“Charging circuit MX43 at 20%... 100%. Circuit is holding. Reset and stand by. She’s all yours, General,” reported Siler.
“Well done, Sergeant.” He looked down at Harriman sitting at the computer controls. “You heard the man.”
The gate started dialing.
“SG3 and I are ready and awaiting your orders, General,” said Teal’c.
“I won’t authorize this rescue mission unless the probe sends back the right pictures, Teal’c. In the event we find no enemy activity on the other side, you will coordinate with Colonel Makepeace on the rescue mission.”
The gate opened.
“The probe should reach the stargate at P4A-771 in five seconds,” said Harriman. “Four, three, two, now.”
“No sign of Sam and Dr. Fraiser,” murmured Daniel. “But no evidence they got into a firefight either.”
All of a sudden the probe was blasted out of existence.
“What are you waiting for? Close the iris! Disengage the stargate. SG3, stand down. The rescue mission is scrubbed,” ordered Hammond.
“General!” exclaimed Daniel.
Sam was still chipping away at the ice while Janet was below, resting after having had to take something for the pain in her ankle.
“Soup’s on,” Janet called.
“Just a little more. I’m almost through.”
“Come on now, you don’t want it to get cold,” she said using her ‘mother’ voice.
Sam joined her and Janet handed her a cup of soup. “Thank you.”
Janet noticed the blonde grimace. “Maybe I should have another look at you.”
She shook her head. “No, I’m fine. What about you? How’s your ankle?”
“I’ve been thinking about how the stargate might have malfunctioned.”
“Well, we don’t totally understand how it works, but the theory we have so far is that the gate creates an artificial wormhole that somehow transfers an energized matter stream in one direction along an extra-dimensional conduit. I think the matter stream between stargates got redirected, kind of like a lightning bolt jumping from one point to another in mid-strike. Now, I figure it had to have been the attack on P4A-771. The gate itself was probably struck by enough energy during the firefight to influence the direction of the matter stream before we reached the other side. Janet?
“I’m sorry, I wasn’t listening.”
“What I’m saying is, we must have emerged through a stargate relatively close to Earth in the gate network, somewhere between P4A-771 and Earth. Now, if the SG rescue teams reach the same conclusion, it could significantly reduce their search.”
“That’s good news.”
Daniel Jackson was studying a glass map of planets. “Okay, so if they are not there, and they are not here...”
“It is possible that they might have perished within the wormhole,” Teal’c pointed out.
“Yeah. In which case they’re gone. I know, I thought of that. But if they are alive, if there’s the least remote possibility that this malfunction sent them to another stargate...”
“Was it not Captain Carter who deduced the possible combinations of stargate symbols numbered in the millions?”
“Well, we have to narrow it down.”
Sam and Janet were both still chipping away at the ice encasing the DHD.
“Whoa.” Janet brushed away chipped ice. “Sam.” She revealed a hand – a serpent guard.
“I guess he didn’t make it.”
“Okay, this is P4A-771, this is Earth. Now, the stargate shut itself down just after Teal’c and I came through.”
Hammond nodded. “There was an energy surge.”
“Right. But what would that have done to the wormhole itself?”
“I have no idea,” Siler answered.
“Could it just disappear?” Daniel asked.
“No, I don’t think so, sir. It would have to discharge somewhere.”
“Like, another stargate?”
“Yeah, maybe.” He looked at the general, “Sir, it’s all theoretical, but we think that stargates are basically giant superconductors. Charged matter streams along lines of force between them.”
“Positive to negative, like electricity. Right?” asked the archeologist.
“Except for the fact the whole trip happens outside our dimension, yeah, more or less.”
“Okay, what if it jumped? Redirected itself here,” Daniel pointed to a planet on the map, “or here, or anywhere along... here?”
Hammond looked dubious. “You’re suggesting we search all these worlds?”
“Well, at least we’ve narrowed an entire galaxy of stargates down to a handful of possibilities.”
