AU DESIGNATION: SG-7, The Crystal City AU; a Magnificent Seven Stargate SG-1 AU
MAIN CHARACTERS: Seven
Follows New Beginnings
AU DESIGNATION: SG-7 The Crystal City Universe, a Magnificent Seven Stargate SG-1 AU
Editors' Note: The Neon Gang includes Dori Adams, Sierra Chaves, Dana Ely, Michelle Fortado, Patricia Grace, Dani Martin, Erica Michaels, Nina Talbot, Kasey Tucker, Rebecca Wright, and Lorin and Mary Fallon Zane. Art by Shiloh. This is an open AU. If you'd like to come play, please do!
Lt. Commander Chris Larabee stood next to General Hammond, listening to Dr. Joseph Tyler's update. It sounded to him like the 'gate was clear for him and his team to use, but it would be Hammond's decision.
"Thank you, Doctor," the general concluded the conversation with the scientist. "SG-Seven will be there momentarily."
They watched as the event horizon dissolved.
Hammond glanced at Chris, saying, "You have a go, Commander."
"Thank you, sir," Chris said, then turned and left the control room. His team was waiting for him in the corridor outside the gate room. "We have a go," was all he said.
The six-man team filed into the gate room as the address for PX1 313 was dialed. As they waited, the team took the time to make quick final checks on their equipment. As they heard "Chevron seven locked" announced, three technicians arrived with a wheeled cart on which sat the tactical nuke they hoped to use to destroy a Goa'uld ship.
The kawoosh flew out from the ring of the stargate and fell back into the event horizon, as breathtaking as always.
"Maintain regular contact, Commander," Hammond said over the speaker system and Chris nodded that he had heard and understood.
Together, with three men on each side of the cart, SG-7 ascended the ramp and disappeared through the stargate.
* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *
Emerging on the other side of the wormhole at PX1 313, Chris automatically swept the area for hostiles. There was no one there except three members of the scientific team, and one of the locals.
Chris' gaze stopped on the man who stood near Dr. Tyler and his technicians. He was young – JD's age, or maybe a little younger – and he was dressed in a combination of leather and dark cloth that had a kind of Robin Hood look about it. There were several long, thin crystals set into leather pockets on the man's clothing, and Chris wondered what they might be used for. He met the man's eyes, which were a light, bright blue, and the stranger smiled slightly, giving Chris a nod.
Chris nodded back, feeling an immediate ease settle between them, like they had known each other for many years. In fact, if Chris hadn't been sure the man was a native of the planet, he would have tried to remember where he'd met the guy before. His gaze stayed on the younger man until he reached the others, then shifted to Dr. Tyler. "Doctor, I'm guessing your men are ready to go?" Chris asked.
Tyler nodded, saying, "Almost. We're just finishin' up packin', but I think the danger might be over."
"How so?" Chris asked, frowning slightly.
"Just after I finished with General Hammond, we saw several Goa'uld transports liftin' off. Seems the Jaffa have been recalled t' their ships."
"Might be because they're getting ready to attach from orbit," Buck offered, his chin lifting as he scanned the sky above them.
"City say Goa'uld go," the young man stated in a close imitation of Dr. Tyler's Texas drawl.
"City?" Chris questioned.
Dr. Tyler smiled fondly as he glanced at the young man. "What Vin means to say is that their city is able t' monitor the Goa'uld ships in orbit, 'n' they've left orbit." He looked at Vin and asked, "That accurate?"
"Yep," Vin replied. "Goa'uld go."
"Looks like we won't be needing this, then," Ezra stated, patting the tactical nuke lightly.
"Depends," Chris replied. "They might be back." He looked at Dr. Tyler and asked, "Is there someplace we can safely secure this?"
"Anywhere you'd like," Tyler replied, waving his hand to take in the entire area. "The locals are friendly 'n' completely cooperative."
Chris and the others ended up storing the weapon in the small building Dr. Tyler and his team had been using to do their research, then followed the scientist to the "city" Vin had spoken of.
* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *
The members of SG-7 stopped and stared when they crested a small hill and looked down upon the "city." It was small in terms of cities that could be found in the United States, but it was by far the most beautiful any of them had ever seen.
Rising up from the tops of mountain foothills – snowcapped peaks visible behind it – the entire city was made from some kind of milky and clear crystals. Arches decorated the spaces between buildings, and here and there waterfalls cascaded over architectural flourishes and spires, falling into deep basins and wide pools. Sunlight glinted off the crystalline structures, casting shadows in a variety of colors. Plants, vines, and flowers grew from crevasses in the walls, breaking up the smooth surfaces with a patchwork of greenery and color that seemed natural, adding to the overwhelming beauty of the place.
"Wow," JD breathed.
"Yeah," Buck agreed.
Dr. Tyler grinned at their reactions. "Never seen anythin' like it, have ya," he stated instead of asked.
"Can't say I have," Josiah agreed, his gaze wandering over the magnificent structures. "And it's so… quiet."
Chris hadn't noticed it until Josiah pointed it out, but there were no sounds in the air at all except for those coming from insects and birds. No industrial sounds, no traffic sounds. In fact, the few people they could see were all on foot.
"Look at that!" Nathan said, pointing into the air.
They looked up to see several flying crystal disks on which several people rode.
"They call 'em skips," Dr. Tyler said, still grinning.
