Season: season 7
Series: Stargate SG-1
A sequel to "A White Dove" about what happens in Sam's new AU home.
No dough, no foul. Lyrics to "The Times They Are A-Changin'" are by Bob Dylan, copyright 1963, 1968 Warner Bros. Inc., 1991 Special Rider Music.
Come gather 'round people, wherever you roam
And admit that the waters around you have grown
And accept it that soon you'll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you is worth savin'
Then you better start swimmin' or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'.
The lab was almost, but not quite, her lab. Over the past weeks, Sam Carter - once an Air Force major but here a civilian scientist - had found herself opening the wrong drawers, pressing the wrong buttons, and saying the wrong things. She'd even learned to type all over again; in this universe they used a more efficient keyboard layout.
At first she'd been intrigued by the differences, but now they just annoyed her. Replacing her dead counterpart turned out to be far harder than it had sounded, back when she'd come up with the idea of escaping through the quantum mirror. It was easier to hide out in her lab than to deal with her ghosts, so she opened the safe, revealing her cache of naqahdria.
She pulled off a sample's outer seal and tossed it onto her desk. The lead foil settled atop a stack of reports. She would read them in the evening; her days she spent extending her counterpart's research. The naqahdria got most of her attention, though she wished she had more time for the Goa'uld devices in the safe and those replicator bits slotted for disposal.
The late Samantha had outlined a naqahdria research program; she'd had good ideas, but hadn't followed through on them. Sam wasn't sure why, but she'd sped up the timeframe anyway, hoping to solidify a few speculative military applications before she lost another Earth to the Goa'uld.
She put the naqahdria sample into the containment chamber of an adapted naqahdah generator. Sam hoped to enhance the highly explosive naqahdria with stabilizing elements. Iridium was the element of the day, but she was wondering how to get her hands on some radium when she heard the door open.
General O'Neill walked in and tossed a report down on Sam's lab bench. With a glance she identified it as one of hers, then turned back to the naqahdria experiment it detailed. The heat of his glare warmed the room, but she didn't look up.
He broke first. "You call these safety precautions?" He slapped the folder against the bench.
She reset the magnetic field containing her precious sample. Only then did she meet his gaze. "Is there a problem with my report?"
The general plopped down on a lab stool, so much like the other Jacks she'd known that it made her wince. But this man looked right through her - the only one who knew her inside out.
"You don't believe we're real, major." It was always a bad sign when he called her that; she had no rank here.
She wouldn't admit he'd hit home. "Questions about my sanity should be addressed to Dr. Fraiser."
"Oh, you're sane - as sane as someone can be who's seen a thousand other versions of herself, living and dying a thousand ways."
She turned away, fiddled with the magnetic containment. "I don't see what that has to do with naqahdria."
He leaned towards her and tapped the folder. "I want to see the precautions you would take if it were your mountain that would be blown sky-high when that naqahdria goes, instead of mine."
She picked up the report and handed it back to him. "Here they are."
General O'Neill dropped it in a waste basket. "Fine. Then double your margin of safety."
Do what his Samantha would have, he meant. He wasn't her dead colonel; she had no intention of being his dead wife. Sam's anger at the Goa'uld, the Asgard, and all the people who had died on her bubbled to the surface. She whirled on him.
"You're right; I have seen it all. Anubis is coming. Anubis always comes, and you're running out of time to waste on safety precautions."
"I suppose we are," he said, rising. "I expect your revised report by Monday morning."
"Needless to say, the naqahdria should stay on ice until then."
Too incensed to speak, she nodded. She'd pull those replicator bits out of the biohazard area instead.
Come writers and critics who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide; the chance won't come again
And don't speak too soon for the wheel's still in spin
And there's no tellin' who that it's namin'.
For the loser now will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin'.
Here, Dr. Fraiser still presided over the medical staff. Sam met her for lunch in the commissary. This Janet was very much like Sam's friend who'd been mortally wounded off-world. During her initial physical, Sam had found out that they shared a history of Jolinar, but she'd been too busy gawking at Janet alive to ask about the details. Now Janet shared a few over macaroni and cheese.
"I could never get the Goa'uld healing device to work. Maybe you have more leftover Jolinar than I do; her host was in rough shape when SG-1 brought him back to the infirmary." Janet watched Sam eat for a moment. "You really like that mac and cheese, don't you?"
"I've been eating MREs and candy bars for longer than I can remember. It's nice to have someone else cooking."
"You should come home with me for dinner."
"Too busy," Sam said with her mouth full.
"You should get out more," she said. Sam shrugged, and Janet added, "What happened to me in your universe, Samantha?"
She swallowed. "My name is Sam."
"Sam." Janet waited for an answer to her question. When none was forthcoming, she said, "I thought at first we were closer there than I was with our Dr. Carter, but I don't think that's it. You do it with Kawalsky and the general, too."
Sam stiffened. "Do what?"
"Look at us like you're seeing a ghost." Janet watch her reaction carefully.
