Chameleon

Episode 7

Written by Magicsunbeam

Authors: Magicsunbeam
Status: Complete
Rating: 13+
Category: Angst, action/adventure
Summary: On returning from a recon, Sam Carter brings some unexpected company back through the Stargate. What starts as a major intruder alert, soon turns into a full-scale rescue mission.
Spoilers: Season one, "The Nox"
Warnings: None
Authors' Notes:

Many, many thanx to the VS9 organizers for their immense patience and understanding. To Kelly. (Crash Tomcat) Thanx for picking up the baton for me when I needed breathing space. I appreciate it. To Hoo and Dee for their constant cheerleading, otherwise known as `bulcouraging` and `hasslebearing` - there's a new title in your honor, Dee. Also, thanx Dee and Hoo for playing betas of my grandma. A dirty, dirty job, but someone had to do it. I seriously and honestly doubt that what you are about to read will come up to the same standards as its forebearer, but hope you enjoy it nonetheless. Thanx.
Jackie
aka Magicsunbeam

Archive: Jackfic. Otherwise, do not archive without the author's express permission.
Disclaimer: The characters mentioned in this story are the property of Sci Fi and Gekko Film Corp. The Stargate, SG-I, the Goa'uld and all other characters who have appeared in the series STARGATE SG-1 together with the names, titles, and back story are the sole copyright property of MGM-UA Worldwide Television, Gekko Film Corp, Glassner/Wright Double Secret Productions, and Stargate SG-I Prod. Ltd. Partnership. This fanfic is not intended as an infringement upon those rights and solely meant for entertainment. All other characters, the story idea, and the story itself are the sole property of the authors.
 

Chameleon
By magicsunbeam


He had heard a great many stories about the stone ring and its magical powers. His favorite was the one that told of how his people, fleeing from persecution, had stepped through the ring and had been transported to their world. Oh, he knew it was a romantic tale, but one which spoke of cunning and a certain amount of bravery.

The young man sighed as he looked up at the ring now. It stood forlornly, half hidden by dense vegetation. A thick, luscious vine twisted and weaved itself round and round, covering the symbols he knew by heart.

His eyes flicked to the pedestal beside him. On top was an orange dome, which itself was surrounded by the very same symbols adorning the ring. As he made a mental note to come back later and rid the ring of its camouflage, the young man studied the symbols and wondered for the hundredth time what they meant.

"Ren! Hurry! We're going to be late. *Again*."

Ren turned to see his brother on the edge of the clearing, practically hopping from foot to foot. His fingers picking nervously at the edging of the wicker pail he held; Del Pahl was the very picture of impatience.

Ren closed his eyes and sighed. He loved his brother very much, but at times the younger boys lack of interest simply frustrated him. Why couldn't he show just a little more appreciation? Wasn't he just a little curious about the wonders of his heritage?

He already knew the answers to those questions, and to argue the point would be futile.

"All right, All right," Ren conceded. Picking up his own pail, he turned away from the stone ring. "I'm coming."

"We have to take the berries to Rhana first. Telak is going to be angry. You know he hates it when we're late."

Talek H`mur was a tough tutor, but he didn't scare Ren half as much as he scared Del. Ren sighed and put a hand on his brother's shoulder as they left the clearing and began to walk along the pathway leading into the neighboring forest.

"Don't worry so, Del." Ren said, trying not to let his irritation show. "We can take the back path to Talek's house."

"But Ren…"

The boy's protest was cut short by a deep and penetrating rumble. At the same time the ground began to tremble. It grew steadily in intensity until the birds flew up from the trees, squawking in fright.

For a long moment the boys stared at each other, eyes wide in a mixture of both fear and excitement. Eventually, both turned their heads toward the stone ring. On seeing the ring spinning furiously, Del dropped his precious berries and took several involuntary steps back. Ren, on the other hand watched mesmerized as the symbols flew round.

The ring stopped spinning momentarily and there was a loud metallic thunk as one of the wedge shaped pieces spaced along the outmost ring shifted.

Del gulped. "Ren, we should leave now," He said.

Ren didn't hear his brother; his eyes were locked on the whirling ring on the other side of the clearing.

Whump! The second piece slid into place.

Unable to decide whether to run or stay, Del began to hop again as a third, and then fourth section moved. Finally, he stepped forward and grabbed Ren's shirt in an attempt to shake him out of his stupor.

"Ren! NOW! We have to go—NOW!" He shouted into Ren's face.

Looking into his brother's distant eyes, Del knew he was not going to make Ren come away, and so with a frustrated "Come ON!" he took Ren by the arm and tried to make him move.

They had only taken a couple of steps when Ren, shook himself free and stood his ground.

"What's the matter with you?" he snapped, his eyes now blazing with anger. "Are you going to be a coward ALL your life? You run! I have to see!"

Del took a step back, shock and hurt passing over his face. Ren saw and tried to apologize.

"Del, I didn't mean… I know you're not… but aren't you even a little curious?"

"No," Del replied tersely.

Ren glanced back at the ring as the fifth chevron locked into place and when he looked back, Del had turned his back and was disappearing into the brush.

 "Oh let him go," Ren muttered to himself. "He'll be sorry he didn't see for himself."

