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 The Colonel's New Toys

Chapter 6

"I don't know that it's a good idea to leave the cave empty, or the fire unattended," Jack said, as soon as they'd finished eating. "Ladies, do you have any objections to staying here and keeping the perimeter clear of unfriendlies?"

Sam couldn't help but smile. She was certain that Jack knew she was on her period. Not doing a hike would be a blessing, considering she didn't have anything other than gauze to use. "Sounds good to me, it's cold out there!"

Casey was smiling as well. For all of his insistence that he was just a dumb military grunt, Jack O'Neill could be a very considerate man. She too suspected the true reason for the suggestion. "Amen! You guys go play explorer. We'll sit here by the fire where it's warm!"

"Keep an eye open. We'll swing by to take a look around the 'gate on our way out. If the MALP is there, we'll let you know," Jack said. "Then we'll see what's at the end of the yellow brick road."

"Be careful," Casey admonished, helping Daniel slide the straps of his pack over his shoulders.

"Always. You, too," he said softly. He gave her a quick kiss, afraid that to kiss her the way he wanted to would start a fire burning that he wouldn't be able to control, or put out...at least, not without making love.

Jack gave Sam's hand a quick squeeze, neither of them willing to do more, not even if it was in front of their best friends.

 

 

 

Wrapped in their blankets, the packs causing odd looking humps on their backs, the men set out. There was still no sign of the MALP, so they turned to follow the narrow, barely visible trail. It was possible, they surmised in a quiet discussion, that Big Foot and his friends had worn the path.

"It's possible that the Stargate is some sort of...talisman...or holy place for them," Daniel theorized. "That would explain the path that leads to it."

"Rather advanced for apes, isn't it?" Jack asked, picking his way along, following the archaeologist, who was following Teal'c.

"First of all, we don't know that they're apes, or even related to apes. Second of all, appearances have little to do with higher brain function. They might be every bit as intelligent as you."

"Daniel, you saw the same thing I did. You heard them last night. Those things aren't much higher on the evolutionary scale than apes," Jack argued.

"I have to admit, they seemed fascinated by the fire," Daniel conceded. "Casey might be right, that might be what drew them in the first place."

"Surely they've seen fire. Lightening strikes can cause fires."

"True. But this fire wasn't spreading. And it was at the opening of a cave, where there weren't bushes that could have been struck."

"Good point."

"Do you think they'll show up today?"

"We didn't see them until last night. The eyes seemed kinda big...very yellow. They might be nocturnal," Jack replied.

"I hope so," Daniel sighed. "I hate to think of Case and Sam facing several of those things alone."

"Thank you, Mr. Sunshine. I was trying not to think about that," Jack growled.

"They have zats. And P90s. They'll be fine," Daniel said. Trying to convince himself as much as his best friend.

"Daniel Jackson, I believe this should be of interest to you," Teal'c said quietly. He had stopped beside a stele nearly as tall as he was. Two sides were nothing more than rough stone. The other two, however, were covered with what appeared to be text.

The archaeologist hurried forward, his eyes moving over the marks quickly, searching for any that were recognizable. There! The carving had a definite Sanskrit look to it. Daniel ran his finger over several of the marks, exposing the complete letter to his view.

"Well?" Jack asked.

"Just a minute," Daniel murmured. Sanskrit was one of the most beautiful written languages. He took just a moment to admire the carefully carved writing. Whoever had created this stele, or started it, had been dedicated to what he was doing.

"Daniel?"

The younger man frowned. "It's a warning. Against Nirrti the Destroyer."

"Okay, doesn't sound good."

"She brought a village of people here. Divided them into three groups," Daniel said, reading as quickly as he could. "They arrived in the cold, rocky region of hell, through the womb of Kali. The Destroyer cursed two of the groups; turning one into growling animals covered with hair. The other group became thin and weak, and were killed by the first group."

"I take it that the third group was a control for her damned experiments," Jack said.

"Seems so," Daniel replied. "Whatever those creatures are, their ancestors were as human as we are."

