Chapter 1: Greetings from Ourselves
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.
Surrounded by a number of soldiers assigned to protect them all in case this alternate team turned out to be more dangerous than previously thought, Elizabeth observed the doppelganger version of Atlantis’s Primary Gate team.
Aside from the most obvious differences between them, such as Teyla clearly being the team leader instead of John, as well as distinct evidence of their Carson being a permanent team member, rather than only joining occasionally when he was needed like he did for her team, they had other differences that would not have been so palpable did she not know her own team as well as she did.
There was a discernible yet not unfriendly distance between the alternate Teyla and Rodney and the other members of their team. It wasn’t so much that the three still unsettlingly quiet doubles of her military commander, her Chief Medical Officer and the specialist were deliberately separating themselves from the other two, more like there was an intense connection between them that unintentionally excluded the other two.
Another difference was the fact that Teyla’s leadership in the other team was, while not unwelcome, clearly a recent development. She ran the team in the same way she led her people rather than how a military team was usually managed, and the others were clearly still learning how to work within the new dynamics.
The sound of Teyla’s double quietly clearing her throat told Elizabeth that her observations had gone on longer than she’d expected. The other woman had noticed. She was looking noticeably uncomfortable in the silence.
“Sorry.” Elizabeth apologized.
“I understand.” Teyla’s double obviously had the same high level of patience that the original did.
“Well, first things first. Rodney?” She shook her head as both versions of the man replied. “Sorry, our Rodney.” At his nod, she continued, “Do we know yet if they travelled to our universe through the Atlantis Gate or through an earlier one?”
Her Rodney responded quickly, “The good thing is that we know they dialed through to our reality from theirs via our gate, so once we figure out how the anomaly occurred, we can hopefully send them straight back home through it… But,”
Elizabeth indicated her desire for him to finish the explanation with a tilt of her head. He quickly obliged her. “But unless it’s something blindingly obvious, it’s going to take a while for us to figure out exactly what caused the anomaly… And if we can’t replicate it, sending them back will be difficult, maybe even impossible.” Zelenka nodded in agreement beside him.
For the first time, the original Teyla spoke up. “Perhaps we should try and get to know each other a little better, perhaps as we learn to understand each other, we may find ways to assist in getting this different team home?”
Elizabeth was unexpectedly comforted by the fact that she could easily tell the difference between her and the alternate Teyla. “I will start first. I am Teyla. I work with a team led by Lt Colonel John Sheppard that consists of him, Doctor McKay, Ronon and myself., I am also the leader of my people and currently unmarried.”
She turned expectantly towards the other version of herself, who cleared her throat and proceeded with her own introduction. “I am also Teyla. I recently became the leader of my team after John was honourably discharged due to certain circumstances, although he’s still part of the team in a civilian capacity. Ronon has been part of the team for quite a while. Carson however has only been with the team permanently since John’s career change. I’ve been married to Rodney for just over a year.”
Finished, she nudged her husband who sighed theatrically and started his own introduction. “Doctor Rodney McKay, scientist, brilliant, occasional babysitter.” There was a slight glare from the alternate John Sheppard at this, but the man still remained quiet. The other man ignored him and continued. “Happily married to Teyla, hoping to get home as fast as possible.”
He waved vaguely in the original McKay’s direction. “Your turn.” Elizabeth’s McKay huffed in his usual manner, but obliged. “Doctor Rodney McKay, also a scientist, also brilliant, never babysat anyone, happily single, hoping to get rid of… I mean get you people back to where you belong.”
Completing his little rant, he gestured towards the John Sheppard from this reality.
John got the message. “Lt Colonel John Sheppard.” He froze a little when it seemed like the other team was focusing on him a sliver too much, but continued anyway. “I lead Atlantis’s primary exploration team. I like Ferris wheels, College Football and my Gate team.”
Finished, he turned intently towards the alternate version of himself. This was when the introductions stalled.
For nearly a minute, there was a bizarre kind of silence. Then the other version of Teyla spoke up. “They don’t really talk much anymore: him, Ronon and Carson. That’s why I became team leader and John was discharged.”
