Home for a Rest
But, in spite of all that, in spite of the danger and fading hope, every Friday at eleven hundred hours, the SGC tried to dial Atlantis.
For six months.
Without success. ~~~
In some ways, six months wasn't a very long time at all. In terms of glacial formation, the spin of the stars, the evolution of a species, six months was less thank an eye blink in the face of eternity.
In other ways, six months was a lifetime. When a man could die in less than a second, when a baby could be born in minutes and a city saved by frantic men and women in an hour of frantic miracles, six months could be an eternity.
To Colonel Samantha Carter, those six months felt like forever and no time at all, as Chuck the technician deciphered the incoming message tag from the sudden wormhole and said, voice full of a hope she'd never thought to hear again, "It's Stargate Command."
Sam took a deep breath, fighting down her own euphoria. Atlantis and all her people had survived
, had triumphed over their enemies, and were stronger for it. Now they were once more in contact with home and Sam could stop worrying about supplies and her friends and the Earth, and know
She punched a button on the consol and stood a little straighter. "Stargate Command, this is Atlantis," she said. "Colonel Samantha Carter, authorization code Alpha Charlie 7-4-9. The foothold situation is over. I repeat, authorization code Alpha Charlie 7-4-9, the foothold situation at Atlantis is over."
Tinny cheers came over the speakers from a galaxy away. Behind her, Sam knew the Atlantis control crew was doing some quiet celebrating of their own. Then General Landry's voice sounded across the stars. "We copy, Atlantis," he said. "It's good to hear from you, Colonel."
"It's good to hear you too, General." Sam glanced up as Lt. Colonel Sheppard and Major Lorne tumbled up the stairs into the control room. They were both still bruised and bandaged from that last desperate push against the machines, but they were moving.
"You can probably guess that we want to know exactly what has been going on," General Landry said. "What's your status?"
"All present and accounted for," Sam said with pride. The entire expedition had pulled together and come out on top. "Actually, we're plus one at the moment."
Across the control room, Sheppard elbowed Lorne in the ribs and Lorne glared back and Sam didn't bother to hide her smile.
"Plus one?" General Landry asked.
"Teyla Emmagen's child has been born, sir," Sam responded. "We're still rebuilding some critical systems here, but we have the Stargate and security back up and should be fully operational in three days."
"That's excellent," General Landry said. "Colonel Carter, when you are back up to full capacity, and if the city can spare you, I'd like you to return to Earth for a full briefing on your situation."
"Of course." Sam gestured at Chuck, who tapped on his laptop. "We're sending through a data burst with the information on the last six months."
"Excellent!" General Landry paused for a moment. "Is there anything you need immediately? Supplies, food..."
"Dr. Keller has a list of medical supplies that we need, which is included in the data burst," Sam said. "Other than that, we have enough food to last us until we restock fully on supplies."
Sheppard frowned at her. "Yeah, but could you maybe toss some coffee into the medical supplies?" he asked. "How about some chocolate?"
Lorne coughed pointedly.
"Oh, yeah, and there's a list of ammunition we could use," Sheppard amended. "Nothing on an emergency basis, but it'd be nice to use those P-90s against instead of the energy weapons that we MacGyvered out of the blasters and duct tape."
"Sending the data burst now," Sam said, cutting off Sheppard's ramble.
"Received," Sgt. Harriman said after a moment.
"We'll sign off," General Landry said. "I look forward to that full report, Colonel."
"Yes, sir." Sam felt hesitant to end the conversation, but she could almost hear Rodney McKay's rant about wasting power. "If I may ask, sir, if you got our message about the foothold situation, why did you dial us today?"
"Just in case we could get through," General Landry said. Sam could just picture the expression on his face. "Just in case."~~~
Colonel Samantha Carter stepped back onto Earth soil on the fourteenth day of November, a little older and a little wiser and so very glad to be there. She'd always think of the SGC as home.
