The Wizard of Mazd

"So where we going again?"

"P3X 784, sir." Carter fiddled with her pack. Something wasn't sitting right—it was riding weird on her shoulder. And whenever she moved, the straps slid a little.

"That the planet with the little people?"

"The Mazdans, sir. It was in the report."

"Yeah—they're only—yea-high." He motioned with his palm down at a point just at his rib cage. "Little people."

"I'm sure they don't consider themselves to be little, Jack." Daniel had finally gotten to the 'Gate Room. "Maybe they consider us to be big."

"Wouldn't that then define them as 'little'?" He used his fingers as quotation marks on the pertinent words. "I mean, us being 'big' and all. . ."

Daniel sighed and glanced at Sam, who was still adjusting the straps on her pack. "What's wrong, Sam?"

"I don't know. I can't get the idiotic straps adjusted right. It's like someone else has been wearing it—or maybe it's just because it's a stupid government-issue P. O. S."

Daniel moved past Jack and stopped beside her. "You want me to take a look at it?"

"Oh yeah—Mr. Technology to the rescue." Sam snapped at him. She yanked on the strap again, and tried to rig the end to secure it.

"I'm just trying to help, Sam."

"What are you going to do, Daniel, translate it?"

Daniel turned back to Jack. "Wow." He mouthed, wise enough not to say it. His eyebrows rose and then furrowed. Sometimes Carter really was the "girl". A girl who could kill him with her thumb. And who, at this exact moment, probably wanted to.

Time to change the subject, he decided.

"So, SG-10 says that there's an Ancient repository there. They wanted us to look at it because we—well, you, Jack," he nodded his head meaningfully at the Colonel, "have a history with that sort of thing. Apparently you seem to be a magnet for odd technology."

"Hey! I only got my head sucked on by one of those things once." Jack waggled his index finger pointedly at the archaeologist. "You've landed in the infirmary way more times than I have."

Daniel raised his eyebrows and then shook his head. "I don't think so. You've been skewered to the wall, shot, and morphed into an old man—Then, there was the time that you died. I mean. . ."

"We all kicked it that time, Daniel. You've died, what, three times since we've met?"

"No, I've nearly died and was luckily saved at the last moment."

"At least I've never been addicted to a sarcophagus."

"Yeah, well, I've never been made into a Jaffa."

"Aacht! Daniel—we agreed to put that into the vault."

"Colonel O'Neill and Daniel!" Teal'c's voice stopped them. "I believe that both of you have spent an equal amount of time in the medical facilities here at the SGC. It is Major Carter and I who appear to be more hardy."

Carter's pack chose just then to drop to the floor with a loud thud. "Son of a --!" She shouted. "Stupid! Crapping! Piece! Of! Crap!" She punctuated each word by kicking her pack.

"Carter!"

At O'Neill's yell, she stopped. The Colonel moved so that he stood directly in front of her. "So—uh—who peed in your Cheerios?"

Her vivid eyes flashed at him briefly, and then dropped suddenly to the floor. He could feel her relax slightly—but he knew she was forcing herself to. "I don't know, sir. I guess I'm just in a mood."

"Majors don't have moods, Carter." His voice was low.

So was hers. "This one does, sir." She took a deep breath and looked at him again. "Maybe you guys should go ahead, sir, and I'll change out my pack and catch up?"

O'Neill let go of her arm and considered. Turning back to Daniel, he raised his brows. "These Mousemen—they're friendlies?"

"Mazdans, Jack, and yes, they're friendly."

Jack glanced back at Carter, who stood staring stubbornly at the offending pack. Her face and ears were tinged pink, a sign that she needed a few minutes alone to cool off. That, or beat the crap out of someone. He hoped that this time it wouldn't be him. He'd made the mistake of sparring with her once when her ears were that color, and he hadn't been able to breathe deeply for a week.

"Then you'll catch up, Carter. You've been working pretty hard. Maybe you just need a break. Take a breather. Take a moment. Take a. . ." He wisely turned away before he said, "Midol."

"What was that sir?"

"Nothing, Carter. We'll stay within a click of the 'Gate—we'll give you an hour."

"One hour, sir." She picked up the offending pack and dragged it from the room.

----OOOOOOO----

An hour later, with a new, reloaded pack on her shoulders, Sam stepped through the 'Gate.

SG-10 had reported that the village of Mazd was a bustling town filled with friendly people. The 'Gate was centered in the village square, and the locals had paved the area around the platform with patterned tiles. On the western outskirts of the village, they had reported finding the requisite trees and forests, a wide river several clicks to the south of the main village, and an eastern countryside largely dominated by farmland and grazing fields. A single paved road led from the village through the countryside to a large stone tower forty kilometers due north. The tower housed the Ancient repository.

Sam had prepared an apology as she repacked her gear. She hated losing her temper. She knew that when she was moody or irritable, the guys automatically guessed that it was her time of the month. Not that they would ever bring it up. Somehow that made it worse—them assuming. But then they'd all been married at one point or another—so they knew about these sorts of "chick" things. And she had to think that even Jaffa women had some sort of cycle. She grimaced when she thought of Daniel, Teal'c and the Colonel walking through Mazd, discussing her surliness.

But the worst part was that PMS wasn't anywhere near what her moodiness was about. She'd sighed loudly on that thought as she'd stepped through the shimmering event horizon. She expected that she'd have to make some sort of amends.

----OOOOOOO----

As the wormhole closed behind her, nothing stirred except the hair on the back of her neck.

What appeared to be every citizen of Mazd gathered at the 'Gate. They knelt in a semicircle—women, men, children—completely silent, faces stony. A thick stillness permeated the air. The village around the 'Gate seemed like a ghost town, completely devoid of movement or life.

The men of SG-1 knelt at the base of the platform, frozen, staring blankly at the 'Gate. She'd thought that she would have to make good time to catch up with them—she'd figured to be making her apologies as they hiked towards the north. She hadn't been expecting to find the rest of her team right in front of her, as silent as statues.

And she really hadn't been expecting to see the golden shoes on the edge of the platform in front of her, with the smoking stumps still inside.