Title: Operation Montezuma
Rating/Warning: K+… language, torture, violence
Spoilers: Paradise Lost
Your name: Strix varia
Your recipient: Kish
Request details: A Sam-torture scenario. And doesn't want: no coincidentally lucky beam-outs (e.g. as in Off the Grid, bleh), no sarcophagus revivals, no issue over who leads SG-1 (just ignore it somehow please)
The United States Military Code of Conduct
I am an American, fighting in
the forces which guard my
country and our way of life. I
am prepared to give my life in
She woke to a pounding headache and the sticky feel of blood trickling down her face. Somewhere off to her right someone was groaning. "Janet?" she whispered.
The sharp, tinkling sound of broken glass spoke of movement nearby. Vaguely she remembered a bright flash and the sound of windows breaking. The bitter smell of smoke assaulted her nose.
"Sam?" It was Janet's voice, weak, but alive. "What happened?"
"Don' know… 'Splosion?" Her words were as blurred as her thoughts.
Another groan sounded in the direction of the door. One of the patients, or Lt. Wang?
Suddenly the floor shuddered, and bits of mortar rained down from the ceiling. Another explosive "boom" thundered, sending the remains of shattered glass panes flying. Detarian architecture was light and airy, consistently featuring large, stained-glass windows, a terrible combination when it came to withstanding blast pressure waves.
The piercing wail of a woman broke the silence outside, followed by shouts of panic. "Attack," she guessed, trying to force her eyes open. The Detarians didn't have gas pipelines or chemical storage units that might cause multiple explosions. Certainly, they hadn't seen anything that might blow up near the clinic. "Someone's attacking the capitol…"
"I should have known that this couldn't be an easy mission," Janet groaned. "Anything involving a member of SG-1 and four marines on their first off-world mission was bound to go south."
Sam smiled despite herself. "Any mission named Operation Montezuma was bound to go down the toilet," she corrected, trying to wipe the blood from her eyes so she could see.
Towards her feet, she heard someone chuckling feebly. That had to be Captain Biles.
"You okay, Biles?"
"Yes, Ma'am," the senior medic drawled in her slight southern accent. "Just got knocked off my feet by the blast."
"DeGeorge? Andersen? Verhalen? Ogden?"
A hand pressed against her head, stinging. "Bo's dead, Ma'am," Biles said softly. Bo Andersen had been standing between Sam and the window administering a shot to a patient. If Bo was dead, he'd probably saved her life from flying glass.
Janet swore while Sam tried to bat Biles' hand away from her forehead.
"You've got a bad cut, here, Ma'am," the medic said, resisting her efforts. "Just let me get the bleeding stopped."
"DeGeorge and Ogden are here," Janet said. "Oh god… Croci and Patchin were outside…"
"I'm here," a voice mumbled from the back of the room, and Sam belatedly identified it as belonging to a shaken Verhalen. "Jesus Christ, what the hell happened?" the marine asked.
"Explosion," Wang answered. "These two Detarians are dead, too."
"Lara, wake up," Janet said to her medic, and Sam hoped that DeGeorge was okay.
"Someone check on Don and Bill," Sam said, worried that the two marines had been outside during the blast.
"I got it," Wang said, and Sam heard the medic scramble to his feet.
"Here you go, Ma'am," Biles said, pressing a wad of cloth into her hand, which Sam used to wipe the blood from her eyes.
This time, Biles didn't stop her from sitting up to look around although she kept applying pressure to the wound on Sam's forehead.
"That needs stitches," Janet said, looking at her from across the clinic. There was blood on Janet's collar and hands, but Sam couldn't tell how badly her friend was hurt.
Janet was kneeling between Ogden and DeGeorge, both of whom appeared to be coming around. Sam hoped they'd just been knocked against the back wall by the blast without suffering severe injuries. The two Detarians and Andersen had been standing beside the windows, and apparently they had taken the worst of the flying glass. Biles was bleeding heavily from two slices on her arm, and her hair, normally pulled back neatly into a bun, had somehow freed itself to form a wild halo of gold about her head.
Another explosion sent Janet and Biles to the floor protecting their heads as more of the ceiling decided to fall, and Jim Wang dove back into the clinic through what remained of the door.
"Airships!" Wang gasped. "They're bombing the city! Everyone's dead! Croci and Patchin are dead!"
Shit, shit, shit, Sam thought. Two marines and one medic already dead, and a city being leveled by and unknown enemy. The explosions were powerful enough to be naquadah laced explosives. Bombs dropped on a city made of brick and glass. Dear god, they needed to get the hell out of Dodge. "Christy, see to your own injuries," she told Biles, forcing herself to her feet. "Janet, you're bleeding. Do you need help?"
Janet shook her head, "I'm fine."
Sam took her at her word, looking around the clinic to make a full assessment of their situation. All the windows in the small clinic had been shattered, and smoke and dust obscured the view of the city outside, but it appeared that building across the street, a small hospital, had taken a direct hit, being leveled into a pile of rubble. Sam shuddered. Much of their gear had been in that building, and it had been filled with patients sick from the infection. There'd also been thirty or forty men, women, and children lined up in the street waiting to get their shots. "The hospital is gone," she said quietly, wondering if it had been deliberately targeted.
