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[ Chapter 1: The mission | Chapter 2: Nephtys Attacks | Chapter 3: The New Host | Chapter 4: Going Home | Chapter 5: Rejoined ]

-
It was time for the attack. After giving Atli stringent orders to stay where he was, no matter what happened, the 4 Tok'ra silently moved into position.

Much to their surprise, the attack was a complete success, and all 4 Jaffa fell to the ground without any of the Tok'ra being hurt. They then shot them twice more to remove all evidence of what had happened.

Malek walked to the DHD and started dialing. Atli ran to them. "Wow - they...they just vanished...what did you do..." he stopped as he saw a group of Jaffa emerged from the shrubbery. He pointed at them and was about to yell a warning, when shots started to zip by them.

The Tok'ra turned quickly and ran for cover, while shooting back at the Jaffa. One of the guards fell, but not before hitting Malek's shoulder. The wound was relatively deep and he staggered and fell before managing to haul himself up and get behind a large rock.

Atli stood as frozen, gaping at what was happening. Zarin realised he was not following and yelled at him to get out of there. He finally reacted and started looking for a place to hide. Lantash, who was closest, ran back to him and managed to push him aside just as the Jaffa fired several shots at them. The staff blasts which had been about to hit Atli instead struck Lantash in the back, and he fell immediately.

"No!" Atli looked horrified at the man who had just saved his life. He now lay on the ground with two large smoking wounds in his back. Atli grabbed hold of him and started to pull him to safety. A short while later Thoran and Zarin had managed to shoot the remaining Jaffa and came running back to help.

Thoran went to check on Malek, while Zarin quickly examined the still unconscious Lantash.

"Will he be all right?" Atli asked worriedly. "He saved me...it is my fault he was shot. Please tell me he will be all right!"

"He is alive, but unless we can get him to a healer very quickly he will not live. Perhaps not even then..." Jena said, looking very sad.

Milek came over to them. "Ma..." he looked at Atli. "...Johan will live. He just needs time to heal."

"We need to get Lantash back to the tunnels immediately, if he is to have any chance of living." Jena said, not caring if Atli wondered at her sudden use of what he thought of as a surname. "Open the chaapa'ai, quickly."

Milek nodded and was just about to do that, when he saw a couple of death gliders in the distance. Then the chaapa'ai started to dial in.

"That will have to wait...incoming enemies!" He ran to Jena and started helping her to carry Lantash to the treeline. He shouted at Atli to help Malek.

Atli hurried to assist Malek, who were already slowly staggering towards the forest. They all made it to safety, just as the wormhole opened.

Taking a quick look back, they saw the area around the chaapa'ai was already full of Jaffa. Realising they would not get through in the foreseeable future, they continued further into the forest. At least they had disintegrated all the Jaffa they had shot, so there would be no one to give them away. The lack of a welcoming guard would look suspicious, but it might be blamed on the Jaffa being incompetent. Hopefully the truth would not be found out to quickly.

In any case, no one followed them. Soon they decided they had gone deeply enough into the woods to safely make a short stop. They needed to rest, to allow Malek to heal his wound, and to try and save Lantash and his host.

Thoran went to Malek and began using a healing device on him, while Zarin did the same for Lantash. Atli saw to his surprise that Malek's wound had already begun healing on its own. These people were definitively not normal!...and what kind of technology was this? He remembered seeing one of those things in the museum, but no one had known what they had been used for. There was no clear way to activate them, and they were generally accepted as purely ornaments with no real function.

That was definitively not the case. Before his eyes Malek's wound started to disappear.

"You were lucky," Milek observed. "The blast were not as deep as it could have been. You will soon be completely healed."

Atli went to stand beside Zarin, as she still attempted to heal Lantash.

"He is not going to make it, is he?"

"I am sorry, but...probably not." Zarin said, remembering to use Jena's voice.

"I really wish there were something I could do..."

*I cannot heal him...the damage is too extensive. Lantash will need a new host - and soon, or they will both die.*

*Ask him..tell him who and what we are,* Jena indicated Atli.

*He is too young - his family and whole world as he knew it is gone... He know nothing about symbiotes except that it is what the Goa'uld are - those who caused him all this pain. He would never agree...*

*Then explain to him that the Tok'ra are different, or let me do it...or you will have to explain to Jolinar and Rosha why you let both of their mates die, when one could have lived!*

*All right...try then...* Zarin conceded. She turned off the healing device. She had done all she could for now. It would help keep Lantash alive for a little while longer. Long enough for them to talk to the only available potential host.

"Atli, perhaps there is something you can do to help him." Jena started, having been given control.

Atli looked up. "Anything..."

"Wait...do not say that until you know what it is you would have to do...Atli...you know that we are not traders, but rather enemies of Nephthys..."

"Yes, Lantash told me."

