Mild violence and minor character death.
2 months later
“Morris, come in.” Jack pressed the button on his radio while looking around the landscape that surrounded the small pyramid. Nothing but clear fields and the tree line in the distance.
Static sounded over the radio, then Morris’s distorted voice. “Copy, sir.”
“How’s the gate?”
“Clear and quiet, sir. Just as it’s been the past couple of days.”
“Keep watching. Two hours and thirty-five minutes left. We’ll pack up here soon and join you. O’Neill out.”
“Copy that, sir.”
The radio crackled and went quiet. Jack sighed and scanned the surroundings one more time.
For the past nine and a half hours nothing had happened. No signs of humans on this planet. Or wild animals. Squat.
Carter and Daniel delved into the largest rooms of the pyramid. Not for the first time today he wished he could share their enthusiasm for rocks and doohickeys. At least he’d have something to do. But to him it was just a lot of old stones and buildings, slowly crumbling. And maybe some weird doodles courtesy of some stranger in the past.
He turned and strolled through the grass into the inner court of the building complex where he looked around. Daniel was still working on the inscriptions he’d found on one of the pillars.
He already knew where Carter was. She’d spent the whole morning in one of the rooms Daniel had identified as a burial chamber.
During the course of the last two months, his relationship with her had improved. She seemed careful not to get too close to him, but he couldn’t blame her for that. After what he’d done, he’d stay away from himself if he could.
Sometimes, she bantered with him or laughed at one of his wry jokes. All of which shouldn’t make his heart beat faster. Yet, every time…
Too bad her smiles only reminded him of his attraction to her. Not that he ever needed a reminder for that. Which was surprising.
Romance, or the idea of falling for a woman, had never occurred to him. Work in the resistance was his life. His devotion and initially reckless behavior had earned him quick promotions. Finding women had never been a problem, so why was what happened with Carter so different? What was it about her that drew him in?
If things had been different, if he hadn’t agreed to marry Jacob’s daughter, he would have definitely taken a chance on Carter.
Jack entered the burial chamber. The room was dimly lit, and for the gazillionth time he wondered why anybody would enjoy spending a whole day in a dusty, dark place like this.
Carter was kneeling, working on one of the back walls. A stone drawer, which had apparently been hidden in the wall, was pulled open. She’d hooked up her…her…something to the wall, and stared at a little monitor.
“Still enjoying your doohickeys, I see.” He placed his P-90 on the large stone sarcophagus in the middle of the room. Carter gave him an absent smile. Damn, even her distracted smiles were gorgeous.
“This is really fascinating, sir. There’s some kind of technology operating this wall.”
Fascinating. One of these days they’d have to have a serious discussion about the meaning of that word.
“Yeah, well, just don’t get too caught up in it. You have one hour left. Then I want you geared up and ready to walk back to the gate.”
“Yes, sir.” Another one of those smiles. Sometimes he swore she did it on purpose to drive him nuts.
He still remembered that look on her face when she’d seen the Stargate open for the first time. That beaming smile and the sparkle in her eyes. Like a kid going to a fair for the first time.
“Well, I’m gonna go back outside to count rocks.” He scraped his hand through his hair. “Keep an eye on Daniel, will y—?”
A low rumbling from the wall interrupted him as it slowly moved down, revealing a brightly lit shelf. Now that didn’t look like old stones at all anymore.
“Wow.” Jack stepped closer, eyebrows raised. “How’d you do that?”
“I’m not entirely sure, sir.” Sam rose from her kneeling position, her eyes wide as she looked at the shelf. She wiped her dusty hands on her khakis and then brushed some dust out of her short hair. “I was trying to override the power to find out where the wall drew it from.”
Jack stuck his hands in his pockets. A silvery-black metal device, shaped abstractly like an S, lay on one of the lit shelves. Odd little patterns decorated the sides and the metal grip of the device. Surely Daniel would have fun analyzing that.
“What is it?” He came to stand next to her and bent forward to study the piece.
She turned her head and he caught her gaze from the corner of his eye. Her nose almost brushed his. He raised his eyebrows at her. She swallowed visibly. “Um…I don’t know.”
