1. Chapter 1 by shipper scifi
2. Chapter 2 by shipper scifi
3. Chapter 3 by shipper scifi
4. Chapter 4 by shipper scifi
5. Chapter 5 by shipper scifi
6. Chapter 6 by shipper scifi
7. Chapter 7 by shipper scifi
8. Chapter 8 by shipper scifi
Rodney's voice was loud, insistent and cut through Carter's headache like a shard of glass. She winced slightly, closing her eyes briefly before looking to watch him barrel into her office. She had meant to tap Carson for something to kill the pain, but the latest reports were in from teams mapping the unexplored levels and sectors of Atlantis.
Reports she had lost herself in, forgetting the headache until Rodney had come running.
'What is it McKay?' she asked, wishing he didn't insist on calling her Sam, as if she wasn't his commanding officer. Of course, knowing Rodney, he probably didn't see it that way. Sam was his equal. Coming from Rodney McKay, she had to admit, that was actually a compliment.
'I don't know if we can communicate with them, or whether they're still around, I mean, they might not even be able to hear us or receive any kind of signal, assuming they didn't turn their attention away from Atlantis when the Ancients left, but well, I mean, it's worth a shot? Right?'
'You've discovered an alien species in the archive that the Ancients used to be contact with,' Sam replied, Rodney's blank stare all the confirmation she needed.
'Yes. Didn't I say that?'
'No, but nevermind,' she cut him off before he could speak again. 'What about these aliens?'
'I think they were Ascended, or close enough, but like the Ori, they're different, they exist in another, well, place since I'm not sure how the Ascended organise themselves up there. I guess I always pictured it as-'
'Oh yeah right, anyway the Ancients called them The Seers, or at least that's as close as I can translate, it might be Watchers, it basically conveys the ability to see, but beyond the normal human, or Alterian, ability. The Ancients own ancestors believed them to be a form of guardian angel. From what I've been able to dig out of the database, they're kind of like the ancient god Janus, able to see all of time.' 'All of it?'
'Yes, as closely as I can interpret. Anyway, I think we might be able to make contact.'
McKay's enthusiastic flow stopped and he had the grace to look slightly abashed at what he was going to say.
'Well, um, we think at them.'
'What-?' He knew that incredulous look, and aimed to wipe it off Sam's face before she had a chance to veto the project.
'I know, I know! It sounds crazy! But we do it using an Ancient device, it amplifies brainwaves, you have to sort of, tune into their frequency, alert them to your presence. Then they come.' 'Where?' she was instantly cautious, the chances of them knocking at the 'Gate from what Rodney was saying, were minimal.
'They just, um, appear.'
'They just appear?'
'Yeah, is that so strange? The Ascended do it, the Asguard do it,' he answered defensively, 'c'mon Sam, I thought you'd be the one person in the entirety of Atlantis who would be able to see past the linear.'
'I do Rodney,' she replied, raising her eyebrows, 'but I'm also constrained by my responsibilities and by protocol, frankly I'm going to need something a bit more than a two minute tirade before I authorise this experiment. That means a report,' she added pointedly, knowing Rodney avoided unnecessary paperwork whenever he could. Research papers, articles, books, yes, he wrote them all, but experimental and mission reports, laid down in clear terms, he tried to avoid.
The keen look on his face gave way to disappointment. 'Sam...' he began.
'I don't want to hear it Rodney,' came the reply, 'a full report of everything you have so far, on my desk by eighteen hundred hours, I'll read it tonight and I'll come look at what you've got, in the lab, at fourteen hundred tomorrow.'
'Two o'clock! That's most of the day gone!'
'I have a delegation arriving tomorrow morning at o-nine hundred, we're not seeing them off until after lunch.'
'Oh yeah, politics,' he replied disinterestedly.
'Allies Rodney, without whom we might not keep Atlantis and all the technology you're so keen on. You might want to think about that.'
'Yeah, yeah,' and he wandered away, leaving Sam alone in the blessed quiet of her office. She swivelled the chair round, turning her back on the glass walls that looked out into the control room and over the Stargate, and faced the tall panes that shielded her from the weather, but not the magnificent view of the seas outside Atlantis.
New Atlantia, some of the personnel on base had begun to call it, but it wasn't really catching on. With the Athosians gone, there was no trading with the mainland, no alternative to the metropolis of Earth. The venomous creatures on the mainland put paid to any thoughts of colonisation and Sam wondered if those ignoring the new name for this planet were secretly hoping for another, more permanent, relocation.
