"So the earthquakes started suddenly, about three years ago? Just after those strangers you mentioned arrived?" Mitchell asked.
"Yes, exactly." The villager nodded.
"Around that time, there were rumours of Anubis testing a number of different weapons on various worlds, often causing much devastation." Martouf observed. "It's likely we are seeing the effects of another one of those."
"Where did you say you came from? How did you reach our village?" The local man looked at them with a suspicious expression.
"Never mind that!" Sam said, getting annoyed. They had arrived in the village some hours ago, and it had taken until now to find someone that would talk to them at all. Apparently, they had quite bad experiences with strangers, and the fact that the normal road to the Stargate was blocked, meant they had been left completely alone since the earthquakes - which also had killed a lot of the people then. She sighed. Perhaps their reaction was understandable.
"Please, we - ah - escaped from a ship where we were prisoners," Daniel explained.
"Escaped just before the ship blew up," Vala added. "We just got out. So...you see, we're on the run from..."
"From the evil gods," Martouf said, quickly, not wanting to risk Vala mentioning the Ori, since these people had almost certainly not met them. It would just lead to more questions.
"Which god are you fleeing? Will his or her Jaffa come here?" The villager looked at Martouf with an expression of fear on his face.
"No, I am certain this god will not send any Jaffa here."
"They think we're dead," Sam added, hoping it was the truth. "So, can you help us get to the...ah...the chaapa'ai?"
"The road has been blocked since the earthquakes. Rumour has it there is another way, through the large forest and over the lower parts of the mountains, but the road is long and full of unknown dangers. No one has travelled that way in living memory."
"Okay." Mitchell nodded. "I guess we'll be the first, then." He threw a look at the rapidly darkening sky. "Do you think we could get shelter somewhere in the village?"
"And some food," Vala added.
"Maybe. What do you have to offer?"
"Greedy, unfriendly, annoying..." Vala grumbled as they walked along the road to the large forest.
"Let's just be happy they agreed to take the necklace you stole on the Ori ship." Daniel pointed out.
"If you had been willing to make a small sacrifice for all of us, then I could have kept it!" Vala exclaimed.
"You should be flattered, Jackson!" Mitchell grinned. "She was only interested in you."
"Besides, I seem to remember you were expressing interest in her," Martouf added.
"Food and shelter for all of us - and she wanted just one night with you, Daniel. That's a bargain! Why did you turn it down?" Sam teased.
Daniel blushed and grabbed a small stick that was lying beside the road, throwing it after Sam. "Not funny! Besides, she wanted her brothers to watch!"
"Quiet!" Teal'c said, stopping and remaining still as he listened for something.
"Screams - and staff fire. From Ori staff weapons, I suspect," Martouf said, looking sad. "In retrospect, it was not a good idea to leave the necklace with the villagers. Now the Ori have proof we were there."
"I'm sure the villagers would have told them anyway," Sam observed.
"We should go back and help those people!" Vala insisted. "They are being killed because of us - and we've got weapons!"
"Most likely the Ori have sent down vast numbers of warriors. It is unlikely we would be able to do anything, except die alongside the villagers."
"Teal'c is right - unfortunately," Mitchell said. "We'll have to hope they'll only kill those villagers they felt were directly responsible for helping us."
"It's a small consolation, but ...that is probably the case...as long as the rest are willing to worship the Ori, course." Sam looked grim. "In any case, we should hurry on and find a place to hide."
"As I believe I mentioned previously, my genetic memory contains information indicating the Tok'ra had a secret base on this world, at the edge of the forest, near the mountains," Lantash said, slowly. "I do not know if it was destroyed when they left - as they usually are. It was certainly made before the tunnel crystals were fully developed, and they left the planet rather abruptly. My genetic memories does not contain any more information about the base - Egeria must not have felt it was important information, and truly, it would normally not be."
"How far away is it?" Mitchell asked.
"I would say...no more than three miles. Of course, that depends on how much havoc these earthquakes have done to the area," Lantash said. "We may not be able to take a direct route there."
"Yeah, we've already had to change course twice in the last hour," Sam observed.
"Of course...those tunnels or whatever could just as well have been destroyed by one of those quakes," Vala pointed out.
"Very true." Lantash sighed.
They hurried on, all the time expecting to hear shouts from Ori warriors behind them, but thankfully nothing happened.
It had been early morning when they had set out from the village. Now the sun was setting, and they still had not reached the area where Lantash believed the old Tok'ra base had been located. Signs of small quakes were everywhere - cracks and sometimes chasms in the ground, fallen trees, and evidence of rock slides as they got into the hilly terrain near the mountains. They had to change course again and again, in order to walk around areas which could not be traversed.
"We should find a place to sleep for the night," Mitchell said.
"I am certain we are almost at the old base," Lantash insisted.
"You've been saying that for two hours, now!" Vala sounded irritated. "Why don't you admit you don't have a clue where it is?"
"Listen, Lantash - even if we're standing on top of it, it's getting too dark to find the entrance, if it's even still here. The area is full of crevices and stuff we can fall over and get hurt. We really should wait until tomorrow," Sam argued.
Lantash looked stubborn for a few moments, then relented. "Very well. We shall wait."
"At least it doesn't look as if this area has been damaged as much as some of the others," Daniel observed.
"Better find it soon - it's starting to rain," Vala remarked, looking unhappily at the sky.
"It appears as if it will rain quite a lot," Teal'c agreed. "Very fortunate."
"Fortunate? Why?" Daniel wondered.
"Our tracks will be erased, making it much more difficult for the Ori soldiers to find us."
"Of course," Vala nodded.
"This is the place...I am sure of it," Lantash said. "I am uncertain of the location of the entrance, though. Normally, it would be easy to find, since I would be able to sense the naquadah from the ring transporter, but there may never have been one installed here."
"I think I can help with that." Sam suddenly walked up to a huge rock, which rose maybe seven-eight feet into the air. "I remember this...Jolinar was here!" She looked towards the large mountain behind her, before she resolutely walked to a specific spot and pushed against the rock, hard.
A low rumble was heard, and then an opening appeared in the ground. Stairs lead down into the darkness below.
"A little less high-tech than what we're used to, I guess," Daniel observed.
"Remember, these are old tunnels - probably built not too long after the first types of crystals were patterned, perhaps as long as 1900 years ago. Besides, even if they had a ring transporter installed somewhere, we cannot activate it without a controller," Lantash told them. "As far as I know, no one has used this base since many centuries before Egeria disappeared."
They walked down the stairs. A diffuse light almost immediately came on, and slowly grew stronger until it was about the same brightness as they were used to in the corridors of Tok'ra tunnels.
When all of them stepped down from the stairs, the doorway slowly rumbled shut.
"Light and ventilation still seems to be working. Remarkable!" Sam said.
"Okay, guys! Let's search this place and see what we have. How large is the complex, Lantash?" Mitchell asked.
"I regret to disappoint you. I know little about this place, except its existence."
"No problem. It should be empty, though, right?"
"Yes, that I am certain about."
"Another thing...we need to determine if the Stargate is being watched," Mitchell said. "Teal'c, when we've searched this place, you and me are going to go and check it out."
"Agreed, Mitchell," Teal'c said.
"I am a more logical choice - I know approximately where the chaapa'ai is, and I can sense it." Lantash pointed out.
"That may be, but you're also the only one who knows how stuff down here in these tunnel works - even if they're a beta version, and you haven't been here before," Mitchell said.