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"Greetings, Lord Osiris." Lantash bowed deeply before the Goa'uld. "I am Lord Alim, and I have come to offer my services to you. I am also bringing you these gifts as proof of my sincerity and as a small token of my respect."

*He is certainly dressing so as to display his host's... charms...* Martouf observed.

*Yes. She is quite attractive.*

"Lord Alim?" Osiris leaned back in his throne, and studied Lantash with an arrogant expression. "I do not know your name."

"You have been... absent, for a great many years, my esteemed Lord. Many things have happened during this time, and you have no way to know of it all. Yet."

"That may be true, but you would be wise not to underestimate me!" Osiris exclaimed, half-rising from the chair, clearly annoyed.

Lantash listened to the words of his silver-tongued host, and quickly spoke, "Forgive me, my Lord. I would never underestimate you. Your cunning and intelligence is famous, even now. I have no doubt that you would soon know all there is to know of the Galaxy in this time."

"Hm." Osiris leaned back in the chair again, somewhat mollified. "Why are you here, then?"

"You were a very powerful Goa'uld, and the stories of your greatness are still told. I have no doubt that this... minor setback, will be easy for you to overcome. You will be as powerful and influential as before, and - to be honest - it is my hope that I will get an opportunity to achieve greatness with you, as your ally."

Osiris smiled vainly, pleased. "That explains why you wish for a position among my underlings, but not why I should accept you. Tell me, what can you offer me?"

"I have much knowledge, and I am skilled in many areas. In particular, I am an accomplished engineer and scientist," Lantash told him. "I believe you may have use of that."

Osiris nodded slowly. "As a matter of fact I do. The installations in this place are ancient, and I also recently acquired an Alkesh in, ah, less than perfect condition."

"I can easily repair your Alkesh."

"And the installations?"

"Those as well, of course, but surely you do not want your scientist..." Lantash began, pretending to be insulted, while secretly being pleased. That was an excellent opportunity to create an overload that would unlock Samantha's prison cell.

"If you want the position, you will do the installations first. If I am satisfied, you will repair the Alkesh - and get a permanent position. Are we in agreement?"

Lantash pretended to fight to control his anger, but then nodded. "Yes. We do."

"Good." Osiris turned to the slave standing beside him. "Have quarters prepared for Lord Alim. The ones on the second floor in the East wing will be suitable, I believe." He turned back to Lantash. "Ah, the gifts! I almost forgot! Those will be acceptable. Yes, most thoughtful." He motioned the slavegirls closer. "Very acceptable." He smiled lecherously, and waved at another slave. "Have them all bathed and prepared and sent to my chambers! And tell the gardener to take a look at the collection of weeds that Henet calls a garden!"

"It pleases me greatly that you find my gifts acceptable."

"We will have to see about that, but they do look... promising." Osiris grinned. "You will join me for dinner tonight - I will be busy until then."

*How long do we have to do this tedious work? We should attempt to free Samantha instead!* Martouf pointed out, a frustrated tone in his voice. *With access to these systems, we can cause a power failure. It would unlock the door to her cell, and cause a distraction while the others try to figure out what went wrong.*

*Yes, and that is what we will do... but not yet. Osiris does not trust us, and he would suspect us immediately. We also need a way to escape afterwards.* Lantash ran the scanner over the power coupling. *I believe this works now. The installations here are not just ancient - they were badly done to begin with!* He sighed. *We cannot act until Osiris stops sending Jaffa to check on us - and we also need to be allowed access to the broken Alkesh. If we can fix it - just so it can fly - then we can escape in that.*

*You are correct, of course, I just fear for Samantha.*

*As do I. I have hope that the slaves we brought Osiris will keep him occupied for a while longer. We have been here almost two full days now, and he has not interrogated Samantha in that time. Nevertheless, I still wish we could go to her, and at least make sure she is all right.*

*Yes. Well, we must hope that the poor sex slaves we brought Osiris will keep him entertained until we can free Samantha.*

"Well done. You seem to have a talent for that kind of menial work," Osiris said, a pleased expression on his face.

