Summary Twelve days during Sam's command of the Hammond while she deals with being away from Jack over the holidays and strange coincidences involving a Christmas song...
Author's Notes: Sam-centric, est Sam/Jack. Spoilers for SG1, SGA and SGU. Set post show. Written as an exercise to improve my writing mojo with a chapter written and posted once a day through the twelve days of Christmas. It's a little rough around the edges and not as polished as my other fics.
Disclaimer: No copyright infringement intended. Written for entertainment purposes only.
On the first day of Christmas, my true love sent to me…
There were days, as her father had been inclined to say, when it didn't pay to get out of bed. Or beam up test pilots from a world on the edge of a beautiful nebula with unusual phenomena that a science team aboard her ship, the Hammond, was studying.
Sam Carter massaged her temple and stared at the two pilots stood in front of her. "Captain Peartree and Lieutenant Partridge?"
"Yes, ma'am." The Captain smiled at her. She was a typical flyboy in every respect except for the boy part of the term; cocky, self-assured and a touch arrogant. Her dark hair was in a style in contravention of the regs; her green eyes more than a little mischievous. But she was also more than competent to perform the official flight test of Sam's new baby; the X402. She had commendations up the wazoo and personal references from Cameron Mitchell and John Sheppard. She was the real deal.
She'd been assigned Partridge as her second chair as soon as the young blond had made the Daedalus F302 squad. Sam figured Caldwell had meant for it to be a joke; there was a very sneaky sense of humour lurking beneath the Colonel's stern exterior. However the assignment had happened, the two had become a dream team; saving the Daedalus from a Wraith attack by successfully managing to blow up a cruiser; saving Atlantis from a rogue Asgard ship intent on dive-bombing the city before it could raise shields during a crisis; and not least saving Earth from a Lucian Alliance attack some months before.
Their assignment to her on Christmas Day had Jack O'Neill's sticky fingers all over it. But then it would; he was still the Head of Homeworld Command despite several attempts at retiring.
"I was hoping we would have a chance to go over the design specifications with you before the flight, Colonel." Partridge smiled hopefully and Sam read nothing but eagerness and sincerity in his warm brown eyes. "I had some questions about the new Asgard based engines and the Ancient control mechanism for the naquadria instability…"
"You'll have to excuse Partridge, ma'am." The Captain cut in. "He's a geek."
Her tone was affectionate and fond; it reminded Sam of the way Jack had talked about her when they'd been in SG1.
"So am I, Captain." Sam replied dryly. "And I believe the geek saved your butt during the dogfight with a Jakrian glider last month when he rebooted your 302 in the fastest time ever recorded."
The Jakrian's were a new alien race – avian based – discovered by SG1 a few months before when Daniel Jackson had accidentally beamed onto their invisible flying city over P7Y309 during a transporter mishap. Unfortunately, they were very hostile, which was a real shame, Sam mused, because their flight technology was amazing. And might have somewhat prompted her tweaking of the X402 design.
"Yes, ma'am." Peartree said with a visible wince that Sam knew she intended for her to see since her green eyes were filled with good humour.
Partridge smirked at Peartree who rolled her eyes at him but stiffened immediately as she realised that Sam was watching the interaction avidly with a raised eyebrow.
Oh. Now she had an idea why Jack had sent her the pair – well, above and beyond their record for aerial awesomeness. Still, she could be wrong. She needed more data.
"Dinner," Sam ordered briskly, "we'll discuss the design specifications over Christmas dinner in the mess; twenty-hundred. Dismissed."
The pair came to attention in perfect synchronicity before leaving her on-board office, a tiny affair that Sam knew had been a storage cupboard in the original design. Before too long she made her way to the bridge and her command duty took up most of her shift, paperwork the early evening, and she was more than ready for an escape of dinner by the scheduled time.
Dinner went pretty much as Sam had predicted; dry turkey, suspect cranberry sauce and lumpy mashed potato, but the atmosphere in the mess was jovial. One of Partridge's degrees was in aerospace engineering and his comments were insightful. But Peartree was just as animated once the discussion got going, relating the tech speak back to practical flying and making useful insertions of her own. Sam was impressed with them, individually and as a team. She also knew without a shadow of a doubt that they were both head over heels for each other; the signs were too familiar.
Sam headed back to her quarters, thoughtful. She let her mind drift back as she walked, thinking back to fishing invitations and blue force-shields and za'tarc machines and…and Janet Fraiser asking her if there was a problem long before Sam had been ready to admit she'd fallen in love with her CO.
Sam immediately logged into the computer and as she had expected there was a personal email from Jack from the last transmission from Earth waiting for her. She smirked as she read through it.
"Re: Partridge & Peartree
I know you're busy out there with your science projects and I am not officially recognising any problem but...I know if anyone can fix it, you can.
And Merry 1st Day of Christmas!
Always, Jack x"
She shook her head in fond exasperation and replied.
"Re: Partridge & Peartree,
I believe Captain Peartree is perfect for the open test flight position reporting directly to me, and Lieutenant Partridge would be an excellent fit for my X402 design team on the Hammond, although I would advocate a field promotion to Captain – not out of line with the Lieutenant's past achievements, performance and time served. He would report to Major Hailey.
