EXTREMITY BY PHOENIX
Daniel involved in a loving and committed relationship, which usually involves
Angst. Drama. Hurt/Comfort.
events evoke desperate emotions.
Extremely Intense emotional situation.
Originally completed and posted to the net 01 Jul
Notes: Once again, thanks to Biblio for holding my hand through this thing.
And for helpig me to see what needed to be done to make it (hopefully)
come out right. Oh, and I take NO responsibility for Jack's inspired extemporization
on the subject of cuppage. I just added Daniel's reaction. The rest is
all Biblio's fault.
God, I don't think we're going to make it this time.
back from the searing beam of light shearing past the side
of my face. It slams into the wall I've been crouching
against and I barely manage to throw myself clear of the
lethal shower of razor sharp stone fragments erupting
from the impact. Jack doesn't look at me, doesn't even
stop firing as he quickly reaches forward, grabs a fistful
of my jacket and hauls me back against what's left of the
wall we both managed to fling ourselves behind before all
hell literally broke loose.
P-90 is angrily chattering from behind the tattered remnants
of a badly crumbling building on the other side of the
wide avenue to the gate. Teal'c's staff weapon whooshes
and the side of the truncated tower housing the energy
weapon pinning us down and methodically decimating our
cover with surgical, inexorable precision explodes, raining
down huge chunks of rock on the knot of slowly shuffling
soldiers far beneath. Jack's jaw tightens momentarily at
the sight and he briefly ceases firing, fumbling for a fresh
magazine after discarding the spent one. With a small
shudder he pushes the horror away, slams in the magazine
and squeezes off another burst of rapid fire as yet another
wave of staring, uniformed human automatons comes surging
toward us. They move slowly and deliberately, firing their
hand-held versions of the tower energy weapon at us, their
eyes blank and staring, soulless pits in their young,
expressionless faces. They march uncaringly forward, their
movements so precise and co-ordinated they seem to have
but one driving imperative between them as they step over
the mangled, unmoving carpet of the corpses already littering
the avenue and stride heedless, straight into our fire.
They don't even blink as the bullets tear into them and
they topple soundlessly upon all the bodies of their fallen
they're children. Somehow they've been changed into these
mindless killing machines, but they look like children.
I haven't seen one blank face that looks any older than
thirteen. Maybe it's on purpose, their appearance is a
deliberate psychological ploy devised by the architect
of this abomination to gain a sick, tactical advantage;
a cold calculation anyone encountering these 'mini-soldiers'
would balk at the idea of shooting children. If that was
the case, it's a damned effective tactic. When we did first
see them, for an instant - we - we couldn't. Couldn't
bring ourselves to defend ourselves. Reticence which could
have been fatal. If our instincts for survival hadn't
been so highly honed after four years together out here...
But we got past it - fast. We had no choice. We opened
fire. God, what a choice! Even if it seems only the bodies
are present and there is no independent mind residing in
the 'machines', still, every time one of them falls...
think about what they look like, they're not real, not
really alive - can't be.... they're not crying, screaming, not
struggling to get up - just walking, falling, dying without a
sound. Not so much as a whimper. Real children
cry... they only LOOK like children but they're not, we're not
see Jack's eyes, but I don't need to. I know this has to
be killing him - to have to be killing them. It doesn't
matter we don't have any choice. It's them or us. What
we're having to do to defend ourselves - it's utterly horrifying.
We've got no choice. They won't stop firing at us, they
won't listen and they won't - they won't stop coming. No
matter how many we kill, they just keep coming, and we
have to keep on killing them. Children. We're slaughtering
stay here much longer. If that energy weapon in the tower
keeps on whittling away the bits and pieces of the walls
we're all trying to cover behind with such ruthless and
alarmingly rapid efficiency we'll soon all be completely
exposed and vulnerable. Very, very soon. Easy pickings
for the big gun. Even if we somehow manage to avoid
getting taken out by the aerial defences the relentless ground
troops are just going to keep on coming until we run out of
ammunition and then they will kill us.
know why. There was no indication of any danger when the
MALP surveyed the area. We had no idea the tower was a
weapons platform defending the gate, or that there were
transportation platforms all around it capable of delivering
what seems to be an endless supply of zombie defenders.
We'd barely arrived here, had just started to walk toward
the tower when suddenly the energy weapon on high started
to fire at us and the first wave of troops 'appeared' and
damned if they weren't all trying to kill us too.
been minutes since we all dove for cover, barely in the
nick of time, and already we've levelled dozens. They
keep on coming and they're going to completely overrun us
soon if we don't get the hell out of here now. That is
if we don't run out of chunks of rock to cower behind and get
vaporized by the laser fire first.
is several hundred yards behind us. So far none of the
blasts from the tower have gone anywhere near it so it
could be beyond the range of the gun, but we don't know that
for sure. Not that knowing the range of the weapon is
going to be much help. What it can target and blast to
pieces from here to the DHD is more the immediate issue, as in
'getting from point A to point B without getting pointillized'.
has to make the trip from where we all are to where the
DHD is. By running down that nice, wide, completely exposed
avenue, every inch of which is still well within frying
range of the tower. And they have to run the gauntlet
and arrive at the DHD able to dial home and send the GDO
code so all of us can haul ass. There is zero margin for
error here. If that 'someone' doesn't make it, it's probably
going to mean no one else will be making it home either.
The way the walls are being sliced away and we're expending
our ammo holding the troops at bay there won't be time
for another attempt.
darned well who that someone has to be. Not only am I
the fastest runner, but tactically I'm the least useful
of all of us for defending our positions and providing cover
for the others. A 9-mm pistol versus two P-90s and a
staff weapon? No contest there. It has to be me.
