Pillars

Episode 6

Written by Crash

Authors: Crash
Status: Complete
Rating: 15+
Category: Angst, action/adventure
Summary: Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterwards. —Vernon Sanders Law
Spoilers: Everything up to the end of S8 is fair game.
Warnings: Character death
Authors' Notes:

Special thanks to Dee for putting up with my whiney self and for kicking my six to get this done. And hanging in there until the last minute to get it done. And for T for her help before her computer sploded. Thanks also to Tadooh. Somali Stew comes from "Making The Corps," by Thomas E. Ricks (full citation at the end.)

Archive: Jackfic. Otherwise, do not archive without the authors' express permission.
Disclaimer: The characters mentioned in this story are the property of Sci Fi and Gekko Film Corp. The Stargate, SG-I, the Goa'uld and all other characters who have appeared in the series STARGATE SG-1 together with the names, titles, and back story are the sole copyright property of MGM-UA Worldwide Television, Gekko Film Corp, Glassner/Wright Double Secret Productions, and Stargate SG-I Prod. Ltd. Partnership. This fanfic is not intended as an infringement upon those rights and solely meant for entertainment. All other characters, the story idea, and the story itself are the sole property of the authors.
 

Pillars

Episode 6

~*~*~*~*~*~

"I didn't learn about leadership and the strength of character it requires from an Ivy League graduate course. I learned by watching one tall captain with proud bearing and penetrating eyes."
— B.T. Collins, "The Courage of Sam Bird"

~*~*~*~*~*~

She scrubbed hard.

Aware somewhere in her mind that it was an old action. That people had done this before and it didn’t help. She was alone in the locker room. No one would be coming anytime soon. She was safe.

The air reeked of citrus. Acidic orange with a tinge of soap. She pumped the handle again, more of the orange-white slop piling in her hand. It worked best if your skin was dry. You could force the gritty particles into your skin. Cleansing. Better then soap.

She’d killed before. Several times. Watching with sick satisfaction as they’d fallen dead. But this was different. She’d killed and it wasn’t in defense. It was in ignorance, her lack of awareness and control.

She smeared her face with the slimey goop. Raking it through her hair for good measure before walking into the showers, making use of only the left handle. She reemerged. Clean but not. Skin tinged pink, from the water. Reminding her of the blood that had been on it.

She dressed. Quickly. Efficiently. Underwear, socks, Tshirt, trousers, boots. In precise order. Routine. That was what it was supposed to be. Routine. But it was anything but that.

She shut her locker door, sniffing slightly. The locker room smelled of sweet citrus. Towels in hamper. Card in pocket. Sam pulled the door open and entered the realm of the SGC.

Lieutenant Colonel Sam Carter, PhD.
Astrophysicist
Commander of SG-1

~*~*~

It was sort of round; wider at the top, bulging outward slighting before coming back in; kind of like a tear drop. The ceiling seamlessly blended into the walls that flowed down beneath the floor. It was all smooth, shiny midnight blue with cream specks and streaks throughout reminding her of the polished marble inside the downtown UMB Bank.

The ground was odd though, made of a different material then the walls and ceiling. Covered with fine dust it sounded like plastic when her boots hit it. And it had that same feel to it. The type that sent small tremors up your legs and through your muscles. She was sure if she pressed her head up against the wall she’d feel the vibrations in there. She bounced lightly, on the balls of her feet and felt herself sway with the movement. The floor was suspended. But how? She moved her light up, tracing a path from her feet up the wall, across the ceiling and down the other side. It gave her no clue as to how the floor was suspended. It bothered her

She could see Doctor Daniel Jackson ahead of her. His light was clipped to his vest illuminating the wall in front of him. Splayed fingers ran lightly over the raised characters, mouth barely moving as he sounded out the symbols in front of him. Doctor Jackson didn’t seem to mind to mind the floor, probably didn’t even notice it. He was absorbed in trying to read the wall.

“Satterfield.” She jumped when Doctor Jackson spoke, under the impression he didn’t know she was back “Did you find anything else?”

“No sir. This is the only section that has anything on the walls. The rest is smooth, polished. Man made, definitely not natural.” She craned her neck upwards taking another look at surrounding area before returning her attention to the wall.

“I agree with you there. The only question is who or what made it.” He shone his own light around the immediate area. “The floor’s a little funky too. Reminds me of a suspension bridge.”

“I noticed the same thing.” She nodded her attention drawn to the relieved surface of the wall. “What about this? It looks like Phoenician.”

“Very close.” He grinned at her as he continued, “It’s derived from Phoenician, but it’s Aramaic. Aramaic is from the Semitic language group that also includes Arabic, Hebrew, Ethiopic, and Akkadian. It was the language that Jesus Christ actually spoke even though the Gospels were written in Greek. It’s also very important to the Jewish religion.”

“Wow.” Satterfield’s hand trailed across the characters. “Does it give any clue as to why this section of the mine is different from the others?”

“None whatsoever.” Daniel sighed and pulled off his glasses, rubbing the bridge of his nose, “My Aramaic is a little rusty but it seems to be a list of miscellaneous paraphernalia. Back at the SGC I will probably be able to give a more solid translation.”

She nodded, focused solely on the raised characters, trying to figure out how they were made.

~*~*~

“So what’s your report Colonel?” General Jack O’Neill looked into the monitor in front of him. He still wasn’t used to being on this end of the MALP relay. The dotted grid pattern distracted him and his people looked distorted, fishbowl-like, as they peered into the MALP’s camera.

“Nothing much sir.” Lieutenant Colonel Sam Carter answered. “We located the mine that SG-4 mentioned and are checking it out to see if it’s still viable.”

“What about Daniel? Has he found anything exciting?”

“Daniel and Captain Satterfield have found some inscriptions in one arm of the tunnel system that connects to the mine. They’ve been trying to translate them, for the majority of the day.”

“So, nothing noteworthy?”

“Other then the chicken and rice MREs aren’t well liked, no, sir.” Carter grinned.

“Alrighty then.” Jack clapped his hands together “Check in again in forty-eight hours.”

“Yes, sir, SG-1 out.” She reached forward flipping the switch on the MALP that cut the transmission, the monitors going fuzzy with white noise.


~*~*~

She missed this. The closeness and togetherness the first SG1 had experienced. They were more of a family than a team. Sitting around the campfire telling tall tales, eating bad food, planning the next day’s agenda. It was a cliché. Pure and simple. But as much as the General had touted his dislike for clichés, he seemed to embrace this one. Sam leaned back and looked over her people. She grinned inwardly.Her people.

Animated discussions were going on around the camp. Graves and Mollowitz of SG-16 were looking over the aerial shots the UAV retrieved, planning their recon for the following day. Daniel and Satterfield were talking about their day’s findings, bouncing ideas off of each other on how the characters were made. Teal’c was checking the perimeter while Major Mason, SG-16’s commander, was cooking up something for dinner. Mason claimed it was gourmet field cooking.

