Previously published in Iris Code #4
The sun was shining on P3X-668. The grass was green and warm. The sky was clear and blue. The far off mountains sparkled purple in the dazzling sunlight. A nearby stream was quietly gurgling as the water danced over smooth rocks and pebbles on its way to a medium-size pool of water further to the south. A soft breeze was blowing. The temperature was not too cold and not too hot, but just right. In short, P3X-668 was the most wonderful planet in the universe.
Underneath the gently swaying branches of a huge tree (Sam thought it might be related to a species of Earth oak), Dr. Daniel Jackson was basking in the shade and reading. Page after beautiful page of an archeological journal. He stared lovingly at each illustration and sometimes read every paragraph twice, just to enjoy the intricate beauty of the words. He caressed the slick pages of the paper, enjoying the tactile sensation. Jack said he often “made love” to his books and magazines and Daniel had to admit that, in a sense, Jack was right. Linguistics and archeology were in his blood. The words were precious to him.
Next to him in the grass were two more magazines. One of them was some stupid sports magazine that Jack had insisted he bring along, but the other one was last month’s issue of KMT. He had over a year’s worth of magazines to catch up on reading and, by god, he was going to take this opportunity to relax and read. He’d even read about Jack’s hockey team, if only so that he could argue with Jack about them with some authority.
It was blessedly quiet here in this little patch of paradise, aside from the soothing murmur of the stream and the calming sound of the leaves rustling over his head. Sam, Jack and Teal’c had gone off exploring. The last he’d seen of them, they’d been headed downstream towards the pond, Jack wondering if there were fish to be found in it. Teal’c had looked nervous at the very idea of Jack and fishing. Sam had simply smirked, rolled her eyes, and waved at Daniel, leaving him to his favorite pastime as she followed the two men with a soil sample kit clutched in one hand.
A few feet away in the grass, an Air Force issue blanket was spread out on the ground. An array of food not normally seen on a SG-1 reconnaissance mission adorned the blanket. He and Sam had gone shopping the day before and picked up all kinds of deli and snack food: tubs of coleslaw, potato salad and ambrosia fruit salad; several whole roasted chickens; sandwich bread and bologna; a bottle of mustard; Hostess chocolate and orange cupcakes (Teal’c loved the orange ones for some unfathomable reason) and Twinkies (Jack’s favorite); lots of fruit—bananas and apples and little tangerines—and an array of cheeses. It was a positive smorgasbord of food. Definitely not standard issue MREs. Jack had already snagged a Twinkie and eaten it, but the rest of the food was untouched. As they had left earlier, his teammates had warned Daniel to wait for them before indulging in the food. He’d snuck a few nibbles of some of the cheese and crunched on an apple, but other than that, he’d simply laid it all out a few minutes earlier in anticipation of their return. Judging by the position of the sun, it was getting close to lunchtime.
Next to the blanket was a little portable cooler full of ice and canned sodas. Daniel had a can of frosty cold Coca-Cola balanced in his lap and every once in awhile he enjoyed a sip of it. The little things in life truly were pleasurable, he mused, especially for someone, such as himself, who had spent the last year and change as a non-corporeal being on an ascended plane.
Of course, he didn’t remember his time on that so-called exalted plane of existence, but he knew he was enjoying rediscovering the simple joys of being alive and solid. So much seemed fresh and new again to him these days. For instance, the carbonation of the soda as it tingled on his tongue and tickled his nose made him want to laugh. And although Jack and Sam told him that he used to prefer black coffee or diet Coke, he was finding that he liked the sugar rush from a regular Coke. He still loved his black coffee, especially in the mornings, but right now the Coke was delicious, the setting was next to perfect, and the peace and quiet to relax and read were more than welcome. Bless General Hammond for suggesting they combine this mission with a little getaway. Jack had been pushing for SG-1 to get some time off after their last few really harrowing missions. Daniel knew that Jack was worried that he was already working too hard again and he wanted Daniel to take some time to kick back and relax—along with the rest of SG-1—before they all ended up burned out. Unfortunately, the fight with Anubis and the search for the Lost City and so many other things kept getting in the way. It was a stroke of genius on the general’s part when he asked SG-1 to make a short jaunt to P3X-668, reconnoiter, take a few samples, have a look around—and while they were there, indulge in a little rest and relaxation. He even made it clear he’d look the other way when the supplies for the mission went through the wormhole. He never actually said the words “have a picnic,” but SG-1 understood … so here they were.
