The four members of SG1 froze at the top of the ramp in the SGC gate room. The defence team had their guns pointed directly at them and looked as though they were prepared to use them. Colonel Jack O'Neill raised his eyebrows but didn't move from his position. His robotic duplicate – and just thinking the term made his skin crawl – had told him what had happened when the robotic team had mistakenly returned to the SGC in their stead. He and the rest of SG1 had been expecting the reception committee. He sighed and glanced over to check they were OK.
His gaze landed first on Captain Samantha Carter standing next to him; the young blonde Air Force officer was scanning the defence team warily, alert for anybody with a trigger-happy finger. Teal'c was also surveying the defence team in a manner that suggested he was calculating which he would take out first. Jack was impressed at the Jaffa training that led to the automatic response. Now if he could only get Daniel to do the same, he mused as his brown eyes slid to the archaeologist.
Daniel Jackson frowned at the soldiers and pushed his glasses up his nose. 'Are those really necessary?' He complained in a loud voice.
Jack sighed and shook his head a little as General Hammond swept into the room. Jack could tell that his usual humour was not going to be met with the General's usual tolerance; the other man's face was set in a hard expression that allowed no room for any interpretation other than that he was deadly serious.
Hammond's pale blue eyes roamed over the four people on the ramp and he took a deep breath. 'You'll be escorted to the infirmary for medical checks under armed guard and from there you will be taken to a secure holding cell until we can confirm your identities. Do you understand?'
'Understood, sir.' Jack replied crisply.
'Yes, sir.' Sam added.
Teal'c bowed his head as Daniel nodded unhappily.
Hammond nodded at the SFs who gestured for SG1 to move down the ramp.
Jack nodded his agreement for the team to move. They made their way to the infirmary in silence where they were each escorted to a bed with a guard posted at the end of it.
Janet Fraiser strode into the room and tried to give the appearance of confidence despite her inner nervousness. Her last experience with what she had thought to be SG1 was still vivid in the forefront of her mind including the Colonel plunging a scalpel into his arm and revealing a mechanical skeleton underneath the skin. She snapped on her rubber gloves and reached for the tourniquet.
She hesitated for a moment over which member of SG1 to examine first. Sam gave her an encouraging smile but Janet was saved from having to make a decision as the Colonel beckoned her over and started to take off his green jacket. She made her way to him; if it was him then she knew he would want to go first to reassure his team and if he wasn't…well, they might as well start with him.
'I hear we gave you quite a scare, Doc.' Jack said conversationally as Janet tied the tourniquet.
Janet's brown eyes met his briefly.
'Well, when I say we, I mean them.' Jack corrected himself. He gestured with his free arm. 'The robot us.'
'It is us, Doctor Fraiser.' Daniel chimed in.
'That's what you said the last time, Doctor Jackson.' Janet replied looking over her shoulder at him.
'Oh.' Daniel blinked at her.
Janet plunged the needle into Jack's arm and drew the syringe back; the cavity filled with red blood. She gave a brief sigh of relief. 'Well, that's certainly an encouraging start.' She gave a nod at two of her medics waiting in the doorway and they moved in to begin the examinations on the others. Half an hour later and the tests were complete; all they needed were the results.
'Now what?' Jack asked as he shrugged back into his jacket.
'Now you'll be escorted to the secure holding room until I get the results back on the DNA and other blood work.' Janet said, making a notation in his medical file. Her attitude had warmed up considerably in the past thirty minutes.
'Is that really necessary?' Daniel asked. 'I mean you know it's us now, right?'
'He has a point, Janet.' Sam said. 'The MRI and x-rays have to have shown we're not robots.'
'I am ninety-nine per cent certain you are SG1.' Janet admitted, putting her pen in her pocket and looking across at her friend. 'But the General's orders were very specific. Until we get the DNA tests confirming your identities, we're not taking any chances with base security.'
'A wise precaution.' Teal'c noted.
