For Eb Evans. Hope you enjoy this return to Paradise. . .
This is a sequel to "Paradise Bound". I strongly recommend reading that story first, since this story picks up a few months after that one left off.
SG-1 Season 5-ish.
Run. Breathe. Panic. Don't scream. Hold on. Don't stop.
Run! Run! Run!
One foot in front of the other—don't look back—don't fall—
Icy rain pelted her—stinging as it hit bare skin. She rounded a tree, skidding in the wet undergrowth, balancing herself against its trunk. Squinting into the dark, she wiped water out of her eyes just long enough for a brilliant jolt of lightning to illuminate a sparse path through the trees. With a huge effort, she shoved away from the tree and into the new direction, uphill, now, along a long line of volcanic rocks.
She forced herself to scale a small rise, scrambling with her one available hand for purchase in the mucky vegetation. Her fingers grasped upon a thorny branch, and she felt the spines rip into her palm. Pain shot through her arm, radiating up from her wrist. Gasping, she stiffened, swallowing a louder cry.
There wasn't time for weakness.
Keep moving! Run!
Rounding a stand of thick bushes, she thrust herself through the center of it, thorny branches tugging at her sleeves, at her pants, and snagging the holster on her thigh. Flowers exploded from the branches, littering her jacket with sodden petals and leaves. She grunted, heard fabric rip, and ignored it, pushing on. Moving through the pain, buffeted by the wind and rain swirling around her, she continued through a small copse of young iron wood, and up again—painfully—onto a rocky ledge that led straight to a long line of unprotected grassland.
With a curse, she whirled, pushed backwards by the wind. She lost her balance and stumbled, flailing her left arm for balance, searching through the blackness, the rain, and the storm for another avenue. More thunder sounded with the next bright flash of lightning—and highlighted brilliantly just below, she could see them.
Four of them—a full patrol—their skullcaps shining bright gray in the drenching rain. Large, beefy, their armor made them seem imperturbable. And even as they struggled against the howl of the wind, their staff weapons being used to balance them, they seemed invincible.
She squatted down, hiding behind the slight rise she'd been following. Her cargo felt cumbersome beneath her jacket, and she shifted her balance towards her left side as she scooted along the ground, the sodden grass allowing her to move easily even with only one useful arm.
Shoving backward and down the hill, she rose to a crouch, and then bolted across the grass, praying with every step that the lightning would abate long enough for her to reach her goal—but twenty feet from the treeline, an enormous volley lit up the sky—silhouetting her against the open grassland.
A shout in the woods below urged her to hasten her pace, and she snarled low—in her gut—when a harried glance behind her showed the first of the Jaffa top the crest of the hill.
Jerking around, she fled blindly towards the other side of the meadow, towards a stretch of darkness that she hoped was trees rather than rock. Her feet slid wildly in the slick grass, and she struggled to stay upright as the meadow curved further upward towards a summit lined with tall ironwoods interspersed with strange, curved trees that she'd learned were this planet's version of Koa.
It hurt—her lungs ached—the air had turned frigid with the first violent gusts of wind. She'd been breathing in the coldness now for one—two?—hours as she'd evaded and dodged and eluded the Jaffa that chased her. But she ignored the burning muscles in her thighs and calves and climbed another forty feet before being slammed into an iron wood tree by a sudden surge of wind. Twigs whipped at her face as she huddled against the rough bark, taking tight, wretching breaths until shoving heavily away and aiming herself deeper into the woods.
Go! Go! Go!
More lightning. A thunder clap burst around her so loud that it hurt her ears. As the rumbling faded, she could hear them behind her. Footsteps, shouts, the metallic clang of metal and armor. Someone let go with a volley from a staff weapon, and was instantly rebuked with a brusque shout in gutteral Goa'uld.
And still more rain. Cursing the gust of wind that had deprived her of her hat, she swiped at her face again with her torn and bleeding hand, clearing the water out of her eyes. The wind whipped the trees and branches to their limits. And Sam paused, hooking her arm tightly to the hanging roots of a young banyan tree, even as she realized that she was about to reach her own breaking point.