"Damned snakes," Jack hissed. "I suppose after she determined she'd screwed up, she just left?"

"It says here that a great sickness fell upon those who lived in the village." Daniel looked up at his friend. "That's where it ends. I'm assuming that they all died. She probably poisoned them."

"What about the trout?"

"I don't know, Jack. Maybe she brought them in order to feed the people she enslaved. Maybe Nirrti wasn't the first Goa'uld to come to this planet. We've seen other planets where the evolution has mirrored Earth's. It's possible that the fish are indigenous."

Jack looked off into the distance, squinting against the wind that continued to blow. "Let's move on. You might find more in that village. If there's anything left of it."

"You know, it's possible that the people brought here were taken from another planet, a group that had close ties with what is modern India," Daniel said quietly.

"Meaning?"

"If the wind blows like this all of the time, then this stele can't be very old. Not more than fifty or sixty years."

"Then Big Foot and his buddies are the great-grandchildren of those that Nirrti experimented on?"

"It's just one possibility," Daniel replied.

"Damned snakes," Jack muttered again. "Let's go."

With one last look at the stele, Daniel fell into step beside his friends. Whatever those creatures were now, the DNA in their bodies had been changed by a Goa'uld bent on developing the perfect human host. The same Goa'uld responsible for leaving a little Hankan girl an orphan. Making her a living, breathing bomb. Leaving a dormant disease in her body. Jack should have shot the bitch as soon as she'd cured Cassie. He didn't even question his ability to wish such a thing...with a completely clear conscience. For a man who preferred diplomatic solutions to violence, his thoughts concerning the Goa'uld should have worried him. He'd seen too much...too much death, too much suffering, too much heartache. All caused by Goa'uld. Daniel wasn't a man who hated...not easily. But he hated the Goa'uld with all that he was.

 

 

 

The path seemed to end in a small valley. Daniel immediately located what he thought were walls. Presumably a shelter of some sort, judging by the size. It would take days of digging to find any other signs of life that might be buried, he was certain.

"Daniel, what are the chances that Nirrti had some sort of laboratory around here?" Jack asked as he wandered the perimeter of what they assumed had been a small village.

"Pretty high, I'd say."

"Think if we found it, there'd be crystals that Sam could use to fix the DHD?"

"I dunno. Maybe."

"Check around. See if you can find anything. Teal'c, watch our backs. And if you see anything that could be the entrance to the bitch's hall of horrors, let us know."

The Jaffa nodded his understanding.

Jack began looking on the far side of the ruins, while Daniel searched methodically around the ruins themselves.

After an hour, their exposed skin raw from the wind, and shaking from the cold, Jack called a halt to their search. They knew that the MALP would be coming through within a day or so. If worse came to worst, they would return and search longer. For now, they needed to get out of the wind, and warm up.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

Casey watched anxiously. It had been almost three hours since the men of the team had left. Her eyes were drawn toward her left...she thought she saw movement in the bushes near the path they took to the river. But when she called for Sam's attention, nothing could be seen.

"I could go take a look," the slender seer said quietly.

"Not alone," Sam replied. "And if we're not here when the guys get back, you know they'll go into full blown panic mode."

She reluctantly agreed. As long as they had been gone, chances were they'd be back at any moment. If she'd had her own pack, she and Sam could play a hand or two of poker or gin. But her deck of cards was tucked into a side pocket in the pack with her name on it, which was sitting in the supply room of the SGC.

"Casey, do you really think Tieel Mogba will become an ally?"

She smiled. The question was unexpected. But not surprising. An odd realization, she thought. "To be honest, I don't know. He won't...I sense that he won't betray us. Not a second time."

Sam nodded thoughtfully. "He was so convinced that we'd escape, that even if he handed us over to Ba'al, we'd be all right."

"It was a belief that he clung to. It was the only way out of losing situation for him. Had he not found us, Ba'al would have killed him. He would have died horribly. His family would have been killed as well," Casey said softly. "I know he fled, and deserted us. But between you and me, I think it was because he was afraid of Daniel."

