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Aberrant: Stargate Universe - Walkabout [Fin]


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Vinny's eyes fluttered open and he lifted his head, looking for the source of the scratchy voice. He'd left the clock radio on again; the station wasn't coming in clearly at all. As he straightened his neck, his spine cried out in agony and he yelped, his hands immediately going to the back of his neck to cradle the injured vertebrae. "Fuuuck me," he hissed. He was sitting.

"Repeat, this is Major Hadley..."

"Hadley," he rasped, fingers fumbling for his radio and finding the straps of the Death Glider seat. "Ooh, this shit never ends well," he groaned. He unfastened his radio and thumbed the key. "Hadley."

"Vinny, thank God. We thought we'd lost--" His voice faded to static.

He turned his head, scanning his surroundings. The glider was canted to the starboard, the wing he could see still smoldering. And sand. Lots and lots of sand. "Say again, sir... there's a lot... a lot of static on this end." He winced and adjusted in his seat.

"We can attempt to swing bac-- *skrrr* -- ther-- *skrrrr*"

"Hell no," Vinny interrupted. "Gliders are still after you. Get away from 'em... there'll be another Gate world nearby. Besides..." He closed his eyes, vividly picturing Sergeant Rea falling in the corridor of a Goa'uld mother ship. He saw the older man's blood and he knew he needed immediate medical attention. "You have to get Rea back to the SGC, get him some medical attention."

"What of you, Wright?" Eckhart interjected.

"I'll be fine," he said. He closed his eyes, reeling his memory back. Something... important. On the scanner. "Stargate. The... the world here. The gliders sensors saw a Stargate on the way down. It's a walk through the 7th circle, but I'll make it."

"Vi-- *skrrr* --ou sure?"

"Eckhart, get Rea some help!" He winced at the sound of his own voice and undid the straps of the glider seat. "I'll be back at the SGC before you know it."

"If you insist. Just be aware that the Goa'uld are still *skrrrr* -- atrolling in that area. We're afraid they may have seen you go down and will be send-- *skrrrrrrrrrrskeesh* Do you copy, Vinny?"

He looked to the sky. "I get the gist, Eckhart. Wright out."

Dropping the radio to his lap, Vinny leaned forward and pressed his palms to his eyes, trying to focus on the mission that had brought him here. The Stargate had been compromised, surrounded by over three dozen Jaffa. He had come up with the bright idea of hitching a ride on the mother ship, stealing a few gliders when no one was looking. It was just on its way to pick up reinforcements, he had insisted. It would be practically empty.

But naturally, nothing had gone as planned and half the ground troops had decided to hitch a ride back home with them. They'd had to fight their way out, leading to Rea's injury. Vinny had covered his team while they escaped to the glider bay. Once they were safely in place, he had joined them in a glider of his own and had high-tailed it toward Earth. Unfortunately, he was clipped by weapon's fire and forced to make this emergency landing.

At least the rest of the team had made it... they were too far out of range for the Goa'uld to worry about, meaning Mathew was one step closer to the help he needed. Meanwhile... meanwhile, there was a desert to cross.

Vinny pressed the canopy release and felt the heat slip in as it retracted. It oozed into the compartment like slime, covering him and sticking to the instrument panels with greasy, cloying fingers. Vinny hoisted himself out of the seat, flinging himself to the ground and forcing his body to remain upright (despite it's apparent desire to throw him face-down in the sand). He coughed, blinked at the white sand, and walked down the side of the glider. He kept one hand on the burning metal hull of the ship, feeling like he had just ended a week-long bender.

He paused at the back of the glider, eyeing the dent he'd made in the ground on his way in. He'd skidded at least five hundred yards before coming to a stop. He raised his eyebrows and whistled. "Damn, record."

Back to the work at hand, he turned and began to harvest what he could from the ship; a canteen, for starters. It was full - bless the Goa'uld - and he managed to find a thin blanket that would come in handy blocking the sun (and keeping him from freezing if the temperature plummeted during the night, if he was still here at night). He tucked the supplies wherever they would fit on his vest, threading the blanket through the armholes and letting it trail out either side.

He climbed onto the side of the ship and leaned into the cockpit, trying the scanner to make sure of the Stargate's location. He got a general idea, didn't try to think of the actual distance he'd have to travel, and jumped down from the strut. Vinny looked to the sky and put his glasses on, exhaling sharply before he slipped a cigar in his mouth and turned and started toward the nearest dune, following the rut in the sand his glider had made during its crash landing.