Another breath of silence, then the original John, in his usual blunt manner, spoke again. “Why?”
He was reasonably worried when a clearly guilty expression crossed his alternate’s face as the other Teyla replied. “There was an incident with a young Wraith girl.” At her words, the remorseful look was now on their Carson’s face as well. Most of the original team felt a moment of confusion when the alternate versions of Ronon and John seemed to try and curl protectively around the Doctor from their seated positions as soon as he seemed upset.
Clearly used to this odd behaviour, the alternate Teyla simply continued speaking. “John was infected with a combination of her DNA and a retrovirus Carson was working on.”
Elizabeth nodded. “Yes, we had a similar situation here a while ago.”
The other Teyla nodded her acknowledgement, before continuing in a slightly choked tone of voice. “Our John noticed some unusual changes close to where he had been stabbed after Doctor Beckett had informed him of the infection. But he decided not to report them to the Doctor, instead waiting until his first scheduled check-up.”
Seeing that his wife was clearly getting upset, the alternate McKay picked up where she left off. “Unfortunately, that extra couple of hours gave the retrovirus time to make a few more alterations to John’s DNA before Carson could administer the viral inhibitor… Including making it a little more contagious than if he’d gone to see the doctor immediately.”
At his words, the alternate John tried to sort of fold himself between his version of Carson and Ronon.
The other Rodney seemed to be regretting his decision to speak, but continued anyway. “It never became airborne, thank God, but it was transferable via blood or saliva. When John was lucid, it wasn’t a problem. As soon as the Iratus bug started getting inside his head though, he managed to bite a few people during a fight.Carson and Ronon were the first.”
He paused for breath, listening to the clearly unnatural yet definitely anxious clicking noises coming from the three now huddled members of his team.
He sighed softly, his next words clearly directed towards said team members. “I know you don’t like when we talk about it, but now that we are stuck here indefinitely, we need to be as open as possible with these people. Trust me, I’m liking this about as much as you guys, but we need help getting home.”
He was silent for a bit, waiting until a nod from Carson told him he could continue. Relieved, he continued his explanation, “Carson managed to figure out how to fix them before he succumbed to the Iratus instincts, but it still took us so much time to retrieve the required items. We got enough for everyone, but because they were affected the earliest, these three suffered the most significant permanent changes. Although a few other people that were infected in the early stages still have a few issues themselves.”
He stopped again at a wave from their Carson.
As the doctor of their team opened his mouth to speak for the first time, it became clear to the original Atlanteans why he and the others didn’t like talking.
“Our vocal cords were the most obvious difference.” The sibilant tone of his voice had some of the soldiers reaching for their weapons. It was mixed with his normal Scottish accent so it didn’t sound exactly like that of the Wraith, but it was close enough that it made them all remember the various nightmares they’d had since discovering the life-sucking aliens. It was obvious he was only speaking up to drive the point home.
Undeterred by their stares, he continued, “The vocal cords, the ability to heal quicker, and above average physical strength only affected the three of us. The only permanent change that occurred in the others was a certain level of empathy. It’s similar to the telepathy used by the Wraith, but far less invasive.”
His input finished, he finally let his discomfort at speaking show on his face. He remained silent as the two men he was huddled together with dragged him back into the centre of their pile, clearly relaxing into them as they ignored both the bewildered members of Elizabeth’s team and their own limited speech abilities to chitter and click in a way that was obviously calming him.
After letting herself digest this new information, Elizabeth turned to the now much calmer alternate version of Teyla.
She saw the obvious question in her eyes. “No, Doctor Weir, they’ve been tested regularly, and there’s no sign that they are still contagious in any way.”
Elizabeth nodded. “You do realize we’ll need to keep an eye on them as well though?”
The alternate Teyla’s reply was drowned out by the deep, disgruntled click-hiss coming from their Ronon, the first sound that he made other than the reassuring clicks that he’d been doing while their Rodney described the situation. He clearly understood where they were coming from though, as no move to attack anyone was made. So Elizabeth just nodded when Teyla agreed to the term without any fuss.
