Into the Breach
by Pink Rabbit Productions
Disclaimer: This includes all female type
prurient (yes, that means sex) stuff, and should not be read by those of
a youthful (I.E. underage) nature, those who might find themselves in
jail for the perusal of the contents (my weekends are already booked
visiting family, thank you very much--and, yes, that *is* a joke), or
who consider Jerry Fallwell to be anything but a great big doofus (I
mean, come on Tinky Winky doesn't even *have* any sexual parts)
Pleasure. Sweet. Rich. Incredibly
Janet Fraiser's body arched upward, her
breath coming in ragged gasps, a thin sheen of sweat gleaming on her
skin. Taut muscles rippled beneath the surface of pale flesh and soft
sounds erupted from her throat as her head rocked back on her shoulders,
slamming into the softness of her pillow in response to the soft lips
and agile fingers working their magic on her body.
"Tell me," a honey smooth voice
whispered in the darkness, "what it feels like when I touch you
Janet could feel her heart hammering in
her chest as she fought to draw sufficient breath to answer the
question. "I can't," she gasped weakly, threading her fingers
into silky blond hair in an attempt to physically convey some measure of
what she was feeling. "There . . . aren't . . . words...."
"Tell me," Samantha Carter
repeated the command, her voice a warm purr that vibrated through her
lover as the caresses slowed, drawing the pleasure out to near painful
lengths. They had been lovers for a little over four months, and in that
time she had studied the other woman's every response with the same
attention she'd once reserved for astrophysics texts and Stargate
technology. She knew exactly what she was doing and gloried in it.
"I...it's ... I can't think ... like
this...." Janet gasped. Couldn't think, couldn't speak, sometimes
she could barely even breathe. It was so intense that there were days
she was afraid someone at SGC would notice her new limp.
Suddenly, Sam slid up the length of her
body, bisecting Janet's torso with the tip of her tongue, pausing only
briefly to taste the swell of each breast, before stretching
languorously next to her lover. "Tell me," she whispered
The dark haired woman whimpered softly,
wrapping an arm around the back of Sam's neck to draw her down into a
devouring kiss as she whispered, "You have a very cruel
Sam laughed softly and broke away to
nibble softly on the point of her chin. "No," she disagreed,
her voice little more than a low growl, "I just like watching
you like this." She leaned down to run her tongue along the upper
curve of a taut breast before swirling it around the coral tip.
"And tasting you like this."
Janet dug her fingers into pale blond
hair and reached up with her other hand as if to grab Sam, only to meet
her lover's hand halfway. Fingers twined together, and Sam pressed their
joined hands into the softness of the mattress. She leaned across Janet,
dragging her tongue to the center of her chest, then rubbing her cheeks
against the inner curve of rounded breasts. "And feeling you
"God," the tiny bit of sound
burst from Janet's lips, half a curse and half a prayer, as her head
slammed back into the pillow again.
Half draped across her lover's body, Sam
slowly slid up to share another languorous kiss, deliberately playing
with her mouth while she matched time with the slow undulations rippling
through the smaller woman's body.
Point, counterpoint; they moved together
in graceful syncopation, bodies sinuous and perfectly matched, while
their mouths blended together in an intimate mimicry of the game played
between their bodies.
"Tell me," Sam whispered again
as she dragged their woven hands over Janet's head until her lover's
body was stretched taut, every muscle standing out in sharp relief. She
leaned down, tasted the underside of her jaw, pressed lower, muscles
strained to maintain both the position and the rhythm of their
lovemaking. Sharp teeth ranged over Janet's heaving chest, scraping, but
never hard enough to leave a mark.
"Perfect," Janet gasped the
only word that even came close. She hooked a leg over lean hips, trying
to draw her lover even closer and hold her there, as if they could
become one body.
Sam arched up, kissing her lover hard as
she watched the shifting play of emotion and arousal in her dark eyes.
"...perfect..." she repeated through the blending of their
mouths, thrilled by the quiet admission. She tasted, Janet's aroused
groan, then felt silky lips against her cheek.
"...you're the only person who's
ever made me feel like this...safe...cherished...."
"Yes," Sam groaned, turning her
mouth into the roving kiss. "Talk to me," she panted when
their mouths parted to explore further. With Cassie away for the weekend
at a friend's house, they didn't have to be careful or quiet for once.
"Please," Janet groaned,
writhing desperately. She was so close that just breathing had become a
strain, and she could hear the buzz of her blood in her ears.
Releasing the hands bound to hers, Sam
pushed up on her elbows to stare down into the other woman's eyes,
watching the shift and play of arousal, seeing the burn as they drew
closer and closer to the edge.
Janet slid her fingers into damp strands
of blond hair, toying with them as she shaped fine boned hands to Sam's
face, watching the intensity of emotion playing over her features. She
loved these moments--the sense that they were bonded beyond mind or
body--when her lover's eyes were an open window to the deepest parts of
her soul, no longer shuttered to hide her secrets from any and all who
might try to look too deep. "I love you," she whispered almost
inaudibly, but knew Sam had heard from the bright flare of emotion that
gleamed in her eyes.
Sam's breath caught and she experienced
the by-now familiar flood of emotion in response to those softly spoken
words. She swallowed hard, overwhelmed by the depth and intensity of her
own feelings. She'd spent so much of her life alone, whether in a
laboratory or in a crowd, that it still shocked her to realize just how
deep her feelings ran, how integral this woman had become to her life.
"I love you more than my life...."
Their mouths met in ranging kisses and
their hands trailed over sweet curves with confident familiarity,
fingers dancing over sweat damp flesh, stroking, teasing, leaving no
inch untouched. Janet held Sam tightly, staring into passion-dazed blue
eyes. She'd had other lovers in her life, but none who even came close
to meaning as much to her as this woman did.
"Never leave me," the blond
pleaded, her heart in her eyes.
"Never," Janet agreed, drawing
Sam back down to her. And then Sam was moving with her again, pressing
her into the mattress, muscles flexing and drawing them together and
apart again in staccato rhythm, her passion a piano wire drawn
impossibly taut until it had to either snap or break the instrument.
No more pauses or delays, just the
blazing friction of their bodies and the heated emotion of their bonded
Janet heard the scream bubbling up in her
chest, felt the bowstring tautness of her own muscles as they strained
more with every passing second. Time slowed, each second becoming ten as
she hung poised at the edge of an abyss, her only tieline to earth, the
sensation of her lover's flesh against her own. She tasted Sam's breath
in her mouth, felt the matched pounding of her heart where they lay
breast to breast.
Then the bowstring snapped, electricity
flaring outward from the center of her body along overheated nerve
endings and over sensitized skin, the invisible arc encompassing both of
their bodies in its sensual fire.
Sam cried out, her lover's name torn from
her lips in the conflagration that followed as she clung to sleek
curves, all self-control lost. Pleasure condensed, thickened, coalesced
in a secondary pulse almost as intense as the first that left her barely
able to think or breathe.
"Oh god," Janet groaned after
an eight-pointer's worth of shocks and aftershocks, muscles going
completely limp as she tumbled back to earth, sinking into mattress in a
puddle of sweat and satiation.
"Seein' stars?" Sam mumbled
against the curve of her lover's shoulder as she shifted to one side,
stretching out alongside Janet while she reclaimed the warmth of her
Janet groaned softly, fingers spreading
against hardened back muscles as she held Sam as close as possible.
"...sun... moon... stars..." she mumbled through the ranging
kiss. "...maybe a supernova or two...."
Sam chuckled softly. She loved these
moments, seeing the pleasure only she could give this woman. "And
you said you weren't into astrophysics."
Janet lifted a hand to the back of Sam's
hair, tangling her fingers into the damp strands to tug her head back
down. Her breath was coming in hard shudders and she was barely
cognizant of anything beyond the body pressed intimately close to her
own. "Mmm, I guess it all depends on the teacher," she purred.
Sam sighed happily. "Twenty-four
hour tutoring available on call," she mumbled, nuzzling Janet's
shoulder as she struggled to catch her breath. "So, am I still
alive?" the blond groaned weakly after a long moment of silently
communing with her equally spent lover. She felt gentle fingers find her
wrist, checking for a pulse with automatic ease.
"Your heart's still beating, so I'd
guess yes," Janet chuckled near her ear. She pressed a small kiss
to her lover's temple, snuggling against her and listening while her
breathing slowed to something approaching normal.
Still trembling, Sam did a slow roll onto
her side, drawing Janet to her as she moved until they lay pressed heart
to heart, arms loosely wrapped around each other. Small, soft kisses
followed while Janet toyed with the hair at the nape of Sam's neck, then
skated gentle fingers down her spine, enjoying the closeness in the
"Have I mentioned lately that I love
you?" Sam questioned idly as she smoothed damp hair away from
Janet's brow to study her expression.
The brunette managed a throaty chuckle.
"You may have hinted at something like that," she murmured.
"But I don't mind hearing it as many times as you want to say
Sam continued stroking damp hair back
from Janet's face, the tiny rhythmic gesture soothing a sudden burst of
half-expected fear. "Really?" she questioned seriously, and
swallowed hard, looking uncertain. "Because I know it's not easy
sometimes...my being gone so much...the dangers of the project...not to
mention the whole 'Don't ask, don't tell' experience."
Janet trailed a fingertip down the slope
of Sam's nose, then dropped lower to outline full lips. "It's hard
sometimes...I won't deny that." She kissed her softly, barely
dusting her lips over the blond's mouth. "But you're worth it. We're
worth it." She rested her hand lightly over Sam's chest, feeling
the steady throb of her heart. "I've never felt like with
anyone...not just the sex." She grinned wickedly. "Though I'll
admit, that's...it's...there just...aren't words." She pressed
another tiny kiss to Sam's mouth. "But it's more than that too.
It's the way your brain works, the bad jokes you tell--usually blowing
the punchline in the process--"
"I do not," Sam insisted
defensively, "I just don't always remember in time."
Janet laughed. "The way you pout
when I mention that you blow punchlines," she teased before
continuing more seriously, "The way you make me feel safe and
trusted...and trusting...." She shook her head in wonderment.
"I've never been one to pour my heart out to lovers, but I do with
you...and I know you listen...and care." She looked away, slightly
embarrassed by the confession as she struggled to find more words.
Finally, she just whispered, "I love you." She was startled a
brief moment later when she felt the bed depress as Sam pushed into a
"I feel the same way." She
reached down to stroke Janet's cheek tenderly. "I try to tell you,
you know...any way I can...maybe not always with great success--spending
your life in a lab or ... or soldiering... they don't always make for
the best social skills--"
"You do okay," Janet assured
her, then smiled more broadly as a dozen different memories of sweet
gestures came to mind. "Better than okay."
"I try," Sam admitted, then
leaned down and pressed a small kiss to waiting lips before
straightening. "I...um...I have something for you..." she said
Janet snuggled into the pillows, folding
an arm under her head as she watched Sam lean across her and reach for
the top drawer of the nightstand, enjoying the complex play of muscles
just under the skin. Curious now, she noted what her lover retrieved
with raised brows. They often gave each other small gifts--mostly silly
things that they'd happened upon--but the gold hinged, red velvet
covered box in her hand didn't look like the sort of thing token gifts
typically came in.