I know it, and Jack knows I know it.
is all I have to worry about. The advancing wave of automatons
has been steadily firing as relentlessly as they've been
moving forward, but we do know the range of their weapons.
Firing from the point where Jack and Sam are managing to
hold then back, their shots are striking just short of our
current position. Which means if we can hold that line
just a little longer, as soon as I'm up and out of here the
little guns won't be able to touch me.
will be solely reserved for the big one. Peachy.
to go. Jack grabs a grenade, signals to Teal'c to concentrate
his fire on the tower while he directs Sam to focus on
the ground force shuffling inexorably toward us. He's
going to try and take out the transport platforms. They've
just delivered another batch of uniformed, dead-eyed children
who start moving and firing as soon as they wink into existence.
No mind, no will, no finesse. Just literal walking cannon
fodder. They'll keep coming and dying, with more to replace
them until we've got nothing left to kill them with, eventually
overwhelming us through sheer, inevitable, cold-blooded
as soon as it goes off," Jack grunts urgently at me as
he pulls the pin and surges up to hurl the grenade. He
throws himself back down behind what's left of our wall,
barely avoiding the blast from the tower almost taking his
head off. The first grenade hasn't even landed yet
and he's already groping in his vest for another one.
Our eyes follow the small, arcing explosive, tracking, waiting
for it to fall, for it to....
he hollers as the ground rocks beneath us with the force
of the blast. My heart is pounding, terror galvanizing
my limbs as the adrenaline rush fires me out from behind
the wall for the most desperate race I've ever had to run.
The roar of my teammate's covering fire rends the air behind
me as I start to sprint madly for the DHD; a ground-heaving
explosion behind me almost drops me in my tracks. Jack's
thrown another grenade, taken out the second platform.
Two down, a lot more to go.
dare look back, I just try to keep my head low and still
attached to my shoulders while I run as if my life depended
on it. God, that's funny, Jackson. I'm doing my best imitation
of the Flash, trying to cover what seems like miles between
me and the DHD in the shortest time possible. It's only
a couple of hundred yards, but try running it with a bulls-eye
painted on your back and your heart about to leap out of
your throat waiting for the bolt from the blue that'll
fry you on the spot. My lungs are bursting, my legs aching
with the speed I'm forcing out of them. Stark, raving
terror is a good motivator, I'm discovering. There isn't
an Olympic sprinter could touch my dust at the moment.
I'm making tracks. I've also become the main target of
the big gun which means I'd better start ducking, dodging
and weaving - like - like NOW! Missed me! Ooops, fake
to the right, SHIT! I think that one parted my hair it
was so close. Hard left, go, go, GO! Woah, good recovery
time, wish it would give ME some!
that gun is popping off at me now it can't be bothering
with the rest of the team. I'd be a little happier for
them but can't really spare the - busy, really busy right
now! Ass hanging out to dry here - moving it so I don't
so much dodging I'm making myself seasick but somehow I'm
managing to stay just one step ahead of the searing bolts
impacting all around me. Some of them have been so close
I can feel the heat of them scoring across my skin as they
knife through the air all around me. Close. Way too close.
If just one hits me I'm dead. I wonder if I'll feel it,
if I'll know when it gets me, if it'll hurt...for just
that split second when it hits, before I...
the DHD, just a few more feet in front of me. Almost there!
I don't know why, but all of a sudden I feel like I have
to - DIVE! I push off, launch myself into air, hurling
my body at the DHD. The bolt strikes the ground I was
occupying a split second later. The concussion wave from
the blast gives me some unexpected momentum and I smash into
the ground beside the DHD a little more emphatically than I
intended, sliding a fair piece across the flagstones.
Wow! There goes most of the skin from my left side. NOT
going to be pretty. Smarts! But not as much as it
would have if that bolt had gotten me. That - that would
have really hurt!
swimming, wind knocked out of me, side is screaming, get
over it, get moving, get up, not out of the woods yet. I
roll over, desperately gasping, frantically scrambling to my
hands and knees, trying to crawl behind the DHD before the gun
fires again. I try to suck some air into my bruised and
battered chest as I draw myself up into a tight ball behind
the base, frankly cowering behind its meagre protection.
It's all I've got. The DHD is completely exposed, out
in the open. There's nowhere else to hide, but it doesn't
matter now. I'm here. I made it. Even better, all
of me made it. I'm gonna need a change of underwear, but
I'm all in once piece. More or less. Hot damn. I just
need a second to catch my breath to stop - to stop shaking.
I can hear the big gun is still firing at me, but the sounds
of its explosive strikes are all behind me. None of the
bolts seem to be reaching as far as the DHD. Hopefully
that means I'm out of range, and they aren't just waiting
for me to pop my head up so they can catch the one that
got away and cook me in the middle of dialling.
a quick peek around the pedestal to visually confirm what
my ears are telling me. The energy bolts are futilely
strafing the path in a precise line across the avenue three
feet away from the DHD. So near and yet so far. It looks
like they can't reach any further. I guess whoever designed
the defences didn't want to take the chance they'd damage
the device they were trying to protect. Lucky for us.
I hope. God, I hope so.
instinct for self-preservation in my body is screaming
at me not to move, to just stay huddled in this little ball
behind the DHD, but I can't. Have to, have to make
myself get up. I've got a job to do. I made it. I've
got to open the gate. The sound of gunfire and the answering
whine of the energy weapons batters into my awareness,
cutting through the numbness, bringing me back to the urgent
need to MOVE. Get up, do it. Do it NOW.
is slamming down on the centre crystal. I'm hunched over
the DHD and I have no idea how I got here. I have no memory
of getting up, of dialling. As the gate boils into life
behind me I have to look down at the chevrons I've hit
to verify I've actually dialled the correct address. Wow.