Janet nodded, her lips pursed in anguish; Biles and Wang did not react to her words, evidently having realized this already.
One of the English-speaking Detarian doctors who'd been supervising their work in the clinic was standing, blood slowly seeping through his clothes in several spots, staring in obvious shock out the shattered windows.
Sam moved to stand in front of him. "Do you know who is doing this?" she asked. "Do you know who is attacking?"
His face twitched, but he looked away from her, not answering.
She grasped one of his shoulders. She understood that he had probably just lost most of his colleagues, not to mention the fact that he was witnessing the destruction of his home city, but she needed info. "Who is doing this?" she insisted.
He shook his head. "We… we have no enemies. Only treaties… treaties with the Ramaria… treaties with the Epskons… we've had peace for generations…!"
Peace for generations. Yes, that fit with what they knew of the Detarians. They had not been interested in trading for weapons technology, rather they had requested medicine and other tech. Low tech, in fact. Sam knew they had security forces in the city, but she didn't know if they had a standing army.
"You should go," the doctor said in a flat voice. "Who can defend against death dropped from the sky? You should save yourselves while you still can."
Sam wouldn't have minded staying to fight the bastards who were doing this, but she had Janet and the medics to consider. They weren't trained for front line combat, and the SGC couldn't afford to lose their CMO. She nodded. "We move out as soon as Ogden and DeGeorge are ready to go."
I will never surrender of my
own free will. If in command I
will never surrender the members
of my command while they still
have the means to resist.
The Detarians had been lined up outside the clinic waiting for their shots. Patchin and Croci had been providing crowd control along with Detarian security forces. Bodies were strewn along the street, most were dead, but a few were still alive. The Detarian doctor had recovered enough from his shock to kneel down beside one of the wounded victims.
Overhead, the swollen shapes of airships further darkened the already smoke-filled sky. The ground vibrated beneath their feet from multiple explosions in the distance. Sam wondered if this was how it felt in London when Nazi Germany had rained destruction upon the city. She wondered if this was how it smelled… of smoke and burned flesh and death.
"Don't these idiots have any anti-aircraft weapons?" Ogden swore. His dark skin was paler than Sam thought was healthy, but the marine seemed to be holding it together remarkably well for someone whom had just suffered a mild concussion.
"We've been given no evidence that the Detarians have any flight capabilities," Sam said. "This may be a new innovation of their enemies."
"And they took advantage of the disease outbreak to attack, knowing that much of the country was incapacitated," Janet nodded.
"We never, ever should have named this Operation Montezuma," Sam said softly.
The name, of course, had been a tribute to Colonel O'Neill, currently laid up in bed with a shrapnel wound in his leg courtesy of Harry Maybourne's booby trap. Colonel O'Neill's favorite euphemism for diarrhea was "Montezuma's revenge," a colorful phrase he often used to accompany dire warnings to all SGC-teams about the perils of drinking the local water on off-world missions.
Sam knew all about the origins of the phrase because of Daniel. Before he went DAA (dead and ascended), Daniel had always corrected the Colonel's pronunciation, explaining that Montezuma was really Motecuhzoma Xocoyotzin, or Moctezuma II, ruler of the Aztec empire who lived from circa 1466-1520 A.D. A superstitious man, the emperor mistakenly believed that the Spanish conquistador, Hernándo Cortés, was the Aztec god, Quetzalcoatl. He'd welcomed Cortés into his kingdom as a god, but the Spaniards, in their greed for Aztec gold, had ultimately wrought Moctezuma's downfall. Montezuma's revenge, supposedly, was the ancient emperor's pay-back to any foreign invaders to his country, be they armed with weapons or tourist dollars.
Of course, Daniel used the story as an illustration of how easily less advanced societies could be tricked into submission by the unfamiliar appearance of strangers armed with superior technology. He often pointed out that this was partly why the Goa'uld so easily ruled so many worlds for so long.
Staring at the destruction being wrought upon the Detarian capitol, however, it occurred to Sam that the greater relevance to Montezuma's story, in this case anyway, was the fact that when the Spanish invaded Central America, they brought with them smallpox, which devastated the native population and did more to destroy the Aztec empire than any of the conquistador's advanced gun-powder weaponry and sophisticated battle tactics. The disease wiped out thousands, weakening the Aztec armies and infrastructure. It was hard to fight a war against invaders while disease was cutting down warriors far faster than the enemy. Unfortunately, it was clearly not an epic unique to Earth's history.
In the case of Detaria, it was not a conquistador who brought smallpox to the land. Instead, it was James Wellford, a civilian member of an SGC mining team, who didn't tell Janet that he was feeling sick to his stomach before going off-world to replace another SGC mining team that was due for a furlough. The Detarians were medically unprepared to deal with the rampant and debilitating (but rarely deadly) version of Montezuma's revenge that began to ravage their communities soon after Mr. Wellford's arrival. Tracking the origin back to Wellford was easy, but treating the illness was virtually impossible. So they'd asked for Earth's help.
Being responsible for the disaster in the first place, General Hammond rightfully authorized Operation Montezuma. The disease was a common bacterial infection on Earth, easily treated by antibiotics. The mission objective was simple: determine if the usual antibiotics were safe and effective for Detarians, and if so, supply and administer them to the population as quickly as possible. So Janet, four medics, and four green marines had been dispatched under Sam's command. It should have been an easy mission, a humanitarian effort to help their allies.