Then Sam flipped it open, and Janet felt
her brain seize up, followed in fast succession by her heart and nearly
every other major organ in her body.
relationship...it's not exactly something either one of can trumpet from
the highest rafters," Sam said self-consciously, the words coming
in uncertain syllables, with unpredictable pauses in between. "And
there's nothing...legal...that we could...even if we could...."
This had been so much easier when she'd practiced it in front of the
bathroom mirror. She'd been downright smooth then. "But...well, I
just...I wanted...." Now she was a babbling wreck with no idea what
might come out of her mouth next.
"It's a wedding ring," Janet
exhaled at last, unable to pull her gaze from the gold ring nestled
inside the velvet lining. The metal gleamed brightly, the subtle twist
pattern in the band reflecting the light in random sprays.
Sam's eyes dropped to the ring, and she
seemed to be struggling for air as she muttered, "Yeah...kinda...yeah..."
She used a fingernail to hook the delicate gold chain pooled around the
ring, lifting it so Janet could see. "I know you can't wear it...
y'know, the normal way--too many questions-- but I thought--with the
chain--if you want...you could wear it ... that way...." Sam paused
long enough to take a deep breath in a completely unsuccessful effort to
calm her nerves. "... wear it...next to your heart...." she
stumbled to an uncomfortable finish at last and didn't have the courage
to look up for a long beat, uncertain how the suggestion was being
taken. It had seemed like the right thing to do at the time; a way to
say to themselves, if not to anyone else, that they were committed to
She felt the bed shift as Janet sat up,
but still no comment, leaving Sam thinking she should have just kept her
mouth shut. She'd moved too fast; probably scared Janet off. God,
what was I thinking, she demanded mentally. "I'm sorry. I
shouldn't have...." She fell silent as soft fingers were laid
across her lips.
Sam risked a glance then and was
surprised to find her lover staring into the tiny box, her eyes
glistening suspiciously. "Janet?" she whispered through the
gentle barricade pressed against her lips. The last thing she'd meant to
do was make her cry.
The brunette swallowed hard and reached
out a tentative hand, barely touching the simple gold band with a single
finger, as though it might dissolve into nothing but smoke if she made
Sam caught Janet's hand, tugging it
gently away from her mouth as she whispered, "It doesn't have to
be...I mean...it can mean whatever we want it to mean." She snorted
disgustedly at herself. "I know I'm not doing this very well,
"You're doing it beautifully,"
Janet disagreed. She tipped her head up to stare at her lover through
eyes rimmed in tears. "You just...you caught my by surprise,"
she admitted, her throat tight with emotion. She stroked the ring more
firmly, actually making contact with the warm metal, reassuring herself
it was real and not just some strange dream. "Are you asking me to
marry you?" she questioned at last, a trace of humor sneaking into
Lightheaded from the lack of oxygen--not
breathing will do that to a person--Sam took another deep breath before
speaking. "Legally...no...I mean, I can't. And if I did, we might
both be out of a job." She was honest about that. They both knew
the realities of their situation. Hammond might not care, but he also
might have them both cashiered out. Another deep breath followed as she
tried to get away from the harsher realities of her life. She pressed
Janet's hand to her chest, letting her feel the beat of her heart.
"But in every other way...in my heart, and my soul...my mind and
body.... Yes." Then lifted it to her lips to press small kisses
across the knuckles.
The air was thick and silent for a long
moment as the two women sat staring at each other, each hunting for
answers to questions only the heart can ask.
And then Janet's lips lifted as she gave
the only answer available to her. "Yes..."
"The iris is closed. The outbound
team is through the gate," the emotionless voice rang through the
Janet Fraiser yanked free of the memories
of the night before, tucking the ring and chain back inside her shirt
before yanking on a heavy flak vest and quickly adjusting the buckles so
that it fit her small frame snugly. Perversely enough, she was almost
relieved that Sam and the rest of SG-1 were still out on a jump.
Hopefully, by the time they got back, she would be home safe and sound
in her quiet infirmary, and Sam wouldn't have to live through the fears
she went through on a daily basis.
A tall figure appeared in the open
doorway lugging a heavily loaded backpack. "I think I've got
everything you'll need in here, Doctor," the young field medic
She nodded, ignoring the look of almost
worshipful admiration in his eyes as she went through a supply checklist
despite his assurances. The last thing she could afford was to find
herself on the other side without something she needed. The point of
this mission was to get in, get the job done, and get out again as
quickly as possible. She tried not to think about the fact that getting
the job done very probably meant sawing off a young man's leg. Dammit,
she would be saving his life. At least, she had to pray that would be
the end result. If something went wrong in the field, or something
unpredictable came up, there might not be a thing she could do to stop
it. Or maybe she'd be faced with a man whose leg might be saved and no
choice but to do it anyway if any of them were going to survive.
She shut off that line of thought right
No time for doubts or second guesses. Not
when a team was pinned down by fire, one of their own badly injured and
incapable of being moved.
After learning that a member of SG-5 had
been trapped by some kind of booby trap, his leg caught under a fallen
slab of stone while they were taking fire, Hammond had called her in to
talk the field medic already with them through the operation if there
was nothing else they could do, but the harsh reality was the medic had
never done a field amputation. In fact none of their medics had ever
even been involved in that kind of surgery in the field or even in a
hospital. They'd had the training, but it had all been purely
theoretical. Added to that had been the limited time the wormhole could
be kept open to allow for communication. The choice had been obvious in
Hammond had simply stared at her as she
quietly pointed out that she was the logical choice. She'd done four
field amputations, two while working with rescue teams after an
earthquake in Turkey, one amid the rubble of a car bomb in the mideast,
and one under a fallen Los Angeles underpass while aftershocks rattled
the cement around and over her head. Under fire, and with an agonized,
possibly dying man was no time for anyone to be talked through surgery
for the first time, especially if there was high probability of losing
He hadn't liked it--she'd seen it in his
eyes--hadn't liked it, but he'd also known she was right.
"All right, Doctor," his
agreement for the mission was said through gritted teeth. "SG-3 and
SG-11 are scrambling. SG-3 will go through first to help lay down cover
fire, and then the engineers to see if there's any way they can free
Michaels. If not, you'll go. Colonel Boone will be in charge of the
mission. You do what he tells you."
Janet had nodded her understanding. She
knew the man in charge of SG-5 reasonably well, just like she knew most
of the SG teams--they were under her care often enough. Tall, barrel
chested, and surprisingly easy going for a marine, he'd always impressed
her with his seriousness and loyalty to his team. Considering what she
was about to walk into, she felt better having someone she trusted in
Only moments later, she'd been moving,
calling down to the infirmary for the supplies she'd need to have any
hope of saving the man's life and heading to prep for the jump. No time
to write Sam a note or call Cass and say goodbye. Which was probably for
the best. She had an awful feeling that if she thought too hard about
what she'd just volunteered for, she might just unvolunteer.
She glanced at her watch. Almost three
minutes since SG-3 and SG-11 had gone through. Her turn was coming up
Focused on the task at hand, she
virtually ignored the med-tech, grunting a quick, "Thank you,"
when he helped her get the heavy backpack settled on her shoulders and
strapped into place.
"Keep your head down, Doc," he
reminded her as she strapped a helmet in place, feeling hopelessly
dwarfed by all of the equipment, much of it designed to protect her body
from the fire SG-5 had already warned them to expect the moment anyone
stepped through the gate.
"Definitely my plan," she
exhaled as she hurried out, trying desperately to ignore the rolling
sensation in her stomach. She knew the fear was a perfectly rational
response to what she was walking into. Anyone who wasn't scared spitless
would have to be an idiot of colossal proportions. She'd gated before,
not often, but enough times to have her sea legs, but this time she was
walking into a hornet's nest to do a job she hated on one of the people
under her care.
There was no positive spin one could put
on the situation.
That harsh reality didn't make her feel
like any less of a coward as she stood at the base of the ramp leading
up to the Stargate only a couple of minutes later, waiting for the go
ahead. She supposed it was the influence of all of those movies where
the heroes waited bravely to go to their doom, showing not the least bit
of fear. Or maybe it was just the fact that she worked with people who
stood in this very spot on a daily basis and cracked bad jokes while
they were waiting to leap through to other worlds.
She couldn't have cracked a joke if her
life depended on it.
"Prepare for jump, Doctor,"
Hammond's voice came over the louderspeaker, his thicker-than-normal
Texas drawl the only sign of any increased stress. She glanced up toward
the control booth, noting the grim set of his expression. Not a
comforting sight. "It looks like we're going to need you to go
through. Colonel Boone tells me to advise you to move to your immediate
left and get off the platform as quickly as possible. They'll cover you
as best they can, but you will be under fire. He says the ammunition
appears to be similar to old-fashioned ball and powder. Low velocity and
your vest should stop it, but it'll kick like a mule...and if it hits
exposed flesh, it'll take it right off."
Janet swallowed hard, trying to forget
what she knew about wounds from similar weapons. "Understood,
sir." She reached up, checking her earpiece a final time, and then
down to the unfamiliar weight of the sidearm strapped to her thigh. And
if a tiny voice in the back of her head was demanding to know what the
hell she thought she was doing, it was only a normal human reaction to
stepping willingly into extreme danger.
And then it was time. She moved forward
at Hammond's instruction, waiting only a moment before the iris opened,
folding neatly back into itself to reveal the watery depths of the
Stargate. She heard Hammond give the go-ahead through the tinny speaker
tucked in her ear, took a deep calming breath, and stepped forward....
Straight into the mind-numbing,
soul-chilling, body-torquing terror of the Stargate.
It was an almost instantaneous journey
through hell, and after no more than a heartbeat, the beast spat her out
on the other side. Janet felt the shock of her boots hitting stone
pavers all the way up through her legs as she experienced the profound
disorientation of going from the dimly lit safety of the gate room to a
sunny and very dangerous battlefield. She blinked rapidly against the
sudden brightness, scrambling to get her bearings and regain her
equilibrium as the staccato pulse of small arms fire assaulted her ears.
"DOC'! HERE!" Boone's voice
reached her through the din, breaking the instinctive paralysis that
hadn't even lasted a second.
She ducked, using the backpack as a
makeshift shield as she sprinted toward the left edge of the gate
platform, where she could just make out the tops of several helmets and
rifles braced in firing position. Small iron or lead balls plunked into
the edges of the gate behind her as she moved, then hit the stones on
either side of her, kicking up tiny plumes of grit everywhere they hit.
She skidded short of a fresh flare of dust as a bullet hit no more than
an inch from the tip of her left boot, momentarily losing traction when
something punched her right shoulder with the force of Hammond's
proverbial mule's kick. The flack jacket stopped the round, but it hurt
like hell. That, however, was the least of her worries and she kept
moving the instant she regained her balance. Another round tore into the
jacket just under her right breast as she hit the edge of the platform,
the force of the impact nearly upending her. Arms pinwheeling to regain
her balance, she felt a hand wrap around her ankle and jerk sharply
enough to dump her off her feet. She hit hard, a dull grunt torn from
her lungs. For a panicked moment, she didn't know who had done it, then
she felt a solid yank pulling her toward the edge of the platform and
realized it was the colonel.
