Category: Gen, Team, Cassie, Janet, Action/Adventure
Warning: medical trauma
Summary: While Cassie is going through some growing pains, Janet is trapped offworld. Can SG-1 come to the rescue in time?
A/N: This was originally written over ten years ago, back when I was a fandom-baby, and has since been cleaned up somewhat. I've edited for obvious typos, melodrama, and some poor assumptions on my part. Apologies for any of those which still remain.
"Janet?" Cassandra called from her bedroom.
Hearing the use of her first name, Janet braced herself. It was going to be one of those mornings. Again.
Once the adoption had been finalized, Cassie had readily adopted calling Janet 'mom'. It was different enough from the title she'd used for her mother that she was comfortable with the name, yet was still a term of affection. Her use of 'Janet' again, that was a new one. It had been used more and more often over the last couple of months, especially during the arguments that were becoming all too frequent.
"Did you wash my blue shirt?" Cassie shouted, not waiting for an answer. "I need it today."
"Did you put it in the laundry?" Janet called back, trying to keep her tone even. Not an easy task first thing on a Friday morning when they were already running late.
"I don't know." Another one of those phrases that was becoming all too common.
"You have to put it in the basket if you want it washed. It won't walk there on its own." Janet finished buttoning her uniform blouse and mentally cringed as she heard herself repeating her own mother's words. She glanced at the clock and saw that it was already a quarter to eight. Barely enough time to grab breakfast to eat in the car on the way.
"Put something else on and let's move it." She stopped at the doorway to Cassie's room only to find the girl standing in front of her open closet, still wearing her pajamas.
Beyond caring who she sounded like at that point, she snapped, "Young lady, you have five minutes to be dressed for school and in the car, or you're walking"
Cassie whirled around, realizing she was caught. She recovered quickly. "I don't have anything to wear." She kicked at a pile of jeans in the middle of the floor.
"Five minutes," Janet repeated and left the room.
She glanced at the clock as she downed the last of her coffee. Five minutes and counting.
"Did you sign my permission slip for the zoo trip next week?" Cassie asked as she grabbed her lunch from the fridge. She opened the bag and wrinkled her nose. "Gross. Bologna."
"Then maybe you'd like to do the shopping yourself next time," Janet snapped back. She was really not in the mood for this. Getting Jack O'Neill to stay put in the infirmary was easier than getting Cassie out the door to school some mornings. "What zoo trip?"
Cassie shrugged. "You know. I brought the paper home last week."
"Did you give it too me to read?"
"I don't know."
"We don't have time for this," Janet muttered. "When do you need it signed for?" she asked.
"Today. Or I don't get to go on the field-trip."
That was it. "Look Cassandra, you need to tell me these things. I'm not a mind reader."
"No 'buts'. You have certain responsibilities around here and there are certain things that are expected from you. We are going to sit down after school and have a talk about this because you seem to have forgotten what those responsibilities are." Janet tried to keep her temper in check and succeeded, just barely.
Cassandra sniffed, defiant. "Fine. Now it's like I'm in the damn Air Force, or something."
"You just keep in mind that it's because of the 'damn Air Force' that you're alive today."
They both stopped short, the words already spoken. Cassie clapped her hand over her mouth like she could keep anything more from spilling out. Janet briskly placed the empty mug on the counter, picked up her keys, and went to start the car without looking back. After a moment, Cassie grabbed her school bag and followed her.
They had been sparring like this for the last couple of weeks. Pushing the envelope and testing limits. It was inevitable that something would give. Eight o'clock on a Friday morning was just not the time for it. The trip to school passed in near silence with no more than the obligatory 'have a good day' and 'see you later' exchanged between them.
Janet was still tense as she made her way down the hall to the infirmary.
"Hey, Janet," Sam called. "Wait up."
"You know," Janet said once Sam caught up. "My mother used to say 'Just wait until you have a teen-aged daughter of your own.' And I would just laugh. Little did I know."
"That bad, huh?"
"Is it wrong to admit I considered zatting her?"
Sam's eyes widened at that statement. She'd seen Janet keep her cool in even the most intense emergencies. It must have been some argument. Janet recounted the morning's events as they walked down to the infirmary.
Sam let out a low whistle as Janet finished. "Oh, by the way, the General is looking for you."
Janet just rubbed her eyes with the heel of her hand. "And now, my morning is complete."
"Doctor." General Hammond looked up from his desk. "I've been paging you for the last half hour."
"Sorry Sir." Janet didn't offer any excuses and the General didn't ask her to sit. Apparently her tardiness was not the reason for this meeting.
"As you may be aware, SG-9 is scheduled to make a trip to P13-276 to negotiate the rights to harvest certain plants that could prove to be very valuable for medical research." Hammond shuffled some papers to the side of his desk and folded his hands on the blotter in front of him. "I've just been informed that one of the native's requests is to have our healer present during the negotiations. Apparently they want to be able to exchange healing techniques, or something along those lines. SG-9 is scheduled to leave at o-nine hundred, you will be going with them."
Janet was a little surprised at the assignment, the only times she had been off-world was for a medical emergency, and even then only in extreme cases where the victim could not be moved before they were stabilized. Still, with the way her morning had started, she welcomed the chance at a change in scenery. Which brought to mind the next question.
"General, if I may ask, when is SG-9 scheduled to return?"
General Hammond had always prided himself in knowing his officers well and had already anticipated the Janet's question. "SG-9 is scheduled to return, barring any complications, by 1700 hours today. In the event that more time is needed, Doctor Warren will be on duty in the infirmary and," he let the command tone drop slightly, "arrangements will be made for Cassandra. I believe that SG-1 is still on stand-down?"
Twenty minutes later, after a hasty stop in the infirmary to check on her patients and touch base with the doctor taking over her shift for the day, Janet was in the gate room, camouflaged, fully outfitted, and feeling dwarfed standing between two members of SG-9 as she waited for the chevrons to lock into place.
Major Lewis smiled down at her. "Good to have you along Doc."
Janet attempted a half-hearted smile in return. She was not having a good day.
Cassandra sat in her seat, middle row and third from the front, with her head bent over her math book. Only on closer inspection would one notice that her attention was not focussed on the schoolwork in front of her, but rather on the space just below the surface of her desk where her hands were occupied in the construction of a contraption involving an elastic band, several paper clips, her pencil and a rubber eraser. She glanced up at the clock on the wall above where Mrs. Lavack was explaining algebra on the blackboard. Ten minutes until the last recess, and then they would be free to make their temporary escape.
From the row beside her, Calvin passed her the paper airplane he had just finished folding to add to her device. He had dark hair and freckles and Cassie liked the way he smiled at her. Not that she would admit that to anyone. Well, she had told Sam once, but Cassie knew that her secret was safe with her.
"Cass," Calvin whispered as Cassie fitted a paperclip into the bottom of the paper airplane and slipped it into the elastic. She gave the plane an experimental tug. "Mrs. Lavack is ri-"
Cassie jumped as she felt Mrs. Lavack's hand on her shoulder. The airplane slipped from her fingers and launched itself across the class, striking Mary Anne Williams in the forehead. Cassie turned around wide-eyed to find herself face to face with Mrs. Lavack's disapproving glare.
"This is the last time I'm warning you two. Calvin, Cassandra, report to the principal's office. You will both be staying after school today so we can meet with your parents," she told them before crossing the room to comfort Mary Anne.
Cassie felt her stomach drop at the pronouncement of her punishment. As if she wasn't in enough trouble with Janet for what she had said this morning, interrupting Janet at work would get Cassandra grounded until the end of time, for sure.
Janet was having second thoughts as to the state of her day. The air was warm and the light breeze was sweetly scented from the sun-baked grassland around the village. Their hosts were tall, lanky, sun-browned folk who smiled easily and seemed amused with Janet's small stature. They were also friendly nomadic people whose idea of hospitality was to share the fruits of their harvest and hunts to the point where Janet had to treat Captain Wilkes for a bellyache.
The negotiations, however, were going slower than planned. Although the team had gated in early morning local time, the sun was already just brushing the horizon and promising a spectacular sunset, Janet's watch read fifteen hundred hours, three o'clock, and they had yet to begin any serious discussions with the tribe leaders. The day had been spent in the company of their 'liaison', touring the camp and exploring the rolling countryside that surrounded it. With the promise of more to see in the morning, SG-9 and Janet were invited to pitch their tents within the safety of the camp and continue with their explorations the next day. They sent word through the gate of their new plans, promising to check in again at first light.
General Hammond assured Janet that all was taken care of regarding Cassandra's care. It was well known that the General had a soft spot towards the girl, even going so far as to make the exception in special circumstances to allow her on base. Janet felt relieved at the chance of a night away from Cassie, though her thoughts were shaded with guilt that she quickly pushed aside.
