[ 1: Discoveries (PG-13) | 2: Fighting (PG-13) | 3. Through the Looking Glass (PG-13) | 4: A Goa'uld (PG-13) | 5: A New Reality (PG-13) | 6: Earth (PG-13) | 7: A Minor Goa'uld (PG-13) | 8: The Human Slave (PG-13) | 9: Egypt (PG-13) | 10: Ra (PG-13) | 11: Goa'uld Entertainment (R) | 12: Back in Space (PG) | 13: Comfort (NC-17) | 14: Next Morning (PG-13) | 15: Solving A Puzzle (PG-13) | 16: Queens (PG-13) | 17: Hathor (PG-13) | 18: Going Home (PG) ]
Chapter 15: Solving A Puzzle.
Summary: Arriving on Heru'ur's distant planet, Lantash and the others begin to work on finding out who has been stealing naquadah.
They continued going through the database and soon found information about several Goa'uld queens they might possibly approach. They made a small list and decided to start from the top as soon as Lantash had handled the problem with thievery on Heru'ur's planet.
Arriving on the planet a few days later, they went directly to the small palace where they would be staying for the duration of their visit. They were again back in their roles as a minor Goa'uld travelling with his small entourage.
The servants in the palace had been advised of their arrival and they had everything prepared for Lantash and his people.
"Welcome, Lord Ranesh." The young Jaffa bowed deeply. "Everyone in the palace and on this planet are at your service, of course. We all hope you will find what you are looking for, and that we will be able to provide you with anything you may need."
"I hope so too...for your sake." Lantash said, threatening. ""Show me to my chamber and have food prepared immediately. I am hungry and will be taking the rest of the day off to...familiarize myself with the place. Have all data regarding the mining operations ready for my perusal tomorrow morning."
"Of course, my Lord." The Jaffa bowed deeply, glad be able to get away from the presence of the Goa'uld. He had enjoyed staying on a colony too small for Heru'ur to bother sending a vassal before, but that was before this unfortunate business with the disappearing naquadah. They would likely have to suffer the presence of a Goa'uld underlord for the forseeable future. He sighed.
Teal'c, Daniel, and O'Neill were given servants quarters on the same floor as their 'master', while Sam followed Lantash to his chambers, as the lo'tar would usually stay in a small adjourning room, ready for their Lord's orders.
After eating - and making sure food was provided for his 'servants' as well - Lantash sent for the members of SG-1, so they could plan for the next several days.
It was obvious that in this reality humans would not be considered worthy of helping out with an investigation like this. However, since much of the work at first would consist of going through large amounts of data material, and examining the mine and the area the naquadah was stored, the others could help Lantash without raising suspicion.
No one would suspect they were doing anything other than being ready to fullfill his orders as quickly as possible. Then, later, Lantash would handle any interrogations.
He made sure to tell the local servants that he preferred - and only trusted - his own people.
Hopefully, all of them working together would result in them being able to solve this mystery quickly, enabling them to get on with their own problems.
Having found nothing of interest in any of the recordings or the other data material - except for the fact that the naquadah did not disappear until it was ready for transport off the planet - Lantash had the Jaffa in charge send everyone involved in moving the mined naquadah, to be interrogated by him.
They were all terrified. Many of them had not seen a Goa'uld since they were last given a new prim'ta - and many not even then, since priest were usually in charge of that. It was obvious that they had heard many unpleasant stories about the Goa'uld.
When Lantash had finished interrogating all the relevant Jaffa, he ordered the human slaves that had done the actual pulling of the carts of naquadah, be rounded up and taken to him as well.
If the Jaffa had been scared, the humans were even more so. None of them even dared to look up during the whole time they were kneeling before him, and their voices faltered every time they thought they would be punished, which was often.
Lantash again had to ask himself what the Goa'uld here had done. Were they really all as bad as the ones he had met here in this reality? While slaves were humble and afraid to be in the presence of what they perceived as a god, they usually were not shaking wreaks like these.
He sighed deeply and drew strength from Martouf's comforting words, as he prepared to 'talk' with the last group of human slaves. Hopefully they had noticed something - and could be persuaded to tell him about it.
The first of the slaves was lead in and immediately fell to the ground in front of Lantash, not looking up. Martouf gave Lantash a supporting 'hug' and the Tok'ra took on the role of a Goa'uld as he started the interrogation.
"You were one of those assigned to transport the naquadah from the mine to the pick-up point?"
"Yes, Lord. I regularly assists in pulling the carts."
"Did anything untoward ever happen during those trips?"
"No, my Lord. Never." The man gave the guard a quick glance.
Lantash wondered if he was telling the truth or if he was too afraid of the Jaffa standing guard.
