A/N: I was going to wait to post this story until it was finished, but I have found that knowing I don't have readers waiting for the next chapter has allowed me to be way too complacent in finishing in a timely manner. It's your feedback and constant pushing for more that kept me moving in the last story, so I've decided to go ahead and post. I also have to admit, I miss hearing from you. :0) I hope you enjoy. I don't expect this story to be nearly the behemoth (in sbz's words) the last one became. I hope it's as much fun, though. As always, I value your reviews.
Disclaimer: I will only say this once. Stargate isn't mine. I'm just borrowing it for a little while.
Warnings! This story takes place sometime after the zatarc incident in season four, but before Fail Safe in season five. There is ship, but it's not heavy since I'm sticking to cannon. You know how much I love whump!
Thank you: Thanks to sbz, who has agreed to continue betaing for me. She should pull in a salary for what she does. :0)
Do Not Go Gentle
Major Samantha Carter stumbled on the loose rocks and threw out her hands to break her fall. The rope that tied them together didn't give at all. It dug into the already raw skin of her wrists and prevented her from catching herself completely. She landed on the hard ground with a grunt; the impact jarred her injury and she lay stunned, her breath stuck in her throat.
Get up, she told herself.
But she couldn't move. Sharp pebbles pressed into her cheek. Her neck was limp, unable to lift her head from the ground. Her vision dimmed. Her eyes drifted closed. For a moment she let the pain and exhaustion overtake her.
The rope circling her wrists pulled painfully, but she couldn't quite force her lids to open. Maybe if she just lay here and played dead they'd give up on her. Maybe they'd let her go and she wouldn't have to fight her way out. Maybe.
"Nedana! Ambersit Sie!" This voice sounded angrier than the last. Still, she didn't expect the savage kick its owner jabbed into her injured abdomen. The air rushed from her lungs and she felt the pain run clear to her teeth. Her already sensitive stomach heaved and she reached her hands down to hold the wound together while she retched. She drew up her legs in a vain attempt to protect herself, but the damage was done.
One kick was all she got. Overhead, she heard the angry bark of their leader. There was a rustle of leather and soft shoes as her attacker was pulled away. Relieved, she relaxed her arms and legs.
After a moment, she managed to pull air into her starving lungs, but a gargled cough rose up along with it and forced its way out. She tasted the metallic flavor of blood and opened her eyes to see the crimson splatter on the ground.
Strong hands grabbed her shoulders and hauled her to her feet. Before she was sure her legs would hold her someone yanked on the rope again. Her arms pulled away from her body and she was forced to move, ready or not. Unsteady, she forced one bare foot in front of the other, ignoring the sharp rocks that cut into them with every step.
She glanced down at her Khaki T-shirt and the red stain that continued to bloom like a twisted rose opening its petals. It had begun to seep down into her BDU pants and she could see little spots forming on her thighs. If her captors didn't stop soon and let her attempt some first aid she'd bleed out before the day was through.
"Krisat fir nunc," a stern voice said. She felt an insistent nudge to her back and tried to walk faster, her eyes glued to the back of another prisoner in front of her; the one named Darvan, she thought.
She had to bide her time. She could get away. She had to find the strength.
Black spots swam before her and she blinked to clear them away. She couldn't let herself fall again. If she did, she had no doubt they'd kill her. She had to stay alive. She had to escape. Then SG-1 would find her. They would.
"The Tau'ri are willing to provide the Sharauq with medicines and machinery that will make your mining efficiency increase exponentially," Ambassador Reddick said with a polite smile. The bright sunlight coming in through the window glinted off the pin on his lapel of his smart black suit and his hands were folded neatly in front of him atop a large stone table. "In return we ask for thirty percent of the naquadah you bring to the surface."
Jack shifted uncomfortably in the stiff chair beside the Ambassador and looked across the table at their most recent ally. He flashed one of his most charming smiles. "Didn't I tell you he'd make you happy?"
King Serban didn't smile back. He sat back in his chair and pursed his lips. The square-cut red suit he wore only served to emphasize his intimidating size. "Thirty percent is a rather large number," he said. "To give so much of our metal, I would expect something far greater than medicine."
Reddick didn't even blink. "With the machinery we will provide, the thirty percent we're asking for is more than you are currently capable of mining in a year. Imagine what you would be able to do after you triple the amount of naquadah you are able to use."
The king looked unconvinced. He blew air out of his mouth in a quick sigh and turned to Jack, who flashed another smile and lifted his eyebrow at Reddick.
"We have also been authorized," Reddick continued, "to show you several technological advancements made possible by your increased quantity of the metal-- advancements in locomotion and architecture."
The king turned to Jack again. Jack sat up straighter and looked to the man on his other side.
"Carriages that move without the aid of animals and buildings that are far more durable than the ones you have now," Daniel said.
Jack tapped the table with his finger. "You'd be able to expand your kingdom well past its current boundaries and even set up trade with any others on the continent. Well worth the thirty percent, I would think."
The king nodded. "And think, I must," he said, but he did appear more intrigued than offended now.
