Word Count: 2130
Story Notes: This takes place in... late season four, maybe?
Also, it was written for Gen Fic Day: Time Travel Alphabet Soup
Summary: Only SG-1 would travel through time based on the calculations of an extinct people. I mean, really, what could go wrong? Especially when you desperately need it to go right?
Dr. Janet Fraser made sure her gloves were snugly in place before adjusting the space blanket over Dr. Johnson, the botanist attached to SG-17. “You're doing fine,” she assured him, trying to overwhelm his shivering with the force of her words. He stared up at her, shocky, speechless. She gave up talking and smoothed his hair back until his eyes fluttered closed.
The eyes were the worst. The veined pattern under the skin, brown edged with blood red, could be any rash; the pain from impaired nerve function was less terrible than some diseases; but she'd never seen the black iris itself threaded with pale brown and green, both aqueous and vitreous fluids invaded. Nothing seemed to slow it; nothing they had access to.
Major Mansfield, the leader of SG-17, crouched beside her. “Nothing?”
Janet shook her head. “Not yet. Maybe if the SGC can get us that new anti-fungal drug in the next drop....” She shrugged. Focused on what news Mansfield might have. “Nothing from SG-1, huh?”
“Not a sign.” The man scrubbed a hand across his face. “Ever since they picked up those carved rods and twisted them—poof. Nothing.”
Janet took a deep breath, then another. “They'll be back. Hopefully with some new ideas.” Mansfield gave her a cynical look. “I trust Dr. Jackson's linguistic skills. They knew what they were getting into when they decided to use those artifacts.”
“If you say so, ma'am.” Mansfield paced back towards the crumbling walls of the ruin. To the makeshift camp where SG-17 huddled, studying, dozing, trying not to panic at every twinge of a foot fallen asleep.
You'd better, Janet thought fiercely, imagining what strange times SG-1 might have sent themselves to. Roasting hot summer (unlike the mild weather currently outside these walls), wars, non-fungal epidemics... oh, so many possibilities. You'd better have some idea what you just got yourselves, and the rest of us, into here. You'd just better come back.
The icy stones burned his bare hands. Jack O'Neill cursed long and fervently, deploying language he didn't always use around his team. “Thought you said this 'city' was in the most mild weather belt on the planet, Carter!” The fact that she wasn't actually here made blaming her even more satisfying.
He'd clearly gotten the short straw this time. He squatted in place and blew on his fingers until they tingled with feeling again. All right. He'd need to look around. Then he'd need to either build a damn fire or make peace with his maker and settle in to freeze.
The look around was disappointing. Jack wondered how far in time he'd traveled from SG-17 and whether it was forwards or back. Beyond the walls of this building, which Daniel had identified as a library/laboratory, the air was frigid, the ground bristling with frost. And the sun was high enough to call it midday; this was no night freeze, but something that hadn't shifted in days, maybe months.
Every plant he could see looked long dead. Trees bare, everything else rotted black under the frost. Could be mid-ice age or just midwinter. Whatever animals might have lived here weren't out and about. The only noises he heard were his own, plus the distant cracking of water ice--a lake or a river, maybe, somewhere to planetary west.
The fire was a bitch to get going. As he huddled over the pale flames, he inspected the artifact that had brought him here. A cylinder the length of his hand, intricately carved with symbols that Carter had informed him were actually circuitry. No matter how much he stroked or poked it, though, it didn't do anything now. Nothing like the first time he twisted it in both hands around it and found himself flat icy stone, alone.
As he tucked the cylinder into his jacket, Jack noticed a brown veiny pattern on the back of one hand. “Dammit, Daniel. This trip better have some kind of automatic return function, or we are all screwed.” He stretched and wriggled his fingers, but felt no pain. Ignoring the fungus, he curled up by the fire for a nap.
Teal'c rested poorly the first night. Kelno'reem had to be put off while he scouted the grassy plain where he had landed and determined by scent, sight and hearing which of the many animals and birds would be dangerous to him. By the second night, he felt more at home. During the heat of the third day, he rested deeply and thought, when he woke, of his mission.
Daniel Jackson had said that the scientists of this planet had been trying to find a cure. The artifacts they created should take anyone who used them to a time period thought to hold an answer to this mystery. Samantha Carter had reminded them all, before they each departed to a different time, that no matter how long they spent away, they would return near their departure. Excellent, Teal'c thought. He would find more to eat this evening, and begin his search the next dawn.
It proved easy to catch one of the small mammals rooting about nearby. The meat smelled sharp and metallic, not poisonous; he ate it in small, careful bites. He had seen no sign of human life. No buildings, no wells, no technology—no sign, even, of the Goa'uld. Perhaps he had traveled thousands of years into the past. Perhaps this would show him the cure.
In kelno'reem, near dawn, he felt the ground beneath him rumble. The sky past the horizon glowed brassy red, shadowed with billowing black. He started to his feet. The earth shook again, an audible roar from many miles away.
The glow brightened, became the gold-white of dancing lava thrown high into the air. Teal'c turned and ran.
Daniel Jackson paused behind the tall stone building to take a deep breath and adjust his starched hat.
This might be his last chance. He'd been here for three weeks, learning more of the language, figuring out which food items wouldn't make him sick, building trust. Finally he would get to sit and listen to local scholars discuss the fungal outbreak (which appeared to be confined to the poor quarter at the moment) and a possible cure. Historically, whatever they had found must not have worked, or the time-traveling machine would not have been invented. Although if it were something that had become extinct, maybe then...?
