Another Dark Side
Summary: A quantum mirror story featuring Jack as the universe traveler. For once.
Author Note: First, I’m forcing this bunny. Second, I’m out of betas. If this reads badly, apologies, but I have to write *something* or I’ll go insane. Lastly, quote is Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance.
I want your drama
the touch of your hand
I want your leather-studded
kiss in the sand
Jack cursed at the panel of crystals in the cargo ship’s engine room and kicked at it for the third time. Two cracked and fell out and … the ship’s flight evened out. He stared, frowning, and stooped to pick them up. Their damage wasn’t just from hitting the stone floor. That meant they were supposed to be removed. He rolled his eyes at the ceiling, refusing to admit that he should’ve paid more attention to Teal’c and Carter when they were giving a makeshift class on how to fix a Goa’uld cargo vessel.
He moved to the next panel, this one more of a readout, and though he couldn’t read the Goa’uld all that well, he understood the graph: the power had been cut in half, but at least the hyperspace engines hadn’t failed. Otherwise it would take him … he did a quick calculation … two hundred seventy years to get to the Asgard homeworld. With a sigh, he headed back to the cockpit. After sitting down, he grabbed his backpack and grimaced at the soot that blackened his hand. You wouldn’t think that staff weapon fire on cloth would create soot, but it did.
He wiped his hand on his thigh before rummaging for an energy bar. He swallowed hard against the emotional pain that threatened to make him lose control. The backpack had been Daniel’s. And he was gone. Tossing the pack on the floor, he absently ate while he studied the digital map on the console. It registered the solar systems he was passing and the ones that were up ahead.
He had no clue if the people who lived there were friend or foe, but if he had to drop out of hyperspace, he’d find out. He didn’t want to chance it, but he was damn tired. If he didn’t get some sleep soon, he’d drop off while in this hyperspace window and god only knew where he’d end up. Still, it was going to take six hours to get to Othalla. And … he had no idea what he’d do when he got there, except he had to find Thor. Everyone else he knew who could have helped had been killed.
But the thing was, exactly what kind of help could he ask for? When the protected planet treaty was broken, the Asgard hadn’t been there to enforce the violation. Jack’s first question was to ask them where the hell had they been? What was with the silence and no-show? They’d conquered the Replicators, so what was taking their attention? Jack didn’t know Thor well, but based on his actions to date, he didn’t think the Asgardian was a waffler. Hell, it might not be in their DNA. But politics was, given that talk with Freyr a while back, so their High Council or whatever it was called might be involved with something that superseded their protection treaty. Still, Thor had bucked their authority before.
Jack shook his head. All the mulling in the world wouldn’t gain him anything. It was a Wait and See scenario. He hated those. Jack had so far lived his adult life on the basis of fact-gathering and planning before making guesswork and he wasn’t about to stop now just because he was on his own in an unknown situation.
He heard an odd sound from the engine room, like a wheezy whine, and he started to get up to check it out when a large flash in front of the ship blinded him. He’d seen a flash of a long, bluish-white trail that had intersected the hyperspace stream. He didn’t get the chance to think on it because the ship was now spiraling out of control. He was thrown to the right, then the left, and suddenly he was flattened on the ceiling as the ship was tossed out hyperspace. An explosion from the engine room sent shrapnel and smoke through the entrance and he watched long, metal daggers embed themselves in the console, shattering the screens and effectively turning the ship into a hurling metal hunk of junk.
The ship turned and he slid down the ceiling, then the wall. He scrambled to the pilot’s seat and looked out in horror as the ship headed straight for a small planet. If the shields were gone, things were going to get hot.
Jack grabbed the steering orb but it was frozen and wouldn’t move. “Shit.” As the ship approached the upper atmosphere, he felt panic and anger. He wasn’t ready. He wanted to be with Daniel, but over the last seven years, his faith had soured and he wasn’t all that sure anymore about an afterlife where you got to see all those who went before. His belief was more on the order of becoming part of the great cosmic recycling center, where your body went but your soul, your center’s energy, went elsewhere. Would he just drift, or become part of something new? He drew on the vestiges of his old faith and said a prayer.
