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Atlantis, Present Universe

Elizabeth stared at the information on her screen. The words on it were short and formal, but they struck fear into her heart. It wasn't possible, it just wasn't possible, but…She tapped her mike. "Doctors Zelenka and Sheppard, Captain McKay, please report to my office."

Ten minutes later, the three men entered the room. It was odd to see Sheppard and McKay in opposite roles; she had to consciously address McKay the way she would her John Sheppard. She turned her laptop screen towards them. "Meredith, you said your sister, in your universe—she taught physics?"

McKay frowned. "That's right, at McGill University in Toronto. Why?"

Elizabeth looked over at Radek. "I think you'd better take a look at this."

"What is it?" Radek pushed his glasses farther on his nose and scaned the information on the screen. He glanced up as his cheeks flushed with horrified embarrassment. "Ty vole. This can't be right, Elizabeth! The Jeannie Miller we know…"

"—isn't Jeannie Miller anymore. Radek, I tried contacting her in Vancouver, but there isn't anyone by that name. No Kaleb Miller, no Madison."

McKay looked alarmed. "You said she was married, had a family—"

"She was." Elizabeth met his gaze. "At least, the woman we'd met before. Now, I tried looking up her information by her maiden name. And—"

Radek read part of the listing aloud. "Doctor Jean McKay, assistant professor, vice chair of the Department of Physics, McGill University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada."

Sheppard frowned. "The very fabric of the space-time continuum is being changed. History's being rewritten as we speak. Elizabeth, you told me it felt like a train being derailed from its track—"

"Wait a minute. Wouldn't we have felt something different?" McKay asked. "If everything's changing because we're here and they're over there—"

Sheppard shook his head. "Not at first. It'd be subtle, then as the timeline begins to change, our memories begin to readjust. Elizabeth, when you first saw this, did you immediately sense something was wrong?"

Another cold blast of fear hit her. "Not immediately. It was only after I read it the second time. That was when I remembered 'our' Jeannie Miller."

"Then it's already started." Sheppard's voice was grim. "Eventually, everyone in Atlantis will remember an altered version of your universe and the same for ours." He glanced back at McKay. "We've got to get back as soon as possible, Meredith."

"Agreed." The captain frowned at Radek. "You've been quiet."

The Czech pointed at a single line in Jeannie McKay's bio. Elizabeth felt her mouth quirk upward, despite the circumstances. "Is not funny, Elizabeth. Rodney would kill me."

Sheppard wore an evil grin. "That's if he ever found out."

Radek flushed crimson as McKay read the line out loud. "Marital status: married. Spouse: Radevic Zelenka."

There were other changes. The Go'auld and the Jaffa were now allied with Earth, against the Ori. General Hammond was still in charge of the SGC, and the Wraith were in negotiations with the Replicators. Elizabeth shuddered at that, for it would tip the balance of power in the Pegasus Galaxy. If those negotiations were successful, Atlantis would be in grave danger.

Which meant they had to fix this problem before it got even worse. "Would this Jeannie still remember the Intergalactic Bridge?" Elizabeth asked.

Radek nodded. "According to this, she and I—we—were married not long after her first visit here, much to her brother's chagrin." He shifted uncomfortably. "But yes, that part of history remains the same."

"They we're still need her to help," Elizabeth said softly, "and she'll still need to come here."

Radek cursed under his breath. "Do prdele, you're right, but—"

"I know, Radek. I know."

Captain McKay raised an eyebrow at him. "At least she's not my sister."


*****

Evan winced as he saw one of his soldiers hit the mat hard as Specialist Dex threw him over his shoulder. The poor corporal broke the fall as best as he could, but the grimace on the man's face told Evan all he needed to know.Ouch. Damn. This guy is just as good as our Ronon.

"Left yourself wide open," Ronon said shortly. "You need to watch that extension. Any more and you'll land on your neck instead of your back, and you'll be dead as soon as you hit the ground." He nodded at the corporal. "Are you okay?"

"I'll be fine," the corporal said with a rueful chuckle. "Thanks. I'll work on it."

Ronon sighed. "You'd better, because you only have a second to react when you're under attack. Isn't that right, Major?"

Evan nodded in agreement. "He's got a point, Corporal Thomas. Let me know if you need a sparring partner and I'll help you with it."

"Thank you, sir. I really do appreciate it," Thomas said.

"What about you, Major?" Think you're up for a little sparring yourself?"

Evan tried not to show his sudden apprehension at Ronon's invitation. Granted, this Ronon seemed more easygoing, more talkative than his normal counterpart, but this man had an extra decade in the Satedan militia. The glint in his eye was still the same, as so was the singleminded focus on the battlefield, or in this case, the mat.

"Sure, if you promise to take it easy on me."

Ronon smiled. "Take it easy on you? Don't disappoint me, Major."

"What, my double can take you on and win?" Evan winced as his mouth replied before he had time to think.

"No. But he can put up a good fight, even though he's commanding a ship now. The Colonel takes good care of himself." Ronon raised an approving eyebrow. "As do you."

"Um…thanks." He smiled a little at the mention of his counterpart's rank, but sobered quickly as he took up a stance across from Ronon. "Okay. Whenever you're ready."

Ronon smiled back, but Evan swore it looked liked he was baring his teeth. They circled each other around the mat; Evan was careful not to look at him directly in the eyes, for his Ronon had once told him, The eyes lie, do not trust what you see in them.

Then, Ronon feinted a punch to his left, but Evan was prepared for it and blocked the lightning-fast shot from Ronon's right hand. The pure force caused him to stagger back a few steps, but he turned it into a low roundhouse kick. Both men traded punches and kicks, blocks and foot sweeps. Evan found it difficult to keep up with the pure strength of Ronon's blows, but he used his smaller height and frame to his advantage.

Then he aimed a punch at Ronon's midsection, which Ronon blocked. Too late, he understood what Ronon meant when he'd told Thomas about overextending his arm. Ronon seized the opportunity to his advantage, and flipped Evan onto the mat before he could react. He landed hard, stunned.

"Looks like you need some practice too, Major." There was no rancor in Ronon's voice, just the cool observant tone of a trainer.

"Yeah," Evan gasped. "Good one."

Ronon offered a hand, and pulled Evan to his feet. He saw another slight smirk as Ronon addressed the entire squad of thoroughly humbled soldiers. "Watch carefully, then, and I will show you how to prevent that. Major, if you please…"

"Of course." Evan mentally sighed and thought, This is gonna be a long hour.


Britgate, on the Bridge of the battlecruiser Orion


Home! I am home at last!

Ronon Dex stood on the bridge of the battle cruiser Orion as they slipped into orbit around Sateda. He stared at he blues, greens and yellows of a planet untouched by the Wraith. Emotion threatened to overwhelm him, but he managed to keep it at bay. Just barely.

"Specialist Dex? Are you ready?"

He glanced over his shoulder at Major---no, Colonel Lorne. This Lorne, like the one Ronon knew, showed a glimmer of dry humor under the calm, professional exterior. Lorne's blue eyes showed sympathy and understanding.

Ronon nodded once and tore his eyes from the screen. "I'm ready."

Lorne nodded back. "Lieutenant Colonel Marks, you have the Bridge."

"Yes, sir," Marks replied.

At Ronon's confused expression, Lorne explained, "I'm flying you down in a jumper. Give you a chance to brace yourself for the warm welcome you'll be getting." The colonel gave him a lopsided grin, then gestured to the lift. "You comin'?"

*****

Datal, Sateda's second-largest city, loomed large in the horizon. Ronon watched, mesmerized, as transports and other vehicles went about their business like any ordinary day. The gardens, the plazas, the high-rise buildings…it was as if the Wraith had never touched his world. In this universe, they never had.

