The brightness of the sun and the clear blue sky belied the destruction and carnage taking place on a grassy knoll of this sparsely inhabited planet halfway across the galaxy from Earth. A once tranquil plain just below the Stargate was roiling with staff blasts from death gliders. SG1 ran in defensive posture in and out of the alleyways of the now besieged village they had been visiting for the last few days.All four of them were beginning to realize that the Stargate was cut off and they were trapped on the planet with an unknown number of hostiles.
The villagers around them were running in every direction, carrying whatever they had been able to grab from their homes, apparently with the intent of fleeing the area to some unknown location. The confusion allowed SG1 to blend with the villagers, their BDUs covered with nondescript cloaks Sam and Daniel had managed to pick up somewhere.
"Fall back to the foot of the mountain, SG1," Jack yelled to them over the deafening din of the attacking Goa'uld.
They worked their way towards the outskirts of the settlement, which was built up against a rather steep mountainside. They encountered few ground troops, but the gliders overhead were laying down heavy fire, a few shots hitting the buildings just behind them. Daniel wondered at the lack of people around them now for it was as if they had all suddenly disappeared.
Carter had fallen out of sight for a few minutes but just as Jack began to look for her she reappeared from a cloud of dust behind a destroyed building, loping along more slowly than usual.
"Carter! Daniel! We've got your six- go, go!"
Teal'C and O'Neill ran with their guns aimed behind their team as much as possible as they all made a run for it.
The mountain ahead of them rose steeply from the high plateau and provided cover almost immediately as they began climbing the jagged, brush-covered rise as fast as they could push themselves. Soon the team was climbing shoulder to shoulder, glancing back down frequently to the smoking village to make sure their departure had gone unnoticed. The terrain became increasingly rugged with rock outcroppings large enough to easily hide in.
"Sir, we could go to the caves we found yesterday- they are another 400 to 500 feet up to the northeast," Carter coughed out and pointed up the incline.
The noise from below was already dissipating as they climbed. It seemed that they had not been noticed by any hostiles yet. The Stargate glittered brightly in the sunlight below them in the beseiged clearing, beautiful and inaccessible.
"Lead the way," O'Neill panted.
The four team mates were all breathing heavily in the thin air and their muscles were beginning to protest as they pushed relentlessly up the mountain. Suddenly they all hirt the dirt as a death glider whined past in an arc past the mountain face too close for comfort and swung out to the field of battle below.
They began moving again, more furtively this time, towards the shelter of the mountain cliff caves.
Sam was now moving in erratic spurts, frequently stopping to catch her breath. A nagging sense that something was wrong with her played in the back of Jack's brain and he purposefully positioned himself close behind her.
The four were hard pressed as the incline grew steeper and rockier. But soon they were sprawled on a cool cave floor, out of sight for now, mindless of the damp dirt and moss under their faces.
There was no way to know how long this would be a safe haven, but right now they were too tired to care, as they gulped for air and tried to steady their ragged breathing.
"What happened?" Jack was recovered enough to begin trying to make sense of the last hour of chaos.
"Daniel, I thought this was a world unknown to the Goa'uld?"
"Well, this gate address is from the repository of the Ancients, and not the Abydos cartouche, but it looks like the Goa'uld have discovered it through space travel rather than Gate travel," Daniel gasped.
"So why didn't the villagers have any Goa'uld technology or culture? There's nothing I saw to show that the Goa'uld have ever been here before.So why did they show up now?"
Thinking about the people they had befriended caused Jack to wonder and worry if any of them had survived the brutal surprise attack.
"I- don't know."
Daniel fell silent and rolled over on his back as he panted for air.
"Carter, Teal'C. You guys okay?"
Jack sat up, feeling recovered enough to start damage control. Having not heard a sound out of either of them since they had collapsed in the cave, Jack was suddenly concerned.
"I am uninjured, Colonel O'Neill," was the Jaffa's hoarse answer as he sat up slowly.
"Major Carter, however, is unresponsive. Major Carter?" Teal'C moved towards her where she lay face down in a crumpled heap.
Jack jumped up, the unease he had felt earlier blossoming into alarm, and ran over to Sam, turning her over from her face to her side. She was breathing heavily and her eyes were closed. Blood seeped out from her right shoulder and had stained most of the right side of her shirt and jacket.
"Whoa. Let's get this bleeding stopped. Carter? You still with us?"
Jack ripped open his pack and got out his first aid kit, while Daniel elevated Sam's shoulders onto his lap and unbuckled her backpack to rummage through it. Sam always had the best array of medical supplies on mission.
