It was very late night, not long before sunrise, when they returned to the guesthouse and their room, carrying robes, cloaks, and headdresses. As soon as they were back in the rooms, Martouf left to purchase dye and makeup. It was early, and the shopkeeper was not yet awake, but paying double meant he immediately stopped being angry at being awoken.
Martouf bought powdered dye, and they used it to change the appearance a little of the headdresses. Not enough that they would look wrong, but enough that the owners would - hopefully - not recognize them. At some distance. As long as it did not rain.
The makeup was used for two things; drawing a tattoo on the forehead of each of them, and drawing the elaborate facial paintings favoured by the priests here.
Of course, Teal'c's own tattoo was hard to hide, and the problem was eventually solved by giving him the high priests headdress. It was the largest, and covered the entirety of Teal'c's forehead marking.
"Okay - looks like we're ready to leave." O'Neill looked at himself in the small mirror, then at the others. He shook his head. "We look ridiculous. I sincerely hope we'll have time to change before going back to the SGC!"
They wore the cloaks that covered them completely when they left their room, and did not put on the headdresses until they were outside the city. The sun was rising, and the city was starting to wake up when they left it behind.
"Kree. Priests - I do not recognize your faces. From where have you come, and what is the purpose of so early a visit?" a large Jaffa temple guard said. "Our own priests are still tending to the morning rituals."
"We are here from Yaute, on a most urgent matter. Our temple there was attacked, and a group of our Lord Tlaloc's brave warriors defended us. They were successful in driving back the threat, but before that, they were attacked in a low and cowardly manner by Apophis Jaffa. Their prim'tas were deliberately damaged beyond hope of healing, and those warriors are now badly in need of the services of this temple," Teal'c explained, exactly as Lantash had told him to. Hopefully, it would convince the temple guards, at least, if not the priests - but those they hoped to avoid.
The guard hesitated, then looked at the guard beside him. Eventually, they both nodded. "You may enter."
Relieved, they hurried inside, hoping to get what they came for before the priests had finished their morning rituals. The symbiotes had been fed earlier in the morning - that was the first thing that was done in the day, even before the priests themselves ate - and that meant no one would likely come to the room with the tanks until it was time to clean the water.
O'Neill shuddered as he looked at the many tanks with symbiotes. "So, are any of these old enough?"
Martouf walked up to each of the tanks and studied the symbiotes inside closely, seemingly not disturbed by the larvae at all. "Many of them are too young, but I believe these are mature enough that one of them will survive healing Shau'nac," he said, picking one of them up and looking at it closely. It hissed at him and wriggled angrily.
"How can you do that? Just stand there, looking at it? Aren't you afraid?" Daniel asked, an expression of disbelief on his face.
"No, why would I be? I am in no danger, if that is what you mean. The symbiotes are too young to safely take a host, and will not attempt it unless the situation is grave. Besides, they can sense Lantash, and know that I am either a host or a Jaffa. In either case, I cannot accommodate another symbiote."
"What about plain old revulsion, then?" O'Neill grimassed.
Martouf shook his head, as he allowed the larva to slide down into the tank again. "No. Of course, it distresses me to know that these will likely grow up to become evil... Goa'uld. If they are allowed to take hosts - which is unlikely - they will cause suffering for many people. Their form do not repulse me - why would it? They are the children of the same species as Lantash, and I find him beautiful."
"Well, I guess you're not the right one to ask," O'Neill said.
"How do we transport it? We haven't brought anything we can use," Sam realized.
"There are probably transportation tanks in a room nearby - the priests use them when they bring the symbiotes to the implantation room," told them.
Daniel still stood in the doorway to the room with the symbiote-tanks, and he looked through the door behind him to the left. "Yes, they're in the room back here."
They had filled one of the smaller transportation tanks with water and then Martouf had caught ten larvae and put inside it. They could not very well just take one, if their cover story that they had come to fetch new symbiotes for a group of Jaffa, were to be believed.
The tank was meant to be carried by four people, so Sam, Martouf/Lantash, Daniel, and O'Neill each took one handle, while Teal'c walked at the front. This made sense in any case, as he was supposed to be the high priest, and would therefore not be part of carrying the tank.
Hopefully, there was no words that needed to be chanted while they walked, or nothing else special they were expected to do, because none of them had any ideas what that might be.
They walked past the Jaffa guards, with Teal'c merely nodding politely at them. The guards let them pass, and they continued in a pace much too slow for their liking. However, if they suddenly started running, there was no doubt the guards would become suspicious.
After having cleared the temple grounds and walked maybe 200 feet away from it, the temple bell started ringing.
"I really hope that's not an alarm!" O'Neill exclaimed.
"I believe it is the signal for the priests and their assistants that the morning ceremonies are over," Teal'c said.
"That could be a problem, depending on what they're going to do next? Do you think they'll notice the missing clothes? Or the headdresses?" Daniel asked.
