- Alternate Universe
- Time Travel
“Why do you have to leave, Samantha?” Catherine Langford’s girlish voice was little more than a whine.
Sam smiled at her and smoothed a head over her hair before resuming her packing. “I’ve spent more time here than I intended. I have to return to my home.”
Catherine heaves a heavy sigh. “But who is going to tutor me when you’re gone?”
“I’m certain your father will have a number of well-qualified tutors lined up to replace me,” Sam says briskly.
“He’s not going to appoint anyone to teach me how to fight,” grumbles Catherine.
“I think you’ve already had a good enough instruction in that,” Sam comments dryly. She’d taught the young girl everything she knows from firing a weapon to basic self-defence. Catherine will be able to take care of herself.
Catherine bites her lip. “Is this because Father wants to marry you?”
Sam sighs and pauses in her packing. “Your Father has been very kind to me,” she says, “and he’s a good man.” Paul Langford has been nothing but a true friend to her since she’d hurtled through the Stargate and into the past. He’d hidden her; provided for her; helped her.
“But you’re still in love with your Jack?” Catherine’s sigh is dramatic. “I hope I’ll find someone who loves me.”
Sam doesn’t turn around to acknowledge the smug hallucination of Jack behind her. Her conjured companions rarely show up now. The two years she has spent in the past have been good for her. They’ve provided healing in a way that the year in the altered timeline had not.
She knows her own future with Jack will play out without her. She’s accepted that. She’s a stranded time traveller. There is no way back to her former self. A Samantha Carter will be born and live out her life in a future where Ba’al’s fail safe was not used, and Sam swears this will happen because she will stop Ba’al. But Sam herself…
There would have been a time Sam would have planned to take herself out of play when once she’d set the timeline right. Sam can remember every time she’d told Jack they shouldn’t interfere with the past and to maintain the timeline; every time she had lied and said she couldn’t fix the Ancient time machine. Her past and future self would be, will be horrified at the idea that Sam intends to alter the timeline beyond its restoration from Ba’al’s interference.
She’s mapped out their history.
There are a thousand things she’d want to change, missions she’s often replayed in her head and wondered if they’d only known this or that what difference it might have made, but she knows that every change brings its own ripple effect. Changing too much will invite chaos; there would be no guarantee that in the end the sum of her changes would add up to a better future.
Sam has defined three key event changes she thinks would make a difference; would create a better, stronger, safer future for the world, for her family.
But first…she needs to stop Ba’al from the change he’d made.
Sam finishes her packing in the company of Catherine. She hugs the young girl goodbye, her mind a kaleidoscope of memories; meeting Catherine two years before, meeting Catherine when Sam joined the programme, saying goodbye to her each and every time until the last. She remembers the phone call where Daniel had learned of Catherine’s passing and the sadness she’d felt, so soon on the heels of her father’s death.
Sam spends a restless night. She huddles under the rough cotton sheets and wonders if she’s doing the right thing. If Hank Landry had thought her arrogant for wanting to restore the previous timeline, what would he say to her want to change it? What would her father say or General Hammond, her childhood Uncle George?
The shades of her team guard her sleepless night.
It’s an early start.
Sam dresses in the clothes she’d worn when she’d been thrown back in time. She braids her hair and twists it into a chignon at the low back of her head. She takes a gun and loads it; holsters it to her side and she’s ready.
With the rest of her luggage already waiting for her in the jeep, she picks up her pack and walks out to greet Paul.
He offers a small smile and opens the passenger door for her. The drive out to the desert is familiar now. It’s cool enough that the air through the window is fresh rather than warm; the sky still hovering between dark and the first beginnings of dawn.
They drive in silence to the small encampment nobody knows about but the two of them. As the sun breaks overhead, Sam tugs away the dust sheet hiding the Ancient puddle jumper. They’d taken the extra precaution of a camouflage tent and Paul dismantles it as she packs her belongings inside. Finally, she’s done.
Daniel’s form hovers beside her as she and Paul stand awkwardly together to say goodbye.
