Chapter 8: Colonel Jack O'Neill
Get to our front door.
Open the door.
Up the stairs.
. . .
Jack's boots pounded the ground as he ran the last klick full out; his pace checked only by his need to keep behind his team and guard their six against the giant bear loping up behind them. One of his quick shoulder checks revealed that the beast wasn't trying to overtake them—yet—and he concluded that it was playing with them. Either the snake was going to run them down as soon as they were near the 'gate or it intended to follow them through.
If it did try to follow, it was too bad for the snake that they had their own trick up the sleeve to play he thought with fierce satisfaction.
The massive pillars of stone around the 'gate were now just yards away from Teal'c who was in the lead. As soon as the Jaffa reached the first stone, he ducked around it and braced his staff weapon at the ready.
Jack was pleased that Daniel shot straight past Teal'c towards the DHD as Carter took cover around another stone with P90 braced to fire.
The first of the thunks of the 'gate chevrons engaging were drown out by an angry bellowing roar like they'd heard back in the mountain cave.
"Sir!" Carter shouted.
Crap! Jack didn't even check over his shoulder as he desperately grabbed more energy to run faster. He knew from the roar and Carter's shout that the bear was no longer loping but now running.
Reaching the circle of stones he dropped into a slide—feet first and butt down—that would make any baseball player proud and slid to the stone Teal'c was taking cover behind to give his teammates clear range to open fire on the bear.
Carter opened fire as the greater range of the P90 meant the roaring bear was in range for Carter before it was for Teal'c's staff weapon. As the bullets flew over Jack's head, he grabbed his P90, twisted onto his stomach, propped himself up on his elbows—thank God his baseball slide through the grass had crushed it down enough to see over—and opened fire at the giant bear charging down on them.
The blasted beast seemed to shrug off their bullets like annoying flies. Just their crappy luck. Either it had regenerative powers that would give an Unas a run for its money or this giant version of bear had some sort of bullet proof hide!
A hundred sixty yards now—
"We've got the go! Let's go! Let's go!" Daniel hollered at them from the 'gate.
Finally! Jack thought as he yelled back, "Get through Daniel! Carter! You next!"
Under the noise of his weapon and the bear's continuous roaring, behind him he heard the 'gate swallow Daniel. Her heard Carter moving by tracking the sound of her firing, which ceased as she passed through the stargate, and it was just him and Teal'c left.
Jack gathered himself. "Teal'c, I need to get back on my feet."
"I shall begin firing when the ursidae is in range," Teal'c affirmed.
Seventy yards—just in range of the staff weapon and Teal'c fired the first plasma bolt at the bear. A hit to the shoulder and the bear hitched, and then sounded even angrier as it roared and charged forward faster.
Jack paused firing as he heaved himself up into a crouch and opened fired again himself as he straightened upright. Then working in concert with Teal'c, they retreated backwards the seventeen yards from the inside of the stone circle to the stargate platform. His boot heel hit the first stone step of the platform and exchanging a glance with Teal'c, they ceased firing in unison and turning, raced up the steps and through the blue event horizon of the stargate.
. . .
We forgot to shut the door.
. . .
"Close the iris!" Jack yelled, squinting at the change from the bright sunlight of P3B-327 to the artificial lighting of the gateroom. The gateroom guards were at the ready and he was already breathing easier as he and Teal'c hustled down the ramp flanked by its pair of mounted M2 machine guns.
Behind him the iris started to spiral close and then—all the lights flickered, died, and they were plunged into darkness illuminated by the blue glow of the open stargate and the dim red glow of the base's emergency lights.
Damn! Jack swore as he spun around on the base of the ramp. A second later the base power switched over to the mountain's generators and the lights came back on. He saw that the iris had closed a fraction, covering only a hand span of the event horizon—enough to maybe trip someone coming through the open wormhole over, but not enough to stop a thing.
"I said: close that iris!" Jack bellowed as he flipped the safety of his P90 off again and backed up into the line of guards.
"I can't Sir," Harriman announced over the public announcement system. "That system is offline! Something must have happened when the power switched over!"
Of course something happened. It was Murphy's friggin' rule. "Carter!"
"On it Sir!"
Not soon enough for him as the nose and then muzzle of the giant bear protruded through the open stargate. Then the bear was halfway through the 'gate and why the hell wasn't that iris close? She just had to push a button!
