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Never Leave Your Wingman, Chapter 2/11

They’d been walking for half an hour through the dense forest, following the partially obscured path, and Jack was beginning to wonder if they were being duped.  The air remained eerily devoid of sound—no birds, insects, or other animals to be heard—while the thin fog continued to swirl around tree trunks and their feet. 
 
Jack was relieved when they finally, and suddenly, arrived at what appeared to be a settlement.  The trees thinned slightly, revealing half a dozen wooden structures set in front of a towering rock formation.  Others buildings could be seen scattered throughout the forest on either side of the path.  There was something wrong with this picture, though—no people.  Or almost no people, Jack amended as he caught a glimpse of faces watching from doorways and windows.  A single man appeared at the entrance of the center building.  He was dressed in a long gray cape like Trestin’s, and had the same gray-toned skin and facial ridges.  However, his hair was brown instead of black and he looked a bit older than their host guide. 
 
Trestin passed him silently, with only a nod of his head in acknowledgment , and entered the building.  SG-1 followed, passing the silent man whose deep green eyes watched them as they entered the building. 
 
They passed a couple of side rooms as they followed Trestin down a long hallway.  At the end of it, they found themselves passing through a doorway in the rock itself—into a cave.  Okay, now Jack felt like he was back in that '50s horror movie and he knew which one:  Dracula.  Shaking that image out of his thoughts, he kept his hands on his P-90 and strained to see what was ahead of them. 
 
The passage, lit by burning wall sconces, widened and Jack noticed several passageways branching off of it.  A short time later their tunnel opened into a large cavern.  Jack glanced up into the darkness, unable to tell how high it went. A long wooden table sat in the center of the room, low-backed chairs lining either side.  Three men and two women, all older-looking, with the same ridged features and wearing the obligatory capes, waited at the head of the table.  These must be the elders, but how the hell they knew SG-1 was coming was beyond Jack.  He was starting to reconsider the whole ‘reading minds’ scenario. 
 
Trestin approached, dipped his head in acknowledgment, and addressed them.  “Elders, we have visitors.”
 
“You dare bring strangers here?” snapped one of the women, green eyes flashing with anger.
 
“They are explorers and desire to trade with us,” Trestin explained.  
 
The man in the center turned to the woman. “Be calm, Marona.  We will hear what they have to say.”  He turned back to face SG-1.  “You are welcome here,” he said, looking at each member of SG-1.  His expression was neutral and Jack was having a hard time reading him.  “I am Baronen.”
 
“I’m Daniel Jackson,” Daniel said, taking on the duties of diplomat.  “This is Colonel Jack O’Neill, Major Samantha Carter, and Teal’c.” 
 
“Sit and we will talk,” Baronen said, taking a seat.  The rest of the elders did the same, so Jack grabbed a chair and sat down. 
 
The man sounded pleasant enough, though neither he nor any of the other elders smiled, but Jack kept his fingers resting lightly on his weapon.  “Nice to meet you folks,” he said. 
 
A young man and woman entered carrying trays of food which they placed on the table before leaving again.  Baronen reached for a piece of some kind of half-cooked meat, held it up, and said, “Eat.” 
 
Jack looked around—no plates or eating utensils in sight.  Daniel grabbed a piece of whatever it was and nodded to Baronen before taking a bite.  “Mmmm.”  He looked at his host as he chewed, and Baronen, apparently satisfied, began eating, as did the other elders.  Jack passed over the meat in favor of a purple apple-looking fruit.  Carter and Teal’c made their selections and took tentative bites.  It wasn’t bad—wasn’t that good, either; he just hoped it was safe.
 
“Where is your home?” Baronen asked, juice from something green running down his chin. 
 
“We’re from a place called Earth,” Daniel explained between bites.  “We came through the Stargate.  Er, the Chappa’ai?” he amended when their hosts stopped eating and stared at him. 
 
“You travel through the Great Ring?”
 
“Um, yes, yes we do,” Daniel replied.  “We explore other planets through the Great Ring.  We're interested in meeting other cultures and establishing trade with them.  We also seek allies in our fight against the Goa’uld.”
 