*~*~*

Del was half way up the embankment, almost on the edge of the forest, when he heard a final solid thump. He stopped his ascent and looked down to where he could see his brother half hidden in a clump of bushes. Suddenly, there was a great roar and a bright blue plume of what appeared to be water shot out from the middle of the ring. Shocked, Del threw himself to the ground, only daring to raise his eyes again after a few seconds of silence.

When he did, it was in time to see a very big man walk from the pool that had settled within the ring itself. Even from were he was, Del could see the man was dressed in some kind of body armor. He had a close fitting cap on his head and a long cane in his hand. Del knew he didn't have to be any closer to know that the man was trouble.

Del looked to his brother and was relieved to see Ren had moved and was now completely obscured from the man's vision. Closing his eyes, he offered up thanks to whomever was listening. At times, Del found his older brother brash, and occasionally even stupid. Well this time his stupidity had gotten him into real trouble.

Del opened his eyes and looked once more at the scene below. His head was whirling in a million directions. He couldn't make up his mind whether to run and let his people know what had happened, or to stay and hope that these men would go back from where they came.

He had just decided to run for help when he saw sudden movement from one of the men. He walked a few paces in Ren's direction and stooped to pick something up off the ground. Del's face drained when he recognized his berry pail.

"No, no, no." he muttered to himself, as he watched the man move closer to where Ren was hiding. "Remain calm, Ren. Think calmly and use your cloak."

Del had no sooner thought the words, when a shout went up. The man raised the cane and aimed it in Ren's direction. Del could only watch in horror as the cane's bulbous head split into two and a moment later spat orange fire into Ren's body. Dropping his head onto his arms, Del sobbed for his brother.

On the edge of the clearing below, Ren Pahl lay dead. His sightless eyes looking to the hill to where they had last seen his young brother. But Del Pahl was no longer there. He was running like the wind across the forest floor, desperate in his mission to warn his people that something very bad was coming their way.

*~*~*


Colonel Sam Carter gave an involuntary shudder and pulled her P90 closer to her body. She didn't like PX4-921 and was regretting volunteering taking Colonel Harpers' place at the head of SG-5. He was only going to be on sick leave for week, max, and now she cursed herself for not asking General O'Neill to hold on the recon until Harper got back.

The planet was cold, damp, desolate, and truth be known, it was freaking her out. It was bad enough that the sun barely came through the clouds, or that for most of the time the place was half shrouded in a cold, wet mist. What really gave her the creeps was the forest. It was deadly silent, and from what they had seen in the forty-eight hours while SG-5 had been there, it was completely void of any animals. It wasn't natural.

Neither were the burn marks found on every single tree that they had examined. They ranged between deep, damaging burns that had been direct hits, to shallow scorches that had been glancing blows. Hundreds of hits, made again and again over a period of time. It wasn't long before they were identified as staff weapon burns. The mystery was why so many? Sam had given up trying to find the answer. Added to that was the distinct feeling that they were being watched. All she wanted was to complete the recon mission and get back to Cheyenne.

Lost in her thoughts, she watched the mist as it slid silently down from the hills once again. Smoky tendrils pushed their way through the trees and formed in a damp grey blanket around their bases.

"Colonel?"

The voice directly behind her made Sam jump.

"Jeez, Anderson!" she snapped. "Have you ever thought about wearing a cowbell?"

"Sorry, Colonel." the Lieutenant replied, trying desperately not to smirk. "I just thought you'd want to know we're packed and ready to move out."


Annoyed by her reaction, Sam attempted to brush it off. "Okay, let's go home. Dial it up, Lieutenant."

She hugged her P90 once more as she watched the gate spring to life. One by one SG-5 stepped into the event horizon, leaving her to watch their backs. Taking one last look at the mist filled forest; Sam shuddered once more and stepped through the gate.

*~*~*

Jack O'Neill's eyes were closed to the harsh glare of the overhead strip lights. His face was relaxed and completely without expression. His hands were clasped together and lay on his stomach, and his legs were stretched out in front of him. Leaning back, he felt a small tremor begin against his back, and as it grew, sighed with utter contentment.

God, how he *loved* his chair.
 
It had a heat pad. It had a massage pad. It was fully reclinable. It was big. It was comfortable. It was expensive. And best of all, it was *his*.
 
Jack sighed again as he wriggled further back into the soft leather, and a smile spread slowly across his face.
 
"Jack, you're back." Daniel Jackson offered from O'Neill's office doorway. "How did your meeting go?"
 
"How very observant of you, Doctor, and the meeting went okay thanks." Jack replied without opening his eyes. "Was there something I could do for you in particular?"
 
"Ur, no. No. I was looking to kill some time, so thought I'd come see SG-5 come home. I think they're due any time."
 
Jack opened an eye and fixed on his friend. "I see," he smirking.
 
Daniel frowned. "You do?"
 
"Admit it." Jack grinned. "You came to look at the chair."
 
Daniel looked puzzled. "Ur, no. I came to see SG-5 come home, in the hope that they might have something…"
 
The gate klaxon sounded, interrupting Daniel. Jack jumped to his feet and strode to the door.
 
"It's okay to admit, Daniel," Jack said. He clasped Daniel's shoulder as the two men left the office. "I mean, it *is* a great chair, and it's perfectly okay for you to feel envious."
 
