Chapter 37: No one is indestructible
“Are you ready?” I asked John nervously. We were set up for my first attempt to control John’s mind through the TED and I was feeling very apprehensive. We hadn’t discussed in any further the previous evening but I’d tossed and turned all night in my quarters worrying about it.
“I know this is bothering you,” John commented. “What’s the worst that could happen?”
“I could misjudge the strength of the device and punch a quantum hole right through your brain,” I said starkly. John looked a bit taken aback by that. “Don’t worry though ... I’m pretty sure TED has failsafes I can set to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
“And what’s the best that could happen?” John continued.
“We prove the TED is powerful enough to control as many Wraith Hives as they can send to attack us,” I replied.
“Sounds worth the risk to me,” John said easily. “I say we do this.”
“Okay,” I agreed reluctantly, “I’m proceeding to phase one now.”
Just like the day before I focussed on accessing the telepathic pool first and then placed my hand on top of the device to activate it. I dipped into the pool of shimmering light and found a specific frequency that was immediately recognisable as John. Instead of a fragile looking thread, when I grabbed for John the connection was more like a thickly wound rope. Once I’d made the connection it felt much stronger than I’d previously experienced.
“Phase one complete,” I murmured, maintaining the connection with ease. John said nothing so I quickly moved into phase two – sending a command.
“Raise your right arm,” I send the thought down the rope to John. I wasn’t surprised when John sat without moving. Still feeling reluctant to push too hard for fear of causing pain I pushed a little harder, and then a little harder again.
“You’ve gotta do better than that,” John challenged. “That was barely a tickle!”
Taking a deep breath I doubled the strength of the command. It seemed like the quantum rope connecting us vibrated but still John remained motionless.
“You can push harder,” John told me. “I could feel that one but it was nowhere near as hard as that last Wraith Queen pushed me.”
“Okay,” I muttered, gathering myself to try again. I added a bit more strength to the push without success.
“Break it off,” John’s voice made that sound a bit like an order. I carefully returned our connection to the pool and deactivated the TED. Not looking at John I made the pretence of checking some of the readings I’d gotten. If I understood the brain activity scans properly both John and I had exhibited much higher levels than in any of my previous attempts.
“You’re not trying hard enough,” John grabbed my shoulder and swung me back to face him.
“I was trying,” I denied, trying to pull away.
“Don’t try and tell me that was the best you could throw at me,” John accused, “because I know that’s not true. It took everything I had to hold off a Wraith Queen – just maintaining my position was the best I could do. You’ve gotta have more because you didn’t just hold off the Queen, you bested her and that was without the aid of the TED.”
“I don’t know what to tell you,” I prevaricated. “Maybe it was because I was really angry with the Queen. Or maybe it was the extra connection the Wraith gene gave me.”
“Or maybe you don’t think I’m up to the challenge so you thought you’d take it easy,” John suggested grimly.
“That’s not true!” I denied heatedly. “I know your strength, your stubbornness – I would never underestimate you.”
“Then get back on that device and show me what you can do,” John ordered angrily, letting me go and returning to his chair.
I stood with my back towards him, clenching my fists as I fought my anger at the situation I found myself in. Although I really didn’t want to be doing this with John I knew there were no other choices – the potential for defence that the TED had presented us with was too valuable to give up because I was feeling squeamish about hurting John.
“Okay, Okay!” I said, turning back to glare at him. “But if I hurt you I’m gonna be really, really, mad!”
“Noted,” John said complacently. “Do it!”
I established the connection within seconds and decided to lighten things up by changing my command. “Kiss me,” I thought down the line, using less force than at the end of our last attempt.
John got up, grabbed my head, and kissed me breathless before sitting down again. When I raised an eyebrow at him he grinned and said “if you want this to work you’ve gotta make it something I want to resist!”
“All right,” I replied, “let’s get serious.”
Without pause I sent the command “Stand” down the line harder than any previous attempt. I could feel the connection vibrate sharply as John resisted. Instead of sending the command like a pulse this time I made it continuous and steadily upped the force. Keeping a watchful eye on John the whole time I noticed his knees twitching and the pained frown on his face.
“Should I stop?” I asked in concern.
“No ... keep going,” John said in a slightly strained voice.
Steeling myself, I continued to hammer the connection with that one thought – Stand – increasing the force until finally John, clearly fighting with himself, slid off the chair and stood up. Dropping the force back to zero, I quickly broke the connection and deactivated the device. As soon as the connection was severed John collapsed back on his chair, putting a hand to his forehead and wincing.
“I wouldn’t want to make you angry when you’ve got access to that thing,” John joked, glancing at me with a pained grin to let me know he was all right.
“How’s your head?” I knelt in front of his chair and made him look directly into my eyes. His eyes were a little blood shot and he was pale enough that I was pretty sure he had a hell of a headache. “We should visit Doctor Beckett,” I said, pushing myself back to my feet.
“Not yet,” John pulled me back down to his level. “We should clear the air here first, and then I’ll get Carson to give me something for the headache.”
“Well at least you’re not trying to pretend you don’t have one,” I acknowledged, “which tells me it’s a headache on a mammoth scale.”
“You did it though,” John pointed out. “My sore head is a small price to pay to find that out.”
“It bothers me that I made you do something you didn’t want to do,” I admitted, looking down at the floor.
