Author notes: this story started like a classic YAHF. Along the way, as I was designing Earth-127854 as the costumes’ origin point, I realized it would be funnier and a lot more coherent to have it as the base world. I also found this way to introduce it. I am posting this as a one-shot and will decide later if I write other stories in this universe. Please tell me what you think. Summary: What if a wholly different Carter had come through the mirror? A Carter that not only never joined the Air Force but lived in a different world. Rating: FR18 Disclaimer: fandoms I do not own anything of
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer
- Anything related to the Marvel multiverse
- Stargate SG-1 Note: as this is a Marvel crossover, I chose to let aside the Entropic Cascade Failure that doesn’t exist in the Marvel multiverse.
--- Earth-127867, Zone 51, Wednesday 30 July 1999 ---
The artefact had been sitting, almost forgotten, among the many things retrieved by the Stargate Program. It was an irregularly-shaped mirror framed with rough, porous stone. From what the people at the SGC knew, it allowed one to access alternate realities but they had failed to make it function again after Daniel Jackson’s misadventure with the item.
It had therefore been sent to Area 51 for more study which soon became simple storage as no progress was made. This all led to the present moment and to the item called the Quantum Mirror standing in that warehouse, the darkness only pierced by the reflection of the lasers of the motion detection array on some grains of dust and what little moonlight filtered through the high windows.
Suddenly, the surface of the mirror flared with bright light and it ceased to reflect the warehouse, revealing something that looked more like a wrecked laboratory.
“Not my best idea,” said a blonde woman on the other side of the mirror, “but no time to find anything else.”
She moved backwards toward the mirror, dragging an unconscious redhead girl with her. She turned to touch the surface with her hand and immediately materialized in the warehouse. She winced as she saw a very bright light wash her ‘origin’ side and the mirror instantly go black for a second, before starting to reflect the warehouse again.
“Shit!” she said as she laid the redhead against a crate.
She closed her eyes for half a second. She had to stay calm. She had a wounded girl to attend to and once she was sure there would be no more problem, she would verify if they were stranded here.
The reddish metal device in her right hand flared with blue-white light as she concentrated, trying to remember everything her ‘passenger’ from almost a year back had taught her. Concentrated as she was, she barely heard the klaxons starting to ring while the warehouse’s lights flared and the soldiers poured in.
“Remove the hand device!” yelled a soldier.
She finally noticed them.
“Calm down soldier,” said the woman in a strong command tone. “I have to stabilize her first.”
The sergeant commanding the guard platoon looked at the woman nervously. The hand device she was using did not correspond to the Goa’uld artifacts he had been briefed about. It wasn’t made to look like jewelry but rather like a high-tech tool. The woman was looking at a medical hologram of a human body projected above the back of her hand while she treated the redhead teen below. There was also the fact the woman looked awfully like an officer he had seen several times in the Area 51.
“Here, I’m lowering my force field, now calm down,” said again the blonde woman.
He saw a bluish curtain of light flare for a second around her before breaking down. He watched as the cuts on the wounded girl started to disappear. Nodding tiredly, the woman had a gesture and the partial gauntlet started to fold into a bracer covering her forearm before unlocking. She put it slowly on the ground.
“I will want it back you know. It’s a prototype. I’m Samantha Stark and I want to speak with the chief of whatever program you have handling the Stargate.”
--- Earth-127867, SGC, Thursday 31 July 1999 ---
The Colonel Jack O’Neill sometimes wondered if he should ask for a transfer to a desk job. He hated paperwork with a passion but sometimes, he told himself it would be nice to not have his weekend shot down by an emergency call. Yeah… like I could endure the thing more than a week…
“So, what’s the big emer…” he said while entering the infirmary.
Samantha Carter, his teammate from SG-1 was lying in a bed except that she was showing some changes. Her hair was too long, almost going to mid-back but that was not what was catching his eye. The downward pointing triangle of metal and blue light that seemed incrusted in her chest in the sternum area definitely was.
“Wow… Carter, what happened to you?”
“Jack?” said ‘Carter’ with a grin before she started to giggle.
“Sorry… it’s just that seeing you with both of your eyes reminded me of an incident…”
“Can someone explain me the joke?”
“This is not Major Carter, Colonel,” said the General Hammond who had been standing near.
“Carter… I see,” said the woman. “In this reality, Mom married Jacob and not Dad.”
“In this reality?” asked O’Neill feeling his irritation grow.
“You know, Mirror, Mirror, the dimension of evil goatees, the universe without shrimp,” said ‘Carter’, grinning. “I’m Samantha Stark and I come from a place with a different history, an alternate reality. A place where Jack O’Neill lost his left eye in circumstances I was not able to uncover… not for a lack of trying you may note.”
O’Neill felt his brain trying to shut down. That there were alternate realities… he could admit it given the experience Daniel had in such matters a year ago. Using an alien artefact since then stashed away in Area 51 if he remembered correctly. A Carter whose manner of speaking disturbingly reminded him of… himself was more difficult to stomach. He turned to look at Frasier, the SGC’s chief medical officer, as she escorted a teenage redhead girl who looked somehow familiar to him. The girl quickly averted her eyes in a rather cute display of shyness.
“Miss Stark,” said Frasier, “I confirm that Miss Rosenberg has been fully healed.”
The ‘other Carter’ sighed, seeming relieved.
