Sticks and Stones
It was not an ordinary day for SG-1. They were exploring an alien planet, and nothing had happened to them yet. No strange ruins, no System Lords trying to capture them, and no dangerous foliage was trying to eat them.
Even the weather was nice, so they had stopped for a lunch break, digging into their MRE's with the same enthusiasm that would be felt by a Goa'uld parasite if it had somehow been transported to the ingredients section of a cut-rate sushi bar, until Teal'c produced a massive bottle of hot sauce for the bland meal and Jack pulled out some Twinkies. They ravaged the plastic-y pastries with gusto while scanning the horizon unceasingly, and waiting for something to go horribly, horribly wrong.
The flagship team of the SGC hadn't survived this long without gaining a firm grasp on the principles of narrative causality which appeared to run their lives. Clearly, something dangerous was just around the corner.
The first sign they had that something had gone wrong was when the scheduled check-in period had passed and they had received nothing. Carter noticed that the MALP telemetry was down. Evidently the probe could no longer relay the SGC's radio signal.
“Oy,” kvetched O'Neill, “All right everyone, lock and load. We're going back to the gate to check it out.”
Grumbling, SG-1 shouldered their packs and readied their weapons.
“You know, Jack, it could be nothing.” Daniel said in an obnoxiously optimistic voice as the other three team members turned and glared at him.
“You know Daniel,” Jack said in an nasally imitation, “If you didn't get the crap beaten out of you every time these things went wrong, you'd be absolutely insufferable. With as many times as that's happened, I'm amazed you can be so upbeat about everything.”
“Indeed.” Teal'c added, “It is most peculiar DanielJackson.”
“Oh,” said the archaeologist, brightly, as he stubbed his toe on a well-hidden rock, and resumed moving at a hobble, “That's easy to explain. The allergy pills I take induce mild euphoria as a side effect.”
“Any other side effects we should be aware of?” asked Carter worriedly.
“Not much,” he said evenly “Only slight homicidal tendencies when confronted with the color orange, a covert fascination with kitchen plumbing, and irritable bowel-”
“Thank you, Daniel,” Jack interrupted, “I think I've heard enough.”
“I think we've all heard enough,” Carter agreed emphatically, “and look,” she said, pointing to a familiar hill that they remembered from earlier in the day, “we're almost there.”
“Okay campers,” Jack said, “We'll split up. Teal'c and I will go right around the hill, Carter and Daniel will go left, and we'll see what's up. Daniel, try not to shoot us.”
He paused and rolled his eyes, “You know, again.”
“It was just the one time.” Daniel hissed, “And I rubbed up against a hallucinogenic plant that looked like a rock. I thought you were all zombies.” He scrunched up his face, and tried to remember, “At least I think it was zombies. Anyway, I said I was sorry.”
“We know,” said the team in unison.
“That's not important right now.” Carter said, “Let's just edge around the hill nice and slow.”
Jack nodded, “Sounds like a plan. Next time, I'll probably be the one who goes all psycho-Woodstock on you guys. It is my turn after all.”
The rest of the team regarded him warily for a moment, and then shook their heads and chuckled quietly as they moved out.
Despite being veteran intergalactic travelers, SG-1 was unprepared for what they saw when they edged nervously around the hill.
“Holy Ed Wood.” Muttered O'Neill. It was the first thing that came into his head. A chrome flying saucer straight out of a fifties B-movie was parked on top of their probe, (which didn't look like a probe anymore,) balanced awkwardly on two of four legs,
Jack rode a wave of “Earth vs Flying Saucers” nostalgia as he looked over to see Carter practically salivating at the chance to poke around in some more alien doodads.
That meant they overlooked the ship's sole occupant, who straightened up from behind the destroyed MALP and cleared its throat.
The team snapped their weapons. Shocked out of their momentary complacency and left trigger happy by the lack of anything happening all mission, this new grey interloper was left staring down the barrels of two P-90 Personal defense weapons, a Beretta M9, and the business end of a Zat-nikitel, or “Zat” gun.
It shrugged and raised the object in its hand, which resulted in Jack quickly nodding to Teal'c and the Zat being promptly discharged into the alien's face.
As electric-blue energy that could knock a Rhino on its rear wreathed the interloper, the team was surprised by a distinct lack of their present target falling over and going “thud.”
This was bad. Then it got worse. A closer inspection of the creature's hand revealed that it was holding a Sharpie. Not just any marker, but an actual, brand name Sharpie marker straight from office supply closets and the nightmares of teachers with brand-new whiteboards.
“Tickles” Said the Alien in a toneless voice. Its facial expression did not alter one iota.
