Swoosh – Part 1
"How much longer Carter?" O'Neill paced the gate room. His BDUs still fit but the half filled pack felt heavier than it should.
"We can't jump the gun sir. Daniel and Teal'c are supposed to arrive at 463 at ten after. If we dial in now they won't be able to dial in on time." Carter leaned against the wall and watched Jack pace.
"They should have just come here first so we could leave together." O'Neill scowled. Patience was never one of his best traits.
"You know how much Teal'c hates needles. If they'd come back here it would have taken hours to get them through medical. That would have meant more aimless pacing for you." Carter looked away from Jack so he couldn't see her smirk.
"Fine. How much longer?"
Carter glanced up at the control room hoping for salvation. Walter held up two fingers. She swallowed her sigh while keeping her eye roll to a bare minimum, skills she had perfected after years of working with impatient men. "Almost time sir."
It was a long two minutes but finally Walter gave them the thumbs up and the gate started spinning. The familiar swooch was followed by the glassy glow of the wormhole. "We have a signal from the M.A.L.P. You are approved for transport."
O'Neill smiled and stepped up the ramp with Carter to his left. It had been months since his last trip. He protested a little when he found out the Larians had refused to finalize the long negotiations unless the original team that made contact with them was there for the celebration but he was really thrilled to have another excuse to go through the gate. It wasn't exactly the same as the good old days since Daniel, who was at a dig on 721, and Teal'c, who was working with the freed Gao'uld, met off planet and gated to 463 together.
O'Neill and Carter stepped through the gate and felt the familiar pull as their molecules were torn apart. Walter however heard an alarm. He looked up in time to see the event horizon flash and disappear. Errors flashed across his screen.
General Landry looked over Walter's shoulder and felt his heart skip a beat. "Once you get those errors codes recorded dial back to 463. Let's make sure they made it." Walter nodded. Computer techs had flooded the room but Walter ignored their bickering over the errors codes as he dialed 463.
One of the geeks came up to Landry as the third chevron fell into place. "Sir, I strongly recommend against this. We shouldn't use the gate until we have a better idea what happened."
Landry nodded, "I understand your concern but I need to know if they made it and I'm not letting anyone go through. For now that will have to be enough."
"But using the gate might wipe out important data."
Landry sighed, "I know but this can't wait. You have a full copy of the computer stuff so you'll have to work with that." The fifth chevon locked as Landry turned his back on the computer technician. He knew the man was giving him good advice but his gut told him something was wrong and he didn't want to be the man responsible for killing General O'Neill.
The seventh chevron finally locked. "SGC to SG-1. Come in SG-1."
"This is Daniel Jackson." His voice came through just as him image appeared on the screen. He was leaning in towards the camera on the M.A.L.P. "Why did the gate flash open and then close? Are Jack and Sam still coming through?"
All eyes in the control room moved towards Landry. He felt the blood draining from his face. Landry slowly leaned back towards the microphone. "They went through the gate. We hoped they were with you. Something happened and we're working on figuring it out."
Daniels eyes widened, "They aren't there and they aren't here. Where the hell are they?"
"That is what we are trying to work out Dr. Jackson. We will get back with you when we know more."
"Teal'c and I are coming to the SGC." Daniel glanced back at Teal'c for confirmation that Teal'c agreed.
"I'm sorry Dr. Jackson but I promised the scientists that I wouldn't allow any gate travel for the time being. They fussed enough about making this connection. Everyone will be rerouted to the alpha site until these guys tell me they have all the info they can get ." Landry made eye contact with Walter and nodded.
"Right. I get it. Right." Daniel nodded but still looked stunned. "Let us know if we can do anything."
"Will do. SGC out." Landry signaled Walter and the gate shut down.
"Ugh. Ow. Damn. Carter? You ok?" O'Neill lay face down in the dirt. Carter landed partially on his left side.
"I'm fine, sir. You?" Carter rolled off of the General and sat up.
