Obviously I don't own Stargate: Atlantis. (If I did, it would still be going!) But I do own Nick.

Okay, so I wanted to do something new, and then I discovered that a few people have already written stories based on a similar idea. But I promise this one's different. Enjoy!


Signal

They're here!

Nick ran through the trees as fast as she could. She had to reach the compound before they did.

I have to warn her!

They had come twice before, but she had known they were coming, and she and her mother had hidden in the tunnels until the invaders left. Now they were back, and she was too far away. She couldn't reach the compound in time.

Yes I can! I have to!

She pushed herself harder. She was fast; even without other people around she knew that. But they were almost to the compound. She had to get there first.

- - -

"Unscheduled off-world activation!"

Chuck needn't have bothered calling out. They all knew there was nothing scheduled, and anyone close enough to hear him already knew that the gate had activated. But he said it anyway because that was just how things went.

Colonel Carter came out of her office and into the control room. The stargate had already opened and there was a bustle of activity in the gate room below her.

"Is there an I.D.C?" she asked, walking over to Chuck. He shook his head.

"Nope. But we're receiving a signal." He pushed a few buttons and then looked up. "It's some sort of distress beacon."

"From where?" Colonel Carter asked, leaning over his shoulder.

"M2R-498. We think there was a hive ship in that area not long ago, but I don't think this is from a wraith ship. The signature's different." Colonel Carter nodded.

"Have you tried to make radio contact?" she asked. Chuck pushed a few buttons and then shook his head.

"Negative. Either there's no receiver on the other end, or we're being jammed."

Sam started to say something, and then stopped.

"Wait a minute. Did you say M2R-498?" Chuck nodded. "Colonel Sheppard and his team were there four months ago and reported no intelligent life forms." Chuck shrugged. Colonel Carter thought a moment.

"Send a MALP."

Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard appeared at that moment and bounded up the steps with Dr. Rodney McKay right behind him. Both stopped beside Sam and Chuck. John crossed his arms, glancing at the screen and then focusing his gaze on Sam.

"What's goin' on?" he asked, just as someone pushed a MALP into the gate room below. Sam's eyes never left the gate.

"We're about to find out."

- - -

Nick crouched in the brush near the house. The ships were silent now, but by no means were they gone. She could still sense the invaders close by. They were already inside. She was too late. Mom wouldn't have had any warning. Not that she would have entered the tunnels without her daughter even if she had known, but still. Nick wanted to scream in frustration.

But maybe Mom was still alive. She was too far away to tell. Nick made herself take a deep breath and let it out. There was still a chance. Her eyes searched the side of the house. She would have to get inside...

Her eyes lit on a vent high in the wall. It was big enough to crawl through and could serve as an emergency escape. This time, however, it would be an entrance. The large stump beside the house would give her the height she needed to reach it.

After a quick look around, she broke her cover and hurried to the side of the house. She jumped up on the stump and grabbed the vent casing, which, while looking as though it were on tight, came loose immediately, allowing her to hoist herself up and into the tiny, square, metal tunnel.

Please let me find her first!

- - -

Every eye in the control room was on the screen that was currently showing the feed from the MALP's camera. There were tall trees all around with short leafy plants filling in the gaps in between, but that was all. No imminent threat was visible.

"Pan left," Sam said, her eyes still on the screen. The view shifted, turning in a slow circle. All around was much of the same. Behind the MALP was the open stargate that it had just gone through, but that was the only break in the three hundred and sixty degrees of forest. The camera continued to turn to the left, and after a moment it was back in the same position it had started in. There was no sign of anything wrong.

"Get me a visual on the planet," Sam said, turning. Someone pushed a few buttons and a nearby screen came alive with the display of a group of red dots, each of which had an identification code just above it. In the center of the screen was M2R-498. Right beside it was another, smaller dot. It blinked out and then reappeared a tiny fraction of the way around the dot that was M2R-498.

"It's a wraith cruiser," Rodney said, a touch of amazement in his voice.

"I thought that planet was unpopulated," John said suspiciously.

