Teal'c and Monty alternated at point as they headed toward the cave area as stealthily as possible. Luckily the shortest route allowed them the cover of the forest.
"About a half a mile to go," Monty said. "Then comes the hard part—we'll be coming out of the forest."
As they approached the forest edge they heard a woman scream. They dropped to their stomachs and crawled forward. Sam pulled her binoculars out of her pack.
In the clearing she could see a tall tent made of woven leaves—evidently set up by the aliens--and Major Gama, Dr. Jane Kilroy (the team's engineer) and Sergeant Tim Barker tied to some kind of stakes. In front of them were two aliens. Teal'c was right. They did appear insectoid. They reminded Sam of dark brown praying mantises, with their triangular shaped heads and "praying" arms. But their bodies were thicker and they had no evident wings. They had some kind of weapons slung on thin shoulders.
Sam felt revulsion and anger. Barker was bleeding from several places and tears ran down Kilroy's face.
One of the "mantises" hissed at Gama.
"Can you make that out, Daniel?" Sam asked.
"No. It's very sibilant, as Teal'c told us before. At this distance it could be anything," he answered.
The shorter Mantis hissed and waved its claws at Gama.
"Major Gama…peaceful explorers…" they heard him respond.
In a flash a spear like projection shot out from the mantis' claw and it stabbed Gama in the arm. He cried out in pain.
"Stop it you bastards!" cried Kilroy. "We're peaceful explorers!"
"We've got to get in there," Daniel said.
"I know, but we can't just charge in. We don't know what their numbers are," responded Sam. As she watched another moment she saw movement near the tent.
"Monty, get an angle on that tent and see if you can make out numbers," Sam told the sergeant.
"Yes, ma'am." He crawled away.
Montgomery scooted back moments later. He took off his cap briefly and rubbed his hand over his brush cut. "I saw 12 of those things in and around the tent, ma'am. Most seem to have guns. I didn't see any bigger weapons."
"We will need a distraction," Teal'c stated.
"Sam, let me get closer and see if I can hear what they're saying," said Daniel.
"Who cares what they're saying?" argued Monty, "They're killing our people!"
"Clearly they're sentient beings, Monty. We may be able to negotiate," said Daniel.
"I agree. As angry as I am, I don't know if we should just kill them without knowing more," added Wells. "See those painted markings on their bodies? They may signify rank or status. An intelligent insectoid species is a fascinating discovery."
"Well, I'm so glad you're fascinated, Julia," snapped Montgomery.
"I didn't mean…" Julia began.
Sam's lifted her hand sharply and cut them off. "Monty, take Daniel and plant C4 around the camp. You'll know where," Sam ordered.
Daniel opened his mouth to protest but Sam stopped him. "You'll be close enough that you might be able to get in some good eavesdropping."
After they slinked away, Sam set to work with Teal'c on the attack plan. Wells listened attentively. If Daniel heard something that would allow for negotiation Sam was all for it, but she expected they'd have to rescue their people by force.
Sam handed Wells two detonators. "Julia, your job will be to set off the C4 at the right moments."
"Ok, Colonel," she answered, handling them gingerly.
"Colonel Carter," Teal'c said indicating the clearing.
"Damn it, Daniel," Sam muttered as she saw him being shoved to his knees next to the members of Team 3.
A moment Montgomery returned. "I'm sorry, Colonel. Dr. Jackson insisted on getting closer after planting the C4 and got away from me. I thought I should get back here."
"Daniel Jackson can be quite headstrong, Sergeant Montgomery," Teal'c said.
Sam was still watching Daniel. He was gesticulating wildly and seemed to be talking a mile a minute. They heard harsh sounds from the mantises.
"Sssreee sssooou chick chick chick!"
Daniel said something inaudible.
"Chick chick! Sssreee!" the mantis said and waved his claws at Daniel.
Sam took a deep breath. "We can't wait for Daniel to get through to them," she said.
She turned to the xenobiologist. "Is there anything you've observed that can help us, Julia?
"Well, if the similarity to the praying mantis is more than superficial, I'd say one thing to watch for is the range of vision," Wells replied. "Actual praying mantises can swivel their heads 180 degrees—though with the shoulders on these that may not be so much the case…and we know about their spearlike claw projections," she added quietly, looking a bit sick.