But another glance behind her showed the Jaffa advancing—ruthless-through the meadow, and she knew she had to keep moving.
Again, the voice in her head urged her onward.
Dodge violently whipping branches and flying debris. Duck around the tree, push through the bushes, avoid the deepest of the puddles, ignore the painful driving rain as it bombarded her bare cheeks.
Once back in the forest, she didn't miss the grass. Beneath her feet, heavy ferns and thick, waxy, groundcover provided a little bit of purchase. She slowed to hike herself over a boulder, then hurried around the root ball of a massive downed koa tree—heading downward, now, towards the flatlands at the base of the mountain.
Slick—water everywhere—she slid on a thin sheet of mud—flailing out with her single free hand and grasping some of the dense shrubbery that seemed to arise up from every available piece of ground in this forest. As she fell, she cursed the Jaffa—whose pursuit had made it necessary for her to abandon the stone walkways that snaked their ways around the range in favor of carrying her burden hell-bent through the wilds of the volcanic mountains.
That was one reason she had to curse them, at least. The cry that escaped her lips had little to do with the mud.
Don't think about them. Don't think at all. Move. Get back up! Run!
Her shoulder wrenched as frenetic momentum propelled her inexorably forwards, and she ended up slipping to the ground in a sodden heap. Frantic, she angled her body sideways and landed hard on her left hip—half on a partially-covered boulder and half in the mud. Throwing a harrowed glance behind her, she stopped her slide with a heel in the mud, and a jarring jerk of her leg. Breathing hard, she allowed herself a moment before levering herself back up with a hand on the gritty stone. The rock rasped against the already damaged skin of her palm, and she let out a harsh sob of pain before swallowing it down and forcing herself upright again.
Boots slid again on the mud, and she muttered a curse—a prayer—a plea—as she fought for balance, angling her foot sideways to make the most of the treads as her left hand grasped desperately at whatever she could find to slow her descent.
But it was no use—her right arm instinctively tightened on the cargo she had secured there, and she angled her body to her left side, landing roughly again on her left hip. Bruises on top of bruises. She breathed through the pain—tried not to scream.
The bundle wriggled, and Sam made what she hoped was a comforting sound in the back of her throat as she wiped still more water out of her eyes with her free hand. Searching the density of the forest for a hiding place, she felt a keen sense of relief when a timely volley of lightning gave her a clear view of an enormous banyan tree, thirty yards downhill on a low plain. Beyond the tree, she could see the gray line of stone walkways, and a low shadow of vegetation that Sam recognized as the odd, stunted palms that surrounded the settlement.
If the village was still there.
Don't think about it. Move! Run!
Through the din of the driving rain, she heard it again—hoarse shouts, armor clanking, boots crashing through the underbrush. She shook her head—sending droplets of water flying—and clenched her stiff, injured hand, trying to bring it back to life. Heaving one deep breath, then another, she gathered herself back together and shoved off.
This time, she slid directly through the mud towards a patch of dense ferns. Rolling onto her side, she pulled herself upright again, then scooted down the steepest part of the slope sideways. Reaching the bottom, she set out with long, purposeful strides, practically swimming through the scrub brush. From there, it remained only a hard run towards the tree and its promise of shelter. She skirted around the far side of the tree and then came back around, peering through the tangle of hard, vine-like roots upwards—in the direction from where she'd come.
Two of the contingent of Jaffa stood silhouetted against the blackened, stormy sky at the apex of the hill while two others made fast moving dark shadows along the path that Sam had just traveled. She dodged back and forth, zig-zagging along her chosen course, even as a blast from a staff weapon obliterated a young palm tree just feet away. Shielding the side of her face with her shoulder, she flinched and skidded again when tiny bits of wooden shrapnel embedded themselves in her skin.
She bit back a frustrated yelp before edging around the tree again and aiming directly for the palms. Through the tumult of the storm, she could hear them again—closer, now—and two more staff blasts exploded around her as she darted towards the trees.
Faint through the clamor, she heard him. With a half-hysterical search of the tree line, she saw him and nearly let loose a hysterical giggle. Teal'c—his huge body a solid black mass against the darker roiling clouds over the distant sea—staff weapon readied and in position.
