NOTES: This was a fic written for the zine 'Revelations III' that premiered back in May 2005. A year later, I'm finally allowed to post it. Since it was written in May 2005, this "post-Season Eight" SGC in no way resembles the SGC as portrayed in Season Nine (which only began showing in the US in July 2005. It is complete and will probably be posted at the rate of one chapter every couple of days.
This story contains references to and scenes of a romantic relationship beetween Sam and Jack, although the thrust of the story itself is drama/action-adventure as well as a character study. If you cannot stand any Sam/Jack relationship at all, then I would not advise reading this story.
Some habits were ingrained, so deeply stained in the psyche that it was impossible to change them.
Jack was still a little shell-shocked when the unscheduled wormhole activated downstairs.
They'd been sitting in the General's reclaimed office for the last hour, he and Hammond, going through the reviews of the newest batch of Academy graduates with an eye for possible SGC personnel. Since his retirement from the military, the SGC had hired him back as a civilian contractor and put him in charge of training. Hammond's call, of course.
If people considered it strange that the younger General had retired while the older one stayed in active duty, well, they didn't know much about either man. And it wasn't as though Jack had retired retired.
There was a lull as both men regarded the profiles in front of them.
"So, how's things between you and the Colonel?"
Of all the people to ask Jack what he'd come to think of as The Question, Hammond was way down the list. Daniel, Teal'c, half the SG-team leaders (with the other half pushing their bolder colleagues ahead of them), a handful of techs (including Felger), and every female officer on the base, yes; Hammond, no.
Surprise made him hesitate, and wariness made him laconic. Old habits died hard. "We're…good."
"Detective Shanahan isn't causing trouble?"
"We're being careful not to get booked for speeding." Jack said with dry understatement. He regarded his former commanding officer with a question in his eyes. "Is there a problem?"
"Oh, no problem. I'm just asking. In loco parentis," Hammond replied, turning his attention back to the reports.
The nonchalance irked Jack. "Does that mean I'd have to ask permission to stay out past 2200 hours?" He didn't have to rein in the sarcasm anymore, but old habit made him more polite than he'd have been to, say, Daniel.
"Not permission, perhaps, but it's a good idea if she has a mission the next day." The general didn't look up from his reading material, and spoke as though the little interlude about Jack's personal life had never happened. "You earmarked Lieutenant Mendez as a possibility, although the Lieutenant has a history of insubordinate behaviour."
"So did Haley. So did Meridian. So did Dixon and Liu and I." Jack leaned over to check that he had the right graduate in his mind. He did. "His marks are up in the genius level - give him something to run for and he might very well excel."
"And if he doesn't buckle down to discipline?
"Then he'll wash out - of here and anywhere else he goes." Jack shrugged.
"Fair enough. We seem to do better with the wild cards anyway." There was a faint twinkle in the blue eyes of the old general, and Jack mimed offence.
"If you're suggesting that I--"
He stopped as the Stargate began dialling with a rumble that echoed up to the office. Hammond's head turned, and Jack watched him. "No teams expected back?" SG-1 wasn't due back for another few hours. Jack had checked that with the control room staff before coming up to see Hammond.
"Not for another few hours." In moments, he was out of his chair and out the door, moving faster than a man his age had any right to move. Jack followed at a more leisurely pace; his knee still gave him trouble from time to time.
The SFs didn't try to stop Jack from following the General down to the control room. As a civilian, he should not have been allowed into the control room. Technically. As a former General, one-time commander of the SGC, and a continuing 'civilian consultant' to the base, Jack had access to all areas. He was usually considerate enough not to make use of it, but if this was SG-1 getting out of a tight situation, he wanted to be on the scene.
Down in the gateroom, the iris was fixed tight over the Stargate as, with a whooshing sound, the wormhole connected.
The technician frowned as he checked his screens. Jack had never worked out what any of the screens meant, even during his tenure as the commander of the base. Carter had tried explaining it once, but other than 'one for the gate status, one for the iris status, and one for the technical data between the two', Jack had never quite managed to grasp what everything did.