I have. I slump back down behind the DHD, fingers fumbling
with my GDO. Send the code, send the code. Send the right
one. Oh God, don't screw this up.
sent it. We can go home now.
I yell at him. His head whips around at the sound of my
voice. He sees the gate, sees I'm clear. Sees the way
home like a beacon of hope blazing for all of us. His
eyes are a terrible mixture of relief and anguish. I shift
my gaze away from him and gape back down the avenue I've
just hotfooted it along. It's a mess. The flagstones
are pitted and scarred with gaping impact craters and chunks
of shattered stone are strewn all over the place. When
I see the actual number of pot shots that tower took at
me I can't believe I'm still alive. Talk about beating
the odds. But what all those misses have done to the avenue
- God, just look at it - you could drop Texas into the
crater over there! All those holes and heaps of erupted
stone have turned the approach into an obstacle course.
I had a nice flat surface to negotiate, with room for manoeuvre
- how are the others supposed to move fast enough - over
THIS? This - isn't good. This isn't good at all.
down a little further, trying to find out how the rest
of my team is doing, and what I see makes me sick all over
again. It's - it's absolute carnage. The avenue between
the platforms and the point where Jack, Sam and Teal'c are
barely repelling the advance is knee deep with bloodied,
unmoving bodies and they're still - they're still coming.
Jack has managed to destroy several of the platforms but
not all of them. And that fucking tower has taken a beating
from Teal'c's staff weapon but the energy bolts are still
spitting out of it with an unrelenting vengeance. I
don't know what the damned gun is made of, but whatever it
is, we haven't managed to put a dent in it.
army is proving to be not quite as invulnerable, however.
Which is the only reason why any of us are still alive.
bodies. Oh God, so many of them. And they're still coming.
Jack howls at me as he gestures across to Sam to make a
run for the gate. I'm in the clear. I can go. All I
have to do is just get up and run. Throw myself through
the gate to safety. I've done my part. Jack's told me
I can't. I can't leave them. They still all have to run
that gauntlet. It's not like I can help them while they
do it. There's nothing I can do to keep them safe. I
might as well throw my pistol at the troops for all the
good it would do at this range, never mind the gun in the
tower. I should do what Jack told me. Get my ass through
the gate. Then I'd be one less person for him to worry
about. But I can't - I can't just leave them. They might
need me yet, there might be SOMETHING I can still do to
Get the hell out of here! NOW!" Jack shrieks at me again.
Jack, I'm not leaving you behind. You can chew me out later,
and I'm sure you will, but I'm staying.
her run. Teal'c is doing his best to draw the fire from
the tower and Jack's salvos continue to rip into the shuffling
mass on the ground. Probably exactly the same way they
tried to cover me. She's moving the same way I did -
side to side, not a straight line. Trying to confuse whatever
targeting mechanism the weapon is using to get a bead on
her. While also trying to avoid falling into the holes
and tripping over obstacles I didn't have to contend with.
Slow, too slow, she's too fucking SLOW! The condition of
the avenue is slowing her down. SHIT! Oh God, she's not
as fast as I am to START with, she's not changing direction
quickly enough, she can't move as freely, it's tracking
her, the shots are coming closer, coming too close.
Move, move, MOVE!" I scream. "SAM!"
to make it she's not going to make it. I'm on my feet,
tearing toward her, waving my arms, I have to do something
- anything - ME! Look at me! Another target here! Not
her! Shoot at me! You missed me before - here's your chance
to get me now!
is desperately blasting away at the tower while Jack ceases
firing at the ground force long enough to lob another grenade
straight into the gaping hole in the side where the bolts
are coming from. They're hitting it with everything they've
got in a desperate attempt to take out the gun before....
A staff weapon blast and the exploding grenade chew through
the stubborn structure almost at the same time but not
soon enough. The gun fires again, the resulting flash is so
close it almost blinds me when it hits. Sam makes a horrible
grunting sound as the bolt slams into her back and flings her
to the ground. She thuds sickeningly into the hard
stones right at my feet and doesn't move as I throw myself
down beside her, grab her limp body and roll her roughly
aside before the next bolt rips into her again. The explosion
throws both of us several feet back and showers us with
stinging shards of rock. I feel one slice across my
cheek and my left shoulder is going to be a little shredded
- hey it'll match my side, then - but I ignore it and throw
myself on top of her managing to shield her from most of
the shrapnel. I actually welcome the pain, it distracts
me from the sickening smell of seared flesh filling my
mind with terror.
to get up, start running again. Somehow the gun is still
firing, but Jack and Teal'c's last attack must have damaged
it. Finally! It seems to be taking longer between blasts
and they're not as controlled. It's still firing, but the
shots are erratic and they've lost some of their 'oomph'.
Geez, I think we finally caught a break, here. Whatever,
quit lying around here slacking off, Daniel, get up, get
up, never mind anything else, team mate down, we're still
exposed, in danger, out in the open. Get up, move, keep
moving, don't stop. Get Sam to safety. Have to keep her
safe. Have to get her home. No one else here, only me.
Have to do this. She's counting on me.
her into my arms and stagger to my feet. I know I should
probably put her across my shoulders - she'd be easier
to carry, I could move faster, but laying across my back she'd
be vulnerable, more exposed to fire than me - a target.
I can't let her take another hit. Maybe keeping my body
between her and the incoming fire will slow me down, but
better it should hit me than her. That way I'll be able to
protect her, even if I'm dead I'll be a shield until Jack
or Teal'c... An energy bolt whines past my arm so close
it scorches my sleeve and sends me reeling off to the side.
