Chapter 3: Finding the Temple

Back at Stargate Command, Freya and Anise had gone through their theory about zatarcs with Janet, and then they had together looked over it.

Janet listened with a worried expression as Freya related the details; how previously loyal, stable Tok'ra had suddenly behaved strangely, attacking their friends and compatriots with a small weapon that sent out powerful laser-like beams. In every case, those affected had soon killed themselves, by causing the weapon to overload and explode. From what they had been able to see of the weapon before it was destroyed, Freya believed it was a Goa'uld weapon called a shel'kesh. It was sometimes used for covert assassinations, though the Tok'ra did not use it, so Freya did not know where the zatarcs had gotten it.

"How can the Council say they don't believe your theory? It can't be normal for your people to suddenly attempt to kill each other, and then blow themselves up!" Janet exclaimed, frustrated.

"It is not, and they do not deny this is a very strange behaviour."

"What then? They don't think they're, um, traitors, do they?"

"I... am not certain what they think." Freya admitted. "Regardless, with the new information from Shau'nac, I fear there are other, more sinister reasons behind their reluctance to accept my theory."

"You think one or more of the Council members are involved..."

"Yes. Brainwashed, perhaps, as one of those who later killed himself had merely behaved strangely, and not attempted to kill anyone. It is my belief that there may be two kinds of zatarcs."

"Or, maybe only one kind. They may merely have different goals. Some could be programmed to be assassins, and from what you have told me, those behave completely normal until they activate. Probably when they see their target. Another group could be programmed to spy, perhaps? I mean, they may not even know they are doing it. Could the programming be done so that they forget what they have done, afterwards?" Janet asked.

Freya considered it, and discussed it with Anise, before giving her symbiote control.

"It is possible, but if that is the case, this is even more insidious. It makes it even more important that we construct a reliable way of detecting zatarcs."

"Because there could be a great many more of them than we'd otherwise think. Here, too." Janet shuddered. "You think it's only those that have been to Apophis's worlds that are affected?"

"Yes... until now it has been, but that will change, if the technology to make zatarcs now exist in the tunnels."

"We need to check all our people that have gone to worlds owned by Apophis and his allies - and you may need to check all of your people," Janet realized.

"I believe my device will detect zatarcs, but it is a cumbersome process, and I fear it is not without flaws. It can detect if a person is being truthful, even if they are not aware they are lying. It reads the subconscious and compares it to the conscious mind. It is made by combining a device originally created to verify information retrieved through the torture of captured Goa'uld, with a modified version of a memory recall device. It is able to decipher whether the memory being recalled by the subject is true or false."

Janet nodded. "So in this case, it works because the Goa'uld use false memories to cover the programming?"

"Yes," Anise said.

"But you can't tell what the mission of the zatarc is?"

"No, unfortunately not. At least not yet. I am not sure it will be possible without triggering the programming, at which point it will be too late - the person will become suicidal." She sighed. "When it comes to removing the programming, I have only the beginnings of an idea."

"Then let's begin by going over your zatarc detection device, then we can look at your idea for a... de-programming later." Janet hesitated. "Another thing... perhaps you could look over the list of planets our SG teams have gone to recently? From what I've heard, we don't usually know who owns the planets the teams go, so we may have several people who've been to places where they could have been turned into zatarcs."

Anise nodded. "Of course. I will look at the list of planets. Forgive me, but this may also give us a number of... test subjects for our detection device, and perhaps even for attempting to remove the programming."

"Let's not hope that!" Janet said, with feeling. "I'll go ask for that list of gate addresses."

Tlaloc's homeplanet

A good part of the next day had passed, but eventually a priest from the temple of life had come to buy herbs from them. When he left, Martouf followed him.

About two hours later, Martouf returned with information about where the temple was.

"I followed the priest to the temple. We should wait until evening before going there, though. It is in quite a secluded place, and we could never pretend to go there by mistake."

"You didn't let the priest see you, I hope?" O'Neill asked.

"No," Martouf said, looking slightly miffed someone would suggest he had been that clumsy.

"Okay, tonight it is, then." O'Neill looked at the sky. The first, larger sun was past the high point, and half-way down, but the second, smaller one, had only just turned. "Oy, looks like that's many hours away. Why don't we find an inn, a bunch of beers, and chill out?"

Martouf frowned. "Indulging in large amounts of alcohol before a stealth mission is hardly advisable."

"I agree," Teal'c said. "Humans are easily intoxicated, leading to a severe lack in judgement."

O'Neill looked unhappily at him. "Gee, thanks, Teal'c! What would you suggest we do then? Nothing?"

"We should rest. It may be a long and hard night," Martouf suggested.

"Rest!" O'Neill complained. "With no beer, no pizza, and no tv?"

"I meant sleep," Martouf clarified, then bowed his head, letting Lantash fore.

