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Aberrant: Stargate Universe - One Bright Morning (SG-21) [FIN]

Adrian Moss

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{I'm planning to break this fiction dowin into four parts. The first part will be the team heading out, giving each other crap, and such like. The second part will be the ambush, were Sgt. Delcan will spray down the rest of us with blanks in a simulated (and unknown to the rest of you) ambush. Even Caine won't know when its coming, only that its coming on the first part of the run.

The third part will come at the midway point with everyone taking a break and seeing how winded (or not winded) they are. The fourth part will be at the completion of the run when everyone evaluates how they did and how well their team mates did.}

{Order heading out is Perault at point then Caine, Jenings-Izumi, Jones and Pike bringing up the rear watch.}

{At the midway point, Pike takes point and Perault takes up the rear.}

{Don't forget to enjoy the Colorado wilderness, the crips clean 40F degree air, the buring sun, and the rocky deer trails the team will be using. Caine has a map which he will show everyone, but will be most important to the point men.}

{Pike and Perault will be carrying 30kg kits - basic kit, no frills, because they are on point. Caine and Jones will hump their extra gear. Olivia will carry a 20kg pack - food and personal medkit only - because she is a beginner. She and Jones have already decided what other supplies the team might need on a mission. Which is bad for Jones, because he will be carrying a 75kg kit with most of the science supplies and the rest of Price's gear. Caine will run around with a 65kg kit because he is the teams only medic right now, plus he's carrying Perault's spare gear. Didn't I say this would be fun!}

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They stood gathered together at the cavernous entrance of Cheyenne Mountain. The guards stood at their duty stations and while they shouldered their pack a jeep drove by.

"Okay everyone, huddle."

Caine knelt down and opened up a laminated map of the area. His finger struck hawk-like at a point on the map. As he spoke, it snaked around, stopping once, then continuing around until they returned to the point of his first strike.

"This is the route we will be taking. There are various animal paths and open areas for us to go move through. Here is the 10km point. We will take a break here, ten to twenty minutes as needed. We will then take this route around the spur her and over the top of this outcropping to come back to the base ... here. Everyone got that? Good."

Caine stood and shouldered his pack with a grace and ease that belied its weight.

"Time to run. Perault, you are on point."

Looking to Olivia and HG,

"It will be Me then Jenings-Izumi. Jones, you bring up the tail end. Ready?"

He knew that Olivia wasn't ready. She was probably dreading this. There was nothing else he could do though. They had to be forged into a team.

"Let's go."

With Perault in the lead by some few meters ... and gaining, the Team headed out into the sunlight and the biting cold.

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Gwyn had arrived a few minutes early to get accustomed to the heat of the sun and the cold of the day, an odd phenomena but one he was well acquainted with from his native North Wales. His pack was possibly going to be a problem, not the weight of it, 75kg would be no problem for him these days even without boosting up his mass and strength. No, it was simply the bulk of it, made up by his and Pikes gear to some degree, but mainly the science survey stuff - testtubes for various samples, air samplers, a spectrometer for light, a couple of different radiation counters, a simple estimate for local gravity, video and audio recorders, spare batteries for everything, solar and windup chargers. He was also concerned how much of it was going to survive the run intact. Gwyn had been on similar runs on the Commando course and didn't trust Major Caine not to have a surprise for them at some point around the course.

When Caine gathered them around to look at the map Gwym made a point of examining it well as he could from his position. His increased visual and mental accuity made memorising it relatively simple, and he immediately started analysing the route for the easiest sections, the hardest sections and the most likely locations for a potential 'surprise'.

His position in the running was no surprise to him, putting the 'non'-combatants in the middle was to be expected.

"Don't worry doctor, you can do much better than you think you will, I know I've been through this from your position less than a year ago. Just concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other for this run. Eventually, you will get enough used to it that you can start to pay attention to your surroundings."

As they set off Gwyn waited for Olivia to set off then took up a position just a step or two back of being beside her. From there he could see Sgt Perault slowly pulling away from the main group.

After a minute or two and feeling no shortness of breath, Gwyn remembers similar scenes from various military based films, and one in particular comes to mind, Stripes starring Bill Murray. With a smile he starts to sing in time to their running.

"There she was just a walking down the street,

singing doo wa diddy dum diddy do..."

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He moved smoothly ahead of them at a steady trot. A 'run' was seldom just that, especially in the mountains. A fast march was a better approximation of the pace that was set. The load each soldier carried and the treacherous footing in most wilderness made running a dangerous proposition. Even though he was enhanced, good habits from Dec's past had stayed with him. 20km was a long way in the mountains, especially for the Doc.

As point man, Declan kept himself roughly 50 metres ahead of the others, treating this as though it were real. Which was the point. "Their drills are bloodless battles, and their battles are bloody drills" He remembered that from Ranger School, something about how the professional Roman legions prepared for their trade. The message was simple enough: train as though it were real, and when it was real it'd be close to what you'd trained for.

So Declan kept his senses sharp, making himself aware of everything around him. As soon as the path left the clear ground and entered the pine wooded mountainside, the Ranger stepped off the path and moved parallel to it as silently and ghostlike as he could manage.

Which was pretty damn ghostlike, he was surprised to note. He'd done point work in the Rangers, of course, being one of the best at that task. There was an art and a knack to moving silently in the woods: placing each foot carefully, weight always on the back foot until one was sure that there was nothing under the front to snap or rustle, then step quickly like a bird. Rinse and repeat. It was comical to watch... right up to the point the watcher realised that the big guy walking like a funny flamingo was actually making about as much noise as the wind, and if you didn't know he was there, he'd be able to cut your throat in a second and you wouldn't even know it.

This time, it was easier than ever. He moved without even a clink from his pack or brushing noises from his trousers. All around him, nature went about it's business undisturbed, and Sgt. Perault felt like laughing as he sped up his pace. He wasn't even disturbing the ground he walked across, he noted in passing. He grinned now and adjusted his shades. If the Major had anyone waiting up there to surprise him, they'd have a pisser of a job getting the drop on him now. Fuck, I'm not just a Ranger now, I'm a fuckin' ninja.

