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 The Colonel's New Toys

Chapter 5

Colonel Ronson sat with his chin in his hand. It had been twelve hours. The bounty hunter's ship had managed to disappear. Prometheus was following the last known course of the battered ship. But he knew that it was possible for Mogba to have jumped again, and be anywhere in the galaxy.

Scans had failed to turn up any other ships in the area, which was both a relief, and a disappointment. He'd prefer the first testing of the ship's weapons to be done in a controlled environment, not a life and death battle with a Goa'uld vessel.

"All stop," he said quietly. "We're going to wait here. There's a chance we'll hear from the SGC regarding SG-1. They'll send a message home as soon as possible."

The stars outside of the three panels of glass became stationary. He stared at them for a few minutes. Somewhere, out there, SG-1 was in trouble. Again. He smiled slightly at that thought. Just how many times had they been reported dead? How many times had they shown up, cocky as ever, alive if not always well, and telling of the damage they'd managed to inflict upon their enemies?

He needed sleep. So did his bridge crew. He called for his second-in-command, left him in charge of monitoring all communication frequencies for any chatter that might mention SG-1, or any messages from the SGC, and wandered wearily to his quarters. He passed the four rooms that had been set aside for their heroic guests. With luck, the team members would be resting on those beds very soon, if they weren't able to simply 'gate back to the SGC.

Ronson stretched out, closed his eyes. So far, the shakedown cruise for the Prometheus was everything but what he'd expected.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

The cave was smaller than it had appeared when Jack had first discovered it. Daniel had insisted that a fire be built toward the opening of the cave; to keep the majority of smoke on the outside, and to ward off any animals that might wander near. He also maintained that the cave dwellers had placed their fires in the same manner, for the same reasons, and that if the fire was kept large enough, it would warm the cave all the way to the back.

On the upside, Jack thought, hacking away at a limb with the hunting knife he'd found in that box of confiscated equipment, there were more than enough large bushes to build a nice big fire, and keep it going for the time it would take for General Hammond to mount a rescue mission. The downside, was that cutting the damned things was a pain in the ass. The limbs were thick, the bark had enough give in it to make cutting through it an exercise in frustration.

Sam and Casey were taking an inventory of food and water. Each of them had the standard mess kit, which included an individual sized pan that could be used to heat food or water. If they had to, they could take water from the river, boil it, and then add the chlorine tablets from the first aid kits, meant for just such an emergency.

However, there were only three MREs each. Three days if they ate one meal a day. "We should probably make this last," Casey said softly.

Sam glanced at her friend, then nodded. Better to return to the SGC with extra food than to run out before they were rescued. "Right."

"So, peanut butter and crackers for breakfast, cookie for lunch, and entree for dinner. Or something like that," the slender blonde sighed.

"Maybe we can find something nearby that's edible," Sam suggested.

"Maybe," Casey allowed. "You know what sounds really good?"

"What?"

"An orange. I'd really like to have an orange."

The major smiled. "Doubt we'll find any orange groves nearby. It's too cold."

"Bummer."

The three men returned to the cave; dirty, sweaty, and not in the best of moods after struggling with bushes that just refused to be hacked apart easily. They piled what they'd managed to cut near the front of the cave, inside so that any rain that might fall wouldn't soak the wood and make it do nothing more than smolder.

"You want more, get it yourself," Jack growled, dropping to the dirt floor of the cave.

Teal'c fed several of the large branches to the fire that had been started with the fallen brush the team had gathered earlier. "It is difficult to harvest sufficient wood for a fire with nothing more than a hunting knife."

Daniel flopped down beside Casey. His arms ached from the unaccustomed work. "That's for damned sure."

"Casey thinks we should ration the MREs. One a day for each of us."

Jack looked sharply at the seer. "Radar?"

One slender shoulder went up and then back down. "Better safe than sorry," was her quiet reply.

"How long?"

"A day or so, maybe a couple of days. I can't tell for certain," she admitted.

Daniel groaned out loud. How in the hell was he supposed to get a fix of his sweet Angel under these conditions? He was certain that asking his teammates to leave the cave so he could make love to his Wife would go over well...not. And it was way too damned cold outside of the cave to attempt to make love out there. Not to mention that it could be dangerous.

"Did you bring it?" Casey whispered.

He shook his head. "We were supposed to be staying in a hotel in Las Vegas, remember?"

