TITLE: The Knife’s Edge of Madness
AUTHOR: Strix varia
CATEGORY: Angst, drama, hurt/comfort, alternate universe.
SUMMARY: Alternate ending to Desperate Measures: What if Sam had managed to escape on her own without the team finding her?
SPOILERS: Episodes up to and including Desperate Measures.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Thanks to Kam and April for the beta.
DISCLAIMER: The characters mentioned in this story are the property of Showtime and Gekko Film Corp. The Stargate, SG-I, the Goa'uld and all other characters who have appeared in the series STARGATE SG-1 together with the names, titles and backstory are the sole copyright property of MGM-UA Worldwide Television, Gekko Film Corp, Glassner/Wright Double Secret Productions and Stargate SG-I Prod. Ltd. Partnership. This fanfic is not intended as an infringement upon those rights and solely meant for entertainment. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author.
Her first memory was of pain, pain and nausea, and voices nearby, words that made no sense in the pounding agony of her head.
Voices, more voices, more pain. She knew that they were voices, but not what they said.
Green eyes smiled down at her from a handsome face. “I’m Doctor Whelan, your neurologist,” he said. “I need you to squeeze my hand, okay?”
Finally, the words made sense. She tried, but failed… tried to remember, and failed that, too.
She gradually came to understand from Dr. Whelan that she’d been in an accident. She wondered if she’d fallen, or if it had been in a car. He said something about a gunshot wound, broken ribs, and punctured lung. Fancifully, she wondered if she’d been trying to save the world. The white tiles of the ceiling mocked her with their emptiness. She understood most words now, even if she could not repeat them. Understood, finally, the cause of all the pain.
He smiled when she finally squeezed his hand.
“You’re in an acute rehabilitation center,” Dr. Whelan told her. “Part of a hospital in Seattle.”
She thought perhaps he’d told her that before. Yesterday, or a year ago. It was a place, she comprehended. Seattle was a city. In a state called….Washington. Funny, that she could remember that. She wondered if she belonged there. She wanted to ask why, what had happened, who she was. But the words came out as gibberish, a broken connection between brain and voice. This couldn’t be right. Couldn’t be real.
“It’s going to be okay,” Dr. Whelan said, and the sympathy in his eyes brought tears to her own. “You’ve had a traumatic brain injury… a TBI.” Three letters that would haunt her.
They took pictures of her for the TV and local newspapers. She caught her reflection in the lens of the camera… pale hair, gaunt face, large eyes. She didn’t recognize herself, but surely somebody else would.
Flowers and donations poured in from sympathetic strangers, but nobody called to claim her.
The physical therapists descended like locusts. They called her “Jane” and made her exercise her brain and body. Some of the routines seemed almost familiar. Her motor skills were good, they said, except for her right hand. It was sluggish, uncoordinated. They said it would improve with practice. Her memory might return with time. They worked with her on speaking, but the disconnect remained. An eloquence of thought was thwarted by a tongue and mouth that would not follow orders. She felt trapped inside her damaged mind, and the hollowness of it frightened her.
They taught her to button her shirt with one hand. They taught her to tie her shoes. Writing was more difficult. She had trouble holding the pen, and her hand shook uncontrollably. Her letters looked as though they’d been made by a child. A child with tremors. She was amazed the therapist could read them.
They taught her how to open cans and cook. They taught her to balance a checkbook. They tried to teach her how to use a calculator, but she didn’t need one. She seemed to be good with numbers. Very good. She did not seem to be good at cooking. Simple things were often hard. She could never remember how much shampoo to use.
They were as surprised as she was when she sat down at a computer and knew how to use it. It was easier to type than write with a pen. She could aim her right index finger to hit the keys. They were more impressed when she fixed a nurse's crashed computer. Eventually, they turned her loose on a broken PC, and the tech watched in bemusement as she fixed it left-handed… without specs. After that, her physical therapy often involved handling tools and typing. Screwdrivers were the hardest, but she managed to repair various electronic devices under the watchful supervision of the electrician. They speculated that she might have been an electrical engineer. Perhaps that explained why she could remember how to diagnose a circuit board, but not how to mash potatoes.
Her speech progressed slowly. She learned to form words. It was slow and painful and embarrassing. Eventually she was able to form short sentences, but she had to concentrate on each word. Often she forgot what she was trying to say. She dreaded speech therapy, hated having to try to talk. They said she might always have trouble with it, but told her she was lucky. Some people could not read, write, or understand speech at all. She did not feel lucky.
Social services helped her get clothes and a social security card. To the government, she was officially Jane Doe. The CIS department in the hospital hired her on a trial basis. Dr. Whelan helped her find a small apartment near the hospital and took her shopping for necessities. And then he took her to dinner. He didn’t mind that the conversation was one-sided. She didn’t mind the company.
“Jane, what are you doing?” Tony asked, looking over her shoulder. Tony was the computer tech assigned to train her.
She was finishing up a program that would simplify the hospital’s supply inventory record system, but her speech wasn’t good enough to explain that. She pushed her chair back so Tony could see for himself.
She fiddled with a pen while he stared at the screen in amazement, going through the demo she’d put together. For weeks she’d heard the nurses and therapists complaining about the system, so she’d done the fix in her spare time, out of sheer boredom. As a means to thank them for their time and help.
“Um…,” Tony said. “Is this what I think it is?”
Jane shrugged. She didn’t know what he thought it was.
“Wow. When did you do this?”
She shrugged again.
“Wow,” Tony repeated. “Dan’s gonna freak. They’ve been asking us to fix the bloody inventory program forever.”
Dan was the head of the department.
Tony looked at her seriously. “I don’t get it, Jane. Somebody out there has got to be missing you pretty bad.” He shook his head. “Not everyone can do this kind of stuff… you know that, don’t you?”
She looked away, blinking back tears. It was silly, really. How could she miss what she didn’t remember? What did she hope her past held for her… family, friends… a home? She had a new home, now, a new job. A friend in her neurologist. Perhaps she’d never had a family. An image flashed in her mind, of an older man on a bed, dying. Of cancer, she thought. In an instant, it was gone.
Perhaps her family was dead.
She was on her back under a desk, chasing cables and connections. She had another flash of memory, of a console… with crystals.
She shook her head. Crystal technology. It was the stuff of science fiction. So many of her so-called flashbacks were like that. Faces with glowing eyes, warriors in strange armor shooting blasts of energy from long staffs. Dr. Whelan had explained that head injuries could cause a wide and strange array of effects, but these odd hallucinations masquerading as memories were truly bizarre.
“I… rode… an… asteroid… through…the Earth,” Jane said, and was proud that it came out mostly intelligibly. The “asteroid” part had been hard to say, but he’d understood. John - Dr. Whelan - enjoyed hearing about her strange ‘memories,’ even when told as haltingly and slowly as she was forced to do. They tried to have dinner once a week, at least when his schedule allowed it.