“Assuming you’re right, why haven’t they used that stargate to come back on their own?”
“Teal’c and I were flung out of this gate at this end so fast I don’t even remember hitting the ramp. Now, they could be badly hurt, in which case we will not have to search far from the stargates themselves. I think we owe it to them to try.”
The women finally cleared the ice from the controls. The constant chipping at the ice, the pain in her shoulder, and the increasing pain around her ribs was taking a bigger and bigger toll on Sam. She tried to catch her breath after a small coughing bout.
“Have you figured out the seventh symbol yet?” Janet asked.
Sam nodded. “Yeah... this one has to be the point of origin... I’ve never seen it before...” Her flashlight went out. “No batteries... guess it’s now or never.”
“I’ve always preferred now to never.”
“Here goes...” Sam dialed. The chevrons on the gate glowed, but it just didn’t open up a wormhole. “Damn it!”
“You dialed the right address?”
“Yes. It has to be something as simple as the control interface. If we can dig down to the panel on the DHD... I can fix it...” Sam started coughing again. This time she actually coughed up some blood. She saw Janet’s eyes widen when she spied the blood.
“Janet, we have to keep trying.”
“Of course we do. But we’ve been awake for a very long time. It’ll be there in the morning. Right now we both need rest.”
Sam coughed again, and couldn’t hide how much it hurt. “I told you we’re going to get out of here.”
Janet reached across and squeezed her hand. “I know. It’s just going to take longer than we thought.”
Blue eyes met brown. Sam saw Janet’s concern for her... but also saw her trust and confidence in her. She finally nodded. “Alright. Let’s get some sleep.”
Janet wouldn’t let Sam carry her, but she put her arm around the blonde’s shoulders while the blonde put hers around the doctor’s waist. By leaning on Sam she was able to keep the weight off her ankle as they made their way back to the cubbyhole. Sam helped Janet off with her boots and she slipped into the sleeping bag. Then the blonde took her boots off as well and also slipped into the bag. With their jackets as pillows and little room to move, it didn’t take long to figure out there was really only one way for them to get comfortable. Sam slipped her left arm under the doctor’s neck and her right around her waist and held her close. Janet moved her leg that had the splint on it.
“Do you need something for your ankle?” Sam asked quietly.
“No. I just needed to move it a little.”
Without thinking, Sam kissed Janet’s forehead and gave her a gentle squeeze.
Janet returned the squeeze which caused Sam to gasp in pain and struggle to catch her breath. “Alright, that does it. I’m taking a look at your ribs.”
The doctor undid the zipper behind Sam, and then helped her sit up just long enough to slip her BDU shirt off. Once she was lying down again Janet pulled Sam’s t-shirt up and turned on her flashlight. “Oh, my... Sam, this is more than a couple of cracked ribs.”
“I know... it’s been getting worse as the day goes on.”
She gently probed the blonde’s ribcage which made her grimace. “Your ribs are broken, and you’ve got one that’s actually out of place. That’s the one that’s causing internal bleeding and the most pain.” She grabbed the medkit. “I’m going to give you something for the pain.”
“I’ll be better after some sleep.”
She heard something in the doctor’s tone. Sam opened her eyes and looked at her. “What is it, Janet?”
“To keep it from doing more internal damage, I’m going to have to try to manipulate the rib back into place. It’s going to hurt no matter what, but it’ll be more bearable if I give you the shot first.”
Putting her hand over the doctor’s hand resting on her abdomen, Sam said, “I understand. Do what you have to.”
Janet gave Sam the shot which took effect fairly quickly. She was right, despite the pain medication, her manipulation of the broken rib hurt – a lot. She then taped Sam’s ribs. She pulled the t-shirt back down and zipped the sleeping bag back up. Sam started to shift to lie on her side.
“No, just lie still.” Janet carefully laid her injured leg on top of the blonde’s and snuggled into her left side, partly on top of her. She laid her head on Sam’s chest as the blonde wrapped her left arm around her. In an effort to avoid Sam’s ribs, Janet kept her left arm and hand tucked up to her body so that her hand actually rested just above and between Sam’s breasts. Sam put her right hand on Janet’s arm.
