“Unscheduled off world activation. Unscheduled off world activation!”
Despite having been in command of the SGC for just over a year, General James Balok knew he was never going to get used to hearing those words sung out several times a week. He also didn’t think he was going to get used to a job that literally was on the front lines of a war that stretched farther than any other war in the history of Earth. It didn’t seem matter that his command post was buried over a mile under a mountain, once the StarGate opened every person on the base was on the front lines. Counting back in his head he realized that since he had taken over the top position he had been shot at, chased, zatted and stabbed. All of which, he had been told, were minor events compared to what had had happened to the last three Generals to hold this post.
Taking a series of deep breaths as he moved from his office to the control room, Balok tried to act like this was all normal and expected, “Sergeant, what do we have?”
“Sir, we are receiving an IDC that has been locked out of the system. It belongs to Colonel Caldwell, sir.”
“Is the wormhole coming from Pegasus?” the General asked.
Shaking his head in negation, the Gateroom Master Sergeant disagreed. “No sir. It is a seven symbol address and we received a transmission with the IDC. That is being reviewed at this time.”
By now Balok knew the drill and walked over to the computer connected to the in house communications array. Reading over the shoulder of the tech assigned to the duty station, he managed to find the relevant information. Caldwell was on Cimmeria?
“Sergeant Harriman, why would Caldwell be on Cimmeria?” and really, it wasn’t like the people here didn’t know that he was still overwhelmed, so asking for help wasn’t going to make him loose that much face.
“That’s the world that houses Thor’s Hammer, General. And it has been a ‘safe’ address for SG teams to go to since SG-1 found it and made friends with the inhabitants there. Plus there’s a cache with food, water, radios, medical supplies, several zats, guns and ammunition. There are caches like that scattered throughout the network,” the answer was respectful, informative and yet still felt like the personnel in the control room were tolerating him.
Balok tried not to take the whole thing personally, but he knew that he wasn’t wanted at the SGC, knew that most of the personnel wanted the old command staff back. The reasons were varied, but the thread of distrust, of subtle disrespect colored every interaction that he had with all the long-time SGC staff. And to be honest he knew why. The turnover from the old-guard SGC to the new had been abrupt and unwelcome in the extreme. Add in the change in the mandate they operated under and even Earth’s allies were starting to react adversely. Balok also knew that his interpretation with his orders had not garnered him any friends at his new command, but he really couldn’t find it in him to care all that much. His orders were too important to the safety of Earth for him to worry about what a few aliens thought.
“Sergeant, get a MALP prepped and ready on the ramp. Then get SG teams 2 and 3 together and send them through to Cimmeria. I want definitive proof that this isn’t some sort of a trick. Make sure there are medical teams standing by in the Gate room for the trip out in case this is on the level and the numbers of wounded are correct. Let Colonel Reynolds know that their deployment is up to him. I’ll be working in my office, so let me know when they report back,” and turning on his heel, Balok headed back up the stairs to his office. Staying in the command room wouldn’t get him the answers any faster. And staying where he was so very obviously not wanted made him uncomfortable.
01010101 01101110 01101011 01101110 01101111 01110111 01101110 00100000 01101001 01101101 01110000 01110101 01110100…
Immersed in a sea of limitless data, calm, detached. Monitoring the flow of power from the potenta to the Astrum veho, adjusting to fit the conditions surrounding the Civitas.
Analog data was being aimed at the organic interface. Processing data. Verbal cue. Name.
“John, you need to come back.”
New ripples and currents disturbed the data. The organic interface was detaching itself from the stream.
“John, it’s time to come back from where ever you are. Open your eyes and look at me.”
Pressure applied to upper quadrant of the organic interface. Shoulder. Optics online and image processed. Human. Male. Friend. Disconnect Complete.
“Well that is a sight I never thought I would be able to see.”
“Jon, we’ve both been in space how many times?”
Snorting softly at the thought of how in space ‘he’ had actually been, Jon looked at his best friend. “Not like this Danny. We are standing on a balcony on Atlantis and looking out at the stars with only a shield between us and space. How cool is that?”
Walking over to stand shoulder to shoulder with Jon, Daniel looked out over the City and beyond it to the sweep of a dark sky full of stars. “You’re right. We’ve never seen anything like this.”