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"--don't go chasing waterfalls," Vinny murmured, barely keeping harmony as his boots continued to sink ankle-deep into the sand. "stick to the rivers and the lakes that you're used to--"

He nearly stumbled, cursing at himself before he managed to get right. He coughed, looking up at the sky to check the progress of the sun. It was beating him across the sand; it would be dark within a few hours. He groaned and sank to his knees, rolling so that he was in a sitting position. He untied the laces of his boots, easing them from his swollen feet and sighing with pleasure as his toes were finally allowed to breathe. Lacing the boots together, he flung them around his shoulders and let them dangle over his chest.

He stood, testing the heat through his socks. It was hot, the hottest he'd ever walked across, but his mind flashed to days in Iraq...


"Five-one thousand!" "Six-one thousand!" "Seven-one thousand!" "Six-one thousand!" "Ah, c'mon, count right!" Vinny griped, his bare feet buried to the ankles in sand. He winced and struggled to stay where he was, gritting his teeth as his 'friends' counted off the seconds. He needed ten to beat Jenkins... he'd make it, no problem. Just so long as those idiots counted right...


He worked his foot into the alien sand, which wasn't as hot as Iraq's sand, and exhaled. "Back to the walking tour of P33-Whatever. People on the right-hand side of the tram can see fuckin' sand. But don't feel left out people on the left, because if you look very hard you can see dunes..."

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Vinny was resting under the shade of a rock outcropping, his red feet wrapped in the torn sleeves of his jacket, when it happened. He had sank into the relative cool a few minutes earlier, the sweat dripping from his chin and nose as he tried to catch his breath. His legs felt like steel, the muscles revolting. He knew he had walked farther before, he knew his muscles were capable of much more than he was putting them through... but the exertion, coupled with the heat, was almost too much.

He uncapped the canteen and took the first swig, wetting his lips and tongue before screwing the lid back on. Self-control... it wouldn't do to down the entire thing in one gulp (although how he longed to do just that!). As he tucked the canteen back into his vest, a sound rose over the dunes. He leaned forward, craning his neck to the sky, and jerked back into hiding when he saw the cargo ship angling toward the sand.

It was flanked by two death gliders, both of which branched in either direction. He saw one of them heading in the direction he had come from and wondered if his footprints were visible from their height. Always assume the worst. He gathered his things quickly and scampered from his hiding place, leaning against the hot rock and weighing his options. There were depressingly few.

Pressing his fist to his forehead, he contemplated the viability of continuing to the Stargate. The Goa'uld, if they knew he was here, would most likely block the Stargate.

Going back to the glider? It was useless. A hunk of metal that had probably started to melt by now. Even if he could've figured out how to get it back into the sky... well, end of theory. Because there was no way he'd have any clue how to start such an undertaking.

Depressingly, the best option seemed to be surrender. Find the Jaffa, walk up to them with his hands in the air and hope for a chance to escape somewhere down the line. He lifted the P90 from its position against his chest, patted the sun-warmed metal and looked into the distance. "Surrender," he said. "And possible death. Freedom and certain death."

He exhaled, rolled his neck (the spine was still sore) and said, "Rather go down fartin' fire, thank you very much." Digging his feet back into the sand, he started to walk in the direction the cargo ship had taken.

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The sun was a bitch. Or a bastard, he wasn't sure if suns had sexes. What was the androgynous form of bitch and bastard? Prick? No, probably not. Vinny pulled his cap off, wiping it across his forehead and exhaling sharply. It was getting harder and harder to push forward. Harder to keep walking. He coughed, shaking his head as he took a moment to collect himself. "Come on, Vinny. Pull yourself together. Miles to go before I sleep..."

Up ahead, he'd seen the cargo ship fall behind a dune. Most likely that had been the landing site, as the whine filling the air had subsided soon thereafter. He wondered how many Jaffa had been sent to look for him. Six? A dozen? On the one hand, he hoped it wasn't very many. On the other, he didn't want the Goa'uld to send two or three to look for him. Surely he was a bigger pain in the ass than that.

"Indeed, Vincent." Vinny turned and saw Teal'c standing a few yards away, ankle-deep in sand. The Jaffa was still, his hands clasped behind his back, half-smiling in the grating way he had.

"Teal'c, what the fuck?"

"When in the service of Apophis, I would have dispatched many great warriors to deal with an enemy of your expertise."

Vinny nodded. "Um...thanks, Teal'c. That's... not comforting in the slightest." He coughed and moved forward. "How long have you been here?"

"I have always been here."