She swept a blonde lock out of her eyes and sighed, moving Atlantis wasn't her call. She'd already heard the rumours. Woolsey was the next potential for command of Atlantis. Sometimes, Sam wondered if the IOA weren't a little too close to the NID for her liking.
At least Woolsey was a good man at heart, it could have been worse.
He grabbed her arm the second she walked in, practically dragging her over to the console where he was working. On it was a strange piece of headgear, worked spirals that appeared to attach to the head meeting at a single white crystal set in a knot of interlacing metal wires. It looked like a delicate tiara or circlet, and not a particular comfortable one at that. But, since it was Ancient, it probably was.
'So, this amplifies your thought patterns?' Sam asked, leaning in for a close look for a close look, but keeping her hands to herself. Sometimes Rodney couldn't be relied upon to switch everything off.
'Yes, but it also directs the signal generated to the right co-ordinates.'
'What are the co-ordinates?'
'Um well, I haven't been able to determine that yet. I keep losing something in the translation, it doesn't make any sense.'
'Let me see,' genuinely curious now, Sam stepped past him to pick up the tablet notebook holding all of his research. Behind her Rodney bit his lip, trying not to be bothered by Sam flicking through his files.
'You're right,' she finally said, 'I don't.... Wait!' 'What? What!' 'This equation, it only makes sense if they're using spatial dimensions, but they're not.... That's odd.'
She turned to look at him, her gaze silent and unwavering. He took the hint almost immediately and subsided. 'Okay, would you mind telling me what you think you've found?'
'Gladly,' Sam replied, turning the notebook round so he could read it the right way up. 'This word means time, or rather, past, present and future, all tied up together, rather like a literal translation of the word ‘temporal’. It's like they're treating space as time, not a single continuum, but reversing their place in our understanding of the universe.’
'Why on earth would they do that?'
'I've no idea. I have to go, but I'll be back this evening,’ it was obvious that Sam was itching to get her hands on the problem. When he’d worked at the SGC, McKay had seen the way she pulled all-nighters. The military training coupled with the scientist’s enthusiasm to keep her going for hours, and now she could barely stand to put it down. ‘Keep working.'
'Yeah, yeah...' but he hadn't really heard her, already head down in the computer, reworking the problem under the new light she had shone on it. Sam smiled at the oblivious McKay and made her way quietly from the lab.
He worked for hours, running diagnostics and sending pulses through the headpiece, receiving back information which he broken down and analysed, attempting to detect the co-ordinates that the signal was being sent to. But it seemed to diffuse, almost like it degraded, but far faster than it should have.
Finally, Rodney figured there was only one way he was going to find out. Activating his earpiece, he sent out a call.
It was nearly twenty hundred hours before Carter finally reached McKay’s lab for the second time that day. Inside she found Sheppard, sitting on a stool with the device wrapped around his head.
‘McKay! I told you not to activate the device until I gave you authorisation!’ Her voice snapped with authority and disapproval.
‘I know! I know. That’s why I’ve getting John to do it. He has more fine control of his ATA gene than anyone on Atlantis. He can power it up but not accidentally activate it. I’ve already called Dr Keller, she should be here shortly.’
‘That’s a fine line, Rodney-‘ Sam began.
‘I know,’ he started to cut in.
‘-And one I’ve walked myself a few times,’ she added. ‘Sure you’re okay with this, Colonel?’
‘Hey, I’m good at shooting and sitting. I get to do one out there, and the other in here, usually for hours at a time. Where’s the bad?’
Sam suppressed a smile. She shouldn’t encourage either of them really, at they were a touch more mellow now, handling both of them together, new to Atlantis, must have been hard on Weir. Sometimes she wondered how the woman had put up with it, certainly she had had more patience than Sam.
Unbidden, the face of the diplomat, with dark hair, threatening to curl at the ends, and amusement sparkling in her green eyes, came to mind. Sam stood still for a moment, trying to shake a memory she was sure she’d never had. She’d clashed with Weir often enough at the SGC for her over-riding memory to be one of Atlantis’ former leader sitting in her office...
...her office now...
... with a mug of coffee and a blood-red orange sunrise pouring in the window behind her.
‘McKay!’ she began warningly, and tore her gaze from the Colonel to the physicist. He was standing behind John, his expression frozen. She heard footsteps, light and quick, and seconds later Keller joined them, standing framed in the doorway.
And the image of Elizabeth changed. She was lying, bleeding and broken on a gurney, hands trying desperately to revive her. Come on, Elizabeth, we need you...
