DISCLAIMER: Not mine, no profit, just some daydreaming written down for some reading pleasure hopefully.
SPOILERS: None specifically other than what happened in 'Heroes' and SG1 Season 1 episodes. I have been somewhat vague in when everything is set, with various liberties being taken in terms of what happens in the SG1 universe after season 7. Suffice to say, human form replicators exist roughly along the lines of how it happened in the show; the Asgard are alive and well. Elizabeth Weir has gone to Atlantis as well.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: It's all ralst's fault somewhere along the line rather late in the day I was persuaded to do an Epic Proportions story and this resulted, with questionable success
CHALLENGE: Submitted as part of the Epic Proportions challenge.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
"...and these are the Heally records you requested Ma'am...." explained Petty Officer Jennifer Coates, passing another bulky file across to Lieutenant Colonel Sarah 'Mac' Mackenzie.
"Thank you Jen, put them...." before Mac could finish her instruction, all activity in the wider JAG Ops area stopped as their Commanding Officer made his presence felt with a loud
"Go Jen..." instructed Mac immediately, recognising the tone that Admiral Chegwidden had used. It was the tone that had his Yeoman breaking out into a dead run to get to her post. Before Jen could get there however, there was another shout.
"MAC-KEN-ZIE!" There are not many things that make this Marine Colonel run when in an office building, even fewer when you discounted anything involving explosives from the likely scenarios, but the drawn out anguished cry of her C.O. was one, and, to the amazement but also fear of the assembled staff working in the JAG Ops Pen, Mac followed Jen's sprint through the bullpen, dignity and decorum be damned.
"You wanted to see us Sir?" asked Mac formally, skidding to attention in front of the Admiral's desk, thankful that she wasn't winded by her unexpected sprint - no matter how fit you were, holding your breath whilst you sprinted was never a good thing.
"Coates, get a staff car outside now....dismissed!" Startled, Jen did an automatic about face and briskly left the office. She'd finally recognised there were moments when you didn't even bother thinking of questions, never mind then verbalising them.
"Mac, how many cases have you got at present?"
"Eight Sir, including the second chairs Sir."
"You've got however long it takes for Coates to get that car to clear your desk, whatever you can't hand off, give to me."
"We're due at the White House ASAP Colonel."
"Dismissed....oh, and Colonel?"
"Yes Sir?" Mac was curious - there was something about the Admiral's tone that made her pause.
"You're my Chief of Staff - break out that inner Marine Colonel Mac."
"Dismissed Colonel," declared Chegwidden, eager to see what would be about to happen, but unable to witness it since he had his own desk to clear in record time.
Striding up to Coates' desk, Mac nodded to Jen who, whilst on the phone, wasn't saying anything. Not understanding, but recognising the universal signal, the young woman put her hand over the receiver before calling out
"Attention on Deck!" which immediately brought everyone in Ops to attention, and the senior officers who had been working in their offices to their doors. After all the earlier shouting, this had to be good.
To everyone's surprise, it was Mac who then started talking. Whilst it was not wrong for the Ops staff to come to attention for the JAG Chief of Staff, it was rare that it happened, Mac happy not to have the protocol enforced except in the most significant of circumstances.
"The Admiral and I will be out of the office, any urgent matters direct at Commander Turner. Roberts, you're now prosecuting Heally and defending Jacobs....Turner, you're defending Maxwell and taking Colonel Abrams through the Article 32 this afternoon. Commander Rabb will take the Saunders investigation when he returns from Court. Lieutenant Sims, you and Petty Officer Coates are the only ones to enter my office and will distribute files. I hear anyone else has touched the door handle and I'll prosecute you myself, is that clear?" The response to Mac's question was met with stunned silence.
"I SAID IS THAT CLEAR NAVY?" she repeated in her best Marine Drill Sergeant's voice, thankful she was the only Marine in the bullpen at that moment. To her private satisfaction, the entire staff, including Commanders Turner and Roberts shouted out with a single voice
"Ma'am, yes Ma'am."
"The car's outside Ma'am," said Jen into the immediate silence.
"Thank you. As you were..." declared Mac, before quickly turning into her office, grabbing her briefcase and cover, momentarily glad that she'd already unpacked her case files from it this morning, before rushing back out into the bullpen.
"Ma'am, no one Ma'am?" asked Harriet nervously, not sure she understood the unusual order but taking Mac's threat literally.
"All my cases are on my desk - if Bud goes in to get his files, he'll see defence work for the cases he's prosecuting, same for Turner..." explained Mac, rushing through the bullpen.
"I understand Mac..." came the sudden calm voice of Sturgis Turner, "...I'll explain so they understand. Good luck."
"Thanks...." and then, she was gone, the Admiral seconds ahead of her only he was going down the stairs, his high speed departure missed by no one, whilst she took the elevator.
"What's going on Sir?" asked Harriet quietly, standing with the former submariner, watching the elevator doors close behind the Colonel.
"Not a clue...now, why don't you bring Coates to my office and I'll explain about the Colonel's office being off-limits?"
"Yes Sir, thank you Sir."
"You clear your desk Mac?" asked the Admiral conversationally as they were driven to the White House.
"Almost: Bud and Sturgis have Heally, Jacobs, Maxwell and Abrams between them and Harm's getting the Saunders Investigation when he gets out of court. Coates and Lieutenant Sims are distributing files."
"And the second chair cases?" asked the Admiral, mindful that Mac had three minor cases which were being done by his junior lawyers but with her as experienced support and back-up.
"I couldn't think who already had them Sir..." began Mac, only for the Admiral to interrupt her.
"You managed to assign your other cases so that Turner and Roberts didn't end up prosecuting themselves...I'll sort out the other three Mac, don't worry."
"Thank you Sir....do you know what's happening?" asked Mac nervously: what was currently happening was somewhat surreal and unusual, even for her.
"Joint Chiefs have requested that you defend an Air Force Officer ASAP...that's all I know."
"Air Force Sir?" She just about managed to school her features to avoid her jaw dropping open. It was one thing for a Marine to defend a Naval officer, but the Air Force? She knew nothing about the Air Force except that she presumed they followed the UCMJ....
"I imagine there's a good story which we'll hear soon enough. You up for this Colonel?" asked AJ, looking at his Chief of Staff, although he knew what her reaction would be.
"I'm a Marine Sir, I go where I'm sent Sir," was her non-committal response.
"And if it's the Air Force?" he asked, curious to see how 'daring' her response would be.
"I've probably ejected more times than many of them Sir....I'll be fine."
"I think that's what the Joint Chiefs hoped you'd say Mac....." agreed the Admiral, noticing that they were arriving at the White House. Whatever was about to happen, at least his Colonel was up for the challenge....
"Sir, Ma'am, please follow me," was the brisk greeting from the Marine Sergeant in full dress uniform who met them as they exited the car.
"Thank you Sergeant," acknowledged AJ, absently noticing where they were being led, the corridors feeling just about familiar.
"Your White House tour extend beyond the Rose Garden Mac?" he asked conversationally, suddenly curious as to whether his Chief of Staff had been summoned to the White House before.
"Yes Sir," came the polite yet closed reply.
"Mac?" He had been expecting a little more detail in the response.
"Thanks from a grateful Nation Sir," explained Mac, glancing at AJ with a half smile as if to say 'Sorry bout that, Sir, but no way am I explaining that particular mission.'
"No need to apologise....hell," muttered AJ suddenly, startling Mac slightly - normally her C.O. was incredibly controlled with his language when 'on show' as it were.
"Sir?" murmured Mac, wondering if he'd reveal what had triggered the comment.
"Unless I'm mistaken Mac, we're being let to the Situation Room...."
"Ah." There really wasn't anything much else she could think to say, other than a mental 'Oh hell....'
"Admiral Chegwidden and Lieutenant Colonel Mackenzie reporting as Ordered, Sir!" announced AJ when, as predicted, he and Mac were finally led through a series of doors and ID points and into the Situation Room. Despite their tense 'attention' stance, it was easy to identify the Joint Chiefs and Senior Air Force Command, as well as a series of personnel of other ranks who were less easily identified.
"At ease, thank you for joining us...have a seat," invited an Admiral, obviously being designated 'in charge' of 'his' officers.
"Thank you Sir," acknowledged AJ, as he and Mac sat. Until she was addressed directly, being about the most junior officer in the room, Mac would just listen.
"Bet you're wondering why you're here Colonel?" asked one of the Air Force Generals, breaking into a tense but ultimately friendly smile. Uncertain how to respond to the question, guessing that her boot camp standby of 'No Sir, grunts don't wonder, Sir!' wouldn't exactly work here, Mac was relieved when Admiral Chegwidden stepped in for her.
"Before the Colonel feels obligated to defend the Marine Corp's reputation for going where it's ordered, when it's ordered, to succeed at whatever it's ordered to do, can I reply on her behalf with 'Yes Sir,' Sir?"
"You agree with him Colonel?" asked the Air Force General, amused to see the slight sparkle of humour in her eyes. Secretary Nelson had been right - she was a live wire, as well as the best.
"Good....let's relax a little Colonel....this is going to blow your mind."
"Yes Sir....Sir?" Mac was very confused, but when the Head of the Joint Chiefs orders you to relax because he's about to blow your mind...well, there wasn't a section in the UCMJ that dictated what the protocol was. In Mac's experience, it was the Navy that had it best summed up with 'if in doubt, go with the flow'. Right now, that seemed better than the Marine's reliance on gut, since currently, her gut was in shock.
"Had you ever heard of Robert Kinsey before he became Vice President Colonel?"
"Wasn't he on one of the Air Force Committees as a Senator, Sir?"
"Yes, meddling would be a good word for it...." muttered the Air Force General, only to be gently interrupted by the CNO.
"Mac, we need a favour...."
"Of course Sir." It was only Mac's years of court room practice, with witnesses saying the craziest of things, that enabled her not to look visibly shocked with the CNO calling her 'Mac' and asking for a favour, all in the same sentence. She could only imagine what Admiral Chegwidden was thinking.
"We need you to defend Lieutenant Colonel Samantha Carter USAF, who has been charged with treason and murder..." Mac was unable to stop her eyes bugging open at that, which made the next bit hard to stay composed for, "...she's innocent by the way...."
Recognising his Chief of Staff's confusion, Chegwidden stepped in, in an attempt to bring some semblance of order back into this rather strange briefing.
"Sirs, could you start from the beginning for our benefit please?" It was a slightly impudent request, even from a two star Admiral, but it worked.
"Of course, our apologies....Colonel, you take your coffee at Marine or Navy strength?" asked the CNO, moving to the side of the room where some coffee urns were sitting on a table.
"Marine thank you Sir," replied Mac politely, giving up trying to predict what would happen next.
"I'll let General Ryan explain, after all, you're defending one of his..." explained the CNO, bringing her coffee back to her. To Chegwidden's carefully concealed inner-amusement, she was the only one who was offered coffee.
"Yes Sir, thank you Sir," replied Mac, not missing that she was now the only one with a coffee cup, and in the Sit Room no less!
"Colonel, I'll let General O'Neill explain most of this once you get to Colorado, but the short version is Colonel Carter has been set up by certain individuals who, despite Mr Kinsey's subsequent re-appointments to different offices, still follow his somewhat personal agenda against senior SGC personnel in a desperate attempt to force the President to shut down the SGC."
"SGC Sir?" Mac wished she had a notepad to take notes on, but somehow, she correctly guessed that this was a meeting for which there would be no notes, so instead had to rely on her normally decent mental note taking ability. Unfortunately, the CNO's warning of 'this will blow your mind' wasn't helping that ability at present.
"Stargate Command...it's at Cheyenne Mountain, below NORAD. The Stargate is a piece of Alien technology which makes use of wormholes to travel to other planets across the full expanse of the Universe, as far as we can tell." This time it was Admiral Chegwidden that reacted first.
"Thought that would throw you AJ, yes, Aliens....little green men, except they're actually grey...."
"Grey Sir?" Now it was Mac to interrupt. There was only so much randomness this Marine could stomach.
"I think you'll like Thor Colonel....but most of this is best left to O'Neill and Carter....assuming you'll defend her?" Although framed as a question, it was definitely not something you could decline.
"With the JAG's permission Sir?" offered Mac, not at all sure of the legality of a Marine JAG defending a USAF officer.
"Can't the USAF JAG provide someone Sir?" asked Admiral Chegwidden, not saying no, but clearly wanting more information.