She tugged her lip between her teeth. Damned the addiction that he suffered because of her.

He reached out, put his arm around her shoulders, pulled her close to his side. "We're together, Case. We'll be just fine."

Jack pretended to be oblivious to the whispered conversation. Maybe Daniel should start carrying that serum stuff whenever they left the base...for whatever reason. Odds were, no matter how simple the mission seemed to be, something would go tits up, and they'd wind up in a situation similar to the one in which they now found themselves. If it was just simple intercourse that was required, well, he, Sam and Teal'c could pretend not to notice. But what the Space Monkey needed was a bit more...involved...than could be easily ignored. "How soon?"

Daniel jerked slightly. Felt his face flush as he looked at his best friend. For all of the joy he found in his addiction, it could be an inconvenience, especially when things didn't go as planned. Which, he thought wryly, I should be accustomed to by now. "Couple of days."

"We'll work something out," Jack promised. "If we're not home by then. Which we will be." I hope, he thought silently.

Casey ducked her head, her cheeks aflame with embarrassment. The entire mess was her fault. She'd insisted on meeting with Tieel Mogba. He'd abandoned them to Ba'al. That they had been able to escape the Goa'uld ship was nothing short of a miracle. With a barely mumbled, incoherent excuse, she rose and hurried out of the cave. She wandered past the oddly situated bushes that would offer privacy for basic bodily needs, which Jack had decreed would be their latrine. On down the narrow, barely visible path toward the river that she could hear.

The water was flowing quickly, splashing and foaming over the rocks that poked up from the riverbed. It wouldn't be easy to bathe there, and would be cold as hell, but it wasn't impossible.

She sat down on the bank that dropped off abruptly. Jumped slightly when a body settled beside her.

"Contemplating a swim?"

She smiled. "It had crossed my mind."

"There's a bluff up the trail from the cave. Protected from the wind." He'd noticed the bluff when he'd hurried after his Wife, not certain which direction she'd gone.

"And?"

"We have two emergency blankets."

"And?"

"I'll keep you warm."

She looked up into laughing blue eyes. "This doesn't bother you?"

"That we're stranded here? I'm not thrilled about it, no. But we're together, babe. That's all that matters to me. All I need," Daniel replied.

His words wrapped around her worried heart. "It's damned inconvenient."

"Maybe. Have to admit that getting my jollies in order to feed an addiction, which does great things for my sense of well-being by the way, doesn't have much of a downside that I can see."

She couldn't help but giggle. "You're a weird man, Daniel Jackson. And I love you for it."

He grinned, tugged until she was sitting between his legs, his body protecting her from the cold. The wind that seemed to howl wasn't as noticeable where they sat, watching the water flow. His smile faded to a frown when he saw something flash just beneath the surface. "Did you see that?"

"See what?"

He pointed to where he had seen...something.

Casey watched the small area that was relatively calmer than the rest of the river. Saw something that resembled a fin, before it disappeared. "Hey! That looked like a fish!"

The frown became a grin. "Keep watching. I'm going to go get Jack."

"Why?"

"He likes to fish."

With another giggle, Casey nodded. She continued to watch, certain that she'd seen another flip of a tail.

 

 

 

Jack carefully cut poles for each of them from the nearest bushes, seemingly unaffected by the frustrating job of doing so. Apparently the thought of fishing made any annoyance, even cutting through the tough bark of the indigenous bushes, bearable. Twenty minutes later, using the emergency fishing line and hooks that were standard issue in all packs used by the SGC teams, the five teammates were sitting on the edge of the river, wrapped in their blankets, fishing.

He was sitting with a lazy smile on his face, Sam leaning against his side. Fishing. If nothing else, it took their minds off of their current predicament.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

Gracie frowned as she ran the diagnostic. There it was again! Whatever it was, it appeared as simple 'noise'. And lasted exactly ten seconds. She turned up the volume on the computer speaker. Nothing but a hiss.

Determined to unravel the mysterious anomaly that had just appeared within the last fifteen minutes, and after a complete diagnostic test, the computer tech isolated the ten second burst. Whatever it was, it had shown up as the control room techs finished the last of the upgrades and virus checks on all of the computers. It had meant being completely offline for a full minute and twelve seconds, but Major Carter had insisted that the procedure be done every three months.

"Walter, does this look like anything to you?" she asked the man who knew the dialing computer almost as well as Major Carter did.

