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Chapter Data

Posted January 27, 2006

Fan Fiction: Eclipse

Act Three: Discovery

Time seemed to crawl as Daniel lowered the camera slowly into the interior of the hollow earthen spire. The paired suns marched slowly up into the sky, scorching down on the stark, barren landscape around the team, and Sam could feel every individual drop of sweat that trickled down the damp skin of her back and between her breasts. It was a good thing the SGC never issued T-shirts in white.

Teal'c and the Colonel were alternately watching Daniel's progress and the landscape around the spires, keeping an eye out for trouble. Though there didn't seem to be any threat worth noting on the dead, arid surface of the planet, they had been fooled before. The tips of Jack's ears were beginning to redden a little under the onslaught of the suns' rays; Teal'c's scalp was covered in a fine sheen of sweat, and the gold symbol on his forehead was a blaze of reflected light. Sam felt the skin of her own face tightening a little despite the industrial strength sunscreen she'd slathered on, and promised herself a long soak and a moisturizing facial when she got home.

"That should do it," Daniel finally announced. He had leaned forward slightly, glancing down through the opening to watch the progress of the camera as it descended into the cavern. "Going to spin it a little more, and..." His voice trailed off, and he frowned. "What was that?"

Jack perked up, turning away from the scenery to fix all his attention on Daniel. "What was what?"

"I thought I heard... Whoa! I think there's something down there..."

"Daniel? What are you seeing?" Sam asked, both alarmed and curious at this new development.

"What's down there, Daniel?" Jack said again, trying to capture the archaeologist's attention.

Daniel fliched, then took an abrupt step backward, and this time Sam heard whatever he'd been hearing, too; faint high-pitched echoes, something like sonar but distinctly organic in origin. "I don't know, but whatever it is, it doesn't seem to like the flashlight," he said distractedly, and began pulling the rope up as quickly as he could.

He wasn't quick enough. A few seconds later, the rope abruptly jerked out of Daniel's hands, then stopped again; he'd wound the surplus around his right arm so as not to let it slip accidentally, and it caught there, pulling him off-balance with sudden force and dragging him toward the hole.

"Hey, ow!" he exclaimed, digging in his feet, but he failed to gain any traction in the loose, rocky dirt.

"Daniel!" Sam lunged for her friend, but she wasn't close enough to get a grip on him before he was yanked into the column; the Colonel was closer, but the handful of T-shirt he managed to get hold of was torn right out of his grip. Daniel's right arm was dragged into the hole, then his entire upper body as something continued to pull sharply on the other end of the rope.

"Daniel Jackson!" Teal'c grabbed for him this time, gathering handfuls of the material of Daniel's BDU pants and pulling backward with all his might. Jack managed to get a grip on him, too, on his second try, wrapping his fingers around Daniel's belt as Teal'c pulled him slowly back out of the hole. Sam fumbled for her combat knife, then darted forward as soon as Daniel's entangled arm emerged from the column. The rope parted easily under the sharp blade, releasing Daniel to collapse onto the ground with a pained grunt.

"So much for the camera," he said, panting, as he fumbled at what was left of the rope with his free hand.

"Let me get that, Daniel." Sam resheathed her knife and knelt next to him, unwrapping the length of rope where it had tightened around his arm. "Forget about the camera, you're lucky it didn't break your arm. Are you all right? What was that?"

"I don't know." He flexed his wrist and elbow a little once the last of the rope was removed, and grimaced in pain. "I couldn't really see much, just movement in the shadows as the flashlight swivelled around. Then something lunged at it-- it had a wide head and a long tail, but it moved too quick to see much in the way of details. I think there were several of them, but only that one came anywhere near the light, so it was hard to tell."

Jack snorted and reached down for Daniel's uninjured arm, pulling the archaeologist back to his feet. "Must have been pretty big to pull you off your feet like that. Think we found that large predator you were talking about?"

"Possibly," Daniel said, distractedly, still flexing his arm. Bruises were already starting to form, dark and angry-looking under the skin. "Like I said, I couldn't see much, and they moved very, very fast. I'm sure the camera got at least one good shot, but--"

"Well, we're not trying that again," Jack interrupted him. "Doesn't matter what's down there, whatever it is, is dangerous. It probably can't climb up after you, but I'd rather not take the risk."

Sam glanced at the suns again, a quarter of the way across the sky, then down at her watch, and nodded. "The UAV should be on its way back by now, and the SGC will be dialing in for a check-up any minute."

"Good," Jack grunted. "Let's get moving. I'd rather not wait around to find out if there are any more of those things around here." He picked up Daniel's pack, ignoring the younger man's protests, and shook his head. "Figures you would kick over a nest of womp rats, Daniel; 'bout all that's missing from this re-enactment of Tatooine now, is an old guy in a dress."

Daniel snorted, but his expression had lightened. "Careful what you wish for, Jack. I can think of a few system lords out there still who fit that description."

"Indeed," Teal'c agreed, one eyebrow raised and a barely-there smirk signalling his amusement.

