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.
SPOILERS: Hathor, any stories involving the Quantum Mirror.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author
"Unauthorised Offworld Activation"
The members of SG1 and Dr Janet Fraiser were in the briefing room with General Hammond when the Stargate activated. As one they abandoned their discussions and filed down the staircase to the control room.
"Any signal?" Hammond asked.
"Coming through now sir," the technician said. "It's SG1, sir!"
The four members of SG1 were all present and correct in front of him. Hammond suppressed a smile at the flash of excitement he saw in Major Carter's eyes.
"Armed units to the Gateroom," he ordered. "Dr Fraiser, I'd like you and a medical team on stand by until we know what we're dealing with here." Janet nodded and went to the phone to make the necessary arrangements. "Okay, sergeant. Send the signal and open the iris."
A single figure emerged onto the ramp, small, female, anonymous in a hooded cloak. Sam stared at her. Something about her was tantalisingly familiar. She felt Janet's growing tension beside her and glanced at her companion. "Janet?"
Janet was paler than Sam had ever seen her, her eyes wide with panic. "I have to go down there," she said. "Sam "
The figure on the ramp pushed back the hood of her cloak revealed long glossy dark hair threaded with jewels and a round face characterised by huge dark eyes and pale skin. Sam recognised her instantly and she could tell by the reactions around her that so did everyone else. Dark eyes scanned the soldiers with some confusion and then gazed up at the control room.
"Okay," O'Neill said softly. "So, I'm guessing one of those alternate thingy's." He glanced at Janet who was staring at this other self that had appeared through the gate.
The alternate Dr Fraiser seemed to hold it together until she saw Sam standing beside and slightly behind Janet. Her eyes widened with fear and without warning she collapsed onto the ramp.
Janet was already half way down the stairs, Sam only a beat or two behind her. Sam managed to catch up with Janet before she touched her alternate self. "Let me check her first, okay?" she said softly.
Janet swallowed hard, nodded. In her shock she had forgotten one of the basic protocols of the SGC for anyone new who appeared through the Stargate. Sam knelt beside the fallen woman, carefully pushed back the hair from her neck and checked her for scarring and the bump beneath the skin that indicated the presence of a Goa'uld symbiote. Simultaneously she extended the sensitivity that was one of her legacies from Jolinar but detected nothing. There was no symbiote present, no naquada in her bloodstream. "She's clean," she announced, moving aside to let Janet in to examine her counterpart.
Seeing them both at close quarters, Sam could appreciate the differences now. Apart from the clothing obviously Goa'uld influenced in its richness and sensuality the unconscious woman's hair was a lot longer, falling well past her shoulders. There were a few grey strands at the temples and she was appreciably thinner and more careworn than Janet. She had seen dangers, this woman, and seemed to have known precious little happiness. Sam remembered the look of fear in the woman's eyes before she had collapsed, a fear that seemed to be generated by seeing her here. Why was this Janet afraid of her? What had her counterpart done?
"I think it's just a simple faint but her pulse is very fast and she's dehydrated and malnourished," Janet said. She signalled over her medical team with the gurney and together with her assistant lifted the woman's body onto it.
"Dr, Major I expect a full report from you as soon as you can," Hammond said, standing aside to let them follow the gurney out of the room. "A security team will be on standby in the Infirmary."
"It's too soon for cascade failure, isn't it?" Janet asked as Sam walked beside her down to the Infirmary.
"That depends on how long she's been in this dimension before she came through to us. I'm not sure, but Gate travel may well exacerbate the condition," Sam said. "If you consider " Sensing that Sam was about to launch into a technical explanation that Janet really didn't feel capable of following at this point, Janet placed a hand on her forearm, stopping her friend.
"No offence, Sam, but I've not really got the mindset to take in quantum mechanics at the moment. You can tell me later, okay. You know how I love it when you talk relativity to me."
Sam smothered a smile at that. "You've got a date, Doctor."
Janet Fraiser once CMO of the Stargate Command, now lo'tar to the queen Goa'uld Hathor, mistress of Earth drifted in a state somewhere between sleep and wakefulness as she tried to comprehend her condition. The last thing she remembered was fleeing from Hathor's anger at her supposed incompetence. They had gated to P3R233 where there was supposed to be a cache of Ancients Technology. It had been fought over by two minor system lords who had managed to annihilate each other in the quarrel. The treasure was there for the taking. But it had turned out to be largely useless, broken or half-completed, a jumble of technologies that were never meant to be compatible. And Hathor's fury knew no bounds, her ice blue eyes blazing with fury. She was not used to failure.
Hathor's awakened passion for technology had led to increasingly aggressive and acquisitive raids not only on other Goa'uld, but also on the Asgard, the Tollan and the Nox. An undercover NID operation that had already been underway within and outside the SGC to recover alien technology no matter what the cost quietly became official policy. Earth's technology made huge leaps forward. SGC teams were made up of Hathor's new Jaffar, under O'Neill, her First Prime. Earth's patriarchal governmental systems had played right into Hathor's hand. Those that she did not make Jaffar or Goa'uld she controlled with nishta. The secret world government beloved of so many conspiracy theorists was now very much a reality. And Hathor was its head.