“Your speech has really improved this month,” he noted.
Jane nodded. “Practice… makes… perfect,” she said, forming the words carefully.
They ate in silence for a while, something that they both were comfortable doing.
“Do you ever have any real memories?” he asked, chewing thoughtfully.
“Faces…” she said. “Uni..forms…” That was another tough word to get out.
“Uniforms,” he said in surprise. “Military uniforms?”
She shrugged. The memories were very vague. “Some… blue. Some… green.”
“I wonder if we should check with the military to see if they have any personnel missing who meet your description…”
She shrugged again.
“I could check with the military hospitals, anyway, I suppose.”
Jane knew that she’d been found wearing hospital scrubs in the car wreck. There had been no identification on her or in the car; and the car had been bearing false license plates.
“It might make sense,” he said, obviously thinking out loud. “Although, maybe that wouldn’t be such a good idea.”
Jane looked at him, raising her eyebrows in a question.
“Apparently there were some unusual drugs in your system when you were brought in,” he said. “And your blood work was… well… I’ve never seen anything quite like it.” He shook his head. “I know this probably sounds a bit paranoid, but maybe you were trying to escape from a military hospital…I mean, you had been shot.”
Jane tried to picture herself as a giant lab rat for some military experiment, tied down to a gurney… Her stomach turned suddenly, the image having turned frighteningly real. The fork fell from her hand, clattering loudly on her plate.
“Jane?” John asked, alarmed.
She shook her head.
“No exploding suns this time, I take it?”
She shook her head, taking a deep breath. The exploding sun had been a truly spectacular vision, especially since she had understood the physics behind it all… at least in her dream world. She swallowed, then smiled to let him know she was okay.
“Right, then,” he said. “I’ll skip the military hospitals.”
Brian, their network specialist, wore glasses, and she found herself oddly drawn to him for that reason. Certain gestures he made were somehow familiar, like the way he kept pushing them back up his nose. But his hair was the wrong color. It was an absurd thought, because he’d always had black hair. Of course, there were other people to whom she reacted similarly; such as the pediatric doctor on the third floor; a short, reddish-haired woman who Jane continually wanted to call Janet, although she had no idea what the woman’s first name really was. Dr. something Mullholland.
Janet. Janet must have had reddish hair, too. But damned if she could remember who Janet really was. And Brian should have had blonde hair. And Guss, the big black physical therapist who’d played football in college should have had a gold tattoo on his forehead. And a bald head.
She shook her head. No, Teek, as she called him, belonged to her dreams and bizarre waking memories. The ones with armored warriors and the bird-like spaceships and snake-like beings called goulds. But sometimes they seemed so real. She could almost taste the air of distant planets, feel the texture of a staff weapon in her hands. Her images of Teek were very vivid, very… alive. In her dreams he was her friend, her companion. He would die for her, and she for him.
She knew it was crazy, but she missed Teek. He was just a figment of her imagination, but she missed him with a physical ache that made her want to cry. God, how screwed up was she that her fantasy world seemed more real than her reality? She hated the thought that he was just a conjuration of her subconscious mind. He represented strength, and skill, and protection. But she wished she didn’t feel the need to be protected.
“Jane, you okay?” Brian asked.
She snapped back to the present. People had been asking her that a lot, lately. Probably because she’d been having a lot of extraordinarily strange daydreams. About a bad-guy named Apophis. Who flew around in an Egyptian pyramid.
Brian fiddled with his glasses.
“Daniel,” Jane said.
“Huh?” Brian asked, looking behind him to see if anyone was there.
“You… remind me… of …Daniel,” Jane said slowly.
Jane shook her head. She really wished she knew.
“So… I… really think… I’m… going… crazy,” Jane said, looking at John over her beer.
“Why do you say that?” he asked. It had been a busy couple of weeks at the hospital, so they hadn’t been to dinner in quite some time.
“These… dreams…” Jane said. “They … keep… getting… more … more real. And more… weird. Last night… I built… a na..quadah… reactor… in my… dreams.”
“What’s a naquadah reactor?”
“I don’t… know!” She set her beer glass down with a thunk. “But… I’ve got …the sche..matic for it… in my… head. Waking… head. Right now. I could…draw …a blueprint …for it.”
“Maybe you should, and then file for a patent,” he chuckled.
“Not… funny. Yesterday… I remembered… cutting a rope… and falling… through… a glowing…puddle of…water.”
“A glowing puddle of water?”
She nodded. “A… worm..hole.”
“You say you ‘remembered’ this?”
Jane nodded. “I wasn’t… asleep. I wasn’t… dreaming. They’re… getting… worse. Two days ago… I remembered… having …a conversation… with …a Roswell… alien… named… Thor.”
John laughed, then had the decency to look apologetic. “I’m sorry. But please, you’ve got to tell me… what exactly were you talking about?”
Jane grimaced. “Repli..cators…”
“And a replicator is…?”
“A big… metal… bug… I don’t …really… remember…” She shook her head, frustrated. “But… I think… they are …dangerous. I…kept… hoping… he… would say… my name.”
“Jane, I’m sorry, I really don’t know what to tell you. It’s not unusual to have some pretty strange hallucinations after the type of seizures caused by your TBI, but not this long afterwards. Perhaps you’re remembering some particularly powerful dreams or nightmares that you had prior to the accident.”
“It’s… not… fair,” Jane complained. “Why… can’t I… remember… something… practical… like… my name? Or… my address? No… instead… I remember… the… crystal… color code… pattern… needed… to fix… a DHD.”
Jane threw up her hands in frustration, sighing loudly.
“Listen, Jane, if you’re really worried, there’s a good psychiatrist on the sixth floor. His name is Dr. Mattox. I’ve worked with him before, and he knows what he’s doing. If you want, I’ll give you a referral.”
Jane shook her head. “Not yet,” she said.
The hospital’s maintenance supervisor had an office in a corner just inside the door of the main mechanical room in the sub-basement. Three sheetrock walls and a flimsy ceiling provided a little privacy from the roar of air handling units and other equipment in the mechanical room beyond. Jane had been sent to replace a computer that had been damaged during a steam leak.
The mechanical room was poorly lit, hot, loud, and contained a dizzying array of pipes, machines, and equipment. While the office provided a little shelter from the rest of the mechanical room, it was still warm enough to make Jane uncomfortable, and the noise, even with the office door closed, was a constant rumble in the background.
As she worked on installing the new computer, her mind drifted, thinking it was nice that there were no screams of agony coming from the room beyond. She paused. Screams of agony? She could hear them in her mind, smell the sulfur in the air, the scorching heat. Dark, hot, noisy.