Janet inclined her head at the Jaffa and looked around the despondent group sympathetically. 'I'll try to get the tests done as soon as I can.'
'Yeah.' Jack jumped off the bed. 'Thanks, Doc.'
Janet nodded at the SFs and she watched as the group was led out. She sighed and headed to the lab to oversee the DNA test herself; this was too important to get wrong.
Jack was stretched out on a lower bunk. To most observers he looked relaxed; his legs were crossed at the ankle, his hands behind his head and he was looking up at the top bunk in a steady gaze. Every single person in the room knew his relaxed pose was an illusion but were trying their best to ignore the frustrated Colonel. Daniel and Teal'c were sat at the table playing cards. Sam was curled up on the opposite bunk with her eyes closed. Her request for her laptop had been met with a short and quick refusal and she had subsided onto the bunk claiming she could do with a nap. Her team-mates suspected she was sulking.
'Oh for crying out loud.' Jack muttered, suddenly shifting into an upright position. 'How long does it take for a DNA test?'
'Well it depends on…' Sam began to reply.
Sam sighed audibly and bit down her annoyance; if he didn't want the answer, why ask the question, she thought irritably. She rubbed her upper arms trying to warm them up a little; she'd left her jacket in the infirmary and the room was a little cold for her to be wearing just her black undershirt. Maybe the Colonel did have a point, she mused. They had been stuck in the room for over four hours.
Jack's eyes wandered over Sam worriedly. She had only just recovered from pneumonia after their experience of being trapped in the wilds of Antarctica thanks to a wormhole malfunction. The mission to P3X989 was only their second mission back and it was supposed to have been a quick and easy recon. He grabbed his jacket off the end of his bed and headed over to hers. 'Here.'
Sam's annoyance with him melted away and she smiled at him gratefully as she accepted the offered clothing. 'Thank you, sir.'
'You want me to ask them to turn the heat up?' Jack asked concerned as he sat down on the foot of her bed.
'I'm fine, sir.' Sam said. 'This will help.' She moved to a sitting position and pulled on the jacket.
He helped her into it, adjusted the collar affectionately and smiled back at her. Neither of them noticed Teal'c and Daniel exchange a look at their interaction. The attraction between the two military officers hadn't gone unnoticed by either of them but there was a completely mutual and unspoken agreement to respect Jack and Sam's decision to seemingly ignore it.
'At least we know we'll get out of this room at some point, sir.' Sam said, trying to stay positive.
Jack looked at her questioningly as his hand fell away from the material.
'Our robot selves must have wondered if they would ever get out when it happened to them.' Sam expanded.
'Why would they wonder that?' Daniel asked perplexed.
'You really think the government would have just let us, them, go back to work as robots, Daniel?' Jack asked sharply. 'After what happened with the Tollans?'
Daniel grimaced. A couple of months earlier the team had conspired to help a group of advanced aliens escape the SGC when the NID had turned up looking to take them into custody. He could imagine the same fate that had awaited the Tollans would have happened to their duplicate robotic selves; a lifetime of forced labour. 'I guess not.' He admitted a little chagrined.
Jack's lips twitched. There was a refreshing naivety to Daniel sometimes.
'It must be tough for them.' Daniel said idly, throwing out a card and picking up another, oblivious to Teal'c's glower at the move.
'What do you mean?' Sam asked.
'Well, we get to come home but they don't.' Daniel said.
'As it should be.' Jack responded, clasping his hands together as he leaned forward with his elbows resting on his knees. 'We're the real us.'
'Just because they're mechanical doesn't make them any less real than us, Jack.' Daniel said as he picked up another card, discarding another from his hand. 'I mean they are essentially us; they have the same thoughts, feelings, memories.'
'They're robots.' Jack enunciated his words clearly as though Daniel had failed to grasp the main concept.
The younger man rolled his blue eyes and gestured at the Captain sitting beside the Colonel. 'Sam, back me up here.'
'I'm sorry, Daniel, but I agree with the Colonel.' Sam said.
