By The Sentinel
McCoy blinked hard against the water falling on his face. He sat up, clutching his head. What the hell had just happened? The last thing he remembered was walking the streets of Florence, Italy. He and Detective Lennie Briscoe were on their way to meet Claire Kincaid, his assistant, and Detective Mike Logan, Briscoe's partner, for lunch. He could not remember actually making it to the restaurant, but there was a lot, right now, he was not remembering.
A voice to his left interrupted his musings and he turned his head. Well, it's better than being lost alone. "What do you need, Det. Briscoe?"
"An umbrella'd be nice." That usual smirk sound was in his voice.
McCoy held out a hand, catching the droplets. "Yeah, I'll get right on that."
Ugh. The Arno River was dirty and Florence smelled, but at least, if it did decide to rain, there were buildings for shelter from the weather. Here? Here it was just trees and rain. McCoy squinted through the downpour, looking for anything that resembled shelter.
"Any idea where we are?" Briscoe asked, wiping water from his face.
"Any idea how we got here?" McCoy returned.
"No. But if we stay here," Briscoe rose to his feet, "all we'll get is wet." He crossed to McCoy and extended a hand to help the attorney from the ground.
Pulling himself to his feet with Briscoe's aid, he responded, "Agreed." He shook some of the water from his hands and ran them over his hair. "So, where do we go from here?"
Briscoe scratched his head. Shrugged. "Well, I guess we walk."
McCoy cocked an eyebrow and stepped in time with the soaked detective.
"Any idea where we're going, Detective?" McCoy asked, grimacing at the squishing noise his shoes made as he walked.
Briscoe shook his head. "No. And, Counselor, since we'll probably be here a while, call me Lennie, huh?"
"Sure, Lennie," McCoy smirked and wiped water from his face again.
The trees were not much shelter, but McCoy figured it would be worse if there had been no trees. Ahead of them, the trees parted into a clearing, the center of which was a lovely pond. At least, it would have been lovely had it not been raining.
McCoy glanced to the ground, caught a glimpse of his shoes. "Aw man. I hate mud."
"What's wrong, Counselor?"
McCoy sneered at Briscoe. "Uh, Jack will be fine. I'm getting mud, and everything else, inside my shoes."
"Yeah? Me too. Get over it."
"Thanks. You're a big help."
Mud, mud, and more mud met every step through the wooded area. The rain was not letting up and McCoy was sure it would not for quite some time. He sighed heavily and plodded along with Briscoe at his side. How could any planet require so much rain?
"Hey, do we have anything to eat?" Briscoe asked.
"We were going to lunch. We didn't pack anything. So, I would say, no."
"That's comforting. Any ideas?"
"Gimme a minute."
The gate closed behind them as they descended the six stone steps. Colonel Jack O'Neill pulled his collar up around his neck. The rain had begun the moment they stepped through the Stargate.
"Carter! Can we get some shelter here?"
"Yes, sir!" Major Samantha Carter yelled over the beating rain.
She began setting up a tent. Her team members, O'Neill and Teal'c, the Jaffa, helped, while Dr. Daniel Jackson, the archaeologist, picked around the area's vegetation. Once the tent was pitched, all crawled in to take shelter from the rain.
"Carter, why didn't the MALP pick up this storm?" O'Neill asked, shaking out his hat and jacket.
The blond major shook her head. "I don't know, sir. All the readings came back showing fair weather and sun. This was unexpected."
"Convenient we were planning an extended stay and brought the tent, eh?"
Carter could only smile. Her commanding officer had a biting wit and was never afraid to use it. Of course, this occasionally caused some tension when it rubbed someone the wrong way.
"Uh, Jack, I've been thinking," Daniel began, rubbing his glasses with a handkerchief to dry them, "I didn't see any animal life here."
"It is raining." O'Neill's eyebrows rose.
"Yes, but not all animals hide from the rain. Jack, if there is no animal life..."
"...there's probably no human life. I know." O'Neill sighed and rubbed his eyes.
"Sorry." Daniel pushed his glasses onto his face.
O'Neill took a deep breath, preparing to ask a question for which he was fairly sure he knew the answer, "Teal'c, I don't suppose you know anything about this planet?"
"I do not. This planet is not familiar to me," Teal'c responded, stone faced as usual.
"So, you're pretty sure the goa'uld have never been here?" O'Neill pressed.
"I am. If they had, there would be signs of their presence."
