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Primum Movens, Part I, CH IV

<<< Back to Primum Movens, Part I, CH III

A grunt to his right startled Rodney out of paralyzed shock.  Ronon had broken free of his emotional stupor and was pacing away in anger.  Sheppard barely noticed; he stood shell-shocked next to the stasis pod, staring intently at the figure inside.  Rodney couldn't blame him.  He wasn't quite certain that what he was seeing was real. 

Elizabeth Weir—a real version of Elizabeth Weir, not the Replicator copy of Franibeth currently waiting in Atlantis—stood inside the pod, her eyes closed in slumber, her dark hair framing a pale, peaceful face.  It was eerily reminiscent of a moment he’d encountered five years ago with a much older version of Elizabeth in Atlantis.  Of course, he hadn’t known that at the time, but here she was again… 

Not again. 

Those words were suddenly running through his mind, insanely repetitious.  Not again.  Not again.  Not again. 

How in the name of all that was rational and logical had another version of Elizabeth ended up here, in an ancient Ancient pod, which had been stored in a location contained in Franibeth’s code?  How was she the Primus?  Had the Replicators set this up as a trap?  Did the Ancients get them somehow involved in time travel?  Or was the galaxy just trying to find more ways to universally screw them over? 

He reached for his datapad and found it lay shattered at his feet.  Whatever data he’d managed to extract from the pod had been on that.  Great.  He scooped up the hard drive and shoved it into his pack, then turned to Teyla, who was standing nearby, her eyes on the body in the pod, her expression a mixture of sadness and surprise.  

“Let me have your datapad,” he said. 

She ignored him. 

“Datapad.”  He snapped his fingers.  “Now.” 

“Yes,” she murmured, ripping it from her pack and handing it to him, her gaze never leaving Elizabeth’s face. 

“She is wearing BDU’s,” she murmured a moment later, as he was re-syncing everything. 

Sheppard glanced up, Teyla’s observation breaking his reverie.  “What?” 

Teyla turned, looking at him squarely.  “She is wearing BDU’s.” 

Ronon came up from nowhere to stand at Rodney’s shoulder.  “Like the ones she was wearing when she was taken.” 

John answered quickly, his voice gritty and cold.  “She’s a replicator.  It doesn’t matter what they wear.  They can create whatever the hell they want.”  Sheppard cleared his throat before continuing.  “Nothing here changes anything.  Except that whatever this Primus is, it obviously did not come from the Ancients.  The Replicators had something to do with this.”  He narrowed his eyes.  “Which means Elizab—the Replicator was somehow involved with this.” 

Something exploded near the entrance, causing more moss and dirt to rain down upon them.  Rodney glanced up, then back at the datapad where the information was coming in bursts and waves now that he’d synced everything up.  There was something transmitting between Elizabeth and the pod, but from what he could gather, it was nothing dangerous. 

In the rational part of his brain, Rodney knew John was right.  The easiest thing, the one that would guarantee their survival, was to destroy what would more than likely turn out to be another copy, get the hell out of here, and let the Daedalus clean up the mess.  But something—something told him that if they did that, they’d be making the biggest mistake they’d ever made. 

He glanced back at Elizabeth, resting peacefully, and typed in a few commands on his datapad.  Sheppard had moved into action, reaching into his pack for the C-4 he’d stowed there as well as a detonator. 

“The nanites are mostly confined to her brain,” Rodney’s voice came out garbled, and he cleared his throat desperately.  “Her brain, her ribs, a few spots in her lungs and back.”    

“What?”  John looked up, hand clutching a brick of C4 and paused midair. 

“The nanites—they’re confined to the places she was injured during the attack on Atlantis.  Exactly where they were when she was taken on Asuras.”  He looked over at Ronon and Teyla. 

Sheppard frowned.  “What are you trying to say, Rodney?” 

“I’m saying…there’s a possibility it could be her.  It could really be her.” 

John’s fist clenched around the C-4, which Rodney really wasn’t certain was a good idea, and he rose, pacing away angrily.  When he turned, the shadow across his face made him almost unrecognizable.  “We are NOT going through this again.” 

More data toggled across the screen, and Rodney flipped up the information towards John.  “Look at the readings.  And the clothes are real.  Teyla was right.  They’re our BDU’s.” 

“They could have obtained those anywhere!”  John hissed back.  “The clones had those!” 

“And what of that?”  Teyla’s gestured towards Elizabeth’s wrist.  “Is that real?” 

Rodney followed her gesture, to where Elizabeth’s left wrist was exposed.  Upon it, her leather wristwatch, the face turned upside down, as she’d always worn it.  He didn’t remember her wearing that the day of the mission, but she rarely took it off.  It hadn’t been among the things they’d sent back to Earth.  He checked his datapad.  

“It’s composite material,” he said.  His eyes met Teyla’s.  “It’s real.” 

Teyla looked over at John.  “We did not find her wristwatch.” 

There was an explosion from behind them, and Rodney, unprepared for the aftershock, tumbled to the ground, reaching out frantically to cradle Teyla’s datapad to make sure he didn’t lose another.  

“We don’t have time for this,” John said, regaining his balance and reaching into his pack.  “We are not going to waste our time speculating on what we’ve speculated on before.  There’s no way we can find out the truth now, so as far as I’m concerned, we only have one option.” 

“You’re right,” Rodney replied, standing.   “We have to take her with us.” 

John sighed heavily, taking a moment before looking Rodney in the eye.  “’It’, McKay.  It!  It’s not a ‘her’, it’s an ‘it’.  And we don’t have a way to protect ourselves if it goes rogue on us!  We don’t have ARGs, and guns are—” 

“They would not be useless!  Look, she’s got organic material.  That stasis pod was not built to sustain nanites—they don’t need it!  The only reason to have her stored in a stasis pod is if she’s primarily human.  Which, according to ALL the data, she is!” 

“I don’t have time to argue with you, McKay.  We cannot wake it up and that’s final.  We've gotta seal the cave and get the hell out of here.” 

“And what about Elizabeth?” 

Sheppard looked at him in confusion.  “What?” 

“Elizabeth…you know, the FRAN version?  She risked her life to get us this information so the Wraith wouldn’t get their hands on her…it.  Do you really think she would put us in danger?” 

“She did the last time,” Sheppard retorted grimly.  “And you forget that this being a ruse on her part makes her, essentially, NOT trustworthy.” 