Clearing his throat, Jack straightened. Carter reached out to pick the thing up and weighed it in her hands.
“Cold, and heavy. Definitely technology. Maybe some kind of alien computer.”
“Any chance it’s the energy source that’s powering this… shelf-thing?” He waved at the wall.
“I don’t think so, sir. It wasn’t connected to the shelf.” She turned the device over and pushed a button at the side of it. With a click, the top part snapped upwards. “It might be a key of some kind. I’m sure Daniel will…”
Another click, then a jolt of energy discharged from the tip of the device. Pain shot through Jack’s body, then he hit the ground and the room went black.
“Oh my God! Sir!”
Sam rushed to O’Neill’s side. Blood drained from her face when her superior officer didn’t move.
Daniel stormed into the burial chamber and came to a dead stop when he saw O’Neill on the ground.
She held her breath as she felt for a pulse at his neck. Strong and steady. Thank God. She blew out a breath and sat back on her heels, her hand resting on his chest.
“What happened?” Daniel’s eyes shifted from her to O’Neill, and back to her.
“Oy.” O’Neill groaned. He moved his hand to cover his eyes, grimacing in pain.
“God, sir. I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to… Are you okay?”
“I’ve been better.” O’Neill grunted and rolled to his side to sit up.
“What on Earth happened?” Daniel repeated his question.
“I think, Carter just shot me.” Another groan of pain. Sam flinched in sympathy.
Daniel raised his eyebrows, his eyes shifting to her before his lips tugged into a hint of a grin. “Whoops.”
“It was an accident. I didn’t do it on purpose.”
“Damn, this hurts.” O’Neill got up on visibly shaky legs. She steadied him while Daniel went to his other side and wrapped his arm across his shoulders.
“It must have been some kind of energy discharge, sir. Seems like it has a paralyzing effect. I think you were out for a moment.”
O’Neill glowered at her. “Thanks for the update, Carter, I noticed that.”
“Sorry, sir.” She winced. Damn, way to mess up. Looking up, she caught sight of Daniel’s grin. So did O’Neill.
“You enjoying yourself, Daniel?” O’Neill leaned against the sarcophagus in the middle of the room.
“A little, yes.” Daniel said, folding his arms.
“Wait until she shoots you.” O’Neill stretched and then grabbed the P-90 and scuffled towards the exit. “Carter, don’t touch anything else.”
She reached out for the weapon they’d just discovered, but when O’Neill released a warning “Ack”, she jerked her head around, startled.
He shook his head. “What did I just say?”
“Sir, it might be useful to analyze the weapon. We’ve been looking for something like this. Now that I know how it works, it should be safe.”
He narrowed his eyes, and then shrugged with a pained expression on his face. “Fine, just don’t shoot anyone else. I gotta sit down.”
Sam watched him limp outside. That really shouldn’t have happened. Why hadn’t she realized she might be dealing with a weapon? She should have considered the possibility. No doubt McKay would give her hell about this once he heard.
Letting curiosity get the better of her was a rookie mistake that could easily get them in trouble. She could have killed O’Neill—or worse, killed them all with such neglectful behavior.
Daniel nudged her with a grin, then followed O’Neill outside.
She picked up the weapon, and carefully packed it into one of their transport boxes between isolation foil. Then she leaned back against the sarcophagus and rubbed her hand over her face. Was O’Neill going to be okay? What if he’d sustained injuries that weren’t visible yet?
All the worst-case scenarios flooded her mind. It was a full ten minutes before she walked through the narrow tunnel out of the chamber. In the inner courtyard, Daniel had gone back to translating the inscriptions he’d been working on all day.
“Where is he?”
Daniel turned around. “Jack? He’s sitting on one of the rocks outside.”
“Is he mad?” Sam rubbed her arms.
“No. I think his pride took a little blow, but he’ll get over it. Don’t worry, he’s fine.”
Sam turned to make her way along the small hallway out of the pyramid complex. She couldn’t share Daniel’s amusement. If the weapon had been more powerful, she would have killed O’Neill. Damn, she had to pay attention.
