"I don't need to emphasize the importance of getting the local's permission to mine naquadah on P2X-586. We really need this treaty," Hammond said.
"No, sir, you don't. We'll do our best," O'Neill answered.
"All right, you have a go, people!"
SG-1 and Martouf/Lantash walked up the ramp, and one after another, they left through the wormhole.
"So, which way to the nearest village?" O'Neill asked as soon as they were all out on the other side. He threw a quick look at the slightly strange, green sky.
"We must follow the path in that direction." Martouf pointed. "I do not know how you measure distances, but if we walk at a fast pace, we should arrive in about 3... maybe 4 hours."
O'Neill groaned. "I thought you said it would be a 'short' walk from the Stargate!"
"I only said it was within walking distance - and will you not agree even four hours walk is fairly near?" Martouf said. "Of course, I agree that many planets will have populated areas much closer to the chaapa'ai, but this planet has been abandoned by the Goa'uld for many centuries, and the locals do not wish to live near the place where their evil lord's Jaffa would arrive."
"They consider the Stargate itself a symbol of evil - or perhaps, bad luck?" Daniel asked.
"It is quite common on former Goa'uld worlds, though it is of course not always just symbolic. Living further from the chaapa'ai is generally a safer and more sensible choice, unless you travel through it on a regular basis, or trade with someone who does," Martouf explained.
"Okay, I'll buy that, but why did the Goa'uld leave this planet, if there's still lots of naquadah here?" O'Neill wondered.
"Well, the remaining naquadah is difficult to get to, unless you use some sort of modern machinery - and if I understood it correctly, the Goa'uld doesn't want to do that. Something about not wanting to let their slaves learn about modern technology," Sam said. "Isn't that correct?" She looked at Martouf.
He nodded. "Yes, that is so. When the Goa'uld have mined the naquadah which can be easily accessed with traditional manual labour, they will usually abandon the world, even if there are still large deposits of naquadah left. Allowing the slaves to use and learn about any kind of advanced technology is dangerous to the Goa'uld supremacy - a large part of their power is based on keeping humans and most Jaffa ignorant and convinced that Goa'uld technology work by magic."
"Knowledge of Goa'uld magic is forbidden," Teal'c observed.
"Exactly," Martouf said.
"Because... if the slaves learn to use advanced technology, they will see it is not magic - and they may then suspect the Goa'uld are not gods," Daniel realized.
"Finally! There's the village," O'Neill exclaimed happily, as the trail left the forest. "Now we'll just have to hope they're in a good mood and agrees to the trade quickly. Maybe we can even get back home tonight!"
They had walked for just under four hours, the road taking them first over a flat terrain, then across a bridge over a wide, but slow-moving river. After that they had gone through the rocky foothills of the mountains, for about two hours, before the path sloped down towards lusher terrain. The last hour they had walked through a dense, humid forest, almost like a rain-forest.
"We may have to remain in the village for longer than anticipated," Martouf observed, pointing towards the dark clouds that were gathering over the mountains.
"Crap." O'Neill looked in the direction Martouf indicated. It did indeed look like a bad storm was approaching. "Well, maybe it will pass quickly."
"That is possible, but unlikely, O'Neill. I have seen storms in areas such as these before, and when the clouds look like those, the storms may sometimes last for several days," Teal'c told him.
"Spoilsport," O'Neill said.
They entered the village, and saw people running back and forth, shuttering windows and moving things inside.
"This doesn't look good," Daniel observed.
"Hey!" O'Neill called out to the nearest villager, a young man who was carrying a barrel. "Where do we find someone in charge of this place - like a village leader, or something?"
"The Village Council are currently in the Communal Gathering Place - the large building you see there." He pointed. "However, they are busy with coordinating the escape, and may not have time to receive you, strangers."
"Escape? What escape?" O'Neill wanted to know.
"The tuh'alva is coming." The villager frowned. "Do you not know? Where are you from?"
"We're from - far away. What's a tuh'alva?" O'Neill asked.
"You must be from far away indeed, if you do not know of the tuh'alva. It is a terrible storm - winds that can tear up the largest of trees, floods which washes away the largest rocks - staying here is insanity. There were many deaths before we found the caves in the mountains, where we now stay during each tuh'alva. It comes every 25 years, and now it is again the time for it," he explained.
"Okay, we'll be quick," O'Neill promised, turning to the others. "Let's go talk to this Council of theirs, and then head back."
They had been told to wait, since the Council was currently handling important matters, so it was almost two hours later when SG-1 was finally allowed in to meet the Council members.
The meeting had been brief, but productive. The people of P2X-586 - called Jokalla by the locals - were not interested in the naquadah in the least. The Tau'ri and the Tok'ra were more than welcome to mine it, as long as the locals did not have to have anything to do with it. They had been slaves, forced to mine the naquadah, before the Goa'uld left. That was several centuries ago now, but it was not forgotten.
In return for being allowed to mine the naquadah, Earth and the Tok'ra promised medical and other assistance, and the locals were more than willing to agree to the trade.
The meeting had taken less than one hour, and it was obvious the Council was in a hurry to get SG-1 and Martouf/Lantash to leave, so they could escape to the mountains with the rest of the villagers.
