Of Falling Rocks and Unlikely Allies

By Rocza

Email: roczadeb@yahoo.com

Story Status: Complete

Sequel Information: None

Series Information: None

Season: 7 (after Death Knell, before Heroes)

Spoilers: 0317 A Hundred Days, 0615 Paradise Lost, 0716 Death Knell

Categories: Action/Adventure, Angst, Hurt/Comfort

Crossover: None

Pairing: None

Content Level: PG-13

Content Warning: Graphic injuries

Summary: Jack is separated from his team off-world and must survive in a hostile environment. But he isn’t alone for long. He comes into contact with another individual who is lost and struggling to survive.

Archive Permissions: Any who want it are welcome. Just give me credit.

Disclaimer: Stargate SG-1 and Atlantis and its characters are the property of Showtime/Viacom, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, Gekko Productions; not me. This story is for entertainment purposes only and no money exchanged hands. No copyright infringement intended. The story is the property of the author and may not be posted without the author’s consent.

Jack-Fic-A-Thon Prompt:

Jack is separated from his team off-world and must survive in a hostile environment in which he encounters another sentient non-humanoid struggling to survive. Jack must handle the first contact all by himself (the non-humanoid does not speak English!) and work toward rescue for both of them. Eventually he finds/is found by his team.

Want - Realistic Jack whumpage/ h-c is a much-appreciated bonus.

Don’t want – ship, Tok'ra, Aris Boch, or Jonas.

~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG

“We are not lost. We are locationally challenged.” John M. Ford

SG-1 exited the wormhole with their usual flair. Colonel O’Neill led the team down the steps and they surveyed the area. After ensuring there was no apparent threat to his team, the Colonel directed Daniel to check the DHD while the others continued to examine the landscape.

Sam grinned when she heard the Colonel finally ask, “Carter? Is this normal? I mean I know that I ‘said’ I was sick of trees, but… really…” She watched him gesture to the surrounding tree-less landscape.

The terrain was quite a sight. The Stargate was placed in the center of a small natural bowl in the landscape. The ground was a dark black color and broken only by a few pale plants that looked like leper spots against the dark ground. In the distance, Jack could just make out the jagged blood red rocks that formed the rim of the bowl.

The whole color scheme was just wrong unless found on a toddler’s toy or at a Goth party. But it made the sky appear a deep blue color, the only normal thing about the planet. The words ‘freakish’ and ‘alien’ came to mind as she took it all in. Yet, at the same time it was a familiar sight, though she couldn’t quite place where.

“Yes, Sir,” she replied.

The Colonel gave her an odd look. He paused at her apparent lack of an explanation, “Ya sure? ‘Cause it sure doesn’t look very normal.”

“Well, Jack, it IS an alien planet,” Daniel piped up, as he checked the DHD, oblivious. Sam turned away to hide her smirk.

“Ha. Ha. Daniel. So, where to, Carter?” Jack asked. He was apparently ready to collect, survey, and shake the dust of this planet off his boots.

“That way, Sir,” she pointed. “If we head out about ½ a mile, we should find the UAV. Then we can make a circuit around the Stargate to cover sampling the soil in all directions. Providing we don’t see anything of interest, I estimate about four hours, tops.”

Sam wasn’t looking forward to spending an extended period of time on this planet either. She had been glad when the aerial survey didn’t show any sign of civilization. It would shorten their stay dramatically. The planet was odd enough without adding aliens in the mix. But this was also her first trip off-world since her close encounter with the super-soldier at the Alpha site… the former Alpha site. Physically she was 100%. But mentally she was still a bit jittery. This trip was General Hammond’s way of settling her nerves. It was supposed to be a nice easy trip.

Sam pointed in the direction of the UAV and took the lead. Daniel followed taking the right side and Colonel O’Neill took up the left. Finally, Teal’c brought up the rear.

Though she didn’t know why, Sam felt oddly comforted by the strange landscape. It felt familiar and comfortable and not at all threatening. It was a few minutes into the hike before she finally realized why.

The last real Carter family vacation, before her mother died, was to Yellowstone National Park. Her father had been stationed at Mountain Home AFB in Idaho. That year, he had decided to do a full two-week camping trip. As they drove to Yellowstone, they stopped to visit the Craters of the Moon National Monument. Sam had never seen anything quite so alien as the vast lava fields that surrounded the park. Her family had spent the day hiking all over the park trails, visiting the various sights, and learning about the unique geology of the place.

That day had been one of the happy highlights in her childhood. She can still remember how excited she was when she found out that the Apollo 14 astronauts had visited the Monument to prepare for their trip to the moon. Her dad had said that since he couldn’t take her to the moon for vacation, this was the next best thing.

But like all of her memories that included her mother, it was tainted with the bittersweet feeling of loss. Not just for her mother, but with the recent separation of the Tok’ra alliance, for her father as well.

A few minutes into the hike, the Colonel caught up to her. “Carter? Are you all right?”

Sam gave him a small, sad smile, “Yes, Sir.”

“Ya sure?”

“Yeah. This place just reminds me of a happier time,” she stated, sadly. Fondly remembering how she and her brother played at aliens among the rough lava rocks.

He frowned at her, “This place? Happier?”

“Yup. You?” she said diverting attention from her memories.

For all that SG-1 was close, they all still firmly placed the past in the past, seldom mentioning family or history. It was habit more than anything else, a habit that they all shared. She trusted these men with her sanity and her life yet didn’t feel comfortable sharing this happy memory. So instead of sharing, she would deflect interest. She was getting good at deflection, though not quite as good as Colonel O’Neill. He was definitely a master at it.

“Well, all I can say is this place reminds me of a bad acid trip,” he gave her a small grin. “But if it makes you happy, by all means, carry on.” He gave her a broad gesture and fell back to pester Daniel some more. She listened as the Colonel complained to Daniel about the weirdness of the place. Her sad smile returned as she continued to relive her own happy memory.

Before long the team had reached the UAV. Teal’c strapped the small aircraft to his pack as Sam quickly took samples of the soil, rocks, and nearby vegetation. She signaled when she was finished and the group moved to the next sample site.

By the time the team had reached the second sampling site, they had relaxed a bit. They had grown used to the odd lava field landscape and they still hadn’t seen any sign of people, alien or otherwise. They had even sighted the occasional twisted pine tree growing in the rocks and a scattering of large rodents living in the rock formations, which had started a lively debate on exactly what to call the creatures.

“But, Jack, they look and behave just like an American Wood Chuck,” Daniel had been the first to fall into the debate.

“No woods, Daniel. But they are black with little white faces, hence, Nun.”

“What about Rock Chuck? They do live in among the rocks,” Daniel pointed out.

“Indeed,” agreed Teal’c, finally sucked into the debate.

“Ack! It’s too plain. Boring. If ya gotta name something, make it snappy,” Jack replied. “Memorable, even.”

“I don’t care, Jack. I’m not calling them Nun Chucks in my report. I’d rather call them boring alien rock rodents,” Daniel finished.

Sam stifled a giggle, as she finished packing away her second set of samples.

“Whoa.”

Sam turned at the Colonel’s quiet comment and found him staring off into the sky. Alarmed, she followed his gaze to find two of the planet’s moons on the rise. One moon was normal and nearly full in the pale light.

However, the second moon caught her full attention. The second moon was obviously in a closer orbit and was visibly breaking up. The normal round shape was smashed and broken as the gravitational forces of the planet, the other moons, and the sun all pulled it different directions. This system’s sun was even illuminating the larger chunks of the moon as they were slowly separating from each other.

“Wow,” she whispered. It was a new sight for the team that had seen so much in this galaxy.

“You can say that again,” the Colonel echoed her.

Turning their attention back to their task, the team started off in the direction of the third sampling site. Before they made another 50 yards, the sky was lit by a meteor shower. They didn’t think too much of it until a small meteor hit the ground not far from their position. And then another. They immediately took shelter next to one of the rock formations. As one, her teammates looked to her.

“Carter, what are we looking at here?”

Like I know what the hell is going on. Time to pull some smart remark right out of my ass...Alright, think damn it!... “I assume the meteors are from the broken moon. I have no idea how long this could go on. But if they are, then I think it could be a regular event. Most of the moon rocks should burn up in the atmosphere, but as we have already seen, some don’t.” Sam was nervous. The last time she had proclaimed a meteor shower safe, the Colonel had been stranded on Edora for over 3 months. She wasn’t willing to make the same mistake again. “I recommend that we head back until it passes.”

“Alright, let’s head for the gate. Nice and easy. Teal’c, I want you to find a route that will stick to the rocks as much as possible,” the Colonel gave out his orders and the rest of the team snapped into action.

However, the meteor shower intensified after a few minutes. More small meteorites began to strike the ground, some quite small. Sam was reminded of dodging bullets and staff blasts.

“That’s it! Drop the gear. Double-time. Let’s go,” the colonel was clearly worried that they wouldn’t make it as well.

Sam dropped her rucksack and helped Daniel drop his. Teal’c waited for the others before he started jogging in the direction of the Stargate, the rest of the team sprinting after him.

When they reached the small bowl holding the Stargate, the Colonel stopped them behind a large grouping of rocks. Except for the DHD, there was no cover leading to the Stargate.

“Damn it!” the Colonel shouted, as he watched small meteorites pepper the bowl randomly. “Alright, here’s the plan. I’ll dial the gate and send the code. Once you hear me give the all clear, I want each of you to sprint to the gate one at a time. I’ll bring up the rear.”

“But, Jack, there’s no shelter out there!” Daniel exclaimed.

“Not true. I’ll take cover behind the DHD,” the Colonel exclaimed. He gave Teal’c a meaningful look then sprinted off for the DHD.

Sam watched, her heart racing, as he ran to the DHD and then quickly dialed. She gave a sigh of relief as he ducked behind the DHD without any near misses, or worse, any hits.

“It’s clear. Carter, go!” the radio squawked.

Sam gave Daniel and Teal’c a small smile as she mentally prepared herself for the last sprint. Then she was off racing the meteors for the safety of the Stargate. She could hear her radio, but not make out the words. Then she was up the steps and with a running leap was sucked into the wormhole.

The shock of gate travel didn’t slow her pace and she burst into the gate room at full tilt. She finished her run down the ramp. Mindful of the danger the small meteorites still posed, she circled around to the side of the Stargate, out of the line of fire, to wait for her teammates. She couldn’t be hit accidentally from this angle. But she refused to leave the gate room until all her teammates were back.

The Colonel must have called ahead, because the gate room was clear of the usual security contingent. But the blast shield was not down. She turned her gaze back to the open Stargate as she anxiously waited for her teammates to come through.

Next, Daniel burst through the gate at a full sprint. He too had jumped just before entering the event horizon and was able to safely land before slowing down on the ramp. He jogged to her side and they waited for their two remaining team mates.

Sam was starting to worry at how long it was taking when Teal’c leapt through the gate followed by two small meteorites. The meteorites smashed through the ramp and hit the ground creating small smoking craters. She met his eyes as he turned.

Teal’c gave her a solid nod as he joined them where they waited...And waited. Sam glanced back up at the control room to see the general staring intently at a monitor as he issued several orders. The control room burst into a flurry of activity. She looked back at the Stargate in horror as the wormhole began to flash and the ring began to spark.

No! Not again. Please, Colonel, come through. Now, damn it!

With one last flash, the wormhole shut down without Colonel O’Neill.

She gave a panicked look to Daniel and Teal’c before facing the control room once more. “General?”

General Hammond turned a grim look to the remaining members of SG-1. “Stand-by people. We need to send you back to get Colonel O’Neill.” He turned and the Stargate started dialing. He finally addressed them again, “The colonel was apparently struck by a meteorite just before Teal’c entered the Stargate. Teal’c, I want you to return and bring him home. Major Carter and Doctor Jackson will wait here for your return.”

“Yes, Sir,” Sam replied, feeling lost. She would have to wait. She hated waiting more than anything else. But she understood the sound reasoning of the order. Teal’c was the fastest and the strongest. Teal’c would bring him home.

“Chevron Five encoded.” She watched the Stargate dial, trying not to think about the Colonel lying unconscious, or worse, in the middle of the deadly meteor shower.

“Chevron Six encoded.” She mentally willed the gate to dial faster.

“Chevron Seven… will not lock.”

No! It had to lock. It worked just fine before. Shock set in as she turned and ran to the control room. She looked up at the general before asking the gate technician to move. She ran a quick diagnostic. No errors. She ran the dialing sequence with the same result. Chevron Seven would not lock.

No. No. NO! Not again. She started to run the full diagnostic, fingers flying on the keyboard. General Hammond’s gentle touch on the shoulder brought her back to herself.

“Major, go clear medical. I’ll have Walter run the program and dial again as soon as it’s complete,” General Hammond gently steered her to her teammates as he spoke.

Sam let them lead her away to Janet’s tender care. Thirty minutes later, she reported to the briefing room where she saw that final footage taken by the MALP and listened to Janet estimate Colonel O’Neill’s chances of survival. Thirty minutes after that the remaining members of SG-1 departed Stargate Command for Nevada.

The Stargate would not lock on the planet. Colonel O’Neill would have to be picked up by ship. Messages had been sent to the Tok’ra and the Asgard asking for assistance in the form of a ship.

In the mean time, Sam was ordered to get the Prometheus’ hyperdrive fully operational. She planned on doing it in record time. Its first mission would be to rescue Colonel O’Neill…or to retrieve his remains. It was her job to see it happen. Teal’c and Daniel were there unofficially as her security and were to look out for her welfare.

The MALP had captured the image of Colonel O’Neill as he had been struck by the meteorite as well as almost a full minute of footage before the wormhole had become unstable and the Stargate had shut down. Doctor Frasier was certain that he could have survived the initial injury. But no one mentioned what could have happened after the Stargate shut down and only General Hammond would ponder the consequences as he stared at the two smoking holes in the gate room floor.

~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG

Jack slowly regained consciousness. The wave of pain from his head hit him first. Next, came the nausea. Then, the awareness of sound or, in this case, the lack of sound. Finally, he allowed himself to feel his body, slowly becoming aware of a multitude of aches and pains.

Jack struggled to focus on his surroundings. He needed to be aware of what was going on around him. He couldn’t clearly remember what had happened that had resulted in him lying face down in the dirt. But he knew it couldn’t be good. He needed to know if he was still in danger. He lay perfectly still and tried to recall the recent past. He slowly began to recall the strange black and red landscape, the broken moon, and the deadly meteor shower.

No aliens with guns, just a funky Goth landscape with a busted moon. Jack allowed himself to roll over onto his back. His headache spiked as the back of his head touched the ground. He jerked up and his nausea returned in force.

Okay, maybe that wasn’t a good idea. Move slower.