And after the six months under siege, she knew exactly which of her people thought of Atlantis as home
At the bottom of the ramp stood SG-1, beaming in various capacities. Teal'c looked mildly happy, which for him was an extreme expression, while Daniel grinned and Mitchell rocked back and forth on the balls of his feet and Vala hung on Daniel's arm and beamed.
Once she had walked down the ramp, Sam set down her bag and straightened to attention for General Landry up in the control room. He gave a nod, smiling a little.
"Welcome back, Colonel Carter," General Landry said over the loudspeaker. "We'll debrief in an hour, as soon as I see SGs Three through Five through the Gate."
"Yes, sir," Sam replied. General Landry went back to talking loudly at the technicians, and Sam turned her attention to her former team. "Hey guys," Sam said happily, feeling yet another little knot of tension relaxing in her stomach. This was her old team. She was home.
"Welcome back, Sam," Daniel said. Before, Sam would have left other greetings for a more private setting, but she had been a year in Atlantis, six months under a constant state of panic and alertness, and she couldn't bring herself to care all that much who was watching as she pulled Daniel into a brief embraces.
God, it was good to be home.
Vala wormed her way next in line, giving Sam a hug while still bouncing around. "We knew you weren't dead," Vala said without preamble. Behind her, Mitchell rolled his eyes loudly. "So, this new baby on Atlantis--"
"Vala--" Daniel tried to interrupt.
"It's not evil or fast-aging or anything? Because frankly, that's so old news."
"The baby's fine," Sam reassured the woman. Not that Sam blamed her for the questions. After the business with Adria, Sam privately had some similar thoughts about Teyla's baby. All unvoiced, of course.
Teal'c was next, regal and so tall, and a year away had made Sam forget how much presence the man had. He inclined his head and gave her a heartfelt smile. "Colonel Carter. It is good to see you safe."
"Thanks, Teal'c. You too."
Cam Mitchell straightened up and gave Sam a sparkling grin. "Good to have you back, ma'am." The formal wording didn't disguise the relief in his words.
"How are things around here?" Sam asked SG1's leader.
Mitchell relaxed. "We're fine. The world's fine, we're all fine."
"Now that you're back," Vala put in. "So what happened? Replicators? Wraith? Replicators that looked like Wraith? What a horrible thought."
"Repli-Wraith?" Daniel suggested.
"Or Wraithlicators," Vala said.
Sam gave Daniel a look. "What?" he asked innocently.
"It wasn't that at all," Sam said. She made a move towards her bag, but Mitchell had already picked it up. "I put all this in my message to the General, didn't you see it? When's the briefing?"
"In about an hour," Mitchell said. He led Sam out of the Gateroom, SG1 moving along with him as Sam knew it would. "General Landry thought you might like to settle in first, have a bite to eat, get your land legs back."
Around her, glances were exchanged. Sam hoped that this wasn't about to turn into a surprise welcome back party. She wasn't sure she could deal with that much noise.
"And while we all have a lot to catch up on," Daniel interjected smoothly, "There's someone you should talk to first. Proper chain of command."
"I thought you said that the chain of command didn't apply anymore in their case," Vala said in an undertone to Daniel. He nudged her arm with his elbow. Sam only had a moment to wonder what the hell they were talking about when they rounded the corner and Sam almost walked headlong into General Jack O'Neill.
He looked almost as surprised as Sam felt. "Hey," he said quickly.
Her heart threatening to beat its way out of her chest, Sam automatically began to stand to attention in the presence of a superior officer but the glare in his eyes froze her in place. She settled on saying, "Sir."
"You're back early."
"Traffic was light over the Gate-bridge," Sam said without thinking, and was relieved to see the glint of humor in Jack's eye.
Around them, SG1 made excuses and faded into the background, Mitchell leaving Sam's duffle against the wall. Jack watched the team go. "Oh yeah, because that's subtle."
A little of the tension in Sam's head faded as she leaned against the concrete wall. Jack looked greyer around the edges, but other than that, he hadn't really changed. "How are things?" she asked.