“You’re cold,” she observed and started rubbing Janet’s arm.
“It’ll warm up soon, now that we’re settled.”
They soon fell victim to their exhaustion.
Daniel stuck another post-it note onto the glass map as Hammond entered the room.
“We just received probe telemetry from P5C-11 and 12, neither of them have a breathable atmosphere any more. If they ever did.”
“I have formally reported Captain Carter and Dr. Fraiser as missing in action.”
“Why?” Daniel asked, clearly upset by the news.
“Missing in action doesn't mean we stop looking.” Hammond left.
Daniel turned to look at the map once more. “Missing... I'm missing something.”
Sometime later Sam woke up with a cough. Janet was lying directly on top of her, and in her sleep had put pressure on Sam’s broken ribs. Her head was on Sam’s chest, tucked under her chin.
“Shhh, try to sleep. You’re exhausted, you passed out,” Janet said sleepily.
“As much as I might find this quite pleasant under other circumstances, it’s hard to sleep with broken ribs when someone’s lying on them.”
Janet became wide awake. “I’m so sorry!” She quickly shifted to take the weight off Sam’s right side.
The blonde kept her arms around the doctor and held onto her to keep her from moving completely off of her. “That’s better.”
“I’m sorry, Sam.”
“It’s okay. You’re fine where you’re at now. Sleep for a few more hours... then I’ll try to fix the DHD.”
Janet relaxed into her again. “Okay. Goodnight.”
After a few moments Janet broke the silence. “Sam?”
“If we don’t make it–”
“We’re going to make it, Janet,” she said and gave her a gentle squeeze.
“But if we don’t, will you have any regrets?”
“I believe we’re going to make it... but if we don’t, no, I won’t have any regrets.” She paused. “What about you?”
Janet took a slow breath and let it out. “Only one...” she paused for a couple of beats, “that I didn’t tell you I love you.”
Sam tightened her arms around the doctor. “I love you too, Janet.” She placed a kiss on the top of her head.
The women drifted back to sleep for a few hours.
When the women got back up, Janet insisted that they eat before trying to dig down to the access panel on the DHD. It was several hours work. When they finally got to it Sam had Janet go lie down and put her ankle up.
Hours later, Sam still hadn’t gotten the damn thing to work. “Damn it! Why won’t you work?!”
“Sam... Sam,” Janet’s voice came over her radio.
“Janet?” The blonde got down from the block of ice and joined her friend. “What’s wrong?”
“You need to eat some of this soup.”
“You go ahead.”
“It’s an order from your doctor. Once the sterno dies, we won’t be able to make any more,” she pointed out.
They shared the soup.
“I should have gotten you out of here by now, I’m sorry,” apologized Sam.
“I’ve been working on the control panel for the last 12 hours, it just... I don’t know why it won’t work... it should work... I’m missing something.”
Back at the SGC Teal’c returned from a recon mission carrying an injured Major Kaplan.
“Medical team to the gate room,” ordered Hammond. “What happened?” he asked Teal’c.
“We were exploring a cave not far from the stargate. He fell several meters from a rock ledge. There was no sign of Dr. Fraiser or Captain Carter.”
“Are you alright?”
“I am ready to embark again.”
“I’m calling the search off.”
“What?” exclaimed Daniel.
“This was the last of the planets to fit your theory, Doctor.”
“Well, it’s been, what, a few days? What if we stop just short of finding them?”
“I’m sorry!” Hammond left.
The cold was sapping more than just Sam’s strength – it was sapping her thought processes as well. She knew she wasn’t thinking clearly – frigid temperatures did that. Suddenly Sam had an epiphany.
“Reset! Why didn’t I think? Janet, I’m going to interrupt the power. I’m going to shut it all off and turn it on again! Okay, this better work.”
Sam reached in and disconnected the power, waited a few seconds, and the reconnected it. The DHD powered back up.