"Ronon?"

He glanced over his shoulder at Zelenka's inquisitive look. The captain seemed completely sympathetic. Ronon managed a smile. "Sorry, just a bit overwhelming."

Lorne nodded, then said quietly, "Doctor Grodin told me what had happened to your world, to the Sateda where you come from."

Ronon flinched; he didn't want to think about that, not right now, not when he was about to see so many friends who, for him, had been long dead. He pushed the painful thoughts away. "It was just like this. Now it all feels right. It feels like…home."

Lorne grinned and said, "They've got a bunch of people waiting for you. Don't wanna be late."

The colonel had underestimated the "bunch" of people. When he cracked the jumper hatch and Ronon stepped out, a flame-haired woman nearly knocked him down. She threw her arms around him; he automatically picked him up and swung her around. Her perfume filled his senses with almost unbearable joy.

"Ronon! It's so good to see you!" she cried. She regarded him with a brilliant smile that made his heart ache in his chest. "I've missed you."

"Melena," he choked out. "I—"

Her almond-shaped eyes crinkled in good-natured humor. "What, overwhelmed with emotion, my love?"

A jovial voice interrupted, "We all know how emotional he is, Melena." Tyre laughed and clapped Ronon on the shoulder. "Welcome home, my brother."

"Tyre." His best friend's face showed no trace of madness, no effects from the Wraith enzyme. Tyre was, once again, the man as Ronon once knew him.

He pushed the regret out of his mind. For once, everything was as it should be.

He was home.


*****

Melena and Tyre threw him a welcome dinner and invited all their friends: members of Ronon's regiment, Melena's colleagues at the hospital, Colonel Lorne and Captain Zelenka. Ronon's mouth watered at the spiced beef, sauteed vegetables with a multitude of sauces, puddings and other forgotten delicacies. Ronon took second helpings of everything, much to the amusement of all present.

Tyre picked up a stringed gita and played a few traditional tunes. Melena added her voice to his, warm and hauntingly beautiful. Ronon watched her, remembering the glow on her face, the bright eyes filled with love and happiness, the smile meant only for him.

Much later, Ronon stood out on the balcony and enjoyed the night wind. Melena came up behind him and wrapped her arms around his waist.

"I'm not the man you think I am."

She said nothing for a moment, then replied, "I know. Colonel Lorne and Captain Zelenka told me. Tyre knows; the others do not."

"He won't tell the others?"

"Why should they know? You are him, in all ways that matter."

"No, I'm not." He looked at her, memorizing every feature of her face. "He and I have…had different lives. I think about him, and see the life I would have had. Should have had." The anger spilled out into his voice. "This is how Sateda should be. Not—" He broke off, not wanting to upset her.

She tightened her arms around him. "Tell me."

"No."

"Please. Let me understand."

"Melena—"

She clucked her tongue at him. "If anything, it will lessen the burden on your heart. I want to help."

He gazed down at her. The loving compassion lit her like a beacon, her genuine desire to help. That was one thing he'd loved about her, one thing that had attracted him in the first place. That same compassion had ultimately killed her: she'd refused to leave her patients, as so she'd died.

He'd been a different man, all these years ago, before the Wraith. Now…

He felt a surge of jealousy for the other man, the other Ronon, the one who truly belonged to her. Instinctively, he knew that he could never go back to this life. He'd changed too much, but it wasn't Melena's fault. She was trying to help the only way way she knew how.

"It's not an easy story to tell. It will upset you."

"Ronon." Her eyes were unwontedly serious. "Let me help you."

He took a deep breath and looked over the slumbering city, savoring the view and locking it away in his memory. It wasn't his Sateda, but in a strange way, it still was. Perhaps they could learn and benefit from his pain.

Ronon stood on the balcony, held Melena in his arms, and told her everything. The coming of the Wraith, the destruction of his world, the seven-year nightmare as a Runner, his salvation with the Atlanteans. How he'd held Teyla at gunpoint as Carson Beckett removed the tracking device from his back, how he'd found another family with Sheppard, McKay and Teyla.

The Wraith worshippers, Tyre and the others, what they had become. By the time he'd finally finished, the stars were high overhead. Melena stood still, tears running down her face, but she let him talk until he had no words left.

"Ronon, you've always been a survivor, no matter how dire the situation, and you've kept your honor and your loyalty." She reached up and placed a hand on his cheek; he leaned into her touch. "I'm glad you found a place in another family, with honorable people. If we weren't with you—" she kept her tone steady, "I would wish that for you."

He bought his hands to her face. "Melena, we only have this short time—"

She smiled. "Let's make the most of it." Then she drew him down to her and kissed him.


*****

Tyre sat just inside the open glass doors that led to the balcony. He closed his eyes and tried to digest what he had just heard. Sateda had fallen, their regiment slaughtered, he and the others tortured and turned into Wraith worshippers…

No.That will never happen here.

He got up soundlessly and drifted back into the shadows, leaving the two to their privacy.

*****

Britgate, Atlantis

Night had fallen on Atlantis, and Peter stood on the balcony overlooking the ocean. The warm wind passed over him, but he still felt cold. He'd kept his emotions at bay when he talked to the other universe's flagship team. The calm, collected demeanor was legendary among this Atlantis's personnel, and Peter kept that appearance, but now, away from prying eyes, he could finally think about what he'd learned.

Elizabeth was alive, in that other universe. She was still alive.

He felt a painful pang under his heart and his hands clenched the railing. Memory rose from his thoughts, and he allowed it to happen…

*****

Flashback

"I assure you, Doctor Grodin, that my intentions are quite honorable."

He gritted his teeth at the false cheer within the tone. "Indeed so? Then you know she'd volunteered to work out an honorable agrement between our people, General."

Acastus Kolya chuckled. "And I reassure you again that I haven't harmed her. Yet. In fact, she's right here, if you wish to speak with her."

Peter glanced over at Sergeant Campbell, who only nodded. Captain McKay's units were in position; Peter hoped Meredith would reach her in time. "Put her on." There was the sound of movement on the other end of the line, then he heard her voice.

"Peter?"

He nearly sobbed in relief, but he kept the emotions in check. He couldn't afford to let Kolya know just how badly he wanted her to be safe. "Elizabeth? Are you all right?"

Elizabeth Weir sounded shaken, but unharmed. "I'm fine; they haven't hurt me."

Kolya's voice came back on. "You have your proof, Doctor Grodin. Lower your shield and I will personally deliver your fiancée back to you alive."

"Stand by." Peter glanced sideways at Chuck. whose hand was poised over the button. He took a deep breath, hoping Meredith would pull off yet another "McKay Miracle"

Then she screamed, and that sound would haunt him for the rest of his days. "Peter, don't drop the shield! They'll come through and—"

There were more sounds of scuffling and his heart leaped into his throat. "Elizabeth? Elizabeth!"

The sound of machine gun fire, followed by cries of pain. The Control Room heard the chaos, but no one could tell what was happening. Peter's hand gripped the edge of the console so hard that his knuckles turned white.

Finally, a voice—Meredith's. "Send the medteams through, Peter, we've got casualties."

He nodded at Chuck, who lowered the shield. Doctor Ben Kavanaugh and Doctor Teyla Emmagan plunged through the Gate first. Peter had to stop himself from following them.

"Emmagan to Grodin."

His heart stopped at her tone, but he still clung to hope. "Yes."

"You'd better get here, Peter." Teyla's voice caught. "Hurry."

Heart pounding, he charged down the stairs and ran for the Gate. It spit him out onto a battlefield littered with Genii and Atlantean bodies, but Peter hardly noticed them at all. His attention was focused on the woman lying in Meredith McKay's arms. The Canadian gave him a stricken look as he collapsed heavily to his knees beside them.