Jack sat up gingerly and took a good look around him. As his nausea passed, he focused on resisting the urge to touch his head and discover how bad the injury really was. His head was both hurting and numb. He knew from experience that hurting was not good. He just assumed that numb was way worse than hurting.

He was sitting in the dirt behind the DHD. Small smoking craters peppered the area around him. He twisted around gently leaned on the DHD and took his first look at the Stargate.

“Crap!”

A not-so-small meteorite, about 12 inches in diameter, had struck the gate head on between two of the chevron points near the bottom. The finely crafted naquadah ring was dented and charred in that section. It didn’t look broken, but there was really only one way to find out.

Jack took a moment to rest before he slowly pulled himself up using the DHD as a crutch. He walked around the DHD a little unsteady, but slowly improving. The DHD had fared much better than the Stargate. It had also been struck by a small meteorite, but only on the decorative portion near the top. The rock had burned a clean hole through the top and out the back of the DHD. In fact, looking at the angle of the meteorite, Jack figured that the DHD had saved his life by deflecting the meteorite that hit him and absorbing most of its force.

With that realization, Jack raised his hand and gingerly probed the painful area on left side of his head, near the back. He got as far as the burned hair before dropping his hand. He couldn’t risk introducing anything else into the open wound. He had been very, very lucky. A concussion with large burn was a small price to pay for a near miss with a burning mass of rock moving at terminal velocity. Yup, very lucky indeed.

Jack settled his shaky hand back on the DHD and slowly began to dial Earth. Once he completed the sequence, he said a silent prayer, crossed his fingers and pushed the dome to activate the gate. He had never been particularly superstitious, but hey, every bit of luck helped.

Come on, baby. Just one more time…

He was rewarded by the sound of the Stargate dialing and a large chunking noise as the chevrons locked in one at a time. But those welcome sounds were accompanied by a screeching of metal on metal and sparking as the dented portion of the gate ground on itself trying to dial out. Jack flinched as he watched the damaged ring struggle to complete its assigned task. Even the final kawoosh was marred by sparks and electrical discharges and the event horizon sparked and flashed. It had created a wormhole, but it to his very untrained eyes, it didn’t look very stable.

Okay, not so good.

“Stargate Command, this is Colonel O’Neill. Over,” he spoke into his radio. With the wormhole unstable, he couldn’t risk taking it home. There was no telling in what condition, if at all, he would make it back in. Best to make contact and let them know he was okay.

“Colonel… ‘gate Command. We… you… status? Over.” A broken radio signal reached him through the broken Stargate. How ironic.

“The gate is broken. Repeat, the Stargate is broken. Wormhole is unstable. Got knocked on the head. Possible concussion. Other than that I’m good.” Jack noticed the camera on the MALP blinking as it adjusted to view his current position. He straightened and gave it a friendly smile and a wave. “How’s my team?”

“Team… are five… five. Repeat, the rest… SG-1 is… by five.”

“Copy, five by five. What’s my ETA to pick up?”

“Say… ‘gain.”

Trying to decipher the garbled radio signal was getting old real fast, “Repeat, what’s my ETA to pick up?”

“ETA… plus travel… Repeat… is 60 plus… Copy?”

“Copy, 60 plus travel.” Jack sighed and slumped forward on the DHD. He rubbed a tired hand over his face, stopping just before he ran it over the injury. The headache was starting to dominate his thoughts again.

Shaking his head to clear it a bit, he addressed General Hammond again, “Look, General, I doubt that I can get this heap to dial again. Let my team know that I’m counting on them. I’ll be around…”

Jack fought the overwhelming weariness and the rising nausea. He had to complete the message, “Have ‘em zero in on the MALP and the UAV locator beacons… Wherever I hole up, I’ll keep them close by…”

Jack struggled to think past the pain, “I’ll try to dial again, but don’t be surprised if I don’t. The Stargate took a direct hit. I’m lucky I got it to work this time…”

Now he was rambling. Come on Jack, pull it together. “I’ll see ya when I see ya!... Colonel O’Neill out.”

“Cop… zero on… to locate… ‘k care. See…soon… ‘GC, out.” As he deciphered the last of the message, the wormhole disengaged.

Jack slumped over the DHD, tired and in pain. With no one watching him, he could admit that his head hurt like an SOB. He pulled a couple aspirin out of his vest pocket and swallowed them dry. He just hoped it would take the edge off his headache. He had a lot he had to do before he could rest.

“Okay, Jackie-boy, what do you do first?” He eyed the MALP and then the surrounding terrain. “Let’s go get the gear, what do ya say?” He scooped up his hat off the ground behind the DHD, frowning at the char marks near the edge. He stuffed it into his cargo pocket for now. He could put it back on after he had doctored himself, maybe.

Next, he slowly walked over to the MALP and opened the side panel that held the remote controller. He glanced around the bowl around the Stargate and picked a route, in the right direction that the MALP could scale.

“Alright, find the gear. Patch the head. Then look for a good apartment in the area,” Jack spoke aloud. He was already missing his teammates. Being stranded was so much more fun when he had someone to pick on. Maybourne had been a welcome distraction, even if he did have to shoot him in the end. And being hurt and alone really sucked.

Plan in place, Jack focused his complete attention on the first step, moving the MALP in search of the dropped gear. If he kept his focus, he could forget the pain and the weariness. Carefully, he began to maneuver the MALP toward the edge of the bowl, away from the Stargate.

~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG

General Hammond sank back into his chair. He had just finished watching the recording of Colonel O’Neill’s last contact for the third time. This last time he had frozen the video on one of the few clear images that the MALP had sent. Most of the transmission was garbled with static and snow. He had the technicians working on cleaning it up now. But, he had gotten the gist of the message and he had seen the Colonel standing at the DHD. Colonel O’Neill was alive. He had been able to make contact and relay information to Earth.

However, the general’s initial feeling of relief had been replaced with fear and dread as he regarded the stilled image. The Colonel had tried to project health and confidence through the voice transmission. And if that was all that the general had, he might have believed him.

But as he stared at the image in front of him, he saw a different picture. The colonel was struggling to stand upright and was using the DHD for support. He had turned away from the camera and was looking down at the DHD. Clearly visible was the raw bloody cut on the side of his head. The man was obviously tired and hurting, the gash on the side of his head an open testament to just how close they had come to losing him forever. His voice may have been confident, but his shoulders were slumped in pain.

Was this how Jack O’Neill looked when he let his guard down? When no one was around to see just how much it hurt? Or to notice just how tired he really was? The general’s heart went out to the man who was cast off on his own, injured and alone.

“God, Jack, what kind of mess have you gotten yourself into this time?” he whispered aloud to the quiet room.

General Hammond shook his head to clear his gloomy thoughts. He needed to sound happy and confident for his next call. He was going to inform the rest of SG-1 that their commander was alive and well, or well enough anyway. He picked up the phone and dialed Major Carter’s cell phone. The team should be waiting at the airport by now. Their flight to Nevada would leave within the hour.

He heard it ring twice. “Carter,” was the Major’s only greeting, short and terse with stress. It was so like Jack that it brought a smile to the general’s face.

“Major, I have some good news. Colonel O’Neill is alive and was able to dial home. Unfortunately, it was a bad connection. I’ll forward the audio to you as soon as the tech boys clean it up.” General Hammond would avoid sending the video. His team needed hope.

“Really, Sir? That’s… the best news,” he smiled as he heard the joy in her voice. “Should we come back to the mountain?”

“No. Your mission is still a go. I just thought you would like a bit of good news to speed you on your way.”

“Yes, Sir. Thank you, Sir. I’ll pass the message on to the guys. Is there anything else, Sir?”

“No, Major. Just bring him home.”

“Excellent. We’ll call on a secure line as soon as we arrive.”

“I’ll look forward to it. Have a good flight.”

“Yes, Sir.”

He heard the phone click off. He regarded the image one more time, “God’s speed, Major.”

~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG

Jack finally spotted their abandoned rucksacks after an hour of trudging beside the MALP. He allowed himself a brief rest as he fought his fatigue. One by one, he pulled the bags into a pile next to the MALP.

Okay, first, I need to doctor up my head.

Jack pulled out his first aid kit and then decided that his shaving mirror would save him from poking at it blind. Next, he laid out his supplies, water, and the mirror and pulled on a pair of latex gloves. Once properly setup, he examined the wound closely.

“Ouch!” he said as he got his first good look at the wound.

A two inch long oval cut stretched across the side and back of his head. The gash was shallow but showed areas where the skin was burned raw. It was bleeding, but not as profusely as head wounds normally would, leading him to believe that the meteorite had partially cauterized the wound as it passed. The hair around the gash was completely burnt away, leaving a bald spot around the area, sporting first and second degree burns.

Of course, now that he had seen it, the gash began to throb painfully.

“Damn it! I’m getting to old for this crap, Doc,” Jack stated out loud. Talking to Doctor Frasier seemed help focus his thoughts on the task at hand. It also seemed to ease his loneliness a bit. Jack let her image pull the medical knowledge she had taught him to the forefront of his mind. He really didn’t want to doctor his own wounds all alone on an alien planet.

As if summoned, Doctor Frasier’s image mentally chided him for thinking he was too old, reminding him that he was more fit than most men half his age.

Jack squirted a small glop of sterilizing alcohol gel on the gloves. Then he carefully began to flush the wound with water from his canteen.

“I mean, can you imagine if I needed stitches. So not gonna happen, Doc… You know I don’t like needles… and you don’t want to get me started on sewing.”

Janet had taught them all basic first aid. But she had been particularly adamant about caring for burns. Considering the number of staff wounds she had to treat, he didn’t blame her. She would repeat over and over that once the wound was clean, it had to be kept clean, dry, and when possible, open.

His mental image of her was carefully instructing him even now. It was telling him that while the cut would normally require several stitches to close, the burn meant that it couldn’t be closed. At least, not yet.

Jack decided not to dwell on it for now. His head already hurt. No need to make it worse.

So, he kept up his rambling, one sided conversation, “I will forever be grateful for your deft touch… I never realized that I could do a much worse job… Not worse, really… just… a lot more… painful… Ouch! Damn it!...”

Jack used the water and a sterile gauze pad to clean out the dirt and other foreign bits, carefully trying to avoid breaking any of the blisters on the skin. He had to stop a few times to catch his breath and let his vision return to normal as the pain hit him hard.

“You always make it look so easy… Granted, I’ve never seen… you… fix yourself up. So… I guess I’ll withhold…ah… judgment today…”

Once, clean, he dabbed the area dry and then placed a clean pressure bandage over the entire area. Again listening to Janet’s stern voice, he tied the ends loosely around his head to avoid putting any pressure or friction on the area.

“I’m not a very good doctor, Doc… Not that you aren’t a good teacher…”

When he had finished with his head, he sat down with his back against the MALP, shaking. He watched his trembling hands for a few minutes before they finally steadied. The sharp stabbing pains had finally subsided to a dull aching throb that seemed to encompass his whole skull.

“Yeah, Doc… I know. I should rest and take it easy… What? The rest? Oh, yeah, I should probably do those too…”

Staring at his hands had made him aware of other small scratches and cuts that also needed attention. He carefully stood up and began doctoring the other scratches and cuts on his arms and face. He had ignored them in favor of tending the head wound, but now he needed a distraction from his pain. So he focused his attention to the other minor wounds.

“Crap! Why does this stuff have to sting so much? Let me guess, payback… Ah, finally done.”

Jack leaned on the MALP, his impromptu work table. Once again, he felt an overwhelming need to just sit and rest. He fought it. He had things to do before he could rest. Important things. He popped a few broad spectrum antibiotic pills while he tried to remember just what important things he needed to do.

Crap! He couldn’t remember what they were, but he knew they were important. He slowly put away the first aid kit and finally remembered as he tucked it away in his rucksack.

“Shelter,” he stated. He needed a place to setup camp. “Can’t stay out in the open.”

“Just a little bit further, Jackie-boy… Then you can rest…” he dragged himself over to the rucksacks and one-by-one strapped them to the MALP.

Jack then turned his attention to the landscape. He scanned the areas near by trying to find anything that could serve as shelter. His eyes finally settled on a cluster of boulders not too far from his current position. Squaring his shoulders, he picked up the MALP remote and once again trudged beside the slow machine as he picked his way across the rough terrain.

Once he had maneuvered the MALP as close to the rocks as possible, he had just enough energy to wedge himself between two rocks and the MALP. He set the safety of his P-90 before allowing himself to fall into oblivion.

~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG

Week 1 – Well, I decided to take a page out of Danny’s book, literally, and try writing down events as they happen. Sort of. I consider it getting a head start on the post-mission report. See, General, I don’t always procrastinate.

Anyway, first off, Doc, I’m glad to report that my concussion seems to be doing better. It’s a bit early on the burns and the cut, but you’ll be glad to know that Dr. Jack seems to have listened to you properly. At least, there is no sign of infection yet – crosses fingers – So far so good.

I’ve been resting – see, Doc, I can follow some orders – and trying to observe the planet. I’ve found that the meteor showers are a daily event. The second shower occurred about 30 minutes after the broken moon rose over the horizon. The good news is that I just had to stay on the lea side of the rocks. No new damage anyway. I even had some company. A rock chuck decided that I was safer than the rock shower. It was wrong.

Yes, Daniel, you can call them Rock Chucks. Though I still think Nun Chucks is way better.

Anyway, that means that I have to find better shelter. I’m going to head out tomorrow to higher ground to see what I can see.

Jack packed a light rucksack and ate an MRE for breakfast. He knew that he needed the calories for his hike today. If he could get to the top of that hill today, then he might be able to find better shelter before the moon decided to rise later in the day. At least, that was the plan.

Jack found the nearly barren landscape fairly easy to navigate with its unique rock formations making perfect navigation points. His first goal was to find water. He would quickly run dry and he needed a reliable source of water nearby. He was hoping that it was non-toxic, but soon he wouldn’t have much of a choice.

Once he found water, he would need to find reliable shelter and a sustainable food source. Even with all four packs, he didn’t have enough food to last more than a week. It was supposed to be a short mission. Hours, not days. So his team had packed only enough to cover their time off-world plus a few extra meals, just in case.

Jack walked slowly to the visible hill. It looked like a mini-volcano and was devoid of all vegetation. The barren black mass rose a significant distance above the level ground. If there was anything to see, he should be able to spot it from the top.

Jack eyed the mound carefully before he started to climb to the top. He spent the next hour trying to climb to the top without falling or twisting his ankle. The lava rock that formed the mound was nothing more than loose rocks. Sharp, loose, lava rocks. He spent nearly as much time on his hands and knees as he did walking.

