a different country - and you usually only use passports when you go to another country.
Martouf nodded, trying to determine how to act natural among the many people in the air port. He looked at Sam, and decided that normal seemed to be to hurry in the direction of wherever they were going, not paying much attention to anyone or anything, as long as you did not collide. Fine, that he could do. There would be later opportunities to study the strange Tau’ri, their technology, and their society.
*Put your wallet and the bag in one of those trays, like Samantha just did, and put it on the moving surface,* Lantash told Martouf.
*I wonder what the purpose is? It disappears into a large box.*
*Maybe the things are being transported to the destination this way?* Lantash suggested. *Hurry, you can ask Samantha about it later.*
Martouf did as he was told, then followed Sam. *We go through that portal, I assume, or whatever it is. Though it does not seem to do anything. Perhaps it is symbolic?*
He stepped through, and the metal detector immediately blared.
“Do you have anything metal in your pockets, sir?” A woman in some kind of uniform asked him.
“Metal?” Martouf frowned. “Yes, I have these.” He pulled first a hara’kesh, then a hand device out from the large pocket on the BDU pants he had been provided with.
“What are those?”
“It is a...” He paused, not sure what he was allowed to say.
*Jewelry,* Lantash suggested.
“Jewelry,” Martouf said, then gave her a charming smile. “For my wife.”
The woman looked at the two weapons, then at Martouf, who was still smiling. She shrugged, smiling back at him. “They are actually kind of beautiful. Very different, but I like them. Okay, just put them in the tray with your other things, then walk through again, honey.”
This time the metal detector did not make any sounds, and Martouf could walk through and then go to collect his stuff, like he noticed the others were doing. He then join a worried Sam who stood at the edge of the area, waiting for him.
“What happened?” Sam asked.
“The portal detects metal, and an alarm went off when I walked through.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry! I forgot to tell you! You’re supposed to put your wallet and keys and stuff in the trays before you go through!” She looked bashful.
“Yes, we noticed people doing that, and we did actually do so. However, we did not know the portal would not permit metallic items through, so we did not remove these.” He held out the hara’kesh and the hand device. “What is the purpose of that portal? Would it not be better just to remove it?”
“It’s to stop people bringing weapons aboard! Oh, my god! You brought a hand device! And... that’s a hara’kesh !” Sam looked shocked.
“We are not allowed to have weapons here? How, then, are we to defend ourselves against Petbe, or any other henchmen Am-heh may have here on this world?”
“Not on the airplane.” Sam sighed. “I guess no one will know those are even weapons - they look kind of like jewelry, so you’ll probably not have any problems.”
“Lantash suggested I say that, and the woman guarding the portal believed me.”
“Okay.” Sam took a deep breath, then checked the time. “Put those away. We’ve got almost two hours before the plane leaves, so what do you say we get something to eat? It’s well past noon, and I didn’t get any lunch today.”
They sat down at one of the tables in a cafeteria at the airport, some distance away from the nearest other occupied table.
Martouf looked with interest at everything and everyone. “Your planet is very different from most other places I have visited,” he said, “one thing that is especially obvious is how many more people your world has.”
“Maybe you shouldn’t talk like that!” Sam observed. “If anyone hears you, they’re bound to find it strange you’re talking about my planet. Say... country, instead, perhaps,” she suggested.
“I see what you mean. I apologize.” Martouf looked bashful.
“It’s okay. No harm done.” Sam pushed a plate with one of the sandwiches towards him. ”Eat your food.”
“Of course.” Martouf nodded and picked up the sandwich. He took a bite from it and ate slowly, clearly paying attention to the taste and texture.
“Do you like it?” Sam asked. “You’ve had sandwiches before, in the mess hall, haven’t you?”
“Yes, I have, and we also have something similar among the Tok’ra. However, I am trying to determine what spice has been added. It reminds me of... re’han?” He shook his head. “Sorry, I only know the Goa’uld word. It is a plant... a herb, often used in cooking.”
“Basil, probably. That’s a chicken-pesto sandwich, and I think pesto is made from basil, among other things.” Sam grinned. “I need to get you some books with pictures and the English words for stuff. I don’t know why I haven’t thought of that!”
“I would like that.” He smiled. “Oh, and both Lantash and I like the sandwich.”
“Great.” Sam checked the clock, then relaxed.
“Are we in a hurry?”