“If your listening, I could use some luck. I’m not making promises. I just don’t want to burn to death.”
He grabbed the arms of the chair with white-knuckled intensity and as the ship hit the atmosphere, fire trails bounced off a blue barrier. He sighed with cautious relief, in case the shields weren’t going to hold. It seemed to take forever but as he realized the ship would hold together, the next bit was going to be bad. Landing.
“Okay, so, thanks for that. Now, can you maybe put something spongy for me to land on?”
Not for the first time, Jack cursed the fact that the stupid ship didn’t have seatbelts. Once the ship cleared the clouds, he spotted thousands of islands and dark water until his descent revealed bluegreen areas around the islands. Caribbean-like. Given the colors, it was a carbon and oxygen world, but that didn’t mean anything if the ship broke into a million pieces—and he’d do the same. Or at least, break several things upon impact.
He looked at the console and its broken surface and suddenly imagined having all of it rammed into his chest, throat, and face. He scrambled out of the chair and headed for the middle console. He cursed himself for not remembering and he punched a few buttons. A panel in the far wall opened, revealing the pod and he ran into it, hitting his back hard as he spun around. The pod closed and he felt around for the button that would eject him from the ship. Finding, he pressed, but … nothing happened.
“Oh, come on.”
All he had to do now was wait for the crash and hope that the bulkhead didn’t crack the pod in two. Or worse. He remembered the hand holds on either side of him and held on, squeezing his eyes shut, as the ship hit what felt like trees. The noise was loud. There was a metallic crack and it seemed as if the pod had finally ejected from the ship. Going by the orientation in his inner ear, he knew he was being jounced around like a pinball. Finally, gravity made him aware that the pod was skidding on its right side. When he came to a stop, he opened his eyes as the pod turned. He was on his back. Or … it felt like that.
Swallowing, he reached up to tap the controls on the inside of the door. The readout, again in Goa’uld, seemed to say he was in one piece—duh. He hovered his finger over the button that would open the pod but waited. There wasn’t any movement, as far as he could tell, so nothing was falling on him. He hoped. Several seconds passed and instead of freaking himself out on the unknown that lay outside the pod, he made quick decisions on what to do if the ship was in one piece or if it was in several. In either case, it was now time to go into survival mode. He’d done it a few times and it was good that the old reflexes of thinking were kicking in. If the ship was intact, and he could get in, then things would be relatively easy.
But. If this was a planet that was uninhabited, he was in for extended isolation. That was okay when you were on vacation and only twenty to a hundred miles from civilization. Having to live in true survival mode for the rest of his life …
Jack shook his head and dismissed the panic of that notion. First things first, assess and regroup, and get to food, water, and shelter. The rest would tend to itself.
He pushed the button.
After seeing broken trees and a blue sky, Jack eased himself out of the pod. His body was bruised head to toe, which, what the hell? He then remembered his journey around the bridge of the cargo ship and frowned. Funny how he hadn’t noticed the injuries until now, but that was the way of things when you were in peril, either on a cranky ship or in a fight. He looked around, first at the ground, then above it. He was in a forest. In the distance, roughly fifty yards by his estimate, there gleamed metal through a mass of broken trees. The ship.
He carefully made his way there, all the while contemplating the possibility of the hourly, then daily, risking of his life if he couldn’t find food. There didn’t seem to be anything immediately around and it was going to be starvation dieting until he found nuts, berries, and then wait to see if his death was imminent afterward. Even if he found the ship and got provisions, they wouldn’t last long.
After five minutes, he reached the forest wreckage and after another five of carefully climbing over it, he found the ship sitting at an angle. Amazingly, it was mostly intact, with a few broken bits here and there, including the door mechanism because it was open. He carefully ventured inside. After ten minutes, he emerged with his pack and the duffle bag he’d grabbed before leaving the Alpha Site. He’d wanted to use the ship for shelter, but the engine room was giving off a coolant smell, which meant a leak. If the ship was going to blow, he wanted to be far enough away to avoid the flying debris.