'You do?' Both Jack and Daniel asked in surprised unison.
'I do.' Sam said, answering them both and swinging her legs around to mirror Jack's pose. 'I'm not sure the robots meet the definition of a life-form.'
'You hear that, Daniel; she agrees with me.' Jack said triumphantly.
Daniel darted an annoyed glance at Jack before he turned his attention back to Sam. 'How can you say that?' He demanded astounded. If there was one person he had believed would support his argument it had been Sam.
'Because they're machines, Daniel.' Sam argued passionately.
'They're sentient.' Daniel argued back waving his cards at her. 'They're intelligent and…and self-aware.'
'That's one definition of life,' Sam allowed, 'but they only have that intelligence and self-awareness because ours was copied and downloaded into them.'
'But that very act gave them life.' Daniel said.
'OK, Daniel,' Sam said, shifting to sit right on the edge of the bed, 'do they need food to eat?'
'Well, no.' Daniel admitted.
'Can they reproduce?' Sam asked immediately, barely waiting for his reply.
Daniel shifted uncomfortably in his chair and his eyes flitted across the table to the Jaffa. 'Well we know from the Teal'c robot we saw Harlan complete that they were made anatomically correct.'
Teal'c raised an eyebrow and stared at Daniel who averted his gaze.
Sam focused on her argument. 'Even if they are anatomically correct, we have no way of knowing that the function of the anatomy would be the same.' She smiled a little wickedly. 'They have the equipment but it might not work.'
Both Daniel and Jack shifted uncomfortably in their seats at the thought; Teal'c simply looked affronted.
'And, the mechanisms may not be duplicated on the inside.' Sam said firmly. 'I can't see how my robotic duplicate would be able to conceive or carry a child.'
'OK,' Jack said interrupting, 'I'm beginning to get queasy now.'
'They could create another robot through the device.' Daniel argued.
'The technology copies a fully grown organic being, Daniel, and produces a mechanical version.' Sam pointed out. 'It doesn't create a brand new unique life.'
'I disagree.' Daniel said. 'They're unique from the point of their creation.'
The door opened and General Hammond swept him.
Jack looked at him with undisguised relief as he and Sam rose to their feet. He had a horrible feeling Sam and Daniel could have continued their philosophical discussion for hours. 'Sir. It's good to see you.'
Hammond's demeanour softened a little at the Colonel's enthusiasm and he smiled fondly at them. 'Welcome back SG1.'
'Does this mean…?' Jack gestured at the door.
'Doctor Fraiser has confirmed your identities and you're free to leave the holding room.' Hammond confirmed.
'Thank you, sir.' Jack said happily.
Hammond nodded. 'We'll debrief in one hour.' He turned and left the room without waiting for a reply.
They all exchanged a brief look of relief before they began to file out of the room. An hour later, showered, fed and feeling somewhat happier with the world, SG1 took their places at the briefing table.
Daniel gestured with the coffee pot and Jack shook his head as Sam and Teal'c politely declined. The archaeologist poured himself a cup and slipped into a chair next to the Jaffa opposite the two military officers who sat together on the opposite side of the table. He took a slurp of coffee. He glanced at his watch and looked over at the General's office, the rest of the team following his gaze; Hammond could be seen through the internal window. Although his back was to the briefing room, they could clearly see he had the red phone at his ear – the one with the direct line to the President – and with the gestures he was making, it was obviously an animated conversation.
'That doesn't look good.' Daniel murmured.
Jack inwardly agreed but decided to give the General some privacy and made the ultimate sacrifice to pull their attention back to the briefing table. 'Did you two come to any conclusion on your robots argument?'
Sam looked at the Colonel in surprise momentarily before she worked out his motivation. She smiled at him. 'I think Daniel and I will have to agree to disagree on this one, sir.'
'I still think…' Daniel began.
The General's office door opened and he strode out.
Sam sprang to her feet as protocol dictated and Jack followed her at a more sedate pace.