Unfortunately, they now found themselves caught up in a war they'd had no way to anticipate. Sadly, Sam thought they were probably witnessing the Detarian equivalent of the fall of the Aztec empire.
"All right," Janet said, all business. "Let's set up a triage center. We'll use the clinic until we find a better location. Hopefully, whoever is attacking won't bomb here twice."
Sam hated to countermand Janet's order, but the situation was untenable. "No," she said firmly. "The city is systematically being destroyed from above, and the Detarians have no defense. We retreat to the gate. If we stay here, we'll be killed or captured. If we are going to help the Detarians militarily, we'll need reinforcements."
"What?" Janet asked, disbelieving. "Sam, these people need our medical help! They just lost one of their hospitals. Take Odgen and Verhalen and go back for reinforcements if you must, but let my medics stay here where we can save lives."
Sam shook her head. "No. I'm not splitting us up, and nobody is staying here. This isn't our war, Janet. The people in those airships aren't showing any mercy to a civilian population. We can probably save more lives by helping Detarians flee to the SGC."
Janet opened her mouth to protest further, but Sam stopped her. "We're moving out," she said. "Back to the gate. That's an order!"
"Yes, ma'am," Janet snapped, still upset by the decision, but also a good soldier.
"I'll take point," Sam said. "Ogden, you've got our six. Verhalen, Wang, help DeGeorge keep her weight off that leg."
The gate in the large central city square was flattened. The DHD was blown to smithereens. Detarians fled about randomly in a panic, seeking shelter that their brick constructed buildings with spacious stained-glass windows simply couldn't provide.
"Shit!" Wang said, clearly panicking from their vantage point in a narrow street between two government buildings. "We're stuck! We can't get home!"
"Shut up, Wang!" Verhalen growled, his own fear clearly evident.
"Stay calm, everyone" Sam said evenly, motioning for them to retreat back down the street. Taking shelter in a doorway as far from any windows as possible, they gathered around her anxiously. Janet was doing her best to look cool and collected, but Sam could see the nervousness in her friend's demeanor. With explosions continuing to rock the city, she hoped that Janet was starting to realize that these enemies weren't going to stop until every building was damaged or destroyed. "We just have to go to Plan B," Sam continued.
"Plan B, ma'am?" Ogden asked. Not for the first time, she was reminded of Lt. Tyler, the alien who had tricked them into believing he'd been part of their team, not just in his looks, but his calm under fire, as well. This was good; she could rely on Ogden to keep his head if anything happened to her. Not that Janet wouldn't, but Janet didn't have the tactical experience of a marine.
"The DHD is inoperable, but we can still operate the gate with another power supply."
"From where?" Janet asked. It was an obvious question. The technology level of the Detarians was more or less pre-industrial. They had seen no evidence of electricity in use in the city, and while they made clever use of chemical and mechanical energy, that would be of limited help in powering the gate.
"The SGC mining team has a naquadah generator," she said.
"But… but that's in the mountains…" DeGeorge said slowly, unconsciously glancing to the east where the dark peaks would have been visible in the distance across the plains if the building hadn't blocked their view. "And we have no supplies."
"The plains won't provide much cover. And who knows what direction their invasion force may come from," Ogden said. "They're sure to secure the river." The river was the main means of transport between the mountains and the capitol.
"Okay," Sam said. "Someone give me a Plan C, then."
"We stay and fight," Verhalen said.
"How much ammo do we have?" Sam said. Not much, she knew. They hadn't come prepared to fight a war. Sure, they could take out a few airships while they still had ammo for their P-90s, but after that? They also had four zats, but against an invading army, it would only be a matter of time before they were killed or captured in the city. There had to be a better option.
No one replied, but the silence was broken by two more explosions in the distance and the sound of another airship approaching, flying very low.
"Oh god, can they see us?" Biles asked a bit wildly, pushing her back against the wall. The others followed her example as the shadow of the airship ran along the buildings on the other side of the street.
"It's heading for the central square!" Ogden said.
"It's probably going to land," Sam grinned, an idea forming in her mind. Still Plan B, but with a twist.
Janet looked at her sharply. "Oh no," she said. "Don't tell me you're thinking what I think you're thinking."
"What?" Sam smiled. "I've always wanted to fly a blimp."
The airship was a small troop transport, and the 15 invaders on board were humans. They were dark-haired but fair skinned, and they wore black boots with tan breeches trimmed in red. Sam didn't recognize the language they spoke. All wore leather armor reinforced by metal plates. To Sam they looked reminiscent of medieval warriors, a perception only enhanced by their odd combination of weapons: crossbows, spears, swords, and mesh bags of fist-sized, round, metallic balls. Sam suspected the balls might be explosives, the equivalent of hand-grenades perhaps. They moved with the unity and order of well-trained shock troops, perhaps sent to secure the government buildings facing the central square.
They were no match for P-90s, however. Sam was proud of Janet for volunteering to fight; with Croci and Patchin dead, they needed the fire-power to take out the enemy soldiers before they had a chance to toss one of their metal balls. But Sam knew what it must have cost her friend to kill when she'd dedicated her life to saving others.