I stumble drunkenly for several steps, almost dropping
Sam and crashing to my knees before I get my balance again
and resume running. I have to get us past the DHD. We'll
be safe, then.
this running stuff, not so easy this time. Not simply
because of the extra weight I'm carrying. Sprinting across
the lunar surface would be easier. I'm dodging and bounding
and weaving and praying, thanking whoever's listening the
gun's not as good as it used to be but trying to make myself
go just a little bit faster all the same. Oh, and to not
fall down. My legs feel like lead, the muscles are screaming
as I force them to serve me yet again. Sam's head is banging
limply against my chest. I try not to look at her face,
it's scaring me, it's so slack and pale, streaked with
dirt and an alarming ribbon of red. Blood. Hers or mine.
I don't know. No time to check. Can't stop.
are trembling, lungs shrieking, my legs feel like rubber,
my breath is harsh and rasping in my chest. Which feels
like it's about to explode. I can barely breathe, I'm
not quite sure how I'm managing to make my legs work, the
gate is looming in front of me, wavering and flickering
enticingly before my dancing vision.
hell is this? I must have been in such a hurry to get
to Sam before I just - got over it to get to her, but now
I've got what looks like the Grand Canyon of a trench three
feet in front of the DHD to hurdle. Must have been dug
by that last salvo that couldn't reach me. Super. My body
will hate me in the morning for what I'm about to force
it to do, but I'm going to have to jump over this. Somehow.
Sam, I'll try not to fall in.
that hurt. That really hurt. Bad landing. Left knee.
Ow. Felt something pop. I'll worry about it later. Have
to keep moving.
DHD. Made it. We made it. I can - I can slow down a
little. Not stop. I won't stop. Keep moving.
forward, my knees almost on the point of buckling beneath
me. No. Not yet. Can't fall down yet. I still have to
bring Sam through. Help. She needs help. We're almost
help it. I have to look back. Jack has stopped shooting,
for just an instant. Watching us, making sure we make
it to the gate okay. I can't see his face very well from
here, but I know he's coming next, he'll be right behind
us. I know he will. Both him and Teal'c. Whatever it
takes, Jack will be right behind us.
Sam a little tighter to me and plunge into the event horizon.
a limp, lifeless weight in my arms as I stumble down the
ramp. I - I don't even know if she's still alive. There
wasn't time to check. No time. Someone is screaming for
a doctor. I don't realise it's me until I feel hands on
me, trying to pry my hands off Sam, to take her out of
my arms. Oh yeah. I can let go now. They'll look after
her. I can trust them to do that.
She's alive. Hurt, she's hurt bad, but she's alive. Thank
on me now, leading me down the ramp, trying to make me
lie down on a stretcher. I shrug them off. Leave me alone!
I don't want to go anywhere; don't take me away, not yet.
My eyes are riveted to the glowing event horizon. Just
leave me alone for a bit. Don't make me leave before Jack
comes through. I have to wait for him, have to know he's
too long, taking too long. Where are they? General Hammond
is beside me. He's talking to me, saying something, but
I can't make it out, it all sounds like gibberish, I'm
not really listening - they're coming, I try to tell him
they're coming and I hope he understands me, but I sound
like a babbling, hysterical lunatic. Jack's right behind
me, I know he is, just give them a minute, I know they're
coming. Leave me alone, I'm not in shock, I'm fine. I'm
not leaving - not going anywhere until....
God! There they are! Both of them! Shooting out of the
puddle at a dead run, screaming up at Davis to close the
iris and shut down the gate. Jack looks okay as he thunders
down the ramp and grabs me by the shoulders. "Get your
ass in that stretcher NOW!" he hollers at me as he shakes
me and squeezes my arms so tightly it's starting to hurt
okay. I don't mind. He's okay. He's safe. They can
string me up by my heels naked and hang me from the top
of the gate, I don't give a damn. Whatever. He's safe.
He made it back. We all made it back. All of us.
been in surgery for...well, I don't know how long it's
been. I know what it feels like, though, it feels like
forever. No one is telling us anything, but as long as
they're still working on her that's - that's good, right?
Means she's still alive.
all of us here, in the infirmary, waiting. We'll stay
here as long as it takes - we're not going anywhere until
we know Sam's okay. And she is - she is going to be okay.
Not if. When. When.
sitting in the first chair I found once the nurse had finished
with me. It was no big deal, barely even worth bothering
about. Just a few superficial cuts and scratches, a scrape
or two - I've gotten worse from getting caught in a horde
of demented shoppers in full Boxing Day feeding frenzy.
She dug a few stone chips out of my arm, gave me a couple
of stitches, cleaned the abrasions on my left side, then
bandages, the usual rabies, distemper shots. Whoop de
Teal'c have stuck to me like glue the whole time, and now
they're right here, one on either side of me. Taciturn
bookends. I'd say I feel like a rose between two thorns
but that would be weird.
is solemnly stationed on my right. Jack is on my other
side, slouched up against the examining table behind us.
He's staying pretty close. If he was any closer we'd
both be occupying the same space. It's very comforting,
feeling him next to me. He hasn't broken the contact
since I sat down. The warm, vital nearness of his hard
thigh pressing against my shoulder and the length of my
upper arm is incredibly reassuring. I don't know how he
knows how much - how much I need him so close right now.
It's been so long since he touched me this way. He used
to. Used to touch me all the time. Pats on the shoulder.
Slaps on the back. Sometimes....hugs. Used to, but he
doesn't. Not any more. Not for a long time.
now, though. With me. Arms folded across his chest, pressed
up close to me. It's all I can do to stop myself from
leaning into him, letting go, letting him hold me up.
