AN: Sorry for not updating in ages RL is too hectic for words. Thanks for your patienceand your wonderful reviews,i'll try not to be so long with the next chapter. Big thanks to Helen for betaing this for me.
Wraith of the Gods
Damn it! Was it possible that she was too late to save her? No! She wasn't prepared to accept that possibility, not when she was so close to reaching her. She hadn't done all of this, for the girl's life to be snatched away.
The tunnel had narrowed considerably; there was no way she was going to make it without brushing away the debris that lined the floor. She swept the dirt away delicately, taking great care not to disturb the surrounding structure. Suddenly she heard a rumble in the distance catching her off guard, and she felt the earth tremble beneath her. An Earthquake. Without warning, the structure became unstable, soil erupted from the ground like a volcano spewing its lava, there was nowhere she could go to brace herself from the full force. She had no other alternative but to curl up into a ball and hope for the best. She could just imagine the colonel's words of wisdom resonating in the darkness, "Put your head between your legs and kiss your ass goodbye!"
Running as fast as his legs could carry him, Jack rushed towards the cave's entrance, just as the ground beneath him began to tremble. The effect knocked him off balance and he watched as Kaleb fell to his knees.
"Daniel! Teal'c!" Jack shouted above the rumble. The sky was beginning to turn decidedly nasty, but he persevered. "Teal'c? Do you copy?" All he received though was static.
Shaking his head, he realised that there must be some magnetic interference affecting the radio. Damn her! He should have never let her stay there on her own. What was he thinking? He knew that there was something lurking behind her steely blue eyes. But after everything they'd been through, he had been of the opinion that no matter whether she disagreed with his judgements or not, she'd never directly disobey his orders.
He'd been wrong.
Arriving at the mouth of the cave, the earthquake took them all by surprise, there had been no smaller shakes from the ground indicating any kind of seismic disturbance, making Daniel and Teal'c wonder what it was that had triggered this off. They supposed it was possible that the same tectonic plates that caused earthquakes on Earth could be evident here, but without a geological survey, they supposed they'd never know. For the time being though, their concern wasn't for the planet's crust, but for their friend who was almost certainly trapped underground…or worse. Seeing Jack rush towards them his eyes pensively searching for some sign of her on his way, they realised that there was only one place she could have gone; inside the structure.
"Have you seen her?" Jack asked his remaining team members, his face flushed from the exertion of running back to the cave.
"You don't think…" Daniel asked watching Jack's reaction carefully, then proceeded, "…no, she wouldn't."
"Wouldn't she? The way she's been acting lately, nothing would surprise me. So help me, if the earthquake hasn't flattened her, then I will."
"Don't, Daniel, I'm not in the mood. I need you and Kaleb to secure the rope around the timber structure."
"What are you going to do?"
"I'm going in, so enough of the chit chat," Jack replied firmly, ensuring that there was no room for argument. "Teal'c, give me a hand with this." He finished, moving the fallen debris out of the way to make room for the newly acquired lumber needed to secure the entrance.
"Jack, what if there's another tremor?" Daniel shouted above the clap of thunder.
"I'm not leaving her in there, Daniel."
"I'm not suggesting you do, but at least let's look at all the possibilities. We haven't had time to search the entire perimeter yet. All I'm saying is, give us a chance to see if there is another way in."
"Kaleb?" Jack turned around and faced the young boy directly. "Is there or isn't there another way in?"
"I don't know. Aaliyah and I have been searching these ruins for several days now, and this is the only way in as far as I know," Kaleb replied stony faced, obviously fearful of the repercussions that he might face.
"There you go, Daniel. I'm not prepared to waste hours searching for something that may or may not be there. Now haul that beam up there and quit with the talking."
"Jack, I know you're angry with her…" Daniel looked over at a stoic faced Teal'c; whoseeyes said it all. Jack wasn't prepared to listen to anything that they had to say. At a risk to his own safety, he was prepared to lay his life on the line for a member of his team. It wasn't the first time he'd done something like this, and Daniel hoped it wouldn't be the last.
"Don't go there, Daniel," Jack ventured heatedly at the young archaeologist. His eyes blazed with silent fury at his 2IC for going against his orders. He knew there was a chance that she could be dead. From the look of the structure, there had certainly been a cave in, and he was worried as well as angry. If she was in there, and still alive, he was going to make damn sure she understood how pissed he was at her.