"I have no knowledge of their work," Teal'c said.
"Martouf? Lantash?" Sam asked.
Martouf shook his head. "No idea."
"Didn't you grow up in such a place?" O'Neill asked. "Lantash, I mean."
Lantash took over control. "Each Goa'uld will have these things done differently. Besides, as a child of Egeria - and at a time when she had no Jaffa - I grew up in a lake."
"Sounds boring," O'Neill observed.
"Not nearly as boring as being in a tank, and then in a Jaffa - at least according to Selmak, and other Tok'ra who did grow up like that." Lantash threw a look back over his shoulder. "I believe we should increase our speed. The guards are talking with a priest, and they seem... agitated."
O'Neill looked back towards the temple. "Crap! Hurry!"
They started running as fast as they could while carrying the tank, angry voices shouting behind them. Moments later, an alarm bell started sounding.
"This way!" Lantash exclaimed, indicating the direction with his head.
They all hurriedly turned the corner and got behind some sort of building. It was not a moment too soon, as a staff blast flew past them just then, fortunately without hitting anyone.
"Why do these things always happen to us? I mean, couldn't those damn priests have waited just a little longer before discovering we'd stolen something from them?" O'Neill complained, as he pulled out his zat'nik'tel.
The others found their weapons as well - with Lantash opting for his hand device, since it was a better long-range weapon than a zat'nik'tel.
"About fifteen Jaffa are coming our way," Teal'c announced, after sticking his head out for a moment to check.
"Damn! We'll never get them all with these!" O'Neill glared at his zat'nik'tel.
"Indeed. I too would estimate our chances of success to be poor," Teal'c said, looking out from his hiding place for a moment to fire at the approaching Jaffa. He hit one, who stopped and slowly sank to the ground.
O'Neill fired at the same time, hitting another Jaffa, but it was obvious they would not be able to succeed like this - particularly since more guards were appearing, called there by the alarm bell.
Meanwhile, Lantash had put on his hand device. He concentrated, and sent out as powerful a shock wave as he could. It hit the nearest seven Jaffa, throwing six of them through the air and felling the seventh. Some of the Jaffa further back were affected as well, and their attack was halted. They had not expected to be attacked with a weapon they knew only a Goa'uld could use, and that made them hesitate.
Lantash did not give them time to collect themselves, and fired off another shockwave, sending many more Jaffa flying and throwing the rest of them into complete disarray.
"Very nice!" Sam gave Lantash and impressed look.
"Awesome!" O'Neill grinned, and quickly fired at the few Jaffa that were still standing.
Sam, Daniel, and Teal'c joined him in shooting at the Jaffa, and Lantash soon sent a third shockwave against the Jaffa. This finally convinced the few Jaffa that were still conscious that it was time to retreat, and soon the enemy was nowhere to be seen.
"I didn't know it was possible to make shockwaves that powerful!" Sam said.
Lantash smiled, pleased. "It is - but it's somewhat tiring. I would not have been able to continue doing it for much longer without time to rest," he admitted. He looked at the unmoving Jaffa on the ground. "It will not be long before their leaders attempt to rally those that are still able to fight - we should escape as quickly as possible."
"You'll get no argument from me! Come on, guys!" O'Neill ordered.
They picked up the tank and again started for the Stargate, keeping a fast pace. After maybe 15-20 minutes, they could see it. It looked as if they were lucky this time - the alarm had clearly not reached the guards there, and all looked peaceful.
After taking a short moment to ensure that their costumes and makeup were not too messed up, they approached the Stargate, walking much slower than they would have preferred.
The guards were bored, and paid little attention to a group of priests carrying symbiote larvae, and they were allowed to go through. Unfortunately, they could not just ask to be sent to a world not owned by Tlaloc, as that would have been extremely suspicious, and Lantash had instead picked a fairly peaceful world, which did, however, have some Jaffa presence. Enough that it would sound reasonable for them to go there.
At least it would be safer there than here, and much fewer - or no - guards at the Stargate.
The wormhole opened and they walked through - and stepped out on a dark world.
"Night time?" Daniel asked.
"Apparently," Lantash said. "Also - there does not seem to be a guard at this time. We should dial a new address immediately."
After going to the stop-over world where their uniforms, weapons, and equipment were hidden, they had immediately dialled Earth, and used their GDO to send their iris code.
"I'd really have preferred to switch to my own clothing - and wash off this ridiculous makeup first!" O'Neill grumbled at Daniel, who had dialled Earth as soon as they had picked up their stuff.
"There is no place nearby to wash, unfortunately," Martouf told him.
"Yeah, I can see that." O'Neill gave the desert world an unhappy look. "Well, there's no time like the present, and we are very much in a hurry, so - let's go."
"Welcome back." Hammond said, as they walked down the ramp at Stargate Command. Freya/Anise stood beside him.
"I see you are bringing back symbiotes." Anise got a pleased expression. "We should take them to your infirmary at once, so Shau'nac can be healed."