There had been a mirror. Janet remembered a mirror. It showed the room, but not her reflection. Puzzled, she had touched the surface, felt something like a mild electric charge run through her and then had realised that she was suddenly alone. For a time she had thought about staying there. But she knew that Hathor would realise that she was missing sooner or later, although Janet was certain that her mistress meant to get rid of her soon anyway. She had been quite cruelly obvious in her intention to groom the young woman she had prised away from Nirrti as her new lo'tar. The fact that the young woman, named Cassandra, was a hac'tar was an added bonus. As was annoying Nirrti. Janet had tried to befriend the young woman but had been rebuffed. Hathor had trained her well.
There were worse things than being a slave. To be a slave without status Hathor could do many things to her. Give her to one of her Jaffa as a concubine, send her to the naquada mines. Or she could be merciful and kill her. But mercy was not a quality Janet Fraiser associated with Hathor.
Hunger and thirst had got the better of her eventually and Janet dialled home. She walked down the ramp, saw herself looking down from the control room. Saw who stood behind her. Remembered how it had been before Hathor. It was too much and willingly she surrendered her consciousness.
How it all began
The women of the SGC had tracked Hathor to the locker rooms where she was bathing. At first, she appeared to be alone. As they flanked her, the men appeared, protecting Hathor with their bodies.
"Captain Carter, is this any way to treat a guest?" O'Neill had smiled, but his eyes were dark and empty. Faced with Hammond and O'Neill both entirely willing to give their lives to protect Hathor, Sam had initially appeared to back down. Janet had felt a gun barrel nudge against the back of her neck and knew it was over. She had laid down her weapon. Then Hathor had moved forward, obviously giving into the characteristic Goa'uld need to gloat over her captives. And before anyone could do anything, Sam Carter had raised her gun again and taken the shot. Hathor did not have time to activate her shield. The bullet struck Hathor above her right eye and she went down, her blood and brains spattering her followers, staining the bubbling water a vivid red as her body sank beneath.
The men went insane. Sam went down under several bodies as they punched and kicked her into unconsciousness and then dragged her over to Hathor's body. The host was still alive but beyond any healing. Without hesitation O'Neill bound his II1C back to back with Hathor. Janet and the other women were forced to watch as the symbiote left Hathor's corpse and went into Sam. Even semi-conscious, Sam fought hard against her Goa'uld captor, screaming and arching her body, but there was nothing she could do to prevent the blending from happening. Janet tried to reach her but one of the airmen backhanded her and she fell to the floor, dazed. General Hammond picked her up, his grip on the back of her neck painful and she was forced to watch as the Goa'uld symbiote merged with its unwilling host. Sam's body was stripped of the fatigues she wore and her followers carefully transported the new host and their queen to the Sarcophagus.
Samantha Carter remained in the Sarcophagus for six days as her body went through the internal transformations necessary to host a Goa'uld queen. She was no longer entirely human. Janet only came to understand the deep-seated changes to Sam's physiology later. Although completely in thrall to Hathor, Hammond and O'Neill managed to keep a semblance of control. No one outside the SGC realised that anything was wrong. A squad of men remained on guard in the sarcophagus chamber at all times, the rebel women forced to kneel before the Sarcophagus, without food, water or sleep. Any unauthorised movement, complaint or attempt to escape was met with unthinking violence. They were all close to death when Hathor emerged renewed in the body of Samantha Carter.
Janet Fraiser had always considered Sam to be a singularly beautiful woman, more so because she was almost entirely unaware of it and the effect that she had on people. But now
Her blonde hair was longer, fuller, a bright lustrous gold, curling around her face, her pale skin flawless, alabaster, seeming almost to glow in the dim light. Her eyes seemed larger, if that was possible but instead of the warm, alert expression that usually graced them, they now seemed depthless and cold as winter sky. Janet realised that there was nothing of her Sam in that gaze as she looked about her, accepting the worship of her followers. Her body, always attractive, was now lush, her queen pheremones keeping her followers slavishly loyal and obedient, drunk on her presence.
The men reverenced her, Daniel, her chosen Beloved who would provide the genetic material for a new generation of Goa'uld larva, and O'Neill, who would be her First Prime, helping her step down from the Sarcophagus. "These rebels await your pleasure, my queen," Hammond said, stepping forward and indicating the women prisoners.
"We have no use for them. Kill them all except for the Doctor, Janet Fraiser. My host has unfinished business with her. Place her in the Sarcophagus. Once she is recovered, bring her to our chambers. She will serve us, pleasure us as she once pleasured my host."
"And the sho'vah Teal'c?" O'Neill said.
