Stargate SG-1and SGA and its characters are the property of Stargate (II) Productions, Showtime / Viacom, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions. This story is for entertainment purposes only and no money changed hands. No copyright infringement is intended. The original characters, situations, and story are the property of the author
I wrote this in a present tense which can feel weird at first, just stick with it!
As the title of the story indicates, this is a cross between scifi and romance. This is my "Sam and Jack stranded on a planet" story, but it's set at the end of season 8. It's an AU story where Threads doesn't happen, although it works with the rest of what goes on in Season 8 so it's sort of a diverging/converging timeline.
I mean, with Moebius and Continuum happening since then, who's to say it didn't happen?
Some of this is based on the original Stargate movie. I also get to "fix" some of the Stargate science that bugs me, like wormhole theory, gate addresses and planetary rotation.
This chapter sets the stage for ensuing shippiness, and Carter and O'Neill find the Ancients made mistakes, too.
"This looks like the start of an average bad day." General Jack O'Neill states with a jaded sigh after walking out of the event horizon onto a stargate platform that looks absolutely nothing like the SGC. "Carter?" Her name is a serious of questions and statements all rolled into a single word.
Lt. Colonel Samantha Carter dons her sunglasses and surveys the uninhabited flat clearing. A dark, impenetrable forest encloses the small area like a stockade and other than the stargate perched on a simple stone platform there's not a trace of civilization, human or otherwise. "I'm not sure, sir." They're definitely not in Cheyenne Mountain- in fact, there's no mountain of any kind in any direction, and the effect is claustrophobic.
O'Neill's unimpressed. "If there's been a stargate in Minnesota all this time, I'm really gonna be pissed." He digs out his monocular and quickly scans the tree line, wondering if Reynolds misdialed- but shrugs that thought off just as quickly as it comes. Earth's address is hardwired into each SG member. They can dial in their sleep, under fire, semi-conscious, or under the influence of whatever alien drug had been accidentally ingested. Finding no visible threats, he cocks his head and turns to her expectantly.
Her eyes skim over the stargate and he swears he can hear the circuits hum as she does a full 360 sweep of the area until her gaze finally lands on him. "We've never been here before. I'm pretty sure no team ever has. We've either jumped stargates or gone back in time several million years."
"That's quite a dichotomy, Colonel," O'Neill says dryly. "One's an inconvenience and the other's the end of life as we know it."
"Much more likely the wormhole jumped gates, sir."
"Thank you, Carter." He's not interested in theories or statistics, just the bottom line. And if it's coming from her, that's good enough for him. He waits on the platform and lets her do her job, hands crossed over the P90 he insisted on bringing to P3X-812 while he and Carter were reviewing safety and security for a new off-world base there. He might be a general at the SGC, but in the field he's just another target.
She descends the steps to the DHD and her thoughts move on to other things. "P3X-812 might not be a great site for a trinium mine if the wormhole isn't stable," she muses, "It's got to be near a huge gravity well."
He's tired and his back hurts from sleeping in a tent for three days, even though he's been promoted from the ground to a cot, but he tries hard not to let his utter lack of fascination with their circumstances dampen her enthusiasm for things he considers to be annoying distractions. "Dial that up and you can spend the rest of the week solving the problem, okay?"
Carter smiles. It might not be a problem with a solution, but she seems to appreciate the sentiment. She reaches the base of the DHD and stands contemplating it, smile vanishing and hands still as they grip the smooth edges of the machine as if to keep her from collapsing.
O'Neill notices the silence first. No matter what world they're on, the gate and the DHD make noise. Daniel had always maintained the gate was designed for use by a variety of beings with different sensory capabilities, like Braille on an ATM. Personally, O'Neill thinks the Ancients just had an eye for style. At any rate, there's always sound, light and spinning. He shifts his gaze from a relentless surveillance of the site back to her face because the years have taught him that as a means of gathering intelligence in a hurry, nothing surpasses watching Carter's expression. One look can save him a lot of time and talking, or break his heart- but he isn't going to dwell on that right this minute, because right now she's telling him they're in serious trouble. His voice drops a notch. "Carter?" All the questions are different now, but he knows she still understands.