A slightly flustered looking Hammond nodded at both of them and the three military officers sat down.
'So…' Hammond spread his hands out, 'what happened?'
'We arrived on P3X989 as scheduled, sir.' Jack reported crisply. 'We had begun to make a surveillance of the immediate environment when we were zapped by something that knocked us out.'
Hammond glanced at Sam for a more technical description.
'Uh…the technology is definitely beyond us, sir.' Sam said, unable to expand on the Colonel's remark.
'We woke up tied up in a room which is when we met Harlan.' Jack's face briefly showed his annoyance with the native resident of P3X989.
'He told us he didn't mean us any harm,' Daniel jumped in, 'and that we would be let go.'
'And then he disappeared.' Jack added as though to contradict the statement Daniel had just made.
'He came back.' Daniel said defensively.
'To gag us.' Jack pointed out. 'And then he disappeared for hours.' He elongated the last two words.
Daniel slumped back in his chair.
'When he came back he was with us, them,' Jack gestured impatiently, 'the robots.'
'How?' Hammond asked.
'Harlan effectively duplicated our bodies and consciousness into mechanical versions, sir.' Sam stepped in to explain. 'A body scanner took measurements and proportions which were fed into the production device.' She paused. 'I'm not certain we would ever be able to understand the technology for the copy of the consciousness into the robot's neural net.'
'Am I to understand these robots know everything you know?' Hammond checked.
'That's correct, sir, but I discussed the security implications with my…uh…self,' Jack visibly winced, 'and he agreed to bury the gate on P3X989.'
'You'll forgive me, Colonel, but didn't Doctor Jackson promise to do the same on Abydos?' Hammond pointed out.
Daniel looked down at the table as Jack glanced across at him sympathetically; he knew unburying the gate on Abydos was something the archaeologist regretted.
'I believe he'll bury it, sir.' Jack said firmly.
'How can you be so sure?' Hammond asked.
'Well, if I were him, I would assume that I would send a bomb because I wouldn't trust myself not to bury the gate, so I would,' Jack waved his hands in the air vaguely, 'bury the gate, sir.'
Daniel looked up at Jack. 'That actually made sense.'
Jack smiled at him.
'In a bizarre, twisted kind of way.' Daniel completed enjoying how the smile fell away from Jack's face.
Hammond ignored their by-play. 'Fair enough but I want all your security codes and passwords changed immediately.'
There was a chorus of agreement.
'I'll expect your mission reports by tomorrow at eighteen-hundred. Dismissed.' Hammond said abruptly. He headed straight back to his office and sat down behind his desk. The tap on his door surprised him into looking up. He blinked at the sight of the Colonel standing formally in the doorway.
'Sir.' Jack entered the office and wondered how he broached the subject. 'I couldn't help noticing you seem a little…' he searched for a word, couldn't find one and gestured helplessly.
Hammond sighed. 'It's just the usual budget discussions, Colonel.'
'Ah.' Jack's brown eyes gleamed sympathetically at the General. 'Sorry to hear that, sir.'
'Not as sorry as I am.' Hammond said with a brief laugh.
'Is there anything I can do?' Jack offered.
Hammond shook his head. 'Thanks for the concern, Colonel.'
Jack nodded and turned to leave.
Jack looked back inquisitively at the General.
'It's good to have you and your team back.' Hammond said sincerely.
'It's good to be back, sir.' Jack gave a pleased smile and closed the office door behind him as he wandered back through the briefing room. He glanced at the Stargate through the briefing room window on his way past. If he was his counterpart would he bury it? He frowned a little and shook himself. Of course he would. Wouldn't he?
The four robots stared at the Stargate where a moment before their organic original selves had disappeared into the open wormhole to return to Earth. The wormhole was gone leaving only a gigantic space in the middle that seemed to represent everything they had lost.
'Well, busy, busy.' Harlan said with determined cheerfulness into the morose silence. He hurried away and none of them attempted to stop him.
