With the rest of SG-1 en route to Atlantis, and Teal'c's role in their mission confined to a brief span of time in an al'kesh at the midpoint of their absence, the Jaffa found himself with several days free of scheduled duties and very little else with which to occupy them. Until his role in the attempted activation of the Supergate to deny the Ori its use could be completed, he felt it would be inadvisable to risk his being stranded off-planet, which rather limited his options. And there was only so much training-- of himself, and others-- he could perform before physical exertion lost its charm.
Fortunately, there were no restrictions on his movements outside of the base, allowing him a welcome change of scenery from the concrete halls of the SGC. While the OSI had not restored permission for him to establish quarters away from the base, he still possessed a vehicle with legal tags and a license, and had not been prohibited from using them provided he put sufficient effort into 'maintaining a low profile'. After the events that had transpired with Krista, his neighbor during the brief time he had resided in Colorado Springs, he had not needed any more encouragement in that regard. He would never feel easy ignoring criminal acts taking place in his vicinity, but there were ways he might still intervene and yet draw less attention than he had previously incurred.
Teal'c hoped no such intervention would prove necessary during his latest visit to the Tau'ri city, but he also believed in being prepared, just in case. He was not allowed to remove a zat'nik'atel or staff weapon from the armory, and indeed they would be too conspicuous to justify the satisfaction of their superior firepower; but he had acquired the permit necessary to bear a firearm of Tau'ri make as a substitute, and secured one on his person before directing his SUV toward his former apartment building. He had exchanged email addresses with the boy Eric while packing up his belongings two years prior, and through their intermittent contact since had become aware that Eric's sixteenth birthday would occur during the last week of July. Eric had expressed a wish for him to attend the celebratory party, and to that end Teal'c had acquired a gift suitable for a teenaged Tau'ri civilian.
He had just turned into the residential grid of streets that housed his destination when a burst of brilliant light flared into existence at the side of the road. Teal'c narrowed his eyes as he approached the disturbance, then pulled his vehicle to an abrupt halt as it swelled to a size sufficient to illuminate the form of a tall, pale-skinned man. It was impossible to determine whether the stranger was glowing as well, or if the soft radiance emanating from his skin and all he wore was a due to the disturbance still shining brightly behind him. In one hand he bore a long blade, and he was clad in armor much like costumes he'd seen in Tau'ri movies: a breastplate over a coat of mail, with a white cloak draped over his shoulders.
The swordsman had not been there before the light appeared; nor had there been time for him to approach while its emergence distracted any potential observers. The stranger therefore could not be of the Tau'ri, despite his appearance. And though his arrival did not match the effects of a ring mechanism, or Asgard beaming technology, or any other means of transport with which Teal'c was familiar, there were other organizations in the galaxy that might have chosen to seize this opportunity while Earth was distracted by its latest foes. He could not rule out the prospect of enemy action. Teal'c quickly opened the door of his vehicle, then ducked behind it as he exited, seeking for a better shielded position.
Once situated behind a screen of bushes where he could watch the intruders with less risk of discovery, he unholstered his weapon, then retrieved his cellular phone and dialed the appropriate contact number at the SGC. While the call was put through, he observed several additional figures appear from the coruscating energy; none were garbed as the initial warrior had been, but neither were they dressed as typical Tau'ri. The second being to appear was clearly older than the first, short and stocky and nearly bald save for a fringe of white hair, but there was a toughness in his stance and the set of his features that strongly reminded Teal'c of his mentor. In one hand the senior bore a long staff of finely carved wood-- and a flock of unarmed youth in loose brown robes, both male and female, followed closely on his heels. They moved hurriedly, casting fearful glances over their shoulders, then huddled in an uncertain group next to the armored man and his compatriot.
"This isn't Chicago," one of them said, glancing worriedly up and down the street.
"No, we're still in Colorado," the man with the staff replied, "but there's an alternate Way about a hundred yards from here. With any luck, we'll be able to shake some of our pursuit with this detour."
"God, I hope so," another of the robe wearers whimpered.
"Have faith, He hears your prayer," the man in the armor said, nodding to the one who had spoken.
A second wave emerged behind the first group as Teal'c was finally put through to General Landry, and he backed off slightly so that he would not be overheard in turn. Another pair of older beings armed with archaic weaponry escorted another cluster of robe-wearers, all of them within a few years of age of Teal'c's son Ry'ac. They, too, appeared frightened, and many showed signs of a recent battle in their torn robes and bruised or bloodied limbs. In fact, their behavior more closely resembled that of a group of refugees than an army of invaders; Teal'c furrowed his brow as he observed them, and adjusted somewhat the content of his message to the SGC's commander.