She lifts her eyes as he starts down the steps, looking past him to examine the gate again. "Sir, the symbols- there's not a single one like ours."
"Damn." O'Neill examines the DHD and the gate. "Try the earth positions anyway."
Carter nods and enters the coordinates, her hand moving by memory, hesitating when she gets to the last one. "All right, the point of origin is…"
"This one." He pushes a glyph comprised of lines and dots. "Just a guess," he grins, sweeping his automatic toward the gate steps which are adorned with multiple carvings of the same symbol. She smiles appreciatively and pushes the central crystal.
His grin fades, however, when he looks at the stargate. "That sucks."
"Yes, sir." They watch the chevrons blink out without producing an event horizon. It reminds him of trying to turn over an engine with a dead battery- a flicker of hope and then nothing. But he doesn't want to go to the store for a six-pack of Guinness; he wants to go to earth. Trying to quell the sense of general fucked-upness that he seems to encounter with alarming frequency, he stays positive. "It's going to take a little time, is all, Carter."
"More than a little, General."
"Okay," he shrugs, "we'll take turns putting in the addresses."
"Do you remember what Chloe said about possible gate combinations, sir?" She removes her sunglasses and looks at him directly, something she's more or less avoided doing for months now.
The effect isn't lost on him, though he's not sure it's the one she intended. Carter's eyes sometimes have a way of making his mind wander at the damnedest times. "Chloe? Oh- yeah. It was a big number. So we better get started." Snapping out of his momentary distraction, he sits down with his back against the side of the platform, indicating that it's Carter who needs to get started. "But look on the bright side, we know the last glyph."
"That improves the odds substantially."
"See?" he says in a tone that suggests she's unnecessarily worried, as usual.
"From 63 billion-to-one to two billion-to-one."
He sighs in resignation and rests his head against the wall. "So… you're saying that the likelihood of us getting home without a lot of fuss is the same as the number of 'r's in 'fat chance?"
She walks over and slumps down on the short, dry grass beside him. "Yeah. We're going to need help."
"We've been in worse shape," he points out, though that's not exactly comforting to either one of them. He looks up at the cloudless blue sky, and realizes that there are no birds, either up there or twittering in the trees. It's then that he notices there is absolutely no sound on this planet, no wind, nothing. He doesn't know what that means, but it can't be good. Deviations from earth's blueprints seldom are.
"There might not be anyone here, though," she says.
"That might be a good thing." They've been in similar situations a hundred times before, and he has to admit it's getting old. Still, there's no reason to panic. "What now, Colonel?"
"The terrain is no help at all, but there's a road or something over there…" she stops mid-sentence and looks at him suspiciously. He's smiling.
"I haven't been calling the shots for a while, and I'm not about to start now," he states. No, he thinks it's much more fun to kick back and watch Carter take the lead than do it himself, and besides, it does gives him an excuse to look at her which is always a very nice thing to do as long as he doesn't think about it too much. He wonders if not thinking about it too much is going to become a full-time occupation for as long as they're here.
"What we need isn't going to be delivered to us on FRED." She slips her sunglasses on again. "I guess we're going to have to skate to the puck."
He smiles at her use of the phrase he'd found useful so often and wonders how many more of his little idiosyncrasies have rubbed off on her. Probably not too many or she wouldn't be doing as well as she is. He gets to his feet and hoists up the P-90, then turns to find her opening an energy bar. "You're never gonna last if you're hungry already, Carter."
She shoots him a look as she stashes the unwrapped food in her pack and he has to admit to himself that she's definitely worried, and that makes him worried enough to not want to show it. With the mylar wrapper and a sturdy stick they construct a marker that can be easily seen by a probe or search party. Then they copy the glyphs into her notebook and leave the clearing, the twinkling foil remaining as the only sign they'd been there at all.
The forest is still and eerily quiet as they trek down the pathway, the stones beneath their feet perfectly fitted without much sign of wear. The road could be five or five hundred years old depending on the planet's weather. Certainly, O'Neill thinks as he watches her sweep away wisps of damp hair that curl annoyingly (to her) and attractively (to him) around her face, the weather today can only be described as hot. "I was hoping we'd make it somewhere by nightfall, but I don't think that's going to be a problem," he comments, shading his eyes from the sun as he judges its position in the sky.
