They couldn't go back the way they had come. Seeing no other option, the two made for the cave, Mitchell grabbing Sam around the waist to help her half run, half hop to cover. Splinters stung their faces as bullets impacted rock.
Zat fire sizzled from Teal'c's position, giving them cover fire. The armed men scrambled away.
A moment later, Teal'c appeared at the mouth of the cave, Thor slung over his shoulders.
"Do not fire. It is I."
"Way to go, Teal'c. Thanks for the cover," Mitchell said lowering his weapon.
"The armed men have retreated. I would not have needed to provide assistance had you waited for Colonel Carter's order," Teal'c said grimly, lowering Thor gently to the ground.
Mitchell had the good grace to look sheepish. "Sorry, Sam. Thanks for saving my butt back there. You ok?"
"I'll live," she said tightly, trying to put pressure on her bleeding outer thigh as blood oozed between her fingers. "Let's just keep an eye out in case those guys come back. I need to get this leg bandaged so I can move without leaving a bloody trail for them to follow."
Mitchell helped her unsling her pack from her back and began digging for the medical kit.
"I suspect from their shout about the sacred cave that they dare not venture inside," Teal'c speculated.
"Either that or they're going for reinforcements," Mitchell commented.
"Do you want to deal with this, or should I?" Mitchell asked, kneeling next to Sam.
"I'm assuming you're talking to Teal'c 'cause I don't exactly have the best angle on this," Sam tried to quip.
"Hold the flashlight, Colonel Mitchell, while I examine the wound," Teal'c said. He lightly touched the area and Sam cried out.
"So what's the verdict?" she asked, gritting her teeth.
"There appears to be a projectile lodged here that will need to be removed. Fortunately it is near the surface. Perhaps a ricochet." Teal'c pronounced.
As Teal'c set about gathering the needed supplies Cameron squatted next to Sam.
"Look, Sam. I'm sorry I got you shot," Mitchell said seriously.
"I can't believe you were this much of a hot dog as a pilot or you'd be dead now. You've got to keep your head and trust your team. We're your wingmen now," Sam said softly.
"Point taken," he said and nodded.
Changing the subject Sam asked, "How's Thor? He's way too quiet."
"The little guy passed out somewhere in all the excitement," Mitchell reported.
"I am conscious again," Thor said, attempting to sit up. Mitchell helped him prop himself against the cave wall, looking a little embarrassed at having called Thor "little guy" accidentally to his face, as well as having left him lying there while he talked to Sam.
Sam watched as Teal'c applied a local anesthetic before he removed the bullet.
"I will endeavor to work quickly, Colonel Carter."
The local only partly worked to block the pain. Luckily, Teal'c was as good as his word and moments later, he showed her what looked like a musket ball. She stretched the fingers that had been clenched against the pain. As Sam flexed her fingers, she noticed that the blood on her left hand was becoming tacky. Teal'c, as if sensing her distaste, handed her a wet wipe and set to bandaging her leg. She smiled at him gratefully.
Cameron was turning the musket ball between his fingers now. "You want it as a souvenir, Sam?" Cameron joked, holding it up.
"Oh, you've seen one bullet you've seen 'em all," she said a bit shakily as she cleaned off her hand. "Still you might pack it up for Daniel. He'll probably find it fascinating."
"No sign of anyone at the entrance. Think we should scout further in?" Mitchell asked.
"Yes. What we seek lies inside," Thor answered.
"I propose Colonel Mitchell and I scout ahead a short distance to allow you time to regain your strength," Teal'c said to Sam.
"Yeah, you're looking pretty pale, Sam," Mitchell added.
Sam sighed. "I hate to say it, but I could use a few minutes. Ok, you and Cam go on ahead and scout a path. I'll stay here with Thor," she said scooting closer to him, her P90 at the ready. She was concerned about his loss of consciousness. She didn't really know anything about Asgard physiology, but passing out was not a good sign.
"What are we looking for?" Mitchell asked Thor.
