Beauty In The Broken




Cold. Still. Standing in a darkened corridor—alone—her surroundings strange, disjointed—yet so, so familiar. Gray concrete, metal pipes and sterile, stale air. The SGC.

Slowly, moving down the passageway—halting steps taking her forward—to the end of the hall where it branches.

Right? Or left? Or backwards?

Which way? Choose.

Right. Go right.

Home—but not home. Familiar. Foreign. Go—go now. Left, right, left to the elevator bay. Right, right, left to the head. Up to the mess, down to the control room. Over and over, hundreds of times. Lives spent in these corridors. Talking, walking, living, working—

So, so quiet. Deserted. No personnel, no movement. Evacuated, or perhaps abandoned—the dim red emergency lighting cutting through the blackness, bathing everything in a crimson glow. Flashing on, off, then on again. A strange, silent cadence.

The quiet feels alien. No sound—no machinery, no air filtration systems, no footsteps or voices. A profoundly overwhelming vacuum. Only boot treads falling heavy—grating on the floor—along with the beating of her own heart. Her own breaths—shallow, quick, frantic. Her own steps. Loud in the silence.

But she'd heard him, hadn't she? Calling her. His voice echoing towards her—coming from anywhere and nowhere. She'd heard him. That's why she'd come. She keeps moving. Searching.


Pausing at the corner, she makes a cautious look around it—nothing. More empty halls and quiet rooms, and the omnipresent shifting red light overhead with its incessant blink—blink—blink—

Another turn—another hall—the door of a room sliding wide and beckoning her to enter. Her lab. Her space. He was here—wasn't he? She can feel him here. Always in her way, playing with various bits of dross. Interrupting her. Teasing—flirting—watching—loving. He's here. She can hear him. Speaking, or whistling. Humming, maybe. Laughing with the child in his arms, blowing raspberries against chubby cheeks—

Singing? Row, row, row your boat—

One crib, or two?

C'mon, Jake—C'mere, little man!

What if, Sam? What if it's amazing?

I might need to hear it.

I promise. I promise. I promise.

Faster, faster!—crimson lights fading, then bursting above her. Running, now. Rushing down the corridors. Skidding around corners, fear rising, confusion thickening her brain into incoherent babble, her stomach aching and raw.

Another corner—then a mad sprint down a passage towards light. Light! Bright white piercing through the anger-red flickers. Closer—closer—the smell of the light sickens her. Thick iron and oozing dread. A sinking in the pit of her gut—sick and tense and real inside her.

Lost, now. In the brightness. White walls and slick, viscous floors. Deepest vermillion. Oozing, sanguine. Faceless scientists milling around in useless circles. Automatons wading in an ocean of blood. White-coated clones—all identical. Exactly the same, their feet stirring the deep, sending crimson waves gushing towards the pristine walls.

Pushing through—running again, her boots gone, her feet slick and slippery—around the corner, finding another corridor—another corner, another branch. Another corner. Through a door. Stairs. Another door. And another. Circles, circles, circles, and more—no matter which way she turns. Pushing forward.

"Jack! Where are you?" Her voice echoing back at her, louder—warped through time and space. Still, she calls again. "Jack!"

Tired. So damned tired. Her feet throbbing, sharp, agony tearing through her head. Her body feels hazy and weak. Nausea rising from her stomach to tickle at the back of her throat—she can taste bile—hot and sour. Closing her eyes, she fights to control the clenching of her stomach, the spasms of her muscles, the frantic wildness of her heart.

Darkness beckons—so sultry. She needs sleep—but sleep is impossible, when she so fears the dreams. Open eyes. Open.

The voice again—faint—fainter still—her name. His voice. Calling.

"Jack? Where are you?"

Up another flight. Through the mess. Through the infirmary. There's Janet—bloody gloves and apron, smiling behind her plastic visor. Waving. Waving as Sam screams.

Rushing fills her ears—like a faucet on full blast—the washer tub filling—a thousand waterfalls surging down, down, down rocks worn smooth by time and pressure. She can't hear—seeing the echoes beckoning just beyond. She can see sound waves. Her name. His voice. Calling. Screaming. Crying.




