“Davos gave me a vision,” I spoke softly into the darkness. John and I had retired to bed after a troubling afternoon. We’d confirmed that the Wraith had been telling the truth and that it was bad. Three planets and one hundred and fifty thousand dead bad. It had been a no brainer for Colonel Carter to decide we had to find a way to switch off the attack command. That we were considering trusting John’s Wraith friend to help us do that was something I didn’t even want to contemplate.
“When was that?” John’s voice settled into the quiet room, curious but not concerned that I hadn’t mentioned it straight away.
“This afternoon,” I replied. “I’ve been thinking about it since but most of it didn’t make any sense to me. The first part looked like Atlantis except for the Lanteans running all over the place. I don’t know why but it felt like the city before the Wraith were a real threat – not that I’ve ever seen that for myself.”
“And the second bit?” John asked without commenting.
“Even stranger,” I admitted. “I was on Earth in some kind of office, looking at my own adoption file.”
“What was in it?” John propped himself up on one elbow and thought the lights on low so he could see my expression.
“I don’t know - I only got enough to know it was about adoption,” I replied, “nothing more detailed.”
“Did Davos explain it?” John asked, still not commenting on what he thought.
“He said it was up to me to interpret it,” I grimaced before adding “I’ve been trying all afternoon but I can’t make heads or tails of it.”
“I’m surprised you even let him show you that,” John said mildly.
“Yeah well if he wasn’t sick and in pain I wouldn’t have,” I said irritably. “I only did it because he’d already told Jennifer and me that suppressing the visions had never worked for him in the past.”
“And you were worried about what would happen if you didn’t let him share this one,” John concluded, smiling down at me fondly.
“He’s old,” I excused my apparent soft heartedness. “What do you think it means?”
“No idea about the first part,” John admitted. “The second bit seems pretty obvious given you were thinking about using the information Rodney gave you to find your biological parents. As for the rest, if what Davos says is true, if all his visions come to pass in some format then we’re gonna find out eventually.”
“That’s what worries me,” I muttered.
“Why?” John frowned down at me. “It’s not like you saw things exploding or people shooting at us or someone dying.” I couldn’t stop my eyes from shifting away, something he jumped on immediately. “Or did you?”
“The vision shifted to something else at the end,” I said the last bit reluctantly, having warred with myself all afternoon over whether I should tell him what I’d seen.
“To something worse?” John once again seemed to tune in on my emotions – he knew I’d seen something I didn’t like ... and that it was about him.
“There was nothing in there to tell me when,” I deliberately didn’t admit to the specifics, knowing he’d already filled in the blanks himself. “Apart from the fact that I wasn’t old and grey.”
“You saw me dead,” John stated quietly.
I nodded wordlessly, lips quivering as I tried to hold back the sudden urge to burst into tears.
“Sabina,” John began but I put a hand over his mouth, shaking my head emphatically.
“I can’t talk about this ... besides, if I have anything to say about it, it’s not going to happen!” I spoke firmly, my expression telling him not to push it. Changing the subject just reinforced that I didn’t want to go there. “What was it like seeing that Wraith again?”
“Very strange,” John let me off the hook easily. “You know how it is, after a while it almost seems like the bad things happened to somebody else. Seeing him threw that tactic out the door.”
“But you’re okay?” I shifted to look at him more closely.
“I’m fine,” John reassured me. “A little disturbed that I’ve become the ‘expert’ on the Wraith so everyone expects me to know whether we can believe this one or not. Carter’s still considering whether we should play along ... I’m thinking his offer is genuine only because they need to turn off that directive just as much as we do.”
“A hundred and fifty thousand dead,” I recited sadly. “I can hardly contemplate such large numbers in any real sense. We shouldn’t have turned the attack command back on – we trusted the Replicators to act as we would but they’re machines, they don’t care about ethics or compassion.”
“Rodney was trying to blame himself as well,” John drew me into his side and whispered a kiss into my hair. “I’ll tell you what I told him. It was my call and at the time I believed it was the right one. We had a once only opportunity to make a serious dent in the Wraith as a threat to everyone – we had to take it. The important thing now is for us to fix it before any more worlds get destroyed by the Replicators.”
“Agreed,” I nestled my head against his chest with a sigh. “Just once it would be nice if the side effect was something in our favour, instead of something that just makes everything worse.”
“That would be nice,” John agreed, running a hand absently through my hair. “There’s nothing we can do right now ... except sleep.”
“I guess,” I agreed with another sigh, pushing my worries, my fears and my guilt to the back of my mind so that they were a dull buzz instead of an insistent roar. “‘Night John."
John was called away very early the next morning to meet again with Colonel Carter and Richard Woolsey. I decided to check on our Vedeenan visitors before catching up with Rodney. It was strange ... part of me was angry with Davos for showing me what he had but the rest was actually concerned for him. I liked him ... despite what he did for a living! Getting bad news in a vision didn’t seem to make a difference to that.
Davos was sitting up in his bed talking with his daughter when I arrived. I approached hesitantly, looking for any signs that he wasn’t keen on visitors.
“Sabina,” Davos caught sight of me and smiled a friendly welcome. Smiling in return I walked the rest of the way over to them.
“How are you feeling today?” I asked in concern.
“No worse than yesterday,” Davos replied complacently. “How are you?” He looked at me closely, really asking me how I was coping with the vision revelations.
“Still firmly determined this is gonna be your first incorrect vision,” I said firmly.
“It is not the first time I have also hoped to be wrong,” Davos offered. I nodded, appreciating how hard it must have been to show people things worse than they’d been hoping for. “I would like to see more of your wonderful city than just this room,” Davos said wistfully. “Linara is worried the exercise will exhaust me.”
“I’ll check with Doctor Keller,” I offered, glancing at Linara with a smile. “If she says okay then you can be sure it won’t do any harm. She always keeps us here long after we’re ready to get out.”
“Thank you Sabina,” Linara said gratefully. “If you hadn’t turned up I believe my father would have insisted on leaving the infirmary even without permission.”
“I’ll be right back,” I promised, turning and heading towards Jennifer’s office. A few minutes later Davos had his freedom, but only to visit a nearby balcony. Linara pleaded for me to accompany him there, promising she’d go and get something to eat if she was sure he was settled.
“You know, I see more than just the glimpses of the future I have shown you,” Davos offered as I walked slowly with a supporting hand under his elbow.
“That was pretty obvious too,” I smiled easily, guiding him through the doors to the balcony. “You seem to have most of us pegged pretty accurately.”
“You find it difficult at times, feeling you’ve been given your position here for reasons other than your skills,” Davos said, putting his hands on the balcony railing and gazing out over the city.
“I’m just ... aware that it’s unique within the expedition for a husband and wife to be posted here together,” I explained. “Sometimes I feel like I need to do something to show everyone how much I appreciate that.”
“Your relationship with Colonel Sheppard is very strong,” Davos looked over at me with an intent expression. “Do not let the barriers you imagine get in the way of taking that wherever you want it to go.”
“I, I ah ...,” I couldn’t believe he actually had me almost stuttering in surprise. “I’m not sure I know what you’re talking about,” I tried to deny he had seen so clearly things I’d hardly acknowledged to myself I was even thinking.
“I speak of children, as you well know,” Davos said with an amused look.
“We’re a long way from home,” I pointed out, “and to be honest I don’t know how John would feel about me staying here if I were to get pregnant right now. I can’t deny the thought has occurred to me lately, but there’s so much going on with the Wraith and the Replicators ... besides I don’t know if I’m even ready yet.”
“There will always be dangers,” Davos said sadly, “and I don’t believe any expectant parent can ever truly be ready for parenthood. I would remind you now of the vision I showed you, painful as it was ... and tell you not to leave it too long. Opportunity is there ... but perhaps the window is smaller than you believe it to be.”
“It’s good advice for anyone, but to be honest I don’t know whether to say thank you or be angry,” I put a hand over his on the railing to take the sting out of that. “At the very least you’ve given me things to think about and I’m grateful for that.”
“What has always been murky for you will become clear in time,” Davos said.
“I hope so,” I said with a faint laugh. “I’m sure you’d appreciate a few minutes of quiet time before Linara comes to find you, if you feel up to it?”
Nodding gratefully, Davos turned back to the view, appearing to enjoy the fresh air as well as Atlantis stretched out before him.
I had other questions I could have asked but it didn’t seem the time for them. Nodding to the guard standing at the balcony door I went on to look for Rodney.
“Hi Rodney,” I strolled into his lab a few minutes later. He of course was busily tapping away at his laptop as usual. “What’re you working on?”
“The Replicator attack command,” Rodney replied impatiently.
“We’re gonna work with that Wraith?” I asked with a raised brow.
“You haven’t spoken to John this morning?” Rodney commented in surprise. “Turns out the Wraith had a subspace tracking device implanted – he activated it the moment we put him in that cell. Sheppard just radioed down here to tell me a Hive ship’s been detected on long range sensors.” Before I could comment on that Rodney continued. “Oh it gets worse than that. Sam had a vision last night courtesy of Davos. Saw Atlantis being destroyed from space.”
“Oh my God,” I said involuntarily, feeling the chill sweeping over my body. Davos hadn't mentioned Sam when I'd spoken to him ... his version of patient confidentiality perhaps? In any case, the assurances of Linara, the confidence of Davos himself as he insisted that every vision he’d ever had came true in some format began to echo in my head. Some of what he’d said about windows took on a different meaning again in the face of that. “This is ... what ... is there a plan?”
“They’re still talking about it,” Rodney replied. “Since we found out about the Replicators wiping out human worlds I’ve been working on the Replicator code, trying to find a way to turn off that directive.”
“Can I help?” I asked. “I mean, I don’t exactly remember everything about being connected to their mainframe but something might jump out at me.”
“Can’t hurt,” Rodney agreed, turning his laptop towards me. “You look at this one ... I’ll just continue with the database.”
It probably hadn’t been longer than an hour before our work was interrupted by the arrival of John and Colonel Carter.
“Rodney,” Sam’s manner was brisk and purposeful. “We need to know if you can shut down the Replicator attack code on your own.”
“I've been looking into that, and it's not very promising,” Rodney reported reluctantly.
“You're the one who activated it in the first place!” John said irritably. I wanted to keep silent, knowing just from his manner that the morning had been difficult, but I couldn’t let the inaccuracy of that statement go.
“Ah, actually I was the one who activated it,” I said weakly. “Rodney located it within the Replicator base code and gave me cues for finding it once I was linked into their core but everything to do with turning it back on came directly from me.”
“If you could find the command to switch it on then you should be able to find the one to turn it off,” John insisted.
“Well, that was easy ... well, actually it was spectacularly difficult, but then everything's relative,” Rodney explained with typical McKay ‘my genius is never understood because no one is smart enough to appreciate it’ disappointment.
“Rodney,” Colonel Carter admonished.
“Look, the Replicators were originally designed and programmed to do exactly what they're doing,” Rodney explained heatedly. “I mean, they were built for this. It's much harder for the Wraith to get them to stop than it was for us to get them to start again.”
“But with this Wraith's help, you think you could do it?” Sam questioned.
“If he really has the original shut-down virus, yeah, I think we can,” Rodney confirmed. Sam looked at John, wordlessly seeking his opinion.
“He claims he ordered the Hive ship not to give away our position unless they're attacked,” John offered, which wasn’t really an opinion.
“Do you believe him?” Colonel Carter persisted.
“Well, are there any other ships headed this way?” John asked expectantly.
“No,” Sam replied.