A man’s face, saying "I'm gonna end up in hell sooner or later, might as well check out the neighborhood."
The images assaulted her.
A memory recall device inserted with a sharp pain to the temple, memories of making chocolate chip cookies, her father crying…Jolinar… faces, fragments of thoughts and feelings, torture, a man with glowing eyes, hard to breathe… A fiery red moon and a frightening decent in something like…a coffin…the stench of sulfur, sweat, and filth, and the searing heat of rivers of lava, lungs burning, screams of the damned, a man with a mutilated eye oozing puss, the mangled face of Apophis, the sound of a staff weapon charging at the back of her head, the hope of a near escape thwarted, the Blood of Sokar forced down her throat… earthquakes…explosions…heat and thirst…
Her father dying in her arms.
“Don’t make me have to explain this to them.”
The maintenance supervisor found her curled in a ball on the floor of his office an hour later, crying.
The room was white with no sharp edges.
Dr. Mattox was kind, with dark eyes, graying hair, and a sad smile. He told her she’d had “an episode.” He asked if her name was Jolinar.
She shook her head. Her name was Jane. Jolinar, of course, had been a Tok’ra. An alien, wrapped like a snake around her cerebral spinal cord…who’d been killed by an ashrak. Leaving a thousand years worth of memories in her head.
Jane hugged her knees and started laughing, knowing the lunacy of it, knowing that if she told Dr. Mattox, they’d never let her out of the white room.
He continued to ask her questions about her memories. She continued to refuse to answer.
Eventually, he left.
She didn’t need to check to know that the door wouldn’t open if she tried it.
She didn’t need to know that the fogginess in her mind was caused by drugs.
She wished Teek would come and rescue her, blowing open the door with a staff weapon to take her… home. Wherever that was.
She wished Daniel would come hold her hand and talk to her. Whatever it was they talked about.
She looked at the sterile white walls. It wasn’t Netu, but here she was alone. Totally alone.
That made it worse than hell.
“Hey, Jane,” Dr. Whelan said. She hated the pity in his eyes.
“I want to …go back to work,” she said, hugging her knees.
“I’m sorry. Dr. Mattox thinks you may still be… at risk. You need to stay here for a little while.”
“Sir, with all due respect, I feel fine…” she remembered saying.
“…Until Dr. Fraiser advises otherwise, I’m ordering you to take it easy,” a bald man in a uniform said.
“Take it easy?” she asked incredulously, turning to another man for support.
“Yeah, you’ve been a little tense,” the other man said. He was tall, with dark eyes and graying temples.
“Tense? Me? I’m not tense… Am I?” She looked around. “When did you first notice?”
“As we met,” he said, emphasizing each word.
“I’ve always just thought of myself as very… focused.”
“It’s called working too hard. You’re going to crash and burn.”
Dr. Whelan sighed. “Are you still having hallucinations?”
She didn’t answer. She wanted to remember the men’s names. She thought they had been important to her.
“When they found you in the basement, you weren’t making much sense, Jane. You could have hurt yourself or someone else. As it was, you clocked a couple of the people trying to get you on the gurney. You had to be restrained. I don’t want to sound discouraging, but this episode demonstrates that you aren’t really fine, and I think you need help.”
Jane was silent.
“Dr. Mattox wants to start you on some antipsychotic medication. We’re hoping that they will get rid of these hallucinations you’re having. Maybe they will help you get some of your real memories back.”
She wanted to argue with him. They weren’t really like hallucinations. They had the same dreamlike quality to them that memories did. “Maybe… these… are… my real memories.”
Dr. Whelan was quiet for a moment. “Aliens named Thor? Astroids passing through the earth? In the basement you said you were trapped on a moon called Netu created by somebody called Sokar, and you were trying to escape. Do those really sound like plausible memories to you?”
She swallowed. Part of her knew that he was right. Such things couldn’t be true in the world as she knew it was supposed to be. “But they seem so detailed…” she whispered, the tears misting her vision as she looked away from him.
“Schizophrenic hallucinations may seem very real to the person experiencing them.”
Jane looked back at him sharply. “You think I’m…schizophrenic?”
“Well, this isn’t a typical presentation, but I think it’s possible, yes. It would explain certain things.”
“I just came from a psychological evaluation. Do you understand what that means?” she asked.
“They think you’re crazy,” the man replied.
Orlin. An alien. In her living room. And she remembered not knowing the answer to her question, then. Not for certain.
John shook his head. “I hate that word. Schizophrenia is a very real, very treatable illness. The antipsychotic medication should help.”
“Do I have to… stay here?”
“I think it would be best. At least until you start to show signs of improvement.” He took her hand and squeezed it. “You won’t be here long, Jane. I promise. Just long enough to ensure you’re safe and well.”
“How will you… know?”
“Well, if the medication works, the hallucinations will stop. You should be able to differentiate between what is real and what is not. But you need to be honest with Dr. Mattox… tell him what’s going on in that mind of yours. That’s the best way for him to evaluate your progress. You have to trust him.”
“I trust you.”
He smiled as if that meant something to him. “I’m glad. But you need to trust him, too. He’s good, Jane. Really. He’s only trying to help you.”
“Okay.” She would try for John.
Dr. Fraiser was Janet. Short, red-haired, feisty. Staring at the white ceiling in her room at night, she remembered Janet’s face. She remembered trusting Janet with her life. She remembered that Janet had saved her life. More than once. But not how, or why. Or where. She wished Janet were here, supervising her treatment. The nurses complained that she didn’t react properly to the medications she was given. It was true, she supposed. She knew she wasn’t supposed be awake this time of night. Sedatives, apparently, had very little effect upon her.
She tried to remember the name of the man with the gray temples. Colonel. Colonel something. The Colonel. Her Colonel.
Teek shouting a warning, “O’Neill!”
Janet Fraiser and Colonel O’Neill. The names were like a balm to her troubled soul.
Dr. Mattox kept asking if she had suicidal thoughts. She kept telling him “no.” He seemed skeptical. Sometimes, she had murderous thoughts. There were times when she wanted to throttle him. But she did not tell him this. She did not tell him that she remembered being taught to maim and disable attackers. She did not tell him about shooting Jaffa with her P-90. She did not tell him that she could easily overpower anyone on the psych ward floor if she so desired. She did not want him to think she was dangerous. But she knew she could be.
He kept asking if she remembered more things. She told him, honestly, “yes.” Every day there were more memories. A brother named Mark, a mother who had died. She thought, probably, those had been real. She had more visions of the man who’d been dying of cancer. He’d been possessed by a gould and tortured in hell. She thought those had not been real.
