- Alternate Universe
- Time Travel
Debriefings around the conference table were not unusual but given the end of the lockdown of the SGC, Sam felt a moment’s weirdness about them all being together again as she took her place.
Jack sat at the head of the table, the stars on his BDUs shining under the artificial lights. Sam had taken the seat to Jack’s right with Teal’c beside her. Daniel sat to Jack’s left. Doctor Brightman, the Chief Medical Officer, was next to Daniel, and Major Davis was next to her. Colonel Reynolds, the leader of SG3, was beside Teal’c, and Richard Woolsey, newly appointed to the IOA as the United States representative at the request of the President sat next to Davis.
Sam paid attention as they went through the past week; the actions that had been taken, the commands given. She contributed to the report crisply and clearly. Her heart pounded a touch harder in her chest than normal. Everything that had happened had followed the mission report she’d read thanks to Carter – everything from Vaselov’s illness, to Daniel being shot (Sam felt a twinge of guilt about that but she’d healed him), to where Sam had ultimately ended up sending Anubis.
She’d thought about sending him somewhere else but when she’d been in front of the computer, she’d only remembered the coordinates of KS7-535.
Everything had happened just as in Carter’s timeline. Sam had thought she’d known what her decision was going to be; had believed it right up until that moment. She bit her lip.
It was her call.
Carter was gone.
Sam had left her asleep on the sofa, only to wake the next morning to find a note of goodbye, an assurance Carter would disappear and not interfere further with the timeline, and a laptop filled with information on the future.
Sam had backed it all up to an external hard drive, encrypted the heck out of it, and spent her weekend reading up on the mission reports, on the Replicator who would wear Sam’s own face, on Atlantis, on the Ori.
Her fingers tightened on her pen.
She had made her decision.
Carter said they’d all survived. They were all alive in the future. How could Sam risk that?
But they weren’t safe, Sam reminded herself. She’d read everything on the Wraith, on the Ori. She knew what was coming. Death and destruction. And she could prevent it.
For a long moment, she hated Carter for giving the decision to her and in the next breath, knew what she was going to do.
“Right,” Jack began to wrap up, “I need to go have another really uncomfortable conversation with the Russians, so…”
“Sir,” Sam interrupted him gently but firmly, “given the renewed threat of Anubis, I strongly recommend that SG1 be deployed to Antarctica immediately.”
Jack stared at her, his bemusement evident.
Daniel’s head shot up, his eyes wide behind his glasses.
“You do?” Both men spoke together.
Sam shot Daniel a look but nodded at Jack. “Yes, sir,” she said, “Daniel believed that we would find the answer to destroying Anubis on Atlantis and the outpost in Antarctica is our best shot of discovering where Atlantis might be.”
“Or a way of defeating Anubis,” Daniel jumped in eagerly, “the chair may be able to access information in the database there.”
Jack’s jaw clenched, a sign of his unhappiness. Sam knew he was struggling with his command and sought comfort in their presence. He hadn’t wanted his stars; hated stepping out of the field. But he was competent and he was a good leader; he was what the SGC needed with General Hammond assigned to Washington.
“I also think you should come with us, sir,” Sam continued, “you have the strongest expression of the gene and the chair responds best to you. Unless we have approval to test non-SGC personnel for the gene and find someone else, we’re limited in ability to access the chair.”
Davis shifted further down the table, politely signalling his want to speak. Jack gestured at him.
“Firstly, I agree we need to find additional people to man the chair and you are the best person for that right now. But is now the best time to leave the SGC, General?” Davis asked pointedly.
“No,” Jack admitted, meeting his gaze, “but there is no best time.”
“Indeed,” murmured Teal’c.
“I believe the President would see the value in this recommendation,” Woolsey pompously said from the far end of the table. “The IOA would certainly support it. They’ve been requesting further help at the outpost since Doctor Weir and her team arrived there.”
Jack’s fingers picked up his pen and he tapped it lightly on the folder in front of him as he turned to look at Sam. “You don’t think Anubis will be stuck on that ice planet?”
Sam shook her head but it was Sarah Brightman who spoke up.
