Murphy's Law of Stargate Travel
Short story published in the Official Stargate Magazine, issue 25
Published by Titan Magazines
Featuring the classic SG-1 team. Some days, it just doesn't pay to step through that Stargate...
“Well, that’s unexpected.”
“Murphy’s Law number six.”
“Does Murphy’s Law apply to Stargate travel, Major Carter?”
Carter dragged her gaze away from the sight in front of them and glanced up at Teal'c. “Some of the teams on base have been putting together a list of laws and adages for Stargate travel. The main one, What ever can go wrong, will go wrong, was kind of a given, and they took it from there.”
“Number three: Whenever the MALP and UAV declare the target unoccupied, expect to be attacked the minute you ’gate in,” Jack offered, the binoculars still glued to his face.
“The quartermaster only has two sizes: too large and larger than that,” Daniel chimed in.
“Never stand when you can sit, never sit when you can lie down, never stay awake when you can sleep.” Jack’s favorite credo had almost become a personal law.
Teal'c nodded his approval. “When I was a young Jaffa in training we had a rule which served us well: Your God will never watch you until you make a mistake.”
“Oh, yeah, that translates into every military outfit,” Jack said. “Don’t be last, don’t be first and never volunteer.”
“The more obtuse the leader is the more important the mission he’s ordered to carry out,” Carter muttered not-so-softly. “Oh, sorry sir.”
Daniel snorted a laugh and offered up number eight. “The distance traveled to anything of interest will be inversely proportional to the inclemency of the weather and or angle of the uphill climb.”
Jack’s lips twitched and he couldn’t resist adding number five: “When your anthropologist slash scientist is fascinated – you won’t be.”
“Making nice with the natives does not include the chieftain’s daughter,” he sniped back.
Teal'c’s face flattened out into one of those smug little smiles of his. “A wise adage, Daniel Jackson.”
“Well, they’re not attacking,” Daniel said, getting back to the reason they were not heading off on their mission. “They’re just… milling.”
“That they are. And why, pray tell, are they here at all?” Jack scowled at Carter, wanting to blame someone and she was closest.
She shrugged off his glare and the blame. “The MALP probably couldn’t pick up details like that from way up there.”
Jack’s gaze drifted up the man- or alien-made structure they had just spent the last twenty minutes traversing down to ground level. It was certainly one of the more bizarre platforms supporting the Stargate that they had come across. Made of stone, it stood some three hundred feet high, a couple of hundred feet wide, wrapped by a walled walkway dotted with arches circling down the outside, and with the Stargate perched on the open space at the top. He shook his head and turned back to today’s snafu.
“Maybe they’re migratory,” Daniel suggested. “They seem peaceful.”
“Whatever seems peaceful will attempt to eat you as soon as you turn your back. Rule fifteen.” Jack caught the outraged looks from his scientists in the corner of his eye. “What? They’re pigs!”
“Jack. They might be sentient for all we know. Show a little respect.”
“Daniel. Short legs, curly tails, snouty… snouts and tusks that could easily gut a man – that says pig to me.” And there were certainly enough of them. He did a quick count of the creatures in the pack closest to them, multiplied by an estimate of the number of groups within the vast herd that covered the plain around the tower and stretched away so far that they blurred the horizon, and got… oy. Not enough ammo if they turn feral.
“I believe those on the outer edge of the group are watching us,” Teal'c rumbled uneasily.
“You come across pig-people before, Teal'c?”
Teal'c gave him that bland stare that made Jack feel like he was back in grade school and giving lip to the teachers.
“Just askin’.” He cleared his throat with a noisy cough that made more of the animals nearby stop their grazing and lift their heads to stare at him. “So, kids. Ideas, plans… recipes? Daniel, you once said you had a successful conversation with a dog, wanna give it a go here?”
“I’ve never – I didn’t – Jack….” Daniel sputtered into silence, glared at him and retreated to the far side of the path leading from the tower.