She kept her voice neutral as she replied, "You're all ghosts, except the people I never even knew." Sam recognized about half the faces in the commissary. Colonel Hammond and his team were eating dessert at a table nearby. They hadn't gone through the gate lately; she wondered what they'd been up to.
"What happened to me?" Janet asked again.
Now Hammond and Spellman were standing up, and Kawalsky wolfing down a slice of pie. "Staff weapon fire," Sam said. She didn't want to talk about it.
Janet let it go. "I want you to talk to Dr. McKenzie. So does the general."
Sam rolled her eyes. "Why does everyone think I'm crazy?"
"I know shell shock when I see it."
Did they still call it that here? But she had an answer: "I'll see him after I get the naqahdria generator going."
"When will that be?"
"Before Anubis gets here, I hope." Much as she'd like to die in perfect mental health, she'd rather do something about the dying than about the mental health. The Jack who'd talked to his imaginary team would have understood.
Hammond nodded to Janet on his way out. "Sam..."
"I have to run, Janet." She followed SG-1 out of the commissary and into the elevator. They all stared straight ahead at the doors, uneasy in one another's ghostly presence.
Hammond and his teammates got out of the elevator on Level 23; Sam got off at 24 and ran back up the stairs. SG-1 disappeared into what had been merely a storage room in Sam's world. She waited a few minutes, then slid her card through the reader outside the door.
To her surprise, it opened. Black lights illumnated the former storage area. Siler sat in a nook, watching a couple of computer monitors. Opposite Sam there was another door with a sheet of metal welded over its small window.
She could have been back in her first universe, where she, her Siler, and her Davis had made a darkroom and watched the quantum mirror in shifts, but she wasn't. "What are you looking for?" she asked.
Siler looked up, surprised to see her and, Sam thought, guilty. He turned off one of the monitors before answering her question. "SG-1 is exploring a parallel universe."
Sam came up behind him and checked the screen. Sure enough, the quantum mirror showed a hallway in another SGC. Spellman ducked down another corridor, but whether it was their own Spellman or the Spellman of the other reality Sam couldn't tell.
She could just open the door and touch the mirror, and she'd be somewhere else again. No more angry general, no more worried Janet... Hammond would give her the controller; it was hers, after all. She'd searched thousands of universes to find it. If the Earth in the mirror had a Sam already then she'd keep going, skipping like a stone over the surface of the multiverse--
"What's going to happen to us?" Siler asked.
She shook herself out of her reverie. Though it was the most likely scenario, You're all going to die wasn't the moral boost he needed.
"On my Earth," Sam said, "the war ended. Life went on. You, Davis, and I were alone in the mountain, guarding the place and surfing the quantum mirror, just like you're doing right now." She didn't mention the universe where Anubis wiped out the Midwest, or all the worlds full of Jaffa. He'd probably seen the Jaffa. Siler wasn't stupid; he could put two hundred and two hundred together.
"Then why did you leave?" he asked.
Sam shrugged. She wasn't sure herself anymore.
Come senators, congressmen, please heed the call
Don't stand in the doorway, don't block up the hall
For he that gets hurt will be he who has stalled
There's a battle outside and it is ragin'.
It'll soon shake your windows and rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin'.
Sam felt her time running out. Maybe her quantum travels had given her a sixth sense of when an SGC's time had come, or maybe she was just shell-shocked and paranoid. In any event, she ignored a few of her new safety precautions in order to get the naqahdria generator running. Then it was time to tell the general.
She knocked on General O'Neill's office door, though it was open. When he looked up he grinned at her for an instant - warming the air - before realizing she wasn't the right Sam. A chill fell over her. Wherever she went, she'd never be the right Sam again.
"Come in," he said gruffly.
She handed him a report. "The generator works. I've outlined the military applications in order of feasibility. Area 51 should be able to get some ground-based ion cannons ready before..." As the inevitable approached, she became more reluctant to mention it.
"How about ship-mounted weapons for the X-404's?" he asked.
She found the model number ominous, but it didn't signify any more to these people than 747 had meant at home. "That's no problem, but satellite installations and space mines will take longer to manufacture."
"The ion cannons should help." He smiled at her again. "It's nice to have our miracle worker back again."
She brushed aside the comment along with the treacherous warmth of his smile. "How about your project?"
The general looked down at his desk. "No miracles there, unfortunately. Siler found an SGC that had driven off Anubis, but they'd used Ancient technology."
Sam leaned forward. "Can't we use it?"
"I sent a team to the coordinates they gave us." He pulled a report out of the stack on his desk and opened it to a picture of alien rubble. "The Ancient's temple-thing had been razed to the ground. Anubis reached it before we did."
Her thoughts raced. "Maybe it's still there in another reality. If we brought the quantum mirror to the coordinates--"
He interrupted her brainstorming. "Apparently, I'm the only one this technology has ever worked for. I have planetary defenses to arrange; I can't go haring after Ancient rumors."
Her old Jacks had loved running around the universe - running away from the brass on this one's shoulders. "Don't you want to go through the gate?" she asked.
