trekwriter151: (SGA Team)
[personal profile] trekwriter151
Present Universe, Atlantis

"Dammit, we nearly got it that time. There's got to be something we're overlooking, but what?"

Carson glanced over his shoulder at Doctor Emmagan's frustrated tone and stifled a smirk. It still sounded odd to hear her swear like that, for his Teyla would never do that. Not that Teyla never got upset or angry, but it was one more reminder of how different the two women were.

He wanted to take her into his arms and hold her, but made a concerted effort not to do it. The more time he spent with her, the more dangerous it was. He couldn't afford another complication, not now, not when there was a chance that Emmagan could go back to her own universe. He'd come so very close to doing something he'd regret, if Captain McKay hadn't interrupted them.

Speaking of…"Where's Captain McKay?"

She sounded distracted as she answered, "Meredith's talking with your Colonel…um, Major Lorne. Apparently, there was some issue last night that needed their attention."

"Issue? Do you know what it was?"

She shook her head. "No, Meredith told me not to worry about it, and concentrate on what I could control, instead of what I can't control."

"Smart man." Sounds like something the colonel would say. Carson turned back toward the Wraith cell sample under the molecular scanner. Emmagan's ATA Gene had been helpful in activating some of the long-dormant medical equipment in storage. If Rodney were here, he'd definitely be after her to test other Ancient devices. The thought of both John and Rodney in that other universe worried him. From what he'd gleaned from the other team, their Atlantis saw much conflict, and they lived in more dangerous times.

"You're worried about them."

He nodded, but didn't turn to face her. "Aye."

"If they're as strong as you say, I think they'll hold their own. And your Ronon and Teyla too."

He nodded again. Suddenly, his scanner beeped. "What on earth—"

She was at his side in an instant. "What is it?"

"Look at these results. I've never seen this before." He moved aside for her to look through the eyepiece. "What do you make of it?"

Emmagan frowned. "That's odd. Did this just happen?"

"Aye, it was spontaneous. One minute it was dormant, the next…"

She looked at him and raised an eyebrow. "Even this virus doesn't mutate this fast."

"Whatever happened, it's making it easier for the counteragent to attack its molecular structure," Carson replied, as he tried to keep his voice calm. "It's changing as we speak. I don't think we've got something that'll cure it yet, but—"

"—we can help it along." Her eyes gleamed with anticipation. "Good idea. I'll need to see the data from this and see if we can replicate the results. If this isn't a one-time accident, we might be able to use it to tweak what we've got into something better."

He grinned at her enthusiasm. "All right, love, let's do it."

*****

Radek sighed and wished he could hole himself up in the Control Room. Daedelus was in orbit, and Colonel Caldwell had confirmed that Jeannie Miller…Jeannie McKay, Jeannie Zelenka, whatever, was on board and ready to transport down to Atlantis. His wife. Sort of.

Again, he muttered Czech invectives under his breath and tried to ignore Chuck's look of sympathy. What else had changed, thanks to this mess-up of dimensional proportions? Captain McKay had thought the whole situation grimly humorous; Doctor Sheppard was just as bad. He wondered what his counterpart in their universe did for a living, and whether or not the other Zelenka had to deal with things like this. Probably not.

"Thanks for the favor, Stephen," Elizabeth was saying. "I owe you for this one."

Caldwell's tone was dry. "Deduct it from the three I owe you. Transporting now. Good luck."

There was a flash of light in the Gate Room, and Radek sighed and headed towards the stairs. There, in front of the Gate, stood Jeannie. She blinked, looked around, then smiled and adjusted the pack she carried over one shoulder. Her eyes found Elizabeth first, and McKay standing next to her. Her smile widened as she crossed the space between them and flung her arms around her brother.

"Mer! It's good to see you!" Jeannie gave him a kiss on the cheek, much to McKay's surprise. "I take it you've been too busy to answer my letters again. You work too much, as usual. I thought I told Radek and Carson to take better care of you, since I can't be here."

Elizabeth managed to exchange stunned expressions with Radek, and she wasn't the only one. Evan Lorne's mouth quirked upward, but he kept his snarky remark to himself. Radek knew Evan was bursting at the seams to say it; he glared at the major to keep his mouth shut.

"Doctor McKay," Elizabeth said courteously. "Welcome back to Atlantis."

"Thank you, Doctor Weir." Jeannie nodded and looked past her at Radek. She immediately let go of McKay and ran across the Gateroom to fling herself into a startled Radek's arms. He stumbled as she nearly ran him over, landing on his rear on the floor with her in his lap. Whatever words he wanted to say flew out of his head as Jeannie wrapped her arms around him and gave him a passionate kiss.

"Damn. She's never greeted me like that," McKay groused.

"You're her brother," Sheppard said, as he slapped the captain lightly on the back of the head. "That'd be kind of sick. Besides, Katie would object."

