Strange Hope


A/N: I would like to thank my two wonderful beta's - Meriem Clayton and Jess13 (or as I call them, Alison and Jess, my co-defenders of S/D). I would also like to thank all of you who read my stuff. It's a privliage to have such awesome people who read my stuff - let me know if you like it - kindly R&R!

~*~*~*~*~

"It's cold," Colonel Cameron 'Cam' Mitchell stated. He looked up at the vacant sky, wondering if the planet had ever seen a sun - knew what warmth was.

"I told you she was right," Vala Mal Doran said. She jabbed a thumb in Colonel Samantha 'Sam' Carter's direction. "She's always bloody right," she muttered as she forged ahead.

Sam looked over to where Daniel Jackson stood looking at the pillars that lined the way to the Stargate. He returned the look, telling Sam he had heard it all too. Since coming back a little over six months before - suddenly resurfacing from Ori territory - Daniel had avoided Vala as much as he could. Being on the same team did not help in this endeavor.

"I believe yesterday's temperature was higher. Perhaps it will become more pleasant," Teal'c said, giving a rare smile. He had become a bit less reserved as he rallied the free Jaffa once more against Gerak and the other Jaffa who had accepted Origin. They had fought back, and were maintaining their freedom, causing Teal'c to relax.

"Well it is still cold," Cam said once more. "I just hope this 'escort' of ours shows up."

"Oh I thought you liked the cold," Vala said, swinging her scarf over her shoulder, barely missing Cam. "In the mean time I will wait here on the bench."

Cam looked at her. She brought a new dimension to the team, but was he still wondering if it was a good one. Vala seemed to look out for Vala and, if you were lucky, maybe you too. It disturbed Cam that she and Sam seemed to butt heads over some small thing that were way over his head. Daniel had explained that he did not try to find out what the problem was until after the explosion and the dust cleared. Then he would wait silently until Sam told him the newest "Adventure into Vala's Mind," an always-entertaining journey.

"Well if these pillars are any help, it says that the people of this planet had a protector - sounds like the Asgard," Daniel said, tracing the symbols.

Sam got lost in watching the fingers trail over the grooves for a moment. "A protected planet? Wow. We have not found one of those in a long while."

"Indeed. If this was a protected planet, would Thor not have told us when he indicated the Gates to protected planets?" Teal'c asked.

"You would think so," Daniel said. Turning, he looked at the rest of his team, "but it looks like they lost the protection. Something must have happened to cause the Asgard to pull back. That could explain why Thor never mentioned it."

"Well we will never get to ask if this 'escort' is not here in a few moments. I thought my Aunt Gertrude was bad about time. She once showed up for Christmas a day late," Cam said. Finishing the sentence to himself, he went back to searching the clearing for the escort that Din - their contact - had said would be waiting. He was over due by 10 minutes so far.

As if summoned by Cam's impatience, an old man came down the path, holding a little box in his hand. He was stooped low; years of laboring on the land had made his hands gnarled, but strong. He looked wide-eyed at the team as they stood beside one another and greeted the man.

"I am Daniel Jackson," Daniel said stepping forward. "This is Colonel Sam -"

He was cut short as the man placed a hand on his lips. He was looking at the five people, and Daniel looked over at Sam, who shrugged. They had gone to many different worlds, met many different people, but never had one stopped Daniel's introduction in such a manner.

"I need not know your names, brave one," the man said, finally meeting Daniel's blue eyes with his crystal gray ones. "You come as Din has instructed; this is all I need to know. You come through the Stone of Light; this is all I need to understand. Take this and follow me." He handed the box to Daniel who gave it to Cam. They followed silently as the man hobbled his way back down the path.

Cam carefully looked at the box, inspecting its four sides and top and bottom. "Oh open the bloody thing already," Vala hissed quietly. Cam looked at her and shook his head. He did things his way, the military way, and when he needed to feel reckless - which was not often - he did it Carolyn Lam's way. Vala loomed by his side, not letting his own shadow fall on the hard grassy ground.

Finally, he opened the box, much to the delight of Vala. Sam and Daniel were carefully trailing behind the man, while Teal'c was following, holding up the rear. Cam pushed the paper aside and picked up the necklace from inside.

"Oh that is pretty," Vala cooed.

Cam rolled his eyes and snatched the box back, placing the necklace inside once more, and put the lid on it. "We don't know what it means and, no, you can not have it."

"Well then show it to Daniel! He can translate while we walk. Gawd knows there is precious little else to do," Vala said, exasperated.

"No," Cam said firmly. He smiled a bit as she pouted and continued to walk silently beside him.