While this may in theory separate a high performing team into differing arms of the COC on The Hammond, I am certain that should the situation warrant it, in line with regulations, exceptions might be made as required at the discretion of myself as their overall CO.
If you agree please send your official approval for the transfers and field promotion in the next transmission.
In other words, Sam thought with amusement as she sent the email, she'd keep them flying together if she could justify it from a mission perspective. Like the test flight of her X402 which would need the best pilot on the Hammond and a geek from the design team flying back-up in the second chair.
She'd talk with them in the morning, Sam decided. Maybe they wouldn't be ready to acknowledge there was a problem or maybe they would appreciate the manoeuvres that would allow them to pursue their feelings. She hoped it was the latter. They didn't dwell on it but she and Jack had wasted so much time before finally getting their acts together, although Sam sometimes wondered whether either of them would have accepted a resolution any earlier. Sometimes, Sam thought philosophically, things happened the way they happened for a reason.
Sam opened up a new email.
I love you too.
On the second day of Christmas…
So, it turned out that Peartree and Partridge immediately understood the benefits of their transfers and Partridge's field promotion (all signed off by Jack in the transmission that morning), and if the heated look they'd exchanged when they'd left Sam's tiny office was anything to go by, they were off to find a storage closet that hadn't been turned into an office as soon as they could find one. Apparently it was only Sam and Jack who took years to get to the point of seeking out storage closets (not that they had actually sought out storage closets even after getting together – although there had been a memorable interlude in Daniel's office when both of them had been visiting the SGC after their reassignments to accommodate their relationship back before the war with the Ori had started).
She shook her head and took her seat on the bridge. "Report."
Her second-in-command, Major Franklin, smiled at her. "All duty stations reporting green, Colonel. We're maintaining the asynchronous orbit to accommodate the astrophysics team. Doctor Keeler notes that they've isolated some kind of pattern in the light show they're watching. He'd like you to take a look if you have time."
Sam felt her scientific curiosity stir. Her working life had moved far beyond her primary specialism in astrophysics but it was still her first love. "I'll go down there later."
He cleared his throat. "Major Hailey reports the design team is on track outfitting the X402 and should meet the schedule for the first test flight."
"Good." Sam breathed out in relief that they'd make the scheduled date. It had been a battle to get the brass to agree to keep the design team for the X402 on the Hammond instead of Area 51 once the research facility had been rebuilt from the devastating Wraith attack. Both Jack and her immediate CO, General Vidrine, had gone to bat for her, pointing out that there was no reason to shift the activity back when Sam, the design team and the Hammond had proven they could make it work.
It helped that of all the fleet, the Hammond was primarily intended for scientific exploration. The Odyssey remained ostensibly the flagship with its integrated Asgard core; the Daedalus operated as the conduit between Pegasus and the Milky Way (and Sam was certain Sheppard had been literally hours away from simply stealing Atlantis when the decision for the city to return to Pegasus had come down some months before), and the Apollo was the main military support for the SG teams, Earth's allies within the Milky Way and Pegasus, ably assisted by the newly built Chekov and the rebuilt Sun Tzu.
"Incoming transmission!" Captain Meyers stated, breaking into Sam's thoughts. "It's being relayed through the Stargate on the planet, ma'am. It's Homeworld Command."
"On-screen." Sam requested, slipping out of her chair to head to the large communications screen on the left of the bridge. Homeworld came into focus; the desks and monitors of the busy command centre behind the very familiar face of her husband. She smiled warmly. "Sir."
"Carter." Jack smirked at her. "So, you know the thing with the V'Breeni that you sorted out last month?"
Sam had fixed their Stargate. It had been an easy fix and had literally taken moments.
"I remember, sir." Sam replied. "Wasn't SG20 checking in with them today?" Before the beginnings of worry could take hold of her because Cassandra Fraiser had just joined SG20, Jack's smirk widened, an indication if ever there was one that there was nothing majorly wrong.
"The V'Breeni have a present for you." Jack waggled his eyebrows. "According to SG20's shiny new anthropologist they're insistent that they give it to you today." He made a sideways motion with his hand. "They're gating through to your planet in an hour so…beam down, make nice, say thank you for the gift and," another whirly gesture that Sam had long ago dubbed 'do whatever it is you do,' "you know."
"I do, sir." Sam confirmed dryly.
Jack grinned at her. "Excellent. Well, I'll leave it in your capable hands then, Carter."
"Sir." Sam smiled back, allowing herself a moment of indulgence to soak up the sight of him. It wasn't the first holidays they'd spent apart since their marriage, because there had been her assignment to Atlantis, but it didn't make it any easier. It was ironic, Sam thought with wry amusement, that they'd spent every Christmas together before they'd become husband and wife, but not after. Neither of them complained overly much; they were both military and it came with the job.
"Oh, hey!" Jack said, just as she had been about to step back, "Happy Second Day of Christmas!" He made a signal to Walter lurking behind him and the connection winked out.
Sam's eyes narrowed in suspicion but she wasn't going to complain about getting to see Cassie and gifts were always nice.
Well, not always, she mentally corrected herself; the gift of cat poo from P9Y521 had especially not been nice even if Daniel had been insistent that in the Durab's culture it was a highly sought after delicacy.