Ringing. Faint—muffled. As if coming from a distance.


She couldn't speak—struggling to catch her breath even as she fought to come completely awake. Kicking at her quilt, she sat up in her bed, rubbing at her eyes with the back of one hand. The ringing came from her other hand, where her phone was open and on. A bizarre thing, really. She didn't remember picking it up, let alone answering it.


The voice was familiar, at least, when everything else was still a chaotic jumble in her head. When her body was still shaking—her heart still beating a mad, horrific tattoo in her chest.

"I'm here." Hoarse. As if she'd been screaming. And maybe she had been—outside of the dream as well as within. She pressed the device to her ear. "I'm here."

"Are you okay?"

A hysterical giggle erupted from somewhere deep within her. Not anything borne of humor. A release of tension, perhaps. It hurt to speak, but she forced the word free. "No."

"What's wrong, Sam?"

"A dream." She opened her eyes, glaring at the wall across from her bed. The door was open, and she could see a tiny glowing arc from the nightlight in the hallway near Jake's room. "I had a bad dream."

"You called me. Do you remember doing that?"

"No." Ridiculously, she shook her head. "I woke up to the ringing. I must have called you in my sleep."

"Okay." Janet sighed, and the sound on the other end of the line indicated that she'd shifted in her bed. "That's—odd."

"I didn't mean to bother you. It's the middle of the night." Lame. Glancing at the clock, she hissed out a harsh exhale. "What the hell happened?"

"My phone rang. I answered it." Janet yawned again, but her voice sounded stronger. "Do you want to talk about the nightmare?"

Red light, blood, claxons. Searching a phantom SGC for the husband she was missing.

Relive that? "No. Not really."

"It might help if you tell me what it was about."

Sam used her sleeve to dab at the sweat still beading on her temple. "You know what it was about."

"It was about trying to find the Colonel."

It hadn't been the first time she'd had the dream since he'd been gone. But, this was the first time she'd seen the blood. "I don't think that I found him in time, Janet."

"Don't panic, Sam. This is just your subconscious brain being helpful."

Sam's scowl deepened. "What do you mean?"

"Well, the nightmare emerged from your subconscious mind." Another squeak, and then a click. She'd moved again, and turned on her bedside lamp. "Which, by definition, is what's in charge when your conscious brain turns itself off."


"But your subconscious mind also knew that your conscious brain would need help dealing with the nightmare, and so it reached out for help."

"It called you."

"I guess we should be glad that it did the right thing."

Sam raked her fingers through her hair, sucking in deep, rasping breaths as she imagined that damned bowl of water. She was starting to hate that thing. Hate it all. The bowl, the liquid, the imagery. Mostly, she despised how often she'd needed it lately.

It had been weeks since she'd been so affected by a dream—she'd thought that she'd gotten past all of this during her time in Carlsbad. And while she hadn't been sleeping particularly well in the days since SG-1 had gone missing, she hadn't woken up like this—terrified—raw—wrong—since before she'd joined Jack in Minnesota.

It had felt like she'd been over the worst of it. But now? She could see that precipice again. The one she'd dreamed of so often during those months when every night had been broken by the terrors. The cliff that seemed to be reaching for her lay right there—in front of her in her waking nightmares, now, too. The imaginings might change from night to day, but the meanings were the same. Fear. Loss. Falling.

"Sam, honey? Are you there?"

Brain. They'd been talking about her brain, right? Sam forced herself to focus. "It feels like my conscious and subconscious minds are ganging up on me."

"They're trying to keep you healthy, friend."

"I guess that's one way to look at it." Sam It was chilly in her room, but the temperature felt good on her overheated skin. Her heart had calmed, her breathing more normal. For the most part, the trembling had subsided. Tucking her toes under the covers, she leaned forward and wrapped an arm around her knees. "Thanks for picking up."

"Anytime, Sam." Janet yawned. "So?"

"So, what?"

"What was the dream about?"