"We will return him to Apophis as a plaything. Apophis will be grateful to us." She sighed, closed her eyes, touching herself, her hands passing slowly across her full breasts, her toned abdomen, her slim, strong thighs. "This body pleases us greatly. We would have clothing more suitable to our station to display its beauty more fully. See to it." Daniel handed her the Goa'uld accoutrements he had taken from the previous host's body, fastening them on her body, the maker that sat over her slim hips, the jewel poised over her navel, the shield and stealth devices that operated her personal defence shield and allowed her to cloak herself and finally the ribbon device. Taking her hand he slid it onto her forearm and over her fingertips, the activation jewel nestling in the palm of her hand. She reached out to caress his cheek with metal tipped fingers. "My beloved, let us continue what we have begun." She did not give Janet a second glance as Hammond lifted her off her feet and carried her across to the waiting Sarcophagus. Horrified as she was it meant that Janet was at least spared the sight of seeing her fellow prisoners slaughtered.
Her staff, long used to any amount of strangeness had lifted the unconscious woman onto a bed and were carefully undressing her. Sam picked up the gown and studied it carefully. The symbol stitched into the robe was one she recognized. "Hathor!" she whispered.
"What?" Janet looked up.
"Your double. She's in the service of Hathor."
"In her world we didn't defeat her," Janet said softly. "Oh my god."
"Let's not jump to conclusions, Jan. Wait until we can question her. How is she doing?"
"She's in shock, but she should come round soon. You might want to see this," Janet said. Her counterpart was lying on her side, in one of the back opening medical gowns. Janet carefully opened the back to show her the parallel bruises that wealed the woman's back. "She's been beaten, more than once. The most recent was a couple of days ago. There are other scars as well, signs of prolonged physical abuse." She closed the gown again, and pulled the sheet up over the woman's shoulder, but not before Sam also noted that the woman was little more than skin and bone.
Janet moved to the terminal to examine the MRI results. "There's no sign of Goa'uld infestation now or in the past," she said. "But these are curious " she pointed to many small lesions on the brainstem and parietal lobes. "I've only seen it once before on Apophis's host."
Sam felt icy fingers down her spine. She knew. Jolinar knew. "She's been tortured with a hand device, rather like the one Sokar used on Apophis and the ashrak used on me." Her muscles tensed in remembered pain and she shivered. Janet helped her to sit down, her hand soothing on her arm and the back of her neck. Sam leant against her for a moment, her eyes closed as she forced Jolinar's memories back out of her conscious mind again.
"Hathor tortures me sometimes. It amuses her." The quiet voice from the bed took both women by surprise. They turned to see dark eyes watching them. "Where am I? Is this a new trick of Hathor's or has she finally driven me insane?"
"You are in the service of Hathor?" Sam asked.
"I am her lo'tar. Or at least I was before I escaped on P3R233."
"That's where we discovered the Quantum Mirror. Janet did you touch something that looked like a mirror?"
"Yes but I couldn't see my reflection in it. Suddenly I was alone. I wandered around for a while but I had no where else to go. So I came home. I hoped I hoped I had finally annoyed her enough to kill me. Annoyed you " she stared at Sam, tears trickling down her pale cheeks.
"Annoyed me?" Sam watched her lover's counterpart with growing unease. "I don't understand what you mean?"
"Five years ago as she was trying to make the SGC her nest, you fatally injured Hathor's host. She she took you, Sam." The woman's breathing was harsh, uncontrolled as she relived that dark time in her memory. "There was nothing I could do nothing. Since then, she has taken over the Earth, but no one knows the truth. She has people everywhere, throughout the government, either hosting her goa'uld offspring or controlled by nishta. She sends teams out through the Gate to steal technology for her, keep her informed about the other system lords and their activities." The two women listened in silence as the lotar told her tale.
"Hathor took me as a host," Sam shivered. "I did " Janet touched her forearm lightly intending to soothe her lover, realising that this was an old nightmare of Sam's, and stared at her alternate self. She recognised the look in her counterpart's eyes. This Janet and her Sam had been lovers as well. It tore at her heart to think what this woman had been through, to see the woman she loved transformed into her deadliest enemy yet knowing that somewhere inside the nightmare her lover was alive and aware.
"No, not you," Janet said softly. "Not you, Sam." She returned her attention to the lo'tar. "That's why you couldn't leave her, isn't it? You and your Sam were together as well."
The lo'tar nodded. "I knew that somewhere inside Hathor, my Sam was imprisoned, terrified and alone. I could not abandon her, no matter what Hathor put me through." Tears trickled down her cheeks and she turned her face away from them, sobbing into her pillow. The two women watched her in silence unsure of what to say or do for the best. The sobbing died away slowly as the sedative began to work, her stressed and weakened system succumbing to sleep at last.
Janet checked her outputs and nodded in satisfaction. "She'll sleep for a while, I hope, she's exhausted. I " She glanced at Sam, saw the darkness in her eyes and the stillness of her posture. Since Jolinar this seemed to be how Sam reacted to unusual emotional stress, lapsing into an extremely withdrawn state. She did not react as Janet pulled her to her feet and led her towards her office. She locked the door behind them and led Sam to the couch, pushing her down onto it.