"Sorry, Doc'," he apologized as
he unceremoniously hauled her off the edge of the platform, first by the
ankle and then, when he could reach, with a solid grip on her waistband.
In less than a second she was freefalling, the world spinning by in a
confusing jumble of stones, camo-clad men, and throat stinging dust. A
couple of outstretched hands slowed her descent as she fell past, but
she still hit the dirt hard enough to knock the air from her lungs. All
in all, no more than a few seconds had passed since she'd stood at the
entrance to the Stargate.
Boone leapt to the ground and she
realized he'd been standing on a narrow ledge several feet above the
earth to reach her. It was wide enough to stand on and the men were
using it as a firing platform. "Sorry about that," he growled
as he dropped to a crouch beside her. "But I was afraid you weren't
moving fast enough."
Already making sure that she hadn't been
seriously hurt where the bullets had impacted her vest, Janet waved his
apology off. "Not a problem." She winced at the fresh bruises
left by her less than graceful entry into this new world.
"Obviously, I wasn't moving fast enough," she muttered
as she rubbed her hand against her side, brushing up against torn fabric
and feeling the ball still lodged in the padding.
He noted the damage. "You
She shrugged. "A little worse for
the wear, but I'll be fine. Where's the patient?" She looked past
him, noting that at least two of the men braced on the ledge and firing
had dressings showing, indicating they had injuries, though obviously
not serious enough to keep them off their feet.
Grabbing the back of her backpack and
taking some of the weight as he helped her to stand--though they both
remained partially crouched--he nodded toward the steeply angled cliff
that rose sharply from the ground roughly fifteen yards behind the
Stargate. Her eyes lifted, noting that the sharp cuts of sheer stone
rose several hundred feet above them, while at the base of the cliff at
least a half a dozen tunnel entrances of some kind had been carved into
the rock, the portals neatly arched and decorated with low reliefs of
the Stargate glyphs.
"This way," Boone informed her
and headed for the centermost of the tunnels.
As they hurried along, Janet glanced back
over her shoulder, trying to get a feel for the lay of the land. The
Stargate sat on a huge stone dais a good eight feet above the ground and
close to one hundred feet wide by thirty feet deep, the sandy-colored
platform covered in intricately carved patterns that reminded her of
Celtic knots. Beyond the platform, she glimpsed a short space of rolling
plain bordered by a thick forest of what appeared to be pine. Obviously
their attackers were using the forest for cover.
"SG-5 took cover in the caves when
they came under fire and apparently they tripped some kind of booby
trap," the colonel warned her as he led her into the darkened
confines of the tunnel. A tall man, he had to duck to avoid crashing his
skull into the low, rough-hewn ceiling. He flicked on a flashlight.
"The engineers from SG-11 have checked the area for more traps, and
they haven't find anything, but step carefully anyway."
Janet nodded, watching around herself
nervously as the tunnel narrowed until they were forced to move single
"The injured man is Pete
Janet knew him. Maybe all of twenty-four;
handsome, brash, and reliable to flirt with her whenever he wound up in
the infirmary. Something she'd never taken personally since he seemed to
do it with every woman he met, including at least one visiting scientist
who'd been old enough to be his grandmother.
"The medic's got him as stable as
possible and prepped things so you should be able to begin
quickly." A muscle pulsed in his jaw. "He knows the score.
He's scared, but holding up."
The tunnel widened out just then, the
narrow corridor opening into a broad, low-ceilinged chamber sunk in dust
and rock debris. The trap appeared to have pulled most of the entire far
wall down, including a stone slab at least ten feet by fifteen feet, and
several feet thick. It wasn't hard to spot the sprawled figure lying
alongside one edge of the stone, his helmet off, head pillowed on a
wadded up shirt, while a medic attended to him. Two more men knelt at
the opposite end of the slab, apparently studying it, but the doctor
ignored them, already popping the buckle on the backpack's waist strap
as she slung it off her shoulders and stepped forward.
"Colonel," one the engineers
called out, and Boone went to them while Janet focused on her patient.
"The things you'll do for a woman's
attention," she teased gently as she skidded to one knee beside the
injured man. He was in a bad way, breathing too fast, his skin bloodless
with shock, eyes glazed, but he offered a weak smile.
"Keep tellin' you, you're the only
one for me."
"I gave him what I had for the
pain," the medic informed her, holding up the empty container so
she could see.
Janet nodded, barely pausing to toss
aside her helmet before she began digging through the backpack. As she
fished out the headlamp she'd need to perform surgery, she caught a few
snatches of the conversation going on between the engineers and Boone.
"...with maybe three hours...could
work...just have to get enough leverage...."
Using the headlamp to spot the point
where her patient's leg disappeared under the several tons of rock, she
leaned in close and knew instantly that even if Michaels could be
removed quickly enough to keep him out of danger from the shock and
blood loss, trying to save the leg would be pointless. It had been
virtually pulverized just below the knee on impact. It was only due to
luck and the medic's quick work that he hadn't already bled to death.
She glanced over her shoulder, catching Boone's eye and shook her head
ever so slightly, just enough to let him know the situation.
Michaels obviously sensed the decision
she'd come to because he tensed, drawing in a tiny gasp of air. He'd
held out a last bit of hope she could conjure a miracle until that
moment. "Doc...y-you do what you have to," he whispered, and
as she looked at him, she could see the terror in his eyes, though he
was trying desperately to hide it.
Janet reached out, squeezing his hand to
offer any comfort she could, amazed he wasn't already unconscious.
"We'll take care of you."
And then she was working as fast as she
could, ignoring the distant throb of gunfire to focus on the task at
hand. She used a local anaesthetic to numb as much of Michaels' pain as
possible, but didn't dare use a general without an anaesthesiologist
there, so she was acutely aware that the man was semi-conscious and
watching her. Her shoulder and side were in agony where the bullets had
struck the flack vest, sweat slid over her skin, stinging her eyes and
making it hard to see, particularly on top of the limited illumination
cast by her headlamp, but somehow she kept her hands steady, doing what
she had to. Some days adrenaline is a wonderful thing.
Mercifully, Michaels lost consciousness
quickly, which made her job no easier, but at least eased his suffering.
In the background, one of the engineers
remained behind, jerry-rigging a stretcher out of several backpack
frames, while the other man left to help the others with their defense.
As she worked, she automatically tracked
everything going on, listening for any sign they were about to be
overrun--not because she could anything to stop it, but out of some
animal instinct of the hunted to know where the hunter might be hiding.
Consciously, she could ignore the burning urge to flee, but she could
not rid herself of the instincts that caused it.
Colonel Boone stepped inside several
times, checking on her progress and she could tell he wanted to tell her
to hurry, but didn't dare. Instead, he just watched for a moment, then
slipped out again.
Finally, she was done, hands moving as
gracefully as ever as she dressed the wound. Able to relax slightly, she
sat back on her heels, . She glanced over her shoulder at the waiting
engineer from SG-11. "Go tell Boone we're ready to move. We'll need
two men to carry the stretcher."
"Got it," he said quickly and
"Hell of a job, Doc'," the
medic murmured as he helped her clear the equipment and remaining debris
out of the way to make it as easy as possible to load their patient onto
Knowing her patient was still looking at
more surgery, retraining, the probable loss of his career, and a total
life-change, she couldn't enjoy the compliment. "He'll live,"
she said softly.
She took charge as Boone returned along
with the man she'd sent to get him, ignoring rank and ordering them
around as they loaded Michaels onto the stretcher and strapped him into
place, making certain he was as stable as possible.
Boone assigned the medic and the engineer
from SG-11 to handle the stretcher during the evacuation, then led the
small group toward the entrance to the cave, laying out the plan as they
moved. "We're still under fire, so to move as safely as possible,
we're going to have to do this in waves. My men will lay down cover fire
and the wounded will go first. It's going to be hell getting people up
onto the platform fast, so anyone not firing or running is gonna have to
help. After they're through, Doc', you and the remaining members of
SG-11 will be on the dock...same pattern, we'll lay down cover fire, and
I'll give you the signal. When that happens, you move fast.
She knew he was more worried about her
than most of the others because she wasn't used to being in the field,
and she nodded sharply. "Understood."
"SG-3 and I will be the last ones
through." He didn't wait for any more confirmations as he simply
said, "All right, let's go home."
Running low on ammunition, the soldiers
were forced to hold their fire until the moments immediately before the
evacuation began and it was a mad, desperate scramble of men moving as
fast as they could while bullets punched the air around them.
Janet found herself helping transport her
patient from the ground up the nearly eight feet to the top of the gate
platform. It wasn't an easy maneuver, and they bumped and bounced the
young man far more than she would have wished, but finally, balanced
neatly on the ledge that ran along the dais several feet above the
ground, one arm hooked over the top edge of the stone, she finished
helping to heft the litter up, then dropped back to the ground, diving
down behind safe cover and out of the way of the men providing cover
Against all odds, the first wave got
through without incident.
Crouched down behind the platform,
bullets coming at them at a steady rate, it struck Janet that they were
catching fire from more angles than when she'd first arrived. Obviously,
their attackers had managed to fan out while she was in the cave. No
wonder the colonel wanted to move as quickly as possible. The situation
had apparently been worsening with every passing minute spent on this
She rubbed at the sweat stinging her
eyes, wishing fervently that the order to move would come. She wanted
nothing more than for this particular adventure to be over and the
waiting was more stressful than she might have imagined. There was
nothing to do but stay out of the way, keep her head down, and pray.
It was pure chance that she looked up,
blinking against the harsh sunlight as she stared at the cliffs that
overlooked them, suddenly frowning as she spotted something dark against
the sand-colored stone. The doctor's expression twisted as she made out
movement. At least three figures poised on the rocks above them.
"COLONEL!! THEY'RE ABOVE US!!"
she screamed, already reaching for her sidearm. The nine millimeter
didn't have the accuracy of the men's rifles and she was nowhere near as
practiced with a weapon as they were, but it might slow this new attack.
The colonel spun and she heard him curse
above the sounds of gunfire even as she felt her wrists ground to powder
by the rapid-fire concussion of the weapon in her hand.
And then as she watched in mute horror,
something bowling-ball-sized and dark came arcing downward, the bright
glow of a burning wick visible at the top.
It was aimed straight for her.
"DOC'!!" Boone shouted in
warning, but she was already moving, diving out of the predicted path of
the device. She was still running as it hit, the thin crockery
shattering and spreading flames in liquid splashes reminiscent of a
Molotov cocktail. Except she'd never seen a Molotov with a secondary
concussion device, but less than a second after the incendiary flames
spread across the ground, something in it exploded with the power of
several sticks of dynamite, the force hurling her off her feet.
Momentarily airborne, the doctor tumbled with no sense of up or down
until she hit the ground with bone rattling force and was tossed end
over end by her own momentum. Finally, she skidded to a halt in deep
grass, only semi-aware of the sudden panic of the team. No more than a
second or two passed before she pushed up on a hand, but already total
havoc reigned as several more of the incendiary bombs came raining down
from the cliffs.