“We don’t know it was a ruse.  No one told her anything about this.  Don’t you think, that if it was a version of…herself…that she’d have known?” 

“We don’t know that.  These are Replicators, Rodney.”  He drew closer, lowering his voice.  “The one thing we do know is that they can never be trusted.” 

“Is that what you thought every time a replicator version of Elizabeth sacrificed herself to save us?” 

John froze, taken aback. 

“When she stayed on that jumper to make sure Oberoth’s ship fell for their trap?  Or when she walked through that gate into space?  Or when she ordered you to leave her behind on Asuras?” 

“Rodney,” Teyla said softly as Sheppard stared sharply at the ground, nostrils flaring. 

Rodney pointed a finger at the pod.  “We’ve abandoned her, left her behind more times than we should ever have allowed.   And look where it’s gotten us—right back to square one all over again!  We’re still here!   Only now—now maybe we can do something about it.” 

Ronon and Teyla watched anxiously as Sheppard studied him, his gaze fierce, but contemplative.  

“Look, all roads lead back to this one.  Whatever the Elizabeth in Atlantis was trying to warn us about, this one down here is the answer.  She’s the Primus.”  He moved closer to John.  “And if she is the real thing—I mean the real-real thing—are you really okay with letting her die, even if she is a risk?” 

John stared back, his expression softening.  “What do you think she’d say?” 

“Colonel, may I ask what exactly is taking so long?” interrupted Caldwell across the com.  “We can hold off the Hive just a few minutes more, but if you’re not out of there soon there isn’t much more we’ll be able to do.” 

“Almost done,” John said.  “I don’t have time to debate semantics with you, Rodney.  We’re going, it’s not, that’s final.” 

“I’m not going to leave her here,” Rodney murmured, taking a step towards the capsule.  Teyla and John both stared at him in surprise.  “I’m not.  So you can…you can just go without me.” 

“McKay’s right,” Ronon said suddenly.  Sheppard turned in surprise. 

“Ronon…” 

“Weir or not, we can’t just leave it here.  Whatever it is, it’s got nanites in it, and there’s no guarantee whatever is happening will destroy it completely if it’s in that pod-thing.  If the Wraith want it, they’ll find a way to preserve whatever’s left.” 

“He may be correct,” Teyla said, drawing closer to John.  “And if this is the real version of Elizabeth, I agree with Rodney, it would not be humane to leave her here to die this way, even if it would be her own wish.  It is not the way you do things.” 

Faced with three dissenting opinions, Sheppard frowned, turning back to the stasis pod. 

“She’s ninety-eight percent organic.  If she poses a threat, you can—” Rodney swallowed.  “You can shoot her.  It should kill her.” 

Sheppard looked back, his face registering a flash of concern before melting back into stoicism.  “And if it jumps our asses before we get the chance?” 

“That is a risk I believe we must take.”  Teyla sighed and glanced at the pod.  “And yet, this is a version of Elizabeth.  I do not sense that she will be an imminent threat.”  

John looked his group over, then raised his P-90.  “Fine.  Do it.”           

 

The group backed away from the pod, Ronon clicking his gun to stun mode as Rodney tapped away on his pad.  Slowly, the stasis pod began to dim as the system reacted to his commands. 

With a shudder, the entire thing went off.  

An immense crash near the front of the cave worked a tremor through the ground, knocking them all backwards.  One portion of the cave ceiling collapsed, swallowing them in a cloud of black dust.  

They staggered to their feet, flashlights circling chaotically. 

“Everybody okay?” Sheppard called out. 

“John?” 

The voice sent shivers up Rodney’s spine.  He’d believed he’d only hear it again in the recordings and records kept around Atlantis.  As the light on Sheppard’s P-90 skimmed to the middle of the room, where the stasis pod was, he turned towards it, holding his breath. 

Raising her hand against the light now shining in her eyes, Elizabeth stood in the container, a confused and worried expression on her very familiar face. 

“What’s going on?” 

 

--/-- 

 

I’m in hell. 

John clenched his jaw, trying to stave off the urge to feel anything as he kept his gun trained on the copy of Elizabeth that was now staring at him in concern. 

“John?” she begged again.  “What’s going on?” 

“That’s a damn good question,” he retorted.  The worry on her face grew as she noted the edge to his voice. 

Elizabeth had always been perceptive. 

Except that thing’s not Elizabeth.  Elizabeth Weir is dead. 

Keep telling yourself that. 

“Elizabeth, it is us,” Teyla broke in.  

“Teyla?”  Elizabeth frowned.  “What are you doing here?” 

Teyla shook her head confusedly.  “What do you mean?” 

“You stayed behind.  The power systems were failing…you were supposed to watch over the city while we went….”  Her eyes widened.  “Did it work?” 

“What do you mean?” 

“The city!  Did you save it?” 

“Save it?” 

“It was adrift—without power.  We were lost…” her voice trailed off as she observed their confusion.  “We were on Asuras.  And Oberoth…” 

His chest tightened as she paused, and the memories of the last moment he’d seen her—the real her—flashed through his mind.  He clenched his jaw, trying to keep a grip on his anger. 

“It worked,” Ronon answered for them.  Rodney glanced over at him as he kept his gun trained on her.  “We got the ZPM out.” 

“That’s enough,” John snapped. 

Elizabeth glanced over at him, surprised at his tone. 

“You outta know all this,” he said, flicking the P-90 in a gesture for her to move out of the pod.  “Whatever nanites you have in you have that history stored in them.” 

She slid out of the pod but kept close to the edge, keeping a careful distance from them.  “What history?” 

“Of what happened after.” 

“After?”  Her posture relaxed, her eyes widening in what appeared to be true confusion.  “I don’t remember.  The last thing I recall is seeing you…seeing you and Ronon escaping.  And Oberoth…” her hand fluttered up towards her head, giving John a pretty good idea of what she was referring to. 

They stared at her for a moment, silence filling the chamber.  Her hand dropped from her forehead, her expression fading from worried to resolute; a face John knew very, very well.  

Her mouth set in a determined line, she looked back up at him, and he found he could instantly sense what she was thinking.  A sliver of hope wildly and recklessly ran through him, that he could believe, just for a moment, that this was what they’d all like it to be. 

“I’m still a threat to you, aren’t I?” she asked seriously.  

“No, no you’re not!” Rodney interjected, glancing at John defiantly. 