"Sam?" Glad she had worn trousers today instead of a skirt, Janet straddled Sam's thighs, and ran her hands through the silent woman's hair, gently massaging her scalp, moving down to the tense tendons and muscles in her neck. Sam's head gradually dropped forward until it was nestling in the nape of Janet's neck. Janet could feel Sam's breath hot against her skin and then the dampness of her tears as she finally let go.
"It's okay. It's okay, sweetie," Janet murmured. She continued with the gentle massage until she felt Sam's breathing ease and knew that her love was putting herself back together again. Reaching towards her desk she snagged the box of hankies and pulled them towards her, placing them on the seat beside Sam. She eased herself back to her feet again, knowing that Sam would need a few minutes to herself.
"We can't send her back there, not to that," Sam said softly. "But she's going to start showing signs of cascade failure very soon."
"I know. Perhaps we could give her some addresses that we know are safe in our dimension and hope that she'll find asylum on one of those worlds?" Janet asked. In her heart, she knew what her counterpart would be feeling, the darkness that would be inside her. She was suddenly terribly afraid for the woman. This was not going to end well.
"Are you going to be okay?" she asked. Sam nodded.
"Yeah. It just "
"I know," Janet leant forward and softly kissed the crown of Sam's head. "Take as much time as you need, okay, hun. No one will bother you in here. I'm just going to check on a few things."
She hurried back to the ward. It was as she had feared. The bed was empty. Her counterpart had gone. As had a set of scrubs and a spare lab coat. In the sluice room she saw that the bin was half full of dark hair. Her counterpart was trying to pass for her. "Dammit!" Janet whispered. Whether or not they were doubles, her counterpart did not have any ID, so she wasn't going to get far. Not unless
A half glimpsed reflection told her she was not alone. She turned, raising her arm reflexively to protect her head as the weapon came down. Her shoulder numbed and then was agonisingly painful, then something hit her on the temple. She staggered and fell. Small capable hands eased her relatively gently to the floor, rifled her pockets as her consciousness faded.
"I'm sorry," she heard a familiar voice whisper. "I'm so sorry. But I have to get away from here."
Sam splashed some cold water on her face from the small sink in the corner of Janet's office and regarded her reflection. Her eyes were red rimmed which made them look even bluer than usual but other than that there was no sign that she had broken down in tears and cried all over Janet.
Sam exited the office and made her way along to the ward. She saw Janet coming out of the sluice room, pinning her id to her jacket and wondered why she had changed into scrubs. She hadn't cried that much, surely.
"Janet?" she called. "Wait up."
Sam watched, puzzled, as the woman glanced back over her shoulder towards her, her eyes widening with something that looked very much like fear. Then she took off, running towards the lifts.
"Janet?" Something about the figure, her attitude was very wrong. With a sinking feeling Sam realised that it was Janet's counterpart, the lo'tar, and not her beloved. Debating for a moment whether to give chase herself, Sam decided that it would be better to raise the alarm and let the SFs handle the search. She backtracked to a general alarm button and slammed her hand onto it, picking up the emergency phone.
"This is Major Carter. Dr Fraiser is to be detained on sight, I repeat, Dr Fraiser is to be detained on sight. She is to be considered dangerous. Do not use lethal force, I repeat, do not use lethal force."
Alicia met her at the door of the ward. "Dr Fraiser's counterpart, she's "
"I know. I just put out an alert about her. We need to find our Dr Fraiser. She might be hurt."
Following a hunch, Sam went with Alicia to the sluice room where she had seen the lo'tar emerge. They found Janet shoved roughly into the cupboard under the sink, gagged and her wrists and ankles tied, a bruise purpling her cheek and temple. One of the wall mounted fire extinguishers was lying on the floor nearby. Sam lifted Janet into her arms and carried her into the ward. "Get Dr Warner," she ordered, carefully lowering Janet's body onto one of the empty beds. She untied Janet's wrists and ankles and gently removed the gag from her mouth, trying not to further injure her bruised cheek. Janet was unconscious but her pulse was strong and steady.
Alicia quickly examined her boss. "I think her collarbone is broken and maybe her cheekbone," she said, standing aside as Warner bustled in. "She's going to have a concussion."
"If you've already made the diagnosis, nurse, why do you need me? Major Carter, you seem to be wanted in the Control Room," Warner said, glaring at the two women. He stared at the still figure on the bed. "Are we sure this is our Dr Fraiser?"
Sam nodded. "I'm sure. Please let me know as soon as Janet wakes up," she said. "I need to know exactly what happened to her. Alicia, could you do me a favour and stay with her. I'll get Teal'c to come down as well. I don't want to give the alternate another opportunity to attack her. I'd better go and brief the General. He's not going to be happy."
"What happened, Major?" Hammond asked. He had indeed not taken the news that there was an alternate of one of his key staff members running around the base particularly well. Sam had managed to contact Teal'c on her way up to his office and he had promised her that he would not leave Janet's side until she returned. O'Neill and Daniel were sitting opposite her.
