DISCLAIMER: Though I love the characters dearly, they aren't mine. They belong to a whole gob of really nice folks like Showtime and MGM and Gekko and assorted others. I'm simply borrowing them to keep myself entertained, and promise to play nicely with them and put them back when I'm done. I do this for love, not money; the above-mentioned owners are invited to steal rather than sue. (Please?)
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Ok, so blame this one on "Doctor Who and The Android Invasion" I took a bare kernel of an idea and warped the idea and came up with this. As always, feedback is welcome, and constructive criticism is great. Thanks go to Barb and Phil, just because.
PS to DW fansI did mention I warped the idea a lot, didn't I? Please don't hurt me.
SEASON: set in season two, sometime after the episode mentioned below.
SPOILERS: relatively minor ones for One False Step.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
By ocean gazer
"Hey good looking!"
Janet Fraiser looked up from her research file and did a slow pivot when she heard those words spoken in Sam Carter's familiar voice; she was taken off guard, to say the least, by the unexpected entrance. The blonde Captain sauntered up to her side, draped an arm around her shoulder, and added, "Have you got anything cooking that I should know about?"
Janet raised an eyebrow at the greeting and gave a sharp jerk of the head to indicate the security cameras planted at random intervals around this section of the infirmary. Luckily they were not in the sights of one, and the vocal recording capabilities were somewhat muted, but there was no sense in tempting fate. And showing their affection on video would definitely qualify as tempting fate as far as their respective careers were concerned.
Moving slightly away from Carter, she hissed in a low voice, "Have you forgotten about all the security cameras installed down here?"
Carter glanced up, reflexively, her gaze clouded. She shook her head, as if to clear it, sighed heavily, and glanced at Janet. "It is just really nice to see you. We just were released from the post mission exams, and Doctor Warner told me you were in the lab doing some research. I wanted to have a few minutes with you before we de-brief with General Hammond, just to hear your voice and see your face."
"It's nice to see you too, Sam," Janet managed in a quiet voice. "But we need to be careful to not give anyone the wrong idea."
Sam sighed again and leaned against the bed rail at her back. "Or the right idea, as the case may be."
Janet narrowed her eyes as she regarded the woman, who was looking decidedly dejected. The strain of keeping their relationship hidden was not a new one, but ironically enough, she was usually the one feeling depressed about it while Sam worried about her.
That irony sent a stab of concern through Janet, and her automatic instinct was to reach out and put a hand to Carter's forehead to check for fever. She knew perfectly well that her medical staff would not have released the woman if there were any questions about her health, but the urge to double check anyway was too strong to ignore. As much as Fraiser trusted in and relied on her staff, she usually felt better when she could see things with her own eyes rather than read them on the dry pages of a report.
The object of her concern chuckled unexpectedly and said softly, "I am fine, really. I have just missed you so much."
Fraiser met the laugh with a laugh of her own. "You've only been gone three days." Noting the puppy dog look that met her words, she added in a hasty whisper, "I've missed you too, but we have to be careful while we're here. You know that as well as I do."
The Captain offered another profound sigh and Janet felt a sudden sense of both discomfort and perverse amusement at the woman's display of emotion. She was not used to seeing strong, confident, rational Samantha Carter looking so out of her depthwell, at least not at the SGC. In the privacy of Janet's home, away from critical military eyes, and exploring the largely unfamiliar worlds of intimacy and love, Sam often looked a little lost and overwhelmed. The innocence of the woman's reactions was one of the things Janet found so appealing about herbut it seemed wholly out of place and uncomfortable when it crossed into their working environment.
She tamped down her amusement and pushed away the discomfort, sternly reminding herself where they were and adding a professional tone to her voice. "So, Captain, is there something I can do for you?"
Carter glanced up and shook her head briefly as she regarded Janet carefully. "No, I just wanted to say hi." The puppy dog look still hung on her features, but she seemed to finally remember just where she was.
Janet nodded her head, and then heard the approach of heavy footsteps coming rapidly down the corridor to the lab. She quickly offered a silent "thank you" for the few seconds of warning, and backed away from Carter, holding her clipboard in front of her as an additional distancing tool. Just as a pair of Marines entered the room, Janet said, "Thanks for checking in with me, Captain. Glad to hear you all made it back from a mission with no scrapes and bruises for a change."
The Marines snickered at that, which was the reaction Janet had hoped for. She wanted them too distracted to wonder why Sam was here with her, since she was not the doctor on duty and since it was not Carter's usual routine to make social visits before a de-briefing. (One of the joys of being part of a relatively secluded military unit was that it closely resembled a small town in that people's habits and routines were fairly well known.) And it was a source of many a joke that at least one member of SG1 could get hurt on even the most innocuous mission.
Sam seemed to finally have gotten herself together as she said, "I just thought you would like to know that we behaved ourselves for a change. Anyhow, I have to go, so I will talk to you later."
She started to edge out of the room and Janet called after her, "Don't forget, you're supposed to come over this afternoon and help me paint Cassie's room while she's on that overnight field trip. Come back down after the de-briefing and you can ride home with me."
Sam nodded and then made her way down the hallway. Janet turned her attention back to the still snickering Marines. They both shot her their best innocent looks.
"Now, now boys," she chastised gently, "it isn't nice to laugh at the misfortunes of others. SG1 can't help it that they seem to have bad luck anytime they step through the Stargate." Actually, she mused, it really wasn't even a team problemit was just that Daniel, in particular, and O'Neill couldn't seem to go more than a day without a mishap.
One of the men sobered up under her rebuke, but the other continued snickering evilly. Janet rolled her eyes, starting to feel a little exasperated at the reaction, even if she HAD instigated it. The sober man noticed her reaction, elbowed his companion sharply in the ribs to shut him up, and asked quickly, "So, painting Cassie's room, huh? How's she doing anyway?"
Seeing the keen interest on his face, Janet launched into the sort of tales spun by proud mothers everywhere, pushing her mild concern about Sam to the back of her mind for the moment.
"I have no idea what came over me. I am really sorry, Janet," Sam apologized for what the doctor estimated was the tenth time in twenty minutes.
She didn't answer for a moment, preoccupied with not running over Cassie's dog where it lay sprawled in the driveway, completely oblivious to the car's approach. Janet swore under her breath but managed to avoid any canine death or dismemberment.
She looked over at Sam, who was staring distractedly out the window. For the tenth time, Janet said, "It's not that big a deal, Sam. We just need to be really careful." She studied the blonde for a long minute, feeling like there was something else she should say to put the woman's mind at ease. The problem was that she had no idea what to say.
She'd never seen her lover so preoccupied by something that didn't involve either mathematics or astrophysics. Not that Sam couldn't dwell on things with the best of them, but she usually kept those kinds of reactions to herself a little more. And not that Janet was complaining, she just felt as if something in their relationship had shifted over the past few days and she needed time to learn how to respond. That was one of the things about being in love that people too often glossed over, she mused quietly, that it took learning to know how to relate to someone on such a deep level.
After a long moment of silence, Janet reached out and let her hand rest lightly on top of Sam's hand. "I am really flattered by how strongly you care about me, you know, by the fact that you had a hard time keeping up the pretense for a moment." She felt a sense of relief that she seemed to have hit the right thing to say when the blue eyes swung her direction and the other woman's face lost some of its tightness. With a hint of teasing in her voice, she continued, "And once we walk in the door, we don't have to pretend anymore."
A smile was her reward and she squeezed Carter's hand tightly. The women clambered out of the car, each taking charge of a can of paint for their afternoon project. They started up the walkway, and the dog ran up to greet them, only to howl abruptly, bark menacingly, and race as far away from them as its chain would allow.
Muttering several choice words under her breath, Janet handed the paint to Sam, ushered her into the house, and grabbed hold of the leash to escort the dog into the backyard. Not for the first time, she cursed O'Neill under her breath for the gift to Cassie. The girl loved the dog and tried to be responsible, but as with parents everywhere, Janet ended up far too often being the one to remember those minor details like food and water and playtime.
As she locked the gate and walked to the door, she mused, "And here I had such misguided fairy tale pictures of the house with the white picket fence and the perfect family, complete with the sweet and lovable family dog."
Walking into the house, she found herself swept off her feet and into a twirling embrace. It was just like the ones depicted in movies, only with the added elements of dizziness and light-headedness. Janet tapped hard on Sam's shoulder, and with a muffled apology, the woman set her down.
Janet let herself lean into the woman's warm arms, letting her head rest against Sam's shoulder and feeling the warmth of the other woman's breath against the back of her neck. She felt the soft lips pressing kisses into her hair, and the blonde's hands were caressing her back, pulling her closer.
Janet allowed herself some time to enjoy the rare mid-day moment before untangling herself from the embrace. The disappointment stood out clearly on Sam's face and Janet let her hand wander up to stroke her cheek gently. Not for the first time, she felt a sense of wonder that someone as talented and intelligent as Samantha Carter had the slightest bit of interest in her.
"I have missed you, Sam," she offered softly, still stroking the woman's cheek. "And I promise you that this evening and tonight we will more than make up for the three days of being apart. But you know as well as I do that we've got some work to get done first." The blonde reached out to trace lightly over Janet's breast and her breathing sounded ragged to Janet's ears. A sudden heat flooded the blue eyes and Janet had the unnerving sense that Carter was barely in control of her feelings.
She stepped back, partly to give her words more impact, and partly to study the woman. It wasn't like Sam to be so well lustful. It wasn't that she was incapable of being very sensual and very much into lovemaking, just that she did not usually have any problem saving such activities for an appropriate time and place. She was a military officer who had been raised by a soldierthus duty came first for Carter, no matter whether it was a mission to some other planet or cleaning the bathroom. Janet couldn't put her finger on the problem, but something just didn't feel right.
Briefly she wondered if something off-the-record had happened on the mission that had gotten under the woman's skin. It wouldn't be the first time that an off-color O'Neill joke or a smugly superior Daniel comment had gotten to her, no matter how hard she tried not to pay attention. For all her emotional distance from others, Sam had a sensitive streak a mile wide, both with regard to other people's feelings and with regard to being hurt by others.
"C'mon, Sam," she stated, willing the other woman to snap out of it. "We need to get this painting done sooner rather than later so that it'll be dry by the time Cassie comes home tomorrow. You know how much she'll want to move all her stuff back in and rearrange her space, and put up new posters of whichever boy band is popular this week."
The blonde didn't say anything and didn't even chuckle at the reminder of Cassie's rather undeveloped musical tastes, but finally nodded after a long moment. Janet let out a breath she hadn't been aware of holding. "Are you okay, Sam?" she asked as gently as possible. "You seem a little tense."
