This update changed no story content but was simply to break the stories into chapers to make it easier to read.
This story was written strictly for the purpose of entertainment. No attempt has been made to copyright any characters which may not have been originally created by the author, and no profit is made from this work of fiction. Any original characters and the stories themselves are the property of the author.
Sam was sitting at her desk with a carton of yogurt, now empty, and a copy of "A Dummy's Guide to Planning Your Wedding" in front of her. The book was opened to a neatly highlighted page about bridesmaid's dresses. In a stack next to it were four bride-genre magazines with Post-it tabs sticking out. Originally the idea had been to put the tabs where she found bridesmaid's dresses she liked. One entire pass through hadn't resulted in a single tab. The tabs now in place represented a second pass, flagging those dresses that she didn't think would lead to the bridesmaids quitting en masse. "Good night, this is painful," she lamented to herself.
Leaning back in the chair and staring glumly at the fruits of her lunch hour, she wondered, "What's wrong with me? Women are supposed to really get into this stuff. The medieval custom of marriage by proxy where you don't even have to be present at the ceremony is sounding really appealing. I wonder what it would take to revive that?"
She closed her eyes tiredly and a long forgotten memory surfaced of her nursery and primary school friend, Jennifer, wanting to play bride. "I don't know what happened to her but the way she was into weddings she's probably been married 5 times by now," Sam mused.
A patch of dandelions or a vacant lot with clover immediately suggested a bouquet and anything handy became the veil. It could be something reasonable like a sweater or as minimal as a large leaf. Jennifer's imagination could fill in the rest. Sam, who was not really interested and just going along to make her friend happy, was usually cast as the groom but sometimes she was tapped to conduct the service with a large doll, a passing dog, or a stick standing next to Jennifer as her soon-to-be spouse.
Sam visualized the younger version of herself and Jennifer suddenly transported to her office. That would have been a shocker for little Samantha. At five she was planning on growing up to be a cowgirl. But to follow through on the idea, what would Jennifer have improvised with here? There wasn't anything remotely floral but she did have a pen with a huge big bird eraser on the end, a gift from Teal'c, for reasons that were completely murky. "Okay so that's sort of like a bouquet, like a stem with something on the end."
A veil. Humm. Her eyes fell on a curious Ancient device that had been on the corner of her desk for so long that she didn't even notice it any more. They had run every test they could think of and had never gotten it to do anything. She pulled it to her now and opened up the case. As she remembered, the device came in two parts that they only believed were associated because they had been found together in this apparently custom designed container. One piece was some sort of a handheld control with several buttons and a small flat panel that looked like a possible display area. The other item was a largish, round piece of mesh. It looked metallic but when you picked it up, it draped fluidly over whatever you set it on. She said out loud, wryly noting how far toward the loony bin the wedding preparations were driving her, "Now that looks like Jennifer's idea of a veil."
In the grip of some strange whim, but with enough presence of mind to check first to make sure her door was shut, she pulled out both parts and put them on the desk in front of her. Then she picked up the mesh and positioned it on her head. She noticed immediately that it not only draped over her skull but it seemed to cling. When she looked down to find Big Bird, she was shocked to see that the large center button was now glowing on the control.
This button was common to other Ancient devices they had encountered and she knew it was the Ancient on/off button. So it didn't activate unless the mesh was on someone's head. They hadn't thought of trying that. Her years of scientific training and experience were telling her firmly that she needed to take the mesh off, assemble a team, and test this out methodically. However, little Samantha still was in the room and, without consciously deciding anything, she reached out and pushed the on/off button.
Immediately, a second button to the right and above the first began to glow. "It really is time to stop," her adult self said, this time out loud.
"Naaaah," little Samantha said in her head and Sam pushed the second button. Nothing happened. No more buttons lit up. In fact the two buttons that had been lit, were now dead.
"Well that was disappointing," she thought. "But still, it does suggest a really interesting research direction we can pursue." She removed the mesh which, she noticed, wasn't really clinging any more, put everything back in the case, the case back on the corner of her desk, and chucked the yogurt carton in the trash. Lunch time was over. Score 0 for wedding preparations but 1 at least for the cause of scientific advancement. "I really should try googling Jennifer and see if I can back in touch," she resolved
Sam decided to stop off at the infirmary. Her meeting with Jack was not for another 10 minutes or so and maybe she could cheer up her friend, Dr. Kate Hogan, a bit. She and Kate had bonded instantly when Kate had joined Cheyenne Mountain's medical team six months before to fill part of the gap Janet Frazer had left when she died. Not that ANYONE could completely fill that hole.
