Summary: The NID and technology of the Ancients

Category: Angst, Drama, Hurt/Comfort, Sam-whumping, Sam/Jack UST, Future Story, Thoughts

Season/Spoiler: end of season 7 or later

Warnings: violence

Rating: PG-13

Note: Even though Sam and Jack do not get an official relationship in this story, non-shippers may not like the S/J; shippers may want more from the S/J relationship.

Status: complete – for now?

Archive: Heliopolis, Gateworld, The Stargate Novel Archive, and whoever wants it

Disclaimer: Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of Showtime/Viacom, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions. I have written this story for entertainment purposes only and no money whatsoever has exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended.

Thank You: I am posting this, and my other fanfics, to say thanks for all who have taken their time and effort to write SG-1 fanfics… and to post them for others to enjoy. Thank you to all of you.

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Feverish pain.

Flashes and images.

Spikes of pain….and throbbing pain in syncopated counter-rythym.


It felt like her mind should just burn out.

But it didn't.

It just kept spinning. Leaping. Working things out. First one, then the next, then the next step. No… backstep….wrong-way there… Here! Here, this was the way…. feverishly…. as if there were an imminent deadline…. and then there would be catastrophe…. must finish fast…. can't get done quickly enough…

Already Too Late?

Taking Too Long?

This, here, this fits here. Then…this connects here…. and that means that this reduces to manageable proportions…this is do-able….but that creates…this problem….how to deal with the power spikes??? And what alloy would handle the high temperatures…?

So…what if…..OK, try this….

Aaaaaccggghhh! Pain shot through her and her body convulsed.


"Doctor, she's spiking again. Her temperature has risen to 104° and her brain waves are exceedingly erratic."

"Yes, yes, I see it. Turn the controls back down. We'll have to take another break."

"You get her temperature down and monitor her vitals continuously. If we can get her stabilized for at least 24 hours, we should be able to continue the work. Notify me immediately of any changes."

"Yes, sir."

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General Jack O'Neill stepped into the quiet control room and silently watched the inactive Stargate. He checked the mission board and noted that only SG-2, SG-8 and SG-15 were offworld at the moment.

O'Neill had been offsite at the Pentagon for the past week and he had missed the SGC, its personnel and its connection to the universe. He had to admit, however, that the Stargate…well, it could be fun….whereas, what he had really missed… were the people. They were his people. Fellow officers. Fellow Tauri dedicated to interstellar exploration, extraterrestrial relationships and the protection of Earth. And…he'd missed some personnel in particular….

Like…well…. like Corporal Thompson, the young airman who always had a dirty joke to share…. and well, like Ferretti, simply a comrade in arms….and well, like Sergeant Veron, who ran most of the base betting pools…. and…well, like, OK, he could admit it, he missed Teal'c! The big, self-possessed Jaffa was a calming influence, a friendly rock of stability and a faithful friend.

And…yes…he'd even missed Daniel… he'd missed Daniel's overly enthusiastic team briefings…he'd missed Daniel's obsession with his discoveries…and artifacts (rocks)…. He'd missed his debates with Daniel over whether or not to trust the latest group of new aliens that they discovered. He'd even missed the endless debates and the long scientific discourses…. well, maybe not!

And, then there was Carter. He couldn't admit what he missed there. But he'd been sorely disappointed that he hadn't crossed paths with her on the way in this morning. After checking his appointments for the day with his corporal, he was going to have a meeting scheduled with SG-1 ASAP, so that he could get caught up on the 'official business.' Find out what missions and events he'd missed out on over the past several weeks. Sighing with regret, he turned to his office to deal with the administrative side of running the SGC.

A half-hour later, Corporal Rivers left the General's office and O'Neill sat back for a minute. O'Neill's schedule for today included a meeting with the SGC team CO's and a meeting with the scientific team leaders, followed by a teleconference meeting with the heads of several of the alien tech research groups. But, his first meeting wasn't until 08:30am… He had a mountain of paperwork and memos to catch up on, but first, he decided to take a stroll.....

A few minutes later, his 'stroll' brought him to a familiar lab. He'd walked up to this door many, many times in the past 7-8 years. He knew what he'd see…. she'd be intently staring at a…doohickey…of some sort. Actually, some sort of alien technology that defied instant human understanding… And, she'd be working it out. Figuring it out. Backwards engineering it.

Usually, she'd be leaning on or sitting next to her central lab table. Her attention fixated on the problem before her. And he'd be able to watch her for a few moments as she worked unguarded and unaware of his attention. Then he'd have to break off his reverie, as he couldn't be seen mooning over his SG-1 2IC.

So, he'd walk in and stand there. Maybe pick something up and start twiddling with it. Scuff his feet if she still didn't notice. Say something, if necessary. Something like… 'Hey, Carter,' yeah…he could be smooth like that….embarrassing, yup… Sometimes, she'd be startled…other times, she wouldn't react much at all…and other times, she'd simply ask him what was up. What he needed? Usually, she didn't remove her gaze from her doohickey. She was used to his visits. They'd exchange a few noncommittal pleasantries and then he'd go along his way.

And, if he didn't, if he stayed awhile longer, she'd take this as a sign that something was wrong and she would stop what she was doing and turn her intense gaze onto him…as she tried to figure him out. But apparently she hadn't succeeded yet, because she'd usually just end up looking puzzled.

Then, she'd notice whatever he was fiddling with…and she'd ask him to put it down…. 'Now, Please, Sir!'…. But every now and then, she'd jump up in alarm and actually take it away from him… it…whatever it was that he'd picked up and was fiddling with. Sometimes, he thought it had become a game… he wondered if sometimes he was actually playing with the alien equivalent of a ballpoint pen, and Carter would just pretend that he was about to blow up the mountain. He couldn't prove it one way or the other…. But sometimes, he felt like she and Daniel split their sides laughing about it all at lunch. Of course, there was also the possibility that he'd actually almost blown up the SGC, and that she actually went to the gym and beat the stuffing out of the punching bag.


Grinning as he stood a few paces from her lab door now, he stepped forward to find that the door was shut. She usually didn't shut the door while she was working…. so he knocked, politely. There wouldn't be any stolen moments watching her unawares today.

No answer. So he opened the unlocked door. The inside of the lab was dark and quiet. He switched on the light and glanced around. No sign of her. No coffee on the table. No laptop humming away to itself.


OK, maybe it was time to check Daniel's office.

A few minutes later, he approached Daniel's office to find another closed door. Knocking, he received the same lack of reply that he'd gotten at Carter's lab. Again, he opened the unlocked door to find a dark, quiet – and empty – office.


Well, they could be in the commissary getting a cup of coffee….they could be in the gym…. they could be many places…. He'd have to read some of the memos and talk to some of his staff. They'd know where Carter and Daniel were. They could be at a meeting, they could be at a conference, etc. etc.

Sigh…he'd just…hoped…to see them… He'd just hoped they'd be here when he got back. Like, maybe, they'd missed him enough to be there when he returned. But then, it wasn't like he'd gone anywhere exciting…or physically dangerous…he'd just been in Washington. Land of bureaucrats….

Well, there was one more place to try before he headed back to his office…and the paperwork that awaited him. Teal'c's quarters. Perhaps the Jaffa was around. Not likely however, as the Jaffa was an early riser and would most likely be working out or working with one of the linguistic or alien tech teams.

Willing to give it a try, however, O'Neill headed down to Teal'c's quarters and politely knocked on his door. No answer. Not truly expecting anything else at this point, O'Neill dejectedly headed back up to his office and the scintillating world of the armchair warrior.


"Jack!" O'Neill had almost reached his office and he turned back to see Doctor Daniel Jackson and Teal'c walking towards him quickly.

"Hey Daniel, Hey Teal'c," O'Neill returned with a grin. "Did you guys miss me?"

"Jack, Do you know where Sam is?" Daniel did not even hear O'Neill's greeting.

"No, I just got in, haven't seen her yet. She's not in her lab, though, I just swung by there," O'Neill replied.

"O'Neill, we should speak about this in your office," the Jaffa interrupted Daniel's next statement or question. Seeing the worry and unease on both men's faces, O'Neill gestured them into his office and closed the door before he stepped around to his desk.

"Jack, we're worried. Two weeks ago, Sam was called to Area 51 to help assist with some backwards engineering on some sort of alien technology that one of the teams brought back a few months ago. No one that we know of has talked to her since she left," Daniel spoke the words in a rush. O'Neill noted that neither Daniel nor Teal'c had taken a seat. Daniel was pacing a step or two in one direction and then a pace or two in the other direction…all that O'Neill's office would allow with Teal'c standing there.

"We've tried calling her and all we get are secretaries and Sergeants and Corporals who tell us that she is either in a meeting, or is simply unavailable to come to the phone at the moment. They always promise to pass along a message for her to call back…but she hasn't," Daniel continued just as rapidly. O'Neill looked at Teal'c.

"I concur, O'Neill," the Jaffa replied seriously, "Colonel Carter would not ignore our calls unless something serious was preventing her from doing so. I do not believe that she would actually do so for so long unless she was physically prevented from speaking with us."

Jack let out a slow breath. If Daniel and Teal'c thought something was wrong, then they were most probably correct. And that made Jack sick to his stomach. Carter was missing. How could she be safer offworld than she was on Earth? That was so not fair.

Daniel and Teal'c watched the emotions play quickly over O'Neill's face before he slammed the military mask of control back into place.

"Allright," O'Neill snapped into command mode and called his corporal into his office, "Corporal Rivers, First: assemble any paperwork over the past month with reference to Colonel Carter! I want that information in the next 30 minutes! Second: Have General Collins in my office ASAP!"

"Yes, sir," the young airman snapped smartly and quickly exited the General's office to carry out his orders.

"Daniel, Teal'c, you two get on the phones and see if you can track her movements and see if she arrived at Area 51 when she was supposed to. Check her plane flights and check for any rental cars," O'Neill continued to the two men in front of him. They'd had to do this type of work before, they knew how to handle it.

"Jack, I think we should check into NID activity….," Daniel suggested.

NID involvement could explain why personnel at Area 51 were not forthcoming with the Colonel's whereabouts…and it could explain why she wasn't returning any phone calls. All three men had disturbed, angry looks in their eyes as they contemplated the results of Sam under the control of the NID for weeks. The NID could be inhuman. They could treat her as a lab rat. A prisoner in her own country. They could be after knowledge about the effects and possibilities of her changed body chemistry due to her blending with Jolinar. They might be trying to dredge up Go'a'uld or Tokra knowledge through Jolinar's memories. They could be trying to figure out what Niirti's machine had done to her. They could just be forcing her to be slave labor on some technological research. And that was if they wanted her alive. The possibilities made O'Neill's stomach roil.

Again, he thought, she did not deserve this.

And, he wondered….how much more could she take?...

How much more could she take, before it destroyed what made her Sam Carter…before it changed her…made her cynical and bitter and ripped all her trust away from her?

There was, of course, the slight chance, that she was OK. That this was all a snafu. That she was just fine over there at Area 51 and that the idiots working there couldn't pass on simple messages to her.

But he knew that was unlikely. Even if she hadn't received any of Daniel or Teal'c's phone messages, two weeks had passed and she would most likely have called them, just to check up on how things were going here at the SGC.

So, he knew something was wrong. Just as Daniel and Teal'c did.

"Well, how can we get some info about the NID? Who can we call? I don't have Maybourne anymore….," O'Neill asked.

"How about Agent Barrett?" Daniel asked. "We worked with him when we were dealing with that NID project to create a controllable Go'a'uld….," his voice was strong with disgust and sadness.

"Yes, I believe that Agent Barrett displayed affection for Colonel Carter," Teal'c agreed. "He might be willing to help us discover what is going on here."

O'Neill started at this information and then filed it away under "Oh, Great, More Guys Who Fall For Carter." He didn't have time to wallow in self-pity here and he squashed his feelings of…jealousy…sigh…squash! To deal with later!

"How about if you guys call…this…. Agent… Parrot-guy… and see if we can set something up where we can ask him some questions without any prying NID ears or eyes?" O'Neill instructed.

"It's Barrett, Jack," Daniel rolled his eyes in long-suffering.

"We will do so, O'Neill," Teal'c led the archeologist out of O'Neill's office. "We will return shortly with our findings."


General Collins passed the two SG-1 members as they exited O'Neill's office. "General? Corporal Rivers told me that you needed to see me ASAP? I thought that we weren't scheduled to meet for another half-hour or so."

"Brad," O'Neill greeted his SGC administrative 2IC. "I just returned an hour or so ago and I haven't even had time to go through any of these memos or other paperwork. I have, however, discovered that you allowed someone to steal Colonel Carter in my absence??? I didn't realize that I had to put that in writing!"

"Um…, Sir?" Brigadier General Collins asked tentatively.

"OK, here's something to put down for future reference…and there had better be a future reference, here," O'Neill said in a deathly tone, "NEVER, NEVER allow other agencies to steal one Colonel Carter from this facility! No transfers, no temporary assignments. Nada. Nix. Nil. Nothing without discussing it with me first! Do you read me??"

"Yes, sir! Collins responded formally while keeping his eyes on the wall behind O'Neill's left shoulder.

"Now, Brad," O'Neill continued less forcefully, but with deadly seriousness, "why don't you bring me up to speed on what you know about Carter's temporary assignment."


It only took a few minutes for Collins to tell O'Neill everything that he knew. Which wasn't basically much more than Daniel and Teal'c already knew. Carter had been temporarily requested to assist with some alien technology at Area 51. The original time estimate was 2-3 weeks.

Collins had not expected Carter to check in and therefore, he was unaware that there were any potential problems.

O'Neill could also see that Collins thought that Jack was overreacting. However, Collins had few strong relationships with anyone at the SGC yet. Collins was too new and he was still forging the working relationships that O'Neill and the rest of them took for granted. Collins also had never worked for years on a small field team like the SG teammembers. Collins simply did not know the deep bonds between the members of SG-1. O'Neill reflected again, that he needed to get Collins out into the field over the next few months. Tag him onto a few easy offworld missions.

After they got Carter back.


Knock, Knock.

"Enter," O'Neill ordered.

Corporal Rivers opened the door and quickly entered and handed O'Neill a folder of papers. "This is all of the paperwork regarding Colonel Carter over the past 5 weeks, sir."

"Thank you , Corporal, that will be all," O'Neill instructed as the young airman quickly exited.

"Sir?" Collins asked.

"Yes, yes, dismissed, Brad," O'Neill said absently as he opened the folder and began to sort through the papers.

"Sir, do you still want to meet at 08:30?" Collins inquired.

Silence replied for a few seconds while the words caught up to O'Neill. "What? Oh, right," O'Neill remembered the 'routine' meeting that had been scheduled for him to talk to his base 2IC regarding the major events during the four weeks that he'd been in Washington. "We'll have to reschedule. Speak to Corporal Rivers."

"Yes, sir," Collins turned to leave.

"Oh, and Collins, continue to run the base until I tell you. I am going to take a week of personal leave." He had enough back-leave stacked up that he could probably take a few months off, so a few days should not be an issue.

"Yes, sir," Collins repeated and then turned and exited.

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Pain. Her head hurt!
She needed to get away from the pain.
Make the pain stop.
At least for awhile….just for awhile.

She slowly became aware of the rest of her body.
Besides the pain in her head.
Her chest was heavy and breathing was tiring.
Her arms and legs ached like she'd been beaten by Jaffa.

Was that what this was? Was that where she was?
In a Go'a'uld prison cell?
On a Go'a'uld ship? Or a Go'a'uld planet?
How did she get here?
What Go'a'uld?
What mission had they been on?

The questions hammered at her in rapid succession.

No answers replied.

The questions came too fast and she simply lay there in exhaustion.

Aaaacckkggghhh! Pain exploded in her head and her arms and legs cramped and her breathing caught as her body convulsed again.


"Doctor, she's convulsing again." Pause. "Yes, we've got her temperature down to 100.1° and her brain patterns and EKG had stabilized for the past two hours." Pause. "Yes, sir."

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Daniel and Teal'c had confirmed that Sam had been on the 7:30am flight out of Denver 15 days ago. None of the Nevada rental car agencies had any record of her checking out a car, however. Therefore, it was most likely that someone from the base had met her at the airport.

Daniel had also managed to speak, briefly, to Agent Barrett. They had had a very short conversation that said little and Barrett had cut the call short, stating that he had to go to a meeting. Perturbed at the NID agent's lack of helpfulness, Daniel had slammed the phone down in frustration.

After Jack, Daniel and Teal'c shared their findings with each other, they decided to catch the next flight out of Denver. They'd just have to go to Area 51 themselves and see if they could find anything out.

A half-hour later and Daniel's cell phone rang. "Hello?" Daniel answered.

"Doctor Jackson, call this number from a pay phone," and the voice rattled off a series of numbers and then quickly hung up.

Daniel stared at his phone in disbelief.

"Daniel?" O'Neill asked.

Daniel opened his mouth, "We need to…," and then he paused and looked around. Grabbing a nearby envelope, he scribbled something on it and then passed it to Jack and Teal'c. "Umm…that was a wrong number." We need to leave the base now. Too many ears possible. He'd also scribbled the phone number down.

Daniel was watching their faces intently. Neither of the other two men looked even slightly surprised.

"Daniel, Teal'c, let's go and pack some clothes for our few days off," O'Neill said without skipping a beat as the three men rose and began to exit the room.

"Sure, Jack." "Understood, O'Neill."


Taking Jack's truck, they'd left the base immediately and had stopped at a pay phone at a truck stop just outside of Colorado Springs. O'Neill and Teal'c watched their surroundings for anyone who appeared to be watching them. Daniel dialed the number that the mysterious caller had left.

After four rings, "Hello?" it sounded like the same male voice that had called him earlier.

"This is Doctor Jackson. Returning your call, I believe. What is this about…and who are you?" Daniel asked.

"This is Agent Barrett, Doctor Jackson. Sorry for being so abrupt when you called earlier this morning…. but…. well… before I go into any of that… what did you actually call about this morning?" The NID agent asked.

"Errr….ok…..," Daniel struggled to accept the man's apology, "Agent Barrett, we were wondering if you could give us a hand trying to locate Colonel Carter? She was supposed to spend the past 2 weeks working at Area 51; however, we have not heard from her at all since she left the SGC."

Silence came back at him over the connection for a few moments.

"Doctor Jackson, I am currently online and am booking a flight to Denver that arrives tonight at 8pm, your time. I will be traveling under another name and I will obtain my own transportation to Colorado Springs. Where can we meet that is private and away from eavesdroppers and such?" The agent returned quickly.

"Hold on, let me ask Colonel O'Neill," Daniel responded and then he turned and quickly related this info to Jack and Teal'c. "So, Jack, where should we meet?"

"Tell him to go to the Rattlesnake Bar on old Route 51. I don't think anyone would think to look for us there…" Jack replied.

Daniel turned back to the phone and gave the information to the NID agent. Daniel exchanged a few more words with the NID agent and then hung up and turned back to his teammates. "We're set to meet Barrett at 11pm tonight at the bar. Barrett said that we should spend the day getting wheels that we don't normally drive and making sure that there is nothing on us or with us that we think could be tracked. He also said that we need to get some cash so that we don't leave a credit card trail that can be tracked either. And…he said to keep a constant eye out for professionals following us and keeping an eye on us…"

O'Neill did not look fazed. Teal'c never did.

O'Neill pondered Daniel's words and Barrett's instructions and warnings.

"OK, I can get us some cash. Quite a bit of it actually…. Let's do that first and then let's go from there," O'Neill directed.


A couple of hours later and they had retrieved $10,000 and some fake IDs from a special account in a special name for Jack at a small, local bank. "Just something that Maybourne helped me set up…" was all that Jack would give as an explanation.

Then Jack had rented an SUV…using one of the fake IDs.

Jack also bought them each one of those cheap cell-phones that you can get at Wall-Mart. With the prepaid minutes and without any long-term commitments to any of the major phone companies.

They had then bought all new clothes for themselves as neither Daniel nor Jack could go home until they knew what was going on and what and where was under surveillance.

They still had hours and hours to kill before Barrett would show up at the bar.

And all they could do was wait.


Finally, it was approaching 11pm as they waited in the smoky, poorly ventilated bar. All three men were frustrated at their inability to do anything but wait….but O'Neill had driven the other two to such frustration, that they had asked him to sit at the bar alone. They were all short-tempered and a loud argument would not help them remain inconspicuous.

Just a few minutes past 11pm, and Agent Barrett slipped into the booth with Daniel and Teal'c. O'Neill quickly joined them.

Not greeting any of them, the NID agent pulled out a strange looking box and placed it in the center of the table and then pushed a few of the buttons while watching the small display. After few seconds, the agent leaned back, "This will keep anyone from hearing what we are saying."

A few more seconds passed as each of the men waited for the other to begin explaining. Daniel then started things along with, "Agent Barrett, we don't know much more than I told you earlier on the phone….so...do you know what is going on?"

Barrett met Daniel's eyes and then flicked his gaze to O'Neill and Teal'c. O'Neill had displayed no reactions since the agent's arrival.

"First, I have to state that I do not know for sure what has happened to Colonel Carter," the agent began, "Last week, I saw a piece of a report for an NID project….and there was mention of alien technology, several scientists, medical personnel…and there was a reference to one individual that made me wonder….it said 'physics genius' and 'experienced with alien technology'…and 'unique biochemistry and medical conditions.'" Here the agent paused as he studied the tabletop. "I did not see the full details or specifications of this NID operation….however, I began discreetly looking up what information I could without raising any suspicions…. I am still not sure what the purpose of the operation is, but I've confirmed that Colonel Carter is included… and I think I know where this 'research' is being conducted…and it's not Area 51."

He paused again and waited for their reactions and questions. He was impressed…none of the 3 men displayed any reactions on their faces… Their faces were all…simply 'hard.' They knew that something was wrong.

"The NID has a black-cover research facility just outside of Denver…. and I think that's where she is," Barrett continued. "Again, I do not know what they are doing with Sam, …. I have some odds and ends of paperwork that might be related, but I haven't been able to piece it together and figure out the 'Bigger Picture'"

"How much security do you expect that they have at this so-called-Research-Facility?" O'Neill spoke up for the first time. Jack had noted that Barrett had referred to Carter as Sam.

"Well, it's not a fully-staffed and armed military base. It's a black-cover research base in a lightly populated area. They can't have much visible security or armament as that would draw attention to them. I was able to obtain plans of the facility layout and the general security on hand," Barrett supplied. Over the next 20 minutes, Barrett detailed what he knew and O'Neill grilled him for additional information.

O'Neill evaluated the information that he had. With the setup that Barrett described, O'Neill figured that 5 armed SGC teams could take the research facility. Jack also figured that it would take approximately 4 hours to assemble the personnel and armament necessary without alerting any NID 'ears or eyes.' Another hour to get there, then an hour or so to recce the area…..

O'Neill made his decisions. "OK, here's what we're going to do….," and he detailed tasks to each of the other three men. Later, O'Neill drove up to Major Ferretti's house and firmly knocked on the man's door at 1am in the morning.

"Jack!" the bleary-eyed man snapped to alertness. "What…?"

"Grab some clothes Ferretti and any guns that you have on site and then follow me… I'll explain on the way," O'Neill ordered.

"Yes, sir!" Ferretti replied and then quickly changed into street clothes and returned a minute later with 2 pistols.

"Loaded?" O'Neill asked.

"Yes," Ferretti replied.

"Extra ammo?" O'Neill followed up with.

"Sure…" Ferretti replied again.

"Grab it and let's go," O'Neill instructed.

Ferretti quickly returned a few seconds later with a couple of boxes of ammo.

Once in the SUV, O'Neill quickly drove away from the Major's house and filled Ferretti in as they drove. O'Neill then instructed Ferretti to make a list of the SG unit members that he had personally worked with over the past few years. Men and women that he trusted in the field, soldiers that he trusted to protect his six, and soldiers that he trusted would keep this operation quiet. Between the two of them, they made a list of the top 20 field-capable unit members that they knew were available, competent and trustworthy.

Meanwhile, Barrett had secured 3 more SUV vehicles for them to use. O'Neill and Ferretti drove around waking up sleeping officers and dragging them quickly off into the night. They had to make sure that no one had a chance to call anyone such as the NID….there was always the possibility that one of their 'trustworthy colleagues' was actually moonlighting. The NID were insidious.

After 3 hours, they had assembled their adhoc assault group. While O'Neill was bringing the team leaders up to speed on what they needed to know, the 4 vehicles visited one of the SGC local training facilities and 'liberated' some armament and gear… vests, radios, P90s, C4, grenades, and whatever else they could lay their hands on. O'Neill actually had Ferretti sign for the weapons and armament under the guise of a special training op exercise. O'Neill could not risk having his name on anything as the NID were probably watching any and all communications referring to his name.

Fairly well kitted out, now, the deadly group headed into the breaking dawn towards the research facility.


An hour later and Jack had his men scouting the area surrounding the research facility warehouse and complex. There were only a few token guards in evidence outside the buildings, but that was what they had expected. Most of the security personnel were actually hidden inside the building.

The real danger outside the building was the electronic surveillance systems. That they knew about. Because Agent Barrett had the details and specs. Forewarned is forearmed.

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Blearily, light and dark shapes swam fuzzily in front of her.
It was so difficult to breathe.
Each breath was a chore.

Dizziness and nausea swept across her and her body jerked as her stomach heaved.

But there was nothing to eject.
Just painful, dry heaves.
She lay there panting after the retching stopped.

Why did her head still hurt?
It seemed like it had always hurt.
Was the pain never going to go away?

Her left arm was screaming in pain and she decided that maybe she should look and see why…

Trying to focus the blurry images, she saw movement to her right and turned her head…. the shadowy shape blurred, focused and blurred again….it was a person….a woman….actually, dressed like a…nurse?

Was she in the infirmary?

Now she could hear something…couldn't make it out, though…sounded too far away… too garbled…like sound coming through a bad PA system…

Sam tried to speak, tried to ask them where she was…and what was wrong with her head…and her arm….but all that she accomplished was some uncoordinated movements of her head and arms and legs. Nothing seemed to be cooperating. Her own body wasn't following her directions. Her questions only came out as unintelligible sounds.

The nurse(?) was coming closer, now… Sam could now focus on her face. She had two eyes, a nose and a mouth. Looked human enough. No glowing eyes…yet. And, the nurse's(?) mouth was moving…more sounds….Sam still couldn't understand…was she speaking another language? What planet was this?


The nurse saw that the patient was stirring. Obviously still writhing in pain and mumbling. They'd gotten the fever down and the patient had been in this state for hours. Nurse Dobbins wasn't sure how much longer she could continue to watch this 'procedure.'

Dobbins was a government employee. She worked for the NID. She'd signed all sorts of non-disclosure and secrecy oaths upon taking her position with the agency. She knew that they did work for the United States. For the people of her planet. She'd believed in her government and she'd performed the tasks assigned to her.

But after watching this 'procedure' for the past two weeks, she now doubted the veracity of these actions. She'd come to realize that this woman was being tortured. Not for the purpose of torture….and not to blackmail her into divulging information. This patient was not an enemy of the United States. This patient was a military officer who had dedicated her life to the protection of the same country that Dobbins' had.