"The then Senator Kinsey was a powerful man whose influence on individuals far outstripped that which the Constitution had conferred on him, even now, after everything that has happened. The USAF JAG seems to have his hands tied, with all his best lawyers being sent overseas...Clayton Webb suggested we get Colonel Mackenzie to go in, he thought we should be able to get her past the radar..." Choosing to ignore the CNO's reference to Webb, Chegwidden continued with the questions, much to Mac's relief. Her head was still spinning on 'aliens'.
"We were hoping you'd help us unravel that one...we need the Court Martial to be completely by the book..." began General Ryan, only to be interrupted by Mac, whose brain had finally unwrapped itself from its alien confusion.
"For the Court Martial to be unquestionable, I have to be myself Sirs, unless you wish to wait until I've resigned my commission, gone through the Air Force Academy and been posted to the Air Force JAG Sirs." Whilst Mac's tone was perfectly respectful, everyone picked up the hint of suggestion which seemed to imply 'not going to happen in this lifetime'.
"Not an option, too slow...." declared General Ryan, his tone clearly suggesting Mac should have another idea...
"Which lawyers has the Air Force JAG been able to get under the radar?" It was only after she'd finished asking her question that she realised what she'd done. Fortunately, the Joint Chiefs were just relieved she'd grasped their dilemma so quickly to be bothered with the impropriety of her interruption.
"The Prosecutor picked is a Major Hartnell...he's your typical greasy hot shot flashy lawyer who is happy to make any case if he's promised a promotion....no offence..." explained General Ryan, his apology earning a reassuring smile from Mac. She knew the type, and was just thankful that there weren't any of those at Headquarters...whatever you may think of Harmon Rabb Jnr, he certainly wasn't 'greasy'.
"...anyone who has a decent track record or experience in this field has suddenly found themselves transferred to other stations...the JAG has been unable to work out who is driving the chaos behind the scenes, but the conceived wisdom is that it is being driven from what was Mr Kinsey's former 'team'. We were hoping we could make you stick Colonel, but if we can't put you in as Air Force...." Ryan trailed off, uncertain now what to do. Chegwidden didn't want to think what sort of 'experience' they were needing. If it was murder and treason, Mac had that experience; if it was conspiracy and high level politicking, she had that too. Aliens, no, thought Chegwidden, at least, he didn't think she had experience of that....did she?
To all the non-Navy personnel's surprise, it was Mac who spoke into the lengthening silence first. As so often was the case, she had a dispassionate plan.
"If Major Hartnell is how I think he is, he would relish the opportunity to go up against a more senior, female attorney who he believes he could charm and flirt into defeat, especially if he thinks she's, well, a bimbo Sirs..." began Mac, her idea formed, but her confidence to share it with the senior officers wasn't.
"Go on Mac..." encouraged Admiral Chegwidden, seeing the encouraging nod from the CNO. Whoever this Colonel Carter was, they were obviously desperate to get her a good lawyer.
"With a little bit of adjustment, my record could be made to look like I was just that..." pondered Mac, wondering how she would explain this, and all without permanently torpedoing her career. The one point she saw in her favour was that she was sitting in the Situation Room, having been called there by the Joint Chiefs. That hopefully suggested they at least respected her....
"Go on Colonel..." Seeing the Joint Chiefs were hanging on her every word, Mac stood up and started to pace - it wasn't appropriate behaviour, but then their original idea had hardly been text book to begin with.
"Does someone have a copy of my record Sir?" asked Mac, most comfortable directing her questions at the CNO and Chegwidden. To her relief and slight concern, he pushed a bulky file to the centre of the table: she knew files increased with rank, but even with all her rank, that was a rather large file...large enough that it stalled her thinking and made her lapse into silence.
"What's your plan Mac?" asked the Admiral, recognising the almost deer-in-headlights look his Chief of Staff was now sporting, a reaction he could sympathise with. God only knew how many file cabinets his file filled. His request served two purposes. The first was to restart his Chief of Staff's train of thought, but the other was to satisfy his increasing curiosity as to what his brilliant attorney had come up with, certain it would be perfect - inch perfect plans were Mac's speciality, it was just unfortunate that neither Webb or Rabb could implement them with her precision.
"My record is, colourful, Sirs. With a little bit of reorganisation, it could easily look like all my victories in Court were because of Commander Rabb's brilliance or opposing counsel's stupidity..."
"What about your rank Colonel?" asked General Ryan, not understanding what she'd suggested, but taking the lead from the broad smile which had broken out on the CNO's face - he obviously saw how it could work.
"Isn't the chauvinistic military view that female officers only get promotions by sleeping with their C.O.s Sir?"
"Yes...but...." before Ryan could continue, Mac had started again, only just about succeeding in keeping the bitterness out of her voice.
"If you read my record Sir, you will see an general Courts Martial, an Article 32 hearing and an Admiral's Mast...an element of the case was adultery and fraternisation with my then C.O." As dispassionate as she was sounding, it was clear to everyone present that it was taking a lot for this proud, capable officer to deconstruct her career in this fashion.
"You were cleared Colonel..." interjected her boss in a hard tone, not liking where Mac was going. She didn't really think that she'd only got her rank, or worse, that others thought she'd only got her rank, because of events like that, did she?
"Yes Sir....but whoever is driving this case and Major Hartnell don't need know that Sir...I know I'm not that sort of Officer Sirs, but my record has enough 'events' in it that, with some careful editing, I could be made to look like one Sirs....especially if you started some USAF scuttlebutt Sirs...." In her nervousness, Mac thought immediately after she'd finished speaking, she'd probably done the Marine equivalent of babbling - three 'Sirs' in a single sentence was probably a bit much.
There was a long pause whilst the Joint Chiefs considered Mac's idea. Chegwidden wasn't entirely comfortable with it, but recognised the points Mac made. With judicious use of classification and the occasional rewrite, it would be possible to make Mac's record look like all her victories had come riding on a male officer's coat tails. He'd have to rewrite her Admiral's Mast, and remove the official letters of commendation, but....
"It works...you'll take the case Colonel?" asked General Ryan suddenly, very excited by his normally composed standards.
"Defending Colonel Carter on treason and murder Sir?" checked Mac, returning to sit at the table, glad her idea seemed to work, but now rather nervous as to what she'd just let herself in for.
"Acquitting Colonel Carter of treason and murder...she's been set up..." declared Ryan, not bothering to conceal his anger.
"Sir?" Whilst it was important that Mac did her best to defend her client, this total conviction of her innocence was slightly daunting.
"The main details are at the SGC....it would be pointless me trying to explain the specifics out of context, but, in general terms Colonel...if American personnel were killed by the enemy, their killer would be prosecuted if possible, correct?"
"Except if War had been declared, yes Sir. A declaration of War affords participating militias some protection from prosecution," explained Mac, waiting for the General's point.
"If a random member of a non-ally were to infiltrate a US Base and indiscriminately kill whilst trying to destroy the Base and we caught them, could we prosecute?"
"That's what happened here Colonel..."
"But the Colonel Sir? What's her involvement Sir?" Mac could feel a headache developing.
"She was caught in the crossfire - the infiltrator took over her consciousness."
"Sir?" Admiral Chegwidden interrupted this time - were they asking Mac to defend someone who had been brainwashed?
"Colonel Carter's unit explore alien cultures and planets. Not all of them walk on two legs and speak English. Some are parasites that wrap themselves around your spinal column and take over your body, leaving your brain intact. Colonel Carter's body was being controlled by such a parasite. She has total recall of the events, but was no more of a participant than the Marine Sergeant watching the Security tapes 21 floors away."
"Understood Sir " She really didn't, but couldn't think what else to say.
"I bet you don't Colonel, but you will. You prepared to take the case?"
"When do I start Sir?" asked Mac, surprising herself with how genuine her enthusiasm actually was.
"Do you need her back at your office this afternoon AJ?" asked the CNO, unable to suppress the proud grin that had spread across his face at Mac's response.
"The Colonel's transferred all her active cases to other staff Sir...." evaded AJ, deciding that was a better answer than 'she's my Chief of Staff, damn-it, of course I need her!'.
"Ready to ship out Colonel?" asked General Ryan, focusing his own smile on Mac, feeling as relaxed as he had since the charges had been made 24 hours earlier.
"Yes Sir." 'No Sir,' thought Mac, thinking about the dirty laundry in the hamper, the half eaten food in the fridge, the fact that she had no luggage with her other than her briefcase which at least contained her laptop. Still, if she was being sent to Colorado, at least they had shops.....
"Good....General O'Neill, you there?" asked General Ryan, pressing the speakerphone button on the telephone in front of him.
"Yes Sir " came a disembowelled voice that, to Mac, didn't exactly sound right for coming through the speakerphone.
"Thor still in the neighbourhood?"
"I am here, General Ryan," came a new, slower, measured yet slightly lilting voice which somehow managed to fill the room in a manner which General O'Neill certainly hadn't.
"Want to meet your client Colonel?"
"Of course Sir...."
"Colonel, think you could join us? We're in the Sit. Room...." began General Ryan, only to be interrupted by the sudden appearance of a blonde woman, in the USAF blue dress uniform, wearing the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, startling everyone except Colonel Carter, although everyone wore their surprise very discretely, a skill that came with rank and experience.
"Oh, Colonel Carter.....thank you Thor?" called out General Ryan, turning his eyes vaguely towards the ceiling.
"You are welcome General. Colonel Carter, I will be waiting."
"Thank you Thor." It wasn't exactly protocol for Sam to speak out of turn like that, but she figured that, if pushed, the Supreme Commander of the Asgard probably outranked the Joint Chiefs....just.
"Ah, Lieutenant Colonel Sarah Mackenzie, USMC..." began General Ryan, drawing the shocked Naval Officers' attention back into the reality of this rather strange meeting, "...may I introduce your client, Lieutenant Colonel Samantha Carter, USAF..."
"Colonel..." acknowledged Sam, discretely scrutinising the Marine Colonel.
"Colonel...." Mac waited a beat as she considered her client, noting the ribbons which suggested that this officer was no ordinary Colonel, but also noting the definite shift in the room's atmosphere which had accompanied her arrival - it was similar to the sense of calm and confidence that settled over JAG Ops when the Admiral arrived, the knowledge that there was someone in control, someone who would make sure everything was fine. What was all the more incredible was that this Colonel seemed to be having that effect on the Joint Chiefs! Taking a snap decision, relying on her gut instincts, which seemed now to have reasserted themselves over her 'go with the flow' instinct, Mac extended her hand in, by military standards, a rather informal greeting and said
"...call me Mac, Colonel...." prompting Sam to take the proffered hand and say
"Sam, Colonel..." before breaking out into what the room quickly discovered was quite a sensational smile. For the first time since her rather rapid return from off-world, Sam finally felt like she had something to smile about.
"You ready to ship out Colonel?" asked the CNO, relived that the two, for whatever reason, seemed to be responding well to each other. Whilst he knew Mac was a professional, who would do her damnedest no matter what her personal views about her client were, he was certain it made it easier if you actually liked your client, and client liked lawyer.
"Yes Sir...." came the quick, crisp response from Mac even as her thoughts raced, 'No Sir, how the hell did Colonel Carter get here, Sir, where the hell am I going, Sir, who the hell is Thor, Sir, what the hell is going on, Sir...'
"Excellent, thank you for this Colonel...Colonel, it's over to you...."
"Thank you Sir...Colonel, you sure your ready?" asked Sam nervously, suddenly feeling rather sorry for this Colonel. Whilst she recognised she needed a lot of help, and fast, she couldn't help wonder what it must be like for her new lawyer, suddenly thrust into the randomness that was all things SGC related. Learning everything in about 3 minutes flat wasn't the easiest way of getting to grips with the situation, and it certainly wasn't adequate preparation for the Asgard, or their technology.
On hearing the gentle enquiry, Mac's first instinct was to blast a 'I'm a Marine, damn it' glare at her new client. Fortunately, like the very best Marines, she knew when not to trust her first instinct. If she was leaving now, with this Colonel Carter, then there was a chance she was evidently going to be leaving the same way the Colonel had arrived, in a flash of white light.
"I doubt we have time for me to be ready Colonel..." replied Mac lightly, collecting her cover from the table and taking her briefcase in her hand. It wasn't much use, but sometimes, familiarity was strangely comforting.
"Understood..." Opening her previously clenched left fist, Sam revealed a small piece of distinctly weird looking technology, which she proceeded to hold in the palm of her hand before she began speaking to Mac, a sudden thought striking her.
"Colonel, is there a window in your bathroom?"
"Ah...a small, tinted glass one, why?" Mac was very confused, but what had previously been a sinking feeling that her first question of 'how the hell did Colonel Carter get here' was about to be answered, first hand. Did it make her a bad Marine to suddenly find her mouth dry and her stomach churning?