“Thank you, Janet,” she said. “I wasn’t sure to have used it correctly.”
“I’m fine, Sam,” said the teen. “But…”
“We have to discuss with our hosts about our options, Willow.”
The teen nodded and O’Neill felt slightly uneasy. His combat instincts were reacting to that kid, considering her as dangerous.
--- Earth-127867, SGC, Half an hour later ---
“Okay… let me really dumb it down as you seem to have only two brain cells active at a time,” said the blonde woman on the screen. “There is a whole multiverse out here, places where history went one way and others where it went another way. To take an example even the dumbest couch potato – or hopefully you – should be able to understand, there is one where the Nazis won the war… nasty one I must say. Their Moira is a total bitch. Your history is different from the one I know and there are chances I do not even exist in this reality or am someone completely different. Comprende? Not sure if there is some light of intelligence behind those dead fish eyes, you know. Now as I already told you seventeen times, I need to speak to the director – or commanding officer if it is handled by the military here – of the program handling the Stargate.”
“Stargate… what do you know about the Stargate?” asked the interviewer standing off-screen.
“If there is someone behind this camera, this man needs to test for Alzheimer. Really, he cannot even remember what I told him a few minutes ago. It might even be worse: his short-term and long-term memories seem disconnected… so, once again,” she said, her tone shifting to the one of primary school teacher addressing a particularly inattentive student, “the Stargate is a big ring-like artefact which function as a doorway with other Stargates in different star systems. You have to have one because most of what I saw of that warehouse is not Terran technology but specifically comes from planets with gates. There are probably some changes in how it ended in American hands, however. As anyone who likes to watch old newsreels on my Earth would know, ours was dug out by the Nazis during the 1930s and brought back to Germany. It was advertised at the time as a triumph of Aryan science. Thankfully for everybody, the Red Skull had other priorities and didn’t try to understand how it worked before Cap shut down his little gig. The ring was found by the Brits in one of Hydra’s facilities and mothballed before someone asked my and Reed’s opinion on the matter.”
Teal’c allowed himself the shadow of a smile as he looked at the ‘other Carter’ on the screen. Since he had joined the Tau’ri and SG-1 in their fight against his former masters, he had come to appreciate Colonel O’Neill’s capacity to antagonize people in a record time. He had also come to know Samantha Carter and the volcano that hid behind a veneer of logic and military discipline. At first glance, the woman he was seeing seemed to have no control on that volcano. At second glance, however… while he was unfamiliar with Tau’ri customs, he had heard far too many Goa’uld gloat not to recognize certain signs. The anger of the woman on the screen was a feint, a strategy to lure her interviewer into thinking she was less concentrated and starting to make mistakes.
“Red Skull? Cap? Reed?” asked O’Neill with round eyes while Hammond paused the video, cutting through the former Jaffa Prime’s musing. “For cryin’ out loud!”
“Are those names familiar to you?” he asked.
As O’Neill didn’t reply, Teal’c looked at the Major Carter who seemed even more shocked than the colonel. Her gaze was blank, as if she refused to believe.
“Stark,” she said, her voice almost a whisper. “Samantha Stark. Can’t be…”
There was definitely some reference about those names.
“They are fictional characters, Teal’c… at least in our reality,” said Daniel, thoughtful.
“Daniel,” said O’Neill. “You cannot believe that…”
“Let’s try to keep an open mind, Jack, even if the situation sounds completely ludicrous. First fact: we met the Nox and we know that some alien races have strange powers. Second fact: we know there are alternate universes with different history. In the one I visited, Sam never joined the Air Force and worked for the SGC as a civilian. If I followed correctly the theory we discussed after my return, there should be one for every possibility. So why not an alternate reality where comic book characters are real?” asked the archeologist.
“And if it was some elaborate hoax?” asked the colonel.
“Sir, from a theoretical standpoint Daniel is right: the possibility exists. Normally, I would lean on your side as a hoax seems a lot more probable,” said Carter, finding her wits back. “This time, as difficult as it is to admit, I have another element that forces me to consider the ‘fictional reality’ scenario.”
She took another remote and displayed the picture of an item on the screen. The basic shape reminded the members of SG-1 of a Goa’uld hand device. It was composed of a bracer and had a similar structure for the hand, with pieces covering the fingertips linked to the bracer by a kind of skeleton. It was however all it had in common with it. Contrarily to most things Goa’uld, this gauntlet was built to be efficient and utilitarian. It was a tool and looked the part.
“From the guard report,” said Carter, “my double used that gauntlet in the same way as a Goa’uld healing device and had a force field like the standard hand device. So my basic theory is that this tool combines the function of both of those devices. However…”
She clicked to bring the next image taken by the technicians of Area 51 that examined it. Teal’c raised an eyebrow. The components inside the machine didn’t look like Goa’uld technology. They looked Tau’ri. He also noticed the logo on a piece that seemed important in the machine: Stark Industries.
“Sir… I only had time for a cursory exam of that item. However, what I found is that while the technology is beyond anything we have on Earth, the design philosophy is an evolution of ours. To simplify, it’s like if I was a person of the sixties looking at a present-day computer. It’s smaller, a lot better and I don’t know how to duplicate it but I can have a guess at how it works because it has evolved from what I know. If the year is the same in their universe, as the identical age of my double may indicate, then things went faster… Maybe they started to use the Stargate earlier and were better than us at reverse engineering things… or maybe that having geniuses like Tony Stark and Reed Richards…”
She was shaking and the Jaffa wondered once again why. What was so special about the stories those characters appeared in to unsettle her so badly?