"Well, thanks for lettin' me bogart the canteen. You want a swig?"

"It is not necessary."

Vinny sighed. "Come on, Teal'c, you're good, but you're not..." He squinted at the Jaffa and sighed. "But you're not really here, are ya?"

Teal'c walked forward, undeterred by the heat. "I believe you should expect no fewer than seven Jaffa. All of them highly skilled."

"And I'm not exactly flush with cover out here." He scanned the dunes, looking for a place to conceal himself if it came down to it. "I'll be a shittin' duck." He exhaled and wiped another sheet of sweat from his face. "All right. Plan. Fuckin' plan. I have a P90, a zat and a couple of grenades." He patted himself down and came up with a revolver. "Sweet. Forgot about that."

Teal'c nodded. "Many a great warrior has begun a victorious battle with far less, Vincent."

"Name one."

After thinking only a moment, Teal'c came up with, "John McClane."

Vinny turned to the dunes, testing his grip on the revolver before tucking it into the back of his belt. He turned to Teal'c, discovering the Jaffa had vanished. With a heavy groan, Vinny started towards the dune and muttered, "Yippi-ki-yay..."

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Vinny lay on his stomach, the burning sand against his chest and thighs as he scoped out the enemy. Three Jaffa milled around the cargo ship, seemingly just waiting for something to happen. More than once, with smug satisfaction, he watched them wipe sweat from their bald domes. One or two more had walked away from the landing site, judging by the footprints, but they were walking towards the glider crash site.

He waited, biding his time to make sure there weren't two dozen reinforcements waiting in the cargo ship, and checked his weapons. "All right. Let's see. Who should I take out first?" He sighted the Jaffa one at a time. "This little piggy... this little piggy... or this little piggy?"

"They are not piggies, Vincent."

Vinny jerked, barely keeping his finger from pulling the trigger. "GOD! Dammit, Teal'c!" he hissed. "Don't sneak up on me."

"I am but a figment of--"

"Right, right." He sighed and locked his sights on the biggest, fattest Jaffa. "They may not be pigs," Vinny said softly. "But they are going to cry weee weee wee all the way to the Stargate." He switched the P90 to single-shot, licked his parched lips and pulled the trigger.

The bullet sailed across the sand, pinging against Fat Jaffa's skullcap. The blood was already streaming from the hole as Vinny sighted the second Jaffa. He fired again just as he turned to see why his companion was falling. Vinny's second bullet hit him in the throat. By now, the third Jaffa had realized there was something up and had moved to the side of the ship. Ducking behind the nose cone of the cargo ship, he lifted his staff and scanned the dunes for the sniper.

As Vinny slid down and away to reposition himself, keeping his P90 to his chest, two more Jaffa exited the cargo ship to see what was happening. They exchanged shouted questions with the Jaffa under cover, alerting Vinny to their presence. "Bring on the second string," he muttered. He knelt and pulled a grenade from his vest, tensing his finger on the pin.

"Vincent," Teal'c interjected. "Is this the wisest course of action?"

"Big boom, little stress. What's the problem?"

"There is a chance such an attack would damage the cargo ship."

Vinny shrugged his indifference.

"Perhaps the cargo ship would be an effective means of escape," the Jaffa expanded. "If it is damaged..."

"Right," Vinny nodded, kicking himself for not thinking of it himself. Actually, he had thought of it himse-- He pushed the palm of his hand against his forehead and muttered, "This heat is really kickin' my ass..."

"Do not despair, Vincent," Teal'c said gently, putting a hand to his shoulder. "You will persevere."

A staff weapon blasted the sand where Vinny had shot from. "Looks like my play group misses me," Vinny said, releasing his grenade and placing it back in his pocket. Take them down one at a time. He could do that. He scrambled back up the dune, lifting the gun, sighting down one of the Jaffa. He had circled their landing site and was now at their back. "Like fish in a bar--"


One of the damned Jaffa had turned, caught a glint of sun off Vinny's sight. He rolled away just as a volley of staff fire tore apart the sand, kicking up plumes of gritty debris just behind him. As the cloud of sand washed over him, Vinny realized he had the perfect cover. He rose and blindly opened fire in the direction of the cargo ship. After a few hopefully well-placed shots, he dropped back down and crab-walked back the direction he had come from. The Jaffa were shouting back and forth now. Two distinct voices; at least one had fallen. Or else he was being very quiet...