"The lo'tar overpowered Dr Fraiser and knocked her out then attempted to masquerade as her. She has Janet's id so she is probably trying to make it to the surface. Sir, she has the same memories as our Dr Fraiser; she knows this base almost as well as we do. I don't believe she wants to harm anyone, she just wants to find somewhere safe."
"By your own report, Major Carter, she has already harmed Dr Fraiser," Hammond growled.
"The lo'tar?" O'Neill asked. He knew he had heard the word before, he just could not quite place it. Daniel opened his mouth to explain but Carter beat him to it.
"Janet's counterpart comes from a reality where Hathor gained control of the SGC. The rebellion led by myself and Dr Fraiser failed, but not before we had fatally injured Hathor's original host. She chose me my counterpart that is to be her host and kept Janet alive as her lo'tar her personal servant and next in line to be the host should something happen to Hathor. All the other women were killed and Teal'c was handed back to Apophis in return for Goa'uld technology and weaponry and immunity from attack from him and his allies, for the time being anyway. Hathor now controls Earth from behind the scenes through nishta, her growing Jaffa army and strategically placed Goa'uld."
"Ouch," O'Neill grimaced. "So if it went down as she had it planned it here, that would make me her First Prime and Danny her " words obviously failed him.
"The progenitor of her Goa'uld offspring," Daniel said grimly. He looked pale but he was dealing, for now at any rate.
"That's right, sir, on both accounts. According to the lo'tar, the SGC is the centre of her operations but she has nishta-controlled men throughout our government and those of our allies, the United Nations and many top officials male and female are now Goa'uld, hosting her offspring. The majority of Earth's population probably have no idea what's happening. For a Goa'uld Hathor seems to be remarkably discreet and very very controlled which we already knew from when she tried to convince us that we were 70 years in the future. One more thing she found out about the NID rogue operation long before we did. That is now official policy. Her regime is reaping the benefits in technology, weapons, medicine. When she does come out of the shadows, the people of Earth will probably regard her as their saviour."
"Crap. And we thought we had it bad with Dubya," O'Neill grimaced. "How badly hurt is the Doc?"
"Concussion, possibly a fractured collarbone. Teal'c is watching her. I took the liberty of ordering him to stay with her," Sam paused as O'Neill nodded his agreement with her decision. "Sirs, based on what we already know about cross-dimensional travel, the alternate Janet will probably start to feel the effects of entropic cascade failure probably within the next six hours. We should find her as quickly as possible and attempt to return her to her own dimension before that happens."
"Why it sounds callous I know, but if she's going to die anyway, doesn't that solve our problem? And would she willingly return to that life if it's as bad as you've made out?" O'Neill asked. "Can't we agree to give her asylum or something until its all over? I mean our Dr Fraiser is gonna be safe isn't she and as Teal'c once said, ours is the only reality of consequence."
"I honestly don't know the answer to that sir. What worries me most is that we still don't know what the more far-reaching results are of someone dying of entropic cascade failure. We're talking about vastly accelerated cellular decay here, and of matter that does not belong in this universe."
"You mean it could be like that Star Trek thingy that if matter and anti-matter meet there's a huge explosion that'll destroy everything?" O'Neill seemed quite pleased with himself for coming up with that one. Sam hated to deflate him when he was trying so hard.
"Not exactly, sir. Nothing like this has ever happened before so I'm working off some pretty esoteric theory here and a lot of educated guesses. The other Carter and I did some brainstorming on the subject whilst she was stuck here. It was kind of on her mind at the time," Sam paused, remembering her alternate, the curiously fragile yet strong individual who had risked everything to come through the mirror and bring hope to her dying world. "But if we can't send her back, we should try to contain her in a secure environment until it's over one way or another." Sam shivered, remembering her last trip to the decommissioned missile silos a few miles away from the base. On that occasion it had been a twelve year old girl with a Goa'uld boobytrap implanted in her chest that they were preparing to incarcerate. The girl who was now her daughter. This time it would be the mirror image of her beloved.
"I thought you couldn't dimension travel through wormholes," Daniel frowned. "Only through the quantum mirror. So how did she end up on P3R233 we were told that our quantum mirror and the control device had been destroyed?"
"Area 51 deemed that to be impossible," General Hammond said. "Following Major Carter's suggestion, the device was returned to P3R233. That way we hoped to avoid any further incursions into the SGC. We may have to review that again. And I will have a team set up at the silo if that proves necessary. Other than that, the Mountain is on lock down. I am assured that there is no way that the alternate Dr Fraiser can leave the mountain without being detected. All of Dr Fraiser's codes and permissions have been deactivated. As of now her ID is cancelled. Our Dr Fraiser is to remain in the Infirmary under guard. I don't want any more confusion over who is who. Airman Lascelles has been sent to Dr Fraiser's house to care for Cassandra until this is resolved." Hammond got to his feet. "Okay, people. Let's find this alternate and see if we can't send her home."