Looking at the sun, he had to stand still and watch to see which way it went. He was a bit restless, wanting to take off, but he needed to know so he could head in the westerly direction. He wished he’d been able to see where the ship had landed, but that thought was quickly dismissed as pointless. If he wanted to waste time on useless drivel, he’d do it when he was relatively safe. That wasn’t going to exist for a while, not until he got his bearings and judged what animal life was around that could threaten him.
He headed toward the sound of running water so he could fill his canteen. Hopefully, it would be a creek or brook so it would be fresh. Whether it was safe would’ve been a guessing game if he hadn’t found his duffle. Inside was a rolled fabric case that held emergency gear. A compass, iodine tablets, salt tablets, matches, flint, twine, a poncho, more energy bars, a bar of dark chocolate, three bandages, four cravats, two MREs, and a second bowie knife.
He reached a small brook and squatted down with a wince and opened his pack. Inside were more energy bars, his sidearm and three full clips, jeans, two shirts, socks, a few bandanas, a small flashlight and extra batteries, and two suede canteens. He stared at the bandanas and a lump filled his throat and his heart as he pulled out the canteens and began to fill them. The bandanas were Daniel’s. Had been. With a heavy sigh he dug out the emergency case and dropped iodine tablets into each canteen. He wanted to drink straight from the brook, but he didn’t dare. He looked around and didn’t see anything dead, but that didn’t mean there weren’t micro-organisms that could make him ill. He was in a virgin forest, on a virgin planet—one that hadn’t met his own bacteria and whatever else leaked from his pores.
Jack headed for the coastline, judging it to be easier traveling, even if he had to go through shallow water. It was safer than trudging through a forest with unknown threats. He’d discover them soon enough. Predators didn’t take long to make themselves known. For that reason, he had to clip and cinch his sidearm to his right thigh. He wished he’d thought to grab a zat, but a sidearm would do. Unfortunately, it would soon turn into dead weight without more ammo.
He took out the chocolate bar and snapped off a piece, needing more than just the energy bar to fuel his system. Oddly, he was more than hungry, and that was solely due to the emergency situation he was in. The body somehow decided it needed more, even though he’d had quite a bit only … eleven hours ago. He sighed. No wonder he felt like he was starving.
The sun bore down on him as he walked and he pulled his shirt out of his trousers for airflow. He wanted to remove it, but he didn’t know about the insects on this planet. The last thing he needed was to be stung by critters that made you sick. An hour later, he finished rounding a bend in the coastline and came to a shocked stop. There was a grey structure in the distance, about three miles away. So people either lived here or they used to live here. If the former, he had to use his Daniel Skills. If the latter, he hoped he could get inside and use it for shelter.
. . .
Jack was only a hundred yards away now and he’d been in shallow surf almost the whole way. His boots were a waterlogged mess. Fortunately, they’d been broken in a long time ago so he didn’t have to worry about shrinkage once he could set them by a fire to dry overnight. They would, however, get brittle and flakey unless he washed them free of the salt water. If there wasn’t a fresh water supply nearby, and so far he hadn’t passed any, he’d have to find one. Going without foot gear was unacceptable and he needed to keep his boots in good shape. Under normal circumstances, they’d last for decades, but now, he’d be lucky if they lasted one.
He came to a stop, realizing what he’d been thinking. Alone, for a decade? Truthfully, he didn’t think he’d last that long. He just … couldn’t. He wasn’t a big social butterfly or anything, but to go without human, or humanoid, contact of any kind would drive him batshit crazy. One day at a time, he told himself, and that made him think of the AA mantra. On the heels of that, he wished he had brought some alcohol, but that wasn’t something you thought of when in a hurry. You thought of survival gear and whiskey or vodka wasn’t exactly the first thing on your mind.
As Jack plunged on ahead, he kept an eye out for natives, and the alarm that would follow. But when he was no more than fifty yards away, there was nothing. That didn’t mean there weren’t any people. They could easily see him as a threat and they’d either hide in fear or they’d be getting ready to kill him. He pulled out his sidearm and held it up with both hands, flicking the safety off without thinking about it. He lowered it slightly to make it easier to walk and moved onto hard-baked sand.