"He did not tell you everything..." she sighed. "There is precious little time, so listen carefully. Yes, we are part of a resistance movement against the Goa'uld, but there is more...as you know, Nephthys is a parasite, a...symbiote. The Goa'uld are a large and powerful group of beings, and most of them are evil. However, they are not all alike. A small minority oppose those  who conquer and enslave other sentient life forms. They are called the Tok'ra. They too need hosts to live and interact with their surroundings...biologically, they are the same species as the Goa'uld...Atli...we carry symbiotes within us...but ours is a truly symbiotic relationship. The Tok'ra do not suppress their hosts as the Goa'uld do...we would never take an involuntary host, and we share control of the body...we keep the host healthy and safe...we become very close friends...Atli...we ask...beg that you consider helping in this extreme emergency. You will not loose your individuality, but you would share your life and body with Lantash."

Atli felt his head spinning. "You are not human?"

"No...yes, I was human, now I am Tok'ra - a joined life form. We are still two beings, but in many ways we are one. As I said, we share the body equally."

"...but you are not Goa'uld?"

"No...and yes...as I said, the Tok'ra are biologically Goa'uld - ideologically they are very different. Think of it this way - about 20 years ago your world were close to a war because the majority disagreed with a relatively small but powerful group. You considered them evil, is that not correct?"

"Yes, but..."

"Your side did not consider themselves evil?"

"No...of course not...the other side wanted to return to the old religion and worship Anubis - they followed an evil cult, while our side chose technology."

"...but you are all humans...biologically the same species...and one side were considered evil...should not all be then?"

"No. I see what you mean - biologically they were all the same, but ideologically they were very different. Just as humanity is not evil because there are evil humans, not all symbiotes are evil because there are evil symbiotes...I apologize for not seeing that before." He was quiet for a moment.

Just then Lantash woke up. His eyes glowed briefly and he tried to speak.

"Lantash...do not try to speak. Save your strength."

"...I will not be able to heal us...please, do not risk yourselves by staying here. We are not far enough away...I still ...feel the chaapa'ai strongly..." he coughed weakly. "Our necklace...take it and give it to Rosha and Jolinar...we wish them to have it."

Atli looked at him, terrified for a moment, both because of the glowing eyes, and the strangely distorted voice. He had only ever seen either when Nephthys spoke to them. Then he managed to calm himself. Lantash had saved his life - that did not seem like something the Goa'uld would do. Besides, if they were Goa'uld, and one of them badly in need of a host - would they not already have taken him? He took a deep breath and turned to look at Jena.

"I believe you. If you truly were the same as Nephthys, then you would not waste time trying to convince me to volunteer..." he turned back to Lantash. "I...I offer myself as your...your host...now, what do I do?"

"Are you...certain of this?" Lantash managed to ask.

"Yes...yes, I am certain."

"Then...kiss me."

Atli was surprised for a moment, then did as he was told, realising the symbiote would enter through the mouth. He felt something slide in past his lips, followed by a gagging sensation, and then a sharp pain in the back of his throat. Then everything went black.

He awoke a short while later, hearing someones voice. He could not quite determine where it was coming from, it was somehow...inside his head?

*Yes...it is me, Lantash. I have done a very quick preliminary blending, since we must get further away from here soon before the Jaffa finds us. We will fully blend later - then you will truly understand us.*

"It is...a very strange sensation...to have someone talking inside your head..."

*You said that out loud...just...sort of think it to me instead...* Lantash smiled.

*Sorry...*

*It always takes a little while getting used to...*

*Lantash...can you read all my thoughts, my memories...* he was suddenly apprehensive.

*Yes, I can read your thoughts and your memories, but I will not do so unless you allow me to. It is not unusual that both has something he wishes to remain private, more so at first than later on.*

*I understand...* he sounded relieved, *...Lantash, how do I know you are not a Goa'uld? I saw your eyes glow...your voice has the same distortion...*

*Well...technically I am a Goa'uld, but if I subscribed to the same philosophy as they do, we would not be having this conversation...*

*So you could do what they do? Suppress the host, cause him pain, kill him...but you just would never do it?*

*That is correct. As a Tok'ra, I will do all that is in my power to protect you from harm, and to keep you healthy...we truly wish to share the body with our host...in our natural form we have little opportunity to interact with our surroundings, we can only survive a short time out of water - indeed, when we have been in our first host we need either to be in a host or in a very special environment to even survive. Through a host we gain the ability to walk, talk, hands to manipulate the world around us...in return we give the host a longer life, health, some extra strength and endurance, as well as knowledge...*

*It seems the host gains much more than you do...and all for just sharing their body...to me it sounds like a more than fair deal for me, since you could just take it...even though I do believe that you never would.*

*To us, it seems like we get the greater deal...there is one more thing...we both gain a very close friend. Host and symbiote become closer to each other than to anyone else.*

Atli mentally nodded. *So...can I glow my eyes now?*

Lantash smiled slightly, *well, technically, I will be the one glowing your eyes, but...yes.*

