A solid two hours later, Jack was beginning to wonder where Sam had gone. The cleaning staff had come and gone, and his knees were killing him. He had tried to stretch his long limbs, but the exiguity of the space in which he was hidden made it difficult to really alleviate the pain.
Finally, he heard steps coming his direction and noticed booted feet walking cautiously alongside the trailer. He risked an eye outside his hideout and saw Carter glancing nervously around her. She was carrying a pack.
“Carter?” he murmured.
“Sir?” came her reply and his cue to come out.
The sun was setting and the area close to the trailers was bathed in darkness.
“What did you get?” he asked.
“Can we go inside? I’ll show you,” she said, handing him her pack and fishing for her set of tools to pick the lock.
He noticed the pack was rather heavy and took that for a good sign.
Once inside, they quickly locked the door and set the pack on the table. Sam extracted a laptop, a bottle of water, several sandwiches, cereal bars, biscuits, and a bunch of fruit. Upon seeing his surprised look, she said “I figured we would be hungry eventually…”
“Good point,” he nodded.
“They have a catering service. That should keep us fed at least until Sunday. I’ll have to go several times and secure provisions, though. I don’t think they work on Sunday…”
“Always the practical one, Carter,” he smiled. “You managed to get a hold of the P90s?”
“The P90s are locked in an armory. The rest of the weapons are fake. I suppose all of the real weaponry is in that same armory. We don’t have much time. I suppose we could break into the armory, but I’m wondering if it’d be that important. There don’t seem to be any hostiles apart from the regular driver here; besides, I think the entire place is monitored, and the armory must be guarded tightly,” she finished.
Jack looked at her thoughtfully, then nodded. “Getting our weapons back is not the priority; you’re right. Finding out what sort of mess we have stepped into is more important.”
“How do you want me to proceed, Sir?” she asked.
“Well, first we eat; then, since he has a TV, I don’t see why we couldn’t watch it and gather some information about this world. I could do that while you try to find out if we have counterparts here. When do you need to give the laptop back?”
She cringed. “Well, actually, I didn’t officially borrow it… there was a locked office, I sneaked in and retrieved it. I’ll return it when we leave this place.”
“And you don’t think they can track it to this trailer?”
“Well, I don’t really know yet how their computer systems work, but even if they manage to track down the IP, they won’t get to us before a couple of days at the very least. I figure we’re safe for about three. I’m hoping I won’t need that much time to sort out this mess.”
“Not to mention the cascade thingy that could happen real fast… ” he mused aloud.
“Entropic Cascade Failure, Sir,” she corrected him with a smile. “My first job will be to find out if Jack O'Neill and Samantha Carter exist here…” she agreed.
Jack woke up with a start. The eerie light of predawn filtered through the blinds of the trailer, and his back was killing him. He tried to remember where he was and spotted a blond head resting on his shoulder. Carter had come to lie on the small bunk with him some time during the night.
They had discussed last night what he had found out watching TV: so far, not many differences between this world and theirs; the similarities were even creepy sometimes, down to the sports results. What happened into this world was almost exactly what happened back home.
On her part, Sam had found no trace of either of them in the military. Sam Carters and Jack O'Neills existed but had nothing to do with them.
“I need to go deeper into the military files, Sir,” she had concluded before he went to bed. “If they’re working for a top secret facility, their information might be inaccessible.”
He realized his hand had come to caress her hair lightly while he was lost in his thoughts. She hadn’t stirred. He checked his watch in the dim light -0603. He rubbed his eyes and softly extracted himself from the small space in order not to wake her up. He hadn’t really noted the time she finally came to bed, but it must have been late or very early, depending how you looked at it. After all, time was all relative…
He stretched and worked his taut muscles a bit before checking her pack and the mini fridge to see what food they had left. Turkey sandwiches and donuts -a good start, he thought. Oh, how he’d kill for a coffee! He had spotted a coffee maker in the small kitchenette at the back of the trailer
Maybe the cabinets would provide the much needed ingredients.
