Disclaimer: Not mine and no money is being made.
Spoilers: Set during season 3
Recipient: Emily 6beforelunch
Request details: Wants: Walter Harriman; Sam doing something off-base; technical difficulties.
Doesn't want: the "black widow" curse; Sam/Daniel sibling
references; old boyfriends
Major Samantha Carter winced as she heard Sergeant Walter Harriman's weapon discharge a lengthy burst of ammunition. They were going to be out of rounds very soon if he carried on like that.
"Sergeant! Fire in controlled bursts."
"Ma'am, I can't hit the side of a barn door with this thing!" he yelled back. "There are too many of them, we're never going to make it."
Through the buzzing in her head, Sam heard the panic in his voice and wondered how this little milk run had managed to go so wrong.
12 hours earlier
"Carter you've no right to look so damn healthy."
"O'Neill, the reason Major Carter is not ill is because she did not consume the shellfish on P4X -557. The shellfish which you assured me was most edible." Teal'c, despite his skin having taken on a distinctly greenish tinge, managed to glare quite impressively at Colonel O'Neill.
Carter gave them both a smile. "I'm sorry, sir, but I did try to warn you."
"Some convoluted story about your dad getting the runs in Maui? Carter, my eyes had started to glaze over. You've got to be more straightforward with your warnings." Jack groaned pathetically.
"Sam's right, sir. How many times have I warned you not to eat the indigenous food?" Doctor Fraiser appeared holding a syringe.
"This was a feast in our honor, Doc. We couldn't say no."
"Well, then you should have stuck to the safer items on the menu." Janet sighed. "Whatever possessed you to eat the shellfish is beyond me. You're very lucky this wasn't more serious."
O'Neill managed to look contrite. "How is Daniel?"
"We've got him on some anti-emetics and a drip. He'll be out of commission for a while, but he'll be fine." Janet squirted a little liquid from the syringe to get rid of any air bubbles. "Turn over please, sir."
O'Neill winced "Carter, get that grin of your face."
Sam watched as Janet pulled the curtain around the Colonel's bed. "Err, I'll just leave you to rest then. I've got a briefing with General Hammond."
"Oh yes, Major. You skip away and enjoy yourself." O'Neill's voice floated from behind the curtain. "For crying out loud, Doc! Could your needles be any blunter?"
"Your presence will be missed, Major Carter." Teal'c looked a though he was not anticipating a restful stay in the infirmary with Colonel O'Neill. "Thank you for the bananas."
"You're welcome, Teal'c. I'll see you later."
"Major Carter, If you recall, last year, SG-16 set up an observatory on P4X-388. Now SG-16 are currently engaged in delicate negotiations. The rest of the teams are busy with their own schedules. I would like you to go and retrieve the data from P4X-388. As I said, I've no team to accompany you. However, Sergeant Harriman has expressed the desire to do a little Gate travel, and seeing as his specialization is deep space radar telemetry, then I feel this would be an ideal mission on which to send him." General Hammond handed Sam a folder. "You'll see that the planet is uninhabited and, according to SG-16's data, surprisingly benign for a change. I'd like you to embark at 1400 hours. That will give you time to read up on the planet."
"Yes, sir." Sam took the folder. "General, how often has Sergeant Harriman expressed this desire to go through the Gate?"
General Hammond shrugged nonchalantly. "Oh, only about once a week for the last two years."
Sam grinned. "I see."
"I'll be honest with you, Major. I'm just hoping that this little jaunt will be so dull that he'll get so bored that he'll never pester me again. He can be very persistent."
"I promise that I'll try to make it as dreary as possible, sir."
"Thank you, Major. I'd appreciate that."
Sam stepped through the Gate, to be met by a landscape of gently rolling hills and wooded valleys. The air was pleasantly warm, and a sun shone down between large, fluffy-white clouds. In the far distance she could see a large body of water, possibly an ocean.
"It looks just like Maine."
Sam turned to see Harriman gazing at the view. He looked awkward in his BDU's and utility vest.
"Yeah, it's remarkably Earth-like." She adjusted her cap. "Were you hoping for something a little more alien?"
Harriman smiled a little sheepishly. "I just wasn't expecting it to look like the view from my Granny's back yard."