The small man frowned as he looked at the screen. "It looks like random noise."

"I know. But it just showed up, and that shouldn't happen," Gracie replied.

Walter's frown deepened. There were seven teams out on missions at the moment. Including SG-1. "What would happen if a message, an encrypted message, came through while the computers were down?"

"It wouldn't," Gracie replied. "Unless it was repeated, it would just be lost."

"What if it came through just as the system was powering back up?"

The tall woman frowned, pushed her dark hair back with one hand. "I'm not sure."

"Is there anyway to put this through the com system? If it's a message, we should be able to either hear it, or read it," Walter said.

Her fingers moved with precision over the keyboard. She sent the ten seconds of noise to the appropriate system, to be decoded by the software that was written for just that purpose.

What came up on the screen was a jumble of symbols.

"I'll see if I can clean that up," Gracie murmured. Shook her head when her efforts proved to be less than satisfactory. "That is definitely an 's'. I have no idea what those are supposed to be."

Walter was frowning as well. There were numbers, as well as odd symbols that he was certain looked like Goa'uld. The numbers were arranged, or at least, appeared to be arranged, in single digits as well as double digit numbers. And there were twelve of them. Something about that number prodded at him.

"Should I just delete it?"

"No. Not yet. We need to figure out what it is," the master sergeant replied. "Never delete anything around here unless you know exactly what it is, what it does, and who put it there."

"Got it."

He sat down, continued to stare at the numbers. Grabbed the nearest piece of paper and wrote them down. An 's', and twelve numbers. What in the world could it be?

"Um, Walter?" Her voice went hoarse as she stared at the symbol that continued to flash.

The small man looked back at the screen that Gracie pointed at. Felt his blood run cold. It was a symbol from the Stargate. Not just any symbol. It was the symbol for Earth. "We really need to find out what this says," he said, his own voice shaking slightly. It could be a warning. Or a threat. Either way, General Hammond had to be informed. And the solution to the puzzle determined as quickly as possible.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

The sky had continued to darken above them. Between the five of them, they'd managed to catch a dozen small fish. Jack declared them to be a type of trout. Alien trout, considering where they were, but he said they looked like the trout he had caught in Minnesota.

"You know," Daniel said, as they made their way back to the cave, "if these are trout, then this planet has been visited by the Goa'uld at some point. They probably stocked the rivers, or a lake somewhere."

Sam nodded her agreement. "From what we've found so far, I'd say that's a pretty good bet."

"So they stocked a lake, why?" Jack asked.

Daniel shrugged. "Probably to give the slaves they left here something to eat."

"Any chance of those slaves, or their great, great, great, um...great...great grandchildren being around?"

"I have no idea. It's possible that the slaves moved as far away from the Stargate as possible, in an attempt to break free from the Goa'uld. If so, we'll never see them."

"It's also just as possible that there's a village of some kind at the end of that path," Jack said, using the tip of his 'fishing pole' to point at the barely visible track of packed dirt.

"I suppose so," Daniel replied.

Jack glanced at the sky. "Well, we'll have to wait until tomorrow to find out."

Whether the fire really had warmed the cave, or they were all just very cold from sitting on the river bank for nearly two hours, or perhaps a combination of the two, the five people were pleased to be able to drop their blankets and sit near the fire. Sam, Casey, and Teal'c watched as their CO carefully cleaned the fish, Daniel assisting at Jack's request. Once cleaned, the fish were pushed onto three thin, pointed sticks.

"Make yourself useful," Jack said, grinning at Casey as he handed her one of the fish laden sticks. "Keep it turning, don't wanna burn dinner."

With a nod, she watched her CO for a moment, then copied what he was doing with the sticks in his hands. Soon the aroma of cooking fish filled the air. "If I wake up dead tomorrow from eating poisoned fish, I will haunt you," she told the silver-haired man.

Jack laughed. "Thanks for the warning."

"If you wake up dead from eating poisoned fish, no doubt the rest of us will be dead, too," Daniel pointed out.

"I'm still haunting his ass," Casey declared. Ignored the snicker from the man turning the sticks beside her.

Daniel chuckled. "I won't stop you."