Radek managed to come up for air. He stammered, "Milacku, I—"

"Sorry, dear, but I've missed you so much." She gave him an impish grin and a wink. "I'll make it up to you later."

Before Radek could faint or have a heart attack, Elizabeth smoothly intervened. "I'm sorry to interrupt your…ah…reunion, but we've got a pressing problem to address."

"Of course," Jeannie rose smoothly to her feet and extended a hand to Radek, who took it. She winked again and whispered, "Later."

Radek visibly gulped and thought silence was the better part of valor.

*****

Elizabeth watched as Doctor Sheppard outlined their problem and possible solutions. Jeannie listened attentively, with an occasional nod. Her serious expression was a mirror image of Rodney's, whenever he tackled a scientific challenge. Unlike Rodney, Jeannie waited until Sheppard and Radek had finished before volunteering her insight.

"Is there a way to connect the Gates on this end in the same sort of massive system? Obviously, it's possible, since the Ancients did it on your side."

Sheppard shook his head. "We don't know exactly how they did it, but it's one hell of an engineering job. We do know it has something to do with Atlantis's Gate itself, that it's a major factor in its stability."

Radek frowned as he studied the schematics that Sheppard had given him. "So if the Gate in your City is unstable, it would affect the whole system, yes?"

"Not directly. As I said, it's not connected to the main system, but it's a separate portal. Melia did that to protect the City from anyone who wanted to invade." Sheppard's brow wrinkled as he had an idea. "Mer, you told me you couldn't hear this Atlantis. When we were in transit, did you feel anything else…weird?"

McKay frowned and searched his memory. "Before we got zapped unconscious, you mean? Kinda hard to tell. Your normal sense of disorientation—"

Ronon glanced at Shappard, then added, "Some sort of strange shift—"

"Shift?" Elizabeth asked. It was the first time she's spoken since the meeting began.

McKay tried to explain it. "Like being on a train that's stopped on the tracks, but your surroundings are moving. I think our Teyla would be able to put it in better words, but she's busy with that Hoffan virus with Doctor Beckett."

Jeannie leaned forward on her elbows, her blue eyes intense. "It could have been some sort of dimensional shift. Quantum theory says parallel universes are possible; at the exact moment both teams stepped through the Gate, your team shifted here and ours were moved into your places."

Sheppard rolled his eyes. "That would need a bunch of pretty damn specific coincidences, Jean. How would the Gates in both Atlantises know to make the switch at the exact time without, well, blowing both universes to hell in the process?"

"Melia's sentinent," McKay reminded him. "She could've engineered it."

"Why would She have done it on purpose, though? And this City isn't sentinent, Mer."

Radek shook his head. "If you ask Carson or the Colonel, or even Rodney, they'd tell you they could feel the City, even if the City doesn't talk."

"Then how the hell can we ask Her? It? Whatever the City is here?"

Elizabeth raised a hand to cut off Sheppard's rant. It was odd, seeing him go off on a tirade, when she was used to seeing Rodney do it. "The Chair. We have three strong ATA Gene carriers: Captain McKay, Doctor Emmagan, and Carson. Four, if you also count Major Lorne. I'm sure one of you could interface with Atlantis and find out what's going on."

Radek's mouth lifted in a dry smile. "You know how much Carson likes sitting in the Chair."

Sheppard raised an eyebrow at McKay and gave him a look that said, quite plainly, "You're sitting in the damn chair." The captain sighed and rolled his eyes in long-suffering patience.

"Fine. I can't promise I can talk to Her. She might be completely different from Melia and for all I know, She might kick my ass for intruding. If She does, I'll tell Her it's your fault."

"But I don't have the ATA Gene, so she can't do anything to me."

"Then don't complain when your shower runs cold again."

Elizabeth sighed, even as Radek and Jeannie stifled their laughter. "Gentlemen! Might I remind you that we're on a deadline?"

Both men had the good grace to look chagrined. "Sorry, Elizabeth," they murmured.

She smiled and began to stand up from the table. "Then let's do this before—" A wave of dizziness hit her, so hard that her knees buckled and her world tilted sideways. She barely noticed Radek had caught her before she hit her head on the table. Her vision blacked out for several seconds, then she found herself sitting on the floor, with McKay on one side and Jeannie on the other. Radek called for Carson on his headset.

"What happened?" Jeannie demanded. "Are you all right?"

Elizabeth squeezed her eyes shut as another blast of vertigo washed over her. "I don't know. I can't—" She concentrated on not losing her lunch right there on the Conference Room floor.

Jeannie looked up at Radek, visibly worried. "Where's Carson? What's taking him so long?"

"He's on his way." He blinked when he realized she'd spoken in Czech. I did not know she could do that, but then this is not my…our…Jeannie Miller.He opened his mouth to say something else, but then both Carson and Doctor Emmagan had exploded through the door, with orderlies and a gurney not far behind.

