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Posted January 27, 2006
Fan Fiction: Eclipse
Act Four: Lights Out
"Damnit," Jack hissed, lowering his binoculars for a moment as he leaned back against the canyon wall opposite Sam and Daniel. "How much water you got over there, Carter?" he asked quietly, lifting his sunglasses to meet her eyes directly.
They'd been waiting at the mouth of the canyon for several hours already, watching to see what would happen. To their confusion, the first group of Shu's soldiers had done nothing but stake their prisoners out on long chains, several dozen yards in front of the Gate. None of the captives had their hands free, but all of them had had their feet untied before the Jaffa had retreated into guard positions around the Gate. Finally, as the red and amber suns neared the horizon again on the opposite side of the sky, the First Prime had arrived, accompanied by their Goa'uld overlord. Shu had immediately begun directing the men in assembling several pieces of technology Sam was unfamiliar with.
It had been a long, hot, dusty wait. Sam shook her canteen, glanced inquisitively at Daniel, then met the Colonel's gaze again with a frown. "A few hours' worth at normal rations. If we tried to retreat and wait them out? It could take days; I don't think we have enough."
Next to Jack, Teal'c stiffened abruptly and drew in a deep breath. "I do not believe that will be necessary, Major Carter," he said, staring intently at the equipment the Goa'uld was setting up. "If this is the world I now believe it to be, retreating from this position would be most unwise."
Daniel stirred. "What is it, Teal'c? Did you recognize something?"
Teal'c squared his jaw grimly and lowered the binoculars again, fixing Sam and then Daniel with a severe, intent expression. "Jaffa legend speaks of a world that knows darkness only once every score of years, inhabited by demonic creatures that roamed the night to feast on the flesh of the unwary. These rumors are often spoken of in connection to Netu; Bra'tac believed that they were old, inaccurate tales dating to a time before Sokar transformed that world with fire and poison to more closely simulate the mythical environment of Hell."
"Looking pretty accurate from here," Jack muttered. "So what are those doohickeys they're setting up that bother you so much?"
"The most accurate Tau'ri term for their function would be 'floodlight'," Teal'c said, glancing toward the setting suns. They still hovered several fingers' width above the horizon, but it would be no more than an hour before they dipped out of sight to make way for the blue sun again.
Sam swallowed through a suddenly dry throat. Why would anyone bring light to a planet that had it in abundance, unless they were expecting that to change? "Eclipse," she blurted, staring at Jack in sudden shock. "If the legends are right..."
"Those creatures, back there-- they attacked my flashlight," Daniel interrupted her, sounding horrified. "Look at the way the Jaffa are positioning those lamps-- they're set up for protection, like a fence, in a ring around the Gate."
"I think you're on to something there." Jack grimaced, lifting his binoculars again to watch the proceedings. "The way they staked out those prisoners, they're several yards outside of the ring of lamps-- they have just enough chain to stand up and run a few feet, but not enough to reach the light."
"That's barbaric," Daniel hissed, angrily.
"That's the Goa'uld for you," Jack countered, then glanced at Sam again. "Any way to tell how long it'll be until it happens, Carter?"
She shook her head. "If I had the data from the UAV, I might be able to tell, but without it?" She shrugged helplessly. "Soon, I'd guess, from the way they're setting things up."
"That's helpful," he replied sarcastically. "No chance of getting ourselves through the Gate before it happens, then."
"Probably not, sir."
"Damn it." He leaned back against the canyon wall again, thumping his head against the rock a few times. "If it's really that dangerous... we've got our flashlights and a couple of emergency flares, but the minute we light something up those Jaffa are going to see us, and I really don't like the odds. This is the last time I wish for a more interesting mission."
A sudden cacophony of Jaffa voices drew the team's attention; several of Shu's soldiers had lowered their staff weapons, pointing at the suns. Sam followed their gaze and saw--
"Holy Hannah," she breathed, as an impossibly huge, brownish arch began moving up the bowl of sky, inching upwards to meet the sinking suns.
"Is that--" Jack blurted, then fell silent, as a second curving arch joined the first.
Idly, in the tiny part of her mind not awestruck by the sight before her, Sam wondered what PM3-44G's diameter and rate of spin were, and calculated the probable size of those rings based on likely values. For rings they must be, and a gas giant to follow, if the eclipse was to last for any length of time--
"Dear God," Daniel said breathlessly, as the horizon seemed suddenly to bulge. An enormous, dark curve swelled above the rocky landscape, creeping inexorably upwards.
"It is upon us," Teal'c commented gravely.
For a moment, Sam almost forgot why they were on the planet on the first place, the desperate odds they faced against Shu's Jaffa and the nightmarish fate that Teal'c's legends assigned those who wandered in the dark. She'd seen her share of lunar and solar eclipses on Earth, watching them through pinholes in styrofoam cups as a child and through more sophisticated equipment when she was older. But this-- she'd never seen, never imagined anything so majestic. If she'd felt small earlier that day standing under a cage of long-dead bones, she felt positively miniscule now, faced with a such an unbelievable display of nature's might.
