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"How enormous?" John could see something on the horizon, a shape too regular to be part of the low mountains. He squinted, trying to make it out. Then the jumper's sensors picked it up, creating a three-dimensional shape in the HUD. Teyla leaned forward, staring intently at the image. According to the sensors, it was a round structure, open in the middle, with a flat roof. It looked like nothing so much as a big stadium, at least a 100,000 seater. John said, "This enormous?"

Everybody was staring at the HUD now. The jumper wasn't finding any life signs, just the power signatures that were making the scientists frisky.

"Get closer," Rodney whispered.

John gained a little altitude and dropped a lot of speed, approaching cautiously. They could clearly see the dark stone walls now, indigo like the city on the other moon, streaked with the red dust. The building wasn't featureless, there were lines and squares embossed in it in abstract patterns that were probably just decoration, but there were no windows on this outside wall. Moving slower still, John took the jumper up over the roof.

The open well in the center of the building was big enough to accommodate at least two football fields. Inside it was a giant silver ring, framing… something. An enemy field, John thought, baffled. It was black and oddly mottled as energy fluctuated across it. "What the hell?" he said aloud. There was pavement around the outer ring and a few other structures standing out from the main building. He knew what it looked like, but it couldn't be.

Startled, Teyla said, "Is that some sort of-"

"A giant Stargate," Rodney finished, sounding caught somewhere between awe and pure avarice. "It could be. That energy field-"

"If it's a `gate, it's active." John looked from the energy readings the HUD was displaying to the dark fluid surface. How the hell can it be active?

"A ship nearly the size of the Daedalus could pass through it," Teyla said, fascinated. "Surely that must be its purpose, to transport large ships."

Zelenka waved a hand wildly. "Yes, yes, it has to be for large transports, probably without hyperdrives, to send them to-"

"Yeah, right, but why is it active?" John thought that was the important point right now. "Who the hell dialed it?" There were still no life signs, so whoever had activated it had to be on the other end of the wormhole.

Rodney shook his head. "It's been active intermittently for the past week, or we wouldn't have detected-When we found the crystal relay chamber, that might have triggered some sort of automatic-But the intermittent activity suggests-" He stared out the port, his expression turning fraught. "We're cloaked, right?"

"Yes," John said, drawing out the word and giving Rodney a look.

Rodney nodded to himself, his face uneasy. "Then we should be fine. Try to get down a little closer."

Keeping one eye on the HUD, and wondering at Rodney's definition of "fine," John brought the jumper in low over the roof, following the curve around. There was no way in hell he was going to take them over the giant wormhole, if that was what it was.

The ring itself was thick, maybe as wide as a boxcar, but it was bare of any symbols. "I do not see chevrons, or `gate symbols along the rim. How does it dial?" Teyla wondered, echoing John's thought. "It must be completely different from-"

The field rippled as if a wave had crossed it, silver edging the black. Interference suddenly fuzzed out the HUD, leaving only an Ancient blinking error message. Rodney's fingers dug into John's shoulder, almost to the bone, and he gasped, "Go, go, go, now, get away from it-"

The jumper was already swerving up and away, responding to Rodney's urgency and John's startled thought, even before John could give it a new heading with the physical controls. Then John heard a rumble reverberate through the jumper's metal and the readouts went crazy. Suddenly an explosive concussion hit them like a giant hand; the jumper shivered and John fought the controls.

The jumper spun sideways then end over end. The inertial dampeners didn't go out, but the view flipped crazily in the port, the ground changing place with the sky. John heard the collective gasp, but the rumble was already dying away. He felt the yoke ease up and brought them smoothly out of the spin, taking them up and away into the upper atmosphere.

John let his breath out, feeling sweat break out all over his body. He looked back at the others. Teyla was gripping the arms of her chair, Rodney's hands had left permanent dents in John's shoulders, Zelenka looked faint and was holding hands with a very pale Miko. Ronon just looked impressed, but he was gripping the hatchway tightly. John said, "Everybody okay?"

"We were upside down," Zelenka said weakly. Miko patted his arm.

"I think we are well." Teyla looked up at Rodney, her brow furrowed in concern. "What was that?"

John twisted around to see that Rodney's face was white with shock. Rodney's throat worked and he said, "It's unstable. That sensor spike, right before the blast-It's not a Stargate."

Miko stared at him blankly, then gasped in horror. Zelenka took a sharp breath, shaking his head, saying, "No, no, Rodney, it cannot be."

Teyla threw a bewildered look at John, and he shook his head. He didn't have a clue. His first impulse had been to make a "that's no moon, that's a space station" joke, but he didn't think anybody would appreciate it at the moment.

Rodney stepped back over to his seat, bringing up a screen on the laptop there. "Look at the readings," he grated out. "They're distorted because of the intermittent power source, the instability, the energy bursts-That's why we couldn't find the damn power source, it doesn't need one! It's drawing it off subspace; it is the power source! That's why it's up here and the city and the `gate are on the other moon, why the jumper port is kilometers away!"

"Okay," John said warily. "What is it?"

Rodney said, "It's a Quantum Mirror."

Chapter two

They needed a place to land so they could run a systems check and they needed to make a transmission to base camp, so John took the jumper back to the spaceport dome. It was far enough away to shield them from any discharges the Mirror might make, and he felt a pressing need to find a bolt-hole at the moment, even if it was just a powerless Ancient port with a broken roof.

Teyla and Ronon hadn't had the benefit of reading the SGC reports about the more portable-sized Quantum Mirror discovered in the Milky Way, so Rodney launched into an explanation. The Mirror could access a huge number of other realities, all alternate versions of this one. They could run into Atlantises that had been destroyed by the Wraith, or that had collapsed from explosive decompression on the bottom of the ocean, and those were just the good options. There was also the strong possibility they would run into realities where the Wraith had taken the city and forced the expedition to reveal the location of Earth, or where Atlantis and then Pegasus had been colonized by the slave population of a Goa'uld-controlled Milky Way. Rodney went on and on, coming up with one horrific scenario after another, until Miko looked sick, Zelenka pale, Teyla was wide-eyed with dismay, and Ronon just looked like he thought they were all insane. As the domes of the deserted spaceport appeared in the jumper's port, John finally shouted, "Rodney, stop, we get it! Going through the Mirror is asking to be screwed! We'll all be evil and you'll have a beard! Now calm down!"

"I just want to make certain everyone completely understands the unimaginable danger!" Rodney shouted back, red-faced and upset.

Teyla leaned across the cockpit to squeeze his arm soothingly. "It is all right, we understand."

"Yes, Dr. McKay, we do," Miko told him gently. "Do you need an aspirin?"

"Dammit, no, I don't need an-All right, give me the damn things," Rodney grumbled, grudgingly accepting the tablets and a water bottle.