We almost didn't make it. I still can't quite believe
what happened today. It was bad. Neither Jack nor Teal'c
have said a word about what they had to do to make it home.
We're not talking at all. None of us. Just sitting, waiting,
trying to deal with having a walk in the park turn into
a tour through a charnel house, just like that. Waiting
to find out if we all are going to walk away from this.
his weight slightly, pressing more firmly against me.
He's as taut as an over-taxed steel cable starting to fray
from the stress of a too-heavy load. Still he's here,
letting me know he's alive. I couldn't be more certain
of his solid reality as his warm strength seeps into me.
to feel how substantial he is. How very alive. I almost
lost Jack today. Lost Teal'c. We still don't know about
Sam. Sam...while I was running all I could think about
was getting her to safety and yet there was a part of me...I
felt like I left a piece of myself with Jack, ripped out
when I had to go without him, and I didn't get it back
until I saw him hurtling through the event horizon. I'm
glad Teal'c made it too, but God help me, while I was waiting
all I could think about was Jack. What if he didn't -
I'd done everything I could and yet, if he'd died out there,
so far away...
the whole mission was a nightmare from the word go. It
all happened so fast. We couldn't have been caught in
that death trap any longer than ten minutes but it was ten
minutes of the worst hell I can ever remember being in.
And I've been in a fair amount of hell over the past four
years. Too much. But this. This....this was
bad. I don't want to close my eyes and see those blank,
staring little faces, hear the dull, dead thuds of the small
bodies hitting the stones. Smell the blood, the death,
that sweet, sickening burning.... remember the sound Sam
made - see her splayed on those stones like a fractured,
lifeless doll. Her face...God, her face....
Why did it have to be children?
I'm shaking. Gotta come back, get a grip -
There's General Hammond. With that 'I really hate to do
this at a time like this' look on his face. God. We're
going to have to talk about this now. I don't want to
- I'm not ready. Who am I kidding, I'll never be ready
to talk about this. Don't want to remember, don't want
to talk about it. Shit. I know. Have to. We have to.
They have to know, it has to go down on record.
it have to be Sam? If I'd been just a little faster, hadn't
waited so long to start running toward her - maybe, maybe
I could have pulled her out of the way before....before...
hand is on my shoulder, clutching it hard as the general
starts to speak to us.
Teal'c, Doctor Jackson," he says in a soothing voice.
"I'm very sorry to have to ask at a time like this. The
formal debriefing is being postponed, of course, but still,
I would appreciate - "
to know what happened," Jack says in a tired, stilted voice.
could give me a few details, Jack," Hammond continues,
sympathetic but still determined. "We're all deeply concerned
about Major Carter's condition, and I know this isn't the
Jack mumbles in a barely audible voice, then takes a deep
breath as he squeezes my shoulder again. His hand is shaking,
and I can feel anxiety spiking through his body. Oh boy,
here we go.
what the MALP showed us," Jack starts speaking in startling
harsh and rough tones.
look at him. Can't afford to see what's in his face, his
eyes. The sound of his voice is bad enough.
the wide stone walkway and a lot of ruined buildings on
either side. The tower was the only thing that looked
more or less intact. That's where we were headed when...
when it opened fire on us."
him start to tremble, for just a fraction of a second.
I want to reach out to him - touch - back him up somehow but I
can't move. He doesn't seem to need it - me - though.
The tremors are gone almost as soon as they begin. He
starts speaking again.
know how he's managing to utter a single syllable. My
mouth is so dry, my throat so closed up I can barely breathe.
Never mind try to speak. I know I should say something,
shouldn't lay this all on Jack. He shouldn't have to do
this alone. I should say something. I should.
was some kind of laser doohickey in the tower," Jack intones
in a weary voice. "From the amount of pounding the building
stood up to I'm thinking it wasn't made of the same stone
as the rest of the ruins. It was probably built much later,
actually, and made to look like it was part of what was
left of the original complex, although it wasn't. It was
fronted by these transport platforms that also looked like
they were part of the ruins, but they weren't and they
were hell to blow up as well. It was quite a high-tech
set-up camouflaged to look like it was nothing special.
No visible threat. The whole thing was a trap and we walked
right into it."
have any idea why you were attacked without provocation,
Colonel?" the general asks Jack.
clue, Sir," Jack grimaces, "There wasn't exactly a lot
of talking going on. Just shooting. Lots of shooting.
We don't even know who was shooting at us. If they thought
we were Goa'ulds or they just don't like visitors period,
but whatever - we never got the chance to find out, Sir.
We were too busy trying to get our asses out of there before
we were charbroiled."
Hammond frowns unhappily. "So you had no opportunity to
conduct any sort of a dialogue with the inhabitants."
Jack shakes his head. "I'm not so sure there was anyone
there to talk to. The firing pattern of the tower gun
and its response time suggested computer control. The
assault troops were probably beamed in from wherever they
were - hanging out - automatically as well, as soon as
something tripped the alarm and activated the program.
I think it was a completely automated defence post. Set
up specifically to blast whoever walked through the gate
who wasn't supposed to."
is likely," Teal'c adds. "When I was First Prime to Apophis
we encountered several such installations on different
worlds we attempted to invade. They performed the same
protective function as your iris, allowing the inhabitants
to continue to use their own gate freely while deterring
incursions from other unwanted travellers. Authorised
travellers would possess some sort of device, not unlike
our GDO, to deactivate the sentry upon their return."
for them," Jack observes sourly. "Not so good for us.
