Chapter 7: Major Samantha Carter
One shiny wet nose!
Two big furry ears!
Two big googly eyes!
IT'S A BEAR!
. . .
Sam remained where she had frozen when the powering up hum and lights had surprised them into immobility with one boot on the tiles and the other on bare rock. The bellowing sound was gone but she thought the hair on the back of her neck was still standing on end.
The hum noise in connection with the lights she could understand, as the UTD reading had jumped with the energy surge, but what in the world had been the cause of that bellow?
"Maybe something somewhere fell?" Daniel offered hopefully.
"That did not sound like equipment crashing," the Colonel retorted. "It sounded like an animal."
"But how would an animal get way down here? There were no signs in the passageway." Daniel questioned.
"It could have found another way in," Sam spoke up. "The air is fresh down here so there have to be airshafts. It's possible that the lights turning on startled an animal and the caves amplified and distorted the sound into the bellow we heard."
The Colonel was giving her a long measuring look, it seemed he did not believe her theory any more than she did really, but Daniel was looking relieved.
"Well, we'll either find out more when we get further," the Colonel waved a hand at the ways out of the cavern, "or we won't. Daniel, the floor pictures tell you anything now that we can see it?"
Nothing diverted Daniel's attention like a question like that as the archaeologist looked down at the mosaic and promptly became absorbed by his work with camcorder in hand.
Sam watched as, headless of Teal'c and the Colonel's early cautioning and worry about booby traps, Daniel began to crisscross the mosaic. He nudged the other two men out the way at times as he sprouted on about the technicalities of mosaics, certain narration scenes of unidentifiable warriors battling each other and other things depicted, like the giant bear before a seated woman.
"Well, this is so strange!" Daniel declared as he stood in the middle of the mosaic's centre scene, camcorder lowered to the side and gestured about with his free hand. "It's a pharaonic smiting scene, see? The victor is holding the captive by the hair in one hand and holding a weapon to smite them in the other hand. Also the images are shown in profile which is typical of Egyptian art—well goa'uld art—but that's just it, it's goa'uld. Arthur banished the goa'uld from Aballo so why is this here? In his cave?"
"Could this be something Camulus had done?" Sam questioned as she looked the mosaic over, taking her foot off the boar being eaten by a bear just below the centre scene that had Daniel so puzzled. "The cave might have been Camulus's before it was Arthur's."
"Maybe but I don't know why Arthur would leave it here when he won. Though," Daniel rubbed his chin, "I can't really say for certain who the two are. Both are wearing similar outfits with the most distinctive differences being the breastplate decoration. The captive's breastplate I'm not seeing any identifying emblem in and it could just be a purely decorative design of elaborate circular artwork. The most strange though is the victor's breastplate. It has a zoomorphic head that I haven't seen in goa'uld art before, so I need to check it against my books to discover which animal is being depicted."
Sam looked the two breastplates over and agreed that the captive just sporting a decorative geometric pattern and the victor a stylistic creature's head as seen from above. "It's not a dragon head?"
Daniel shook his head. "One has to be really careful about identifying zoomorphic heads since they are not particularly realistically portrayed and strongly stylised. Plus, the above view instead of a profile view makes it even trickier."
"I thought you just said snake art is all in profile, like Egyptian art?" the Colonel interjected.
"That is true," Daniel agreed slowly as he studied the mosaic with an increasingly puzzled air, "Egyptian art has the head and lower body viewed in profile, with the eye and upper body viewed from the front. So that zoomorphic head as seen from above is an abnormality."
Sam waited for him to say anything more but when Daniel didn't and just started muttering under his breath as he began working over the mosaic again, she turned her attention to her UTD. She was far more interested in why the power had engaged and lighting turned on when it had and there was nothing in this room that suggested any answers.
A motion detection system was most likely, but then it became a question of what type of sensor system was in place. Neither acoustic, optical, or seismic systems fit unless there was a system time-delay... crossing the mosaic she made her way to the Colonel's side. "Sir? I'd like to venture deeper to see if I can find the light's power source. Finding it might help with figuring out if this cave is goa'uld or not."
The Colonel drummed the fingers of his good hand against the stock of his P90 but nodded. "You and Teal'c can go start looking. Leave a trail for you to find your way out—or us to find you if you if I manage to tear Daniel away from his floor picture anytime soon. Keep in radio contact."
