Stargate SG-1 Sam/Jack fanfiction

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Rating: PG

All audiences.

Big thanks to Channach for plot-editing this chapter and to Raven Clark for style-editing this chapter with me.

Sam dropped down on one of the wooden boxes in the briefing tent. Some coffee from the cup in her hand spilled onto her pants. She groaned. Early morning briefings still weren’t her thing.

“Rough night?” Next to her, Daniel grinned.

“McKay and I tried to devise a program for distributing the virus into a gate until—” She glanced at her watch. “—three hours ago.”

“Ouch. Success?”

“We managed to cut distribution time down to twenty seconds. Provided we connect directly to the Aschen dialing device.”

Daniel pushed his glasses up on his nose. “Does Jack know yet?”

“Yeah. He wasn’t happy, but there’s just no way to distribute the virus remotely without affecting the entire gate network.” She put her cup down and buried her face in her hands. Her eyes burned from lack of sleep. She’d definitely have to hit the sack for another couple of hours after the briefing.

Jack entered the tent. “Good morning, kids.”

How did he always manage to sound so awake and cheerful? After all, he hadn’t gotten much more sleep than her.

“Where’s McKay?” Jack looked around.

“He’ll be here in a moment. He’s getting breakfast,” Daniel said.

“Ah.” Jack set some papers down on a makeshift table.

Seconds later, McKay entered the tent carrying two large sandwiches. Jack started the briefing. Sam stifled a yawn and took a huge sip of coffee. All the coffee at camp wouldn’t be enough today.

“…so Sheppard and I talked about it, and we’ve devised a strategy to distribute the virus. It requires extensive preparation and collaboration with other resistance cells, but we think we can make it work.” Jack leaned against the table. “Just distributing the virus isn’t gonna do Earth any good long-term. So we’ll distribute the virus and, at the same time, retake the Stargate in Powhatan.”

Retake the… Sam sat up straight. Talk about a long-term effort. “As in a revolution, sir?”

“Yeah. We wanna keep casualties to a minimum, and if the Aschen can’t call for reinforcements, we should gain the upper hand quickly.” He got up and turned to the whiteboard. “At present, there’s approximately two-thousand Aschen on Earth. Most of them reside in the Powhatan area. Thanks to the weapons and technology we acquired on off world missions, disarming them shouldn’t be a problem.”

“Um…” Daniel cleared his throat. “Jack, even with all the other cells involved, we’d be outnumbered at least one to three.”

“Most of the Aschen are bureaucrats. Only about one sixth are justice agents or have any kind of combat training. Which turns the odds in our favor.”

“We’ll also have the element of surprise on our side,” Sam said. “They won’t expect an open attack.”

“Combined with distributing the virus, that should give Earth the chance to break free from the Confederation.” Jack looked around the tent. “Questions?”

Daniel folded his arms. “You said you wanted to minimize casualties? What you propose sounds more like an outright war.”

“No. The Aschen won’t have a choice but to surrender Powhatan. Let’s not forget that the resistance has many sympathizers among the citizens.”

“True, but we don’t have specific numbers of how many humans would stand with us in an armed conflict,” Daniel said.

“That’s why we need to give the other cells some time to coordinate their efforts.”

Thoughtful, Sam took a sip of coffee. “That means we’ll have to time distributing the virus precisely with our retake of Powhatan. If we do it too late, the Aschen will send reinforcements. If we do it too early, the Aschen stationed on Earth will take countermeasures.”

Jack nodded. “All of those who aren’t involved in the sciences will join the Powhatan cell starting next week. Stargate operations will be halted for the time being, and we’ll operate the Antarctica base on minimal staff.”

At that moment, Jacob entered the tent. Jack’s face lit up. “Ah, just on time. I was about to talk about the Tok’ra’s involvement in our little coup. Provided you got the green light?”

Jacob walked to the front of the tent. “The Tok’ra council has agreed to support your idea. We’ll help you transport the remaining Aschen back to their homeworld. But the council has some conditions.”