"Yeah, I'm here," Sam answered weakly after a few minutes, opening her eyes and looking frustrated with herself for getting hurt.
Jack gingerly peeled her jacket off and pulled the ripped shoulder of her T-shirt down below the injury. Sam drew in a sharp hiss of pain as Jack and Daniel worked to doctor the wound. Teal'C placed a steady hand on her knee. He carefully brushed the dirt off her face.
"Doesn't look too bad, Carter," Jack assured her.
Although he wasn't a medic, the years of constant injuries had honed all of their skills in this area. Jack worked swiftly cleaning dirt out of the ugly gash to the right of Sam's collarbone. Sam threw her hand over her eyes to hide the pain-induced tears and wished they were done already.
"Teal'c. You and Daniel go secure our perimeter but stay low and within sight of the cave. Looks like we're going to need to be here through the night."
Jack handed her a couple of painkillers and a canteen. She fumbled ineffectually with the top of the canteen so he retrieved it from her hands, opened it the rest of the way, and helped her hold it while she drank, supporting her head and shoulders with his arm. She took a small sip to wash down the pills and then pushed his hand away, but after a moment Jack brought the canteen back up to her mouth and gently fed her another sip, and then another, knowing she would feel better as she got rehydrated.
Sam sat up and scooted back against the wall of the cave and concentrated on breathing steadily. Her shoulder was beginning to hurt really badly now that the adrenaline was gone and reality was catching up with her. She felt dizzy and lightheaded and a little sick. She really didn't want to throw up in front of her teammates so she concentrated on steadying her stomach.
"How'd you get hurt, Sam?" Jack was sitting shoulder to shoulder with her against the cave wall so she could lean on him.
"A building exploded right next to me..." she whispered roughly, as soon as she felt able to talk. "I was too close to one of the glider blasts I guess."
Jack looked at her more closely now and saw she had small cuts and bruises on the right side of her face, none really worthy of bandaging.
"You gonna be okay now?"
They both knew this routine was Jack's way of expressing his concern for her.
Sam was soon feeling better, having recovered from the headlong dash up the mountain and with the painkillers in her system taking the edge off her injuries. She closed her eyes as the world around her began to blur and leaned more heavily on Jack's shoulder.
Daniel and Teal'C returned from their perimeter check and sat down close to their two teammates.
"Looks like we got away undetected. The battle is over down there. We could see Jaffa camped out by the gate."
"Okay, let's go to ground for the night, no fire."
Jack was too tired to think about tomorrow just yet.
"T, you take first watch and wake me for second."
The Jaffa moved immediately to the cave opening and sat silently on one side of the entrance. If he hadn't seen him sit down, Jack would have sworn he was part of the rock outcropping in the dim light.
Sam was already in a deep sleep on his shoulder so Jack leaned her partially against the cave wall so he could unroll her blanket, while he and Daniel made a pillow and cover for her using the cloaks they had taken from the village and eased her down onto the makeshift bed.
"Daniel," he whispered, his eyes fixed on Sam's still form.
"Any ideas how to get out of this one?"
"I saw some of our villager friends heading up the mountain before we did. They may have a hideout up here somewhere. I think we need to try and find them tomorrow, although I'm not sure how that helps us get to the gate. Will Sam be able to travel tomorrow?"
Daniel glanced down at their sleeping teammate.
"I doubt it. The three of us can go scout around for the villagers and assess the situation at the Stargate again. This is a good base camp- it's not visible from below until you get right up to the ridge there. Our top priority is to figure out how to get back through that gate."
Jack spread out his own blanket and settled in.
"Let's get some sleep. G'night Danny."
"Yeah, g'night, Jack."
The day dawned clear and warm. Teal'C remained in Kel-No-Reem a bit longer than usual as the night watch had shortened his meditation time. Jack and Daniel moved about fixing breakfast, since a small fire during the day wouldn't be noticeable from below.
Coffee perked and the aroma permeated their small hideaway.
"C'mon, Carter, time to rise and shine."
Jack was lightly rubbing her back to try and rouse her. Daniel sat at the small fire and watched the two as Sam groaned softly, stiffly rolled over and Jack helped her sit up. He gave her a sip of water from her canteen and two more pain pills.
After 6 years of working together so closely, the two unconsciously anticipated each other's every move. Daniel loved to watch it happen, and he instinctively recognized their unacknowledged love for each other.
"Okay, ouch." Sam's face was full of pain.
"This sucks. Is that coffee?"
Jack handed her a cup already prepared to her taste. He took a long sip from his own brew and almost smiled as he watched her close her eyes and enjoy the hot drink.