She selected Major Hailey, Major Marks and her security officer, Captain Phelps, to beam down with her. All were veterans of the programme and could deal with the crazy; Jennifer Hailey was head of the design team but she'd served with SG5 before her maternity leave and transfer to R&D, Kevin Marks had been flying 302s since the ill-fated Prometheus, and Ted Phelps was formally SG3.
They waited patiently by the Stargate at the appointed time with some beamed down spice cake and apple juice which the V'Breeni loved. The chevrons lit up and the wormhole appeared.
Sam's radio crackled. "SG20 requesting permission to gate, ma'am."
"Permission granted, Major Grogan." Sam cast a look toward Hailey and hid her smile at the younger woman's happy anticipation. She'd had an ulterior motive in requesting Hailey accompany her; Hailey and Grogan had never married but they were together and had a boisterous son they'd named Elliot.
Grogan stepped through with the V'Breeni Prime Minister, a tall, lanky man with the V'Breeni's typical red-hair. Sam only had eyes for Cassie who stepped through next with another V'Breeni – a scientist named Gourd. The rest of SG20 – Sergeants Oakley and Peel – emerged pulling a small cart with a large object covered in a blue fabric.
After a restrained welcome and greeting, Sam allowed herself to be ushered into the best position to see as the V'Breeni clambered into the cart to reveal her gift.
Cassie nudged her and grinned. "You're going to love this."
The V'Breeni whisked away the cloth and beamed at her.
Two things occurred to Sam simultaneously: one, that the cloth had shielding properties of some kind because without it she felt the low level buzz she always got near naquadah, and; two, the entire statue was made out of naquadah and shaped into a beautiful rendition of two birds in mid-flight.
"Holy Hannah." Sam murmured, shocked.
Gourd beamed at her. "I noticed you very much admired our V'Harv birds on your visit to our planet, Colonel Carter."
"It's stunning." Sam said sincerely. And if a small part of her was crying at the thought of all that naquadah used for a diplomatic gift so she couldn't then use it for something like energy generators…well, it was nobody's business but her own.
An hour later, Oakley and Peel escorted the V'Breeni back through the wormhole and Sam pretended she didn't see Grogan kiss Hailey goodbye while they happily ignored her hug with Cassie.
"I'll see you when you get back." Cassie said with a cheeky smile. "Good luck with the test flight." She hugged Sam again briefly and whispered in her ear. "He's fine. Grumpy yesterday morning but he perked right up with your email last night. Even waved SG1 off to their latest mission with a smile on his face."
Sam nodded grateful at Cassie's update on Jack. She watched as Cassie and Grogan headed back to V'Breeni and returned to her ship. The statue was placed carefully into cargo after Sam took a few photos of it. She uploaded one of them, attached it to her official report and sent it along with a more personal email to Jack.
Happy Second Day of Christmas.
See attached photo.
For the record V'Harv birds do not look anything like turtle doves. Please tell me you're not seriously attempting twelve days?
Love, Sam x"
A reply chimed in her inbox that evening…
Peartree and Partridge I'll cop to, and I'm not saying I didn't consider doing all twelve days when Cass told me about birds thing the V'Breeni gave to you, but then I thought where the hell would I get three French hens?
Ah, don't answer that, Carter – rhetorical question!
Always, Jack x"
She went to bed laughing.
On the third day of Christmas…
"I swear, Carter, this is a complete coincidence!" Jack began.
Sam arched an eyebrow in a reasonable facsimile of Teal'c's and folded her arms. Homeworld Command seemed oblivious to their CO acting like a recalcitrant husband rather than a three star General which was probably just as well.
"There's been an accident at the Gamma site." Jack continued.
Their Gamma site was a scientific outpost that conducted experiments on alien equipment and animals that were deemed too dangerous to take place on Earth.
Sam's frowned deepened. Their original Gamma site had been completely destroyed by flesh-eating bugs so any kind of accident was cause for concern. "And?"
"Some Ancient doohickey turned the CO…"
And the Gamma CO if she remembered rightly was French; Colonel Alain.
"…a visiting French scientist and his very dull wife into…"
If Jack said hens she was going to kill him.
"Dinosaurs." Jack finished, aiming for an innocent expression and failing. "The geek guys said something about Archaeopteryx?"
Three French bird dinosaurs.
She glared at him.
"Jean-Pierre requested you personally take a look." Jack stated nonchalantly.
Jean-Pierre Michel was the current serving IOA French representative and he was hotly tipped to lead the IOA once Strom's term was up.
"I think the scientist guy's wife is something like Jean-Pierre's second cousin three times removed?" offered Jack as though that explained everything and maybe it did.
Sam worried her lower lip with her teeth. She hated leaving her ship especially since her review of the nebula data had shown indications that the light show they were observing was not natural in origin; less aurora borealis and more like a lighthouse signal. She was tempted to refuse to help – Jack hadn't made it an actual order yet – because the risk that the science team was about to stumble over a first contact was reasonably high. But the data was inconclusive. And her crew was excellent and she trusted them to deal with any issue while she was absent. Perhaps if she was only away for a short time…
"Sir, you've seen the report on the nebula?" Sam asked eventually.
"Inconclusive, right?" Jack replied casually, but he gave a nod to acknowledge her concern.
"I'll agree to the request but only to make an initial assessment." Sam said. "If the problem can't be fixed within a short time-frame, I respectfully ask that another scientist is sent."