“We don’t know enough about his physiology, sir,” the doctor said, “while a human body would not be able to cope with the temperatures, Anubis as a parasite may be able to change the composition of the cells to withstand the temperature.”
“He may already be off planet and plotting then,” Daniel murmured.
“Well,” Jack quipped, throwing his pen down, “that’s a sobering thought.”
Sam allowed a visible wince as Jack’s eyes landed on Daniel.
“You know Sam’s right, Jack,” Daniel commented. “Antarctica is our best hope for finding some way to stop him permanently.”
“Sir,” Sam said insistently, regaining Jack’s attention, “we cannot give Anubis time to rebuild.” She sighed and glanced apologetically at Teal’c. “I’d also recommend Teal’c going off world and seeking intelligence about the remaining Goa’uld and their movements. There will be a power vacuum and someone will step forward to fill it.”
Jack’s gaze slid to the Jaffa beside her. “What do you think, T? Want to chime in here?”
“I believe Colonel Carter is correct,” Teal’c intoned.
Jack’s expression softened minutely. “She often is.” His eyes slid to the leader of SG3. “Reynolds?”
“I agree with Colonel Carter, sir,” Reynolds said. “But I also take Major Davis’ point; the SGC needs experienced leaders in command in your absence. I know Colonel Dixon was being assigned to the outpost but if you and SG1 are going, I’d recommend he stay assigned here.”
Jack considered their words and nodded sharply. “OK,” he conceded, “I’ll discuss the recommendation with General Hammond and the Joint Chiefs. We’ll take it from there.” He got to his feet and Sam followed along with the other military personnel.
She’d done it.
She’d made the first move to changing the timeline.
“Is everything well, Colonel Carter?”
Sam looked up and found both Daniel and Teal’c regarding her with concerned looks. They were alone and Jack was back in his office, reaching for the red phone. His eyes caught on hers through the window glass and raised an eyebrow questioningly.
Sam managed a smile and turned back to her team-mates. “Everything’s fine, Teal’c.”
“Are you sure?” Daniel fell into step next to her on their way out of the room. “Only you know if we go to Antarctica it will delay you getting confirmed as team leader and…”
Sam waved away his words as they got into the elevator, even as she wondered whether Carter had pushed to earn her leadership instead of going. “It’s the right thing to do, Daniel.”
“Indeed,” Teal’c said warmly.
Jack looked up from his paperwork. The small lamp in the office brightened only a small part of it and it looked cosy in semi-darkness.
“Carter,” Jack blinked at her before he glanced to his clock, “it’s late. Aren’t all good Lieutenant Colonels meant to be in bed, I mean at home now?”
Sam smiled amused. “Aren’t all Generals, General?”
Jack grimaced. “If only.” He waved at the stack of folders. “Apparently, this all needs cleared before we depart for our trip to the ice and cold.”
Sam winced sympathetically. “Sorry, sir.”
“I’d say it’s not your fault,” Jack countered, his brown eyes warming as he teased her, “but our trip is your fault so…”
“I take full responsibility, sir,” Sam quipped back. She fidgeted with the folder in her hand. “I, uh, I guess this can wait.”
Jack lifted an eyebrow and waved her in. “I appreciate the interruption,” he lied blatantly, “anything is better than deciding…” he checked the paper in front of him, “if we should have more porridge or Fruit Loops.”
“You hate Fruit Loops,” Sam commented. He’d barely eaten them after the time loop incident.
“Porridge it is then,” Jack signed his name, slapped the folder shut and set it on top of another stack. “Take a seat, Carter. What’s on your mind? Changed your mind about us freezing our asses off?”
“Ah, no, sir,” Sam replied, “actually I came to talk to you about SG1.”
Jack gestured for her to take a seat.
Sam placed the folder in front of him. “I’ve reviewed our past missions based on a three-person team.”
Jack flipped the folder open and read her summary. He flipped it shut again, looking disheartened. “You run this by Daniel and Teal’c?”
Sam nodded. “We went over my initial results together.”
“You need a fourth,” Jack sighed heavily.
Sam gathered her courage. Carter had called him Jack; not General. “We all wish it could still be you, sir.”
“You deserve the promotion, Carter,” Jack replied sincerely.