It worried her slightly, watching Mason search through the assorted MREs, then taking his selected packets and emptying them into the pot that sat over the fire. She was curious as to what he was making but made herself stop thinking about it. In the case of field cooking, ignorance could truly be bliss.

“So, what do you guys want to look at tomorrow?” Sam directed the question at Mollowitz and Graves. Teal’c entering the camp disrupted her train of thought and Graves answered instead. “We thought that we would see about exploring that last branch of tunnels. The report we have from SG-4’s mission said that it appeared to be our best bet for a mine that would still be able to produce.”

“The report mentioned something about instability in the mines and the possibility of a collapse.”

“There was a brief mention of it. The geologist on SG-4 said it was a minor possibility. Major Mason,” Mollowitz pointed to his team’s commander. “We investigated it a little today but, with your permission, we could check it out a little closer tomorrow.”

“Mason?”

Mason looked up from his work. “Yes, ma’am. I believe it will be fine for exploration. If we were actually to use it as a naquadah mine I would definitely shore it up.”

Sam nodded. “Daniel?”

“Sam?”

“Report?”

“Nothing much. The writings on the wall are in Aramaic and I need a text from my office to do a proper translation. Satterfield and I had planned on video taping the rest of the wall tomorrow to take back to the SGC to translate.”

“Mason, what’s on your plate for tomorrow?” Sam asked just as he started to dish up ‘dinner’.

The major grinned—all teeth and false enthusiasm. "Foliage samples for the botany lab rats," he said, the sarcasm in his tone reminding her again of earlier missions.

“So, Daniel and Satterfield are video taping and checking out the same tunnel as today. Mollowitz and Graves are looking into the mined portion of the complex and the major is overjoyed with collecting foliage samples. Teal’c, you’ll accompany Major Mason on his search for foliage and I will be with Mollowitz and Graves.”

A round of yes ma’ams and a Teal’c nodded let Sam know all was well with her team.

“Anything else?” she asked before settling down for dinner.

“Yes, dinner is served.” Mason hopped to his feet and began passing dishes around to everyone.

“What is it?” Satterfield poked at her serving, giving weird looks to Graves and Teal’c who obviously had no qualms about the food.

“Oh, just a little something I picked up from the Marines on a tour in Africa. Somali Stew. Ham, chicken stew, tuna, several bottles of Tabasco sauce…etc. The only thing missing is the onion and garlic powder. But you can’t bring everything with you”

“It is most delicious, Major Mason” Teal’c gave the smaller man a big nod.

~*~*~

Jack O'Neill was grateful that he had the elevator to himself this morning. He needed five minutes of peace before he had to handle the chaotic logic of the SGC. It had been a long night. He had stayed late at the SGC to finish a couple of reports, ones that Hammond had kindly mentioned were over due. Upon arriving home, he had discovered a mass of hormone ridden teenagers congregating next door. His neighbors, the Silvas, had gone on vacation leaving their 17-year-old daughter home by herself.

Of course, the teen used the opportunity to throw a raucous party where everyone was invited.

Pain shot up from his knee as the elevator slowed then came to a jarring halt that had his stomach rising up to meet his neck. The doors slid open and he was assaulted with a blood curdling screeching worse than nails on a chalkboard. He looked around to locate the source and found Siler, and his merry band of minions, running new wiring.

Siler stopped drilling long enough to say a quick good morning before he was back to work, torturing the poor unsuspecting concrete wall and any ears on this level.

He didn’t get far before Walter came up to meet him, a handful of folders tucked under his left arm and a travel mug of coffee in his right hand—a silver travel mug with the crackled blue remains of an USAF emblem on the side.

“Good morning, sir. I put today’s reports on your desk.” Walter held out the mug.

Jack accepted it, unscrewing the lid to peer inside. It was an odd habit. He wasn’t sure why he did it, or where he even got it from. He trusted Walter enough not to slip something in his drink. Using his middle finger—his index finger still smarting from the day before—Jack dipped it into his coffee.

‘Yeah, it’s hot enough’ Jack thought as he shook his hand out. He looked up to find Walter waiting anxiously for him. “Continue, Walter.”

The other man took a deep breath and words began to tumble out “SG’s 3 and 18 came in on time last night no injuries. Debriefings are scheduled for 1000 and 1430 hours...The mess says that...”

Jack zoned out. He knew there was a memo on his desk with all of this in it. It was easier to read than to keep up with what Walter was saying. The master sergeant did excellent work; he just talked too fast before the morning dose of caffeine.
He took a cautious sniff of the coffee; it smelled good today. Jack screwed the lid back on, noting that it was black, not the usual air force blue.

“...Kovacek wants to talk with your briefly about the delegates from Amra that are arriving tomorrow.”

Jack’s ears perked at the mention of the Amrans.

“Amrans? The two guys I locked in a room together?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Doesn’t Paul Davis usually deal with them?”

They rounded the corner to his office.

“Yes, sir, but he is on leave right now and cannot make it back. The meeting is just formality to make sure the agreement is still amicable on all sides.”

“Oiy.” Jack commented. They had finally reached his office and he entered, plopping down in his chair, wincing as it squelched. Another minor problem he had yet to fix.

“There’s a memo about it on your desk, sir”

“I’m sure there is, Walter.” Jack tossed back the ibuprofen knowing it was going to be a very long day. Four ibuprofen before 0900 was always a bad sign. “Anything else?”

“Yes, sir, you need to initial these reports and requisitions right away. You signed them last night but didn’t initial them..."

“To signify that I signed them.” He finished the sentence for Walter, holding his hand out for the folders.

“Dare I ask again, anything else?” Jack handed the folders back to his trusty aide.

“That’s it, sir.”

“Thank you, Walter.”

Jack waved him away and reached for the coffee. It was going to be a long day and no amount of coffee was going to help. He looked down briefly at his mug before taking a long drink. He’d have to ask Walter about the lid later.

~*~*~

“Hey, Andy, come take a look at this.” Lieutenant Jerry Graves called over to his friend who was working farther down in the abandoned mine tunnel.

Andy Mollowitz blew out a long sigh between pursed lips and squinted down the scarcely lit tunnel at his comrade. Jerry was known for pulling practical jokes and stunts all the time, and while Andy didn’t think Jerry would in the current situation, he wanted to be sure. “Jerry if this is another one of your dirty jokes I swear I really will carry out my threat.”

“No, it’s not a joke.” Jerry rolled his eyes. “I want you to look at something. It looks like that chicken scratch stuff that Doctor Jackson and Satterfield were obsessing over last night.”

“Okay, okay I’m coming. Just give me a minute.”

Andy got to his feet, cursing when he knocked his elbow on the flashlight clipped to his vest. Picking up his P90, he made his way to his teammate fifty feet away.

“See,” Jerry pointed at the wall, his fingers tracing the path that the broken characters took.

