Workplace Legends

Rating: PG

For elishavah, who wanted a story based on an LJ icon with penguins.

The Great Penguin Debacle of 1997 never would have happened if the MALP had gone out on time. It had been scheduled for a standard information-gathering deployment at 1500 hours, but the arm had malfunctioned (again; Number Three's arm had always been finicky) and they couldn't get it working until well into the evening.

General Hammond could have had them wait until the next day, but the whole process had become routine by then and they were already behind schedule as it was. They'd have to leave the thing there overnight until a team could be sent out to fetch it, but it was just a robot, right? What could happen?

(It was early on, remember. They hadn't yet figured out quite how many ways the universe could and would screw them over.)

So at exactly 2017 the MALP went through the gate to PKX-353. It was a bright, sunny day there, not a cloud in the sky, and nothing but snow from one horizon to the other. The technicians responsible for handling the initial investigation were disappointed; they could take all the usual environmental readings, temperature and atmospheric sampling and so on, but there wasn't anything cool to look at. Okay, they were a little jealous, too; the support team for Number Five had gotten a whole big ruined city the week before, with mosaics. Pretty mosaics.

Then Dr. Duncan spotted the penguins. "Ooh ooh ooh," she said--she tended toward the excitable--"look! Penguins! Can we drive the MALP over closer to them?"

There were strict rules about what to do with the one thirty-eight minute window allotted to each initial investigation. Environmental sampling, yes; full circuit of the Gate at a distance of ten meters (if the terrain allowed), yes; chasing after wildlife, not so much. But it was a snowy plain, and mineral sampling wasn't even possible, and there were only five people in the Gateroom, all of whom kinda wanted to see the penguins.

So they trundled the MALP off toward the penguins, rather expecting them to run--waddle--whatever, move away in some manner. Dr. Duncan started talking about how fascinating it was that penguins had actually made it off of Earth, she couldn't imagine why they would've been seeded by the goa'uld, maybe it was convergent evolution, but no, I mean, come on, look at them, they're exactly similar... well, okay, they're kind of big...

"Oh my God," she said, "they've got to be twenty feet tall."

Sergeant Leremy's eyes bugged out of her face. "Holy shit, they're coming after the MALP!"

The next morning, SG-3 went through the Gate to retrieve the extremely valuable piece of government property that had been left in the hands--er, flippers--of those that clearly intended it harm. They went through fully armed, and successfully overcame the enemy forces preventing them from recovering poor old Number Three, whose arm was completely off now and which was frozen to the ice by something that everyone very carefully did not say was probably penguin pee.

Officially, the whole thing was very embarrassing and several reprimands were issued.

Unofficially--well, unofficially there was a tape of a dozen twenty-foot-tall penguins turning as one to waddle along in a slow-speed penguin-robot chase scene, which involved three ass-first avian wipeouts and a display that one of the xenobiologists was pretty sure was courting behavior. (After that, SG-3 just hoped the frozen substance they'd spent half an hour chopping at was pee.) They never did find all the copies, and when Dr. Duncan left the SGC twelve years later, it was shown at her going-away party.

For a woman who'd spent more than a decade getting penguin-related gag gifts from her co-workers, she took it pretty well.

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