Looking down at the tangled mess of her sheets, she tried to muster the images into some semblance of order. "It was like the others. I was looking for something. Searching all over for something that I never find. This time, I was in the SGC, wandering through corridor after corridor trying to find him."

"You were looking for the Colonel?"

As if she really needed to answer that. "It's been nearly a week, Janet."

"I know." Soothing—the voice on the other end of the line was calm, and even. If Janet hadn't been a doctor, she could have made a living as one of those phone-in therapists on the radio. "And you have all been missing for longer periods at one time or another and you've all come home."

"I was there to help, though." Sam cleared her throat. "A lot of those times, I was the one that figured out how to bring us back."

A long pause stretched across the distance. "And you're worried that they've run into an issue that they can't figure out."

"Something like that."

"Sam." Janet let out an odd, stilted kind of sigh. "You're not feeling guilty, are you? Like this is your fault?"

Was she? The thought turned her stomach—the nausea from the dream having eked its way into her wakefulness. She squinched her eyes closed—whenever she moved, that same sick feeling reemerged. The one she'd been harboring ever since the team had missed its first check in.

The queasy knowledge that she might have made a difference. They might need her—and she was here, safe at home, while they were in danger off world. Over the past week, whenever she blinked, she'd seen her sister in law sitting on the couch the night before she and Mark had gone home a month ago.

"Does it worry you?"

"Does what worry me?"

Heather had been playing with her hair, biding time as she chose her words. "Your position in the Air Force—and on this team—is a huge factor in what seems to keep this planet safe from alien incursion."

And Sam had answered honestly. There was no point in prevarication. "I've thought about it."

"And now, you're taking yourself off the front line. You're with Jack, now. Just like all those other versions of you."

"Whose realities weren't safe."

What if? Oh, dear lord. What if?

"Right after the wedding, my sister in law asked me the same thing." Sam turned and sat on the edge of her bed, resting her heels on the heavy wooden frame. "She asked me if, by leaving SG-1 and marrying Jack, I might be changing our reality enough that the fate of those others that we've seen might catch up with us."

It took Janet a moment to think that one through. "Sam, you guys averted those attacks—both of them. Apophis never got the chance to invade our Earth because you were still on SG-1. Furthermore, you saved Dr. Carter's reality, which in turn, has given us the knowledge that we needed about the weapon in Antarctica. I think that you're much more useful doing what you're doing and being where you are."

"Unless Jack needs me off-world and I'm here safe at home talking to you on the phone instead."

"Jake needs you here. On Earth." Janet's voice took on a sharper tone. "Don't ever second-guess your decision to mother that little boy. He needs to be your focus."

Sam ducked her chin, staring down at the floor. "He is."

A long, tense silence drifted between them, until Janet's bed squeaked again. "Sam. Don't do this to yourself. This isn't your fault. They'll come home. You need to keep believing that."


"How will they come home?"

"No." Sam stood, crossing towards the bathroom. Flipping the light on, she turned towards the sink. "How do I keep believing that everything will be okay?"

"Well." Janet sighed heavily. Her tone had shifted—less 'friend' and more 'mom'. "I guess you'll have to dip into all that experience and stubbornness you've developed over the years."

She could actually smile at that. Past the pain, the panic that still tickled around the edges of her soul. Covering her eyes with her palm, she breathed out what might have generously been called a chuckle. "I'll do that."

On the other end of the line, Janet sighed, accompanied by a series of muffled sounds and a click. Crisis averted, the doctor was heading back to bed. She'd even turned the light off. "Are you going to be alright?"


"Do I need to come over there?"

Sam actually thought about that one. For some reason, the mere knowledge that her friend would do that was enough. "No. But I love you for being willing to."

"I love you too, Sam." A yawn, and the sound of a pillow being fluffed. "Try to get some sleep, okay? I'll be back in the infirmary tomorrow if you need me."

"Thank you, Janet."

"'Night, Sam."


"Major Carter."

Sam looked up from her cup, startled to see the General gazing back at her. "Sir. You're here early."

"And you're here." He hadn't expected to run into her—especially not in the SGC mess before eight in the morning. His expression made that quite evident. "I was under the impression that your childcare provider wasn't available this week."