"I thought you might like to pack first Colonel, Thor?" observed Sam calmly, before redirecting her conversation to the unseen Thor.
"I see the mark on Lieutenant Colonel Mackenzie's bathroom..." came the response in that strange, almost hypnotic voice, only for everyone heard in the background a distinctly American voice that sounded not dissimilar to the earlier voice that had been identified as 'General O'Neill' yell in a decidedly un-General-esque way,
"Paint, Thor, the term is PAINT!"
"General O'Neill Colonel?" asked General Ryan, amused.
"Is supervising Thor Sir...." explained Sam lightly, unsurprised to see the slight hint of a smirk grace the Air Force General's face. She didn't know what the history was between her C.O. and the General, but it was evidently reasonably good humoured, at least on the part of the General.
"I heard that Carter...." yelled O'Neill, only to be interrupted by another voice that later, all would realise could only be described as a 'rumble'.
"There is no need to shout O'Neill. Colonel Carter, we are ready...."
"Thank you Teal'c. Sirs, Colonel?" Sam glanced at the assembled officers to see if she had permission to leave. Mac, guessing from the Colonel's arrival that, whoever was controlling what was about to happen to her was rather quick on the button, stood up, still clutching her cover and briefcase. Somehow, she just felt this sort of whatever it was she was about to experience was probably safer done standing up...
"Dismissed Colonels....good luck...." Anything said after Colonel was said to thin air...Mac and Sam had gone...
"Sir?" AJ was nervous. One moment he'd been looking at his Chief of Staff, the next he'd lost her in a flash of white light. Seal training or not, those sorts of moments were not good on his constitution.
"Asgard Transporter AJ...Colonel, call Colonel Mackenzie's apartment..." explained the CNO, feeling far more nervous than he sounded. For one brief second he envied Mackenzie...what he wouldn't give to ride in that thing, whatever it was....
"What the..." Before Mac could get much further in her thinking, a phone started ringing.
"This is your bathroom Colonel?" asked Sam, somewhat nervous about her new lawyer's reaction: statistically (and yes, she had calculated it), the bathroom was the most discrete place to 'beam' into an apartment in, with the lack of clear views into it from outside...unless it was somebody else's bathroom.
"Yes...but...." Mac was confused, and a little dazed. Used to the confusion that Thor's methods could cause, Sam headed for the door and said
"I'll go get the phone...." leaving Mac to gather her thoughts in private.
"Yes Sir, here she is now Sir..." declared Sam, passing the receiver across to Mac when she emerged moments later from the bathroom, before mouthing 'Your Boss' so Mac at least knew who she was talking to.
"Where are you Mac?" asked AJ, only just resisting the urge to turn his back on the Joint Chiefs and take the phone off speaker. For some reason, this call felt like it should be private.
"My apartment Sir...I arrived in the bathroom...."
"The bathroom?" AJ couldn't conceal his surprise. Why couldn't the Air Force use a door like normal people? Quickly reading the note Sam scribbled on her message pad, Mac's eyes widened as she explained
"Apparently it's statistically the most discrete place to be 'beamed' into an apartment Sir...."
"Seriously?" AJ couldn't stop his disbelief from colouring his tone. Before Mac to respond however, she heard another voice, presumably belonging to one of the more junior officers interject.
"Colonel Carter calculated it Sir...she was concerned that Colonel Mackenzie's reputation wasn't affected..."
"Thank you Colonel...Mac? You still there?"
"Yes Sir..." Having asked the question, AJ no longer had anything to say, at least, nothing that seemed appropriate to their current situation or company.
"Is there anything else Sirs?" asked Mac finally, when the silence appeared to be stretching into potential awkwardness.
"You're on TAD to Colorado or anywhere else you need to travel to for as long as it takes to acquit your client Colonel, give us 2 hours to get your record fixed..." explained the CNO calmly, only to be interrupted by AJ who, in his own gruff way, wanted to be the one with the last word, despite being outranked.
"...if you can't win Mackenzie, RESIGN!"
"Yes SIR!" Despite the seriousness of the situation, Mac couldn't stop the grin that formed on her face when she saw Carter's reaction to the unusual order, Chegwidden's shout so loud that Carter could hear it though the handset.
"Good luck Colonel, Carter..." came the voice of General Ryan, before the line went dead.
"Resign?" asked Sam nervously, not sure she understood.
"If I don't win, I'm not allowed back to JAG..." explained Mac simply, deciding that, if Carter was relaxed enough to detour to her apartment to let her pack, there was probably time for coffee.
"Coffee?" asked Mac, tossing her cover on the table and heading towards the kitchen.
"Thanks....he was serious?"
"In a way...he's just ordered me to win..."
"Does it work like that?" asked Sam, her knowledge of military law limited, but she thought she'd grasped the fundamental point that it was evidence, not opinion based.
"I follow orders, same as you..." explained Mac, filling the kettle.
"No, I mean, can he just order you to win like that? Doesn't victory depend on the case?" asked Sam, nervously fiddling with her cover.
"The case depends on the evidence, and the attorney. A good evidence case can be lost by a bad attorney. A bad evidence case can sometimes be won by a good attorney. I'm a good attorney, and it sounds like you have a good case..." explained Mac, reaching into a cupboard for some mugs.
"How do you know?" asked Sam, beginning to relax a little as she started to feel like she had an understanding about Mac - the Colonel was currently radiating the same confident calm that Janet Fraiser had done when she was telling you that, despite weird alien randomness, you were going to live...it was a reassuring, familiar feeling.
"Because the Joint Chiefs seemed calmer when you were in the room..." began Mac, wondering if she'd ever get an explanation for that, before continuing, "...and they told me you were innocent."
"And you believed them?"
"No...but I believe you Colonel....I hope you drink it strong and black..." declared Mac, drawing a line under that particular topic of conversation by passing a mug of rich, strong black coffee across to Sam.
"Yes, thank you..." Sam accepted the cup and, like seasoned coffee drinkers everywhere, immediately took a sampling sip of the too hot brew, smiling in appreciation.
"This is good, thank you..."
"Does all the Air Force like coffee like this, or are you the exception?" asked Mac, amused at the randomness of her day - if you'd told her 4 hours ago when she left for work that she would now be standing in her kitchen, drinking the strongest pot of 'Marine-strength' coffee she'd made outside of a battle zone with an Air Force Colonel, having been 'beamed' into her bathroom, she'd have sworn she'd started drinking again.
"Only the lab rats....but there's a fair few of us at the SGC so I think we can make something you'll be able to drink..." decided Sam, marvelling at how calm her new lawyer seemed.
"Good...so, you've never been given an order and told to resign if you fail?" asked Mac, always assuming that it was a fairly standard military motivational technique.
"Not at the SGC..." Sam paused to take another sip of her coffee, taking a moment to decide how to phrase her next comment.
"...it's normally more like solve this problem in the next 3 hours or the Earth explodes..." she deadpanned.
"Seriously?" Mac was fortunate she didn't have any hot coffee in her mouth otherwise she would have sprayed it across her kitchen.
"Sometimes it's someone else's planet, but in general, yeah..." confirmed Sam, only to be interrupted by a male voice filling the room.
"How's it going Carter?" It was Jack O'Neill...
"Fine Sir..." said Sam, impressed that Mac just continued drinking her coffee. It seemed she learnt fast.
"How far you got?"
"Just mentioned saving the planet Sir..."
"Drinking coffee Sir..." explained Sam, smiling at Mac in reassurance.
"Is the Jarhead wearing any yet?"
"I think that's Colonel Jarhead Sir, and no," explained Sam, smiling at Mac in an attempt to encourage her not to take offence. Fortunately, Mac's disbelief was permanently suspended for the moment so hadn't noticed Jack O'Neill's unorthodox conversation style.
"Good. You think you can be ready in 20 minutes?" asked Jack, prompting Sam to look at Mac who nodded.
"Yes Sir, everything ok? I thought we had 45..."
"The SGC's managed to get all the kit together quicker than we'd thought they'd need and Thor's offered to show us Pluto...." explained Jack. Sam didn't need to see his face to know he was probably bouncing with excitement at the thought of going on a sightseeing trip through the Solar System. Half of SG1 had seen Jupiter, but Pluto would be new... for all of them.
"Interested in astronomy Mac?" asked Sam, wondering if this would be the thing to provoke a surprised reaction from the Marine.
"Enough to know Pluto's not exactly in the neighbourhood..."
"So you haven't seen it before, excellent. We'll be ready Sir." It never occurred to Sam that it might be slightly odd to even be able to entertain thoughts that there could have been a chance her new lawyer might have seen Pluto.
"Cool, O'Neill out."
"You're serious?" asked Mac after a pause, deciding she'd give up applying reason to the situation and instead just go along with whatever happened - it was a skill she was rather good at, with years of Harmon Rabb Jr investigations and 'adventures' giving her lots of practice.
"Thor probably made the offer to stop General O'Neill from driving them all mad up there."
"Geosynchronous orbit over D.C., not far from the International Space Station's orbit."
"Ah..." Mac put her coffee mug in the sink, where it joined her breakfast dishes which she hadn't had time to wash that morning.
"I can do the dishes if you like?" offered Sam, only for the phone to ring again.
"Thanks, the machine can get that..." dismissed Mac, heading off towards the bedroom. Soon, the sound of Mac's voice inviting the caller to leave a message filled the apartment. As she removed her dress uniform jacket and unbuttoned her shirt cuffs, Sam listened to the message, reasoning that if she'd been concerned about eavesdropping, Colonel Mackenzie would have either answered the phone or muted the speaker on the answer-phone.
"Hey babe? Jess here.....how's our favourite sexy marine? Anyway, Amy and I were wondering if you'd bring your muscles around this weekend - we've got a new bed that we'd love your help with...what's that?..." the caller's voice suddenly sounded distant and muffled, like she was talking to someone else, before returning to the phone, "...Amy wants you to know that I mean move it, not try and wrestle you into it...we both know you're deliciously butch in a very straight Marine way..." the tone was teasing but had a hint of flirtation to it that made Sam smile, "...gotta go, call us when you get this...love you babe..." and then the line was dead.
"Sorry about Jess..." explained Mac calmly, returning to the kitchen a few minutes later, having packed a small bag with some uniforms and a few casual items, wondering how her military guest would react to the flirtatious message from her openly gay and firmly attached old friend.
"She sounds great..." decided Sam genuinely, drying off her hands with the dishcloth, the last of the dishes draining, realising she'd talked herself into a silence that she wasn't entirely sure she wanted to fill with more conversation about Jess.
"It's been 19 minutes...." Fortunately, Sam didn't have to fill the silence Mac's internal clock did that for her.
"How did you do that?" asked Sam, grabbing her jacket and cover and following Mac into the living room where her bag was waiting.
"Know the time so accurately?" she clarified, having snuck a glance at her own watch to confirm that Thor was due any second and convinced that Mac hadn't looked at her own watch or a clock.
"You're not the only one with secrets Sam...." explained Mac, only for Thor's calm voice to fill the apartment.
"Colonel Carter, are you prepared?"
"Ready?" asked Sam, draping her uniform jacket over her arm and picking up Mac's briefcase, guessing that was going as well as the duffle bag and suit bag that Mac had picked up.
"As I'll ever be..." confirmed Mac, only to be engulfed in the transport again....
"Welcome, Lieutenant Colonel Sarah Mackenzie..." rang out that same lilting voice when Mac felt herself reappear a moment later. Bemused, she warily but discretely surveyed her surroundings, taking in the minimalist lines and lack of any furniture, before her eyes settled on the owner of the voice. It was grey, naked, about three foot tall and undoubtedly alien.
"...I am Supreme Commander Thor of the Asgard...but you may call me Thor," explained Thor, walking across the room so as to in a position to shake Mac's hand. To her surprise, whilst the bone structure was obviously different, being much more long and slender than her own, the texture was remarkably familiar and, well, human.
"Thank you, Thor..."
"Are you in need of refreshment Sarah Mackenzie?" asked Thor politely, startling Mac, not only with his question but also with the manner in which he chose to remove her rank.
"I, uh..." Mac started to say something polite, when she saw a grey haired man, wearing some form of military fatigues, stride into the room: he'd obviously caught the question, because, since he was the only one out of Thor's line of sight, he started gesturing wildly.
"...just had a coffee before I left, but thank you," replied Mac quickly, correctly interpreting the man's gestures and picking up a relived smile from Sam in her peripheral vision. Evidently, she shouldn't rush to sample Asgard cuisine.
"Very well..." began Thor, only for the man to interrupt,
"Can we get going yet?" he asked, rocking on the balls of his feet, obviously impatient.
