DISCLAIMER: The story, and characters and anything and everything else concerning SG: SG1 belong to MGM, Gekko, Secret Productions etc, they are so not mine and no money is being made from this and no copyright infringement is intended.
CHALLENGE: Submitted for the 5th Anniversary Challenge.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
The Place of Our Beginning
"Rebel Tauri, heed the words of your God Anubis. Know that unless you surrender to me the person known to you as Samantha Carter, last host of the Sho'vah Jolinar of Melkshur, once of the ranks of the Ascended, you shall be destroyed. If you value your lives and your continued freedom send her through your Chappa'ai to the celestial co-ordinates - and then it gives a gate address - within 21 rotations of your planet. My quest for the place of our beginning for all its power and glory shall not be denied."
Daniel laid down the piece of paper and stared across the table into the wide blue eyes of his friend Samantha Carter. She was pale and her eyes were dark shadowed. He did not for one moment think that it was because she had over-indulged at her birthday party the previous evening. Both Janet Fraiser and Jack O'Neill also looked as if sleep had not been their friend the previous night. Something had happened. Something he did not yet know about. "That is essentially it. The message repeats several times."
"We have established that the gate address is on neither the Abydos Cartouche nor the Ancient's repository listings."
"So that means what Anubis has built himself a Gate?" O'Neill asked.
"Possibly, sir. We know it can be done the Tollan built a gate on their new homeworld and Orlin "
"Yeah, hell of a USP that was for your house interdimensional portal in the basement," O'Neill grinned fiercely for a moment. Sam glared at him.
"Colonel Carter this might be an opportune moment for you to relate your experience of last night," General Hammond said.
Sam closed her eyes. "Last night I was summoned by Oma Desala "
"You were summoned how?" Daniel interrupted, deeply intrigued. "Did you dream it or did you actually physically "
"Daniel, for crying out loud, let her tell what happened, first," O'Neill said. "Then you can ask her all the questions you want."
Sam shot him a grateful glance and then smiled, aware of Janet's hand resting on her thigh in a gesture of support.
"I physically vanished at least I did according to Janet and General O'Neill. They were both at the house when I reappeared again. And somehow Sophia sensed what had happened. She knew that I was gone."
"That's all she said, over and over again 'Mama gone,'" O'Neill said. "She woke me up crying and I couldn't get her to settle again. I phoned Janet just to check that everything was all right and she confirmed that Sam was missing?"
"Did any of you have a dream about Sam last night?" Janet asked.
"I don't usually remember my dreams," Daniel frowned, "but now you come to mention it "
Teal'c's eyes had drifted closed. "I remember. I was in kel-nor-eem when I sensed something most strongly," he said softly. "I knew that Colonel Carter was in great danger but then the feeling faded and I did not recall it until you mentioned it, Doctor Fraiser."
"Anubis " Paul Davis said. "It was something to do with Anubis but well, he's been on our minds a lot recently so I didn't think any more of it." He glanced across at Sam, doubt and not a little fear in his eyes. "I didn't realise I didn't understand."
"I couldn't move," Hammond said suddenly. "I couldn't save you, Sam Colonel Carter, I'm sorry." He looked almost grief-stricken. It took a great deal of self control for Sam not to reach out to him. Because of their military relationship she had forced herself to forget just how much she cared for the older man who was in many ways a surrogate father for her as well as being her godfather and mentor.
"It seems fairly conclusive to me that we all had the same or very similar dreams," Janet said, staring in turn at each of the people gathered around the table, her hand still resting under the table on Sam's thigh, her fingers softly smoothing across the surface of her BDUs. Working on the Stargate programme the last seven years had accustomed her to a high level of weirdness but this was just about her limit. "I don't understand how or why but while Sam was with the Ascended we each dreamt of her being held captive by Anubis, of being powerless to stop her being tortured."
"But that never happened " Daniel said, his expression growing grimmer. "Or at least it hasn't happened yet."
"A premonition," Teal'c agreed. "The Ascended have demonstrated the ability to direct dreams before. We were all granted a prophetic dream. To prepare us for what is to come. This is what I believe."
"Oh yeah," Daniel agreed softly. He had been the recipient of one of those dreams courtesy of Shifu, an object lesson on the inevitable corruption of absolute power. He had never told anyone the full truth of what he had experienced: he was too ashamed, too fearful that somehow what he had seen, what he had done would come to pass.
"So what do we do about it?" O'Neill asked. "Apart from continuing to keep Carter on our side of the wormhole. No way do we let Anubis get his hands on her." There was a murmur of assent around the table.
