Champions Gate
By Elizabeth Carter

Chapter Eight

Razor's Edge

One of the first things Jacob Carter had done, after speaking with his eldest granddaughter, was to return to his ship, via the Rings, and seek out both his mate and Anise. He had many questions that the two women had answers for, answers he demanded.

Anise had returned to the Ha'tac to pack the Zataarc testing equipment for deployment. Arion had returned as well, her idea was to pack her and Jacob's belongings for their voyage to Earth aboard the Malakim flagship.

The elder Carter stormed into the cargo-bay, his anger so over powering that Selmac was forced to take over lest Jacob do something very regrettable. "Anise I need to clarify something of importance. I need knowledge you possess."

The blonde turned, "If I can Selmac. What is it?"

"Chimera. What happened?"

"The Taur'ri and the Malakim were attempting to create a Beta site on Chimera similar to the Alpha site. The Goa'uld learned of this and struck the foundation of the base as well as the Stargate…."

"Don't play games with me young one! Your manipulation of words will never work on me."

The blonde Tok'ra cocked her head and slowly conceded. "The 'Remnant' Malphas had made a pact with Baal, Zipcana and Imhotepe. They were to summon forth a third being of great and terrible power. It was obvious this could not be allowed to happen. I used what resources I had at the time to waylay Baal and the others from taking the power of the Achelous. Baal had intended to take Malphas as a host to control Achelous. Had this been allowed, Baal would have been even more powerful then Anubis the Ascended."

"You were able to somehow contact Arion." Selmac reasoned.

"I was, yes." came her blunt answer. "She proved to be the perfect tool in this measure to stop Baal and his plans. Arion was on a basic reconnaissance mission when I contacted herwhile I, as you know, was undercover aboard Zipcana's vessel researching the Draconian Citadel. It was then I learned of the Malakim prophecy and the Remnants' alliance with the Goa'uld. Using the recourse I had, missing the opportunity to destroy the Baal's advancement and the harvesting of power of Malphas and Achelous was inconceivable. I had to push them into premature actions. I did what was necessary, as I had done when we pushed the Antoniek Armbands at SG1."

"You set Samantha up! I know Arion, how the hell did you convince her to betray Samantha?"

"I was convincing." Anise stated calmly.

"You askme to deliver the liege Commander into the hands of the Diabolicals. That is impossible and I will not comply!" The purple haired warrior protested venomously despite the fog her mind seemed to be swimming in. Arion didn't understand but she felt as if the Great Song was very distant. In fact she felt her willpower yielding to this blonde Tok'ra.

"You must. The 'Diabolicals' have joined forces with the Ruminates and the Calabim followers of Achelous. They must be stopped before they summon this being and harvest it. If it is allowed the System Lords will become more of an abomination then they already are."

"We already intend upon destroying their ships, as they destroyed our Stargate." Arion continued to object even as her will was rapidly decaying.

"No Arion there is a better way. We need to destroy the alliance from the inside out. And the only way this will come to pass is if they take Samantha as a prisoner." Anise pressed.

Arion shook her head. Her nose wrinkled in distaste, as she smelled the scent of wine gone bad, as she had when she first approached the Tok'ra. The scent surrounding the young angelic made her mind swim in haze.

"Samantha is the only one that will survive capture for she is unique." Anise whispered.

"She is mortal with the heart of a Malakim Knight." Arion agreed.

"She is also a survivor of a Blending. She has naquaada within her blood and posseses a new protean marker that has altered her DNA. She is less then Tok'ra yet more then Taur'ri. What the Calabim will do to her would kill a mortal, but not Samantha."

Arion shook her head. "No! I can not betray my liege. There must be another way. To betray Samantha is not acceptable."

"Arion I have walked side by side with Samantha on a few occasions. I know she would comply with drastic measures to put an end to the power of the Goa'uld."

"Then we should speak to her. Bring your offer before her." Arion said.

"No, she can not be aware she is an operative. They will search her mind and discover the truth. However, if Samantha is unaware what is the truth, she is merely a prisoner. And she will do what she can to destroy the link from within, as we destroy it without. Baal intends to take Malphas as a host and dominate (??) Achelous. If this happened he will be more powerful then we can possible imagine. We cannot allow this to happen.

"Arion, Baal will not be stopped if he takes a Remnant or Malakim as host. And he will surely kill your beloved Liege Commander. But I tell you she shall surely NOT die if she is to become a prisoner of the Calabim and used as an agent." Anise pressed.

Arion managed not to gag upon the heady scent of rotted wine as she contemplated the words of her companion. "So it is for the better good that Samantha, for a time, is martyred for the cause of freedom."

"Yes!" Came an exhausted answer from an exasperated Anise. "I can assure you, there will be contacts within the Calabim that I will be in continual communication with. There is a young nurse in the service of a Calabim Physiologist. Once Samantha has been transferred to that facility he will keep an eye out for her and help her escape. He will provide her with a weapon, a Ribbon Device. With it she will be able to strike Malphas down at close range, but Samantha must be in close proximity to do so. There is no other way to destroy this being. And you have orders do you not to assassinate him if possible? Therefore, are you not, only carrying out the orders of your Queen. These are the means that must be used Arion. We stand upon a razor's edge fighting for our very existence. Surly you can understand this?"

"I do."

"It is the only by using this extreme method we can hope to put an end to the darkness brought by Baal and Malphas."

"It will be as you say." Arion finally succumbed to the Nisshta Anise had exposed her too from the beginning of their communion. "How is she to be taken?"

"I know the Colonel's method of military thinking. She will call for an infiltration to enter the Goa'uld ships. She herself will lead it, for it is a most dangerous mission and she would never order another to undertake it, if she herself wasn't willing. She was of like character when I first met her as a Major. Even then she very willingly underwent a mission that could have easily resulted in her death. Even without the physical upgrading advantages of the Atoniek Armbands Samantha managed to, not only complete the mission, but she survived. As she will now. There will be a handful of Jaffa that will force her to surrender." Anise placed a hand upon the young woman's wing and gazed into her unique eyes. The heady scent of rancid wine permeated the air. "It is for the better good of all our people to protect them from annihilation. Remember, what you are doing is the best thing you could do for all of us."

Arion nodded meekly. "I have sworn to protect Samantha, if protection means she must be martyred as a prisoner of the Calabim it will be so."

"Good. Now return to your Liege, the fog is lifting and the 'Diabolicals' are bogged down, remember this and report it to your Liege.

"The Diabolicals are immobile and I must report this." Arion repeated.

