Friday, December 1, 2000 (again)
The Ponderosa, Nevada
"That's one fantastic claim," Ben Cartwright III exclaimed. "You want me to believe you actually went back to 1860 and saw them all, had Sunday dinner with them, came back, and no one but you and the big man with the gold tattoo can remember any of it?"
"Yep," Jack said rocking back on his heels at the front door of the Ponderosa. "I know Michelle. She is the most determined woman imaginable. She's relentless. So I have to believe you know a lot more. It's time you told me."
"You got proof?"
"Not a shred except I know you went to Salt Lake City. Anytime someone checks on me, security lets me know.
"I had my own DNA analysis done," Cartwright admitted.
"Then you know about the paradox."
"I want to know what you are holding for me."
"Enjoying the treasure hunt?"
"More than life itself."
"What are you doing to save her?"
"Special medicines and a doctor."
"Come back when you want to talk."
Friday, December 1, 2000 (again)
The Ponderosa, Nevada
"We are in position, sir," the SF Major reported.
"Do it," came the order.
Two battalions of troops stormed the Ponderosa and tore it apart for two hours. Ben Cartwright III called O'Neill on the secure line.
"Jerk! I said you'll never find it if I don't give it to you."
"Then I'll tear up the house board by board."
"Go ahead, time will reset and it will come back. Yes, I know about the 10 hour time looping. It must be happening or you couldn't threaten me that way." Ben Cartwright laughed his head off before he hung up.
Friday, December 1, 2000 (again)
The Ponderosa, Nevada
"We are in position, sir," the SF Major reported.
"Do it," came the order.
Four battalions of troops stormed the Ponderosa and tore up the surrounding grounds and the meadow. Ben Cartwright III called O'Neill on the secure line.
"Jerk! I said you'll never find it if I don't give it to you."
"Then I'll throw you in jail for the rest of your days for treason."
"Go ahead, time will reset and I'll be right back here again." Ben Cartwright laughed heartily and hung up on O'Neill. Jack called back.
"Okay, what do you want you haven't told me?"
"Ask Michelle for what you need to give me."
"I can have them beat it out of you or use drugs."
"You can try. As you know, we Cartwrights will die before we break. Talk to me when Michelle gives you permission. I'll know what that is."
Friday, December 1, 2000 (again)
SGC: Daniel's office
"Have you made any more progress with the translation?" O'Neill demanded.
"No, you told me to research paradoxes."
"Go back to the translation. Call me when you have pages 323-387 done." O'Neill stomped out. "T, are you done?"
"I am not O'Neill. The cryptologists are most uncooperative."
"Do what you got to do."
Jack walked into Hammond's office. Before Hammond knew what was happening, Jack shot him up with the new interrogation drugs. Then he had all Hammond's calls held and closed the blinds to the office.
"What did the Nox say you haven't told me?"
Hammond turned out to be one tough old man.
Friday, December 1, 2000 (again)
General Hammond lay on the examination table doped up with the new interrogation drugs. Teal'c had a weapon trained on Fraiser, who Jack had doped up before she knew what hit her. She inserted the Tok'ra memory recall device in Hammond's temple. Adjusting to maximum strength, Jack began his search of Hammond's memories. He wanted to know what the Nox said that he wasn't told. They couldn't find the files either on the computer or anywhere on the base. All he got was either scenes of the general's grandchildren or his deceased wife before time reset.
Monday, June 25, 1860
The Ponderosa, Western Utah Territory
I woke up to find Hoss sitting and staring at me. He is such a dear man, kind and cheerful. The look on his face wasn't the usual happy one. Something was really bothering him. I've come to know this gentle giant these several months. For all his folksy demeanor, he is a very shrewd man. Men who follow their instincts are usually doing it with reason. Hoss understands life through his feelings, which include those instincts. He's a very right brain kind of guy. He is also not one to let something go when he feels the issue strongly. I braced for the impact. He can be such a child at heart but there are times you don't want to mess with him. He was having one of those moments.
"What time is it?"
"Oh, can't sleep?"
"Nope." He had that look in his eye that said he meant business. "I tracked your friends into the middle of a big meadow. The tracks disappeared. Then I tracked them from the house back to where they started only there weren't nothing there. They came from no where and went into nothing. Explain."
"I been tracking since I was a boy. Everyone comes to me to do it for them. Try again."
"Teal'c can track really well too. You should talk with him. You know swap techniques."
Hoss frowned, annoyed. "I had a talk with Adam. I didn't like what he said although he made some sense." When Hoss is like this the best thing to do is be very quiet. "Adam insists you are not an angel. He made a very convincing argument. So I got to wondering what are you if you ain't no angel. I'm not liking the answers I found."
"I told you I'm not an angel. It doesn't mean that is a bad thing."
"Maybe, maybe not," he admitted. "I do know you ain't telling me all of it."
"All of what?"
