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It was well after midnight when Harry returned. And SG-1 was down to five hours before the results of being in the wrong reality would begin to manifest in seizures that would eventually kill them. And at least two hours would be lost on the drive back to Cheyenne mountain.
"My people are in place," Harry said quietly. It hadn't been difficult to persuade them...these individuals who were working together for one thing: to rid themselves of the tyranny that had befallen the entire planet. Knowing that there were two SG-1's...one from an alternate reality, and the one that had been abandoned at Kinsey's order, had given those hearty souls the hope to stand firm. Even knowing that if the plan failed, they would be executed beside the 'criminals'.
"Good. How many?" Jack asked.
"Enough," Harry replied. "We'll be able to get through the main gate. After that, it'll be touch and go. We'll drive the vans right up to the mountain entrance. The guards will be down, my people will take care of that. Once we open the outer blast door, the alarms will be triggered. It will take one minute and ten seconds for the Marines to arrive...give or take a second or two."
"If we can get inside, we can reset the security codes," Sam said, a slight frown on her face. "That will give us time to get to the elevator and down. Once we're in the control room, we can reset all of the security codes, and seal off all of the corridors."
"What about the mirror?" Daniel asked.
"My people are taking care of that. It'll be waiting for us. We'll pick it up on the way."
Jack studied Harry. The man who'd been his nemesis for as long as he'd known him. He'd had to put his faith in him before. "If things go tits up-"
"They know, Jack," Harry said quietly.
That simple response had SG-1 exchanging glances. Life had to be brutal in this 'new world' if death was an acceptable price to pay to get the two teams away. And no doubt, there people here who were hoping that 'their' SG-1 would once again pull a rabbit out of the hat, and put the world upright once again.
"It almost sounds too easy," Casey sighed.
"Radar?" Jack asked immediately.
"I'm not sensing anything. I do know that we're going to have to spend some time hiding. I don't know where...when...or why."
He shook his head. "We aren't going to have a lot of time," Jack reminded her.
"It might be close. But we'll make it. I'm sure of that. Well, pretty sure," she amended, a slight frown on her face.
"How will your people get that mirror out of West's office?" O'Neill asked.
Harry glanced at him. "It's not necessary that you know that."
"Yes, it is. If we have to go in and help them, we won't have time to discuss the details then," the colonel insisted.
"I agree with him," Jack said.
Harry snorted. "Yeah. Imagine that." The comment caused quiet chuckles to move around the room. "Okay, at about one a.m. the cleaning crew arrives. No one pays any attention to them. Funny that, isn't it? A secure facility, and still no one notices the cleaning crew. There will be three extra, but they won't come in the front door...that would cause too many questions. They'll be brought in through one of the windows. The crew can get and keep the alarms off for twenty-six seconds...just long enough to keep the guards from noticing that the cameras are down. One of the crew will be gathering trash in the monitoring room at the time, and will do the usual chit-chat to keep their attention."
"That's not much time," Jack mused.
"It's enough," Harry insisted.
"It has to be," O'Neill said.
"Once inside, the three 'extra' people will get to West's office. He's moved artifacts before, and always at night. Of course, it's always Marines who are doing that. So there will be a 'costume change' in his office."
"What about security cameras?" Daniel asked. He stood with his arms wrapped around his chest. Casey's hand was tucked between his elbow and his ribs.
"None in the General's office. That we know about," Harry admitted. "However, if there are cameras there, they're monitored from outside of the base. That buys us a bit of time."
"How likely is it that it's monitored?" Jack asked.
Harry smiled coldly. "Not very damned likely. West has it scanned every morning before he walks in."
"Paranoid bastard, isn't he?" Casey said.
"With good reason. He betrayed every officer in the Pentagon. Any officer who objected...let's just say that they didn't go down to unfriendly fire." Harry's voice was filled with anger over that fact.
"How will they get the mirror to the blast door?"
"Van. Just like ours. There're going to be several of the vans moving tonight. In fact," Harry checked his watch, "they've already started. There are two that are literally moving computers, printers, what have you, from one office to another. Just switching them out. Which will cause a bit of heartburn tomorrow, when the supply computers wind up in dispersing, and the dispersing computers show up in supply."
The mental images of the confusion brought another round of quiet laughter. "The MP's will be used to seeing them," Jackson nodded. "If they stop one or two, and get the story about being ordered to 'replace' the computers before 'business hours', they won't pay attention to the fact that there are more than just two or three."
"That's the plan," Harry replied. "Just getting the eight of you to that blast door is going to be tough enough. That's why we're keeping you out of the operation for grabbing the mirror."
"I don't like it, but I understand," Jack said. Leaving their fate to total strangers, hoping that scheme went as planned...hoping that the mirror, their only way home, was at the right place at the right time...so much could go wrong! And if it did, he and his kids would be dead within hours. Well, he and two of them. He didn't even want to contemplate what Casey and Teal'c could face in this twisted version of reality.