Arion watched as the young winged woman flew off to tell her commander that the Goa'uld were locked down, as were the allied SGC/Malakim troops. Whatever options Samantha Carter came up with, Arion, now programmed as a Tok'ra Zataarc, would ensure the Liege Commander saw the idea as futile. This would leave only one true option, Samantha's call to infiltrate the Goa'uld Ha'tac.

"You drugged Arion with Nisshta! You made her a Zataarc." Selmac was enraged.

"I had to. If, as I thought, Malphas had been taken as a host by Baal, the Goa'uld, not the Tok'ra, would have had the advantage of a Malakim host! And the potential threat of the harvesting of Achelous could not be allowed. The only feasible way I could see in stopping this was to play upon the superstitions of the Calabim and Remnants. Samantha Carter was the only one, that could make this happen." Anise argued. "She is the 'Nephallim' of Malakim lore. The Nephallim are a prominent feature in the legend of the summoning of the demon Achelous. The Calabim were going to try to attempt to do this in connection with their alliance with Goa'uld. It would have been foolish not to attempt to take advantage of this opportunity."

"You bitch!" Selmac snarled. "You deliberately allowed Samantha to be tortured."

"Acceptable sacrifices!" Anise countered.

"Acceptable sacrifices? Acceptable sacrifices?!" Still in control of the host body Selmac reacted and backhanded Anise so hard the young blonde flew back against the bulkhead of the cargo bay.

Anise picked herself up, wiping the blood from her mouth. It took a moment for the stars to stop from circling around the younger Tok'ra's mind, but she steadied herself before she spoke to Selmac. "You are too close on this to be objective. Your host is her father."

"Then in his words 'you are walking on thin ice.'" Selmac hissed. "Don't think I wont take Zatnic'atel to you, and I won't just fire it the once."

The argument had escalated to the point that their voices carried to Arion in the small quarters quarantined off from the main section of the ship. The young blended Malakim sought out her mate and Anise to clarify what the altercation was all about.

To say she was shocked by the fact Anise was nursing a bleeding mouth and that her mate held murder in his eyes was an understatement. Jacob was seething, his fists clenched at his sides until the knuckles themselves had turned white from the rage.

"Jacob?" Arion stepped up softly placing a long fingered hand upon Carter's shoulder.

"You are as guilty as she is."

"I do not understand. What is it you are speaking of?" Arion frowned.

"The Calabim and the deliberate handing of Samantha over to them! Is that clear enough for you?" Jacob roared.

Arion had the good grace to drop her head in shame. Even her wings so proudly arched now slumped forward in complete defeat.

<Jacob she is not as guilty, she was a Zataarc of Anise. She was contaminated with Nisshta, her thoughts and her actions were not her own. And Xad is innocent.>

**Not now. ** Jacob turned to the woman he had taken into his bedchamber, and into his heart, as his mate. "Arion, my eldest granddaughter informed me you could somehow share the experiences of what happened. I want to know."

Arion paled. "No you don't."

"Yes I do. And I want to make sure Anise experiences this as well." Jacob still had a hand upon Anise.

The blonde Tok'ra rarely acted as an operative and thus had not had the experience of torture many of Tok'ra had under the oppression of the Goa'uld. Selmac knew this. Unlike Anise "she" and her mate Xad had been tortured brutally under the System Lords.

Arion looked down for a moment, then lifted her unique eyes and it was Xad who spoke. "I have felt this pain Jacob and so has my host, it is not something a father wants to feel."

"This father must." Jacob insisted. "I have to know.

"Very well. But be warned you will feel only a phantom of what Samantha has survived and it is still as grave as that of the pain sticks the System Lord's use. What Samantha survived was greater still. You will live in the memories of what was, feeling all and yet you will remain as an outside observer."

Jacob nodded and looked to Anise, not caring if she was ready for what was to come, he gave the order for Arion to commence with the Rite of Memory-Share.

"You are Sam, you are SG1, and you are my prisoner," the human said. "You wear a collar around your neck that prevents you from futilely using your gifts. Unless you like pain I suggest you don't use them. The usage of your empathic powers also alerts my wrist unit. I will then administer more pain. I control the amount, the severity and the duration. In short, I control you." There was a signal to the reptilian guard who then dropped Sam to the hard floor. Kobal's hand slid to the wrist unit and slightly touched the button.

Pain exploded at the base of Sam's skull, coursing down her spine then out to her limbs. As the spasms racked her body, she yowled in fear and shock. She was falling, but with her back arched and limbs rigid, she was unable to move to save herself. She slammed to the floor, the impact knocking any remaining air from her lungs. Wave upon wave of fiery agony surged through her body as she lay there, unable to gasp for breath. The pulse finally stopped and her body went limp. But the pain remained.

Whimpering softy, she attempted to move her trembling limbs, tried to curl herself into a ball. Every movement, no matter how small, hurt. Where her body touched the floor, where her limbs touched each other, it felt as she were still being consumed by the fire that had surged through her.

"Remember that taste of death, so you will recognize it again when it comes. Remember, the control is mine, Samantha Carter."

Sam tried to speak but her throat was so dry and sore that she began to cough, sending fresh agony lancing through her body. When the coughing ceased, she pushed herself up on her hands until her head and chest were clear of the floor. Human gray eyes regarded her dispassionately.

"What do you want with me?" Sam whispered.

"I am your Inquisitor, in service to the Calabim. I have told you all you need to know. Stand up," Kobal ordered. "The Diabolical Zipcana who handed you over to us was generous enough to allow you to be healed in his sarcophagus. Fortunate, so that now the pain you feel is generated by me."

The hurt was beginning to subside at last, and as the blonde slowly pushed herself upright on her still shaking limbs, she realized just exactly where she was. The room was some sort of dungeon, operated by an alliance of Goa'uld and Remnants, under control of the human Calabim. If she was here, Sam knew she was dead.

Pain gripped her again, felling her to the floor. Her nerves already inflamed by the previous punishment, this time it felt a thousand times worse. Sam lay there, keening her agony, unable to stop because somehow it helped lessen the pain. Finally it ceased.

"You took too long," said Kobal. "Now get up."

Still hypersensitive, every muscle in her body shrieked its objections as she tried to move. Hands slick with sweat slipped on the tiled floor, unable to gain purchase. Sam clawed at the gaps between the tiles, finally managing to get a grip and lift her head and shoulders. Kobal reached for her wrist unit again.

"No! For the love of God, no more," the colonel gasped, pushing herself onto her haunches. "I'll never be able to stand if you do that again!"

This time, when the brief jolt of energy from the collar surged through Sam's system, her body arched upward and she found herself staggering to her feet.

"See how quickly you learn?" the Inquisitor said. "Now the rest should be easy. Simply tell me what I want to know."

