Title: 39 Minutes
Author: Nike
Rating: G
Archive: DJA
Summary: Janet's POV, as the asteroid approaches and the clock ticks...
Category: Daniel&Janet UST, friendship, angst.
Spoilers: Tiny 'Singularity' ref. but this is an ep-based `Fail Safe' fic.
Season/Sequel: S5
Status: Complete

Disclaimer: "All publicly recognisable characters and places are the property of MGM, World Gekko Corp and Double Secret productions. This piece of fan fiction was created for entertainment not monetary purposes and no infringement on copyrights or trademarks was intended. Previously unrecognised characters and places, and this story, are copyrighted to the author. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author."

Author's Notes: Just a quick piece based on Fail Safe, which has been sitting on my hard drive waiting to be sent out into battle from the *last* war! I decided it was time to kick it out of its cupboard :) It jumps about a bit in time, but only over a period of about 10 mins. Huge thanks to the Great Beta Goddess Kitty and Bryn, for making sure there are no glaring mistakes!

Hey, Bryn: "I halve a spelling chequer/It came with my pea sea..."
Fiiiiiic Waaaaaaaar!!! ;)

<<>> indicates remembered dialogue, which took place in the past.

Feedback: I recently found out that the yahoo account I used to keep all my feedback in has bitten the cyberdust. More feedback will help me cope with this loss. See the logic? :) Send it out to nikejohnston@yahoo.com


39 minutes

~ 60 minutes ~

I stare at myself in the locker-room mirror, and am greeted by an expression of scepticism as my reflection looks back at me. Eyes narrowed, brows wrinkled, she takes in my BDU's and drab olive cap in one critical glance, then shakes her head resignedly. I sigh in agreement, turning away and tugging on my jacket, which seems altogether too short after the familiar knee-length of my white lab coat. It's been a long time since I saw myself dressed like this...and it always signals trouble.

Trouble. It seems so bland a word for the situation we're facing now...

Biting my lip, I close my eyes against the sudden sharp pain that shoots through me. In an hour, this entire world could be gone, reduced to dust and ashes by an indifferent lump of rock hurtling through space with deadly inevitability. No survivors. No chance. But it's not this horrific prospect that causes my stomach to twist now. Not the thought of losing my planet, or the distant family I've barely spoken to in years.

It's regret for lives that may already be lost.

<< "According to their latest calculations, SG-1 has crashed into the asteroid's surface at over sixty metres per second...."

"Any chance of survivors?"

"At that velocity, sir, it's very unlikely. Sir, if this is true, then the mission is down. We're out of options. It's time to call the President. >>

I shake myself briskly, forcing the lump out of my throat. There's no proof of the...accident. No proof that SG-1 aren't still alive, out there, a million miles from home. No proof that they won't pull through at the last second, in their usual spectacular fashion.

Glancing at my watch I grimace, knowing I can't put off this confrontation any longer. Taking off the cap, I stuff it in my pocket and head out of the locker room. I start towards General Hammond's office, schooling my features into forced neutrality and practising a 'casual' tone of voice. I don't want to appear confrontational. Or accusatory.

~ 55 minutes ~

Approaching the office, I hesitate for only a second, running the rehearsed dialogue through my mind, before striding forward into the room, tapping smartly on the doorframe as I do so. Hammond looks up at me, and my words almost catch in my throat at the profound sadness in his eyes.

"Doctor?" he asks quietly, in his soft Texan drawl. "Shouldn't you be off world by now?" His face is curious, and I understand his confusion: I was due to go to the Alpha site with Cassandra hours ago. And that's another thing I'm not looking forward to... trying to comfort a girl who's just lost her entire world for the second time in a few, short years. No-one should be forced to live through that again. I bite back a sigh.

"I'm leaving with the next group, Sir," I respond. I shift a little, awkwardly, before continuing hurriedly, "Your name isn't on the list, Sir."