"Trust 'em, Jack," Harry said, his voice low. "I've trusted them with my life, and they haven't' let me down yet."
It wasn't like Harry to put that much faith in his own mother. If he believed that the people he was working with were trustworthy...all he could do was trust that Harry hadn't picked the wrong people to decide to believe in. Jack heaved a sigh. "Don't have a choice, do I?"
Sam looked at Carter. Took a deep breath. "I'm going to need help reprogramming the security codes. We'll only have a few seconds. Can you do it?"
Carter nodded. "I can do it."
O'Neill glanced at his watch. "We'd better move it. This all has to be done before four a.m."
"Why then?" Casey asked curiously.
"Because that's when the duty guards are changed," Harry replied.
Jack frowned. "That's just today's schedule," he said slowly, making a guess. One that seemed plausible. And it had been a routine he'd seen used before.
"You're sure your information is correct?" This could be one of those 'details' that bit them in the butt, Jack fretted silently.
O'Neill grimaced. "If it's not, we're all dead."
"If we're all long gone by the time the next shift finds their buddies, there won't be a need to worry," Jackson said. Almost giddy with relief to feel the deep twinges of remorse the thought brought with it.
"What about the people we leave behind?" Casey asked softly.
Harry smiled. "Don't worry. They'll be long gone, too. In fact, by this time tomorrow, there will be another revolution in full swing."
"More violence, more death..." Casey shuddered. "And to think, Kinsey is responsible for all of it."
"Well, Kinsey and Taylor. Possibly a few other 'world leaders'," Harry reminded her.
"Right. Greedy, power-hungry bastards. They should all rot in hell!"
Smiles flickered on the faces around them. "Something tells me that they will, Angel," Daniel said softly.
Jack looked around. Caught the glance of brown eyes identical to his own. "Let's go."
Quietly, the two teams split up. Harry would drive SG-1 back to the base in the van they had arrived at the farmhouse in. When they were close enough, the tarps would hide them once again. O'Neill, Jackson, and Carter had their own disguises. As long as the guard at the main gate was on Harry's payroll, there would be no questions asked.
The countdown began. Now the question remained...would they succeed before they were all out of time?
A A A A A A
Daniel was frowning into the darkness as they bounced along the gravel dirt lane. Something about the entire situation had been bothering him. Putting his finger on what that was, however, was still eluding him.
"What's wrong, Stud Muffin?" Case asked quietly. She sensed his frustration more than saw the frown that wrinkled his brow.
"Harry said that it took six days for Kinsey and his cronies to turn the world upside down."
"So he said," Casey agreed.
"And that he shut down the SGC before SG-1 could make it back."
"So far so good."
"And apparently SG-1 had been on an extended mission. But that they had reported that they were coming home early."
"So Kinsey had to have shut down the SGC before he and his buddies had full control. By at least a day or so," Daniel said.
"I doubt there was little left for them to do," Casey replied.
"Or they used the executions of General Hammond and the others as a way to end any uprisings that might have still been happening."
"Which would be typical," Jack said, proof that he had been listening to the quiet conversation. "SG-1 was abandoned, and by the time anyone else realized that fact, it was already too late."
"I shouldn't say this," Sam sighed, "but I'm glad they killed that slimy bastard."
"Considering what they went through, I can't work up a lot of sympathy for what he went through," Daniel admitted.
"There but by the grace of God, walk I," Casey said softly. "I'd have killed him, too."
"Yeah," Jack murmured. It wasn't an easy thing, to see just how dark, how...cruel...he could become. Knowing that the potential for such violence lurked in his soul, just waiting for the right set of circumstances to set it free.
Daniel leaned his head back against the metal wall of the van. He walked so close to the edge of the darkness...how easy would it be to fall? He slid his arm around his Wife's slender shoulders. If not for her the anger, his hatred of the Goa'uld, would take over. He didn't doubt that for a minute. Hadn't he stood there and killed those Goa'uld larvae, without blinking an eye? He still wondered if Sam had been right...that by doing so, he was becoming just as...cruel...as the Goa'uld he hated. And counted that as the first piece of his soul that had been chipped away by that hatred. His anger had just intensified when Sha're had been killed. That he hadn't slid completely over the edge was only due to the presence of his friends. But Casey...his sweet Angel...she protected him...kept him from giving in. Pulled him into the sunshine.
"We aren't them," Casey said, her voice low. "I'm not saying that the potential isn't there. But...but maybe by seeing...by being witness...to what could happen if we lose control, if we give in to our anger and our hatred, maybe it will help us hang on, ya know?"
Jack reached over and squeezed the young seer's shoulder. "Good thought, Radar."
"We have each other. As long as we have each other, we'll be okay," she finished. She settled just a bit closer to Daniel's side. "Besides, we've already met Ba'al. He's not so tough in our reality."
Daniel snorted. "He had us running the first time we met him."
"Yeah, but that was just our cover to get the lowdown on his snake ass. Undercover infiltration."