God, he hoped she was okay. He hoped they were all okay!
"Nothing, sir. No iris code, no-- Wait, we're getting something through--"
A moment later, one of the computer screens beeped and went red. "I'm guessing that's not good," Jack said, even as a small popup screen appeared with the words, 'IRIS OVERRIDE.'
"Tell me that doesn't mean what it says," Hammond said grimly.
"Last time that happened, we had replicators all over the base," Jack said. He took a deep breath, fighting down the instinctive revulsion he felt at the thought of the creatures. The weapon on Dakara had stopped them, but if they hadn't managed to get that working again...
They'd destroyed the weapon.
Hammond gave him a single look and was over at the phone, calling for reinforcements.
"Sir--" The technician began typing in a set of commands - an override to the iris override? "I can't--"
"It'll need a manual shutdown," someone said from behind the room.
"Keycard," Jack held out his hand. A moment later was on his way down to the Gateroom with Hammond's keycard in his hand.
As he entered the gateroom, Hammond's voice blared over the speakers into the Gateroom. "Personnel full alert! Manual shutdown imminent."
Even as he swiped the card and reached for what was effectively the off switch for the Stargate, Jack heard the 'blop' that signalled something had come through. He flipped the switch, and turned in time to see the last shreds of the event horizon vanish behind the man who stood on the gateramp, his hands spread wide.
"Stop right there!" Jack barked. In the back of his mind, he was aware that he'd just usurped Hammond's prerogative, but Hammond was up in the control room behind a layer of glass, whereas Jack was standing right in front of the man. Presence could do a lot of things that authority couldn't always manage.
The man was in his mid-thirties and vaguely familiar, in the way of someone who'd been seen maybe once and promptly forgotten. He was tall and dressed in green BDUs with an SGC patch on his shoulder, and he walked down the ramp with the gait of a military man.
"Stop right there and identify yourself," Jack repeated his order. Across the room, there was the hiss-whine of a zat gun prepping itself to fire.
Blue eyes flickered over to the SF holding the zat, then swept through the Gateroom and Control Room with swift summary to finally fix on Jack.
"General O'Neill?" The man looked more intent than confused. "You don't recognise me?"
No indication of what rank the man could be - but he recognised Jack as a general - former - and that was a start.
"Put down the item you're carrying, ensign," Jack said, indicating the device that the man still held in his right hand. He gave the man the lowest rank of the Air Force, hoping to prick this stranger out of his complacency. "Or the man over there will shoot."
The man gave him a measured look that was oddly familiar. "Just as long as he doesn't shoot twice." He took another step forward, and showed no sign of putting down his gadget. Jack didn't have the faintest idea what the thing was, but considering the man had just overridden their iris systems, he wasn't in the mood to be considerate.
"One last chance."
"General, swear to God, I'm not a dang--" He turned even as the slight movement of Jack's hand signalled the shot.
The zat blast hit him in the shoulder and he collapsed at the edge of the ramp, curling up in instinctive unconsciousness.
Jack frowned down at the man, then up at the control room where Hammond was still watching. Technically, he'd acted outside his authority in the matter since he was no longer an officer of the base, but the SFs had obeyed his signals and so far Hammond wasn't objecting.
Still, it would be polite to give Hammond the appropriate authority. "Sir?"
Hammond bent forward over the microphone. "Have him taken up to the cells."
The SFs jumped into action and began hauling up the man like so much meat. Jack considered intervening, but the attitude of the guy had irked him enough that he didn't protest at a little harsher handling. "Tie him up first," he suggested. "And someone get that thing he had in his hand."
One of the SFs retrieved it and handed it to Jack. "Looks like a basic radio transmitter, sir."