Daniel heard a rustling in the underbrush across the clearing, and tried to remain very still, in the hopes he was about to catch an elusive glimpse of some of the planet’s native wildlife. So far, even leaving the MALP set up to observe for several days had revealed absolutely nothing in the way of movement around the area of the Stargate. There was evidence here and there of some kind of wildlife, but never an actual physical sighting. He was no zoologist, but in their travels around the galaxy he’d learned to read the signs—Teal’c had taught him quite a lot in that area over the years—and he found the variety of native flora and fauna on the various planets they visited endlessly fascinating. It was interesting that so many of the plants and animals they encountered resembled Earth equivalents.
Suddenly the bushes parted and something poked out. Daniel squinted, trying to see across the distance. It appeared to be some kind of … waving antenna? But it was enormous.
Daniel froze, not wanting to frighten whatever animal might be venturing out into the open. He slowly put his hand on his sidearm, just in case. He was curious, but he wasn’t stupid. For all he knew, it could be the local version of a bear.
The next thing he knew, there was a veritable explosion of sound and these gigantic things came out of the underbrush, one after another, like an army formation, marching across the clearing straight for him. One, two, three, four … ten … twelve … they just kept coming. The ground trembled underneath him in a good imitation of the rumbling sound made by the boots of Jaffa Serpent Guards.
But these were no Jaffa. They were huge, honkin’ ants. Daniel was literally frozen with fear, pressing backwards against the bark of the tree. A Beretta wasn’t going to be much good against an entire army of mutant ants.
They trooped through the campsite in lock-step—not an easy thing to accomplish considering they each had eight legs—taking no notice of the terrified archeologist in their midst. They headed straight for the food covered blanket with single-minded focus. One after another they marched past him, big and red and shiny, at least two feet tall. Their exoskeletons flashed in the sunlight like some strange form of armor. The pincers on the front of their “faces” were gleaming black and wicked. As they reached the food, they began picking up the items in their mouths, an exciting chittering noise filling the air. One of them stopped to sniff at the cooler full of drinks and gave the insect equivalent of a shrug. It picked up the cooler and kept going.
One of the things suddenly stopped in its tracks, falling out of formation and turned to stare right at Daniel. It stood there, smelling the air with its antennae and its multi-faceted eyes whirling.
Internally, Daniel was practically gibbering even while he held himself perfectly still and silent. He was deathly afraid of ants. Why was this kind of thing always happening to him? He was going to die and the only thing running screaming through his mind was that silly line from Red Dwarf: “I don’t know what it is, but I think it wants to eat me.” Another crazed notion intruded as he forced himself to stop hyperventilating and think Oma-esque thoughts: Be one with the tree. Be one with the tree. Be one with the tree.
It must have worked, because the creature turned away and moved to rejoin its fellows. They went through the food like locusts, stripped the blanket and surrounding area bare and kept going, disappearing into the bushes on the opposite side of the clearing, one by one. The sound of their tramping feet slowly faded into the distance.
As Daniel watched in openmouthed wonder, two of the “ants” suddenly came scrambling back out of the underbrush and into the campsite, big bushy branches clutched in their pincers. They swept the camp with military precision, erasing all signs that they had ever been there. One of them looked right at him again and chattered something that sounded vaguely obscene. He could have sworn that it gestured at him with an antenna. Then they scurried off backwards, using the branches to remove all evidence of their passing as they retreated.
The temperature on P3X-668 was positively balmy, but Jack still found himself sweating a bit as he, Carter and Teal’c hiked back to their little campsite. He hadn’t noticed the slight incline when they were coming from the other direction, but it was uphill work going back. Maybe he was out of shape and needed to work out in the gym more often, he mused. He’d thought their campsite and the gate were closer than this. At least they’d had an interesting morning while Carter and Teal’c took soil and plant samples and he “stood guard” by lounging in the soft grass by the pond. He was looking forward to spending some time fishing in that pond later in the afternoon.
But right now, he was longing for one of those ice cold root beers he’d packed in the cooler this morning and wishing that he’d thought to bring one along in his pack. Of course, then it would have gotten warm and flat just like the water in his bottle that he stopped a moment to swallow.
