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The Greatest Gift

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It’s dark in here, but right now the lighting suits my mood, dark and quiet, with anger settling around me in the background. I can’t seem to get rid of the anger, although there are times when I can function without it hovering over me like a dark cloud. It just lingers there, barely recognizable until I am alone again and dwelling on my loss.

I sit here in the dark, ruminating about the things I no longer have any control over and I can’t help but hate what has been done to me. The others hate it, as well, but unlike me, they choose not to dwell on their loss and move on with their lives, what’s left of it, that is.

Carter seems to be handling all this with aplomb. She is the type to take the things that life throws at her and try to make the best of it. Of course, there is also the fact that she has all kinds of machines to work on to keep her mind off the fact that she is no longer the person she was. Give her a mechanical problem and she is off in her own little world, determined to fix whatever is wrong with it. I envy her and her ability to tune out her own loss, as she tinkers with her machines. Of course, her loss is not as great as mine. She still has her machines to play with; she didn’t have to give up too much.

Daniel spends a lot of time with Carter, helping her fix those machines. I’m sure they have a lot to talk about, seeing as they both have their scientific views to discuss. And since there really isn’t anything here for him to translate, he simply chooses to spend time with the one person who would talk to him. I’m too busy feeling sorry for myself to make the time to converse with Daniel, and Teal’c… well, Teal’c is just Teal’c. Conversation with that guy can be tiring at the best of times.

Teal’c spends his days helping Carter, as well. But there are many times when he takes off to wander through the maze of this place, looking for an escape from this life, and probably a little solitude from Daniel’s incessant chatter. This life we are forced to live bothers him at times, and I have to agree with him the few times he will talk to me about it. He left behind a cause, the rebellion that he was determined to start among the Jaffa, and this bothers him. Then there is the feeling of being less than a man, of not being out there to help rid the galaxy of false gods and other idiots who believe the galaxy is theirs to rule. Teal’c and I think a lot alike and I’m glad he is here to commiserate with, even as I wish we had never heard of this place.

The darkness settles around me as I dwell on what I left behind. I had a life – granted it wasn’t such a great one, but at least I had the freedom to come and go as I pleased. I can’t leave this place unless I have a desire to end it all, and I’m not at that point yet. This crap really sucks right now, but it’s not so bad that suicide is my only option. Plus, I have this innate will to live that interferes every single time I try to even consider that option.

There is a commotion on the other side of the door and I sigh as I realize that I am about to have some company. That’s another thing I miss about my other life – privacy and a place to dwell on my fate, rotten that it is. A man can’t even have a self-pity party without someone coming along insisting on cheering him up.

“Sir?” Carter says, as she pokes her head around the door.

“I’m here, Carter.” We are technically not military anymore, but old habits die hard it seems, although now that I think about it, it’s time to make a change. “What can I do for you, Sam?”

“We’ve been looking all over for you,” she says, turning on the light as she walks in, followed by Daniel and Teal’c. So much for my hiding out here to get away from the others.

“Sam’s got a surprise for you,” Daniel informs me, as he comes over to sit down next to me. “You are going to love this.”

“A surprise?” I ask Daniel, then turn to look expectantly at Carter... Sam.

“Daniel Jackson tells me that it is the answer to our problem,” Teal’c speaks up. “I am most anxious to hear of this surprise.”

“What is it?” I ask, intrigued despite myself. Sam smiles at me, then holds out an object to show me what she has made. The object looks like a cross between a... actually, I’m not quite sure what it looks like. Well, yeah, maybe one of those toys that lights up and the only way to win the game is to correctly tap on the colored lights in the right sequence. A small smile escapes me as I remember playing with one of those toys with my son, Charlie. He and I would chase the lights around the object with our hands, only to end up laughing when our hands got tangled up with each other.

“It’s a portable power pack that will theoretically provide the power we need to survive for long periods of time away from this place,” she says, with a hopeful look. I can’t help but stare at her as I decipher her words, elation settling in as I realize what she is saying.

“We would be able to leave this place?” Teal’c asks, apparently coming to the same conclusion I have.

“Surprise!!” Daniel yells with a grin, as realization seeps into my brain.

“We won’t be able to stay away for months at a time, we will still have to return here to recharge the power packs, but yes, we could leave this place.”

“Leave this place, as in go through the Stargate?” I ask, while eagerness and exhilaration flows through my soul.

“Yes,” Sam says, smiling broadly, as she nods her head. “We will need to test the device to get an accurate time frame, although I’m pretty sure the packs will provide enough power for a couple of days. I think that we should send someone through the Gate to test it out and…”

“I’ll do it,” I eagerly tell her. A chance to go through the Gate and get the hell away from this place? Oh yeah, I am so there!

“I think I should be the one,” Daniel says, nearly at the same time.

“I will be the one to test it out,” Teal’c insists regally.

“But I would know what to do to adjust it,” Sam says, not missing out on her chance to leave this place. “I think I should be the one to go.”

“I’m in charge here,” I remind them all. “I don’t want you all to put yourselves at risk.”

“Perhaps we should all go,” Teal’c wisely suggests.

“Sounds good to me,” I tell them, my depression moving out as I dwell on what this all means, “As long as I am one of the people going through that Gate.”