Jack coughed, then chuckled. "Next time remember to let your CO know that you're going undercover."
"Details," she grinned. Quiet chuckles filled the air around her.
Harry listened silently to the almost whispered conversation. This group was exactly what his SG-1 had once been. Maybe, just maybe they could be that way again. Here's to miracles, he thought, saluting his passengers mentally.
A A A A A A
Jackson stared at the van that led the way back to Cheyenne mountain. "I was going to, you know."
O'Neill spared a glance at the man beside him. "Going to what?"
"Take her. Have her. Sample her. I was going to...would have...I almost r...ra...raped her," was the quiet response.
"You wouldn't have."
"I had my hand in her hair, holding her head back. I was ready to rip her shirt off. I...Christ, Jack, I hit her! I hit Casey!"
"First off, she's not your Casey."
"Secondly...your emotions were all over the place. I can't even imagine what it's been like, seeing her...knowing that she's not the woman you loved."
"Love," Daniel sighed. "I've always loved Casey. I always will."
"I knew it," Carter said softly from her seat behind the two men. "I knew you didn't mean it when you'd say you didn't miss her, that you didn't love her."
"It was easier to deal with...to be angry at her. To hate her for leaving me. God, what she went through..." Tears filled cerulean blue eyes. "She thought she was joining us."
Jack winced. He'd already heard what Casey...what the counterpart of Casey...had told Daniel. Knew that in that moment of realization, all of the rage and hatred had dropped away. There was no way for the archaeologist to hold onto itand acknowledge the truth of the situation. "I never should have brought us back here," he said softly.
"Maybe. I dunno, maybe killing Kinsey was the best thing we've ever done."
Neither of them would say out loud that how they'd killed the former Senator had been nothing short of barbarous. They had inflicted on Robert Kinsey every jab, every punch, every cut, every torture that had been visited upon them. And it hadn't done a damned thing to assuage their anger. To dull the pain left by their losses. It had only sucked more of their souls into the black abyss of their rage.
Jackson closed his eyes. Didn't even try to stop the memories that flashed behind them. Forced himself to look at the hateful images...to admit what he'd done. Even if that admission was only to himself.
The storm was already beginning to blow when they dragged Kinsey into the small shed. There were three cots. Three sleeping bags covered those cots. Three chairs beside a small table. Enough MREs and bottled water for a week. Camping lanterns would provide the light they needed. A small, chipped sink in one corner would provide water for washing, as long as the pump didn't give out on them.
One wall, however, had been turned into a nightmare of torture implements. An old wire box spring, from a bed so old no one would ever miss it, was carefully nailed to the wall. Handcuffs were already waiting there. Half a dozen car and marine batteries were connected to the metal of the springs. There were knives...ten of them, from a small paring knife to a ten-inch butcher knife. Two billy clubs, purchased at a local military outlet store. A set of brass knuckles.
When Daniel removed the blindfold from the Senator's...the Vice President's, he reminded himself...eyes, he had made certain that the wall was the first thing he'd see. One old, wooden chair sat alone in front of the box springs.
"Oh, god!" Kinsey moaned. He'd known, Daniel was certain of it. He had known exactly what was about to happen.
Jack had aimed his Beretta at their prisoner. "Okay, Kinsey. Strip."
Daniel had backhanded the man. The feeling of his skin coming into contact with the man's face left his fingers stinging. He had relished the feeling. And had struck Kinsey again.
"Don't make me repeat myself," Jack growled. "I hate repeating myself."
Kinsey's eyes had flickered toward Sam.
"Don't worry, Kinsey," Jack said. "She's seen a naked man before. Several of them. In fact, she's probably seen an whole fucking Jaffa army of naked men. Even though she didn't want to see them. If you get my drift."
"Raped," Daniel sneered into the Senator's ear. "She was raped, Kinsey. By god only knows how many Jaffa."
"Just like your wife, eh doctor?"
He still didn't know exactly how many times his fist had crashed into the man's face before Jack had calmly called out to him. He did know that blood had covered Kinsey's features...and his knuckles...dripped from what had to be a broken nose onto the politician's fine, white silk shirt. "Strip!"
With shaking fingers, Kinsey had obeyed. "You don't want to do this. They won't stop looking for you. You'll be paraded down the main streets of DC. They'll kill you-"
"You've never been tortured by the Goa'uld, have you?" Jack had asked, interrupting the threats. "We have. And we're standing here to tell you about it. Nothing your lackeys can do to us will be as bad as what we've already survived."
The fear in Kinsey's eyes had made him shake harder. "I can get you amnesty. Money. Anything you want. Set you up on a nice island somewhere...I can get-"
"You can't get three months of our lives back!" Jack shouted. "You can't get Teal'c back! You can't bring Casey back! You left us out there to die, you motherfucker! But we didn't." His voice had gone calm again. "We didn't. Now we're going to get back what you owe us."
