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"The first insertion team is approaching the escape hatch," Carter reported when all four of the men, the two Daniel's and the two Jack's, walked back into the control room.
"It'll take at least ten minutes for them to drill through the lock and get down here. Probably twenty minutes to climb down," O'Neill responded.
"We've sealed off every level...they'll have to drill through any door they decide to use," Sam said. "That's at least another ten minutes.
"That's plenty of time," Jackson replied.
"Well, I guess this is where we head to the mirror, and go home," Jack said quietly.
O'Neill looked at each of the team members. His eyes stopped on Casey. "Thanks. For everything."
She nodded. "Just remember...miracles do happen."
The alternate of her Jack gave her a familiar, crooked smile. "I'll keep that in mind."
"Let's go campers," Jack said.
The eight people trooped down to the 'gate room. Daniel hoped that their reality was 'nearby'. They didn't have time to go through countless realities...didn't have the luxury of waiting to talk to anyone who might wander by and respond to their calls. He stepped closer to the mirror, controller in hand. The first two realities were Area 51, they recognized the markings on several of the crates nearby. Definitely not home. Four were storage rooms.
"We couldn't just waltz through our own mirror, could we?" Jack asked hopefully, when one of the rooms looked suspiciously like theirs.
"I could step in just long enough to see if the hum is right," Casey added.
"And get stuck in the wrong reality?" Daniel asked.
"I'd just pop right back here if that were the case," she argued.
Daniel rolled his eyes. Flicked his finger over the device.
"Right there! That's my hat!" Casey declared.
"You're sure about that, Radar?" Jack said, squinting at the room. It was still lit, but there was something off about it. When he saw his face peering through, he took an involuntary step back.
"Don't do it!" Sam shouted at the man who looked like her CO. "This place is about to blow!"
With a nod, that Jack gave them a thumbs up...and disappeared from view.
"That was close!" Casey sighed.
The second room that was identical to the lab they had been in was also well lit. And Casey's cap was in the middle of the floor, upside down. 'C. Jackson' was written on the back of the headband.
"That's your cap, Angel," Daniel grinned.
Casey turned to Carter. "Give me long enough to make sure it's the right place. If it is, shut the mirror off."
"It doesn't matter where you go, just as long as it's away from here," Jack said, addressing all three of the alternate SG-1 members.
"And try to find the Tok'ra, I know they'll help you," Sam admonished.
"I'm certain Dad will be out there, trying to find out what he can," Carter replied.
"Time's a'wastin', and we still have work to do," O'Neill said, flashing a smile.
It was awkward for a few moments. Casey finally broke the ice, placed a kiss on O'Neill's cheek. "Take care of him," she whispered.
"I will," he promised softly.
Carter hugged Casey, Sam, Teal'c, and Daniel. Smiled shyly at Jack before hugging him as well.
Casey stopped in front of Jackson. Reached up and cupped his cheek. "Don't give up hope...ever. Believe in that miracle," she said softly.
"Try what?" Snickers filled the air around her. "I hate it when that happens! What'd I say?" she demanded.
"Come on, Miracle Whisper-er," Jack teased. "Let's go home."
One by one SG-1 stepped through the mirror. Casey closed her eyes...examined the hum around her. Yes! This is home! The hum that filled her mind was melodic in its familiarity. She turned towards the mirror. Carter, Jackson, and O'Neill watched her anxiously. "We're home. Thanks. And good luck!"
"Thank you," Carter said softly.
"Goodbye," Jackson whispered. "Goodbye, Casey."
O'Neill nodded, then turned away, but not before the slender seer had seen the shimmer of tears in his eyes.
A A A A A A
The mirror went black. For a moment, the team stood looking at one another uncertainly. Daniel picked Casey's cap off the floor, tugged it over her barely braided hair. "Let's see if there's anything else in here worth taking home to examine."
Jack was staring at the mirror. "Think we should break it?"
"Huh?" Daniel blinked in confusion.
"We have one at the SGC. What if someone stumbles through this one? And for that matter, just how can there be two of them in one reality?"
"Actually," Daniel said, "from what the Daniel in Annika's reality said in his notes, there were multiple mirrors, and we're assuming that was true in every reality. They were used by the Nox as teaching devices. Don't know if the Nox created them, or if this is another Ancient toy. Or toys, as the case may be."