Carter squared her shoulders and took a deep breath. "I just really want to be with you. I missed you a lot while I was away. I just want to have sex with you so very much."
Janet felt a smile tugging the corners of her mouth, her thoughts floating to how much she cared for this very special woman. And she thought to herself that the intensity of Sam's reaction was quite a compliment, since she'd never quite seen this bold and needy side of her lover. "I do want you too, you know. Just well we can't do this yet. Think how much better it will be later when we've had all afternoon to anticipate it." She saw the hint of a smile on the blonde's face and continued, "Now, let's go get a couple of buckets of water and get this chore over with so we can have time to play."
She led the way into the kitchen, and bent down to retrieve the buckets from underneath the sink. And then strong arms picked her up, lifted her, and set her down. Before she could even voice a protest or figure out what had happened, Janet found herself sitting on the table top, her legs spread apart with Sam wedged in between them, and an insistent mouth kissing her shoulder where her shirt had been slipped off.
"Sam," she barked sharply, "what are you doing? Knock it off."
"You said that you want me too," the blonde muttered into soft skin.
Anger, worry, and desire warred for control of Janet's emotions. She struggled to get the words out, very aware of the warmth of the body pressed close to her own. "I do, but not here, not like this. And not right now."
Sam tightened her hold on Janet, ripping her shirt completely open, and pressing her mouth hard against the newly revealed flesh. The doctor struggled to escape the grasp, surprised at just how strong the other woman seemed. She knew Carter was strong, but never had that strength been used against her, and she would never have imagined it being used like this.
She protested with all her might, but the blonde ignored her, still kissing insistently, while a small part of Janet's brain kicked into full-blown panic mode at the lack of effect her words had on the woman. Coupled with the earlier impression she'd had that Sam was not entirely herself, Janet wasn't sure what exactly to expect, knowing only that the woman was thinking with hormones alone. Fueled with sudden fear, she pounded her fists against the other woman's face and arms, to no effect. Carter grabbed hold of her hands and pinned her arms to her sides, leaving Janet struggling futilely to escape the hard hold.
And then Carter began to talk, her voice full of desire, telling her all the things she was going to do to her, all the ways she was going to lick and bite and touch, how she was going to make Janet scream. Janet sat shock still, her mind spinning, unable to form a coherent thought for a long minute. And then
With the swiftness of an electric shock, her brain kicked back into gear. 'Did Sam just say she was going to f*** me? SAM just said F***? Did she just say she was going to MAKE me ? What the ?'
She reached blindly behind her--having finally freed one arm--grabbed the heavy skillet from the stove top, and brought it down as hard as she could on the back of Carter's head. With a slight grunt, the woman fell forward against Janet before sliding bonelessly down to the floor.
Janet pulled her torn shirt around her as best she could, and looked down at the woman she had just knocked out. She wasn't sure of much at the moment, but she knew with no shadow of doubt that whoever was lying unconscious in her kitchen was NOT Samantha Carter.
She stood staring down at the unconscious body, trying to figure out what to do about it. Well, actually, she knew what she had to do about it: she had to get the woman back to the SGC so they could figure out who she was and where she came from. That part would be easy, just pick up the phone and summon a containment team. What Janet didn't know how to do was explain how she knew the woman wasn't Sam.
She couldn't very well call General Hammond and say, "Sir, I know there's an imposter here because Sam was acting totally out of character when she tried to make love to me." No, that would be a quick and painful path to complete humiliation. She had to think, had to find some sort of plausible deniability that would prove her point without revealing their relationship.
"Ding", chimed the doorbell, the sound causing Janet to start in alarm. She stayed perfectly still for a long moment, not wanting to deal with visitors, feeling a bizarre sense of guilt over having an unconscious body in her kitchen, as if somehow the person at the door knew about it.
"Ding," chimed the doorbell, the sound louder somehow and much more insistent. Janet did a series of mental exercises, trying to fathom who on earth would be at her house. Then panic mode struck as she wondered if it was about Cassie somehow, if something had happened to her daughter. She was too off-kilter by recent events to remember that Cassie was out of town and any bad news about her would be relayed via telephone.
She ran out of the kitchen and went to the door, momentarily forgetting that her shirt was torn and perhaps answering the door wasn't the brightest of ideas. She didn't even glance through the peephole, her mental processes fogged by the thoughts of Cassie lying dead in a ditch and of not-Sam lying dead-to-the-world in her kitchen.
"Daniel," she breathed with relief when the open door revealed his frame--relief because he was the last person in the world who would be here with bad news about her daughter.
"Hello there," he responded simply, his eyes going over her form.
Now that her moment of panic was over, she remembered her ripped shirt, cursed under her breath, and decided that this just was not her day. Before she could even begin to think of a usable excuse for her appearance, Daniel surprised her by fingering a ripped edge of fabric and saying softly, "I see Sam is already here."
"What?!", came Janet's eloquent response.
She suddenly felt as though she'd been dropped in the middle of a movie scene without the benefit of a script, a director, or even a barebones plot. She knew full well there were people at the SGC who might have reason to suspect about her relationship with Sam; Daniel, however, was not one of them. Personal undertones slid right past the man, well, unless they involved him or unless they involved speculation about people long dead.
He stood, looking expectantly at her, and she managed to ask, "What makes you think Captain Carter is here?"
Daniel edged his way into the house, pushing past Janet. The move was ruder and more abrupt than she expected from the archeologist; she stood in shock for a moment before closing the door and muttering in an annoyed tone, "Please; feel free to come in."
She ran a hand through her hair, waiting for him to say something that would explain his presence, as well as explain why seemed so certain of Sam's presence. She and Daniel got along as colleagues, and he was no stranger to the infirmary, but she rarely interacted with the man outside of the SGC, unless it was part of a group outing that Jack O'Neill arranged.
He ignored her, looking around as if expecting something or someone, before answering her question. "Sam told me she was coming over here."
He turned and the doctor saw a look in his eyes she'd never seen him direct towards her before: pure, raw, unadulterated desire.
She gaped as he continued. "She was planning to come over and let the two of you have a little fun, and get you all hot and bothered before I arrived and joined in."
Janet heard the words, understood the words, and still wondered which languageexactly--the man was speaking. He knew twenty-three different ones, and what he'd said couldn't possibly be in English. She struggled to process what was going on, wondering if the entire world had gone insane or if only she had. This certainly was not the Daniel she knew.
He reached out and cupped her cheek in his hand and she pulled away slightly, which did not seem to deter the man in the slightest. He stepped forward and ran his fingers along the slope of her arm. "So, have you two been having fun? Are you ready to have a man joining the action?"
Suddenly Janet realized that she hadn't been dropped into a scene with no script and no plotbut, unfortunately, she'd been dropped straight into the middle of a porn movie. She'd seen just enough of those movies with her ex-husband (back when they were tryingand failing miserablyto understand each other and their sexual needs) to recognize the genre.
Pulling her wits about her, somehow knowing that this man was no more Daniel than the woman in her kitchen was Sam, Janet reached out and lightly touched his forearm. She thanked any gods that might be listening that the response he expected was so completely predictable, since she wasn't up to guessing how to deal with him. Whatever else the genre might be, it was not known, in Janet's admittedly limited experience, to be novel and innovative.
In a throaty whisper she offered, "Sam and I were in the kitchen trying something new."
She struggled not to laugh at the ironic statementhitting the woman on the head with a skillet certainly qualified as new. "Why don't you let me get back in there with her, Daniel, and give us a few minutes to get ready before you come play with us?"
He nodded, leaning forward to kiss her, a move she neatly avoided by sidestepping and chastising, "Not yet. You'll get your reward when you join us."
She could see the shiver of desire work its way down his spine and heard the ragged quality of his breathing, and she turned and retreated into the kitchen, fighting the urge to run screaming out the back door at the sheer insanity of her afternoon. Once she made it safely out of eyesight, she took a deep breath to steady herself, and looked down at the blonde, satisfying herself that the woman was still unconscious.
Then, picking up the skillet, she stood behind the door, waiting for Daniel to come join the party.
"Well, sir, Sam and Daniel are androids." Fraiser tossed a thick sheaf of paper onto the table in the de-briefing room to punctuate her point. She looked around at the General, O'Neill, and Teal'c, taking in their shocked looks, before continuing.
"Actually, that's not precisely the right term, as they are both primarily organic rather than synthetic, but it's the best term I can come up with at the moment." She sighed deeply, feeling the effects of hours of conducting medical tests catching up with her. "To put it at its simplest, they are highly sophisticated machine brains in the bodies of humans humans that seem to have been somehow replicated from Sam and Daniel. The DNA is identical to theirs and the the Samdroid has the same protein marker that Jolinar left in Sam's blood."
She sat down heavily next to Teal'c, weighed down both by worry about where the missing members of SG-1 were and by the sense that the only information she had uncovered managed to raise more questions than answers. She sat back in the chair and surveyed O'Neill across the table.
He glanced up, and she waited expectantly for a trademark quip, thinking that his sarcasm would bring a nice touch of reality to her day, which had been far too surreal for her liking. Instead, he simply inquired quietly, "Samdroid?"
Janet gave a one-shouldered shrug and answered in an equally quiet tone. "It seemed to fit. Gave me something to call it instead of calling it 'Sam'."
He nodded and Hammond cleared his throat. They all turned their attention to him and Janet steeled herself as she took in the deadpan expression on his face. To say he was extremely unhappy with the situation was putting it far too mildly.
His question was a simple one. "How did two androids manage to get through the medical screen?"
Even though she'd been expecting the question, knowing perfectly well that an in-depth medical test would have revealed the truth earlier, the deadly quiet tone in his voice made her wince. She felt like kicking herself for not being more concerned initially with Sam's odd behavior, for not following her instinct that something was wrong.
"Well, sir, it's part of our new budget restrictions. Any time a team comes back from a planet where we've been before and where there are no known hazards and no evidence of Goa'uld, we are supposed to only perform an extremely basic exam blood tests and checks for obvious illnesses and injuries. We've been ignoring the restrictions for a while, but right now, as you know, Senator Kinsey has that Compliance Aide wandering around and "
She took a deep breath as Hammond's upheld hand interrupted her speech. His soft sigh made Janet perversely happy that she had nothing to do with the panel of bean counters that had come up with the money saving plan in the first place. She would rather have a root canal without novacaine than have his carefully contained rage erupting full force on her head. At least the root canal would lead to relief of pain.
"I understand, Doctor," he offered quietly, "but from here on out, you'll do complete exams as per our usual guidelines. And as for this Compliance Aide I'll deal with her personally, and show her in graphic detail the reasons why we have certain protocol."