"I will tell you nothing."

The next moment, she was staggering backward, her face burning from the force of Kobal's slap. Colliding with the side of the wall, she found her self abruptly sitting back down.

"You were given an order woman. You will obey it instantly," said the Inquisitor, her skin darkening with anger.

Too shocked by the pain and the speed with which the human had moved Sam merely nodded in answer. Sam struggled to stand once more, using the corner of the wall to pull herself up as she had seen the hand of her tormentor go for the wrist unit. "Shall we begin again? Why are you on this planet? You were carrying Naquaada ore. Why? Now, I can make this simple. Even if you try to use your mental gifts it will alert the collar. Every time you feel any emotion but fear, it will trigger the collar and my wrist unit. You know what happens then. Pain."

Another blow to the blonde's face sent her sprawling sideways to the floor.

"Make no mistake, I will find out what I need to know, eventually. How much pain are you willing to go through before you give me what I want?" Kobal hissed.

Sam braced herself for the pain that was about to come.

When it had finally stopped, she lay there panting, waiting for the agony to subside.

Sam heard the Inquisitor say coldly. "I know you traveled the Stargate. I know that you smuggled the Naquaada ore from the mines of Ridgeback Mountains. You only hurt yourself by lying to me."

Sam began to laugh as she squinted up at the inquisitor. It hurt, but she couldn't help it. She was going to be executed and the inquisitor was threatening to torment her with pain, to get answers to questions for which she already knew the answers. Pain exploded through Sam's body again, but this time, mercifully, she passed out.

Jacob's heart shattered. His little girl had suffered so. The expression upon her face would burn forever in his mind. The screeching of pain, the enormity of blood loss, and the weeping, pleading, begging for the torture to end, but it had not.

'My little Sam.' was all he could think. All he could picture was his four-year-old daughter who had cuddled in his arms after taking a hard tumble. Little knees all scraped up, her little tears trickling down her angelic face. Large blue eyes pleading for Daddy to make it better. But this was one time Daddy couldn't help. He could only watch in horrid thrall.

Pain was the first thing Samantha was aware of when she came to. Sam tried to open her eyes, panicking until she remembered she'd been hit by the Remnant. She barely recalled the collar. After she had laughed in the face of her tormentor, the Remnant guard had backhanded her, the blow hard enough to send her spiraling across the room. The angelic being (whether male or female was impossible to tell) had struck another blow to the side of her head. His next blow sent her staggering across the bunk. She landed in an unconscious heap, blood seeping slowly from the cut over her rapidly swelling eye.

Putting a hand experimentally up to her face, Sam gently probed the blood-encrusted cut on her forehead and the puffy eye beneath it. No wonder she couldn't open it. Licking her fingers, she gently eased the eyelashes apart and attempted to open her eyes again. Only a crack, but it was enough. She could still see.

Sam tried moving. She was unable to stop a groan escaping her as she pulled herself free from the tangle of bedding where she had been thrown. Landing on hands and knees, she collapsed to the floor, every muscle and joint a jangle of pain.

Physical pain was not the only agony she had felt in the four days she had been here. She had had nothing to eat, only small glasses of water that were stale and lukewarm, but to her they tasted as sweet as the finest wine. She could feel the walls of her stomach closing in on her. The effects of her torture and the lack of food were beginning to tear at her. She was losing all hold of her strength. Sam sat in the corner of her cell, her knees drawn up to her chest, her arms folded atop them making a pillow for her head

Sam was alive, but for how much longer?

"Good, you're awake." Kobal's voice was filled with saccharin. "I want to ask you some more questions. And I think you learned what happens when you ignore my requests. I can show mercy, Sam. I am not an unkind woman. Surly an alien female like yourself can understand the pressures of carrying a role of leadership."

Sam tilted her head up, her mind foggily wondering what new pain she would be introduced to today.

"Now, before we start, is there anything I can get for you?" The voice filled with false care was a bitter taste in Sam's throat. She was loath to ask, but she was starving.

"Food. You can't keep starving me. . ."

"Let's get one thing straight, Colonel . . . You are a prisoner. Prisoners do not have rights, they have privileges. Privileges that can be given or taken away. Take a look at your magnificent quarters, complete with a privy, and a sink. You have water, a cot and even a blanket. These are privileges. Feel fortunate that you have them. You answer the questions, and I may consider feeding you." The woman smiled. "You are indebted to the System Lords."

"Indebted? To the Goa'uld?!"

"Indeed. They gave you a hunger. You can survive a long time on hatred. They gave you that hatred. Hate them, but be honest about it." Kobal leered, moving closer to her captive. "Free will is a folly, a lie that leaches the flow of True Faith. You and your race are repugnant. Your altruism is worth nothing. Remember your rage at the crash site, Colonel Samantha Carter. Let it guide your hand."

Sam looked up, finding the place in her mind that stood indignantly against her weaknesses; the place that would help her stay in control. When she found it she offered up all she could. In finding her center, she might find that portion of her mind that simply blocked everything out and then she'd become numb.

"Tell me about the Stargate Command and what you are doing here."

"My Name is Samantha Carter, Colonel of the United States Air Force, serial number 66-789-7876-324..."

Sam screeched as Kobal pressed the button on her wrist unit.

"What value is this place to you?"

"My Name is Samantha Carter..."

The button was pressed once more, causing Sam to lapse into a convulsion.

"I will ask you only one last time, Samantha. What value is this planet to SG1 and the alliance? And this time, the pain will stop only when you give me the correct answer, and this time you won't pass out."

The white tiled halls erupted into ear-piercing screams.

"Samantha, just tell me what I want to know and I can give you mercy. You bring this pain onto yourself." The inquisitor let loose the button, allowing Sam to catch her breath. And even as she did, the button was pressed once more causing Sam to arch her back up, only the heels of her feet and her head touching the floor.

Sam shivered under the touch of her tormenter. She wanted the floor to open up and swallow her whole. The blood and sweat was nothing in comparison to Kobal's hand upon her. Wherever the hand touched, Sam felt soiled and befouled.

The voice of her tormentor continued to coo. "Just tell me, and it will all be over. Just tell me the truth."

"I have been." Sam coughed, her lungs raw. The very motion caused a wave of nausea to wash over her. "We are just explorers."

"You expect me to believe that?!" The voice was shrill and filled with disdain. "You came here to construct a military outpost to destroy the fortresses of the Serpent Lords."

"No, it's a neutral planet, a trading post"

The Remnant guard hoisted Sam up by the throat, dangling her over the floor, before he flung her across the room. She hit hard against the far wall before she crumpled to the floor like a puppet with its strings cut. "I am telling you the truth!" Sam roared from a parched throat. She climbed to her feet using the wall to support her lithe broken frame. "It's the truth."

