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In Your Own Backyard
Days three and four passed much the same as the first two days. On the third afternoon more of the small rodent like animals were seen, and Tessa was able to catch several of them with the camera. By the fourth afternoon, all five of the children were reaching the end of their patience for traveling.
It was nearly four-thirty in the afternoon when the seven ATVs roared into the valley and toward the closest, and largest, of the six lakes that dominated the area. It was difficult to keep the children away from the water while standard safety tests were performed. As soon as Jack had declared the lake safe, he began to frolic along the edges with all five of the kids. Leaving the rest of the group to set up camp. He ignored Sam when she declared him to be the biggest kid of all.
Casey was staring at the openings of the caves that dotted the cliff side. She couldn't see an easy way to climb to any of them, and was beginning to think that they had never been used when she felt the prickle of being watched. She whirled around, her eyes scanning the horizon.
"We're being watched," she whispered, as Daniel approached her.
He was immediately on guard. He didn't feel that tingle that always settled at the base of his skull whenever he knew that there were eyes on him. He waved Teal'c over. "Case says we're being watched," he said softly.
Just as his friends had done, he began to look around them. "I do not sense any observers," he replied.
Casey sighed. "Must be my over active imagination," she said.
Daniel frowned. She might have a vivid imagination. But it had never…interfered…when they were on a mission. This might not have technically been a mission, but the need to remain on guard was just as important as if they were. "Let's look around," he suggested.
She nodded. Wrapped her arms around his neck, waited for him in that sunny meadow.
When he approached her, he could see that she was shaking. "Angel, what's wrong?"
"I don't know," she said. "That hum is so loud, and I know we're being watched!"
He pulled her into his arms. "Take it easy, babe. Let's just take a look around." He opened himself, allowed her to take the strength that she needed to move them above the camp.
"We should check out the caves," she said softly.
"Good place to start," he agreed.
The first, lowest cave was empty. Not even any cave paintings that they could see. The second one had several marks; slashes of scarlet that reached nearly from floor to ceiling on one wall, although neither of them had a clue what the marks might represent. It was the third cave, a cavern actually, that had them both gasping. There must have been at least a hundred mummies, all carefully preserved; lying on wooden pallets that lined the rock walls, and were arranged in the center of the large area, creating two wide aisles that allowed access to the back wall of the cave. The fourth and fifth caves were the same, filled to capacity with mummies. The sixth cave was much smaller than any of the others, and completely empty. The seventh cave had Casey trembling. It was filled with what appeared to be electronic equipment, of the sort they had never seen before. The cave was high on the side of the cliff, and the rock face would have been difficult to climb.
"They had to have had a way to get in here," she groused.
"Ladders and platforms, probably," Daniel mused.
"We need to get out of here, now," she whispered, tugging at him.
They left the cavern, and Casey took them immediately back to the meadow. "I'm not so sure we should stay," she said softly.
"Bad?" he asked, feeling a bit worried himself.
"Not…bad…exactly. But there is something…odd…about this place," she replied.
"Okay, we'll contact the Phoenix and have them take the kids back to Gamma," he told her.
She nodded, then cocked her head sideways. "If we can find the ruins, we might find the answer to what's in that cave," she said softly.
"We'll start digging first thing in the morning," he promised. "Let's go tell Jack that we need to send the kids home."
Another nod. She wrapped her arms around his strong shoulders, held to him for a few minutes, taking comfort when his arms pulled her close.
"I'm right here, Angel. I won't let anything happen to you," he whispered. He pushed his face against her neck when she tightened her hold on him. "I promise."
After what seemed like several peaceful minutes, she allowed him to move away from her. She felt his love continue to move gently in her mind, grabbed it, clung to it, took comfort from in.
Daniel opened his eyes. Looked over at Teal'c. "We have to get the kids out of here," he said softly.
The Jaffa nodded his understanding. "I will send Carlotta with them as well."
"I think that's a good idea," the archaeologist replied.
The three walked back to camp. Jack took note of the expressions, felt the tiny hairs on the back of his neck stand up.
"We need to get the kids out of here," Daniel said quietly.
With a nod, Jack grabbed his radio. "Phoenix, this is O'Neill, come in." The only response was static. "Phoenix, come in."