“Yeah, I think you're right.” Andy nodded picking up his radio handset. “Major Carter this is Lieutenant Mollowitz.”

~*~*~

Sam felt uneasy. Chem lights bathed the area in a sickly green. The light on her P90 cut a white slice through the green hue as she walked down the hollow polished off corridor. Maybe a little freaked too. Alien planet…alien tunnel…alien green glow sticks…Sam yanked her mind back from wandering and on to her current objective, making note that on their next mission like this to go ahead and bring the generator and work lamps. She was relieved when she saw the illuminated area where Daniel and Satterfield were working.

She spied Satterfield first. Seated on the floor, papers and gear sprawled out around her. One hand was on the wall in front of her and the other held a piece of newsprint, her eyes darting back and forth between the two. Sam glanced around, looking to see if Daniel was in a similar state of study but didn’t see him.

“Hey, Captain.” Sam came to a stop behind Satterfield, adjusting her weapon to point away from the junior officer “How’s it going?”

“Just fine ma’am.” Satterfield responded unfazed by Sam’s appearance. “Doctor Jackson and I are almost finished verifying that we copied it down correctly.”

“Good. Where is Daniel?” Sam looked around again for any sign of the scholar.

“Doctor Jackson went around the corner there to finish video taping.” Satterfield put her paper down and pointed.

“Okay, thanks.” Sam nodded and headed off in the direction Satterfield had indicated. It was darker over here on the fringe of the larger battery powered worklight Daniel and Satterfield had set up.

“Sam! Hey I’m almost done.” Daniel spun around, apparently having heard Sam’s approach, his sudden movement catching her off guard.

“That’s great.” She smiled. “Mollowitz and Graves have found some scratches in the wall. They think it might be some of the same writing that you and Satterfield have here.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. Do you mind if I take Satterfield over to check it out?”

“Sure, go ahead. I don’t mind. I’m almost done here and then I’ll pack up and meet you.”

“Sounds good.” Sam grinned and patted Daniel on the back, turning to call ahead to the young captain. “Satterfield, grab your gear. We need you to look at some markings in the mine.”

~*~*~

Try as he might, Jack could not keep his attention on the woman currently speaking. SG-18 was giving their briefing about what they uncovered on their last mission. Doctor Kara Dewalt stood in front of the windows overlooking the gate room. She was a hand talker, arms and hands moving all over the place, soils and rocks types, concentration levels and only she knew what else left her mouth at an alarming rate, jumbling together like a NASCAR driver giving the lowdown on a race.

He picked up the folder and flicked the cover open. He really did want to understand what was going on. Jack was not the kind of commander to send his people out into unknown situations. He scanned the pages once more, circling a couple of terms to Google later on.


Shutting the folder he shifted in his seat, resisting the urge to sigh when the knot in his lower back came undone. He glanced over to Lieutenant Colonel Laurie Ford, she didn’t seem to be all that interested in the doctor’s speech either. She was currently writing on her notepad, nodding occasionally as if she was paying attention and taking notes. Colonel Ford straightened when she caught Jack’s eyes on her, a guilty look crossing her face. Jack looked at the other two members of SG-18 and noticed that their attention flagging as well.

Jack raised a hand to catch Doctor Dewalt’s attention, “Doctor, lets try to move this along here.”

“But, sir, I still have several more points to get to. It was a very exciting mission.” Her eyes went wide, and at the same time Jack noticed Sergeant Fillman roll his eyes

“I’m sure there are, but we are almost out of time. You can put everything into your mission report.”

“Yes, sir,” Doctor Dewalt’s shoulders slumped in defeat as she shuffled her papers around. “Just one more thing sir, then I’ll be done.”

Jack nodded and leaned back into his chair. He stopped himself from reaching up to rub the bridge of his nose. He’d had a headache all day and the ibuprofen didn’t seem to be helping. And frankly neither did Siler and his industrial hammer drill. It was hard no to laugh when Doctor Dewalt began to speak again only not to be interrupted by the shriek of Siler's drill.

~*~*~

Andy rolled his eyes as Satterfield chattered away over the radio to Doctor Jackson. She had gotten excited at the first glimpse of the wall practically jumping out of her skin to get to it. He really didn’t understand what the excitement was all about. What could chicken scratch on a wall tell them about the viability of the mine to produce naquadah? But he was just a lowly lieutenant. What did he know?

He looked around for his teammate, Graves, finding him seated against the wall near the mouth of the mine and went to join him. The other man was writing in his notebook, his left hand curled over gripping the pencil as he quickly made letters into words. Andy tossed his pack down and joined his friend on the floor.

“What are you writing?” He asked, nudging Graves in the shoulder.

“A letter.”

“A letter?”

“Yes, a letter. You know, a written message to someone.” Graves replied annoyed at his friend’s apparent lack of comprehension.

“I know what a letter is. But why write a letter?”

“Well, what else am I supposed to do while Satterfield is drooling over scratches in the wall which are probably just some dirty joke by a bored miner that insults the manhood of the foreman?” Graves explained closing his notebook and sticking the pen inside the spiral binding.

“Point.” Andy conceded, laughing to himself. “So when we get back you want to go out with me and the guys from SG-11?”

“Sure. Where to? There better not be any jello wrestling involved. That’s just wrong man.”

“Woeste said he heard about this club down on…” Andy said, but was interrupted by Major Mason

“Graves. Mollowitz. Come over here and help Doctor Jackson dismantle the equipment.”

“Yes, sir.” They answered together. Sighing and rolling their eyes they clambered to their feet, Graves tucking his notebook into a vest pocket.

“Son of a motherless goat.” Andy swore. His elbow impacted his flashlight as he slung his on. Angrily, he ripped the flashlight off his vest and flung it into a recess in the mine.

~*~*~

He really should get a new phone, or change the ring tone. Anything, but the shrilling, bad-breaks-on-a-car noise that he had now. A new phone sounded much simpler though, seeing as he could not figure out the caller id menu. The ring tone would be the deciding factor next time, instead of looks. Eyes still closed Jack reached for the cordless phone that sat on the nightstand.

“Hello?” He muttered, face still half buried in his pillow.

No one was there. Jack cracked an eye open and tried to read the display, but his eyes were too blurry. He gave up and switched the phone off, letting it fall from his hand to land on the pillow next to his head.

He was almost asleep and the phone rang again. He grabbed it, slamming his thumb down on the answer button to silence the ringer.

“What!?”

“Um…sorry to wake you, sir. It’s Sergeant Alberts, but I thought you would want to know that there’s a problem with one of the teams. Colonel Reynolds has already sent a rescue team.”

“Thank you, sergeant. I’ll be there soon.” Jack hung up, setting the phone down on the nightstand. Groaning, he pushed himself into a seated position and glanced at the clock, 1:52 a.m., not even two hours of sleep.