"Would you like to direct us Sarah Mackenzie?" asked Thor, blinking, the movement adding to the hypnotic quality of his voice.
"To Pluto?" Mac was unable to hold in her surprise.
"Unless you would prefer to see something else? There is a dust cloud with three columns not far from here that your people think beautiful if the number of photographic reproductions on your planet is an indicator of beauty..." pondered Thor, making Mac shoot a very startled look at Sam, currently her sound voice of normality and reason.
"He means the Eagle Nebula..." explained Sam, her eyes sparkling at the thought, as any self respecting astrophysicist should. The opportunity to get that close to a nebula, never mind the nebula that was the subject of NASA's most famous image...
"Can we do both?" asked Jack, his impatience combining with school boy glee at the thought of seeing more of space from the comfort of Thor's ship.
"Very well..." conceded Thor, familiar enough with Jack O'Neill to recognise when it was just better to indulge him with the hyperspace engines it wouldn't take too long and it was in the general direction of where they needed to go.
"Sarah Mackenzie?" questioned Thor, crossing towards a podium. Stunned, Mac looked to Sam for guidance.
"He means for you to drive...that's the steering wheel..." explained Sam, putting down Mac's briefcase and pulling on her dress uniform jacket again, prompting Mac to put down her own bags, although she didn't think she needed to put on her cover which, like Sam, she continued to clutch in her hand.
"Is it anything like a Corvette?" joked Mac, hoping to conceal her nervousness.
"What is a Corvette?" asked Thor, blinking again, which Mac thought only served to accentuate his curiosity, making her wonder if it was a genuinely involuntary response, or whether Thor did it to emphasise his points.
"A car Thor...a classic car..." explained Sam, guiding Mac over to the console, which, Mac could see, was not at all like a steering wheel, but was actually a smooth lectern like surface, with rune like characters engraved on it. Resting seemingly randomly on it were three stones, which looked a little like her computer mouse.
"You will give me a ride in this Corvette?" asked Thor, intrigued by the concept. Perhaps it was time for him to visit Earth for an extended period again.
"Uh..." Mac stumbled, really not sure what was happening. Was this alien just asking her for a ride in her car?
"Next time you're in the neighbourhood, we'll fix something up..." agreed Jack suddenly, before saying "...can we just go somewhere please?" which earned him a pointed look from Sam. Thor ignored him.
"Sarah Mackenzie, please move that to here..." he explained, pointing a long, bony finger at one of the stones. In a daze, the shock and surrealness of her situation was beginning to catch up on her, Mac followed his instruction. Suddenly, the space in front of them lit up and filled with some sort of three dimensional light map of the Solar System.
"...and that to here..." continued Thor, oblivious to the light show happening in front of him. Obediently, Mac followed his instruction.
"Come have a look Mac..." invited Sam from where she was now standing by a window, out of which you could see Space gently moving by.
"Where are we going?" asked Mac, concerned to look back and see what she knew must be Earth reducing from familiar blue swirl-y thing to anonymous pin-prick of light.
"The Eagle Nebula, via Pluto..." explained Sam, her face alight with genuine excitement as they slowed as they passed by Mars...
"Who are you?" asked Mac suddenly, her gaze shifting from the planet beyond the window to the reflection of the woman in the window.
"She's Lieutenant Colonel Samantha Carter, PhD in Astrophysics, planet's expert on wormholes and quantum physics, SGC's resident genius and one of the best damn officer's I've ever served with..." declared Jack, coming to stand by Mac.
"And he's General Jack O'Neill... Base Commander of the SGC..." explained Sam suddenly realising that there hadn't been a formal introduction.
"Welcome to the Stargate Programme Colonel Mackenzie...."
"Why aren't you in a cell?" asked Mac, suddenly breaking the silence that had settled over the two Colonels as they stood at the view-screen, watching the Solar System drift by.
"I'm sorry?" Sam had been sufficiently absorbed in the spectacle before her to have missed the question.
"Given the charges you are facing, why aren't you locked up in a cell somewhere?" asked Mac, taking the opportunity to rephrase her question into one that was marginally less accusatory than her first attempt.
"I was wondering when you'd ask that " said Sam, stepping away from the view-screen to lean against the facing wall before sliding down so that she was sitting on the floor, legs stretched out before her, back braced against the wall, enabling her to look at Mac and also at the planetary display beyond, seemingly unaware of the fact she was still wearing her dress uniform.
"You're obviously not AWOL " mused Mac, remembering how they'd met, surrounded by Admirals and Generals, contemplating following Sam's lead and slumping on the floor only, wondering if she could share the Air Force Colonel's disregard for their uniforms.
"Asgard don't have dust, you won't get a mark on your uniform " explained Sam, recognising Mac's dilemma.
"Thanks " Grateful for the assurance, unwilling to go and change into BDUs just yet for fear of missing something, be it a view of Saturn (2 minutes ago) or some startling yet low-key revelation from her newest client, Mac echoed Sam's movements, resulting in the two Colonels sitting side by side on the floor, watching the Solar System pass by.
"Major Hartnell turned up at the SGC with the charges and orders to have me secured to Leavenworth " began Sam, drifting into silence as she tried to find the best way of explaining what happened, preferably without jeopardising any more careers than her own.
"This counts as Attorney-Client privilege, don't worry about it " encouraged Mac quietly, sensing Sam's difficulties, something for which she received a grateful grin. Nevertheless, Sam still chose her words extremely carefully.
"I was off-world on PX5-7T8 when Hartnell arrived on base I was helping SG7 stabilise the main power supply plant, with Teal'c keeping me company. Teal'c went off to make the scheduled radio contact and when he came back he had orders from General O'Neill to keep me planet-side which I did until Thor showed up."
"So you've not been back to the SGC?"
"As far as I know, Major Hartnell is waiting to have me taken into custody the moment I step foot through the Gate," said Sam with a sheepish grin.
"So he thinks you're on another planet?" asked Mac, trying not to sound too amazed.
"Saving the universe it's what she's normally doing " confirmed Jack O'Neill, coming around the corner, waving Mac to stay on the floor he'd stopped standing on ceremony years ago.
"Yes Sir " Unfortunately, judging by General O'Neill's look, Mac hadn't managed to keep the scepticism out of her voice as well as she'd hoped.
"Oh relax Colonel, my exact words were 'she's on another planet right now, but that's the arrivals lounge for this planet so as long as you stand by the door you can have her the minute she returns and then Thor arrived and needed me so I left him there. Walter's keeping an eye on him " explained Jack, rather pleased with himself as he sank down onto the floor.
"And he was happy with that Sir?" asked Sam, not having heard this bit of the story yet.
"Course not, but there were some big Marines between him and the Gate, so he shut up and sat down Walter put him in VIP quarters with a video feed to the Gate Room."
"When was this General?" asked Mac, finding it hard not to like Jack O'Neill yet wondering if it was wise allowing what appeared to be an overgrown school-boy be in charge.
"He's been there 3 days Sir?" asked Sam, impressed.
"Sure, happy as Larry "
"And he doesn't suspect anything Sir?" asked Mac, amazed.
"He's been told by everyone he cares to ask that the only place on Earth that you can do inter-planetary travel from is the SGC Gate Room he's seen the tape of Carter leaving through the Gate, makes sense that he's got to wait for her to come back through the Gate "
"Won't he get suspicious when I don't appear Sir?" asked Sam, slightly worried about his plan which did seem to have some logic flaws in it.
"You forget that SG7 went for two weeks he doesn't need to know your involvement was only the first two days.." replied Jack, pleased with himself.
"Did the Joint Chiefs know all this Sir?" asked Mac, wondering if this could count as a conspiracy yet
"It was their idea though Thor showing up was an added help " Definitely a conspiracy, but thinking it didn't help their case and saying aloud certainly wouldn't, so Mac didn't.
"Why did Thor show up Sir?"
"Seems he needs a dumb idea Carter."
"Ever saved the universe before Colonel?" asked Jack casually.
"One hell of an high Colonel even the Marines think so Thor wants to talk to us in an hour," and, with much protesting of knee and back, Jack O'Neill scrambled to his feet in an entirely un-General-y manner and disappeared down the corridor whistling what sounded suspiciously like the Simpsons theme-tune.
"Save the universe?" repeated Mac eventually, unable to process quite what was happening.
"Probably don't worry about it," dismissed Sam casually, drawing her knee up under her chin as she contemplated her situation.
"You do this a lot?"
"Fly past Neptune? No, my first time " replied Sam, deliberately misconstruing the question.
"Save the universe, fly past Neptune, travel to other planets you don't even seem too concerned about being arrested for murder and treason!"
"Twice last month although not by the USAF or on this planet " mused Sam thoughtfully, recalling the confusion on PK7-4J3 when the locals had got her confused with their former Goa'uld ruler and put her on trial for their equivalent to genocide before they quickly understood their mistake. P95-T64 had been a little harder to unscramble but Daniel talking at what felt like 900 words per minute had helped them realise that her sneeze had been a result of the pollen that hung heavy in the temple air and not a deliberate act of dissent towards the heavenly rulers which was their equivalent of treason.
"I don't even know where to begin " sighed Mac in frustration every question she asked brought an answer that defied belief.
"Don't, then you really will get a headache " offered Sam kindly, pushing back up onto her feet before holding out a hand to Mac.
"So what do I do next?" asked Mac, feeling very out of her depth and off-balanced. In fact, she wasn't entirely convinced this wasn't some very, very strange substance-induced hallucination.
"Change into some BDUs and help us save the universe everything else is tomorrow's problem " declared Sam practically, setting off down the corridor, Mac obediently falling into step.
"Samantha Carter, Sarah Mackenzie, thank you for joining us " greeted Thor when they both entered the main control room.
"What's up?" asked Sam, pushing up the sleeves of her black t shirt up, exposing lightly tanned forearms that suggested PX5-7T8 had been rather sunny.
"This " said Thor simply, changing the view-screen's setting so that it was no longer showing the Eagle Nebula but was instead showing a large lumpy looking ship with a blue glow at its centre.
"Where are they?" asked Jack, even as Mac was trying to work out what it was.
"Waiting for us at coordinates near an Asgard Home World "
"Waiting for us?" asked Sam, confused since when did the Replicators ever wait, for anything?
"Actually, they are waiting for you Samantha "
"Me me or the replicator me?" asked Sam seeking clarification, only for Jack to interrupt before Thor could have an opportunity to reply.
"So you came and got her? Thor, have you gone crazy?" shouted Jack, waving his arms in amazement. Wisely, Mac decided to keep absolutely silent until either everything made perfect sense (extremely unlikely) or someone had a moment to explain to her exactly what was going on.
"On the contrary O'Neill look," instructed Thor, changing the images on the screen to a crowd of human form replicators all standing perfectly still, a look of total confusion on their faces.
"What happened to them?" asked Teal'c, drawing attention to his presence once more for such a massive man, Mac was discovering it was easy to forget he was there, so quietly did he stay, watching everything seemingly impassively.
"We are unclear, although scans also revealed this " explained Thor, changing the display once more, this time to reveal what, to Mac, looked like Sam Carter sitting on a step with her head in her hands, sobbing.
"How many vessels?" asked Jack, studying the image closely.
"Over one thousand although most are extremely small."
"And the Carter Replicator is in control of them all?" continued Jack, letting out a low whistle as he considered the size of the fleet Thor was suggesting.
"What occured to provoke such a reaction?" asked Teal'c, uninterested in speculating about something he did not yet fully understand.
"SHe created a new human form replicator from the Samantha Carter Replicator's memories " explained Thor, preparing to refocus the view-screen to display the newest human form replicator.
"Oh crap " declared Jack, watching what appeared on screen.
"Indeed that is most calamitous " echoed Teal'c as Sam walked wordlessly from the room, Teal'c immediately following her, equally silently.
"Thor?" asked Mac tentatively, in need of some explanations, rapidly.
"Yes Sarah Mackenzie?"
"Who is that?"
"What, Colonel, what! They are never who " shouted an obviously angry Jack O'Neill.
"Yes Sir, I'm sorry Sir."
"There is no need to apologise Sarah Mackenzie. There is a race of machines called Replicators which are seeking to eliminate all other races. They started as insects but have evolved to the human form replicators that you see."
"The blonde woman looks like Sam "
"The first human form replicators were kept in a time dilation field Fifth, a male, escaped and created a second replicator in the image of Samantha Carter."
"He got the hots for her " supplied Jack helpfully.
"No, our Carter like most of the aliens we meet so he made his own version of her "
"This happens a lot?" asked Mac, not sure what exactly 'this' was in her question.