The major snorted, then giggled. "Yeah, it was rather obvious that Daniel wanted nothing more than to strangle Mogba. He almost did the first time we met," she added softly.

"That wasn't Daniel; it was his anger, his grief," Casey replied. "And he wouldn't have. His heart would have stopped him."

"Casey, he'd fired on Mogba with his zat, was ready to fire again, if Jack hadn't stopped him..." Sam's voice faded as she recalled that horrible afternoon, learning that Casey had been in Ba'al's clutches from the time she had been taken. Watching Daniel wrapped in such despair that it was painful to anyone observing him.

"He's a good man," Casey whispered.

"Yes, he is. He loves deeply. And he's damned protective of those he loves."

She smiled. Felt the warmth of his love surround her, even though he wasn't physically with her. "He certainly is."

"I'm glad he has you. When Sha're died, he closed himself off. From us, from everyone in the mountain...it was as if he tried to just turn off his emotions completely," Sam said. "The one time he let down his guard, allowed himself to care, she turned out to be the Destroyer of Worlds."

Casey knew the story, from Sam and Janet. Daniel had never spoken of his brief, over-night affair with the woman whose experiments had almost destroyed an entire world...or at least its people. A younger 'version' of the woman who had fooled them into helping her escape from the prison where they were being held. Where she most certainly deserved to be. "That had to have hurt him."

"After what had happened with Hathor, and then Shyla, I think the situation with Ke'ra had him believing that he was a lousy judge of women. He wouldn't even ask anyone out for a casual date. There were several nurses who were interested in him. Janet tried to talk him into having dinner with one of them, but he refused. Jack said-" Sam broke off, looked away.

"Jack said what?" Casey asked softly.

"Jack said he wouldn't even take one of the dancers from Deezer's home long enough to get a little...relief."

His faith in his own judgment had been shaken, and the rumors regarding his sexuality that persisted in the SGC had only added to his feelings of insecurity, she knew that for a fact. "It's a wonder he listened to the Casey from that other reality," Casey said.

"Yes, it is. Jack had to push him into flying to Tacoma. I think deep inside, Daniel wanted to go, wanted to find you, but he was afraid of something...bad...happening. Of being rejected by the one woman who was supposed to be Ms. Right."

"Lucky for him that didn't happen."

Sam grinned. "I hear he got laid that night."

Casey giggled. "So I hear. It happened so quickly-"

"Well, in Daniel's defense, it had been a long time since Ke'ra." Sam butted in.

"Huh?" It took a second for her brain to catch on to what Sam meant. "Oh, no...'it' lasted damned near the entire night." She blushed as she finally saw the mischievous teasing gleam in her friend's eyes, and hurried on. "I never thought that I'd ever spend the night with a man I'd only known for a couple of hours...but...I just...I just...knew. In my heart, I knew as soon as I looked at him. It was as if...as if I'd walked out of the shadows and into the sunlight for the first time in my life. When he hugged me the first time, I'd never felt so warm...so safe. By the time we'd finished dinner, I was head-over-heels in love with him. Then..." She sighed. "It was the most beautiful thing I'd ever experienced."

Sam watched as the slender seer turned once again toward the opening. "When you need time alone, just let me know. I'll get Jack and Teal'c out of here for awhile."

She could feel the heat rise in her cheeks. "Thanks. With luck, we'll be home before it's...necessary."

Sam stood, walked to where her friend stood. Put an arm around slender shoulders. "He loves you. Being addicted to you doesn't bother him."

"You know this...how?"

"Just watching him, Casey. He's so in love with you that even if there wasn't an actual, physical addiction, his emotional addiction to you would still be just as strong."

She leaned against her friend. "Thanks."

"You're welcome," was the soft reply. "Hey, there they are."

"They look tired. Wish we had some coffee."

"Me, too."