Daniel stopped for a moment, his face the picture of disbelief as he watched Jack's retreating back. He then shook his head and followed.
 

*~*~* 

"Who do we have paying a visit today, Sergeant?" O'Neill asked as he approached the banks of computers overlooking the gate room.
 
"Awaiting confirmation, sir," Alberts answered without taking his eyes of the screen. "But SG-5 are due back at any time."
 
The young man watched the monitor as the computer processed the information, and spat out a code. "It's SG-5, sir," he confirmed, looking up at O'Neill for further instruction.
 
"Okay, I suppose we'd better let them in then. Open the iris." Jack ordered.
 
"Sir," Alberts nodded and pushed a button on his keyboard.
 
"Okay, let's see if Carter brought you any doo-hickey's back." Jack said as he headed for the stairs.

*~*~*

Jack and Daniel watched as two members of SG-5 came through the gate carrying an equipment case between them, with a third member following quickly. After a slight delay, Sam practically ran out onto the ramp. As she gained her feet, she surprised everyone by turning back to the gate and aiming her gun at the swirling pool of particles. As she did so, soldiers rushed to the foot of the ramp, their weapons also raised and ready. After a few seconds, Jack coughed gently.
 
"Is there a problem, Carter?" He asked.
 
Sam suddenly became painfully aware of being the center of attention. For a couple of seconds more she held her stance then lowered her gun, as she did so the gate disconnected with a whoosh.
 
Blushing, she turned to Jack. "Sorry, General. It's just…."
 
"It's just…" Jack prompted. "What?"
 
Sam looked back at the gate and muttered, "I had the distinct feeling of being followed into the gate."
 
In an attempt to lighten the moment, Jack leaned to one side and peered behind the Colonel, before standing up straight and looking directly into her face.
 
"Can't see anyone."
 
"No, sir." She grinned sheepishly. "I guess the planet freaked me out a little."
 
At the bottom of the ramp, Anderson grinned broadly at his buddy, Rosenberg, and made a gesture of rubbing money between his fingers. The grin fell from his face when he noticed Teal'c had entered the room and was watching him.
 
Throwing Anderson a stern look, he walked across the ramp.
 
"Welcome home, Colonel Carter," he said, bowing his head slightly.
 
Sam's face lit up instantly. "Hey, Teal'c! Welcome home yourself. When did you get back? How is the family?"
 
Teal'c was about to answer when a high-pitched squeal filled the air, causing everyone to clamp their hands over their ears. The noise only lasted for a brief second, before the room lapsed again into silence.
 
Jack was the first to respond. "What the hell was that? Sergeant"
 
Sergeant Alberts' voice came over the speaker. "I have no idea, General. Everything seems okay up here."
 
"Well get Siler onto it. It damn near burst my ear drum."
 
"Right away, sir," Alberts replied before picking up the phone.
 
"Okay, people. Debriefing in one hour," Jack ordered, and started moving for the door. "So, Daniel, about the chair…"
 
As everyone filed out of the room, Teal'c stood looking up at the Stargate, a slight frown upon his face. After a long moment he locked his arms behind his back and turned to follow his comrades.

*~*~*

In the quiet section of corridor on level twenty-eight, no one was around to see the two frightened aliens huddled in a darkened corner.
 
The man was roughly Daniel Jackson's age. He had a fresh, handsome face framed by dark, shoulder length hair that was to say the least, a little on the wild side. His was dressed in a plain tunic with pants that were made of the same thin material. He was also slim to point of malnourished.
 
The woman was a little younger and just as good looking. She too had shoulder length hair, which was just as wild in appearance, although hers was the color of corn. Like the man, she also wore a tunic and pants and was as painfully thin.
 
Speaking in urgent whispers, they argued.
 
"Nile, this is no place for our people! You saw the one with the mark on his forehead. He is one of the *same*!"

"He is*one*, Rhana. Only one."
 
"How do you know he is the only one? We have only seen a few of this world. How do you know there aren't more here?"
 
"I *don't* know, but I what I see is one man amongst many others. Do you think these people would have him live amongst them if he was a danger to them?"
 
Rhana Pahl's eyes brimmed with unshed tears.

 "All I know is what I see," she whispered angrily. "He is of the same men who, for no reason, hunted us like prey. Who maimed and killed for no reason. These men took my husband from me, Nile. They murdered Bez and Ren, and they destroyed Del's soul. How can we even *think* of bringing our people here?"

Tears were now coursing down Rhana's face, and the sight of his sister so upset tugged at Nile's heart. Gently, he pulled her into his arms and held her there as she sobbed quietly against his chest. At last he spoke softly into her hair.

"We cannot go on this way, Rhana," he said. "As evil as those men were, I would sooner see our people die quickly than to see them melt away through fear and sickness. We have been entrusted by the council to make this work. We can't give up without trying. We owe it to the people, and to the memory of Bez and Ren and the countless others who sacrificed themselves in order that our race survives."

For a long moment Rhana did not respond, although Nile noticed she was no longer crying. Then she raised her head and met Niles gaze with the determined eyes he knew so well.

"We have to try," he told her, and to his relief she stepped back and nodded in agreement.

"Are you ready?" he asked.