"That tastes so good. What are we going to do today?"
Trying to appear able bodied, Sam started to get up.
"Uh, you're spending the day in this lovely cave, Carter. That's an order so don't even start in with me."
He pointed firmly at her bedroll.
"Yes sir," She muttered, but then moodily refused to look at him as she drank the rest of her coffee.
The four ate,discussing how to go about the days' recon and then the three men geared up to go out looking for their friends from the village and scout the area for hostiles.
Sam looked forlorn. Jack knelt down in front of her.
"Keep your radio on, don't go outside the cave, and click me if you see anything suspicious. Try to rest, Carter,and that's an order."
Jack handed her radio to her as well as her pack and canteen.
"We'll be back as soon as we can, okay?"
"Yes sir, got it," Sam said glumly.
"Be well, Major Carter."
"See ya soon, Sam."
Jack hung back for a moment as Daniel and Teal'C left the cave.
"Hey," he coaxed her quietly.
"Just take it easy, okay? We need you at 100 percent again."
Jack patted her good shoulder, reluctant to leave her until she had stopped pouting. Sam looked up at him and nodded.
Jack studied her for a long moment, and satisfied she would do as he said, ducked out of the cave.
Night was falling when the team returned.
It had been a fruitless day and the gate was still heavily guarded. Daniel, Jack and Teal'C plopped down inside the cave entrance near the remains of the morning fire and greeted Sam, who was sitting up, munching an energy bar, and reading a book on astrophysics she'd smuggled in her pack.
"We need a Plan B," griped O'Neill.
"Think of something! The villagers are either all dead or long gone, and those Jaffa down there don't look like they're going to give up anytime soon. Carter, how you feeling?"
"Better, sir. You found nobody from the village out there? Not anyone?"
"Nope." Jack chucked a stick at the wall.
"I counted 12 Jaffa at the Gate. Perhaps we should attack."
Teal'C looked fierce enough to take out all 12 by himself.
"We'll consider that as a last resort. Any other ideas?"
Before anyone else could answer they heard a rustling at the cave mouth and without preamble one of the villagers they had befriended stepped into their midst. Dressed in leather and warm animal skin boots, he smiled as warmly as he had the first day they met him, looking as if he didn't have a care in the world.
"Gransen! Are your people okay? It's good to see you!"
Daniel had jumped up and grabbed the man's arm with the villager's traditional armshake. He sat down next to Daniel.
"It is good to see you are alive and well. Sadly some of our people died yesterday but most are safe in the Underground. I have been looking for you so I can take you there. This place could be discovered by our attackers and you are not safe here. We must go from here now."
Jack stared at him silently, trying to assess whether to follow him. Then his face abruptly cleared as he came to a decision.
"Alright then, let's move out. How far is it to the...Underground, Gransen?"
"We must climb further up the mountain to reach the entrance to the Underground, but it is not far. Please, we should go." Gransen's face was still serene but his voice had become urgent.
It took only a few minutes for the teammates to pack their things and remove all traces of their presence from the cave. Daniel took point with Gransen, with Jack walking protectively next to Sam as Teal'c covered their six.
The Underground turned out to be a most unexpected find, for Daniel especially. The tunnel leading from the surface had been invisible from the mountain face, but Gransen had opened it with a mechanism hidden expertly in the rocks next to the doorway. One moment the rock face was there; the next it had shimmered and melted away. The passageway that was revealed glowed with a phosphorence given off by some sort of plant growing along the walls such that lights were not needed, and the walls were covered in ancient writings and pictographs giving evidence of a culture of ancient origin, causing Daniel's eyes to light up.
Gransen closed the entranceway with a similar mechanism just within the tunnel and hurried them along, much to Daniel's dismay, but from time to time allowed Daniel to stop and quickly study the walls, usually when Daniel was especially loud in his exclamations. Daniel's blue eyes shone with excitement as he almost skipped along the passageway.
True to his word, the entrance to the hidden tunnel had been an easy climb from their first shelter, but the descending passageway within the mountain was beginning to feel endless. Sam was determined to not slow things down, but as time went by she could feel herself slipping dangerously close to a faint as the journey went on and on.
Finally she abruptly sat down in the middle of the passageway, unable to go any further.
"Carter needs 5," Jack announced gruffly as he caught her and steadied her on her slide to the dirt floor.
Gransen came back to the pair where they sat. He was looking much less anxious now and sat down with them.
"Are you alright Major Carter?" he asked softly.
Sam was gasping for breath with her head buried in her arms.
"Carter was wounded in the attack," Jack answered for her.