Janet nodded her heartfelt assent. "Thank you, sir. I couldn't agree with you more." Then she turned her attention back to the immediate problem, keeping herself firmly in professional mode so she didn't have time to worry about what could have happened to her lover and to Daniel.
"I've done complete physical work-ups on everyone who was planet side, and there are no other "
"Droids?" suggested O'Neill helpfully.
She raised an eyebrow. "Right." She knew it wasn't nearly the right word to describe the two people she had whacked over the head with a skillet, but it was the best one she could come up with that would mean roughly the same thing to both herself and to the less scientifically inclined.
Drumming her fingers on the table, she continued. "It's almost like someone extracted their DNA and grew physical replicas of them around a machine brain at an extremely accelerated rate. It's not like anything I could even imagine. Leaving aside the simple ability to do such a thing in the first place, the speed of the process is incredible "
O'Neill broke in. "Especially since Carter and Daniel were only off on their own for 24 hours. The rest of the mission they were with us. And yeah, we've been on that planet before, but Daniel and Carter weren't off on their own the last time."
Teal'c spoke up for the first time, very quietly. "And I must apologize for a lack of awareness. I believed Captain Carter and Dr. Jackson to be as themselves. They seemed to appear tired, but I did not pay as careful attention to that as perhaps I should."
Hammond's eyes narrowed. "There is that point. In talking to the colonel earlier, it is obvious that these androids acted pretty much exactly like Captain Carter and Dr. Jackson. Doctor, how were you able to tell that something was wrong with them when their teammates didn't notice?"
Janet could not resist a chuckle; trying to decide what answer to give to that question had gnawed at the back of her mind for the past several hours while she'd been running tests. She'd only decided on the perfect answer about fifteen minutes before the de-briefing.
"They tried to seduce me, sir."
While jaws dropped around the table, Janet took a moment to be forever grateful that the Dandroid had shown up and told her point blank that they'd planned the seduction. It gave her an answer that was completely honest, that would match anything said by the droids (not that they'd shown the slightest inclination to talk since coming to as prisoners in the infirmary), and it gave completely plausible deniability to any rumors that she and Sam were, indeed, lovers. As far as Janet was concerned, that was all good.
Despite the gravity of the situation, Janet had to tamp down hard on a surge of laughter as she noticed the appreciative look on O'Neill's face at the thought of at least herself and Sam together, as it fed nicely into the whole male fantasy of two women as lovers. She fought another surge of laughter at the way Teal'c's eyebrow raised speculatively, though she doubted fantasies had anything to do with his reaction. It was yet another piece of evidence he was filing away in his quest to understand the odd habits of the Tau'ri.
"At least they've got good taste," O'Neill muttered.
General Hammond derailed that train of thought as he said abruptly, "We'll wonder why they chose that course of action once we know why they're here. In the meantime, my main question is a lot simpler. Who created these duplicates and what have they done with Captain Carter and Dr. Jackson?"
To Janet, it came as no surprise when the only answer was silence.
"You will get no information from us. This interrogation is simply a waste of your time and continuing it will achieve no purpose. We demand to be returned to the planet from which we came."
Janet couldn't help glaring at the Samdroid as the blonde calmly, tonelessly, stated that demand. She wanted to slap the unfamiliarly smug look off the familiar face, wanted to shake the imposter and make her own set of demandsthe chief among them to know what had happened to the woman she replaced.
Instead, like a dutiful officer, she remained quiet while Hammond and O'Neill questioned the duplicates. She contented herself with glaring daggers, and trying not to think all that hard about where Sam and Daniel wereshe knew all too well that having no information to go on would simply prompt her imagination to concoct any number of unpleasant scenarios. She'd done that before when SG-1 was overdue in reporting, and it would do her no good to do it now, since her imagination was far too pessimistic for her liking.
O'Neill muttered something and Teal'c's expression grew ever more bland and unreadablea sure sign of either his annoyance with or his agreement with O'Neill. Janet couldn't actually decipher his reaction, and quickly gave up trying, since Teal'c's facial expressions were too subtle for her at the moment, given her fatigue and worry.
Hammond stepped forward, stopping mere inches from the Samdroid's face. His face was deadpana look of pure anger that Janet had no trouble reading. "You are in no position to make demands," he snapped in his best command sort of voice. "Now I'm getting tired of this, and I want to know what happened to my officers, and where they are."
The Dandroid spoke up in a display of perfectly calm, unemotional logic that proved irrefutably that he was not, indeed, Daniel Jackson. "We cannot tell you things which we do not ourselves know. As we did not exist before your officers disappeared, we cannot tell you what has happened to them. As for where they are, we could indeed inform you as to their last whereabouts, but that would not tell you what you wish to know because they may no longer be in that location."
Janet leaned back against the wall of the holding cell and brought her fingers up to her temples, massaging away the very nasty ache that was pounding through her head. Beside her, O'Neill growled in a low whisper, "I never thought I'd say this, but I'd much rather listen to Daniel ramble on about nothing than listen to this guy talk in circles."
Hammond shot a quieting glare at them and turned his attention to the Dandroid. In a tone of extremely exaggerated patience, he asked, "And where were their last whereabouts?"
The imposter blinked slowly and spoke in ponderous tones, sounding exactly like Daniel in his best scholarly mode. "Somewhere on the surface of the planet."
Janet sighed heavily and turned to see O'Neill literally throw his hands up in the air. She agreed wholeheartedly with the sentiment; hearing the banally obvious stated had always tended to annoy her.
Looking over at Teal'c, she noted that even he seemed to be tired of the interrogation. An hour of talking toor rather, talking ATthe droids had produced nothing other than this tidbit of non-information. Janet mused on that for a moment and then looked up in sudden interest, her scientific curiosity piqued.
"What do you mean you didn't exist before our officers disappeared?"
Every head in the room swung in her direction, and she found it interesting to see that both friend and foe wore matching looks of incredulity, as if no one believed she would ask such a question at a time like this. She studiously ignored everyone but the duplicates, and while part of her knew that the information would not do a damn thing to find the missing members of SG-1, she really wanted to know. Besides, her brain whispered reasonably, it wasn't like the imposters were bubbling over with secrets and ready to tell them anything remotely useful.
The Dandroid spoke in the exaggeratedly patient tone one might use to try and embarrass a particularly incompetent colleague. "We could not exist before your officers were missing because otherwise we would not have these bodies. Is that not correct?"
Janet shut her eyes for just a moment, trying to summon up any slight degree of patience that she could find. She was curious, yes, but not in the mood to play twenty thousand questions, especially since she knew perfectly well that the questions would all be like this one: designed to try and throw her off-track.
In her best doctor's lecture mode, she said, "You are the machine brains that reside in these bodies, and would have had to exist before these bodies were grown around you, because there is no physical evidence to show otherwise. Even the most minor surgical procedure on organic tissue leaves some evidence. Do you really expect us to believe that you were programmed and functional only after inhabiting these bodies? Or are you telling us that you were not given your instructions until after you replaced our officers?"
She folded her arms across her chest and noted the way Teal'c's eyebrow rose higher than she'd ever seen and saw O'Neill's jaw hanging open roughly around floor level. Hammond actually nodded and looked even slightly impressed. She had to admit to herself that she was glad for their reactions, not as an ego stroke, but simply because they seemed to have forgotten that the question was entirely off topic.
The droids regarded each other and the duplicate of Carter cocked her head to the side and said slowly and seemingly reluctantly, "We had not been given our instructions. We have been operational for only a brief period of time."
Teal'c asked very quietly, "How long is brief?"
It was probably the least eloquent thing Janet had ever heard the Jaffa say, but it had a poetic beauty about it. Or maybe it was a philosophical beauty; Janet didn't always see much difference between the two. At any rate, his question got an unexpected answer from the blonde.
"It has been only one of your Earth months that we have been operational."
Hammond gathered his officers in a huddle several feet away from the imposters. "And it was two months ago was when SG-1 first visited that planet. The timing seems a little too close to be coincidence. But I'm puzzled because on that mission, Captain Carter was on the planet less time than any of the rest of the team; she came back both because of her wounded hand and to assist in trying to determine what was making the inhabitants fall ill. So how could anyone have created a brain to put inside her body when she was not there long enough for anyone to study her?"
Janet started to respond, but O'Neill surprised her by stating, "It's a machine, isn't it? Doesn't really matter whose body it's in male, female snake ."
Hammond looked to Janet for confirmation and she nodded in agreement. "He's absolutely right, sir."
O'Neill puffed up smugly at her confirmation of his statement, and Janet couldn't help a flicker of amusement at the gesture. Speaking quickly to cover her reaction, she said, "The fact is, General, that whoever created these droids wouldn't have needed to spend time around the members of SG-1 in order to build and program the machines. They only needed the actual humans in order to create the physical duplicates that we have here with us now."
"Which leaves us with no more information now than we had an hour ago," Hammond stated accusingly, his patience apparently at an end.
Janet winced at the note in his voice. She had the distinct feeling that he'd finally figured out that the question was irrelevant in the first place and that his tone was directed specifically to her. She gave a tight smile and shrugged slightly.
O'Neill seemed oblivious to the subtleties, instead jumping in to comment, "Well, sir, we know that whoever created these these " His voice trailed off, unable to find an appropriate word. "Anyway, whoever created them must have done it specifically with SG-1 in mind, knowing we'd eventually come back to check on the status of that sound transmitter thingie and see how the charming little naked and mute people on the planet were doing."
Janet heaved a silent sigh of relief as the general's annoyance shifted to the colonel. "And that still leaves us with no more information than we had an hour ago."
The two men began exchanging opinions in fierce whispers, which Janet tuned out, since the arguing was neither interesting nor unexpected. She took a moment to wonder why O'Neill seemed to have such a love affair with insubordination, and then turned her attention back to the imposters.
Her heart skipped a beat as she caught the Samdroid watching herit was a measuring look and she suddenly wondered what the woman was thinking. An edge of fear knifed through her as she realized abruptly that despite her caution in revealing the details of their little kitchen encounter to Hammond, all the droid had to do was open her mouth and she could easily pose a threat to both Janet and Sam's respective careers.
'Brilliant, Fraiser,' she berated herself. 'That's just brilliant completely forget that you were enjoying part of the seduction and that all she has to do is say that '
Her inner voice trailed off as she watched the imposter watch her, and then she saw the last thing in the blue eyes she ever would have expected: the faintest glimmer of fear.
It caught her totally off-guard; she was the one who had reason to be afraid, not some machine brain that talked in circles with a program to guide it and she nearly fell over backwards when the implications collided in her brain to produce a rush of insight. The droid was trying to determine whether or not Janet had submitted to the seduction because she had known something was wrong and was playing along to expose the plot.