"You lie again, woman! Now tell the truth, you mortal whore!" Kobal's shrill voice cut as sharp to the Colonel's ears as any of the blows the angelic being had dealt her. Holding onto walls where they formed a corner, Sam managed to remain on her feet. She tried to steady her breathing; she knew that she had suffered broken ribs. Last night she had a temperature. She was positive that something was very, very wrong within her. If she were bleeding internally she would not have long. If she didn't have medical attention soon, she would become poisoned by her own blood. After that . . . three days maybe.

The Remnant's backhanded blow came so fast Sam didn't have time to dodge. The strike hit her along side her head, sending her to the floor once more. She felt her lungs burn as she began to cough uncontrollably. Each movement made her ribs scream out in pure white agony. She began to cough up blood.

'Good. It won't be long now . . . I'm dying . . . but not fast enough . . .' Sam held her damaged side, cursing her weakness, her agony. She couldn't move, she could scarcely breathe. Each breath was a new definition of pain and suffering.

"Never tell me you can't do something!" Kobal screamed at her. "You will do what ever I tell you to do, when I tell you to do it! Understand!?"

Sam didn't say a word. She simply let the world spin around her until she felt like vomiting. She suppressed the urge, knowing, and fearing the pain that would follow if she did. Her breath was forced out in a grunt of pain.

"The Inquisitor asked you a question!" The Remnant approached her.

Sam tried not to cause herself more pain by gasping for the air she needed. "Yes. I understand."

"You made a start, Samantha, don't stop now. Be a realist and make it easier on yourself. You have learned that you are dependent upon me, and upon the collar. Let's face it. You know that by the end of the chase we'll have everything we want from you. It's just a matter of time, and we have plenty of that. We can keep this up for hours, but can you hold out that long?"

Sam remained silent, aware that the level of pain she was suffering was rising beyond her ability to cope and it was making her incautious. She was tired, deadly tired. She blinked her puffy swollen eyes repeatedly trying to work the grit from her eyes. The room was beginning to take on a surreal glow

"Now if you answer the questions, you can rest. Eat. You want that, don't you? Just tell me, what are you doing here?"

"I told you! We are on a diplomatic trade mission!"

Kobal's hand moved to the wrist unit and she pressed the button, sending the surge into the collar, causing Sam to go into convulsions again. Her body screamed, experiencing a new definition of pain as the broken ribs became aggravated. The pain from the collar was only a brief jolt, but the compound injuries were more than Sam could endure.

"What are you doing here?!"

"I already told you. . ." Sam mumbled.

The hand moved once more, a small jolt but the pain was everlasting. Tears flowed from Sam's eyes. "I . .I told you."

The collar surged again, and Sam's cries echoed throughout the prison block.

Even the most hardened criminal's heart went out for the tormented soul. In unison voices whispered out, called out:

"Tell her...tell her anything!"

"For god's sake let her go!"

"Let her go, you god-damn bitch!"

"Give her mercy!"

"I already told you." Sam was now whimpering. "I told you. . ." Any words she said erupted in screams of pain, as Kobal had used the device once more.

"Tell me! You're not helping yourself." Kobal hissed. "Just tell me, and this all ends. What are you protecting? Just tell me the truth and you have my mercy. Tell me, Samantha, and it ends. Don't you want it to end? Humm?" The voice was a sickening coo.

The hands that touched her face were gentle, yet she was aware of the strength within them that was being held in check. With a touch as light as a feather, the fingers trailed down her cheek, brushing her neck only hesitantly, before coming to rest on her shoulders. The other woman's body pressed against Sam, her warmth gradually dispelling the chill that seemed to hold her in its thrall. She felt Janet's breath against her cheek, the touch of her face against hers, her skin silky smooth and soft against her own skin. Janet said her name as if it were a caress.


"I dream."

"Yes, my love this is a dream."

"Janet, I love you."

"I know lover. I love you too."

" I can't find you...Janet! Janet! Baby I can't find you...where are you!? Janet!"

With a stifled cry, Sam bolted upright in bed, shaking and sweaty. Her body screamed as the jerking movements caused her immense pain. She lay back down panting into searing flashes of agony. It was overwhelming. The corners of her eyes glistened in blood crusted tears.

The sound of her Janet saying her name still echoed inside her mind as she pulled the covers around herself. Dawn light in the sky told her that it was nearly morning. The blonde dreaded what was to come today. She knew that in an hour the Inquisitor would come with the intent of delivering pain and torment. It was like clockwork. Something Sam could depend on. One hour after sunrise, Kobal would come for her, by the noon hour she would leave. It was always the same. Day in and day out, for how long Sam knew not. Days...weeks? She couldn't tell anymore.

A wave of nausea and dizziness swept through her, a reaction to the pain she was suffering. Her stomach began to convulse and she sat up abruptly, making her pounding head throb even more. She moved to fall from the bed. Landing onto her knees on the floor; the bruised and broken ribs jarred her into immobility. For several minutes her stomach went into spasm , each spasm stopping just short of throwing up its meager contents. Gradually the seizures stopped and she leaned against the cold wall of her cell, gasping.

She blinked, grunting with each breath. The pain was constantly stabbing her insides now. Each breath she took, agony. "Oh. . .God . . .it hurts. . ." The voice of a child to her mother. "Let me die, Oh god. . . please. . ." The chilled emptiness of her cell was her only answer.

The cell door slid open with its usual whoosh. Sam waited silently as two human guards entered. "Get up. Face the rear of the wall!" the nearer guard ordered. "Hands behind your back!"

Gagging, her strength all but gone, Sam used the wall to climb to her feet; her whole body trembled in her pain. She slowly turned her back to them and waited while the one who spoke came across the narrow room. She was roughly grasped; first by one hand then the other as the metal wrist restraint was locked into place.

"What is this now!?" she demanded

"You'll find out in due time." He led her out of the cell.

In her weakened condition, Sam's legs buckled under her. It hurt too much to walk, to move. The guards slung their pulse rifles over their backs and moved to hoist Sam by her elbows. She yowled in pain, but they ignored her pleas as they half carried her, half dragged her down the hall. She was used to their taunts over the last two weeks, so she didn't bother answering the jeers the guards shouted at her. What was left? Kobal had beaten everything she had out of her. Her execution then? Thank god if that were true. At least then it would all be over. She was brought into a smaller cell than the one she had occupied before, about the size of a walk-in closet. The guards stepped away from her; Sam immediately crumpled to the hard floor. She didn't move. She almost laughed, as the guards pointed their rifles at her. In this condition what possible danger could she pose? She was no threat to them.

