Any material relating to Stargate SG-1 is for entertainment only, and is in no way meant as an infringement on copyrights. In other words, I own nadda.
Spoilers: There are spoilers all over the damn place. Except S6. I'm pretending in this one that season six doesn't exist. And if the timelines are a little iffy, just ignore it.
Chapter One (Point of View)
'' Unauthorised offworld activation!''
Sam looked up from her microscope in surprise, glanced at Daniel who was lounging against her bench, coffee mug between his hands, mouth open as the klaxons interrupted his next word. '' Who's off-world?''
'' Um, I'm really not the person to ask... wait, SG-16 are, aren't they?'' He checked his watch. '' And they should be returning nearly on time, if that is them.''
She tapped her fingers against the bench. '' Guess we could wander on down anyway....''
'' SG-1 to control! SG-1 to control!''
'' Guess we ought to,'' Daniel said, smirking slightly and pushing off the bench.
They hurried to the elevators, wondering what the Stargate had in store for them. SG-1 was supposed to be on downtime this week - the Colonel had actually left for his cabin the day before, and Teal'c had gone to visit his family, while the two scientists had remained behind to catch up on some pending projects. The Colonel had muttered something that sounded rather like 'damn crazy scientists' to Sam's acute hearing, but she'd refused to rise to the bait. Just what was she supposed to do at home anyway?
General Hammond was standing at the enforced glass, looking down into the gate room. He was frowning.
'' General?'' Daniel asked, coming to stand next to the man and following his eyeline. He stiffened. '' Oh!''
'' What?'' Sam looked down into the gate room and unconsciously mirrored Daniel's reaction: '' Oh!''
Standing at the top of the ramp, arms wrapped around the shoulders of a child with the armed defence team aiming at her, was Samantha Carter.
Here we go again....
Daniel crossed his arms. '' Okay, long hair. I'm thinking she's not in the Air Force.''
Sam resisted the urge to thump her friend. '' General?'' she queried, really not sure what to do. '' I thought the mirror had been destroyed.''
'' It has.'' He moved off, trusting Daniel and Sam to follow him as they hurried down the stairs.
The SFs were all still in place when they entered the gate room. '' Stand down!'' General Hammond marched right up to the foot of the ramp. '' Identify yourself.''
The woman - Sam was having difficulty figuring out what to call her - stared with wide eyes at the General. Her eyes flicked to Sam, to Daniel, and then back to General Hammond. '' Major Samantha Carter, Sir. And you're General Hammond. Dr Daniel Jackson.'' There was a slight, almost triumphant smile. '' And Major Samantha Carter.''
The child, a boy, made a small sound, his eyes fixed on Sam. '' Are they gonna shoot us?'' he whispered, hands going up to clutch at the ones crossed over his chest.
'' Shush.'' The woman - oh, for God's sake - the other Samantha Carter, rubbed his chest with her hands absently. '' Ah, General, sir, could you possibly ask the SFs to stand down? They are a little unnerving.''
For the first time, Sam's eyes drifted from the face of her duplicate, and the face of the child, to really look at her. The longer hair, as Daniel had pointed out so swiftly, was there but it was blonder, streakier, the kind of colour Sam's went when she took a long holiday somewhere sunny (not that that had happened recently). The other Sam had hers in a long ponytail and it was probably the length Sam's had been when she was a teenager. Her skin was slightly darker, more tanned. But those differences weren't surprising - clearly this woman had been somewhere hot recently. It was her clothes that were the real surprise.
They were alien clothes. A strange blue-grey tunic thing, glinting like metal in the lights of the gate room. A studded belt pulled the tunic in at the waist and the hem, which came to about mid-thigh was studded with similar turquoise-like stones. Under the tunic, she was wearing a pair of trousers in the same colour, and black, slightly pointy boots. Nothing in Sam's closet, suffice to say, looked anything like what this woman was wearing. The overall effect was nice, Sam supposed, but she'd never wear it out in public. Not that Sam really went out into public all that much anymore.