"Manual control's not working Sir!" Carter barked frantically.
Shit. Murphy was really here to party.
"Open fire!" Hammond thundered on the public announcement system as the bear stepped fully onto the ramp and rose up, standing over thirteen feet tall with its roaring head level with the middle chevrons.
Jack opened fire and the gateroom filled with the thunderous roar of P90s and M2s rounds and the hot smell of copper jackets and gunpowder.
"Security to the gateroom! Security to the gateroom! Code nine! Code nine!" boomed through the base speakers.
The roaring from the bear died as finally, slowly, the bullet and plasma bolt riddled form of the giant beast slumped forward on the ramp in the hail of fire, blood running in rivets down the metal and pooling on the concrete floor.
"Cease fire!" Hammond barked.
Jack cautiously lowered the barrel of his P90 in the silence that was almost as deafening as the roaring fire of the guns had been.
"The ursidae appears dead," Teal'c announced off to the side.
"You said that before," Carter accused from behind him.
Jack snorted as he critically eyed the giant bear where it slumped. "The snake Carter?"
Carter stepped up to his left, zat gun out and in the active position. "Not sure Sir. I'm still sensing it though."
"I too can feel the presence of the goa'uld," Teal'c affirmed. "It should abandon the damaged host body soon."
"Look sharp!" Jack barked to the guards on duty. "That bear has a goa'uld in it. No one get near it until the snake shows itself!"
"Yessir!" was the chorus as the guards all stood tensely at the ready again.
Come on snake, Jack thought cynically, where are you and who were you going to try an' take?
"Sir!" the airman manning the mounted M2 to his left piped up, "I just saw something fall and get beneath the ramp!"
Jack jerked his head to the left, "Teal'c!"
Teal'c took his zat gun from its holster and circled the guards to the left.
Jack watched as Tea'c came up behind the guard on the M2 and after a few words and hand gestures from the airman, Teal'c eased in front of the machine gun and crouching down to see beneath the ramp covered by the dead bear, searched for what the airman had reported.
Teal'c looked at him and Jack saw that his teammate had seen the snake and wished to know to stun or terminate the goa'uld.
Jack thought it over. The only good snake was a dead snake in his mind, but the brass and scientists were always clamouring for more live snakes to study. Making his decision, he held up one finger.
Teal'c nodded and one quick zinging jolt from the zat stunned the snake.
"Excellent Sir, I can't wait till we can do some studies on it if we don't have to ship it directly to '51," Carter bounced. "The bear too Sir even though it's dead."
Jack gave Teal'c an approving nod as he listened to Carter with half an ear—typical scientist. He breathed out, relaxing muscles and became suddenly aware of his throbbing left wrist as his adrenaline high tampered off. He sighed, turned, and looked through the control room window to report, "Sir, the threat has been contained."
. . .
Shut the door.
Into the bedroom.
. . .
Hammond leaned forward to speak into the mic, "Good job people."
Jack gave a nod of his head and waited for what else General Hammond had to say.
"Welcome back SG-1," Hammond gave them a nod, "report to the infirmary and debriefing will commence at fifteen-hundred."
"Yes Sir," Jack answered as he waved his right hand. "Packs are three and a half klicks due south from the 'gate and it should be safe to retrieve them when the 'gate system is back up and running."
"That you Colonel," Hammond replied.
Jack nodded and turning to the armourer on duty passed off his P90 and Beretta and then followed Daniel through the crowd of SFs out the blast doors and down the tunnel corridor to the elevator. No way in hell he was taking the stairs after that ten klick marathon.
"Sergeant Siler and crew report to the gateroom. Sergeant Siler and crew report to the gateroom," issued over the announcement system. "Biological hazard containment team to the gateroom. Biological hazard containment team to the gateroom."
Ah, Jack thought as he stepped into the elevator car with his team, the fixers and the clean-up crew. He wondered as the car lifted up, if they would have to cut up the carcass of the dead bear to move it, as it probably weighed well over a thousand pounds, or if they would be able to get to the animal eggheads as it was—bullet riddled but intact.
The elevator doors slid open on Level 21, they exited, turned and travelled down the grey corridor, and crossed the threshold into Doc Fraiser's domain. As expected, the five foot two inch Napoleonic power-monger was awaiting their arrival and eyeing them severely as they walked towards her, her lips pursed in disapproval.