"Kate's been so low lately. She hasn't said so in so many words but I bet her biological clock has gone off. She REALLY wants to meet someone she could get serious about. Working the hours she does though, it would just about have to be someone from Cheyenne Mountain," Sam thought and began reviewing likely candidates. It wasn't going much better than the search for bridesmaids' dresses. Then she had a thought, "What about Daniel?" For some reason it wasn't a particularly palatable thought but it did have a certain logic. Both were brilliant in their fields but not completely of this world in some ways.
As she stepped out of her office, Sam noticed a definite pine scent out in the hall. Now that she thought about it, she had noticed the same smell in her office a moment ago. A new cleaning compound?
Sam entered the infirmary but Kate wasn't in sight. She asked a nurse," Is Dr. Hogan around?"
The nurse looked briefly puzzled. "You know I thought she was here. She must have just left. Why don't you check her office, Colonel?"
Sam started to leave and then turned back for a moment, "When did they start using that pine scented cleaning stuff?"
The nurse, immersed in something involving syringes, looked up at her a little surprised to be having any further conversation, "I'm afraid I don't know what you mean, Colonel Carter."
"You don't smell it?"
The nurse was military after all and so she answered respectfully, "I'm sorry Ma'am but I don't smell anything. I've got a cold though."
"Well, okay, thanks."
As Sam neared Kate's office, she heard muffled conversation, Kate and someone else, someone male. Maybe Daniel? It was almost as if she had conjured him up with her mental dating service for Kate a few minutes earlier. Then there was silence. The door was very slightly ajar and curious to know who was in there with Kate before she entered, she peered through the crack.
"I don't believe it," Sam thought shocked. Kate and Daniel were in definite lip lock.
She squeezed her eyes shut. "I … really …don't.. want… to… see… this."
Why did she feel a chair underneath her all of a sudden? When she opened her eyes, she was sitting at her desk with the mesh piece on her head. It was still clinging to her head and there were now four buttons glowing on the control. Also, there was a symbol in the little flat area toward the bottom. The pine smell was gone.
"If you are not going to bring anyone else into this yet, at least ACT like scientist," she admonished herself sternly. Leaving the mesh on her head, she opened Excel and started a spreadsheet. She had a column for the number of the test, a column for each button to note the sequence in which it was pressed, if pressed, a column for what appeared in the display area, and a column for observed consequences.
"Okay, trial number 1," she said addressing her nonexistent colleagues. "We did the center button first" She wrote a 1 in that column "and then it was the button in the upper right hand corner." She wrote a 2 in that column. "I thought about Kate getting together with Daniel and then I found them kissing. If I share this with someone else…humm" On second thought she decided to describe it as "thought about Kate talking to Daniel and found them talking," not completely untrue. Then it occurred to her that the pine smell had been unusual and she noted that.
Thinking about it, it seemed to Sam that you could get very confused by where you were and when. Before she went on to the next trial she wrote the date and time on her white board in large letters, April 3, 1:15.
"Okay, trial number 2 we'll try to repeat trial number 1 results to confirm." Sam pressed the on/off button and all the other buttons stopped glowing. "So I turned it off I guess." She pushed on/off again and saw all of the other buttons that had been glowing before glowing again. She again pushed the button in the upper right hand corner.
Once again the control device had gone dark and the mesh lost its clinginess. Sam noticed a lemony odor. Perhaps every new scenario got its own characteristic odor. Time now to dream up the situation that she would explore. She found she really didn't want to think about Kate and Daniel together. That wasn't really what she had to do to repeat the test anyway. She simply had to think about a specific event and see if it happened. "Okay, here we go. What if Jack decided to retire?"
She removed the mesh, threw away her yogurt carton again, wrote scenario 2 on the white board below the time, and closed up the office. She dropped by the infirmary and found Kate going over some medical records with the nurse. "Hey Kate. How's it going?"
Kate shrugged and said unenthusiastically, "Same old, same old."
"Yeah, I know. Me too. I'm on my way to Jack's office for a meeting. I just thought I'd stop and say Hi."
