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

-
Soon they were all safely aboard the teltac and it took off out towards space. Martouf walked up to the front of the ship and looked out at the starry night.

"First time on a space-faring vessel?" Lexi smiled at the young man.

"Yes...it is."

"Sit down next to me. We are just about to jump into hyperspace." Lexi smiled, as she tweaked the controls a little, then activated the hyper drive. The teltac accelerated abruptly, pressing them back into their seats. Martouf gasped and looked a combination of excited and fearful.

*You are evil...* Lexi's host remarked.

*Not at all - he loved it. Your first spaceflight should always be memorable,* she grinned.

-
The trip was no where near as long as Martouf had expected. Lexi just flew them to the closest safe planet with a chaapa'ai and dropped them off. She needed to get back to her undercover job as Goa'uld smuggler.

Martouf looked around. *It looks like my own world! I would have thought it looked...well, alien!*

Lantash smiled. *Some planets look somewhat alien, but the majority are much alike. We believe the gatebuilders were similar to humans, which is why the planets are not really alien. Some are lusher than others. The ones the Tok'ra chose to live on are, unfortunately, often deserts or similarly inhospitable places. The reason for this is that we hope any accidental visitors as well as Jaffa looking for us will take a short glance at the place and decide no one lives there. To us, it does not truly matter much, as we hide in tunnels underground. Still, I would sometimes wish we could stay on a more pleasant world.*

*Despite the fact that the planet does not look alien, it is still fascinating to truly visit another world. Now I just need to meet an alien as well! I think I would really like that. Have you ever met an alien, Lantash?*

*Yes...you!* he grinned, *...and you have met an alien as well, since you have one in your neck!*

Martouf flushed. *Sorry. I did not think of you as an alien. I guess...I don't know...something like in those tele-novels they showed on my world...with lots of tentacles and eyes on stalks...*

*Sorry, I have not seen any of those...I understand what you mean, though. I do not think of humans as aliens either.*

While they had talked, Thoran had dialed an address and a wormhole now opened.

*Ready for your first trip through the chaapa'ai?*

*Yes, I guess so...Lantash - it looks like a pool of water! How long does it take to traverse? Can we breathe in it?*

*It is not water, it is the event-horizon of the wormhole connecting this chaapa'ai with the one on the planet we are going to. We can not breathe in it, there is no real sensation, and we are actually unable to do anything while in it. Indeed, we will be transformed to energy and then rematerialized at the other end. Do not worry, though, the travel time is short, usually around 0.3 seconds.*

*It is not unpleasant then?*

*You may feel slightly queasy or confused, but it passes quickly. It seems to only happen the first few times - then your body get used to the experience. Tok'ra are generally not bothered by it, as the symbiote can control your body's reaction...ready?*

Lantash pushed Martouf forward, giving him control, and he nervously took a few steps forward. He then put out a hand and carefully touched the wormhole. It felt strange. Urged on by Lantash, he closed his eyes and stepped forward, entering the chaapa'ai. He came out on the other side, feeling slightly confused and seeing a different landscape.

"Wow - strange!"

The other Tok'ra smiled, thinking back to their first trip through the wormhole. The strangeness of stepping through what appeared as merely a doorway, only to arrive in a landscape which often were quite different - and even at another time of day or night.

Martouf looked around. *Is this the planet of the Tok'ra tunnels?*

*No, it is merely one of the safe planets we go to on the way to the Tok'ra base. We dare not go there directly, should someone see the address we entered and follow. It is also possible, though difficult and time consuming, to find the last address dialed. By going to one or several other planets before the final destination, we are masking our trails.* Lantash explained.

One more hop brought them to the right world, and they started off towards the tunnels. They had not walked far before guards jumped up around them. They glanced at each of them, then focused their attention on Martouf/Lantash.

"Who are you?" the man Lantash recognized as Serim, demanded. He looked around, "...and where is Lantash?"

Lantash sighed. "I am Lantash - this is my new host Martouf. The other were present when we blended and can testify that I am indeed me."