Outside, the sunlight blinded her for a moment. She shielded her eyes with her hand and looked over the wide, serene landscape. There he was, sitting on the rocks, as Daniel had said.
She hurried over to him, but as she approached, she slowed.
When she was only a few meters away, O’Neill looked up at her. “You know, Carter. I thought we were past the point where you wanted to shoot me.”
She stared at him until his mouth tugged into a lopsided smirk. A soft laugh bubbled from her, and she exhaled. Thank God, he wasn’t mad, and he was okay.
“Sorry, sir.” She sat down on the rock next to him. “I don’t know how that happened. Is it still hurting?”
“I’ll get over it.” His gaze met hers. “Really. Don’t sweat it, it’s fine.” Then a smile. “Just remind me not to get close to you again when you’re examining some doohickey.”
She closed her eyes and tried to stifle a chuckle. “I promise I’ll be more careful next time you’re around.”
“Appreciate that.” He looked at the pyramid. “Don’t you have exploring to do in there?”
“Yes. I do.” She pushed back to her feet, then turned once more to face him. “I just wanted to see if you’re okay, sir.”
“I am.” His voice gentled. “Go, make use of that last hour you have. I don’t wanna have to waste another day here because you and Daniel didn’t get to finish.” His eyes twinkled.
She walked backwards towards the entrance of the complex. “You sure you’re okay?”
“I really am sorry, you know.” Somehow she couldn’t shed the terrifying feeling he might think she’d shot him on purpose. She brushed some strands of hair out of her face.
O’Neill’s expression became serious for a moment as he nodded. “I know. Don’t worry about it.”
She halted in her step and wrapped her arms around her body, wanting to say something else, but her brain stopped working as she studied him. His tan seemed to have gotten even darker during the days they’d spent on this planet. No wonder, he spent most of the time walking around outside. Probably bored to death.
We have nothing in common. He liked the outdoors. She liked being in her science tent, or snuggled up in her sleeping bag with a book. He didn’t want to be bothered with scientific explanations. She couldn’t get enough of them.
They really had nothing in common. And yet… Despite her best efforts to stay away from him, she couldn’t help feeling drawn to everything about him. His jokes made her laugh against her will and his leadership skills fascinated her.
The more they worked together, the more she respected and admired him. He was a good leader, and she’d come to trust him with her life. Despite everything that had happened between them at O’Malley’s.
He raised his eyebrows with a little tilt of his head, and she realized she was still staring at him. Right. The technology in the pyramid. Damn, what was the matter with her?
She was about to turn around when something in his eyes made her falter. Something changed. And then he jumped up and pounced toward her.
She gasped when his body slammed into hers and then the air left her lungs as she slammed down on the ground. O’Neill’s hand fisted in her hair as he pulled her face against his chest.
A split second later, a fireball passed over their heads. So close, she felt the singeing heat of it. The ground exploded a few meters away from them, and dust and grass rained down. Her ears buzzed.
Pressing her face against O’Neill’s collarbone, Sam grabbed the sides of his shirt. Tension almost made her burst as he lifted his head and looked around.
“Behind the rocks. Quick.” He rolled off her and got to his knees.
He almost dragged her with him to the rocks he’d sat on before. More fireballs hit the ground around them. Sam almost threw herself behind the rocks, her chest heaving. What the hell was going on?
She looked at O’Neill. He grabbed his P-90, and peeked over the upper edge of the rock, then started shooting.
Oh God, she’d almost died. If he hadn’t pulled her down, that firewall would have hit her and… Her stomach clenched and she leaned back against the rock, heart pounding wildly in her ears. Up to now they’d never run into trouble. Nobody had ever attacked them.
“Carter.” O’Neill’s voice snapped her back to reality.
She snapped her head around to him. Right. She was supposed to do something, wasn’t she? Fingers trembling, she reached for the gun at her belt. It slipped out of her grip and landed in the grass.
She reached for the weapon and tried to load the magazine, but her fingers shook too much. Again she lost hold of it.
She panted. “I’m s-sorry, sir, I can’t…”
O’Neill leaned down and took cover. Fireballs hit the ground again. “You okay?”