No, this patient was not being tortured in the common sense. The torture appeared to be a side effect of the 'procedure.' From what Dobbins could discern, the doctor was also struggling dealing with the effects of this 'procedure.'

Dobbins had been newly assigned to this project just two days before this patient's arrival. This patient. Her name was Colonel Samantha Carter. But she was rarely called by name over the past two weeks. More commonly referred to as just 'the patient'…or just 'she' or 'her.' So impersonal, so much easier for the medical staff to deal with in light of what was happening.

Dobbins had resolved to at least refer to her as Samantha in her thoughts. Dobbins wondered what family and friends had been missing Samantha over the past fortnight.

When Samantha had been brought in, she'd been unconscious…. sedated. They had strapped her down at the wrists and ankles and then spent the next 12 hours running preliminary and baseline tests.

Doctors and other men had been in to talk to her over the subsequent hours. They'd explained the project to her…. at least, they explained what they were intending to do. The doctors and other NID assembled personnel appeared to be hoping that she would agree voluntarily. Yeah, right. That's why they'd drugged her and strapped her down.

But, still, Dobbins had had trust in her country. Trust in the interests of her country. Individuals must occasionally be sacrificed for the greater good. At least, that's what Dobbins had thought two weeks ago. Now, she wasn't sure that this was appropriate. Individual sacrifices were necessary…but this was something else entirely. Dobbins now felt dirty. Revolted actually. Revulsion at what had been done to this woman, and at the part that she had played in this torture.

They said that they were getting what they wanted out of it. That they may only need a few more days… or a week or so… to complete this sequence. Would Samantha last that long? Apparently, they needed her to. They didn't apparently have anyone else that they could use.

Dobbins now realized that it wasn't worth it.

Whatever they were getting was not worth what had been done here. Even if the entire US or the entire planet were saved with what they were getting, it wasn't worth this. How could they want to live on a planet where people did this to each other?

The patient…Samantha…was moving around a bit more again…and her eyes were open and trying to focus. They'd been backing off the sedatives over the past few hours as they tried to get her vital signs under control again.

Dobbins moved over and winced as she saw the woman's struggles pull at her injured arm. Earlier, her convulsions had gotten so violent that she'd actually dislocated her left shoulder while struggling against the restraints. They'd put it back into place, but they couldn't put her arm in a sling and still keep the restraints on that arm…so they'd added a strap across her upper torso to try and keep her range of motion down.

Looking at the patient…Samantha, Dobbins corrected herself… the nurse ran down the list of injuries. Samantha had a couple of broken ribs and a bruise across the left side of her face where she'd slammed into the wall 3 days ago. One of the other nurses had undone the restraints while tending to the needs of the constantly bedridden patient. Samantha was supposed to be heavily sedated, but had suddenly started convulsing again and before anyone could prevent it she'd jerked out of the bed and slammed into a chest-high railing and then several of the instruments and, finally, into the wall. She hadn't been fully conscious for any of it.

Small favours, Dobbins thought sourly.

Samantha hadn't actually been truly conscious for much of the past week. The first few days, she'd been conscious and lucid between sessions. But in pain. The pain had started from the first session and had never relented.

And, then as the days passed, Samantha had to struggle harder and harder to be able to string sentences together during the time between sessions. And then she'd stopped talking. The pain had overtaken her. She mumbled and tried to communicate, but nothing was intelligible anymore. She never seemed to come back into this world anymore. She seemed to be trapped in whatever that machine was doing to her.


Now, however, Samantha's eyes were focusing for the first time in a week or so. The pain strained her facial features and her body was still writhing in agony. But her eyes were focusing.

Dobbins moved closer. "Samantha?"

The prone woman's eyes traveled over to her and then glazed over in pain…but her eyes did not leave the nurse's face. Unfocussed for a minute or so and then Samantha struggled to focus again. She mumbled something incoherent again.

"Just lie back and relax. Try not to struggle, that will just cause more pain in your shoulder and ribs," Dobbins tried in a soothing tone.


Sam could finally hear the words.
The words got through.
Not a foreign language.
This was English.
Plain, old English.

Sam relaxed a bit and just tried to breathe.

The pain was ever-present.
And what was with her shoulder?

The nurse (yes) was telling her to relax.
Typical of nurses.

"Where am I?" Sam finally got that out. Her triumph was equaled by the obvious surprise on the nurse's face. And, then Sam saw the surprise die on the nurse's face as the nurse broke her gaze with Sam's eyes and looked away. The lack of answer was disturbing.

"What am I doing here?" Sam tried again with another question. The nurse looked back at her and then quickly looked away, the look of guilt on her face obvious.

"Whaaa..accgghh…!..," and this question sputtered out as Sam coughed from the use of her dry throat.

Here the nurse sprung into action and a cup of water with a straw in it appeared alongside of Sam's face. "Here, sip a little of this," the nurse said in quiet soothing tones.

Not arguing, Sam complied as the nurse helped her get a little water down her throat. While Sam lay back and rested, the nurse seemed relieved at the reprieve.

Still, no answers. No information.

Sam looked down and tried to move her arms…then her legs. She could feel the restraints. She lay her head back again as the exhaustion overtook her again. Watching the nurse she could see the guilt and embarrassment on her face. The nurse was also refusing to look Sam in the eyes again.

Sam swallowed and tried to concentrate on breathing for a few moments. Dizziness, nausea and weakness were passing through her in waves. She didn't understand why she was restrained. She didn't think she could sit up, let alone fight her way out of here and escape…from wherever this was.

AAAAAAAAACCCKKKGGHHHHH!!!!! The PAIN was searing through her head, her legs and arms were jerking and snapping uncontrollably. The room was spinning and the images in front of her were jerking back and forth.

The pain was mind-rending.



Nurse Dobbins jumped back in horror as Samantha's body jerked through another terrible spell of convulsions. In terror, the nurse just stood there and watched as the torture continued for this woman. Dobbins did not know what to do to help her. Perhaps the humane thing would be to let her die…to help her die…to end this horrible, endless pain. Because, Dobbins knew that the NID were not going to end it. Dobbins knew that Samantha was not going to walk out of here a free woman with a chance to recuperate and heal. No, the NID was going to use her up. And they didn't care how much pain it caused. They didn't care that they were torturing her.

And, then, one of the wrist restraints snapped from the fatigue of the constant struggles of the past two weeks. Samantha's right arm was flailing freely. Slamming out of her control into machines and herself. Bruising her arm and sending equipment tumbling. And, then suddenly it was over and the convulsions stopped as quickly as they'd started. The poor woman's body relaxed and sank into the bedding. Dobbins looked at her face and was stunned to see Samantha's eyes staring straight back at her.

"You…you need to relax and just try to rest," Dobbins said shakily, not able to break the tortured woman's gaze.

Dobbins watched in amazement as Samantha's right hand reached over and undid the restraints on her chest and left wrist. Then, she began ripping off and disconnecting wires and tubes indiscriminately, and Dobbins moved quickly to her side to assist her. "You really shouldn't ….," but the nurse's voice trailed off as she watched the other woman pull strength from somewhere that Dobbins did not understand.

Samantha fumbled with the restraints at her ankles and Dobbins helped her. "This isn't going to work…," Dobbins tried again, but then assisted the woman as she ripped off the wires and tubes attached to her. Finally, only one tube was attached to her and Dobbins knew that removing this one would hurt the most. "Lie back and relax," the nurse instructed. "I'll get it."

The woman looked at her and then quietly lay back and stared straight up. Dobbins quickly removed the last tube and was shocked that the patient did not even flinch. Usually, patients complained vociferously when this was removed. On the other hand, most patients were not subjected to what this one had been.

As soon as Dobbins had removed the last tube, Samantha was sitting up again and struggling to move off the bed and stand up. Dobbins stepped to her side to assist her.

"What is going on here?" one of the guards had stepped into the room.

Dobbins turned around with guilt and indecision plainly written on her face. She had no idea what to do and she froze. "She's dying," Dobbins said helplessly as Samantha sagged against the nurse.

The guard stepped over immediately and snapped, "Get her back into bad and get the restraints back on. What do you think you are doing?"

BOOM! The report of the gun shocked Dobbins.

Suddenly the guard was lying motionless on the ground at the nurse's feet and Samantha was lowering a gun…the guard's gun. She'd pulled it from his holster and shot him in the chest. No warning.

Dobbins stood there in shock. The Colonel was now standing and moving towards the door. Her movements were jerky and she was weaving, but she was making it towards the door. Dobbins just stood there. The nurse's world had jumped its tracks. She'd never been in combat. She'd never watched someone get shot two feet away from her.

Her medical, professional side assessed the fallen guard's injury and she knew without bending down that he was dead. No point in trying resuscitation. The amount of blood pooling on the floor already was enough proof.

Dobbins looked back up. Colonel Carter was now leaning against the door frame. Dobbins wasn't sure if the Colonel could take one more step or if she would simply collapse right there.

BOOM! BOOM! The Colonel was shooting at something down the hall. Dobbins did not move. The blood was pooling around the nurse's feet now.

More gunshots. Dobbins saw the Colonel jerk and fall to her knees. Blood spilling from a bullet wound in her left shoulder – the same shoulder that had been dislocated. Her left arm hung uselessly now by her side. But the Colonel still struggled to stay upright and she fired another couple of times down the hallway. In shock, Dobbins watched as the Colonel struggled back to her feet and staggered out of the door.

Suddenly, ear-piecing alarms went off throughout the facility.

"Situation Delta, Situation Delta. Repeat, Situation Delta," Came over the PA system.

Dobbins jerked in response. Other medical personnel and guards were rushing into the patient's room from the other door.

"What happened?" They asked her. The questions were flying and she stood mute, unable to answer. Situation Delta….that meant that the facility was being invaded by hostiles. They were supposed to grab the patient, the records and the 'machine' and egress by the preplanned escape route. But Situation Delta did not take into account the AWOL Colonel. An armed and dangerous former patient of theirs. Situation Delta did not have any precautions against the patient putting a bullet in them as they escaped.

Dobbins almost laughed in hysteria. An escaped, or loose, patient was supposed to be Situation Gamma. Not Situation Delta. Dobbins' world was spinning off balance.

The NID personnel around her were grabbing equipment and records. They were still trying to get her to answer them. Someone grabbed her arms roughly and shook her. Her gaze would not focus on them, though. They gave up. They didn't have time right now to deal with her. Hands roughly pushed her along with them as they headed for their escape route.


They'd tripped some sort of alarm. In spite of the plans and foreknowledge that they'd had from Agent Barrett.

It was now Plan B. Forward progress as expediently as possible.

O'Neill had split his adhoc assault group up into 5 teams and each team had its objectives and planned route of assault. Whoever found Carter first would sing out on the radios.

Alarms were going off inside the facility and personnel were rushing in all directions. It was a semi-controlled attempt at escape.

But they stopped everyone that they found. Either cuffed them with zip-tie plastic cuffs, or took them down with bullets if necessary.

"Where is Colonel Carter?" O'Neill asked another prisoner.

A blank stare was all he received in return. He'd gotten the same response from everyone they'd asked so far.

"Samantha Carter? Where is she?" He demanded of another.

"Look folks, you may think that the work that you were doing here was sanctioned by the US government, but you are wrong. Your future from here on out may very well be…" and O'Neill was cut off by his radio.

"Jack," it was Daniel, "We've found something. They had her here…..but she's not here now. We can't tell exactly what happened, but I think she shot one of the guards. Can't tell if they took her away or if she escaped after that."

And, then, before O'Neill could reply, "O'Neill, this is Ferretti, We've found her. She's in bad shape, Jack…. she's got a gun and she doesn't appear to recognize us."

"Where are you, Ferretti?" O'Neill replied. Following Ferretti's directions, Jack joined the Major a few minutes later. Daniel and Teal'c were beside them seconds after Jack arrived.

Ferretti looked at the three men and gestured to an open door in the corridor. "She's in there. She's armed and…. and she's in rough shape. We need to get her to the infirmary or a hospital right quick."

Nodding at Ferretti, Daniel and Teal'c, Jack stepped forward and then crouched down just outside the doorway. Slowly and silently, he eased his head around the doorjamb to look inside the room.

The room was full of equipment. It was a laboratory, sort of like Carter's back at the SGC. There were machines and tables and tools and computers, etc.

And, there she was. Sitting on the floor across the room, with her back against the wall.

Looking right at him.

He froze.

Not wanting to startle her.
Unsure of what her status was.

So he watched.
And she watched him.

She didn't move, so neither did he.

He was horrified at what he saw. Her left arm was covered in blood – it looked like she'd been shot in the shoulder and had done nothing to staunch the bleeding. The arm hung like a dead weight. One side of her face was purple and yellow from a large bruise. The other side of her forehead was red and angry from what looked like some kind of burn. Her wrists were bruised and bloody.

She was dressed in something like hospital scrubs which were dirty and torn. From his position, he couldn't guess what other injuries she'd been subjected to.

Her gun was in her right hand and she presently had it lying in her lap.

He focused back onto her face.

The pain was obvious.
And he could hear her breathing now.
Laboured and ragged.

She hadn't taken her eyes off of him.
She hadn't said anything either.
But then, neither had he.

"Carter…?" he tried tentatively.

No response. She didn't even twitch.

"Carter," he tried again, "Daniel and Teal'c and a bunch of the guys from the SGC are here to take you home. We seem to have come to rescue you just when you were executing your own escape. Should have known that you wouldn't wait for us."

He saw more pain flicker across her face and she looked at him and what he saw scared him. He'd seen that same look on men dying on the battlefield. She was dying here in front of him…and she knew it.

"Sam?" Daniel stepped slowly into the doorway and she looked up at him. Her hand clenched the gun, but she didn't move the gun from her lap.

"Oh, Sam!" and the anguish in the young man's voice was evident. He rushed heedlessly to her side and tenderly touched the shoulder that was not covered in blood.

"Dan….," O'Neill's voice trailed off in relief when she didn't shoot the archeologist. He thought she might. It would have been reflex at his sudden movement, because O'Neill could tell that she was definitely not completely compes mentis.

"Sam, what did they do to you?" Daniel spoke softly to her as tears ran down his face.

"We should bind the wound to her arm to slow the bleeding," Teal'c spoke softly as he handed a medkit to O'Neill.

She still hadn't said a word.

She'd look at one of them and then the other.

The gun still lying in her lap.

"Sam?" Daniel asked her, and he slowly reached for the gun. She moved her right arm up from her lap and Daniel froze. But the gun was still in her lap. Her right hand continued up slowly and she reached out and…touched...his shoulder. Then she just held her hand there and stared at it.

"Sam, we're real. We're really here. We're going to take you back to the SGC and they are going to fix you up," Daniel continued speaking gently.

Her look back at him was a mixture of disbelief and despair.

Jack moved slowly and knelt down beside Daniel and reached out and touched the hand she had clasped to Daniel's shoulder. "Sam, we're going to get you out of here. Everything is going to be allright."

She looked straight into his eyes and what he saw shook his soul. It was the look he'd seen in prisoners of war. Those subjected to mental and physical torture. Those ready to die.

"Too late…" she said it so softly that they had to strain to hear it. "I'm sorry….," and then her eyes drifted off to somewhere in the middle of the room and lost focus. She was still breathing raggedly and painfully, but she didn't seem aware of them any longer.

O'Neill felt something break inside of him and he choked it back for now.

They had to get her out of here immediately.

"Daniel, see what you can do about cleaning that up a bit. Teal'c you watch the door. I'll check on the rest of the operation and then we'll get her out of here," O'Neill directed.

Moving over to her injured side, Daniel continued speaking softly to her as he began to assess the bullet wound.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

She didn't have a specific destination.
She was simply leaving.

She'd reached this lab and had had to stop, at least for awhile.

Her body was failing her.
She knew that it would be over soon.

She'd shot two guards so far.
She really didn't want to shoot anyone else.

Maybe they would just let her die.
Just leave her in peace to leave quietly.

Without too many more of those convulsions.

The convulsions incapacitated her and they could recapture her if another one of them hit her before she'd escaped from here.

She'd seen an armed man stick his head around the doorframe. He'd looked at her and said something. She couldn't make it out. She hadn't even tried to respond. Her arms and legs were like lead weights and she couldn't move from where she was slumped against the wall. The gun was lying in her lap. She figured that if she had to she'd simply shoot herself in the head. End it here and now. She couldn't go back to what they'd been doing. She couldn't let it continue.

But, for now, she just sat there and tried to breathe. Her head still hurt atrociously. Her ribs were on fire. Her left arm seemed destroyed….the dislocation was trumped now by the bullet wound. The rest of her body, just hurt with the asundry bruises and contusions.

Her breath shuddered through her frame and the familiar senses of dizziness and nausea swept over her.

She could hear noises. Garbled noises. But she couldn't make anything out of it.

So, this was where it was going to end?
And she didn't even know where this was.

Sad. It made her sad to think of all that they'd accomplished over the years and that she was dying somewhere and she didn't have a clue what was going on.

Where were the rest of SG-1?
Were they alive?
Where was the General? Daniel? Teal'c?

Was she on Earth?
Or was this some overwrought demented Go'a'uld planet?

She regretted not being able to see her SG-1 men over the coming years. She regretted….not having some time…some personal time with one particular General.

Regrets. Sad that she couldn't tell them that she loved them all. Just one more time.

But then, she was dying here. Wherever this was.

Not just sad…it made her angry to know that she was going to die not knowing the answers to such basic questions such as where she was and why she was here…and where the others were.

But she didn't have any energy to use the anger for anything.

And then, she saw a head come into view in the doorway. But this time, it was lower than the earlier one…and this one looked like… General O'Neill.

The apparition simply looked at her from the doorway. Looking very bizarre hanging there at around her height. The apparition stared at her and she stared back. He moved his eyes and looked her over and then brought his eyes back to meet hers.

His mouth moved and she heard something… but, again, she couldn't make out the meaning. The words were unintelligible to her. What language was that? Maybe they needed to slow it down…or speed it up….but she just wasn't getting it.

The apparition with his face was speaking again…and suddenly she could hear him… it was his voice, "Daniel and Teal'c ………. here to take you home. ……. come to rescue you ……. own escape. Should have known that you wouldn't wait for us.

She just looked at him.
Was he real?
He couldn't be.

Just a delirious delusion as she left her captivity here.

And then another one.
This one was Daniel.

Standing fully in the doorway, his face contorted in anguish as he looked at her.

She just looked back at him.

The Daniel apparition was now talking.

She could hear her name.

And then the three of them stepped into the room as Daniel came over by her side and the General stopped in front of her. Teal'c stood behind the other two.

So, at least she was going to get to see them.
She didn't feel so lonely anymore.
She'd take delusions if that was all she could have before she died.

Daniel was still talking and he seemed to want her attention. He seemed…so…real… She slowly moved her hand up and reached over to touch his nonexistent shoulder.

Why was she wasting the energy?

But, then, her hand stopped as she felt his shirt and the warmth of his body underneath. He felt so real.

Can you touch delusions?

And he was talking to her again, ""Sam, we're going to get you out of here. Everything is going to be allright."

No, everything was not going to be allright.

She knew that.

She also knew that they couldn't be real, but….but he felt real…?

"Too late…" she said it so softly that they had to strain to hear it. "I'm sorry….," Sorry that she hadn't been stronger for them. That she hadn't escaped earlier. That she hadn't told them all that she loved them before she dropped into this netherworld. Sorry that they weren't real.

And then her eyes drifted off and lost focus.

She couldn't see her delusions anymore and it made her sad again.
They seemed to be just out of reach….
….she could see fuzzy, blurry images, but she couldn't focus on them.

And, her ears could hear things again that she couldn't understand.

All so familiar, all so frustrating.

But she knew it would all end soon.


She hadn't spoken another word since 'I'm sorry.'

Daniel had tended to the wounds that he could see while O'Neill directed the completion of their assault and takeover of the facility.

Then she'd had a seizure. Very violent convulsions. Daniel and Jack had tried to hold her flailing limbs down, but they knew that they were making the bullet wound worse. Teal'c had finally stepped over and it had taken the three of them to try and restrain her so that she didn't hurt herself any worse than she was already injured.

When the convulsions had stopped, she'd collapsed unconscious. Limp.

Jack stared at her limp body and Daniel felt her neck for a pulse.

He moved his fingers along her neck worriedly.

"Its weak, but she's got a pulse," he finally said shakily.

O'Neill realized that he couldn't hear her breathing any more and he leaned over and placed his cheek near her mouth and he listened carefully. He still couldn't hear it, but he could feel a slight, warm breath on his cheek.

Barely breathing and her heart was barely beating.

But she was still alive.


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

It was hours later now, and they'd transported her to the SGC infirmary. They currently had her in surgery for the bullet wound. Jack, Daniel and Teal'c hovered in and around the infirmary awaiting an update from the doctors.

O'Neill had taken over a nearby office and was using it as a temporary control headquarters for the cleanup and immediate aftermath of their rescue mission.

Cleanup teams were still in the process of securing every piece of equipment and documentation at the research facility. All of these materials were being transported to the SGC and O'Neill was having it taken to one of the lower levels for inspection, cataloguing and assessment.

They still didn't know what had been done to her.

They didn't know why she'd been there.

O'Neill had set up another of the lower levels as holding and interrogation cells for all of the personnel captured.

He was going to put Daniel in charge of assessing whatever 'project' this was.

Teal'c and Major Barrett would be in charge of the initial interrogations.

Ferretti was overseeing the cleanup and securing and transport of all of the materials between the research facility and the SGC.

O'Neill had already spoken to the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the President. Both men knew what O'Neill knew at this point. The NID was currently being told to back off until further notice. After O'Neill and the SGC pieced together what had happened, the NID would be dealt with…. Jack had trouble believing that one…

"Sir?" Doctor Warner stepped into O'Neill's makeshift office followed by Daniel and Teal'c.

"Yes?" O'Neill prompted.

"Sir, Colonel Carter just got out of surgery for the bullet wound in her shoulder. She has had three convulsions since you brought her to the SGC and we don't know what is causing them. She also has several potent drugs in her system and we are unable to identify them all….this makes it difficult for us to administer anything for the injuries that we know she has….," and then the doctor continued,

"Briefly, she has a bullet wound in an arm that was severely dislocated and had not healed. She has several broken ribs and a punctured lung….probably caused by the convulsions. She has a mild concussion that does not seem to be serious enough to explain the convulsions. She also has numerous bruises and contusions on her arms and legs. Her wrists and ankles are severely bruised and torn from struggling against the restraints."

Silence ticked away a few seconds as none of the men spoke.

"Will she live?" Daniel was the one brave enough to ask.

The doctor paused and then softly replied, "We do not know. She is in intensive care. In normal health, she would undoubtedly survive the physical injuries. However, the drugs and whatever is causing the convulsions are the most worrisome. We do not know what we are dealing with," and the doctor paused again before continuing, "We need to speak to the doctors who were supervising whatever was done to her. We need to see the charts and any notes or tapes or observations. We need help if she is to survive. She is very weak and we do not have much time."

"How much time is 'not much'?" O'Neill asked.

"I can't answer that, General. She is in intensive care…and she might not survive another hour. We do not know what we are dealing with," The doctor apologized.

Sighing heavily, his shoulders sagging, O'Neill replied, "We're assembling that information right now, doctor. Can you give us some SGC medical personnel to help us decipher the material and sift it so that you get what you need?"

Nodding, the doctor replied, "I'll have Doctor Mathers and Nurse Youfet work with you."

"Daniel, you head up the team that assesses this 'project'," and he said it with disgust, "figure out what they were doing to her…."

"Sure, Jack," Daniel nodded and then headed off to the lower levels where the incoming materials were being sorted.

"Teal'c, go find Agent Barrett and I want you two to start evaluating the personnel that we captured. You and Barrett can conduct interrogations into what they were doing at their latest Hall of Horrors. When you figure out who were the lead doctors or scientists, coordinate with Daniel, Mathers and Youfet. Let me know as soon as you find anything," O'Neill ordered.

The Jaffa simply nodded and then turned to follow Daniel down to the lower levels.

O'Neill made a few more phone calls, checked in with Ferretti, and then Colonel Collins on the 'regular status of the Stargate and other matters SGC.'

Then, he exited his temporary command center and crossed over to the infirmary. Slowly, he walked over to the ICU unit and stepped around the privacy curtain.

She lay there, very still. Very pale.
Medical equipment and machines surrounded her bed.
Tubes and wires snaked and suspended between them and her body.
Beeps and hisses.

She was so still. He wouldn't know she was alive if the monitors weren't reporting a heartbeat and respiration. A continuous EKG on one screen. Brainwave activity showing on another screen.

But she was alive. The machines said so.
And, this was better than the convulsions.
Seeing her body jerk and spasm under such great pain had shredded his soul.

Her face even now still showed pain. They couldn't give her much for any pain because they still didn't understand what drugs were already in her system.

He walked over and sat by her bed.
He couldn't stand the idea that she might die.
He couldn't face the idea that she would probably die.

And the pain that she was in.

How long had it been like this?

What had they been trying to accomplish?

He felt the tears slowly trickle down his face and he didn't deny them and he didn't brush them away.

She was too good for this. This type of thing should never happen to someone like her. Like his son's death, what had happened to Sam made Jack lose his faith in the universe. There was something wrong with a reality where such things happened. Charlie had had the purity of heart owned by most young children. Sam still had some of that, she'd held onto that specialness when most others left it behind as they progressed through life.

The look he'd seen in her eyes when she'd said she was sorry…. that look impaled him. He could still see the hurt, the pain, the agony…. and the acceptance… of her inability to win over it all. He knew that that was what she was apologizing for. For not beating it. For letting it win. For not being strong enough.

His tears fell unchecked and he lightly held her right hand in his palm.
Part of what made her so special was her honesty.
Especially her honesty with herself.

So, here, she knew she was dying.
She knew that it was beating her.
And she admitted it.

He wished that she wouldn't. Admit it. He'd rather feel that she was blind to it and that she would just fight to the end without seeing the end. Then he could believe that she was going to beat it… that she would come back from the precipice solely because of her indomitable spirit. Spit in the eyes of death and come…back…to them…to him…

"Sam, please, fight," He spoke clearly to her. "We need you to fight. Do not give up. I know that you can beat this. We are working to help you. We can't make it all better right away… I'm sorry…. we need you to hang on for us. Just a little longer. Until we can catch up to you."

"Sam, we are here. We are fighting with you. We don't want you to leave. Sam, Daniel is here, Teal'c is here…and even Agent Barrett is here….," and he paused to take a shaky breath. "Actually, I think that Agent Barrett is hoping to ask you out on a date…. but I want to…um…. I'd actually hoped to get a crack at that myself sometime."

"Please, fight, Sam. We need you. Please don't abandon us here," and he laid his head in his hands and listened to the monitors.

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"Sam!" she heard a woman's voice. It sounded like Janet. No…it couldn't be Janet…that would mean that she was back at the SGC….?

She tried to open her eyes and blurry images swam before her again.
So familiar.
The images came slowly into focus.
Low lighting.
A medical bed.
Tubes and wires.
All so familiar.
They must have recaptured her.
She'd lost consciousness.
She should have used the gun.