The trout, as Jack insisted they were, were hot and delicious. The fact that they were all hungry most certainly contributed to the flavor. Teal'c and Daniel made a trip to the river for water to warm for washing in, and Sam and Jack trekked toward the Stargate. They didn't have to go all the way, just close enough to be able to see whether or not the MALP was sitting there. If it was, a message would have been recorded and left for them, when it was apparent they weren't nearby.

Jack felt his heart drop just a bit. The 'gate was just as they had left it. "You're sure you got that message out?" he asked quietly.

"Positive," Sam replied.

He looked up at the sky. Clouds were still moving, heavy and dark. The wind continued to howl around them. "Let's get back before we freeze to death."

No one had to ask, the solemn expressions on the two faces as the military members of the team re-entered the cave said everything. Water was warmed, and they quietly washed as best they could. Felt somewhat better after doing so.

Watch rotation was decided upon, and Jack insisted that the team bed down for the night. They were all weary, it had been a long, trying day. Casey had drawn first watch. Wrapped in her emergency blanket, she sat as close to the entrance as she dared, listening to the wind as it moaned and whistled around the rocks and bushes that surrounded the cave.

She shivered. She wasn't cold. But she was worried. She'd tried to reach out to see what she could sense around them, to no avail. Unless she received an information dump, there wasn't anything she could do. Feeling blind and useless, she settled further into the folds of the blanket. The metallic coated edges crackled as she moved slightly, getting as comfortable as possible. She checked her watch after what felt like an hour. Fifty-three minutes had passed since her teammates had gone to sleep.

No stars, no moon. Just the heavy clouds. By now it was too dark to see them. The distant rumble of thunder had her sitting up straight. She would use any flashes of lightening to see what she could.

The first flash caught her off guard. A few minutes later, another rumble of thunder, and rain began to pelt the ground. The second flash of lightening revealed nothing that hadn't been there earlier in the evening.

It felt as if the temperature was continuing to fall. Casey tossed more of the wood onto the fire. If it wasn't for the blankets that they'd found, the team would be in trouble. They weren't as convenient as the heavy coats and parkas that the Air Force kept in ample supply in the SGC storeroom. But emergency blankets would keep them relatively warm.

Another flash of lightening. Casey frowned. Had something been moving behind that clump of bushes? She grabbed the closest flashlight. Turned it on. Played the beam over the area just outside of the cave. The wind and the rain prevented her from being able to hear any possible movement. She had to rely on what she could see. Which wasn't much, without the benefit of the lightening. The flashlight beam barely penetrated the pouring rain far enough to see the edge of the cliff that lead to a four foot drop off, onto the path that led to the river. To her right was a series of boulders that provided 'steps' to reach the cave.

There! It almost looked like...like a person bent over, trying to run in a hunched position. Her heart began to pound with fear. They'd been in a battle on Ba'al's ship. They didn't have much left in the way of ammunition. Every shot taken had to be done carefully, so as not to waste any of their precious resources.

Another flash of lightening. Whatever they were, they were big, and furry, and there were three of them, and they were standing not more than ten feet from the opening of the cave, just beyond that ledge. "Oh, hell! Daniel! Teal'c! Jack!"

The three men were awake instantly at the sound of her cries. Another flash of lightening, and Casey screamed out loud when the bright white light revealed that there were now five of the creatures...and they were preparing to climb toward the cave.

Standing shoulder to shoulder, P90s at the ready, the team watched as the first of the creatures moved forward slowly, wide yellow eyes scrutinizing them carefully. The heavy animal scent wafted toward them. If it was an animal, it was damned intelligent, Casey thought. Perhaps similar to the relatives of modern humans, those who had deviated from their simian cousins to become Homo Erectus.

"It's possible we're in their cave," Daniel said softly.

"We checked," Jack said. "Nothing's been in this cave for quite awhile."

"That is correct, Daniel Jackson. There were no tracks to indicate any animal had entered this cave in some time," Teal'c said, eyeing the creatures warily.

"Maybe the fire drew them," Casey suggested.

"That's possible," Daniel replied. "Maybe they haven't mastered using fire yet."

"They're getting closer," Sam said nervously. Fingers tightened around weapons at her observation.

"Easy, campers, let's not tick off the wildlife until we know what's going on," Jack said quietly. Those things were big, looked damned strong, and there were five of them. While he, Teal'c and Daniel would probably be able to take on a one-to-one wrestling match, Sam and Casey couldn't. The creatures had to outweigh the slender blonde women by damned near a hundred pounds each. When the one who appeared to be the leader continued to move toward them, he knew it was decision time. This, he thought, was why he got paid the big bucks. "Carter, get a zat."