“I can’t thank you enough,” Sam murmurs. “If you hadn’t believed me and helped me these past two years…”
Paul reaches out and clasps her hands tightly. “You have been a wonderful friend to me and my daughter, Samantha. We will miss you.”
“I will miss you both too,” Sam says.
Paul rubs a thumb over the back of her hand. “Are you certain you can’t tell me anything more about the artefact?”
Sam smiles at his teasing tone. “I wish I could but the timeline…” she’s smiling but her smile fades. “Even staying here for the past two years, it may have done irreparable damage…”
“I don’t see how teaching my daughter to fulfil her potential could cause damage,” Paul asserts, “you’re an inspiration to her; she will be a strong independent woman. And I have learned much from you too. I will always want to protect her, but…she deserves to have her intelligence and her courage supported not squashed.”
Sam smiles at him. “Catherine was one of my inspirations.”
Paul raises their clasped hands and kisses her knuckles. “Good luck, Samantha.” He lets her go.
“Thank you,” Sam says fiercely.
She turns and heads into the puddlejumper with the spectre of Daniel beside her.
“He’s a good man,” Daniel comments.
“He is,” Sam says.
She turns her attention to the puddlejumper.
It had taken almost the full two years to enable the puddlejumper to work without the Ancient gene using the laptop computers her own counterpart had left hidden exactly where Sam would have hidden them herself. Her own time travel device had helped in part. That is working perfectly; the past two years have enabled her to test and refine the device.
The puddlejumper is ready. She is ready.
She taps the instructions to cloak the puddlejumper and to take it into low orbit. Once she has established a stable flight path which will take her beyond the solar system. She sends out a coded communication signal to a much needed and much missed ally. She settles in for the flight. It may take days for her communication to be heard let alone a reply sent back.
It takes only twenty-four hours.
Sam wakes with the puddlejumper’s warning systems flashing and sounding the alarm. She hurriedly shuts off the noise, brings the ship to a gentle stop, and gapes at the sight in front of her.
A second later, a familiar sound echoes around her and Sam finds herself and her transport in the hold of the Asgard ship.
She hurries out of the puddlejumper and Thor enters the hold.
It breaks her heart to see him. The death of the Asgard had been a terrible, terrible moment.
Sam has missed her friend. “Thor.”
Thor’s wide eyes blink and she wonders if that’s because she knows who he is or because her voice overflows with her affection for him. “I do not believe we have met.”
“No, we haven’t,” Sam says, “at least not yet.”
Thor tilts his head questioningly.
“It’s a long story,” Sam says.
“You have my attention,” Thor counters.
They reconvene in a sparse lab in the bowels of Thor’s ship.
Her tale takes less time than she had thought but more than she had hoped, all the while sticking only to what she needed Thor to know and avoiding telling him too much of their future. She admits they don’t meet for many years but says nothing of how and when they do meet; she tells him the Asgards and the Tau’ri become great friends, enough that the Asgard believe them in the future to have the potential to be the Fifth great race. She tells him of Ba’al and the change of the timeline; of what happened in the new timeline Ba’al had wrought; of her own mission to set the timeline to rights. She tells him how she needs his help to travel to Praxyon and back to Earth. She can take the puddlejumper to the nearest Stargate beyond Earth, but she would rather not risk using the gate system.
She stumbles to a stop with a dry throat. A glass of water appears on the table in front of her and she drinks it gladly.
“I was unaware either the Goa’uld or the Tau’ri had the technology to determine effective time travel,” Thor murmurs.
“I based my device on Ancient technology,” Sam admits, “Ba’al must have had the idea after learning it from records he stole from us. We travelled through time by accident when a solar flare intersected with an active wormhole.”
Thor nods. “The device which governs the dialling sequence of the Stargate prevents such a wormhole from forming.”
“Earth creates its own device,” Sam says, “it didn’t have that safety feature, and Ba’al modified the dialling device on Praxyon.”