'' Is that a weapon, Major Carter?''
The woman touched the object that was strapped to her waist, her face flickering imperceptibly. '' Of course, sir.''
Sam's fingers itched to get her hands on it, see what it did, take it apart and put it back together again. That wasn't unusual. When she was forced to take medical leave, Sam tended to take apart her kitchen appliances. Thank God the Colonel didn't know about that; it would lead to no end of embarrassment.
'' Then I'd appreciate it if you put it on the ramp and kicked it towards us.''
The woman smiled. '' Yes, of course sir.'' She unclipped the weapon, dropped it casually onto the ramp and toed it away with her boot. '' I have no other weapons, General. Nor does my son.''
'' Your son?'' Sam exclaimed. She immediately regretted it, and cast the General an apologetic look for her behaviour. But inside her mind was racing. How could she have a son? And with whom? Sam was no judge of children's ages, but basing the boy's height on that of her nephew's, she imagined he was about five or six. Brown hair, straight and smooth like her nephew's, she couldn't really see his eye colour from where she was standing but his face had the youthful innocence that she associated with young children.
'' You don't have... Oh, good. That'll make entrophic cascade failure something he'll miss out on.'' The woman looked about the room curiously, wide blue eyes taking in everything (Sam wondered if that startled rabbit expression was something she did as well). '' I must say. It looks like the gate room I left behind. But it clearly isn't. I mean, I realised something was wrong when we stepped out of that cave and saw the planet was now deserted of all life....''
General Hammond seemed to come to a decision. '' Ah, perhaps this would be better conducted in the briefing room. Major, if you and your son would step this way.'' Hammond stepped back, and gestured to the doors. He raised his eyebrows at the two SFs nearest him and they nodded slightly, understanding that they would be escorting the other Major Carter and her son to the briefing room.
'' How did they get here?'' Daniel demanded in a low voice. '' Without the mirror?''
'' I guess we'll just have to ask her.''
Sam and Daniel followed General Hammond, both of their curiosities piqued. Sam, personally, couldn't believe she was faced with yet another version of herself to compare herself to. It was bad enough the last time, with Dr Carter being married to her CO....
The duplicate Major Carter took Sam's seat automatically, pulling the child onto her lap sideways. The boy rested his head on his mother's shoulder and closed his eyes.
Sam sat opposite her, with Daniel next to her right. The SFs stood to attention inside the doorway, guns at the ready.
'' Tell us exactly what happened, Major Carter,'' Hammond asked patiently.
'' Well, my son and I were exploring the caves of Vema Desola.''
Beside her, Daniel scrawled down the name quickly, with a question mark beside it. It was not a name he recognised.
'' They were nothing new - the usual cave paintings displaying the history of the area, how the humans had been brought there through the Stargate, the Goa'uld and so on. As I said, nothing new. The caves themselves were pretty much off limits, except to certain, shall we say, high ranking archaeologists on the High Council.''
'' Then how did you get in?'' Daniel interrupted.
Major Carter cast a casual glance at him. '' By wheedling, Dr Jackson. Besides, the High Councillor himself is a friend.... and Matthew is a particular favourite of his.'' She shrugged. '' I thought they were nothing special but Matthew enjoyed himself - he loves tramping through caves.'' She smiled slightly, and glanced down at the boy napping on her. '' But something happened, I can only imagine one of us touched something we shouldn't have, because when we left the caves, it appeared that the city had disappeared. Completely. There was nothing but forest between us and the Stargate.''
'' An alternate reality cave?'' Hammond looked at his Major Carter for confirmation.
'' Anything's possible when it comes to the Ancients, sir,'' Sam said, her brow furrowed. Something wasn't right here - what on earth was she, the other she, doing 'tramping' around in caves with her son? She wouldn't have thought children would be allowed off world, even to relatively safe planets. And Matthew - hmm, she liked that name - seemed far too young in the first place. She, personally, would never consider taking a child of hers through the Stargate, not forgetting the fact that a boy that age couldn't possibly have the security clearance. Children didn't know how to keep such big secrets. What if he said something at school, for goodness sake?