Ten minutes later, the cave seemed suddenly overfilled as the three men stumbled inside. "Still no sign of the MALP," Jack reported, taking a deep swallow of the water that Sam had offered him. "We checked again on the way back here."

"We found a stele, and the ruins of a village," Daniel added, also drinking gratefully. He told the two women what they'd discovered, what their theories had been.

"I'm not sure, but I thought I saw movement in the bushes over there," Casey said, pointing toward the path that led to the river. "I don't know if it was Big Foot or his buddies, or something smaller."

"It is possible that there are small animals on this planet," Teal'c said. He finished off his bottle of water.

"As long as they stay out there, I'm okay with that," Casey replied.

The teammates huddled around the fire. No one said out loud what they all knew. The temperature had continued to fall. If it got much colder, even the blankets wouldn't offer enough protection. Five hearts sent out fervent prayers that the MALP would be sent through soon.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

Ba'al sat stoically on the pel'tak. He'd accepted the allegiance of the young Jaffa once in service to Tem. He'd been tempted to kill Kebu, the First Prime. After all, the young man admitted that he'd murdered his god. A confession that came only after suffering at the end of the beam emitted by the ribbon device that covered Ba'al's hand. When the young Jaffa admitted what he had done, when he insisted that it had been done because he was Jaffa and would not serve a weak, crazed god, Ba'al had laughed with amusement. If mere children could see Tem's madness, then what he'd heard about the Son of Ra had been true.

Jaffa were always needed, and welcomed. Even young Jaffa with very little training. He sent them on their way to Nippur, his new home planet, named after the first city that had worshipped En-lil. The Goa'uld who had seen to it that Ba'al was given a worthy first host. The 'god' that Ba'al had emulated, then killed. The 'god' that Ba'al had become. There they'd continue their training. Perhaps one day young Kebu would be worthy of the station of First Prime.

Like a bad dream that continued to haunt him, Casey's face, her beautiful green eyes filled with hatred, her fist toward him, one finger extended, continued to play again and again in his mind. It had been a defining moment. When he'd realized that she never would have come to his side, not willingly. Her heart would love only one man...Daniel Jackson. Even if he became host to Thanatos, that would not change. He had no doubt she'd kill Jackson, in an attempt to 'free' him. Ba'al wondered if she would kill herself, rather than live as his consort.

It no longer mattered. The love he'd felt for her had turned; twisted into dark anger in that moment. When he watched her flee, her hand held tightly by Jackson's, he'd felt his heart grow cold. Felt the anger turn to hatred. He would break her, for what she'd done to him. Not even the lure of her talents as a seer would save her now. She would be a mindless slave, do his bidding, until he wearied of her. Then he would kill her.

He sat back, pressed the tips of his fingers together. He had a new High Priest; Balathu had not escaped Olokun's attack on Babylonia. He had a new First Prime, chosen from among his personal guard; Ryk'teal having failed him one too many times. He had a new home planet. With the ships he had taken from Ares, he was now the most powerful Goa'uld in the Empire. For one fleeting second, green eyes and long blonde hair filled his vision. The way she had laughed as he told her of his youth. With icy cold determination, he pushed the memory away. She had refused his love. Had refused him. There was no place for such betrayal in his new kingdom.

When his position was secure, he would take the First World. He would take Casey Jackson. And make her pay for humiliating him. For breaking his heart.

When the signal came, he listened carefully to the report made by his spy. Ordered the man to continue monitoring the situation. Lord Yu held solar systems at the very edge of the galaxy, a wide swath of space that he'd been able to hold for millennia. It was from this direction that a new threat to the Empire loomed. Zeus, banned from the First World by Ra; exiled from the very galaxy from which the Goa'uld sprang forth long before the others fled from the revolting slaves, was now returning. No doubt to lay claim to the title of Supreme Leader. Emperor of the Goa'uld Empire. He would meet Zeus. Let him see Ares in subservience to the greatest of all System Lords. "Take us to the edge of Yu's territory," he ordered.

"Yes, My Lord."