"Elizabeth? What happened?" Carson asked, unknowingly echoing Jeannie's previous question. He immediately checked her with his medical scanner. "Your blood pressure's at a dangerous level. We need to get you to the Infirmary."

"Heart rhythm's becoming erratic, Carson," Emmagan added. "We need to move her now."

"Aye." He looked over at McKay. "Can you—?"

The captain nodded and scooped Elizabeth up as if she was a child. He laid her down gently on the gurney. Her eyes were wide, terrified, but he squeezed her hand. "You're a fighter," he whispered. "Pull through this."

"Mer…help Shep…fix this…please."

He nodded and whispered back, "I will. I promise."

He stared as Carson and the others wheeled her out of the Conference Room. Then McKay closed his eyes, took a deep breath and open them again. He noticed Sheppard giving him a strange look, but ignored it, and nodded over at Radek instead.

"Where's your Chair Room?"

*****

Even Atlantis's systems weren't immune to the changing timeline. Radek swore as he tried to access information that now didn't exist, and stumbled over others that he'd never seen before. Most of the data from the Intergalactic Bridge—and the alternate Rod's visit—were intact, but some details were missing or completely inaccurate.

"I don't believe this," he muttered under his breath. "If we can trust this data, it's possible to tie in some of the Stargates into a similar network that Sheppard's familiar with. It will be impossible to connect all of the possible Gates in the Pegasus Galaxy—there are too many of them—but some of them could give us enough power to stabilize the Bridge."

Jeannie nodded. "This is all theoretical, Radek. If it fails, we could have a recoil effect that would destroy all the Gates involved, including the one in Atlantis, and an explosion of that magnitude—"

"—would be catastrophic, yes." He took off his glasses and scrubbed his face. "More than enough to destroy the City and possibly rip a hole in the space-time continuum—"

"—which would be very, very bad."

Radek couldn't help but smile at the familiar words coming from Jeannie instead of Rodney. He'd become used to Rodney's so-called "McKayisms", as the Science department dubbed them. Jeannie smiled back, a shy, pretty smile that warmed his heart.

Ty vole, she is Rodney's sister! She has never been, nor ever will be, your wife. The thought gave him a painful pang, but he ignored it. When the universe is restored, you probably won't remember any of this, and Jeannie will once again be Jeannie Miller, and…

"Radek, you're spacing out on me again. Talk to me."

Again, she'd spoken in Czech, and he automatically responded in his native language. "Sorry. Just thinking. Assuming this plan works, we won't know if it'll correct all the temporal distortions, or—" He broke off as he felt her hands on his shoulders. She massaged the muscles there, then moved to the back of his neck. A warm wave of fatigue overcame him. "Jeannie, this isn't the time—"

"Hush, you." Her lips were close to his ear, and he could feel her warm breath. All sorts of scandalous ideas were filling his head and it was difficult to think, much less push them away. "Carson was right. You've been pushing yourself too hard. I know that Doctor Sheppard isn't an easy person to work with, but you've got to stop killing yourself to meet his impossible deadlines."

"Doctor Sheppard?" Radek repeated. Wasn't it supposed to be Colonel Sheppard? Then again…he tried to hang on to what he knew was the truth. "But—"

She quirked an eyebrow at him. "I haven't seen you in six months, Radek. Six months. The others are in the Chair Room; Lorne's in the Control Room, and there's no one around for a while. Besides, we can spare a few minutes, can't we?"

"Ah—" His mouth opened, closed, opened again, but no words came out.

She grinned. "I thought so." Then she drew his lips to hers and kissed him. And all rational thoughts flew out of his head, and stayed out for the meantime.

*****

This is crazy, Evan thought, as his team responded to yet another distress call somewhere in the City. The calls were beginning to add up: people missing their shifts, strangers walking in and claiming they belonged to the Expedition, transporters malfunctioning or taking passengers to unknown sections of the City. A piercing wail came from over the ocean as Rodney's Whales (Evan capitalized the name in his mind) swam closer and closer to Atlantis. Never mind the fact that the whales were now on a different planet, in a different system.

For the first time since Evan had known him, Chuck looked panicked as he tried to keep up with his board in the Control Room. He had to pull people from various departments to cover everything. "Major, we've got someone claiming to be Colonel Ellis from the Apollo on frequency two, but the ship isn't showing up on our short or long-range scanners."

"Isn't Apollo supposed to be in drydock, on Earth?" Evan asked.

"Yes, sir," Chuck said, "and the transmission comes and goes."

"Sensor echo?"

"Don't think so, sir. Colonel Ellis says he wants to speak with whoever's in charge, then I lose him, then he comes back an hour later and repeats his request." Chuck frowned and tapped his laptop. "What the—?"

Evan shot him a harried look. "Now what?"

"Doctor Gaul wants to know where Zelenka is." Chuck shook his head. "He says Zelenka was supposed to fix something in his lab—"

His mouth dropped open. "Are you kidding? Gaul's dead!"