"Because they're round and flat like a stone you might use to skip across a pond of water," another of the scientists added. "They're actually shaped like an upside down Frisbee – and they can carry up to twelve warriors and their gear."
"How do they fly?" Josiah asked, his brow furrowing as he watched one of the skips pass by overhead, perfectly silent as it passed.
"Hell if I know," Dr. Tyler replied, shaking his head. "'Course we say that a lot 'round here."
The scientists started off and the rest of them followed, their necks craning in various directions as they entered the city and proceeded to another lab the scientists were using. The room was made of the same crystal substance as the buildings.
Dr. Tyler gestured to an array of objects that were scattered across crystal table tops. "Folks here agreed that we can take all 'a this, 'n' now might be a good time t' get it back t' the SGC – before the Goa'uld come back."
Chris nodded. "All right, we'll set up a schedule, get this material back while we can. Decide who you want to keep on site, and the rest of your team can go back with this stuff, at least until we know the Goa'uld are gone for good."
"Doubt they are," Tyler replied. "Their threats sounded pretty sincere. Not sure why they turned tail and ran just now."
Buck grinned. "Probably heard who was comin' ta town," he offered.
"You said the locals have been fighting the Goa'uld?" Chris asked, his gaze sweeping over Vin, who looked too young to be much help in a fight.
"Well, fighting the Jaffa on the planet, anyway," Tyler agreed. "Their skips are strictly low altitude vehicles."
Chris nodded. "And is there a way to know if there are any Jaffa left on the planet?"
Dr. Tyler turned to Vin. "Vin, can ya find out if all the Jaffa are gone?"
Vin nodded, then trotted away. Chris watched him go, then nodded to Josiah, saying, "Stay with him, see what you can find out."
"Will do," Sanchez replied, jogging off to catch up with the younger man.
Chris glanced around at all the material that had to be moved through the gate – it was a considerable amount. "Nathan, you and JD start sorting out what has to go, and in what order." He looked at Buck and added, "See what kind of defenses we can arrange to protect the road from here to the gate."
"On it," Buck replied, and he was gone.
"And me?" Ezra asked.
Chris looked at Tyler as he asked, "Can you give us a tour?"
"I can," the Texan replied.
"You're with me," Chris told Ezra. "I want to know if Shabouh has seen anything like this."
"I can already tell you, he has not," Ezra replied immediately. "And he is most impressed… And that's saying something."
Larabee stifled a small grin. It took a great deal to impress the Tok'ra.
* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *
Josiah trailed Vin down a series of hallways, the walls, floors, and ceilings all made of crystal. Green and flowering plants grew in niches in areas where the ceilings were made of clear crystal that allowed sunlight into the space. Everywhere he looked he found another pocket of beauty.
He paused when he spotted a huge indoor park and garden, several people working there, gardening and harvesting vegetables while children ran and played.
Jogging to catch up with Vin, he followed the younger man until they reached a room where three others stood, looking down at what appeared to be maps of the landmass on which the crystal city had been built. Josiah guessed that the land mass appeared to be an island close to the size of Ireland, if he was reading it correctly. Besides a representation of the city, there were several considerably smaller images he guessed represented villages that were scattered across the landmass.
"Are those towns?" he asked Vin, pointing to one.
Vin nodded. "Villages… towns…"
"How many people live on this island?" he asked.
Vin's forehead wrinkled as he tried decipher the information Josiah had requested. He exchanged words with the other three men, then said, "Plenty."
Josiah chuckled, knowing he probably wouldn't get a better answer than that.
He turned his attention to the map, which was set into a crystal tabletop. Information seemed to be scrolling down one side of the flat surface and the other three men were watching it, but it was written in a language Josiah couldn't read, although he was relatively certain it was based on ancient Gaelic to a large degree.
Vin and the others carried on a conversation in a language that was pleasing to the ear, but completely incomprehensible to Sanchez, except for two words – Goa'uld and Jaffa.
When the conversation ended, Vin turned to Josiah and said, "All Jaffa go skips sky."
Josiah's brow creased as he tried to untangle the meaning from the few words. "Do you mean that all the Jaffa have returned to their ships in orbit?"
Vin smiled widely and nodded. "You hear good," he told Josiah, clapping him on the shoulder.
The older man chuckled. "Glad to hear it."
"We go," Vin stated.
Josiah looked longingly at the tabletop, deciding that what he was looking at had to be some kind of scanning device, so Vin's people did have technology, but it clearly wasn't their own. The city must have been built by a more advanced civilization – perhaps the makers of the stargate system—and the humans who had been brought there by the Goa'uld had simply learned how to use it over time.
Josiah cursed softly when he realized that Vin was already gone and he hurried away to catch up to him, following Vin through the wide hallways. He was sure they were headed in another direction than where they can come from, and asked, "Vin, where are we going?"
"Doctor Joe," Vin replied.
Vin nodded, grinning.
"Lead on, then," Josiah said, glancing around to catch whatever he could see.
There didn't appear to be any vehicles that he could see, or roads, really, when it came to that, but then maybe they were inside one of the buildings. It was hard to tell, really. The hallways were wide enough to accommodate traffic in two directions if necessary, but it was difficult for him to decide what was "inside" and what was "outside," the spaces flowing seamlessly from one to another.
Everyone he saw was dressed like Vin, in leathers and homespun, which seemed odd given the futuristic look at the city itself. Some wore more leather than cloth, while others had all-cloth clothing and wore no leather. He noted that some appeared almost entirely Amerindian, while others looked purely Celtic. Most were some mixture of the two.
