DISCLAIMER: No ownership, simply my look at the ‘year that never was.’
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Special thanks to mrswoman for the quick beta and reassurance that this story meets the requirements of the challenge.
CHALLENGE: Written for the 'Last Year of Our Life' challenge - spoilers for the Doctor Who series three finale.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
The Aftermath of the Attack
Two figures slowly crept down the mountainside, hidden behind the cover of night. On the outskirts of the compound, the woman member of the team pushed her back flush against a metal building and peered around the corner, immediately spotting a pair of Toklaphane dragging a body towards an odd-looking structure on the far end away from the buildings.
One of the spherical beings opened a hinged metal door, and the body was unceremoniously thrown through the door and into the fire located directly behind it. The flames briefly leapt around the corners of the opening, but slowly died back to a steady blaze. The Toklaphane closed the door, and the two headed back to the large building in the center of the compound. The observer silently waited until they'd disappeared from view.
"Well, it looks like they've learned how to dispose of the dead properly. I guess they finally figured out that the decaying bodies were spreading disease and killing off potential slaves."
A dark eyebrow rose. "Indeed."
"C'mon, Teal'c. Let's see if we can get a little closer." Sam eased away from the building and slunk behind the next enclosure as the pair made their way into the compound.
Sam glanced to the next set of buildings. "Hmm, I think maybe we should split up." She motioned with her hand towards the right side of the compound. "I'll take this side and you take the other," glancing at her watch, she continued, "Let's meet back at the base of the mountain in thirty minutes."
Teal'c nodded his reply and watched as Sam moved safely to the next building. Turning, he slowly eased his way in the other direction.
Inside one of the many buildings, a redhead sat on the edge of her cot, her head in her hands; muffled sobs filtered from under the base of her palms. A second woman wiped away a tear of her own before taking a seat beside the crying woman.
"C'mon, Cath, you've got to pull yourself together. If the Toklaphane see any sign of weakness, they'll kill you."
"Let them. I'm dead anyway." Catherine didn't remove her hands from her face, her tone indicating she'd meant every word.
A third woman moved into place on the other side of Catherine. "Sara's right, Catherine, Wendy wouldn't want you to sacrifice yourself."
Catherine raised her head in anger. "Tell me, Sofia, if it was Sara, what would you do? Just move on. Forget about her; forget everything she meant to you? Bullshit, you'd go out and attack the first Toklaphane you saw, knowing that it would mean instant death."
"Catherine, Wendy had been getting worse every day. You knew this would happen." Sofia softened her voice, reaching for Catherine's hand.
Tears flowed like rivers down both sides of the redhead's face. "I know, but that doesn't make this any easier. Why couldn't they just let her die in peace? Why did they have to kill her?"
"Because she wasn't of use to them anymore, Cath, she couldn't keep up in the lab. You've seen them kill countless others who couldn't work any longer. The work is all they care about." Sara grabbed Catherine's other hand and squeezed, offering comfort in the form of touch.
"Cath, you're the only one Sofia and I have left. Don't give up. We'll figure out how to get out of here. I promise."
Catherine broke down and both women pulled her into an embrace, allowing her this short time to grieve for her lover. Tomorrow, they'd work on yet another escape plan.
Sam wiped a tear from her eye, remembering the day she'd said good-bye to Janet for the last time. Sliding from the window, she silently made her way to the next building.
Across the compound, Teal'c leaned against an open window, the conversation slowly making its way to him.
"Please, Liv. Let's not do anything stupid. I can't survive outside this compound."
"Yes, you can, Alex. People are dying everyday, either from disease or from frustration at the situation. I say we take our chances in the mountains."
"Where would we go? We don't know what's going on in the rest of the world. Our friends could all be dead. This is more than likely a global problem. The Toklaphane seem very thorough. I don't think they'd just attack Las Vegas and the surrounding area."
Olivia plopped down next to her lover and closed her eyes, once again cursing their timing. If they hadn't taken the trip to Vegas, they'd at least be amongst their friends. The two of them didn't know anyone in this compound; just about everyone they'd met seemed resigned to their fate, but Olivia just couldn't give up. She wasn't going to die a slave.