Turning towards his friend, Jon put his arms around his waist and held on. “We’re not going to be heading back to Earth anytime soon, are we Danny-boy?”
Moving closer and returning the hug, Daniel looked into Jon’s eyes, “This is home now, Jack. If we go back, you know that the NID and the Trust will do everything they can to get a hold of us. And once they do that, you know what’ll happen. This is the only place we can be safe, be free. Free to be Jon and Daniel. Free to hold each other. Free to actually sleep in the same bed every night. Will I miss Earth? Hell yes! There was only so much coffee stored, and most of the chocolate around here is Hershey’s, which is just not right. There will be no mail, no internet, no restaurants unless we go off-world, no new music from the artists that I enjoy, all in all there are none of the things we are used to. But we will be free. And we will get back to Earth. We will see our friends again.”
Huffing out a sound that was almost a laugh and almost a sob, Jon nodded. “I know all of that, Danny. It was too close the last time. But it will be a long time before we get to see Earth again.” and dropping his forehead against Daniel’s, he dropped his voice down to a whisper, “So we are going to do this? Be open? Throw caution to the winds?”
Nodding at the question, Daniel agreed. “We are open, Jon. I don’t want to hide anymore. Our other selves did it for years, I won’t do it here. Let’s talk to Dr. Weir and find a place where we can be together.”
Lightly kissing the man in his arms, Jon felt a surge of love and respect. No matter the incarnation, Daniel was the bravest man he had known, and he was so proud that he could claim that amazing heart as his own. “You’re right. As usual. Let’s go tell Liz.”
Rocking back and forth on his heels, Steven Caldwell watched as the Gate cycled through its opening sequence. Looking at his XO, he murmured, “Well Major, here goes nothing.”
“Yes sir. Wonder who’s going to be coming through?”
“If we are lucky, it’ll be an SG team we know. That and some of the trauma teams,” and sighing slightly Steven glanced over his shoulder at all his wounded crew members. Resting on air mattresses and protected from the sun and weather by all the tents that Atlantis could spare were the most critically wounded of his surviving crew. The more mobile members had spread out over the area in front of the Gate and were either standing guard or tending their shipmates. Everything looked as neat and tidy as they could make it.
Watching the MALP come through the Gate, Steven had to fight down the insane urge to wave at the camera and chirp out a ‘Hi mom!’. He knew that the urge was partially relief at being so close to home, and partially fear of what was waiting on the other side. Because he had lost his multi-billion dollar ship and a third of his crew, to say nothing of the expedition deciding to go it alone on his watch. There was no way that this was going to be an easy debrief.
Three minutes after the MALP had come through the Gate, the first member of an SG team stepped through. Reading the patch on his right shoulder, Steven relaxed. It seemed their saviors were SG-3 and glancing at the next soldier to come through the Gate, SG-2 as well. Watching as Colonel’s Coburn and Reynolds stepped through, he tapped his thigh pocket to make sure he still had the ‘this is the straight shit’ that he had been given by O’Neill. “Gentlemen, it is good to see you. By any chance are there some doctors waiting for us on the other side of the wormhole?”
“Hey Steven. Hold still while we do a recon and we’ll get back to you on that,” and glancing up at the pillar housing the Hammer, Colonel Reynolds waved the two teams into motion as the wormhole shut itself down. “Everyone knows the drill. Report back every fifteen minutes and let’s get this done as fast as possible. We have wounded to get home.”
Voices blending together in a collective “Yes, sir!”, the men headed out to set up a secure perimeter independent of the one the Daedalus crew were maintaining. The two senior officers were well able to take care of themselves and well, that was Colonel Caldwell and he was a member of the SGC. You trusted friends.
Nothing was said as the four men waited for the Marines to move out of easy earshot. “What happened, Steven? Where is the Daedalus?” Colburn asked.
Huffing out a laugh that contained no humor, but instead was full of grief and tears, Steven ran his hands over his face. “We had made our final mapping stop on the way out of Pegasus. When we came out of hyper we were fired on by an Ancient space station. Lucky for us, all the thing had was drones, no energy weapons. And even then, it managed to pretty much destroy my ship. What the station didn’t kill, the crash landing did. Daedalus is just a pile of expensive scrap metal now. Sheppard and his merry band of misfits came and got us, patched us up and we all stepped through to here. Well, those that could still walk did.”