"Aliens going gooey over Carter? Sure even creating their own version when they can't have the real thing's old "
"I do not follow O'Neill " even Thor was lost, and he at least had the advantage of knowing what the Replicator history was.
"Narim of the Tollan, fell for her, then programmed his house to speak to him in her voice."
"I see " And, amazingly, Thor did, but this was not helping Sarah Mackenzie's understanding.
"Where's Fifth now?" asked Mac, discovering that this conversation, like complex testimony when you were losing the case, sounded so much better when you asked specific questions with authority.
"Fifth is dead." It also helped, Mac realised, if the answers to your questions could be a little more verbose than the Supreme Commander of the Asgard was seemingly prepared to give.
"Whose image has that machine been made in?" asked Mac finally, returning to her original question but heeding General O'Neill's earlier instruction.
"Doctor Janet Fraiser, the Chief Medical Officer of your SGC until her death two years ago."
"And that creation has thrown all the other machines into a sort of stasis?" asked Mac, attempting to marshal her somewhat scattered grasp of the facts into something a little more robust.
"Of course " intoned Thor, wondering why this new human was failing to grasp the issue.
"Why?" It was the question that Jack O'Neill had hoped would never be asked.
"Don't ask Colonel and don't say anything Thor!" he ordered, wondering if the Supreme Commander of the Asgard would actually listen to him for once.
"Yes Sir " Suddenly, it all made sense to Mac, including why Sam Carter hadn't been fazed by the answer-phone message when they'd been in her apartment.
"I'm going to find Carter " decided Jack, unable to cope with the silence that had descended on the room, before striding out, leaving Mac alone with Thor.
"I do not understand what just happened Sarah Mackenzie."
"Neither do I but I think we can explain it to each other," she decided suddenly, realising that her situation had just become even more complex than she'd ever previously imagined, and that was saying something!
"Here Sir " called out Sam quietly from where she was slumped against the wall, only a matter of yards from the door into the Control Room.
"You ok?" he asked, earning him a look from her that was the nearest she would ever come to insubordination, although Teal'c did not feel so restrained.
"That is a stupid question O'Neill "
"I was only asking "
"Thank you Teal'c, but yes, I'm fine just a surprise to see " Sam trailed off, unwilling to call the machine she'd seen 'her'.
"We all were Samantha even your replicator form would appear to be overwhelmed., given the behaviour on that ship " observed Teal'c, as usual saying the factual statements without sugar-coating but also, somehow without causing offence either.
"Has Thor said what he wants me for yet Sir?" asked Sam, kicking up onto her feet and forcing herself to focus on the issue at hand what was it she'd said to Colonel Mackenzie less than an hour before? Save the universe, everything else is tomorrow's problem right now, she'd help out Thor dealing with the shock of seeing an image of Janet Fraiser? That was definitely tomorrow's problem.
"Not yet you only missed him getting Colonel Mackenzie up to some sort of speed " Jack's obvious discomfort at the situation she was now in was not lost on Sam.
"She was going to have to find out Sir JAG or no JAG " shrugged Sam, knowing what was bothering him.
"She could get you discharged!"
"She's ordered by the Joint Chiefs to get me off I doubt putting me up on charges of dishonourable conduct would enamour her to them " reassured Sam, surprisingly calm about it, all things considered, " anyway, something tells me she's not exactly anti-gay "
"You seem rather unsurprised and calm about this Carter "
"Just call me Yoda Sir " said Sam, deliberately picking up on Teal'c favourite film series, knowing that he and Jack could debate it for hours without distraction which, over the next few days, could be useful.
"Nah you're too tall and not grey enough right Teal'c?"
"Indeed, unlike you O'Neill "
"Actually, Thor would make a great Yoda " mused Sam.
"He's got the short grey thing going " agreed Jack, glad Carter seemed to be returning to her more usual self, even if Star Wars references weren't exactly her thing.
"And can be extremely brief did he indicate to you O'Neill when he expand on why we are here?" asked Teal'c, too glad that his friend seemed more herself again.
"I don't think he needs to " said Sam, triggering the door sensor to open, leaving a somewhat bemused Jack and Teal'c still out in the corridor.
" until Janet Frasier's death at the hands of one of the Jaffa of Anubis," concluded Thor, obviously bringing Mac up to speed on some of the highlights of either the SGC's history or Janet Fraiser.
"You've left all the good bits out Thor " said Sam softly, coming up to join the now BDU-clad Mac.
"How can you tell?" asked Mac, glad that there was rather more to the stories than Thor had been telling her the extremely factual, emotionless recounts delivered in that lilting voice were, whilst hypnotic and fascinating, somewhat lacking.
"Because story-telling isn't one of Thor's strengths, finding the human talent and desire for emotion and hyperbole unconstructive, right Thor?" asked Sam, getting as close, Mac thought, as anyone would ever get to teasing this strange yet kind alien leader.
"You are quite correct Samantha. You were coming to see me?"
"Colonel O'Neil and Teal'c would benefit from an elaboration of what you want me to do "
"But you do not?"
"You want a logical extrapolation of Tauri spontaneous insight from me that will take advantage of the situation and eliminate the massive proportion of the Replicator fleet that is currently stopped only hours from eradicating that Asgard Home World."
"Logical extrapolation of Tauri spontaneous insight?" asked Mac, unable to stop herself from interrupting.
"Asgard for 'dumb idea' from a human."
"Ah, thanks "
"You are quite correct Samantha that was indeed my hope."
"How long until we are there?"
"Four of your days General O'Neill had insisted we remained at your planet for him to gather some supplies, which are on board. He made reference to something called 'The Simpsons'."
"Oh dear I should probably go and fix up the DVD player I wonder if they sent any blue jello " muttered Sam somewhat cryptically before turning to Mac, " when I've done that, we should probably start talking about stuff?"
"It would be useful " agreed Mac, currently feeling nothing but total gut instinct that this seemingly brilliant and unflappable woman was innocent of everything except being a victim of a set-up. Unfortunately, gut instinct didn't win a case without some factual support, " is blue jello a code?"
"No my favourite flavour, which everyone else on SG1 hates be a real giveaway to my being here and not on PX5-7T8 as Major Hartnell thinks."
"You think of everything " muttered Mac, realising that Sam's experiences and expertise extended beyond just science and simple soldiering.
"That's my job "
"Thinking of everything and fixing stuff " corrected Sam, nodding at Thor who had been trying to follow their conversation, before she headed towards the door, " I'll come find you."
"Are you alright Sarah Mackenzie?" asked Thor, deciding to break the silence that had settled on them.
"I'll be fine " said Mac, not believing herself just yet but knowing she would have to be and soon.
"Samantha Carter is a brilliant scientist and soldier, one in whose debt my people have been on many occasions, as have you. It is puzzling to us how your people try to disrupt and destroy her as often as they do."
"How do you mean Thor?" asked Mac, sensing that he was not talking about her current difficulties.
"I will let Samantha explain." Suddenly, Mac realised that Thor's extremely dry and factual recounting of the major events in SGC history was perhaps dryer and more anodised than it might have been, even for a literal race such as the Asgard, making her wonder
"Thor, do you know why I am here?"
"O'Neill did not explain he said you were 'along for the ride' and I was to regard you as I would any other member of SG1 that was until he shouted at me. Now, I am confused again " It was clear to Mac that Thor was neither used to being shouted at or confused, although she guessed that this probably wasn't the first time General O'Neill had been the shouter and source of confusion to the alien leader
"That's a confusion I can help you out with " declared Mac, pleased finally to have something, however small, in which she was actually clear about.
"Go on, Sarah Mackenzie "
"I don't suppose I can get you to call me Mac?" asked Mac, not sure she would cope with her full name being said this frequently if she was to enjoy Thor's company for the next week
There was a pause, a long pause.
"Go on Mac."
"Mind if I join you?" asked Sam nervously, standing a couple of paces away from where Mac was sitting, echoing their earlier position of sitting on the floor, back resting against the wall.
"Sure " agreed Mac, wondering what the extremely tense and nervous Colonel Carter would have done if she'd said no " why are you so nervous?"
"Because I don't like intangible unknowns " came the surprising reply, before Mac reminded herself that she was currently looking out the window at streaks of light that had been described to her as 'hyperspace' and which, out of the entire Earth population were probably only satisfactorily explained, in words she would be able to understand, by the woman next to her: Sam Carter was no ordinary soldier
"Then we better make me a tangible known then " countered Mac, eliciting a startled look from Sam that Mac could clearly make out in their reflection despite the hypnotic streaking of space overlaid over their image.
"How do you know I'm not talking where we're going?"
"We're going somewhere for you to save the universe?"
"Probably " agreed Sam, unwilling to let herself dwell on the fact that a machine in her image could be responsible for destroying the universe by the end of the week.
"To quote General O'Neill 'saving the universe, it's what she's normally doing:' it's a fairly logical step to conclude therefore that JAG lawyers must be the intangible unknown on your horizon, unless you just don't like Marines?"
"You have a point " conceded Sam, breaking out into a small grin, a sign Mac took to be as a good indication that maybe her client was relaxing, just a little, " and, to paraphrase General O'Neill, this has nothing to do with Marines, I like Marines, I just have a problem with Lawyers "
Any malice that Mac could have felt from the words was immediately lessened by the grin that just kept on getting broader, sensing that the reason for Sam saying it was more as an opportunity to start explaining some of how they had both now ended up sitting side by side on an alien spaceship, heading to the far side of the universe.
"What was the original comment?" asked Mac, trying to imagine what sort of situation they might have found themselves in for General O'Neill to say something like that to Carter.
"It was the first day we'd met, he'd just been told that I would be on his team " Sam paused as she remembered the day, almost decade before now, when she had walked into the Briefing Room for the first time and proceeded to have what she now realised was perhaps the most insubordinate conversation she had ever had with Jack O'Neill, " neither of us was particularly impressed with the other's reaction."
"You seem to get on well now " observed Mac, not sure if she could imagine a time when O'Neill wouldn't be impressed with this talented officer whose calmness and intelligence just amazed her.
"We've grown on each other " admitted Sam, emotion shading her tone just a little, making Mac wonder about something.
"How close does the base rumour mill think you two have grown?" It was an obvious question to ask, but one that startled Sam only one other person had ever asked her that question, and that had been Janet Fraiser, about two beers into their friendship.
"Ask Teal'c "
"Teal'c?" That wasn't the answer Mac had expected why would the tall, quiet man know?
"He's our best source for what's happening on the gossip grapevine, don't know how he does it, but he always knows everything that's going on " as did Janet, thought Sam, unable to stop herself finishing that particular train of thought, although she did at least manage to remain composed, something she would have struggled to do two years before
"I take it you're just friends?" It was a redundant question, for Mac already knew the answer, but the shocked look on Sam's face was what Mac had been wanting the unasked question from her newest client that could be transcribed as 'What the Hell are you asking me that for?"
"I'm your attorney Sam, and I'm going to stand up in court and present a case that ensures a panel of your peers will feel compelled to agree with us that you are innocent of these charges, but to do that you have to trust me and tell me the truth, about everything " Mac paused, wondering how far she could force this point before deciding it was now or never, " including your relationship with Janet Fraiser "
"Why?" The tone of Sam's question was neither harsh or accusatory, but rather, more concerning to Mac, one of resigned defeat.
"So that I can defend you against whatever Major Hartnell alleges "
"And Janet is relevant?"
"Everything is relevant "
"Ah " Content to lapse into silence, Sam gave the situation her full attention as she considered the ramifications of what Mac had just said.
"So we talk?" she asked finally.
"We talk " agreed Mac, sensing the shift in Sam's attitude, as well as the sheer intellectual power of the woman even after just a few minutes of thoughtful conversation, it was easy for Mac to imagine that this quiet blonde could save the Universe just by thinking about it, never mind the military skill she obviously also had based on the ribbons showing earlier on her dress uniform.
"And you'll make notes?" asked Sam, frowning as she considered everything that she should probably tell Mac and how much of that could end any number of careers, starting with her own it wasn't a particularly short list when she really put her mind to it
"As I see it, right now, we're surrounded by friends of yours, away from any possible eavesdroppers or enemies who might be tempted to leak information back to Major Hartnell "
"You think that could happen?" asked Sam, looking straight at Mac, amazed.
"It has happened to me on other cases and based on what the Joint Chiefs told me about the difficulties they were having getting you a lawyer, it wouldn't surprise me if someone didn't try "
"So you want me to tell you everything here, before you have to start visiting me in prison cells that will be bugged?" asked Sam, the pieces of the puzzle suddenly fitting together for her.