But once he reached the top, the view was breath taking. The lava fields that the Stargate were located in were vast and stretched for miles in every direction. But they were frequently broken by small groves of trees and scrub. In the distance, Jack could make out a tree covered mountain range. He also noted a deep ravine not too far away. He could see the tops of trees poking out of it, so it might contain a water source.

“Where there are trees, there must be water…I hope.”

Jack scanned all four directions and found that the mountains beyond the ravine were closer than any other promising shelter. He checked the horizon. No moon yet. Finally, he sat down with this pen and paper out and began to sketch out a rough map of the area. He marked the location of the Stargate and tried to detail the path from his current home in a small cluster of rocks to his future home. He was hoping the ravine had water, but mapped the route to the mountains in case it didn’t.

Once he was finished, he checked his work against his compass. Granted, this wasn’t Earth, but each planet seemed to have a magnetic point that the compass gravitated towards. Jack had gotten into a habit of calling that direction North, regardless of whether it was a pole or not. It made life simpler to navigate by a known system.

He marked magnetic North on his map. In this case, the Stargate and the lava fields were north of the mountains, and the moons rose in the Southwest. Satisfied, he checked the horizon again. Still no moons. So far, so good.

Jack packed up his map and began the careful journey back to his shelter in the rocks. He would start his hike for the mountains tomorrow.

~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG

Week 2 – Found a direction. I am making my way to a small mountain range beyond the lava fields. Looks like the vegetation is more plentiful and that means water and food. I hate to get too far from the Stargate, even if it is broken, but it can’t be helped. I have enough water for today and maybe tomorrow if I ration it. I have to find a safe source soon. I had to leave the MALP and most of the equipment behind so I can move faster. It’s just slowing me down too much.

The good news is that there seems to be more animal life on this planet than we first thought. Besides my friend the rock chuck, I have seen a deer-like animal in small herds, several birds, and something that was hunting the rock chuck. It kinda looked like a cross between a cat and a squirrel. I’m still debating a name, but I’m leaning towards ‘squitty.’

Medical update – still no sign of infection. Headache is almost manageable. Keeping up on the antibiotics, just in case. Doc always said that burns were pain. But I didn’t think she meant it quite so literally. Now that the headache is down, the damn burn is killing me. But the blisters seem to be getting smaller. I still don’t know what to do about the cut. I know it will scar, Doc. Can’t be helped. But as long as it doesn’t get infected I’m going to leave it open. You can fix it later. I’m getting as much rest as I can, but realistically, until I setup a permanent camp, I can’t afford to rest as much as you would want. Sorry, Doc.

Jack found that moving the MALP was slow going. He didn’t think that he could afford the time to maneuver the lumbering equipment through the rocky landscape. Last night, he decided to pack a day pack to scout for water sources without the MALP. He was careful to park it safely out of the meteor shower’s path. Now, unhindered, he had to find a water source.

Jack hiked past more of the same rock formations, no longer avoiding the rocky obstacles. He spotted several more of the alien deer and his rock chuck friends. He knew that there had to be water nearby for the animals, but couldn’t seem to find it for himself.

He was at the ravine before he saw the first hints at open water. He carefully climbed down one of the more stable slopes of the ravine, seeking shelter from the daily meteor storm. The ravine was lush with trees and bushes. Apparently, the ravine sheltered them from the meteors so they grew tall and straight. He identified several trees and bushes before the smell of water distracted him. He tracked down to the bottom of the ravine and finally found the small stream, no more that 4 feet across and about 1 foot deep.

Jack collected a canteen of water before heading to the south side of the ravine to shelter from the meteor shower. He settled into a protected corner niche and pulled out the water test kit. It was drinkable, hopefully. He just hoped that it didn’t include too many alien bacteria seeking a human home. Well, he’d have to get used to them eventually. He didn’t have enough iodine pills to last a day. Not to mention that the pills made the water taste horrible. Jack gave the water a sip. It tasted a bit earthy, but hey, it came from a surface stream, so that was to be expected.

Now, if he could find a good sized cave not too far from here, he would be set. Then again, how was he going to get the MALP down the ravine?

“I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it,” he said to himself.

After the meteor shower, Jack hiked along the south wall of the ravine looking for suitable shelter. As the sun set, he settled himself in a quiet southern corner of the ravine. He setup his camp and started a small fire to ward off the chilly night air.

Jack was finding the darkness rather lonely. During the day, he could keep busy and his mind would focus on the tasks at hand. When night fell, he had been too tired to do more than fall into an exhausted sleep. His healing body demanding the rest it couldn’t get during the day.

But tonight was different. He knew that he should be tired, but his body was finally getting used to the exhausting work of survival. And tonight he couldn’t seem to calm his thoughts enough to sleep.

Jack sighed and allowed his thoughts to wander. He pulled up some of his happier memories, with his team front and center. It helped that he knew they were okay. They would do what they needed to bring him home. Experience had reinforced that lesson several times. Hell, if they could find him in Ba’al funhouse, this rescue would be a piece of cake.

No, his problem wasn’t a lack of faith. His problem was what to do while he waited. This planet had no people, no diversions, no convenient lakes to fish in, and no one to talk to. It was this last item that was bugging him the most.

It had been a long time since he was completely alone. Someone was always close by. Neighbors, his team, other prisoners, prison guards, even Maybourne. He didn’t usually feel the need to talk to anyone, but their very presence was comforting. He may not say much and definitely nothing deep, but he did interact with others.

And now he missed them. Mostly he missed his team, but Hammond, Walter, even the grumpy guard on the Level 12 security post.

“Man, you’ve changed, Jack… You’ve been alone for a few days and you get all lonely… And what would Daniel have to say about that, do you think? Quote some dead civilization? Try to reason why, or drag out how much you really do care for them?...” Jack smiled as he spoke out loud, breaking the silence around him.

“Drag out my feelings. Definitely!” He chuckled to himself. “What ever happened to your theme song, Jackie-boy?... ‘I am a rock. I am an Island. And a rock feels no pain. And an island never cries.’…”

He stared into the flames of his small campfire, remembering his days in Special Tactics. Before he met Sarah and invited her onto his island… “Long gone, Jackie-boy,” he said sadly. “That song no longer holds any answers.”

He let the Simon and Garfunkel song float through his mind. ‘I have no need of friendship; friendship causes pain. It's laughter and it's loving, I disdain.’

Yup, definitely does NOT apply any more. I like my friends. I cherish their laughter. It absolutely makes my day when I get a little smile out of Teal’c, a muffled snort out of Carter, and a resigned sigh out of Daniel, more so if I can get all three at the same time.

“But, Simon and Garfunkel always did have a song to fit any mood,” he sighed and then began to sing quietly in a mellow tenor while his hands fingered the chords he would play if he had his guitar.

“Hello darkness, my old friend,

I've come to talk with you again,

Because a vision softly creeping,

Left its seeds while I was sleeping,

And the vision that was planted in my brain

Still remains

Within the sound of silence.

“In restless dreams I walked alone

Narrow streets of cobblestone,

'Neath the halo of a street lamp,

I turned my collar to the cold and damp

When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light

That split the night

And touched the sound of silence.

“And in the naked light I saw

Ten thousand people, maybe more.

People talking without speaking,

People hearing without listening,

People writing songs that voices never share

And no one dared

Disturb the sound of silence.

"Fools" said I, "You do not know

Silence like a cancer grows.

Hear my words that I might teach you,

Take my arms that I might reach you."

But my words like silent raindrops fell,

And echoed

In the wells of silence

“And the people bowed and prayed

To the neon god they made.

And the sign flashed out its warning,

In the words that it was forming.

And the signs said, The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls

And tenement halls.

And whispered in the sounds of silence.”

Jack was sure his team would be shocked to know that he could sing. Let alone, do it well. He had to keep some secrets. His voice and his skill with a guitar were but two small secrets he kept. They were a secret habit that he rarely indulged in.

But tonight, the art of song worked its magic once again. He was comforted by the sound as it echoed off the rock walls around him. He suddenly felt less lonely and just a bit more in touch with his mismatched family back on Earth. ‘Silence like a cancer grows.’ Yes, it does. So, I will not give in to silence. He smiled as he finally settled down to sleep.

“Night guys,” he whispered into the quiet darkness.

~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG

Week 2 – update – Found Water! It is basically free from contaminates according to the kit... I hope. Not much choice now. Doesn’t taste too bad and I haven’t gotten sick… yet.

Still looking for a place to stay. The ravine seems pretty sheltered. If I can’t find a decent cave, I may just set up against the south wall. Depends on how today’s little rock storm goes. Yesterday, it seemed to only throw an occasional rock at the northern wall.

Food is going to start being a problem next. I have MRE’s for about three more days. I plan on testing the plant life over the next few days and trying out the local rock chuck. History states that it should taste like chicken. Knowing my luck it will taste more like snake. Not my favorite survival food.

Sorry, Doc. Looks like I didn’t do it right. I told you I’d make a bad doctor. Found the first signs of infection on one of the burn blisters. I doubled the antibiotics. Nothing too serious yet, but my headache is back. Don’t worry. I only plan on finding shelter today. I’ll rest. I promise.

Jack wandered up and down the ravine looking for a decent sized shelter. He hardly noticed when the meteor shower started. Of course, he took shelter when he heard the first of the space rocks smash into the Northern wall of the ravine. But he felt silly for not keeping a closer eye on the sky.

As luck would have it, he nearly fell into the perfect cave. He had been walking along a deer trace when he stumbled. He was able to catch himself from sliding far by falling flat on his butt. The shock of his fall aggravated his headache, making it throb in time with his heartbeat. As he sat there, trying to get the pain back under control, he noticed the cave concealed in the bushes.

“Sweet!”

Jack slowly climbed back to his feet and pushed the bushes aside with his P-90. He stepped inside the entrance and waited for his eyesight to adjust to the dim light. He carefully scanned the area before moving forward. He cleared all the corners, cracks, and even flipped the rocks.

Next, he examined structure of the cave. It wasn’t huge. But there was plenty of room for his gear. It was concealed from casual view, just in case this planet was inhabited after all. It was also defensible with a rock wall that protruded from one side, creating a natural firing position. It also looked stable. All big pluses in Jack’s mind.

“Home Sweet Home,” he stated, before he dropped his rucksack. “Little paint, new carpet, and it’ll be as good as new.” He rested a few minutes before he started to make the cave more livable. After all, he did promise the Doc that he would take it easy.

Jack cleared the rocks out of one sheltered corner and then created a fire ring not too far inside the cave entrance. Next, he headed out into the bushes to collect leaf litter. Pine boughs would be better, but the trees in the ravine were more closely related to the Aspen, than a pine tree. But anything would be better than the dirt and stone floor. Finally, he set out to collect fire wood.

While he was at the stream, taking a break from collecting firewood, he noticed an odd track in the mud. It almost looked like a sandal except for four clawed toe prints at the end. It reminded him of the prints his dog would make, except for the long foot. Odd, but then it would make sense to have at least one large predator in the area. With as much game as he had seen in the ravine, they had to be hunted by something besides the funky cat-squirrel.

Jack gave a tired sigh, “Figures. I can’t get stranded on a nice, safe planet. I always have to pick the hazardous ones.” He picked up his collected wood and turning an alert eye on his surroundings, he returned to the cave.

Later that night, fire brightly burning, he finally allowed himself to rest. He was running a slight fever and his headache was worse. He was feeling miserable and restless and all alone.

Giving in to his need to hear another voice, he decided to sing again. Something a bit more cheerful, if still mellow. He started to hum the melody and then to sing Silent Lucidity to help ease his homesickness. The echo even provided a decent chorus.

He could just imagine Daniel’s reaction. He smiled with that thought and drifted off into a restless sleep.

~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG

From the darkness, she watched the Tar. It appeared to be alone. She had spotted it earlier when she was hunting the gaff and followed it to its den. Its kind had infested the best planets and her people could ill afford to lose even one of their homes to the creatures.

Her first intent had been to kill it. But something stayed her hand as it nested. When it began to sing, she had been entranced. She didn’t know the meaning of its words, but the song was one of lonely hope. Its voice reached out and touched on her loneliness.

She had crashed on this planet a few weeks ago, losing her mate and the rest of her crew. They had been exploring potential new planets. Of the five planets with suitable atmosphere, four had already been infested with Tar. This planet was the fifth. While scanning from orbit, the ship had accidentally navigated into an asteroid field. Their shields had failed and while attempting to land, her mate and the other Mar under her protection had failed to secure themselves for the impending crash. They didn’t live long enough to breath the air of this planet.

But she was Mar and the Mar are strong. Not like the stupid, primitive Tar. The Mar ruled the skies and hunted the land. They were the swift, silent predators of the night. They lived in proper dens, not like this Tar and its pathetic rock home.

Still, she was curious. She had never seen a Tar up close. The Mar avoided contact with the Tar when possible. They were an intelligent animal. And as such, they were given space to grow. However, the Mar had long puzzled how the Tar had traveled to so many worlds, when they were obviously such a primitive race.

She knew that on other planets they had mastered fire and could build dens, much like this Tar. But she had never seen them near anything that could travel through the cold, lifeless void of space.

She crept forward to get a better look at the creature, but hesitated as she reached the bushes outside its den. They would make noise, and she didn’t want to alert it to her presence. Peeking through the leaves, she found that she couldn’t see it. She nodded approvingly. It was smart enough to hide out of sight.

She could watch it later. It seemed to like the daylight. She would be able to see it much clearer from a distance then. But for now, she was hungry and she had a hunt to complete. The gaff would be bedded down in the dark and easy prey.

Silently, she slipped back into the darkness. Her slitted eyes perfect for a nighttime hunt. Her dappled pelt blending in with the dark shadows perfectly.

~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG

Week 3 – Found a cave. It’s big enough to be comfortable for the long haul. But the bed leaves a lot to be desired. I would kill for my mattress right now. Okay, so I’m a little grumpy, go figure.

Fever hit me hard. Still a little achy, but it seems to have finally broken. The infected part of the burn looks better. I’m almost out of Earth water. I am using it only for my head now. The stream water isn’t too bad for drinking.

I’ve spent the last few days ‘resting.’ And I feel much better, really.

Today, I plan on trying to get the MALP closer to my new base of operations. I’m not sure that the locator beacon’s signal will make it out of the ravine. So, I’ve decided to park it on the top of the cliff that borders on the ravine. I’ll carry the UAV to the cave. That way, you guys can find the MALP. I’ll leave a note with it to direct you into the ravine. From there you can follow the UAV signal.

Made an interesting discovery the other day. Apparently, there is a large predator in the area. I have only found one track so far, but it is probably about 4 or 5 feet long. I just hope it decides that I don’t look tasty. It would be depressing to survive a burning space rock to get eaten by the local predator.