"You okay?" she asked as they scrambled up the ramp to the dirigible gondola.
Janet gave her a wry smile. "Let's just get the hell out of here and get that generator."
Sam gave her shoulder a quick squeeze, ridiculously grateful for her support despite their difference in priorities.
On board the partially open-air platform beneath the airship, Sam stared at the controls and the visible design features. It was a fairly unsophisticated, if rather strange, setup, all things considered. It appeared to use a combination of hot air and lighter than air gases to achieve lift. The motor and propeller were actually mounted on the back of the platform, with cables running from the control panel to the rudder and elevators on the rear envelope. Though she couldn't see them, she guessed there were two ballonets fore and aft in separate light-than air compartments, plus a central balloon underneath which was mounted a burner to provide heat. She wondered if the lighter-than air compartments contained helium or hydrogen. It definitely wasn't how she'd design a blimp, particularly if hydrogen was involved, but she couldn't argue their effectiveness in this situation. She didn't recognize the language or the specific layout of the control panel, but some things were intuitive.
"Can you do it?" Janet asked, looking over her shoulder.
"Yeah, sure, you betcha!" she grinned. "Let's try this one," she said, pushing the button with a propeller-like symbol. The motor fired to life, and flames shot out of the burner. "Everybody got their seatbelts on?" she grinned, turning to look at her crew.
Biles spoke for all of them. "There are no seatbelts, Ma'am."
"Hold on, then," Sam smiled. "Ogden, Verhalen, untie the moorings!"
The ship lurched forward into the air.
It took Sam a few attempts to figure out how to fill and unfill the ballonets to keep the envelope even, but she didn't knock anyone off their feet or send them tumbling overboard. She figured that was a pretty good start. Under other circumstances, she might actually have found the challenge rather fun.
"Ma'am, permission to engage the enemy airships?" Ogden asked.
She considered for moment. To do so would eventually give their escape attempt away, but the P-90s had range on any weapons they'd seen the enemies using so far. "Permission granted, Captain."
Verhalen and Ogden shot down two troop transports and one bomb-dropping blimp on their way out of the city. One exploded in a ball of flame mid-air, thereby answering the question as to which lighter-than-air gas was being used. Definitely hydrogen.
Sam considered trying to take out more, but two of the enemy bomb-droppers had gained altitude on them in an apparent attempt to get above them for an attack. The bomb-droppers were lighter and faster than the larger and heavier transport, and Verhalen and Ogden couldn't shoot upwards without risking hitting their own balloon. So using smoke for cover and some maneuvers that sent her crew sliding across the deck of the transport, Sam piloted them away from the battle. Their pursuers didn't follow once they flew out over the plains surrounding the city, but she had no doubt that their course towards the mountain had been duly noted.
From the air, they could see smoke plumes rising in the distance; other towns were under simultaneous attack. It was hard for Sam to fathom the number of innocent people dying on this day.
"Jesus," Wang said from somewhere behind her. "It's like the apocalypse."
The only response he received was the whistle of cold wind across the deck.
It took four hours to reach the mountains with a slight tail-wind. It took two minutes for the engine to finally sputter to a stop when it ran out of fuel. It took less than a minute for the floundering ship to start losing altitude after the burner went out.
"This isn't good, is it?" Janet asked, the mountains looming rapidly and alarmingly taller ahead.
"No, it's not," Sam confirmed.
"Are all of your missions like this?"
"Pretty much," Sam shrugged.
"Too bad Colonel O'Neill isn't here," Janet said.
Sam looked at her questioning.
"He'd fill that balloon with hot air in a heartbeat," Janet said dryly.
Sam laughed despite herself.
"So what's Plan A?" Janet asked. "Or is this still Plan B, moving on to sub-plan one?"
Sam smiled, scanning the terrain. They were flying over the foothills now, a mixture of forest and rocky slopes. "We have enough lift that we aren't going to crash immediately. But steering is limited, and the wind is still blowing us forward. Eventually we're going to hit an elevation of some sort, and it would be best not to be aboard when that happens. Even a static spark could ignite the hydrogen in the envelope compartments. The engine and burner are still hot, as well."
"So… what? We jump at the last second?"
"How much rope do we have on board?"
"Do I want to know what you plan to use rope for?"
"That's what I thought. I'll go check."
Sam heard Janet moving around the back of the platform, trying not to wake the others who were trying to get some much needed sleep. She returned in few moments. "Apparently we lost most of the rope when we untied the moorings."
"That's okay," Sam said, her face breaking into a wide smile. "We aren't going to need it after all."
"We aren't?" Janet asked, leaning forward.
Sam pointed ahead, where a sparkling blue lake was coming into view at the end of a forested valley. "Sub-plan two," she said.
Janet paled visibly. "Oh my god."
"Oh come on, Janet. This is the part of Operation Montezuma where we get flushed."
Sam filled the ballonets with air to get them as low as possible over the lake. They dropped their weapons, gear, boots, clothes, and anything they didn't want to get wet overboard before the lake, trying to hit clearings in the trees.