Sam gave him a worried look, took her radio from her pack. "Phoenix, this is Colonel Carter, come in please." More static.
"Take a look, Case," Jack ordered calmly.
Once again Daniel met her in that sunny meadow. Frowned when he realized that she was staring at the blue sky above them. "Casey?"
"They're blocking me," she whispered. "I can't…I can't see anything!" Her body began to tremble.
"Can you feel them?" he asked, willing himself to remain calm.
"Not exactly. It's like…it's like a blanket has been thrown over me. I can still…sense things…a little bit. But I can't see anything."
"Shit! Okay, let's go tell Jack the bad news." He hugged her tightly. "It's okay, Angel, everything is going to be okay."
"If anything happens to my babies, I'll lose it," she said, her voice holding a warning tone.
"I know," he replied softly. "They'll be okay."
She nodded. Knew that he would do whatever he could, whatever he had to, in order to protect his children. He was The Chosen. He would protect them.
Casey opened her eyes slowly. "I'm sorry, Jack. I'm being blocked."
"Shit!" the older man swore softly. "Okay, we dig out all of the crushed water bottles. I'll have Carly and Tessa start boiling water from the lake to put in them. We'll have to start rationing the MREs. The kids can share one, and each couple will share."
The team nodded. Duncan and Tessa, who had been walking along the edge of the lake with Richie, hurried to join the group. "What's going on?" Duncan asked.
Jack glanced at Tessa, then back at the Highlander. Hoped that the French woman wouldn't fall apart on them. "We can't raise the Phoenix. And something…or somebody, is blocking Casey."
Duncan felt his heart drop to his feet. Oh, hell, what was about to happen to them? What danger was his son in? He never should have agreed to come here! No matter how much he and Tess needed a break!
Tessa felt her world spin out of control. Unlike her best friends and their husbands, she wasn't accustomed to facing danger. She pulled Richie into her arms, held him tightly.
"Carly, I want you and Tessa to take all of the crushed water bottles, try to un-crush them. Start boiling water, and filling them. We'll be rationing the MREs. Colonel Bailey is expecting to hear from us within the next hour. When she can't get through, she'll let the SGC know. We have jeeps that can make it here, they can probably do in two days what took us four. Until they get here, we have to be careful with our supplies," Jack said. "Teal'c - you, Daniel, and Duncan are with me. Sam, I want you and Casey on patrol."
Each of the team members had their 9mm. Duncan had packed one as well. He was glad he had. The men grabbed flashlights and headed in the direction of the caves, Daniel telling them what he and Casey had discovered. They began to discuss how to reach the cavern where the alien equipment waited. Daniel wanted to look closer at the lower caves, hoping that there might be ladders, or something that would aid them in reaching the upper caves.
Tessa helped get the fire started, and began to carefully work the plastic bottles, popping them back into shape. "Casey, I understand that you cannot 'see' anything. Can you feel anything?"
Casey smiled. "All I feel right now is worried…afraid for my babies. I'm sorry, I should have encouraged Daniel and Jack to turn back when I first started hearing that hum."
"It is not your fault, mon ami," Tessa said softly. "I am with the famous SG-1. I have no doubt that once again you will pull a rabbit out of your hat, and we will all be safe on the Phoenix in no time."
The young blonde smiled. "Thanks, Tess." She glanced at Sam. "I'll take the north side."
"I have the south side," Sam replied. The two women set off in opposite directions, and began to carefully pace off the area around the camp. Their eyes missed nothing. And could see absolutely nothing in the short grass that covered the ground.
A A A A A A
Daniel sighed. Nothing. The first cave had nothing in it. They had managed to climb to the second cave, and found the same thing. He carefully examined the red slashes that covered one entire rock wall, each slash about ten inches from the next. What could they mean? He reached out, his fingers just inches from one of the dark red marks.
"Daniel!" Jack's voice called out.
The young archaeologist turned around. "What?"
"Don't touch it, damn it!"
He couldn't help but grin. "It's just paint," he said.
"Yeah, I've heard that line before. Something totally weird is going on here, and I don’t trust anything. Which means that you keep your hands in your pockets!" the older man declared.