Dr. Mattox asked about Jolinar. She wanted to avoid it. The name was an anchor to drag her into madness. All thoughts of Jolinar were tied to pain and anguish… fear and loss. Demon possessed… Tortured. Sex with a monster named Binar. Martouf lying bleeding from too many bullets, dead by her hand…
No, no…. she couldn’t remember that. Couldn’t. Wouldn’t. Didn’t want to. Martouf! She loved him, didn’t she? No, no, it was Jolinar… Jolinar! But Martouf was dead, she’d killed him, not Jolinar… Oh God, she’d killed him! Killed him and Lantash too!
She didn’t realize she’d been crying until the nurse came with a syringe. Dr. Mattox stayed with her until she finally fell asleep.
Her moments of greatest clarity seemed to come at night, staring at the white ceiling, a blank slate on which to write her memories.
She remembered working equations on a chalkboard. She remembered writing a doctoral thesis, but not its title. Sometimes she dreamed in numbers and formulas, the mathematics of wormhole theory. She remembered classrooms and blue uniforms, saluting her instructors.
At… the Air Force Academy. In Colorado Springs.
For the first time, she remembered a place.
The antipsychotics weren’t working. Her medications left her dopey and unable to think, but the strange memories were relentless.
Daniel, burning in flames.
“Oh God, we left him behind!” She remembered the horror of that realization.
“We don’t leave our people behind,” the Colonel said.
He'd said it more often than once, she thought.
They were a team, Daniel Jackson, Colonel O’Neill, she, and Teek. And they didn’t leave each other behind. They’d gone back for Daniel. To another world, to find him. Another world, another alien. But they’d brought him back.
He wasn’t dead. Daniel was alive. And they didn’t leave their people behind. They were a team. Closer than close. They would die for each other. They loved each other.
Tony’s words, “Somebody out there has got to be missing you pretty bad.”
So why was she here alone?
She couldn’t stop the tears. Dr. Mattox was frustrated, she knew. She’d lost her appetite and her sense of time and space. She despaired of ever being better, sane. So many of her ‘memories’ were disturbing. Jumbled, bizarre, painful. She felt like she was losing herself, what little sense of self she’d gained. With each new memory, she felt herself slipping…how could she feel such loyalty and love for people who… flew around in spaceships? How could she feel such strong attachment to a man with a snake in his stomach?
In a rare moment of lucidity, she knew she had to find them. She had to find them, or she really would go mad.
As she knew it would be, it was easy to break out of the ward. It was harder to get to Colorado Springs. She had no car, and not a lot of money. She didn’t have a driver’s license due to the fact that she was on antiseizure medication, and she hadn’t bothered to apply for any credit cards. But she was fairly certain she remembered how to drive. So, she picked the lock on John's office door (also easy) and left him a note. She took the keys to his SUV, hoping he’d understand that this was something she had to do. She didn’t tell him where she was going. She promised to come back.
Unsure if she was being hunted by the police for stealing John’s vehicle, she took a circuitous route to Colorado. Her money went for gas, almost none for food. After she arrived, she spent an afternoon at the Air Force Academy, at the public overlook, watching the cadets go to and forth. It looked so familiar, felt so right. But she saw no familiar faces. Eventually, she would go ask… ask if anyone knew her, remembered her, but something else was haunting her. She had to check it first.
She tried not to think where she was driving, just drove, and found herself on a road climbing toward a mountain. There were signs for a military installation, and eventually a guarded gate. She turned around before she reached the gate. At the closest service station an attendant told her the road led to Cheyenne Mountain. The name made her head spin. Deep space radar telemetry. Stargate. Something told her that the attendant would never have heard of the Stargate.
From the mountain she put her mind in neutral and drove to a house. The yard was overgrown, the garden full of weeds. Two papers lay decomposing on the porch. The curtains were drawn. The mailbox was empty. She thought it might have been abandoned for over a year. The door was locked. But it did not look as familiar as the Air Force Academy.
She slept in the SUV in front of the house, almost hoping to be discovered by a neighbor. She had no such luck. Before the break of dawn, hunger and a stiff neck drove her to another convenience store. She washed her face in the bathroom and ate a donut for breakfast. She asked to see a phone directory. There were more than one O’Neills and O’Neils, but none indicating military rank. There were no Teeks or Daniel Jacksons. It occurred to her that maybe she had imagined them after all.
“Are you all right, m’am?” the attendant asked.
She wiped the tears from her face and shook her head. She missed her team. She missed Janet.
She flipped to the Fs, staring when she found the entry: Fraiser, Janet, MD. She read it again. And again.
Maybe Janet Fraiser was real. Maybe…She suppressed a surge of hope. “Do you… have a pen?” she asked. She still had trouble speaking when she was upset or emotional. She didn’t trust her voice to speak over the phone, so she wrote down the address. The attendant gave her directions, and she thanked him for his help.
It was still early when she arrived at the house. A car was in the driveway. A light was on inside.
She sat in the car and waited, too terrified to go to the door. It wasn’t right to knock on someone’s door at 6am. What if the woman didn’t recognize her?
What if she did?
She leaned her head against the steering wheel, shaking. Eventually movement caught her attention… the front door opening.
Even in the silver light of dawn, the woman was a vision from her dreams, short, reddish-haired… thoroughly familiar. Jane could have wept in relief. She pushed open her car door, stood on wobbling legs.
The woman was unlocking her car as Jane stumbled around to the other side of the SUV. “Excuse… m-me,” she stammered.
The woman looked up, startled, then her eyes flew open wide.
Jane wasn’t sure how to interpret the other woman’s startled expression. She had hoped for recognition, saw something more akin to fear. Suddenly she felt like a stalker.
Keys fell to the pavement. “Sam?” the woman asked.
Jane swallowed. “Do you…know me?” she managed.
“Oh my God, Sam,” the woman said, stepping forward quickly. “Is it really you?”
Jane smiled wryly. “I wish… I knew,” she said. “I don’t… remember.”
Janet stopped in front of her, looked up into her eyes. “Amnesia?” she asked, frowning.
“How did you find me?”
“You remembered my name?”
Janet smiled. “What else do you remember?”
Jane grimaced. “Crazy stuff…insanity.” Janet was a doctor. Like John Whelan, but with knowledge of who she was, who she had been. “Stargates. Please… can you… help me?”
“Oh, Sam.” To her surprise, Janet smiled compassionately and touched her arm. “You look terrible. Come on inside. I’ll call General Hammond.”
“That name is familiar…” The bald man?
“Your boss.” Janet guided her to the house with a hand on her shoulder.
“I’m in… the military?” Jane asked.
Janet nodded, going to retrieve her fallen keys in the driveway.
“I thought so…”
Janet unlocked the door and led Jane inside.
“Mom?” someone asked from a back room.
“It’s just me,” Janet called. “Do you remember Cassie?” she asked Jane.