She’ll never be the same Elizabeth again...
She was dying...!
I thought you were dead...
You’re going to be alright...
A welter of memories, in three different voices, assaulted her senses and Sam broke the spell over her, throwing up her hands.
A blinding light filled the room, all four of them reacting to protect their eyes until the glow subsided. Standing in the centre of the room, facing John Sheppard, stood the very likeness of Elizabeth Weir, her hair moving as if in its own private breeze, her face the only truly steady part of her projection.
John stared, knuckles turning whit as he clenched the sides of the stool he sat on. Behind him Rodney’s mouth dropped open and a small sound reached them from the startled Jennifer.
‘Dr Weir?’ Sam’s voice carried a tone of incredulity, but she was the first one to speak, breaking the silence.
Green eyes turned her way, the gaze unfocussed. ‘Dr Weir?’ the apparition repeated.
Silence and then the image spoke again. ‘This... image is Dr Weir.’
‘Chosen?’’ it was Sheppard, his voice was calm, almost hostile.
‘By you,’ came the reply and the projection looked his way, before finding Rodney’s face. ‘And you, and the other,’ it added, referring, the others assumed, to Dr Keller.
‘Why?’ His words came out harsher than he intended but the shade before him took no notice of his inflection, only his words.
‘We are... need... a form. This we know.’
‘From when you contacted the Ancients!’ Rodney finished for them, his scrambled brains beginning to put things together again.
‘They chose. You chose. We follow.’
‘Who are you?’ It was Sam again, flicking a glance at Keller, who was sidling round further to see Elizabeth’s face, her expression one of shock and dismay.
‘We are... we exist.’
‘What we mean is, where are you from? What is your language? Your culture? Are you one of the Ascended?’
The image shook its head as if it did not understand, latching on to a single word that Rodney had used. ‘One?’ Weir leaned forward slightly, looking intently at McKay. ‘One,’ it repeated. ‘One!’ Recoiling as if in horror, the apparition closed its eyes as if to rid itself of the thought. When the eyes opened again, calm had been restored.
‘We are many. We are not Ascended. We are not Ancients. We are not you.’
‘But who are you?’
‘Rodney!’ Sam held u a warning hand. ‘I don’t think they understand.’
‘How can they not understand? They knew the Ancients, they’re thousands of years old! They must be at least that advanced by now!’
‘Advanced,’ repeated the figure. ‘Culture. Language. We do not know these... words.’
‘But you’re talking in the same language. The words you’re speaking,’ Sam started to explain, ‘they are part of our language. The way we put them together, the words we use to liken one thing to another, it’s all part of our language.’
‘Words. Yes. Words... from mind, and mouth. You are filled with them. Here is filled with them.’
‘They’re picking out language up the air around us! Verbal communications, and some kind of mental emanation. They’re learning as they go!’ The explanation tumbled from Rodney’s mouth and Sam nodded, already there. Keller glanced at him, seemingly glad hat someone here could grasp what was going on, even if she didn’t understand. Sheppard still stared mutely at the figure, his expression dark, not a word moving past his lips.
‘Where are you from?’
The blank stare turned on Sam again, and she could have sworn the inhabitants of Weir’s mind were looking for the right words to express themselves.
‘You do not... understand. You are confused... like them.’
‘The others who are here.’
‘Others like me?’ Sam tugged at the collar of her uniform to indicate Atlantean personnel.
‘No. The others. They are clothed in white and speak... another language.’
‘You mean the Ancients?’ It was McKay.
This time the creatures behind the apparition of Weir seemed to understand what he meant by Ancients. ‘Yes. They do not understand. You do not understand. This image does not understand.’ The beings inside the image were becoming stronger, the voice that sounded so odd at first becoming choral, the projection clearer.
‘Well,’ it was Sam again, trying to break through one of the many glitches in the language barrier that was obviously separating them, ‘that form is an image, a projection. It can’t understand anything.’
‘No. This image is a-,’ they hesitated, groping for the right words. ‘template? Copy?’ It does not think or speak. The form thinks and speaks. The form does not understand. When we touched the image, we looked for the form. It is here. You are here. It does not understand. You do not understand. They do not understand. Not in this place. They understand in another.’
‘They must be talking about the Ascended Ancients!’ Rodney couldn’t let it go. ‘They, but in another place-‘
‘You said, the form is here. What do you mean. Elizabeth Weir isn’t here. She’s dead. Gone.’ It was Sheppard, cutting across McKay to pick out the riddle in their answer.