Her eyes slowly moved around and she saw a hunched figure sitting by her bed.
Not a nurse?....it kind of looked like… General O'Neill.
He wasn't looking at her, he was not looking at anyone.

"ssrr?" she tried to say 'sir?', but it got muffled in her throat.

But his head shot up and he looked her straight in the eyes.

Was he another delusion?

"Sam!" he shot out of his chair with a smile across his face.

"ssr…," she tried again, but the world faded to black on her as her eyes closed again.

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A nurse appeared at his side immediately. "Sir?" she asked the General.

"She was awake for a moment. She tried to speak," he explained excitedly.

"Yes, sir," the nurse replied, "I'll get one of the doctors," and she disappeared for a few moments and then returned with Doctor Warner in tow.

The doctor listened to Jack while the doc and the nurse went over all of the Colonel's readings. They updated her charts while she lay motionless.

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"Sam!" there it was again.

And it did sound like Janet.
And, hadn't she just seen Jack sitting by her side in the SGC infirmary?
Janet, Jack and the SGC infirmary.
A small ray of hope glimmered.
But was this real?
Or just part of the delusions and pain of what had become her new reality?

"Sam, you can't keep ignoring me," Janet chided her gently.

"Janet?" she asked. "Is that really you?"

Janet appeared before her. "It's really me, Sam…. Well, real in one sense. Not real in another….," and the doctor smiled ruefully.

Sam's eyes dimmed and she looked away. "I don't feel like playing games, Janet. I don't have… anything left for it."

Janet looked apologetic. "Sorry, Sam. I just don't quite know how to handle this. Look, I'm really, truly here with you right now…."

A thought came to Sam. A horrid thought. A memory. An awful memory and she looked at her friend in disbelief and anguish.

"You're…you….," and Sam's eyes filled with tears.

"Hey, Sam, I didn't come here to make you cry… not even in your dreams. I need you to promise me that you won't cry. I can't have you dividing your energies that way. Look, I'll have to go if you can't handle talking to me…."

"No! Don't leave. Please, Janet, please don't leave," she sobbed. "I've missed you so much."

Janet hugged her tightly. "Shhhhh……shhhhhh……"

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Jack became alarmed as Carter began to twitch and move restlessly. He called the nurses and doctors over and they took another round of readings and charted them.

"Her brain waves are showing unusual activity….but it's very, very similar to dreaming," Doctor Warner informed him.

"More like a nightmare to me," O'Neill muttered as he watched her helplessly.

"We might have to put restraints on her… with what she's been through, we don't want her waking up to captivity, but if the convulsions start again, the movements can cause serious injury and damage," the doctor explained empathetically.

O'Neill just looked at him in horror. To tie her down? How could she handle waking up to that – here, where she was supposed to be safe? How could he look her in the eye if they had her strapped down? On the other hand, he remembered the violence of the convulsions and he felt helpless to save her without hurting her.

Right now, they had her torso and legs fairly well confined with a tightly tucked bedsheet. Her left arm was bandaged and in a sling and her right arm had so many tubes and wires connected to it that normal movement was fairly well restricted.

They had a male nurse watching continuously from a chair a few feet away, but on the other side of a see-through plastic divider-wall while Jack had been sitting there. Jack had known that the man was watching while he cried at her bedside. And he didn't care that the young nurse had seen the tears of his commanding officer.

Slowly he sat down as Doctor Warner sat in another chair on the other side of the Colonel's bed. The three men watched and waited as the woman before them moved restlessly.

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"Sam, I need you to calm down for me," Janet spoke soothingly to her distraught friend. She felt the younger woman's breathing settle a little as she tried to pull herself under control.

"Janet…?" Sam started and then faltered. Then she tried again, "Janet, what's going on?"

Janet looked down at her friend and her heart went out to this good woman who did not deserve the pain that had been thrust upon her. "Sam….," she started, but Sam interrupted her.

"Janet, am I dead?" the young officer said it clearly.

"No, Sam, you aren't dead," Janet responded just as clearly.

"But… you….," and again Sam couldn't get it out.

"Yes, I died. But you are not dead," Janet explained….somewhat incompletely from Sam's viewpoint.

"OK…that makes you a delusion….," Sam sighed, "Well, I'm certainly getting good at them!"

"No, Sam, I am not a delusion," Janet replied.

"That's what all delusions would say," Sam retorted and rolled her eyes.

Janet pursed her lips. She knew that she wouldn't win this line of reasoning…especially with this woman's mind. Time to be more direct. Sam seemed to have calmed down.

"Sam, I am Ascended…just like Daniel was," Janet explained and she watched her friend consider this.

"Ohhhkaaaayyy….," Sam started with, "Let's say, just for laughs, that you are not a delusion, and that you are my dead Ascended friend….. What are you doing here now? Why couldn't you have dropped by to say 'Hi' and let me know that you were OK? At least metaphysically, that is????"

Janet cringed internally. Sam was never easy. Even on death's door, she would be able to follow a line of reasoning. "Errr…sorry….I'm still learning how all this works…. And, we're really not supposed to drop by and visit our old friends all the time. It's frowned upon as a rule, and it's forbidden to casually and repeatedly allow old friends to see us," Janet tried apologizing, but she knew that Sam would not accept it. Sam followed the rules, but the look on her face clearly told Janet that Sam expected some rules to be broken… at least a little.

"Errrr…you could say that I was saving up my visits for an occasion such as this…," Janet continued. "A time when you might need me. A time when I might be able to help."

"Help how?" Sam asked quietly.

"Sam, I know what they did to you. I can't believe that no one could stop it. I tried, Sam, I really did….but I must be too new at this. I couldn't stop that machine…..," and Janet's voice broke.

A dark, troubled look descended on Sam's face and the younger woman looked away from the doctor. "I know it's selfish of me, Janet, but I'm really sorry that you couldn't stop it. Not so much for me…. but because, then the Other Ascended may have sent you back to us, like they did with Daniel."

Janet looked at Sam with affection. "Sam, my life is here now. But, if I had succeeded and they had punished me by banishing me back to life with you, Cassie and the others, I could think of worse alternatives."

Sam gave her a small, sad grin. "Cassie really misses you."

"I miss her too. But I know that you and the others are taking good care of her. She's a young woman now and she doesn't need my constant mothering anyway."

"You are wrong, there. She needs you and misses you terribly. No one can fill the place in her life that you did," Sam returned and the two women sat in silence for a few moments.

"So, where do we go from here?" Sam asked.

"Well… that's really up to you…and the rest of the SGC," Janet stated quietly.

"Hmmmm…," Sam seemed distracted.

"Sam, you are still fighting. It hasn't beaten you yet. It's going to be long and painful to win again this time. But you can do it, with their help. Jack and Daniel and Teal'c and the rest of the SGC are all working on this one way or the other. They are all trying to find ways to help you and to save you."

"I'm tired, Janet," Sam said it in a very low voice. "Tired and sore and…. beaten…..," and the look of pain in her eyes and face broke the doctor's heart. "I think they ripped my mind apart. It was an agony that I could never have imagined. I….Iiiiii…don't know if I can hold onto my sanity any longer…I'm not even sure if I still have it."

"Sam, you are still here. I can feel it. You need to hold on. You need to fight. We can't let them take this away from you and the others," Janet spoke slowly, "They need you, Sam. Jack, Daniel and Teal'c. Your father, too. They all need you. They won't make it if they lose you this way. This will tear them apart and destroy important parts of their souls."

Sighing, Sam replied, "So…is SG-1 still needed to save the universe? To save Earth -again? Why can't the universe just leave them alone? Jack has suffered enough. He's given enough. Daniel and Teal'c too. They've both suffered and sacrificed enough already. And, my Dad, spending his whole life initially dedicated to the service and then following that saving the universe from intergalactic badguys. Enough already!"

Janet smiled again at her wonderful friend. She'd missed Sam's sharp perceptions. "Well, I think that the Universe will just keep accepting whatever sacrifices they all make to keep it all from going over into the hands of evil….but I happen to agree with you, Sam. You've all done more than your share. You have done enough," and she paused for a second, "Saving the Universe is not my concern, here, though, Sam. I don't really care if you and the others ever go on another mission…and I think that I'd revel in watching you all simply enjoy life and follow other pursuits."

"What I am here about, however, is you," Janet stated clearly. "You are important to me, to Jack, to Daniel, to Teal'c, to Jacob…and to many others…. And it's important that you not die now…. that you not die this way. Not so that you can come back and perform some service for the universe…. but so that your soul can heal and so that the others won't be destroyed. Sam, they really won't survive if you die this way, from this."

Sam sat quietly and watched her Ascended friend.

"Janet, I don't have the strength. It's…already too late," Sam apologized. "I don't know how to describe what they did to my mind…. the pain was worse than any Go'a'uld painstick torture…," her voice caught, "it was worse than any Go'a'uld ribbon device…..and it just wouldn't end… it went on so long…I lost track of time…for all I know, months or years passed….it felt like eternity…..and I…please, I can't end up crazy and locked away in my mind, never able to tell reality from delusion."

"Sam, I promise you, if it comes to that, if you can't get back to reality…. if your mind can't heal… I promise you that I will be there for you. I won't leave you in that kind of hell," Janet vowed.

Sam didn't ask what that meant and Janet didn't explain further. Sam simply sat quietly again for a few more seconds and then turned back to her friend and she just nodded.

Janet smiled gently in return. "Now, you have to fight, Sam. Fight harder than ever before. Hold onto your anchors. Don't let go. The guys are all fighting for you, they are fighting with you. I am going to leave you for awhile now. You need to rest as much as you can. But do not give up."

"Janet?" Sam called, but her friend was gone.

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Her movements had finally quieted.
They hadn't escalated into convulsions.
Jack found himself sagging back in his chair as he just watched her breathe.

His gaze wandered over the monitors.

He found himself flicking back and forth between the heart monitor, the brain activity readouts and her face.

A constant surveillance.
His appointed rounds.

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"Hey there," Daniel and Teal'c stepped quietly around to join Jack by Sam's bedside.

"Hey," Jack replied softly.

"Any changes?" Daniel asked.

Jack glanced over at the two other members of SG-1. "She…uh…seemed to wake up for a sec…she looked at me…and she tried to say something, but I couldn't make it out. Then, she passed out again…. Since then, she's been a little restless and they were worried about more convulsions, but she quieted down again," Jack paused. "The docs seem to be worried about her brain activity, though….," and he indicated the monitor across the bed.

Daniel was nodding and Teal'c's jaw was set in a tight line.

"What have you found out?" O'Neill asked.

"Quite a bit, actually….," Daniel began while not taking his eyes off Sam.

"Fellas? We need to talk…," Janet Frasier had suddenly appeared on the other side of Sam's bed.

None of the men moved. No one said a word.

"Uh…Hello?" Janet waved her hands at them. "Is anyone going to say anything…. Hello, Janet?…. How ya been?.... What's up?"

"Daniel, Teal'c? Do you see Doc Frasier over there?" O'Neill asked the other two men.

"Yup, sure do, Jack," "Indeed, O'Neill," The two responded and Janet just grinned at them.

"So… Janet…you are….?" Daniel asked with a large smile.

"Yup, Ascended," Janet replied, "Now I understand some of what you went through, Daniel," She paused and then continued, "But I'm not just here to say 'Hi' fellas…. Sam needs help."

"What can you do, Janet?" O'Neill asked and Daniel watched her carefully.

"Actually, not anything close to what I'd like. Mostly I can just give you moral support and share a little information with you," Janet explained. "First, I can't explain what that 'machine' did to her…. She was in soooo much pain…. I couldn't take it…. I couldn't stand it…. I tried to stop it… but I couldn't….I may be too new at being Ascended…. I just don't know. But what I tried didn't work…. and, if anything, the pain just seemed to get worse and worse. I was scared that I would make things worse, if I hadn't already….," her voice was torn with pain and anguish.

"Then I tried to just stay with her, to try and comfort her and to try and give her something to focus on….but she couldn't hear me. I couldn't get through. She was so alone, guys… and in so much pain…. I was afraid to leave her alone even though she didn't know I was there," Janet continued. "I don't know what is Fate, I don't know what is Destiny…. I don't understand all it is to be Ascended… The Rules, etc… but there is a 'wrongness' to what happened here that I can't explain. I wish I had known anything about this earlier… maybe I could have done something to prevent it. I only 'came on the scene' so-to-speak 2 days or so ago."

"I finally got through to her, though… just a few minutes ago," Janet related, "Her mind cleared a bit and I could talk to her."

Jack narrowed his eyes a bit as he remembered Sam's restlessness and mumblings.

"What did she say?" Daniel asked.

A look of sadness washed over Janet's face. "She…. she said that she doesn't want to live if she's insane. She doesn't want to live not being able to tell reality from delusions….. That 'machine' that they used on her… it effectively tore her mind apart…. she said that the pain was worse than Go'a'uld painsticks and worse than Go'a'uld ribbon devices…," Janet looked sick and angry.

"They effectively raped her," Daniel said with quiet fury, through a clenched jaw.

"What?!" Jack blurted out.

"Raped her mind, that is," Daniel continued with eyes hardened by his anger. "The 'machine' they used was a piece of Ancient technology… it enhances already innate cognitive abilities… sort of like the armbands enhanced our physical abilities a few years ago…. but this 'machine' was specifically dedicated to enhancing mental abilities."

"We assembled the medical notes and charts for the SGC docs here. We've also identified the lead scientist and doctor. He is waiting in an interrogation room. We have also identified a nurse that we think will help shed light on what happened to Sam over the past two weeks." Daniel stopped to let them all digest this information.

"Can they fix what they did? O'Neill asked referring to the NID personnel.

"We don't know yet, Jack," Daniel shook his head negatively, "…but my gut says that they don't know how."

"In the meantime, gentlemen," Janet interrupted, "I must tell you what I came to say and then I must depart. I do not know if Sam will survive this. You must all be here for her. Always have at least one of you here by her side. Touch her… and talk to her. She is terrified of living in a world where she can not differentiate between what's real and what's not. She needs anchors to help her hold on. She needs to touch reality. She needs to know that you are not delusions created in her own mind." Janet looked at each of them in turn, before continuing. "I will not be able to return for awhile…. I don't think that my 'presence' will now help her convince herself of concrete reality," Janet concluded regretfully.

"Understood, doctor," Teal'c replied respectfully.

"Janet, we'll let her know that you were here for her," Daniel empathized with her regrets.

"Thanks, Daniel," Janet smiled sadly. "Take care of her for me," the words hung from the empty air across Sam's bed.

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"Jack, there is also…video…..," Daniel trailed off.

"Video? Of what?" O'Neill asked.

"Of…of everything….," the young man got it out. "Of everything that they did to her… of everything that happened. They have continuous recordings. Digital…all stored in one of the computers. We…uh… Teal'c and I, that is, we haven't looked at any of them yet…."

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With Teal'c sitting with Sam, Daniel and Jack questioned the lead medical scientist in charge of the research into the Ancient 'machine.' Jack silently assessed the middle-aged Doctor Emil Gravek, PhDs in engineering and physics and an M.D.

"Doctor Gravek," O'Neill began politely. "I am General O'Neill and this is Doctor Daniel Jackson."

"General, Doctor," the doctor nodded cautiously at the other two men.

"We need to understand what you folks were doing out at that research facility. We need to figure out if there has been some kind of miscommunication between the SGC and the NID," O'Neill explained with an open, unthreatening demeanor. Daniel was stunned into silence. This was soooo not the typical Jack O'Neill approach.

"Well, I'm not sure what I can tell you, General," Dr. Gravek replied, "All of my work is classified. I'm afraid that I would need releases and directives from the people above me before I could divulge anything regarding the work at the facility."

O'Neill nodded, "Yes, of course," and he opened a folder in front of him and slid two official documents over in front of Dr. Gravek. "The first one is from the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the second one is from the President… of the United States. Each of these documents clears me – and my staff – for all information regarding the research conducted at your facility. There are also orders for you to explain it all to us. As clearly and as completely as possible." O'Neill somehow managed to maintain his non-threatening tone and demeanor.

While Gravek was reading over the two pages, O'Neill picked up the handset for the phone at his desk. "Corporal Rivers, please patch through that call, please." Silence filled the room for a few minutes. Dr. Gravek was finished reading and was watching the General expectantly. "Hello….. Yes, sir….. Thank You, sir…. yes, he's here right now….," and O'Neill handed the phone to Dr. Gravek.

Puzzled, Gravek spoke into the phone, "Hello?" And found himself talking to the President of the United States. Personally. And found himself being ordered to coorporate fully with General O'Neill and the SGC. "Um…Yes, sir….yes,sir, I will do that…."

After that call was over, O'Neill sat back in his chair, "So, Dr. Gravek, please bring us up to speed on this research project…," and he was still maintaining the calm, non-threatening exterior.

Hey, Who are you? and What have you done with Jack O'Neill? Daniel watched with disbelief.

"Where should I start?" Dr. Gravek asked.

"Start…wherever you think is appropriate and we'll ask questions if we need to," O'Neill directed calmly.

"Allright…well…. I am the head of Project Acceleration… we have been investigating and working with some Ancient technology discovered a few years ago on P7X-934. We spent the first year just figuring out what it was… It's a machine used to accelerate cognitive abilities and to record the thoughts of the person using the machine. That's the nickel-version of the explanation," the doctor apologized.

O'Neill was impressed by the man's ability to plain-speak his specialty. "Please continue, Doctor."

Encouraged, the doctor started again, "We figured out how to attach and connect the machine fairly quickly, but figuring out how to control it was much more difficult…. The first three subjects died…. within minutes….," the doctor looked guilty and sickened by what had happened. "We didn't test on any more people for another year while we tried to figure things out …. When we thought we had it more under control, we tried again with some volunteer subjects….," his tone of voice gave away the results before he elaborated, "but all of them died, as well. They each lasted longer than the first group…. this time, two of them lasted for hours. But eventually, they died too. Autopsies later revealed that all of their brains had effectively been 'fried'," The doctor winced and would not look O'Neill or Daniel in they eyes.

"Please continue, Doctor," O'Neill prompted in that unbelievably calm voice.

"Well….um….," the doctor looked nervously at the General and was met by a non-threatening look of invitation. Plunging ahead, the doctor picked up again, "We put the 'live-testing' on hold again while we scrutinized all of the data and results that we had. The only correlation we could find was that the subjects who lasted the longest… had the highest estimated… 'intelligence'… and that's not just IQ…. but rather the ones who lasted the longest were those individuals who were the most successful at intuitive logic and deductive leaps. The ones capable of making connections between ideas and concepts. This was rather difficult for us to quantify… but it appeared to be true. But we couldn't get hard, concrete data to back this conclusion with."

"Next… we…uhm….," the doctor's face was flushed now and his eyes were moving around the room and not settling on the faces of either of the other two men. Silence ticked away.

"Doctor Gravel, please continue," O'Neill asked politely, again.

"Well, umm…sir…. I'm still not sure about revealing this to an outside…ummm….," and the doctor's voice was tremoring a bit. He was obviously afraid of revealing what happened next.

Sighing, O'Neill looked at the man and tried to transmit empathy, "Look, Doctor, we've all done things that go beyond where we ever thought we'd go before we started working for the service of our country. I was in covert black ops for 20 years, and I have a list of events and actions that I would be executed for in civilian criminal court. Trust me, I am not going to judge you harshly for your actions," O'Neill tried to get the man to feel comradeship. He needed this man to tell them what had happened. They would get nowhere if this man wasn't honest with them. "My present position requires that I understand the scope and purpose of your project. So… please, help bring me up to speed."

Daniel was watching the performance with increasing admiration and disbelief.

And, O'Neill's words seemed to have been enough to allow the doctor to continue his explanation. "Well, for the next step… subjects of high intellect… were acquired…," Daniel was horrified and the archeologist's stomach roiled at the thoughts of NID agents abducting people and then attaching that machine to them without their consent.

"How many?" Daniel asked softly while trying to keep all judgment and emotion from his voice. O'Neill's eyes warned Daniel to be careful.

"Fourteen over a period of six months," the doctor replied. "Unfortunately, they all died. However, we were able to prove our hypothesis that the machine only worked with those of higher cognitive abilities. The higher the latent intelligence, the longer the subject would last. One of the subjects lasted 32 hours before we lost him."

"The recording device was amazing. It records at a super-high speed… at the accelerated speed of the mental processes of the individual using the machine. We were then able to play back the recordings at 'regular-speed.' The results were phenomenal. Over the fourteen tests, we found that if we could focus the test subject's intellect on a specific problem before we started the machine, then the individual would continue working on that problem while the machine was operating."

"Our estimates of the material recorded on the machine indicated that the machine accelerates cognitive speed by a factor of 30-40 times normal speed. Kind of like taking this individual and placing them in a space-time continuum where the speed of time is 40 times faster than ours… They come back after one month of our time, but they have actually spent 40 months focused on the pre-chosen problem."

"With the data that we had, we constructed a matrix of abilities, talents and traits that were required for an individual subject to achieve maximum results from using the machine." The doctor paused to take a breath, "We acquired data on individuals across the planet and fed it into a large database. After several months, we were able to assemble a list of individuals that would have the best success with the machine."

"We focused on and investigated the top ten individuals on the list and were actually very surprised to find that the highest-ranked individual was a member of the US Air Force….and that this individual, a Colonel Carter, already had extensive knowledge of, and experience with, alien technology. These were not factors in the selection process," the doctor looked at O'Neill and then continued, "Many of my superiors became very excited at the prospect of Colonel Carter's experience and intellect under the enhancing abilities of the Ancient machine."

O'Neill simply nodded and kept his emotions off of his face.

"Over the next few months, each of these top ten individuals was… targeted…," the doctor used the word with obvious discomfort. "All available detailed information was assembled. Detailed personal, professional and medical histories. Psychiatric evaluations were unearthed wherever they were available. Where previous, or fairly recent, psychiatric evaluations were not available, circumstances were created that required the individual to undergo the necessary examinations without undue cause for concern. Colonel Carter was the only one of the ten in the military service and the only one who had had recent psychiatric evaluations. On the other hand, her history was so complex, that the psych exam seemed to raise more questions than it answered."

"Except for Colonel Carter, each of the individuals was put under complete 24/7 surveillance. All professional and personal actions were monitored and evaluated. Each of them was approached and presented with tantalizing opportunities to work on the advancement of unheard of new developments in their own fields. All of them eagerly chose one or more of these options and began working on their ideas on their own time."

"Requests for Colonel Carter's assistance on various development projects and ideas were sent through the chains of commands. One of them was a concept for developing Earth-based technology that allowed ships to use internal Stargates that did not have to be tied to the planetary Stargate system. Another was a concept to develop small, more easily assembled Stargates. Another was a concept to develop healing devices that would work for humans without naquadah in their blood. Another was a concept to develop a planetary defense system. I do not know how many ideas they sent out, but they were just hoping that one of them would catch Colonel Carter's interest."

"And, one of them apparently did. Initially, they simply asked the Colonel to work on concepts and ideas related to the project whenever she had time. No pressure, no timelines and no real expectations."

O'Neill and Daniel looked at each other in horror. They could each remember Sam scratching things industriously on notepads during briefings, breakfasts and other such times. She could become lost in her muse and it was simply a facet of her that they all found endearing.

O'Neill tried to remember if Carter had said anything to him about what she was pursuing…. and he realized that even if she had, he wouldn't remember the specifics… He wouldn't have thought it was important for him to remember. Daniel might, though… Jack thought….and looked over at the archeologist whose brow was furrowed in concentration as he tried to dredge up those details.

Focusing back on Dr. Gravek, O'Neill asked, "I'm following you, doctor, so what was the next step?"

Encouraged again, the doctor picked up the timeline, "One by one, each of the identified individuals was brought to the facility for use with the machine. The results far surpassed any of our previous results. These individuals made leaps and advancements in their fields that they would otherwise not have accomplished without months or years of work. Unfortunately, they all also died. The longest that any of them lasted was 6.5 days."

"Eventually, Colonel Carter was the only untested individual of the original ten. In spite of the fact that she had the highest 'ranking,' and in spite of the obvious anticipation of my superiors, I did not think that Colonel Carter would be an appropriate subject for the project. Her medical history was too complicated. I could not imagine how the naquadah and protein markers in her system would interact with the alien technology."

"In spite of my protests, we were ordered to prepare for Colonel Carter. We went through her detailed military record, personal history, medical background and psychiatric evaluation results. We went through it all several times. We recalibrated the Ancient machine. We ran as many tests as we could beforehand to try and ensure that everything was as safe and prepped as we could possibly make them."

"Colonel Carter was brought to us 17 days ago. We began running the test with her on the second day. The results were astounding. In five hours with the machine, she produced what looks like it would have taken 10 years to develop. She also did not show the same deterioration displayed by each of the previous subjects. She was, however, in considerable pain…. and we could not figure out why. I think it has to do with an incompatibility between the alien technology and the naquadah in her blood…. and/or the protein marker. Over the next two weeks, my belief as to the cause of this problem became stronger."

"I believe that if Colonel Carter did not have this strange alien-converted biochemistry, that she would have been able to operate the machine with few, if any, adverse effects," the doctor stated firmly.

O'Neill and Daniel exchanged pained expressions. O'Neill reflected that this was the opposite of what they'd experienced over the years. Most of the time, Carter's strange blood chemistry had been a useful attribute that often protected her or saved their lives. Ironic that this time it was what provided the means to her torture.

"I wrote up my conclusions and sent them along to my superiors. I recommended that we halt the current experiment and allow the Colonel to recover while we explored ways to remove the naquadah and/or protein marker…. or perhaps find a way to filter out its effects from the machine so that she would be able to continue working with it."

O'Neill was ready to choke the man if he once again referred to Carter and the machine as if she were a willing participant in control of the process. But he didn't. Choke the man, that is. He didn't even let any of it show on his face. The doctor was providing the information that they needed…. "What was their response?" O'Neill politely inquired (although the answer was obvious).

The doctor grimaced. "I was told to continue the procedure following the preset timeline. The Colonel was simply producing so much so fast that no one was willing to halt the process while we ran tests and reconfigurations for weeks or months." The doctor sighed in frustration and then sat silently for a few minutes and neither of the other two men demanded more information immediately.

Finally, the doctor decided to wrap up his oration, "After the 6th day, the Colonel lapsed into a state of semi-consciousness due to the pain and the entire procedure. Between sessions with the machine, we were no longer able to get her to talk lucidly with us. The convulsions started on the 8th day and rapidly increased in occurrence and severity. Apparently, however, the machine recordings were completely lucid dissertations that covered what would otherwise take decades and decades to develop. One of my engineers said that she was rewriting known-physics at a speed that few would be able to comprehend even after reading it for themselves."

"So, the orders were to keep the procedure going for as long as possible," the doctor looked up and then down again. "I do not now how Colonel Carter managed to last as long as she did. She was a true hero to the United States."

The man's words were so inadequate. O'Neill wanted to punch the doctor's face in and then throw up when he thought about what Carter had been put through. O'Neill looked over at Daniel, "Any questions, Doctor Jackson?"

