Fic Post: Planet Maize; Gen; SGA
Title: Planet Maize
Author: ljc (or )
Category: Angst, Drama, Humor
Warning: for almost a whole bad word
Summary: It should have been an easy mission.
Disclaimer: The characters and settings of Stargate SG-1 and Stargate: Atlantis belong to Showtime/Viacom, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Film Corporation. All other publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of Stargate: SG-1 and Stargate: Atlantis or any other media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
This story was written by ljc () with the love of the show in mind.
The MALP showed a field of tall growth not unlike corn except for one thing: the plants had thorns! But they also had what looked like corn cobs growing prolifically on each stalk. It was deemed worth a visit.
SGA-1 had waited patiently for the most part as the data from the MALP had been digested and a decision reached. Usually Ronon was the impatient one while awaiting the signal that the mission was approved, but this time it was McKay. He had kept up a vocal battle with his second in command, Dr. Zelenka, from the moment he had entered the 'Gate room and while still adjusting his gear and tac vest. He only switched off his comm gear at the last minute before stepping through the Stargate.
The change of scene was surprising for all of them. They had stepped from Atlantis to a very pastoral setting where deep silence greeted the team as soon as the 'Gate closed. Tall grasses that looked like corn greeted the team for as far as the eye could see, which wasn't all that far. Since McKay hadn't been paying attention he was actually speechless for a long minute. The view on the MALP had given them a very accurate picture of the area they were now facing but the scale was a little daunting.
Lt. Colonel John Sheppard smirked when the flow of words stopped and he couldn't help saying, "McKay. Twelve foot tall corn. What does that make you think of?"
Rodney snorted softly and said, ""Children of the Corn" this is not, unless wide-eyed children walk out of the corn wanting to sacrifice us to the 'corn deity'. In that case, just say 'no thanks' but popcorn would be appreciated."
Teyla looked exasperated already. She glanced quickly to the side to see Ronon's reaction, but he just grinned and shook his head.
He said, "Must be Earth folklore again."
"Yes. And something we do not need to know," she sighed mock wearily, and Ronon chuckled.
Rodney relaxed a little at the comment and grinned. "Yes, yes, laugh at the new guys on the block."
Sheppard took off his pack and opened one of the sample containers.
McKay watched John for a minute then sighed disgustedly. "The specimens we have to sample are, like, ten feet from the 'Gate. Why didn't they send Dr. Parrish to get them. Why did we even come here? It's not like I'm the obvious scientist to send on a 'botany' mission."
Sheppard sighed too, and replied, "Yes, we know McKay. You're the smartest man in two galaxies. An astrophysicist. I'm sure it was a mistake and not because of your great knowledge of botany."
"Well, I'm not totally ignorant of ..."
"Good. I'll let you take the samples."
Rodney snorted and just crossed his arms over his chest.
John muttered, "That's what I figured. Look. In case you were too distracted during the briefing, we don't know anything about this planet. Even Teyla and Ronon haven't heard of it. We need to know if it's safe, and if it's inhabited before we send a survey team here. Since we're here, we'll take some samples and check the place out. Is that alright with 'you', Dr. McKay. You are familiar with safety protocols and with the scientific method, right?"
"Oh, ha, ha! You don't have to remind me. I've just been very busy in the lab. We found a device that is very promising. It may be able to replicate ..."
"Replicate?" John snapped.
"Not 'Replicator', but replicate, like on Star Trek. It might be able to, let's say fabricate instead … it might be able to 'fabricate' materials or manufactured items given the correct programming."
John's eyes widened at the explanation. "Cool!" Then he turned to the rest of the team and said, "Now maybe we should get down to business."
Rodney dropped his own pack, pulled out his lifesigns detector and muttered, "At least it's something different than trees." He glanced back to his team before seriously studying the results.
John turned to Ronon and asked him, because he was the tallest, if he could see any elevated terrain beyond the growth. John glanced at Teyla and they both had to fight to hide a grin as Ronon contorted himself, then began jumping as high as he could off the platform the 'Gate sat on.
"Nope. Not that I can see," Ronon said with a touch of boredom.
John nodded to Teyla and suggested, "See if you can boost Teyla high enough to get a sighting." But even standing on the platform didn't help. All they could see were acres of this pseudo-corn.
John stared at the tall corn that surrounded the small bare circle around the 'Gate. "Hmm. I hate to just head off into the corn. Before I have to pick a direction, everyone take a good look around. See if there are any tracks of animals or humans, or anything unusual, but don't go into the corn yet."