‘Elizabeth,’ they chorused. ‘Elizabeth is here. Elizabeth words are clear. Your language is clear in Elizabeth mind.’ It spoke of her in the plural, as if she were many, unable to perceive, or perhaps unwilling, the singular.
‘How is Elizabeth here? We cannot see her. We do not understand.’
It was Teyla, for once without her son in her arms. She had heard the voices, one achingly familiar and had come as if drawn by it. No one had noticed her, standing in the doorway. Until she spoke.
‘You will understand.’ The image raised a hand, pointing directly at Carter.
‘Why her?’ McKay’s voice held a touch of indignation, and Keller shot him a warning look.
‘How?’ Sam asked.
‘The signal calls us. The signal calls you,’ came the reply. Which, Sam guessed, was cryptic for saying the transmission wasn’t unidirectional. She was beginning to wonder if the creatures behind Weir’s image had any concept of spatial dimensions.
‘No. We’re not going to do that. Sheppard. Remove the device.’
She’d met situations like this before.
Again the figure leaned forward, again it scrutinized. ‘We do not have words that are not so. We cannot show things that are not.’
Another cryptic remark.
‘They don’t lie!’
‘Yeah, thanks Rodney, I think we got that,’ Sheppard’s voice was laced with heavy sarcasm.
‘You will understand,’ the choral voice came again. ‘The signal will call us.’
The image began to waver, vanishing like a wisp of smoke, finally breaking its hold over Sheppard and the signal died, the device powering down. Through the place where she had been, his gaze met Teyla’s, and when he looked away, she felt a stab of pain in kind.
His grief was hers, like siblings born a galaxy apart.
Sheppard had followed her to her office, despite the toll using the device had obviously taken on him. He looked wiped out. 'Like you left her the first time?' Sam asked, her clear, blue-eyed gaze catching his, holding it for a moment before he looked away, furious at her for saying it. She was sorry for being so brutally direct, but she wasn’t going to beat around the bush, she needed to know his motives, pure and simple.
'I'm not blind John,' she went on, her voice quiet. 'And I understand.'
'Do you?' he snapped, forgetting this was his commanding officer.
'Colonel,' she replied, her voice a warning. She knew he was hurting, hell, she'd been in the same position before, not knowing if someone she cared about was alive or dead, leaving them behind against every instinct, obeying her training to maximise the lives she saved, the good that could come out of the situation her team had found themselves in. But he was skirting insubordination.
In a way, it helped, he wasn’t asking for them to proceed out of mere curiosity. This was really eating at him. But he needed to consider the bigger picture.
His eyes flickered her way, and the anger subsided. It wasn't Carter's fault and she was being a hell of a lot more understanding than any of his previous CO's. 'My apologies, ma’am,' he muttered, running his fingers through short dark hair, leaving half it stuck out at odd angles.
She gave a nod. Apology accepted; provisionally.
'You made the right call, Colonel, by leaving her behind. And that's all any of us can ever do,’ she gave him the reassurance before hitting him with the guilt. ‘But whose life are you willing to risk to bring her back? Are you asking me to potentially had over control of my mind to creatures we know nothing about in the hope they're not lying? Do you think the Replicators you met lied about her death now?'
He flinched, the hope that had risen before him driving back all rational objections, which Sam had now placed in front of him, starkly real under the bright light of command. She was right, risking their lives to rescue one of their own was a duty, throwing lives away on a rumour was foolhardy.
Well, no one ever accused him of being sensible.
But she was right. Just because he’d played with these aliens once, didn’t mean they weren’t holding their cards in reserve. They could be planning anything and he wouldn’t know.
'What if I do it?' he asked suddenly.
'You think they'd let you?'
'No, I mean, what if I let them do whatever they're gonna do to you. I might not understand, but we could find out if it's safe.'
'Colonel-' Sam began.
'Please. I'm willing to take the risk,' he turned round in his seat, leaning forward on the desk to speak earnestly, aware that he had to convince her of his sincerity. It didn't take much effort, since not a word that passed his lips was a lie. 'I can't spend the rest of my life wondering if I left her behind in the hands of Oberoth to live, maybe for years, with his hand stuck inside her head. That's no way to die. And it's no way to live. For either of us.'
Sam sat back, considering him with those expressive blue eyes, the ones that could go from warm to ice-cold in a heartbeat. He’d seen those eyes watching over Atlantis, wondering if the mind behind them ever thought of her predecessor, a woman she’d worked with but hadn’t particularly struck a rapport with either, not like their team had had here, in the Pegasus Galaxy.