“Captain Frasier?” asked Hammond.
“Dental records and fingerprints are similar but not identical between Major Carter and Miss Stark. From something she said when Colonel O’Neill came in the infirmary, you have the ‘same’ mother but a different father,” she said, turning toward Sam. “I found the markers indicating she has been a Goa’uld host in the past as well as traces of naquadah. She jokingly referred to the device in her chest as her pacemaker but a scanner revealed it to actually be the visible part – maybe the energy source – of a set of artificial lungs and heart. They are the most advanced artificial organs I have ever seen.”
“And regarding the teenager?” asked the general.
“Miss Rosenberg looks similar to the actress… portraying her in that show but is younger, eighteen from what she told us. From what one of my nurses who follows the show told me, she also has more muscle definition than the actress and we found scars that are probably combat-related. At first I thought she was just shy but she seems rather wary of us and is probably waiting for an opportunity to discuss with Miss Stark before saying anything.”
“Well, I think it’s time to talk to our visitors,” said Hammond, nodding towards the guard at the entrance of the conference room.
They made their entrance. Both of them were now dressed in the standard blue jumpsuits worn by some of the people in the SGC. Teal’c took that instant to appraise them. Samantha Stark moved in a way he had sometimes seen in System Lords like Bastet. It was relaxed but at the same time broadcasted that she owned the place. Yet, he felt that it lacked the true arrogance of the Goa’uld. It was as if it was all part of an elaborate act, a game of masks to hide her true self.
Willow Rosenberg sent signals just as conflicting to him. Hadn’t it been for her eyes, he would have been deceived by the shy teenager she appeared to be. However, he had perceived the way her eyes jumped around the place and that made him pay attention on how she had placed herself on her chair. He saw that O’Neill had perceived it too. He was now almost sure that Willow Rosenberg had scanned the room and was ready to react against threats coming from the guard at the door, O’Neill and himself. He also had the disagreeable impression that the pencil sitting in front of her on the table could turn into a deadly projectile in her hands.
“Thank you for receiving us,” said Stark. “I know that our arrival wasn’t expected.”
“Why did you come here?” asked O’Neill, wanting to go straight to the point.
“Stopgap measure essentially. The exits of the lab we were in were condemned, Willow was injured and the place was about to crumble on us. Jumping into the unknown was better than dying.”
“What did happen?” asked Daniel.
“Just like you, we failed to find the way to control the mirror initially. I convinced ‘my’ Jack to let me have a go at the item and had it transferred to my private lab. Unfortunately… one of my old enemies decided my Malibu villa was an eyesore and needed remodeling.”
“Do you know which old enemy?” asked Carter, feeling even more uneasy.
“Yes… she had the nice touch to have my own sound system broadcast her gloating, telling me how I was about to die… you know the kind.”
The members of SG-1 all nodded knowingly. This was a trait shared by many Goa’uld System Lords.
“As for her name… two years ago a Goa’uld called Hathor came out of stasis and tried to get control of our Stargate. Her plot failed, mostly because she had no idea of how our world worked but she seems to believe it’s my fault. Unfortunately, she escaped and we suppose she’s working with the A.I.M. now. From the way Daniel winces, I see that you know the local version of that cow.”
“What is the A.I.M.?” asked Teal’c.
“An organization you probably don’t have here, except in comic books if I took some hints done by your medical personnel correctly. They’re terrorists aiming for world domination. To quote my favorite Canadian: ‘They recruit the kinda brilliant geeks and brainy outsiders who want revenge on the world for not getting any booty’.”
“You seem very free with information,” said O’Neill.
“If it had been our Jack in my seat, you would probably still be staring at each other without saying anything more than ‘nice weather you have here’. I am telling you enough for you to get a good picture of what we are doing here without telling anything really sensitive.”
“What was Miss Rosenberg doing in your lab?”
“Simple: Willow is brilliant and I had invited her to work with me on a project we exchanged mails about. Before you ask, it’s about computer software and that’s all I’m going to say on the matter.”
“What do you want from us?”
“Your hospitality for a few days. People from home will have noticed Willow and I are missing. The quantum coordinates of your reality are the first on the test list I agreed with Reed so he will be able to guess where we are and, hopefully, come fetch us.”
“And if he doesn’t?”
“Then I will have to ask you to let me build a control device for your mirror. After I’m back… maybe I could arrange for continued contact.”
“Very well, I will have you hosted in temporary quarters,” said Hammond.
--- Earth-127867, SGC Guest Quarters, a few hours later --- At least, it’s a little comfier than military architecture…
Samantha Stark was looking at the temporary quarters. Their main problem, in her opinion, were of course their subterranean location deep down in the Cheyenne Mountain complex. While they had not told her where she was, she had visited the site often enough in her own dimension in her quality of major defense contractor to recognize it.
“It’s okay, we are not under surveillance,” said Willow, pushing a button on her wristwatch.