“That's it. For the moment, he's telling the truth,” John concluded, getting nods from Sam and Rodney because that did make sense. I could see his logic - for the time being there was nothing else we could conclude although John's expression said he was making even that minor leap of faith under sufferance.
“We should –“ Colonel Carter broke off, holding a hand to her earpiece. “Of course Teyla, I’ll be there in a few minutes.” Turning back to us with a frown she explained. “Teyla had a vision from Davos – something about Atlantis being under attack. I’ll get everyone gathered in the conference room.”
I stayed where I was as Rodney jumped up and followed the Colonel. John hesitated at the door, looking back at me. “No one would mind if you joined us,” he said simply.
“Is Major Lorne going to be there?” John shook his head with a frown. “Then it’s definitely not my place either – unless you’re after something specific to my work,” I reminded him easily. “I don’t mind ... as long as you don’t mind filling me in later.”
“I don’t mind,” John agreed. “Although I don’t think you’d be out of place in this particular meeting – as you just pointed out, you helped reactivate the attack command.”
“Call me if you need me because of that,” I offered. “I’m not being stubborn here. I just ... I don’t want Woolsey putting in his reports that I attend high level meetings beyond my position. Don’t protest – we both know he’d do exactly that if I tag along for this meeting.”
“Probably,” John agreed reluctantly. “Fine – I’ll fill you in later on what happens in the meeting.”
“And on what happened this morning,” I added before he could escape. “And don’t say nothing happened because I could tell from your mood that something did happen.”
“It was nothing,” John insisted. “I was just a tad ... angry that our supposed Wraith friend double crossed us by calling in his Hive ship.”
“What’d you do?” my tone was probably similar to that of a mother called to the school because her child had gotten into trouble again.
“I ah ... I may have gone down to the brig to have a little chat with him,” John admitted. “I didn’t do anything though ... he said he needed the Hive ship to help us. The original virus is on board.”
“I guess that makes sense,” I mused, glancing at the computer clock I realised it had already been a few minutes since the others had left. “I’m keeping you from the meeting – you should go.”
“Yeah,” John looked like he wanted to say more but in the end he shrugged slightly, threw me a half hearted wave and disappeared out the door.
I didn’t have anything more pressing to do so I settled down with Rodney’s laptop and continued to search through the Replicator code.
John and Rodney returned to the lab a short while later, grimly determined. Rodney motioned for me to move aside so he could call up some programs on his laptop. Stepping close to John I waited for some kind of explanation.
“Colonel Carter went down to meet with our Wraith captive,” John explained. “Assuming he co-operates Rodney will get the old virus transmitted to his machine and then the Wraith will help him alter it. Carter took Woolsey with her which would ordinarily be very amusing except for the fact that Teyla’s vision included me in the Control Chair about to fire drones.”
“That doesn’t necessarily mean anything,” I countered. “There’s no timeline on these visions – Davos never said they were only things that take place in the immediate future.”
“You’re right,” John agreed with a frown that said my suggestion wasn’t exactly good news, before changing the subject abruptly. “I don’t want you in here when they bring the Wraith up.”
“Oh,” I said lamely, not sure how to react. “Why?”
“Because I don’t trust him enough to give him any information about my personal life,” John replied grimly. “We’ve already had one enemy try to use you to get to me and I’d rather not give a second one the same chances.”
"Okay," I agreed abruptly. When John looked surprised at my easy capitulation, I tried to explain. “I’m only saying yes to this because I really don’t want to be anywhere near that Wraith either,” I admitted. “I just ... I know seeing him is gonna result in a whole bunch of reruns up here,” I pointed to my head with a pained frown. “I’d really rather not go back there unless it’s absolutely necessary.”
“Jennifer might appreciate your company for Linara,” John suggested an alternative use of my time. “Teyla said Davos lapsed into unconsciousness after he gave her that vision.”
“I can do that,” I replied confidently. “I’m assuming you’ll let me know if you need me for anything?”
“Oh I always need you for something,” John leaned in and whispered close to my ear.
“You can get back to me on that later too,” I could feel my face reddening, all too aware that Rodney was in seeing and hearing distance. It was one thing to deliberately try to embarrass Rodney from time to time, and another to be the recipient of an unexpected remark in company.
“I will,” John smirked a promise.
“Be careful,” I told him seriously, turning to look at Rodney. “You too McKay – and call me if you think I can help.”
Taking my leave I headed down to the infirmary again. Davos was awake but heavily medicated. Linara attended him with that soft gentle expression on her face ... and sadness in her eyes. Wordlessly joining her I smiled when she looked across at me gratefully.
We stayed in that quiet companionable space for a time before our attention was drawn to Colonel Carter’s appearance.
“Hello again,” she greeted Davos gently.
“Colonel. It's nice to see you, but I'm afraid I can't offer you any more insight into future events. These medicines dull my mind,” Davos replied, more coherent than he might have been under the circumstances. Not that he would have seen it as a positive – being able to operate so much like his old self only gave Linara false hope that he would recover.
“That's all right,” Carter said easily. “That's not why I came, although I did wanna ask you a few questions about your visions if you feel up to it.”
“Of course,” Davos agreed.
“Have you ever been wrong?” Colonel Carter got straight to the point.
“No,” Davos was equally adept at cutting right to the heart of something.
“Knowing how events play out, you haven't been able to change the future or avoid it?” Carter persisted.
“I'm afraid not,” Davos replied sadly.
“What about the culling on your planet?” Carter pointed out what seemed like a contradiction.
“I did not see a culling, merely the Wraith ships arriving, and that is exactly what happened,” Davos clarified. “Doctor McKay's vision happened as he saw it, but his interpretation was incorrect.”
“Pretty hard to misinterpret what I saw,” Colonel Carter replied with a grimace.
“I make no judgements, but I do know it will come to pass,” Davos reiterated.
“It's hard for me to accept that,” Carter said earnestly. “You're telling me that the future is pre-determined but I have always believed that the future is what you make it.”
“Perhaps both are true,” Davos suggested, struggling to get out everything that he wanted said. “Perhaps the future is pre-determined by the character of those who shape it. One thing has been clear to me from the moment I set foot in this city ... the galaxy is at a crossroads. Never before have I sensed that the future of so many worlds can turn on the actions of so few.”
“There’s something I don’t understand,” I broke in hesitantly, wanting to ask the question I’d tried to ask the day before. “If every vision comes true as you see it and there’s nothing to be done to change it then ... why have the visions in the first place?”
“Another interesting viewpoint,” Davos was amused, not taking offence that I’d basically suggested his role as seer had been a waste of time. “I believe the visionary process is sophisticated enough to take account of actions initiated by prior knowledge and show the future that represents the sum total of all of them.”
“So in Rodney’s vision he didn’t see the ambush as being successful because having knowledge of it meant they had adequate backup,” I reasoned.
Davos winced in sudden pain, his face paling and his eyes listing to almost closed.
“My father needs to rest,” Linara announced pleadingly. “Perhaps you can return later if you have more questions.”
“Of course,” Carter agreed. Putting a hand on Davos’s arm she smiled warmly. “Thank you for your time.”
I walked with the Colonel from the infirmary, continuing down the corridor. “Any word on that second Hive ship Colonel?” I asked.
“Less than two hours away,” Colonel Carter reported. “Listen, you’re not military so you can call me Sam. And before you protest I know you never addressed Doctor Weir by her first name either. I don’t want to run the city that formally Sabina – plus you call General O’Neill by his first name so this shouldn’t be any different.”
“Okay ... Sam,” I nodded at her logic. “Look ... John didn’t want me in the lab with the Wraith. Do you have anywhere you’d like me to be when the Hive ships get here?”
“You can operate the Command Chair?” Sam confirmed, waiting for my nod. “Then you can be back up for John – just in case we need to send out Jumpers.”
“I’d be happy to, although I hope it doesn’t come to that,” I said earnestly.
“Report to the Chair Room,” Sam said decisively. “That way you’ll be able to intervene if it becomes necessary.”
“Thanks Sam,” I turned and headed away from her before she could change her mind.
“We’re going with the trust option,” John announced as he ran into the Chair Room an hour later. “Rodney’s in the process of cloaking the city so the rival Hive ship won’t detect us.”
“Then what?” I asked with a frown.
“Then our Wraith will reason with them and hopefully head them off before things get violent,” John concluded. Throwing himself in the Chair he reclined it, activating all the systems. I sat at the main control console, ready to monitor the chair’s performance once John started firing drones.
The Chair Room was isolated, enough that we had no idea on the situation the longer we sat there waiting for progress.
“C'mon, guys, what's happening?” John quizzed impatiently over the radio.
“Stand by,” Rodney’s voice came back promptly.
“I hate when he does that,” I muttered in frustration.
“Rodney?” Sam was up in the Control Room but obviously the situation wasn’t clear from up there either.
“They're still just talking,” Rodney explained. He paused and then broke into ‘excited but not in a good way’ speech. “Whoa-whoa-whoa-whoa-whoa-whoa-whoa-whoa, wait a minute. We've got a problem.”
“What is it?” John demanded. “What's going on?”
“Both ships just powered weapons,” Rodney admitted weakly.
“That's it,” John announced grimly. “Firing drones.” I watched as he closed his eyes, moving his hands towards the control positions on each Chair arm.
“John, wait!” Sam said urgently. John paused, opening his eyes and looking over at me with a raised eyebrow. “Just give it a second,” Sam urged.
“Are you insane?! They're gonna wipe us out!” Richard Woolsey exclaimed incredulously.
“Shut up, Woolsey,” Sam ordered.
“Colonel Sheppard,” Woolsey’s voice was urgent and insistent. “As a ranking member of the IOA, I'm assuming command of this base. I'm ordering you to launch the drones now.”
“What?” I looked at John in disbelief. He still held his hands over the Chair controls, not willing to follow that order but not sure he wasn’t actually obliged to.
“Belay that order!” Sam shouted immediately. “One more word out of you and I will have you removed.” It was a tense situation but I couldn’t help the satisfaction I felt at hearing Woolsey being put down like that ... under the circumstances he completely deserved it too.
“Hold on,” Rodney broke in. “Something's happening. The hives are firing on each other!”
“Are you sure?” Sam demanded.
“Definitely!” Rodney sounded almost gleeful. “They're not pulling any punches either.” The wait was excruciating, not being able to see even the level of detail they would have had up in the Control Room. Finally Rodney spoke again. “They just destroyed each other! I guess the other Wraith didn't buy their story.”
“Was either ship able to get off a sub-space message?” Sam asked.
“Negative. We're good!” Rodney said happily.
“John, you can stand down,” Sam confirmed that the crisis had passed.
“Gladly,” John replied in relief, quickly deactivating the Chair and bringing it back to the upright position.
“So I guess Sam’s vision wasn’t about today’s events,” I offered as we began our walk back to the others.
“We can’t do this,” John stopped abruptly, putting a hand on my arm to get me looking at him. “We can’t live every day expecting one of these visions to come true.”
“You didn’t see one for yourself,” I retorted heatedly. “You have no idea how hard it is to put them out of my mind. It’s not like having a bad thought in words and then telling myself don’t think like that. This was technicolour imagery burned right into my head ... complete with emotions! That’s not as easy to ignore.”
“This is gonna sound blunt but ...,” John hesitated, looking at me as he thought over his intended words. “I’m gonna die someday. That was true yesterday, last week, and before I ever met you. You can’t change it. Nobody knows when it’ll happen – just that it will. So tell me, where is anything different today because Davos showed you a vision of my funeral?”
“I know the reality,” I agreed earnestly. “But knowing that and having it rubbed in my face are two different things. I don’t like thinking about this stuff ... and I don’t wanna risk the whole bad karma thing by talking about it. And before you comment I know how silly that sounds, okay. Would you be comfortable if I suddenly start talking so casually about my death?”