Inside the ruins, Sam felt the walls crumbling all around her. Trying to protect her head and her airway was her main priority as the soil and debris continued to close in. The roar of thunder seemed to resonate through the cave's long narrow hallways. Curling her body tighter into a little ball. Keeping her eyes closed, she watched without any hope of escape, as stone fragments hurtled towards her, striking her arms, legs and finally colliding with her head, as the rock around her started to fracture. Suddenly she felt water trickling through her fingers, which were gripped around her head. As if time was standing still it dawned on her, that it wasn't water… it was blood. A slight panic rose up in her chest at the thought that she might never see daylight or her friends again. A small voice crept inside her mind telling her that there was a very real possibility that she was doomed to be trapped in this place forever. Mercifully that train of thought didn't last long, as she felt her vision closing in around the edges before she passed out unceremoniously on the damp soil beneath her.
"Carter!" Jack pressed his ear as close to the opening as he could get and called out her name incessantly. Nothing. The only sound he could hear was the wind whistling through the cavern. For what seemed an eternity, he continued to call her name, but it was all in vain. There was no sign that she could hear him, and his concern for her well being increased expedentially. His calls fell on deaf ears as torrential rain opened up from the heavens pummelling the inhabitants on the ground. A fierce storm was brewing and Jack was growing more impatient as the weather seemed intent on hampering their efforts.
Their clothes, drenched from the torrential rain, clung to their bodies as if it were a second skin. With hair plastered to their faces and the wind whipping around their bodies in a whirling frenzy they tried valiantly to put up the last post, which would stabilise the structure.
Above the roar of the storm, Kaleb who'd kept quiet spoke above the claps of thunder overhead said, "We can't stay here for much longer."
"Why not?" Daniel enquired with a furtive glance towards him as he securely tied the rope around the man made posts.
"This whole area floods when the storms come."
"Why didn't you tell us this earlier?" Daniel retorted snapping his head round to look at Jack.
"I was frightened that you wouldn't help us if you knew about the floods. My mother warned me not to come today, but I had promised Aaliyah that I would meet her here. I couldn't break my promise."
"You picked a hell of a time to tell us, Kaleb," Jack barked at the young lad.
"It is not his fault, O'Neill."
"He shouldn't have been playing around here in the first place."
"Were we not reminded some time ago, O'Neill, that the very young do not always do as they are told?" Teal'c advised him, recalling the advice given to them by the Nox.
Jack sighed in response; deep down he knew that it wasn't the kids' fault they were here. But somehow the thought didn't reassure him in the slightest. Tying the last knot in place he realised that this was about the securest it would get. And in light of the impending disaster waiting to hit him and his team in the not too distant future, he knew it was now or never.
Waking up with a thumping headache, Sam tentatively opened up her eyes and groaned. Gingerly she turned herself over, and felt a shiver rush through her bones causing the hairs on her arms to rise with the drop in temperature. Taking a steadying breath she stated aloud, "Not one of your greatest plans, Sam."
Checking herself over to ensure that no permanent damage had been done she tried to remove the clog of dirt that had somehow worked its way up into her nostrils, and in an unladylike fashion, she tried to clear out the mess, with only little success. "Glad the colonel's not here to see that," she declared openly to the vast darkness in front of her.
Taking a good look around, she realised that staying there just wasn't an option, she'd come in here for a reason, and if nothing else she was going to make damn sure all of this wasn't for nothing. Picking herself up of the ground, she saw the devastation first hand. As her eyes grew accustomed to the darkness she realised that it wasn't as bad as she had anticipated. With a renewed sense of hope she made her way to the light source that she'd seen before the earthquake.
"Aaliyah!" Sam shouted, her voice resonating in the caverns. Still nothing, there was no sound emanating from within the tunnel except for a gentle humming sound, which seemed to be getting louder the closer she got to the glow.
Treading carefully she finally found her way through the catacombs that snaked the long since abandoned hallways, before finding her way into a small chamber. The room was lit by what appeared to be some kind of power source held centrally in the middle of the compact 'room'. Her eyes scanned around for some sign that the girl was nearby, she was sure that given her options, the girl wouldn't have strayed too far from the light source, but she was nowhere in sight. All she could see before her was the girl's shawl that lay haphazardly by the artefact.
