Title: A Season of Thrills and Terrors
Series Order: 7
Banner Art: Fanarts
Word Count: 21,888
Betas: Keira Marcos, Chris King, Cinnaminion
Warnings: Mentions of Torture and allusions to more. Lots of sex.
Authors Note: This is my version of Atlantis: Season One, seen through the eyes of my Unlikely and Unwilling Sentinel and Guide Pair. Canon gets a bit bent too.
(1) Even Energy Has to Eat Something
John had very few things that he did every day, but taking the time to do a physical tour around the inhabited areas of his new city was one that was rapidly becoming a habit that he could live with. While he was doing this, he tried to make contact with each and every person settled within the walls, using the action to get an update on how they were doing and how they were handling the stresses of their new homes. So when one person suddenly moved from within his ‘safe area’ to somewhere that his men hadn’t cleared, he had to act.
“Hang on Rodney,” John said as he raised a hand to quiet his Guide. “One of the kids’ heartbeats just disappeared and then reappeared across the City.”
“Across the City? How? And which kid?” Rodney asked as he made his way over to the console that controlled the City’s internal sensors. They had stopped in on the main control center and the Guide had been doing his own version of monitoring the emotional temperature of the Expedition members. Thus it was the work of only a moment for him to log into the laptop that was slaved to the Ancient console and even less time to bring up the life signs monitor. “I have most of us here in the City center and we have one life sign outside of the cleared area, about three klicks from here, on a north/northeast heading with the Stargate standing in for North. Major, since I am not able to get more detail out of this, please come here and get the system to zoom in to where the kid is and tell me if there is anything dangerous near him.”
John hurried over to the same console and using the Ancient system itself, started to expand the search parameters. “Rodney, it’s Jinto and his heart is beating like a trip hammer, but he’s only walked about ten feet from where he got moved. If I am reading this right, the room he is in is a lab and it has that sigil you said meant ‘Danger’ in Ancient.”
“Crap,” Rodney said with feeling. Flicking a glance over the information now on the computer screen, he looked at the Duty Officer. “Chuck, have you managed to get the PA system working? Or whatever they called it?” When his fellow Canadian nodded, the Guide gestured at his Sentinel. “Tie Major Sheppard into the PA system so he can talk to Jinto, if you could, please.”
“We can do that, Dr. McKay. Dr. Kisangani got the system working this morning,” he said and kicked his chair over to the correct console. Quick fingers tapped out a series of commands into the Ancient communications net. “Major, your headset will be tied into the PA in three…. Two… One.”
“Attention Atlantis, this is Major Sheppard. We have a missing child. I want everyone to be quiet until informed otherwise.” Taking a deep breath, John stretched out his senses and tried to focus on the child that he had met under such trying circumstances. “Jinto? This is Major Sheppard. We know that you’ve taken a little trip somewhere. All you need to do is talk and I’ll hear you. Can you tell me how you got to where you are? What is near you?”
Everyone held their breaths as they watched the Sentinel work. Slowly but surely, he teased out the information on how Jinto had gone missing and what he had done to get to his new location.
Rodney took a quick look into the ‘closet’ and came to a decision. “John, I want you to dial down your hearing, touch, and sight to level one. I have no idea how this is going to feel when we go through. I know the Asgard transporters are fairly innocuous to O’Neill, but we have no way of knowing if these will be as good.”
John tilted his head to the side as he listened to what Jinto had to say and smiling at the concern in the boy’s voice. Nodding slightly, he looked over at his Guide. “Jinto says that there was a mild tingling, a bright light and no sound that he remembers.”
“Thank you Jinto! Very good job. Now lock your senses down Sentinel,” Rodney said with steel in his voice. He had been nothing but kind while talking to Jinto and John knew that some of his scientists were going to be testing the length of their leashes after this. No matter how nice Rodney was deep down, he was still a bastard to work with and for. Hopefully, the minions would relearn that lesson toot sweet as he had heard his grandfather say. It would cut down on the chaos and mayhem coming out of the labs.
The trip wasn’t uncomfortable by any means, and John was pleased to find that he was able to reorient himself without a problem. Stretching his senses out, he took a reassuring read on Rodney and found that while his heart rate was a bit elevated, he smelled as sweetly smug as John had ever sensed. Moving beyond his Guide, the Sentinel scanned for Jinto and everything seemed to be okay with him. The room he was in, however, was making him twitch. There was something humming in there. And it wasn’t the Athosian boy he had come to like so much.
“Jinto? We’re here. You can come out now.” John called softly. Whatever was humming in that room was causing his nerves to twist tighter and tighter in dread.
A head full of tousled brown hair peered around the corner ahead of them and when Jinto saw who it was, he ran towards the two men. “Major Sheppard! It is good to see you.”
“I’m glad to see you as well Jinto,” John said as he did another scan of the boy. Nothing was wrong with him. Thankfully.
Clearing his throat, Rodney threw his Sentinel a faintly embarrassed look before taking a deep breath. “Jinto, I know that you are anxious to get back to your father, but I need to know a couple of things before you head back. Okay?”
Nodding briskly, the boy turned to the scientist and gave him a hug as well. “Yes, Dr. McKay. I am glad that you are here too!”
Rodney awkwardly patted him on the shoulder and John could feel him sending out calm to the excited boy. “Jinto, I need to know, did you touch anything when you left the closet? Did anything light up when you walked into that room?”
“I didn’t touch anything, Dr. McKay. I remembered what you said about how some of the things here on Atlantis are dangerous and we can’t always tell just by looking. And the only thing that came on in that room is the light. It was really dark in there.” Jinto said. The words were muttered into the scientist’s chest, but John could hear them clearly.
“Good! I am glad that you learned that lesson. Do you think you could pass it on to some of my minions?” Rodney asked with a wry smile. He tilted the boys face up out of his chest and waited while he smiled shyly. Stepping back out of the hug, the scientist turned the boy back around and towards the doors they had just exited. “Now I want you to go back into that closet, and touch the central tower icon. Your dad should be on the other side of the door by now. Okay?”
“Yes, Dr. McKay. I didn’t cause any problems, did I?” Jinto asked as he let go and walked back into the room John was determined to name a transporter.
“I don’t know Jinto,” Rodney said honestly. “But I will let you know as soon as I can. Off with you now. Your dad is very anxious to get you back. Now tap the main tower icon…”
As soon as Jinto had touched the map, the doors had closed and John heard a brief hum and then they were alone in the corridor.
Rodney was thankful that he hadn’t taken the time to get the gene therapy from Carson yet, because the whole lab had lit up when John had walked in. For a change, the activation sequence hadn’t included every machine in the lab. Unspooling the cable that he used to connect their Earthborn tech to various pieces of Ancient equipment, Rodney looked around for whatever passed for a control panel in the lab. There was a large chest-like thing that was hooked into one main and several auxiliary consoles that were clustered around it. Given the grouping, Rodney was going to treat that chest like it was deadly until proven otherwise.
“John, can you turn this console and only this console on. I don’t want anything else in this lab to become active, I just want in the archives to do a review. I have a very bad feeling about this place.”
The feeling Rodney got every time John initiated some piece of Ancient tech was one of the odder facets to their Bond. It was the feeling of reaching, requesting and a firm command, all aimed at a piece of equipment that was doing a really good imitation of a dog rolling over and showing its belly for daddy. But no matter how odd it was, it was still incredibly useful that it did so. Once the machine was on, it took only a few minutes to plug in and get access to the history of whatever the lab was for.
As soon as he started reading, Rodney was intensely glad that he had ordered his Sentinel to lock down the facility they were in. They were in a research lab devoted to the study of an energy being that was currently trapped in the chest at the center of the consoles. And the power was low enough in that chest that the thing inside had to be starving he thought with a trace of panic. There was no way in hell that he was going to let any of his morons into this place. They might do something catastrophic. Like, turn off the power before he could get a spare naquadah generator hooked in.
John looked at him sharply, “Rodney? Your heartbeat just sped up like crazy and the less said about your blood pressure the better. What just freaked you out?”
Swallowing his anxiety down a bit further, Rodney looked at the power readings on the containment vessel. Whatever the hell was in there was testing the edges of it and trying to get out, and each test was straining the whole thing like a pressure vessel left on full boil for too long. Physically, the setup appeared to have a way to add another power source to it, so that danger could be dealt with…. Maybe. They had enough naquadah generators that he could conceivably hook one into this mess and postpone a breakout by decades while he tried to figure out what to do with it. Christmas gift from hell to the Wraith? “Whatever they were studying that thing for, John, it needs power to keep it there. And it is alive and wants out. Plus it is doubtful they left a way to feed it. So rather than let it out, I want to get a generator in here ASAP, hook it up and then figure out some way to get it off Atlantis.”
“Can we study whatever it is, Dr. McKay? The Ancients must have had some reason for keeping it on hand,” Dr. Weir butted in unexpectedly. “Maybe it will prove useful.”
Rodney checked the history of the lab and sighed. He loved the Ancients for their technology, but their social and mythical sides gave him hives. This unholy mess was only reinforcing that feeling. Tapping his radio, he patched himself into the command channel. “Dr. Weir, the Ancients were using this being as a way to test out Ascension theories. There is no way I want something that was experimented on and then kept locked up and isolated for over ten thousand years around the Expedition. Whatever it is, it is trying its damndest to get out and from what I have seen of the data down here, it would have no problems eating every scrap of power we have, doing who knows what to us as well. Either way, if it got out and took out our power sources, it would leave us dead in the water.”
“I agree, Dr. Weir,” John chimed in as he walked around the containment vessel. “I can hear the whine as the power supply attached to this vessel struggles to keep whatever it is in there, in there. It knows we are out here. And from how hard the power supply is working, it desperately wants out. Get one of our generators down here so we can get this thing moved off the City if we can.”
There was a beat of silence before the Expeditions leader spoke again. “Can we afford to do that?” Both men looked at each other at her tone.
Rodney nodded, taking the hot seat from his Sentinel, “We have no choice, Elizabeth. At these readings, if we don’t get a supplemental power supply attached within the next hour, we are going to have a containment breach. And the notes on this thing say that would be very bad.”
The radio was silent for several minutes before Elizabeth came back on and updated them. “Okay. Dr’s. Zelenka and Grodin have loaded one of the spare generators into that closet Jinto found.”
“Please make sure that Zelenka is the one bring it here. Grodin is ATA positive and I don’t want another gene holder in here. There are too many ways for someone to potentially set this thing free,” Rodney requested quietly.
“It’s that sensitive?” Elizabeth asked.
“Yes. It is. And our time is running out,” Rodney confirmed. He was walking around and around the physical container and looking at it from all angles. When the sound of the transporter door was heard, he looked up and sighed as Grodin came out. Apparently he needed to talk to Elizabeth about trusting him when he requested something or someone. “Ah, good. Thank you for bringing that, Peter.”
“You are welcome, Dr. McKay. Is this what we are working on?” the English scientist asked as he dragged the naquadah generator on wheels into the room.
“It is. No matter what the machinery in here asks, don’t turn it on,” Rodney said firmly before he nodded towards the end he was inspecting. “And… it looks like there’s an auxiliary power coupling on this end. Did Zelenka send you here with the right connectors?”
“He did,” Grodin said calmly. Between the two of them, it took only moments to get the generator in place and the scientist carefully shrugged out of his backpack before pulling out a power cord and connecting one end to the correct slot on the imported power source. “Ready when you are, Dr. McKay.”
Rodney, no matter how many times he played at being an ass and forgetting the names of his people, knew all of them and appreciated most of them. The calm, centered feeling he got around the Englishman was always welcome and he enjoyed working with him on a normal day. Right at that instant, his day wasn’t normal and still, having Grodin in the room with them was calming him down, no matter how he worried about his ATA status. John was standing guard at the aperture of the capturing machine and he had his eye on the telltales on the console. “On my mark. Three… Two… One…” Rodney ran his eyes over the readings and nodded. “Mark!”