 

“I still have active nanites, Rodney,” she replied, turning to McKay.  “That’s why you’re all being cautious.  And you should be.  If there is any chance they can corrupt me, or contact the Replicators…” 

“They can’t—won’t.  There is zero percent chance of that happening.  And he knows it.”  Rodney’s eyes flickered in his direction.  John threw him a nasty glare. 

Elizabeth caught it, her face drawing into a frown.  “You can’t know that for certain.  Oberoth’s reach is much further than you could ever imagine.” 

“Oberoth was destroyed,” Teyla explained.  “The Asuran Replicators are no longer a threat to this galaxy.” 

“What?  When did this happen?” 

“Two years ago,” Ronon replied. 

“Two years!” Elizabeth’s eyes jumped from Ronon to John, and for the first time her eyes traveled along the lines of his face, to the gray edging his temples; to Rodney’s slimmer waist and Teyla’s shortened hair.  “Two years?” 

Before anyone could answer, an explosion of terrific force rocked the terrain near the cave, sending shockwaves through the hollow chamber and knocking everyone to their feet.  Dust and debris fell in clumps to the earth. 

“We don’t have time for this,” John snapped, pulling to his feet and back into defensive stance.  “We gotta get back to the Jumper.  Rodney, is there any way to contain her?” 

“Contain her?”  Rodney made a face.  “She’s not a virus!” 

“You know what I mean!”  John said. 

“Whatever we’re going to do, we need to do it soon,” Ronon said.  “The Wraith are getting closer.” 

“Wraith?”  Elizabeth questioned.  At the looks on their faces she, inexplicably, smiled.   “You guys never could do anything the easy way.”  The smile disappeared as she bowed her head for a moment and nodded, then looked back up at John.  “Does the Daedalus have a PWARG on it?” 

“What?”  Rodney turned to him, hands splayed.  “You can’t do that!” 

Elizabeth’s forehead creased with worry as the tunnel leading towards the cavern entrance began to light up.  The sound of Wraith darts suddenly peppered the sky.  She turned back to Rodney and narrowed her eyes.  “You don’t have a choice.” 

“Colonel?”  Caldwell’s voice came brusquely through the Com.  “Colonel Sheppard?” 

“Yes, I do, I do because you’re no longer the head of the Expedition, and we don’t have to do what you command.” 

Elizabeth’s frowned in consternation as McKay raised his chin stubbornly.  She turned back to John, fixing him with a look he knew all too well.  “John…” 

He knew what he should do; what she was essentially ordering him to do and what his own good judgment was telling him to do.  But somewhere, in the back of his mind, were the memories of her loss; of the kidnapping of Teyla and finding Ronon dead in the Hive ship, of seeing Rodney slip away into mindlessness and being helpless to stop it.  Knowing those losses prevented him being anything other than a damn human, prevented him from staving off the fleeting hope that, for one moment, he could have everything back to the way it was before the original strike on Asuras. 

 He met her gaze again, clenching his jaw, and nodded.  “Let’s go.” 

“NO!  YOU DO NOT GET TO MAKE THIS DECISION AGAIN!” 

A tiny whine was the only warning they got before three laser blasts lit up the room, and Elizabeth collapsed to the floor, unconscious.  John and Rodney both looked at Ronon in surprise, who shrugged.  “We need to leave.” 

Teyla, standing beside Ronon, met John’s gaze in earnest.  “Her nanites were integrated into her system, were they not?  This should render her harmless and incapable of infecting us until we can get her into isolation on Atlantis.  We can decide what needs to be done then without sacrificing her now.” 

 

They stood in stunned silence until Rodney glanced at his datapad.  “She’s right.  I’m sensing no activity but they’re still keeping her alive.  That’s actually…brilliant.  Why didn’t I think of that?” 

Two explosions on the planet’s surface cracked the ceiling of the temple, exposing them to the thin light of the nearby sun.  

John turned, spurred into action, and flung up a hand towards the Athosian.  “Get to the Jumper; radio the Daedalus and tell them to have a containment unit ready.” 

He clipped his gun to his TAC vest, striding over to where Elizabeth lay.  Rodney moved towards him but he shook his head.  “Go with Teyla.” 

“But…” 

“I’m not going to ask twice.” 

McKay watched him as he slid his arms under Elizabeth’s arms and legs, taking a moment before hefting her up.  “You,” he said, nodding at Ronon as McKay broke for the door, “keep that thing trained on her at all times.” 

Elizabeth’s head lolled against his shoulder, and he slapped down a pang of regret at the twist this mission had taken.  He didn’t have time for sympathy. 

Ronon shadowed his elbow as another blow near the cave knocked them into the wall near the entrance.  Teyla’s head peered out from the back of the Jumper.  “The Daedalus is ready.” 

“Good.”  He deposited Elizabeth on one of the benches and raced to the pilot’s chair.  “Let’s get the hell off his rock.  Lorne, this is Sheppard.  Give us cover, we’re coming at you.” 

The Jumper shot from the ground as quickly as John could punch it.

 

--/--

 

Steven considered himself moderately fit, but even for someone like him, the news that Teyla Emmagan had reported added a little fuel to the fire, and he trotted through the ship and to the infirmary faster than he’d made that trek in years.  As he neared the entrance, he caught sight of Sheppard, standing with his hands on his hips, his head down and his expression one of consternation. 

The Colonel looked up as Steven approached, dropping a mask of emotionlessness over his features.  “Colonel.” 

“Colonel Sheppard?” 

Sheppard nodded and gestured with his head towards the infirmary windows. 

Steven drew up to them, where Rodney McKay was inside with a few staffers, all of them in biosuits.  On the table, strapped down, was, indeed, Elizabeth Weir. 

“I’ll be damned,” he murmured. 

“We may all be” was Sheppard’s muted response.  He was silent for a moment, then turned.  “We free and clear?” 

“The Wraith weren’t able to track us.  Doesn’t seem like they knew what we were up to.  But it appears they destroyed the temple you were in, which means whatever was storing her was more than likely lost.” 

“Peachy.  McKay’s gonna love that news.”  John sighed.  “We need to contact Atlantis.  Tell them to be prepared for this.” 

“And how, exactly, do we do that?  I don’t think there’s anything you can say at this point that would prepare them.” 

“Mention it’s buy one get one free day,” Sheppard retorted, a bitter humor in his tone.  “Tell them to prep isolation for another replicator.  This isn’t our first rodeo.” 