'' Exactly. So I did the only thing I could think of - I dialled home.''
'' Ah, yes, Major. How exactly did you get SG-1s code?''
Sam caught up quickly. '' Considering the differences in your... reality, it's seems that you having the current SG-1 code is highly unlikely.''
'' But apparently possible. I guess I'm just really, really lucky,'' the woman said, shaking her head with apparent relief.
Again, that just didn't sit right with Sam. Had she emerged from the cave and logically come to the conclusion that she was in a different reality, Sam wouldn't have risked the life of her child and herself by dialling home, knowing the possibility that they could be splatted, so to speak, on the Stargate iris.
And, looking at the General and Daniel, they were thinking exactly the same thing.
'' Look, General, Major, Doctor,'' the other Major Carter continued slightly irritably, putting a hand to her temple, '' you have to understand. No matter how calm I may appear now, I was actually panicking. The first thing I thought of when I reached the Stargate was to get home. It was, in fact, all I could think of. Thinking about it now.... how close we could have been...'' The woman's hand began to shake and she put it down, wrapping it around her child. She lowered her head and kissed the top of his head.
Okay. Maybe Sam could understand that. Maybe. After all - the thought of being stranded in a reality that wasn't hers was definitely not something that could be passed over. And she'd heard stories from women in the SGC that maternal instincts were not to be underestimated - which she supposed she had a little experience of, with Cassy.
Daniel smiled sympathetically at the other Major Carter. '' I can understand that. Let's just be thankfully the codes were compatible, shall we?''
'' Yes. Quite. We have had some experience with entrophic cascade failure, Major..s. How long before we can expect Major Carter to experience the symptoms?''
'' Approximately forty-eight hours, sir.''
'' In that case, we'll get a team together and head back to the planet you've just come from.''
'' And therein lies the problem,'' Major Carter murmured, lifting her mouth from her son's head, her eyes weary.
'' I don't know the symbols for Vema Desola.''
Colonel O'Neill looked amused. Serious, but amused. He walked along the corridor by Sam's side, smiling slightly. '' Daniel said you've lost out on the hair again, Major.''
Sam narrowed her eyes at him. '' If we don't find this planet, Colonel, she will die.''
He cleared his throat and they paused at the locker room. He was still in his civvies, as Sam had met him under orders of General Hammond to bring him up to speed. '' How's it going?''
Sam pushed open the door with her back and politely went to sit on the bench with her back to her CO. When they were all together in the locker room, eyes could wander. When it was just the two of them, professionalism was everything. '' Well, she has the code for the planet she gated from initially as a guest of the Principal, whatever that means - she seems to know a lot of government officials on these planets - but it's not a planet we've ever been too. As she was told this planet - Vema Desola - was a neighbouring one to the planet she was initially on - this P3X 224....''
He knew where she was going. '' We're looking at all the neighbouring planets.''
'' Yeah, of which there are about twenty.''
'' Are we dialling them up one by one?''
''And sending the UAV through.''
'' How many have we done?''
As usual, he came straight to the crux of the matter. '' It's taking too long.''
'' Worse still, it's entirely likely that we'll come across at least fifteen highly coniferous planets just like Vema Desola.''
'' Which means we'll have to send a scout team through to confirm. Which will only take longer.''
'' Yeah,'' she sighed miserably. '' Decent?''
'' As I'll ever be.''
She turned around, strangely relieved to see her CO in his uniform. There was something about him when he was in jeans and a jumper, that leather jacket.... It unnerved her, that was what it was. 'Caring' about each other more than they were supposed to was easier to deal with when it was masked with uniforms and regulations and 'yes sir's and titles. Sometimes she was afraid she lingered on base purely because when she changed into her civvies she suddenly felt... naked. Vulnerable. Like if he approached her off base things would all fall apart.
Which was, of course, completely ridiculous. There was nothing between them anymore. And if there was, it was damn well going to stay beneath the surface.