"She isn't." Sam finished shaking the sweetener packet into her coffee, reaching for a tiny container of cream. She wasn't a huge coffee drinker, but she hadn't been able to get back to sleep after the nightmare, and would probably need copious quantities of caffeine to stay lucid. She had work to do. "But it turns out that high school students in my neighborhood really like making a little extra money over the holidays. The one watching Jake today comes highly recommended."

"Having a hard time sitting at home through this, are you?"

"I just feel like I might be of some use here, Sir." Ripping the lid off the creamer, she upended the contents of the tiny receptacle into her cup. "Besides, I'm hoping that the test results have come back on the microscopic samples I sent to Nevada."

"You sent those off before Christmas, didn't you?"

"A few days." Sam nodded. "I'm hoping that the results will help to prove my initial theories."

"Which in turn will improve your working relationship with Colonel Torres."

With a skimpy shrug, Sam sighed. She hadn't said anything about her work woes with General Hammond. Somebody else must have squealed. "He's not my greatest fan."

"You'll win him over."

"I hope so, Sir."

"Regardless. I'm sure that work will help take your mind off things. And lord know, sometimes, when you're on your own, you need a break from the baby." Hammond waited for her to grab a stirrer before heading towards the door. He measured his steps so that she could catch up. "My wife played Canasta with a group of her friends every Thursday. They saw her through several of my deployments."

"I'm still getting used to that part of this whole situation." Sam dodged around a maintenance team changing light bulbs in the overhead emergency units. A few long steps brought her back to the General's side. "And also, it's hard not being privy to everything that's happening."

"I'm sure it is." He glanced at her as he raised his cup to his lips again, making a quick assessment of her. "Are you heading to your lab?"

"Yes." Sam sent a sideways look at the General. "I'm only planning on staying a few hours."

"I'll walk with you." Hammond gave himself a wry once-over. "Doctor Fraiser has been encouraging me to use the stairs more and the fork less. So, I could use the exercise. I'm still working off all that Christmas pie."

"Your company is always welcome, Sir."

He settled into an easy pace. "We were all disappointed when the UAV failed to shed more light on the situation."

That had been a devastating blow. Sam had been so certain that an aerial survey of the planet would be the first step towards resolving the issue and bringing SG-1 home. At the very least, she'd prayed that it would show signs of life. In the end, they'd gotten little more than a few frames of what had looked like dark, cloudy skies before losing the signal completely.

Siler believed that the UAV had been shot down, but Sam wasn't so sure. It had looked more like a mechanical malfunction to her. Telemetry and the few seconds' worth of readings they'd recorded hadn't proven anything other than that the UAV had rematerialized in the event horizon of the other 'Gate, flown for a fraction of a second, and then simply seemed to vanish.

That had been three days ago, and since then, any kind of rescue—any further recon—had been scrubbed. What was the point when their tech kept disappearing? Without any idea of what was happening on that planet, they had run out of options.

"Have you heard back from the Tok'ra?"

Hammond scowled. "So far, we haven't received a response from any of our allies. I'm sorry, Major. It looks like we're on our own on this one."

The corridor wasn't crowded—most of the civilian personnel had taken vacation time over the holidays, and the military side of the base was minimally staffed. Maintenance teams had taken advantage of the skeleton crews to make some needed repairs. The only SG team still off-world was SG-1—and that had definitely not been planned.

"It's only been a week." It felt like a mantra. She'd said it so many times since she'd woken from the nightmare earlier that morning that the words felt familiar in her mouth. "There have been several times that we've been later than that returning from missions, right?"

"That's true." The General took a quick look around a corner before heading right down the corridor towards the elevator bay. "Very recently, in fact. You and SG-1 didn't return from P3R-118 for well over a month."

The Domed City where they'd been mind-stamped and enslaved. Where she and Jack had become different in so many, many ways. The mission that had changed everything.

Sam took a careful sip from her cup. The day before yesterday, Allison had shown up on Sam's front porch with a takeaway cup from one of those designer coffee places. Sam's first inclination had been to politely refuse—she wasn't the fancy drink type, was she? That designation fit people like Heather and Lucy—and those innately stylish members of the Mommy Brigade. But Allie's gentle insistence—and the determined glint in her eye—had persuaded Sam to accept. And damned if it hadn't been delicious.