“No, not at all. I’m just, um, always a bit worried I’ll miss my plane,” Sam admitted, a little embarrassed.
“It takes a long time to travel to Los Angeles?”
“No, a couple hours. Why?”
“You said we would not continue to... London, until tomorrow evening.”
“That’s right. We’re staying in Los Angeles until then. We’ve got some shopping to do, I guess. I only had time to find someone to look after my plants and take care of my bills, then grab my laptop and a few other necessities. You’ve only got the BDUs they gave you at the base, and that small bag.”
“There is one extra set of underwear, some papers, and a Tok’ra communicator in it. I was told not to bring Tok’ra uniforms or other clothing, as it would not help me blend in here. I see now that was a wise decision.” He smiled wryly.
“Yeah, I think it was - even though I’ll admit humans on Earth wear many different types of clothes. There are countries were Tok’ra garb would probably work better than here.”
Martouf nodded, and went back to eating his sandwich. After a little while, he thought of something. “Samantha... we will be sharing a room in the guesthouses we stay at, correct?”
“Hotels, mostly, but yeah. If we didn’t I’m sure our cover of being married would be blown quickly.” She smiled.
“I assumed as much. Lantash and I... there is something we would like to know.” He looked uncomfortable. “I hope you will not be angry with me for asking you this, but... are you mated to Colonel O’Neill?”
“What?” Sam stared at him. “Why in heaven’s name would you think that?”
“Anise told me she, ah, that she believed that to be the case.”
“Well, she’s wrong! I’m not in any relationship. With anyone!”
“I see.” Martouf smiled, looking pleased.
“Why would you care? You obviously didn’t even feel I needed to know you were alive!”
Martouf looked taken aback, then looked down, bashful. “It was not until a few days ago I learned you had not been informed of Lantash and my survival. I am sorry you were not told. If it had been up to me, I would have told you, though I understand the reasons for not doing so.”
“So do I, but it didn’t make it any more pleasant, thinking you were dead!” Sam angrily ate the rest of her sandwich, then drank some water from one of the water bottles she had bought. “If you’ve finished eating, then let’s get to the gate.” She got up and turned to leave.
“I am.” Martouf put the last bit of the sandwich in his mouth and quickly ate it, before grabbing his water bottle and hurrying after Sam. “Wait, Samantha! I’m sorry! I really wish it had all turned out differently, and I hadn’t had to leave for so long! Without telling you anything!”
Several people looked after them, some of them with pity, since the young man had obviously messed up something with his girlfriend.
Martouf caught up with her quickly, and they walked in silence the last bit of the way to their gate.
Sam sat down in one of the seats at the gate, and Martouf sat down beside her.
“Sorry... I didn’t mean to react like that.” Sam shook her head. “It’s all just been... hard, you know. It hit me pretty hard having to shoot you, and then thinking I lost both of you. Then... today I learn you’re both alive and well, but that there’s some big conspiracy going on...”
“You have nothing to apologize for, Samantha.”
“You really didn’t know until a few days ago? That I hadn’t been told anything?”
“No.” He sighed, looking around. When he saw no one was sitting close enough to them to be able to hear what they said, he continued. “They kept me in stasis for a long time, trying to figure out what to do.”
“To heal you?”
“Partially, though I think they realised quickly that Lantash would be able to do that, especially if he got a little help with a healing device. Mostly, they were unsure if I was still a zatarc - and I have been told they were also debating whether or not to even let Lantash heal me, or let me die so they could examine my brain tissue.”
“How can you say that so calmly!” Sam exclaimed.
“I was... angry about it at first, and Lantash still has not forgiven them, however I suppose I can see it from their side. The zatarc-programming is a very real danger to us all. If we cannot trust each other, and if anyone can be made to betray what they believe most deeply, then no one is safe. Anything that could lead to a cure, or a way to stop it - or even just a better way of detecting it - would be worth large sacrifices.”
“Not your life!”
“Thank you, Samantha.” He smiled at her, gratefully. “I would gladly give my life if it helped the Tok’ra, but I am happy I matter to you.”
Sam nodded, not sure how to answer that. “Do you know who is behind the conspiracy?” She asked, to change the subject.
“Yes, I know - partially - who is behind this. I do not believe this is the place to discuss that, though.”
“Of course.” She shook her head. “Though I think we’re safe - there’s almost no one waiting for this plane today. Okay - what made the Tok’ra decide to go ahead and let Lantash heal you, then?