"She needs to rest- how much further is this Underground anyway?"
Jack sounded harsh, but it was only because of his concern for Sam.
"About 3 furls from here. There we will meet up with the rest of the village."
Gransen spoke calmly and made no move to get up yet.
"That's about a quarter mile," Daniel translated.
"I can go now," offered Sam, after a minute. "I'm okay." Her voice sounded feathery and weak.
"We're close," Jack encouraged her.
After a few more minutes he helped her to her feet and they continued at a much slower pace for Sam's sake.
It wasn't long before the way ahead began to glow brighter and brighter and the sounds of children and voices were heard in the air.
The Underground was more like a palace than a hideout, Jack noted in amazement at the sight before them. It was a city skillfully built right into the walls of an expansive rocky chamber. Their friends from the village were all around them now, genuinely happy to see their Earth friends alive and well.
They were ushered into a great hall where food was abundant and drinks were handed freely around. Jack led them over to the large table with a firm grip around Sam's waist, as he could feel her starting to falter again.
"It's okay, Carter, I'll keep you from embarassing us," Jack quipped in her ear as the team sat down together.
"I can handle it, sir," she countered as the feast began.
Not long afterwards, all four SG1 members were escorted to a large room with one very large bed in the corner, really just a huge overstuffed mattress on the floor, and a hot spring in the other corner. The men's eyes lit up and Teal'c immediately went to test the temperature of the pool.
"Sleep well, friends. Tomorrow we will see about getting you back to your home as you wish."
Gransen's gracious smile warmed them as he took his leave.
"Wow, what an amazing place," said Daniel when they were alone.
"Uh...Daniel... what's with the one bed, uh, whatever that is?"
Jack had already helped Sam to lay down and she was almost asleep on one side of the voluminous cushion.
"Well Jack it's their custom; they all sleep in family units in one bed. Just don't kick me or push me out tonight."
"Said by the one who's going to snore us all out of the bed. Whatever-I'm whupped."
After half heartedly splashing his face and hands with water from the spring, Jack untied and removed his boots and flopped down next to Sam. Daniel, also beat from their long day, followed suit and soon they were all oblivious.
Except Teal'C, who smiled broadly and stripped down to meditate in the hot spring.
Sam woke gradually the next morning to the semi-dark chamber. The pain in her shoulder was sharp and biting again since the painkillers had long worn off. She momentarily wondered why it was so dim, but then remembered she was deep inside the mountain.
But what was holding her down? She looked down at her waist and saw Jack's arm draped across her waist. She could feel his chest pressed warmly against her back and his breath tickling the back of her neck. Daniel's stockinged feet were snug against the top of her head and as predicted he was snoring loudly.
After the shock and disorientation of awaking to find her team sleeping almost on top of her began to fade, Sam started to appreciate the unique circumstances she found herself in.
Being in Jack's arms was taboo according to USAF regulations, but here they were in an off-world situation where it was actually, kind of, okay.
She smiled like someone discovering a wonderful secret and snuggled back a little further, quietly determined to enjoy this as long as it lasted.
"Sam," Jack breathed quietly against her cheek.
So he was awake too.
She turned carefully so she could see his face.
"Hey." She whispered.
"unexpected..." Jack finished.
"..nice," Sam amended.
She looked at him then, relishing the way his eyes lit up at her choice of words.
"Yeah." He agreed with a tentative smile.
No more words were spoken for some time, both of them watching the other's face with cautious delight, vitally aware of their close proximity.
"How's the shoulder?" Jack whispered after a while. Sam turned away slightly.
Jack knew that Sam wouldn't have admitted that unless she was still in a lot of pain. He sighed, not wanting to get up just yet, but needing to get her something to ease her discomfort. He slid backwards off the low bed, causing Daniel to shift position and kick Sam's head.
"Ouch," came Sam's muffled reaction.
Jack smirked and reached out to help Sam get up and away from Daniel's sprawled form. He grabbed her pack and opened the med kit.
As she took them from his palm, they happened to notice Teal'C still meditating in the hot spring. He looked positively blissful with a smile on his semi-unconscious face. Steam swirled around him as the hot spring was replenished by an unseen source. From the warmth of the air, it was a good guess that geothermal vents were scattered throughout the tunnels and hidden chambers. It would explain the abundance of phosphorescent plant life.
Jack reached in and splashed water at Teal'C's face.
"Hey! Don't stress yourself out having fun buddy," Jack teased as the Jaffa startled and looked lazily around.
The noise roused Daniel who sat up abruptly and rubbed his face in his hands, looking groggy and rumpled.