*Lantash...one more thing...*

*Yes?*

*Since I will be leaving the planet and starting a new - and totally different life, I feel it would be right to no longer use my child-name. I know it would otherwise have been many months before I would have taken my adult name - my real name. We...my family and I...would have had a ceremony to signify that I were now an adult. I would declare who I was in front of my family...using my real name for the first time. It is, I believe, a tradition left over from a time when it was not at all certain a child would live to adulthood - and not until then were they given a true name. At any rate, after the ceremony everyone would only use my adult name...it is a big celebration in our culture, and I was looking forward to it - and to the presents, I guess...* he admitted, blushing a little. *Since my family will not be able to celebrate it with me, I would at the very least like to take my real name while still on my home world. Do you understand?*

*Yes, of course. Much has happened in the last few days - forcing you to mature much faster than you should have. To me it seems very fitting that you should be considered an adult - and changing your name might also serve to help you put these days behind you...so, what is your true name, my friend?*

*Martouf,* he stated proudly. *I am named in honour of my great great grand father - one of the men responsible for creating the modern Setona.*

*Then from today you will be known by the name Martouf.* Lantash gave his new host a hug. *Come, Martouf. It is time to get up and leave this place together with the others. No doubt they are starting to worry...if there is anything you think of to ask, just do so. When we find a safe place we will complete the blending.*

Lantash opened his eyes and sat up. Zarin immediately went to him, intending to help him stand, but he waved her off. "Thank you, but we are fine." He looked around, not seeing his former host's body.

"We disintegrated Nemura's body, so it would not fall into the hands of Nephthys." Malek said, handing over a necklace to Lantash.

Lantash nodded sadly, taking the necklace. Martouf felt an intense wave of grief, as Lantash looked at it, thinking of his former host.

*We both wanted our mates to have this. If we decide to continue the relationship, new ones will be made for them and us.* He started walking, following the others.

*I understand...wait! Mates? You have mates? You have been intimate with a woman?*

Lantash laughed softly, thinking of Rosha and Jolinar. *Yes, young one, I have mates...and yes, I have mated with them...often. I hope we will continue the relationship, but we will have to see. Generally, it continues, unless the new host absolutely cannot accept his or her symbiote's mates, or they cannot accept the new host. Such a thing is very rare, though.*

*What if the new host already has a mate?*

*It is unusual for the host to bring their mate or family to the tunnels - our base. Usually he would leave his former life and only visit his family, since he would be joining a secret - and  of course forbidden - resistance movement. It would be too dangerous to bring them. If however, he did bring a mate, and his symbiote already had a mate or mates...I assume everyone would attempt to get along, or the host would have to chose. If nothing could be worked out another host might be found. As I said, it is rare. I do not know of it happening in my time.*

Martouf nodded. *How old are you, Lantash?*

*I am 544 years old. While it sounds like a lot, for a symbiote I am very young. Mine was Egeria's last clutch - Egeria is the Tok'ra queen who started our resistance and spawned most of us...I will explain more about the Tok'ra and symbiotes later.*

*How long was Nemura your host?*

*Just under 200 years.* Lantash again sounded sad at the mentioning of his former host.

*Sorry, I should not have brought him up...*

*It is all right...you should ask all that is on your mind.*

*He looked so young...and yet he had been your host for 200 years!* Martouf suddenly thought of something. *How long will I live, now when I am blended with you?*

*The lifespan of the host depends on his or her age at the time of blending. You are very young, much younger than most when they become hosts...baring extreme injuries, you could most likely live another 500 years or so as my host.*

*500 years!*

*Yes...Nemura was only my second host...* another wave of sadness hit Martouf, *I am pleased that you are so young...it will be a very long time before I lose you...*

*You loved your former host very much.*

*Yes, the relationship between host and symbiote are extremely close - and we love deeply and forever...I will never forget him.*

*How long have you been with your mates? What are their names?...you really have two mates?*

*Almost 75 years. Their names are Rosha and Jolinar...yes, there are two, as they are Tok'ra. Jolinar is the symbiote.*

*I...I look forward to meeting them...I guess. I have never even had a girlfriend before - I haven't even kissed anyone yet, as pathetic as that may sound. What will they think of me?...and what if I cannot learn to love them?*

*You will love them, unless you have an extreme antipathy against them. Host and symbiote feel as one when it comes to deeper feelings. Soon we will love as one, and you will not worry about this.*

*They still may not like me - and will the love I feel not be different, since it is really yours and not my own?*

*I believe they will get to like you, though they will need time to grieve for Nemura first. We shall see. As for your other question...why would it matter where and how the love started? It will become your feelings, and you cannot tell the difference. Your own feelings will grow from those you get from me.*

*All right. I hope you are correct, though I suppose you know better than me.*

"Lantash?" Johan said, "we have not yet spoken to Atli after your blending, how is he handling all of this?"

"He has many questions, but is otherwise very well. Atli was his child-name, and he has chosen to no longer use it. He will go by his adult name from now on - Martouf."

Lantash bowed his head and gently pushed Martouf forward.

*It felt very strange when you were in control of my body - my mouth moving and my legs walking by the command of someone else...but this feels strange as well...my mind being 'pushed' forward and suddenly I have control again...*

*You will get used to it - it will soon feel no stranger than, say, moving a hand...talk to them.*

"Hi...yes, Lantash is right. I am fine. Everything is just a little...weird...I guess...and yes, I would like to use my adult name now...I have begun a new life now anyway, and will be away from this planet soon? What more 'grown up' can you be than leaving your home world?"