“Daniel?  You might not want to give everything away on the first date.”
 
“Jack, we need to let them know we’re not aligned with the Goa’uld.”
 
“Unless they’re aligned with them.”
 
Daniel was all set to argue, but realization hit him first.  “Oh.  Um, moot point now, I guess?”
 
Jack glared back, a stinging retort on his lips, until the memory of a similar, unpleasant exchange on Euronda flashed through his mind.  He fought back the urge to rip into Daniel, instead taking a deep breath and turning towards their host just as Baronen spoke.
 
“It is all right, Colonel Jack O’Neill.  We, too, are enemies of the Goa’uld.”
 
“Good to know, Baronen. You’ve had dealings with the snake heads?”
 
“They are the reason we are here.”
 
“Your ancestors were transplanted through the ‘gate—the Great Ring?” Carter asked.
 
Baronen glanced at the other elders before focusing on Carter.  “No, we were the ones brought through it.”
 
Danger, danger!  Jack’s internal warning system was going off.  This was way too recent an event for his liking; it meant the Goa’uld could still be around.  “Want to tell us who brought you here?  And why?”
 
Baronen’s demeanor shifted to one of wariness; his eyes—icy blue like Trestin’s—sought Jack’s and held his gaze.  “The one who brought us here was a minor Goa’uld, but he was in the service of another—one called Nirrti.”
 
Crap.  This just got better and better.  He could feel Teal’c tense beside him, and glancing across the table, he could see the shock on Carter’s and Daniel’s faces.
 
“You know of Nirrti?” 
 
“Unfortunately, yeah.”  Jack wasn’t sure he wanted to know the answer to his second question, but he asked it again anyway.  “Why did they bring you here?”  These people weren’t Jaffa—at least, he didn’t think they were.  Teal’c or Carter would have said something if they’d detected any Goa’uld larvae. 
 
The elders exchanged glances, sending Jack’s tension meter even higher. 
 
“Nirrti desired an army that would put fear into the hearts of those she wished to conquer.”
 
“Are you saying she brought you here to train you to be her soldiers?” Carter asked.
 
“No, we are saying she brought us here to change us into the army she desired.”
 
“‘Change,’ as in alter you somehow?” Daniel asked, eyebrows lifting high on his forehead as he leaned forward with interest. 
 
“We were not always as you see us now,” Trestin replied, standing and reaching for the clasp on his cape. 
 
Jack instinctively pushed back from the table and stood, weapon gripped tightly in both hands.  The clasp came free and Trestin dropped the cape.  As he did there was a rustling sound and a flash of something large and black.  Jack found himself staring, momentarily loosening his grip as he processed what he was seeing:  a very large pair of jet black wings. 
 
“Holy… ” Carter trailed off as she, too, stared. 
 
Jack glanced in her direction and then at Daniel, whose eyes were like large blue saucers, his mouth forming a silent ‘O’.”
 
Teal’c had risen as well, but lowered his staff weapon when Trestin continued to stand without making a threatening move.  The elders all stood and released their capes, revealing wings of  varying colors.
 
“That’s… that’s… amazing,” Daniel finally managed to say.  “How is it possible?”
 
“Nirrti is known for her experimentation on humans,” Teal’c reminded them.
 
“Yes,” Baronen said.  “We were once much like you, but she changed us.”
 
“So, why are you still here?” Jack asked.  He could care less how she’d done it; he wanted to know why—what were her plans?
 
More uncomfortable silence gave Jack the feeling he wasn’t going to like this. 
 
“She felt we were too… unstable to serve her needs,” Baronen replied, his dark brown wings shifting until they were folded against his back once again. 
 
“Unstable,” Jack repeated.  “As in, the wings don’t work?  The changes aren’t permanent?  Required too much birdseed?”
 
“Enough!”  Marona’s gray wings ruffled menacingly.  “This one makes light of our situation.  They will not help us.”
 
“Jack,” Daniel said, standing.  “Why don’t we just sit down and discuss this calmly?”
 