“It was an experiment with my full cooperation,” John chided me. “The whole point was for you to get me to do something I was supposed to resist.”
“I know that,” I said, “but it still bothers me. You’re indestructible ... undefeated ... I really didn’t think I’d succeed in beating you.”
“No one is indestructible,” John denied.
“I know that on an intellectual level,” I admitted, “but when it comes to you I kind of liked having the emotional view that you can’t be taken down. Now I know exactly how much force it would take to accomplish that.”
“Not exactly,” John said reluctantly. “Out in the field I would have resisted until the point that a Queen would have ended up scrambling my brain before I gave in. I didn’t think you’d appreciate me applying that much resistance to this experiment.”
“Strangely, that makes me feel better,” I smiled at him.
“How about you?” John asked curiously. “How are you feeling after exerting all that force?”
“Massive headache,” I admitted. “I feel like someone is trying to bore their way out of my brain from the inside.”
“Let’s get Doctor Beckett to check us both out,” John suggested, rising carefully from his seat and pulling me up with him.
“I can’t see any signs of damage,” Carson reassured us a few minutes later, “although there is definitely evidence of increased brain activity in both of you. I can give you something for the pain and then I’d suggest you both take it easy for a few hours – give the medication time to take effect.”
“Thanks Doc,” John replied, once we’d both had a shot administered. “Can you let Elizabeth know Sabina and I will both be off radio for the rest of the day?”
“Aye lad,” Carson smiled fondly at the two of us. “Enjoy yourselves.”
“Where are we going?” I asked as John pulled me quickly towards the nearest transporter.
“The last time we did city exploration I found a nice spot,” John replied. “I was saving it for just the right occasion ... now seems like as good a time as any. But first we need supplies.”
John literally dragged me from place to place as he loaded us both up with blankets, changes of clothes, and enough food to feed us for days.
“That’s enough,” I finally protested laughingly. “I can’t carry any more – show me this place or I’m dumping this stuff right here.”
“Alright grumpy,” John replied. He led me back to the transporter, stepping us out into a section of the city I’d never seen before. “It’s just down this corridor a ways,” he promised. After a brief walk he stopped at a door that looked no more remarkable than any of the others. “Here it is.”
He swiped a hand over the door control and walked inside, gesturing for me to follow him.
“These are living quarters,” I said with a puzzled frown.
“This is the five star deluxe version of living quarters,” John corrected, grinning smugly. “We’ve got a huge bed,” he raised an eyebrow suggestively, “an even bigger bath tub through there, and that’s not even the best part.” Grabbing my hand he pulled me towards another door like an excited school boy. “Look!” he opened the door and gestured out to the balcony.
That’s when I realised the room was only slightly above sea level – the balcony led straight to the ocean like a concrete beach. A cordoned off square on one side even suggested the possibility of swimming. The view was also spectacular – the room was on the hub of one of the arms of the city so that at night the lights of Atlantis would shine down.
“You’re right,” I said almost reverently, “this really is five star deluxe!”
“I knew you’d like it,” John said happily. “What do you want to do first?”
“Try out the bed,” I admitted, laughing when he stopped abruptly to look at me. “Sorry, I should have added for sleeping – I’m really tired and I think we’d both enjoy this room more if we had a nap first.”
“Way to crush a guys hopes,” John complained good naturedly. I went over to him and pulled one of his arms around my shoulders.
“There’ll be plenty of time for that,” I promised, dragging him back into the sleeping area.
I wasn’t content until I had us striped down to the essentials and spooned together under the blankets. “Now this is nice,” I stretched my legs out in front of me and smiled happily.
“Wait a minute,” John growled suspiciously, raising himself to loom above me. “That’s why you keep leaving in the middle of the night?”
“Huh?” I pretended ignorance.
“You don’t like my bed?” John demanded in a heated voice.
“It’s not that I don’t like it,” I denied. “It’s just really ... small for two people ... especially when one of them is a bed hog,” I spoke defensively, lying flat on my back and looking up at his pained expression. “Most of the time when I get up to leave it’s because you’ve almost pushed me out of the bed.”
“Why didn’t you say something?” John’s tone was long suffering.
“I don’t know,” I muttered. “Didn’t want you to feel bad ... didn’t see what you could do about it.”
“You could have asked me to get a bigger bed,” John pointed out in frustration.
“I really hate asking for things,” I admitted. “I always have to psyche myself up before hand and most of the time it just doesn’t seem worth the effort.”
“But you know how I feel about you,” John protested. “Surely that’d make it easier to ask me for something.”
“Harder actually,” I pointed out. “You’ve got the power to grant me a lot of leeway here – I don’t want to abuse that.”
“You’ve gotta learn to trust me, and yourself more,” John pointed out. “You wouldn’t ask for something you shouldn’t ... but if you ever did I wouldn’t give it to you.”
“Point taken,” I said. “Now can you shut up so I can enjoy this enormous bed?”
Chapter 38: Well obviously not deliberately!
In the days that followed I expanded my experiments to include control of multiple subjects at once and became proficient in both quickly accessing the telepathic pool and in focusing rapid thoughts down the connections to enact whatever control protocols I’d devised.