Jack turned it over in his hands, noting the knobs and buttons. Hell, he even recognised a few of the parts that had been cobbled together - bits and pieces he'd seen lying around Carter's lab. But he'd never seen this man before, and he was pretty sure he'd have recalled a man who was in and out of Carter's lab. "Technically, I'm not a 'sir' anymore, sergeant."
The middle-aged man shrugged and grinned, "Old habits. Sir." The honourific was added on the end in spite of his best efforts. "I didn't think it was possible to hack into the iris systems."
"Neither did I," Jack admitted. Carter might be able to do it, but nobody else. Right?
"Jack?" Hammond's voice broke into his reverie.
"Coming up, sir."
The sergeant was too well-trained to actually snicker. That didn't stop him from a quirk of the lips to which Jack gave him a steady glare.
Old habits died really hard.
"So what's Jack doing here?" Daniel inquired of Sam as they made their way back down for the debriefing. "Other than coming to see you."
Refreshed from the showers, and feeling decidedly more human after a two hour slog through mud and rain, Sam stretched a little. "He probably had reports to give on the latest batch of Academy graduates, Daniel, and just stayed to see us back."
She ignored the last half of the comment, in spite of the grins on the faces of Daniel and Mitchell, and the tiny smile hovering around Teal'c's lips.
Yes, he was retired. Yes, they were seeing each other. That didn't mean they were idiots about it.
Sometimes Sam figured everyone else was.
She'd had about enough teasing to last her a lifetime. Especially since he was the ex-General of the SGC and known to everyone on base.
But there was no teasing when they sat down at the briefing table. In fact, there was just about enough time for a brief smile before General Hammond came in and began the debriefing.
It was straightforwards enough. Astara was a planet they'd explored years before. No apparent civilisation near the Stargate, flagged for later geological survey and possible Alpha site use. The geological survey had discovered a civilisation some two to three hours' walk from the Stargate - far enough to make regular 'harvesting' of people a chore for the Goa'uld.
"They wanted us to look over some old things they'd uncovered in a set of caves," Sam explained. "Mostly Goa'uld artefacts, none still working. We brought back a few items, but left most of them behind. The follow-up team should probably take a FRED with them to carry the larger items - there were one or two things that we could take apart and see how they work." She glanced at Daniel who was looking typically smug. "And Daniel got a book from them."
Jack didn't look all that impressed. "A book?"
Sam carefully stifled a grin at the non-committal tone.
"The Book of Astara," Daniel said, proudly. "It's a history of their culture as far back as their stories go."
"Daniel Jackson can be ebullient about it," Teal'c stated calmly. "He was not the one who had to carry it back to the Stargate."
She was less successful with this grin. Teal'c had not complained, not exactly. He had, however, been somewhat more terse during the trip back - his way of being aggrieved.
"My pack was already filled with the in'tarik'ma'tel'aytar, Teal'c," Daniel said. "And Cameron was carrying the hrak'ma'lantek, so there was no room in his pack…"
"I'm not even going to ask what those are," Jack muttered.
"I don't think that's relevant at this point. Colonel, your recommendation?" Hammond looked to Sam.
"Send back another team to pick up the remainder of the tech." That was simple enough. "Swap them the items they're wanting - mostly tools - in exchange. Leave them more or less alone."
General Hammond seemed satisfied with that. "Very well, recommendation taken." He closed the file on the Astara and folded his hands on top. "While you were away, we had a little bit of a…situation come up."
Sam exchanged a look with the rest of her team. "What kind of a situation, sir?"
Jack pushed something across the table to her. "Ever seen one of these before, Carter?"
The flat note in his voice caught at her, and she reached over to pick up the item. She recognised some of the components immediately. "It's a modified GDO," she said. "Basic radio transmitter, but adjusted to send analogue pulses as well as digital bursts…" She trailed off, with a sudden, cold feeling as she looked at the General.
She'd never seen one of these before, never made one, but she knew what it could be used for, and she wasn't so sure she liked the implications of it. "Where did you get this, sir?"
The two Generals - current and retired - exchanged looks.