The major hurried to grab one of the Goa'uld weapons. The click and whine as it opened was familiar and reassuring.

"Aim for the ground at its feet," Jack said, continuing to speak calmly, quietly.

Sam took aim, a burst of green energy hit the ground, left the familiar smell of ozone in the air. The creature screamed, jumped off of the ledge, peered over the rocks at them. The others had followed suit.

"Well, that seems to have done the trick," Jack said, breathing a bit easier.

"I think we just answered the age old question about Big Foot," Casey said, still shaking.

Daniel couldn't help but smile. "They certainly do fit the description, don't they?"

"Carter, fire again, let's see if we can't convince these things to just move on," Jack said.

Once again the burst of green energy churned up the dirt near the ledge, smoldered in the cold rain. More screams ensued, as well as several long, loud growls. The sounds continued, moving away from the cave.

Jack turned to face the slender blonde. "You okay?"

She nodded. "I wouldn't have seen them if not for the lightening. The flashlight didn't penetrate the rain far enough."

He reached out and squeezed her shoulder. Understood that seeing the creatures and watching them advance during flashes of lightening would have been the same as seeing them while a strobe flashed. They would have appeared to move much more quickly than they actually were. "Get some sleep, Radar. You've earned it," he said softly.

More than willing to obey, Casey followed Daniel back to where he'd abandoned his blanket. She pulled her boots off, spread his blanket, still warm from being wrapped around his body, onto the dirt floor.

Daniel shook her blanket, stretched out beside her, tugged her close. She was still shaking. He tucked the blanket around them as well as he could, then began to move his hand up and down her arm. Just a soothing touch, meant to help her relax.

She couldn't help but smile. She snuggled closer, his chest pressed against her back. His gentle touch lulled her to sleep within minutes.

Jack continued to watch. The rain slowed enough that seeing the ledge drop-off with the flashlight was possible. He thought he heard movement among the bushes a time or two, but never saw any of the creatures, if they were still out there.

It wasn't a good thing to be stuck on a planet with bizarre wildlife, limited supplies, and no way to call for backup. SG-1 had been in sticky situations before, and had always walked away. He tucked that fact into his heart, and held tightly. Radar hadn't seen anything negative happening, so that was a good thing. They just had to hold out until General Hammond sent the MALP through, and saw their message. A couple of days, and the Prometheus would be right above them, ready to pick them up.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

Dr. Cam Balinsky, one of the archaeologists hired at Daniel's urging, studied the line of what appeared to be Goa'uld symbols. "As far as I can tell, this is a ship identification number," he said at last. "This," he said, pointing to the symbol that represented Earth, "was the destination. The numbers that follow are the communication code for the SGC."

General Hammond frowned. Pointed to the last set of numbers...twelve in all. "What about these numbers?"

The redhead sighed, sat back in his chair. "I don't know," he said honestly.

Walter and Gracie had continued to work on the puzzle as well, running the numbers through the computer in an attempt to decipher them. Without a reference, however, there had been literally no results to their inquiries.

Walter stared at the Stargate, silent and imposing. Twelve numbers. Could it really be? "Gracie, call up the dialing program."

"What?"

"Just do it." The Air Force sergeant turned to the Airman standing guard duty. "Tell General Hammond we might have something."

The young man nodded, hurried up the stairs to the briefing room.

"Walter, what are you looking for?" Gracie asked, frowning as the man carefully typed in the numbers, in the order they had been received.

"If I'm right, these numbers correlate with the thirty-nine symbols on the Stargate. Major Carter and Doctor Jackson numbered them, with number one being the symbol for Earth. Then around the ring clockwise. It was the only way to program in the symbols for the actual dialing calculations," Walter explained.

General Hammond, followed by Dr. Balinsky and Major Ferretti, whose team was on stand-by, hurried into the room. "Sergeant, what do you have?"

"An answer to the riddle. I hope," he added under his breath.

"Hey, that's the address for the Alpha site," Gracie said, pointing to the second set of numbers.

"I'll have to search for a match to find out what planet this is," Walter said, indicating the first set of numbers.

"It came from Ba'al's ship, sir," Ferretti said. "We know, or at least we're pretty sure, that SG-1 was taken to Ba'al. This could be a message from them."