It had been difficult not to strike out again, thinking that because of the man standing beside him, undressing slowly, Casey was gone.
"Tie him up, Danny," Jack said, when the Senator was standing naked and shivering.
He'd been almost gleeful as he'd snapped the handcuffs around Kinsey's wrists and ankles...putting him in the spread eagle position that he and Jack had been in for each and every one of their torture sessions.
"You don't want to do this," Kinsey repeated. "You're SG-1. Annoyingly moral. The good guys, remember?"
"Not any more.What you did changed all that. Don't you wanna see the end results of your actions? Don't you wanna see what you did to us? 'Cause we're dyin' to show ya." Jack replied. "Let's start out slow. Don't want to kill him right off."
Kinsey had pulled and tugged against his restraints. Had turned panicked eyes toward Sam. "Don't let them do this!" He begged.
Sam stared at him, as if not even seeing him. In stark contrast to the blank expression on her face, she held the gun that Jack had put in her hand with all of the obvious experience she had with such a weapon. That her hands shook slightly when she aimed the Glock at him was the only sign that she wasn't the same, strong major she had been before her time as Ba'al's prisoner.
"He's the reason, Sam," Jack said softly. "He's the reason we suffered. He's the reason that Teal'c and Casey are dead."
She had given a cry of dismay. She'd held the gun up...for a moment Daniel had been certain that she was going to shoot the bastard. Instead, the gun clattered to the floor and Sam had dashed forward, hitting him with her fists, not caring where her blows landed.
Kinsey had grunted and groaned each time Sam's fist landed on him. "They'll find me! I'm the goddamned Vice President!"
"By the time they figure out where you are, we'll be finished," Jack replied easily. Watching Sam pummel the man until she literally wore herself out.
There was no need to explain that Kinsey would be dead by that time. That knowledge had been visible in his wide, frightened eyes...and in SG-1's flat, lifeless stares.
The storm continued to build. The howling of the wind drowned out the screams of the man tortured in the small shed. Jack and Daniel took turns sleeping. Never allowing the Senator to doze off for more than five minutes at a time.
First they simply beat him. They'd applied electricity to the metal springs, watching with morbid curiosity as his body danced and shook as the current raced through him. They used the billy clubs to break bones. Then...the knives. They'd cut him...just as Ba'al had cut them.. He remembered the sensation of cutting into living tissue. Something that Ba'al had seemed to enjoy, for some twisted reason. He'd never found...pleasure...in cutting Kinsey. Just the feeling of the knife blade sliding over the skin...digging into the muscle beneath. As if...as if he'd been trying to cut the very evil out of his enemy. And by doing so, could exorcise his own soul of the darkness that filled it.
He shivered when he remembered Jack connecting the wires to the Senator's nipples and genitals.
"Little something I learned in Iraq," Jack had said.
He didn't have to ask to know that Jack had first hand knowledge of the torture, and not as the one torturing. But as the one tortured. Christ, what the man had lived through!
He'd never heard a man scream the way Kinsey had when Jack had touched the leads to the batteries. Not even his own screams of pain had been so...so pitiful.
Four days. They had been in that shack for four days. By the end of the second day, Kinsey could do little more than weep. By the middle of the third day, his screams were nothing more that raspy sounds coming from his parched, raw throat.
They hadn't fed him...hadn't given him water, other than what Jack had tossed at him to make his skin wet, the better for the electric current to pass through.
They had tossed straw and lime down on the floor where his body waste and blood covered it.
When they had walked away, after carefully wiping down everything they weren't taking with them, they'd never spoken about what had occurred.
Jack had burned everything they'd used...just sat fire to it on the side of a deserted country lane.
They'd returned to Colorado...and never once looked back.
A A A A A A
Harry pulled the van to the side of the road. Turned on the emergency blinkers, then popped the hood. "I'm going to check the engine. You five get nice and comfy in the tarps."
"Any reason we have to stop to do that?" Jack asked suspiciously.
"Yeah. I need to piss. Don't figure there'll be a chance later."
Casey couldn't help herself, she giggled out loud. "You should have gone before we left, like we did."
Harry grinned. "Ah, but Beautiful, I'm not a seasoned SG team member."
"Don't get us caught, Harry," Jack warned.
The former NID agent's face became solemn. "No way, Jack. You're our hope for righting all of this."
When he crawled back into the van, Harry took enough time to make certain that the teammates looked like rugs, again, before buckling the seatbelt.
O'Neill watched the van as they drove by. Harry was already climbing back into the driver's seat. "Stupid bastard. Now he'll have to go around me."
"They needed time to get wrapped up," Carter pointed out.
He reached back, grasped her hand. "It's good to have you back with us, Carter."
She smiled. "I've always been here. I just...I just couldn't take any more."
He winced. How long would she have hidden if they hadn't returned to Earth? Would she have come back to them sooner? Would they all have grieved and healed by now? "Never should have come here," he muttered under his breath.