The door whooshed open a second time and Kobal entered, a wide grin on her face. Sam rolled her eyes, groaning, despising the woman who stood before her.

"Just get it over with," Sam mumbled, beyond caring.

Kobal's hand slipped to the button on the wrist unit, sending Sam into spasms of biting anguish. The moment seemed to last forever. When it stopped, Sam fought for consciousness.

"I ask the questions! Remember?"

Sam closed her eyes, choking back the bile caught in her throat. Her breath was raspy, gargled in blood. She knew death was so close. So near. She could almost smell it.

"No! Not yet! You are not going to die on me!" the Inquisitor shrilly ordered as if she had the power over Life and Death. "Sit up. I want to see your face, Samantha." Kobal pushed the young Colonel into a sitting position.

"See those guards?" Kobal pointed to the two men behind her. "They'll take great pleasure in beating you. And for a reward for their services, I may give them permission to fuck you."

Sam paled.

"I do believe that they hope that you will disobey my orders. They need a bit of fun," she sneered. "And don't let it cross your mind that they will care a bit whether you are dead. They'll still fuck you." Kobal smiled wickedly, licking her full lips as she leaned close to Sam's face. "You belong to me, Sam, to do with as I please." She pulled back, watching the young Colonel. "What pleases me is the three tons of Naquaada ore I gained in trade for you." She sneered again. "You see, the Science guild is interested in you. It seems you are more than mortal, but less than a Celestial. This is very strange...you see the Calabim are very hopeful you are the Nephallim they want...but you will need to be tested first. It doesn't matter to me, Samantha. You were a very valuable commodity to me. Still I think I shall miss you," she cooed, almost believing herself.

"Go to hell," Sam whispered under her breath. She berated herself for the inability to fight, but the lack of proper nourishment had taken it's toll. She looked gaunt and wraith like. No amount of healing could repair the after effects of the starvation. In her two-week incarceration Sam had had one meal and that one had been quite meager, even by squatter standards. She was fortunate to be alive.

Jacob shuddered, how much had Samantha endured? How long was she forced to withstand the torment before she was granted even a modicum of respite? How many days had gone by?

Two weeks at least, had passed. And each day Samantha was woken from slumber with pain. She was crushed under assaulting fists, feet and batons. Then there was that accursed collar around her neck that struck her with more pain then possibly imaginable. Sam would cry out, scream until she had no voice to scream. She was felled again and again throughout the day. She was then left for a few hours of sleep and then it would begin anew.

The horrid sound of the screams of his little girl would forever live in Jacob's mind. It would forever exist in Selmac's consciousness. "She" would carry it with her for all eternity.

And if the torture of Kobal had not been enough, Sam was delivered in to a new torment. This one would assault her mind, as her body had been crushed.

Still weakened, Sam could not fight as she felt her body injected with some unrecognizable drug. Her captors may have changed methods but the colonel realized that her condition had not. She was still a prisoner. This was just another method of interrogation. Bad keeper, good keeper, it was just another game. She had been trained to withstand such interrogations and she would tell them nothing.

The cold expression on her beautiful angelic face had not wavered. It stayed steady watching Beleth as one predator watches another. Sam deified her every movement, her every breath. There was loathing in the tall woman's eyes, pure scorn for her new master. Sam said nothing, shrank from nothing. Her courage astounded the Calabim psychologist. Perhaps she was the one to call forth Malphas and there was only one way to find out. She had to somehow gain this warrior's trust. Where Kobal had been the tormenter, Andrealphus would play the nurturer.

"Tomorrow, I am scheduling her for another battery of tests. I want to explore a few theories before I have to give her up. Besides, the Calabim want answers. With her intelligence she simply could be telling us what we want to hear. I am going to insure she is forthright with us."

Sam woke up. Her world had recently gone deeply weird. One-minute life was life filled with family, SGC, friends, Science. The next minute it had become fear and violence, an anarchic lawlessness that extended down to the level of the fundamental physical laws. She was far from home. As far from home as it is possible for a human being to get. Not a far distant place, yet a place apart, a place not touching reality, isolated. Forget the normal. Normal was gone. Normal belonged to the real world. If she closed her eyes and lost consciousness, she was transcended into the other world. Or back again. She never slept; she was in one world or the other, always awake. She knew she had to be in another world. If a dream...why then did she feel pain? You do not feel pain in a dream. So logically she was in another reality.

From time to time, Sam had seen even in her world, the real world, that there were degrees of reality. Not "throw Newton or Galileo out the window" anomalies, but tiny gaps in the structure of reality. The Tunnels of SGC had been a prime example, the Malakim another, the SG1 yet a third, and the Grove a fourth. Yes, reality. How it all changed. Just peeks and glimpses of strangeness, all somehow caused by the comings and goings in her cell. Her world had become opaque. Fall asleep over there in the Otherworld, lose consciousness, and suddenly you're back in the real world, or even the other way round. That seemed to be the key. Consciousness kept her there. But knowing that, or at least believing that, didn't tell her how she could avoid going back, how she could grab on and hold on to her own world. And she did want to hold on.

And then they would only run more tests. The same tests. Everyday, the same tests: blood, bone marrow, tissue, urine, and brain-fluid. Then they would test her memory. Her mental reflexes. Ask her questions. Never once had they asked her of SGC or her teammates, as had her first inquisitor. Never once had they asked her about the Malakim. Never once had they said anything about her mission.

The doctors murmured and muttered over her records, over the biochemistry findings. They couldn't believe what the lab reports told them. Not entirely human.... What the hell did that mean? The doctors began considering various theories. Most of it sounded like something out of science fiction. Was she a genetic experiment? Was she a genetic mutation or perhaps the next step in the evolutionary scale? Was she the Nephallim the Remnants were hunting for?

The more tests they ran, the more uncooperative Sam became, until finely she stopped speaking altogether. And so they took away the privilege of books, writing material, anything remotely interesting. She had nothing but what the tests gave her. And desperate for any sort of stimulation, she preformed the tests like a trained monkey. She was doing it out of behavioral patterns, without emotion, without heart.

The doctors' speech drummed in her ears. Sam forced their voices into the static of white noise. She forced the thrumming to fade. She concentrated on her heart, the thump...thump of her heart, and the steady rhythm of her blood flowing in and out.

Sam lost consciousness in her own self-hypnotism.

"Welcome...So you have returned willingly. I am surprised to see you."

"You have answers." Sam challenged the disembodied voice coming out of the black box. This was the entity that hade been tormenting her during her unconscious time, or was it just another form of reality? Sam had ceased to know the difference anymore.