"Telling us what?" Balinsky asked.

"Major, any ideas?" General Hammond asked, looking at Ferretti.

"Well, sir, if I were to take a guess, I'd say they're heading to the Alpha site. But this planet is where they had to go first. If they were 'gating from the ship, they'd be limited in which 'gates they'd be able to use. Just like Doc had to do when he and Mrs. J were 'guests' the last time," the Marine replied.

"Notify the Alpha site. I want to know the minute they come through," Hammond ordered. "Find out what planet this is," he added, pointing to the first set of numbers. "If they don't arrive at the Alpha site within the next hour, we'll start looking there. Major, I want your team ready to walk through that 'gate at a moment's notice."

"Yes, sir!" Ferretti saluted, then hurried to gather his men and what equipment he thought they might need.

"I have it, sir," Walter said. "P5R 105."

"Good work, Sergeant," Hammond said, smiling at the man who was responsible for so much of the mundane for the SGC.

Walter beamed. "Thank you, sir."

"Get that message out. Let me know as soon as you get a reply."

"Yes, sir." For the first time, Walter Harriman felt as if he had actually done something...important. More important than keeping track of visitors and making certain passes were kept up-to-date. More important than filing the reports for each diagnostic run on the control room computers. He'd done something that might actually help SG-1!

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

Teal'c was sitting watch. The pile of available firewood had dwindled during the night. It would be necessary to cut more...and soon. So far, as dawn began to break over the horizon, hidden behind the clouds that continued to roil in the sky, there had been no further sign of the creatures.

That there had been no sign of them during the day led the Jaffa to speculate that the creatures were nocturnal, for whatever reason. While gathering food would have been easier during the daylight hours, it was possible that their prey was also nocturnal. Which meant that there were two species that the team needed to be wary of, and watch carefully for.

Casey opened her eyes. Rocks. There were rocks above her head. She rolled her eyes when where she was came crashing back into her mind. Great. No coffee. She'd kill for a cup of coffee. Or her own pack, where she always had a stash hidden.

Daniel began to grumble when she sat up, allowing cold air to filter into the warmth that their bodies had created. "Get up or lay back down, just get the blanket back in place," he grumped. He'd taken the watch just before Teal'c, and was still tired, more than willing to sleep for a few more hours.

"Bite me," she replied. But she settled back at his side. There sure as hell wasn't anything else to do!

Jack opened one eye when he heard the quiet voices. Swell. Just peachy. The Space Monkey and Radar with no coffee. They'd be grumpy as hell! Once again the thought of weaning those two from their caffeine addiction crossed his mind. Was just as quickly dismissed when he contemplated dealing with them for the time it would take to do so.

Sam stretched beside him. Moaned mentally when she felt that familiar ache in her lower abdomen. She was well aware that her period was supposed to start. She'd packed all of her necessary supplies in her duffel. Which was sitting somewhere in the terminal at Nellis Air Force base. She was supposed to have spent the night in the Best Western near the main gate in Las Vegas. Once again she envied her friends who took the Depo shot, and had their periods stop completely.

"Ready to get up?" Jack asked softly.

"Not really. But I might just as well." She rolled to her side, pushed herself into a sitting position. Reached for her pack, hoping like hell there was something she could use as protection. The only thing she could find was the first aid kit. She'd have to make do with the gauze bandages, she thought irritably.

Jack frowned. She sounded bitchy. As if it was his fault for the predicament that they were in.

"We must obtain more wood, O'Neill," Teal'c said from the opening of the cave.

Oh, great! Like it had been so damned easy to get what they had managed to gather the day before. "Let's see if the MALP is there," he said quietly. He looked for and found a small stone, picked it up and tossed it at Daniel. "Hey, Sleeping Beauty, get up!"

"Piss off," Daniel groaned, trying to roll over.

"Now, Daniel. Sam and Casey need to head up to the 'gate to see if the MALP is there. You, me, and Rocco need to cut more wood. Doesn't feel like it's going to warm up much more, and we'll need the fire to keep from freezing to death.

Another groan, but the archaeologist sat up. Casey followed suit, rubbing her eyes with the heels of her hands.

"Any sign of Big Foot and his friends?" Jack asked Teal'c, pulling his boots on. Wishing for clean socks. Another day, and taking his boots off wouldn't be a good idea.

"There has been none," Teal' replied.