Janet hid in a storage room on Level 19 and tried to get her breath back. She felt terrible. There were armed soldiers searching for her. She had heard the tannoy messages urging her to give herself up, promising that she would not be harmed. She wished that she could believe them. Using Sam against her had been a good touch. It had been so long since she had heard Sam's voice on its own, without the modulation of the Goa'uld parasite. They had only been together a matter of weeks before Hathor's arrival. A virus that had turned all of those infected into animalistic versions of themselves, following only the basest instincts without any higher reasoning capabilities had been the catalyst, of all things. Captain Carter her Sam had been one of the earliest infected. She had tried to mate with O'Neill following the alpha male instinct and then had latched onto her somehow recognising the attraction between them that the young Doctor had tried so hard to ignore. She had tried to protect Janet, called her the One.
Her memories since Hathor had taken over were partial. Anything that involved any intimacy with her former lover she tried to avoid remembering all together. But Hathor took such pleasure in her reactions of fear and revulsion, they only seemed to inspire her further. It was Janet's fervent hope that one day Hathor would kill her and decide it was too much trouble to put her in the sarcophagus again.
Without warning the shaking began deep inside her, the pain quickly building to indescribable levels. She gripped onto the metal bars of the shelving, horrified to see that her hands seemed to pass through the metal as if she wasn't quite solid anymore. It felt as if she was breaking apart, liquefying. She was screaming, there was a rushing grinding sound in her head that blocked out all rational thought. Then someone was holding her and the darkness claimed her.
Sam cradled the stricken woman in her arms. She and Siler had found the lo'tar in the throes of an attack. Entropic cascade failure. They had no choice now. If they could not persuade her to return to her own dimension then she would be taken to the silo.
"Help me get to Isolation Lab 4. She's to be held there until we decide what to do," she said.
The lo'tar regained consciousness as Sam lowered her onto the bed in the Isolation lab. "I'm sorry," she whispered. "I'm sorry that I hurt her. I thought that if I could get out of the Mountain, I could escape all of this. What is wrong with me?"
"It's a condition called entropic cascade failure. It seems to be a side effect of travelling between realities, especially if you travel to a reality where your counterpart is still alive and you are in close proximity to one another as you are here," Sam said. "It only affects the incomer to the reality. The bad news is that it gets progressively worse until your body completely breaks down. There is no cure, the only way to save you is to send you back to your own reality. What we can do is provide you with a list of gate addresses that will take you to 'safe' worlds. You don't have to return to Earth. Try to make contact with the Tokra if you can, let them know about Hathor. Perhaps they can help you and your Earth to free yourselves."
"Tokra?" the lo'tar looked puzzled.
Sam closed her eyes for a moment. This was going to be hard to explain. "Of course. You won't have made contact in your reality. Jolinar didn't The Tokra are a group of Goa'uld who are allied against the System Lords. They generally only take willing hosts and they don't use Sarcophagi to prolong life. They have opposed the System Lords for centuries. But because of this they have negative or no population growth. If the symbiote does not find a willing host it dies."
"But they are Goa'uld "
"They have symbiotes, yes, but they share the body with the host. It isn't a relationship of dominance but one of equals. In this reality, my father became a Tokra three years ago. He was dying of cancer but the symbiote, Selmak healed him. Her previous host, Serouche, was dying of old age. It was a mutually beneficial arrangement." Sam decided not to elaborate on her own experience of hosting Jolinar.
"Your father is still alive?"
Sam nodded. "Thanks to Selmak and the Tokra." She gathered from Janet's expression that that wasn't the case in her reality. She also decided that she didn't want to know the details. At the time of Hathor's incursion at the SGC her relationship with her father had been at its lowest ebb since her mother had died. Jacob Carter had just discovered that she had passed up a chance to join the astronaut programme at NASA to join the SGC. Daddy had been very much disappointed in his little girl and didn't understand why 'deep space radar telemetry', which sounded like the career path to nowhere, had suddenly become so important to her. Until he had come to see her get her award in Washington, they had not spoken in almost a year.
"I " Whatever she had been about to say was interrupted by another seizure. Sam shuddered and quickly stepped away as she felt the structure of Janet's skin seem to mutate under her fingers as the lotar's atomic structure began to flux again. Within a couple of seconds it was over. The woman shuddered and gasped for breath as her abused nervous system continued to send aftershocks through her body.
"You don't have long," Sam said, trying to keep her tone dispassionate. "A few days at most. And from what we understand of the process it will get progressively more painful. Before the end the seizures will become almost continuous." She realised now how difficult it must have been for her alternate to come face to face with Jack O'Neill having watched him die. "Janet, if you don't return through the gate or go through our quantum mirror we're going to have to take you to a secure shielded facility off base and keep you there until... When you die well, we're not entirely sure what will happen. Your atomic structure is different to ours. The matter imbalance could have devastating consequences."