For the first time, the original Carson spoke. He spoke directly to the three huddled together “Well, while I’ll have to check you lot over more regularly than normal, I’ll need to run some basic tests to make sure your entire team is healthy, so if you’d all come this way please.”
The alternate team all nodded and quietly filed out after him, followed closely by the soldiers assigned to them. After they left, Elizabeth let her head drop into her hands. “This is more complicated than I had expected.”
The sudden shuffling sound, followed by furious whispering to her left had her looking back up to see what was going on. Rodney and Zelenka had put their heads together over the data pad Radek was holding, clearly discussing the best way to find out how to return the alternate team back home.
She honestly didn’t know if they were deliberately ignoring her, or if they’d actually gotten so immersed in their discussion that they hadn’t heard a word she’d said, but she spoke up anyway. “Wouldn’t you two be better off working in the lab?”
Now it was clear they’d been fully absorbed in science talk. She spoke again, this time as a sharp command, loud enough to make them both jump. “Rodney. Zelenka. Lab. Now!”
Without speaking a word to her, they left the room, their minds already fully engrossed in their work again.
Elizabeth just groaned and let her head thump back on the table lightly.
They’d figure this out.
They had to.
Chapter 3: 3
Carson was a little unnerved by the alternate members of Atlantis’ primary team. He finally realized what was off about these people.
Usually, while Rodney and Teyla would head straight for the med bay, he ended up having to chase down both Ronon and Sheppard. This other team had all lined up and followed him like a group of very large ducklings. The first time he’d turned around to make sure everyone was doing what they were told to, he’d ended up jumping nearly a foot high at seeing five faces, including his own, earnestly staring back at him, clearly wondering why he’d stopped.
He thought on it a little more until he finally saw the doorway to the medical area coming into view in front of him. It actually made sense he realized. From what they’d revealed in the main meeting area, the last time one of them had ignored medical advice, it had drastically changed a lot of people’s lives. No wonder they hadn’t complained much when he’d asked them to head to the med bay with him.
With a soft sigh, he entered the med bay doors before standing to one side to wave the strange new team through. As he’d suspected, the gossip about an alternate universe’s team coming through the Stargate had already made its way through most of Atlantis, including his staff. He gently ushered the alternate team members to the free beds. Most of his team members knew not to start major discussions outside of medical questions while running tests, but once all the tests had been run, he couldn’t really issue a ban on speaking to patients or other people in the medical area.
Putting on what Sheppard liked to call his Boss Doc face, he motioned to two of the nurses he knew were least likely to start spreading rumours right away. “Rose, Mitchell, please take care of the tests for…” He paused and looked up at the sound of most of Sheppard’s team, the ones he knew, all trooping through the door. “...Please take care of the tests for the Teyla and Rodney occupying those two beds, I’ll run the tests for the other universe’s version of Sheppard, Ronon and myself… myself.” That sounded really strange to his ears even as he spoke.
Finishing allocating the duties, he decided to start his tests with the person who would probably be both the least troublesome and the strangest. “Alright Doctor Beckett, I’m sure you know the drill, but I’ll run it by you as I go, just in case there are some differences in how our tests are done after missions.”
Clearly trying to keep his voice down so as to not startle any of the staff, the alternate version of himself whispered, “Normally I’d tell you to call me Carson, but I think that would be confusing for everyone at the moment.”
The original Carson nodded as he pulled out his penlight. “That’s true. Now first I’m going to check your eyes. Does your unique condition make your eyes react differently to light or darkness?”
The other man thought for a few seconds. “Our eyes do react quickly when adjusting to changing light conditions, but no one on our side has mentioned that it made it harder to tell if one of us had a concussion, a reaction to toxins or allergies and stuff like that. We are a little sensitive to bright lights however, so although we should all be fine, it would be nice if you tried to limit how long you need to shine the light in our eyes.”