"Elizabeth," he choked out.

Her eyelids fluttered open. "I'm sorry…I thought I could—"

"Sssh. It's all right." Meredith helped settle her into his arms. Peter tried to ignore the blood; he'd seen enough trauma to know there was nothing to be done. Tears flowed down his face as he held her close. Her breaths were growing shallower now, and she weakly reached for his face. He caught and pressed it to his cheek as she managed a smile.

"Peter, I love you—" The light and life faded from her eyes forever. She was gone.

The knowledge shattered every trace of British reserve and he sobbed unashamedly into her shoulder. He barely heard Meredith's shaking voice.

"We'll get the bastard, Peter. I promise, Kolya will pay."


*****

"Doctor Grodin, you okay?"

He straightened and glanced over his shoulder at Chuck. "I'm fine, Chuck. What is it?"

"Doctor Bates reports that he and Doctor McKay have decided to retire for the night. Well, Bates decided to retire and forced Rodney out of the Chair. Doctor Kavanaugh dragged him to the Mess Hall to get something other than Powerbars to eat, then marched him to guest quarters." Chuck paused, then added, "I think Ben spiked his jello. He's fast asleep."

Peter chuckled humorlessly. "He thinks he can live off coffee and Powerbars. It's been nearly forty-eight hours since they came here; I didn't think anyone could last that long without some sleep."

"Apparently, Rodney thinks he can. And begging your pardon, sir," Chuck raised an eyebrow at his superior, "neither can you."

Peter sighed and shook his head. "Have you promoted yourself to mother hen?"

"Doctor Emmagan and Captain McKay aren't here to do it, and you can't hear Her nagging at you, so She nags at me. I guess the job's mine for a while.

"Apparently so." He chuckled and sighed. "Point taken, Chuck, thank you. Speaking of…where is Teyla ? And I haven't seen Commander Beckett for some time now, either."

Chuck shrugged. "In the gym, trying to beat each other up with bantos rods."

"Ah.In that case, carry on, Sergeant." Peter sighed again; he'd noticed a growing tension between Teyla and Beckett during the past forty-eight hours. He hoped the two wouldn't do anything they'd regret later.

And there was still the problem of this Teyla's Wraith DNA. She had been quite frank with him when he and Beckett had asked about it. The Wraith had experimented on her ancestors, and so she possessed the ability to sense the Wraith whenever they were in close proximity. Teyla could even enter the Hive mind on occasion, but she was reluctant to do that unless as a last resort.

To be safe, Beckett had suggested that he keep Teyla from any sensitive areas of the City or any tactical information on Atlantis and their allies. Peter agreed. Better safe than sorry.

Peter hoped Beckett would take his own advice.

*****

Teyla sidestepped the attack and countered with a swift jab with her bantos rods. It would have caught him in the side, but he twisted, cat-like out of the way.

By Athos, he has learned well.A slight smile flickered across her lips. The first time, she'd made the mistake of lowering her guard. Doctor Beckett would not have exploited her moment of weakness. Commander Beckett, on the other hand, had immediately taken advantage of it. He'd nearly disarmed her; she'd made sure not to repeat the same mistake twice.

"Good move," he grunted in approval. She only nodded as they circled around the mat, bantos rods at the ready. This is a different Carson, she reminded herself. He is like a dangerous predator stalking his prey. Do not underestimate him.

She was very aware of Charin and Halling watching as she and Beckett sparred with each other. Charin's mouth quirked upward in a smile, while Halling's calm expression didn't change a bit. The tall Athosian still wore the dignity, with which Teyla was familiar, but there was a sense of peace that came from the years under Atlantis's protection. The sense of loss wasn't as sharp with this man.

This time, she took the initiative and launched a flurry of blows. He defended against them, meeting her attack, parrying and sidestepping. His reflexes were good, almost as good as hers. He had brute strength, but tempered with agility and finesse. She was impressed by his technique.

After a moment, Charin called a halt to the practice. "You have learned well, Teyla. I can see Tagan's hand in your training."

She nodded and struggled to keep an even tone. Charin had told her that Tagan, her father, had died a few seasons ago, and she felt his loss all over again. "Yes. He taught me my first moves."

Halling nodded in approval. "We have planned a celebration in the Athosian Quarter for tomorrow morning. It would be an honor if both you and Commander Beckett attended."

Teyla bowed her head slightly. "I would be honored to come, Halling."

"As would I," Beckett added.

Charin and Halling exchanged looks, and she thought she saw amusement flash between the two. Then Charin said, "Until tomorrow, then, my dear." They stepped forward and both extended the traditional Athosian head-touch before silently withdrawing from the gym. The doors slid shut behind them.

"They are not unlike the ones I know in my universe."

Beckett nodded and wiped the sweat from his forehead. "They're good people. Charin befriended us when we first came here, and she and Halling were the main negotiators of the peace treaty between us and the Athosians. Peter seeks Charin's advice on many things."

"Then he is a wise man to do so." She smiled as he twirled his sticks around in his hand with a casual gesture, as if he'd done it many times before. Her Carson Beckett would have already dropped them. "Perhaps you would like one more round before retiring for the night?"

He chuckled and replied, "If you're up for it, lass."

She assumed a ready stance and he matched it. This time, he was on the offensive, and she allowed him to believe he had the advantage and timed the strikes perfectly so that he didn't see her strategy. With a flick of her wrist, she sent one of his sticks flying out of his hand, caught his arm and twisted it behind him. He gasped in pain as she forced him to his knees and pressed her rod to his throat.

"Do you yield?"

"Aye," he muttered through gritted teeth.

She let up on his arm, With whipcord reflexes, he grabbed her around the waist and flipped her onto her back., She hadn't seen it coming, and the impact against the mat stunned for her a moment.

"You—"

He smirked slightly. "Sorry about that, love. Reflexes."

She returned his smirk. Suddenly, she was very aware of his face hovering above hers, the depth of his stormy blue eyes. Her rational mind screamed, He is not your Carson Beckett !, but her body refused to move.

He bent down and brushed his lips against hers. It set off an unexpected explosion within her. She wrapped her arms around him and pulled him down to her. Two days of smothered desire exploded into a fury, and for once, Teyla didn't care.

He was everything she'd imagined him to be, and more.

*****

Later, as she lay in his arms, spent and replete, she wondered just what she had been thinking. This was not what she had expected, nor what she'd planned. A part of her felt guilty for allowing it to happen, but…

"Any regrets, love?"

She blinked hard and tried to keep the tears from falling. "Carson, I—"

He sounded stricken. "Ach, I'm sorry, I didn't—"

She placed a finger on his lips. The pain in his eyes reflected the pain in her own soul, and her heart cried out for him. "No. No regrets."

"I know I'm not the one you really love," he whispered hoarsely. "If you want me to stay away, I will."

"No!" she cried fiercely. "I do not want you to do that. Please."

His arms tightened around her as he asked, "Are you sure?"

"Yes," she replied, "but perhaps we should find a place more comfortable than the floor? And what if someone walks into the gym?"

Beckett chuckled, and it brought a smile to her face. "They won't, unless they have my personal security codes for the door. But you're right; I'm gonna be hurtin' tomorrow unless I have a softer mattress under my back."

She smiled, then reached for him again. "In that case, we should move to a more suitable place without delay."

*****

John sighed, leaned back in his chair and rubbed his temples. It was late and getting even later, but he couldn't sleep. He stared at the opposite wall of Doctor Sheppard's quarters and the wall-sized poster of Johnny Cash stared back. At least his counterpart shared the same kind of music, played a decent game of golf, and surfed the ocean waves with passable skill. He sighed again and looked at the information on the computer screen.