First he would deal with this matter. Then he would deal with the First World. And Casey Jackson.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

Siler sighed. General Hammond had just called for the third time. The commander of the base wanted the MALP ready to go in an hour. If he didn't get the rewiring done, that wasn't going to happen. And that wiring job wasn't going to be finished if he was interrupted every twenty minutes. Not that he could say that to his CO. He understood the anxiety...SG-1 hadn't made it to the Alpha site. If they weren't on the planet that they had sent the coordinates to, then they were still prisoners on Ba'al's ship. He didn't know much about that. Only that it wasn't a good thing.

Gracie slipped into the room. Put a cup of coffee on the floor beside the technician. "How's it going?"

"Slowly," Siler admitted. He nodded his thanks, sipped at the hot coffee. "Too many interruptions."

"Oh! I'm sorry..."

"No, that's okay," Siler replied. "I needed a cup'a joe."

The dark haired woman grinned. "Want me to find someone to guard the door...keep anyone from coming in here?"

"I'd appreciate that."

"Just...please...don't take too long. I want him...them," she corrected, blushing brightly, "to come home safely, and soon."

Siler nodded. He knew that Gracie was having an affair with Teal'c. Hell, everyone in the mountain knew. He had to admit that he was a bit surprised. After all, Teal'c was a Jaffa. Gracie was...Gracie. Shy, quiet, reserved...he wondered just how reserved she was when she was in Teal'c's bed. Shook his head mentally. Forced his mind back to the task at hand. "With luck, I should have this done in a couple of hours."

"I'll close the door on my way out. I don't think General Hammond would mind in I appropriate an Airman for an hour or so," the woman smiled.

"Thanks." Siler took another sip of coffee. Then immediately lost himself in the wires and connectors that filled the MALP.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

"Days seem short here," Daniel observed, as the sun dropped lower in the sky, visible from the mouth of the cave.

"Yeah, nine, ten hours at the most," Jack agreed.

The temperature had continued to drop. The team sat huddled together in front of the fire, using body heat and the emergency blankets to protect them as much as possible.

"Ouch!" Sam hissed. "Casey, move your elbow."

"Sorry," Casey mumbled. She shifted closer to her husband. "Daniel, your flashlight is wedged against my hip."

"I didn't put it there," was the immediate response.

"Right, who did?"

With frown, Daniel reached for the offending tube, tossed it into the dirt in front of him.

"Looks like we're going to need more wood."

"I agree," Teal'c said. He'd remained close to the opening, keeping guard, while his teammates tried to stay warm, and from going stir crazy.

"Okay, where were we?" Jack asked.

"Um...M, I think," Sam replied.

Casey sighed. "Okay, I'm going on a picnic, and I'm taking anchovies, although I don't know why, they're nasty, and bologna and cheese and Doritos and eggplant and fudge and grapes and...what was after grapes?"

"I can't remember," Sam admitted.

"Honey," Daniel offered.

"What?"

He grinned. "You're taking honey on the picnic."

Casey grinned in return. "Right, honey and ice and jam and Kool-Aid...did we ever decide what flavor?"

"Cherry," Jack said immediately.

"The lemonade flavor would be better," Sam said.

"They don't even make that flavor."

"Yes, they do! I know-" Sam broke off, blushed slightly. "I buy it sometimes."

Her teammates grinned at her. "Okay, so lemonade Kool-Aid," Casey continued, "and lime Jell-O, which is also nasty, by the way, and let's see...um...hmm...mushrooms."

Daniel took a deep breath. "I'm going on a picnic, and I'm taking anchovies, bologna, cheese, Doritos, eggplant, fudge, grapes, honey, ice, jam, Kool-Aid...lemonade flavored, Jell-O...lime flavored, mushrooms and nachos."

"I love nachos," Casey sighed.

Teal'c tensed, stood to his feet. The rest of the team was standing immediately.

"Teal'c?"

"I believe I saw movement."

Casey hurried to his side. "That bush right there, with the limb that looks like it's waving?"

"Yes."

"Same place I saw something earlier."