Lantash allowed his anger to show, but hid it quickly. He bowed for the Goa'uld. "I am pleased you are satisfied. May I assume the slave girls were to your liking?"

"I am. For now... and the slave girls were quite acceptable." Osiris smiled, thinking of them. "I have decided to grant you a permanent position, Alim. You will now repair the damaged Alkesh."

"Yes, my Lord," Lantash said.

"Oh, I will be meeting with an underlord of Bastet's... Horbaf. Do you know anything about him? Or perhaps something recent about Bastet?" Osiris asked.

Lantash hesitated. He did know something, but the question was if he should tell Osiris, and whether it would be good or bad to do so. He made a decision - telling the Goa'uld something would make him less suspicious, which was good. "Bastet has been allied with Kali for the last... several centuries. About thirty years ago, they conquered Sobek - by pretending to ally with him."

"I see. So Bastet is as treacherous now, as she seemed when I knew her - she was still in her first host back then, and she was always scheming..." Osiris nodded to himself. "What about Horbaf?"

"I know very little about him. He was a minor Lord, who offered his services to Bastet some one hundred years ago. Rumour has it those services extends to her bed chamber, but I cannot vouch for the validity of those."

Osiris smiled. "You are quite useful, my young Alim! I shall give you back your kara'kesh!"

Lantash bowed, deeper than before. "Thank you, my Lord. That is most gracious of you."

Osiris snapped his fingers at the servant standing beside him, and the man ran to get a box from somewhere behind a curtain. He held the box out to his master, who took two items from it.

"Here is your own kara'kesh, that was taken from you when you arrived." Osiris threw the hand device at Lantash, who caught it. "No, do not put it on! You are my underlord now, and you do not even have one small planet of your own! You are not allowed to wear a gold kara'kesh!" Osiris held out the other item. "For now, you will wear one of only silver."

Lantash mentally rolled his eyes, but approached Osiris slowly, kneeling before him in the prescribed manner. "Yes... my lord." He took the hand device.

"Good. Now leave. I have important business to attend to before Horbaf arrives tonight!" He turned to his First Prime. "Have the Tau'ri female brought before me. It is time to determine if she has any useful knowledge." He got a thoughtful expression. "Have her bathed first - I cannot stand the stench of unwashed humans! Oh, and give her something else to wear instead of that awful Tau'ri uniform!"

Lantash bowed, and quickly left, putting on the new, silver hand device as he walked. He shook his head briefly when he was out of Osiris's sight. *Osiris thinks he is humiliating me by forcing me to use a silver kara'kesh instead of one of gold. I could not care less! The difference is purely aesthetic - and now we have two weapons, instead of one. Useful, if Samantha can use it as well as Jacob said.*

*Yes... Samantha. Lantash! She will be taken to be tortured now!* Martouf sounded anguished.

*I know, and if there was anything I could do about it, I would! I had hoped the accursed Osiris would be kept occupied by the slavegirls for longer!* Lantash scowled and allowed the hand device to glow for a moment, scaring a nearby servant who fled in fear of his life from the obviously angry god.

*We must make a diversion quickly.*

*We will - as soon as we have a way out of here. Let us go and see if the Alkesh can be repaired enough so it can fly - and quickly.*

*Everything on the damn ship is damaged, but I think we can get the engines - including the hyperdrive engines - to work for long enough to get us to the nearest other planet,* Lantash observed, after they had examined the Alkesh. *We'll have to reroute some connections, and it will probably not hold for long, but...*

"Great! Then let's get to work! The longer we take, the more time Osiris has to interrogate Samantha!* Martouf urged him, anxiously.

*I know, Martouf. I am as worried as you are.*

They went to pick up the spare crystals, then set to work on the engines of the Alkesh.