The others smiled, remembering well how strange it had been at first, to share your body with another.

"Indeed - Martouf. We have all experienced it...it is strange at first, but soon you will not wish to live without your soul mate," Jena said. "Another thing - do you know of any place where we can hide for a few weeks or so? The Tok'ra have two operatives at Nephthys court. When we do not report back one of them will try to get stationed on Setona. However, it might take at least a month for them to succeed. If we can then make contact, they may be able to get help us flee this planet."

Martouf thought for a little while. "There are caves in the mountains to the west of this forest. They were used hundreds of years ago, by slaves who had fled from Anubis. We visited them on a school trip when I was in 5th grade. They are not too far away...I think we can reach them in 3-4 days."

"That is what we will do, then. We still have food enough to last us almost a week, if we stretch it. We will have to look for edible plants, fruits, and berries, as well as perhaps animals to hunt."

"The problem is that I don't know what direction west is..."

"Do not concern yourself. When we were observing the chaapa'ai from the tree-line, the sun rose almost exactly in that direction. It is summer, so it rises in the north-east. The chaapa'ai is now almost exactly behind us, so that is north-east. We are then walking in a south-western direction. Thus, we need to adjust our direction slightly and walk more to the west." Thoran said.

Martouf just nodded at this. *Do not worry - you will soon learn how to navigate like that.* Lantash hugged his host.

*Thanks...it really felt like you embraced me. Can I learn to do that as well?*

*Yes, certainly. I think the best way to describe it is...it is a combination of projecting the feeling and stimulating the senses...* he repeated what he did before.

*Like this?* Martouf gave Lantash a small hug.

*Yes!* Lantash felt very proud of his new host. *You learned that very quickly!*

Martouf felt himself blush, then suddenly remembered what he wanted to ask. *I have been wondering...there is this strange, faintly prickling or maybe humming sensation - I am not sure how to describe it...I first felt it shortly after our...our blending...it is somewhat weaker now, but I still feel it...and the weirdest thing is...I also feel something very like it from the others...is that normal?*

*Yes, it is. What you feel is the naquadah in my - and now to some degree in your - blood, reacting or resonating with the naquadah in the others. We can sense other symbiotes as far off as 50 feet. We can also feel other sources of naquadah - what you feel behind us is the chaapa'ai. It contains a large amount of naquadah and we can sense it very far away. This is often useful. This is how we will find the mountains, and also how we found our way to the chaapa'ai before.*

*I agree that it would be useful...wait, you - we have naquadah in our blood? I have never heard of anyone having that in their body before...*

*All symbiotes have it in their blood...and to a smaller degree, so does anyone who is or ever has been a host. It is what enables us to use some of the Goa'uld technology which is keyed to only activate when it senses naquadah in the user. The Goa'uld have done this mostly to make it seem like magic to others who cannot use it. Much of the technology is also  controlled by thought and emotion, meaning you need to know how to use it - how to focus your energy. I will teach you, beginning with the healing device you saw Zarin and Thoran use earlier.*

*Lantash...is it not...disturbing to always sense other symbiotes close by?*

*No, it is actually pleasant when you get used to it - home on our base, in the Tok'ra tunnels, there is almost always someone close enough to feel, and we have much naquadah-based technology. It reminds us of home and safety. That we are not alone, but among friends. The ability also warns us of approaching Jaffa or Goa'uld when we are away from home. It is of course also a problem, as the Goa'uld will sense us as well, though the Jaffa do not. Of course, we would usually pretend to be Goa'uld when we are near them, and use that to gain information from them. Tok'ra are often working undercover among them, sometimes for months or years. Fortunately, the Goa'uld rarely spend much time together, so we will usually only have to deal with Jaffa and human slaves.*

*You go on missions as Goa'uld, just as you went as humans here...*

*Yes, we can pretend to be either. It is to our advantage that we enter the host through the mouth instead of the neck, as the Goa'uld always do. There is no scar, which is what most look for when they check if someone is a Goa'uld...also, many hosts do not like the scar.* Lantash showed Martouf an image of how it looked.

*No. I would not like to have such a scar either. Why do the Goa'uld not enter through the mouth, then?*

*They do not like being reminded of the horror on the hosts face every time they look in a mirror...since our hosts are willing, we do not have any such problems.*

*Do the Goa'uld not examine you for such a scar - it would seem an easy way of determining if you are a Goa'uld or a Tok'ra.*

*No, they would never do that! It is a serious insult to even suggest that a Goa'uld might be Tok'ra. Besides, they do not like to be reminded that it is not their own body, and thus hides the scar.*

-
They continued walking for most of the day, taking only short breaks. Everything was peaceful - no Jaffa seemed to be following.

The Tok'ra were quiet most of the time, thinking about the friend they had lost. Lantash in particular was mourning. He let Martouf stay in control during much of the journey, and did not say much unless spoken to. He seemed deep in his own thoughts, and did his best to shield his feelings - trying to protect his new host from most of his grief.