You should get some rest, Colonel. There is nothing more you can do about the current situation.

"I know," he muttered, "but I just want to check a few things."

This is not the same universe. Things are different here, sometimes very different.

He nodded absently as he scrolled through the situation reports of this Atlantis. This would be his job at home, in his City, but it was Captain McKay's here, and Peter insisted that John be as thoroughly briefed on their history here. Melia hinted that this universe was darker, grimmer than his own, but John had had no idea just how much more.

Grodin's Atlantis was fighting a desperate battle for survival, and even with their Allies, they were in serious trouble. The Genii and the Wraith, in particular, chipped away at their defenses bit by bit, until holes appeared in the net. John scowled at the successful hit and run tactics of the enemy; they were getting bolder, stronger, and more organized.

Who's behind it all? Whoever it is, they're brilliant in military tactics and definitely has the resources. John pored over the Intel reports; Acastus Kolya headed the Genii here, though Cowen was still alive, and the Wraith drones still answered to Queens. But John felt there was a missing piece.

Kolya hasn't changed much from your universe, Colonel. He's still a sadistic megalomaniac. Meredith's words, not mine.

John shivered at the memory of his torture at Kolya's hands. "Your McKay isn't too far off the truth, there, Melia…"

He did something to you, didn't he. I can feel your rage against him.

John hesitated again; he'd never allowed his feelings about that to interfere with his duty to Elizabeth and to Atlantis. Yet the City had seen them and it was useless to deny the fact. "Yes," he answered slowly.

The City's tone became soft steel. I do not pry into anyone's mind or their memories, Colonel. I can only surmise it from what I can feel from your emotions at the time. Yes, Kolya has done unspeakable things in the name of preserving his people. He and Grodin are sworn enemies; if Kolya doesn't kill Peter, Peter will kill him first. Of that I am certain.

"Grodin would kill Kolya?" That sounded unlike the Peter Grodin whom John had known. "What did Kolya do to piss him off?"

He murdered Peter's fiancèe.

John gave a low whistle. Grodin was supposed to be married? "Yeah, that'll do it. Even someone as even-tempered as Peter wouldn't forgive that."

Yes. So now you know the issues that complicates any peaceful solution to our problems here. And as for your arrival here…Rodney is working on that issue as we speak— Melia's voice broke off abruptly, breaking John's train of thought.

"What is it? What's wrong?"

Someone is here, who shouldn't be. Whomever it is, he is currently at the base of the Command Tower and making his way through the levels.

John hit the intercom. "Sheppard to…Grodin." He'd almost said Elizabeth's name, but caught himself just in time.

"Grodin." The Englishman sounded exhausted, but his tone was steady.

"The City says She's detected an intruder in the Command Tower, lower levels—"

—approaching the Gateroom through the service walkways and the ladders.

Peter's voice overlapped the City's. "She's alerted Beckett; rendezvous with his team on Level 15. Intruder alert protocols are being set into place."

John shook his head and grabbed his P-90.

"Acknowledged, Sheppard, out."

He took a transporter down several levels, then crossed over to Level 15. At least the layout of this Atlantis was similar to his own. The hallway was dimly lighted; he waited for his eyes to adjust, then crept forward with his weapon at the ready. He gritted his teeth against the bone-chilling cold and thought, You'd think they'd turn up the heat in here?

Ahead of you, five hundred meters, there is an intersection. Our intruder lurks there.

Gotcha. There were definite advantages to having an extra set of eyes, especially when those eyes belonged to Atlantis Herself. A part of him marveled at how naturally they'd worked in tandem; another part of him was terrified at it. Was this how She and Captain McKay were connected, or She and Beckett?

He felt, rather than saw, the punch aimed at his midsection. John sidestepped it, blocked it with one arm as another blow sent his P-90 spinning out into the darkness. Pain shot through his right hand and into his arm, followed by dizziness, as something sticky coated his palm.

Oh, damn…He could barely flex his fingers now, and the paralysis crept slowly up his arm and into his shoulder. John took a step back and hit the wall and sagged against it, holding himself upright by pure force of will.

He heard a clash of wood against metal and then the heavy thud of a body hitting the floor. John felt a wave of warmth flow into him, erasing the numbness in his limbs. The beam of a flashlight dazzled him for a moment before he realized it was Commander Beckett who held it aloft. The Scotsman hurried to his side and put an arm around his shoulders.

"Bloody hell, son. Are you all right?"

"Yeah, got poked by something sharp, but I'm okay." John's tongue felt fuzzy and he could barely speak the words. He saw Teyla in the cone of light as she hauled the intruder to his feet. Her feet. Curly red hair, aqua-green eyes, and skin as pale as milk…

"Skulking in the shadows again, Sora?" Beckett asked, his mouth turned up in a humorless smirk. "I thought we discussed this the last time you were here?"

Sora Radim scowled at him, then glanced over her shoulder at Teyla, who regarded her like a bug under a microscope. "Tell your bed partner to let me go, Beckett. I bring a message from my brother for Doctor Grodin. It concerns the latest intelligence on Kolya's whereabouts." She gasped as Teyla tightened her grip on her ever so slightly.

Beckett's eyes flashed, but he nodded at Teyla, who reluctantly let her go. Sora shook out the stiffness in her arms, then tossed a vial in John's direction. Beckett's hand intercepted it before it hit him in the face. She smirked. "Antidote for the poison. Apologies, Sheppard, I wasn't expecting you to be playing soldier tonight."

"Bring her," Beckett growled, his accent ominously thick. "Grodin will want to talk with her."

*****

Sora Radim, soldier in the Genii militia, had heard the rumors of a different team arriving in this Atlantis, but she'd discounted them. Multiple universes, different realities, had no place in her upbringing or her training. She was a soldier, not a metaphysicist. Each time she brought messages regarding the Genii, she tolerated Captain McKay or Commander Beckett, or even Captain Zelenka. None of those men could even match her quickness, her strength, or her wiles.

McKay was not here, but the man who had taken his place was another matter entirely.

Sora met this John Sheppard's stare evenly and tried not to betray the fact she was terrified of this man. There was no mistaking him for his quieter, weaker counterpart. This John Sheppard was dangerous, even as he leaned against he doorway, his arms crossed casually in front of his chest. The hazel eyes burned with an intensity she normally associated with Ladon, or Acastus, or even Captain McKay.

This Sheppard was indeed a worthy opponent. She regretted stabbing him with the poisoned needle, but it had been an honest mistake.

"She's checked out fine," Dr. Ben Kavanaugh said. "No other hidden surprises. Oh, and just a few bumps and bruises."

Sora looked at him sourly, then glanced over at the alternate Teyla. This woman was Athosian, not Terran, and held herself like a banner. Sora noticed the almost imperceptible flicker of Beckett's eyes towards Teyla and she resisted a smile. So, Beckett's already made this one his own. His doctor might decide to give him her Hoffan virus, out of pure pique, when she returns.

She turned her attention back to Kavanaugh."Your sympathy is astounding, Doctor Kavanaugh. All the more reason I am as eager as you are for Dr. Emmagan's return." To her pleasure, she saw Beckett flinch slightly at the mention.

Kavanaugh smirked back. "I'm sure."

"That's enough," Peter told him. The Englishman gazed at her coldly. "How do I know you aren't the bait for another one of Kolya's traps?"

Sora met his glare. "Because I've never had a reason to lie to you, of all people. You know that I have no love for Acastus, either." Her gaze flickered in Beckett's direction. "Ask your Commander, if you have any doubts."

"Aye," Beckett said quietly. "She and her brother have provided the tactical information for me before."