Grodin plugged the generator in and made certain the connection was snug before raising his hands and stepping back. John had stepped forward to grab the scientist out of the way, but Grodin was already moving away from the generator and to the side. If anything happened, the Sentinel would have the room to respond. Rodney made a mental note to himself to look over his minion’s file a bit closer. He had read it, but that had been when he hired the Englishman over three years before. He wanted to look at his genetics and that wasn’t something he had been looking for then.
Grodin walked around the whole installation before settling in at his boss’s side. “Do we know if the generator was enough?” he asked carefully.
John cocked his head at the machinery in front of him and nodded. “From where I am standing, it seems to have done the trick. The shield isn’t cycling as much or as hard.”
Rodney tapped a display on the screen and waved his minion over to see. “I have to agree. It looks stable.”
“Now, how do we get it out of here?” Grodin asked as he glanced over at the data before turning back to the machinery.
“Good question,” Rodney agreed before stepping around the console and walking over to the unit. Everything he could see hinted that the machine in question was mobile, but that had been at least ten thousand years before. Now, they needed to find a way to get this thing off their city before something tragic happened.
“Well it has wheels, so we won’t have to find another power source,” John pointed at the base of the unit and Rodney hummed as he knelt on the floor to get a better look. At the flash of lust that he felt across the Bond, he looked back at his Sentinel and grinned. Yes, his ass was wonderful, but he needed to think with something other than his libido at that moment.
John just stared back without a blush and he rolled his eyes. He even ignored the quiet giggling coming from Grodin. His Sentinel was totally sixteen at all the wrong times.
“Rodney, John? What has happened? Has it been fixed?” Elizabeth asked over their radios.
Rodney tapped the control stud for his radio and tried to keep his voice calm as he explained what had happened. “We have it under control now, Elizabeth, but we need to get this thing moved and off Atlantis. The container has wheels, so we can move it. We just need a route that will allow us to move it across the city and through the gate.”
“I have had Chuck looking at the plans for the city and from what he said, there is a way to get the whole thing up here by pushing it. But there is also a large plaza that we can land a Jumper in so we can take the whole thing out to the meeting site and then off the city. Any ideas on where to take it?” Elizabeth reported.
“There is that one world we can only get back to by space gate… The one with the electrical storms and no life?” John offered.
“Hmmmm,” Rodney thought it over. “It could work. But if we do, I want to basically enter a high orbit around the planet and push it out the back of a Jumper. There is no way in hell I want any of us to land on that planet and if I understand the information on this thing correctly, the energy released by the reentry will keep it too busy to hunt us down while we get back to the gate.”
“Can we do that and keep our generator?” Elizabeth asked.
The three men shared a look and shook their heads. “No. Sorry, Dr. Weir. It wouldn’t work without the generator,” Rodney informed her. “And if we try to disconnect it after we kick it out the back hatch, there is no guarantee that it wouldn’t let the creature free. I do not want to be on a Jumper, in space, with that thing free.”
The comm was silent for a heartbeat or two before Weir cleared her throat. “Understood. I have Stackhouse piloting one of the Jumpers to the nearest plaza and have emailed Rodney with the map how to get there.”
Rodney handed his tablet to his Sentinel and shared a speaking glance with Grodin. They needed to get the containment unit undone and free of the monitoring equipment so it could move. Between the two of them, they got the cables traced and then disconnected. Slowly, carefully, they lifted the naquadah generator into place on top of the now mobile, jail. Then they cleared a path to the door. Rodney looked over at his Sentinel and nodded. “We are ready to head out.”
John nodded back and tapped his radio, “Elizabeth? I need you to dial M3S-499 please.”
“The one we found last week? I thought the xeno-biologists wanted to look that planet over,” she asked confused.
“Not that one, no. The one we found the first time we opened a space gate on our own. The one with the Wraith Hive sitting on the surface,” John said grimly. The planet with the electrical storms was too damn pretty and potentially useful to have lost to the Expedition, but the planet-sized moon infested with Wraith? It was perfect. A quick look at his Guide and John could see him thinking over ways to make it work.
“Oh. Okay. We can do that. Chuck will have the address ready to dial and start once you get up here so we can cut the time that the Wraith know we are around to a minimum,” agreed Weir.
The trip to the plaza was nerve-racking and John kept most of his attention on the containment unit. He could hear the internal shield device working at keeping the energy creature at bay and he shuddered at what might have happened if it had gotten free. Losing a minor generator was expensive, but a lot better than having something that could destroy the city and his tribe running around, draining every power source it got near.
Stackhouse had the Jumper parked close to the doors leading into the plaza and John nodded to himself. The Sergeant was thinking things through and he made a mental note to mention that in his report on this mess. Someone had even taken the time to clear out all the gear that the Expedition had added to the rear of the Jumpers, so the space was barren. Which meant that when they opened the back hatch to kick the unit out, they wouldn’t lose anything. Good.
John watched carefully as Grodin and his Guide carefully tied the unit down, making certain that it was enough to keep the machines steady, but not complicated or impossible to undo. Everything and anything that they could salvage out of this mess was going to get reviewed. How in the hell his men had missed a transporter, he didn’t know, but they would be figuring it out. ASAP. Who knew what else might have gotten dismissed and was deadly?
When Rodney gave him a thumbs up, John nodded and headed towards the cockpit to take the wheel back from Stackhouse. “Elizabeth? We are ready to head up to the command tower and I need you to dial the gate as soon as we come through the ceiling hatch.”
“Understood. Chuck is dialing now.”
John grunted softly in acknowledgment and then turned to his passengers. “Grodin? You are getting out when we get to the Jumper hanger. Stackhouse, standby the emergency release switch. Rodney? I need you to…”
“Have the scanners on passive and ready to let us know if there are any active Wraith Darts in the area around the Gate?” Rodney finished for him.
“Yup,” John agreed as he slid into place behind the control yokes. As soon as his hands touched the surface of the handles, the mental connection between him and the little aircraft bloomed from the standby level it had been, to the full meshing that was needed for flight. John felt Stackhouse withdrew from the systems as he moved over to the copilot spot. Ancient tech was creepy, yes, but sometimes cool.
The trip to the main tower’s command center and Jumper bay went off without a hitch and John breathed out a small sigh of relief. So far, so good. A quick stop to drop their extra passenger off and John had them hovering over the Gateroom floor, looking at the open gate. “How’s the situation on the other side?”
“Calm,” Chuck reported. Rodney’s fellow Canadian looked over his controls and nodded. “All clear, Major. I’ll be shutting down the gate as soon as you go through. I would suggest hitting a few other gates on the way back. Just in case.”
John hummed as he thought it over. Good strategic sense and he was kinda ashamed that he hadn’t thought of it on his own. “Good idea, Chuck. And we will. Elizabeth, we are heading out now. See you all in a while.”
“Understood. And good luck,” she said from her position behind Chuck.
Every trip through the gate was a lesson in sensory insanity that was over in an instant. The feeling of great movement and pressure barely had time to settle into his skin before they were out the other side and John shook the feeling off like he did every time. The sensations were bothering him less and less and he really hoped that he was acclimating. Otherwise, every mission he ever took through the gate was going to start and end with an acid trip for a ride, that while entertaining, was really distracting.
As soon as the whole Jumper was through the Gate, John triggered the cloak and they disappeared from most, if not all scans. The trip to the planet was done in silence and John brought the small ship to a halt above the spot where the Wraith Hive had been nestled into the landscape. The odd and slightly wrong shape was still there, still covered with trees and brush. Their last run-in with the Wraith obviously hadn’t reached this group. “If we push it out, right here, will it hit them?”
Rodney looked at their position from his spot behind his Sentinel. “If we drop it from here, it will fall, but due to where we are in orbit and all, it won’t be a perfect hit. Given what is in there though, it should home in on the biggest energy source it has access to. And that won’t be us. Because as soon as we drop it, I want us to leave. There is no telling how fast reentry will pull the structure of the containment unit apart and if it falls apart in high orbit, we will be the biggest energy source around.”
“So how are we doing this, doc?” Stackhouse asked from his station.
“Well, we know that a Jumper’s front compartment is airtight when the door is shut. And that we carry sufficient air in tanks to refill the back if we open the back hatch into space. So I vote for untying the damn thing, moving it right in front of the ramp and then coming back in here to hit the emergency decompression button, aka, the button that allows the ramp to come down. With the door closed. That way we can use the rush of decompression to get it out.” Rodney offered.
“Sounds like a plan. Sooo… Does this thing have an autopilot?” John asked as he turned to look at the HUD. Which had a small blinking amber light under the main flight controls. His Ancient was rather meager, but he understood enough to see that he had his requested autopilot. “Cool. I love these ships!”
Snorting lightly in amused tolerance, Rodney stood up and moved through the door into the cargo area. His teams had done a good job of stripping the compartment of anything that wasn’t nailed down. And in a few spots, it looked as if they had taken the time to pry up a few screws. He wasn’t going to complain. Anything that wasn’t attached was going to get sucked out anyway and he wanted it to be only the energy creature and its prison. The straps holding it in place were easy to undo and Stackhouse carefully coiled them up before moving back into the cockpit.
Rodney glared at his Sentinel and silently told him to stay back. As the only one of the three of them without an active ATA genome, he was the only one that could move the machine into place and put a discrete magnetic tracker on it. No matter how squirrelly that drove his Sentinel. It took five tense minutes for him to get the whole mess into place and Rodney could tell that John was watching his every move. At any other time, that would have been intensely gratifying, but now it was just making him as squirrelly as his partner. A quick look around the back showed that there was nothing for the thing to catch on and he was set.
The door between them and certain doom closed after him and he could hear the subtle ‘thunk’ as one of the two gene holders engaged the lock. Rodney patted the door and moved back to sit behind his Sentinel. “All ready John. Take us to a tilt, with our nose pointed back towards the gate and be ready to hit the engines. Stackhouse, I need you to be standing by to hit the ramp control. I’ll be monitoring the tracker I have on it.”
Rodney watched as the view out the front window of the Jumper changed and the glow of the planet, well technically a moon, disappeared for a spectacular view of the starscape and the planet the moon orbited. It was too bad that they were having to do this to this system. He had wanted to study the phenomenon of a habitable planet-sized moon and the planet it orbited, but with the Wraith living on it, that knocked that option out. Well, there were other space gates out there, and at least one of them should have a planetary setup like this one.
“On my mark,” Rodney murmured as he pulled up the tracking program on his computer. The blinking telltale was only a few feet behind them and holding steady. “Three… Two… One. Mark!”
Stackhouse hit the emergency ramp control and the HUD bloomed with red as the Jumper reported that the inside of the ship was now exposed to vacuum and they were losing an item that had been in the back. Rodney moved swiftly to adjust the parameters of the ship as it tried to snap the ramp back up. He needed that thing gone and he couldn’t allow the Jumper to stop the escape. John was helping things along by moving the ship away from their last location. The display on his tablet showed the beacon pulsing weakly before snuffing out and Rodney turned his attention to the HUD. It showed the object that had fallen out the back of their small ship get caught in the gravity well of the moon below and start to speed up.
John slowed the ship down once the HUD showed that they were over a thousand klicks away from the moon and Stackhouse had long since returned to his seat. The Jumper was once again airtight and the ramp control returned to normal before Rodney breathed deeply. “I think we did it.”
“It looks like it. Where will that thing end up?” John asked carefully. His eyes were on the HUD and the object they were all tracking.
“If the Jumper is correct, about one hundred miles away from the Hive. And at the rate of speed, it’s traveling, the containment unit will burn up in reentry in about three minutes,” Rodney reported.
“Good. I say that we head back to the gate and get ready to dial out. Do you have a list of planets for us to move in and out from?” John asked his copilot as he corrected their course and increased the power to the engines. Rodney could tell that he wanted them away from the thing behind them as soon as possible.