"And you think I'll give them to you."

"No...I do not. But I will take them from you." The blonde sneered

"I want an answer myself. Tell me Samantha, what is reality?"

"Reality is the truth of the world around you. Reality is not fantasy. Reality is existence"

"And are you in fantasy or reality? What reality are you in?"

Sam was silent. She couldn't answer what she didn't know. She turned from the box, ashamed. "I...do...not know."

"Then you do not exist." The voice teased.

"Yes I exist! I exist! Pain is real! Blood is real! I feel pain. I bleed. I am real!"

"Pain and blood. Blood and pain...Yes. Simple. And so life is the blood and blood is the life?"

"Admittedly...Where there is life you will find blood, yes. A tree, it has sap...That is it's blood. The earth... she has rivers, oceans, seas, and lakes...magma it is her blood. Carbon based-life forms have iron based plasma...yes, blood is equated to life. A being cannot live without blood. A tree without sap withers and dies. A planet without water has no life. Carbon-based beings cannot live without plasma. So yes, life must have blood in order to exist. Now, I have answered one of your questions. You will answer one of mine. The drug that has been give to me. There is a hallucinogen in it. And it is opium based. What is it?"

"I think, I'll let you deduce that on your own. You have done so well so far. Considering you don't exist."

"I do exist! I do exist!" It became a mantra. "I do exist! I do exist! I do exist! I do exist!"

Jacob and Selmac had become enraged almost beyond the measure of their own self-control. This had been brought to "their" daughter because of Anise. Anise had insisted Samantha be used. Had she any idea what the Calabim were going to do? May Providence have mercy upon her soul if she had.

The Calabim were vicious in their assault upon Samantha's mind. And again Jacob Carter's little girl struggled to maintain a hold upon herself and her surrounding. But it was clear she was losing.

"You are one of them!" Sam lunged for the arm, showing the tattoo. An orderly snatched his baton and clubbed Sam in the back of the knees, sending her to the floor with a muffled cry. She was on her hands and knees when she felt a kick go into her stomach. She was on her side cradling her new wound. "He is Calabim! You wear the mark! Bastard!" She was up, lunging for the doctor, but the orderly picked her up, slammed her onto the banquette table, holding the baton over Sam's throat.

"He...is one of them!" she choked out. "He is Calabim!"

Director Vapul had a hypo ready, filled with a tranquilizer. He stabbed the needle into the meaty part of Sam's chest.

Even as Vapul came closer, Sam kicked the guard hovering over her, leapt from the table, her legs buckling as the tranquilizer took effect. She was on the floor, unable to move more than an inch. Vapul closed the distance between them. In one last desperate action, a push sent Vapul on his backside, the contents of his pockets spilling onto the floor.

One green liquid filled vile hit Shedim's white shod foot. Causally the nurse picked up the vile and shoved it into his own pocket. "Doctor. That dosage..." he began protesting, moving between doctor and patient. But Vapul's goon took the hypo, filled the triple

dosage from the doctor's hand, and jabbed it into Sam's chest, pumping her full of the green drug.

Sam clutched her heart. The whites of her eyes wide. Shock. Her body froze in rigidness. Stiff pain. Then all too suddenly she collapsed.

Jacob trembled again in sharing the feeling of knowing what had happened to his precious daughter. His beloved child had survived so much that not even Selmac thought a soul capable to withstand.

Anise wept. The young Tok'ra had no idea that Samantha would have been so tormented. The fact the colonel had indeed survived was more then astounding it was beyond belief.

Samantha Carter's body had been shattered, bones broken, major organs damaged. Yes, her tormenters had healed her, but then they would start the whole process all over again. And they had not stopped with her body they had tortured her mind.

It was Janet Fraiser that Sam had clung to, to rise out of the dark agonizing assaults. It was Janet that Samantha had looked to for sanctuary. Janet's love that gave Sam the courage to live when all she wanted to do was to die. She had made a promise to her beloved wife.

Jacob had seen it all. He had watched as his starving daughter forced herself not to gulp down the meager bits of stale food she was granted. He watched as she tried to escape by painting herself so exactly the likeness of tree bark she was completely concealed. He had watched her flight though the air ducts when she fell and had to pull the shrapnel free of her own body. Jacob had watched as Samantha thought herself safe when she was reunited with Arion. He watched as Arion kissed her fully and betrayed his daughter.

Jacob had seen the climb up the many steps of the pyramid, each movement bringing such pain. As the former Malakim had said, those partaking of the Memory-share had both lived and witnessed it all.

Jacob understood more fully now why the Malakim were so damned protective of his little girl and he would have it no other way. He understood why Sam was so venomous to Anise's comment that Janet was a weakness. In fact that remark could not have been more wrong. Janet was the icon of strength for Samantha. Sam had lived only because of Janet's heart and love. Again Jacob would have it no other way.

Arion turned away from the other two her expression grief-ridden. "I'm sorry….so sorry."

Jacob didn't answer. He covered his face in his hands and silently wept, for once not caring if this display of emotions had been witnessed. He wept for his little girl, for the inability to have done something. For the fact he had not truly known of the torture and therefore had not been to see her, to be there for her. He wept deeply for the first time since he had lost his beloved wife.

Anise lay broken where she fell. She had pulled inside herself leaving Freya to deal with the torment of what she had witnessed alone. The blonde pulled her knees to her chest and for the first time since her Blending she seriously doubted the wisdom of her choice. Because of her another soul was almost destroyed. What made her better then a Goa'uld? What was the difference between no morals and being amoral?

Xad was enraged and saddened. Since the blending 'he' had known of the grief Arion carried always and why, but until now 'he' had not fully experienced it. And 'he' was gratified that 'he' had been able to "see", so that such instances would never again be commanded by 'he' or 'his' host again. More than that he was gratified to know his host felt the virtue of guilt over the atrocity of Samantha Carter's betrayal and torture.

"I will never forgive you Anise for what you did to my child. Never." Jacob uttered in a breath of measured control. "You are as black-hearted as the Goa'uld and I should kill you where you stand."

The blonde Tok'ra archeologist said nothing.

To Arion, Jacob closed his eyes and a sighed breath trickled out. "You were controlled by Nisshta." Selmac said. "Your actions and your thoughts were not your own. You were Anise's Zataarc." The twin voice softened. "Give me time Arion. One day we will be okay, but I need time."

Arion nodded slowly, but had no voice, no will to speak.