Armed with this new thought, Janet reappraised the blonde, and saw the imposter cringe ever so slightly at the penetrating force of her gaze. The reaction was so slight that no one save Janet would have caught it, intimately aware as she was of Sam's face and eyes and expressions. And it was an ever so subtle shift in power one that Janet decided to press to her advantage.
Raising her voice to be heard over the still very frank exchange of whispered opinions between the two ranking officers in the room, Janet announced, "Ok, enough of this playing around. We were aware that you were not our officers and simply played along with your plan to see what you would do."
Once again, Janet felt the incredulous scrutiny of every eye in the room, a feeling she was quickly learning to dislike. She kept her gaze locked on the Samdroid, concentrating on the expressive face to help her ignore the quiet questioning of her sanity on the part of her companions.
"We've clearly ruined your plans, and you are prisoners here. Refusing to give us information isn't going to gain you anything."
Behind her, O'Neill seemed to have recovered his wits as he added, "We could negotiate if you help us, but if you don't tell us anything, we'll just lock you up and throw away the key and search the planet inch by inch for our teammates."
The Dandroid crossed his arms and pouted, in a perfect imitation of Daniel at his most stubborn. The Samdroid bit her lip in a perfect imitation of Sam trying to make a difficult decision. Then she opened her mouth, while Janet mentally and literally crossed her fingers on both hands (and her two little toes on both feet to boot) that the imposter was going to actually cooperate.
Before the droid could actually say anything, she suddenly convulsed, as if an electric shock poured through her. Janet's automatic doctorly instinct was to rush forward to helponly to be caught by O'Neill, Teal'c, andfor good measureHammond. Even though she knew it wasn't her lover, the sight of that expressive face twisted in pain was difficult for Janet to stomach when she couldn't do anything about it.
After a long moment, the woman settled, her features going bland, while the Dandroid smirked smugly at her. Janet glanced up as O'Neill whispered in her ear, "Why'd they have to copy him right down to that smirk?"
She shrugged in answer to the question, using the gesture to wriggle away from the hands holding her. The general offered a word of warning, which she completely ignored, walking up to the blonde and asking quietly, "Are you okay?"
A brief nod met her words. Painfully precise words echoed through the room. "As you can see, we are not able to give you much of the information you seek. It is counter to our programming."
Janet heard Hammond clear his throat to speak and the Dandroid jumped in, his tone arrogant. "And I can tell you before you ask that it would not be possible to reprogram us to give you such information. The level of science on your planet is not nearly high enough to be able to do such a thing."
"Doctor?" Hammond asked concisely.
She shook her head and turned to face him. "He's right, sir. This is way beyond our current capabilities."
Everyone in the room seemed to freeze, realizing that they'd reached an impasse. Janet groaned inwardly at the feeling of helplessness that hit her with that realization; the droids couldn't help them even if they wanted to, and she knew that O'Neill was simply whistling in the dark with the statement that they could search the entire planet. They could indeed search the planet, but Janet knew perfectly well that it would be like looking for a very dull needle in a very big haystack.
Teal'c cleared his throat and said unexpectedly, "I think I may have arrived at a solution, but I do not wish to discuss it in our present location."
Hammond ushered the group out of the room, sending in two guards to watch the prisoners. Teal'c led them a short way down the hall, as if he didn't want to be overheard.
Janet felt a keen sense of curiosity, wondering what on earth he could have devised as a solution. She knew that he had many talents they were unaware of, but she rather doubted reprogramming androids was one of them.
She stared up at Teal'c, her neck muscles not terribly happy at the angle. She saw that his expression was perfectly calm as he stated blandly, "My solution is to release them and allow them to return to the planet."
With the tiny part of her mind that was not suspended in paralyzed disbelief, Janet wondered whether today was the Jaffa version of April Fools Day.
"Are you completely out of your mind?" O'Neill was the first to recover his wits after the suggestion offered by Teal'c. "They're our only link to the rest of SG-1. We release them, their creators know something went wrong, and they all disappeartaking Carter and Daniel with them. Great plan there, Teal'c."
Hammond spoke up in his best patient father voice. "I'm afraid the Colonel is right, son. Your idea seems to leave us in the same situation we're in now."
Teal'c turned his gaze to Janet, and the utter calm in his eyes made her mind shift gears rapidly, trying to figure out what was going on the man's brain, knowing that with someone as cryptic as Teal'c, second guessing could drive her completely insane before she found her answers.
The Jaffa's voice was perfectly level and without rancor. "Do you also wish to inform me as to the futility of this suggestion?"
She shook her head, and the sharp motion seemed to let a new thought fall into place. She pondered it for a moment and then burst out with, "Teal'c's right; we've got to let them go."
O'Neill and Hammond exchanged measuring glances and Janet (tired of the looks on their faces as they pondered her sanity, or lack thereof) let her gaze drift back up to Teal'c's implacable face. He offered her a very brief nodthe type of gesture intended to indicate acknowledgment of someone's skill or knowledge.
Hammond addressed both of them, hands fisting at his sides impatiently. "Will one of you please explain how that's going to help? I seriously doubt that they'll allow any of us follow them to where Captain Carter and Doctor Jackson are. And even if they did lead us to our people, our mere arrival would tip off whoever sent them that we are aware of the situation, and they could use Captain Carter and Doctor Jackson as hostages."
Janet couldn't help grinning as she squared her shoulders and faced the general. "Not if they don't know they're being followed." She looked up at Teal'c again and her grin widened by degrees as she noticed the faintest hint of a smile on his face.
"I thought they were supposed to come through the Gate at 1400 hours," grumbled O'Neill, pacing a hole in the dirt, kicking at pebbles with his toes.
"They will be here, O'Neill," Teal'c stated calmly.
Janet peered around the side of the rock formation behind which the three of them were hiding. She knew that the Gate had not been activated or they would certainly have heard it, but there was just something reassuring about seeing it for herself. And what she saw was a whole lot of nothing new: the Gate stood silent, the weird plants stood humming inaudibly, the rounded huts of the natives sat the in same places they'd been sixty seconds ago when she'd last looked.
"And how the hell are we supposed to keep up with two androids when we have to keep out of sight and they probably are as strong and fast as machines? It'll just be our luck that they've got bat hearing or eyes in the back of their heads." O'Neill continued muttering under his breath, leaving Janet quite glad that Teal'c was the patient type, since this was roughly the twentieth time O'Neill had complained about this.
She knew perfectly well the colonel was not seriously worried about being able to follow the droids, since he had Special Ops training and knew how to track a foe as well as Teal'c did. He was just venting his frustration about the whole situation of having his officers replaced by duplicates practically under his nose.
She didn't bother to listen to Teal'c answering the rhetorical questions, as she was more interested in pondering the more basic questions of who, what, where, when, and most importantly, why. She tugged on the straps of her backpack, feeling the way her shoulders were displeased with her for the unaccustomed weight. "Sorry," she muttered under her breath, as if somehow a spoken apology would matter to her body.
"What?" O'Neill asked her, and she turned to him and shook her head. She felt stupid enough as it was for the comment; she somehow doubted that explaining it to him would make her feel any better in fact she was pretty sure that Mr. Sardonic would make her feel anything but better about it.
He seemed about to persist, and then Janet heaved a prayer of thanksgiving (in the manner known to all students when they are saved by the bell) as the familiar sound of the Gate opening rolled over the three of them.
"They are here, O'Neill," Teal'c offered in his maddeningly helpful manner.
"Thanks for the tip," came the caustic whispered reply.
The three of them peered cautiously around the rock to see the droids and the members of SG-4 step through the wormhole and stand blinking in the sunlight. The members of SG-4 held their weapons on the imposters and the unit CO said in his best command voice, "We brought you back like we said we would. Now it's your turn to follow our agreement and take us with you."
The two droids nodded in unison and started walking, the members of SG-4 following behind, watching for tricks.
"Is it just me, or was that too easy?" Janet hissed at her companions.
"Oh, just a tad," came O'Neill's soft reply.
The unusual procession they were watching wound past one of the giant plants, and the Dandroid stumbled, grabbing hold of the plant to steady himself, then moved suddenly away from the plant, along with the Samdroid. Janet's eyes widened as a ray of light shot out from the plant and touched on the four members of SG-4. They all stopped in their tracks and then toppled over; Janet could see the faint rise and fall of their chests to show they were unconscious, rather than dead.
The two imposters looked down at the fallen soldiers, nodded briefly at each other, and then took off at a leisurely pace. Apparently they had all the time in the world to get to where they were going. Janet couldn't help musing that from behind, they almost looked like a young couple ambling out for a Sunday afternoon walk. The mere thought of Sam and Daniel as a couple sent a surge of amusement through Janet, what with Sam being partial to women and Daniel being partial to demure adorers.
After a long moment to let the droids get a little way ahead, the three of them moved cautiously out of their hiding place. Janet tried to go over and check on their downed comrades, only to have O'Neill stop her by literally grabbing the scruff of her neck.
"We don't have time for you to play nursemaid; our mission is to follow those droids," he snarled in a fierce whisper, and even though she knew his aggravation was not directed at her, it still grated on her nerves. She tried to twist her head around to glare at him and remind him bluntly that she was a doctor and the safety and health of every member of the SGC was her responsibility.
Teal'c stepped in front of her and said quietly, "We prepared for this possibility; do you not recall that another SG team is to arrive in two minutes to provide assistance and backup? SG-4 has not been killed and I see no sign that they were injured. I have seen many alien devices that operate in this manner to render a foe unconscious, and they do not cause harm."
She nodded, reluctantly acknowledging that they were both right, even as her muscles twitched with tension to go over and check for herself. Given that the team was still breathing and there were no obvious signs of injury, she knew they would be fine until backup arrived, even if the knowledge did nothing to make her feel any better.
O'Neill released his hold on her and asked tartly, "Now, can we get a move on and go find Daniel and Carter so we can get the hell out of here?"
Janet shot one more look over her shoulder at the members of SG-4, reassuring herself, as she followed O'Neill and Teal'c in the wake of the duplicates.
Never in her life had she been on such a surreal journey, Janet reflected, after two hours of trailing behind the still ambling droids. The planet was covered in sandy dirt and had lots of wide-open spaces that left the three of them running from giant plant to giant plant in an attempt to remain hidden. Janet felt like she was in some twisted game that combined hide-n-go-seek and freeze tag with cops-n-robbers. Her legs ached from the constant running and stopping and she could feel the hint of sunburn despite liberal doses of sunscreen and a standard issue cap.