“Yes, sir. Lt. Ford and Ms. Emmagan gave me a list with addresses,” Stackhouse informed his commanding officer as he handed over a paper list. Rodney was surprised to see the old fashioned paper. He hadn’t known anyone had brought some.
“Well then, let’s get moving. Rodney, would you dial the first address please?” his Sentinel asked as he handed the list to where his Guide was sitting behind him.
Rodney had the first address dialed and they were swinging around to enter it when there was a flash of light from the horizon line on the moon behind them. “And that would be the naquadah generator exploding. John, you need to get us out of here now,” Rodney urged.
“Moving,” John agreed.
The blue even horizon of the wormhole filled their view and then nothing as they were pulled apart to travel to another planet.
Behind them, the black cloud of a creature that had last been free when the Ancients originally arrived in Pegasus rose from the wreckage of its prison. Testing the environment it was in with senses that were no longer biological, it felt the fading traces of a high energy explosion and the humming presence consisting of one large biomechanical food source and over a thousand lesser biological sources.
The beings who had imprisoned it were nowhere to be found and it was beyond starving. Moving swiftly on something other than legs, it traveled to its new banquet and started to feed.
(2) A Storm Blowing No Good
John ran along the main thoroughfare of Atlantis and threw his hearing out ahead of him. His right arm was throbbing at a high pitch and his body was aching like a bitch. He was doing his best to ignore what that meant. His connection to Rodney had been thinned down to the absolute minimum to allow them to each function with as little bleed through as possible but the strongest emotions and sensations still made it over the link. Which might explain the phantom pain that he was currently feeling all over his body and the flashes of fear and loathing that were burning like acid in his mind.
He made an effort to shove the feelings away. He had too much going on around him to allow himself to get distracted. He was just going to have to hope that Rodney was able to take care of himself. And stay alive. Going feral now would do no one any good.
John paused briefly to piggyback his eyesight onto his hearing and did a quick sweep of the rooms ahead of him and behind him. So far, everything was clear. The main naquadah generator for the command tower was just around the corner and he needed to get that shut off as soon as possible in order to disrupt the Genii’s plans for Atlantis. There were faint scent traces of his Guide and the other scientists in his department with a recent overlay of strangers, strangers who smelled of old sweat, metal, and stone. Genii.
Confident that there were no surprises on the other side of the door, John walked into the generator room and contemplated the barbell looking power device in front of him. Thanks to his Guide’s paranoia and actual concern for other people’s lives, there were warning labels papering the thing. When he flipped the paper over, he found the directions he needed to disassemble the generator written in Rodney’s neat handwriting. A quick read followed by a simple twist and pull meant that there was no more power for the invading forces.
Pocketing the activation mechanism, John moved out. He had more Genii to kill and his hearing had alerted him that if he didn’t get up to the control room, he was going to have more people to kill. And he would rather take care of them with the gate than with his gun. Bullets were in short supply and a gate shield could get a hell of a lot more than his weapons could. Faster too. Moving silently, the Sentinel headed towards the stairs and his Guide.
It had generally been agreed by the Science Department of the Atlantis Expedition that Dr. M. Rodney McKay was a son of a bitch.
Finding out he was a Guide, hadn’t changed that opinion one whit.
Mainly because the only person he was actually nice to on a regular basis was his Sentinel and everyone else still got the rough side of his tongue when they screwed up. So Elizabeth was completely floored to watch the man she had never, ever seen bend to anyone, bend and try to placate the man who had invaded their city. She knew that his Sentinel was still out there, still killing people, but she had no idea where he was.
She wasn’t sure that Rodney knew either.
But what she did know, was that even though she had done everything in her power to show the Guide that she was the one in charge, he was protecting her at some cost to himself. She didn’t think she would ever be able to not see the way his flesh had looked when Kolya had drawn his knife along it and made McKay bleed. He had done it again, and again until she had screamed at him to let them have the information. After all, without the codes, it wouldn’t do them any good and without the ATA gene, they couldn’t even input the codes.
It wasn’t until Kolya had moved over to her and was starting to describe what he and his men were going to do to her that McKay capitulated. She didn’t want to think, to dwell on what the leader of the Genii war party had promised that he would do to her if the Guide hadn’t told them their plans.
When the power to the central tower shut off, she stared at McKay in horror and he looked at her, completely calm. Sheppard must have been nearby and he was making war on the men who had invaded his City in the most bloody way possible. From what she overheard as Kolya received reports, more and more of his men were disappearing from view, and the internal sensors were no use.
McKay even went so far as to refuse to adjust the sensors to allow the Genii to use them and when they demanded that he do so, he outright laughed at them. Even when they beat him. Elizabeth couldn’t look away. One of the Genii was against her back, holding her in place as two others worked the Guide over and still nothing. The only reason they stopped was the notification of an incoming wormhole.
The reaction to Sheppard killing the second team of invaders was insane. She didn’t know that people could turn that color without something being medically wrong with them. She never wanted to see it again. When the gate shut off and then restarted, she looked up at the command center to see the Genii scientist who had been monitoring the communications frantically dialing the gate, his hand pressing hard on a stab wound to his side. Sheppard hadn’t killed him outright, but if he didn’t get medical attention, there was no telling what would happen.
If he stayed on Atlantis without the shield going up, it wouldn’t make any difference.
Kolya drew the remnants of his men back to the gate room. Out of the sixty men who had arrived, only five remained. And they carried only their weapons.
“You will be coming with us, Dr. Weir,” Kolya muttered in her ear as he pulled her towards the Gate. From the way one of the men reached for McKay, she was certain that he had orders to take the Guide along too.
The man who had been so calmly obstinate for the hours and hours of the nightmare they were in disappeared and was replaced with someone who efficiently and without mercy, killed the man who had dared touch him. Shocked, Elizabeth stopped moving with the body behind her and then flinched as something hot flashed by her cheek. The warm wetness that coated it a second later clued her in as to what had happened and she tried not to retch. It would do them no good for her to vomit.
The pressure of the body behind her disappeared and she heard the slurp of the wormhole accepting a traveler and then there was another, and another. Of the five men who had been in the gate room, only three had made it through and looking around, she saw that the wounded man had been one of them. As had Kolya.
Hurrying forward, Elizabeth tried to get to McKay before he collapsed. She had gotten only two steps towards him when Sheppard had arrived. If McKay looked like shit, his Sentinel was many times worse. He didn’t even hesitate, but reached out and scooped up his Guide and started towards the command level.
“Rodney, I need you to tell me how to bring the shield up,” Sheppard said softly into his Guide’s ear, clearly trying to get something from him. “Come on buddy. I know that you are in there. Let me in so I can save us all.”
The command console was surprisingly clean given the blood trail leading down to the gate, she saw. Sheppard carefully placed his Guide in the chair Chuck normally used and raised one hand to his ear, toggling the radio that was still there.”Carson, either get into the command center or get back to your Jumper. You have less than two minutes before the wave I can feel heading this way hits the city.”
Oh. God. Elizabeth swallowed and tried not to whimper. Two minutes? They had two minutes? She looked back at the gate and then at the two men in front of her. Maybe? No. That wouldn’t work.
The doors leading out into the city from the gate room opened and Carson, Teyla, Ford and the strawberry blond Genii woman that had been part of the invasion force ran in. Sheppard nodded and moved his hands across the console in front of him, keying in the sequences that would allow the shield to rise as the lightening powered it.
The background hum of the city deepened and it was startling. She barely noticed the sound anymore, but the change was such a difference that she had to pay attention to. Harsher, more discordant and full of fits and starts, the sound rose and rose, higher and higher. Elizabeth could feel the seconds leading to the two-minute mark racing past as she stared out the window at the rain striking the balcony.
Sheppard was leaning against the console an urgent expression on his face, clearly trying to get Atlantis to raise the shield so they wouldn’t sink. Everyone in the room held their breathes as the sound of the city rose to a shriek and then there was silence. Elizabeth watched as a wave of golden light passed in front of the doors to the balcony and then it was followed by a wave of blackness.
It had to have been the wave that Sheppard had mentioned. That had been too close.
Elizabeth closed her eyes and prayed. Prayed that they found a way to get them home soon. She wanted to go home. To forget that there was such a place as Pegasus and Atlantis. Not even Ascension was worth the constant terror. She wanted to go home.
The next few days were quiet. His tribe had come home after the worst of the storm had passed and the Sentinel had taken the time to touch base with each and every person. It had helped him come to terms with those who wouldn’t be there. He wasn’t okay with it, but John had accepted what combat meant a long time before. It was just going to take him some time to get used to the new changes to his people.
Seven days after they had forced the Genii off Atlantis, John woke up to the feeling of eyes on him and smiled. His Guide. The one person in the universe who he could never, ever do without.
“Whatever it is you are thinking, I agree with,” Rodney murmured before leaning forward to kiss him quietly.
“I am thinking that I never want to go without you anywhere again. And if you try to separate us again for some task, it had better be because there is no other choice,” John rumbled back before hooking one hand around his Guide’s neck and pulling him in for a kiss. The taste of the other man was just what he was looking for. Sleepy, a bit bitter and full of contentment. The bruised smell he had been wreathed in for the previous week had faded enough that John was willing to push things a bit further.
“I wasn’t planning on getting into trouble this last time,” Rodney protested against his lips.
John just hummed and slid his hands down to cup his Guide’s ass and pull him over his own body. He wanted to feel the weight of McKay, to know that he was there and real. That he hadn’t almost lost him again to the crap the Ancients left behind. Pressing against Rodney’s ass, he thrust up and let his morning hard-on brush the other mans.
The gasp into his mouth was delicious and he did it again and again until Rodney moaned wantonly. John kept his touch light, but he made certain to cover every bit of skin that he could. There were large swaths of skin that felt too warm to his touch and he closed his eyes. The warmth was from the bruises his Guide was covered in. Which was another reason Rodney was the one on top. He wasn’t going to add to the other man’s pain if he could help it.
But an orgasm would help with that and he was determined that Rodney was going to get one soon. Undulating his hips in time with the moans falling from both their lips, John twisted slightly and then growled in triumph. His cock was now sliding right beside Rodney’s as they moved against each other. Skin on skin, the warmth they were generating was pulling up a sweat and he shuddered as the smell of them reached his nose.
Sex, salt, pheromones, and precum. If he believed in God, this would be the reason why John thought feverishly. Rodney was moving over him, all smooth skin and pretty sounds and the Sentinel was entranced and how happy his Guide looked. When the other man threw his head back and moaned John wasn’t ready for his own orgasm to slam into him at the first splash of cum from Rodney’s cock. He clamped his hands down around his partner’s hips and held him still as he pushed up, once, twice and then he was gone.
The warmth of their mental connection bloomed around them and John could tell that his Guide was wallowing in the sensation. So was he. The Bond between them was supple again with good health and something in the Sentinel relaxed at that. It would take time for the physical side effects of adventure to fade, but they were okay. For now.
“Major Sheppard, I cannot allow you to break quarantine.”
“Carson, you are a good man and a great doctor, but I need to be with my Guide. Let me in,” John demanded as he talked to the CMO over the radio. He was prowling up and down the corridor near where the exploration group was holed up, trying to get in with the medical team so he could be with his Guide.
“John, you can’t go in there! What happens if you get infected?” Elizabeth demanded as she reached out and tried to run a placating hand down his arm.
Moving deftly out of the way to avoid her touch, John tried not to snarl at the woman. “Rodney is already infected, Doctor. I need to get to my Guide.”
Lips pressed tightly together as her gesture was deftly avoided, Elizabeth shook her head. “I can’t let you take that chance, John. The doors stay closed.”
“You can’t let me take that chance?” John looked at the titular expedition leader. “Just what the hell do you think will happen to me if I go in there?”
Weir looked at him with scorn and an edge of ownership that struck John as intensely creepy. “I think we will lose the best chance we have of making the Ancient tech here work. After all, you were brought on board this project because of your ability to interface with the tech, not as a Sentinel.”