Joints creaked and popped as he got up and dressed. This was the part of command that he hated. Sending people off into the unknown while he had to sit back and wait, worrying if his people would all come back home. And the worst part was when he got a phone call like he had just now. He couldn’t help the bit of guilt that he felt that while he was at home sleeping in his bed, some SG team was out fighting for survival.

A quick comb through his hair while he stomped his feet into his shoes and he was good to go.

~*~*~

Sam came to, slowly at first. Awake but not awake. Drifting, in and out, like she was blinking. She lay at an odd angle, but didn’t have the inclination to move. Her eyes were open, blinking lazily, as she tried to focus on her surroundings. Green light lit the area and she could see a fog of dust particles falling. It was odd.

Sam tried to remember what happened, the events leading up to her current predicament. Something about chickens and writing.

‘Three days to the chicken?’

No, that wasn’t right. That’s what the wall at Dakara said before she had the code figured out. Satterfield hadn’t been able to read what the wall here said. She was just copying it down so that she and Daniel could go over it when they got back to the SGC.

Satterfield.

Oh, shit. She lurched upward, completely alert. She had gone and got Satterfield, taking her over into the old mine to look at the markings on the wall. ‘Chicken scratchings’ the boys had called it. Daniel had called asking for help packing up his equipment. Major Mason had called for Mollowitz and Graves to go help. She remembered Mollowitz getting upset at his light and tossing it into a corner, the metal clip sparking as it hit the floor. In the brief moment before all hell broke loose Sam saw a pile of crates where Mollowitz’s light landed. Then…it all came down

Sam got up, unsteadily, and began to look around for her people. He P90 was still clipped to her vest and she held it at the ready, using the attached light to brighten the area. She found Mollowitz and Graves easily. They were quite a ways away, a pile of debris separating her from the two men. Both seemed to have regained their senses and signaled that they were okay.

It took awhile but she finally found Satterfield, crumpled over on to her right, sketchpad and pencil still in her fingers. She was right where she had been before the mine caved in, seated in front of the wall copying the writings down while waiting for Daniel to come. Sam approached her carefully, worried that she might startle the young officer.

“Satterfield?” Sam knelt down next to the unmoving figure, placing a hand on her shoulder.

“Satterfield, are you okay?” She tried again, still with out a response. Starting at her feet Sam slowed made her way up the captain’s body, checking for injuries. She nearly dropped her weapon when she reached Satterfield’s head.

‘Oh, god.’ Sam thought as she saw the carnage. Blood was everywhere. On the floor and rubble. Coating the captain’s hair, glistening in the pale light. Blood and broken skin made up the left side of the captain’s face. Sam didn’t need to go any farther, she already knew, but she reached up and felt for a pulse anyway. It wasn’t there.

~*~*~

“So, what’s the situation?” Jack asked, coming into the control room, still dressed in civvies, gear bag slung over one shoulder.

Reynolds turned to face Jack “The mine that SGs 1 and 16 were exploring apparently collapsed. Teal’c reported that he heard an explosion and when he went to check on the people in the mine and tunnel complex the entrance was blocked with rubble.”

In the space of seconds, Jack's mind flashed on several scenarios-all of them bad. "Who did you send?" he asked.

“SGs 8 and 11.”

“Good call.” Jack clapped Reynolds on the shoulder, nodding for the colonel to follow him up the spiral staircase to the briefing room. “Was there any word on injuries?”

“No, sir. Teal’c and Major Mason, who were both outside the tunnel complex, were unable to get in touch with any of the people inside. Either their radios were not working or they were unable to answer. The infirmary is preparing for casualties anyway.” Reynolds explained, coming to a stop in front of Jack’s desk. “SG-8 is due to report back in a half hour on their status.”

Jack tossed his gear bag in his chair. "In that case I'm going to go change and get some coffee." Everything that could be done was already being handled. "I'll meet you in the control room in time for the check in."
“Yes, sir.” Reynolds gave a curt nod and retreated from the office.

Jack scrubbed a hand through his hair and looked at his desk. Already there was a pile of files and messages for him to go through, a printed agenda of what would be going on the next day, and a blinking light on his phone indicating he had voicemail waiting for him. He knew she should pick up the messages, but right now he couldn't face them. He debated briefly on whether or not to call the Joint Chiefs and let them in on the situation but decided to wait. He’d call later when he had more information.

Grabbing his bag, Jack left his office via the briefing room. The coffee in the mess at this time of night was never any good so he started the coffee pot in the briefing room before heading to the locker room to get changed.

~*~*~

The gateroom was a hive of activity as SG-8 and 11 returned. They were leading the rather dazed and confused SG-1 and 16 team members through the gate after having rescued them from the cave in. Only Teal’c and Major Mason were not injured having not been in the tunnel during the collapse. They came through the Stargate last, bearing a covered stretcher.

Jack closed his eyes. Another fine soldier lost. He opened them to find Carter standing in front of him. Her uniform was filthy and disheveled, her hair a matted and nasty, and there were several small cuts on her face and exposed arms.

“Carter?” He reached up and put a hand on her shoulder, guiding her off the ramp and in the direction of the infirmary personnel.

“Sir, I’m sorry. I…we…tried but we couldn’t.” she paused, drawing in a large breath that left her shaking. “Satterfield’s dead, sir.” Carter said it bluntly, unemotionally.

“I know, Carter.” Jack said softly, motioning for a nurse to come over.

“I’m sorry, sir. I didn’t make her put her helmet on. If I had done that then…”

“Ah. Enough.” He brought up a hand to halt the colonel. “Don’t worry about it right now. Go with Nurse Matthews, get checked out and cleaned up. Then you can tell me what happened.”

She nodded and followed Matthews out of the gateroom, her eyes glued to the gurney that held the captain's body. Jack rubbed his forehead and turned to the Jaffa.

“Teal’c?”

“It does not bode well, O’Neill” Teal’c gave a sad nod, watching as the guards in the gateroom bowed their heads in respect as Satterfield was wheeled out of the room.

~*~*~

He was definitely going to get a crick in his neck, holding the phone up to his ear with his shoulder. Sure, it freed up his hands to do paper work as he listened to the Joint Chiefs discussing current matters, but was assuring that the mess only got Russet potatoes not Yukon Gold really all that important? To the mess sergeant it definitely was, just as important as getting carbide bits for Siler’s hammer drill.

“I understand that sir, but the Russians haven’t…” Jack let out a slow breath and switched the phone to his other ear. Oh, to just be Colonel Jack O’Neill again.

He looked up to see Teal’c, Major Mason and the members of SG-8 and 11 drifting into the briefing room, stopping by the coffee maker and testing the chairs to find the optimal one. And that reminded him to ask Siler for some WD40 for his chair. The squeak was getting really annoying.

“Yes, sir. I will call you after the debrief and fill you in on all the details,” Jack said, grateful that he was finally able to hang up. Rubbing the back of his neck, he saw that everyone was waiting in the briefing room.

Two loud cracks of his neck punctuated his entrance, and he motioned for them to remain seated.