"Yes Sir," Sam nodded and crossed over to Teal'c. "You heard what the Colonel said?"
"I did MajorCarter," Teal'c answered.
Sam held up her UTD a bit. "I'll take the lead if that's okay."
"It is acceptable," he agreed. "I shall take responsibility for leaving the route markers."
"Thanks," Sam flashed a smile and turned her attention to the carved out chambers and passageways leading away from the spacious mosaic cavern. The decision was now, if the UTD didn't assist, which way did they try to go? Down sounded like the best option, so she selected one of the downward passageways and took the roughly carved steps deeper into the cave system. The energy reading increased a decimal point so it looked like she'd made the right choice.
The lights system was more spaced out than it had been in the mosaic cavern and she used the tactical light on her P90 in the shadowy areas and to look into the levels that intruded onto each other in no discernible order and not one level on top of the other. Shining the light through an opening to a dimly lit lower level a few feet to her right the beam glanced over a black glimmer—unlike the white one of the quartz in the dark grey rock wall—and caught her attention.
Swinging the beam back around, she peered downward as she centred the light. Was that a shiny wet nose? A flicker of movement above and she swept the beam up where it illuminated the rounded edge of a furry ear.
It looked like she may have found the animal that the Colonel had suggested had made that bellowing sound, but what kind of animal was? Shifting the beam of her light again in an attempt to see the whole shape of the animal's head, the beam reflected back from the tarpetum lucidum of the big eyes and shone red.
The roar bellowed through the air and shook her to the bones.
It was a bear!
. . .
Quick! Back through the cave! Tiptoe! Tiptoe! Tiptoe!
Back through the snowstorm! Hoooo woooo! Hoooo woooo!
Back through the forest! Stumble trip! Stumble trip! Stumble trip!
. . .
Hard on the heels of that realization was a worse one. She wasn't just getting the weird goa'uld sense from behind her where Teal'c was—but from the bear! Suddenly the natural red shine from her light turned into the golden eye-glow of a goa'uld. Another roaring bellow shook her bones and sent her heartbeat galloping.
The massive bear took two lopping strides forward. It reached the arched opening between the two levels and reared up. Its claws, longer than her hands, dug at the ledge as it growled and roared.
Sam jolted back as the bear madly began to claw its way up to her. Flipping the safety of her P90 off, she squeezed the trigger. The air filled with the sharp sound of automatic gunfire and pungent odor of hot copper and nitroglycerin.
A chest full of rounds sent the bear reeling back, where it collapsed.
"The ursidae appears dead," Teal'c announced from behind.
"Carter," the radios cackled, "what's happening?"
Sam breathed deep to calm her rapid heartbeat as she reached up and toggled the switch of her radio. "Goa'uld Sir."
"Crap," the Colonel swore and what he said next was more an aside and not addressed to her. "Daniel said there wouldn't be snakes here." A pause. "Carter, with all that roaring—was it in a Unas?"
A long pause. "Say that again Major."
"The goa'uld was in a bear Sir," Sam enunciated.
"Get back here," the Colonel ordered, "now Major."
"Yes Sir," Sam answered and her hand dropped from her radio. Taking a firm grip on her P90 she looked over her shoulder at Teal'c who was still looking at the fallen form of the giant bear. "Come on Teal'c, let's go."
Teal'c gave a regal nod of his head and they swiftly backtracked, following the route marks he had made on the stone walls to make their way back to the mosaic cavern where the other two men where. As they entered the spacious cavern again a bellowing roar rumbled up from behind them and Sam instinctively checked over her shoulder as her heart jolted.
"You didn't manage to kill it?" the Colonel demanded.
"The ursidae appeared dead when we departed O'Neill," Teal'c answered.
"There could be others too Sir," Sam suggested as she gave another uneasy look over her shoulder.
"Do you believe that Carter?"
Sam gave an uneasy shrug.
"Right, we're leaving."
"Stuff it Daniel," he snapped. "We've got a goa'uld in a bear—"
"Giant bear," Sam interjected.
"Giant? How big?"
Sam pictured the bear in her head with its massive body and disproportionately long legs and had to say, "Twice the size of any bear on Earth."
"Of course, everything else on this planet is giant sized, why not the bears?" the Colonel said sarcastically. "Look, Daniel, we've got a goa'uld in a bear and I don't want to be down here with some snaked bear when there is only one way in and out!"