“Okay, here goes.”
She dialed home again. The chevrons glowed just as before, but the wormhole never formed. Despondently, Sam went down and joined Janet. Janet was lying on her back so Sam lay on her side with her head on Janet’s shoulder. She was emotionally whipped and shivering from the bone deep cold.
“I guess it didn’t work,” Janet observed.
Janet tightened her arms around the blonde as she heard her emotion-laden apology. “Not your fault.”
“I don’t understand... why it won’t work... I promised... get you... out of here.”
“You’ve done everything possible. No one could ask any more of you.” She kissed Sam’s forehead.
“I’m here, Sam.”
“Cold... so cold...”
“I know. It’s okay. You can sleep now.”
Daniel was still in the room with the glass map. A glass started to rattle. He moved on his crutches to the window and looked at the stargate. “Daniel Jackson.”
“Teal’c, did you see that?”
“Why are you here?”
“I couldn’t sleep. I was thinking that I must be missing something, and now I just realized we ruled out a world we shouldn’t have.”
Daniel requested General Hammond meet with him and Teal’c when he came on duty that morning.
“What are you saying, Doctor?”
He pointed to Earth on the map. “How many Earth-based cultures have we encountered from other worlds from periods both before and after we think the stargate was buried?”
“Several, I think,” answered the general.
“Right. And we’ve probably only scratched the surface. Now, so far we’ve tried to account for these discrepancies with various theories of parallel or accelerated–”
The general cut him off, trying to cut to the chase, “What’s your point, Doctor?”
“What if there’s a second stargate here? What if the energy surge caused the wormhole to jump from one stargate to another, here?”
“Yes!” exclaimed the archeologist.
The general turned to Teal’c. “Teal’c, would the Goa’uld have put more than one stargate on a planet?”
“If the first became lost to them, it is possible.”
“Remember, the one that Ra put here might not have been the first. The Goa’uld didn’t build the stargate system,” Daniel pointed out.
“Then where is it?” asked the general.
“It would have to be in a remote location; otherwise it would have been discovered by now. It could have been buried until recently; otherwise the Goa’uld would have continued to use it.”
“Let us hope it is not still buried,” said Teal’c.
The three men went into the control room.
Hammond addressed Sgt. Harriman, “We’re looking for radio transmissions on SG-1’s emergency frequency. Coordinate with air military listening posts around the entire globe.”
“General, when we first opened our stargate, it used to shake a lot. I mean the ground, the whole facility, everything,” said Daniel.
“We installed frequency dampers that limit that to only a slight vibration.”
“Okay, but what if the second gate doesn’t have... those? Would it shake like this one did – enough to indicate its location on a seismometer?”
“Damn right it would.” Hammond laid a hand on Harriman’s shoulder. “Run a search for all recent seismic activity worldwide. See if any coincide with the time of the stargate malfunction.”
“And check about 0400 local time. I was here, I thought someone was trying an off-world activation, but nothing happened. Except for the chevrons glowed and there was a slight vibration,” Daniel added.
“Captain Carter and Dr. Fraiser,” Teal’c concluded.
Daniel addressed Teal’c, “What happens when you dial your own phone number?” He paused for half a beat. “Wrong person to ask,” he said with a grin. He turned to Hammond. “What happens when you dial your own phone number?”
“You get a busy signal.”
“Exactly. What else could cause a vibration like that except if they were trying to dial home? They couldn’t get home. I mean, even if the seventh symbol looked different, the coordinates of the two gates would still be exactly the same.”
“We got it!” exclaimed Harriman. “Antarctica! The timing of the event is to the second, including the event that Dr. Jackson experienced a few hours ago!”
“Latitude and longitude?” the general asked.
“Yes, sir! It’s only about 50 miles out of McMurdo!”
Teal’c practically snapped to attention. “General, permission to–”
“Granted!” The general then turned back to the sergeant. “Order McMurdo to begin a search of those coordinates, now.”