“Maybe not.  But it doesn’t seem that anyone’s learned their lesson where the Replicators are concerned.” 

“Guess we’ll find out,” Sheppard said, his eyes narrowed.  He took one last look at the slumbering form of Elizabeth Weir and walked away.  

 

--/-- 

 

Richard raised his hands to his head, rubbing his eyes for what felt like the twentieth time.  

Beside him, Sheppard stood stoically, arms crossed, face on the observation monitor, which displayed Jennifer Keller and Rodney McKay inside the Atlantis infirmary’s isolation room.  Richard highly doubted those two were the ones who were keeping the Colonel up and away from his quarters despite the hour and his need for some well-deserved rest. 

Elizabeth Weir lay unconscious on the infirmary gurney, leather straps binding her arms and legs to the rails of the bed.  It had been a precaution insisted upon by Sheppard and one Richard hadn’t argued with.  

The entire revelation still had his head spinning:  Elizabeth Weir, alive.  Again.  Elizabeth Weir, as she had looked when she was the leader of the expedition to Atlantis. 

Elizabeth Weir, the Primus. 

Sheppard had reported all of this in a very businesslike manner, very unlike his typically nonchalant self and very much like the serious second-in-command he’d seemed to feel the need to be following the betrayal of the Genii. 

Perhaps this was a good thing; Sheppard’s superiors at the SGC had had little to snark on regarding his behavior in the last few months.   But his reaction here seemed to go way beyond the desire to stick to military protocol.  Sheppard seemed to take the Replicators’ many attempts at reviving Elizabeth personally and had developed a defensive mechanism towards them that bordered on ruthlessness. 

Daedalus make it off okay?” Sheppard asked suddenly, his eyes not leaving the figure on the bed.  Richard jumped a little. 

“Ah, yes.  Colonel Caldwell really didn’t want to, given this…development, but they have their orders.  Once they’ve completed their mission for the SGC they’re making a beeline back to Atlantis, but he’s respected our right to handle this internally for the time being.” 

“I bet,” John murmured, his expression souring. 

The figure on the bed stirred, and Richard stiffened, especially as Keller took an instinctive step forward towards her patient.  McKay’s hand shot out to stop her, tapping as best he could with the biosuit gloves and took a reading.  

“The nanites are dormant in her system,” McKay reported, as he released Keller.  “They’re not showing any signs of activity.  You can see from her current status that they’re not even active in a healing capacity.” 

“That doesn’t mean they can’t infect her,” John replied, through the com system.  “Tell Keller to watch it.” 

McKay sighed audibly but said nothing more.  He’d made it very clear, as had Teyla, that they were willing to trust the data surrounding this replicator version, at least more so than Sheppard was.  Data that, on the surface, indicated this version might not be a ‘version’ at all, and when coupled with the apparent conversation they’d had with her on the moon, made her being what she appeared to be a very real possibility. 

Richard sided with Sheppard on that point.  Not until he knew more was he willing to trust such a guess. 

Keller moved to the bedside and adjusted some of the fluid feeding through the IV tube.  One of the things Keller had been able to determine with certainty was that this version of Elizabeth needed real sustenance, like any human.  It also seemed clear, as Rodney had mentioned, that she needed to heal like one as well.  Cuts and bruises, incurred from the debris that rained down on them during the Wraith attack, still marred her skin.  She was human enough, just not wholly. 

The figure on the bed stirred once more and her eyelids fluttered. 

Keller took a step back as Elizabeth fully opened her eyes, swallowed slowly, then squinted in reflex against the harsh lights of the room.  As she tilted her head, her gaze came to focus on the small figure in the biosuit standing next to her.  

She jerked into awareness, her arms and legs pulling towards her stomach and meeting rather forcefully with the restraints.  She struggled for a moment, looking scared and uncertain, until Jennifer’s soothing voice came over the speaker. 

“Elizabeth.  It’s me.  Jennifer Keller.  Calm down.” 

Elizabeth stopped yanking at the restraints, staring through the visor of the suit.  “Doctor Keller?” 

“Yes.  It’s me.” 

“Where am I?” 

“You’re in the infirmary.  In Atlantis.” 

Elizabeth stared at her in surprise.  “You brought me to Atlantis?” 

“Yep.  Welcome back.  Or maybe I should say, welcome home?” 

“Home?!”  Elizabeth narrowed her eyes.  “Why on Earth…who authorized this?” 

“Authorized?”  Jennifer echoed in confusion.  “The restraints are just a precaution…I’m sure once Rodney has…” 

“I’m not talking about these,” Elizabeth replied, yanking at the cuffs.  “Why was I brought back to Atlantis?  You know how dangerous my being here is to the City!  I could compromise the safety of everyone on this base!”  

Jennifer glanced back up at the cameras, and Elizabeth followed her gaze.  

“Who’s in charge now?  This can’t have been a military decision.” 

Sheppard’s hands dropped to his hips, and he lowered his head, shifting uncomfortably on his feet.  

“Woolsey allowed us to bring you in after I did a full scan and determined you were safe to be brought into the City,” Rodney replied.  “And by the way, it’s really great to see you again, Elizabeth.” 

“This isn’t a joke, Rodney.”  Elizabeth frowned in his direction.  “If you wanted to help me, you should have helped keep the City safe.” 

“The City is perfectly safe,” Rodney snapped back. 

Elizabeth let her head fall back on the pillows, only to lift it again a few seconds later.  “Did you say Woolsey?  As in Richard Woolsey?” 

“Yes.  He’s the new you.  So to speak.” 

It took a moment for Elizabeth to digest this information.  She resumed staring at the ceiling, shaking her head. 

“He was here during the Replicator occupation last year,” she murmured finally.  “He really ought to have known better.” 

Richard glanced at Sheppard, who was now doing a terrible job of concealing a smirk.  Despite coming at his own expense, Richard was almost glad to see it—it was one of the first smiles Sheppard had cracked in months.  

“How long am I going to be here?” Elizabeth asked. 

“We’re going to run some more tests,” McKay said.  “Make sure your nanites really are dormant.  I haven’t been able to scan much, but the failsafes I programmed into them are still functioning.” 

“I overrode those failsafes, Rodney,” Elizabeth replied.  “And the kill switch you tried to activate.” 