"EVERYONE THROUGH THE GATE!!"
Boone screamed to make himself heard above the din. There was no more
time for an ordered evacuation. At this rate, if they didn't get through
now, they wouldn't make it at all.
Knowing she would be left behind if she
didn't move fast enough, Janet ignored the agony rattling through her
body and shoved to her feet, intending to make a run for it. She saw the
colonel hit the top of the platform and turn back, their eyes meeting as
he crouched down, braced and ready to pull her up if she could just get
there. She had to get through a sea of flame, but it was already
thinning down, and if she moved fast enough, she was sure she could make
it. It wasn't like she had a choice after all.
Unfortunately, fate had other plans in
Her first clue was the look of horror on
the colonel's face as his head tipped up. She followed the line of his
gaze and saw the incoming Molotov. She had at least seventy feet to
cross before she reached the edge of the platform where Boone waited for
her, and it was arcing to drop right in the middle of that distance. She
had no choice but to dive into nearest of the caves, ducking behind an
outcropping of rock as her senses were overwhelmed by heat, fire, and
the explosive power of the blast that followed only a moment behind,
echoing inside the low cave until she couldn't even hear her own
panicked scream above the roar.
Time ceased to exist as she huddled into
the scant protection of the rock, praying to a God she often doubted
even existed, until finally some of the heat died away and she could
safely lift her head. Another moment passed and she pushed shakily to
her feet, barely tasting the blood that ran freely from a split in her
lip, and only scantly aware of the streamers of crimson that ran freely
from a gash opened at the hairline by flying debris. Badly dazed and
bleeding from a myriad of small cuts on her hands and forearms, she
stumbled back into the world, curiously struck by how quiet things had
Janet's eyes lifted to the imposing
figure of the Stargate, standing uncaring above her, unsurprised to find
it was no longer active. With explosions going off on all sides and his
men in full retreat, Hammond would have had no choice but to shut down.
Flames still dotted the area where the others had been, but she saw no
sign of bodies, which meant hopefully the rest had gotten out safely.
And then she got her first look at their
enemy as men began swarming around the edges of the Stargate platform,
primitive looking rifles trained on her. They all wore dark crimson
leggings and shirts under pieces of segmented leather armor that
protected their chests, forearms, and lower legs, and helmets that
reminded her eerily of any number of bad tits-and-toga's films from her
childhood. At least half carried some kind of short sword in addition to
their rifles, and she glimpsed one or two relatively small pistols of
She almost laughed as the dark irony sank
in that she'd had to leave so quickly that there'd been no time for any
kind of briefing on the planet. She was just supposed to go in, do her
job, and leave. There had been no thought that she might get caught
behind. Now, she had no idea what the language was, who the people were,
or what the hell had started the whole firefight. She'd lost her sidearm
in the confusion, not that it really mattered. She'd exhausted her ammo
firing at the men on the cliffs, and somehow she doubted throwing it at
them would do any good. Her equipment belt included a combat knife, the
blade close to a foot long and razor-honed, and she drew it, holding it
so the blade rested along her forearm, just like she'd been taught in
basic more years ago than she cared to contemplate.
Not that she was under any illusions.
There was nothing she could do against the number of men surrounding
her, except perhaps enrage them enough to make her end a quick one if it
came down to it.
Fully expecting to die at any moment, her
only thoughts were for Cassie and Sam. She wished she could hold them
both one more time, wished to God she could comfort the agony she knew
they would go through. She felt the warmth of Sam's ring nestled in the
valley between her breasts and was achingly grateful they'd had that
last time together; that she'd had a chance to pledge herself to Sam and
let her lover know just how deep her emotions ran.
A man half again as tall as she was and
at least twice as broad, moved through the others, pressing them aside
with the authority of someone in charge until he came to a halt no more
than ten or fifteen feet from her, eyeing her with the sort of calm
she'd seen on the faces of her fellow Air Force officers on more than a
few occasions. He was a professional soldier. She'd have bet her life on
it. "Drop the weapon, boy," he commanded quietly.
It took her a moment to decipher the
heavily accented words and realize what he wanted and that he didn't
realize she was female under the heavy uniform, flack jacket, and
helmet. Reacting mostly on adrenaline and instinct, she shook her head
"The little one wants to
fight," someone laughed among the crowd of soldiers.
"Too small for the games,"
another man chortled, "But they might use him to feed the saraks."
Apparently, they considered that joke the
height of humor, because almost all of them laughed, and one piped in,
"Nahh, not enough meat for a sarak."
As comments were traded back and forth,
only their leader remained stone-faced, not advancing on her, but not
retreating either. "Your master's left you behind, boy," he
said quietly, his voice low and calming. "You're on your own now.
You can surrender or you can die, but you can't win."
Janet just stood facing him, braced to
defend herself, but not daring to speak. The moment he heard her voice
he'd know she was no boy under all the padding and grime.
"What are you gonna do with him,
Paulus?" someone shouted from the crowd.
Their leader offered the smallest of
smiles, meant, Janet suspected, to reassure her. "Cilla needs a new
scut-boy since the last one ran off with Marco's serving wench...."
His eyes still held Janet's, reminding her oddly of O'Neill when he was
trying to take control of a situation without resorting to violence. The
familiarity of the expression was oddly comforting.
"I dunno, Paulus," someone
called from the crowd, "he looks kinda pretty under all that dirt.
She might decide to have a taste after twenty years of waking up to your
ugly face in the sheets."
"My wife, Cilla, has a gentle
heart," Paulus told her, ignoring the jibes from his men and still
using that soft, coaxing voice, "She didn't even send slavers after
the boy that ran away. A few years of hard work and you can earn your
Janet dropped the knife a notch, debating
her course of action. Paulus was right about one thing, fighting would
only get her killed, something he seemed none too eager to do. Of
course, there was the very real possibility that the situation would
change when they knew she was female. She was under no illusions on that
Her would-be captor seemed to sense her
internal debate because he waved his hand, indicating she should hand
him the knife, and murmured, "Come on, boy, just hand it to me.
I've no reason to hurt you for your master's actions."
Janet rechecked her grip on the weapon,
trying to decide if maybe it was time to speak and see how they reacted.
"Centurion," a hard voice cut
in before she could make a decision and a man rode through the crowd on
some kind of creature similar to a horse, forcing the men to dive out of
the way to avoid being trampled. He sat tall in the saddle, golden armor
gleaming in the sun, a crimson plume arcing above his helmet, and a look
of colossal arrogance in his dark eyes. "What's the delay? The
other prisoners have already been seen to ... this conflict is making
Janet tensed. Other prisoners? She prayed
none of them were from the SGC.
Paulus' expression darkened, and she
sensed he wasn't happy with this latest development. "The boy's
The newcomer eyed her with a raised brow.
"Too small for the games ... probably just a slave with no
knowledge. He's not worth the effort. Kill him."
"Imperator Severidus--" Paulus
began, and Janet could see he wasn't happy with the pronouncement.
"What part of 'Kill him,' did you
not understand, Centurion?" the newcomer growled angrily, then
snarled something Janet didn't catch under his breath and spurred his
mount forward. "The curse of the upper classes is the stupidity of
the lower ones," he muttered as he drew the gleaming sword hanging
from a tabard that stretched across his chest.
Reacting on instinct more than planning,
she dodged the first thrust of the sword, then lost her knife blocking
the second just before the big animal swept on past her. She heard
distant, unhappy mumbles from the watching men, but was under no
illusions that there would be any help from that direction. As the
Imperator wheeled his mount around, she dodged another slash of his
weapon, then dove under the animal's belly, relieved that it had soft
pads rather than sharp slashing hooves that might kill or maim with a
single blow. Startled by the figure suddenly running under it, the
creature panicked, trying to rear and forcing its rider to cling
desperately while Janet came up on his other side, scrambling to get a
hold on her attacker's glittering armor. She leapt up, fingers clawing
into a sharp edged joint until the metal drew blood, gashing her fingers
deeply. He saw her intention too late and didn't have time to try and
bring his sword across before she could put all of her weight into
toppling him off.
Janet felt the rider's balance give way
and heaved every ounce of strength she possessed into bringing him down,
driving her knee into the creature's heaving side to add more force to
her efforts. Suddenly in freefall, she twisted, trying to fall back to
her feet without going down. If she could just get to his mount....
Imperator Severidus went flying with a
strangled cry, grabbing for her in a panic. He got a hand on her helmet,
and for a moment, she feared his momentum might break her neck, then the
chin strap gave way and he tumbled free, her helmet still gripped
tightly in his hand.
Somehow, Janet dug in and maintained her
footing, momentarily hitting one knee before she pushed upright again.
She spun, lunging to grab for the reins only to crash into solid metal
and obdurate muscle. A hand grabbed her flack jacket at the shoulder,
half lifting her and snapping the already tenuously held top buckles.
Half open now, the vest revealed soft curves, even under the heavy
uniform. Her eyes lifted to find the man called Paulus staring down at
her, his expression twisted by a sudden realization as he got a better
look at both her face and body now that the vest was open and her helmet
"A woman?" her captor exhaled
as though struck.
"Yes," the doctor hissed. She
saw that the other men had caught the imperator's panicked mount,
blocking off her last hope for escape.
"Lucky," Paulus breathed, eyes
lifting as his superior scrambled to his feet, howling curses and
insults at the top of his lungs.
Janet twisted in time to see the
imperator grab for his fallen sword. "Hold that little bastard
while I carve his heart out."
Paulus pushed Janet slightly to the side,
his own arm forming an impromptu shield. "I'm afraid that won't be
possible, My Lord," he said, his tone deferential even in defiance.
The other man pulled up sharply. He'd
lost his helmet in the fall, revealing a cap of perfect blond ringlets
disarrayed around a sinfully beautiful face. "What?" he
hissed, his tone that of a man unused to any kind of disagreement.
"I'm afraid the bastard's a bitch,
sir...." He yanked her around until his superior could see the
evidence for himself. "A woman."
Rage flickered across the imperator's
perfect features, but he didn't loosen his grip on his sword.
"And as such," Paulus continued
implacably, "the property of Emperor Constantine."
"Then he can have her head,"
the Imperator snarled and lunged.
Janet felt Paulus' huge hand yank her
around so hard she stumbled badly as his other arm came up, and then
something crashed into the back of her skull, toppling the world into
total darkness before she even had a chance to cry out.
"Well, that was fun," Jack
O'Neill growled as he stepped through the Stargate, slapping dust off
his camos with a disgusted look.
"I'm so sorry," Daniel
apologized for roughly the tenth time.
Jack slapped more dust out of his hair.
"Think nothing of it, Daniel," he said acidly, his tone making
it clear he was still annoyed.
"Well, I...." Also knocking
dust out of her hair and fatigues, Samantha Carter suddenly lifted her
eyes past the immediate concerns of SG-1 and trailed off to realize that
the gate-room was in a state of utter chaos. "Colonel," she
exhaled to draw his attention, but he'd already noticed.