Evening fell and they set up camp near another small stream. They did not dare light a fire, and had to eat their food cold. Fortunately the night was quite warm and their blankets were enough to protect them.

*Lantash...I am sorry to disturb you with this...I know you have your own grief, but I can not stop thinking about my family...* Martouf said. He had been trying to sleep, but found it difficult.


*I understand you very well...* Lantash hugged him. *While the Tok'ra can not replace them, know that we are your family...you will never be alone again. We may both have many things to mourn, but at least there will always be someone to share good and ill fortune. This will make good times better and bad times manageable.* He actually sounded a little happier himself. *We should complete the blending. I am ready now. I have spent the day coming to terms with what has happened. You will still feel my grief - I can not avoid that. It will not be as overwhelming as it would have been earlier today. With a full blending we will know each other much, much better. It will help us both through this time.*

*It...it sounds like it...like it might be a good idea...Lantash, will it change me? I will still be me? Is there anything specific I should do?*

*Do not worry - you will still be you.* Lantash smiled. *We will share many of our memories, thoughts, and dreams. The bond will become closer and stronger...our feelings will start to merge and synchronize. Eventually, stronger feelings always end up being shared in a truly symbiotic relationship. As to what you should do? Just relax and I will guide you...afterwards we will get some sleep...we need our strength.*

-
Next morning.

*Lantash...I had an...interesting dream tonight. About a woman whom I have never met...she was very...um...very affectionate...*

*It was my dream...* Lantash blushed slightly, *about my mates...Rosha and Jolinar...*

*Wow...she...they are very beautiful...is it not strange that I sensed your dream - and even thought it was my own?*

*No, it is not unusual to share dreams. It happens quite often. Though normally not this early in a blending...it is a good sign. We are a very good match. The differences and similarities in our personalities complement each other well. Our bond is already strong.*

They got up and got ready, together with the others. After a quick breakfast they started again towards the mountains. They walked the whole day without any signs of enemies, and were finally starting to feel safer.

"When we reach the mountains and we will look for a cave where we can hide for a week or so. After that, someone should go to the nearest town and see if there is news of anyone being instated as 'Lord' of this world." Malek said.

"Yes. Hopefully Nephthys would not wish to stay here longer that necessary. She will most likely prefer to go back to her home world and her palace full of obedient slaves. She will appoint someone else to rule for her." Thoran agreed.

"If we are fortunate, one of the Tok'ra undercover at her court will be able to get that position...then we can contact them and maybe get help in leaving this planet." Malek looked thoughtful. "The politicians who betrayed us will have given Nephthys descriptions of us, or perhaps even pictures. I remember some were taken at one of the receptions, despite our objections. This means Martouf and Lantash should be the ones to go."

"I thought they were looking for me as well?"

"They are, but presumably not actively...yet, at least. They may or may not have your image, but we are a far greater prize for Nephthys and she would have made sure all the Jaffa have our description. She will not have gone to that much trouble yet for anyone else."

"We will go then. It is also an advantage that I know much of the area and that I am a local whom people will not be suspicious of. Knowing the culture I will blend in better, and perhaps even meet people I know."

They continued their journey without incident. Eventually they reached the area where the trees gave way to mountains.

"It is too dangerous to climb the paths tonight. Some of the terrain is quite treacherous. We should wait until tomorrow morning." Martouf suggested.

They found a shielded spot behind a thicket of small trees and bushes. They wrapped themselves in their blankets and quickly fell asleep. The air was warmer than the night before, and very humid. Hopefully they would find a cave for tomorrow night, as it would soon rain. The thunderstorms could be bad this time of year.

Next day they got up shortly after day break. They followed one of the mountain trails for some time. After much searching they found a cave, which was very well hidden. Another bonus was the small water stream running along the side of it. This gave them a welcome opportunity to bathe, as well as easy access to drinking water.

The week Martouf spent in the cave together with the Tok'ra gave him time to get to know them much better. It also gave him the opportunity to learn some of the background history of the Tok'ra. While the three other Tok'ra had been little more than infants when Egeria was captured, Thoran was born almost a century earlier. He therefore had many memories of Egeria. He happily told his stories about the queen who spawned the Tok'ra to a new person who had never heard them before. The others politely pretended to listen, while Lantash just gave Martouf control and took a nap, having heard the stories several times before.

A week later Martouf/Lantash walked to the nearest town. Thankfully, the road was both shorter and easier than the one through the forest. The journey took them just under 2 days. They arrived in the early morning and the streets were still deserted. There were signs of plundering and devastation everywhere. After having spent almost two weeks either in the forests or in a mountain cave, they had almost managed to forget what had happened to the planet. It was a depressing sight - and it seemed to be getting worse as they walked towards the capital.

They had hoped to find a newspaper, or maybe a tele-ball to hear a broadcast, but they found nothing. Eventually, they decided to wait where they were until someone passed by. They would then ask them if there was any news. Martouf would tell them he had fled the violence during the attack and hid in the forest, and that he was just now returning to look for friends and family - hoping the worst was over.

Several hours passed. It was now near noon, and they had still not seen any people.