“Of course not,” John replied with a grimace. “All I’m asking is for you to look on this for what it was. A vision about something we already know is gonna happen sometime. There’s no point in behaving any differently because really we know nothing more than we did before you met Davos.”
“I guess I can try to look at it like that,” I offered thoughtfully, hesitating and then revealing the heart of my distress. “I just ... I wasn’t old John and I was kind of counting on doing the geriatric thing with you. I don’t want to think about all those years without you in them.”
“I wouldn’t give up on me just yet ... I’ve come back from things you could hardly imagine,” John rubbed his hands up and down my arms comfortingly. “I don’t know how but maybe this is another one of those times.”
“I would never give up on you,” I vowed intently.
“Good,” John grabbed my hand, getting us both moving again.
“There is one thing that worries me though,” I said hesitantly as we continued walking down the corridor.
“Just the one?” John quipped.
“We know the details of three visions from Davos,” I continued, ignoring his teasing. “They had different scenes but essentially they all seemed to be about one single event.”
“So?” John asked curiously.
“So how is my adoption, Atlantis from the past, and your funeral all relevant to the one event?” I queried grimly.
“Maybe they aren’t,” John offered. “It’s not like three visions is exactly a representative sample of all the visions Davos ever had. Maybe it depended on the person he was giving the visions to.”
“I guess that could be true,” I nodded thoughtfully.
“You need to stop thinking about this for now,” John urged. “It’s just gonna drive you crazy not being able to work out the answers and for now this is a puzzle you can’t solve.”
“Yes and you hardly need a crazy wife running around the city,” I concluded.
“And no more quizzing Davos,” John added insistently.
“But -,” I broke off as I caught sight of the stern look on John’s face. “Okay, but I’m still going to go see him again.”
“I wouldn’t have thought otherwise,” John pulled me into his side, hugging me close as we continued on our way.
In the end I couldn’t have talked to Davos even without John’s request ... I found out from Jennifer shortly afterwards that he’d passed away before the Hive fight began. Linara was upset but accepting, having known it would happen despite her hopes that Doctor Keller would be able to do something their own doctors could not. I spent some time with her that afternoon, letting her tell me stories about her father and all the people he’d helped. She left soon after, escorting her father’s body back to Vedeena for a proper burial ceremony.
We managed to get rid of another one of our visitors the next day too, Richard Woolsey having completed his evaluation of Colonel Carter. I kept myself scarce, patting myself on the back for having avoided any unpleasantness this time. I wasn’t sure if Woolsey’s attitude towards me had changed now I was married to John instead of just living with him ... I hadn’t really given him the chance to act differently. Maybe I should have but ... there was always next time.
Our final visitor was another story ... unfortunately the Wraith was going to be on Atlantis for an extended stay. I’d have to avoid Rodney’s lab for the duration since the Wraith would be spending his time in the brig, the lab, or in the corridors between them. It wasn’t that I was scared of him exactly, just that I hated that slimy Wraith feeling at the edge of my mind whenever a Wraith got too close and I didn’t want to give him the change to comment on any aspect of my relationship with John.
I’d lost touch a little with what everyone else had been doing while Davos had been on Atlantis, most especially Teyla. So I sought her out the day after Woolsey left to see how she was doing.
“Teyla,” I found her sitting on the balcony near the Mess Hall, gazing into space.
“Sabina,” she turned to smile at me warmly.
“I realised I haven’t spoken with you for a couple of days,” I apologised, sitting across from her. “How are you?”
“I am well,” Teyla returned graciously. “My time spent with Davos was not wasted. Although he was unable to give me details on where my people are, he did say that they are definitely alive.”
“That’s great!” I exclaimed. “I’m just sorry you couldn’t get anything more specific.”
“I wouldn’t have let this go,” Teyla offered, glancing at me quickly before looking back over the ocean, “but now that I know there is hope of being reunited with my people, I will not rest until I have found them.”
We stood in companionable silence before Teyla spoke again. “Jennifer told me Davos gave you a vision as well.”
“A very disturbing one,” I admitted, without going into the details. “There were bits in there I don’t understand and other bits that seem to have only one interpretation. In the end I have to believe the future isn’t already written. I can’t do my job or enjoy everyday life if I think otherwise.”
“There is always hope,” Teyla summarised.
I nodded agreement, happy to pause to appreciate the idea of living in the moment. In the end that was all I could take from the past few days. There was always hope.
“This isn’t a casual visit home,” John said firmly. “Besides, the SGC only authorised for Ronon and I to accompany Rodney back to Earth. There’s nothing I can do about that.”
“I know,” I said in resignation, sitting on our bed and watching him get ready for the unexpected mission home. “I just ... I hate you being a whole galaxy away. What if you need help?”
“We’ll be fine,” John promised, coming over to sit beside me. “And it won’t be for long ... we need to find Jeanie quickly because the longer she’s missing without any kind of ransom demand the more likely it is that whoever took her isn’t planning on giving her back.”
“Did they say whether they had any leads?” I asked.
“Agent Barrett has contacts looking into it,” John revealed. “Plus they’ve got Jeanie’s computer no one back there could hack. Rodney’s hoping something on it will tell us where to start.”
“Promise you won’t take any stupid risks?” I turned to face John, waiting until he was looking me in the eye.
“I promise I’ll only do what’s necessary to get Jeanie back,” John said instead. “This is Rodney ... he won’t admit it but Jeanie’s all he’d got and right now he’s scared he’s gonna lose her.”
“I understand,” I said unhappily. “God I hope this has nothing to do with what happened with Walker.”
“There’s nothing to suggest it does - unfortunately there are too many organisations who might gain something from kidnapping Jeanie,” John replied, reluctantly getting to his feet. Holding out a hand he looked at me expectantly. “Are you gonna come to the Gate?”
“Yeah, but I want my goodbye kiss now,” I grabbed the front of his shirt and pulled him down sharply. He wasn’t expecting that, losing his balance and mashing me into the bed as he toppled over on top of me. We were both smiling at the beginning of the kiss but quickly the mirth dropped away leaving only two people who were loath to part. It was way up there on the scale of serious and passionate goodbyes ... and then it was done, John reluctantly pulling himself away and getting back to standing.
“Shall we?” he reached a hand down for me again.
“We shall,” I replied, letting him pull me up from the bed this time.
Rodney and Ronon were waiting when we got to the Gateroom, Rodney pacing with worry and anxiety clearly evident on his face.
“It’s about time,” he greeted John impatiently, looking quickly to me with a hint of apology when he realised how that sounded. I shrugged, letting him know that under the circumstances I completely understood.
“Dial the SGC,” John ordered up to the Control Room. Moments later we had a stable wormhole shimmering inside the gate ... leading straight to Earth. The stop off at Midway including requisite 24 hour quarantine had been waived given the urgency to find leads quickly ... but still, for Rodney things would feel like they were moving too slowly.
“Let’s do this,” Ronon’s voice rumbled. He looked more than ready to go out and kick arse ... even to Earth, a place he was less than familiar with.
“Tell Zelenka not to mess with my equations while I’m gone,” Rodney told me. “Jeanie and I will ...,” realising what he’d said he broke off uncomfortably, his eyes darting from side to side as if he didn’t know where to fix his gaze.
“You’ll find her Rodney,” I said confidently, stepping closer and putting a calming hand on his arm. “Smartest man in two galaxies, remember?”
Nodding wordlessly, Rodney turned and stepped into the wormhole.
“Good luck,” I said softly, watching as John and Ronon followed him. John turned back just before he entered the event horizon, meeting my eyes for a moment before turning again and disappearing into the puddle. “And now we wait,” I muttered under my breath, slowly making my way across the Gateroom floor.
God I hated waiting.
John had promised they’d dial in within 24 hours to let us know their progress ... of course there was nowhere else I was going to be but the Control Room when he made contact.
True to his word, just over a day after they’d left, the SGC dialled in to Atlantis via the midway station.
“John, what’s the situation there?” Sam asked once the connection was established.
“Good news and bad news,” John replied. “Rodney was taken a few hours into our stay but we managed to track him down through the company that makes our subcutaneous transmitters. Turns out they were behind the whole thing. We have both Jeanie and Rodney here at the SGC along with the people responsible.”
“And the bad news?” Sam asked.
“Henry Wallace, the guy who started all this, injected nanites into Jeanie’s system,” John revealed. “His daughter Sharon was sick and he wanted to cure her – they used nanites to do that, only they were making things worse instead of better. Wallace intercepted an email on Jeanie’s computer and decided she could help him fix the nanites so they’d fix his daughter.”
“And did they?” I spoke for the first time since John had started talking.
“In a manner of speaking,” John replied. “The nanites fixed Sharon's cancer and then went looking for other stuff to fix. Shut down the girl’s heart so they could correct a defect and wiped her mind clean in the process. She has no idea of who she is, can’t talk, or do any of the things she used to.”
“And the same thing’s gonna happen to Jeanie?” I asked worriedly.
“If we can’t fix those nanites,” John confirmed. “We’ve got about ten hours which is where Atlantis comes in.”
“You want to use the Wraith,” Sam looked surprised as the reason for John’s call, beyond checking in, became apparent.
“He can help Rodney make the corrections faster than Rodney can do it alone,” John explained. “Without him Rodney doesn’t think he can do enough in time. Jeanie will end up just like Wallace’s daughter if we don’t fix this soon ... she’d got epilepsy – the nanites will go straight for that and shut her down in the process.”
“What’s stopping them from doing that now?” Sam frowned in confusion.
“Ah ... Rodney broke both of Jeanie’s legs,” John revealed reluctantly. “That should tell you how desperate this situation is. I’m not saying I agree with this approach ... in fact I think it’s a bad idea. But ...”
“It’s the only option if we want to save Mrs Miller,” Sam concluded. “Okay. I’ll have two marines escort the Wraith to the SGC. They’ll be there in half an hour.”
“Thank you Colonel,” John said gratefully. “We’ll check in again once they’ve had a chance to work on the problem.”
“Be careful John,” I said quickly before he could sign off.
“Always am,” John quipped. “Talk to you later.”
And then he was gone and I was back to waiting. This time I decided not to avoid the Wraith. I was curious to watch his demeanour, hoping something in it would tell me whether he genuinely wanted to help. Making my way down to the Gateroom I took up a position off to the side so I could watch them bring the Wraith down. Colonel Carter stood in the centre of the room, ready when moments later the Wraith arrived from the Brig, heavily chained and escorted by two marines with P90’s.
“Where are you taking me?” the Wraith demanded of her.
“To a facility where Doctor McKay is working on the Replicator nanites,” Sam replied without revealing he was actually going to Earth. That was a smart idea – the inside of the SGC didn’t have any obvious clues regarding its location so it really could be on any planet.
“And what makes you think I will help?” the Wraith asked with a tilt of his head.
“Because you want our help with the changes Doctor McKay made to the Replicator base code,” Sam returned with a knowing smile. “Which you won’t get unless you fully cooperate with us.”
“Of course,” the Wraith turned to face the gate, looking unconcerned with his fate. I knew that was a ruse though. I’d let myself be more open to mental communication than I had for a long time. Pushing out subtlety I tried to pick up something of his mood, discovering that he was grimly determined to complete his personal mission. He was smart, calculating, and ruthless but more controlled than the other non Queen Wraith minds I’d touched in the past. Trying to sense more I jumped slightly when I realised he was looking straight at me with a puzzled frown.
“You look familiar but we have not met,” he said to me in his horrible Wraith voice.