His steps slowed and he came to a stop twenty yards later. He wanted to appear non-threatening, but he also didn’t want to look like prey, either. This was something he wasn’t all that good at, not like Daniel had been. He looked non-threatening until it was time to be otherwise, which always surprised the enemy, whoever it was. Jack had always envied that, even at the beginning when it was annoying.
From a distance, the structure had looked squarish and grey. Now, it looked more like a subdued blue and the shape had rounded corners and edges. It was two stories high with long, narrow windows on one side and an almost gothic door on the side that faced the ocean. It was a slightly flattened oval with a tapered point, but at two ends instead of in the center. An odd design.
Ten years ago, he wouldn’t have even noticed or cared. Not until he met Daniel, and even then, it had taken a few years before he’d realized how much of his personality had rubbed off on him. In many ways. For that reason, perhaps, it was going to take him a long time to forget the mannerisms and thought processes he’d adopted—if he ever did. Daniel was gone, but he was still in his soul. The grief was still fresh but it was in a holding pattern. Not until he was more or less safe did he expect to feel it.
Jack approached the building and stepped onto the wide porch. There was no doorknob. He sighed. Raising a hand, he pushed on the door and it didn’t give. So it was time for some scientific sleuthing. Eventually, he found a button behind a hidden metal flap that swung sideways and the door clicked, then whined as it opened inward. Before him was a long, darkened hallway, and he dug in his pack for the flashlight. With his sidearm held low, he clicked on the flashlight and headed for the end of the hallway, where another door sat closed. This one had a wide seam between two side and when he pushed, it swung inward. Entering the building itself, he found himself in a long, narrow hall … and at the far end was a stargate.
Jack sagged with relief. But as he approached it, he couldn’t find the DHD. He looked around, the frown on his face deepening into a scowl. “Oh come on.” Spying a piece of furniture with a covering thrown over it, he pulled it free and found a console that held a kind of Dialing Device. It was made of triangle tiles and each triangle held a glyph. To one side was a cutout circle about three inches wide. The activator? He pressed a tile and to his intense relief it lit up. Except he then realized that the glyph on the tile wasn’t familiar. It was made up of dots, like a constellation, instead of the drawn sigils on the DHDs he was familiar with.
He pressed the circle and the blue-lit glyph turned off. He studied them and realized that he did know them. He was just unfamiliar with this type of DHD. He looked at the stargate some thirty yards in front of him and realized that the glyphs on the gate had the same dot pattern.
“Huh,” he said absently. “Okay, so, where do you want to go, O’Neill?” He studied the gate again and the two chevrons that were normally buried were actually above ground. Could he get to the Asgard from here? The only problem is that he had to search his few little notebooks to see if he’d ever written the address down because he couldn’t remember it off the top of his head.
Jack was going to crouch down to search through his pack, but a twinge in his back made him look around for a table. He then noticed that there was more furniture than he’d first thought, but it was all covered with the same grey covering as the odd DHD. There were about fifteen pieces, if he didn’t count the two long tables that held odder items with tags. He then remembered the planet with the artifact room and the quantum mirror that Daniel had accidentally touched. There was a hiccup in his thoughts and he dismissed the pain in favor of his pack and rummaged for his small notebooks.
After a few minutes searching through them, he came up empty, and cursed himself for not memorizing more addresses—like the newest one for Asgard.
“So where to, dipshit?” he muttered.
He thought it over as he found a stool and sat down to munch on more chocolate. But the more he thought about finding a place to retreat to, the more he realized that he didn’t want company. Not right away. The mourning that lay below the surface wanted to vent itself but he held it back by pushing the feelings away in place of the more analytical side of his mind. Screw wanting to be alone. Get somewhere safe, then worry about where to go off by yourself.
Thing was, there wasn’t really anywhere safe. The Land of Light, by his own insistence, had buried their gate to keep the NID and Lucien Alliance off their planet. It was so far from anyone’s territory that they weren’t in any danger from a ship’s path, and besides, they didn’t have any wealth or technology to steal. The Nox were cut off, as was the newest version of Tollana. Third time’s a charm, Jack hoped. Those people needed to regroup and …
Jack shook his head. He could mull about that some other time. Who was next on the list to be crossed off? Sadly, Abydos was gone, so he couldn’t go there. He stuffed his notebooks back in the pack and looked around. As he ate the chocolate, he walked around, pulling off covers to see if he had anything useful to use. But covers went back on. He passed a few fingers over one and rubbed them together, marveling at the lack of dust. Even in a building like this, as sealed as it was, there’d always be some dust. But here, there was none. He hadn’t even noticed until returning the cover on the seventh item.
