Author Topic: Chapter 2  (Read 6438 times)

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Offline Daen

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Chapter 2
« on: July 29, 2022, 04:39:08 AM »
It was days like this, Esot reflected, that truly made life worth living. He good-naturedly allowed himself to be pulled this way and that through the forest by his niece, the highly active, six-year-old Kaltai. The past week had been grueling, with the planting season finally ending, and the process of rebuilding his home city of Mendoha was well underway. The Jaffa butchers hadn't left them much to work with, but they were strong. Even the Earth people, or tau'ri, as most others called them, had said so. He'd been told his ancestors had come from Earth, but knew in his heart that Zau would always be his home. He turned his face into the breeze and stopped, enjoying the moment.

"Uncle? What are you doing?" For a child, she had an impressive grip on his hand.

Esot smiled down at her. "I'm living free, Kaltai. We all are."

"Huh?"

Esot lifted her up and placed her on his shoulders, an increasingly difficult task these days. He started walking back, careful to avoid low branches. "Do you remember having to go to the caves last winter with your mother?" He swayed slightly as she nodded emphatically. Like most children, she used her entire body for most simple movements. "Do you remember why?"

Kaltai traced the scar on his left cheekbone with her fingers. "Mama said it was to be safe from the snake-men."

"That's right. Your father and I and many others stayed here to fight the Jaffa, with our friends from Earth. We beat them, and now we can all live free." He took another deep breath. Even the air tasted better, now.

He turned south, towards home. "Come on, Kaltai. We should get home. Your mother will be wondering where you are."

"Aww, can't we stay? It's pretty out here."

Esot chuckled as he gently lifted her and placed her back on the ground. "We'll come back soon. I promise."

She nodded forcefully, and regained her iron grip on his hand. She pointed with her other hand to the east. "What's that?"

"That's the chappa'ai. It's like a doorway leading many places. We weren't allowed near it until recently."

"No, that." She pointed more emphatically. "That light."

Esot squinted over at the chappa'ai. He could see the light, now. He'd only seen it happen once before. With a sinking feeling in his stomach, he picked Kaltai up and began walking quickly towards the town. "That, dear one, means the door is open."

-.-

When he could see the visitors clearly, Esot's apprehension evaporated. By their uniforms and speech, they were definitely from Earth, but he could tell that they were agitated. The weapons they had so effectively used against the Jaffa were at the ready, and two of the three visitors were actively watching the area, looking for threats. Esot recognized Colonel Rowe, one of the men who'd helped them against the Jaffa. He set Kaltai down, telling her to go home, and she skipped off, carefree. He couldn't help but smile at that.

As he approached, he could hear the Colonel speaking.

"-situation. We didn't plan on coming here, but we may need to stay a few days."

"I understand, Colonel." That was Verai, the Elder. An ironic title in Esot's opinion, given that she was almost thirty years his junior, but she'd definitely earned it. Her willingness to risk her life for her people, and her cunning in battle, had contributed to her being named to the position last year. "The people of Earth are welcome here, of course. However, by coming here, you've included us in your… situation. We deserve an explanation." She looked expectantly at Rowe, who seemed uncomfortable. He traded glances with another tau'ri, who shrugged, and then continued.

"We've been cut off from Earth. We don't know why, or for how long, but this world is much safer than the last one, and I decided to come here."

There was murmur from the small crowd that had gathered nearby. Verai raised a hand to quiet them. "I assume this is why one of your people is at the chappa'ai right now?"

Rowe nodded. "For now, we're assuming Earth is under attack by the Goa'uld. It would explain why we can't go there, or to the other base we have nearby. The Goa'uld can't keep a Starg- a chappa'ai, I mean, open for more than thirty-eight minutes, so I told Newsom to keep trying. If we're lucky, we can contact Earth before the Goa'uld try again."

Esot stepped into the gap in the crowd. "And if you are not lucky?"

"Then I guess we figure out our next step here." Rowe turned to face him. "It's good to see you, Esot." They exchanged nods, and Rowe turned back to Verai. "I know we're imposing here, and I'm sorry about that. All I can tell you is we'll be gone as soon as we have somewhere to go."

There was another murmur from the crowd, and Verai looked around, slowly. "You helped us be rid of the Jaffa and their Goa'uld masters. You've earned passage here, and more. All I require is that you keep us informed of your actions while you are here."

The Colonel's radio buzzed slightly and Esot could hear a voice through it, barely. Rowe bowed slightly to Verai and the crowd and backed off to answer it. Esot could see his features brighten slightly, and he excused himself and his team and moved off towards the chappa'ai. Esot stepped over to Verai's side. "Elder, I think we should keep watchers on them at all times, and keep them away from Mendoha." He spoke quietly into her ear.

She looked at him, surprised. "Why would you say that?"

"It's just a feeling, really." He frowned. "You didn't see them fight during the uprising. I did. Their weapons… and the looks on their faces. I'm not sure I trust them anymore."

Verai looked at the crowd, now dispersing, and herded him out of earshot of the others. "Explain."

