Stargate SG-1 fic: Last Chance (10)
Title: Last Chance
Jack quickly fiddled with the crystals. He decided to leave the lights down low, saving what little reserve power they had for the heat. Not that it mattered much. The food was gone and with it any hopes of surviving. Heat or not. With a sigh he maneuvered in the dark towards the bathroom. It was empty so he hurried to do his business. He was scrubbing his hand through his hair when he returned to the pallet expecting to find Carter there but it was empty, too. He scratched his head and eyed the door into the cockpit. She never quit.
The door sliding opened startled Carter. She jumped a little but continued to work inside a panel off to the left of the co-pilot’s chair.
“Carter, what are you doing?” Jack asked, coming up behind her. He hunched his shoulders and tried unsuccessfully to jam his hands into his jacket pockets. The bandages on his right made it too difficult so he slid the hand under the other arm, using his left hand to hold it in place.
“If I could just get the transmitter working…” She reached far into the compartment and pulled out some smoky looking crystals. Never a good sign. She sighed, rolling them over in her fingers.
“I told you it’s pointless.”
She rocked back so she was sitting on her haunches and glanced over her shoulder at him. “No offense, sir, but maybe I should be the judge of that.”
“You saying you’re smarter than me, Carter?” It was a lame attempt at humor and she knew it. She narrowed her eyes but didn’t dignify his comment with any answer.
“I think I can find replacements for these in one of these other panels that aren’t working.”
“And then what? We barely have enough power to light a match.”
She got up and stood in front of him all full of optimism and stubbornness that he remembered from her early days on SG-1. Back when she still felt she had something to prove to him. “I have to do this. I can’t just sit around any more and wait to die. Just let me do this.”
Jack studied her face: eyes sunken but determined, jaw set, a smudge of grease on her chin. Without a second thought he reached up with his good hand and wiped it away. She stared at his hand but didn’t move. He opened his fingers to show her the dirt. Her eyes tracked back up to his face but she still said nothing. Her expression, though, her whole body was asking his permission… permission to be left alone to do the only thing she knew how to do: try and save his sorry ass. It was why he kept her around wasn’t it? Well, that’s what he told other people anyway. The reality of it was so much more, so much that he could barely even admit to himself.
He stepped out of the way to let her find her crystals. He wandered around the cockpit, kicking at snow and debris and wishing he could be more helpful. He was acutely aware that she was watching him out of the corner of her eye probably wondering why he was still there and if was going to continue to hamper her work. He sighed.
“I’m going to go take a look outside,” he finally said. She stopped and stared at him a moment.
“I thought you said-”
“I know what I said. But the sun is shining, the snow on the window melted and I am feeling way too claustrophobic cooped up in here.”
She snorted at that.
“If I’m not back in an hour send out the search party.” He didn’t wait for a reply.
Outside the sun beat down on the snow covered patch of ground surrounding the ship. Puddles of melted snow and ice had already formed in the divots left behind them as they careened into the ground. In the shady areas the ground crunched under his boots, still crisp and frosty but out in the sunlight the snow turned to a slippery, sludgy mess that he sunk into creating a slurping sound with each step. He could already feel the cold dampness working its way in through the seams of his boots. He shivered but it wasn’t exactly from the cold.
In fact it felt warmer out here than it did inside the cargo hold. The sun heated his face and sent another pleasurable shiver down his spine. He considered calling Carter out to enjoy the break in the weather but figured she needed to get this transponder thing out of her system first.
Jack wandered around the ship checking out the damage again. Other than the gaping hole above the viewscreen the ship was intact. Except… he noticed something sticking out of the left side, around the corner from the front. He followed the curve of the ship, letting his hand slide across the smooth, cold surface. There, just above the snow line… wires and broken crystals. He squatted down and examined the mess with a frown. Something wasn’t right. The first days after the crash were still a little fuzzy in his memory but he was sure there was no other major damage from the firefight and subsequent landing.
He pulled a flashlight from his pocket and shined it into the small hole. Inside were more broken crystals and wires. He stood up and kicked at the debris. The wires sparked and sputtered. He rubbed at his chin, the week’s worth of growth itching uncontrollably now. The ground around the mess was mostly a soggy mess of melted snow and saturated earth. But nothing looked too amiss. He slowly walked back around to the front of the ship, his eyes watching the surrounding area. He stood staring up at the cockpit window for a moment before reaching up and pounding on it.
“Hey, Carter,” he yelled, “I don’t think we’re alone here.” He couldn’t hear anything from inside the ship but was pretty sure she had heard him. A couple minutes later that was confirmed when she emerged with their tactical vests and guns. Jack slid his on and tried his sidearm in his injured hand. There was no way for him to get a good enough grip so he transferred it to his other hand. Not as accurate with his left hand but it would have to do.
He showed Carter around to the hole he found. She examined it much the same way he did, including the kick to the exposed wires. She looked up at him, squinting into the sunshine. “I think this explains why we’ve been losing so much power.”
“Something’s been eating through the wires?” He had suspected. He kept his eyes trained on the horizon, watching for any movement. The sun glinted off the bright white snow creating a blinding glare. He patted down his pockets looking for his sunglasses. “Any idea how big this… thing is?”
