KEY

DISCLAIMER: The characters of Stargate SG1 are the property of their respective owners. I have written this story for entertainment purposes only and no money whatsoever has exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. The original situations and plot are the property of the author. Not to be archived without permission.

AUTHOR’S NOTES: AU story – “Key” takes place towards the end of Stargate season ten.

 

Lieutenant Colonel Samantha Carter entered the gate room preoccupied by the remnants of a dream. The same elusive spectre had invaded her dreams for the past three nights. A mysterious woman in a long leather coat, her silhouette striking against the undulating wormhole created by the Stargate. Every night it was the same sequence of events, the woman placed a box at the top of the ramp, turned her head slightly to the side and whispered. “You are the key but you must not unlock your power.” Before walking through the gate. Each time Sam tried to catch up to her the wormhole closed just as her alarm clock brought her back to reality.

Sam rarely remembered her dreams, sleep at all these days was rare. She considered drawing the symbols on the side of the box and showing it to Daniel. She didn’t consider the dream of any importance to their fight against the Ori but she had a feeling she’d seen the box before.

Sam shook her head as she walked up to the Stargate with the rest of the SG1 team. This was not the time to be thinking about dreams. She was a Lieutenant Colonel, she had a job to do, which for today was following a lead on yet another planet that was considering becoming the Ori’s next meal.

They were losing the war against the Ori but they weren’t going to stop trying. Cam gave her a sideways glance, she had fallen out of step with him. Despite his optimistic nature even Cam was starting to wonder if putting their lives on the line time after time was making any difference. Daniel and Teal’c were not the same men Sam remembered meeting all those years ago. They were both hardened by time and too many battles. Vala was the only one who still presumed she was impervious to danger, she seemed sure she could get herself out of anything. Sam knew SG1 needed her bravado far more than they admitted.

Samantha shook her head again falling into step with Mitchell as they entered the wormhole. As she stepped through to the other side she felt a hand lightly tap her shoulder. She turned to see a cloaked figure clasp her arm, there was a slight tingling sensation then the rest of her team where gone. The cloaked stranger removed the hood and pulled out a radio from under her cloak.

“I’m sorry but we need you Sam.” Sam stared into the face of Vala Mal Doran, except it wasn’t the Vala that had just come through the gate with her. This woman’s hair was straight and pulled back so tightly it looked painful. She had a small lacerated scar over her left eyebrow and her eyes didn’t twinkle in that very annoyingly endearing way. As she forcefully led Sam to a row of trees near the gate, Sam could see there was no bounce to her step and she was not at all gentle as she pulled Sam down to a crouching position. Sam heard the familiar click and static.

“I have her. She has the protein marker. Bring us up now!” The shock dissolved, Sam reached for her P90 just as a familiar beam of light transported her to an unknown location. In the split second before she was de-molecularised in an Asgard beam Sam berated herself for being abducted without a fight. A split second delay in reaction time could make the difference between survival and defeat. She hoped the consequences of her lapse were not fatal.

“Stand down Colonel.” The familiarity was disarming. On first inspection Sam assumed she was on the bridge of the Apollo being given an order by Cameron Mitchell. Except the bridge was smaller and the name plate on the back wall read “Thor” and apart from the uniform the person sitting in the command chair with a zat gun trained on her was definitely not the same Mitchell. He had not shaved in days and looked like he hadn’t slept properly in weeks. There was a cold intensity to his eyes that Sam didn’t recognise. She begrudgingly unhooked her gun and let Vala take her zat.

“Somebody want to tell me what’s going on?” Sam asked trying to make her voice sound casual while she was running through the possible explanations in her head. Clones, android doubles, replicators, holograms…

“Welcome to our universe Colonel,” Vala said, holding a small object in her hand. “Thanks to our little ancient device you got chosen for a slight change of scenery.”

“Alternate universe? You have a universe mirror that fits into your hand?” Sam’s brain was in overload. “I can’t survive here. Don’t you know about cascade—” She was cut off by Mitchell.