Once I’d proven that I could use the TED for multi targeted telepathic control that became the backup defensive plan if the approaching Hive ship wasn’t fooled by our cloak. What I’d be required to do would actually be easier than all my trials because I didn’t necessarily have to control a specific Wraith which meant I could just take the connections the TED offered. I was still a little uncomfortable with the idea, not because I didn’t want to help, but because I’d never controlled an actual Wraith before. The idea of waiting until it was ‘do or die’ to find out if I could seemed reckless even to me. But in the absence of a small group of Wraith to practice on there was little other choice.
My preference had always been to take telepathic control a step further and use the TED to access the Wraith technology directly. The beauty of that plan was that I did have a piece of Wraith technology I could practice on. We still had a week before the Hive ship arrived and I hadn’t given up hope that I’d figure something out in time.
The TED relied on the information it contained about how Wraith brains worked in conjunction with measuring the quantum world to provide a means for telepathy to be used. I wondered, if I could input additional information about Wraith technology, whether the TED would be able to incorporate that into its measurements and therefore include the Wraith ships themselves as part of the telepathic pool. If it could, then conceivably I could dip into that pool for a Wraith ship just as easily as I had for a human test subject. To do that I needed Rodney’s help and managed to get on the next Jumper headed up to the Orion.
“Have you got a minute?” I asked Rodney as soon as I’d located him. Typically he was stretched out on the floor under a console switching out control crystals.
“Do I look like I’ve got a minute?” Rodney looked up at me with an impatient expression.
“Looks like you’re ripe for a break,” I didn’t take offense. I didn’t envy the pressure he was under to fix the ship with so little time.
“Let me guess ... you want me to fix something!” Rodney complained, getting tiredly to his feet.
“I’m not joking Rodney,” I said, worried about how exhausted he looked. “You really should squeeze in a break because you look like crap.”
“Thanks for your concern,” Rodney said irritably, “but let’s just stick to why you’re here.”
“I don’t want you to fix something,” I denied slowly, “but I could use some ideas on how I might ... fix something.”
“What?” Rodney gestured for me to hand over the data pad I’d brought with me.
“This is the access port for the TED,” I said. “I need to find a way to connect it directly to the Wraith Dart ... since you did something similar on Aiden’s planet I thought ...” I trailed off when I noticed Rodney rolling his eyes.
“Yes yes,” he agreed impatiently. He looked intently at the data pad before getting that familiar look of discovery in his eyes. “Okay, here’s what you need to do.”
Ten minutes later, with Rodney's instructions ringing in my head, I went in search of a quick lift back to Atlantis.
"How'd it go? Major Lorne asked curiously. He'd flown me up to the Orion and was currently helping Dr Zelenka with tests of the control chair.
"Got my instructions up here," I tapped my forehead ruefully. "Now I just need to get back to Atlantis asap so I can put them into practice."
"You want a lift back now?" Lorne looked across at Dr Zelenka, who'd started muttering under his breath in Czech at the offer.
"If you can spare the time?" I looked from the Major across to Dr Zelenka with a hopeful smile. Dr Zelenak reluctantly agreed, making Major Lorne promise to come straight back after dropping me off.
"What does Colonel Sheppard thing about this TED thing?" Lorne asked curiously.
"He helped me with the whole 'mind control' aspect," I admitted, looking through the front view screen as we approached the planet. "I did end up getting John to follow one of my commands ... to be honest it was a little ... disturbing."
"You poking around in his head?" Lorne looked across at me with a sly grin. "The Colonel really is as brave as they say!"
"I didn't 'poke around' thank you very much," I protested. "I don't want to see what's going on in anyones head!"
"I don't know," Lorne mused thoughtfully. "The chance to find out what your partner really thinks of you ... that sounds hard to resist."
"I already know what John thinks of me," I glanced at Lorne quickly and just as quickly turned away when I realised he was studying me quite intently. "And he already knows what I think of him ... we don't need a machine to help us there."
"If you say so," Lorne agreed. "Although if you ask me you seem to be protesting just a little too much."
"Just shut up and fly," I ordered grumpily, knowing he wouldn't take offense.
Lorne laughed but did finally drop the subject. He dropped me off in the Jumper Bay before heading straight back up to the Orion. I went in search of Dr Weir to request that she let me take one of the remaining Puddle Jumpers over to the mainland by myself.
“Rodney showed me how to connect the TED directly to the Dart,” I informed Dr Weir. “With any luck I’ll be able to get the TED to register the Dart as a possible telepathic connection which could prove very useful if that Hive ship sends down an attack."
“So you want to go to the mainland now and try it out?” Dr Weir confirmed.
“Yes,” I replied. “The only problem is that Major Lorne's already gone back to help Dr Zelenka on the Orion and John’s on the Daedalus going over strategies with Colonel Caldwell. In fact, most of the people with any competence in the ATA gene are up on the Orion or Daedalus – including all the Jumper pilots.”
“What about Carson?” Dr Weir suggested.
“No offense to Dr Beckett,” I looked at Dr Weir apologetically, “but I’m a much better Jumper pilot than he is, and I’m sure he’s got better things to do than play taxi driver to someone perfectly capable of flying themselves.” I kept to myself the information that I’d never flown a Puddle Jumper solo before ... my last few lessons with John had all involved me completing all aspects of the trip while he just observed so I was pretty confident I wouldn’t have a problem.
“And you need to do this right now?” Dr Weir questioned.
“The time I have left to get TED working on the Wraith technology directly may not be enough as it is,” I admitted. “I really can’t afford to waste an afternoon or more waiting for John or Evan or one of the other pilots to be available.” I waited anxiously while Dr Weir thought about my request.