Picking the clothing up, she looked closely at the material held in her hand. There was no sign of blood, and from the look of everything around her, there didn't seem to be any reason why the girl would wander far from here, particularly knowing that help was on its way. Walking over to where the girl had laid down her belongings, she rubbed her hand through her hair; frowning at what lay before her. It didn't make any sense. Why would she disappear, how could she disappear? There really was nowhere else the girl could have gone. Was it possible that there were more underground caverns lurking behind the walls? She didn't know, but she was determined to find out. People didn't just vanish into thin air, there had to be a logical explanation for it.
The machine. That must have something to do with it. Where else could she have gone? A thought crossed her mind, that maybe the machine was a teleportation device of some sort or possibly a time portal? Or on the other hand it could just be a fancy light source? At this point, it was all just speculation. There was just something niggling her that didn't sit right about the machine. Why would someone hide this sort of technology? She supposed the inhabitants might not realise it was here, but then, if that was the case, did that mean that the settlers here weren't native to this region?
Sighing with frustration, she walked over to the artefact; its surfaces were smooth like a console apart from the surface, which felt coarse around its ridges. The language on the interface was nothing like she'd seen before, and she hoped that maybe Daniel could look at it, if the colonel ever let him in here that was! As her mind took her back to not more than an hour earlier, she realised that when the colonel did eventually catch up with her, she was in deep trouble. Then, just as if their minds were linked, she heard a concerned voice calling from the shadows.
Whipping her head round, she realised that it was the colonel's voice. "Sir, follow the light source," Sam shouted back, hoping he wasn't as pissed off as he sounded. She knew she'd have to face the consequences of her actions.
It couldn't have been more than a few minutes before he found her standing up against a large machine, her face covered with a mixture of dried mud and blood. She looked a mess. From her guilty, expressive eyes, she knew that she was in for a dressing down from him.
"Are you okay?" Jack asked, quietly moving towards her.
"I'm fine, just banged up a bit."
"Good, because if you ever pull a stunt like that again, Carter, I will haul your ass over the coals," Jack raged, his face burning with un-vented fury at her defiance.
"Sir, I was just…" Sam tried to explain, even though she knew there was no way he was going to listen. The look on his face made it perfectly clear that she had annoyed him big time by going against his orders.
"Save it, Carter. I don't want to hear it. Now pack up your stuff, we have to get out of here," Jack replied gruffly. Then looking around the room, he realised she was alone. "Where's the girl?"
"I can't find her. I've looked, sir, and wherever she is, she's not here," Sam replied sheepishly. Watching his reaction she became fully aware that her insubordination had been for nothing.
"Is there another entrance…exit…any place she could have gone?"
"No, sir. There's a small cavern further on, but it leads to a dead end."
"Well then you're going to have to leave the search and rescue, Carter. We haven't got much time to get out of here, this whole place is going to flood."
"Sir, we can't leave, what if she's got lost somewhere, or there's a secret passage…"
"Carter, what part of 'this place will flood' didn't you get? You've already told me there is nowhere she could have gone," Jack retorted, his patience wearing thin.
"But sir, we can't just leave her," Sam answered honestly. She didn't know who she was trying to convince more, herself or him. Couldn't he see that this was important to her?
"Carter, there is no one here to leave. Now, get your stuff, we're heading back." Watching Sam's gaze flicker around the room he finished stoically. "Now, Major! That's an order. You do remember how to follow them don't you?"
"Yes, sir," Sam replied, not meeting his steely gaze. Then turning to face the glowing machine beside her, she said, "What about the machine?"
"What about it?"
"Well, look at it, sir. What if it holds the secrets as to why Aaliyah's disappeared?"
"Carter. I don't care. We can come back another time."
"What about the floods? What if this…"
"Well, the fact that it's still here would sort of indicate that it can withstand the floods. I don't know about you, Carter, but I don't particularly relish drowning. We've been there, bought the T-shirt, barely escaped with our lives…remember?" Jack advised her, recalling the very vivid details of nearly drowning on the Goa'uld mother ship. Growing impatient with her stalling, he grabbed her arm. "We go now, Major. Or do I have to carry you out?"
"I'm sure I can manage, sir."