With a sigh, he went to a covered object and when he pulled it off, he found a Quantum Mirror. He blinked at it. Was this the answer? No. It would take ages to find a universe that didn’t have a Jack O’Neill, or had one and lost him. Still, he spent the next minute looking for the control device that the Mirror Carter had brought with her when she and Kowalsky had shown up in their reality. He found it on a wall shelf that he’d ignored. He’d glanced at it, seen objects with tags, and ignored it.
Carrying it gingerly to the table where his pack sat, he sat back down on the stool and studied it as he finished the chocolate. He wasn’t about to turn it on until he could actually remember how to use the damn thing. It had mostly been Carter and Daniel who’d handled it, and mastered its use—and mostly because they’d accidentally shut it off and had spent a while searching for the right universe again so they could all go home.
Jack froze, remembering it, and how Daniel had been standing there watching when he’d kissed Alternate Carter. He winced and said a mental apology to his dearly departed better half. Swallowing against the grief, he grabbed his duffle and pack and set them both down by the mirror, then went back to the table to get the mirror’s controller. He had nowhere to go in this universe. And as much as he wanted to be alone to grieve, he didn’t want to hang around this … museum-slash-mausoleum. He could get used to it, use it for shelter, but he didn’t look forward to figuring out what the game was here, if there was any on this particular island. He also lacked the tools to build himself a boat. It was all so … daunting.
As he touched the device, a bit of memory resurfaced, when he had been watching Kowalsky use the device to find his reality. There were two tuning methods used in conjunction. The dial, then the rounded dome to fine tune. It was, now that he had time to think about it, a rather stupidly crafted controller. It should’ve been a keypad and readout. What the hell had the Ancients been thinking? They were the first humans, so their brains hadn’t been all that different cognitive-wise. Had thousands of years of evolution dulled their thinking? Well … no. He looked at the stargate. That was a rather brilliant piece of hardware.
The mirror itself was an amazing piece. But what if the mirror had just been a theoretical model and they’d … no, that made no sense. There was more than one of them, this being the second one he’d ever heard of. You didn’t make more than one if you were still working out how to control them. If he ever met another Ancient, he’d ask. Jack remembered the woman they’d met, who’d made him sick. He shuddered at the aftermath. So not doing that again.
He grabbed the stool and sat down in front of the mirror. It turned on, and instead of reflecting exactly where he was, there was an ocean just a few yards away. It seemed the building that held the mirror had been damaged. He tuned the dials. More buildings, vacant. Some intact, some rotting, some destroyed. He quickly dialed away before a large ocean wave hit and transferred over. He blew out a breath of relief.
In front of him was a darkened room and it didn’t resemble the one he was in. It was small, and there was a bit of light coming through a door or window off to the left. It cast shadows of different shades, indicating there were objects in the room. He noted the position on the line dial and wished there was a way to bookmark it. Another reason why this controller was crap. He turned the dial.
And in front of him was himself. Both he and his counterpart rolled their eyes and turned the dial. He held still, thinking about what he’d just seen. That Jack O’Neill had been wearing black ops fatigues. Weird. Shaking it off, he continued dialing, and over the course of the next half hour, he’d come across several counterparts, more blackened rooms, and more destroyed buildings.
He was beginning to become distracted and realized that what he needed to do was sleep. He shut off the device, then closed the doors of the building and returned to position his duffle and pack so he could lie down as comfortably as he could. It didn’t work too well until he gathered the covers from all of the objects and furniture in the room and made himself a makeshift bed. As he lay down with his pack for a pillow, he thought he’d take a bit of time falling asleep because he wasn’t all that comfortable, but he was asleep in less than five minutes. He dreamed of Daniel.
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