Aboard the starship Gwihir the eerily haunting tones of Gregorian chants could be heard wafting even into the smallest maintenance tubes. It gave the sounds of serenity and ease. Samantha, having never been aboard a Malakim ship, was a little shocked that sounds echoed everywhere as if in a grand cathedral with perfect acoustics. Janet, from experience, knew the sounds could be changed within a moments notice from the soft chants of devotion to sounds of war hymns. The music inspired emotion like no other force. Now it inspired calmness and release of tension. Concerning the passengers the angelics would be transporting that serenity was more then needed.

Though neither women were of the Catholic faith the chants were always beautiful to listen too. Back on Earth the Gregorian Monks had even recorded their voices so that one could listen to the devoted music at leisure. Here aboard the Gwihir one could feel closeness to what ever higher power one followed. This was the touching of the Great Song for the Malakim who were as devoted to their faith as even the most dedicated, pious cleric. Even the humans could not ignore the spiritual connection the Malakim inspired. What separated the Malakim chants from the Gregorian chants of earth, the introduction of females voices joined the heavenly sounds, thus creating an even more enchanting vocal symphony.

For Samantha it gave her a peace-of-mind she hadn't completely felt since before the apocalyptical) events on Chimera. The discord that racked her spirit was slowly becoming vanquished by the pull of the World Symphony. Perhaps in the voices of the Choir the Blonde colonel could feel what it was Novalis was speaking of. The Symphony was what bound the angelics to their paradigm for reality, without it they could never touch the Great Song.

The Symphony was everything. The lives lived and the reality felt are just hints of its ultimate complexity. The pattern of the Symphony was inescapable. It was in every blade of grass and every star in the sky. In writing the Symphony, the heavens and earth had been created. And through it the universe and the Great Song itself was created. And, for a time, Samantha knew the power of its connection. It was like nothing she had ever felt before. It was as if her soul had been given a climatic surge of freedom.

Sam wasn't the only one to notice the change in her own demeanor. Janet had of course not only noticed the ease in her wife's heart but she felt it washing over her through the Bond. It was Rebecca who had commented upon it. She, like her Mommy, had an empathic bond to her Mama though on a slightly different scale. When her parents became intimate she knew nothing of it, nor could she feel anything, however she could feel the levels of emotion in her mothers. And while onboard the Malakim vessel listening to the angelics' voices her Mama felt 'still' not what Rebecca had called 'the buzzing.'

Cradled in her Mama's arms little Rebecca allowed the joy she felt from the embrace to filter into her connection to her blonde mother. The child giggled as she felt the 'warm inside tickling' that occurred to her mothers whenever they held her. To the girl of five it was the best feeling in the world.

Sam pressed a kiss to her daughter's temple as they sat in the rocking chair in the child's quarters of their suite. Rebecca had accompanied her affectionate mothers on Gwihir, considering recent events neither women would wish to see the child distant from their sides for long. It was the Queen herself who insisted the child be taken aboard her flagship and she herself had volunteered to watch over Rebecca when her mothers were otherwise occupied.

Novalis had receded into the background upon this mission, wanting see how her 'heir' accomplished her tasks despite the discord of her spirit. Consequently the Queen of the Malakim spent the quantity of her time looking after Rebecca. She was enjoying the pleasure as it had been centuries since she had had such a little one. Of course Rebecca had an infectious aura about her; making the Queen think seriously about having another child, as she absolutely adored the little mortal.

Sam was almost oblivious to everything around her at this given moment, save for the child held preciously in her arms. Samantha Carter was singing to her precious child. And so it was she had not noticed that Janet had let her father into their quarters.

"God its like forty years ago and I am watching my Becca hold Sammy." Jacob said with a catch in his voice. " They are so much alike. So much. It was hard to look at Sam when her mother died. They share the exact same eyes…the shape, the color…the expressions. Eyes of a poet, filled with emotion and thought. If you were to hold a picture of My Rebecca next to Samantha when they were both teens you'd swear you're looking at the same woman."

Janet looked on, the smile upon her face pure affection for her wife and child. It never failed to fill her with warmth when she saw her beloved holding the tiny being their love had created. Rebecca was a source of joy and hope for both of them.

"Janet. . . I know what happened on Chimera. I made Arion tell me…No! I made her show me."

Janet looked sick. The very mention of what happened to her beloved on that accursed place made her stomach churn and her heart flood with anguish.

"How is she?" Jacob looked to his beloved daughter, softly rocking her own child in her arms.

"Outwardly she throws up the tough little solider armor. Inwardly she is struggling Jacob. Sam is struggling so hard to ground herself. There hasn't been a night that has passed that she doesn't have horrific nightmares. They are so vididly real for her; I am more then a little worried. She stands but on the edge of a razor's edge Jacob. If she strays even a little, she will fall." The sigh that escaped her lips was heavy, her heart sinking at the thoughts that rambled into her mind.

"She was catatonic as she had been with Jolinar for the first week. I was so scared that I had lost her. That those bastards had won after all. They befouled her mind so she doubted everything. I couldn't leave her side, or line of vision, without a panic attack taking her. She had pulled so far into herself I doubted she would ever return to me as she was. Rebecca finally managed to pull her out. Sam knew her daughter needed her, and just like she had with Cassandra, Sam responded to a child's presence."

Janet wiped the stray tears forming in the corners of her eyes. "She's hurting Jacob. And I have to let her. I don't even think she should be on this mission."

"It would be good for her to be active. Even in this minor capacity." Jacob said. "It will make Sam feel like she's needed, that her work is valued. Sam doesn't do idle well. She didn't as a kid or a teenager, and she won't now. She needed to be active."

"O'Neill said the same thing." Janet growled.

"And you disagree?"

"You don't have to pull her out of terrible nightmares every night. You weren't there when we brought her home, to see her broken spirit. Like I said if she couldn't see me, she would go into a dead panic, believing she was back with that fucking director who messed with her mind. She was like a child the way she clung to me. So in my medical judgment Jacob, she shouldn't be here!"

Jacob winced and closed his eyes. Opening the dark orbs once more he looked at the tiny woman before him. "Janet this is a diplomatic mission. The hard part is over." It was Selmac's voice now speaking.

"You know we only came to 'make a long distance phone call to the Blue Wing.' This …Zataarc / Ashrak business …is new."

"Then consider it fortunate that you were on this mission. Had you not been, perhaps the death toll would have been higher. What do you think Sam would have done if you were targeted, or your daughter? Do you possibly think she could survive your loss?"

Janet shivered, feeling sick. She didn't want to imagine, she couldn't imagine….but she knew. Samantha would have gone over that razor's edge and fallen into suicide. And what if the hunters had taken Sam away from Janet? Janet had never been more terrified than when she had thought she had forever lost her wife. Truth be told those first few days Janet didn't want to stray far from her beloved's side.