Growling at the sheer arrogance of those words, John turned to look at her and snarled. “Are you trying to keep me from going to my Guide, Dr. Weir? To interfere with and obstruct a bonded pair in a life or death situation?”
“To keep you safe? Yes! We need you here and alive!” she exclaimed.
“If Rodney dies, so do I, Dr. Weir. That is the nature of Sentinels and Guides. Sergeant Bates, escort Dr. Weir back to her office and keep her there,” John growled quietly as he worked to speak evenly. His hands were clenching and unclenching as he worked to control his temper and the urge to deal with the problem she represented. He found himself missing his Guide fiercely at that moment. The support Rodney offered him when his temper slipped was invaluable. But he was still dealing with Weir. John ramped up the growl when the Expedition leader tried to loom and she failed. Apparently that was what was needed, because Weir finally clued into what was going on and backed off, her posture changing from challenging to submissive, obviously trying to calm the waters she had stirred.
“Yes, sir. Dr. Weir, shall we?” Bates asked quietly as he waved his hand towards the door. John watched as his head of City security escorted her to her office. From the level of courtesy Bates was extending, John was certain he was trying to minimize any possible fallout that was going to result from his confrontation with her. Too bad that John didn’t care one way or another about the results of this or any other argument he had with that woman and in this, the law was on his side.
Tapping his radio, John opened the Pride channel his Guide had set up for them. “Rodney? Weir’s out of the way now. What do you need me to do? How do I fix this?”
His Guide sounded beyond weary as he started to talk. “As much as I loathe politics, even I know that tiff with Weir might come and bite us in the ass later, but I can’t find it in me to care right now. Carson has confirmed that there are nanites in the blood samples of everyone in here and the ones most affected have the nanites in massive numbers with the number of them rising. The dead will likely have traces of them in their blood as well if the little bastards don’t break down when their victims die.”
“Nanites? Who in the hell is playing with nanites? And where did they come from?” John demanded.
A little of Rodney’s usual fire lit his voice as he worked to enlighten his Sentinel. “Yes, nanites. The Ancients were flaming assholes who decided to play with nightmares and then bottle them. They stored the damn things in breakable containers in an open fucking lab for anyone to find without a care for keeping people safe,” the Guide huffed out an angry breath before speaking again. “I need to talk to Biro.”
John was quiet as Rodney switched them over to the medical channels, listening to his Guide as he tried to get every bit of useful information out of Biro. Carson’s second was doing double duty as the Expeditions ME and John didn’t envy her the job at all. But apparently she had found something helpful and whatever Rodney was getting out of the mass of medical jargon was at least good by the honest excitement in his voice.
The Sentinel felt a ripple of something from the Bond that connected him to his Guide. John concentrated on the place inside that connected him to Rodney and tested the emotion he was receiving. It was terror. Gut-wrenching, soul-destroying terror that thundered down the Bond he shared with the man who was the other half of his soul. But nothing of what he was feeling was showing in the voice he was hearing over his radio. His Guide was a past master at using his voice to motivate his minions, and he was using all those skills now to hide what he was going through as he worked to get them all out of the nightmare they were in.
“Radek, the nanites that Carson showed us… Do they look like they are shielded to you?” Rodney asked after he had closed the radio channel to Biro.
Radek looked up from his perusal of the library console in the nanites lab. “No. Little machines from hell do not show any shielding. Why?”
“Because you said it, the little suckers are machines. And every machine I know of hates an EMP,” Rodney explained with an imperious eyebrow lift, daring his friend to catch up.
Eyes alight in anticipation, Radek turned to look at Terri Johnson, one of the lower-ranked science team members who frequently got the scut jobs. “You have the supply list on your tablet, yes? Where is the portable EMP unit we constructed?”
Johnson’s hands were shaking as she pulled out her general use tablet. A few quick taps and she had the answer to his question and her hands had stopped shaking. “I have it in the storeroom by the Jumper Bay for ease of use if someone came home with something they shouldn’t,” she informed them grimly. “But by the specs you uploaded on it, the pulse isn’t going to be big enough to get all the nanites infecting us. It was built to be just big enough to take care of two or three people at a time and not short out the tower itself.”
Rodney could feel John reaching down their bond as he digested the information. He was terrified of what was likely to happen to him if they didn’t figure a way out of this mess and that was bad enough. The terror imposed on him by the nanites was worse because he could tell that they were reaching into the hind portion of his brain to find everything that scared him. Then they amplified those fears in surges that got stronger and stronger. If his idea with the EMP didn’t work, the Guide had no idea how he was going to keep his Sentinel alive while he died.
Taking a deep breath, Rodney pushed that worry to the side and tried to force his mind to think. Each surge of terror from the nanites caused him to freeze up and for a moment, pushed his mind into a complete blank. Only his training held his shields in place, and he was incredibly grateful to his teachers for forcing him to learn how to keep them up no matter what he was going through. If they failed… His minions wouldn’t need the nanites to kill them, his abilities going feral would do it neatly. “Major? Have you been following our discussion over here?”
“I have indeed. When we get out of this, remind me to show you how much I like your brain.”
Snorting lightly in amusement, Rodney ignored what his subconscious was presenting to torment him. “You’re on. Now get moving, Sentinel. I’m not going to be able to keep myself calm for too much longer.”
“Will do,” John agreed and the Guide could feel the love the other man had for him before the flood of emotion was cut off. “Bates, have you also been following the discussion? And are you in place?”
“I have Major. And I am standing in front of the EMP unit. I think I need to talk to Dr. Johnson and your Guide about their definition of ‘portable’,” The Sergeant commented dryly over the public comms.
Snorting weakly in black humor, Johnson tapped her radio to defend the science team’s honor. “It has wheels, can fit into a transporter and plugs into a naquadah generator. Portability at its best in the Pegasus galaxy.”
“You know best, doc,” Bates shot back before the line went silent.
Rodney really hoped that this worked.
The connection to Bates and his moving crew was silent for several moments before the Sergeant come back on the line. “Sirs, I have Dr. Kusanagi moving one of the spare generators through to the quarantine door nearest your location. I also have a squad of Marines getting ready to move this thing into the nearest transporter.”
“Sergeant, there is a transporter located twenty feet to the left of the main hanger doors, on the opposite wall. Use that,” Rodney directed.
“You rock, doc. Thanks,” Bates said before John heard the distinctive sound of the transporter door opening. The next thing he heard was the report that the EMP unit had arrived safely and Dr. Kusanagi was getting things set up.
“Carson, can you get some of your people to deliver a few ISO suits to Bates’s team?” Sheppard asked quietly.
“Already done lad,” Carson informed him.
“Good. Let’s get everyone moving then. By my count, we have twenty-five minutes before Rodney and Radek overload and I have someone shoot me.” John said grimly. If this didn’t work, he would need to have someone deal with him. The Sentinel within him knew he would go utterly feral without his Guide to stabilize him. The last time he had felt this bad had been when he had been dealing with the Genii on the city and he had been distracted enough by the ache in his body and the need to take care of the invaders that he could ignore the risks. He wasn’t able to do that today.
Now that they had a plan, things moved into place with relative ease. John moved to shadow Bates’ team at the quarantine door. Being handed an ISO suit was a galling reminder of what his Guide was facing, but John knew that until they got rid of the nanites, he wasn’t going to be able to skip out on wearing it. Only when the last seal was sealed and checked did Bates turn back to him. John just raised an eyebrow at him from inside his thick blue body condom. “Ready when you are, Bates.”
“Yes, sir. Per Chuck in Ops, the quarantine doors are set up like airlocks. We need to get the ones on this side to let us in so we can get this bad boy set up and charged before Dr. McKay and Dr. Z come in from the infected side.”
Even as Bates was explaining what they had set up, John was working with Atlantis to open the door on their side. They needed to get the EMP set up and the door closed so the rest of the City could be safe. His Guide now had ten minutes before time ran out and the nanites in his bloodstream and brain overrode his nervous system and killed him. When he felt Atlantis acquiesce and the doors open, John leant his strength to get the EMP machine and the naquadah generator in position.
The small form of Kusanagi was working swiftly and surely, attaching the required cables with no fumbling, even with the thick neoprene gloves on. Whoever had designed the concept had done a good job at actually making it user-friendly and the engineers building it had stuck with the theme. The critical power display showed that it was charged within thirty seconds of the generator being hooked into it and the steady whine of it holding that charge bore it out.
The muffled hiss of the uninfected side’s door closing was loud in his ears as he strained to hear over the sound of his own heartbeat. When the green light came up in their impromptu airlock, John took a deep breath and held it while waiting for the door keeping him away from his Guide to open. When it did, John pulled Rodney to him and tried to get some sort of sensory reading, something…. All he got through the ISO suit was a muffled impression of heat and as compromised as he was, the Sentinel couldn’t tell if it was his heat or his Guide’s. Since his senses weren’t enough, John reached across the Bond and felt his Guide reaching back. Love, terror, loneliness, need, fear and exhaustion all flashed across their mental link in the space of a heartbeat.
As soon as the inner doors back into the lab closed, John pulled back from Rodney and carefully pulled him into the space in front of the EMP machine. Once his Guide was settled, the Sentinel moved towards Radek and herded him to his place beside his boss. From the indulgent and indignant look he got, he knew that the other man was silently telling him that he was able to handle himself. The closing of the infected side of the airlock took a small forever and he struggled not to pace. The Sentinel could feel his inner countdown rushing to zero and he was in no condition to cut anyone else any slack.
He kept his attention centered on his Guide and John watched as one of the blue suited figures moved forward and stabbed the big button on the side of the EMP housing. The whine of the machines charge stopped and then there was a wave of wrong washing over him and John went to his knees. Rodney stayed standing for a heartbeat longer before his knees buckled as well. Unlike the Sentinel, John could tell his Guide’s fall was from an overwhelming feeling of relief. The terror that had been steadily building in his mind was gone.
Even as John basked in the relief that was flooding Rodney’s mind, he was moving. There were over a dozen members of the Science department behind them who needed a turn in front of that machine. And then they needed to figure out how to fix the ground zero cluster fuck the Ancients had left behind. Again. A query to Atlantis got the reply that the air look was clean and the city was willing to let the two scientists out. They had a solution.
Which meant that he and Rodney would have to deal with Elizabeth. Damn it.
Carson Beckett closed the last file he needed to notate on the newest mess that the Expedition could lay at the feet of the Ancients. If he had his way, the lessons they were learning would be rammed down the throats of a few people on Earth. There were many who would be willing to use the technology inherent in the nanites for things that no one should get into and he wanted to make sure that the dangers were well documented. Mind control was nothing to play with.
“Why does Major Sheppard fight me every time I try to order him to do something?”
The doctor jumped in his chair and turned around to stare at the Expedition’s leader. “Are you really questioning why the man refused your orders to let his Guide die today?” he asked carefully.
“I didn’t want Rodney to die, but Major Sheppard needs to know that I am the leader of this city, not him. And we need him to make the Ancient technology we have here work. As important as Dr. McKay is to the science teams, he is somewhat replaceable in the grand scheme of things. Sheppard isn’t,” Weir said with a hand wave.
Carson looked at the woman who had been the driving force in getting all of them out to their new home and wondered when she had lost her mind. “I know, since I heard him say it, that Sentinel Sheppard told you that if he Guide dies, he dies with him. That is the way of Sentinels and Guides. Once Bonded, they rarely live without the other, if the Bond is true. Dr. McKay and Major Sheppard had their Bond examined and declared true by Dr. Sandburg before they left Earth. There is no way that those two will ever be separated in life or in death.”
“Humph. I’m sure. Still. I am in charge of the Expedition and he needs to learn that means I call the shots,” Weir muttered angrily.
“Are you out of your bloody mind?” Carson asked after a heartbeat. “Do you really think that a Sentinel gives a good god damn what a mundane thinks about their relationship with their Guide? The Guide is all to a Sentinel and they will protect them with everything in them. Your telling the Major that he should let his Guide die of something that he could possibly cure was stupid. And dangerous. You are beyond lucky that Sheppard didn’t kill you.”
