Holding their weapons at the ready, they waiting by the open wormhole. It was not long before first one, then two, then several more zombies walked through and immediately attacked.
"Aim for the head!" O'Neill shouted over the sound of weapon's fire.
"They are most difficult to kill," Teal'c exclaimed, emptying his magazine into the raging and snarling creature approaching him. He slammed another magazine into his P90 and aimed at the next zombie.
The creatures kept coming in a steady stream until the wormhole finally shut down. By then all of them were out of ammunition and Teal'c had killed the last two with a branch he tore from a tree.
The relief in all of them was palpable when no more zombies were attacking.
"Let's dial up some other world, just to be safe," O'Neill said, exhausted.
"In your movies, zombies are not intelligent enough to do something like dialling a Stargate," Teal'c said.
"If it really is Nirrti who has created these zombies, then I wouldn't be so sure they can't figure it out. Daniel, dial somewhere else. Somewhere nice, with no Goa'uld," O'Neill ordered. "And no zombies."
"Uh, how do I know? I mean, this is an altered timeline," Daniel pointed out. "Any planet could have been taken over by the Goa'uld."
"The change must be recent - Stargate Command was there and looked like it normally does, except for the people being zombies," Sam said. "It's unlikely there are many other differences."
"We can go to Marloon. It is peaceful there and the Goa'uld abandoned it many centuries ago," Martouf suggested.
"Dial it up, then, Marty," O'Neill said. "And hurry up!"
"Was anyone bitten?" O'Neill asked, worriedly, when he surveyed the others, and the bloody and torn clothing they - and he - were wearing.
"No," Sam assured him.
"No, it is not my blood," Martouf told him.
"I... don't think so," Daniel said.
"I was not," Teal'c said.
"I was. Selmak tells me to virus is... quite aggressive and innovative, but that she can kill it. You don't need to worry," Jacob said. He held up his arm, showing them a jagged bite under his torn sleeve.
"I'm going to worry anyway - and put a guard on you until I'm sure you're not changing," O'Neill told him. "Sorry, but that's how it's going to be."
Jacob nodded. "I understand, though I don't think you should assume everything is like in the zombie movies - yes, even I've watched one - but better safe than sorry. It is an unknown virus, possibly created by Nirrti."
"Oh, my god, Dad! You're sure Selmak can fix that?" Sam looked very worriedly at the wound.
"That's what she tells me, and she's usually right. Don't worry, kiddo."
Sam nodded slowly, not convinced. "Well, let's go get washed off. It's probably a bad idea walking around with infectious blood on us - sooner or later someone will get a cut."
"And then - boom, zombie." O'Neill nodded. "Yeah, get into the ocean all of you - this place is warm and pleasant, so we'll be okay until our clothes dry."
"All right, this looks peaceful enough," O'Neill said, sitting down in the sand under a large palm tree. He let out a satisfied sigh and looked up at the blue sky through the leaves. "In fact, this is perfect! Now I just need a cold beer." He frowned as he looked at Jacob, his good mood immediately gone.
"I shall keep guard," Teal'c informed him, walking a few steps away so he could keep an eye on both Jacob and the path that lead to the Stargate.
"I doubt it is necessary. We have never met anyone hostile here," Martouf said. "But since this is a different... timeline, it is perhaps a good idea." He looked at Jacob. "I am certain a symbiote can cure even a virus created by Nirrti, so I do not believe there is a danger there either."
"Selmak is confident." Jacob gave them a wry smile. "Besides, she tells me to say that if she should fail, you can just make a change to the timeline when we're out of range. We'll be as good as new in the altered timeline."
"Or not there at all, so let's hope it won't be necessary," Sam said, looking very concerned.
"Shouldn't we try to figure out if we're closer to or longer from fixing the timeline," Daniel said, sitting down on a tree log.
Sam nodded, sitting down beside him. "Daniel, you only changed the settings marginally when this timeline was created, right?"
"Yes, and only one of the eight settings."
"Great." Sam looked up at Martouf. "Martouf, I guess it's high time to ask some questions of you so we can figure out what the difference was between the timeline we met you in, and the real one."
"Of course, Samantha." He frowned. "Though I always thought my timeline was the real one. But since all members of SG-1 are dead there, and you clearly are alive, I realize something is not as I thought. In addition, you seem to believe I should be dead?"
"It's a rather long story," Jacob said, sitting down on a large rock beside the others. "Take a seat, then we'll try to update you - and you can tell us how things were in your timeline. Then we can perhaps figure out what was changed, and when."
"Dad - relax and let Selmak fix you. Daniel and I will explain," Sam said. She glanced unhappily at the wound on her father's arm. It was an angry red and blue, and the whole area was swollen. It also looked like an infection was spreading from it. "Please!"
Jacob nodded slowly, clearly tired and not feeling well. "Sure. Go ahead."
"So it sounds as if the timeline was unchanged up until early summer 2000, or thereabout," Daniel said.
"Yes. That is when Samantha, Daniel Jackson, Colonel O'Neill, and Teal'c were killed on a mission to destroy Apophis's newly constructed mothership," Martouf said.
"Did we test some freaky armbands in your timeline?" O'Neill asked, looking up from where he was half-lying against a palm. "Because Anise had us do that."
Martouf nodded. "Yes, the Atanik armbands." He looked sad. "You, Samantha, and Daniel Jackson were wearing them. They stopped working during the mission and Teal'c attempted to rescue you, but he did not succeed and the explosive charges you had planted detonated while you were all still inside."
"Crap," O'Neill said. "So that's the difference?"
"Yes, we think so - and that lead to a number of other differences, of course, including Apophis attacking Earth together with his vassal, Weneg," Sam said. "And, incidentally, to Martouf and Lantash surviving."
"Right. So what about the zombies?" O'Neill wondered. "What caused them?"
"Well, that was another small change. It could really have been anything, but probably some Goa'uld, likely Nirrti, decided to release that 'zombie' virus on Stargate Command," Sam explained. She threw a glance at her dad who had laid down on the ground and looked like he was asleep right now.
"Okay, so does this mean you know what each of the settings on the cube means, and how to adjust them?" O'Neill asked.
Sam glanced at Daniel, but he did not appear to want to say anything. She sighed. "There are eight corners of the cube, of course. Each of those can be adjusted to change the settings. Daniel only made a change to one of them to take us from Martouf's timeline to the zombie timeline. We think that corner only changes the size of the permutation. One or more of them must control how far back in time a change should happen."
"So, progress?" O'Neill asked, hopefully.
"Yes, progress," Sam agreed.
"Just not as much as we would like," Daniel admitted.
"What about Marty? Now he's in a different timeline too. Will that affect anything?" O'Neill asked.
Sam shook her head. "I don't think so. Not when it comes to fixing our own timeline. He and Lantash are dead there. If it had been someone who is alive there, it might be harder to recreate the timeline since that person would end up with different knowledge and in a different place than otherwise."
"That's true for us as well," Daniel pointed out.
"Yes, but only the part about the extra knowledge, or experiences." She shook her head, and made a pained sound. "At least I think so. There isn't exactly any science I know that helps me here!"
"Okay, just focus on figuring out the right settings of the cube."
"We believe we have set a change which may be larger than the others, but which will teach us a good deal," Sam said.
"Get started on charging it, then. I'm getting hungry anyway, and so are the rest of you I'm guessing, so we can't stay," O'Neill said, looking at Jacob with worry. "Anyone know how Jacob is doing?"