Jack folded his arms and scowled. “Oh?”

Of course he wasn’t pleased. Their relationship with the Tok’ra was still strained after their failure to inform Jack of the intel about Ba’al’s betrayal.

“The Tok’ra demand full access to the Stargate so that we can continue our own operations.”

“I see no problem with that.”

Daniel cleared his throat. “After the Aschen are gone, it would be beneficial for both humans and Tok’ra, if we worked together even more closely.”

“Daniel.”

“Jack, think about it. We’ll have to take care of a lot of technology. We could use the Tok’ra’s help, at least in the beginning.”

Jack’s jaw clenched. Sam stifled a smile. The prospect of working even closer with them—even depending on them to some extent—had to bug him. “Why don’t we deal with one issue at a time?”

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Jacob folded his hands behind his back. “What’s the plan for the virus distribution?”

“We were just getting to that,” Jack said. “A two-man team will go to the Aschen homeworld and distribute the virus. Sheppard volunteered, and you’d be an excellent second, since you’ve been on the Aschen homeworld before. And you possess the technical knowledge to upload the virus.”

Jacob lowered his head. When he lifted it again, his demeanor had changed. “I’m afraid that will not be possible.” The deep, resonant voice of Selmak filled the tent. “Due to their war with the Goa’uld, the Aschen have a mechanism to detect Goa’uld presence near their Stargates. Unfortunately, those mechanisms don’t distinguish between Tok’ra and Goa’uld. They would detect me immediately.”

Jack raised his brows. “You couldn’t have mentioned that earlier?”

“You knew of the Goa’uld detection mechanisms,” Selmak said. “I thought the problem would be obvious.”

Jack closed his eyes and turned his head. “McKay.”

McKay jerked upright. “Colonel?”

“You helped develop the distribution system. How much technical knowledge is required for the upload?”

“Technically, you just have to plug it in and enter the command code.”

“Great.”

“Unless…”

Jack raised his brows at the scientist.

“Well, it’s impossible to say if we have to make minor adjustments. This isn’t just as simple as pushing a button.”

“So we’d need a scientist? Or at least someone with technical knowledge.”

“Yes. But…” McKay squirmed on his seat.

Sam closed her eyes with a smile and a shake of her head. Of course he wouldn’t volunteer. It wasn’t a secret he liked to talk himself out of dangerous missions. “Sir. I can go with Colonel Sheppard.”

“Carter.” Jack.

“Sam.” Her dad.

Both men turned to her, and their reluctance to send her on the mission was practically written on their faces.

She lifted her chin. “I know more about the program than McKay. Since I developed most of the virus, I’m the most logical choice.”

“Scientifically, yes. Strategically, no,” her dad said.

Jack lifted his hand. “Jacob.” Then he looked at her. “This isn’t about who of you is the smartest.”

“I know that, sir. This is about making our plan work.”

“You sure you wanna do this?”

“Yes, sir.”

Jack seemed to think for a moment, then nodded. “All right.”

“Jack,” Jacob said, warning layering his voice as he turned.

“Jake, she’s right. Aside from you, she is the most qualified when it comes to the science.”

“She doesn’t have the training for missions like that.”

Jack turned back to Sam. “Which is why I’ll go with her instead of Sheppard.” He held her gaze. “You’ll take care of uploading the virus. I’ll take care of the rest.”

Jacob closed his eyes. “Jack, you’re a cell leader. With all the intel you have, you shouldn’t even think—”

“Sheppard has the same intel as me. It really doesn’t matter who of us goes. Carter. I want you to come up with a step-by-step plan by tomorrow.”

“Yes, sir.”

“If we’re gonna do this, I wanna prepare for anything that could go wrong.”

“Yes, sir.” She gave him a weak smile. They’d do this together as a team. Not that she didn’t trust Sheppard. But after all this time on SG-1, she and Jack had developed an almost intuitive way of communicating. And she trusted him to have her back. Unconditionally.

“Hi!”