From the look on Weir’s face, she truly hadn’t realized how close to the edge she had been. Even he, who had been listening over the comm system had known how close she had been to not making it out of the whole mess alive. When she opened her mouth again, Carson watched her carefully. He really, really hoped that he was getting through to her on how dangerous her pastime of messing with the Expeditions Sentinel and Guide pair was.
“What do you mean he would have killed me if I had continued?” she asked carefully.
“Did you not hear what I have said to you? Or are you ignoring what doesn’t fit your world view? Sentinels and Guides are bonded for life. To lose one, is to lose the other. The fact that you were willing to sacrifice a Guide so you can keep the Sentinel, is horrid. That the only reason you want to keep him is a genetic anomaly that allows him to operate the technology here is even worse.”
Carson shook his head. There was no way to keep this conversation from his friends and he didn’t even want to try. Better they knew what was happening now, instead of later. Before Dr. Weir managed to get them killed with her ignorance and arrogance.
Weir huffed out an angry breath and tried again. “We need him to keep the city going. McKay is…”
Carson decided that he had had enough. “Dr. McKay is as important as his Sentinel to the running of this city. Or don’t you remember who does most of the repair work out here? It isn’t just Zelenka and his engineers. A large portion is Dr. McKay. And I think I am done with this conversation. You have lost this war. Accept it and be done with it, Dr. Weir. Feel lucky you are alive and that we only lost two people to the arrogance of the Ancients. It could have been a lot worse.”
When she steamed off, Carson rolled his eyes and opened up a new report. He was going to make certain that the conversation he had just had was on official record. As he typed, a new email popped up and a quick check showed that it was the video record of his confrontation with Weir. Sighing slightly, he nodded and added it to the report before putting the whole mess under his personal password. “Thank you, lads. I am sorry you had to hear that.”
Closing his computer down, he left his office and went to his room and the bottle of hooch he had stashed there. If ever there was a night for a bit of medicinal booze, this was it. What a cluster fuck as the Marines would say.
“I am not happy with how this is going with Weir,” John muttered into the back of his Guide’s neck.
“Neither am I, John. But unless she totally abrogates her responsibilities to us…” Rodney murmured softly before sighing. “Although thinking about what she pulled today, she may just have.”
John growled and pulled his partner closer. He didn’t want to think about what had happened earlier in the day. If he thought about it, he would have to deal with Weir and he just couldn’t. Not yet. He needed the time to reconnect with his Guide and get them both settled.
He wasn’t going to press for a sexual bonding. It wasn’t what his Guide needed. And for all that he was as highly sexed as any other Sentinel out there, it wasn’t what he wanted either. As soon as they had gotten to their quarters, he had pulled Rodney into the bathroom and stripped him down, throwing the clothes soaked with fear sweat out onto their balcony. He planned on leaving them out there for a few days to air out. Hopefully by that point he would be able to handle them without freaking out.
The Sentinel reached out with careful mental hands and requested that Atlantis turn the water on in their shower. She responded as beautifully as ever and the wet warmth of the water moved through the room. John pulled his Guide under the spray and with a gentle kiss, stepped back to start washing the day off of the most important person in his life. The washcloth in his hands was soon laden with the special soap reserved for S&G pairs and John ran the sudsy cloth over every inch of his partner’s skin.
The stale scents of fear, stress and terror slowly slid away to be replaced by the natural scent of just them and the knot of tension in his gut relaxed. John draped the washcloth over a ledge and pulled out the shampoo they shared. It was… soothing to move his fingers through his Guide’s hair and the bubbles tickled his palms as they burst. It was normal, routine and John relished it.
Rodney took all the love and attention he lavished on him and just hummed in contentment. The Bond between them was pulsing with his love and trust and John held onto it with firm mental hands as his physical hands gently pulled his Guide out of the shower and carefully dried him off. A quick nudge of the environmental controls pulled the temperature up a bit more and John guided Rodney over to their bed and let him lie down on his stomach.
The oil they regularly used for massages was in a holder by the bed and John flipped it on, starting the process to warm holder as he poured a generous portion onto his hands and rubbed them together to heat it up. The rest was put back in place and the Sentinel started at the nape of his Guide’s neck and worked his way down, carefully massaging each and every muscle group and making Rodney a puddle of utterly relaxed human being.
When he had reached his Guide’s feet, John heightened his sense of touch a bit. Given Rodney’s health problems, he was taking no chances at any form of sugar-based complications to form. The feel of his fingers normally elicited giggles from the ticklish man, but today, they just got faint moans. John didn’t get upset.
Rodney turned over and wriggled carefully, moving just enough to get comfortable again before relaxing into the massage again. John coated his hands with oil again and started his journey over his Guide’s front. He paid equal attention to his front and the muscles there before grabbing a warm washcloth from the bathroom. The cloth was dry, soft and warm and it pulled the last bit of oil that hadn’t been absorbed into Rodney’s skin off to allow the Sentinel to cover his Guide with the sheet and blanket on their bed.
Wiping his own hands on the cloth, John let it fall to the floor and then crawled into bed. Wrapping himself around his partner, John reached out over the bond to his Guide. The feel of the other’s mind was more settled and flexible than it had been when they had started the massage and John sighed in relief. They had survived today. Tomorrow was coming all too soon.
But for now, they needed to sleep.
The storeroom was unguarded and she was incredibly surprised about that, given what it contained. Tapping in her override, she walked down the room between the shelves, looking for a specific case. When she found it, she saw why the room hadn’t been guarded. The case containing what she was looking for was bolted to the shelf and it had a palm print lock with a miniature keyboard attached.
She laid her hand on the pad and one hidden light turned green. A quick tap of her command codes, and the second light turned green and the box popped open. Picking up what she had come for, she shut the case and walked out.
Let them dismiss her now, Elizabeth thought with a vicious smile.
(4)The Fruits of Deception
While it may seem that every time a Sentinel and Guide get together to Bond that sex is on the menu, that is often not the case. Not to say that sex doesn’t come out of these sessions, but it is not the ultimate goal of a formalized Bond session. The goal of those is to reaffirm the mental, physical and mystical health of both partners.
And if they enjoy it, well… That’s just a bonus that makes it all worthwhile.
Private email from Dr. Blair Sandburg to Dr. Kate Heightmeyer, PhD.
Time moves differently when one was in that ultra-calm state of mind that preceded a formal Bonding, Things that seemed to be moving swiftly could take hours and some that stretched out forever only took an instant and you didn’t know which version it was going to be until you came out the other side. Either way, the meditation relaxed metaphysical muscles that had been drawn tight by the strain of days around people who were routinely under immense amounts of stress with few if any outlets. People whose emotions boiled under calm exteriors and bled all over his emotional landscape. No wonder he was a right bastard when the tension got high.
Rodney lit the final candle out of the bunch he had traded Halling for and moved over to his meditation mat. He had already cleaned himself inside and out and felt… lighter for following the traditions that the scene he was building required. The mental shifts needed to calm his mind had been done during his cleanup and now he just had to wait.
Everything in him told him that John would take the time to tour his City, to reaffirm that everyone was still okay after the day that they had had. Once he knew that all was well, that would be when he would come home to his Guide and he needed to be ready. Using his breathing as a guide, Rodney started to fall into his own head and began to make his mind as clean as his body currently was. It took the agitated mind of his Sentinel pausing outside of their door to pull him up from the depths of his head. Testing the flavor of their Bond, Rodney felt the bitter anger and unsatisfied rage that was saturating the mental landscape of John’s mind.
Rodney pulled in a silent breath and waited, trying to project welcome at the man on the other side of the door. Ancient architecture could be remarkably quiet when in use and John was a past master at minimizing the sounds he made, so it was only his gifts that let him know that he was no longer alone. Opening his eyes, Rodney took in one of his favorite sights. His Sentinel looked wild, free and seriously pissed at the world.
“Go get clean, Sentinel. I am in need of Bonding,” Rodney murmured. His mind was clear of the fear and excitement that had clouded it earlier and he was ready to Bond.
Walking through the hallways of Atlantis, John tried to keep the anger and despair out of his body language. His soldiers didn’t need to see him upset and they were very good at reading the smallest clues in his moods. No matter how much he wanted to rip and tear at something to take his anger at Kolya out on something. The man had put his hands on his Guide. And from the scents that were coming off the other man, he had intended far more than what he had done.
Arriving at the door to their quarters, John took a deep breath and tried to shed some of his anger. Rodney did not deserve or frankly need to be the recipient of this mood. No matter how much the other man felt that it was his duty and privilege to soothe him. With a mental nudge he let the door open and walked into another world.
There were dozens of white pillar candles set in plates all over the front room of their quarters and the scent was the Pegasus version of beeswax that he was used to smelling around Teyla. Soothing and calming at the same time. John felt his bad mood start to calm with the evidence that his Guide was working to keep their bond healthy.
Moving into the bedroom, John saw his Guide sitting on one of the two meditation mats that they had brought with them from Earth. What really stopped him in his tracks though was the sight of Rodney sitting there in nothing but his skin. Arousal was instant, but not needed or frankly wanted.
John sent a gentle pulse of question along their bond, trying to not startle his Guide out of his meditative state. When Rodney’s eyes opened, he smiled at the appreciative glance that flicked over him. With a tilt of his head, he indicated the bathroom. “Go get clean, Sentinel. I am in need of Bonding.”
He could feel his face flush a bit at that request. Turning to walk into the bathroom, John contemplated his Guide’s request. Bondings weren’t sex per se, but they were intense and incredibly sensual events. Each time was different, but they all shared a common theme of intense scrutiny, every single bit of his Guide examined and approved. The calming of his mind continued and he carefully stripped out of all his clothes and with a mental request, started a really hot shower. Stepping under the water, John sighed and grabbed the soap to start the through scrubbing a Bonding session required. Each pass of the soap on his skin took more and more of the day from him and he moved further and further into the calm needed.
Taking a deep breath, John turned his face up into the water and tried to relax. Finally, he turned the water off and grabbed a towel on the way out of the bathroom. Pausing momentarily, he scrubbed himself mostly dry and dropped his towel, for once not worried about being neat. Walking out wearing nothing but his skin and his dog tags, John stopped in front of his Guide. Rodney was now calm in a way that none of his ‘minions’ would ever believe, calm down to the deepest levels of his mind and John wanted to curl up in there and purr. Instead, he sat down on the mat prepared for him and let himself drop into a fully meditative state, mind linked to his Guide.
John opened his eyes to look at his Guide. His mind was quiet, his emotions calmed and he felt like he had regained some perspective on the day. The betrayal by the Brotherhood hadn’t been all that surprising in retrospect and because of that, he didn’t feel at all guilty about arranging to switch out one of their critically depleted ZPM’s for the mostly full one that they had helped find.
He thought that Rodney might forgive him for being an asshole all day when he gave it to him later.
Running his gaze over the other man, John took the time to visually inspect what was his. It was so very caveman-like to think that, but Rodney belonged to him as much as he belonged to Rodney. The other man was never going to win awards for his tan, but he was fit, limber and able to keep up with his Sentinel in all ways.
“Rodney?” John called softly as he shifted to his knees. There was no movement, but he could feel the other man’s awareness increase over their Bond. When Rodney’s eyes opened, John smiled and asked quietly, “Can you lie down?”
“Sure,” came the slightly distracted reply. Rodney turned and stretched out on his stomach, his muscles loose and relaxed.
John sighed in contentment as he took in the form of his Guide. Knee walking over to him, he leaned forward and placed a kiss at the nape of Rodney’s neck. “Thank you for pushing for this.”
The Sentinel sat back on his heels and looked at the man in front of him. Pale skin, lean body and strong muscles, all wrapped around an amazing mind and a caring heart that knew no bounds. John felt his mouth water with want. Swallowing hastily, he leaned forward, placing his nose in the hair on Rodney’s head and began to saturate himself in the physical reality of his Guide.