"Well it is, except for animals," Rodney said. John gave him a look, which he didn't notice. "There's certainly plenty of birds though." He turned and saw John, who was still giving him a funny look. "What?"

John shrugged innocently.

"Nothin'."

"So what could they possibly want on a planet with no food supply?" Sam asked, looking from Rodney to John in an attempt to get them back on topic.

"Maybe they've all become vegetarians," John suggested casually.

"Uhm, yeah," Rodney said. "That's about as likely as you giving up turkey sandwhiches."

"Are you saying I have a problem?" John asked in a slightly offended way.

"I am saying that-"

"Gentlemen," Sam said, interrupting. Both men turned. "Let's try to stay on topic." John shrugged and Rodney crossed his arms the way he always did when he was annoyed at being cut off. Sam looked at John, pointedly ignoring the pouting astrophysicist. "Why don't you go check it out."

"Sure thing, Colonel," John said, turning and starting down the stairs. Rodney was right behind him. As they turned the corner, Sam heard John say,

"Why can't they be vegetarians?"

She shook her head.

- - -

There was food nearby. He could sense it. Soon he would be able to ease the hunger that was burning him alive. Not that he could make it go away, of course. It would never go away. But it would become more bearable, once he had fed. The warriors were even now closing in on their prey. Soon now he would be able to feed…

Suddenly he stopped, his entire body tensing. He had heard something, he was sure of it. Something was close. Something that lived. Perhaps he would feed sooner than he had expected.

He bared his teeth and hissed, turning around and cocking his head hungrily at the dark metal corridor behind him. For a moment he waited, but nothing came. Carefully he turned around, looking all around him for movement, however small. There was nothing. His eyes came to rest on one of the walls. He could sense a strange presence in that direction. He took another step, cocking his head again. It was close, very close. What it was, he knew not. But if he could get just a bit closer-

The sound of nearby gunfire broke his concentration. He whipped around in the direction he had originally been coming from. Prey. He craned his neck and stretched his hands out eagerly. It seemed he would not be the only one who fed. Perhaps a few choice warriors would earn themselves a small meal as well. He started down the hallway at a brisk pace, eager for the feeding soon to come. In a moment he had disappeared around a corner into blackness.

He had no idea how close he had come.

High up in the metal wall he had been facing, hidden in the shadows, was a metal vent casing. Beyond it was one of the many ventilation shafts that made up a vast system running throughout the complex. And there, just beyond the tiny metal slats, pressed as close to the far shaft wall as she could get, was Nick. She stayed there for a long moment, holding her breath, not even daring to move. She had known he was there, but she had thought maybe she could get around him. She had been wrong.

After a moment she knew for sure that he was gone. She let out a small breath of relief, then shifted around and began once more to crawl through the tiny ventilation shaft. It was small and cramped and dark, but she had no choice. She had no idea who had fired the guns, but at the moment she didn't really care. She had to find Mom. They hadn't found her yet, that much she knew. But they were drawing closer by the second. She was running out of time.

Hang on, Mom. I'm coming.

- - -

The forest was quiet. The trees clustered around were green. The ground was covered in scattered patches of grass with dirt residing in-between. The sky was a beautiful blue and there were lazy white clouds floating across it. One would never have guessed that a destructive force floated just out of range of the naked eye.

In the middle of the forest was a miniscule clearing, and in the center of that the ancient stargate stood where it always had and probably always would, or at least until that world ended. The animals and birds ignored it completely, not really caring what it was. Or they would have if they had been there. Something had scared them away. A lone deer raced through the ring, desperate to escape whatever predator was chasing it. He vanished into the undergrowth, and then all was silent again.

Suddenly the stargate sprang to life, a vertical pool of thick blue liquid seeming to fill it. A man stepped through seemingly out of nowhere, and then another, and then a woman, and then a fourth man. All four were armed and on their guard. They looked around, guns ready, and all nodded silently to each other. Another woman came through a moment later. Dr. Jennifer Keller. She didn't look like she particularly wanted to be there, which she didn't. But Colonel Carter had insisted, saying they might find someone who couldn't wait the hour or so that it would take to get them back to Atlantis for treatment, in which case Jennifer was the one with the highest chance of keeping them alive. There was a small gun hanging on her belt, and she was praying as hard as she could that she wouldn't have to use it.