Every now and then, he emerged from the woods either side of the path to allow people to see him and wave the all-clear. His team-mates, 50 metres back, were somewhat surprised to see the huge smile on the man's face before he once more vanished into the undergrowth without even a swaying bush to mark his passing.

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"Okay everyone, huddle."

Caine's words knocked Olivia out of her fugue and she gladly joined the huddle, slipping in between Gwyn and Declan. Both men made lovely wind-blocks and hot water bottles, and Olivia may have been a little too eager to snuggle between them. But she should have still been in bed, damn it!

She memorized the map with a glance. All too soon, the debriefing was over, and there was no choice left to her. Declan led off, Caine followed after him and then Olivia. How nice of Caine to let me follow his pert behind, Olivia mused, desperate to think about anything other than the cold air, the bouncing backpack and the pounding of her teammates as they ran together. Even Gwyn's singing didn't help, beyond giving her one more thing that she'd remember forever.

At first, she did ok, far better than she expected. She told herself she was fine, that she needed to buck up because she was carrying the least amount of stuff. That worked for a little longer. Caine's ass worked for a little longer, testament to it's superior attractiveness. But about half way to the resting point, which itself was half-way for the entire run, Olivia was done. Gwyn noticed that she began to slow down; his encouragements to her helped very little.

Caine dropped back to spur her on, but Olivia had already pushed herself beyond her limits, and the only thing helping her was momentum. At the next hill, she lost even that. She hit her knees when her foot caught a branch - though it should be said that she went to her elbows, knees and then her face. Seconds later, the granola bar she'd figured wouldn't hurt and the coffee she'd need to even get vertical hit the ground, too. She managed to half-crawl, half-roll away from the steaming pile before her arms gave way and her head thudded to the ground. Resting on her knees, elbows and forehead, she would have begged for sweet death at that moment, had she had the strength.

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Major Caine could feel the calamity before it happened. He remember those faces from the days at West Point. She was going to hurl ... and she did. With a four man team, the solution was simple, if painful. What was even more paintful was that he knew the Sgt. was out there. If he doubled back now ... Caine barely shrugged. Worry about the things you can effect.

"Jones," Caine said with authority, "Give me your pack. I'll run them both. You pick up the Doctor in a piggyback and follow."

That said, he walked over to Olivia, opened his canteen, and offered it to her.

"Rinse out your mouth, Doc. We'll carry you to the midpoint. You've done good, so relax."

Caine looked up and scanned the ridge. This was a bad place. Lots of cover and high ground riddled with large stones. Wonderful.

Caine shouldered Jones load straight onto his back. They had to keep moving.

"We need to keep moving," he urged his team mates.

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"I can manage both and it will save time in this exposed location."

Gwyn looked around, trying to spot an ambush in the surroundings. This was one of the possible locations he had noted in his analysis of the route map.

As soon as the doctor had rinsed her mouth he scooped her up into his arms and set off at a jog.

"Two things Major, one is that you'd be better unencumbered with your weapons, and second are we allowed to use our powers today or are we to assume them negated for the day?"

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Caine was right: it was a bad place to stop. It was also a very bad place to stop and bunch up.

Declan couldn't help it: he grinned. Gunmetal silver eyes glinted in the shadow of an overhanging rockface as he contemplated the group about 50 metres away. He felt kind of bad for Olivia: she was the weakest physical link and it had been all too easy for him to predict almost to within 10 metres where she would drop. Right here, in the worst sort of terrain, where a small team definitely did not want to stop.

If they had been properly trained and used to each other on these marches, Caine would not even have needed to pause to issue orders, and they would not have needed to bunch up if one man went down. But he saw Caine standing by Olivia, letting her recover for a moment as Jones came up level with them, already shucking off his pack to hand over to the Major. Olivia was gasping for breath, tears running down her cheeks from a mixture of agony and exhaustion.

He snugged the stock of the stun-gun, a replica of a Steyr assault rifle that nevertheless fired bolts similar to a Zat gun, in against his shoulder and slowly, very slowly raised it. The human eye spotted fast, jerky movements, but Sgt. Perault was anything but jerky as the barrel slowly rose to point level with the trio below him. He felt a slight thrill, similar to the one he used to get before action in the old days, but stronger somehow, as though he was fulfilling a grand purpose for which he had been specifically designed.

As indeed he might have been.

Officers first... he grinned mirthlessly, sighting down on the side of Caine's head. The world was becoming crystal-edged again, colors deepening and becoming more vibrant. He'd never felt more alive. Jones scooped up Olivia without wasting any further time, but it was too late, too late...

He squeezed the trigger.

Click to reveal.. (Marco...? Polo!)

Dec's Stealth Roll:

(16:45:46) ChatBot: (Sgt._Perault) rolls 9d10 and gets [2],3,10,10,8,5,8,6,10.

5 succs + 3 for Catfooted = 8 succs to hide.

He's also used Tactical Prodigy to pick the perfect spot to fire from, applying Analyse Weakness to the overall plan to eliminate flaws.

Tac Prod Roll:

(17:04:44) ChatBot: (Sgt._Perault) rolls 3d10 and gets 2,9,5.

1 Succ

Analyse Weakness roll:

(17:05:45) ChatBot: (Sgt._Perault) rolls 3d10 and gets [7],4,1

2 succs

+ 3 bonus die to Tactics Roll to set the perfect ambush:

17:07:54) ChatBot: (Sgt._Perault) rolls (Wits & Tactics) 10d10 and gets [9],3,2,10,2,8,2,10,4,10.

(17:08:37) (Sgt._Perault): re-rolling 10's for Levelheaded: 3

(17:08:41) ChatBot: (Sgt._Perault) rolls 3d10 and gets 5,3,7

Total = 8 successes on Tactics roll!

