Crap... crap... crap...
Jack had given up expecting life to be easy some time ago however he found himself wondering why they never, ever, seemed to catch a break. He'd managed to secure himself in one of the facilities restrooms and had hoped that Carter would be able beam him up from there. Poking his head through one of the tiny windows and looking outside he could see that keeping his promise to Daniel and Teal'c would be easier said than done.
Damn... Damn... Damn...
There was a jeep just across from the building he was in, but the area in between was swarming with creatures. Jack was starting to wish that he's asked the others to come and rescue him.
Pulling out a grenade, Jack lobbed it through the window and headed for the door. The concussion from the blast was enough to shake the building and he found himself coughing up a lung from the dust.
Once outside, it only took him a moment to realise that not all of the creature had been disabled by the explosion. He tried not to look at those that were injured... feebly moving in their attempts to live. Jack closed his mind to the horror and focused on the fact that he had managed to lessen the odds. For good measure he dropped a second grenade... just before he started to run. The second explosion was strong enough to knock Jack over but he rolled to his feet, adrenaline being enough to blind him the pain. Something clutched at him, but Jack tore himself free and kept on running. It wasn't more than a hundred yards. Just over ten seconds during his college days, but it felt like so much more.
Don't blow up the car... don't blow up the car...
The mantra kept running through his head. He had one more grenade which he hurled over his shoulder as he gained the safety of the vehicle. The creatures were growing wary, he noticed. They were definitely holding back, giving him enough time to fire the ignition before surging towards him once more. Flooring the gas, Jack drove through them, trying not to wince at the distinctive crunch as their bodies fell under the wheels of the jeep. He was forced to fling his arm across his face to deflect the flying body parts.
It didn't take him long to make Daniel and Teal'c's position.
"Get in!" he yelled as he skidded to a halt in front of them.
They both stared at him, wasting precious seconds. He was certain that there were more creatures behind him than he remembered and they were gaining every second. Damn it but the things could move fast.
"Sometime this week!"
"Er... Jack maybe one of us should drive?" Daniel suggested.
Ignoring him, Jack revved the engine, making as if he were prepared to leave without them. Both men got the message and scrambled into the jeep. The proximity of the creatures clearly overcoming whatever dumb objections they had.
Jack hoped that the creatures would keep their distance. The open topped vehicle didn't provide the best protection and for a few moments he was reassured. That was until, with a deafening scream, one launched itself from the top of the building and landed more by luck than judgement in the back of the jeep. Swearing to himself, Jack wrenched the wheel, spinning the vehicle around in his attempts to dislodge the creature.
"Carter!" he yelled into his radio.
Concentrating on driving he hoped that Carter was intuitive enough to realise that they needed help... even though he wasn't quite sure what she could do about it. Beam them up, beam everything up... he didn't care.
"Hold on sir!" she replied.
Behind him, he could vaguely sense that Teal'c was wrestling with the creature but as soon as he had managed to shove it from the moving vehicle another seemed to take its place. In attracting the creatures to this place they'd been hoisted on their on petard... as the saying went.
"Sir, I need you to stop!" Carter's voice said.
"This may not be the best time," Jack replied.
He needed to get a good run of speed to break through the wall of creatures that had suddenly appeared in front of them.
"Now, sir!" she pushed.
Jack put his foot on the brake and the jeep skidded to a halt. The next thing he knew, Carter was standing in front of them. Loaded for bear, for some bizarre reason she reminded Jack of an avenging angel. He saw her raise the grenade launcher to her shoulder,
"Fire in the hole!" he shouted as he rolled out of the jeep, taking shelter underneath. There were two explosions, one to the front and one to the rear before Carter gave them the all clear. Again the creatures had been driven back, but Jack was painfully aware that it wouldn't be for long. Crawling out he tried to stand up... only to find that his right leg wouldn't support his weight. Looking down he noticed that he was bleeding.
"It's okay, sir, we'll get you out of here," Carter said.
"I thought you said our life signs..." Daniel began.
"Couldn't be distinguished. I know... but this can."
Jack couldn't work out what she was holding. Now that he knew he was bleeding he didn't particularly care. He just wanted out of there. Someone gripped his hand and he vaguely heard Carter give an order.
The General was injured, badly. His blood flowing freely over the pristine deck of the Odyssey, but Sam didn't have time to help him. Sam knew that she'd been taking a chance that none of the the creatures being close enough to get caught in the beam up, but they were blissfully alone. General O'Neil''s leg was a mess, the muscles torn to shreds by the creatures and it sickened Sam to know that humans had made them this way.