Jack looked up from the mess of messages and notices on his desk. Sam’s head was peeking into his tent, a bright smile on her face, her short hair ruffled. Immediately his mood lifted. “Come in.”

“I finished a preliminary strategy. Do you have a moment to go over it?”

“Sure.” He pushed pieces of paper aside.

“I’ve never done anything like this before, so it might need some work.”

Jack raised his brows at her. The entire idea of letting her devise the mission plan was so that she’d gain some strategic skills. Mistakes were part of the learning process. “Show me what you’ve got.”

She unrolled a large piece of paper in front of him. “Now, since we need to go to the Aschen homeworld through the Powhatan Stargate, that’s where I started. We have access to the Aschen’s travel schedule, so I suggest we disguise ourselves as Aschen and use one of their scheduled travel windows.”

He studied her. “All right, how?”

She swallowed hard. “We do it like last time. You know, get the clothing and… walk in there.” She flinched.

He managed to keep his face blank and hide his smile. “Carter, you can’t just leave vital parts of a mission up for interpretation. Access to the Stargate is gonna be a lot more difficult than gaining access to the science fair. We’ll need Aschen identities and matching identity cards. They usually run background checks.”

Her shoulders slumped. “Okay… well…” She reached over and started rolling up her paper. “I guess I’m gonna have to start over.”

Jack placed his hand on her arm. “Hold on a minute. Walk me through the rest of it.”

“Sir, the rest of it isn’t gonna be any good without a valid starting point.”

“You started from the premise that we’d gain access to the Aschen Stargate without identity cards?”

“Yes, sir.” She shook her head. “I don’t know what I was thinking.”

“Identity cards will be a problem. Clothing won’t. So is there any way we can gain access without IDs?” He leaned back as she studied her schematic of Liberty Park.

The access gate to Liberty Park, the location of the official Earth Stargate, was one of the most heavily guarded places on Earth. Ten foot high stone fences with electric wires and motion detectors on top surrounded it.

“We’d have to get through these two access points at the entry. Once we’re inside Liberty Park, there are no security controls. According to my dad, there are no security controls on the Aschen homeworld either, except for a routine scan for Goa’uld. So once we’re past these two gates…” She tapped her pen against her lips.

“Could we go around them?”

“What do you mean?”

He shrugged. “We do have a jumper capable of cloaking. Any way we can, you know, fly in there, leave the cloaked jumper and fly out again?”

She stared at him. The jumper. “Of course, why didn’t I think of that? There’s a group of trees at the south side of Liberty Park. If the jumper set down behind those, we could leave it undetected and mingle with the Aschen waiting to return to their homeworld.”

“There you go.” He smiled. She glowed with renewed confidence. “Now the rest of your strategy?”

“Getting through the gate once we’re in Liberty Park shouldn’t be a problem. The problems will start on the other side since our intel is a little sketchy. Last time my dad visited the Aschen homeworld was over ten years ago, so some of the finer details might have changed. The major one obviously being that they might have introduced security checks for incoming travelers.”

“Now that’s a bit unsettling. I’d hate to be caught by Aschen security upon arrival. Any way to obtain current intel?”

“The last human to visit the Aschen homeworld was a ministry worker named Mayborne five months ago. But there’s no indication he supports our group.” She bit her lower lip.

Jack studied her, then scrambled through his papers. “He lives in Powhatan?”

“Yes, sir.”

“I’ll contact Colonel Caldwell of the Powhatan cell. One of our contacts in the ministry might be able to obtain the intel.”

“And if not?”

“We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.” Jack scribbled a reminder down on a piece of paper. “Any other problems?”

“There’s a lot of unknown variables. I suggest we step through the Stargate last after all Aschen travelers have left. That will limit our contact with them and also give us the option to fall back once we’re there. The Aschen Stargate is located in a building. So we’d enter the departure and arrival hall. The good news is, the dialing device is right there. The bad news is, two armed security guards are positioned next to it. There’ll also be an operator who’s potentially armed.”

“So that makes three hostiles we’d have to take out right away?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Zats?”