"If not everything " Mac sensed that there probably wasn't enough time before the trial date, whenever that might be, for Sam to tell her 'everything', " then at least some of the things that I won't be writing down "
"Like the stuff about Janet and me?" asked Sam rhetorically, not needing an answer from Mac. Instead, she pushed to her feet and went and watched hyperspace slipping past the window for a few moments, composing herself ahead of doing the one thing she really, really did not enjoy talking about herself. Finally, feeling ready, she turned around and once again slumped to the floor, this time with her back to the window, facing Mac, the determined look on her face indicating she was ready.
"Do you need to do any preparation?" asked Mac when she found herself locked in the intelligent gaze emanating from incredible blue eyes
"For talking to you? Should I?"
"No, for saving the universe "
"Ah, no, I'm good until we get there "
"What are you going to do?"
"I don't know yet "
"When will you know?" asked Mac, intrigued she was used to having missions planned down to the last millimetre, only for Harmon Rabb Jr to destroy it all and render chaos within seconds of his arrival. The idea that in less than a week the universe would either be saved or destroyed and right now, there wasn't a plan that worried Mac. Amazingly, that didn't seem to worry Sam.
"When I do it " Sam had long ago given up trying to plan how to defeat the Replicators or save the universe, instead now settling on the 'in the moment' style of ops planning.
"Now who's nervous?" teased Sam, enjoying the opportunity to not obsess about her impending career doom for a moment.
"I'm not nervous "
"About?" Sam had also stopped assuming what people would choose to fixate on when exposed to the notion that, unless they themselves fix it, the Universe might not exist past a week on Tuesday. The human mind really was far, far more complex a computer than Sam would ever untangle.
"Why you bothered doing my washing up ."
"Easy: at the time, I didn't know about this latest situation, and anyway, the universe will still be here next week."
"How can you be so sure?"
"General O'Neill's got tickets to the Cubs Game a week on Saturday." There was something about the total certainty and importance with which she referred to the regular day to day event that reminded Mac of her partner.
"Have you ever met Commander Harmon Rabb Jr.?"
"He doesn't like me much "
"Why? I'd have thought " Mac trailed off, unwilling to be too rude about her partner although really, Samantha Carter should have been just to his taste smart, tall, blonde
"I'm a better pilot than him " From many, that would have sounded arrogant: from Sam it was just a calm, factual statement.
"You're Wormhole?" she asked incredulously, recalling Sturgis Turner retell a story one night of Harm's earlier flying days when he was competing as a 'Top Gun' in some Inter-Service Competition, victorious save for some 'zoomie' with the call-sign 'Wormhole'
"Ironically, that was what I was given at the Academy "
"You don't wear your wings?"
"Not since I joined the SGC, no."
"I was told I would be less intimidating if I left them off " murmured Sam, biting her lip in what Mac would soon discover was something of a trademark 'I'm thinking' pose for the brilliant Colonel.
"Did it work?"
"No at least, I don't think so " Sam's brow furrowed as she considered the reaction she'd received from the SGC personnel over the years, " I think I now have a reputation that precedes me " she finally concluded, remembering the various reactions of new scientists and soldiers over the years.
"I blew up a sun a few years back took ages to live that one down."
"You blew up a sun? Deliberately?"
"I think you should start wearing your wings "
"It will surprise most of the Base "
"I think it's a bit too late for you to start worrying about that now Sam " teased Mac gently, glad to see a hint of a grin gracing Sam's face, a grin Mac felt herself echoing, glad that Sam was finally relaxing again
"Probably so, where do you want to start?"
"How about the first time you saved the planet?" suggested Mac, shifting a little so as to get slightly more comfortable surely she wasn't getting to old to sit on the floor, was she?
"It's not as interesting as you might think "
Some hours later, a hungry Sam Carter found herself alone with an apparently kelnorim-ing Teal'c in the ship's main control room.
"How are you Samantha Carter?" enquired Teal'c, opening his eyes as he heard her approach, so obviously not in a deep meditation.
"Hungry lunch feels a long time ago " and it was, in both distance and time, with PX5-7T8 being around six hours ahead of Washington D.C. which explained why Mac had only just arrived at the JAG offices a few minutes before this latest 'adventure' had begun.
"General O'Neill and I consumed some refreshment approximately two hours ago it was decided that we would not interrupt your conference with Sarah Mackenzie."
"Thank you Teal'c " said Sam genuinely, correctly interpreting that it had been Teal'c who had stopped Jack from bouncing in with food as hungry as she was now, being interrupted a couple of hours ago by Jack O'Neill would have been rather awkward for her, since it was around that time Sam was explaining how they discovered the second gate in Antarctica by virtue of her and Jack becoming stranded there and nearly dying due to hypothermia.
"I have prepared some sandwiches for you and Colonel Mackenzie " continued Teal'c, rising to his feet deceptively smoothly for one of his size and build and crossing to a flat table-like section of Thor's command desk on which rested some pieces of fruit, some sandwiches and bottles of fruit juice, " where is the Marine Colonel?"
"Discovering Asgard plumbing where's Thor?"
"Discovering the Simpsons at his request you did properly prepare Colonel Mackenzie for the experience?" asked Teal'c, concerned. Before Sam could provide an answer however, they were interrupted.
"No, she didn't!"
"I see you are unharmed " observed Teal'c, refraining from drawing attention to her somewhat dishevelled appearance.
"Is that important?"
"Daniel broke his nose " offered Sam kindly, referring to her fellow member of SG1 who wasn't with them but whom Mac had become familiar with during the last few hours of stories.
"We think, when trying to stand up before the vacuum process began, he lost his balance and broke his fall against the sink thing with his nose " explained Sam, unable to resist a grin as she recalled the experience. Alien plumbing or, more usually, the absence of Alien plumbing, was always something of a challenge to overcome and Asgard plumbing was no different. On the face of it, it was remarkably similar to a commercial aircraft bathroom, being small and compact, with an air flush system and sound waves coming from the 'tap' rather than making use of a water based system. The difficulty came with the size at only three foot tall, a compact design for an Asgard was a very good Yoga exercise for a tall human such as Mac.
"So a rumpled uniform and a bruised elbow is a success?" asked Mac, feeling the bruises to her pride disappear.
"Most definitely Colonel Mackenzie I have prepared some food in case you are in need of refreshment " offered Teal'c, unable to continue any further when there was a loud rumbling noise that emanated from Mac's stomach, impressing the Jaffa it was quite the loudest demonstration of hunger he had heard from a Tauri female.
"Thank you Teal'c, it would seem I am in need of some!" laughed Mac, accepting the offered plate of sandwiches.
After a short period of contented quiet as the two Colonels satisfied their immediate hunger, Sam found the urge to talk again, this time by engaging Teal'c in conversation, seeking some answers to questions that had been bothering her.
"Where are the others?"
"Daniel Jackson is still on PV8-4F6 "
"Still trying to find the ruins beneath the sand?" asked Sam, remembering how excited he had been a couple of weeks earlier when, having finally cracked some obscure translation on an artefact that SG1 had brought back from somewhere years before which he'd been working at off and on ever since, he claimed that he'd found the address of an original Goa'uld planet which Teal'c confirmed had been the home world of a minor Goa'uld with a reputation for scientific experimentation and technological advancement. A quick trip by SG1 had revealed a Stargate in the middle of a desert that showed no evidence of activity by human, Goa'uld or other for many centuries. Undeterred, Daniel had presented a compelling case to Jack to have a long term dig established (training mission for would be off-world archaeologists was how Jack ended up calling it, although his main reason for agreeing was to get an over-excited space monkey out of his office) which he was evidently still working on.
"He has found some but cannot translate them yet."
"Cool " And it was even after nearly a decade of exploring and working with the Asgard and others, very little was known about the Furlings, that elusive and now extinct fourth member of the original alliance between the Asgard, the Nox and the Ancients. Finishing her juice, Sam asked, " Vala and Cam?"
"General O'Neill did not feel it necessary to have them recalled from their down-time, mentioned something about feeling in the mood for a bit of 'old-school'?" asked Teal'c, uncertain if he had the quotation correct, which he had, although Sam felt a brief explanation was in order, mainly for Mac's benefit although it would have the added advantage of explaining the colloquialism to Teal'c.
"The first time we met the Replicators it was the three of us and Thor "
"Old School mission then " agreed Mac, recognising the General's wish to turn the clock back even for just one mission Admiral Chedwiggen on occasion expressed a similar desire although his was normally to go back to being in Court rather than his Seal days.
"Although Daniel would be useful he's a much better story teller than I am " admitted Sam, helping herself to an apple which she proceeded to crunch loudly.
"You're doing a great job Sam " encouraged Mac, having already realised that talking at length about her exploits as a member of SG1 was something of an anathema to the modest blonde officer who gave the impression of being much more comfortable working away at a problem than explaining her success after the fact.
"What have you discussed so far?" asked Teal'c, recognising his friend's discomfort and wondering if he could help in any way.
"Getting the Gate to work for the first Abydos Mission, Abydos & meeting you Teal'c, Hathor, finding Cassandra on Hanka that's about it really "
"A good start, but you have omitted some important missions already Samantha Carter," chastised Teal'c gently.
"I have?" asked Sam, surprised. She'd covered the main events from their first year or so hadn't she?
"Colonel Carter has not told you about our mission to P3X-595 where she was forced to join a harem before she educated the women of the Shavadai and brought emancipation to that people?"
"No, she didn't mention that " agreed Mac, wondering why that hadn't constituted a highlight only to realise from Sam's blushes that she was somewhat embarrassed to be taking the leading light in a mission story.
"Or the mission to Cimmeria where I encountered Thor's Hammer with potentially fatal results had she not helped to secure my release by contacting Thor?"
"Nope not heard that one yet either "
"The Tollan?" asked Teal'c, knowing that it was a rhetorical question, with his expectation confirmed by Mac's shaking head she hadn't heard about them either.
"You omitted to explain to Colonel Mackenzie about the alternate universe where your counterpart sacrificed herself for our Daniel Jackson?"
"It wasn't me " protested Sam, feeling her blushes return.
"Then I will have to tell you about the androids as well " decided Teal'c in what Mac guessed was his long-suffering tone of voice although, except for the occasional twitch of an eyebrow, he really was impossible to read.
"Thank you Teal'c, I look forward to it."
"Yes, thank you Teal'c " replied Sam sarcastically. She'd been hoping that she could avoid having to explain every mission to Mac with the majority being covered by getting the Colonel the mission reports to read. It seemed her friend was determined to thwart that particular plan.
"I would be honoured to assist you in any way I can Colonel Mackenzie whilst I have no experience of your military legal system, I have found myself in Colonel Carter's position on a number of occasions and she has always been very supportive and helped secure my release, along with the rest of SG1. If it is permissible, I would like to return that support now." For a man of few words, that was a long, emotive speech that brought an emotional smile of thanks to Sam's face.
"That is an offer I will gladly accept Teal'c, thank you."
"You are welcome Colonel Mackenzie. The same will be true of any person on SG1."
"What's true of any of us?" asked Jack, entering with Thor and hearing the end of Teal'c's statement.
"Our help and support of Colonel Carter by helping Colonel Mackenzie whenever necessary "
"Right Mackenzie whatever records you need you get and anything you want answered just ask "
"Yes Sir, thank you. A full list of everyone with SGC clearance would be the most useful thing Sir, along with someone from SG1 going through it and identifying anyone who had had negative contact with Colonel Carter " requested Mac immediately, unsurprised by the low whistle it triggered from Jack O'Neill.
"You don't ask for small things, do ya?"
"Why do you need it?"
"Your court martial requires a panel of your peers that will have to be officers who already know about the SGC and I'm sure that Major Hartnell will be using this time to work out the twelve that hate you Colonel. I need to also work out that twelve so I can object to their presence on your jury "
"Consider it done Colonel Teal'c and I will take you through it once we get back to the SGC "
"Thank you Sir."
"Some Mission reports will probably be useful eventually, as well as some personnel records "
"Whose?" asked Jack, impressed with how quickly this lawyer had identified what was important in terms of neutralising the threat to Carter which was this Major Hartnell and the other Kinsey goons still out to make trouble.
"Colonel Carter's, Doctor Frasier's, yours " Mac trailed off, partly because she didn't know if Teal'c and Daniel Jackson would have a military record and partly because she was conscious of the reaction her mentioning Doctor Frasier had caused.
"That's a lot to work through "
"I'm a quick reader Sir "
"Why the Doc's?"