Even moreso, she'd enjoyed the experience of it—sitting on her front porch steps with another woman—another mom—talking about all things inconsequential. It had felt nice to connect with someone else in a very human sense—with no drama, or expectations, or saving of the world required. Sam had ended up relishing that as much as she'd savored the brew. The only problem was that ever since she'd downed that mocha-frappy-whatever, everything else she'd drunk had left her lukewarm.

This morning? Well, she should have driven by the fancy place on the way to the Mountain. The current sludge in her cup was practically undrinkable. And it had a funny flavor to it—it tasted more acrid than normal. As if the beans were off. Or someone had left it brewing a bit too long. Or the filters hadn't been changed in a month. Obviously, the mess crew was operating understaffed as well.

The General didn't seem to have noticed a difference. He took another long draw from his cup as they stood at the elevator doors, swallowing as they waited for the car to arrive. "Have I lost you, Major Carter?"

Jolted back into the conversation, Sam shook her head. "No, Sir. I'm just a little tired."

"You haven't been sleeping?"

"No, Sir," Her smile probably seemed a little sheepish. "I'm not handling this as well as I'd hoped I would."

"It's easier when you're the airman on the mission. Being the one left behind and in the dark is more difficult than I can express." Hammond glanced over at Sam before stepping forward when the elevator doors slid wide. As he pivoted to face forwards, he pushed the appropriate numbers on the panel. "In some ways, the waiting and the not knowing are the worst parts of my job, Major."

Following him into the car, Sam turned to face the front, catching a glimpse of herself in the reflective surface of the polished metal doors as they closed. She looked drawn. And gaunt. And not just a little tense. She hadn't weighed herself lately, but she'd had to cinch her belt a little more tightly this morning. It was a sure bet that she'd lost a few pounds over the course of the past few days. Janet would probably order her to eat a cheeseburger and a full order of fries in order to plump things up a little.. The mere idea of that made her stomach lurch even more.

As the elevator slowed on Level Twenty-one, she looked over at the General. "How do you do it, Sir?"

"How do I do what, Major?"

"How do you maintain any kind of equilibrium? How do you stay positive?"

"Well, that's a good question." He waited for the doors to open before motioning for her to disembark in advance of him. Once she was clear, he followed her into the corridor. They started down the passageway towards her lab. "I think that the biggest thing is remembering that the people under my command are the best and the most determined people on the planet. What this crew has managed to accomplish against all odds is truly mind-boggling."

She mulled that over as they turned the corner that led to her lab. "But we've lost so many people. Things out there don't always work out the way that we want them to."

"That's true." Hammond slowed his pace as they approached her door. "But I know my people. I know what they're willing to do for the mission—but also what they're willing to do to survive."

"What if it's not enough?"

"Sam." Reaching out his free hand, Hammond touched her arm. "I'm sure you know why Jack was assigned to the first Abydos mission. Part of what made him sign on for that command was that he had reached a point where he believed that he had nothing left to lose."

She knew all that. Still, it hurt to think about Jack O'Neill—the man she'd followed through too may wormholes to count—the man who had become essential to her existence—her husband—being so ready to die that he'd accepted what was essentially a suicide mission. "He's changed, General. He's not that man anymore."

"He's not." The General's dear, genial face relaxed into an easy smile. "He's got you and Jake. He's got a hell of a future waiting for him. And if there's anything that will make a man fight to live, it's knowing that he's got everything to live for."

Her throat had gone all tight again—emotion, or exhaustion, or a combination of the two. She nodded—meeting the General's eyes, soaking in the gentle strength that he always seemed to exude. "Thank you, Sir."

"He'll make it home, Sam. Somehow. Some way. There's nobody more resourceful or more determined than your husband." Just for a beat, he leaned in towards her, squeezing her arm lightly. "Just hang in there."

As she watched the General walk away, she could almost believe him.