Sam smiled. “Thank you, sir, and for what it’s worth; so did you.”
Jack grimaced but his eyes were warm and appreciative on hers. “You have any candidates in mind?”
Sam shifted. “There’s a rumour you offered the place to Cameron Mitchell.”
Jack visibly winced. “Ah, you heard about that.”
“Walter’s quite the gossip, sir,” Sam quipped, aiming to lighten the mood. She didn’t really want to berate Jack for offering Cam the position without talking with her first.
“He’s got a long journey ahead of him, Carter,” Jack said, “if he makes it through his rehab, we’ll all discuss it again. Until then?” He shrugged.
Sam nodded, understanding why Jack had seemingly agreed to the request; to motivate Cam in his recovery. “I understand, sir,” she said out loud, “and I will appreciate the discussion since Colonel Mitchell has time in rank on me and so would be the senior officer on the team if he were assigned.”
She could see the shock of that truth skate across Jack’s features. It clearly hadn’t occurred to him.
“Carter, that’s not…” Jack shook his head lightly and met her gaze directly, “Mitchell may have time in rank, but you have more time in the programme. You’re my choice as the new SG1 team lead, and you will always be my choice.”
“Thank you, sir,” Sam said quietly. She knew it wouldn’t work out as Jack wanted thanks to the mission reports from the future, but she recognised in that timeline she’d clearly left the SGC before Mitchell had been assigned. “I’d like to discuss some options for the fourth member with you, sir, given Colonel Mitchell cannot be assigned at this time.”
Jack sat back and silently invited her to speak.
“Captain Hailey would be a good candidate and my first choice,” Sam began, “she’s bright and can take over as science lead. However, she’s still on maternity leave.”
“Grogan, Grogan, Grogan,” muttered Jack, shaking his head.
Sam bit her lip to stop from smiling. The young captain had been the one to knock-up Hailey. “I did think about him too, sir, but he’s better suited to his current assignment on SG12.”
“Daniel had a couple of civilian candidates,” Sam continued, “Bill Lee and Nyan.” She gestured at Jack. “I sounded both out and neither were interested in joining an off-world team.”
“I know a civilian who would,” Jack teased. “Felger’s been transferred to Area 51 but we could always bring him back.”
“Respectfully, sir,” Sam retorted, “I like Jay but over my dead body.”
Jack grinned and nodded. “Who else?”
“I have two candidates,” Sam said, “Major Lorne and Major Sheppard.”
Jack frowned. “Lorne, I get. He’d be a good second; he has a good head on his shoulders, good record.” He gestured across the table. “Who’s Sheppard?”
“Major John Sheppard,” Sam said, gestured at the file again, “he’s stationed at McMurdo. He’s not in the programme but he flew helicopter rescue for most of the downed pilots; he was recommended by his CO for a medal following his heroism.”
Jack opened the file and read the second report Sam had slipped in with the recommendations. “He has no gate experience.”
“Neither did we,” Sam said. “He’s Special Forces; he can fly anything, and he can think on his feet. I was thinking we could interview him when we go to McMurdo.” She shifted position. “I’ve discussed it with Daniel and Teal’c, and we were all thinking the fourth place could maybe become a rotation. We can share skills and knowledge; refresh SG1 with new blood. If Sheppard joined, he’d potentially be ready for his own team lead position after a year.”
Jack sighed. “It’s not a bad idea.”
“But?” Sam prompted.
“No but,” Jack denied, “it’s just a change.”
Sam smiled at him. “You’ll always have a place on SG1, sir.”
Jack smiled back at her. “I will?”
“Daniel, Teal’c and I all agree, sir,” Sam said firmly. “Just like Jonas.”
“Jonas,” Jack repeated, “I don’t suppose we could get Jonas to come back and be your fourth?”
“I wish we could,” Sam admitted.
Jack closed the folder. “I agree with your recommendations. You need a fourth. We’ll talk to Sheppard when we’re at McMurdo. I like the rotation idea too so let’s do that.”
“Thank you, sir,” Sam accepted the folder back from him. She waved at the rest of his paperwork. “Anything I can help with, sir?”
“Unfortunately not,” Jack said, “go! Get out of here, Carter, before someone demands you do some paperwork.”