"Right. Daniel's providing some distraction," Sam smiled internally at how typically Daniel he was being. But then she instantly grew serious. "But they could start in on him too any time. Or kill one of team 3. We need to do this now," Sam said. "Teal'c and Wells, you know what to do. Monty, you're with me. Let's get our people back."
They nodded determinedly and deployed themselves around the mantis camp.
Once in position Sam clicked her radio once. An answering explosion rocked the forest behind the tent, sending flames high into the sky.
As Sam had hoped, most of the Mantis soldiers scurried to investigate.
While they were distracted, Sam and Montgomery entered the clearing from the opposite direction and quickly reached the prisoners. "Good timing," said Daniel, "I was running out of conversation."
The tough plant fiber of their bonds took a bit to saw through with their knives. Montgomery cut Barker free. "Hey, Monty," Barker said. He tried to take a step, but crumbled. Montgomery caught him before he hit the ground. Barker wrapped his arm around Monty's shoulder and they hobbled to the tree line.
Sam cut Gama and Kilroy free. She gave Gama her zat, sent him to the tree line with Daniel and kept Kilroy with her. That way at least one member of each pair was armed.
They were almost to cover when the mantises figured out what was going on and fired on them.
But their efforts were short lived. As they exposed themselves, Teal'c brought them down, firing from his hidden position to the west. And then Wells blew the other C4. The distraction was enough for the team to get to the woods.
Sam, Gama (with his one good arm and Sam's zat) and Monty all fired on the remaining mantises.
Then suddenly it was over. Teal'c joined them and they made their way back to their original position.
"Well done, Dr. Wells," said Teal'c.
"Thanks," she replied a bit shakily. She handed the medical pack to Sam. They hadn't seen any wounds on Kilroy, but Wells knelt at her side.
"Jane? You ok?" Julia asked.
"Yeah." Kilroy gulped. "They focused on Hector and Tim."
Wells handed her a canteen and Jane took a drink. "Thanks."
Daniel quickly bandaged Gama's arm. Sam was working on Barker. He had a stab wound in his left thigh and one in his left side. He was bloody from waist to knee.
"Hang in there, Sergeant," Sam said firmly.
"That was close," said Gama. He looked around. "Where's Gustafson?" he asked.
Before Sam could answer, Montgomery did. "She got hit in the initial attack," he said. "She didn't make it, Hector."
"Aw, shit," murmured Gama.
They all fell silent for a moment, lost in their own grief.
Sam was the first to speak. "Daniel, were you able to find out anything?"
"Not much. They didn't understand English and I couldn't make out much of what they said. They used a complex combination of hissing and clicks."
"Yeah, they did a lot of hissing at us, but I couldn't figure it out. I didn't know if they wanted information or were planning to eat us or something," Gama commented.
"I hate to say it, but praying mantises are carnivorous," said Wells.
Kilroy grimaced. "Great," she said. "So torturing Hector and Tim was just the pre-dinner entertainment?"
They exchanged uncomfortable looks.
"Some words seemed similar to the aliens on Corvara but not quite," said Daniel. "I think they were saying something about disturbing their freezing. Maybe hibernation?"
"Interesting," Wells said slowly. "Insects don't hibernate but there are those who overwinter frozen solid."
"Bugsicles?" said Daniel.
Wells stared at him in surprise. "Actually, yes. Exactly that."
"Did you learn anything which will aid our escape, Daniel Jackson?" asked Teal'c.
"I don't think so." Daniel swept off his boonie hat and ran his hand through his hair. "Sorry guys."
"We know our weapons are effective against their troops, but we don't know how many to expect," said Montgomery.
"Maybe the explosions will have drawn them away from the gate," Gama speculated.
"We don't have much choice. We need to get back there and check it out," Sam said.
"We need a stretcher for Tim," Sam said.
"I don't think they're too deep, Colonel," he said, touching the bandage on his leg gingerly. "I can walk with help."
Sam considered. The wounds had stopped bleeding for now. She looked him in the eye and saw steely resolve. "All right," she agreed. It could save time as well as keep his morale up not to be carried out.