The bulge of the gas giant resolved itself into a partial sphere as it continued to rise relative to their position, its rings spearing outward at an angle to intersect the suns. As the first ring crossed the fiery golden point of the brighter sun, the light around them dimmed to a rusty red, as though shining through a pane of glass stained with old blood. Flashes of light flickered along the near edge of the gas giant's orb, a sparkling effect Sam recognized at once though she'd never before seen it on so large a scale.
"Baily's beads," she muttered, awed.
A few seconds later, the rings crossed the second sun as well, and the light dimmed further, casting sepia-toned shadows over everything and everyone. The Goa'uld barked several sharp commands in his dual-toned voice, and the ring of floodlamps abruptly lit up, creating a small island of brightness in an increasingly darkened landscape. No sooner had the lamps ignited, than a distant, alien series of whistling and screeching sounds began, echoing to the point that it was almost impossible to guess directionality. The creatures Daniel had encountered had made sounds that reminded Sam of sonar; in retrospect, that made perfect sense.
"They're blind," she said, a little louder, for the Colonel's ears. "The creatures-- they're blind. They use sonar to navigate. And with the light gone--"
"They're tasting their first breath of free air in two decades," Daniel said quietly, gazing back over his shoulder in the direction of the hedgehog-like mound they'd seen from afar.
The sounds grew louder, barreling in their direction at a frightening rate of speed, and Sam looked up just in time to see a flock of tiny, angular shapes flashing overhead in what little dim, brown daylight remained.
"They can fly?" Jack hissed, sounding indignant.
"They-- they must be hatchlings, babies," Daniel said. "Or maybe something different... they're much smaller than the creatures I caught a glimpse of earlier." He shifted next to Sam, rubbing stiffly at the arm and shoulder he'd bruised in that encounter.
The flight of hatchlings veered near the column of light the Goa'uld had created, then swerved abruptly away again, screeching loudly at the encounter before flashing away over the landscape in another direction. Over their noise, Sam could hear a set of more distinct, differently-pitched alien voices, calling out from the direction the hatchlings had first flown from. The adults, if that's what they were, weren't far behind.
Sam gulped, glancing back at the brown disk erasing the sky, and was treated to another show of Baily's beads as one of the suns finally escaped from the darkening rings for a few seconds only to be swallowed up by the gas giant itself. In its wake, absolute darkness spread across the face of the planet, sparing only the Jaffa encampment.
Night had fallen.
"Well, fuck," Jack muttered, viciously. Sam couldn't see him any longer; the cover he'd chosen to block the view of the enemy also shielded him from what little stray light pollution leaked their way, leaving him deep in a pool of shadows as black as ink. Sam had thought she'd seen darkness before, but she'd never seen anything like this. When she glanced over her shoulder to catch a glimpse of Daniel, she couldn't even see the hand he'd reached out toward her; when it landed on her arm, she flinched violently, her heart thudding in her chest with the force of her surprise.
"They will be here within moments," Teal'c rumbled, eliciting another jolt from Sam's fraught nerves.
"Do it, Jack," Daniel said urgently, his hand trembling a little on Sam's arm. "We haven't got a choice."
"I know, I know!" Jack hissed back. "Just-- be ready. All hell's going to break loose when they see us."
"Understood, sir." Sam tried to inject a note of calm in her voice, and wasn't quite sure she'd succeeded.
"Here goes nothing."
Sam turned her face away, bracing herself, and managed not to flinch when the actinic flash of a freshly-lit flare bloomed in the corner of her vision. A high-pitched scream sounded from behind them, and she turned sharply in time to see a strange shape retreating back up the canyon, a wide head flaring out to blunt points like that of a hammerhead shark above a mouth full of long, sharp teeth.
Rattling noises at the tops of the cliffs announced the presence of more of the creatures, and Sam shivered, wrenching her attention away from them toward the Jaffa camp from whence the more immediate danger was likely to come. She couldn't immediately see what they were doing beyond the row of lights, but the flash of staff energy blasting against the cliff above them was answer enough to her worries. Another creature screeched loudly as the blast detonated, sending a shower of rock fragments down over their heads, and somewhere between their position and the Goa'uld camp one of the prisoners began to scream.
"We're going to have to move," she blurted. "We don't have enough cover here. The Jaffa will be able to target us before we get anywhere near them, and we'll be exposed on all sides to the creatures if we leave the canyon."
"Fuck!" Jack hissed again, sounding as furious as she'd ever heard him. "We're going to have to retreat."
"To where?" Sam replied.
"We'll figure that out as we go. Just move! And for God's sake, stay in the light!"
© 2006 Jedi Buttercup.