He could hear the metal of their uniforms clanking as they ran, getting louder. "Uh-oh," he muttered, well-aware his high ground had a very small life expectancy. How to use this to his advantage... he scanned the ground around himself, re-ran his weapon's inventory through his mind, and ran to the lip of the rise. Laying on his back, with the gun level at the peak of the dune, he waited.

The first Jaffa topped the rise. Vinny opened fire, the alien's chest plate a wave of sparks. He cried out, arms flying to his sides as he lost his balance and tumbled backwards. Vinny dropped the gun, letting it dangle from the clip on his vest, and tugged the grenade he'd almost used earlier. He pulled the pin out and lobbed it at where the first Jaffa had appeared over the rise. It rose into the air, a spinning egg of black against pale blue, and he turned away. The second Jaffa apparently saw it as well and fired upon it.

The explosion blew a wave of sand over Vinny, but he was already on his feet and running. He topped the rise, firing a wide arc to catch any Jaffa he'd missed before they could get their sights on him. The Jaffa who had been hit by the grenade lay in a bloody heap on the dunes, the others were sprawled wherever they had fallen, bleeding into the sand. He slowed his run at the bottom of the dune, sweeping both directions with the gun before he made a break for the cargo ship door.

He hit the side of the ship with his shoulder, using the gun to breach the threshold before he entered it.

The floor was freezing against his feet and he hissed, pulling them up higher than necessary with each step. The cold air was heaven, the very definition of the word, and he felt his sweat drying on his skin. No Jaffa remained inside. Silence reigned. "Hello...?" he tried. "Anyone hiding?"

"There's no one here," Dana said, not losing stride even as the bullet tore through her chest.

"Damn it, Eckhart!!"

She touched the point where the bullet would have pierced her body and walked on, passing him. "They were all drawn to the fight. You got all of them except for the two who wandered off."

Vinny followed her to the control panel, glancing warily at the back of the ship. "If you're sure..."

Dana lowered herself into the pilot's seat, angling herself around to look at the read-outs. "How'd you do that?" Vinny asked. "Move the seat? If you're a figment of my imagination, how did you just swing the seat around?"

"It's a hallucination," Dana said. "This could be a La-Z-Boy recliner for all that realism is concerned."

Vinny sank into the navigator's seat, which - by chance - was a La-Z-Boy recliner. He leaned against the console and watched Eckhart examine the readings. After a long moment of silence, he held his hands out and said, "Well?"

"Well?" she replied.

"Is this this space-worthy? Can I use it to get outta here?"

She turned to look at him. "How should I know? I'm not me. I'm you. I just look like Dana Eckhart."

Vinny leaned back. "I'll tell you, if I looked like Dana Eckhart..."

"Don't go there," Dana said.

He looked at the controls and sighed. "Okay. There are lights. Blinking lights. I don't know what any of them mean..."

"Vinny, you've flown one of these before. On your own."


"The mission on PR5-332."

"Right," he said. He touched a control that he remembered had caused... something. Only this time... nothing. He punched a few more screens, flipped a switch back and forth, and slid his fingers across a green globe.

Dana sighed. "I was afraid of that."

"What? This thing's got the damn Club?"

"In a way, yes. You can't take off without the appropriate access codes."

He nodded. "I'll just go torture the information from one of those fuckin' corpses outside. Care to join me?"

"This isn't the end of the road, Lieutenant. Just... a speed bump. Not even that, really." She stood and walked to the back of the ship. "It just means you'll have to keep walking to the Stargate. Which is what the plan was to begin with."

"But it's so damn hot out there. It's cool in here."

"I know," Dana said softly. "But you have to keep walking."

He stood and joined her at the door. "How much farther?"

Dana bit her bottom lip, crossing her arms over her chest. "It's best not to think about that."

Vinny sighed. "Right. A lot farther." Dana watched him walk back to the pilot's chair, watched him kneel next to it and attach something from his vest. When he was done, he stood and headed for the door, looking reluctantly out at the sea of white sand. He looked at her and shrugged. "Off we go."

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Each Jaffa had been supplied with a canteen. The one who had been bombed by his grenade was soaked, his canteen having burst. Vinny searched him anyway, in case he had any weapons or anything that could be useful. Packed down with three more canteens full of water, he abandoned the landing site of the cargo ship, climbing the dune and finding his footprints from earlier. With a sigh, he picked up his path where he'd left it.

The fight had taken a lot out of him; he'd drunk the entire contents of one canteen and was desperate to drain the others. But he didn't dare. He didn't know how far it was to the Stargate and didn't want to waste any valuable water before he had to. He ran a hand down his throat, wishing it didn't feel like he'd eaten a handful of sand, and trudged onward. Dana had left him at the cargo ship, smart enough to stay in the cool interior. Teal'c hadn't shown up since the battle ended. And Sergeant Rea... well, maybe Rea just didn't like the hot temperatures.


