Chapter One – Contact
Cheyenne Mountain Complex
Colorado Springs, Colorado, North American Union
September 6, 2042
It was the place where it had all begun. Well sort of. Logically she knew that it had happened many times in the past. In ancient Egypt, in 1945, even earlier if the discovery of a second gate beneath the Antarctic ice pack was any indication. But in her mind it had truly begun here a half century earlier. It was here that the first mission to Abydos was conducted, where the first and only team had traversed through the stargate, had discovered a history long since forgotten and killed a god. And it had been here that it had all come to an end.
It would've still been nothing but a historical footnote, shrouded behind classifications and denials if not for the 'incident'. Jennifer snorted. It was a polite way of saying that someone had fucked up. Somewhere along the line the facility that the gate had been stored in had fallen through the bureaucratic cracks and money for its maintenance had been reassigned. Then there'd been that heavy snowstorm in '38. Goddamned global warming and now there were snowstorms in Southern Nevada on a regular basis. The two factors had combined in typical fashion and the roof had caved in, literally. A support beam had fallen on the gate and smashed its storage crate. Next thing anyone knew there was an explosion and suddenly the gate was operational again.
According to all accounts the gate had only connected to Abydos and that gate had been buried back in the late 20th. So the powers that be had logically assumed that someone had dug it up again. Then they panicked in predictable military fashion. Something had to be done about this new potential threat. Except for one problem. It had been forty-seven years since the Abydos expedition and everyone was either dead or close to it. Well except one that is.
Early in her career Jennifer had garnered the attention of one of Project Stargate's great scientific minds. She still recalled that day when Samantha Carter had shown up in her lab, equal parts fascination and condemnation coloring her first words. What had begun with insubordination, resentment and the arrogance of youth had matured into mutual respect for each other. They'd made a good team, something the Air Force had recognized and exploited. When Sam had been transferred to NASA to work on the VentureStar project, she'd followed, a barely commissioned lieutenant. For five years they'd worked on getting that ugly bird off the ground, finally succeeding in '07 to much fanfare.
It hadn't been long before Sam had let her in on the greatest project of her life. Jennifer would've thought anyone else crazy if she'd heard the same words. But not Sam. A device that created artificial wormholes through subspace. The technology involved had to have been ludicrously complex and so far beyond anything on Earth as to be mistaken for magic. But along with her stories of the great mystery had come resentment. After Abydos the Air Force had been happy to sweep the whole thing under the rug and forget about it. All that potential wasted due to the ignorance and fear of a few bureaucrats who couldn't come close to understanding what it represented.
It had become something of an obsession of hers over the years. When Sam had finally retired in 2033, Jennifer had taken up the torch. A general herself, she'd gained access to the classified files. She'd learned of the discovery of the second gate in the Antarctic, discovered during an oil survey in 2014. She'd also learned that the first gate's control device had been recovered by an opportunistic CIA during the chaos following the failed Second Red Revolution of 2021. She'd even seen the recovered footage of the experiments on the gate in the twilight days of the Second World War.
But for all her lobbying and political maneuvers, the gate would've remained off limits were it not for that stupid accident. Idly she wondered which idiot accountant she had to thank for that. Sam had laughed her ass off when she'd told her. Now in her late 80s, the retired scientist had all but begged her protégée for access to the gate, something that Jennifer didn't have the heart to refuse. Besides she still held her classified status, even if the United States Air Force hadn't existed for almost a decade.
"Hell of a thing isn't it," said the retired general, observing the technicians below swarming over the alien ring. "I haven't been here in almost a half century and nothing's changed."
"Well they didn't exactly do anything with this place after the gate was deep-sixed," replied Jennifer with a shrug. "Especially when NORAD was replaced back in '21 and moved to Liberty Station."
"Biggest boondoggle of all time I swear," said Sam as she shook her head.
"Nah, that was the SLAMIS system," laughed Jennifer, referring to the array of missile defense satellites that guarded North America and her allies from nuclear attack. "Should've taken your advice and gone with free-electron lasers and the LFTR reactor. But I guess the thought of strapping a nuke to a laser was too much of a draw."