Now, what the hell did it mean?

Sam leaned forward, resting her elbows on her table as she stared at the numbers on the page in front of her. The figures added up—the results were precisely what she'd expected them to be. But, in the current context, they clarified precisely nothing.

Still—the discovery had to be significant.

The results were clear. The object currently dangling from its snare on her lab table shared its basic structural make-up with the reflective surface of the quantum mirror. As a matter of fact, the crystalline structures were close enough that—on paper, at least—the two devices seemed practically indistinguishable.

Sam wouldn't have known which results pertained to which item without the lab's annotations. The major difference between the two artifacts seemed to be a slightly more dense concentration of minerals within the mirror—a fact which Sam had no clue how to interpret. Crystalline structures generally varied in density based on the accompanying minerals—based on the alloy, so to speak—but in this case, the only other mineral present within the samples was Naquadah. Not that the primary mineral of the compound could be identified by Earth- based instruments—whatever mineral composite had been used to create these two pieces of technology could not be found on Earth. The closest kind of crystals they'd found thus far were those employed by the Tok'ra.

But why?

Rubbing her eyes with the heels of her hands, Sam groaned out one of Jack's favorite epithets. She'd stared at the numbers for so long that they swam on the page, refusing to stay in their neat little rows. She was getting older—maybe she needed to have her eyes checked. Or maybe everything was just catching up to her. The lack of sleep, lack of appetite, the omnipresent anxiousness that had taken root inside her.

Fear. Helplessness. Uselessness.

All of which seemed to be mocked by the cold, undrinkable swill still congealing in her coffee cup.

She'd reached for the cup at least a half-dozen times over the past few hours. But each time she'd raised it to her lips, the smell of it—the mere thought of taking a sip—had caused her stomach to careen up towards her uvula.

A quick glance at the clock told her she had another hour before she needed to head home. The babysitter, a pleasant young lady named Mariah, had assured Sam that she was fine with spending the entire day with Jake, but Sam had been determined to make it home by noon. Last night, as Sam had rocked Jake before bed, he'd reached up and touched her face, as usual. Only, instead of saying, "Mama", he'd asked for his daddy. The last thing she wanted was for him to think she'd disappear, too.

Closing her eyes again, she leaned forward, burying her face in her hands. Her lab was cool, and quiet but for the omnipresent drone of the fans in her machinery. She sucked in a deep breath, then blew it out through tense lips. She didn't imagine the bowl, this time—but instead made a deliberate attempt to clear the worry from her mind and focus on the problem at hand.

Images from the night before flickered there, instead. The nightmare SGC—red emergency lighting, white walls and blood on the floor—his voice calling her name. Running, and searching. And the peace-shattering terror of loss.

Raking both hands through her hair, Sam swore again. This wasn't sustainable. She couldn't go on like this. Maybe she should ask Janet about something to help her sleep.


Speak of the tiny devil.

Angling her chin upward, Sam turned to watch as her friend traipsed through the door. Her white coat seemed too bright, somehow, gathering in both the light from the corridor as well as the meager light from Sam's desk lamp. Her sensible little heels made purposeful clicks on the cement floor.

"Hey, there."

Janet strode towards Sam, stopping a few feet away. With a smile, she deposited something on the table and shoved it across the smooth surface.

Sam glared down at the object before raising an aggravated look towards her friend. "Really?"

"It's still your birthday, Sam." Jane gave the pastry another little nudge in Sam's direction. "Even if you're unexpectedly alone."

"I'm choosing not to acknowledge it."

"Well, we'll celebrate for real once the Colonel and the rest of SG-1 are home." She reached into one of the voluminous pockets of her lab coat and retrieved a candle. Sticking it into the center of the dessert, she grinned at Sam. "For now? This will have to do."

"Seriously, Janet."

"Don't argue with me, madam." Janet leaned towards the table, resting her weight on the heels of her hands as she made a quick—yet thorough—assessment of her friend. "Besides. You need the calories, even if they're all sugar and fat."

Sam stared at the cupcake—warily—as if it were going to consume her instead of the other way around.

"Just eat the damned cupcake, Sam."