“They’d be most efficient. Our P90s are too loud, and we can’t use heavier weaponry without prompting alarms. Plus zats will be easy to cover with Aschen garments.”

Jack leaned back and raised his brows. “I sense a but.”

“Well, sir, we know the Aschen have Goa’uld defenses. But we don’t know whether those defenses only react to the presence of a Goa’uld, or also Goa’uld weapons. Daniel’s going through the files in the Aschen database to find out more about their defense system.”

“Aren’t those files gonna be secured?”

“They were, sir. We cracked the encryption.”

And she mentioned that in passing? “You have?”

“Yes, sir. McKay’s preparing the report as we speak.”

“Cool.”

A smile crossed her face. “Yes, sir.”

“All right. Let’s assume zats would be fine. What then?”

“We’ll take out the guards. Once we gain control over the dialing device, I need about thirty seconds to connect my tablet and upload the program. Once the upload is complete, we have ten seconds to…” When Jack sat up and raised his hand, she stopped.

“Little problem. If the virus deactivates the gate, won’t we be stuck on the Aschen homeworld?”

“Technically, you’re correct.”

“I am?” Now that was surprising.

“Yes, sir. For that reason, we divided the virus into stages. During the first stage, it’ll establish an outgoing wormhole to our beta-site. Then it’ll enter phase two and copy the core commands into the gate code itself via the dialing device. The command is set to run once the outgoing wormhole is closed.”

She paused and studied him, obviously expecting some kind of interruption. He nodded. “Sounds good. Go on.”

“Once I’ve uploaded the virus, I’ll plant time-delayed explosives on the dialing device, so the Stargate can’t perform an update and fix itself before the process is complete. We’ll set the counter to two minutes.”

“Make that one minute.” Jack looked at the schematic of the Aschen arrival room on her paper. “Shouldn’t take us more than ten seconds to make it from the dialing device to the gate. We don’t wanna give the Aschen the chance to disable the explosives.”

“Right.” She took a few notes.

“Won’t the explosions destroy the Stargate as well?”

“No, sir.” Sam shook her head. “Even if the naquadah in the dialing devices enhances the explosion, the chance the gate will be destroyed is almost non-existent. We’ve seen gates survive nuclear explosions and volcano eruptions.”

“Right.”

“But sir, there’s a little catch.”

“Of course there is.”

The ghost of a smile played around her lips. “Dad suggested that the unscheduled dialing of an outgoing wormhole to a non-Aschen world will most definitely trigger an alarm. So you might have to cover me while I plant the explosives and disconnect our tablet.”

“How much time?”

“Ten, maybe fifteen seconds.”

“And how many security guards?”

“Half a dozen at most.”

“I’ll have a zat, so that shouldn’t be a problem.”

“Once we have everything, we’ll retreat through the Stargate, which will automatically shut down five seconds before the explosives go off. On our beta-site, we can wait until our next Stargate window and return to Earth through the Antarctica Stargate. We don’t know what the situation in Powhatan will be once we return. Most of the Aschen will probably gather at Liberty Park to flee to the Aschen homeworld once they realize they don’t have a chance. We wouldn’t want to step through the Stargate right into their arms and become hostages. Which is why I opted for the safer route by using our beta site.” She stood up. “That’s basically it.”

“That’s a good strategy.”

“Really?” She beamed at him. His stomach tingled.

“Yeah. Once we smooth out the rough edges we talked about. Gives us a good basis to work with. Nicely done, Carter.” He looked down at her paper, then lifted his head. “What’s the backup plan in case zats aren’t an option?”

“We don’t have one yet. I figured, I’d cross that bridge once we get to it.” Her eyes twinkled.

He smirked. “All right. Let’s just hope that bridge doesn’t burn under our feet.”

She rolled up her plan. Jack looked through the stacks with messages and reports, then down at his watch. Way past noon.

He got up. “Lunch?”

She smiled. “I’d love that.”