"Yeah, I see," Jack muttered.
Men were scattered around the room, their
bodies bruised and bloodied, eyes dazed while medical teams stabilized
the worst of the injuries. Sam automatically checked for Janet,
expecting to find the glossy badge of her hair as she moved from patient
to patient. No sign of her, which meant she'd probably already gone with
someone to the infirmary. Fraiser always went with the most seriously
injured patients, unwilling to trust their care to anyone else. She felt
a shiver slide down her spine at the thought that someone might be badly
"There appears to have been some
kind of incident," Teal'C commented, his low voice neutral to
anyone who didn't know him well, though Sam picked out a subtle note of
worry hidden there.
"To say the least," Jack
muttered, searching the crowd until he spotted Hammond. The general was
speaking to Dave Boone, who looked like he'd been through a
meat-grinder; one sleeve missing, his arm haphazardly bandaged, his
uniform ripped and torn, the flesh underneath badly abraded. As Jack
watched, a white coated doctor pulled the man away, focusing on his
injuries. "I think we'd better find out what's going on."
As if on cue, Hammond looked up, waving
them over with a sharp gesture. He didn't bother with the preamble of a
greeting as the team drew within hearing distance. "Colonel
O'Neill, can you and your people go back out if need be?"
The colonel glanced back at the injured
men. Clearly, his team was in a lot better shape to go than anyone else
he could see. "Yes, sir. Things were quiet on TX-87...we can go out
anytime you need."
Hammond nodded in acknowledgment.
"Good. We'll need to wait until there's some chance that the
situation on the other side of the gate has stabilized, then we'll send
a MALP through...we need some intel before we make any decisions."
Hammond's eyes were grim, his mouth a
thin line of tension. "SG-5 was on P8R-232 when encountered some
kind of booby trap...Lieutenant Michaels was badly injured...too much
for the medics to deal with...particularly when they came under fire
from some kind of indigenous militia." His eyes ran over the
injured men all around them. "There was an ugly firefight."
Sam suddenly felt mildly light-headed,
and her heart was throbbing in her chest. Which was silly. Janet was
safely in the infirmary. She wouldn't have--
"Doctor Fraiser gated to do an
on-site amputation," Hammond said quietly, his voice thick with
"Ah... no," Jack exhaled,
sensing where this was going.
"There was an emergency evacuation
when several incendiary devices exploded in the area. They got the
wounded out, but--"
"Oh, god," Daniel whispered,
suddenly realizing what the general wasn't saying.
"I'm afraid Doctor Fraiser didn't
make it to the gate in time. We had to shut down before she could get
Sam heard the words, but her brain
resisted translating them into any kind of meaning. It couldn't be. It
just couldn't. She closed her eyes tightly as the world seemed to spin
around her, barely aware when Daniel's hand landed supportively on her
shoulder. She only distantly heard Jack's voice, though the words seemed
to reverberate inside her head like marbles inside an aluminum trash
"Any idea if she's still
alive?" the colonel asked quietly.
"According to Colonel Boone, she may
have made it to cover in one of several caves in the immediate area just
before the last explosion forced the remaining team members to
"No," Sam exhaled as though
struck. Janet was on the other side of the gate, maybe hurt, in trouble,
maybe� Sam couldn't complete the thought; not and keep from falling
apart. She turned an angry look toward Boone where he sat getting his
injuries treated. He was the one who'd left Janet behind. Her hands
fisted tightly at her sides.
Hammond turned her way, sensing her
turmoil, if not its complete cause. "He had no choice, Major. One
of his men went down and couldn't make it to the gate on his own, and he
felt there was no reasonable chance of getting to Doctor Fraiser before
the gate closed. He had to make a lousy choice."
A muscle pulsed in Sam's jaw and her eyes
flared with something raw and furious. She probably would have gotten
through the burst of rage without incident if the man in question hadn't
chosen that moment to break away from the doctor treating his injuries
in order to step up to Hammond.
"Request permission to join any
rescue mission, sir," the marine colonel requested, his expression
twisted with guilt.
"You left her behind," Sam
growled, her voice low and furious. She turned a hard glare on the
marine colonel, hands flexing at her sides as though she wanted to lunge
at the men, despite the fact that he was a half a head taller and
weighed half again as much. "And now you want a second chance to
screw it up--"
"Carter," O'Neill snapped,
sensing how close to the edge her temper was running.
Sam ignored her commanding officer,
instead taking a step forward and getting in Boone's face. "I
thought you jarheads never leave anyone behind," she sneered.
"Well, guess what, you fucked up this time--"
"Carter!" O'Neill barked
sharply and yanked her back. "Back off!" He looked up at the
man standing a short distance away. He was beat to hell and barely
standing, but it was obvious he would have gratefully stepped back
through the gate to try and undo the decision he'd had to make. He felt
Carter try and pull away from his hard grip on her collar, reacting on
adrenaline and frustration and when he looked at her, he saw the
unreasoning anger in her expression. Boone was just a convenient target
for her fear and frustration. He yanked her back another step, getting
in her space as he hauled her around so he was between them. "Dammit,
Carter, nobody wanted this to happen...and nobody fucked up...it
just...just came out wrong." She looked up at him then, and he saw
the raw terror in her eyes. For a moment, he thought she might just
shatter into a thousand pieces right there in front of them all.
"Daniel, Teal'c, start a mission briefing," he growled, then
hoping Hammond understood--or maybe not, all things considered-- he
pushed Sam ahead of him. "Major Carter and I need to talk." He
hauled her out of the gateroom, down the hall, and into one of the
prep-rooms, pushing her inside, then slamming the door in their wake.
The last thing they needed for this little confrontation was an
Carter spun, shaking his hard hold off
with a snarl. She waved a hand back toward the gate room. "Sir, he
left her behind...to God only knows what..." she choked off, unable
to continue, and spun away, bracing her hands against the wall and
leaning heavily against the much-needed support.
"He didn't have a choice, Carter.
You heard the general. He had a man down and had to get him out."
Sam flashed an angry look over her
shoulder. "So...what...his life was more important than
Janet's?" she demanded, knowing she was being unreasonable even as
the words left her mouth, but at that moment, she didn't care. She just
wanted Janet there, safe and sound and a part of her didn't give a damn
about the price.
"You know that's not true,"
O'Neill said sadly. He sighed and ran a hand over his hair. "He
couldn't get to her, Sam. His only choices were to have one person on
the wrong side of the gate when it closed, or three...he chose
Sam slammed a fist into the cement,
welcoming the pain, hoping it would break up some of the emotional agony
roiling through her system. "Goddammit, what the hell was she doing
in a combat zone?" she groaned, the words coming in ragged gasps.
It distantly occurred to her that she should at least be trying to
appear like she was taking this calmly, like it was just another part of
the job, but she couldn't seem to work up the ability to care.
"Her job," Jack reminded her
Sam ran a hand over her hair, then
slammed her fist into the wall again with a muttered curse, hoping maybe
the influx of physical pain would make the emotional agony more
bearable. It didn't work.
"You've got to get it under control,
Carter," O'Neill lectured coolly, knowing sympathy was the last
thing she needed at that point. "Because you're no good to her like
"You don't understand," she
choked through the tightness in her chest. She couldn't think, couldn't
breathe, could barely remain on her feet.
"Look, Carter, I know what you're
"No...you don't," she
ground out. She closed her eyes tightly, wanting this to be nothing but
a nightmare, willing herself to wake up next to Janet, her lover
snuggled against her side. She could still see the chain and ring
glittering against pale skin, and she wanted nothing more than to open
her eyes and see them again. "You don't understand at all." He
thought Janet was just her friend and colleague, Cassie's mother, and
the base's doctor. He had no way of knowing what she really meant to
Sam; not when they had been so careful to keep it secret.
O'Neill stared at her stiff back, knowing
he had to be her commander, not her friend, but wishing he could offer
words of comfort all the same. Unfortunately, he didn't have the luxury
of kindness. "I understand that in your current condition there's
no way in hell I'd let you through that gate on a rescue mission."
Sam spun, eyes narrowing dangerously.
"What the hell do you mean?" she demanded.
He met her blazing fury with a wall of
calm. "You're in no condition to walk into a possible combat
Teeth gritted, muscles taut with the
effort required not to take a swing at her superior, Sam glared at him.
"You are not keeping me off this mission," she growled
each word with shotgun precision and moved to step past him. "Now,
I've got a briefing to attend."
Jack grabbed her by the shirtfront and
shoved her back. "Not until, and unless, you're under
A muscle pulsed in her jaw as she glared
at him. She had to fight the urge to take her anger at the world out on
him with every shuddering breath.
"I know how you feel--"
"No," she snarled, "you
don't." And she tried to jerk free of his hold.
Jack didn't let go, instead
straight-arming her into the wall. "Yes," he said softly,
"I do, Sam. I know...." He let his voice trail off as
he stared meaningfully down at her. He leaned closer, his voice dropping
low as though there might be someone there to hear. "And I
understand how scared and angry you are. Which is why I can't let you
through the gate unless I know you can handle it." That knocked the
rage down, at least temporarily, breaking through and forcing her to
listen to him.
She stared at him, mouth working
soundlessly for a beat as she struggled to process his words. He knew?
Knew what? She stared at the look in his eyes, seeing an answer to the
question that shook her to her foundations. He knew.
"I value Fraiser's life too much to
let any team member through who isn't clear headed and at optimum."
He shook his head. "I won't take that chance with her life ... or
As she heard the softly spoken words, Sam
wanted to scream and rail, pound on him until he gave way and saw it her
way. But he was right and she knew it. She was careening out of control,
reacting like a frightened animal backed into a corner; because that was
exactly how she felt; like some wild thing caught in a trap not of her
own making, desperate just to make the pain go away. She inhaled in
deep, shuddery breaths, shading her eyes with one hand as she leaned up
against the wall. Even that support wasn't enough as her knees buckled
and she slid down until she was sitting, shoulders trembling with the
force of the terror rattling through her. She'd always known something
like this was a possibility, but it had seemed distant, impossible,
unreal. Janet was supposed to be okay, safe in her infirmary if Sam just
kept the demons at bay. And now she had failed miserably. She hadn't
even been there when her lover needed her. "You know?"
she rasped, her mouth several paces behind her scattered thoughts.
"Since that night Blanchard tried to
kill you two...."
She tried to come up with some kind of
response and couldn't think of anything. Even if she'd been at her best,
she wouldn't have known what to say, but at that point, she could barely
string two words together. "Y-you never said anything..." she
whispered at last, sounding punch-drunk.
He shrugged. "I didn't think there
was much of anything to say." Jack reached out, resting a hand
lightly on her shoulder. "I wouldn't say anything now," he
admitted, "but I wanted you to understand why I can't let this
slide. I hope you'd do the same thing for me if our positions were
As much as she wanted to fight him, she
knew he was right. Had their positions been reversed, she'd have been
doing the same thing he was. Sam pinched the bridge of her nose tightly.
"Yes, sir," she croaked raggedly, the anger draining away in
an instant, leaving a sick, hollow feeling in its place.
Jack sighed. "There's something else
you need to consider...Cass...."