At first, Janet had dismissed the tension between them as simple growing pains. Cassie was, as the saying went, twelve going on twenty, and Janet didn't have the benefit of experience with teenage girls. Suddenly, things that hadn't been important six months ago now seemed paramount. Like the blue shirt from this morning. Or a hundred other things that might set off an argument. It was like treading on eggshells most days.
Then Janet had begun to notice the pattern. Evenings were the best time for the two of them, Cassandra, usually cheery after school, would chatter on about her day while doing her homework at the kitchen table, always within earshot of Janet. Weekends were almost ideal, though Cassandra rarely asked to go to sleep over parties with her school friends. At first Janet had thought the cause to be a falling out amongst friends, but this was not the case as Cassandra continued to receive invitations for a night of rental movies and too many sweets. It was the mornings that Janet begun to dread. Most days it seemed that Cassandra was stalling for time, or trying to avoid leaving the house altogether. Which, of course, inevitably led to the arguments.
But this night, Janet decided to put all that aside and enjoy a night camping out in the warm night air under a blanket of stars, on a planet far away from the problems at home.
Slouched in her chair in the hall in outside the Principal's office, Cassie knew who was approaching before she even looked up and she felt like sinking even farther into her seat. The footsteps were too far apart to be Janet's and the rubber soles of combat boots made a softer sound on the tile than heels do.
The last person in this world that she wanted to see here. Cassie couldn't bring herself to make eye contact, instead keeping her gaze focused on the tile floor at her feet. Beside her, Calvin was suitably awed.
"We're in really big trouble Cass," he whispered as he watched Sam approach. "They sent the army."
"Air force," Cassie corrected automatically, trying to ignore Calvin for the moment while she thought up a good excuse to explain why the school had to call Sam to pick her up. "She's not here for you. I'm the one in real trouble."
"It was just a paper plane, Cass! They can't take you away for just that." Calvin's voice rose in alarm. He'd seen too many conspiracy shows on television where people in uniforms came in the night to take innocent citizens away to cover up the truth.
Realizing that Calvin had misunderstood, Cassie punched him on the arm, hard. "Dumbass. That's my aunt."
"Nice language Cassandra."
Crap. Cassie looked up to see Sam standing over them, face serious. Big trouble. She hadn't thought it possible to feel any worse than she had moments ago, but apparently she could.
The ride home was quiet and Cassie watched the streets pass without comment.
"Do you want to talk about it?" Sam asked at one point.
"I made a plane. It hit Mary Ann in the head. We got in trouble," Cassie replied without turning. "Nothing to talk about."
"That's not what I mean."
"We have to let the dog out before we go home." Cassie changed the subject.
Sam let it drop. Even with the quick glances she managed to sneak in while she drove she could tell that there was something eating at Cassie. She also knew that she was dealing with a stubborn girl, and pushing her would not help. Cassie would open up when she was ready.
Janet opened her eyes and realized it was still dark out. The air smelled damp and mossy, cool against her skin. As her senses slowly came awake, she felt the hard ground under her and remembered that she was not in her tent at the camp. And that it shouldn't still be dark.
She had left camp early, before breakfast, just as the sun was peaking over the horizon, accompanied by Lene, the young apprentice healer who had offered to show her the mineral springs. It had been a short trek up the grassy hill to the limestone pocket, but it had afforded them a clear view of the sun rising over the valley. Janet had had to crawl on her hands and knees through the long passage until they reached the large domed cavern where her flashlight could not find the ceiling. She was glad that for once her height had been an advantage as none of the other members of SG-9 would have been able to squeeze through the tunnel. Lene had told her that the men of her clan did not visit the springs, and Janet could now see why. The men she had met were all tall and lean and would have needed to be double jointed to fit through the passage.
What her light did pick up could only be described as spectacular.
Stalactites and curtains of limestone hung all around her, casting peculiar shadows when the light settled on them and throwing off a light green glow when it left. Stalagmites and toadstool shaped formations rose up to greet her, but Janet didn't have time to admire them as Lene called to her to follow from the end of the chamber. Janet picked her was through the formations, careful not to disturb the their centuries old growth. They went through another passageway, this time not as narrow, and Janet could tell that they were walking downhill again.
After that, she couldn't remember anything. All Janet knew was that she was lying on her back and it was dark. Maybe it was training, or maybe it was fear that kept her from moving and risking further potential injury. As a doctor, she was trained to assess a situation and respond to the best of her abilities. So, first step first. ABCs. Airway, yep she was breathing, so her airway must be clear. Strike number two off the list as well. Circulation. That was another problem. She had performed this procedure a thousand times over on the injured brought into her infirmary, but it had always been in a well-lit room, and never on herself.
Still, she had to know if she was injured before she could do anything. As her senses began to clear somewhat, Janet could feel the stirrings of a headache. At least that part of her was working. Concentrating on her feet, she was relieved that, even though they were wet, they were also cold, and she guessed that she was half lying in the shallow stream they had been following. She could also move them. Bonus. Things were going just peachy as she continued her personal exploration, until she got to her upper body. Right shoulder to be exact. That was when she discovered that the sense of pressure on her chest and shoulders was not from a sudden case of claustrophobia, but rather the cold hard limestone that seemed to be hovering only inches from her face in the dark and pinning her arm.
Panic gripped her as she came fully alert. Janet wanted to shout for help, wriggle free, anything to get out of this situation alive and in one piece, but she knew that by doing so, she could easily bring down more rock on herself and make matters far worse.
"Lene?" she called softly. No answer. She called again and then held her breath to listen for any sounds that might indicate that the young woman was nearby. Though if she was, Janet doubted the she would have been able to hear her over the pounding of her own heart.
Bracing her feet as best as she could, Janet gave an experimental tug with the pinned shoulder. White sparks filled her vision and she had to bite her tongue to hold back the scream. Okay, that was an injury. Janet heard the grinding broken glass sound as two jagged edges of her humerus rubbed together.
She lay back, panting, waiting for the haze of pain to clear and the rolling in her stomach to stop. After a few moments, it did. When things were as bit clearer again, Janet noted that she could not feel anything past the break. That was very bad. Her mind listed all the possible reasons as to why this would happen. Severe crushing, nerve damage, dismemberment. She had to shake her head to clear away the images that formed.
Most of the time she reveled in having intimate knowledge of the workings of the human body, having the ability to put Humpty back together again. Not this time. Too much information. She closed her eyes and wished that she were back in her infirmary. No good either. Time for a plan. Shock had already set in and had been protecting her from the intensity of her injury, but she had awaken the dragon called pain.
She regretted leaving her pack back at the mouth of the cave. The passageway had been too small, but now she was without her med kit. Moving cautiously so as not to jar her shoulder again, Janet reached up to her chest and fumbled with the zippered pockets on her vest. She felt the shattered pieces of her radio and tossed them into the darkness. Moving her hand to a lower pocket, she located a small penlight, some bandages, waterproof matches and four or five plastic wrapped peppermint candies. Well at least the penlight would be of use. Mentally crossing her fingers that it was undamaged, she flicked the switch.
As light filled the small space, she let out a sharp bark of relieved laughter. It was short lived, however, when she saw her situation. What had once been a majestic chamber was now no more than a crawl space, thick limestone formations reduced to rubble. The only thing that had saved her, Janet saw, was a low stalagmite that was now supporting the massive sheet of rock that had peeled from the ceiling like the skin from an onion.
Playing her light a little farther, Janet could see that Lene had not been so fortunate. From the size of the rock resting on her body, Janet could tell that the she had not felt any pain at the moment of her death.
With the dishes left to dry in the rack by the sink, Sam made one last swipe at the kitchen counter with a dishtowel and caught sight of the notepad by the phone. The first page was covered with a drawing depicting a city. Tall buildings, sidewalks, cars, buses, and even a few pedestrians stretched from edge to edge of the small pad. More of Cassandra's artwork. She was constantly finding pictures and tiny scribbles on small bits of paper throughout the house whenever Cassie spent time there.
Paper had been a commodity on Hanka, reserved only for business transactions and recording historic events. As such, Cassie had never been allowed to waste any for her drawings. She had been surprised and a little bit amazed the first time someone had handed her a pad of paper and pencil and told her to have fun.
"Really?" she had asked shyly, as if unable to believe that anyone would offer her such a gift. During her first weeks on Earth, the pad of paper rarely left her side; often it was carefully hidden under her pillow while she slept.
Cassandra had a fair amount of talent, Sam noticed, for someone who had never picked up a pencil until recently. Her pictures had gone from childish scrawls to more detailed compositions like the one on the message pad as she became more and more practiced.