“Tired, sir?” Carter asked him with a teasing grin.
He shook his head, half-expecting the inevitable joke about his age, and wiped a hand across his forehead. “No, Carter. Just thirsty.” He returned her smile and waved a hand. “Onwards. Our picnic awaits.” He couldn’t wait to tear into that roast chicken. He’d worked up a powerful appetite to go along with his thirst.
Teal’c was already way out in front of them. Even without his symbiote to give him extra strength and endurance, the Jaffa could still outlast anyone else in the SGC, especially when it came to a simple hike. He’d realized Jack and Carter had stopped for a drink, so he slowed down and waited for them to catch up.
Thank goodness the camp was just around that bend in the stream up ahead, Jack thought. That one Twinkie for breakfast hadn’t been very satisfying. His mouth was literally watering as they drew closer and closer to the goodies Carter and Daniel had packed that morning.
“Hey, Daniel!” Jack waved at the archeologist, who was sitting under the large, spreading branches of the tree next to their camp, right where they’d left him. He still had an open magazine in his lap, but he wasn’t moving. In fact, as they got closer, Jack could see that the archeologist was pressed up against the bark of the tree, a look of absolute terror on his face, his big blue eyes as round as dinner plates. A can of Coke was laying on its side next to the archeologist, the fizzy liquid slowly bubbling out into the grass.
Jack had seen that expression on Daniel’s face before and it generally meant trouble … it also usually meant they were going to end up having to deal with said trouble when he would much rather spend a lazy afternoon fishing and then go home and watch the hockey game he had taped. Well, Jack O’Neill just wasn’t going to let Daniel Jackson ruin his fun this time. He wanted an ice cold drink, a tasty, relaxing snack in the sunshine, some quality fishing time, and then he wanted to go home. They’d come here to grab some soil samples and to have a picnic, for crying out loud. It was supposed to be a milk run. A vacation. A day out in the sun courtesy of Uncle Sam and General Hammond. Take a few plant and soil samples to justify the trip. Do a bit of exploring. Get in a little fishing. Kick back with the team in the sunshine. Something pleasant and easy and fun for the team after months of nothing but fighting and stress.
Jack frowned down at him in concern, but just a little bit annoyed. “Daniel? What’s happened?”
Daniel finally looked up at his teammates. “B-bugs,” he stuttered. “Really b-big bugs!” He scrambled to his feet, but kept his back pressed to the tree, his hands splayed out against the bark. “B-bugs, Jack!” He glanced around with a wary expression, nervous as a cat.
Oh, this sounded bad. Much worse than Jack thought. Crap! Why did Daniel have to pick this mission to go bonkers? And, for crying out loud, didn’t they already do the “big bug” thing with Jonas just a few months ago? What was it with the cultural liaison civilian types on his team, anyway?
“You said.” Jack tried to keep his tone even and calm. He didn’t want to spook Daniel even worse. Was this some weird kind of post-descension trauma? Dr. Fraiser had wondered if Daniel would suffer further effects from his trauma other than the amnesia.
“Uh, bugs?” Carter said, skepticism dripping from her voice.
Somehow she managed to look both unconvinced and yet anxious to reassure Daniel. Jack wished he could take that ability she had to convey two disparate emotions at once and bottle it. He tended to simply allow his innate sarcasm free rein.
Carter was continuing. “What kind of bugs?”
“Ants!” Daniel said, his eyes growing even wider, if that was possible. Was he trembling?!
Teal’c raised an eyebrow.
“Ants carried off our cooler?” Carter asked, lifting an eyebrow in an almost perfect imitation of Teal’c. Jack was impressed.
“What would they want with our soda pop?” he wondered, glancing around and realizing that he wasn’t going to get that nice cold drink anytime soon because all of their nice cold drinks seemed to have vanished in thin air, along with all of their delicious snacks. Damn it! He was hungry. Other than the absence of their food and drink, the place looked completely undisturbed.
“I–I don’t know,” Daniel babbled. “They were huge!” He held out his hands to indicate something roughly two feet high.
“T,” Jack said, gesturing at the area. “Check it out.”
Teal’c immediately set down his staff weapon and went to prowl around the campsite area, studying the ground intently while Carter tried to calm Daniel down with a reassuring pat on his shoulder.