“Let’s go. I gotta see something else than strategic messages and requests for a while.” He slipped his arm around her waist, and they left the tent.

Twenty-two seconds. Two seconds too many. Sam closed her eyes. She’d estimated twenty seconds in her plan, so why did she take so long? She reset the simulation, then turned her tablet back off and walked back to the entrance of her tent.

After taking a deep breath, she started her stopwatch. Three meters to the computer, turning her tablet on, hooking up the cables to the dialing device, and entering the commands for upload. The bar on her screen filled up and finally blinked.

Upload complete.

Her fingers trembled as she opened the command interface. She typed the activation command and waited a couple of seconds. The screen blinked again.

Program activated.

She unhooked the tablet and stopped her watch. Twenty-three seconds. A frustrated cry escaped. Why? What the hell was she doing wrong? She buried her face in her hands. Three seconds too many. And not even twenty-four hours left.

If anything went wrong tomorrow… If she messed up…

“Whatcha doing?”

Jack’s voice drifted from the tent entrance. She looked up. Hands in his pockets he strolled inside.

“I’m just running a few simulations for tomorrow.”

“Ah.” He nodded and picked up the magnifying glass from her desk to study random objects. “Didn’t you do that every single minute since last Thursday?”

“Yes, sir, but it’s not good enough yet. I wanted to get under nineteen seconds, instead I’m at twenty-three now.”

“Your report yesterday stated nineteen point eight seconds, which was good enough.” He straightened and let the magnifying glass sink.

She sighed. “I know, but the faster the better. If I mess up tomorrow…”

“Whoa.” He placed the magnifying glass back on the table. “Carter, remember the speech about overthinking I gave you during bootcamp?”

His coffee-brown eyes held hers. She released a breath. “Yeah?”

“You’re doing it again.”

“I’m just trying to—”

“Ah.” He crossed the distance between them and took the tablet out of her hand. “Enough simulations. You need to get your mind off things. And you need a good night’s sleep.”

“But—”

“No buts.” He drew her close. “Everything will work out fine. You’ll see.”

“But what if I mess up? What if we run into problems? This is the most important mission we’ve ever gone on. I don’t wanna screw it up.”

“You won’t.” He brushed his thumb over her cheek. “Trust me. Because even if something goes wrong, your brain will kickstart into gear and think of a way out. You’re good at that. Running into problems and improvising is what we do, remember?”

She gave him a weak smile. “Yeah.”

He linked their fingers. “We should get a full eight hours sleep before the mission. Tomorrow at twelve we gotta be at Liberty Park.”

“What time is it?”

“Eight.”

She raised her brows. “That’s way too early for sleep.”

His eyes gleamed as he leaned in. “I never said I wanted to sleep now.” His warm lips dropped a kiss on the sensitive spot right under her ear.

Tension fled her muscles as she leaned into his embrace. She wrapped her arms around him and pulled him close.

“You know, McKay did want me to take a test drive in the jumper before tomorrow’s mission.” Another kiss, lower on her neck. “Test the cloak and all.”

“Uh-huh?” She giggled when he gave her a playful nip.

“Interested in joining me?”

“Always.”

He grinned at her. “Let’s go then.”

Two hours later, Sam panted as they crawled onto the soft pebbles of the Caribbean beach, the waves crashing onto the surrounding sand. When Jack caught up with her, she laughed. He grabbed her around the waist, and she turned on her back.

Their lips met just as a new wave rolled onto the shore. She sank into the retreating water, her lips parting under his mouth. She tasted like seawater, and wind, and her, and he never wanted to stop kissing her. When a new wave rolled onto the shore, her soft squeal died in his mouth. Grinning, he broke the kiss.

“You’d think we’d have learned our lesson about sex on the beach.”

“Technically, it wasn’t on the beach.”

“Betcha the effects will be the same.” He nuzzled her neck.

A large wave crashed over them, sending them both coughing and laughing into a sitting position. They pulled themselves further away from the waves towards the cloaked jumper. In this part of the world, the afternoon sun still burned down hot, and the water glistened azure blue.