“Okay, gentlemen,” Jack eased himself into his chair at the head of the table. “What happened out there? Teal’c, you start.”

“Very well, O’Neill.” Teal’c gave a customary nod and leaned forward, resting his forearms on the table and interlacing his fingers. “I was assisting Major Mason in collecting foliage samples for the botanists. We had finished and returned to the complex of caves and tunnels to inquire if our help was required. We saw Daniel Jackson struggling to carry his equipment from the tunnel that he and Captain Satterfield had been exploring over the last two days. Major Mason called for Lieutenants Mollowitz and Graves to come and help us retrieve the remaining gear so that DanielJackson would be able to go look at the wall markings in the mine. Captain Satterfield was already in the mine, Colonel Carter having already brought her.”

Teal’c paused and Major Mason picked up. “We had carried the gear back to our camp, which wasn’t far from the mouth of the complex when we felt the ground tremor and heard what sounded like an explosion. Teal’c and I hurried back to the complex only to find that the entrance was blocked with dirt and rocks. We tried to contact the missing team members via radio but received no answer. That’s when we dialed home and requested reinforcements.”

“So you think it was an explosion that caused the cave in?”

“That’s correct.” Mason shifted in his chair.

“Do we have an idea what might have caused this explosion? I don’t recall signing off for you to take any ordinance with you other then the usual.”

“No idea, sir. There were no explosives in the complex. Perhaps Colonel Carter or Lieutenants Mollowitz and Graves could give us more information when they are able.”

“I’m waiting until I talk to them before I make my final report.” Jack looked Mason in the eye before continuing. “Colonel Edwards, what did you find when your first arrived on site.”

“The mouth of the cave had fallen in, sir. Mostly dirt and some rock. It was relatively easy to dig through. Teal’c and Mason had already begun digging using their entrenching tools. There still hadn’t been any contact with the trapped personnel. It didn’t take us long to clear out the entrance and that’s where we found Doctor Jackson. He was half buried under mainly dirt and some rocky debris. We pulled him out and handed him off to SG-8.” Edwards stopped, taking a long drink from his water glass before he continued “From there we proceeded to the branch were the mine would be. It was remarkably stable, just as Major Mason had reported. Most of what fell was dirt from the hillside. Some larger rocks blocked the entrance to the mine, but once we got inside there was no problem finding the missing team members and extricating them.”

Jack scratched out some notes on his legal pad. He wanted to keep the briefing short knowing that Major Mason wanted to be down with the rest of his team and Teal’c wanted to check on Carter and Daniel. And Jack himself was anxious to find out how all of the injured parties were. Only his position as CO of the SGC prevented him from being in the infirmary with the other SGC personnel as they waited for word on their team members.

“Major Cadey, what’s your report?” Jack set his pen down, leaning forward resting on his forearms.

“We helped remove the debris that kept us from reaching the injured team members. We treated them for shock before coming back to the SGC. Doctor Jackson was bruised up pretty bad. Mollowitz and Graves were shaken up a bit. Colonel Carter was…” Cadey sucked in a deep breath, not wanting to continue.

“Major?” Jack prompted the younger man.

“We found Colonel Carter on the floor next to Captain Satterfield. She was kind of distant. Teal’c was able to talk her into leaving the mine with him. I checked her out and aside from being in shock, she had some nasty abrasions but nothing too bad. Captain Satterfield, sir, there was nothing we cold do for her. Her skull was obviously crushed. She probably hadn't even known what happened.” The major finished sadly.

Jack nodded again. There were a lot of things he could say right now. Words meant to be comforting to someone who was witness to a tragedy. Experience told him that no matter what he said, he knew it would only be an empty platitude to those involved. He settled for giving the grieving people the only comfort he could.

“Okay. I think that does it for now. I’ll need mission reports on my desk by the end of the week. Major Mason, Teal’c go see how your team is. Consider yourself on stand down until further notice.”

Paper and leather slapped against each other as folders were shut, and chairs squelched and creaked as the solemn group gathered their belongings and left the room. Jack was the last to leave, pausing to look down over the Stargate. It was always hard loosing someone under your command. But it was always worse when it was someone you had trained yourself.

Jack refilled his coffee mug and returned to his office, setting his folder on his desk and opening his laptop. He had a letter to write. The Joint Chiefs could wait.

~*~*~

She hated this. It was like being in prison on P7X-667. Guards following you everywhere. And she did means everywhere—cells, meals, work release, showers, bathroom. Only this time she didn’t have a guard with a pain stick that he was more than happy to use. She had one Nurse Matthews waiting outside the shower stall. Sam guessed she should be grateful they allowed her to get her kit, before escorting her to the showers.

Liquid Lava worked wonders. It could work miracles on even the grimiest hands. She was hoping it would wash the gore from hers. It stung like hell though. The pumice powered cleanser working its way into open wounds. It felt like she was being scoured with a brillo pad, and for once she didn’t mind the pain. It kept her in the here and now. It was something to focus on other than her failure. Not caring that it was far from being shampoo, Sam scrubbed and rubbed a palm-full into her hair, raking her finger harshly against her scalp.

Sam stood still, staring down at the drain between her feet, watching as the discolored water swirled before disappearing. Hot water pelted painfully on her over sensitized skin but Sam didn’t move, choosing instead to get every last drop of sanctuary the shower could offer before Nurse Matthews would come after her.

Finally, Sam turned the water off. She was clean, but still felt dirty. Contaminated. She reached out and grabbed her towel with the other hand. It was time to face the music. The infirmary and then the General.

~*~*~

“Daniel Jackson, are you not supposed to eat the food you are given, instead of poking it unmercifully with your eating utensil.”

Daniel stopped in mid poke and looked up. Teal’c was standing in the doorway to his infirmary room. He appeared to be calm and relaxed, his hands clasped behind his back.

“I’m not sure this is food, Teal’c.” Daniel looked back at his tray, giving the object another poke and watching as it moved away from him then slid back. “But hey if you think it's food, you go right ahead and have it yourself. Better you than me.”

“I believe I shall refrain, Daniel Jackson.” Teal’c moved into the room, turning the bedside chair to face the bed before sitting down.

“Mmmhmm. I thought so.” Daniel put his fork down, giving the ‘food’ a reprieve. “So how’s Sam? I haven’t seen her since she was released a couple of days ago.”

Teal’c’s brow furrowed. “She believes she is responsible for the death of Captain Satterfield and has taken it upon herself to look at all of her mission and lab reports. What she wishes to find I am unaware.”

Daniel nodded and picked up the fork again, aiming for the jello. Jack was always eating it with a fork, that and ice cream. It just didn’t make any sense to him. How something that wasn’t completely a solid could be eaten with a fork. He speared one of the translucent green cubes. He raised the fork, and gave it a little shake, frowning when the cube split apart, falling messily on to his tray.

Teal’c’s voice was soft. “There is no cause to blame yourself, Daniel Jackson.”

“I know, Teal’c. But I don’t believe it.”