"Reasonable request and a good compromise." Jack said grinning. "Thanks, Carter." He signalled with a pointed finger to Walter who nodded. "Details on their way to you now. SG2 will meet you there for back-up in…"
"Two hours." Sam said loudly.
Jack gave her a look which meant 'which one of us is the General?' and she shot him a look right back that said 'like you'd demand any less if you are still a Colonel.' In the background, Walter was trying hard not to laugh.
"Two hours." Jack said cheerfully as though that had always been his plan. "Happy Third Day of Christmas, Carter!"
Sam glowered at the blank screen.
Two hours and fifteen minutes later, she and SG2's CO Major Canning stared at the security monitor recording the room where the three bird dinosaurs had been corralled.
"Fascinating." Doctor Sanchez, a young xenobiologist with messy dark curly hair and oversized glasses, commented. "The two males seem to be displaying for the female."
Sam massaged her temple. "Is the device in the room?"
"No." Doctor Hendricks babbled, his brown eyes worried and fearful; his chubby hands waving in all directions. "I managed to grab it when we escaped. It's in Lab One."
Sam nodded. "Major Canning, find some way of separating the two males from the female."
Sanchez whirled around. "Colonel, I protest. This is a wonderful opportunity to observe the mating rituals of a now extinct species!"
"We actually think that's what the device was meant to do." Hendricks interjected nervously, his thin eyebrows climbing towards his thinning hairline.
"You think the device was meant to turn three people into dinosaurs for the sake of observing mating rituals?" Sam said dubiously.
"Yes?" offered Hendricks. "Well, not exactly mating rituals but observing the animal, yes? Doctor Li's translation of the device's readout before it shorted out would substantiate that."
"Regardless," said Sam firmly, "the males and the female are to be separated."
Canning went to do her bidding.
"Colonel…" Sanchez began again.
"None of the individuals involved here consented to being observed in mating rituals." Sam stared meaningfully at Sanchez who flushed bright red realising what she had been advocating. Sam felt a twinge of sympathy recalling her own scientific curiosity over witnessing the effects of a black hole many years before. It had been Jack who had reminded her of the human cost and she'd taken the lesson to heart.
Hendricks motioned towards the door. "Shall I take you to the device, Colonel Carter?"
They made their way to Lab One. Sam unclipped and set her weapon down to pick up the Ancient device responsible for the accident. The power unit was burned out. She could probably MacGyver something. If this were Atlantis, she mused, McKay would have already fixed it, turned the dinosaurs back to people and done it all berating Hendricks for being an idiot; he would never have dreamed of calling her for help. Sometimes she wished she could rant at people the way McKay did especially when she was being used as the equivalent of the Milky Way's fix-it girl. Not that she was ever going to tell Rodney that.
She set to work, explaining how to fix it to Hendricks and his team as she went, and within fifteen minutes had the device's power issues resolved. She quickly turned the device on, worked out how to reverse the effect and headed off to zap dinosaurs.
"Jacques!" Marie Fourier had been changed back first. She pushed by Sam into the room with the two men and hugged her husband before kissing him passionately.
"Marie!" Jacques returned the kiss tenfold.
Sam jerked her head at the door and a sheepish Colonel Alain followed her out.
"Merci beaucoup, Colonel Carter." Alain said fervently. "I cannot tell you how much I appreciate…"
"Think nothing of it." Sam said quickly.
She was glad to get back to her ship. By the time she'd showered, changed and gone into her office to write up her report, there was an email waiting for her.
So according to Jean-Pierre you can get French hens in a little deli in Georgetown.
Always, Jack x"
Sam rolled her eyes, opened up a new email and attached a surveillance photo of the three French bird dinosaurs she'd sneaked off the security team.
Do not even think about four calling birds.
On the fourth day of Christmas SG1 sent to me…
Mid-afternoon on the fourth day of Christmas and there had been no emergency call from Homeworld Command. That either boded very good or very ill depending on the point of view. Sam decided that calling up Homeworld just to check it hadn't been invaded, destroyed or victim to some other disaster would be a sign of paranoia. Homeworld had received the Hammond's morning transmission of reports and official paperwork without issue, Sam reminded herself again, trying to ignore her worry was rooted in the personal (why hadn't Jack called her?) rather than the professional (clearly there was no need for General O'Neill to have a conversation with the CO of the Hammond). Sometimes finding the balance between their personal and professional lives was frustrating.
After checking on the Hammond's operations, Sam focused instead on the mysterious light show in the nebula with Doctor Keeler. Keeler had been one of her undergrad professors; he was old, cranky and very, very intelligent. She'd only managed to convince him to join the programme once he'd retired from academia. Bernard took her through the latest data and they did a comparison with the previous days' data and both of them frowned at the results.
"Definitely not a naturally occurring phenomenon based on this data. The lights are sequential; the pattern obvious; repeating every fifteen hours." Bernard said in his usual dry lecturing tone.
"I concur." Sam blew out a breath. The problem was determining the message. Was it 'Keep Out Danger Ahead' like the lighthouse she had compared the lights to the day before? Or was it 'Come In the Water's Fine?' Maybe it was a trap; a light meant to attract a moth to a flame…and she was getting carried away.