This seemed to satisfy Serim, and his expression softened. "Lantash...welcome home. I am sorry about your former host...Nemura. He was a good man."

The other greeted them as well, and offered their condolences. Soon everyone continued to the transporter rings, except for the guards who returned to their posts.

Martouf gasped in surprise when the rings sprang up around them and then deposited them in the Tok'ra tunnels. He looked at the blue crystals everywhere.

*Interesting form of transportation...and architecture. Lantash, it is weird. While I have never been here before, and it is very different from anything I have ever seen before, I feel...like I am home?*

*It is because I feel at home...our feelings are merging, and my memories are affecting you. It is how it should be.* Lantash sounded satisfied.

*What now?* Martouf asked, giving Lantash control.

*Now we go to report, and to introduce you to the Tok'ra council. Then we will go and see if Rosha and Jolinar are home, or if they have already left on their mission. I do hope they are still here. I have much to talk to them about, and I bring sad news about the death of Nemura...* Lantash sounded pained, and he gripped the necklace he and Nemura had worn hard. He had taken it from his bag the moment he had been given control.

Martouf did not know what to say, and merely gave Lantash a hug. He was becoming much better at it.

The next several hours were spent being debriefed. Then Martouf was introduced, first to the council and then to what seemed like countless Tok'ra who all wanted to meet him. He was soon totally confused and absolutely convinced that he would never learn all these names. There were twice as many to remember for each face as he was used to, of course, as both host and symbiote introduced themselves.

*Do not worry. I know the names of everyone, and I will help you - soon you will recognize them yourself.*

Martouf nodded. *I am sorry Rosha and Jolinar have already left for their mission. I look forward to meeting them, though I am somewhat nervous about what they will think of me.*

*Yes. I had hoped we would have been home earlier. Their mission can last half a year or more, and we can not risk contacting them as it is a very dangerous assignment. The only good thing is that it gives you more time to learn about the Tok'ra, without the added distraction of getting to know my mates. I do very much hope it works out. I love them very much...and in a very short time so will you - if Rosha or Jolinar do not want to continue the relationship, we will both be heartbroken. For that I am sorry, but it cannot be helped. I do hope...and I  believe they will like you.* Lantash sighed. *I am tired, and so I sense are you. We should go to our room and sleep. The next many month will be hard. They will mostly be spent here on the base, as there is much for a new host to learn. Host and symbiote also need to get used to working together. You will get to try your hand on many different types of work here, to assess your skills. Probably you will also be assigned a teacher so you can continue your education. You are very intelligent, and to not develop those abilities would be a crime.*

*Do many Tok'ra have mates?*

*Some do. Many relationships have lasted through several generations of hosts...it is difficult to find four who go well together, and who all love one another.*

*I thought the symbiotic relationship meant a pair would always end up loving as one? I already feel love just thinking about Rosha and Jolinar, and I have never even met them!*

*True...and so we do. However, consider this...while both blending partners will eventually fall in love with the same person, that other person will usually really be two persons as well...since he or she will generally also be a Tok'ra. Do the first pair love the host, the symbiote, or both? For it to work they must love both, or at the very least like both very much. Then, if we assume this has indeed happened, then the other pair must also fall in love with the first Tok'ra - that is, with both of them. This happens, though not very often. However, when it does, it is usually forever, since host and symbiote reinforce each others feelings. If the feelings of one should cool slightly, it is immediately reinforced by the other, and the love will continue just as strong. Usually the relationship will continue even after one gets a new host, because the new host will soon feel like his or her symbiote - and the other pair of soul mates already love the symbiote in the first pair. It is rare that they do not also end up liking and eventually loving the new host.*

They had gotten to their room. It was fairly large, as Lantash had shared it with Rosha and Jolinar. This place felt even more familiar - and strangely empty. Martouf realised it was because those Lantash usually shared the room with - his mates, were not here. Neither was Nemura, Lantash's former host. He gave Lantash a warm hug, which was gratefully returned. Neither of them said much, as they quickly got ready for bed.