'I guess we should bury the gate.' Daniel muttered finally.
'Why?' Jack asked impatiently.
The other three stared at him.
'Did you not agree to bury the gate with your counterpart, O'Neill?' Teal'c asked.
'Your point?' Jack said brusquely.
'Uh…how about they'll send a bomb through?' Daniel retorted.
'They won't send a bomb.' Jack said dismissively starting to walk away.
His team followed after him.
'You don't know that, sir.' Sam argued as she caught up with him.
'Yes, Carter, I do.' Jack said with exaggerated patience. 'And you know how I know? Because I know what I would do and I won't send a bomb.'
'How can you be so certain you…the other you…won't send a bomb?' Daniel asked exasperated.
'Because I would think that I would bury the gate because I know I would send the bomb so knowing that I would bury the gate because I know I would send the bomb, I wouldn't send the bomb and as I know I wouldn't send the bomb, there's no reason to bury the gate.'
'That has to be the most convoluted thing I've ever heard you say.' Daniel muttered.
'Thank you.' Jack said.
'It wasn't a compliment.' Daniel threw back.
Sam sighed. 'How do you know you…he won't work out all this?'
Jack stared at her. 'I know, OK?'
She could have continued arguing but at the militant look in her CO's eyes decided that silence was the best policy.
'Shouldn't we bury it anyway?' Daniel argued. 'To prevent others or the Goa'uld coming through?'
'Daniel Jackson is correct.' Teal'c said. 'We should work to ensure the security of this facility.'
'We could construct an iris.' Sam suggested.
'There you go.' Jack waved at Sam. 'We'll construct an iris.'
'But why bother?' Daniel asked. 'I mean it's not like we can leave.'
Jack suddenly stopped, causing them to stumble as they halted mid-step. 'No,' he admitted quietly, 'it's not like we can leave.' He leaned on the railing of the walk-way they were on and rubbed his face as they all stood in their small group and absorbed the reality of their situation.
Sam frowned and crossed her arms. 'Maybe that's not true.'
All three men turned to look at her.
'What?' Jack asked impatiently.
'Maybe it's not true we can't leave here.' Sam expanded.
'But our power source is here.' Daniel said perplexed.
'I know but didn't Harlan say that some of the others left with portable power supplies in the past?' Sam said. 'If I studied the power source here I'm certain I could come up with something.'
'So we could leave.' Daniel said wonderingly.
'We could leave.' Sam repeated.
'To do what?' Jack asked loudly. 'We couldn't go home.'
'No but we could explore, learn about other planets and civilisations.' Daniel said getting excited at the possibility.
'We could continue the fight against the Goa'uld.' Teal'c asserted.
'Exactly.' Daniel agreed passionately. 'We could still try and find Skaara and…and Sha're.'
Jack looked from Daniel to Teal'c to Sam. All of their faces were resolute and determined but with the faintest glimmer of hope lurking in their eyes. And they were all waiting for him to agree, he realised. He sighed and crossed his arms. His eyes flickered to Sam's. 'You really think you could make portable power sources?'
Sam nodded fervently. 'All I need is sometime to become familiar with the power source here.'
'What about running into…ourselves?' Jack asked. 'Won't that be a problem?'
'Not necessarily.' Sam said. 'I could reconstruct the computer programme that calculates the stellar drift of the gate addresses based on the Abydos cartouche. I could theorise the order in which the addresses based on that programme are produced and write another…'
'To produce the addresses in a different order.' Daniel finished.
'It wouldn't be a hundred percent foolproof, sir, but it should reduce the odds considerably.' Sam said.
Jack looked at Teal'c who nodded imperceptibly.
'OK.' Jack said. 'I guess we have a plan.'
They all grinned at each other.
Jack straightened. 'Teal'c, Daniel, why don't you scout around the place. See if you can find the materials we need for the iris.'
Daniel nodded while Teal'c bowed his head. They both set off down the walk way and disappeared round the end of the corridor.