The problem was that they had come to the end of their specialism; astrophysics had theorised, gathered data and drawn conclusions. The next stage required someone else…
Sam tapped the table. "We need a communications expert." She reached for her earpiece and startled when it crackled before she could touch it.
"Colonel Carter to the bridge." Major Marks' voice was filled with tension.
"On my way." Sam got up. "I have to get to the bridge. I'll get someone from communications to report to you as soon as they can, Bernard."
"Samantha." Bernard said kindly.
Sam made her way briskly but without actually running. It was a walk she had perfected in Atlantis. She got to the bridge and the crew seamlessly moved into their positions as she took her seat.
"Report." Sam ordered.
"We're picking up a distress signal from P5S081." Captain Phelps informed her. "It's on an old Tok'ra channel but it's a standard Morse code SOS."
P5S081 was SG1's current assignment.
Sam felt the adrenaline rush through her body. "Beam down an Airman to dial Homeworld and get me the General ASAP." She shifted to Marks. "Prepare to break orbit, Major; set course for P5S081." She pressed the comms button on the chair. "All personnel report to battle stations. This is not a drill. I repeat; this is not a drill."
"Homeworld, Colonel." Phelps said as soon as she disconnected.
Sam slid off her chair and hurried to the monitor, noting Jack's worried face at the unexpected communication. "We've received a distress signal from P5S081, sir. The Hammond is the closest ship and only one hour away. Request permission to…"
"Request granted. Walter's sending you the mission file now."
"Bring them home, Carter." Jack said simply.
She was on her way back to her seat when the connection was severed.
"Airman Wen has beamed back aboard." Phelps confirmed briskly.
"Break orbit and get us underway to P5S081." Sam ordered.
"Course laid in and engaged, Colonel." Marks reported.
"You have the bridge." Sam said and moved swiftly to her office to read the mission file. It was brief; SG1 were investigating a new Lucian Alliance threat reported via one of Vala's old contacts. They'd gone undercover at a local brothel owned by said old contact.
Something had evidently gone wrong.
She called for Phelps, briefed him and ordered him to prepare a team in case they couldn't beam SG1 up. Phelps nodded briskly and left.
Sam considered whether she should beam down herself.
It was an argument she had every time she considered leaving the Hammond for an alien world. She was not the CO of a SG team anymore; she was not an active SG team member anymore. She shouldn't just beam down because it was SG1; because it was Teal'c and Daniel, Cam and Vala.
She remembered how John Sheppard had lingered after the debriefing of the mission to rescue him and his team only a few days after her appointment as the CO of Atlantis. He had somehow managed to say 'thanks for the rescue but it's not your job anymore, and I'd rather you stayed on Atlantis in future because that should be your priority' in a subtle enough way that she had laughed ruefully and acknowledged his point rather than being mortified that he was right that she'd gotten her command decision wrong; she should have sent Lorne instead of leaving him in charge of the city and riding to the rescue herself. She had sent Jack an email poking fun at herself and asking Jack how he had changed gears when he'd become General. His email back had simply said 'badly' which might have been unhelpful but was singularly comforting.
So, it was another lesson she had taken to heart and while she had gone off-world during her time on Atlantis after that, it was primarily for diplomatic reasons. The only one other rescue mission she had done had been when both Sheppard and Lorne had been trapped in a collapsed building and they had needed an experienced CO on the ground. There had been a solid logical reason for her decision to assign herself, not just a want to do it herself.
Phelps was formally SGC, a veteran of SG3, and therefore very used to rescuing SG1, the dangers posed by the Lucian Alliance specifically, and off-world encounters generally. He and his team would be fine and would only feel restricted by her presence.
She rolled her eyes at her own mental arguing. They didn't even know if there was a need for them to beam down.
An hour later, they came out of hyperspace and immediately found the issue: two Lucian Alliance ships were battling it out above the planet and a ground assault was in progress on the ground.
Sam gripped her chair as her crew went to work. The Alliance ships were ignoring the Hammond which was good.
"We can't lock on SG1 due to some kind of jamming interference." Marks noted.
"Phelps, we're beaming you down into the brothel; resolve the jamming issue and be ready for pick-up in five." Sam ordered.
"Just don't tell my wife, Colonel." Phelps replied breezily. "We'll see you on the other side."
"Team is away." Marks confirmed a moment later.
Sam nodded tightly. "Take us back into hyperspace for a minute, course at your discretion." She hoped that the Alliance guys had assumed that the Hammond had turned up, seen their fight and turned tail – thus ignoring the team on the planet rescuing SG1.
Marks did as she asked.
"About turn." Sam ordered after a tense minute. "Bring us out on the other side of the planet from the ships." The planet should mask their presence.
They dropped out of hyperspace.
"Can we get a lock on our people?"
Sam barely stopped herself from marching to the monitor and calling up the results herself.
"Affirmative. Jamming device has been neutralised." Marks replied. "SG1 and Hammond rescue party beaming aboard now."
Eight forms solidified onto the bridge in front of her.
Sam breathed out sharply in relief. "Good work, everyone. Marks, get us out of here. Take us back to the Keeler Nebula, indirect route." Her lips curved into a smile as she finally had time to take in her former team's outfits.
