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Recalling the Past - Surviving the Present
After the Blast
Sam looked up in a daze. She was plastered against the base of a tree, literally nose to bark, and couldn't quite remember how she got there. She turned her head, wincing when she felt her cheek scrape against the rough surface. Reaching up to touch her face, she felt warm liquid and saw bright red blood on her fingers when she brought them down within sight.
"Ok, I guess the tree won that round. What the heck am I doing here?"
Turning her head further made her aware of a dull pain in her the back of her skull. Not as painful as the Prometheus concussion, but something must have hit her hard.
"I couldn't have been out very long, because the blood on my cheek hasn't clotted yet. What happened?"
Recalling the dizziness which had resulted from any head movement when she'd suffered her recent head injury, she decided to wait a minute or so before trying to look around.
"Janet will kill me if I've managed to get another concussion so soon after the last one."
Still disoriented, she tried to recall where she was and how she had gotten there.
"Wait a minute, my ears are ringing."
Testing a theory, she said out loud, "Testing, testing. Ok, that's a really stupid thing to say."
Not hearing her own voice, she concluded that she must have been injured in an explosion, with temporary deafness as a result. That explained why she had ended up going one-on-one with the tree, too. She must have been thrown by the blast. Her head jerked up as it all suddenly came rushing back to her.
"The alpha site, the drone, the self destruct. Dad! Oh no, Dad!"
She quickly pushed up off the ground, all worries about possible head trauma banished by concern for her father. Scanning the immediate area, she saw no sign of her father or the drone which had been pursuing them when the self destruct went off.
"Well, that's good at least. Putting one of them at ground zero of an explosion that strong is about the only way that I know for sure will eliminate the damn things. This one may not have been at the center of the blast radius, but maybe it was enough to take it down. God, this new weapon better work. Otherwise, I don't know how we're going to beat Anubis."
"But where's Dad? I know that he was right behind me."
Walking away from her landing site, she looked around, stunned by the total devastation. The trees were completely flattened, which made the area look like a logging site gone crazy. A haze filled the air, smoke from the explosion burning her eyes and making breathing difficult. She decided to head back toward the gate site, looking for her father on the way. If there were other survivors, they were likely to make their way to the gate's location as well.
Even though there were no landmarks left to indicate the correct direction, it wasn't difficult to determine where the base had been. All the destruction was aimed out from a central point, with the carnage becoming more complete the closer to the center that she got.
"DAD! DAD! CAN YOU HEAR ME?"
"Well that's probably a waste of time. If I can't hear, he won't be able to either. Might as well just look and not yell. Just before the blast, I saw some of the guys heading toward the tree line; maybe they were far enough away from the base when it blew so that they weren't hurt. If so, I'll need to connect up with them, and we can search for any other survivors and make plans for surviving until the SGC figures out a way to get to us."
She picked her way through the fallen trees, trying to spot any sign of her father.
"Why couldn't Dad have worn some bright colored earth clothing instead of those earth tones that the Tok'Ra seem to love? A nice red flannel shirt would be so much easier to spot. But nooo, he has to do the blending-in bit."
Sam suddenly remembered something he told her that morning.
"He gave up coffee because Selmak doesn't like it. Wow. And what else did he say? When I said I didn't know that, he said 'We never talk anymore, Sam.' I know he was kind of kidding, but…"
Her eyes filled with tears as she realized that they might not have the chance to remedy that. Up until now, she'd managed to avoid thinking about the possibility that her father hadn't survived the explosion. Now that thought drove home the fact that she hadn't spent nearly as much time with him as she would have liked.
Ironically, this mission was supposed to have allowed for that. The time at the alpha site was a quasi-leave for her. Granted, she would be working on the drone weapon, but that was almost recreational for her. General Hammond had persuaded the Tok'Ra to send Jacob to assist Sam with the refinement of the weapon, and told her that she should consider it a working vacation. He'd called her into his office and told her, "You've had a rough couple of months, Major. I'd dearly love to give you some time off, but I can't afford to. The completion of this weapon is too important to put off, and you know more about it right now than anyone else. I'll get Jacob to come and help out though, and that way I can tell myself that I gave you a family holiday." He'd looked apologetic, but she'd assured him that she was fine with the arrangement and looked forward to the "time off."
He'd added, "The least I can do is make sure that you aren't interrupted by any of us demanding your attention to a balky gate or malfunctioning computer. I'm sending you to the alpha site, where you'll not only be safe from the Goa'uld, but won't be bothered by the rest of us. I'll give strict orders to Colonel Riley to put a Do Not Disturb sign on your lab door. And I'll make sure that Jack and the rest of the team are too busy to try and make a side trip to "help" you."
She'd been relieved at the time. She would never admit it to anyone, but the injuries she'd suffered recently were taking their toll. Not physically - she felt fully recovered from the concussion and the shoulder injury - but more of a mental strain. Or maybe it was the accumulated burden of fighting almost constantly for eight years now. Whichever, she was feeling vulnerable, and maybe getting away to a safe place with her father for a week or so would help reassure her.
