Returning to normal

And this is it. The end of the line. Thank you very much to all those who have read, reviewed, favourited and followed this little piece of wackiness. And thanks for sticking with me even when it looked as if I had abandoned the story. I have a sequel in the works, but that won't be ready for quite a while as I have other projects in mind as well. Still, it's safe to say that a sequel is in the early development phase.

Nothing that you recognise belongs to me and I do not benefit in any way, shape or form from writing this. Well, except for the fact that I've had a lot of fun doing this. Hope you guys had as much fun reading it

Gateroom

Hammond frowned when he heard the alarms blaring the offworld activation signal. He was even more surprised – and a little bit alarmed – when he heard that the ones who had activated the gate were none other than SG1. The team had left less than half an hour ago. He had thought they would be gone for hours and that they actually would have had to be convinced to get back. He knew Doctor Jackson and Major Carter. He was well-aquainted with their scientific curiosity and how it sometimes got the better of them. In fact, Hammond would have predicted that Teal'c and Jack would have to drag Daniel Jackson and Samantha Carter kicking and screaming away from their new toy. And yet they were returning now.

There had to be only one explanation as far as Hammond could see. The team had to have run into some kind of trouble. Perhaps the Go'auld had discovered the ship as well and had come to claim it for themselves. Perhaps the planet was not as deserted as the MALP had reported. Perhaps the ship had released some unknown weapon, a deadly virus or something of the kind. Perhaps the original crew of the ship was still there and had tricked SG1 and tried to capture them. Any of these possibilities – and many others besides – were quite likely when it came to gate travel.

Hammond ordered a medical team to stand by. Then he hurried to the gate-room himself, ordering the iris to be open. The SFs in front of the stargate were just as tense as Hammond was, their guns at the ready. It was standard procedure whenever an unauthorised activation took place – and yet, it was also more than that. they too knew SG1 and had most likely come to the very same conclusion that Hammond had arrived at. If the flagship team was returning so soon, it had to be in some kind of trouble.

But when the iris was opened and SG1 walked in, there was no sign of any kind of trouble whatsoever. The four were unharmed. They stepped through the gate and walked calmly down the ramp where they stopped with all the guns pointed at them. They had not been running. They were not even panting and they did not look at all alarmed. If anything, Hsmmond thought that they looked only slightly dazed, their eyes searching the gate-room as if they had not seen it in a long while and were trying to familiarise themselves with the sights around them again. Which was completely absurd as far as Hammond was concerned. You did not look like that at a place you had barely left.

"What happened, people?" Hammond asked. "And what are you doing back so soon? You could not have been gone for more than half an hour."

Teal'c raised his eyebrows at the comment while colonel O'Neill chuckled.

"Well, actually, Sir," Carter began hesitantly. "It was much more to us."

"Yeah, must have been like one or two months total, right?" Daniel said, looking at the other three for confirmation.

Hammond did not even blink. It was going to be one of those days, it seemed.

"Have Fraiser check you over," he ordered his flagship team. "Then report to the briefing room and explain what you've been up to now."

Briefing room

Hammond listened to SG1's report. Apparently, they had been transported to another dimension and had lived there for quite a while. Their story sounded far fetched even for what Hammond dealt with on a daily basis. A future Earth in another dimension, a space station that served as trading post, diplomatic centre and who knew what else, an Orwellian organisation ruling Earth and conspiracies of all kinds left and right – it all sounded like the material for a sci-fi TV series. Yet the devices that SG1 had brought were proof enough – as well as the disappearance of the ship from the planet.

"And you are saying there's no way of going back to that place?" Hammond wanted to know.

"We have the devices," Carter speculated. "And I don't think they're bound by the same confines as the ship was. theoretically, it would be possible to use them again to get to Babylon 5, if I work on them some more and tweak them a little. However…I'm not so sure how wise going back would be."

"The situation on Babylon 5 when we left was quite tense, Sir," O'Neill clarified. "Sheridan was about to commit mutiny against his government – quite justifiable, true, but still risky. And even though I'm more than certain he can hold his own, that's not exactly a situation I'd like to bring my team back into."