*All right. At least it flies now, and the shields should even work - at maybe forty percent. No weapons, I'm afraid.* Lantash sighed.

*We have life-support for about a day - that should be more than enough. Now... let's go set up a power failure, and maybe make it so something explodes at the opposite end of the palace, compared to where the holding cells are. It's late afternoon, and poor Samantha may have been interrogated the whole day!*

*I know.* Lantash looked unhappily at the Alkesh. *I had not thought it would take so long to make it fly again. It's too bad we can't fix communications. It would be nice to be able to transmit a message to the Tau'ri' that Samantha is safe, so Jacob would not have to worry, but hopefully we will have her back with him soon.*

The Alkesh was parked on the back side of the palace, in a large shed. Lantash had only just left it, and was on his way to the nearest entry of the palace, when Osiris's First Prime approached him.

"Lord Alim." The Jaffa bowed. "Lord Osiris reports that Lord Horbaf has arrived sooner than expected, and that there will be an official dinner tonight. It will start in just under two hours, but Lord Osiris requires your presence now."

Lantash sighed inaudibly. "Understood." He had no choice but to go and see what the Goa'uld Lord wanted.

Osiris had only required an update on the Alkesh - presumably so he knew how much power he had behind him, before negotiations began with Horbaf.

*He dared reprimand me on my dirty clothing! Did he think I could work all day on that damn ship without getting smudges on my clothes?* Lantash grumbled as he hurried to their quarters.

*When has a Goa'uld ever behaved reasonably?* Martouf observed. *At least the celebratory dinner will be a nice distraction. Osiris will be concentrated on talking to Horbaf and on trying to appear more powerful than he is. Plenty of extravagant dishes, wine, music, dancers...*

*True, and hopefully Henet, as his second in command, will be the only one else expected to be there all the time. We must be there much of the time, of course, but we can probably slip out now and then, to 'take care of duties'. Or whatever.*

*Yes, exactly.* Martouf 'sighed' mentally. *Lantash, I know we need to bathe and dress for the dinner, but will we have time to set up the power failure? It shouldn't take long, I think.*

*We will have time to do that, and the fact that the servants and the Jaffa are kept busy with all the preparations means that it will be easier to avoid detection. We have almost everything ready, so it should go smoothly... I hope.*

Lantash entered their chambers and locked the door after them, then made quick work of bathing and changing to fresh clothing.

*When the power goes out, we have an excellent excuse to hurry to check on the installations - since they are our responsibility,* Lantash observed, as they half ran to the large dining room, after setting up the computers to cause a power failure.

*Yes, we should then have time to get to the holding cells before the explosions goes off at the other end of the building. Most of the Jaffa will be sent there to look for intruders, and Osiris, Henet, and their guests will either remain in the dining room or withdraw to the chamber just behind it, for safety. The rest of the Jaffa will guard them. If we move quickly, there should be time to get Samantha out and get to the Alkesh and have it in the air before anyone discovers our ploy.*

*Agreed.* Lantash slowed down just outside the dining room, and walked the rest of the way at a more dignified pace.

"Ah, Alim." Osiris looked up, seemingly in a very good mood. "The dinner is just about to start. This is Lord Horbaf, representing the great Lord Bastet."

Lantash bowed for the youngish-looking dark-haired man with opulent clothing and an unpleasant, mean expression. "I am honoured to meet you, Lord Horbaf."

Horbaf smiled self-importantly. "Ah, young Lord Alim. Osiris's new underling, and a skilled repairman, I hear."

*Repairman?* Lantash grumbled mentally, but plastered a fake smile on his face. "I have that gift, yes."

*Relax. He is of no importance.*

*Except in his own mind, but you are correct.* Lantash sighed.

Fortunately, the dinner started then, saving them from further discussion. They all took their seats. Lantash concentrated his interest on the food, which was not difficult, as they had only had little to eat that day.

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