Daniel's ears seemed to perk. "You mean like potential hosts?"
Teal'c nodded. "Or destroyed vegetation. Signs of an enslaved people."
"So, I guess we're okay for now?" O'Neill asked.
"Looks that way," Daniel responded.
The colonel nodded. He glanced out the tent flap; the rain was still falling. "Carter, any chance this rain will let up before we drown?"
"I hope so, sir." Carter crawled to the tent flap, looked to the sky.
O'Neill saw her frown. "What is it, Carter?"
"Sir, it's raining cats-and-dogs, we may be here a while."
"Cats-and-dogs?" Teal'c asked, confused. "I see no felines or canines falling from the sky, Major Carter." He shifted his eyes between Carter and O'Neill, searching for answers.
"It's just an expression, Teal'c. It means it's raining really hard with no sign of letting up. Kind of like now." O'Neill pointed toward the outside.
"I see. Thank you, O'Neill."
"You're welcome, Teal'c." O'Neill reached into his pack. "Shall we feast while we wait out the storm?" O'Neill held up field rations, neatly packaged in their vacuum-sealed bags.
"Sounds good." Daniel glanced around a moment. "Um, Jack, don't we have to cook these?"
"We should be able to set up the cooking sterno just outside the tent and heat the food," Carter explained, sliding to the tent entry to set up the supplies.
"So, Lennie, since we can't eat, can we sleep?" McCoy squished several steps faster to catch up with the detective.
"Yeah." Briscoe glanced around the area. "Well, the best we can do is one of two things: climb a tree and nestle into the branches," he almost laughed at the look on McCoy's face, "or we can just lean against the tree, down here on the ground."
"Let's go with that one."
"Right." Briscoe removed his jacket and placed it on the ground. "Have a seat, counselor." Briscoe motioned to the jacket as he sat himself on it.
McCoy nodded and removed his own jacket. He sat on Briscoe's and the two men pulled McCoy's jacket as much over themselves as possible.
"Good night, Lennie."
"Night, Jack." Briscoe took a breath. "Damn rain."
O'Neill rolled over and bumped into something. He patted the figure beside him as he sat up, yawning. "Carter?"
"Hmmm?" she groaned, trying to roll, but found herself blocked by O'Neill.
"Is it still raining?" He really did not want to know if the answer was going to be yes.
Carter blinked and listened. She pushed herself to her elbows and listened again. "I think so, sir. Want me to check?"
Placing a hand on her shoulder, he responded, "No, Major. Go back to sleep."
Nodding she settled back into the ground and closed her eyes.
"I hate the rain," the Air-Force colonel mumbled as he lowered himself to the ground to try to sleep a few more hours.
McCoy opened his eyes and scratched his stubbly chin. He blinked and rubbed the sleep from his eyes. The rain had stopped, for a moment anyway. He nudged Briscoe with his elbow. "Hey, Lennie."
"What?" Briscoe asked groggily.
Briscoe looked around and responded, "Great. Let's get going."
Both men got to their feet, ready to plod along, searching for more substantial shelter, or human civilization.
The sun was rising and a haze was settling over the trees.
"How long have we been out here?" McCoy scruffed his hair.
"Well, by my best guess, I'd say a little over fifteen hours."
McCoy groaned. Fifteen hours in the rain and wet. He was sure he would catch something out here, wherever here was. "Still no ideas where we are?"
"Nope. We'd better find out soon though, because we're gonna need food."
"Yeah. You suppose Domino's delivers out here?"
Briscoe let out a short laugh. "Yeah. Maybe I can have my dry-cleaning delivered too. I need new clothes."
They walked. Trees, trees, and more trees; grass, grass, and more grass, all wet from the storm. Two hours of trudging through soggy grass and squishy sticky mud, and they emerged from the trees into hazy sunlight.
He heard a twig snap and whirled around, weapon ready. "Hold it!" he commanded the two disheveled men at the edge of the wood.
The two men froze, their hands in the air.
"Colonel?" Carter called as she jogged across the clearing. She had heard him yell, and was prepared to act as back-up if necessary. "Who are they?"
"I don't know, Carter." He eyed the two strangers suspiciously.
"Um, excuse me. Maybe I can answer that?" Briscoe stepped forward, but stopped at the sight of the colonel pointing the automatic weapon his way.
Carter turned to O'Neill. "Sir, we should at least let them explain."