McKay paused his typing, one gloved finger raised.  “How did you know I’d…” 

“I felt when you sent the command.  I could sense something changing and I fought it.”  She tilted her head toward him.  “Your failsafes, everything you were doing to contain them—contain me—they don’t work.  The only thing controlling the nanites inside me is me.” 

“Well, you know what?  I’m okay with that,” Rodney replied, returning to his computer tablet.  “Because you’re you, whether you believe that or not.” 

“You can’t be sure, Rodney.  With the Replicators you can never be sure.  And I know I’m not the only one who believes that,” Elizabeth said.  

Sheppard’s sour expression had returned.  “I’ll be back,” he murmured. 

“Where are you going?”  Richard asked. 

“To share the good news.” 

 

--/--

 

The Marines guarding the isolation room nodded at John as he marched up to them.  

“She said anything?” he asked.  They both shook their heads in response and parted slightly to let him pass. 

The bright flash of white, situated in the usual spot, caught his eye, and he walked over towards the Replicator Elizabeth, who was seated primly in her chair, turning in his direction as he drew closer. 

She tilted her head curiously as he averted his gaze away from her.  “You’ve returned.” 

“Yep.” 

“The mission was successful?” 

“I guess you could say that.”  He leaned against the chair across from her, mindful of the pistol strapped to his leg.  She studied his face, her bright green eyes searching his expression for a hint of what he was thinking.  

“You found the Primus.” 

“What we found…was you.” 

Her expression crumpled into confusion.  “What?” 

“We found a copy of you.  Or rather, the you before…you.”  He gestured towards her petite, dark-haired form. 

“Is it a clone?” 

He frowned.  “From what McKay can tell, no.  There are nanites, but there is also organic material.  Kinda like you were before.” 

“Before I was captured, you mean?”  Elizabeth frowned, standing up and pacing, her hands twisting together.  “In my original body?  That can’t be.  This must be some sort of ruse.” 

“’S possible.  Then again, you could be the ruse.”  

“No.”  Her tone was firm, almost angry.  “I was assimilated.  I remember being assimilated.”  

John kept his expression carefully neutral and flipped the chair around to straddle it.   “Maybe you remember what happened to you.  But according to this version, so does she.  And she’s got the proof to back it up.” 

She looked at him, her sharp green eyes boring into his.  There was a familiar fire in them, just for a moment, before it died away and was replaced by the logic and coolness this ‘version’ of Elizabeth had come to embrace. 

“Now what I’m curious about is how a version—any version—of you ended up in a place that was supposedly not even known to the Ancients.  At least not the ones on Atlantis.  A place that was located in your body’s base code.”  

“I’m not sure,” she said after a moment, returning to her seat and facing him.  “The code used by Rodney was based upon Niam.  He was built by the original Replicators.  Maybe Oberoth knew of the location of the Primus, recovered the original Primus, and replaced it with a copy of…me.” 

“If that was the case, then what happened to the original Primus?” 

“I’m not sure.”  She glanced down at her fingers.  “I suppose this is a good thing, in a way.  If Oberoth took the weapon, then you no longer have to worry about the Wraith getting their hands on it.  It would have been destroyed with Asuras.”  

“Unless it wasn’t.” 

She looked up at him then, her forehead creasing in concern.  “You think I had something to do with this?” 

“I dunno.  You’re the one in the replicator body.” 

“John, I can’t alter my own code!”  She almost laughed in consternation.  “Rodney made sure of that—there are failsafes.” 

“You know, someone else, ironically, just mentioned that the funny thing about failsafes is that they can be overridden.”  He drew himself slowly out of the chair.  “Pretty easily, in some cases.” 

Her eyes narrowed.  “Not in this case.  Believe me, if I could find a way out of this body, I would.” 

He raised an eyebrow.  She frowned at his implication. 

“Do you think I enjoy looking like this?  Not trusted by anyone because of my appearance?  Because of what happened last time?  John…” 

She rose, stepping towards him so quickly her hair flew out behind her.  He backpedaled instinctively, and she stopped, the intensity of her expression melting into meekness.  

“I’m sorry.”  She returned to her seat, toying with her fingers once more, and stared at the wall. “The only thing I can ask is, if this ‘version’ of Elizabeth looks like the real me, then why do I remember everything that happened to me, from the moment Oberoth and the Replicators captured me?  I remember escaping, I remember uploading myself to subspace.  And everything before.  All my memories from before.” 

She didn’t elaborate and she didn’t need to.  He swallowed and let his gaze drift to the wall. 

“If I’m not the original,” she continued, “then why does it feel like I am?” 

He sighed, feeling a tinge of remorse as he remembered the story she’d told him before he left.  “I don’t know.  But the other Elizabeth asked sorta the same thing.” 

Her gaze remained on the wall.  “So which one of us is right?” 

“Good question.”  He turned and headed for the door. 

“But not the right question, is it?”  

Her inquiry stopped him and he glanced back at her.  There was a smirk on her face.  

He returned the smirk, knowing suddenly, as he had so often in the past, exactly what she was thinking.  

Not which one of you is right.  Which one of you is wrong.

 

--/-- 

 

“All scans show the exact same thing that I initially assessed when we found her.  She’s composed of the same organic-to-nanite ratio as the original Elizabeth.  The one that was taken.  By all indications, she’s the real thing.” 

Rodney sat back, stylus tapping upon his datapad, and took in the faces of the group gathered around the conference table.  “The real-real thing.” 

John sighed angrily.  “Will you stop saying that?  There is no way to guarantee the ‘real-real’ thing.” 

McKay turned to him.  “Maybe not one-hundred percent, but given everything we’ve seen, I’d say it’s pretty difficult to replicate these numbers.” 

“I’d also have said it was pretty difficult to replicate Elizabeth, but the Replicators seem to have managed that fairly efficiently,” remarked Richard.  “More than once.” 

That statement seemed to deflate Rodney’s balloon and he frowned.  “Okay, fine.  She’s not the real Elizabeth.  So let’s just destroy her, get it over with.” 

John frowned but said nothing, instead turning towards Richard.  “This does present a problem.” 

“Just one?” 

Sheppard ignored the sarcasm.  “If the Elizabeth McKay’s just scanned is real, what does that make the other one we’ve currently got locked up?” 

Rodney’s eyes widened, obviously not having considered that conundrum.  Richard raised a hand to his forehead, his skull pounding.  The round and round about which Elizabeth was what and how she could be real and what constituted real was more mind-bending than some of the cases he’d encountered during his life as a lawyer. 