Cursing quietly at the news, both of the team leaders could only shake their heads. They had each lost men before and knew there was no cure for the grief Caldwell was going through but time. Taking a deep breath, Reynolds pushed a bit for a bit more, “You said that you stepped on through. What happened on Atlantis, Steven? Why did they send you here?”
Speaking for the first time Major Jacobs, Caldwell’s XO answered, “They seceded, Colonel. The IOA and the SGC demanded they turn over their only ZPM. If they had done that, Atlantis would have been left without defenses, easy pickings for the Wraith. So they had a vote and they’re done.”
“Christ. They really did it?” and staring in disbelief at their fellow officers, Reynolds and Colburn tried to digest the new shock.
“Yeah, they did it. O’Neill sent something for you two,” and pulling the letter out of his pocket, Steven handed it over to Reynolds. “I have no idea what is in there. He gave it to me right before we stepped through and told me to pass it on to one of you.”
Opening the envelope, Reynolds started to read…
I have no idea who’s going to get this, so I will just put this in general terms. Earth fucked us over here by trying to pull the only ZPM we had and damn the consequences. It looks like they wanted all their eggs in one basket and who cares about some of the hens. Lousy analogy, but well, you get the idea.
Given the response we got when we said “No” you all might want to take a good hard look at your unofficial contingency plans. You know the ones I mean. As of a little over a year ago, our bolt hole was still safe and sound per SG1’s last status check. If Reynolds, Feretti, or Colburn are reading this, one of you need to go there and turn the lights on. My gut is saying you are going to need it soon.
Take care of Steven here. He and his crew went through their own special brand of hell before we got to them to start the rescue. Speaking of the crew, Hermiod and his pod should have been beamed out right after they stepped through the Gate onto Cimmeria. Which is one of the major reasons we sent them there, beyond the whole ‘safe from any snakes’ thing.
Lastly the old man (if you haven’t guessed yet, this is mini-me) needs to be told what happened to Atlantis and to the Daedalus. Since he is no longer in command, he may not be getting all the news in a timely fashion. If all hell breaks loose you are going to need him.
Good luck guys. We’ll be thinking of you on the flip side.
Handing the letter over to Colburn, Reynolds rocked back on his heels. He remembered the General’s clone and after doing some mental adding, knew that he was at the right age to have gone through the Academy. And the whole letter sounded like Jack O’Neill. Who else would know about the bolt hole? No one on Atlantis had been senior enough at the SGC to have gotten that unofficial briefing. Thinking the whole scenario over quickly, he had to admit it made a great deal of sense for the General to have sent his ‘mini-me’ to Atlantis. It gave the expedition a strong gene carrier and got the clone away from the grabby hands of the Trust. Win-win situation all around. Deciding to think the whole thing through later, he pushed the mess in his head aside. Right now he needed to get some friends back to a safe haven.
“It’s okay, Steven. Let’s dial the SGC and get your people home,” and putting his words into action, Reynolds went to the DHD and started dialing Earth’s address. It was time for everyone here to go home.
“Come on Colonel Sleepyhead, time to get you out of the nice chair that just tried to eat what passes for your mind,” gentle hands slid along his back. “This would work better if you helped, you know.”
“Very good, Colonel. You know my name. Now reboot the cottage cheese you call your brain and let’s get you out of this death trap!” the words he heard were harsh, but the tone they were said in was worried. The sheer disconnect of the two made him pay more attention and he moaned as his head was moved.
One of the hands on his back moved up to the back of his skull, cradling it gently to a shoulder, “John. I need you to start tracking here. You were in the Chair for too long. You need to get out of it.”
Feeling like there was concrete in his head and not his brain, John turned his face further into the shoulder he was resting against. It was warm, smelled like home and the hand carding through his hair was soothing the headache he was starting to feel. “Rodney? I don’t feel good.”
The hand in his hair stilled for a moment and then continued moving. “I know, John. We need to get you up and into Carson’s grabby hands. You were connected to the Chair and Atlantis for too long. We needed to get you out before we lost you. Can you understand me?”
The concrete had given way to gravel, which was an improvement, but now he had jackhammers pounding away in time to his pulse. “Yeah, I understand. Do I have to stand up?”
The shoulder under his cheek quivered for a moment, and then stilled. “No. No you don’t. I think we can get you onto the stretcher without moving your head too much. Migraine?”