They were still twenty to thirty feet up when they started over the water. They jumped in twos, with the best swimmer, Wang, jumping with DeGeorge, whose leg had been severely cut by flying glass in the city. Sam was the last to go, and she jumped alone.
The water was shockingly cold and deep enough that she didn't touch bottom before struggling to the surface. The cold was biting, and she hoped she was not too far from a shore. Unfortunately, she'd landed nearly center in the lake, almost half a mile from the nearest shore. Thankfully, she counted six other heads bobbing in the lake. The first to jump, Wang and DeGeorge, were almost to the shore already. As she watched, Verhalen gave a shout and pointed somewhere behind her.
She turned in the water to see the airship plow into the mountainside on the far end of the lake. A millisecond later, it exploded in a fireball that made Sam duck under the surface of the lake.
Shit, shit, shit, that had been close. She came up again, watching as the fire started to ignite the trees. Out of the frying pan, into the fire, she thought wryly. Slowly, she started to swim to the shore, hoping that Janet would think to send the others to rescue their gear before the fire spread much further. At least the wind was blowing it away from them at the moment.
Sam allowed a campfire that evening since the forest fire was creating enough smoke and light to effectively mask it from anyone in the distance. They'd zatted fish for dinner, and now sat around the fire as they cooked.
Verhalen and Biles were keeping first watch; DeGeorge was getting her leg tended by Wang. They all looked bloodied, banged up, and somewhat worse for wear, but they were still alive, and Sam would take that. Even better, if she remembered the coordinates correctly, they were only about five miles from the mining encampment. She'd been unable to raise anyone on the radio, but it was possible that the terrain was inhibiting communications.
"Major Carter," Ogden said, looking at her intensely from the other side of the fire.
"I hope you don't mind me saying this, ma'am, but I'd been told on the base that you like to blow things up."
"Really?" Sam asked, not too surprised.
"Yes, ma'am. But I didn't believe it until today."
Sam looked at the grimy faces grinning at her from around the fire and felt, perhaps for the first time, the full weight of what it meant to be a leader. She understood more clearly now why Colonel O'Neill did some of the things he did to protect his team. She knew that she would do anything in her power to get these people home again. "I do what I have to do," she said, smiling. She nodded at them. "You all did very well today. We make a good team."
It was hard to believe that her words would have such a profound effect, but she could tell that they meant a lot to the young officers. Ogden beamed, and even DeGeorge sat up a bit straighter. Janet caught her eye, and she could read her friend's approval.
"We move out first light tomorrow, if the fire will let us," she said. "The mining camp should be five miles that way," she pointed to the northeast. Keep your eyes open for enemies. Also watch for UAVs. We were due for contact with the SGC this evening. They may try to send a UAV to do recon once they see what's happened to the city, and they may send it to the mining camp to check on our people there."
This thought seemed to cheer the group considerably, and they spent a pleasant evening tending to their wounds and remaining equipment.
She woke to somebody shaking her shoulder in the dark. "Sam?"
She groaned as her body protested consciousness. The slice on her forehead felt on fire. "Shhhh," Janet whispered, her hand partially covering Sam's mouth. "We hear airships approaching, but we can't see them. There's too much smoke from the fires."
Sam sat up, sniffing. "The wind has shifted." The smoke was blowing down the valley now. That meant the fire wouldn't be far behind.
"This is bad, isn't it?" Janet asked.
"This is bad," Sam confirmed. The safest place to be in a forest fire was in areas that had already burned. Unfortunately, areas that had already burned would also be exposed to the airships flying overhead. They needed to move while darkness still provided them with some cover. "Time to go," she said.
The fires provided enough ambient light to make their way slowly in the darkness, but the ground was treacherous, and they had to avoid hot spots that were still burning. The smoke swirled around them, burning their lungs.
It was Ogden on point who first spotted the enemy coming over a rise ahead of them. He opened fire instinctively taking out the front four, but it was impossible to tell how many might have taken cover behind the slope. Overhead, the sound of an airship changed directions, and Sam knew that the weapons flash had been spotted.
Normally, she'd try to gain the high ground, but that would be a dubious choice with airships overhead. Instead, she ordered them back to a defensible rock outcropping at the base of a low cliff. As they ran, a bomb exploded in the unburned forest to their left sending splinters of wood raining down upon them. DeGeorge cried out and stumbled, swearing, but Wang and Verhalen picked her up and carried her between them.
Sam fired a few rounds in the direction of the airship, hoping to get lucky. Beyond expectation, triple explosions lit the night sky. As burning debris fell on the forest, Sam hazarded a glance behind them and saw dozens of enemy soldiers coming over a far ridge. Somehow they'd managed to run into an enemy platoon, possibly an entire company.
"This is very bad, isn't it?" Janet panted beside her.
"This is very, very bad," Sam agreed.
They made their stand in the rocks at the base of the cliff. It had been a slaughter until the enemy determined their range. The odds evened up mid-morning when the enemy soldiers started firing crossbow bolts that contained explosives in the metal tips. They didn't need accuracy, just range, and the rock provided all the shrapnel they needed. Wang was the first to go down with shrapnel in his shoulder. DeGeorge was next, impossibly adding a piece of rock to her collection of leg wounds that already included wood splinters and shards of glass. If the lieutenant survived the mission, Sam knew she'd become a living SGC legend, but that was small comfort in the face of so much present agony. Terrell Ogden ran out of ammo first, then Janet, Biles, and Verhalen. The sun was on a downhill track when Sam's P-90 finally clicked.
