Chapter 1: In the Dark

It was by pure luck that they found her.

It had started out as a standard exploration mission, scout the planet and see if there were any locals and if they wanted to trade. The easiest mission in the book, or at least that was what they were expecting. Just an ordinary day out in the Pegasus Galaxy.

Except that it turned out to be rather extraordinary and quite frankly one of the happiest days the team had experienced in a long time. For today it was the day that they wound discover a lost friend that they believed to have perished.

They were walking aimlessly around in the forest just seeing if held any minerals or produce that would help feed the populace of Atlantis, when Rodney detected strange low levelled energy readings. Naturally they ventured in the direction he pointed, with Sheppard on point and Ronan bringing up the rear while Rodney talked Teyla's ear off in the middle.

It didn't take them long to discover a cave seemingly inconspicuous in its appearance. Then Rodney said he recognized the energy signature as Asurans but still no detection of any Replicators around.

"I thought they were all blown up." Ronan remarked dryly, leaning against the right hand entrance of the cave.

"They were." Rodney replied exasperatedly and sighed heavily as he clutched his weapon tighter to his chest. He was stood next to Ronan, who was looking at him disapprovingly and flipped his gun to the kill setting.

"Let's find out for definite, shall we?" Sheppard said from the left hand side of the entrance to the cave with Teyla at his side, who remained silent but nodded that she was ready whenever they were.

Weapons at the ready they cautiously entered the cave simultaneously and manoeuvred round the dank dark corners. Slowly the cave formation changed into the familiar design and architecture of the Asuran patterns and walls. Lights flickered on at their presence and the energy levels increased slightly as the facility slowly came back to life. Their uneasiness only grew when they continued to traverse the long corridor and encountered no sign of Replicators.

It was obvious that they were heading further and further underground, which explained why they had barely detected the energy signals in the first place. They were just starting to wonder if there was actually any end to the passageway when they spotted a closed door. They approached it, wary of what could be lurking on the other side.

"I'm not detecting any Replicators. Just a single life sign, very faint and the power output seems to be localised here too." Rodney read out from his little hand held scanner.

"A life sign? Who would possibly be down here?" Teyla asked incredulously and they all frowned when they could come up with no answer.

"Whoever it is, they're about to get a surprise." Ronan stated and flipped his gun back to stun mode and waited for Sheppard's signal.

"Let's go say hello." Sheppard remarked and waved his hand over the door control and walked through to the greatest surprise of all.

The room was roughly the same size of the Gate room, but it was dimly lit and the colours were more dark blue and purple than the bright fluorescents they were used to. The room was packed with machines that appeared to be some form of data servers and dozens of thick wires ran from each one, littering the floor in a jumbled mess. They were intricately woven through each other, connecting to various other machines but some lead to the very centre of the room.

The team couldn't believe their eyes. There in the middle was a chamber that resembled the status chambers they had discovered in the city. But it was what was contained in it that had them all stopped in their tracks, all normal thought process out of the proverbial window.

She appeared to be unharmed, merely asleep and she looked exactly the same as she did the last time they saw her. She was wearing the same clothes, the dark grey/navy blue uniform that she had put of haphazardly when they went to their mission. It felt like an eternity since they had all last seen her face when it had only been just over a year.

"Elizabeth..." Sheppard's voice whispered as if he was saying a prayer. His brows furrowed and a million emotions on slaughtered his body, completely unprepared at the very sight of her.

"But-but-but- They said she was dead!" Rodney exclaimed hysterically and started frantically searching the various computers and machines, trying to verify that it was indeed their friend how to disconnect her.

"They must have lied." Teyla's voice was gentle but it sounded as though it could break at any moment, such as they joy was at finding Elizabeth.

"Unless it's not really her." Ronan suggested and lowered his gun if only by a margin. When the three of them just looked at him in disbelief he added "It wouldn't be the first we came across a copy." He shrugged hopping that it would somehow alleviate their shock at his suggestion.

"Copy or not, it's Elizabeth and we need to get her home. I'll be damned if we just leave her again." Sheppard's voice raised an octave or more, clearly showing that the decision had been made.

"Ok, so I think I can disconnect her, plus I believe I can download the data on what exactly this place is." Rodney said as his fingers started tapping away hurriedly onto the computer interface. "You might want to catch her; I don't think it's going to be gentle." He offered as he pressed the release command.

The chamber started to hiss and smoke and fumes vented out into the room as it unlocked the hatch. It didn't take long for the lights in the chamber to switch off completely and the glass frame swung to one side.

Sheppard reacted instantly, unclasping his P-90 and handing to Teyla before taking the few steps quickly to stand in front of Elizabeth and catch her in his arms as she slumped unconsciously forward. John had to go down on his knees to wrap one arms around her waist tightly, pressing her against him.

"I've got you." He spoke gently even though he knew she couldn't hear him. Using his other hand he pressed two fingers to her neck and sighed with relief when he felt a steady rhythm beat underneath. Then he placed his free hand under her knees and stood up, holding her bridal style, and making sure her head rested comfortably in his shoulder.

"We've got her." Teyla remedied as she smiled softly and handed his weapon for Ronan to dual wield along with his pistol.

"Hopefully with this, we can find out what happened to her." Rodney added as he finished downloading the data and input the commands to shut down the facility.

"In the meantime, let's take her home."

A/N: Yes I know, I've started another story but I just couldn't help myself! As usual it's focused on Elizabeth as she's my favourite. Please let me know what you think, it's deeply appreciated.