"I owe you much Janet." Jacob suddenly said, causing Janet to spin around and look at her father-in-law with curious awe.


The gray haired man shifted his vision to the floor beneath his feet. He was never very good with the touch-feely side of life. But he knew he had to say the thoughts that were within him, his daughter deserved it. He daughter-in-law deserved no less. In fact a lot of credit was due to this petite woman before him.

"Sam was right. It was you."

"Janet was still confused.

"She lived for you Janet. She survived all of that for you. Hell! I am an old soldier and I am not certain I could have survived what my daughter went through. She never betrayed her world, her people. She never gave into them"

Janet finally understood what it was her father-in-law was trying to explain. He struggled with his own emotions, his own self-control. Though he must have washed his face his dark brown eyes betrayed him, he had spent several minutes weeping over the torment he had witnessed. Janet looked to her wife then to her daughter.

Janet knew what it was to stand and see her beloved struggle to find her center, her sprit. What more would it be to have to be a parent and be unable to do anything? What if it had been Cassandra or Rebecca? Janet knew the fear well of watching her child die. Not once but twice. Once, because of a genetic manipulation Cassie had been delivered to Sergeant Death. Janet had held Nirrti at gunpoint and she would have killed her if she hadn't have healed Cassie. There was never a doubt in the Doctor's mind that she would have killed. Then Becky, her very life started out in the danger of losing her to death.

"Sam has a strength I have never seen before." Janet murmured.

"Then you haven't looked in the mirror have you?" Jacob said softly.

Janet did a double take. It had to be Selmac's influence that allowed this emotionally stunted man to so willingly share his inner thoughts. Perhaps the symbiote really was good for something other than healing cancer. Of course, most of the Tok'ra Janet had met she hadn't liked. Martouf, who played Sam's emotions like a harp because of Jolinar. Anise. …Janet thought she had better not get started on that bitch. That was one being Janet couldn't stand, she had about as much love for Anise as she had for Nirrti.

"It takes a strong spirit to do what you're doing. Bringing Sam back from that blackness. I know what it is to be a POW. I was in a tiger cage in Nam for three weeks…I never had to go through all that Sam had. Yeah they tortured me…but not like what those Calabim bastards did to Sam. When I came back, Rebecca was there at my side every step of the way, even when I pushed her and the rest of my family away. Sam was so little I doubt she remembers, she only knew her daddy was not himself. It took me a long time to get over it and I know I broke Becca's heart more then once. I yelled at her, alienated her, clung to her. She was there for the nightmares. Believe me, I know the pain of trying to recover some measure of yourself after something like that. Sam's got a long road ahead of her." Jacob looked to Janet and his expression softened. "And I think you have a longer one. I wish my Becca was here to tell…what it was like for her. Maybe give you a hand."

"You miss her."

"Yes, a great deal. She was a great woman." The elder Carter chuckled. "She had to be to put up with an old bastard like myself."

Janet snickered a dry laugh at Jacob's joke at his own expense.

"You know Janet… when Sam told me she was involved with a fellow officer at the SGC, I figured it was O'Neill. She said at the time it was against regs and she couldn't really talk about it. She told me because I was a little worried she was alone."

Janet nodded in understanding. Jacob wasn't the only one to assume that Sam Carter and Jack O'Neill were an item. And Sam said nothing against the rumors; she didn't feel she had to. To deny them would almost assuredly give validation to them. But to remain silent was to quietly deny them, as well as to give cover for what was then a faction that gave little or no tolerance for homosexuals.

"Sam told me she owed me the truth, and then she told me of you. She said you two had been in a relationship for a long time. She said you weren't just the best friends people thought you were. Nor were you housemates raising a teenager between you. She said that, in your hearts, you were already married.

"I was stunned and shocked and a little more then angry. I felt she had betrayed everything I raised her up to be. Then I blamed myself, for pushing her too hard after her mother died. I treated her just like Mark. Let her play the rougher sports, she had always had a fascination with motorcycles, with wanting to fly. She was always tomboyish growing up. And I encouraged it. I figured that had something to do with it. Sam would do feminine things with her mother, but after she died….I sent Sam away to boarding school…I guess I thought, maybe if she had more I don't know….less exposure to a male atmosphere she would be straight.

"Janet, please understand I wanted to toughen up my little girl because she always had a dream to become an astronaut. To do that Sam had to be military, not just a scientist. She had to go military if she wanted to fly the bird and so I pushed her. I made sure she pushed her emotions away from her. I made her detached, I told her emotions made her weak and they would already hold her being a woman over her. "

"So when she admitted to being a lesbian, you assumed these were the factors in the equation that attributed her preference." Janet said in almost a medical fashion.

"Yeah." Jacob said and swallowed hard.

"And now?"

"And now I know, she's in love with a soul who is everything I wanted for my little girl." Jacob grinned. "What parent would deny their child that?" Dark brown eyes lingered upon the child Sam was now tucking into the little bed. "And it is obvious you two have found a way to have kids…."

"Well that was due to the Nox and their ability to initiate cross ovum-fertilization." Janet said quickly.

"Still little Rebecca is part you, part Sam. In blood, not just in spirit like Cassie."

Janet nodded understanding. She felt the same way. Janet too was in awe that she and Samantha had created a life between them.

When Sam came out of the bedroom of her daughter she was a bit surprised to see her father talking with her wife.

"Dad?" Blue eyes intensely studied the man before her. She was utterly shocked and stymied when her father grabbed her into a tight hug. It was the sort of embrace she hadn't felt since she was still very little. "Dad…is everything okay? What's wrong?"

"Sam I know." Jacob uttered, a little thick in his throat. It was a daddy who now looked at his little girl with such compassion that it threatened to overwhelm Samantha, as she was more accustomed to her father being emotionally closed.

The tall astrophysicist gazed at her wife over the shoulder of her father who still held her tightly. Janet mouthed the word 'Chimera' and clarity flashed in the brilliant azure eyes. "It's not something I want to do again anytime soon." The blonde joked uneasily.

"Sam, I wish I could take that pain from you, from what you went through…" Jacob started and cursed himself for faltering.

"No one can live another's fate, Dad. At least that's what the Malakim say." Sam answered softly.

"I don't know how you did survive Sam. From what I saw…it's astounding."
To the older Carter's ears his own words sounded tripe and flat.

Sam looked to the woman who held her heart. "I made a promise to my wife, Dad. I promised her I would come home. Even if she wasn't there to hear it, I made it. There would have been no surviving without Janet, then or now." The blonde took Janet's hand, brought it to her satin lips, and softly placed a gentle kiss onto it's back. "She is my strength."

Part 9

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