The edge of the pad was slightly curled, as if someone had been leafing though the pages. Sam thumbed the bottom of the stack of paper and let them slip from her fingers one by one. On the corner of each page was a tiny stick man wearing what appeared to be a cape with the letter 'S' emblazoned on the back. As each page followed the one before, the little man appeared to leap into the air and fly across the paper. Cassie must have drawn it while she was fixing supper.
Sam heard the water in the bathroom stop and Cassie reappeared a few minutes later wearing a t-shirt she had appropriated from the dresser in Sam's room. She seemed to be in better spirits since they had arrived home, though neither of them had brought up the incident at school, nor the argument with Janet that morning.
Janet felt cold. She knew that it was probably shock setting in. She also felt sleepy and guessed that the air was getting stale. They had walked a long way from the mouth of the cavern and the fallen rocks probably blocked the narrow passage. She'd spent the last ten minutes shouting for help in the off chance that the rest of the team had noticed that she had been gone longer than planned. There had been no answer, but she hadn't really expected any.
The pain in her arm was almost bearable, as long as she remained still. Any further attempts to free herself had left her hyperventilating and sick to her stomach. The initial rush of adrenaline had left her system and Janet knew that the moment she closed her eyes, she would succumb to the darkness surrounding her.
She had to stay focused. Had to stay awake, give SG-9 time to find her and dig her out. She needed something on which to fix her attention. She tried running a mental checklist of the supplies in the infirmary, but this had the same effect as counting sheep. She shook her head in an attempt to stay awake and moaned at the hot streak of pain in her shoulder. She needed something else. Something more tangible.
She tried to picture he sunrise from that morning but all she could see was Lene's small form leading her up the hill trail. She recalled how Lene had turned to her as they reached the mouth of the cave. Only when the girl turned around, it wasn't Lene who beckoned Janet to follow, but Cassie.
Somewhere in the back of her semi-conscious mind Janet knew that things were getting bad, that she was not completely lucid, but she let herself follow the dream-Cassandra into the cave anyhow.
Sam woke to feeling a soft touch on the side of her face and reached up to brush away the annoyance. The stirring of sheets brought her more fully alert and she opened her eyes to meet Cassandra's shy look. The girl had the comforter pulled up around her chin, but her hand still hovered inches away from Sam.
"I couldn't sleep," she whispered, as if afraid she was in trouble for the intrusion.
"Bad dream?" Sam asked. Cassandra shook her head.
"I was lonely." She reached up again and with a feather touch, laid her hand on Sam's cheek.
They stayed there like that for some time. Cassandra let her fingers drift up to tangle themselves once again in Sam's hair. She watched Cassie study her, her brow creased in question or contemplation, as if she were searching for answers at the bottom of a teacup.
"You're like her, you know."
"Who?" Sam asked.
Cassie hesitated. When she finally did, her voice was barely audible. "My mother." Her eyes shone in the dim light coming through the window. She drew her hand back and closed her eyes, swallowing hard.
Sam reached out as Cassie started to turn away, drawing her close and wrapping her tight in her arms. Still, Cassandra was stubborn and did not cry. She let out a long, shaky breath and allowed herself the comfort of Sam's arms.
It wasn't long before Sam felt Cassie's breathing steady and slow as she drifted off to sleep. She now knew what had been bothering Cassie for the last few weeks. The girl had never grieved.
Sure, they had talked with Cassie at length since they had brought her back from Hanka. Janet had even taken her for a few sessions with Dr. Mackenzie. But the fact that she had been the only survivor of a biologically engineered plague that had wiped out not only the entire population of her planet, but every single member of her family had taken a back seat to the chore of adjusting to her new life on Earth.
This on top of the concern for Cassie's health while her body re-absorbed the miniature naquada bomb in her chest. Cassandra had proved to be much like any other twelve-year old and took a keen interest in her new world; she made friends easily at school and often talked on the telephone until all hours about everything from fashion, to homework, to boys. She developed a passion for her paints and pencils, often covering all the available surfaces of Janet's fridge with her artwork. In the last year Cassie had grown from a timid child into a confident teenager. But she still had not properly grieved.
It was no wonder she had become standoffish and smart mouthed. She was, after all, twelve, almost thirteen, and she was acting out the only way she knew how. There were names for this sort of latent manifestation of trauma, post-traumatic stress syndrome being in fashion at the moment.
Sam made the decision to talk to Cassandra in the morning. This had gone on long enough without any of them noticing a problem. They needed to get this all out in the open so that Cassandra could begin to heal. Sam mentally berated herself for not noticing. She, of all people, should have recognized the signs. She had lost her own mother when she was not much older than Cassie. She had reacted the same way, throwing herself into her interests, while all the while distancing herself from her brother and father with cutting comments and angry barbs. It was a long time before she had made peace with herself and forgiven her father for an event she had deemed to be entirely his fault. Sam made herself a promise that she would not let Cassie grow up with that kind of bitterness in her life.
Cassie sighed softly in her sleep and snuggled in tighter to Sam's body. It wasn't long before Sam drifted off to sleep herself. They stayed like that until the phone woke them up several hours later.
"Doctor Fraiser informed me that she was going up to the cave to test the mineral springs just before the earthquake, sir. She was accompanied by one of the natives who had assured us that it was perfectly safe." The image of Major Lewis hesitated from the video screen in the debriefing room. "We don't know what happened sir. I'm sorry."
The major looked like he had just had to deliver the worst news of his life, O'Neill noted. He probably had. Janet Fraiser was one of those people Jack would have classed as competent in her field upon first meeting. But once he saw her in action, she proved to be indispensable. Hell, she'd pulled their collective asses out of the fire on more than one occasion, often having no more clue as to the cause of their injuries or how to treat that alien virus than a wild shot in the dark. And not just SG1. All of the teams relied on her solid expertise and no-nonsense demeanor to get them through some of the nastiest moments in their careers.
"The earthquake SG-9 registered was probably the cause of the cave in." Daniel had paused the video they had received less than twenty minutes ago. He pointed to the large sinkhole that had opened up barely two hundred meters from the encampment.
"Ya think?" O'Neill had been near the gate room when the wormhole was opened and had already seen the entire message in real-time. "General, request permission to lead a search party for Dr. Fraiser."
"You and half the teams on this base," Hammond replied. "But granted. Take SG-2 with you."
"Uh, sir," Daniel interrupted. "What about Sam?"
"Major Carter is currently with Cassandra, but I will inform her of the situation." Hammond stood, signaling the end of the briefing. "You go in half an hour. Good luck people."
Jack stood on the bluff, overlooking the newly formed sinkhole and felt sick to his stomach. This was bad. Really bad. If Janet had been in that cavern when the ceiling collapsed, well, he didn't even want to think about it. But the Doc was important to them all, and he would not leave here until they had located her and brought her back, no matter what her condition. Besides, he owed her his life and the lives of his team a thousand times over.
Jack heard Daniel's footsteps approach and as he turned he saw Daniel pale.
"We'll find her, Daniel."
"Major Lewis said she was in there when it happened. Jack, nobody could survive that." Daniel's voice rose angrily. "Why the hell did he let her go in there alone?"
Jack put his hand on Daniel's shoulder. Search and rescue was not Daniel's specialty, but they'd seen a lot of combat in the last couple of years and Jack hoped Daniel was prepared for what they might find here. Still, Jack couldn't leave him back home and make him sit at the other end of the wormhole, pacing the halls of the SGC and waiting for news. Which was probably what Carter was doing right now.
"Daniel, there's still a chance that she wasn't in that part of the cavern when it collapsed. Caverns like this stretch for miles underground. She could still be fine. She just can't get out." He truly hoped that was the case.
Daniel cleared his throat and held up the coil of rope and the climbing harnesses he'd brought. "Right. Well, then I guess we've got some spelunking to do."
"Sir, I should be there," Sam protested. She had picked up the phone on the second ring, and at the sound of General Hammond's voice on the other end of the line, slipped out of the room and made her way down the hall so as to not wake Cassandra.
"I'm sorry Major, SG-1 has already left. I felt it would be better not to disturb Cassandra in the middle of the night."
"With all due respect, General," Sam argued, "Cassandra would have been fine if I had called her regular babysitter."
"May I remind you Major, that Cassandra is still considered a security risk at this time. And while she may be fine with her babysitter on a day-to-day basis, we still can not risk her leaking any information about her origins, no matter how inadvertently." Hammond's tone softened for a moment. "If SG-1 is not able to retrieve Dr. Fraiser alive, Cassandra should hear the news from someone she trusts. She'll need you there with her."