Reaching out, Josiah trailed his fingertips over the surface of a wall and was surprised to find it warm. He could also feel some kind of energy in the surface of the wall, but he had no idea what that might be.
A few minutes later they caught up with Dr. Tyler, Chris, and Ezra.
"How did you know where they were?" Josiah asked Vin, who looked confused by the question.
"He can find anybody you ask him to find, no matter where they are," Dr. Tyler said, shaking his head. "Can't figure out how he does it, though."
"Anything?" Chris asked Josiah.
"According to the locals, all of the Jaffa are back on their ships and the ships are not in orbit," Josiah stated. "I'm thinking Buck might be right – they're getting ready to attack from space."
Chris nodded. "Yeah, I'm thinking the same thing. But I'd sure like to know where they are right now."
* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *
After their tour, Chris and the others met up with the rest of SG-7 and, as it was nearing sunset, they gathered around a crystal table in Dr. Tyler's on-planet quarters inside the city. Three women arrived and set out bowls of food, a local meal made up of fresh grains, vegetables, and a serving of roasted meat that tasted remarkably like venison to Chris.
"This is really good," JD said, digging in with gusto.
"Oh, yeah," Buck agreed, savoring another bite of the juicy meat.
"So, who are these people?" Nathan asked Dr. Tyler.
The Texan smiled. "That, Doctor Jackson, is a very good question," he replied. "There are several distinct cultural groups here, most are North American tribal groups, and the other is British Isles Celtic, but they've become blended over time, 'n' now it's really a unique cultural fusion of the two. Even Daniel hasn't had any luck tryin' to decipher their language, though he was able to pick out a few specific words in Gaelic, and a few from all seven of the Native American language groups."
"All seven? I haven't had any better luck, and now I know why," Josiah admitted. "I'm fairly confident nobody's seen anything like this language. It's as if all of the North American tribes had somehow fused, and a common language was forged, and that language was later crossed with Gaelic. I'm pretty sure you'd have to be born into this culture to be able to learn the language, let alone speak it. Although what I saw today, their written language is based on Gaelic."
Dr. Tyler glanced over at Vin, who sat at the table with them, eating. "They don't seem interested in learning our language… except for Vin here."
The young man looked up and grinned when he heard his name. "Speak you good," he stated, his drawl just as pronounced as Dr. Tyler's.
"Huh?" JD replied, trying not to laugh.
"He means he can speak our language well," Tyler translated, smiling.
"A conviction that is up for serious debate," Ezra tossed in.
"Yes, well, Vin understands a great deal more than he can articulate, trust me. They all do, although I've no idea how."
"What's all that stuff you're taking back?" Chris asked.
Tyler's smiled widened. "No clue whatsoever. They're all objects that they've given us when we've asked for them. I'm guessing we'll eventually figure out what they are, and what they can do, but for the most part I don't have a clue. Most likely they're devices created by the builders of the city. The locals don't use much of that technology, and I doubt they even know themselves. Some, though, are crystal weapons we've seen these people use against the Goa'uld."
Buck frowned. "What do they do, throw 'em at 'em?"
Tyler laughed. "No, the crystals emit some kind of energy discharge that's at least as powerful as a staff weapon discharge. Hit a Jaffa with one, and he goes down, and stays down."
"Now that could be useful," JD said. "How do they work?"
Tyler shrugged. "When we try to use them, nothing happens. I'm guessing that they're somehow keyed to a particular user, but if we can find out how to bypass that…"
"Why not just ask them?" Josiah wanted to know.
"Tried that," Tyler admitted. "And let's just say that I suspect they are choosin' ta ignore the question."
"But you think you can figure it out back in the lab?" Chris questioned.
"Us, or the big brains over at area fifty-one," Tyler replied.
Chris glanced across the table at Vin, who lifted his head and met his eyes. "Vin, can you show me how to shoot one of those crystals?"
"I tried that, too," Tyler said. "Vin was very careful to show me how he shoots one, but as soon as I tried to do it myself, nothin'."
"Maybe he just doesn't know," JD suggested. "I mean, he seems kind of… simple."
Tyler shot the lieutenant a hard look. "You try talking Goa'uld, or his language, and see how smart you sound."
JD blushed. "I— I didn't mean any harm," he said quickly, his gaze skittering between Vin, Tyler, and Chris.
Vin didn't look offended as he watched the exchange, and Chris wondered just how much the man really understood. Maybe Tyler was mistaken. From everything he'd seen so far, these people seemed pretty simple to him, too. But there was intelligence behind those blue eyes, and personality, and Larabee felt a strong draw to it, even if he couldn't imagine why.
The men finished their meal, then settled in to talk while Dr. Tyler made coffee using a coffee machine plugged into a generator.
"Buck, what did you see as far as cover between here and the gate?" Chris asked.
Wilmington leaned forward as he said, "The terrain's too uneven and dense to use anything but the road if we're lookin' for speed. If Vin's people can help provide come high cover with those flyin' Frisbees of theirs, I think we can do okay. If they come after us in death gliders we can take cover in the woods."
Chris nodded, reaching for the meat just as an explosion sounded somewhere above them. The members of SG-7 each jerked and stared to dive for cover as a second explosion rattled the plates and bowls on the table. Dr. Tyler looked around, trying to determine what was happening. Vin just sat, eating his meal. He smiled at the others and shook his head. "Eat. Goa'uld no hurt."