"Continue on the path branching only to the right. You will see a shelf in the rock face and what appears to be a stalagmite," Thor replied a bit breathlessly. "You will know you have the correct one when this stone glows when held near it." He handed a purple crystal to Mitchell. "Remove it and bring it to me."
"Stay in radio contact," Sam instructed.
Teal'c and Mitchell nodded in acknowledgment and walked away. Sam watched the lights of their flashlights bob and disappear.
Sam and Thor sat quietly for a moment as Sam tried not to focus on her throbbing leg. She wondered if Thor was doing the same.
She turned to him and asked, "How are you doing?"
"As I believe O'Neill would say, 'I've been better.' I believe you could say the same."
"True." Sam unhooked her canteen from her pack. She offered it to Thor. "Here—have some water," she said.
"Thank-you," he responded. "my own supply is almost gone."
He took two small sips and then handed it back to her.
"Is that all you're drinking?" she asked.
"Humans require more water than the Asgard. And due to your injury you must remain hydrated, Colonel Carter."
She nodded, took a swig and reattached the canteen.
"Would you care for nourishment?" Thor asked, reaching into his bag and pulling out a yellow square and taking a bite.
"Uh, no thanks," Sam said, trying not to grimace.
"I remember your distaste for the yellow ones. Perhaps you would care to try blue?" he asked, pulling out a blue rectangle. Sam thought he looked amused, but she couldn't be sure.
"Um, I wouldn't want to take your food. We have some ration bars in our gear. Maybe another time."
"You should eat something, Colonel Carter," he persisted.
She unzipped a side pocket of her pack and pulled out a protein bar. She unwrapped it and broke off a piece. "Would you like to try a piece, Thor?" she asked.
He looked at the object in her hand as if studying it, but then said, "I must decline. Perhaps another time."
Sam smiled at him and popped the piece of protein bar into her mouth. They sat in companionable silence again. As she chewed, Sam thought about SG1's relationship with the Asgard. She knew they thought of General O'Neill as particularly special, but it seemed they respected her as well—for a human, of course. Somehow she was quite fond of Thor and suspected he was fond of her in his own way too.
Sam tucked the rest of the bar back into her bag and broached the subject at hand. "So what exactly are we looking for?"
"Carter, come in," came Mitchell's voice over the radio.
"We've got it. Back in a few."
"So?" she prompted Thor.
"There will be a cavern with an altar. We require the match to the jade colored jewel I carry," Thor replied.
"What's it for?"
"I am not at liberty to disclose."
"Heimdall seemed to think I would be of help. Why say that if you just needed muscle?" she asked in frustration.
"While your 'muscle' is formidable, Colonel Carter, Heimdall is correct. I may require your assistance in another way and you are one of the few I would trust with such a mission."
Before Sam could fully process that revelation, Cameron and Teal'c appeared. She lowered her weapon as she recognized them.
"The caves appear deserted and we have retrieved the stalagmite," Teal'c reported.
"Ok. Let's gather up the supplies and head out."
Mitchell helped Sam to her feet. "Sorry, no trees to make a crutch, Sam—you'll have to use me," he said flashing her a grin.
He really is a good guy, Sam thought, leaning on him for support--and then falling onto him in a heap as the ground shook again.
"We must make haste," Thor said.
"Ok. Your turn to carry the Supreme Commander," Mitchell told Teal'c, as he helped Sam back up.
"Turn left here," Thor instructed as they reached a fork in the path. They walked for some time, Thor periodically instructing them where to turn. Then they reached what appeared to be a dead end.
"Teal'c, put me down here," Thor said.
Teal'c carefully lowered Thor to the ground and the Asgard stood on one foot with one hand on Teal'c's waist for balance. He inserted the crystal into an indentation in the wall. A door became visible and slid open with a groan.
"Stop here a moment and remain still," Thor said as Sam and Cameron made to enter the cavern.
The group heard a loud growl and saw a huge shadow on the wall.
"Thor?" Sam said bringing her P90 to bear.
Thor called out: "Do not fire!" as a blur of fur and teeth headed straight for him.