Jack was already grabbing his P90. "Let's take a look."

Wrapped in their blankets, the team warily made their way along the narrow path. There was definitely something in the bushes. Whatever it was, it wasn't large enough to be Big Foot or any of his friends. Each of them stepped closer, peering into the shadows created by the limbs and dry, brown leaves, trying to get a glimpse.

"Did you see that?"

"What?"

"There!"

"That looked like a tail!"

"I didn't see anything!"

"There! Right there!"

"Holy Hannah! Look at the teeth on that thing!"

"Don't scare it!"

"Scare it? Tell it not to look at me like that!"

"Hey, there's another one!"

"Geez, they smell awful."

Two shots rang out in quick succession. Both animals, which looked something like scaly beavers, dropped instantly; a single bullet hole between their eyes killing them before they had a chance to move.

"Jack!" Casey whirled to face the man, who was lowering his weapon.

"Food, Casey."

"MREs, Jack."

"For how long?"

"As soon as Siler gets the MALP fixed-" she began.

"What if he has to order parts?"

Everyone turned to look at Sam. She shrugged helplessly. "I suppose it could happen. During routine maintenance is when any upgrades are made. It might take a day or two."

"But they know we're here!" Casey insisted. "They plan to send it through as soon as it's ready!"

Jack shook his head. "I'm not going to argue about this. We have fresh meat-"

Daniel tapped Jack on the shoulder. Pointed toward the path. "Maybe not. Look."

The team turned in unison to follow Daniel's finger. Four of the hairy creatures stood silently, watching...their gaze moving from the strangers to the dead animals and back again. The largest of the four bared his teeth, growled loudly.

"Okay, maybe we'll let them have one," Jack said quietly. "Daniel, do your thing."

"Huh?" The archaeologist's eyes swung from the creatures to Jack.

"You're the diplomat, the linguist and communication specialist. So, use those linguistic skills to communicate diplomatically."

"There are several hundred languages in India. Almost forty-thousand distinct dialects. How am I supposed to know which one to use?"

Jack looked at his friend. "No kidding? Look, those things probably don't even have a language."

Daniel shook his head. "That's very judgmental, and probably not at all accurate. Whether we recognize a means of communication as a language has no bearing on whether or not it is. If these creatures 'talk' to one another, be it spoken, or using hand signals, it's still a form of language."

"Not the time for debate, Danny. Let them know we're willing to share the kill," Jack muttered.

"Right." Daniel huffed a sigh. Jack got them into trouble, and now he was expected to get them out of it. He searched his mind, quickly sorting through the languages he knew. Decided to take the chance that like so many others taken from the First World, those brought here had learned Goa'uld because of Nirrti. "We mean you no harm," he said quietly.

"That's Goa'uld!" Jack hissed from the side of his mouth.

"Yes, Jack, it is," Daniel replied. "It seems to be a 'universal' language." His attention moved back to the creatures who continued to watch them. "We're willing to share our...um...kill...with you."

Another low growl. The 'leader' pointed at the dead animals. Then made shooing motions with his hands.

"I think he wants us to move back," Daniel said, taking a step backwards.

"Got that," Jack replied, following suit. Sam, Casey, and Teal'c had also taken a step back.

The creatures moved forward. SG-1 continued to back up. The leader pointed at the animals again, then glanced at one of the creatures on his right. That one darted forward, and grabbed both carcasses.

"Hey!" Jack objected.

"Do you really want to argue about it, Jack?" Daniel asked softly.

"I'm willing to share-"

Daniel grabbed Jack's arm, nodded toward the numerous bushes that covered the ground between the cave and the river. At least twenty other creatures were standing beside or behind a bush. There was no telling how many more might be hiding.

"Right. Let 'em take both," Jack said. Had the circumstances been more dire, he'd have argued. But Casey did have a point...they had MREs, and the expectation of being rescued within the next twenty-four hours.