Jack geared up the next morning with just his vest and weapon. He decided to leave his rucksack in the new cave. But to make sure he didn’t lose his new home, he carved the Earth gate symbol in the tree closest to the entrance. He continued to carve a blaze in trees along the path back to the other side of the ravine and back up to the lava fields.

More than once, he felt eyes on him, but he couldn’t seem to locate their source in the dense foliage. He was almost glad to be back in the open. At least now, he would be able to see whatever was tracking him. Keeping a close eye on his back trail, he hiked back to the MALP, his only stop to seek shelter from the meteor shower. He finally reached the MALP late that afternoon.

Jack was exhausted. He knew that he should have rested more after the fever broke, but he wanted to get all the gear in one place. He could forget how tired he was if he was moving. He would only dwell on it if he stayed in one place. Not to mention the fact that he needed the last of the MRE’s that were stowed on the MALP if he wanted to eat tonight.

He debated for several minutes before deciding to try and push the MALP back towards the ravine. He would stop when it got dark. He wouldn’t be able to go on much further then anyway. Decision made, plan in place, he pulled out the remote and began to maneuver the MALP out into the open.

He had made good progress by the time he settled into a sheltered spot that evening. He had even managed to zat two fat rock chucks without stopping the MALP’s slow progress. He had only meant to hit one, but the other one had been too close. The small creatures were killed by the single charge. Jack was just happy that he could postpone his MRE meal for another day.

Jack had just finished cleaning and skinning one of the creatures and was about to set it over the fire when he heard a loud yelp of pain nearby. He was instantly on alert with his rifle ready. He crept forward and put the small fire to his back. His eyes adjusted to the dark. As he listened, he could hear a large animal growling and struggling a short distance away.

Jack didn’t want to become food, but he did want intel on the large predator that most likely shared his home in the ravine. He circled around the noisy creature until he could see it without risking himself. But he didn’t see what he expected.

He stared in surprise at the creature before him. Definitely not an animal. Definitely not human. The alien was about five feet tall and covered in a short dense fur. It was wearing an abbreviated version of a flight suit with an open chest and a complicated tool belt that seemed to loop over both shoulders and around the creature’s waist. Its face was almost cat-like, with a short muzzle and short sharp fangs. Its ears were on the top of its head, again like a cat. He assumed that they were mobile, because they were currently laid back as the creature growled and hissed at the log that had trapped its foot.

Jack approached slowly trying to make noise. Apparently, it was focused solely on its trapped foot, because it never turned in his direction.

“Um… Hello?” he asked.

The alien whipped around all open hostility with a low throaty growl.

“Easy there… I come in peace and all that... Ah…It looks like you need some help.” He gestured towards the log with his free hand, his other firmly on his P-90 carefully pointing away from the creature.

The alien stopped growling and eyed him warily. He took a small step forward again hand still open and extended.

“Grak nok, Tar,” it spat, flexing its fingers to display sharp retractable claws, but didn’t start growling again.

Jack took that as a good sign. “I got it. Big bad alien will kick my ass.” He figured if it talked, it was fairly intelligent. It should be able to figure out that he wanted to help. “Help?” he asked again.

It continued to stare at him and he returned the stare with one of his own. Finally, it gave a short nod, and gestured to the log, “Kash.”

“Okay,” he said in return. “Let’s see what the problem is.” Jack examined the log and the surrounding rocks. It looked like the alien had slipped off the log when it rolled, neatly trapping its leg. Alone, it didn’t have the leverage to roll the log off.

“Alright,” he said, looking it directly in the eyes. “I have to roll the log away from your leg. Then you pull it free.” It continued to eye him. “Right, you don’t understand a word I’m saying. Don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll get it.” He slowly approached the log and with a silent prayer to not be eaten, released his death grip on his weapon as he grabbed the log and braced his legs.

He gave the alien a closed lip smile, “On three, one, two, three…” He pulled and felt the heavy log move. He grimaced as he felt the weight pull on his achy muscles. He saw the alien wiggle its leg out of its rocky confines. Once it was completely free, Jack released the log. The heavy log thumped back into place, minus its captive.

The alien scurried a few feet away from the log before turning to once again watch him. “Kal,” it stated quietly, no longer displaying open hostility.

This time it was Jack’s turn to watch. The alien didn’t seem to have a weapon, but with those claws, it really didn’t need one. Still, he showed limited trust by not putting his hand back on his P-90, which was harder than he imagined, because he really wanted to hold it ready on target, but Daniel’s voice haunted him.

“You have to show them that you trust them or they will never trust you,” Daniel had argued one night over pizza and beer. They had been discussing Daniel’s approach to the alien people they had encountered. Jack arguing for a show of force, while Daniel argued for the peaceful explorer approach.

“But I don’t trust them, Daniel,” he had retorted.

Daniel had just smiled, “Yeah, but they don’t know that.”

“Okay, Danny boy, now what?” he whispered to himself, while he watched the alien. Introduce yourself.

“Hi!” he said with a wave. “I’m Jack.” The alien looked confused. “Jack,” he repeated tapping himself on the chest. “Jack,” he stated one more time, before the alien finally seemed to comprehend what he was saying.

It pointed to him, “Jak.” Then back at itself, “Kali nost venta Mar.” It cocked its head to one side.

“Kali nose vent amar,” he tried to repeat.

The alien shook its head. Obviously, he butchered it. No surprise there. Then it stated, “Kali.”

“Kali?” Jack asked, hoping he got it right.

This time the alien nodded and gave a toothy smile.

“Kali, nice to meet you,” Jack waved. “Look, I know that you can’t understand me, but I got a nice fire, back over there,” he gestured to his campfire, barely visible in the distance. “You’re more than welcome to join me, providing of course that you don’t eat me. Not so keen on being eaten.” Jack was banking that Kali could easily have killed him already if it had been so inclined. Needless to say, Mother Nature had given its kind more in the natural defense department. So, hoping it was not so inclined, he invited it back to camp. A watched alien never attacks… or some such.

Kali was concentrating on him, trying to understand his meaning. It obviously didn’t get it. Okay, try, try again.

“Kali,” he pointed at the alien. “Comes,” he gestured with a come here hand wave. “With Jack,” he tapped himself on the chest. “Home,” this time he pointed to the fire. “Kali comes home with Jack,” he repeated.

Jack slowly turned back towards the fire and took a step. Once again, he was trusted it to not attack, even though every fiber of his being wanted to turn. He took a few steps before he felt compelled to turn back to see if the alien was following.

Jack finally saw its comprehension. “Kash,” it said, and rose to its feet and slowly limped forward. Jack smiled and waited for it.

Once they reached the campfire, Jack tossed another log into the flames, so he could see the alien more clearly. The more he saw, the more he was reminded of a cat, minus the tail. Kali was obviously intelligent. Not just a smart animal. He both hoped and dreaded that its people were nearby. They might make his stay just a bit easier until his team came to pick him up. Or, they could eat him. Jack wasn’t sure which way he was leaning yet.

“So, Kali, where are you from? Yeah, I know you don’t what I’m saying. But I figure that between the two of us, we’ll be chatting up a storm before long. Well, I will anyway.” As he started talking, Jack picked up the rock chuck he had prepared and set it up on a make shift spit. “You hungry?” he asked. When he received a blank look, he simplified, “Eat?” he gestured with his hand to his mouth.

“Gresh? Kash,” the alien replied, making the same gesture.

“Kash?” Jack repeated. He had heard that word several times. He thought it meant ‘yes.’

“Kash,” Kali replied with its odd smile.

“Kash, okay. Sweet. Now, we’re talking,” Jack pulled out the second rock chuck and held it up for Kali to see, then tossed it over to the alien at its gesture.

Jack watched as the alien pulled out a short knife and deftly cleaned the small animal. However, he had to look away when his new friend began to consume choice organs raw. Soon, he was distracted by his own dinner, but ever watchful of his guest.

~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG

Kali ate quickly and neatly. She had been surprised when the Tar appeared out of the dark. She had stalked him all day and only grown more confused. It had wandered out into the wastes with no supplies. Then it had approached a machine that should have been too advanced for its primitive race. But it had demonstrated its knowledge by moving the slow machine back towards its nest.

Finally, it had settled down to rest at sunset. But when she had slipped and gotten trapped under the log, it had appeared. She wasn’t sure how it would react to seeing her. She had thought it would attack or run away, that was why she had threatened it. But instead of being properly afraid, it had offered to help her and then invited her to its temporary nest. It had even given her a proper host offering and then let her eat first, as is a female’s right and duty. Though she had no idea how or when the Tar had caught the paz.

Until now, she didn’t know that a Tar could be so civilized. She had even begun to think of it as a male. It was hard to tell with its garments, but it deferred to her like a male should and she did know that the Tar had male and female.

But what was a male doing out here all alone? Where was his female protector? Surely he wasn’t a loner? He was too well cared for to be a loner. No, he must have recently lost his protector.

In her loneliness, she was half tempted to take the Tar under her protection. It was her duty as a female to care for the males and any other Mar under her protection. Even with her mate and the other Mar dead, she still felt the urge to protect. Perhaps, she could take him under her protection until she found him a better female, a Tar female.

Yes, she would do that. Tar planets were littered with large numbers of Tar. Surely, it wouldn’t be that hard to find a Tar female. It would give her purpose until… until her final hunt.

Kali knew that her people would never come looking for her. Explorer teams went missing all the time. It was a calculated risk that they took so they could be the first to find a new hunting ground, to have their children claim the choicest lands with the richest food. Once her team failed to report on the planet’s viability, the Mar would continue looking for new hunting grounds. Her chances of being found were very small and she had resigned herself to living out her days, childless and alone.

Perhaps that is why she was considering caring for the Tar. Her people always moved in packs, always with a female protector and her mate. She had fought for her position as a pack leader, just as she had fought for her choice of mates. She had always been strong. But she had never really been alone before.

Kali had decided that she didn’t like being alone. Even the company of the Tar was better than being all alone. Yes, she would care for the Tar, Jak. She would find him a strong female. And perhaps the female would allow her to join her pack as well.

Yes, that is a good plan. I will live with the Tar until my final hunt.

~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG

Week 3 – update – Found a new friend. Its name is Kali. It’s that predator I was talking about yesterday. Intelligent. Alien. Alone as far as I can tell. Likes its dinner raw. Yeah, I know. No accounting for taste. Anyway, if this is my last entry in this journal, Kali ate me while I slept. Look for a large cat-like alien. Kali by name.

Anyway, I pulled a log off it and invited it home. Daniel, thanks for the tips. We are starting to communicate. Well, exchanged names and did a lot of gesturing. But I think it’s safe to sleep. Not much choice anyway. I’m trying to play nice in case it has friends. Heck, I’ll be happy if it just doesn’t eat me.

Fever is still gone. Headache is better. Tired, but what else is new.

I’ve got the MALP about half way back to my cave. I’ll set it up on the ridge line before lugging the rucksacks down to the cave. I expect my friend to abandon me either tonight or in the morning. Again, providing it doesn’t eat me.

Jack was half surprised when he woke up in the morning. He knew that he would have to sleep sometime. One man cannot take a 24-hour watch and expect to be effective, especially, an injured and recovering man. So, he was pleasantly surprised to wake up.

However, he was more surprised to find that his guest was still there, and, as the morning wore on, apparently not leaving anytime soon. After the novelty of showing Kali how to maneuver the MALP wore off, Jack checked his map and compass and started off for the ravine once more.

This time, though, he found himself talking to the alien. It appeared to listen closely to his words as if trying to decipher them. So, Jack stopped his rambling one-sided conversations in favor of a name game. He would name an object and Kali would return with a name for the same object in its language. Next they would practice pronunciation until both were satisfied. Then they would pick a new object.

This game distracted Jack enough that the morning flew by. When they stopped to seek shelter from the daily meteor shower, Jack was surprised that he and the alien were actually beginning to communicate. Of course, Daniel would already be discussing theology with the alien. But Jack was pleased with his progress. He was hoping that he could actually talk to Kali’s people when they turned up to find it.

Kali, on the other hand, seemed to just want to learn his language. It would only talk to him using the words it had learned from him. It was already forming simple sentences. But Jack had decided that it was more important to communicate than to insist on communicating in Kali’s language, for now anyway. But Jack knew that he needed to speak Kali’s language if he was going to be able to talk to its people.

After the meteor shower, Kali seemed to want to communicate something, but couldn’t find the words in its limited grasp of English. Through a series of hand gestures and finally acting out, Jack finally voiced the alien’s words.

“Hunt… You want to go hunting. Sure, no problem. I’ll just keep going this way.”

“Hunt… Kash! Kali hunt. Jak… kor tak,” Kali insisted.

“Kor tak… keep going?” Jack pointed to himself and then gestured in the direction they were headed.

“Va! No!... kor tak…” Kali said again this time gesturing its palm flat on the ground. “Kor tak.”

Jack suddenly understood, “Kor tak… stay here?” To illustrate his understanding, he promptly sat on the ground, “kor tak? Stay here.”

“Kash! Kor tak. Shtay here,” Kali jumped excited that it had communicated its message.

Jack stood up, “No... Va… Kali hunt. Jack keeps going.” Without waiting for Kali to understand, Jack started the MALP going towards the ravine. He was hoping to reach the edge well before nightfall and to do that, he needed to keep going.

Behind him he could hear Kali spit out a string of words that he couldn’t understand. However, Jack always knew when someone was cursing at him in any language. Daniel had trained him well. So he turned back.

“Kali, va!” he strained to remember what it had said last night. The threat. “Grak nor, Kali. I’m not an easy kill. I can take care of myself. Go. Hunt. Kash?”

His words seemed to surprise the alien. It may not have understood everything, but his intent was clear. It would not order him around. It was free to come or go, but it could not dictate his movements. He put that understanding in his eyes and stared straight at the alien.

It finally nodded, “Kash.” Kali gave him one last considering look before turning and sprinting off. Watching it spring and leap over rocks and dodge trees, he wasn’t surprised that it considered him ill equipped to survive on his own.

But who needed lightening reactions and razor sharp claws when you had the wits to create weapons to do the job for you. Jack patted his trusty P-90 and once more started the MALP for the ravine.

~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG

That foolish barbaric male. He dared to defy her orders. Well, it would serve him right to go hungry this night.

Kali flew over the ground, venting her anger. The gaff didn’t stand a chance against her anger once she spotted it. And as she stood over the dead gaff, no… it was called a deer, she began to regret her anger.

The kill was quick, but sloppy. She should know better. She had been a pack leader. Anger had no place on a hunt.

She sighed and picked up the carcass and began the trek back to where she had left Jak and his machine. She should know better. Just because she had adopted Jak into her pack did not mean he would act like a Mar male. It was one reason the Mar avoided the Tar. They were different, unpredictable, smarter than other animals, but totally uncivilized.