Sam was getting a little tired of being talked about in the third person. "With respect, I am still here, you know. Look, I don't believe in premonitions or prophecies," Sam said. "The way I see it this is a might be, not a will be. There is no way that the future can be predicted. The very act of trying to would change the future in itself. I won't give up just because you all think it's inevitable " She paused, looked around the table at the unchanging expressions. "I'm not going to win this one, am I?"
"Sorry, Carter," O'Neill said.
Sam buried her face in her hands. "Oh, this is ridiculous."
"I could make it an order, Colonel Carter," Hammond said. "I "
Whatever he was going to say next was interrupted by the unauthorised activation alarm. Hammond got to his feet followed by Jack O'Neill and Teal'c. When Sam got up to follow them, O'Neill motioned her to stay put. Sam was going to protest but then saw the silent pleading look in Janet's eyes and sat down heavily. She folded her arms and stared at the table top not bothering to hide in any way just how unhappy she was with the situation.
They heard the Gate open, the iris close and then open again. Presumably it was someone with proper authentication codes, Sam thought, concentrating on maintaining her attitude of displeasure.
"Sammie, you okay?"
It was her father. He looked worn out, his expression of relief not hiding the exhaustion in his eyes. She got up to greet him. He pulled her into his arms, holding her close.
"I'm okay Dad. What's happening? Not that I'm not glad to see you but "
"Long story," he said, pulling away from her for a moment to look her up and down critically. "You sure you're okay?" He glanced across to Janet for confirmation, frowning when she paused before nodding her head.
"Don't the two of you start ganging up on me as well!" Sam turned away from them towards the window looking down onto the gateroom.
"Samantha Elizabeth Carter!" her father barked. "I will not take that attitude!"
Janet winced, really not wanting to be in the middle of one of the now legendary father/daughter spats. Sam turned to stare at him for a moment with an expression that eloquently translated as "Bite me", before she turned back to gaze at her beloved Gate.
"Jacob - Sam look, I really don't think you want to be fighting about this," Janet said. The two combatants glared at each other but both figures relaxed slightly, declaring an unspoken truce for now. "Jacob did you dream about Sam some time in the last couple of nights. Something about Anubis."
"Yeah. I saw him torture her. All I could do was stand and watch whilst that bastard tortured my little girl That's why I came. I we - had to know that you were all right, Sam. We couldn't take it if "
Sam turned to face them again and they both saw the terror and frustration in her eyes. Jacob held out his arms and Sam went to him, welcoming the familiarity of his embrace. He might no longer be able to keep her safe from all the horrors of the world but it was nice to be reminded that he would at least try.
Janet let them have their moment. "Jacob there's something else you need to know. All of us me, SG1 even General Hammond - had pretty much the same dream even Sophia, as far as we can work out. And that same night Sam was taken by the Ascended. She was given a warning and a mission."
"You are not going after Anubis," Jacob said, standing back and staring at his daughter in horror. "After the warning that Aris Bok gave us about his interest in you!"
"I have to, dad. It's one of those fate things. At least that's how Oma Desala put it. And Anubis wants me. He's made threats against the SGC, against Earth if I am not handed over to him. We got a message from him." She gave him a copy of the translation Daniel had made and waited whilst he read it over. "Now I don't necessarily believe in prophecy or fate but if what Oma says is correct and I have no reason to doubt her, Anubis is after something and he can't be allowed to find it. The consequences would be well, let's just say very, very bad. I get the feeling it's a fate of many versus the fate of one kind of deal. Now this thing, whatever it is, is linked to me, in some way or rather to Jolinar and one of her previous hosts. And a Goa'uld called Hecate."
"Now that's a name I haven't heard in a long time," Selmac took control. "She was regarded as one of Anubis's most loyal lieutenants for many centuries, a cold blooded killer even by Goa'uld standards. She was an expert in weapons systems used inhabited planets as test grounds. And then word came that Anubis had had her tortured and summarily executed. We never did find out what she had done to displease him."
"From what I saw in the flashback, it had something to do with Jolinar and one of her previous hosts. Jolinar was present when Anubis was torturing Hecate. Hecate knew that Jolinar was Tok'ra. Hecate died protecting Jolinar. I just don't know why. It had something to do with Jolinar's host, but I don't know who that was at that point." Sam buried her face in her hands again. Sometimes she wished she had better access to Jolinar's scattered memories instead of having to try to search through them time after time or worse, have them go off as metaphorical timebombs in her psyche every now and then.
"I can piece together the name and lineage of most of Jolinar's hosts over the centuries," Selmac said. "At the time of Hecate's demise, her host was "
"Clea," father and daughter said simultaneously. Sam blinked, shook her head.