“Not going to be a problem, Vala go fill her in,” Mitchell said, turning to sit down again. Dismissing her like this was an unimportant everyday occurrence. “Vala,” he added holding out his hand.

“Right.” Vala pulled the small device from her pocket and placed it in Mitchell’s hand.

Sam remained quite during her short walk down the hall, she was assessing her options. There were two marines escorting them, she seemed to be rated a prisoner rather than a guest. She had no weapons and the device was back on the bridge were there were more marines and a very unfriendly version of Mitchell. She hated to think of the affect her disappearance would have on her team, they had enough to worry about without losing a team member. Vala led her into a small room. As soon as the door closed Sam lunged for the zat hanging from Vala’s belt.

“I want answers now!” Sam said, aiming the zat and backing away a little. Sam was not taking any chances that this version of Vala was any less cunning. Vala made no move to retake the weapon, she looked hurt as if she was the one who had been betrayed and dragged here against her will. “Why did you bring me here?”

“You don’t need to point that at me. I know you would only knock me out, you would never actually kill me.” Sam tried not to show that she had just called her bluff. “I was ordered to fill you in remember, so how about you put the zat down and we talk,” Vala said, moving to sit on the edge of the bed and indicating Sam should take the seat by the window.

Sam lowered her weapon. “Well?” Sam said, uncomfortable with the way Vala was looking at her.

“You have shorter hair.”

“Why is it always about the hair? Get to the point Vala.” Sam noticed the wounded look again before it was hidden behind a stony mask of indifference. This was definitely different. Sam knew her Vala hid deeper emotions under the mask of frivolity and flirting but this Vala was so still.

“It’s simple. We are desperate and we need your help.”

“Why can’t your Carter help?”

“She…She’s…” Vala turned away. “Our Carter is dead.”

Sam could see Vala was distressed but she wasn’t feeling gracious enough to say she was sorry. “Help with what?”

“We created a weapon that will help us defeat the Ori but it can only be activated by you. It’s all in this file.” Vala walked over to the computer terminal and keyed in the security code. “It’s written by our Sa…Carter so it should explain everything better than I can,” Vala said, walking back to sit on the bed. Sam couldn’t help the slight feeling of hope, maybe this wouldn’t be so bad if they had found a weapon she could surely duplicate it in her own universe.

PART TWO

The file was deliberately brief, the information had been so heavily edited Sam was left with little idea about the function or end result of the weapon. Sam at least had an explanation as to why she was here. The weapon was assembled from a device brought back from the Ori galaxy. It was partially damaged so their Carter had to cobble together an interface mechanism and operating system to get it to work. Built into the operating system was sophisticated security procedures that ensured that no one else could use the weapon but Carter. Sam’s counterpart in this universe had acquired and attached a molecular and genetic scanner from the Asgard. The scanner could not be fooled, the Asgard where experts in genetics and cellular differentiation. It also explained why Vala had checked she had the protein marker, she had to be an exact match for this to work. But there was nothing in the report that would help Sam replicate or reverse engineer the device to use in her own universe.

“Vala I need more information, this doesn’t tell me what it actually does.” Sam turned around to see Vala curled into a ball asleep. Her hair had fallen out of the clasp and she was shivering slightly. Taking pity on her obviously exhausted kidnapper Sam pulled up the blanket at the end of the bed and gently placed it over Vala. Hoping Vala would stay asleep so she could do some snooping, she needed to find out what these people were hiding.

She could see various objects that Vala acquired or perhaps stolen scattered around the small quarters. She had obviously been living here full time for quite a while. Sam was surprised to see a picture of her dad.

“Why would Vala have a picture of my dad?” Sam whispered to herself. She picked up another photo on the bedside table. It was of Carter and Vala. Sam found it easier to think of her counter part as Carter as if she could depersonalise the situation. The photo showed the two women facing each other, they looked like they were dancing. Sam thought it seemed like an odd photo to have beside the bed. Beside the frame were two matching rings. Sam looked closer at the photo and saw that Carter and Vala were wearing the rings.

Sam hadn’t been expecting that particular variation between herself and Carter although it did explain why Vala seemed so sad and subdued. Sam picked up the rings but they were quickly snatched out of her hand.

