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It was midafternoon when the partially unexpected “Unscheduled Offworld Activation” alarm blasted through the Gateroom and intercoms. It barely caused any worry as the only teams that had gone through the Gate this morning were Major Lorne’s team, on a routine trading mission, and AG-13, who were delivering some Athosian clothwork to a small group of people known as Thalrians in hopes of opening a new trading agreement.

There was a crackling of static through the radios, then a voice. “Atlantis, this is Doctor McKay. We’ve finished checking out MX 439-276, no dangerous or sentient lifeforms, no villages. It seems to have a decent amount of edible plant life, though we’d need a trained botanist to make sure, so it may make a good backup if the Alpha Site becomes compromised. Let us know when we can come through.”

Elizabeth blinked, then turned to the slightly gobsmacked face of the man who had been trying to increase the power to the Gateroom’s protective systems behind her. “McKay?” She queried.

Doctor McKay stared back at her. “Well he’s clearly not me.”

There was silence from the radios for a second. Then the same voice from before piped up. “... Well, this seems like an alternate universe or reality situation.”

The McKay in the Gateroom snapped back. “Or an infiltration attempt.”

“By you or me?” The voice on the other end of the radio sniped back.

The sound of McKay spluttering behind her, and what seemed to be a sudden, small struggle for the radio on the other side of the Gate had Elizabeth confused and slightly worried, until another familiar, oddly calming voice piped through to them. “Doctor Weir, this is Teyla. Please forgive my husband, he has a tendency to be on edge about everything.”

This announcement brought about another round of spluttering from behind her. This was followed by the sound of the rest of McKay’s teammates and Doctor Beckett entering the room.

Another calm, but slightly tentative call of. “Doctor Weir?” Through the radio had her replying without thought. “Our McKay isn’t married to our Teyla.”

The woman on the other side of the radio was silent for a bit, although there was a slight shifting noise that made it seem like she was doing her version of Teyla’s understanding nod. As if realizing they couldn’t actually translate a nod through the radio, she spoke again. “That is understandable. Indeed, Rodney and myself would never have gone beyond friendship if not for certain circumstances.”

Suddenly the McKay that the other Teyla had removed the radio from interrupted again. “Why are you giving that information to people we aren’t sure we can trust?”

Elizabeth could almost hear Teyla’s patented eyeroll as she replied. “The Gate has been open for nearly five minutes. Unless these people are sorely under-qualified, they would have already sent someone through to kill or capture us. Besides if this is an alternate reality, we need to know if we’re currently dialing into it from our universe, or if we already dialed into it from our Atlantis a few hours ago. We’ll probably need help returning to our own Atlantis either way.”

At that, the John Sheppard who had recently entered the Gateroom spoke up. “Yeah, that’s probably right.” He turned and gave Rodney a compelling look, one that the scientist knew quite well. With a sigh, McKay nodded.

“I’ll probably need Zelenka’s assistance, but we should be able to scan the energy readings from the beyond the Gate and see if it’s an alternate reality. However, it’s probably best if no one tries to actually travel through the Gate until we know for sure. The last thing we need is one group getting stuck in an alternate reality.”

At Elizabeth's nod, McKay sent out a call to Doctor Zelenka to come to the Gateroom.

Elizabeth spoke to the people on the other side. “How does that sound to your team over there?”

It was almost unnervingly quiet on the other end. Teyla’s voice seemed thick with some kind of emotion when she finally replied. “That seems logical.”

Elizabeth shook the impulse to ask why the Teyla on the other end of the radio seemed affected and instead decided to ask for more important information. “Indeed. How many people do you have on your side? If you aren’t too uncomfortable sharing, we’d like to know who as well. Some of them may be able to give us more information.”

There was the sound of muffled conversation for a few minutes, before that Teyla told her McKay sharply to stop worrying. Before her voice carried through the radio properly again as she said. “We have myself and Doctor McKay as you already know, as well as John Sheppard, Ronon Dex, and Carson Beckett. So five people in all.”

As she spoke, Doctor Zelenka walked into the room, having been close by when he received the call for assistance that was sent out a few minutes before.

Rodney quickly dragged him over to the main console, already talking. “OK, we already know the main calculations in order to distinguish one reality from another, it’s happened enough times. So just help me plug them into the console, and it’ll take us all of a few minutes to figure this out.”

The two men worked for a few minutes, tossing ideas back and forth so fast that most of the room couldn’t keep up with them. It was clear they were nearing a conclusion. Elizabeth hoped that would mean they could decide whether or not the team from the alternate universe was already in our universe or not before the Gate reached it’s time limit and shut down.

Suddenly, a disturbingly familiar sound screeched through the Gateroom speakers.

The alternate Teyla’s voice held a panicky edge. “Doctor Weir… we have unidentified Dart ships.”

McKay and Zelenka shook their heads as most of the Gateroom occupants swivelled to stare in their direction.

They hadn’t finished the calculations, and they still needed more time than the people on the other side of the Gate had.

As the noise from the Darts grew louder, and the sounds of their scanners started sweeping near the planet Gate, Elizabeth looked to John for a second, knowing the choice may mean life or death for the people beyond the Gate shields.

Gesturing an obvious signal to the Chuck, the Gate tech, she spoke into the radio. “We’re dropping the shield for as long as we think it’s safe, get your people through as quickly as possible.”

With the bare minimum of an acknowledgement from the other side, they heard the frantic shuffling of people and supplies through the radio. Chuck had already dropped the shield, so the Gateroom occupants watched impatiently waiting for the first sign that people were coming through the Gate.

Suddenly, the entire group tumbled through at once.

With another signal from Elizabeth, Chuck powered the shield back up, and they were able to get the Gate itself shut down before any of the Darts made it through the wormhole.

While the group that had come through looked very much like her own primary team, there were still obvious differences. Teyla clearly lead them, and McKay was obviously her second. The other three members of the team had all the hallmarks of being the most closely knit people in the group. John, Ronon and Carson were completely silent, except for the sounds their feet and gear made. Strangest was Carson, who wore his gear with the ease of a man who had been on may offworld missions.

Elizabeth really hoped she hadn’t made a mistake letting these people through, but leaving them to die had never been an option.