“No,” I agreed without telling him who I was. Mentally I was putting up the blocks just in case something leaked out. His expression changed to one of surprise so he’d obviously felt me do that too.
“Who are you?” he asked more insistently.
“Sabina ... Sheppard,” I decided abruptly to introduce myself.
“Ah,” the Wraith nodded, his voice vibrating as he gave inflection to the words that made them sound foreign, different. “John Sheppard spoke of you during our time with the Genii.”
“No he didn’t,” I denied. “He wouldn’t have given you or the Genii any kind of leverage over him.”
“It was not ... voluntary,” the Wraith almost seemed regretful when he said that. “The pain of recovery from the feeding process is ... intense.”
“That was pain you caused,” I accused grimly.
“At the hands of the Genii,” the Wraith reminded me. “Neither of us had a choice.”
“You have a choice now,” I told him, watching him frown as he thought about that.
While our private little conversation had been going on Sam had ordered the gate dialled. Now there was an open wormhole ready and she was looking at me expectantly. I nodded, not having anything else relevant to say to the Wraith.
“Take him through,” she ordered the marines. “Keep the restraints on him at all times.”
“Yes Ma’am,” they replied, each grabbing an arm and escorting the Wraith through the wormhole.
“He’s weak,” I told Sam once the wormhole had shut down.
“Who is?” Sam asked with a frown.
“The Wraith,” I clarified. “It’s been weeks since he fed – he’s weak. I don't know how much longer he can go on without feeding.”
“We’ll just have to hope he’s got enough left in him to put Rodney on the right track,” Sam replied.
“Hope,” I said softly. “We seem to be doing a lot of that lately.”
And then just like that John and Ronon were back, Wraith prisoner and marine guards in tow. I heard the incoming wormhole alarm and ran down to the control room to greet them.
John was all business as he ordered the marines to reinstate the Wraith in the Brig. Ronon and John exchanged a glance before Ronon headed off to follow them.
“John?” I drew his attention to me.
Without a word he walked over and wrapped me up in what I would have to describe as a desperate ... and therefore worrying hug. I wrapped my arms around him in return as he silently held me, letting him squeeze as tightly as he needed. He didn’t seem aware that the Gateroom wasn’t exactly empty, making the whole thing all the more worrying.
“Are you ...?” I pulled back a little to look at him when he showed no signs of letting me go.
“Later,” his tone was pleading, the expression in his eyes troubled ... and guilty.
“Rodney? Jeanie?” I asked for at least that much news.
“Both fine,” John reassured me. “Rodney’s staying a few days to escort Jeanie home, spend some time with her and Caleb and Madison.”
“That’s good,” I squeezed John tightly before letting him draw away.
“I need to write my report on what happened,” John said, moving us both in the direction of his office. “I’ll see you on our balcony in a couple of hours.”
“Okay,” I stopped at the junction where he’d go one way and me the other, watching him walk away with a worried frown. What personal demons had he added to his load this time?
It wasn’t what I’d expected. John had facilitated the Wraith feeding on a human so the Wraith could survive and fix the nanite problem. When he told me Rodney had been bound and determined to offer himself up I knew how desperate John would have been to come up with a different solution. I wasn’t sure how I should feel about it but in the end it wasn’t about me. It was about John and how he was feeling over what he’d arranged.
“He volunteered?” I confirmed once John had wound down his explanation of the facts.
“If you could call it that,” John said grimly. “I knew how he’d react ... hell I manipulated his guilt and his grief over his daughter. Showed him pictures of Caleb and Madison ... I practically had him in tears. It was a crappy thing to do but even at his obvious guilt I didn’t quit. I told Wallace Jeanie was dead because the Wraith needed to feed before he could help her – that she only needed that help because of him.”
“You couldn’t have manipulated him unless he’d wanted you to,” I replied softly. “It sounds like he was a man desperate to save his daughter – driven to behave in a way outside his usual ethics. Did you have to work hard to make him see things your way?”
“Not really,” John replied with a frown. “It didn’t take much more than those photos and the promise that another innocent was gonna die because of what he did to convince him.”
“What happened when you took him to the Wraith?” I asked in a low voice.
“What?” John frowned at me in surprise.
“I’m not being blood thirsty here,” I assured him. “I just wanted you to tell me something about Wallace’s demeanour. Did you have to force him to follow through? Was he paralysed with fear?”
“No,” John was surprised again. “In fact he was pretty damn brave. Stood there without even hinting that he wanted to change his mind. Before the Wraith ... you know ... he asked me to tell Rodney and Jeanie how sorry he was.”
“He wanted a way to assuage his guilt,” I suggested. “A way to make it up to his daughter for not being able to save her. Maybe he saw sacrificing himself to save Jeanie as his atonement for the wrongs against Sharon. His way to make amends.”
“You’re making it sound like I did him a favour,” John stood and turned his back to me, gazing out over the ocean.
“Your motives were good,” I stood too, walking over and putting my arms around him from behind. “At the end of the day what else have any of us got?”
“You realise I had to get creative with my report right?” John turned in my arms to look down at me. “More than creative – I lied, said the Wraith broke free when I was showing Wallace the lab and got to him before I could stop it.”
“You did what Wallace wanted and you saved Rodney from sacrificing himself,” I pointed out. “You saved Jeanie too ... without that I don’t know how Rodney would cope. We need him here ... here and well. You made sure we had that.”
“So you don’t have a problem with me feeding a human to a Wraith?” John’s face was deliberately blank but his eyes said he’d been worried about what I would think of him.
“You did what you had to,” I replied firmly. “At the end of the day it’s what you always do ... even at the expense of yourself. Usually that’s by putting yourself in physical danger but this time it was a mental sacrifice. In a way that’s harder to deal with. It doesn’t change my opinion of you and I’m sure it won’t change Rodney’s either.”
John didn’t say anything in reply, just pulled me in to him again and put his head down close to mine. He’d done what was necessary but it would be hard for him to accept how far he’d been willing to go to save a friend. That was a pattern in his life, one he’d had to deal with continuously. It wasn’t the first time he’d been in that position ... and I knew it wouldn’t be the last. All I could do to help was be there if he needed to talk ... and love him unconditionally, demons and all.
Once everything was back to normal both John and Rodney never gave any indication that their relationship had been affected by those events on Earth. The distraction of work always helped John deal with things and this time he had the added distraction of being in charge while Sam went on a mission with her old team. Daniel had finally found his Ark and SG1 went off to unearth it. Sam was gone for two weeks and when she returned, a little battered and bruised, it was to tell us that the Ori had been defeated.
It gave us all hope ... if an enemy that formidable could be defeated then there was no reason why our enemies here in the Pegasus Galaxy couldn’t be too.
Interlude 7: You know ... the woman I live with!
“Sabina?” I awoke suddenly in the darkness, alone and confused. Thinking the lights on to full I glanced around the room in confusion. Why was I sleeping in my old quarters? My brain felt dulled beyond the usual ‘I just woke up’ confusion. Trying to recall what I’d done just before going to bed was difficult ... in fact the last couple of days were a bit of a blur beyond the main events.
McKay had broken the Gate, leaving my team Atlantis bound for the foreseeable future. I’d checked in at his lab to see if he’d made progress and then ... come here to sleep? Grabbing my radio headset I dialled in to a private channel and hooked it quickly around my ear.
“Sabina, this is John,” I spoke quietly, waiting anxiously for a response ... in vain. “Sabina - come in?” Still nothing. What the hell was going on here?! The radio obviously wasn’t working so I decided to just walk down to our quarters. I could only imagine what Sabina was thinking over my not turning up last night.
Ten minutes later I was standing in the middle of our room ... only it wasn’t our room at all. It looked exactly the same as the first time I’d found it – nothing of our occupation evident. No clothes, no photos, no mess.
And no Sabina.
“Sabina, this is John. If you can hear me, please respond.” I didn’t expect a response this time, and wasn’t surprised when I didn’t get one. Something odd was going on here and I needed help to work out what.
“McKay this is Sheppard.”
“Colonel,” McKay’s sleep filled grouchy voice came back immediately. “You do realise its 4am right?”
“I need your help,” I told him quickly. “I can’t find Sabina.”
“Who?” Rodney’s voice was confused as well as impatient.
“Sabina,” I repeated insistently. “You know ... the woman I live with!”
“Oh I get it,” Rodney laughed sarcastically. “This is some kind of practical joke right? Nice one. As if you would have a live in girlfriend!”
“This isn’t a joke McKay,” I retorted angrily. “Are you trying to tell me you don’t know who Sabina is?”
“Ah ... yes,” Rodney replied, his tone all at once uncertain. “You don’t have a live in girlfriend Sheppard. Maybe you need to go see Doctor Keller.”
“Maybe it’s you who needs to see the Doc,” I replied impatiently.
“Okay, we’ll both go see Keller,” Rodney suggested. “I’ll meet you there.”
“Fine,” I closed of the channel abruptly, striding from the room without a backward glance.
An hour later the situation hadn’t improved. Turns out Keller didn’t know who Sabina was either. Neither did Ronon or Teyla when I called them down to the infirmary to talk about it.
“If this is all true then how come you weren’t looking for this Sabina yesterday?” Rodney challenged.
“I wasn’t?” I frowned trying to think back beyond the past day and still finding it difficult.
“You did not mention Sabina at all,” Teyla confirmed in a gentle tone.
“So you’re telling me I’ve suddenly started imagining a whole life with a woman named Sabina, that I fabricated this out of thin air?” I looked from Doctor Keller to Teyla, and then on to Rodney. Their expressions were similar, uncomfortable over the level of emotion I was displaying just as much as they were over my apparent creation of a different life. “This is crazy!”
“I’ll run some tests,” Jennifer suggested tentatively. “Maybe there’s some physiological reason your memories have been altered. Some kind of bacteria or other ... pathogen.”
“I didn’t make Sabina up,” I said quietly, sure within myself about the truth. “This is all wrong.”
“We will work this out John,” Teyla put a hand on my arm reassuringly.
“Run the tests,” I told Keller abruptly. “When mine come back clean you can start running tests on everyone else.”
“Of course Colonel,” Keller agreed easily.
After an unsatisfying morning in the infirmary I was no closer to understanding why no one else could remember Sabina. Teyla had volunteered to be tested along with me and the results so far were identical. There was no physical reason I’d be conjuring a complete person out of nowhere and no reason for Teyla to have forgotten one. Regardless of what the tests showed I knew Sabina existed which meant she was somewhere, alone and maybe hurt - anything to explain why she didn’t answer her radio or find her way back to me.
It became clear that no one was going to go out looking for Sabina, which meant I had to convince them I’d come to my senses so I could go look for her by myself.
When Jennifer came back to us with the results from the latest tests I prepared myself to convince her I’d changed my mind about the whole thing.
“Well Colonel, I’m still finding nothing to explain these additional memories,” she told me with a puzzled frown. “I can’t really think of anything else to do but rerun all the tests again, see if we missed anything.”
“That’s okay Doc,” I said with a casual smile. “The memories are starting to fade ... I don’t know, maybe it was just a really vivid dream?”
“Well, perhaps if you were under a great deal of stress your mind might manifest that in unusual dream activity,” Keller said uncertainly. “I would have expected you to know it wasn’t real much sooner than this though.”
“I have been worried about the Stargate being broken,” I offered up that excuse. “I don’t like that we can’t go off world if we need to. It’s been a week but McKay still hasn’t fixed it.”
“All right Colonel,” Jennifer said decisively. “We’ll hold off on doing more tests for now. Let’s see how you sleep tonight. And I expect you to report to me immediately if these false memories return or get stronger.”