“Vala…I’m sorry about your Carter… I didn’t say it before. You two were together?” Vala nodded as she absently fiddled with the rings. She seemed about to put one on and then decided against it. She quickly placed them in a draw next to the bed.

“She took her ring off when she was on duty,” Vala replied.

“What happened to her?”

“Two months ago Sam and Daniel were headed for the Ori supergate. The ship exploded when they were about half way through. We lost all contact, there was nothing to salvage. Mitchell thinks they’re dead.”

Sam couldn’t help the sharp intake of breath. She had to remind herself it wasn’t her Daniel. “Do you think they’re dead?”

“She would have found a way to contact me,” Vala answered, as a single tear ran down her cheek.

Sam didn’t know what to do. “This must be hard for you. Seeing me I mean.”

“Your eyes… They shine just like hers.” Vala reached out to touch Sam’s cheek. “Your skin is soft like hers.” Vala’s roaming fingers reached the edge of Sam’s lips before she quickly pulled away. Sam tried her best to hide how disarming it was to see the pain in Vala’s eyes, the raw emotion was overwhelming. Sam resorted to her usual coping mechanism.

“Vala I need more information on the weapon. I need to know how it works.”

“There is no more.” Vala pulled her hair back and got up from the bed. “That’s the only file. Mitchell destroyed all the other records. He doesn’t want the information to fall into the wrong hands.”

The conversation was interrupted as Mitchell entered the room and immediately went to pick up the zat gun Sam had discarded beside the chair. Mitchell’s obvious distrust of her only heightened Sam’s suspicions. Mitchell was waiting for trouble, which meant the missing pieces of the puzzle was going to be something Sam wouldn’t like.

“We will be at the planet in three hours,” Mitchell said.

“What planet?” Sam asked.

“You don’t need to know you just need to do your bit when we retrieve Omega.”

“Omega?”

“That’s what we call the weapon,” Vala answered.

“Look Cam.” Sam didn’t fail to notice Mitchell’s features darken at the assumption of familiarity. “Colonel I need to know exactly what will happen when I do my part and I need schematics so I can replicate it unless you are willing to let me take it back once we are done. I’m assuming you are sending me back as I’m sure you’re aware I have work to do there too.”

“I guess Carters are all the same. Always wanting answers.”

“Ca…Colonel please. So far I have been pretty obliging since you kidnapped me but unless I get some answers I…” Mitchell took a step closer. Sam involuntarily stepped back until her boot hit the wall.

“You want answers, fine. I will tell you all you need to know. If we don’t do this there will be no one left to fight the Ori.”

“It’s the same for us. We’re on the same side. We’re fighting the same war. You have to let me save our universe too.”

“In your universe is SG1 intact and still fighting?” Mitchell asked through gritted teeth.

“Yes, but we need help.”

“Have Priors already got a foothold on Earth?”

“Oh god Earth,” Sam whispered.

“Priors control Africa and parts of Asia. It will only be a matter of weeks before the rest of the planet falls to the Ori. So you see Colonel we are not fighting the same war are we?”

Sam ignored the question. “If things are that bad why didn’t your Carter use the weapon as soon as it was complete? What were she and Daniel doing risking a trip to the Ori galaxy if you already had the solution?”

Cam took a step back. “Just press the god dam button Carter and then we will talk about how to help you. Do I need to put her in a holding cell?” Mitchell directed his question to Vala.

“No,” Vala said, almost pleading.

“Fine.” Mitchell’s features softening a little although his hand still rested on the zat gun. “Get some rest both of you,” he said, leaving the room.

“He’s not as bad as he seems,” Vala said, seeming to read Sam’s mind. “He has just been through so much and he blames himself for Daniel and Sam and he hates himself for what happened to Teal’c. He was killed six months ago saving Mitchell from a Prior. We’re all that’s left and everyone is relying on us.”

“Maybe you should do as he says and lie down before you fall down,” Sam said, genuinely concerned about Vala but also hoping if Vala was asleep she could hack into the computer mainframe. If there wasn’t any more information on Omega then maybe she could find out why Daniel and Carter had left.