"Good. Move it." Jack finished pushing her out of the cavern. "Teal'c? Daniel? If you can hear me, I've got Carter, but there's no sign of the girl. We're on our way back. O'Neill out."
"Jack. You'd better hurry, the weather's getting worse," Daniel shouted against the backdrop of increasing winds.
Jack stole a look at the face of his 2IC noticing her cheeks develop a rosy tinge. She'd been found out. There was nothing wrong with her radio. "Copy that."
Shaking his head, he stole a gaze at her, "Well, fancy that, the radio's do work down here. Remind me to check yours when we get topside…it must be faulty!" Jack finished harshly.
"Sir…I…I can explain…" Sam stuttered nervously
"No you can't, so don't even try," Jack finished abruptly. Nothing she said would make any difference, not only had she disobeyed his orders, but she'd lied in the process. It was something he'd never expected from her. Throughout their time together they'd had disagreements. He never expected her to accept all his orders, but he damn well expected her to follow them through. And now she had lied to him. He had no idea what that was all about, but now wasn't the time or place to discuss it, and he made it very clear on that point that he didn't even want to talk to her for the time being.
Sam closed her eyes tightly, she'd done more than let him down, and she knew that. And he was right: her only defence was trying to ensure that no one got hurt. But unintentionally someone had…him, and their relationship, that bond of trust was cracked and she knew she had to work twice as hard to mend it, before the break became irreversible.
Carrying on in silence they stepped carefully over the fallen rocks and timber before them, making sure that they didn't disturb the ruins any further than necessary, and headed for the surface.
"Aaliyah?" Kaleb asked softly, but knowing full well that she was gone…just like the others who disappeared from his home. His hair was plastered to his face; the rain fell heavily down his tear-streaked face masking his tears. He couldn't believe she was gone, not Aaliyah. Why now? Where? Had she done something so horrible to cause this? It seemed only the Gods knew the reason for her indiscretions, and he wondered when it would be his turn to face them.
"I'm sorry." Was all that Daniel could say. He didn't know the circumstances surrounding the girl's disappearance, and would only find out when Jack and Sam returned, hopefully before it was too late. As things stood now, they were barely holding their own against the force of extreme weather that had descended upon them.
"We've angered the Gods. We must leave this place before we to disappear," Kaleb advised them solemnly.
"What Gods are you referring to?" Teal'c enquired preparing his staff weapon for possible battle.
"Our God. He's unhappy with us. He's the one who's causing the storms. We must leave here immediately otherwise we will all be taken...just like Aaliyah."
"Kaleb. It's just a storm. It might get a bit nasty for a while, but I'm sure it'll pass. We just need to find some shelter," Daniel advised him softly, trying desperately to placate him.
"No." Kaleb continued shaking his head at their lack of understanding. "You don't understand, how could you? You are strangers to this world. It is our way. When we transgress, our Gods punish us. Aaliyah should never have gone into the sacred ruins, her God is punishing her, just as he will with us if we don't leave here." In his heart Kaleb couldn't stand the thought of leaving this place, leaving her, but ultimately he had no choice. It seemed as if the 'Gods'that had taken Aaliyah, and to him, it was a sign that he should leave this place and never return…he realised that now.
"Sacred ruins?" Daniel queried stealing a nervous look in Teal'c's direction. Was it possible that they'd stumbled onto some sacred land, and interfered with something they shouldn't have? In all honesty he didn't know, but he needed to find out. If this friend of Kaleb's was truly taken by some unknown force for being in a sacred place, then what of his friend's?
"It was such a long time ago, it's what caused a great rift amongst our people. Our God is vengeful and he takes whomever he pleases. He is without mercy. The young, the old, it does not matter to him, the legend states that they are forced to serve him for all time."
"Have you ever met this God?"
"No, of course not. But I have heard the stories; I've seen what he is capable of. Aaliyah is gone, what more proof do you need?" Kaleb's indignation was clear for them both to see, what right did this stranger have to question his society's beliefs?
Sighing with small relief that they may not be in as much danger from an all out Goa'uld invasion as Daniel initially thought, he stepped forward slightly and moved the young lad into a small nook that sheltered him only slightly from the elements. "Well, in our world, we too have many legends. There are stories of people disappearing, but there's normally a logical explanation for it, Kaleb. Let's not worry until we have to, okay?" Daniel broached carefully, not wishing to shatter the boy's whole belief system in one go.