Sam grinned at him and left.
“…and this is the chair room,” Sam declared with a sweep of her arm.
“Control room,” Rodney McKay snapped, without looking at her from his position by the chair. “This is the control room.”
“Chair room,” Doctor Carson Beckett mouthed at Sam in agreement and looked at her companion speculatively. “And who is this?”
Sam smiled at his Scottish burr. “Carson Beckett, please meet the newest member of SG1, Major John Sheppard.”
John smiled sheepishly beside her and held out his hand for the doctor to shake. “Nice to meet you, Doctor.”
“Call me Carson,” Carson offered.
Rodney scrambled to his feet. “That’s not fair!”
“What’s not fair, Rodney?” asked Sam bemused.
“I’m the senior scientist, I should have been introduced first!” Rodney said, gesturing at her with his tablet.
Sam rolled her eyes at him. “Rodney, John Sheppard. John, this is Doctor McKay.”
John shook hands with Rodney, his lips twitching with amusement. “Good to meet you too, McKay.”
“Hrumph,” said Rodney, clutching his tablet tighter. He glared at Sam. “Are you sure there’s a brain under that hair?”
John’s eyebrows rose.
“Enough that I’m planning to convince him to finish his doctorate in math,” Sam confirmed cheerfully.
John blushed, the tips of his ears turning red, but he covered with a smirk in Rodney’s direction. “I’m thinking about joining MENSA.”
“Huh,” said Rodney, suddenly regarding John with a speculative look.
“I didn’t realise you were looking for a fourth member,” commented Carson. “We’d heard a rumour General O’Neill had decided to leave the position open.”
“We had a rethink after we ran the numbers against our old missions,” Sam admitted, pulling off her gloves.
“Sensible,” Rodney said brusquely.
“Be nice, Rodney,” Sam cautioned him, “it’s John’s first day.”
They’d interviewed him the day before when they’d arrived at McMurdo. As Sam had suspected from the reports, Jack had immediately recognised himself in John and had fully endorsed her bringing him onto SG1.
“John,” Sam said, turning to him, “go with Carson and get examined. Come back when you’re done.”
“Yes, Colonel,” John said respectfully.
Carson chattered to him as they left the room and Sam joined Rodney by the chair. She plugged her own laptop into the console and started to examine the data.
“When’s O’Neill going to sit in the chair?” asked Rodney abruptly.
“Once he’s finished meeting with Elizabeth and Colonel Edwards,” Sam said, frowning at the seemingly impenetrable firewall.
Rodney huffed. “You mean stopping them from killing each other.”
Sam’s lips twitched as she tried not to smile. She’d recognised the tension when they’d arrived and had used the opportunity of getting John oriented to excuse herself. Both Jack and Daniel had thrown her betrayed looks.
Teal’c was the only member of SG1 not with them. He had gone off world the day before to meet up with Bra’tac and Rya’c. They needed the intelligence of what was going on in the rest of the galaxy; what Ba’al and the other Goa’uld were up to and if Anubis was back in play.
“I, uh, I wanted to thank, uh, you for recommending me to…”
Sam didn’t even look up to wave away his thank you. “You’re still an arrogant know-it-all, Rodney, but you deserve the Chief Science position.”
“Right,” Rodney said, sounding a little aggrieved and hurt.
Sam looked up. A sliver of guilt curled through her. Maybe she’d always ignored how much he wanted to belong before; how much of a truly good man lurked underneath the arrogance. Carter had told her about Rodney’s heroism in Atlantis. Her timeline counterpart had worried that Rodney wouldn’t be forged into the man he’d become if they changed the path for Atlantis.
Sam reached over and placed a hand on Rodney’s arm. His startled expression at her touching him almost made her smile. “You’re a good friend, Rodney.”
Rodney puffed up at the praise.
“Actually,” Sam continued suddenly inspired, “I could do with your help.”
“Of course, anything,” stuttered Rodney, who still looked a little shell-shocked by her words.
“John’s got a lot of catching up to do,” Sam said, “and normally Daniel would be the one to do it, but I get the feeling Elizabeth…” she gestured rather than say the likelihood of Elizabeth boggarting all of Daniel’s time was pretty assured out loud.