Jack put his hands in his pockets, shrugging. "Pretty boring." He gave her the once-over, and Sam knew he was probably taking in the healing scars on her neck, the bruises on her temple, the dark circles under her eyes from too many months on little sleep. "I read your report to the Joint Chiefs."
Sam bit back a sigh. "What was the consensus?"
"Well, considering it's your first command and you managed to hold off an invading machine enemy for six months without losing a single man, the consensus is pretty much thumbs up." The lines in Jack's face relaxed slightly. "You did good, Sam."I will not fall apart
, Sam told herself sternly. Hearing such praise from Jack O'Neill might have knocked her to the ground any other day, and she wanted to scream at him that it hadn't been that easy; that the only reason they weren't all dead was that each and every person on Atlantis was brilliant and stubborn and refused to give up, not even for an instant. The only thing she had done was coordinate and hold them together, and in the grand scheme of things, that wasn't very much at all.
But there was that look in his eyes, the one that told her he knew exactly what she had done, what she was thinking, and that he wasn't saying these things as false praise.
"Want to grab some food?" Jack said while Sam mentally pulled herself back together. "Hank seconded one of the best military chefs out of Washington for the base about eight months ago. Seriously, the man can make the food down here almost taste good."
"Sure," Sam said, thanking every star in the sky that her voice didn't waver. "It's been about four months since I had actual meat. McKay managed to get the Ancient food synthesizers running. For the most part. They make everything taste like spray cheese."
Jack winced in sympathy.~~~
After half an hour talking with Jack about all the useless stuff that had happened on Earth over the last year, Sam and Jack made their way from the commissary to the briefing room. Sam wasn't surprised to see SG1 scattered around the room, regardless of the fact that the matter didn't really concern them (that had never stopped her or Jack back in the day). Also present were a few Pentagon representatives. The IOA briefing would take place the next day, and Sam really wasn't looking forward to explaining herself to the UN representatives. But first things first. General Landry set everybody into their seats and the briefing began.
Three grueling hours later, Sam slumped back in her chair as General Landry sent the Pentagon representatives on their way, ladened with enough notes and intel to keep them busy for months.
Daniel set a steaming cup of coffee in front of Sam. "Thank you," she said, inhaling the fragrant steam. "The day we ran out of coffee was a dark day indeed."
"I can imagine," Daniel said. "How did you function?"
"Dr. Brown managed to modify the genetic code of a berry bush native to the Pegasus galaxy to mimic the structure of the coffee plant. The seeds have twice the caffeine content of terrestrial coffee.
"How does it taste?"
Sam made a face. "Like charred grapes."
Daniel shuddered. "Maybe you can take some coffee plant clippings back to Atlantis."
"How do you know what charred grapes tastes like?" Vala asked, leaning across the table.
"Elementary school science experiment." Sam sipped at the coffee. "I had to listen to McKay complain for almost three weeks straight about the taste."
An odd silence settled on the room. Sam glanced around. Daniel was avoiding her gaze, Mitchell looked like he was holding back a smile, and Jack was suddenly very interested in his briefing notes.
This last sight made Sam narrow her eyes. She could count on one hand the number of times she had seen Jack O'Neill open the cover of the briefing notes, let alone actually read what was inside.
"What?" Sam demanded.
Daniel cleared his throat. "How much have you been working with Dr. McKay on recent scientific developments coming out of the SGC? Before the foothold situation, I mean."
"A little, I was pretty busy with running the city," Sam replied, wondering what this had to do with anything. "Mostly, it was listening to him go on about the new scientists on base and at the SGC."
"Anyone in particular?"
"Miss Gilmore, for starters." Sam gave Daniel her best glare, but after more than a decade, he was immune. "I admit, it's an unorthodox way to bring someone in to the department, especially with her lack of an appropriate educational background, but I've read her work and it's amazing. Has she come up with anything else in the last six months?"