O'Neill rolled away from Carter until he was laying face up. "Not so much really. My trick knee decided now was the right time to do one of those yoga moves, like a camel doing a handstand or something."
Carter knew the sweat on the General's brow meant his pain was severe. His attempt to joke confirmed her fear but she had to get them out of this hole before she could focus on his injury. The hole in which they had landed was formed when the gate's event horizon opened. If the gate opened again before they got out of this hole they would both be vaporized.
"Do you think you can climb out?" Carter was looking up at the gate around the hole looking for the best way out.
"I'm willing to try just about anything to get out of this hole." O'Neill pushed himself up on his elbows and sat up. His right knee screamed as he moved but he knew he could push through it.
Carter helped Jack stand on his left leg. "I think we should climb out over here." She tilted her head to her left.
Through clinched teeth O'Neill said, "Whatever. Let's get on with it." It took three hops the edge where they could start climbing. They both looked up towards the gate. The edges of the hole were smooth. Carter helped the General prop himself against the side of the hole while she started climbing up, trying to carve out some hand holds.
Carter came back down and reached into O'Neill's backpack. She pulled a rope out and held it up. "Can you tie this into a harness or do you want me to do it?" She worked hard to keep a smirk off her face as she dangled a free end of the rope in front of the General's face.
O'Neill snatched it away. "I can tie my own harness." He looped the rope around his legs, waist, and chest.
"Let me climb out and I will anchor my rope around the gate. Then I can give you a little leverage as you climb up." Carter fully expected to be turned down so the pause that meant he was considering her office surprised her.
"Get on with it Carter. The sooner we are out of here the better."
Carter climbed up about 4 feet and looked down at Jack. He was pale but steady on his one good leg. She could tell from the look on his face that he wasn't going to be able to make progress until she threw down a rope. He saw her looking down.
"Make it quick. Once you get up there I'll take all the help you can give." Sam nodded and started moving again. Perhaps his time in Washington had been good for him.
It took Carter fifteen minutes to climb over the gate. She made footholds as she climbed. She tied her rope around the gate and threw the free down to O'Neill. He fastened it to his harness and gave it a hard pull.
Carter leaned over the gate and looked down at O'Neill. "I'm ready, sir. Tell me if I'm pulling too fast."
"There's no such thing as too fast when it come to getting out of this hole."
Carter started backing up, using her full weight to pull. Carter walked backwards to the dialing platform and wrapped the rope around it. She went back to the edge of the hole and saw the General was nearly half way up. "Having tea up there Colonel?"
"Earl Grey, sir. Ready for round two." Carter looked back over the edge as she reached for the rope.
"Let's go." Carter pulled on the rope until she could wrap it around herself and begin walking backwards. When she got to the dialing platform she secured the rope again. She wasn't back to the gate yet when she heard O'Neill yelling. "Just a little more. Come on Carter. I'm almost out."
"I'm right here." Carter started pulling again and within a minute she saw O'Neill's hand appear at the edge of the gate. She pulled until the top of his head appeared over the gate. She held her position until his elbows were over the edge. Once he has his weight secured she dropped the rope and help O'Neill over the edge of the gate.
He was covered in sweat and breathing like he had run five miles. O'Neill covered his face with his right arm as he lay in the grass panting. Cater was kneeling beside him. She took off her pack and pulled out her medical kit.
"Can I check your knee, sir?"
O'Neill nodded and sighed. "Go for it Colonel."
Carter untied his boot. He grunted as she lifted his leg to remove his boot. She placed it back down as gently as possible but she saw him grimace anyway. Once she got his pants leg up she saw his knee cap was sitting too far to the left. It was clearly dislocated.
"I am going to have to pull your leg while putting pressure on your knee cap to get it back into place." Carter grimaced as she said it. "Would you like something before I do it?"