'I'll consider it Colonel. Dismissed.'
He considered arguing the point, but for once Sheppard clamped down on the urge to have the last word, Sam was fair-minded and a damn good commander. She trusted her people.
It was time for him to trust her now.
With a nod, he stood, saluted and left the room, hurrying down the stairs from the control room without a backwards glance, disappearing in the direction of the armoury and his usual duties. Sam watched him go, releasing a breath she hadn't realised she'd been holding.
His reaction was the one she'd been waiting for, almost since she'd stepped foot on Atlantis. He wanted to go back for his commander, every instinct demanded it, and he’d skirted demands to be released to go find her. If it hadn’t been for the other people under his command, the need, she was sure, to see Elizabeth’s work wasn’t undone, he’d have skipped town long ago, and found her himself.
But Elizabeth Weir had left too much trust in the hands of Atlantis’ military commander. And now, John Sheppard had finally trusted her, not just with Atlantis, but with Elizabeth Weir's fate, and his own.
Her own instincts, both militarial and scientific, demanded they do this, but there were so many potential dangers that she hesitated. Nowshe was the one to consider whether the wacky idea were worth pursuing, the insane plans worth the risk... she couldn’t simply ride with her own instincts, she had more at stake to consider. And she was unwilling to tangle with another species that could turn out to be an undiscovered enemy.
They had enough to deal with right now.
And yet... the memory of Elizabeth Weir, letting her take the only Alkesh they had on a long-shot chance to save one of her team, rose in her mind. Sometimes all you had was instinct, and Sam's instincts told her to do all she could to bring Elizabeth home.
Pushing away from her desk, she wandered outside to the balcony, leaning on the rail to watch the white-capped waves crash against the walls of Atlantis, turning over the possibilities in her mind. She pushed back the feeling that she’d already made the decision and started looking at ways to minimise the danger.
The same image rose in Sam's mind. Behind John, McKay's fixed his gaze on the middle distance. Teyla took a step forward, Ronan paused, his face turned away and Keller stood back, waiting for the same, disturbing apparition as last time.
They came in another flash of light, revealing the image of Elizabeth again. The same choral voice spoke and Sam stepped forward, laying her fingertips on the device wrapped around Sheppard's head.
'This is the device, it sends the signal that calls you. Colonel Sheppard,' she continued, laying a hand on John's shoulder, 'called you. We will take the device from him and put it on me,' she pointed to herself. 'Will you stay if we move the device?'
It was overdone, but the language barrier had caused an issue last time and Sam didn't want this going wrong.
The multiple entity watched her for several long moments with a faintly puzzled air, processing the information. Finally they seemed to come to a decision.
'The signal calls. The signal does not bind us.'
'And the device?'
'The signal calls. The signal does not bind us.'
Sam drew a breath and tried another tactic, 'you told us you could make me understand. Can you do that without the device?'
Again the pause, 'the signal leaves your mind. The signal must return to your mind.'
'I'll take that as a yes,' she replied, nodding at McKay.
Rodney reached out, carefully manoeuvring the device from Sheppard's head. John slipped out of the seat and Sam took a breath before stepping into his place, settling into position as the physicist settled the apparatus on her head.
Blue eyes widened as they made contact, allowing her no time to adapt to the open conduit directly into her mind. She clutched the arms of the chair; open to an unrelenting data-stream spilling directly into her head. It was all Sam could do to hold on.
They were talking to her, a babble of words and pictures, conveying the sense of their existence in the only way they knew. There were hundreds of them, thousands, but like bees or termites, they lived inside a hive mind, existing together or not at all.
Beyond it all, they brought with them another concept, so alien that they presented it in several different ways before Sam understood.
She had been right about their concept of spatial dimensions; they understood nothing of the convention world that nearly all life existed in. They lived in time itself! They hadn't been in contact with the Ancients, they were in contact with them.
As Carter herself could travel across points in space, speaking to different cultures and people along the way, they moved through time, speaking to people separated by seconds or eons. When they said Elizabeth was here, they meant it. To them, she was a metaphorical step away, and they couldn't understand why, if Sam and her people wanted her, they simply didn't walk, as Sam would across a room, to fetch her.
In return for the information they had shared, she spilled spatial awareness into them, turning their concept of the universe on its head, making them understand distance rather than time and what it meant to the people they communicated with.