"Yes, sir, I know that!" Chuck sounded as if he would prefer good old-fashioned insanity to whatever was happening now. "I told him I'd find Zelenka and get back to him. He was really mad; I can tell when his British accent becomes so thick I can't understand him."

Evan rolled his eyes. "Next thing you know, Grodin's gonna walk through that door."

Chuck just gave him a look, and Evan regretted that remark. The sergeant sighed and turned back to his board. Evan shook his head; according to Sheppard, Zelenka and Jeannie McKay, the fabric of space-time was reforming at a rapid pace. People's memories were realigning to the "new" timeline, where Sheppard had always been a scientist, and McKay had always been in the military. Evan himself wasn't immune; he'd discovered that the family picture on his desk now included a brother, not a sister, and it had taken him several minutes to notice it wasn't quite "right".

They were running out of time.

"Beckett to Lorne."

Evan tapped his headset. "Here, Doc."

"Son, you'd better get down here. Captain McKay and Doctor Sheppard are in the Chair Room, and Elizabeth's condition is deteriorating."

His heart sank at Carson's words. "I'm on my way."

It took him a few minutes to get to the Infirmary and he stopped short. Carson and Doctor Emmagan both turned to look at him; Carson motioned him closer. Evan swallowed as he saw Elizabeth lying there, connected to IV drips and other machines. Her features stood out against chalky white skin. She seemed as fragile as rice paper.

"What's wrong with her?" he whispered.

Carson shook his head. "Her entire system's shutting down, lad. I can't find a damn thing wrong, but it's as if her body's just giving up, which isn't like the Elizabeth I know."

Emmagan's dark eyes were troubled as she added, "The Elizabeth Weir in my universe is dead. Perhaps as this universe is changed, it may be that she will be gone here as well."

"Not if I have anythin' to do with it, Teyla!"

She sighed and glanced at Evan. "Other people are coming in with the same symptoms. They're all heading towards a complete neural shutdown, despite the fact they were in perfect health an hour ago."

"How many?"

"Five, so far. Carson and I have sent some of our people through the City to find anyone who might be incapacitated and can't send for help."

Evan nodded. "I'll get Stackhouse and his men to assist you." He tapped his mike and issued the order. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw two others in similar beds, with similar tubes attached to their bodies.

"I'm…sorry." It was barely a whisper, but Evan heard it all the same. He crossed the few steps to Elizabeth's side. Her eyes were open, but she didn't seem to see him.

"It's all right," he soothed. "It's gonna be okay. We're gonna take care of you."

"No," she whispered. "I never…I never said good-bye, I miss him…my fault, my fault for sending him."

"Elizabeth—" He stopped, at a loss for what to say. Carson's eyes were filled with pain and regret as he squeezed her arm.

""Twasn't your fault, lass," he told her gently. "He was the best man for the job."

"No…didn't want him to go, he insisted…I let him go, and he died. My fault. I should have—" Her eyes closed and she fell silent. Evan glanced up at Carson with a stricken expression, but the doctor shook his head.

"She's still alive, but if we don't do something soon, she'll die."

"What can we—" Commotion broke into Evan's words and he managed to step aside fast enough to keep from being trampled. Both Sheppard and Ronon supported a weak and shaking McKay, who was trailed by Radek and Jeannie. Radek's hair was even mussed than usual, and Jeannie cheeks were flushed. Evan sighed and thought, I really don't wanna know.

"Bloody hell," Carson cursed. "Teyla, get me—"

Sheppard and Ronon deposited McKay in a nearby chair. The captain didn't seem injured, only winded. He looked over at Elizabeth, and his face became grim. Teyla came over with a cup of water, which he accepted and gulped down.

"Carson, I managed to get into Atlantis's systems," McKay said without preamble. "I think I know how we can fix this damn mess, but I'm gonna need your help."

Britgate, inside Atlantis's mainframe

"You mean to tell me that all of the Gates in your galaxy are basically connected into one big transportation system?"

"That's correct, Rodney." Melia reached over him to point at a glowing icon hovering on this Atlantis gate. It expanded into a tornado-shaped slice of light that grew until it reached another Gate much farther away. "Does this look familiar?"

Rodney recognized it. "The Intergalactic Bridge. My sister and I had to shut it down because it was too unstable, too much entropy in space-time causing rifts in the—" He slowed down as he stared at the screen. "You've found a way to stabilize it?"

"For the time being, but it won't hold for long. The ripple effects are already making themselves known across both universes. If we do not remedy the situation quickly, the changes will be such that it will not be possible for either Atlantean team to return to their proper universe."

Rodney nodded absently as he scanned the equations. "We were so close the first time. If we'd been more precise in these sets of variables—"

Melia rolled her eyes, as much as any disembodied Ancient could, at any rate. "Rodney."

"Oh yeah. Sorry." He traced the threats that connected the various stargates. "The power we'd need to keep the Bridge from collapsing, it'd take the whole system, and if we drain all the ZPMs like we did the last time…"

"…we leave the entire network open to attack. yes."