"Whatever," he said with steepled fingers. Those bright blue eyes are piercing when he's pissed. I was in for it. "I knowed you didn't love me when we got married. I knowed you was smart, real smart. I figured it didn't matter. We would work something out." He tapped his fingers in that steeple position. "You been good to me, real good. You been respectful and done your wifely duty by me. We got a kid coming. All that is well and good." He was silent thinking really hard. I kept his eye not wanting to seem shifty. I had done all those things. I had been good to him. "Now you say you love me. I cain't figure it no how." He sat there regarding me sternly. "Your friends are just like you. I mean exactly like you. All this time I thought you were one of a kind. You were so different you needed someone more normal like. I come to find out you don't. So it don't figure at all. You don't love me. You don't like it here. You want to leave with them but say you won't go. So what is keeping you here? Or are you going to pack up and trot on out when they come back? No, don't answer. You have enough money to do any dang thing you want but you are still making more. What in tarnation for? No, don't answer. I heard what you said about some program you want to stump Congress out of. I know you don't deal in itty bitty. This is powerful stuff. Your things, this money, the stuff you know, all of it makes no sense. Why would a married woman care about any of it? You shouldn't be worried about nothing except having the baby and taking care of me. So I got to wondering what is so dang important that a rich, smart, married woman would want so badly that she would hang on to things that even an angel has no business having. I don't think that letter from the President is real. I know something is wrong. Adam thinks otherwise but he don't know you. Whatever you are, you are smarter than Adam but you ain't fooling me. Tonight, we settle this before your friends return. I want the whole truth. You are going to trust me the way you trust that Colonel O'Neill feller. I am your husband whether you love me or not. Now, tell me straight. I mean it. All of it."
All I could do was blink. I never heard him talk like that. He was scary but not yelling or acting upset. He was pissed and determined. I thought about it. Every argument I had had with myself over what I was doing and how I was doing it flashed briefly. As far as I could tell, I had fulfilled my purpose according to Sam. I was having the baby. I told the Colonel about the naquadah. So what was I doing with the money? O'Neill could take what I had and get the government to buy the rest or declare Eminent Domain and seize it, probably. Could I really do an end run around Congress about the funding? They could still close the program for political reasons. Truthfully, they had to know the genie was out of the bottle and wasn't ever going back inside. So that left the problem with the timeline if there was a problem. According to Sam, our very advanced friends the Nox and the Asgard said the problem would be solved with the medicine. So what was I still worrying about?
"For what it's worth, Michelle," Hoss said with deliberate quiet tones, "I am telling you to obey in this one thing. You took marriage vows that said you would obey me. I haven't demanded it but I am now."
That statement hit me hard. I did say that at the marriage ceremony. He took it seriously. No one takes that seriously except that in 1860 they do. I have always taken vows seriously. Which is the greater duty? The more I struggled with the question the more I didn't know. These things are done for a reason. I have a certain amount of faith. It's been shaky since I got snaked but I renewed that faith when Sam told me what had to happen here. Somehow I felt like a greater hand was guiding things considering what she told me. Maybe like before I had to trust that all of this would come out okay because God is a good guy. The whole Free Will issue kept bothering me, though. You know the freedom to screw up part.
"Hoss?" Oh that came out so high pitched and childish. I became terrified at the prospect of telling him. "Hoss, I haven't done anything wrong. Don't be mad at me. It makes this more difficult."
"Just tell me. I don't care if it is difficult."
"I care a lot. Can't we do this kindly?" He sighed. My eyes pleaded with him. "I'll tell you but it's not easy to do it. Just stop being angry, okay?"
"I'm not angry. Just get on with it."
So I sat up and swung my feet over the edge of the bed to face him in the chair. My thoughts were racing. How to compose it?
"Hoss, I came back to be your wife and have your children. It's important."
"That's the answer."
"Because one of our descendents very far in the future is extremely important to this whole planet," I answered him straight out. "If this child dies, he doesn't get born. O'Neill is here to make sure our son survives."
Hoss grabbed me and searched my eyes for the truth. He saw it there. It was the truth. Samantha told me all about it in private. Hoss can hear the truth. He believes in odd people when other folks give up on them because he knows the truth. This time he knew I spoke the truth as surely as he knew the sun would rise in the morning.
"What does that man do in the future?"
"He prevents the world from getting blown up."
"What does that stuff in the ground have to do with it?"
"The mineral is called naquadah. It can explode with enough force to destroy a whole planet."
"These days, there is no way to extract it nor is there any way to destroy it. I must make certain when the time comes to extract it, our descendent can do the right thing with it."
"What about your work for the government?"
"That's all true too. Hoss, I had a life before we met."
"The President knows all this?"
"Is he one of you?"
"No, he's normal. He and O'Neill go way back. They were friends in their youth."
"You mean to tell me that you came here to marry me?"
"You married me without loving me to have the child."
"I suppose it took some time, but I grew to love you. So I guess everything turned out fine."
"If'n you weren't after my money, why all this money business?"
"To buy the mineral rights and pass them on to future generations until the right one can deal with it. I enjoyed the chickens mostly for the look on Adam's face."
"Would you stop if I asked you?"
"Is it a request or do I have to obey?"
"We don't own all the naquadah rights, yet."
"We have enough money so that when the silver plays out we can buy it all up then."