The wind tugged at the blankets the team had wrapped around their shivering bodies. The dim light of the setting sun, at that moment peeking between the dark clouds that continued to fill the sky, flashed on the metallic exterior. It was enough to frighten the creatures, who all began to growl and howl in unison.

"Oh, shit," Jack muttered.

With a simple hand signal, the leader motioned for silence. He pointed toward the cave.

"Yes, we have sought shelter there," Daniel said, nodding. "As soon as we can, we'll be leaving...we...um...we'll leave you in peace."

The leader cocked his head to one side. Focused his attention on Sam, then Casey. Pointed at Daniel, then toward the cave.

"I think he wants us to go back to the cave," Daniel said.

"Okay, that works. We can gather firewood when they've gone," Jack replied.

Then the creature pointed toward Sam and Casey in turn, and toward the other creatures that waited.

Daniel shook his head vehemently. "No. They stay with us."

"Daniel?" Jack asked nervously. The signals had been obvious. There could be no doubt what this creature wanted.

"I told him no way."

"Good. Look, all of us are armed; we could take this group out."

"Do you really want to do that?" Daniel asked softly.

"Not really, no," Jack admitted.

The creature who'd picked up the two animals was examining the wounds, pointed them out to the leader. Who growled quietly, its yellow eyes staring now at the P90s that the strangers carried.

"I think they've figured it out," Daniel said. "They know that our weapons are powerful."

Another hand signal, again demanding, or perhaps requesting, that the two females join the others. The movements were repeated twice.

Again Daniel shook his head no. He reached out, pulled Casey close, wrapping her in his blanket, close to his side. "Jack, show him that Sam belongs to you."

"What?"

"Do it! Now!"

Jack reacted immediately, tugged Sam close, copied Daniel's stance.

A low growl rumbled from deep within the chest of the creature. With wave of his hand, the others began to move away slowly, keeping the strangers in view until they were close enough to the river to turn and disappear over a small hill. With a final growl, the leader turned his back, walked away from the team. After several moments, the others followed.

"Oh, I so want off of this rock!" Casey sighed, shivering slightly. Not from the cold.

"Me, too, Angel," Daniel replied.

"Daniel, give your weapon to Casey. Here," he said, thrusting the P90 at Sam. "We'd better get all the wood we can. Don't know if coming out will be safe tomorrow. We're losing light, gentlemen. Let's get at it."

Teal'c had slung his P90 over his shoulder, tied the blanket around his neck, and began to hack at the nearest bush. Jack and Daniel tied their blankets as well, and added their own efforts to the task of gathering wood. The team was aware that they were being watched. But they didn't see the creatures that lurked in the distance, hidden by the low bushes that seemed to be everywhere.

Working until it was too dark to see, enough wood had been cut to last through the night, and hopefully most of the next day. The temperature was downright frigid now. MREs were heated in the roaring fire, and the teammates sat as closely to the flames as they dared in an attempt to stay warm.

Thunder began to rumble. It didn't rain, however. Instead, it began to snow. If the MALP didn't arrive soon, the team was in serious trouble.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

After almost three hours...completely uninterrupted, Siler noted with a grin, the MALP was ready. He snapped the cover back into place, wiped his hands on the cloth that lay on the floor near his hip. He rose to his feet. No doubt General Hammond was in his office. He'd let his superior know that the robot was ready. Then he was getting more coffee...and dinner. He was really hungry. Probably because he'd worked through lunch.

General Hammond heaved a silent sigh of relief to know that the MALP was ready to go. It hadn't been easy to refrain from calling the Chief in the night before, to work on the machine. The commander realized, however, that a weary, sleep-deprived technician was more apt to make mistakes that would have to be corrected, than one who'd enjoyed a full night of sleep. Although it had meant a sleepless night for himself.

The MALP sat at the foot of the ramp, ready to roll up and through the event horizon. Walter was already dialing the 'gate when the general hurried into the control room. The Texan watched as the event horizon opened, then stabilized. "Send it through," he ordered.