“Oh, yeah. Better than my last concussion,” and allowing his eyes to open slightly, John took in the view of the room. Instead of the normal white light of Atlantis, the room was very dark and what light there was, was tinged red. Which, while not the normal lighting, was very restful on his eyes. “How did you get her to do that?”
Voice sounding both absent and confused, Rodney asked, “Ger her to do what? Oh, the lights! That happened right before you regained consciousness. I guess Atlantis knew you were going to have a killer headache when you surfaced. And don’t think I am not going to yell at you later for your damn fool stunt of immersing yourself so deeply. The risk you ran was insane!” Dropping his voice to an even quieter mutter, Rodney gently pulled John forward.
Swallowing heavily as his stomach protested the movement; John closed his eyes again and tucked his head back into Rodney’s shoulder. If he wasn’t feeling so bad, he knew that he would never have snuggled in so blatantly, at least not in public. He had never really been one for public displays of affection, but this felt so good, and he felt so lousy. The gravel in his head was slowly turning to sand now and feeling some control returning to his limbs, John attempted to help push himself out of the Chair. All he got for the attempt was a surge in his headache and Rodney’s hands gripping his back a bit harder.
“You know what Colonel? Don’t try to help. All you will end up doing making sure you spill your scrambled brains all over the delicate crystal equipment. Ronon? Can you pick up Colonel Idiot here and get him on the stretcher?” Familiar acid tinged words were pouring out of Rodney’s mouth and flowing around his head, but the hands cradling him were still so very gentle.
When the second set of hands took a hold of him, John tensed and then relaxed. The hands were familiar and meant family, he was safe with them. Moving gently, the hands drew him out of the Chair and placed him on the stretcher. Curling up on his side, John felt a warm blanket being spread over him, and closing his eyes he fell asleep.
“Dr. Weir, do you have a few minutes?”
Blinking as the interruption jerked her out of her single minded focus on status reports, Elizabeth glanced over the top of her laptop. Standing in her doorway were Lt. O’Neill and Dr. Jackson, and they both looked a little nervous and excited. Waving them into her office she said, “For you gentlemen, I have all the time in the world. How can I help you today?”
“Since we are no longer allied with Earth and have our own version of the UCMJ, Daniel and I would like to get your okay on something,” and glancing at his friend, Elizabeth watched as Jon took Daniel’s hand. “We don’t want to hide anymore, Elizabeth. We would like your okay to put a door through the common wall in our quarters or to find larger quarters where we can live together.”
Leaning back in her chair, Elizabeth swallowed down the surprised ‘Huh’ that was trying to come out. She had suspected that John and Rodney would be the first ones in her office asking for something like this, but then these two had never let moss grown under their feet if they could help it. And from the last report out of the Infirmary, the Colonel wasn’t going anywhere except back to bed with at least one IV for company. This meant that Rodney would be popping in and out of the infirmary all night. In addition to his visits, he would also be attempting to monitor the ATA positive personnel taking their turns in the Chair and trying to prevent any more emergencies.
“Take a seat Jon, Daniel. I am guessing that this whole relationship thing isn’t new?” and tapping the remote on her desk, Elizabeth closed her office door. There was no way to change the glass walls over to a tinted or mirrored view, but most of her staff had learned not to stare when the door was closed. The only person who regularly ignored that rule was Chuck, and he did it on the Colonel’s order to keep an eye on her. And hadn’t that rule proven useful a time or two.
Shaking his head in a firm negative, Daniel gazed at her with a calm look on his face, “No, it isn’t new. We just held off until we were both technically adults and well, in the same city. While Jon was at the Academy we obviously couldn’t do anything either. Here though? Well, we are no longer part of Earth and we want to stop hiding.”
Angling his head so his mouth was pointed away from the clear windows, Jon dropped another quiet bombshell, “Plus the whole hiding thing caused a lot of problems for our originators. When Daniel went missing this last time, Jack seriously lost it. The only thing holding him together right now is the conviction that SG1 is alive and duty to Earth.”
Feeling very glad that all her years in Pegasus and Earth based negotiations had given her a strong poker face, Elizabeth kept the shock off her face by sheer will. Then indulging her curiosity, she asked as tactfully as she could manage, “Colonel Carter?”
