Alone On a Wide Wide Sea
Alone On a Wide Wide Sea
The sail swayed gently in the breeze, the tattered canvas
merely brushing across the mast and lines, refusing to catch even
the tinniest scrap of wind. He stood, his right hand resting on
the narrow mast, his left holding his stomach in an unconscious
attempt to keep its nonexistent contents.
“How are you doing?”
He opened his mouth to answer and shut it again just
as quickly, contenting himself with a mere shake of the head to
convey his distress.
“You should lie down.”
He scowled, refusing to look at the other man, knowing
that to move his head again so soon, even a few inches, would be
enough to set him off.
All he could see was water and sky - both blue and both
“Sir, Daniel’s right.
You should lie down.”
They didn’t get it. To lie down he would have to move, and if he
moved everything would begin to hurt again. He wasn’t sure if he could stand that.
His head spun and he tightened his grip on the smooth
wood under his hand, feeling that lightness in his head that heralded
another . . .
Jack’s collapse took Daniel by surprise and he lurched
forwarded knowing it was already too late. The sound of his friend’s head hitting the deck
with a thud had him wincing. Damn
the man for being so stubborn. The tiny vessel rocked violently
as it reacted to the abrupt movement, making its passengers grab
for handholds. Daniel snagged the edge of Jack’s shirt, his
knuckles white as he struggled to prevent the taller man from sliding
into the water.
It was several minutes before the motion eased to a slow
rolling and Daniel felt secure enough to edge forward cautiously,
Jack lay face down, unmoving. Daniel slipped his fingers under Jack’s neck,
feeling a thin and erratic pulse beneath the overly warm skin. He knelt, keeping as still as possible, and taking
hold of one arm, turned Jack over, grimacing at the blood.
“How is he?”
Daniel shook his head, looking to where his teammate
sat in the stern, her hand on the tiller.
“He’s bleeding again, and he’s running a fever.”
‘That was inevitable. Can you rebandage it, or do you want me to?”
“No, you stay where you are. I can do it.”
They both knew the perils of too much movement on their
small craft, so Sam nodded, remaining still, and Daniel could feel
her eyes on him, watching his every move.
Unwrapping the dressing, Daniel frowned at the deep gash
crossing Jack’s abdomen, blood now oozing sluggishly from it. There were sure to be splinters still in there
despite their attempts to clean it, but now, with Jack unconscious,
Daniel bent closer, wiping some of the blood away to inspect the
wound. A glimmer of wood shone against the raw flesh
and he gently pulled it loose, dropping it to the deck. He paused as the other man groaned, waiting for
him to settle again before applying a dressing. By the time he had finished, Jack had stirred
twice more but thankfully hadn’t woken.
Daniel carefully eased himself down, stretching his legs
out as much as possible, and positioned himself under Jack’s head,
letting it rest in his lap. He
could feel the heat coming from the older man clearly through the
material of his uniform. A slight shift in the boat’s balance was enough
to send water sloshing over the side and he looked over towards
his companion. Sam was leaning
forward, obviously trying to see the colonel. Daniel
didn’t bother to speak, allowing a shake of his head to convey his
worry, and she sat back again.
Daniel licked his dry lips, wishing it was time to sip
the meagre ration of water they had allocated themselves.
Time seemed to pass so slowly, just drifting along like
this, but when he looked back down at the flushed face of his friend,
he knew it was time they couldn’t afford.
The silver wings of the UAV cleared the event horizon
and shot up into the sky. It
began its assigned search pattern, sweeping across the water and
turning to circle round before heading off again. Its
onboard computer sent a steady stream of information back through
the open wormhole until contact was lost exactly thirty-eight minutes
after it began its flight. For a short while it glided slowly, caught by
the strong wind currents, then it fell in ever deceasing circles,
finally hitting the water with a smack.
It floated, waiting to be found, just as the people it
had been searching for waited.
Sam regretted the action as soon as she rubbed her left
hand along the leg of her trousers. The sweat she had wiped off was preferable to
the sharp sting of abused skin that was the result. The rope burns were beginning to turn to blisters,
and the constant contact with the wooden tiller was aggravating
them even further.
For a second she envied Daniel his seat in the middle
of their small craft, but a glance at the haggard face of her teammate
soon reminded her that his was the hardest task – keeping the colonel
from slipping further away.
It had seemed such an innocuous mission, checking out
the abandoned settlement the MALP recorded just a short way from
the gate. Colonel O’Neill had even commented on the nearby
harbor as a likely source of fish, the short wharf jutting out into
the water lending itself perfectly, in his opinion, to the sport
of fishing. A small wooden boat was still tied to the wharf,
as if waiting for someone to embark.
