Okay – another new story! I decided that I've had Sam be much too pathetic and girlie for the last little while, so have decided to make her the heroine in this one. For those who like a strong, take no prisoners Carter – this story is for you. It will contain my usual whump (sorry!) probably for both Sam and Jack. As for romance – well, it's pretty much 'team-fic' to possibly UST (although you all know me by now – RST always seems to force its way into my stories). Still – it's mostly adventure for now and we'll see where it leads me.

I will be continuing my other series as well on S/J. Reviews desperately desired and appreciated!

"Carter!"

"I'm trying Sir. I don't know what's wrong."

"Well try harder! They're coming."

This time she didn't answer as there was really nothing more to say. She knew the Colonel was worried – they really didn't have much time. Unfortunately, unlike the last time they'd been stuck with a non-working Stargate, this time they had vicious locals trying to capture or kill them. They really were running out of options.

They'd been on the planet for a couple of days, doing their usual 'check out and see if there are any weapons we can use in defense of the Goa'uld' visit. They hadn't seen a thing, although the Colonel had said he didn't like this place. "Too peaceful, too easy", he said. "Makes me suspicious." He and Teal'c had done continuous checks while Sam and Daniel did their scientific exploration.

There were some old ruins, but after a preliminary look, Daniel had said they were insignificant. "There was a civilization here at one point", he said, "but there's really not much left and nothing which indicates what kind of people they were or even why they're not here anymore. The remains are pretty minimal, and it would take a much more extensive expedition to determine if there's anything of substance here."

"Is one warranted?" asked Jack. He trusted that Daniel would tell him if they needed to send another team back or not.

"No, I don't think so. Not unless we find something more substantive. It looks like whatever civilization was here is gone now."

"Right. Carter, how about you? How are your tests going?"

"Like Daniel I haven't found much Sir. It doesn't appear as if there are any important mineral findings here, at least not in the areas I've checked. I did get one strange reading – just briefly – but I think it may have been an equipment malfunction. It wasn't repeated and since then I've seen nothing unusual."

"You're sure? It's not some Goa'uld thingy or something."

She bit her lip so as not to smile. Only the Colonel would refer to alien technology as a 'thingy'. She knew he was an intelligent man and he also had a reasonable understanding of technology – he couldn't do what he did without it – but he liked to play the fool. She never quite knew if it was for his own amusement, or if he wanted Daniel and her the feeling that they knew more than him, and so were vital to the team. Whatever it was, most of the time she enjoyed his self-effacing humor. Sometimes of course, usually when they were standing at the wrong end of a staff weapon, it drove her crazy.

"I don't think so Sir. I've seen no evidence of any technology here. As far as I can tell, this planet is uninhabited."

"Now that's something that confuses me Major", his forehead crinkled as if deep in thought. "How in the world do you know if the whole planet is uninhabited? I mean, we've only seen a tiny portion of it. What if there's somebody on the other side? I mean, what if we were aliens and we landed on earth in say – Siberia – and we looked around and said, 'this planet is obviously uninhabited.' I mean, couldn't there be people, oh, I don't know, on another continent or something?"

Daniel and Sam both stopped and looked at the Colonel. Daniel simply frowned, but Sam had a twinkle in her eye. See, she knew the Colonel was smart.

"Well Sir, you have a good point, actually."

"I do?" he said in surprise, his eyebrows lifting in shock. "Hey Teal'c", he turned to his Jaffa friend. "Carter said I have a good point." He smiled, looking very proud of himself. "See Daniel, I do have good ideas now and then."

"Yes Jack, you sometimes do have good ideas", the archaeologist said, sounding as if he were simply humoring the Colonel.

"So Carter, does that mean there could be people on this planet."

"Yes Sir."

"What? That's it? You're telling me now that maybe this place isn't uninhabited? But you just said -"

"Well Sir, on most planets we've visited, the local population seems to reside within a few miles of the Gate. Because so many planets seemed to have been populated by people being brought through the Gate, it's only logical that at least some of the population would remain there."

The Colonel sighed. "So you're saying that the planet probably is uninhabited?"

