The world was full of black and white images, haunting images that would scar the retina of those watching for years to come. A small child`s doll, ripped apart by the ferocity of the attack, it`s dress fluttering in the small breeze.
A man in a suit, coughing into a hanky that was a covered in dust and ash as he was. His face was colourless, streaks of darker grey marring the light grey of his dust covered skin. He staggered as he walked, being directed towards other survivors by a weary official, her yellow suit camouflaged in the same caking dust as everything else.
A shop window, the glass blown out, barely recognisable through the foot-deep dust and rubble. The clothes littered the floor, their brilliant colours dulled to a subdued brown or grey. The sale sign, once a vivid red, now stood in mute witness to the carnage around it, one corner ripped away by flying debris.
A mountain of twisted concrete and metal, littered with ash and dust the back drop, as wives, husbands, family and friends, begged for news. Desperate to learn the fate of their loved ones. Soft, haunting music began playing, a chilling accompaniment to the images that washed across the world.
In America, those who had managed to sleep woke to the knowledge that no one had been rescued from the pile alive. And that possibility was decreasing with every hour.
In Australia and New Zealand, people returned from work to the news that a third building had collapsed, causing untold damage.
In Europe, they watched with growing horror, waiting to see if there was going to be any more attacks around the world.
The entire of the Western World held their breath because twenty six hours before, the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center had been attacked by terrorist hijacked planes, and the world had been changed forever.
The crowd of military personnel was silent. Over fifty men and women sat in the large Rec room on Level 15, watching as the news was broadcast, all of them tensing as new information was announced. Twenty six hours ago, the next shift of support personnel had been in the commissary, eating breakfast before their shift when Sergeant Carlson had scrambled through the doors, pale faced and wide eyed.
`A plane`s just hit the World Trade Center!` The sergeant had announced in a soft, stunned voice before leaving. After a stunned silence, the room had emptied, the entire shift heading for the Rec room. They`d been there ever since. Groups had come and gone, making sure that Cheyenne still continued to function, but the majority of the bases` staff had sat, cramped, around the big screen TV in the Rec Room, silent and horrified. General Hammond had ordered the SG Teams currently off world to come home immediately. So far, almost a day later, there were still three teams off-world. Every half hour, the Stargate would be opened and another message would be sent through to all three teams.
When news of the Pentagon strike had filtered through less than half an hour after the first, disbelieving report from the World Trade Center, several staff members had rushed out of the Rec Room, to contact loved ones that worked there. After 20 minutes of busy lines, they`d made their way back to the Rec Room, subdued and pale with worry. The lines were jammed, and there was no way anyone could get through to Washington right now. The SG personnel sat around, silently offering support and waiting for any order that may filter through for them. Hours later, one of the cooks brought some sandwiches and coffee, and news that one of the missing SG teams had finally reported in. There was a brief feeling of relief in the room, then dread as the CNN reporter of the hour came onto the screen with another update.
`Have we heard from the Colonel yet?` Lieutenant Michaels asked the room at large, hours later.
`Not since he left.` Dr Jackson replied, swallowing hard to dislodge the lump in his throat. Three hours after the first tower collapsed, the General had come into the Rec room and had requested the Colonel go to his office. The rest of SG1 had followed.
`We`ve had a request to transfer you to Langley.` Jack had merely raised an eyebrow. `It was a request straight from the President. He believes that you will be able to give the CIA an accurate description of Middle Eastern philosophies regarding the United States.`
`Sir, I was imprisoned in Iraq over ten years ago, for a few months.` O`Neill had protested. Hammond had stared him down.
`Jack, this is not something you can negotiate on. It`s an order that you will follow. A helicopter will be landing topside in ten minutes, and you will be on it when it takes off again. Do I make myself clear.`
`Yes, Sir.` O`Neill saluted and exited the office.
`Jack?` Daniel had asked as O`Neill had walked past him. The Colonel had stopped and looked at his team-mates.
`I`ve been asked to assist with profiling the Middle East.`
`They think it`s the Middle East?` Carter asked, a little surprised.
`To be honest, Major, I don`t think they know who`s responsible right now. I`ve got ten minutes, and I need to pack.` Jack turned to go, then looked back at his team. `See you in a few days.` He said thickly, and left. Daniel held his hand up in an aborted wave while Teal`c silently watched his CO leave. Carter bit her lip, then turned and made her way to the elevators and back to the Rec Room on level 15.