“Why didn’t you radio us?” she asked, quite reasonably. “If there were, uh, bugs overrunning the camp …”
Daniel shrugged. “Didn’t think about it. I didn’t want to move. I was afraid they were going to pick me up and carry me off, too. Or, or, or spit formic acid on me or something. It could have picked me up and carried me off like the cooler! I would have been nothing more than a big, soft, juicy grub to it …”
“Well, I was hungry,” Jack growled.
“Jack! You don’t believe me?” Daniel glanced back and forth between Jack and Carter. “I could have been kidnapped!”
“How clichéd and B movie would that be?” Jack wondered. “Dr. Daniel Jackson, PhD, abducted by giant aliens who want to eat him.” He snapped his fingers. “Oh, wait. Been there; done that.” He cocked his head to one side. “Did you try to talk to them? Pick up some buggy dialect to add to your repertoire?”
“Fine,” Daniel snapped. He was looking a bit flushed in the face. “Don’t take this seriously. I happen to suffer from myrmecophobia.”
Jack’s brow furrowed. “You’re afraid of plastic dishes?”
“That’s Melmac, you idiot!”
Teal’c interrupted the brewing argument between the two men as he jogged back to them, shaking his head slightly. “Nothing, O’Neill. No tracks.” He held up a can of root beer. “I found this next to Daniel Jackson’s backpack.”
Now Jack raised an eyebrow.
“They were real!” Daniel insisted.
Everyone continued to stare at him.
“No tracks, Daniel,” Jack pointed out.
“They covered them up!” Daniel quickly protested.
Carter blinked. “The ants?”
Jack narrowed his eyes as a sudden suspicion struck him. “Daniel … I told you not to stay up late last night watching that stupid show about giant, man-eating, worms.”
“Dune? You’re insulting Dune? That show’s a classic.”
“Not that one. Tremors.” Jack’s lips curled. How anyone could watch that silly show was beyond him. “Graboids”? “Assblasters”? Huh! Daniel’s taste in entertainment had taken a turn towards the bizarre since his hiatus in the ascended realm and subsequent return to them. No longer did Daniel drive him crazy wanting to watch The Discovery Channel. Now it was just as likely to be Attack of the 20 Foot Tall Woman or Killer Klowns from Outer Space or, god help him, Santa Claus versus the Martians. Was it any wonder he was having strange hallucinations after watching that kind of stuff?
“Hey!” Daniel was obviously aggrieved. “I only watch it to keep Teal’c company.”
Jack transferred his arched-eyebrow glare to Teal’c.
“I enjoy it,” Teal’c said without apology. “It is on after Wormhole X-Treme.”
“Oh, there’s a classic, I’ll grant you that,” Jack said, openly sarcastic. He was still annoyed that the Air Force hadn’t shut down that stupid show. Although it was nice to know that he’d played a part in thwarting and annoying the NID when he’d helped those aliens escape a couple of years ago. “Is that show still on the air?”
“It’s very popular,” Carter interjected brightly, adding a quick, “sir,” when Jack nailed her with a glare. “I looked it up on the internet once.”
Jack shuddered. If Star Trek fans were called “Trekkers” or “Trekkies,” what would you call a fan of that show? “Wormies”? “Holies”? “Xtremies”? “Wormers”?
“Perhaps Daniel Jackson has eaten something he should not have—?” Teal’c wondered.
“Was there beer in that cooler—?” Jack pondered. “Did Fraiser give you some new allergy medication?”
“Too much caffeine?” Carter put in her bid as they all grouped around him in a semi-circle and studied Daniel, who was looking more and more peeved by the moment. “Maybe he’s sick?” She tried to put a hand on Daniel’s forehead but he dodged her with consummate skill.
“Look! I am not sick! Okay? I’m not crazy. I’m not sick. Cut it out!” He batted at Carter’s hand when she tried to reach for him again.
Jack had had enough. “Come on, Daniel. Tell the truth. If you aren’t whacko, then where is all our food and the soda pop?”
“And the cooler?” Carter added.
“Picnic. Ants on steroids.” Jack pressed. “Been watching Attack of the Killer Ants on late-night TV, too? Is this some kind of stupid joke?”
“Yeah, well, you’d know all about those, wouldn’t you?” Daniel mumbled.
Jack was even more suspicious now. “You trying to get revenge on me for something, Daniel?” He frantically tried to run all of his more recent practical jokes through his mind to see if he could settle on one that had really annoyed Daniel.