Each inch of Rodney’s back was examined and all his senses were involved in the task. Smell, taste, sight, touch, all were bent to the task of relearning the body before him. His hearing was monitoring the beat of that beloved heart, listening to the sound of it pumping blood though dilated veins and the moans falling from his lips like water.
There were spots up and down Rodney’s neck that called to him, and he was more than happy to nibble, suck and taste all that was before him. The line of Rodney’s spine got investigated thoroughly, each vertebra defined with careful fingers. Muscle groups were traced with sensitive lips, and he could feel the minor inflammation lingering in the fibers, a result of the hard work of the past week.
Each arm was held in careful hands, every scrape, every bruise, every rough patch of skin was soothed and tended to. John paid careful attention to the rings of bruises circling his Guide’s upper arms. Uncaring hands had inflicted them and he wanted no shadow of them to stay with Rodney.
In a bid to resist temptation, John skipped Rodney’s ass, for a little while at least. Strong legs that he loved to feel wrapped around him were relaxed and spread out to allow him plenty of room to rest between. The thin skin at the join between ass and leg was scented, licked and gently bit. Well defined hamstrings were kneaded with gentle fingers, and a quick massage was given to muscles that still faintly twitched with stress.
Knees. John carefully examined his Guide’s knees, lightly flexing each joint and listening for any pops that might indicate damage, feeling for any inflammation. There was nothing out of the ordinary from either and with a sucking kiss to the pale skin at their backs, he moved on.
Every inch of his Guide’s ankles and feet were examined, massaged and held until John was certain all was well there. While he didn’t have a foot fetish, his Guide was as fastidious as a cat with his personal grooming and his feet were no hardship to play with. Running a finger lightly over the arch of a foot, John listened to a muffled giggle and smiled. Tapping an ankle he asked, “Can you turn over?”
Instead of answering, Rodney rolled over onto his back and wriggled silently as he settled in. John sat back on his heels again and admired the view. Pale skin that was flushed with involuntary arousal and the pink was a beautiful sight as it moved down his chest. Testing the waters of Rodney’s arousal John leaned forward and paused over his cock. When a warm hand cupped his chin, he looked up in question. “Bonding, Sentinel. Sex later if that is still your wish.”
John nodded firmly at that. The press, the need to complete this Bonding was growing in his heart too. Reversing what he had done on Rodney’s back, John kissed the tops of his feet and ankles. He then moved his hands up the smooth muscles of his Guides shins and calves.
Blood, bone, muscle, hairless skin, pheromones and honest sweat. These were only some of the things that meant Rodney to John. Moving up his Guides legs, he gently pressed between them, sighing in contentment as they spread to allow him room. Allowing his hands to range free again, John slowly massaged each thigh, pressing sucking kisses on the line of femoral artery, feeling the lifeblood of his mate surging under his lips.
The scent that said Rodney to him was so much stronger here where his legs joined his pelvis. Sweat gathered at the joints and John dragged his tongue up one line, the taste of his Guide exploding in his mouth. So good. Summoning all his willpower, he skipped Rodney’s cock again. That would be the last thing he went for. Otherwise, this Bonding session would be cut short and he would fuck his Guide through the floor and do his level best to exhaust the two of them with really good sex.
Rodney would never, ever have the type of six-pack that all the male models on billboards had, but he was solid. Each muscle was strong and capable and able to work to its fullest. John paused in his tracing of Rodney’s abdomen and dipped his tongue in and out of his bellybutton. As his Guide curled in on himself giggling, John smiled. Pressing a final kiss to that oh so ticklish area, the Sentinel moved on.
Nipples. Nipples that reacted to the least changes in temperature and stood tall and perky all day long. Nipples that with the right play could drive Rodney over the edge to orgasm. Right now they were tightly puckered and just begging for someone to devote time to playing with them. John drew one nipple into his mouth, lips caressing the hard point with his lips. Rodney apparently liked that a lot since John could feel him tensing to move, to shift into the suction.
John released the nipple and turned his attention to its twin, lavishing his attention all over it. From there, he was planning on working his way up the sensitive neck and onto his Guides mouth. His mouth. It was something that normally spat out an unholy amount of vitriol and sarcasm; was now soft and giving under his. Rodney didn’t have a lush mouth, but damn, it was so pretty to him.
The marks he left on Rodney’s neck from his nibbles and bites were very faint. It would take another Sentinel to really see them as more than a residual redness that was easily excusable as the results of too much sun. For a Sentinel though, they were marks that let others know at a glance that a Guide was taken. Bonded to someone other than them. And if the visual cues didn’t work, his scent was all over Rodney now and wouldn’t fade for a few days.
John left Rodney’s mouth with reluctance. The kisses they were exchanging were so sweet. Love, desire, contentment, need. These things were communicated so easily through their kisses and every twitch of their skin and muscles. John moved over to an ear and purred his contentment in his Guide’s ear. The shiver that action provoked was delicious indeed. There was no fear in his Guide, just love, lust, and surrender.
With that final gift, John returned to that which he had been ignoring time and again in this whole process. His hands were firm as he ran them down Rodney’s thighs to his knees and shifted them further apart, giving him more access to the feast to come. Shifting back, John moved to lie down on the mats that he no longer felt. Where they were was no longer important, what they were doing had all of his attention. “Stay like this. I want to enjoy everything.”
“Everything Sentinel? I’m all yours. Enjoy at will,” Rodney agreed with a sigh of contentment.
“I will,” John said as he settled more firmly between his Guides legs. Dipping his head, he blew a slow breath over the treasure spread out before him. Smooth skin crinkled briefly with goosebumps and John smiled on his way down. “Lift up,” the Sentinel urged and when Rodney did, he carefully slid his hands under the other man’s ass, using his thumbs to spread the flesh wide so he had easy access to his goal. Rodney had been as thorough as ever in his cleaning and there was nothing that was objectionable there, nothing that wasn’t the taste of his Guide. Mouthwatering at the thought, John leaned forward that last little bit and started to feast.
Fast, slow, hard, soft. Each lick was a joy, taste and texture exploding over his lips and tongue, the scent a more concentrated, earthy version of all that was Rodney. The muscles of his ass were clenching and loosening, pulsing to an inner rhythm that matched the moans pouring from his mouth. John slowed his headlong rush to enjoy his treat and stiffening his tongue, dived into the little rosebud that was winking at him with every clench of Rodney’s muscles. Smooth walls and rich taste, bitter and earthy.
Leaving Rodney’s asshole, John moved up and spent some quality time playing with his perineum, pressing and massaging his Guide’s prostate, trying to get more of those delightful moans. A finger was used to tickle the outside of the hole he had just left, trying to keep it all relaxed and ready for play. When the moans that John had been hearing turned desperate, he moved up and swallowed down Rodney’s cock.
Swallowing around the cock in his mouth, John was rewarded by an immediate burst of cum. Rodney hadn’t even tried to hold back. Body limp with completion, the Guide opened his mind and wrapped it around his Sentinel. John wallowed in the sensation, and tried not to explode from the shock. Letting his treat go with a wet pop, John sat up and looked around for the lube that he knew Rodney had to have stashed nearby.
Lube found right where he knew Rodney would put it, John slicked up his fingers and started teasing the loose hole that they both liked playing with. With each finger going in, the Sentinel tracked how his Guide was responding. Despite the forethought that Rodney had displayed by putting the lube out, it wasn’t a given that their Bonding would end with sex. No matter how good it would feel. But then Rodney raised his legs, tilting his hips to offer him free rein, implicitly agreeing to what John was asking
When Rodney was loose and relaxed, John slowly slid in, taking the time to tease his Guide’s cock that was getting interested in what was happening again. Each thrust in was aimed at Rodney’s prostate and he nailed it each and every time. Leaning forward, John took his Guide’s lips in a kiss, his rhythm speeding up, and with each thrust, he let his mental walls thin out and eventually fall. And Rodney was there to catch him, shelter him and hold him close. His physical orgasm was secondary to the mental release of his walls and the joy of welcoming his Guide back into his mind.
Together again, Sentinel and Guide relaxed into each other. Their Bond was pulsing between them, healthy and resilient again as they slept.
The next morning started out a lot better than the previous one and John was happy to see that his backpack hadn’t been disturbed. Breakfast, a quick tour of the city and he was free for a few hours to go talk to his Guide. Rodney was engrossed in some power calculations if he was reading the information correctly from his angle. John felt a big grin split his lips as he pulled out his present and unwrapped it before putting it in front of the scientist.
Rodney looked over at his Sentinel and then at the ZPM that he had placed in front of him. “It’s a ZPM. We have three of them, all at maximum entropy. Why are you showing me this?”
“Because this one,” John said with a smile, “is at 90.28% full. I swapped it out for one of our duds.”
“It’s at 90.28%? How? How did you do this? When did you do this?” Rodney fired the questions out at a rapid pace, clearly, demanding answers as he reached out to touch the precious, precious ZPM.
Grinning like a mad thing at the success of his ruse, John answered, “I scanned it before we left the planet to make sure, using the scanner you had in your pack. I had heard something odd when I went to do a check in and got Radek to slip me one of the empties. It was in my pack when it all went to hell and I switched them when everyone else was blinded by the flash/bang. So you didn’t turn over a full ZPM to the Brotherhood, you gave one that had 0.5% power remaining. Just enough to let it glow a bit. I seriously doubt they will ever know the difference.”
Rodney was petting their new ZPM with a gleeful look on his face. Obviously John was not going to be roasted for the switch. “Have you told Dr. Weir about your impressive sleight of hand skills?”
Rocking back and forth on his heels, John shook his head. “Nope. You needed to know first. Plus we need to make sure, that even with the scans, that it is still good and will integrate into our systems.”
Shaking his head at the machinations of his Sentinel Rodney pulsed love, understanding and care down the Bond. They were still dealing with the fallout from the nanite incident and it looked like John was in no way, shape or form ready to cut Weir any slack. Well, to be honest, neither was Rodney, he was just better at hiding it than his Sentinel. “We can easily do that.” Tapping his radio for an open science channel, he put a call out for the man who had become his second, “Radek? Major Sheppard has just brought the most interesting doodad to my attention. I need you with me to test it.”
“Doodad?” John could hear Radek’s voice clearly. “We have these new things now? Perhaps it is an alternate labeling scheme?”
Rodney snorted with laughter at the irritation in the Czech’s voice and switched to his native language to keep things secure and not raise any undue hopes. “No, you fuzzy headed Einstein wanna be. The Major managed to get his hands on a rather remarkable energy source. I thought that you might want to help me play with it for a bit. If not, I can do it all myself.”
The link was silent for a heartbeat and then exploded in the sounds of fervent cursing in several languages before the sound cut off. “Looks like he was happy with that idea,” John noted.
“Oh, I think so too. I would expect him to come running in here any moment now,” Rodney said as he stared at the door while petting the ZPM under his hands.
John tilted his head to the side and listened to the noise of the hallway. There were the normal sounds of traffic outside of the lab that Rodney had claimed as his own. Nothing new. At least until he heard the transporter at the end of the hall open and the heartbeat he had identified as Zelenka’s come down the hallway. The tempo of his stride didn’t match the excited beat of his heart and John grinned. “He is just outside.”
“Excellent,” Rodney exclaimed as he reached for his scanner.
When the Czech entered, he looked remarkably calm for a man who had been given such extraordinary news. If the Sentinel hadn’t had his hearing tuned towards the man’s heartbeat, he would never have known he was excited. “You have gotten your hands on what?”
The Sentinel waved at the glowing crystal sculpture under his Guide’s hands.
“Bhoiz e moi,” Zelenka breathed out. “You managed it?”
“I did,” John said smugly. “And they don’t know. I listened while they were escorting us off the planet.”
“You are a miracle worker, Major. Thank you,” the Czech said quietly as he picked up another tool to start testing the power supply.