Colonel Sheppard's eyebrows reached his hairline at that revelation, making Sora wonder just how much the man knew about that particular arrangement. After all, Doctor Sheppard didn't care for Kolya, but she'd never seen this murderous glint in the scientist's eyes. This Sheppard, on the other hand…

"So what brings you to Atlantis this time, Sora?" Peter asked quietly. His accent was nearly nonexistent, which Sora knew was a very bad sign. Apparently, the Colonel knew that too, for Sheppard's face was grim.

She looked over at Grodin. Atlantis's master was dangerous in his own right; Sora knew better than to underestimate him. So she buried the knowing smile and set the plan for the Genii's victory into motion.

"Your City will be under attack."

*****

Rodney woke up with a god-awful headache. He didn't remember drinking anything alcoholic the night before, though he remembered that both Peter and John had been there, as well as Kyle Bates and Ben Kavanaugh…

Kyle Bates and Ben Kavanaugh…

Bates. Kavanaugh. Peter. He sat up in bed and glanced at the bare wall. There was no sign of his framed degrees or even the picture of his cat. "Nope, not a dream," he muttered aloud. "Great."

Bits and pieces of memory came back to him as he showered and shaved. The only thing in his closet was the black military uniform of his counterpart; not a science blue jacket in sight. Rodney gritted his teeth, picked one, and got dressed. He'd have to borrow a science uniform from somebody in that department…

Then he remembered one crucial fact: "Kavanaugh slipped me a mickey, the sniveling little weasel! When I get my hands on him…"

You'll do nothing of the sort, Rodney. It was for your own good. Besides, if you filed a complaint, I'm sure Peter would read it, eventually.

"Melia," he growled. "There better be coffee somewhere around here…"

There's a coffeepot on the desk behind you. Meredith has his own special blend of Kenyan, Jamaican and Blue Mountain, second shelf to the right. He can't function without coffee, either, though I don't think he drinks it as much as you do.

"Smart man, to have his own stash. I should do the same when I get back," Rodney muttered, as he brewed a full pot. At least his counterpart showed some intelligence, considering he'd decided to go into the RCAF, of all things. Again, he tried to imagine himself as a military pilot and couldn't do it.

He brought up the results of the system analysis from the night before onto his computer screen. There were a few minor differences between Melia's Atlantis and his, but for the most part, both cities were similar enough that he had no problem interpreting the data. While his Atlantis was still mostly uninhabited, except for the members of the Expedition, Melia's had the extra complication of 10,000 extra residents and expatriates from all over the Pegasus Galaxy.

This whole city was a security nightmare. No wonder this version of Zelenka had thinning hair.

We had an unwelcome visitor come last night while you were resting, Rodney.

"An unwelcome visitor?" He heard the dark undertone to Her voice. "Who?"

Melia told him about Sora Radim and her news. According to Sora, Kolya was planning an attack on Atlantis during the Athosian celebration that day, to disrupt relations between the Athosians and the Atlanteans. Rodney gulped down his coffee, poured himself a second cup, and downed that one too before Melia was finished.

"So I take it we're on full alert?" Anything with Kolya and the Genii was bad; Rodney still remembered that time his Atlantis had been in the Genii's hands during the Storm, and what Kolya had done to John. Rodney shivered at the memory.

Yes, Doctor Grodin and Commander Beckett have instituted security measures. Carson has his own spies within the population; if Kolya is planning something, the Commander will know.

"Where's Sheppard this morning?"

The colonel, Commander Beckett and your Teyla are going to attend with Charin and Halling. They are also on the lookout for Kolya's agents in the City. There was a pause, then She added, You are welcome to join them, if you wish.

Rodney shook his head. "I think I'd better concentrate on solving our problem with the Gate, Melia."

It is your decision. Though Meredith takes little time to relax, either. She sounded both disapproving and concerned about Captain McKay.

"He's probably a busy guy." Rodney frowned and pointed at a section of the scan. "Melia, can we look at this from the Control Room, or do I need to be in the Chair again?"

We can do the initial analysis from the Control Room. I'll alert Bates and Kusunagi. But first—

"What?"

You will eat breakfast. Your blood sugar level is getting too low.

"I'll just grab something from the—"

No, Rodney. You will eat more than just a few Powerbars this time, or I will not cooperate. Your choice.

He scowled at the ceiling, but he distinctly felt the City's displeasure in his head. "Fine," he said brusquely. "I swear, you're worse than Carson."

She sounded both smug and satisfied. Then your Carson Beckett is a very wise man.

*****

Teyla woke up with a start. The sunlight poured through the open window as the ocean beeze caressed her hair. Her sense of orientation was thrown off for several moments as the events of the night before came rushing back from memory.

Her cheeks burned with shame. By Athos, what have we done?

Commander Beckett's room was situated close to the Control Room; it made sense, considering his position in this Atlantis. She'd never been in Carson's room before, so she had no reference to compare the two, but from what she could tell, he was as private here as his counterpart was in her Atlantis. There were a few pictures scattered around: one of himself and his mother on his desk, some of himself and other RAF pilots, a few with Captain Zelenka and Captain McKay. She saw framed portrait of Beckett and herself.

No, not her. The other Teyla, the doctor. They seemed happy, with his arm around her shoulders, and the brilliant smile that lit up his entire face. She had seen the same expression on Carson's face before, but she had the feeling that the commander rarely smiled like that for anyone else. Just for his Teyla.

Again, she felt a pang of regret. What would her counterpart do if she'd found out what had happened? Granted, Beckett hadn't actually betrayed Doctor Emmagan, not technically, but Teyla refused to accept that as an excuse.

She had to find him. Quickly, she showered and dressed, then went in search of him. He wasn't in the Control Room, the Mess Hall or the Infirmary. Doctor Grodin had seen him briefly; Beckett had told him he was consulting with Charin and Halling. Teyla winced inwardly; had either of them known what would happen in the gym? If they had, neither had done anything to stop it. Why?

Suddenly, her senses tingled as something niggled at her subconscious. She frowned and glanced around, but no one else was in the corridor. Again, it pulled at her, like an urge that couldn't be denied. Teyla took a deep breath, closed her eyes and centered herself. She traced the source of the feeling…

The Wraith are here. Her special sense warned her of their presence. How could they be here, in Atlantis, without anyone knowing? During the Siege, the Wraith named "Bob" had hid in the City for weeks undetected. Yet Grodin's Atlantis was far from deserted; others would have seen and raised the alarm.

She opened her eyes and crossed over to a communications terminal. "Emmagan to Grodin. Respond." There was no response, not even a hint of static. "Hello? Is there anyone here?" Her voice echoed back to her, but there was no answer.

The Wraith make you see things. Teyla narrowed her eyes and murmured aloud, "What do you want?"

A blast of cold air hit her from behind. She whirled around to see a single open door at the end of the hall, a door that loomed invitingly in her vision. Come and find us, if you dare. There was nowhere else for her to go, except toward the door.

Teyla took out her bantos rods and slowly made her way up the corridor. She paused at the threshhold of the door, took a deep breath and stepped through. The sound of joyous music surrounded her as she emerged in sunlight. It blinded her for a moment before her eyes readjusted to the glare. The brightly colored flags hung from the entrances to private homes, the smell of roasting meat ticked her nose, and the laughter of children rang through the streets. She recognized this section of the Athosian Quarter of the City; she and Beckett had come here to talk with members of the Council two days before.

Cherish the sight of your people in jubliation, for they will be in mourning before too long.

"Where are you?" she whispered. "Are you such a coward that you hide in the shadows?"

An unexpected voice behind her whispered, "Over here, Doctor Emmagan. I need your help."