“Okay,” Dr Weir agreed. “You’ll check in once you get there, and again on the hour.”
“Thanks Dr Weir,” I said happily, jumping up and hurrying from the room before she could change her mind.
My excitement at flying solo lasted most of the trip and I was pretty proud of myself when I landed the Jumper a short distance from my Wraith Dart without incident. I reported in to Atlantis that I’d arrived safely and then unloaded my gear from the Jumper.
I was hopeful that the TED would incorporate Wraith technology information once I’d plugged the Dart directly into it. It took me over an hour to implement Rodney’s instructions and get an active connection between three pieces of very different technology. That done I jumped into the Dart, powered it up, and took it for a very short looping flight that wouldn’t draw the attention of anyone at the Athosian settlement. Hopefully that would be enough information to see if this was going to work.
Dart parked safely back in the clearing I checked my laptop readings to make sure the connection had actually transferred some data to the TED. The only thing left to do was to try to control the Dart remotely through the TED. I was due to report in with the Control Room back on Atlantis and did that first before steeling myself for the next step.
As with all my human trials I focussed my mind on a single objective before activating the TED. The same telepathic pool was made available to me and I dipped into it, waiting to see what the device would present to me. As before there were many connections available within the pool. Looking carefully at each thread I found one that looked more ... mechanical that the others. Grabbing it I followed the thread back to the Dart. “Yes!” I exclaimed at my success.
Okay, so I was connected but could I make the Dart actually do anything? That was trickier because I was back to being presented with too many options. I sifted through them looking for something familiar and finally found the hover command. Punching a strong sharp command at the Dart I could hardly contain my excitement when it slowly rose from the ground and hovered in front of me. The good thing about the technological angle which I’d only just realised was that I didn’t have to worry about how strong I was making my commands – it wasn’t like I could cause the Dart pain.
Considering that a very positive start, I broke the connection, forgetting that I hadn’t actually brought the Dart back to the ground. “Oops,” I winced as the Dart thumped down hard before settling back into position. I could still see all those other threads leading away from the telepathic pool and my curiosity got the better of me. Selecting one at random I grabbed it and followed it back to the source.
Big mistake! It wasn’t an Athosian, it was a Wraith. And I was completely unprepared. I scrambled back to the pool to break the connection but an attack followed me back and hit me just as I was disconnecting.
Ah crap that hurt! The telepathic punch hit me hard ... it was lucky I’d already broken the connection or who knows what would have happened. Waking back to myself I realised I had fallen to the ground beside the now deactivated TED. Trying to get up too quickly was my second mistake – the intense pain in my head was the last thing I knew.
“Sabina?” I slowly came back to myself, wondering why I’d fallen asleep on the floor.
“Sabina, report?” John’s voice echoed from my earpiece.
“John?” I mumbled, forcing my eyes open. What I saw made me close them again with a groan. I was still on the mainland, lying on the now very cold ground in a darkness broken only slightly by the light from the moon high overhead. Damn! I’d obviously been unconscious for hours.
“Finally!” John said in relief. “Elizabeth got worried when she realised you hadn’t checked in after returning from the mainland.”
“Where are you?” I asked, still feeling somewhat dazed. Everything that had happened had come back to me and I’d decided staying on the ground was probably the best idea for the time being.
“Still on the Daedalus,” John said. “I think the more important question is where are you?”
“Don’t get mad, okay?” I begged, already wincing at what I knew his reaction would be.
“Why would I get mad?” John asked suspiciously. “Where the hell are you?”
“Still on the mainland,” I admitted softly.
“Its pitch black down there,” John said heatedly. “What could you possibly be-“ John broke off as he realised the most likely reason I was still on the mainland. “Did something go wrong?”
“I wouldn’t say wrong ... exactly ...” I broke off miserably. I waited for his reaction but all I got was silence. Okay that was bad ... when John got all silent it was usually because he was trying not to lose his temper. “John?” I radioed him again.
A millisecond later my eyes were blinded by the brilliant white light of the Asgard transporters beaming someone down to my location. When the bright lights vanished Colonel John Sheppard was left in their place and he did not look happy ... even less so when he shone his torch around and realised I was stretched out on the ground.
“Where are you hurt?” John assessed the situation in a glance, dropping down to my side to get a better look at me.
“It’s not as bad as it seems,” I tried to gloss over what had happened.
“Do you have any injuries?” John completely ignored my comment, checking me over to look for visible injuries.
“Unless you count a headache as an injury, no,” I replied, attempting to sit up.
“Stay there,” John gently pressed me back down on the ground.
“But it’s cold,” I complained a bit childishly. “Can’t we just go to the Jumper and fly back to Atlantis?”
“Doctor Beckett,” John tapped his earpiece, still ignoring me. “I’m having Sabina beamed directly to the infirmary. Stand by.”
“John, I really don’t think that’s necessary,” I tried to sit up again but John just put a hand on my shoulder to stop me. “HEY!” I yelled, wincing sharply at the resulting pain. I felt very close to tossing my cookies too and could only imagine how pale I’d gone – hopefully John wouldn’t have noticed.
“Not necessary huh?” John commented ... okay so he had noticed.
“Sheppard to Colonel Caldwell,” John stood up and looked away as he spoke. “I need Hermiod to lock on to Sabina’s signal on the mainland and beam her directly to the infirmary on Atlantis.”