From the look on the young man's face, it was clear though that he wasn't convinced. Something was troubling the young man, and be it real or imaginary, the feelings emanating from him made it clear that something in the child's past had made a huge impact on him. It wasn't faith Daniel saw in the boy's eyes…it was fear.
"Carter, there's a pot hole about two feet to your left. Be careful," Jack told her softly, breaking the silence.
"Yes, sir." For the last half an hour they had walked, crawled and slid along the floor in silence, and she wondered if this was what it was going to be like from this point forward. The odd word here and there when it suited him, the strained atmosphere of working closely, she would hate it. Hopefully they weren't too far from the surface now. She was sure she saw a slight crack of light in the distance, either that or her eyes had quickly become used to the darkness. She was cold, wet, tired and had a headache that wouldn't quit. And to top it all, she was miserable. She hated that she had put him in this position, but did he really think that she could just stand idly by and watch someone else's life slip through her fingers?
Regret was a terrible thing. Over the last few weeks she'd thought about everything that had happened on P3X-666: Daniel's voice over the radio; his cries shattering over the airway as Janet was hit by a staff blast; and his heartfelt cry mingling with her own cries of panic as the colonel was hit directly in the chest. She still couldn't get over the fact at how close she came to losing both of them. If only she'd done something, worked harder, kept her promise to Cassie… The memory caused a shiver down her spine and unconsciously her teeth began chattering in the cold wind swept tunnels.
A funny noise behind Jack stopped him in his tracks. "What was that?"
"What?" Sam said softly listening to the emptiness around her.
"That noise. Listen."
"That would be my teeth," Sam responded, realising that it was her making the noise.
"Not that you'd notice," Sam responded softly.
"Well then, mind keeping the chattering down to a minimum, it's making me cold," Jack replied pulling his collar up over his neck.
"Sorry sir, I'll try to freeze to death a bit more quietly." She really had no right to complain after all, it was her fault they were in this mess. But she couldn't shake off that disturbing feeling that settled in the pit of her stomach.
"We're all cold, Major. In case you hadn't noticed, we've got a bit of a weather problem going on outside, and if it wasn't for your little stunt earlier, we would be home and dry by now. But, no, you had to go and play hero."
Here it comes. Sam sighed inwardly.
"Just what the hell were you playing at, coming in by yourself?" Jack asked quickening his pace as his temper got the better of him.
"Did you expect me to just leave her in there all alone with…"
"I expected you to follow orders, Major," Jack rebuked coldly, cutting her off completely.
"I waited as long as I could. I didn't feel as if I had any alternative, sir," Sam told him in all honesty. "If you had heard her… you would have done the same thing."
"I issue orders for a reason, Carter. And one of those reasons is to ensure the safety of my team. You could have gotten yourself killed." He was angry with her. No, not angry, furious would have been a better description. He couldn't understand how she could brazenly put her life on the line like that, without even considering the ramifications of her actions.
The worst thing about all of this was that his emotions were in turmoil at the thought that he could have lost her. They had only just buried one friend, and he didn't want to lose another…what? Friend? Who was he kidding? He knew deep down that she was more than that, but for so long he'd buried his feelings for her that now he didn't know what to feel. Had their friendship…relationship . . . naturally come to an end since she had been with Pete? He honestly didn't know. A small voice crept up inside him, telling him that if his feelings for her really had faded into the background, then he wouldn't be feeling the hurt and the worry when she'd disobeyed his orders, or been concerned for her as much as he was when he saw the blood trickling down her face.
"I knew what I was doing sir…I wasn't in any immediate danger."
"Really? You're sure about that? If that's the case why's your head bleeding?"
"It was just an unfortunate accident."
"There was nothing unfortunate about it. Firstly, if you had waited like I told you to, you wouldn't have been caught in the earthquake. Secondly, you wouldn't be injured, and thirdly I wouldn't be freezing my butt off."
Before Sam had a chance to answer, she felt the familiar tremors beneath her mud caked boots. The ground shook violently and Sam tensed as the eruptions gained momentum. "Sir!" Her voice echoed in the vast darkness. Time seemed to stand still for a moment as her panic stricken gaze tilted northwards…the ceiling. It was coming down on them, and the Colonel was in its path. "NO!"
End of Part 4