Hammond regards me for a few moments. "That's correct."

"May I ask why?"

"If that asteroid hits, the only chance for the survival of the human race will rest with the Alpha site. We limited their number because they'll have limited resources. Everyone will have to contribute."

I stare at him incredulously, still pinned by those sad eyes. He can't be serious. There's a lie there... a different reason, an underlying explanation that I can't comprehend. And that he'll never explain. I shake my head imploringly. "Your experience makes you more than qualified, Sir."

His gaze is still fixed on me, a little curious at my adamance.

"I appreciate what you're trying to do, Doctor, but my decision is final."

And I know he does appreciate it. More than that, he understands it. Understands the watching, waiting; helplessly pacing the corridors of the control room while somewhere far above our heads friends and colleagues fight against the forces threatening to overwhelm us... a hundred different situations, yet all just like this one. Readying to deal with the fall out, after the battle's been waged. But somehow I can't bring myself to tell him that I might have lost too many friends today, that I don't think I could bear to stand by and lose another. And I can't force out the unasked questions on the tip of my tongue -

Any word on SG-1?

Any chance they might have made it?

And can any of us really comprehend what will happen if they didn't?

Instead, I settle on a simple,

"Yes, Sir."

~ 44 minutes ~

The last of us are gathered now in the 'Gate room, at the bottom of the ramp, standing before the imposing stone circle of the Stargate. The rippling surface of the wormhole sends an eerie blue wash flickering over the concrete walls as the airmen behind me, the last of the evacuees, shift restlessly and I fight to keep a handle on my frustration. Truth be told, I'm just as anxious as they are, but the strained atmosphere isn't doing much for my own frayed nerves, and the tension can only get thicker.

~ 42 minutes ~

Turning my head, I cast a glance towards the control room where Major Davis and Hammond are earnestly watching the monitors. Their grim expressions are far from encouraging, and I look away just as quickly. I try to stare straight ahead, but as my gaze fixes on the dancing patterns of light in the centre of the wormhole, the thoughts clamouring for attention in my head grow more insistent.

It's too late, they'll never make it now.
They're coming home. They have to be.
We would have heard something, have seen something, anything.
They can still come through for us, they still have a few minutes.
Two minutes.
And then the earth...
Six billion people...

~ 41 minutes ~

But try as I might, I can't think on that grand scale. Right now, I only have enough left in me to pray for four. For one.

I never told him how I felt. It wasn't that I didn't want to, or that I was too afraid of rejection or the pressures of a relationship, or any of the other excuses I've used to talk myself out of dating again a hundred times before. And it wasn't that I didn't think he was interested. We'd already spent so much time together, we were so comfortable together, that all it would have taken would have been that one gentle push and we could have slipped comfortably into each other as if it were the most natural thing in the world. But I was busy. I had an infirmary to run and a thousand and one different alien diseases to keep me up to the early hours of every morning. I had pre-mission physicals, post-mission physicals, check-ups, examinations, evaluations, paperwork, tests, research, more paperwork. There was just no time. I just... never got around to it. And each time I watched him walk out of my office, I would resolve that next time I'd say something, next time I'd casually ask him for lunch or a drink. There would always be another day, another week, another chance to say something, and until then I had my work and my daughter, and I told myself that was fine.

That it wasn't a big deal

~ 40 minutes ~

"Twenty seconds to fail safe."

That it wasn't the end of the world.

"Still no word from SG-1?"

"No, Sir."

No-one speaks, no-one stirs, the last officers of this command holding their collective breaths. The only movement is the ongoing play of reflections on the cold, grey walls. Davis' flat tone falls like the voice of God from the control room.

"Ten seconds."

<<"According to their latest calculations, SG-1 has crashed into the asteroid's surface at over sixty metres per second....">>

They're not coming back. He's not coming back. And we've all missed our last chance.

~ 39 minutes ~

"Asteroid has passed fail safe."

Time's up.


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