Casey smiled. 'Annika's reality' was the way they identified the reality she had been contacted from; and where Sha're, Kasuf, and Skaara had gone - escaping the threat of entropic cascade failure. She wondered briefly what her friend was doing at the moment. She'd have to 'send a message' and see if the redhead was free for a chat.
"Yeah, well, just in case..." Jack aimed the grip of his P90, hit the mirror in the center. The glass cracked. He hit it again, and the mirror shattered.
Satisfied that no one from another reality would wander through that particular mirror and become hopelessly stuck here, the team turned back to the lab.
Sam was studying the devices that were still on the work table. "I think we should take these along," she said, holding up a second Goa'uld tablet and the device that operated it. "Never know what might be in here."
"I agree," Daniel said.
"Okay, grab your souvenirs and let's get out of here. I'm beat," Jack ordered. He watched as all four of his 'kids' loaded their packs with rocks...tablets Daniel would be quick to point out...and the statue thingys, and whatever else was on the table, carefully arranging the items in their backpacks.
Daniel glanced at his watch. Twenty two hours and thirty-five minutes. As tired as they all were, no doubt Jack would order the team to their quarters on base to sleep. As long as it was their SGC, he had no objections. He unconsciously reached for Casey as they started toward the tunnel that had led them into the hidden lab. He'd faced life without Casey. It hadn't been pleasant. But she had been alive. There was always hope as long as she was alive. His counterpart didn't have that hope...did he? He thought about what Casey had said to that alternate Daniel. Was it possible? His counterpart had returned from Ascension in two realities that he was aware of...it was possible that it had happened in others. If that Casey had Ascended...he smiled. One could always hope for a miracle!
A A A A A A
For a second time in less than half an hour he glanced around the room that had once been his office, having returned to gather the notes he wanted to take with him. Someone had gone through his papers; whoever had done so hadn't bothered to do more than toss his notebooks aside. He had no clue what they'd been looking for. Given that the majority of his notes and all of his journals were in his own personal cuneiform, they wouldn't have been able to understand what they had anyway. With a grin, he gathered them together, stuffing them, along with all the other books that were still usable, into the duffel he'd brought in with him. He glanced at a few of the notes. Remembered the MALP report about the planet the Tok'ra referred toas a place where a large Ancient temple remained, in relatively good condition, if their former allies could be believed.
His hands trembled slightly when he picked up the framed photographs. Now that he'd seen them again, he couldn't live without them. Wondered briefly what had happened to the photo albums in their apartment. And wondered who would get Grandma Rose's china and crystal. Casey would be devastated to know that her treasured keepsakes were in someone else's hands.
"Daniel, move it!" Jack barked.
Shoving the duffel full, he took one final look at the room. So much potential, he thought sadly. Shot to hell by one very arrogant, greedy, self-absorbed asshole.
Sam joined them on the elevator. She had two boxes full of parts and what looked like the pieces of the naquadah generator she'd been working on, all lashed tightly to a hand cart she'd found in the MALP room. She wouldn't mention the healing device and the Goa'uld communication orb. They might be needed, but she wasn't certain how either man would react to the presence of such distinct reminders of their imprisonment. Neither scientist flinched when their CO frowned at the collection.
"Might as well hit supply and the armory," he growled.
"We can take one of the F.R.E.D. units with us, to carry it all," Sam suggested. "I know there are two 'sleds' that can be attached for supplies."
Daniel nodded. "If we don't find a village or town right away, we'll need the supplies."
He couldn't help but smile. "Good thinking, both of you," Jack said quietly, approvingly.
It took thirty minutes to have everything they wanted, and thought they might need, gathered at the bottom of the ramp. The Quantum mirror was carefully wrapped, and carried to the ramp as well. Jack and Daniel took care when they put it on the F.R.E.D. sled. Kinsey had been in such a hurry that there had been a significant amount of MREs, uniforms, bottled water, and med kits just abandoned in the supply room. Someone, they assumed on order from General Hammond, had carefully hidden away weapons and plenty of ammo for the P90s. Five of them. As well as five zats. Two staff weapons. The SGC 'family' had been hoping that SG-1 would return and make right what had gone so horribly wrong. Too bad it hadn't worked out that way. Silently, the three teammates carefully loaded F.R.E.D. and then attached the similarly packed sleds. They were ready to leave.