"No, I don't think it's moved much, although I'd have to stop for a few days to get better measurements. You know, sir, Antarctica is looking pretty good right now," she says, taking a rationed sip of water.
He snorts. "For having been there three times, I sure don't remember much about the place." He doesn't add that the only thing he does remember is her. He's not interested in making her feel uncomfortable or in stirring up his own feelings of having lost something that was never his to begin with.
For reasons unclear to him, she insists on stirring up those feelings anyway. "I remember," she says simply, staring absent-mindedly down the flat pathway. She doesn't elaborate and he doesn't ask as they both consider the same memories from different angles, the last time being so recent he ought to be able to remember every tiny detail- but he can only recall the crushing cold and the memory of her face, beautiful blue eyes full of so much pain. She's never elaborated and he's never asked. They fall back into silence as the miles wear on, the sun hanging high in the sky as the hours pass.
O'Neill knows she won't rest until he does, and when his watch tells him it's after midnight, he's happy to oblige. "I've been on desk duty too long," he says with exaggerated relief, edging his pack onto a MALP-sized rock beside the road. Finding his canteen, he slides the pack onto the ground and watches while Carter easily takes off her pack and swings it down; and calculates that his stuff can't weigh that much more than hers. Desk duty- right. That and fifteen years- but he consoles himself with the fact that testosterone still counts for something, sometimes. And sometimes it's nothing but trouble.
"How's that coming?"
"Huh?" It takes him a second to realize she's not reading his mind.
"The desk duty, sir. Are you adjusting?" As if embarrassed that she doesn't know the answer to that question, she ducks her head and assiduously searches for her water bottle.
"Uh, well, you know. Someone's got to do it, Carter." He wonders when it was exactly that they had stopped talking to each other, and decides that it was the night she'd shown him that ring.
"So you're going to be there for a while?"
"Looks like it."
She sits against the base of the boulder, out of his line of sight. "For what it's worth, sir, you're doing a great job."
"It's worth a lot," he nods thoughtfully, his eyes hidden behind the sunglasses he's been wearing for eighteen hours straight. She brings the canteen down from her lips and screws the cap on tightly without any reply. "You're doing a damn fine job yourself, Lt. Colonel. Although, 'Major' was a whole lot easier to say."
"It was easier to do, too."
"Sounds like you miss me, Carter."
"Yes, Sir." she says, looking up at him warmly. "We do."
O'Neill sighs slightly at her choice of pronouns, and then stands up to stash his canteen back in his pack. "How about I relieve you of command for a couple of hours?"
"Thank you, sir." She takes off her jacket and folds it up, then curls up on the forest floor which is soft and cool with millennia's worth of pine needles, promising rest after the hot, tiring trek. He waits a few short minutes until she's asleep, then quietly crouches down to pick up his P-90. Noticing an errant lock of hair threatening to tickle her face, he gently tucks the yellow strands behind her ear and then rises silently.
She listens as his careful footsteps disappear into the underbrush before turning her face into her jacket with a long, deep sigh.
O'Neill wakes to the rustling of dry leaves, at first comforting and then alarming as he realizes they've not yet encountered wind or leaves on the planet. Carefully raising the bill of his cap off of his eyes, he finds Carter sitting in the shade against a massive windfall, turning a page in her notebook back and forth repetitively. "Got it memorized yet?"
She glances up and smiles. "Yeah, and I think I know what the problem is." She puts the notebook down and brushes the forest floor into a uniform surface, marking the duff in two spots with her finger. "You see, sir, this gate is similar to the Abydos and Earth gates, which have a lot in common..,"
"Besides starting this whole damned mess?"
She smiles tolerantly. "Well, they started the whole damned mess because they're similar. They connect the oldest human civilizations and they have different glyphs in the shape of the actual constellations in their respective skies," She stops to scatter a few small stones around the planets.
"Yeah," he snorts, "Kowalsky almost killed Daniel over that fact."
"I thought you were the one who said Daniel was full of sh-"
"Colonel," he warns.