"Is it morning already?" he mumbled, feeling around for his glasses. He yawned loudly and stretched his arms over his head.
"I think so," said Sam from the entranceway, as she watched the large chamber beyond them coming to life.
A loud splashing drew her attention back towards her team as Teal'C ungracefully stepped out of the natural hot spring, dripping on everything around him including Jack.
The Jaffa was grinning widely as Jack spluttered and tried to swat him. Sam laughed.
"Thanks for sharing, T," Jack bellowed as the Jaffa slipped his BDU's on his damp body, still laughing heartily.
They all got fully dressed and geared up for the day, hopeful that they would be able to gain access to the Stargate and return to Earth.
The smells of cooking from the larger chamber outside enticed them out into the common area where many of their new friends were already milling around and eating breakfast.
In spite of the earlier appearance that this culture had never been besieged by the G'aould or any other hostile race, it was now evident that the truth was far different, and that this race had learned how to hide in style, surrounded by comfort. The underground city seemed to be extensive and incredibly well organized.
Daniel was especially keen to learn all they could about this fascinating alien people, and stayed behind when the rest of the team left to recon the area again.
"Can we take them?" Jack queried to Teal'C and Carter.
The three teammates were crouched behind a ridge overlooking the Stargate, which seemed to be much less heavily guarded today with no spacecraft in sight.
"I count seven sir, but there could be more hidden in the trees to the west of the gate," Carter answered.
"We should wait until darkness and be prepared to fight our way to the DHD as quickly as we can," responded Teal'C.
"Okay, let's go back to Wonderland and see if Gransen and his boys can lend us a hand after sunset."
Jack adjusted his cap and sunglasses and shimmied back down from the edge of the ridge. Carter and Teal'C followed suit. Proceeding very cautiously back up the mountain, looking behind them every few seconds, they soon were back in the safety of the tunnels.
"Gransen, what do these glowing orbs do?"
Daniel was happily ensconced in Gransen's chamber, surrounded by all sorts of alien doohickeys. His blue eyes glowed with anticipation as he expertly handled two objects at once.
"Those are memory files, Daniel Jackson. We have many here, they are used to store all our knowledge. That one has instructions for healing various diseases we are no longer plagued by."
Daniel almost choked with enthusiasm. "And... this gold one?"
"A partial history of our ancestors. It is very interesting. To view it, place your hand... .there... and press the metal bar here."
Daniel's mind suddenly filled with panoramic images of long gone men and women of Gransen's past. He had never seen technology like this before and was blown away. Daniel would be occupied for a long time it would seem.
Just then Jack and Teal'C walked into the chamber, having been directed there when they returned. Seeing Daniel in archeologist's heaven, they smiled and began poking around the artifacts themselves.
"Gransen," Jack called. "Can I have a word with you?" He motioned to the hallway and the two men went out together.
"Can you help us take the gate tonight after dark? The guard has been cut in half, but we may need back up."
"My people are not warriors, but we will help as best we can so that you may return to your home. We are not sure why, but the Goa'uld have been frequent visitors here recently. It has been most disturbing."
"We can help you defend yourselves."
"I don't think that will be necessary. I believe they will give up soon. The Goa'uld have not been able to find our underground city thus far. I can think of nothing of value here for them and the People cannot be used as hosts."
Gransen's face was peaceful and calm.
"You know about hosts?"
So the G'aould have been here before.
"Why are your people immune?" Jack asked curiously.
"We have not always been so. But many hundreds of years ago our ancestors invented a biological antidote that we all take when we are but children. It acts as a barrier to the parasitical mind. Any Goa'uld trying to overtake one of the People is dead within minutes. The host is not harmed. For centuries we lived without interference from the Goa'uld because they had no wish to die from attempted blending with our kind."
Jack's eyes widened. This was big.
"Do you know what such an antidote would mean to the humans of the galaxy? Will your people share it?"
"Until now, we have been unaware of others in need of such help. We have little knowledge of the workings of the Stargate. For this reason alone your arrival is most welcome. For many generations, the Stargate has been silent. Our enemies arrive in ships and not through the gate."
"Gransen, if this antidote works on other humans around the galaxy, this could be the key to defeating the Goa'uld and freeing millions of humans. Do you realize what you may have here? Our two worlds could greatly benefit from an alliance. You may still need our help to defend yourselves.Your people are not out of danger even though you are safe for now. The Goa'uld have been known to destroy whole worlds just out of meanness."
Even Jack was beginning to hop around like Daniel now. Gransen had a surprised look on his face and was beginning to smile at the thought that his people could do such good for other worlds enslaved by the Goa'uld.