Duncan bit back a grin. He'd heard all of the stories of Daniel's enthusiasm, and the trouble it had caused SG-1 numerous times.
"O'Neill," Teal'c said quietly. He waited until the three men were standing beside him. Then flashed his light toward the back of the cave. And lit up an elevator.
"Holy Hannah," Jack breathed.
Daniel was already moving toward the dark chamber. "Let's see if it still works."
Jack barely suppressed the urge to hit the man. "Let's not."
"Jack, we need to find out if that…equipment…up there is what is keeping us from being able to contact the Phoenix. The only way to get there is this elevator."
The older man heaved a pained sigh. "Yeah, all right. But let Casey know what we're doing."
With a nod, Daniel closed his eyes. 'Angel?'
'We found an elevator.'
'No kidding? Which cave? Are there any markings on it? Why didn't we see it when we searched? Do you think-'
He couldn't help but laugh. 'Take a breath, Case. I can't see any markings. It's in the second cave, where all of those red marks are on the one wall. We didn't see it because it's all the way in the back, hidden behind an outcropping of sorts.'
'Okay. Well, obviously that's how they reached those higher caves.'
'We're going to take it up to the one where that equipment is.'
'Wait. Let Sam go with you. She knows about machines and gizmos.'
'Good idea.' He turned to Jack. "Casey says we should take Sam, she knows about machines and gizmos."
Jack grimaced. He knew that the young woman was right. He just didn't like the idea of Sam going into a dangerous situation with the girls nearby. If anything should go wrong…He shook his head. This might be their only way out. Even with rationing, they wouldn't have enough food for more than two days. Unless they could find fish in the lakes, or catch some of those rat things…he forced that unpleasant thought from his head. "Yeah, okay. Tell Case to send her up."
Casey was biting her lip as she watched Sam walk toward the cliff. She didn't like the fact that she wasn't going to be with the team. With Daniel. And that worried her.
"Do you think one of us should stay behind…just in case?" Duncan asked quietly.
The three men of SG-1 exchanged glances. "I think that would be a good idea," Jack said. His team worked together like one entity. Someone new, different, could throw them off, and that could be dangerous. Besides, he didn't like the idea of leaving Casey alone to protect Carly, Tessa and five energetic kids. "I think it would be a very good idea."
The thought that he and Casey were being separated poked at the back of his head. Daniel stared at the opening, a frown on his face. "How about keeping the team together on this," he said softly.
Jack's frown matched that of the younger man's. "I'd rather Duncan have Casey to help him. Carly and Tessa aren't trained. There are five kids to keep an eye on."
"Perhaps if I were to return, and allow Casey Jackson to join you," Teal'c suggested. He understood Daniel's need to keep Casey close to his side. And her need to be at his side.
The gray haired man studied the Jaffa. There were times when brute strength was needed. And Teal'c was that brute strength. "Let's just leave things the way they are." He glanced at Daniel. Saw the defiant jut of his jaw. Waited for the argument. Had to hide his surprise when it wasn't forthcoming.
Daniel knew that Jack was right, Duncan had experience in protecting those he loved. He had done so for well over four hundred years. His thoughts had also paralleled those of his friend. Teal'c's size, his strength, might be needed. His own presence might be required if there were any glyphs or runes or cuneiform to read. Sam, well, she was the gizmo expert. And Jack had special ops training that had afforded him a 'sixth sense' about things, and the training to get them out of a bad situation. It bothered him to think that his wife could so easily be left off of the team. Her psychic abilities would have been helpful, if she wasn't being blocked! "She's important to the team," he said out loud.
"Nobody is arguing that, Danny," Jack said softly. "Right now, I need her back at camp."
With a heavy sigh, and not a small amount of trepidation, he nodded. "If anything happens, I swear to god I will never take a step without her again."
Sam entered the cave. "Casey said you found an elevator?"
"Yeah. We're going to see if it works. Take it up to the cavern where Case and I saw a lot of equipment. It looked… electronic," Daniel said, his heart pounding against his ribs. He reached out to her, just to know that she was there, and safe; felt her soft, gentle touch in return.
It took several minutes for Sam to locate the controls. She opened the door, and all of them jumped slightly when a single light at the top of the car began to glow. Exchanging nervous glances, the teammates stepped onto the elevator.