Before Rhana could answer, voices and the sound of heavy footsteps filled the corridor. Sensing her immediate fear, Nile pulled her to him. He closed his eyes and a peaceful, calm expression fell over his face. At the same time his and Rhana's bodies began to shimmer against the shadowy background. Had one of the airman had seen them at all, they would have been very hard pushed to explain how the two strangers had disappeared into thin air.

*~*~*

It wasn't until he actually dropped the pencil that Jack realized all eyes were on him. Straightening himself in his seat slightly, he raised his eyebrows and stared at Sam as if she were the most interesting thing he had seen all week.

"So we can write this one off?" He asked.

Sam returned the look with one of slight frustration. "No, sir. Not quite. As I said, there's still the question of how much naquada is in the soil samples we brought back. It could be that it'd be worth setting up a mining operation. Although, judging by what I saw from the readings on the planet, I'd say the chances aren't particularly high."

"So we can write this one off." Jack repeated.

"I can't believe there was nothing there." Daniel said, glumly. "Looking at the pictures from the MALP, there seemed to be signs of life, even if it was primitive."

"The one thing that did puzzle me was the forest," said Sam.

Jack cocked his head on one side. "Oh? Trees puzzle you, Colonel?"

"Not the trees, but the burn marks on them."

Daniel leaned forward in his chair. "Burn marks?"

"Yes," Sam carried on. "I couldn't find a single tree that didn't bare at least a scorch in its bark. Most had several burns, and some younger ones had been splintered in half."

"Do you know what made them?" Daniel asked, intrigued.

"My best guess is a staff weapon, but why so many? I've seen nothing like it at all. It's as if a whole group of Jaffa was using the trees as target practice. It was a little surreal to look at."

"Did you see any other sign of Jaffa presence?" Jack asked.

"We didn't see any other sign of *anything*, sir." Sam replied. "People, animals, birds; nothing. At least not in the immediate area of the gate. It was actually quite…"

"Freaky." Jack finished with a grin.

Sam flashed a small smile back at him before studying her own pencil. "Yes, sir," she said. "Freaky."

Jack stood up. "Okay, you freaky people. Lets wait and see what the naquada results look like, and then we can wipe planet Eerie off the starmap for good."

*~*~*

Back down on level twenty-eight, Rhana and Nile had made their way slowly and carefully through the corridors, only to find themselves back where they started.

"Where are all the people?" Rhana asked, puzzled.

"I don't know," Nile replied. "Perhaps they are attending a meeting with their councilors."

The sudden clanking of an approaching elevator had both running for the shadows. Once again Nile reached for his sister, only to be shaken off this time. Rhana smiled and closed her eyes. A moment later her body began to melt into the background. Pleased, Nile returned the smile and did the same.

A few seconds later the elevator doors opened and two airmen stepped out into the corridor. They exchanged words as a third airman approached. From their hiding place, Rhana and Nile watched as he stepped in the car. He pressed a button on the wall and the doors slid closed again.

After the first two men had walked away, Nile cautiously approached elevator door. He looked back to the shadows in which Rhana stood before tentatively reaching out to the call button.

"Nile!" Rhana hissed. "No."

"This is the way, Rhana," he whispered back. "Come."

With a final burst of bravado, he pushed the button and pressed himself against the wall. A second later the door opened and to Nile's relief, no one was there. Still moving with caution, he stepped inside. Despite her fear, Rhana was not about to be left and she ran across to join her brother. They both jumped when the elevator door suddenly closed behind them.

Unruffled, Nile studied the panel in front of him, and after a moment of indecision he pressed the button that would take them to level twenty-one.

*~*~*

Jack walked from his office with his nose in a file. Halfway across the floor, he stopped and looked up in surprise as he almost bumped into Teal'c.

"Hey, big guy. Whatcha doing?" he asked, looking through the control room window and down to where Siler was working on the gate.

"I am not convinced, O'Neill," the Jaffa stated.

"Oohh? Convinced of what?"

"It is of my opinion Sergeant Siler will find nothing amiss with the Stargate," Teal'c went on. "I do not believe the noise we all heard came from anything mechanical. I believe the noise was made by something live."

"Okay," Jack nodded slowly. "So what do you think made it?"

Teal'c clasped his arms behind his back and for the first time took his eyes off the gateroom.

"That I do not know."

"Ah. Okay," Jack said, pulling the file to his chest and studying his friend. "What say we leave Siler to do his tests anyway? He doesn't get to play with the gate nearly as much as he'd like. Let's go find Carter and Daniel and run the idea passed them, what do you say?"

Teal'c raised an eyebrow and threw Jack a `do not attempt to humor me, human` look. However, he said nothing, merely bowed his head slightly and followed Jack from the room.

*~*~*

On level twenty-one, Rhana and Nile were making discoveries. Hidden in the background, they watched as Doctor Brightman and her staff went about their day. The infirmary had only two patients. A man with a broken leg, and a woman who was undergoing tests. Both chatted and laughed with the nurses, the sight of which relaxed Rhana's nerves immensely. The fact that no weapon was to be seen also playing a part.

They carefully made their way through level twenty-one, absorbing the sights and sounds, and more importantly, the level of care and kindness given by the men and women in white uniforms.