Daniel looked startled at the mention of his voice. "Um…I'm sure I will have some a little later."

Nodding, O'Neill stood up, "Thank you very much doctor. If you will excuse me for just a few minutes, I will be right back."

Gravek and Jackson nodded as the General stepped out of his makeshift office and over to the infirmary. He looked over at the ICU, but forced himself to seek out Doctor Warner.

He quickly explained to the doctor what Gravek had related. "Now, Doctor Warner, from what you've told me, we are going to need all the help we can get if Carter even stands a chance, correct?" Warner simply nodded. "Allright, then, I have been treating Doctor Gravek as a man whose research and position deserve respect – and not the contempt that I actually feel. Gravek has responded professionally and appears to be very forthcoming. I feel that if you treat him as a colleague, that he may be very helpful in providing assistance and insight into the Colonel's treatment. So, here's the $64-dollar question… Can you and your staff keep your revulsion and anger hidden while he is here?"

Doctor Warner looked O'Neill straight in the eyes. Work with the monster who had done this??? Warner couldn't believe that Jack O'Neill was the man asking this. After what had been done to Sam Carter! Of course, Warner knew that O'Neill was a man who always seemed capable of making the supreme sacrifices. Looking into the General's eyes, he saw a steely determination that showed no other emotions. Too many years of keeping those emotions hidden. O'Neill was a master at it. But, then, Warner had seen his tears earlier while he sat at her bedside.

Well, Warner let his disgust show plainly as he replied, "Yes, sir, I will speak to my staff. If it can help Colonel Carter, we can make it happen," he assured the General firmly.

"I'll give you an hour or so to talk to all of your staff and then I'll have Dr. Gravek brought directly to you," O'Neill directed.

"Understood, sir," the doctor replied formally as the General quickly exited the infirmary…with one more glance over at the ICU.

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"Sorry to keep you waiting, Doctor Gravek. I am going to have you set up in some temporary quarters and then our Doctor Warner would like to speak with you in about an hour," O'Neill explained.

"I would be happy to," Gravek responded.

"Corporal Rivers," O'Neill ordered, "Please escort Doctor Gravek to his quarters and then return in an hour and escort him to Doctor Warner's office."

"Yes, sir," the corporal replied, "Doctor, if you will follow me?"

The young corporal and the doctor were trailed by two SF's that O'Neill had assigned as Gravek's escort. The SF's had instructions to restrict the doctor to his quarters for the next hour…without making it obvious that he was in custody. They were to treat him as a VIP who needed bodyguards.


O'Neill and Daniel sat quietly, each lost in his own thoughts about what the past 2 weeks had been like for their friend.

"Jesus!... Daniel…," O'Neill sighed….

"Yeah….," was all that Daniel could come back with as the horrible images ran through his mind.

"Jack?" Daniel looked at O'Neill.

"Mmmm?" O'Neill's eyes did not change focus from somewhere in the air in the middle of the room.

"I'm going to go and sit with Sam for awhile. I'll send Teal'c on over," Daniel said as he stood up to leave.

"Thanks, Daniel," O'Neill responded absently, and then, "Let her know that we're here, OK, Daniel? Let her know that we're here now."

Daniel just nodded silently as he headed to the infirmary.


Stepping into the infirmary, Daniel Jackson quietly walked over and joined Teal'c in the ICU. The Jaffa was watching the young woman intently. Daniel got the impression that the Jaffa had been watching her with the same intensity for his entire vigil.

"Hey, Teal'c," Daniel said softly to the big man.

"Doctor Jackson," Teal'c replied somberly.

"Any changes?" Daniel asked.

"She continues to be in great pain. It appears to increase significantly every 17 minutes. However, that is only the average time between episodes," The Jaffa stated objectively, but the large man's eyes showed the anguish he held inside. "Her restlessness and movements have increased a few times, however, she has then settled down before anything appeared to become dangerous. The nurses and doctors come by every 10-15 minutes to monitor the machines and to retake her vital signs."

"Have you and O'Neill uncovered any pertinent details or information that may assist her recovery?" The Jaffa asked the most important question.

"We learned a lot about what they were doing to her, but we haven't figured out how to help her yet," Daniel admitted. "Jack is waiting for you in his office so that you two can continue the investigation. I want to stay with Sam for awhile, if it's OK with you Teal'c."

The Jaffa did not answer immediately as he continued watching the injured woman. Then, standing up to relinquish his seat to the archeologist, "I understand, DanielJackson. Watch her carefully. I also spoke to her most of the time I was here. I also held her hand to try and supply the tangible proof that Doctor Frasier directed."

Trying to smile a thanks to the Jaffa, Daniel simply nodded and sat in the proffered chair while taking her fragile hand in his. "Hey, Sam… we miss you around here…. problems with the gate are piling up as everyone is waiting for you to come back and help out…. And SG-1, well, we aren't going anywhere until you get better. Nope, Jack is going to go insane with all the paperwork and no fieldwork perks…."

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They learned more and more details of the Acceleration project over the next few days. But they didn't find anything that would cure Sam.

She was still in the ICU.
Still on the critical watch list.
The nurses and doctors checked on her continuously.

She didn't seem to be getting worse…
…but then she didn't seem to be getting better either.

Doctor Gravek felt that they should try using the Ancient machine again… he proposed that they should use it in a series of sessions where they decreased the intensity of the machine and the length of the exposure each time. He felt that part of her problem could be that they had simply stopped using the machine suddenly – effectively making her go 'cold turkey' from something that they had set her body up to try and be compatible with.

Doctor Warner admitted that Gravek's idea could have merit; however, 5 days had already passed since she had last been connected to the machine and Warner felt that it was too late to try weaning her of its effects.

Doctor Gravek had, at least, helped them tremendously with understanding the treatment of drugs that they had subjected the Colonel to. With his assistance, they had cleared those drugs from her system and they were now able to administer more conventional drugs as necessary to help her with the pain.

At least one of the men of SG-1 were always by her side.
Talking to her softly.
Holding her hand.
Always watching her and the readouts on the monitors.

Doctor Gravek had identified the portions of the brain wave activity that appeared and developed during the two-weeks of the procedure. During the first few days, her brain waves would return to normal between sessions with the machine. After a few days, however, her brainwave activity began to show a lag effect before it would start returning to normal. Eventually, the time between sessions was not long enough and her brainwaves never returned to their resting state again. They lost the ability to communicate with her between sessions around the same time that the lag effect took more than half the time between sessions. She would just sleep for the rest of the time between sessions.

A few days later and the convulsions began… around the same time that the lag effect became longer than the time between sessions.

Doctor Warner was horrified to listen to what had been done to Sam Carter. For this to happen to anyone was atrocious…. but he knew Sam Carter… and this was abominable. He wanted to shoot Gravek between the eyes… but, no, he had to keep his emotions from his face, from his tone of voice and from all of his actions. He had to keep the monster thinking that Warner saw him as a colleague. Sick.

Standing next to the SGC doctor, the NID doctor, sighed softly.
If only he had seen the patterns sooner.
If only he had realized….
They could have saved her.

She could have worked with the machine for, perhaps, years.
If only he'd realized what was happening.

He hadn't understood the connections between the lag effect and the cumulative effect.
He hadn't understood soon enough.

Of course, he wasn't looking for it.

They had assumed that the procedure would follow a similar path to what had occurred with the previous subjects. Who had all died. Who had all gotten progressively worse…and then died. So…when the Colonel began getting progressively worse…he'd just been disheartened. Not surprised. Not suspicious.

He hadn't looked at the data objectively enough.
He'd allowed his assumptions and expectations to cloud his objectivity.
And, now, she was dying a painful, needless death.
He could have prevented it.
He should have prevented it.

If only he'd…..

His shoulders sagged from his failure. He knew that this was a process that experimenters and scientists commonly went through. Hours and hours, weeks, perhaps, years, spent pursuing ideas and concepts that did not pan out. And, then when the truth was discovered, it was usually so simple that it seemed painfully obvious. How could anyone have missed it? Yet, they had. Throughout the eons, that was the pattern. Countless ages pursuing knowledge….and with the discovery of the truth came disbelief at the ancestors who could not see such simplicity.

Doctor Warner observed Gravek's dejected demeanor, but did not allow himself to feel sorry for NID man. Warner reserved his sympathy for the woman who was tortured due to the NID's stupidity and self-righteousness.

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O'Neill sighed and leaned back in his chair. He'd just finished Doc Warner's latest update for him. Jack wasn't sure what to try next. He'd sent messages off to the Tokra, the Tollan, the Nox and the Asguard… asking for any help or assistance that they could provide. No one had answered yet.

Teams were still sifting though the data, the records and the reports.
No one had found a cure yet.
No one knew how to help her.

Doc Warner had assigned a couple of his staff to watch the hours and hours of video records of what had been done to her. One Nurse Dobbins had supplied what explanations that she could. They marked and noted all pertinent or notable sections that they thought that might help any doctors who were trying to understand what had been done to one Colonel Samantha Carter. Warner had included that list in his latest report.

Jack had the list of files in front of him.

"Hey, Jack," Daniel said wearily as he entered Jack's office and plopped in a chair.

Rescued, Jack thought with relief.

"Any news?" Daniel asked, not expecting anything positive, but he felt that he had to ask.

"Nothing yet from the Asgard or the Nox, etc.," Jack replied. "I am worried that the Tokra haven't responded…. Jacob will be devastated if….."

Daniel nodded his understanding and Jack continued, "The President and the Joint Chiefs want us to keep working on this. They aren't ready to task it out yet. They still haven't decided what to do about the NID…. They'll probably form a committee…. and in the meantime, the ringleaders of this operation will cover their tracks so well, that they'll probably end up with medals," Jack finished in disgust.

The two men sat in silence for a few minutes.

"Well, I'm going to join Teal'c in the ICU for awhile. I'll let you get back to whatever you were working on," Daniel said as he got up…and then he stopped as he saw the sick look flicker across Jack's face. "Jack, what is it?"

O'Neill did not answer right away nor did he look directly at his friend.

"Jack?" Daniel prompted.

"Ummm…. Doc Warner sent me a list of the video records that his staff marked as 'notable'," Jack grimaced. "He asked us to take a look at them… they are stymied as to what to do next and they are hoping that we might see something about Sam's behavior that his staff wouldn't recognize," O'Neill shrugged, "He said that they know that it would be a long shot-in-the-dark, but they will take any help that they can get."

Daniel was silent and then, "Is that the list of files, there?" he pointed towards the monitor.

"Yes," O'Neill responded without looking at him.

"Would you rather we did this together, or would you rather do it alone?" Daniel asked softly.

Silence ticked away again. "I'd rather not do it at all….," Jack said it so low, that Daniel had to strain to make out the words. Daniel did not respond because he felt exactly the same way. The mental images that they already had in their heads would not allow them any peaceful sleep. But as bad as their mental images were, they both knew that seeing these video images was going to be worse. So much worse.

Without another word, O'Neill motioned for Daniel to swing his chair around the desk so that he could see the monitor and Jack clicked on the first marked file.

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She was lying on a medical bed.

Fully restrained at the wrists and ankles.

Just as she had been when she'd been kidnapped by Adrian Conrad's entourage.

Her eyes were closed and she wasn't moving. The time stamp at the bottom had a running clock that indicated that the 'procedure' had officially started 6 hours ago.

There was equipment and monitors arrayed around her, very similar to how they had things currently arranged in the SGC ICU.

Nurses and doctors walked in and out of the camera's frame.

She wasn't asleep. O'Neill knew. The doctors and nurses hadn't figured it out yet. O'Neill had been offworld with Sam Carter enough to know when she was truly asleep.

"Jack, she's awake," Daniel alerted him unnecessarily.

"I can tell, Daniel," but he softened his tone of voice to take the sting out of his words so that the young man would know that Jack was not angry with him.

Once the nurses and doctors had left the area, she carefully opened her eyes and looked around. Taking stock, assessing the situation. Trying to move, she quickly tugged at the restraints, but they were securely fastened.

What she did next caused both men to hurt.

She dropped back onto the bed in obvious despair. Her head lay back against the thin, institutional pillow and she clamped her eyes shut and clenched her jaw tightly.

She didn't say a word.
She didn't call out to anyone.
She didn't ask what was going on.
She didn't need to.

It didn't matter who they were.
It didn't matter what they wanted.
She knew that whatever was happening was without her consent.
She knew that her wishes, desires and opinions would not be considered.

The two men watched the video images in complete silence. Each of them lost in their own torment of the recollections of what they had been ignorantly doing while Sam was subjected to this.

A few moments later, she opened her eyes again.
Reevaluating. Reassessing.
Her eyes were hard and the expression on her face was cold determination.

"Colonel Carter, glad to see that you are awake," Doctor Gravek walked into the picture.

She didn't reply. She just watched him expressionlessly.

Obviously nonplussed by her lack of reaction, the Doctor continued, "I am Doctor Gravek and this is Nurse Dobbins. We will be handling your care during the course of the procedure."

Still she said nothing. She simply watched them.

And it was obviously unnerving both the doctor and the nurse.

Jack and Daniel allowed themselves small smiles for her efforts.

She continued her silence as Gravek launched into an explanation of Project Acceleration and how they hoped to help her advance her research into her latest projects.

She watched and listened in stony silence.

Gravek continued talking to her, or at her, while he, Dobbins and a couple of technicians and nurses drew blood samples, took readings from their machines and took other samples and readings with instruments that neither Jack nor Daniel recognized.

Sam didn't flinch. She showed no reaction what-so-ever.

Gravek finally left…. or rather escaped, and left Nurse Dobbins to finish up. The nurse was obviously trying to be careful and tender in her ministrations. Sam just watched.

"If you… need anything… just call… either I or someone else will be here immediately," Dobbins informed her with concern in her eyes.

"How much do you mean that?" Sam asked softly.

The nurse was obviously startled when her mute patient spoke for the first time. "What…?" was all that Dobbins managed to croak out.

"I really need to get out of here….," Sam ventured.

"Yes, well…. I can help with most everything else," Dobbins sadly replied. "Later, when the procedure is complete…," Dobbins finished with a smile.

"Any idea when that will be?" Sam's voice gave nothing away.

She might have been asking for what time the bus came.

"No…. I'm new here, so I don't know how long it will take. Sorry," Dobbins apologized.

Sam nodded.

"I have to go and check a few tests now, but I will be back in awhile with some breakfast. Any requests? Errr… wait, sorry, they said… no coffee, no caffeine…., so any other requests?" Dobbins continued.

"Whatever you're having would be fine," Sam responded and Dobbins looked surprised. But O'Neill was not. He knew what Carter was doing. She was starting to work this young nurse. Carter had assessed the situation quickly and she had identified the one person most likely to give her some assistance. This would take awhile, but neither Carter, nor Jack, saw any other options available to her where she was.


But Sam had never gotten that breakfast.

When Dobbins had brought the tray in, another man had arrived and immediately countermanded the breakfast… and any other meals. Dobbins had looked rightfully confused.

"Colonel Carter will have to survive on a liquid diet for the duration of the procedure, nurse. Under no circumstances are you, or anyone else, to loosen those restraints unless specifically authorized by myself or Doctor Gravek. If one of us should authorize such actions, always make sure that there are two armed guards in the room. Understood?" the unidentified NID man barked.

Sam did not react to any of the scene playing out before her, but Jack and Daniel knew that she knew that her chances of escape had just dropped dramatically.

Nurse Dobbins simply shook her head up and down to let the man know that she had heard and understood him. With an apologetic look at the restrained woman, Dobbins removed the tray from the room.


They must have 'fed' Sam through an IV, but it was impossible to tell just what they were giving her and when. Nurses, doctors and technicians were constantly moving in and out of the frame.

Eventually, they sedated her because Jack could see her trying to fight off the sleep that was overtaking her. She couldn't beat it, though. They had detailed copies of her medical records. They knew exactly what it would take to put her out. And they simply adjusted the level of meds, watched her brainwave, respiration and heart monitors until she was solidly under.

And, then they continued testing and running scans and monitoring their equipment.


Then they brought in the machine.

They brought her to semi-consciousness.

Doctor Gravek was talking to her again. But this time, he didn't expect any reactions or questions from her. But he kept talking to her. It was obvious that the man was uncomfortable with his captive patient.

The doctor and the technicians attached a two-inch triangular piece to the right side of her forehead. Another piece was attached to her upper chest. And a third piece was attached to her right forearm. Each piece had several wires running between it, the other pieces and a larger machine on a cart alongside her bed.

For another half-hour, they seemed to be running set-up checks and tests.

Sam did not move. Her eyes were half-open and she never said a word. Now, O'Neill could tell, that she was not awake. She lay limply, staring into space as they worked around her.

Doctor Gravek was now talking about the research projects that she'd been noodling and doodling with. He was reading from detailed prepared notes… and Jack saw some of her own notepages in the Doctor's folder. They'd stolen them. Who would have thought anything nefarious was afoot if some of Carter's scratch paper was missing? Obviously no one here. Carter hadn't mentioned anything about missing papers. But then, she wasn't one to make a fuss about missing stuff that she'd doodled when bored during briefings.

Jack and Daniel knew what Gravek was doing. Gravek had explained this. He was prepping her for the machine. Getting her to think about something that they wanted her to work on when the machine was on. Gravek was reading lots of different ideas and notes to her. Apparently, they were willing to let Carter's subconscious choose the actual project. They wanted her to be as much a part of it as possible…. so they could maximize their results.

After 20 minutes or so, Gravek finally stopped his oration. Signaling to the technician next to the Ancient machine, they turned the machine on.

Her whole body twitched.
Her eyes blinked and she jerked her head a little.
She was breathing rapidly and her heartbeat had jumped up.

Gravek and his team, however, did not look alarmed…. they actually looked surprised.

She was already settling down. Her heartbeat was returning to normal as was her breathing.

Her eyes slowly closed and Jack could see that her eyes were moving rapidly below the closed lids… as sleepers do when in REM sleep. Active dreaming.

O'Neill and Jackson watched for 10 more minutes, but nothing changed. Jack skipped ahead an hour and the scene remained the same. Remembering that Gravek had said that the sessions usually lasted 5-6 hours, Jack skipped ahead another couple of hours…. same scene. Carter lay motionless and unconscious while doctors, nurses and technicians tended to their tasks.

Jack looked at the list of marked files and decided to try the next one on the list.


The clock at the bottom of the screen indicated that the machine had been on for a little over 6 hours. Other than that the scene had not changed. Carter was still unconscious and the machine was still attached.

Gravek came into the frame, "Turn the machine down as we discussed," he ordered the technician. The tech complied by tending to his dials and monitors for the next few minutes.

Five minutes later, "The machine is off, the first session is ended," the technician stated.

Nodding, the doctor gestured at the equipment, "Remove it gently, and notify me when you have completed downloading the information."

"Yes, sir," the tech responded.

Gravek oversaw the technician's removal of the equipment and then he and Nurse Dobbins took another round of readings from the machines monitoring Carter's status. After that, they took yet another round of blood samples and other tests.

Sam started to stir as they were finishing. Blinking and groaning lowly, she mumbled something as her eyes tried to focus.

When he could see that she was looking at him, Gravek addressed her with a smile, "Colonel Carter, good to see you looking so well. The first session of the procedure went superbly. We do not yet know what results you obtained, but physiologically, you far surpassed any of the previous individuals who tested this machine," He finished proudly.

She simply looked at him. No one could tell if she understood what he said or if she was simply refusing to talk with him again.

Gravek nodded sadly at her. "I'll leave you in the capable hands of Nurse Dobbins. Sleep well, Colonel Carter, you have earned it," he said to her as he exited the camera's view.

Nurse Dobbins came over and began cleaning up and tending to her. She applied some kind of gel or ointment to the places where the machine's sensors and probes had been attached on Sam's forehead, chest and forearm. She straightened her patient's meager hospital scrubs for decency.

"Can I have some water?" Sam asked quietly.

Dobbins stopped again, startled when the quiet woman spoke.

"Yes, a little," Dobbins smiled encouragingly. "Here, I will raise the back of the bed a little to make it easier for you to swallow," and the nurse worked the controls so that Sam was laying in a more propped-up position.

"Thanks," Sam said gratefully and Dobbins flashed her a small smile.

Keep it up, Sam, Jack thought as he watched.

The nurse then brought a cup with a straw in it over and held it for her patient while Sam sipped slowly.

Sam then lay back again and simply looked tired. She blinked a few times and it was obvious that sleep was threatening to take her.

"Its OK, to sleep. You need your strength," Dobbins stroked her patient's left forearm soothingly and Sam's eyes closed as she drifted off.


Jack paused the recording.

The two men sat in silence looking at Sam's still figure frozen on the screen.

Horrible to sit here and watch while Carter was subjected to such inhumane treatment. To be the subject of such an experiment against her will.

To be helplessly restrained again as with Adrian Conrad's debacle.
She'd been remarkable resilient after that nightmare.
She'd met with McKenzie and she'd passed his assessments with flying colors.

How could she handle this?

Neither Jack nor Daniel knew what to say to the other as they sat there.

And then Daniel was the one to break the silence, "I want to kill them."

And that's all he said.

His tone of voice was hard with fury.

"Get in line," O'Neill muttered in agreement.


O'Neill and Jackson made their way through the next few days of marked files. Occasionally checking out some of the unmarked ones….but, they really couldn't handle watching Sam being treated as a lab experiment hour after hour.

The sessions with the machine were apparently yielding results beyond anyone's expectations and the mood of Dr. Gravek, the technicians and several of the other unidentified personnel was markedly positive. Dr. Gravek was beaming. He talked to Sam non-stop whenever he was in the room between sessions.

O'Neill could see that she was losing her 'sharpness of thought' as her gaze became just that much softer…that much unfocused from what he was used to seeing from her. When she regained consciousness after the fifth session with the machine, Dr. Gravek began happily prattling on…. and she answered him.

The doctor was stunned. O'Neill was not. He could tell by her tone of voice that she was not completely aware of what was happening any more. She sounded distracted. Like she did when Jack would pester her when she was focused on something in her lab.

O'Neill's heart sank as he realized that he was watching her drifting away.

As they were destroying her.

She now responded to most of the questions that Gravek asked. The Doctor apparently thought that the procedure was proceeding even better now than before. The Doctor did not know her well enough to recognize the problem. He thought that her responses were a positive sign. O'Neill knew that her responses showed that she was losing the battle. She was no longer thinking of escape, because she didn't know what was going on anymore.

Earlier, she may not have known specifically where she was, but she had known that she was in a laboratory being subjected to experiments against her will.

O'Neill could tell that she didn't know that anymore.

She was losing herself to that machine.
She was losing herself in that world of conceptual physics and engineering.

O'Neill could read her state of mind in the tempo and timber of her voice.
A little sleepy… a little distracted.
No sharpness in the eyes.
No edge to the words or voice.
No lilt.

Eventually, Gravek departed and left Nurse Dobbins to tend to their patient again. Dobbins and Sam spoke softly as the nurse ran through the now familiar sequence of applying ointment to the reddening areas on Sam's forehead, upper chest and right forearm.

"Do you have children?" Sam asked sleepily.

"Two, a girl and a boy," Dobbins replied with a smile.

"How old?" Sam followed with.

"Melissa is four and Peter is seven," Dobbins was now straightening Sam's clothes again and adjusting the bed covers where appropriate. "Are you cold?" she asked.

"No, actually a little warm," Sam replied with a little smile. "I could really go for that little sip of water."

"Coming right up," the nurse replied with a smile of her own as she adjusted the bed so that Sam was lying propped up a little again.

"Thanks," it was becoming a ritual.

"Where are they while you are here? Is your husband able to take care of them?" Sam asked.

"Frank works regular banker's hours, and his mom takes care of the kids during the day before he gets home," Dobbins elaborated while Sam sipped slowly at the water the nurse held patiently for her.

Sam didn't last long before she sank back into the bed, the exhaustion evident.

"You need your sleep," the nurse spoke soothingly, but Sam was clearly fighting the advancing slumber as she rallied to continue talking.

"Not yet, please," Sam asked. "Just stay and talk a little longer. Please," Her words were barely audible. "Tell me about where you grew up. Something… funny," Sam smiled at her own request.

Dobbins looked at Sam with affection and then acquiesced by perching on the side of her patient's bed and then, like a bedtime story, she began telling some story about something that had happened when she was 14.

Sam drifted off within minutes, but Dobbins sat holding her patient's hand for another 5 minutes before moving on to tend to her duties.

O'Neill watched the screen in amazement. Carter was succeeding. In spite of the obvious progression of the experiment. Carter was succeeding in reaching the heart in the young nurse. He couldn't tell how cognizant Carter was of her progress, but she was accomplishing what she set out to do. The nurse was becoming connected to her patient.

"Jack?" Daniel was asking him… for the third or fourth time, by his tone of voice.

"Um… yeah?" O'Neill responded unhelpfully.

"I'm going to go and sit with Sam for awhile," Daniel let him know.

"Um….," Jack responded, still lost watching her sleeping form.

She lay there so helpless.
And where had he been?
In some endless meeting at the Pentagon.
Doodling on endless sheets of yellow-lined paper.
Completely unaware and oblivious to what was being done to her.

He'd been completely useless.
Like he was now.
He couldn't do anything to help her.
He didn't know how to fix any of it.
His stomach roiled again as he looked at her strapped to the bed.

She was such a vibrant person.
So positive.
So constructive.
Solving 'Gate problems.
Analyzing situations.
A brilliant scientist.
A strong warrior.
A stalwart comrade.

She wasn't the image on the screen.

He wanted to scream and rant and tear the room apart.
He wanted to travel back in time and tear these monsters apart.
To free her from this torture.
To save what made her her.
He didn't just want to save her life.
He wanted to save her soul.

He looked up and Daniel was gone.
The image on the screen frozen again on her sleeping form.
He closed the program and got up.
He needed to see her and touch her.
He needed to hear her breathe in the same room that he was in.

Making his way over to the ICU, he joined Daniel and Teal'c.

Daniel was sitting in the chair by her side.

Teal'c was sitting on the floor in the corner, performing Kel-nor-Reem.

Jack stood there, just watching and listening.

She was moving restlessly again. And mumbling unintelligibly.

Daniel was stroking her hand and talking to her softly about some planet where he'd discovered some weird artifact or another. Apparently, it was a planet he'd visited with SG-9 at some time or another between SG-1 missions. She'd probably been working in the lab and O'Neill had probably been buried in meetings and paperwork.

After listening for a few minutes and sensing a break in Daniel's monologue, Jack moved closer.

"Hey," Jack said by way of recognition.

"Any changes?" The same old questions.

"Not really," the archeologist replied. Same old answers. Jack's eyes scanned the monitors and took in the readings. Next, he moved to the end of the bed and quickly flipped through the tables and charted data that was collected every 15 minutes or so.

Daniel watched knowingly. He'd done the same thing a few minutes ago when he'd arrived and taken over for Teal'c. The Jaffa, however, had chosen not to leave, but had rather chosen to simply perform his meditation here in the presence of his friends.

Jack put the chart back on its pegs at the end of the bed.

He stood there for a few minutes watching her and the monitors.

"Daniel, keep talking to her," Jack said softly as he moved a chair over to the other side of her bed.