The Jaffa returned from their reconnaissance to discover their comrades dead; sprawled across the desert sand. Ra'kle knelt next to his brother, touching the still-hot skin (due more to the sun than any thread of life) and cursed, spitting orders to Ere'tek. The other Jaffa nodded, hurrying to the ship and disappearing into the shadowy interior. Ra'kle stood and walked to the edge of the pit to examine his other fallen partners.

Ere'tek took the time to search the ship, making sure their enemy was truly gone, before he journeyed to the cockpit of the shuttle. He placed his hand on the back of the pilot's seat, turning it to take his place. As the seat turned, he noticed a taut string leading underneath the seat, attached to a silver ring. The ring remained in place, however a small egg-shaped device fell to the ground and rolled towards Ere'tek's feet. He knelt, his fingers splayed to lift the peculiar device, when it exploded.

Ra'kle was thrown face-forward into the dune by the force of the explosion, the heat from the desert coupling with the heat from the explosion. He rolled onto his back, staring in horror at the flame-licked interior of the cargo ship.

He cried out in horror and pain at the death, falling to his knees as he vowed to get vengeance for his fallen comrades.


Vinny turned at the distant "whoomp" of the explosion. "Another one bites the dust," he muttered.

"Indeed," Teal'c replied.

Vinny turned to the Jaffa, eyeing him for a moment before he continued walking. "Where you been hiding, Teal'c?"


Vinny glanced at the man, then said, "Right. You're me. Humor and all, eh?"

Teal'c inclined his head.

They walked for a while in silence before Vinny glanced over his shoulder and asked, "Teal'c, lemme ask you something. That little firefight back there. I took down a lot of Jaffa... and not just today, I'm talkin' over the last three years. Doesn't it ever bother you?"

"Any ties or relationships I had with other Jaffa have long since been severed, Vincent... save for Master Bra'tac and my family, of course..."

"Right, yeah, okay," Vinny said. "That's not what I meant. You and Bra'tac have been working like dogs to get freedom for the Jaffa... to turn them against the Goa'uld, to have them rebel. So when we - and by we, I mean SG-4 and the rest of the SGC in general - kill so damn many of them..."

"Do I consider whether or not they would have wished freedom over death?"

Vinny shrugged.

Teal'c thought for a long moment. "Jaffa have died at the hands of other Jaffa for centuries. That there is now a rebel faction large enough to make it an option does not change the fact that many Jaffa still pledge allegiance to their gods. To cease battle to gauge their interest in freedom would be folly."

"Right," Vinny muttered.

"Do you believe otherwise, Vincent?"

"No," he managed.

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The human traveled with his feet bare, Ra'kle determined, kneeling next to the prints in the sand. He had drawn his blade across his palm, sprinkling blood over his fallen comrades, and he now squeezed his fist over one of the indentations his enemy had made. Growling low in his throat, he pressed his foot over the human's print and started his pursuit.


"I was kind of wondering when you would show up."

Mathew shrugged. "Not really much for an anthropologist to do here," he said, waving his hand over the dunes. "Sand is sand is sand."

"Rock is rock is rock," Vinny came back. He was sitting on a rock, his legs crossed to keep his feet out of the sand. They were painfully red, but he no longer felt the unbearable heat of the sand when he walked. He had yet to determine if this was a good thing or a very, very bad thing. Mathew was standing a few yards away, pacing back and forth and constantly checking the horizon. "Look, Rea, I'm glad you're here, but knock that shit off. You're making me crazy."

"Sorry," the older man said, dropping to sit next to Vinny's perch.

"You're not just the anthropologist, you know."

"Right. I'm the geek..."

Vinny sighed. "No, you're not, Rea. Moral conscience, Mr. Right. Any of those things ring a bell?" Vinny covered his face and looked up into the sky. "I want the truth, Mat. What're the odds I make it to the Stargate?"

"I'd say a hundred percent," Sergeant Rea said.

"No goddamn cheerleading. No... false hope."

Mathew stood and walked to the top of the dune. "You've gotten out of tighter spots," he pointed out. "Vinny, you just have to make it to the Gate, dial home and we can pick it up from there."

"It's the 'get to the Gate' part that has me worried," Vinny admitted. He turned to see Mathew's reaction to the statement, only to discover he had disappeared. Vinny sighed, capping his canteen and rising to his feet again. "I'm going to need a leg transplant if I do survive this..."