She knew better than to whisper a single syllable of complaint, however tempting it might be to bitch and moan. O'Neill had not wanted her to come on the mission in the first place, considering that she wasn't precisely a field officer and might slow them down, and she had no intention of giving him the satisfaction of being right. And Teal'c would probably do something embarrassing, like offering to carry all her gear or offering to carry her.
She knew she probably shouldn't have been part of this little raiding party, but she wanted badly to help find Daniel and Sam, wanted to be there in case her lover was wounded, since there were so many other times when SG-1 had landed themselves in trouble and all Janet could do was stand around the SGC and wait. This time she could actually do something other than wait, and the beauty of it was that Hammond had ordered her to go before she could even think of a plausible reason why she should.
She ducked quickly behind a plant, seeing O'Neill and Teal'c a few positions ahead of her, and peered out cautiously, freezing when the Samdroid swung her head around, peering intently along the horizon. Neither droid had paid any attention to their rear before, and Janet wondered what on earth (or, more accurately, what on this world) had attracted the blonde's scrutiny.
In front of her, O'Neill started to move, and Janet caught his eye as he glanced briefly her direction. She gave a single, brief, emphatic shake of the head, hoping that her gesture had gone unnoticed. He nodded back and very slowly twisted his head around to peer in the direction of the imposters, freezing in place as he saw what prompted her warning.
Apparently satisfied, the Samdroid turned her attention back to her fellow machine brain. No words were exchanged as she nodded at him and they continued on their way, ducking onto a path that led into a shallow wooded area that seemed oddly juxtaposed with the rest of the surroundings.
Janet couldn't help but think that it would have been nice if the droids had actually said something, like in movies where the villains talk in loud voices and explain their plans in full to the hidden heroes. Unfortunately, real life villains were rarely so helpful.
She moved cautiously up to join O'Neill and then they both took off at a run after Teal'c, who was causing even Jack to be out of breath with his long strides. Janet took a spare bit of energy to wonder, not for the first time, how someone as large as Teal'c could move so quickly and so quietly.
Despite her tension and worry, she felt herself relax fractionally as they entered the little forest, sheltered against the glare of the sun for the first time in a very long time. Looking around at the flora and fauna, she skidded into O'Neill where he stood stone still in front of her, having missed his hand signal to stop.
"Sorry," she whispered against his back.
His impatient nod was answer enough and they stood there, unmoving, scanning the area. No badge of blonde hair broke through the ferns and tree trunks; no glint off the Dandroid's glasses betrayed their presence. Oddly enough, Teal'c's distinctive form also could not be seen.
Janet and O'Neill, as if synchronized, rotated in a full circle, eyes watchful. She could not figure out where everyone had gone: it wasn't as if this little forest was all that big. She could easily see the edges of it, the blur of sand and sun just beyond the borders.
Sudden movement caught both of them by surprise and O'Neill accidentally elbowed her in the shoulder as he swung his weapon around to face the threat.
"Geez!" O'Neill exclaimed in an extremely loud whisper as Teal'c ran up to the two of them.
"There is no need to whisper; they are no longer within range of hearing," the Jaffa announced blandly.
O'Neill offered a heavy sigh. "And where, exactly, are they?"
"Of that, I am not certain." Teal'c's tone remained bland and unconcerned.
Janet thoroughly empathized with O'Neill's frustration as he lowered his weapon and figuratively threw his hands up in the air. "If you don't know where they are, then how do you know they can't hear us?"
She simply stood, tired, sore, and not inclined to play mind reading gameswatching with detached interest at the way O'Neill glared at his friend and teammate.
Teal'c raised an eyebrow. "I watched as they ran along this pathway and out of this forest, and I pursued them. I was not far behind them, but when I reached the plains of sand on the other side of this forest, I could see them nowhere. Had they doubled back and returned here, I would have seen, but they did not."
O'Neill pushed his way past the Jaffa and followed the narrow path. Janet shrugged in answer to Teal'c's questioning look, and followed the leader. Scant moments later, they emerged into the lovely blazing sun and Janet sighed dispiritedly at the realization that they should have been able to see the imposters somewhere on the boringly golden brown plain of sand. She would have even settled for a set of footprints, but a low, steady wind eliminated that option.
She squinted against the sun and suddenly stood up as straight as she could, tugging on the colonel's sleeve to get his attention.
"What?" He asked irritably, shaking his sleeve loose from her fingers.
She blinked rapidly to ward off the sudden fear that she was simply seeing a mirage. Nope, it was still there. "Colonel, look over there."
She looked up at his face as he followed the line of her fingers. "I'll be damned," he muttered quietly. "Good work there, Doc."
The three walked single file to the spot Janet had pointed out to where a curved metal ring stuck up absurdly in the middle of waves and waves of sand. O'Neill knelt down and gave an apologetic grimace, and tugged experimentally. The ring came up in his hand, bringing a door with it, and revealing a set of stairs going down into a tunnel.
They exchanged glances for a long moment; Janet could tell they were wondering the same thing she was whether or not this was actually where the imposters had gone. She took a harder look at the stairs and then she laughed quietly. At the bottom of the staircase, off to the side, sat the glasses the Dandroid had worn.
O'Neill nodded as they caught his eye as well, and Janet could see some tension drain from his body at the certainty that they were on the right track.
He looked up at Janet and she heard the faintest trace of humor in his voice as he offered, "Ladies first?"
Janet didn't miss a beat as O'Neill gestured in invitation to the stairway. "Thank you, Colonel, but I wouldn't dream of going first. Age before beauty, you know."
Whatever response he might have expected to his offer, she was reasonably certain that wasn't it. She knew as well as he did that the invitation to go first wasn't serious; there was no way that he would have let the least experienced member of the team take the lead and head first into probable danger. O'Neill had many faults (as she knew especially well from Sam's occasional bouts of frustration with the man) but insanity and bad leadership were not among them.
He turned his head away, trying in vain to hide his amusement, and from behind her came Teal'c's puzzled muttering, "I do not understand."
Janet didn't need to glance at the big man to picture the subtle knitting of his brow as he tried to decipher yet another mystifying Tau'ri phrase. Despite the seriousness of the situation (or perhaps because of it), she couldn't help a spark of amusement at having bested O'Neill in his favorite game "Who Wants to Be A Smart Ass".
O'Neill waved a don't-worry-about-it-I'll-explain-later hand at Teal'c's statement, and then spoke quietly into his radio. Much to everyone's relief, the clear voice of Colonel Makepeace came through, indicating that the backup unit was in place, with two members of the team positioned at the Stargate and two trailing behind the threesome (following the figurative trail of breadcrumbs left behind). O'Neill gave the other colonel a brief rundown on the situation and Makepeace vowed they'd be at the tunnel ASAP.
With a raised eyebrow, O'Neill shifted his grip on his weapon, reminded Janet to be careful and quiet, instructed Teal'c to leave the door slightly propped open behind them as a signal to Makepeace, and started cautiously down the staircase.
A very deep breath later, Janet followed in his tracks, moving slowly and quietly, suddenly wondering about her own sanity. Wandering around in underground tunnels after hours of sun exposure, chasing duplicates of people she knewthese were not quite the things she had in mind when she settled on a career in medicine, military backdrop not withstanding. Of course, she also hadn't planned to fall in love with an astrophysicist (particularly not of the female variety), adopt an alien child, or travel to other planets, so she supposed it was a pretty fair trade off, all things considered.
She felt the reassuring bulk of Teal'c close to her back as the three of them inched their way into the tunnel at the foot of the stairway. After a short time they'd moved well out of range of the crack of sunlight shining down the staircase, and since they didn't dare shine a flashlight around, they proceeded cautiously, with the only illumination coming from somewhere up ahead.
She reached out her hand to feel the tunnel wall; it felt like rough stone. The passageway was narrow, and while she had plenty of headroom, she could just make out O'Neill ducking his head to avoid scraping the top of his head on the ceiling. She didn't even want to look back and see how Teal'c was copingshe rather suspected that it would be painful to see. It was one of the first times in her life where she felt intensely grateful for being short.
They made their way to a wide doorway, through which could be seen a wider tunnel with smooth walls and a faint, steady glow of light. Janet was so busy looking at it that she nearly collided with O'Neill again, entirely missing his hand signal to stop, saved only by a firm grip on her collar by Teal'c.
She twisted her head and whispered, "Thanks," in his direction, and he nodded slightly, before they both turned their attention back to Jack, who had his head cocked to the side and seemed to be listening for something. Janet strained her ears, and then asked herself what she was supposed to be listening for, since all she could hear was a whole lot of nothing.
Apparently satisfied with whatever he didn't hear, O'Neill moved forward stealthily, moving through the doorway and into the new (and in Janet's opinion, improved) tunnel. She looked around, feet following automatically in the leader's wake, trying to get a sense of where they were. The walls looked like smooth cement, a sort of seamless grey, but when she ran an experimental finger along the surface, it felt almost like sandpapered wood.
She craned her head around trying to figure out where the dim cast of light was coming from, seeing neither light fixtures nor torches. Looking up, she saw a faint, straight line running along the length of the ceilinga line of illumination that looked as if it lay just under the smooth surface. It looked as if the grey material simply glowed, rather than as if there was some sort of fluorescent bulb just under the surface of the ceiling.
Realizing that she had no idea how that was possible didn't make her feel any better about the situation, already painfully aware that their adversary was much more technologically advanced than they were.
She shook her head quickly, trying to rid herself of that pessimistic train of thought. Grasping at any possible straw, she told herself to take comfort from the fact that at least they could see where they were going. Not surprisingly, that did little to help her mood.
Moments later that train of thought was derailed when they reached a fork at the end of the tunnel, with her attention being distracted by the two different corridors they faced as options. Both looked identical to the one they had just traveled, and neither offered any hint as to where the duplicates had gone.
"Well this is helpful," O'Neill whispered.
Janet heard the low rumble of Teal'c's answering whisper. "I do not feel good."
She and O'Neill turned with one accord to stare in puzzlement at the Jaffa, who clarified, "About the situation."
It suddenly struck Janet that her English teachers would be proud of the fact that she noticed the odd sentence, even as she glanced uncertainly at the colonel, not sure if offering grammatical corrections would be considered proper protocol in the middle of a mission.
O'Neill seemed unhampered as he corrected, "That's 'I do not have a good feeling about this,' Teal'c."
The big man seemed unfazed as he repeated his statement correctly. Jack agreed by saying, "Neither do I."
She almost threw out her agreement, before she realized that it didn't matter any longer; both men had moved away from where she was standing to peer down the corridors.