"I will discuss this issue at the next council. It would indeed be a benefit to all humankind if the antidote is able to be used by people not from our world. But let me not delay in finding some of my men to accompany you as far as the Gate clearing."
Gransem smiled, nodded politely at Jack and left the chamber.
"Jack!" Daniel had heard the conversation.
"This planet may be the most important find we've made to date! That antidote thing alone is huge, but these orbs are full of technology that would revolutionize Earth. These people are no where near as rustic as they appear."
Daniel's eyes were round with excitement. He tried to hand an orb to Jack, but Jack put up his hand and walked to the entrance.
"Keep learning all you can Daniel. We may be able to leave tonight, if we can get to the Stargate undetected."
Jack stepped out and disappeared down the passage.
Jack stepped carefully into the chamber they had slept in the night before, trying not to make any noise.
Upon their return from the reconnaissance mission, Carter had slipped off as soon as they were back to the underground city. He found her now, lying on the cushion on the floor, awake but not moving.
He went over to her and knelt down to examine her. She listlessly looked up at him with eyes that were red rimmed and glazed. Her cheeks shone red in a pale face. Jack put his hand to her forehead and confirmed his suspicion that she had a fever, probably from a developing infection in her shoulder.
He had been afraid this would happen ever since trying to clean out the dirty gash. They had to get back to the SGC soon or Sam would get worse.
"Not feeling so good, Carter?"
Jack sat down on the floor and soothingly stroked her forehead.
"I can make it to the gate."
"We'll see if any of us can make it to the gate pretty soon now. Gransen is going to get some of his boys to help us go home."
"I'm sorry sir," Sam said with a choke of pain and frustration.
"Hey, not your fault. We've all taken turns being in your position. So stop beating yourself up."
"Yes sir." Sam closed her eyes again, wiped out.
"Need anything?" Jack hated to leave her when she seemed so fragile.
"Some water?" She responded after a moment, looking up and struggling to open her eyes.
Jack quickly opened his canteen and helped her sit up and take several long drinks.
"That's better," she whispered as he settled her back down.
Daniel had slipped into the room quietly and appeared next to Jack. He sat down next to them and reached out to touch Sam's hand. He mentally noted the heat of her skin and caught on to what was happening.
"Hey, Sam, you've got a bit of a fever," Daniel stated as he rubbed circles on the back of her hand.
"Jack, did you give her something for it yet?"
"No, I didn't. Carter, try to take these, okay?" He sat her up slightly once more.
"I'm feeling too sick."
As ill as she felt, Sam couldn't help but bask a little in all the care and concern as she tentatively swallowed the pills.
She soon relaxed into a light doze in their comforting presence.
"Jack," Daniel whispered.
"Those orbs have a lot of medicinal information that I've never seen the likes of. Maybe the Undergrounders should come take a look at her."
Jack was silent for several minutes. He was turning over their options in his mind.
In spite of Carter's insistence that she could get to the gate, Jack was pretty sure she couldn't, and with infection setting in, her condition was getting worse.
That left him with three options: get her to the gate somehow anyway and hope to get through; leave Sam here with Gransen's people and come back with medical assistance from the SGC, or stay another day or two and see if Daniel's idea panned out, that there was sufficient medical knowledge here to cure Carter.
The first option he never gave a second thought. He wasn't risking Sam's life and theirs by storming the gate with a team member in tow who was unable to help defend them. The second option didn't work for Jack because he was reluctant to leave Sam behind, even temporarily, unless there was no other choice.
Jack had made his decision.
"Go talk to Gransen, Daniel. Tell him about Carter, see what he can do. I think you're right about these folks, there's a lot more here than meets the eye."
Daniel disappeared down the glowing passageway.
Jack settled down on the floor next to the edge of the bed, his hand on Sam's good shoulder. Teal'C had slipped in unnoticed at some point and he now quietly sat down near Jack and Sam. His eyes met Jack's and then moved down to watch Sam's sleeping form. He silently shared Jack's burden of worry.
They were awakened several hours later by a voice they knew to be Gransen and a gentler female voice.
Sam opened her eyes to see Daniel and Jack greeting a petite dark haired woman about the same age she was, dressed in a rich looking blue robe and carrying a glowing object in her hands. She sat down at Sam's head and placed the glowy thing on Sam's forehead, while producing a vial of ointment from the folds of her gown. The object began to emit multi-colored rays of light and warmth, and Sam's head began to go numb and buzzy. She thought she could feel the woman carefully applying ointment to her shoulder wound, but the object soon had lulled her back to sleep.