Sam swallowed the lump in her throat as the seriousness of the situation hit home. General Hammond had pulled her from a sound sleep to let her know that her friend was missing, possibly killed in a cave-in on an alien planet, and that all she was supposed do was sit at home and wait for news. If she could have at least been at the base, there could have been something she could have done to help, even if she wasn't on the rescue team. She could have offered some suggestion, some…something. But right now, her hands were tied.
Sam let out the breath she had been holding and gave a weak 'yes sir.' Hammond ended the conversation with a promise that he would keep her informed.
Sam clicked off the cordless phone and was surprised at the wave of anger that rushed over her. She felt like punching something in frustration; let her wall become the victim of her anger. But that would surely wake Cassie. She marched into the kitchen and opened the fridge door, not bothering to stop it as it banged back against the counter. More than anything she wanted to be out there searching for Janet with the rest of her team; doing anything but sitting here waiting by the phone, being useless. She hated being useless. How could they not include her in this mission?
Her eye caught the notepad on the counter with the cartoon drawings Cassandra had made earlier that evening.
Sam took a deep breath and tried to calm herself as she reached for the carton of orange juice in the fridge. Not seeing a glass within reach, she took a deep swallow straight from the carton and then seated herself on the counter top.
What if they found Janet hurt? How would she tell Cassie? Or worse, what if they didn't find her alive? The girl was already having enough trouble coping with losing her mother once. She shouldn't have to go through all the pain a second time.
Sam sagged back against the cupboards. She remembered one time when she was a little girl, her father coming home, red-eyed and somber, and how he had passed through the kitchen and headed upstairs without saying hello. Her mother had followed him up the stairs and had returned a short time later, looking herself like she had been crying. When Sam had asked what was wrong, all her mother would say was that Daddy had to give someone bad news. Sam hadn't understood until she was older why that would make her father cry. He never cried. She had wondered about that for a long time, and when she had finally worked up the courage to ask about that day, Jacob Carter had explained that one of the men under his command had died during a training maneuver, leaving behind a wife and two small children. It had been Jacob's responsibility, as his commanding officer, to break the news to his family.
Sam hated to be in that position; telling someone that their loved one was not coming back was the worst job in the world. And of all people to have to tell, she did not want it to be Cassie.
She put the juice container back and shut the fridge door before returning quietly to the bedroom and slipping back into bed. Cassie didn't wake at the rustling of sheets, and rolled over to snuggle herself against the returning warm body. Sam pulled the covers higher around them, but sleep would not come. Instead, she spent the last few hours of darkness watching Cassandra sleep and praying that that the rest of SG-1 would bring Janet back alive.
"I don't know anything about the layout of the caves," Amine protested. "Only the women are allowed within, and only then to bring back the healing water from the springs."
O'Neill draped his arm over their guide's shoulder. "Now, you're sure there isn't another way in? Maybe a crack or a crevice that you might have accidentally stumbled over when you were, let's say, playing around here as a young boy?" He cocked an eyebrow towards the younger man.
Amine's eyes darted back and forth between Teal'c and Daniel as if begging to be saved from this strange alien who still had his arm over his shoulders. When no help was forthcoming, he nodded. "Maybe there is a way in."
"Now that's what I thought you'd say." O'Neill gave him a rough pat on the shoulder before releasing him. "So. Where is it?"
"I didn't set out to explore the cave." Amine took a step away from Jack, lest he risk being manhandled again. "Like you said, I was a boy when I tripped over the crevasse. By accident, swear by the gods. It is over that hill. I will take you."
Amine's entrance wasn't far from the spot where Janet and Lene had last been seen; it was just on the other side of the small hill. And it was in fact a crevasse. The only way in was to be lowered down on ropes, or to rappel.
"I lost one of my beesou down there," Amine explained, referring to the wooly haired grazing mammals that looked like a cross between a skinny bison and a llama. Amine's family tended a heard of about fifty or so of these animals, making him quite familiar with the land around the encampment where he took them to graze. "I had to lower myself down with my robes tied end to end. But they would not stay wrapped around the rock and my beesou was dead. I was trapped. No way out. I would have been punished for going deeper into the cave, but I had no choice."
"And you're sure this cave leads into the one where the girl took our friend?" Daniel asked.
"Yes. Yes it does. I took a wrong turn along the way and I found the spring that the women talk about." Amine lowered his voice conspiratorially. "It is not such a great thing that they are hiding. Just a pool of water and rocks. Nothing special."
"Yeah, well you know women," O'Neill muttered, trying not to get sidetracked.
Teal'c asked, "But you were able leave the cave?"
Amine nodded again. "Yes. After some wandering. It was a small passage and I was almost stuck. But I was able to leave. My heard was all over. It was all day before I could round them all up again." He looked worried. "You won't tell my wife?"
"Uh, no. We won't," Daniel reassured him. "Okay. Teal'c, can you lower me down with the rope?"
"Excuse me, Daniel?" O'Neill turned to him.
"Teal'c can lower me down on the rope. Amine said that this connects to the cave where they last saw Dr. Fraiser., so we might be able to get to her before SG-9 can dig through that rubble," argued Daniel.
"Daniel, we don't know what's down there. We're not trained search and rescue," O'Neill countered.
"Jack, how is this any different than a downed cargo ship, or some underwater alien lair?" Daniel pressed. "This is Janet, we're talking about."
Jack rubbed a hand over his face. Daniel had a point. The big picture wasn't any different. "Teal'c, lower him down."
Teal'c merely nodded and began searching for stable footing.
A few minutes later, Daniel was joined at the bottom of the shallow crevasse by Jack and a pack containing a field medic kit and flashlights, among the other supplies.
"What? You didn't think you were going in there by yourself, did you?" O'Neill asked.
Before Daniel could answer, the radio crackled and Andrews from SG-2 spoke through the static. "Colonel, we have a problem here."
"What kind of problem?" Jack asked.
"Well, the locals sir, they don't want us to disturb the cave-in site. We aren't being allowed to search through the rubble."
O'Neill swore under his breath. "What's Lewis doing about this?"
"He's trying to negotiate, sir. But I don't think they're going to budge on this one. This is sacred ground to them. If Dr. Fraiser was killed, they're considering it a sacrifice to their gods."
The situation was going from bad to worse. They had no idea exactly where Janet had been during the sinkhole cave-in, and they needed to be able to cover as much ground as they could to find her fast. Even then, they would have to get her out of there and to the gate safely. The last thing they needed was to have some royally pissed locals hot on their tails. "Let Lewis argue with them. In the mean time, report back to General Hammond and keep him informed of the situation," Jack ordered.
"What about the Doc?" Andrews asked.
"We've found ourselves a back door here. We're going to keep looking."
"Good luck sir."
Jack thumbed the switch on the radio and called up to Teal'c. "Keep an eye out up there. We might have some trouble."
Teal'c's face appeared over the edge, blocking out what little light reached the bottom of the shaft. "Worry yourself only with finding Doctor Fraiser. Good luck O'Neill."
Daniel flicked on one of the flashlights and hoisted his pack. Jack followed him into the narrow passageway that Amine had indicated they should follow, but they soon found that they could not go very far; their packs were too big. They opted to leave them behind, taking only what was absolutely necessary - the field medic kit and the climbing gear.
The passageway narrowed progressively and there were a few spots where Jack thought he might have to let Daniel go on alone, but he held his breath and managed to squeeze through. Their path was taking them on a downward slope, deeper into the limestone layers when Daniel stopped suddenly. He shone his light on the sandy ground to reveal the two sets of footprints.
The two sets of prints were roughly the same size, though one set appeared to have been made by someone wearing a soft moccasin, while the other was unquestionably made by a military issued boot.
"All right. We're on the right track." Jack reached for his radio to send Teal'c an update. When he thumbed the switch, static filled the small passageway. There were too many feet of rock separating them. He shrugged and re-secured the radio. They didn't have time to waste and hopefully Teal'c would know what was happening soon enough.
Daniel played the light further along the passageway in the direction that the prints lead. The tracks stopped at a spot where the ceiling lowered to only a couple of feet from the floor, obscured by the traces of larger objects having been dragged over them. The limestone above this new tunnel was stained black, presumably by smoke from the torches used to light the way.
"Janet must have had to drag her pack through there," Daniel noted. "It's going to be a tight fit."
Jack agreed. "No wonder they don't allow their men down here. They'd need a block and tackle to get some of those boys out." Daniel had begun to crawl farther into the small passage on his stomach. "What do you think you're doing?"
"Jack, it's really going to be tight. They had to crawl to get through here, but I think it widens out just ahead." Daniel backed out on his hands and knees. He looked at Jack's broader shoulders. "I don't think you'll fit."
"Well you're not going in there alone," Jack argued.