Knowing there was nothing she could contribute to whatever they were doing, she remained in place, hoping that some miracle would occur and the missing members of SG-1 would appear. Nothing happened.
O'Neill and Teal'c scurried back to her side, and the colonel said in a low voice, "Well, we've got a problem."
She very nearly tossed out a sarcastic "What a surprise," but stopped herself just in time, instead contenting herself with silence. Apparently oblivious to her reaction, Jack continued his explanation. "The radio isn't working outside of this tunnel. Teal'c and I can hear each other just fine, but we can't raise hide nor hair of Makepeace."
Janet blew air out between her teeth in frustration, suddenly longing for the safety of the infirmary so hard that it hurt. This was not her forte, not what her recent training was in, and the thought of being cut off from the backup unit made her feel like the walls were caving in. She managed to take a deep breath, forcing herself not to panic, sternly telling herself to think about Sam, to focus on the woman she loved.
Jack seemed to notice her reaction to this statement; his voice was oddly kind as he continued. "We've got a plan, but it isn't what I'd call a good one. Teal'c is going down one corridor, and I'm going down the other. With any luck, one of us will find Carter and Daniel and we can get the hell out of here. And with no luck, at least there's a good chance that one of us will avoid capture and can bring back reinforcements."
Puzzled by a glaring omission, Janet took a steadying breath and asked, "What about me?"
O'Neill scratched the tip of his nose. "Well, I was thinking that you could go back to the surface and be there to meet up with Makepeace."
Before she even had time to think that that might be a good idea, Janet found her head shaking emphatically. "No sir. I need to go with you. There's a reason the general sent me on this mission in the first place; we don't know if any physical harm was done to Sam or Daniel to create these duplicates. They may be in need of immediate medical attention." Her voice dropped a notch as she continued, "I need to be there, sir, just in case."
A brief look of admiration lit O'Neill's eyes, even as Teal'c murmured, "Did I not tell you she would wish to remain with us?"
She stared up at the colonel, hoping his suggestion would not be turned into a command, the sudden fear of being left behind oddly chasing away the fear of going forward.
To his credit, O'Neill merely nodded as if he'd expected that response, and said simply, "Ok, you're with me. Teal'c, let's keep in touch, and we'll try to raise Makepeace every five minutes."
Janet followed closely behind O'Neill, a hard grip on the unaccustomed weight of her weapon, as they parted from Teal'c and entered the left hand corridor.
The journey through the corridor at O'Neill's back was both rife with tension and excruciatingly boring. Janet supposed she should be grateful for the boredom of seeing nothing more menacing than endless grey walls, but she had too much adrenaline pumping through her veins to feel anything but impatient. She was also starting to wonder if they were off on a wild droid chase, since there was nothing to indicate the duplicates had passed this way or even that there was some sort of lab in which to create the imposters in the first place.
That thought was running around in her brain when they arrived at a doorway, and peered cautiously through it to see the biggest laboratory Janet had ever seen in her life. Any faint thoughts of trickery flew right out of her brain and she could not resist a low whistle.
There were all manner of test tubes and microscopes, as well as hundreds of other pieces of technology that she could not even begin to identify. No scientists anywhere in sight, but stools stood at various work stations (or so Janet assumed they were work stations), and pieces of what appeared to be clothing were draped over stools and tables.
O'Neill edged into the room, with Janet at his side. At the same moment, they both stared at the back wall of the room, and muttered a simultaneous, "Holy ".
Sam and Daniel were there, each encased in a clear cylindrical chamber, tubes and machines hooked to their bodies.
Janet stared in shock at the sight of her lover and Daniel trapped in chambers out of some horror flick. She couldn't see them very well at this distance, but she could see the various tubes and electrode type devices attached to them and despite not having any idea what the devices were for, she had a distinct feeling it wasn't something good.
Her instinct to help overcame any sense of caution and she ran forward, intent on closing the gap between herself and her friends. She vaguely heard O'Neill's warning, "Doc " trailing after her. She ignored it and continued forward, sensing, rather than seeing, the colonel following in her tracks.
She skidded to a halt in front of the chambers, with O'Neill right beside her, and they both started in alarm as the radio crackled to life. Teal'c's ever calm voice, accented with what sounded like the footsteps of a running herd of elephants, echoed in their ears.
"I have found the duplicates and am in pursuit of them. They are most displeased with my discovery."
Janet, busy examining both the half clothed figures in the chambers and the various machines and such to which they were hooked, barely registered O'Neill's wry, "What a surprise."
The rest of the conversation was mostly lost on Janet, though she vaguely registered the sound of Makepeace's voice, indicating that he and the other soldier were somewhere inside the tunnels, and heard just enough to know that Teal'c's chase was leading him back the way he'd come.
The bulk of her concentration was focused on Sam; Janet noted that she bore several bruises, but that she seemed physically unharmed otherwise. Daniel appeared injury free, which was something of a first. She told herself that she'd have to share that particular tidbit of irony with Sam once they were back in the comfort of home, and for the first time in what seemed like weeks, Janet felt a surge of relief. They would get back home, sit in front of the fire, share silly stories and this nightmare would simply seem like the remnants of a bad dream.
Armed with that optimistic bolstering, she continued to take note of the chambers, and of Sam and Daniel. They both appeared to be unconscious, breathing shallow but even, eyes closed, and on the back wall of each chamber was something that Janet took to be a monitor of their vital signs. She couldn't actually read it--the numbers made no sense and there was nothing so obvious as pulse--but she had the instinctive doctor's feeling that the numbers looked good.
A low, steady hum seemed to come from each chamber, and when Janet reached out an experimental hand to touch the clear material directly in front of Sam's face, she felt a sharp, constant tingle, like an electric shock. One of the tubes connected to the chamber also seemed to emit the same hum, though she could feel nothing at all like electricity flowing through it.
So intense was her concentration that she jumped about a foot in the air (adding considerably to her height) when O'Neill appeared close to her ear and asked, "So what are those things?"
Resisting the nearly overwhelming urge to ask him how the hell she was supposed to know, she put on her best reassuring doctor mode and spoke calmly. "I'm not sure yet, Colonel. I'm still trying to put the pieces together, but as best I can tell, at least both Sam and Daniel appear to be okay."
She could almost feel the concern radiating from the man as he took note of the nasty looking marks on Sam's face and forearms, showing that she'd been in some kind of fight, but though he shot her a questioning look he didn't verbally dispute her assessment. She saw his gaze swing to survey Daniel's condition, to which he nodded in satisfaction.
He turned a slow circle to look once again around the room while Janet figuratively scratched her head in an attempt to make the details of this situation fall into some sort of picture.
Unwittingly, O'Neill gave her the mental push she needed when he turned his attention back to her and asked, "So Doc, why are they still in the chambers if they've already been cloned? Why not put them in a prison cell with guards or something?"
Janet heard the faintest hint of surprise in her own voice as she mused aloud, "I think somehow these chambers connect them to the duplicates." She held up a quieting hand as O'Neill started to say something, presumably something along the lines of her being nuts. "I know I don't know how the chambers work, but there's an energy field and "
She trailed off, trying to find convincing words to explain what wasin essencea grasping at straws theory.
Jack cleared his throat and his tone dripped impatience. "And?"
She ignored him for a moment, reaching out a finger and tracing the air around the chamber, trying to figure out where the tubes and wires and such went, hoping that some miracle of logic would occur to her to explain this very alien technology.
A miracle of sorts did occur when the radio crackled to life with Teal'c's voice, distracting O'Neill. His words were accompanied this time by the sounds of gunfire. "I have crossed paths with Colonel Makepeace and we have been engaged in battle by the duplicates and their allies, who seem to have appeared from thin air."
O'Neill muttered, "Oh hell." He said something else too, but it was entirely lost on Janet as a sudden movement on Daniel's part grabbed her attention. He went rigid, as if he'd been shocked, then slumped back into the position he'd been in before.
Without bothering to either look at O'Neill or muster up any degree of her usual calm, she snapped, "Ask him if something just happened to the Dandroid."
Much to her relief, he didn't waste time arguing with her, simply relayed the question. She was relatively certain he had not seen Daniel move, but she had no way to be certain. They could hear the faintest note of puzzlement in the Jaffa's voice as he replied, "I fired my staff weapon on him, but most of the energy was deflected, as if by a force field, and what little reached him had no effect."
O'Neill raised his eyebrows at Janet and the demand to know what was going on was written all over his face. Before she could even muster up words, Sam jerked sharply, catching both their attention. Her shoulder began to bleed profusely; the wound looked for all the world like a gunshot wound.
Janet felt her face contort in horror at the macabre confirmation of her theory, and she literally saw the light bulb go on over Jack's head as two and two came together in his brain to implicate twenty-two.
His voice full of tension, he demanded of Teal'c, "Did someone just shoot the Samdroid?"
That faint note of puzzlement was still there as the Jaffa answered slowly, "Yes."
Janet opened her mouth to speak, as O'Neill ordered, "Do not, I repeat, NOT fire on the two droids. Whatever you do to them happens to Carter and Daniel."
Teal'c's reply was a simple, "I understand," but Makepeace broke in, sounding highly irritated. "How the hell are we supposed to defend ourselves if we can't fire on them?"
O'Neill's response was short and to the point, "Aren't you supposed to be some big shot Marine? Figure it out, or ask Teal'c."
Janet interrupted him, struck by a sense of urgency. "Sir, we need to get them out of the chambers. If nothing else, I can't do anything about Sam's arm while she's still in there."
Without arguing, he moved to the chamber holding Daniel and quickly found what appeared to be the locking mechanism. His fingers probed expertly at it as he asked, "Won't that harm them?"
She fumbled at the lock on Sam's chamber, trying to figure out how to coax the materials apart. "I don't honestly know, but I don't think so. My suspicion is that it will do more harm to the duplicates than to the originals."
He raised an eyebrow at that, and she offered a one-shouldered shrug. Under any other circumstances, she might have been entertained by the non-verbal exchange. Under these circumstances, all she could feel was frustration as the locks holding the chamber doors in place refused to open.
O'Neill apparently felt her frustration; he pulled out a revolver and shot the lock on Daniel's chamber. Much to her relief, the door popped open and he came over to do the same to the chamber holding Sam.
Moving as quickly as she dared, Janet removed the various tubes and wires and God knows what from Sam's body, taking a moment to be thankful that at least her lover still had enough clothes on to cover her private parts. Regardless of circumstances, sharing that sort of physical detail with O'Neill was just not her idea of a good time.
She watched the blonde closely, making sure that she was not causing any adverse physical reactions as she eased the last set of electrodes off the woman's skin. She reached forward, absorbing most of Sam's weight, and then O'Neill moved in to help move Sam out of the chamber.