Jane had an image of a young girl, frightened, surrounded by concrete, waiting to die. Waiting to explode. More craziness. She shook her head. A girl turned into a bomb. What kind of a sick imagination did she have? All that death and destruction. Centuries of fighting the gould. A moon called Netu. Stuck in Hell. “Is my name… Jolinar?” she asked.
Janet froze. “No,” she finally said. “Your name is Samantha Carter.”
Samantha Carter. Samantha Carter. Sam. Carter. Yes, that sounded right. “Colonel O’Neill? Daniel Jackson? Teek? They’re real?”
Janet smiled. “Very. But it’s Teal’c, not Teek.”
Sam buried her face in her hands. Her team was real. Real. No matter the other insanity, the darkness, the nightmares… the people she loved were real. She burst into tears, and Janet held her while she cried herself into an exhausted sleep.
She woke to concrete walls and a dull gray ceiling.
“Hey,” Janet said beside her.
“We moved you to the infirmary. Under Cheyenne Mountain.”
“I don’t… remember coming here.”
“You were pretty out of it. You’ve been asleep for the better part of a day.”
“Am I ill?” Jane asked, looking at the IV attached to the back of her hand.
“Exhausted, dehydrated, with a serious electrolyte imbalance. Probably a few vitamin deficiencies, too, but I’m still waiting to get the test results back on those. When was the last time you ate a decent meal? It didn’t help that you quit your meds cold-turkey. You really should come off the antipsychotics slowly.”
“They… weren’t helping.”
Janet nodded. “Probably because you aren’t really schizophrenic.”
Jane snorted. “I’m not…right…either…” she said softly.
“You’re just getting your memories back.”
Jane shook her head. “That’s just it… they’re not… real…”
Janet smiled. “Let me guess – aliens, spaceships, and wormholes?”
Janet touched her cheek, gently. “You’re not crazy, Sam. Trust me, okay?”
Samantha Carter. Her name was Samantha Carter. And she was not crazy. But she had to be crazy. Little gray aliens named Thor. Annoying aliens named Urgo. The alien in her living room named Orlin. Homicidal aliens named Hathor and Apophis. Flying pyramids. Exploding suns. She knew these were the things of bad science fiction, not reality. “What’s a DHD?” she asked.
Janet chuckled. “Sleep if you can, Sam. You need the rest. And I need the time to get your body chemistry back to normal. We’ll answer all your questions tomorrow when you’re a little stronger and feeling better.”
“I feel okay…” Jane said.
Janet touched her shoulder. “Sam, I know better.”
Jane blinked back tears. Janet understood her. Knew her. “I have nightmares…” she said.
“I can only imagine,” Janet sighed. “Tell you what. I’ll give you a sedative to help with the dreams.” She left, and then returned with a pill cup and a glass of water. “Here you go.”
Sam stared at them, hating that she had to take more drugs. But she’d rather take the drugs than have the nightmares. “I missed you, Janet.”
Janet touched Jane’s cheek. “I missed you too, Sam. I’m so glad you found your way back to us.”
Jane swallowed the pills dutifully.
Janet squeezed Jane’s hand. “SG-1 will be back tomorrow. Jack, Daniel, and Teal’c will be very happy to see you. They were frantic when you disappeared.”
“My team?” Jane asked, feeling drowsy already.
Janet nodded. “Your team.”
Jane slept and did not dream.
She woke to the sound of voices. She opened her eyes slowly, trying to remember where she was. Gray ceiling. Concrete walls. The SGC infirmary.
“Hey, Sam,” a quiet voice said.
When she turned her head, she was greeted by a face crinkled with barely concealed joy. A finger pushed mud-spotted glasses up a nose.
Joy, no longer concealed. Contagious delight. God, how she’d missed that smile.
“Ahem,” someone cleared his throat.
She turned her head to the other side of the bed. Two men were there, both tall, one smiling hesitantly, one not. A gold tattoo. “Teal’c…!”
The big man nodded, looking pleased despite a lack of smile.
“Ahem,” the other man said again, impatiently. He cocked his head to the side expectantly.
Jane smiled. She remembered his first name. “Jack.”
He quirked an eyebrow, then grinned. “There’s no place like home, huh, Dorothy?”
Jane frowned. “I thought… my name was… Sam.”
“Oh… it is,” Daniel said hurriedly. “He… he was just making a reference to ‘The Wizard of Oz’… you know… the movie. In the last scene, Dorothy wakes up, and she sees the three farm hands…” He pointed at Jack. “Jack’s like the tin man, I could be scarecrow, and Teal’c is obviously the cowardly lion.”
Teal’c frowned. “I am not a coward, Daniel Jackson.”
“No, no, of course not, Teal’c,” Daniel said, “I’m just explaining the movie… the cowardly lion doesn’t end up being cowardly, anyway… With as many Oz references as Jack makes, you really need to watch it sometime, you know?”
“There’s no place like home,” Jane smiled.
Three chairs were drawn up beside the bed. The men were muddy and obviously tired, but something told Jane they weren’t about to leave her side anytime soon. She was warmed by their presence. She felt safe… truly safe…perhaps for the first time since waking after the accident with a blank slate for a memory. It was just so… right.
“So, Sam,” Jack began. “Doc wants us to find out how much you remember about this place.”
“Fraiser. Doc Fraiser. Janet. You know, short Napoleonic power monger.”
Jane smiled at the description, then swallowed. She was afraid to tell them everything, despite how comfortable she felt with them. The horror of being committed to the psych ward was all too fresh in her mind. So she let her eyes drift around the infirmary, hoping to remember something safe… safe and sane. “I’ve spent a lot of time… in here, haven’t I?” Even the discolorations of the concrete looked vaguely familiar. She felt a strong association with boredom.
Jack nodded encouragingly. “Yeah, ’fraid so.”
“Janet… has a thing… for needles…” she remembered.
Daniel laughed. Jack chuckled. Teal’c looked smug.
“You got that right,” Jack said.
There was something about his eyes and his smile that twisted her heart. A familiarity so deep and so strong it threatened to take her breath away. “It was cold… you broke your leg… you were bleeding internally…”
Jack tilted his head, but said nothing.
There was more… despair… frustration. She couldn’t get the DHD to work. Couldn’t save him… them. She closed her eyes, trying to remember. “What the hell is a DHD?”
Daniel coughed into his hand, sounding suspiciously like he was covering a laugh. Teal’c raised an eyebrow.
Jack’s eyes twinkled. “Dial-Home Device.”
Yes, yes, of course! Dial-home device. But dialing what…. Why? No… no, that way lay madness, like balancing on the edge of a knife. She couldn’t let herself fall off the straight and narrow into that whirlpool of insanity.
Jack must have seen her brief flash of panic because he took her hand, gently rubbing his thumb across her skin in slow circles. “Do you remember what SG stands for?” With his other hand, he pointed to a patch on his uniform. The letters SG were embroidered over a large number 1.