PART THREE

Sam had been digging for over an hour and so far only found references to Daniel requesting reinforcements from Earth to search for something called a ‘Companion Piece.’ The request was denied and there was no further mention of either the Companion Piece or anything else that would help Sam sort out the puzzle. She glanced over to Vala who was shivering again. Sam sat on the bed to pull up the blanket. Vala sleepily grabbed her hand and pulled Sam closer. Despite her better judgement, Sam didn’t have the heart to pull away. She made herself comfortable lying next to Vala with her arm draped protectively over her. Sam rationalised that she needed to get some rest too.

Samantha woke up to the sound of quiet whimpering. “Vala are you awake. Vala it’s okay.”

“I thought she was back,” Vala said between sobs.

Sam quickly extracted her arm and sat on the edge of the bed. “Vala I’m so sorry I didn’t mean to make it worse. I should have thought. I didn’t want to wake you so I just…I’m sorry.”

“No it’s okay, I mean it’s not okay, nothing is okay.” Vala moved closer so she was sitting beside Sam. “For a moment I forgot. You gave me that. I just miss her so much.” Sam didn’t know what else to do so she put her arms around Vala and let her cry as she wiped the hair out of her eyes and gently stroked her back. It almost felt comfortable in a very alternate universe kind of way. Sam smiled in spite of her situation, she just had to ask.

“Vala how did things start between you and Carter? I mean where I come from you seem more interested in Daniel. Well not interested, kind of a love hate sort of thing. I always assumed you two would work it out. You annoyed each other so much because you cared about each other so much.”

“Daniel! Are you kidding? He never looks up from his precious symbols and artefacts long enough to notice there are actual living people around.” Vala picked up the picture from the bedside table. “From the moment I borrowed your little ship I knew you had something special, something that was going to drive me crazy but keep me coming back for more. Then when I inadvertently trapped us together with those cuffs and going on our trip to the Ori galaxy. Well, let’s just say being burnt alive really puts things in perspective and it was obvious you where besotted with me. Although coming back from my second trip married and having a megalomaniac baby was a slight setback but not for long. You couldn’t resist me,” Vala said.

“Oh now I get it. In my universe Daniel was on the ship when you stole it and you put the cuffs on him.”

“Well you missed out on the best thing that ever happened to you,” Vala said, with a wink as she flicked her hair over her shoulder. It was the first familiar thing Sam had seen. It was also the first time Sam had seen the Vala twinkle aimed at her. In her universe Vala sometimes flirted but never with the intensity that she saved for Daniel. In that moment Sam didn’t honestly now why Daniel resited. Vala was like a lifeline out of the misery of their daily lives, she forced you out of your shell. Sam sobered at that thought. It was exactly what was missing from her life, someone to force her outside the comfort of her military and scientific roles. How freeing it must feel to be swept along with Vala. To be lost in the momentum of her infectious laughter. Sam thought it would be easy to find yourself adrift in Vala’s passion.

In any universe, Vala was not known for her impulse control. She took the small smile on Sam’s face as an invitation to forget what was missing from her own life. Vala cupped Sam’s face and drew her closer for a kiss. Sam lost herself in the moment, the tender ferocity of the intimate contact was just as intoxicating as she imagined. But like always, Sam couldn’t shut out reason for long. The inappropriateness of her actions hit full force as Sam pulled away.

“Please just let me pretend,” Vala pleaded. “Please just for a moment. I miss her so much.”

“Vala this will only make things worse for you,” Sam said, trying to deflect her own confusion.

“I only care about now.”

“Vala I need to know what’s going on. I know you and Mitchell are keeping something from me.”

Vala had never been able to look into those blue eyes without giving in.  “Daniel found references to an ancient artefact that would disrupt the energy flow between the Ori followers and the Ori themselves,” Vala said, moving further away. “We searched for months and finally found Omega but it had been damaged. Sam worked around the clock to fix it. She’d almost finished when she started to run some simulations. She discovered the Prior would act as a conduit to the energy output. The sims predicted there would be an overload that would kill all the Priors.” Vala stopped and started to fiddle with the rings again.