“No!” Daniel crossed his arms and got that trademarked stubborn lift to his chin that always meant there was going to be hell to pay. He did a good imitation of a small child’s pout, too. “Big. Ants. Huge. Big. Bugs. They came and took all of our food—” he held up a hand before anyone could interrupt him, “—and, yes, the cooler, too. I didn’t eat the food. I only drank one Coke. I haven’t taken any medication, narcotic or otherwise. I haven’t been smoking anything. I haven’t had anything alcoholic. I am not under the influence of Bad B movies.”
“You did not call them bad,” Teal’c put in. “You said they had anthropological merit.”
Daniel threw his hands in the air and turned his back on them like a sulking kid.
“Maybe we should go back,” Carter suggested. “Have Janet take a look at Daniel?”
“No!” Daniel was adamant, throwing the words over his shoulder. “There is nothing wrong with me.”
“Okay,” Jack decided, clutching desperately at the remnants of their planned day in the fun and sun. Sure, Daniel had often been right about these kinds of things in the past, but he suspected this time it was nothing more than an elaborate practical joke. Given the lack of evidence, he wasn’t ready to throw in the towel on their mini-vacation yet. “Carter’s done collecting samples. Back to the pond for our afternoon off.”
“But, sir, we don’t have our food,” Carter pointed out. Was that just a little hint of petulant whine in his 2IC’s voice?
“Never mind,” Jack said. “I’m going fishing.” He grabbed Daniel’s arm. There was no way he was letting the archeologist out of his sight again this mission. “Daniel’s going to help me. We’ll have fresh fish for lunch.”
Teal’c looked skeptical but said nothing as they gathered up their gear to head back downstream.
The pond was as charming and perfect as the rest of P3X-668, Jack mused, as he sat on the grassy shore. The water was sparkling and blue and he figured it must be pretty deep, too, because even though it wasn’t muddy, the bottom couldn’t be seen. He’d fashioned a nice sturdy fishing pole for himself out of a branch and set it up with the twine and hooks he’d brought along—just for an occasion such as this—in his backpack. He hadn’t been able to find any worms or anything resembling them for bait, even after grubbing around in the dirt for awhile (while Daniel sat next to him, looking studiously bored and more than a little pissed off), so he’d settled for using bits of a macaroni and cheese MRE. Surely the macaroni could pass for a worm?
The setting was so positively bucolic that he actually thought about pulling off his boots and socks and dangling his feet in the water. Only his military training restrained him. There didn’t seem to be anything threatening on this planet—aside from Daniel’s thieving “ants”—but he supposed he’d better play it safe.
Before too long, Daniel settled down next to him and began to read one of his magazines. Jack figured he’d get over his snit pretty quickly and he was hoping against hope that Daniel would soon tire of this “joke” he’d pulled and tell them all where the food and drinks were stashed. He’d thought about sending Carter and Teal’c off to surreptitiously hunt for them but he couldn’t figure out a way to ask them without tipping off Daniel as well. If enough time passed, perhaps Daniel would be hungry enough himself to just fess up.
Alas, an hour and then two went by and Daniel showed no signs of giving in and so far there hadn’t been so much as a nibble on his fishing line. Jack was seriously hungry and even the thought of an MRE was beginning to sound good.
“How long are you going to hold out?” he finally asked, sending a sideways glance at Daniel.
Daniel pushed his glasses up his nose and peered back at Jack. “I don’t know what you mean.”
Jack sighed heavily. “Okay. Have it your way.” He was just about to reel in his line and gather up the team to head home when the line twitched. A grin broke out on Jack’s face and he braced himself, ready to pull in the catch, anticipating fresh fish for lunch after all.
But nothing more happened.
A minute crawled past. Then another. And another … Jack was finally ready to admit defeat when …
The water of the pond began to boil and churn, enormous waves slamming the shores from one side to the other as something broke the surface. Jack stood up, mesmerized, aware of his team moving to cluster around him. It rose from the depths of the pond, heaving itself out of the waves like some whiskey-induced nightmare and then poised, hovering over the surface with a wingspan of a small aircraft, legs like highway pylons and a stinger that resembled an Olympic javelin. It fluttered there, staring at them through two enormous, faceted, red, beach-ball sized eyes.