“Look, Daniel, I need to know if there’s a threat here.”
 
“If they wanted to harm us, they could have done it at any time.”
 
“It’s not them I’m worried about—it’s Nirrti.  How do we know she’s not hanging around?  She could come back at any time.”
 
“It has been many years since she abandoned us.  She will not return.”  Baronen stated.
 
“How can you be so sure?  Never trust a Goa’uld to—”
 
“Jack.  Please.”  Daniel was as close as the table between them would allow.  “Let’s listen to what they have to say before rushing to judgment.”
 
Jack turned his gaze from Daniel’s pleading face to those of their hosts.  Daniel was right on one count—they hadn’t tried to hurt them… yet.  And they didn’t seem too happy with ole Nirrti.  He was uncomfortable with these gargoyle-like people, but if there was the slightest chance they could gain some allies—and formidable allies at that—then they probably should hear them out. 
 
Jack moved back to his chair and sat down, resting his P-90 in his lap.  “All right.  We’ll hear what you folks have to say.”
 
Baronen dipped his head in acknowledgement and retook his seat, wings settling easily over the low back—the shape of which now made sense.  The rest of the elders returned to their seats, their gazes scrutinizing the members of SG-1.
 
“The changes are not only in our appearance,” Baronen began.  “Our senses are heightened, our lifespan extended,” he paused, glancing at the other elders before continuing, “and our instincts and urges strengthened and… intensified.” 
 
“You became too difficult for Nirrti to manage, so she abandoned your people,” Teal’c surmised. 
 
Jack’s eyebrows shot to his forehead; when did Teal’c become so intuitive?  But the big guy was on to something. 
 
“She grew tired of trying to modify our behavior and left us here,” Trestin explained. 
 
“Not sure I like the sound of that.  Just what kind of ‘behaviors’ are we talking about?” Jack’s fingers grasped his weapon more tightly in his lap.  So far these people had been civil, but he’d sensed something else simmering beneath the surface.
 
“All of them.” Baronen’s eyes flashed with restrained anger. 
 
One of the elders who had been silent up to this point jumped up, knocking his chair back.  Jack, Carter, and Teal’c were on their feet immediately; only Daniel remained seated. 
 
“I will hear no more,” the man spat.  “We do not need to explain ourselves to these outsiders.”  With that he stomped away down one of the corridors. 
 
“I, too, grow tired of this exchange,” Marona added.  “You should leave before we lose the ability to restrain ourselves.”
 
“Okay, we’re outta here,” Jack declared.  “Nice to meet ya, but we’ve got a wormhole to catch.” 
 
“Sir—”
 
“Jack—”
 
Jack held up his index finger.  “Aht!  Don’t wanna hear it.  Let’s go.”
 
“Jack!  Wait!”
 
“No, Daniel, not waiting.  And it seems to me that you were the one insisting we use caution the last time we had dealings with people we just met.”
 
“This is different.  We—”
 
“How is it different?  Different because you’re the one who wants to make friends?”
 
Jack watched the expression on Daniel’s face morph from frustration to anger to hurt. 
 
“We might be able to help them, and they might be able to help us.  That’s all.”  Daniel’s voice softened as he turned his gaze to the floor. 
 
“Help them how?”  Jack turned to Baronen.  “Why don’t you just go back to your home world?”
 
“We cannot,” Marona replied, her voice had lost its harshness and now sounded tired.  “Nirrti altered the Great Ring so that it will not allow us to pass through it.”
 
“Of course she did.”  Jack shook his head; just what he’d expect from a Goa’uld.
 
“Sir?”  Carter had been pretty quiet—all it took was a techy puzzle to perk her up.  “I could take a look at the DHD.”
 
Now he was butting heads with two of his team.  The third member stood stoically beside him, waiting for his order.  He could always count on Teal’c.  “Wait,” Jack said as a new thought came to him.  “Does this mean we can’t go through it, either?”
 
“It will not affect your people,” Trestin replied.  “It only affects those of us who were changed by Nirrti.”
 