“What is there to believe?” Teal’c leaned forward in his chair. “I speak the truth, Daniel Jackson. There is no blame to be placed on anyone. We are not meant to control everything”

Daniel chose to ignore his friend, turning away from him, arms crossing across his chest.

“Would I provide you with misinformation, Daniel Jackson?”

“No.” Daniel refused to look at his friend.

“Then why do you choose not to believe what is true?”

“It’s just that…” Daniel turned back in Teal’c’s direction. “She was just a kid, one that used to have a crush on me. We trained her, put her in that position, and we didn’t protect her.”

“Did Captian Satterfield not perform admirably in training and on previous missions?”

“She was good. She passed the hardest test we have to offer—Jack.”

“Indeed.” Teal’c nodded. “Then why do you believe it was your duty to protect her?”

Daniel looked at his friend. He didn’t have answer and wasn’t sure if there was one to be found.

“Perhaps you are feeling guilty because Captain Satterfield’s previous crush on you inspired her to do well in training and join the ranks at the SGC.”

Daniel still didn’t reply, “There are many answers to questions like this, Daniel Jackson. Unfortunately, most of them are not found in words. You will feel them in your heart and know they are right. Only when you accept them will you be able to release the unnecessary guilt that you carry.”

Daniel gave a small quirk of his mouth and raised his gaze to meet Teal’c’s.

“Have you had the chance to talk with Sam about this yet?”

“I have been unable to talk with Colonel Carter.” Teal’c frowned, clearly distressed over the issue.

“Unable?” Daniel’s forehead scrunched up.

“Colonel Carter has gone out of her way to avoid speaking of the incident.”

“Have you tried to corner her?” Daniel pushed himself into a more upright position. “Sometimes Sam needs a kick in the butt to get going in the right direction.”

“I do not believe it would do any good. It is best to let people speak when they are ready. Only, I fear that Colonel Carter will never be.”

“So?” Daniel stuck his hand out, palm up, and moved it in an arc in front of him.

“Colonel Carter still has much to learn about command and leadership and experience is the only way these lessons are taught.”

“So you are saying that Sam has to do this on her own?”

“No,” Teal’c held up a hand, “we will be there to aid Colonel Carter. Only I am unsure how to do so at this time.”

Daniel nodded and looked down at his long forgotten meal. The food he had been poking at earlier looked like it had congealed and mutated as he and Teal’c had talked.
“Should you not eat your food before, as O’Neill says, ‘It grows legs and wanders off your plate?”

Daniel swore he saw a hint of a smile on Teal’c’s face. “I think it already has. It left this behind as some cruel parting gift.”

Teal’c inclined his head and rose to his feet, moving to put his hand on Daniel’s shoulder.

“Do not fear, Daniel Jackson. Colonel Carter will prevail for she has strong friends on her side.”

~*~*~

Blueberry. Apple cinnamon. Strawberry. Banana nut. Chocolate chip. They even had bran—shudder. All of these muffins, but not the kind he wanted. He didn’t give up hope yet. Maybe he just overlooked it and if he looked again he would see it. He kept looking, hoping that somewhere in the sea of muffins the one he wanted. Nope. It still hadn’t appeared.

He looked over at the cold cereal rack. Sure, they had Froot Loops, but he wanted something different. And a warm lemon poppy seed muffin, with just a little bit of butter was just the thing. Just like his grandmother used to make for him.

But, of course, the mess was out of them. They had any other kind of muffin but the one he wanted. It figured. His shoulders fell as he gathered up his tray and moved over to the cereal racks.

“General O’Neill.”

Jack’s head shot up when he heard his name. He scanned the room, searching for who called his name and ruined his break from all things…Generaling. It was Sergeant Harold, one of the cooks in the mess. He was a good man, even if he did go overboard on the muffins occasionally. You’d think he never had any. But Jack didn’t know if he should be relieved or not.

He smiled. “Good morning, Harold.”

“Good morning, sir.” The other man smiled back, walking toward Jack with a saran wrap covered plate in his hands. “Sergeant Valdez asked that I hold this one back for you, sir. Lemon poppy seed.”

“Thank you, Sergeant.” Jack accepted the plate gratefully. Maybe this was a sign that the day was going to get better.

“You're welcome, sir. Sergeant Valdez also asked me to tell you, thank you for sorting out the mess with the potatoes again, sir. People were beginning to get tired of no mash at dinner.” Harold pulled a towel from an apron pocket and started to wipe down the tray runner.

“That’s good.”

“Yes, sir. Everything has been correct since the last time we had a problem.” An alarm sounded in the kitchen and the other man tucked his towel back into his apron, looking to make sure someone was attending to the alarm. “Well, sir, I have to get back to work. I hope you have a good day, General.”

“You too, Harold, and thanks again for the muffin.”

Jack tossed a couple of butter pats on his tray, and moved over to the side table where the microwave sat. It wasn’t his grandmother's toaster, but you made do with what you had. He chose a seat in the far corner of the mess and sat down.

He was halfway done with his muffin and juice when the door to the mess slammed open, resounding off of the wall violently.

“General O’Neill. You have got to do something about that woman!”

“Doctor Phillips. How can I help you this morning?” Jack laid his fork down next to his plate as Doctor Phillips, head of one of the many scientific departments, yanked a chair over and sat in front of him.

“You have got to do something about Colonel Carter. She’s become a tyrant. She hasn’t approved a single research request in the last two weeks.”

“Well did you ask Colonel Carter about it?” Jack asked.

“Of course I did. All she said was that they didn’t have enough information for her to approve them. There was plenty of information. No less than any previous request but she will not budge.”

Jack opened his mouth to respond but didn’t have the chance.

“And to add to it she’s denied off-world research, saying it’s too dangerous.”

“Well, what would you like me to do?” Jack asked calmly, getting some small piece of satisfaction knowing his attitude was irritating the other man.

“What do you think I want you to do? I want you to fix it! Fix her! Whatever it takes to get my department back and running.” Doctor Phillps shoved his chair back and left the mess.

Jack pursed his lips and blew out a long breath. He had learned a lot about dealing with people in the eighteen months since he took command. Sometimes it was better to let people blow off steam. He and Doctor Phillips would be having a discussion later over how to handle personnel matters in the future.

The remaining half of his muffin looked pathetic on his plate. The nicely scalloped bottom was no more, and the golden top had fallen off. It looked like it was screaming. Jack toyed with it, poking it and pushing it around his plate with his fork. He didn’t want to go back to his office, to what awaited there.

Doctor Phillips wasn’t the only one to complain about Carter, he was just more vocal about it. There were at least three memos on his desk about it. Her shortness with people. Unnecessarily denying research and missions. He knew what was going on. She was second-guessing everything. Trying to put off making decisions that could possibly put people in danger.

It was a harsh lesson that all commanders had to learn. Colonel Blake had said on M*A*S*H that he learned two things in command school:

Rule number one: young men die.

