Maybourne's team had been on Hetara for six days when Teal'c found something very disturbing.
Jack, Daniel and Sanderson looked at the skeletal remains of two Jaffa.
"Uh oh. That's not good," the archeologist stated.
"I suppose there's not much chance that they're leftovers from the big battle with the Dua guy," Jack said.
"Afraid not, Jack. Those bodies aren't even close to being that old." He fingered a piece of cloth that was sticking out from the armor of one of the Jaffa. "It's only just starting to rot, which means that it isn't more than a few years old."
"Which means that Jaffa have been to this planet in the not so distant past," Sanderson said.
"And that means that more could show up at any time," Jack concluded. He cursed. "Okay, this changes things. I need to report this to Hammond. He may decide to pull the plug on this salvage operation. But, first, we'd better go tell Maybourne the bad news."
Though Maybourne was a little concerned about the evidence of Jaffa activity, he decided that the odds of more showing up within the next few weeks was pretty remote.
"Maybourne, if you knew half of what anyone on an SG team knows, you wouldn't say that. Goa'uld and Jaffa have a nasty habit of showing up at the worst possible moment. We could have an army of them coming through the gate in the next hour."
"Well, if you and your team want to leave, O'Neill, you're more than welcome to do so," Maybourne said with a sneer. "My team is going to stay and finish the job we came here to do."
"You know, Maybourne, I have half a mind to do just that, let you guys fend for yourself if Jaffa do come. The only problem is that, without Daniel here, you'd probably tick off the Ur-mah-gal, and I really don't want to fill out all the paperwork explaining how you and your whole team got eaten, not to mention the fact that you'd probably give those things a major case of indigestion, and I'd hate to see that happen."
In the end, Jack decided to go back with Teal'c to Earth to tell Hammond what they found. Daniel and Sanderson accompanied them to the gate.
"The two of you gonna be okay alone with Maybourne's people?" the colonel asked. Sam was presently back at the SGC, running some tests on a particular piece of technology that they'd found.
"We'll be fine, Jack. Don't worry." He patted the head of Denali, who had come with them. "We've got plenty of friends here."
Jack smiled. "Yes, you do. Okay, we'll be back in a couple of hours or so."
The gate was dialed up, and Daniel and Sanderson watched the two men disappear through it. Then they headed back toward the ruins. They were about a quarter of a mile from the city when they both froze, hearing a sound that sent their hearts racing. Their gaze went upward to see three ships that Daniel just knew were Goa'uld fly overhead and land just outside the city.
Daniel turned to Sanderson. "Get back to the gate and warn the SGC!"
"No way, Daniel! I'm not leaving you here alone."
"Gary, someone needs to get back to Earth, and it can't be me. I need to gather the Ur-mah-gal. Most of them are out hunting today. The few that are in the city won't be enough to fight off that many Jaffa. Now, go! Get reinforcements!"
Hesitating a moment longer, Sanderson finally nodded. "All right, but you'd better not get yourself hurt, Daniel. The colonel will kill me if you do." He then took off at a dead run toward the Stargate.
Daniel got on his radio. "Maybourne! Three Goa'uld ships just landed outside the city on the northeast side! Get out of there and try to make it back to the gate!" Not waiting for a reply, he turned to the Ur-mah-gal. "Denali! There's danger! Jaffa have come! We must call all the Ur-mah-gal to fight!"
The cat snarled at the mention of Jaffa.
"Can you call them? Call and tell them that there are Jaffa."
The huge cat lifted his head, nose pointing toward the sky, and let out a long, undulating cry that sent shivers up Daniel's back. A moment later, the cry was answered by the Ur-mah-gal within the city.
Telling him that they needed to get to the city quickly, Daniel climbed onto Denali's back and held on tightly as the Ur-mah-gal ran to the ruins.
Seeing no sign of any of Maybourne's people when he arrived at the ruins, Daniel got on the radio again. "Maybourne, where are you?"
"We're making our way to the southeast entrance to the city," came the reply. "We'll be there in—"
Maybourne voice was cut off by the sound of staff weapons fire.
Daniel cursed, then looked at his companion. "Denali, go! Help fight the Jaffa."
Denali looked at Daniel for a moment, then took off in the direction of the Jaffa. The archeologist ran after him, drawing his sidearm.