"Jaffa! Leave us!"
The guard hesitated for a moment, then left. When he was out of the room, Lantash turned to the slave again.
"I repeat, did anything irreglementary ever happen while you pulled the carts?"
"No..." The man hesitated. "No, my Lord."
Lantash sighed. "You will not be punished for something that is not your fault."
"Sometimes...sometimes the Jaffa would leave us."
"Leave you?" Lantash asked, not sure he understood. "Leave you when? Where?"
"Not during the actual journey from the mine...but later. My Lord, I beg you, me and the other slaves knew it was the Jaffa who should guard the naquadah until it was transported away, but..." He swallowed nervously.
"But what?" Lantash lifted his hand and allowed the hand device to glow, just a little, to encourage the man to tell the rest of his story. Martouf warned him it might scare the wits out of the slave instead.
The man looked up for a moment, staring fearfully at the weapon. He quickly bowed his head again.
"Sometimes...sometimes the guards would not care to stay. If the weather was bad, but also sometimes otherwise. My Lord, they would tell us we could do it. That our god Heru'ur would know, even across the universe, if we did not guard the naquadah well. That it was a great honour they were bestowing on us. Of course, it only happened those times when it was the smaller amounts of naquadah, never for the big ones. Never large amounts, my Lord." The man talked so fast, he almost fell over the words, wanting to get it out quickly.
Lantash looked thoughtful. He discussed an idea with Martouf. Meanwhile, the slave waited.
"When you were told to stand guard...was it always the same Jaffa who gave you these orders?"
"Yes, always the same. The one called Gi'whor, another one I do not know, and this Jaffa who was just here, my Lord. Always these."
"When did this start?"
"Almost a year ago."
Lantash nodded slowly. According to his findings, it fit with the time the naquadah had begun to disappear. Perhaps these three Jaffa sold it? Where they alone in it, or were they working with someone? He would have to find out.
"You have done well." He picked up a gold coin from a small bag he had on the table beside him and threw it to the man. "This is your reward. Leave - and tell no one what has been said in here, or my wrath will find you no matter where you chose to hide!" He threatened.
The man looked extremely surprised, but took the gold coin and started thanking Lantash profusely, telling him what an awesome god he was.
"I said leave!" Lantash repeated, harshly. He hated being worshipped like that.
The man got up and hurried out of the room, bowing several times on the way.
Lantash heard the rest of the humans from the group, and got the same story from each of them. Since he knew they had been kept apart outside, they would not have been able to agree on a story.
So this probably meant it was true. Those three Jaffa - he now had the names of all three - were involved in a plot to steal naquadah. He sighed. He would have to interrogate those Jaffa - and he would probably have to torture them to get them to speak, as they knew the truth would condemn them do death anyway. It was one of the things he hated most about pretending to be Goa'uld. He had experienced torture many times himself, and did not wish to inflict it on others.
He suddenly realised there was a much simpler solution. He needed a memory recall device. If the Jaffa had one of those on, he would just have to ask the right questions, and any collaborators would be disclosed, whether the Jaffa wanted it or not!
The only problem was, the technology had been invented by the Tok'ra, who did not exist in this universe. Unless someone else had invented it here, Lantash would have to build one. It could be done, of course.
In the end, that was what they ended up doing. With a little help from Sam, Martouf/Lantash built a memory recall device.
Lantash then ordered the three Jaffa suspects to appear before him, one at a time. He put the recall device on them and immediately asked them how they had managed to steal the naquadah.
Of course, they denied everything, but since they did not know how the memory recall device worked, they had no way of even trying to hide their thoughts. The holographic viewer faithfully showed everything that had taken place - including who they had collaborated with.
It turned out they would hurry to a hidden Teltac every time they had ordered the human slaves to stand guard. Then they had made their approach from some distance away, appearing to come from outer space. They would stop above the naquadah, as it was usually done, and use the ring transporter to get the naquadah on board.
They had then met up with another ship, an Alkesh, and transferred the naquadah to it. In return they had received various goods, as well as promises of future greatness. The receiver of the naquadah was ultimately the Goa'uld Qed-Her. She was a minor underlord of Apophis, who ruled a nearby planet - and an enemy of Heru'ur.
Lantash reported his findings to Heru'ur - and was rewarded by being given the planet as his own small domain - with the duty of making sure the naquadah was mined and delivered safely to Heru'ur. He would get a small cut of 5%, and of course everything else the planet had was his, as long as he was a loyal vassal.
>> Chapter 16: Queens (PG-13). SG-1 and Martouf/Lantash are finally able to return to the task of finding a queen for Segomo, thus enabling them to go home. It is, however, not an easy task.