"From now on, you are a lady who has no worries. You concentrate on getting well. I want to be a Pa."
"Are you still angry with me?"
"No, just confused." He held me out before him; both hands had hold of me by the shoulders. He studied me. "Are you real?"
All I could do was nodded slowly. He still looked up and down at me. He is a very strong man. He could hold me like that for days.
"Hoss, you are hurting me. Let up will you?" He relaxed his grip. "Now what's the problem?"
"You said you came back. O'Neill said they charged a man with your murder. Explain how that is possible if you aren't an angel."
"Hoss, I'm what's called a paradox." He didn't understand, sure not. "A paradox happens when something is true that can't be true. I am a paradox."
"A paradox," he said almost whispering. "Good or bad?"
"Either, both, and neither," I told him frankly. "I am a paradox."
"I don't understand. What's true and can't be true?"
"I will die before I am born. That's a paradox. I haven't been born yet, Hoss, but here I am. I came back to a time before I was born to have the child. It's an endless repetition. I die, and then I am born many years later. I come back to have the child and then die again. So you see I am a confounded soul." I gave up in his arms and wept. "Let me do what I have to do in peace. It won't be much longer. Then you can go back to a normal life."
"What are you saying?" He took my face in his big hands. "You are going to die soon?"
"I die March 27, 1862. I was born April 16, 1970."
"That's a paradox. I left my original life November, 1999 and arrived here in September, 1859. That's why my things are so extraordinary. I had them with me when I time shifted. None of it exists yet, not even me."
"But your friends…?"
"They are from my original life. O'Neill figured out how to contact me for a few hours at a time. Then they shift back to my original time. They know what has happened and are trying to save my life and the baby. If it is a choice, they will save the baby. O'Neill went to some folks who understand these things to try to get a solution this loop. He brought the new medications. I don't know if it works. I doubt it, but let him try. If I have to die, I die. I just do it all over again endlessly over and over. Thank goodness I only remember one cycle at a time." I wiped my eyes. "So that's it. Now you know. I'm a paradox."
He held me up looking at me for signs of deception. I didn't resist. He's too strong. His face is so expressive. I know he plays poker very well. He must know how expressive he is and use it to fake out his opponents. At this moment, he wasn't faking his horror. The man was appalled.
"No wonder you go loco."
"I had hoped living on the Ponderosa for a couple of years would be a peaceful interlude. The joke is on me, huh." I smiled ruefully and wiped my eyes. "I won't remember any of this next time. So it will all happen again and again, all the chaos and violence and death. Such a lucky girl I am."
"Aw, Little Gal, I had no idear anything could be this bad." Hoss hugged me very gently. "What could you have done to deserve this?"
"It's not about deserving anything, Hoss. It must have something to do with heredity. We must have something very important to pass along in this combination. All of this is necessary, not punishment, however difficult we may think it is."
"It's a comfort to know Daniel said he would take you to Heaven when it was your time."
"Daniel is a mess. He doesn't even remember saying that. No one not even O'Neill knows what that was all about." I sighed. "Just let up on Daniel. He's a good guy."
"You poor thing, you don't even know you are an angel. Ain't no doubt about it."
"Whatever you say, Hoss," I wept softly. "In the end, it doesn't matter. We just do all this again and again and again forever."
Friday, December 1, 2000 (again)
"Are you not going to the Ponderosa today, O'Neill?" Teal'c asked as he joined his human friend sitting with documents and a big slice of cake.
"No, I was thinking," O'Neill shoveled in some cake. "You know I can eat as much of this stuff as I want and won't gain a pound." He got up and took a whole cake from the surprised food service staff. Then he went for a big pitcher of milk. "Join me." Teal' c moved to cut a slice but O'Neill grabbed the cake away from him. "Get your own," he grinned through a sloppy frosting covered mouthful. Teal'c inclined his head and acquired a whole pie and a pitcher of coffee. The people in the commissary turned their heads to see the gluttony. Jack grinned and ate until he sugared out.
"Besides glucose saturated fats, what else do you contemplate O'Neill?"
"I've been going about this all wrong."
"She's leading me a merry chase. So why don't I beat her to the punch?"
Teal'c cocked his head and swallowed hot coffee from the pot.
"Isn't that hot?"
"Extremely, but I require the sensory experience."
"So I was thinking, suppose we go do an end run around her back then? I don't see why I can't order a whole battalion to dig up the DHD and take the control crystal before she gets it."
Teal'c inclined his head and finished the pie. "What about the naquadah? She already owns half of it or more."
"Yeah, I haven't figured that one out. I could go try to buy up the claims myself but I don't know where exactly. I would have to send you and Carter a bunch of times and have Daniel research the old mines. Besides, in 1875 when Virginia City burned to the ground, all the records went up in smoke. She probably has copies somewhere. Yep, she's got copies."
"Then there is the matter of currency."
"Yes, we could upset the apple cart messing with that issue."
"I fail to understand why a fruit vehicle would care."
"I mean we can't just inject currency into the situation or divert it so easily without consequences."
"Michelle Cartwright has diverted assets to do it."
"Yes, and we are still here, so it must be okay."
