It’s Not Easy Being Snaked
“Two hours,” Sam grumbled, thinking it might be an eternity before their teammates noticed their absence.
“Two hours?” the Colonel asked incredulously. “C’mon Carter. Daniel, maybe, but not Teal’c. He'll notice in half an hour, max.”
“By all indications, there’s no evidence of any System Lords on this planet, and, aside from some extraordinarily large bees, the local wildlife appears benevolent. Daniel is busy digging around his ruins, and Teal’c has no reason to suspect we’re in trouble,” Sam said.
“I still think you’re being overly pessimistic, even for you. Forty-five minutes.”
Normally, she might have smiled at the fifteen-minute revision to his original guess, but the dig about her pessimism irritated her. She was a realist, not a pessimist, but she decided not to point this out for fear of focusing the conversation on her. Instead, she clicked her radio again, despite the futility of their first such attempts. “Carter to Daniel or Teal’c, come in.” She waited, but there was still no response.
“We didn’t walk that far,” the Colonel said with the barest hint of frustration. “We should still be within radio range.”
Sam examined the walls of the pit into which they’d fallen. “Three possibilities, sir. The MALP’s initial readings showed high levels of electromagnetic radiation that may be interfering with our radio transmissions. Or, we could just be far enough underground that the soil and rock content is sufficient to block the signal. It could also be a combination of the two.”
“Yeah, yeah,” the Colonel said, pacing back and forth despite a slight limp. She wondered if he’d hurt his knee when they’d hit the bottom. They’d both landed awkwardly. “Any ideas for boosting the signal?”
“Well, if the interference is being caused by our distance underground, we could try keying a mic open and tossing the radio out of the pit. Daniel and Teal’c might pick up on the open mic. Even if they couldn’t hear us, it might cause them to investigate. It could interfere with communications later, though.”
“It’s worth a try, right?” the Colonel said, and Sam refrained from telling him that the odds were decidedly against it. She knew that he’d rather do something – anything – that might get them out of here sooner rather than later, a fact for which she was extremely grateful. Sitting at the bottom of a cold pit with a severely sprained, possibly broken, ankle was not her idea of a good time.
She watched silently as the Colonel rooted about in his pack, pulling out a small roll of duct tape.
“At least it’s not raining,” he said as he fumbled, all thumbs, to use a pebble and the tape to depress the transmit button on the radio and secure it that way.
“There is that,” she agreed, gloomily.
“Or snowing… It could be snowing.”
She rolled her eyes at his forced cheerfulness. “It’s a pre-designed trap.”
He frowned at her.
“The pit. It’s obviously designed to prevent escape.” The top of the pit was narrower than the bottom and gently sloping walls effectively prevented someone from climbing out easily. The soil was hard enough - almost like rock - that carving out hand-holds would probably take longer than waiting for Daniel and Teal’c to come looking for them.
The fact that he said nothing confirmed her suspicion that he’d already realized this fact, but had probably been hoping that she hadn’t. Finally, he shrugged. “Okay, so it was obviously concealed by something… or someone… to catch something… or someone… It may have been abandoned years ago. We’ve seen no other signs of civilization.”
“You mean, other than Daniel’s ruins,” she said pointedly.
“Which have been abandoned for years,” he said with equal pointedness.
Sam snorted. “We were following a trail. If it had been abandoned years ago, someone or something else would have fallen in before us.”
“It might have been designed for large game, and our combined weight caused the collapse.”
Sam sighed. “The large game would have fallen in before now if the pit had been abandoned a long time ago. You don’t take the time and effort to build a trap someplace it’s not likely to work.”
“Maybe the large game is extinct,” the Colonel said.
Sam didn’t say anything, just raised an eyebrow, and after a moment of silence the Colonel made a face. “Yeah, okay, that was pretty lame,” he shrugged.
She chuckled despite herself.
He smiled, and, satisfied by the crackle of static over Sam’s radio, tossed his radio out of the pit. “We’ll see if that doesn’t catch Teal’c’s attention.”
“I hope so, sir. I’m not really in the mood to deal with any local natives today…”
He looked at her, appraising. “How’s your foot?”
“The adrenaline is starting to wear off,” she admitted. In fact, her whole leg was throbbing, and she could feel her entire foot trying to swell, the pressure of her boot almost unbearable.
“I have morphine…”
She shook her head. “It’s not that bad.”
“You’ll let me know…?”
He paced for a few more minutes, finally settling down across the pit from her. “So, here we are.”
“Here we are,” she echoed.
“Another world, another hole. One of the many pitfalls of off-world travel.”
She smiled because she knew he expected her to, but her heart wasn’t really in it.
“You have your computer?”
“And you don’t have it out?”
Sam shrugged. “Just not in the mood, sir.”
He stared at her for a moment, and she felt uncomfortable under his gaze.
“Something is bothering you…,” he finally said.
Sam looked away. “What, I’m supposed to be cheerful about falling twenty feet into a hole?”
He sighed patiently. “Something has been bothering you for a lot longer than that.”
She sighed, inwardly. She should have known better than to think he wouldn’t notice, much less not call her on it.