"We needed to know," Jackson said quietly. "We had to know for certain why they'd abandoned us. Why they'd left us out there to die. We had to know."
"I guess so," O'Neill sighed. "I'm looking forward to leaving."
Jackson's lips turned up at the corners. "Me, too."
"We'll go somewhere peaceful," Carter added.
Harry eased around them, not even speeding to do so.
Time was ticking for their counterparts. With luck, all of them would be far away from this place...this planet that had once been home...before that time ran out.
A A A A A A
Thunder rolled through the sky, dark clouds roiled above them. The wind was starting to pick up just a bit as the two vans stopped at the main gate to the Cheyenne Mountain Military Complex. It was almost as if nature itself was preparing for what was about to happen.
Harry handed the clipboard to the guard on duty.
"Ever wonder just what the general is up to?" the guard asked.
"Nope. Thinking things like that can get you shot," Harry retorted.
"Van behind me is part of the shipment. They need to stop too?"
"Nope. Just go on through. Wouldn't want General West to have to wait for his...stuff."
Hearts pounding, the five huddled teammates sighed silently with relief. Now, if they could get all the way to the bunker, and the blast door...
"Uh oh," Harry muttered.
Damn it to hell, Daniel thought, feeling panic take hold for just a moment. Just one time he'd like a mission to go as planned. Just once!
The van stopped. "Don't panic. Looks like a fender bender. Some young officer it looks like," Harry said quietly.
They didn't have time for this, Jack thought frantically. Timing was critical. They had to meet that crew at the blast door, all of them arriving at the same time, if this plan was going to come off without any hitches. There were so many things that could go wrong with a plan like this. An unexpected encounter with someone not usually in the area...that person reporting what they believed to be suspicious activity. Some guard bucking to make a name for himself, and get a promotion, doing an extra security round. Someone's freaking pants' zipper breaking and making them late for a rendezvous. He bit back his chuckle. That had been the damnedest thing. He and his team had damned near died that day in Afghanistan, waiting too long at a check point...their contact late because his zipper had broken. There were times he was certain that his days in Special Ops had given him the patience, and the training, to work on an SG team. The threats were just as bad. Well, maybe worse...at least in the Middle East he'd been on Earth...no chance of being stranded in space, or on an alien planet, somewhere.
With every second that ticked by, every heartbeat that hammered, the more likely their chances of getting caught. That was the way it always was, Daniel thought. He was sweating in the confines of the tarp. It was hot and he couldn't breathe and he sure as hell couldn't protect Casey like this, now could he? Just before he was ready to toss aside the tarp, say to hell with it, and take a page from Jack's playbook...shoot first and ask questions later, Harry began to chuckle.
"That'll teach 'im," Harry said. "Can't have a girl polishing your knob and drive at the same time."
It was impossible not to grin. And, if the timing was right, it was possible. Well, if you were driving along a deserted county highway, that was, Daniel thought. He was still damned proud of himself for keeping the Jeep between the ditches that day. And he'd exacted his revenge on the temptress who'd driven him out of his mind while he'd driven nonchalantly down the road. He'd found a deserted wheat field, put his Angel on the hood, feasted on the succulent flesh between her slender thighs until she'd cried out his name three times. And there was still a mark on the grill where his belt buckle had repeatedly struck it, when he'd taken her on that special dance into the stars.
Her nose itched. That was typical. She tried to rub it against the tarp. Which didn't help. She should be more scared than she was...she was certain of that. There was no poking at the back of her head...no feelings of impending doom. Just that annoying itch. She huffed a sigh. When they were home, she was making it crystal clear that no matter what the circumstances, she wasn't going to be rolled up in a tarp again. As cold as it had been outside of the farmhouse, she was hotter than hell. Damned tarps anyway. She was certainly going to have a little chat with Miss Eloise about this. Just where had the warning for impending danger been? Wasn't that why she was at the SGC in the first place? Wasn't she supposed to be protecting The One? Just when she thought that the problem had been dealt with, something happened to prove her wrong. Sometimes, those Beings on the higher levels just plain ol' pissed her off. She was so telling them about it, too!
Sam strained to hear what was going on. At least this time the team was armed. She wondered briefly what the marines would do if all of a sudden a hail of bullets started coming from five tarps. It would be worth peeking to see their faces. Of course, she and her teammates would be sitting ducks...a few rounds and it would be all over for them. Whose bright idea had this been? Oh, yeah. Maybourne's. He was an idiot. There was surely a better way to move them from the farmhouse to the base. But, she thought with a sigh, that idiot had helped to save her life...in her reality, her mind pointed out. The idiot in her reality had helped the team locate Casey and Cassie, too. More or less. He'd actually kept the two in sight until Daniel could get to them. The bastard could cause so much trouble...yet, he'd turn around and surprise them all by doing the right thing. From what she'd experienced thus far, there was no difference between her Maybourne, and this Maybourne. Idiots.