Happy with what they saw, the two strangers re-entered the elevator and after more deliberation, push the button labeled `ground level`.


*~*~*

Jack O'Neill was concentrating on the lemon meringue in front of him, studiously trying to ignore Teal'c's glare. Picking up Carter and Daniel enroute, they had all made their way to the commissary to discuss Teal'c's suspicions.

"So, it's a gut feeling you have, Teal'c?" Daniel asked.

"It is, Daniel Jackson. The sound was animal like. I do not believe it came from any part of the Stargate."

 "Okay, so you think I should put the base on alert based on a gut feeling?" Jack asked.

"It is my opinion that we should be cautious, O'Neill. Nothing more at this stage."

"Ah. Okay. I can do cautious," Jack said, just as his cell phone began to ring.

He picked it up, noting the caller before answering. "What's up, Siler?" he asked.

"General, I looked at the gate as you asked and found nothing wrong. So I ran a full diagnostic."

"Annnd?" Jack prompted, meeting Teal'c's level stare, his own eyes hardening as Siler continued.

"Something came up on a couple of the security cameras. Sir, I think you need to take a look at what we found."

*~*~*

"What we're seeing here is a thermal imaging picture recording SG-5's return through Stargate today." Siler explained. He pointed at two reddish orange blobs on the screen. "That's Lieutenant Anderson and Sergeant Rosenberg and behind them is Captain Sorenson. Now in a second you'll see Colonel Carter come through. There. Did you see that?"

Jack peered at the screen. "See what?"

"Let's see that again, Siler," Sam ordered, stepping closer to the computer.

Siler played the tape back again and as the thermal image of Sam played, he pressed pause.

"Oh my God," Sam breathed.

"Would someone explain what I'm missing?" Jack asked, clearly irritated.

Sam leaned over Siler and pointed at the still image. "You see how wide the image is?" She asked. "I thought I'd put on a extra couple of pounds lately, but not *that* many! Sir, if this is right, something came through the Stargate with me."

"There's more," Siler said, pushing his chair to another console. "This is footage from a surveillance in corridor one. Take a look."

At first nothing stood out in the dim light, then suddenly and just for a moment the outline of two people appeared on screen.

"Crap," Jack swore. "Intruder alert. Alberts lock the mountain down. No one goes in or out until we find these…," he shook his head. "Whatever they are. I want search parties to go through the place with a fine toothcomb. Carter, make it happen. And Teal'c, please don't say `I told you so`."

Teal'c stared him, expressionless. "I was not going to say such a thing, O'Neill," he said. "However, I *did* tell you so."

*~*~*

"Have you ever seen anything more beautiful?" Rhana Pahl asked.

She was gazing in wonder at the Colorado landscape that stretched out before them. The sky was a crisp, cobalt blue. The kind that came in the height of summer. The evergreen forests that ran as far as the eye could see stood tall against the mountains, and were as green as the sky was blue. A soft breeze played through Rhana's hair as she turned her face toward the warmth of the sun.

"It's perfect," she breathed.

"Our people would do well," Nile agreed.

Suddenly an overhead speaker roared to life.

"This is General O'Neill. We have an intruder alert situation. Until further notice the base is on lockdown. All personnel to their stations. This is not a drill. Repeat. This is not a drill!"

All around them airmen began running to their posts, oblivious of the frightened strangers who were standing huddled against the chain link fence.

"Stay calm, Rhana," Nile whispered urgently. "Do not show your fear."

What Nile didn't know was that his own fear shone more than his sisters, and that he was the one in need of calming this time.

From behind them a deep voice rumbled. "Remain where you are."

They turned around to find Teal'c standing a few feet away. In front of him he held a zat gun and as they turned it sprang to life with a whine and a spark of blue.

Her eyes wide with horror, Rhana let out a high-pitched squeal and slid to the floor.

*~*~*

"I wish to see my sister," Nile demanded.

"You will," Daniel promised. "But first you have to answer the question. Why did you come through the Stargate? How did you escape detection?"

Nile stared at Daniel for a long moment before deciding the only way out of his predicament was to co-operate. So with a heavy sigh, he began to tell his story.

"My name is Nile Tonra and my sister is called Rhana. My people are a the Kotra, peaceful race from a world named Fluphe."

Jack choked. "Fluffy? You live on a planet called Fluffy?"

"Jack!" Daniel muttered menacingly.

Nile looked a little perplexed, but carried on.

"Half a season ago men like him came to our world," he said, pointing at Teal'c. "They came through the stone ring and killed Ren Pahl, the brother of our council leader. They would have killed a second brother, but he escaped to warn us of their coming. Several men ran down to the stone ring, only to be cut down too. The leaders ordered that the rest of our people should flee to the roof of the forest and to wait there until the evil men had returned through the stone ring."

"The roof of the forest?" Daniel asked.

"A village, raised high in treetops. Long ago, when giant beasts roamed our world, my people would retreat to the roof whenever the beasts came. The trees are tall and thick, and so the village is also well hidden from the ground below."

"A safe haven," Daniel nodded. "Go on."

"The ferociousness with which these men hunted convinced us all that to stay hidden was the safest choice. However, they became more and more frustrated when they could not locate us, and as a result kept returning to try again.