“Listen, Carter, you know I’m not good at the touchy-feely stuff,” he said slowly. “But I’m here for you, okay? As a friend… if that’s what you need, rather than a CO.”
She swallowed and nodded, still not quite able to meet his eyes. He was giving her the opening to talk about it, if she wanted. But she wasn’t sure it was something she could talk about. “Thank you, sir.”
He didn’t push her when she decided to pull her computer out of her pack after all, booting it up in silence.
“We’ve been working with the Tok’ra a lot lately,” she said, finally.
He didn’t say anything, patiently waiting for her to continue. “That bother you?” he finally prompted when she remained silent.
“I recognize some of them,” she said slowly, “and it brings back memories…”
“Ah,” he said, understanding. “Jolinar.”
She nodded. “The memories bring on nightmares sometimes.”
“You haven’t been sleeping well.” It was a statement, not a question, and Sam wondered if she’d woken her teammates with her nightmare on the last overnight mission.
“It comes and goes,” she shrugged. It was the truth. Yes, she’d been having a rough time of it lately, but she’d get through it. She always did.
“Have you talked to the doc about it?”
She shook her head, knowing that he’d understand her reluctance.
“Yeah, I don’t blame you.” He tapped his hand on his knee for a moment. “Damn snakes. Kanan didn’t leave me with all of his memories, but I still have nightmares about the little bastard sometimes.”
Sam looked at him in surprise. The Colonel never, ever talked about his experience with Kanan. She’d read his mission report after he’d escaped from Ba’al’s prison, but they’d never spoken about it. In fact, it hadn’t really occurred to her that he, of all people, might understand precisely what she was going through.
“It’s not easy being snaked,” he said, quirking a smile at her.
She fought the slightly hysterical urge to laugh. “No, it’s not. Most people wouldn’t understand, though…”
“We could start our own support group,” the Colonel suggested. “Snaked Anonymous, for ex-hosts who survive being screwed by the Goa’uld and Tok’ra…”
The idea tickled Sam in a twisted sort of way. “We can have theme nights: ‘Symbiosis or dysfunction? When reality is worse than nightmare…’”
“‘When you just can’t stop yourself from hurting those you love…’”
“‘When the words you speak aren’t your own,’ or ‘Did I just say that?’”
The Colonel laughed. “How about: ‘Sharing your head with an asshole?’”
“Jolinar wasn’t an asshole,” Sam said thoughtfully, cautiously searching for any memory of Kanan but finding none. “She was just very scared. Arrogant, but scared.”
“Apparently arrogance is something that all snakes have in common.”
Sam was inclined to disagree. She would never label Lantash as arrogant, for example, nor Selmak. But she wasn’t entirely sure if that was Jolinar’s assessment, or her own. Even now, she still had trouble untangling the two. “Perhaps you can’t live hundred of years without developing a reasonably healthy self image,” she said slowly.
The Colonel snorted, but didn’t disagree. Silence descended again, but this time it was more comfortable, companionable.
“Do I need to ask Hammond to take us off the roster for missions involving the Tok’ra?” he asked.
“What? No! No, sir, I’m fine. Besides, it’s nice to see Dad occasionally.”
“Well, you’ll be out for a while with that ankle, anyway.”
“True,” she acknowledged sadly. She brightened. “Unless Dad uses the healing device on it…”
“There’s a thought.”
“So, they do have their uses…,” she said absently, promising to remind herself of that more often. “Snakes,” she clarified when he looked at her, puzzled. “There are good things about snakes, too.”
He opened his mouth to reply when they heard a scuffling noise overhead, and Teal’c’s and Daniel’s faces appeared against the blue sky.
“Sam! Jack! Are you all right?” Daniel asked breathlessly.
Sam glanced at her watch, noticing the Colonel doing the same. Twenty-one minutes.
“Ha!” he said triumphantly, tapping his watch face with a finger. He looked up at Daniel, “What took you guys so long?”
“We came as fast as we could as soon as we realized your radio was on,” he said defensively as Teal’c tossed them a rope.
“Carter’s hurt her ankle,” the Colonel told them, starting to tie a harness. “You’ll have to help her out when she gets to the top.”
Sam squeezed the Colonel’s hand as he helped her to her feet. “Thank you, sir,” she said, feeling better than she had in days, despite her throbbing foot.
“You bet,” he smiled.
They pulled up Sam first, and she watched, balancing on one leg, as the Colonel crawled out and dusted himself off.
Daniel handed him his radio. “You know,” he said, “this was lying right beside the pit.”
The Colonel peeled the tape off. “Yeah, we tossed it up here, hoping it would transmit. We weren’t having any luck reaching you from below.” He tucked the radio back in the pocket of his tac vest.
Daniel smiled. Or perhaps it was a grimace. “Funny thing about acoustics …” he began.
“Oh no,” Sam groaned, sensing where Daniel was headed.
“Snaked Anonymous?” Daniel asked.
The Colonel frowned. “You heard that?”
“As clearly as if you were standing beside us,” Teal’c said.
Daniel nodded apologetically.
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