Her last thought as she fell into a deep slumber was how utterly safe she felt.
"This is Parchel, our village healer," introduced Gransen. "She has much of the old knowledge that Daniel studied today."
"It is wonderful to meet such kind travelers," said Parchel in a most delightful lilting tone.
"Gransen has told me I must get to know you as he has. Your friend will wake in the morning cured of her fever and her injury will be much improved from the treatment I have given her."
Parchel smiled and her elfen face went from beautiful to brilliant.
"Thank you Parchel. We are honored to meet you and are in your debt."
Daniel smiled back at her; in fact, all three men were wearing dazzled smiles as they were finding it hard to resist Parchel's magical effect.
Parchel carefully removed the healing orb from Sam's forehead and gave Daniel the vial of ointment. Then she bashfully bowed her head and stood to leave.
"I will look forward to your next visit, Earth people. I...like you," she declared in her childlike manner.
She was gone the next moment, leaving Gransen to say good night to the charmed team.
Jack looked over at Sam, feeling intense relief at the marked change for the better in her color.
The team settled back down for more sleep, but for a long while Jack lay awake as the realization washed over him that once again they had tempted fate and won. He felt a profound sense of gratitude for the Underground people as he watched Sam sleeping peacefully.
The morning came before Jack was ready for it. He stumbled over to the hot spring and splashed his face several times, trying to rub the fog out of his head.
Once he could see clearly, he looked around for Sam. She was standing by the pallet, stretching and bouncing on her toes, flexing her shoulder with a surprised smile.
"Wow," she exclaimed, "whatever she did last night worked like magic. Sir, we need to learn more about their medicine."
"Glad you're feeling better, Carter," Jack said, "but the research will have to wait for the next mission."
Teal'C came into their chamber just then, with a basket of unidentifiable edibles that smelled delicious.
"I have brought breakfast. The food here is most satisfying."
"What is it?" Sam wanted to know.
"I do not know."
"Who cares? Smells great."
Jack reached into the basket greedily.
Daniel, once awakened, was anxious to go explore some more, so he told Jack he was leaving for a while and headed off down the tunnel.
Sam, Jack and Teal'C had just sat down together and were eating the contents of Teal'C's basket when a low rumble started somewhere in the depths of the mountain. As it grew louder, the rock floor and walls began to vibrate, first imperceptibly and then with greater and greater violence.
Jack instinctively shielded Sam with his body and ducked his head. Teal'C had jumped to his feet and was standing in the middle of the room striving mightily to keep his balance as everything pitched.
"Earthquake!" cried Sam.
She had a sudden flashback to the deadly cave-in they had experienced in the Tok'Ra tunnels. Sam tensed and fought the choking sense of panic brought on by the memory and the shaking ground under them. But as suddenly as it had begun, the tremor faded away off into the mountain before dying out altogether.
When all was silent again, they began to let down their guard.
"Teal'C?" called Jack.
"Yes, O'Neill. I am unharmed."
Teal'C moved back closer to them as he brushed loose dirt off himself.
Jack looked down at her, his arms still protectively circling her shoulders.
"F-fine. Where's Daniel?"
Her voice shook.
"Daniel! He went to look around some more. Teal'C, did you see which way he went?"
After a moment's hesitation, Teal'C pointed down the passage in the direction that led deeper into the mountain. The three set off jogging in that direction, calling for Daniel as they went.
They didn't have to look long before they heard Daniel's voice calling for them, muffled and far away down the tunnel.His running footsteps were getting closer now, and suddenly he burst into view around a turn of the wall, covered in so much dust that there was no discernible color anywhere on him but ash grey, with the exception of his eyes, which were opened wide and brilliantly blue, even more outstanding because his glasses were absent.
Guys! You gotta see this! I was just looking at the wall, and then- earthquake- everything shook- rocks-"
Daniel stopped to breathe wildly and Jack jumped in.
"What are you talking about Daniel? Slow down!"
"A passageway! A hidden passageway that goes straight down- wasn't there before- the earthquake uncovered it!"
Having spit out the gist of what he was trying to communicate, Daniel bent over at the waist and braced his hands on his knees to catch his breath.
"We've got to check it out, sir. Who knows where it goes or what's down there? This could be a chance to learn more about the ancient culture the People came from. Or maybe it's an escape tunnel and we can use it to get closer to the Stargate," Sam offered, having deciphered what Daniel was so wound up over.
At that, Jack's attention locked in fully.
"Let's go tell Gransen and his boys what you found down here. Let's move!" Jack ordered.
