West Wing / Stargate crossover inspired by a challenge on Livejournal, set in West Wing S6 shortly after Impact Winter, in Stargate SG-1 series eight. All characters and settings belong to their respective creators etc., there is no intent to infringe on their copyright. This story may not be distributed on a profit-making basis.
Minimum Necessary Change
Marcus L. Rowland
Margaret Hooper looked up from her monitor as CJ Cregg came in her office, bearing a coffee in one hand and three folders in the other and said, "don't forget your noon appointment."
"I thought I was keeping noon clear today."
"Officially yes. This one doesn't go on the books. Standing orders from the President. Also off the books."
"Can you at least tell me who I'm seeing?"
"Some people from the SGC."
"Oh...kay. I know who you mean. Let me know when they get here."
* * * * *
"General O'Neill, Colonel Carter, the Chief of Staff can see you now."
CJ looked up as Margaret showed the Air Force officers in. Once Margaret had left she said, "So... what can I do for the SGC?"
"It's pretty simple," said O'Neill. "We want you to cut seventy-five million dollars from our budget. From one specific part of our budget."
"I'm really not going to like this, am I?" said CJ.
"I doubt it. Sam, I think you can explain this better than I can."
Colonel Carter opened her briefcase and produced a folder labelled Project ASB, hesitated, then said, "I've a written summary here, but it's pretty technical. Would you like me to give you the Cliff's Notes version first?"
"You mean dumb it down for the English major?"
"In layman's terms, Project ASB is an attempt to utilise our knowledge of quantum alternative worlds to manipulate our timeline in the multi-dimensional plenum."
"Dumb it some more. Pretend that I have no idea what you're talking about."
"General, maybe you can do this better."
"I'll try," said O'Neill. "Okay, the way I understand it, and Carter is going to tell me I've got it wrong ten different ways, is that we've found some alien gizmos called quantum mirrors that are portals into alternate worlds, dimensions where things went differently. Sometimes the change is minor, sometimes it's pretty big. For example, there are worlds where the Goa'uld invaded, others where the only changes we can find are minor differences in fashions or the top ten TV programs. We know of one where Wormhole X-Treme only ran three episodes, for example."
"Okay, that seems clear enough. As I recall it, you can't stay in an alternate world for long before you fall apart?"
"That's pretty much it," said O'Neill. "It's mostly a scientific curiosity, but we wanted to see if there were any defence possibilities, so we set up project ASB."
"Which stands for?"
O'Neill sighed. "Alien Space Bats." At CJ's raised eyebrows he added "It's a term used by alternative history geeks. For really stupid ideas that would only be possible if Alien Space Bats messed around with our history."
"One of the ideas we were looking at was to find a way to switch the tracks a little. Nudge probability a little, and create a new time line that was closer to what we wanted."
"Tamper with history?"
"You could put it that way."
"So what went wrong?"
"We succeeded." O'Neill didn't sound happy about it.
"We were trying to calibrate our equipment, working on something called the Minimum Necessary Change."
"The quantum worlds are kinda... fuzzy, if that makes sense to you. Little changes tend to merge together. That's one of the reasons why socks are always going missing, they're so small and insignificant that they can slip from one world to another pretty easily. So you end up one sock short, and the you in the dimension next door has three socks and no idea where the spare came from. And the difference is so minor that after a few days they're back to being a single world again."
"It's actually a lot more complicated than that," said Carter, "in some situations the presence or absence of a sock might make a crucial difference, so..."
"I like his version better," CJ interrupted. "So this minimum necessary change...?"
"It's the minimum amount of tampering you do to create a permanent change," said O'Neill. "Turns out to depend on how much energy you put in, how much distance and time is involved, and so forth. We came up with some units for it, the ASB-foot, ASB-pound, and so forth."
"How did you test it?"
"We tried to change the flavour of Jello in the canteen at the SGC. We guessed we needed to push a little energy a few hours into the past, just enough to push a few packs to the back of the shelf. On our fifth run yesterday it switched from lime to strawberry."
"How did you know? Wouldn't your memory of the Jello change too."
"Good question," said O'Neill. "Before we started each run we wrote a summary of the day's events and sent it to a neighbouring universe, one where human life hadn't evolved. We retrieved it afterwards and checked for changes. The trouble was that it wasn't the only change."
