Chapter 19 summary: Selmak arrives to ask a difficult favour of Jolinar - and she brings bad news from the Tok'ra tunnels.
[ Chapter 1: Goodbyes | Chapter 2: An Audience | Chapter 3: A Conspiracy | Chapter 4: Promotion | Chapter 5: Minor System Lord | Chapter 6: An Old Acquaintance | Chapter 7: Diversions | Chapter 8: Plans | Chapter 9: Happy Moments | Chapter 10: Culmination | Chapter 11: Complications | Chapter 12: Daily Life | Chapter 13: Exposed | Chapter 14: A New Host - and a New Master | Chapter 15: New Challenges | Chapter 16: A Necessary Sacrifice | Chapter 17: Information Gathering | Chapter 18: A Surprise Visit | Chapter 19: Bad News | Chapter 20: War and Power | Chapter 21: Emergencies | Chapter 22: Found Out | Chapter 23: In the Tunnels | Chapter 24: Undercover at Bastet's Court | Chapter 25: Discovered! | Chapter 26: Rosha | Chapter 27: Host | Chapter 28: Getting Along | Chapter 29: Safe | Chapter 30: Lantash | Chapter 31: Shared Missions | Chapter 32: Taking A Chance | Chapter 33: Danger and Betrayal | Chapter 34: Some Realizations | Chapter 35: Hiding | Chapter 36: Time for the Truth | Chapter 37: Home | Chapter 38: Together | Chapter 39: Martouf ]
"Selmak!" Jolinar smiled at the beautiful, dark-haired woman in front of her. "It is so good to see you - and Serinna."
"Likewise." Selmak gave her a thin smile.
"Something is wrong." Jolinar observed, worried.
Selmak nodded. "I bring much bad news from the tunnels, but that is not why the Council sent me here."
"Official matters first, then."
"According to your latest report. Zipacna may be considering to give up his long-term alliance with Apophis, and strengthen the ties with Ra. That must not be allowed to happen! The Apophis/Zipacna block is the only real adversary Ra has among the System Lords. If that is diminished it will make our fight much harder. With Apophis the only real Goa'uld opposition left, Ra will surely be able to convince the other System Lords to remove this obstacle."
"Yes, I fear that as well. The problem is Zipacna's new queen, Zita. He is quite enamored with her, and listens to her advice. I believe she is Ra's spawn, probably with Nut. I also suspect she was sent with just the intention of turning Zipacna's head and make him falter in his allegiance with Apophis."
"She must be removed. Not only that, it must be obvious she was a traitor, conspiring to harm not only Apophis, but Zipacna as well. Otherwise, Zipacna may be driven further into Ra's group if Zita is killed."
Jolinar sighed deeply. "And I suppose that will be my problem to solve."
"You do have Zipacna's ear - and knows more about his domain than even himself."
"I do not know how to do this, but I suppose I shall try." Jolinar looked unhappy. "Now, after these official bad news, I gather it is time for more private, bad news."
"I am sorry I am not the bringer of more happy tidings." Selmak said, looking apologetic.
"Give me a few moments. I shall order us some sweet wine and honey-cakes." Jolinar touched the button calling a servant.
Less than 15 minutes later, the small table between them held a large carafe of sweet wine, glasses, and a plate full of honey-cakes.
"Now I feel better prepared to listen to whatever it is that happened in the tunnels." Jolinar said, sipping from her glass.
"I fear it will be especially traumatic to you, given your association with the Tok'ra involved. They are - or were, for at least one of them - all in Egeria's last clutch, which you helped take care off."
Jolinar looked very worried. "What happened?"
"Anise was severely wounded in a laboratory accident, caused by a malfunction in a device she was studying. The device was given to us by a relatively primitive - but evolving - culture who calls themselves the Aschen. They claimed to have found it in the ruins of some world or other, and wanted to know if it could be used for power generation - which it does seem to have been meant for. However, we suspect the Aschen sabotaged it on purpose, somehow introducing an instability which made it explode when Anise connected it to her testing equipment."
"Did Anise survive? What about her host, Kinna?"