"So you don't know for certain whether I'll go with a bang or a whimper," Janet said with a ghost of the impish smile that Sam loved to see on her lover's face. Sam reacted instinctively, reaching out to brush the disordered hair back from her lover's face but stopped herself in mid gesture. This was not her Janet, she had to remember that. Her Janet was recovering in the infirmary having been attacked by this interloper.
Right. And she could just leave this woman, the twin of the woman she loved beyond anything else in the universe to die alone and terrified.
This was the only reality of consequence. She had to remember that and act accordingly. She held herself almost at parade stance willing herself not to reach out to this woman, so familiar and yet so much a stranger.
"No, but whatever happens you won't have to go through it alone, I promise," Sam said softly.
"You believe if I go back, I can make a difference?" Janet asked.
Sam nodded. "Yes."
"Then I'll go back."
Janet opened her eyes and shut them again quickly as her surroundings began to pulse and spin. She groaned softly. Her head and shoulder ached intolerably. She had seen enough of her surroundings to realise that she was lying in a bed in her own infirmary. One arm was immobilized in a sling and her face felt stiff. Someone's fingers gently touched her forearm letting her know she was not alone.
"Dr Fraiser, do you require assistance?"
It was Teal'c. "Water would be good," she said thickly. "Would I regret asking what happened?"
"You were attacked by your counterpart from the alternate dimension," Teal'c said in a matter of fact tone as if such events were an everyday occurrence. "She attempted to disguise herself as you and escape the facility but she has been apprehended. Major Carter is currently interrogating her. She asked me to remain here with you to ensure your continued safety." He held the cup of water to her lips, helping her to raise her head to take a sip. She gasped as her shoulder protested the movement.
"Just another day at the SGC, huh, Teal'c," she winced. "I remember, I think. Weird, being attacked by your reflection. Definitely weird." But then again she was talking to someone who had shot and fatally wounded his counterpart without a second's hesitation. 'Ours is the only reality of consequence'. Trouble was, what if the other thought that as well?
"The SGC does seem to lend itself to strange occurrences," Teal'c agreed. "Perhaps it is something to do with proximity to the wormhole."
Janet tried to smile but the pain in her cheek and swollen eye was too much. "She really did a number on me."
"She is very afraid, Dr Fraiser. That often leads to irrational behaviour amongst Tauri. I believe that she is genuinely sorry for what she did to you."
"Hmmm," Janet said. Was it possible to dislike someone who was essentially ones self? She sighed, closed her eyes. She sensed Teal'c draw back a little but she knew he would not leave her side, not until Sam came back. She thought of how difficult this must be for Sam. Her lover was mentally and emotionally very strong but dealing with someone who looked exactly like the love of your life (Janet knew very well that she wasn't flattering herself here: Sam had told her as much often enough) must be hard. Especially on top of the revelation that you had become (literally) your own worst enemy.
The pain medication was kicking in. The ache in her shoulder was dying down to acceptable levels. "Thank you for staying with me," she told Teal'c, closing her eyes.
"Even without Major Carter's orders, I would not leave you unprotected, Dr Fraiser."
The lo'tar's condition continued to worsen. Sam reckoned they had perhaps six hours before it became imperative to send her back through the gate or take her to the bunker to await the inevitable. She was sleeping for the moment, two SFs and a medical technician watching over her. Sam took the chance to go and check on Janet.
Teal'c was sitting in a chair by her bed, one huge hand engulfing Janet's smaller one. Janet was sleeping restlessly, obviously dreaming.
"She has called your name several times, Major Carter," Teal'c said softly.
Sam leant over Janet, her fingers gently resting against her cheek. "Janet, hey, it's okay. I'm here. I'm here."
Janet's eyes fluttered open and to Sam's dismay she reacted as if in terror, scrambling backwards on the bed, hampered by her injury. "No! Stay away from me! No!"
"It is all right, Dr Fraiser," Teal'c grabbed hold of the frantic woman, holding her tightly in his big arms, anxious that she not do herself further injury. "It is Major Carter. She will not harm you. No one will harm you here."
Janet blinked a few times. "S-Sam?" Her face crumpled and she burst into tears. Sam sat on the side of the bed and Teal'c released his hold on Janet so that Sam could comfort her.
"It was just a bad dream, love. Just a bad dream," Sam whispered, stroking her fingers through Janet's dark hair.
"I dreamt you were taken by Hathor," Janet sobbed quietly, her breath furnace hot against Sam's throat. "It was oh, god, Sam, I was so scared for you!"
"I'm here and I'm safe," Sam said letting her fingers card slowly through Janet's hair, knowing that this always calmed her. "You need to rest, baby. Teal'c will stay with you, okay? I need to take care of some things but I'll be back as soon as I can."
"How is she doing?" Janet asked, recovering herself a little.
"She's afraid," Sam said. "And feeling very alone right now. But she's agreed to go back through the Gate. We'll see her through the mirror. From there, well, we've given her some addresses for worlds that we know are safe in our reality. She will have to take her chances. But she's very like you, strong and brave."