“She is Elizabeth,” answered Teyla simply. 

The group turned to her, where she sat with a calm expression, poised and commanding.  Richard envied her, at least the confidence she seemed to exude. 

“And what makes you say that?” he asked. 

“When we first visited Asuras, one of the Replicators seeking Ascension made the argument that replicators themselves were not so different from humans, as far as the physical function of their forms.  In this case, should we presume that is true, then Elizabeth is no different from herself in any form, save her physical appearance.  No more than the clones of us were when we encountered them.” 

“But they were clones,” Rodney snorted.  “And I was very much me, thank you very much.” 

“Yes, you were,” John shot back.  Rodney glared at him. 

“And the other Rodney was not you?” Teyla pressed.  

“No, he was…DNA wise, he was me, he was just…not,” Rodney said.  

Teyla lifted an eyebrow.  

“He was still human,” Rodney retorted. 

“And both versions of Elizabeth have nanites, so neither is human,” Teyla argued back.  “And I did not believe you wanted her replicator origins to be considered.” 

“I don’t!”  Rodney said.  He settled into silence, though his fingers thrummed on the desk, and he glanced at Teyla as though trying to think of a retort. 

“If I may,” said Carson, startling Richard a little.  He’d forgotten the doctor was in the room. 

“Of anyone here, I might be able to understand best what Elizabeth is feeling at the moment,” he said.  “I can assure you, trying to understand which is ‘real’ and which is a copy isn’t going to work.  All it will do is serve to upset more than one person.  Elizabeth—two versions, in this case—is here and that’s what matters.” 

“Carson’s right,” Keller said.  “As far as logic is concerned, how she got here is a no-brainer.  She was infected with nanites and Oberoth made copies.  We already knew this had happened long before we ended up at today.  So the chances of running into more than one Elizabeth at the same time weren’t exactly impossible.” 

She leaned forward on the table.  “Since they came from the memories of the same person, as Teyla said, the simple answer is they’re both her.  We’ll have to consider them both Elizabeth for now and treat them accordingly.” 

“That sounds simple,” said Ronon, with a tinge of sarcasm. 

“Theoretical conundrums aside, the more pressing matter is what do we do about it?“ Richard asked.  “Elizabeth or not, neither one can roam the city freely.” 

“Human Weir—old Elizabeth, the mostly human one—gets the isolation room for now,” Sheppard said.  “Of the two, being mostly organic, she’s least likely to harness her abilities to get out.  The FRAN-Elizabeth...” 

“FRAN-Elizabeth?” queried Richard in surprise. 

Sheppard made a face.  “We can’t call them both Elizabeth.  It’ll get confusing.” 

“Too late,” murmured Ronon. 

“What about simplifying, just calling her Franib—“ started Rodney. 

No.” Sheppard snapped. 

Richard continued before Rodney could.  “Where are we going to situate her?” 

“For right now?  The best place would be the brig,” answered Sheppard.  

“Brig?  We’ve trusted her this far,” Rodney remarked.  “And now you want to lock her up?  Why not keep one of them in infirmary isolation?” 

“It’s not well enough guarded,” Sheppard replied.  “Not to mention she’s got capabilities that go well beyond that of even a nanite-infected human.” 

“And so we’re back to your vaguely based general assumption that her being a Replicator means she’s essentially not trustworthy?” snipped McKay. 

“Rodney,” Richard said, fixing the scientist with a chastising look.  “Whether we’ll ever be able to determine whether they both are or aren’t Elizabeth Weir, the one thing we are able to determine is that they both still have the potential to be dangerous.  Until we can figure out exactly how the Primus got in the Replicator version’s programming, and how the Weir version ended up at the location it listed, I agree with Colonel Sheppard,” Richard said.  “She may be a version of Doctor Weir, but there are still unanswered questions here.  If she truly is Elizabeth, she’ll understand.” 

The group, some reluctantly, nodded.  As they rose and retreated, Sheppard approached him. 

“We’re gonna have to let the SGC know about this,” he whispered, out of the hearing of the rest of the group. 

Richard nodded.  “I know.  I’m just trying to figure out exactly what to tell them that won’t send the entire Milky Way into panic mode.” 

Sheppard shrugged.  “General O’Neill was always supportive of Elizabeth.  I’m sure he won’t mind two.  Maybe he’ll want to keep one.” 

Richard stared at John in surprise, who cleared his throat and assumed a serious expression.  “I suppose you can tell them the truth.” 

“That’s exactly what I don’t want to do,” Richard said.  “Something tells me that two versions of Elizabeth Weir will push even General O’Neill’s broad-acceptance policy.”  

“Do we have a choice?” John queried.  “This isn’t something we can exactly keep under our hats.” 

Richard sighed.  “No.  We don’t.” 

John clapped Richard on the shoulder and walked past, his normally erect posture slumped a little.  Though he was trying, Richard got the sense that everything going on at the moment was unraveling the Colonel’s normally unshakeable persona.  The comment about Elizabeth, no matter how flippant it was meant to be, was not a typical John Sheppard response even at his most sarcastic. 

He just hoped the breaking point wasn’t at a moment when they needed him most. 

As he walked out across the balcony, he paused at the landing, remembering something Kate Heightmeyer had brought up a few days ago.  It may be time to put that advice to good use.

 

--/-- 

 

Teyla entered the darker, more sheltered quarters of the Atlantis confinement area, the memories of the last time she was here, to face Todd, being recalled most unexpectedly.  And most unpleasantly. 

Her visit today was much less dangerous—and much less covert—but it was still disconcerting.  

Elizabeth, in Replicator form, was seated on a bench in her confinement chamber, staring at the ceiling.  She turned as Teyla drew near and rose with a smile. 

“Hello Elizabeth,” Teyla said, smiling as encouragingly as she could.  “I am sorry you have been confined in this way.” 

“No need to apologize,” said Elizabeth.  “I certainly understand the precaution.  Hazard, I suppose, of the, uh, form.”  She waved a hand as though indicating a problem with it.  

“Rodney assures us that as soon as he can figure out more about the Primus, you will be among the first to know.” 

“Has John agreed to that?” 

Teyla’s smile faded.  “I know this has been difficult.” 

“It’s not been difficult.  It’s been…different.”   The Replicator returned to her seated position.  “I feel different and not just because I look this way.  Too many things have changed.” 