“Anise had removed us from the stasis field in order to scan us - she wanted to test a theory, I believe, but that is not important. Lantash was able to regain consciousness for long enough to talk to her, and he told her of some of our suspicions, which had turned to certainties by then. We had happened to overhear two Tok’ra talking in the tunnels. What they said sounded strange, but we dismissed it. Thinking we had misheard or misunderstood. We would have forgotten all about it, if it wasn’t for what happened a few days later.”
“What were they talking about?” Sam asked, getting curious.
Martouf glanced around the area, convincing himself no one was near enough to hear. “They talked about a Goa’uld who has been thought dead for many centuries, and how he would stop the ‘unnatural’ cooperation with the Tau’ri. They also mentioned one of the Tok’ra having to ‘die for the cause’ to make sure ‘it’ worked. Whatever ‘it’ was. A few days later, the Tok’ra they had mentioned apparently went insane, and tried to kill some of his fellow Tok’ra, before committing suicide,” he said, in a low voice.
“He had become a zatarc.” Sam realized.
Martouf nodded. “Yes, though we didn’t know that yet. When more cases happened, Anise put forward the theory about the zatarcs. However, before that, Lantash and I decided to, ah, carry out a little investigation of our own, against the two Tok’ra we had heard talking.”
“Why didn’t you just go to someone else with your suspicions?”
“Because...” Martouf lowered his voice even more, and Sam leaned closer to hear. “The Goa’uld they talked about was Anubis, and since everyone thought they knew he was dead, it would have sounded ridiculous. Like it was just two disgruntled people complaining about the Tau’ri, or something. Besides, it wasn’t just any two Tok’ra. It was one of the healers, Taenka, and a Council member, Sirron.”
“Taenka! I remember him! Jolinar trusted him!” Sam exclaimed, though keeping her voice down. “And Sirron... I remember her as being loyal too!”
“Yes, very much so. They were both born Tok’ra, and were completely trusted. No one would suspect them of anything, and Taenka has been one of those arguing in favour of a closer Tok’ra-Tau’ri relationship.”
“I can see why you didn’t want to just take it to the Council, then!”
“If they could be traitors, maybe others could too. I didn’t know who I could trust. Especially after Anise talked about people being programmed as zatarcs. What if that could also be used to make spies?” He took a deep breath. “Regardless. I started my investigation, and I eventually decided I needed to search their rooms. I was in luck, and Taenka was called away for a patient. I went in to his room, and looked over it, finding some pieces of technology I did not recognize. I then decided to go through his computer, but before I had time to do more than just start, I heard someone coming outside.”
“Were you caught?”
“Yes, we were.” He was quiet for a moment. “These parts of our memories were actually blocked, until after the zatarc programming had activated. Anise theorizes it was made that way on purpose, so we would not be able to tell anyone of our suspicions.” He looked unhappy. “Back then... it was Taenka coming back, and to make misfortune worse, Sirron was with him. I did not have a weapon, but Sirron did, and she stunned me with her zat’nik’tel. I would assume they then made me a zatarc. The memories after this point, are gone completely, from both Lantash and I, and we know only what we have been told later.”
“And this... it is what Lantash told Anise, when he woke up?”
“That is correct. She promised to investigate... carefully, and without telling anyone. Lantash and I were put back into stasis - for the time being.”
“I gather Anise found proof?”
Martouf nodded. “Yes, she managed to uncover three spies or infiltrators - or I guess neither is a fair word for them, since at least two of them have been brainwashed. However, Anise could not tell for certain that no more were involved, and she could tell that the conspiracy was slowly spreading. She decided to convince them to allow Lantash to heal me, so we could give her any further information we may have.”
“So that’s why you survived?”
“No. Anise met surprising resistance to her suggestion to let Lantash heal me, with several healers and Council members arguing it was too dangerous for Lantash and that they needed to examine my brain. Anise realised that these spies had somehow managed to convince enough of the people who made the decisions, that I should not be saved. That scared her, since it showed how much influence these people had, whether they used drugs or just were very persuasive.”
Sam held up her hand. “Just a moment, I need to hear the announcement.” She listened to what was said over the speakers. “They are opening up boarding, so we are getting onboard the plane in a moment.”
“Should we go somewhere else?”
“No, we’re not far from the gate. See?” She pointed towards a desk some 40 feet away. ”The line starts there. We’ve probably got a few minutes before we can board, so why don’t you tell me how Anise convinced them to let you live? She obviously managed it.”