But she had begun to like this Tar. Jak was funny when he mispronounced her words. She had not realized how lonely she had been until she had listened to the Tar ramble on in his language. She liked how he would talk to her, even if he knew that she didn’t understand the words. How the simple sound of speech, alien as it was, was enough to break the silence and ease her loneliness.

Jak seemed to know how it helped. Perhaps he was simply speaking to hear his own language, to ease his own loneliness. But regardless of why he did it, it helped her. She was grateful for that.

But his defiance was new and unexpected. When she had claimed him as a part of her pack, she had expected him to follow her orders. A Mar male would know this and comply. A Tar male was even less equipped to defend itself than a Mar. Yet, Jak was confident of his own defense.

Perhaps he didn’t know that she had claimed him as pack. She had said nothing aloud. To a Mar, his invitation to his camp was both his asking for protection and his consent to obey. By staying the night, she had accepted his offer. But what if these things meant something else to a Tar? She would have to think on it.

Once she reached her starting point, she easily tracked Jak to his new position. He had abandoned the machine at the edge of the ravine and climbed down. She could clearly see his tracks into the trees. She knew he was heading for his den, but she followed his trail anyway, deftly dodging obstacles with her heavy burden.

She was so intent on the trail that she was startled when she heard his voice.

“Kali?” he asked. He had a hard look in his eyes. He was playing with his black box again, the one he kept strapped to his chest. She thought that it was some kind of totem. It was large and awkward, but he never let it leave his reach.

“Kash, Jak,” she replied.

He merely nodded a reply and started back up the trail. It was then that she noticed he had increased his load. He picked up two of the large green bags she had seen tied to the malp. Curious, she followed him back to his den.

She approved as he stopped outside the den, removed his burden, and then carefully investigated the cave. Soon, he was back outside and carrying his bags into the cave. He even gave her a ‘come here’ gesture, as if giving her consent to enter.

Yes, she would have to rethink her treatment of this Tar. By Mar custom, he was under her protection, but what was he under Tar custom? The Tar were so alike and yet so different. She would have to meditate on it that evening.

But first she would see to their meal. She neatly cleaned and skinned the gaff-deer. She began to slice the meat into meal sized portions and had set aside a portion for Jak. But when she turned to give it to him, he was gone.

At first, she was alarmed. No male left without alerting the female to his whereabouts. But Jak was not Mar. She reigned in her alarm and immediately set out to find him.

She was surprised that she couldn’t hear him thrashing through the bushes. She was more surprised when she finally found him. He was already on his way back to the den with another green bag on his back. This one had some kind of machine strapped to it.

Relief flowed through her. She almost called out to him, but stopped when she remembered that he was not Mar. He didn’t want her protection the same way a Mar would. She would still protect him, but she would have to be more subtle.

Kali shadowed him back to the cave. He was deft and silent in the woods. Finally, she slipped ahead of him on the trail and into the den. She waited for him at the entrance as he announced himself and deposited his green bag with the others. Then she directed him to his meat.

“Jak, gresh… eat.”

“Kal,” he replied. “Thanks.”

Once again, he charred his meat over the fire. She wrinkled her nose at the smell, but said nothing. Finally, he began rambling in his language. She was beginning to get a feel for the language. Not the words exactly, but for the tone and meter. It flowed almost like a song.

The tongue of the Mar was not so lyrical. It didn’t flow easily from the mouth. It was harsh and abrupt. Only in song did it have a lyrical quality. Yet she missed it. Missed hearing her pack bark at each other. How far had she fallen to seek the company of a Tar?

“Kali,” Jak said to get her attention. Then he asked her something, she didn’t understand, but she didn’t care. He could do what ever he wanted. He would anyway.

“Kash,” she replied, giving him permission, though she didn’t know what it was for.

He gave her a huge smile and began to sing for her in his language. She had thought that listening to him outside the cave was magical, but sitting in the cave she could hear his voice echo off the walls. It almost sounded like the whole pack was together once again. It made her heart swell. She may have lost her pack, but at least she was not alone.

~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG

Jack had continued his monologue through dinner and on into the evening. He could tell that Kali was growing more distant and depressed. He wasn’t sure why, but then it was alone with him instead of home, where ever that was. Maybe it was homesick.

Jack could relate. He was a touch homesick himself. Usually, this would be where he broke out into song and got to feeling better, but he wasn’t quite sure how Kali would take it. He thought that he had made his point earlier about being able to take care of himself. That is until he noticed Kali shadowing him back from the MALP.

Jack wasn’t quite sure what to make of Kali’s overprotective behavior. Maybe he had incurred a Wookie life debt or something by freeing it from the log. He just didn’t have enough information. And until they could really communicate, he didn’t really know how to ask.

But he could tell that it was missing someone. Probably family. So he had kept up his monologue in an attempt to cheer it up, like the sound of any voice would fill the void in its heart. It couldn’t, but it did help a little. At least they weren’t sitting in silence. Finally, he ran out of things to talk about. He didn’t think that singing would offend Kali, but decided that he would ask anyway.

“Kali,” he said getting its attention. It stared at him sadly. “Would you mind if I sing for a bit? It helps cheer me up when I’m feeling blue. Who knows, it might help you as well.”

It continued to stare at him. Jack could tell that it trying to decipher the words. Finally, it just sighed, “Kash.” It didn’t know what he wanted but consented all the same. Brave alien.

So he started by humming quietly then slowly adding in the rhythm on some nearby surfaces. When Kali only showed quiet interest, he decided to go for the gusto. He leaned back and started to sing his favorite Kansas tune, Carry on My Wayward Son.

Somewhere in the first verse, he knew that Kali was not the least bit offended. Instead it was the opposite, entranced. As he finished the tune, he decided that Carter and Daniel had it wrong. Music was truly the universal language.

Jack was quiet after he finished the song, letting its melody ghost through the cave. He was content to listen to the silence for the moment.

Kali broke the silence first, “Jak?” It motioned its hand away from its mouth, like it was singing.

Jack smiled, “Song or to sing.” He thought a moment, “Jack sings a song.”

Kali tried to wrap its mouth around the words, “Jak shing shong. S-S-ing. S-ong. Sing. Song. Jak sing song.”

Jack nodded his approval, “Kali… sing…” he prompted.

“Nor krav’at. Nor Kali krav’at,” it replied.

Jack tried the words in his mind first, then tentatively tried to vocalize them, “Nort crab at. Nort Kali crab at?”

Kali snorted and shook its head negatively, “Va. Kali sing song. Jak talk Jak. Kash?”

“That bad, huh? Well, Jack talk Kali someday. But if Kali will sing a song. Jack will talk Jack for now. Kash,” he agreed.

Kali followed his speech carefully and broke into a huge grin as it mostly understood.

“Kali sing song,” it repeated, and then spoke a few sentences in its own language before starting to sing a haunting melody that vaguely reminded Jack of Enya’s songs.

But the melody did reinforce his feelings that Kali was missing someone. It was a song of loss and tragedy. Not of hope and renewal. Once again, he wondered what had brought the alien out into this barren land all alone.

~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG

Week 3 – 2nd update – Didn’t get eaten. Not a bad way to wake up. Made it back to the cave in one piece. The locator beacons are in place. I also blazed a trail to the cave, so just follow the Earth symbols through the woods until you see the UAV.

I still have my new friend hanging around. I get the feeling I’ve been adopted. Kali is a fast learner. She (it tends to mother me) has picked up a lot of nouns and has started working on verbs. We are up to simple sentences. She has tried to teach me her language but apparently I have mangled the pronunciation that she has stopped trying anything past the basics.

She hasn’t left except to hunt. In fact, she tends to be a bit over protective and it’s driving me nuts. A man ought to be able to use the facilities in private. I’m thinking Wookie life debt more and more.

Plus side is that I was actually able to rest today. Well, my idea of rest anyway. The infection seems to be gone for good. Less fatigue. Lots of scabbing on the cut, but the burns seemed to have healed nicely. Starting to peel in some areas. Kinda nasty looking and tender, but not too painful. And I feel much better. Really. Honest.

Sorted the gear in the cave. Got a few interesting odds and ends. A couple good books to read. Now, I just need something to do for the next few months.

Jack had lounged around the cave for the second day in a row. But, now that the meteor shower had passed, he wanted to go out and hunt. He didn’t want Kali to think that she had to provide everything for them, life debt or no.

More and more, Jack was leaning towards the notion that Kali wouldn’t leave. He figured that she would at least want to return to her people to let them know where she was. But when Jack tried to suggest she go home, she just looked confused. He and Kali didn’t have the words yet to communicate those concepts.

But this afternoon, Jack insisted on hunting. He wanted to do his fair share and with the amount of meat that Kali consumed each day, that meant hunting regularly. Now that he was almost recovered, he meant to hunt.

This morning he had built a small smoking rack and spent a good deal of time collecting green wood. He intended to catch enough meat to last a few days and that meant that he needed a way to preserve the meat. Smoking seemed like the easiest method for his current situation.

Jack still needed to test out most of the local flora for edible plants. He had been able to test a few plants, but not enough to sustain a varied diet. If he had to wait months for rescue, he needed more than meat and a few vegetables.

With his smoke rack built, he was ready to hunt.

“Kali, I’m going hunting. I’ll be back before dark,” Jack said as he gathered his vest and weapons.

“Jak hunt?” Kali asked, looking confused.

“Kash. Jack hunt.” With the last of his gear in place, he slung an empty rucksack over his shoulder. He would use it to bring the game back to the cave.

“Kali hunt!” she replied.

Jack turned back to the alien, “Va. Jack hunt. Kali stay here… kor tak. I’m good, Kali. I don’t need help. Thanks, but no thanks.” Jack turned and slipped out of the cave before Kali could form a proper reply.

He sighed as he slipped through the woods. He figured that Kali would slip out and follow him yet again. Not that he needed her protection, but it was nice to know that someone was watching his back, even if that someone was only a half trusted alien bent on mothering him.

Jack followed the ravine downstream. He knew from his map that it widened a bit further down and he wanted to get a feel for the land in this direction. The ravine opened up into a nice meadow and as if on cue, a few of the alien deer were grazing in the center.

Jack immediately dropped into a crouch and crept to a nearby tree. He carefully setup his shot. The P-90’s 5.7mm round was likely to pass right through the animal. It was used primarily for its armor piercing qualities. However, the alien deer had no armor. So, he had to pick his shot carefully, especially, since there was no way he could creep close enough to use the zat.

The weapons sharp report sent the herd into full retreat. All but the one unlucky animal that Jack had singled out escaped into the wood line. Jack walked from his hiding spot to the downed deer. It had been a clean kill. Jack pulled the deer to the edge of the clearing. He quickly pulled the deer up so that it hung upside down and then pulled out his knife.

His grandfather had taught him how to hunt and clean deer back when Jack was just a boy. Jack still followed his advice on field cleaning and dressing a deer, no matter how alien. With a precise cut, Jack drained the carcass. Next, he inverted the deer and cleaned it, saving the choice organs for Kali. Then he skinned it before he finally quartered the animal and packed it carefully into the rucksack using its own skin as a water proof liner.

Just as he was about ready to leave, Jack noticed the odd scarring on several trees across the clearing. They appeared to have been broken off halfway up the trunk, all of them at slightly different heights. The damage could have been caused by one of the daily meteor showers, but the angle was wrong. It bothered him that the damage looked vaguely familiar.

Jack shouldered the heavy pack and walked towards the opposite side of the meadow. The damage was extensive. The trees were shredded starting at the meadow and following a deep trough for the next quarter mile. Jack walked along the damaged area trying to place it, or at least where he had seen something like it before.

As he reached the end of the trough, he froze. Nestled in among the broken trees was a space ship of unknown design.

Jack dropped the rucksack and pulled up his P-90. He carefully approached the downed spaceship. The ship had obviously crashed hard. But the hatch was open, so at least one person had escaped alive. Jack entered the ship through the open hatch.

The control room was easy to find. However, the blood stains that were scattered across the consoles didn’t bode well for the survivors. He examined the panels and didn’t find anything familiar. The alien script was different from anything he had encountered before. Daniel could probably decipher it in a day or two, but Jack doubted that he would be able to do anything with it.

After completing his examination of the interior, Jack carefully looked over the exterior. It was definitely not Goa’uld in design. Nor did it match anything the SGC had come across before. He stopped near seven shallow graves. Who ever survived the crash had buried their dead before moving on.

Jack gave the dead a silent prayer before returning to his pack and heading back to the cave.

~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG

Kali silently followed Jak through the trees, she approved of his stealthy movements. She was more impressed when he spotted the gaff and moved like an invisible ghost through the trees. She had set herself up to see his approach across the clearing when a loud noise startled her. The gaff sped off in the opposite direction.

She felt disappointed that they had fled when she watched the Tar stride across the clearing and begin to clean the dead gaff. Wait! When had the gaff died? How? The noise! It was a weapon of some kind, to kill from a distance. She disapproved of the method, but couldn’t fault the Tar for using it. After all, he didn’t have claws to make the kill, and this way was clean and quick.

She watched Jak closely as he placed the cut up gaff in his bag. She followed his gaze as he noticed the burned trees. She wanted to cry out to him as he followed the trail back to her crashed ship. She stopped short of seeing the small ship. She couldn’t find the courage to see it or the graves of her family.

No! You should not see my shame. They are all dead. Please don’t go!

She waited a few minutes before turning and running back down the trail. She blindly ran to lose herself in the motions of running, trying to outrun the memories of her fallen Mar and her broken ship.

~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG

Week 4 – Found a spaceship. But it’s broken. Apparently, it crashed not too long before I got stuck here. A few weeks, maybe a month, earlier. There were survivors. They buried their dead and moved on. No indication of where or who. Maybe Kali knows where they went.

Speaking of Kali, she seems to have gotten sick of me. She disappeared a few days ago and hasn’t returned yet. I’m not sure why. Maybe she finally went back to her people.

I’ve spent the last few days testing the local flora. So far the orange leaves and the green-purple plants are good. White stuff, not so much. It didn’t make me sick but it really, really tastes bad. Really.

Jack was starting to feel lonely again. Kali had disappeared and he had fallen back into his habit of talking to himself. On her third day missing, Jack went looking for her as he continued to hunt and test the plants. He found no fresh sign of her passing through the area. He finally gave up and returned to the dull routine required for survival.

Finally, he decided that he had stored up enough food and firewood to last a week. He needed to go back to the Stargate to see if he could dial home again. He decided it was time to go, now that he had a sizeable quantity of supplies. He packed a bag and slung his weapons. He gave his new home a quick glance before sighing and heading back out.

Overall, Jack was feeling back at full strength. His head wound was scabbed over and no longer required the bandage to keep infection at bay. Once more, his lucky cap graced his head.