According to the security cameras, there were Marines on levels eleven through sixteen now. Jack led his team into the hidden room off of the control room, where a nuclear bomb sat waiting. "Damned bastard had every intention of reopening this place, under his control," he spat.
Sam and Daniel nodded their agreement.
"Carter, insert your key. Give us five minutes."
"Sir, you realize that when this mountain comes down, it will cause major earthquakes nearby. Colorado Springs, and Silver Springs will be adversely affected," Sam said quietly.
"There could be deaths."
"Which won't be ours."
"We have to seal the 'gate, Sam," Daniel said softly, running his hand up and down the back of his teammate in a gesture of comfort. "Kinsey might be gone, but the threat isn't. If West gets out there, he'll make a deal with the first Goa'uld to offer him even a hint of power. The entire planet could be enslaved."
The blonde nodded. "I know. It's just..." She shook her head.
"It's war, Sam," Jack said, his voice low, the softest it had been since...well, in a very long time. "Our survival depends on this. How can we continue to fight the Goa'uld, to protect Earth, if we're dead?"
"We should at least warn those Marines," Daniel said, looking his best friend in the eye. He didn't want more blood on his hands. He didn't think Jack did either. The earthquakes...well, they'd have to hope for the best. Jack was right, at the moment, they were caught in a war not of their making...one they had to survive, if they ever wanted to find peace again. Not warning the Marines, however, was just wrong.
"I agree, sir."
Jack nodded. "Set it for twenty minutes. They can get out in that amount of time."
Another nod. "Ready," she said, her voice steady.
The keys were inserted. Sam quickly keyed in the time. Nodded at her superior officer.
"Turn your key."
The beeping of the automatic countdown filled the eerie silence that surrounded them.
Sam dashed to the control room long enough to dial in the first of the addresses on the list she had copied from the main computer. She powered up the dialing computer, overrode the virus scanners.
Jack grabbed the microphone. "Attention in the mountain. The bomb has been set. You have twenty minutes to get the hell out." He held the transmission button down on the handset, then stuck his arm out, so that the distinct beeping of the bomb could be heard. A glance at the monitors showed the men scurrying back the way they had come. Several angry faces glared up at the cameras. It no longer mattered what they thought. Someday, the truth would come out. It always did.
While he waited for his teammates, Daniel was looking at his copy of the list of planets that Sam had printed out. Couldn't help but smile to see the same planet on the list as he had found in his notes. Vis Uban. Who knew what they might find there? "Sam?"
She looked down into the 'gate room. "What?"
"Dial up Vis Uban. It sounds like an interesting place to start. Big Ancient temple there."
Sam smiled. "Planet designation?"
He read off the numbers and letters that the computer would translate into the proper dialing sequence.
Just before stepping through the event horizon, the three turned to look at the SGC for the final time. Sam frowned. She knew that neither Jack nor Daniel were wearing aftershave, yet she could just detect just a hint of men's cologne. It was familiar...something she'd smelled before...
He knew that Casey...the Casey from the alternate reality...had been in the 'gate room for a few minutes. She'd been gone long enough that the scent had faded. But Daniel would swear he could smell that soft floral and vanilla scent...stronger than it had been a few minutes ago. And it was right beside him, rather than where the mirror had been standing when the alternate team had stepped through it. He breathed deeply. Even if it was just his imagination, he'd take the memory of her sweet scent with him...keep it in his heart always.
"Don't give up hope...ever. Believe in that miracle," Casey had said, smiling at him, her hand cupped around his scarred cheek.
She hadn't been aware of what she'd said. He wondered if the same was true for that reality...if her 'premonitions' were as accurate when announced in that manner. Maybe, just maybe, he had enough faith once again to believe in miracles.
Battered, weary, not the same team they'd been the last time they had stepped through the gate, SG-1 walked into the event horizon. Leaving behind all that they had known. Their quest a new one. A search for peace of mind.
A A A A A A
The klaxons were wailing, General Hammond waiting at the foot of the ramp. When SG-1's IDC had come through, he'd been relieved. They'd missed their first check in. For them, it wasn't unusual. And there had been no indication from Casey that anything worrisome might happen. Without a doubt, the team would have another interesting story to tell.
"Aunty Em, we're home!"
Casey smiled at Jack's quip. "There's no place like home," she sighed.
The general raised an eyebrow. "So how was the Wizard?"
"Not good," Daniel replied.
"It was really bad, sir," Sam added.
