The smoke is still curling off the battlefield even though the action has shifted away from her. Daniel and Teal'c are out of radio contact, but Sam feels like they're okay, safe in the broadest sense of the term.
Her concern is Colonel O'Neill.
He's missing, and Sam isn't sure that he's okay or safe. Those are the thoughts that tease her mind as she tries to think about strategy, tactics, and keeping quiet and low to the ground. It's easier to focus on the facts than wonder where the Colonel is now.
The population of P2R-136 hadn't really like Daniel's tentative suggestion that Nirrti wasn't a real god. They particularly didn't like the words the Colonel used to describe their goddess. Teal'c had barely raised an eyebrow when their formerly gracious hosts drew staff weapons and zats. Sam had gripped her P-90 more firmly, but didn't pull it up even when Colonel O'Neill snapped some nasty retort about being snake handlers. For once, Daniel had the presence of mind to realize the dangerousness of the situation and backed away toward the door.
But the shooting had started anyway.
In the confusion of inexperienced villagers and the crossfire of those villagers accidentally killing each other, Colonel O'Neill had been separated from the rest of SG-1.
That was four hours ago.
Sam halts and rolls out of the way. A Jaffa patrol rounds the tree line just ahead of her location. They soldier past, clanking in their dull gray armor.
The Jaffa arrived in four Al-kesh shortly after the shooting started. It seemed like the villagers called them, which meant that there was possibly a ha'tak in orbit. The Jaffa patrols were making the search and rescue mission interesting.
Daniel and Teal'c are trying to commandeer one of the Al-kesh; the Stargate is guarded by both Jaffa and angry villagers. They've been gone for twenty minutes. Radio silence is the only way to keep from giving away their position, but there's a part of Sam just itching to know their progress. She can patiently wait out a chemical reaction in a lab, but place her in the field and her nurturing instincts take over. She just wants to know that her friends and teammates are safe, how long this is going to take, when she'll find the Colonel.
Voices—off to her left—stir her and she crouches. The voices are quiet and unsure, probably villagers, not Jaffa. Loud clanks, like metal against metal, and a familiar grunt. She isn't surprised—and actually spares a smile—when she hears his caustic voice.
"You break it, you bought it."
Sam fights down the urge to break into a run and instead creeps toward the sounds.
She can see them clearly now—four villagers, two armed with staff weapons, one with a zat, the other with the Colonel's P-90. Colonel O'Neill is on the ground, dirt streaked over his skin and clothes as if he has rolled down a hill, faint scratches and blood marring his scowling face. From what little Sam can tell from a visual inspection, he's okay. One of the villagers—a scrawny man with a crooked nose—kicks O'Neill's knee sharply and his face twists. His bad knees—really anything can set them off, but he soldiers through the pain most days. Sam winces in sympathy.
She's outnumbered and only has surprise on her side. She can risk saving Colonel O'Neill, but even with the villagers' wild shots, the risk is still pretty high—too high.
"Son of a bitch." The Colonel lashes out and grabs the scrawny guy by the man's ankle. The zat goes flying out of his hand as he falls face first. The two holding the staffs race to restrain the Colonel, one of them dropping his weapon. Sam cannot believe her luck.
She stands up, leveling her weapon, and says coolly, "Back away from him."
The villager holding the P-90 mimics her pose, bringing the P-90 around to point at her.
"Drop it," Sam orders, not letting her gaze stray from the three around Colonel O'Neill.
"You," the villager says. His blue eyes water, betraying his confidence.
"Don't hurt us!" one of the others cries.
"Carter?" The Colonel coughs hard and groans. He may have bruised ribs.
"Sir, I'm getting you out of here," Sam barks.
The Colonel still has his hand around the scrawny man's ankle, but he's flopped to his back, hardly an offensive position. The villager starts struggling and Colonel O'Neill pulls on the leg, forcing the man's face back into the dirt. "I've got everything under control. We were just coming to an understanding."
"I get that, sir." Sam doesn't smile, but somewhere in the back of her mind she laughs at the Colonel's deadpan humor.
Sam moves one step closer.
"Don't move!" The villager with the P-90 shakes, the metal rattling against a beaded bracelet he has laced around his wrist. It makes a sound like rain on an aluminum overhang, pinging and hollow.
"Sir? How's your clip?" Sam asks. She doesn't want to shoot, but whether or not she does depends on the answer to that question.
"Empty." O'Neill grins. "Why else do you think I let him have it?"
The Colonel's bravado, dumb luck, and twisted humor never cease to amaze Sam. She knows exactly why he's the commanding office and she's just his second-in-command—she's not as crazy as he is.
She takes a bold step towards the group and shouts, "Back away!"
None of them move; Sam was afraid of that.
The scrawny guy—still in Colonel O'Neill's grip—suddenly lunges and comes up with the zat. She fires on him before he can shoot her. Her bullet tears through his forearm, sending up a small spray of blood, and he cries out, the zat falling from his hand, sliding in the loose dirt. The Colonel switches from gripping the man's ankle to scrambling for the zat.
An empty P-90 clicks to Sam's right, but she's already pushing forward, taking on the villager still armed with a staff weapon. Hand-to-hand should keep people from dying.
The air tingles with electricity and the sounds of three zat blasts, each one aimed at the other villagers, alive but down for the count. Sam grapples with the fourth attacker, wrestling away the staff weapon.
"Move!" Colonel O'Neill shouts.
Sam ducks and rolls and the Colonel fires. The villager crumples on the Colonel's legs and he curses.
She rushes over to pull the man off and then quickly checks her CO over, noting bruising and cuts.
"Are you all right?" She unscrews the cap to her canteen and forces him to drink.
"Peachy," he says. "Thought you'd have gone for reinforcements by now."
"Would have liked to, sir, but Jaffa arrived and blocked the 'gate." She picks up the Colonel's weapon and moves it back to his hands, passing over a clip as well. He sits up, rubbing his neck and wiping the dirt from his face, leaving more streaks.
"He and Teal'c are trying to acquire other means of transportation." Sam scans the horizon, but aside from the four unconscious attackers and the smoke curling from the village, the area is clear and silent.
"Big honking spaceship?"
Sam smiles, feeling like maybe they're out of the woods. "Al-kesh, sir."
He nods and clicks in the fresh clip. "Can we—?"
His question dies in the sounds of an Al-kesh coming in over them. Both soldiers raise their weapons, not that two P-90s will do much.
Static buzzes at Colonel O'Neill's chest and then Daniel's tinny voice comes through. "Hey, Jack, need a lift?"
The rings swoop down over them and lift Sam and the Colonel up into the Al-kesh. The air is cleaner in the ship, no sharp carbon monoxide from staff blasts. Colonel O'Neill coughs, holding his side.
"I think maybe you bruised your ribs." Sam's hands press in on his side carefully.
"Definitely," the Colonel says. "Or worse."
He winces when Sam pushes in too hard.
"Thanks for rescuing me." He coughs again, his face handsome with his roguish smile. "You're my hero."
"Any time, sir." Sam can't keep the smile from her own voice. She hates missions like this; losing a team member and having to keep her emotions in check until something happens, until that team member is found. It's worse when the Colonel is missing and she's in charge. It's easier to hold her mind together when she's following orders than when she has to think clearly enough to give them. "I'm just glad to have you home."