He sighed. "Compared to our warriors, the soldiers of Earth are terrifyingly effective. They train and condition themselves all their lives for combat. I spoke with them about it during the uprising. They have thousands more just like them on Earth- probably more. Rowe and the others are part of something vast, and if they've been cut off from Earth-"

"They could be capable of anything." She thought about it, and finally shook her head. "No. I trust your instincts, Esot, but I won't antagonize them. They've been respectful of our ways, and they have enough worries without us adding to them. I won't treat them as enemies. Not until they deserve it."

Esot could hear in her voice, and see in her stance, that further persuasion was pointless. She'd made up her mind.

He bowed respectfully. "As you wish, Elder."

The knot in his stomach was back.

-.-

As his team neared the Zau 'gate, Rowe was surprised to see a young woman there, leaning over the DHD next to Newsom. Like most Zau, she kept her brown hair short, and it took him a moment to recognize her. Newsom had been ordered to stay on the locals' good side, and he seemed torn between his orders and his desire to work in peace. He shooed her away, and she stepped back, smiling, only to step forward again as soon as he turned away.

Rowe suppressed a smile as he approached. "Sunny, right?"

She straightened and turned to face him. "Suna, sir."

He thought he heard a snicker and glanced at Wu, but saw nothing in his expression. "Well, Suna, could you give us some space?" She nodded good-naturedly and began up the road back to town. Once he was sure she was out of earshot, he looked at Newsom. "You said you have news?"

"Yes, sir. When I was sure it wasn't a problem with this 'gate, I tried a few of the other addresses on the mission list, and got lucky. When I dialed P4C-989, I got a radio signal from Colonel Stokes." Newsom hesitated. "He says they can't dial Earth either."

Rowe looked at the 'gate. "Why aren't we still dialed in, then?"

"Colonel Stokes' orders, sir. We're to dial in again in ten minutes and join them there. Apparently, he's made contact with several other SG teams and wants them all in one place." Newsom's discomfort was obvious. "Sir… is he-"

"Yes, he's in charge. Until we're in contact with Earth again, he's our CO." Rowe thought for a moment. "Pack up our gear and be ready to move in ten. I'll tell the locals we'll be out of their hair soon."

-.-

Colonel Stokes paced back and forth just inside the makeshift research lab. The air was so wet he felt he'd be swimming before long. Outside, as if he'd called for it with his thoughts, a thunderclap sounded and rain continued to fall. Heavily. He grunted in irritation and looked around. Seven others were packed into the entryway, looking miserable or bored. A sliding glass door separated them from the lab, which held three more, including the lead scientist, Dr. Hughes. Stokes tapped the shoulder of his comm specialist, Captain Page, and had to speak up to be heard over the rain. "Where are we with the others?"

"Looking good, sir. SG-14 has arrived and is on its way here. SG-11 should be arriving any time now." Page looked up from the large radio set up on the entryway desk. "They should be the last."

Stokes nodded and slid the glass door aside, moving into the lab. "Hughes, you said you predicted the rain. Any idea how long it'll last? It'd be better if we didn't have the meeting indoors."

Doctor Hughes, a tall, lanky man with a receding hairline and watery eyes, looked up and sighed with exasperation. "As I said, the planet's weather conditions are easy to predict this time of year. This storm should be gone in another half hour. The really bad storms, monsoon-style, won't be here for a week or so, and those are harder to predict." He eyed Stokes' muddy boots critically. "And would you please stop tracking mud in here? We have an entryway for a reason, you know."

Stokes could only stare. He sounded serious.

"Thanks, Doc." He slapped him on the shoulder with his muddier hand, and left before Hughes could sputter out another protest.

He was checking the clearing for more SG people a few minutes later when an earsplitting static noise hit the room. Everyone tried to cover their ears as they checked their radios. The noise was overwhelming. Even Page had to take off his headphones and lower the volume on his equipment. After about a minute, the noise stopped as suddenly as it started.

Shaking his head to clear the ringing silence after-effect, Stokes looked around. "The hell was that?"

Page was cycling through frequencies again. "Sounded like RF interference of some kind, sir. It definitely didn't start here." He looked up. "Some kind of feedback signal caused by the rain?"

Growling, Stokes rapped on the glass slider. A miffed-looking Hughes opened it. "Anything on this planet mess with your radios so far, Hughes?"

"Not that I know of. That wasn't you?"

Page was waving at him from across the room. Stokes closed the door on Hughes and walked over to him.

"SG-11 just radioed in, sir. They're three minutes out. Also, the RF interference coincided with their 'gate arrival. Colonel Rowe said it's common on the planet they're inbound from."

"Well, it better not happen again. Is the 'gate still open?" Page shook his head. "Good."

As they spoke, the rain lightened, and finally seemed to stop. A look out the window showed receding clouds and, thankfully, blue skies behind them.

Stokes opened the slider again. "How long 'till it rains again, Hughes?"

The doctor threw up his hands and stalked away, grumbling loudly. One of the others, an amused-looking woman named Haley Matthews, responded. "Not for another three hours at least."

"Finally, some good news." Stokes raised his voice. "All right. Everybody outside."

There was a minor stampede out of the cramped quarters.
« Last Edit: July 29, 2022, 05:29:40 AM by Daen »