“I will have to build two more units,” Sam says, apologetically. “I was too anxious to tell you all about it. It should only take a few more days,” she rushes on to say when she notices my anger. “Daniel can help me,” she adds, while Daniel vigorously nods his head. It’s apparent that we all want out from this hellish prison we’ve found ourselves in. Granted we can do whatever we want, but we can’t leave this place, and for four people who have traveled far and wide for most of our lives, the fact that we can’t leave makes this place a prison.

“Teal’c and I can unbury the Gate while you two build those… uh… doodads,” I tell them, wishing my vocabulary wouldn’t up and leave me like that. “How exactly does it work?” I ask in a vain attempt to cover my inabilities to express myself. Carter’s eyes light up, and I realize my mistake the minute she starts talking.

“The power packs are designed to provide power to our systems using properties similar to batteries. Energy is transferred from the power cores…”

“Carter,” I yell, to stop her from going on about the less than fascinating subject of power cores and all the other stuff that light up her world.

“Sorry sir,” she says. “Basically, it will allow us to stay away from the main power supply here for a few days. A test run will give us a more accurate time frame, but I believe 48 hours is a good bet. We could gate to a planet that we know to be Jaffa free so that we have easy access to the Gate when the power packs show signs of shutting down.” She is in her glory, and I find that I’m not so mean as to take away that glory.

“We could go back to exploring other planets, maybe find something out there that could help the people of Earth fight off the Goa’uld,” Daniel says, his eagerness apparent in his entire body. He can’t sit still, and I admit that I share in his excitement. “We would probably have to hide out from the other SG teams in case we run into any of them…”

“Especially SG-1,” I say, wondering what the other me is doing right that moment. Probably guzzling down a cold brewski, I grumble inwardly. The injustice of my fate has me glaring and Carter’s not going to settle for it.

“There are hundreds of planets out there,” she says, as she comes to sit down next to me and hands me the power pack. I stare at it, trying to drag myself out of the ‘what could be’ and ‘what never will be’ doldrums I’ve been dwelling on ever since we were left on this God forsaken planet. “What are the chances we will run into our other selves?” she asks, as she nudges me with her elbow. I look over at her, then grin at her obvious attempts to cheer me up.

“Pretty good Captain,” I tell her. Daniel doesn’t care, though. He is on a roll and I sit back as he takes off, talking a mile a minute about all the planets we could visit, as well as the archeological importance of what we could find out there. I grin at Teal’c as he stands there listening to Daniel ramble on. He smiles back, excitement making a rare appearance on his features. He is just as ready as I am to leave this domain.

“It will be great,” Daniel says, as he finally finishes his spiel. For once, I don’t mind his incessant rambling. Carter’s given me the best gift that I have ever gotten in my entire life, and I am way too happy to care one way or the other.

“I’ve built in a safety feature in case the packs are tampered with,” Carter says, her expression sobering.

“Meaning?” I ask, half afraid to find out. It would be just my luck to have such a wonderful gift booby-trapped to destroy me while I was out enjoying my well-deserved freedom.

“Well, I got to thinking that we may be captured and I didn’t want the Goa’uld to discover what makes us tick, so to speak.”

“And…?” I prompt, knowing that there is more to this and the fact that she is stalling has me a little worried.

“The power pack is designed to blow up if it is tampered with,” she informs us.

“Blow up?” I respond incredulously. She nods her head and I find myself wondering just where did these ideas come from? She is right, of course, but I’m not so sure I want to be carrying a bomb around. “So now there’s a chance that I’ll go up in a blaze of glory?”

“Only if someone tampers with the power core,” she hurries to assure me.

“Well, that makes me feel much better.” It’s good to know that my sarcastic wit is always handy. “I’ll just have to hope that I don’t blow up when Teal’c punches me during one of our sparring matches.”

“We have not participated in a sparring match since we arrived here,” Teal’c feels it is necessary to tell me.

“I know that Teal’c,” I answer, wishing that guy didn’t take everything I say verbatim. “I’m trying to get a point across. Work with me here, buddy.”

Teal’c just looks at me with that puzzled look on his face, and I decide to go back to my original thought. “Any chance of it going off… ‘accidentally’?” I ask Carter, eyeing the object in my hands with distrust.

“We’ll be perfectly safe, sir,” Carter insists. “It’s designed to go off only when the inner core is tampered with. The cover is designed to protect it from any accidental mishaps.”

“I’m willing to give it a go,” Daniel says. “Would you rather stay here?”

“Hell no!” I respond, grinning at my friend. “Let’s get to work.”

It’s amazing how timing works out. Just as I say those words, sirens start blaring and the voice I have learned to hate during the last several months announces a problem with some machine. Daniel and I roll our eyes at each other, as Carter heaves a sigh. This place is a disaster waiting to happen.

We head out to fix whatever is wrong, but with a much lighter heart this time. This time, we have a future ahead of us – one that involves Gate travel, adventures and dangers galore. We have places to go and people to meet, and if it meant fixing Harlan’s machines in order to meet those itineraries, so be it.

All we had to do was avoid meeting the others from the SGC, and I am confident we could do that. Stay low and keep our noses clean and we should be home free.

Free – that word has taken on a whole new meaning for me. Oh yeah! I am so ready to blow this place.