"There's got to be another way." Rodney thought furiously, snapping his fingers. "Wait. You said the Bridge between the universes is still there."

She nodded. "Yes, but it is taking me more and more effort to keep it open and stable by myself."

"What if we can send a message through to my Atlantis on the other side? Ask Elizabeth for help. If we can find a way to share the load between the universes—"

"It could work, but how do you propose on doing that?"

"I could go."

"You could, but remember, two versions of you in the same space-time could accelerate the deterioration. What do you call it? The Cascade Effect?"

"Not if I don't stay for a long time. Rod didn't."

Melia shook her head. "I don't know if I can still maintain the Bridge after you cross over, Rodney. If I can't and you are there at your Atlantis while your counterpart is also there…"

"Then have me and him cross at the same time."

"We'd risk losing both of you then."

He snapped in frustration. "So, what do you suggest?"

She closed her eyes, then opened them again. "Send someone on this side who does not exist in yours. There is less chance of something going wrong."

He frowned. "You mean, someone who's dead in my universe, but alive here? And vice versa?"

"Yes, just for the time it takes to align and recalibrate all the Stargates in both universes."

Rodney opened his mouth, then closed it. "I think I know who to ask, Melia."

*****

"Let me get this straight, Rodney," John said. "We need to send someone through the Gate who—"

"—doesn't exist in our universe anymore, yes," Rodney interrupted. "And same from our side. None of us can go because we exist in both universes and the Bridge's unstable as it is."

"And we run the risk of the Bridge collapsing and trapping both versions in between," Bates put in, "or having it collapse while two versions of the same person are in one universe. Either way, it'd make things—"

"—really, really bad. Even worse than it is now," Rodney concluded.

"What if the Bridge collapsed after someone like myself goes across?" Peter Grodin asked quietly.

Bates gave Peter a sharp look. "You aren't going across, Peter."
"Kyle, you can't, and neither can Radek, or Miko or Chuck. And neither can Colonel Sheppard or any of his team. I'm dead in their universe."

"Peter—" Bates stopped, for he had a valid point.

"Then who'd be the messenger over here?" asked Chuck.

John saw a flicker of pain across Peter's face. "Elizabeth."

Silence came over the briefing room. "If we're going to do this, it has to be soon," Rodney said. "Melia doesn't know how long the Bridge will hold, even with her support."

Peter sighed heavily. "All right. Rodney, you, Melia, Bates and Campbell make the necessary adjustments."

*****

"You sure you want to do this, Peter?"

Peter glanced sideways at Rodney. "I don't much of a choice. I'm the only one who can do it." An ironic smile touched his lips. "Being dead has its advantages, I suppose."

Rodney scowled. "Don't even joke about that. I just happened to be the one who saw you die."

Peter said nothing for a long moment, then reached over and clasped Rodney on the shoulder. "How did I die, in your universe?" he asked gently.

Rodney let out a frustrated sigh, but he wouldn't see Peter in the eye. "You really don't need to hear it."

"Something's been eating at you inside. I've seen it since you ended up here. What is it?"

"I'm all right."

"The bloody hell you're not."

"Dammit, Peter," Rodney exploded. "We don't have time for this."

"Tell me what happened."

The soft order took all the fight out of Rodney. He sighed heavily and sat on the Gate Room steps, as though his legs would no longer support him. Peter perched one step below him with an expectant look, though he was careful not to betray his own inner turmoil. How often did one hear how they died in another universe?

So Rodney told Peter about the Siege, about the Ancient space station, and the weapons platform. How the two of them and Miller had gone there to reactivate it, how a single broken pencil had sealed the other Peter's fate, and how Rodney's quadruple bypass of the systems had trapped him in the station. How Rodney and Miller had watched helplessly as the Wraith hives had blown the station apart, and how Rodney had to tell Atlantis the terrible news, that they'd all lost a friend and a comrade.

And tell Elizabeth that she'd lost her lover.

Finally, Rodney's words stumbled to a halt, and Peter sat here, trying to absorb what he'd just heard. He spotted John Sheppard standing nearby, out of Rodney's direct line of sight, with a carefully neutral expression. Above them, Zelenka, Bates and Miko Kusunagi hovered at the top of the stairs. Even Ronon said nothing as he leaned against a nearby wall, but his eyes relayed a mix of emotions.

"Rodney—" Peter began.

"It was my fault. It should have been me."

"You had no idea what would happen."

"I should've checked the connections, reversed them when we found out they'd diverted the power—"

"If the Wraith were coming as quickly as you said, there wouldn't have been enough time. I would have done the same thing he did. It was the only way."

Rodney laughed harshly. "You know what's the ironic thing? You—the other Peter—his last words were 'I'm sorry.' I couldn't figure out what you were apologizing for. It wasn't your fault. It was mine. British politeness, till the very end."