Waiting was always the most difficult part of any operation. How many young Jaffa had he trained who had failed again and again, their inability to remain still and silent giving away their positions, resulting in their 'deaths'? It had happened far too often when the weapons used against them were real, the results all too difficult to live with. He could just barely hear the voices outside of the van. There was no shouting. No alarms had been sounded. Whatever had happened, it was not serious. As long as those working within the NORAD building had not faced difficulties, it was possible that this strategy would proceed as planned. Considering the situation SG-1 was now in, experience dictated that their 'good luck' should be in play.
When the van jerked into movement again, it seemed as if they had already been waiting for too long.
"You can come out now," Harry told them, driving carefully through the dark parking lots, not wanting to catch the attention of any MP's on patrol.
"Time?" Jack asked immediately.
"We're cutting it close," Harry admitted. "When I stop, you get out and head for that blast door. Don't stop, don't look back."
"Will be wrapped and tied to a hand cart. Grab it and run."
Bracing themselves, hands caressing the stocks of their P90's...each of them grateful that Harry had been able to retrieve their gear, unsure just how he'd managed to pull off such a miracle...SG-1 waited breathlessly for the van to stop.
Teal'c threw the side door open. Four guards were lying on the ground, pools of blood making the cement black beneath them.
"Go!" a man, wearing black clothing and a black wool hat pulled low over his hair, hissed. He shoved the handle of a hand cart toward the Jaffa.
The second van stopped, and Jackson, O'Neill, and Carter jumped out, racing toward them.
"Okay, you have 70 seconds, Major," Harry said. "Good luck."
"You're not coming with us?" Carter asked.
"Nope. Someone has to make sure this thing works."
Carter kissed the man's cheek. "Thanks, Harry. For everything."
He smiled. Patted her cheek in return. "Find a new life for yourself. Now, go."
Sam keyed in the security code that Harry had given them. Listened as the huge lock disengaged. The door began to swing open. And alarms began to wail.
"Don't look back!" Harry ordered. Four other black-clad people appeared at his side, weapons ready.
The two teams dashed around the still moving door. "Close it!" Jack ordered sharply.
Carter raced to the control panel, ripped the front off of it. "I'll reroute the wires to the blast door, you enter the new codes."
Sam nodded. Her fingers flew over the keyboard, zeroing out all orders, carefully typing in the new codes that would render the blast door useless to anyone on the outside. Hopefully, she thought, it would live up to its name, and prevent the explosion that would be set from spreading beyond what would become the rubble of the SGC.
"Got it!" Carter declared victoriously.
The blast door was closing once again. The metallic clang of the lock echoed in the air. Emergency lights were glowing. And the alarms were still screaming overhead.
"They'll try to cut power to the mountain," Sam said, jogging beside her teammates.
"Then we'll take the escape tunnels down," Jack replied.
"With the mirror?" Daniel asked dubiously.
"We have a full minute," O'Neill reminded them. "Maybe a few seconds longer. If we use the overrides in the elevators, and manually control them, we can move faster."
"We just start breaking at level 21 or so," Jack said, nodding.
"Why don't I like the sound of that?" Casey muttered, to no one in particular.
"Have faith, Angel," Daniel grinned. "We're the good guys, remember?"
O'Neill and Jackson shared a worried look. They weren't the good guys. Not now. Not with all they had done.
Casey caught the glance. "You are, too," she said softly. "You were tossed into circumstances not of your making."
"Thanks," Jackson murmured softly.
"What?" Casey asked, frowning.
Daniel chuckled. "I'll fill you in later...move it, Case."
The elevator worked from ground level to level eleven. Lights flickered, then went off for a few seconds, leaving them in total darkness.
Four scope lights clicked on. "Wait for it," Sam said breathlessly.
Red emergency lights began to glow again. "Generator?" Daniel asked.
"Yep. Don't know how much power it has. Once we throw the switches down here, short of cutting the wires to the mountain, they won't be able to cut us off," Sam said, as the group raced for the second elevator, which would take them deeper into the facility.
"Would they do that?" Casey asked.
"Probably," O'Neill replied.
"We can check the generator," Carter said. "That will give us an idea of how much time we have."
The ride became herky-jerky at level twenty. The elevator stopped completely at level twenty-two.
"Emergency override?" O'Neill asked his counterpart.
"Can you time it for five levels?" Jack asked, not certain he could.
"Don't have a choice, do I?"
"Do it," Jack said. His eyes were glued to the indicator.
"Call it out," O'Neill said. He opened the panel on the side of the elevator. Pushed the red button. Felt the car jerk. "Hold on." He took hold of the small lever that manually controlled the brakes of the lift.
"Twenty-three...twenty-four...twenty-five...twenty-six...start braking!" Jack snapped.
O'Neill pushed against the lever, grunting with effort as the speed of the falling car ground against the braking mechanism.
"Now would be good!" Jack barked.
"I'm on the damned thing!"
"We are not slowing down," Casey said. Wondered if she should feel more panicked than she was.