She whirled around to see a man leaning against a nearby wall. He was dressed in Athosian clothing, but she recognized him as no Athosian. Blond hair, blue eyes, and a soft accent from Earth.

A fully Human, fully restored Michael Kenmore,

*****

John had attended several Athosian celebrations on the mainland, but nothing compared to this one. The chime of instruments echoed down the streets of the Athosian quarter, and bright colors greeted him everywhere he turned. There were plenty of food to eat and ruus wine to drink, even this early in the day. John skipped the ruus wine and stuck with fresh water. He needed to be sharp for whatever might happen.

It is good to see you like this, Colonel.

"Like what?"

Social, even if you must be on alert. Rodney insists on working. As usual.

"That doesn't surprise me," John told Her mildly. "Gatherings like this aren't his thing."

Neither is it Meredith's. They are similar in that way. You are not as open, as my Sheppard is.

"Hazards of the job." He was uncomfortable at the City's observation; talking with Her made him painfully aware that She could see into his soul as well as his mind. It was a creepy feeling, one that made him shiver. She would never invade his privacy or force herself into his mind uninvited, but just the prospect of someone knowing you that well…

He glanced over at Halling, who had just finished giving instructions to a small Athosian security team. That was definitely a radical change from what John was used to, for Teyla's people were too few to even organize a militia. Halling's people had survived and multiplied far greater here, so such teams were commonplace.

Speaking of, where are Teyla and Beckett? I haven't seen either of them this morning. Peter had told him that Beckett had gone into the Athosian Quarter of the City earlier to speak with Charin about Sora's information. John shook his head; it was difficult to believe her story. Kolya was a tactician; the Genii would never split his forces among several fronts. That weakened the base of his strength, and Kolya knew it.

John's instincts told him it was a trap. He'd learned to follow his instincts.

Sora has given the Commander reliable information before, Colonel. Yet I find it unlikely that Kolya of all people would make such a grievous tactical error.

"Yeah. It doesn't fit what I know of him, even here." John watched as a tight knot of women eyed him with much appreciation. He grinned and them at waved jauntily, but mentally he asked, Where are Teyla and Beckett? I'd think they'd be here for the celebration by now.

Yes, their absences are puzzling. The Commander is several blocks away in the Quarter, while your Teyla is still within the main City. I cannot communicate to her like I can Doctor Emmagan—your Teyla does not have the Touch of the Ancestors—but I cannot understand why he is not responding to My summons, either.

"Keep trying. Maybe he's just distracted." John narrowed his eyes at the festival goers and looked for anything out of place, but found nothing.

"You are troubled, Colonel. What is the matter?" Halling had come up silently beside him. John jumped; how could such a big man move so quietly? It unnerved John to no end.

"The City can't get a hold of Beckett and Teyla hasn't arrived yet. I'm starting to get a little worried."

Halling frowned and said, "I will ask Charin. I know that Commander Beckett wished to speak with her this morning. One moment." He tapped the earpiece of his headset—yet another thing that John wasn't sure he'd get used to—and spoke softly to Charin.

Movement caught John's eye and he narrowed his eyes at a point across the plaza. There, almost directly across from him, was a man dressed in a neat Hoffan suit and tie, but the man's body language was definitely not a native of Hoff John met the man's cold glare.

"I see them, Colonel," murmured Halling. "There are four of them. Two are across from us and two down on the northwest corner of the plaza. They've been staring at us for the past few minutes."

"Not Hoffans."

"No."

"Kolya's spies?"

"Probably."

John tapped his headset. "Doctor Grodin, we have suspicious men on the northwest plaza. Halling and I are going to check it out. Beckett's somewhere close, but we haven't been able to talk to him."

Peter's voice immediately answered, "Acknowledged, Colonel. I'm scrambling Captain Cadman and her team and we're paging Beckett on his headset."

"Get Teyla too, if you can. I can't seem to reach her, either. I don't like this."

"That makes two of us. Grodin out."

John glanced over at Halling, whose face was a thundercloud. He'd seen Halling worried, even upset, but not angry like this. Then he felt a shift in the City's thoughts. They are moving, Colonel. I cannot stop them as long as they stay out in the open, and away from My halls.

"We don't have time to wait," John murmured. "We have to move now."

Halling nodded. "Follow me. I know the quickest way there."

"Lead on." He exchanged a quick salute with Halling, then they headed out. John noticed how he and Halling moved in tandem, as if they'd been on the same team for the past three, no, four, years. It was almost eerie how easily John could read his mind.

The City said, Whom do you think trained him? You and Captain McKay share some qualities, Colonel Sheppard. John felt a rueful shiver, as if She wished her McKay was back where he belonged .

He knew exactly how She felt. He wished he was back at his Atlantis too.

*****

Britgate, Sateda

Ronon ran down the streets of Datal, his blaster in hand. People dove out of the way, but there were no panic-stricken shouts or screams. He wondered if incidents like this were commonplace here and the inhabitants were used to it. He pushed away flashbacks of Sateda's last stand against the Wraith, the dead and the dying…

Captain Zelenka preceded him, giving orders over his headset in both Czech and English. Ronon had had no idea that the smaller man could move so fast, or make such an impression on both the Marines and the Satedan contingent. He revised his opinions of Zelenka several notches upward.

There is hope for him yet, thought with a grin. He reminded himself to step up the scientists' training sessions when he got back to his Atlantis, especially for McKay and Zelenka. This universe proved that both men were definitely capable, if they set their minds to it.

"Orion to Sateda Control. We are in position. Wraith darts on approach, ETA ten minutes. We are launching countermeasures."

"Acknowledged, Colonel Lorne. We are fortifying our positions here. Good luck to you, Evan."

"You too, Radek. Lorne, out."

It was strange to hear Zelenka and Lorne call each other by their given names with the familiarity of military officers who had been serving for years in the same unit. Ronon knew the two had been on a different Orion,with an unfortunate outcome. He hoped they'd be luckier here.

"Specialist Dex!"

His head snapped up as a squad rounded the corner. It took Ronon completely by surprise, especially when the group of men snapped salutes at him. He blinked, briefly taken back to that last battle on Sateda, the faces of his dead comrades superimposed on these living ones. Ronon opened his mouth, but nothing came out. Luckily, Zelenka saved him from an awkward moment.

"Specialist Crev, I want you, Malef, Nyru and Balos to stick close."

"Sir," said Crev. He nodded at Ronon, who had regained some of his calm. "What is the situation?"

"Unknown hostiles," Ronon replied. The soldier in him approved of the young man's professional demeanor.
"Wraith? Genii? Replicator? Ori?"

He shook his head. "Wraith."

Crev didn't seem to be offended by Ronon's curt replies. He only gave him a confident smile. "We'll take care of it, sir. Specialist Tyre's squad is on the south side of the city."

Ronon only inclined his head in agreement. Zelenka had covertly provided him with his squad's names, information he was already supposed to "know". More surprises were in store as they entered the city proper, and it took all of his self-control not to stop and stare. The yellow stone buildings, the chatter from the plaza, the smells from the food stands— a wave of terrible homesickness squeezed his chest. In his universe, Sateda was no more, and seeing it alive again gave him a bittersweet pang.

"There," said Nyru. The tracker pointed at a man pushing his way past a tight knot of children.

"With me," Ronon growled. "Let's get him."

"We will cover you," Zelenka said. "Be careful, my friend."

Ronon raised his eyebrows; it sounded as if the captain was genuinely concerned, and not acting a part. He made a mental note to talk more with Zelenka later, after they had taken care of business.

The suspect tried to double back on his path, duck into corners, and leave false clues to his whereabouts. Ronon could tell the man had some military training and was no amateur in tracking and evasion. Another Satedan, perhaps, or a Genii. Or an Atlantean.. The possibility made him grit his teeth; it was difficult to believe one of Earth's people could betray Atlantis, but there were so many unknowns in this universe.