"I have discovered a possible foothold situation in Colorado Springs," he reported quietly, once the usual confirmations and greetings had been exchanged. "Though I am not convinced that the intruders are malevolent; they appear to be fleeing some form of attack."
"Another one?" General Landry asked, surprise and dismay clearly audible in his voice.
Teal'c furrowed his brow at the implications. "There have been other such reports?"
"We don't have boots on the ground yet, but up until half an hour ago there was quite a lightshow going on southwest of you, down near the border between Colorado and New Mexico," the general replied. "Up in the mountains. It's difficult terrain, and there's not supposed to be anyone out there just now except for some kind of survival summer camp for a bunch of troubled teenagers. We got a blurry look through a satellite overhead, and there's no way whatever they were using was made here on Earth; it looked like the camp was defending itself from a group of attackers, but the folks in the camp seemed to be using the unidentifiable weapons, too."
As a third, even more disheveled group of robe-clad youth emerged from the strange portal, Teal'c nodded grimly; he thought he could guess why the display had ended. The nature of their opponent-- and the purpose of their appearance in a residential neighborhood-- continued to elude him, however.
"Understood," he said. "It seems likely the two incidents are related; I have observed approximately forty individuals emerging from what appears to be a portal, and many of them are visibly injured."
"Can you see what they're armed with?" Landry asked, alarmed.
"Primitive weapons only; primarily swords and staves," Teal'c informed him.
The general made a perplexed noise. "I wish I could send you the rest of SG-1, Teal'c, but they're too far out to recall, and we don't have a ship with beaming capabilities in orbit at present. I'll send backup to you as soon as possible."
Teal'c had expected nothing else. "I will keep you informed as events proceed," he replied, then ended the call, set the phone to silent ring and tucked it away in a pocket. In order to investigate further, he would have to move closer, and he did not wish an ill-timed return call to give him away.
One final pair of individuals emerged from the strange aperture in space as he inched closer; one with a long braid binding dark hair away from features Teal'c recognized as Native American, and the second a much younger woman with short, curling brown hair wielding a blood-stained silver sword. She made a gesture toward the brightly glowing portal with one hand, as though intending to draw it closed behind her-- but before it could dim more than a fraction, something else emerged: something long, ropy and sinuous, quite intent on wrapping the young woman up in its embrace.
She cried something incomprehensible and slashed at it with her blade; at her side, the native warrior made a gesture with a plain, uncarved staff, and light blazed forth in the direction of the attacker.
Then the rest of the-- thing-- emerged, a second close on its heels, and Teal'c blinked at it in astonishment and disbelief. He had never, in all his years of service to the Goa'uld, seen anything like the-- the horror slithering its way into a world utterly unprepared to receive it. There was something about its unnatural shape, or the numerous eyes, or the strange texture of its skin, or the perhaps the writhing shadows it cast, that utterly unsettled Teal'c's stomach. It felt as though he faced Apophis again, with all the powers of Anubis or the Ori: a nightmare made flesh.
It laughed then, a deep, echoing sound that twisted in his gut like the amusement of a false god, and one of the young ones screamed in terror-filled response. Teal'c blinked and shook his head, disturbed at how easily the alien thing had drawn his concentration, and turned his gaze toward the children-- just as the man in armor rushed to aid the warriors in defending them. The sword he bore blazed with a sudden light, and a high, clear sound rose from its brilliance, altering the creature's laughter into angry roars.
"We'll hold them here!" a dark-skinned woman with iron-grey hair yelled, rushing from the clustered, trembling young ones toward the fight. "Open the next way-- get the children through!"
The man who reminded Teal'c of Bra'tac nodded as she went by, and swept an arm in an inclusive gesture. "Trainees, with me," he ordered them in firm tones, turning to hurry down the street in the opposite direction.
The children followed him-- but they were not moving very swiftly, and even as they effected their escape, more sinuous limbs-- attached to a body with more claws and altogether too many fangs for Teal'c's comfort-- pushed its way through the entry gate, slashing and snatching at the bare handful of defenders.
It no longer seemed reasonable to Teal'c to wait and observe; clearly, these youth were not a current threat to the safety of Earth. Whatever their purpose, they were evidently the victims of an altogether more fearsome foe, and Teal'c could not watch them fall to such evil when his assistance might prevent that fate. He deactivated the safety on his weapon, then moved out from behind his cover and began to lay down a suppressing fire against the intruding alien being.