Peter smirked. "You've never seen me in a pub, then." He quickly sobered. "Rodney, let me repeat what I just said. It was not your fault. No one could have seen what would happen. And if my counterpart was anything like me, he would have never blamed you. There's nothing to forgive." He managed a slight smile. "Now you have to forgive yourself."

He snorted. "That old cliche."

"Well, that old cliche just happens to be the truth. Let go of the guilt. I certainly have no reason to blame you, and neither would he."

Peter watched as the words finally sank in. Rodney heaved a big sigh, as if a heavy burden had been lifted from the scientist's shoulders. He glanced up meet John's gaze and the colonel mouthed "Thank you."

*****
Britgate, PXM-934

"You and the Doc look the same, but you two are still very different."

Teyla raised an eyebrow at Aiden Ford. The former lieutenant—no, major—sounded exactly like his cheerful self, and she felt a sharp pang of loss. Here, as in my universe, Aiden is lost to us.

"How so, Aiden?"

He turned to see her with his one good eye; the other was an enlarged black orb. "She's a lot more emotional than you are. You're…quieter."

"Is that a bad thing?"

"Never said it was a bad thing." Ford crossed his arms and leaned against the outside of her cell. "It's actually kinda nice. Except for Michael, I don't get to talk with a lot of people."

Teyla shivered at the mention of Michael. "He was part of your unit under Commander Beckett, was he not?"

"Yeah," Ford replied with a shrug. "I dunno what went on between him and Beckett, but they've got really bad blood between 'em. He and McKay never got along, either."

She sighed and shook her head. "So he deserted and joined forces with the Genii."

"Well, he and Kolya have a sort of understanding. Michael's also been talking to the Ori and the Wraith, trying to find a common ground." Ford laughed again, this time with a manic edge. "The Wraith like him and the Genii like me, so lets me deal with Kolya. He trusts me."

Teyla inclined her head and replied smoothly, "Obviously, he does, because he knows you'd do an excellent job."

"Yeah." Ford signed and began to pace. "Michael trusts me. He let me prove it to him. Beckett didn't; the commander doesn't trust anybody." He chuckled and continued, more to himself than to her. "'Bloody Scottish single-mindedness,' as Captain McKay calls it. I tried to get him to relax a little, but no, he holds himself aloof from everyone else. No idea how to relate to us, how to treat us like equals…"

Teyla allowed him to rant; it gave her insight into not only Ford's mind, but Michael's…and Beckett's as well. The rage and despair in Ford's voice were heartbreaking to hear. She could see how Beckett could be perceived as cold, even aloof, and it was that part of Carson's personality that was foreign to her.

If Carson had been a military man, would he be like the commander? What horrors has he seen, here, that could change him to be this way? She wondered. Michael, on the other hand…Teyla shivered. As his Wraith counterpart, this man thought he knew what was best for the galaxy…his own vision.

"Dr. Grodin's blinded by his own stubbornness and his need for revenge. Michael just wants to make agreements with the Genii, the Ori and the Wraith, so they can all leave us alone."

She frowned. "Do you believe they will honor their word to him, Aiden?"

His head snapped up at her tone. "You don't know Kolya the way I do, Teyla. He's an honorable man."

Kolya? Honorable? Somehow, Teyla doubted that, but she needed to keep Ford talking. "So you're his liaison here, and Michael talks to the Wraith…"

"Yeah. Sometimes I talk with Cowen or Ladon. Ladon's a nice guy; his sister Sora's just like him. They've tried to make a peace treaty between the Genii and Atlantis, but…" Aiden shrugged. "Until then, I've got to keep trying, y'know?"

Despite herself, she smiled sadly. "Your effort is commendable, Aiden."

He beamed at her praise. "See? If we work together, we can do great things. Michael and I want to make things better, more peaceful, for everybody."

"The why does he hold me here, against my will?"

Ford sighed. "He wants a cure for the Hoffan virus. It's still out there, killing people. Kolya and Michael still think you're her, the other Teyla, the doctor, and that you know how to cure it."

Tears sprang to her eyes. "Aiden, I am no doctor. I cannot, as much as I want to—"

"I know." The insanity left him for a moment, and he appeared as the young, earnest soldier again. "And if they find out who you really are, they'll use you to get through the Stargate. That's why I haven't said a word." He brightened again. "I figured it out all by myself, you know."

She sighed and closed her eyes. "You always were resourceful, Aiden."

"Thanks."

Teyla opened her eyes as a stirring of hope came to her. "I cannot cure it, but she can. She has the knowledge and the ability, but I do not. There must be a way to bring her back to the proper dimension—"

"—through the Gate?"

"To do that—""—it means I must return to Atlantis to swap places with my counterpart. Two versions of myself cannot occupy the same time and space. For her to be here, I must go."