"Will we still be here after the time loop ceases?"
"Carter says we will."
"Then no matter what we do, nothing will change. We reset to exactly the same situation no matter what we do."
"That means no matter what she does we still come out the same. No, she's changed something. How do we know this is the same? I mean we know we are looping but what we remember from before can have changed."
"Indeed. How do you propose to proceed?"
"I was thinking about leaving myself notes back then, but that would change too. T, I don't think we shall ever know what we changed. I figure as long as the SGC is here doing what it is doing, things turned out okay."
"Hi guys," Daniel pulled up a chair to sit down. Jack reviewed the conjecture for him. "I have no idea." He pushed his glasses up and huffed. "Hey wait a minute, what about alternate universes? You could be passing into another reality altogether, quantum mirror style."
"I don't want to hear that."
"If that were true, then you can't steal the DHD crystal. You would never find it anyway and she won't be able to leave it to her Jack."
"Oy, time travel gives me a headache."
"The best course of action is to keep going but alter the dates you arrive."
"So you can show up all through her life and know exactly what she's been doing. That way when this is all over… assuming it's happening… then, you will know exactly where to find everything and know it was done the way you want." Teal'c and Jack exchanged looks. "Think of it as the ultimate time management project. You don't age. She does. You can arrive anytime during her life and still be you the way you are. At the end, you will know how it all turned out and be sure the naquadah goes to the government in the best legal form. She's right about that you know, don't you?"
"I don't know what I don't know anymore. Okay that confused me."
"What I'm saying is if something unexpected happens along the timeline, you will know and can go back to correct it or patch it somehow or stop her from messing up. You can run what she's doing past the experts we have here all the time."
"What if the looping stops and I'm back there?"
"I don't know."
"You don't know."
"No, I don't know."
Sam walked in and joined the conversation. "All I can say is that if it does stop for some reason and you are back there, you are with someone who can help you. It sounds pretty nice."
"Yeah, you can go fishing to your heart's content with a family that will want to have you and take care of you. Michelle's a good cook." Sam spooned some blue Jello. "It's not a bad retirement. And you wouldn't really be retired in the sense that you would be watching over things back then and could leave us notes just as she did."
"If you get bored, you can go through the Gate and explore." Daniel suggested.
"No that's something you must not do!" Sam said emphatically. "What if you change things out there so that we can't blow up Apophis' ships and the Goa'uld become stronger? No, you have to stay on Earth and guard the Gate."
"I must go through the Gate and replace my prim'tah when it is time. Otherwise, Major Carter is correct."
"Okay, so I nursemaid a wayward soul for the rest of her life and maybe mine," Jack sighed. "I suppose I deserve a punishment like this."
"It's my punishment for all the things I said about geeks and other things." Jack frowned and stared at Sam. "I want some calculations or at least formulas to make the blast calculations designed to send me to different years in her life."
"She dies in 1862 Jack."
"Maybe, maybe not, Lya said the meds solve the paradox."
"What isn't with those people?"
Friday, December 1, 2000 (again)
The White House, Washington, DC
"Thank you for seeing me, Mr. President." Jack stood at attention in his dress blues.
"Your note sounded most urgent."
"I wouldn't ask this favor but I have to know. Consider our issues closed and the debt satisfied if you let me read the file on the meeting with the Nox and the Asgard over the Dr. Hunt paradox situation."
"We were warned never to show that to you."
Jack proceeded to tell the President the whole story as fast as he could for the five minutes alloted to him. As a result, the President cancelled his next meeting and had the files sent in.
"Did that help?"
"It proves what I have suspected for a long time. The Asgard are playing God with a bunch of lowly humans."
"The Nox are in it up to their necks. They say they are trying to manipulate the paradox for a desired outcome which they say will help everyone. But it's up to you now that we are in this predicament. We couldn't tell you that or it might have prevented what you just described is happening. Besides, they think you are special. They won't say why, but they are adamant it has to be you."
"Okay, I'll do my best, sir."
"You work miracles, Jack. Miracles. I am authorizing you to take any and all measures to secure that naquadah. If she wants creature comforts, give them to her with warnings." The President handed Jack the order. That was a piece of paper, which would make one long journey back to the present.
Monday Morning, June 25, 1860
The Ponderosa, Western Utah Territory
About 9 o'clock in the morning, a knock on the door announced the arrival of Jack O'Neill minus the others. Hoss was ready and let him in with some reserve. Hoss had on his best shirt and black bow tie. Jack took off his Stetson hat. He was dressed in jeans, a long sleeved shirt, his black leather jacket, and boots. I decided he looked hot in clothes, any clothes. I was wearing a nice blue and white day dress with short sleeves. It is cool in the mountain mornings but temperatures warm up by midday.
"Welcome, Colonel," Hoss said as he offered his hand. Jack smiled and took it. We were alone. Papa and Adam were taking care of business in town. Little Joe was mending a fence in the pasture.
"Howdy," Jack said with a grin. I went to greet him. He was definitely more relaxed than the last time. With a flourish, he handed me a stack of folders. "Sorry it took so long. I had to do it piecemeal to get it done."