All kinds of warning bells were going off in Jack’s head.  If Nirrti had trouble controlling these people, how in hell would the SGC be able to work with them?  Too much risk and not enough gain.  “Look, we’d like to help, but I don’t think my superiors are going go for it.”
 
The young man and woman who’d brought the food reentered carrying pitchers and cups. 
 
“Please,” Baronen said, “sit and drink and I will attempt to assuage your fears.  If, afterward, you still wish to leave, we will not stop you.” 
 
Jack was suddenly tired; tired of arguing with Daniel, tired of his team being put in danger, tired of having to make these kinds of decisions. Carter and Daniel were both on board for this, and maybe it would go a ways in helping repair his relationship with his friend if he was willing to give a little.  Not to mention he was parched. “All right,” he relented, “I’ll give you ten minutes to change my mind, then we’re outta here.”
 
Baronen dipped his head in acknowledgment and sat down.  Jack and his team retook their seats and were each presented with a cup that was quickly filled.  He sniffed the liquid, finding it smelled a bit like strawberry and some other fruit he couldn’t name. 
 
Baronen lifted his cup, as did the remaining elders.  “To your health and friendship,” he said. 
 
Jack lifted his and nodded, then took a tentative sip.  It tasted pretty good, didn’t seem to be alcoholic, so he took another drink.  Teal’c tasted his, as did Carter and Daniel.  Taking another sip to soothe his dry throat, Jack looked up and met Baronen’s gaze.  The man’s almost iridescent blue eyes studied him, and he found he couldn’t look away. 
 
“… in return, we ask for your help in lifting this curse.” 
 
Jack started, realizing he’d missed what Baronen was saying.  “Excuse me, are you saying that in return for naquadah, you want us to try to reverse what Nirrti did to you?”
 
“Yes.  Even though it has given us long life, it has also made it difficult for us to reproduce; few of our children survive.  We struggle constantly to control our emotions and urges.  We want our people to be returned to their former state.  And, if that is not possible, to insure that future generations are free of it.”
 
“That’s a tall order,” Jack said.  “I’ll bring it to my superiors, but I can’t guarantee they’ll agree.”
 
“That is all we ask,” Marona stated. 
 
Jack stood and called to his team.  “Let’s go, kids.” 
 
Carter and Teal’c both looked slightly confused, while Daniel pinched the bridge of his nose. 
 
“You okay?” Jack asked him.
 
“Um, yeah.  Just a headache.”
 
“Can’t hold your fruit juice?”
 
Daniel sighed.  “I’ll be fine.”
 
“Good—let’s move out.” 
 
Daniel turned to the elders.  “Thank you for your hospitality.  We’ll do what we can to convince our leaders to help you.”
 
Each of the elders nodded to him and Trestin said, “I will escort you back to the Great Ring.”
 
“We can find the way,” Jack assured him.
 
“It might be… safer if I accompany you.”
 
“Right.  Fine.” 
 
Teal’c led the way, Daniel and Trestin following, while Jack and Carter fell in behind them.  Trestin walked without his cape and Jack found himself studying the man’s wings, wondering what it would be like to fly, and what it would be like to have the huge things growing out of his back.
 
Once at the ‘gate, they said their goodbyes to Trestin, stepped through and caught the next wormhole for home.
 
~oOo~
 
TBC

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
dennydj
Nov. 12th, 2011 06:00 pm (UTC)
Re: Never Leave Your Wingman
Thanks so much! Glad you're enjoying it. Hope to post another chapter soon (if I can figure out how to do it without help, LOL). Nice to meet you, too!
eilidh17
Nov. 12th, 2011 02:47 pm (UTC)
Squeee! More please!

What? Me? Demanding? Pfft... it's my burpday fic hehe

XXX
dennydj
Nov. 12th, 2011 06:01 pm (UTC)
Using the excuse that it's your birthday fic? hehe More soon!
halasf
Feb. 17th, 2013 06:56 am (UTC)
what are you doing? Let’s chat Go Here welcomemyhomecat.blogspot.com
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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