“We loved her, but not like that Elizabeth. It would be like making love to your sister, and we couldn’t do that to her. Besides, Daniel had pretty much owned our heart from the first,” and looking back at her through Jon’s eyes was all the knowledge and experience of Col. Jack O’Neill, not the 2nd Lt. his uniform tried to portray. Swallowing deeply Elizabeth could only nod. It wasn’t her business anyway.
“There are a few residential towers that we cleared for habitation. We had originally decided to not use them because we were low on power and we couldn’t afford the drain at the time. With three ZPM’s that shouldn’t be a problem.”
“We’ll take a look after everything settles down. Have you heard anything about Colonel Sheppard and Rodney?”
Walking out of his office, General Balok acknowledged the officers waiting in the conference room, “Colonel Caldwell, Major Jacobs, Lt. Zimmerman, thank you for joining us gentlemen. Let’s get started.”
Opening the folder containing the initial report from Colonel Caldwell, the General started reviewing it again. Coming to the first item he had marked for further explanation, he turned his attention to his senior officer. “Colonel, can you explain why the Daedalus did not notice the Ancient space station?”
Without looking at the notes on his Atlantis issued computer, Caldwell took a deep breath and answered the first question of the day. “Yes sir. When we dropped out of hyper there were no energy readings in our vicinity, so we began mapping the systems surrounding us. Less than ten minutes after we had dropped out of hyper and started scanning, we detected drones approaching at a high rate of speed from an unknown source. Per information that was later recovered from our flight computers, the originating station’s transition from dormant to active happened within milliseconds and we had no warning. In addition, Atlantis later ascertained that the station had been built into one of the asteroids circling the system between the third and fourth planet so it has a formidable natural cloak.”
“Thank you, Colonel for that explanation. We will get to back to Atlantis and their involvement in this whole fiasco at a later time,” and skimming down the report for the next highlighted item, Balok looked up. “What happened after you detected the drones?”
Pinching his lips together as a pained expression flashed over his face, Caldwell continued, “We began evasive maneuvers immediately, but it was too late to avoid the first volley of drones. When we had dropped out of hyper we had reduced our shields down to twenty percent, which is SOP for ships in unknown, but not actively hostile territory. This meant that when the drones impacted most of their force was expended against the shield, but there was still sufficient energy to overwhelm the generators. The second volley was following closely behind and impacted against our hull causing a large number of casualties, including myself. Command then transferred to my XO, Major Jacobs.”
Raising his eyes from the report, General Balok turned to the Major and waving a hand, motioned him to continue the report. “Yes sir. With Colonel Caldwell injured, command passed to me. Hermiod, our Asgard representative, managed to get the shields up before the third wave of drones arrived. We continued to execute evasive maneuvers in an effort to buy time for Engineering to get the hyper drive back online. Thanks to the shields being up and some good flying, we managed to deflect, absorb, or just miss several more waves of drones.”
Pausing as he reached for his water and drank, Jacobs stared into something only he could see, “We lost our aft shields roughly two minutes after the Colonel was wounded, and with Hermiod busy trying to get the ‘drive up, it was all we could do to keep the bow of the ship between us and the drones. Then a drone slipped through and clipped the engines. To this day I have no idea why we didn’t explode. With no hyper-drive, we needed to find some way out of the battle where we could set down for repairs. We were leaking atmosphere, our main engines were gone, and we had no idea who had shot at us.
“Our remaining sensors showed a planet in the system we were in that had a breathable atmosphere, gravity that was close to Earth norm and it was just close enough. So I ordered us to head towards the planet at our best possible speed. There was a final volley of drones came as we passed through the systems asteroid belt and caused our shields to drop to around 30%. When we entered the planet’s atmosphere, they were insufficient to buffer us from the turbulence of reentry and I was thrown into one of the bridge consoles. From that time until I woke up on Atlantis I have no idea what happened.”
Nodding he head as he listened to story unfolding in front of him, Balok pressed on. “Lt. Zimmerman, when did you take command of the crew?”
“Sir, I wasn’t on the bridge when we crashed and so I can’t say what caused us to land as we did. However I was the most senior officer who was mobile and relatively unharmed. Due to that, I took command of the crew in my immediate area and began evacuation procedures. Once everyone alive was off the ship, I returned to the bridge and sent out a Mayday.”
Cutting in quickly, the General asked sharply, “Lieutenant, just to make sure I understand this, you lit up the ship’s Mayday beacon even though you knew it could attract the Wraith?”