"There's just something about feeling a parent's arms around you that makes everything feel better, at least for a little while. I guess we all regress to childhood at times, especially when we're hurting, and no one cares for you as much as mom and dad. When that drone hit me while we were escaping from Anubis' base, seeing Dad's face hovering over me made me feel like a little kid again, like he'd be able to fix everything so that it wouldn't hurt anymore."
Sam brushed away the tears threatening to spill over, and resumed her search.
"He's alive. He's got to be alive. I need him to be alive. He's alive. Even if he's hurt, Selmak will keep him alive. All I need to do is find him. He's alive. I just need to find him so that we can get back to earth and finish up the weapon so that we can finally kill these monsters. He's alive. He has to be alive so that we can finally talk some more, and I can tell him that I love him."
With that thought, she stopped, the tears back again.
"I really do need to tell him that, don't I? He was right. We don't talk anymore, not that we ever did all that much. Have I even told him that I started seeing someone? I don't think so. I think he'll be happy for me, but I don't have any idea as to how he'll react. Even though we're closer now than we were for a long time, we really don't know each other all that well. All right, that's going to change. When we get back, I'm going to insist that General Hammond give me some real time off, and Dad and I will take a real vacation together, maybe even go see Mark again. But no matter what, we will talk."
She reached the place where the tree line had been before the explosion, and which now just marked the boundary between downed trees and bare ground. She looked ahead to where the base had been and saw only a smoking crater. No hint of life or even ruins. No sign of the Goa'uld ships which had attacked the base. Just an empty hole in the ground surrounded by a lot more emptiness.
Something shiny and black on the ground in front of her caught her eye. She stepped closer and recognized the remains of a drone's armor half-buried under tree limbs.
"Well, there's the proof. Blown to hell, and good riddance."
She turned in the direction of the gate and stopped in her tracks. Her stomach lurched as she took in the sight.
"Where's the gate?"
Before the self destruct had gone off, she and her father had seen that the gate had been knocked over by a Goa'uld bomb, but it had still been visible, and the stairs and DHD had been intact.
Now, the site where the gate had been was bare. No Stargate, no DHD, no helpful steps leading up to the gate, no nothing.
"Maybe I'm looking in the wrong direction. Everything does look different – anything that might have looked familiar was flattened by the blast."
She quickly glanced around to get her bearings.
"Yes, just behind the gate there was a little rise with a rock formation on top. I see the rise and the rock formation, and nope, no gate."
The sinking feeling worsened. It made sense, unfortunately. A blast strong enough to level huge trees and everything else in its path could certainly knock the DHD down. But what had happened to the gate? She made her way to the site where it had been.
"I'm sure it's buried. It couldn't have been destroyed; naquadah is virtually indestructible."
She reached the location where she thought the gate had been, and spotted a circular ridge on the ground, buried under a thin layer of dirt and debris. Brushing off the dirt on one of the more lightly covered spots, she relaxed when she saw the familiar symbols.
The fear of being marooned diminished significantly. The SGC should be able to figure out that the gate was horizontal and would go ahead and dial through anyway. After they were here, they could raise the gate to a vertical position. They'd dealt with similar situations before.
"Ok, so the gate looks like it might be intact. I'll have to clean it all off to be sure, but the circle looks unbroken, from what I can tell. Now, what about the DHD? It will certainly simplify things if it survived the blast."
She didn't see the device in the immediate vicinity, and moved out away from the gate.
"If I don't find it right away, I'm going to go back and look for Dad and any other survivors. We'll have to make camp somewhere to wait for the SGC to mount a rescue."
She'd heard something from the direction of the former base.
"Good, I can hear again. Now what was that? A bird? I don't remember seeing any on the planet, but I wasn't outside the camp itself very often."
Her hearing still was not up to full strength, but the sound seemed familiar.
"Drones' armor sounds like that when they move."
With an increasing sense of dread, she turned toward the source. Across the expanse of burned-out terrain, from the direction which she had just come, she spotted it. A dark mass slowly rising out from under a tangle of uprooted trees.
"Crap! It's still alive. I need to move, and now!"
Trying to move as stealthily and quickly as possible, she headed toward the trees again, hoping to avoid detection by the drone. She was able to keep it in sight as she moved, and it seemed unaware of her presence.
"Just a little farther and I'll be in the trees. I'm much too exposed out here."
She was at the edge of the forest and the cover provided there, when she saw a blast hit a tree just ahead. Instinctively ducking, she plunged into the trees and felt the heat of more blasts around her. She still had a good head start on the drone, but she needed to get deeper into the woods so that she could find a place to hide and figure out a way to keep him at bay until help arrived. As she moved into the shadows, she felt a searing pain in her leg.
"Damn, damn, DAMN!"
She winced at the burning pain, but kept moving.
"Can't stop now. It'll kill me if I stop. Got to keep going. Keep going, Carter! Do you want to die? Keep going, damn it!"
Running as quickly as she could although she was limping badly, she managed to actually gain some distance on the drone. It didn't move quickly to begin with, and didn't seem programmed to run and shoot at the same time. When it stopped to fire at her, she kept moving deeper into the trees. It was still hot on her trail, though, and she knew how persistent these things were. She needed to find a place to hide, and soon.