"When can I tell my people to expect your answer?" Reddick asked.
"I will need at least a night's rest." Serban leaned forward and crossed his arms. "Your Major Carter and Teal'c will not return from their outing for several more hours?"
Daniel nodded. "The satellite they were sent to retrieve crashed about ten miles away. It shouldn't take Sam too long to locate it, and with the men you sent to help, it won't be too difficult to load it and get it back here."
The king pushed away from the table and stood. "I am still uneasy that the device was allowed to remain in our skies after the false god Thor left."
"Thor will continue to uphold the promise he made to your people through his treaty with the Goa'uld," Daniel said. "Even though you wished him to leave, your planet will remain under his protection. He is a man of honor."
"Men of honor do not pose as something they are not. How is what he did any different than the actions of the oppressors he removed?"
"For one thing, he didn't enslave your people," Jack said, not quite able to hide the sarcasm from his voice. "Thor didn't mean any harm. Believe me. The guy is about as domineering as--"
"—What the Colonel is trying to say," Daniel said with a warning look at Jack, "is that Thor would never mislead you out of malice. He merely tried to protect you while preventing your exposure to his technologies. Had you not stumbled on the truth, you would still…"
"We would still be worshipping false gods," Serban interrupted, "and we would not have discovered the technologies that now allow us to communicate long distances and power our buildings for light and heat."
"Thor is well aware of your mistrust," Reddick said. "That is why he sent SG-1 to retrieve the downed satellite. He didn't wish to intrude and knew we were already in contact and ready to negotiate a treaty of our own."
The king nodded. "And for this I am grateful."
The large bay doors at the end of the room flew open and a figure rushed in. His hand held his hat to his head and his shoes clattered noisily on the stone floor. "Sire!" The messenger, who Jack saw was little older than a boy, slid to a stop in front of them in a blur of brown cover-alls.
"Slow down, Charless," Serban said. His affection for the young man was evident in his smile and fatherly demeanor. He laid his hand on the youth's shoulder. "Catch your breath."
"Sire, I've just received word," the boy said. "The group that set out to retrieve the device that fell from the sky…" he gulped… "has been attacked by the Garund!"
The king's face fell and his eyes snapped to Jack.
Jack read the fear in them and reached up to the radio attached to the shoulder of his vest to press the talk button. "Carter."
Daniel's worried eyes met his.
"Carter, come in."
Jack turned to the king, a bad feeling beginning to stir in his gut. "Who are the Garund?"
Serban's face twisted. "Savages," he said.
"You told us the area was safe. Peaceful." Jack spat the last word out, unable to reign in his rising anger.
"The Garund never come this close to town." His eyes lit with sudden understanding. "They must have heard of your arrival and set out to discover more."
Jack picked his P-90 off the table and clipped it to its harness on his vest. His movements were quick. "Yeah, well, they're about to find out more than they wanted to know." He turned to his teammate. "Daniel. Do you know where they went?"
Daniel already had his pack on his back. He nodded. "It'll still take us well over an hour to run there."
"I can give you animals to ride," Serban said. "They will get you there in a fraction of the time."
"Follow me. I will take you to the stables," Charless said.
The boy was half-way to the door before Jack could blink, it seemed. He was grateful for the sense of urgency their hosts seemed to share with him. Before he pushed past the open door, he turned and pointed a finger at Reddick, who still stood beside the king. "Find out more and report back to the SGC," he said firmly.
He didn't wait to see Reddick's reaction.
What the hell had happened out there? And why weren't Carter and Teal'c answering the radio? He was afraid he didn't really want to know the answer.
The sun was already low in the sky when half of SG-1 and several men from the king's regiment made it to the site of the attack. Jack took his hat off and wiped the sweat from his forehead. Desert planets were never his favorite. They were damn hot during the day and just as cold at night. At least the dunes of sand they'd ridden through had given way to a sparse smattering of vegetation. Glancing to the left he made out the hazy blue outline of a small mountain range.
Jack dismounted his… horse? He tried to ignore the more than uncomfortable twinge in his knees and thighs as he lowered himself to the ground. Though he knew how to ride, he wasn't in the habit of doing so. Daniel, on the other hand, seemed to be right at home on top of an animal. He dropped off its back with an ease that made Jack, for once, jealous of the archeologist.
He glanced at his watch for the twelfth time. It had only taken them twenty minutes to ride out to the site of the downed satellite. He passed its wreckage and strode to the growing group of men nearby. He tried not to notice the bodies lying on the ground around him. He recognized them as the men who had left with Carter and Teal'c just that morning. All of the bodies were clothed in the bright blue uniforms of the king's men. None of them were in the Khaki SG-1 had suited up in for this mission.
As he drew closer he saw that the group was crowded around two men who sat on the ground. He noticed right away the gold stamp on the forehead of one of them. A trail of blood ran from the crown of his head down his forehead. Teal'c looked up as soon as he saw Jack and his expression grew even darker than it had been.
"I must apologize, O'Neil," he said. "I was unable to stop our attackers."