"Apart from the Jello, we noticed that asteroid AS00267 wasn't mentioned. The one that came within a few thousand miles of Earth yesterday. Near as we can tell, some of the energy from our experiment leaked and gave it a little nudge a few thousand years ago, and things kinda snowballed."
"We have instruments a little more advanced than the public know about, we were able to check pretty quickly that there wasn't any danger. But if it had been on a collision course there isn't much that we could have done about it."
"All right, I'm ordering you to cease all experimentation now. The President will follow up on that when he's back from China. It's just too dangerous."
"We'd prefer it if you just cut our funding in the review next month, said it was a waste of public money, maybe switch it to some other part of our budget. Meanwhile we'll pretend to run some more tests without getting any results. Once you shut us down we can argue a little, eventually admit that it just doesn't work, and drop it."
"And that way nobody knows just how dangerous it is."
"Exactly," said Carter. "Maybe one day we'll be able to find a way to test it safely, but for now it's just too risky."
"Agreed," said CJ. "Okay, I'm putting you on notice of a budget cut, with an immediate freeze on this area of experimentation pending the review. Give me three or four other projects I can freeze temporarily so that it doesn't stand out too much, we'll move the budget to cover them when we reach agreement."
Carter thought for a moment, and wrote down four more project names. "All of these are long term research, we can assign the scientists elsewhere for a few weeks without disrupting anything crucial. ASB is my own baby, nobody will be too worried if I work on other things."
"Agreed. If there's nothing else?"
"No, that's it," said O'Neill.
"On your way out tell Margaret I'm ready for my one o'clock."
* * * * *
"Think she bought it?" asked Sam, as they walked back to Jack's car.
"Here's hoping. The asteroid was bad enough, I really don't want to explain to her how we changed things so we ended up with that asshole Bingo Bob as Vice-President instead of a stand-up guy like Kinsey..."
The original challenge by Houses7177
There is a formula written on a sticky note, stuck to my computer monitor. It's been here for over four months, and I have no idea what it means.
CJ = s6 + ASbft It's in my handwriting. I obviously put it here while I was recovering from various surgeries, and apparently wasn't in my right mind. It makes no sense. 'ft' could be the shorthand for 'feet', but I can't recall measuring anything in feet since I got out of grade school. No self respecting physicist measures in feet. Even if we all know that gravity is 32.174 ft/second, we never use it. ASb? AS? AS could be absolute sound ... 'b', dunno. The J could be a very sloppily written 3, but I doubt it. CJ? C3? Is this something for an excel field? I checked my commonly used spreadsheets, and nothing. I leave it on the corner of my monitor, and spend a few minutes every morning pondering it. I cannot just throw it away because it taunts me with my inadequacies. And everyone should come face-to-face with their inadequacies every morning to start off; the rest of the day is bound to improve.
CJ = s6 + ASbft
It's in my handwriting. I obviously put it here while I was recovering from various surgeries, and apparently wasn't in my right mind.
It makes no sense.
'ft' could be the shorthand for 'feet', but I can't recall measuring anything in feet since I got out of grade school. No self respecting physicist measures in feet. Even if we all know that gravity is 32.174 ft/second, we never use it.
ASb? AS? AS could be absolute sound ... 'b', dunno.
The J could be a very sloppily written 3, but I doubt it. CJ? C3? Is this something for an excel field? I checked my commonly used spreadsheets, and nothing.
I leave it on the corner of my monitor, and spend a few minutes every morning pondering it. I cannot just throw it away because it taunts me with my inadequacies. And everyone should come face-to-face with their inadequacies every morning to start off; the rest of the day is bound to improve.
Anyone, anyone, ideas what it could mean?
My original response
CJ is obviously CJ Cregg
S6 is Season 6 - presumably West Wing S6
ASB is the well-known acronym for Alien Space Bats, stalwart of looney alternate history theories
ft is usually feet.
Putting them together, you meant to write a fanfic about the Big Block of Cheese Day in S6 in which CJ interviews a committee that wants to create a new standard unit, the Alien Space Bat Foot.
Since CJ was Chief of Staff for most of S6 I changed things a little. The term Minimum Necessary Change comes from The End of Eternity by Isaac Asimov.