Lying there, unable to sleep, Martouf decided to ask about something which had confused him.

*Lantash...sorry to disturb you...but those Jaffa...you mentioned they have immature symbiotes, but I got the impression that since they had them in a pouch they were not hosts...what did you mean?*

*The Goa'uld created the Jaffa using genetic engineering. One of the things they did was making them loose their immune system during puberty. They are then dependent on a symbiote to act as their immune system for the rest of their life. They do gain some things in return...heightened strength and healing power. As well as a longer life span than humans have, but they are totally dependent on symbiotes. Without them they would die. It makes them loyal slaves, as does the fact that they are considered 'above' humans - since they have the 'honour' of carrying the children of the 'gods'. The immature symbiote, or primta, stays in that pouch until it is mature - about 12 years. Then the Jaffa are given a new one, securing their loyalty. The Jaffa need to meditate regularly. This allows their primta to determine if anything needs to be healed - remember that it is not fully connected to their system, and they do not communicate. It is possible for them to have a type of communication during very deep mediation. It is forbidden, though. Contrary to you and me, the Jaffa does not need to sleep.*

*So the symbiotes grow up like that? Alone in a pouch, talking to no one? No wonder the Goa'uld are evil! It must be both boring and lonely...isn't it?*

*I have been told that it is, though the symbiote is dormant most of the time. Only a few of the oldest of Egeria's children - as well as those who were originally Goa'uld - grew up like that. After Egeria turned officially against Ra she was on the run and had no Jaffa. Most of us grew up in lakes and ponds, together with our siblings. We were watched over by our older siblings who already had hosts. We talked and played - and went exploring.* Lantash showed Martouf a memory from when he was little.

*You and the other little symbiotes actually look cute...Lantash! You were a rascal...always up to something and never good at doing as you were told.*

*Hrmmph...perhaps it was not so good an idea to show you those particular memories...*

*On the contrary. It alleviated any remaining fear and unease I might have felt about symbiotes. You were just like human kids...*

*In some ways, yes...however, we are born with genetic memory and it soon surfaces, giving us knowledge about how the real world is. Though...we were still children, and we were allowed to play and have fun, which we usually did. We did not often think about the dangerous fight that awaited us. As I have said...we have all the same dreams, feelings, wants, and desires as humans - in most ways we even perceive ourselves as humans. More so when we are in a host, of course, since we are then not constantly reminded of that our bodies are different. When we are in a host, we identify ourselves with the host in many ways. That is what we see when we look in the mirror...and when we tell our shared body's arm to reach out, and our hand to grab an apple, then that is what happens...it truly is like it is our body as well...*

Martouf nodded. *I understand. You feel like you are human, and it is your body. Of course...and it is. It is your body, just as much as it is mine. I agreed to that when I blended with you. I accept that - happily now, actually. Sharing my body with you, and only controlling it half the time seems like a very small price to pay. You are already a closer friend than I have ever had - and you give me health and long life as well. I do not understand why anyone would not want to be a host.*

*Thank you. I am glad you understand - and that you are not offended.* Lantash sounded very happy.

*Could we go see the place where you were born and grew up? I would really like to see it someday.*

*Yes, certainly. However, it might be some time before we can do so, as you probably will be kept busy for the foreseeable future, starting your training and furthering your education.*

Feeling much better, they both finally fell asleep.

-
Many months later. The time had passed relatively quickly. There had been much for Martouf to learn and many new people to get acquainted with. He and Lantash had been temporarily assigned to almost all the jobs on the base. Partly to determine what functions they handled best, and partly to make sure Martouf knew about everything. Lantash would help when necessary, but mostly Martouf were allowed to learn on his own. It was considered best that both host and symbiote had tried their hand on everything.

Martouf were not the only new host currently on the base. Gerim had gotten a new host, Aldwin, shortly before Martouf had become host to Lantash. Korra too had found a new host, Marid, a few weeks later. The three were often put in a group together and they soon became friends.