"Nope. Just get it over with." O'Neill wrapped his free hand in his jacket and squeezed. Cater Placed one hand on the outside of his leg and pulled as hard as she could on his lower leg. O'Neill screamed as Carter felt his knee cap slide back into place. She gently lowered his leg. The General was breathing too quickly, which worried Carter. She pulled a wrap out of the medical kit.
"I'm gonna wrap up your knee. I still think you should take a small dose of a painkiller. It would take off the edge and not impede your judgment."
The General actually snickered. "You're worried about my judgment?"
"Since I have to follow your orders your judgment is always high on my list of concerns, sir." Carter smiled as O'Neill lifted his head to glance at her.
"Very funny. Wrap up my damn knee and I'll consider taking something."
Once O'Neill's knee was wrapped Carter put his boot back on. She cut one oxycotin into two pieces and handed the slightly larger piece and her canteen to the General.
"Thanks Colonel. Now that we aren't in that hole faced with imminent death if someone dialed in how about you go dial up the SGC and tell them they screwed up. I certainly don't see the majestic mountains of Larian. You can also tell them I am severely unhappy about them sending me into a gate that was lying down. They better not even think I'm gonna stand that thing up."
Colonel Carter nodded. "I'm sure General Landry will love to hear all of that from you when we get back sir."
"Oh he'll be getting quite an earful. So will Walter."
Carter went over to the dialing pedestal and stalled. She ran her hand over the symbols and then just stood staring. Her stillness worried O'Neill. He knew when her body stopped moving it was because her mind was whirling at a thousand miles an hour.
"Carter?" She slowed looked towards the General. "What's up?"
"These aren't the right symbols." She looked back at the pedestal as if maybe things would be different when she looked again. The symbols were just as wrong as the first time she looked at them.
O'Neill pushed himself up into a full sitting position. "Explain what you mean by wrong."
Carter looked back at him. Her eyes were wide and her face was slightly paler than before. "I mean these aren't the symbols we use. None of them look familiar. I have no idea how to dial the SGC."
"Help me up." O'Neill put his arms up and Carter came back over to him. She provided the leverage while he did the work. Having his kneecap back in place but half a pain pill made standing more tolerable. With Carter's help he limped to the dialing pedestal and confirmed what Carter had told him. He'd never seen any of these symbols.
"Alright Colonel, what do you think is going on here?" General O'Neill looked to side as Carter shook her head.
"I have a few guess but none of them are good."
"This could be a fake pedestal installed to confuse anyone who made it onto the planet. The symbols could have been altered by the people who laid the gate down. We could have arrived on a planet in a different gate system than ours."
The General nodded. "A different gate system?"
"We have been keeping records of all the gate pedestals when we go to new worlds. Those closest to Earth share all the same symbols but the further out we go the more often we find symbols not on our gate. The symbols correspond to star clusters so it makes sense that as we get further from Earth the adjacent planets would be associated with different start clusters. At some point it would be possible to be so far from Earth that all the star clusters are different." Carter kept running her hands over the new symbols as she talked.
"How could we end up gating that far?" The throbbing in his knee was giving O'Neill a headache and watching Carter ponder wasn't helping him feel better.
"I've been wondering about that. We hypothesized that we could jump from planet to planet until we got to one without any of our symbols. We kept records of the unique symbols as we traveled. We were able to plot star clusters for most of them which allowed us to make estimates about the real size of the gate system but all of that information is back at the SGC."
"So your best guess is we jumped really far?" O'Neill lifted his eyebrows in the hope his premiere scientist was willing to go with one hypothesis.
"Did the jump feel weird to you, sir?" Carter looked up from the pedestal and looked at O'Neill.
"The jump seemed bumpy and the landing was a real let down. If I had paid for that trip I would have been asking for a refund." O'Neill leaned against the pedestal. His knee was beginning to really protest again.
"I agree it was bumpy. Very unusual." Carter went back to looking at the pedestal.