Teyla drew their attention within a few minutes. "Colonel. There seems to be a path that takes off on an angle. You have to be looking from the right direction to see it, but it looks clear for some distance."
They all walked over to see for themselves.
Ronon said, "I don't see any tracks. It looks clear until it curves out of sight, but who made the trail?"
Sheppard looked at Rodney, and glanced pointedly at the lifesigns detector.
Rodney grimaced and tossed his hands up in defeat. "It says there's nothing in range except us. No energy readings either. Nothing."
John grimaced as he looked at the sun at it's zenith. "We've got at least eight hours before dark on this planet. I'll finish taking samples. Ronon, Teyla, Rodney … all of you, head down the path until you almost lose sight of the 'Gate, then Ronon and Teyla, you head down the path until you almost lose sight of Rodney, and you know ... continue. But don't lose sight of each other. See what you can see, if there's anything but corn, and report back. We'll decide what to do then."
It didn't take long for the team to decide there was nothing to discover 'but' corn, and after the samples were taken it was indeed time for a decision. Since nothing dangerous had presented itself, and the path was clearly there, they could only assume that something was at the end of it.
Sheppard radioed Atlantis, apprised them of their discovery and their plan. John decided that a three hour walk should show them a sample of the terrain, perhaps lead them through the corn and out the other side, or to a spot on higher ground, or at least a tree they could climb. If they were really lucky, or maybe not, they might find who or what made the path. They packed up the sample cases they hadn't used to take with them, and left the filled cases by the 'Gate. Then they followed the path that was, only at the beginning, liberally covered in (their own) tracks.
They had hiked many miles on a number of planets, but this one was odd in a way that the Colonel didn't identify at first. Ronon was on point, Teyla on their six, with John and Rodney in the middle. They had chatted softly at first and had finally fallen silent as the distance walked had grown. Then it hit him. He stopped short and turned slowly around. Rodney gulped and pulled his P90 into ready position.
John whispered into the mic, "Ronon, Teyla. Halt. Listen and report."
Ronon went into a crouch, battle ready in an instant. "Nothing here."
Teyla had crouched and turned gracefully 360 degrees before adding, "I hear nothing, Colonel."
Rodney whispered tersely, "What? What?"
John took a step backwards to Rodney, "Nothing. Not a sound. It's too quiet. No … bugs. No birds. Only the wind in the leaves."
Rodney looked confused for a moment, started to say something and stopped. He finally offered, "That's not normal. At least anywhere we've been before. Plants depend on animals and insects for pollination, although this corn might have another vector. Maybe it just needs wind for transfer of pollen. Or something, you know, 'alien', because we are on another planet." He'd ended his speech in a waspish tone and Sheppard just glared at him.
"I did consider that, McKay. But it would be the only time we've run across a fertile planet without some insect life." But John did relax his stance, and the others followed suit. He glanced quickly at his watch and gestured them forward.
They'd only gone a few steps when Teyla wondered aloud, "Colonel Sheppard? Should we continue?"
That stopped the Colonel short. "Do you sense anything, Teyla?"
"No. It just seems odd." Teyla sighed and continued, "There is no real reason to go back ..."
"But you'd feel better if we did."
Teyla looked disquieted, but didn't answer yes or no, just glanced around suspiciously.
Sheppard considered all the factors and came to a decision. "It's been over two hours and we've seen no change whatsoever. Barely any change in elevation. No other tracks. No life signs. No insect or animal life either. Yet we have a clear path and no obvious reason for it or any idea who or what made it. It might be better to go back to Atlantis for the Puddlejumper."
Rodney sighed loudly, "Well, finally. This has been a waste of my valuable time." He glanced around again and added worriedly, "You know, something else that's odd is that we haven't found any variation in plant life either. Just corn! It's unnatural."
John slowly nodded his head. "Yeah. Unnatural. Only corn." Decision made, he ordered, "Okay. Let's go back."
Two hours later they still hadn't reached the 'Gate, and they'd been moving faster on the return trip. John was looking spooked. Rodney just looked frustrated. He was sweating and he was tired and when they stopped he slapped half-heartedly at his lifesigns detector. Ronon had followed doggedly on their six. He had glanced behind them continuously, often walking backwards for several steps at a time.
Teyla was in the lead but she suddenly stopped. She waited for the others to reach her before she spoke. Her voice was tense. "Colonel. I do not believe this is the path we took on the way here."
"Are you sure? One stretch through this corn looks pretty much like another."