Jack knelt beside the Jaffa and clapped him on the shoulder. "That's alright, T. Just tell us what happened." There were very few times he'd seen Teal'c go down. Something bad had happened here. Where was Carter?
"They came in very quickly. I suspect they had been watching us for some time. They hit me from behind. After that, I do not know what happened." Teal'c's frown grew. "I have failed Major Carter."
"Now, don't go saying things like that," Jack said. "Where is she?"
"She was gone when I awoke."
Jack's head snapped up and he tried to find where Daniel's voice was calling him from. He stood and pushed past the king's men who were busy providing medical aid to the survivors.
Teal'c waved them away and stood as well. Jack noticed he wavered a bit before he righted himself and took a semi-stable step.
Jack stopped and turned to Teal'c. Concern lit his face. "You sure you should be doing that, T?" he asked.
Teal'c lifted an eyebrow.
"Right," Jack said. He took another look around and spotted Daniel on the other side of the satellite. The hunk of metal was an unrecognizable mess.
"Daniel?" he asked as he rounded the wreckage.
"This isn't good, Jack." Daniel's blue eyes rose to meet Jack's. He held something in his hands.
Jack recognized Carter's BDU jacket right away. Daniel shook it out and it unfolded to reveal a large crimson stain on the front. Jack saw sunlight glinting through the fairly large cut in the material where Carter's stomach would have been.
Teal'c bent at Daniel's feet and retrieved an object off the ground. Carter's field knife. Its blade and handle were covered with blood, as was the ground where it had lain.
Jack closed his eyes and fought the panic that uncharacteristically rose up inside. It was unwelcome and uncalled for, but it froze inside his chest and threatened to overwhelm him.
He shook his head and pushed his eyes open. There wasn't a body.
At least not here.
"Taron," Jack called. The young man who had led them here came instantly to his side. "Tell me about the people who did this. Would they have taken prisoners?"
Taron's tightly braided head bobbed. "They are savages. Primitive. They show no mercy when they attack and have no qualms about taking what they want… including people."
Jack nodded. Then she could still be with them. He scanned the site again. Bullet shells lay in various places. Carter had fought back. The P-90 was nowhere to be seen, though. The sand on the ground was tossed about, footsteps indistinguishable. There had been a lot of them. They must have overpowered her and she pulled her knife to defend herself. They'd probably come from behind her.
"They took Teal'c out first because he was the largest," he said out loud.
Taron nodded. "And his symbol would have reminded them of the oppressors. It is probably why they did not take him as well."
"Yeah, well, I think they'll find Carter can be just as scary," Jack said. His eyes drifted back down to the blood on the ground and the jacket in Daniel's hand.
The young man glanced up at the men who were loading one of the injured onto a wagon that had arrived a little while after them. "They attack in great numbers and rarely leave any alive. They must have been in a hurry."
"Why, do you suppose?"
"They didn't know how many more of us there were," Daniel said. He picked up a spear lying on the ground next to the satellite. Feathers decorated its hilt. "I mean, our guns are far more deadly than theirs and for all they knew, we were on our way to join Sam and Teal'c."
"I do not see any of their dead," Teal'c said.
Daniel's eyebrows lifted as if surprised. He looked around. "Teal'c's right." He glanced back to Jack. "She must have hit at least a couple. There are a lot of shells here."
"The Garund are superstitious," Taron said. "They would have carried their dead with them until they could bury them properly."
"Yeah, well, I don't care about their dead," Jack said. "Teal'c, can you tell where they took her?"
Teal'c knelt on the ground and pushed around at the pool of blood that had long since soaked into the loose sand. His eyes circled the ground and settled on a spot several feet away. He rose and moved to the spot. The rest followed.
More spots of blood. Jack was amazed Teal'c had seen them from so far away. The Jaffa looked up and nodded to O'Neill. "I believe I can."
Jack let out a heavy sigh. "Good." He turned to Taron. "Get your men back to town. We're going after Carter."
Taron nodded. "You may keep your animals to aid in your search."
Jack shook his head. "No. I think they'll be easier to track on foot. If the party was as large as I think it was, they'll be moving more slowly than we will, anyway."
"Then good luck to you," the young man said.
Jack looked up at Teal'c with a question in his eyes.
"I am fine, O'Neill," Teal'c said. "The injury was not severe. My symbiote has already made great progress in healing me." He pursed his lips and looked back down at the ground. "Though this pattern reveals that she is able to walk, I fear Major Carter may not have been as fortunate."
Jack clenched his fingers around the handle of his P-90. "Yeah." He looked up at the sky. "The sun'll be setting soon. We won't be able to track at night and they've got a pretty good head start."
"We'll find her, Jack," Daniel said. He followed Teal'c, who had already moved on to another patch of blood several yards away.
"Of course we will," Jack said with a frown. His stomach clenched. If all of this blood was Carter's… if the jacket revealed the true location of her injury… if that knife had really been buried in her gut and torn back out again; Jack knew they were fighting a battle against time. And even if they found her—he closed his eyes and took a deep breath—even if they found her alive it might be too late to do anything more than hold her hand while she died.