"Because she was the expert who knew everything there was to know about Colonel Carter and the long term effect of her alien adventures " Mac could tell her answer wasn't putting all of Jack O'Neill's concerns at ease, " Janet Frasier is no longer able to defend her judgement and decision, so I need to do it for her, and to do that I need to be as familiar with her experience as those of you that gained that experience with her. I will not let Major Hartnell tarnish her legacy or reputation, either professional or personal I give you my word on that Sam," finished Mac, looking directly at Sam, hoping that her words gave some comfort to the woman who was now having to place her entire career in the hands of someone she'd barely met her lawyer.
"We can do that " agreed Sam quietly after a long moment during which Mac had been subjected to the most intense and searching scrutiny she could remember as rich blue eyes had just looked at her as Sam thought through everything that Mac had just said and implied, " but we talk about Janet on the way back, not before."
"Ok " Mac was used to making deals and so recognised a non-negotiable one with ease, even though she really wanted to ask why the condition. Fortunately, Jack didn't have such restraint.
"Why the wait?" he asked, only to have his question answered by Teal'c.
"You have forgotten what Thor is asking Samantha to do O'Neill " rumbled the man in what Mac realised was a rather indignant tone, before taking the General rather roughly by the arm and saying, " you will come and spar with me now O'Neill " before removing the General from the Control Room, leaving a somewhat surprised Mac behind with Sam.
"Teal'c's had over 100 years practice at not suffering fools and just under 10 trying to master the US military: they like each other really " offered Sam, shrugging her shoulders as if to say 'I don't understand either' although Mac sensed that the blonde definitely could say more but was electing not to.
"He's going to love cross-examination then " was all Mac could think to say, prompting an unexpected laugh from Sam.
"I'd pay money to see that "
"You won't need to we'll get front row seats and Thor too, if we need to call him" said Mac, joining in Sam's laughter as she imagined a hapless sleazy lawyer trying to cross examine the Asgard Supreme Commander.
Three sleeps and many meals later (even with Mac's ability to always know the time to the second it was hard to keep track as to what day it was in space) found Thor at the controls, bringing them out of hyperspace watched by Teal'c, Jack, Sam and Mac who, after many, many stories told to her by all four of her new friends, couldn't help but feel a nervous anticipation and excitement ahead of what might be about to happen
"Can they see us?" asked Jack when the view-screens immediately showed masses of Replicator ships of various shapes and sizes all seemingly 'dead' in space, which for a Replicator ship was most unusual.
"They cannot O'Neill " stated Thor, blinking with offence at the implied suggestion he would do something as stupid as to exit hyperspace uncloaked.
"Asgard ships have technology that conceals their presence much like your stealth bombers " explained Teal'c quietly for Mac's benefit, having settled quite comfortably into the role of 'interpreter' for the Marine lawyer over the last few days.
"The replicators still appear to be inactive " continued Thor, changing the display to show the inside of a replicator ship sitting on the floor, looking as dejected as before sat the replicator version of Samantha Carter, surrounded by insect replicators that were completely still.
"How are you getting those images Thor?" asked Sam, the question having been nagging at her brain since the first time Thor had shown them the pictures.
"Heimdall took the idea from your wildlife documentaries David Attenborough is our favourite " began Thor, earning him a surprised look from Jack which he ignored, " The Asgard undertake cultural surveys of your planet and we sample your media. In our last sample there were documentary television programmes about wildlife in which this David Attenborough makes use of camera technology disguised to look like something the wildlife is familiar with "
"You build a camera to look like a replicator?" asked Sam, suddenly understanding what Thor was getting at.
"Several Samantha Carter, which we have infiltrated into a number of Replicator ships one is with your replicator counterpart and another is " Thor paused to change the screen output, " with the replicator counterpart of Doctor Frasier "
"She's on the Asgard planet?" asked Jack, noticing the slumped replicator (he refused to think of it as either a 'woman' or the Doc) sitting on a grassy bank, surrounded by equally slumped replicator insects who were presumably on some sort of escort duty.
"The southern hemisphere has many open spaces not developed by the Asgard it was decided by the planet's council not to prohibit the move given that we were approaching."
"Can you get me to that spot Thor?" asked Sam, removing her ALICE vest and P90, leaving her just wearing her black t-shirt and green BDU pants, although she did tuck her pistol in the back of her waistband.
"Of course Colonel Carter "
"You have a plan Carter?"
"I think so Sir depends on the Colonel really " replied Sam, chewing on her lip as she rapidly thought her way through her idea.
"Me?" asked Mac, surprised.
"I think I might need you to act as my girlfriend " said Sam nervously, hoping that the friend she thought she'd made in the last few days of frank discussion about some of her adventures and misadventures as a member of SG1 would react as a friend and not as a fellow officer.
"This mission doesn't have a report " said Jack quickly, not wanting that to become an issue, although it was clear to all that this mission had stopped having a report the minute Thor 'kidnapped' Sam from her previous mission as otherwise, they would have all been up on charges for aiding and abetting a fugitive, namely Sam.
"Act as your girlfriend?" asked Mac, trying to ignore the sensations that thought was causing to her insides she'd return to that problem at a much later date, like when she had two feet on her own planet!
"Probably just hold your hand at worse a kiss " continued Sam, not realising that Mac's clarification and uncertainty was not surrounding what Sam might need to do, but what she wouldn't that Mac was now realising she might want to do
"You want to explain the plan a bit more Carter?" asked Jack, able to read Mac's real thoughts all too clearly, as he had been these last few days: it didn't take much for people to fall for his long time friend, himself included it did however take a hell of a lot for his friend to notice the people who had fallen for her and it seemed that Sarah Mackenzie was the latest if somewhat surprising person to add to the list.
"I go and talk with the Replicator me "
"To what end?" asked Teal'c, voicing the question that was on everyone's lips.
"Help her pull herself back together "
"Carter " warned Jack, not sure he liked where this was going couldn't they just blow up the lot of them now?
"If we try to destroy the ships or the Janet replicator the Replicator me will retake control and angrily destroy us like I did to my lab " finished Sam quietly, alluding to the time when, having finally absorbed the news that Janet really was dead and that there was nothing, Earth or Alien, that medical science could do to alter that fact, she'd proceeded to completely lose all control of her emotions and became a destructive whirlwind in her lab that was only terminated when Teal'c zatted her, stopping herself destroying herself with unstable naquaddah which she was about to treat rather roughly.
"How do you know that Sam?" asked Mac quietly, seeing that there troubled thoughts clouding Sam's eyes but not knowing what they were.
"Because it's what I would do what I did when Janet " Sam was unable to fully verbalise that sentence even now, but no one needed her to everyone understood.
"So how does talking to them work better?" asked Mac, sensing that everyone else was lost for words on how to ask that very question.
"It just does Sir?" asked Sam, turning what Jack recognised to be her unintentional 'secret weapon' on him just as he couldn't resist an overly excited and eager Daniel Jackson when he was clamouring for time with rocks, he had never been able to resist that particular look from Sam it was a look of such naked desperation and determined belief which he had only seen on a few occasions, the first being when she'd appealed for Cassandra to be brought back to Earth and adopted by Janet. The fact that she genuinely didn't know of the effect it had on people nor that she was doing it only made the silent imploring even more persuasive.
"As long as the Colonel doesn't mind "
"No Sir, whatever it takes " responded Mac quickly, catching the approving eyebrow twitch and shadow of a smile from Teal'c.
"Thor, can you turn off that camera when they're down there?"
"Yes O'Neill." Even Thor knew better than to question O'Neill now what he did not understand about the Tauri emotion he made up for by understanding SG1 there were some things that they didn't share, with anyone except each other, and witnessing Sam's relationship with Janet was close to the top of that list.
"Then we have a plan people Carter take a radio: you want us and we're there with C4, got it?"
"Yes Sir thank you "
"Do I need anything Sam?" asked Mac, not having put any tactical gear on ahead of their arrival, unlike the members of SG1.
"Nope, though you might want to leave the jacket unless you want to take a pistol?"
"You're taking a pistol Colonel," confirmed Jack, passing her the one he had in his leg holster, " and a radio you want us, just click the button."
"And you'll bring the C4? Thank you Sir " said Mac, copying Sam and sticking the pistol in the back of her waistband and removing her BDU jacket, revealing a short sleeved t-shirt that exposed her tanned forearms, making her look not dissimilar to Sam whose own long sleeved t-shirt was pushed up to her elbows.
"Not really "
"You'll be fine, just follow my lead " decided Sam with a confidence she didn't quite understand given she was about to talk to a Replicator albeit a replicator in the image of her dead lover created from the memories that another replicator held thanks to her brain being read by Fifth not long after Janet had died then again, maybe now wasn't a time for trying to understand.
"Where would you like me to place you Samantha?"
"50 feet in front of them and slightly to the side?"
"Of course Samantha good luck " and, with that, Thor moved a couple of stones and Colonels Carter and Mackenzie were gone
No sooner had they arrived in the grassy meadow than two replicator insects had set off down the bank to investigate them.
"Just stay still and calm " advised Sam quietly taking Mac's hand in an attempt to keep the tense Marine relaxed and by her side as the replicators came close and circled them, obviously scanning them, only to then return back up the bank to where the Janet replicator sat.
"What's happening?" whispered Mac, trying not to be distracted by the warmth of Sam's hand in her own or how comfortable it felt.
"They've just scanned us and will have worked out we're both human not replicator and who I am "
"Sam?" called out the Janet, her voice carrying on the warm breeze that was blowing gently into their faces.
"Can I come closer?" asked Sam, trying not to react to the familiar sounding voice that coloured in exactly the way Sam remembered it hardly surprising really given that this Janet had been made from the memories held by the Carter replicator who had in turn obtained those memories from Sam herself.
"Of course " this version of Janet sounded hurt at the suggestion the blonde wouldn't be welcome.
"Your escort doesn't normally like me " explained Sam, attempting to sound lighter than she really was.
"They won't hurt you who's your friend?"
"Sarah Mackenzie she's, well " Sam left the sentence hanging and instead thrust their clasped hands forwards towards Janet by way of explanation as she sank down onto the grass, pulling Mac down next to her until they were actually sitting in an ungainly tangle of limbs, Mac held against Sam in a position that looked fairly intimate despite not actually being so.
"Your girlfriend?" asked the Janet replicator, sounding as bitter and hurt as the real Janet would have been in such a situation.
"Yes " Fortunately, this Janet would know that Sam always blushed when talking about relationships so the fact that she was currently blushing now would logically be ascribed to that rather than the actual reason, which was Sam could never lie to her Janet successfully, always giving herself away by blushing; knowing that this wasn't the real Janet wasn't enough to stop the blushes or the guilt about the lie.
"You replaced me, your Janet I mean?" asked the Replicator, revealing to Sam what she had hoped might have been the case given that this Replicator was made from Sam's own memories of Janet and not an imprint from the 'original', the Replicator Janet had been made with all of the recollections Sam had about the real Janet's abhorrence for violence and the replicators projected onto her. Coupled with the Replicator Carter's penchant for violence and megalomania and a human-form replicator's ability to form its own thoughts and opinions, it was hardly surprising that the creation of a Janet Frasier replicator by the Samantha Carter replicator had caused chaos the Janet replicator was loathing her own existence and the replicator that had created her whilst the Replicator Carter was struggling to cope with being rejected and loathed by Janet Frasier.
"No I stopped neglecting myself " came the careful reply which, Sam found herself genuinely meaning. Admittedly, whilst she hadn't yet told Mac about her relationship with Janet, she had spent the last few days talking about missions from years ago in which Janet had played a major part, forcing Sam to talk at length about the woman she fell in love with in a way she'd not been able to since Janet's death, not even with SG1 it was a strangely liberated feeling, one she was finding she was liking.
"We'd talked about you not doing that " agreed the replicator Janet before correcting herself, " I mean, your Janet and you, you talked about how you mustn't neglect yourself if she died just as you didn't want her to do the same if you died "
"Yes, I didn't want her mourning me for the rest of her life if there was someone else she could be happy with " agreed Sam, finding it much easier to talk to this Janet than she'd anticipated, although the ready acceptance by the replicator that she wasn't the real Janet did help massively.
"You never expected Janet to die first?"
"No I was the one getting injured and dying all the time, not Janet she was the one supposed to be safe at the SGC " admitted Sam honestly, unconsciously clasping Mac tighter to her as she remembered that conversation.
"I don't want to exist " said the replicator quietly.
"Why not?" asked Sam calmly.