"Well count yourself lucky, Sergeant. At least it's not a desert. The sand gets in everything" Sam's face scrunched up in distaste.
"I should think it would, ma'am."
"Sam checked her compass. "The observatory is about seven clicks to the southwest. You ready, Sergeant?"
Sam couldn't help but smile at his undisguised eagerness.
"All right then. Let's go."
The walk had been pleasant. Walter had spent the whole time looking around like a kid at a carnival. Sam enjoyed his enthusiasm; it reminded her how incredible her job actually was. Although familiarity had certainly not bred contempt, the seemingly constant peril that accompanied her trips through the gate had taken a little of the shine off. This planet's peaceful, Arcadian splendor was a very nice change.
"There it is, Sergeant." She pointed to a small metal structure on the hill before them.
"I thought it would be bigger."
"No it's just a shed full of instruments to record this planet's sun, which is very similar to our own, but much, much older. We might learn a lot from the data we retrieve from here."
The climb was steep, and the Sergeant was looking distinctly pink by the time they reached the top.
Sam took off her pack and set it on the grass. She took out her laptop. "Right then, let's see what we've got." She opened the door of the metal shed. "Whoa. It looks like something's been here before us."
Walter looked inside to see lots of strange, grayish-white spheres, each about the size of a tennis ball, stuck to all the equipment. "What are those?"
"I have absolutely no idea." She stepped inside to take a closer look. "They look a bit like eggs." She examined a bank of instruments. "Damn, they've messed up the MK4 K-Coronameter.
"What about the CHIP Helium-I Imager?"
Sam couldn't even see it for the egg-like things covering it. "I can't tell. Hang on...I just need to get these things out of the way."
Sam carefully shifted the strange orbs. Her shoulders slumped as she saw the damage.
"It's wrecked. These things are everywhere." Sam sighed, annoyed that so much data had been lost. She picked up one of the culprits and examined it closely. "We should get Captain Harley out here, she loves this sort of stuff. Weird alien organic matter is right up her alley." Sam almost dropped it when she felt something shift inside the smooth globe.
"What is it?" Walter gripped his weapon a little tighter.
"It really is an egg. There's something alive in here." Sam carefully put the egg back where she'd found it. "Sergeant, I'm sorry, but we're going to have to report back to the SGC. This equipment is damaged, and before we remove it we need to have Exobiology take a look at these things."
Sam saw the look of disappointment on the Sergeant's face.
She gave him an encouraging smile. "I'm sure you'll get the opportunity to go through the Gate again."
Walter nodded, a little glumly.
Sam put her laptop back in her pack, and they started back towards the Stargate.
Walter was deeply disappointed to be going back so soon. All his life he'd been a desk jockey; it seemed as though that wasn't going to change any time soon. He tried to match his stride to Major Carter's, but he was finding it difficult with their difference in leg length.
"What do you think laid those eggs ma'am?" Perhaps if he got her talking, she might ease up on the pace a bit.
"I've no idea. They were pretty big. Maybe some kind of bird?"
"Don't they lay their eggs in nests?"
"Perhaps they don't do that here. I really don't know, Sergeant. This planet has just come out of its winter; maybe whatever laid the eggs was attracted to the equipment because it was giving off heat."
"Ma'am, I haven't seen much wildlife." It was true. Walter had grown up in the country; he was adept at spotting the tell tale signs of wild creatures. Apart from the odd bird, he'd seen very little evidence that this idyll had much at all other than an abundance of flora.
"I'm not sure what you're getting at, Sergeant."
"Well ma'am, look at this place. It should be teeming with animals, but there's hardly anything. I'm just trying to figure out what could have laid so many eggs."
"Maybe Life on this planet evolved differently from Earth." Sam shrugged. "There could be a number of factors."
They continued on in silence for a while. Walter had begun to notice Major Carter looking around. He'd also noticed the way she was holding her weapon.
"Ma'am, is there a problem?"
She stopped scanning their surroundings and looked at him.
"No, I don't think so. This place is just a bit quiet." She gave him a small smile. "I guess I'm so used to being shot at or chased by Jaffa, I'm having trouble adjusting
to all this calm."