The man disappeared into a private house. Ronon hesitated, for privacy was sacred to him, but Nyru only nodded. "He might try to escape out the back door, or the roof."

Ronon regained his composure. "Two of you, cover the ground. Nyru, with me."

"Yes, sir!"

He and Nyru entered the building, and Ronon forced himself to ignore the paintings that hung on the wall, the handcarved furniture, the meal items on the table. He took the steps two at a time, finally arriving on the roof of the building. The suspect was nowhere to be seen.

"We must've lost him," Nyru spat in disgust.

Ronon shook his head. "No. He's still here. I can feel it."

A roar alerted both men to the immediate danger. Ronon looked over his shoulder to see the man bearing down on them with a hoverbike and a maniacal grin on his face. Ronon had only seen the man a handful of times in his universe, but he recognized the attacker.

"Ford," he whispered.

Ford laughed and gunned the engine. Ronon pushed Nyru out of the way, then dove out of the path of the hoverbike. He rolled back onto his knees and fired his blaster at the retreating bike. A man appeared directly in Ford's path, his P-90 at the ready.

"Zelenka! Down!" Nyru yelled.

Zelenka held his ground as Ford bore down on him. He timed his shots to strike the bike a split second before he rolled out of the way, came back up, and fired again. The second volley of shots hit the bike's rear panel and Ford sailed out of sight, his engine smoking.

"He's getting away!" Ronon growled.

"Not for long," Zelenka replied, with an evil smirk. "I got his fuel tank."

*****

Britgate, Atlantis

Peter brought his attention back to the tasks at hand. even as he kept track of the events as they unfolded around the City. He and Chuck Campbell activated the defense protocols in the Tower and the surrounding buildings. Peter heard the doors to the Control Room snap shut and emergency bulkheads slide into place.He glanced over at Rodney McKay; the Canadian leaned on the console next to Chuck as Chuck tapped the Gate controls. Doctor Kyle Bates stood on Chuck's other side, tight-lipped as he studied the readouts.

Chuck looked up. "She says that all of her defense protocols have been activated."

"The Gate?"

"Deactivated for now. No one can walk in on us."

"Good. No weak points in the shield?"

"No." Chuck swiveled around in his seat. "Tightbeam communications from Orion. Sateda's under attack by a swarm of Wraith darts. Colonel Lorne's forces have intercepted the enemy in Sateda's airspace, while the Satedan militia has been mobilized—"

"Bloody hell!" Peter swore through gritted teeth. He glanced at Rodney, who was already on his laptop and pounding away at the keys. A coordinated attack, here and Sateda. Someone knows that the main team isn't who they seem to be…looks like Sora was right, damn her.

"Is Sora Radim still in Guest Quarters?"

Chuck nodded, his mouth pressed into a tight line. Peter noticed Rodney's questioning expression at the sergeant's expression, but said nothing. "Yes, Doctor Grodin, under heavy guard."

"Who's the soldier on watch?"

"Major Stackhouse, sir."

"Have Stackhouse escort her up here. I want to talk with her."

"Yes, sir." Chuck turned to relay his message as Miko pressed her receiver into her ear.

"Doctor Grodin, transmission relayed from Orion. It's Captain Zelenka," she reported.

Rodney glanced up in surprise. "What?"

"Put him on." For the millionth time, Peter thanked the Asgard for instantaneous hyperlight communications. As far as he knew, Rodney's universe wasn't even close to an equivalent, and he resisted a smirk. "Go ahead, Radek."

"Specialist Dex and I have encountered an old friend. It's Major Ford, Peter. He's still alive."

Rodney's head jerked up at Zelenka's words as they hit Rodney like a punch to the stomach. Was there any end to the surprises this universe threw at them? Obviously not. He pushed past the pounding in his temples.

"Ford?" he demanded. "Aiden Ford? Radek, lemme talk to Ronon." There was shuffling on that end of the line, then Rodney continued, "Are you sure, Ronon?"

"Pretty sure. Remember when we ran into him the first time you met me? How he and I fought while you were hanging from that tree—"

Rodney remembered not to yell back, at the last minute. "I remember that, thank you very much! Trussed up like a turkey!"

"He acted the same way, McKay. Fought like a tiger. Managed to get away on a hoverbike, but Zelenka got a couple of bullets into his tank."

"Under the Wraith enzyme?"

"Yeah. Looks like that still happened here. Except there's no trace of the Ford I've heard about from Sheppard. He took out a whole squad before Tyre was able to react."

Beckett's voice overlapped Ronon's; the commander's tone was grim and angry. "Looks like we've run into another old friend of ours—"

"Who?" Rodney demanded.

Beckett's voice was drowned out by gunfire. Everyone in the Control Room jumped, especially Rodney. That's Carson out there… He shoved the panic aside; that was Beckett, not Carson. Commander Beckett could handle himself in a firefight.

Suddenly, a stab of agony hit the left side of his chest and he lost his hold of the console. A second later, the City screamed in rage; Melia's voice echoed and re-echoed in his mind and overwhelmed his senses. Rodney felt with She felt, see what She saw, and his own heart pounded with fear.

"Carson!"

*****

Although the attackers wore clothing from different worlds, Beckett recognized their fighting styles and battle tactics. Genii. Kolya. A glance at Charin confirmed his suspicions. How did Kolya's agents manage to insinuate themselves into the City? He shook his head; Sora Radim had been truthful, for once.

The Athosians responded to the threat with the ease of a people used to defending themselves. Before long, they had routed the Genii forces out of their Quarter of the City, and drove them through the streets towards the East Pier. Captain Laura Cadman nodded a greeting to him and made her way to Beckett's side.

"Commander, this section is secure," Cadman told him.

"Aye, good work." He tried to focus on the job at hand; the City was unusually silent, and that worried him. It was as if an arm or a leg was missing, and his mind kept returning to that empty corner where Melia used to be.

And he hadn't seen or heard from Teyla, ever since he'd left her sleeping in his room. Bloody damn coward. You could've at least waited until she woke up, but you didn't want to see the disgusted shame in her eyes, didn't you? She isn't your Teyla, you stupid sod. You used her as a substitute and now she has every reason to hate you. Beckett wrenched his mind from that track and forced himself to listen to Cadman's report. As Charin had told him long before, distraction could be deadly in combat.

"Carson!"

His head snapped up at Charin's shout. The silver-haired woman pointed across the plaza and he followed her gaze. His heart leaped into his throat as he saw Teyla struggling to free herself from the grip of a very familiar enemy.

"Michael!" he hissed. He took off at a run, leaving Cadman in his wake, and out of the corner of his eye, he saw Halling circling around to intercept Michael at the entrance of the plaza. Teyla cried out as Michael twisted her arms behind her, but she kept resisting against his superior strength, enhanced by the Wraith enzyme.

Beckett raised his P-90 and aimed it at Michael's head. "Teyla, love, get down!"

Michael snapped up at the warning in his voice, saw him, and smirked. "I don't think you really want to do that, Commander."

"Let her go. Now." He tightened his finger on the trigger, even as he thought, God help me, Teyla, hold on for a few more seconds…

Her eyes widened and she screamed his name a split second before he heard the whine of weapons fire. Something slammed hard into him, knocking him to his knees. Agony erupted in his chest; he automatically clutched the fabric of his tac vest to find it stained with red.

"Oh, crap," he whispered. He couldn't stop himself from collapsing to the ground and his P-90 fell from his nerveless fingers. A surge of rage went through him and cleared his mind for a brief minute. He heard Michael's soft Southern accent above him.