There was plenty of evidence they were way ahead of us
in weapons technology anyway, and under different circumstances
I'd say those transport thingees were rather nifty, but
I wouldn't advise anyone to try to go back there. Not
a good idea," he finishes with a slight shudder.
Hammond prompts gently. "The weapon in the tower opened
fire on your team..."
Jack grates. "We were forced to take cover, and then the
tower weapon kept concentrating its fire on our positions,
pinning us down while systematically reducing our cover
at the same time. Once it had forced us to go to ground
the transporters started zapping in..."
a sudden he stops talking. I'm not going to make him face
THIS part of it alone.
assault troops. Also apparently on automatic," I tell
Hammond quietly. "They - they were human, but they weren't.
That is - I mean, the bodies were human, but they were
wearing these suits, had these bands on their heads. They
were mobile, functional, technically alive, but they definitely
moved and reacted as if they were programmed and they didn't
display any indication they possessed any form of higher
awareness whatsoever. Their movements, actions, lack of
reaction to being - shot - it was like they were walking
corpses, sir. And there's more."
to take a deep breath before I can go on. Jack's fingers
are almost burrowing right into my skin he's gripping my
shoulder so tightly.
They - they were all children, sir," I tell Hammond without
looking at him. "Around ten or eleven years old, most of
them. From what I could see. The artificially animated
bodies of children. But no - no minds. No visible conscious
will or volition. They were like - biological machines,
with one single purpose. They were there to kill us.
And they would have, if we hadn't defended ourselves."
face goes stark and grave as he looks at each of us. He's
starting to understand what he's been seeing in all of
our faces and the knowledge is bringing him about as much joy
as it brought us.
what we had to do, Sir," Jack says grimly. "Like Daniel
says, we didn't have a choice. It was us or them. They
showed up, started firing at us and there was no way to
communicate with them or reason with them. We tried, but
it was a no go. They were there to kill us. End of story.
They just kept coming. No matter how many we....they just
Jack," Hammond says softly. "I'm sure you did everything
you could to avoid having to take such distasteful action.
You were in a terrible situation, but you got your team
more due to Daniel than me," Jack grunts. "While I was
busy wasting kid-bots he got to the DHD. He had to run
the entire length of the avenue, out in the open and under
fire. Put his ass on the line for all of us. He went
back for Carter too, when she didn't - didn't make it.
He kept her from getting hit again, got her out. He did
you all did, Jack," Hammond tells him gently.
stand to see Jack like this. Those faces will haunt him
for the rest of his life - if he can stand to live with
himself. It wasn't his fault. There was nothing he could
do - nothing any of us could do - except what we did.
know if this will help. It's all I can think to offer
him. But I have to try.
I tell him, "we don't know if they ever were really...children.
If they ever had minds or personalities. We've seen other
races - we know the Reetou have mastered cloning techniques.
As well as Alar's people. I noticed there wasn't much
variation in the facial features or body types. Maybe
they just....grew the bodies. Without minds. Maybe they
never were 'real' - were never anything more than mindless
biological...robots to begin with. Mass produced
specifically for - "
is possible," O'Neill," Teal'c adds in perhaps the gentlest
tone I have ever heard him use. "There are many races which
do indeed possess cloning technology. The natives of a
planet called Ardak create biological automatons of the
type DanielJackson is hypothesising whose brains posses
no higher cognitive functions whatsoever. They employ
them for slave labour."
still doesn't make it right," Jack mutters bleakly.
doesn't," Hammond sighs. "But you didn't make the choice
to create them or to use them as soldiers. What were your
options given the situation, Jack?"
them or be killed." Jack hangs his head. "So we did what
we had to do. After Daniel took Carter through the gate
Teal'c and I were finally able to bring the tower down
by concentrating our fire on the base," Jack continues
in a mechanical tone. "It came tumbling down, destroying
the gun and pretty much taking care of the rest of the
ground force. We got the hell out of there before the
else Hammond might have wanted to ask us is interrupted
as Janet walks into the room. Her eyes are tired and marked
with strain, but - she's smiling. She's smiling.
Carter is going to be okay," she beams at us.
forward as relief crashes through me so violently I feel
like I'm going to be sick. Most of what Janet is saying
is a blur. I catch something about Sam's pack and vest
absorbing most of the force of the blast and saving her
life, internal injuries, intensive care, recovery, stable
condition. I'm really not listening to the medical stuff
now that I've absorbed she's going to be fine. That's
all I need to know.
going to be okay.
up and starts moving restlessly around the room as soon
as he hears the good news. I feel the loss of him at my
side as a wrenching shock, and I struggle to push away
the resulting alarming sense of emptiness. It's hard to focus
on what Janet is telling us when something inside me is
screaming at how much it wants - needs him to be back.
finishes making her report to the general and then turns
her attention back to us. She is assuring us Sam is
fine, but she's also heavily sedated and sleeping, and now
Janet is saying it's best to wait 'til morning before trying
to see her. Jack reacts to that, but doesn't say anything,
just keeps on pacing and shooting anxious glances back where
Janet has just come from. Hammond is telling us to stand
down, to get some rest, we'll deal with everything in a
couple of days. No hurry, no rush. The gory details will
still be there waiting to be reported about in a couple
making a sound, not looking anyone in the eye, still restlessly
pacing and even though we've all been basically politely
told to fuck off, I've known him long enough to be able
to tell he can't leave. Not yet. I know what he has to
do and I know why. What I don't know is why he isn't kicking
up his usual fuss and basically insisting he be allowed
to do what he needs to do. At the top of his lungs if
that's what it takes.