Could be construed as a bonus to the overall Stealth check, seeing as the tactical situation is an ambush. Dec wouldn't be in any obvious hiding places, wouldn't be skylined, etc.

If Fox doesn't disagree, then that makes 16 succs to Stealth.

Otherwise, however he wants to play it. smile

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((I don't believe anyone stands a chance at seeing you at the moment with those rolls even if they weren't distracted. Also, you guys have been issued stun weapons. They look just like the real thing but shoot energy bolts that stun somewhat like a zat.))

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Two blue-white bolts of light streaked from behind and to the left side of the group, the first not even having hit Major Caine in the temple before the second was on it's unerring path... straight into the back of H.G. Jones's head.

Both men crumpled, Jones dropping the exhausted Olivia as he fell, and spasmed slightly, their eyes staring wildly as their bodies refused to obey the commands their brains were sending.

Everything was still for a few heartbeats afterwards except for the twitching of the two stunned men.

Click to reveal..

(21:05:53) ChatBot: (HG_Jones) rolls (Awareness) 7d10 and gets 2,1,6,3,4,9,6

1 succ. +14 succs for Dec to hit from ambush

(21:07:05) ChatBot: (Adrian) rolls Awareness 8d10 and gets 7,10,3,3,1,8,5,9

4 succ. +11 Succs for Dec to hit from ambush.

Taking 2 actions, firing a shot at Caine and Jones.

Multiple action penalty -2 dice for first shot(8 dice), -3 for second (7 dice)

First shot on Caine: Head shot.

(21:11:37) ChatBot: (Declan) rolls 8d10 and gets [8],8,3,9,8,4,3,6

5 Succs + 11 succs from ambush - 3 succ for diff = 13 succs. (Doesn't matter here because they're stun guns, but yeah...)

Second shot on Jones: Head Shot.

(21:15:26) ChatBot: (Declan) rolls 7d10 and gets [8],9,2,1,9,6,6.

4 succs + 14 succs from ambush - 3 succs for diff = 15 succs.

Caine and Jones: Each of you are stunned for 10 rounds minus the successes you get on a Stamina and Resistance roll.

(21:20:48) ChatBot: (Adrian) rolls 8d10 and gets 3,1,2,5,4,7,1,9.

(21:20:56) (Adrian): 2 successes = stunned for 8 rounds

(21:22:25) ChatBot: (HG_Jones) rolls 8d10 and gets 1,10,9,1,7,7,7,1 = 5 succs. Stunned for 5 rounds.

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The final embarrassment, Olivia thought miserably as Gwyn hoisted her in the air like a baby. She didn’t fight him or even attempt to argue because she knew that she couldn’t do it, that Gwyn had to carry her because she was the weakest. It was mortifying to the young woman who had, until today, believed that she was capable of handling anything on her own.

Olivia laced her hands behind his head to get her arms out of the way, and maybe make it easier to carry her. She noticed with disgust that he wasn’t even sweating. This is just ridiculous! I’m about dead and he’s-

She saw two flashes; she was looking over Gwyn’s shoulder when Caine was shot down. Gwyn followed him in the second flash. Olivia found herself back on the ground, but she was no longer tired; she was wired. Getting shot at who’s shooting Perault must have gotten Perault first course so would I HIDE!

She rolled behind Gwyn’s body, glad for both his bulk and the larger backpack he was wearing. She could feel him breathing; he was alive. Stunned. She wanted to go for her gun, but a quick look up at the ridge she’d seen the flashes coming from showed that to be useless. She couldn’t see whomever was shooting. Frantically, she tried to remember what she was supposed to do in this situation. Her brain wasn’t helping; it was rejecting every option from her limited training the instant it came up.

Then she hit on something. She dug quickly but carefully in Gwyn’s pack, careful not to offer herself up for a shot. Tasting her fear like slime on her tongue, she calculated, That’s where I want to go, and the sun’s there, and I want it there, and so I should angle it like this-

Declan’s concealing ridge was bathed in the reflection of sunlight from something shiny that had been intended for scientific study, while Olivia was scurrying for better cover in the opposite direction. She ran without any awareness of having passed her limit once today – adrenaline is for keeping one alive in the moment. Paying for it would come later, assuming she survived this.

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Come on, girl. Don't panic and do the smart thing. Dec thought as he watched the Doc scramble behind Jones' bulk. Good start, but get armed quick. He pondered circling immediately, his every programmed instinct told him it was a good idea. But he wanted to give the Doc a chance. Bad enough she couldn't make the grade on the run, but-

Searing, painful sunlight! Even through the shades he was wearing, the reflected radiance made him squint and flinch back, blinking to clear his metallic eyes. He dimly saw the Doc's fleeing shape from behind the glare and, on reflex, snapped a poorly-aimed shot off as he moved away from the outcropping and the glare that bathed it, taking care to stay low.

Poorly-aimed, of course, is a relative term. The bolt was dead on target, coruscating as it hurtled through the air straight for Doctor Jenings-Izumi's back.

Click to reveal..

+1 difficulty due to being dazzled.

(23:17:51) ChatBot: (Declan) rolls 10d10 and gets 6,7,7,4,4,3,1,9,6,9.

4 succs - 1 for Diff = 3 succs

Olivia gets a chance to dodge due to the available cover.

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Someone was ambushing them. Of this, Olivia had no doubt. It never occurred to her that Caine would arrange for them to be ambushed by one of their own. She had no doubt that this was a hostile bearing down on her with the intent to capture her and do horrible things to her and her teammates. Right now, the odds were good, to her, that it was an NID team, lurking around the complex, waiting for the opportunity to recapture some of the people they had lost. It was all down to her, and Olivia knew that she wasn't up to saving them.

It'd been a long time since she'd been this helpless.

But that time, she'd been young and afraid and drunk. Today, she was only afraid. She remembered to weave her steps, and that saved her when a bolt of energy shot past her, wasting its effort in the ground.