Daniel smiled gratefully and launched into a story relating what had happened to Jack on a mission a few months ago that Sam had not been able to come on because she was guest-lecturing at the Academy. Jack narrowed his eyes at the archeologist, but did not stop the young man's animated tale. Under any other circumstances, O'Neill would have loudly protested and forced a change in the conversation, but here…. he let the archeologist regale his SG-1 2IC with Jack's mishaps.

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Teal'c had watched the earlier video files alone. Neither Jack nor Daniel could bring themselves to watch them again. Now, Jack and Teal'c were working their way through the second week of marked files.

The second week was so much worse than the first week.

Jack had thought that he could barely watch as Sam had been strapped down for a week and subjected to the NID's constant testing and sessions with the machine. Watching her slowly lose her grip on reality. Slowly watching them take away that which was her.

But the watching the events of the second week was insane.

Sam was in constant pain.

The convulsions were getting progressively worse.
She no longer spoke even with Nurse Dobbins.
She no longer came back to any type of lucidity between sessions with the machine.

They were watching her die. Slowly. Painfully. Very painfully.

The convulsions were violent enough and frequent enough that her wrists and ankles were bruised and bloodied. Nurse Dobbins was constantly tending to the new wounds. Constantly replacing bandages.

O'Neill noticed that whenever Dobbins was alone with Sam, the nurse spoke softly to her patient. Her ministrations were tender and careful. Not simply clinical. Between sessions with the machine, Dobbins filled in many of the hours of silence by continuously talking to her patient. Relating more stories from her youth. Or stories of her children's antics. Her patient never responded anymore. Sam was now almost always constantly twitching or moving restlessly from the pain -and the fever which had started.

After each session with the machine, there was now so much more to do. First, the routine was the same. The nurse would tend to the angry red burns that were growing on Sam's forehead, upper chest and forearm. Next, she would tend to the damaged wrists and ankles. Gone from the routine was the small talk. Gone was the ritual of raising the bed so that Sam could take a few sips of water. No point in all that when the patient did not regain consciousness.

Still, the nurse kept up a low one-sided conversation with her feverish patient. The nurse would dribble a few drops of water onto her fevered lips. Just a little as she couldn't allow the patient to start coughing.

And, then one day, the convulsions had gotten so violent that Sam actually dislocated her left shoulder while struggling against the restraints. They'd put it back into place, but they couldn't put her arm in a sling and still keep the restraints on that arm…so they'd added a strap across her upper torso to try and keep her range of motion down.

Jack and Teal'c watched the video images with horror.

How could it get any worse?

But then it did.

One of the other nurses had undone the restraints while tending to the needs of the constantly bedridden patient. They had brought in the 2 armed guards as they'd been ordered to. A bit ridiculous now though. Sam wasn't going to be running away from them at this point. Colonel Carter would not be overpowering anyone in the state she was in now. But, still, they had two armed guards watching…. just in case….

O'Neill and Teal'c watched in disgust. The two men wanted to rip the NID apart and burn every NID building to the ground.

So, there they were. A nurse tending to the bedridden patient and two bored, armed guards standing at the doorway. And, then, Sam had suddenly started violently convulsing and before anyone could prevent it she'd jerked out of the bed and slammed into a chest-high railing and then several of the instruments and, finally, into the wall. She hadn't been truly conscious for any of it.

Jack and Teal'c watched helplessly as the room erupted with medical personnel.

Doctors shouted orders. Technicians salvaged the equipment.

The patient was placed back on the bed and the restraints were resecured.

She looked even worse than before.
Her worn hospital scrubs were torn and bloody.

She lay limply on the bed as the medical personnel flew around in controlled fervor.
She didn't move. Not a muscle. Not a twitch.

Jack swallowed his heart as he looked at the video image on the screen.

She looked… dead.

But they were reattaching their tubes and wires. Replacing broken equipment. The monitors and readings were reestablished quickly.

She had a heartbeat.

A doctor's voice noted that it was a bit too slow….

She was breathing…. another nurse called out that the patient's respiration was shallow and rapid… the information was passed on in facts and figures.

The doctors and nurses swarmed over Sam as they assessed the damage.

She'd reinjured the dislocated shoulder and they reset it.

She'd broken some ribs. A doctor called for a portable X-ray machine so that they could determine the extent of that damage. No other internal damage appeared evident.

And she had a slight concussion. Another doctor ordered a catscan and an MRI. They had the equipment right there on site. They'd been running regular scans for the procedure.

The bruise was already becoming visible across the left side of her face.

She lay limp and motionless during all of this activity.

O'Neill and Teal'c watched silently and helplessly as the horrible events of the previous week continued to play out before them.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Jack watched her face.

He wished so desperately to be able to remove the pain.
His heart ached to see her look at him with that impish grin.

He wanted to look into her blue eyes and see her intelligence and understanding looking back at him.

But she lay there with her eyes closed. She hadn't regained any sort of consciousness since that day when she'd looked at him for a few brief seconds.

He was here with her alone now as Daniel and Teal'c were watching the last few marked files. Jack had already watched them. He wanted to just be with her now. He didn't want to watch any more of the torture from the helplessness of this present. Whenever he closed his eyes, he saw her in that room. Strapped to that bed. Helpless as they subjected her to their experiment. Their 'procedure.'

And they all knew now that it was so unnecessary.
That she shouldn't have had to have been subjected to so much pain.
They hadn't had to destroy her mind.
They hadn't had to torture her to death.

If they had only noticed.
If they had only paid more attention to their data.

Been willing to change their plans and timelines to accommodate how she was handling the machine. They would have obtained their 'output' at a slightly slower rate…. but she would have been intact.

And, he could have saved her.
Pulled her away from them and brought her back here.
To the SGC. To SG-1.
And to him.

It would have been a terrible episode in her life… like the time with Adrian Conrad and his goons…. but she would have recovered. She would have still had her mind. Her soul.

Now…. all they could do was wait.
And he knew that they were probably just waiting for the end.
Waiting for her to die.

He knew that if she lived… and if it was only to be a life of insanity…. then he knew that he would end it for her.

Three zat blasts and she have no more pain.
And there would be nothing for them to fight over.
Nothing for them to dissect.
Nothing for them to defile.

He swallowed his heart once more as his sorrow sent the tears down his face again.

He continued stroking her hand and his voice wavered as he spoke to her. She never answered. But he, and Daniel and Teal'c, had been talking to her almost continuously.

He watched the brainwave activity monitor as he talked. He never saw any correlations with what he was saying or even whether or not he was talking. But he still hoped.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

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Daniel and Teal'c watched the final video files in amazement.

Sam was temporarily alone.

Strapped to the bed, she was moving restlessly.
Her breaths were ragged and tortured.
Her eyelids fluttered and then she was retching.
Dry heaves.

She jerked and flailed against the restraints, the movements causing her broken ribs to tear into her. Unseen internal bleeding now began on top of everything else.

Daniel groaned in agony as they watched. Teal'c's face showed a level of anger that the archeologist had never seen before on the Jaffa.

And, then she lay panting shallowly as the retching passed.

Exhausted she lay limply again.

Her eyes were open now, though, and she was trying to focus on objects and people.

Nurse Dobbins was moving towards the patient, but there was something unusual about the nurse's demeanor. The nurse appeared shell-shocked. The nurse was not simply moving in and taking care of her patient. The nurse was hanging back…she seemed stunned to see Sam looking at her. Afraid actually, of having Sam looking at her.

Sam was mumbling something…too low and too garbled for Daniel and Teal'c to make out… and Sam was trying to move. To truly move her limbs under her conscious control….

Daniel saw the nurse wince when Sam reacted to the pain caused when she moved her injured left shoulder.

"Samantha?" Dobbins asked softly.

Sam's eyes traveled over to her and then glazed over in pain…but her eyes did not leave the nurse's face. Unfocussed for a minute or so and then Sam struggled to focus again. She mumbled something incoherent again.

"Just lie back and relax. Try not to struggle, that will just cause more pain in your shoulder and ribs," Dobbins tried in a soothing tone.

"Where am I?" Sam finally got that out. Her triumph was equaled by the obvious surprise on the nurse's face. And, then the surprise died on the nurse's face as the nurse broke her gaze with Sam's eyes and looked away.

"What am I doing here?" Sam tried again with another question. The nurse looked back at her and then quickly looked away, the look of guilt on her face obvious.

"Whaaa..accgghh…!..," and this question sputtered out as Sam coughed from the use of her dry throat.

Here the nurse sprung into action and a cup of water with a straw in it appeared alongside of Sam's face. "Here, sip a little of this," the nurse said in quiet soothing tones.

Not arguing, Sam complied as the nurse helped her get a little water down her throat. While Sam lay back and rested, the nurse seemed relieved at the reprieve.

Sam looked down and tried to move her arms…then her legs. She lay her head back again as the exhaustion overtook her again. The guilt and embarrassment was obvious on Dobbins' face. The nurse was also refusing to look Sam in the eyes again.

And then suddenly, without warning, Sam's body jerked in violent convulsions.

Nurse Dobbins jumped back as Sam's body jerked through another terrible spell of convulsions. The nurse just stood there, frozen, and watched as the torture continued for this woman.

And, then, one of the wrist restraints snapped from the fatigue of the constant struggles of the past two weeks. Sam's right arm was flailing freely. Slamming out of her control into machines and herself. Bruising her arm and sending equipment tumbling. And, then suddenly it was over and the convulsions stopped as quickly as they'd started. Sam's body relaxed and collapsed into the bedding.

The nurse looked at Sam's face and found Sam's eyes staring straight back at her.

"You…you need to relax and just try to rest," Dobbins said shakily, not able to break the tortured woman's gaze. But to everyone's amazement, Sam's right hand reached over and undid the restraints on her chest and left wrist. Then, she began ripping off and disconnecting wires and tubes indiscriminately, and Dobbins moved quickly to her side to assist her. "You really shouldn't ….," but the nurse's voice trailed off as she watched the other woman pull strength from somewhere that Dobbins did not understand.

Sam fumbled with the restraints at her ankles and Dobbins helped her. "This isn't going to work…," Dobbins tried again, but then assisted Sam as she ripped off the wires and tubes attached to her. Finally, only one tube was attached to her. "Lie back and relax," the nurse instructed. "I'll get it."

Sam looked at her and then quietly lay back and stared straight up. As soon as Dobbins had removed the last tube, Sam was sitting up again and struggling to move off the bed and stand up. Dobbins stepped to her side to assist her.

"What is going on here?" one of the guards had stepped into the room.

Dobbins turned around with guilt and indecision plainly written on her face. The nurse froze again. "She's dying," Dobbins said helplessly as Sam sagged against the nurse.

The guard stepped over immediately and snapped, "Get her back into bad and get the restraints back on. What do you think you are doing?"

BOOM! The report of the gun was loud and the nurse stood there senseless.

Suddenly the guard was lying motionless on the ground at the nurse's feet and Sam was lowering a gun…the guard's gun. She'd pulled it from his holster and shot him in the chest.

No warning.

Dobbins stood there in shock. Sam was now standing and moving towards the door. Her movements were jerky and she was weaving, but she was making it towards the door. Dobbins just stood there.

Sam was now leaning against the door frame – just at the edge of the camera's view.


Sam was shooting at something down the hall.

Dobbins did not move.

The blood was pooling around the nurse's feet now.

More gunshots. Sam jerked and fell to her knees. Blood spilling from a bullet wound in her left shoulder – the same shoulder that had been dislocated. Her left arm hung uselessly now by her side. But Sam still struggled to stay upright and she fired another couple of times down the hallway. They all watched in amazement as Sam struggled back to her feet and staggered out of the door.

Suddenly, ear-piecing alarms went off throughout the facility.

"Situation Delta, Situation Delta. Repeat Situation, Delta," came over the PA system.

Dobbins jerked in response. Other medical personnel and guards were rushing into the patient's room.

"What happened?" They asked her. The questions were flying and she stood mute, unable to answer. The NID personnel around her were grabbing equipment and records. They were still trying to get her to answer them. Someone grabbed her arms roughly and shook her. Her gaze would not focus on them, though. They gave up. They didn't have time right now to deal with her. Hands roughly pushed her along with them as they headed for their escape route.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

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Daniel and Teal'c had rejoined Jack in the ICU. They had all watched the records of the two weeks of torture that their friend had been subjected to.

Teal'c was speaking to her now… relating tales of Rya'c when he was very young.

Jack thought about the entire NID operation. What the NID had done. The years that had culminated with the torture of this amazing woman.

She'd somehow found a way to escape. None of the doctors could explain what she'd done there near the end. They couldn't explain how she'd regained any semblance of consciousness… let alone how she'd stood up, fired a gun and proceeded to walk out of that room.

He knew that she'd intended to end it. To put a bullet in her head.
But she hadn't.
And he wondered if he and Daniel and Teal'c were the reason.
They'd arrived just when she was facing the moment.
He doubted that she could have done such a thing in front of them.
She would never curse them with that memory.

He looked at her with sorrow.
He'd give anything to take all the pain away for her.
Had they taken her last avenue of escape away from her?


"Sir!" Corporal Rivers voice was respectful, but insistent. O'Neill jerked up from his slumped position in the chair next to Sam's bedside.

"What?" He responded by reflex.

"Sir, we are receiving a signal from the Tokra," the Corporal informed him.

"What?!" Jack repeated as he shot up, hope breaking through days of sorrow and grief. Daniel and Teal'c were standing also, each of them looking at Jack and then at Sam.

"Daniel, Teal'c, you stay and keep talking to her," O'Neill snapped into command mode. "I'll go and collect whoever is arriving and see if they can….," and he let it trail off, too afraid that putting it into words might jinx it.


A few minutes later, the wormhole flushed out and the blue event horizon shimmered inside the naquadah ring. Jacob Carter stepped through and walked straight to Jack and then stopped short when he took in the younger man's posture and the grief on his face.

"Jack….?" Jacob asked with fear.

Jack looked at him for a second and then hurriedly turned and indicated that they would talk as went. "She's in bad shape, Jacob…. she's beyond anything they can do for her….we're hoping that you can use the healing device….?"

Jacob nodded, his fear for his daughter still showing clearly on his face. The two men picked up their pace towards the ICU.


They had the healing device ready for Jacob when he arrived.

"Aaaaaggghh….," a low moan escaped his lips as he took in the physical state of his beautiful daughter. "Sam, Sam….?" he tried to speak to her. "Angel….," and his voice broke.

Doctor Warner quickly and quietly related her physical injuries to the Tokra. She also quickly explained what they knew about the damage to her mind. Then she stepped back and let the Tokra attempt to heal her patient.

Jacob held the healing device over his daughter as the others watched the golden glow between the device and their friend. After 10 minutes or so, Jacob was starting to wobble on his feet and Jack came forward and touched the older man's arm. "You won't do her any more good if you kill yourself, Jacob. Actually, you know, she'll take it out on us, if we allow you to hurt yourself while trying to heal her…," he admonished lightly in an attempt to ease the older man's burden.

The device clicked off and Jacob sagged into Jack's arms.

The Tokra was still conscious, but he was worn out.

Jack set him gently in one of the chairs by Sam's side.

The four men watched intently as the doctors busily reassessed their patient. Then the doctors swept the men out of the ICU as they had to move their patient so they could get new X-rays, catscans, MRIs, etc.

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Jack, Daniel and Teal'c spent the next hour or so summarizing the events of the past 3 weeks for Sam's father. O'Neill did not suggest that Jacob look at any of the video records, nor did Jacob ask for them. Jacob simply looked horrified and devastated.

"Jacob….?" O'Neill asked.

The man visibly forced himself to focus on O'Neill, "Yes, Jack?"

"I'm sorry, Jacob…. if I could do anything to fix this…anything to make it so that it never happened… I… I'm sorry….," Jack trailed off in despair.

Daniel and Teal'c watched with heavy hearts. They felt the same way, but could not find the words to say it with. 'What he said' just did not seem appropriate. Tears fell down Daniel's silent face.

Jacob let his gaze travel across all three men. He knew that they hadn't caused this. But, then, Jacob didn't feel very reasonable right now. Or charitable. He'd entrusted his daughter's life into their care. She fought for them and they fought for her. How could they have let anything like this happen? The entire sequence of events was monstrous. Beyond his grip. Beyond what was supposed to happen – on Earth. Out amongst the Go'a'uld, all such rules were off…. monstrosity was the rule with the Go'a'uld. But it wasn't supposed to be that way here on Earth.

She should be safer here on Earth.

That's what they were fighting for.
To keep this type of evil from overtaking their planet.
But it was already here. And it had tortured her.

Why her? Why not anyone else? He knew he shouldn't think things like that… but he was her father. And she'd earned so much more than this type of treatment.

He knew that O'Neill and Jackson and the Jaffa were not to blame. And he knew that they blamed themselves anyway. Just like Jacob was blaming himself for not being around to stop it. To prevent it. To save her.

But none of them had. Saved her, that is.

She'd been tortured in a most excruciating, horrible agony.

And she'd had to face it alone. Jacob buried his hands in his face as his shoulders shook from his tears.

"Sirs?" Doctor Warner respectfully addressed both General O'Neill and the retired General Jacob Carter.

Nodding, O'Neill gestured for the Doc to go ahead.

"Her bullet wound is healed, her dislocated shoulder is repaired, her broken ribs are healed, as is her punctured lung, and her various bruises and contusions are healed. Especially the ones on her wrists and ankles," the doctor looked around at the hopeful, yet apprehensive faces arrayed around him.

"She has not regained consciousness, however….," he reluctantly told them, "and we don't know if she will…. her brainwave activity has not changed and we do not know how to heal whatever was done to her mind."

Jacob nodded dejectedly, as if he'd already suspected this diagnosis. "The healing device can heal physical injuries, but the Tokra have had little success with it when trying to heal injuries to the mind, or the psyche."

Heavy silence descended across the room as they all managed their own thoughts.

"Can we see her, doc?" O'Neill asked.

The doctor looked at him warmly. You'd think that they hadn't seen her in weeks, when it had only been a little over an hour. "In a few hours. We are still running some tests and removing bandaging and such that are not necessary any more. I'll let you know as soon as you can see her."

"Thanks, doc," O'Neill replied as the doctor headed back to the infirmary.

After a few more moments of silence, O'Neill called Corporal Rivers in, "Corporal, set General Carter up in some of the VIP quarters."

"No!" Jacob interjected forcefully.

"What!?" Jack asked in disbelief…surely the Tokra was not going to leave on some 'tremendously important Tokra mission'?

"I'll use Sam's quarters," Jacob replied firmly.

"Jacob…?" Daniel spoke up, "Do you think that's really such a good idea, sir?" The idea of trying to sleep in Sam's bed right now, facing all of her personal possessions…. none of the men of SG-1 could face that scenario. How could Jacob? He'd probably spend the entire time sobbing in agony. Looking at his face, however, they knew that that was just what he intended to do. He wanted to break down and let it all out. And he could do that in her quarters. Where he could feel her presence.

Jacob did not reply to Daniel's question and none of the others pressed the issue.

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It was 34 hours after Jacob has used the healing device and Sam had not woken up yet. Jacob had only left her side when physically dragged away by Jack and Teal'c. The men had continued to talk to her continuously as the hours passed. One of them was always holding or stroking one of her hands. Trying to give her a piece of their reality to hold onto.

Jack was watching her face again. There was still pain there. Not pain from the physical injuries anymore… no, this pain was worse… this was the neverending pain in her mind.

Jack wished that he could comprehend what they had done to her. What she was feeling? He wanted to share her pain so that he could lighten the burden for her. So that he could try and find a solution, a way to heal her. How could he help fix something that he did not understand?

His eyes wandered through their rounds over the monitors. Heartbeat and respiration were close to normal, and the fever had shown no signs of returning. Brainwave activity still abnormal. She hadn't had any convulsions in 6 days, though.

His gaze wandered across the monitors and he watched Jacob Carter as the older man's heart broke repeatedly throughout the hours that they'd spent here.

Movement caught his peripheral vision. Jack jerked his head around and Jacob was on his feet and by her side instantly.

Her eyelids were fluttering and her head was moving fractionally.
They watched as her eyes tried to focus. She mumbled something incoherently.
Her father leaned over her and her eyes focused on his face.

"Sammie…?" his voice tender with hope.

"Daa..a..d..?" she croaked out and that started a weak coughing spell.

Teal'c had called the doctors and nurses over and the medical personnel were pushing her friends out of the way.

"Colonel Carter?" Doctor Warner asked her as the doctor stepped over and in front of her, commanding her field of view.

"Doc?" she replied weakly and the doctor smiled when it was obvious that Carter had recognized the doctor.

"Just lie back and relax. Give us a few minutes to take some readings and we'll talk about what's next," the doctor instructed soothingly.

"Doc?" Sam persisted. "Where am I….and what happened?"

"Samantha, please, let us help you," Doc Warner insisted kindly. "We'll answer all of your questions and these admirers of your can get a good look at you as soon as we are done," he gestured to the men behind the medics and she got a look at her father, Jack, Daniel and Teal'c waiting a few steps away.

A smile sprung to her face when she saw them, but then anxiety quickly followed and she began struggling against the medics. She was trying to get up and away from them.

"No, please, Colonel, please calm down," the doctor was frantically trying to get his patient to lie back, but she refused.

Jack stepped forward and grabbed her hand. "Hey, Carter." She stilled immediately as she looked up at him. "We are really here, Sam. All of us. And we aren't going anywhere. You're back at the SGC. This is Doc Warner and he's here to help."

Jacob was standing right by Jack's shoulder now, with his hand on the bedsheets covering his daughter's leg. She looked at the two men and relaxed a little more and then let them lay her back. Her eyes quickly scanned the bed for restraints and saw none. She returned to looking at the two men looking at her. She hadn't let go of Jack's hand.

Doctor Warner and the medics waited and watched while the two Generals calmed their patient. "Jack, why don't you and General Carter just stay right there, while we reconnect a few of the monitors," the doctor instructed.

She remained tense as long as the doctors and nurses were fussing over her, but when they stepped back and the four men were allowed to crowd around, she relaxed. Doctor Warner observed carefully from the end of the bed.

"Hey, Sam," Daniel finally got a chance to say something to her.

"Hey, yourself, Daniel," she replied softly with a smile.

"Samantha," Teal'c intoned with affection, "It is exceptionally well to see your eyes and hear your voice."

Sam smiled back at him, "Teal'c you are wonderful," and the big Jaffa smiled tenderly back at her.

"Angel…?" her father spoke up and she turned her gaze to him. "Angel, I am so glad to have you back. You really shouldn't go off and leave these three guys to take care of themselves….," he teased her affectionately.

"Dad, they can take care of themselves just fine," she admonished gently with a small smile.

"The evidence is to the contrary, Samantha," Teal'c surprisingly spoke up. "We do not work with the same efficiency or comfort when your presence is absent. O'Neill, in particular, is very difficult to abide," the Jaffa finished to everyone's amazement.

"Hey, now…what?... just a…," Jack was spluttering and Jacob and Daniel were looking mightily pleased at his discomfort.

Daniel gave her a small conspiratorial smile, "Can't wait to get you back in the field with us…," and he let his sentence trail off.


She only lasted a few more minutes and then she drifted back to sleep.

It was enough, though. The men were beside themselves with joy.
She was going to be allright.
They'd spoken with her. She'd recognized them and talked to them.
She was going to be allright.

Jack looked across and saw Jacob watching her as tears rolled down the Tokra's face. Tears of happiness, tears of joy, tears of relief.

"General Carter?" Doctor Warner addressed the older man.

"Yes?" he replied in a shaky voice.

"Sir," the doctor continued, "I need to speak with you for a few minutes, in private, sir."

Jacob looked up, puzzled, but then he nodded and stood up. Looking over at Jack, "Take care of her for me, until I get back."

"Of course, sir," O'Neill replied respectfully.


"General Carter, please take a seat," Doctor Warner indicated a chair on the other side of his desk and the Tokra sat without argument.

"General, I need to be honest and up-front with you. Your daughter's condition is now greatly improved over what it was a week ago. With the healing device, you repaired and healed almost all of her physical injuries," the doctor paused and the man did not interrupt. So far, he wasn't telling the older man anything that he didn't already know. The Tokra waited.

"Samantha's earlier period of lucidity and awareness were very positive signs….," Here it comes, Jacob thought, "However, her brainscans and brainwave activity have remained abnormal. Very abnormal, actually. Her brainwaves are still very similar to the times when she was between sessions at the research facility."

Jacob was still silent.
He couldn't ask.
He needed to know.
But he didn't want to.

"Sir, I'm sorry, but, we are afraid that without some sort of outside help, Samantha will not be able to recover on her own," the doctor finally got it out.

"What's the prognosis?" Jacob scraped the words out of his throat.

"We do not know…but we think that she will probably remain trapped in whatever state her mind has been left in from the machine. She's obviously in pain. And it's not letting up. Her period of lucidity today may mean that she will have more periods such as that…where she can see, hear and talk to us. However, we do not believe that these periods will be frequent, or long," the doctor continued somberly.

Jacob nodded, swallowed with difficulty and clamped his eyes shut for a few seconds. Selmac tried to comfort him, but he would have none of it.

"Any ideas of what we can do?" Jacob asked.

"Not at this time, but we are working on it….," the doctor admitted.

"I will leave her medical file here for you to look over if you choose. Perhaps, the Tokra can help where we can not?" the doctor suggested and then respectfully left the father to some privacy.

Jacob sat there in the quiet.

'Perhaps the Tokra can help where we can not?' Phrased very carefully. But Jacob knew that the Tokra did not have the means to heal his daughter's mind.

'Perhaps the Tokra can help where we can not?' What he could do, however, if he claimed to take her to the Tokra for assistance….what he could do, was end the torture for her. The doctors here were not allowed to do that. But he could. As her father. As a Tokra.

His stomach threatened to heave violently as he sobbed uncontrollably again.
Selmac was unable to comfort her host. He threw off all of his symbiote's attempts.
She allowed him his sorrow, and she felt it with him.


When Jacob returned about an hour and a half later, Doctor Warner asked O'Neill to bring Daniel and Teal'c with him to his office. The three men of SG-1 left Sam in the hands of her father as they followed the doctor.

The doctor explained Sam's current condition to them. They had trouble accepting it. She'd spoken to them. She'd smiled at them. She'd known them and trusted them. How could she not be getting better? How could she not be returning to normal?

The men of SG-1 had much more trouble accepting this than her father. The three of them had spent the past week watching her minute by minute as they had learned of the atrocities done to her while they were unawares. Then she'd spoken to them…and smiled at them. For them, those smiles had meant that all would be right with the world.

So, the doctors must be wrong. She was going to get better. She was already better… and she would continue to get better until she was normal again. They had let themselves believe that. They already believed that.

But they were wrong. And the doctor hated the responsibility of being the one who had to make them face that truth.


Eventually, they were all back in the ICU.
The atmosphere was much more subdued.
Jack and Daniel were devastated.
Teal'c had replaced his mask of impassivity back into its normal position.
Jack simply looked shattered and empty.

Jacob looked sad, immeasurably sad.
And tormented.
None of the others knew the decision that he faced.
But he knew that the decision was already made.