With a haggard sort of sigh, she reached out and picked up the pastry. Sending another glare over at her friend, she pulled the candle out and tossed it onto the lab table. Working the paper wrapping free on one side, she lifted the little cake and took a healthy bite.

"Good." Janet beamed. "Now, Cassie and I wanted to take you out for dinner tonight. Somewhere kid-friendly, of course."

"I'm not sure that's a good idea."

"Why not?"

Because celebrating another event without Jack would be yet another reminder of his absence. Because Sam was rapidly losing whatever faith she had that the team would find its way home. Because it felt better to ignore and deny rather to confront and accept.

But saying any of that would only expose Sam's growing cowardice. In the end, she merely tossed a wan smile in Janet's direction and shook her head. "Just because."

Janet's dark eyes regarded Sam with a frank honesty that seemed more 'mom' than 'friend'. Finally, she looked down at the discarded candle and sighed. "Sam—"

"Unscheduled off-world activation!"

The light in the corridor outside Sam's lab changed as the red emergency lighting began to strobe. The claxons blared through the base, and Sam could hear footsteps pounding down the hallway as security personnel raced to their stations.

"What on earth?" Pivoting half-way, Janet looked over her shoulder at the doorway. "I thought that the base was closed down for the holiday. There aren't any active missions—"

"There aren't."

Except for one—


"Janet—" Swallowing, Sam pushed herself away from her desk, scooting off her stool as she put the pastry down. "Maybe—"

"Do you think?"

"It could be anything—"

But the diminutive doctor was already halfway to the door. "Well? Let's go!"

Not bothering to turn off her lamp or her computer monitor, Sam moved towards the entry to her lab. Exiting the doorway, she hurried into the hall, her long strides eating up the distance. Sam forced herself to walk as long as she could, but after a dozen steps, she couldn't stand it anymore and broke into a quick jog.

Down the corridor towards the elevator bay—but no—that would take too long. Veering towards the stairway, she gave the metal bar a shove and pushed her way in the stairwell.

Down, down, down. Three flights of stairs—skidding around landings and heading downward, her hand burning where she gripped the metal railing for balance. Sam's boots pounded against the concrete steps, echoing sharply in the stairwell.

As she reached the landing, she realized that the staccato clack-clack of Janet's sturdy heels was lagging behind. Pausing, Sam turned to look at her friend. She'd stopped on the next flight up, fighting to catch her breath. "Janet?"

"Go!" With a wave of her hand, Janet urged Sam onward. "I'll catch up."

Go! Faster now—five flights down. Six. Seven.

On Level Twenty-eight, Sam shoved at the door, bursting into the corridor. Straight, then right, then right again, dodging security personnel—maintenance equipment—until she'd reached the steps up into the Control Room.

"Do you have a code?" Hammond stood in his usual spot—directly behind the control panel and a few steps back. Even from behind, he seemed concerned, his posture stiff and edgy.

The young lieutenant stationed at the iris controls shook his head. His dark eyes flickered up at the screen overhead before meeting Hammond's gaze over his shoulder. "No, Sir. Nothing as of yet."

"Keep that iris closed, Lieutenant Baker."

"Yes, Sir."

Sam made a quick scan of the monitors, stepping forward to stop at the General's side. "What do we know, Sir?"

Hammond's keen blue gaze lit on her as he shook his head. "Nothing, Major. We haven't received an IDC."

She bit her lip, watching as the light from the event horizon danced around the perimeter of the 'Gate. "The only team still off-world is SG-1, Sir."

Looking down at the screen in front of Baker, the General scowled. "I'm aware of that, Sam. But without knowing what's happened to them, it would be foolish for us to simply open the iris."

She knew that. Of course she knew that. Still— "How about a radio transmission?"

"Nothing, Ma'am." Baker leaned forward to check the alternate receiver. "I'm getting nothing at all."

"Sam?" Janet came to a halt beside Sam, sucking in deep breaths as she clutched at a stitch in her side. "What's going on?"

"As of right now, we aren't sure, Doctor Fraiser." The General's frown darkened. "We've received no communication whatsoever. Just an active 'Gate."