As he approached the northeast part of the city, the sound of fighting grew progressively louder. Along with the sounds of staff weapon blast, there were the snarls and roars of fighting Ur-mah-gal, interspersed with the screams of dying men.
Daniel turned a corner to witness the sight of around eighteen Jaffa being attacked by six Ur-mah-gal. The bodies of both Jaffa and Ur-mah-gal already littered the ground. Seeing a Jaffa take aim at one of the cats, Daniel put three bullets into him. Unfortunately, this drew the attention of two others, who opened fire on the linguist. Daniel dove for cover, just barely avoiding being hit.
At that moment, more Ur-mah-gal arrived, and the Jaffa were too busy fighting them to go after Daniel.
Daniel ran from cover to cover, the sounds of Jaffa, Ur-mah-gal and gunfire all around him. He followed the sound of the gunfire and finally found Maybourne and his men holed up behind the crumbling walls of a building with no roof.
"Where's the rest of your team?" Maybourne asked, ducking as a stray staff weapon blast took out a chunk of wall a few feet away.
"Jack and Teal'c had already gone through the gate when the Jaffa arrived. I sent Sanderson to go get help."
The NID man stared at him. "And you stayed?" he said in disbelief.
"I had to do something about getting the rest of the Ur-mah-gal back here to fight the Jaffa. There aren't enough of them in the city to handle this many Jaffa."
"We heard that noise," one of Maybourne's people said. "Was that them?"
"Yes, the Ur-mah-gal with me called to the others. We can only hope that the ones who are out hunting heard the call for help and arrive soon."
"Or that reinforcements arrive through the gate," Maybourne added. "How many Jaffa are there?"
"I don't know. Those ships looked like they'd hold quite a few."
Further conversation came to a sudden halt as several Jaffa appeared and started firing upon their hiding place. The humans fired back, but they were outnumbered and outgunned.
"Fall back!" Maybourne yelled as chunks of the walls exploded all around them.
The men took off, using what cover was available. Two of their number fell to staff weapon blasts.
Daniel was in the rear by a few feet when a blast hit something nearby, causing it to shatter. Daniel felt a sharp, searing pain in his left side, and he stumbled and fell. Panting from the agonizing pain, he looked up to see a Jaffa looming over him, staff weapon aimed at his head.
Suddenly, a massive black shape slammed into the Jaffa, bearing him to the ground. The Jaffa had time for one short scream before his throat was ripped out.
Feeling weak and nauseous, the pain like a hot poker in his side, Daniel laid his head back on the ground. A moment later, he heard a sound that was both terrible and beautiful: the battle cry of dozens of Ur-mah-gal.
With a smile on his face, Daniel closed his eyes and fell into darkness.
SG-1, SG-3 and SG-5 hurried toward the city, hoping that they weren't too late to save Daniel and the other humans. Jack, Sam, Teal'c and Sanderson were worried sick about their friend, knowing that the archeologist wouldn't stand a chance if he tangled with a troop of Jaffa. They could only hope that he'd joined up with Maybourne or that the Ur-mah-gal were able to protect him.
As they entered the city, they realized that it was far too quiet. There was no weapons fire, no voices or sounds of movement, nothing. The eerie silence got on all of their nerves. As the SG teams got into the northeast part of town, they began coming upon scenes of carnage. The bodies of Jaffa were everywhere, many of them no longer in one piece. There were also some dead Ur-mah-gal, but the Jaffa casualties far outnumbered them.
"God, what a mess," Jack said, his face twisting into a grimace.
"It looks like the Ur-mah-gal got here in time, sir," Sam said, looking a bit pale.
"Ya think?" He turned to the other SG teams. "Okay, guys. It looks like our friendly neighborhood kitty cats took care of the Jaffa problem, but there might be a few stragglers, so stay sharp. Oh, and do not shoot anything that looks like a big, honkin' cat. They're on our side."
"Sir, do you think that the Ur-mah-gal will be able to tell friend from foe?" Sanderson asked.
"Well, I sure hope they can. Let's just hope that they're as smart as Daniel thinks they are, and they recognize us as the good guys."
The three teams split up and went in search of Daniel and Maybourne's people. They'd been searching for about fifteen minutes when the leader of SG-5 radioed that they'd found Maybourne and the survivors of his group.