“Give us a minute,” Caldwell replied.
“Acknowledged,” John returned, kneeling back next to me. “I’m gonna fly the Jumper and all your gear back to Atlantis now ... make sure you tell Carson everything that happened so he can work out if ...” John broke off and I realised for the first time that he actually was a little bothered to find me incapacitated like that.
“I’m pretty sure I haven’t done any permanent damage,” I reassured him, “apart from my ego which may never recover after the added humiliation of being beamed to the infirmary.”
“We’re ready to transport Sabina,” Colonel Caldwell’s voice came back from the Daedalus.
John put a gentle hand against my forehead, before stepping back. “See you in an hour,” he said before radioing back to Caldwell, “go ahead.”
He faded from my view and was replaced by Doctor Beckett looking down at my infirmary bed.
“Hi Doctor Beckett,” I smiled innocently.
“What have you done to yourself this time?” Carson asked in concern.
“I took a telepathic blow from a Wraith,” I admitted reluctantly. “Got a bitchin’ headache and the overwhelming urge to vomit but apart from that I’m great.”
“Let me be the judge of that,” Carson said, moving quickly into Doctor mode. “We’ll do a scan and give you something for the nausea.”
Letting myself be subjected to every medical check Doctor Beckett could come up with, eventually he pronounced that I hadn’t done any permanent damage. I did however have some swelling not dissimilar to a concussion – hence the nausea. The bad news was that I had to stay in the infirmary overnight for observation.
I was sulking in my infirmary bed about that when John returned from parking the Jumper. He paused to speak with Doctor Beckett before making his way over to me.
“Carson said you were lucky,” John sat down and took one of my hands. “Wanna tell me what happened?”
“I’m an idiot,” I replied irritably. “That pretty much explains everything that happened.”
“Details” John ordered.
“Okay,” I grumbled. “But first you have to get me a couple of blankets – I’m really cold.”
“It’s not that cold in here,” John looked at me in concern.
“Yes but you weren’t stretched out on the icy ground for hours,” I pointed out. I watched as John stole some blankets from one of the unoccupied beds – it gave me a sweet feeling when he brought them back and tucked me in instead of just giving them to me. Of course that feeling went out the window when he turned back to me with an all business look.
“Okay, talk,” John ordered again.
“Everything went according to plan,” I said. “I was actually finished but I just couldn’t resist checking out one of the other telepathic connections I was getting. I thought it would be an Athosian since they were pretty close by.”
“But it wasn’t?” John encouraged me to keep speaking.
“No,” I looked down at my lap as I admitted “it was one of the Wraith on the Hive ship that’s on its way here.”
“You made a telepathic connection with a Wraith?” John asked incredulously.
“Well obviously not deliberately,” I said sarcastically. “Before I knew it I’d been punched ... telepathically ... my head felt like it was exploding and it was lucky I’d already closed off the connection and deactivated the TED before more hits could get through. It was only when I tried to get up that I passed out.”
“Did the Wraith pick up where you were?” John asked the question I’d really been dreading.
“I don’t think so,” I said. “It’s more likely he thought I was a Wraith on a rival Hive ... but in all honesty I can’t tell you one hundred percent that I didn’t give away our existence.”
“There’s been no change in the approaching Hive's course or speed,” John revealed, “but that doesn’t mean anything.”
“I’m sorry,” I mumbled sickly. “I just keep proving that I don’t know what I’m doing, don’t I?”
“There’s no point in beating yourself up,” John pointed out. “And if that Hive ship has been alerted, then we need your skills with the TED even more.”
“I guess,” I looked at him with a hopeful look. “Think you can convince Carson I don’t need to stay overnight?”
“Not even gonna try,” John drawled.
“They’ll be waking me up every couple of hours,” I complained, “and I won’t get any real rest.”
“Then maybe next time you’ll be a little more cautious,” John said seriously. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“You’re just gonna leave me here?” I asked in a pitiful voice.
“I’m sure Carson will look after you,” John wasn’t swayed at all.
“Fine,” I grumbled, turning away with my arms folded across my chest and mumbling under my breath “and you say my bedside manner sucks!”
John laughed, patting my shoulder bracingly before strolling out of the infirmary.
Chapter 39: I do come up with good ideas occasionally
The next morning, after the restless night I’d predicted I would have, Doctor Beckett released me from the infirmary. My first stop was a visit to Doctor Weir to update her on what had happened the previous day.
“John already filled me in,” Doctor Weir told me when I asked to speak with her.
“I’m sorry I put the city at risk,” I apologised.
“There’s no indication that you did anything of the sort,” Doctor Weir countered. “Does the fact that you controlled the Wraith Dart impact on our back up plans?”
“It’s really hard to say,” I admitted. “By plugging the Dart into the TED I managed to get it into the telepathic pool – but I didn’t detect anything else mechanical which means the Hive is either too far away to be part of the optimal connections I’m getting presented with ... or the TED can’t recognise it. Since I so convincingly proved the Wraith on that Hive are part of the optimal range it stands to reason the ship itself is too.”
“So you need to plug a Hive ship into the TED before you can detect any Hive ships?” Doctor Weir summarised.
“I think so,” I responded disappointingly. “Since I don’t think Colonel Sheppard will be approving a stealth mission to a Hive ship any time soon I think we’re stuck with the original back up plan.”