He would not allow her to continue living a life of pain and torture.
Not when there was no hope of her ever escaping from it.

Unbeknownst to the others, Jack's thoughts were very similar to Jacob's. Jack was working out the logistics that would leave Jack alone with Sam just long enough so that he could use the zat. And release her from this torture. He'd already promised himself, and her, that he would not allow her to be sentenced to a life of pain and torture where she would not be able to tell reality from delusion. And that's just where she was trapped. Forever.

Teal'c's thoughts followed a path similar to O'Neill's…. except, in this case, he was perceptive enough to realize what Jack was most likely thinking…and planning. Teal'c decided to wait and watch. When O'Neill made his move, Teal'c would do it for him….so that O'Neill would not have to live with having killed her… twice.

Daniel's thoughts did not travel the same paths as the other three men. Daniel still held out hope. But he wouldn't admit it to the others. He couldn't bear watching their hopes killed again. Daniel tried to think of options… a sarcophagus? If they had one, they didn't know if it could cure this type of damage to the mind…. Daniel's thoughts traveled back through the discoveries that they'd made over the years. What could help here? Could any of it save Sam?

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

"Unscheduled Gate Activation. Unscheduled Gate Activation," the announcement came over the PA system. The travel through the gate had been almost nonexistent over the past week as the resources of the SGC had been tasked to dealing with the unraveling of the NID research facility. A few SG teams had returned, but no new missions had been started. All new, scheduled missions had been put on hold for a few weeks.

The scientists and engineers continued their work unimpeded. Albeit without the help and assistance of a sorely missed Colonel. The computer and gate technicians used the time to run diagnostics, overhauls, maintenance and other such items that had been piling up.

"General O'Neill to the control room. General O'Neill to the control room."

Jack was already getting up. He looked at Daniel and Teal'c and simply nodded as he stepped out and headed to see what was up. He was surprised to discover that he really didn't care. He wasn't even curious. He was, actually, annoyed. He wanted to tell them to all just 'Go Away and Leave Him Alone.' And, that's just what he'd do, after he took care of his last promise to her.

For now, however, he sighed, and stepped behind the computer operators behind the glass overlooking the gateroom.

"Not receiving any IDC, sir. No identification signal of any kind," Sgt. Davis informed him.

"Keep the iris closed," O'Neill ordered.

"Yes, sir," Davis replied as the seventh chevron locked and the wormhole established behind the closed iris.

Moments passed and they heard nothing.

Then the lights dimmed and went out…. and then came back on…. and three figures stood on the ramp leading down from the gate. One was a small, grey alien. With a large head and big black eyes. The other two…were dressed in what almost appeared to be rags. Their 'hair' stuck out in all directions.

O'Neill blinked in surprised and then stormed down the stairs from the control room to the gateroom.

"Thor! Anteaus! Lya!" He called unceremoniously as he skidded into the gateroom in front of them. All three aliens regarded him implacably. As always.

He wanted to hug them. He wanted to jump up and down.
They were here. To save her.
They were here. If anyone could save her, they could.
If anyone….but then he realized, he was letting his hopes get away from him again.
None of the aliens had said that they could help yet.
But they had come.
The Asgard and the Nox.
At least they were here.

"O'Neill," Thor spoke in his normal, careful tones. "We understand that Colonel Carter is in need of assistance?"

"Yes, yes, follow me," O'Neill gestured them towards the door as Anteaus and Lya simply smiled gently at him and followed his directions.

Minutes later the three aliens stood around Carter's bedside. Thor was running some sort of scans and taking readings with some sort of Asgard instrument. Anteaus and Lya were holding their hands above her and they stood with their eyes closed. They too, were apparently scanning and evaluating before they attempted any healing.

After 5 minutes or so, the two Nox stopped and waited for the small Asgard to finish his evaluations. Next, they turned and asked for details, explanation and clarification of Carter's injuries and status. Except for Teal'c, they all moved into the next room while the Nox and the Asgard were brought up to date on the past three weeks.

Thor asked to see the Ancient machine. The aliens also requested all notes and data collected during the two-week procedure. O'Neill gave them access to everything that they had – including the video images. The aliens went through everything – including all of the images, not just the marked files.

Three hours later the aliens asked the humans (and Tokra) to assemble with them.
Teal'c continued to stay with Sam.

"We have never seen this machine of the Ancients before, however, we have heard tales of it. Unfortunately, we have no experience in dealing with it," Thor began.

"Our society eschewed such technologies eons ago, and we have no present knowledge of any such machinery," The Nox related.

"We are unfortunately, not able to offer any assistance to Colonel Carter at this time, O'Neill," Thor apologized.

"Because neither of our races have experience with this technology, or its effects, we are afraid that any healing attempts on our parts, may make things actually worse," Anteaus continued.

"How could it be any worse?" O'Neill exclaimed in disbelief. "She can't continue living like this! Please, at least try!"

"I agree," Jacob spoke up. "Please try. We will not blame you if you can not heal her. If you do not try, then we have nowhere else to turn."

Thor turned to the Nox and they seemed to be in silent communication.

However, before they made their final decision, the middle of the room became very bright…and 'glowy'…. and two balls of light separated from each other and then coalesced into two human forms. One was Janet Frasier. The other was Oma Desala. The Ascended.

"Hi guys!" Janet smiled at them all.

"Uh…hi, again, Janet," Daniel smiled at her.

"Hey, doc," O'Neill sent.

"Doctor Frasier?" this came from Doctor Warner.

"Yeah, yeah, let's get past me, guys, so we can focus on Sam," Janet smiled at them and then turned to her companion. "Oma is going to help the Asgard and the Nox heal Sam."

Eyebrows shot up. Daniel started to ask a question, but Jack said, "Shut up, Daniel!" and then, "Fantastic! After you….," and he gestured towards the ICU that was currently guarded by the silent Jaffa.

A few minutes later and Thor, Anteaus and Lya were settled around Sam's bed. Thor had a different small instrument attached to her temple. Anteaus and Lya were in their customary positions above the center of their patient's torso.

"Oma says that you may begin when you are ready," Janet prompted.

Thor turned on his instrument and watched the readouts intently. Anteaus and Lya began their ministrations. Each of the aliens forgot about the humans and Tokra in the room with them. All except for their patient, that is.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

The pain suddenly dimmed in intensity.
She almost cried at the unexpectedness. The suddenness.

Where was she? She tried to see, but her eyes wouldn't open.
She tried to move, but she couldn't feel anything.

Where was she?

At least the pain had dimmed. That's all there'd been for so long.
Just pain. Ripping pain. Unending pain.
Even her delusions had left her.
When she couldn't string any coherent thoughts together anymore.
Even the delusions were bored, she thought.

But she was thinking now. Stringing thoughts together at least.
The pain was still there…. but she could think. At least a little.
Nothing earth-shattering. Nothing revolutionary or insightful.
No new physics concepts. No breakthroughs.
Just basic thoughts.
Where Am I?
Where are the others?
Is anyone else here?
Am I alone?

One of those delusions might not be so bad, now, she thought acerbically.

"Hey there, Sam," Janet, it was Janet. OK, so, what if Janet was dead? A delusion of a dead friend is better than the previous blankness of being alone.

"Hey, Janet," Sam replied, "Thanks for being here."

"Any time," Janet replied and then thought better of it, "Well, actually, no, not any time… after this, you are under strict orders to not let anything like this happen again!" the ascended doctor affectionately scolded her friend.

"I'll do my best," Sam chuckled. "It's not like I went looking for this, you know."

"Yeah, I know, Sam," Janet returned softly.

"So, what are you up to, now…beings that you are ascended and all?" Sam asked, just hoping to prolong her friend's visit.

Janet smiled again. "Well, right now, I'm here to see if we can help, you, Sam."

"Help me? How? And who's we?" Sam asked the questions rapidly. Yep, she was thinking better now.

"Sam, your mind was damaged by the improper use of some Ancient technology….," Janet paused to watch Sam's reaction. Sam's brow furrowed as she listened to Janet.

"Your father repaired the physical injuries to your body, but your mind was too severely damaged for anyone to cope with. Your mind, in many ways, was shredded, painfully, and you are presently trapped where the machine left you. Neither the Tokra, the Nox, or the Asgard have the knowledge or capability to pull you from there or to heal your mind," Janet paused again and watched as Sam simply listened. She could see dawning awareness in the younger woman's eyes as pieces of memories came back to her.

"So…am I trapped in a body that works with a mind that has gone insane? Except for when you come and visit?" Sam asked in barely restrained horror and fear.

"Sam, you have a choice to make," Janet said sympathetically. "You could choose to return to your body as it is… and yes, it would be as you described… however, your father, Jack and Teal'c have each separately chosen to end that existence for you so that you will not continue to suffer." Sam's relief was evident as she closed her eyes for a moment in thanks.

"However, Oma and the other Ascended have chosen to help you if you wish," Janet continued and then paused to make sure that Sam was listening.

Sam looked at the doctor questioningly, "Do you mean they would help me… to Ascend… like you and Daniel?"

Janet smiled affectionately at her friend again, "No, Sam, they say that Ascension is not for you…. Sam, you are special…. something else awaits you when you leave your life on Earth and with the SGC and the guys. I don't know what it is. I only know that very few follow your path. Many mortals spend their entire lives to become Ascended. Apparently there are Ascended who spend their time trying to achieve where you have already gone…where you will be going…. what you are…."

Sam looked at her friend in disbelief. "Good grief! I am talking in my head to a dead friend who is telling me that I will be following some unknown path to who knows where??? I am crazy. One hundred percent bonkers! Bats in the belfry!"

"Sam…," Janet temporized, "I know that this is a lot to take in…."

Sam snorted and rolled her eyes.

"Sam…please…. listen to me?" Janet tried again, but she couldn't help a small smile… Sam was so… Sam!

"Allright, go on, Janet," Sam surrendered, "listening to this nonsense is a lot more preferable than going back to being alone…."

Janet grimaced at that. The torture that this woman had endured had scared the ascended doctor. Scared her more than she thought possible. "Sam, you have two options, One: you go back to the pain and trauma in your mind. One of the guys will kill your body and this will release you to follow whatever is next for you. I wish that I could tell you what that is, but I really do not know. It seems like the other Ascended all believe that it is an honor or some such…. but that's all that I can tell you," she gave Sam a small apologetic smile.

"Second, Oma and the other Ascended will try and assist the Asgard and the Nox attempts to heal you. They do not know if they will be successful. If it is, perhaps, only partially successful, the guys may lose their nerve to kill your body… and you may live for years… in some sort of diminished capacity...," Janet paused and then continued, "The Ascended believe that this is your decision and your decision only. They do not know what is the correct path, nor do they know what will happen after you make your choice. They are holding nothing back from you, Sam."

Sam sat quietly for a few moments. "How long do I have to make this decision?"

"Oma tells me that time has no meaning here, Sam," and Janet just shrugged to say that she didn't understand that any better than it sounded. "I can tell you, Sam, that the Ascended are usually very sure, very centered, seeming to almost know everything…yet, they do not apparently know what will happen here. There is apparently no Chosen Path for you here. They have recognized and identified that you are Special, but they do not have a certainty of knowledge about what to do next. They usually can not help the non-ascended as they are offering to help you. That is the first and most cardinal rule. Not to interfere in the lives and paths of the non-ascended."

Sam, nodded… remembering Orlin.

"Orlin is here… watching us, Sam," Janet nodded.

"Are you reading my mind?" Sam automatically accused.

"Well… I am in your mind…," Janet semi-apologized.

"Yeah, well, I'll give you that one…," and Sam grinned in acceptance.

"Orlin was the first Ascended to realize what you are Sam. When he touched you, when he Shared with you…. You bowled him over. He really, truly fell in love with you. He's been trying to help me since I got here, but I guess I ask too many questions and he often flees for quieter places," Janet laughed self-deprecatingly.

"So….. give me a minute here….," Sam said while watching to make sure that her friend wasn't going to disappear.

"I'm not going anywhere, Sam," Janet said soothingly.

"You left once before!" and that came out before Sam could censor it. The look of pain on the doctor's face immediately made her wish she could rewind time a few seconds and erase what she'd said. "Oh, God, Janet… I'm sorry… I didn't mean to blame you… I … I just missed you so much!"

"It's OK, Sam," Janet replied, "I understand, I really do. Now, stop thinking about me… and think about what you want to do."

"Kind of difficult to choose when I don't know the true outcome of either choice. Let's see, Option One… go back to insanity and then die and go who-knows-where-but-it-just-might-be-good….. or Option Two… try and fix my tattered mind….but that may not work and I could be left in some unknown mental state for years and years. Whoooo…. what would you choose, Janet?"

Janet just smiled at her. "This is your decision, Sam. I'll love you no matter what you choose."

"Verrry nicely done… but, basically, 'smack' the ball is back in my court, isn't it?" Sam narrowed her eyes at her well-meaning friend.

"Well, I think I've chosen…," Sam announced and Janet nodded understandingly. "Sometimes, I think that there was really only one choice… and even if the rest of the Ascended didn't know it… I think that you did…. Right, Janet?"

"Well, I'm pretty sure that I know you, Sam…and I think I know what you chose. But you will have to say it plainly for the rest of the Ascended," Janet replied.

Sam started to say something about just reading her mind, but then she decided to stop her querulousness. "OK, I… choose the second option. I'd like you to try and heal my mind, if it's possible…. and if it turns out that its not, I just want to say thanks anyway. I will not hold you responsible for anything that happens if things don't work out," Sam spoke to the air in front of her and then looked at Janet. "Will that do?"

"Absolutely," her friend returned with tears in her eyes.

"Hey, can the Ascended cry?" Sam asked.

"Yep, I've done it several times over the past several weeks…," Janet admitted.

"Janet, I'm sorry… you are supposed to be up here in wonder and harmony with the universe. You shouldn't be tearing yourself apart because of me," Sam admonished.

"Sorry, girl, you know the rules… friends do for friends…Ascended or not…. friends are tortured by the pain of their friends," Janet sniffed.

"Yeah, but aren't the rules for the Ascended different? You're supposed to be all objective and aloof and above it all?" Sam asked.

"I don't think that I will ever reach that level when it comes to you, Cassie and some of the others, Sam," Janet admitted.

"Well, good!" Sam smiled at her, "Because it's what made you such a great doctor… and it's what made you you. It's one of the biggest parts of why we all loved you so much…. and why we missed you so much."

The two women hugged each other tightly. Even if it was only in her mind, Sam thought, she was glad that she got to spend a little more time with her friend.

"Back at ya!" Janet returned playfully and Sam sighed and did not admonish her friend about reading her mind again.


The aliens had been 'working' on Sam for 20 minutes and there did not seem to be any change. Janet had disappeared soon after they had started and Oma had not said a word…. she'd just 'glowed.'

"Hey guys, I've been talking to Sam," Janet suddenly reappeared.

"What??" "Where?" "How??" "Where is she?" the questions were all blurted out by different people simultaneously.

"I've been talking to her in her mind," Janet tried to explain. "What the Asgard, Nox and the Ascended are doing has been enough for me to be able to at least talk to her."

All of the others looked concerned. Jack spoke up first, "With what they are all doing, all you were able to do was talk to her in her mind?" and the devastation of his thoughts were evident. That even combined, they weren't going to be able to help her.

"Jack," Janet continued, "This was the necessary first step. We had to talk to her and find out what she wanted. We know what you all want for her…. but you don't know all of the options open to her. Even I didn't."

Suddenly Janet was distracted, "I'll have to explain that later, if I can figure out how. In the meantime, I just want you to know that Sam chose to try and come back to you. She has asked the Ascended to work with the Nox and the Asgard to try and heal her mind."

The men looked puzzled, yet temporarily mollified. Doctor Warner just watched it all in disbelief. Only SG-1, Warner thought to himself. Only SG-1.

"So now, what, Janet?" Jacob asked.

"Now, we wait. We wait and watch and hope. I do not know how long it will take. The other Ascended are always telling me that time is irrelevant…so I have no idea how long this will take…. sorry," Janet apologized again.

Each of the men looked at her and the others and then cautiously sat down to watch… and to wait… and to hope. They were almost afraid to hope anymore.


178 minutes… that's actually how long it took.
Jack timed it from the moment that Janet told them to start hoping.
178 minutes. That was two hours and 58 minutes.
Just two minutes shy of three hours.

Jack had never seen anything that he could imagine would take almost three hours of the combined efforts of the Asgard, the Nox and the Ascended. Any of the three could make people disappear in the blink of an eye. They could bring people back from the dead. Command the weather. Travel through Stargates and control the gate on the destination end. Walk right through the iris.

But it had taken their combined efforts three hours to repair and heal Sam's mind.

Healed…and repaired… they hoped…

The aliens had all left… just disappeared in a flash. Janet had gone with them (or been taken along, Jack wasn't sure). They had promised that they would return to check on Sam's progress. But they had not said when that might be. Either her progress… or their return.

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- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Doctor Warner and the SGC docs had run an entirely new battery of tests. Drawn more blood samples, etc. Continuing to reinforce O'Neill's beliefs that doctors and nurses were closet vampires.

The major piece of good news was that her brainwave activity appeared normal. Normal for her, that is. The doctors were comparing the current readings and scans with previous ones taken over the years. So far, the results were: 'Normal'!

Now everyone was just holding their figurative breaths.

Waiting for her to wake up.
Waiting to see if she was still in pain.

If she was all there.
If she wasn't delusional.
If she was sane.


Teal'c was the first to notice her movements. "O'Neill, General Carter, she is moving," the Jaffa alerted them. And she was. Just small twitches in the face and hands. But then her eyes fluttered open for the third time in over a week. Again, she searched for focus. She mumbled something…

Jacob was leaning over her, holding her upper arms gently, "Sam?"

"Dad?" she responded clearly as she brought his face into focus.

"Sam!" he cried joyously as he hugged her tightly. She could only respond weakly, but she smiled and lay against him as she hung in his embrace.

Carefully, laying her back onto the bed, Jacob allowed the others to come closer. "There's a lot of folks here who'd like to say hi to you, Angel," he gestured.

"Hey, Sam," Daniel smiled at her.

"Samantha," Teal'c smiled as well.

"Carter," Jack gave her a face-splitting smile.

She smiled back at them and then got a quizzical look on her face.

"What?" "What's wrong?" The questions came from all four men simultaneously and she looked at them in surprise.

"Well, nothing, really… just… well… a little sense of Deja vu?" she asked tentatively.

The men relaxed and then let her know… that "yes, she'd taken them all here before. And…that they'd appreciate it if she stuck around a bit longer this time.

"No more reneging on our world Carter. You have to stay with us for a while now. No more traipsing off to places where we can't talk to you," Jack tenderly chastised her, "We missed you. A lot."

"Thanks, sir," she replied softly. "How long was I 'gone'?"

"Three weeks, give or take," Jack responded, "But we can talk about that later."

"Three weeks!" Sam repeated in disbelief. "But in many ways it seems sooo much longer… more like it was three decades…."

"Sam," Teal'c spoke up, surprising them all by his use of her nickname, "the past three weeks have felt like three decades to the rest of us as well. Do not ever do that again," and he finished with a stern tone that was belied by the affectionate grin on his face.

Sam's eyes went wide with his words and tone, but then she relaxed and just smiled back at him. "Anything you say, Master Teal'c," she replied playfully.

"If only it were that easy," the Jaffa muttered, but everyone heard it and laughed…. even Sam, although she gave the Jaffa a look that told him to watch out for payback.

"Sam, I have to say that I agree with Teal'c… don't ever do anything like this ever again," Daniel spoke carefully. "But… I would have understood if you had chosen to Ascend. I don't think some of the others would have, but…"

Sam looked at him and furrowed her brow…. "It's all kind of hazy….but they didn't give me the choice to Ascend…. Janet said that they couldn't….or rather, that I couldn't Ascend….," Daniel looked dumbfounded and none of the others knew what to say, "something about I had another path to follow… or I'd already followed it…or some such… I really didn't understand it all… I know that Janet was trying to be as clear as possible and she really didn't speak in the riddles that the Ascended usually employ…. but… well…," and she paused… and looked around at the men around her.

"What?" and she grimaced, "Wondering about my sanity?"

"Well, actually, yes, I think we were," Jack admitted, "But, then I was just allowing myself to enjoy listening to you talk animatedly about something that you are trying to figure out. I've missed it," he admitted unabashedly.

She looked askance at him and then turned to her father, "Dad?"

Jacob just gave her a goofy smile and, "What he said…. oh, and have I told you lately that I Love You?"

She rolled her eyes at him but couldn't stop the smile from her face.
These men! Her men!

"Daniel?" she decided to try for his opinion and turned to find him with a far-away unfocused look. "Hey, Earth-to-Daniel?"

Jack prodded the archeologist in the ribs, "Hey, Danny-boy, where'd you go? We just got Carter back, don't want to lose you – again!"

"Um… well… I was just thinking… or rather remembering," the young man's eyes came back into focus, "Something about Sam….when I was Ascended…. she's right… she can't Ascend… something about her being…. Special…. something about another path of some sort….but that's it…," he paused in frustration, "that's all I can remember…. disjointed thoughts… fragments…..," and his voice trailed off in apology.

"Most people don't have to and die and ascend to figure out that Carter's special, Danny-boy," Jack grumbled at the archeologist.

Jacob looked on in amusement as Sam looked at Jack in astonishment.

Jack looked down at Sam and realized what he'd said in front of her, "Yeah… well….," he muttered, "I'm not taking it back!" he said defiantly to the air somewhere between Sam and her father.

Sam's eyes just widened more and her cheeks grew pink.

"Hey kiddo, that's the most color that I've seen in your face in quite awhile," Jacob smiled devilishly at his daughter.

"Daa-a-a-d," she made it into a multisyllabic word, much like an annoyed teenager…. and that just caused him to grin even wider.

Daniel was still looking at Sam pensively. He couldn't let it go now that he'd thought of it. "I wonder what the other path was, Sam? Is there something beyond Ascension? I haven't seen anything in any of the inscriptions or alien histories that we've translated that refers to anything like this. Teal'c do you know anything about this?"

"I do not, Daniel Jackson," Teal'c responded, "However, I am not surprised that if anyone was considered too Special to Ascend, then it would be Samantha Carter."

Sam was now looking at him in disbelief. The Jaffa had said more revealing things in the past few minutes than he usually did in one or two years. Sam squeezed Jack's hand a little harder to reassure herself that these were not all delusions made up in her mind.

Jack felt her squeeze his hand and saw her narrowing her eyes at the Jaffa and Jack knew that she was wondering if this was all real…. or just made up in her mind. Needing to help her out, Jack started to speak up to get her mind off of the Jaffa, but Daniel spoke up again.

"I wonder what happens when you do choose to go down that other path… or to that next step… or whatever it is…," the archeologist was still lost in his ruminations.

Sam looked up to see both Jack and her Dad staring at her as if she was going to disappear. "Hey, don't look for any explanations here. I chose not to check out this unknown path. I chose to come back here, fellas. Don't get me wrong…. you guys may frustrate the hell out of me sometimes, but you are….," and then she lost steam in her teasing….and she finished along another tack, "well, I just love you all and I guess I just missed you all too much to take of for parts truly unknown!" and then she couldn't resist, "I don't trust anyone else to help watch your backs! You guys get into too much trouble!" And she grinned impishly at them.

That impish grin took Jack's breath away.
He thought he'd lost it.
He thought he'd never get to see it again.

Jacob was watching his daughter closely, but he was also watching the men of SG-1, and in particular, one Jack O'Neill.

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Over the next few days, Sam slept a lot and the doctors carefully monitored her progress. She was extremely weak and was regaining her strength slowly. Jacob spent long hours by her bedside, even when she was sleeping.

Even as the SGC began to return to normal operations, the three men of SG-1 continued to ensure that at least one of the three was by her bedside at all times. Even when Jacob was there, although they would sit quietly in the background, allowing the father all the time possible with his daughter.

They also continued to talk to her when she was asleep.
About anything and everything.

Daniel was reading some alien transcriptions aloud to her.
Whenever he couldn't think of embarrassing stories to tell about Jack.
Which didn't leave him much time to read the transcriptions.

She woke up several times before stirring, to hear the men talking to her. She didn't understand, yet, why they were doing it, but she found that she enjoyed it. Waking to their voices provided her with an anchor to this reality. Continuous assurances that they were there … and that she wasn't insane.

She realized that they were touching her a lot, too. Much more than normal.

Especially Jack and Teal'c. She surely wasn't going to complain about any of it.

Nope. She just hoped that the doctors and nurses wouldn't think it was all too strange… but they seemed to be all strangely OK with it. Almost oblivious to it. For now, she chalked it up to the list of 'Things To Understand Later,' when she could get this all sorted out.

For now, she just accepted the love and attention.
She let it hold her and embrace her.
She let it anchor her.

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While Sam was starting her recuperation, O'Neill was in constant communication with the President and the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The captured NID personnel were taken into custody and transported to more appropriate military facilities. Agent Barrett returned to Washington to help assist with the 'internal investigations' inside the NID.

O'Neill felt that all of the 'fruits' of the obscene project should be destroyed due to the methods used to achieve them. Unfortunately, most others could not see things in such 'black and white.' Deliberations continued nonstop over the ultimate disposition of the materials obtained with the machine.

O'Neill finally had a brainstorm…. Carter was the one who should decide. She was the only surviving test subject. She could speak in the name of all the others. Yes, O'Neill knew that this was the ultimate justice. Carter should be the one to decide.

On the other hand, he wasn't sure that it was fair to make her decide. She had a deep sense of duty. She wouldn't decide as easily as he would. There was no doubt what Jack would do – he'd already asked to do it. Destroy it all. All the results, all the data, all the records. Especially those video records. And the machine. Most definitely, he'd love to destroy that obscene machine.

Carter, however, might torture herself over the decision…. but, he knew, that she should have the right to make that decision. No one else should.

O'Neill broached his proposition to the President and the head of the Joint Chiefs. They were stunned at the simplicity of his idea. Each of them was wrestling with the morality of what to do next. O'Neill had brought them the moral solution. They knew that there could be deep and lasting repercussions if all of the material were destroyed…. but the means under which these things were obtained…. it was so reprehensible… that moral solution may be the only path towards redemption.

What had been done could not be undone.
But, they could choose the correct path from this point forward.
They didn't have to compound the ugliness.
Step back from temptation.
And it was, oh, so tempting….

The hints at what Carter had produced during the procedure….
They didn't know how to say no.
That was the problem.

So, they needed to hand it to Carter.
She was the only one who could take the next step.
They had to give the control to Carter.

She'd earned it… even before they'd taken it away.
She deserved it.
They'd stolen it.
They had raped her mind.
Hell, they'd effectively destroyed her mind.

The ends do not justify the means.
Reparations must be made.

O'Neill had all of this and more all written as notes for himself when they held the conference call. They'd listened in stunned silence, and they knew that O'Neill had found the solution to their problem…. Because, they could see that there really was no problem any more…. This was the solution. The only proper solution.