so not like him. It's scaring me a little to see him like
this. We're all so far from fine about what we've just
been through, and Jack's current behaviour is a very worrying
indication he may be having a worse time of it then he's
letting on. I know what he needs right now to ease a little
bit of the load and if he can't bring himself to insist,
I'm more than happy to do so on his behalf.
take much. Janet is a much softer touch right now then
I was expecting. But then, she has eyes too. She grumbles
as she leads us to Sam's room, but her protest lacks real
conviction. As do her admonishments to us to be quiet
and only be in there with Sam for a few minutes.
takes one look at the both of us, then bows and tells us
he will remain outside the door and watch to see we are not
hadn't intended to go in either. I knew this was something
Jack needed to do, but I hadn't wanted to intrude. In
case he had to be alone. With Sam - for - for whatever
reason. I turn away from him as he opens the door, planning
to wait with Teal'c, but Jack's hand on my arm pulling
me in along with him makes my plans to the contrary rather
is eerily quiet. That is, as quiet as it can be with all
the beeping and chirping of the medical monitoring equipment
Sam is hooked up to. Jack lets go of my arm as soon as
he sees her and I hang back, lingering at the foot of the
bed, watching him as he drifts toward her cautiously like
a man trying to swim through a bad dream.
look so good. If I hadn't just heard Janet say she was
going to make it I'd be pretty alarmed by what I'm seeing.
From the stricken look on his face Jack has to be thinking
pretty much the same thing.
almost as white as the sheets shrouding her, her skin bloodless
and tightly hugging her skull. She's so still she doesn't
look real and like me, Jack has to shoot a glance at the
monitors to check she is in fact, still breathing.
even look like Sam. No colour, barely any signs of life,
wires, tubes and leads all over her. But she's alive,
and no matter how scary this looks right now she's going
to be fine. Janet said so.
stands there and stares at her. Doesn't move, doesn't
even blink. I wish I could understand what I'm seeing
on his face right now. I suddenly wish I wasn't here to
see it. It somehow feels wrong to me. Like I'm invading
his privacy. Or am about to be entrusted with a secret
I don't want any part of. I know - I know he seems to
want me to be here, but - but...
want to see - don't want to know why he's really here after
all. I don't want to see something I've suspected for a
long time suddenly confirmed.
the life of me - I don't know why.
his eyes and expels a long, shuddering sigh. His face twists
with a grimace of pain, then his head abruptly pivots and
he shoots me a searing glance - for a harrowing second
so ANGRY. It's a fleeting, unguarded instant of boiling
rage, gone as his eyes focus on me. Then they soften, seem
so sad. The changes in his mood are so extreme and are
happening so quickly; I'm completely out to sea. Whatever
is tearing him up inside it has something to do with Sam.
And me. And - and Sam. What happened out there. I
don't know. I'm lost; I've got nothing. I thought the thing
with the 'kid-bots' would be tearing him up inside, and
somewhere I know it is, but this is something else.
Jack murmurs softly as he shakes his head and then turns
his attention back to Sam. He stares at her for a few minutes,
a rough smile twisting his mouth, then reaches out a hand,
he's going to - I avert my eyes, but can't quite completely
look away. I don't want to know and yet - I HAVE to know.
This is insane, I'm losing my mind - I should just get
the hell out of here right now. What's the matter with
me? Why am I so scared?
I feel like I'm about to lose something, lose...everything?
hand hovers over Sam's head. "She looks like hell, but
she'll pull through," he observes calmly. "She's tough.
And almost as pig-headed as you."
pats the top of her head a couple of times. Rather - clumsily.
Almost perfunctorily. I blink, confused. It's not the
sort of gesture I was expecting him to make. Not by a
orders today," he says to me while still looking down at
Jack. Not that. Not now. "Sorry," I mumble as I duck
my head and stare at my boots. I barely have time to start
wishing the ground would open up and swallow me when the
sudden vehemence of his next comment startles me into looking
back up at him.
be," he grates, his voice rough and strained. He's still
staring at Sam. Or is he just not looking at me? "And
don't stop doing it. You can handle yourself. You made
the right call. You put the team first. I was only thinking
about..." His voice falters, he violently clenches his
fists. "I was wrong, not you. If you'd done what I told
you to - she'd be dead right now."
understand," I blurt. Jack sighs and finally turns to
look at me. There's so much sadness in his expression,
and something in his eyes he's trying to hide from me.
Regret? Guilt? For - for what?
know this isn't about the children, which makes me even
more confused. Sam is safe. We all are. And yet Jack
looks like he knows he's done something wrong. But that's
not right. What could he possibly be feeling guilty about?
And why hasn't coming to see Sam made him feel better?
to tell you I trust you," he continues in a gentler voice.
"I don't always see things as clearly as you do out there.
I forget that sometimes. I want you to be exactly what
you are - to do whatever you know you have to do, even
if it means - "
off; he flushes and shifts his focus back to Sam. "I'll
get a grip on it," he mutters. "It won't happen again.
I'm sorry, Sam."
jams his hands in his pockets, hunches his shoulders and
starts to stride briskly toward the door. His face is bleak
with determination. He's buttoned down tight, booking
with a vengeance and he looks like he means to walk right
through me. I rouse myself and try to clear out of his
path before he flattens me, but I don't quite back-pedal
fast enough. He clips my shoulder with his as he pushes
past me, pivoting me back and to the side, and for just
a moment, the memory of a similar 'encounter' and the look
on his face... the same look he's wearing now... When
he brushed by me on Abydos when he came back to get me
like he was trying so hard to not see me and yet...
a sudden, sharp pain in my chest as if something is trying
to burst free. Something once clearly known and quickly
forgotten. Something I need to remember.
to walk away from me on Abydos. Just like he's trying
to walk away from me now. He snubbed me then because he
needed....and he didn't want to...
want me to know he cared. What is he trying to keep from
to the door. In another second he'll be out of the room.