Jack was ready to call the mission a bust. Judging by Carter and Teal'c’s expressions they were in agreement.
“Maybe we can walk through them, sir,” Carter said.
“Yeah… that’d be a no.” He spied Daniel pulling out his camera and getting ready to settle in for a detailed examination of the tower’s base structure.
The same instant Daniel aimed the camera at the decorative inscriptions curling around the arch at the end of the walkway, a weird crooning sound filled the air. Rising swiftly in pitch, the crooning became a horrendous squeal vibrating the air and sending shivers down their backs. Jack flinched and whipped around to see the pigs nearest them moving forward at a slow trot, their heads up, nostrils quivering, curly tails wagging in the air. The squealing flowed on to the guys in back. Like a ripple over a lake the noise spread out through the herd until however-many-thousands of them were shrieking – and moving toward the tower.
“The only good retreat is a fast one,” Jack yelled over the din. “Run.”
No argument from the rest of the team. Daniel was first up the ramp, Carter close on his heels. Jack fell in behind Teal'c and they pounded up the curving path. Jack guessed they could make the top in five minutes if they really pushed it, and if the little porkers couldn’t move too quickly. Daniel was already out of sight, swallowed up by the curve of the tower. Jack glanced back, saw the first ranks of the animals nearing the foot of the building and kicked himself into second gear, nearly treading on Teal'c’s boots. They raced around the path – and narrowly avoided mowing down Carter who had stopped. Daniel sat sprawled on the ramp beside her, his hands braced as if he’d fallen back abruptly. Jack glared at them and then got a good look at the obstacle barring their way.
“What did you do?” he yelled.
“Oh, right, when something goes wrong blame the archaeologist,” Daniel shot back. “I didn’t do anything, Jack. It just slammed down as I got to it. Nearly sliced off my nose, I might add.” He got to his feet and thumped his pistol butt against the solid wooden door that now filled the previously empty archway.
Teal'c stuck his fingers into the barely visible crack between the door and the arch and attempted to heave the panel aside. It didn’t budge an inch. He pulled his knife and tried to slide it in but that too was impossible.
Jack heard the clatter of trotters on the stone behind them. He turned to face down the ramp and freed the safety on his gun. “Company’s coming.”
“There’s writing on the door, Jack.” Daniel peered closely at the border of the thick wood. “Teeny, tiny writing. Looks like Berber or a derivation….”
“Can you translate it, Daniel?” Carter shouted, raising her voice over the swell of angry squealing that was rapidly approaching.
“Yep, doing that, but I still don’t think you should kill those creatures. Might make things a lot worse.”
“One wonders how the situation could be worse than being overrun by hundreds of infuriated porcine, Daniel Jackson.” Teal'c towered over him, zat at the ready.
Daniel opened his mouth to answer but Jack cut him off. “Focus, Daniel. Translate now, semantics later.” The first piggy snout was coming into view. Jack gripped his weapon tightly then grimaced. Trust an archaeologist to throw a spanner in the works. He stepped back behind Teal'c out of the line of fire. “Teal'c, Carter, try zatting them – just in case Daniel’s right.”
Carter gave him a nod and dropped to one knee. “He usually is, sir.”
She opened fire in tandem with Teal'c. Threads of blue voltage sizzled over the front rows of pigs, felling them in their tracks. Ten, twenty or more fat little black bodies piled up across the walkway, quickly log-jamming the rest to a halt behind them.
“Got it!” Daniel announced. The wooden door slid back into the side of the tower.
“Go, go, go!” Jack took off after Daniel who had shot up like a sprinter at the starter’s gun. Teal'c and Carter were hot on their heels.
SG-1 fled up the walkway. Leaving the sounds of the herd behind them they ran on and up, the curve of the path almost enough to make them dizzy. It was disorienting enough to distort Jack’s usually keen spatial sense.
“Anyone remember how many of those archways there were?”