Carson nodded, keeping what Doctor Beckett said in his mind as he turned the light on and flicked it up to the other man’s eyes, quickly swapping between them, before pointing the penlight back down. He decided not to comment on the minute flecks of yellow, so small he’d only been able to see them because he was so close, flecks he knew weren’t present in his own eyes.
Resuming his examination, he pulled a tongue depressor out of the small container sitting on the table next to the bed. “Open your mouth as wide as possible please.”
The other man complied soundlessly, poking his tongue out slightly to make it easier to see inside his mouth and throat. After a quick check, it seemed that aside from a couple of extra ridges along the insides of his cheeks, the other man’s mouth was normal.
Throwing the depressor into the nearby bin, he put his penlight back into his pocket and started to bring his stethoscope up to his ears. He paused as the other man quickly motioned for him to put his head down. “Could we, maybe, close the privacy curtains for this part?”
Carson nodded before moving to pull said curtains closed around the bed. He knew this would probably prompt even more gossip, as would the quiet yet clear whines coming from both Ronon and Sheppard’s alternates as the curtains slid closed between his hands, but it was clearly important to the other man.
Finished, he put the stethoscope back up to his ears. “Remove your shirt please.”
It was obvious why Doctor Beckett had requested the curtains be closed as soon as his shirt was lifted up and over his head. Aside from being a little leaner than Carson himself was, probably due to the fact he was a permanent offworld team member in his universe, there were clear signs that his body had been altered by the Iratus bug gene. A scaled pattern, not dissimilar to a bluish snowflake, spread from a bit above the other man’s belly button all the way up to his mid-chest.
Carson didn’t ask about it as he brought the stethoscope up to the other man’s chest. “Breathe deeply for me a couple of times.”
After the man did as he was told, Carson moved around to place the stethoscope on his back, noting that a similar pattern was also running up his back. “Again please.”
After the other man had done as instructed, Carson told him to put his top back on while he went to get the blood testing kit.
Suddenly he was interrupted by the curtain being pulled aside by a hand that was clearly not his own. A voice he knew, simply because he’d had to reprimand the man for doing something like this a few times before in the hopes of gaining an advantage in the never-ending circus ring that was the Atlantis gossip mill, appeared behind him. The newcomer took a look at Doctor Beckett and gasped out a sharp, “What’s that?” before Carson could shove him out of what had been clearly marked off as a private area.
Before he could gear up for yet another reprimand, and at this point possibly even firing the man, the other version of himself let out an involuntary whimper.
And all hell broke loose.
The alternate versions of Sheppard and Ronon leapt from their own beds at an unnerving speed. He wasn’t sure if it was because of his similarities to the other man, but before he knew it, Carson was caught up in their instinctive desire to protect their Doctor Beckett.
It was all flashes of light and movement for half a minute, not wanting them to get hurt because of one gossip-monger’s need to find out everything. Carson repeatedly shouted out reassurances that he was alright and unhurt to the soldiers that were currently under orders to watch the newcomers until the other Sheppard and Ronon had safely corralled them into a corner of the med bay, clearly looking to protect them from everybody.
Slightly dizzy from the speed, Carson just listened as what seemed to be the alternate universe’s Teyla tried to calm the two members of her team, only speaking up to reassure his Colonel Sheppard when he heard him ask if he was ok yet again.
Unfortunately, it was clear that the Alternate versions of Sheppard and Ronon had no intention of settling down if the low, almost bass level hisses being directed towards their team leader where any indication.
Carson relaxed slightly as his Sheppard, now reassured that he was unharmed, took control of the situation and proceeded to radio Doctor Weir and apprise her of the situation.
After speaking up once more to reassure Elizabeth he was safe as well, Carson shifted until he was at least in a more comfortable position to wait until they were able to sort things out.
He looked up as the other version of himself gently nudged his shoulder. The other man looked very contrite as he spoke, “Sorry. This is my fault, I shouldn’t have made a sound.”
Carson shook his head. “This isn’t your fault, Hardy has been told enough times not to pull stunts like that. You had every right to be upset at your privacy being invaded.”