Walter nodded. He knew what she meant. Despite the pretty surroundings, the eerie, tomb-like quiet was giving him the heebie jeebies
They both breathed a sigh of relief as the Gate came into view. Walter seemed to forget about Major Carter's longer legs and had almost started to pull ahead of her. He couldn't put a finger on it, but he felt an increasing sense of dread. His earlier disappointment at being unable to complete their mission gave way to an almost desperate urgency to get back to his normal duties at the SGC.
"Dial the Gate please, Sergeant."
Walter could hear the tension in the Major's voice as she kept a look out on the surrounding area. He rushed to the DHD and began to punch in the symbols for home.
The Gate seemed to turn at a snail's pace. Each chevron locked with a clunk that echoed over the silent hills. Walter rolled his sleeve back a little to expose his GDO. The gate rotated to the seventh chevron and then stopped dead with a harsh grating sound.
"What's happening, Sergeant Harriman?" Major Carter was still scoping out the surrounding woods.
"I don't know, ma'am. The last chevron isn't locking." Walter's heart was pounding with genuine fright. The fact that there was nothing whatsoever on which to pin the fear, made it no less real.
"Okay, reset it, and try again."
Major Carter sounded calm. Walter wished he knew how she managed it. He was not used to feeling so out of control. Even when the SGC was on self-destruct, he always prided himself on his cool demeanor. Not now. Now, all he could think about was getting through that Gate as quickly as possible.
He willed the Gate to turn faster. He watched it hit the seventh chevron, and panic clutched at his chest as, once again, it refused to lock.
"It's not working, ma'am."
He looked across to Major Carter who lowered her weapon and quickly came to his side. She fished in her utility vest and produced a small tool kit.
"Keep a look out, Sergeant."
Walter kept his eyes on the trees and tried hard to slow his racing heart. He couldn't ever remember being as frightened as he was right now. He almost wanted something to barrel out of the woods at him, just to ease the awful tension of not knowing why the hell he was so terrified.
"Oh my god."
Walter turned to see what Major Carter had found.
She was knelt before the DHD she'd pried the service hatch off and was staring at the innards of the device. It was crammed full of the same dirty white eggs that had been in the solar observatory.
"Can you fix it?"
"I'm going to try, Sergeant. Keep a sharp eye out."
"I'm on it, ma'am." He switched his focus to their surroundings once more. If anyone could get that DHD fixed, it would be Major Carter. He had absolute confidence in her. He'd seen her pull the SGC's collective ass out of the fire too many times to have any doubt. She was doing what she did best, and all he had to do was watch her six while she did it.
He could hear the Major muttering to herself as she moved the clusters of eggs out of the way. He suddenly heard her hiss in pain, she must have caught her hand on one of the live elements.
"Are you all right, ma'am?" He kept his eyes on the woods not wanting to let down his guard.
He looked at her then.
Sam gazed up at him as he turned. She held her hand cradled against her chest; He could see two cherry red spots of blood on it.
"I hope you don't mind bugs, Sergeant."
He heard her voice, it sounded odd, breathy and weak.
For a moment Walter couldn't move. He was worried that if he did he just might fall on his ass, because his legs felt like overcooked spaghetti. A huge spider-like bug was unfurling itself from one of the eggs. It was the size of a dinner plate. He could see its fangs from where he stood. Walter watched, almost hypnotized, as its abdomen suddenly began to vibrate, and the most amazing high-pitched sound emerged from its body. It quickly became almost painfully shrill until he realized that the still imprisoned spiders were joining in like some surreal convict choir, singing for all they were worth, trapped in their eggs.
"Oh, Christ on a crutch." Walter suddenly found himself at Major Carter's side, he pulled her away from the DHD. For some reason she wasn't helping him much; her legs were flopping about in an uncharacteristically clumsy manner. He straightened up and aimed his weapon at the DHD and slipped his finger onto the trigger.
"No!...No, Sergeant." Walter felt Major Carter grab a hold of his pant leg. " You'll smash the crystals. I've got to fix it. Then we can get out of here." He could hardly hear her over the noise of the spider chorus.