"Well," Fraiser greeted, "I see you've enjoyed the hospitality of the friendly natives on P3B-327 in the way only SG-1 can."
"Hey!" Jack protested. "It wasn't the natives! It was the bear." Well okay, the bear wasn't the reason Daniel had a bruised nose and he a twisted wrist, he blamed the planet for that, but it was at fault for their sweaty condition. And really, they weren't that bad. It wasn't like some missions they returned from with blood and bones showing!
"Bear?" Fraiser arched a sculpted brow.
"Well no," Carter contradicted him, "the bear wasn't the reason Daniel tripped and broke his glasses or the Colonel tripped and sprained his wrist, but yes, there was a bear and it did chase us back through the 'gate."
Fraiser looked intrigued as she signaled to her minions and triad them. Stepping up beside him, she herded him to a gurney. "So Colonel, Sam says you sprained your wrist?"
"Yeah, called it a second grade," Jack reluctantly admitted as he sat on the mattress and submitted with his usual fortitude—which was none—to the routine of the medical check. He endured having his temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure taken, as well as blood drawn and other stuff. Plus being subject to the Doc's endless questions about how he felt, what he had done, and how did it feel as Fraiser prodded his now unwrapped left wrist which was swollen twice the size it had been when he'd first injured it.
"Sam probably gave it the right diagnoses at the time Colonel and treated it well," Fraiser announced, "but it looks—and sounds—like you stressed it pretty bad on the way back, so I'm sending you to x-ray to check that it is only a sprain."
Jack blew out a noisy breath. He knew it. As if Fraiser's vampirism wasn't enough of a sign, she really did have it in for him.
. . .
Into the bed.
Under the covers.
We're not going on a bear hunt again.
. . .
Twelve minutes till fifteen-hundred and Jack stepped off the elevator and wandered down the corridor on Level 27, past the General's office, to the debriefing room. The door was propped open, signalling the room was empty, and so he entered and took the first seat on his left. He settled down with a relieved sigh into the large chair and propped his sprained wrist in its fresh bandage on the armrest.
Their blood work had come clean at the half hour mark and after being dismissed by Fraiser from the infirmary, even being handicapped with only one working hand—he'd been hobbled plenty of times like that throughout his career and knew all the tricks to manage—it hadn't taken him much time to shower and dress in fresh BDUs. That had left him with plenty of time to kick around the base unoccupied till the team's scheduled debriefing. So first he'd made inroads into the commissary's dessert bar and then he'd dozed the rest of the time away in his private quarters.
Ten minutes to debriefing and Carter entered, giving him a small smile as she held up an ice pack. "Here Sir, you forgot this in the locker room."
Jack made a face as he saw it was the very ice pack he had purposely left behind on the bench in the locker room. He accepted it and wrapping it around his wrist, begrudging, "Thanks Major."
"Welcome Sir," Carter returned breezily as she took her customary spot on his right.
Jack eyed his second suspiciously, that tone said things to him, but turned his attention from her when Teal'c arrived and seated himself on the other side of the table, directly across from Carter.
Two minutes to debriefing and Daniel hustled in and Jack raised an eyebrow at the paperwork the man was carrying. It looked like Daniel had more stuff than he had in the briefing for the mission; the man had definitely been a busy bookworm while Jack had been napping.
At precisely fifteen-hundred, the door connecting the briefing room and the General's office opened and Hammond entered. Taking his seat at the head of the table, Hammond looked them over and pleasantly said, "Well, SG-1, why don't we get this debriefing started."
"Yessir," Jack murmured in unison with his second. To ensure the debriefing was succinct—Daniel and Carter could run on all they wanted in their written reports—he started recounting their mission. As the meeting progressed and they described reaching the cave, he got a bit suspicious that Daniel wasn't running off at the mouth like he usually did, especially considering Daniel's bouncy enthusiasm before their departure.
"So, you did find Arthur's cave," Hammond summed when SG-1 paused in their recounting, "but were chased away before a search for technology was possible."
Jack, because he was paying close attention to the unusually subdued Daniel, caught the fleeting wince that crossed the archaeologist's face.
"About that General Hammond," Daniel spread out some eight by eleven photographs over the tabletop, "I was able to get some more research in during the time you gave us and I found out that... it wasn't totally... I..."
"Dr Jackson?" Hammond prompted in his kindly way.