"One day they returned with a new weapon. This device allowed them to see us, and that day many were lost, including Bez Pahl. He was my sister's husband and the leader of our council. The council met and it was decided that what was left of us should flee the forest. When it was next quiet, we were to take our families and go the hills that lay behind. There we had caves in which to hide. When they returned, the men were even more determined to find us. By then we were all safe within the caves, out of reach of their device.

"What we did not realize was that the hills themselves would help speed up the demise of our race."

"How so?" Teal'c asked.

Nile caught himself glaring at the Jaffa, becoming angry when Teal'c stared passively back.

Jack saw that anger and moved to quell it. "This man is not your enemy," he stated quietly.

"His kind has almost put an end to my people," Nile returned. "They have robbed my sister of her husband and his brother, as well as many, many others."

"There is no dispute over what Teal'c's *kind* did, but he is not the same as the men who did this to you. You may think he is, but you are wrong."

Daniel interrupted. "Nile, I don't understand. How did the hills speed up your race's demise?"

"We thought that by hiding away in the caves, our chance of survival would increase. Instead we found that the cold and wet conditions extreme. At first they hindered and then went against us. Soon people, especially the very old and very young, became sick and began to die.

"Then one day a different race appeared. Instead of hunting us, they seemed content with their examination of our world. They looked, but did no harm. They were not killers.

"The council called a meeting and asked for two volunteers to walk through the stone ring with these people. The purpose of which was to secretly look to see if the place from which the strangers came would be safer for our people. Rhana and I were chosen for the task."

"Did you think about what would happen if you were caught? What if we turned out to be as bad as the Jaffa?"

"It was a risk we were willing to undertake. Doctor Jackson, my race has been decimated. We used to be more than two hundred strong and now only forty-seven remains. What would you have done?

"We came here with only one intention, and that was to find a way to save what remains of our people. All we require is a peaceful place to live. Somewhere where we can recover and grow once more in numbers."

 "You haven't explained how you managed to escape detection," Sam said. "Well almost escape detection."

Nile looked puzzled. "We cloaked ourselves of course."

"Of course," Jack retorted.

"How?" Sam asked.

"You do not have the ability to blend in?"

"Blend in, how?"

"In our minds we picture a wall, and we become like that wall."

"Chameleons! They're Chameleons!" Daniel cried.

*~*~*

Rhana Pahl began to cry with relief when she saw Nile walk into the infirmary. He went quickly to comfort her, telling her he was fine and that they would not be harmed.

Jack and Daniel stood back for several minutes before approaching the bed.

"This is General O'Neill, Colonel Carter, and Doctor Jackson. I have told them why we are here."

Before anything else was said, Doctor Brightman bustled up.

"Gentlemen," she nodded before checking a chart. "You'll be happy to here Rhana will be fine. It was the shock of meeting Teal'c that made her faint. Not surprising really," she laughed. "We did some tests and it seems there will be the patter of tiny feet within the next few months. I did worry that gate travel may have effected the baby, but all looks to be well."

"There is a child?" Nile gasped. "You have made no mention of a child. Had I known I would never have agreed with council to send you!"

"That is why I did not speak of it, Nile." Rhana replied quietly.

"Rhana! The risks we took were enormous, anything could have happened!" Nile cried angrily.

Rhana began to cry again.

"I don't care about the risks, Nile. All that matters now is the survival of our people. I don't care what happens to me. Without Bez I have nothing."

Nile lifted his hands to his head in frustration. "With this child you have *everything*, don't you see that? A part of Bez is growing within you; he will always be with you. It will lessen your grief and help you go on."

Nile leaned forward and as he gathered his sister into his arms, whispered, "You have *me*, Rhana. You will always have me."

Sam fought back tears, while Jack and Daniel looked decidedly uncomfortable. Finally, she turned to Jack. "Sir, any woman who can knowingly risk the life of her child for the safety of her people deserves all the help she can get. We *have* to help."

"Mm," Jack grunted, then after a moment said. "Briefing in one hour. Inform SGs 1, 2, and 12."

With that he turned and walked briskly away.

*~*~*

"Okay people, let's make this quick." Jack said, taking a seat at the briefing room table. "We need to get these people back here ASAP. Colonel Carter and SG-1 will lead the rescue mission, SGs 2 and 12 will assist. The plan is get in and out with as less fuss as possible before our friendly Jaffa return for another pop at the Kotra.

"We already have pictures back from the UAV, and it seems all is quiet on the western front right now. So, let's move on this and get these people home. The rescue parties leave in twenty minutes."

Jack stood and the team leaders followed, each going off to organize their own men.

*~*~*

With Nile leading the way the three SG teams, plus a team of medical staff followed. Sam wasn't particularly happy to find herself back planet Eerie, although it helped that she now knew there was a reason for the feeling of being watched.

Nile led the way through the devastated forest. Daniel kept looking up into the treetops, trying to find some hint of the village, but saw none. Neither did he see any evidence of civilization on the ground level.

At last, they came out of the forest to find themselves in front of series of rolling hills, the tops of which were shrouded in the mist that Sam had hated so much.

To the naked eye it looked like an ordinary hillside, but as the climbed it wasn't long before they began to come across small caves. The higher they climbed, the bigger the caves became.