"Too many people from the Reagan days that remembered Star Wars."
"General Hailey," interrupted a voice from behind. "We've completed the work on the super-conductive interface."
"Thank you airman," replied Jennifer, taking the proffered slate and offering a loose salute. "I hope you don't mind Sam but I made a few improvements on your original design."
Carter just shrugged as she mirrored the data to her own slate. "Well considering I designed the system back in 1996 I would hope you would've fixed a few things," she noted as she scrolled though the data. "Back then we had to use three Cray supercomputers just to get the gate to respond, all of which combined had less processing power than my watch. Hmm, you've used room temperature superconductors in the interface, eliminating the need for a cooling system."
"And I've added a cut down seismic counter-resonance dampener to handle the shaking. Once we have the system calibrated you won't get so much as a single vibration outa the thing. We've refined the control program to take into account all of the diagnostic signals the gate produces too. We're actually using a modified version of the software from the original control device that we snagged from the Russians."
"Why not use it then?"
"I considered that but we still don't know what all the coding does and I didn't want to risk hooking it up to our systems before we do. The thing is incredibly complex and we only understand about half its functions. Besides we're here to learn about the gate, not just use it and we can do that better with our own tech."
"You've also added an iris I see."
"Zero-gee titanium ceramic alloy reinforced with non-organic carbon nanotube weave and synthetic diamond. That's about as strong as it gets and nearly ten times stronger than the original iris' specs. And we decreased the distance from the event horizon from three micrometers to one. That should prevent even sub-atomic particles from reintegrating."
"In case someone decides to attack us with a particle beam," concluded the elderly scientist with a nod of approval. "That's something we didn't consider back in the old days. And is this a plasma window?"
"Yep. We've decided to add it as a secondary line of defense. Should help absorb any excess radiation and pressure that could be exerted against the iris. You were the one who theorized that it might be possible that a whole host of exotic particles could traverse a wormhole."
"Nice, but that's a hell of a power draw…," replied Sam, only to be cut off at alarms began blaring.
"Attention all personnel. We have an incoming wormhole forming. All personnel report to defensive positions."
The two just looked at each other before rushing down the staircase to the control room below. Of all the spaces within the facility, this one had changed the most. Long gone were the banks of supercomputer clusters with their blinking lights and mechanical readouts, replaced by holographic display panels that provided a wealth of data on the operation of stargate and the facility at large. The starmap had been replaced with a tactical holo-tank that filled up much of the space, currently inactive and awaiting final installation.
"What've we got?" demanded Hailey.
"The gate began dialing thirty-seven seconds ago," replied the sergeant manning the control terminal. "Five of the seven required chevrons have illuminated so far and as per protocol I ordered defensive measures throughout the facility."
"Good. Engage the iris and activate the plasma window as well. I want that to be standard protocol for all unexpected incoming wormholes in the future."
"Yes ma'am," replied the technician as he tapped two commands on the haptic interface. Beyond the synth-diamond windows, silvery panels slid closed within the aperture of the gate, a shimmering green field appearing over them as they finished sealing. All was still for a moment before a loud whooshing sound resonated throughout the room, a shimmering wave of blue reflecting off the concrete walls behind the gate.
"Anything?" asked Hailey as she held her breath.
"No impacts on the iris have been detected ma'am."
"Scan for electromagnetic anomalies," ordered Carter, nominally the second in command of the facility.
"Scanning. I'm detecting what appears to be an old style analogue radio signal in the twenty-five megahertz band."
"Push it up on the speakers."
A static filled the room, pops, clicks and hisses playing for a moment before a voice spoke, "I repeat. This is Doctor Daniel Jackson calling Earth. Please respond." The voice was weary and tired; the voice of a man well into the latter years of his life. But it still inspired a shocked silence throughout the room.
"Doctor Jackson?" asked Hailey incredulously. "Didn't he die during the original mission in 1995?"