“Sure thing Doc,” I replied easily, swinging my legs off the infirmary bed and jumping down quickly. “I think I’ll go check in with McKay and Zelenka – see if they’ve made progress on the Gate.” Not waiting for either Jennifer or Teyla to protest I turned and strolled casually from the infirmary.
Knowing I’d have to behave as they expected to avoid suspicion I headed straight for the Control Room, assuming that’d be where the two scientists were working.
“All right,” I announced when I arrived. “Do we know what the problem is?”
“Yeah,” Rodney said sarcastically. “The Gate's not working.” Turning to look at me with a frown he continued. “Shouldn’t you be in the infirmary?”
“Nothing wrong with me,” I said dismissively. “Are you telling me we’re no further along than we were last week when you broke the Gate?”
“I did not break it!” Rodney retorted indignantly.
“It just happened to stop working around the same time you were screwing around with it,” I suggested grimly.
“I wasn't screwing around with it,” Rodney insisted. “I was running a streamlining programme designed to boost its operating efficiency.”
“Yeah, well, good job!” I replied facetiously.
“It had nothing to do with why the Gate malfunctioned!” Rodney continued defensively. “Look, we've been able to eliminate a number of possible reasons, including my streamlining programme, and I feel confident that we're making some progress and that things will be up and running in ...,”
The sound of an impact in the distance interrupted Rodney’s words.
“What was that?” Rodney asked of the room as a whole.
“An unidentified object just struck the city,” one of the technicians reported.
“Well, why didn't the sensors pick it up?” Rodney demanded.
“I don't know. It came in too fast?” the technician suggested.
“I'm getting a low-level energy signature,” Rodney reported, looking closely at the nearest screen.
“What could it be?” Radek asked worriedly.
“Let's find out,” I suggested decisively, running quickly from the Control room with the others close at my heels.
While I resented that following up on that impact was going to stop me from looking for Sabina I knew I’d have to play along. They’d never believe I was myself otherwise and I was beginning to realise how important it was to convince everyone I was fine.
The city had been hit by a probe, unidentified and not from any familiar source. Luckily no one had been injured. McKay and Zelenka took it back to Rodney’s lab to work out what they could. I left to do my sweep of the city but ran into Major Lorne on my way out.
“Colonel. Do we know what it is yet?” he asked in concern.
“Looks like a probe of some kind,” I offered what little we had so far.
“Any idea who sent it?” Lorne persisted.
“McKay and Zelenka'll figure it out,” I dismissed.
“And in the meantime, who's working on the Gate?” Lorne asked with a worried frown.
“The Gate can wait,” I told him seriously. “This is more important.”
“Well, with all due respect, sir, I think they're equally important,” Lorne countered. “Wouldn't it make more sense to keep Zelenka working on this mystery object and move McKay back to his Gate diagnostics? It's already been over a week now.”
“Major, not being able to use the Gate is an inconvenience,” I pointed out grimly. “The possibility that someone may have pinpointed our location is a threat. The threat gets the priority.”
“Yes, sir,” Lorne said with a blank expression. He was about to walk away when my next question stopped him.
“Major, who’s usually on your team when you go off world?”
“Sir?” Lorne frowned in confusion. “Shouldn’t you already know that? You assigned all the teams after all.”
“Just humour me Major,” I replied.
“Yes Sir,” Lorne agreed. “My off world team is usually Lieutenants Brown and Parker and Private Reed. When we need science personnel we usually take Zelenka.”
“Okay,” I waved him off, frowning as he turned and strode off down the corridor. I don’t know what I expected from asking him about his team ... I guess I was just hoping someone would realise Sabina was missing. Who’d be better for that than Lorne, her team leader?
The more I thought about it though the more Lorne’s initial behaviour troubled me. Not that he wasn’t capable of getting his own opinion across, but Major Lorne didn’t usually do it in such a head on manner. Come to think of it, Keller’s behaviour earlier in the day seemed out of character too. She’d let me leave the infirmary without an argument, even though she had no idea what or if anything was wrong with me.
Heading towards the nearest transport station I pondered that. Something was definitely wrong. Unfortunately until someone else came to the same conclusion I was on my own.
Two hours later I’d been to every one of Sabina’s favourite places and found nothing. In fact I was starting to question my own sanity because I couldn’t find any evidence to support my belief that I had a girlfriend named Sabina who’d lived and worked on Atlantis for more than three years. The only explanation I could come up with was that someone had removed Sabina for some sinister purpose and then set about destroying or removing every trace that she’d ever been there. Hard though it seemed to believe, somehow that included memory. Obviously they’d been unsuccessful in removing mine but I was the only one not affected.
I got back from my search for Sabina just in time for Rodney to announce that he believed the Replicators were behind the probe. The way things were going I wasn’t surprised the probe self destructed before he could confirm it for sure, destroying a fair portion of Rodney’s lab it the process. Interesting thing was Zelenka actively disagreeing with Rodney over what he’d seen before his laptop had been turned to toast. Sure, when the fate of an entire solar system was at stake Radek was quite capable of arguing with the best of them. But for the day to day stuff he normally wasn’t quite that vocal with Rodney.
And that was finally when someone else started to feel the way I did.
“Something's not right,” Rodney told me quietly in the corridor later. Waiting for a couple of scientists to walk past he continued. “That diagnostic programme should never have crashed. It's perfectly capable of handling any of the data coming from the probe. And then before we get a chance to get it up and running again, what happens? The probe gets destroyed.”
“What are you suggesting?” I looked at him expectantly.
“I don't know,” Rodney admitted. “I just ... it feels like someone or something is working very hard to get in my way. And yes, I know what that sounds like. Just do me a favour - keep an eye out, okay?”
“You too,” I urged. If Rodney was convinced then maybe he’d help me look for Sabina despite the fact that he didn’t remember her himself.
Later that evening things got a whole lot more complicated. I’d hit a road block on ideas for finding Sabina and was taking my frustrations out in a sparring session with Ronon.
“People have been acting weird lately,” Ronon said abruptly, striking rapidly to my left side with his fighting stick.
“How so?” I blocked his strike with my own stick and countered with an attempt of my own
“I don't know how to explain it,” Ronon blocked my strike easily. “They just, uh, haven't been themselves.”
We continued circling each other, trading strike and counter strike for a few moments before he continued. “Teyla's noticed it too.”
“This isn’t just about what happened with me in the infirmary this morning?” I queried, dropping my guard just slightly.
“No,” Ronon took the opportunity and got in a blow that slashed across my right eyebrow.
I shook my head dizzily, putting a hand to my head. Not surprisingly it came back covered with my blood.
“Ow,” I looked at Ronon accusingly.
“I think you're gonna need stitches,” Ronon said after looking at the wound closely. He dropped his stick and walked across to where he had a towel hanging. Tossing it to me he watched as I pressed it to the wound. “Sorry,” he smiled in a way that suggested he actually wasn’t that sorry at all.
“Lucky hit,” I retorted, keeping the towel up to my eye as I headed for the door. “Just so you know – I’m blaming you when Keller asks how I did this.”
“Whatever,” Ronon shrugged. “See you later?”
“Yeah,” I nodded, wincing at the pain in my eyebrow. Walking down the halls with a bloody towel to my head didn’t get me as much attention as it really should have. People were obviously too used to me getting injured which was a somewhat pathetic commentary I decided not to dwell on.
Jennifer was sitting at her computer when I walked into the infirmary a few minutes later.
“What happened?” she asked in concern.
“Well, Ronon decided to knock some sense into me,” I explained casually. Sitting on one of the beds I waited for her to decide how many stitches I needed.
“Well, let me take a look,” she grabbed some medical gloves as she approached. I lowered the towel so she could get a good look.
“You're fine,” she announced after looking at me closely.
“No stitches?” I asked in surprise.
“No. Not even a Band-Aid,” Jennifer confirmed. She picked up a mirror and handed it to me. “There's nothing there.”
I looked in the mirror, seeing the blood on my eyebrow. Strangely there was no wound where I’d expected to see one. ”But I'm bleeding,” I pointed out, wiping at the blood with the towel I still held.
“Well, not from any head wound,” Jennifer insisted. “It was probably Ronon's blood.”
“No. He hit me. I was bleeding.” I looked at Jennifer worriedly. “Those tests you did this morning – did they include testing for iratus bug DNA?”
“Of course not,” Jennifer said incredulously.
“Test me again,” I insisted, lying back on the bed with my arms folded across my chest. “When I was infected with the retrovirus I was able to heal really quickly.”
“I'm sure that's not the case now, since you haven't been exposed ...,” Jennifer pointed out with a hint of amusement in her voice.
“Maybe it's a relapse. I don't know,” I looked at her worriedly.
“I seriously doubt ...,” Jennifer began with a smile.
“Just run a blood test,” I urged loudly, anxious the longer the idea of being reinfected remained a possibility.
“Okay,” Jennifer agreed, the smile dropping from her face.
Jennifer caught up with me later, handing me a computer tablet. I looked down at it, not sure what she was drawing my attention to.
“Colonel. I got your test results back,” she explained. “I'm pleased to tell you you're one hundred percent bug-free. No sign of the retrovirus in your system.”
I looked down at the results and then up again, my mind racing with the implications. Wordlessly I handed the tablet back to her.
“What's the matter? I thought you'd be happy,” Jennifer commented in surprise.
“All that says is my blood's clean,” I pointed out. “Doesn't explain the magical head wound.”
“Well, maybe it doesn't make sense because you're refusing to consider the only possible explanation for what happened. You made a mistake.” Jennifer said casually.
“Ronon wasn't bleeding,” I said firmly. “I checked after I left the infirmary.”
“Well, maybe the blood was already on the towel and you mistakenly transferred it to your forehead,” Jennifer said with a reasonable tone.
“Ronon saw the cut. He was the one who said I needed stitches,” I persisted, unable to keep the sarcasm out of my voice. “Unless he was wrong too.”
“All right,” Jennifer gave in. “Well, I'll run your blood work again and if I still can't find anything, we'll do another complete physical.” Smiling she walked away without commenting further.
Clearly, whatever was going on, she was in on it. And unfortunately I probably wasn’t the only one affected.
Interlude 8: Familiar little red dots.
Hunting down Teyla and Ronon first I explained my theory on the healing thing, convincing them to take a physical test and finding that they too bled when cut but healed within seconds. Next up was Rodney – we lured him to his lab to conduct the same test. He was initially frightened such that we had to force him to let us cut him. That fear turned to worried incredulity when the cut on his hand healed as quickly as my head wound had.
“What does it mean?” he looked at each of us in turn.
“You tell me,” I shot back. “All I know is things are not as they should be here and somehow Jennifer’s involved.”
Rodney didn’t want to believe that was true, even after I’d explained to him what had happened with my forehead and how Jennifer had scanned me and tested my blood, finding nothing. Eventually he caved, hacking into the infirmary records only to find there was no record of any tests done on me, including the scans both Teyla and I had seen Jennifer do that morning.
“That's impossible,” Teyla protested. “The scanner is wired directly into the computer. Results are recorded automatically.”
“It doesn't mean they can't be erased,” Rodney pointed out.
“All right. We need to run our own tests,” I announced. “Until we figure out what's going on, we can't risk trusting anyone outside this room.”
“Do you still believe your memories to have been just a dream?” Teyla asked me.
“I never believed that,” I decided if I was gonna trust them I had to go all the way. “I know you guys don’t remember her but at the same time I know Sabina’s real. Somehow they’ve managed to wipe all traces of her from the city and from everyone’s memories.”