Lights suddenly flashed and came on, and the elevator jerked to a sudden stop, the screech audible inside the car. The people inside were thrown to the floor, bruised, but very much alive.
"Level?" O'Neill asked, sweat dripping from his face, his hand still wrapped around the brake lever.
Jack grinned. "Twenty-eight."
"Sweet!" Hitting the second emergency override button, the door creaked open. O'Neill, Jackson, and Carter looked around. "Welcome home, SG-1," O'Neill said softly.
Jack looked at his watch. Two hours to spare. How about that? "Look, if you want my advice, I'd find out how much was left, take everything you can."
"I can pull a list of habitable planets from the computer," Carter added.
"I'll get all my notes. There might be something of use in them," Jackson added. The thought of once again being the archaeologist he'd always been made his heart pound against his ribs. A second chance. He was getting a second chance. He wouldn't even pretend that he could live without Casey. But he would exist. To help his friends. And for now, that was enough.
Teal'c pulled the mirror into the 'gate room; uncovered it with Casey's help.
"We need the controllers," Daniel said.
"This way," Jackson replied. The two men disappeared through the just opened blast door. They'd use the stairs...it might take longer, but there would be no fear of becoming trapped, or falling to their deaths.
A A A A A A
Harry watched as the tunnel filled with soldiers and trucks. The air quality would go to shit in a heartbeat, that was for certain. He glanced right, then left. Could see the trembling of the figures beside him. Two supply clerks, an admin officer, and an honest-to-god janitor. These people hadn't been trained to fight. Oh, they'd gone through boot camp. But that had been years ago for all of them. They might be military, but they had nine-to-five jobs that didn't require more of them than their computer skills. Or mopping skills. The worst thing this group had faced during their careers had been paper cuts. What a hell of a thing...that it was the quiet ones...the 'weak' ones...who had the brains to figure out something was horribly wrong, and had the guts to stand up and do something about it.
He studied the Marines who approached their position...which was standing in front of the closed and sealed blast door. How many of them just followed orders blindly? Less heartburn, he supposed. After all, if you didn't have to think about what you were doing, or why, then you could do the job you were sent in to do. That wasn't to say that military personnel were blindly led; killed without thought or provocation...or remorse. In the heat of battle following orders kept you and your buddy alive. There were times, however, that asking a question or two was a good thing. When a former Senator was suddenly the VP, and all of the rules had changed overnight...that was a good time to ask questions.
"This is it," the admin officer said, gulping loudly.
"Been a pleasure to know you folks," Harry murmured.
"If we buy them time, it's worth it," the janitor replied, tightening his grip on the MP-5N 9 millimeter submachine gun. It was the first time he'd ever held such a weapon. He refused to acknowledge the fact that it would be the last time as well.
"Yes, it is. Take this with you, friends," Harry said, "the truth will come out. I can guarantee that in about twenty-four hours all hell is going to break loose."
"This time, the crooked politicians won't win," Harry promised. He'd always been a very careful man. It seemed that his precautions would win the day after all. Or at least make life so damned rough for the bad guys that change would be the only way to deal with the problems. Hopefully that change would be for the good.
"Put down your weapons!"
The order was expected. And summarily ignored.
"Put down your weapons!"
"Don't think so," Harry called out.
"This is your final warning. Put down your weapons!"
When gunfire from the opening of the tunnel echoed loudly, all heads turned in that direction. Harry snorted softly. Well, I'll be damned, he thought. Most probably. It seemed, however, that one of the other freedom cells had deigned to get involved. Should get interesting. "Down on the ground, take out as many as you can," he ordered.
The metal of the walls and curved ceiling of the tunnel amplified the sound of the machine guns, deafening those inside it. In spite of their best efforts, the 'rebellion' didn't last longer than ten minutes.
Harry gasped from the pain of the wounds he'd sustained. Damn, that hurt! Fix it, Jack, you and your 'kids'...you gotta fix this mess...He closed his eyes, his last thoughts filled with hope for SG-1.
A A A A A A
Sam and Carter raced to the control room. Resetting all of the codes would take a few minutes. The first eleven levels were sealed off, every blast door closed and locked. That would slow down any Marines who made it through the outer blast door. Monitors showed, however, that no one was even attempting to do so.
"Oh, no!" Sam breathed, checking the outside monitor. Harry and his people were in a firefight. Harry hadn't been kidding...they'd had literally seconds to get inside. Once those alarms had gone off, there had been no way for he or his friends to escape from the tunnel that led to the secret entrance. She gasped when she saw the former NID agent hit...multiple times if the jerking of his body was anything to judge by.
"What's that in his hand?" Carter asked softly.
A flash of light...the explosion knocked out the camera. "Grenade," Sam whispered.
"What's up?" Casey asked, hurrying into the room.
"Harry..." Carter shook her head, tears falling from her eyes.
"Maybourne and his friends just died," Sam said hoarsely.