"Is Daniel with them?" Jack asked.
"Negative. Colonel Maybourne says that Doctor Jackson was with them, but they got separated when they were attacked by a group of Jaffa."
"Damn. Okay, find out from him where he last saw Daniel."
Following the directions of the NID colonel, SG-1 and Sanderson headed toward the last known position of the archeologist. They hadn't gone far when they started hearing something that made the hairs on the backs of their necks stand on end. It was a mournful, howling cry that wavered up and down the scale. The cry was picked up by the voices of others until the air around them was filled with the sound.
"My God. What is that?" Sanderson said. "Is that the Ur-mah-gal?"
"It must be," Sam said, shivering at the sound.
"They are mourning their dead," Teal'c said.
"Yeah, I think you're right, Teal'c," Jack responded quietly.
They resumed their trek, the cry of the Ur-mah-gal fading away . . . all except for one. That cry had more of a desperate note to it. It was heart-wrenching. A moment later, two more of the Ur-mah-gal took up the new cry, and then another. For some reason, that sound made a really bad feeling grow in the pit of Jack's stomach. Following the sound, SG-1 turned a corner and stopped dead.
"Oh, God, no," Sam gasped.
Four Ur-mah-gal were huddled beside the still body of Daniel. It was from them that the cry was issuing.
Not even thinking about the danger, Daniel's teammates and Sanderson ran toward the group. The Ur-mah-gal snarled fiercely, but then apparently recognized them. All but one of the cats moved back.
Dropping to their knees beside their fallen friend, the four people immediately saw the blood covering Daniel's left side and pooling on the ground beneath him. Terrified by what he might find, Jack felt for a pulse. He sighed with relief when he found one.
"Oh, thank God," Sam murmured. She quickly got the first-aid kit out of her pack as Jack carefully eased Daniel's shirt up over the wound.
"Damn!" he cursed when he saw what the material had hidden. A jagged piece of metal was protruding from Daniel's body. "Shrapnel, probably from a staff blast. He's losing a lot of blood. We need to get him back to the base now!"
Afraid to press on the shrapnel for fear that it would do more damage, Sam packed the area around the piece of metal as well as she could. Teal'c then lifted Daniel's limp body into his arms, and they all moved as quickly as they could toward the Stargate, two of the four Ur-mah-gal following them. Jack radioed to the other teams to let them know what was going on and gave them orders to get Maybourne's people back to base as soon as possible.
By the time they got to the Stargate, Daniel's face had gone from pale to utterly white. His pulse and respiration were both dangerously weak, his skin cold and clammy. He was in severe shock.
As they exited the other side of the Stargate and yelled for a medical team, they were shocked when the armed men in the gate room suddenly lifted their weapons and aimed at them. No, not at them. They turned around to see that one of the Ur-mah-gal had followed them through the gate.
"Stand down!" Jack yelled. "It's a friendly."
Just then, Janet came rushing in with a medical team. They all came to an abrupt halt when they saw the Ur-mah-gal. Janet was the first to recover. She met Teal'c as he carried Daniel to the waiting gurney.
"Colonel, what in Sam Hill is that thing doing here?" Hammond asked, keeping a wary eye on the Ur-mah-gal.
Any answer Jack might have given was cut off when Janet shouted that Daniel's heart had stopped. SG-1 and Sanderson rushed over as the doctor climbed up onto the gurney, straddled the linguist's body, and started CPR.
Jack, Sam, Teal'c and Sanderson followed as the medical team hurried with Daniel out of the gate room, not caring that the Ur-mah-gal was right behind them. Its presence was definitely noticed by everyone they passed, however. It was normal for the base personnel to move out of the way quickly when a medical team was hurrying down the hall, but the speed at which everyone cleared the way this time would have been humorous if anyone had really been paying attention.
Since there wasn't enough room in the elevator for all of them, it would be necessary for SG-1 to take the stairs. The problem was that when the elevator doors closed, hiding Daniel from Denali's sight, the Ur-ma-gal got upset and tried to get through the doors. Fortunately, when it saw SG-1 run to the stairwell access, it apparently guessed that they were going to Daniel and followed them. On the way up to Level 21, more than one shocked member of the personnel nearly dove over the railing when they spied the big cat.