It was the mother of all mosquitoes, Jack thought, when thought became possible past the mind-numbing horror holding him in its grip. And he hadn’t put on any Deet, he remembered insanely. His fear was compounded by the indignant idea that this thing from hell would be the somewhat ignoble end of the great SG-1; that it would harpoon them all, and suck them dry. The search parties would find The California Raisins.
It fixed its malevolent glare right on Jack O’Neill. Behind him, he could hear a squeaking noise coming from his normally unflappable second-in-command—at least he hoped it was Carter and not the stoic Teal’c making that girlie sound. Daniel was hyperventilating next to his elbow but otherwise he was strangely quiet.
Daniel cleared his throat. “Uh, yes?”
“What do you call it when you’re afraid a big ugly bug is gonna sting you?”
“I think I have that.”
“Me, too.” Daniel’s voice sounded very small.
Carter was chanting a soft, desperate mantra behind them: “Fly away. Fly away. Please fly away.”
The monster mosquito continued to buzz and observe them. It made no aggressive move towards them—yet—but it didn’t look very happy, either.
“Shall I shoot it with my staff weapon, O’Neill?” Teal’c very quietly asked next to Jack’s elbow.
Jack pondered the idea for a split second. “I think that would really piss it off. So, no.”
“It appears to already be angry,” Teal’c pointed out, logical as ever.
Jack’s fishing pole suddenly snapped in two with a loud “crack!” that reverberated out across the still churning water. The two halves of the branch plopped into the pond and the one attached to the line swiftly sank, pulled under by some unknown force.
Jack gulped, staring down at the roiling waves and then back at the hovering mosquito monster. This was the kind of moment when he wished he wasn’t the person in charge. He had absolutely no idea what to do. If he had Teal’c shoot the thing, it was probably not going to hurt it and it definitely would annoy it. If they ran, it would probably chase them … and there was no way they could outrun that massive insect. As it was, they were just standing there like sitting ducks while it decided which one of them looked the tastiest.
“Do something,” Daniel whispered.
“What?” Jack hissed right back.
“I don’t know. Something!”
“Hey, you’re the one who sat there and did nothing while giant ants carted off all of our supplies!”
“I’m afraid of ants!”
“You aren’t afraid of Mosquitozilla?”
Jack almost leapt right out of his skin when Daniel suddenly began jumping up and down, waving his arms in the air, and screeching “Shoo! Shoo!”
Mosquitozilla blinked, beat its wings and turned and flew away.
As it flew off into the distance, Jack said, “Don’t say I told you so.” He thought he hid his trembling quite well.
“Wasn’t going to,” Daniel’s voice was only a little shaky. “Was going to run.”
“Yeah. We should do that,” Jack agreed, suiting action to words.
The run uphill left all of them winded, but they made it to the Stargate in record time. They stopped briefly in their campsite to grab up their gear and the soil samples. Jack doubted SG-1 would be coming back although Hammond might want to send in a team with more suitable weaponry and bug repellent to check the place out.
“Got everything?” Jack swept the site with a practiced gaze.
“Yes, sir,” Carter confirmed.
“All right. Let’s go, kids.”
They sprinted for the gate and Daniel wasted no time dialing home and sending across their GDO signal.
“Oh my god, think of the size of the fish that eats a bug like that …” Jack paled as he remembered his fishing pole snapping right in half and what that probably meant. “It gives fly fishing a new meaning.”
Daniel shot Jack a glare laden with promise and meaning. “Well, this has certainly been a relaxing day out, Jack. Thank you so much for bringing me here.” He turned and walked through the wormhole before Jack could reply.
“Hey!” Jack yelled after him, even though he knew Daniel wouldn’t hear it. “It’s not my fault the planet is overrun with mutant bugs!” Carter and Teal’c were looking at him. “Well, it’s not!”
“I said nothing,” Teal’c maintained as he moved to follow Daniel.
Carter shrugged. “Me, either.” Then she was gone, too.
Realizing he was now alone on a planet populated by giant insects and who knew what else, Jack hurried through the Stargate.
General Hammond looked puzzled to see them as SG-1 walked down the ramp in the gate room towards him. His gaze briefly touched on each of them, and Jack knew he was checking for injuries. “You’re back early, Colonel. How was your picnic?”
Jack scowled. “Ruined. On account of ants.”
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