"Okay, I'll admit this was a bit short, but I guess we can come back for anything else we need to discuss when they have more time to talk to us. We should probably head back, anyway," O'Neill said, when the Council members had left with the last group of villagers, heading for higher grounds, and some caves they used to stay in during these times.
He looked with some concern towards the mountains. The clouds there had become much darker, and the wind was already starting to pick up. O'Neill frowned, unpleasantly surprised with how quickly the storm was approaching.
"I agree, and I believe we should move swiftly indeed," Teal'c observed.
Martouf looked worried. "It is four hours to the chaapa'ai, I do not believe we shall make it before the storm reaches us. Perhaps it would be wiser to go with the locals. They know of safe places to hide during this time."
"I don't want to be trapped in a cold and wet cave for only God knows how many days!" O'Neill said, with conviction. "I've seen some storms in my time too, and I don't think we'll catch more than the very beginnings of it if we go now. We'll just have to move quickly, right?"
"Perhaps," Martouf agreed, reluctantly, eyeing the approaching storm warily.
They hurried on back towards the Stargate, first going through the almost jungle-like woods near the village. When they existed the calm of the forest, just under an hour later, they noticed the storm was moving faster than any of them had anticipated. The wind was already fairly strong, and the temperature had dropped several degrees.
The path quickly winded upwards through the rocky terrain of the lower part of the mountains. After they had been going up for more than an hour, the ground started sloping down sharply towards the river. By now it had started to rain, and from the darkness of the sky in the direction of the mountains, it was raining heavily up there.
"Um, do you guys hear that?" Sam asked. "It sounds like... distant rumbling? Thunder, perhaps?"
"No, it is the river. I noticed it some time ago," Martouf said.
"Agreed. I hear it as well," Teal'c added.
"The river? Are you sure? From here? It's still some distance away, and the water was shallow and didn't move very fast when we crossed it earlier today," Daniel said.
"That may well have changed, Daniel Jackson," Teal'c told him.
"Of course, the storm has already dumped a lot of water upstream," Daniel realized.
Worried, they hurried on, hoping the water in the river had not risen enough to engulf the bridge.
They had walked at a very high speed, and approached the river just fifteen minutes later. By then, the wind was a strong gale, with gusts near storm force. The river - now less than 250 feet away - had swelled to reach just under the bridge, and now and then the water would crest, and crash over it.
"It's almost as if the river's swelling while we look at it!" Daniel said, shocked.
"I believe it is doing just that," Teal'c observed.
"Well, if we want to make it past that bridge today, we should probably hurry!" O'Neill said. "Come on, guys!"
They started running, as fast as they could, and soon stood at the bridge. Even normally, the river was fairly wide here - almost 500 feet across.
Teal'c stepped out on the bridge. "You must be careful, the water is making it slippery." He began walking across.
Daniel followed, with O'Neill after him, then Martouf/Lantash, and last Sam.
They had only taken a few steps, when the water rose further, and they had to continue through a few inches of water, which quickly became more. When they were halfway across, the bridge made a creaking noise, followed by a loud snap, as it began to break up.
"Run!" O'Neill yelled.
Sam cried out, as she slipped on the wet, treasonous surface. A flood of water gave her the last push, and she fell.
"Samantha!" Martouf exclaimed, stopping. He turned to look, and seeing she had fallen, he ran towards her.
The roar from the water was so loud that O'Neill, Daniel, and Teal'c could not hear the others from where they were running, and they hurried on towards safety.
Sam coughed, and tried to regain her footing. "I'm fine! Get to safety!" she yelled, seeing Martouf coming towards her.
He had almost reached her when the bridge collapsed under the pressure from the water.
O'Neill had barely had time to turn around after setting foot on dry land, when he saw the bridge being washed away.
"Carter! Martouf!" He yelled, suddenly spotting two figures being swept away by the water, perhaps 100 feet away from where he stood. Moments later they were gone from his view, having been carried further downstream.
"Oh, my God!" Daniel exclaimed, as he, too, realized what had happened. "We've got to save them!"
A loud crash of thunder almost deafened them, and was almost immediately followed by lightning, which tore across the sky just above their heads. A torrential rain followed, drenching them almost immediately.
"Daniel Jackson... I wish this as much as you do, but I do not know how to currently accomplish this feat," Teal'c said, sombrely.
For a few moments, O'Neill looked despondently in the direction Sam and Martouf/Lantash had disappeared, then turned to the others. "There's nothing we can do right now."
"Jack!" Daniel looked at him in disbelief. "We can't just leave them!"
Another bolt of thunder crashed over their heads, followed by lightning, this time seeming to be even closer than before. The rain seemed to fall even harder, and the wind got chillier. They all shivered.
O'Neill glared angrily at the sky, willing the weather to calm down. "We're not leaving them! We'll return to search for them as soon as this damn weather quiets down a bit!"
Worried for their friends, but unable to do anything at the moment, Daniel, O'Neill, and Teal'c hurried on towards the Stargate. They reached it less than an hour later, very cold and wet.