Hammond nodded at that. He understood Colonel O'Neill's reluctance. He did not want to send SG1 back in a danger zone, either. And yet, those of Babylon 5 were technologically advanced. They surely had something that could help Earth – his Earth – in the fight against the Go'auld. He did not really like to let them go.

"Don't get us wrong, General, we'd like to go back there too," Daniel spoke then as if reading his thoughts. "If anything the multitude of cultures itself is fascinating, not to mention that we've left some good friends there. it would be nice to visit once in a while. I just don't think now would be the appropriate time."

"We'll see what we can do about that," Hammond decided. "What about the ship? Are there any chances of finding others like it? What are the odds that it was built by someone in our reality?"

"That is highly unlikely, General Hammond," Teal'c said. "None of the races we have encountered in this universe possess such a technology."

"There was the quantum mirror," Daniel pointed out. "But no, I think Teal'c is right. Whoever built the ship must have been from another universe and most likely we'll never know what kind of universe that was."

"I wouldn't really trust them anyway, General," Jack confessed. "If they're willing to strike deals with the likes of Nightwatch they're not exactly the kind of people we'd like to have on our side."

"I bet the NID would love them, though," Sam mused.

The General sighed. The Pentagon and Area 52 had been quite excited at the report of a giant spaceship lying unattended on a seemingly deserted planet. Now it appeared that they should all have remembered the phrase too good to be true. There would be no ship to study. But at least there were the devices Major Carter had helped make. That ought to keep the boys at Area 52 excited. As for Hammond himself, he would be left to reflect on yet another close shave his flagship team had been through. And yet, they were all back and they seemed even enriched by the experience. That was a good thing.

"All right," Hammond said, "That's about it for now. I'll be waiting for your full reports in a week. I'm sure they'll make a very interesting read. Dismissed." He paused, watching the four get up as one and move to the door. "SG1," he added and they all paused and turned to him, "Welcome home."

Daniel Jackson's office

Daniel was sitting in his chair playing with the Minbari translator. Technically, he should have given that up to be taken to Area 52 with the four travelling devices. But he had argued with Hammond that he wanted to keep it. In the end Hammond had agreed he could have the translator – until further instructed. If the Pentagon asked for it, Daniel would have to give it up. Daniel did not know how he felt about that. the translator had been a gift, after all. If all else failed he could always say he wanted to hold on to it for further study until he managed to learn how the language was constructed. He was not sure, though, if the Pentagon would fall for that. quite likely they would consider it a useless endeavour.

There were no Minbari in this universe. Or were there? that was what Daniel kept going over and over in his mind, trying to figure out if he had heard in his travels any kind of rumours that would have proven the existence of a race like the Minbari. Maybe there had been and the Go'auld had wiped them out. Or maybe they had never existed. As far as Daniel had been able to dig back on Babylon 5, that universe had not heard of the Go'auld.

Daniel did not really have too many answers to the countless of questions that the journey to Babylon 5 had left him with. And quite likely he would soon have no time to pursue his queries anyway. Their next mission would come and their next battle with the Go'auld and their stay at Babylon 5 would become just a report number, an interesting story as far as it had gone, but that was all. Best forget about it and move on to the next case.

A knock on his always open door brought Daniel back from his dark musings. He raised his eyes to see Jack O'Neill standing in the threshold.

"I thought you went home," Daniel said. "How come you're still here?"

"I could ask you the same thing," Jack pointed out.

Daniel shrugged his shoulders lowering his eyes again.

"Well to be honest I was sort of gathering my courage," he confessed shamefacedly. "I guessed it's only now starting to sink in that I've actually spent about a month surrounded by walls and space. Going out seems a bit terrifying right now."

"Yeah, tell me about it," Jack agreed.

He entered the office entirely and strolled over to a chair. He sat down, looking at Daniel thoughtfully.

"Carter went home, you know," he announced.

"She did, huh?" Daniel muttered without raising his eyes from the translator.

"I guess she's tougher than the three of us put together," Jack mused.

"Well, no point bringing Teal'c into this," Daniel pointed out. "He sleeps on base. Plus…that wasn't the only reason I'm not home right now."

"Oh?" Jack prompted.