The tall and rangy Kilroy gave Barker her shoulder to lean on. The trip back to the gate was quite slow as they helped the wounded, but Sam was proud of their toughness.
They soon approached the rock formation where Gustafson's body lay. Sam scanned it carefully. She wasn't going to leave one of her people behind if she could help it, but she didn't want to risk the living to do it. She saw no sign of mantises on any of the ledges and saw no movement.
She turned to Teal'c. "Think you can get Gustafson safely?" she asked.
"I'll go with you," volunteered Daniel.
She nodded. "Ok. We'll watch your backs," she ordered.
Teal'c and Daniel carefully approached the crevice where they had left Gustafson but no mantises appeared. Moments later they rejoined the group carrying her poncho wrapped body.
The mood was grim as they set off for the Gate. By unspoken agreement, each of them took a turn helping to carry their fallen colleague.
The group approached the Gate through the cover of scrub brush and tall grass. Hands and faces stung as the grass scratched and cut them as they crept closer. With binoculars Sam could pick out fifteen mantis soldiers near the Gate.
"I believe we can successfully attain the Stargate if we attack now," said Teal'c in low tones.
"I agree, Colonel," said Gama.
Sam wiped sweat and a few loose strands of hair from her eyes. The sun was baking them now in the open field.
"We're probably better off now than waiting for them to get help," Sam agreed. "What's our ammo status?"
"One grenade," responded Monty.
"I have one clip remaining," said Teal'c.
"Me too," said Sam. "And we have 2 zats." She grimaced. "It'll have to do."
Before she could deploy them, the Gate whooshed open.
Her radio sprang to life.
"SGC to SGX-1 Niner do you read?" It was Landry.
They all immediately turned down their radios and put in their ear pieces. Sam watched warily, but the mantis guards watched the wormhole and seemed oblivious to the radio sound—maybe it hadn't carried that far.
"SGX-1 Niner, here," Sam replied quietly. "Request immediate reinforcements."
"What's your situation?"
"Fifteen hostiles at the gate and unknown number nearby. We have serious casualties and one KIA."
"I'll have help there shortly. Hang back. Landry out."
The Gate deactivated and the mantises returned to guard positions.
"We're lucky they didn't decide to investigate," Barker commented.
"If they recently came out of a frozen state, they may still be a bit sluggish," Wells speculated.
"Didn't seem sluggish to me," grumbled Kilroy.
Sam could feel the tension vibrate among her people as they waited, prepared. Sam glanced at her people. Teal'c's eyes scanned the area. Barker frowned in pain and panted a bit, but remained alert, as did Gama and Montgomery. Sam turned back to the Gate, willing it to open.
Within twenty minutes the gate opened again. One shock grenade exploded, immediately followed by another, sending the aliens stumbling and hissing and covering their eyes. In the next moment, SGs-2, 6 and 12 burst through the gate and mowed down the aliens.
SG-2 scanned the area.
"Carter, come in," Sam heard Feretti's voice on her radio.
"Coming out of the brush on your 10:00," she replied. Once she was sure the teams knew it was them, she stood and ushered her people out. SG-12 ran over to help the wounded.
As they made their way to the Gate, Sam saw something moving at the corner of her eye. It was a wounded mantis reaching up from the ground to stab Feretti. Sam swung her P90 and with one shot, literally blew the mantis' head off.
"Thanks, Sam," he said. "Who or what were these…guys?"
"I don't know, but I think we made an enemy today," she responded shaking her head.
"Good thing Landry called to see if you wanted UAV time today after all," said Feretti.
Sam nodded. "So that explains it. Thanks for the assist."
"Come on people, let's get you out of here on the double," she said to her teams.
SGX-3 went first, standing close to Teal'c who was helping Kilroy carry Gustafson. Gama gave Barker his good side to lean on and they hobbled through after their fallen comrade.
Sam felt a surge of pride in her teams.
"I guess we can cross -221 off our list, huh, Colonel?" commented Monty as he stepped to the Gate.
"We did ok, didn't we Colonel?" said Julia Wells. Daniel rested his hand on her shoulder in a reassuring manner.
"That we did, Julia," said Sam.
She waited for each one of her people to step through the Gate and then followed them home.