“Eh, I got lucky,” John disagreed. “So do you think we can get this thing tested and installed without Dr. Weir noticing?”
Rodney looked up from the display of his testing rig. “Maybe. But there are a lot of people besides her that will notice. Some of them will have no problems letting her know. She still has several people in her corner, after all.”
“I don’t care, Rodney. I just want us to not have to pull out another Hail Mary like during the storm. Or have to try to override the city’s quarantine controls that are set at max due to the dearth of power to run the sanitizers. I don’t want to have to worry about the transporters cutting out mid transport and leaving us with an accident reminiscent of that scene in ‘Star Trek: The Motion Picture’. I want to have the ability to send people home if we have to and I want the surety that we will be warning Earth about the Wraith. I just want that safety cushion that more power brings,” John declared. His voice was as even as he could make it, but he knew that his Guide could tell that he was sincere.
Rodney carefully set his equipment down and walked over to John and wrapped him in a hug. The Sentinel didn’t fight the comfort, instead he buried his face in his Guide’s neck and breathed deeply of the scent there.
“Thanks to you, Major, we will have all that and more,” Radek said a while later. The Pair had been standing wrapped around each other, carefully sending love and support back and forth on their bond and John was reluctant to break the feedback loop they had. It was so damn rare that they had enough time to just be them…
Lifting his head, John nodded and reluctantly let go of McKay. “Okay, can we get it into the power room without everyone knowing?”
“Easily,” Rodney said. His voice was slightly blurry and John knew that they were going to need some more one on one time soon. He watched as his partner took a deep breath before he reached for a toolbox and emptied it of everything, carefully placing the tools themselves out of sight in a drawer. Then he laid a spare t-shirt in the bottom followed by the ZPM. Closing the lid, he hefted the whole thing and started for the door. “No time like the present.”
John looked over at Radek and then nodded towards the door. “After you, Doctor.”
The three of them heading towards the power room wasn’t an unusual sight to anyone on Atlantis, Rodney knew. He was taking advantage of that by slipping their errand in under everyone’s noses. It had become his habit to go in there and poke around in the hope of actually finding something to help keep them from dying.
So far the search had come up dry, but he had started the habit and now was a good time to take advantage of it.
The toolbox in his hand felt way too light for the potential it held. Infinite power wrapped up in a pretty crystal package. One that was way too easy to misplace and if it broke? Rodney wasn’t certain that breaking a ZPM wouldn’t result in the destruction of the whole planet. Maybe even the solar system.
Shaking his head lightly, the Guide pushed the morbid thoughts aside and followed his Sentinel into the power room. A quick check of the room showed that nothing had changed from the last time he had spent an afternoon puttering around it and he relaxed. “Radek, I cleaned out all of the ZPM contacts, so once we determine that we can seat this one, there shouldn’t be a problem with connectivity.”
The Czech hummed to himself as he walked around the triangle-shaped plinth that normally housed the ZPM’s that ran the city. Well. Normal if there had been any available to replace the ones that had reached entropy before the expedition had gotten there. Poking around at the platform in front of him, Radek was disappointed that what he thought were physical buttons to be pushed were just decorative elements. “It is very frustrating to know that the Ancients didn’t leave sufficient ZPM’s on the city to power her. Three only in their housings and nowhere to find more on the city. There is not enough time to curse them for that.”
“I know,” the pure frustration scalding Rodney’s voice drew his attention from where he had been contemplating the decoration. The figures almost looked like Ancient letters, just… twisted slightly. “As near as I can figure, the Council that Old Elizabeth talked about was determined to let Atlantis rot and die under the waves if they didn’t get back in sufficient time. Sufficient time meaning that if all three ZPM’s had been allowed to run simultaneously, they would have had to have been back in about three thousand years for them to have pulled the city up off of the bottom.”
Radek stopped moving and stared hard at his friend. “It has been ten thousand years since they left. And from what we learned at the Outpost, the last true Ancient died roughly 2500 years after they got back to Earth,” the Czech took a deep breath and patted the power relay in sympathy. “The Ancients were assholes. But we are not. And she needs power. Have you tried to read the designs on the sides here?”
Rodney didn’t even glance up from his review of the command console. “Yup. And John has run his hands over every bit of the room too. As near as I can determine, the marks are basically numbering the Potentia and where they go to. Nothing more. Which sucks. If Janus or any of the other Ancients ever shows up, I vote that we kick their asses until they tell us where they hid the ZPM’s.”
“You have my vote, Guide,” came the lazy drawl from Rodney’s Sentinel. The man was leaning against the door and staring at the plinth in the center of the room. “I say that we get the thing loaded up soon. Because there are several people out there wondering why you walked in here with a toolbox. None of them have informed Weir yet, but it is only a matter of time.”
“Well then, let’s get moving,” Rodney nodded decisively before reaching into the toolbox at his feet to pull out the power source. “Major? If you could do the honors?”
“You sure about this, Rodney?” Sheppard asked carefully. He was walking over to the astrophysicist as he held out the ZPM.
“Never been more so, John. Everything is prepped. Plug it in,” Rodney said with a wave of his hand towards the plinth and the holes waiting to fulfill their purpose.
Radek stepped back and walked around to the command console as Sheppard carefully set the ZPM into its housing and pressed until it was fully seated. As soon as the final click of contact happened, the whole unit lit from within. Smiling, he looked at the command console itself.
Section after section of the status map was lighting up in dizzying arrays. Codes they had never seen were starting to run in faster and faster lists down the side of the display and he grinned. Atlantis had power. Things were about to get very interesting.
Very interesting indeed.
(5) Longing For Home
“We have a ZPM, Rodney. We need to contact Earth to let them know about the Wraith,” Dr. Weir said in an impassioned tone.
Rodney looked at the titular leader of the Expedition and wondered who she thought she was kidding. Stretching his gifts out, Rodney tried to monitor what was actually going on behind the politician’s mask that Weir frequently presented. The flavor of the emotions that he was getting from her were all negative; fear, dread, disappointment, even hatred. And yet, none of them showed on her face. “You won’t get me to disagree with you, Dr. Weir. However, I am not willing to open the gate for an indefinite amount of time, so we will be sending a very short message through. 3.2 seconds as a matter of fact.”
“But we have a ZPM that is mostly full. Why the short time? And what can we do in that short of time? Why can’t we send people home?” she asked. Desperate hope colored her words on an emotional level and Rodney had to work hard not to react to it.
“Because for all that we have a ZPM that is just over 90%, it isn’t enough to open multiple wormholes to Earth so people and equipment can go through. We need to protect the City and by extension, the Milky Way from the Wraith and to do that, we need every person and piece of equipment that we have here. And if a message home will get us more arms to fight them with, that will make the power drain worth it.” John said from behind her.
“I know that you want to get our non-combatants out of the way, Major. We have the power, why don’t we send them back to Earth? They can report back on what has happened over this last year and for those who want to come back, they can start the process of choosing supplies.” That desperate hope was still there and Rodney felt terror join in. And still, none of the heightened emotions showed on Weir’s face. If he hadn’t been a Guide, there would be no way to tell that the woman across from him was scared to death. “Or perhaps we could destroy the City. If the goal is to not let it fall into the hands of the Wraith, destroying it is indeed an option.”
Rodney felt his Sentinel still and then flash over into rage. Weir had just screwed up for the last time. “Perhaps we should strip the City of everything that is portable and try to download the database to our systems using Rodney’s compression algorithm while we are at it?”
Cheeks finally flushing, Weir looked back at Sheppard steadily. “Yes. There is nothing keeping us here and we need to go back to Earth and take care of our own people.”
There wasn’t even a hint of her emotional reactions to the conversation on her face and Rodney mourned once again for lost chances. This woman could have been a great leader for the Expedition, but at the first hint of danger, she had folded in on herself and refused to stick her neck out any further. And now she was advocating abandoning her post to a Sentinel? The woman was mental.
“And what happens, Doctor, if the Wraith harvest every human in this galaxy and start moving towards the Milky Way? If we are on Earth, how will we know? How can we stop something we wouldn’t know was coming?” John demanded.
“If we strip Atlantis, we will have the technology we need to defend ourselves! Why do you want to stay?” she asked as her mask finally cracked. Desperation was an ugly, ugly thing on her.
“Because it is the duty of every Sentinel alive to protect the tribe. The fact that you don’t seem to care about anyone other than yourself is depressing. How in the hell did the fact that you are a piss poor human being get by the shrinks?” John asked her.
Weir blanched white and then flushed a dark red in anger. Opening her mouth, she drew in a breath and then halted when Rodney stepped in front of her. “You don’t get to say anything more. We don’t want to hear it and you need to shut the fuck up before someone with less control than I have, beats you to death.”
There was a mutter of “Spoilsport.” from Chuck’s direction and Rodney felt his mood lighten slightly.
“Now, Ford is going to be going around to everyone to get some videos to home and we will make sure that you get a turn in front of the camera. I would suggest that you use your time to actually say something useful to anyone you left behind, but I doubt you will,” John informed her evenly. Rodney was damn proud of how even-tempered his Sentinel was being.
“You probably won’t let my video go through anyway,” Weir muttered and then turned around and left the command center. She didn’t bother to go back to the room that only months before had been her office. She was heading to her rooms and Rodney was content to let her. If she was sulking behind closed doors, she wasn’t spreading her hate and discontent around the Expedition and they didn’t need the mood downer.
“Oh, I’ll let it go through. Along with the file on all the shit you have been up to over the last year. It will be interesting to see what the fallout from that will be,” Rodney disagreed calmly. From the hitch in her stride, as she walked away, Weir heard him. He wasn’t sorry.
“Make sure that the first thing to go through is a thorough report on what has been happening in the city, and all the after-action reports from the teams,” John requested quietly. Rodney was fairly certain that Chuck could hear them, but the tech, like most everyone else in the city, was loyal to John. The chances of him going and voluntarily talking to Weir were basically nil nowadays.
“We need to get together with the Teams to see what we are going to do about the ancient outpost at the edges of the system,” the Guide said, deftly changing the subject and moving them towards the conference room. “Chuck, can you call the leads, my seconds, Teyla and Grodin up for a quick meeting? And see if the mess has anything food like available? Once you have that done, get into the conference room, we need to see what your guys in city services need too.”
“Yes, Dr. McKay,” Chuck called before his voice faded out as the Pair moved into the conference room.
“So I am thinking that we are going to be able to compress a phenomenal amount of data into the data burst we are sending out. The information from our explorations, the medical stuff Carson has tickled from the historical records and everything we have on the Wraith. The hard sciences will be getting me the updates by departments and I want any individual reports people can think of to get sent to me instead of Weir,” Rodney laid out his strategy on what he was trying to accomplish with their call home.
“Will we have enough room? I mean, I know you told Dr. Weir that we will be holding the wormhole open for only seconds, but will it be enough time to get a measurable amount of data though?” Bates asked as he worked on his computer. Rodney tried not to bridle as he was questioned, but he paused as he took in the emotions the other man was feeling. Reluctant hope, fear, and determination were surging through the soldier and the Guide nodded as the fear was pushed back so the determination was at the forefront.
“We’ll have room. We’ll have more room than you think, so if you want to add some type of personal message, make sure to get with whoever is putting that together,” Rodney confirmed and put a graph on the main screen showing how much data they already had gathered and how much more they could send. There were terabytes of room available.
“Ford, that will be your job after you get me a wish list from all of the Teams,” John directed. He put words into actions and made sure to send his wish list over to his 2IC. The subtle ‘ding’ that came from the younger man’s laptop was confirmation that he had received it.
“Yes, sir. I can do that. Any restrictions?” Ford asked carefully.
Rodney looked up from his own computer and stared hard at his teammate. “My people know not to talk about anything sensitive, but someone is gonna be stupid. Please let me know if you think anyone lets anything slip.”
“I can do that, Dr. McKay. Do we have a handheld camera that I can use for this?” Ford asked the room at large.