"Because " the replicator looked at Sam in a way she could never look the Replicator Sam that had created her, with love and genuine regret. It was a look so powerful that Mac couldn't quite stop the tears forming at the corners of her eyes and, unable to imagine how it might be affecting Sam, instinctively wrapped her arms around the blonde's which were grasping her waist almost painfully tight, suggesting the stoic blonde was also struggling, " because I am a figment of your imagination Sam, not that machine's because I cannot ignore the memories that you have which are being ruined by my existence. Your Janet Frasier took an oath to do no harm but to heal which she was rightly proud of, which you were proud of her upholding in even the most difficult of situations. Whilst you struggled with how she could reconcile her love for you despite everything you have been required to do, she knew it was easy for her to love you because you are a good person Sam "
"How do you know all this?" asked Sam, curious.
"Because you know all this I am the product of all your memories of Janet Frasier, not the product of the replicator in your image. Janet Frasier could only hate that thing Sam, just as I despise her "
"So what do you want to do?"
"Terminate my existence and hers " came the determined reply that confirmed beyond belief to Sam that this was not her Janet Frasier but something quite different yet still intrinsically bound by Janet's values.
"Because we are no different to an experiment for a cure that goes badly wrong and becomes a super-virus: whilst there could be much learned from the study of the virus the risk is too great and it should be destroyed."
"But what about the sanctity of life?" asked Sam, recalling many debates she had had with Janet on that point, earning her a surprised gasp of objection from Mac who felt that Sam was trying to talk them out of a winning position. In an attempt to calm Mac Sam found herself instinctively tilting her head so her lips were next to Mac's ear, enabling to her to press a quick kiss to Mac's hair before she'd really realised what she was doing, although the Janet replicator noticed.
"You are both alive I am not, and neither is the machine that created me. We are corruptions of your life Sam, the super-virus lab experiment that needs to end "
"You want to terminate her as well?" asked Sam trying to keep calm.
"There is no good purpose served by the continuation of this experiment as I do not regard hurting you to be a good purpose, unlike the other human form replicators " admitted the Janet replicator, revealing something to Sam she'd not known, well, not properly known although she was sure many had assumed that was the case.
"It's a personal vendetta?"
"Yes and I want it to stop. Will you help?"
"What do you want me to do?" asked Sam cautiously, eager to take this potential opportunity to eradicate a massive proportion of the replicators but also trying not to be too trusting as much as this replicator was not behaving like a replicator, there was still the risk of something, anything going wrong.
"Let me return to the ship with some of your C4 "
"What are you going to do?" asked Sam, finding the request an easy one to satisfy even if all it did cause her to have more questions than answers.
"These replicators are in my sole control, totally cut off from the Carter Replicator I will return to the ships with some more replicators made of C4 that scatter throughout the ships and destroy them," decided the Janet replicator with great determination.
"That will require a lot of C4 " said Mac when it was clear that Sam's brain had stalled.
"Not if they detonate in the right places "
"Destroying the ships won't destroy all the replicator chips " mused Sam, mulling the idea over perhaps once the replicators were free in space the Asgard weapons would work on them?
"Surely your scans have noticed the control the Replicator Carter has on every replicator?"
"They are all slumped and still " agreed Sam tentatively, trying to follow the logic, " are you telling us that the Carter replicator has created a massive neural network through which all replicator chips are controlled?" she asked excitedly.
"Except for the small number that are in my direct control, yes "
"And so when the Carter replicator goes they all go?"
"In theory, yes "
"You're sure about this?" asked Sam, once again tightening her embrace on Mac although this time it was due to genuine joy at a possible solution.
"Yes now, could you return to your ship?" It was clear that the Janet replicator was having difficulty maintaining her composure, perhaps due to how comfortable the entwined Sam and Mac were looking.
"You don't want help?" asked Sam, concerned.
"No this is something I need to do you should go and continue to be happy " said the Janet replicator, gesturing towards the pair who did make a striking couple who suddenly found themselves wrapped in an Asgard transporter beam and transplanted into Thor's control room, much to the surprise of everyone.
"What the hell?" asked Sam, releasing her grip on Mac and helping the Marine to her feet all the while ignoring the disappointment she felt at the loss of contact with the brunette, a disappointment she felt much more than not being able to finish her conversation with the Janet replicator.
"You sent the signal " began Jack, only to be interrupted by Sam,
"She sent the signal turn the camera back on Thor!" instructed Sam, ignoring the questioning looks from Jack about the compromising position she and Mac had been obviously comfortably settled in.
"What does the replicator wish?" asked Thor as the screen changed to show the replicator Janet sitting on the grass, surrounded by her replicators, seeming to cry.
"C4 and detonators "
"What's the plan Carter?" asked Jack, refusing to look at the screen.
"Those replicators are going to take the C4 onto the ships and destroy the replicator Carter which will disrupt her control on all the replicators "
"Like when you kill the Borg Queen in Star Trek?" asked Jack, suddenly understanding the plan.
"Yes Sir, exactly like that "
"Cool what are we waiting for? Thor send her that C4!"
"Can I come in?" asked Mac, standing at the door of the room that Sam had retreated to not long after they had departed from Asgard space having watched the successful destruction of the Replicators at their own hand.
"Sure want to ask me more questions?" asked Sam sounding deflated.
"About me if that's ok?" asked Mac nervously, coming into the room and wishing that the Asgard had doors she could close rather than sensor controlled automatic ones.
"You mean what happened on the planet?" guessed Sam, drawing her knee up under her chin, a pose Mac was soon copying.
"Was the kiss part of pretending to be your girlfriend?" asked Mac boldly, sounding more confident than she felt.
"Does it matter to you?" asked Sam neutrally, unable to decide what Mac's reason for asking the question was.
"Because I find myself hoping it wasn't " whispered Mac.
"I don't know the answer to your question " began Sam honestly, picking at her bootlace with long fingers, " it was something I did unconsciously because you were in my arms..."
"Oh " It was Mac who now sounded deflated, only for Sam to continue as if she'd never been interrupted.
" but I'd never meant to hold you like that as part of the pretence holding your hand would have been enough for that "
"Oh " It wasn't often Mac was lost for words
"You're not gay "
"Not exactly, no "
"Were there any other women before Janet for you Sam?" asked Mac quietly, hoping that her hunch would be right.
"Had it occurred to you that you might be gay before Janet?" asked Mac, remembering Teal'c telling her the story of the mission where they had come across Sam's former fiancé Jonas Hanson.
"No you like me?" asked Sam tentatively, as if struggling to imagine that such a thing was possible.
"Of course " responded Mac immediately, shuffling along the wall so she was sitting a little nearer to Sam.
"Why?" If she hadn't spent the last few days listening to Sam tell the stories of her incredible career with genuine modesty, Mac might have accused Sam of fishing for compliments. Instead, she recognised it as a legitimate question from a perplexed woman.
"You're you you're funny and smart and kind and I've spent the last few days talking with you about everything and anything and still want to continue talking with you for as long as you'll let me " Mac paused, wondering if the real 'clincher' as far as Mac's realisation went would mean anything to Sam if she shared it before deciding to risk it, " you make me lose track of time when you hold me "
"I screwed up your internal clock thing?" asked Sam, half grinning.
"And that's unusual?"
"A first I think "
"Firsts can be good " decided Sam, reaching out with her left hand so it was resting on the floor a fraction from Mac's right one.
"Do you have a first right now?" asked Mac as she shifted her hand so it was touching the side of Sam's, with even that small amount of contact infusing her with a sense of warmth that she couldn't remember ever feeling with anyone else.
"You're the first since Janet that I can talk to, that I can think about like that " stuttered Sam, not sure if Mac understood.
"What would you like to do?" asked Mac, understanding perfectly.
"Holding you again would be good "
Another three sleeps and many hugs later found Sam and Mac once again standing in Thor's control room as the Asgard brought them out of hyperspace to reveal Earth once more.
"Anyone got any ideas how we get everyone back in the right place?" asked Jack, stuffing his hands in his pockets as he considered how they might fix this.
"Teal'c and I need to get back to PX5-7T8 in order for us to 'gate home " began Sam, looking at Teal'c for agreement.
"What do I do?" asked Mac, knowing she was perhaps the most difficult to place since she wasn't supposed to have met Sam yet.
"Drop you in your apartment so you can pack a bag and fly to Colorado to meet me?" suggested Sam, chewing on her lip as she thought.
"There is a message for you O'Neill Colonel Mitchell it seems is aboard the Daedalus and wishes to talk with you "
"Best say hello then the rest of you better stay out the way since you've got no reason to be here " instructed Jack as he crossed to stand in the right place so that his image would be projected by the Asgard communicator to the bridge of the Daedalus which was presumably where Mitchell was making mischief.
"Yes Colonel, went for a little spin with my buddy Thor we had some old friends to say hello to " said Jack, gesturing expansively at someone who only he could see.
"The General can see and hear everything that happens on the Bridge of the Daedalus and everything that happens here, but we can only see and hear him " whispered Sam to Mac, " so be prepared for a very strange eavesdropping experience "
"Nothing much what did you want to talk to me about that couldn't wait until I was at the SGC?"
"Really? You're sure about that?"
"By Presidential Order? That's good news, Carter will be pleased to hear that when she gets back from PX-whatever it was "
"What's good news?" whispered Mac, unable to follow the conversation, wondering if Teal'c or Sam were having a better idea.
"Enjoy your trip to Atlantis Colonel do you good to see the universe " decided Jack suddenly, much to the amused surprise of Sam although, given Jack's tone as he said it and the long pause between his responses, it was obvious that Cameron Mitchell was being a bit too smart for his own good in trying to make conclusions about what was really going on.
"I'm sure the Daedalus can meet all your needs from its stores have a good trip Caldwell, O'Neill out " and, as rapidly as the conversation had begun, Jack stepped back from the communicator base.
"O'Neill?" asked Teal'c, the first to break the stunned silence that had settled on all of them, Thor included, although Thor's silence was more due to his general propensity to fail to understand humans, rather than specific shock this time.
"He was getting on my nerves Elizabeth can deal with him better than I can " shrugged Jack as if to say 'I'd thought you'd be pleased'.
"She'll thank you for that I'm sure Sir " retorted Sam sarcastically, " as will John Sheppard "
"What was his message O'Neill?"
"Seems you don't need a lawyer any more Carter "
"I'll get the full story when I get to the SGC but it seems the Joint Chiefs have used the last few days to good effect they've managed to get the President pardon you or something so you can't be brought up on charges"
"Oh " Sam didn't know what to say was it wrong that she felt disappointed she was no longer up on charges for murder and treason?
"That is good news Samantha " declared Teal'c, crossing to embrace her warmly, pleased for his friend.
"Yes, great news " echoed Mac hollowly, wondering if it was wrong that she felt deprived that she was no longer going to get the opportunity to defend this incredible woman in court?
"I'll go down to the SGC and get confirmation but it looks like you two don't need to go to the SGC via PX5-7T8 " began Jack, ready to transport down to the SGC.
"That would be good news " agreed Teal'c, " but what of Colonel Mackenzie?"
There was a long silence as Jack thought of one thing after the other that he could say but which he didn't want to say. He could make a flip remark about sending her back to her bathroom, or about not everyone getting their day in court but he didn't want to. Years ago he had watched Samantha Carter fall in love with Janet Frasier and, whilst it had taken him some time to get used to the idea, it had made sense to him in the end, especially when he'd seen how happy they'd both been. Over the last few days he'd watched Sam become a little bit more like what he remembered her to be like when Janet had been alive and she had someone discouraging her from carrying the weight of the universe around on her shoulders all the time. He didn't profess to understand what was happening between her and Colonel Mackenzie but it was clear to him that whatever was happening was good for Sam and, whilst he didn't know her particularly, did seem to be quite good for Colonel Mackenzie too, although whether that was Sam or the general buzz that the SGC gave people he wasn't quite sure. Either way, he knew better than to disrupt a good thing
"Don't know why we've never had a Base JAG before now, but I think it's time that changed "
"A Base JAG Sir?"
"Sure Mackenzie we've got a team of lawyers who go through the Gate same as we have teams of scientists and medics who go through the Gate but I don't have a lawyer for the Base "
"And you want me Sir?" One week ago, Mac would have never considered leaving JAG HQ but that was before she'd travelled across the universe and met three types of alien, not to mention Sam Carter
"Why wouldn't I? The Joint Chiefs hand-picked you that works for me " decided Jack, surprising Mac with his casualness.
"What do you say Mac?" asked Sam, suddenly nervous in case her new girlfriend sounded a little weird given that all they'd done was talk to each other about anything and everything, including Janet, whilst holding hands or sitting in each other's embrace, but friend didn't quite sound right either.
"I'd be honoured to be your Base JAG Sir "
"Great beers round my place to celebrate, you too Thor you eat steak right Mackenzie?"
" and Sam?"
"Kiss her already will ya?"
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