Sam unclipped her pack. Her hand, where the spider had bitten her, hurt like hell, and her head felt muzzy as though her skull was stuffed with cotton wool. There was a tingling sensation in her feet, and her legs felt leaden and cold. With stiff fingers she dug into her pack and pulled out a can of WD-40. She tried to get to her knees, but her legs wouldn't move; they were almost totally numb.
"Sergeant, get me over to the DHD. My legs don't seem to want to work."
"Ma'am, tell me what to do. I don't think you should be moving around."
She knew he was right. If she exerted herself it would make her heart pump faster and push the spider venom through her bloodstream that much quicker. However she seemed to have run out of options.
"Sergeant, there's no time. You have to keep watch. I don't think I can hold the weight of my weapon. I might be able to fix the DHD, after that, it's up to you to get home."
Sam saw Harriman shake his head he obviously didn't like the sound of that at all.
A deafening trumpeting sound interrupted him. The sounds of rustling foliage had them both looking toward the nearby wood.
"Get me to the DHD now, Sergeant." She was surprised at how brittle her voice sounded.
Thankfully Sergeant Harriman didn't argue; he put his arms under hers and dragged her over. The newly hatched spider now vibrated madly on the ground. As they approached, it reared onto its back-four legs. Sam's stomach churned as she watched him stomp on it with his boot. Disgust prickled over her skin like static electricity. The spider made a sickening squelching noise as green fluid squirted out from its mashed body. From the pallor of Sergeant Harriman's face she was pretty sure he was feeling the same.
He set her down next to the DHD. The spider babies were still singing, and their eggs juddered inside the open hatch.
Sam took out her spare clips and handed them to Sergeant Harriman. She couldn't help but notice his hands were shaking.
"Sergeant, fire in short bursts. We don't have many rounds, try to make each shot count, okay?" Sam looked him in the eyes; she was totally calm. Uncertainty had gone now; she knew what she was fighting. She wasn't too sure on their odds of surviving, but then that wasn't anything new. "You can do this, Sergeant." She watched as his face set in a determined expression. It wasn't a face suited for ferocity but she gave him credit for trying.
Walter nodded his head. He took the spare rounds and put them in a pocket in his vest. He'd been so wrong; he didn't feel any less frightened at all now he knew what they were up against. He turned back to face the woods and the approaching horror.
He'd once watched some show on the Discovery Channel about why insects didn't grow to the proportions of the B movie film bugs. He had found the Discovery Channel's informative breakdown of body mass and the weight-bearing properties of exoskeletons interesting and informative; unfortunately, as Walter was now all too aware, it was also completely wrong.
He turned back to see what Major Carter was doing. He saw her squirt the can of WD-40 at the eggs. Perhaps She figured that the imminently emerging youngsters would not enjoy the lubricating welcome. She started to remove the slippery spheres and throw them away from the DHD. Walter winced, as their shrill screaming got louder. A lower, but no less jarring, squeal like a bad freeform jazz trumpet solo came from behind him. Mommy was coming.
Walter wiped his sweaty palms on the thighs of his olive drab BDU's. He watched, transfixed as the huge spider made her way toward their position. Her enormous legs bristled with razor sharp hairs. Walter figured she outstripped Colonel O'Neill's Quad-Cab pickup for size, but it was difficult to tell from this distance. All he knew was she was big, and by the frantic way her glistening mouth parts were moving, extremely pissed off. More elephantine squeals came from the woods. Walter looked back at Major Carter who had both her hands inside the DHD.
"Ma'am, there's more of them...lots more."
He saw her drop the tool she was using, her fingers seemed unusually clumsy for the normally dexterous Major.
"I'm nearly done, Sergeant."
God, he really hoped she wasn't lying to try and make him feel better. He wondered if she ever lied to Colonel O'Neill. He did seem to rely on her to come up with more miracles than could reasonably be expected from an Air Force Major. Another bellowing trumpet came from the fast approaching spiders. Panic gripped Walter, in an instant he found himself spraying bullets at the creatures.
"Sergeant! Hold your fire. You won't hit anything at this range."