“Y-yes, but… What are…Where did they come from? Why are they shooting—”
“Oh fer crying out loud. Carter.” He grabbed her gun with one hand and her fingers with the other. “Look at me.”
The hint of anger in his voice made her head snap up.
“You gotta focus. We have to get Daniel out. He’s stuck in the pyramid. I need you to stop overthinking and remember your training.”
He was right. Daniel. They had to get him out. Her fingers tightened around the grip of her weapon. “Yes, sir.”
He released her hand and she loaded her gun, then cocked it.
“Good. On my mark.” O’Neill counted down three seconds with his fingers. Three seconds was all she had to get a grip of herself. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, forcing her heart to slow down.
When she opened her eyes again, she nodded at him. He lowered the last finger. Zero. They both rose and started shooting at their attackers.
Sam recognized them instantly now that she saw them. Jaffa warriors. They looked exactly as they had on the handout she’d received during her initiation briefing. Their heads were covered by massive bird-like helmets with glowing red eyes.
The bullets from their own weapons seemed to have no effect on the Jaffa. Sam dodged a fireball from a staff weapon and covered her mouth when dust from the rock above drizzled down on her. O’Neill ducked next to her and leaned in.
“I’ll try to hold this position and cover you.” He squeezed her shoulder. “Go get Daniel. Leave everything else behind. We need to get outta here.”
“Sir, what about the equipment?”
“Leave it. We don’t have time for that.”
When he lifted and started shooting again, Sam jumped up and raced towards the temple entrance. The blasts of exploding energy discharges followed her the whole way. When she was inside the pyramid, she stopped and pressed herself against the wall, her lungs burning for oxygen. Then she ran along the hallway to the inner courtyard.
She scanned the yard and released a breath when Daniel hurried towards her from the burial chamber.
“What the hell’s going on out there?”
“We’re being attacked. Colonel O’Neill’s holding the position, but we need to get out of here.”
Daniel started racing for his material. “Attacked? By whom?” He began packing up files and equipment.
“Leave it.” Sam darted to him and grabbed his arm. “Come on. The colonel won’t be able to fight them off forever.”
Daniel searched through the files and exhaled when he found his notebook. “I need this. It has all our information and materials about the Aschen in it.”
Sam grabbed his empty backpack and threw it at him. “Hurry.”
Then she froze as a thought occurred to her. If their weapons didn’t have much effect, maybe they could…
“Sam?” Daniel raised his eyebrows.
“Go.” She slapped her gun in his hand, since he refused to carry one. “I’ll be right with you. I have an idea.”
Leaving him, she spun and raced through the dim, humid hallway into the burial chamber. She opened the box she’d packed the newly found weapon into. She knew where the trigger was, and how to activate it. They couldn’t leave it behind. Maybe it would be useful. Provided that…
She pointed it towards the wall and fired. A beam of focused blue energy discharged against the wall without doing any damage. Thank God it still worked.
She turned and raced back to the exit, where Daniel stood pressed against the wall.
“I can’t get out. They won’t stop shooting.”
“Okay.” She pulled him aside. “Let’s see how far this thing can shoot. Cover me?”
“I’ll try. But I suck at target practice.” Daniel went to his knees in front of her so she could fire over his head, then he started shooting. Sam stepped out behind him and discharged the weapon.
The first beam of energy missed, but the second one hit one of the aliens dead on. She fired again, and the warrior went down. They retreated into the safety of the hallway, panting.
“One down, two to go.” Daniel grimaced before he kneeled down again to look around the corner.
Sam’s next two shots hit right on and the guards went down almost at the same time. Deadly silence followed. Were there reinforcements somewhere waiting for them to come out of hiding?
She had to take the chance. Half expecting an energy blast to hit her, Sam stormed out of the pyramid toward the rocks. O’Neill straightened and looked around, his weapon still readied to fire. Then he relaxed.
“Good job, Carter. Let’s get outta here before more of those goons show up.”
“Jack.” Daniel reached them, breathless. “What about our stuff?”
“It took us months to acquire some of the instruments. If we just lose them now—“
O’Neill’s jaw clenched. “Daniel, it’s not worth losing your life over. They can be replaced—in time. If they send reinforcements we won’t stand a chance.”