She smiled grimly, scanning the water. The colonel had been right, there were fish in
the sea, their shadowy shapes slipped through the depths beneath
the boat, sometimes skimming the surface.
At least there was something moving.
Sam turned her head to look at the sail, squinting her
eyes against the sun. The
slight breeze had died completely and the tattered canvas now hung
limp. She sighed. Even if the sail hadn’t been ruined she and Daniel
wouldn’t know what to do to turn the craft back towards land. The only person on the boat who knew anything
about sailing was unconscious and unable to help.
The silence was becoming oppressive and she felt the
sudden need to hear another voice, just to reassure herself she
wasn’t alone out here.
“Daniel? How’s he doing?”
She regretted asking the moment she spoke, because the
answer was plain and not what she wanted to hear.
“Not good.” Daniel
pulled out his canteen, giving her a quick look as if daring her
to say anything, and carefully tilted it against the colonel’s mouth.
She watched as the few precious drops ran off
and down the stubble covered chin. She
found herself caught by the sight, her eyes tracking the liquid’s
path as it fell.
She was drifting, just as the craft drifted – lost.
He was shouting, what he didn’t know, just that it was
Running, pulling someone along with him.
Running for their lives.
He pulled Carter up, dragging her through the churning
water, using all his strength to forge a path to . . .
He couldn’t remember.
Daniel struggled to hold the trashing man, well aware
of the danger he was putting them all in.
“Jack!” It was
hard to see. In the absolute
darkness of the starless night he could only go by touch, grabbing
at flailing arms. “Damn it, Jack, you’ll capsize us.”
And maybe his words sunk into part of the fever racked
mind, because his friend slumped back down, panting, his long fingers
clutching at Daniel arm.
“It’s alright.” Daniel held the canteen up. “Here. Not
He was relieved when Jack swallowed, knowing it was the
first water he’d had in hours.
“We’re still on the boat?”
He nodded, but realising the other man couldn’t see him,
spoke. “Yes. And still drifting. At least there’s no sign of another storm.”
“Here, sir.” Sam’s
voice floated up out of the night. Daniel knew she’d been asleep,
but there hadn’t been any point in waking her, so had left his teammate
to take what rest she could.
Jack began to raise himself, pushing against Daniel.
“I should check the sail.”
Daniel held tight, not letting him up. ‘There’s nothing to check. It was ruined in the
storm, remember, you’ve already had a look at it. You said it was useless.”
“I did?” Confusion
showed plainly in Jack’s voice and Daniel could picture the frown
on his face. “When was that?”
This time Sam answered. “The last time you were awake. You insisted on checking it.”
“You lasted about three minutes on your feet, just long
enough to stand up before you fell down again.”
There was no response. The silence stretched out until Daniel finally
roused his tired brain into action.
“Jack?” He moved
a little, easing the muscles in his legs as the weight of his friend
pressed them down. “He’s
gone again, Sam.”
And Daniel rested his hand on Jack’s shoulder and let
himself float into sleep.
“As idle as a painted ship upon a painted ocean.”
“Just do me a favour and don’t quote the next line.”
Jack snorted in amusement and regretted it within a second,
tensing up as he rode out the pain. “So you’re finally awake.”
straightened a little, looking around, then lowered his voice. “Sam’s still asleep?” He didn’t wait for Jack to answer, lowering his
head again to peer down, his eyes narrowed as if searching for details
in the early dawn light. “How
are you doing?”
There wasn’t any point denying it, so Jack didn’t try.
“Not so good. Could you give
me a hand to sit up?”
“Do you think that’s a good idea?”
“No, but if I lie here any longer my butt will bond itself
to the planks.”
Daniel nodded and shifted, and Jack bit back a moan.
His friend paused.
He ground out the answer through gritted teeth. “Yeah, just do it already.”
A couple of minutes and a lot of pain later he was sitting,
his back against the boat’s pathetic excuse for a mast. He looked around, taking in the torn sail, and
the generally unseaworthiness of the craft. His gaze lingered on the shattered remains of
the boom, the rotten wood ending in jagged splinters, and had to
stop himself from touching the burning wound in his belly. He felt Daniel’s eyes upon him and, catching
the look of sympathy, knew his thoughts were transparent.
“So much for sailing back to land. Getting on this boat wasn’t the best idea I’ve
“We wouldn’t have survived if we hadn’t, sir.” The sound of Carter’s voice had him carefully
turning to face her. She
was rubbing her eyes, her face shadowed by fatigue.
Jack rested his head on the smooth wood, shutting his
eyes, letting the sweat run freely down his face. “About that – any idea what happened?”
“I can only guess, sir. The UAV spotted volcanic activity from two mountains
in the high range several miles southwest of the gate. I think activity on one of the mountains triggered
a lahar, a sort of torrential mudflow.”