Daniel shook his head. He couldn't be late.
Inside the main room (which Daniel recognized as the original of the crumbling building they'd found the artifacts in, sometime in the future), men crowded onto wooden benches, leaning forward eagerly.
He only followed about half of the speeches, but the plant held up by someone who seemed to be a botanist was one he'd seen for sale in the local market. He had just enough of the language to ask a few questions about how medicine should be prepared from it and how applied. A sharp-featured young man (someone's apprentice; Daniel had met him last week outside this very building), prompted him now and then with appropriate vocabulary.
Daniel was pleased that he'd made a friend, but it reminded him that he'd have to get back to his own time to find out how his team was doing. More to the point, they'd have to do the same.
He took a moment to hope he'd translated the instructions on the artifacts correctly, and then asked another question.
The woman thrust a cool cloth into Sam Carter's hand and motioned towards the pallet where a child lay whimpering, clawing at his arms. She gave no verbal instructions; by now everyone seemed to understand that the tall, yellow-haired woman didn't speak their language.
Sam crouched next to the pallet and stroked the cloth up and down the little boy's arms. He quieted briefly, mesmerized by the relief. But he looked up at her out of blind, green-threaded eyes, and she knew he wouldn't make it. She'd learned that much in 30 hours.
The village was large by the standards of most pre-fedual planets SG-1 had visited, curled neatly into the same valley that would someday hold a stone city. When this epidemic was over, it would be much smaller. Sam had been doing her best to observe any and everything that the local wise women and religious leaders were trying; so far, the most effective palliative was liquor, and she didn't think she could take that home as an alternative treatment. Anyway, all those patients still died.
The number of deaths she had seen since arriving made Sam think that this strain of the fungus was more virulent than the strain contracted by members of SG-17. This boy whose brown hand she held might be dead by sunrise.
Sunset, sunrise, the wailing of bereaved parents, the chanting of prayers and the stink of burning pyres mingled together for Sam. She hid in a corner with a loaf of bread handed to her by another nurse, scarfed the whole thing down, and dozed shivering until someone shook her awake. She'd lost track of the hours--even the days--by the time she noticed anything useful.
An elderly man trembled in pain as a tiny young woman examined him. Sam held a bowl of water for her and observed the same under-skin rash, the same eye threading, the same... no, wait.
His gnarled hand was scaled and flaky. As if he had eczema. And near those patches, the fungal patterns stopped short. The young woman talked softly with her patient; Sam tapped her shoulder and pointed out the oddity.
The woman's face lit up. She spoke eagerly; the man blinked at her, then waved a hand in the direction of the river. The woman nodded, then scrubbed her own fingertips roughly into the scaly patches on his hand. The old man bit his lips against the pain, but endured it. She rubbed her contaminated fingers into her own face, near her eyes, back into her hair, then bowed in thanks to her patient.
Sam wondered if she could convince this old hunter to give her a skin sample. If she could find a knife sharp enough and a fire hot enough to sterilize it.
When Janet told this story later, over more than one drink, she said that SG-1 “popped back into existence like clowns falling out of a clown car.” The spacious stone floor, so empty for the past few hours, was suddenly crowded.
O'Neill sat up slowly, with none of the quick reflexes she associated with him. Daniel grinned and headed for Janet with a plant (roots and all) in one hand. Teal'c looked around, tense, then settled in a crouch next to Jack.
Sam flung herself to her feet, panting. She dropped the artifact cylinder from one hand and held out a small earthenware pot in the other. “Janet! I think I found what you need.”
Daniel rattled off something, then noted their incomprehension and switched to English. “Better than this plant? The scholars I spoke with definitely found it helpful.”
Sam shrugs. “I had no way to investigate properly, but check this out.”
Janet peeled away a square of oiled cloth and looked into the pot at a surgically thin slice of apparently human skin. Flaky, dry and irritated. Hmm. “Where's my microscope?” she heard herself asking, and then Daniel was there setting it up for her and Sam fetched an extra light.
The sample was fresh, oozing all over the glass slide. The irritant was obvious—a profusion of scurrying, multilegged forms shying from the slick glass, frantic over their cooling environment.
“Mites,” Janet said, looking up at Sam.
Sam nodded. “I think maybe they eat the fungus. Or secrete something that it can't stand. The woman I was helping out tried to inoculate herself with these things—rubbed them into her skin and hair.”
Janet nodded. “Definitely worth a shot.” She pointed at Daniel. “Write down what you know about the plant and we'll go over it later.” She picked up the pot with the rest of the skin sample and moved to Dr. Johnson, still shivering under his blanket.
Sam sat down heavily next to O'Neill and Teal'c.
“Hey.” O'Neill showed her his arm. “When the doc's done over there, let her know I got exposed.”
“I'm surprised it's only you, Jack,” Daniel said, joining them. “When did you travel to?”
“Future,” O'Neill said briefly. “Possible ice age.”
They huddled together and talked as Janet worked, weaving individual stories into a tapestry worthy of legend. The next time Janet looked over at them, Teal'c presided silently over his human comrades, who had fallen asleep around him in a heap. He nodded to her solemnly.
All was well. Till the next time.