TITLE: There and Back Again
AUTHOR: Mara Greengrass
AUTHOR'S E-MAIL: fishfolk@ix.netcom.com. Feedback is better than chocolate.

Other headers in part one

* * * * *

Thanks to another quake, everyone was up even earlier the next morning than they'd planned. This one hit just before dawn and it caused several tents to collapse. Hoshi and Sam's tent was even hit by a falling stone; they were rather blasé about the whole thing, but Jon and Jack both ran around doing very creditable imitations of chickens with their heads cut off.

Jon finally calmed down when he got a look at Trip's face. The other man was red and he looked like he was holding his breath--definitely laughing.

"Let's get on with testing," Jon said, more sharply than he'd intended.

Yawning the whole way, the group straggled their way back to the Stargate.

"We should move the shuttle closer," Trip said as he stumbled over a loose stone.

"Good idea. Lieutenant, would you take care of that later?"

"Yes, sir."

Daniel and Hoshi went back to huddling over a padd, and Sam and Trip began to set up equipment they'd jury-rigged from the shuttle.

Jon wandered over. "Do I want to ask you how this works?"

Sam opened her mouth but Trip beat her to it. "No, Cap'n, I don't think you do. Just trust me."

"I do, Trip, I do." And Jon wandered back to where Jack, Malcolm, and Teal'c stood silently observing.

"Captain."

"Colonel."

Jon joined the vigil, but eventually couldn't stand it anymore. His fingers itched to take action and his skin was practically crawling with his impatience.

"So, how will you know if this works?"

"If this Stargate connects with another, we will know," Teal'c said.

"But how will you know if it's the right one?"

"If we go through and General Hammond is yelling at us," Jack said, "we've got the right place and time. Other than that, who the hell knows?"

Jon glanced over at him. Jack was trying to look calm and in command, but tension was obvious in the lines around his eyes and the way his jaw kept clenching.

Hoshi and Daniel were oblivious to all the activity near them, paying only enough attention to duck when large objects went over their head.

After all the buildup, it was almost anticlimactic when Trip turned around. "Okay, let's go."

Jack looked even more wound up, but he turned to Jon and held out his hand. "Thanks for your help."

"Good luck in your war against the Goa'uld. I wish we could send you back with some technology, but..."

"I know, I know, timestream, changing the universe, all that stuff. Been there, done that, painted the spare bedroom." Jack waved it off. "We'll figure out something. We always do."

"I can see why. You've got a good team."

"So do you."

They both turned at the sound of a whine. Sam stood over a sleek box attached to the Stargate control panel, while Trip knelt by a gray cylinder atop a tripod, which was shooting bolts of energy at the Stargate.

"Daniel, get your ass over here if you don't want to miss the train home."

"Hang on, I think we're onto something."

"Sir, it's working. We're getting close."

"Daniel!"

"Do not worry, O'Neill. I will carry him through the Stargate if necessary."

"I'm going to trigger the gate sequence...Now!" She began to press the buttons and energy continued to pummel the Stargate.

There was a shimmer, and Jon could hear Jack muttering, "C'mon, c'mon, c'mon."

Sam pressed the last button and the shimmer grew.

Then it disappeared.

The beams stopped hitting the Stargate, the box Sam monitored beeped dishearteningly, and everything was quiet.

"Trip?"

"I don't know. We missed something. I don't know what." He glared at the Stargate as if it had chosen to not function simply to annoy him.

Out of the corner of his eye, Jon saw Jack approach Sam, who stood braced against the console, head down. "Carter?"

"I'm out of ideas, sir."

Jack's hand stretched, perhaps to pat her shoulder, when he was interrupted.

"Um guys, we've deciphered most of the text," Daniel said. "I think everyone needs to hear this."

"We're kind of in the middle of-"

"Everyone needs to hear it *now*."

Jack's eyebrows shot up, then he shrugged. "If you think it's that important..."

"It is," Hoshi said. She and Daniel moved to stand by the panels and the others gathered around. Jon had a bizarre sense of déjà vu and wondered if she was going to start teaching them Vulcan.