"Wow, that came out of nowhere. Her name was Clea. I remember now. She had infiltrated Anubis's household, she had gotten close to Hecate. They were they were " Sam shuddered as a wave of fear and sorrow ran through her, "Oh God, it feels like I'm losing her all over again." Tears were running down her cheeks as she stared blindly into a room she could no longer see, her memory overwhelmed by recollections of watching her lover tortured by her mortal enemy. She watched as the small woman hung from the chains that bit cruelly into her fair skin, her dark hair curtaining her face. "No!" Anubis brought the glowing crystal at the heart of the hand device down to almost touch Hecate's forehead. Hecate would not give her up but it was taking all of Jolinar's will to keep Clea silent, to not show how she felt, to remain impassive. The smell of flesh burning soured her stomach. Then someone's hand was on her shoulder, someone's fingers were touching her face, grasping her chin, hurting her a little, her name being shouted insistently. Her name. Sam. Samantha Elizabeth Carter. Not Jolinar. Not Clea.
"Sam!" The grip lessened a little as she broke out of the remembrance.
"I'm okay!" she gasped, accepting the glass of water someone handed to her. She gulped half of it down without thinking, grimacing as the coldness griped her stomach.
Janet was sitting opposite her, her hand around Sam's wrist. "I want you in the Infirmary," she said.
"I'm okay," she repeated, trying and failing to get to her feet. The room swam around her and she felt so cold.
"No you're not," Janet said firmly. "You're going into shock. You need to rest, Sam. Now."
"Better do as she says, Sammie," her father said. "You don't look too good."
"I don't have time for this. We don't have time for this. I need to see more, to understand what happened between Clea and Hecate," Sam said. The headache that was beginning to pound behind her eyes told her that that was not going to happen any time soon. Slowly she got to her feet and managed it this time with only the minimum of swaying.
With her father and Janet on either side of her she made it down to the Infirmary. By then a combination of the migraine and coming down off the adrenalin high was making her feel very sick and light headed. She passed out somewhere between the door and the bed.
"We must get you out of here," the small woman held on to her wrist with Goa'uld enhanced strength as they hurried along the tunnel. "If he finds you "
"You are in as much danger as me, my beloved," Jolinar told her lover. "He will kill you. Or worse."
"Then I will die a Tok'ra," Hecate said. "And finally pay recompense for all the evil I have done." She closed her eyes and when she reopened them it was Salome who smiled at Jolinar. "Please understand, we are as one on this. We would die to protect you, to protect the Tok'ra. Promise me that if anything happens if he puts me in the Sarcophagus and my kalash forgets promise that you will kill me, Jolinar."
"I promise," the Tok'ra said. She could feel Clea weeping inside, but knew that the great compassion and love that her host felt for the host of Hecate would prevail. They would not let her return to the nightmare. Together they would be strong enough to do what was necessary.
"I promise," Sam whispered, opening her eyes. Janet was asleep in the chair beside her bed. She looked pale, upset. There was a second chair, currently empty. She guessed that her father had been keeping her company as well. Sam sat up carefully. The room didn't sway too much and her head felt relatively clear. She wrapped her arms around her knees and watched her lover sleep. In her dream Hecate/Salome had worn Janet's face. Almost. Her cheeks had been a little less rounded, her jaw maybe a touch more angular, her lips thinner. A thin scar from some childhood accident had bisected her left eyebrow. But at first glance they could have been sisters.
This was very very strange.
"Hey, you're awake." A small hand came to rest on her forearm. "How do you feel?"
"Headache's gone," Sam said truthfully. "Otherwise confused. A little scared. I've remembered some more but "
"Not everything you need to remember. It's frustrating, I understand," Janet said softly. "Perhaps " She paused as if reconsidering what she was about to say. "Perhaps if you try the memory recall device. That should help you target specific memories." Janet knew that the device not only retrieved memory but also the full sensory details of the recalled experience. From the flashback's Sam had so far endured they knew that it would be intense.
Sam shuddered. "I hate that thing. But you're right. I need to remember. It could be the most important thing I ever do " Sam reached out and stroked her long fingers down the back of Janet's hand where it rested on her forearm. "I have to do this, Janet. It's the only way I'll know for certain. Oma Desala told me. All that I need to know is within me, within the nested memories of Jolinar and her former hosts."
Janet nodded. "Okay, but I want you in the infirmary and monitored when we do it. The experience has always been very intense for you and my guess is this time isn't going to be any different."
"How long do I have to stay here this time?" Sam asked.