“Right, yes,” Rodney got her meaning straight away. “I’d be happy to, uh, help.”
“Thank you, Rodney,” Sam said. Maybe if she had John and Rodney spend some time together they’d form something of the friendship they’d had which had come through in the mission reports. She turned back to her laptop. “This encryption is insane.”
“I know,” Rodney began to babble about everything he’d tried to do to break it and they spent enough time brainstorming and arguing that Jack’s arrival with Daniel and Elizabeth was almost a surprise.
“OK, campers,” Jack said, striding towards the chair, “let’s get this over with.”
Rodney and Sam exchanged a brief look which covered their silent agreement to park their latest debate.
“Just give us a moment, sir,” Sam said, halting Jack’s advance on the chair.
Jack hovered impatiently while Sam and Rodney readied their computers to take scans and recordings. She was aware of John arriving back.
“OK, sir,” Sam said, “the chair is yours.”
Jack took a step and then stopped. He glanced back at John who stood in a semblance of an at ease position at the back of the room. “Sheppard, take a seat.”
The entire room stared at Jack.
“Sir?” asked John, taking a tentative step forward.
Sam stared at Jack nonplussed. “Uh, sir, John’s just had his initial examination and…”
“We don’t even know if he has the gene!” Rodney blurted out.
“What better way to find out?” Jack pointed out.
Daniel pushed his glasses up his nose. “He has a point.”
John frowned at Jack. “You did tell me not to touch anything, sir.”
“Sit your ass down, Sheppard,” Jack motioned for John to step up.
John glanced toward Sam who gave a nod.
“It’s safe,” Sam confirmed. “If you have the gene, it should activate, just try thinking of a status report on the chair’s functions.”
“Or the solar system,” Rodney chimed in.
“It’s unlikely I do have this gene thing, right?” John said as he sat down tentatively.
The chair immediately activated, swivelling back and leaving John scrambling to hold on.
“Woah!” John breathed out.
“Solar system!” Rodney barked. “Think of where we are in the solar system!”
A projection appeared above the chair; planets circling the sun, Earth clearly identified with a marker for the outpost.
“Did I do that?” asked John, his voice filled with awe.
Sam bit her lip.
“Think about Atlantis,” Daniel said, stepping up to the chair, “think about where Atlantis is.”
The projection changed.
Another solar system; another planet with a wide expanse of water and a mainland. The picture zoomed in on Atlantis in the sea; hidden under the ocean.
“Holy Hannah,” Sam breathed out faintly.
She’d known; seen the pictures in Carter’s reports but this…this felt magical.
“We’ve found her,” Elizabeth declared.
Jack frowned. “Finding her is one thing, getting to her is another.” He pointed at a series of Atlantean symbols. “Danny, is that what I think it is?”
Daniel repositioned himself to peer at the symbols closely. “It’s a gate address but it has eight symbols…”
“Another galaxy,” Sam supplied. “Seven to locate a gate in our own galaxy…”
“Eight in another,” Daniel finished.
“The power requirements would be…” Rodney mimed something blowing up.
The projection changed into a ZPM.
“Right,” Rodney commented, “we’d need one of those.”
“Uh, we have one of those?” Daniel pointed out.
“It’s powering the outpost,” Jack shot back.
Sam cleared her throat. “I’ve been working on a way to power the outpost using naquadria generators. If we can get those to work…”
“Then we have a power source to get to Atlantis,” Daniel said excitedly.
Elizabeth looked just as thrilled standing beside him.
Sam held up a hand. “It may still drain our ZPM,” she looked at Jack, “we’d need to run the calculations, sir.”
Jack looked at her and sighed. He rubbed a hand through his hair. He gestured at John. “Ask the thing how we destroy a half-ascended being like Anubis.”
The projection changed to an Ark, a whole set of Atlantean text on the side.
“The Ark of Truth,” Elizabeth translated. She frowned. “It’s meant to weaken the Ascended by making their followers realise the truth that they were not gods. What does that mean?”
“It means that the Ascended could gain power by people worshipping them as gods,” Daniel answered, crossing his arms, “just like the Goa’uld did. Only this suggests some kind of metaphysical power transfer?” His nose wrinkled.