“There was more than mud in that water, Sam.”
“The mountains were snow covered, Daniel. The blocks of ice were probably loosened by the
heat from the volcano. That
could have been what triggered the lahar – several large blocks
falling into the lake we spotted in the carter of the larger volcano.
That would have raised the water level suddenly
and caused the water to burst out, creating a flash flood.”
Jack let her explanation wash over him as his energy
flagged. A light touch on
his arm brought his eyes open once more to find Daniel watching
him. He gave the other man a slight smile and a nod
and was rewarded by an easing of the tension in Daniel’s face.
“It was a good thing this boat was there, Jack. You did the right thing.”
He scrubbed a hand over his chin, knowing Daniel was
correct but not willing to admit it given the result. Maybe they should have tried to make it back
to the gate. He had looked
back at one point, seeing Teal’c on the opposite side of the swollen
creek, already at the foot of the hill on which the gate was positioned.
Carter answered. “He’s safe, sir. The hill was above the flood level, I saw him
standing next to the gate.” She
paused, exchanging a quick glance with Daniel. “Don’t
you remember? We discussed
his reporting to General Hammond . . . before the storm blew up.”
They had been swept far out to sea along with a torrent
of debris - he remembered that. He
remembered fighting to turn the craft back to land and he remembered
the gale force winds that hit without warning. After
that it all got a little hazy.
He didn’t nod, just grunted, hoping they would take it
for agreement and let him rest.
“What’s taking them so long?”
They had changed places, moving very, very slowly and
cautiously, and now Daniel sat at the useless tiller, his head twisting
as he scanned the horizon.
Sam felt the colonel’s chest rise and fall under her
“They will have sent a UAV. It’ll be flying a search pattern but there’s
a lot of ocean to find us in.”
“What if it doesn’t?”
She couldn’t afford to be pessimistic, so she gave her
companion the answer she would want if she had asked the question.
They lapsed into silence, the soft sound of the water
hitting the sides almost comforting in its regularity. Sam closed her eyes, shutting out the brooding
clouds off in the distance, shutting out the tatters of cloth flapping
against the shredded ropes hanging uselessly down, shutting out
the colonel’s pale face, and shutting out Daniel’s despair.
They had been so relieved to escape the sudden deluge
with their lives, knowing Teal’c was safe, and expecting to sail
back to land and wait for rescue. The
storm had seemed to come from nowhere, on them before they could
furl the sail.
She flexed her hands, feeling the pull of damaged skin
where the ropes she had fought with under the colonel’s shouted
orders had burnt paths across her palms. She
knew Daniel had matching injuries, but neither had mentioned them.
To do so was pointless. They were minor in comparison to the colonel’s.
The crack of snapping wood had been loud even over the
howling winds and she had turned just as the colonel careered into
Daniel, his mouth open in stunned surprise. Then
everything had collapsed in confusion around her as the sail tore
loose and the ropes pulled from her hands.
She could do nothing but hold on tight and pray.
Twice they had survived near catastrophe by the skin
of their teeth. She opened
her eyes again and found them pulled relentlessly to the horizon
where the black clouds gathered.
The third time was the charm.
pointed upwards, shouting in his excitement, hurried words tumbling
from his lips. “Look, Sam,
there!” He waved his arms high above his head.
He felt the boat rock as Sam sat up.
“I knew it. I knew they’d find us.” She raised one arm, signalling frantically whilst
keeping the other firmly hooked into Jack’s shirt.
The swell was rocking the craft more and more as the
wind rose, and water slopped over the sides to pool at their feet.
Daniel gave the small silver aircraft a regretful
look as it dwindled from sight and returned to his task of baling.
It was ineffectual, and he knew it. The amount of water he could shift using his
hat was negligible, but he had to try. Even if it just gained them a few minutes, it
could mean the difference between rescue arriving in time or not.
He tossed water over the side with renewed vigour, certain
they had been seen. He settled
into a rhythm – bend, fill, turn, toss, bend, fill, turn, toss as
the time passed slowly.
A low moan pulled him out of his thoughts, and he straightened,
groaning at the tug on abused muscles. Jack seemed to be waking again. He watched as Sam wiped a strand of sweat streaked
hair from his friend’s forehead.
Jack had lasted less than an hour sitting up before slipping
sideways back down to the deck, and now he lay once again with his
head on Sam’s legs. There
wasn’t much else they could do for him now except try and make him
as comfortable as possible until help came.
Even rebandaging the wound where the broken boom had pierced
his abdomen was no longer an option – they had run out of fresh
dressings hours ago. He hadn’t
shown any sign of waking before now either, only muttering in his
sleep a few times before settling again.
Jack screamed the word, and before either Daniel or Sam
could react, he was halfway to his feet.