"You've failed her. I want to make sure your last thought is how you failed to save her. Good-bye…Commander."

Bloody bastard. He wanted to jump up, grab him by the throat and snap his neck, but his body wouldn't obey him. As Michael's laughter drifted above him, shame and humiliation scalded his throat. Teyla was now Michael's prisoner. He hadn't been able to save her.

He closed his eyes and allowed the blackness to claim him.

*****

Katie Brown's voice screamed over the Control Room speakers, "Ben, I need Medteam Two over here!"

"Acknowledged," Kavanaugh confirmed.

Rodney squeezed his eyes shut through the panic as his chest constricted. He reached for the epipen in the front pocket of his tac vest, then remembered at the last minute that Captain McKay didn't carry one. Oh God, oh God, I'm gonna die. I can't breathe. I'm gonna die.Someone grabbed him by the shoulders and shook some sense back into him. Figuratively speaking.

You have to help Me, or we will lose both of you! Help me! She screamed.

Rodney gulped and nodded weakly. "What…what can I do? I can't—"

He isn't the man you know, but there is still a connection between you. I need you to hold onto him until Doctor Kavanaugh can get there.

"I—I'll try." He tried to clear his mind, but shock and exhaustion took its toll. It was like wading through a sea of molasses. C'mon, Kavanaugh, get there faster, dammit! I don't know if—. He fumbled the connection, nearly lost it, then seized it again. Carson was his friend, no matter which universe they were in, and Rodney wasn't going to give him up without a fight. The commander was unconscious; Rodney couldn't hear anything at all from him, and that fact terrified him.

Dammit, Carson, if you die, I'm gonna kick your ass so hard it'll bounce off the Ascended plane!

A new voice echoed within the dark curtain. Rodney? Can you hear me?

He managed to concentrate despite his surprise. John?!

He's pulling me in with him… I can't stop it—

Rodney felt a rumble of pure terror in his throat. "Hold on, John. I'm gonna try to grab a hold of you."

Rodney, don't!

"Shut up…I'm concentrating!" There was a spark of something there…faint, but still there. He dove for it, grabbed it with one hand, then felt a tendril of warmth around his waist, anchoring him in place and stopping his slide into oblivion. It was not without effort; the City was straining to prevent him, John and Beckett from tumbling into the void.

"Kavanugh to Grodin, we've got Commander Beckett and we're rushing him to the Infirmary. He's critical, but he's hanging on."

"Acknowledged. Colonel Sheppard?"

"He's with us."

Rodney opened his eyes to find himself sitting on the floor, with Bates, Kusanagi, and Chuck supporting him. He felt lightheaded, as if he hadn't eaten in several days. "I've got to get down there. They need me."

Peter nodded at Bates and Chuck. "Get him down to the Infirmary. Miko, you've got charge of the Gateroom." He tapped his headset. "Ben, I'm sending Rodney down. He's going to need medical aid as well."

"Fine. Kavanaugh, out."

Rodney allowed the others to pull him to his feet and let them guide him to the stairs. He didn't see the look of concern that followed him from Peter; he was too busy keeping his sanity in one piece. He felt a gentle warmth envelope him, soothe away the pain and confusion, and he lost consciousness.

*****

"Rodney? Rodney, can you hear me?"

He opened sore, gritty eyes at the sound of her voice. "Katie?" he whispered. "What—?"

"You passed out on the way to the Infirmary. We've got you hooked up to an IV, so try not to make any sudden moves." Her tear-stained face swam into view and she squeezed his hand.

"I'm sorry. I was an idiot."

She managed a smile. "There's nothing to be sorry about, Rodney. I forgive you."

For some reason, that only made him feel worse. "John? Carson?"

There was movement at his side, and a haggard-looking John Sheppard appeared to his right. "We're fine. Carson made it through surgery. It was touch and go for a little while, but Kavanaugh says he should recover." He took a deep breath. "Ronon and Zelenka are doing the mop-up on Sateda; they drove the Wraith off."

Rodney nodded and leaned back on the pillows. "Good." He closed his eyes. "Figures you guys would get into trouble. I wasn't even there and you still managed to get me involved. It's just not fair."

"There are some things that are the same in parallel universes," John joked, but it fell flat. "It's a massive cosmic joke."

"Yeah." Rodney fought to stay conscious. "How'd Carson get shot, anyway?"

John hesitated and glanced at Katie, who nodded. He went on, "He was trying to save Teyla from Michael."

"Michael? God." Rodney cracked an eye open. "Is she—?"

There was something in John's tone that Rodney couldn't identify. "Rodney, certain people were targeted. Ronon was one; I think someone was expecting Captain McKay and was thrown off by seeing me instead. We found out why Beckett was shot. Michael wanted Teyla and with Beckett out of the way…"

"Teyla…" Rodney's mind still tried to make sense of what John told him. "Teyla's gone? He took her?"

John nodded, his eyes blazing with anger. "Peter wants to hold a staff meeting, so get some rest. We're gonna need your genius brain to figure out why people are trying to kill us and why they took Teyla."

"Yeah." His eyes were growing heavier. "I—"

Kaite stroked his forehead. "Sssh, Rodney. Don't fight it. Sleep."

He turned his head and gave Katie a look of disbelief. "You put somethin' in my IV while Sheppard distracted me. First Kavanaugh, now you. Now that isn 't fair—"

He was asleep before finished the sentence.

*****

Teyla tried to open open her eyes, but it took too much effort. Her head spun and nausea rose in her throat. She tried to remember the last time she'd felt so awful, but couldn't. Perhaps she'd been thrown off one of those "rollercoasters" John was so fond of riding.

John. Rodney. Suddenly, she remembered Carson crying out in pain just before everything went black. She whimpered and tried to move, but she couldn't.

"Ah, good, you're awake, my dear. I made sure you were unarmed. It wouldn't do for you to die before our plan is completed."

What? She blinked and willed the ceiling to stop moving. Wait, ceiling? Her vision slowly focused on the smiling face hovering over her.

"Michael."

Michael Kenmore's boyish grin became a leer as the he misinterpreted her expression. "Oh, that little incident concerning Doctor Grodin and Commander Beckett." Michael's mouth turned down at the corners. "Well, the dear doctor's punch shattered my jaw and your lover snapped a few of my ribs for good measure, but here I am, as good as new."

She tried not to gape at him. Unlike the Michael in her universe, this man was one-hundred percent Human with no visible trace of his Wraith origin. The soft Southern accent was broader than she'd remembered, the blue eyes harder. You come from a place called Texas. It seemed that the elaborate fiction they'd made up for Wraith Michael had translated into reality in this universe.

Teyla felt her skin flush with embarassment and anger and again, he misinterpreted her expression. "Not to worry, Doctor Emmagan. You are my honored guest, and will continue to be, as long as you cooperate."

She clenched her jaw and glared up at him. If she had the use of her body, she would repay him for what he'd done to Carson. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn't move.

"The paralyzing agent will keep you from escaping until such time I decide to free you." Michael's tone was low and menacing. "Until you give me what I want. You will work on perfecting the Hoffan virus, expanding on your work, until I can use it on my enemies. The Wraith. The Ori. The Replicators. Your friends on Atlantis."

She managed to shake her head slightly. The Hoffan virus? She remembered the devastation on Carson's face after that day, after he'd been forced to watch Perna and countless others die. And Michael claimed that she was responsible for it? Who am I here, that I would design a virus—?

His mouth nearly touched her ear. "I shall leave you to consider your options, Doctor Emmagan. Until later, my dear."

His footsteps echoed in the room, followed by the clang of a cell door. Leaving her all alone to contemplate her fate.

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trekwriter151

May 2012

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