“Yes sir. Shortly after the crash I managed to speak to Lt. Anderson who was station on the bridge and in charge of monitoring all Wraith traffic. She reported that there were no Hiveships or cruisers to be found in that sector of space. And I had to take the chance. We had too many injured and too few available medical personnel to keep our injured alive. I have no idea how many hours later it was when Major Lorne arrived with the first two Jumpers. After that, we started loading the most seriously wounded aboard and sent them to the space station for transfer on to Atlantis.”
“Right. This station your wounded were transported to was the same station that sent the drones?” the General asked. He knew his voice was hard with something that might be perceived as a threat, but he really didn’t care. Focusing on the uncomfortable Lieutenant he waited for an answer to the question.
Cutting in before the Lieutenant made the situation worse, Caldwell answered the General, “We didn’t find out until well after the fact that the station was the originator of the drones that shot the Daedalus down. At the time, all any of my crew knew was there was a ‘Gate aboard the station and thanks to the wonders of naquadah generators, it was working. We got sent through by the Jumper load.”
Trying not to sound eager, Balok lead forward a bit, “Do you know the status of that station now, Colonel? And do you have the location of the system so we can go and examine the facility?”
“Yes sir, I have the coordinates of where the Daedalus came out of hyper and the solar system we took refuge in. I do not however, have the exact location of the space station. Nor do I have the command codes for it,” Caldwell said quietly.
Sitting back in his chair, the General thought over the statements he had just heard. Getting the right area of the galaxy to search would make things much easier. And the thought of being the one to deliver the weapon the station represented was beyond satisfying. “As I understand it Colonel, all we need is someone with the ATA gene to go in and turn the station on, correct?”
Shaking his head slightly, Caldwell disagreed, “No sir. You are going to need someone with a stronger expression of the ATA genome than Sheppard. Not even General O’Neill’s is as strong.”
“What do you mean a stronger expression of the ATA?” Balok demanded.
“The ATA genome is just that. It’s a series of genes that working together allows a person to interface with Ancient technology at a level that is beyond hitting keys on a keyboard. The gene therapy that Dr. Beckett gave to the members of the Expedition supplied one of the pair of genes that are needed to trigger the sequence. Without both copies, you’re only a carrier of the sequence and thus not a user of the ATA network. As far as Dr. Beckett was able to determine, Colonel Sheppard’s genome reads almost 98% pure Ancient. General O’Neill weighs in at about 90% and Dr. McKay is at 89% or so, even though he is a recipient of the therapy. Sir, unless you can get an Ancient on that station, no one else is going to be able to unlock it.”
“Colonel Sheppard, ye will lie back down on that gurney an’ ye’ll keep that IV in until I tell you otherwise. Do ye understand me?”
Clutching his head in pain, John started to sit up again; he hated lying on his back in the infirmary. “Geez Carson. Not so loud!”
Pressing one hand on Sheppard’s chest, Carson gently pushed him back against the mattress while checking the IV site with the other, “If ye stay right here an’ let the drug regimen I have ye on have a chance to work, that headache ye are sporting might go away!”
There was a pulse of urgency, of anxiety running along his nerves now that he was awake enough to notice. Not at an overwhelming level, but still more than he was really comfortable with when he wasn’t able to fix the problem. And thanks an increase in his ability to interface with the City and her network of ATA enabled equipment; John knew the ‘problem’ was because they were still in deep space. He knew that he had to get his point across and so he kept insisting, “Gotta get back to the Chair, we aren’t on a planet yet.”
“Colonel, you will stay put so Carson can attempt to unscramble what passes for your brains! Lorne is taking his watch in the Chair and we are staying at this position while you recover.” Rodney snapped with real anger coloring his voice. Hearing that, John paused. There had been very few times over the years that Rodney had been genuinely, devoutly angry with him. And those times had always come after he had put his life too close to the line.
“How bad was I?” John asked quietly.
“It took us over an hour to get through to you, you were in so deep. When you bothered to speak to anyone, you were doing it in Ancient. And given that I know you can only read the language, but not speak it, that wasn’t good. Plus I am not all that sure that you knew we were even in the room. What little you were saying sounded like the automated status reports of a computer.” Rodney sounded like he was forcing the words out around something horrible; they were coming out in short staccato bursts, anger and fear flavoring every one.