“Actually, she decided to make her own conspiracy.” Martouf smiled a little wryly. “What I mean is, she contacted some people she had observed enough that she knew she could trust them. People who are good friends of hers. They came up with the plan to have me try to track down the ones responsible for turning several of our people - by placing me at the court of the Goa’uld Anise had managed to uncover was the immediate superior of the spies in our tunnel. However, it would work best if no one knew I was alive, so they decided to heal me, secretly, and convince everyone else I was dead.”
“Sounds complicated,” Sam said.
Martouf was quiet for a few moments, while some people passed them and walked over to stand next to the the desk, where boarding would begin any minute now.
When he was certain they were far enough away, he continued, almost whispering. “They succeeded. Anise helped Lantash heal me, by using a hand device, and we both survived. Aldwin, Malek, Anise, and Jacob pretended to take my corpse back to my home planet, in order to perform some burial rites there, which they pretended I had asked of them at some point. Lantash and I were briefed on their plan, and we told them all we knew. We hid on a friendly world until we had both regained our strength completely. Lantash induced our hair and beard to grow quickly, and we coloured both - it is the remnant of that colour you see now. It should wash out completely in a few days. Regardless, Lantash then pretended to be a minor Goa’uld searching for work, and we were employed by the Goa’uld in question - Am-heh.”
“Wouldn’t the Tok’ra spies recognize you anyway? I mean, they’d come to the Goa’uld’s court, wouldn’t they?”
“They would never dare visit his court openly. Any contact was made through middle men. In any case, Am-heh did not know how I looked, or who I was, and all went well up until the time when I realized he had begun to suspect that I was not trustworthy, and I had to flee.”
“You’re sure Am-heh doesn’t know how you look?”
Martouf nodded. “Yes, I am certain.” He sighed. “As I said, we fled, and sent a secret signal to our contact, who let the others we could trust in the tunnels, know. We hid until they could arrive to take us somewhere safe - which turned out to be here.”
“You know who the traitors in the tunnels are, right? Why couldn’t you just catch them and go back there?”
He shook his head. “Doing so would be much too dangerous. We cannot be certain we have discovered them all, and we also need to capture those who are on the world of the Tau’ri at the same time. Otherwise, they will know we have discovered them, and they will stay hidden for some time, then start over, now without us knowing where to look for them. No, we cannot let the infiltrators know they have been discovered.”
“Okay - so, the conspiracy has been building for... about two years?”
“A little longer, but that was when they began infiltrating the Tok’ra bases. The conspiracy is moving slowly, though, and is only now placing people on your world. They are still gathering intelligence and placing people, letting them slowly become trusted, or using a version of zatarc programming to turn loyal people already in place. As far as we can tell, they wish to destroy the Tok’ra and the Tau’ri, and breaking our alliance and making us suspicious of each other is an important step for them. We must not allow that to succeed.”
“That’s horrible!” Sam shook her head. “You’re saying Am-heh is behind this? Or Anubis?”
“Am-heh is one of Anubis’s underlings.”
“Do you have any idea of who any of the higher-up ones are here on Earth? I mean, you mentioned someone named Petbe, right? Are there others?”
Martouf hesitated. “Yes... he is one of the Goa’uld I saw at Am-heh’s court. He has been sent to your world, to supervise the branch here. Another Goa’uld may be in charge of the local operation, though. Hopefully, it is one I have seen at Am-heh’s court. Since I will be able to recognize Petbe, he is the one I hope to find, when some more information has been found on where I am to look for him.”
“Okay.” Sam nodded, then suddenly remembered something. “You know, the other Lantash... the one that died? The clone in the healing tank? He really didn’t know anything about the subterfuge, and that you were alive?”
“As Anise said, the reason he was in a healing tank because he had some injuries from the creation process. She had not attempted to do something like that before. I believe they must have convinced the Lantash-copy that the injuries were from when he was removed from his host. I do not know if he believed them.”
“I don’t know. He didn’t say anything about suspecting anything, but... the situation wasn’t really the best for talking about anything,” Sam said.
“No, the base was under attack. Jacob has told me about what happened.”
Sam nodded. She was unsure how to tell him what the other Lantash had said, about his feelings for her. Or if she even should tell him. Later, perhaps. “We should get on board the plane - they’ve opened up for passengers to the part of the plane our seats are in.”