"Well, at least there's some good news," the CO grumbled.

Sam and Casey had their boots on. Casey was wrapped in the warmth of the blanket that had covered her and Daniel during the night. Sam was wrapped in her blanket as well. "Here goes nothing," Sam murmured. She picked up her P90, hesitated for just a moment before grabbing a zat as well, then led the slender blonde out of the cave.

It wasn't easy holding her weapon and the blanket. Casey followed her friend up the narrow path that led to the top of the mountain, where the Stargate stood silently.

"Well, that's just friggin' great!" Sam spat when they were close enough. No MALP.

"Sam?"

"Hell week," Sam replied, using Casey's description of her time of the month, shaking her head slightly. "I wish I was as lucky as you with the Depo shots!"

Casey's mind moved quickly over the supplies at hand. "I'll give you the gauze from my first aid kit, and Daniel's as well. You'll have to wash it out and dry it by the fire, but that gives you three 'changes'."

Sam stared at her friend. "Got it all worked out, huh?"

"Sounds like," Casey retorted.

"Sorry," Sam mumbled, when she realized how ungrateful she had sounded.

"No problem. I might not bleed, but I get PMS to the max," Casey said, offering a sympathetic grin.

"So Daniel says," Sam grinned in return.

"At least there's Tylenol in the kits. That will help with the cramping."

"True."

"Sam?"

"What?"

"How long can we really survive this way?"

"I don't know," the major replied honestly. "As long as we have to, I suppose."

"I suppose," Casey agreed. The women turned back toward the cave. They would check again, watching for the MALP that would signal their rescue.

 

 

 

Hacking at bushes to provide firewood was not his idea of a good time, Daniel thought grumpily. He managed to get a limb free, tossed it in the general direction of the pile of wood gathered so far.

"Damn it, Daniel, watch where you're throwing that stuff!" Jack complained, brushing off his shoulder, dislodging the bits of bark and leaves that had landed on him as the limb grazed him on its way to the not-so-quickly growing pile.

"So move your ass to the side," Daniel replied.

"Are you going to be this bitchy all day?"

"Probably."

"Peachy. One on the rag, two suffering from caffeine depravation," Jack grumbled.

"What?"

"Sam started her period. I think. She was checking her med kit, grabbed all of the gauze," Jack replied.

For a man who liked to play stupid, Jack was very observant, and knew exactly what was going on, especially when it came to his team, Daniel thought. "I'll try to keep the snarls to a minimum," he offered.

"Thanks."

Teal'c dragged two large limbs to add to the pile. "We should investigate the surrounding area more carefully. If there are villagers nearby, perhaps we can find shelter with them."

"Good thinking," Jack nodded. "I'd like to know if Big Foot and his buddies live around here as well."

The men hacked away in silence, finally giving in to protesting muscles. They were pleased to note that after an hour's work, they had to make two trips to drag all of the limbs to the cave.

"Must be getting the hang of this lumberjack thing," Jack remarked as he dropped his armload of wood.

"Must be," Daniel agreed. He glanced at Casey. "No MALP?"

"Nope."

"I know the message got through," Sam said quietly.

"So do I," Jack replied.

Her brow knit in a frown of concentration, Sam asked what the date was. Moaned when Daniel told her. "They were doing the computer diagnostics and virus checks! If we hit that seventy-two second gap while the computers were down, the message didn't get through!"

Four faces turned in her direction. Each reflected the worry that the statement caused. "If they don't know where we are..." Casey murmured, then shook her head.

Daniel, who'd settled onto the dirt floor beside his wife, put an arm around her and pulled her close. "We'll be okay, Angel. We're together, that's all that matters," he said softly.

Jack was frowning. Setting up house in a cave, with Big Foot and his buddies lurking nearby, where temperatures seemed to be dropping, and without the proper clothing...nope, not gonna be easy. They couldn't survive on a few fish each day, either. He looked at Casey, studied her for a minute. Hated like hell to ask what he was about to ask. Letting Radar do her 'searches' was always risky. "Radar, can you take a look? See if you can find out about that message?"

"I can try," she replied softly.

It was Daniel's turn to frown. He understood the reason for the request. They needed to know just how dire their situation was. If they were going to be stuck on this planet for the foreseeable future, they needed to make some serious long term plans. But allowing Casey to move to the astral plane was dangerous enough; knowing that there were still beings who would do her harm if given a chance scared him to death. He remained silent as she settled between his legs, allowing him to hold her tightly. "Be careful," he whispered.

