Command and Control

Klaus freezes the image and scrolls back a few seconds. "This footage is grainier than most Bigfoot films," he complains. "And it is alum, by the way. Looks vaguely winged, multilegged, and maybe two meters long. Who's got bug spray?"

Sarah takes a few deep breaths as she looks at the still shot. She wasn't entirely certain how many legs there were, but it seemed like a whole lot more than four. She didn't see wings, either, but the image was indeed very grainy.

"See, now I'm going to have to kill you," she says jokingly to the man in the seat in front of her as her mouth twists into playful grin.

Staring at the image on the screen as Klaus scrolls forward and back, Sarah begins to shake her head. "It looks like someone crossed a centipede with a dragon, or something," she mutters. "And six foot long? I don't have a good perspective on it. Is that body size or tip to tip. And wings? I'm not sure if we have enough DEET on hand for that."

Findy MacLean

"It shouldn't hurt the MALP any, whatever it is. It's quite durable. Us, on the other hand-- well, I'm not keen on coming face to face with one. Unless I'm inside a 302 at the time."

"I think a 302 should work for that." Sarah quips.

"So, what else do we have," she asks as she loks at the live monitor. "With our luck that thing probably has its nest right in front of the gate."

The live feed shows the MALP's field of view as it dutifully trundles in the direction of the supposed gate. The thick carpets of vines try to impose obstacles, but the sturdy little robot breaks out one of the many "improvements" Findy baked in in the form of a pair of chainsaw arms. Dark green tendrils come crashing to the ground with ease, disturbing a swarm of largish insects or smallish birds, and the MALP continues on its merry way.

After another minute or two, the robot comes to a halt. Panning back, Findy adjusts the camera until the green-wreathed shape of a standing circle comes fully into view. Growing directly up through the center of the 6.7-meter stargate, its roots twisted in the ground on both sides and its branches splaying out around the obscured ring shape, is a gigantic cypress tree. Judging by proportion, the trunk has probably a ten-foot diameter and hundred-plus-foot height.

For a good couple of minutes Sarah stares at the image on the screen as a smile creeps across her face. The greenery was a refreshing change from their current snowbound existence, but actually seeing the gate, shrouded in vines and branches as it was, was exhilarating.

"Do we have temperature, humidity and atmospheric readings," she asks, the smile almost evident in her voice.

"Is it possible for the gate to be damaged by the tree that's around it?", Friedrich asks. "I'm not sure how sturdily these things are built, but I do know that trees tend to damage rock, particularly the one that makes the foundation of my house."

Klaus snorts. "That alloy is harder than your skull, Friedrich," the physicist jokes with a casual elbow poke to his fellow Germanophile. "C4 might hurt it. Maybe. I don't think ze MALP's chainsaws are quite up to the task, eh Findy?"

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