"Yes, Anise survived, but she is still in a healing tank. She should be ready to take a new host within weeks. However, Kinna did not, and neither did their assistant, Kertak. He was closer to the explosion, and he and his host were killed instantly. It was only because Anise had placed this laboratory on an uninhabited moon, and with only her group of scientists present, that the explosion did not cause more injuries."
"They will be mourned and missed deeply." Jolinar closed her eyes, thinking of her friends.
"I am sorry to have to bring you these sad news. Unfortunately, there is more. As you know, Lantash's host Sivnik was killed during a trading mission to Lohana about a year ago. It was an animal attack - they have vicious, huge cat-like animals, as you know - and one of the inhabitants of that world volunteered to be Lantash's new host."
"Yes, I remember. I think the young man's name is Nemura?"
"It is. About a week ago, they - and two other Tok'ra, Korra and Sikan - went on a reconnaissance mission to one of Cronus's worlds, and all went well until they were about to return home. Then a group of Jaffa attacked them, with some sort of new, mounted weapon. It was large, and could not be moved around, but it was very powerful and shot rapid fire - perhaps meant for auto-defense, but now the Jaffa used it for attacking Lantash and the others. Korra was hit, but it was only by the most grazing of shots, so they all made it through the chaapa'ai. That is, Korra reports they all entered the chaapa'ai, but he was the only one who came out of it. Our scientists speculate weapons fire may have hit the chaapa'ai just as our people entered it, and caused it to malfunction, perhaps making the wormhole 'jump'."
"What does that mean? Lantash and Sikan never came through?" Jolinar felt cold. "But Korra will be well?"
"Korra is already healed, however if our scientists are correct, Lantash and Sikan could have been sent anywhere."
"But they are alive?"
"There is no way to know. Korra was thrown out from the wormhole with quite a lot of force, so they could be wounded - if they actually made it out another chaapa'ai. As well, there are many Goa'uld worlds which would be unfortunate places for a Tok'ra to end up."
"This is troublesome news indeed, old friend."
After Selmak had left, with promises to report to Jolinar as soon as there was any news of Lantash or Sikan, Jolinar forcefully made herself focus on the problem at hand. Disclosing Zita as the traitor she was.
*If we are certain she receives orders from Ra, could we not just eavesdrop on her conversation?* Lisha suggested.
*I doubt she would be careless enough to give us the chance, nor do I think they are in contact often. It would be too dangerous.*
*There are Tok'ra undercover at Ra's court, are there not?*
*Could we not then have one of them contact her, pretending to have orders to her from Ra? And so make sure this conversation is recorded.*
*We could, but she doubtless would not receive a transmission from just anybody at Ra's court. The communication would have to be marked with a specific cipher.*
*Which could be stolen, the transmission forged...*
*True. I will make contact with Sina. I believe she is in charge of our operatives in Ra's domain.
Lisha's idea turned out to work well. An operative at Ra's court succeeded in the very dangerous task of stealing an encryption key from Ra, and he contacted Zita, pretending to represent Ra. Zita was suspicious at first, but since the transmission was encoded with a cipher only known to Ra, she allowed herself to be convinced. She agreed to another communication in three days, where she would receive further orders.
This conversation was recorded, and Zita could be heard guaranteeing to break up the alliance between Apophis and Zipacna and bring the latter into Ra's fold. She furthermore reported on her progress. After that, all that was needed was to allow Zipacna to see the transmission, which Jolinar said had been recorded by accident by one of her agents.
Zipacna became furious and called Zita to him. After showing the recording, she had paled and everyone had known it was true. She had admitted her guilt, but demanded to be released. Zipacna had wanted nothing more than to cut off her head, but that would likely have resulted in a war with Ra - one that would have brought most of the rest of the System Lords down on Zipacna as well, so he had managed to restrain himself. He would not even be able to expel her, as that too would be taken as an insult against Ra's daughter.
In the end, he chose the only option he had, short of having her assassinated - which would have been a dangerous, and extremely costly thing to do. He put her in a palace on a nearby planet, with lots of servants and luxuries, but no Stargate. He controlled all transports in and out, and while she was want for nothing, she also had no way of contacting anyone without Zipacna's knowledge. It was an expensive solution, but a necessary one.
Chapter 20: War and Power