Jack lay down in the warm sand and stared up into the cloudless sky. Next to him, Sam wrung out her hair. Then she snuggled up to his naked chest.

“Strange feeling, isn’t it?” Her fingers tugged his wet chest hair gently.

“What?”

“Our last night on an Aschen-ruled Earth. If all goes well tomorrow, everything will be different.”

He tangled his hand in her hair. “We’ll still be the same.”

She lifted her head. Her hair gleamed golden in the bright sunlight, and her smile warmed his heart. “Don’t tell me you don’t feel it.”

“What?” He raised his brows.

“Excitement. Thrill. Maybe a bit of fear. We’ve worked for this moment for so long. Decades. Centuries.”

“I guess it is a little overwhelming, isn’t it?” Smiling, he dropped a kiss to her shoulder. “For now, I’m focusing on the task at hand.”

“Tomorrow at this time, it’ll all be over. What then?” Her face turned thoughtful. “Without the Aschen, what are we going to fight for?”

“We’ll still have the Stargate and the entire galaxy to explore.” He stole a quick kiss from her lips. “First thing I’ll do is take you back here for a vacation. Three days. Just you, me and the sea. And maybe a fishing pole.”

A smile lit up her face. “Deal.”

When she laid her head back down on his shoulder, he lifted his gaze to the sky. Somehow, the Aschen didn’t even seem to matter that much anymore. She’d become his home, his world. Whatever the future might bring, as long as he was with her, he’d face it.

Sam kept her face blank as they approached the Powhatan Stargate. Her arm hooked into Jack’s, she walked in a slow, deliberate step—just like any other Aschen woman. Another couple passed them by, the male nodding courteously at them. Jack gave an equally courteous nod back. Both women remained motionless.

Thank God nobody could see how fast her heart was pounding. A mere ten meters separated them from the Stargate. At the entrance gate in the far distance, two guards checked in the last travelers. Another five minutes. Almost an eternity.

Jack gave her hand a gentle squeeze, a gesture invisible to spectators. She looked at him for just a moment, and the calm expression in his eyes relaxed her. Everything was gonna be okay.

The zat on her thigh was well concealed by the wide shirt she wore. Her tablet with the virus was Aschen technology and wouldn’t raise any suspicions. And the cords to connect the tablet to the dialing device were hidden in her headwear. Vala had come up with the idea to use them as hair accessories—or at least make it look as though they were.

“Travelers to the Aschen homeworld, please assemble at the gate. Scheduled departure time in three minutes.” The announcement repeated two more times through speakers set up in every corner of the park.

They waited near the gate, but far enough away that they wouldn’t have to mingle. No need to arouse suspicion, especially when they didn’t have IDs to make it through a last minute security check.

Time stretched to infinity. At last, the gate started spinning and the first chevron lit up. Jack cleared his throat discreetly, and she realized she clutched his arm. Swallowing, she took a breath and relaxed. Everything would go well. Piece of cake. Tomorrow at this time, they’d be on their island.

After an eternity, the event horizon swashed open. One by one, the travelers stepped up the ramp and vanished into the deep blue puddle. When the crowd cleared, Jack led her towards the end of the line.

Sam glanced at her watch. Two minutes past twelve. In about five minutes, the resistance would begin their large-scale attack on all major Aschen government buildings—including Liberty Park. She lifted her eyes back to the Stargate.

The man in front of them stepped through the gate. They waited. Waited some more.

“Ready?” Jack whispered in her ear.

“Yes, sir. Let’s do it.”

She released her breath, and they stepped into the event horizon.

As they stepped through on the other side, Sam gasped for air, ignoring the momentary mild dizziness that came with every trip through the gate.

Glass windows framed the huge arrival and departure hall. Outside, the sky shimmered clear blue and clouds passed by. Not much different from Earth. Her dad had told her that the Stargate on the Aschen homeworld was located on the top floor of a massive skyscraper, but no description prepared her for the reality of it.