“Except yours,” Rodney pointed out sceptically.
“I’ve lived with her for a year Rodney,” I insisted. “Who’s to say that’s not enough of a bond that something would remain. Clearly they tried to wipe my memory too because I believed it when you told me I never mentioned Sabina before this morning. Something must have brought it all back for me.”
“We need those tests,” Ronon brought us all back to the next course of action.
“We have to get to the Infirmary without anyone knowing,” Teyla replied.
“I have an idea,” Rodney announced. “I’ll tap into the life signs detector from here. I can tell you if the coast is clear.”
“Okay, Teyla and I’ll head down there now,” I decided. “You and Ronon stay here and let us know if we have a problem.”
Teyla and I headed off down the corridor. Now I was suspicious of individual motivations it was difficult not to look at every person we passed and wonder if they were in on it too.
Unfortunately for us Rodney’s brilliant plan to help us died an early death when he discovered the life sign detectors weren’t working properly, only picking up four life signs anywhere in the tower. Teyla and I pressed on regardless ... if worse came to worse I’d make up a new symptom to explain our arrival if it turned out we didn’t have the place to ourselves.
“All right,” I announced once we’d arrived and found we did have a clear run. “Let's make this quick.” Ignoring the strangeness of the infirmary being completely deserted when I knew Jennifer usually kept it staffed with at least one person Teyla and I got down to business.
Arranging myself on the scanner bed I looked over at Teyla expectantly. She stood at the computer, tapping a few keys to get the scanner started. The line of light swept from my head all the way down my body and back up again, projecting a picture on the screen for Teyla to see.
When it finished she turned to me with an expression of dread that had me feeling like my blood was flowing in slow motion. “John?”
I got up off the bed and went over to take a look.
“What the hell?” I looked at the screen in sick disbelief. There was the outline of my body with thousands of little red dots twitching in every part.
Familiar little red dots.
“Nanites,” Teyla confirmed sickly. “This explains why we can heal so rapidly. We get injured and the nanites effect repairs.”
“We'd better tell the others,” I told her grimly.
“Yes,” Teyla agreed, both of us turning towards the door. That’s when we spotted Major Lorne standing there with two armed guards.
“That won't be necessary,” he said firmly.
“What the hell's going on?” I demanded.
“I'm sorry, Colonel,” Major Lorne said regretfully. “You're gonna have to come with us.”
“I don't think so,” I watched him carefully, reaching towards my pistol, waiting to see how he’d react.
“That won't do you any good,” Lorne said, appearing almost amused.
“I'm warning you, Major. Stand down.” I reiterated urgently.
“Go ahead. Shoot.” Lorne dared me.
And so I did, drawing out my pistol and firing it rapidly at his right thigh. A hole appeared and then healed immediately ... in a manner that was again all too familiar.
“You see?” Lorne said with a smile.
“So you're saying that we're also Replicators?” Teyla looked at Lorne in horror.
“No,” Lorne denied. “You are flesh and blood – ordinary humans in every way except that you were manufactured from the inside out by nanites, some of which remain in your system, effecting repairs as necessary.”
“I'm not buying it,” I retorted, even though inside I knew it could very well be true ... and it would explain everything I’d experienced over the past week.
“All that you are – your thoughts, your memories – everything was taken from the real John Sheppard and his team when their minds were probed over a year ago,” Lorne explained. “I’m sorry Colonel – you’re gonna have to let us escort you down to the Brig now.”
“Well this is just wonderful,” I said to Teyla a few minutes later, watching Lorne instruct one of the marines to stand guard before he disappeared out the door.
“You truly do not believe the Major’s story?” Teyla asked me.
“I don’t want to believe it,” I evaded giving an answer. “You?”
“I too am reluctant to consider the truth in his words,” Teyla revealed. “I am also concerned for Rodney and Ronon.”
Sounds from the corridor outside drew our attention.
“I think you can forget about that part - we’re about to be reunited,” I stood in the middle of the cell, waiting for the rest of my team to appear.
Jennifer escorted them in, bringing with her the biggest surprise of the day so far.
Doctor Elizabeth Weir.
“Elizabeth!” Teyla exclaimed in joyful surprise. She moved to hug Elizabeth as soon as she and the rest of my team were inside the cell. Jennifer looked on with a curious expression. Catching me watching her she nodded an acknowledgement before turning to leave.
“Jennifer!” I called her back, determined to find the answers to my most pressing questions.
“You wish to know why we left Sabina out of our recreation,” Jennifer said simply.
“Her not being here was what originally got me suspicious, even before that probe hit us,” I explained.
“You were not supposed to remember her,” Jennifer stated simply.
“Yeah, well I do,” I said firmly. “Where is she?”
“Although your mind contains a copy of everything in Colonel Sheppard’s mind we attempted to remove all reference to your mate,” Jennifer began. “We did not have sufficient power to create a human clone version of her. Even if we had, there was insufficient detail from her scan to make creating a replica viable. Some of our numbers felt that we should just replace her with one of our own kind. I did not believe that such a replacement would fool you. It was a risk no matter what course we took.”
“So you decided to get rid of her totally,” I concluded, disturbed because it meant the others would probably never remember all the things about their own interactions with Sabina. The Replicators had taken Sabina out of their copies memories before transferring them over to the clones.
“Your feelings for her, the way they have circumvented even our best efforts at reprogramming, are just one of the many things we do not understand about humans,” Jennifer shared with a sad smile. “Perhaps it is that as much as anything else which hinders our goals.”
“I don’t know whether to be grateful or angry that you didn’t do to Sabina what you’ve done to us,” I said bitterly, turning away from her angrily.
Sure, I’d been vindicated, shown not to have been going insane because I remembered someone no-one else did. But the other side of that was I still had a bucket load of feeling for someone it turned out belonged to a different me. Another Sheppard, supposedly the real one, was enjoying that position. Even if we were to return to Atlantis that wouldn’t change ... and the sense of loss hit me hard.
Slumping down to the floor I leaned my back against the bars, dropping my head down to my raised knees. Everything I was feeling was an advertisement for the talent and genius of Replicator cloning ... I could have wished they hadn’t done such a good job on me ... but ultimately, even with the pain and the knowledge I wasn’t getting Sabina back, I wouldn’t have wanted them to take those memories away.
The others let me wallow for a time, busy with the expected reunion round of hugs and exclamations of relief over Elizabeth’s return. I zoned them out, letting myself embrace all the memories that seemed to be flooding my mind now I had confirmation that my relationship with Sabina had been real.
“John?” Teyla knelt on the floor next to me, putting a hesitant hand on my shoulder. I looked up reluctantly, knowing from the way she winced when she caught sight of my expression that I wasn’t looking my best. “I am sorry about Sabina,” Teyla said softly.
“Yeah, me too,” I grated out hoarsely. Looking around her I noticed the others watching us while trying to make it look like they weren’t. “I guess we need to work out what we’re gonna do about this huh?”
Teyla nodded, getting up and holding out a hand to me. I let her pull me up to standing, rubbing my hands over my face while I attempted to shove everything back down into the mental box where I kept all my other torments.
“Okay, where are we at?” I asked resolutely.
Rodney caught me up on where they’d discovered Elizabeth – it made no sense that she’d been held inside the city, unless this wasn’t the real Atlantis anymore than I was the real Sheppard. In fact the whole thing was just a series of unanswered questions beginning with ‘where the hell are we?’ and ending with ‘how did Elizabeth get here?’.
Teyla filled Elizabeth in on what had been happening from our side, Elizabeth was no more keen to hear she had nanites than the rest of us had been. She insisted on performing the same test, the self inflicted cut on her palm healing rapidly before our very eyes.
“Oh my God,” she said weakly.
“All right. We're all infected by nanites,” Ronon stated.
“Not infected with – constructed by,” Rodney corrected.
“I don't believe it,” Ronon replied grimly.
“I know it's tough to swallow,” Rodney acknowledged. “I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around it myself, but it would explain a couple of things.”
“Such as?” I asked curiously.
“Such as why the Gate's not working, for one,” Rodney replied. “Look, if none of this is real, if this is all just a lab rat experiment, then it stands to reason the Gate's not real either.”
“If this is not the real Atlantis, Rodney, you of all people would have noticed. The stars alone ...” Teyla pointed out.
“The whole time the Gate's been down, it has been solid overcast,” Rodney interrupted her. “That's over a week now. Think about it - when was the last time any of you saw stars?”
“Then where are we?” Teyla asked.
“No idea,” Rodney replied. “These aren’t your usual Replicators though. If they were we’d all be dead by now.”
“Are we sure this isn’t all taking place in one of our heads?” I asked the question, knowing at least one of them would have thought the same. “They could be probing our minds right now.”
“This is real,” Elizabeth reassured us. “We need to find out what they want from us, why they’ve gone to so much effort.” Turning to the guards she called out. “Please – you must let me speak with your leader.”
To my surprise, rather than ignoring her they simply nodded, doing that Replicator thing that said they were communicating with their brethren. “We will take you now.”
Elizabeth was led away and the rest of us settled in to wait for some answers. The atmosphere was tense, no one willing to speak first.
“All right, I know this is a lot for everyone to deal with, but we're just gonna have to ... suck it up and re-focus,” I finally spoke.
“Re-focus on what?” Rodney asked incredulously.
“Getting the hell out of here,” Ronon at least was on the same page as me.
“So we can go where? Back to Atlantis to resume our lives?” Rodney demanded sarcastically. “Oh, yeah, I forgot – they're not ours.”
“Says them,” Ronon said simply.
“There's no point in denying the facts,” Rodney replied. "They were telling the truth. We're not who we thought we were.”
“Well, I may not be the original, but you're gonna have a hard time convincing me that I'm not pretty damned close,” I told him.
“Our origins do not make us any less human – not physically and certainly not mentally,” Teyla gave her opinion serenely. “Not while we can think for ourselves. And in my heart there is no doubt – we must return to Atlantis.”
“OK. We'll go back – take things from there,” I confirmed the plan.
“Great!” Rodney said glibly. “We're all in agreement – we're gettin' out of here. Now, all we have to do is figure out how.”
Leave it to Rodney to bring us all back down to Earth.
Elizabeth returned later, telling us what the Replicators had planned for us.
“They're gonna wipe our memories and then start again on another planet,” she said simply. “That probe was sent by Oberoth and the other Replicators. Our friends out there tried to destroy it, but they only managed to disable it.”
While we were still reacting to that RepliKeller returned to bring us even worse news. The other Replicators, Oberoth’s army, had found us and seemed intent on destroying the city and everyone in it.
Everything moved quickly after that. Elizabeth had already tried the compassion equals a chance for ascension road and Jennifer seemed swayed by that. It was clear she didn’t know what to do.
“Let us out,” I urged.
“Your fellow Replicators are a threat to everyone in this galaxy. You said it yourself – they’re destroying human worlds, killing millions of innocents,” Elizabeth continued. “If you're serious about following the footsteps of your creators, you will let us go so we can stop this.”
“Oberoth is too powerful,” Jennifer shook her head at the idea of trying to defy him, even though they’d already done that with all they’d accomplished on their copy city.
“If this city falls and we're destroyed with it, this will be nothing more than a wasted opportunity – a failed experiment,” Elizabeth said simply. “You know what that feels like.”
“That's what the Ancients considered us – failed experiments,” Jennifer said sadly.
“Well, now's your chance to prove ‘em wrong,” I reminded her.
“All we are asking is that you give us a chance to make a difference,” Elizabeth concluded.
That seemed to do the trick. Amidst a city that was shaking and falling apart under attack, Jennifer released us and then led us through the Control Room towards the Jumper Bay. On the way she grabbed a flat rectangular device and handed it to me.