“Still, that’s something,” Doctor Weir said positively. “Is there anything else you can do with the TED?”
“Not really,” I admitted. “Anything I experiment with now runs the risk of alerting the Wraith on that Hive ship.”
“Okay,” Doctor Weir agreed. “Rodney could use some help on the Orion so why don’t you concentrate on that for the next couple of days.”
“Thanks Doctor Weir,” I looked at her gratefully, happy she’d assigned me something rather than tell me I should be resting.
The next couple of days passed without incident and before we knew it, it was almost time to deploy our defences. Doctor Weir met with Colonel Caldwell, John and Rodney the day before to make sure everyone was clear on the plan of attack. John had decided that when the Wraith Hive ship arrived I should remain on Atlantis despite my protests. Doctor Weir had agreed I could attend the meeting to put forward my case for a different plan.
“The Wraith Dart and the telepathic expansion device should both be on the Daedalus,” I proposed.
“Why?” Caldwell asked curiously. Glad that he seemed willing to listen I launched into my explanation, careful not to look at John.
“I’ll have a better chance of using the TED to control those Wraith if the need arises,” I said, “and if by some strange chance an opportunity to actually get on board the Hive presents itself, having the Dart right there will allow us to take advantage of it.”
“Surely you’re not suggesting you fly the Dart to the Hive ship?” Caldwell said incredulously.
“Not as the initial plan,” I agreed. “But what if there was a chance to get the TED aboard? The tactical advantage we could gain in being able to locate Wraith Hive ships even beyond the long range sensors would make it worth the risk.”
“I can’t see a problem in you being on the Daedalus,” Caldwell said thoughtfully. “Sheppard?”
“If being closer to the Hive means Sabina will have a better chance of using the TED to stop the Wraith from attacking then she should be on the Daedalus,” John admitted easily. “As for taking the Dart up there too, I think we’re just asking for trouble. If Sabina were captured we could end up handing over a tactical advantage to the Wraith instead of gaining one for ourselves.”
“I could remote pilot someone else over to the Hive ship,” I suggested. “It would be much more difficult but I think I could control it long enough to get the Dart close enough for the autopilot to engage and take the Dart the rest of the way in.”
“Beaming the Dart back up to the Daedalus isn’t a problem,” Caldwell acknowledged.
“Let’s do that then,” Doctor Weir decided. “Sabina, have you decided on a method for using the TED?”
“I’m glad you asked,” I said with an almost Rodney like smugness. John grinned at how much I was enjoying this – I’d run my ideas past him a couple of days ago and he’d helped me refine them into an actual strategy. “I’m going to try jamming them – telepathically!”
“I thought you were going to try to take control,” Doctor Weir frowned.
“I’ve never controlled a Wraith and after my brief experience on the mainland it seemed even more of a reckless idea to assume I can work out something effective in the heat of the moment,” I replied. “I was thinking about how I’d held off that Wraith Queen and the answer just came to me – telepathic noise. She was trying to get me to yield and I threw a huge amount of trivial details in front of her and it did confuse her. The TED gives me a way to access all the Wraith within range at the same time – instead of trying to make actual connections which would limit the number of Wraith I could take out, I’m going to send telepathic noise down all the connections at the same time. The TED can even generate the noise itself – I won’t have to bombard the connections with trivial information. Hopefully that will limit their ability to operate their ship almost as well as if I’d actually been able to control the ship itself.”
“Jamming of any kind is an accepted military counter measure,” Colonel Caldwell actually looked impressed at the strategy I’d come up with.
“That’s actually ... that’s pretty smart,” Rodney complimented me.
“I do come up with good ideas occasionally,” I pointed out.
“Have you tested it?” Doctor Weir asked.
“Sabina used the same volunteers from the original tests,” John replied. “She jammed the whole group of them at the same time – when I tested them it was very clear they were incapable of doing even minor tasks.”
“That’s great news,” Doctor Weir congratulated me.
“Look, it’s still a bit of a long shot,” I felt it necessary to point out. ‘Sure, I can jam a group of humans with little telepathic ability. It’ll be a different story for the Wraith who have access to a neural network and there’s really no way to test that.”
“Point taken,” Doctor Weir acknowledged.
The rest of the discussion centred on who would be where at the time of the Hive ships arrival. John was going to be on the Orion with Rodney, ready to hopefully deploy the drones should they be needed. Colonel Caldwell would have the final decision as to whether we deployed the TED ... it would be a balance between ensuring defeat of the Hive and not giving away all our cards if it wasn’t required.
“That went well,” I commented to John as we walked together from the meeting.
“Do you really need to be on the Daedalus?” John asked me.
“I really think so,” I said earnestly. “There’s a large part of personal perception in using the TED ... if I can see that Hive ship and I know its close I think that will help me get a better result.”
“Well, remember that you’ll be under Colonel Caldwell’s command on the Daedalus,” John pointed out. “He expects his commands to be followed without question so do what he says.”
“I will,” I promised. “Are you angry about the Dart being beamed up there too?”
“You knew what my opinion was before you asked Caldwell,” John pointed out somewhat irritably. “You asked anyway so clearly whether I’m annoyed about it is immaterial.”
“It’s not,” I denied. “I’d prefer it if you understood why I thought it was necessary.”