Sam grabbed out, but she could do nothing to prevent the
much taller and heavier man from stumbling upright.
She followed him up as Daniel join them, his feet spread
widely apart to compensate for the violent rocking.
Sam reached out, only to have her hand thrown off with a
quick shrug. Jack spun and
Daniel saw the normally deep brown eyes were dull and glazed.
He took a step forward on legs trembling after so much sitting,
and then the deck fell out from under him.
The cold was stunning.
It tore him bodily from his stupor and straight into a reality
he couldn’t recognise.
He opened his mouth, ready to scream out the all engulfing
pain that flared across him, only to have it fill with salty water.
He took a breath and drowned.
Sam trod water, twisting herself around as waves splashed
over her face. She blinked
her eyes, trying to clear them, searching frantically.
There – was that something? The glimpse of the shape in the water was enough
to send her diving, her hands reaching as her kicking feet pushed
her down strongly. Fleetingly,
one finger brushed against something and she redoubled her efforts,
grabbing what felt like cloth, and halting its downward plunge.
Redoubling her efforts, she headed back up, surfacing just
as she thought her lungs would burst.
“Sam. Thank god!” Daniel’s
hands held her as she gulped in deep mouthfuls of oxygen. The dead weight of the body in her arms began
to shift and she loosened her grip slightly as she realised her
teammate was helping. The
colonel hung limply between them, his shoulders just barely out
of the water.
The next thing she knew, Daniel was pushing the other
man’s weight back at her and she took it instinctively, keeping
him up. Stretching the colonel’s neck back, Daniel lowered
his mouth to O’Neill’s and blew, and the cobwebs cleared from Sam’s
brain with a rush.
Colonel O’Neill wasn’t breathing.
All she could do was hold on while Daniel worked, his
face getting flushed with the exertion of keeping himself upright
in the water and breathing for their CO.
She had gotten to the colonel as quickly as she could.
He couldn’t have been under more than a minute.
Daniel pulled back and for a second Sam thought he had
given up. Then she heard
it – a weak cough heralding a deeper one.
O’Neill’s body shuddered as a thin line of water ran down
A wave broke over her and she tightened her grip, feeling
the strained movements of the colonel’s chest against hers. A moment later his weight was taken again.
“Over there. The
boat.” Daniel was already
moving through the water, pulling Colonel O’Neill’s limp form behind
him. She released her grip and lowered her head,
kicking out strongly for the upturned hull just visible above the
swell, reaching it a minute or two before Daniel.
She held on with one hand, helping her friend with the
other, pulling the injured man up. Daniel
did the best he could, but only managed to get half of the colonel
out of the water, the older man’s head and upper torso on top of
the sloping hull, his legs still dangling in the water.
Then there was nothing more they could do but hold on
as tightly as possible, to the slippery boat and to each other,
as the storm front hit. The
rain beat down on them from above and the waves did their best to
pull them under, as they were tossed about like flotsam.
The deep throb of motors cut through the howling wind
as the two zodiacs forged a path towards the distant shape. Teal’c held a hand above his eyes, attempting
to keep the rain from falling into them while he strained to see.
The storm had eased somewhat since they had come through
the gate, but the sea was still choppy and he could see the upturned
hull bobbing erratically in the waves.
“I see them!” Major
Pierce shouted above the noise of the engines. “Looks like all three.”
“I agree.” Teal’c
felt a rush of elation run through him as he picked out the individual
forms of his teammates. Major
Carter and Daniel Jackson were in the water, on either side of O’Neill. As they closed the distance between them he
could see that the colonel was unconscious, the others holding him
secure on the vessel’s hull.
The rescue team was almost up to them before they lifted
their heads. Teal’c saw the
moment they realised they were saved, their haggard faces breaking
into weak smiles.
He slipped over the side into the water, not waiting
for the zodiac to stop. A
few strong stokes and he was with them.
He reached to pull O’Neill to him and was halted by the major’s
hand on his arm.
He only paused for a second – just long enough to reply.
“It is alright. I
will keep him safe.”
Jack stretched lazily, feeling the tightness of the still
healing wound. He pulled
his hat down over his eyes and let the bobbing motion of the craft
He held his rod loosely, not expecting any fish to pull
it from his grasp. Carter
had said she had seen fish in the ocean on their last mission, but
he didn’t remember seeing any. He
didn’t remember much of anything really until he woke in the SGC
infirmary. Now, weeks later, he was on leave. He still wasn’t cleared for duty, but the Doc
had assured him there was no reason to worry.
By next week he’d be back to work.
He sighed contentedly.
It was peaceful here in the middle of the lake.
He’d tried to explain that to his team when he extended
an invitation to them to join him at his cabin.
For some reason they had declined.
Oh well. They
had no idea what they were missing.