Without warning, the sky opened up and it began to pour. A scalding rain fell, wetting Vinny's uniform and sending him for the cover of a slightly-overhanging rock formation. He crouched in the hollow, still getting rained on, the wet sand clinging to his feet. It felt like he was suddenly wearing thick, insulated wool socks. He hugged himself as the temperature dropped rapidly with the desert storm. Leaning against the rock, he closed his eyes and listened to the rain beating loudly against the outcropping that covered him.


Ra'kle turned his head to the sky, watching the clouds grow and combine and darken until they opened up and poured down over him. The desert turned into a burning sea, his metal armor tinging with the droplets. He ran a hand over his face, flicking away the water droplets, and continued walking. He would not rest until the human had paid for his crimes.


Vinny left his shelter before the rain stopped, letting it pelt him as he continued his trek towards the Stargate. Any water was good water. He let it fill one of the empty canteens he was carrying, a refill if things got desperate later on. He tested the water, decided it was better than nothing, and tucked it into his vest. As he plodded forward, the rain suddenly dried up and the sun reappeared. The sand immediately began to release all the moisture it had gathered during the brief respite; dark wet patches dried up before Vinny's eyes.

He felt like his skin was steaming in the heat, his head beginning to throb. He drank down the contents of one canteen and tossed it over his shoulder, searching for a second.

Dana appeared in front of him. "Do you think it's such a good idea to throw away your canteen?"

"What the fuck does it matter?" Vinny gasped. He'd already walked three feet. To get the canteen, he'd have to backtrack at least ten feet. Which would make it a little longer for him to walk. No walking backwards. No turning around. For anything.

"Vin," Dana insisted.

"I'm not loading myself down with empty canteens, Eckhart. I should be getting to the Stargate soon anyway."

"Pick up the canteen."

He growled, put his hand to his head and clasped his fingers behind his neck. "Fine," he sighed. He turned and spotted the canteen laying a few yards back. "Fine. I'll get the damned canteen. I'll carry the damn canteen for the rest of my damn life." He bent down, picking up the empty sack, and stood. "There? You satisfi--" He froze, spotting movement in the distance. "What the...?"

Someone was following him.

"A Jaffa," Teal'c said.

Dana joined him. "Someone who survived your little trap in the cargo ship."

Vinny was suddenly aware of everything he'd lost during his journey. His boots, for one. He didn't remember them being around his neck during the fight at the cargo ship. Where had he left them? He pushed that thought aside and found his zat. The revolver was still in the holster, and his P90 still dangled from its clip on the front of his vest. He coughed, watching the man grow closer. "I don't suppose I can count on either of you for help..." he asked, turning to see both Dana and Teal'c had vanished.

"Right," he sighed.

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Ra'kle stopped, staring at the sand in confusion. The human's footprints walked forward a few feet, doubled back, then simply... vanished. He turned a slow circle, searching for signs of his prey's passage. Perhaps he had leaped over something in his path. Ra'kle moved to the left, searching for evidence this was the case. Nothing. To the right, still nothing. How could he have vanished into thin air? It was impossible!

He turned and backtracked up the uneven dune, sidestepping several rocks and rises. As he stood at the peak, he realized his foolishness and turned in time to see Vinny rise from one of the uneven lumps of sand. The human opened fire before Ra'kle could react. The Jaffa threw himself to the side, narrowly avoiding the weapon's fire. He cursed as he hit the sand, sliding face-down to the base of the incline.

Lieutenant Wright scrambled to the rise, keeping his eye on Ra'kle as he took position. The Jaffa knew he was pinned down, but he rolled onto his back and cried out in victory as he opened fire with his zat.

The human weapon spit fire and Ra'kle saw several piercing lines of electricity shoot through the air. He rose to his feet, the blood dripping from his armor as he charged his enemy. Vinny opened fire again and Ra'kle changed direction, drawing the fire away from himself. The human cursed, his volleys of fire coming fewer and far between.

He remembered hearing rumors of human weapons being ridiculously short-lived and took advantage of the hopefully-authentic information. He threw a handful of sand, a universal stalling tactic, and launched himself at the man who had killed his brother. Vinny fired blindly, but Ra'kle's hands found his throat and tightened. Vinny was thrown to the ground, his weapon torn from his hands and carelessly tossed aside.