She threw herself around a rock, whimpering as its rough surface abraded her back. Now what?

Find them, her practical voice said. Kill them first.

Olivia swallowed back her panic and began to think again. To kill them, she had to find them. What did she know?

1. There was only one shooter. It was likely that there was only one assailant out there. That seemed illogical, but they'd almost succeeded, so maybe it wasn't that odd.

2. They wanted them alive. Olivia could handle that; she didn't mind being alive.

3. She had to arm herself and shoot them. They'd have to move to find her.

All of this filtered through her head with incredible speed, a blinding flash of insight that took no time at all. And it helped; Olivia fumbled her sidearm out. Now she had to get a shot before they did. How?

Listen. Hear them before they see you.

Tense and quiet, Olivia opened up her senses and Listened.

Click to reveal.. (OCC Rolls)
Olivia's dodge (spending a WP): 5 sux

1d10=8, 1d10=2, 1d10=7, 1d10=10, 1d10=9

Activating Hyperenhanced Hearing

Olivia's Perception check (last die is Mega die, spending WP): 8 sux

1d10=8, 1d10=7, 1d10=1, 1d10=6, 1d10=8, 1d10=8, 1d10=6, 1d10=6, 1d10=2, 1d10=10

Quantum spent: 1

WP: 6/7

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Dec was moving silently, his feet lightly touching down on the scrabble as he leapt from cover to cover with blurring speed, stalking round to where he could get a clear shot on Olivia.

Sneaky. And I'm dumb. Shouldn't have waited till she did something. But damn it, she was having a bad enough time! Still, she made me regret bein' nice about it. He grinned to himself. Point to you, Doc.

Using the advantage of higher ground, he padded like a two-legged cat around an outcropping just 20 metres from Olivia's position, his gun up and covering her. He was silent, spookily silent. But there was almost imperceptible stillness in the air around him, silence where there should have been ambient noise. To the keen ears of his prey, it was enough to negate any surprise he might have scored.

So it was when Declan came round the outcropping, he found Olivia facing him, her gun levelled.

The stun weapons discharged at the same time, and both bolts flew true. Perault was already twisting and diving as he fired, though, his bolt slamming into the Doctor's shoulder as hers sailed past his head.

Click to reveal..

(06:58:30) ChatBot: (Declan) rolls 9d10 and gets [7],2,1,6,9,3,10,1,5.

4 succs + 3 for Catfooted

= 7 succs

Olivia isn't surprised. Both sides move at each other on the same time. Declan is dodging and shooting.

Olivia's shot, blowing a WP:


2 succs to hit

Dec's Shot: -2 dice for multiple action penalty

07:13:33) ChatBot: (Declan) rolls 8d10 and gets[1],10,5,4,5,2,7,6.

2 succs

Dec's dodge -3 dice for multiple action penalty

(07:15:26) ChatBot: (Declan) rolls 7d10 and gets [2],9,4,3,10,4,8.

3 succs to dodge.

Close call, that.

Okay, Dec will carry Livy down to the other two and wait for all of you to come round.

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Being hunted was a terrifying experience. Her adrenaline raged onward, keeping her primed and alert. She sat, hearing everything that occurred around her, and wondering where her assailant was. It was almost too late when she realized that she shouldn't be listening for something but nothing.

She spun and fired, her training letting her level her pistol on the man-shape there. It moved, unlike her training dummies, and Olivia missed. Terror sang through her nerves as she realized she'd lost and let her team down. The blast caught her in the shoulder, and she collapsed, but not before she saw her attacker: a friend's face with a killer's eyes.

Click to reveal..
Olivia's Stam+Resist Roll: 1 sux; she's out for 9 rounds

1d10=5, 1d10=7, 1d10=2, 1d10=6, 1d10=1

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He carried Olivia's limp form down to the others and set her down, her head on her pack. Then he removed everyone's weapons and sat down on a rock ten feet away, their weapons at his feet. One hand kept his stun gun pointed at the group as they recovered.

The other pulled out a Snickers.

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He had barely started pulling out the Snickers when Gwyn's return to consciousness was given away by the subtle sound of the gravel and rock of the path settling deeper into the ground under him as his weight increased.

"Is it ok to move now Sgt?"

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"Ooohhh ... that puts your teeth on edge," Caine muttered rolling over to his side. He shakes his head. They hadn't been all that bad, accident aside. Life provides you with lessons, one of his instructors at Escape and Evasion training had tought him, all you had to do was figure out what they were."

Damien stat up, looked over to the Sgt., hating him for all of three seconds for not suffering like he had suffered then let it go. It was counter productive and ill deserved.

"Excercise over," he grumbled out then stood up. "We still have to finish this run."

Once fully standing, Caine stretched his mighty frame the crouched down once more.

"What did we learn? Sargeant, I really didn't think I did that bad of a job. I should have anticipted the Doctor having eaten something, this being her first time out. What else? I needed to pull Jones in to transfer the gear ... How would you have mitigated the loss of a whole SG team?"

There were no signs of hurt feelings or bruised egos. Caine was here to learn just as much as anyone else.

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Gwyn shrugs the pack off so that he can sit up more comfortably.

"Well, in future I think, unless there is particular circumstances that require otherwise, it would have been better not to try to transfer gear. By upping my density I could easily have managed the extra mass of the Doctor and her pack without having to stop at all."

He sips some water before continuing.

"As to how to avoid losing the whole team, I don't think we could very well under the circumstances. However, I wouldn't expect these circumstances to happen very often, if ever, again. Sgt Perault as a scout is likely to be able to take out or at least warn us of any enemy ahead of us judging by how well he was able to ambush us. If we increased the spread we would need to be careful to strike the balance between how close we needed to be to provide support and how far we'd need to be separated to make it difficult to take us all out in one go."

He looks over at Olivia, "Any ideas how long she'll be out for?"