*Lantash, where is everyone? Could we not try to knock on a door and just ask someone?*

Lantash was quiet for a moment. *We could...but we should be careful, as we do not know what has happened and how they will react. They may even attack us...*

*Attack us? Setonans are peaceful! We have very little crime. They would certainly receive us in a friendly way.*

*Yes, indeed. You were a friendly, peaceful people. What has happened may very well have changed that - caused them to become more cautious and even hostile to strangers.*

*Do you think that is why no one is in the streets? Because they are afraid of each other? Because it is dangerous out here?*

*Possibly, but...Martouf...you must understand that it is also very likely that they were all killed for some minor infraction. To make an example...or they may have been taken to work as slaves, or some perhaps to become hosts...but we will try your idea...carefully.*

They selected a house which looked somewhat less battered than the others, though it was just as dark. Slowly and apprehensively they snuck up to a window and looked in. There were no one to be seen. Peaking through some of the other windows gave no more information. Finally they went to the door and knocked. When no one answered, they tried the door. It was unlocked and they went inside.

"Hello? Is anyone home? Are you in need of assistance?" Martouf yelled. They waited for a couple of minutes, but no answer came.

Looking around they closed the door behind them. They then carefully continued further in, examining every room. The occupants seemed to have left in a hurry. Plates with half-eaten...whatever it had once been - were still standing on the table.

Soon they had looked everywhere, and even Lantash was convinced that no one was anywhere in the building. They began looking for any indication of what had happened to the people who had lived there. They also hoped for a news broadcast informing of a new Lord being instated as ruler of this planet.

*Why is there still no electricity? They should have had more than enough time to repair it. It has been almost two weeks since the attack!*

*I believe this is deliberate. Nephthys does not want the population to retain their current level of technology. Your mines and refineries will have power, but everything else is probably shut down. She will need to put fear into peoples hearts and she believes that will be much easier when they do not have any of their daily comforts.*

Martouf nodded. Looking around, they found a battery-operated comm-video - a smaller version of the tele-balls. It was meant for emergency situations or just to bring on vacations. They turned it on. The same message was broadcast on all channels. It was on repeat.

"Subjects of Lord Nephthys, thus speak your goddess," said the Jaffa with the golden tattoo - Nephthys's first prime, Martouf now knew. Then the screen changed to show Nephthys. She was dressed in new and even more outrageous clothing than what she had been wearing in the earlier broadcast Lantash had seen. He was actually impressed by the feat.

*Have they negative fashion sense?* Lantash groaned before they both returned their attention to the screen. Nephthys started speaking.

"Children, I have wonderful news. I have appointed Lord Zefina as my viceroy. She speaks with my voice and her commands are my commands. Obey her!" The image changed to show an attractive young woman wearing something a lot more tasteful than Nephthys. She flashed her eyes briefly and lifted her head, smiling arrogantly. For some reason Lantash grinned at that. Then Zefina started speaking.

"I hear and obey your command. Your will shall be done."

Nephthys nodded graciously, and the image changed back to the Jaffa.

"Thus spoke your Goddess! Disobedience will incur the wrath of Lord Zefina! She is to receive offerings from her loving subjects every Thursday at noon. Forget not the disgrace of last week! In your greed you cheated Lord Nephthys of her rightful gifts. The suburbs Silran, Vetan, and Calvar paid the price for your blasphemy!" The image changed to show Jaffa capturing crying people in their houses, then to show slaves in a mine. "Next week it could be you! Zefina's power is great, as is her wrath when she is wronged! Obey!" He bowed and the screen went black. Moments later the message restarted.

Lantash turned it off. He again smiled a little. *Zefina is Tok'ra - she is one of our undercover agents. We are indeed fortunate. Now we need to find a way to contact her without compromising her position...* he realised Martouf was very quiet. *I am sorry...this town is called Silran?*

*Yes, it is the northern-most suburb of our capital...so now we know...they are slaves.*

*True...that is why no one is here. It is regrettable, but we can do nothing to help them. Hopefully, Zefina can at least ease their burdens some, but she must be very careful.*

They freshened up as best they could, using some bottled water. Going through the closets, they found some clothes that fit them. They would have had no chance getting to Zefina wearing rags.

*How are we going to do this? I assume we can't just walk into 'our beloved Goddess's' palace and ask to talk to her?*

*No, but remember those offerings they mentioned? I have the jewelry we originally brought to pretend to sell, in our backpack. It is beautiful and of very good quality - very expensive. It should do nicely as a gift.*

*Great! So we show up at the palace and give them the jewelry and ask to see her...hand it over personally. What stops the guards from just taking it and telling us to get lost? Even if they do give it to her or say to her we want to meet her, why would she agree to it?*

*In situations such as this, when offerings are expected, it is normal to let the giver approach to present the gift - to let them come forward and be in awe and fear of their Lord - to please the Goa'uld, I guess. They need to impress their subjects and reinforce the idea that they are gods - and by letting a few bow in front of them while they sit in their glory probably does the trick. In any case, the Jaffa would not dare hinder it.*

*All right...Lantash you said symbiotes could sense each other within 50 feet or so - will we not get that close to her?...will there be other Goa'uld?...and how will we convince her of who we are...she doesn't know me and if others are present we can't tell her anything...* Martouf sounded worried.