"According to Colonel O'Neill's reports," replied Carter with a frown, "and the reports of the rest of his team. He was supposedly killed in a nuclear explosion along with the alien that was masquerading as 'Ra'."
"According to the official reports," sighed Hailey in resignation. She'd been in the service a long time and knew that many 'inconvenient' facts tended to get covered up before they ever made it onto paper. "Open a channel on the same frequency sergeant."
When she received a nod, Hailey began, "This is General Jennifer Hailey of the North American Union Air Force. We're receiving your transmission."
There was another few seconds of silence before a reply came through, "I don't… I can't. This is Doctor Jackson. I never thought I would ever get through. I've been trying for so long."
"Doctor Jackson, if that is indeed who you are. You were reported killed during the original mission to Abydos forty-seven years ago. How can you explain this discrepancy?"
A chuckle filled the airwaves before the archeologist replied. "During the original mission I was, well I guess the best way of saying it is 'gifted' with a woman. The natives thought that we were gods since we'd come through the stargate and they believed that we wanted tribute. Over the mission I came to know Sha're and we fell in love. After we killed Ra, I decided to stay behind with her and asked Jack to lie about what happened. I guess he decided to tell the military that we were all killed. I had the gate buried to prevent any further missions."
"Colonel O'Neill reported that you and the native population were killed in a nuclear explosion that also killed 'Ra', whatever he was."
"Ra did die in a nuclear explosion aboard his ship. But it was in low orbit at the time," replied Daniel in a knowing tone. "The threat was neutralized but I knew that if the American government learned of the humans here they would never have known peace. I guess in my mind I had images of a modern Indian reserve being created out here."
Hailey nodded to herself at that. It wasn't that she agreed with his reasons for keeping things hidden but she could well understand the logic behind them. "If that's so, then why have you contacted us now?"
"I've actually been trying for decades now," replied Daniel wearily. "A few months after the expedition returned to Earth I uncovered a hidden chamber beneath the pyramid here. It contained hundreds of stargate addresses and I thought that the information needed to get back to Earth, regardless of the consequences. If the stargate had only led to Abydos then so be it but according to my studies it can actually connect to gates across the galaxy."
Hailey's eyes widened to comical proportions, mirrored by her mentor. They'd both theorized this possibility for decades but had never been able to test it. It had never made sense that there were only two gates given the number of coordinate symbols available to them. Regaining herself, Hailey replied, "Have you ever tried dialing any of them doctor?"
"Of course. But none of them ever worked. Over time I theorized that the coordinates may have become invalid because the planets they were on may have moved further away from Abydos. The cartouche here is several thousand years old."
"Of course," exclaimed Sam as she smacked her head. "The expanding universe theory posits that all bodies are constantly moving apart. In the thousands of years since that map was created the coordinates would've changed."
"Who was that?"
"Oh sorry doctor. My name is General Samantha Carter, retired. I worked closely with Doctor Langford on the Stargate after the expedition returned until the program was shut down."
"So then you know what happened to her?" asked the archeologist in a sad tone.
"She died in 2014, I'm sorry. She always spoke of you fondly doctor. She said that without you her life's work would've come to nothing."
"She was a good friend," replied the elderly voice. "Yet another that I wasn't able to say goodbye to." An awkward pall fell over the room, broken only by the occasional crackle of the radio feed. After what felt like several minutes but in reality was only a few seconds he continued, "Anyway, I think that you should send a team. If we can figure out a way to correct for the planetary drift then we can use the stargate to explore the entire galaxy."
It only took a few seconds of thought and a shared glance with her mentor before Hailey replied. "I think I can agree to that Doctor Jackson. I'll assemble a team and have them ready as soon as possible. Before we disconnect is there anything you need?"
There was a slight chuckle followed by a sneeze. "A box of tissues would be nice. As you can guess I ran out a long time ago."
A smile spread across Jennifer's face. "I'll see what I can do. Expect further contact with the next five hours."
"I'll be waiting."