The other man nodded unsurely, but seemed to accept what Carson said to a certain degree. He then continued talking, “Sheppard and Ronon have been a little too protective of me since the incident. You see, unlike the rest I had a bad reaction to part of the treatment. It left me very sick for a while afterwards, and they haven’t been willing to be separated from me for extended periods of time since. That’s why I ended up joining the team. We needed them to be able to go offworld, and since they wouldn’t go without me… well, you know.”
Carson nodded He had a good idea as to what would happen if the team in his reality decided they weren’t going offworld anymore. They would probably be injured far less often, but he could think of at least several times, and that was just off the top of his head, that Atlantis would have been well and truly destroyed if the team had never discovered one thing or another.
His attention shifted as he noticed one of the new soldiers, a wet behind the ears marine, starting the most obvious attempt to creep towards the small group currently hunkered in the corner.
Shifting until his head was poking slightly above the men surrounding him, he frantically gestured with it towards the wannabe hero.
Sheppard finally caught on, but his shout towards the other man was drowned out as the Sheppard that was crowding the two Carson’s against the wall also saw the marine and let out a terrifying screech that was clearly coming almost entirely from the Iratus side of him.
All Carson could do was sigh with relief when he realized his version of Ronon had also seen what the marine had been trying to do. There was a short scuffle as the much larger man grabbed the marine by his belt and hauled him away from the group before the alternate Sheppard could lunge at him.
This was what Elizabeth found herself walking into as the medical bay doors opened to let her in.
At her quick survey of the small group in the corner, Carson waved a hand at her. “I’m still alright love.”
She nodded before walking up to where their Sheppard and the Alternate Universe’s Teyla and Rodney had gathered to figure out how to solve this issue.
Elizabeth crossed her arms. “Alright, fill me in on what’s happening, and we’ll go from there.”
As they began talking amongst themselves, Carson shifted again, his current position not being the best for what may be a long wait.
He was already getting pins and needles in one of his legs.
Chapter 4: 4
Alternate Sheppard's behaviour is stranger than expected.
It hadn’t even been an escape attempt on Carson’s part the doctor thought. He shifted a little under the implacable grip of the alternate universe’s version of John Sheppard, who was currently pinning him to the ground. The two men who’d spun him and his alternate self into a corner had settled slightly after a couple of hours, so he’d decided to use the slight lull to maneuver himself into a more visible area within the group so his people could see he wasn’t injured or in danger without constantly having to look for him.
What he hadn’t counted on was his leg having fallen asleep on him again, although he should have realized he hadn’t been in one of the best positions to maintain good circulation.
He’d almost crawled to a more visible spot when his pins and needles stricken leg sudden stiffened up enough to make him gasp at the sensation, before suddenly turning to jelly, dropping him the short distance to the floor. This had clearly worried the alternate universe’s John Sheppard, who had pounced on him, seemingly both protective of him and unhappy with the sudden movement. One minute Carson was flailing, the next he was flat on his back with uncomfortably sharp feeling teeth biting gently against his throat. It wasn’t that painful, it was clear from Carson’s point of view that this version of Sheppard had no intention of breaking the skin, he’d just pinned Carson down when he’d moved out of the other man’s “Safety Net”.
For the second time in a day, Carson found himself rushing to convince his own people that he wasn’t in danger. He wasn’t getting much help from the man pinning him. Every time someone from Carson’s people got near them, he started hissing at them. It caused an unusual buzzing sensation against Carson’s neck, but after a few minutes, Carson’s people had finally been convinced. Now he just had to figure out how to get through to the John Sheppard currently latched onto his Adam’s apple.
He was certain that any one of the behavioural scientists or even Atlantis’s local Psychiatrist, Doctor Heightmeyer, would have been able to give him plenty of good advice about how to do that, but unfortunately, none of them were currently in the room. The assigned security had followed orders and barred anyone not part of the unfolding events from entering the medical bay for safety reasons.
Going on his own instincts instead, he awkwardly reached up and began patting this Sheppard’s upper back, just below the shoulders. He kept his voice soft, explaining about the pins and needles, and reassuring the other man he wasn’t deliberately going into any danger, he’d just wanted to make sure his own team could keep an eye on him.