As soon as they were through, the stargate closed and they could see the trees stretching on behind it.

"This is nice," Jennifer said awkwardly, looking around at the silent forest. No one said anything. "So, uhm, where are the wraith?"

"Maybe they already left," Ronon said sarcastically.

"Really?" Rodney asked, a hint of hope entering his face.

"No," Ronon said flatly.

"Oh." Rodney turned away in disappointment. Then he turned back and said, sarcastically, "Oh that was sarcasm, was it? Yes, very funny."

"Signal's coming from that way," John said, ignoring the banter behind him.

"It could be a trap," Teyla said. John shook his head.

"Somebody would've made a big deal about it. Looks to me like they're trying to keep it pretty quiet." He started walking toward the trees. Teyla, Ronon, and Dr. Keller followed.

"Hear that?" Rodney suddenly asked quietly. They all froze, listening. Jennifer gulped and looked around nervously.

"I don't hear anything," Ronon said finally, not even bothering to lower his voice.

"Exactly!" Rodney said, his voice a low whisper. "Last time we were here there were birds everywhere!"

"Maybe you scared them off," Ronon said sarcastically. Rodney glared at him.

"I'm serious!" he said, slightly agitated. "They should be everywhere! That many animals don't just disappear overnight!"

"It wasn't exactly overnight," John said, still watching the trees. "More like four months."

"You know what I mean!" Rodney whispered, starting to get angry.

"He's got a point," Jennifer said, still nervous. Rodney stood a little straighter.

"Thank-you," he said, very dignified.

"They probably just got scared by the wraith," John said dismissively. "Let's get moving. We've got a long walk ahead." He started walking in the direction of the signal and the others followed. Rodney looked around a moment longer before realizing he was about to be left alone and hurrying after the others.

- - -

"Why couldn't we have just taken a jumper?" Rodney asked, panting as he picked his way through the undergrowth in an attempt to keep up. They had been walking for nearly an hour, and he was obviously getting winded. Behind him, Jennifer smirked in spite of the fact that she was having a hard time keeping up herself.

"There's not enough room to get it out of the gate," John said, still looking ahead. "We'd run right into the trees."

"So we go through a space gate."

"The nearest one is several hours away," Teyla reminded him as patiently as she could. "It would take too long. We needed to get there as quickly as possible."

"Well there's got to be a faster way than walking," Jennifer said.

In front of them, John suddenly drew to a halt and Rodney's suddenly indignant retort died in his throat. John held up his fist, signaling for silence, and then crouched in the brush and crept closer. Rodney and Teyla followed suit.

"Which one is that?" Jennifer asked, meaning the hand signal. In answer, Ronon, who was holding up the rear, pulled her to the ground and slapped his hand over her mouth. She gave him an apologetic look and he removed his hand. Then they both turned to see what had made John stop.

Just ahead the trees stopped, revealing a small clearing. A rectangular metal building sat in the middle, with one side covered in moss. It looked old, as if it had been there for a long time, and it almost looked abandoned.

"I don't remember seeing that last time," John said.

"Well it can't have been built since then," Jennifer said. "Look at the walls. The weather's worn them down. It must have been here for years."

"Thank-you, Captain Obvious," Rodney said sarcastically. John gave him a look.

"We didn't come this way last time," Ronon pointed out. It was true. They had hiked a bit in the other direction before deciding there really was no life and leaving.

"Some kind of settlement?" Teyla offered.

"Could go underground," John said, thinking of the Genii just like the others.

"It's got some pretty heavy shields," Rodney said. "Almost like they expected to be attacked." He looked up. "I can't get any readings until we're inside."

"Well, then let's fix that," John said.

He stood, and, gun at the ready, stepped out into the open. The others followed, and they started to make their way across the clearing. It was eerily quiet. The birds who had been everywhere on their first visit had disappeared. Jennifer looked around nervously. Where was all the life?

