"Teal'c, let's go! Start dialling in. We only have seconds once the gate is open." Urgency but no panic from Carter. Every time I think I've got her measure, she surprises me. She's good. I go down to hurry Daniel and Ernest.
"Come on, boys, we got to go, now!"
For crying out loud! I can't believe even Daniel would want that.
"What?" I'm proud I kept it to a single word.
"Look, I'll be fine down here."
I turn to Ernest. "Go on! Go on!" At least he's got the sense to do as he's told. "Daniel, we can come back."
"No. What if the castle crumbles around the gate? I mean this … this could all be lost. If I stay, I could unbury the gate again."
"What if it falls into the ocean?"
"I am willing to take that risk."
"I'm not!" I grab him and push him towards the stairs.
"Jack!" We stop at the bottom. "Please."
I know that look. Daniel's determined. I let him go. He goes back to the … thing … takes a last look and picks up Ernest's journal before coming back towards me.
As we approach the gate, things get worse. It's not just dust that's falling from the ceiling - now it's huge, honking chunks of rock. Daniel and I have to dive to avoid one fall, and as we scramble up, I see that Carter's waiting for us, stepping forward, away from the gate. I'm about to tell her to go, when one of those rocks falls too close to her, and she's down. I didn't see how bad it hit her, and I scramble towards her.
She looks ok - a gash over one eye all I can see. Daniel's caught up with me, but I wave him through the gate as I help Carter to her feet. We turn, ready to step through, but we're too late and the wormhole winks out.
Carter's swaying slightly, probably concussion. The ceiling's still coming down and we've got to get out of here. I pick up our two packs and get an arm around Carter to support her.
We scramble out of there. Debris is falling everywhere, and I don't know how we get out in one piece. Once we're clear, I try to get my bearings, remember what I saw earlier.
We're going to need shelter. It's not raining yet, but the clouds aren't promising sunshine. I scan inland, looking for the caves I spotted. They're higher than our current position set into the side of the cliff.
"Stay with me, Carter," I warn her. "I don't want to have to carry you. These packs are heavy enough for an old man."
She doesn't answer, but she does look at me. Her eyes are glazed, but I think I got her attention. We start the climb.
By half way, the rain starts. It's my personal favourite - rain that soaks you and drips off your nose within seconds. It seems to revive Carter a bit so she's not leaning so heavily on me, not that we can move faster. Poor visibility and worse terrain see to that.
With the rain, the temperature drops, and when we finally get to the cave, I'm cold and Carter's shivering. I leave her and the packs just inside and go to check out the rest of the cave for other occupants. It's empty.
I go to where Carter's sitting. Looks like she just slipped down where I left her. I kneel to take a look at her injury. It's not bad - or she wouldn't have made it this far. Not bleeding any more either. Good, but it'll be better covered. I find a dressing.
"I'm fine, Sir." She bats my hand away.
"You're not fine, Carter. But you will be. Let me take a look."
She lets me clean and dress the cut. While I do that, I'm also assessing the severity of her concussion. I think she's ok, but concussion's sometimes tricky. She's still shivering though. And I'm not too warm either.
"Got any spare clothes in that pack?" I ask. As much to keep her busy; I don't want her falling asleep yet.
"Good. Get out of your wet clothes. I'll er, be over here."
I throw her pack towards her before making my way to the back of the cave, carefully keeping my eyes ahead.
I'm going over longer term options. Ernest Littlefield spent fifty years alone on this planet …I like to think I'm as comfortable in my own company as any man, but the idea of fifty years of it …
So, what next? If I had to choose one of my team to be stuck here with, I'd go for Teal'c. That's not because I don't have confidence in Carter - I do. Just because of the … complications. Little things like having to turn my back while she changes.
She interrupts with a "Ready, Sir."
"Ok, good. Carter, why don't you get out something to eat while I get dry? When the storm passes, we can try to find some firewood, but for now, we'll have to settle for cold. Ok?"
We eat seated close to the cave entrance. Neither of us seems to want to talk, and I'm not complaining. Daniel would have wanted to chat.