Sam frowned in confusion. "I
don't...." She shook her head, not understanding what he was
Jack didn't want to say his next words,
but didn't feel he had a choice. "If Janet's gone--"
"She may be fine," Sam groaned
as though just wanting it could make it true. "We don't know
"I know," Jack agreed.
"But, Sam, Cass may need you...and this could be
dangerous...." He trailed off, wishing there was a gentle way of
doing this. "Maybe you should consider staying--"
"No," Sam exploded, then
continued more calmly. "I can't, Colonel. W-we've made
arrangements...if something were to happen... I love Cass, but I can't
abandon Janet...not when she needs me." Her brain conjured up
tormented images of her lover in trouble and begging for her. She
couldn't take the risk of not being there for her.
Jack ran a hand over his hair, feeling a
tightness in his own chest. "You know this may just be a matter of
retrieving...remains?" he whispered, stumbling over the words. God
only knew what it would do to Sam or Cass if they couldn't bring her
back alive. Hell, the whole SGC, himself included, was going to hurt if
she'd been lost. She wasn't like the members on the various SG teams,
who tended to be tight with each other, but were seldom terribly close
to members of other teams. She looked after all of them; cared for their
health, healed their injuries, listened when they dumped about missions,
and, in his case at least, even sparred good naturedly when that was
what it took.
Sam flinched as though struck, but
nodded. She could barely force the words past the tightness in her
throat, and this time, she couldn't hold back a few stray tears. "I
know that...and...and if that's... the case...I'll--I'll bring her
home...." She blinked off the tears clinging to her lashes.
"Please, sir, don't ask me to stay behind."
Jack sighed, meeting her desperate gaze.
The awful rage was gone now, leaving a despairing sense of urgency in
its place. He felt for her. He'd lost so many people he cared for over
the years; experienced that particular agony of helplessness far too
many times to wish it on any friend. Unfortunately, it wasn't a mental
state that tended to make for a lot of rational decision-making.
She saw the worry in his eyes. "I
wouldn't do anything to put her life in danger. You know
that." She caught his hand in a tight grip.
"Colonel...Jack...." She struggled for words, not knowing how
to express her feelings. She'd never expected to have to explain any of
this to anyone, much less Jack O'Neill.
She had no way of knowing that her every
emotion lived in her eyes more intensely than he'd quite expected, or
was in some ways ready for. "You love her that much?" he said
"More than my life," Sam
croaked, not caring about keeping the secret any more. If he wanted her
out of the SGC, she didn't care so long as he let her on this mission.
She swallowed hard, fighting tears. "I can't lose her, Jack."
He hurt for the pain he could see in her
eyes. "We'll do everything possible to bring her back," he
Sam linked her fingers together, studying
the complex play of bone and sinew, focusing on something outside of her
emotions as she worked to clear her mind of everything but what she had
to do. "She needs me, and I need to be there for her."
Jack studied his 2IC carefully, sharp
eyes watching her closely as he assessed her condition. "Answer me
honestly, Sam, can you do this? Can I trust you to act with your head
and not let your emotions get the better of you?"
Sam buried her nails in her palms, using
the pain as a pathway out of the confused jumble of thoughts and
feelings. She had to get her head clear. She nodded slowly. "Yes,
sir," she whispered, her voice sounding hoarse to her own ears.
"I'll do whatever I have to."
A muscle pulsed in his jaw. It went
against his better judgement, but he also knew how he'd feel in her
shoes. Looking at the desperation in her eyes, he couldn't order her to
stay behind. "All right," he sighed at last. "Keep it
together until it's time and you'll go...but," he sharpened his
tone, "I see another episode like in the gateroom with Boone and
I'll take you off this mission so fast it'll make your head spin.
She nodded jerkily.
"All right," he murmured and
pushed to his feet. "You ready to go back and join that
Sam managed another unsteady nod as she
accepted the hand he offered and let him pull her to her feet.
* * * * * *
Fraiser regained consciousness to the
awareness that her cheek was resting on something warm and firm. She
frowned slightly, shifting as she opened her eyes with considerable
effort. A figure with blond hair and pale skin swam into her blurry view
and she realized her head was pillowed on someone's lap.
"Sam?" the doctor croaked as she struggled to bring things
"Shhh, do not try to move," a
soft, heavily accented voice urged while a hand landed lightly on her
The smell of wet hay assaulted her
nostrils and she became aware that the world was rolling beneath her. A
wagon, she realized, as she stared around herself in confusion. She was
in some kind of wagon. She looked up, focusing on the young woman
leaning over her; blond, young--maybe twenty-five--her expression
worried. Definitely not Sam. And then the doctor's body reminded her of
the beating she'd taken, while her stomach rolled violently. She lurched
for the edge of the wagon, leaning between the wide-spaced railing that
bordered the main platform as she retched fiercely, her entire body
wracked by the harsh spasms. She wasn't even aware of the supportive
hand that landed on her shoulder.
"It will pass," the young woman
Finally, the worst of the spasms passed,
and Fraiser collapsed, lying limp in the hay that lined the bottom of
the wagon, what little energy she had possessed completely spent.
Nausea, weakness, blurry vision, dizziness, light sensitivity. She
groaned softly. "Congratulations," she mumbled, "you're
now the proud mother of a bouncing baby concussion."
"Con-cussion?" a voice
questioned, drawing Janet's attention back to the young woman leaning
over her. She reached out, petting dark hair soothingly, while she
studied Janet worriedly.
The doctor reached up to massage her
temple shakily. "M-my head...it's...hurt...." She closed her
eyes tightly against the bright sunlight as her skull insisted on
throbbing in time with the slow creaking of the wagon. Gentle fingers
probed the lump at the back of her skull and Janet winced.
"Yes...you were hit...hard...."
The words were spoken haltingly as though the young woman had fair
command of the language, but had to think to translate, making for odd
pauses and uneven sentences that sometimes took some thought to decode.
"Yeah," Janet groaned and moved
to massage her temple, only to freeze as she realized her forearms were
heavily weighted. She slitted her eyes open as she lifted her wrists
into view to find them encased in thick iron manacles. "I really
was out of it," she mumbled as she realized that she hadn't even
noticed them while caught in the grips of agonizing nausea. "That's
not good." She fumbled with her left wrist, hoping to find her
wristwatch under the manacle, but it was gone, either lost or stolen by
her captors, so she had no real way of knowing how long she'd been
unconscious or how far from the gate they might have traveled. She
dropped her eyes to her own chest, noting that her equipment belt and
vest were also missing.
took...your...things..." her fellow prisoner told her in uncertain
Janet nodded, unsurprised by the news.
She was still lying there like that, concentrating on not giving way to
the nausea again when she heard the dull thuds--the rhythm that of a
horse's hoofbeats, but the sound thicker and softer--and blinked her
eyes open to find the centurion who had captured her riding down on the
wagon on the same kind of soft pawed, horselike creatures the imperator
had been riding. Her vest, equipment belt, and the backpack of medical
supplies that had been discarded in the cave during the evacuation were
all strapped to the back of his saddle. As he pulled alongside, he
grabbed something off his saddlehorn and tossed it to the young woman
leaned over Janet. "Make certain she drinks," he ordered as
she caught the canteen. Without further comment, he spurred his mount
and continued on.
The blond uncapped the cork, then held
out the canteen to Janet. "He is...right...you
Janet groaned softly, her stomach
rebelling at the idea, though she knew she was in serious danger of
dehydration if she wasn't careful. She held up a hand, pushing the
canteen back. "In a little while."
The blond accepted the refusal with a
frown, but capped the canteen. "I am Leilla," she prompted
quietly. "Of the western Icenei."
Force," Fraiser mumbled by way of introduction.
"Your people," the young woman
whispered, then glanced furtively around herself as though afraid of
being overheard, "we could hear the fight...they must be
very...fierce...no one has ever...held...a Romani...legion back
Janet was barely listening and merely
nodded distantly. Muscles screaming with the effort required, she slowly
pushed into a sitting position, then nearly flopped back down as her
stomach did several deep barrel rolls in fast succession. Breathing
deeply and slowly to control the nausea, she leaned her head forward
until the worst of it passed, then slowly looked up. The wagon she was
sitting in was perhaps fourteen feet long by six feet wide, the sides
bordered by rough wooden rails several feet high. Her ankles, like her
wrists, were manacled, ending any hope of making a quick break for it.
Not that she could have outrun a toddler at that point. Janet's eyes
touched on the worried looking young woman watching her. She was pretty
in a raw-boned way; tall and long limbed, her features bordering on
heavy, though her long blond hair softened her face considerably. The
doctor's eyes slid on and she flinched as though struck as she realized
they weren't the only ones in the wagon. Four girls, none of them
looking old enough to pass for college freshman, the youngest no more
than a year or two older than Cassie were huddled together at the foot
of the wagon, the look in their eyes terrified. "God...they're
"Yet they call
Janet looked past the girls, doing her
best to gather as much data as possible and take stock of the situation.
Some kind of tongue, similar to what might be used by a horse team
pulling a heavy wagon hung off the back, and young men, most of them
wearing little more than loincloths and all of them hard muscled were
chained to the cross-bars. Remembering mention of a prisoner before she
passed out, she hunted through the faces of the half-dozen or so men,
looking for anyone familiar. She couldn't' decide whether to be worried
or relieved that she didn't recognize anyone. It might mean that she'd
misunderstood and they hadn't taken any other SGC personnel prisoner, or
it might mean that they had and that person hadn't survived.
"Where are they taking us?"
Janet croaked, her words trailing off into a cough as dust stung her
eyes and throat. She twisted, peering past the front of the wagon, which
was pulled by another of the soft padded beasts that were obviously the
local work animal. Perfect lines of armor clad men marched in lockstep,
while far in the distance, she could see the bright gold helmet and
crimson plume of the imperator. Well, that explained the dust.
Considering the size of the phalanx she was looking at, it was a minor
miracle that more people hadn't been hurt in the battle. At best guess,
she was looking at close to a hundred men.
"To Helios," her young
caretaker whispered and Janet could hear the fear in her voice.
"The men to the games...us...to the Emperor's palace."
A band tightened around the doctor's
chest. That didn't sound good. She looked back again, hunting for any
sign of outriders or pickets that might be guarding the rear. If they
were there, they were far enough back to be out of sight. At least the
thick forest that surrounded the road would make for good cover for a
rescue team. She closed her eyes tightly, wondering if Sam was out there
looking for her. She knew her lover well enough to be certain she would
do everything in her power to be with any team coming for her. Sam would
never abandon her. "Please," she mouthed silently, "stay
safe." She opened her eyes again, staring back the way they'd come
as though she could make a special ops team appear through sheer
Leilla followed the line of her gaze,
correctly reading her longing. "Your people," she whispered,
once again looking around herself furtively as she spoke, "they
will come for you?"
Janet nodded. "They will," she
said softly. She swallowed hard, her fear showing in her eyes. "If
they can find me."