"Somebody's got to do it, and it's not like we can go back and ask the natives for help at this point."
Jack considered the options for a moment. Daniel was the least experienced at search and rescue of anybody on the planet, at the moment. On the other hand, he had made it through thirty-odd years of life traipsing through all sorts of ruined temples and archeological mazes in one piece. To make matters worse, time was running out. If they didn't find Janet soon, they might not find her alive at all. Jack did not want to be the one to inform the SGC that their CMO was not MIA, but rather KIA.
"We're going to do this properly then," he consented.
Jack helped Daniel fasten the chest harness and secure the rope. The field medic kit they attached to Daniel's belt, leaving his hands free to reach his radio and flashlight.
"You are not to go farther than the end of this rope. Understand?"
"Daniel. Under no circumstances. If you can't find her with this much rope, we'll find another way in. I am not losing you too." Jack held Daniel's gaze long enough to make sure his instructions registered. To his surprise, Daniel wasn't arguing. "If we lose radio contact, you are to pull out. If you feel me pull on the rope, you are to pull out. If at any point, things look too dangerous, you are to pull out. No questions, no arguments. We don't have anyone to go in after you if things go bad. Got it?"
Daniel nodded and pulled the knotted rope tight. "Got it."
He understood the dangers. But he also understood that he, like everyone else at the SGC, had owed Janet their lives at some point and he was not about to let that debt go unpaid.
Jack reached forward and took off Daniel's hat so it wouldn't get lost, and touched his shoulder. "Good luck."
The tunnel narrowed around Daniel and he was soon crawling on his belly, head brushing the ceiling. At one point he had to move some small rocks that blocked his path, edging them painfully along past his body. He was certain that he would have a few more scrapes to add to his collection before the day was over. These new obstacles were evidently the result of the recent cave-in; their edges were still jagged and there were matching scars along the walls and ceiling of the passageway. This was encouraging; at least he was headed in the right direction.
"Janet!" he called out again, hoping she would be able to hear him and give a clue as to her location. Or at least warn her of his approach.
The radio on his chest crackled and Jack's voice broke through. "What's your status Daniel?"
Daniel had to twist sideways to reach the button. "Well. It's not getting any wider." He played his flashlight down the length of the passageway. "Wait. I think it opens up a bit just ahead."
"Don't take any chances, Daniel."
"Right." He clicked off and continued his toddler-like progress. Sure enough, the tunnel did widen out, only to be blocked by a pile of debris. Daniel managed to maneuver his knife from his belt and used the wide blade to clear the compacted soil. The larger rocks were another matter. He shone his light between two of the larger chunks of stone and was relieved to see that the tunnel was visible on the other side. The ceiling was still too low for him to gain any leverage, so he opted for wedging his feet against the walls and using his body like a human piston to slowly push the rocks forward and out of the way. He was rewarded with scraped knuckles for his efforts, but had managed to clear a path.
Daniel soon found himself standing upright in a large chamber. What must once have been magnificent stone pillars and draperies now lay in heaps of cracked and broken limestone.
Daniel gave his rope another tug to allow him some more slack, and shone his light around the chamber. From the fallen limestone formations and collapsed ceiling, he judged that he must be on the inside of the sinkhole. In the center of what was left of the room stood two very large pillars, a couple of centuries worth of work to build with the seasonal dripping of dissolved limestone. Their delicate petal-like growth now lay crumbled on the ground, but the pillars had held and now supported the roof from which they'd once hung.
"Janet!" he called out. "Can you hear me?"
"Mmm. What?" Janet mumbled. Why the hell were they shouting? She was right here. "Be with you in a moment." She tried to pull herself up from the heavy blanket of sleep but her eyes just didn't seem to want to open. She tried to lift her hand in an attempt to rub the sleep out of her eyes.
To hear a sound like that, down there in the darkness was a chilling enough experience on its own. But to know that it came from something human, and that it was a cry of pain made Daniel shudder.
"Janet," he shouted. "I'm here. You've got to tell me where you are." There were hundreds of spots a body could be wedged in all this rubble. "C'mon, I need a clue here."
"Daniel? What the hell were they thinking, sending you down here?" Came a breathless reply.
"Glad to see you too, Janet." Daniel had her location pegged but he was at the end of his rope. Literally. Reaching for his radio again, he called, "Jack. I've found her. She's alive. I need more rope."
Static was his only reply. There were too many feet of stone between them. He tried giving the rope another tug but either Jack didn't feel it, or the rope was stuck. Daniel reached for the buckles on the harness and hesitated. Jack had told him 'under no circumstance' was he to let himself off the rope. But he wouldn't be able to reach Janet otherwise.
"Janet, just hold on." He dropped the harness at the mouth of the tunnel and started climbing over the fallen rocks.
Daniel stepped down on something soft and felt him ankle roll under him. He managed to steady himself again and then shone his light on the ground, revealing a bare leg. He felt his stomach clench as he realized that the leg belonged to the young woman who had led Janet up to the cave to see the mineral springs. He swallowed hard and felt for a pulse, but her body was already cold, the life having been crushed from it hours ago.
As he moved to get up, his hand landed on something sharp. Bit and pieces of plastic and wire littered the ground in front of him; the remains of a standard issue field radio. A few feet away he saw a black leather boot and the telltale olive green of fatigue pants.
"Hey, Janet." Daniel set his light on the ground and tried to angle it so he could shed as much light as possible on the situation. Janet's face was white and pinched in pain, a sharp contrast to the dark of the cavern. He could see that the myriad of small cuts her right cheek that had already begun to scab. "How are you feeling?"
Janet swallowed and her voice was hoarse when she answered. "It's bad. I'm stuck."
Daniel had to suppress a smile. That was one of the traits that every member of the SGC had all come to appreciate in Janet; she always gave an honest answer, no matter how bad the situation.
"Why the hell did they send you in after me?" That, and her sense of humor.
Daniel reached to brush the hair out of her eyes and noticed that her skin was cool and clammy. Shock. Which might be a good thing, considering the situation. Daniel knew from experience that shock could be a wonderful thing, muting that pain and protecting the mind until a treatment was available. But it also meant that time was of the essence. The body could only protect itself for so long before it would begin to shut down.
"Figured I owed you one, so I convince Jack that he should send me in," he answered.
Janet attempted a laugh, but it came out more as a rough breath. "You owe me more than one, Dr. Jackson." A cough and a moan in protest to the pain that it awakened punctuated her answer.
Daniel ignored her jab. "Where does it hurt?"
"Everywhere. Where's Colonel O'Neill? Everyone else?"
"Jack's at the other end of the tunnel. He couldn't fit, or he would never have let me go in alone. Teal'c is up top. We've got SG-2 trying to dig you out from the other side of that wall, and SG-9 is negotiating with the locals to allow a rescue team to come in here to search for you. You've created quite a stir, Dr. Fraiser."
"Permission for a rescue team?" she asked, clearly confused as to why Daniel was here if they didn't yet have permission to enter the caves.
"A little creative break and enter on our part."
"Back home. The General had her pick up Cassie when SG-9 reported that you would be delayed. She's still at Sam's place. She's okay," Daniel squeezed her free hand.
Janet nodded and closed her eyes.
If he would've had the room, he would've been pacing. As it was, Jack was having a hard enough time waiting. He restlessly tossed a few pebbles from one hand and back to the next, dropped them on the ground, tried to raise Daniel again on the radio, and when that didn't work, called his name down the tunnel. He picked up the pebbles again and repeated the entire ritual.
Finally, he'd had enough. Daniel had been gone for over half an hour. He tossed the pebbles against the wall in frustration and tugged on the rope. Nothing. No slack, no give to the length of nylon to indicate that Daniel had received their pre-arranged signal to come back. In fact, it felt like the other end of the rope was firmly attached to an immovable object.
Crap. What if something had happened to Daniel? Another cave in? O'Neill hadn't felt any tremors, but what if there had been loose rock that had just been waiting for an unsuspecting archeologist to brush against it and bring it tumbling down on him?
Cassie was okay. That was the important thing. Sam would take care of her, look out for her. Right now Janet felt tired. So very tired. Daniel was here, that was one less worry on her mind. She could relax and take a nap now. Things would be okay.
"Hey there Janet, where do you think you're going?" She felt a light tap on her cheek and opened her eyes again. "You've got to stay with me," Daniel told her.
"'Mm. Just resting my eyes."
"Not here, Janet. When we get back. Right now we need to get you out of here. You're not looking so good."
"Nice bedside manner," she scolded.
"I've had a good teacher." Janet could feel Daniel's hands on her body, checking for blood, protruding bones, bumps and bruises. "So how about you give me a few more lessons? Tell me what to look for," he asked.