“Do not say that.”  Teyla drew near the bars.  “You are still the same person, Elizabeth.  Your experiences have altered you, perhaps, but at the heart of who you are is the same woman who welcomed me and my people so warmly into your home.  At great risk to many.  You must not forget that.” 

Elizabeth glanced up from staring at her fingers and smiled.  “Do you really believe that?” 

“I would not be down here if I was not certain of it.”   

“Thank you.  I wish others—” she dropped her gaze once more.  “No, I understand their reasons, I truly do.  I can’t say I blame them.” 

“You must give them time.” 

“Time.”  She shook her head.  “Time won’t matter.  If what I understand is true, the Elizabeth you found in the Primus location—she is me.  The real me.” 

“We do not know that.  Rodney is merely speculating based on data readings.  He has no way to be certain.” 

“Maybe.”  Elizabeth looked up at her, the strength of her gaze boring into Teyla’s with a fierce intensity.  “But so long as she is alive and in my original body, I am never going to have the opportunity to prove otherwise, will I?  I will always be half of what I am.” 

Teyla looked away, feeling a little bothered by the intensity of this Elizabeth’s concern and trying to think of an appropriate response.  But as she recalled the conversation from the moon, with the Elizabeth they had found in the Primus capsule, she found she could not deny part of what this Elizabeth said. 

“You must have faith in your friends, Elizabeth,” she finally replied.  “You are what you are, and they will find a way to trust you, no matter what the circumstance.  So long as you trust them.” 

“Thank you, Teyla,” replied Elizabeth, though not sounding wholly convinced.  “I appreciate you taking the time to come and visit me.” 

“Whenever you need me, I am here,” Teyla replied.  The Replicator nodded, then directed her attention back to the bars of the cell.  

Teyla watched her as she retreated into silence, feeling no less certain or comfortable than she had when she arrived.

 

--/--

 

Ronon rolled an empty test tube between his fingers, watching as Carson carefully measured out dropperfuls of some stuff that was apparently related to the contents of the genetic vial that the Pegasus Coalition had stolen.  Though he and Keller had managed to replicate the copies of the retrovirus they’d engineered, they were extremely cautious with every version they created. 

“You know,” Carson said, breaking into his thoughts, though the doctor’s attention was still on his dropper, “you don’t have to stay here all afternoon, Ronon.   I’m sure you have much more exciting things to do that watch me regenerate retroviruses.” 

“Not really.”  Ronon put the test tube down and leaned against the lab table. 

Carson looked up at him.  “I’m fine.  I promise.” 

Ronon remained where he was, watching. 

After another minute of that, Beckett looked over at him and smiled.  “Ronon, I know you’re concerned but I promise, I’m fine.  Whatever I said this morning, it was more in defense of what our Doctors Weir might be feeling, not because I believe that I don’t fit in here.” 

Ronon studied the doctor for a moment, then rose and tapped on the lab table.  “Okay.” 

The doctor gave him another smile, then turned back to his vials.  Ronon moved to leave but turned back towards him at the exit. 

“As far as I’m concerned, Doc, you’re you.  Never thought otherwise.” 

Ronon turned and walked through the door, leaving Beckett staring behind him in surprise.

 

--/-

 

The young Marine stationed outside the isolation room offered up a nod as John approached, waved one hand over the door controls and set up in position as the door slid open.  Poor guy was probably tired of acknowledging all the coming and going. 

There was no immediate threat, as John knew there wouldn’t be, so the kid relaxed back into sentry duty, his eyes following his CO through the door.  

They were all more than alert, more than curious.  It didn’t surprise him—they all knew Elizabeth Weir’s story and most had known her personally.  More than that, they’d respected her.  If there was a chance the person they’d seen being marched through the halls of Atlantis, wearing Elizabeth’s face, was the real thing… 

No, he told himself, I’m not gonna think that.  We’ve been fooled too many times before.  

The isolation room was only semi-lit and the table area was empty.  A memory flashed through his mind, of the first time he’d seen Mayel here, seated at the table with a disparate look on her face. 

He shoved the thought aside angrily and strode forward.  

The ‘human’ Weir wasn’t immediately visible; a quick scan found her curled up in the far corner, still dressed in hospital scrubs, hugging her knees to her chest.  It surprised him a little bit.  The replicator version of Elizabeth was always front and center, making good use of the chairs in the middle of the room.  Prim, almost proper, in her demeanor. 

This version… 

Elizabeth looked up, swallowing as she caught sight of him 

He offered up a bundle in his hands.  “Brought you something.” 

She pulled to her feet and moved into the light, her expression cautious.  He held out the clothes, a shirt and some trousers, which she took after a moment of hesitation. 

“Figured you’d want to get out of the hospital duds.” 

“Not really my color anymore, is it?” she murmured, holding up the red of the shirt. 

He smiled sheepishly.  “It was the only stuff I knew would fit.” 

“I’m surprised you still have them around.” 

“No need to ship Atlantis regulation back to Earth,” he replied. 

Her eyebrow arched slightly, knowing full well he was dodging the real answer to the real question, but she set the clothes on a chair and sighed.   “I’ll, um, wait until....” 

“Yeah.”  He shifted his weight uncomfortably. 

“Thanks.”  She settled down in a vacant chair, looking tired.  “Has Rodney made any more progress with the nanites in either version of…me?”  She couldn’t help herself and laughed softly.  “I can’t believe I’m even asking such a question.” 

“It is a little weird,” he replied, and she looked up at him incredulously.  “Okay, more than a little weird.” 

“Knowing there’s another Elizabeth out there—I guess I should have expected it, given what the Replicators can—could—do.  Still, it’s strange to know that I’m not the only version of ‘me’ in existence.” 

“Well, technically, you sort of are.  At least as far as versions that look like you.  The other one’s shorter.  Darker hair.” 

She managed a smile, along with a warning look.  “Don’t.” 

He couldn’t help himself and grinned back.  “Well, if it helps any, I sorta know how you feel.” 

Her eyebrow arched and he frowned.  “We mentioned the clones, right?  That was, uh, you…too.” 

“Of course it was.”  She sighed as she looked up at him, her casual expression growing serious.   “Truthfully, though.  How do you feel about all of this, John?” 

The question was more personal than he’d been asked by anyone in a long while, and he sighed, mustering up as lighthearted a tone as he could manage.   “You know, Replicator threats, hidden Ancient weapons, friends, uh…anyways, routine for the—” 

“—the Pegasus, I know.  I’m being serious.” 