"Let me give you a quick check over, and if I like what I see," Janet paused, grinning, aware of just how many ways that remark could be taken, "I'll discharge you. My shift finished " she glanced at her watch, "an hour ago. Cassie is watching Sophia. She misses you, Cassie says she hasn't stopped asking about you."
"I miss her too," Sam said softly. The knowledge that her daughter had sensed her disappearance and been profoundly affected by it unsettled Sam deeply. She realised how badly she had wanted her daughter to remain untouched by the madness and danger that characterised her life. But that seemed to be impossible.
"Your dad is staying around for a couple of days. He's got a meeting set up with a Tok'ra operative tomorrow Daniel and Teal'c are going with him but they're coming straight back here when they're done."
"So he won't miss my party then," Sam grinned.
"What party?" Janet feigned wide eyed ignorance. "You made me promise on pain of death not to organise a birthday party for you this year, remember?"
"Yeahsureyabetchya," Sam grinned.
Sam's 'surprise' party turned into a Council of War. Rather than have the whole issue be like the invisible elephant in the corner, overshadowing the whole proceedings, Sam had opted for them to talk about it openly. She wanted as few secrets as possible between them at this time. Janet had barely let Sam out of her sight since Oma's intervention and Sophia was also unusually clingy, preferring Sam's lap or hip to any other seat in the house. Her old team stayed close as always ready and willing to give any support that they could.
She sat now in the big armchair with the little girl cradled in her arms, one small fist securely snagged in the material of her shirt.
O'Neill began. "Okay. So this 'Nagdaleth apis varo' this place of our beginning what do we know about it?" Everyone glanced at him in surprise. He had got the name right for once. "What? I was paying attention, okay!"
"We know it was a place of the Ancients," Sam said slowly. "And that Anubis has been looking for it for a long time. Which would seem to indicate that although he was one of the Ancients he does not retain all of their knowledge."
"Or that it was somewhere that didn't come into use despite the name until after he had been banished," Daniel said. "I've come across a few vague references to it so far but nothing concrete. The tone of the documents I've translated so far is strange almost as if they feared it. As if its secret was too big to be referred to even in the most obscure of terms."
"It is important to him," Sam whispered. "He wants it very badly." She shuddered as a whisper of something came to her but remained tantalisingly out of reach. Sophia grabbed for her hand, wrapping her small fist securely around one of Sam's thumbs. Distracted, Sam smiled down at her daughter, softly tickling her sides to make her giggle.
"I have not heard of it by that name, but there are legends about a place, rarely spoken of by Jaffa," Teal'c said. "More sacred to us even than Qeb. Because the Goa'uld fear it so much. But then Anubis himself is a figure of darkness and mystery. I have sent a message to Master Brata'c. If any legends or history remain, he will know." He turned to Sam. "Have you remembered anything further concerning the Goa'uld Hecate? Was she indeed sympathetic to the Tok'ra?"
"From what I've been able to recall, Hecate had recently taken a new host, a young woman called Salome. Her host was very close to Clea, who was host to Jolinar at that time. The two women were lovers and more than that. They had a mental connection of some kind. If not actual telepathy then a very strong sense of empathy. Anyway, with Clea's help, Salome was able to stop Hecate from taking over her mind completely. She was able over time to influence the symbiote, to persuade it that Anubis had to be stopped." Sam paused to soothe Sophia who had grown increasingly restless. "I think someone's tired," she smiled.
"I'll take her up," Cassie said, getting up from her seat.
"No wait a moment," Daniel said, staring at Sophia. "Sam don't think about Anubis, or anything to do with what's happening. Let's talk about something else for a while, see if she settles again."
Slightly puzzled, Sam did as he asked, switching topics to tell them instead about how hard it had been for her not to discover the details of her surprise party. "Just don't think about a career in covert ops, either of you," she said gazing fondly at her partner and her adopted daughter. Her other daughter had settled peacefully in her lap again, curled in the crook of her arm contentedly sucking a pacifier that she still insisted on using despite Janet's best efforts to wean her off it.
They all laughed, their earlier mood all but forgotten. "So do you think that Jolinar, Clea and Salome persuaded Hecate to rebel against Anubis?" Daniel asked suddenly. "Can you recall any exact details, Sam?"
Sophia began to whimper and then to cry in earnest. Sam cast Daniel a horrified glare. "She knows Holy Hannah, she knows what we're talking about "
"How is that possible?" George Hammond asked. "She's just a child "
"She is the child of an Ascended being," Teal'c said. "We truly do not know what she may be capable of."