Janet tried to answer but it was just so hard. She was so tired. It was too hard. Hurt too much. A thought floated up from the murky depths of her fleeting consciousness to shout at her that she had missed something during her initial diagnosis. What was it? She felt cold now, so cold, like she was bleeding to death. But there wasn't any blood that she could feel. Externally. Right.
"Daniel." She swallowed again. So thirsty.
"I'm here." She felt his hand in hers again.
"Need what Janet?" Daniel's other hand was warm against the bruised skin of her cheek.
"Need you to check for bleeding."
"Where? I can't see any." He shone the light over her again. "Wait. You're under a ton of rock, right?" Daniel puzzled it out. "So, there could be injuries I can't see." He laid his hands on her stomach, gently palpating.
Janet let out a low moan as his hands passed over a spot just under her ribs. He pulled back, afraid to cause her more pain. "Okay. Well, I think we can include internal bleeding to our assessment here."
Daniel ran his hand through his hair, collected his thoughts. Finally he spoke. "We need to get that rock off of you. And we need to get you out of here as soon as we can." He stopped and pulled his attention back to Janet. "Hey, Janet, keep those eyes open for me."
"Yes you can. You have to," he told her. "You've got to help me out here."
"Outta here," she agreed and coughed again, bringing tears to her eyes.
He held her shoulders to steady her until the spasm passed. "Here, I can give you something for the pain." He reached for the med kit still attached to his belt.
"No." A weak hand batted at his as he tried to open the syringe with the morphine. "Not that." Daniel wore a puzzled look so she tried to explain. "I'm not breathing well. Too shallow. That could repress respiratory functions."
"No," she repeated. "Need to stay conscious."
"Okay then," Daniel agreed. "You're going to keep those eyes open? Start talking to me Janet." He started to clear the smaller chunks of stone from on top of her makeshift tomb. "Tell me about this mission. How do you like gate travel so far?"
Sam looked up from her coffee as Cassie padded into the kitchen, still dressed in the nightshirt. "Hey yourself. Sleep well?"
Cassie shrugged her non-committal answer and helped herself to some cereal from the box on the counter. "So, can I stay all day or did Janet say I have to go home?"
Sam opened her mouth, but paused. This wasn't the time to get into it.
"Cassie." She frowned, unsure of how to proceed. "Listen, I've got to tell you something."
Bad news. Cassie could tell from Sam's body language. Sam was never lost for words; she always knew how to handle a situation. But now she seemed to be stuck, like she wasn't sure where to put her hands, if she should smile or not, or what she should be saying. Cassie could tell that whatever Sam had to say to her, it was going to be far worse than being told she'd having to go home early.
"Cass." Sam reached out and took Cassie's hand in her own. "General Hammond called this morning. Early. There…there was an accident."
Cassie lowered herself to one of the kitchen chairs, box of cereal forgotten in her hand. "Was it Mom?" she asked, already knowing the answer.
"Yeah, it was. But," she said as Cassie started to turn away. "The Colonel and Daniel and Teal'c are there with her. They're going to bring her back."
"She's alive?" Cassie had been expecting the worst, now she felt guilty at her quick assumption.
Sam nodded. "She's okay. The guys are with her. They're taking care of her. They'll be back as soon as they can."
Cassie nodded, feeling stunned.
After a few moments, she asked, "How come you're not with them? You should be there too. They need you." But she already knew the answer to that. The General must have ordered Sam to stay here with her, which meant that Janet was in real trouble. Maybe she wasn't even alive. Maybe she was lost and they couldn't find her. Maybe a System Lord came and turned Janet into a Goa'uld. A hundred other not so pleasant thoughts flashed through her head at that moment, each one the worse than the next.
"No," she whispered. This was all her fault. She'd said those things to Janet yesterday morning, before they had left for school. Janet would have never left the planet if they hadn't argued. She would have ended her shift, picked Cassie up from school, given her a lecture for getting sent to the office, cooked supper and then kissed Cassie goodnight and tucked her in bed. The same nice, normal, safe routine that they'd shared since she'd come to live with Janet. Not gone off on to some planet and never come back. "It's my fault."
"Oh no, Cass. It's not your fault. It was an accident." Sam pulled her into her arms, just as she had last night. She smoothed Cassie's long hair away from her face, tucked a few strands behind her ears, an act of comfort for both of them.
Cassie shook her head. "My fault. She wouldn't have gone if I didn't say those things to her."
"She didn't have a choice. General Hammond ordered her to go on the mission."
"Mom wouldn't have stayed overnight. She was mad at me and she didn't want to come home." Her lower lip trembled. "She didn't want to see me 'cause I made her mad."
"Hey. Look at me Cassandra." Sam ordered gently. When Cassie did, she continued. "This is not your fault. You had an argument. But that's all that happened. There was nothing you or Janet could have done to make things turn out differently. She had no choice but to obey the order to go on that mission. And she had no say about the accident that happened." Cassie shook her head, disagreeing. Tears slipped silently over her bottom lids and down her cheeks.
"Not your fault Cassie." Sam repeated firmly. "Understand?" Cassie clung to her a moment longer before pushing away and swiping a hand over her eyes to clear the tears.
"Daniel and Teal'c and Colonel O'Neill are with her?" She needed confirmation. "They're bringing Mom home?" Sam nodded. "When can we see her?"
"As soon as someone from the base calls." Sam gently brushed the last of the tears from Cassie's cheeks. "They have to get her back home first, but General Hammond promised to let us know as soon as there was any news."
"Sam?" Cassie's voice was still quiet and uncertain.
"I need a bowl." She held up the box that was still in her hand. "For my cereal."
"Yeah. Sure Cass." Sam reached her one from the cupboard and Cassie poured the flakes and then went to the fridge in search of milk.
Standing behind the open door, she softly whispered, "I'm so sorry Mom."
Teal'c scanned the horizon again. Below, SG-9 was still negotiating passage into the caverns. It appeared that the incident had attracted attention from the entire settlement. SG-2 had returned through the gate to bring back reinforcements to begin digging, once they were given permission to do so. Teal'c hoped that they would be given permission soon.
Colonel O'Neill and Daniel Jackson had been underground too long. The sun, which had been overhead when they had arrived on this planet, was now beginning its descent towards the horizon and Teal'c was worried. Either they had been unable to locate Dr. Fraiser, or they themselves were now in trouble.
He tried his radio again, and was startled to hear O'Neill's voice answer. He had been out of radio contact since he and Dr. Jackson had entered the caverns.
"Teal'c," O'Neill called. "We need to find another way in. Daniel's been out of contact for too long." This surprised Teal'c because, as long as he had known these men, O'Neill would never have allowed one of his team members to participate in a dangerous mission without backup. O'Neill must have been certain the risk was acceptable.
"Perhaps if we were to find a location were the rock is not as thick, we could make radio contact with Daniel Jackson," Teal'c offered.
"Good plan." O'Neill's voice came from below, no longer needing the radio. "Pull me up."
"Hey Janet, how are you hanging in there?" Daniel asked as he continued to clear away the rubble from around her. He had managed to remove most of the rocks that had had her pinned, and was now working on the large piece that was resting on her arm.
"Feet are wet," Janet replied sleepily. "Cause of the river."
Daniel was worried. Janet's condition had steadily deteriorated since his arrival, going from short, strained sentences, to barely one-word answers. He knew she was doing her best to stay conscious. She was aware of what might happen if she closed her eyes. "There's no river in here Janet. It's as dry as a bone."
"There is," she argued.
He paused with another rock in his hand. Maybe it wasn't water that she felt. Blood, perhaps? He brought his light over to where her feet lay in the sand of the cavern floor. The fabric just above one of her boots was darker than the rest of her fatigues. He reached down and carefully felt the material. It was wet. Then he spied the reason.
"No river Janet. You cracked your canteen." He pulled the battered bottle from its spot at her hip and lifted it to show her.
"Mmm," she mumbled.
Daniel tossed the canteen aside and went back to picking at the rocks. All the while he had been removing the smaller rocks, he has been piling them to one side, building a small stone ramp beside the rock that had Janet's arm trapped. Now he was ready to try and ease the large rock to the side and roll it off of her.
"Uh, Janet? This is probably going to hurt a little." He explained what he was about to do next. "Are you ready?" He braced himself overtop of her, one foot on either side of her body, to shield her from any debris, and at her slow nod, leaned his weight against the boulder.
He heard her gasp and felt her good hand reach up to clutch his jacket. As he continued to push against the boulder he felt her fingers dig into his flesh, twisting painfully. But she did not cry out. Her chest heaved as she tried to pull in a breath against the pain and she moaned through clenched teeth.