Sam was awakened by the smell of brewing coffee. “Owww” she groaned, rubbing her back and wincing.
“I promise I’ll grant you a week’s leave at a four star hotel, charged to the USAF, when we get back, Carter!” he said gently, bringing her a mug of steaming coffee.
“Ouch! that’d better include the back massage, too, Sir,” she muttered, taking the proffered coffee. “How did you manage to…” she asked, nodding at the mug.
“There’s ground coffee in the cabinets and a coffee maker. We’ll clean everything up when we leave, don’t worry,” he smiled.
“Quite frankly, Sir, at the moment, I don’t really care,” she said, grumpily sipping the black beverage.
They silently ate their breakfast before getting down to business again.
After about five hours, Sam decided to call the search. Jack had been watching TV in the meantime, and he was getting clearly bored, as his long sighs testified. She reclined on the back of the chair upon which she was seated.
“You okay?” he asked in a soft voice, welcoming the distraction.
“Yeah, I guess I am. The search is pointless, Sir. This world seems to be an exact copy of ours for the most part. The only things that are different are –as I told you yesterday– there is no Jack O'Neill or Samantha Carter in the Air Force; no Daniel Jackson has ever been registered as an archaeologist; the President of the United States is not Henry Hayes; and the only thing that seems to be in Cheyenne Mountain is NORAD, which is about to be closed down. Of course, we can’t be sure that there’s nothing underneath.”
“So what? We don’t have counterparts in this world?”
“As far as I know, no… the closest we can get physically are probably Amanda Tapping for me and Richard Dean Anderson for you.”
“Yeah, on that note, maybe you should go and check out the catering facilities again,” he said as his stomach growled. “We’ll decide of a course of action when you get back,” he smiled.
“Yes, Sir…” she answered with a tired smile of her own.
“All right, here’s a list of things we have —or don’t have, for that matter— that I made while you were out,” he said, wiping his mouth with a tissue. He extracted a piece of paper from his pocket and resumed. “We don’t exist here, which means we have no ID, no bank account, no social security number, no nothing. On the bright side, it also means we won’t have any problem with that cascade entropy problem, correct?” he asked.
She nodded, her mouth full with the apple into which she had just bitten.
“We don’t know if there’s a Stargate here, and if there is, we don’t know where it is. The correct assumption would be Cheyenne or Antarctica, though. To all of the above, we can add the fact that we don’t know how long we’re gonna be stuck here,” he concluded with a smirk. “That’s what I’d call one hell of a lousy gate trip.”
She sighed. “I can help us get an identity at least,” she started thoughtfully. “We could always pretend we’ve lost our papers and go to the Embassy to get them…”
“Hey, Carter, look at this!” he interrupted as his attention had shifted to the loud music coming out of the still switched on TV.
She stood up and stared in awe for a few minutes before meeting her superior’s equally awed look.
“Well, at least it seems to be less lousy than Wormhole Xtreme,” he commented softly as “Colonel Jack O'Neill” stepped through the gate to a desert world.
Sam sat back down as if her legs had been cut out from her body. “No need to search for a Stargate, Sir…” she said in a breath.
“Hey, Carter!” she heard as exhaustion and shock finally took their toll on her body.
She came out of her sudden blackout with a start. She was lying down on the small bed, and a damp cloth had been placed on her forehead.
“Mmmm…” she said, trying to rise, but a gentle hand pushed against her shoulder and forced her to lie down.
“’Gave me a little scare here, Carter. Can you please tell me what time you went to sleep this morning?” he admonished gently, holding a plastic goblet for her to drink.
“Around 0430, Sir…” she admitted.
“Ah, and we woke up at 0600… I know you’re a trained soldier, Carter, but even soldiers require a little more sleep than an hour and a half…” he snorted. “No work on the computer for you tonight, Colonel, and I’ll make it an order if necessary.”
“Well, given that you’re a TV character in this world, I’m not sure I should obey you, Sir!” she replied, aggravated at herself for passing out.