“I understand what you wanted Colonel Caldwell to think,” John pinned me with a sharp glance, “but you’re not fooling me. Somewhere at the back of your mind it the vague plan to fly that Dart yourself. You wouldn’t let anyone else take the risk.”
“If it was the only way to get the information I need, I would,” I looked him in the eye openly, trying to show him that I was completely serious.
“Okay, I’ll give you that,” John relented. “Let’s hope the Hive ship just passes us by so we don’t have to put that to the test.”
“What say we put all this out of our minds for the next few hours?” I looked at him hopefully.
“What did you have in mind?” John raised an eyebrow suggestively.
“That’ll do for starters,” I laughed, grabbing his hand and dragging him off in the direction of his quarters.
Chapter 40: I just know you can’t trust that Queen
When you know something is going to happen in the near future the passage of time is an elastic concept. Initially time seems to drag so slowly that you just wish you could get to it already. At some point that changes – time speeds up beyond the comfort zone and suddenly there isn’t nearly enough time to get everything done. Before you’re ready the event is upon you. Such was the case for the arrival of the Hive ship.
I’d taken up position on the Bridge of the Daedalus as we waited to hear from Atlantis that the ship had entered orbit.
“Colonel Caldwell,” Doctor Weir radioed in. “Are you in position?”
“Affirmative,” Caldwell relied. “We're out of scanning range and ready to jump into position on your go-ahead.”
“Excellent,” Doctor Weir’s tone was professional and didn’t hint at the tension she must have been feeling.
“Just for the record,” Colonel Caldwell pointed out, “I still think that we should be in orbit around Atlantis, ready to open up on that Hive ship the second it comes out of hyperspace.”
“It's one Hive, Colonel, which suggests they might just be checking up on us,” Doctor Weir reminded him. “There's no need to confirm our presence if we don't have to. Just stand by.”
“Standing by,” Caldwell confirmed.
Waiting really sucked ... I’d always hated it and life seemed to be full of too much of it. Doctor Weir checked in with the Orion too. John sounded optimistic and Rodney stressed, pretty much as usual for the two of them. There wasn't much time but I still crossed my fingers that Rodney would still get enough systems operational to make the Orion battle worthy. I'd said my good lucks and be carefuls to John before we'd all gone our separate ways but I still wished I could say something ... even just to fill the tense gap that grew as the seconds went by with no word from Dr Weir.
“Atlantis, report?” Caldwell made contact a few minutes later to find out what the holdup was. The radios enabled us to have a three way conversation between the Daedalus, the Orion and the Control Room in Atlantis.
“It's going into geosynchronous orbit,” one of the Control Room technicians reported. “Hasn't armed any of its weapons.”
There was a short pause before John’s voice came over the radio “You could be a little more chatty, Elizabeth.”
“I'm sorry,” Doctor Weir said simply. “We're just waiting for them to make the next move.”
“Transmitting a signal, audio only,” the same technician reported.
“Put it on speaker,” Doctor Weir ordered.
“We know you are there,” a male Wraith voice echoed through the Daedalus Bridge. “We mean you no harm. Please respond.”
“John, are you hearing this?” Doctor Weir questioned with a worried frown.
“We mean you no harm,” the Wraith voice repeated. “There is no point in hiding, Doctor Weir. We know you are there. We mean you no harm. Please respond.”
“Is that who I think it is?” John asked grimly.
“He's addressing me by name,” Doctor Weir pointed out. “I think we can assume its Michael.”
The Wraith we’d turned it a human, even if only briefly? The implications of his returning to Atlantis sent shivers down my spine. I knew conducting that experiment had been a bad idea!
“You don't actually intend to respond?” Colonel Caldwell asked incredulously.
“Why not?” Doctor Weir asked.
“Where do you want me to start?” Caldwell said mockingly, pacing frustratedly in front of the view screen.
“I think we can safely say our cover is blown,” Doctor Weir responded.
“I wouldn't jump to that conclusion,” Caldwell cautioned.
“The message is from Michael, Colonel,” Doctor Weir said in a tone that said ‘what else could it mean?’.
“They know we're here,” Ronan rumbled.
“But they don't know exactly where we are,” Caldwell pointed out.
“He's right,” John spoke up for the first time. “Answer them and we guarantee the first shot won't miss.”
“Teyla?” Doctor Weir asked.
“Any attempt on my part to connect with Michael will confirm our location as surely as if you answer by radio,” Teyla replied.
“Sabina?” Doctor Weir asked for my opinion.
“Unfortunately I have to agree with Teyla,” I replied thoughtfully. “If I attempt to use the TED it will only create suspicion that we’re down here somewhere.”
“I recommend you open a secure channel to the Hive via the Daedalus,” Rodney suggested. “That way they won't be able to pinpoint Atlantis' position.”
“And we can always turn the shield on,” Doctor Weir reminded us that Atlantis did have that protection available.
“I believe we have enough combined firepower to take out a single Hive if we need to,” John offered.
“Have you ever heard of a Wraith behaving this way?” Doctor Weir asked, presumably talking to Teyla and Ronan.
“No,” Ronan said shortly.
“Nor have I,” Teyla agreed.
“Right,” Doctor Weir said briskly. “Let's hear what they have to say.”