“Ba’al cannot be allowed to alter the timeline,” Thor states. “As Supreme Commander of the Asgard fleet and sworn protector of the Protected Planets treaty, on this I can agree.”
“Thank you,” Sam says.
Thor looks at her with concern. “I am uncertain it is wise to travel to Praxyon. Why not simply stop him as he steps through the Stargate on Earth?”
“The timeline changes as soon as Ba’al triggers the wormhole on Praxyon,” Sam states firmly, setting the glass down again, “the Stargate will blow a hole in the side of the ship transporting it endangering its trip to the States; in the original timeline no such damage was wrought, no sailor on the ship was witness to the Stargate triggering, no Jaffa or Goa’uld came through.”
She lets Thor absorb the point before moving onto the next one.
“Stopping Ba’al as soon as he steps through onto Earth would prevent him from creating his Empire and coming back to rule Earth in the future, but it would inevitably impact Earth’s own timeline,” Sam continues. “If I had no choice, no transport, it would be my only option, but it would be best if I can stop him before he even triggers the Stargate; that means I need to stop him in the future at Praxyon at the moment he arrives to make his journey to the past.”
Behind Thor, her hallucinatory Teal’c looks on approvingly.
Thor acknowledges her words with an inclination of his head. “You called for my assistance even though our meeting will also impact the timeline.”
“Asgard records had recorded that you were on a long-range sensor mission for most of this decade,” Sam states, glancing over at the apparition of Daniel who grins back at her. It had been Daniel who had created a full history of Thor’s life, one which Sam had devoured.
Thor blinks at her. “You have access to the records of previous Asgardian missions?”
“Yes,” Sam says without expanding on how she has that access. The legacy of the Asgards is something that she treasures. “I also know you won’t allow any contact with me now to influence your future interactions with myself or the Tau’ri in the future.”
“You are correct,” Thor says. “For this reason, I will provide you with the assistance you need to get to Praxyon and return you to Earth.”
Sam breathes out in relief. Her vision of Jack grins across the table at her.
Thor is as good as his word. They immediately make the jump to hyperspace. A day later, Sam and the Ancient puddlejumper assume a cloaked synchronous orbit above Praxyon.
It doesn’t take long to set the time travel device she has created.
Here in the past, the moment where Ba’al will enter the timeline in the future to travel to the past and change it still exists. If she was travelling from any time after nineteen-thirty-nine, she would not find the moment in the future. It’s confusing, but time travel always is.
Sam presses the device and finds herself back in her future, the day before Ba’al’s extraction ceremony. Her timeline counterpart will be arriving from Atlantis and finding out that she has been dismissed from her leadership there.
A quick scan shows that the fail-safe chamber is empty of life.
Her illusionary team are with her as she beams down. She accesses the computer downloading all the information she can, sets explosive devices and disables the Stargate. She returns to the puddlejumper and waits.
It feels like forever before Ba’al’s ship arrives.
Her sensors detect the beam down and she immediately triggers the explosions, with a laser beam of her own design, powered by the Ancient puddlejumper, neatly destroying Ba’al’s ship simultaneously.
“Nice,” her vision of Jack comments.
Sam smiles. She knows someone else may have given into the need to face Ba’al, to laugh in his face that he had failed, but…she prefers efficiency.
She performs a scan and is pleased when it comes back with no life signs detected. She waits an hour for the fires to burn out and beams down to double-check. She’s pleased at the sight of Ba’al dead on the ground; the burnt husk of his body at the control table. Everything is in ruins. She re-enables the Stargate to a planet being swallowed up by lava and sends through the bodies of the Jaffa and Ba’al. It’s done.
Somewhere on the new Tok’ra homeworld, Ba’al’s extraction will take place without Vala disappearing, without Jack dying, without a mad scramble to the ‘gate. She’ll nudge Jack into an offer of lunch and talk to him about the plans for the new moon-base.
Sam beams back to the puddlejumper. She beams the Stargate into an orbit around the planet creating a space-gate making it difficult for anyone to re-establish the fail-safe. She triggers the time travel device and reappears just briefly after she left.