"Oh...crap," Casey murmured. Regardless of his less than stellar reputation, she'd thought that Harry Maybourne, United States Air Force, retired, was a decent man. No matter what he'd done during his tenure in the NID, he had done so for love of his country. Granted, he'd become misguided...and greedy. Maybe he'd always been that way. Maybe working with men like Kinsey and Simmons had corrupted him. Whatever the reason, he'd taken a wrong turn. But then he'd helped Jack...been there to help put General Hammond back in command of the SGC. And he'd helped the team again, when Sam had been kidnapped by that rich guy with delusions of grandeur...and a snake in his head. Then, he'd been instrumental in helping Daniel find her and Cassie. As far as she was concerned, those deeds had changed everything, making him one of the good guys...in spite of the personal feelings of the team. And no matter which reality.
"He knew what he was getting into," O'Neill said from the doorway, his voice strained. Damn it, Harry! It wasn't supposed to be like this! No one else was supposed to die because of SG-1!
Jack sighed. Harry Maybourne could be the most aggravating son-of-a-bitch he'd ever met. And never failed to surprise him by ultimately doing the right thing...most of the time. This was about as right a thing as could be done.
Jackson looked around his office. God, he'd missed it! He'd missed everything about working here! Days spent working on a translation...the delight in succeeding where others had failed. He could get the same rush of adrenaline translating an artifact as he had decoding the cover stone that had identified, and the instructions for using, the Stargate.
His gaze stopped on his desk. The pictures of him and Casey that graced the corner of it left him breathless with grief. A picture of them outside the courthouse in Colorado Springs, the day they'd been married. Standing on the beach in Hawaii on their honeymoon. Unwrapping gifts beside the Christmas tree, the first he'd had in the apartment since returning to Earth from Abydos. So beautiful. She'd always been so damned beautiful.
Daniel noted that the pictures were different than what he had on his desk. But the love that filled the eyes of the two people in the photos...that was the same. "Be sure to take them," he said softly.
"Right," Jackson replied. Then cleared his throat. He opened one of the filing cabinets. Pulled out the controller.
"There's another artifact that you picked up from that lab...at least I hope you did," Daniel said.
"That stuff is in here," Jackson said, leading the way to one of the storage rooms.
He felt a moment of panic when, after going through the box twice, there was no sign of the device that Casey had first seen when she'd been contacted by Annika. Don't lose it, he thought wildly. Another memory of using the mirror, the first time he'd held the controller...when Dr. Samantha Carter-O'Neill and Major Kawalsky had walked through the mirror, desperate for help, willing to do anything to save their own SGC...flashed through his mind.
"I'm sorry," Jackson said quietly.
"No big deal," Daniel sighed. "We'll just have to hope that Kawalsky was right...and that our reality will be 'close' when the mirror is turned back on."
Jackson nodded his understanding. "In...um...in other realities...am I...is he..." he cleared his throat again.
"I don't know," Daniel said quietly. "I only know about four other realities. The one I went to and learned about Apophis being on his way; the one Doctor Samantha Carter O'Neill and Major Kawalsky escaped from, we were able to help them out-"
"So were we," Jackson said, nodding.
"The one that we got tossed into, where I learned about Casey, and then the one that Annika visited from."
"Annika Jackson. It seems that in some realities, Daniel Jackson is destined to be with a fiery red-head named Annika."
A small smile tugged at Jackson's lips. "We had a visit from a Casey Jackson. Solar flare. Sam was able to find one that would get her home. Guess it worked. Anyway, Casey picked up the phone, called herself, talked for a couple of minutes, then handed the phone to me. It...talking to her was so easy...so natural...we spent three hours just...talking. I barely had time to get to the 'gate room to tell her...the Casey from the other reality...goodbye," he said, his smile widening slightly. "Twenty four hours later, Casey...my Casey...showed up at the main gate."
Daniel chuckled. "Lucky you."
"Yeah. I was. How did you..." Jackson waved his hand in a circle.
"The Casey I met in that alternate reality gave me a letter. I hand delivered it to my Casey in Tacoma."
"Ah. Married right away?"
"About six weeks later."
"What took you so long? We were married by the end of the week," Jackson teased.
"Justice of the Peace."
"Plan a wedding and see how long it takes," Daniel joked.
Pain flickered momentarily over Jackson's features. He took a deep breath. "Won't have to worry about that. I won't be getting married again."
Daniel nodded. He wouldn't spout platitudes about time healing all wounds. That someday his counterpart would meet someone worthy of his love. Because he knew it wasn't true. The Casey of this reality had been his counterpart's Destiny, just as surely as Casey was his Destiny. There would be no healing of that wound...nothing would ever fill that emptiness...and no woman would ever touch his heart, his soul, again.
"We need to get you home. And then we need to get the hell out of here," Jackson said.
"Right." Daniel glanced again at the photos. Then wondered what sort of a selfish bastard it made him to be so thankful that he wasn't the one doomed to a life without Casey.
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