Daniel dropped his arms in resignation. “Fine.”
O’Neill gestured towards the forest line. “Move it, people. Back to the gate.”
As they trudged through the high grass, weapons readied, he fell into a steady pace next to Sam. “You alright?”
“Yes, sir. Sorry I panicked before.” Her gaze remained fixated on the fields around them.
“Don’t sweat it. Happened to every soldier I know first time they ran into trouble.” He turned his head to scan the area behind them. “But if I remember correctly, I ordered you to get Daniel and leave everything behind.”
She winced. “I thought this weapon might prove effective.”
“It did, and it was a good idea. But if you disregard one of my orders again, I’ll have your ass for it, understood?” Her head jerked around at the anger in his voice.
“Sorry, sir.” Clearly, he had to make sure she didn’t make a habit out of disregarding his orders.
They reached a grove of trees that marked the beginning of the forest area, and entered through a few bushes quite a distance from the path they’d originally taken to reach the pyramid. O’Neill probably didn’t want to run into more Jaffa patrols.
She caught up with his step. “Sir, we’ll have to wait another hour and fifty-six minutes before we can dial the gate.”
“I know.” His hand went up to his radio. “Morris, come in.”
“Morris, do you copy?”
Still no answer. Sam gave him a worried glance. Jason was supposed to watch the gate. Why hadn’t he warned them of the Jaffa patrols? Unless the Jaffa warriors hadn’t arrived through the gate…
O’Neill’s expression didn’t change. His gaze remained fixated on the way ahead of them. Every now and then, he scanned the forest around them. If he was concerned, scared, or nervous, nothing in his body language showed it. He tried calling Jason a third time. Same result.
“Alright, kids, we’ll return to the gate and take cover. Then we’ll wait for our window.”
“What about Jason, sir?”
“He’ll either be there or…” He cut off.
The implication behind his words was clear. Jason would either be waiting at the gate, or he’d run into Jaffa patrols. Blood rushed in her ears, and she had to shake her hands to get rid of a sudden numbness.
They’d never lost anybody, or run into trouble, at least not since she’d become an active member of a Stargate team. The reality of it threatened to overwhelm her. She forced herself to take deep, calming breaths. Battle drills and combat training definitely hadn’t prepared her for this.
She needed to focus on something else. “Sir, what if they’re guarding the gate and we can’t dial out?”
“Carter, don’t overthink. We’ll cross that bridge if and when we come to it.” She flinched at the bite of impatience. He turned his head and his features gentled. “I need you to focus on what we know. We’ll deal with it if the need arises.”
O’Neill had been part of the Stargate program for over a decade. He was experienced, and if anybody knew how to handle situations such as this, it was him. Surely, he’d run into trouble before, and he’d gotten out. No need to worry.
Sam glanced at Daniel walking beside her. Even he appeared used to situations like these. It couldn’t be that bad. It was just a new situation. She would get used to it. And certainly there could be dozens of reasons why Jason didn’t answer. Atmospheric disturbances, maybe a change in the weather or the magnetic field of this planet. What did they know about this world, really?
O’Neill came to an abrupt halt. He scanned a point in the distance, then his hand shot up signaling them to take cover. Sam crouched behind a bush, her breath catching. She felt for the new weapon at her belt.
About twenty meters away, a battalion of seven Jaffa warriors passed by. Without a sound, she unclipped the gun from her belt. Then she caught O’Neill’s gaze.
He gave a slight shake of his head, his hand signaling her to keep the weapon down. Yeah, probably wouldn’t be a smart idea to take on seven of these guys with only one effective weapon. She winced. Having to hide in the bushes was definitely something she didn’t like.
It took five minutes and the warriors were long out of sight before O’Neill finally signaled them to start moving again. None of them made a sound.
O’Neill motioned towards the area that led away from the path. Sam understood. He was going to lead them in a wide circle back to the Stargate to prevent any further run-ins.
She sidled towards him. “Sir, that’ll take us considerably longer. We only have about an hour left until our Stargate window.”
“More than enough time.” He clapped her on the back gently. “Come on, move it.”