"It has been two hours. We should have reached the section that Ronon, Rodney, and I traveled at the beginning. We were very careful to study it thoroughly. We are not there, Colonel, and we should have reached it by now." She gestured at the path before them and added, "And Colonel, this path is smooth. It should bear our own footprints at least."
John looked alarmed, "But I've kept track of the direction. The compass worked fine before we set out. I made sure of that."
Rodney smacked the lifesigns detector again. "Uh, Colonel?"
"Yeah, McKay," the Colonel snapped.
"Uh, well, it might be."
"It might be what?"
"It might be wrong."
John sighed in frustration before he snapped at his scientist again. "Why is that, McKay? The position of the sun is right. We've been following the path, and something like that doesn't change in a couple of hours. What else do I need to know?"
"Well, the lifesigns detector doesn't seem to be working right."
"You said it detected us back at the 'Gate."
"Well, yes. But now it's got weak lifesigns everywhere."
John, Ronon, and Teyla all quickly took defensive positions with Rodney in the middle. Rodney's gulp could be heard by all of them in the silence.
John whispered, "Rodney, do you have 'us' located on that thing?"
"Yes. Of course!" he hissed softly back.
"You only detected 'us' at the 'Gate. Why the change?"
"Uh, well, it just felt wrong that there wasn't any life here but us. When we stopped I started altering the parameters."
"Show me," demanded John. When shown the screen of the lifesigns detector he felt a shiver of fear. He spoke sharply, "Rodney, everything around us registers as 'life'."
"Uh, yeah. The closest are about two feet from us."
John glanced at him. "Just two feet?"
Rodney reached out a trembling hand toward the nearest corn stalk and said, "Right there."
John slowly lowered his weapon and gestured for the others to do the same. "Come on. Enough of this. I think it's time to get back to the 'Gate. Let's move it." They immediately moved into a ground-eating jog one behind the other.
Fifteen minutes passed and they still hadn't reached the 'Gate. John flipped his hand in the sign to stop. Rodney leaned forward on his knees gasping and trying to keep from collapsing on the ground. Teyla moved easily but showed the stress of the exertion and the constant fear of the unknown. Ronon looked ready to run again at any moment, never letting down his guard for an instant.
John checked their location once again. They all knew that the 'Gate should 'be' here, somewhere. It should have loomed over the corn stalks easily. It almost felt as if the 'path' was leading them in circles.
"Sheppard," Ronon hissed.
John looked up and spun around in fear.
Teyla turned quickly in a circle and said fearfully, "John … the path. It is gone."
Rodney's head came up and he turned slowly. The clear path that they had followed for hours was now a ten foot circle. And towering over them was twelve foot tall corn. Rodney's voice had an uncertain shudder as he said, "This is a joke that only Stephen King would enjoy."
John looked at his compass and ordered, "Ronon, hoist Teyla up. The 'Gate is supposed to be dead ahead." John then gestured firmly in the direction for them to scrutinize.
They didn't waste time. Ronon crouched, and Teyla stepped on his bent leg. They clasped hands and Ronon swung her up and behind him to balance on his shoulders. It took less time to tell than for them to do it.
Teyla looked down at John and nodded in the direction that John had indicated, confirming that the 'Gate was indeed in that direction. She took a focused look around then dropped lightly to her feet within their little circle within the circle.
John asked for suggestions.
Ronon ground out, "Well, if it's just corn, we walk through it."
"And if it isn't just 'corn'?" Rodney asked plaintively.
"We still have to walk through it," said John.
"Oh, great. Fine. Just walk through ..." and Rodney swung his hand out and brushed a leaf accidentally. ".." He tried to pull his hand back, tried to free it from the tangled leaves wrapped around it. "Sheppard! It won't let go. .ow. It stung me!" And abruptly Rodney was free.
Ronon and Teyla quickly stood on opposite sides of Rodney and John, while John firmly grabbed Rodney's hand. John reacted swiftly to what he saw. He pulled a bandanna from his tac vest and wound it around Rodney's forearm and tightened it until Rodney winced and tried to pull his arm free, but John held on.
"Don't Rodney. It's swelling already."
Rodney stopped immediately and stared. He found his voice quickly though, "But you can't cut the circulation off for more than ten minutes!"
"I know, Rodney. We have ten minutes to get you through the 'Gate."
Teyla looked dismayed, "But how, Colonel?"
John didn't take long to answer, "Everyone, put on your gloves and hats, and extra shirts, whatever you've got to cover exposed skin." No one wasted any time. They all helped Rodney, and they were a pretty motley crew when they were done. Teyla had on John's extra pants, and Ronon had one of Rodney's extra shirts.