Daniel blew out a breath and tapped a picture of the cave mosaic of the winner holding the loser by the hair. "I was able to compare the pattern of the breastplates of the smiting scene against my reference books and our goa'uld identification lexicon. The swirl designs of the defeated foe breastplate matches the armour pattern that Camulus is known to wear, confirming that it is Camulus. The pattern of the victor's breastplate is an overhead view of a stylised animal head that that my books mostly all agree, is of a bear."
Moving his hand Daniel tapped a second picture, the scene of a bear mauling a big pig. "That is supported by this scene which was directly beneath the smiting scene. Historically Camulus is symbolised as a wild boar and while no goa'uld of the Egyptian tradition is represented by the bear, there are many cultures that worship bears on Earth such as many North American ethnicities and North Eurasian ethnicities such as the Sami, the Nivkh, the Ainu, and the Finns and in Britain the Celtic Gaul."
"Celtic? Isn't Camulus a Celtic war god?" Carter clarified.
"He is, and the Celtic bear deities are the god Matunos, goddess Andarta, and the goddess..." here Daniel grimaced as his voice dropped an octave, "Artio."
"Artio?" Jack sat up in his chair and gave the archaeologist a hard look. He thought they had gone looking for King Arthur of the Round Table, the king with the space swords, not some obscure goa'uld. The man had even said that Artio was the native's nickname for their so called saviour.
Daniel cleared his throat. "Yes, Artio. She is a Celtic bear goddess and evidence of her worship on Earth has notably been found in Switzerland."
Jack drawled warningly, "Daniel."
Daniel winched. "It seems I was hasty in my association of the name Arto-rig with the name Arthur. While yes, the meaning of 'bear-king' is one of the etymological roots of the name Arthur it appears that in this case, Bear-King was a descriptive statement to describe the being who battled against Camulus." Daniel drew a breath and said, "Artio is derived from the word for bear, artos, in the Celtic Gaul language."
"Just peachy," Jack glowered at his teammate. "Let me guess, King Arthur isn't on the planet, was never there, and all that other stuff you sprouted off to us about in the briefing was just—just flukes!"
Daniel gave a reluctant nod as his gaze dropped and fixed on the tabletop.
Jack was incredulous. Daniel had just sent them on a wild goose chase because he fudged a translation and turned them into bear bait! Forget not letting Carter live down getting stuck in the mud, this was going to be immortalised in the Hall of Shame for Danny-boy. "Daniel—!"
"Colonel O'Neill," Hammond sternly cut him off.
Jack clamped down on the rest of the angry words waiting to spew forth and continued glowering at the younger man across the table.
"To confirm Dr Jackson, the earlier hypothesis that King Arthur of Earth was Arto-rig of P3B-237 has been disproved. Arto-rig has instead been positively identified as the goa'uld Artio," Hammond summed.
"Yes General," Daniel raised his gaze.
"Are there any theories about how Artio came to be on P3B-237?" Hammond questioned.
Jack snorted and muttered lowly, "I don't think I want to hear it considering his last theory almost got us eaten by a bear."
"Sir," Carter hissed in his ear as her elbow made firm contact with his ribs.
Great, Jack thought, both Hammond and Carter were on his case now. Giving his second a stern look, which did not faze her in the least, he schooled his expression so that at least he was no longer glowering.
"I do actually have a..." Daniel cleared his throat, "...suggestion, about that. The intelligence the Tok'ra have provided to us confirms that Aballo was once an insignificant planet of Camulus domain. Six hundred years ago however, reference to the planet stopped and the Tok'ra state that they assume the planet's metal mines were depleted as they had not been particularly rich in the first place. Six hundred years ago is also when the minor goa'uld Artio disappeared from the record and the Tok'ra state they have no conclusive evidence about what happened to Artio.
"That information and the material that we found on Aballo I would propose, suggests that Artio invaded Aballo six hundred years ago and succeeded in taking the planet from Camulus who it seemed had no vested interest in retaining ownership."
More coincidences Jack thought to himself unhappily. Whatever happened to good old solid facts?
"What about the writings, and the mosaic pictures? Why do they have Artio and Camulus's fighting each other?" Carter asked.
"It is common for goa'uld to depict themselves engaged in direct combat with greater foes even when it is just a small numbers of their foe's forces they meet in battle," Teal'c spoke.
"Right," Daniel nodded. "The battle between Camulus and Artio the Leode recount is probably symbolical; Artio probably ousted Camulus's forces that were on Aballo and not the system lord himself."