O'Neill breathed a sigh of thankfulness that these men had consciences. O'Neill knew that that was rare to find in men of power.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

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As Sam got physically stronger, she also got quieter. For the first few days, after the Asgard, Nox and Ascended had treated her, she had slept solidly with only small periods where she was awake. And when she was awake, the guys talked to her nonstop in their excitement at being able to do so. Even Teal'c… was almost chatty… at least for him. So… for the first few days, she didn't get much chance to think about what had happened and the guys did not want to talk about it. She usually wasn't awake long enough to pursue their reticence.

However, as the days passed, and she began to be able to stay awake for hours at a time, the memories of what had happened became more clear and more distinct.

She remembered the first few days very well.
Even the sessions when the machine was on.

She remembered the pain.

She remembered the explosion of ideas that swept through her mind… and she remembered pursuing the ideas, testing them where she could, running the equations, testing new ideas…. the sessions with the machine felt like they lasted for years… but they told her that they only lasted 5-6 hours. Hard to reconcile.

A part of her had actually enjoyed and reveled in the unleashing of her muse.
The freedom to pursue and think about her ideas and concepts.
To be able to focus without any distractions.
The unbelievable focus that the machine had allowed her.

She knew that if they had explored the machine's capabilities in a more conventional process, there would have been many volunteers to work with the machine. If they'd experimented with it slowly until they knew how to use it safely… she knew that she would have wanted to spend some time with it herself. But they didn't do that here. In this reality, they had chosen the greedy, mad-scientist approach… and they had ruined it. She wondered if one of the alternate realities included a path where this machine was used safely by humans….

She was starting to have nightmare, now too. Reliving it. Different pieces… sometimes, she was back in the first few days, trapped and aware of what they were doing. Other times, she was insane with the pain… trapped in a place where she couldn't drag herself back to focus her eyes and ears on the real world around her. The fuzzy images and muffled, unintelligible sounds nothing but torment.

The doctors and the guys knew what was happening.
They were watching her withdraw.
The doctors had warned them of this.

But it was still tearing their guts out to watch it.
No one could stop it.
Somehow, she was going to have to figure out a way to live with this.
To live with the memories.
And the nightmares.

Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.
The curse laid on war veterans, torture victims, rape victims and others who had to live through unspeakable horrors.

Some never did learn how to live with it.
Some withdrew and never lived normal lives again.
Some struck out explosively.
Some committed suicide.

O'Neill had been through periods in his life that had taken him to the depths of his soul. His captivity and torture in Iraq. The death of his son. Ba'al's torture. And O'Neill knew that these events had irreparably changed his psyche. He'd become more withdrawn. Harder for people to reach emotionally. He'd gone through a period of suicidal thoughts and actions after the death of his son.

But ultimately he'd survived.
He'd developed a hard outer shell of sarcasm and cynicism.
And life had gone on. Unstoppably.
Without his desire for it to do so.
Time had marched on and had taken him with it.
Now, he did have times when he was, actually, truly, happy.

Something that 8-10 years ago, he would not have thought possible. He had found a group of kindred spirits in the most unlikely of places.

An irrepressible archeologist whose trust in people contrasted starkly against O'Neill's persona hammered out of the hard experiences of his life.

An ex-First Prime to the most hideous galactic aliens.

A genius scientist in the military service.

O'Neill had spent his earlier life amongst kindred souls in the special services. Black Ops. None of his fellowSG-1 members were trained in Black Ops.

Teal'c was a warrior… but he was a straight-forward warrior. A true warrior of honor. The men and women in Black Ops did not play straight. They snuck in, stole what they came for, blew up things they couldn't carry and snuck back out.

Daniel… Daniel wasn't even military at all. Sure, he'd stepped up to the task when they had to fight…. but if the O'Neill who existed more than 8 years ago were to meet the team that Jack worked on today… the younger O'Neill would not believe his future.

And, then there was Carter. She was, at least, military. But she was a scientist. A brilliant scientist. A genius. With those credentials, she should have been working in a lab all day. Sure, she could still be in the military… but, not one of the soldiers.

And, here was the kicker that frightened Jack the most. He knew that Carter would have never made the cut for a special ops career. Not because she was a woman. Not because she was a genius. Not because she couldn't hack the physical training…. no, he'd seen her in the field and he'd seen her set C4, set claymores, use a P90, etc. Nope she could handle the physical skills.

It was the psych test that would have cut her from the program. O'Neill had seen her files. She was under his command in a field unit and she was actually the only SG-1 member under his command that he had full files for. Her psych profile indicated that her 'compassion quotient' was too high for black ops. Not that she would ever care. She had never wanted to serve in black ops. She had never wanted to sneak in, kill someone and sneak out. That had never been her goal in life. Jack knew that she would never be heartbroken to hear that she was not cut out to be an assassin.

Her 'compassion quotient' was too high. Too high for a regular career in black ops. Not too high for much else. And, she kept her opinions mostly to herself in the field. She would offer when asked. And she would respect his decisions and follow his orders even when she disagreed.

Unlike Daniel. But, then, Daniel was not military. And, Jack wondered, what Carter would truly be like if she had never joined the military. If she didn't have the military straightjacket on her mouth, face and emotions all the time.

Jack looked over at where she slept… peacefully for now….

He wondered what she would be like if she'd continued on the 'astronaut track' and into NASA. Would she have stayed career military after getting a few trips in the Space Shuttle? Or would she have found a guy, fallen in love and had a family? As he let his mind envision the possibilities, he realized that in each case, he visualized her as more relaxed and more sure of herself… and more open…. compared to how things had turned out here at the SGC. But… he realized bitterly, that's the territory that comes with saving the world from intergalactic badguys.

Somehow, in his heart, Jack knew that he could accept their fate for Teal'c and for himself. A hard life of fierce battles and hard choices…. and loneliness punctuated with sarcasm, cynicism and the acceptance of one's fate or destiny.

But he couldn't accept the same fate for Carter or Daniel. For the two of them, Jack expected the universe to be kinder…. because they treated the universe more kindly… and what they offered should be returned in kind. At least to some extent.

Carter worked hard to maintain her professionalism. To follow strict military dictates. She'd built that naquadah bomb when he'd ordered her to. Even when she wasn't sure that his solution was necessary. She hadn't said a word to him when he'd closed the iris on a racist political leader who had tried to follow them through the gate to Earth. She'd followed his orders and lied to the replicator Fifth and had ultimately trapped him with the others after Fifth had helped them.

She kept her compassion under strict professional control.
But they all saw it.
Those of them who were around her enough.
Like Jack and Daniel and Teal'c.

Every now and then, she's speak up and tell him what she felt. Sometimes it was when he'd ask for it. Other times, she'd speak her peace after all the furor was over. But even then, she'd keep it short. She'd keep it under control. Usually… she kept it under control…he grinned ruefully.

He looked back at her sleeping face and she didn't look as peaceful as she had a few minutes ago… another nightmare was probably starting…. he thought bitterly as the smile on his face died away.

Keeping an even closer eye on her now as she slept, he wondered how long it would be before they saw flashes of the 'old Carter.' He knew that she would never completely return to who she'd been before this latest atrocity. No one could ever go back to who they were in the past, even without torture. But, how would the 'healing process' progress over the next few weeks, months and years?

He knew it was too soon to be thinking of such things, but he wondered if she would ever be able to go back to the team. To go back to SG-1. To go out with the rest of them. To go through the gate.

She had a zest for exploration… it was the only thing that kept her from working in the lab 24/7. She had a curiosity and a need to explore. She wanted to go through the gate… to see what was on the other side. That curiosity and zest put a sparkle in her eyes that he found irresistible.

And, he knew that she'd have a hard time adjusting to restricted duty if she couldn't pass the psych tests allowing her to travel through the gate with them. That would just compound what had been done to her. It would add to the injuries compiled by the NID and their 'procedure.' Sure, they'd let her help fix the Stargate… they'd let her make it better… but that would just make things worse if she wasn't allowed to travel through it again on missions of exploration.

He was standing by her shoulder now, speaking to her softly as she grew more restless, her face contorted with pain as the nightmare progressed.

There were drugs that would allow her to sleep so deeply that she wouldn't dream… but she'd discussed those options with the doctors and she had vehemently refused. The drugs did not solve the problems, they just buried them. And most patients became dependent on the drugs. She would have no chance at the future that she wanted if she was dependent on a life of drugged oblivion. He was proud of her decision, but, here, late at night, when the nightmares came, he wanted to make them stop, he wanted to see her sleep peacefully.

"Shhhh….," he whispered to her as she was mumbling and beginning to thrash around a bit. He sat on the edge of the bed and leaned back and gently pulled her to his chest. Wrapping his arms around her to help still her, he spoke gently to her.

The doctors had spoken with her father and the men of SG-1. They wanted to refrain from using the restraints, however, that meant that at least one of them would have to always be present to help prevent her from injuring herself or damaging any equipment. Beings that the men had been maintaining their constant presence since her arrival in the SGC infirmary, the doctors had felt that they might be able to make it work.

She started violently and her eyes jerked open. "Hey, there," Jack said softly. "Its OK, you're allright."

She looked at him with wide eyes, but then she relaxed and sagged against him. "Sir...?" she asked weakly.

"You were having a nightmare and you got a little restless," he explained gently, but he could see that she was putting the pieces together already.

"What was it?" he prompted in the same gentle tone.

Silence answered him as she lay there weakly. She didn't want to tell him. She never did. But they'd talked about this with the doctors. She knew that most people healed faster when they talked about their ordeal, their nightmares, their fears and their feelings. She knew that if she kept it bottled up, that she would not heal… and she would not be allowed to return to active duty… at least what active duty meant for her. Working with them on SG-1.

He didn't push. He just waited. Sometimes, she fell back asleep before she figured out how to describe or explain what it had been about. Sometimes, he was relieved, even though he knew that she needed to talk about it….

And, then she was talking… slowly, and so softly that he could barely hear her. This last nightmare had been one where she was back in one of the machine sessions. Trapped with the pain. Unable to find a way out. Trapped for years and years. This became a new, unending reality.

She talked for 45 minutes… sometimes wandering off into fragments of the concepts of physics that she'd worked on in the machine sessions… other times trying to describe the pain… or the horror at not being able to escape…

And, she tried to describe how alone she was. For years and years trapped, alone with just the pain and her thoughts for company and distraction. It hadn't actually been years… it had only been 5-6 hours for each session… but in her reality, it was years and years.

Alone for so long.
That torture had been worse than the pain.
Worse than any other part of the procedure.
To be alone for so long.
Alone and in pain.
With no way out.

He held her gently and spoke to her softly when she finished.
He told her that she was not alone, not anymore.


Jacob watched Jack comfort his daughter. Jacob did not interrupt. She needed the outlet.

Jacob had watched all of the men with Sam over the past week and they had all been tender, compassionate and considerate. As well as dedicated. There was often more than one of them present.

There was no pressure to get SG-1 back on the boards. O'Neill was running the SGC and Sam was out of action for the near future. Neither Daniel nor Teal'c was asking for any offworld assignments. In fact, Daniel had asked to work on stuff in his lab for the undetermined future and Teal'c had asked to be put on temporary stand-down until further notice. As neither of them were military personnel, there was little the military could complain about.

Each of the men was helping her when she had the nightmares.
And all of them were drawing her out.
Getting her to talk to them about what had happened.

And, she had impressed him again. By agreeing to talk. By actually doing it.

Jacob knew how painful it was. He knew that what she really wanted to do was say she was "Fine" and get everyone to believe it. He knew that she'd much rather bury the experiences and just try to move on and pretend that the past couple of weeks hadn't happened. But she also knew that that wouldn't work.

And, she wanted to heal. As much as possible.

They'd talked about it, the two of them, and with the doctors and with the guys. She couldn't allow Gravek and the NID to take away or destroy any more of her life. She may never return to normal, or to the way she was 'before,' but no one was ever the same as they were in the past.

She needed to heal… somehow.

The Asgard and the Nox and the Ascended had repaired her shredded mind, now she had to work on repairing her psyche… and her soul.

So, she was talking. Even when she didn't want to.

The fact that they had seen the video records had actually helped her to open up to them. At first, she'd been embarrassed… and upset that they had seen it. She didn't want them to see her so… trapped and beaten and helpless. But because they had… it helped push back some of the loneliness. They hadn't been there with her… they hadn't been in her mind with her… but they could reach out to her now…. they could be with her now.

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Another 5 days passed and then the doctors announced that they felt that Sam should move out of the infirmary. Not to go home. Not even close… yet. But to her own quarters. Provided that the men agreed to maintain their 24/7 schedule. No problem for the guys. Jacob had told the Tokra that he was 'on leave' indefinitely… he'd actually told them 'Don't call me, I'll call you,' to Selmak's amusement.

Jacob was actually surprised by his symbiote's acquiescence to remain on Earth while Samantha recovered. Selmak had finally admitted, that after living for more than 500 years, she realized that a few months, or even years, away from the frantic life of the Tokra spy-world… well, it just wasn't that big of a deal, in the long run. Besides, Selmak felt a deep affection for Samantha and she wanted to stick around for awhile, anyway! Jacob had just shrugged in amusement and let it go. The symbiote was constantly surprising him.

So… Sam got to move into her quarters… and eat meals in the commissary…. and take short walks outside on the top of the mountain.

Sam began to feel guilty about the amount of time that the guys were having to spend watching her… And they were waiting for her protestations. She finally compromised with them. She agreed to let them continue to have one of them with her every night, as long as they slept, too. They had a spare bed moved into her quarters. But they made her agree that she would wake them up when she awoke from a nightmare. This agreement was hard-struck on all sides. They were agreeing to stop watching her sleep every moment of every night, if she agreed to not bottle any of it up, to not hide anything away.

The first meal in the commissary was an event. Everyone wanted to say hi. To say welcome back. There were big smiles and looks of deep concern and sympathy. In short, lots of attention… and Sam Carter never strove for the limelight. She worked hard and produced amazing results, but she never jumped up and down and said "Look at Me, Look at What I Did!" No, that was not, Sam. Usually, she was oblivious to most of the attention and praise sent her way. It made her uncomfortable when it was pointed out.

As weird as it was true… Sam Carter…was a bit shy.

She was a warrior who had faced advancing Jaffa…
…with a P90 on full automatic.
She had stared down Go'a'uld System Lords.
She had flown jets and loved to ride motorcycles.
She jumped at the chance to participate in a Space Race.
She'd worked for years in the male-dominated military.

And, yet… Sam Carter… was shy.

That was another part of her psyche that made her who she was. That made her special.

It was a part that made her adorable when few would ever think that adorable could be applied to someone who could shoot a P90 and blow things up with C4.

So… the first trip to the commissary was tiring for her. They'd thought it out ahead of time, though and they'd gone between main meal times, and they'd asked all base personnel to be open, yet quiet. They had also ordered that NO ONE would approach her with the latest gate calamity that 'Only She Could Solve.'

Daniel and Jacob had taken her on that first excursion. Jack and Teal'c had drawn the short straws as they had decided to limit the number of people and the amount of activity accosting her.

She'd done well, although she had looked tired… and sad. Everything that had once been taken for granted, that was all now difficult and challenging. She'd participated in the conversations and she had gamely smiled even when it didn't reach her eyes or her soul.

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Jack and Teal'c got to take her outside for the first time. Just for a short walk to the side of the main parking lot and then over into the trees where there was a place to sit and enjoy the sun, the shade and the forest.

They talked when she wanted to and they allowed her silence when she needed it.


After a few days of this routine, Sam wanted to start back into a physical workout routine. The doctors agreed, as long as she stayed within the limits that they proscribed. She rolled her eyes as the doctors specified what she couldn't do.

Hope sparked in Jack's heart when he saw her roll her eyes and look at him with bemusement as the doctor droned on. Hope that Sam was healing. Hope that she was moving on beyond the horrors.

And, besides, he loved her sense of humor… she laughed at his jokes. She had a great sense of humor! So he grinned back at her and raised his eyebrows to show that he understood.

When all was said and done, Sam was allowed to work out in the gym and begin light workouts with Teal'c.

The next two weeks passed and Sam's progress improved.
She returned to light duty in the labs and she continued working out.

She maintained the daily sessions with the base psychiatrist and she continued talking with the guys. Sharing and not burying things when they came up.

The base psychiatrist wasn't buying it.
He couldn't believe it.
Not after what she'd been through.
He'd read her file. Her extensive file.
Extensive even before this latest NID torture.
He also knew that she was brilliant. A genius. A certified genius.
A practical genius who solved problems on-the-fly in the field. Under pressure.

So, he figured that she was lying.
Lying to them all.

He didn't believe that anyone could recover from what she had been through and then return to a 'normal' life… and certainly not to 'active' duty.

He'd been meeting with her daily, five days a week for several weeks, now.
He'd read the physicians reports.

He had sessions with her father and each of her teammates every few days. Together and separately. They all seemed open.

But, he knew that they were all taken-in by her act, by her lies.
She had to be lying.
He couldn't believe otherwise.

All of his prior experiences told him that she could not be healed.
She could get better. But she would never be healed.

It was his job to help her cope with that reality.


"Dad?" Sam looked at him with a small frown.

"Yeah?" He returned curiously. They were working out in the gym. He was showing her some Tokra hand-to-hand combat moves.

"I don't think that MacKenzie is ever going to clear me for active duty," She stated.

"Sam, its too early for that and you know it…," and he trailed off when he saw her face.

"Dad, I know it wouldn't be soon… but I don't think that MacKenzie is ever going to clear me. Not this year or the next!" She replied in frustration and sat down on the bench alongside the wall.

"Dad, I've done everything that 'they' say that I am supposed to do. Everything that 'they' say that someone is supposed to do after going through something like what happened…. I have really, truly, honestly tried to do it," and the tears were welling up and spilling down her face and she did not fight them. She just let them fall.

Her father watched silently and did not interrupt her.

"Even here, Dad, even with this," she continued, "Before, I would have just kept my suspicions to myself. I would have figured that it didn't matter in the long run, because I could show him that he was wrong. That I'd be strong enough to convince him so that he couldn't argue in the face of the facts…. but, now I'm scared that I won't be able to… that I won't be strong enough to make him face it… and that will make him right, in the end….," and she closed her eyes and leaned back against the wall.

"Angel… you're right….," Jacob admitted to her. "Jack and the guys and I have been talking about the same thing… the questions that MacKenzie asks and his tone of voice have led us to the same conclusion....."

She was watching him curiously, "I thought you would just tell me that I was imagining things and that I needed to just give it all some more time…!"

"Well…. that is the first answer that pops into our heads…," he admitted ruefully, "But, in this case… Well, all this 'openness' has apparently affected the rest of us, too, angel, because the four of us guys bearded the lion in his den two days ago!" He smiled at her stunned look which was quickly becoming apprehensive, so he continued, "Daniel and Teal'c had to keep a muzzle on Jack, but we finally got MacKenzie to admit that he thought that First, no one could recover from something like what you'd gone through… so he figures that you have been lying…"

"But! I haven't been! That moron! I've been more 'open' than I've ever been in my life about anything like this!" Sam was standing and almost shouting. She started to continue ranting, but was nonplussed at her father's grinning reaction. He wasn't trying to calm her down… he was grinning at her. "Wha-a-at?" She asked suspiciously.

"Nothing… nothing…," he replied with the grin still plastered across his face.

"Then… what are you grinning about?" she asked with a slightly dangerous tone and narrowing eyes. And, now he was starting to laugh. Which caused her to stand back in stunned disbelief.

"Are you… going… to explain...?" She asked after allowing him to settle down. But he was still chuckling… and grinning.

"Look, Sam," and he stood up and held her shoulders as he faced her. "I just… missed seeing that fire in your eyes… the righteous indignation… I guess I've missed having you put me in my place… or tell me off… it's… just been awhile… that's all."

"THAT is something that you miss?" she asked in disbelief, but with a small smile playing on her lips.

"Well, I don't want to see it too often… but, yeah… I guess I have missed it," he admitted with a loving smile.

"Parents!" she muttered and rolled her eyes…. which caused him to hug her while laughing again.

When he'd settled down again, he pulled apart from her and indicated that they retake their seats on the bench. "Now about MacKenzie…. you've got the first part..."

"Yeah, that no one could recover from this and so I must be lying…," she quickly interjected with anger.

"…right….," and he looked at her and knew that she was going to hate the second part just as much, if not more…, "well, the second part was that MacKenzie believes that you are too smart for the whole set-up… he believes that you are smart enough to convince everyone of exactly what they want to hear…."

And this time, she didn't explode. She just sagged. She looked defeated.

He hadn't seen this happen to her very often and it broke his heart.

He'd much rather see the fire. He'd rather have her angry and stomping down to MacKenzie's office and tearing him a new one.

"Dad, I don't know what else to do….," she said it in a low, dispirited voice. "I haven't been lying, I haven't been faking anything…. but if he doesn't believe me… if he's going to use me against myself ….what else can I do?"

He reached over and tousled her hair. "We're working on that one, angel. MacKenzie is not the only psychiatrist out there. And he doesn't have to have the final, or only, word about what happens."

Hope flared in her eyes as she understood what he was saying. She took a deep breath and stood back up. "Still feel like a little more?" she gestured to the workout mat.

"After you," he smiled at her regained enthusiasm. That she'd rebounded just now spoke volumes to him about her recovery.

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The pain was neverending.
She was searching for someone.
Anyone else.
But she couldn't find anyone.
She was alone.
Here with the pain.
Her head hurt. Ached and throbbed.
How long had she been here?
She had no idea.
There had to be a way out.
Why couldn't she find it?
Blurry images passed in front of her.
She tried to focus on them, but they refused to become clearer.
She couldn't even make out what they were supposed to be.
And the sounds… garbled sounds.
What language?
Where was this?
Aaaaaaaaa……….the pain……when will the pain stop????

Jack awoke to hear her mumbling and thrashing violently. He jumped off the spare bed and sat on the edge of hers. Carefully, he reached over to her. Careful to not startle her. She was still thrashing, and he let her move freely while he tried to soothe her with his voice.

She hadn't had such a strong, violent nightmare for two weeks.

But it wasn't unexpected after Jacob had told the rest of the guys about his conversation with her that morning regarding MacKenzie. That jerk was making her feel helpless again. Jack wanted to rip the guys head off, but the others had convinced him that any such actions would not help Carter. OK, so it had been Teal'c who had forced O'Neill to listen to that….

She jerked awake and lay on the bed, panting and squeezed her eyes shut. He didn't touch her and he didn't say anything. He let her have her moments. He just waited. He smiled inside to himself…who would have figured that Jack O'Neill could maintain this behavior? Not Jack O'Neill that's for sure! And not for just anybody….

Slowly, she opened her eyes and saw him sitting there. He gave her what he hoped was a small, encouraging smile. "Sorry, I woke you up," she started to fall back into the evasion tactics of the 'Old Carter,' but then she realized it and smiled at herself. "Sorry," she said, and just left it there for a moment.

He didn't answer, but just moved so that he was leaning back against the wall and he gently pulled her so that she was laying against his chest. And, then he just held her. She didn't protest or argue, she just lay there silently for a few minutes and then he could feel her crying. He didn't say anything, he just held her.

Eventually, she started talking.
Telling him about the nightmare and the memories.
The pain.
Being alone. Completely alone.
The years and years of being alone.
And the pain.
Then the blurry images that were so frustrating.
Never in focus.
Making her convinced that she was insane.
The garbled sounds.
Adding to the insanity.
And the pain.
The beautiful physical concepts.
The spectacular way that the concepts interlocked and worked off of each other.
But the pain was always there.
And the torture of being alone.
So very alone.

He held her and tears fell down his face as he listened to her. This was the first time that she had ever used any positive adjectives when describing what she'd been through during the sessions with the machine. He wondered what it meant. It was so new, that it scared him.


The next morning, when Sam was in her meeting with MacKenzie, Jack related the evening's events to the other guys. None of them knew what it meant either, if anything. They all decided to wait and see for a few days…

What they didn't know was that Sam was sharing it with MacKenzie. In spite of thinking that he was an asshole, she had decided to continue with her best efforts. So, she was still treating him with the respect that his position demanded, even if she didn't believe that he deserved it.

So, she related the nightmare to him. Honestly. In much the same words that she had used when talking to Jack.

And, MacKenzie caught the same thing that Jack did. And he noticed that Carter seemed very unaware of what she'd done. He knew she was brilliant…. but was she that brilliant? Her files said she was… but they also said that she was about as honest as they come. He'd been rethinking his earlier beliefs that she was lying…. He'd realized that he was not being scientific or objective. He had, actually, diagnosed her and assayed her prognosis in advance. He was beginning to realize that he'd done her a grave and deep injustice.

He still didn't believe that she, or anyone, could recover from what she'd been through. But he also realized, that he wasn't even giving her the chance. Slim as it may be. So very, very infinitesimally slim….

She was looking at him quizzically now… and now, he knew that she was assessing him. She's started doing it last week. And that was when he'd started having his doubts about his prognosis.

So, he grinned at her… and her face opened in total surprise… which made him smile even wider… now she was looking at him as if had grown two heads… and like she wanted a quick exit….

"Errr…. Doctor...?" She said it with a worried look at him… for his sanity.

He fought the smile down. She's actually won. She didn't know it yet, but she'd convinced him to give her the benefit of the doubt. Now, how to tell her… while retaining some of his dignity and professional pride?

"Colonel Carter," he addressed her formally by her rank, and he saw the curious look on her face, "It is my assessment that you have made sufficient progress to start returning to your home in the evenings and to taking the weekends offbase," He watched her eyebrows climb her forehead in surprise. This was obviously that last thing that she had expected today…and from him.

"Furthermore, I recommend that you be evaluated in six week's time, by a panel of SGC approved psychiatrists to determine when and if you are ready to return to active duty," and he waited… and was not disappointed.

"What! You mean… but I thought…," she mumbled and spluttered and then… "In spite of the nightmare?" she asked.

"Colonel, everyone has nightmares. Some are worse than others. What is important is if they become debilitating. You have not allowed yours to do so," and he paused. "I am proud of you, Colonel. Very few people could do what you have done. You should be proud of yourself. And I mean that very sincerely."

"Um… thanks," she said politely, but with embarrassment. "I was just trying to… to handle it the best way that I could… and I couldn't have done it alone…. my Dad and the guys… if they hadn't been there, I don't think I would be talking to you today…. I'd have been drugged senseless in some institution."

"Samantha, they helped you and were there for you because of who you are and what you mean to them. They wanted to help you. They would have been devastated if you had shut them out," he explained to her something that hadn't occurred to her.

She let it run through her mind and she nodded in agreement, "I would have been devastated if one of them had shut me out from helping them through something like this. And angry. And…," she smiled and shrugged. She would have been pissed.

He nodded at her. The rest of their session went quickly as they mapped out a new schedule for the next month. She would only meet with him once a day, instead of twice. After she got settled at home for a few weeks, they would discuss when she would start spending time alone again. Sleeping at home alone. Spending a Saturday at home alone.

They would talk about it over the next couple of weeks. What she should expect. And where not to push herself. Where not to expect too much. Or too fast.

She got to spring the news on the guys at lunch. They were as surprised as she was at MacKenzie's apparent turnaround. She explained what she and the doctor had discussed about the coming weeks and the guys quickly laid out a schedule and a plan that included rented tapes, popcorn, pizza, hockey games, etc. When they looked up after awhile, they were concerned to find her crying.