Taking a thorough inventory of the systems, Sam moved towards the control array. "Have you tried to contact the incoming traveler?"

"Yes, Ma'am." The Lieutenant nodded. "There's been no response."

Down in the 'Gateroom, security forces stood ready, weapons aimed at the 'Gate. The event horizon shimmered and glowed behind the iris, casting an ethereal look to the institutional wall behind the 'Gate. The claxons blared through the corridors and common areas, red lights and sirens outside—cool blue and the low thrum of the 'Gate below.

Six minutes gone. Six and a half.


"If nobody comes through," Janet sounded as if she were diagnosing a patient, and not the situation. "Doesn't the 'Gate shut off on its own?"

"That's usually what happens. The 'Gate is intuitive. It knows when something is traveling through it." So—why was it still on when nothing was coming through? Sam frowned, her eyes taking in the various bits of information on the screens—duration, signal load, 'Gate power fluctuations—



"What was that?" Janet squinted down towards the 'Gateroom. "Did anyone else hear that?"

Impact events.

"Something just hit the Iris, Sir." Sam moved forward, touching the empty chair at Baker's side. "May I?"

"Of course, Major Carter."

Sitting, Sam moved the keyboard into position, pulling up the impact data on an alternate monitor. "There have been eighteen impacts upon the iris in the past few minutes, Sir. And several dozen since the wormhole was established seven minutes ago."

"Can you tell what caused them?"

"They were small." Relief flooded through her as her brain worked through the implications of the information before her. "Not large enough to have been anything substantial."

Not human-sized. Everyone in the room could interpret that for themselves.

With a few quick commands, Sam halted the base claxons, leaving the lights strobing. Turning up the audio feed, she singled out the impact data feed and displayed it on a central monitor, increasing the volume in the control room.


"There's another one, Sir."



"And two more." Lieutenant Baker scooted his chair over towards Sam, pointing up towards the monitor. "Do you see that? There's a pattern, Ma'am."







Sam's brain raced—calculating. Making connections.

Small impacts in what seemed to be an organized sequenced series. Not random strikes as would occur during a weather event or other anomaly. Not ordnance or weapon fire—the energy signatures didn't indicate anything of the sort. Nothing as large as an animal. Large insects? Not random enough for a swarm.

Still—that pattern.

Baker brought the impact history up on a tertiary monitor. With a few quick sequences on the keyboard, he nodded up at the results. "Sir, Ma'am. Since the 'Gate opened seven minutes ago, the pattern has been repeated four separate times. But between the first two and the recent set, there was also another series of impact events that does not fit the pattern. Maybe it's a secondary sequence."










Ridiculously, Sam thought back to Christmas Day, and meeting Allison at the park. Wind blowing dark curls awry as the woman had offered her both dinner and friendship.

"I don't have your phone number." Sam had been fidgeting with Jake, who had suddenly turned fussy.

And Allie had laughed at her own teasing. "Carrier pigeon? Smoke signals? Pebbles on your window?"

"It's Morse Code, Sir." Sam stood, turning to glance at the General before gesturing with a nod back up at the monitor. "Three dots, three dashes, three dots. It's a distress signal."

"Holy cow. They're sending an intergalactic SOS." Lieutenant Baker sat back in his seat, his fingers still on the keyboard. "Calling home for help."

"It has to be them, Sir." Sam pivoted around to look at the General. "Even without an IDC, I'm certain it's SG-1."

"I believe you're correct, Major Carter." Hammond's frown darkened, his brows drawing low over his keen, sharp eyes. "It is SG-1. And for some reason, this is the only way that they can communicate with us."

Sam wheeled back around to gaze up at the monitor. Her instincts—her worries—had been right on target. Something had gone horribly wrong. Despite it all, they'd been able to get back to the 'Gate, and somehow, they were fighting to get home.

Jack was on the other side of that wormhole, trusting that she'd be able to figure out the code. Believing that she'd be able to decipher the message he was sending her. And what was that message?

Another wave of nausea seared through her as she watched the impact events begin again.










Save Our Souls.