SG-7 and Dr. Tyler settled back into their seats, glancing around as the bombardment continued. Chris looked at Vin and asked, "That the Goa'uld?"
Vin nodded, looking unconcerned about the explosions.
Chris, who couldn't sit still any longer, stood and headed out, the others trailing him, including Vin, who took Chris to a balcony that looked out over a portion of the city. Above them they watched the Goa'uld bombard the city, but nothing was hitting the buildings, the energy weapons discharging on some kind of force field high up in the sky.
"Huh. I haven't seen this before," Dr. Tyler said.
Chris turned to Vin. "Can we still get to the stargate?"
Vin nodded. "I take."
Chris turned to the others. "Tyler, get your people ready to go. Buck, you and me are going to see what's going on at the 'gate. The rest of you will help them get ready to go."
They each nodded their understanding.
"Okay, Vin," Chris said, "get us to the 'gate."
Vin frowned. "Dark."
"Better cover for us," Buck told him.
Vin nodded his understanding, but added, "Dark trees make bad."
Chris looked to Tyler.
"I think he's trying to say that traveling through the woods in the dark isn't the best idea."
"We'll be careful," Chris replied with a wry grin. "Vin, let me introduce you to night-vision technology…"
* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *
Chris and Buck followed Vin as he led them through the woods on a narrow animal trail. The night-vision goggles made the travel easy. Above them they could hear the continuing bombardment from the Goa'uld ships in orbit, but as far as either man could tell, nothing was penetrating the shield that protected the city.
When they drew closer to the edge of the shield they could see it through the goggles as a strange distortion in the air, like a severe heat mirage.
Vin didn't hesitate, stepping through it to continue on toward the stargate.
Chris and Buck, however, both hesitated.
Buck reached out and carefully reached through the shield. He jerked his hand back. "Damn, that's just… weird," he said. "Kind 'a feels like water."
Chris grinned at his old friend and shook his head. "C'mon," he said, stepping through, following Vin.
Buck took a deep breath, holding it as he stepped through as well, then jogged to catch up to the other two men. His skin tingled slightly, but it wasn't painful and it quickly faded away.
Several minutes later they were crouched in the trees, watching as several Jaffa stepped from the stargate. Others had taken up defensive positions, but as of yet there were no staff cannons to contend with, just the Jaffa and their staff weapons.
Chris counted. "Twenty," he said.
"I got twenty-two," Buck replied.
Chris counted again. "Yep, twenty-two."
Four more Jaffa exited the stargate.
"Crap," Buck hissed.
"Yeah," Chris agreed, but then the 'gate closed and one of the Jaffa began barking orders.
"Guess that's all their sending to guard the gate," Buck offered.
"For now, anyway," Chris replied, thinking. "If we move Tyler's people to the edge of the shield, along with their stuff, they'll be protected until we secure the 'gate, and a helluva lot closer."
Buck nodded. "But it'll still have to be on the road. No way in hell we're going to be able to schlep that stuff through those woods." He glanced over at Vin and asked, "Can the Jaffa get through the shield?"
Vin thought for a moment, then shook his head. "No Goa'uld pass shield," he told them confidently.
"Sounds like the best plan, then," Buck said.
Chris reached out and lightly rested his hand on Vin's shoulder as he asked, "How many of your people can help us take the 'gate?"
Vin's brow furrowed for a moment, then he smiled as he said, "Two ten."
"Twenty ought to about do it," Buck said, grinning at the pleased expression Vin wore.
"All right, let's get back and get this rolling," Chris ordered as one of the Jaffa began dialing the 'gate, then Larabee paused, a somewhat feral expression settling on his face.
"I've seen that look before," Buck lamented, "right before we end up doing something crazy."
Chris looked at his friend, grinning wider as he said, "Those Jaffa, they're coming from the Ha'tak in orbit, right?"
"Most likely," Buck agreed. "Why?"
"If we take the 'gate, why not put that nuke we hauled along to good use?"
Buck smiled. "I like it." He glanced over at the DHD. "I'll stay and get the 'gate address they're using."
Chris nodded, then looked at Vin and said, "Okay, Tonto, take me back to the city."
Vin cocked his head to the side and asked, "What is?"
"Tonto?" Chris asked.
Larabee grinned. "It's just a nickname…"
"Cowboys and Indians, Junior," Buck said. "You're part-Indian and we're the cowboys come to punch some Goa'uld butt."
Vin looked confused, but he jerked his chin in the direction of the city. "You come, Cowboy."
Chris shot his second-in-command a sour look. "He just call me a cowboy?"
"Sure did," Buck agreed with a grin.
Chris shook his head and followed after Vin while Buck started to make his way to a position from which he could see the DHD better.
* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *
When Chris and Vin returned to the city they found Tyler and his people packing the last of the artifacts. The largest, a huge single block of crystal that was nearly as large as a small car, was too big to be packed, and rested on a wagon bed. That would only be moveable along the road, but Chris wasn't too concerned since the force field would keep them safe.
"We'll be ready to move in less than an hour," Josiah told Chris.
Larabee nodded. "They're guarding the gate, but I think we can flush them out with some help from the locals."
"And they have gotten very good at kickin' Jaffa ass," Dr. Tyler said as he walked up to join them.
Vin grinned and nodded. "Kick good," he agreed, looking pleased with himself.