Rule number two: doctors can’t change rule number one.

Well, neither can commanders. You can only do so much. Make sure your people were properly trained. Equip them well. Give them the best intel you have. And most of all give them your support. After that, it was up to fate.

In frustration, Jack smashed the pathetic muffin with his fork.

~*~*~

He could hear the argument from the elevators. Heated voices rising in tone and pitch. It sounded like a teenage daughter arguing with her mother over curfew. In some respects he guessed it was. Carter was acting the part of the mom and it sounded like Cadet Hailey was playing the part of the teenage. Though she wasn’t a cadet any more. She was a captain. Just like Satterfield.

Crap.

Jack quickened his pace, ignoring the twinge his knee was sending him. The argument spewing from Carter’s lab was beginning to catch other people’s attention. Heads were peaking out around doorjambs, the braver ones stepping into the hallway.

His guess was right. It was Captain Hailey. Hailey and Carter were on opposite sides of a worktable. Determination was written over both of their faces as they were argued over Carter’s refusal to let Hailey go off-world.

Acting as if nothing was wrong Jack knocked on the doorframe, watching with some amusement as the two women turned to look and hop to attention.

“At ease. Captain, you're dismissed.” Jack ordered, sticking his hands in his pockets as he wandered into the lab.

“Is there anything I can help you with, sir?” Carter’s voice was unsteady. He could feel her eyes on him, tracking his movements throughout the lab as he took his hands from his pockets, picking and toying with various items laying around. He settled on a socket wrench, liking the ratcheting noise it made as he twisted it back and forth.

“As a matter of fact, there is.” He pointed the wrench at her, an extension of his own arm. “You can go home.”

“Home? Sir?” Cater’s face showed her confusion.

“Yes, Carter. Go home. No passing go, and no collecting any work to take with you.” Jack held up a hand forestalling any protest. He knew that she had barely left the mountain as of late, and he knew her well enough to know what she was doing. Burying herself in her work. Refusing to accept that what happened was beyond her control.

“But, sir, I have a lot of reports and things that I need to review and revise, experiments to finish…”

Jack cut her off again. “Which you can’t do if you collapse into an undignified heap of exhaustion. So, you will go home, you will get some sleep. Teal’c, Daniel, and I will see you on Saturday. We can talk more then.”

“Fine.” Carter huffed out. “Just let me finish this here, then I’ll go.”

“I mean it, Carter. Go home. Now.” He reached over and plucked the pen from her fingers.

“Yes, sir.” Carter growled out, pushing herself up from the workbench.

“Good.” Jack clapped his hands, rubbing them together. “Saturday, ten hundred hours. Be ready. Teal’c has something planned.”

Carter gave him a scathing look as she packed things up and gave everything a once over before she left.

“Carter, I’m not mad at you. Or disappointed.” Jack spoke again, softer this time around, sincerity busting through the words, as they left the lab. “I’ve been where you are right now. So trust me on this.”

She nodded her head, short little movements as she turned the lights out and secured the door.

~*~*~

Sam stalked down the corridor of the mountain. Her jeans and shirt rubbed painfully against her raw, abused skin. Citrus Goop and green scratcher pads were hard on her skin, but they did the job—for a while anyways. It always came back. The blood and gore. It never left. She had Lava soap at home. The original red bar that sat on the sink in the laundry room. It worked better then Goop.

Water dripped down the back of her neck as her hair continued to dry. She hadn’t bothered with drying it properly, only giving it a quick toweling before pulling her T-shirt on. A drop fell on to the logbook at the guard station as she signed her name. She watched as it absorbed into the paper fibers, smearing and distorting the ink as it spread. Another drop fell and Sam watched it with the same fascination as she finished placing her signature on the line, handing the pen back to the young man behind the counter.

“Have a good day, ma’am.” The airman smiled at her.

“I was ordered to go home. That does not constitute a good day.” Sam informed the guard, her eyes flashing in anger.

She left the checkpoint and headed for her car at a fast clip. Sam didn’t bother to put her bag in the trunk like usual. She just flung it across into the passenger’s seat and jammed her key at the ignition, missing. It took three tries to get the key successfully in, leaving Sam even angrier at herself.

Lately nothing went right for her. The whole Pete thing. They defeated the replicators, but she lost her father. The gene therapy didn’t work. And now a decision she made led to someone else's death. She guessed it was about time. Looking back at all the past missions and now they only narrowly escaped with out a death from her ideas. Hell she almost killed her CO with the whole orb incident. She couldn’t do anything right. Maybe she wasn’t really cut out for this military command business. Helluva time to find out though, after spending your entire life thus far in it.

Sam’s thought switched to the last mission. It replayed over in her head, every minute detail coming through. The color of the ground and trees. What each member was wearing or wasn’t. It was all there. Ever single agonizing detail down to the spark from the thrown flashlight when everything went black.

But everything wasn’t black in reality. It was quite the contrary, a mix of blue and red that flashed in her mirrors. And, it was accompanied by a siren. Sam looked down at her speedometer, cursing when she saw she was going more than twenty-five miles per hour over the limit. She checked all her mirrors and signaled that she was turning right to pull over.

Shutting the car off, Sam rolled down the window and rested her hands on the wheel in plain view as the officer approached.

“Good afternoon, ma’am.” The officer leaned down his facing coming into view through the window. “I’m going to need you to step out of the vehicle.”

Fuck.

~*~*~

Jack opened the door of the police station, squinting as the bright sunlight assaulted his unprotected eyes as he stepped outside. He brought his free hand up to help shield him from the glare as he held the door open, waiting on Carter to exit, her head hung low. They were quiet as they made their way down the sidewalk to the corner and waited for the light to change so that they could cross the street. Jack started to talk when they started moving again, striding across the pavement to the visitor lot.

“You know, I remember the first time my CO had to come bail me out of jail. He informed me that it was an important 'CO-subordinate team bonding event'.” His tone began to change as he spoke, from nostalgic to angry. “Granted, it was for something fun, not something completely stupid like speeding down narrow mountain roads. What the hell were you thinking?”

They stopped walking when they reached Jack’s truck, the silence between them growing. “Well?” He prompted her, hand waving, motioning for her to say something, anything.

Carter didn’t say a word.

“I've lost one good officer in the last two weeks,” Jack said, unlocking the passenger’s door and yanking it open. “I am not going to loose another to a stupid stunt because she was upset over the unfairness of the universe.”

She hadn’t made a move to get in the truck, instead standing and staring at him.

“Carter, get in the truck.” He waited for her to climb in before shutting the door and moving to the driver's side. The truck cab was silent as Jack maneuvered out of the parking lot and into traffic.