Ford looked suspicious and his eyes darted from side to side. "You mean I gotta let you go? Michael and Kolya said—"

She shook her head. "If you take me back to Atlantis, you will not be shirking your duties. Did you not say to Michael you would watch over me, 'no matter what'?"

"Yeah, I did, and we do need the doc…" Ford scowled. "How do I know you're not just gonna hand me over to your boyfriend? Beckett's gonna kill me…"

"Carson will do no such thing," she said firmly. "I will intercede on your behalf, so neither he nor Doctor Grodin will harm you."

"They'll listen to you? 'Cause I don't want to get shot as soon as I—" Suddenly Ford doubled up in agony, as if someone had punched him in the gut. His choked cry brought her to her feet.

"Aiden? Aiden?"

He gritted his teeth and struggled to stay upright. "I'm okay. Just need…some rest, that's all."

"It's the enzyme. You're going through withdrawal—"

"I said I'm fine!" he shouted. He glared at her. "I'll think about what you've said, but I'm not making any promises."

Teyla nodded, her soul aching for him. "That is all I ask of you."
He staggered out of the prison and slammed the heavy door behind him. Teyla sighed and gripped the bars so tightly her knuckles hurt. In this universe, Michael had corrupted Aiden with the Enzyme. She tried to take deep calming breaths to stem the surge of anger that coursed through her. For some reason, it didn't help.

She's a lot more emotional than you are. You're…quieter.

She ran through several mental exercises, taking herself to a more peaceful place. A dry savannah with tall grass, with wildlife in stark beauty; a hut with a simple, thatched roof, and a dark-skinned woman with a bright smile on her face; the sound of crickets and hyenas at night, the crackle of the campfire as the elders beat on their djembe drums, sang songs and told tales passed on from generation to generation; dancers in native dress, appealing to the Gods for rain and a bountiful harvest…

Her eyes flickered open and she realized she was sitting cross-legged on the floor. It took her a full minute to realize it. These are not my memories. I never saw or did any of these things. If not mine, then whose are they? Teyla tried to remember her childhood, with Charin, Tagan and Halling, her being appointed leader of her people, learning bantos fighting under Tagan's steady hand. It took an effort, but she managed to dredge the memories from her subconscious, but it was odd, as if she was looking through the images of a stranger.

She was losing herself, Teyla Emmagan, daughter of Tagan, leader of the Athosians. The longer she remained here in the universe, the more she resembled her counterpart. Yet she felt as if she was floating, transparent, as if…

As if she was disappearing. In this universe, Teyla Emmagan was supposed to be a doctor. Now this universe was changing, reforming, into one that neither she nor her counterpart would recognize. Could it be that Teyla Emmagan might vanish, never to have been born, much less arrive in Atlantis?

The thought filled her with cold dread. She and the others must return back to their proper universe, without delay. Her problem was that her salvation depended on a man who wasn't completely sane, who answered to Kolya and Michael.

Not the best of situations, by any means. All she could do was hope and pray that Aiden would consider her offer.

*****
Britgate, Atlantis

The atmosphere in the Meeting Room was so tense John could cut it with a knife. It reminded him of the strategic meeting Elizabeth had held before the Siege, with every department head in Atlantis present, including Aiden Ford and Peter Grodin. John winced at the memory.

Aiden's alive.According to a tense explanation from Peter, a young lieutenant named Michael Kenmore had been taken by the Wraith and believed dead. Yet Michael had resurfaced and used his wits and his charm to regain entrance to Atlantis, where he'd injected several of his former unit with the Wraith enzyme. Three men died from withdrawal symptoms, but one had survived.
"Ford," John said in a toneless voice.

"Yes," Peter answered. The Englishman scowled as he'd paced the length of his office. "When Michael escaped, Ford went with him. They'd kept a low profile for more than a year, until Ford showed up on Sateda. It can only mean that whatever those two are plotting, it's bound to make our lives even more complicated."

"You think he's working for the Wraith?"

"I'm most certain. Michael has plenty of charisma; it wouldn't surprise me if he'd have a Wraith Queen eating out of his hand by now," Peter said dryly. "As for Ford, I believe Michael has him within his thrall, Colonel. If we can break the mental hold Michael has, I think we can still save Aiden and bring him back to us."

John heard his own resolute belief echoed in Peter's words. He's still alive. We can still save him. If John had failed in his own universe to save Aiden, perhaps he could help Peter succeed in this one. Even now, he could feel Ronon's and Rodney's eyes on his back as they listened to the intelligence reports from Colonel Lorne and Captain Zelenka. In both McKay's and Beckett's absence, Peter had asked John to serve as Acting Military Head of Atlantis.

Ronon's hooded expression told John what he thought about both Ford and Michael. Ronon had been against the attempt to convert Michael into a full Human and integrate him into City life, and John admitted that Ronon had been right in the long run. But Peter…he still had hope for both Ford and Michael, though he spoke only of Aiden.