Grodin looked over at the younger man and nodded. “We have two, last I knew. I know that one of them is still packed in the original package in storeroom D, shelving unit 4, number 11.”
“Thank you, Peter,” John said softly. “Now. Other than the reports, requisitions, personal messages and wish lists, what else are we going to be asking for?”
“Oh, I need to ask for some more scientists and a whole set of engineers from the Seabees and a slew of handymen,” Rodney said firmly. “The City is in great shape for having been on her own for 10,000 years, but she was still on her own. The self-repair subroutines are good, but they aren’t enough at the power levels we are currently at. We need people who can do the gross repairs and grunt work to get things working again to allow the City to take up the slack. And having the Seabees here will be helpful the next time we need to trade skills for crops because while my people can fake it, we aren’t civil engineers.”
John nodded at that and opened a new page on his request list to put in the request and why. He completely agreed with his Guide at how helpful having a battalion of civil engineers on the City would have made life a lot easier on everyone.
Carson cleared his throat and spoke up carefully. “I’ll be needing at least another doctor if not two. And if one of those could be a trauma surgeon, that would be ideal. I’m a good doctor, but I am in nae way qualified to be one of only two doctors if things go to hell again. Remember, I was brought on to the Expedition as a geneticist first and a GP second. And Biro, for all she is completely qualified, is a GP first and we need a few trauma doctors and surgeons. My nurses need another four or five to allow them to set up another shift and in case of emergency, the extra hands would be a boon.”
The Scot shifted slightly and then rubbed his hands over his face before continuing. “I need a complete restock of my drug cabinet. And I want the whole mess tripled since I was reduced to substituting when things ran out. I also suggest that we get a complete herbal pharmacopeia for our botanists to start in a locked greenhouse. I also want to get a ‘how to’ guide on making synthetic versions of the most popular drugs in my arsenal. We have several chemists who can whip some up, I’ve found, but they need to have the directions to do so.”
Rodney looked up at his friend in concern. “I know that I brought that database, Carson. Are you saying that you don’t have the access to it? We still have all the various chemicals stored in the proper containers. The chemists we have are certainly capable of making your drugs up for you.”
“You do? They can?” Beckett demanded as he sat up and put his hands on the table. “Why wasn’t I informed that we had this available?”
“I have no idea,” the Guide shook his head and turned to his second. “Radek? Do you know where we tucked that hard drive?”
The Czech began typing rapidly on his computer and John leaned back to see the screen. Invoice after invoice was popping up and being searched at a dizzying rate. The bespeckled man was a quick reader apparently. One invoice popped up and stayed up, a line highlighted in a lurid red color. From his angle, John couldn’t tell what the result was. “The hard drive was checked out of its storage bay six months ago. By Dr. Weir. She never returned it.”
“That bitch! That slimy, useless excuse for a human being!” Carson exclaimed loudly. Everyone in the meeting paused as the gentlest man in the Expedition lost his temper in a spectacular fashion. It was very impressive.
“Right. Bates? I need you to go search Weir’s things and confiscate any and all hard drives she might have. We’ll sort them out later,” John directed as he stared at the doctor.
“How in the hell did she think we wouldn’t eventually know? Or even better, why would she do that? It has been abundantly obvious that we needed the contents of that hard drive several times over the last six months. She was there when I reported that I was using an Athosian herb combo as a local anesthetic!” Carson fretted. John watched the Scot carefully. The doctor was indeed a gentle man, but even he could be pushed too far and this looked like the revelation about Weir had truly done it.
“I have no idea, Carson. I really don’t. Nevertheless, I am going to be sending a list of charges through with our transmission. They will be eyes only to General O’Neill and the President,” John informed him. He was just as upset as his friend and by extension, everyone else in the room. That Weir could undermine the mission that badly was the final straw in his dealings with her. As far as he was concerned, she was a clear and present danger to the Tribe and he wanted her dealt with, right that instant.
“Good!” Carson was very firm in his agreement on that score.
“I think we also need to make sure that she can’t hurt anyone else,” John said grimly. He spared a quick glance at his Guide and nodded at the look of determination the other man was wearing. Weir wasn’t getting out of this one. “Everyone meet back up here in twenty-four hours. Ford, if you think you aren’t going to be able to get all the videos done in time, designate someone to help. I want everyone who is still here to have a chance to say their piece.”
“Yes, sir. I know Stackhouse worked with Dr. J, I mean Dr. Jackson, on one of his digs and helped him with the audio/visual stuff. I think he can handle setting up a rotation for getting everyone through to make a brief note to the SGC,” Ford agreed briskly. His hands were moving over the keyboard of his laptop in a sure manner. John just hoped that he was IM’ing the Sergeant about his new job.
“Bates, before you search Weir’s stuff for the hard drive, I want you to put her under arrest and drop her in the Wraith cage. I don’t care if she gives you any shit. She is no longer in charge of the expedition and that will be filed before the meeting is over,” the Sentinel directed grimly. John wasn’t… unhappy that he was taking the reins, but he wasn’t thrilled that he was taking over in the way that he was. Weir had done far too much for her to stay in charge.
“John, I need you to put your command codes in. Now. She is trying to override the system and lock us out,” Rodney announced quietly. His attention was firmly focused on his laptop and his hands were moving faster than John had ever seen outside of a crisis.
Sheppard shoved back from the table, his chair hitting the wall behind him with a distinct thud as he made his way over to his Guide. The progress bar for what Weir was trying to do was climbing, but Rodney had already typed his codes in and now was waiting on his. John was reassured that his hands were steady as he carefully typed in his thirteen digit alphanumeric code in and hit enter.
The bar that showed Weir’s progress stalled and then died. She was totally locked out of the command paths and systems. And since the ATA genome hadn’t taken with her, she had no way to override them using Atlantis.
John cleared his throat and held onto his temper. “Bates, go deal with Dr. Weir. Now. She is to be in the Wraith cage in the next fifteen minutes. Peter, I want you to go through the hard drives Bates is going to be bringing back and find out what she has been up to.”
Eyes grim, the Sergeant nodded and headed for the door, leaving all his gear behind. John wasn’t worried. Eugene Bates knew what he was doing. Peter Grodin looked just as grim. As the Englishman was one of the few scientists who had spent extended time with Weir, John certain that he was as pissed off as their CMO. To have his trust betrayed in such a fashion was not going to sit well with the other man.
“Alright everyone,” Rodney got everyone’s attention. “The drama is over. Let’s get back to work. Teyla, do your people have anything that they might need or want from us that we could supply?”
The Athosian looked faintly disturbed for a moment and John hid a sigh. Teyla and Weir had initially gotten along very well. At least until the good doctor had cracked under the pressure of living in a war zone. His teammate had pulled back slightly, watching to see if the woman she had befriended would be able to pull herself together. When Weir had kept pushing the edges, Teyla had pulled back even more. This event would be the end of the tentative friendship. John just hoped that the other friendships that the Athosian had formed throughout the expedition were firmer.
“I have a list,” Teyla nodded at her tablet. “Most of it is for things like the seeds that Dr. Parrish has described us. We would also like to talk to people about the ways your people farm. Medical care is a given, as Dr. Beckett has been very good to us.”
“All of that is indeed a given, Teyla,” Rodney agreed softly. John agreed. Food, medical care, knowledge? Those things the expedition would supply with no problems. The Athosians had been there for them from the first, had kept them out of some truly dangerous situations and had helped keep the whole group fed when times got lean. “What do your people need.”
John pushed his hearing out, focusing his senses on his friend. His Guide was there to keep him from getting lost, that was a given, but he wanted to get a read on what was going on with her. Her heart was beating hard in her chest in the rhythm he had learned meant stress. The Sentinel drew in a slow breath and tried to project his willingness to listen. From the look she slanted him, John knew that she had caught him. “We would like to have someone come out and do what you call an oral history. We are as safe as we have ever been and… I do not want to see our history lost.”
John stared at her for a moment before he nodded. “I know just the person to do that.”
“So do I,” Rodney agreed softly. “And he will be happy to come out here to help you with that.”
“Okay. Anything else?” John asked the room at large. No one spoke up. “If you don’t let us know, you aren’t going to get it. If you or your people can’t speak up, make sure to at least email us. Please. Dismissed.”
John watched as everyone but his Guide packed up and headed out. Once the last person had left the room, the Sentinel asked Atlantis to close the door. Dropping his head to the table, he asked his best friend the question that had been bugging him for months. “Where in the world did we go wrong with her?”
“We didn’t go wrong with her at all, John,” Rodney disagreed softly. “She decided to give in to her fears and not reach out for the help that all of us have access to. Heightmeyer has told me that she hasn’t seen Weir once since we got here. She has seen everyone else several times. Even you and I have checked in with her after rough missions. Weir has avoided both our mental health expert and the medical doctor we have available to help those in need. She is the one who has failed herself.”
John tilted his head to the side, looking at his Guide. “So you are saying that it is all her fault?”
“Pretty much,” Rodney said with a shrug. He carefully reached out and started petting his Sentinel’s hair. “We need to care for the rest of the tribe, John. And if that means that we need to let one part of it go? We need to do that. She needs to go back to the SGC. When we call out tomorrow, I am going to open the iris just enough to shove her through. So Chuck had better make sure that he gets the IDC out right the first time.”
John could get behind that. Honestly. He was willing to die out here in Pegasus and take his Guide along for the ride, but he wasn’t willing to have that bitch out here with them. The SGC could totally take her back.
(6) Letters and Unexpected Gifts to Home
The spinning of the Stargate was a normal occurrence at the SGC and Walter Harriman watched the chevrons lock in place with an experienced eye. As the sixth one made its debut and no energy gathered in the center, he knew that they now had an unusual event happening and reached over to hit the red alert button. With that gesture, the whole Mountain went onto standby and the shield unfurled to cover the center of the gate. Unusual and the SGC tended to mean… bad things.
Chevron seven locked in place and the gate kept spinning. Walter had the program they used to see where their incoming wormholes were from in place and glanced at it for a clue. If he was reading it right, the wormhole that was forming was coming from Pegasus. Which meant the Atlantis Expedition was phoning home.
Harriman tried not to grin as he waited, hands poised over his keyboard. There were so many things that could be going wrong with the people they had sent out over nine months before, but he had his fingers crossed that things were alright. When they hadn’t dialed back within the first thirty days, the books had been opened for long term betting. If he remembered correctly, the nine months and… checking the date, sixteen days slot had gone to Dr. Jackson. Excellent.
The eighth chevron had locked in place and there was a bright flash of light as the wormhole formed behind their trinium shield. “SGC, this is Atlantis. Hello! We have some information for you and we need you to open the shield.”
Walter hit the keys that initiated the isolated recording devices that Colonel Carter had set up when she had joined the SGC. The data banks were empty and he hoped that they were sufficient. “Atlantis, this is the SGC. We are set up to receive your transmission and we need to get an IDC before we can open the gate.”
“Understood. Please standby for the IDC,” came the prompt reply. Walter kept a careful eye on the monitor hooked into the IDC computer. The Atlantis Expedition had been issued three codes: One to Dr. Weir, one to Colonel Sumner and one to the S&G Pair. It was that last code that was showing up on his monitor.
Gulping heavily at what could cause things to be bad enough that the S&G Pair would need to be calling, Walter opened the iris and glanced at the recorders. They had been empty only seconds before and now they were showing full. Completely full. What in the hell had the Expedition found that took up that much memory? “IDC received and you are clear for travel.”
“We are sending through our package now. You might want to get General O’Neill down there. Talk to you all soon,” came the transmission from Atlantis. The sound of something coming through the wormhole was distinct and Harriman looked up. Stumbling down the gate was… Dr. Weir? In handcuffs?
The wormhole shut off without another word. What in the hell had happened over there? Walter didn’t know, but he was definitely calling the General. Picking up his phone, Harriman called O’Neill’s personal phone. “General? We just got a call from Atlantis. And someone was pushed through the gate. You need to get down here. Now.”