Walter stopped firing and tried to remember the range of the weapon he held. He recalled his Weapons Instructor drilling him on the various weapons and their effectiveness at certain distances. He remembered feeling humiliated when the instructor had joked in front of the whole class that Airman Harriman would need a bazooka to hit anything more than five meters away. Now, all these years later he felt the heat of shame burning his cheeks. He tried to slow his breathing, and he waited.
Hissing white noise filled Sam's ears, she could feel nothing below her waist, and the numbing cold seeped up her torso. Soon she would be unable to move. She 'd finally found the problem with the DHD, and she focused all her efforts on making her hands fix it. Sparkling silver dots swam in her eyes and she found it difficult to breathe. Sam was pretty sure she was screwed. Part of her was grateful that the rest of her team would not be dying with her, but another part longed for them with a need that was almost overwhelming. Uppermost in her mind was the knowledge that she had to get the Sergeant home.
Crap, they were going to die. Walter knew it. He'd taken a quick look back at Major Carter; she looked like a corpse already. There was no way she was going to be able to fix that thing; she was too sick. He really wanted to throw up. Eaten by giant bugs was not on his top ten list of ways to die, his bowels churned as though they were on spin cycle.
"Sergeant, focus! I'm nearly done here. When I give the word, you get over here and dial home. You got that?"
Her voice snapped him out of his funk. Despite the breathiness of her tone she sounded determined and supremely confident. He put his shoulders back and gripped his weapon with renewed strength. "I've definitely got that, ma'am."
The spiders were closer now. Walter took aim. He fired at the lead bug. That he actually hit it so surprised him that he almost lowered his weapon. The cacophony of shrieking increased, and the spiders started to move more quickly. Walter shivered with repulsion at their scuttling gait. He began to fire again, adrenalin and horror made him reckless. His aim was off, and he didn't seem to be stopping the spider's progress at all.
"Sergeant! Fire in controlled bursts."
He could hardly hear major Carter's order over the noise. "Ma'am, I can't hit the side of a barn door with this thing!" he yelled back. "There are too many of them, we're never going to make it."
Sam finally got the last crystal back into position. There was no time to put the casing back on, and anyway she no longer had the coordination to do it. Her chest felt as though she had a lead weight lying across her; each breath had to be thought about. She was almost out of time.
"Sergeant, get over here, now!" She slumped back onto the cool grass and hoped he'd heard her.
Through blurring vision Sam watched as he ran backwards to her position, spraying bullets at the spiders; they were almost on them. The back of his legs hit the DHD, and he turned and punched in the symbols without even thinking about it. She could hear the impact of the spider's legs on the ground beneath her. She looked up to see the gate slowly turn. Sergeant Harriman was pointing to the ground and shouting something, but from the noise both internal and external she couldn't make it out. Her eyes closed.
Sam couldn't move. The world outside her body seemed a far distant thing. She felt arms reach under and around her. She opened her eyes to see Sergeant Harriman's face hovering over her own. He should be going now.
Walter had to lip read her words because she didn't seem to be capable of producing any sound except an alarming asthmatic wheeze.
"No, ma'am, we're both going home." He heaved her body along the grass trying not at look at the wall of spiky black bugs that were almost on them. The Gate was on the point of engaging the sixth chevron.
What was he doing? Sam could see the Stargate overhead; they were too close, they'd be vaporized when the Gate opened. She flicked her eyes to the side and thought she understood. An enormous spider was looming over them. She could see in fine detail its throbbing abdomen, and each black hair on its impossibly long legs stood out like razor wire. Yes, it was better to die quickly in the effervescent event horizon than to be slowly devoured by the monstrosity before her. She close her eyes, and regret that she'd not got Sergeant Harriman home washed over her. General Hammond was going to be so pissed off with her.
Walter realized that he'd never smelled a spider before. It was an experience he would have been very happy to miss. The sickly sweetness was cloying and unpleasant, he felt one of its legs scrape across his arm. He looked down to see blood blooming from his ripped sleeve. He heard the Gate begin to lock the seventh chevron.
Sam felt a heavy weight fall across her body. She couldn't open her eyes. She smelled something strange and unpleasant. All the oxygen suddenly seemed to be sucked out of her lungs and the air around her pulsed with immense energy. She felt herself being dragged again. A loud screeching seemed very close until it was suddenly cut off and incredible cold surrounded her. Then there was nothing at all.