“Colonel Jack O'Neill?” it asked, glancing down to check a hand-held computer, and then looking back up, “With two L's?”
“Yah,” Jack said in his best Minnesota bland, “That's me. Who's asking?”
“I'm Wowbagger, the Infinitely Prolonged, but that's not important right now. What is important is that you're a bore O'Neill, an absolute nod-offer from one of the more spectacularly boring regions of your tiny little dust speck, whose frantic attempts to find humor in depressing situations are less funny than your pathetic attempts to fish.”
“Kaaay” Jack said, nonplussed. “Well, that's just like, your opinion, man.”
The alien reached into its pocket in and pulled out a clipboard with a massive wad of paper clamped in it, that couldn't have possibly fit inside the pocket. As Carter's eyes bulged even more than they were already, it opened the Sharpie and wrote something on the clipboard.
“Right, that's you done then” It said to O'Neill, then proceeded to engage in a silent staring contest with Teal'c for about two minutes, circling each other while probing one another for signs of weakness.
Each came to a conclusion about the other, and each made an economical hand gesture encouraging the other to go first. Finally Wowbagger spoke;
“You're a contradiction, Teal'c and the eye makeup paired with your shaved head makes you look like a Bhudda in drag. I'm surprised no one's sent you back to Chulak in tears yet.”
The former First Prime bowed his head in acknowledgment of a point scored,
“In-deed.” he rumbled “I would have undergone much ridicule to look as magnificent as I do now, but no one dares taunt me.” He smiled serenely. “I have removed spleens for less. However, your tragic misapplication of color theory only serves to highlight your insecurity relating to your appearance and concurrent petulant state. An olive or brown blazer, close-cut would do much to contrast your bland skin tone and render you more intriguing and intimidating.”
At this, the team lowered their guns and their heads whipped around and focused on the Jaffa Warrior, who simply gave a vulpine smile, “I have found many of your reality television programs insightful into not only your American culture, but of the egocentric and appearance-driven nature of the Goa'uld System Lords we are engaged in legendary combat with. I also now know that the appropriate rug is an overlooked feature in that really ties a room together, and how to say “Yes to this dress” – Dre'yauc was pleased with my return from the expedition to the House of Nordstrom in the recent Yuletide season.”
“Olive?” Said the alien? “Really?”
Teal'c nodded. “Indeed.”
“Huh. Hey, if you don't mind me asking, how come you're not all mad at me for insulting you? Or at least crashing on your robot-probe thingy?”
“MALP!” Interjected Carter, “It stands for-” She trailed off as the rest of the team shook their heads. “Well fine. If you want to know, it's because despite the creepiness of you knowing who we are, you insulted Jack first.”
O'Neill just shrugged, “You haven't tried to kill us or butchered the beautiful and in no way nonsensically crazy English language.”
“We remain unincarcerated” Teal'c said.
“Ooh. OOOH!” Daniel exclaimed “And you haven't tortured us yet! That's a big one. Wait. Who are you anyway.”
The alien pulled a tiny silver tube, no bigger than a lipstick applicator out of its pocket, cleared its throat, and pressed a button. Its voice now emanated from the tube in even more of a monotone:
“This is the 34,146th time this function has been activated. I am Wowbagger the Infinitely Prolonged,” the device said flatly, as the alien bowed sarcastically, if such a thing was possible,
“Thanks to an accident with an irrational particle accelerator, a pair of rubber bands and a liquid lunch, I'm immortal. Yaaaaaay.”
The device paused, played a tinny fanfare, and released a single, limp firework that plopped onto the ground. Before picking up with the audio,
“Going to funerals of acquaintances got old after a while, so I decided to keep busy by insulting every living being in the galaxy-alphabetically. Then some idiot named McKay opened a trans-universal bridge so now I have a whole series of universes to insult now. Gives me something to do, but it's become a minor compulsion at this point. I can stop if I want to. Probably.”
“Rodney McKay?” Carter asked, as the team waved at Wowbagger, “He's a physicist of some renown back on earth!”
“Different McKay,” Wowbagger said, a knowing glint in his eye, “I think this one's name was Meredith. Anyway. You all seem like fairly froody individuals, but I still have to get on with this thing. And then find a way to fix my ship. I generally don't try to land on robots. Crazy tentacle-mouth alien samurai are more my flavor.”
“Not a problem,” Jack said. “We lose one of those every ep-I mean every mission. We replace them out of the Air Force toilet seat budget. Why else would the damn things be so expensive?”
“And I can help fix your ship!” Carter said in a cheerful kid-jumping-up-and-down-outside-of-a-candy-store kind of way.
“You'd better let her,” Jack said, “She loves new space thingies and she might strain something if you don't let her take a look.”