"Oh, yes," Daniel said. He wasn't meeting Sam's gaze, which was never good.
"They granted her top secret security clearance last month," Mitchell added. "I think she spent a few days--"
"A whole week," Vala interrupted.
"--in the lab reading reports, and then she pulled some complex math out of the air that made Dr. Lee and the entire physics department weep."
"Math for what?" Sam knew there was something else, something missing from this conversation, but she didn't have enough clues to figure out and it was annoying.
"She had suggestions to make power usage from the Zero Point Module more efficient," Teal'c said. He folded his hands on the table and looked disturbingly amused. "Her suggestions will allow Stargate Command to more than double the lifespan of the power source."
More than double
? Sam's mind raced with the possibilities. "Where is she?" Sam demanded. "How did she do that? What was her technique? Will--"
From the head of the table, General Landry held up his hand. "Miss Gilmore has been in Florida at a conference for the last five days," he said. "She's due back tomorrow morning."
"Wait, so she doesn't know that Atlantis isn't dead?" Vala interrupted. She frowned around the room. "That's rather unfair, don't you think?"
"The meeting is in the middle of a public conference center," Jack said. "It sort of defeats the concept of 'top secret space base' to send unencrypted messages."
Vala crossed her arms over her chest, frowning. "I still say it's not very fair to Rory."
"She'll be back tomorrow and you can fill her in then," Jack said.
Sam had watched this interchange with more than a little confusion. "Why is Atlantis so important to Miss Gilmore?" she asked.
Again, the flicker of glances around the table. All eyes eventually landed on Jack. He groaned. "Fine. So, Carter, how do you like Gilmore's work?"
Sam wasn't sure what Jack was driving at, and his face gave nothing away. "It's brilliant," she said slowly. "If what Teal'c says about her work on the ZPM is right, then her contributions might well be... well, invaluable to both Atlantis and the SGC."
"So, the science is good?"
"Yes, the science is good," Sam said slowly.
"Sir, what's going on?"
Jack clasped his hands together and held them out in front of him. "Just hold on to that thought, okay?"
General Landry cleared his throat. "Miss Gilmore came to our attention due to her scientific work, but there was something that motivated her to begin working in this field."
Had everyone gone mad? Sam continued to stare at the General, wondering how much trouble she'd be in if she started banging her head against the table.
"Her father is a member of the Atlantis expedition."
Sam blinked. The phrase so?
was on the tip of her tongue, when her brain began to connect the dots in the conversation. But...
That was impossible.
Jack mouthed the words hold it
"Dr. Rodney McKay is Miss Gilmore's father."
Sam blinked again. And again. Then she began to grown concerned. "Sir, have you run Miss Gilmore's background for a possible hostile infiltration?"
"Yes, we have. She is who she says she is."
"She can't possibly be Rodney McKay's daughter!" The full impact of her own words hit her then, and the stunning impossibility swept politeness away. "First off, McKay doesn't have any children. Second, she's too old! She's nearly thirty, right?"
"She's twenty-five," Vala pushed into the conversation.
Sam's checklist stuttered to a halt. "She can't be twenty-five."
"In October," Vala said. "Why? Is her work not that mature?"
"Twenty-five?" Sam did some mental math and came up with even more incredulity. "That would mean Rodney was..."
"Sixteen," Daniel said with a hint of weariness.
Sam stared in horror.
"He doesn't know," Daniel said, probably under some delusion that he was helping. "Rory didn't know herself until last year when the man she thought was her father developed leukemia. A blood test revealed the truth as to paternity. Dr. Lam has done every medical test under the sun on Rory. There is no doubt that she's McKay's daughter."
Sam couldn't figure out what was the right thing to say, so she just let the words spill out of her mouth. "And she just happened
to suddenly appear on the SGC's doorstep after she found out?"
"General O'Neill brought her in," Vala said.
Sam whipped her head around to glare at Jack. He didn't look at all apologetic for neglecting to mention this
. "She started doing some research on McKay's old papers," he said. "They needed someone to check her out."