'I guess you should get started on the power source things.' Jack said to Sam.
'Why don't I take care of that first, sir?' Sam pointed at his cheek where the circular hole in his skin revealed the metal skull underneath. 'Harlan showed me how to work the machine when we finished up Teal'c.'
'Right.' Jack agreed.
They made their way down to the chamber containing the machine Harlan had used to construct them.
Jack sat down on a stool as Sam positioned a device over his cheek.
'This should only take a few minutes, sir.' Sam said encouragingly.
'Sir?' Sam asked bemused.
'You should call me Jack, Carter.' Jack gestured at her. 'If we're going to be together for eleven thousand years I'm thinking the 'sir' might get a little old.'
She smiled. 'What about when we're on missions?'
'Whatever makes you comfortable.' Jack said shrugging. 'It's not like our ranks mean anything here, Carter. We're not in the Air Force anymore so no more rules and regulations.'
The thought hit them both simultaneously and they stared at each other in sudden realisation that all the strictures that had applied to their relationship were no longer in place.
Sam tore her gaze away from his. She lowered the instrument and touched his cheek gently to check her work; the skin was repaired without a visible scar. 'I think it's fixed.' She said nervously.
Jack sighed. If they really were going to be together eleven thousand years without the regulations, there was no way he was going to be able to hide his attraction from her and from the way she was reacting she was already aware of it. Why else would she be nervous? Well, she was the smart one, he mused ruefully. 'Carter, I think we need to…talk.'
Her hand dropped away. 'Talk?'
'You've probably realised that I have feelings.' Jack began.
Sam blinked. 'Feelings?'
Jack squirmed on the stool under her wide, blue eyes. He was beginning to doubt his original assumption that she knew how he felt but he ploughed on regardless. 'I like you, Carter. Now that's my problem and I…'
'I like you too.' Sam's eyes widened even further as though she was surprised she'd blurted it out.
'You do?' Jack asked disbelievingly.
They looked at each other a little warily.
One of Jack's hands reached out and snagged her. He pulled her towards him slowly; his brown eyes holding her blue ones as he gave her time to protest, leave, tell him to stop; all the things he was certain she would do.
When their lips met, it wasn't enough. They both pressed closer almost immediately; their hands shifting to hold the other tightly as they kissed deeply.
Sam giggled suddenly and Jack lifted his head ruefully at the realisation why.
'I guess I can't claim that's my sidearm.' He muttered. At least, he mused with satisfaction, he knew everything worked.
'Not this time.' She said, remembering the moment in Antarctica when he'd last made that remark – or at least when the other Jack had made that remark to her organic self.
Jack felt a subtle tension in her that hadn't been there before and he stroked a hand down her back. 'I guess we're moving a little fast here.'
Sam smiled gratefully at his understanding. 'A little. I mean until two minutes ago you were my CO and this was just…uh…'
'A fantasy?' Jack suggested his brown eyes gleamed with amusement.
She held his gaze and nodded a little embarrassed at the admission even though she had the proof it was mutual.
'It would seem we have time, Sam.' Jack said even as the disappointment that his particular fantasy was obviously not going to happen right there and then sank in. 'There's no rush.'
Sam smiled before she stepped away. 'I'd better get started on the power source.'
'I'll catch up with the guys.' Jack said. 'See about that iris.'
She nodded and he watched her leave before he made to do the same.
Harlan bustled in. 'Ah, there you are. I see you've been repaired.' He pointed at Jack's cheek. 'Better? Hmmm?'
Jack stared at the annoying being that had created him for a long moment and thought about everything; he was with his team, who were in many ways the only family he had; they were still planning missions through the Stargate so their work would continue and, in this body without the rules and regulations of his previous existence, he might actually have a chance to be with Sam who shockingly felt the same way about him as he did about her.
'Yeah, Harlan.' Jack patted Harlan's arm surprising the rather rotund robot. 'Better.'