"I promise," she whispered in return. Closed her eyes.

 

"Miss Eloise?"

"Right here, Sunshine."

"We're in a bit of a jam."

"What flavor?"

Casey looked at the old seer. "What?"

"What flavor of jam? Grape? Strawberry? Peach? Plum?"

"Old woman, you are so not funny!" Casey felt her stomach tighten at the thought of a nice hot slice of toast slathered with strawberry jam.

Miss Eloise cackled. "You're certainly in a rotten mood."

"I'm cold, I'm hungry, and we're stuck on a planet with a DHD that can't be fixed with just good thoughts and rocks," Casey huffed.

"Ah. Well, that explains it. No coffee."

"Hardee-har-har. I need to know if our message got through to the SGC."

Miss Eloise frowned. "Not so sure you'll be able to see that."

"Why not?"

"You can get there, I'm certain. But unless you're just lucky enough to overhear someone talking about it, I don't know what you can do," the old woman explained.

That was a wrinkle she hadn't considered. She'd start in the control room. If the message had come through, then there would be record of it. Maybe she'd be lucky enough to be able to see the log file for the day. If General Hammond was there, perhaps he'd be giving orders to send the MALP through to the planet. "I have to try," Casey said softly.

The white head moved in a slow nod. "Look, Casey."

Casey took a deep breath, centered herself. Felt herself being pulled up, and was soon moving past moons and planets and stars. Her breath caught in her throat when she approached. It was so beautiful, she thought. She'd seen Earth from orbit twice now, once with the team as they dealt with Tem, rescuing Shannon Ballard from his clutches. And just two days earlier, on the Prometheus. Which was not, she noted, in orbit anywhere. Were they already looking for SG-1? Of course they were, she thought. The minute Tieel Mogba had jumped into hyperspace, the Prometheus would have been in hot pursuit. That thought gave her a bit of hope.

Down through the clouds. It appeared to be a lovely autumn evening in Colorado Springs. Into the mountain, down to the control room. She watched as Sergeant Myers strode in, coffee in hand.

"Quiet day?" the man asked, sitting down in the chair that Walter vacated.

"Not exactly. SG-1 is presumed missing. We received a message that we're fairly sure was from them. But they haven't shown up at the Alpha site as of yet. Two MALPS are out with teams, and Siler is working on the third one. As soon as it's repaired, it'll be sent to these coordinates." Walter pointed to the note on the pad beside the keyboard.

"Got it. Hammond in his office?"

"Yep. You know he won't leave until he knows for sure."

"True. Okay. I'll take it from here. Have a good night, Walter."

"You too, Barry."

Her heart thumping with excitement, and relief, Casey hurried back to where Miss Eloise waited. "They got the message! As soon as the MALP is fixed, they'll send it through, and see our rock, and they'll send the Prometheus, and we'll be home!"

Miss Eloise chuckled. "Damned lucky then, aren't you?"

"Yep," Casey grinned. "Thanks."

"You're welcome, Sunshine."

With a quick hug for her spirit guide, Casey raced back to the cave.

 

"They got the message. Two MALPs are out right now, the third is down for repairs. As soon as Siler has it fixed, they're sending it here," she said in a rush.

Jack nodded. "Good. Any idea how long?"

"Beats me. I don't know what's wrong with it. I could go back-"

"No need," Jack said quickly. They knew that help would soon be on the way. That was good enough.

"If it's MALP number two, it's just routine maintenance. Shouldn't take more than a day or so to have it ready to go," Sam said, frowning slightly.

"So, a day, maybe two," Jack said.

"Three at the most," Sam confirmed.

"Well, campers, I'd say this means we can eat!"

With wide grins, MREs were pulled out, and the foil covered entrees nestled among the coals of the fire to heat. Cookies, crackers and peanut butter were eaten quickly, putting an end to the rumbling of empty stomachs.

Daniel contemplated his situation. In another day or so, he'd start experiencing the shakes. A day after that, and he'd move into full blown withdrawal. If the opportunity presented itself, he'd take advantage of it. If not...well, there was that bluff.

Jack watched his best friend. Knew that if the MALP didn't show up tomorrow, he'd need a fix of his wife. They'd find a way to give the couple an hour or so of privacy. One way or another.


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