Sam nodded, thanking for once the Friends of Humanity, Maggie Walsh and their ilk. Years of evading people who thought their place was on the dissection table or in a concentration camp had pushed the mutant technicians to develop gadgets worthy of James Bond. In appearance, they were common consumer items and could pass any inspection short of disassembly. In practical, the cheap plastic wristwatch Willow had no issue to get back included technology Stark was actually curious to have a look at. Probably of Shi’ar origin,
she thought remembering the precious contacts the X-Men had with this particular alien empire.This led her once again to remember that Willow had been there too, sold to the vampiric aliens known as the Wraiths by the Shi’ar traitor Deathbird. She had come back alive and kicking and also with that funny dragon pet she called Lockheed. But she was also only sixteen…
“Willow, I know this is probably not the best moment but…”
“You want me to be as normal as I can and I really appreciate that. But what was done to me cannot be undone.”
Stark looked at the teenager. She had often considered her as her protégé, someone that could be nurtured to become one of the most brilliant minds of the planet. It was the third year in a row that she had invited the redhead to come work with her on a project during summer break. It was a nice moment for both of them and it helped to ease the too often strained relations between the Avengers and the X-Men.
“I don’t want you to be normal, Willow. You know how much I despise that word. I want you to be happy.”
She saw her unease. Willow had always been a cheerful teen. Even after her mutant powers activated and she enrolled at Xavier’s, she had kept her rather optimistic look on life. The problem was perhaps that Xavier and her X-Men had a foot in a world most people preferred to ignore, the one of the monsters under the bed, the things that go bump in the night. The simple fact the school was set in Sunnydale, one of the worst hotspots of mystical activity in the world…
Stark knew very well the rationale behind it. Charlene Joyce Xavier was taking advantage of the ‘notice-me-not’ effect that existed on the town. She was not alone in that case. Illyana Rasputina, the Sorceress Supreme, had also set up her earthly abode there.
“Willow, I cannot help you if I don’t understand. All I know is that Logan is grouchier than usual and that something happened to the both of you in Japan. Since then… you barely babble, your combat reflexes went seriously up and Jack thought Christmas was coming early when Logan said he would work for the SHIELD.”
“It wasn’t sufficient or I would have phased in time to dodge that grenade,” said the teen with a pout Sam found adorable.
“We were both exhausted after a full night of work in the lab and our attackers knew that. So, spill!”
“You’re so much like Buffy sometimes… fine. It’s all about Logan’s old sensei: Ogun. I won’t enter in the specifics but they had a grudge. How I found myself in Japan is not important. What’s important is that Ogun kidnapped me and brainwashed me, making me believe I was his darling ninja daughter.”
“Ouch… how did you shake the control off?”
“Ogun wanted to make Logan suffer. He trained me, tested me by making me execute some contracts for him. Logan and his friend Yukio finally caught me and helped me break his hold on me but… it was too late. What I did… it wasn’t a clean battle kill like the ones I… knew could happen when I joined the X-Men or eliminating a demon. It was assassination, cold and perfectly calculated… and I remember it all. All the skills he gave me are still here… A…after we left Japan, Logan passed a pact with Director O’Neill.”
Stark could feel the unsaid. Willow had probably already known too many battle kills.
“Let me guess… he works for the SHIELD if Jack destroys any proof of what you did while brainwashed.”
Willow nodded quickly, barely holding back her tears. Sam hugged her while the girl shivered in her arms.
“You still have a conscience, Willow… you’re not like those monsters you are all too familiar with in Sunnydale.”
“It’s… so easy to slip back. So easy to think in terms of objectives, to consider people as obstacles to be removed.”
“She did. She offered to wipe out those memories. I refused. The idea of facing Logan and not knowing why he did this, why he sacrificed himself for me… I just couldn’t. Maybe she could have put a temporary seal, dulling the thing rather than erasing it but… Professor Lehnsherr told me he had spoken with her and that they would respect my decision. I think he was really proud of me.”
Samantha could only nod. She had seen the number still tattooed on the mutant’s arm. Removing it would have been easy but… some things should not be forgotten, no matter how comfortable it would be.
“What do we do about now?” said Willow, breaking the hug.
“I have a good feeling about them, but I worked with our Jack for too long not to be a little paranoid. First, keep your powers hidden.”
“It won’t be a problem. The nurse in the infirmary asked me a lot of questions about a show they have in this dimension. She seemed to think I was some kind of witch slash hacker. I’ll just tell them some generalities about Sunnydale if asked.”
“About the magic?”
“The show got that wrong. The nurse asked questions to try to determine at which point we were compared to the show. One of those was about casting a spell to attach a human soul to a vampire… no way I would do that!”
Sam felt there was a story there but didn’t ask. She had already been nosy enough for today.
“Can you do magic?”
“A little, but no sorcery. Ogun was the kind of ninja with powers like in those cheesy movies with Sho Kosugi. That’s the kind of magic I know. Officially, I will say I learnt to fight better instead and that’s why I’m fitter than the actress playing me.”
“Good thinking to keep that ace up your sleeve as well. Carter and their Daniel will probably bombard me with questions but I’ll keep to the public stuff and some personal notes. About the return… any chance Illyana could come fetch us?”
Willow shook her head.
“Last thing I know, she’s in Europe giving a hand to Captain Britain. A sorcerer called Ethan Rayne is trying to gather the pages of a big book of evil called the Darkhold. On your end?”
“As I told them, Richards. Our Jack will inform the FF about the attack if they don’t know by themselves, if only because Cassandra is at the Baxter Building. Reed will find a way to come here.”
--- Earth-127867, SGC, Friday 1 August 1999 ---
“So that’s your naquadah generator,” said Stark.