A hand intertwined with her own, and Olivia looked up into shiny blue eyes. "You know what? You're right. We have to try or else we'd never forgive ourselves. I'll follow you to the ends of the earth if need be, Olivia Benson."
Olivia smiled and kissed Alex gently. "Let's head out before dawn then."
Alex nodded her head and moved in for another kiss. Teal'c smiled and turned towards the next building.
Exactly thirty minutes later, Teal'c watched as Sam made her way towards him. She motioned up the mountain and the Jaffa nodded, glancing over his shoulder to be sure they hadn't been spotted. A few moments later, they'd made it to their secluded campsite.
"Almost everyone in this camp seems to be suffering from some sort of disease or injury. I only found three women who I think would be able to make the hike to the rendevous point." Sam grabbed for her canteen and took a healthy swig.
"I concur. I, myself, only came across two such women. I wonder why the Toklaphane still maintain this camp. It doesn't appear to be worth the effort."
Sam frowned. "Maybe they enjoy squeezing the last bit of life from humanity."
"It would seem so."
"Well, I guess we should regroup and go back for the five women. We can send them on ahead to Cheyenne Mountain while you and I stop at that last compound we spotted from the helicopter. Maybe we'll get lucky there."
A blinking light caught Sam's attention, and she moved over to the communications device she'd devised to check in with General Landry. Its signal bounced off practically every satellite still in the sky. The Toklaphane hadn't been able to hone in on their signal, and Sam held out hope that they'd be able to complete more missions before the Master figured out what was going on. She was afraid their luck would run out; three months had been more than she'd expected.
Flipping a switch, she responded, "Yellow Hawk reporting in. Over"
"10-4, Yellow Hawk. How's the fishing? Over."
"Not so good. Only had five bites in the last hour. Over."
"Papa Bear needs you back at the den. Over"
Sam looked over at Teal'c and frowned. "Had another fishing hole in mind. Over."
"It'll have to wait. There's game to trap. Your ride will pick you up in an hour. Over"
"Acknowledged. Out." Sam switched off the device and sat down heavily on the ground.
"Colonel Carter? Has the Toklaphane discovered the base?"
Sam sighed. "Not yet, Teal'c, but they must be making the general nervous. Let's get our cargo and head for the pickup area. I just hope the others had more success than we did. I'm afraid our rescue missions are numbered from here on out."
Sam eased the door open and glanced over her shoulder before stepping into the building. She blinked in the darkness, allowing her eyes to adjust to the low light coming in from the window. On the far side of the room, she spotted three cots pushed together while a fourth sat against the wall, empty and alone. The other cots were occupied.
With stealth, she crept across the floor, focusing in on the three women. The redhead slept in the middle cot while the brunette and blonde slept on opposite sides, each gripping the redheaded woman's hand tightly. Sam moved to the blonde.
"Hey, wake up."
Sofia started, her free hand moving towards the intruder, but Sam caught the fist before it could impact with her face.
"It's okay. I'm Colonel Samantha Carter of Stargate Command. I've come to take you out of here."
Sofia stared hard at the other woman. Glancing at the other two cots, she demanded, "Not without my friends."
Sam smiled. "I wouldn't have it any other way."
Ten minutes later, Sam led the three women to the campsite, relieved to see Teal'c with the other two women. Her smile faded at the small cut on her friend's face.
"What happened?" Sam crossed the camp and moved to stand in front of the Jaffa.
"It was nothing, Colonel Carter, just a misunderstanding."
Sam looked over to see a blonde and a brunette; the brunette was making a fairly good sized hole with the toe of her boot.
Alex dug her hands into her pockets. "Um, Olivia didn't know your friend was here to help. The swing was purely reflexive."
Sam nodded. "Okay, we don't have time to talk about this anyway. Teal'c, grab the communications device and bring up the rear; the rest of you grab as many supplies as you can. We have twenty minutes to make a thirty minute hike. Let's go."
The colonel reached for her backpack and fastened it over her shoulder. Placing her hand on her zat gun, she started down the trail. The other women glanced at each other briefly before scurrying for something to carry. Sam smiled when she heard the sounds of footfalls on the ground behind her.
Five minutes later, the complaining began.