John’s brow creased. “I think there’s an address?”
Another solar system appeared along with another stargate address.
“This is a different galaxy address to Atlantis,” Daniel sighed.
Sam felt a shiver go down her spine. The Ori galaxy.
“Are there any schematics?” Rodney asked.
“I’ll ask,” John said. A second later, a set of schematics appeared.
Both Rodney and Sam stepped closer. They looked at each other.
“Could you build it?” asked Jack impatiently.
“Could we build it?” parroted Rodney. “Do you know how much…”
Sam put her hand on his arm to stop the tirade and turned back to Jack. “It’ll take some time to study these schematics properly, sir, and to work out if the materials we have come close to substituting the originals.” She paused. “I’m also concerned, sir, that this talks about weakening an Ascended being but not completely eliminating them.”
“That is a very good point,” Jack allowed, nodding at her.
“So, we’ll still need to go to Atlantis?” questioned Elizabeth, unable to hide her eagerness.
The picture changed.
“What’s this?” asked Jack.
Sam glanced down at John.
“Uh, I stopped thinking about the Ascended thing and just thought about something which eliminate Anubis?” offered John.
“Huh, he really does have brains under that hair,” Rodney commented.
“Good job,” Jack said, “what is it?”
Daniel frowned. “Dakara.”
“And that means?” Jack prompted.
“It doesn’t mean anything, it’s a location,” Daniel replied, “it’s a sacred place to the Jaffa. It’s where they were said to be born.”
“Uh, General,” Sam pointed at a figure in the gate address.
“For crying out loud! Don’t tell me,” Jack said, “it’s in another galaxy.”
“No, sir, it’s in our galaxy,” Sam said, “but,” she stressed before he could be too relieved, “it is in the middle of Goa’uld territory.”
“Of course it is,” Jack sighed.
“Maybe we could still find something in Atlantis,” Elizabeth offered.
“Sir,” Sam cut in, “I think its obvious John has a natural affinity for the chair. I recommend we mine the database. We’ve come up with three different options in the space of five minutes; we might discover something better if we properly interrogate the database.”
Sam almost gaped at Rodney’s snappish show of support.
“We have no idea how much information is buried in this database,” Rodney said, his chin up with a hint of his usual belligerence, “we should take the time to, uh,” he gestured vaguely, “you know, rule out other options.”
Jack’s gaze went to Daniel.
Daniel heaved a sigh but nodded. “They have a good point and I’m not going to argue about spending time exploring the database here.”
Elizabeth coughed. “I think it would be prudent though to start planning for an expedition to Atlantis, General.”
Jack sighed. He looked back over at Sam.
She gave a small nod to him. “It couldn’t hurt to begin planning now, sir. If we did have to go to Atlantis, we’d need to be properly prepared for a trip given the Prometheus won’t finish repairs for a while and the Daedalus is still in final build.”
“Alright,” Jack declared, “SG1 will stay and mine the database; Elizabeth, you have permission to start planning in the event we’ll need to go to Atlantis.” He gestured at John. “You stay in the chair, apparently I have calls to make.”
Sam watched him leave, Elizabeth following in his wake. “Daniel?”
Daniel hummed, his eyes still on the projection.
Daniel’s eyes snapped to her. “Huh?”
“Go help the General,” Sam instructed with a jerk of her blonde head.
Daniel clearly replayed the last few moments in his head; his eyes widened and he pointed his thumb towards the exit. “I’ll just go help Jack.”
Sam sighed and shook her head.
“Uh, how long do I need to stay in this chair?” asked John.
“Why?” asked Rodney, oblivious to any reason why John would need to leave.
“I think that’s enough for now,” Sam said firmly.
Rodney’s head shot back up. “But…”
“Thank God,” John muttered, righting the chair.
“It’s lunch time,” Sam said brightly, “Rodney, why don’t you show John the mess and I’ll make sure everything is saved here?”
Rodney floundered but nodded. “Right. The mess. I can show you the mess.”
John looked at Sam curiously, but he went off with Rodney.
Sam sighed. Changing time was easier said than done.
To be continued