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Olivia was before the Artifact. It was glowing and shaking, emitting a low moaning that sounded like a thousand damned souls. She was also naked. That wasn’t surprising, which was probably surprising, had she considered it. A form moved on the other side of the Artifact, and Olivia said, “Brayden?”

She vaguely saw him reach for it, his hand inches away. “No!” she screamed, trying to stop what she knew followed.

His head turned at her scream and lifeless silver eyes stared at her. Declan smiled suddenly, a grin of maniacal glee, and pressed the button. Light and pain enveloped her again, and-

She lifted her hand and the light dimmed as she blocked the sunlight. Opening her eyes, she found she was lying on her back, with her head on her backpack. She noted she was clothed with a bit of relief that lasted until her memory - her damned perfect memory - started to fill in the blanks. It came rushing back – the walk, the attack, Declan – and she surged to her feet, shouting. She spied Declan easily, still armed, eating a candy bar. She saw she had kicked her gun away, as she blinked around, her eyes wide. She looked awful; she was covered in dirt and sweat – and mud where the two coexisted – and there was a handful of pine needles stuck in her hair. All in all, she made a poor showing as she fumbled for her gun.

“Whoa,” Caine said, rising and holding up his hands. “It’s ok.”

Olivia slumped to the ground, shaking. “Why?” she asked Declan, still looking dazed.

“My orders,” Caine said to her, putting a bit of steel in his voice. Just a touch.

It was enough. Olivia nodded and looked at the ground, shivering slightly as her body came knocking to cash the check adrenaline had written for her.

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Caine looked over the situation then it occured to him.

"Olivia, how did you handle the ambush? You aren't next to Jones," he looked to the Sargeant then back again, "as I would have expected. You have unbroken pine needles in your hair, so you almost made it off the path. How did you accomplish this?"

There was only open, honest curiousity there. It made tactical sense to take down the doctor last. He could see, he hoped, some of Declan's reasoning - had he hesitated? But, she had gotten up and moved ... some small distance it would seem. How?

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Olivia swallowed. Questions were good. They took her mind off of things, like that her hands couldn't stop shaking. They would stop. She was sure of that.

"I hid behind Jones when he dropped me," she said, the tremor in her voice fading slowly with each word. "I had seen where the shots had come from, so I got the pipette stand out of Jones' bag and used it to reflect the sunlight to that spot. I was able to use it as cover to get to that..." she glanced and pointed, "rock. Then I listened for... the Sargent. I heard a spot that was devoid of noise, so I shot at it. I missed."

She hadn't looked at Declan once, and barely at Caine or Jones. She was trying to reconcile the terror of the encounter with the knowledge that it had just been an exercise. So far, her brain wasn't cooperating.

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"It wash..." he swallowed the last of the Snickers and crumpled the wrapper, stuffing it into his pocket. "Sorry. It was a damn good move, too. She almost nailed me." His smile faded as he looked askance at Olivia, then addressed Caine. "She used her head, and her hearing is damn sharp. I'd use her as a secondary warning system when we're runnin' silent, Major. She heard me by the noise I didn't make, and that's cool shit."

"As for handling a man-down?" He shrugged. "The best way is to have the nearest person fireman's-lift them until you're in a secure area. Everyone else takes extra care to cover what the encumbered buddy can't. In your shoes, Major, I'd have not given her the water yet: it wasn't important for her immediate wellbeing. Drop your pack for Jones, scoop up the Doc, and move on. Jones covers until you reach a safe point, then you set the Doc down and cover Jones. Jones takes your pack once you're out of the way." He realised how cold-blooded he sounded, and looked apologetically at Olivia, who was still in shock by the look of it.

"To be fair, we need a larger team. That's why most patrols are ten-man, split into two five-man elements. But that's the way the propellor-heads want us to do it, I guess." He looked around the terrain, silver eyes glinting in the sun. "Also, we need to plan our marches to avoid this kinda set-up. Treat it like someone's already considered it as an ambush site, and go around even if it takes more time. On an alien world, I guess that falls to the point man to spot if the terrain ahead looks like trouble. No satellite overheads. I've got experience at that, so we should be alright, sir."

"Key thing to remember" he said as he stepped down off the rock and tossed Caine and Jones back their guns "Is that if a man goes down injured, you treat it as enemy action even if it doesn't seem to be. So a twisted ankle or an attack of the barfs is the same as a sniper round through the leg. Team stops, spreads, and covers one guy as he helps the casualty."

He stepped carefully over to Olivia and crouched beside her, slipping his shades back on. "Hey," he said gently. "It's okay, Doc. The Major wanted it to be real, so real even he didn't see it comin'. You handled it like a champ. I've seen guys that've gone through AIT come apart their first time: you didn't."

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Caine nods as the ambush was dissected. The problem was the numbers. They had to do too much. The terrain sucked, and there was no tail man he could use as a balance. That meant he would have to be humping the wounded man. That wasn't something officers were supposed to do. Not because of any elitism, but because an officer had to keep his wits about him more than anyone else but the point man. Lugging someome with you was a distraction as they moaned, moved, and shifted on you. Well, live and learn.

Caine stood up, putting his pack on the ground.

"Muscle up, Jones. You're carrying out gear."

Turning half way up the path, the Major looked over his shoulder to Olivia,

"Come here. I'm carrying you the rest of the way to midpoint."

"Sargeant, you know your place."

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Declan's words pierce her shell, a little. Praise always helped make her feelt better. But she was still afraid. And now, she couldn't disconnect being hunted from being hunted by Declan.

Am I really going to be able to do this? She'd never allowed herself to question before. She'd decided that she'd be on a team, go through the StarGate and see new worlds. Now, she wasn't sure she was qualified.

"Thanks," she whispered to him. He was trying to help her. Her eyes rose to Declan's chin, but they couldn't go any higher. Part of her remembered that dream and she shivered a little harder for a moment. I won't be afraid of him. I won't. Slumping, she put her forehead on his knee, giving up on staying upright and trying to embrace him as she had before this.