She turned her head. Two guards stood next to the dialing device, engaged in conversation. The operator at the device gave them a courteous nod. They slowed their steps to fall behind.

Nobody paid attention to them. If they’d been scanned, everything seemed to have turned out all right. Apparently the chance of an attack on the Aschen homeworld was so remote, they didn’t even consider it.

They stopped and Sam pretended to search through her bag. She clasped the cold surface of the tablet and sneaked a glance at Jack. He gave an ever so slight nod. The last traveler left the hall through the exit at the far end.

Jack let go of her arm. The signal. She spun, and started towards the dialing device at the same moment Jack fired the first shot. Then a second, then a third. The last guard went to the ground the instant she reached the device.

Panting, she ripped the cover off her head, ripped the cords out from under it and plugged them into her tablet. Then she opened the dialing device and connected her computer to the Stargate system, just as she’d practiced. She trembled as she turned the tablet on.

“Take your time.” Jack bent down to the operator and removed his stun gun. “We got all the time in the world.”

“Yes, sir.” Even though she knew that couldn’t be further from the truth, his calm reassurance slowed her heartbeat down.

She entered the upload commands.

Uploading…

5% complete…

She glanced at Jack. He’d disarmed the last guard and looked around. So far so good. Until the first stage of the virus was completed, there’d be no alarm. The hardest part was still ahead of them.

25% complete…

Sam glanced at her watch. Still on time. She fixated her gaze on the screen as though she could speed up the process by sheer willpower.

65% complete…

Oh for crying out loud, couldn’t this upload go faster? She bit her lower lip.

99% complete…

Finally, the screen blinked. Upload complete.

She opened the command interface and lifted her head to look at Jack.

He gave her a nod. Ready.

After another deep breath, she entered the command.

Virus activating…

Hurriedly, she put the tablet down and ripped open the seam of her skirt. She unclasped the explosives she’d fastened to her upper thigh and planted them on the dialing device.

Behind her, the Stargate started spinning, and chevrons lit up. The instant the wormhole opened, a loud alarm began wailing. Voices sounded from the other end of the hall. She forced herself to ignore what was going on around her. She set the timer to one minute and planted it on the explosives before activating it.

Behind her, the voices grew louder, then the sound of the zat discharging, and a scream. More voices.

A projectile hit the ground next to her, making her jump. She resisted the urge to turn. Focus on the task. Jack would have her back and take care of the Aschen. The writing on the screen flashed.

Stage 1 complete. Stage 2 will initiate after Stargate shutdown.

She unplugged the tablet and spun. Jack hit the last of four guards. The man went to the ground with a groan. More voices approached from the distant hallway. Only a couple more minutes and Aschen agents would swarm this place.

“Sir.” Sam pressed the tablet to her chest and took a few steps sideways towards the Stargate.

Jack turned and hurried towards her. Another projectile buzzed by close to her ear. Three more guards had entered the hall. Jack spun and aimed at them again. He hit one. Then the second and third.

She glanced down at her watch. Forty seconds until the explosives went off. Plenty of time.

Suddenly, a low hum started buzzing in her ear, then grew steady and permanent. Alarm made the hair at her nape stand. She looked around but saw nothing. Still, something was wrong. Very wrong.

Jack hurried towards her. “Let’s go before more of these—”

The buzz increased and then the air in front of her flickered like a net of transparent cubes as Jack bounced off an invisible barrier. He stumbled backwards, eyes wide.

Her blood ran cold. Time stopped. A force field surrounded the area of the Stargate and the dialing device. Nobody had ever mentioned anything about a force field being part of the Aschen security system. Aschen didn’t use force field technology.

Sam dropped the tablet to the floor and raced towards Jack. Her palms tingled as they touched the surface of the invisible wall. She fisted her hands and hit the field. Once, twice. No use. Of course not. Muscle power wouldn’t break through a force field. She had to use her brains. She glanced at her watch. Thirty-five seconds left.

“Carter?” Jack stared at her from the other side.