*Lots of questions!* Lantash smiled. *First, yes. We will get close enough for her to sense you are a host. Since you will be doing the talking, she will suspect we are Tok'ra...something which will be confirmed when she looks at the offerings you bring her  - I will hide a Tok'ra tunnel crystal among them. She will then think of some way to get to talk to us in private...and, by the way, there will be no Goa'uld present  - only Zefina is pretending to be one. The Goa'uld are not usually interested in having others of their kind close by, unless it is a mate or a trusted underling. They treat all others as rivals.*

Making sure they brought some clean clothing for their meeting with 'Lord' Zefina, they packed what food they could find and started walking. They would easily arrive in time for the announced offering.

-
Martouf/Lantash were standing outside the palace - the former seat of their government. They had found that there were guesthouses with electricity and warm water close to this area, and they had spent the night in a real bed. They had bathed, and had eaten a warm meal. They were feeling much better and everything appeared more manageable. As they walked up to the small line of people near the main entrance, they saw the group of huge Jaffa keeping guard. They were very intimidating and the people were terrified.

*I can feel that humming sensation again - the naquadah resonating with naquadah somewhere else. It just appeared, like...like a zap in the brain or something...*

*Yes, the guards are Jaffa. They have immature symbiotes in their pouches.* Lantash showed Martouf an image of a Jaffa pouch with a larval Goa'uld looking out.

*...but they can't sense you, right?*

*Correct. The Jaffa do not communicate with their symbiotes, and they are none the wiser, as they can not distinguish between a Tok'ra, a Goa'uld, or another Jaffa which is passing them. We will be safe.*

They got past the Jaffa without problems after displaying their exquisite jewelry.

Together with the rest of the small group bringing offerings, they were led into a huge room, which had previously been used only for state dinners and similar occasions. Lantash pointed out that since the palace was from the time of Anubis, it was probably back to its original use. In any case, they were led to the far end of the room, just inside the doors, and told to wait.

About 30 minutes later, 'Lord' Zefina entered the room from the other end. She was dressed in a fairly revealing, close-fitting dress which was very flattering. A flowing robe fell from her shoulders. While the cloth was rich and heavily embroidered with gold, it was not tasteless or over the top as the outfit Nephthys had worn. Zefina truly looked like a goddess, and Martouf just stared at her with his mouth agape until Lantash took control and closed it for him.

Zefina sat down with a flowing motion and looked regally over at the group of Setonans who clearly did not know if they were more afraid or more stunned by her.

"I am ready to receive your gifts, my loyal subjects..." she turned to the Jaffa standing beside her. "Bring forth the first one."

He bowed deeply, then went over to the small group.

"You will go to her, one at a time. Fall down on your knees and offer her your gifts. Pray that they will be accepted. Do not speak unless spoken to!" he sighed. How could these pathetic human slaves be so totally ignorant of even the most simple parts of correct behaviour towards ones God...however, the resent week had told him it was indeed possible. They knew absolutely nothing. It would be his job to make sure they learned some manners.

Lantash had maneuvered them so they would be last. There were no reason to have any more witnesses than necessary, as Zefina would have to kill them all if something went wrong.

Finally it was their turn. Martouf again had control, with Lantash working to try and calm him, so he would not be too nervous. As they got closer, they sensed the familiar zap of naquadah. They saw Zefina react. She had sensed it too, and was ready for anything, including an ashrak. She had no way of recognizing Lantash.

Martouf walked up to a few feet from her throne, sweating nervously despite Lantash's best efforts. He looked at her shortly, then bowed his head and kneeled down in from of her, lifting the gift towards her.

She took the offered jewelry, immediately noticing the tunnel crystal. Getting up, she walked to the young man kneeling in front of her and thoughtfully ran her hand down his neck, looking for a scar. Finding none, she made a decision.

"Get up, young one, and let me have a look at you." She grabbed hold of him, pulling him to his feet. Martouf stumbled slightly, but she steadied him as she fondled his upper arm.

Martouf blushed deeply, feeling irritated at Lantash who was snickering instead of helping him.

Zefina turned to her Jaffa. "Have him prepared and sent to my bed chamber. This wretched world might just prove entertaining."

The Jaffa grabbed hold of a shocked Martouf and pulled him out of the room.

Later, after having been bathed and dressed in something Martouf did not even consider clothing, they found themselves in a luxurious bedroom, waiting for Zefina.

Still shocked by the thought of what Zefina might do, Martouf sat down on the bed and looked stiffly in front of himself.

*Martouf is going to be a sex slave...Martouf is going to be a sex slave...* Lantash snickered evilly.

*Shut up! You're the one who is married! If you don't do something, I am going to tell your mates about this!"