They gently laid her on the floor and Janet took a self-indulgent moment to brush a lock of hair off the pale forehead before moving over to remove the various devices from Daniel. She would have preferred to stay at the woman's side and get her arm bandaged, but she knew that getting Daniel out of the chamber took priorityas much caution as the soldiers might take, there was still a good chance the Dandroid could be injured by a ricochet or something.
As she worked, she heard Teal'c on the radio. "It is most mysterious; the duplicate of Captain Carter has fallen and appears to have ceased functioning."
In lieu of answering, O'Neill helped her wrestle Daniel out of the chamber and onto the floor and Teal'c offered, "It now appears that the duplicate of Daniel Jackson is suffering the same fate."
Janet satisfied herself that Daniel was stable and rushed back to Sam's side. The bleeding from her arm had slowed, but not stopped, and Janet dug through her supplies to find enough gauze to make a pressure bandage.
O'Neill was bending over Daniel, keeping an eye on him as he told Teal'c, "Yeah, well we had something to do with that freed Carter and Daniel from these weird chambers."
Makepeace broke in urgently. "The allies of these droid things are fleeing. You want us to chase them down and get some answers out of them?"
Before O'Neill had time to offer a suggestion, a loud noise blared through the lab and red lights began to flash. They could hear the same sound as background on the radio. "Ok, that's not good," O'Neill assessed.
"It sounds as if it was a warning of some kind," Teal'c said helpfully.
Janet finished bandaging Sam's arm and looked down to see that she was starting to come to. She glanced at Daniel, and noted his eyes were open and he was blinking owlishly. O'Neill noticed it as well and reached down to pat the younger man's shoulder reassuringly as he ordered a retreat. "I think we've already outstayed our welcome; let's get the hell out of here while we can. Teal'c, I think we're gonna need your help."
He signed off almost before receiving confirmation. Janet could hear Daniel asking what was going on, but left the brief explanation to Jack, her attention on Sam. The blonde opened her eyes and Janet stroked her cheek soothingly.
The doctor looked over to see O'Neill helping Daniel to his feet and he gave an urgent nod towards Sam.
Janet kept her voice quiet. "I don't have time to explain, Sam, but we've come to rescue you and we need to get out of here as quickly as possible. Can you walk?"
The woman didn't bother with a verbal response; she simply tried to hoist herself off the floor. Seeing the struggle she was having, Janet reached out to help her, worried about the fact of moving the two without knowing whether anything was seriously wrong with them, but seeing that there was no alternative. She managed to help Sam get to her feet, sliding her arm around her lover's waist to support her, seeing that O'Neill offered similar support to Daniel as he led the little group back the way they'd come.
The loud blare of the warning siren pounded in time with their footsteps as they moved as quickly as possible through the lab and back into the endless grey tunnels. It was not easy going; Janet felt herself tiring very quickly as she supported Sam, and even O'Neill's steps seemed to be lagging. Janet could see Daniel looking around as Jack practically dragged him down the corridor. She could almost feel the Colonel's annoyance with the archeologist's extreme interest in minutiae, and though she couldn't hear anything above the siren, she could well imagine the comments O'Neill was offering under his breath.
She looked up into Sam's face, seeing the pinch of pain coupled with the set of determination. The sight made Janet's heart beat faster and gave her a much needed boost of adrenaline. She knew there was no way she could manage to stay right behind O'Neill and Daniel, but she felt her speed increase as she helped her lover down the long corridor, thinking that in the case of these tunnels, familiarity really did breed contempt.
And then the sound blaring all around them changed. It turned into a voice that said well, actually Janet had no idea what it said since it was nothing close to any language she'd ever heard. She could see O'Neill turn his head to quiz Daniel and saw the emphatic shake of the archeologist's head.
Teal'c provided the answer for them, as he, Makepeace, and the other soldier came at a dead run down the corridor, skidding to a halt in front of their party. While the two humans caught their breath, Teal'c said urgently, "It is a countdown of some kind, O'Neill. I do not know the specific words, but I have heard many warnings such as this one. We must hurry."
Jack turned back to look at Janet and Sam, swinging Daniel around with him. She noted with relief that the younger man seemed to be pretty much back to normal, despite the fact that he was still leaning against the Colonel for support. She looked back up at Sam, who returned her gaze and mustered up a thin smile.
O'Neill nodded to Teal'c. "Can you carry Carter? Makepeace and I can help Daniel."
Sam seemed about to argue and then the voice of the countdown sounded again. Janet said in a low whisper, "We need to get out of here." The blonde nodded and took a shaky step towards the Jaffa, who promptly hoisted her ungracefully across his shoulders and took off at a run. Mere seconds later, the rest of them followed suit.
Janet felt like her mind was going numb at the nightmare race against what she assumed was a clock. She was scarcely aware of her body moving, just focused on the need to run. Logically she knew the trip back towards the surface was going much faster than the trip into the tunnels, given the different motivating factors in each. But somehow it seemed like escape was taking forever.
And then finally they plunged through a doorway and into the darkness of the first tunnel, the one that led to the staircase. And just in time, too, as the voice blaring through their ears became more ominous sounding and the tunnel began to shake. Janet stumbled along, trying desperately not to fall, and somehow made it to the staircase. Teal'c stood at the bottom of it, Sam still slung unceremoniously across his shoulders, his strong hands reaching out to help all of them up the stairs.
Janet had never been so grateful for the threat of sunburn in her whole life. She staggered out, half blinded by the sun, the unnamed soldier at her side urging her forward, as far away as possible from the entrance to the underground. She turned back, still moving forward, eyes shielded as she sought to see whether everyone was out. O'Neill and Makepeace were dragging Daniel between them, and then her heart grew lighter as she saw Teal'c and Sam emerge from the tunnel.
And the next thing she knew, she was thrown off her feet and backwards as the world exploded.
Okay, so the world hadn't exploded, Janet decided as she opened one cautious eye. Since nothing adverse (other than way too much sun) greeted her sight, she opened both eyes and struggled into a sitting position.
The unnamed soldier appeared by her side, not that he didn't have a name, just that she had seen him so rarely as to not recall it (he was one of the few SGC members who somehow managed to only go to the infirmary on her days off). They exchanged brief nods, acknowledging that they were both all right, and then turned their collective attention to finding their companions. They weren't all that hard to find five figures sprawled drunkenly over the sandy ground.
Janet pushed to her feet, staggering a bit, unable to decide whether it was because of being knocked on her butt or because of the entire experience finally catching up with her. She smiled her gratitude for the steadying hand on her elbow and then moved forward slowly, making her way to where O'Neill, Daniel, and Makepeace were easing themselves into sitting positions.
She gave them a cursory visual exam--which all but Daniel waved off impatiently--satisfying herself with seeing there were no significant injuries. The unnamed soldier stayed to help the three to their feet while she headed towards where Sam and Teal'c were starting to move around.
Reaching her target, she sank to her knees beside the blonde woman. She glanced over to see Teal'c leap to his feet; with a small grin, she concluded he was his usual healthy self. He cocked his head to the side at her visual appraisal, but made no comment other than to say he would check on the others while she checked on Captain Carter. She started to tell him she'd already done that, but he moved out of earshot before the thought got from her mind to her mouth.
And then the soft sound of her name on Sam's lips chased all other thoughts away, and pulled Janet's gaze down. The blonde's face curved in a smile and the sight made Janet's heart soar, an answering grin on her own face. They'd made it out. Against all odds, they'd made it.
Time slowed down for a moment as they simply smiled at each other, and Janet could almost see her lover doing the same thing she wasdrinking in the details of finding herself so consummately alive and close to the one she loved.
"He-ey," Janet drawled gently, "how are you feeling?" There were many other things she could have asked, but this was the detail that seemed most important at the moment.
By way of response, Sam pushed herself into a sitting position. She seemed to be considering herself before she spoke. "My shoulder hurts, but I think I'm ok. Feeling pretty groggy, but a lot better than I was. How's Daniel?"
That was so like Sam, Janet thought warmly, being concerned about other people's welfare. Her answer was a simple, "He seems fine."
Sam's relieved smile lit her face and Janet felt herself fall in love with the woman all over again at the mere sight. Yes, her lover was a beautiful woman in a physical sense, but it was her caring and compassion, her intelligence and curiosity that actually attracted Janet and that made her heart beat just a little faster every time she saw that sweet face.
She reached out and brushed a stray lock of hair off the other woman's forehead. She knew it was not exactly an appropriate gesture for even a doctor under the circumstances, but she just couldn't bring herself to care all that much. She had enough plausible deniability to brush off any questions of impropriety, and given the circumstances, she rather thought their companions had other things on their minds than the minor contact.
As if the thought of their companions were a summons, they all appeared at Janet's side, waiting while Sam struggled to her feet, the doctor automatically reaching out a helping hand. And then the magnificent seven stood in a row and surveyed the landscape, looking to see from what they had just escaped.
They didn't have to look far; not ten feet from where Sam and Teal'c had been flung to the ground, there was a hole. A big hole. A really big hole. A really, really big hole.
It looked like the warrens of tunnels and the lab and whatever else had been underground had simply imploded, sending the sand plummeting down to layer the bottom of a massive crater, the smell of smoke drifting up, and tiny licks of flame lapping wherever the sand had not smothered the blaze from the explosion. In the distant depths of the crater, they could see only a couple of objects still standingall else appeared to have been destroyed.
For a long moment, silence reigned as they took in the nearness of death and destruction. Then O'Neill summed things up in a typically simple phrase. "Glad it's not me on clean up duty."
The boom of General Hammond's voice rang through the debriefing room. "Are you certain the chambers only facilitated a physical link between our people and the duplicates? I don't need to tell you that if whoever did this had access to their minds, the damage could be incalculable."
'No, you don't need to tell me,' Janet's inner voice grumbled crankily. Aloud, all she said was, "I'm as certain as I can be, sir, given the way the chambers seemed to be operating." Which was far from 100%, she admitted to herself.
She pushed herself straighter in her chair, feeling her exhaustion catch up with her. She'd returned from the mission and taken Sam and Daniel right to the infirmary for a thorough set of tests, and then they'd all come to the debriefing. Once she'd determined that they really were Carter and Jackson, that Daniel was unharmed except for a lump on the back of the head, and that Sam's injuries were all relatively minor, her nervous energy had worn off. Now all she could seem to summon up were guilt over having hurt Daniel and her lover (albeit it indirectly in the form of the skillet), fatigue, and grouchiness because of the fatigue. All in all, not the best combination of traits when Hammond was in the mood for answers.