Then Caine ordered them to their feet. With a sigh, Olivia allowed herself to be pulled to her feet and put on Damien's back. She couldn't run to the midway; that much was clear to everyone.

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His smile faded as she tried to look at him and couldn't. He'd meant to throw a scare into her, sure. All three of them had probably been shocked when the ambush was sprung. That's why it was an ambush.

But Oliva couldn't look at him now. That... hurt for some reason. Dimly he was aware of the Major's voice. "...you know your place..." And then Olivia was pulled up and away, hoisted onto Caine's back.

"Yeah..." the sergeant whispered to himself, inaudible under the crunch of gravel and clink of equipment. "I know my place." He stood and moved ahead without looking back, his eyes scanning the terrain, looking for trouble as he led the patrol out of the gulley.

My place is as point man. It's as a combat instructor. It's what I'm good for. They don't need me as a friend or confidant. 'Caring' isn't in the job description. They just need me to stop some alien bozo on some fucked up other world from killin' them. There was an aching comfort in that thought. At least it's somethin' I'll be good at.

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"I still think that it would be better for me to grab the man down and the Major to take my spot, less juggling with packs and stuff, but I'll go with whatever the procedure is set to be."

Getting back up Gwyn shoulders his pack then takes the Major's pack and puts it on his chest. The doc's pack get slung on top of his own pack on his back, and with the help of Sgt Perault strapped into place. This gives Gwyn a total of 95kg on his back and 65kg on his front, given that this is about half his normal lifting capacity he does as ordered and 'muscles up'grabs his weapon and takes up his position watching the 'bac door'.

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It was a long trek, made longer by the thoughts roiling in her head. Olivia knew that despite doing well - better than anyone had expected her to do - she had still fucked it up. She'd let it become personal, and that wasn't cool.

I'm not a soldier, she reminded herself, but that didn't hold water, not really. Jones wasn't either and he'd been fine. He hadn't let it get to him. He hadn't been stalked personally. He had a nice, fast nap.

Caine's arms were as strudy as iron bars around her legs, and she tried to keep her arms out of his way. It was strange and could have been romantic if the circumstances had been different. Olivia just wanted to sleep but Caine's back was warm and she was struggling. She tried to stay alert, but she'd been through a lot already, and it wasn't even eight yet.

She sighed and rested her head against the firm curve where Damien's neck met his shoulder. The rhythm of his fast walk was rocking her gently and Olivia slowly drifted into a drowsy half-sleeping state. The sounds and the movements suggested motion, and her mind began to work with them, pulling them into a light half-dream of running as a group, like deer. No, like wolves.

A thought occurred to her, and she stirred, waking herself up. "Damien," she murmured, too sleepy to realize her faux pas. "We shouldn't have Declan ambush us anymore. We're a team, a pack. You should have another team ambush us. They won't go easy on me. They won't cut any of us slack. And best of all, we can get experience working together rather than against each other."

She lied a little with that. The best thing is that Declan wouldn't have to stalk them anymore.

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They made it to the mid-way point without much further trouble and in reasonable time.

Up on point, Declan considered the terrain ahead at every opportunity as they moved, not just picking the better routes up for his more heavily-laden teammates, but also analysing likely spots for ambushes and avoiding them whenever possible. He forced dispassion on himself, trying to retreat emotionally from what had happened at the ambush.

Worse than the fear he had caused Oliv- Doctor Jenings-Izumi was the fact that, for the duration of the ambush, stalk and 'kill', he had felt more alive than he'd ever felt before. The world had been beautiful, laden with crystalline meaning that added vibrancy to every color, tone to every noise. And when he had spotted her behind the rock...

There had been for him a moment of sheer fulfillment as he had dived under her shot and brought her down. Every nerve, every sinew had thrummed with pure joy. Joy that had rapidly faded as his heart rate slowed, the world losing it's lustre once more. The final curtain of grey had come down when she had... not looked at him.

They did more than make me faster, stronger and that crap. That thing... with the two guards before the rescue party came. That was part of what they did. That thing did it to me. His mood was bleak as the harsh rocky face of the mountains high above. Always having had problems adjusting to the new him, this realisation made him hit a new low. Self-loathing entered his soul. What am I? Not a man anymore. A man doesn't practically get a boner from shooting a frightened woman. I'm a murder machine.

He tried to concentrate on the task at hand, walking point. But he was so damn efficient at that his mind kept coming back around like an A-10 on another strafing run. Monster. Killer. Murderer. Psycho. It's there in the blood and nerves. What was that thing Gene Hackman said in 'Quick and the Dead'? "Put a fox in the henhouse and you'll have chicken for dinner every time." That's you, Dec ol' buddy. You're the fox.

"Shut the fuck up!" he whispered to himself heatedly, tears in his eyes, but his traitorous mind kept at it. Just like in Afganistan, you were the only one standin', Dec. You're too good at this to die, even without the NID's little science fair. No Jaffa's gonna get you, Mr Murder. Not unless you LET them. And you could, but then what happens to the others. They'll be depending on you. You can't let them down.

With an effort of will, he shut the voice off. The sky was blue overhead, the mountain air clean and pure, but he felt none of it in his heart. The only reason he didn't step left and throw himself off the cliff he was walking along the top of was A) he wasn't sure it would kill him and B) something in his soul rebelled at that thought, despite his despair. It would suck for the others to see that. It'd be a shitty thing to do. Better to wait till he got some private time. Yeah. He relaxed slightly, a strange sense of calm filling his mind. Not so long to wait now.

He reached the clearing that Caine had indicated for the rest stop and scouted around the perimeter as the others trooped in. As Caine set Olivia down and Jones arranged the packs against a rock, Dec came back over and sat down on a large rock, facing away from the others. His shades hid his eyes, as well as the redness around their rims, and his voice was crisp and efficient as he gave his report. He didn't salute: you don't salute officers while in the field. Gives them away to snipers.