"Get checked out, we'll debrief in thirty minutes," the general said gently. Knowing instinctively, and from the weary expressions on their faces, that SG-1 had just been through the wringer...again.
"You know, Janet believed us," Casey commented as they made their way to the door, leaving their weapons and packs with the supply sergeant on duty.
"Careful," Daniel admonished the man. "The packs have artifacts in them."
"Yes, sir," the man nodded.
"Yeah, she did," Jack replied to Casey's comment, handing his weapon and backpack to the sergeant. "Not that it really did us any good."
"We don't know that," Casey argued. "It's possible she kept the Marines from coming after us when Daniel blew the hole in that wall."
"Maybe," Jack allowed. "What we have to worry about now is how many needles our little Napoleonic doctor is going to stick in our butts."
Sam chuckled. "With luck, none. We've only been gone twenty-six hours."
"Twenty-four is the cut-off. She'll use needles," Daniel predicted through a yawn, checking his watch.
Trooping through the door of the infirmary, the team didn't know whether to be disappointed or relieved to find Dr. Warner on duty. The requisite blood samples were drawn, and the actual tests would be performed, as per procedural orders; although only by one of the doctors on staff...as they were all now aware of SG-1's 'secret'. Spinal scans were done, using the hand-held devices that had been built with the aid of Tegerian technology, which had been part of the treaty Daniel had negotiated with that civilization. That handy little device had gone a long way in easing fears of a Goa'uld infiltrating the SGC. Temperatures were taken, blood pressure recorded, eyes examined, and the team was free to leave.
"It's late, kids. We do the debrief, then head straight for our quarters. No driving home tonight," Jack said as they waited for the elevator.
"But-" Casey started to object.
"No way, Radar. You're tired. Daniel is tired. Neither of you need to be driving."
"Radar, don't argue. It makes me pissy."
Casey snorted. "You're always pissy."
"I am not!"
The team wandered into the briefing room. "I am not always pissy," Jack declared, dropping down into his chair.
"Yes, you are. Always. Pissy. Trust me. Ask anyone around here. Personally, I think it's because in the back of your mind you feel guilty about all of the paperwork you're supposed to do, and don't."
Sam giggled. Daniel chuckled. Even Teal'c was grinning widely when the general walked into the room. "SG-1," Hammond nodded.
Jack saw the general's cheek twitching, realized that the man had heard the discussion. "In my own defense, I am not pissy. Nor do I feel guilty."
"Considering the stack of paperwork waiting for your attention, Colonel, that you don't feel guilty surprises me."
Laughter burst out around the table at the stunned expression on Jack's face. He looked at Casey. "I will get you."
"What happened out there?" Smiles vanished. The weary, guarded looks that had been on all five faces when they'd walked down the ramp reappeared.
"We found an interesting lab, hidden in a mountain cavern," Jack said. "Just happened to have a Quantum mirror in it. Except this mirror was in the wall...looked like a simple doorway."
"Did you say 'in the wall', Colonel?"
"It looked as if the rock had been chipped away, and the mirror set into that indention," Sam explained.
"It did look like a doorway," Casey added.
"I take it that you walked through this doorway?" Hammond asked. He couldn't help but wonder...just how close had the SGC come to losing SG-1...again?
"Uh...yes, sir," Jack replied. "That was totally my call. Radar wasn't picking up any bad vibes, we didn't even realize what was going on until we looked back."
"Which was the same time we were being arrested," Daniel interjected.
"It was bad...really, really bad," Casey murmured.
"Casey Jackson was aware of what had happened in that particular reality," Teal'c said.
The general looked over at the seer. "Casey?"
"A couple of nights ago, I had a horrible nightmare. At least, I thought it was just a nightmare."
"And why did you assume it was a nightmare, and not a premonition?"
Casey looked from Daniel to Jack, and back again. He gave her a nod, and an encouraging smile. She took a deep breath. "Because I saw Jack and Daniel torture Kinsey to death."
The shock of hearing such a thing registered on the general's face. "And had they, in that reality?"
"Yes, sir. But for a very good reason!" she added quickly.
"It seems that in that reality, Kinsey exposed the Stargate program, brought the entire world to its knees, helped take over, and then shut the mountain down...while that SG-1 was still off world," Jack explained quietly.