The creature stopped just short of Thor and sat at his feet. It looked like a large six-legged cat. They saw once its fur settled down that it was only slightly bigger than Thor himself, but its claws were formidable. Thor patted the animal's head and sat beside it.
"You're quite the lion tamer, Thor," Mitchell commented, eyeing the cat.
"I trained this creature to guard the cavern. It knows me. We may enter safely now."
Sam knew she was staring. Thor, it seemed, was full of surprises.
"Sheesh, ya might have mentioned it, Thor. Way to give a guy a heart attack," complained Mitchell.
"Teal'c, please bring me to the interior wall and remove the jade crystal you see there."
Sam could now see that the walls of the cavern, while looking at first glance like ordinary rock, were made of some type of finished material covered with drawings.
Teal'c carried the Asgard to the wall, placed him carefully onto the floor and retrieved the requested crystal.
Thor was sitting leaning against the wall and he seemed as though he was having a hard time staying upright. Though the crystal appeared light, when Thor took it from Teal'c his hands dropped to his lap as if it were a great weight. The Asgard examined it briefly.
"Are you ok, Thor? Maybe you need to lie down," Sam said. She had to agree with Cameron's earlier assessment that Thor looked an unhealthy shade of gray.
"We must not delay further. Colonel Carter, please go to the opposite wall and insert these crystals…" he said and slumped over.
Teal'c knelt beside him. "His pulse appears regular, but he remains unconscious," Teal'c said.
Sam looked at the jade and purple crystals lying on the cave floor in frustration.
"How am I supposed to know where these go?" Sam said.
"Sam, didn't you have an early mission when the Asgard used pictographs as some kind of intelligence puzzle? Could those be a clue?" Cameron asked, pointing at the wall.
"You're right," Sam said. "Let's check it out."
"Hey, I don't hang out with Jackson just because he knows the best places for Kung Pao chicken, you know," Mitchell joked.
With a hand on Mitchell's arm for support, Sam made her way to the wall.
"Could the configuration here be significant, Colonel Carter?" Teal'c asked. "I notice it seems similar to the stones outside the cave."
"I think you're right, Teal'c, but I'm not sure what it means," said Sam.
"Is the number important? Didn't you have to do some kind of math problem last time?" Mitchell asked her.
"Yeah, it had to do with representing pi, but I don't see…Wait, they are fond of certain mathematical sequences…" Sam mumbled to herself.
The ground rumbled again, this time stronger than the other tremors. Bits of rock crumbled onto the party from above.
"How much you want to bet, these quakes have something to do with some kind of machinery in here," Mitchell said.
"I would not take that wager, Colonel Mitchell," Teal'c responded. "Have you found the solution, Colonel Carter?"
"I think so, but I have no way of knowing what might happen if I'm wrong. How's Thor?"
"He remains unconscious. Given the increasing seismic activity, I believe you must take the chance," Teal'c said.
"I agree, Sam. I trust you," Mitchell added.
Sam took a deep breath and inserted one crystal into the third pictograph at the top and one into the ninth below. The wall of pictographs faded and a display screen appeared, flashing orange. A humming sound issued from the wall.
"What does it mean?" Mitchell asked.
"The power flow seems to be unbalanced," Sam replied. "If I had to guess, I'd say this equipment is somehow helping stabilize the planet's tectonic plates."
"I thought the Asgard couldn't interfere in a planet's natural condition," Cameron said.
"I did too," said Sam. "The power requirements and fine tuning required would be…"
A tremor hit with enough force to knock Sam and Mitchell off their feet. Teal'c caught himself against the cave wall. Powdery rock showered the group.
"Can you adjust it, Colonel Carter?" Teal'c called.
Mitchell helped her back to her feet. "I don't know. The controls seem similar to the ones I used in Heimdall's lab." Sam began to use control stones to scroll through screens.
As Sam worked Teal'c commented to Mitchell, "It is possible that Thor has been maintaining this planet for generations."
"But why the big secret?" Mitchell asked. "Unless he's fixing a mistake he made and is hiding it from the High Council?"