"Let's check our supplies," I suggest once we've finished.
Between us, we've got food for about three days, some drinking water, basic cooking supplies, two sleeping bags, a couple of thermal blankets, a basic two-man tent and one spare set of clothes each. I draped them over rocks at the back of the cave to dry. I think they'll dry pretty fast once we can get them outside. We've got weapons too, although Ernest didn't seem to suffer from not having any. Finally, I drag a couple of things out of my pocket - I'd been carrying them for Daniel. It's a lump of the fungus that Ernest has been living on, and some leaves which he'd been using for washing. Given that Ernest survived here all that time, I'd say our chances of survival are good. Not so sure about our chances for getting home.
"Options, Carter?" I know she'll know what I mean.
"Well, Sir. The DHD's gone. We'll have to check out the gate later. Even if the ceiling's come down on top of it, we should be able to dig it out. Then we'll just have to find another power source."
"Ok. Plan A. But we need a plan B. What if the gate is beyond reach? You saw what happened to the DHD. If the gate's gone the same way …"
"Then we're stuck here, Sir."
"Not stuck," I correct. "Just here for longer than we'd planned. They'll find us."
"I don't see how, Sir. The gate is the only way we have of travelling here. We have no ships, even if they could travel the huge distance involved before we both die of old age."
"We'll get out of this. You've got to believe that."
"But, Sir …"
"Carter, we'll get out of this."
Not sure I've convinced her.
The light's fading, but the rain's stopped. I get up and walk to the cave entrance. It's quite a view. Under other circumstances …We're high above an ocean that stretches to the horizon. Waves are crashing against jagged rocks, stirred by the wind that's still blowing pretty hard. In the distance, a reddish sky on the horizon would imply better things tomorrow if we were on Earth.
"What about that sky, Carter? You know the old rhyme? Red sky at night - means a good day tomorrow. That hold here too?"
"I don't know, Sir. On Earth, in the northern hemisphere, weather systems tend to come from the west - the same direction as the setting sun. All the rhyme is really recording is the fact that a clear sky in that direction means it'll probably be dry in the future. Without having any information on weather systems on this planet, I don't know if it means the same."
Ok, I'd say the concussion's not too bad. She's doing ok. She's taking the shock well too. A lot of people - experienced people - would have gone to pieces by now. I've seen it. They're fine while things are ok, but when things go bad, they just switch off, wait for the worst.
"It's getting cold, Carter. Get some sleep? I'll take one of the blankets and take the first watch. You take the two sleeping bags, stay warm."
She gets herself settled. No questions. She's good. She's scared. Got to be. I'm kind of shaky myself, but there's no way I'm going to show her that.
The wind's howling outside, the sound loud enough to mask any other sounds out there. Inside, it's quiet. Quieter. Despite the sound of the wind, I can still just hear, or maybe feel, my own heart beating. I glance at Carter. I know I can trust her in a tight spot. She's proved as much, and more. She'll follow orders, and in a sticky situation, that's damned important. She's got the smarts to make the most of whatever chances we've got. We work well together too. All that's bound to increase our odds of getting out of here in one piece.
And if we're stuck here for a while - she's good company. Never thought I'd say that of a scientist – especially one who uses so many long words. Unlike Teal'c, she can chat, and unlike Daniel, she knows when to stop.
I try to imagine how it's being taken back at the SGC. Sure, Hammond, Daniel and Teal'c'll be working their tails off trying to find a way to get us back. For a while at least, the resources of the command'll be directed to that purpose. The longer we're stuck, the lower the priority. I might not like it, but it's the only logistical option. They can't afford to tie up resources for long on what might be a wild goose chase.
I know we'll be the talk of the locker room. It's not that they don't care, it's just that the guys all know that next time it could be them stuck God knows how far away, and it's how they let off steam. Well, that and the fact that they're a bunch of guys and Carter, well, they've all got an opinion on her. I mean, long before I knew she was brilliant and a damned good soldier, I'd spotted that she's really easy on the eyes. But I know that every one of those guys would join a rescue effort if there was any way to do it.
I wake her after about six hours. It's still full dark.