“I suppose you have better,” said Carter, trying not to let the bitterness pierce through her voice.
Since her double had arrived here, the Air Force Major had been unable to prevent a little jealousy to seep in her heart.
“Sam, this is good work,” said Stark, casually looking to the blueprints. “Moreover… I had an advantage on you: My Granddad had been toying with the idea since World War Two and my Dad created a functional model. I merely made their work portable,” she said while tapping the triangle of light on her chest.
“That’s… how much?”
“Around six Gigawatts. Yours are higher I bet.”
“Not if I want them to last. How could… I mean there is no naquadah on Earth.”
“I cannot tell for sure about this one but on ours, there is. It’s just tricky to retrieve as it’s on the ocean floor. One known deposit is around the Azores. My grandfather got some from a friend during World War Two.”
Carter’s mind started to work, wondering once again how much of the comic books was true in Stark’s universe. Things quickly fell in place, crystallizing in a face with pointed ears and funny eyebrows.
“The Azores… Atlantis. Your grandfather’s friend is called Namor McKenzie, right?”
“Yep. Before your mind shuts down, the Atlanteans’ capacity to breathe water has nothing to do with nature or evolution. From what their legend tell, they were once a starfaring people called the Lanteans. They lost a war against a terrifying enemy and fled to Earth. Once there, their people started to squabble and split in several tribes. One of them, whose minds had changed by a long stay in a submarine city, decided to adapt fully to aquatic life.”
“How do you know this?”
“Easy. Atlantis has a seat in the United Nations since 1992. Since then… we have cultural exchanges. They had a pavilion in the Lisbon World Exposition last year. As the theme of the exposition was the ocean, the got the place of honor.”
Sam had a little smile, imagining Daniel’s face if such a thing happened here.
“I suppose your Daniel was ecstatic.”
“He certainly was. He spent a whole week there as it was also a good occasion to have Sha’re discover Earth’s culture.”
Sam winced, remembering that their Sha’re was still missing and the host of a Goa’uld. It was another thing that had gone differently. She wondered if they had encountered Apophis and how it had ended. Her gaze went back to Stark who was humming while going through her blueprints. Hammond had agreed to let her see those, Carter having argued that Stark already had better… implanted in her own chest.
“Fire away,” said Stark. “I mean, the hundreds of questions I can almost hear rolling in your head.”
Carter frowned, trying to sort out her thoughts, wondering what to ask first. Finally, she decided to go with the personal thing. She needed to know what crafted a woman at the same time so similar and so different from her.
“What’s your relation to Tony Stark?”
“He was my Dad. I lost both my parents in a plane crash when I was twelve… judging from your face something similar happened to you. Is your Jacob Carter still alive?”
“He is… it was only my mother. Who is Jacob Carter for you?”
“The one of my timeline was my father’s best friend, kind of an uncle for me and Mark. He helped Jarvis – the old family butler – to take care of us after the accident. After I discovered the plane crash wasn’t an accident, he helped me take back Stark Industries from my parents’ murderer: Obadiah Stane. It cost me a lot though,” she said, tapping the implant in her chest. “And you?”
“Mom died in a car accident. Mark and I held Dad responsible for it. I got over it, he didn’t…”
“Another mirror,” said Stark, sighing. “Mark renounced the Stark name saying he wanted a normal life away from our family’s cursed legacy. Are you married?”
“No… my career has been more important. And you?”
“Neither… I had a few flings, but nothing serious. I adopted a girl we rescued during one of our explorations with the gate, however.”
“You found Cassandra too?”
“We did. What did happen to her here?”
“Janet adopted her.”
“Good choice from what I have seen of yours… I suppose things are different as your Stargate program is still classified. In my case… I was one of the few people who could openly adopt an alien and have the media just pass it as the latest Stark eccentricity.”
“Your Stargate program is public?”
Stark looked thoughtful, probably wondering how to say something.
“That we go out there is. Our exact capabilities are another matter.”
“How did… I mean we have some politicians ‘in the know’ here that are trying to shut down the program. They think that we would be safer by laying low.” And others wanting to control the Gate for their own profit,
she didn’t say.
“Wouldn’t work for us. In 1994, something made very clear that aliens wouldn’t care about us being oblivious about them.”
“What did happen?”
“An alien entity that is rumored to be older than the universe came to visit us. A big guy in blue and purple armor called Galactus that I sincerely hope you don’t have here.”
Carter looked at her. She could believe that some of the alien races they had encountered had turned differently. She could even believe, up to some point, that people could have superpowers as they had met aliens with similar abilities. The Atlanteans weren’t even that bizarre compared to some things she had seen. The name Galactus however called on a completely different level of belief.
“You’re kidding, right? Galactus, the Devourer of Worlds, really exists?”
“I know it’s difficult. Many people on our planet refuse to believe he exists too. Scientists going into nervous breakdown because he violates the physical models they know, religious people trying to include him in their world view and failing… Hell, I was there in New York when he came. I fought the minions he created out of thin air while teaming up with the FF and I sometimes still want to believe it was some kind of mass hallucination. Rationally, I know it’s just a coping mechanism, that we humans do not want to consider how insignificant we are compared to him… It was after that that we started to study the Stargate. We needed a way to understand what just happened to our planet and that meant looking for answers out there.”
Carter looked in her double’s eyes, seeing the pain in those. Admitting that Galactus is real… how badly shaken would we be? What could we do against him except trying to nuke him?