Janet could feel Sam's worried gaze on her, the concern for her well-being so strong it was nearly palpable. But her own gaze was held by the challenging look fixed on her by the general. She felt her eyebrow arch in an equally challenging look, her mind searching for a suitably withering statement that would not lead to an insubordination charge.
In typically clueless fashion, Daniel interrupted the by-play. "All I can say for sure is that it felt like our physical energy was being drained, but it never felt like anyone had access to our minds."
Janet felt a surge of relief when Hammond's implacable gaze fixed in on the archeologist. She knew that wasn't a terribly nice reaction to have, but she couldn't help it. Daniel had been his usual "obnoxious patient" self while she was running tests on him and Sam, and as tired and grouchy as she was, she couldn't help the evil sense of pleasure she derived from seeing him squirm under the general's glare.
This time it was Sam who broke up the by-play. "Sir, I know it's hard to explain, but I'm certain that they didn't have access to our minds." Her next words were very quiet. "I'm particularly aware of what that feels like, and there was no sense of that. It was all on a physical level, like somehow the energy of our bodies was used to help activate our duplicates."
Janet knew how hard that statement was for Sam to make; talking about her experience with Jolinar was something she did as seldom as possible. She turned in her chair, focusing her gaze on the woman sitting beside her, trying to offer a sense of support through the simple visual contact.
Hammond's expression softened in a fatherly manner, as it usually did when he regarded Carter. Janet had long been amazed at just how fond he was of the young woman, and was equally amazed at how little Sam seemed to know it. Not that that was terribly surprising; giving the woman any sort of personal compliment or letting her know how much she was liked was just met with a blank sort of stare and at most, an embarrassed blush. She just didn't seem to have a clue that she was not only an intelligent and fascinating person, but an attractive one as well.
The general's voice was kind but firm as he queried, "Correct me if I'm wrong, Captain, but if you were drugged, you wouldn't have a reliable sense of what was actually happening to you."
Sam's jaw tightened and her eyes grew glossy, and Janet felt a spark of anger kindle in her chest, realizing that her lover was close to falling apart, both from the injuries and captivity, and from the still painful reference to having another being in her mind.
She drew herself up in her chair, but before she could do her best mama bear impersonation to shield the other woman, O'Neill jumped in, his voice a slow drawl. "Yeah, but sir remember the whole seduction thing that started this mess? If those droid things had been mentally connected to Carter and Daniel, they'd never have tried that."
An all new kind of tension flooded over Sam, though it was so imperceptible that none save Janet noticed it. The doctor knew exactly what was going through the other woman's mind: she and Daniel had gotten the generic version of events during the debriefing, but Sam didn't have enough information to know whether the surreptitious relationship between herself and Janet had been revealed, and unfortunately, she'd have to wait for reassurance on that front.
Daniel was quick to agree with Jack. "That's a really good point. I would never try and seduce Doctor Fraiser; I don't have the slightest bit of interest in her."
Janet arched an eyebrow in amusement. The statement didn't bother her in the slightest (as Daniel was not exactly her type), but she saw the sudden flush of embarrassment on his cheeks as he realized just how that sounded.
"I mean well not that she's not attractive and all that and not that it's all about looks anyhow," he backpedaled quickly, "but "
Hammond's raised hand stopped the flood of words. "I think we get the idea."
The general seemed to take that point at face value--apparently realizing it was about as much certainty as could be achieved--and allowed himself to switch gears. "I've asked Colonel Makepeace to get in radio contact with the initial excavation team and report back." Looking down at his watch, he continued, "He ought to be contacting us here in about two minutes."
Just as he'd finished speaking, an aide burst into the debriefing room and offered the general a radio. "It's Colonel Makepeace, sir."
"Punctual guy," O'Neill offered wryly, with a wink to Janet. She mustered up a smile and then all eyes focused on the radio, as if somehow it would transmit pictures instead of just sound.
Makepeace's voice was tinged with weariness. "Well sir, as you can imagine, we've just barely scratched the surface, so to speak. But pretty much everything has been destroyed. We did find three things completely intact a tv set, a VCR, and a whole collection of video tapes."
That was about the last thing anyone had expected to hear, Janet mused, as she looked around to see surprise (and a touch of amusement) on the other faces at the table. Before any of them could ask the obvious question of, "How?" the colonel continued.
"Best the guys can figure it, since this stuff isn't alien technology like the other stuff, it wasn't destroyed by whatever self-destruct thing went off."
Janet noticed Hammond look questioningly at Sam; the Captain nodded thoughtfully and said, "In theory, it's possible their technology would only be effective on their own devices because of the materials used in construction and the type of matter that an explosive device was designed to target."
Makepeace waited until she was done, and when he continued his explanation, Janet thought she heard a touch of amusement in his tone. "The good news is that what while we didn't find any sign of these aliens to tell us who they were, what we did find gives us a pretty good idea of why they did what they did."
He paused, and after a long moment, O'Neill's impatience got the best of him. "And what would that be?"
This time the man's amusement was obvious. "Do you remember that we had a couple of techs on planet doing some research on the plants and monitoring the sound transmitter? Well one of them had fixed up a way to use the energy generator to provide power for his tv and VCR, which turned up missing along with his videos. He thought his buddy had taken them as a joke, so never looked for them. Somehow these aliens got their hands on them, because that's what we've got here."
Janet found herself leaning forward with interest, and noted almost absently that her companions were doing the same. Except for the slow, crackling sound of the radio, it was quiet enough to hear a pin drop.
"There are tapes of CNN's coverage of Monica Lewinsky's Congressional testimony, the movie Mars Attacks, the X-Files movie, and last, but certainly not least, several movies taped directly off of the Spice pay-per-view channel."
Janet quickly glanced around the table, as Hammond thanked Makepeace for the information. Daniel coughed and scratched the tip of his nose, looking studiously away from the women sitting across from him; O'Neill muttered softly, "That explains the seduction thing"; Hammond looked like he would like to pretend he didn't know what that meant, but couldn't. Predictably enough, Sam looked completely confused and Teal'c had his head cocked to the side in puzzlement.
Before anyone could offer an explanation of what that meant and why it explained a whole lot, Teal'c asked quietly. "You have a television channel devoted to the spices used in cooking?"
"I still don't understand how it was that you knew the duplicate wasn't me." Sam looked up at Janet at she spoke. "I mean, I know why Daniel's duplicate trying to seduce you would have made you suspicious. And I know that they targeted you for the seduction because as the CMO of the Stargate program you have a lot of control as to who comes and goes through the gate."
She paused, a slight blush crawling over her features. "And now that you've explained those movies to me, I know why they would think women seducing women would be typical behavior for this planet. But since you and I ARE lovers, how did you know something wasn't right?"
They were stretched out on the couch in Janet's house, or more accurately, Sam was stretched out with her head in Janet's lap, while the doctor gently stroked her hair.
Janet smiled inwardly; she'd known that eventually it would occur to Sam to ask that question. It had been a couple of days since the debriefing, and the only reason it hadn't occurred to the blonde to ask before now was that she'd been pretty tired and sluggish from the painkillers for her arm.
The doctor had wrestled with how much she should tell her lover, knowing that Sam would be likely to blame herself somehow for their relationship putting Janet in that situation. Now that she was in the moment, she knew she couldn't withhold anything in an attempt to protect the woman; ironically enough, the very innocence in Sam that she wanted to protect was what would prevent her from not telling her the whole truth.
Janet shifted slightly so that she could see her lover, looking down into those clear blue eyes, unmasked and full of curiosity.
With a slight sigh, her hand still playing with the soft strands of blonde hair, Janet spoke quietly. "It was the way it she was acting. The things she said were just not like you and she tried to force me. She ripped my shirt open and was holding me down, she wouldn't stop when I asked, and she was rough, so rough. I struggled with her, but she was too strong. And you already know that the only way I could stop her was by hitting her with the skillet. I knew you would never do anything to hurt me, and would never push me to do something I wasn't ready for. You aren't capable of that sort of violence or meanness."
She paused for a moment, watching Sam carefully. There was sympathy in the blue eyes, and then Sam brought her hand up to her own face in surprise to trace carefully over the bruises still visible. Janet winced at the sight, knowing that it was her struggle with the Samdroid that had caused those marks, and in a stuttering voice, she started to apologize.
A gentle finger against her lips stopped the flow of words. "Janet, you don't need to apologize. It's not like you knew she was physically connected to me. You were trying to protect yourself, and there's nothing for you to feel sorry for. I'm just sorry that you had to go through that seeing someone you thought was your lover acting so out of character."
Janet felt a sudden threat of tears that she hastily blinked away. She hadn't known how much she needed Sam's understanding and forgiveness until she actually heard the words. She felt the gentle touch of her lover's hand caressing her face, her own hand still playing with blonde hair. For a long moment they sat in silence, comforted and soothed by the mere gift of presence.
And then Sam spoke again, another question on her lips. "So what did she say that was so different from what I would say?"
The genuine puzzlement brought Janet's sense of humor bubbling up to the surface, knowing that the woman's cluelessness about these things was not at all feigned.
"Well, for starters, all she talked about was sex, never about love or even about making love."
She looked down to see her lover nod thoughtfully. In Sam's vocabulary, it was love and making love that were the important words. Despite her crude tongue (oh so helpfully nurtured by O'Neill), Sam's language when referring to the act of lovemaking was almost puritan in nature.
Janet could not resist the wicked temptation to explain further, knowing from experience exactly how cute Sam was when her cheeks were pink with embarrassment.
"But that's not all. In fact, this is word for word what she said to me." Janet leaned down and whispered the words in Sam's ear, repeating all the things the duplicate had said to her.
She straightened back up when she was done, seeing the fierce blush spreading across the pale cheekbones. She couldn't help but smile when Sam's verbal response adequately summed up the entire droid saga.
She laughed softly and ruffled the blonde hair affectionately. "I kinda thought that would be your reaction."
Sam shook her head as best she could with it cradled in Janet's lap. "I'm just sorry you had to go through that at all. Must have been horrible."
Janet leaned down to kiss the other woman. "It wasn't something I enjoyed." She paused for a moment before saying, "But I think you could help me forget about it."
She felt Sam's soft shiver of anticipation at the implication of the sentence. Easing herself out from under her lover's head, Janet stretched out beside her on the couch, reaching up to stroke the woman's cheek tenderly as she felt Sam's hand circle her body and massage lightly against the small of her back.
She found Sam's mouth with her own, and the kiss they shared was soft and sweet. Janet's voice was a bare murmur against Sam's lips. "In fact, I know you can help me forget."
And then words were forgotten as the lovers lost themselves in the feel of each other's body.
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