At last, Nile led them toward a cave whose mouth was hidden beside a pile of rocks. Carefully, he led the way inside. The interior was pitch black and not a sound could be heard.

"Talek," Nile called into the darkness. "It is I, Nile. It is safe to show yourselves, help has arrived."

Slowly, and one at a time, torches were lit throughout the cave until it was well illuminated.

Daniel was the first to comment on what they saw.

"Oh my God. Sam take a look."

Throughout the cave, groups of people huddled together in fear. Some standing, some sitting, but it was the ones lying on beds of rags, wheezing and coughing that appalled Daniel.

Sam took a moment to absorb the sight. She then turned to the gaping medical team.

"What are you waiting for? Get in there," she said angrily. Turning to Nile she asked to be presented to the council so that they could begin preparations.

*~*~*

"Everything is ready sir," Sam told Jack over the radio. "There are a few here who are pretty sick, but with help they should be able to make the gate. We plan to start out in thirty minutes."

"Very good, Colonel. Keep me appraised," Jack's voice crackled through the speaker.

"Will do, sir. Carter out."

*~*~*

The journey down the hillside was uneventful, except for time spent stopping to allow the sicker members of the Kotra to get their breath back. Generally, Sam was happy with how things were going up till now.

That satisfaction turned to concern when within a quarter of a mile from the gate, they heard the familiar thumping of chevrons locking into place. The Kotra also understood what that meant and panic quickly spread throughout the group.

"Nile," Sam called to young Kotra who was helping and elderly woman. "I don't want to start back the way we came, is there anywhere in these parts that we could hide?"

Nile shook his head. "There is not, Colonel Carter," he began to say and stopped. "No, wait. There is one place, a cave. It lies on the outskirts of the forest, close to the stone ring."

"Okay, take us there. As long as we stay on this edge of the forest we should be All right, the Jaffa haven't come as far yet."

*~*~*

Sometime later, they approached the place Nile had spoken of. Quickly and quietly they got everyone into the safety of the cave. Sam noted that cave mouth was not as hidden as the one's further up the hill. The good news was that the Jaffa seemed to be moving further away. She hoped that they would tire soon and go home.

However, some time later there was no sign of a ceasefire, and to her dismay they appeared to be getting nearer.

Standing at the edge of the cave, she and Teal'c watched the forest. Occasional wisps of smoke could be seen drifting through the trees.

"What do they *want*?" Nile asked, appearing at her shoulder. "Why persecute us this way? We have done nothing to them."

"They are driven by desire, Nile Pahl," Teal'c said. "The desire of their masters to take whatever stands in their way, and to destroy anything they that is no use to them."

"Then they have no use for us." Nile said sadly.

"On the contrary," Teal'c replied. "They are aware of the Kotra's ability to cloak themselves. That is of great value to them."

"But I don't understand. If we are as valuable, why destroy us?"

"Because they can't get their hands on what they want, Nile," Sam said. "It's as simple a thing as that."

Suddenly an orange blast shot out from between the trees and embedded itself in the hillside.

"Quick, everyone inside," Sam ordered, pushing Nile toward the cave opening.

"Colonel Carter, once they have come through the tree line, they are going to spot the cave entrance immediately."

"I see that Teal'c," Sam replied. "Bring every SG member up here."

Nile stopped Teal'c as he began to head back into the cave. "Wait. There is another way."

"Where?" Sam asked quickly.

"Not where," Nile replied. "How. My people have the ability to cloak themselves; you saw that. We also have the power to cloak objects; such as cave entrances."

Sam looked astonished. "Can you do that? Is it possible that one man can do that?"

"Not one man," Nile replied. "Several. Collectively, we easily have the ability. There is only one problem."

"Fear." Teal'c stated.

"Yes. To achieve the effect, everyone must be calm."

Another blast from the trees made everyone jump.

"All right," Sam said. "It's a hell of a way to test you mettle, but it might be a better option. Do what you have to do, Nile."

*~*~*


In a matter of minutes, the Jaffa had made their way to the edge of the forest. For a long while they studied the hillsides looking for signs of movement, only to find none.

After almost fifteen minutes of watching, the First Prime finally lost patience.

"Enough! This search is pointless. We will return another day. Kree!" He ordered and stomped away toward the gate.

The others, happy to abandon the cold, damp world, followed quickly on his heels.

Ferretti had followed from a safe distance to make sure all the Jaffa had gone. Minutes later he returned with a grin.

On the edge of the cave mouth, the Kotra had held their vigil until the gate was heard to open and then close. Now safe, they opened their eyes and looked around at each other smiling proudly.

"It is done," Nile grinned at Sam.

And she agreed. "It most certainly is. Now, let's get these people to somewhere a whole lot warmer!"

*~*~*

The return to the SGC was one of huge celebration. Rhana was overjoyed to see her brother return safely, clutching Del Pahl's arm and offering him support. The young man looked frightened and confused, but as soon as he laid eyes on her, he smiled broadly.

Brightman and her staff waited in the gate room, eager to start treatment for the sick Kotra. In the mean time, Daniel and Sam acted as guides, shepherding the remainder of the people toward food and warm clothes.

Amid the celebrations, Teal'c noticed a boy of around twelve years, and girl around seven standing in a corner watching. Neither looked happy and in the end Teal'c's curiosity over took him.