Daniel pointed to the first three lines of symbols. "This is the section we told you about before. It describes how the Ancients were experimenting with using the Stargates to travel between dimensions. Their time experiments, as we know, were unsuccessful, so they thought exploring alternate space might work better. It's unclear if their arrival on this planet involved time travel as ours did or not."

Hoshi picked up without a pause, pointing to a lower section. "Here it describes the transfer of this Stargate. There are some technical details we'll give you later, but they seem to have warped the universe and convinced it that this location and their Stargate were the same. Then, they split them again, leaving a Stargate in each place. They were apparently quite pleased with themselves," she said with some disgust.

Daniel stepped over to the next panel. "Here's the problem. This portion describes their arrival on this planet. They expected the residents to be upset at their appearance, but instead they found them thrilled to have visitors."

"That's a problem?" Sam asked. "I wish that happened to us more often."

"Yeah, same here," Trip said.

Jon happened to be looking at Malcolm and he saw the other man's chin shoot up, his shoulders tense, his hand drifting automatically toward his phase pistol.

"Malcolm?"

He didn't look away from the two linguists. "They didn't fight, but something happened then that caused this planet to be abandoned."

"You're right," Daniel said, his face drawn and tight. "Within a few weeks, the planetquakes started, then weather disturbances, electrical storms."

"The Stargate caused this?" Teal'c asked.

"The Ancients seemed to think so, and they certainly knew more about the possible effects than we do."

"I have never heard of a Stargate causing such phenomena," Teal'c said, "but we cannot deny our own experiences. The planetquakes, as you call them, have begun."

"What did these Ancients do when they realized what had happened?" Jon asked.

"Got the hell out of Dodge, I'd guess." Trip's tone was light, but he was leaning slightly forward, ready to leap up and take action.

"Precisely," Daniel said. "They concluded that the planetary disturbances might last for decades and would probably get worse. When they found no way to reverse it, they began an immediate evacuation of the entire population."

"They got everybody out?" Jack shook his head in disbelief.

"It took them a year, and the quakes and other problems got worse the entire time," Hoshi said.

"A year? They had a year?" Jack relaxed. "Don't scare me like that. I thought we were in real trouble. You guys'll figure something out long before a year is up."

"We are in real trouble, Col. O'Neill." Hoshi looked at Daniel and he nodded at her to continue. "The quakes didn't start for weeks after that first Stargate use. The ones we're experiencing started immediately. We can't be certain, but if we're right, this planet could become uninhabitable within a few days. Enterprise will be here to pick us up before that, but..."

"But the Stargate would be unreachable until the disturbances died down." Daniel paused. "In a few decades. If it even survived the experience."

"If you're sick and tired of being stranded, clap your hands," Jack said. He started to pace.

"You're not stranded yet," Jon said. "We'll do whatever we can to make this work before we have to evacuate you."

"Thanks, but excuse me if that doesn't make me leap for joy."

As if to contradict his statement, a noise like a gunshot in the distance made everyone jump. While they were looking around them, a rumbling began, an approaching stampede, and the ground tilted wildly. Jon found himself falling, his inner ear, eyes, and feet unable to agree on anything. The ground was like sandpaper when he hit it, but worst of all, it was writhing and groaning.

Then as suddenly as it began, all was quiet and still.

Jon pushed himself up, ignoring the sting of scrapes on his palms and cheek. Around him, everyone else sat up, brushed dirt off their uniforms, and generally shook themselves back into order.

Jon forced himself to check first on Malcolm, who was nursing a nasty cut on his cheek. "I'm fine, sir," the armory officer insisted as Jon searched for the nearest first aid kit.

"You always say that," Jon said. "I've stopped believing you."

"How can you say such a thing?" Malcolm managed to imbue his voice with a world of insult.

Jon shook his head and went to check on Trip and Hoshi, leaving Malcolm holding a bandage to his head.

Trip and Sam were already sorting out the mess of equipment, so Jon was able to turn his attention to Hoshi with a clear conscience.

She didn't seem to be bleeding, but she sat on a low wall, one hand held to the back of her head. Daniel was trying to take a look, but Jon unceremoniously pushed him out of the way.

"Are you okay, Hoshi?"

"I'm fine, sir. I just hit my head on the way down, and I think I'm going to have quite a bump."