"Sam?" Daniel asked worriedly, afraid of a setback.

"I'm sorry… I shouldn't be crying…. I… just want to say thanks… you've all been so great over the past month, plus…. and I want you to know… that I know that I wouldn't have made it without you guys…"

And they all melted. Jacob walked over to give his daughter a hug, but found that he had to stand in line. He waited good-naturedly as these men held her fiercely, each in turn.

"Teal'c-boy, gently, gently, you're going to crack her ribs, there big fella," O'Neill chided the Jaffa, but the big man simply raised one eyebrow at O'Neill's remarks.

"You simply want me to surrender her to your clumsy attempts, O'Neill!" the Jaffa sent back to him and watched in victory as Jack's cheeks reddened.

But, then, Jack rallied with a sardonic, "Yeah, so?" and he took her from the Jaffa's embrace and hugged her even tighter.

"Oooof, great, guys… could you maybe finish this in one of your gym sessions?" she gasped, but grinned at them affectionately.

Deciding to save his daughter, Jacob stepped over, "Jack, it's time that a father got to spend a little more time with his only daughter… what do you say?"

Jack raised his eyebrows playfully. "You want her? What's it worth to you?" He looked sideways at Daniel and Teal'c because he was pretty sure that he knew what was coming next.

And, he got it. But then, he'd soooo asked for it. And Jacob didn't even try to save him.

"Uuugghhhh…rrrrrr….," and she pushed away from him and stood there looking at him in mock disgust. At least he hoped it was mock disgust.

So, he put on a cheesy, sheepish grin.

And, she gave it to him. A shake of the head and a smile that said… 'don't push it… too far…'

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

She'd been home for two weeks.
Working 'regular' hours at the base and then coming home for evenings and weekends.
The guys still stayed with her.
One of them was always home with her.
But they'd taken to sleeping in the other room.

With the deal staying the same.
She wouldn't hide anything.
She'd wake them up if she had a bad one.
She'd let them know what she was feeling.

Jacob could have been the one to be there every night. But he hadn't suggested it. He hadn't claimed it as his right as her father… even though he'd thought about it. He'd let Selmak talk to him about it. They'd both decided that she needed the guys to know everything… and they needed to be there for her. If he had been the one there for her every night, as a father for a daughter, then it would have pushed the guys away. And he didn't think that any of them would have survived.

So, he'd let them be a big part of everything.
He hadn't had to ask.
They'd just been there.


She was doing pretty well sleeping on her own.

But the guys were having trouble sleeping knowing that no one was in there with her. It was easier for them on the nights when they got to sleep in the spare room. At least they were nearby. And she occasionally woke them after a bad nightmare. And they'd talk, and they'd hold her.

Jack was finding it especially difficult.
There'd always been some kind of connection between him and Sam.
Between the Colonel and the Major.
Now the General and the Colonel.

For so many years, they'd worked at maintaining the professional distance and decorum demanded by their positions. But these past months had wiped those boundaries into non-existence. They'd been allowed this closeness because it was not romantic… and because it was perceived as a team experience. Not a General and Colonel relationship.

But he'd held her close many times over the past months.
He'd been allowed to comfort her.
She'd spoken honestly to him about painful, personal experiences.
She'd laid herself bare and he'd been allowed inside her soul.
He didn't think he could go back to General and Colonel.
Not if the closeness had to be left behind. Ignored.

It was different for the rest of the guys.

Daniel was not in the military. He was already her friend. He'd continue to be her friend, just ever closer than before.

Teal'c was not in the US military either. He had had her deep respect and admiration for years. And, he knew that they'd gotten closer. Formed a deep friendship.

And, Jacob, well, he was her Dad! He got to hold her anytime he wanted to. Her eyes lit up when he came through the gate. She looked at him with love and affection. He knew that Sam and Jacob had had a strained relationship when she was younger, but now, their relationship just seemed to deepen and strengthen as the years passed.

And where did that leave him? Jack? General Jack O'Neill?

On the proverbial outside looking inside!

He tossed and turned and couldn't get to sleep. He got up quietly and looked in on her. She seemed to be sleeping quietly. He stood and watched her for a few minutes, but then headed back to his room. Couldn't have her catching him there….


When he woke up in the early morning hours, something was different…. it was still dark…he moved…and felt something next to him…something warm….

Moving slowly, he turned and saw Sam lying snuggled up against him. She was lying on top of the covers in her rumpled pajamas and bare feet. He watched her for a few minutes. She looked so peaceful much of the time now. She seemed to be getting some good sleep… sleep that wasn't filled with pain.

She moved and woke up, obviously startled at where she was. Then she looked over and realized that he was awake and watching her.

"Hey," that's all he said. No demands for any explanations. She probably had a nightmare, but if it was bad enough to get her out of bed, then she was to have woken him up. Which she obviously hadn't….

"Umm… hi," she said, with her cheeks reddening again and she looked away from him. "I… um….had a nightmare…but I… really didn't want to talk… I just… I just wanted to be with someone… to not be… alone…."

"It's OK," he said softly and he gestured to her to slide over while he pulled the covers back. "Come here," he ordered and she looked at him questioningly. "Don't worry, we won't cross any lines, we won't go any further than we have before. Just come in here out of the cold," he kept his voice gentle and non-demanding. He tried to say it like a concerned friend. A very concerned friend.

And she smiled shyly at him and snuggled in against him.
He knew that they were playing with fire.

But he also knew that he would never try to advance their relationship while she was still vulnerable and recovering from what had happened.

She fell asleep within a few minutes, but he didn't.

He spent the rest of the dark, morning hours just holding her close and thinking.


Well, actually, he must have fallen asleep…because, the next thing he knew he was waking up and the room was bright from sunlight streaming in the window. He looked at the clock. 9:30am. Waaaay late for him.

But he didn't want to move yet. She was still sleeping snuggled up against him. So he lay there listening to her breathe and watching her, just watching and listening.

She stirred around 10:15am. She moved a little and then squinted her eyes against the morning brightness. And, then, she opened her eyes and her eyes met his watching her. He smiled at her. She looked at him in askance.

"Ummm…wha-a...," and then it came back to her. "Oh!" and she moved herself away from him, embarrassed to realize that she was in bed with her CO.

"Carter, its OK," he spoke with the same soft tones. The last thing he wanted was to start guilt trips ontop of everything else that she had to deal with. She was sitting on the edge of the bed, facing away from him now.

"Carter…?" he prodded.

She looked at him briefly over her shoulder and then turned sideways so that her back was not to him. "Sorry… I…"

"Feel like talking about that nightmare now?" He asked without trying to pressure her.

She looked at him for a few moments, reflecting on it and then considering. Nodding, "Yes, but how about we scare up some breakfast and then talk about it?"

"Sounds great to me," he replied, patting his stomach.

"OK, then, I'll see you in a few minutes," she said and left the room to him.

The room felt so empty with her gone.

He looked at the bed and thought about how empty it looked with her gone.
He sighed. He knew that he needed to stop torturing himself.
But he also knew that he'd fallen in love with her years ago.
He was sooo much more in love with her now.
He closed his eyes for a moment. Just for a moment.
Before he got up and faced the world.

"Jack?" that came to him in a deep baritone that was definitely not Sam's… no, that was Jacob.

'Uh Oh.'

It had only been a few minutes since Sam had left… which meant that Jacob had undoubtedly seen her leave Jack's room… and/or he'd been here long enough that he'd noticed her empty bed… and had peeked in here… to see her snuggled up against him….

He didn't want to open his eyes.
And that probably make him look more guilty.

So he opened his eyes.
To meet Jacob's eyes staring at him assessingly.

"Good morning, Jacob," he tried innocence. And he was innocent. In actions, if not in the purest of thoughts. Although, he had to admit, that his fantasies lately had been pretty G-rated…. mainly consisting of just holding her.

"Jack…?" Jacob was scrutinizing him.

Focus. Focus. Do not let the thoughts wander… not right now. This is her father.

"Umm…yeah?" he responded.

"Sam told me that she had a nightmare last night and didn't wake you up… she just…," and Jacob let it trail off.

"Yeah, she was a little embarrassed, but she just didn't want to be alone…," Jack explained. "I woke up and she was laying on top of the covers, asleep…. she woke up and I didn't push her… she didn't seem to want to talk about the details last night…. so I just had her get under the covers to get out of the cold, and I held her until she went to sleep." Jack snuck a look at Jacob but the older man was watching him expressionlessly. "She said that she's willing to talk about it over breakfast….," Jack finished.

Jacob let the silence hang there for a few moments. "Jack, you and the others have been great for her over the past few months. I can't tell you how grateful I am that you were all here for her – in the way that you were here for her."

"But I also know how dangerous it is for the two of you. For you and her, specifically. I know that Daniel and Teal'c do not face the same challenges or hurdles that the two of you do," Jacob continued and Jack was stunned.

Jacob smirked when he realized why Jack was silent. "Jack, I know that you know that you have to wait. You have to wait until she is better," and he paused. "But don't wait too long after that, OK. If you do, you'll fall back into your old relationship… and then one of you is going to get killed… or one of you is going to go on with your lives with someone else."

Jack just stared at Sam's father. Was hereally saying this to him… about her?

"So…uhhh…you'd be OK…with…ummmm…. Me and Sam…that is, Sam and Me… errr… in spite of the regs and all…???" he stopped then continued… "So…ummm, you're OK… with me… and your daughter… you're OK…with me?"

"Well, I'll be honest with you, Jack," and the older man pinned him with his eyes. "There are days when I think you're good enough for her… if she thinks you are… then there are days when I think you would be the worst thing for her…," and Jack winced, "but, then, there are days, when you let your tenderness and love show…and then I think that you are the best thing that could ever happen to her."

And, at this, Jack couldn't stop his grin.

"But remember, always remember… the choice is hers and hers alone. It doesn't matter what you or I think. What matters is what she thinks," Jacob finished.

"Yes, sir," Jack replied politely, glad to be let off so lightly when this whole conversation could have taken so many other less palatable paths.

OK, so maybe Jacob wasn't finished, because he turned back to Jack and stopped and leaned back in the doorway and said in a low, threatening voice. "And, Jack, you've hurt her in the past. Never forget that. I never will. She's forgiven you. I haven't. You can atone. Never hurt her again. If you do, I'll rip your lungs out through your nose… and that's just how it will start," and with that parting shot, Jacob disappeared.

Jack let out a long, deep breath that he'd been holding for longer than he realized.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

General O'Neill stood in the lower levels of the SGC looking at that machine. All of the data and records of the project were stacked in boxes in several adjacent rooms. The doctors had decided that they could now ask Carter what she wanted to do with it all. Jack still advocated destroying it. All of it. Every last data byte. He set a zat next to the machine. It was her choice. Time to go and ask her.


Walking along the corridor to her lab, he reveled in the sense of familiarity and anticipation. Just as with several months ago, he was already picturing her working intently on some alien doohickey… or absorbed in some complex mathematical equations on her laptop….

Upon reaching the doorway, he stood quietly, watching her. She was holding a strange black and green metal object in front of her. Twisting it around and staring pensively at it from all angles. She poked and prodded… pulled at a few 'thingies' that stuck out from the lower left of it….

"Hey, Carter," he said as he stepped further in. She didn't answer him as she continued inspecting the newly-found alien-technology.

"Carter?" he tried a second time from across the table from her.

"Sir?" she looked up, startled to see him. She glanced around as if checking for other people who had also managed to pop into her lab without her noticing.

"Hey, I'm over here," he waved at her and got a mock glare in return.

"Yes, sir?" she repeated as she set the alien piece down.

"Carter…do you know what happened to all of the materials and equipment seized at the NID research facility? O'Neill asked.

"Yes, it's downstairs on the lower levels," She replied without any emotion.

"Well, Carter, the President and the head of the Joint Chiefs have deliberated about the disposition of these materials and the equipment…," he paused and she did not move, she just waited. "They have decided, that the only moral decision is… that you decide what becomes of it all. The NID does not get to keep any of it. Nor the Air Force or any other government or private agency," he paused again, watching her face. She had not reacted at all. Not even a twitch, a flinch or a grimace.

"As the sole survivor," and here she did flinch…, "you will represent the interests of those who died." She closed her eyes as he continued. "You can have it all destroyed. You can destroy it yourself. Or you can decide some other fate for it all. The choice is yours and yours alone," he concluded.

Silence descended on them as the minutes passed. Her eyes began wandering over the alien piece in front of her restlessly.

"When do I have to decide by?" she asked quietly.

"I don't think that there is a rush… I don't foresee any imminent other needs for the storage space in the near future… so, I think it's up to you…?" he continued watching her carefully.

"Yes, sir, thank you, sir," she nodded to him.

"Well,… I'll let you get back to this doohickey, here," and that got a small smile out of her. "Right, then… see you for lunch?"

"Sure, sir," she replied as she turned back to her inspection of the alien piece as he turned to leave.

"Um… sir?" He stopped at the doorway and turned back.

"Yeah, Carter?"

"If I… do I…, that is… if I go down to the lower levels, do I need special access to get inside the storage rooms?" She asked hesitantly.

"It's presently coded to your security access card… and yours only. Even I can't get in now," he let her know.

"Yes, sir, thank you, sir," she replied again as she turned back to her work.

"But, Carter… you don't have to go down there alone….," he said as he stepped back into the lab. "You know, it's probably not such a good idea for you to go down there alone…," he continued as he began to worry about what she might be thinking or what might happen to her.

She looked up at him and met his eyes steadily for a few moments and then nodded again. "Yes, sir."

Again. 'Yes, sir.' again … Geesh! Was he tired of 'Yes, sir!'

But he didn't tell her that. He just nodded back at her and headed back out the door.

"Sir?" she stopped him again at the doorway and he turned around again.

"Yes?" he replied curiously.

"Would you have time… this afternoon, or tomorrow… I think I should look at what's down there," she asked.

"No problem, Carter. I'll have Corporal Rivers check my calendar, but I think that you should be able to just call me when you are ready…."

"What about now?" she asked and she closed her eyes at the effort that this was all taking.

"Right now is fine," he replied without hesitation. "Just let me call the Corporal and have him take care of whatever fun things he had planned for the next few hours," and he stepped over to her lab phone and spoke quickly with Rivers.

"OK…. then…, if you are sure that you are ready," he turned back to her.

She nodded and they headed downstairs.


She stood staring at the boxes and boxes and boxes of materials.
She had the inventory list in her hand, but she had hardly looked at it.
She just stood staring at the boxes.

Finally, she came over to where the machine was laid out on a counter.

She saw the zat sitting off to the side and she did not comment on it.

She stepped towards the quiet machine and started to reach her hand out, but then stopped and stepped back again. Her eyes were full of tears.

She'd read the outline report that the SGC task force had assembled.
She knew about the previous subjects who had all died.
She had their names, ages and brief histories.
And she'd read them all.

She stood there for over an half an hour. Standing, thinking and crying.
She'd let him hold her. But she'd continued just staring at the boxes.
And, then she stepped back.
He could tell that her mind was made up.

"Sir, I'd like to destroy any of the materials or data retrieved by the machine from the other test subjects… no one should profit from their deaths…. and no one should benefit when the data taken was taken by force in this manner," she pulled in a ragged breath.

He nodded his agreement.

"Next, I'd like to ask the Asgard… I'd like to ask Thor a few questions… about the machine itself before I make any other decisions." She finished with, "And… if its allright with you and Daniel and Teal'c, sir… I don't want anyone but SG-1, and my Dad, going sorting through these boxes…."

"I'll see what they are doing," and he turned to the nearest wall phone.


By the end of the afternoon, they had sorted out the results obtained from the machine from the previous test subjects.

Sam walked over and picked up the zat. They all stepped clear and stayed silent.
Without any fanfare, she zatted the boxes, three times quickly and they disappeared.
They all stood silently and waited for Sam to speak.
She didn't get the chance.

A blue light blinded them and then Thor was standing in front of them.

"Colonel Carter, O'Neill sent a message that you wished to speak with me?" The small, grey alien inquired.

"Um, yes, Thor… I wanted to speak with you regarding this Ancient mind machine," and she gestured to the machine arrayed on the counter. The alien nodded minutely. "Thor, were you and the Asgard able to figure out how it works?" she asked.

Thor studied her carefully. "No, we did not study the piece long enough to discover its internal technology. We felt that the disposition of this device should be left to your decision." O'Neill raised his eyebrows… Thor had not told him that….

Sam nodded her head in understanding… "Let me try this question, then, In the time that you spent studying the machine, what were you able to learn?"

"We did learn many things….," Thor prevaricated… "Can you be more specific?"

She narrowed her eyes at him in frustration, but she did not argue. "OK, here's let's try this… Do you believe that this machine could be used correctly, and in such a manner that is not destructive or painful?"

"Ye-e…s...," the alien answered… but there was something 'off' about his answer and she stared at him for a few seconds before continuing.

"Do you, personally, believe that this machine would be used safely and wisely… if left in the care of the Asgard?" She tried a second question.

Silence answered her… and the seconds ticked away slowly as the alien did not reply.

"Thor?" O'Neill prompted and the alien slowly turned and looked at O'Neill as if he had only appeared in the room a few seconds ago.

"I am thinking, O'Neill, please be patient," the alien replied.

"Samantha Carter, are you attempting to decide whether or not to destroy this machine?" he asked.

She nodded, "Yes," and she did not elaborate or explain, she just waited for him to continue.

The alien nodded in understanding and then asked, "How would you hope to see the machine used, if it were not destroyed?"

"For the development of ideas and concepts… in a manner that did not harm the user… and only by those who volunteered for its use…" Sam replied.

The alien again nodded slightly. "Samantha, the Asgard discovered that only one in 6.43 trillion trillion humans would be able to use this machine successfully and without harm to themselves."

"So that means…," Daniel spoke up for the first time in quite awhile, "that Sam is basically the only one…?"

"And, she should not because of the naquadah and protein markers in her blood from her joining with Jolinar," Thor clarified.

"So… no one can safely use it?" Sam spelled it out and the alien nodded gently again.
Nodding resolutely in return, she turned back to the counter and waved the others away.
Three more quick zat shots and the machine disappeared from existence.

"Thor, you also got to look at the results of my sessions with the machine, yes?" Sam asked and the alien nodded again. "Was there anything there… that was 'worthwhile'?"

"Yes. We did not have sufficient time to take more than a glance, as we spent our time searching for a way to assist with your healing. However, the few results that I saw indicated advances beyond present human scientific development... as well as beyond current Asgard development," Thor admitted and O'Neill and Daniel raised their eyebrows.

Sam just nodded and displayed no other reaction.

"Sir," she addressed O'Neill. "I would like to propose that any useful results from my sessions with the machine be given to a group consisting of both human and Asgard scientists…. I would prefer that there be no references to the origin of the materials… and I do not want to participate in any aspect of the research."

"That sound do-able, Colonel," he replied respectfully. "Thor, what do you think?"

"The Asgard would be most honored, O'Neill," Thor returned.

"Thor, how about if I send you another signal when we have things set up here on our side for the beginning of this partnership?" O'Neill asked.

"That sounds acceptable. We will wait to hear from you," the alien replied. "Daniel Jackson, Teal'c, Samantha Carter, Jack O'Neill, I bid you well," and with that the alien disappeared in another blinding flash of blue light.

"Sir?" Sam asked after their retinas fought off the onslaught, "I'd like to separate the results from the machine from all the rest of the records here."

"Do you want to tackle that tonight, or tomorrow?" Jack asked.

"Up to you guys, sir?" she returned considerately.

"Sam, what would you rather do?" Daniel persisted.

"Well…if it's all the same to you guys… I'd just as soon get it over with," she admitted.

Nodding their agreement, O'Neill stopped them with, "After we have some dinner…!" and he herded them out the door to grab something to eat in the commissary before tackling the boxes again.


Five hours later and they were finished. A stack of boxes containing the records of the results from her sessions with the machine were stacked on one side of the room. On the other side of the room, and into the other two storage rooms, they had the rest of the materials. The data. The daily records. The video images. And all of the other records and information collected over the years that the project extended.

"Guys, I think I'm going to need a little help," she smiled ruefully. To the others stunned surprise, Teal'c pulled out three other zats and handed them to the other three men.

"Hey!" Jacob's voice startled them all. "Where are you all? I got a message to come down to some dungeon area?" the Tokra asked as he stepped into the room to see all four members of SG-1 armed with charged zats. "Whoa!" he jolted to a halt.

"Hey, Dad," Sam smiled at him awkwardly.

"So…," he asked with concern on his voice, "Anything going on here that I should be worried about?"

Sam looked embarrassed and looked at the floor, so he looked at the others for help. "Guys?" he prompted.

"Jacob, Sam's deciding what happens to all of this stuff….," Daniel explained for her father and Jacob nodded. He'd known that they had decided that this was to be her choice.

"Right, then… I see that there is a zatnikatel party… can I join?" he asked quickly.

"Didn't you see the BYOZ notation?" Jack asked playfully.

"No…must have missed that….," Jacob quirked an eyebrow.

"That's OK, Jacob, I think we can share," Jack responded.

"Where is the machine?" Jacob asked with a deadly tone.

"Samantha already dispatched the machine, General Carter," Teal'c informed him and the Jaffa's agreement with this action was clear in his tone of voice.

Jacob walked over and hugged his daughter. "I love you, angel," he whispered to her and she looked at him and then looked quickly away, clearly embarrassed.

"So… where do we start?," Jacob asked.

"Almost anywhere, Dad," Sam spoke up quietly. "Just don't get those boxes over there in the corner."

He wanted to ask what was in those boxes, but he didn't. He was pretty sure that he knew. He did know his daughter. And, he could ask the guys for a more detailed explanation later.

Five minutes of high pitched zat blasts later, and the three storage rooms were empty of all but those boxes in the corner. All the records were gone. All the data. All the video images.

"Guys, I have one last request regarding this material," she stood facing the remaining boxes. "I'd like all references to me removed from any of these records…?"

"We shall see to it," Teal'c replied seriously for the others who just nodded.

"Thanks, guys. You've been more than wonderful again, and I don't know how to say thanks," she tried to smile to show them the thanks that they deserved…. but the day had worn its toll on her soul and she couldn't muster much on her face.

Jacob stepped over and put his arm around her. "Sammie, we love you. This, this was cathartic for all of us. Thanks for letting us help out..."

"Yeah, Carter," Jack chimed in, "I've been wanting to zatify that stuff for months….!"

"This is true, Samantha. Over the past few months, O'Neill threatened on many occasions to destroy these materials and records. I think that he described many dreams where he destroyed the materials very creatively," the Jaffa elaborated for them and Jack just shrugged.

"Come on, let's get out of here for the night. We'll take care of the rest of it tomorrow." Jack ushered them out of that last storage room and turned the lights out on the final stack of boxes.


They'd stayed late enough that they decided to stay on base instead of driving home for only a few hours sleep before needing to be back in the morning. Jack walked Sam to her quarters.

"Carter, you constantly amaze me," he told her.

Puzzled, she asked, "Sir...?"

"After all you went through… you handled that all amazingly well…. I know that I wouldn't have handled it anywhere near as well as you did… in fact… I think I would have just torched it all. No questions asked. I would have torched it all in anger... and then zatted the ashes into oblivion," he admitted. "In fact, I wanted to do that to the stuff anyway…."

She just shrugged. "I just tried to do what was right, sir."

"Mmmmmhmmmm….," he studied her face as she walked with her head down by his side. She had no clue how amazing she was. And he wanted to grab her and hold her and never let her go. But he just walked by her side.

Soon, they'd reached the door to her quarters.

"Sir?" she asked for his attention.

"Yeah?" he replied.

"I think I can spend tonight alone, sir," she got the words out, but he could see that she really wasn't sure that she could do it. But he could also see that she wanted to try. It was time. They were here on base. She'd just zatted the machine into oblivion. No one was going to hook her back up to it.

He nodded reluctantly. "Promise that you'll call me if…?"

She nodded with a timid smile. "Yes, sir. But, I'm really hoping... for a good night's sleep… I somehow feel… lighter...," and she looked into his eyes for understanding… and he did. He let her go into her room by herself. He stood outside her door for a few minutes, just thinking… and then, he turned and slowly walked to his quarters to turn in for the evening.


She had slept well that night. And for many other nights.

The nightmares still came, but less and less frequently.

She would never return to the Sam Carter that she was before the procedure, but she was healing. Sometimes, after becoming absorbed in the study or contemplation of a new idea or puzzle, she would find herself remembering the years spent pursuing her ideas in the machine. But, then she would shake off the memories and move on.

Sometimes, a nightmare would be extremely bad… and she would call one of the guys and talk to them immediately. If they were on base, the one called would usually come to her quarters and hold her while she talked it out.

She tried to keep herself from trying to bury it and cover it over.
She couldn't pretend that it didn't happen.
It had. And it had changed her.
But she'd fought back and she was healing.

Sometimes, the guys could see a bleakness in her eyes that hadn't been there before. A knowledge of things painful beyond what she should have ever known. But she wouldn't let it obtain permanent residence. She would not let herself wallow in pity and despair. She refused to give up. She grudgingly accepted what had happened and she refocused her attention on what was around her and what was ahead of her.

She was healing.
MacKenzie had been right, she'd realized.
She would never be healed.
But she was healing… and she would continue to do so.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -


SG-1 was standing at the base of the ramp, ready to explore P3X-917.

The MALP had shown a beach, with palm-like trees before a sunny, blue sky.

The MALP readings indicated a pleasant 82 degrees, with moderate humidity and a light breeze.

Aerial UAV overflights had discovered no humans, although there was rudimentary wildlife… and some ruins of some sort approximately 3 miles from the gate.

There had been no favoritism on mission assignments. SG-1 had simply drawn a planet that (finally) didn't look like a typical forest or a desert planet. Still, the suspiciously paradise-looking conditions were no guarantee for what awaited them on the other side.

General Jack O'Neill, Colonel Sam Carter, Doctor Daniel Jackson and Teal'c all stood quietly alongside each other at the bottom of the ramp.

"Ready, campers?" O'Neill sung out.

"Indeed," "Sure, Jack," Yes, sir." Each of his team replied and he smiled.

"Then let's move out," and he waved at the shimmering vertical pool before them. Walking up the ramp, O'Neill and Carter followed Daniel and Teal'c.

The archeologist and the Jaffa slipped into the pool and disappeared. Jack stopped next to Carter as she slowed to stare at the event horizon. He remembered vividly the first time that she'd stepped up to the rippling blue mirror… she'd run her finger over it lightly… just like she was doing now… and when he'd asked her about it, she'd began enthusiastically describing her awe at the physical wonder in front of her… and, then he'd put his hand on the small of her back… and gently pushed her through…. just like she just did to him, and he saw a look of impish glee on her face before they were both whisked across the galaxy.


The End…. for now?


Many thanks to all SG-1 fanfic writers. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading the countless stories available on the internet. Special thanks to Heliopolis, Gateworld, The Stargate Novel Archive, , etc.! You All Rock!

I highly recommend "Night Sky" by Joolz.