"Here is the village. Din is expecting you in the meetinghouse. Go and trade well," the old man said, stooping lower - a bow of sorts - and walked into the side street of the small neighborhood of stone buildings he had brought them to.

Cam held a hand up and called after the man. "Thanks! We'll see ourselves the rest of the way." Turning to the other members, he smiled, "Friendly folks. Let's see what Din wants to trade."

Now alone, SG-1 walked down the same street the man had lead them down. Cam figured the 'meetinghouse' was in the center of the village. Daniel also felt it was the best place to find the home and their trading partner. In five minutes they had emerged out into an open lawn, busy with people. The square was lined with booths, people, and the smell of food. Even in the drizzle that had started, the place seemed alive and active with people and trade. The people regarded SG-1 curiously, but none stopped them or openly stared at them.

"Well here we are," Cam said after he had taken in the sudden crowd. "Let's see what we can help these people with."

~*~*~

"Medicine. That is what my people need," Din said. He pounded the table, not for emphasis, but to kill the rather large spider that was making its way across the desk. "You have medicine."

Cam looked over at Daniel, sharing a small smile. "We can certainly supply that. If you would like we can go back and deliver them before your sun sets."

"No. We can not trade like that," Din said. And there lay the snag that they had been picking at for the last hour. Cam and the team were more than ready to go back and deliver the supplies they sought - medication, seeds for crops and water purifiers. In return they would let SG-1 study the soil that made any crops naturally pest free and grew almost twice as fast. Din shook his head and looked back at Cam, continuing, "Anyone can bring those to you - we don't know if it could be intercepted and switched by anyone. In return anyone can get them from you as you make your way to us."

"What do you mean? You keep saying 'anyone' as if you do not trust these other people," Daniel said finally.

"You are right. I do not trust these other people. They, in turn, do not trust us," Din looked at them and sighed. With a sweep of his hand, the rest of the people who were listening to the conversation left the meeting hall. Din pulled thoughtfully on his beard. Leaning forward and lowering his voice, he said, "I need weapons also. Much like yours. They look deadly. We have spears and arrows, and can do a lot of damage, but we need more. The others - a rival village two days journey over the rough hills - have been plundering the homes outside our village. We need to stop them."

Cam looked calmly at the man. "We cannot negotiate weapons. I have to clear that with my superiors. I can give you the medicine and training on how to bandage your wounded."

"They are not wounded. They are dead. The others kill my people," Din said flatly. Anger burned in his eyes. "In a few days time they will surely come to the village wall and start plundering my people, laying siege to my village."

"How can we help?" Daniel asked. Catching Cam before he spoke, Daniel rushed ahead. "We may not be able to provide weapons, but we can see if we can't negotiate some treaty between you and these people."

"They are dangerous."

"But if you are afraid for your people, wouldn't that be worth a try?" Sam asked.

"I would not sacrifice any of my people to them," Din said shaking his head. He sat back and stroked his beard once more. "They know my people and would not listen to them. The other tribe is three weeks journey away. They are neutral but would not help even if we asked."

Daniel looked at Cam, asking the silent questions. Sam watched them, nodding as she caught Daniel's eye. "We would be willing to be neutral negotiators," Daniel said at last.

"Surely not all of you," Din said. He regarded them for a moment. "You would do this and supply us with what we need?"

"Yes," Cam said without hesitation.

Din sent for his top officials who were waiting in the hall. Vala leaned over and hissed, "I thought this wouldn't take long. I have a nail appointment to get to."

Cam shot her a glare. "So these people will have peace, you will sacrifice that appointment then."

Din talked in hushed tones in a language Daniel had not figured out yet. There was a lot of nodding and gesturing to the team members sitting in front of Din. Finally Din sat back; the officials stepped back also.

"We will take your offer. My officials and I agree there is little else we can do. However we cannot allow all of you to go; our customs do not permit this. One of each sex is allowed."

"Give us a moment," Cam said, moving away from the group a bit. Looking at his team said, "Well it is a no brainier, I am no Hugh Parr Scanlon, and would most likely get killed first, so Daniel will go." Daniel nodded, figuring as the Universal Negotiator, he lead the team in this regard. "Vala I cannot let you go, so Colonel, that leaves you."

"Why can't I go? Daniel here may need someone to pull him out of trouble," Vala protested.

"I doubt it, but if it happens, Colonel Carter is more qualified then you. Besides she has negotiated her share of trades and treaties," Cam said. With a firm nod he cut Vala's protests off before they sprang to her lips. Turning to Din and his officials, he smiled. "You have your negotiators! Dr. Jackson is a wonderful negotiator and Colonel Carter is also has experience in that area, should these people be difficult."

Din looked at them and slowly nodded. "They will do wonderfully."