Leilla ducked her head, her voice sad as
she whispered, "My husband...he will not know..." she shook
her head sadly. "My..." she trailed off, apparently uncertain
what word to use, "protector," she decided at last, "and
I were...taken...on the road...Ergan will never
"I'm sorry," Janet exhaled and
reached out, giving the younger woman's shoulder a sympathetic squeeze.
"If there's any way we can help you...any of you...we will."
"This You-ess-air-force...where is
it? I have never heard of it."
Janet frowned, realizing that Leilla
would have no way of understanding. "It's a long way away,"
she said softly. "Through the Stargate." She closed her eyes
again, escaping the painful brightness of the sunlight as she massaged
her throbbing temple.
"Star-gate?" Leilla questioned,
frowning in confusion and shook her head, making it obvious she had no
idea what the term meant.
"Where I was
captured...taken..." Janet clarified.
"I'm sorry...I could not...see...we
were back from the...fighting.... We could only hear the sounds...and
the comments of the soldiers."
"It's a...uh...giant ring,"
Janet explained, holding her hands up to indicate the shape. "When
it looks like water inside, you can travel through it." She was
caught by surprise when Leilla's eyes went wide and she lunged backward,
"Deamhan," she hissed, bracing
herself as though she expected Janet to attack.
Fraiser glanced nervously around, not
wanting to draw any attention, though she noted the girls pressed
together in the back of the wagon suddenly looked terrified, while at
least one of the captured men had tensed and was glaring at her. "Shh,
I'm not going to hurt you--"
"You are arach...or you serve
them," Leilla accused, her expression a mix of fear and anger.
"Arach? I don't...I don't know what
"The dragons...the evil...you serve
them like the Romani...let them inside of you...."
Janet frowned, then suddenly understood.
"You mean the Goa'uld?"
The young woman nodded, lips pulling back
from her gritted teeth. "Your masters," she hissed. "They
... call ... themselves... that. They say they are gods."
Janet shook her head quickly, then
regretted the gesture as the world spun violently around her.
"No," she insisted on a gasp. "Not my masters...certainly
not my god." She closed her eyes tightly as her stomach rolled
again. "We fight them...my people--"
"You can't fight demons."
"They're not demons and
they're certainly not gods." She screwed her eyes tightly
shut and had to lean heavily against the rail at her back to keep from
toppling sideways, nails digging into her palms as the nausea resurged.
"They're just overly ambitious parasites; leeches with an
attitude." Breathing deeply in an effort to keep her stomach from
coming up, she opened her eyes, squinting against the bright sunlight.
"I swear, I don't serve them...my people don't serve them. They've
tried to conquer my...world..." At Leilla's blank look, she amended
the comment. "My people... they've killed friends...they've
conquered and destroyed...they completely wiped out my
daughter's...people...." She held the younger woman's frightened,
uncertain gaze, knowing that in her present condition, she had a far
better chance of surviving with an ally. "We use their Stargates
because it's the only way we can fight them." She laughed a
little bitterly when Leilla still seemed uncertain. "If I were
their servant or one of them, would I be a beaten bloody and lying in
the back of this wagon?"
The younger woman watched her, visibly
debating the evidence. "No," she whispered at last and shook
her head slowly. "You would not." The Romani would never abuse
a Deamhan that way. The repercussions would be death and disaster for
them all. She considered Janet's explanations with the seriousness of
historians debating the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin. "But
if they are not...gods...." She crept closer to Janet again,
searching her face as if she might find answers there. "And not
Deamhan...." She looked around herself furtively, leaning in close
until she was only scant inches from Janet. "And you can fight
them...we ... could fight them...."
It was a little like watching it occur to
Orville or Wilbur Wright that maybe birds weren't the only ones who
could fly, so awed was the look in the woman's eyes. Janet was sure she
would have enjoyed it if the world would just stop rocking from side to
side for a moment. A desperate hand grabbed her sleeve.
"Have you ever...b-beaten
Janet nodded. "A few times,"
she whispered. "And we've found allies...increased our chances of
ultimately winning..." she trailed off, nowhere near coherent
enough to try and explain the scope of the war to a young woman who'd
only just discovered that maybe the Goa'uld weren't gods or demons.
"It's a lot bigger than just this world."
"Not easily...or quickly...but, yes,
they can be beaten." She shaded her eyes with one hand, amazed she
was still conscious as her body threatened to simply fold. She stared at
her fingers, noting the nasty gashes she'd gotten from the Imperator's
armor, the dried blood still clinging to her skin in streaks. Her eyes
slid on, taking in other injuries and more dried blood. She reached up,
running light fingers along the gash at the hairline, then down her
forehead, brushing away flaking blood. It would be a wonder if she
wasn't down with infection within hours. She considered using some of
the water in the canteen to wash the wounds, but discarded the idea. As
heavily as they'd bled, they were probably cleaner without adding water
swimming with god only knew what contaminants and bacteria. She was
startled when a light hand landed on her shoulder.
"You are...tired...I'm sorry...I
should not have...asked...so many...questions."
"S'okay," Janet exhaled,
suddenly exhausted, the brief adrenaline rush that had kept her going
draining away. "I shouldn't sleep anyway." She rubbed the back
of her neck to relieve some of the stress gathered there. "That's
not particularly good when you've got a concussion."
Leilla glanced at the girls still
cowering in the back of the wagon, then back at Janet. "They do not
speak Romani...only Icenei...some of the words I spoke...were Icenei. I
must ... explain ... to them that you will not... harm... them."
Janet nodded her understanding, then
wished she hadn't. "Go on." Leilla moved away, leaving Janet
alone. She leaned her head on her hands, holding on to an image of Sam
coming for her to get through. Just thinking of her lover made her feel
a little less alone and she pressed a hand against her chest, feeling
the comforting warmth of Sam's ring against her skin. Thank god her
captors hadn't taken that when they took her vest and belt. It gave her
something to hold onto emotionally.
"Awake now, eh, slave?" the
sneering voice brought her head up and she realized that Imperator,
Severidus, was riding next to the wagon, his mouth twisted in an ugly
smirk that seemed out of place on a face that beautiful.
"Tonight," he said just loud enough for her to hear, smiling
at the fear that entered her eyes in response to his words.
"Retribution." Then, laughing, he spurred his mount and road
off, leaving her to stew in her own fears.
Janet swallowed hard and closed her eyes
tightly for a long moment as she mentally regrouped. Okay, so she knew
exactly what that threat meant--and it wasn't a vicious game of
monopoly--but she couldn't afford to fall apart. Any chance she had of
avoiding his little plan for revenge lay in staying calm and in control.
Scared? Hell yes, but she didn't believe in fates worse than death and
if it came down to it she could survive. She would survive. Sam
would kick her butt if she didn't. Comforted by thoughts of her lover,
she settled in as comfortably as possible, closing her eyes to let her
battered body rest. And if her fears threatened to torment her, she was
just too tired to focus on them. Despite her intentions to remain awake,
she soon lay huddled in the hay, so deeply asleep, she was nearly
* * * * * *
"Nothing," Sam muttered to
herself, her voice little more than a tortured rasp as she tried not to
think about the burned grass and scorched earth that surrounded the
Stargate platform. She couldn't afford to consider what that might mean,
not and maintain a hold on herself. Boone had held out the hope that
Janet might have made it to cover and she was clinging to that with
every fiber of her being.
"It's over here," Jack said
softly, his voice echoing oddly in the confines of the cave.
She turned, noting he was shining his
flashlight along another edge of the slab, and flashed her beam across
his face, noting the greenish tinge that had come over his complexion.
"Sir?" she started his way, but he waved her to stay put.
"Somebody's picked up the pack and
equipment Boone said was left behind...." He crouched down, picking
up a discarded paper gauze wrapper. "All that's left is some of the
packing materials...and...." He gestured toward the edge of the
slab and paled another notch. "Um...."
Sam got the message without his having to
"Jack...Sam," Daniel called as
he stepped into the chamber, "Teal'c thinks he's found
With nothing more for them to do there,
the two officers followed Daniel back into the waning daylight.
It had been nearly six hours since the
original team's panicked evacuation. Six hours that could have brought
any number of terrors to the woman lost on the wrong side of the gate.
Nails digging into her palms, Sam cut that train of thought off right
there as she hurried after Daniel.
They quickly found the Jaffa where he was
crouching at the center of a patch of blackened earth. He looked up as
they drew close and held out a hand to reveal the coiled wire of an
earpiece. "I found this," Teal'c said by way of explanation.
"And boot prints that are most likely Doctor Fraiser's."
Sam leaned past him, staring at the
disturbed soil. The prints were deep, turning up black ground and grass
to reveal the undamaged soil underneath and showed the distinctive
waffle pattern of a combat boot. They were also about half the size of
the prints left by Teal'c's boots and even a little smaller than Sam's
prints. Sam glanced at the other prints in the area, all considerably
larger and made by smooth soled shoes.
The major felt her heart start to beat
again as she recognized the import of what they were looking at. The
prints had to be Janet's and they'd definitely been made after the fire.
Which meant she'd at least survived the explosions Boone described.
Teal'c rose, pointing toward a cave
entrance a short distance away. "I found more boot prints just
inside that cave. I believe it is where Doctor Fraiser took shelter from
the fire and explosions." He gestured to the other prints Sam had
noticed. "I believe she came out of the cave and, after some kind
of conflict, she was taken."
Sam's breath caught, her momentary joy at
realizing that her lover might still be alive dampened by the harsh
realities of the situation. If Janet had been captured, God only knew
what was happening to her.
Teal'c indicated a set of large, smooth
soled prints. "They scuffled...the earth is deeply disturbed by
some kind of animal tracks....and then here...I believe he was carrying
her. Her prints disappear and his deepen, indicating an increase in
weight." He pointed back toward the road that lead past the gate.
"The army Colonel Boone described would need to move by road
through forest this thick...." He looked back, his expression
serious, a subtle hint of worry gleaming deeply in his dark eyes. It
wasn't the worst case scenario--that had involved finding the doctor's
body--but it was far from the best.
"Okay," O'Neill muttered.
"You go figure out which way they went. I'll check in with SG-2;
let 'em know we're headed out." SG-2 had joined them on the mission
and was standing guard over the gate. They would remain behind and
continue that mission to make certain the path home was clear.
With some idea of their course of action,
Sam was anxious to be moving, certain that every second they delayed
decreased their chances of finding Janet. As they hiked the short
distance to the road, Daniel was almost jogging to keep up and even
Teal'c had to noticeably lengthen his strides.
"We will retrieve Doctor
Fraiser," Teal'c said softly, his voice determined. She was his
teammate's mate, and more than that, he owed her a debt of honor for
saving his life when O'Neill and the others were taken by Hathor. He
took neither responsibility lightly. The fact that he genuinely liked
and respected the woman only deepened his commitment to her rescue.
"We'll do everything possible,
Sam," Daniel added quietly, and reached out to give her shoulder a
She nodded without speaking and hurried
By the time O'Neill joined them, they had
concluded that the army phalanx they were pursuing had headed West. It
was impossible to tell how many men might have marched past, though it
was apparent that they'd been in tight formation, the lines four men
wide. There were also signs of several draft animals and fresh ruts in
the road indicating at least one wagon had taken up the rear. Combined
with what they knew from Boone, it seemed apparent they were pursuing a
sizable contingent of armed men.