SG-1. Her team. SG. Star gate. “Stargate,” she whispered. The glowing pool of light. Wormholes to other worlds. Aliens. An invisible entity coming to defend its world, possessing her body through a keyboard. Her mind, shoved forcibly into nothingness, a void of sight, sound, and senses. Nothingness, nothingness, nothingness, nothingness, no sight, no sound, no touch, no taste, no hearing…only thought… “I’m here, I’m here, I’m here…!”
“Sam! Sam!” Hands were on her shoulders.
She was curled up on the bed in a fetal position, shaking. “I’m here…I’m here…”
Janet’s voice, soft, soothing. “It’s all right, Sam. You’re safe. It’s okay.” Gentle hands stroked her hair, her back, her legs.
“Why don’t you three go get washed up,” Janet said after a moment. “Report back for your post-mission check-up when you’re done.”
There were mumblings and mutterings, but Jane heard retreating footsteps. Gradually she began to relax.
“Better?” Janet asked.
Jane shook her head, still hugging her knees. “I’m so screwed up…”
She heard Janet sigh. “I spoke at length with Dr. Mattox and Dr. Whelan yesterday.”
Jane opened her eyes in surprise. “How…?”
Janet was watching her closely. “You were still wearing your hospital ID bracelet. They were both very relieved to hear you were okay.”
Jane covered her face, humiliated. Janet knew she’d been committed to the psych ward. “Please…” she whispered. “I don’t want to go back… I promise I won’t try to hurt myself or anyone else…”
There was a long silence, then the sound of a chair being pulled closer to the bed.
“Sam, sweetheart, there’s no chance we’ll send you back to Seattle. This is where you belong. And I’ll keep telling this to you until you believe me, but you aren’t schizophrenic.”
“You don’t know…”
“I do know.”
Jane opened her eyes. Janet looked very certain of herself.
But she didn’t know.
“You were just remembering being possessed by an EM entity from another world,” Janet said. “It forced your consciousness into our computer system. You kept shouting, ‘I’m here, I’m here,’ until Daniel figured out what had happened, and we helped you return to your body. Right?”
Jane stared, disbelieving.
Janet smiled. “I do know, Sam. And it’s going to take some time to adjust, but you’re going to be just fine.”
It was impossible. “Are you real? Is this real?” Maybe she was still back in Seattle, having a bad reaction to a cocktail of antidepressants, antipsychotics, and antiseizure medications. Maybe she’d wake up to white padded walls and a less-than-real feeling drug-induced stupor.
Janet squeezed her hand. “Yes. It’s very real. These strange memories you’re having; it’s understandable they’re throwing you for a loop since they’re coming back to you sporadically. You have no frame of reference, no context in which to place them and subsequently deal with them. But Sam, the more you remember, the better you’ll be able to handle them. Based on what I heard from your doctors in Seattle, your memories are coming back in full… just in piecemeal order.”
“I don’t know what to believe… anymore. It’s all… so… confusing.”
“The truth is pretty unbelievable.”
Jane unfolded herself, rolling over to stare at the ceiling. “My name… is Samantha Carter.”
“But I still think of myself… as Jane.”
“I’m not surprised. That’s been your name for over a year.”
“I’m in… the Air Force.”
“I fly… planes…?” And spaceships?
“I’m an… as..tro..physicist?” She stumbled over the word. It was a new one for her, and a new revelation. Could it be true?
“Does that mean… I’m smart?”
Janet laughed. “Yeah, I’d say so.”
Of course, she’d suffered a TBI in the accident. Which meant she might not be so smart anymore. She didn’t feel very smart. She still had trouble doing the laundry. In Seattle, she had a drawer full of pink socks to prove it. Had Dr. Whelan told Janet about the accident? About ten months of speech and physical therapy? As if any good doctor wouldn’t have already noticed her stunted speech. “I work for the SGC… Stargate Command…” Another revelation.
“I go through… the Stargate… on missions?”
Jane shook her head. “See, that’s where… I start… to lose it…”
“I can understand that,” Colonel O’Neill said, walking into the infirmary. He was wearing a comfortable looking blue uniform, and his hair was still slightly damp. “You have to be a little crazy to do what we do.”
“That was quick, Colonel,” Janet said, giving him a disapproving look.
“Master of the one-minute shower,” he said with a flourish. He sat down beside Janet.
“Colonel.” Jane repeated the title thoughtfully. “I don’t…usually call you… Jack…do I?”
She thought his smile might be tinged with sadness. “No, you don’t. I’m usually ‘sir,’ or ‘Colonel.’ Or, when you’re particularly upset with me, ‘Colonel, sir.’”
Jane smiled. She liked his sense of humor.
“Sam,” Janet said, “If you’ll excuse us for a minute, I’d like to give Colonel O’Neill his post-mission check-up.” Another nurse appeared, carrying needles and several vials.
“Big honkin’ needles…” the Colonel winked at her, pointing.
Teal’c and Daniel entered a few minutes after Janet led the Colonel to another bed and pulled a curtain around it.
“Hey, Sam,” Daniel smiled, taking Janet’s vacated seat. Teal’c inclined his head in greeting and also took a seat.
“S-sorry I came… unglued,” Jane apologized.
“It’s okay,” Daniel said. “It’s… understandable, I think… given what Janet has told us… I mean… gosh… it’s a lot of strange stuff to remember all at once, without a decent frame of reference.”
“The five years you worked for this organization were filled with traumatic experiences that must surely be uncomfortable and unpleasant to remember. It is no surprise that you are having a difficult time adjusting to those memories,” Teal’c said.
“You talk…just like I…remember,” Jane smiled.
“My speech patterns have not changed,” Teal’c agreed.
“Next!” Janet said from behind the curtain.
The Colonel emerged, rubbing his butt. “Your turn, Danny-boy.”
Daniel gave Jane an exaggerated grimace.
The Colonel sat down in his seat. “One of the joys of the job,” he said. “Janet’s probing pokes and prods.”
“I heard that,” Janet said.
“Of course you did,” the Colonel said. He leaned towards Jane. “Ears like a bat,” he whispered.
“I heard that, too,” Janet said.
Jane couldn’t help herself. She chuckled. “I missed this,” she said wonderingly. Sure, the guys in the CIS department had their own banter and inside jokes, but they’d never really included her. “I missed you all. Even when… I couldn’t remember you.”
“Naturally,” the Colonel smiled.
“We are like family,” Teal’c said.
“A slightly dysfunctional family,” Daniel said from behind the curtain. “But it’s incredibly great to have you back with us, Sam. Maybe you can stop Jack and me from trying to kill each other on missions, now.”