Peter means well, but it's that trust that has gotten himself into trouble. It was the closest to a criticism that John had heard the City say about Grodin, but he could hear the undertone of warning to himself as well. John scowled, but nodded in acknowledgement.

Sora Radim sat between himself and Zelenka. The Genii was uncharacteristically silent; she only gazed straight ahead with a blank face. The news of Teyla's abduction seemed to have rattled her, though she had said nothing of Beckett's injury.

"Why would they take Teyla?" Ronon's question got to the heart of the matter.

"She has none of the medical skills of her counterpart," Zelenka agreed. "If they wanted to anger the Athosians, they would have targeted Charin or Halling."

Sora shook her head. "You are correct, but that's if they believed she was Athosian. The information that gets leaked to the Genii and to the Wraith tends to be haphazard, scattered, and incomplete. The Commander's network is thorough in feeding Kolya's spies misinformation."

"And you're one of those relaying that to Kolya."

"Of course." She turned to face John. "I may not like Beckett, but he and I have an understanding. As for Doctor Emmagan, I owe her my life. If I can help you find her…twin…I can make up part of that debt. I have an idea of where my people have hidden her, and where Kolya may be next."

Peter crossed his arms as he exchanged skeptical expressions with John. "Go on."

Sora met his gaze squarely as she said, "I need a starmap."

He nodded to Kusunagi, who brought up a map. Sora pointed at several planets gathered in a cluster near Genii territory. "Those bases also have Wraith laboratories, thanks to a mutual pact that Michael set up between Cowen and the Wraith. Kolya cares little for Michael, but he does understand the advantage of joining forces."

"Do prdele," Zelenka muttered.

"We are so screwed," agreed Major Stackhouse, who sat on Zelenka's far side.

John opened his mouth, but Colonel Lorne beat him to it. "As you were," Lorne ordered in a quiet tone. Stackhouse flushed, but nodded.

"So Teyla might be held somewhere here," Peter said, touching the area on the hologram, "where Michael has his laboratories."

"Yes. It's the logical place to take her. With the Genii and the Wraith both watching over, Kolya and Michael can hold Teyla for as long as they want without any fear of Atlantis sending forces to rescue her."

John leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms. "I beg to differ with you there, Sora."

"So do I," came an unexpected voice from the doorway. John looked over his shoulder and immediately straightened up as Commander Beckett came in, supported by Kavanaugh on one side and Chuck on the other.

"What the hell are you doing here, Carson?" Rodney snapped, as Beckett gently eased himself into the chair across from him. "You had major surgery; don't think you'd want to get even worse, especially now."

Beckett glared at him with icy blue eyes, so intense that Rodney actually swallowed hard in response. He'd never seen Carson like that, even at the most stubborn, and although he knew Carson usually controlled his Celtic temper with an iron will, Rodney knew there was a limit. He'd never seen that limit being reached.

Until now. And it scared him. Rodney glanced over at John, who wore the same worried expression. Ronon looked both disturbed and impressed, which meant a lot.

"I'm not gonna just lie in the Infirmary while Michael has her," Beckett said shortly. "I'm goin' with you."

"Carson—." Zelenka said in warning.

He glanced at Zelenka and said something in Czech. Zelenka seemed to consider that, then grudgingly nodded. Kavanaugh gave Peter a half-apologetic, half-exasperated look, and John got the distinct expression that Kavanaugh had dealt with a particular hardheaded Scotsman before.

Peter only said, "Fine, but I'm still going to have Colonel Sheppard command this mission. Is that clear?"

Beckett was about to protest, but John only raised an eyebrow at him. He settled back in his seat, clearly unhappy, but said through gritted teeth, "Aye."

Sora's mouth quirked upward in amusement, but she wisely didn't say anything to Beckett. Instead, she addressed John. "They will be expecting you, Colonel Sheppard."

"Yeah, but they don't know me." He exchanged a nod with Ronon, who had slid his blaster out of its holster and was sitting with it laying across his lap. "We won't give Teyla up without a fight."

Peter gazed at him. "Agreed. Assemble your team, Colonel, and take Sora with you. I trust that she might be useful to you."

Sora said nothing, but only raised her eyebrows at the lack of inflection in Peter's tone. That, combined with John's steady glare, worried her greatly. Still, she showed no sign of her emotions on her face as she replied, "Very well. I will help you, but only because it will be worse, much worse, if I do not."

"Good." Peter nodded at him. Don't bollix this up, said his expression, and John nodded back. While they were on a mission to save Teyla, Peter would be on a mission to save two universes. "You have a go, Colonel."

Everyone scattered at his dismissal. John and Rodney hung back as the others left the room. Rodney asked, "When are you planning on going through the Gate?"

"As soon as your team leaves, Colonel. I think it'd be a good idea for Sora not to see me leave."

"Smart idea." John took a deep breath and let it out. "Good luck to you."

"Good luck to all of us. Bring her back."

"We will."

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trekwriter151

May 2012

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