John asked, "Are you ready?" At their nods, he aimed his P90 into the corn and strafed the corn from top to bottom. Leaves fluttered and swung toward them into their circle. They danced out of the way and waited in vain for a path to open up for them. When that didn't happen, Ronon pulled out his blaster. That had slightly more effect, but shredded leaves still did not force a path to open for them, and their circle was down to six feet.
The team was back to back, with Rodney at it's center. They could hear his labored breathing, and John asked, "Is it time for an epi-pen, McKay?"
His voice tightened by his body's reaction to the thorn sting, Rodney still managed a wheezing, "yes."
Teyla reached unerringly into the pocket of Rodney's tac vest that held the syringe. She pulled out one of the pens and jabbed it into his thigh. He grunted softly and leaned into John's back to keep from swaying off his feet.
John asked, "Any other suggestions?"
Ronon said, "Let me go first."
John shook his head, "Any 'other' suggestions?"
Ronon growled, but Rodney reached over and placed his good hand on his chest. "I - I have a suggestion. Make like a - a caveman ..." and Ronon growled louder, "and use fire," finished Rodney breathlessly.
John didn't look too happy. "McKay, this is corn. It could burst into flames and take us with it."
"Or – or it could make them back off. Just - 'threaten' them with fire. Don't set them on fire!"
"That might work," John said. Lacking other suggestions, he nodded and pulled out the fire-starter that was a requisite item in their packs. He hesitated very briefly but lit it and held it slowly toward the gently swaying leaves. When the leaves drifted away, John became bolder. He stepped forward and the corn visibly parted before them. The leaves swayed and what they had thought were roots slid through the fine soil leaving a smooth path like the one they'd been following.
Ronon stepped forward with his own fire-starter and the path widened. Teyla steadied Rodney and together they followed them as they made their way to the 'Gate. John made it to the DHD first but he didn't put down the fire-starter. He dialed, and sent the IDC.
John glanced at the once filled sample cases they'd left near the 'Gate. They were lying scattered and broken in what he suspected was a 'fit of rage'. No one on the team made a move toward them. It was pretty obvious that the 'corn' didn't want them taken, and Sheppard was happy to leave them. They didn't need sentient corn on Atlantis.
They stumbled through the 'Gate more or less in one piece although Rodney's hand had swollen painfully. Before the allergic reaction was over he itched (and b*tched) quite volubly until it also caused a scary asthma-like reaction, but Dr. Beckett was relieved that Rodney's reaction fell short of full anaphylaxis.
The next morning, the team came to eat breakfast with Rodney, who had remained under observation for the night. The sentient corn was high on the list of topics.
John was eating a corn muffin with obvious enjoyment, to Rodney's disgruntlement. "You know, that's one planet we're locking out of the 'Gate. Angry natives are one thing, but a planet full of angry plants ..." and John shuddered only half-playfully.
Ronon nodded. "Those sample cases looked like they were stomped to pieces. I'd never have thought plants could do that."
Teyla looked thoughtful, "I think you were correct, Rodney. It was the right choice to only 'threaten' them with fire. If we had killed any of them the outcome could have been very different."
Rodney didn't say anything at all, just pushed his food around on his plate.
John looked concerned. He said, "No appetite? You do look kind of glum, McKay. Don't you feel well?"
Rodney glanced up and shrugged a shoulder. He looked at the muffin John was eating. He hadn't taken any for himself, of course. He said unhappily, "Another allergy. To "corn" of all things. Something else I can't eat. No more corn muffins. No more popcorn."
"There's still coffee," John said with a sympathetic grin.
"And chocolate," added Teyla.
"And … other stuff," added Ronon around a mouthful.
"And corn," added Beckett as he came in the door.
Rodney looked hopeful, "Really? But what about the reaction I had?"
"Some people have an allergy to a protein in maize, lad, but that stuff … that wasn't maize. At least, not Earth maize. Besides this 'corn' attacked you. Stung you. Earth corn is still safe for you to eat it."
Rodney instantly looked better, and hungry, as he eyed their breakfast trays. Ronon picked his up and sat on the end of Rodney's hospital bed. He looked at the other members of his team. "What? I'm hungry."
Rodney crossed his arms and for once said nothing.
Ronon sighed and tossed him his last muffin.
Note: It was Oct. 28, 2010, almost Halloween, and on my way home from out of town I saw this sign, "... EIGHT ACRE MAZE".
Note: A little corn research at: