2. A Gulf Between Friends

Hammond shook his head as if to clear the memory. Oh, he’d known even then that if O’Neill were ruled by prudence, he’d have never gone through the Stargate once, let alone multiple times. Most likely he’d never even have been in Special Ops, which meant he’d have never been involved in any of this in the first place, nor been on that mission in Iraq, for that matter.

He thought again of Colonel Cromwell. As the CO of one of the Special Ops secondary defense teams, he had been stationed at Peterson AFB and would have been told just enough about the Stargate program to know what they might conceivably be up against should they ever be called into action at the mountain. That information would have included the identities of the SGC’s senior command personnel. Was it at all possible that Cromwell had been somehow aware of O’Neill’s presence even before then, however? The more the General thought about it, the less doubt he had that Cromwell had kept tabs on his friend, as much as was possible anyway, and had requested this assignment. Curiosity about what O’Neill was doing, perhaps? Some desire to atone for past sins by putting himself in a position to look out for him, should it ever be necessary to do so? Hammond couldn’t answer that question. But whatever Cromwell’s motivation, it had cost him his life. He suspected that Cromwell’s presence in the SCG during the recent crisis, and the need for O’Neill to work with him to resolve it, might have had some effect on O’Neill as well, especially given the outcome.

A knock on the door snapped Hammond out of his reflections. “Come!”

Captain Carter entered, flanked by Dr. Jackson and Teal’ c. Hammond noticed dark circles under Carter’s eyes, as if she hadn’t slept in days. “Sorry to disturb you, sir, but when I came looking for you earlier, you weren’t in,” she began.

He indicated the chairs in front of his desk. “Please, sit down. I’ve been in and out of my office all morning. What can I do for you?”

“Well, sir,” said Carter, “I’ve been running some calculations, and it appears the internal geometry of the wormhole may have been affected differently from what we first assumed would happen when we sent that shaped charge into it.”

“Affected how, Captain? The wormhole did jump from P3W-451 to P2A-870, didn’t it? I was under the impression that if it hadn’t, we would never have been able to shut it down.”

“Yes, sir. Where I may have erred is in assuming that anything falling into the wormhole prior to the charge’s detonation either exited on P3W-451 or was destroyed by the blast. The simulations I’ve put together indicate that the explosion would not only have caused the wormhole to jump to another gate, but also could have propagated the bomb’s energy throughout its entire length.” She paused as if to order her thoughts.

Hammond leaned back in his chair, resting his hands on his desk. “Go on,” he invited.

“Well, sir, given that the wormhole was not only channeling the black hole’s gravity but was also under the influence of the time dilation caused by that gravity field, the transit time of anything within the wormhole would have been affected as well. Both matter and energy would be subject to these effects. The preliminary model I’ve put together appears to show the wormhole absorbing almost the entire energy output of the bomb. In fact, that could explain what caused it to jump between two gates as widely separated as P3W-451 and P2A-870 are in real space. It didn’t take anywhere near that much energy to cause a jump between our gate and the one in the Antarctic, that time that Colonel O’Neill and I were stranded. But those gates were on the same planet. The jump we deliberately manufactured involved over ninety lightyears, sir.”

Hammond could feel a headache beginning just above his eye sockets. He did his best to understand the science involved in what they were all doing here, but the intricacies of wormhole physics were beyond him even on the best of days. Clearly, Carter was leading up to something with her explanation, but he’d be damned if he could figure out what it was. “Captain, what exactly is it you’re trying to tell me?”

She looked momentarily abashed. “I’m sorry, sir. What I’m getting at is that there is a chance that Colonel Cromwell may have still been in transit at the time the wormhole jumped between gates. If so, then it’s possible he survived the trip. He could be on P2A-870 right now.”

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