Ra'kle rose onto his knees, resting all his strength on his arms as he squeezed the life from the human. Vinny's eyes watered, his teeth grit as his hands swept the sand for one of his dropped weapons. Something. Anything. Ra'kle spit into Vinny's face and growled something in his native language.

"Teal'c!" Vinny cried. "COME ON!"

Ra'kle raised his head in surprise. Was there another...? The shol'va?! He turned his head, realizing his mistake even as the rock impacted the back of his skull. Vinny had used his distraction and now had his fingers wrapped around a rock. Ra'kle fell from the human, giving him a chance to scramble free. Blood flowed from the gash on the Jaffa's head and he spit, his vision swimming in pain as Vinny reached his P90 and hoisted it once more.

He squeezed the trigger... the gun was spent. Cursing, Vinny pulled the revolver from his belt and brought it up. He was too late; Ra'kle leapt across the sand, hitting him full-force and knocking them both down the dune. Vinny lost his revolver and was empty-handed against the Jaffa. He knew from bouts with Teal'c that he was no match hand-to-hand against a determined Jaffa. His mind raced and he focused on the wide neck of the alien's armor. He remembered seeing Teal'c sit in the armor once, amused at how it rose over his face.

Freeing one hand from Ra'kle's grip, Vinny put the palm of his hand against the neck brace... and shoved upward with all his might. The neck hole rose, snapping against Ra'kle's jaw. The Jaffa's head flipped back violently, blood spilling from his mouth where he'd obviously bitten into his tongue. Vinny pushed up again. And again. More blood poured from the alien's mouth and his eyes blazed with fury. He managed to knock Vinny's hand away and brought his fist down squarely in the human's skull.

Vinny cried out as his brain sang in pain. He fell back and Ra'kle retreated, kneeling in the sand and vomiting blood. Vinny got to his knees and picked up the rock he'd used earlier. Ra'kle turned as Vinny flung the rock, the projectile impacting Ra'kle just below his eyebrows. His nose spurted blood and his head fell back, his body collapsing limply in the sand. Vinny limped to the man's side, kneeling next to him and staring at his bloody face. 'I wonder how bad I look?' he wondered.

He rolled the still-panting Jaffa onto his stomach and, with very little empathy, put both hands on the back of the Jaffa warrior's skull. He closed his eyes as he pressed down, laying all his weight on the other man's head. After several moments, Ra'kle's body ceased it's twitching, his arms and legs limp. Vinny kept up the pressure a few extra seconds, then rose to his feet. Ra'kle stayed where he was.

He looked up and saw his team standing on the dune, staring down at him.

"I had to," he argued.

"Any one of us would've done the same thing in the same situation," Mathew said.

Dana nodded. "Survival at any cost. You know that."

Vinny walked to the top of the dune, brushing by them as he descended the other side. "Then why are you all looking at me like I'm guilty? Like I'm a war criminal?"

"You keep forgetting," Dana said, following him down the hill. "We're not us. You're the one you have to convince that this was the only option."

"Yeah," Vinny rasped. "Good chance of that happening..."

The Stargate lay somewhere in the distance; he wasn't going to find it standing around over a dead Jaffa.

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Vinny pulled the blanket from his vest, shaking it out and wrapping it around his shoulders as he walked. He didn't know how it was supposed to help, but the sun reflecting off the silver back probably would've been a bad idea if any other Jaffa were following him. He discovered he didn't care very much anymore if he was making himself a target. He paused on a rise, scanning the horizon for a sign of the familiar stone ring of the Stargate. "Jeezuz," he hissed. "Come on. How far can it be?"

He slid down the other side and continued his walk.


He poured a bit of water from the canteen into his hand, regretting the drops that slid between his fingers and plopped loudly against the sand at his feet. He ran his wet hand over his face several times, then rubbed the back of his neck. The pain from earlier had become a dull throb that filled his skull and traveled half-way down his back. He trudged onward.


After pushing onward for he didn't know how long... after ignoring the pain in his sides and legs... he gave up.

Vinny fell to his knees, cradling his throbbing head in his hands. The heat had grown unbearable; he couldn't even concentrate on the voices or faces of Teal'c and his team anymore. They faded as soon as they appeared, with no words of wisdom to prompt him forward. His vision swam and the horizon swayed like he was aboard a ship, the sky and sand inverting and twisting back and forth. Bravado and training and hope faded. "Help me," he rasped.

"Help me," he repeated, turning his head to the sky. "Come on... you owe me one. You all owe me one. At least.... you ungrateful sons of bitches, come on! COME ON!" He rose to his feet and stumbled forward a few steps before falling again. "You owe me. How can you just abandon me like this?! After all I've done... this is how I die? Well, forget it! Fuck you!"