"Sir. Perimeter is secure. We made pretty good time, considering the delay. Recommend a long-ish rest break to allow the Doctor to get her wind back, sir." With that, he broke out another Snicker's bar and tore the wrapper off, munching as he waited for the Major's response.

No. Not long now.

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"Excellent idea, Doctor Jenings-Izumi," he said in a quiet, almost sensual voice. "Two things. It should only be two people, or it will just be target practice, and you need to call me Major while we are on duty. Protocal, discipline, blah, blah, blah and all that. Okay?"

There was no chastizement in his words, only the sad reality of their current situation. Responsibility would seperate them in certain ways. It was more than regulations. He knew his heart and to what depths he would go for someone who got within his walls.

Once they got back to the midpoint site, Caine listened to Sgt. Perault's report dispassionately. The man was doing his job beyone expectations. That was a dangerous thing. Command might start expecting more and more of him, which wasn't what he needed.

"Take twenty," he said as he lowered his somewhat weary bones to the ground. He took out his water and a hersey bar and dug in. After two bites, something occurred to him.

"What are you people going to do when your break comes up? Two more weeks of me and then you'll have a week all to yourselves. Are we going to split up, or are we going to do something together. Actually, since I'm going to visit my Old Man, what are the rest of you going to do on your break?" he added with a grin.

Might as well plant the idea that they might want to do something together. Declan had nobody that anybody knew of, Jones was a hell of a way from home, and Olivia was ... well, not alone. Her family wasn't too far away, and if they stayed in a closed environment with only a few other people, AND if Jones stayed close by to Declan ... what's the worse that could happen.

Okay, a room full of corpses and a massive cover-up was the WORST thing that could happen, but Perault seemed to be making progress. You had to trust the man a bit to let him know he was still a man, and not a tool.

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Gwyn put the packs down and passed Olivia's over to her so that she could access any water or food she wanted, then carefully choose a largish rock to sit on. Preferably one that wouldn't break under his increased mass.

"Hey, Sgt come on over and join us. I don't like having to talk to someones back."

Gwyn drinks some water before continuing.

"You did a damn good job out there Sgt, and I know it wasn't the sort of thing you want to be doing anymore, but the rest of us needed to know how well or poorly we'd react in that sort of situation. So I for one would like to thank you for it."

"Major, I'm not sure what they have sorted out with my employer back in the UK, but hopefully that will all be sorted before the end of the basic training. I hadn't intended going back to the Uk with such a short time window, so I'd welcome the chance to get off base and see something of the States while I'm here."

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Olivia nodded at his correction. "I... sorry," she said softly, turning her head so that she could talk softly into his ear. She didn't think about what that might do to the Major. "And it would be good exercise for us to work in pairs against other teams. For them and us."

She let it go after that. She'd planted the idea. If she had to have Declan hunting her, she'd get over it, in time. She just had thought it had been real. She'd just have to keep in mind that when it happened on Earth, it was just an exercise.

After that, she drifted off to sleep again. Caine coming to a stop and giving her a subtle little shake woke her up. Mumbling sleepily, she stepped down off his back and nearly fell with she got pins and needles in her legs. Good grief. Jones can fly, Caine can run down a moose and Declan can track a falcon on a cloudy day. And my legs fall asleep. Sitting on a rock, she began to rub her legs, trying to get the sensation to stop.

She took the water that Jones had offered, smiling at him. The food she left alone; she wasn't ready to go there yet. She slipped off her rock to sit in front of it, crossing her legs and leaning back against the rock. She was half-dozing again when Caine's words pulled her out of it.

"Leave?" she chirped, looking more animated than she had all morning. "An entire week?" Plans rolled through her mind, building speed and pressure with each second. Mom and Dad wouldn't mind the guests, even if they were warmongers. Well, maybe she should have them stay with Wakaki.

"H-Jones, come to Berkeley with me," she said, grinning at him. "You can stay with my brother, and meet my parents." She looked at Declan's back. "And Dec- Perault... Sargent, you too, if you don't have other plans. We have a Sake museum in Berkeley... how can you say no to that?"

She wasn't sure Declan heard her, so she got up and touched his shoulder. "Hey. Wanna go home with me and Jones on break?"

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Originally Posted By: Rorx

"You did a damn good job out there Sgt, and I know it wasn't the sort of thing you want to be doing anymore, but the rest of us needed to know how well or poorly we'd react in that sort of situation. So I for one would like to thank you for it."

"Sure, Specialist. No problem." He answered Jones easily, almost absently. "It's what I do." What I AM. "Hope it helped."

He remained where he was, though, eyes scanning the treeline. He pretended not to hear Oliv- dammit! Doctor Jenings-Izumi's question. But then she approached him, reaching out and touching his shoulder, and he couldn't ignore her further. He turned his head slightly towards her, acknowledging her presence.

"I'm not sure that's a good idea, Doc." There was the faintest tinge of... something in the Sergeant's voice, the tone otherwise remaining matter-of-fact. "I'm not really fit for real life around real people any more. Reckon I'll stay on base. Thanks, though. I mean that." And he did. It was nice of her to offer. She was a good person to do that. He managed a faint smile as he turned his head further towards her, the shades hiding his eyes. "Make sure Jones gets to eat something American and drink a cold beer for me, will ya?"
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"Sargeant, I can't order you out, but I can tell you this: You will never know what type of person you really can be if you stay inside this shell. You may be afraid of what you do. You may be afraid of how people will see you. What I am sure of is that you NEED to know. You are too smart to let what happened with you before to stop you from some much needed ... healing."

Caine never looked at any of his people. His eyes roamed his surroundings, keeping vigilant even though no threat was evident. It was the Special Forces way - Eyes Up. What Caine could percieve though was that Declan was Special Forces on steroids - most likely all the time. That couldn't be good for the brain. Your brain had to do other things or you would lose your humanity.