“How did you win? In our comic books, the FF retrieved an artifact from Galactus’ ship and threatened to use it on him.”
“Sorry… I promised not to tell anyone.”
Carter nodded. If the artefact was the same than in the comic books… Am I… am I really starting to believe that this madness is real?
“So… let’s get back on topic. What do you think of the generator?”
“A good first-generation model. You have the same problems my Granddad did and made him abandon the technology. Don’t get me wrong. This design will work for you as you can have access to enough naquadah through the gate. My grandfather had to work with minute amounts of naquadah with little hope to get more, which is why using it as combustible was unpractical. When Daddy worked back on it, he had a different idea. You know how naquadah can be used to augment nuclear explosives?”
“Yes… and I think I see where you’re heading. Catalytic fusion?”
“Exactly. Let me show you how…”
Carter smiled as she followed Stark’s equations and designs spring to life on the blackboard. She was happy to be back in familiar territory, away from considerations about superheroes and cosmic entities.
--- Earth-127867, SGC commissary, Saturday 2 August 1999 ---
Willow had to admit that this Jack O’Neill was funnier than the one they had back home. She and Stark had been sitting with him in the commissary, indulging in sugary goodness. She had come to appreciate this alternate version of people she knew and sparring with Teal’c had been… an interesting exercise, particularly as she had to concentrate not to use her powers to let the blows phase through her.
Suddenly, a noise came out of Samantha’s pocket. Stark calmly opened her cell phone, putting it on loudspeaker.
“Jarvis?” she said. “Good to hear you old chap. I’m here with Willow and Colonel Jack O’Neill.”
“Greetings, Colonel, Miss Rosenberg,” said a slightly electronic-sounding voice. “Miss Cassandra will be relieved to know you are all right. I am putting Professor Richards through.”
“Hello Sam,” said another voice where fatigue could easily be heard. “As the mirror is broken, I have concentrated on making one of Kang’s vibrational attunement devices usable, but not enough to transfer living matter yet. I have to keep this ‘call’ short as I’m still busy calibrating things. Jarvis is doing the grunt work for calculations.”
“I live to serve, Professor,” said the electronic voice.
“Anyway… how are things at your end?” asked Richards.
“Willow and I are all right. We’re hosted by the local gate program. Regarding the attack: tell our Jack it was Hathor.”
“I’ll transmit to O’Neill. He’s busy calling back the Avengers from holidays. We should be able to retrieve you in roughly 48 hours if the tests go as expected. I’ll keep a sensor looking at your phone’s frequency.”
“I’ll setup a place for safe transfer and send you the coordinates.”
--- Earth-127867, SGC, Sunday 3 August 1999 ---
“Will this be all right?” asked Carter.
“From the files Jarvis sent me, it will do perfectly, Sam,” replied Stark.
They were both standing in a storage room not far from the Stargate embarking room. It was normally used for the MALP drones they sent through the gate and had the advantage, security-wise, of being on the ‘good’ side of the armored doors isolating that part of the complex from the rest of the base.
During the last hours, she had helped Stark construct items she barely understood and the experience had reminded her of that time Colonel O’Neill had been ‘possessed’ by the knowledge of the Ancient Repository.
“You said this was technology from the future?”
“Yes. Time travel doesn’t unsettle you too much? Classified, right?”
Carter didn’t dare to move a muscle. How they ended in 1969 after a botched gate transfer was something that needed to stay secret.
“Here, all set,” said Stark as she typed some commands in the laptop linked to her cell phone.
All lost in her calculations, she barely watched as an airman came to fetch Carter. What she noticed however were the fluctuations on the dimensional sensors, probably created by the activation of the Stargate.
“It’s all right, you can get out, Willow.”
“How did you detect me?” said the redhead teen as she walked through crates like a ghost.
“I know you. You’re curious and bored to have to play the normal teenager, that’s all.”
“I come from the control room. They are contacting one of their teams and it’s under heavy fire by the Jaffas. I heard the name Ferretti.”
Stark pinched the bridge of her nose. She remembered that name. In her universe, he had been on the roster of the Abydos team and was still working with SWORD, their version of the Stargate program. She had even thought about dating the man at some point.
“Jarvis, it’s time to test the device for inert matter… send me the Mark VII.”
--- Earth-127867, Stargate control room, at the same time ---
“Harriman?” asked O’Neill as he saw the surface of the Stargate’s wormhole start to wobble with a strange array of geometric lines.
“No idea, Sir!”
“Stark,” said Carter, dashing out of the control room.
She ran down the stairs, soon arriving in the storage room. Just as she thought, the interference had come from the dimensional gate device assembled by Stark. Something was now standing in the center of the circle of beacons she had helped her ‘twin’ build. It looked like an upright standing sarcophagus made of red metal.
Her double had kicked her shoes off and was now removing her jumpsuit, only keeping her bra and panties. She came to stand before the sarcophagus, spreading her arms. Immediately, the item of red metal behind her reacted, opening as servomotors clicked and the whole thing started to move. The shape assembling around Stark was all too familiar and left Carter wanting to lovingly analyze the thing for the next year. It had feminine curves but it was otherwise something many people had seen while reading comic books as kids. It was the Iron Man suit.
“I’ll come with you, Iron Girl,” said Willow. “I will secure the Gate while you clear the sky.”