"They were captured by Ba'al, on their way to the 'gate, and they had no idea what was going on, no idea that their SGC had been shut down," Daniel said. "The DHD was destroyed in a battle with Ba'al's Jaffa, and they were taken prisoner. Held for just over three months. Teal'c was executed. Casey-" His voice broke.
"She killed herself," Casey said softly. "Because Ba'al had convinced her that Daniel was dead. Showed her his body...just before the snake bastard tossed him into a sarcophagus just long enough to revive him."
"Their Major Carter was....was completely broken," Sam said quietly. "She 'returned' while we were there, helped me write new security codes to buy us all time to get away."
"General, that team suffered through every kind of torture imaginable. The worst part was, they'd been abandoned," Jack said quietly.
"They made it back to Earth, killed..." Jack took a deep breath. "They tortured him to death. Sir, to be perfectly honest, I can't say that put in the same situation, I wouldn't do the same thing."
"Colonel, no one is placing blame, or judging," the general said gently. "I take it that you met this team?"
"Yes, sir. I think...I think they'll be okay now," Casey replied.
"They escaped as well?"
"Yes, sir, went through the 'gate," Jack said.
"Chances are, once they've had the time to heal, to come to terms with...everything, they'll be back out there fighting the Goa'uld, and protecting Earth as best they can," Daniel said.
"They took their mirror with them," Casey said, glancing at the CO. "We showed them how to find us. Just in case they need something."
Hammond smiled. "That's a good idea. If we can offer them any assistance, we'll do so."
Her smile lit the room. "Thank you, sir."
She took a deep breath, then blew it out slowly. "For all the chaos and death that Kinsey caused, what happened to him was actually justified."
"I'm certain it was," the general replied.
"Speaking of Kinsey, any word on him and his Goa'uld buddy?" Jack asked.
Hammond bit back his smile. "I haven't received any information about Kinsey or the Goa'uld...um..."
"Mehen, sir," Daniel offered.
"Mehen. I'm sure they're out there somewhere, plotting Earth's demise."
"No doubt." Casey settled back in her chair. "I can't decide who I actually feel the most sorry for...Kinsey, for being taken as a Goa'uld host, or Mehen, for being stuck with Kinsey."
"I don't feel sorry for either of them," Jack declared.
"Nor do I feel any sympathy for host nor symbiote," Teal'c said.
"Don't look at me, I don't either," Sam smiled.
Daniel reached over and rubbed Casey's shoulder. "Guess you're the only one tenderhearted enough to care," he teased lightly.
"Given the circumstances, I'd say your sympathy, while admirable, is wasted," General Hammond said.
She looked up into the Texan's blue eyes. "I suppose so. But...still...neither of them got a good deal, did they?"
"Kinsey got exactly what he deserved," Jack said.
"What was the status of the planet when you left?" the general asked, steering the conversation back to the mission de-brief.
"Probably in the throes of another revolution. Given that this one wasn't carefully orchestrated, it will probably last longer than six days," Daniel replied.
"Six days? Kinsey took over in six days?" Again the general was unable to hide his surprise.
"Yeah, Harry said it was like the creation story," Casey smiled.
"Colonel Harry Maybourne," Jack said. "He's getting soft in more than this reality, it seems."
"From what Harry told us, Kinsey and Greg Taylor, who was president, by the way," Jack said, "and who knows how many other world leaders, had carefully planned their little takeover. The U.S., Canada, and Mexico had become the 'North American States of Democracy'. The people never had a choice...or a chance. They had military rule in place almost immediately. Same thing happened world wide. China took over all of Asia...it was pretty much Europe and this new North American States, and China, from what we gathered."
"I believe I'll contact the president regarding this news. It's not too far-fetched to believe there aren't those who might have similar plans here," the general mused.
The Stargate Alliance, was the thought in five minds. If any group had such intentions, it would be that collection of politicians.
"I'll expect your reports by the end of the week. Get some sleep, SG-1."
"Yes, sir," Jack replied, answering for the team.
They stood as the general left the room. Casey glanced around. "Just one sandwich and a cup of coffee first?"
"Lead the way, Radar," Jack smiled.
"I hope the good guys win," she sighed.
"They will. And SG-1 will be back to help them, when the time is right," Daniel predicted.
"I agree," Sam said, sliding her ID card through the reader. "Once they've had a chance to take a breath...and heal...they'll be back doing what they do best."
"Fighting the bad guys," Jack said.
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