"Thanks, is it complete or do we need more parts?"
"Take a look through it. We may want to revise some parts depending on what you have going."
"Where are the others?"
"They went into town to check out your find."
"You should have told me. I could have sent Adam or Papa with them. They are in town as it is. Can you call Sam and tell her to find them?"
"Sure," Jack moved to step outside.
"Don't need to, sir," I was more respectful not so upset as yesterday. "Hoss knows about radios. If you need to be outside, let's do it in the rear."
Jack activated his headset. "SG-1 niner to Carter, Teal'c? Come in."
I pulled out my headset from the pile on Papa's desk. Adjusting it, I let Hoss listen. Jack didn't like it. What could he do; complain after the fact? Hoss has such an expressive face, showing surprise and delight. Well, Hoss heard Sam talking and saw Jack talking. He was impressed. He had done it with me in the desert. Seeing other people do it with ease as a normal activity struck him with surprise. It's one thing to see your weird wife do her weird thing, but quite another matter seeing other people treating it all as normal.
"Hey, Major Carter, that you?" Hoss demanded in a surprised tone.
"Yes, Mr. Cartwright, I'm here in town."
"Ma'am, my Pa and Adam are in town at the Cattlemen's Association meeting. It should be over by noon maybe sooner. It's on C Street across from the Hotel. Send them a note with the doorman that you are there. Tell them I asked them to show you around wherever you want to go."
"Thank you, Mr. Cartwright. Colonel, we are getting readings that show something, but there is some kind of interference."
I had on my spare headset. "Sam, whatever you do, stay out of the saloons. And keep Teal'c out too. It's trouble anyway you want to look at it. If you need anything, charge it to us. Mr. and Mrs. George Hammond run the General Store. Yeah, I thought you'd like that. They are my friends and will be very nice to both of you. Know if they are related? I've been curious."
"Yes, they are his ancestors."
"So way cool, talk about coincidences," I gushed. This was so weird. "Um, Sam what are you wearing?"
"More consistent apparel."
"Riding skirt and boots," she assured me. "Teal'c and Daniel are wearing jeans and Stetsons, plus our vests."
"Okay, if you need a place to wait, try the park at the end of the street. The parson will look out for you too."
"Thanks, Michelle, we know."
"How do they know?"
"I wrote them letters, Hoss."
"Oh, and ma'am, don't go out to the mines yourself. They won't like it. Take Pa and Adam."
"Thank you, Mr. Cartwright."
"At the Ophir, tell them you are my representatives. They have to let you in. You should have let me write you a note. So wait for the Cartwrights."
"I got it, Michelle, enough. Holy Hannah!"
"Two guys are shooting it out on Main Street."
"Stay out of it."
"They actually drew on each other and shot each other!"
"Welcome to my life!"
"Good grief, Michelle! You weren't kidding."
"Indeed, it is most unfortunate," Teal'c rumbled in his deep bass voice.
"Par for the course," I barked at her. "Now, you know why my PTSD doesn't let up. Teal'c no matter what offense those ignorant savages give you, please walk away and apologize."
"I shall endeavor not to give offense."
"Oh boy, Colonel didn't you explain it?"
"Don't worry, Michelle, I got it." Sam answered.
"Okay, did you find the place?"
"Yes, we'll call back if we need you. Carter out."
"That was just dandy, Colonel," Hoss smiled from ear to ear. "We could use a few more of these. Then maybe we wouldn't get into so much trouble."
"Oy, Dr. Cartwright we have to talk...about that."
"Oh the laptop told me what I needed for the signal to reach," I showed him to the sofa. "I threw a wire over the tallest branch of a tree to the chimney and in town up on the church steeple so I could do that in emergency."
"Very effective," Jack sighed. "How much did you tell him?"
"More than the others, he knows I'm an angel." I rolled my eyes. "After you left yesterday, they insisted on a demonstration on a tree with both the ribbon and zat. Hoss and I had a talk last night privately."
Jack clapped his hands to his face and rubbed his eyes. "Right, whatever," Jack sighed realizing it was as good an explanation as any at this point, considering what I wanted from him. "I can bring you some of the things you want but I want to be sure Mr. Cartwright understands what to do about it."
"You have to make sure he plays ball."
"Mr. Cartwright, what exactly do you understand about all this in your own words?"
"That my wife is an angel. Daniel is an angel. You are probably one too. You work for the President in two time periods. You are trying to make sure she gets well so the baby will live. She wants you to help her buy all the land where this naquadah is located. She wants me to continue to do it if she dies and make sure the Government owns it all when it is done."
"Doctor, if you were still at the SGC I'd throw the book at you."
"Well, that's never going to happen again so let's make the best of it."
"Call me Hoss, just plain Hoss."
"Call me Jack," He nodded to me. "Right Michelle?"
"Right Jack," I smiled at him. "I got to thinking about the whole looping problem. It seems to me that you can show up at any point in these times. So, how about showing up for the rest of my life? It's all the same for you but time moves for me. That way you can manage the situation and correct the course if something goes wrong or we need some information."