"Yes Sir – probably."

"So, you need to check anything else before we go?"

"Uh, I just wanted to go up to that ridge", she pointed to a rocky hill a couple of kilometers in the distance, "and check for mineral readings. If there's anything of importance it can sometimes be in more mountainous regions."

"How long do you need Major?"

"It shouldn't take more than a couple of hours Sir. Just enough time to take a few samples."

"Okay then. Teal'c, why don't you and Daniel break camp and head back to the SGC? I'll accompany Carter so she can do get her 'samples'. No point in all of us hanging around. Tell Hammond that we'll be back", he looked at his watch, "by 1800 hours."

While Daniel and Teal'c began to collect their things, O'Neill and Carter headed towards the hills. It was a pleasant walk; the ancient trail was well worn and the sun was shining brightly through the cool canopy of the trees.

O'Neill kept his eyes open, although he was reassured by Carter's view that the place was uninhabited. Still, you could never be too careful and they'd run into their share of trouble on seemingly innocent looking planets.

"It's a beautiful day Sir", Carter smiled as she looked around. "It's nice to be somewhere peaceful for a change", she commented. They'd had a number of difficult missions lately.

"That it is Major, that it is."

They chatted about inconsequential things as they continued towards the hills. Within a short time they'd reached the base of the mountain – although Jack said sarcastically, "Kind of a puny mountain Carter – more of a hill I'd say."

"Yes Colonel", she grinned.

"After you Major", he held his arm out to indicate she should precede him. "Let's go mountain climbing."

Actually, he'd been right that it was really a hill, although a craggy one. There wasn't a trail, per se, but it was relatively easy to climb. Once, she slid back on a patch of shale, but the Colonel managed to grab her and hold on until she was steady.

"Thank you Sir."

"No problem Major – wouldn't want you to fall and ur – break something."

They finally reached the ridge she'd spotted from their camp and she began collecting samples. He continued to keep his eyes open for any dangers but for the first little while everything seemed normal.

It was just as Sam was gathering her last bit of 'dirt', that things changed. Jack would later swear that the sky darkened, although that was probably just his imagination. What he did know was that he suddenly had the feeling that they were being watched. He looked around carefully but couldn't see anything. Still, he trusted his instincts.

"There's someone here Carter", he said softly. "Stand up carefully and we're going to head back down to the trail."

"Where are they Sir?" she asked, equally as quietly. She slowly stood and picked up her pack and her weapon, which she held at the ready.

"I don't know. I just know we're being watched." They began to walk back down the side of the 'mountain', the way they'd come. They moved slowly and casually, as if unaware of anything out of the ordinary.

Sam could feel it too. She, like the Colonel, had a sixth sense that was on full alert. Someone was definitely watching them.

At that moment they both heard a noise coming from their right. They quickly looked and could see what looked like a band of men moving towards them. They were still at least six or eight hundred meters away, but it was obvious, from the way they were moving and the weapons they were carrying, that they weren't friendly.

"Let's move it Major. I don't think we want to meet these guys!" Without any more discussion, they both began to run towards the Gate. Fortunately, the men were coming from the opposite direction."

"Drop all your equipment except your weapons", the Colonel called.

She nodded and did as he said, not pausing as she let the equipment drop along with the samples. They continued to run towards the Gate and she couldn't help but be thankful that the trail was clear.

They reached the DHD in good time. She was pretty sure they would have time to make it before the men following them arrived.

That was before she discovered that the DHD wasn't working. Of course not, she thought. It was almost a cliché – rather like the car that would never start when the heroine was trying to get away from the bad guys.

"Carter!" he said again, "they'll be here any minute."

"I know Sir. I don't know what's wrong. It's as if something is jamming it."

"You think it's the guys who are after us?"

"I don't know, maybe." She pulled out the panel underneath, but as far as she could tell, everything looked fine."

"Carter, go. I'll try to hold them –you get out of here."

"No Sir, you'll be captured. I'll stay with-"

"Carter do as I say!" he practically yelled. They could hear the sounds of the men approaching. They both ran to try and take cover behind a few sparse trees. "Get out of here. You can come back and try the DHD again and bring help. No sense in both of us being captured."