“You’re a TV character, too, and you’re a major; I still outrank you. Now drink; then we’ll decide what to do.”
She sighed noisily and finally took the goblet from his hands.
“Well, at least we know for sure that our counterparts are only fictional here…” he said, trying to alleviate her sour mood.
“As well as the gate, Sir,” she pointed out. “The closest thing that we have to an actual Stargate is that prop back at the studio…”
“How do you know it’s not like Marty’s show? Maybe they use the whole TV show setup as a smoke screen?” he asked.
“Well, in that case, we’re definitely not part of the program, since we’re in that show!” she shot back.
“Colonel?” he asked, his eyebrow raising.
“Sorry, Sir,” she said defeated. “It’s just that I had hoped we’d find the Stargate, but given the circumstances, I think we’re truly stuck here for good. This world is very similar to ours, but the differences are pretty significant, and the Stargate is among them.”
“Well, we got in; there must be a way for us to get out.”
“It won’t be our doing this time, Sir. The only thing we can hope for is that they figure it out from the other side and come and get us by whatever means they find.”
“Lucky me; I’m the one stuck with the genius…” he snorted. “Sorry, Carter, that wasn’t intended to be mean,” he said apologetically upon seeing her hurt face.
She sighed. “I know, Sir…”
“Even if they manage to figure this out, they’re going to need some time, right?” he resumed.
“Yeah, and depending on who takes care of the problem, it might be a long time. Lee won’t be able to figure it out. I give him credit, he’s a good scientist, but he’s more of a researcher than a problem solver.”
“And McKay’s in Atlantis…” he stated.
“Even if the Daedalus were ready –and she’s not– it would take her five weeks at full speed to reach Atlantis and five weeks back. Then they’d need some time to solve the problem… Sir, we’re here for at least three months, if they think of contacting/getting McKay, and if the same McKay manages to get his mind to work instead of his pride. We’re here for a long time, Sir, if not forever,” she concluded, realization of their situation hitting both officers at the same time.
They remained silent for a moment before Jack turned the TV off and sat on the second chair next to her. “You said you could help with IDs; what have you got in mind?” he asked gently.
“Well, creating IDs will be relatively easy, creating social security numbers, too; I could also create a history for both of us even though that might take some time. Not much, but it would still be some place to start from,” she agreed.
They fell silent for a moment, considering their options.
“Money might be a problem,” she stated.
“Yeah, I was thinking about that particular issue… those actors, they must be getting a paycheck or something?” he said.
“Probably,” she nodded.
“Why don’t we try and get some cash out of a paycheck? It wouldn’t be much, but at least it’s something to start with… And we’d send the money back as soon as we could…”
“Well, it will have to be me, then… Your counterpart is not present. I’ll go…” she said, determined.
“You’ll have to choose your moment and go to the right person.”
“I’ll reconnoiter when she’s on set and see who’s the one in charge here, then I’ll go see that person at a moment when she’s in her trailer…”
“Risky, but it’s worth a try, and if we manage to get a paycheck, we go to a bank, cash it, and disappear into thin air…”
“I have to admit, the idea is appealing,” she conceded, a small smile finally gracing her face.
“Hey! I have a reputation to maintain!” he said in mock indignation. “Okay, so we use our look-alikes’ names to get what we need first, but no abuse. As for the future, I think I can work somewhere as a pilot or flight instructor, but I’ll let you decide what you’re going to be,” he concluded.
She sighed. “Obviously Astrophysics is out of the question—like you said, we’d better fly under the radar… I’ll be a computer specialist. I can do something productive at least…” she mused.
“Now, first things first. You should create IDs and whatever to fall back on in case plan A doesn’t work… What do you need to do that?” he asked.
“Time…” she replied.
“Then get to work, Carter, because time is not something of which we have plenty, and we need to get that paycheck before tomorrow…” he encouraged her gently, giving her a nudge on her shoulder.