"I'm too old for this shit." Catherine huffed along beside her two friends, her shorter legs having to work overtime.
Sofia grinned. "Oh, c'mon, Catherine, you're not that old."
The redhead shot her a glare and picked up the pace, the small makings of a smile creasing the corners of her mouth. Sara winked at her lover and smiled.
Behind the threesome, Olivia held Alex's hand, worried at how pale her lover was, but Alex never complained as she kept up with the rigorous pace set by the colonel.
Teal'c brought up the rear, watching his charges and keeping an eye out for any signs of trouble. He gripped his staff tightly as he willed the others to go faster.
A mile from their designated pick up area, they encountered a problem, a very large problem. Sam quickly left the trail, signaling the others to keep silent and follow. Exhausted, the women stood on the path, watching the blonde scamper through the wooded area, but a high pitch sound had them racing to catch up.
They knew the sound well. It was the sound used by the Toklaphane when they were on the hunt. Alex had likened it to the blast of a bugle, signaling the beginning of a fox hunt. She'd only been witness to one such hunt, but that was plenty enough for her.
Teal'c followed the women through the trees, his staff weapon at the ready while Sam led the group into a thick grove. She slid to the ground and motioned the others to follow her lead. The other women practically dove on the bed of leaves, no longer questioning the blonde's orders. Sam held her zat in the firing position as Teal'c knelt beside her, aiming his own weapon at the entrance to their hiding spot.
Alex burrowed into Olivia's side. "I love you, Liv."
"I love you, too, Alex, but don't give up yet. I have faith in Sam and Teal'c."
Overhearing the pair, Catherine whispered, "Me, too. But, the Toklaphane can't be stopped. It takes at least four to six bullets to even slow them down. The only thing that's ever really taken one to his knees was a shotgun blast. I don't see any shotguns, do you?"
Four Toklaphanes stepped through the trees, their focus immediately drawn to the kneeling Jaffa. Teal'c raised his weapon but waited for Sam to give the word. The colonel allowed the foursome to move closer and closer.
"What's she waiting for? If they get too close, there won't be time to shoot them all." Sara's voice carried to Sam, but the blonde just smiled and let them move even closer.
The area was filled with blasts from the staff weapon as well as the zat gun. In just a few seconds, the four Toklaphanes were lying flat on their back, no sign of movement from any of them.
"Holy shit! What the hell kind of weapons did you have?" Catherine lifted to her knees, expressing the thoughts of each and every woman.
Sam grinned. "Just some fancy toys."
"Can I play?" Olivia asked, her eyes alight with excitement.
"No, you can't. Now, let's get a move on. That chopper won't wait forever."
All five women stood as one, grabbing their supplies and walking towards the standing colonel.
"Let's get the hell out of here, Colonel." Olivia took Alex's hand and squeezed.
Teal'c raised an eyebrow. "Indeed."
From the chopper, the women stared out over the land, hoping to see any signs that human life was still alive and well somewhere; however, not a single person was sighted on their flight to Cheyenne Mountain. And for the first time since they were taken, they learned where they'd been kept, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, roughly 500 miles from Vegas and 500 miles from their new destination. Catherine made a mental note of the location as she closed her eyes and remembered her lover.
Sam had corraled the women out of the helicopter and into the elevator before any of them realized what was going on. They'd gotten so used to following her that they just stepped from the chopper and headed to whereever Sam was taking them.
"Where are we?" Sofia asked, noting the elevator's numbers. The surprise was evident on her face when the elevator seemed to lurch downward instead of upward.
"Stargate Command located at the base of Cheyenne Mountain. We're headed for the area where the other civilians are being housed. We've managed to rescue roughly 75 people so far, mostly women. The Toklaphane don't seem to have much tolerance for disobedience, and most men don't take kindly to being ordered around."
"What about the children?" Catherine asked, her hopes that her daughter was safely tucked away with her mother at their ranch in Wyoming. The timing of the attack coincided with Lindsey's break, and Catherine had been thankful at the time, thinking the secluded ranch would be safe from attack.
Sam shook her head. "We haven't found any children in any of the compounds. We have no idea where they've been taken."