Or-- an attempt at a suppressing fire. Teal'c frowned as the bullets sank into the hide of the creature without any effect other than a brief twitch, and shifted his aim, attempting to strike an eye or sever a limb, but if he was causing any damage, it was not immediately visible. The enemy did not even deign to acknowledge his presence; the only sign that he had acted at all was the surprised look thrown over the shoulder of the swordsman at the sound of Teal'c's weapon in action.
"Modern weapons don't work very well against them!" he called, over the sounds of the fight.
"Indeed," Teal'c replied, dismayed, continuing to fire in the hopes of striking some vital organ as he moved to approach the defenders.
He was rewarded with a few more twitches before the magazine ran dry-- and was close enough to use the butt of the gun as a club as a whipping tentacle finally reacted to his proximity. It cringed back; as it did so, the young curly-haired woman turned to swiftly size him up. She exchanged a glance with her compatriots, nodded sharply, then turned her sword so the hilt faced Teal'c; at his nod, she tossed it to him, then raised her hands before her. Even as the bladed weapon flashed through the air, she somehow generated a blast of energy from her palms to drive the creature back a step; Teal'c caught it, shifted his grip to assess its weight and balance, then bared his teeth and stepped closer to test its edge against the foe.
Black fluids spattered, uncannily warm where they struck exposed skin, and then there was no more time for thought. The swords did only a little more damage than the bullets had, and the creature was determined to pass them; fortunately, it seemed less able to anticipate the actions of three enemies than the two it had faced before. The glowing weapon borne by the swordsman sang at Teal'c's side as they defended themselves, each other, and those standing with them bearing only staves or empty hands-- and step by step, with their strange energy attacks, those others drove it backward into the portal.
Had Teal'c not known it to be impossible, he would have suspected them of being Ascended beings. He had observed such powers before from Oma Desala, or Daniel Jackson during his brief period of Ascension, or even Colonel O'Neill when he had been affected by the Ancient download. But the Ancients had made it clear on multiple occasions that they would not interfere in mortal matters, not even under the current threat from their millennia-old enemy.
But if this was not an Ancient or Ori matter, then what was it? Not Goa'uld, nor any other threat Teal'c had met with before. He shuddered as the creature roared one last time and withdrew its last protruding limb into the otherspace shining forth from the rent in reality, and the portal finally disappeared, shrinking and winking out in a flash of light. Surely there should be some rule against uncovering a new and formidable threat to existence while the previous enemy remained undefeated?
The curly-haired woman lowered her hands, then turned to Teal'c, her face lined with weariness. She did not quite look him in the eye, but he felt the force of her attention just the same. "Thank you for your help," she said. "That was close. How did you find us?"
Teal'c glanced down at the weapon in his hand, then lifted a corner of his shirt to wipe the foreign substances from the blade before handing it back to her. He had heard the suspicion in her tone, and was not surprised by it. "I was driving by when I saw the first of your warriors appear," he said. "I am Teal'c."
She glanced over at her armor-clad companion, then smiled briefly, a worn twitch at the corner of her mouth, as she sheathed her weapon. "Then you must have been watching for awhile before the Outsider came through. But I won't press," she said. "There's no time for it; this was not our first battle of the day, and I don't know how long it will take them to discover our new path and ambush us again."
"Outsiders," the dark-skinned woman said, and spat upon the ground. "It's fortunate there was sunlight here, or we would have had the Red on us again as well."
The swordsman sighed as he cleaned and sheathed his own sword. Teal'c felt a strange sense of loss as the unearthly light and sound that accompanied the blade's use faded away, and shuddered, abruptly and strangely reminded of the light generated by the staves of Priors. "It was not yet our time," the man said calmly, then looked up and nodded gravely at Teal'c.
"That's the last of them!" the older man called from behind them, and all three fighters turned to see him standing in front of a second portal, as a few final youth disappeared into its embrace. The last one in line, a young woman in her late teenage years, turned to look behind her as she stepped into the unnatural light, and Teal'c frowned as something in her features snagged at him in familiarity.
"Ally...?" he murmured, mentally comparing the tall, slender girl with the young friend who had watched over him while he suffered from an alien bug infestation years before.