Thor beams her back into the hold and takes her back to Earth.
“What will you do now, Colonel Carter?” asks Thor as they say their farewells.
“Return the puddlejumper to Egypt, destroy the time travel device, and find somewhere remote to settle on Earth,” Sam says, lying through her teeth. For the first time since she’d formed her plan to interfere in the timeline, she feels guilty at the idea of further interference. Thor reminds her of who she was; who she is.
Thor hums and nods. “I very much look forward to making your acquaintance in the future.”
Sam smiles sadly and surprises Thor with a gentle hug. “Goodbye, Thor, and…” she hesitates but ploughs on despite her inner uncertainty, “perhaps rethink your current cloning solutions? Compounded errors can lead to cascade failures which are not easily recoverable.”
Thor’s alien eyes open wide and he inclines his head. He shifts the stone on the control panel and Sam finds herself back orbit above Earth. She cloaks and waits until Thor has left before she reaches for her time travel device.
Her hand hovers over the device.
“You are no longer certain this is the correct course of action, Colonel Carter?” Teal’c intones behind her.
Cam frowns at her from the back of the jumper. “Of course she’s rethinking this. We’re talking about changing a lot of lives. What gives her the right to do that?”
“But doesn’t she have a duty to change it if she can?” asks Daniel. “If she can prevent so many from dying? Isn’t it right for her to change things?”
Vala lifts an eyebrow, lounging in the back of the jumper and twirling a pigtail. “It’s a risk.”
Maybe she’s been alone too much. Maybe her grief has blinded her to the right course of action. She just doesn’t know what the right thing to do is anymore. She looks at the illusion sitting beside her.
Jack just raises an eyebrow, his warm brown eyes on hers. “It’s your call, Carter.”
And she knows suddenly what she needs to do.
Sam presses her lips together and triggers the time travel device.
Sam froze at the sound of her own voice. She paused in the doorway to her den, her gaze narrowing instantly on the figure who stood by her sofa. She calculated how fast she could get to her gun; how fast she could get to the weapons she had stowed around her property.
Her duplicate raised the gun which was usually strapped under the coffee table. “I took some precautions.”
“Alternate universe?” asks Sam as casually as she could manage.
Her duplicate shook her head, sending the long waves of blonde hair flying. Why do all her counterparts have long hair, thought Sam furiously. She liked her short cut. She did. It was not the only difference between them; Sam was still dressed in her service blues fresh from her unexpected promotion ceremony, while the woman in front of her was dressed in jeans, a t-shirt and a leather flight jacket.
“Clone?” Sam tried again.
“Alternate timeline,” her duplicate said, “I’m you, just a few years ahead.”
“Full bird,” her duplicate continued, “so really you should be saluting me.”
Sam rolled her eyes at the grin the other sported. “Is that what should I call you then? Colonel?”
“Call me Carter.”
Sam sighed and reached for her phone. “I need to call…”
“Not yet,” Carter stated, cutting her off abruptly, “we need to talk first.”
Sam glared at her. “It’s against…”
“Protocol,” Carter said, “only we followed that with Orlin, didn’t we? And where did that get us?”
Sam rubbed her head and gave in because it was difficult to argue with herself on that point. She suspected if she followed protocol, her counterpart would disappear just like Orlin. Well, maybe not just like Orlin because she doesn’t think she’d ever go the Ascension route.
“Take a seat,” Carter invited her into her own den and waved at a chair.
“Thank you,” Sam said dryly. But she took the seat.
Carter served up the tea she had clearly prepared earlier and left sitting on the coffee table. “I ordered Chinese; it’s in the kitchen when we’re ready to eat.”
“What do you want to talk about?” asked Sam.
“Changing the timeline,” Carter stated bluntly.
Sam frowned again. SG1 have interfered with the timeline before. There was a note warning away from the Aschen; there was a trip back in time. But it wasn’t something to do without considerable thought.