As she spoke, Jon checked her head and she was right, so he stepped around in front of her. She was disheveled and dusty, but no less lovely for that. He folded his hands to repress the urge to brush dust off her cheek and tuck her hair behind her ear. "Why don't you rest and I'll go get a scanner so I can make sure you haven't got a concussion?"

"I need to give Trip the data we-" Hoshi tried to stand up.

"Dr. Jackson can take care of that," Jon said firmly, pushing her back down. "You need to rest until I can be certain nothing is wrong. That's an order, Ensign."

"Yes, sir."

"Now, stay here while I get a scanner." She subsided back onto the wall, and Jon didn't miss the wince as she nodded her head.

Daniel was sorting through the notes on the ground nearby. He looked up as Jon passed. "I'll give them the information we translated."

"Thank you."

Jon checked Hoshi over, but after he found no concussion, she joined the huddle of scientists making adjustments to their equipment.

"This is the worst part," Jon said, mostly to himself, as he crossed his arms and watched.

"Yeah," Jack agreed.

The shaking was becoming more frequent, and any movement was like walking across a floor covered in marbles.

The sounds were the worst, Jon decided as he whirled around, startled by a nearby crash. He covered his head as a hail of small stones followed the noise.

An hour passed, and tempers were starting to flare. He saw Trip almost yelling at Daniel as the latter tried to explain what needed to be done. Even Hoshi and Sam looked tense.

"Captain, I think we need to move the shuttle now. If this gets much worse, we might not be able to get to it to get off the planet." Malcolm said.

"You're right. Go ahead. Get as close as you can."

"Take Teal'c with you," Jack said. "It's getting dangerous around here."

"How much longer?" Jon called to the scientists as Malcolm and Teal'c carefully made their way out of the clearing.

"Not sure, Cap'n. We're making this up as we go along, you know."

Jon turned as he heard the whine of the shuttle and he saw it settling down on the other side of a building. Nodding with satisfaction, he estimated they could reach it in moments.

Sam and Trip set up the equipment again, running endless checks as the ground shook. Daniel and Hoshi hovered over their shoulders, making suggestions. As things progressed, they become less tense. Understandings were reached. Nodding was more frequent than frowning.

"I think we're ready, sir." Sam was rechecking a setting.

"Will it work?"

"It'd better." Trip looked up from his post. "I don't think we're going to be able to stay here much longer. I think we've got one more shot."

"Make it a good one."

"Aye, Cap'n."

The noises were ceaseless now, a varied symphony of grinding walls and clattering stones. Sam and Trip took up their positions, everyone else found a spot where they could hold steady against the shaking.

Once again, beams shot out to hit the Stargate. Jon couldn't see any difference, but he prayed there was one. It had to work this time.

Around them, the buildings were starting to fall apart. Even as he watched, a wall just beyond the Stargate developed a crack that ran diagonally from the bottom halfway up the side. Small rocks began to pelt them from all sides.

"Is it working?" Jon yelled.

"How the heck should I know, Cap'n?" Trip ducked and bent to cover the emitter.

"It's working," Sam said from the console, where she was holding onto the edges to keep her balance. "I estimate the Stargate will open in two minutes."

"That's great, Carter," Jack yelled as he staggered over, evading flying debris with uncanny accuracy. "But are we gonna make it for two more minutes?"

"We will survive, O'Neill." Teal'c made the task of standing up look a lot easier than it actually was.

Jack turned to Jon. "You should get back to your shuttle now."

"What if this doesn't work?"

"It'll work. Go!"

Jon didn't even have to look at his crew to know they were all shaking their heads. "We'll leave when you're safely through the Stargate, or we'll take you with us."

"We're not gonna leave and that's final," Trip said. "Now, get ready, we've got one more adjustment to make." A rock hit his shoulder and he grunted, but kept working.

Jon's entire body was braced against the shaking, nerves singing with tension. Beams continued to pulse against the Stargate, and Jon held his breath as Sam pushed at the console.

Then, in between heartbeats, the giant stone ring filled with a sea of matter, blue and black, writhing and twisting.

"Whoo hoo!" Trip bellowed.

"Okay, people, let's move." Jack braced himself upright and started toward the Stargate.