"I think you'd better come and see."
The man sitting in Detention Cell 14-D was tall and blond and clearly military. He also looked vaguely familiar - something about the angle of his head or the line of his jaw. Handsome in a clean-cut way, in his mid-thirties, and blue eyed. Sam blinked. He had very blue eyes.
A glance at the rest of SG-1 showed them clearly confused, and it seemed both the General and Jack were waiting for her to say something.
The prisoner showed no such reluctance to speech. "And I'm guessing this is the erstwhile SG-1," he said in a pleasant tenor.
"The actual SG-1," Daniel corrected him, frowning. "And who are you?"
"Forgive the lack of welcome - the accomodations aren't exactly first class." He climbed to his feet, "And, see, that's the tricky thing, Daniel," the man said. Daniel's gaze flickered from her to Jack and back to her again, asking a silent question to which she had no answer. "My name won't mean anything to you since I don't seem to exist around here. Remember the mirror on P3X-993?"
"You're from an alternate universe?"
"An alternate alternate alternate universe," Jack said dryly.
"And believe me, they're all just as real as this one," the man said. "Hey, Teal'c, good to see you again."
Teal'c arched a brow. "I do not believe we have met."
"Well, no, we haven't, but I know your counterpart where I come from. He's not particularly chatty either…"
Sam was getting a very odd feeling from this man - as though she'd met him somewhere before and couldn't quite place him. "Name, rank and serial number, airman."
He regarded her up and down, a long, measuring look of the kind she was accustomed to getting from the 'old school' of military officers - the ones whose first instinct was to dismiss her because she was a female officer. "And you are?"
"I'm the officer giving you an order to state your name, rank, and serial number."
The grin was wide and brilliant - a real charmer of a smile. "Yes, ma'am." He saluted, not without a touch of mockery. "Lieutenant Colonel Samuel Carter, SGC, reporting for duty, ma'am."
Behind her, Mitchell choked, Daniel's disbelief was emanating stronger than the gravity waves off a black hole, and Teal'c's eyebrow had hit the roof.
Sam blinked. Twice. Her brain shut down, hit the reset button, and began rebooting up, slowly sorting through the information she'd been given. A lot of pieces began falling into place.
Oh. My. God.
He was her. In a manner of speaking since she was, well, a she and he was quite plainly not!
In her years at the SGC, she'd encountered everything from robotic versions of herself, to alternate others, to a replicator that looked exactly like her, down to the last hair on her head.
She'd never yet encountered a male version of herself.
"Samuel Carter?" Daniel managed. "Really, Samuel Carter?"
"I said it was, didn't I?" Samuel frowned slightly. "You know, you don't improve much from one universe to the next, Daniel."
"Colonel?" General Hammond inquired.
"Sir," she turned to him. "The probabilities of this happening are…astronomical. I mean, the genetics alone are unlikely. In combination with what seems to have been a similar career path and possibly the same doctorate…"
"Astrophysics," he said. "The application of particle-wave light theories to faster-than-light travel…"
"…with specific references to p-string theories and the multiplicity of universes." Sam finished for him. They'd even done the same doctorate!
God, this was scary.
She looked back at General Hammond. "Has Dr. Brightman taken a genetic sample, yet?"
Turning back to the bars, she found him watching her with narrow eyes. "How did you know what I did for my doctorate if you don't know me?"
The truth - of a sort - was probably her best bet. "Because I did my doctorate on the same topic," she replied.
Horrible suspicion was dawning on his face as he looked her up and down and noticed the similarities and differences between them. "Who are you?"
She glanced at Hammond, who shrugged. No point in keeping it from him, sooner or later he'd find out. Samuel Carter was watching her as she turned back to him.
"I'm Lieutenant Colonel Samantha Carter, SGC," she said lightly. "In a word, you."
Daniel would probably collar her about the grammar of that sentence later.
At this moment, it was worth it just to see the shock on his face.
- TBC -