“Okay, Daniel, you’re done,” Janet said. “Keep an eye on that cut for any signs of redness or tenderness. You know the drill. Use your antibiotic cream on it when you replace the bandage in the morning.”
The curtain was pulled back, and both Janet and Daniel came back towards Jane’s bed while the nurse carried the vials away. Janet stopped beside Teal’c, palpating his neck and checking his lungs and heartbeat.
“I feel fine, Dr. Fraiser,” Teal’c assured her.
Janet nodded. “So, Sam, how would you like an early lunch in the commissary? Do you feel up to a short tour of the facility? General Hammond approved it.”
“Sure,” she said. She wasn’t really hungry, but she did want to see more of her former workplace.
Janet drew the curtain around her bed and shooed the men away. “I’ve got some clean fatigues for you, here. Why don’t you get changed?”
The clothes were comfortable, and the hallways familiar. She thought she might even be able to find the commissary on her own, given the proper access and enough time. Several people did double takes when they saw her. Jane smiled at them shyly, not remembering their names. Daniel, Colonel O’Neill, and Janet continued their lighthearted banter as they made their way to the commissary.
Their arrival was met by startled whispers. She followed the Colonel through the food line self-consciously. In the dessert section she paused in front of the Jello, trying to decide between red and blue. She started to go for the red, then changed her mind. As she set the cup of blue Jello down on her tray, she became uncomfortably aware of four sets of eyes watching her closely. “Is… something wrong…with the Jello?” she asked, frowning.
Colonel O’Neill grinned broadly. “Nope. Nothing at all. In fact, it’s perfect.”
“I like blue Jello,” she said.
“We know,” Janet and Daniel both said. Daniel grinned.
“Oh,” she said. She hadn’t known it was a preference that predated the accident. She also realized that they were studying her for familiar traits as much as she was studying them. She wondered how much she’d changed from the Samantha Carter they’d known. She found the thought disquieting. Perhaps they wouldn’t like her, now.
At least she’d gotten the Jello right.
The five of them sat at a table together and ate in silence for several minutes. Jane still didn’t have much of an appetite and pushed her food around her plate.
“So, Sam,” Daniel began. “Do you remember anything about how you wound up in Seattle?”
She shook her head slowly. “I woke up…in a hospital. I had a… head injury. I didn’t remember anything. Later, Dr. Whelan… my neurologist… told me I’d been found… in a car wreck. I’d been shot…in the shoulder. He thought… maybe… I’d passed out from blood loss… while driving. He also said they’d found drugs… in my system.”
“What kind of drugs?” Daniel asked.
“Sedatives. And other… unusual things… he never explained that, though.”
“There are some unique properties to your blood,” Janet said, exchanging a look with the Colonel. “I’m sure that’s just one of many reasons why Dr. Whelan found your case so fascinating. According to him, you had enough chloral hydrate in your system that you shouldn’t have been conscious enough to drive at all, much less with a gunshot wound.”
“Didn’t the police try to trace the car?” the Colonel asked.
Jane nodded. “It was an unmarked white van... They tried… but there was no ID on me… or in the van.”
“It must have been the NID,” Daniel said.
The Colonel shook his head. “I don’t think so. Remember, we pursued that angle pretty thoroughly through both official and unofficial channels. It may have been a rogue element, of course, but we may never know the truth of it. Apparently, they gave up after you escaped, Sam, or they would have tracked you down at the hospital in Seattle. I’m just sorry we didn’t find you. We tried, but we had no idea where to look. You disappeared one Saturday without a trace. We found your abandoned car near your gym, but there were no indications as to what happened.”
“I know you did your best…sir,” Jane said. The “sir” felt right. Based on the smiles of the others, they agreed.
“It is indeed good to have you back, Major Carter,” Teal’c said.
“Major?” Jane asked in surprise. “I’m a… Major?”
“Yep,” Colonel grinned. “And bucking for a promotion with every save of the planet.”
She stared at him, wondering what he meant. She was a Major in the U.S. Air Force, and an astrophysicist, not an engineer. It made her dizzy to think about.
“Sam, eat your lunch,” Janet said.
Jane looked at her, wondering if the woman could possibly have detected that brief bout of dizziness.
“My orders, too,” Colonel O’Neill said.
Jane looked at her untouched plate. “I’m not hungry.”
“You’re seriously underweight,” Janet said. “And you look like you’re about to fall out on us again. Eat.”
“Do not force me to feed you with a spoon,” Teal’c said.
“I’ll help him,” Daniel threatened, waving one for emphasis.
“Two words of warning, Sam,” Janet said. “Feeding tube.”
“Okay, okay,” Jane laughed, picking up her fork. It was nice that they cared enough about her to threaten her. It felt good. Really good. She swallowed a bite of mashed potatoes. “Yum…” she grinned through a full mouth.
Janet nodded approvingly.
General Hammond met them as they were leaving the commissary. Jane recognized him even before Janet introduced him.
“Major Carter, it is good to see you again,” the General said warmly.
“It’s good to be here… sir,” she said, returning his smile.
“Doctor Fraiser has informed me that we might be able to assist the return of your memories by showing you around the facility.”
“Yes, sir. Everything I’ve seen so far… looks very… familiar. It does seem to trigger… memories. ”
“I’m pleased to hear that,” General Hammond said. “We’d like to get you back to work as soon as possible.” He glanced at Dr. Fraiser, who nodded at his unspoken question. “Perhaps you’d like to see the embarkation room, then?”
Embarkation room? The name sent a thrill of excitement through her body. “Yes, sir!”
Everyone grinned at the enthusiasm in her voice.
With a whoosh, the vortex shot out of the circle, then settled back into the glowing pool from her dreams.
The Stargate. It was real. Jane fell to her knees before anyone could catch her.
“Sam?” Janet asked, kneeling in front of her.
“It’s real,” she whispered.
“Yes,” Janet said.
“It’s really real.”
“An Asgard,” Colonel O’Neill said. “Very real. Very cool.”
“Nasty metal bugs,” the Colonel said.
“A parasite who is not a god,” Teal’c said.
Jane choked on a laugh that bordered on hysteria. “A gould?”
“Goa’uld, actually,” Daniel said, correcting her pronunciation. “Unpleasant snakey-things that attach themselves to their host’s brainstem.”
“We rode… an asteroid… through the Earth?”
“Your idea, actually,” O’Neill said.
“We…blew up… a sun?”
“Another of your ideas,” the Colonel said.
“Spaceships shaped like… pyramids?”
“Goa’uld motherships,” Teal’c said.
“Netu? The blood of Sokar?”
“Ah,” the Colonel said, “more unpleasantness… but unfortunately very real.”
“Sold as a slave in a… Mongolian… culture?”
“Not really a slave, exactly,” Daniel hedged, “but close enough.”