“Fine.” Wowbagger said, “Autotranslating manual's on the left of the pilot's seat. I never read the damn thing, but even if you are Captain-Doctor Carter I doubt you're smart enough to figure it out anyway, you approval hungry-90s boxticked feminist caricature, (I will say you've come a long way from those early insecure missions though,) I doubt you're smart enough to fix it anyway.”
Carter gave him a death glare that would have blown up a sun and started walking over to him. “Listen here you gray-scaled sonofabitch. First you don't read the instruction manual. Then you call me stupid! Now admittedly the reproductive organs bit was a poor choice of catchphrase and-”
Wowbagger ticked his clipboard.
“Oh.” Carter said, stopping in her tracks. “Compulsion. Right. I suppose that's me done then.”
Wowbagger nodded. “You don't want to punch him?” asked Jack.
“Nossir,” Carter replied, hauling a wrench and micrometer out of her vest. “It's SPACEHIP TIME!” and bolted for the hatch.
“Incidentally,” said Wowbagger, “Thanks for not shooting guns at me. Those sorta hurt.”
“Oh, that's ok,” Daniel piped up, “I'm not hopped up on alien serums right now. Just lots and lots of Benadryl.” He looked down at his feet and muttered, “I suppose you've got to do me now, might as well get it over with.”
Wowbagger the Infinitely Prolonged consulted his clipboard.
“Dr. Daniel Jackson. Um. Lessee, regarded as a fraud for most of your professional career, and can't be vindicated due to the secrecy of the program you enabled, parents dead, wife abducted by a parasite and killed. Ex-girlfriend abducted by a different parasite...” He trailed off as Jackson grew progressively more downcast.
“I've nothing worse than life's already given you. I'd tell you that round glasses look bad and you need to update your look, but Teal'c's probably about to.” The Jaffa nodded solemnly.
“Damn. Okay, um. Wow. I feel like a bit of an arse now, honestly.” said Wowbagger, and walked over to pat the archaeologist on the head with a stiff motion, like a housgest interacting with an unknown dog, “There there. Everything's going to be all-right.”
“DON'T SAY THAT!” All the team members shouted simultaneously, even Carter, from inside the hatch.
“It just makes things worse.” Daniel murmured quietly, “It was a nice thought though.”
“Oh.” Said the alien. “Mars Bar?”
“Yeah, ok. Thank you.” Daniel took a bite, and Carter?
Carter blew up a small mountain range with an orange beam that shot from the front of the saucer and went “fzzzzzt.” Then the silver craft began to give a slight hum and hover above the ground an inch or two.
As she walked down the ramp, lava started to emerge from the new crater in the distance and flow towards them.
“Thanks for fixing the ship.” Wowbagger said to Sam, “What was wrong with it, anyway?”
“If you'd bothered to read the instruction manual,” Carter said in a superior tone, “You'd know that the Neutrino Collector needs to be cleaned out every quintillion light years.”
“Oh yeah.” he said. “I always forget about that thing.” He looked out at the lava field. “You should all get home before the floor becomes lava for real. Take a break. Maybe try to bore yourself to death with some fishing or something.”
“You know, fishing isn't as boring as you think it is.” Jack said as Carter quickly stowed her tools and data reader.
Wowbagger was amused to see the rest of the team, who were standing behind him, shake their heads vehemently. The Colonel must have noticed something in his expression, and he whipped around before Carter, Daniel and Teal'c could stop their heads from moving.
The look of betrayal on his face was delicious. It would keep Wowbagger entertained for weeks.
“There's the beer,” said the Colonel, Desperately reaching, “Don't forget the beer. Beer makes everything better.”
“I think this is my queue to leave. It's actually been sort of not-terrible. Good luck not dying. Jackson.”
With that, Wowbagger the Infinitely Prolonged spun on his heel, marched back into his ship, and blasted off as SG-1 ran to the gate.
“So,” Daniel huffed, “Do we report this?”
Samantha Carter, Captain-by-the-book just shrugged. “Who'd believe us. We'll just say that the planet was unstable and exploded and I'll try not to blow up anything bigger, like a sun or something.”
Labored murmurs of assent were heard, and no-one asked Daniel why he had returned with a Mars Bar wrapper that he hadn't left with, why Carter had a new spaceship design on her computer, or why Teal'c had ditched the eyeshadow.
The next time Jack went on leave at his small Montana cabin, he found a gray alien standing on the dock with a six-pack of Quetzalon VII microbrew and a fishing rod.
“You know there are no fish in this pond, right Jack?” Wowbagger asked.
“That's not the point.” said O'Neill, before accepting a beer and casting his line.