"The force field protecting the city should ensure the safety of your people, but the 'gate's about fifty yards beyond it," Chris told the scientist. "You and your people will wait with the artifacts until we secure the 'gate, then move through as quickly as you can."
"Understood," Tyler replied, nodding.
Chris turned to Vin. "Let's go get your people together and get back out there."
Vin nodded and started to turn, but he stopped when a loud booming voice seemed to surround them.
"This is Camulus, Lord of this miserable planet…"
Josiah looked up. "One of the System Lords, Camulus. That's an ancient form of Gaelic he'd speaking."
"…I brought your ancestors to this place generations ago. You owe your loyalty to me, and you will surrender by daybreak, or be destroyed."
"Who?" JD asked.
"Camulus was the Celtic god of war," Josiah said. "He might have brought the Celts here, but I wonder if he also brought the tribes as well."
"Don't think we'll get a chance to ask," Nathan added.
"Think he knows his weapons aren't impacting the city?" Chris asked.
"The Jaffa at the 'gate should be able to see that, right?" JD asked.
"The Commander is making a joke," Ezra informed the lieutenant.
JD looked a little sheepish as he said, "I knew that."
Chris told the others his idea for the tactical nuke, and they agreed. "All right," he said, "Josiah, Nathan, make sure everybody's in place as soon as possible. Bring the nuke with you. JD, Ezra, you're with me and the locals." He looked at Vin. "Let's go get the troops in the air."
* ~ * ~ * *~~ *~ *~*
JD sat in the middle of one of the skips, an expression of pure delight on his face as they sped along just above the tops of the trees. Ezra and Chris were also in skips, each with six or seven men and women from the militia. Vin was sitting next to Chris, and JD could tell that he was the one flying the craft, but he couldn't make out how in the world the machine operated, or if it was even a machine.
Glancing around at the others seated around him, he turned his attention to the craft, but found nothing he could call instruments.
"We're approaching the force field," Chris stated over the radios they all carried.
JD stared at the iridescent sheen and held his breath as they flew right through it. Other than a slight tingle all over his body, there was no effect. But the skip shook slightly as it was struck on the underside by staff-weapon fire. It looked like fiery hail stones were impacting and exploding across the bottom of the crystal craft, sending an explosion of red-orange spider-web filaments crawling across the bottom of the skip, but none of the blasts did any damage.
The skips rose higher, and began an arching turn that would carry them back into battle against the firing Jaffa. JD readied his MP5 and waited for an opportunity to fire.
And that opportunity came quickly. JD heard the sounds of their three MP5s firing, but the crystal weapons the locals used were silent, although their discharges of energy were just as effective against the Jaffa as their weapons.
A fourth MP5 joined the fray and JD knew that had to be Buck.
The skips turned, spun, hovered, rocked, dipped, and dived. JD often found himself grabbing for the lip of the craft, and holding on for dear life, but he never once lost his seat, and none of the locals were grabbing for the lip like he was. A part of his mind couldn't understand how that was the case, but he had no time to worry about it, the Jaffa were putting up a determined fight to maintain control of the 'gate.
JD jumped when one of the locals sitting next to him was struck by a blast from a staff weapon. The woman slumped to the floor of the skip and stayed there, unconscious or dead, he couldn't be sure which. He saw the skip with Ezra in it do a looping maneuver, then swoop down to take out the Jaffa who had shot the woman in his skip. He frowned as he fired another burst from his MP5, taking down another Jaffa. How in the world did the pilots of the three skips communicate with one another?
But there was no time to think about that, either. He fired again, watching as more of the Jaffa fell.
The longer they battled, the more complicated the maneuvers of the three craft became, the skips moving in tight formation to give the passengers the best shots at their common enemy. The Jaffa were finally forced to dial up the 'gate and make a hasty retreat. But not before JD saw the skip carrying Chris and Vin take a double hit from two Jaffa who were covering the backs of their fellows.
"Vin!" he heard Chris yell, but JD couldn't get a good look at the man to see what had happened.
Once the surviving Jaffa disappeared through the 'gate, the three skips landed and the injured, including Vin, were loaded into one, which rose up and shot off toward the city.
Chris, JD, and Ezra headed toward to the 'gate, the locals who had been fighting on the skips following behind them.
"Is Vin okay?" JD asked.
Chris' expression was grim as he shook his head. "He lunged in front of me and another local," he said. "Took a staff blast to the back."
"Shame," Ezra said, shaking his head sadly, "I was developing a fondness for the boy; Shabouh as well."
Buck jogged up to join them. "That was damned amazing to watch!" He glanced around. "Where's Vin?"
"He was hurt," JD said, hoping Chris was wrong.
"Damn," the ladies' man sighed. Then he nodded as the first of Dr. Tyler's people reached them with the first armloads of artifacts.
"Dial it up!" Chris barked, then turned to the rest of the locals, pointing and explaining how he wanted them to fan out and protect the 'gate. He just hoped Tyler was right and they understood more than they let on, but they took up the positions he'd indicated.
As soon as the kawoosh settled into the event horizon Ezra and JD were covering the scientists as they stepped through the 'gate, heading home.
Chris and Buck sprinted back to where two of the scientists, and two of the locals, were rolling the tactical nuke along the road. They helped them get the device over to the DHD where Josiah and Nathan stood guard.
"As soon as all our people are through, we'll dial up the address Buck saw and send them our present," Chris told the two men, who nodded. Larabee glanced at Buck and added, "You stay here with Josiah, make that happen." His gaze shifted to Jackson. "Nate, you're with me. Let's help get this stuff through the 'gate as quickly as possible. There's no telling if they'll send death gliders down here."