"Do you ever think this is how it would be like in our world if we made the knowledge of life on other planets public?" Daniel asked in a rush. "You know, big space station out in the sky, diplomatic relationships with aliens all up front, extra-terrestrial tourists visiting Paris and the like?"

There was a knowing look now in Jack's eyes.

"So that's what this is all about," he discovered.

"Well, you can't tell me you haven't thought about it," Daniel challenged Jack. "It's been five years since we've found what the stargate can do and we're nowhere near disclosing to the public what it is we do."

Jack knew that, at some level Daniel wanted validation. It was not even too unusual. Who would not, especially taking into account what they did? SG1 alone had saved the world multiple times, yet regular people thought they were in some boring job dealing with deep space telemetry. Of course appreciation was sometimes craved. Jack had to admit that he too sometimes wished people knew what his job really entailed, even if he usually claimed he could not care less either way.

It was not only about validation, though. Not in Daniel's case, at least. There was also the desire to show the rest of the world how truly magnificent and terrifying the universe really was. gate travel put a lot of things into perspective. It changed one's entire system of values. And, maybe, that was where the problem stood.

"I don't think our dimension is ready yet, do you?" Jack stated at length. "Think about how the world would react."

"I used to tell myself the same thing before Babylon 5," Daniel confessed. "That Earth was not ready to find out what was out there, that we were not evolved enough to understand – that we needed time to sort ourselves before dealing with aliens."

"And now you don't think that?" Jack wanted to know.

"Do you?" Daniel inquired. "You've been to Babylon 5. You saw the problems they have on Earth – power-hungry officials, xenophobes, technology chasers – is it any different from what we have in our reality, in our time?"

Jack shrugged his shoulders. Daniel had a knack for asking uncomfortable questions. He had this gift of making one think about stuff that one deliberately ignored just because one knew it was not right. And yet Daniel always pushed those boundaries and the irritating thing was that no one could even contradict him. Jack most certainly could not contradict him now.

"What's your point?" he asked instead.

"I'm afraid that if we wait for the entire world to be ready to be told about aliens we're never going to reveal the truth about the Stargate Program," Daniel said in the end. "The only thing that could be done is take the risk and then hope for the best reaction."

Jack said nothing to that. he waited for Daniel to elaborate more on the subject. Yet Daniel seemed to think that he had revealed too much about his true thoughts as it was.

"Never mind," he said. "We're probably right in keeping this a secret."

"We're not going to keep it for ever," O'Neill consoled his friend. "Who knows? Give it a few hundred years and we'll have our own Babylon 5 station."

"And our own John Sheridan," Daniel mused.

Yet again, Daniel wondered if it was really going to be so. He fervently hoped for the sake of the world that it would. Because, in Daniel's mind, his reality would be severely impoverished if it did not have a Sheridan, or a Garibaldi or an Ivanova. Of course, the same went for the representatives of the alien races Daniel did not even know existed in his own reality. A universe without a Delenn or a Lennier or even a Londo Mollari seemed like a very depressing notion to Daniel.

Jack was watching his friend thoughtfully. For a while neither of them said anything. Jack wondered whether he should not leave. It was high time he went home, after all. Then, making a spur of the moment decision, he indicated to Daniel that he should get up.

"Come on," he urged him. "I'll give you a ride home. We can stop for pizza along the way. Haven't had decent pizza in ages."

Daniel scoffed. Still, he agreed to go with Jack, especially after the latter reinforced the argument by nodding his head to the Minbari translator and saying:

"Take your toy with you, if you want to."

As they were getting into Jack's car, Daniel looked at Jack thoughtfully.

"You think we'll ever go there again, Jack?" he asked.

Jack started the car. He took a while to answer Daniel. There was not a clear answer, of course. Not in their line of work. Theirs was the kind of job where they went to work in the morning having no idea whether they would even be alive at the end of the day. How could Jack know then whether any of them would manage to reach Babylon 5 again – or if they even had reasons to do so besides their own whims? Still, he suspected that Daniel knew all that and a confirmation of the depressing truth was not what his friend wanted or needed.

"I don't know, Daniel," Jack said instead. "Perhaps we just might."

End. Thank you for reading!