"And they sent you
"Do you see?" Jack said to General Landry. "Yeah, they sent me."
"And she's nuts. Well, was nuts," Jack amended. "She's too smart for her own good, but we can't figure out if it's natural or not. It looks like it."
"Wait, do you mean you suspect that her intelligence might not be natural?" Sam seized upon a point in the bizarre tale, something to cling to in the storm of confusion.
"She went from zero to McKay in less than a month." Jack's smile lost all humor. "She's terrifyingly brilliant, Carter. Worse than you." He paused on that one, made a face in apology, then went on. "She's been at it for less than nine months and she keeps blowing the scientists here and in Area 51 out of the water. Frankly, at this point, I don't care if she was born this way or if the Ancients zapped her brain, as long as she's working for us."
"How did the Ancients get into this?"
Jack jerked a thumb in Daniel's direction. "It was his idea."
Daniel had the grace to look uncomfortable. "It made sense at the time."
Sam looked back and forth between Jack and Daniel. Her mind ran in circles, not letting her accept what they were saying.
Rodney McKay had a kid
? At the SGC?
Why did Sam think this was going to end badly?~~~
"Are you going to drink that?"
Sam, buried in a base eight theoretical physics proof, grunted something meaningless. A hand snaked in front of her and deftly removed the coffee cup from her line of vision. Sam didn't care. The only thing she cared about were the pages scattered on the worktable in the lab.
The mathematics were, quite simply, miraculous. The ideas were presented clearly and matter-of-fact, but they encompassed a level of understanding far beyond what the scientists at the SGC were even close to comprehending.
Even Rodney McKay wouldn't have been able to come up with this. And the girl was only twenty-five? No wonder Daniel had suspected Ancient interference.
Sam looked up from the paper, blinking, to see Vala finishing the last drops from Sam's mug. "I was going to drink that," she protested mildly.
"I'll get you more." Vala tapped the papers with a forefinger. "So? Is it any good? The science?"
"Good?" Sam echoed. "Is it good? It's beyond good, it's brilliant! What I don't understand how a girl with no mathematics background goes from a journalism background to being this good, literally overnight. It's..." Sam stopped, at a loss for words.
Vala shrugged. "General O'Neill thinks that Rory went crazy, mostly because only crazy people would be able to think these things and not have their brains melt out their ears."
Sam made a mental note to give Jack a stern glare the next time she saw him.
"But the doctors have run every test they could on Rory's sanity, and she's unlikely to start boiling rabbits or leaving horse heads in beds any time soon." Vala gave Sam a wide smile. "Daniel also doubts she'll ascend."
Sam resisted the urge to put her head in her hands. It wasn't fair, to have yet another McKay swoop into the SGC and do fancy mathematics that left the other scientists in the dust. This made three of them so far.Another McKay.
In her mind, Sam hadn't been able to keep from imagining what this McKay girl might be like. She'd be like Rodney, loud and confident of herself, smug in her brilliance, annoying to all around her but they'd have to put up with her because of the brilliance.
Sam knew that might not be the case; even Jeannie Miller hadn't been too bad, sort of like Rodney diluted. And with Canadian manners.
But still. Even knowing she was probably being unfair, Sam couldn't get over the mental image of a loud, bratty know-it-all.
"She promised to get me something from Disneyworld," Vala was saying, concentrating on braiding a lock of her hair. "She was threatening 'mouse ears', which isn't really nice, but since your leaders won't let me leave the base to go across country to a scientific conference where they are convinced I'd cause a scene--"
"Wait, Disneyworld?" Sam ran her mind back through the conversation she'd half-ignored. "Who's in Disneyworld?"
"Rory, for an afternoon." Vala abandoned her hair. "I've seen some of these 'Disney' movies with Teal'c and Daniel, but I just cannot see the appeal of a man-sized anthropomorphic mouse with no fashion sense. Give me Donald Duck any day. Or those talking warrior turtles."