Jack stopped by the MALP on his way. He detached the camera unit, and grabbed a few tools. If he was going to make contact with the SGC, he knew they would feel better if they could see him. He just wished that they could return the favor.

Finally, Jack continued at a ground-eating trot, hoping to reach the Stargate before nightfall. Stopping only for the meteor shower, he made it to the Stargate by late evening. He quickly setup camp and set out his tools for the next day.

By first light he examined the damage on the Stargate. He could easily see that one part was severely damaged and dented by a meteor impact. On the inside he could see where several ridges of the damaged outer ring were grinding directly on the inner ring.

Jack knew that he had absolutely no idea how the Stargate worked, technically, but he doubted that the grinding was helping. So, he pulled out his tools and tried to bang the ridges back away from the inner ring. He called this his ‘kick it till it works’ approach.

After two hours of pounding on the alien metal, he was gratified to see his plan was working. The last of the damaged ridges were no longer in direct contact with the inner ring. While the Stargate was far from fixed, he was hoping it would work just a bit better. At best, it would be perfect for going home. At worst, it might eliminate some of the radio static.

Finally, Jack set up the camera on the DHD. Ready at last, Jack gave a sigh and a prayer and began dialing Earth. The Stargate began dialing and locking in each symbol. Jack was glad to see that the sparking and grinding was less pronounced than the last time he dialed. Granted, he was a bit out of it then, but it had seemed much worse.

The Stargate finally flashed to life and settled into an uneven event horizon. Stargate 101: Never walk into an unusual event horizon if you can help it. Damn, no going home today. Jack masked his disappointment and clicked the radio. “Stargate Command, SG-one-niner.”

“Go ahead, Colonel,” the familiar voice of General Hammond clearly stated.

Jack smiled, “General, it’s good to hear your voice. I have the camera from the MALP here if you want visual.” Jack beamed at the camera as he saw the indicator light come on. “Sir, just reporting in. Didn’t want ya to forget about me.”

Jack heard the general chuckle, “No fear of that Jack. To be honest, we’ve been a bit worried about you. Your last message was a bit garbled and you didn’t look too good.”

“Not to worry, Sir. I’ve done what I can for the ‘Gate. I wouldn’t trust it for a ride, but it sounds like the soundtrack is much better. How’s visual?” Jack asked.

“It looks good,” General Hammond replied. Jack could just hear a hint of a smile in his voice.

“Good. Not much news on my end. I have established a base camp in a sheltered ravine some miles from the Stargate. The Prometheus can zero in on the MALP’s locator beacon to find the ravine and the UAV’s beacon to find the cave. I’m good for food and water. Looks like the local flora and fauna will be more than enough to sustain me for a bit. Climate seems to be moving into spring or summer, so temperature shouldn’t be an issue either, but I could be wrong.”

“I did make contact with one of the locals. The aliens are not human, but definitely sentient. I tried making nice, but Kali took off a few days ago and I haven’t seen her since. I also found a crashed spaceship of unknown origin. No telling who or where the survivors are,” Jack briefly reported.

“What’s your assessment of the aliens?” the general asked.

“I don’t know for sure. Kali is the only one I’ve seen. She doesn’t hunt with weapons, but has some advanced tools and wears refined clothing. And until we can communicate at a deeper level than ‘me Tarzan, you Jane’, I just can’t ask her much… Well, I can’t ask her anything until she decides to come back,” Jack was surprised to find that he wanted her to come back. He was concerned for her while she was missing.

“Do you think they could be a threat?”

Jack thought about it, “My gut says ‘no’, but if they decide to attack…I’m just one man. All I can say for sure is that Kali hasn’t made any threatening moves. Quite the opposite, in fact.”

“What about the meteor activity?” the general pressed.

“Ah, that… Had I known then, what I know now… The meteor showers are a daily event, usually occurring about 30 minutes after the broken moon rises and lasting about an hour. Easy to avoid, once you know what to look for and where to seek shelter. I would have the Prometheus take extra care in orbit. I suspect a good deal of space rock is clogging up the upper atmosphere,” Jack added.

“Hold on a second, Colonel. Dr Frasier would like a word,” the General’s voice grew distant.

“Colonel?” came the tentative voice of the doctor.

“Yeah, Doc.”

“I’d like to get a look at that head wound,” she sounded unsure.

“Well, Doc…” Jack pulled off his cap. “It ain’t pretty. But it is healing. He did a quick turn for the camera. “See, nothin’ to worry about.” He slipped the cap back on. He hoped that it had been too quick for her to see clearly. He knew that it was scarring horribly. But it honestly didn’t hurt as badly as it looked. He didn’t want the good doctor to worry over it.

“Fever? Infection?” she asked more sure now.

Not anymore. “Nope.”

“Anything else I should know, Colonel?” Jack could picture her eyes narrowed as she tried to determine the truth. He couldn’t help but smile at his imagined image of her. She had so often turned that particular look at him.

“Not a thing, Doc. I’m fit as a fiddle.” Jack gave the camera his biggest grin.

“You better be,” she threatened.

Jack just grinned wider.

General Hammond came back on the radio, “Colonel, now that you have established that you can contact us. I want you to make regular contact daily.”

Jack interrupted, “No can do, Sir. The Stargate is a two-day round trip from my shelter. Most I can do is contact you weekly and even that is pushing it. I still have to stock up on supplies, in-case my weather sense is off and I am actually heading into winter, and the Stargate is located in a barren area.”

“What if we could re-supply?” the general asked.

Jack winced, and looked at the distorted event horizon, “Open the Iris, Sir.” He bent down and pulled out Teal’c’s National Inquirer, one of the few magazines he had found in his team’s gear. He had already read it 7 times, but it was more fun than reading Daniel’s Early Babylonian Cuneiform and Its Application in Ancient Mediterranean Cultures.

He displayed the magazine for the camera, and then walked over and gently pushed it into the event horizon. “Let me know how that rag comes out, Sir, and we’ll have an answer for you.”

“Just a second, Colonel.” Jack could hear the general talking to someone in the background. “Never mind, Colonel. It looks like we’re stuck with audio and video only.”

“That’s alright, Sir. I’ll be fine.” Jack tried to hide his disappointment. It’s not that he didn’t like the local food. It just would have been nicer to take that last step home.

“I sure hope so, Colonel. God’s speed, Son,” the general stated sadly.

“Thank you, Sir. Talk to you in a week. O’Neill, out.”

As Jack watched the camera turn off and the Stargate blink out, he was strangely at a loss. He wasn’t quite sure what he expected, but now that he had made contact and once again he felt his loneliness swamp him.

Yeah, well, suck it up, O’Neill. You’ve lived through worse than a bit of alone time.

Jack sighed, gathered his gear and started the long trek back to the cave.

~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG

Kali woke up to a throbbing pain in her leg. She couldn’t really remember much from the last few days. She remembered being overwhelmed by grief and blind panic. She vaguely remembered running and eating, but nothing else.

She examined her surroundings and found that she had fallen into a small crevice. Pale light filtered down to her from the opening at the top. A small stream flowed from one side of the opening to disappear under a pile of lava rocks.

She turned her attention back herself. Mud and rock dust covered her from head to toe. Her legs had several large gapping wounds bleeding freely. The rest of her was covered in abrasions and cuts. She carefully sat upright and then stood. Her legs held.

Kali carefully wadded the small stream and slowly climbed out of the tight crevice. She realized with shame that she had been running from ghosts. She had abandoned her duties and run without thought from something that she carried inside her heart.

As she pulled herself free of the last of the rocks, she was overwhelmed by her loss once again. Her grief clawed out her throat in a wailing cry as she collapsed on the ground. This time she didn’t run from the pain of her grief. She let out all her anger, fear, loneliness, and pain. She continued to cry and wail until her grief left her exhausted.

With her grief released, she finally became aware of herself once more. Guilt replaced grief as she realized that she had abandoned the Tar, Jak. She had adopted him into her pack. She was responsible for his welfare and protection, even if he didn’t seem to want it. She knew her duty and she knew that she had to return. It was her purpose now and she decided that she needed that purpose more than Jak needed her protection. Hopefully, he would forgive her neglect.

Kali pulled herself up and slowly limped back to Jak’s den.

~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG

Jack made it back to the cave just after dark. He had barely stowed his gear when a noise at the cave entrance had him turn with his weapon ready. He didn’t call out. He waited.

“Jak.”

“Kali? Is that you?” Jack asked quietly, voice barely above a whisper.

“Kash…Yes, Kali,” she replied.

Kali slowly walked into Jack’s vision. She looked a little the worse for wear. Mud coated her legs to mid-calf and her fur was matted down in several places. Jack kept his weapon trained on her.

“You alone, Kali?” Jack watched her carefully. She seemed puzzled by his question. Or maybe she just didn’t understand the word. “Others? More people? More like Kali?”

Finally, she understood, “Va…No. No more like Kali.” Then she seemed to lose her balance and fell just inside the cave entrance. “Va nok Mar, Jak.”

Jack carefully came out of his shielded position and approached the alien. Keeping a wary eye on the cave entrance, he carefully checked over Kali. She had several deep lacerations on her legs and arms as well as superficial scratches and abrasions were visible through her pelt. Her fur was a dull shine and was full of dirt and mud.

“Damn, girl, what the hell did you do to yourself? Alright, let’s get you over to your bed and see what we can do about those cuts.”

Jack carefully picked her up under her arms and pulled her over to her pallet of grass. He gave her his canteen to drink from and pulled out some of the smoked meat. He smiled as she wrinkled her nose at the food, but ate it any way.

Jack built a fire and started some water boiling. He didn’t know how clean the water was, but he didn’t want to introduce infection to her wounds while he was cleaning them.

He pulled out one of the first aid kits and setup next to Kali. “Kali? I’m going to take a look at your cuts.” He gestured to the deep cuts on her leg and carefully cleaned his hands. He had run out of the latex gloves his first few days of tending to his head. “Okay?”

Kali just watched him with interest.

“Okay. Doctor Jack’s second patient. At this rate, Doc’ll have me working in the infirmary,” Jack reverted to his monologue, while he carefully started to clean the cuts.

“Ya know, my first patient lived, so ya got nothin’ to worry about.” He moved to the next cut and used the tweezers to pull slivers out from the edge of the gash.

“Of course, my sewing skills are not so hot. And it looks like these are gonna need a few stitches.” Jack moved to the last deep cut and quickly cleaned it out.

All three of the deep cuts were now freely bleeding again, which in this case was good. The blood would flush any remaining debris out. Jack left them open and quickly cleaned out the worst of the scratches. He didn’t dare use any of the antibiotic cream on her. With his luck, it was toxic to her kind. So, with one last deep breath, Jack pulled out the suturing supplies and began to stitch the deepest cuts closed.

Once he finished, he examined his handiwork and decided that it wouldn’t look too bad when it healed. At least, the stitches were mostly straight, “See, what’d I tell ya. Good as new.” Jack pulled out the field bandages and carefully wrapped the deep cuts. He left the smaller scratches open to the air.

“Kal,” Kali said quietly. Her eyes were slowly blinking closed.

“You’re welcome. Get some rest. We’ll talk tomorrow.” Jack gave her a friendly pat on the shoulder and pulled one of the field blankets over her.

~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG

Week 5 – Kali is back. Well, actually, she’s been back awhile. She showed up over a week ago looking like hell. She won’t talk about what happened. She pretends to not understand, but I know she understands the question.

I’ve needed to hunt more often while Kali heals. It’s not too bad. I’ve enjoyed getting out and she’s enjoyed the fresh meat. We’ve been talking about everything else and have expanded our vocabulary. We were even able to talk about the stars and space travel the other day. I don’t know who was more surprised, her or me.

On a weird note, she keeps asking me where my people are. She doesn’t seem to understand that you are coming to get me. She seems to think that we need to get to you.

So in summary, surviving well, communicating better. Yada, yada, yada.

Jack was getting antsy to get back to the Stargate and talk to Earth. It wasn’t that he didn’t appreciate Kali’s company, but he just needed to hear another human voice.

Teaching the alien to speak English was a tough challenge, but it had its own share of frustrations. They each had things that they couldn’t discuss because of the lack of the right words. This was especially frustrating now that they could easily discuss other more simple concepts. And try as he might, Jack just didn’t have Daniel’s gift of language. Daniel was able to take a foreign word and make that inspirational leap of logic that would allow his friend to make connections and build bridges between the two languages.

But Jack needed information about Kali’s people, the Mar. He needed to know more about them and if they were a threat or not. So far, they had left him alone, but he was basing his assessment on assumptions about the aliens. He wasn’t sure if they had left him alone because they didn’t know about him or because they didn’t care. Both assumptions came with a host of problems.

Jack needed to hash out his concerns with General Hammond. He was already overdue to make contact. And he really didn’t want to worry the general. But he wasn’t sure how Kali would take his absence.

Kali had started hunting again and was looking much better. She was healing. She would limp for a bit, but eventually she would be back in top form. She had stopped shadowing him whenever he left the cave. So he assumed that he had proven he could take care of himself. Either that or she was just too injured to mother him appropriately.

But she had avoided talking about how she had become injured in the first place. All he was able to get out of her was that she was responsible for the injuries, not her people. Or was that others…Again, communication seemed to be the key item missing for proper intelligence.

But more worrying to Jack, Kali had seemed fragile since her return. She lacked the inner strength that had impressed him when he had first met her. If she were human, Jack would have said that she was suffering through depression. But she wasn’t human and he couldn’t afford to make that kind of assumption.

“Kali,” Jack called, trying to get the alien’s attention. She was in one of her quiet, serious moods. “I’ve got to go for a few days. Will you be alright alone?”

Jack caught a brief flash of panic before she hid her eyes. “Why do you go?” she asked.

“Why? Uh…I have to contact my people. They are expecting me to call and let them know I’m okay.” Jack felt that the explanation was inadequate, but he didn’t know how to make it more adequate.

“Jak’s people…Tar” she repeated, her eyes darting around the cave as she thought rapidly.

“Yeah, Tau’ri,” Jack readily agreed. “Are you gonna be fine while I’m gone?”

“Gone…Va. No. Don’t leave me here. I…I cannot kor tak…stay here as…one…alone,” she said, as panic once more edged her voice. She leapt up and stared at him tensely. “I will go with you,” she announced, and immediately began packing what she needed for an overnight trip.

“Whoa. Easy there. You don’t have to go. It’s just like when I go hunting, just longer,” Jack carefully regarded her frenzied movements and tried to think of options.

“You don’t understand. I cannot…I must go…,” she snapped, and then she lost her tenuous hold to English and started prattling off in her native tongue. Jack couldn’t follow two words of her monologue.

“Alright, already,” Jack shouted, to stop her rambling. “I have to go. You can come with me. Okay?”