Sensing Catherine's distress, Sara spoke up. "Colonel, have the Toklaphane taken over everywhere? Is it possible that the more rural areas are safe?"
"Yes, it's entirely possible. If someone is holed up in an isolated location, and they don't call attention to themselves, they may very well be safe."
Sara looked at Catherine and smiled. The redhead nodded, changing her focus back to Lindsey and her mom being safe. She just hoped they'd be able to survive off the land.
The elevator came to a stop, and the doors opened to a large room filled with survivors. The new group stepped out and scanned the faces, hoping to spot someone familiar. No friends or loved ones were immediately sighted; however, the way the individuals had grouped themselves was obvious to even the casual observer.
Those who were still amongst friends or lovers sat together on one side of the room while the ones who had no one sat on the other, alone and at separate tables. The sheer number of loners was startling to the newcomers. Sam explained as best she could.
"Um, we haven't been able to stray too far from the mountain. In fact, your compound was the furthest we've ever been. Most of these people live in a three hundred mile radius of the mountain or just happened to be visiting in the area when the Toklaphane appeared. The majority have no idea what happened to their friends or lovers. They've been isolated from them since the attack and have basically been on their own."
Catherine zoomed in on a brunette seated at the corner table. Her eyes were closed, and she was rubbing her forehead in a circular motion. Excusing herself, she made her way over while the others settled in at a nearby table. Sofia smiled at Sara.
"Excuse me, is this seat taken?" Catherine waited a beat for the other woman to focus on her. A wave of the hand invited Catherine to have a seat.
"Um, I've just arrived. How long have you been here?"
The brunette placed her hands on the table and began to fidget with a ring. Upon closer inspection, Catherine noted not just one ring but two, nestled closely together.
"Two weeks," was the short reply.
"Are you from this area?"
Another rotation of the rings. "No, I'm from Florida. I was in Colorado Springs to take a fugitive back to Miami."
Catherine nodded. "Oh, so you're a US marshal?"
"Was; I was before the Toklaphane showed up."
Daring to touch the other woman, Catherine gently laid her hand on the nervous fingers. "You still are. They can't take that away from you." Lifting her hand, she held it out to the other woman. "Catherine Willows, Las Vegas Crime Lab."
The brunette stared at the steady hand and slowly took it in her grasp. "Karen Sisco, US Marshal's Office."
Later that night, Olivia sat up in bed, gasping for breath. Alex reached for her lover.
"Liv? What's the matter? Bad dream?"
Olivia closed her eyes tightly and shook her head, trying to dispel the image. She blew out a cleansing breath and turned to her partner.
"Yeah, damn, I'd hoped being somewhere safe would help. Maybe I'm feeling guilty because I'm hidden away from the Toklaphane while others still have to fight for their lives against them."
Alex rubbed the small of Olivia's back. "Don't, Liv. We can't think that way. We need to just be thankful that we made it out of that compound alive."
"I know. I just wish Elliott would stay out of my dreams. Every time I see him, it's a different scenario, but the result is always the same. They rip him apart and make me watch." Olivia shuddered. "Will these nightmares ever stop?"
Down the corridor, Sara lay beside her lover, looking up at the ceiling of the room. "Sofia? You awake?"
The words were spoken so softly that if Sofia hadn't been awake, she'd never have heard them. "Yeah? What's up?"
"I was just wondering about Greg and Nick. They were checking out that lead in Mesquite when the attack began. Do you think there's a chance they're still alive?"
Sofia pulled her lover closer. "Sara, we've had this discussion before. Mesquite is a fairly small town. There's always a chance."
"Yeah, if anyone could survive it would be those two. Maybe one day we'll see them again."
"Maybe." Sofia sighed. "You think Catherine's okay by herself."
"Um, probably, she knows we're next door, and I think she's feeling better about the odds that her Mom and Lindsay are still alive. Colonel Carter said just the right thing."
Sofia snaked her hand under her lover's shirt. "Sara?"
The brunette turned towards the other woman and smiled. Their lips met in a sweet, gentle kiss, each woman reveling in the other's touch, a touch that had been missing for far too long. Sofia rolled on top of her lover, and for the first time since the attack, the Toklaphane were forgotten.
