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 bothof 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.