Kali stopped packing and looked at him with a deep emotion in her eyes. ”Kash,” she replied in a tight voice.

“Ya sure?” he asked, not liking the tone of her consent. He didn’t understand what was driving her. But he knew her well enough that even if he said ‘no’ she would likely follow him anyway. He had to go. She might as well come along. Who knows, she might even help.

Kali regarded him carefully, “Yes. I am sure. Let us go to the Tar.”

“Okay, it’s a long walk. But we’ll hunt on the way.” Jack turned away from her and quickly finished collecting his gear for the trek. He then ushered Kali out of the cave and onto the trail that would eventually lead him to the Stargate.

They walked at a slower pace because of Kali’s limp. Jack didn’t want to aggravate the healing wound. Her leg was why he wanted Kali to stay at the cave. But her reaction was unexpected. It was like she was afraid that he wouldn’t come back. Or angry that he would leave…It was hard for him to tell one snarl from another, though he was improving. And right now, he was leaning towards fear.

Jack had originally thought that Kali was staying with him out of a sense of duty or obligation. That if he left, she would just return to her people, the Mar. But her reaction made him question that original premise. It also made him look at her disappearance and her behavior since her return more closely. But he just wasn’t Daniel. He couldn’t make that final leap of logic that helped him to connect the dots.

Jack finally decided that he just needed more information. “Kali, where are your people? Where are the Mar?”

This was one question that he had avoided for the last week. He had a feeling that her disappearance and subsequent injuries were related to her people somehow. Since, she had avoided questions about her missing days, he had tried more indirect means of inquiry. But now he was running out of patience.

Kali froze, mid-step, and then slowly released her tension and regarded him. “The Mar are…in space and other…circles…planets,” she explained carefully gesturing to the sky and moons.

Jack could see that she didn’t think he would believe her. So when he just gave her a nod in response and continued walking, she was surprised.

He had been expecting it. He and Kali had been talking about space, stars, and traveling the distance between. It made sense for the Mar to be a space-traveling race. The concepts were too easily communicated and understood.

“Are there any Mar on this planet?” he asked casually. With her last revelation, he was beginning to have a sneaking suspicion about why Kali was alone here.

Kali gave him a quick glance before replying, “Kali…I am only Mar here.”

Jack was certain that he knew the answer to this next question, but he had to ask, “That’s your ship in the ravine, isn’t it?”

Kali was quiet for a long time. Jack gave her sidelong glances and found that she was slumped in defeat. Not exactly the reaction he was expecting. She didn’t want him to know that she had survived the crash?

“Kash,” she whispered quietly, as if the answer would change if he couldn’t hear it.

They continued for some time in silence. Jack thought about how hard she had had it as the sole survivor of a crashed ship, stranded alone on an alien world with only a strange alien for company. He could relate. He just didn’t know what to say to her. More and more her strange behavior this last week was making sense. Her behavior was more human than he had thought. She had lost her entire crew and had been stranded alone on an alien planet. A bit of loneliness and depression was to be expected.

As they sought shelter from the meteors in a large rock cluster, Jack finally found his voice, “Tell me about them.”

Kali turned big sad eyes to him in question, “Who?”

“The others who…died in the crash.” She quickly turned away from him, hiding her face. Jack surprised himself by adding, “Just hear me out. My people think that the best way to deal with…death is to talk about it. To…get past the grief by…remembering the dead as they lived. Ya know? Bottling it up doesn’t work. I should know.”

“How?” Kali asked so quietly that Jack almost didn’t hear it.

“How do I know? Or how to talk about it?” Jack asked, not sure which he would prefer.

Kali turned back to him, “How do you know?”

Jack winced and stared at his hands as he replied, “Ah…well, I’ve lost people that I…cared about. People who died because of my choices…my decisions. I used to bottle it up. Lock the…pain away in a box in my mind. When I lost…Charlie…I went a bit nuts,” Jack gave a humorous laugh, as the old pain and grief washed through him again. “But…but I got lucky. Daniel helped me out…grounded me…and…and I got back to living…life.” Jack continued to stare at his hands twisting and untwisting a cord hanging off of his vest.

“It helped? Talking?” Kali asked.

“Yeah. It still hurts, but…not so bad,” he replied. “Look, you don’t have to, if you don’t want to…I just…I thought it might…help.”

She turned back to Jack, some of her grief still showing, “Kal, Jak, I may accept. But…not yet. I can’t…yet.”

They spent the rest of the trip in quiet small talk, arriving at the Stargate just after dusk.

~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG

Kali watched Jak as he quickly setup camp. She wasn’t sure why he wanted to setup camp in the open here near this odd monument he called a ‘star gate.’ Maybe his people were meeting him here.

She gave a soft sigh. She had thought long and hard about their earlier conversation among the rocks. The loss of her pack was still an open wound, more painful than the cuts on her leg.

Kali sat quietly in the light and warmth of the fire as she reviewed the conversation again. Jak had said one thing that made sense to her. ‘Remember the dead as they lived,’ he had said. She didn’t think that she could purge the sight of her pack, broken and bleeding on the deck of her ship. But that didn’t stop her from remembering them as they lived.

The week before the crash, the youngest female, Kai, had taken to teasing the oldest male, Tore. Kali remembered watching the pair circle around each other as she tried to contain her humor, her mate a warm presence at her back.

The memory seemed to lift her spirits a bit. She still felt grief and anger at their loss, but Jak was right, it didn’t hurt as much. Maybe he was right about talking as well. Perhaps she could tell him of her pack and her mate.

Kali looked up to see Jak watching her as he cleaned his paz…’rock chucks’ he called them. She gave him a sad smile before telling him of her pack, “They were my grall…group…I don’t know the best word. I was responsible for them. My wag…my male,” she stumbled, again, not knowing the best word in his language. “He was with me…The ship was hit by meteors. The…shielding collapsed. There was no time…No time…They couldn’t reach the nets…I tried to land softly…I tried but…no time…They died…I could do nothing for them…nothing…” she finally trailed off into silence, eyes wide with the horror of the memory.

Jak just listened and she found that in his quiet acceptance, she found her peace and a sense of balance that she had been missing. He didn’t judge her for failing. He merely accepted her account, accepted the plain facts, painful as they were. She found that as painful as the memory was, sharing it had softened the edges, if only a little, that grief shared was less overwhelming.

~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG

The next morning, Jack examined the Stargate and DHD for new damage before attempting to dial Earth. Kali showed a keen interest in the DHD but had largely ignored the Stargate itself, until it started dialing.

Jack could only smile at her shocked amazement when the wormhole engaged with its usual flair. Yeah, that never gets old.

“Stargate Command, SG-one-niner,” Jack called on the radio.

“Go ahead, Colonel O’Neill,” Jack grinned as Kali’s eyes widened even more as she regarded him.

“Sir, sorry about checking in late. I had to take care of a friend.” Jack gestured for Kali to join him, over by the DHD. She was watching everything but the camera. “This is Kali of the Mar,” he said introducing her through the camera and radio.

“Nice to meet you Kali, this is General Hammond from Earth.”

Kali spun around as the general introduced himself, before addressing the Stargate, “Greetings, General Hammond of the Earth.” Finally, she turned back to Jack, he simply gestured to the radio. She nodded in understanding. Her people had a similar method of communication. She had been amazed that the primitive Tar also had this technology.

“Do you have anything new to report, Colonel?” the general asked.

“Yes, Sir.” Jack hesitated, before continuing, “Kali is the sole survivor of the shipwreck. No other Mar on the planet. Looks like we both got lost together,” Jack tried to joke, but didn’t miss the flash of pain on Kali’s face. “Other then that, the rock chuck makes mighty fine eating,” he continued. Now that he had a handle on the Mar issue, he didn’t see any new threats to report or discuss.

“Understood, son. I do have some good news for you. Major Carter has outdone herself and the Prometheus will launch tomorrow or the next day. She is running through the final diagnostics right now,” the general added, his good humor shining through.

“Excellent! So, she’s ahead of schedule. Do you have a projected travel time?” Jack asked, with a grin.

“Major Carter said that travel time will depend on the fixes to the hyperdrive. She is hoping for 4 days, but if the engine encounters the same problems, it could be as long as 6,” the general stated confidently.

“Well, Sir, I have every faith in Major Carter’s estimates,” Jack replied.

“As do I, Colonel.”

Jack was about to sign off, when it occurred to him that if Kali’s ship could be brought down by orbiting space rocks, so could the Prometheus. “Sir, I got just one more thing. Do you remember when I mentioned that the meteor showers were a daily event?” Jack started, not sure exactly how to convey his warning.

“Yes,” the general promptly replied.

“Well, Sir, Kali’s ship was in a low orbit when it was disabled by space debris. I’d advise extreme caution and full shields when approaching from orbit,” Jack relayed.

“Understood, Colonel. Stay out of trouble and I’ll see you in a few weeks,”

“Yes, Sir. O’Neill out,” Jack gave the camera a jaunty salute before turning away.

Jack continued to grin well after the wormhole disengaged. It was only when he saw Kali’s sad frown that his happiness dimmed a bit.

Crap! I forgot to ask about Kali. Screw it! I can’t just leave her here alone. Like it or not, she’s coming with me.

“So, Kali, where do you want the ship to drop you off on our way home?” Jack asked, his grin firmly back in place.

Jack watched as Kali worked through the sentence. Slowly her sad frown was replaced with a brilliant, toothy smile. “You will take…me with you?” she asked.

“Wouldn’t have it any other way,” Jack continued. Grinning, he turned and slowly began collecting this gear.

“Kash. I would…like that,” Kali finally answered. Then she also turned to packing up the camp and collecting their gear.

~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG

The next few days Jack and Kali went about straightening out the cave that they had called home. They cleaned the area of all signs of their presence. They hauled all the extra gear up to the MALP and stored it in a small protected crevice.

Four days after they returned from the Stargate, they had done everything to ensure that the native plants and animals would quickly forget them. Jack had noticed that Kali’s depression was replaced with anxiety.

She seemed determined to perfect her English and insisted that Jack correct even the slightest mistake. But she also tried to grill Jack about his people the Tau’ri. Jack, of course, remained vague about the specifics unless he was talking about his team or the other human cultures they had encountered in the galaxy.

Finally, Kali tried to understand his culture. This is where Jack was as frustrated as Kali at their limited ability to communicate. While it was much better, they still had difficulty with abstract concepts.

“So, Danel, Carter, and Teal are your...team,” Kali clarified. Jack had been trying on and off to get her to understand the concept of a team to her for the last two hours.

“Yes,” he replied.

“And you...lead this team,” she continued.

“Yup,” Jack smiled, thinking that she was finally getting it.

“But...how?” she asked completely confused.

Jack sighed. This is where they both seemed to miss something. “I just tell them what to do and they do it.”

“And they listen?”

Jack grimaced, “Yeah, well, mostly.”

“Pah, I can’t believe you get much respect. Males often have that difficulty,” she gave him one of her toothy grins.

“Wait a minute...males?” Jack was just starting to get a vague hint at what they had both been missing in this whole conversation.

“Yes, males. Females are better suited to lead. We get instant respect. We seldom have problems with the males in our grall. Only the females give us trouble,” Kali continued.

Jack smiled, “So, no male team leaders?”

Kali snorted, “No. The very thought is…funny? Crazy?”

“That’s it! That’s why you don’t get it.” Jack was proud that he finally made the connection. “Among the Tau’ri, a leader is chosen based on skill, not their sex. Male and female can be a leader...Hey, is that why you’ve been giving me the mother hen routine? You didn’t think a male could hack it?”

Kali was back to being confused, “Mother hen routine? Hack?”

“Sorry, I meant…how you were constantly…protecting me even when I didn’t want you to,” Jack clarified.

“Yes. It is a Gall’na’s duty to care for those on her...team.”

“Ah…but the…Gall’nas…of my people can be either male or female. Mostly male…” Jack was giving her a big goofy grin.

Kali laughed at Jack, “No wonder the Tar are so backwards.”

“Hey…” Jack pretended to bristle at her remark. However, he was really pleased. Kali had finally shaken off her depression and seemed to be looking forward to meeting his team. Of course, he was almost bouncing.

According to Carter’s estimates, the Prometheus could be here at any time. Jack had decided to turn on one of the radios this morning. If they arrived, he should be able to hear them.

Jack hoped General Hammond took his warning about the space debris seriously. He didn’t want the Prometheus to become another causality of this planet. He was also hoping that they radioed in advance of a landing attempt. It was now early afternoon and the daily rock shower would be starting soon. If they radioed ahead he could warn them to wait a bit and avoid further complications.

The radio crackled to life as if summoned by his thoughts, “Colonel O’Neill, this is Colonel Ronson of the Prometheus, do you read?”

Kali looked up startled as Jack gave a loud whoop. “O’Neill here. I read you loud and clear.”

“That’s good to hear, Colonel. We are preparing for decent. We’ll be landing approximately one klick from the MALP’s beacon. Over?”

“Negative, Prometheus. We are expecting incoming meteor showers within the next 30 mikes. Repeat. Meteor showers expected within 30 mikes. DO NOT BEGIN DESCENT. Copy?”

“Copy. That is a no go for descent. Repeat, no go for descent.”

Jack heard Ronson’s confirmation and breathed a sigh of relief. “Be advised, meteor showers are a daily event and last approximately 45-50 minutes once started. Meteor showers fall in a Southwest to Northeast pattern. The Stargate is due North of the MALP’s position. The clearest descent path is likely along this route. Copy?”

“Copy. Will scan atmosphere for orbiting debris until clear for descent…” Jack heard Ronson chuckle before continuing, “Colonel, since we have a delay, I have some anxious folks up here that want to say hello.”

Jack smiled, “Go ahead and put ‘em on, Ronson.” He could easily picture Daniel bouncing in the background, waiting for his chance to speak.

“Hey, Jack!” Daniel’s enthusiastic welcome matched Jack’s mental picture.

“Daniel. So, how are your rocks?” Jack asked with a huge grin. He was just as glad to hear his friend’s voice.

“Good, good. Still important…still covered in squiggly lines…You?” Daniel asked.

“Oh, well…been a bit bored, ya know…Not so-o fond of rocks right now…Hey! I learned another language,” Jack stated with pride, still grinning. “I have at least a dozen new insults the Jaffa don’t know yet. Cool, huh?”

Daniel chuckled, “I’ll just bet. Hey, Jack?”

“Yeah, Daniel,” Jack replied.

“You…ah…wanna get some cake later?” Daniel asked, casually.

“Wouldn’t miss it for the world.” The radio started to hiss and crackle with interference. “Hey, Danny, looks like our little rock show is starting. I’ll let you know when it’s safe to come down. Say ‘hi’ to Carter and T for me. O’Neill out.”