Daniel tried to ignore her pain as he threw all of his weight into the job. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, hang in there, almost there," he repeated over and over. He felt his arms tremble with exertion and the boulder started to tip some more. "Oh god, come on, move, please move," he begged and his voice was joined by Janet's cry as the jagged edges of the rock ground against her already battered arm.
The boulder finally tipped and rolled down the stone ramp. Daniel wiped the sweat from his face and was surprised to see that his palms were scrapped raw. He'd worry about that later, though.
"Janet?" he asked. The cavern was quiet again and though her fingers were still caught in the fabric of his jacket, her hand was limp. "Janet? You still with me?" He picked up the light from where it had fallen and shone it on her face. Her eyes were closed and her facial muscles slack. Unconcious.
He leaned over her and felt her warm breath against his cheek, faint but thankfully still present. Daniel debated trying to wake her, but decided that at least now she had some measure of relief from the pain. He turned his light on her now freed arm and was glad she was not awake to see it for herself.
Blood flowed freely from the open wound now that circulation had been restored. But he'd seen blood before, both from himself and his teammates. It wasn't something that made him feel squeamish. It was the fragments of bone sticking through her skin and the fabric of her own jacket, like two sharp white teeth, ready to slice their way back into her arm if they were handled wrong.
There was no way he could apply pressure to the wound, so he opted for a makeshift tourniquet made fro
m a triangular bandage in the med kit. He tied it as close to her shoulder as possible, trying to avoid the bone fragments.
He reached into the med kit again, searching for some sort of splinting materials when his radio crackled.
"Daniel, answer me!" Jack's voice shouted through the static. "Daniel, are you there?"
"Jack!" Daniel shouted into the radio. "Jack I hear you."
"Daniel. Did you find her?"
"She's here, Jack. She's not doing so well, but she's alive." Relief flooded him. He hadn't thought of anything past freeing Janet from under the rocks. He hadn't even considered how he was going to move her, let alone get her back down the narrow passage. But if Jack was able to make contact, that meant they were closer than where he'd left them, maybe with a med team standing by.
"Daniel, we're just on the other side of the cave-in, maybe seventy feet away. What's your status?"
"I'm fine, but we have to get Janet back to the SGC. She…she's really not doing so well, Jack."
"We're already digging," Jack answered.
"You have a go," General Hammond announced over the PA system. At his signal, the small skid-steer trundled up the ramp and through the event horizon. He'd tried pulling some strings to get an excavator to the base as soon as he could, but in the end he had to settle for sending an airman and his own personal credit card down to Home Depot to rent one. There would be one hell of a deposit to deal with if that thing came back damaged.
But that was the least of his worries. Bring Dr. Fraiser back alive was still top of his list. After Colonel O'Neill relayed the message that Dr. Jackson had found Dr. Fraiser alive, the order was barely out of his mouth before he was assaulted by a team of volunteers offering to do anything to get their CMO back, even if it meant clearing rubble with their bare hands.
Once the equipment and the team of men had cleared the event horizon and the wormhole had snapped shut, he turned to the young man seated at the computer in front of him. "Lieutenant, call Major Carter and update her on the situation."
"Right away sir."
Hammond turned to climb the stairs to the briefing room. "And inform me the moment there is any word from the teams."
He stood watching the remaining SF guards at their posts in the gate room from the briefing room window. If he could, he would have been leading this rescue mission. Janet Fraiser was not only one of his people, but he considered her a close friend. He'd lost count of the times he'd stood with her at the side of one of his men's bedside, waiting for the moment that would decide whether or not he would have to make that dreaded call to their family.
But his place was here, on the base, overseeing the mission. He knew his men and women were the best. All he had to do was trust that they would save him from having to make another phone call.
Sam hung up the phone and turned to see Cassie watching her, pencil held loosely in her hand. She had caught the phone on the first ring and had been reluctant to hand it over to Sam once she had recognized the number on the call display.
"What…what did he say?" she asked, afraid of the answer.
"He said that Daniel was with Janet and that they needed to send some heavy machinery through the wormhole to dig them out. Most of the rocks are too big to move by hand," Sam replied. The lieutenant had given her a detailed report on the status of the rescue mission, and there were things Sam figured she should keep from Cassie for the time being. The girl didn't need to know who badly Janet was injured, or that O'Neill was pushing the men on the planet for all they were worth to get through the wall of rubble. She didn't need to mention that the natives were still refusing to let the SG teams enter the cavern, or that they had threatened violence if the teams refused to leave before sundown.
But Cassie was as observant as she was smart.
"That's not all he said. There's bad news, isn't there?" she asked.
"Oh no, Cass." Sam reached out to touch Cassie's shoulder, but Cassie stepped away, not wanting to be distracted from getting answers. "He just said that everybody there was working really hard to bring her back." It sounded false to her, and she knew that Cassie could see right through her empty assurances, but it was all she could offer at the moment.
Daniel could hear the noises from the machines just beyond the wall of rock and he could feel their vibrations under his feet. Occasionally, a few loose stones would tumble from the pile, but so far Daniel and Janet seemed safe where they were at the back of the cavern.
Jack had radioed him to let him know that they would be ready to transport as soon as they were through the rubble. Daniel knew that all he could do right now was keep Janet comfortable. He'd treated Janet's injuries the best that he could; cleaning her cuts and scrapes, and bandaging the worst of them.
Splinting her arm was the worst. It was twisted at an awkward angle and Daniel couldn't wrap the plastic splint around it without moving it. He was thankful that she was still unconscious as he gently eased and rotated her shoulder back toward her body and lay in on the splint resting on her chest. Her face twitched once or twice as he was moving her arm, but she didn't wake.
That secured, all he could do now was monitor her condition. Daniel covered her body with his jacket and took her good hand in his and was surprised at how cold her skin felt. He quickly searched for a pulse and it was a few frantic seconds before he found one. Faint, but it was there. He gently rubbed her hand, trying to restore circulation and offer her some measure of comfort through the contact. He knew Janet could feel him even though she showed no reaction to his touch. He just hoped that it was enough.
All there was left to do now was wait. Daniel couldn't tell how long he'd been down there with Janet when the light went out. He knew he had spare batteries with him somewhere, but he didn't want to leave her side to go fumbling around in the dark. So he sat with her, holding her hand and talking to her, telling her about everything and anything just to keep his mind off of the thick darkness that surrounded them.
The sounds of the machinery got louder as the rescue team got closer. Jack's voice would permeate the darkness from time to time to ask Daniel for an update. Each time Daniel would tell him to hurry, and each time Jack would tell him that they were and to hang on. The digging was slow and they couldn't risk another cave-in. Daniel could only guess at all the equipment and supplies that were being brought in to dig and then shore up the tunnel.
"General Hammond's going all out for you Janet," he informed her. Her only response was a quiet sigh. She was still unconscious.
Suddenly, Daniel was blinded. He held a hand in front of his eyes to shield them from the light and saw Jack and a team of medics coming towards him.
"Daniel, you okay?" Jack asked as he handed him a spare flashlight.
"Fine, Jack." Daniel answered. Already the medics were crouched around Janet and assessing her condition. "How's she doing?" he asked one of them.
Instead of answering him, the medic started shouting for assistance.
"What? What's going on?" Daniel asked. "Jack?"
"Daniel, she's stopped breathing."
"What?" Daniel felt liked he'd just missed some critical memo.
"She's not breathing."
"Jack, she was, just now." Daniel felt his stomach hit the floor. How could he have missed such a simple thing? He was so sure that she had been breathing just a moment ago, right before Jack and the others broke through the wall. He'd heard her sigh. Then another thought struck him. "A pulse. Jack, does she have a pulse?"
Jack looked up at one of the medics crouched over Janet's body.
The medic nodded. "It's faint, but it's there." He turned to his partner. "We need to intubate."
"Daniel. Let them work." He felt Jack's arms on his shoulder, trying to maneuver him towards the new tunnel opening, but he couldn't leave, not until he saw that Janet was okay.
"Jack, she was breathing, I know she was."
"Daniel, listen to me." Jack's firm grip turned him away from the medics, grabbing his full attention. "She's got a pulse. That's a good sign. She probably was breathing when we got here."
"She was, Jack, I swear." Daniel knew his voice had risen and he took a breath to calm himself. "I swear."
"I know Daniel." He once again steered Daniel towards the exit, stepping aside to let another medic climb past them with a field stretcher.
When Daniel stepped out into the light, he was surprised at the manpower that awaited them. The sun was nearly setting and the natives of this planet were preparing to make good on their threat. Several of the younger men were already lined up along the rim of the sinkhole, weapons in hand. Not to be held at a tactical disadvantage, several of the SG teams also stood guard. Portable lights illuminated the deepening shadows of the crater and a skid-steer stood idling, its work now finished.