"And get myself killed like--" He stopped short.
Like the other men she saw when she looked at him.
The general shook his head. "My place is here."
Come mothers and fathers throughout the land
And don't criticize what you can't understand
Your sons and your daughters are beyond your command
Your old road is rapidly agin'.
Please get out of the new one if you can't lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin'.
The day the alarms went off, Sam knew it wasn't an incoming wormhole or a drill, not this time. When she reached the control room the general was already there.
Technician Davis stuttered as he told her, "Deep space radar telemetry has picked up the fleet."
Sam had figured out how to detect Anubis' cloaked ha'taks; there would be no surprise attack this time. Yet it was worse knowing what was coming - knowing it in all its infinite variations. No Sam had yet saved an Earth from Anubis; she didn't expect her second try to go better than her first.
McKay - who was not nearly so irritating in this universe - manned the controls of the new ground-based weapons. He provided inane chatter to fill the time as Davis counted down. Colonel Hammond reported his status from aboard one of the X-404's, out past the Moon's orbit. "Preparing to engage the enemy."
O'Neill nodded to Davis, who said, "SG-1, you have a go."
Sam sat down at her console. Radar telemetry showed three X-404's advancing on at least ten Goa'uld pyramid ships. The screen beeped with every wave, like the tick of a clock.
"I don't think they've detected our ships," Sam said.
The general put a hand on the back of her chair. "They thought they could waltz right in and take Earth by surprise. Not in my universe."
"Sir," Sam said, "two of the ha'taks are gone."
McKay gave a whoop.
"That's it for the element of surprise." O'Neill leaned over Sam's shoulder, watching the radar display.
"The enemy has launched gliders." Hammond's voice was steady over the radio, but Sam's hand shook on the keyboard.
"I don't see any gliders, major."
Sam typed faster. "I'm trying to increase resolution." Two more blips disappeared from the screen. One of them had been an X-404.
"We've lost Major Davis," Hammond reported.
A swarm of gnats appeared around the two remaining friendly ships. O'Neill patted Sam's shoulder, but she hadn't fixed the problem. "They've come into range, sir," she told him. His hand remained on her shoulder.
McKay's fingers twitched on the controls. "We can't fire from the ground with the X-404's still up there."
Another X-404 winked out. Its ghost haunted Sam's retinas as the radar pinged on.
"Start shooting," O'Neill ordered McKay. "Tell Hammond to pull out."
Technician Davis said, "SG-1 is not responding."
His grip tightened on Sam's shoulder. "They never listen," he muttered.
Davis had a visual that flashed with cannon blasts, but Sam kept her eyes on the radar screen as two more ships blinked out. "The last six motherships are spreading out into orbit. The X-404 is pursuing one of them."
McKay shouted into a phone, then hung up. "Two ground cannons confirmed lost. I don't think we can handle six ha'taks with what we have left."
"Don't think. Just keep firing." The general squeezed Sam's shoulder. "Sam," he said quietly, "report to Sgt. Siler on Level 23."
"Go, major. You don't have much time."
The line it is drawn, the curse it is cast
The slow one now will later be fast
As the present now will later be past
The order is rapidly fadin'.
And the first one now will later be last
For the times they are a-changin'.
Siler was waiting for her there. He picked up a pile of reports as she came in. Her controller topped the stack.
"That bad, eh?" he asked.
"It's not over yet." She glanced over his monitors. "Did you find something?"
He opened the other door with his free hand. "An Earth with no Dr. Carter." The inner room was dark except for the quantum mirror, which showed some Sam's empty lab in some parallel universe.
"These are copies of your report on the naqahdria generator; maybe it will help them over there." Siler paused, waiting for a response. "I set the bookmark," he assured her.
Sam backed away from the doorway.
"General O'Neill says you can come back when the coast is clear." He tried to hand her the controller.
But Sam had come home to an empty mountain too many times before. "You go. Take them the reports." Whoever they are.
"The general didn't say--"
The floor shuddered. The mirror stood solid, the other SGC still brightly lit, but in the outer room the computer monitors flickered. Red emergency lighting came on, brightening the darkroom. Siler should have covered those up.
In her mind, she still outranked him. "Go yourself or find a volunteer," she ordered.
Sam left Siler standing there holding the controller - a piece of alien tech that had, in the end, changed nothing. She fumed at all Jacks everywhere as she ran out of room and down the stairs, taking them two and three at a time.
Back in the control room, the general had taken her seat. He looked grim in the red light. The last X-404 was missing from the radar screen, and three ha'taks were still in orbit.
Davis looked up at Sam and shook his head. She remembered that her General Hammond had wanted to go down with a ship.
"We just lost another ion cannon," McKay announced.
"Damn." O'Neill slammed a fist down on the console.
Sam put a hand on his shoulder.
"Major," he said, not turning around.
"You're not getting rid of me that easily."
"You almost saved us." The floor shook again. "You might pull it off the next time."
"I didn't come here to win," she said. "I came to fight."
He placed his hand over hers. "Mission accomplished."