Teal'c wore nothing but skin-tight leather pants; Daniel wore a flimsy shirt over a pair of laced up leather pants; Vala was more covered than the guys since she was in a leather cat-suit teamed with thigh high leather boots. Cam, the leader of SG1, was without clothing except for his boxers.
She raised an eyebrow at Cam. "Forget your pants again, Cam?"
"Hi, Sam. Thanks for the rescue. I am going to just go and…find some clothes." Cam said evenly and started off the bridge.
"Me too." Daniel pointed at Cam and followed him.
Teal'c simply bowed his head and made for the door.
"Good plan." Sam said cheerfully after them.
Vala sprang forward and hugged Sam hard. "I've missed you!"
Three hours later with SG1 back in normal BDUs, they gathered around the private communication monitor in Sam's office.
"So, what you're telling me is that there is a threat but it's been diverted because Daniel convinced some Alliance chick who hired him for the night that peace was possible between us if she took over the Alliance?" Jack gazed through the monitor with amused brown eyes. He was in his own office back at Homeworld Command providing them all with privacy rather than the public forum of the command centre. "Damn, Daniel, you must have been very…"
"I didn't sleep with her." Daniel said with gritted teeth.
"Of course not, darling." Vala said sweetly, wrapping her arm around him and placing her head on his shoulder.
"I'm not sleeping with you either." Daniel continued exasperated.
"And I was going to say persuasive." Jack cut into the pair's banter with a not-so-innocent jab despite his best attempt at an innocent expression.
Sam ducked her head to hide a smile.
"She's in love with Malik, her main rival's son. He's in love with her." Daniel repeated. "I just convinced her that she would be able to marry him if she took over the other guy's territory and claimed Malik as her consort in the aftermath."
"It is a tale not unlike your Romeo and Juliet, O'Neill." Teal'c stated.
Sam wondered if it would end the same way.
"Mitchell, what's your tactical assessment?" asked Jack, changing gears.
"We just started an internal war in the Alliance." Cam said succinctly. "It should keep them busy for a while." He grimaced. "In theory."
Jack gave a sigh but nodded. "OK, good work. It won't be the first time we started an internal war for them that fizzled out eventually but we might get a few months out of it." He changed focus back to Daniel. "Are you sure you want to stay on the Hammond and help with Sam's little science project?"
It was a good thing she loved him, Sam thought fondly.
"It's a possible first contact, Jack!" Daniel began hotly, riled as Jack had intended.
Jack held up a finger. "Ah!" He waved at the monitor. "So, Carter," he grinned at her, "I would just like to point out that I had nothing to do with you going and finding yourself four call girls."
Sam lifted her eyebrows. "You OK'd the mission."
Jack's face fell.
"That aside, it doesn't count because four call girls are not four calling birds." Sam continued.
"Calling birds, Carter." Jack replied fervently, waggling his eyebrows.
"Yes, but technically I think Daniel and Cam were undercover as rent boys not call girls…"
"Hey!" Daniel and Cam chorused.
She ignored the protest of both men, "…and Teal'c was their pimp. So not four call girls."
"I agree with Colonel Carter." Teal'c stated firmly. "I was not a call girl."
"Of course you agree with Carter." Jack said disgruntled.
"What's this about?" Daniel asked, his head moving from the monitor and Jack to Sam, and then back to Jack with the very clear expression that he didn't really want to ask, was guessing it was something he didn't want to know, but his curiosity had gotten the best of him anyway.
"Jack sent me Peartree and Partridge on Christmas Day." Sam explained.
"Oh." Daniel pushed his glasses up his nose. He frowned at Jack. "You're not actually attempting…"
"No!" Jack held up his hands. "Just…" he whirled his hand in the air, "the last two days produced some freaky coincidences; that's all."
Daniel turned back to Sam for an explanation.
"The V'Breeni gave me a statue of two birds on the second day," Sam said, "and yesterday there was an incident at the Gamma site and three French people got turned into three bird dinosaurs."
"So, two turtle doves and three French hens." Cam concluded, catching on.
Daniel crossed his arms over his chest, sending his shirt askew. "OK, that is freaky."
Teal'c's eyebrow rose. "You are referring to the popular song 'The Twelve Days of Christmas.'"
"Oooh, I know this!" Vala said excitedly, perking up. "On the first day of Christmas…" she began to sing.
Cam slapped a hand over her mouth. "Sorry, General."
"I agree with Sam." Daniel said to Jack.
"Of course you do!" Jack complained, throwing his pen towards Daniel. It fell just in front of the camera. "Nobody ever agrees with me."
"Because you somehow making call girls out of calling birds isn't accurate," Daniel pointed out dryly, "and besides; in the English version, the song refers to four Colly birds meaning blackbirds and in the original French version…"
Sam cleared her throat as Jack's brow lowered. "So maybe it's the thought that counts."
Jack's eyes darted to hers and suddenly it was though there wasn't any distance between them. "See, this is why I like you the best." He said warmly.
"I believe that was established when you took Colonel Carter's hand in marriage, O'Neill." Teal'c said.
They all smiled rather sappily.
"OK, people," Jack said, straightening and reaching for the pen he'd thrown, "I have General-y stuff to do so…go; have fun with the science project." He smiled at Sam and the screen went blank.