A deep bellowing roar rolled over them—closer now.
They all exchanged wide eyed looks and the Colonel yelled, "Go, go, go!"
Sam shot across the mosaic behind Daniel, with Teal'c and the Colonel behind her—tiptoeing over it forgone in the need for speed. Boots slapping against the stone floor they made their way back up through the cave tunnel that had lead them here as fast as possible. Emerging into the shaded light of the forest outside the triangular cave entrance Sam's eyes adjusted easily.
"Think it followed us?" Daniel peered down the dark tunnel.
A low bellow rumbled up from the depth of the tunnel.
"Yes," the Colonel said shortly. "Keep moving!"
Keeping up their trotting pace down the slope covered in towering tree trunks, they passed by the rocky outcroppings with the carved runes and in a short time were overlooking the snowy channel of wind scored pines. Their earlier trail, mostly melted now, from where the snowstorm had caught them three quarters through the channel to the forest edge were the only tracks to be seen.
"Teal'c, take the lead," the Colonel ordered as he checked their back trail.
Teal'c nodded and began making a path through the snow that the strong afternoon light had melted from knee deep to a few inches.
The deeper they moved into the channel the stronger the wind blew with its distinctive hooo wooo like it had before and threatened to blow Sam's cap off her head as it caught time and time again underneath the brim.
"Jack, do we have to keep moving so fast?" Daniel complained as he puffed behind her, the wind almost drowning his words out.
"Bears can exceed thirty miles per hour," Sam near shouted to be heard over the loud whistling of the wind, "and that's just regular bears Daniel. This one had legs up to my chest! I don't want to think of how fast it can go."
She didn't hear anything else from Daniel, but that was probably the fault of the noisy wind and she kept her head down the rest of the way. Climbing up the ridge between the channel and the forest, Sam looked around.
"Crap," the Colonel swore from behind.
Sam glanced over her shoulder at the Colonel, and seeing the direction he was looking in, she looked and caught sight of a dark brown shape just emerging far up the mountain slope above the snowy pine channel.
"How long can it chase us?" Daniel asked in a hushed voice.
"As long as it can walk," the Colonel said grimly. "Carter, is it the same bear?"
Sam got out her binoculars and took a look, carefully comparing what she remembered seeing in the cave against the bear just beginning to advance into the snowy channel with its stunted pines. "Markings look like they do Sir. Though I can't tell if it's a species things or distinct to an individual animal."
"Considering it's a giant bear on our back trail Major, we'll assume it's your snake-bear."
"Can we ambush it?" Daniel questioned.
"I'd like to think that would succeed but if it survived Carter..." the Colonel grimaced. "Enough of a breather, let's keep moving. Teal'c, pace us."
"I shall O'Neill," Teal'c responded to the order and took the lead again into the tall pine trees with their canopy towering overhead shading out the light and quieting the wind to a mere whisper.
Sam thought grimly of the klicks they had to cover ahead and the varying terrain that would challenge them and always pushing from behind, that giant goa'uld infested bear that had survived the rounds she had put into it and healed so fast. Her boots crushing the pine needles beneath her feet Sam was glad it was easier to move quickly down the forested slope of the mountainside but she was also more careful about how she stepped. They could not afford for anyone to stumble and trip down the slope now.
. . .
Back through the mud! Squelch squerch! Squelch squerch!
Back through the river! Splash splosh! Splash splosh! Splash splosh!
Back through the grass! Swishy swashy! Swishy swashy!
. . .
Leaving the forested mountain slope, there had been no visual sign of pursuit amongst the trees but the pine trunks reduced visibility and Sam didn't believe that the goa'uld would just stop following them. That was not the nature of the goa'uld. Especially one that had been angered by an attack.
It did not take long out in the direct sunlight to have Sam sweating even more as she lengthened her stride to match as Teal'c increased their pace once out of the forest.
Gradually the firm grassland turned damp and spongy underfoot and then gave way to soupy mud and frogs and water beetles as it had the first time. In half a klick they were back into the reedy wet meadow again. It was safer to travel back over terrain they knew than try to cut distance and time over unknown terrain.
Sam grimaced at the squelch squerch sound the mud made as it sucked and grabbed at her boots. She was extra careful to follow Teal'c's path so that there was not a repeat of the earlier mud puddle fiasco.