"I'm way ahead of you. I have the calculations but Carter and her geeks can't guarantee dates. We'll have to play with it. I already figured someone has to keep an eye on you since you don't follow orders and there's too much at stake."
"So you are going to come for life?"
"Looks that way, but I'm minimizing the impact. You get some of it not all of it."
"Thank you, Jack. I can't tell you how relieved I am."
"What are you saying?" Hoss asked quietly.
"Hoss, Jack has agreed to be our guardian angel for the rest of our lives. He will come and go at different times to make sure we are doing well and to help us when he can. He doesn't know exactly when he will come, only that he will. While we will grow old, Jack will never age. So don't be surprised and don't talk about his visits."
Hoss' eyes popped wide. He looked at one of us then the other and back. His hands went over his big face and down the back of his neck in consternation.
"Hoss, I want you to do something for me in exchange."
"I want you to be nice to Daniel. Right now, we need Daniel to help Michelle finish a translation I need for another reason."
"If you want, yes sir."
"I want. Why is he fussing about Daniel?"
"Jack I don't understand it myself. I am guessing it was a future Daniel after he died who came back to talk to me. He came to check up on me. Hoss saw it by accident. Daniel said he'd come back when it was my time to die so I wouldn't be all alone like last time. Naturally, when Hoss saw Daniel yesterday, he flipped out."
"It's always something with him." Jack sighed heavily. "Hoss, just accept that Daniel doesn't know what you are talking about. It's confusing but that's the way it is."
"Yes sir," Hoss answered confused out of his mind. "That means you are the angel in charge of these other angels?"
"Oh yeah, yeah, I'm the colonel in charge of the angels." Jack pinched his nose. "I know it's a lot to ask you to accept. Can you keep all this to yourself? I mean not even the rest of the family can know about our arrangement."
"If'n a colonel angel tells me to be quiet, I can do that. What I want to know is how you are trying to save my wife."
"I am bringing medical supplies and doctors which can cure the problem. No guarantees, we just try to do the best we can with many limitations. Speaking of limitations, one limit is the amount of time I can spend on any one visit. My visits can end abruptly. I don't want to disappear in front of someone. So make it easy for me to bow out."
Hoss swallowed hard. His bright blue eyes were afraid. His eyes wandered down to Jack's side arm.
"Hoss," I took his hand. "When time is running out on the visit, Jack will try to excuse himself. Make it easy for him to exit. Then bluff where he went and why. Jack it might be easier to have something in mind and tell me so we can play to it."
"If'n you are here to do good, why do you carry weapons?"
Jack held up his 9 mil pistol. "Intars, these look like weapons but they aren't lethal. If someone is messing with you, we can stop him. I don't want to have to do that. So let's keep things calm."
"Calm, yeah right, like the shooting in town just now?" I huffed. "So what did you bring me?"
Jack handed me two Hershey bars. I handed one off to Hoss after unwrapping it. "There's a whole case of them in the wagon."
"I packed a few things you wanted to bring it in one shot for now."
"Lots of meds and equipment, I'll bring Dr. Fraiser and some others to help next time. I have my people working set up at Michelle's Folly."
Jack stood up. I looked confused. "That's what your house is called. Come on, let's do this quickly. I have five hours left."
"I was thinking we should move the Gate to the new house for convenience. Can you bring equipment and people to move it?"
"Already being done, Edwards is handling it with the engineers."
"Oh, he must love that."
"He'll get it done or mostly. We can finish later. I have a whole platoon digging for the DHD."
"Thanks, but I had it dug out this spring." Jack sighed heavily. Hoss helped me up on the wagon and joined us taking the reins. "I buried the control crystal where no one will find it, not even you unless one of us tells you later."
"Why? I told you I would come and help you for the rest of your life."
"Jack, I want to believe it. But I don't know how things will change after this. The whole bearded evil twin scenario repeats in my brain. I prepared so you will get it when my descendents know you are a good man. If and when you solve the time loop problem, I want you to get to know the family. It's the only way they are going to give it to you and the only way the naquadah trust fund will pass to you as trustee."
"I thought you needed the legal documents I brought."
"I do. I want to have my lawyers look through them for whatever little gimmick you buried in them to circumvent me. Then I will plan against it." Jack gave me an incredulous stare. "Oh don't worry. If you are still the good man I know, you will get it all as planned. I trust you, Jack. I just want to be sure I'm giving it to you as you are today."
"I surrender." He threw up his hands. "I give. I yield. You win."
"Thanks Jack, I will keep my word. You'll be satisfied."
"Giddyap!" Hoss turned the wagon and set out for the new house. "What all is back there?"
"A few things for the house, for Madame Machiavelli over there," Jack commented looking all around. "And medical supplies so Fraiser can fix Michelle."
"No, generators for now, I don't want you powering the Gate."
"Too late. I already did. Generators huh? You know all we have is kerosene at this point."
"Carter figured as much," Jack said with a knowing look. He surveyed the scenery. "It hasn't changed all that much." He looked all around, "Pretty country. Aren't you over-thinking the problem? I mean it's an uber-geek response."