When SG-1 entered the infirmary, it was to the sight of Daniel still in cardiac arrest and the defibrillator being wheeled up to him.
Positioning the paddles, Janet yelled, "Clear!" and sent a charge through Daniel. His body arched off the gurney, then fell back down limply. The Ur-mah-gal made a sound between a snarl and a cry and moved toward the people it apparently thought were hurting Daniel.
Sam, in a move that would probably be considered foolhardy, quickly went to the cat and grabbed hold of it. She started stroking it, speaking in a soothing voice. She knew that it wouldn't understand her words, but she hoped that it would understand by the tone of her voice that Daniel wasn't being hurt. It must have since it stopped and just watched as Janet shocked Daniel again.
Everyone released a sigh of relief as Daniel's heart resumed beating.
"Okay, we need to get him to surgery, stat!" Janet shouted.
In a flurry of movement, Daniel was hustled off to the operating room. The Ur-mah-gal tried to follow, but Sam hung onto it and somehow made it understand that it couldn't stay with the archeologist.
When General Hammond arrived twenty minutes later, it was to see Sanderson and Daniel's teammates all gathered near the entrance to the O.R., worried expressions on their faces. It was the fifth member of their group, however, that held Hammond's attention. The Ur-mah-gal was pacing back and forth, its eyes on the door leading to the operating room, a soft, bleating cry coming from its throat.
"Colonel? A moment, please," the general called.
Jack went to his C.O.
"Would you like to explain now what that thing is doing here?" Hammond asked.
"It wasn't our idea for it to tag along, General. Obviously, it didn't want to be separated from Daniel."
The general frowned. "I can't say that I'm particularly happy about it being on this base."
"With all due respect, sir, it and the others of its kind just wiped out a whole lot of Jaffa and no doubt saved the lives of Daniel, Maybourne and most of his men. Besides, I really don't know how you plan on telling it that it has to leave."
Hammond looked back at the cat, knowing that Jack was right. Probably the only one who could tell the Ur-mah-gal to leave was Daniel. He just prayed that the young man lived to do so.
When Janet appeared a long, agonizing time later, everyone quickly got to their feet, including the Ur-mah-gal, which had finally settled down to wait.
"How is he?" Sam and Jack instantly asked.
"Lucky to be alive," the doctor replied. "The shrapnel perforated his spleen. He lost a great deal of blood. It was touch and go for a while, but I think he's going to be all right." She held up her hand as everyone opened their mouths to speak. "No, you can't see him yet. He's in Post-Op right now. As soon as we put him in the ICU, you can visit with him." Janet looked at the Ur-mah-gal, which was staring at her intently. "But I don't want that thing in there."
"Well, Doc, if you'd like to try telling it that, be my guest," Jack said. "I guess you could always try sedating it, though you'd probably need as much as it would take to put a rhino down to have any effect on it."
Janet glared at the cat, then grumbled something under her breath and went back through the doors. The Ur-mah-gal watched her leave, then turned to SG-1 as if asking what was going on. Sam came up to it and started petting it.
"It's okay, Denali. Daniel's going to be all right."
Whether the Ur-mah-gal picked up on Sam's emotions or heard the relief in her voice, it seemed to understand what she was telling it. It walked over to the wall and laid down, its back to the wall and its eyes still on the door.
"Denali. Isn't that the one that always seems to be hanging around Daniel?" Jack asked.
"Yes," Sam replied. "I didn't recognize him before, I guess because I was too upset and worried about Daniel. But I'm pretty sure that is Denali."
"How can you tell? They all look alike to me, except that some are bigger than others."
"There are little differences in their faces, sir, and the colors of their eyes vary a bit. Denali has the lightest eyes of the ones I've seen."
A while later, Daniel was brought out on a gurney and wheeled into the ICU. As Jack had guessed, the instant the Ur-mah-gal laid eyes on the archeologist, it would have taken a bulldozer to drag the cat away from Daniel's side.
As soon as Daniel was settled in a bed, his team gathered around him. The young man's face was very pale and haggard-looking. Jack thought that he looked like death warmed over. But he was alive. Daniel Jackson had pulled another life out of his hat and survived. Jack really, really hoped that this was not going to be a regular occurrence.