She nodded, knowing it made sense, but hating to leave the Colonel. "Be careful Sir", she said as she turned and headed out towards the ruins. There were more trees and dense brush in the area around the settlement and if she had a hope of not being seen, it was in that area. As she ran she heard shots being fired and prayed that the Colonel would be okay.

Jack squatted down behind a tree and watched as the men ran into the clearing in front of the Gate. He noticed they barely gave it a glance, so they obviously were familiar with it.

There were eight men and they were all big – bigger than Teal'c – and rough looking. One of them, he suspected it was the leader, carried a tattoo across his face, which started on his forehead and then swept around his eye, down his cheek and onto his neck. Jack wasn't sure from this distance, but it almost looked like a snake.

All of them carried some kind of unusual weapon. He couldn't tell from the look of them whether they were primitive ballistic weapons or something more sophisticated. They were black and short – no longer than a pistol – but had a longer and wider barrel. He couldn't see any kind of trigger although it had a short handle which the men were holding clutched in their hand.

They were dressed in what looked like roughly made homespun clothing, with simple armor over the chest and abdomen as well as some kind of plates that covered their thighs and separate ones over their lower legs. Their hair was long and greasy, and they all sported beards. All in all, not an attractive or friendly looking crowd.

It wasn't long before he was spotted – which didn't surprise him, considering the relative lack of cover. He waited, however, to see what the men would do. He wanted to avoid a fire-fight, if at all possible, knowing he'd most likely be the loser.

When one of the men lifted his weapon and the tree beside him practically exploded, he knew his wish was not to be granted. He dove away from the tree, just as another shot was fired, and began to shoot back.

He hit one of the men, who immediately screamed and fell to the ground. That stopped everything for a second, as his companions froze, looking at their fallen comrade. Unfortunately, the reprieve only lasted a few brief seconds and then they began to fire at him again. But this time they did not use the same weapons. Instead, the leader said something and two of them pulled out what looked like some kind of unusual cross bow. The bolt was silver and about 12 inches long. What was amazing was how quickly they could shoot and reload the weapon.

Jack continued to fire, hoping that Sam was making it to safety. He pretty much figured he was toast but at least he could die – not happy, never that – but with the knowledge that his team, and especially Carter, was safe.

On that thought he suddenly felt a sharp pain hit him in the chest, followed by another in the thigh. His last thought was that he should have known better. It was always the seemingly peaceful planets that got you.

Sam was panting by the time she reached the ruins. She had continued to run as she listened to the sound of weapon fire in the background. She was practically sobbing from running so hard, but also from fear for the Colonel. There was no way he could survive against all those men. She should never have left him.

But you couldn't have helped him if you'd stayed, she reasoned to herself. The Colonel was right. This way you can go back and get help. He'll be okay – he has to be. There was no way he was going to die on this stupid worthless planet. She thought back briefly to their conversation and wanted to hit herself – uninhabited indeed! What an idiot you are Carter. He trusted you and look where we are. He may be de – no, she refused to believe it.

It took her a second before she realized that the weapons had stopped. Instead, there was silence. She looked around but couldn't see anywhere where she could safely hide. There wasn't enough left of the ruins to provide cover.

She continued into the forest beyond the ruins, careful not to leave a trail. She thought briefly of Teal'c and the Colonel, who had spent hours teaching Daniel and her how to travel without leaving a trace. She was thankful because she was pretty sure it might just give her a chance to survive. She kept moving, even though she was ready to drop. There was still no place to hide!

It was only a couple of moments later when she saw it. It wasn't perfect, but it might just do. Off to the side of the trail, through a small copse of trees, and in the side of a small rise, was a tiny cave. It was almost more of a dent in the rock. She gathered up some branches and bushes and managed to cover it, creating a small burrow. Standing back, she looked at it but could no longer tell it was there. She then moved behind the branches and sat back carefully, leaning up against the rock with her weapon in her lap. She could only see out through a tiny hole in the foliage, but she knew she'd hear anyone approaching anyway. She just prayed that they would not see her.