"All right, gang," O'Neill said
when it was time. "SG-2 has our backs...and they'll check in with
General Hammond at the arranged time...let him know what's up." He
nodded in the direction they needed to go. "Let's get her
Sam was already moving, boots scuffing up
dust with every long stride, her every thought with the woman somewhere
on the road ahead of them. She barely even noticed as the men caught up
with her and fell into line with her long paces. She had other things on
* * * * * *
Janet came awake to the sense of lurching
movement and nausea. "More fun than a body can shake a stick
at," she mumbled weakly, thinking that maybe next time she wanted
to be heroic, she'd just leap off the nearest building instead. As far
as she could tell, it would probably hurt less. Something sharp edged
was pressing uncomfortably into her calf, and she concentrated on that
small pain to focus past the larger ones threatening to overwhelm her.
Finally, convinced that just lying there wasn't going to help get out of
the mess she'd found herself in, she struggled to open her eyes,
relieved to find the light had dimmed. Then it occurred to her that she
probably shouldn't be so pleased to find it getting darker. That meant
that hours had passed since she'd originally been captured; hours that
had taken her farther and farther from the Stargate. She glanced toward
the back of the wagon, noting that Leilla lay asleep with the girls from
her tribe, her side pressed up against the rear rails.
Determined to just suck it up and move,
she pushed up on one hand with a low groan, breathing deeply to control
the pain that simple movement sent rattling through her battered frame.
Needing to distract herself, she ran a hand down her calf, easily
finding the lump that had been pressing into her leg while she slept.
After fumbling to find the zipper pull, she tugged it down, easily
opening the cargo pocket that ran about halfway down her calf, starting
a couple of inches below the knee. A smile touched the doctor's mouth as
she retrieved the cause of her discomfort. It was a survival kit.
Designed to give a downed pilot the basics of survival in a package
weighing only a few ounces, it contained a mylar survival blanket, small
knife, matches, a compass, a signal mirror, a tiny mechanical pencil, a
couple of small folded sheets of graph paper...and a wire saw with
ridged teeth tough enough to cut through hard wood...or soft metal. Like
the iron manacles wrapped around her wrists and ankles. Her captors had
obviously missed the tiny package when they'd stolen the rest of her
It was wrapped in a small, airtight,
zippered bag which she quickly opened, slipping out the saw, one of the
sheets of graph paper, the pencil, and the small knife before resealing
the package and tucking it back into the pocket on her calf. Palming the
items, she lifted her head, silently calculating her chances for
actually escaping. She could see outriders now, ranging back and forth
alongside the phalanx of soldiers. Even under the best of circumstances
that would make escape difficult.
The wagon hit a deep rut, jarring her
badly and leaving her clinging to the rails around the edge of the wagon
for balance while her stomach pitched and rolled and the world tilted
violently on its axis.
Oh, this was not good; not even remotely
the best of circumstances. Janet's hand fisted around the saw and the
small knife, not feeling the pain as ridged metal wire pressed into her
flesh. With an army of men chasing her, she probably wouldn't make it
more than ten feet. Hell, as well as she was doing, she'd probably fall
and break her neck trying to get out of the wagon. She gritted her teeth
against the sudden, almost overwhelming need to give way to tears of
hopelessness and frustration. "Oh no, you don't," she
chastised herself. "Need to keep a clear head if you're going to
get yourself out of this." And she had too many reasons to get out
alive to start giving up already. It was just a matter of centering
herself and figuring a way through the problem.
She took a moment, writing down what
little she could remember about the route they must have taken and her
best guesses about how much time had passed. She wasn't sure how much
help the notes might be if she found herself trying to get back to the
Stargate, but it was a start and it helped her focus her thoughts and
clear her head. She could do this; just take it a step at a time.
Okay, so she wasn't at her strongest, but
night was coming. If she could just get free and slip away under the
cover of darkness, they might not even notice she was gone for hours. As
little respect as they had for women, they might not even bother to send
anyone in pursuit.
Which was probably her best hope for
escaping. Her only real hope if she was honest about it.
No, no thinking like that.
Janet ducked her head, studying how the leg irons were locked to her
ankles. A thin staple held the hinge side closed. Clearly, it was the
narrowest stretch of metal. Saw through that and the chains were
history. After tucking the tiny knife in her from pants pocket, she
looped the wire saw around the bent edge of the staple where it fastened
the hinge pin and began slowly dragging it back and forth, grating it
against the metal and slowly grinding dust sized particles up around the
* * * * * *
Sam could barely resist the urge to pace
as she watched Teal'c carefully survey the multiples paths the road
ahead of them took, but a single look from O'Neill where he stood
talking to the Jaffa quelled her urge to let off tension that way. He
was worried about how well she was holding it together, and the last
thing she wanted to do was give him any cause to try and send her back.
Besides, she needed to conserve her energy. Exhausting herself
pointlessly wouldn't help anyone.
"She'll be okay," Daniel said
softly as he settled a hand on Carter's shoulder, hoping to ease some of
the awful terror he knew she was feeling.
A muscle pulsed in her jaw. "You
don't know that," she exhaled, her voice tight with stress. Her
mind was alive with possible scenarios, each one worse than the last,
until all she could try and do was concentrate past them.
"But I do know that she's smart ...
that she's got everything to come home to ... everything to fight
for." He swallowed hard against his own emotions, surprised by how
the situation had brought up his own nightmare with Sha're. "And I
know that we are going to do everything possible to get her
back." He needed to believe that almost as much as Sam did.
"And she knows that too. Wherever she is," he
reiterated that point, "she knows you're looking for
"Thanks." Sam managed a watery
smile and reached back, blindly catching hold of Daniel's hand in a
Finally, Jack jogged back several feet,
hooking his thumb over his shoulder. "Teal'c says they went that
way," he called out to the other two. He looked worried. "He
thinks men and wagons have been turning from the other roads onto this
one ... and it looks to me like he's right." Jack didn't have as
much experience tracking people as Teal'c, but he'd had enough special
forces training to do a pretty fair job.
"Which means we may be up against
one hell of an army," Daniel correctly interpreted.
Jack nodded. "Yeah." His eyes
touched on Sam who was standing stiffly. She absorbed the news without
"Let's get moving," Carter
growled after a beat. "They're getting farther ahead of us with
every passing minute." She resettled her pack, and started moving,
forcing the pace, knowing her teammates would fall in line and keep up.
If nothing else, she'd become convinced that they were every bit as
determined as she was to bring her lover back.
* * * * * * *
Janet growled a soft curse under her
breath as the saw slipped again, the wire blade slicing another gash in
her already bloody hands. The only light came from the double moons high
overhead, but the task was simple enough to do by feel even though her
hands were getting stiff with cold and injury. With nightfall, the
temperature was dropping rapidly, and while her uniform warded off the
worst of the chill, her hands were completely unprotected.
The good news was she'd gotten the ankle
manacles off and was well on the way to freeing the left handcuff.
Despite the physical pain, she was feeling almost lighthearted. She'd
made a few more notes that might help her get back and she was almost
through the hinge pin on the left cuff. Even the worst of the dizziness
and nausea seemed to be letting up.
She was so focused on what she was doing
that she didn't realize she had company until a light hand landed on her
shoulder. "You are...awake...again," the soft voice with its
lilting accent and halting cadence reached her ears.
Janet turned her head to peer up at the
young woman who crouched down beside her, her expression worried. "Leilla."
She swallowed, moistening her lips when her voice came out dry and raspy
as it occurred to her that she was thirsty as hell. She'd earlier
considered drinking from the water-skin the centurion had tossed them,
but was afraid it was swimming with enough bacteria to make her
situation her whole lot worse. Dysentery or its local equivalent would
leave her dehydrated a whole lot faster than simply not drinking.
"The last time I looked you were asleep."
The younger woman nodded toward the rear
of the wagon. "I fell ... asleep after ... after talking to my ...
my protector ... Calloran...."
Janet frowned, struggling to bring the
world into focus as she followed the line of Leilla's gaze, easily
spotting the tall, well-built young man following behind the wagon, his
dark eyes locked on her, his expression full of suspicious frustration.
"Your protector?" she repeated, then clarified, "your
The blond nodded. "He was taking me
to my ... my husband."
Janet didn't know what to say to that as
she was reminded that she wasn't the only one trapped in hell. Her eyes
slid past the younger woman again as she debated what to do. It wasn't
even a long debate. "Your protector ... Calloran ... could he get
you and those girls somewhere safe?"
Leilla frowned in confusion as though she
suspected Janet had slipped a few key cogs. "We are ...
prisoners," she said cautiously.
Janet offered a small, reassuring smile.
"If you could get loose though?"
"Yes ... if even he just he could
get ... free ... he would ... find a-a way ... to get ... help."
Janet yanked sharply on the tiny saw, the
gesture drawing the younger woman's attention, as she snapped the head
on the hinge pin, then began working the pin free from the manacle.
"What is that?"
Janet held up the wire. "It's a saw.
It can cut through the metal." She held up the cuff, showing the
young woman the weak point. "Drag it back and forth right here and
you can free yourself."
Blue eyes lifted and the young woman's
face was oddly luminous in the thin moonlight. "How...it's so ...
"But it's strong," Janet told
her, then handed the saw over to the young woman. "We've all got a
better chance of escaping if we work together." She forced down any
eagerness. "If we could get back to the Stargate ... the circle
with water ... my people would help us. You've seen their weapons; you
know they can fight the Romani." That was assuming they didn't
think she was already dead. She forced that thought down as Leilla
"They would ... help ... us?"
The young woman's hand tightened on the saw as she stared at Janet in
Fraiser nodded. "If humanly
possible." She glanced back the way they'd come over her shoulders.
"It's only a few hours back ... maybe faster if someone knows these
"Calloran does," the younger
woman breathed and then suddenly she looked up, losing all color, her
pale blue eyes going wide. She exhaled something incomprehensible under
her breath, pushing to her feet as she stared at something in shock.
"What?" Janet whispered, using
her grip on the rail to haul herself to her feet as she twisted in the
direction the younger woman was staring.
And then she nearly went down again she
found herself faced with a black valley that glittered with campfires
scattered across the length and breadth of the land. The sounds of men
and animals reached her ears and she could see flickers of fire glinting
off armor. "Dear God," Janet exhaled heavily. There had to be
hundreds of small campfires ... maybe even thousands. And God only knew
how many men to go with them. She felt her heart sink and had to bite
back on a sob. Sam would never find her in the middle of all that.
She was still standing there like that,
staring out at the sight with raw horror when she heard the clumping
rhythm of one of local version of a horse drawing near. She spun to find
Imperator Severidus riding down on the wagon, his gold armor glittering
in the moonlight and torchlight, his face cast in perversely regal
shadows. Four foot soldiers, their uniforms decorated in gold trim and
apparently under his command, trotted behind his mount and he waved them
forward as he reined in the animal. Eyes gleaming with bitter lights, he
pointed at Fraiser. "Bring her...."
* * * * * *