"We're through the shield," Rodney said just before they reached the wooden porch. "Still no life."

"There are wraith nearby," Teyla warned. Jennifer gulped.

John stepped over to the compound door and tried the handle.

"Locked," he muttered.

"Here." Ronon slung his gun over his shoulder and stepped up to the door. He and John rammed it with their shoulders. Teyla pointed her gun at the door, ready to cover them if need be. Jennifer just stood back. The door suddenly gave and they all stared inside. Ronon and John both grabbed their guns. John slowly stepped inside, ready to shoot. The others followed.

The light inside the room was dim, and their eyes took a moment to adjust. When they finally did, they saw what seemed to be some kind of study. There were two large desks, both covered in papers and random objects. One of them was positioned under a window with closed blinds. There was also a bookcase.

"Huh." Ronon was the only one to say anything.

"John." Teyla had stepped over to one of the desks. She picked up one of the papers there. John stepped over for a look.

The desk was covered in drawings. Most of them were flora and fauna, but some were of other things, like various types of ships. A chunk of purple crystal acted as a paperweight. It was the drawing Teyla held, however, that caught John's attention.

"The stargate," he said. She nodded. "Good, too."

"Look at these books," Jennifer said. The ones she held were written in pencil. She flipped through them, shaking her head in amazement. "They're about the Ancients, and the wraith, and a million other things." John and Teyla started over to take a look.

"Guys," Rodney interrupted. "There's life that way." He pointed to the left.

"How many wraith?" John asked.

"Not many," Teyla said. "I believe we will be able to fight them off." Jennifer gulped, but with exception of a suddenly very pale Rodney, the others didn't even change expressions.

"Right," John said, taking charge.

There was a corridor to the left and they took it. On the left side was some sort of kitchen, and then a large closet stocked full of food and supplies. To the right were two bedrooms. Both had a crude bed and wooden trunk. One had a desk covered in more paper and strange objects. The other had floor-to-ceiling shelves along one wall, all full of leaves and bird feathers and stones and crystals. The metal corridor continued on for a few feet and then abruptly turned right. John turned the corner and stopped.

"There's some steps going down," he called. Then he muttered, "What is it with Pegasus and underground civilizations?"

It was dark below the surface, and Teyla, Rodney, and John all turned on the lights on their guns. The corridors were made of metal, and they twisted and turned and intersected in a strange sort of maze. They hadn't been walking for more than a minute when Rodney stopped, staring at the life signs detector.

"We're about to have company."

"Wraith," Teyla said.

By unspoken agreement, everyone but Jennifer lifted their weapons and formed a sort of circle. She had landed in the middle, and with a shaking hand she reached down and clutched at the gun she had been given. She didn't notice that Rodney was shaking almost as badly. Then they waited. For a long moment there was only silence.

"Maybe they-" Rodney began. He never finished.

Something suddenly appeared out of the shadows right in front of them. Wraith warriors. Ronon and John raised their guns and fired several times as fast as they could. Rodney and Teyla swung around and fired their own weapons, the shots lighting up the dim corridor. Jennifer was too scared to even think about pulling her own trigger. All she could do was stare in terror at the charging forms. Just before they reached them, the warriors stumbled and fell one by one.

"Geez!" Rodney cried, almost hysterical. "Where did they come from?!"

"Not sure," John said, peering into the semi-darkness. There were lights overhead, but they were terrible. There were also airshafts... He quickly pushed away of the sudden surge of memories of Michael's hybrids. "Are they alone, McKay?"

"Not for long," Rodney said, looking at his life-sign detector. "There's more headed this way."

"Let's go," Ronon said, spinning his gun and starting down the hall after John.

"Shouldn't we be going away from the wraith?" Jennifer asked nervously.

"We need to find those people before they do," John said. Jennifer gulped again.

"I think it's a little late for that," Ronon muttered.


What did you think? Sorry for the lack of action. I tried to make up for it with suspense. Please review!! This is my first SG-A fic, so constructive criticism is much appreciated. I'll try and post the next chapter soon!