"Maybe, maybe not. I have confidence in you, Jack. So not a bad place to retire minus what goes on around here," I sighed. "How many loops so far?"
"A few dozen, I need a break. Teal'c went off on a Jaffa revenge thing for a few loops while I dealt with the lawyers. He's happy. Next loop I want to go fishing while Fraiser deals with you."
"Hoss will take you, isn't that right?"
"Sure, I know a real good spot. How come you like to do them things?"
"Those things…" Jack corrected out of habit. "Because I'm a regular guy while I'm here, just like her."
"Nothing regular about any of this," Hoss pulled up in front of the house. "I'll get some help to unload." He jumped down to call the caretaker.
"Don't bother," Jack said pointing at a few SG personnel waiting. "Did you send the help off?"
"Yes sir," Sgt. Siler saluted. "Ma'am, it's good to see you again. We missed you."
"Yes ma'am. I took the liberty of setting up in the lower level. We already know the floor plan." He motioned to his enlisted men to take the things. "Ma'am, we brought reinforcements for the patio."
"You made the Gate into the patio and cantilevered it over the canyon," Siler explained. "We figured to do it again so it can be removed without destroying the structure like last time."
"Oh, sure, thanks, I guess." I sort of understood that. Hoss pushed back his ten-gallon hat and put his hands on his hips surveying the activity.
"What in tarnation is going on?"
"They are fixing our house to take some improvements I requested and some others they thought would be a good idea." I smiled at him. "It's a good thing, really." Turning to Siler I asked him, "Septic Tank?"
"Yes ma'am, we are drilling the site now. I've already had them dig the trenches for the pipes. Toilet is installed but you can't use it until the septic system works."
"Bless your heart," I touched his arm. He smiled and went off to deal with the problems." Hoss followed Siler to figure out what was going on. "Gee Jack, you folks have been busy."
"It's been two loops already. This is three. I sent them ahead."
"SG-1 niner to SG-7 niner, Edwards what's your status?"
"We have the DHD but the control crystal is missing. The Gate is loose, but we won't make it to the house this trip."
"What is this gate you keep talking about?"
"It's a transportation device we call the Stargate. It was buried in a cave near where you tracked Jack yesterday. I told them where so they could dig it out and bring it over here." Turning to Jack I had to tell him Hoss tracked him from nowhere into nowhere, which was why we had that little talk last night.
"Why are they bringing this Gate here?"
"He uses it to come here and bring things. Keeping it here makes it easier for Jack. We make sure the thing is guarded by us. In my other time, Jack will remove it from here and take it where the government needs it. This way unscrupulous people won't stumble on it."
"You are one confounded woman!"
"So what's new?"
Monday Afternoon, June 25, 1860
The Ponderosa, Western Utah Territory
"Okay, smile!" Daniel pointed and clicked the Polaroid Instant camera. Hoss, Michelle, and Jack smiled. The others stared straight ahead. "Self fulfilling prophecy, eh Jack?"
"Just take the pictures. We have to go."
"One more, everyone bunch up closer. That's it." Daniel clicked and it flashed. "Okay it will take a few moments. So Janet you through?"
"All packed up." Janet turned to us. "I'll be back in a month to see that she is doing well. The tests look promising. Want to tell them, Michelle?"
"Tell us what?" Papa asked not comfortable with discussing these things.
"It's a boy."
"I knowed it! I knowed it!"
"Excuse me, ma'am, but how do you know if it isn't born?"
"Ultrasound showed us." Janet handed over the pictures. The men had never seen anything like it. I pointed out the telltale detail. Hoss was ecstatic. "Tell the colonel if you have any problems, Michelle."
I didn't see her for another month. She kept up the pre-natal care until I delivered a healthy baby boy last week of November. It was a matter of great relief to Hoss that everything went well. The proud Pa never put the kid down all winter. The man even changed diapers. None of them minded the two o'clock feeding and squalling. Well not much, it was the dead of winter so what was anyone going to do? We were all stuck together for another winter snowed in until March.
Jack showed up as promised. Everytime he arrived at my new unfinished house, he would radio me until I picked up. If I missed him, he left the packages and notes to tell me he had been there. In the spring, Jack sent the construction crews to continue the modifications on the Stargate room we built below the main house with its own entrance and exit. It also had some safeguards just in case any Jaffa came through. After talking it over with General Hammond, they decided it was worth a naquadah reactor to power the security devices permanently until the thing would be covered in concrete to form the patio.