Two airships floated overhead, and a hundred enemy soldiers still encircled their position. Her team was covered in black soot, and they were exhausted, thirsty, hungry, and hurting.
She met Janet's eyes.
"We're fucked, aren't we?" the doctor asked.
"Yeah," Sam said simply.
If I am captured I will
continue to resist by all means
available. I will make every
effort to escape and aid others to
escape. I will accept neither
parole nor special favors from
They were given water and stale bread before being hogtied and blindfolded for the night. The next morning they were tossed on an airship. Apparently their enemies were taking no chances that their prisoners might try to escape. Or perhaps their officers were taking no chances that their own troops might try to take retribution for their many losses. In any case, Sam and her companions found themselves lying on the platform of another transport. This time, unfortunately, they were joined by the SGC mining team and two Detarian miners.
The commander of the mining team was a young lieutenant named Hernandez. Sam was impressed by the story of their heroic fight at the mining camp; two of them were civilian contractors without a military background. Apparently they, too, had fought until they ran out of ammo. Hernandez had done a good job keeping his team together and alive under extreme circumstances. Sam made a mental note to recommend him to General Hammond for a commendation.
"Have you been interrogated?" Sam asked.
"All of us have been roughed up, Ma'am, but nothing serious," Hernandez told her. "But we've only been held for a day."
Sam nodded. "Hopefully it won't come to this, but all of you must remember that we're not allowed to divulge anything but name, rank, service number, and date of birth. Do not reveal iris codes or Earth's address. Do not give them information about our weapons, tactics, capabilities, or equipment. Escape if you can."
"With the DHD blown to hell, what would it matter?" Verhalen asked.
The question annoyed Sam, but she could understand the man's logic. "We don't know their capabilities." She snorted. "Hell, we don't even know who they are or what they call themselves. For all we know, they may have their own stargate and off-world allies that could threaten Earth."
"They are Epskons," one of the Detarians said in heavily accented English. "In the past, they were our allies in the wars against the Ramarians. But all three of our countries have been at peace for many years."
"Well, something sure changed," Hernandez said. "What do you want to bet the Ramarians are the next to go?"
"I would not doubt it," the Detarian said. "They have hid these invasion plans from us well. There is much trade between our countries, but their government never indicated unhappiness with our treaties. Since you have improved our mining techniques, we have been able to supply them more naquadah than before."
Sam's heart sank. No, the Epskons wouldn't have wanted to tip their hand. They would have put on a smiling front while building an army of airships and bombs made from the naquadah they were getting from the Detarians. They knew the Detarians would be helpless against such an attack. But why bother continuing to trade for something when you could simply take what you wanted? The mines were probably one of their main objectives. No wonder there'd been so many troops in the mountains. They'd probably heard the blimp explode and had come to investigate.
She opened her mouth to speak, but a quick kick from a guard ended their conversation.
If I become a prisoner of war, I
will keep faith with my fellow
prisoners. I will give no
information or take part in any
action which might be harmful
to my comrades. If I am senior, I
will take command. If not, I will
obey the lawful orders of those
appointed over me and will back
them up in every way.
They were taken to a location just outside the Detarian capitol in what might once have been a warehouse complex of some sort. The buildings were lacking the expansive windows traditionally found in Detarian buildings, giving them a brooding and foreboding look. Sam estimated that some three-hundred people, many of them Detarian security forces, were being held in the various buildings and surrounding stockades. The complex had been hastily converted to a temporary prison, complete with something resembling razor-wire fences and guard units armed with crossbows patrolling the perimeters with dogs.
The SGC personnel were separated from the Detarians, and once their legs were untied, they were escorted to a prison area inside one of the buildings. Here, the guards forced Sam, Christy, Janet, and Lara away from the men.
"I'm the commanding officer," Sam told the guard who seemed to be in charge before the men could be led away. "I request that you keep us all together."
One of the guards punched her stomach, and Sam doubled over, gasping against the pain. "Ogden, you tell them that if they wish to talk, they talk to me. Do you understand? They talk to me."
"Yes ma'am," the marine nodded, swallowing.
Sam smiled as she straightened, then kicked the face of the guard who had punched her.
Perhaps it hadn't been the brightest idea she'd ever had, she decided as they stripped off her shirt and boots and placed her bruised and beaten body in a stockade that locked around both her hands and feet. She'd had a vague notion about ensuring that if somebody was going to be raped or interrogated, it would be her. That was what Colonel O'Neill had always done in similar situations. He'd piss off their captors with his sarcasm and disrespect, and make himself the target.
But now she had to face the consequences of her actions. She breathed deeply, trying to suppress her fear now that she'd accomplished her goal. Her body was already hurting badly, and she honestly didn't know how much more she could take.
She couldn't bear the thought of Janet or Christy or Lara being raped. She couldn't bear the thought of the miners being tortured, or even the two marines on their first mission. It was her job. Her responsibility. Since these people didn't appear to speak or understand English, she'd had to rely on physical actions. Surely Colonel O'Neill would have done the same.