"All right, I'm Detective Lennie Briscoe and this is ADA Jack McCoy...."
"Detective? As in, cop?" O'Neill asked.
"Yes. We were in Florence on our way to meet some colleagues for lunch...."
Briscoe sneered. "Are you going to let me finish?" He waited for O'Neill's affirmation before continuing. "We were going to meet some friends for lunch and the next thing we know, we're here, in the rain."
"How long have you been walking around here?" Carter asked, concerned.
Briscoe looked at his watch. "A little over twenty-four hours."
Carter thought a moment. "Excuse us a minute." She turned O'Neill and herself away from the strangers. "Sir, they've been out here a long time and look like they haven't eaten in quite some time."
"We have food."
"Sir, we have to tell them where they are and about how we are their only way home."
"Sir, if we don't tell them, we can't take them home. They have as much right to go home as we do."
"But how did they get here?"
"I don't know, sir. And I'll wager they don't either. We'll have to figure that out before we leave."
"Fine, but they'll have to stay with us until we're ready to go back."
"I understand, sir."
"How do we know they're telling us the truth about who they are?"
"Ask for I.D.?"
O'Neill turned back to Briscoe and McCoy. Both men had identification out and ready to read. The colonel shook his head. "Put your hands down." A heavy sigh escaped as he shifted his weapon to a non-threatening position. "Carter, get these men something to eat."
"Yes, sir." She motioned for Briscoe and McCoy to follow.
"This is one strange place, Jack," Briscoe whispered to McCoy as they walked behind the military woman.
"Yeah. The locals aren't too bad though," McCoy commented, eyeing the woman strolling in front of him.
Briscoe held back a laugh, then addressed their leader, "Excuse me, but I don't recall getting your name."
"Major Samantha Carter," she called over her shoulder.
"Major, huh? Air Force?" Briscoe guessed.
"Yeah. You used to be military?"
"A long time ago."
"I'm sorry, I hate to break up this beautiful dialogue, but how much farther do we have to walk? My back is killing me." McCoy pressed his hands into his spine and leaned backward, stretching muscles.
Carter smiled over her shoulder at the attorney. "Not much longer, sir."
"Daniel," O'Neill called, crossing the open field, "Find anything?" He slid his sunglasses to rest on his head, squinting against the rising sun.
"Well, nothing to indicate human life, or much animal life either." Daniel rubbed the back of his neck as he stood to talk with O'Neill.
"Much animal life?"
"Well, I saw a couple birds flying overhead, but I haven't seen anything else."
O'Neill shook his head. "This is going to take a lot longer than we thought, isn't it?"
"I'm not sure. Teal'c's helping me and Sam will when she gets back."
"Yeah, about that...."
"We have some unexpected guests."
"What are you talking about? Goa'uld?" Daniel's face shifted into a semi-scowl.
"No. A cop and an attorney."
"Funny, Daniel." O'Neill was impressed with the scientist's sudden burst of humor. "No. They found themselves here yesterday, I believe, and I don't think this is where they had planned to spend their vacation."
"So, what are we going to do?"
"Find out how much they know about the Stargate, and then take them home."
"So, Major Carter, where exactly are we?" McCoy asked as he finished the small glass of water he had been given.
"Well, it's hard to say. We'll have to talk to the colonel about that." Carter was trying not to sound too military or "top secret", but she did not have much choice. Her job was not public knowledge, and now, these two were going to learn one of the best kept secrets the government had.
"Oh, I see. It's hard to say. Did you catch that, Lennie?"
A snort preceded his response, "Yeah. I've heard that before."
Carter smiled. "Well, if you want to know, come with me. We'll go ask the colonel right now. I'm sure he would enjoy your appreciation of my following protocol." She motioned for them to exit the tent.
"See, look what you did, Jack. You got us in trouble," Briscoe teased.
"Shut up and go." McCoy pushed the detective into the hot sun of the afternoon.
Chuckling under her breath, Carter led the two men across the open field to where Daniel was conducting his observations.
"Something amusing, Major?" O'Neill asked of his approaching teammate.
"No, sir. Our guests were just inquiring of our whereabouts, sir." She shielded her eyes against the sun as she spoke to her commanding officer.
"Ah. I see. Well, the best I can tell you gentlemen is that we are currently on P3X-219," O'Neill responded nonchalantly.