The astrobiologist nodded, and they hurried off to help unload material from the wagon beds, sliding it through the 'gate.
Tyler caught up to them several minutes later. "Where's Vin?" he asked.
"He was hurt. They took him back to the city," Chris explained.
"Pretty bad," Chris replied, sure the man had no chance to survive his injuries. "How much more?"
"Everything but the block is through," Tyler said.
"And your people?" Chris asked.
"Just me left," Tyler drawled.
"All right, let's get this over with," Chris said, watching as the wagon was maneuvered over in front of the gate by several local men. They pushed up on the tongue, tilting the wagon bed up to a thirty degree angle. The block began to slide off, passing through the event horizon and disappearing.
"Now you, Doctor," Chris said.
Tyler shook his head. "I want to see how Vin's doin' first."
Chris shook his head in reply. "Our job was to get you and your people out of here."
"Commander, that's not happening until I see how Vin is. We might be able to help him."
Chris cursed softly under his breath, but he had to admit he wanted to know as well, but it would mean abandoning the 'gate, and their way home. He gestured to JD and Ezra to let the connection go and the event horizon winked out of existence.
JD sprinted over to the nuke and keyed in the codes to arm the device, Chris joining him to key in his command code, which activated the countdown.
The others all moved away from the front of the 'gate while Buck dialed in the address he had seen the Jaffa using when the countdown reached thirty seconds.
As soon as the event horizon appeared Nathan, Josiah, Buck, and JD rolled the nuke over to it.
"Ten, nine, eight, seven…" Buck said and they began to roll the device through the 'gate. "…six, five, four…" The device disappeared. "…three, two, one…" Buck continued as the horizon winked out a second time.
The eight men from the SGC looked up just in time to see a blinding flash in the sky, then a rain of falling debris burning up in the atmosphere as it fell toward the planet surface.
"Let's get back to the city," Chris said, a feral smile on his face. He whistled to the locals who guarded the area, then pointed to the skips. They immediately headed for the craft, climbing into the remaining skips. SG-7 and Dr. Tyler joined them for the trip back.
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Chris and the others hurried back toward the city. Above them, pieces of the Goa'uld mother ship continued to rain down through the planet's atmosphere like a meteor shower. Then, just before they reached the first of the city's buildings, a booming voice filled the air.
"Our Ha'tak may have been destroyed, but our Al'kesh will annihilate you! You dare to attack Camulus, your God? You are nothing! You will suffer for this insolence! No one will be allowed to live!"
"Someone got up on the wrong side of the explosion, didn't he," Buck said with a grin.
"How unfortunate that Camulus wasn't in his mother ship when it exploded," Ezra agreed.
"He might have lost one of his toys, but it sounds like he's got at least two more to play with," Chris said, then he looked at Ezra. "Shabouh, can these Al'kesh do any kind of damage to the city?"
Ezra's eyes flared with light and the Tok'ra replied, "Doubtful, Commander. If the Ha'tak's weapons could not penetrate the city's shield, then the chances of the weapons on the Al'kesh doing so is miniscule, at best. However, the Al'kesh can do significant damage to civilian populations if they are not protected as the city itself is. Camulus will have to make an example of the population of this planet, or risk being seen as weak by his fellow System Lords."
Chris took a moment to consider that. The force field seemed to surround the city itself, but he had no idea if the villages that were scattered around the city would also be protected. They might be the cause of a great many deaths if those people were unprotected. "Let's get back to the city, see if we can find out what happened to Vin, and see of the rest of the people living outside the city will be protected," he said.
They hurried on, just entering the first of the buildings as an odd chiming sound began echoing down the long corridors. It was not as strident as an alarm, but it clearly signaled some kind of attention getting summons.
"You know what that is?" Chris asked Dr. Tyler.
His shook his head, saying, "Never heard it before, Commander."
"Sounds like some kind of an alarm," Buck offered.
"City calling people come," stated Vin.
The members of the SGC turned, staring in surprise as Vin walked up to join them. He looked perfectly fine.
He smiled. "You look Vin?"he asked.
"Vin, you were hurt," Chris said, shocked to see the man on his feet, let alone smiling. "I saw that staff blast you took. Your back—" He reached out and turned the man around. There were no bandages on his back. "How—?"
"City fix," Vin interrupted off-handedly. "Come. Go stargate you."
"Does the city want us to leave?" Dr. Tyler asked, afraid that they had somehow offended the real rulers of this world, whoever they might be.
Vin thought for a moment, then shook his head. "Want stay. Goa'uld making bad. You go safe."
"I think they want us to leave until this confrontation with the Goa'uld is resolved," Tyler translated after a moment to ponder Vin's words.
"We should stay and help them," JD argued. "If those ships start attacking the people out there—"
"Doc, our job is to get you back safe and sound," Chris told Tyler. "We'll see what Hammond wants us to do," he added, shooting a look at JD, who nodded.
"As long as we remain in the city we should be safe," Ezra stated.
"Doctor Joe go safe," Vin said. "Come." And then he turned and headed back out of the building.
Chris clapped Dr. Tyler on the shoulder saying, "You came back to see if Vin was all right. He's fine. Now, let's get you home."
Tyler nodded, starting after Vin, the rest of the following him.