"I see it," Daniel hissed from behind.
Sam glanced over her shoulder and saw that the bear had emerged through the underbrush edging the treeline. Roughly half a klick away from the reeds and mud they were slogging through.
"Bear's don't have good eyesight right? Maybe it can't see us?" Daniel questioned hopefully.
"That's a myth Daniel. Bears don't have bad eyesight, they just hunt via scent." Sam answered as she looked forward again.
No one said anything to that and they kept to their steady trotting pace. Step by step the soupy mud of the wet meadow firmed up into grassland again and they reached the river valley.
Cutting down the slope, Sam made sure she did not trip down this one either as they wove between the deciduous trees and pushed through the bush; ducking the occasional branch that snapped back and tried to catch the unwary in the face.
Reaching the spot of the river where they had crossed, the clear water burbling over the few protruding rocks and no evidence of the flash flood that had almost swept Teal'c away hours ago. When the team was standing on the river edge, the Colonel gestured both her and Teal'c across the ford the same time. Her boots splash sploshed in the river as Sam picked her way across the cobbled bottom and she kept a sharp eye upstream. The icy water washed over the top of her boots and soaked her legs beneath her knees and Sam clenched her teeth against the urge to shiver.
Emerging onto the north bank with her teeth still clenched, Sam shifted her weight from foot to foot to chase away the chill of the water as the Colonel and Daniel forded the river. Her eyes on them as much as they were scanning the bush and tree covered slope behind them in search of a bear moving through the growth.
"Any sign?" the Colonel asked.
"Not yet Sir."
The Colonel looked over the far slope himself and then gave a hard look upstream. "Let's hope it doesn't know a short cut. Enough lollygagging, keep it moving."
Sam fell into stride with Teal'c again as he led the way up the northern slope out of the river valley. Pushing aside one of the lower bushes in her path, Sam paused as she heard a low roar from behind, back at the river. A look at her teammates showed curious looks on their faces as well—well curious, and in the case of the Colonel very wary. It wasn't a bear roar, that was for sure, she thought as she furrowed her brow and listened as it grew from a low roar to a roaring rush of water.
Another flash flood?
Picking up the pace, they emerged onto the northern ridge of the river valley and looked back. Sam saw a swath of the river's blue water was brown now and that it did look like another flash flood had swept downstream. That was very strange and she tucked the puzzle of two flash floods only hours apart away in her mind to puzzle over later. When they were safely back at SGC and didn't have a mad goa'uld hot on their trail.
"Daniel, is it safe for you to take more of your allergy stuff?" the Colonel asked.
Sam turned her attention from the river valley behind to the four and a half klicks of grassland ahead and the row of megalithic standing stones on the north horizon.
"Yes," Daniel nodded and dug out another foil packet of antihistamines to swallow two.
Sam saw that Teal'c only gave Daniel enough time to pock the packet before started forward at the steady trotting pace again. She kept her breathing as steady and deep as possible and listened as their steps made a rhythmic thudding noise as their boots hit the ground in close unison over the swishy swashy rustle of their strides through the long grass.
They hadn't covered half a klick when the bear was spotted on the flat prairie behind them. Soon it was evident that the animal's disproportionately long legs gave it a ground covering stride that gradually closed the distance between them bit by bit.
Sam marked in her mind when the team had jogged two klicks which left two and a half klicks to go. On the horizon the towering stones encircling the 'gate were becoming more defined and the sight invigorated her even as she felt the sweat begin to run in rivets.
Another klick of prairie covered and behind them the bear was getting closer, racking up the tension she was feeling even more. Glances at her teammates revealed that Daniel looked like she felt, the Colonel's square jaw was grimly set, and as Teal'c was in the lead she couldn't see his expression but he radiated his usual iron-clad calmness.
Three and a half klicks covered and then the Colonel yelled, "Drop and run for it!"
Sam's heart jolted at the words as she reflexively looked behind. The bear was no longer walking, but now moving rapidly towards them with a loping stride.
Her own stride hitched as her right hand fumbled a bit at releasing the clips of her field pack. She'd been prepared for the order since the standing stones had come into view. It was better to lose equipment than lose lives.
Before the pack had hit the ground, she was at a flat out run across the prairie to the 'gate.