Staying at the constant low volume seemed to help, as eventually the other man slide off him, rolling to the side that put Sheppard between Carson and the rest of the original Atlantis expedition, but still freeing the other man from his heavy weight.
Carson didn’t try and struggle as the large hands of the other universe’s Ronon gently twisted up in the back of his shirt and pulled him back towards the group’s safety net. Although he did say a soft thank you when he noticed the other man had made sure that this time, he was in clear view of the people he’d been trying to stay in sight of in the first place.
Sheppard didn’t say anything as he also returned to the group, not that this was unusual at this point.
What was different was that for the first time, the alternate universe’s Ronon started speaking, admittedly to his Sheppard, but he was still talking. “Alright Sheppard, what is going on?”
Even through the mildly wraithlike vocals, it was clear Ronon’s voice held an edge to it. He was clearly worried about something. A quick glance at the alternate universe’s Carson showed that the other man clearly agreed with his Ronon’s concerns.
“It’s fine.” Carson jumped slightly as, for the first time, the voice of the alternate universe’s Sheppard was finally heard. While the other two had clear Wraith overtones, they still sounded mostly human. Sheppard’s voice was so altered, Carson wouldn’t have been surprised if he’d be able to trick an entire Wraith crew into believing he was one of them. At least auditorily.
His musings were interrupted as the alternate universe’s Ronon spoke again. “It’s NOT fine, this is the first time you’ve pulled full rank on us since the Genii incident.”
Carson had little time to consider Ronon’s usage of the word rank before the alternate version of himself added his voice to the discussion. “John… Ronon’s right, we had a bit of a scare, but there’s been nothing to show these people mean any harm.”
The alternate Sheppard seemed to wilt the smallest bit at his Carson’s words, but he was still standing firm. “I’m keeping us safe.”
The other Ronon’s spine straightened as he spoke again, this time more gently, “We know that, but you’re going overboard, you know you are. What about their Carson as well, who are you protecting him from?”
The alternate Sheppard spoke again, although he didn’t seem to be replying to the question Ronon had asked, “He’s not safe.”
This time, it was the alternate Carson who spoke, “Their Carson? Why isn’t he safe John?”
“He isn’t safe because he’s here.” The alternate version of Sheppard’s behaviour was confusing everyone, including his own teammates, both altered and unchanged, considering the questioning looks Carson saw on the faces of the alternate universe’s Teyla and Rodney when he took a moment to scan the faces of the people outside of their little safe place.
In what was clearly turning out to be a tag team effort to pull the other Sheppard out of his odd behaviour, Ronon spoke again, “They’re his people, John.” The larger man was obviously trying to get through a little more using John’s first name. “Every one of them, which one of them would be a danger to him?”
Suddenly their Sheppard’s eyes moved and fixed themselves unerringly at one person standing on the outside of the little safety nest. “Their Carson isn’t safe because he’s here.”
Every eye in the room followed the steady gaze to its resting point. A very disturbed looking original John Sheppard stared back at them.
He shook his head, his voice firm, but upset as he spoke up, “I would never hurt Doctor Beckett… hurt Carson.”
The alternate version of the dumbfounded man spoke again, “I would never deliberately hurt my Carson on purpose… But I nearly killed him.”
The alternate Carson’s jaw dropped in surprise as their Ronon covered his eyes with his hands, both men obviously realizing what had triggered their Sheppard’s visibly odd behaviour. Another quick glance towards the rest of their team showed that they also had at least some idea of what was going on.
Clearly, the other Sheppard had had enough of talking, as he quickly maneuvered until he was once again in a protective stance over Carson and the other two.
The other two members of his team inside the little nest seemed to know they couldn’t push things further at the present time, so they also sat down to wait, deliberately making sure Carson was visible to his people this time.
Carson watched as the alternate versions of Teyla and Rodney started speaking to Elizabeth and the original Sheppard. He knew they were probably talking about whatever it was the alternate Sheppard had been worried about.