Sam choked at the mental image of Ba'al or Anubis playing Obi-Wan Kenobi to Daniel's Luke Skywalker. No-- more like Emperor Palpatine to Daniel's Anakin, given the general Goa'uld attitude. And wouldn't that be a disaster! A Goa'ulded Daniel was way, way up there on the list of things Sam hoped she never lived to see.

Jack looked faintly pleased with himself for his tension-breaking joke, but it didn't impair his alertness any as he took point, leading the team back toward the canyon. Sam shook her head and fell into third, the smile slipping from her face as she watched Daniel trying not to limp in front of her. The only injuries immediately visible from his close encounter were the bruises on his arm, but he'd hit the dirt column with enough force that he was probably bruised from armpit to thigh under his uniform, not to mention how badly the torque must have wrenched his shoulder. Janet would not be happy with him when they got back.

The boneyard seemed even more like a killing ground to Sam as they passed back through it on their journey back toward the Gate. It was still possible that the creatures Daniel had just caught a glimpse of were merely an essentially harmless transient population reacting defensively to their intrusion, but somehow she doubted that. SG-1's luck had always run perpendicular to the easy route. Daniel could find one artifact and use it to correctly predict a tribe of Unas in the hills; surely, it was no coincidence that he'd nearly fallen into a nest of large, unnaturally swift animals shortly after pointing out carnivorous tooth-marks on a handful of splintered bone.

Teal'c covered every solitary spire atop the canyon's walls with his staff weapon as they walked, and the Colonel was paying even more attention to the walls than he had before, as though looking for any sign of an additional entrance to the underground caverns. Sam could feel the effects of their alertness on her own attitude, as the hair stood up on the back of her neck and refused to lie back down. Just once, she would have liked to participate in a mission that went off without a hitch; as it was, she couldn't shake the feeling that the trouble wasn't over yet.

They stopped once more before making the final push to the Stargate, just inside the mouth of the canyon where they'd first gotten a look at the whale-sized skeletons. It was pretty clear by that time they weren't going to be chased back to the SGC, for which small grace Sam was quite thankful. Even better: the whine of the UAV overhead was a welcome reminder that the primary objective of the mission was still within her reach.

Sam smiled a little as she turned her head up to follow the sound, shading her eyes with one hand as the little automated airplane flew through the glare of the paired suns. In half an hour, it and she would both be back through the Gate, and a wealth of data on this implausible solar system's structure would be hers to decipher. She enjoyed her job as team-second on SG-1 very much, but scientific mysteries like this one were the icing on a very tasty cake.

She jumped a little, startled, as another sound interrupted the UAV's familiar buzz, and gazed across the rocky plain to see the second chevron locking into place on the Gate. They'd obviously missed the time set for their first check-up, but standard procedure would have the SGC dialing in at regular intervals afterward, and this activation didn't fit that pattern. She checked her watch again to be sure, then exchanged alarmed glances with the Colonel and moved backward without being told into what little cover there was behind a large rock propped against one of the canyon's walls.

Daniel snugged in behind her, and Teal'c and Jack found their own cover behind convenient skeletal fragments on the opposite side of the canyon. Sam wriggled her fingers and toes as they waited, adding up all the times they'd been trapped like this within sight of the Gate, mere minutes before they would have escaped. On a world with a slave population or valuable resources, however, that was a risk that could be planned for; she was even more baffled at the idea of a Goa'uld visiting this barren place than she had initially been at the idea of the Ancients building a Gate here to begin with. Maybe it was the SGC after all; the obvious alternative-- someone leaking SG-1's itinerary to their enemies-- was a sour weight in her stomach.

The rest of the chevrons lit in quick order, and the horizontal flush of an establishing wormhole quickly settled back into a pool of shimmering blue. Sam fumbled in her vest pockets for her binoculars, and saw the Colonel out of the corner of her eye doing the same as they waited to find out who their visitors were. After a moment's pause, a pair of Jaffa with unfamiliar insignia on their foreheads stepped through the Gate.

Jack groaned audibly. "For crying out loud. You recognize that symbol, big guy?"

Teal'c rumbled an affirmative. "It is an ostrich feather, the mark of a minor Goa'uld called Shu."

"Shoo?" Jack's eyebrows shot up at the name. "As in, 'shoo, go away?'"

"No, as in Shu, the Egyptian god of the atmosphere and of dry winds," Daniel muttered in Sam's ear. "Also a personification of the sun's light-- rather appropriate, considering. According to mythology, he's one of the sons of Ra."

"Probably not a fan of ours, then," Sam joked half-heartedly, watching as several more Jaffa stepped through the wormhole. Several pair after the first two Jaffa carried-- or dragged-- another figure with them, and all bore staff weapons.

The Jaffa were still coming through when one of them abruptly looked up in the direction of the UAV's flight path, and Sam cursed silently, realizing what was about to happen. So much for my research, she thought dispiritedly as a blast from the Jaffa's staff lashed out and knocked the unmanned plane into a tight, descending spiral.

The other Jaffa dropped their charges in a heap before the Gate and fanned out, forming an alert, protective perimeter as the last of their companions finished Gating in. All told, there were some two dozen Jaffa and half a dozen prizoners present when the wormhole finally winked out.


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