“Three, I think, sir.”
“I believe there were four, Major Carter.”
“Jack? You think the rest are going to be blocked too?” Daniel managed to glance over his shoulder while still running. Which is why he failed to see the second archway, firmly sealed with a nice big wooden door.
Jack snagged the pack on Daniel’s back and yanked him to one side. They careened into the stone wall of the walkway, tripped over each other’s feet and landed in a heap.
“I’d say that’s a given, Daniel.”
“I believe our pursuers are gaining, O'Neill,” Teal'c informed them.
“I’m on it.” Daniel crawled over to the base of the door, fingers already seeking out the hidden trigger that he had found on the previous door. “Uh… guys, we may be in trouble now.”
“I thought you could read that,” Jack groused.
“I can. Well, I could read the first one, but this door’s inscriptions are a different dialect and the wording has changed.”
“Okay, take your time. No hurry. Nuthin’ else to do today.” Jack deflected the glare Daniel threw at him and went to join the defensive line.
The thunder of little feet was getting louder. Carter kept shooting glances over her shoulder at Daniel. The third time she did it, Jack tore his own eyes off the soon-to-be-not-empty pathway and yelled at her. “What, Carter?”
“Sir, I think I know where the trigger to the door is.”
“Well, don’t just stand there!”
“Right, uh, excuse me, Daniel.” She practically climbed over him to reach a spot on the bottom of the door – the precise opposite of where he was frantically searching. A click and a grind of wood over stone brought them both to their feet and the door clunked open.
“How did you know it was there?” Daniel asked.
“Well, it was just a stupid idea, really. I thought….”
Jack cut her off before she could really get going. “If it’s a stupid idea and it works, it isn’t stupid. Rule four.”
Teal'c opened fire on the approaching porkers, reminding the others they had better things to do than stand around chatting. The team took to their heels once more, sprinting up and up, heading for the next arch which was also certainly going to be closed off.
“O'Neill, I believe we should not waste time searching for the release to the next door,” Teal'c hollered in his ear as they charged around the sweep of the tower.
“Open to suggestions, T.”
In reply, Teal'c brought his staff weapon up and triggered the mouth of the thing open to firing readiness.
“Works for me.” Jack smiled and sped up, slipping between Carter and Daniel to take point. “Daniel, Carter, hold the piggies off while Teal'c does some renovation work.”
Teal'c maneuvered around his teammates, pulled his zat free and tossed it to Daniel. The next – barred – arch loomed into view. Jack skidded to a halt twenty feet away. Teal'c stopped several paces further on, planted himself steadily and opened fire. Carter and Daniel dropped to their knees in front of Jack, brought up the zats and let loose a sheet of zinging shots. The oncoming rush of beasts dropped in their tracks, but this time the second and third ranks swiftly clambered over their fallen comrades and kept on coming.
Squeals, snorts and deafening staff weapon blasts filled the air. Jack yo-yoed his gaze between Teal'c’s progress and the body count in front of the two scientists. Much as he didn’t want to cut the creatures down with a sub-machine gun, he was fast running out of choices. With the nearest pair of tusks only ten feet from his people, he stood and took aim.
“O'Neill! I have broken through the door,” Teal'c bellowed.
“The cavalry may not always come to the rescue but your friendly local Jaffa will,” he muttered. “Carter, Daniel, fall back.”
They scrambled to their feet, dodged around him and flung themselves through the smoldering hole Teal'c had burned in the middle of the door. Jack shook his head and dived through after them. He rolled out of Teal'c’s way and the four were up and running again.
They were three-quarters of the way up now. One more door to get through then a final sprint around the tower to the flat space at the top, dial up the ’gate, and they’d so be out of here. Easy. Yeah, and the easy way is always mined; don’t forget that little rule, Jack.