“Some years from now, Ba’al used solar flares to time travel. He entered the past and destroyed the Achilles bringing the Stargate to the States,” Carter explained, “there were three of us who were in transit in the wormhole when the timeline shifted. We survived and made sure to warn Earth, but Ba’al had years to plan and…we only just managed to send me back to save the timeline. It’s done. That future version of Ba’al is dead and the timeline is restored.”
“That’s good,” Sam said, wondering if it was over why Carter had decided to return and talk with her.
“I’ve spent the last two years plotting to change the timeline further,” Carter continued, “to come back to this moment and change things, but…” she sighed heavily. “Thor helped me stop Ba’al and I remembered who I was…who you are.”
Sam shifted unsettled by Carter’s admission. “You – we wouldn’t consider changing the timeline for no reason.”
Carter nodded and sipped her tea. “I’m just not sure grief is a good enough reason.”
Sam froze and stared at her counterpart.
“Jack died,” Carter almost whispered the words, “just as the world began to feel Ba’al’s changes; he died. He told me to go and I did. I followed his order and I left him and…I lost Jack and I lost everyone!”
Sam hadn’t realised she had moved until she had; until her arms went around Carter and she held her as the other woman cried on her shoulder. Her own emotions rose in sympathy at the heartfelt sobs.
“I lost all of them,” Carter said thinly as her tears slowed. “I’ve lost my team and I’m so lost.”
Sam swallowed hard past the lump in her throat. “I’m so sorry.”
Carter stirred and pulled away. They sat beside each other on the sofa, staring at their abandoned cups.
“Would the change you want to make save Jack?” asked Sam, struggling to make sense of why Carter wanted to change the timeline.
Carter sighed and reached for her cold tea. “Not exactly. When I reset the timeline Jack was saved then.”
“I don’t understand,” Sam admitted.
“I think we need something stronger than tea,” Carter muttered.
Sam got up and went to the refrigerator. She retrieved a bottle of wine, opened it and poured out two glasses of golden chardonnay. She handed one to Carter and kept the other returning to her previous seat.
“Something broke inside of me,” Carter confessed after a gulp of wine, “when I was in the other timeline. Something just…broke.”
Sam bit her lip, but she remembered all too well the want to give up. She’d come close to breaking herself. After being taken as a host by Jolinar; her fight with the super-soldier; when she’d been on the Prometheus alone…
“I fought to keep going because I needed to save Jack and the others, to save this timeline, but then…” Carter sighed. “When I got to this timeline, I had to wait. I had to plan everything out properly, make sure the time travel device I created worked so I could stop Ba’al before he stepped into the past and…I began to think why couldn’t I do more? If I could go forward in time and change that, why couldn’t I just make another few changes? Improve our odds? Make Earth safer?”
Sam cupped her wineglass with both hands and sighed. She understood the thinking.
“After all, my being back in the past was bound to have changed things even minimally here,” Carter continued, “so what were a few other changes if they saved lives?”
“And what do you think now?” asked Sam.
Carter sipped her wine and set it aside. “That I’m not sure of my choice any longer. I can’t trust myself with this.” She sighed. “When I was in the other timeline, they took everything from me; they split us up and refused to let us speak to each other, they banned me from the programme unless I swore I wouldn’t seek to save this timeline, they wouldn’t let me work even doing the lowest possible job in our fields of expertise or study. They took my identity.”
“You said you lost yourself,” Sam murmured.
“I played by the rules, we play by the rules,” Carter said, “but there I couldn’t. I had to work against them…”
“And we’ve always broken the rules if it meant saving Earth, saving the team,” Sam concluded. She took a sip of her own wine and considered everything she’d heard.
In many ways she could understand why Carter had ended up deciding to change things. She’d been alone and grieving; forced into a mindset where playing by the rules wouldn’t have saved them. Given enough time…time.
Her mind latches onto something Carter had said; something relevant and, frankly, astounding.
“You can travel through time,” Sam said out loud, “you created a device which allows you to do that.”
“Yes,” Carter confirmed. “I based it on a technology you still have to encounter.”