Using the remote control connected to the computers in front of him, Walter engaged the electric motor. Slowly the MALP rolled up the ramp, disappeared into the swirling blue light that filled the center of the Stargate.

"Arrival in three...two...one. Receiving telemetry now."

"It's dark," the general said. Then realized how silly the comment sounded. He was tired, and worried, and not thinking clearly, he thought, glancing around. No one else seemed to notice, so he sighed mentally. Being the commander had its perks. Like not being ridiculed for stating the obvious.

"Switching exterior lights on."

There was nothing to see. The DHD, and rocks. Several large boulders sat off to one side.

Walter frowned, noticing at the same moment as the general that the rock in front of the DHD looked out of place. As if it had been deliberately placed there.

"Is there something on that?" Hammond asked.

Fingers moving over the keyboard, Walter moved the MALP closer, focused the camera on the stone. "It's a message, sir."

There was no way to misinterpret the markings...

SOS DHD BRK SG1

 

"Well, that explains why they haven't arrived at the Alpha site," the general sighed. "Contact the Prometheus. Give them the coordinates for this planet."

"Sir, the ambient temperature is -1.11 degrees Celsius. That's 30 degrees Fahrenheit."

SG-1 had been wearing civilian clothes when they went to Area 51. Colonel Ronson had reported that they had donned BDUs before embarking to the bounty hunter's ship. They had not taken cold weather gear. "Tell Colonel Ronson best time. SG-1 could be in serious trouble. Alert Major Ferretti. I want SG-3 through that 'gate with coats, blankets, battery lanterns and heaters in ten minutes."

"Yes, sir!"

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

Casey was as close to Daniel as she could get, their blankets wrapped tightly around their bodies.

"I think we should probably stay awake," Jack said quietly.

"Why?" Casey asked.

"Hypothermia. It's getting colder. Snow is really starting to pile up out there. And this wood is burning much faster than we thought. We'll be through this pile in a couple more hours."

Which meant, she thought morosely, that unless they cut more wood, there would be no fire. "Right," she said softly.

Teal'c, who was sitting beside the fire, nestled between the two couples, cocked his head sideways. "I believe I heard something."

With a groan, the four people with him pulled themselves apart, wrapped their blankets around now shivering frames.

"Colonel O'Neill!"

"That's Ferretti," Jack grinned. He stepped to the mouth of the cave. "Over here, Lou!" A flashlight beam caught him across the face.

"Nice to see you, Colonel," Ferretti grinned.

"You're a sight for sore eyes," Jack confessed.

Ferretti stepped into the cave. "Nice and cozy," he commented. His men followed, carrying two plastic crates between them. "Thought you might like a bit of light, maybe some heat, and a coat."

"I love you, Ferretti," Casey sighed, racing to the first box to hit the dirt.

"Yeah, just don't let Doc know," the major grinned, winking at Daniel. Who grinned in return.

"It'll be our secret, I promise," Casey smiled, pulling a parka over her arms.

"Thought you might be a bit hungry, too," Willy Lopez said. He tossed MREs toward the group.

"Well, we actually found a few things on Ba'al's ship," Jack said, nodding to the packs and P90's.

"No shit?" Ferretti's eyes went wide. "So how'd that go, anyway?"

"We ran around, gave his Jaffa fits, broke a couple of things-" Casey started.

"Internal and external sensors, and internal lighting," Sam interjected.

"And mostly caused as much heartburn as possible. Then we got bored and left," she finished with a wide grin.

The men of SG-3 laughed heartily.

"As glad as I am to see you, and to get the supplies, you're stuck here too," Jack said, zipping his coat up to his chin.

"Nope. Prometheus will be here in about an hour," Ferretti replied.

Casey's green eyes danced. "An hour, huh? Got a deck of cards?"

"Got a bit of cash you're willing to part with?" Ferretti tossed back.

"Not on me, but I'm good for it," Casey grinned.

Within minutes the two teams were sitting in by the fire, playing poker. Teal'c and The Kid stood watch, listened as the members of SG-1 told the newcomers about their time on the planet so far.


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