*Zefina has always liked them young...* Lantash grinned, then sobered, hugging his host. *Relax. She was just looking for a way to speak to us in private, without compromising her position. She will not take advantage of you - or me. Besides, Jolinar would kill her...*

Moments later the door opened and Zefina entered, ordering the Jaffa away. She was dressed in very little, and Martouf again stared at her with his mouth open, while Lantash was giggling.

"So, my young friend...it seems obvious that you are more than you appear to be...and just as obvious that you are not a Goa'uld. So...who are you?"

Martouf's head bowed, and Lantash took control, having finally managed to get his laughter in check, shamelessly eyeing her obvious attributes.

"Hello, Zefina. You are looking great...as always. I see you have not lost your taste for young men...I am Lantash. This is Martouf, my new host."

"Lantash!" She looked at him in surprise for a moment, then recovered. "Lantash...do you remember, 3 years ago when Garshaw's pet lizard escaped and ate Malek's chocolate pudding?"

"It was Malek's pet, not Garshaw's...and it was a desert rat, not a lizard...and the chocolate pudding was Garshaw's. She was furious!"

"Lantash, I am so happy to see you...but what happened to Nemura?"

Lantash closed his eyes for a moment, his grief visible on his expression. Opening his eyes again, he answered her. "He was killed by Jaffa when we attempted to flee through the chaapa'ai. Martouf is from this planet. He volunteered to become my host."

"I am very sorry to hear Nemura is dead. He was a good friend." She went over to Lantash and gave him a hug. "You need to get away from the planet - I know you were sent here with Zarin, Malek, and Thoran. Are they well?"

"Yes, they are fine. Malek and Johan were hit as well, but the damage was limited and they are fully healed."

She nodded. "I may have a way to get you off the planet. Lexi arrives tomorrow, posing as a drug smuggler. She brings a type of opium which Nephthys favours for her orgies. When she leaves you can go with her. Where are the others hiding?"

"In caves in the mountains north of the city."

"Perfect. There is currently no working surveillance of that area, so she can land and pick them up unnoticed. I will arrange for it tomorrow..." She went over to the large sofa. "Sleep now. You may use the bed. It is much too soft for my host and I. The Jaffa will not bother us, and you can tell your cute young host that he does not need to fear me. I will control myself and abstain from ravaging him!" She smiled. "Besides, Jolinar might kill me if I did, even though she has not claimed him yet."

*Do not worry. She is merely joking. Jolinar is really nice, she is just somewhat protective of her mates...let us sleep. Then hopefully, tomorrow we will go with Lexi in her teltac.*

*A spaceship? I was looking forward to going through the chaapa'ai, but a spaceship is even more interesting!* Martouf said enthusiastically.

Lantash smiled at his eager young host. "Do not worry, you will be going through the chaapa'ai soon as well.*

-
Next morning. Having eaten a luxurious breakfast, Martouf and Lantash put on the clothing Zefina had found for them. Fortunately, it was less revealing than what they had been given yesterday, but it was still something neither would have chosen to wear. But given their role as Zefina's latest boytoy they could not really be overdressed.

Martouf stood in front of the mirror in the bedroom, looking at the offending clothing. While the silk was soft and pleasant, he did not like the deep V of the front, which left almost his entire breast naked, and continued down to about his navel.

"I am not going anywhere in this! They will laugh at me. I can't arrive in the Tok'ra tunnels looking like this the first time!*

*While I do not appreciate our current attire either, it could be much worse...in fact, we have all arrived wearing something that looked significantly worse, and covered less, at one time or another. Believe me...while the others may laugh and make fun it is good natured, and they have all tried it themselves.*

Zefina entered the room,smiling at them with a glint in her eyes. "It is really too bad that Jolinar has first claim - it would have been fun! Follow me, Lexi is waiting." She suddenly remembered something and turned to them again. "Before you leave...I have managed to obtain some information about Martouf's sister, Svala. She is still alive, but I am sorry to inform you that your fears has been proven correct. She has indeed been taken as a host, by Nephthys daughter, Neela - a queen herself. There is currently no way of freeing her, as she has been sent to marry one of Nephthys allies - the Minor System Lord Shesmu. Hopefully, one day we will be able to capture Neela and free Svala...Martouf, I promise you we will do our best." Zefina said.

Martouf nodded, looking unhappy, though relieved to know his sister was still alive.

Zefina led them out of a back entrance and they went to the waiting teltac. Lexi grinned as they entered, but did not say anything when Lantash sent her a warning look.

The teltac lifted off and pretended to start to leave the planet, then circled and returned to the mountains, looking for a place to land close to the caves where Malek, Zarin, and Thoran were waiting.

Finding a spot they landed, then walked up to where the others were hiding, approaching carefully, but openly, lest they be taken for enemies.

"Malek? Zarin? Thoran? It is I, Lantash," he said, just as Malek showed up around the corner from inside the cave.

"Lantash! Welcome back!" Malek looked him up and down and then grinned. "Nice outfit! I look forward to hearing how you got it..."

Lantash rolled his eyes. "Later, perhaps..."

[ Chapter 1: The mission | Chapter 2: Nephtys Attacks | Chapter 3: The New Host | Chapter 4: Going Home | Chapter 5: Rejoined ]