The way through the forest proved a lot more tedious than the path had been. Bushes and thorns blocked their way, and they had to watch their steps to avoid stumbling or stepping on branches.
It felt like hours, but glances at her watch told her it wasn’t that long. O’Neill remained calm and focused. Something about his leadership amazed her. She’d never seen him in action before. Now that she did, it surprised her how much his calm control rubbed off on her and Daniel.
How new she was to all of this… If she’d been the one in charge of the mission, she would probably have panicked by now. Exactly why she wasn’t in command.
When they finally reached the Stargate, they crouched down behind a cluster of bushes again. Still about thirty meters away from the gate, they saw five Jaffa warriors standing guard around it.
“What now?” Daniel’s voice was a whisper. “We’re outnumbered, and I don’t see Morris anywhere.”
“Carter.” Jack looked at her. “You know how to handle that weapon. We’ll cover you. You try getting closer to take at least three of them out.”
He wanted what? Sam swallowed hard. How the hell was she supposed to get close without being noticed? Especially since the chances increased the closer she got. The one P-90 and handgun they had would hardly be enough to distract those Jaffa.
Her hand trembled as she unclipped the weapon from her belt. She lifted her head to meet his gaze. He studied her, then winced and closed his eyes.
“Give me the weapon.” He reached out his hand. “I’ll do it. You two cover me.”
He didn’t think she could do it. Well, why would he? She’d panicked earlier at the rocks and almost lost it, and now she was panicking again. She took a deep breath. Everything she needed to know she’d learned in her training sessions. She had to get it together if she wanted to remain a permanent member of a Stargate team.
“No, sir.” When his eyes narrowed, she cleared her throat and felt blood drain from her face. Contradicting him this openly was unacceptable. “With all due respect, sir, I’m the only one who’s used the weapon before. Twice. I can do this.”
He scrutinized her for a moment. “You sure? This is not the time to play hero.”
“I’m sure, sir. Besides, it doesn’t look like I have enough time to explain how to use the weapon.”
O’Neill had to see the determination in her eyes, because he nodded and touched her shoulder gently.
“You have five minutes. If we don’t manage to clear the way by then, our window will be gone. That means retreat.”
He squeezed her shoulder.
Sam crawled through the bushes, careful to avoid larger branches that would have made a telltale sound. No need to alert the warriors to her presence.
Still, if one of the guards turned around now, she’d be a sitting duck. There weren’t enough bushes and trees to cover her the whole way.
Finally, she reached a smaller rock. It was barely enough to cover her, but it would have to suffice. Fifteen meters away from the gate and she had a clear aim. Unfortunately so would the Jaffa once they became aware of her.
Sam ducked down behind the rock and looked uphill to the spot where she’d left O’Neill and Daniel. She inhaled, heart pounding in her ears. Her fingers tightened around the weapon. No way would the situation improve, and they were running out of time. Better to get it over with.
All she had to do was shoot three of the guards from her hiding place. Piece of cake.
She closed her eyes and inhaled one last time. Okay, here we go.
Then she turned. Using the rock as leverage for her arms, she aimed, shot and hit on the first try. Yes!
The first guard went down. So far so good, that had been the easy part. The other four guards turned to her position.
Hand shaking, Sam fired a second time, a fraction of a second before they opened fire on her. Another guard went down. She’d gotten lucky they didn’t expect her to be so daring against four staff weapons.
Time to take cover. Hot blasts hit the area around her hiding place. Sam shook off the debris. The scent of burnt tree bark and leaves assaulted her nostrils.
Fire from the P-90 and gun sounded, drawing some of the staff blasts away from her. Not enough. She winced when another blast hit the rock right above where she crouched. Damn, at this rate she wasn’t going to get far.
She crawled to the other side of the rock. Only five meters away from her stood a massive tree stump. If she could make it there… She’d have to be fast enough. Maybe surprise would be on her side again.
She didn’t take time to think or go over all the possible outcomes this time. Jumping to her feet, she raced over to the tree and threw herself behind it. The air left her lungs as she crashed to the ground.