Whatever Sam's commentary would have been on American animation would forever remain a mystery, for at that very moment a six-foot stuffed Donald Duck figure appeared in the open doorway, wedged in the frame.
Vala squealed when she saw the attacking doll. "You're back!"
"I'd have been down sooner but they had to run a million scans on Donnie here," said a very young voice. Donald backed up, and with some judicious shoving, he and his carrier maneuvered through the doorway. "I brought mouse ears for you, but Sgt. Hamilton, up at security point Alpha Nine, he told me his daughter broke her leg on the weekend and she's stuck at home for a week and he was telling me how she loves Mickey and so I sacrificed your mouse ears to the greater good."
Donald was shoved into the first convenient spot by the desk, and from behind him emerged a young woman totally unlike anything Sam expected. She was slender, with dark brown hair swept up into a messy ponytail and fairly casual clothes to be appearing at work at eight on a weeknight. As the woman, a girl really, dropped her bag on the worktable and held out her arms to Vala in a hug, Sam caught a glimpse of her face.
Brilliant blue eyes, looking so much like Rodney McKay and yet so very different.
"I thought you weren't getting back until tomorrow," Vala was saying, pulling back from the hug with the girl's bag in her hands. The girl either didn't notice or didn't care.
"I caught an earlier plane," the girl said. She looked curiously at Sam. "Hi, are you a friend of Vala?"
Vala paused in rooting through the bag. "Oops!" she said quickly. "I knew I forgot something. Rory Gilmore, Colonel Samantha Carter."
Rory went white. "From Atlantis?" she squeaked. "But the foothold situation--"
"All better," Vala interrupted. She unceremoniously shoved a chair under Rory before the girl's knees collapsed. "Everyone's just fine. We found out just after you left for the conference. We didn't have a chance to tell you, sorry."
Vala did sound honestly contrite, but Rory wasn't listening. Her wide blue eyes were fixed on Sam's face. "The people on Atlantis..."
"Everyone's fine," Sam said, and tried to smile reassuringly. "Everyone made it through in one piece."
"Including your erstwhile father," Vala said. She hopped onto the desk and resumed rummaging through Rory's bag. "Sam knows all about that. Although," Vala added in an unnecessary undertone, seeing as how Sam was right there
, "She didn't believe it at first. But no one else did, right?"
Rory shook her head, eyes wide as saucers. "But... the foothold situation, it's been six months and no word from anyone. Now it's over?"
Vala shrugged. "As far as they can tell."
Sam cleared her throat pointedly, and Vala hurriedly changed the topic. As well-versed as Ms. Gilmore was in Stargate Command secrets, her clearance level did not extend to full disclosure on the Pegasus Galaxy's latest threat.
"So, Rory," Vala went on, "Who's this with you and your mom?"
Rory glanced at the Polaroid photograph in Vala's hand. "That's April," she said automatically. "Luke's daughter."
"Hmm." Vala looked closely at the photo before handing it over to Sam. "You didn't say she'd be going down to Florida to meet you."
"April was in Star's Hollow for a week's break, and Mom brought her along for an afternoon in Disneyworld," Rory said. The tense set of her shoulders began to relax as Vala prodded her for information. "It was a last-minute decision."
Sam examined the photograph. Rory was on the left of the group, the Disney Castle in the background. In the middle was a young girl with brown hair and glasses, a half-eaten cotton-candy dangling from her hand. On the right was a tall, pretty woman. Rory's mother. The woman didn't look anywhere near old enough to have a twenty-five-year-old daughter. Sam couldn't fathom how a teenage Rodney McKay and this woman had... Her mind refused to go down that road.
And yet, it had happened somehow, because Rory Gilmore sat right in front of her, watching Sam with anxious eyes.
Sam made herself smile. "How was the conference?" she asked, handing back the photograph. Vala took it and continued digging trinkets out of Rory's bag.