“Take this,” she urged.
“What is it?” I looked down at the device curiously.
“It's the core drive of a ship's tracking system,” Jennifer explained quickly. “With this, you should be able to pinpoint the locations and movements of every one of Oberoth's Aurora-class vessels in this galaxy. Take this to Atlantis – it will be their best chance of stopping Oberoth. Go up to the Bay – take a Jumper.”
I led the others up the stairs but Elizabeth paused. “Come with us,” she pleaded to Jennifer.
“I can't,” Jennifer replied urgently. “Oberoth might be able to track me. I'll only be a liability.” Elizabeth held out a hand to Jennifer but Jennifer shook her head, her expression stern. “Go!”
Reluctantly, knowing we had no choice, we left her behind, running up the stairs and quickly getting ourselves into the closest Jumper.
Bringing the systems on line I had us in the air and hovering cloaked over the city in minutes. Just enough time for us to have prime position to watch the fall of Atlantis. Sure, it was just a copy but to us it had been real and it was deeply disturbing to watch the central tower collapse in on itself under a hail of drones.
Once the city was destroyed I manoeuvred the Jumper into position on the Replicator ship so we could catch a ride back to the Replicator home world. I’d always wanted to do that – just like the Millennium Falcon in The Empire Strikes Back! From there we’d appropriate a ship capable of hyperdrive and contact Atlantis, not directly of course, but through somewhere like New Athos.
Everyone else agreed with the plan, even more so when we got to the home world and discovered that the Replicators had rebuilt the ship yards we’d destroyed ... and then some.
I used the same trick to steal a ship as I’d used to steal a ride through hyperspace, flying the cloaked Jumper into an open Jumper Bay. I’d chosen a ship at the outermost edge of their ship building activities but we still had to wait many hours before it became deserted.
“Here goes,” I told everyone, powering the engines and getting us airborne. The Replicators tried to stop us of course but the element of surprise gave us enough of a lead. Before they could fire off more than a few wayward shots I’d opened a hyperspace window and taken us out of there.
“So, New Athos?” I turned to the others for confirmation.
“My people will help us,” Teyla said confidently.
“M34-227 it is,” I agreed.
It took a while to get there but eventually we established orbit around New Athos and took the Puddle Jumper down to the surface. That’s when we discovered that New Athos was populated not as we’d expected. Instead of the village of Teyla’s people we’d been expecting we got a team of Atlantis personnel. Elizabeth urged the rest of us to hang back while she spoke to our people, because in their eyes she was missing in action, not supposedly back on Atlantis like the rest of us.
“What are you gonna ask for?” Rodney asked as she prepared to make contact.
“For your doubles to come here to meet with us,” Elizabeth suggested. “Do you think they’ll need more than that to trust me?”
“They’ll be happy to see you,” I said thoughtfully. “I think you should tell them you’re not the Elizabeth they lost up front. Offer them information to help them beat the Replicators.”
“Don’t mention us,” Rodney added. “If I know myself, that would only spook me into arguing against trusting you.”
“Okay,” Elizabeth turned to head off and I heard myself speaking before I could stop the words.
“Ask them to bring Sabina when they come here.”
“John?” Elizabeth looked at me in concern.
“I know okay,” I looked down at the ground for a moment before meeting her eyes. “I just ... I need to see her for myself. I need to make those memories real or they’ll drive me crazy.”
“I’ll make it a condition,” Elizabeth promised me.
John and I were on our way to lunch a few weeks after his mission to Earth when John remembered he’d promised to stop in at the Control Room. Rodney wanted to do something to the Gate and had been on John’s case for a couple of days trying to get him to agree to take the Gate offline for the duration of his tinkering. I stood beside John, smiling as Rodney pleaded his case.
“It's a streamlining programme designed to boost its operating efficiency,” Rodney insisted. “Look, the Gate'll be offline for, what, one hour, two hours tops.”
Before John could respond the Gate started a dial in sequence. The event horizon kawhooshed before settling into a stable connection.
“We expecting someone?” John asked Chuck curiously.
“No, sir, but its Major Jordan reporting in from M34-227,” Chuck replied.
“You got video?” John queried.
“Yes, sir,” Chuck lowered the shield over the Gate and activated the wall screen so we could all see what was happening at the other end.
“What's the situation, Major?” John asked curiously.
“Well, sir, there's someone here who would like to have a word with you,” Major Jordan replied. He stepped out of the way, making room for someone else to take his place.
“Elizabeth!” all three of our voices sounded in an incredulous chorus as a familiar face filled the view screen.
“Hello, John. Rodney.” Elizabeth replied with a smile. “Hello Sabina.”
“What happened to you?” Rodney demanded. “How did you get away?”
“I'm not Elizabeth,” she revealed. “Well, not the Elizabeth you knew. I have all of her memories and all of her thoughts – everything that makes her me. But I'm a duplicate. I was created by a faction of the Replicators as a means to attaining ascension. They duplicated everything ... the city and everyone in it to learn more about humanity.”
“But you ... look and sound just like her,” Rodney accused, his face slack with shock over her revelation.
For myself I wasn't sure what to feel ... my initial happiness at seeing Elizabeth apparently well frozen by her admission that she wasn't ours. It almost seemed like we all held our breath as we waited to hear what she'd say next.
“I'm sorry, Rodney, but it's true,” Elizabeth said sadly. “This group managed to isolate themselves from the others in order to pursue their study in secrecy, but they were eventually discovered and destroyed.”
“I ... don't know what to say,” John admitted. “This is all very, uh ...”
“Strange?” Elizabeth suggested. “Yeah, I know. But we need to meet. We have some information that you can use against the Replicators.”
"We?” John picked up on that one immediately.
“Myself and some others who managed to escape before the Replicators destroyed that city,” Elizabeth explained. “We have something you’ll find very useful but you need to come here for us to pass it on to you.”
“We can do that,” John looked to Rodney and was greeted with an emphatic nod.
“That’s great,” Elizabeth said with a relieved smile. Her eyes shifted to me before she looked again at John. “We want Sabina to join you.”
“Sabina’s not part of my team,” John said dismissively.
“I don’t mind –,” I broke off when John looked at me sternly. He was suspicious of why they needed me along.
“I can’t tell you more right now John,” Elizabeth replied. “Just that I have someone here who wants to see her. I’m sorry but it’s a condition I have to insist on before I’ll hand over what we have.”
“And how do I know that what you have is worth the risk?” John asked quietly.
“I was hoping you would trust that there’s enough of the original Elizabeth Weir in me to enable you to trust me,” Elizabeth said with a sad smile. “Was I wrong?”
John didn’t respond immediately. He looked closely at Elizabeth and then turned to glance at me.
“We’ll be there in an hour,” he motioned for Chuck to cut the connection.
“Oh my God,” Rodney reacted as soon as the wormhole had disengaged. “I thought that was Elizabeth.”
“We all did Rodney,” I kept my eyes on John, waiting for his reaction. “In a way it is Elizabeth ... just not our Elizabeth. Maybe she knows what happened to the original.”
"We can hope," John's expression made it clear he'd already thought of that ... the first opportunity to get a lead on Elizabeth a large part of his reason for agreeing to meet with them despite his general misgivings.
“I wonder what information they’ve got,” Rodney continued. “And where they got it from.”
“I’m more interested in who these other survivors are,” John countered grimly, “and why one of them wants to see Sabina.”
“The only way we’ll know is to go there and find out,” I said easily. “And at least we can cross one thing off the list of impending events.”
“We can?” John asked, looking at me with a raised brow.
“Sam’s vision of Atlantis being destroyed,” I said simply. “Elizabeth said they duplicated the city ... and that the other replicators wiped them out. Sounds exactly like what Sam described.”
“What do you know?” Rodney quipped. “Some good news for a change.”
If we’d done a brainstorming session then maybe one of us would have suggested what we found on New Athos ... after all the sane and reasonable ideas had been exhausted. Meeting up with a replicated Team Sheppard was just disturbing. Rodney and Repli-Rodney took to each other immediately which kind of surprised me given how uncomfortable Rodney had been with his AU self. Ronon was hostile, Teyla accepting.
As for John? Well I couldn’t really tell what he was feeling one way or the other - beyond the fact that he didn't have any strong emotions driving him. Sadly that wasn't the case with Repli-John. His expression along with the fact that there was no Replicator version of me told me immediately why they’d wanted me along. He knew who I was, but it was more than just copies of my John’s memories floating around in his head. The feelings had obviously been copied over as well. I wasn’t sure what he was expecting. To be honest I wasn’t sure I even wanted to speak to him. What would it accomplish after all?
Rodney and his counterpart quickly agreed on their approach to making use of the core drive from the Replicator ship tracking device. Heading out of the tent deep in discussion they left the rest of us behind, wondering what to do next.
My John watched Rodney leaving before turning back to face Elizabeth again.
“We appreciate all this, but the truth is, we came here for another reason,” he said. “You were with the Replicators. What do you know about our Elizabeth, and are you willing to help us get her back?”
I didn’t miss the glance Elizabeth and Repli-John exchanged before Elizabeth moved slowly across to John.
“Let’s walk,” she suggested gently. I moved to join them but stopped when a hand landed on my shoulder.
“I’d appreciate it if you would give me a few minutes of your time,” Repli-John said just as gently.
John turned back to me with a thoughtful look on his face.
“You know yourself,” Repli-John told him. “You know I wouldn’t risk anyone hurting her, myself included.”
“It’s up to Sabina,” John replied, meeting my eyes with an open expression that said he was just as comfortable with me agreeing as he was with me refusing.
I looked at Repli-John without saying anything. His face was carefully expressionless now but his eyes spoke volumes. In them was pain and grief and yet also hope. In the end I couldn’t ignore that.
“Okay,” I agreed reluctantly. “But just a few minutes.”
And so we split up. John went for a walk with Elizabeth, both sets of Ronon and Teyla’s also heading off to check out the surrounding area. That left Repli-John and me in the tent alone together.
“Well this is awkward,” I said nervously, looking anywhere but at him.
“I remembered you,” Repli-John spoke in a low voice. “They wiped your existence from everyone’s minds. They tried to do the same thing to me but I remembered you anyway. It was hell because I was the only one who did. They had me questioning my own sanity.”
“I’m sorry,” I said, not really sure why.
“Not your fault,” Repli-John said with a self depreciating smile. “I asked Elizabeth to make it a condition that you be here.”
“I kinda worked that out for myself,” I retorted, relaxing somewhat in the face of his approach.
“Everything I have up here,” Repli-John pointed to his head, “it’s all just copied memories. None of it really happened to me and yet I feel ... I feel.” He turned away, putting a hand to his eyes. I saw him swallow hard and I knew suddenly how much he was struggling. In that moment I realised that no matter how he’d been created he was a real person. Not my John but still a living breathing human being who was hurting, in a way because of me even though I’d had no choice in being the instrument of his suffering.
“John?” I let my tone speak for me, urging him to continue knowing I was invested in helping him if I could.
“I thought if I saw you in person I could own the memories as much as I own those feelings,” Repli-John concluded. “I know, that sounds pretty stupid right? I know you belong to him and you’d never do anything to risk that. And I wouldn’t erase the way I feel even if I could. I don’t know what I thought I’d really achieve by getting you here.”
“John?” I tapped my earpiece, waiting for my John to respond.
“Sabina?” his voice rumbled in my ear, grounding me and making me sure of what I should do.
“I just wanted to tell you that I’m about to hug the Replicator you so you better speak up right now if that really bothers you,” I said quickly. My gaze was locked on Repli-John and I smiled at the grin that appeared on his face.