The three new Tok'ra hosts had just recently been assigned to guard duty. Since they each had a symbiote who had tried it before - and would be able to take over if any problems arose - they would not be in more danger than anyone else, should someone attack.

They were lucky. No one had attacked the Tok'ra base or had come through the chaapa'ai since Martouf had arrived. He found guard duty boring, but it helped that Lantash was there to keep him company.

Today were their first full day off since Martouf had come to the tunnels. Lantash had suggested they could go to see the place where he grew up, as Martouf had asked about it from time to time.

Exiting the wormhole they arrived on a pleasantly green planet with lush vegetation. It looked even more paradisial than any place Martouf had ever been to.

*Wow - and this is uninhabited?*

*No, not totally. There are a number of villages, but none close to the chaapa'ai. They consider it evil and a source of bad luck. The planet originally belonged to Ra. He abandoned it since the large naquadah deposits are inaccessible without using advanced technology. This generally mean they only mine those planets which have huge naquadah deposits close to the surface, and can be mined using nothing more advanced than a pickaxe. Letting their slaves learn something which might lead them to even more knowledge, is too dangerous for the Goa'uld. It could easily bring the slaves to question the Goa'uld assertion that they are gods. To them knowledge is evil, and keeping it from humans is more important than mining naquadah. After all, there are an enormous number of worlds with easy mining access, so they do not have to use any advanced technology. In any case, Ra gave this world to one of his queen...Egeria. It was before she had turned openly against him of course. For the reasons I mentioned before, no other Goa'uld were interested in it. She was therefore allowed to keep it, even after starting the Tok'ra. No one ever came here, except Egeria and her children. She used it as one if the worlds where she spawned and raised her young. I was born in her last clutch - she disappeared shortly after, and I have only a very vague recollection of her.*

They had walked for a while and now stood on a cliff overlooking a beautiful pond.

*That is where I was born - 544 years ago.* Lantash looked fondly at the small lake.

*It looks peaceful - and beautiful.*

They had walked down a path to the shore. Lantash went over to a large, flat rock lying close to the water. It was placed under an outcropping of the cliff they had been standing on before - and it was thus being protected it from above.

*I often crawled up on this rock and looked out over the land. Dreaming of the day when I could just walk wherever I wanted. It was one of the few places which were protected against birds attacking from above, as you can see. It was very popular among all of us.*

*Are there fish in the lake?*

*Yes, there are some.* Lantash pointed to a small, almost enclosed part of the lake at the opposite end. *That area over there was closed off with a fence from the rest of the pond. The fish could not get in there, and the small larvae were kept there until they were large enough to not be eaten by the fish.* Lantash shivered.

*What is it?*

*As you remarked when I first told you of my childhood...I was somewhat...adventurous, and did not always do as I was told. When I was very little and still in the fenced off part of the pond, I would often swim along the fence and look at the larger lake. It was full of fish and various other creatures - and older symbiotes of course. One day I found a hole large enough  for me to squeeze through, and I snuck out. I swam around for a while, enjoying my new-found freedom. Then I came upon a large, hungry-looking fish. It immediately attempted to catch me. I actually bit it, but it didn't seem to deter it much, so I fled. It was quickly gaining on me, and only the fact that I was small and could hide between plants and rocks kept it from capturing me. I could not find the hole again, and I ended up jumping ashore to get away from the fish. I crawled several feet over dry land and just managed to make it back into the water on the right side of the fence. I was exhausted and it was several days before I no longer had nightmares about fish - and again began thinking of adventure.*

*My poor Lantash...* Martouf hugged him. *I am very glad you made it.*

*Yes...and I was relieved that none of my older siblings learned about it. There would always be at least one who already had a host, to keep an eye on us. They would often come down to the lake, to swim and play with us. We always loved that. Egeria's close friend and ally, Jolinar, spent most of her time there, when she was not out looking for hosts for Egeria's children.*