I don't know where the words are coming from but I have
to say them. He needs me to say them. He has to hear them.
Now, more than ever.
I call to him. He freezes, his hand on the doorknob.
It seems to take forever for him to turn around, but when
he finally does, he has the oddest expression on his face.
Like he knows what's coming and there's nothing he can
do to avoid his fate.
- that's crazy. I'm still a little freaked, reading way
too much into all of this. Jack's going to take off now,
and do his 'lone man avoiding' thing for a bit. I wish
he wouldn't. I wish he'd just come home with me now and
then we could sit around and get plastered and fart and
scratch ourselves and do that whole macho 'sneaking up on
the nightmare by taking the long way around' guys bonding over
avoiding before getting down to it ritual that is the
necessary prelude to the whole dealing process. Getting
to it in our own sweet time.
won't. Not right away. I'll let him know he can though,
when he's ready. I'll be there for him. Waiting. He -
he knows, but sometimes it doesn't hurt to KNOW it, you
you need," I tell him sincerely.
he says quietly, his eyes dark and full of secrets. "I
- I'm gonna take off now. I'll be by later. If - if that's
all right with you."
where to find me."
him smile a little. "Always," he murmurs, and then slips
out the door.
there and stare at it for a long time. Something - odd
- just happened there. I heard what we both just said, and I
have a fair grasp of the English language as well as a few
others so I know what the words meant, but still, there was
something - odd - about the exchange. Like there was
more being said than I heard.
now I know I'm definitely losing it. It doesn't matter
what I did or didn't hear, I meant what I said. Whatever
he needs. We'll work out the details later.
must have been standing outside the door all that time
after Jack left, waiting for me to come out. When I didn't,
he came in.
standing side by side, looking down at Sam. Not talking.
Just doing what we need to do for one of our own.
standing pretty close, and once again, I'm aware of being
enveloped in an aura of protective support. Teal'c practically
exudes infinite strength from every pore, and it's very
difficult not to feel - bolstered - by his presence.
very reassuring, like his unspoken support always does,
but somehow, so soon after being with Jack, it's not the
same. It's not enough. Doesn't quite do it for me.
Teal'c's 'I've got you covered', while it is great, and deeply
appreciated, just doesn't have that all encompassing,
completely reassuring 'safe' I get from Jack. Teal'c
feels like 'I will be here for you'. Jack - Jack feels
like 'You are a part of me'.
I - I
have to go now. Sam is fine. She's in the best of hands,
couldn't ask for better, she'll be looked after, there's
nothing more I can do for her while she's sleeping. Jack
needs me. I don't know where he is right now, but I should
be where he'll be expecting to find me.
remain with Major Carter," Teal'c's deep, quiet voice barely
disrupts the stillness.
turn and start to shuffle toward the door. I can feel
his eyes on me with every step I take. Before I leave
I pause and look at him one last time.
do what I can for Jack," I tell him.
gravely bows his head, his dark eyes glittering with understanding.
"Of that I am certain," he replies.
twenty feet down the hall from the infirmary exit when
I hear the general calling my name. Nuts. Now what?
you feeling, Doctor Jackson?" he asks me as he reaches
my side. His familiar, comforting presence is tempered
by the deep concern he can't hide.
blame him for feeling that way. We shared a moment, a
few months ago, when I got a unique opportunity to learn
a little bit about what it means to be him. What it feels
like for him as he watches us go through that gate and
then has to wait and hope we come back again. All the
while having to live with knowing if something happens to
us - he's the one who sent us out there.
an awful lot on his shoulders. And he cares about all
of us, probably a lot more than he should. But he's never
ever become such a complete creature of duty it's caused
him to lose sight of his own principles and convictions.
He's a good man, the right man for the job and I'm very proud
to know him.
Sir," I say to him. "I'm more worried about Jack."
I didn't mean to say THAT to him. But I can tell from
the way he suddenly purses his lips I've brought up the
very subject he was hoping to broach with me.
you all were forced to do out there - it couldn't have
been very easy for any of you, especially the colonel."
the general ventures cautiously, eyeing me carefully for
say that's a pretty accurate assessment. What happened
today was Jack's worst nightmare come to life. He's a
protector. It's in his blood, bred right into the marrow
of his bones. He lives and breathes to look out for whoever
needs him, to take care of the people who are important
to him, to defend any and all who can't protect themselves.
to save the innocent, not to...
he was faced with an impossible choice. In order to save
us he was forced to kill those which everything he is was
telling him it was also his duty to protect. An utterly
unsupportable conflict of principles. It has to be tearing
him to pieces. Has to be. Oh God, where is he? What
is he doing right now? I wish he hadn't...but then, we're
both too much alike that way. We have to run a bit before
we can finally stop and start dealing.
talk to him, Sir," I tell Hammond. I don't want to discuss
it any further. I want to go.
shoulders sag in a mixture of relief and understanding.
"I know you will, son," he says as he pats me lightly on
the back. "I just want you to know, if it's a little more
than you can handle, we're here. We'll help any way we
I do. I know you mean well. But I also know this isn't
something anyone else can help either one of us with. Jack
won't go to anyone else. He won't talk to anyone else.
I'm the only one who has the faintest hope of getting him
to talk at all.
one he'll run to when he finds out he's got nowhere else
to go. He'll run - he's running right now, and then he'll
come to me. I'd better be ready for him, and prepared
for whatever it's going to take to get him through this.
let him down.
On to Part Two