He spoke, using Martouf's voice, since there were others not too far away, and they did not want to call unwanted attention to them. "You can do this unaided, correct? Or do you wish for me to use the kara'kesh to put you in a trance and order you to sleep?"

"He can't do that, can he?" O'Neill looked at Sam, then Teal'c.

"No idea," Sam admitted, smiling.

"Perhaps you would care to find out?" Lantash offered, grinning, pulling the hand device a few inches from his pocket, enough that O'Neill could see it.

He shook his head. "You have a terrible sense of humour, you know that?"

"Oh, I assure you, it was not meant in jest..." Lantash said, amusement glittering in his eyes. "Or... perhaps it was, though I actually can do what I said, and I must admit to being tempted from time to time when you, ah, insist on being... argumentative."

Sam and Daniel laughed, and O'Neill just groaned.

"Let's get back to the guest house - if nothing else, I can at least get something to eat there!"

It was near midnight and very dark, when SG-1 and Martouf/Lantash approached the 'temple of life'.

"It looks peaceful enough," Daniel observed, whispering.

"I can sense multiple energy signals. We are not close enough that it could be the larvae inside the temple, so I am assuming there are Jaffa guards nearby," Martouf said, keeping his voice down as well.

"Over there." Teal'c pointed.

Martouf nodded. "Yes, I see them."

"Well, I don't!" O'Neill grumbled. "Doesn't this planet have a moon?"

"Yes, three, in fact, but none of them are currently up. We should be grateful for that, as we would likely not be able to approach the temple undetected, if that were the case."

They slowly snuck closer, moving only when the Jaffa moved, taking care to make as little noise as possible and remain hidden behind shrubbery, trees, and eventually the low wall that circled the temple complex.

Having reached that, they followed the wall until they got to a building that was obviously used for habitation. They were in luck, because nearby was another, smaller building, which was used for laundering clothes. Newly cleaned robes and cloaks lay in a pile, meaning most of their costumes was fairly easy to get.

"Yes! Finally our luck is getting better!" O'Neill smiled.

"Indeed. If I remember correctly, the sandals the priest we saw wore, is similar enough to what we are wearing, that no one will notice," Teal'c said.

"I agree, but we still need the headdresses. While the priests do not always wear them, I am certain that they do wear them for all kinds of official rituals and ceremonies. We would need headdresses in order to convince the guards and priests that we are coming for larvae for an implantation."

"Any reason why we can't just go grab one of the snakelets right now?" O'Neill wondered.

"We can try..." Martouf said, after thinking about it for a while. "I fear they will be very well guarded, though."

They each took a robe and a cloak - fortunately, this kind of clothing was fairly much one size, and they only had problems finding clothes for Teal'c. However, after looking through the clothing, they found a robe and a cloak that were large enough not to look strange, and the problem was solved.

Daniel and Teal'c returned to just outside the wall of the compound, carrying the clothes. They would wait there - and keep guard - until Sam, Martouf/Lantash, and O'Neill had scouted the terrain and determined whether or not it was possible to steal a symbiote immediately. If not, they already had most of their costumes, at least.

"No, it's not going to work. Dammit!" O'Neill said in a low voice. They had just made their third - unsuccessful - attempt at approaching the room with the tanks with symbiote larvae. "Let's get out of here."

The Jaffa never left the area for more than a few moments, and there was only one way in. They would have to go back to their original plan - which meant they had to find some way of procuring headdresses for them all.

"Where do the priests get those feathered headdresses? Do they make them themselves?" Sam asked, when they had made their way back to the building where they had gotten the robes and cloaks.

"No," Martouf said. "I very much doubt that. The priests do little except for their religious duties - which in this case mostly means taking care of the symbiotes and the implantations in Jaffa."

"Couldn't we, ah, borrow their own headdresses? They must have some extra, and they're not going to do implantation ceremonies tomorrow, are they?" Sam wondered.

"I have no idea when the next implantation ceremony is. As far as I know, they are generally held with regular, but pre-arranged intervals. Of course, from time to time it is necessary to do emergency ceremonies - for instance, if Jaffa have been in a battle where their larvae have been too badly damaged. It happens, though most wounds would be in an area that kills the Jaffa before the larva," Martouf explained.

"Okay, so we take the chance that there's no scheduled... implantation tomorrow. Grab the headdresses, and then show up and claim some Jaffa need symbiotes," O'Neill decided. "Then we grab the snakes, and hurry out of here. Mission accomplished!"

"The Jaffa could have been attacked and the symbiotes deliberately harmed, in a foul attack by an enemy, perhaps," Teal'c suggested. "Who is Tlaloc's enemy?"

"Tlaloc is allied with Cronus, and thus an enemy of Apophis," Martouf said.

"Okay - we have our plan, then!" O'Neill decided.

Chapter 4