Letting go of the General's hand she left him with Teal'c and Daniel whilst she attended to the final part of their mission. The transmitters only had a finite power supply. Now Sam had seen the situation first hand, she felt doubt creep into her mind. Could the Odyssey hold these creatures? There were so many more of them than she had expected.
A bunch of medics bundled into the room and gathered around the General. Trying to ignore the fact that her commanding officer was bleeding to death in front of her, Sam bent over the controls. Judging by the readings she was getting, the life signs were all gathered within the radius she had defined. It was now or never.
The actual transferral was an anticlimax. Sam had to check her instruments to make sure that the creatures were now on board the Odyssey. Only when she was satisfied did she inform the bridge crew.
"Tell Colonel Emerson ... we've got them."
Sam slumped backwards against the nearest wall, suddenly exhausted. As she watched, the medics lifted General O'Neill onto a stretcher and carried him away.
"Where are we taking them?" Daniel asked.
"Ernest's planet," Sam replied, "It's relatively close and we've surveyed it pretty thoroughly. They'll have it to themselves. "
Not for the first time Sam was grateful for the speed of these ships. They would make orbit in a couple of hours. In a Goa'uld Tel'tak the journey would have been impossibly long.
Slowly, the three of them followed the medics.
Sam found herself wondering if this was it, if they'd finally managed to avert the future. She certainly didn't feel any different. Just tired. They all were. Even Teal'c seemed on the point of collapse.
The wait to see General O'Neill seemed interminable. He was actually awake when they gathered around his bedside but like them seemed as if he were just waiting for the reassurance that all was well before losing consciousness.
"Get them all?" he asked.
"As far as I can tell. General Landry's sending in a clean up team. they should be able to deal with any isolated creatures."
"And we can hold them?"
"Unless they can chew through metal."
"Good ... that's good."
"We'll be home soon, Jack," Daniel said.
"You need to rest, O'Neill," Teal'c added.
"Yeah... Yeah... Think I'll just sleep for a while. Wake me up when we get there."
His eyes fluttered shut. Daniel and Teal'c crept out, leaving Sam to watch the General sleep for a few minutes longer. He would be fine she reassured herself as he started to snore. Unable to face walking all the way to her quarters, Sam hauled herself onto one of the other bends in the small infirmary, her heavy limbs grateful for the limited softness of the infirmary mattress.
"Carter?" the General's voice hissed, breaking into her thoughts.
"What is it sir?"
"I've been thinking."
"The creatures... where did they come from in the first place?"
Sam turned her head to look at him. General O'Neill certainly picked his moments. She realised that it was only now, now they were safe, that he took the time to think about it. But Sam's brain really wasn't in any fit state to answer metaphysical questions. The truth was that she didn't know. They seemed to be a result of a quirk in the space time continuum ... of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Their presence had created the world that sent them back in time... and it was giving her a headache. Now that the circle had been broken who knew what there fate would be.
"We might never know," she admitted.
There was silence for a moment, but Sam knew that the General was still awake.
"Sir, I'm tired," she replied.
"One more question... We were the ones to give the future humans the technology to send the box back in time?"
"But now we've stopped that world ever happening?"
"I hope so."
"So how come the box still got sent back and the creatures are in the cargo hold?"
"It's complicated, sir."
"I thought it might be."
"We have to look at this from the perspective of our own personal timeline. The future was real whilst we were there and we didn't stop them sending the box back. Therefore, the past we experienced was created but it's only now we're back that we've cancelled out that possibility."
The explanation sounded weak even to her own ears. It may not have been good enough but for now it would have to do.
"What's going to happen now?"
"I'm going to sleep, sir."
They would both sleep ... just for a little while.
Epilogue - Back to the Start
Daniel put down the pages ripped from Nick's journal and glanced across at Sam ...he'd been so damn sure but there was nothing in the writings that related to stones, glowing or otherwise.
"Dead end," he admitted.
This wasn't the way to find the Sangraal. Now the excitement of the apparent breakthrough had faded he wondered if they hadn't just been on the wrong track all along. Likelihood was that the alien device was based on some unknown element or compound but it wouldn't be found on Earth.
"What time is it?" Sam asked as they started to gather together the various papers that had been strewn across the lab.
"Nearly 6AM," he replied.
Dumping the paper on his already overcrowded desk, he followed Sam out of the room.
A/N Just wanted to thank everyone for the reviews and for sticking with the story.