"It was okay," Rory said tentatively. "I'm not used these sorts of things. I mean, I've covered political rallies and court cases, but just sitting and listening to people talk about physics was weird. Especially when I knew they were working on information that is so far out of date that it was positively retro." Her eyes darted away, just for a moment. "And some academics do react a certain way when they see the words 'United States Air Force' on the nametag."
"That's why Daniel stopped going," Vala said. She unearthed a chocolate bar and ripped open the plastic covering.
"Daniel stopped going to academic conferences because the establishment considered him a crackpot," Sam said, voice deliberately light. The corner of Rory's mouth twitched in a shy smile. "But he was right and he couldn't tell them, so he gave up going."
"Dr. Lee said something like that," Rory said. She sat straight, too formal for her appearance in jeans and a Magic Kingdom t-shirt under her navy blazer. "But Dr. Freyd sponsored me, and I did meet some nice people. And I got some work done during the presentations."
In spite of herself, Sam leaned forward. "Are you still working on the problems presented in this proof?" She pushed the base eight paper aside and pulled out another paper from the stack on the desk.
The girl's eyes lit up. "Oh, yes," she gushed, pulling a notebook out of the bag on Vala's lap. "There are issues in the underlying mathematics that have a basis in a fractal-spiral system, which might explain the use of the particular crystalline structure of the ZPM and might let us increase the efficiency of our power usage over what we've achieved so far."
"That's been tried before," Sam argued, ignoring Vala slipping out from the middle of the conversation. "Several times, by Dr. McKay, in fact."
"But you were looking at it all wrong," Rory said. There was none of the 'I told you so' Sam had expected from a McKay, and yet the certainty in her words was familiar. The girl handed her open notebook to Sam. "It's right here, the missing link in the mathematics to the problem."
Sam took the notebook and read the first few pages. Then she went back to the beginning and read it again. After a third review, she placed the notebook on the lab table, taking distant pride in the fact that her hands didn't shake at all. "Have you shown this to anyone?"
"No," Rory said uncertainly. "Is something wrong with it?"
"Do you have access to the Atlantis database information that was transferred to the SGC last year?" Sam continued, knowing the answer full well. Only nine people on Earth had access to the information, copied and sent to Earth as backup in case Atlantis was destroyed. Had Sam stayed at the SGC, she would have been the tenth person and final person in that chain.
Rory shook her head, wordlessly worried.
"Why?" Vala asked from the corner. "Did Rory think up something she wasn't supposed to again?"
Sam looked back down at the notebook, where the mixture of Earth numbers and letters jumbled around to echo the Ancients' elegant notes on the creation of ZPMs, information so highly classified that even on Atlantis, only Sam, Rodney McKay and Radek Zelenka knew it existed.
And this girl, like Rodney McKay but so impossibly different, had pulled the numbers out of thin air at a physics conference and spent the afternoon at Disneyworld with her mother.
Sam wondered if this was what a stroke felt like.
"Do the numbers work?" Rory asked again, and the moment passed and Sam obviously wasn't having a stroke and she had no idea what to say to this eager, anxious, brilliant child.~~~
Sam devoured the latter half of her surf and turf dinner, mind only half on the first meat she'd had in months.
On the other side of the table, Jack sat back in the booth and watched her eat. Finally, he spoke. "You finished your nervous breakdown yet?"
"I'm not having a breakdown," Sam said, licking a bit of butter from her fork. "And don't tell me you didn't react the same way to her."
Jack shrugged. "I freaked out over more of the minor stuff." By tacit agreement, the conversation in this very public restaurant was being kept vague and detail free. Sam had already spent three hours explaining in excruciating detail to General Landry and General O'Neill how very impossible Rory Gilmore's latest mathematical revelation had been. The argument had ended in a temporary cease-fire when Jack had brought up that at the SGC, everyone was contractually obligated to believe in six impossible things before breakfast.
Sam squished an edge of roasted potato under her knife. "It doesn't make any sense."
"Oh, I know," Jack said. His eyes gleamed in the dim light from the bar. "So, do you want her?"