They were frightened, alarmed beyond reason until the fear broke and they showed her what it meant.
Separation by distance would kill them, as time inevitably took human life, so space took theirs. They were here, concentrated in the Pegasus Galaxy, one of may isolated pockets, or the only one left in existence.
They didn't know.
Suddenly a white light filled her vision, from far away she could hear a welter of voices, calling her name, but she refused to break the link.
'No!' She heard her own voice shout the words, but it was tiny, as if she could only hear herself from a distance. She reached up, clutching the device in place, grappling with the vague idea that she was no longer sitting in the chair. 'Not yet!'
The light faded and in front of her stood Elizabeth Weir. They were standing in a cell, like the one in Atlantis. Prisoners.
The brunette turned, eyes widening, taking a step away. 'Colonel Carter?' she enquired, her voice wary.
'I don't know. Where are we?'
'The Asuran city. John's taken Rodney and Ronan, and a ZPM. They can save Atlantis. Are you aboard the Daedalus?'
This place remains the same. Time shifts and changes, like a river it folds back on itself, mixing waters, but this is where she ends in the river, there is no way back. 'Then why am I here?'
A gift, for sharing your words. Water may splash from one rivulet to another. You are like raindrops in the river, and you can go anywhere.
She tried to object, even whilst she watched Elizabeth wandering this small piece of the city, looking for the Replicators that were no longer there. It would alter time, they couldn't know the consequences.
Their thoughts spilled back into her, it wasn't like choosing to move left or right out of your front door. They weren't choosing a spatial pathway, they were jumping, like the 'Gate system jumped her from one place to another.
In our place, she is dead.
Now she will be both.
Is that possible?
They didn't know what laughter was, but she felt their humour.
Yes. You have taught us much. Given freely. We are grateful, but this is energy and we cannot find more. Will you take her with you? We are a bridge, but the bridge falls and soon time will kill you both.
Then we have to leave.
Yes. But your reflection will remain. You can teach us much. We ask your permission to speak with the image you will leave behind. And hers.
She had to take the chance that Elizabeth would agree.
Sam reached out, taking Weir's hand in her own. 'Elizabeth! We have to go.'
'But I have to keep them frozen, my team-'
'Are safe. The Daedalus has them.'
She nodded, and Sam's grip tightened as the light blazed and bore them both away.
'Rodney, can we get that thing off her?!' It was Sheppard, his voice urgent. He couldn’t help wondering if all he had done was throw Sam's life after Elizabeth's, on a foolhardy, pointless mission. The blonde Colonel had collapsed seconds after putting on the head device, falling to her knees. Before they could stop her, Sam had risen again, walking blindly to the apparition of Elizabeth Weir, reaching out to take her hand and the room had exploded in a blaze of light.
When it subsided, the others had found them both on the floor, apparently unconscious. All attention was on Carter, each of them still believing Weir was only an image, a projection.
'No! I don't know what it'll do, it could kill her! Her brainwaves all over the place, it's like she carrying more than person inside her head. I don’t understand!'
‘Try! I need answers, or we’re gonna lose her!’ Keller’s voice cut across his panic.
Teyla hovered next to Ronan, alternating her gaze between the drama on the floor and the image of Elizabeth which lay close by, looking almost real. Involuntarily, it seemed, she took a step towards her, almost before she realised what she was doing. She took another, then another and the Athosian warrior knelt at Weir's side, reaching out a cautious hand to touch her cheek.
She was warm.
'Elizabeth?' Even to her own ears her tone held a touch of wonderment, as if she had witnessed a miracle. 'Elizabeth!' she repeated, her voice an urgent whisper. She lay gentle fingertips on the brunette’s chest. It wasn't an illusion, the image was warm, real, solid... and she drew breath.
'Dr Keller! Dr Keller! She is alive!'
Jennifer looked up, her eyes wide and underneath her hands Sam choked, drawing in a deep breath, her heartbeat thudding fast and strong. Blue eyes fluttered open and from nearby Keller heard another painful breath, drawn in by the apparent copy of Elizabeth Weir. The doctor curled on her side, choking and gasping as if she had been pulled from the water.
Sheppard darted over, falling to his knees beside Elizabeth, sweeping a lock of dark hair away from her face. 'Elizabeth? Elizabeth!'
'Here,' she choked out, her throat constricting painfully around the word. She tried to ask what had happened but she couldn't, drawing breath was hard enough.
John looked up, his gaze searching out Keller's. 'Is Carter okay?'