“So am I.”  

Her eyebrow arched again.  “You have two Replicator versions of a supposedly dead woman locked up in Atlantis.  What part of that, exactly, is routine, even for ‘the Pegasus’?” 

He stared at her, surprised by her bluntness.  Then again, Elizabeth had always preferred facing things head on.   “Well, I don’t suppose we would have imagined life-sucking aliens would be routine, either.” 

“Yeah, that’s the excuse you used the first year, too.”  She smirked again.  “Hasn’t changed much, I see.” 

“You wouldn’t be the one to know,” he immediately shot back, without thinking. 

Her smile faded and she glanced down at her hands.  When she looked back up again, the expression was all diplomat.  “No, I suppose I wouldn’t.  Thanks for the clothes, Colonel.  If I need anything else I’ll let you know.” 

The stance, the tone--that was a distancing maneuver, one she'd used quite effectively during her time as leader of the expedition to maintain objectivity.  He probably deserved the treatment, considering what he'd just said to her, but, oddly, he found he didn’t like it very much, even if he did question her trustworthiness at the moment.  

“You’re welcome.”  He paused in his walk to the door and turned back to her.   “Elizabeth.”  

Her eyes widened in surprise, and he nodded once at her before walking out. 

 

--/-- 

 

Richard studied the schematics Rodney had provided on the Weir they’d found in the Primus pod, trying to make some sense of the data that separated her from a true replicator.  None of it made much sense to Richard, but he felt more comfortable knowing someone had written something down and that it wasn’t just a theory hanging out in the air. 

“Sir?” 

A soft voice startled him out of study, and he looked up at Chuck, who was leaning just inside his doorway. 

“Sorry,” Richard apologized, pushing the datapad away from him.  “Did you need me for something, Chuck?" 

Chuck’s expression was troubled.  “There’s an unidentified ship that’s just appeared in the solar system.” 

“Are they heading for us?” 

“They’re moving rather slowly, sir, so it doesn’t appear so, but there’s something unusual about this ship.” 

“And what’s that?” 

“Well, sir, according to Amelia…” he paused, seeming rattled. 

Richard frowned, but said nothing and waited for him to complete his thought. 

“According to Amelia, the ship appeared to de-cloak after entering our short range.” 

“A Traveller’s ship?”  

“If she had to guess…” 

Banks walked up behind Chuck.  “Based on the readings, Mr. Woolsey, I would say it was a Hive.” 

“A Hive that can cloak?”  Richard was out from behind his desk in a second.  “Contact Colonel Sheppard.  Right now.”  

“Yes, sir,” said Chuck, scurrying back to his console.  

“A Hive that can cloak,” he repeated.  “Have the Wraith really advanced that far?” 

“Let’s hope not,” murmured Amelia.  “The bigger question may be what are they after?  Why are they here, now?” 

“If I had to harbor a guess?”  Richard gestured to one of the monitoring screens on a control room console, where the isolation room was pulled up.  Weir appeared after a moment, dressed in an Atlantis uniform.  “That.”

 

--/--

 

“How did it find us?” asked Rodney, studying the monitors.  Teyla observed that he, like everyone else, appeared shaken by the appearance of the mysterious, cloaking Hive. 

“Good question,” answered John, his expression grave.  “What’s the one thing Atlantis has now it didn’t have a few days ago?” 

Rodney glanced back at him.  “You think they want Elizabeth?” 

“The real-real one,” mocked John. 

“We do not know that it is tracking her specifically,” Teyla said, feeling irritated by the Colonel’s unrelenting skepticism.  

“Right.  It just randomly shows up days after we acquire a supposed ‘weapon’ they wanted to get their hands on.”  

“Can it find us?” Mr. Woolsey asked.  

“Not unless it’s got really good sensors,” Rodney replied.  “We’re fully cloaked and completely powered down.”  

“And yet it keeps coming.” 

“Yes, but look at how it’s coming,” said Amelia, pointing towards the screen.  She looked over at the group, her eyes meeting Ronon’s for just a moment, causing her to frown.  He shifted his weight and glanced away, though he kept his expression stoic. 

She caught the group waiting on her response and cleared her throat.  “It’s coming in at a slow pace.  If the point was to find, or attack, Atlantis, why did it de-cloak so far out?  I mean, it’s right there in the open for everyone to see.” 

“How far away is it?” Teyla asked. 

“Not too far,” Amelia replied.  “It should be within sight of the planet in a few hours.” 

“And yet…”  Teyla focused, trying to feel out for the familiar sensation.  She shook her head.  “I do not sense a Wraith Hive.” 

“Can you at this distance?” asked Rodney.  “It’s pretty far out.” 

“A Hive filled with Wraith?  I would sense something if it could be reached by Jumper in a relatively short time period.” 

“How about a Hive Light?” said John. 

“Hive Light?” 

“Y’know, like the one we found Frani,er,…FRAN version Weir on?” 

“It was a lesser sense of the Wraith,” Teyla replied slowly.  “But this feels different, though I cannot be sure until it is closer.” 

“I don’t think that would be prudent,” Mr. Woolsey said.  “I think the safest approach would be to fire upon the Hive as soon as it’s within range.” 

“Without finding out how it’s learned how to cloak?” said Rodney in a raised voice. 

“You wanna just drop in and pay them a visit, ask them how it works?”  asked John with a tilt of his head.  His tone seemed less serious than Teyla remembered in the recent past.  She felt almost humored by his expression. 

Rodney, apparently, did not.  “Of course not!” 

“Then how else do you propose we do that?” 

“Perhaps if we flew a cloaked Jumper near to it, we could get some scans of the ship.  It would also allow me to sense how many Wraith may be aboard,” said Teyla. 

Rodney pointed at her with a smile.  “That idea is a good idea.  You can take Zelenka.” 

“Zelenka?” 

“I’m still working on the repliWeir…problem…”  Rodney stuttered.  “One massive issue at a time.” 

“Colonel, are you willing to risk it?” asked Mr. Woolsey. 

John shrugged.  “I want a second Jumper as back-up, in case that thing really can track us.   But sure, what else do I have to do today?” 

 

Again there was something almost humorous in his tone that caused Teyla to regard him with surprise, but he smiled at them all and patted Ronon on the shoulder.  “Better suit up.  We leave in fifteen.”

 

>>> Part I to be concluded in Primum Movens, Part I, Chapter V

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