He raced on, breath now shorter and harder to pull into his burning lungs. Teal'c moved along steadily at his side, barely breaking a sweat. Behind them, the pursuit was getting closer and sounded angrier and meaner than ever. Jack exchanged a glance with Teal'c – they both knew that the fourth delay might be their undoing. Jack secured his weapon and ripped open a vest pocket. He pulled out a pale block of C4, clutching it tightly as he ran. Teal'c nodded in approval and fell back a little. Ahead, the last arch hove into view, firmly barring their way.
“Fall back to Teal'c’s position,” he yelled.
Jack dropped to his knees at the base of the door, slapped the charge in the center of the wood and pushed the detonator home. Behind him zats rang out again only to be drowned out under another hail of staff weapon blasts. Surprised, Jack took a quick peek over his shoulder. Teal'c was industriously digging a furrow in the stone pathway with his staff shots and the porky pursuers managing to climb over their stunned brethren were heading for a ditch already several feet deep.
Scooting on his butt back down the path, Jack whacked Carter’s and then Daniel’s shoulder to get their attention. “Cover up – fire in the hole!”
They flattened themselves to the ground, Teal'c doing likewise, and Jack flipped the switch on the remote. A nice satisfying boom rocked the tower, splinters and stone shards flew everywhere and even the piggies halted in their tracks. Jack grinned at the nice big hole where the door – and the arch – used to be. He leapt to his feet, the others right on his heels, and dashed up the slope.
One final turn around the tower brought them out onto the flat top where the Stargate sat in quiet glory, waiting to take them home.
“Daniel, dial us out.”
Daniel ran past him, threw Teal'c’s zat back to its owner and skidded up to the DHD. The address for Earth was punched in without pause and in seconds the Stargate was churning, locking in the coordinates then coming to life with a glorious splash of blue light. Their GDO code sent, Daniel called out, “Gate’s open, let’s go!”
He was answered by a massed squeal from hundreds of voices. The ever-persistent animals – beings – whatever they were – flooded up the walkway and spread out onto the open space surrounding the Stargate. Jack, Carter and Teal'c closed ranks around Daniel, cautiously walking backward toward the waiting wormhole. Curiously, for some reason the porky ones kept their distance from the Stargate. Coming no nearer than twenty feet they shuffled around, packing themselves in tight until the entire space was filled with grunting, snuffling, heaving bodies.
Tusks gleamed in the bright sunlight, and yet they came no closer to the four humans. The creatures settled down, shuffling here and there with a few snorts and clatters of hooves. All around the circle they faced the Stargate, emphatically barring the way off the roof of the tower.
“What are they doing?” Carter whispered.
“Damned if I know and I really don’t want to stay and find out.” Jack gestured at the Stargate. “Get going.”
Carter didn’t need further prompting. She stepped into the event horizon and was gone in a flash. Daniel lingered and Jack could see the wistful thinking going on in his head.
“Couldn’t we just….”
“But they’re not attacking.”
“They still outnumber us a zillion to one, and they’re not gonna let us down the ramp. Door’s open, time to go.”
Daniel heaved a sigh that almost covered the surreptitious click of his camera. He backed up, snapped one more picture then stepped into the Stargate and was taken home.
Jack indicated to Teal'c to head on through. Teal'c bowed, jauntily shouldered his staff weapon and departed with a slurp of the wormhole.
Jack took one final, guarded look at the devotional piggies. “Well, guys, it’s been a blast. Sorry for intruding. You can go back to whatever you were doing.”
As one, every creature’s head turned toward him. A sound that was an awful lot like a condescending grunt rippled out through the gathering. With a waggle that looked like a piggy shoulder-shrug, they turned and began to file down the walkway, heads and tails high, not giving Jack any further consideration.
He shook his head, bemused. What a weird galaxy they lived in. He reflected for a moment on the seamless teamwork of his kids. The weirder their missions got, the more he appreciated O’Neill’s Law of Stargate Travel: Nothing was impossible for the team called SG-1.