At least with her butt on a hard, slightly elevated platform and her hands and feet locked in the stocks, it didn't appear that she was going to be raped. Not right away, anyway. But when a hard-faced man entered the room with a whip in one hand, a cane in the other, and a frightened looking Detarian man beside him, it became apparent that she was going to be tortured.
"He… he wants to know who you are," the Detarian man stammered as the hard-faced man stepped forward. "He wants to know where you're from. He wants to know how many more of you are out there." He paused, his lower lip trembling. "He wants to know a lot of things."
"Tell him I won't tell him anything," Sam said defiantly.
The Detarian winced, but translated her words.
The interrogator smiled and spoke.
"He said, 'Good, I like a challenge.'"
The cane hissed through the air, striking the soles of her exposed feet, and she cried out at the unexpected agony of it.
When questioned, should I
become a prisoner of war, I am
required to give name, rank
service number, and date of
birth. I will evade answering
further questions to the utmost of
my ability. I will make no oral
or written statements disloyal to
my country and its allies or
harmful to their cause.
Those six numbers would haunt Janet Fraiser forever.
366349. Sam's service number.
"Samantha Carter. Rank, Major," Sam muttered, her head shifting restlessly in Janet's lap. "366349. 12/29/68. 366349." It was as if the numbers gave her comfort in her delirium.
She felt Sam's flushed cheek, trying to judge her temperature. It hadn't taken long for infection and fever to set in. Sam had gone downhill quickly, the lack of rest, food, and water having taken its toll even before the brutal torture.
"366349," Sam muttered again.
Janet's eyes filled with tears, not for the first time that long night… tears of anguish and of pride. She suspected that Sam hadn't told their captors anything of value, even after two days of torture. They'd flayed the skin off her feet. They'd whipped her back into a bloody mess. But always strong, always proud, Samantha Carter had given them nothing more than what their military code of conduct allowed: her name, her rank, her service number, and her date of birth.
Janet wondered if she could be as strong under the same circumstances. She wondered if she would be next. Looking into the frightened faces of Biles and DeGeorge, she knew they were thinking the same thing.
"God, Sam," she whispered, wishing desperately she had some water to give her friend. Water to keep her fever under control. Water to keep her hydrated. "Please, Sam," Janet whispered, running her fingers through her friend's sweat-matted hair. "Don't give up. You've got to fight this infection. I know you can fight this. You know that General Hammond isn't going to leave us stranded here."
She prayed it was true. Prayed that they'd hurry. Time was running out. Sam needed antibiotics desperately. For that matter, DeGeorge wasn't much better off; her leg, too, was infected and needed surgery.
Janet couldn't imagine what she'd do if she lost Sam here in this dank cell, light years from home, on what was supposed to be a humanitarian mission. She couldn't imagine how she'd explain it to Cassie or General Hammond or Colonel O'Neill. The frustration of knowing what she needed to do to save her friend's life, but being unable to do it was torture of another sort.
"Major Carter," Captain Biles said, taking Sam's hand. "We need you, ma'am. Please don't give up."
DeGeorge placed her own feverish hand on Sam's leg. "There's lots of things left to blow up in the galaxy," she said. "You have a lot yet to do, ma'am. You have to keep fighting."
"Blow up freaking Epskons," Sam muttered without opening her eyes, and Janet could have shouted with joy.
Sam was still fighting.
An odd noise penetrated Sam's fevered dreams. She couldn't identify it, and it puzzled her, the mystery of it slowly pulling her awake. She opened her eyes. It was dark, and she was lying on her side, her head cushioned… on somebody's leg. She turned her head, flinching at the pain it caused her back. Janet's leg. Her head was resting on Janet's leg. And the odd noise was Janet snoring.
Sam smiled to herself. Janet Fraiser snored. Who would have guessed? As she watched, Janet snorted awake, eyes widening as she met Sam's gaze.
"Still here?" Sam asked.
Janet smiled softly. "Yeah, afraid so. How do you feel?"
"Been better," Sam admitted. Truthfully, she couldn't decide if she was burning up or freezing to death. And every inch of her body hurt.
"Still here, too."
Sam nodded, eyes closing.
"Stay with us, Sam," Janet said seriously.
"Okay," Sam said. She fought the darkness a moment longer; there was something else she needed to say. She forced her eyes back open. "Thanks for being my friend, Janet," she said. Now she could rest. With a sigh, she let herself slip back to sleep.
For the first time in her professional career, Janet Fraiser could not stop her tears from flowing.
They gave her a drink that numbed the pain. They washed her face and hair. They forced socks and slippers onto her swollen feet, and they helped her dress in her SGA jacket, now clean and mended. They then tied her to a chair in a small room in the remains of one of the government buildings near the central city square.
She fought valiantly to stay conscious when they left her alone, but failed. She woke to a room full of people, Epskonian officers and one Detarian woman whom Sam thought she'd met before. She'd been the Mayor's aide, perhaps, one of the first group of Detarians who'd visited Earth and learned English.
"Major Carter," the woman said. "They want you to tell them that you've been treated well."
"Tell who?" she somehow had the presence of mind to ask.
"Your people. They've sent a probe. It's coming here."