"Then what?" Jack asked.
"Then what, what?" Daniel looked confused.
"Artio kicked off Camulus's Jaffa, and then what happened? Why was he still there in that cave? Why didn't he try and take more planets?" Jack asked. "That's what they do, they never stop at just one planet. And why didn't he set himself up as the new god?"
"I... have no idea," Daniel confessed and rubbed his chin. "But, the Leode legend says that the cave was a healing cave, maybe Artio was injured in the battle against Camulus's forces and something happened afterwards that kept, or trapped, her in the cave."
"Like er, Hathor," Carter gave them an apologetic look for mentioning the goa'uld, "was locked in her sarcophagus."
Daniel gave small shudder at the mention but nodded. "If she was locked in, maybe she went into hibernation or something like the goa'uld in the Unas that was trapped in the Asgard maze on Cimmeria did. Something about our arrival might have... triggered something."
"Like the presence of my prim'ta engaged the Hammer of Thor," Teal'c compared.
"Or me now too," Carter interjected. "We know from Ma'chello that there are off-world technologies developed around symbiote physiology beyond the presence of naquadah."
"Yes, and unless we can return to Aballo and do a thorough investigation of the cave and its technologies it is all supposition," Daniel said.
Well, at least he was saying that now, that it were all theories, Jack begrudged, even if he was weaseling to get back to the planet again beyond just grabbing their dropped field packs. He wished that Daniel had kept his theories to himself the first time and not dragged them into something that was a total bust mission wise and ended up with the team off the off-world roster until Fraiser okayed his wrist.
"I will take the matter under consideration," Hammond said tactfully. "Are there further items of discussion?"
Jack ran over the mission in his head. "That's pretty much it Sir, we were only in the cave for a bit before Carter and Teal'c stumbled over the bear and then we were chased back down the mountain, across the river, and through the grass back to the 'gate." Jack shrugged. "We did a lot of running and not much else in the end."
"Very well," Hammond nodded, "I look forward to your full reports which I expect to be handed in—"
"Ah Sir," Jack held up his bandaged wrist in protest.
"—two days after Dr Fraiser clears Colonel O'Neill for full duty," Hammond concluded unperturbed as he rose from his seat. "Dismissed."
"Yes Sir," Jack responded as he pushed the chair away from the table and stood. Carter, Teal'c, and Daniel stood as well and the team headed for the door.
A knock on the briefing room door sounded and it opened to show a lab-coat wearing scientist in the archway. Jack did not recognize the man at all.
"General Sir?" the scientist intruded. "We've completed the preliminary evaluation of the ursidae specimen from P3B-237."
"Yes son?" Hammond prompted.
"The skeletal form is highly comparable to the extinct genus Arctodus simus," the scientist summed.
"Which means what?" Jack asked.
The scientist gave him a chastising look, "As I was about to continue, Arctodus simus in vernacular is called the short-faced or bulldog bear and existed in North America during the Pleistocene. It may have once been Earth's largest mammalian terrestrial carnivore and was abundant in what is now California."
Jack felt one of his eyebrows raise. So it hadn't just been a giant bear, but a giant cave bear. What was it with fossils and myths, like the Unas, having to chase them all the time? "Well Daniel," Jack slapped Daniel on the back with his good hand, "looks like you got yourself on the Fame board again. You found yourself a cave bear."
The scientist gave him a pinched look as he drew himself upright and said haughtily, "Ursus spealaeus, in vernacular the cave bear, was a genus of ursidae that existed in Europe during the Pleistocene—"
Jack brushed past the scientist standing in the door with a dismissing wave and made his way to the elevator. It was a giant bear and it had tried to eat them and that was all he needed to know. "So, kids, movie night? I'm thinking... The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams."
"What?" Daniel squawked.
"No," Carter disagreed cheerfully as they crowded into the elevator car, "it should be the actor version of The Jungle Book Sir. I don't remember Baloo making much of an appearance—no singing and dancing like Disney—but the villain does die because of a giant python."
"Good suggestion Carter. Teal'c?" Jack prompted.
"I believe the chronicle of The Bear would be most peaceful to conclude the day's duties with," Teal'c contributed.
Jack gave a satisfied grin at Daniel as the elevator doors closed. They'd run into a snake and gotten squat for weapons, but any day that ended with jokes and a movie night was a good day in his books.