The girl's eyes widened briefly as she stared back at him, as if in equal recognition-- and then she was gone, vanished from the streets of Colorado Springs as though she had never been. For the second time; for yes, he was certain it was she. He had lost track of Ally not long after he and Daniel Jackson had gifted her with a Super Soaker and played tag through an old abandoned building in thanks for her generosity; it had always disturbed him that no one seemed to have any idea where a schoolchild of her age might have relocated, and he had never learned her last name. Now his curiosity had been roused.
He swallowed. "Can I be of further assistance?" he asked, turning back to the woman who, despite her deficit of years, appeared to be the leader of this small, strange group of warriors.
She raised her eyebrows at him in evident startlement, then glanced after the vanished-- students? Apprentices? Young of her kind, whatever altered subspecies of humanity they may belong to? "You know Miss Rennison?" she asked.
Teal'c bowed his head, gravely. "If that is her name," he said. "I owe my life in part to her timely intervention at a critical moment, some years ago."
"As do we, to you," the swordsman said gravely. "But unless I miss my guess, this is your first encounter with beings of this kind...?"
Teal'c set his jaw. "With beings of this kind, perhaps. Beings of such strength and intention, however..." He let his voice trail off suggestively.
The man facing him sighed, then held out an armored hand for Teal'c to grasp after the Tau'ri manner of greeting. "Then you understand the need not to speak of what you've seen here today? A large number of lives are in danger, and involving the normal authorities can only make things worse."
Teal'c frowned slightly at that; he would keep no secrets of the kind from the rest of his team, and General Landry would surely want an update on the situation. "I suspect you have not met the authorities with whom I work," he replied, obliquely.
The curly-haired woman took a deep breath, then let it out in a frustrated sigh. "We're far more experienced in this situation than you are-- but there's no time to explain this to you, or deal with it. Will you come with us to our destination?"
Teal'c shook his head. "I have duties here."
Her eyes flicked up to take in the golden sigil on his forehead, and she frowned; then she reached out to touch his chin and very deliberately locked her gaze with his, belying her earlier avoidance.
What he saw then, he would never speak of, save to say that it shook him on a very profound level-- and filled him with a deep gratitude that none of Ba'al's agents on Earth had ever discovered such things. He did not know what Luccio-- for that was her name, he realized-- saw in return; but when she broke eye contact to glance away again, she looked very nearly as pale as he felt. "I see," she said, hoarsely. "Michael will fill you in on his contacts in Chicago. We'll speak again, one day." Then she shook her head and hurried to join the other group, passing through the portal.
Michael-- the armored man-- glanced after her, a brief expression of worry creasing his features, but when he turned back to Teal'c his gaze was clear. He did not avoid Teal'c's gaze as Luccio had, but no new vision occurred; his gifts were evidently not the same as hers. Nevertheless, Teal'c was unsettled by Michael's unflinching regard as he reached into a pouch at his waist and retrieved a piece of stiff white paper. "I had a feeling I should bring one of these," he said. "Now I know why."
Teal'c glanced at the tiny rectangle as he took it from Michael's hand. "Harry Dresden-- Wizard," it read. "Lost Items Found. Paranormal Investigations. Consulting. Advice. Reasonable Rates. No Love Potions, Endless Purses, Parties or Other Entertainment."
He drew his brows together in disbelief, unsure whether to believe the absurdity of the business card's advertisement in light of all he had just seen-- but when he looked back up, Michael was smiling, a wry curve of mouth that said he knew what Teal'c was thinking.
Teal'c's mind worked quickly. The foes this group had fought were as dire as any he had ever faced, if measured by different scales; and he had not forgotten how the governments of Earth often behaved toward him outside of the protection of the SGC. He would not expose the youth these warriors had been protecting-- Ally apparently included among them-- to such danger. But neither could he ignore what he had seen. Clearly, this Harry Dresden was well connected to the group he had fought beside, knew enough about what they faced to fill Teal'c in on the details, and could defend himself if Teal'c proved to be hostile. He would be an acquaintance worth making.
"I understand," he said.
Michael nodded, then moved to join the final combatant standing near the exit portal; they were the only ones remaining. A moment later, they were gone. The portal closed with a final, coruscating abruptness, leaving Teal'c alone in a blood-spattered street.
Teal'c shook his head, then walked back toward his SUV as sirens finally began to sound in the near distance. 'Paranormal'. Might the Ori fall under such a heading, after all? Given the undoubted strength of the abilities he had just seen in Michael, Luccio and their compatriots, that card might turn out to be a turning point in the war for the SGC.