He turned his head as the other version of himself moved to his side and spoke, “I nearly died during the incident. Not from the changes, but due to an allergic reaction to something in the reversal formula. I knew John blamed himself for what happened, but I wasn’t aware how much.”
His breath stuttered slightly as he stopped to draw in more air. “You guys smell a lot more like us than I think we really realized. Honestly, if I don’t watch for the subtle differences, sometimes, if I close my eyes, I almost can’t tell the difference between you and me. Same goes for my Sheppard and Ronon when it comes to your versions of them.”
This time his teeth seemed to clench together, amplifying the wraithlike hiss as he drew yet another breath. “I… I truly don’t know know what to do with a man who seems dead set on protecting us from what is, essentially, himself. And as long as he’s pulling rank on us, we can discuss it over time, but we can’t leave the protected area.”
Carson’s thoughts went back over first Ronon’s, then the other Carson’s use of the phrase “pulling rank” again.
“What do you guys mean by pulling rank?”
The other man seemed confused by his question for a second, before realizing that he honestly had no way of understanding what they meant. “We told you earlier on about how there was a certain level of empathic communication between those that were affected?”
Carson nodded. “You said that it wasn’t very invasive though.”
The other man nodded as well. “And that’s mostly true, over 95% of the time we can communicate using the most basic of empathic tones. But when we’re feeling stronger emotions than normal, that tends to translate into stronger empathic communication. Sorry, I’m making it sound more complicated than it is. What I mean is, John isn’t mentally controlling us in any way, it’s more like when you hear a panicked citywide order to remain in a single place and not leave. You aren’t suddenly incapable of moving, you just know you shouldn’t be leaving, even if you have no real idea why.”
Carson’s neck twitched slightly, he could have denied the comparison, but he honestly understood the feeling, even as the CMO, he’d had a few times when a dangerous computer issue had left him stuck somewhere in the city after an order had gone out. After all who needed a medical Doctor to fix a sick computer. What could he do, give it an anti-nausea shot and tell it to check with him in the morning? That was a job for Rodney and/or his team.
He was pulled from his thoughts at the sound of Elizabeth clicking her radio to another frequency. He was surprised at the amount of weight that seemed to lift from his shoulders at her next words. “Doctor Heightmeyer, could you come down to the medical bay please?”
Clearly, there were at least some issues that Kate could help with, even if she couldn’t do an instafix, like some people occasionally thought those in her profession could do.
He listened to the crackle of static that followed Elizabeth’s request for a few seconds, before the slightly confused voice of Kate Heightmeyer came through, “Of course Doctor Weir, do I need to bring anything other than the usual with me?”
Like everyone else in the city, Kate had already heard about the incidents, so she didn’t ask what was happening. “I don’t think you’ll need anything Doctor Heightmeyer, the notepad and a pen should be enough.”
There was a slight shuffle, then a short moment of silence as Heightmeyer put her radio down to gather the couple of things they’d talked about. The radio crackled again. “I’m on my way.”
“See you soon.”
The room fell quiet as they waited for Doctor Heightmeyer.
Hopefully, it would go well.
Chapter 5: 5
Bringing in Doctor Heightmeyer.
Chapter is shorter than usual.
Doctor Kate Heightmeyer had seen a lot of strange, new things during her time on the Atlantis mission, 90% of it things she’d never expected to see in the first place.
With everything she’d learned in that time, it still ended up being somewhat jarring to see two versions of Atlantis’ main offworld gate team in the same room as each other, even after hearing all the stories and rumours that were going around faster than the Daedalus in Hyperdrive.
Still, she was here to help… apparently, even if she wasn’t sure exactly how right this second.
Waiting for one of the guards to authorize her entrance into the room, she let herself watch the people she knew she’d be talking with as they sat almost huddled in one corner of the room. She was looking for clues that would help her open a line of communication.
At first she couldn’t tell which Doctor Beckett was the one she knew, but as they moved around the slightest bit, she noticed that the other version of him hadn’t had time to completely do up his shirt from when his examination must have been interrupted. The bluish markings along the front of his torso were clearly visible.