Jennifer looked up, relief flooding her features and nodded. 'I need to get her up to the infirmary,' she replied as the medical team came running, dragging a crash cart and a gurney, 'but yeah, I think she'll be okay.'
'I'm fine,' Sam coughed, rolling onto her front to stare in disbelief as Sheppard slipped his arms under Elizabeth's shaking form, lifting her in one smooth motion onto the gurney. He stepped back, letting Keller give up Sam to Ronan and Rodney as she dashed to Elizabeth's side.
'It worked,' Sam croaked out, leaning heavily on Ronan, 'I didn't believe them,' she added, losing her voice towards the end.
'No talking,' Keller snapped, checking over Elizabeth, 'Kay, Gare,' she said, turning to her staff, 'get Colonel Carter up to the infirmary, I want a full work-up.'
Another gurney was suggested, but Sam shook her head, managing the walk with Ronan on one side and nurse on the other. John trailed along behind, his brain still catching up on events, his expression settling into a dark scowl.
'John?' A light, familiar voice, spoke behind him as she caught up.
'Don't say it Teyla, we don't know it's her yet, we've been duped before remember?'
'I do not think this is a trick John.'
'We'll see,' Sheppard replied, stalking along behind the gurney. He’d wanted this, hell he’d practically begged Carter for the chance, and now Elizabeth was here he didn’t believe it.
In front of him Sam stumbled and he caught up, taking her weight from Kay and sharing the burden with Ronan. He bit back a dozen questions, aware Sam was barely conscious, let alone able to answer him.
Yet again, it seemed, he was going to play the waiting game. Why the hell had he opened this can of worms in the first place?
He could only see it ending badly.
Elizabeth still slept, her initial signs of consciousness had quickly faded and Keller had been unable to rouse her a second time. They gathered nearby, Carter sitting up in an infirmary bed, although she thought it was unnecessary. Keller spoke first.
'I’ve done a full body scan, including EEGS and we’re currently running blood tests though the results won’t be back for some time. She's not a clone, she has no nanites in her system, to all intents and purposes she is Elizabeth, except...'
'What is it, doc?' It was Sheppard.
'Well... She has no scars. Her medical records don't match up. It's as if all traces of living have been stripped from her, no scars, no marks, no signs of the operation she had on her wrist when she was a kid, the tooth she cracked when she was sixteen... it's all gone. I don't know how to explain it.'
'I think I might,' Carter spoke up, turning her gaze on the prone figure who slept nearby, oblivious of her audience. 'I think they created her, here and now in this time and space, but they dragged her consciousness away from the killing eddy of time where she was trapped. They created her body from new and implanted her consciousness in it. Like the Asguard.'
'Won't she suffer the same degradation they did?' McKay asked, wondering how the hell the alien managed to create her in the first place, but more importantly, if they’d known how to do it correctly.
'No,' Keller replied, 'they didn't clone her, they, well, they remade her.'
'Will she wake up?' Ronan’s dark voice intruded on the conversation.
Keller shrugged, 'there's no reason for her not to, she's simply sleeping, but I don't know how long it will last, I've never seen this kind of situation before.'
Carter gave a wry smile; that was a phrase she had heard, and often repeated, throughout her long years with the Stargate programme. It was unlikely to get old anytime soon.
‘Okay. We’ll leave her under Dr Keller’s observation for now, I want guards posted at all infirmary exits. We take no chances, if she’d the real Dr Weir, I know she’ll understand. If she’s not-‘ she broke off, her gaze fixing on Sheppard. ‘If she’s not, we all need to be prepared.’
General acknowledgements came her way. Everyone wanted to believe she was real, but they’d seen to many copies to trust their own instincts in this particular case. They could only wait, and see what Keller’s investigations turned up.
Finally released, Sam and the others headed out, but before Carter left she turned to Sheppard. 'Stay here Colonel, let me know if and when she wakes up. Anything she had to say could give us a clue as to who she really is.’
John nodded. Turning back to the bedside, he settled himself into one of the plastic chairs that littered the infirmary, crossing long legs in front of him, and waited.
She awoke a couple of hours later, blinking in the bright lights of the infirmary, her voice groggy as she spoke.
'I'm here,' he loomed in her field of view, 'how you feelin'?
'Like I was hit with a wall. What happened?'
'You don't remember?'
She shook her head, wincing at the result, 'in part I guess. I remember screaming at you and Ronan to go, Oberoth was breaking my hold over the Replicators...and then...then... I forget what happened. But then Colonel Carter came, I thought they had captured her too. I don’t remember how... Wait! The Daedalus.’