Neither man said a word as they waited with Teal'c for the medics to emerge with Janet. After what seemed like an eternity, they did. They wasted no time bearing Janet towards the gate. Only when they were out of sight over the rim of the sinkhole, did Jack speak.
"Let's get you home and get you looked at too."
Daniel was startled. "I'm fine, Jack. Just a little tired." And he realized that he was. He followed Jack up the shallow slope of the crater, towards the gate.
The lieutenant must have made the call as soon as they had cleared the gate and headed towards the infirmary. Sam was startled when the phone rang a second time only a few minutes after she'd hung up. Cassandra looked up again from her papers and pencils strewn across the kitchen table. She didn't speak, but the question was evident on her face.
"Sam?" she asked.
Sam held up a hand and listened as General Hammond filled in the details that the first call hadn't been able to. When she finally hung up, she felt as if someone had just given her a good swift punch in the gut.
"Sam? What did he say?"
How could she explain this to Cassie? She decided to just give her the details and spare the 'what ifs'.
"Cass," she said slowly and swallowed. "Cassandra, Daniel found Janet and they brought her back home."
"She's okay, right?" Cassie asked. She twisted a pencil in her hand nervously.
Sam shook her head. "No. She was hurt pretty badly. General Hammond said that she had a broken arm and-"
"But they can fix that. It's no big deal."
"No, it's not a big deal," she tried to reassure her. It was, in fact, the least of Janet's worries at the moment. "But she has some internal bleeding, some severe bruising, and they need to operate on her to try and fix that. She's in surgery right now."
Cassie started to pack up her pencils. "We have to be there."
"We should wait here. There's nothing we can do right now. Someone will call us when there's news."
"I want to wait there," Cassie insisted.
"Cassandra, General Hammond said that she would be in surgery for a while. There's nothing we can do but wait." Sam tried to explain. In truth, she wanted to protect Cassie from whatever she might see or overhear at the base. If she had to hear bad news, it shouldn't be by accident. She would need the support of her extended family, not some platitudes from a stranger, no matter how well intentioned.
Cassie drew herself up to her full height and squared her shoulders, "We need to be there. Mom will know. Please Sam," she pleaded. She lost a little of her bravado. "I have to be there when she wakes up. I need to." She was afraid she would miss the chance to say all the things she needed to, to apologize for everything. For her behavior the last few months, for the fight yesterday morning, even for not saying 'I love you' or 'thanks mom' as often as she should have. "Please?"
Sam hesitated for barely a second before nodding. "Get your jacket."
Jack watched Daniel wearily climb the steps to the gate. He'd done a good job. Now all that was left was the clean up. Jack could see Amine standing amongst the crowd of people who had accompanied them back to the gate. Another, smaller contingent was overseeing the re-burial of the hole they had dug for the rescue. SG-9, despite their long mission, were trying to salvage whatever diplomatic relations they could with these people. The fact that they had just barely made the deadline was working in their favor; already tensions seemed to be easing between both parties.
Teal'c had already gone through ahead with Janet and had no doubt briefed General Hammond as to SG-1's role in the rescue, but Jack was certain that he would be expected to file a full report once they got back. And he wanted to make sure Daniel got checked out as soon as they got back. He had a few nasty looking scrapes on his forehead that he probably didn't even realize were there. He'd been so focused on rescuing the Doc. And his palms were skinned raw. What the hell had he been doing down there? There would be time enough to figure that out later.
Janet awoke to a jarring pain as she was being transferred from the stretcher. Bright lights shone in her eyes and she tried to yell at someone to turn it off. Too bright. It hurt. Everything hurt, beyond hurt. She couldn't make any noise and started to panic, fighting the tube in her throat.
Strong hands gently restrained her and a voice near her head made soothing noises. A warm calm stole over her as the drugs injected into her IV line took effect and she realized that she was in her own infirmary. She felt the tug of fabric as scissors sliced at her fatigues, but she couldn't fight the darkness that tried to swallow her again.
Sam and Cassandra arrived at the base and were quickly ushered through security. As top secret as the Stargate program was, the grapevine had deep roots and the soldiers on security duty knew to be expecting the Major and Doctor Fraiser's daughter.
As they got off the elevator they were greeted by Teal'c and quickly lead to the briefing room.
"They are not yet finished treating Doctor Fraiser. It would be wise to wait here and I will bring word of her condition." It was his way of letting Sam know that they still weren't out of the woods yet where Janet was concerned.
"When can I see her?" Cassie asked.
"I will let you know, Cassandra," he replied.
"You'll stay with her?" If anyone could protect Janet, Teal'c could.
"I will." With his customary nod, he left the room.
Sitting here was far more difficult than waiting at home. Minutes passed into hours and there was still no word. Daniel and Jack both came and sat with Cassie, and Walter would stop in when he got the chance, bringing paper and pencils one time, sandwiches and drinks another. Cassie knew they were trying to distract her. She also knew that Sam had been up half the night and her worry showed plainly as she kept watch over Cassie from a chair at the end of the table.
Cassie glanced up at the clock again. Two hours they'd been here, and still no word. She tapped her pencil against her lip and watched the adults in the room. She'd been trying to capture Jack just right, but he kept moving. Standing by the window long enough for her to reproduce part of his profile, then running a hand over his head and pacing the length of the room again, swinging his arms, snapping his fingers, until Daniel would glare at him in annoyance. She tried then to draw Daniel, but the way he sat there, one hand under his chin, appearing as though he was thinking but all the while watching her made it even harder to concentrate. As if it wasn't difficult enough. But two hours and no word yet. That was a good sign, right?
She wanted to draw, wanted to set her mind on something else besides what was going on down in the infirmary. Surgery meant that something was really wrong with Janet, but every time she let herself think about that, Cassie felt her throat tighten and tears well up. She coughed once, trying to hold them back, but Sam heard her and was by her side in an instant.
"Hey," Sam whispered. "We'll know soon."
Cassie turned towards her, knowing that Jack and Daniel were watching. "I'm being brave," she whispered back.
Sam gave her hand a gentle squeeze. "I know you are."
There was a cough at the doorway and they all turned to see General Hammond standing there waiting for their attention.
"Dr. Fraiser is out of surgery," he announced.
"Can I see her?" Cassie asked.
"Not just yet. The doctors assured me that she is resting comfortably, although she will be asleep for some time. They tell me the internal injuries were minimal."
"What about her arm?" Daniel asked. "It, uh, it looked pretty bad and she did stop-"
"Daniel." Jack cut him off. Cassie caught the warning look that passed between them, but General Hammond resumed his report before she could ask questions.
"We brought in one of the best orthopedic surgeons in Denver for that. He just finished pinning it. They tell me that with therapy, she should make a full recovery. As for the rest of the various bruises, cuts and scrapes, that will heal with time. But she is being kept under close observation. Now what she needs most is rest," Hammond assured them.
"Sir, if I may." Sam indicated Cassie with a glance.
Hammond nodded. "Of course Major. Cassandra," he dismissed them.
The walk down to the infirmary had never seemed so long. With each step, Sam could tell that Cassie was hesitating, afraid of what would happen when she finally saw Janet again. They were met by Teal'c at the door to Janet's room where he offered his hand to Cassandra and lead her to a chair waiting by the bed.
The lights were low and a monitor marked Janet's steady heartbeat with soft beeps. Sam entered the room but stayed back in the shadows. This was something Cassie needed to do herself.
Cassie appeared taken aback by the myriad of tubes and wires that seemed to blanket Janet's body. The white bandage around her arm accented her pale features, though someone had taken the time to wash away all the dirt and grime from the cave. At least the tube was gone and she was breathing on her own again.
Cassie reached out with a shaking hand and twined her small fingers in Janet's. Sam watched as the monitor marked an increase in heart rate at the contact.
"Doctor Fraiser is aware of your presence, Cassandra," Teal'c said softly. "She will know if you speak to her."
Cassie looked up at Sam for reassurance. She nodded and Cassie took a deep breath and spoke.
"Mom?" The beeps sped up, and then leveled out again. Encouraged, she tried again. "I washed my blue shirt."
Sam had to hide a small smile. For Cassie, this was an apology. She watched as the girl settled into the chair and continued talking, making promises and plans, offering comfort in her own way. It wasn't long before the events of the past twenty-four hours caught up with her and she started to nod off, head resting on the edge of the bed. Teal'c gently placed her on the next bed over, within sight of Janet should either of them wake in the night, and tucked the blankets up around her chin.
Teal'c and Sam both left for their own quarters knowing that things would be okay. The healing had already begun.