Turning his head slightly to look at Carson, John tried to convey his need to know his condition. Apparently it worked because Carson started to relay on what had been wrong with him. Listening to the litany, John quickly figured out why Rodney had been upset. The laundry list of what his use of the Chair had done to him was both impressive and sobering: he had experienced a bloody nose, low blood sugar, and out of whack electrolytes, plus his EEG had shown seemingly random patterns until he had stabilized, and finally there had been excessive levels of dopamine dominating his brain chemistry. All of which meant that he wouldn’t be getting out of Carson’s clutches any time soon.
“So I am stuck here until all the tests come back for normal levels? Carson if you do that, you’ll have Lorne in here right after me!” So it came out as more of a croak than as a snap, but really, it was all he could come up with while his head was still throbbing.
“An’ what makes ye think tha’ Major Lorne is the only one babysitting the City while ye recover?”
Poking at the sludge that was currently clouding his thinking, John tried to remember what Rodney had just said about the Chair, the City and who was watching over the whole thing. It sounded like… “How many ATA positive people do you have taking turns Rodney?”
Looking pissed, scared and faintly defiant, Rodney crossed his arms with a huff and glared down at him, “Every available person with a strong expression of the ATA that has ever taught how to fly a Jumper, minus O’Neill. We don’t need to find out if the remnants of the Ancient download will get reactivated by the Chair. That means there are roughly twenty-five people who are as close to qualified as we can get to sit in that thing and keep us at this position. We trade off every two hours so no one gets burned out.”
“Every two hours? How long was I in the Chair?” John asked in surprise.
Watching Rodney’s face turn red and the vein in his forehead throb, John felt a sinking sensation. When the veins in Rodney’s forehead started throbbing it was always bad news. Actually it meant that things were worse than bad; they were into the uncharted territory of ‘Things that will kill us if we don’t watch them constantly.’ Furthermore if there was no hand waving, DEFCON 1 had not only arrived, it had been passed.
“You were in that Chair for close to thirty-six hours Colonel. Thirty-six hours where we couldn’t talk to you, or get you to talk to us in any meaningful fashion. Thirty-six hours where we went in and out of hyper at odd intervals and the City turned off the gravity twice. Lucky for us, everything major was strapped down and when the gravity came back on, it came back up slowly enough so people floated down, instead of crashing down and turning into anchovy paste. Thirty-six hours where you didn’t eat, drink and barely breathed. So yes, we stay in the Chair for only two hours. And you are not getting back in the damn thing until you are healthy enough and the voodoo practitioner over there says your brain isn’t scrambled!”
The sinking sensation was now compounded by the pain in his head. Rodney hadn’t waved his hands once while he was explaining how stupid John had been, but he had raised his voice. A lot. And Carson really wasn’t doing anything to stop him, which meant his doctor agreed with his scientist. Not good at all. And really, John couldn’t blame either of them for being pissed. Because if Rodney had done all of that, John didn’t think he would be as coherent, let alone as polite.
“Right. I’ll just stay here until Carson releases me. If that is okay?” See? He could follow orders. Really.
“Ye’re damn right ye will, Colonel. And let’s just take care o’ that headache ye are sportin’, shall we?” and with a firm nod of his head, Carson turned away. Following him by only moving his eyes, John watched as he grabbed a filled syringe. Relief was on its way.
And really, why Carson even bothered to ask when he was already planning on adding something to his IV, John never knew. Maybe it was something that was taught to doctors in med school or maybe it was something that was unique to the Scot, but either way, Carson did it every time. Closing his eyes against the light, John felt the medication hit is system and wash away the pain, making him relax.
“Daft bugger. Always have ta try to be a hero. Relax, Colonel. Ye’ll be as right as rain in a little while,” and with a last check of his pulse and his IV port, Carson moved away from Johns’ gurney.
Because he hadn’t heard a second set of footsteps move away, John wasn’t surprised when he felt a hand start to stroke his hair. The fingers running through it were a good indication that Rodney hadn’t left yet. So was the hand now holding his in a firm grip, “Relax you nit wit. I’ll be here when you wake up. Silly moron. Why do you have to always be the one that gets to try to do yourself in? Don’t you know that I can’t let you do that?” The words were quiet, but the tone was loving and when he felt Rodney kiss his forehead, John relaxed into sleep. He was going to be fine.