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.