'' What's the kid like?''
Sam smiled slightly, somehow not surprised. '' Sleepy. He's napping under the careful guidance of Janet in the infirmary. The other... me seemed to be comfortable leaving him with her. Something about Janet delivering him.''
The Colonel's eyebrows shot up. '' A proper SGC baby. Who's the father?''
Sam shrugged. '' No idea. No wedding ring. No name change.''
''Five or six years old. Guess I'm out of the running.'' He made a face and turned to leave the room swiftly. Sam was extremely glad, because she'd been slightly shocked when he'd so effortlessly brought up exactly what had been worrying her, and she just knew it showed on her face. She flushed and followed him, her head lowered, wishing her damn hair was longer.
Major Carter was in the control room, at the computer, watching the current UAV footage and shaking her head. She seemed to be aware of their approach, and she turned around, looking at Sam and Colonel O'Neill. Sam couldn't help studying her mirror's face, looking for signs of recognition as she looked the Colonel. When nothing happened, Sam felt her shoulders slump. Their realities had to be totally different. Six years before, Sam had been working full time on the Stargate project. No time for boyfriends or fiancés. The odd date, nothing concrete. Perhaps that was it. A fling? A one night stand? Could Matthew have been an accident?
Really, she oughtn't to be considering this. It was none of her business.
'' I was thinking. To stave off the entrophic cascade failure,'' Daniel announced, making everyone jump as he walked towards the group by the computers, '' perhaps we could send Major Carter, or Sam, I suppose, to a planet really, really far away. Didn't you say distance would affect this.... thing?''
'' We need all the time we can get,'' Major Carter said, looking up at Sam. '' But... I would quite like to stay with my son.''
'' Of course,'' General Hammond said hurriedly. He glanced towards Sam. '' Major...? What's your take on this?''
Sam resisted the urge to let her mouth drop open. Oh God, this feeling was rather similar to rejection. Which was just stupid. '' Ah, well, I suppose that would work. I mean, it would work. Theoretically.''
'' I mean no disrespect when I say this but I can do anything you can. And we can check in with you... obviously it would be useful to have your input if... when we find Vema Desola. It's just that.... this is taking such a long time.''
Sam had that sinking feeling. She was definitely being sent away. She sighed. '' We'll have to find a planet far away, friendly....''
Major Carter jumped up eagerly and ran to the star chart. After flicking her eyes over it, she selected a planet, as yet unlabelled. '' This one. We've visited this one. P4X 874. It's a tropical planet. No naquadah. No indigenous population. Long sandy beaches.''
'' In your reality,'' Sam pointed out impatiently. '' Wouldn't it be easier to find one we've already visited here?''
'' How much extra time are we talking about?'' the Colonel asked.
'' It's impossible to predict that without any actual previous experience....''
'' A few hours, maybe as much as a day,'' Major Carter interrupted at once. '' So, we could send a UAV through. The MALP. We wouldn't be sending you without backup, would we?''
'' Sam?'' Daniel asked, unfailingly concerned. '' How do you feel about this?''
She felt pretty pissed off, actually. This woman was usurping her for all intensive purposes. But she wasn't going to say that. It wasn't professional and God knew how she strove to be professional these days. '' If it'll help, of course I'll go.''
The Colonel looked from one major to the other, then his CO. '' General?''
'' Dial up P4X 874,'' the General decided.
'' Tropical weather, hey, Carter? Maybe you'll come back with a tan.''
Sam rolled her eyes, thankful the Colonel couldn't see her face. She glared at the back of her mirror's head, knowing only too well she was being irrational. This woman was a mother - if she died in this reality, Matthew would be stranded here with no way to get back home. Maybe there was a husband in the other reality. A boyfriend. Whatever. It was imperative she help in whatever way she could.
'' We'll be sending SG-2 with you, Major.''
Oh goodie. Feretti and his jokes. '' Yes, sir.''
'' SG-2 to the briefing room! SG-2 to the briefing room!''