"Good to see you too!" O'Neill said, annoyed.
He and Sam, Martouf/Lantash, and Daniel allowed a group of airmen to take over the tank, and they left to bring it to the infirmary. .
"I apologize. We are all relieved the mission went well," Anise told him, then got an amused expression. "Interesting choice of clothing... and facial decorations."
O'Neill snorted. "Glad you're amused. I'm going to hit the showers." He was about to walk off, when Hammond stopped him.
"I understand your desire to get that washed off, but it will have to wait. Please follow these guards. They will take you to the infirmary. That goes for all of you," he told them.
"What? Why?" O'Neill demanded.
"It's just a precaution - but you need to be tested so we can make sure you're not zatarcs," Hammond said.
Sam, Daniel, Martouf/Lantash, O'Neill, and Teal'c were all tested. Fortunately, it turned out none of them were zatarcs.
After showering and changing back to their own clothing, they went to be debriefed.
"Please sit down," Hammond said.
SG-1 and Martouf/Lantash sat down at the table, where Hammond and Janet already sat. A moment later, Freya/Anise arrived as well, followed by a pale - but alive Shau'nac.
Teal'c smiled widely. "Shau'nac. It is most pleasing to see you are alive. I trust the implantation went well?"
"It did, Teal'c." Shau'nac smiled at him, then sat down at the table.
"Since we're all here now, let us begin," Hammond said. "Doctor Fraiser, Anise, would you like to explain?"
"Yes, sir." Janet was quiet for a moment, considering how to begin. "While you have been on your mission, Anise, Freya, and I have worked at refining our detection of zatarcs. Anise looked through the list of planets our people have gone to recently, and determined which ones were at risk."
"Which is why we were examined, right?" Sam asked.
"Yes," Janet confirmed. "Our suspicion is that Apophis is behind this, and anyone who has gone to one of his worlds is at risk. Fortunately, none of you were affected."
"Why was I examined, then?" Martouf asked. "I haven't been to any world in Apophis's domain, and it has been a week since I left our base."
"True, I believe it is a very recent development, that the technology to create zatarcs exist in the tunnels, but it is only just a week since you left our base, so we thought it safest to examine you," Anise explained.
Martouf nodded. "That makes sense."
"We found five people here at Stargate Command that had their minds altered, so it is not something that only affects the Tok'ra. I believe it's correct that this is someone that tries to destroy both of us - and the allegiance," Janet told them.
"Shau'nac, you saw Tanith talk to some people that may be involved. Do you remember anything useful?" Hammond asked.
"Yes, Anise has helped me with the memory recall device, so I was able to remember not just how they looked, but also what they said."
"I used the attached screen and recording equipment, so I can show you that - including Shau'nac's explanations during it," Anise said.
"Please do that," Hammond told her.
Anise nodded and began setting up a small, Tok'ra viewer.
"So, since you guys recognize the ones that talked to Tanith, you can solve this, right?" O'Neill said, looking at Anise and Freya.
"They are obviously involved, and now we have a place to start, yes. It is troubling that one of them is a member of the Council, and another a healer, but it did at least not sound as if the conspiracy has many more members," Anise told them.
"Yet. If they've got the tech to brainwash people, who knows how many you can trust now, O'Neill pointed out.
"Very true, though I do not believe they have had time to get to very many. Regardless, we will be careful. With what we know, and with both a device for detecting the zatarcs, and a way to remove the programming without harming the victim, we should be able to stop them," Anise insisted.
"I agree," Lantash said. "We will find an excuse to have the compromised Tok'ra come here, and have them examined - treated, if it turns out they are brainwashed, which I hope is the case. It is distasteful to think they would have chosen to work with the Goa'uld willingly."
"I think it unlikely they would have, but I agree." Anise sighed, and looked at Hammond. "It is likely we will need your assistance when the time comes to bring the traitors to justice."
"This is a shared problem, we will solve it together," Hammond said. "Is there anything else?"
"No." Anise shook her head. "Doctor Fraiser and I would like to go and work on a plan to bring the... conspirators here for examination, and possibly treatment. Martouf, Lantash... we can use your help."
"Do that. We will help you in any way possible," Hammond assured them.
"We should go and get my dad, before he returns to his base, and risk becoming affected. We can use his help here, too," Sam said, looking at Anise.
"He should have sent his first report by now, so it will not arouse suspicion."
"In that case, SG-1, that is your mission," Hammond told them.
"Yes, sir," O'Neill said.
They all got up and left to carry out their part in solving the problem. It would not be easy, but at least it did no longer seem impossible. They would succeed. Together.
A/N: yes, another short story. Sorry! This one, however, I know I plan to continue, I just ran out of time (it was written for a challenge). I will try to get the sequel written 'soon', but I have 7 WIPs right now (none of which I have posted anything of), and three of those will probably be written before I get to the sequel to this one.