The colonel felt something nudge him and turned to see the Ur-mah-gal trying to squeeze past him. He stepped back and let the cat have the right-of-way. Denali went to the head of the bed and stared as Daniel's face, once again making that bleating sound. Then, to everyone's surprise, he swiped his tongue up the length of Daniel's cheek.
They received a second surprise when Daniel mumbled in a whispery voice, "Cut it out, Denali. I'm awake. I'm awake." Slowly, his eyes opened.
"Hey, Daniel. How are you feeling?" Sam asked gently.
Daniel looked at her blearily, then at the others, his eyes coming to a rest on the Ur-mah-gal. "What happened?"
"You got hurt in the Jaffa attack, Daniel," Jack replied. "You don't remember?"
Daniel's brow knit in a frown. "Oh. Yeah, I remember now. Something hit me in the side." His hand went to the bandages over his injury.
"You could say that," Jack told him. "A huge piece of shrapnel."
"You're very lucky to be alive," Sam said.
"Indeed you are," Janet said as she came up to the bed. Her eyes went briefly to the Ur-mah-gal, a frown of disapproval on her face, then she focused her attention on her patient. "So, how are you feeling?"
"Tired. Kind of hurts."
"Well, we'll fix you up with some nice happy juice for the pain. What you need now more than anything is lots of rest." Janet glanced at Daniel's teammates meaningfully. "However, before you go back to sleep, could you please tell that animal to leave the infirmary?" There was a short pause. "Daniel?" The doctor looked at him more closely and saw that he was already back to sleep. She let out an exasperated sigh, then looked at the others. "Since I'm assuming that at least one of you is going to be staying here, regardless of whether or not I tell you to leave, could you please tell him as soon as he wakes up that I want that thing out of here?"
"Will do, Doc," Jack assured her as he settled into a chair.
Sam fetched another chair and put it on the other side of the bed. Teal'c took up a position at the foot of the bed. Sanderson, feeling a little like he was intruding, told them that he'd come back later and left.
As if sensing that there would be another long wait, Denali curled up on the floor at the head of the bed. Blessed with the same ability that allows most felines to fall asleep quickly, he was out in a matter of seconds.
It was well into the afternoon before Daniel showed signs of awakening again. Jack was instantly on his feet, as was Denali. Their gazes fixed upon Daniel's face, they watched as his eyes blinked open.
"Hey there, Danny Boy. Welcome back," Jack greeted with a smile. "How are you feelin'?"
Daniel cleared his throat. "Um, okay, I guess, considering," he answered in a weak voice. "Where are Sam and Teal'c?"
"Janet finally made them leave and go get something to eat. I'm under orders to do the same as soon as they get back." Jack's face became serious. "You gave us all a pretty good scare, Daniel. It was really close."
Daniel thought about that for a moment. "I heard the rest of the Ur-mah-gal arrive before I passed out. Did they get the Jaffa?"
"Oh, yeah. Big time. A few must have managed to get away, though, because the ships were gone. I don't think that any more of them are going to show up for a long time. Let's hope never."
"Did Maybourne and his men make it?"
"Three of Maybourne's guys are dead, and four others got injured. Unfortunately, Maybourne made it through without a scratch. Oh, and guess what? He actually said something nice about you. He said you have a lot more guts than he thought you did. Considering that he owes you his life yet again, it's the least he could say." Jack grinned. "You're a bonafide hero now, Daniel. Well, not that you weren't before. You earned that status back on the first trip to Abydos. But, now, there's a whole lot more people who know it."
Daniel shook his head in protest. "What I did doesn't make me a hero."
"It does in my books and in the books of a lot of other people. You could have run back to the gate with Sanderson and been safe. You're not a soldier, Daniel, and that's what most people would expect you to do. Instead, you headed right into the thick of battle, took command of your troops, and sent them in to fight."
Daniel choked back a laugh, his hand going to his side when a warning twinge of pain reminded him of his injury. "You make me sound like some kind of general. All I did was tell Denali to call the other Ur-mah-gal. They did the rest."
"Like I said, you took command of your troops and sent them in to fight."
Daniel rolled his eyes, deciding it wasn't worth arguing about.
"Hey, Daniel," called Sam's voice. She approached the bed with a smile on her face. "How do you feel?"
"Okay. I've been worse."