Using her momentum, she rolled over to the other side of the stump and fired. The guard who’d been firing at her went down. Almost at the same time, a fourth guard dropped down from the P-90 fire. She took a careful aim at the fifth, and then lowered her hand in relief when the energy beam hit.
Silence followed. Almost uncanny in contrast to the bullets and explosions before. Sam looked at her watch.
Crap. Their Stargate window. She jumped to her feet and raced towards the dialing device to activate the Stargate. From the corner of her eye she saw O’Neill and Daniel hurry towards her position.
And then she froze. Jason’s body lay motionless in front of the dialing device. A large gaping wound blackened his stomach. A staff weapon blast had nearly melted his intestines. He couldn’t be alive anymore, not with a wound like that. And yet…
The world swam. She dropped down beside him, checking his pulse. His skin was cool. Her breath hitched, her throat constricted. No, that couldn’t be. Not Jason. Not him.
She grabbed his shoulders and shook him. He was her friend. He couldn’t be gone. They’d just chatted and joked this morning as they prepared for the mission. This was a dream. It had to be.
Her hand made contact with something warm and sticky on his uniform. She glanced down at her palm. Red. Blood.
She stumbled backwards, away from the body. No, no, no. This wasn’t real.
Legs trembling, she lost her balance and fell backwards to the ground. “No. Jason… No.”
Somebody pulled her to her feet. Sam’s head jerked around. O’Neill.
“Daniel, dial the gate!”
“Sir.” Sam tried to wriggle out of his grip. She needed to get back to Jason. They had to take him with them. They couldn’t just leave him behind. They didn’t leave people behind!
O’Neill spun her around to face him and grabbed her shoulders. “Carter, look at me.” She lifted her eyes to him, his face swimming. “He’s gone. There’s nothing we can do about it. But we’re alive, and we gotta get out of here before more Jaffa show up.”
The bight splash of the event horizon made her head turn. A blast from a staff weapon passed by them, so close that the fire from it grazed her arm. O’Neill spun around.
Another group of Jaffas approached. They were still a considerable distance away from them, but that that would change in a matter of seconds.
He pushed her towards the gate and lifted his weapon. “Go. I’ll cover you.”
Sam stumbled towards the gate, but lost her balance on the steps leading up to it. A blast hit the stone right next to her hand.
Daniel ran toward her and helped her up. Then he threw himself against the event horizon and pulled her with him.
When they stumbled into the Antarctica forests, her legs gave way. She hit the forest floor. A staff weapon blast passed through the gate above their heads and hit one of the pine trees in the distance.
Her head snapped around to the gate. Relief flooded her when O’Neill passed through. Another staff blast streaked past him.
He threw himself to the ground. “Close the gate!”
The explosions yanked Sam back to reality. She was closest to the dialing device. She jumped to her feet and stumbled over to the device. When she hit the large red button in its center, the event horizon vanished. Silence followed.
O’Neill dropped his head back against the ground. Sam slid down against the dialing device, her legs too wobbly to support her any longer. What the hell had just happened? This couldn’t be real.
She stared at the ground in front of her, her mind suddenly blank.
“Alright, people, back to camp.” O’Neill sounded gruff. She looked up and took his hand, letting him pull her to her feet. “You alright?”
She nodded, even though she wasn’t. Her eyes widened when she saw the red spot on his arm, slowly growing in size. Parts of his uniform were burnt away.
“Sir, you’re injured.” Her gaze shot up to his.
“Just a flesh-wound.” He turned and walked away from her, following the path that would take them back to camp. She swallowed the lump in her throat and turned her head when a warm palm rested on her shoulder.
“Don’t take it personally.” Daniel gave her a weak smile. “He takes it hard when he loses people under his command, but he’s not someone who talks about it.”
Visibly weary, the archeologist started back to camp as well. Sam remained frozen on the spot and stared at the dead ring of the Stargate for a moment.
Nothing was real. It couldn’t be. Any second she’d wake up in her tent and find out it was just a nightmare.
She clutched herself, her fingers digging into her arms. Jason. He was gone forever. She closed her eyes and inhaled a shaky breath as tears spilled down on her cheeks.
I want to wake up.