“Willow…” started to say Stark.
The teen’s hands flashed, going through complicated hand signs that reminded Carter some martial arts movies she had… She blinked as smoke covered the teen with a light ‘bamf’. As it dissipated, the redhead’s jumpsuit had disappeared, replaced by black armored garb that could have been worn by Snake Eyes in the old G.I. Joe comics. She even had the katana strapped in her back to complete the costume. It wasn’t what was catching her eyes however. What was doing that was the symbol on her right shoulder: a black X in a red circle.
“As you wish… Shadowcat. Carter,” said Stark as the iconic golden helmet closed on her face, its eyes lighting electric blue. “We’ll bring Ferretti back alive. Close the Gate behind me.”
She knew she should have asked how she knew that but there was no time. SG-2 was under heavy fire and if the armor could only do half the things it did in the comics, she was their best chance. Sending a SG-team with the Jaffa standing ambush on the other side was suicide.
“General,” she said, activating the intercom while the red and gold woman walked towards the embarking room. “We got help.”
“What kind of… oh my God!”
She guessed why the general had cut off. Iron Girl and Shadowcat had probably entered the embarking room. She understood perfectly that reaction. Until then, there had been a chance for all of it to be a hoax. That suit of armor and a mutant walking through walls changed everything.
--- Earth-127867, Stargate control room, at the same time --- I want one of those…
thought O’Neill as he watched the armored woman walk on the ramp.
“General, we will get your team out of there,” said Stark’s voice over the radio.
Before he had the time to ask why she said ‘we’, he noticed a black shadow rising through the ramp and slipping gracefully beyond the Stargate’s event horizon. Two seconds later, jet-boots roared as the red and gold shape followed through the Stargate.
--- Earth-127867, somewhere in the galaxy ---
The Major Louis Ferretti, commander of the SG-2 team, took as much cover as he could in a crack of the tormented basaltic hills the Jaffa had forced them to take refuge in. The mission had started as a standard exploration in the desolate landscape. They had come to the conclusion that a city had been buried under lava around here, but that was centuries ago. All that had survived was the Stargate. Everything had changed when they fell on a party of Sokar’s Jaffas trying to recover something from the ruins.
“Where are they?” he asked, wondering why they hadn’t shot them.
He raised his head and saw them, or rather what was left of them. Their burning remnants were plummeting in a mad spin, far away from their position. The only thing standing in the air was something small, red and gold that was dashing towards the two landed Al’Kesh.
“What the hell!”
He took his binoculars, focusing on the flying shape that had just stabilized before blasting one of the Jaffa ships with some kind of ray weapon launched from… its hands. The shape was a flying man in red and gold armor… or maybe a woman if he interpreted those curves correctly.
“Major?” asked one of his men.
The second Al’Kesh tried to take off but it was only to be crashed back on the ground as the armored woman plunged straight on it.
“Holy… you think it’s Major Carter’s double? I mean… I heard she was called Stark,” asked another soldier.
“Iron Girl to SG-2,” said a voice over the radio that sounded awfully like the one of Major Carter. “Hurry up to the gate before the Ha’tak in orbit decides an orbital bombing is needed.”
He looked towards the Stargate, expecting to see the party securing it against them but… nobody was moving there. They walked quickly while missiles screeched out of the flying armor, peppering the positions of the main Jaffa party. As they neared, he had almost expected to see a swath of destruction left by the woman as she rushed towards the Death Gliders but that hadn’t been the case.
The guarding Jaffa had been killed coldly and efficiently, by something they hadn’t even guessed to be here until it was too late and that used blades. He caught half a noise and turned, weapon aimed at the black shape. He fired twice, only to see the petite woman in high-tech ninja garb wink at him, completely unarmed. As she walked toward him, he saw clearly the holes in the rock, straight behind her. What is she, some kind of Tollan commando?
He thought, remembering this alien’s race phasing technology. Minute, that symbol on her shoulder…
“I’m Shadowcat,” said the girl, confirming his hunch. “Open the gate, I’ll cover you.”
--- Earth-127867, SGC conference room, 4 August 1999 ---
The members of SG-1 were sitting in the conference room. Samantha Stark and Willow Rosenberg had safely left for their own dimension a few hours before.
“I received orders from the President,” said Hammond. “Officially… it never occurred. Thankfully, only few people actually saw the Iron Man suit.”
“General… maybe they would like to share,” said O’Neill. “Can you imagine what we could do with those?”
“The President thinks that their world is too alien for us to consider contacting again. The main concern is that we have no effective way to deal with the kind of menaces they have there.”
--- Earth-127854, Stark Tower, Lower Manhattan, 4 August 1999 ---
“So, how was your little trip?” asked Director Jack O’Neill.
“Rather funny,” replied Sam as she stroke the hair of her sleeping daughter. Cassandra had not let go of her since her return. “Our doubles are very interesting… though my own could gain much by loosening up a little. What’s really amusing is that in many ways they are more innocent than we are.”
“Really?” asked Daniel Jackson, raising his head from his book.
“Well… their version of you didn’t find that blasted sword of yours for starters… but on the other hand, their Sha’re is still a host.”
Daniel nodded, not really knowing what to think. The Ebony Blade had been both a curse and a blessing. Without it, he wouldn’t have been able to defeat Ra or protect Sha’re from Apophis. Because of it, he had to kill far too many times already. Thankfully his wife and son were safe here on Earth.