As he approached, the girl moved to hide behind her brother, while he bravely stood his ground.

"Where are your guardians?" Teal'c asked.

The boy took a second to build himself up to answer the giant before him.

"Our mother and father are dead," he said.

"Who looks after your welfare?" Teal'c asked.

"We have a grandmother. She will come for us soon."

"Is that so? Where did you last see her?"

The boy began to relax.

"Some people came and took her when we came to this place."

"Do you see those people?" Teal'c asked.

The boy looked around the gateroom and after a second pointed a skinny finger at a nurse.

"One of those."

"I see. Did they explain that they were going to help her? Where they were taking her?"

The boy shook his head

The girl, taking her cue for bravery from her brother, looked around him.

"I want to see my Grandmother."

Teal'c nodded solemnly at her demand. "Then you will see her. Come," he said, holding out his hands.

Reluctantly at first, the girl stepped towards him and the next moment found herself being lifted up into his arms. He then rested and gentle hand on the boy's shoulder and guided him toward the door.

*~*~*

Rhana had come to the infirmary to offer comfort to those of her people who needed it. She was talking to a young woman when the doors swung open. The sight of the Jaffa with a child in his arms surprised her, making her smile suddenly.

Doctor Brightman soon appeared.

"These children wish to see their Grandmother." Teal'c stated. "I told them they could."

"And who am I to argue, Teal'c?" She said before turning to the boy. "Do you see her?"

The boy nodded and pointed to a bed that contained an old woman who appeared to be sleeping. Lying there she looked grey and sickly.

"Ah! She has been asking for you two," Brightman smiled. "You can go and see her now."

The little girl began struggling in Teal'c's arms and he had to put her down quickly. Once on the floor, she ran over to the bed.

"Grandmother!"

Teal'c watched as the boy stood back, allowing his sister to speak first. However, his self-control was lost a moment later when threw himself with joy and relief at the old woman.

Rhana saw Teal'c's flickering smile and smiled herself. Caught out, he returned the smile with a slight bow of his head before going to stand guard by the entrance.

*~*~*

"What about the Alpha site? We could send them there." Daniel suggested.

Jack O'Neill studied his fingernails and thought. Eventually he sighed and pulled a face.

"No. I don't think so. I doubt they'd care to live in such a busy society. Remember what Nile said? They want a peaceful existence."

"Okay, so what's your suggestion?"

 "Well Daniel, it may surprise you to know I've been watching and taking notes. These people are quiet, undemanding. They carry no weapons and have done their best to avoid confrontation, using stealth skills to do so. They remind me of the Nox. A *lot*. Hell they even have the same wild appearance."

"I can see it," Sam said. "Now that you mention them, they remind me of the Nox too, sir."

"Maybe we should have a word with Lya?"

*~*~*

As Rhana sat beside Lya at the briefing table, Sam couldn't help but stare in fascination. Whilst not identical, she found there were certainly close similarities between the two.

"The Kotra need help, Lya," Jack was saying. "They've been chased and hunted by Jaffa, many of them have been killed or injured. Their numbers had been decimated by the time they came to us. What was left of them was mostly sick or dying."

"I am sorry to hear of their plight, General O'Neill, and the Nox will be willing to help. It is my understanding that you wish us to take these people and to find them a safe place among us, is that correct?"

"It is," Jack replied. "It seems to me that the two races would fit very well together."

"It is my opinion also." Lya smiled. "Long ago, when the Nox were still young, they were driven from their world by a race similar to the Jaffa. In a ploy to save as many of the Nox as possible, the leaders split them into several smaller groups, hoping that at least some would survive."

Daniel sat up in his chair. "And you think the Kotra may be one of the groups?"

Lya glanced at Rhana and Nile and smiled. "It is possible. We will see. Even if not, the Kotra are welcome to live amongst us."

Jack turned to Rhana and Nile. "Okay, folks. You have a choice. Your people can either go to a world where there are people from lots of different worlds, or you can take Lya up on her offer to go with the Nox. The decision is yours."

*~*~*

Rhana watched as the last of the Kotra passed through the Stargate. When the last person had gone through, she turned to the group standing beside her.

"General, thank you once more for what you have done for us. The Kotra owe their gratitude for your compassion and understanding."

Jack smiled and nodded. "You're welcome Rhana. I'm sure you're all going to be very happy with the Nox. And it's so nice to get one over on the bad guys, don't you think? God knows how long the Jaffa will keep themselves busy on planet Fluffy before they realize they're chasing wild geese. Shame. Still, while they are picking on an empty planet, they're leaving someone else alone."

Rhana laughed and then thanked the others in turn for their help. When she came to Teal'c, she smiled warmly.

"Teal'c, there are many things you have taught us over the last few days. Trust is one of them. I thank you for your friendship, and apologize for doubting your intentions."

"There is no need for apologies, Rhana Pahl. I wish you and your child well."

Jack gestured his head to where Nile was waiting at the top of the ramp. "I think he's waiting for you."

Rhana followed Jack's look and smiled.

"Goodbye," she said and walked up the ramp to where her brother stood.

Both looked back, waved, and then turned and stepped into the Stargate.

*~*~* The End *~*~*


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