"Well, considering that you've been dead twice, I can agree to that," Jack said.
"Yeah, but you don't feel pain when you're dead."
Just then, Janet came into the infirmary, heading straight to Daniel's bed when she saw that he was awake. "Ah, good. You're awake. Are you feeling better?" She took his pulse.
"Good. Now, I'd like you to. . . ." Janet's eyes went to Denali, who had suddenly started rubbing his face against the top of Daniel's head and purring. Daniel tilted his head up and looked at it.
"Hey, Denali," he said in Hetaran. He reached up and scratched behind the cat's ear. "I'm all right. You don't have to worry about me anymore."
The Ur-mah-gal laid his head on the pillow beside Daniel's head and just gazed at him. The archeologist put his hand on Denali's neck and turned back to Janet, who was gaping at the cat. "What were you going to say?"
Janet blinked. "Um, oh, I was going to say—"
Daniel abruptly lifted his hand and looked at it. There was blood on it. He quickly looked at the Ur-mah-gal. "Denali, are you hurt?"
"I did notice some blood on him, but I thought it, uh, wasn't his," Sam said.
Daniel told the cat to turn to the side and examined him. "His got a deep cut in his neck." He squinted. "I think there's something in it." He looked at Janet, as did everyone else.
"What?" she said. "I'm not a veterinarian."
"Ah, come on, Doc. It's not like we have any vets on base," Jack pointed out.
Janet sighed dramatically and walked over to the cat. "It's not going to bite my head off or anything, is it?"
"He won't touch you. Don't worry," Daniel assured her. He spoke to Denali, telling him that Janet was a healer and was going to fix his wound. The cat stood patiently as the doctor examined the cut.
"Yes, you're right. There is something in the wound."
She got a pair of tweezers and very cautiously pulled out the object imbedded in the cut. It looked like a piece of dull gray metal.
"That looks like it might be a piece from a Jaffa uniform," Sam commented.
"Well, this wound needs to be cleaned, and it should be stitched," Janet said. She looked at Daniel. "Will he tolerate that?"
The archeologist nodded.
Janet cleaned the wound and injected a local anaesthetic before stitching it up.
"There you go. All fixed up," she said, patting the cat on the head. "We'll have to keep an eye out for infection." When she turned, she saw that both Jack and Sam were smiling in amusement. "What? I like animals. I just don't like them in my infirmary."
"Oh, is that what you were going to say?" Daniel asked. "I can ask Denali to leave, but he won't be very happy about it, although he is going to have to, um . . ." he gestured with his hand, "you know sooner or later."
"Daniel, I am not taking your cat out for a walk," Jack said emphatically.
"Yeah, it would probably be best if he went back to Hetara." Daniel turned to Denali and talked to him for a couple of minutes. Judging by the noises the Ur-mah-gal was making, he wasn't too happy with what Daniel was telling him. Daniel stroked the cat's head and talked to him some more. The archeologist then turned to the others. "I was right. He's not happy, but I told him that it would take me quite a while to heal, and he couldn't stay here all that time. He needs to go back to Reka and his pack. If you want to take him to the gate room, Sam, he'll go with you."
She nodded. "Okay. I'll be back in a few minutes. Come on, Denali. Let's get you home."
Denali gazed at Daniel again, who murmured something to him. The Ur-mah-gal nuzzled his face, making a soft, sad sound, then turned and followed Sam out of the infirmary. Janet also left to attend to other patients.
Jack shook his head. "You know, Daniel. Pretty soon you're going to have to say goodbye to them."
Daniel sighed. "Yes, I know."
Jack could see a trace of sadness on his friend's face. "Well, maybe you can visit them from time to time."
"Yeah, maybe. I wish we knew where the Hetarans went so that we could send the Ur-mah-gal there."
"Could it be somewhere in their records?"
"It's possible." An expression of excitement filled Daniel's face. "As soon as I get out of here, I'll have to go back to Hetara and do a search of the records in the educational center."
"Yeah, well, even if the general does approve a return trip to Hetara, it's going to be a while before you're strong enough to go." He could see that his friend's eyelids were growing heavy. "In fact, it looks like you could use some more sleep. Get some rest, Daniel. I'll see you later."
"Thanks, Jack," Daniel mumbled as his eyes closed, and he slipped into sleep.