"Sargeant, think about how sick you've been getting of staring at the same gray wall, the same cafeteria, and the same gym every day. Trust yourself out there for twenty-four hours. If you like it, take another twenty-four. One week and your mission has been accomplished. You've passed yourself off among Uninitiated Humanity."

"That's my suggestion to you anyway."

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Olivia tilted her head as Damien spoke, trying to judge what effect it was having on Declan. HG was watching, his face unreadable. "At the risk of plumping our CO's ego too much, he's right," she said. "You're making an assumption based on very little data. Coming home with me would be a good way to test it."

She could see him wavering ever so slightly. Part of her didn't want to push him, but part of her needed to make up for failing him. She knelt next to him and said softly, "We all got monsters from what happened to us. You know mine. We have been given the tools to overcome those monsters, too. And when that isn't enough, you have us, your team."

She made herself do it, made herself look up at those cold shades. She tried not to think about how those shades were warmer than his eyes. Time for a joke, and the mischievous smile gave that away as she said in a louder voice, "And besides, if my mom found out I left someone alone at a military base, she'd tan my hide. You don't want to be responsible for me getting spanked by my mom, do you?"

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The Major's words made sense, but he didn't have the whole story. He couldn't. Declan mulled it over, not trusting himself to speak yet, trying to determine if maybe, possibly he might be able to get help for this... condition. Then Olivia knelt next to him and with some effort (and he could see the effort) made herself look up at his covered eyes. He wavered. He desperately wanted what they said to be true. And the Doc's comment about getting spanked by her mom was enough to crack a smile out of him. That expression broke his poker face and, as soon as the flash of humor had done it's work, his features softened, becoming sad. He shuffled around on the rock, facing inwards some more, Olivia now in front of him as he looked at Jones, then Caine, and finally back to the Doc.

"You guys..." he stopped and swallowed, his voice hoarse. "You guys are the fuckin' best. But you don't know it all. What they did to me at that facility... what I am now. If you knew, you wouldn't want me to meet your family, Doc. You wouldn't even want to be in the same fuckin' room as me." He looked over at the Major, then Jones, then back at Olivia. "None of you would. Because they didn't just rev me up and give me a battle computer for a brain. It's more than just bein' a regular dude with cool powers." His voice was hoarsening again; he fought it back and continued.

"When I ambushed you guys... When I was stalkin' the Doc. It was like the whole world just got it's color switch flipped on and I was seein' it like God might see it. It was beautiful, like se- like bein' with a woman." His voice wavered, nearly breaking. "And afterwards, the world faded to normal again, everything losin' that glow. It was nothing like anything I experienced as a... a man. Because I ain't a man anymore. Inside I'm a killer, just like my eyes show you. It's only a matter of time before the animal inside of me starts wanting to stalk people for the thrill of it. Just to feel alive." His gaze swept over them all again, tears leaking out from under his Raybans, his tone pleading. "I don't want that to happen. Major... sir. You can't let me go off base. I'm not safe for other people. I'm not human anymore."

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The man was right. He was a threat to every living thing he came across. If he was his friend, he would have felt sympathy for him and told him he understood, even though he didn't. But Caine wasn't his friend. He was Perault's CO.

"If that was really the case and you were a lost cause, do you believe I would have you on my team? Do you think I would allow you around, on the outside, the Doctor and Jones here?"

"I may not know all the facts of what's going on in your head, but I know my instincts for people. I know you are your own worst critic. It's so blatantly obvious about you. Sargeant, you are afraid of what you might do? Of what you might become? Listen to yourself. That is fear talking and you know what fear does to your perceptions."

"I've said it before and I'll say it again because I believe it is true. You are better than that."

All the while he talks, Caine moves and scans the perimeter. When Perault comes into the camp by turning in, Caine gets up and slowly paces, but he is always scanning. His handsome features a perfect cast of the idealized military man.

He turns and looks into Declan's shaded eyes, putting forth all his will and skill to spread that confidence to his comrade in arms.

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Dec listened. He really listened. Caine was the sort of officer you listened to, a man that had been there and seen the damn elephant. The man was a recruiting poster, for crying out loud. And if he believed that Dec was better than that...

Maybe it was true.

"Yes, sir." Declan looked away from Caine, his gaze dropping. "I... I guess bein' a coward about it doesn't help anyone, huh?" He looked at Olivia then. "I'll think about comin' with you and Jones, okay? Think hard about it. I want to, but I'm afraid." he told her softly. "I just don't know how to handle this."

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She grinned when he said he'd think about it. That grin faded only slightly when he finished. "D-Major Caine is right, he really is," she said. A little unsure if he'd even let her, she reached up and gently gripped the bridge of his glasses and was pleased when she tugged them down just enough to look in his eyes. Whatever she was going to say was changed by what she saw in his lifeless gaze.

She moved, sliding in between his knees and leaning against him in what was probably a breach of protocol. She'd get away with it because she was a civilian and if Caine was in a particularly forgiving mood toward her today. But it let her whisper in Declan's ear and this was just for him: "Declan, animals don't worry about being animals, and they don't cry because they're a danger to others. Think about it."

Then she pushed away, came to her feet and turned to Caine. Flipping him a well-mimicked salute, she said, "Ready to kill myself again, sir. Permission to begin?"

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"Sure enough. Jones, Sargeant - switch loads. Perault, you are tail end Charlie. Jones, you are Point."

It wasn't lost on Caine that they could use Declan as a long range sweeper, traveling faster, quieter alone and well ahead of the Team scouting out the lay of the land before them. The would require either himself or Jones to be point. Jones was a good man. Next time he would be ambushed too. CO's were bastards that way.

Caine handed Olivia her pack with a smile and, could it be, a wink? He waited for Jones to get his head start then started moving himself.

"Only ten more kilometers to home. Let's make it before noon ladies."

It was a great day.

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