“Prome…s out,” Daniel replied.

Kali looked at Jack expectantly, a smile teasing her mouth.

Jack couldn’t stop grinning. “So, ya ready to go home?”

Her eyes flashed with happiness, “Yes, I am.”

They settled down at the mouth of the cave and watched the meteors stream overhead in a happy silence.

~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG

When the last of the meteors completed their trek across the sky, Jack radioed the Prometheus that the ground in his immediate area was clear. Then he and Kali packed the last of their things in the cave and hiked the short distance to where the MALP was sheltered on the Northern side of the ravine.

They had just settled in to wait when Jack heard the familiar hum of the Prometheus’ engines. He was able to direct Kali in the right direction and they watched as the large ship come in for its landing. Kali was dutifully impressed with the size of the ship, but reserved judgment about the level of technology in its interior. Jack could only chuckle. He was sure she was expecting dirt floors with straw ceilings.

Before long, Jack could see the familiar figures of his team in the distance, slowly making their way to his position. Smiling, he stood up and made sure his hat was firmly in place. Kali joined him, giving off anxious waves of tension.

“Don’t worry. They’ll like you,” he tried to reassure her.

She glanced at him in gratitude, “Kal, Jak.” She slowly relaxed at his side.

Jack started to slowly bounce in place, rocking back and forth on his feet. When he couldn’t wait any longer, he strode forward to greet his team with a huge grin. He immediately grabbed Daniel and Sam in a huge, joint hug.

“God, I missed you guys,” he declared, before stepping back and grasping Teal’c by the forearm that changed into a loose hug.

“Tek ma’te, O’Neill,” Teal’c boomed out, a smiled tugging at his lips.

Sam had a bright blush and a huge smile, “Hi, Sir.”

“We missed you too, Jack,” Daniel stated for the group, his smile threatening to split his face in two.

Jack drank in the sight of his team. He couldn’t believe that they were really here, that he was really about to go home. Then he remembered Kali. He spun around so fast his team had to step back.

“Come on, kids. There’s someone I want you to meet,” Jack lead the group back, all but skipping with excitement.

Kali stood quietly by the MALP, quietly drinking in the group’s interactions. She gave the new people a reserved smile in welcome, and Jack a genuine smile as she delighted in his happiness.

Jack stopped between his team and Kali. He noticed the quick glances as they took in Kali’s alien appearance, but was content with the shy smiles they gave her in welcome.

“Kids, this is Kali, daughter of the Mar,” Jack introduced Kali in English. Then he turned to Kali with a smug smile, introduced the team in Mar, “Kali, pen nok Major Samantha Carter nost venta Tau’ri, grall’nat SG-1. Pen nok Doctor Daniel Jackson nost ventan Tau’ri. Pen nok Teal’c nost ventan Jaffa, gorn Chulak.” (This is Major Samantha Carter daughter of the Tau’ri, second of SG-1. This is Dr. Daniel Jackson son of the Tau’ri. This is Teal’c son of the Jaffa from Chulak.)

Kali was obviously touched by Jack’s introduction in her language. They had worked so hard on her English that she hadn’t noticed him practicing his Mar. She ducked her head, “I am pleased to finally meet you.”

Teal’c and Sam gave her a welcoming nod, as Daniel spoke for them, “Welcome, Kali.”

“Well, kids, as much as I would love to catch up, cake is calling. Let’s gear up and get the hell out of Dodge.” Jack pulled out their abandoned rucksacks. Teal’c’s pack even had the UAV strapped to it. Jack’s pack and Kali’s bag were strapped to the MALP. He smiled as they groaned, but quickly shouldered their bags with practiced ease.

Jack then made a big show of maneuvering the MALP back towards the Prometheus.

Just as Jack had predicted to Kali, Daniel tried to engage her in conversation and began learning Mar with a speed that made Jack’s head spin. But he was more than happy to disrupt Daniel’s progress by tossing out the odd line that made Kali laugh hysterically and Daniel in confusion. When Daniel sought clarification, Kali would refuse and Jack would just give him the ‘what’ look.

Jack’s happiness lasted until about halfway through the impromptu cake party in the mess. He begged off more social time, feeling slightly overwhelmed by the sudden company. He ensured that Kali was settled and familiar with the strange fixtures in her room, before finally taking the longest shower of his life.

Jack spent a long time staring at his image in the mirror, especially his latest scar. With his hair overgrown, the new stubble from the burn was patently obvious. The scar was a broad, jagged streak across his head, still dark from healing. His face, newly shaved, was gaunt and worn. In short, he looked like hell warmed over.

Then his eyes twinkled, and he started to hum then sing the lyrics to one of his favorite songs, Superman by Five for Fighting…”And it’s not easy…to be…me…”

As he finished the song, he felt a bit better. He was still a gaunt, worn-out, scarred face in the mirror. But he knew from experience that the image would improve with time. And what sleep, regular meals, and a haircut couldn’t fix, his good friends would. Jack settled back into the soft bed and was quickly asleep.

~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG

Kali woke with a start in the unfamiliar surroundings. At first, she thought she was back on her ship and the past three months had all been a very bad dream. But as she looked around the room, she noticed the differences. The cot was too small. The room was in the wrong shape. The writing on the wall was unfamiliar.

Slowly, she stretched and gave a tired sad sigh. Her pack was truly gone. They were dead. But she had new friends and they were taking her back to her people. A deed that she didn’t believe was possible just a short time ago.

The Tar were truly a space faring race. Her people had suspected as much but had yet to see one of their ships. Until now, that is. Now, for the first time a Mar was actually aboard a Tar spaceship. It was very similar in function to a Mar ship. But the differences showed her more clearly how truly different the Tar were from the Mar.

A Mar ship was the long term home of the explorer teams. It was decorated with items for comfort and well being. Individual cabins were large to allow privacy in the confines of space. There were only two communal areas, the control room and the common room.

But the Tar ship was compartmentalized with separate rooms for each function. Each room with its components was cramped together to maximize space, but only for utilitarian purposes. Even the common spaces were small and cramped. The only exceptions were the control rooms and the dining area.

Kali was still confused as to why a ship needed two control rooms, but Jak had briefly touched on how the Tar would fight other Tar or their enemies and needed a second if the first were taken or destroyed.

This was another significant difference between the Mar and the Tar. The Mar didn’t hunt other Mar. They even avoided conflict with other intelligent creatures like the Tar. When the Mar packs had a dispute over territory or property, the grall’nas would fight for dominance. The winner would set the settlement stakes.

But the Tar hunted each other and would likely hunt the Mar if they were in competition. Kali didn’t think that would be a good thing. In many ways, the Tar were less advanced then the Mar. But the Mar didn’t put weapons on their spacecraft. The Tar did. In space, the Mar would be easy prey.

Kali suspected that the black box that Jak had so effectively used hunting gaff was only one of many effective weapons the Tar had developed. Her people preferred to hunt with their hands or a knife. And while they were the masters of the hunt, they were inexperienced at hunting thinking prey. The Tar were not so inexperienced.

It was with this reasoning that Kali directed the Tar ship to a remote colony of Mar. The trip in a Mar ship would have taken seven days. However, Carter had stated that the trip would only take 10 hours.

With that in mind, Kali and briefly joined the Tar in celebrating Jak’s return before retiring to her assigned quarters. She was now well rested and ready to convince the Tar to allow her to return to her people alone.

The Mar did not need allies. And while Jak had been good company while she was alone, his people were overwhelming and aggressively friendly, especially the one called Daniel. They would not be welcomed among the Mar for long, and she feared what would happen when they were turned away. It was better that they break ties now while they were still friends.

An insistent knocking at the door pulled her from her thoughts. Kali swiftly crossed the small compartment and opened the door. A young Tar was waiting on the other side.

“Ma’am, I’m to escort you on the bridge. Major Carter says that we are approaching the hyperspace drop out point,” the man stated swiftly.

Kali hid her displeasure at his lack of introduction. “Very well,” she nodded at him and followed him as he led her through the maze of corridors finally ending at one of the control rooms.

Kali didn’t immediately spot Jak near the front of the room. He had removed all the hair on his face and the effect was startling. It was his familiar hat that she finally identified. She nodded her greeting at him with a smile.

“Leaving Hyperspace,” one of the Tar stated.

“Scan all channels and raise shields,” the Tar called Ronson commanded. He then turned to her. “Ma’am, how do we approach the planet without appearing threatening?”

Kali doubted that the Mar would see them as a threat while they were still in space. It was not the Mar way. Because they avoided conflict, they assumed that others did as well. Some of her people might be afraid, but most would be curious until they saw the first Tar. After that, she couldn’t predict what her people would do. She herself had first thought to kill the strange Tar that later became her friend.

Kali doubted that her people were ready to leave the security of their isolation just yet. Kali had been forced to see the Tar as more than a primitive people to be avoided. She had no other choice. Her survival depended on it. But her people were not in that same desperate position. Perhaps it was best to avoid the conflict.

“Mar will not attack the ship,” she finally said aloud. “They will not see the ship as a threat unless your people leave the ship. My people see the Tar as primitive but intelligent. We avoid all contact with the Tar. Land your ship away from the settlement and I will exit alone.”

“But Kali...” Kali turned to the one called Daniel, confused about her reaction. “There is so much our people could learn from each other. We...”

“Daniel,” Jack interrupted. “It’s not your choice.” He turned to Kali and gave her a half smile.

“Kal, Jak. I do not think the Mar are ready to meet your people yet. Someday maybe. But it is too much, too soon,” she tried to explain. Jak nodded and smiled at her. She was grateful for his quiet acceptance.

“Set her down five klicks off the settlement,” Ronson ordered.

Jak walked over to her and motioned to the exit, “I’ll help you get your stuff.”

Kali followed him out of the control room and back to her quarters. She was grateful for his quiet presence as she collected her small bag of belongings. “Kal.”

“What ever for?” he asked.

“For understanding,” she replied quietly.

“Hey, I may not be the smartest guy in the world, but even I can tell the difference between a hunter and a warrior,” he replied. “Your people are peaceful hunters. Mine are not.”

“Yes.”

“You’ll be okay?” he asked her.

She gave him a small nod, “With time, I think I will.”

They exited her quarters and Jak led her to a strange junction in the hallway and stopped. “Well, this is where I leave you. Take care of yourself, Kali.” Jak had stopped in the hallway. He gave her a sad smile and wave.

Kali looked around confused. She was standing in the middle of a large circle. But, she could see nothing that appeared to be a doorway. She felt the ship gently settled onto the ground with a small jolt.

“Good-bye, Jak. Happy hunting,” she replied. She watched as his hand touched a panel. Immediately she heard a humming and watched as several large rings rose from the floor to envelope her in light. When the light faded, she was no longer on the Tar ship, but under it.

She quickly checked to make sure she was all there, before turning an awed look up to the Tar ship.Yes, she had made the right decision. These Tar were more than her people could handle right now.

Kali quickly gathered her things and sprinted off in the direction of the settlement. She was eager to see the other Mar and to relay her sad and fascinating story of the destruction of her ship and her interaction with the Tar.

~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG

Jack waved at the Airman who drove him home as he unlocked his door and stepped into his home. The whole last week had been a blur. After he had transported Kali to the surface, he felt strange, lonely. He had interacted with his team, but had largely avoided the others assigned to the Prometheus.

After two days, Jack realized that he just wasn’t used to being around people and he had zero tolerance for anyone outside of his team. So, he spent the remaining week catching up on much needed rest and becoming reacquainted with food.

Jack closed his door behind him and carefully looked around at his house. Janet and Cassie had been kind enough to look to his home’s upkeep while his team had been in Nevada with Carter repairing and testing the hyperdrive engine.

Well, Carter was working on the engine. Daniel and Teal’c were ensuring that she had what she needed to work efficiently, namely food and rest. But according to Daniel, Teal’c’s presence had ensured that the scientists assigned to work with Carter had worked to their full potential. That was one of the reasons for the early completion.

Jack walked into his kitchen and opened the refrigerator. He pulled a beer and microwaveable lasagna out of the well stocked fridge. As he closed the door, he noticed the note from Doctor Frasier reminding him to eat better.

Doctor Frasier had been kind enough to meet the Prometheus in Nevada when it landed. Jack doubted that her sudden appearance was less because the doctor assigned to the Prometheus wasn’t doing his job and more to ensure herself and the rest of the SGC that he was indeed alive and well. Jack had nothing to complain about since her presence meant that Cassie was allowed along for the ride.

Her exam had revealed nothing he didn’t already know. He already knew that the scar was large and ugly and would require surgery to correct, or at least minimize. He also already knew that he was too thin and borderline malnourished. Her prescription of rest and vitamin supplements was duly noted, as was her sudden tight hug and quick apology as she drew away sniffing.

Doctor Frasier, Cassie, and his team accompanied him on the flight home. Jack had escaped their constant presence only long enough to get a haircut. But judging by the looks that Cassie gave him when he got back, they had known where he was going and gave him the space he needed.

After the group had landed, Jack had insisted that they all go the mountain first. He knew that everyone from the Prometheus’ crew to Doc had been keeping General Hammond informed of his status. But he knew that his old friend would need the visual as much as Doc needed the hands on exam. A little delay in returning home to complete the debriefing was a small price to pay for reassuring his friends, and thus the whole base, that all was well once more.

Now, finally home, he wasn’t quite sure what to do with himself. For all that he would have killed for TV on that damn planet, it didn’t appeal to him now. Instead he pulled the dusty guitar case out of his hall closet. He gently pulled out the old instrument and tuned the strings in again. Then he began to play. He didn’t play any particular song or melody, just played to hear the music. He simply played his thanks and joy in returning home safe and sound once again.

END

~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG~~SG

Mar is a made up language. Honestly, I didn’t try to take any of these words from anywhere else. I just made a noise out loud and if it sounded about right and vaguely alien, then I spelled it out. Here are the words I made up and what I decided that they mean.

Gaff – deer
Gorn - from
Grak nor – warning - I’m dangerous.
Grall – pack
Grall’na – first female in pack.
Grall’nat – second female in pack
Gresh – eat, food
Kal – thank you.
Kali nost venta Mar – Kali daughter of the Mar
Kash – assent – okay or yes
Kor tak – stay here, stay put.
Mar – intelligent cat-like alien race
Nok – other
Nor krav’at – to sing or in song
Nost – of or from
Paz – rock chuck
Pen nok – this other is
Tar – human
Va – negative – no
Venta - daughter
Ventan - son
Wag – Mate

Sound Track:
I am a rock by Simon and Garfunkel
The Sounds of Silence by Simon and Garfunkel
Silent Lucidity by Queensryche
Anything by Enya
Carry on my wayward son by Kansas
63