“I killed her, sir. Captain Satterfield. I took her in into that mine. She would have been safe if she was still helping Daniel. If I hadn’t been so anxious to get the writing on that damn wall examined so we could continue on with surveying the mine.” The words began to tumble out of Carter’s mouth. “I didn’t even make sure she put her helmet on. If she had she would still be alive. If only I had checked out the mine the rest of the way. Found the crates of old explosives before Mollowitz’s flashlight had. If …”

Jack decelerated suddenly, turning into a parking lot, jerking them around in the truck cab. He shut the ignition off, released his seatbelt and turned to face Carter. Sometimes loud and in your face was the best method of communication.

“You lost someone! It happens. It’s the least desirable part of command. You never want to lose anyone, but you’re not perfect. You can’t control everything. If you walk around thinking no one will ever die then you will end up being a reckless commander.” Jack sighed rubbing a hand over his face.

“Look, Carter, you can have a great teacher, read all of the books, take all of the courses, but they don’t really prepare you for what will happen in the field. Nothing can. It’s not something that you can prepare for. Brute experience is the only way that some lessons in life can be learned. This is one of them.

“Now, you can sit around and have a pity party and play the what if game, but none of this changes what happened and it never will.” Jack sat back down in his seat, redoing his seat belt and starting the truck up again. “The only thing you can do is look back, assess what happened, take the lessons you learn, and apply them.”

The rest of the ride to Carter’s house was quiet. Jack concentrated on driving through the heavy rush hour traffic, giving frequent glances at his passenger. She was turned away from him, but he could see her reflection in the window and mirror. Her eyes were closed and the occasionally sniff was the only sound she made.

Jack slowed down again as he turned on to her street, cautious of the children in the park across form Carter’s house. Pulling up to the curb, Jack tapped her shoulder. “Hey, it’s your house.”

Carter sat back looking out the window then back to him. “Thanks, sir. For…you know.”

“Bailing you out? Giving you a much needed swift kick in the ass?”

“Yes, sir. All that and more.” Carter nodded, a small hint of a smile appearing.

“You are welcome.” Jack shifted in his seat, his leg cramping slightly from holding the break down.

“Carter,” Jack spoke, as she started to get out of the truck.

“Sir?” She looked up her eyes meeting his.

“I know that as a scientist you want proof, tangible evidence of why things are the way they are. But you won’t find that here. If you keep looking you will just drive yourself mad and you wind up being miserable.”

She nodded, collecting her bag and shutting the door. Jack lowered the window on the passenger side and called after her, “Don’t forget, Carter. Saturday. Ten hundred.”

~*~*~

Saturday, 0950

Sam peeked through the curtains of the front window. The general had said ten hundred and he was nothing if not punctual. She had spent the last couple of days thinking over what he had said. He spoke the truth, that much she knew, but it was taking a lot to convince herself to believe it. It was hard to accept that there wasn’t a logical reason to everything. That fate was possibly the answer to the unexplainable.

The distinct rumble of a diesel engine broke her thoughts and she looked out to see the General’s truck parked at the curb. Only the General wasn’t driving, Teal’c was. Well, the general did say that Teal’c had something planned.

Collecting her purse and keys Sam walked out to greet Teal’c on the front porch.

“Hi, Teal’c.”

“Good afternoon, Colonel Carter.” Teal’c bowed his head in greeting. “I take it your days off have been restful?”

“Tiring actually. But I think I got a few things sorted out.” Sam explained, locking the deadbolt and following Teal’c down the path to the sidewalk.

“That is good to hear.” Sam climbed into the truck, Teal’c holding the door open for her. “So you have General O’Neill’s truck?”

“Indeed.” Teal’c’s entire face lit up. “It is a most worthy vehicle, Colonel Carter. I enjoy piloting it greatly.”

“I noticed. How did you get him to give you the keys?” She asked once they were both inside the cab.

“O’Neill is otherwise occupied and asked me to provide transportation for you.”

“Where are we going?”

“I cannot reveal that to you until we arrive.”

“This isn’t fair.” Sam huffed, settling back in her seat and crossing her arms over her chest, a tiny smile on her face.

It was quite some time before either of them spoke, Carter's word loud in the silence of the cab. “Does it get easier?”

“In a way, it does, Colonel Carter. You will learn to cope, but the act of losing someone is always harsh.”

“I don’t think I will ever be able to get over it, Teal’c.”

“You are strong. You will indeed, ‘get over it’, however, you will never forget. There is a difference. Letting someone—or something—go is not the same as forgetting.” Teal’c paused as if he was choosing his words carefully. “We are made up of mistakes. Each one a building block in our personalities. You will never forget Captain Satterfield, she is a part of you now. Whether you realize it or not, she will make you a better commander.”

Sam shrugged, no comment coming to her lips. She turned to look out the window again, seeing for the first time the bright colors in the near distance and the noise associated with a carnival.

“Teal’c, what are we doing here?” She questioned, hanging on to the seat tightly as they turned into the makeshift parking long, the truck bouncing on the uneven ground.

“This is our destination.”

“A carnival?”

“Yes. Have you never seen one before?” Teal’c queried parking the monstrous truck

“Of course I…” Sam realized he was teasing her and slapped him gently on the shoulder. “Teal’c!”

She jumped down out of the truck, staying close to Teal’c as they made their way through the mass of people.

“Carter! Did you teach her how to drive? She sure drives like you! Flying down the road, zipping around corners.”

Sam was caught off guard by the sudden shout of her name. She realized that she had become separated from Teal’c and began looking around for the general. It was his gruff voice that had startled her, but didn’t see him anywhere. And what was he talking about? Teaching someone to drive?

Finally. Sam saw Daniel waving in her direction. Teal’c and Daniel where leaning up against the side of a car and the general was standing by them, constantly batting at something behind his back.

“C’mon, Carter. Hurry it up. This thing is getting anxious.” Sam was close enough she could see that there was someone trying to hide behind the general. The general stumbled forward, and someone stepped out from behind him.

“Sam!”

She recognized that person. It was Cassie.

“Cassie.” Sam embraced the young woman. “I missed you. What are you doing here?”

“Missed you, too.” They broke the hug, Cassie taking a step back. “It’s called school break. You know where they kick you out of the dorm.”

“Yeah, we know who shaped you in your formative years.” She slung an arm over Cassie’s shoulders as they made their way back to the rest of the group.

“So, I heard you got arrested for speeding?” Cassie asked as they passed by the trio leaning against the car and headed for the entrance.

~*~*~

“Sam looks better.” Daniel commented as he watched the scene play out before him.

“Did you have any doubt that Colonel Carter would prevail?” Teal’c copied Daniel’s actions.

“No, Teal’c. None at all.” Daniel shook his head and pushed off the car following the two women.

“All she needed was a swift kick in the six, followed by words from a wise man.” Jack spoke, catching up with the other two.

"So, Teal'c got her all turned around?" Daniel asked, a smile playing on his lips.

Jack shot the other man an annoyed glance as they followed Sam and Cassie into the brightly colored carnival.

~*~*~

The End

Somali Stew
Ricks, Thomas E. Making The Corps. New York: Touchstone, 1997. 21.

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