His second bellow was larger—deeper—penetrating Carter's ears through the furor of the storm. "Major Carter! Down!"
Sam obeyed immediately—dropping—sliding towards the trees as she would have towards home plate, her already slick clothes skating across the dense undergrowth. Her feet touched a palm trunk, and, pivoting on her hip, she crawled closer to it, scrambling around to the other side as an explosion of weapon blasts lit the air overhead. Huddling her body around her burden, she shielded it from the elements, and from the war raging above.
Screaming—pained shouts—the screeches of death—and then silence within the unrelenting rain, and the omnipresent wind, and the sharp rumble of thunder. She clenched her eyes shut, searching for more dangers, but finding only the distinct sound of Teal'c's staff weapon closing, his booted feet heavy in the grass.
"Major Carter!" He knelt next to her on one knee, deliberate and careful. His hand came down to rest on her shoulder, gripping her, assessing her, even as he asked, "Where is Colonel O'Neill?"
But she couldn't answer. Her voice seemed to be broken—caught painfully in her tight throat. She shook her head, sending water droplets flying.
"Daniel Jackson? Where is he?" Teeth flashing white in the darkness, Teal'c finally managed to turn Sam's head and catch her eye. "Major Carter—we must take shelter in the village. Are you able to walk that far?"
Her faint nod seemed to be answer enough. Grasping her shoulders in his wide hands, he dragged her upwards. Carefully, seemingly sensing her pain—her burden—he placed a hard arm around her back, supporting her as they aimed towards the settlement.
It wasn't far—through the scrub brush of the lowlands, past the stone heiau, down the dozens of feet towards the larger of the two hales. Teal'c dragged her through the entrance, and then guided her as she sank to a heap on the matted floor.
It was dark, but dry. Strangely warm—when outside the storm still raged with its icy pellets of rain and driving wind. She fought to control her breathing, as roughened hands grasped her and started to push the water out of her hair, and away from her face.
Sam looked up at the familiar voice. She found the speaker in the darkness—a girl of around fifteen, her dark hair tumbling around her shoulders, her lovely face wreathed in worry. She forced a word past the pain in her gut. "Kawehi."
"Nohea—Sam." Kawehi knelt at the Major's side. "Did you find them?"
Sam nodded. With wet, cold fingers, she unzipped her jacket and reached in to where she held the infant.
She was tied to the Major's body with a wide swath of kapa cloth. Tightly swaddled, the baby's soft ear was pressed to where Sam's heart still throbbed wildly in her chest. The Major's t-shirt had been sacrificed as a make-shift diaper, and the baby's little body felt warm and unbelievably alive pressed against Sam's skin. Downy soft, her hair was wet, but she seemed otherwise fine. Through the kapa sling, Sam could feel her breathing, hear the mewling sounds the child made as she sucked on a chubby little fist.
"I brought this one with me—she was the only one I could carry."
"Moana! Keiki-wahine Puamaile." Kawehi turned her body and spoke into the darkened interior of the room. "Moana is her mother. She will come."
"Good. I'm not sure how long it's been since she's been fed."
"She will be cared for."
Of that, Sam had no doubt. Of everything else—she closed her eyes against the images that coursed—ugly, and fractured—through her mind.
"Nohea—where is Colonel Jack? Where is Daniel?"
And to this, Sam could only bite her lip, squeezing her eyes more tightly shut. She felt hands untie the kapa around her body, felt the baby being lifted away, sensed a surge of cool air against her chest. And then Teal'c hands, gently zipping her jacket back closed over her exposed bra.
The Jaffa's voice flowed through the darkness like molasses. "Major Carter. Where are O'Neill and Daniel?"
"She has them." Sam's whisper gritted out from between clenched teeth. She opened her eyes and focused on Teal'c—on his staunch features—on his strength. "She has them all—Daniel, the Colonel, and the other babies."
"Who?" Teal'c's brows lowered over his hard eyes. He waited for three heartbeats—four—before gently shaking her shoulder. "Major Carter—who has them?"
And Sam could barely control the tremor in her voice when she answered. "Nirrti."