She smiles again and he wonders just how much Daniel has told her over the years. "Anyway, translating their coordinates into ours," she says, sweeping her hand through the stars from one planet and then the other, "only worked because the planets were close together and the constellations weren't that different." Pleased with her rustic diagram, she looks back at O'Neill who had pulled his cap back down over his face. "Sir," she says with obvious annoyance.
"Aw, Carter, I'm just keeping myself deliberately confused in case I fall into enemy hands." He rouses himself anyway just to make her happy.
She turns back to the stone star chart. "Eventually, the Ancients quit making addresses like that, because the coordinates for any given stargate will look completely different depending upon where you are in the galaxy. it's a little like handing out different phone numbers to each person who has to call you."
He thinks about the phone in his office ringing incessantly. "That's a lot of phone numbers."
"Yeah, and it's the same for everyone. If, for example, you want to call Daniel from my lab, you have to use the number I have for him. You can't use the number that works from your office."
"I'd rather drop in unannounced, anyway."
She smiles and tries to keep him on task. "Luckily for us, the Ancients mostly just used the symbols from Earth for their later gates, because ours is the oldest gate. So no matter where we are, we only need to know one address for Earth."
"Except for here." And Abydos, he guesses. But none of them will be going back there ever again.
"So..." He thinks it's well past time for the bottom line.
"So, I have to do what the computer did. I have to translate our constellations. In 3D." Her eyes are wide and blue and O'Neill sees just how much pressure she's put on herself. Because this time there's no big, fancy machine she can manipulate to pull it off, there's only her exquisitely fine-tuned mind and a little laptop computer running on solar cells.
Although, if he were a betting man he'd put his money on Carter and the little laptop.
He remembers waiting impatiently for their early missions because the SGC mainframe computers could only translated a couple of addresses a month. But that doesn't discourage him because it isn't his place to keep up with changing technology. His place is just to keep them safe and help her any way he can- which usually isn't much.
"Then there's no problem," he says with confidence. "Hell, you could've written that little Starry Night program you gave me for Christmas." That had been her latest futile attempt at reducing his computer illiteracy.
In an instant the concern is erased from her face. "That's it, sir!" He doesn't know what he did but he's willing to take the credit for it as she launches herself at her backpack, rifling through it until she pulls out her computer. In seconds she's brought up the familiar graphic of the night sky. He looks at her quizzically, wondering what an astrophysicist is dong with amateur astronomy software. "I like to bring our stars with us," she admits, sitting back on her heels. "It's a little like bringing along a few family photos." He studies her face for a moment and thinks he sees a little of that naïve young captain he pushed through the gate so many years ago. Blushing slightly, she adds defensively, "Architects still like Lincoln Logs, you know."
"I'm going to let that slide, just because you're so damned smart." And beautiful, but he doesn't say that- he just gets to his feet with a grin. "What's next, Colonel?"
Carter stands and out of cautious habit scuffs over the marks with her boot. "We wait for night." They shade their eyes and look toward the sun riveted in the sky.
"No solar flares on either sun. No energy discharges at the gate. Nothing at all that would have caused the wormhole to fail or jump." Physicist Dr. Rodney McKay paces the briefing room, rapping his clipboard with a pencil while the remains of SG-1 study the Plexiglas map of the galaxy. The map has been their focal point for two days now, even though there's nothing new on it. It's become like a fireplace or window onto a busy street- something to stare at while their minds work over every possibility. Truth be told, someone's been staring at this star chart continuously more than any other map on the planet ever since the diagram was first installed eight years ago. It helps everyone deny the distances involved, all the Milky Way stargates contained on one small wall in the briefing room.
"Okay, if it wasn't a problem at either end, then what could have interfered with the wormhole between here and there?" Lt. General George Hammond queried, having been called back from Washington to temporarily command the SGC.
"General, there is no 'between here and there'," McKay points out with a sense of rising frustration. "The wormhole joins two areas of space-time directly. Space-time itself would have had to change- but only temporarily, because we just got a message through to Col. Reynolds without a problem."
"Well, if there was no solar flare, we have to assume time didn't change," Dr. Daniel Jackson muses. His many degrees aren't in the "hard" sciences, but he's learned a thing or two from Sam over the years. "That just leaves space."
"Oh yeah," McKay says sarcastically, "and there's hardly any of that out there."