"Sam, open your eyes."
Sam felt a gentle hand holding her wrist, cool fingers pressed to her pulse point. She drifted off.
"Come on, Sam. It's time to wake up now."
It was Janet. She was home. The velvety blackness of sleep called to her.
"Carter, wake up!"
She jolted awake and silently cursed her CO, as every muscle in her body began to throb painfully. Sam opened her mouth, and an indecipherable gurgle came out. Considering what she was thinking, that was probably for the best.
"Here, Sam." Janet produced a cup of water. "Small sips, okay?"
The water felt glorious as it slipped down her raw throat. "Mmmmm...thanks."
"Aha, she speaks."
She looked up at Colonel O'Neill who was standing by her bed with a grin plastered all over his face. "Hi, sir." Suddenly she remembered what had happened. "Sir, Sergeant Harriman...is he okay?"
"If you would care to look to your left, all will be revealed."
She did and was delighted to see Harriman sat up in the bed next to hers, his arm in a sling and a shy smile on his pale face.
"Hi, Major, how are you feeling?"
"Alive, Sergeant. Thanks to you." Sam smiled as she saw his cheeks pink up with embarrassment.
"You fixed the DHD, ma'am. You got us home."
"I don't really remember the getting home bit. I thought we were going to be vaporized in the event horizon, or worse."
Walter nodded; he obviously knew what she meant. "There was a little dip in the ground in front of the Gate. I dragged you into it, and just before the lead spiders got us, the kawoosh blasted them. It gave us just enough time to get through the Gate.
"You were both in bad shape when you came through" Janet said taking Sam's pulse again. "The Sergeant here had a large gash in his upper arm and had lost a great deal of blood, and you were in a critical condition. Luckily it turned out that the spider that bit you was a close enough to a tarantula that the anti-venom worked.
"But, Janet, they were huge."
"Oh, you're going to love this, Carter. It sounds like the plot from an Irwin Allen movie." O'Neill gestured at Janet to continue.
"Captain Harley from Exobiology thinks that solar flares had something to do with it. A MALP was sent through which collected one of the unhatched eggs. It was giving off Gamma radiation. They think that affected its biology in some way."
Sam sank back into her pillows. She was exhausted, and her body felt like it had been pulled through a wringer.
"Okay, we need to let Major Carter get some rest." Janet could see her friend was wilting, and she began to usher Colonel O'Neill away.
"Carter, Daniel's home eating chicken soup; he'll be in tomorrow to see you. Teal'c is in the commissary relieving them of all their bananas. He'll be along later, I hope you're hungry?"
Sam smiled. "Starving, sir."
O'Neill held her gaze for a moment. "It's good to have you home, Carter."
"It's good to be back, sir."
"Okay, I'm off. Get some rest. You too, Walter; you did good, Sergeant." O'Neill gave them both a little wave and strolled out of the Infirmary.
Janet appeared with a syringe, which she injected into Sam's IV port. "There you go, Sam. That should make you feel a little more comfortable." She patted Sam's shoulder. "You get some rest now." She looked at Walter. "You too, Sergeant."
Sam watched Janet walk away. She turned to Sergeant Harriman. "Thanks for getting me home Sergeant. I'll admit I wasn't sure we we're going to make it."
"You're welcome, ma'am. I was just retuning the favor."
Sam smiled; comfortable warmth was spreading through her from whatever Janet had stuck in her IV. "So, how did you enjoy your first mission?"
Walter shrugged and winced as it pulled on his injured arm. "Well, ma'am, apart from the giant spiders, it was great. I'm not sorry I went, but I think I'll stick to this side of the gate for a bit."
"General Hammond will be very pleased." Sam was finding it hard to keep her eyes open.
Walter watched as she drifted off to sleep. He'd not lied to her, he wasn't sorry he'd gone on this mission. Terrifying though it was, it had made him feel like he had really done something. He wasn't just Sergeant Harriman behind his computer, he was someone who'd traveled to another world and made it home again...just.
Even the mountain of paperwork that he'd no doubt General Hammond had waiting for him had taken on a new shine. This escaping death by the skin of your teeth thing really wasn't half bad. He could do without the giant bugs though.