“Ah ... all right?” John replied uncertainly. “Just ... don’t kiss him okay.”
“God no!” I retorted. “Are you heading back? I want to know what happened to our Elizabeth.”
“We’re a few minutes away,” John reported. “Do me a favour? Don’t ask him to tell you. I want to do that.”
“Okay,” I closed off the channel, my mind swirling with unpleasant thoughts. There could be only one reason why John wanted to tell me.
“You okay?” Repli-John broke into my reverie.
“Ah ...,” turning my attention back to him I smiled. “I’m really sorry the Replicators did this to you.” Walking slowly over to him I held out a hand, smiling again when he took it without hesitation.
No jolt ... that was the first thing that struck me as our hands met. Repli-John might have looked and sounded like my John but the lack of an ATA gene reaction from me said more than anything else that he wasn't John. I don't know why but that fact made me feel even sadder for him ... like they'd taken away something inherent that any version of John should have. It was all very confusing and in the end I pushed the thoughts from my mind and concentrated on treating him like a person in need of simple human comfort.
Pulling him to me I put my arms around his middle and hugged him tightly. “I wish there was something we could do to fix this.”
“This is a pretty good start,” Repli-John replied, his voice shaking with unshed tears.
“God this is so screwed up!” I pulled back so I could see his face. His eyes were glazed and his control at the limit, I knew it wouldn’t take much to push him over the edge. I wanted to do something to bring him back but I couldn’t think of anything except the lame comment I came up with. “This is nice and all but I’m not kissing you – just in case you were wondering.”
“I got that from your side of that radio conversation,” Repli-John laughed abruptly. “I can’t believe you told him you were hugging me before you did it.”
“Sure you can,” I countered, pulling away and taking a step back.
“You got married?” Repli-John gestured to the rings I’d gotten so used to wearing. Even as a Replicator he didn’t miss a thing.
“Yeah, couple of months ago,” I said with a smile. “Eloped back on Earth.”
“I bet that drove the IOA into fits,” Repli-John said with an amused chuckle.
“They weren’t thrilled having ‘approval’ power taken away from them,” I agreed. The conversation dwindled to a stop, the awkward silence another testament to the fact that this really wasn’t my John with whom I was never at a loss for words. “So what now?” I eventually asked.
“Now we get on with defeating the Replicators,” Repli-John said decisively, already pulling everything difficult back inside.
“Good,” I turned to leave the tent in search of my John.
“Sabina?” Repli-John called me back. I turned to him with a raised brow. “Thank you for this,” he said simply. “It helped ... more than you could possibly know.”
“You’re welcome,” I returned. “Should we go find John and Elizabeth?”
“I’m right behind you,” Repli-John promised.
That’s about the time all hell broke loose.
Teyla was on the radio shouting that the Replicators had arrived. John was ordering Rodney and I to fall back to the Gate, an order immediately rescinded when Major Jordan reported that the Replicators had the Gate locked down.
“All right, everybody fall back to the Jumper,” John ordered instead. “Sabina, Rodney, did you hear me?”
“I’m already on the way,” I reported back. “I’ve got the other John with me.”
“Yeah, I heard you too,” Rodney reported in next. “We're on our way.”
By the time we got there the others had all gathered. Elizabeth took centre stage - clearly she and John had already come up with a plan.
“We’re going to provide a distraction,” she indicated herself and her team. “We use our Jumper to lure that ship away from the Gate. If you and your people are in position near the Gate you should be able to dial Atlantis before the Replicator’s realise.”
“No!” Rodney protested. “What happens when they catch up with you?”
“We cloak as soon as we’re far enough away,” Repli-John looked to Elizabeth with a subtle nod. “We’ve escaped one of their ships that way before.”
“You could come back with us,” I looked at Elizabeth pleadingly. I knew she wasn’t our Elizabeth but at that point I didn’t care. I just wanted to save one version of her. Deep down I guess I was thinking if I could do that then it would make up for not saving our Elizabeth.
“We both know that’s not as simple as it sounds,” Elizabeth said kindly. “Besides, we'll all have a better chance this way.”
“I don't want you doing this because you feel any less, uh ...,” John trailed off, unsure what word to use.
“Human?” Elizabeth offered. “From the beginning we've been trying to convince ourselves that we're just like you. Now we've got a chance to prove it.”
“Not like this,” I tried again to convince her.
“We don’t have time for a long discussion,” Elizabeth smiled, everything about her demeanour telling us she was satisfied with her decision. “We’ll do our best to give you sufficient time. Use what we gave you wisely ... defeat the Replicators and we’ll call it even.”
“All right,” John motioned for those of us going back to the Gate to gather to him. “Let's go.”
“Sabina,” Repli-John called to me. “It was a pleasure meeting you.”
“Ah ... likewise?” I replied uncertainly, raising another smile from him. “You better fly that Jumper like the star pilot you always say you are.”
“Never in doubt,” Repli-John retorted with a smart arse smile. Turning serious again he added one final comment. “Take care of him.”
“Never in doubt,” I returned softly, starting when my John put his hand on my arm to draw my attention back to our part of the scenario. When I glanced back Repli-John and the others were gone.
“We have to go,” John told me, grabbing my hand and pulling me down the path after Rodney and the rest of his team.
We ran for the Gate as quietly as we could, choosing a spot deep under cover where we could see the Replicator ships hovering. The other Jumper rose sharply from the trees, buzzing past the Replicators arrogantly before flying away low over the trees. Moments later the Replicator ships pursued, leaving the Gate unguarded.
“Now!” John shouted.
We all jumped up and sprinted for the Gate, Major Jordan getting to the DHD first and dialling home. As soon as we’d all stepped through to Atlantis John was ordering they shut the wormhole down.
“No-one else is coming,” John concluded, looking at me sadly.
“Do you think they made it?’ I asked John. It was late and the rest of the city slept. I had too much on my mind to settle down, questions I needed answers to. It was a balmy night and the breeze coming in from the ocean swept over the balcony refreshingly.
“It’s not likely,” John said honestly from his position sitting beside me. “But you never know. They might have been able to cloak before the Jumper got damaged too much.”
“Tell me about Elizabeth,” I requested, looking out over the ocean.
“According to the leader of the renegade group of Replicators she was killed months ago,” John admitted sadly. “Oberoth tried to integrate her into the Replicator collective but she managed to retain some of her humanity. Oberoth was worried she’d corrupt other Replicators so he terminated her nanites.”
“I expected it was bad news,” I sighed, turning and pulling John’s arm around me. Leaning my head on his chest I waited for the emotions to hit me. But they didn’t. “I feel ... numb,” I admitted. “I’ve spent so long wondering about her, worrying about what I did injecting those NAPs into her ... I don’t know how to feel now. I think ...,” I hesitated before continuing. “I think part of me is relieved because I know I didn’t kill her with my stupid stunt. God that is so wrong, isn’t it?” Jumping up I turned to lean over the balcony, feeling angry and sickened at my selfish thoughts.
“It’s not wrong,” John came up behind me, putting his hands on my shoulders. “It’s a natural reaction. Everyone struggles to live with uncertainty ... we needed closure even if it’s not what we hoped for.”
“I guess,” I turned to face him again. “How are you feeling about all this?”
“Like I want to go out and hit something, really hard,” he admitted. “Like I want to sit down and be weak for a moment, not have to hold everything in just to keep sane.”
“We make a great pair don’t we?” I smiled weakly, my lips trembling as I fought the tears that had finally arrived.
“I authorised her personal effects to be removed tomorrow,” John admitted hoarsely. “I never did it before because I really believed we were gonna bring her back home.”
Running out of words John pulled me into him, holding me close. That was enough to release the water works ... the tears for Elizabeth I’d held inside for months. I don’t know how long we remained like that, quiet but for the sound of the ocean and my sobbing. In time my tears ran out and I leant tiredly into John, still needing his closeness.
“It was sad,” I told him softly. “Repli-John holding on to those emotions even though he knew they weren’t really his own.”
“I got a glimpse at a picture of myself I don’t ever want to see for real,” John admitted. “Grief over losing you knowing you were alive and well hit him hard. I don’t even want to imagine how much worse that could be.”
“Is that why you didn’t mind me hugging him?” I asked curiously.
“It was a small thing and if I know me, it would have helped,” John excused lightly.
“How’s Rodney taking all this?” I changed the subject abruptly.
“Not well,” John replied. “He’s buried himself in work so he doesn’t have to talk about it. The good news from that is he got the tracking device working.”
“How bad is it?” I looked up at John worriedly.
“About forty ships detected so far,” John replied grimly.
“Crap, that is bad,” I said weakly. “What can we do when they have such vastly superior numbers?”
“Nothing tonight,” John still had his arms around me and he tightened his hold so he could lift me off my feet. Walking us both inside he didn’t stop until he’d reached the bed, letting his forward momentum propel us down to the mattress. “It’s been a long, difficult day and it’s late.”
“I’ll sleep when you do,” I bargained, happy for him to settle us spooned together under the sheets.
“It’s a deal,” John pressed a good night kiss to the side of my neck, sighing as he rested his head beside mine.
We lay awake together for a long time but eventually we did fall asleep.
Interlude 9: This way we guarantee their safety
Meeting the real Team Sheppard didn’t make us feel any less ourselves, but meeting Sabina did wonders for my peace of mind. I loved her ... those feelings just as real as they'd been before I'd discovered I was a copy of the real John Sheppard. Meeting her hadn't diminished my feelings and I found myself actually happy about that, even though I knew she was lost to me. At least she was alive and well somewhere out there. I shuddered to think how my counterpart would ever handle it if Sabina were taken away permanently. Lucky for me I would never have to find out how that felt.
“You didn’t tell them we had a ship in orbit?” Elizabeth questioned as I got us in position to buzz the Replicator ships.
“They wouldn’t have gone for this option if they’d known,” I replied casually. “This way we guarantee their safety.”
“It was nice,” Elizabeth said softly. “Being on a mission with you all.”
“It was nice for us as well,” Teyla replied graciously. “You were not gone as long for us as for the people back on Atlantis but still ... we missed you Elizabeth.”
“I still say we’re just as much us as they are,” Ronon insisted.
“And this proves it,” Teyla told him with a complacent smile.
“Get ready guys,” I told them. “It’s show time.”
I flew the Jumper past the Stargate, showing off a bit with tight manoeuvring during a close pass. Sabina was watching somewhere down there, enough to inspire me to live up to her last comment about my piloting skills.
The Replicator ships both followed us just as planned. Lucky for the others on the ground. Sensors let us know when the Gate engaged, and then again when it shut down.
“They’re through,” Elizabeth commented.
“Time to get out of here,” I announced, attempting to cloak. Unluckily for us the Replicators had gotten enough hits past me to damage the cloak. I tried to avoid further hits but the Jumper was damaged enough to affect manoeuvrability. Everything went downhill from there, culminating in me crash landing the Jumper into the trees.
I came to moments later, trying to raise myself from hanging over the control console to see how the others were doing. The Jumper was silent and I knew they were probably too badly damaged to recover.
We hadn't made it but Sabina and her team had ... that was all that mattered to me.
The moments passed in silence ... I could feel my injuries healing gradually but it wasn’t enough.
The Replicators found us, one of them just in time to see a cut on my face healing in standard nanite assisted fashion.
“Yeah. We tricked you, but don't feel so bad,” I told the Replicators with a smile. “After all, we almost had ourselves convinced.”
He raised his gun. I had just enough time to register the shot ... to make my last thought an image of Sabina smiling at me before ...