A MALP. General Hammond had sent a MALP, and they were bringing it here. Sam struggled to focus. The Epskons wanted her to lie and tell them that they were being treated well.
One of the officers caught the woman's arm and gestured at Sam, speaking rapidly.
The woman nodded. "He says that if you don't do what they want, they'll kill your companions."
Sam had no intention of lying, but she nodded anyway. Let them believe she'd capitulate.
The officer looked suspicious but started speaking again to his people. At some point, another guard entered carrying a P-90 and a zat.
A flurry of activity announced the arrival a MALP surrounded by an escort of guards. Two of the guards pointed crossbows directly at her, a clear warning that she shouldn't try anything suspicious.
The camera on the MALP pivoted to point at her. "Major Carter," General Hammond's voice said. "It is good to see you. Have you been treated well?"
The Detarian translated his words, but Sam didn't wait for her to catch up. She nodded deliberately, and said, "No sir," slurring the words so they could easily be mistaken for a "yes," to an untrained ear. "I've been tortured."
The Detarian woman hesitated for the barest instant before translating, but the Epskons did not react to whatever it was she said. Sam breathed a sigh of relief. The woman was smart, and she was playing along.
"What about the rest of our people, Major?" General Hammond asked.
"The DHD was blown up. Anderson, Croci, and Patchin are dead; the others are being held in a prison camp on the outskirts of the east side of the city, guards armed with crossbows, swords, dogs, and explosives. DeGeorge is not mobile, Wang was wounded, but the others are in good health as far as I know, General."
The Epskons officer looked unhappy at the length of this exposition, but apparently he was satisfied by whatever it was that the Detarian translator provided him. He stepped in front of Sam, P-90 in hand, addressing the camera directly.
"You see we are true to our word, and your soldiers have been well treated," he said through the translator. "We are willing to negotiate a trade for their release. We want 50 of these weapons plus ammunition in exchange for each male prisoner." He traded the P-90 for the zat. "We want 50 of these weapons in exchange for each of the women."
"I understand," General Hammond said. "I will have to clear the request through my superiors, but I'm certain we can reach an agreement."
The officer nodded, looking pleased.
"Hang on, Major," General Hammond said.
Sam frowned in bemusement as a panel on the side of the MALP slid open and an armed Goa'uld shock grenade rolled onto the floor.
"Sweet!" she grinned before the room exploded in white.
Once again, Sam woke to pain and confusion. Somebody was lifting her in their arms. She groaned in protest.
"I am very sorry, Major Carter," a familiar voice said.
"Teal'c?" she whispered, opening her eyes. She saw nothing but darkness, then remembered the grenade. The blindness was only temporary.
"Indeed, it is I," the big man answered.
"Janet? The guys?"
"Three teams have been dispatched to affect their escape from the prison," Teal'c assured her. "I am taking you directly to the Stargate."
"You have a reactor?"
"Indeed. Jonas Quinn is connecting it. SG-5, SG-6, and SG-7 are holding the city center for us."
Sam smiled. "I knew you'd come for us."
"I am sorry we did not arrive sooner," Teal'c said seriously. "We had to recall several teams to mount the attack, and General Hammond wanted to ensure that you were still alive before committing us."
Sam nodded, content in the knowledge that Teal'c would get her and the others home safely. "Thanks, Teal'c," she whispered before passing out again.
"You are very welcome, Major Carter," Teal'c replied.
I will never forget that I am an
American, fighting for freedom,
responsible for my actions, and
dedicated to the principles which
made my country free. I will
trust in my God and in the
United States of America
"You need to eat, Carter," Colonel O'Neill told her, pushing the cup of blue jello closer. He was still on crutches, but no longer bed-ridden. This was a good thing, because the infirmary was a crowded place.
DeGeorge was in the bed beside her, infamous leg now elevated. Siler had promised her specially designed leg armor for her next trip through gate, and Colonel O'Neill had suggested awarding her leg a purple heart of its own.
Ogden had been tortured after Sam, and his feet, too, had been severely caned. They would both be out of commission for a while.
Biles, Verhalen, Janet, Wang, and Hernandez all sported bandages of one sort or another, badges of honor from a mission gone bad. The operation had been a disaster, but thanks to a timely rescue, most of them had made it back alive, and that was really all that mattered to Sam this time. Detaria had been destroyed, a disaster in part their own making, and partly the fault of their relationship with the SGC, but sometimes the greatest victory was just making it out alive, living to fight another battle another day on another world. Their job was to keep the battleground away from Earth, and they couldn't do that if they were dead.
"Carter," the Colonel said sternly, poking at the jello cup. "Don't make me make it an order."
Sam stared at the jello warily, her stomach already protesting. "Oh God," she muttered, feeling the rumbling deep inside. How god-awful unfair was this?
"What's wrong?" Jack asked, leaning forward, concerned.
"Nothing," she said, hoping she could catch Janet's eye before it was too late.
"Carter!" he said sternly.
"Sir! It's just..." she could feel her cheeks burning. "I must have contracted…" Good grief, how could this be happening with all the antibiotics Janet was pumping into her? "It's Montezuma's revenge, sir."
The Colonel's eyes widened, and he twisted in his chair, searching for the petite doctor. "Janet!"
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