Sam smiled at Trip. "It's been an honor, Commander."

Meanwhile, Daniel hugged Hoshi and started toward the Stargate. "Thank you for your help and good luck."

"And to you."

Meanwhile, Teal'c and Malcolm exchanged glances, and shook hands firmly.

The four visitors made their way quickly to the Stargate.

"Thanks for everything," Jack called to Jon as his team hopped through. "It's been real, and it's been fun, but it hasn't been real fun. Now get outta here!" He followed his team through the Stargate, and moments later, the shimmer vanished.

Jon shook his head and staggered a few feet in the direction of the shuttle. "Come on, people, let's do what the man said, before this planet breaks up."

The ground was definitely shaking harder as they made their way to where Malcolm had left the shuttle.

Jon hung behind, pushing his crew in front of him. "Go, go!"

Ahead of him, Malcolm was opening the door, jumping in, practically throwing Trip inside. Jon was behind Hoshi, he saw the rock falling, there was no time to shout.

He threw himself at her, twisting them both aside. The rock scraped along his back, and Jon could feel the fabric of his uniform rip, the skin gouged. They hit the ground hard, and everything grayed out.

Someone was dragging him. "Damn it, Cap'n, get *up*!"

"I'm up," he said with a groan. "Where's Hoshi?"

"She's okay. Malcolm's got her in the shuttle. Let's go!"

The door of the shuttle was in front of them and they dove in. Hoshi slammed the door behind them as Malcolm ignited the thrusters. Before they could even get seated, the shuttle was hurtling into the sky.

Jon lay on the deck of the shuttle for a moment, catching his breath.

"Captain? Are you okay?" Hoshi knelt over him, eyebrows furrowed with concern. "How's your back?"

He swallowed, then managed a smile. "I'm just fine. Enterprise should be in orbit soon. Let's go home, people."

* * * * *

Epilogue:

As Malcolm piloted the shuttle out of the planet's orbit, Jon sat down on a bench and winced as his back came in contact with the bulkhead. Trip and Hoshi frowned at him in unison.

"I thought you said you were unhurt, sir." Hoshi was already rummaging for the first aid kit.

Jon tried to say he was okay, but before he knew it, she'd turned him around to inspect his back. With Trip as amused onlooker, she ruthlessly stripped the top of his uniform off to tend to his wounds.

When the blushing threatened to become too obvious, Trip took pity on him and served up a distraction. "So, do you think they made it back to the right universe and time?"

"I don't know. If they did, I don't think we'll ever know."

"Sir, we've got a call coming in from Enterprise," Malcolm said.

T'Pol's flat voice reminded Jon for a heartbeat of Teal'c, and thus it took a moment for the sense of her message to sink in. "A what?" he asked.

"A transmitter on the planet sending a repeating message, which specifically uses your name and asks you to transport a box. Should we do so?"

"Yes," Jon was shaken and he looked at the other three, "I just hope it's good news."

"Transporting now."

"Let us know what you've got as soon as you're done." Jon looked at the others, and they looked as nervous as he did.

Hoshi finished patching up his back and sat down on the bench next to him. Her wide eyes looked nervous and he managed a confident nod, which seemed to help.

"Captain, there is a written message and a small box." T'Pol's voice echoed in the shuttle's interior.

"What does the message say?"

"It says: 'Captain Archer: We thought you folks might be a little worried, so Carter got the bright idea to send something back. Of course, she didn't sleep for three days trying to figure out how to reproduce the time and dimensional travel, but she loves that stuff.'"

Jon smiled, even as T'Pol read it, he could hear Jack O'Neill's voice.

T'Pol continued to read. "'The gift was Carter's idea too, but Teal'c, Daniel, and I hope you like it. We're home safe and sound for once. Thanks for everything.'

"It is signed, 'Colonel Jack O'Neill.'"

"What's in the box?" Jon was suddenly consumed with curiosity.

A long pause ensued and the four of them exchanged puzzled glances.

"There are four small models of a primitive vehicle," T'Pol said.

Jon's mouth opened, but he couldn't say anything, so it fell to Hoshi to ask the obvious question.

"Sub-Commander, what name appears on the craft?"

"Enterprise."


--end--