Stumbling to his feet, he lurched forward and fell again. "Damn it. Ah, damn it..."

The last canteen found its way to his hands. He fumbled with the cap, twisting it quickly and feeling the hot water splash onto his fingers. He swigged it down and looked to the sky again.

"Well... if that's how you wanna play it..."

He stood and started walking to the best of his ability. He no longer believed a Stargate was waiting at the end of his walk. He dropped his last canteen, the remaining water in the reservoir pouring out into the sand.

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He didn't remember falling. The hot sand cradled him, the sun baking him, the scorching air of the desert washing over his body. His feet tingled with the remembrance of the heat they'd passed through. He felt blisters on his body, everywhere it seemed, from the sun. He didn't remember vomiting, but he could smell it on his vest.

"Lieutenant Wright."

He turned his head to the side, looking for the source of Hadley's voice.

"Lieutenant Wright, please respond."

Something crossed the sun, a brief glint and shadow. He turned, squinting into the sky. A bird...? Or... a UAV?

"Lieutenant Wright, this is Major Hadley. Please respond."

He found his radio, thankfully still attached to his vest. He coughed, his throat almost too dry to form words. Where had all his canteens gone...? "Had..."

"Vinny? The UAV has your position. Remain where you are; we're coming to get you."

'Stay where I am,' he thought, dropping his hand down to his side. 'Easy enough.'

Above him, the UAV circled to pinpoint his exact location for the rescue team. He knew what the machine was, and he knew its purpose, yet he couldn't get over how much it resembled a vulture circling...



"It's all right," she said, resting a hand on his shoulder as they loaded him onto the gurney. "We'll get you out of here."

He smiled. "I'm not even sweating."

Dana looked concerned and nodded. "I know, Vinny." She took something from the doctor that was with her and held it over his face. Ice-cold water poured into his mouth and Vinny nearly cried, tilting his head to catch all she had to offer. Dana tenderly touched the back of his head with one hand, letting him drink as the team carried his gurney to the Stargate. He fell back against the gurney, closing his eyes with an 'ahhh.' "We're almost there, Vinny. Just hold on a little longer."


The SGC felt like a chamber of ice after he passed through the Stargate, the chill immediately raising goosebumps on his flesh and making him feel a thousand percent more comfortable. It was then he realized just how hot he had been, how exhausted he was, how tired his muscles were. Janet Fraiser appeared next to him, her hands surprisingly colder than he remembered. She tucked ice packs under his armpits and pillowed his neck with them. She disappeared for an instant and he felt another pack slip between his legs. HIGH between his legs. "Whoa Doc," he rasped.

"Sorry," she apologized, touching his skin tenderly. "Procedure."

"It's procedure to freeze my dick off?"

Janet blushed slightly and repeated, "Sorry, Vinny." To an orderly, she said, "Let's get him to the infirmary."


Dana visited the infirmary, waiting until Janet was done by Lieutenant Wright's bed to get the doctor's attention. Janet drew the curtain, stepping over and moving her out of earshot. "How is he?" Dana asked.

"Sleeping right now. He's still suffering from the effects of the heat stroke and his exhaustion. The dehydration was the easiest part to counter. All we can do now is wait for his body to recover from its ordeal."

The Lieutenant nodded. "And... you haven't told him?"

Janet looked at the curtained bed. "No. Not yet. I don't think we should tell him, frankly."

"I agree, and so does General Hammond. There's no reason for him to know that he walked past the Stargate."

Janet shook her head. "How did it even happen?"

"His course was a little off, he wandered from a straight line, the terrain was massively uneven... he just passed by on the wrong side of a dune and didn't see it." She closed her eyes. "He walked three miles past the Stargate before he gave up. If I hadn't noted the system his glider had gone down in... if we hadn't been able to locate the Gate worlds in that area..." She closed her eyes and looked over where her teammate lay resting.

Janet touched Dana's elbow briefly and said, "He'll get well. He'll move past this."

Dana nodded. "Yeah. Keep me updated on his condition, please?"

"Of course," Janet nodded.

Dana left the infirmary and Janet walked back to Vinny's bedside, watching him sleep. His skin was beet red, blisters on his hands and his feet were a horror story. She applied a wet rag to his left wrist, checked his vitals and tugged the curtain back into place. She walked to her office and turned the temperature of the infirmary down a few more degrees.

After all, what did it hurt if everyone was a little cooler than normal?

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