'I think that's got it," Sam said, as the screen turned from orange to purple.
"It does appear steady," Teal'c offered.
"Now what?" Mitchell asked.
"We may return now," said Thor, pushing himself up slightly. "Well done, Colonel Carter." He patted the cat once more, gestured in something approximating a shooing motion and the animal slowly left, turning back once to look at Thor before he disappeared around a corner.
"So will this hold off the earthquakes for a while, Thor?" Mitchell asked.
"Yes," Thor answered tersely.
"So why all the mystery? Couldn't you have just gated here to fix it?"
Sam looked a bit embarrassed at Cameron's bluntness, but she was dying to hear Thor's answer.
Thor sighed. "Visitors arriving through the gate are screened and Asgard interference on this planet is forbidden by the High Council."
"But you're here anyway," Mitchell persisted. "You must think it's worth the risk."
"This planet is indeed important to me. I owe it much," Thor answered and closed his eyes.
"Why?" Mitchell asked.
Thor did not answer.
"Cam, let's save the quiz 'til we get back," Sam said, glancing significantly at Thor's injuries.
She was feeling a bit lightheaded herself. Looking down she saw that her bandage had become quite bloody. Probably from all the damn falling.
"Yeah, let's get you two back to Dr. Lam," Mitchell agreed.
Amazingly, the trip back to the gate was uneventful, if painful. Maybe the natives have never seen zats before and we spooked them, Sam thought. She didn't think she'd be getting any more information out of Thor. Daniel will have theory.
Upon exiting the gate, the team was greeted by General Landry and Heimdall.
"Welcome back, SG1. Supreme Commander, Thor," Landry said to the Asgard on Teal'c's shoulders.
"I am pleased to see you alive, Thor," said Heimdall in greeting. "Was your mission successful?"
"Yes. Colonel Carter and her team were of great assistance," Thor replied.
As they stepped off the ramp, Dr. Lam and medics had materialized with stretchers. Neither patient was entirely cooperative.
Teal'c put Thor down on the upper step of the ramp and he studiously ignored the medic who was worriedly gesturing toward a stretcher.
Sam stood lightly supported by Mitchell.
"Colonel Carter, what happened?" Dr. Lam asked, indicating the blood soaked bandage on her leg.
"Musket ball. Teal'c dug it out," Sam said shortly, hoping Mitchell wasn't going to pull it out of his pocket for show and tell.
"Well, as competent a medic as Teal'c is, we need to get you off that leg and down to the infirmary."
Can't say I'd mind that--it hurts like hell. But I'm more worried about Thor, Sam thought.
She said aloud, "Ok, but you should see to Thor. He's got a broken leg and head injury."
To Thor she said, "This is Dr. Lam, Thor. She can do much more for you than I was able to."
"While I appreciate the intention, Colonel Carter, Dr. Lam, you are not familiar with Asgard physiology," Thor replied. "I will return with Heimdall and place myself in a healing pod. You must see to your own injury, Colonel Carter." He gestured toward the waiting stretcher.
Sam smiled at him and eased herself onto it.
"Please assist me to the gate," he directed the medic who had just thrown up his hands in frustration at being ignored.
With that Heimdall held a stone in his hand and the Gate activated.
"Where in heck do they keep those things?" Mitchell whispered to Teal'c. "It's not like they have pockets."
Teal'c simply glanced at the Asgard speculatively.
From the edge of the puddle, Thor, now propped by Heimdall, said:
"The Asgard are once again in your debt, SG1," Thor said. "I would appreciate it, General Landry, if no mention of this episode is made to the other Asgard until I tell you otherwise." He turned to Sam and said "Be well, Samantha Carter. Someday I will assuage your curiosity about this mission, Colonel Mitchell."
And with that the two Asgard turned and stepped through the Gate.
"Well, I'll be damned. So that's what the Asgard are like," Cameron said as they followed Sam's stretcher to the infirmary.
"Were they not as you expected, Colonel Mitchell?" Teal'c asked.
"Let's just say, now I know what General O'Neill meant when he talked about saving 'their little gray butts.'"