*Is that the Jolinar who is your mate?*

*Yes. She was originally a System Lord. Her father was assassinated and with his dying breath he named Jolinar his heir. She had to take her first host before she had come of age. She was not strong enough and they fought constantly for control of the body. Jolinar gained a hitherto unknown appreciation and respect for humans and she started talking with her host. Eventually she began to question everything she had taken for granted about the Goa'uld. In the end they became friends. Not long after this she met and befriended the young Egeria. She had had much the same experience, but had already secretly made the decision to fight the Goa'uld and change their evil ways. Being a queen, she was in a much better position than most to gain allies, since she could simply spawn them with a suitably changed genetic memory. She imprinted her offspring with all her newfound knowledge. We are biologically programmed to fight the Goa'uld to our dying breath. To blend only with willing hosts and to share our bodies equally. Soon after meeting Egeria, Jolinar became convinced of the righteousness of her cause. She threw her considerable forces behind the Tok'ra. Her initial campaign went well and she had all but defeated a full-fledged System Lord when Apophis intervened and turned the tide of battle. She lost and was forced to flee. Most of her Jaffa were slaughtered covering her retreat. For years she eluded her pursuers, but in the end she was captured and imprisoned in a stasis jar. She spent centuries there, until about 800 years ago when a young slave girl found her stasis jar and opened it. In desperation Jolinar took her as a host. She promised to leave the girl as soon as possible. Eventually, they too became friends. Together they spent almost 250 years looking for the Tok'ra and Egeria. They finally found them shortly before Egeria was caught and became lost to us. This was less than a year after my birth. Jolinar left to search for Egeria again, but did not find her. She heard rumours of Egeria being placed in a stasis jar, like Jolinar herself. But they were never confirmed. If they are indeed true, then we may one day find her again. Jolinar's host was killed during their search, and she returned a year later in another host - the one she had just before Rosha. As I said before, Jolinar felt obligated to care for Egeria's children. She spent most of her time here or looking for hosts for us.*

*So you knew Jolinar long before she became your mate?*

*Yes...I saw her shortly after she returned from her search for Egeria...and I admit that I had a crush on her from the very beginning...she was sweet and kind - and her host was very attractive...it is a somewhat frustrating experience to have such feelings when you are a small symbiote years away from taking your first host...* Lantash blushed a little.

*I can imagine!* Martouf grinned.

*...anyway, after I grew up and blended with my first host, I did not see her again until she was stationed at the same base as I. That was shortly after Rosha became her host, just under 80 years ago...we quickly became good friends, and a few years later mates, as you know.*

Martouf nodded. *I really do hope they both like me...despite me being a child compared to them...* he indicated the waterfall. *Was it there when you were a child?*

*Yes. After I had become too large to fall prey to fish, I was allowed into the larger part of the lake. I often swam to the waterfall and played in it. It was fun and exciting, but our guardians did not like it - they said it was dangerous and I guess they were right...as I said earlier, I did not always do as I was told. The world was big and I was very curious and wanted to explore all of it...do you see that opening in the mountainside? There - just above the water? It leads to a large cave-system, with stalagmites and tunnels, and all kinds of interesting things. Several of us explored it from time to time - there is a very beautiful cave in there. It has walls that shines in different colours, reflecting the light getting in there from a small opening in the roof. After having found it I often went there, even though Jolinar yelled at me each time she found out.*

*You really were a rascal!* Martouf laughed. *As I said, I am glad to hear that symbiotes behaves much like human children, when given a chance...uhm...Lantash? Are the openings into the large cave large enough for me to fit? I would like to see it...*

Lantash laughed. *I have not been there since taking a host, but I believe we can get through - I would like to see it again.*

Quickly undressing, they jumped into the lake. They then swam for the opening and the beckoning cave, stopping for a moment to play in the waterfall. Just for today they would both allow themselves to be children again, and for a short time forget the fight against the Goa'uld.

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