For our efforts, I got electric lights, central heat, and running water hot and cold. Siler built me a kitchen that looked like an old-fashioned kitchen but wasn't. He disguised the refridgerator as a cabinet. Two freezer units were in the basement, behind wall paneling. Siler ordered the stove to look old-fashioned but was electric and programmable. Siler made the microwave oven look like a big bread box. He even hid the vent fan over the stove. I got two dishwashers with built in garbage disposals set behind cabinet doors in front. Jack even remembered a garbage disposal for the sink which Hoss never would use. He was afraid to lose a finger. The result of all these extras was a very happy husband. He was delirious because now I could cook for him all the things I had promised. Jack stocked me up every so often with all the things I loved. Turned out Hoss likes Hungarian goulash and sweet and sour stuffed cabbage in tomato sauce as well as hummous and other mezzes. The man will try anything once. My medical/dental plan came via Jack. Hoss even got his teeth fixed. Dr. Fraiser or one of the others regularly made house calls. If Jack didn't want to leave equipment, we just zatted it gone. To ensure the secret, I didn't have any household help; so folks thought I was really compulsive and insane doing it all. Hey nothing like a central vacuum system no one recognized. We hid the laundry in a secret room with a laundry chute right into the machine. The best part was my bathroom. It had everything and it worked. I finally had a flush toilet with the old pull chain and the tank overhead. I had a hot water heater hidden inside a fake fireplace So I got what I wanted... Conveniences plus music cds and dvds of movies, TV shows, and our favorite...The Simpsons to play on the TV and stereo which were hidden behind panelling. Hoss really got into those old westerns like Gunsmoke. By the 1870s, things like the toilet and plumbing became more widespread in cities, if not as nice. Our kids could talk about it and people would not raise too many eyebrows. It pays to corral a treasure in naquadah and guard a Stargate. I figure we earned it all.
Over the years, Jack made it for holidays, weddings, births, and deaths. Papa finally died in 1889 at the grand old age of 80 which is really old back then. He never could figure out how Jack kept showing up looking the same. A couple of times, Jack did some sort of makeup to look older but got too frustrated to keep up the charade. Finally, we simply told the others the whole thing after Papa died. Periodically, we checked the cemetary for that extra grave for me and never saw it. Once Jack was sure it wasn't ever going to be there and we were old, Jack told me they were going to try to break the time loop again. Both Daniel and I finished the translation of the ruins years before and concluded none of it was helpful. There wasn't anything about shutting the time machine off. By then, I was in my late seventies. Jack kept his end of the bargain and checked in steadily. We got the Trusts all set up just fine and airtight. I figured I had a good run with Jack. Now, he had to get back to business. We got one last stock up and never saw him again.
Saturday, December 2, 2000
"I never saw anyone enjoy oatmeal that much," Daniel commented as Jack was wolfing a bowl of oatmeal.
"When you've been eating Froot Loops for who knows how long, a little variety helps." He shoveled a giant spoonful of oatmeal. Daniel and Carter were staring at him.
"Let me ask you something. In all the time that you were …err… looping, were you ever tempted to do something crazy?
Jack looked up from his oatmeal.
"You know, it's funny. You asked me that before."
Jack had the slightest smirk looking at Daniel and Carter. They were puzzled. Then he spooned another large spoonful of oatmeal and ate it with great satisfaction. An SF arrived, handing him a Wells Fargo envelope.
Jack read it and smiled.
Monday March 16, 1908
The Ponderosa, Nevada
Tell Ben to give you the crystal. It's buried under the willow tree by the big pond where we had our first picnic. Say to him "That's a five by five partner. Over and out."
Our son Jack and his wife Mary had a girl we named Michelle Janet Cartwright last week. Don't worry. The family will make sure she meets your grandfather, Patrick Sean O'Neill in Chicago when it is time. All is proceeding according to plan. One of Michelle's corporations got the options on the last few claims necessary. We bundled it all into the Cartwright Family Trust for you to direct.
Thanks for everything. It's been a good life married to an angel and having a guardian angel to boot. You were swell, pal. I am writing to tell you but you probably know anyway that Michelle died this morning in her sleep. Daniel came for her as promised. She went all glowy and flew right through the roof. I'm guessing she don't have to come back. She can rest easy not being a paradox no more. There ain't no body in the grave, but we dug one for show.
Jack, she wanted you to join the family at the ranch for family occasions. Ben and the rest know all about you. Remember, son, you are a Cartwright. So go save the world but don't forget the family.
Sunday, December 24, 2000
The Ponderosa, Lake Tahoe, Nevada
As the evening twilight descended on the stark jagged Sierra Nevada Mountains, Jack slowed the SUV, rounding the bend to the front courtyard of the Ponderosa. There was snow on the ground but the driveway was clear. Someone had salted the walkways to prevent slipping. The exterior door sported pine boughs and red velvet ribbons trimmed in gold. The big picture window at the front revealed a big Christmas tree all lit up. The window was incongruous to Jack's eye. He turned to observe the barn and the corral. Even the meadow was as he remembered it.
Jack knocked on the door then remembered to ring the bell. Old habits made him smile. The door opened to reveal a room full of people. Ben Cartwright III greeted Jack warmly, inviting him inside. Removing his Stetson hat, Jack reflexively reached to put it on the hat rack attached to the wall. It wasn't there. His hands itched to take off his gun and leave it on the entry hall table. He nodded approving of the roaring fire in the great stone hearth opposite the door. Even the big potbellied stove was giving off heat by the corner to the alcove where the old desk still stood. Taking off his sheepskin coat and leather gloves, a woman took his coat to put it in the hall closet under the stairs.
Ben hushed the room to introduce the latest find of the Cartwright family, Hoss' great-great grandson.