Daniel's enthusiasm was catching and the team turned and headed back towards the city chamber with new purpose in their step.
Within the hour, Gransen and several volunteers were exploring the newly uncovered tunnel with SG1, lighting the way with torches.
There was no phosphorescence in this tunnel. Daniel had learned that the glowing plants, although naturally occuring in small amounts in the caves, had been meticulously cultivated in the inhabited portions of the Underground resulting in the beautiful displays of light throughout the chambers and tunnels. The four team members supplemented the torchlight with their flashlights. Daniel was using his light to examine the walls for any sign of the runes they had encountered on the entrance tunnel, but so far this new tunnel was bare of any cultural markers.
What was noteworthy about this tunnel was its steep descent unmistakably pointed in the direction of the above ground village and the Stargate.
After a half hour or so the floor began to level out. They had passed several narrow side tunnels, peaking Daniel's curiosity, but they were all focused on finding the destination of the primary passageway.
The end of the passageway turned out to be a rock wall. The group sat down to ponder the next step. Gransen was painstakingly going over every inch of the dead end with probing fingers.
Gransen's fingers had found a recessed cavity and he had manipulated a mechanism similar to the one guarding the entranceway on the mountain. The rock face in front of them shimmered for a moment and then disappeared, revealing a sunlit hillside. The light stunned them all for a time as they adjusted from the dimness of the caves. When they could see without pain, they were amazed to see that just beyond the sheltered hillside opening they were standing in was the DHD and beyond it, the Stargate.
Jack hand-signaled for silence and then motioned Carter forward to check for hostiles. He then signaled Teal'c to cover her from behind, and all the others crouched within the cave in utter silence.
Carter crept back into the opening a few minutes later, holding up three fingers and looking triumphant. Jack turned to the villagers.
"Thank you for all your help. Things would have turned out much worse for us without you."
He glanced fleetingly at Carter, trying not to show the unprofessional feelings he was suddenly having.
"Our two worlds have much to learn from each other. Would you permit us to return, Gransen?" Daniel asked. The light of archeological bliss shone in his eyes.
"Of course. You have shown us trustworthy friendship. I can speak for all the People in this: we will look forward to our next meeting."
Gransen bowed, and grasped Daniel's outstretched arm. Jack smiled at him.
"Gransen," he said quietly, "Close the passage from within. If any of those Jaffa see this..."
"They will not."
"Goodbye then, And thank you."
Moving with all the clandestine skill they possessed, SG1 crept to the DHD opposite where Carter had reported the position of the three Jaffa guarding the gate. They were quite a ways down the hill that the Stargate sat upon, with their backs to the Stargate and sitting in a very relaxed and unsuspecting fashion. The situation couldn't be much better, thought Jack.
He signaled Teal'C and Carter to approach them from the rear and zat them simultaneously, not wanting to risk them alerting any others that might be close by.
Daniel began dialing as the sound of three zat shots buzzed in the air. Carter and Teal'C ran up as soon as the event horizon stabilized, Carter busily punching in SG1's iris code on her wrist GDO.
"Now!" She called out, the first sound out of any of them since they had left the tunnels.
With that they simply stepped through the Gate.
The scene in the briefing room was mostly typical, except for an underlying feeling of optimism that was detectable to General Hammond as he listened to their mission reports. O'Neill was predictably fidgeting and flicking wads of paper between his two hands, Carter was talking a mile a minute in technical detail, Daniel sat with a look of rapture on his face, and although Teal'C's impassive look was unchanged, from time to time an expression akin to a small grin seemed to be trying to steal across his face.
As Hammond listened, his own expression brightened more and more.
"Well, SG1, this is a great beginning to what could just be the fulfillment of your standing orders. Well done, very well done."
Jack jumped a mile, trying to assess if he had missed something important.
"I want you to start planning a second mission to the Underground with Daniel's help. As soon as we can ascertain the safety of the situation from MALP reconnaissance I want to send a team back there. Dismissed."
As they filed out of the briefing room, Jack caught up with Carter as they walked towards their offices. He smiled at her out of the corner of his eye and Sam smiled shyly back.
"I think a celebratory outing is in order, Major. Your choice."
"How about movie night, my house, you guys bring the movie and order something in? 1900 hours?"
"That'll work. I'll go tell Teal'C. And I'll let Daniel know too. We'll see you tonight."
Jack stopped and looked at her then, conveying with his eyes his relief that she was okay, his pride in her as his second, and something else she recognized but wasn't ready to admit.
Sam gazed back, her heart in her eyes, warmed from head to toe.
"Sounds great. See you soon."