Kate suddenly looked energized and she walked over to Sam in the doorway. "Step into the hall with me a minute," she said in a low voice.
In the hall, Kate looked both ways and then said, still very quietly, "I just heard an incredible rumor."
"Well, the word is that General O'Neill has decided to retire."
"WHAT!" Sam said, forgetting to modulate her volume. She had thought it but really hadn't totally expected it to work.
"Keep it down," Kate admonished. "So you hadn't heard that?"
"No," Sam said firmly. As fond as she was of Kate, the woman had to be the biggest gossip she had ever met. "Look, I'll let you know if find anything out, okay?"
Kate agreed and went back into the infirmary. Sam sagged against the wall. "I don't know if I like playing God or not. I think I'm ready for this to stop," she told herself.
Suddenly back in her chair, Sam saw that the same four buttons were lit but so was the button next to the display area. The symbol in the little display area was different. The white board just had the time and not the words she had written after she had entered the lemon scented scenario. Sam looked at her watch. Less than a minute had elapsed. The only time that had passed had been the time to actually launch the trial after she wrote on the whiteboard.
Finally Sam's superego had its way. She recorded what had happened on Trial 2 and then took the mesh off. All the buttons were now dark.
Before she went any further, she should get all the information she could. She called up the file with all the lab notes for the device. She found Daniel's translation of the symbols cut into the buttons. The on/off was as she expected. The button in the upper right she had used to start trial 2 was "Birth", the button below it that only started to glow after she had finished trial 1 was "Growth". Daniel had had no translation for the button next to the display area where the symbols had appeared. The button to the left was "Kill." There were two small buttons under the Growth button that had never glowed. When it came to translating them, Daniel had apparently had little confidence in his translations. One was ?Now? and one was ?Future?
She decided to find out what the two symbols were that had appeared in the display area. And then there was her meeting with Jack, for which she was now late. She jotted the symbols down on a pad and tore off the top sheet, jammed it in her pocket, and hustled out the door, locking it behind her.
After they had gone over the report that was the point of the meeting, Sam asked, as casually as possible, "Do you ever think about retiring?"
"Is that a hint, Carter?" Jack asked looking a little miffed.
"No, no, not at all. I heard a rumor."
"You heard a rumor? Sam, if you listen hard enough you can hear a rumor about almost anything. There are even rumors about me and D," he stopped abruptly, cutting himself off in mid-word.
"I'm sorry, sir. I didn't mean any disrespect. I guess I had better be going," she said inching toward the door.
"Good bye Colonel. Don't buy any shares in the Brooklyn Bridge, huh," he called after her.
It did rather look like if there were rumors in the lemon reality she had thought them into being.
She found Daniel in his office, peering at a black board. "Hey, Daniel, can I have a moment?"
"Huh, what?" he asked his mind clearly somewhere else as he continued to stare at the blackboard.
"Good. Maybe he won't even really remember what I asked him," she thought, unsure why she was so unwilling to share anything about the device yet but sure she wasn't going to. "Daniel, do you know what either of these Ancient symbols represents?" She passed him her crumbled sheet of paper.
"One and two," he said promptly and gave her back her paper.
"Just like that? You don't need to look them up to be sure?"
"Sam, the numerals are all over everything. They're one of the few things I do know without thinking." He turned to look at her. "What is this all about anyway?"
"Uh oh. He's getting engaged. Not good. He can be like a pit bull once you get him curious," she told herself.
"Nothing really. I'll just be going."
He squinted at her for a moment, but the pull of the chalkboard was too strong and he didn't watch her leave.
"So after the Kate/Daniel scenario I saw the 1 and after the retirement scenario I saw the 2," she reviewed in her head as she promptly returned to her office, let herself in, and relocked the door. She pulled up the spreadsheet, renamed the columns to their translations, and mapped up the sequences for 10 more trials.
She erased the previous time from the whiteboard and wrote April 3 3:10. She put the mesh back on her head and turned the device on. The Ancient symbol for 1 was showing in the display area. "Let's try Growth." Nothing happened. But the two small buttons under it ?Now? and ?Future? began glowing. It seemed to make sense to pick one of them. She decided on ?Now?