It was good to have SG1 on board and Sam spent the evening with Daniel going over the astrophysics data before making her way back to her quarters. She checked her email one final time before going to bed and saw one from Jack waiting as usual.
They're all brunette or brunet (is that even a word - it doesn't look right?), and they all know how to fly a plane. Well, Daniel knows the theory and I'm pretty sure he could wing it.
Always, Jack x"
Sam smiled widely at the screen.
I like you best too.
On the fifth day of Christmas…
"So, want to hear something freaky?"
"Daniel," Sam said looking up from her computer monitor to stare at Daniel lurking in her office doorway, "no commander of a spacecraft studying a nebula with an unexplained phenomenon that is likely to be alien in origin ever wants to hear the words 'want to hear something freaky?' It usually means the aliens are attacking or boarding."
"Just as well you're not just any commander then, isn't it?" Daniel teased lightly. He entered her office and closed the door. He set the folder on the desk, flipped it open and handed her a printout.
She frowned at what looked like musical notes scrawled all over the page. "Music?"
"Language." Daniel corrected. "Although arguably music is a form of language so…"
"So, musical language." Sam completed, feeling a familiar intellectual buzz of being on the same wavelength, thoughts headed in the same direction. There were times she missed the old days when she and Daniel used to work together closely on some science project of hers, or some linguistic or historical project of his. They have entirely different academic disciplines but their combination was always something special.
"After you went to bed last night, I put up the pattern of the light show as dots on a couple of whiteboards and when it was up there, I got an idea." Daniel said, hands waving excitedly. "I pulled the original survey information from the planet and…" he pointed at the piece of paper she held, "that was a copy of some writing that Doctor Casey took at one of the ruins on the Southern continent."
Sam frowned. The planet below – P1Y921 – had originally been considered for a future evacuation site, perhaps a colony. The planet was devoid of intelligent life although there had been signs of an advanced industrialised civilisation on the Southern continent long abandoned with only the ruins of it left behind. All the geological indicators suggested an ice age had once consumed the planet and the original inhabitants had moved on or died. The ice had since receded leaving a range of wildlife alive on the planet including a bear like creature on its Northern continent that seemed to be the largest predator. Then the survey team had observed the nearby nebula in the night sky which had led to the Hammond studying the nebula with the ultimate fate of P1Y921 to be determined.
"It's the same." She concluded from Daniel's expression.
"If we assume that the light show is complete, then what Anna copied is a partial segment of it; a fifth to be exact." Daniel grinned at her. "It begs the question; which came first the light show or the musical language on the planet? Did they mirror what was in the sky or…"
"Or did they leave a message for others to follow?" Sam finished excitedly.
"I think we should beam down and revisit the ruins where the rubbing was taken. There may be more of the language there that I can then use to…"
"Do whatever it is you do when you translate something." Sam completed for him, impatient.
Daniel shot her a look. "You know you sound like Jack when you do that."
"Thank you," she said sweetly.
"It wasn't a compliment." He retorted, but he was smiling.
She rolled her eyes at him and pulled the folder towards her to slip the paper back inside. She closed it and tapped it on the desk before handing it back to him.
"OK." Sam said. "I'll contact Homeworld and get the sign-off for SG1 to go explore the ruins."
Daniel frowned as he took the folder back. "And when you say SG1, you're including you in that right?"
Sam raised an eyebrow. "I'm kind of in charge around here, Daniel. I can't just drop my command duties to go explore."
As she had reminded herself the day before.
"But we might need an astrophysicist since the second half of this language is based within the nebula," Daniel argued, "Doctor Keeler isn't fit for planetary exploration, and this mission was originally assigned to the Hammond."
Sam's lips twitched. "You miss me."
Daniel smiled back. "So that's a yes, right?"
Sam turned it over in her mind. It wasn't like the day before. She wouldn't be in any immediate danger as it wasn't a rescue mission; her ship was in orbit not in the middle of a fire-fight and the crew more than capable of handling things; and, most importantly, she missed SG1.
Fifteen minutes later, she stood in front of her communications monitor and tried hard not to smile at a pouting Jack.
"You're going off-world?" Jack said again. His sulky expression said 'without me, and I'm not happy' clear as day.
"Daniel made a compelling argument." Sam offered with a bright smile.
"He's good at those." Jack said, rocking back on his heels, his hands in the pockets of his BDU pants. "Fine. I guess since this is your science project…so, have a good time." He pulled a hand from his pocket to gesture vaguely. "And you know; find out what's up with the light show."
Sam nodded briskly. "Thank you, sir."
"Carter." Jack stopped her from ending the call. "I'm counting on you to make sure Daniel doesn't stumble over another alien bad guy."
She raised her eyebrows. "I make no promises, sir." She replied smartly.
Jack was smirking as she ended the call so she called it a win as she headed to the gear-up room to join her former team-mates.
They beamed down into the ruins twenty minutes later.
"Well, Teal'c and I will patrol the perimeter and leave you crazy kids to it." Cam drawled.
"Try not to lose your pants." Sam called out after him.
Cam lazily waved a hand back at her.
Vala winked at her broadly and meandered away.
Daniel was already heading to the far wall. "This isn't exactly what Doctor Casey recorded." He glowered at the writing. "This is why the protocol is supposed to be to take rubbings! How many times do I have to tell everyone the correct procedures for…and Anna! She's an archaeologist! She's supposed to know…" He yanked his glasses off and pinched the bridge of his nose.