John nodded, ‘yeah, we know. Remember who you are?’
‘Dr Elizabeth Weir, leader of the Atlantis Expedition, nanite-infested diplomat. I miss my dog. You and McKay drive me insane at times. Anything else you want to know?’
He grinned, ‘I think you’ll pass. Let me call Dr Keller.’ ‘Keller?’ She remembered the doctor who had taken over from Carson, the memory of death rising on a wave of grief. ‘Wait, no. I remember.’
‘Okay.’ He left for a moment, pushing herself up to sit back against the pillows rather than lie down, with the glare of the infirmary light shining in her eyes.’ He returned a few moments later, Dr Jennifer Keller in tow.
‘Dr Keller,’ Weir greeted her, ‘since I’m not in an isolation tent, may I assume the nanites have been deactivated?’ Although if they had, it didn’t make sense, shouldn’t she be dead? She’d realised, on the ‘Jumper, between Atlantis and the Asuran city, just how extensive the damage had been. Almost as if her nanites were conveying the information to her.
‘Well. Kinda,’ Keller wasn’t sure she should broach the subject until Elizabeth had spoken with a shrink, someone who could determine how much she should be told. But Sheppard cut across the red tape tying up Keller’s hands and spoke.
‘The raid on the Asurans happened a long time ago, Elizabeth. You’re been declared dead for over a year.’
‘I- What? Why?’
‘We lost you on the Asuran homeworld. The Daedalus appeared, gave us covering fire. They scanned for you, but your life sign was already gone. It was months before we heard what had happened to you. A rebel group of Asurans created a copy of you, downloaded her with your mind. They created copies of all of us actually. When they contacted us, I asked them.’
‘Asked them what?’ her voice was wary, skimming the edge of fear. Bad enough her own memories didn’t tally with the truth, although she felt there was something in that gap, a grey fog, obscuring her mind. ‘What, John?’
‘If they’d help us find you. She told me you were dead, had been for some time. The Asurans kept you alive for months before they finally killed you. I’m sorry, ‘Lisabeth. I should never have left you there.’
‘Months?’ She was horrified. Not because they’d left her behind, she’d ordered them to abandon her and save Atlantis. No. The Asurans had her in their grip for months, who knew what the hell they had done? What they’d implanted in her nanites or in her mind?
‘I have to be isolated. John, I could be a danger to this whole facility, everyone on it. Are you sure the nanites are deactivated?’ she demanded of Keller, whipping her head round to face the doctor.
‘Elizabeth, the nanites aren’t deactivated, they’re gone.’
‘It was Colonel Carter,’ Sheppard took up the story again, ‘she’s been in charge of Atlantis since you were declared MIA. But McKay made contact with another species, when Carter joined her mind to their, they showed her you were still alive, trapped in time. She pulled you through into the future.’
She sank back against the pillows, her face white. Keller moved forward, taking her blood pressure, checking the monitors keeping an electronic eye on her vital signs. ‘Dr Weir, are you okay?’
Weir looked up, her eyes finding Sheppard’s, and he could see the same aching confusion lying behind them that he saw the day he rescued her from Kolya. He used the same reassurance he had then, the one he’d returned to when she sat in that isolation room, active nanites streaming through her blood.
‘You’re going to be okay, Elizabeth.’
She nodded. She didn’t really believe him, he could tell, but she nodded, trusting him to be right, even if she couldn’t see it right now. He pulled the chair up to her bedside, sitting down again.
‘You up for speaking with Carter?’
Elizabeth remembered the fiery blonde under her command at the SGC. She was a good soldier, brilliant scientist, and not inclined to take no for an answer, but tiredness swept over her at the thought of rehashing this all over again. She needed a little time, but she also knew the burdens of command, ‘you'd better call her I fall asleep again.’
Before he could say anything, Keller cut him off, ‘no, you need your rest. Doctor’s orders. You can talk to Colonel Carter when you’re stronger,’ she turned and walked away, leaving them alone.
‘I guess that's that. So,’ he said, ‘how’s it feel to be back?’
‘Like home,' she replied, almost asleep. Forcing her eyes open again, she asked suddenly, ‘Rodney, Ronan, Teyla... is everyone...?’
‘Alive? Yes. We’ll fill you in on the details later. Sleep. I’ll be here.’
She tried not to, but weariness permeated every bone until she gave in, and slept.