Sitting in the dark, against the side of the small hill, she couldn't help but shiver, both from reaction as well as from fear. She prayed that the Colonel was okay. They probably just captured him, she reasoned, and were going to take him to their village. Once she knew she was safe, she'd try the DHD again and bring back help. There's no way they were going to leave the Colonel behind.

She felt like she'd been hiding for hours, although according to her watch it had only been about ninety minutes, when she heard the sound of people moving through the forest. As the footsteps and voices grew closer, she could feel her heart speed up. She had difficulty keeping her breathing quiet and her hand from shaking. She continued to look out the tiny hole, but since she was only able to see a very tiny area, it was almost worse than if she had seen nothing at all.

The voices grew near, sounding as if they were almost on top of her. She couldn't understand what they were saying and didn't even recognize the language. She wished Daniel were here - hell, she wished Teal'c were here. He'd know what to do.

She heard the rustling grow nearer and almost lifted her gun, stopping herself only at the last minute. There was more rustling and then laughter. They were men's voices and she assumed they were the same ones they'd seen before. She didn't hear the Colonel's voice which either meant he was dead, hurt or that some of them had stayed back with their prisoner. She hoped it was choice number three.

She continued to hold her gun at the ready, sure that she'd soon be discovered. After what seemed like a long time, but could only have been a few minutes, she heard the sounds of footsteps moving away and the voices began to fade. She continued to stand still however, knowing that it was totally possible that someone had stayed back.

She sat in her little hiding place for another couple of hours. Even if all of them had moved on, they could still be searching the forest.

She looked at her watch again and saw that it was after 1900 hours – past time she and the Colonel were to have headed back to the SGC. She knew General Hammond would give them a bit of extra time, but he would soon try and open the Gate and probably send a team through to find out what was wrong.

She waited for another hour before she cautiously ventured out. Listening carefully, she slowly made her way back towards the Gate. She had heard no more sounds, although if there had been a fight, or if Hammond had sent another team, she probably wouldn't have heard anything anyway. She'd travelled quite a distance from the Stargate.

It took her almost two hours, travelling slowly and in the dark, by the time she got close to the Gate. She still saw and heard nothing, so continued to move more closely, although she knew she had to be careful because of the lack of cover around the DHD.

She was lying on the ground, taking note of every shadow, every noise, when she noticed a faint light in the distance. It was in the direction of the mountain, where they'd been discovered by the men.

Indecisive at first, she finally decided to move in the direction of the light, which she assumed must be their campfire. If it was the men who'd followed them, she would be able to see whether or not they had the Colonel. She could see no evidence of any SGC teams so surmised that the Gate must still be out. She didn't want to try it yet, since she wasn't sure what had happened to the Colonel, or whether any of them men were still close by.

By the time she arrived at the men's camp, the fire itself was almost out and things were quiet. She had seen at least one man on watch, and there could be more, so she stayed down near to the ground and moved extremely slowly and cautiously until she could things more clearly.

The men were sprawled out on the ground, covered in some kind of furs or blankets. There was what looked like the remains of a meal spread out on the ground and beside each man a small pile of armor. They all looked sound asleep – drunk maybe – but she was taking no chances and didn't try to move any closer.

She turned her head slowly, trying to see if Colonel O'Neill was anywhere to be seen. Since she kept her eyes focused on the ground she missed him at first pass.

Finally glancing upward, she gasped but then quickly covered her mouth. She immediately froze, hoping, praying to whatever god was watching that she hadn't been heard. When everything appeared calm after a few minutes, she again looked at what had caused her dismay.

Colonel O'Neill was tied to a tree. His arms were pulled back behind him, and were tied around the trunk. Ropes were looped around his chest, hips and thighs and they held him upright against the tree. His head was resting on his chest and he wasn't moving.

By the light of the moon, she could see that his shirt was wet as was one pant leg. Although there were no colors visible in this light she was positive that what she was seeing was blood.

She closed her eyes briefly, wondering if the Colonel was even alive.