“Another thing,” said Stark. “Their flag team, called SG-1, managed to subvert Teal’c.”
“Now that’s a funny one,” said Jack. “I can’t see that happening here, at least not as long as the Skrulls continue to supply the Free Jaffa. On the other hand…”
He turned to face a grinning, green-skinned woman sprawled on one of the armchairs. He had since long stopped to count the headaches he had because of Vala Mal Doran, Skrull defector. His only reprieve was that she was now Reed’s headache as a member of the Fantastic Five.
“I suppose I’m not there,” said the alien woman.
“I have not seen your double at the SGC, Vala, but you may still exist…” replied Sam.
“But different… probably human. So… I will let you continue this charming reunion. And before I forget… Sam, I might be in need of a… bridesmaid.”
“Johnny?” asked Stark, smiling.
Vala blushed, her apple green cheeks turning emerald. Sam had to admit that she rather liked the woman. The Skrull adventuress first contact with Earth had consisted in stealing an experimental starship the FF had been testing in a nearby star system.
“I will, Vala. Take care.”
The Skrull woman grinned as she left for the terrace and shapeshifted in a large bird. She soared in the night sky, flying towards what all of them could guess to be the Five Freedom’s Plaza.
Samantha got up, lifting her daughter in her arms.
“I will say good night too. It’s time for me to tuck Cassandra in bed. Jack… you’ll have my report tomorrow.”
“I’m counting on it.”
--- Earth-127854, Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, Sunnydale, at the same time ---
She was looking at the teens playing basketball on the terrain near the school and had a little smile as her daughter pouted when Hank McCoy, who was coaching the game, said ‘no powers’. She knew just as well as her friend that the rule would be difficult to enforce for Buffy who had a whole part of her abilities being augmented strength, speed and stamina. Still… it’s better to keep it like that. Things went a little overboard the last time they tried powerball.
Her eyes then fell on Willow who had recently returned from her trip and her hand grip the curtain tighter. She had tried to protect them as much as she could and the teens were not part of the X-Men… except for Buffy and Willow. With Buffy, she had not been left a choice. She remembered bitterly what Illyana had told her about the Slayer, how she was chosen and what she had to do. Buffy had no choice so her husband and she had taken the only logical decision: they had trained her to survive and made her a part of the team. But Willow…
Willow had been at the wrong place at the wrong moment and ended in space with the X-Men in that scheme involving the Shi’ar and the Wraiths. Logan had taken the redhead under his wing and according to him and her husband, she had done well up there. But, a few months ago, the sins of Willow’s father had swallowed the teen whole, leading her straight into Ogun’s clutches. She looks happy now… how much of this is façade?
She resisted the urge to skim her student’s thoughts. She had to respect Willow’s choice to deal herself with the darkness.
She felt arms encircling her and she basked in the familiar sensation. She had often wondered how it would have turned if she had not taken that peek in Hank Summers’ head that night, the night that prompted her to go on a sabbatical and never see her then boyfriend again. Without that indiscretion, she would not have met him.
“You are thinking about Willow,” he said.
She nodded. She loved his voice, the cultured European accent he had. She remembered finding him in those ruins, following the merest trace of psychic activity and awakening him from his icy sleep in that forgotten Hydra laboratory. She had then wondered if he was Captain America who had notoriously disappeared when fighting the Red Skull during the war. She had quickly understood that wasn’t the case.
He was a mutant like her and, as she nurtured him back to health, he told her his story. He told her how his power awakened while he was in the death camps and allowed him and his beloved Magda to escape, finally joining partisans in Yugoslavia. He told her how Hydra slaughtered the partisans and captured him a year later and how he finally ended in the ice until their scientists had time to study him. But Captain America and the Invaders destroyed the Red Skull’s ambitions…
She had helped him mourn as he understood his world was gone, buried by time. Over time, friendship became love as they both dreamed of a better world for mutants. They had married and she gave him two daughters, Elisabeth ‘Buffy’ and Dawn. Both of them were mutants.
“Yes. I know what you said and I understand why you said it… that doesn’t make it any less hard. Our role should be to protect them from such horrors.”
“We already had that argument, didn’t we? If we shelter them too much…”
“We did and I agree they need to be able to defend themselves. This is why I agreed to let the adults become the X-Men and fight against monsters like Sinister. But they are kids…”
He held her tighter, knowing very well the so many things his wife thought herself responsible for.
“You take too much on your shoulders, Joyce,” he said, using her middle name rather than the first name she disliked. “Lean on me.”
“Now that is a tempting offer,” she said with a mischievous smile. “Classes are over so…”
Erik Lehnsherr, better known by the public as Magneto, laughed as he caught his wife’s gaze, inviting him to join her for an ‘upgraded catnap’.
Author notes: as you noticed, I took the decision to have some people, things or even alien races merge with each other to only have one universe with elements of the 3 base universe coming together. For example, the Wraiths from Stargate Atlantis (not to be confused with the Dire Wraiths from Marvel) are replacing the Brood. The Goa’uld are likewise playing the role of the Kree. The Marvel elements I took are themselves a merging of the movieverse, the comics and ideas coming from several issues of What If?, one of the main being What If Xavier and Magneto founded the X-Men together, here with the spin of Xavier being female and falling for the Master of Magnetism. I hope you enjoyed this and… well reviews are very welcomed.