As she continued her observations, she noted that for whatever reason, the alternate universe’s versions of Carson and Ronon seemed to be very understanding towards their version of Colonel Sheppard, yet they were also clearly unhappy with his current behaviour.
Putting that aside for later, she decided to focus on the man she knew best in this situation - her version of Doctor Carson Beckett.
The first thing she did was check over the few notes she’d been able write down as she’d hurried to the Med Bay as quickly as possible.
Doctor Weir had filled her in on a few things as she’d made her way, including the alternate universe’s team leader Teyla’s belief that their Sheppard was reacting the way he was due to feeling guilty about their Carson’s near death experience, and the differences in the levels of influence the mutated Iratus bug genes had on the affected team members.
She had constantly read over these, and the other things she thought might be useful the entire way, slotting the ideas she couldn’t use away for later until she’d actually started talking to the people she needed to help .
Keeping an eye out to make sure someone else didn’t attempt a privacy breach, she quickly checked the small sheet of notes she had brought along, notes she’d compiled during Doctor Beckett’s sessions with her. Bless the man, he was one of the few in Atlantis who knew he needed a little support now and then, unlike the majority, most of whom tended to wait until they literally had no other coping mechanisms available before trying to see her.
Suddenly something caught her attention. It could have been nothing, but the more she shifted between the notes she’d made about the current event and her notes on Doctor Beckett, the more likely it seemed.
Doctor Beckett, her universe’s Doctor Beckett, hadn’t made any real attempts to escape. Recently Doctor Beckett had admitted to her that he liked being protected. It was, of course a very reasonable feeling, especially in the Pegasus Galaxy, with all the dangers it held. But Carson had admitted to her that he’d felt as though he was starting to develop a constant craving for it. He’d even admitted that he’d occasionally considered putting himself in danger for it. They both knew it was simply an intrusive thought, but he’d worried for days after each time it had happened.
She looked back over the notes she’d taken on the way here. The team members that had been altered by the Iratus Bug genes from the other universe relied a lot on certain senses, scent being one of the main ones.
Was it possible that this universe’s Carson was subconsciously enjoying the fact that he was protected? And if so, could that be affecting his scent enough to trigger, at least in part, the reaction of the other universes altered teammates?
She was pulled from her thoughts by the sound of the guard’s voice. Clearly they had finalized her authorization and had signed off while she was looking over her notes. She quickly moved towards where Weir and the others were standing.
She had what was possibly a good point to start, but she couldn’t tell the others things from Carson’s personal files. She ducked her head next to Elizabeth’s ear to let the other woman know she had an idea, but she needed at least some privacy for herself, their Carson and the alternate team members that were still huddled in the same corner of the med lab.
Doctor Weir nodded and set herself to ushering a clearly reluctant, if the whispered protests were anything to go by, original Sheppard and his team out of clear earshot.
She wasn’t sure if it helped any, but she gave the original team her own stern look when they tried to turn their protest towards her. It apparently worked, as the original Sheppard and McKay both just huffed a little before turning back to trying to convince Elizabeth to give them at least something to go on themselves.
As much as she wanted to help them out, Kate thought as she pulled one of the wheeled swivel chairs towards her, she needed to figure out the main situation first.
Mind set, she calmly pushed the chair towards the little group huddled in the corner, intensely aware of their Sheppard’s eyes following her every move.
Finally in what seemed to be a good place, as close as possible without stressing the altered visitors within the group she looked between the two Carsons noting which one had the blue markings before turning to the one sitting next to him.
“Carson… do you feel safe here at the moment?” It was a simple, logical question, nothing that anyone else would understand completely, therefore not really breaching his privacy, but it was something that he would recognize from their sessions.
She hoped she didn’t end up having to breach Carson’s privacy completely, but if she did, she knew it would be the only way they could sort the problem out. As she considered her opening question, she hoped he’d forgive her if it came to that.
Who was she kidding she thought as she waited for his answer, he would probably forgive her in a heartbeat.
Truth was, she hoped she could forgive herself.