“One of your lovely inventions.”
“My father… didn’t die of cancer…?”
“No,” General Hammond said. “I’ve sent a message to him, as a matter of fact. Hopefully, you’ll get to see him soon.”
Jane looked up at the General. “He’s coming here?” Her father was alive!
He nodded somberly.
“It’s all real?” A general wouldn’t lie, would he?
“They’re your memories, Sam,” Janet said. “Not hallucinations. Not dreams. Not imaginings.”
She took a deep breath, trying to process it all. Her name was Samantha Carter. She was a Major in the U.S. Air Force. She wasn’t crazy. She’d helped save the world. She was a scientist, and a soldier, and she had a father named Jacob, a brother named Mark, and teammates who loved her.
There was more to it, she knew. Memories of torture and murder, of Jolinar, and the Tok’ra… things that still didn’t make much sense. But she pushed them aside for the moment; their darkness frightened her, threatened to destroy the fragile balance that she was gaining.
She held her hand out to Teal’c, and he helped her to her feet.
“Wow,” she said.
“Wow, indeed,” Daniel agreed.
Samantha Carter smiled, knowing that, just as Janet promised, she was going to be all right.
She parked John’s SUV in his reserved spot at the hospital. Getting out, she smoothed the wrinkles out of her dress blues.
The Colonel’s pickup pulled up as she started towards the hospital entrance. He rolled down his window. “You sure you want to go alone?” he asked.
She nodded. “Yeah.”
“Well, I’ll be over there playing my gameboy,” he pointed at an empty parking space across the lot, “When you’re done.”
“Thank you, sir,” she said.
“Take your time, Carter. I know you’ve got a lot of people you want to say good-bye to.”
She smiled, grateful that he understood. Or, maybe he was just happy not to be helping Teal’c and Daniel pack up the rest of her few belongings in her apartment. Of course, he’d wrenched his elbow during the mission to round up the Goa’uld posing as Adrian Conrad the day before, so perhaps he had a legitimate excuse.
She first stopped at the CIS office. Tony was manning the help desk, and he looked up as she entered. His jaw dropped.
“Hey Tony,” she said.
She smiled. “Actually, my name is Sam,” she said.
He looked delighted. “My god, you look… great. You’re in the army?”
“You’re an engineer?”
Sam raised an eyebrow, questioning.
Tony blushed. “We had a betting pool going… Uh… I bet you’d been an electrical engineer…”
“What… did everyone else think?” Sam asked, amused.
“Well, Brian thought you’d been into computer programming. I don’t think anyone guessed physics, though. Or the Air Force!”
“Is Dan in?” she asked, nodding in the direction of her former boss’s office.
“Yeah, he’ll be surprised to see you.”
“I wanted to thank him for… taking a chance on… hiring me. I also wanted to thank you… for helping me.”
Tony stood up and gave her a hug. “I told you somebody was missing you,” he whispered in her ear.
“Thank you, Tony,” she said.
The staff in the rehab center was equally thrilled to see her, and very excited by her progress in both her memory and the coordination in her right hand. She would probably never qualify as a sniper again, but she delighted her former therapists by neatly writing out her real name with a pen on a small notepad. Amid congratulations, somebody took her picture… visual evidence of a success story, she suspected. Something to show despairing new patients. She didn’t mind a bit. She owed these people her life. She felt a little guilty that the Air Force had insisted that they turn over her medical records. After much laughter and a few tears, she collected her files and went to find Dr. Whelan.
He was expecting her… she’d made an appointment in advance. She saw the surprise in his eyes at the sight of her uniform when she walked in.
Sheepishly, she held out his keys. “Thanks for not calling the police,” she said.
He took them with a chuckle. “Who says I didn’t?”
Her eyes widened.
“I called off the search after Dr. Fraiser called,” he shrugged. “Dr. Mattox and I were worried.”
There was a moment of awkward silence. “How are you doing?” he finally asked.
Sam smiled. “Really well. There are still a few holes… in my memory, but most of it… has come back.”
“Are they treating you well?” John asked, gesturing at her uniform.
“Very. The Air Force is my life.”
He smiled. “So… what exactly do you do for them?”
“I’m an astrophysicist. I work in… deep-space radar telemetry.”
He laughed. “You’re teasing.”
She said nothing, not understanding his amusement.
“Well, Major Carter,” he said, handing her a stack of files. “Here are your files, since the Air Force apparently doesn’t trust in doctor-patient confidentiality.”
“Please, call me Sam,” she said, a little stung by the bitterness in his voice.
“Sam,” he said, as if trying it on for size.
She looked down at heavy files in her hands. They represented one year in her life. A terrible year. But one that she had survived and could now put behind her.
“Dr. Mattox’s files are there, too. I thought you might not want to go back up there. The psych ward staff isn’t very happy with you. You’re the first patient to have escaped, and the hospital’s official inquiry into it wasn’t exactly pleasant for them.”
Truth was, she had been dreading it. “Thank you. That’s very considerate.” Briefly she considered telling him that she’d escaped from prisons and prison planets and places with much tighter security than the 6th floor… that they shouldn’t be embarrassed. But she knew she couldn’t.
“Sam, I’m very happy for you,” John said. “It’s great that you’ve got your memory back. Your old job… family…friends.”
“Yeah,” she agreed. “John… I owe you so much…”
He grinned. “You’re welcome.”
She smiled, then nodded, turning to leave.
“Is the alien’s name really Thor?” he asked.
She froze. She turned slowly, wondering if he was serious. There was no trace of amusement on his face.
“I’m afraid that’s classified,” she said.
“What’s a DHD?” he asked.
“I’m afraid… that’s classified, too.”
She suppressed a smile. “I should have taken out the patent… when I had the chance.”
He laughed, then sobered. “Your work… It’s dangerous?”
She wasn’t sure how to answer. “It can be.”
“Are you even human?” he asked.
Sam was taken aback. “What?”
“You have an unusual protein marker and an unidentified heavy metal in your blood… your EEGs… your reactions to the accident… your responses to medications… Sam, you’re not like any other patient I’ve ever had. For that matter, you’re not like any patient anyone has ever had. I could write a dozen papers on you if the Air Force would let me, which, apparently, they won’t. I just had to ask.”
“I’m human,” she said.
“Just work in space?”
“The nature of my job is… classified.”
He nodded absently, almost regretfully. “Will I ever see you again?”
She ducked her head. “Colorado Springs is… a long way from Seattle.”
“Well, if your Dr. Fraiser ever needs the services of a good neurologist, tell her to look me up. Something tells me her job must be fascinating. I’d move there in a heartbeat.”
“I’ll do that,” Sam smiled. “Thank you, again…John. For everything.”
He smiled wryly. “Good luck, Sam. Have a great life.”
She grinned. “I already do.”
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