Daniel studied the control panel. The instructions were written in Langaran. He pushed the symbol for seven, hoping that it would take them to what he had Casey had perceived as the seventh cave, or cavern.
The ride was a bit bumpy, the car jerked and lurched as it began to slowly move upwards. Twice they were nearly knocked off of their feet. The car moved haltingly, seemed to slow down almost to a stop, then sped up again. After ten nerve-wracking minutes, the door hesitantly opened.
They stepped into the cavern. Just as he had seen with Casey, the rock walls were lined with equipment. Nothing seemed to be working, however. They moved their flashlights slowly, trying to take in as much as possible.
Sam began to examine each of the dozen or so consoles that circled the 'room'. "Daniel, do you recognize this language?"
He hurried to her side, examined the panel that she pointed at. "It's an ancient form of Terran," he murmured. "Um…this is…'coding sequence initializer'."
The blonde colonel frowned. "Okay, what kind of coding?"
"I dunno." He ran his fingers over another section of the dark glass. "This is…um…'code re-sequencer'."
"Why does that make me nervous?" Jack asked.
Sam continued to examine the console. "I think this might have something to do with genetic sequencing," she announced.
"Okay," Jack said slowly.
"Sort of like what a beaming device does," she said.
Daniel and Jack both jumped back, away from the machine. "Okay, let's just leave that one alone," Jack said. "I don't want any of us getting…beamed…someplace."
With a nod of agreement, Sam continued to appraise each piece of equipment. "None of this is working."
"You're sure?" Daniel asked.
"As sure as I can be. There are no lights, I don't hear any sounds that would indicate that any of this stuff is functioning," Sam replied.
"Something is putting out a dampening field," Daniel said. "It's interfering with our radios, and the communication equipment on the Phoenix. And something, or someone, is blocking Casey's 'sight'."
"Let's take another look," Jack suggested. "But we stay close together."
The thought that the team might find themselves somewhere else, far from this dank cave, made Daniel shiver slightly. He silently swore again that if anything happened, he would never take another step without Casey at his side…regardless of the circumstances.
"Could all of the dampness in here be affecting this stuff?" Jack asked.
"Possibly," Sam replied. "Unless the circuits are sealed, the moisture could cause rusting, mold build up, it could cause the electronic parts to short out."
Starting by the elevator, Sam made a second sweep of her flashlight around the room, studying each piece of equipment. "Nothing," she sighed.
"Okay. Let's go back down. See if maybe the radios will reach the ship. Maybe it was just a solar flare or something," Jack said.
"That is possible," Sam allowed. "Although I think it's highly unlikely that the interference would last this long."
Disappointed that the answer to their problems had not been found in the equipment that filled the cavern, the team stepped back onto the elevator, and took the herky-jerky ride back to the second cave.
A A A A A A
Casey had been pacing, waiting for the team's return. She continued to reach out to Daniel, needing to feel his comforting presence, to know that he was still 'there'. His touch had had the same desperate feel to it. She ran to meet them as soon as she saw them climb down from the rocks that partially hid the first cave. "Well?"
"Nothing was on," Sam reported. "At least, not that I could see."
"Still blocked?" Daniel asked softly, pulling her into his arms. He needed the tactile input before his brain would accept that he was all right, she was all right, and they were together.
The young blonde nodded. "The hum is getting louder, too. And Duncan says he feels like someone is watching us, too."
Jack glanced around. Wondered how safe it would be to relocate everyone in the first cave. It wasn't a cavern, but was large enough that they could put up all four tents, and put a nice big fire near the opening. It would be easy to defend. Would certainly be better than being out in the open with an unknown enemy, or potential enemy, lurking nearby. He watched the kids playing near the edge of the lake. "Let's move to the lowest cave."
It took thirty minutes to move camp. Duncan and Teal'c began to cut wood, Sam helped Casey, Tessa, and Carly fill bottles with water that could be used for washing; marking them carefully so that they wouldn't be confused with the drinkable water. The ATVs were moved as close to the cave as possible. And all of the adults were getting that prickly feeling of being watched. Someone, or something…was out there among the bushes and trees that surrounded Lake One.
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