Sam patted his shoulder consolingly. "Nobody follows my procedures either." She commiserated.
"It's not her fault." Daniel said. "It's mine. She'd just lost Gary and she said she was OK but…" he waved at the wall expressively.
Her eyes sharpened. She remembered Gary Casey; he'd been an archaeologist assigned to SG26. The entire team had gone missing on P9S734. Nobody had stopped looking but nobody had found them either. Her heart ached a little for Anna but on the other hand…
"You think there's more she missed?" Sam asked bluntly.
"We should probably redo the survey." Daniel agreed. "I shouldn't have…" he sighed, "work always makes me feel better?"
But Daniel would never let his grief stop him from doing his job correctly.
Sam shrugged. "Jack'll understand." Jack understood grief better than anyone. "So," she said dragging them back to the main problem by waving at the wall, "she missed out the…the phrasing? Is that the right word?"
Daniel gestured at the wall. "Five notes. New line. Five notes. New line. Five notes." He shook his head. "It's very structured."
"A code." Sam stated with conviction. "Based on inputs of five with five variations."
"A code for what though?" Daniel mused out loud.
A rumble disturbed them, the ground shaking slightly.
"Daniel! Samantha!" Vala's yell had them moving towards her in perfect synchronicity, weapons ready in case they were needed.
They found her in the adjoining room staring down at the floor which had partially retracted to reveal stairs going downwards.
"Where did that come from?" asked Daniel, breathless from their short and concerned (not panicked, never panicked, Sam thought to herself) run.
"Well, there was this shiny stone sticking out," Vala pointed at a flat stone on the floor that appeared to be painted gold, "so I stepped on it and…" she motioned at the hole.
Sam hid her smile at Daniel's exasperation at Vala's intrinsically chaotic nature and reached for her radio. "Cam, come in."
The radio crackled.
"Mitchell here." Cam said chirpily. "I was just about to radio you. We found something."
"Steps leading underground?" Sam asked crisply.
"Nope," Cam replied with jaunty authority, "a very similar set of ruins to the ones you guys are standing in about a five minute walk away." He paused suddenly. "Why have you found steps that lead underground?"
"Yes." Sam said succinctly.
"Damn." Cam whistled. "How do you want to do this?"
Sam thought about it for a long while. "We need a UAV sweep of this city. Can you organise that with the Hammond while Daniel, Vala and I take a look underground?"
"Check-in every thirty?" Cam suggested.
"Agreed." Sam ended the radio call. She hoisted her faithful P90 and clicked on the light. "Daniel, you're in the middle; Vala, protect our six."
"I certainly will." Vala said with a bawdy grin.
Sam ignored the byplay, knowing for all her kidding that Vala took her duties seriously, and headed down the steps carefully, testing each before placing her full weight. They might look like stone but stone could crumble and she wasn't taking the risk of another broken leg.
The steps went on for a long time, long enough that they did the first check-in with Mitchell and Teal'c while they were still descending. They finally came to an end, a long tunnel stretching out in front of them.
"Well, this isn't creepy." Vala remarked brightly. "At all."
Sam smiled as she led the way forward. "It makes sense though. Ice was taking over the surface of the planet, right?"
"Right," Daniel confirmed, "and so you have two survival strategies; leave or…"
"Go underground?" Vala said sceptically. She sniffed. "I would have voted for leaving."
"Maybe they did." Daniel mused. "Maybe the light show is supposed to tell us the story of what they did, where they went."
Sam held up a hand. "There's a door."
Vala pointed at the raised gold stone on the floor near to it. "I'll bet that opens it." She moved before either Sam or Daniel could stop her and stamped on it.
Sam immediately raised her weapon as the door mechanism rumbled to life and slid open to reveal a room with five walls all filled with the same pattern of musical notes that the light show had revealed. A computer-like device was on a column rising out of the floor in the centre of the room.
"Can you access this?" Daniel asked.
"Maybe." Sam ran her eyes over the dusty keyboard and the column. "It could take some time."
The rest of the day disappeared in a flurry of activity; of calling Teal'c and Mitchell and updating them; the revelation that the UAV sweep had discovered another three identical ruins to the ones they were already exploring and that all five were laid out in a direct line; organising additional teams from the Hammond to ascertain whether each contained a computer room and finding that they each did.
But Sam still hadn't cracked the alien computer by dinner and they called it a night. They returned to the ship to report back to Homeworld.
That night, Sam curled up in her quarters, catching up on her work and enjoying a computer that she understood. She wasn't surprised to find another email from Jack waiting for her.
So, no gold rings but the freaky coincidences continue since the number five seems all important to the folks that used to live on the planet you're orbiting.
Maybe this is the universe's way of telling me I'm not sending you enough gifts?
Always, Jack x"
She traced the words on the screen and frowned at the hint of insecurity that lurked in the joking tone. She quickly dived into the files and attached a series of five photos to her email.
I don't need twelve days of gifts to know you love me and I'm glad that instead of giving me rings, you've walked through all the important ones with me.
See attached photos: [Earthring], [Abydos], [Chulak], [Hanka], [Langara].
I miss you too.
Love, Sam x"
Continued in Part II