“And?” Sam questioned knowing there had to be more.

“And the simulations couldn’t accurately predict how big the energy surge would be.”

“There must have been some estimate of collateral damage.”

“Between sixty and seventy-five percent of the villages where a Prior is present would be completely wiped out by the explosion.”

Sam let out the breath she’d been holding. “That’s why she put all those fail-safes on it. She didn’t want to use it. She didn’t want to be responsible for murdering thousands of innocent people. Did she Vala?”

“She thought the ancients were cowards for getting us to do their dirty work.”

Vala’s relief that she had confessed was short lived as Mitchell again entered the room without bothering with the politeness of knocking or courteous preamble.

“It’s time,” Mitchell said. Without warning, Sam and Vala found themselves enveloped in an Asgard beam and transported to a small room with a large box sitting in the middle.

The whispers of a dream came back full force. “You are the key but you must not unlock your power.” The box Sam had seen in her dream was identical to the one Vala and Mitchell were standing beside. Except in the dream it had been tiny. Sam instinctively took a few steps back.

Mitchell noticed her reaction to the box. “You told her didn’t you Vala?” He said slamming his hand on the table.

“Sam would hate us for this and you know it. She would hate us for going to these lengths, for forcing someone else into this position. She deserved to know.”

“Vala enough! I don’t care what she deserves she is using the weapon or—”

“Or what Cam?” Vala asked pulling on Mitchell’s arm so he was facing her. He freed himself from Vala’s grasp. “Or what? Say it! Tell me exactly what kind of person you have become.”

“Do you think I actually want to do this? Do you think I don’t wish I could take the moral high ground? This is Omega, the last resort, the last defence we have against losing to the Ori. Are you going to condemn the entire human population spread across hundreds of planets to the whims of the Ori?”

“I won’t do it Cam I can’t,” Sam said, still standing as far away as she could from the box.

“You don’t get to decide our fate.” Mitchell pulled his 9mm from its holster and pointed it at Sam. “Activate it. Now Colonel!”

“You won’t shoot me. You need me alive, you know it’s not just about my DNA it takes a full scan. I have to be an exact living match right down to the protein marker. Emphasis on the living.”

“Fine.” Mitchell turned his gun on Vala. “I have already gone past the point of no return. I have the rest of SG1’s blood on my hands I will finish this no matter what it takes.”

Mitchell almost dropped his gun when he saw Sam’s body start distorting as if she was being pulled into a hundred different directions by an unseen force.

“What was that? Sam are you okay?” Vala said, rushing to Sam’s side.

“Wow I had no idea how much that hurt,” she said, clutching her head.

“Sam what happened?” Vala asked.

“Your universe is rejecting me. So I think that means your Carter is still alive.”

“Not possible we saw the explosion,” Mitchell said, lowering his weapon slightly.

The tiny room was illuminated by another beam in. There was stunned silence at the sight of Daniel and another Samantha Carter.

PART FOUR

The other Carter didn’t seem at all shocked to see her double. She glared at Mitchell and shock her head. Before anyone could react, she fired three shots from her zat gun completely disintegrating the Omega weapon. She winked at Vala and held up her hand to halt everyone’s questions.

“We found the companion piece it’s called the Ark of Truth, we can still do this just without any more bloodshed.”

Mitchell looked defeated. He had been fighting his own conscience so long the relief at not having to go through with it left him exhausted. He stepped back to lean on the wall to stop from falling in a heap. Vala finally snapped out her initial shock and threw herself into her Carter’s arms.

“Is it really you? I mean, my, you, the you from this universe?” Vala asked scrutinizing every inch of Carter’s face looking for clues that this was the woman she loved.

“It’s me…I…” Carter didn’t get to finish as Vala drew her into a kiss. Vala broke off the kiss and punched Carter in the arm. “Hey what was that for?” Carter said, rubbing her shoulder.

“That’s for making me think you were dead.”

“Vala, honey you thought we were dead?” She could see the hurt and pain in Vala’s eyes and realised what had caused them to reach that conclusion. “Oh god the explosion.”