However, on the other side of the wall, thoughts of their attackers was the main focus. Every time Catherine closed her eyes, she saw Gil being ripped to shreds. His eyes were filled with shock and disbelief. Catherine had turned away as soon as she could, but the memories had already been implanted. A lone tear slipped down her cheek as she closed her eyes. Even the safety of the mountain wasn't enough to allow her a peaceful sleep.
The next morning found the new arrivals seated together at one of the commissary's tables. A sixth person had joined them as Catherine had asked Karen if she'd like to have breakfast with them. The marshal had hesitated briefly, but smiled and took a seat. Karen felt more at ease with this group than any of the others since she'd arrived.
Soon, stories of New York and Miami intermixed with those of Vegas. Olivia and Sofia had swapped stories of their funniest cases, and Karen, who'd been silent for the most part, finally opened up, telling of the time she and Marley had chased a naked perp, ending in his death under a car. Everyone at the table chuckled when she told of Marley's remark, and Karen smiled as she remembered her lover fondly, deciding that these were the memories she was going to take with her for the rest of her days. The sad thoughts were only bringing her down.
A loud siren type noise, followed by the flashing of lights, had the women turning towards the doorway where Colonel Carter stood. Sam entered the room and tried to maintain some semblance of order.
"There's been a breach by the Toklaphane, and we need to get everyone to the gate room as soon as possible. Go to your rooms and grab only what's necessary. There will be an airman in each corridor to show you to the gate. Time is of the essence, so let's move quickly, no pushing or shoving. We're still got plenty of time to evacuate."
Olivia stood and took Alex's hand. "Evacuate? Where the hell are we going to evacuate to? I thought we were already at the base of the mountain."
Sofia grabbed Sara's hand and tugged her along, pleased to see that Karen seemed to be taking care of Catherine. "And what's this gate room anyway?"
Fifteen minutes later, the group stared at the large ring located at the end of the short ramp. Catherine furrowed her brow. "Is that water? How can that be?"
Sam's voice filled the room. "Okay, listen up everyone. I don't have time to explain wormholes, but trust me when I say we're going to a place where the Toklaphane can't follow. You may experience sickness or dizziness, but it should be brief. It will be well worth any discomfort. Trust me."
"Wormholes? You've discovered a wormhole?" Sara asked in amazement.
"I promise to try to explain in more detail later, Ms. Sidle, but right now, we need to get everyone through the gate."
Sara nodded her head and started up the ramp where Teal'c and Daniel were waiting. The others slowly followed behind, not quite as certain as Sara seemed to be.
Sam continued her orders. "Teal'c will go through first, and Daniel will assist each person through the gate. Just step through. It'll be fine."
The group watched in amazement as Teal'c stepped through the watery surface, disappearing from view.
"Wow! Far out; c'mon Sofia, let's go." Sara reached back for her lover's hand, and Sofia didn't hesitate to take hold. Sara nodded to Daniel and stepped through the gate, pulling Sofia behind. The moment they disappeared, the rest of the survivors started to line up, ready to follow the other two. Soon, Sam and Daniel were the only two left on the ramp.
"Colonel Carter, I'm sending Vala and Daniel with you. The rest of us will secure things on this end. The Toklaphane will never gain access to the gate."
Sam frowned and looked up at her superior, standing behind the glass. "But sir, I should be the one to shut down the gate."
"Colonel Carter, these people trust you and everyone else on the rescue teams. I promise you that we're going to do everything on this end to keep the Toklaphane from this level, but we've got to be prepared in the event that they do. You're in charge on the planet, Colonel. I'll contact you when and if I can."
The sound of footsteps raced around the corner and continued up the ramp. Sam smiled at her lover's wild hair. "Sorry I'm late." Vala moved next to Sam and looked back at the general.
"Okay, you three. We need to close the iris; you need to be on your way." The tone of the general's voice was stern. There wouldn't be any argument from his people.
Daniel nodded and stepped through the gate, followed closely by Vala. Sam paused and looked around the room as if trying to commit every little detail to memory. She glanced back at the general and saluted.
"Godspeed, Colonel Carter."
"You, too, Sir." Sam turned and stepped through the gate, praying that there'd be an Earth to return to.
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