The room fell silent again, some of them trying to imagine what or who had called their Colonel away in such a rush. They watched the harrowing footage of the second airplane hurtling into the side of the building. They`d all seen the footage countless times, but it never failed to send a shiver of horror and disbelief into the viewers. A reporter came on screen, interviewing a doctor who had been at `ground zero` minutes after the second plane hit. He`d had a camera with him, and footage was playing in another smaller screen, as the doctor was interviewed. They all held their breath as they saw the doctor scramble for cover as the first tower came down, watching in disbelief with the rest of the world.
A scroll of missing fire-fighters and police men from the New York city area began scrolling across the screen, the announcer`s voice droning on behind the music, telling the world of the estimated dead. After a few more minutes, Carter stood up.
`We can`t just sit here, dammit!` She yelled at the room. `We have to do something to help them!`
`What would you like us to do, Major Carter?` Teal`c asked after a long silence.
`I don`t know. Contact Thor, or the Tollan. The Nox. Anyone. We`ve got to be able to help somehow. We`ve got alien contacts, for crying out loud!` No one commented on her use of the Colonel`s catch cry. They were all feeling the strain of inactivity. The inability to help was gnawing at everyone`s stomach.
`Sam.` Dr Frasier said softly, putting a hand on the blond woman`s arm.
`No, Janet.` She hissed. `Don`t give me bloody platitudes. Thousands of people are lying in that rubble, and we`re all just sitting here watching!`
`Not all of us.` Daniel said softly.
`The Colonel is helping, Major.` Siler reassured her.
`And what can one man do, huh? He may be the Colonel, but he`s ONE man!` She was snarling in impotent fury. `These guys that did this are seriously committed. Highly trained fanatics. And you think sending one measly Colonel is good enough?` Sam finally growled in frustration and stormed out of the room. Daniel hesitated, then followed after her.
`Sam?` He trotted up to her in the corridor. She was striding along, her legs eating up the concrete beneath her with great efficiency. Daniel pushed his glasses up his nose and walked beside her for a few meters before looked at her.
`Sam, where are we going?`
`To Washington. To New York. Somewhere where we can do something useful.` She halted at the elevator and punched the button twice, hard.
`Sam.` Daniel said her name gently, catching her hand in his when she went to hit the elevator button again. `Sam, let it go. This is something you can`t fix, no matter how smart you may be. You can`t invent some new sort of physics that will bring those people out of that rubble alive, and you know it as well as I do.` He stepped closer, a hand on her shoulder. `If anyone knows the effects tonnes of rock or concrete has on a body, it`s me. I saw my parents.` He hesitated. He loathed to say what they were all thinking. `Sam, the chances of anyone being alive after a collapse of that magnitude.`
`Don`t say it.` She cringed, turning her face away, hiding the tears forming in her eyes.
`Sam, Jack`s been called to do what he can to help. We both know he`s profiling the Iraqian terrorist groups for the CIA.` She nodded reluctantly. The elevator arrived with a soft ping, but they both ignored it. `So we have to `keep the home fires burning` for when he gets back.` Daniel said with a soft smile. She chuckled slightly, flashing her blue eyes up to meet his.
`And how do we do that?` She asked, her voice hitching slightly with suppressed emotion.
`I don`t know. How about we tackle that mountain of paper work he calls his in-tray?`
`And actually launder his BDU`s properly?` Sam added. Daniel grinned, linking his team-mates` arm in his and walking back the way they`d come.
`Give his boots to the science team to see if they can name the fifty new species of bacteria that have formed.` Sam snorted at that, but didn`t disagree. Jack`s boots were those of legend.
`Hide all forms of hair dye on base.` Carter added with a snort. Daniel agreed with another grin, then opened the door into the Rec room. The occupants, as one, turned to look at them, faces both relieved and tense with worry.
`What?` Daniel asked for them both.
`President Bush has just declared war on Osama Bin Laden.`
`Oh, Jesus.` Carter whispered.
`Why?` Daniel asked, going further into the room.
`Who cares?` Janet replied. `It means that the Colonel will be coming home soon, doesn`t it?` Carter looked at Janet sharply, seeing the knowledge of the Colonel`s background in her eyes and nodded.
`Yes, it does.` She walked to the television, and switched it off with a decisive flick. Carter turned to look at the rest of the room, her eyes sparking. `That`s enough. You want to watch it, go home. We have work to do, a Galaxy to save. Get to it.`
`Yes, Ma`am!` Daniel cried, saluting. The others stood up and shuffled out, looking a little amused at his antics.
`Daniel, Teal`c. We have a mountain to climb.` Carter told her team-mates.
`I do not understand, Major Cater. Why are we climbing the mountain?` Carter hadn`t heard, as she`d left the room to start O`Neill`s paper work.
`Paper work, Teal`c, paper work.` Daniel replied, throwing an arm around his shoulders and walking out with him.