“You can move through time, but you needed Thor’s help,” Sam continued to think aloud, “so you needed help to move through space.” She frowned. “Why? You could…you didn’t want to use the Stargate; didn’t have access to a ship…or one that would take you there quick enough.”
Carter smiled. “Is it narcissistic to enjoy how you’re putting the pieces together?”
Sam resolutely didn’t say out loud the personal pieces she’d started to put together. She focused again on the professional. “You deliberately went to a point in the timeline to minimise damage and I have no doubt you minimised your impact in the past or else we’d already be seeing a butterfly effect and you would have done damage control. So, you are careful when you think you have to be and therefore you picked here as a time to come back as a reason to make an impact. I don’t believe you did that without a lot of careful thought, why?”
“I’m not sure I can tell you that without changing the timeline,” Carter sighed. She sipped her wine. “I mapped out our past. I tried to find the moment when a change would make the most difference to Earth and our allies.”
Sam pressed her lips together. “We sent a letter back in time to save Earth from the genocide of the Aschen. Is your change that kind of level of saving?”
Carter frowned. “Not genocide, but…we fight on three fronts over the next few years. Here in this galaxy with a powerful enemy we’ve yet to meet, in the galaxy where Atlantis resides there are other dangers including a foe which had the Atlanteans abandoning Atlantis, and here on Earth, we have issues. It takes a toll.”
“But Earth survives?” Sam questioned her carefully, hiding her dismay at the idea of more enemies.
“Yes,” Carter confirmed. “So, you see my dilemma? What right do I have to change things?”
“What right do we have to walk through the Stargate?” Sam countered. She was amused at the look of surprise on the face on Carter’s face. “Look, you and I both know meddling in the past is a bad idea because it puts the future at risk. Every change we make here has an impact going forward. It would be easy to make a mistake and end up changing everything. We can’t guarantee that the people we love would still be alive or that things still work out the way we want them to. You have to protect the present; the status quo…unless that’s something you really want to change.”
Carter nodded slowly. “We managed to screw everything up travelling in time once.”
Sam’s mouth dropped open. “What?”
“Another us allowed the team to travel back to Egypt and retrieve a ZPM; it ended up saving Atlantis,” Carter stated. “Only according to the video they left they screwed up and changed too much of the future. They ended up having to go back again to save themselves and ensure the future was restored.”
Sam stared at Carter. She shook her head and tried to get rid of the thousand burning questions racing through her mind. “So, we meddle with time in the future and that’s OK?!”
“I get the impression it was never OK with us,” Carter said dryly. “Jack always complains that I won’t even let him go back and watch the World Series.”
“There’s at least two other moments I know about where time travel impacts our timeline,” Carter continued. “They’re not on Earth but they count. In each case the past was changed to help make a better future.”
“And knowing all that, knowing we had the opportunity to change time, you determined it would be best to do it now,” Sam said slowly.
“This is a pivotal moment,” Carter said firmly, “and I have the math to prove it.” She gestured with her wineglass. “It was a moment of change. SG1, the team was never the same after this.”
“Because of the General’s promotion,” Sam surmised.
Carter nodded. “And ours. And because we find Atlantis.”
Sam bit her lip again. “This is beginning to get into territory where we’re going to change things just with this conversation.”
Carter got to her feet and paced. “The future isn’t bad,” she admitted, “we’re alive, many of the people we love are alive, and the Stargate programme is doing well. I just…we have the chance to save people. I was so certain when I came back that it was the right thing to do but…”
“You’ve been through a lot, and you’re questioning your motives and your judgement,” Sam said when Carter fell into silence.
“You have a better chance of making the right decision,” Carter said. Her lips quirked into a facsimile of a smile. “It’s your call.”
They’re both quiet for a long moment.
Sam finally waved at the sofa and Carter sat back down.
“Tell me what you want to change,” Sam instructed gently. “If I don’t agree, I know better than to say anything to change it. So…tell me what you want to change.”
To be continued