"Alright Carter, this is interesting and all but I think we should set up camp and then you keep pondering the wonders of the universe." Carter absentmindedly nodded her consent. "I mean it. After we have some shelter you can let your marvelous wheels spin all night."
Carter had to grin at that. "My marvelous wheels?"
O'Neill shrugged his shoulders. "Yeah, you know, those wheels in your head that are always spinning and spitting out ideas that save my butt over and over." Carter laughed out loud. "Maybe you could get those wheels working on where we could set up a camp with some pretense of protection."
Carter and O'Neill looked out across the horizon at the flat fields of tall grass. They could see for miles but that also means they could easily be seen from miles away. There also wasn't anything that looked combustible, which meant no warm toasty fire tonight. It wasn't too cool right now but they both knew things would be different tonight.
"We're only carrying the diplomatic minimum in our packs so we're missing a few things we'd like to have tonight, like a tent and sleeping bags."
"Did I approve something as stupid as diplomatic packs?"
"Yes, sir. It also doesn't look like we're going to have a fire. Even if we had some wood we'd probably set this whole meadow on fire before we got our first marshmallow roasted."
"Diplomatic packs include marshmallows? Maybe I wasn't being a total idiot when I signed that order."
Carter sighed. She appreciated his attempts at levity but she couldn't give in or he'd just get worse. "I'm afraid we're each stuck with a couple MREs, probably the stuff nobody likes, some water, a small med kit, a thermal blanket, walkie talkies, solar battery charger, and an extra clip of ammo."
"That sounds luxurious. We might as well save the MREs for later."
Carter got out her thermal blanket and laid it out on the ground near the pedestal. "Why don't you sit here and I'll scout around a bit."
O'Neill hopped over to the blanket and slide down to the blanket. "What exactly do you plan to scout? We can see for miles."
Carter looked around at the vista that surrounded them, "I don't know. I just feel like I need to do something other than sit here."
"Fine, establish a perimeter but don't go further than I can see."
"That shouldn't be hard."
Carter walked out about a mile and circled around the area. There wasn't anything to see but grass and more grass. The walk gave her a little time to think but her thoughts made her mood even more foul.
"I'm back, sir."
"Good to know, Carter. Did you see anything interesting out there?" O'Neill was leaning against the podium playing with a strap on the backpack lying beside him. "Things have been lively here. I swear I saw at least three different things that looked like grasshoppers."
"Insects are high in protein." Carter took off her backpack and dropped it in front of O'Neill.
"We're not that desperate yet."
Carter sat down near her backpack and sighed. "Agreed, I'd prefer to be able to roast them so they are extra crispy and it doesn't look like we'll have a fire hanging out here."
"I worry about you Carter."
"Insects are a great way to keep my girlish figure."
"Ugh. I'll take the beer gut over cricket hips any day. Did you have any strokes of brilliance while you were out wandering?" O'Neill slid his backpack under his sore knee to prop it up a little.
Carter wasn't ready to share yet. "Would you like another half a pill?"
"Avoiding my question?"
"I have a bit more pondering I'd like to do. A nice view of the night sky wouldn't hurt either."
"Looks like you'll get your wish soon. The temp has already dropped several degrees so I bet we're in for a cold night." O'Neill's arms were already wrapped around himself.
"Let me take first watch. You can go ahead and take a pain pill while I keep thinking things through." Carter reached into her backpack for the med kit.
"Alright but you keep those creepy crickets away from me. They looked like they could be trouble makers." O'Neill took the backpack out from under his knee so he could slide down and lay down. Carter reached into his pack and got out the second thermal blanket. She slid her backpack over towards the General.
"You can use one pack as a pillow and the other under your knee."
O'Neill swallowed the pain pill and lay down. "Why this is just luxurious. We could make a bundle advertising this as a getaway for all those yuppies."
"Wasn't yuppies more of an 80's term, sir?"
"Hit me while I'm down Carter. Good night." O'Neill closed his eyes but didn't wipe the smirk off his face for several minutes.