Sam froze with her fork halfway to her mouth. "What are you talking about?"
"The powers that be on the oversight committee are strongly recommending that she work outside of headquarters," Jack said obliquely. "If you think you can stand having two McKays working for you."
Sam's fork clattered to the plate. "You can't be serious."
Jack lifted his eyebrows in that familiarly infuriating manner. "Don't you think she'd be of any use?"
"Of course, but--" Sam stopped before she committed herself. Having someone who could independently recreate Ancient knowledge would be of extreme value to the Atlantis expedition, especially after the siege of the past six months, but Sam knew better than to believe in good things.
And Rory Gilmore was too much of a good thing.
Sam tried a different angle. "I can't accept that she got to where she did today without any... help."
Jack tapped on the edge of his plate with his knife. "She told us about that."
"I know she did, but..." Sam wasn't sure how to explain herself. Sure, yes, advances in understanding the fractal properties of crystals had been made by humanity. The underlying physics for the ZPMs were also well-known at the SGC. In fact, taken separately, most of Ms. Gilmore's revelations had some background basis in Earth science.
But it was those last little facts, those leaps of intuition on putting it all together when no one had before
, which set Sam's teeth on edge. No one else could have done it, not Sam, not even Rodney McKay, who was still humanity's leading physicist on these matters, no matter how damned smug he was about the fact.
"There's just this voice in the back of my head that really doesn't like this," Sam finished.
"Hearing voices now?" Jack joked, but the words weren't a dismissal. He had heard what she wasn't able to say in such an unsecured location.
Sam sighed. Suddenly, all the meat in her stomach felt heavy. "So what do we do now?"
"It's your command," was all Jack said.
It wasn't an answer, but at the same time, it was.
"Just great," Sam said under her breath. For the good of the expedition, she didn't have a choice and she knew it.
Jack beamed. "Great! Who wants cheesecake?"~~~
Sam arrived back in Atlantis two days later, laden with enough coffee beans to buzz the entire base and a post-UN-briefing hangover that no amount of aspirin would help.
What greeted her was probably to be expected, but still, walking into a room filled with the sounds of jack hammering didn't help the headache in the least.
John Sheppard slumped across the floor to Sam's side, turning a deaf ear on the repair crew. "How was Earth?" he asked after a perfunctory nod.
"Fine." Sam shoved her briefcase in Sheppard's direction. "The Joint Chiefs and IOA want more detailed reports. Lots of them." She smiled.
Sheppard took the case gingerly as if it might blow up. "Good," he said insincerely. "Major Lorne has been bored."
Sam made a noise that most certainly was not a laugh. "How is everything?"
"Fine, fine." Sheppard's eyes strayed over Sam's shoulder to the repair crew. "Repairs continue, and the defense systems are up to eighty percent. What about our resupply request?"
"Everything will be coming through the Gate." Sam winced as a loud metallic thunk
sounded through the din behind her. "Along with some more personnel."
"Military?" Sheppard's brief interest faded when Sam shook her head.
"A scientist or two." She paused, steeling herself for what must come next. "Have you seen McKay?"
Sheppard's answer was rendered unnecessary as McKay and Zelenka wandered down the steps. McKay's rapid monologue never faltered as he passed Sam, talking the whole time about the city's energy requirements and now they were burning power at an alarming rate and hadn't he said
this was a danger and why the hell didn't anyone ever listen to him?
Sam watched his retreating back, and told herself that had been a perfect opportunity for her to tell the man that he had a daughter who would be coming to work in Atlantis in a month, a lovely young lady who was suspiciously brilliant, so get ready for it.
Instead, she turned to Sheppard. "How are Teyla and the baby?" she asked.
There would be plenty of time to tell McKay about Rory Gilmore. Later. And it wasn't cowardice at all that held her tongue.
As they were in the Pegasus Galaxy, she didn't look out the window in case there really were flying pigs on the other side of the glass.