They caught up to Vin as he reached the road leading into the city. Many of the local inhabitants were also headed in to the city, so they walked along the far right edge of the thoroughfare so they didn't impede the flow of those fleeing into the city.
"Vin, what's that chimin' sound?" Dr. Tyler asked. "You said the city was callin' these people to come?"
Vin nodded. "City call people. They come."
"But why?" Tyler asked.
Vin shrugged. "City know."
"Wish we did, too," Nathan stated.
"Probably in order to ensure they're protected from a Goa'uld attack," Ezra said. "Camulus knows his weapons cannot harm the city itself, so he will surely target those who are outside the city's protection."
"More reasons for us to get Dr. Tyler home and see what we can do to help these people," Chris barked. "Now, less talk, more hustle!"
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As the press of people hurrying toward the city increased, Vin led them off the road and onto a small trail that ran alongside it, but through the trees. It was easy to tell the people on the road were frightened, and they carried bundles in their arms, or in wheelbarrow type devices they pushed in front of them.
When they reached the halfway point to the 'gate, the first explosions began, beyond the shell of the force field that protected the city, and those on the road where they were.
"Looks like they are targeting the population this time," Josiah said, sadness in his voice.
Another hundred yards closer to the 'gate and they could hear the cries and screams of the wounded as they passed through the shield. Hearing the cries, those ahead of the wounded began to run toward the city, making room for those who followed.
"Look!" Nathan called.
They saw a shimmer in the shield, then a flash of bright light and the barrier seemed to disappear.
"Is it down?" JD yelped, ducking for cover as one of the energy weapons exploded on the surface of the shield, which was now much closer to the ground than it had been before.
Chris stared up, watching three more explosions before he said, "I think the shield's been extended."
JD was back on his feet as well. "That makes sense. To extend the reach of the shield the radius of the—"
"Later, Einstein," Buck interrupted, grabbing the lieutenant's arm and moving him along the trail.
There were still cries from the wounded, but the weapons all fell short of their targets.
"How in the world did they do that?" JD asked when they reached the 'gate.
The stargate was unshielded, as if an invisible cylinder had been set over the area and extending high up into the sky, the force field wrapping around it to create a kind of donut hole. But that was only half their problem. The Jaffa were once again in control of the 'gate, and this time they had three staff cannons set up to guard it.
The Jaffa looked nervous, and it was easy to understand why – they were trapped inside the ring the force field created, with no way to escape, except through the 'gate.
Ezra's eyes lit up and Shabouh said, "Only a Ha'tak is large enough to carry a stargate. If Camulus wants to reinforce the stargate, he will have to bring troops from one of his other worlds."
"It'll be like shootin' fish in a barrel," Buck said. "They have to know that, right?"
"I'm sure they do," Ezra said.
"Except these fish will shoot back if we don't stay behind the shield," Nathan added.
"Guess we'd better find out," Chris said, then stepped out of the trees, standing and staring at the Jaffa he was sure was the commander of the forces guarding the 'gate.
The man lifted his staff weapon and fired, but the blast hit the force field and dissipated in a spidery spray of energy over the surface.
Vin raised his crystal weapon. It discharged, passing through the shield and striking the Jaffa. He fell to the ground, dead.
The rest of the Jaffa opened fire on them, but none of their weapons could penetrate the shield.
"We might be safe here, but we can't get to the 'gate," Josiah said. "And they can't get out."
"They could dial up and leave," JD argued.
"They probably have orders to hold the 'gate at all costs," Ezra said. "And if they do, they'll hold it to the last man."
"Don't feel right, just mowing them down," Buck said with a frown.
"Only option we have," Chris replied. "Unless they decide to retreat; let's give them a reason to."
The team opened fire with their MPs, bullets passing through the shield and forcing the Jaffa to scramble for whatever cover they could find.
"Hold your fire!" Chris called, then walked over to the force field. "If you don't want to die, go home!"
The Jaffa exchanged looks. One stepped forward, saying, "We will not allow you to use the geata na reultan."
"Stargate," Josiah translated.
Chris turned to Vin. "Do you think some of your people can help us?"
Vin nodded. "I call."
The others waited, but Vin did nothing except stand where he was, watching the Jaffa. Then, above them, they saw two skips with fighters dipping down toward them.
"How'd you do that?" JD wanted to know.
Vin just looked confused.
"Later," Chris said, curious himself, but this wasn't the time. "Let's get that 'gate."
Chris and the others climbed into the skips, except for Dr. Tyler, who remained safe behind the force field at Larabee's order. And as soon as they were settled, the skips rose, slicing through the shield and into the space around the 'gate.
The Jaffa opened fire on them with their cannons and staff weapons, but once again the skips seemed to absorb the blasts, although shots from the staff cannons made the circular disks shake and rock.
Vin and his people fired down on the Jaffa with their crystal weapons, while Chris and SG-7 rained bullets down on the men.
As the skip he rode in rose high into the sky Chris caught sight of the devastation the Al'kesh were causing in the countryside. And there were several Tel'teks landing in an open space, more Jaffa emerging from them. But then they were diving down toward the Jaffa at the 'gate.
They opened fire again. And after a looping maneuver that had Larabee's stomach doing a flip of its own, the skips settled on the ground where the dead Jaffa lay.
Vin climbed out as well, calling back to the others in his own language. The skips leapt into the air and swung off toward the city.
"Where are they going?" Nathan asked.
"Go city," Vin said.