"Excuse me? What the hell is P3X-219?" McCoy furrowed his brow and almost snarled at the Air Force colonel.
"Well, it's the extrapolation number given to the planet we are currently visiting," Carter began, "It's based on a binary code...."
McCoy leaned over and spoke in Briscoe's ear. "Lennie, are you getting any of this?"
"I think I stopped listening about the time she said 'Well'."
McCoy crossed his arms over his chest and waited for the Air Force Major to finish her explanation. The blank look on his face apparently not indicating the fact that he was no longer listening. Once she was done, he spoke again. "Fine, but that does not answer the most pressing question. How are we supposed to get back to where we were before we were brought here?"
Briscoe gave him a strange look and he realized his sentence had been rather drawn out and lengthy. He frowned and let the two officers deal with sorting it out on their own.
O'Neill shifted his feet a bit and looked over his shoulder to where Daniel had scurried to make further observations. "Well, I can't tell you much more than that right now, but, we could use some help scouting out this planet for any signs of life."
"I take it that's not a negotiable request." Briscoe was blunt.
"Depends. When do you want to go home?"
"Sir? They're not prisoners," Carter defended the two Manhattanites.
"Carter, we cannot just assume that they are who they say they are, even though they have identification." O'Neill cocked an eyebrow at her, hoping she would understand his meaning.
"Are you two going to help us?" O'Neill posed his question again.
"Yeah, sure. Why not. There's not much else we can do." Briscoe shrugged and followed the colonel.
2 weeks later:
McCoy crossed the field to Major Carter. They had been on this planet for two weeks, he was hot and tired and in dire need of a shower and a change of clothes. "Can I ask you something?" He knelt beside her, plucking a blade of grass from the ground.
"Sure." The major smiled at him, pulling her hat down to keep the sun out of her eyes.
"How exactly are we getting home?" He and Briscoe had asked before, but there had been much work to do and their help was needed, so they let the matter drop until a more convenient time.
Major Carter tossed her instrument aside and rose to her feet, brushing dirt from her pants. "Well, since we'll be leaving in a couple days, I guess it's time to tell you." Her warm smile drew out one of his. "You remember we told you we were on a planet designated P3X-219?"
"Yeah," he nodded.
"Well, the colonel, Dr. Jackson, Teal'c and I all came to this planet through what's known as a Stargate."
"That big ring back at the camp?"
"Yes. That's our way home."
"You're kidding, right?"
"No. You dial in an address and a wormhole forms between the two gates." She watched his face and tried again. "See, a wormhole can only form between two active gates, and not all planets have Stargates. But we're only going to dial Earth."
McCoy squeezed the bridge of his nose; all the information he had just received slamming around in his head was giving him a migraine. "Okay. I understand that we're not on Earth, but that ring you call a Stargate, has nothing in the center of it. How does that work?"
"That's what I was trying to tell you with the wormhole. See, when you enter in the coordinates for another gate, a corridor forms between them and it carries you to the other side." She saw that he still did not quite understand. "Okay, I'll try again...."
"Carter!" O'Neill called from several steps away. "Leave the man alone."
"Yes, sir." She smiled at McCoy and retrieved the instrument she had tossed aside earlier.
"It's all right, I think I'm beginning to understand."
"Really?" O'Neill gave the attorney an odd look. "I've been doing this for four years, and I still don't understand."
"That makes me feel a lot better," Briscoe remarked as he approached.
O'Neill ignored the comment from the cop and spoke to his fellow officer, "Major, how much more do we need to do here?"
"Well, sir, we've covered a large area and tested the soil, water, and air as best we can without the labs, and aside from the sudden appearance of Detective Briscoe and Mr. McCoy, everything seems fine. I think we should monitor the planet, and probably ourselves and our 'guests' for a month or so, just to make sure everything's all right."
"Monitor us?" O'Neill's eyebrows arched high. "Why?"
"Sir, not to spook anyone, but this place has no animal life, except the few birds Daniel says he saw. There must be a reason. I need to take some samples back and study them with the equipment in the lab."
"Yeah, sure, pack it up tight. We're leaving in two hours."
"Carter, we're getting out of here. Is that clear?"
"Yes, sir." She turned and walked away to locate Daniel and Teal'c.
"We're leaving today?" Briscoe inquired.
"Yes. I don't know what the hell is going on here, but I'm sure as hell not gonna stick around to find out the hard way. We can monitor the planet from our base back home."