"Be careful with her," Janet said softly. "I know how reckless I can get sometimes." Vivid memories of holding a gun at Nirrti's head came to mind, and she shivered again. "If she's desperate enough to try to impersonate me, we don't know what she's capable of doing."
"She seems resigned to going back. She knows that the only thing she has to look forward to is a painful death from entropic cascade failure. And I think my being here is difficult for her. Too many mixed emotions," Sam looked haunted for a moment. "We dodged a bullet there, Janet."
"Well, I didn't, if you remember," Janet grinned impishly and then winced in pain.
"Do you want to see her before we send her back through?" Sam asked gently.
"Would you think I was a terrible person if I said no?" Janet replied, reaching up to touch Sam's cheek. Sam smiled and shook her head.
"I've been through this once already, remember. I still don't know what threw me for a loop more, the hair or the fact that I married the Colonel."
"Ah, but we hadn't met in that reality," Janet reminded her.
"That explains that but the hair," Sam shuddered expressively making Janet laugh again.
"Well, I'd better get your alternate ready to go through the gate again," Sam said, bringing Janet's hand up to her face to kiss her knuckles gently and then rub her fingers against her cheek. "I'll come see you again as soon as we get back, okay."
"Okay. And tell her good luck from me, would you?"
"Of course." Sam brushed her lips against Janet's brow. "You try and get some sleep, okay?"
"Be safe, Sam," Janet whispered.
"Only sweet dreams, baby."
The lo'tar looked very different as she stood on the ramp dressed in BDUs with a pack containing food, water and other supplies beside her, ready to be carried through. Sam, with Hammond's permission, had given her the gate addresses for worlds known to be safe both from the Goa'uld and the kind of society that would give a lone woman traveler any unwelcome problems.
"Ready?" Sam asked.
Janet nodded. "As I'll ever be."
The two women walked up the ramp and through the Gate, followed by O'Neill and Jackson. The mirror stood where it had been left, in the middle of the alien storeroom. It reflected another storeroom looking almost identical in every way. O'Neill peered through the mirror, careful not to touch the surface.
"Looks clear," he said. "Okay you ready?"
Janet took a deep breath and nodded. "Thank you. For everything." She shook hands with O'Neill, after a moment's hesitation accepted an embrace from Daniel. Daniel nudged O'Neill, indicated that they should give the two women some privacy.
"Be safe," Sam said, echoing the words her Janet had said to her only a few hours earlier. "I hope things work out for you."
Janet nodded, suddenly unable to meet Sam's compassionate gaze. "Sam, I have no right to ask, I mean you and I "
"Come here," Sam said softly, cupping her palm under the smaller woman's chin and gently lifting her face. She lowered her head until their lips brushed, almost chastely at first and then with more passion. As they reluctantly broke apart, tears were shining in Janet's dark eyes.
"I'd better go now, or I'll never go," she said shakily, picking up her pack. "Thank you, Sam, thank you for not hating me, for reminding me even for a moment how good it was before " She breathed deeply, straightening her shoulders. "Thank you for giving me a second chance."
"Goodbye, Janet." Sam said. Without looking at her again, the young doctor hefted her pack and walked up to the mirror, placing her palm on the flat surface. And she was gone. Sam saw her briefly look back through to her reality and then turn and walk out of sight without a backward glance.
In her reality, Sam did the same.
"I like making a fuss of you," Sam said, laying the tray down on the bed next to where Janet lay. "I don't get the chance to do it very often."
"I have a slight concussion and a broken collarbone, Sam. I can look after myself. I can certainly " Janet moved her head sharply to avoid the spoonful of chocolate icecream, fruit and meringue confection that Sam was intent on feeding her, "feed myself." A large drip of melted icecream and fruit juice fell from the spoon to land on the bare skin just above Janet's right breast.
"But just think of the fun I'm going to have cleaning you up," Sam said, her eyes intent on the icecream slowly sliding towards Janet's cleavage. "You're not going to deny me that pleasure are you."
"I'm going to need another week's R&R to get over this, aren't I?" Janet said. The look in her eyes made Sam drop the spoon back into the bowl and move the tray onto the floor before pouncing back to straddle Janet. Her eager mouth closed on the spilt confection, licking and suckling the area until all trace was gone.
"Better make sure I got all of it," she said indistinctly, unfastening the rest of the buttons on Janet's nightshirt as she kissed her way down Janet's cleavage. Janet sighed, closed her eyes and gave herself up to sensation as she threaded the fingers of her good hand through Sam's short thick hair. She spared a moment to think of her counterpart and wished her well. Sam had told her what happened before the woman went through the mirror and Janet had just been glad that Sam had been there for her. She did not want to think what she would have done if she had lost Sam under any circumstances, certainly not as horrendous as to a Goa'uld as evil and twisted as Hathor.
Ours is the only reality of consequence she told herself, her back arching as Sam's lips closed softly on a particularly sensitive spot. And I am here and she is here and I don't care about anything else right now. Tugging lightly on a hank of blond hair she brought her lover back up face to face with her and proceeded to show her just how much she loved her.
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