"Buck, dial it up!" Chris called, and Wilmington jogged over and started punching out the address for home. Larabee waved for Dr. Tyler and he jogged over to join Buck.
A moment later the kawoosh shot out from the event horizon, then fell back. JD mounted the stairs of the platform where the 'gate stood and stuck his hand into the watery-looking surface, holding the 'gate open.
"Doctor," Chris called, waving for the man to get going.
Tyler stopped when he reached Vin, saying, "I hope this all works out, son."
Vin nodded. "City care good."
"It's been a pleasure," Dr. Tyler told Vin, then clapped him on the shoulder and walked to the stargate, disappearing as he stepped past the event horizon.
Explosions continued to echo from beyond the shield, and the members of SG-7 felt the ground begin to vibrate.
"JD, what the hell is that?" Buck asked, looking worriedly around him.
The young lieutenant shrugged and shook his head. "I have no idea."
"Oh my God," Nathan gasped, and the others turned to see what he was looking at.
The city itself was rising slowly into the air, visible now about the tops of the trees.
"That's not possible!" Ezra stated, his mouth falling open as the city began to glow.
Then, as they all watched, mesmerized, the city rose higher, collapsing into itself as it did until it was no more than a nearly blinding shining point of light that shot up into the sky, disappearing.
"Wow!" JD barked.
Then force field protecting them shimmered, flashed, and disappeared, the explosions became much louder and more threatening.
"Through the 'gate – now!" Chris bellowed a moment before another explosion nearly knocked them off their feet.
JD, being the closest, simply ducked through the stargate and was gone.
Josiah and Nathan sprinted to the 'gate and dove through as the others opened fire on the Jaffa rapidly closing in on their position, firing.
"Ezra, go!" Chris called, he and Buck laying down covering fire as the former NID agent sprinted to the 'gate and rushed through, a blast from a staff weapon nearly hitting him before he disappeared.
"Buck!" Chris yelled, and his second-in-command sprinted from his cover behind the DHD to the 'gate, diving like he planned to steal third base.
Larabee looked over at Vin, who using his crystal weapon to great effect on the approaching Jaffa. "Vin, you have to come with us!"
"Yes, go with us. It's not safe here now!"
"Go," Vin said, shaking his head. "Vin fight."
"I can't leave you here alone. They'll kill you," Chris argued, sprinting from one cover to another to reach Vin. He grabbed the man's arm. "Come with me," he pleaded.
Vin cocked his head to the side.
"I want you to come with me," Chris repeated.
Vin smiled. "I come you."
"Good. Let's go!" Larabee yelled as a blast from a staff weapon nearly exploded the portion of the platform they crouched behind.
As one they stood and dashed for the stargate, firing as they went. They each dove through the event horizon like swimmers entering a pool, blasts from staff weapons searing over their backs and heads as they did.
They landed with two loud thuds on the metal gate ramp in the embarkation room, scrambling to for the edges of the ramp as staff weapon fire continued to streak into the room.
"Close the iris!" Chris yelled.
But as the ring closed the connection was lost, and the event horizon disappeared.
SG-7 gathered, Nathan quickly checking to ensure that no one had been hurt.
Vin glanced around the room, his eyes wide as he took in his new surroundings.
The blast door opened and General Hammond looked down at them. "Commander," he said over the communications link, "I see you brought home a…"
"Friend," Chris finished for the man. "General, this is Vin. He saved our lives on that planet."
"We'll debrief in two hours, Commander," Hammond replied. "Take your 'friend' directly to the infirmary."
"Yes, sir," Chris replied. He looked at the younger man, saying, "Come on, Vin." He wasn't sure why he was feeling anxious about the man being there now, but he was. Still, there was nothing else he could have done. With the city gone, Vin would have been all alone on a planet that was crawling with Jaffa.
Still, this might not have been the best idea he'd ever had. Vin did seem a little too simple to adapt to life at the SGC, but they would think of something. Maybe they could settle him on one of the friendly planets they had discovered…
He kept his hand on Vin's shoulder as they left the embarkation room and headed for the infirmary, where Dr. Fraiser would no doubt place Vin in quarantine until he had been thoroughly examined. He did not envy the man that.
They entered the elevator and rode up to the 21st level, then exited. Chris gave Vin's shoulder a squeeze as he said, "I want you to do whatever the people here ask you to do, all right? The team and I have to get cleared, cleaned up, and go talk to General Hammond."
Vin nodded, but he didn't look too excited, especially as two security guards arrived to escort him to an isolation room. "Me stay?"
Chris nodded. "Yes, you'll stay here, and do whatever Dr. Fraiser tells you, understand?"
"I stay," Vin repeated, frowning. "When you come?"
"I'm not sure," Chris replied honestly. "As soon as I can, okay? Maybe Dr. Joe can come see you, too."
Vin smiled. "I like."
"Okay," Chris replied. "Now, remember, do whatever they ask, okay?"
"We'll see you soon," Josiah promised.
"Behave," Nathan added.
"Yes, do, or you'll find the accommodations will become considerably less copasetic," Ezra added.
Vin just looked baffled.
"I can't wait to show you around, Vin," JD told him.
"Hang in there, Junior," Buck said, giving Vin as clap on the back.
And then SG-7 was gone, and Vin looked at the two men who were waiting for him.
"Come this way," one of them said, and Vin nodded, trailing after the man while his companion followed behind Vin.
To be continued in Owing Vin
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