“I know, sir.” She jerked around and raced towards the dialing device. “I need you to look for a control panel. Or anything that might power the field.”

Chances were, the control panel would be outside. After all, the force field was most likely designed to protect the Aschen from intruders. But the power generating unit had to be located within the force field. She glanced around. The only devices close by were the Stargate and the dialing device.

The dialing device… Could it be?

“There’s nothing here.” Jack’s voice pulled her out of her thoughts.

“There has to be.” She raced back to the force field. “Check the wall over there. I think there’s something like an outlet… maybe…”

He stepped towards her instead. “There’s no time.”

She glanced at her watch. “We have twenty-eight seconds. If I delayed the explosion—”

“Carter,” he snapped, making her look up. “Delaying isn’t an option.”

“But…” She hit the force field once more. “I’m sure if we…”

“Carter, listen to me.” He placed his hands over hers against the invisible barrier that separated them. She didn’t feel the warmth of his skin. So close, and yet so far. “I want you to go through that gate to our beta-site as we planned.”

The room spun. “No.”

“Sam. There’s no way you’ll disable the force field in twenty seconds.”

He was right. Oh God, he was right. Her gaze darted around. From the dialing device to the outlet at the far wall, then back to the timer. There had to be a way. There always was. If she just had more time… Maybe a minute…

“Carter…”

His voice made her look at him.

“You can still make it.”

She shook her head. “Not without you.”

His face hardened. “I want you to turn around and go through that damn gate to our beta site. That’s an order, understood?”

Her breath hitched. Everything in her wanted to disobey. But she managed a nod. The timer on the dialing device mercilessly counted down the seconds. Eighteen… seventeen… All they had left. She pressed her forehead against the field, against his hand.

“Sam, please follow my order.”

She met his gaze one last time. There was so much she still wanted to tell him. So much of their life together left unlived. So many promises unfulfilled. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be. We kicked the Aschen’s ass.” He gave her a faint smile. “I’ll be fine.”

A lie. There was no way the force field would withstand the blast, especially not if it was tied to the power source in the dialing device. He’d die in the explosion. All her training, all her knowledge, all her intelligence didn’t make a difference. There was nothing she could do. Not without sacrificing Earth and the resistance. If she aborted the mission, everything they worked for would’ve been for nothing.

“Carter.” Jack’s face gentled. “Go.”

She took a step back towards the gate. Then another, and another, her body moving as though she were in trance, as though she somehow wasn’t part of it anymore, but the spectator of an odd, distorted nightmare.

“Jack…” She wasn’t sure if the sound left her lips. One last look at the timer. Nine… Eight… Bizarre how hopes and dreams could just tick away with the seconds on the clock, like water flowing out of a broken bucket.

How was she supposed to go on without him? Did she want to?

In the distance, more guards entered the hall, their weapons pointed at the gate. And then everything vanished in bright-blue nothingness.

When she stumbled backwards out the Stargate on the beta site, the soft, uneven ground under her feet made her stumble. She hit the ground hard, but her eyes remained on the event horizon. It was futile and unreasonable… but maybe the force field would go down at the last moment. Maybe Jack would step through. Her pulse sped up. Certainly… Any moment…

The event horizon closed.

She remained on the ground as a dark vacuum swallowed up everything inside her.

No, no, no, no, no. She couldn’t leave Jack behind. They never left people behind.

She jumped to her feet and raced to the dialing device. Maybe the explosives hadn’t gone off. Maybe she could still save him. She dialed the coordinates of the Aschen homeworld and pressed the red center button. The chevrons lit up and then died. Nothing happened. No event horizon formed.

Wrong coordinates, for sure. She repeated the dialing procedure. Same result. Her fist slammed down on the keys. Then she tried a third time. To no avail.

She screamed and sank down with her back against the device. Jack. She’d left him behind to die. Never leave anyone behind…

She raised her head to the sky. A soft breeze cooled the wet trails on her cheeks.

Their life together, their island, their future. All wiped out in the blink of an eye. Nothing would ever be the same again.

It was over.

 

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