“Judging from the damage it’s probably small. Not much bigger than a large house cat.”
“Cats can do a lot of damage. My aunt had a cat that ate her couch,” Jack said as he put his shades on and made his way to the rear of the ship, still watching the distance for activity. “I mean ate the couch. He just tore chunks out of it until all that was left was a frame, springs and a few buttons.”
Carter joined him, her hands resting deceptively relaxed on her P-90. She was scanning the surrounding area, too. “We had a cat when I was little. When we were living in South Carolina. She was the sweetest thing. Used to sleep on the foot of my bed at night.”
“Yeah? What happened to her?” Jack moved as quietly as possible through the slushy snow around the ship.
“We had to leave her behind when Dad got transferred to Japan.”
He glanced over his shoulder at Carter. “You lived in Japan?”
She shook her head. “Only Dad went. Me and my mom and Mark went to stay with my gramma in California. She was allergic to cats.”
Jack nodded his understanding. He grew up in a military home, too. There were always things getting left behind. “I once watched my aunt’s cat launch itself three feet in the air to attack my uncle Billy. He had to be rushed to the hospital.”
Carter frowned at him. He wasn’t even sure why he was continuing this argument other than he was on edge and bored out of his mind despite it. Besides this little excitement didn’t take away from the fact that they were going to starve or freeze to death in the next couple of days.
“Whiskers used to catch the lizards and mice that invaded our house every summer.”
She shrugged. Jack motioned for her to move forward towards the tree line in the distance. He followed behind, placing his feet in her footprints.
“Darby… that was my aunt’s cat, was crazy. I was terrified to go over there.”
“Well, all the cats I’ve ever known have been normal.”
“Yeah, well, I was once attacked by a goose at my uncle’s farm.”
Carter stopped and looked over her shoulder at him. “What does that have to do with anything?”
He smirked at her. “Nothing, just changing the topic.”
Carter rolled her eyes and continued trudging through the snow. Jack glanced over his shoulder at the ship, judging that they had walked thirty yards or so. He didn’t see Carter stopped until he bumped into her. She held her fist up, not that it had mattered much. He stayed close, peering over her shoulder to see what had stopped her. She didn’t have to say anything. The tracks in the shaded snow screamed “danger” enough for both of them. He swallowed hard, following the large prints into the distance. No, not just one set… several sets of varying sizes.
“We should go back,” he whispered into her ear.
She nodded enthusiastically, her P-90 now held snuggly in her grasp, the safety noticeably off. Jack backed up, Carter following slowly. They had only retreated twenty feet when a low growl stopped them dead in their tracks. Jack mentally cursed himself for thinking of it that way. They turned to see a small brownish colored animal about two feet long with long fur and a short tail. Not unlike a large house cat. Not all that scary in Jack’s mind. Except it wasn’t the animal that had made the sound. As if appearing out of thin air a larger animal with glistening white fur and large yellow eyes stepped towards them. It was huge. A good four feet tall at the shoulders, its head was the size of a large beach ball and the teeth… could probably saw him in half.
Suddenly the larger animal lunged. Jack didn’t even have time to react. Carter hip checked him into the snow, her weapon echoing across the valley. The animal made a blood-curdling screech before it dropped to the ground a few feet in front of Jack. The smaller animal began to wail and Jack realized it was a juvenile, a very young one at that, judging by size. Crap, it was going to alert any other adults. He looked up at Carter and saw the same realization on her face and the same conclusion… they couldn’t shoot a baby.
“Run!” he shouted as he hopped up to his feet. Carter bolted for the ship, Jack on her heels. He chanced one glance over his shoulder but didn’t like what he saw. At least five pair of bright yellow eyes stared at him from thirty feet back. Their fur blended almost perfectly in the crisp snow. He wondered how long they had been watching and listening to his and Carter’s inane conversation about cats.
It seemed to take forever to get back to the ship. They were slipping and sliding around to the door when Jack heard the scratching of claws on metal. They both froze, looking up above the door.
“Crap,” Carter muttered, punching at the buttons to open the door.
Jack just hoped it would take the giant cat creature longer to figure out there was a gaping hole in the roof than it took them to get safely into the cargo hold. His heart pounding he shoved past Carter, his gun at the ready.
“Get the door open,” he shouted at her as he trained his weapon at the hole above the pilot’s seat. Carter was already working the controls when several other animals appeared in the viewscreen. They were massive, barely having to stretch to place their paws onto the glass. A head peeked into the hole with a low growl and Jack emptied his clip in the general direction, several bullets ricocheting off the metal walls. The animals backed off momentarily and Jack heaved a soft sigh of relief when he heard the door hiss open behind him.
Carter was pulling him by the vest when the first one jumped into the cockpit and immediately launched at them. He stumbled back, tripping over Carter’s feet. She slapped the control panel and the door slid crisply shut just as the large animal collided with a thud. The growls, hisses and scraping sent a crawling sensation across Jack’s skin, like fingernails on a chalk board. He sat staring up at Carter, panting hard. She looked as white as the snow.