The minute she hit the button, she was back in the hall outside Kate's office, smelling pine. She knocked on the door and pushed in without waiting for a response. To her surprise, although Daniel and Kate started to spring apart, they aborted the move when they saw it was her. Kate had a huge smile on her face as did Daniel. "Oh Sam," Kate said sounding happier than she had for months. "I'm glad it's you. The most wonderful thing has happened." She smiled up at Daniel.
Daniel pulled her back into a tight embrace and said over her shoulder. "Kate and I just realized that we have wasted way too much time not knowing how each of us felt about the other. You might as well be the first to know," he paused, pulled back, and looked down at Kate. "We're officially a couple."
Sam tried to put on a happy face but she was thinking furiously, "I'm changing this. They are going to break up immediately." The couple didn't seem to have gotten the message. They were still grinning at each other like complete idiots.
"Hey, Sam, " Daniel asked. "We'll see you later. Please close the door on the way out."
She triggered the end of the session and found herself in her office. The pine smell was gone and the lights were lit again on the device. She had to be back in reality. She looked at her watch. Less than a minute had transpired in real time since she started the scenario.
She dutifully recorded the trial. She had gone to the first scenario when she hit Growth and the numeral one had been in the display area. Maybe the purpose of the numeral was to determine which scenario you resumed. Growing something did sound like you worked with something already there unlike Birth which seemed appropriate for something new. So far, the device had been consistent with that notion.
Sam was not pleased with the whole Kate/Daniel thing. She realized that she felt a little nauseated and lot disgusted with herself. "What is wrong with me anyway? I'm getting married. I should be delighted my friend has someone now too, even if it's only in some sort of alternate whatever. We could have a double wedding." That was incredibly upsetting. Sam had to open the bottom drawer of her desk and pull out the secret stash of Peeps.
One Peep later, she was ready for another trial. She wrote April 3 3:33 on the whiteboard, returned to her chair, noticed that the numeral one was in the display area, and hit Growth again. This time she choose the ?Future? button next.
Sam was standing at the front of a church in a really ugly bridesmaid's dress. Kate was coming down the aisle toward her on her father's arm. Sam had time to think, "Good grief Kate. This god-awful puce concoction is one of the dresses I had enough sensitivity not to even consider for my bridesmaids." And then she felt a huge and unexplainable wave of jealousy.
Daniel was standing at the altar waiting for Kate, flanked by Jack and Teal'c. Cassie stood next to Sam. Daniel looked nervous but Kate was radiant and didn't look as if she had a doubt in the world as she paced slowly but relentlessly towards them. Sam scanned the audience and saw her boyfriend, Pete, in the third row on the bride's side of the church. When they made eye contact, he winked at her. "Winked! Let's be honest here, Sam. That's a full blown leer," she acknowledged to herself. She didn't really appreciate it in her current frame of mind.
The ceremony droned on. They had written their own vows, in Latin. "Oh please," she thought. When the minister said, "If anyone one present knows of any reason why these two should not…" she didn't even let him finish.
"I do," she announced loudly and raised her hand. There was a stunned murmuring in the church. Suddenly, Teal'c was at her side, clamped her in a viselike grip and started dragging her out. "This is all wrong," she was shouting. "You are only together because I thought it into being." She didn't see a single sympathetic face. Pete looked like he wanted to crawl under his chair. She ended the session.
Sam sat in the chair, feeling shaken. She firmly put her mind on the protocol and recorded the time in the spreadsheet. Less than a minute again from the time on the whiteboard.
Focusing on the scientific problem presented was certainly more fun than the image of Kate and Daniel reciting their vows to each other. She thought she had a working hypothesis about some of the buttons now. The Birth button appeared to start a new scenario. The Growth button appeared to resume an existing scenario. She needed to try that with a 2 in the display area instead of the 1 to see if it resumed the retiring Jack alternative. ?Now? seemed to pick up a scenario where last experienced and ?Future? skipped forward, extrapolating the events from the last point. It seemed like she could influence events in the first session but maybe not later. She needed to confirm that one too. She hoped it would be a less embarrassing confirmation.
Suddenly she had an inspiration about the Kill button. Making the analogy to various human devices, it seemed to make great sense that this would be a delete. Her desire to delete session 1 was so enormous that she didn't take the time to consider the button might cause something more dire. She was right. When she hit Kill, the 1 faded and the 2 showed.