Before really thinking it through, Janet had scooped Sophia out of Sam's lap and was cradling her close. "It's okay baby, no one's going to hurt you, no bad things here," she crooned, pressing her lips to the soft skin at her daughter's temple. Sam stared at them, her hand over her mouth, her face suddenly losing what little colour it had. She looked as if she was about to be sick. She got up and bolted for the back door. Janet stared after her, stricken, suddenly realising how her actions with Sophia might have appeared to Sam. As if she were the 'bad thing' her daughter had to be rescued from.
Sophia's wails had died down to the occasional sniffle. She rubbed at her eyes, hiding her face in her mother's shoulder.
"Think you could have brought that to our attention a little less forcefully, Danny?" Jack said acidly aiming a not quite so mock punch at his shoulder. Daniel winced then shrugged, a defeated expression on his face.
"Sorry, I couldn't think of another way to test it," he murmured.
"I'll go after her " Jacob started to get up from the armchair.
"No, I'll go," Janet said, handing Sophia who was nearly asleep again over to Cassie who cradled her baby sister whispering comfort to her as she carried her off upstairs to bed.
Janet knew where Sam would be, a secluded area at the bottom of the garden where she often retreated to think things through. They had all noticed the change in her since her return. Sometimes humanity just got a little too much for her and she needed space to herself a little Sam-time as Janet put it. She did not begrudge her lover a single second of it. The joy and wonder of having her back was still too great.
She was there, sitting on the stone bench, her knees drawn up under her chin, her arms wrapped around herself. In the light from the small lamps that edged the path Janet could see that she had been crying.
"I'm sorry " they both began simultaneously before breaking off, smiling. Sam wiped her eyes with the back of her hand.
"She's okay Cassie's putting her to bed," Janet said sitting down beside her lover, leaning her head against Sam's shoulder. Sam put an arm around her, squeezing her gently.
"I'm sorry " Sam began again. Janet laid her finger against Sam's lips, silencing her.
"Nothing to be sorry for, love," Janet said. "I'm the one that's sorry. What I said when I took Sophia from you, I didn't mean to imply I never meant it to sound like it was you " she fell silent as Sam's lips touched her brow and sighed, knowing that Sam did not blame her. "How are you doing?"
"I can't protect her, can I?" she whispered agonisingly. "I can't protect any of you."
"No," Janet said softly. "And the same goes for me. I can't protect you or Sophia either. And I know how much that must hurt you because I'm hurting as well."
"It must be something to do with how she was conceived with my Ascended state at that moment," Sam said. "When two Goa'uld mate the child is Harcesis, carrying the genetic memory of the Goa'uld. When an Ascended mates, the child is obviously special as well."
"We've known Sophia was special since the moment she was conceived," Janet said softly. "But she is still just a baby. If she does retain any knowledge or memories of the Ancients or shares your memories of Jolinar - it is going to be a while before she can articulate them no matter how advanced she is. And I really don't think this is something we could or should force along. She shares a bond with both of us, something wonderful. But like most things it has a dark side. And that is something we're just going to have to face up to."
Sam laid her head on her knees for a moment. "This makes this all the more imperative, Janet. He might come after Sophia. If he finds out she exists. She could be the key to everything that he wants. Or NID what if NID find out " she shuddered. She did not know what was worse, the galactic evil that lurked out there or the home-grown evil they faced right here on Earth.
They both heard a phone ring inside the house, which was quickly answered. Cassie appeared at the door and beckoned them in. Inside, Jacob and George Hammond were putting on their coats. Teal'c was already wearing his jacket, one of his ubiquitous hats covering his tattoo. As usual at these gatherings he was designated driver for the night.
"We've been recalled to the SGC, sweetheart," Jacob embraced his daughter. "One of the Tok'ra operatives who has a line on Anubis just got in contact."
"Then I should come with you," Sam said immediately.
"No Sam, we've decided to keep you at a distance. We can't take the chance of Anubis trying a double cross to snatch you. We'll keep you in the loop if this guy has anything interesting to tell us, but at a remove. It's for the best."
Reluctantly Sam saw the logic in this. "Okay, dad." She saw that Jack O'Neill hadn't moved. "Sir?"
"I'm staying put. That was something else we decided whilst you were getting some air. At least one of us will be here with you guys at all times. And if one of us can't be here someone we trust from one of the other teams will be. You're far too important to take chances with, Carter. You and Sophia both. And I'm not just talking about protecting you from the likes of Anubis. You know the score."
Sam nodded, sat down rather suddenly as if her legs had just given out on her which they pretty much had. Janet rubbed her fingers soothingly against her cheek and Sam grabbed hold of her hand, holding it tightly. She hated feeling so helpless. Once upon a time she had been a higher being. There must be something she could do.
Unfortunately at that moment nothing came to mind.
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