“We had a malfunction just as we entered the gate. It obviously looked a lot worse than it was.” Daniel filled them in.

Vala’s eyes started to water as she saw the whole event play over in her mind. “Hey I’m here. It’s okay,” Carter said, putting her arms around Vala and stroking her back unknowingly mirroring her counterpart’s actions earlier. The gesture seemed to also remind Vala of the other Sam in the room.

“Well I guess I can forgive you seeing I might have sightly… Maybe… In a roundabout sort of way…” Vala stammered.

“What?”

“I kind of a little bit, just one tiny little bit, if you consider one tiny kiss cheating then I sort of cheated on you…But with you.” Carter silenced Vala with another more lingering kiss.

“Was it like that?”

“No.” The other Sam and Vala said in unison. Sam clutched at her head again as another wave of pain hit her.

“Time to get you home,” Carter said.

****

Sam spent the trip back to the planet where she had been abducted in sickbay due the strain of occupying the same space and time as her counterpart. She had been drifting in and out of a restless sleep since the doctor administered a sedative. She found herself revisiting the same dream. This time the strange woman picked up the box from beside the Stargate and said, “You still have the power. Now you don’t need to fear unlocking it.” As the woman turned to face her Sam was surprised to see her own face staring back at her, all be it a little older. The woman then transformed into the unmistakable swirling light spectacle of an ascended ancient.

“Well that was new,” Sam muttered, as she opened her eyes to the bright lights of sickbay. She wondered if her day could get any weirder, considering her track record and the fact that she was in the vicinity of another Carter anything was possible.

She blushed at the thought of what her counterpart and Vala were doing to make up for lost time. She had to admit they complimented each other. Sam couldn’t help but feel envious of their relationship and she had to wonder what that meant for her Vala. Could there be something more than friendship between them? She certainly liked the feel of Vala in her arms and her lips… Sam’s musing was cut short by an unexpected visitor.

“We’re almost there,” Mitchell said. “You should get ready for beam down. Vala and Carter will use the mirror to get you back” Mitchell was about to say something else but decided against it and turned to leave.

“Cam. Wait.” He turned back but he didn’t meet her eyes. “Cam I know you’re better than this and I know you can get back to that person. I saw it in your eyes, you weren’t going to go through with it. You were just going through the motions like a desperate man who thinks he has lost it all.” Cam met her steady gaze. “But you haven’t lost it all. Just yourself for a little while.”

“I would say sorry if I knew what I was sorry for. Sorry for trying to save what was left of our galaxy. Sorry for fighting a war that had to be won. I still believe I was doing the wrong thing for the right reasons No matter how much death I see I’m never going to make sense of it all. Promise me you won’t let your Mitchell get so lost.”

“I promise.” He nodded before leaving sickbay.

Sam stood at the tree line back on the planet where it all began, one touch on the ancient device and she would be back where she belonged. Armed with all the information they would need to look for the Ark of Truth in her universe.

“Well I guess… ” Sam wasn’t quite sure how to say goodbye, this wasn’t exactly her first encounter with an alternate Carter but an alternate Vala was a whole different ball game.

Vala sensed her discomfort and placed a chaste kiss on Sam’s cheek.

“Your Vala’s probably already fallen for you she just doesn’t know it yet,” Vala said. “She just needs a sign from you and then any silly interest in Daniel is history.”

“Vala I don’t think…”

“Just think about it,” Vala said, stepping back and taking Carter’s hand.

“Good luck Colonel. We don’t have to fear the power, right?” Her counterpart said.

Yep things just got weirder. Sam mused. But with her molecules on the verge of being ripped apart she realised now was not the time to ask the other Carter if she too was having dreams about an ascended version of herself. It would just be one more unanswered question to add to the list.

Sam nodded to her counterpart. “Right.”

The last image Sam saw before she touched the device was Vala’s radiant smile as Carter placed a kiss on the top of her head. She looked so happy and content. In that moment, Sam knew she wanted to be the one to put that radiant smile on her Vala’s face.

THE END

For lovers of words and women.

 

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