Once the secured channel had been initiated Doctor Weir contacted Michael. The conversation that followed was an eye opener. There were not enough humans for all the waking Wrath to feed upon and civil war had broken out amongst the Wraith cells. Michael’s Hive wanted our help to turn their enemy Wraith into humans using Doctor Beckett’s retrovirus. Those human Wraith would then meet their end in the predictable fashion. In return the Wraith had given us their jamming program – if Rodney could crack it then the Daedalus would again be able to beam nukes directly to Hive ships.
Doctor Weir called a meeting in the conference room to discuss our options, necessitating our return to Atlantis. I met up with John briefly before he had to head off for the meeting.
“You don’t want to tag along?” John asked in surprise when I told him I wouldn’t be attending.
“I thought the experiment on Michael was a bad idea from the start,” I reminded him. “Doctor Weir didn’t ask for my opinion then and I don’t think there’s any point in my giving it now.”
“Wasn’t it your idea to use a virus of some sort to take out the Wraith?” John looked at me in confusion.
“Yes – but I wanted Doctor Beckett to create a biotic virus to attack the Hive ships directly,” I retorted, “not something that creates ... food for other Wraith!”
“We were happy when we realised there was in fighting amongst the Wraith,” John reminded me. “How is this any different? It’s still Wraith killing Wraith.”
“Maybe it’ll make it easier to do this if we think that,” I disagreed, “but the evidence from Michael suggests that initially he was human. His decline could have been as much to do with our treatment of him as it was because of characteristics that might make him inherently Wraith. And I don’t think creating a weapon was Doctor Beckett’s motivation when he began research on the retrovirus – he’s gonna struggle with the morality of this.”
“Look,” John said impatiently, “I’m not happy with the situation either, but the fact remains that we did ... create Michael and I don’t see how we have any choice but to take up this alliance.”
“And everyone else will see that too,” I said lightly. “Hence I don’t need to go to that meeting.”
“We’ll be cautious,” John promised.
“I know you will,” I replied seriously. “You’re not thinking that we can trust these Wraith?”
“Hell no!” John retorted. “But if we don’t take them up on their offer they’ll alert every Hive ship in the galaxy to our presence.”
“I know,” I said, resigned. “Go ... do what you have to do.”
A short time later three Wraith were escorted through Atlantis to meet in Doctor Weir’s office. I waited with Rodney and Doctor Zelenka ... as they walked past us I caught enough of a glance to realise that one of them was the Hive Queen.
“This is just wrong,” Rodney muttered sickly.
“You were excited about the jamming programme,” Zelenka pointed out.
“Intellectually,” Rodney retorted. “Being this close to the Wraith makes my skin crawl.”
“Mine too,” I admitted. “The Ancients would be turning in their graves, those that didn’t ascend, at the sight of their city being violated like this.”
“I wonder what they are saying up there,” Zelenka said, glancing up at the Control Room that was just visible from our position.
“We’ll find out soon enough,” Rodney replied. “Let’s get back to this jamming programme.”
Doctor Weir and the Hive Queen came to an agreement and what followed was the most uncomfortable period I could recall spending on Atlantis. Doctor Beckett and Doctor Zelenka worked with one of the Wraith to find a way to disseminate the retrovirus aerosol gas to a Hive ship. Rodney went to the Daedalus and worked with Hermiod to crack the jamming program so that we could successfully beam something onto the Hive ship. Michael and the Queen seemed to just hover around menacingly.
I did my best to avoid them all completely, sticking mostly to my lab while they were on Atlantis. John thought I was being silly to feel so apprehensive of the Wraith but I had a sick suspicion I didn’t want to confirm. Unfortunately I couldn’t avoid the Hive Queen forever – I was still pursuing research on my telepathic jamming idea and I needed to ask Doctor Zelenka something. Expecting to find just the Wraith scientist with Radek, I was dismayed to find the Queen was also in attendance.
She turned when I entered the lab, doing that Wraith hiss and head twitch thing they all did.
“Sorry,” I mumbled, quickly backing out of the lab again. With a panicky feeling I rushed off down the corridor. I couldn’t resist glancing back to the lab – the Queen was standing in the door way watching my retreat.
“Crap, crap, crap,” I muttered under my breath, thoughts buzzing in my head as I tried to recall where John was supposed to be that morning. I was almost running by the time I got to Doctor Weir’s office, relieved to see John still meeting with Elizabeth.
“It’s her,” I rushed right in, voice shaking as I started to pace in the small space.
“It’s who?” John got to his feet and grabbed my hands to halt my nervous movements. He frowned when he felt my hands trembling and focussed intently on my face as he continued. “What’s wrong?”
“The Hive Queen! It’s the same one I ah ... you know ... when I was captured,” I wobbled my way through that explanation.
“Are you sure?” John urged me to sit down, sitting beside me and glancing at Doctor Weir to check her reaction.
“Oh yeah,” I replied grimly. “Same tattoos, same superior expression ... same disco outfit.”
“Why is this a problem?” Doctor Weir asked me.
“I don’t know,” I admitted. “I just know you can’t trust that Queen – I’ve seen inside her head and she’s vicious even by Wraith standards. Plus she’s cunning and intelligent – you don’t want to underestimate her.”
“Did she recognise you?” John asked the question I’d been trying not to think about.
“She made out like she didn’t,” I replied, “but I sensed ... something from her ... satisfaction maybe? She knows who I am all right.”
“I think it best at this stage if you keep clear of all the Wraith,” Doctor Weir instructed. “Do you think there’s a risk the Queen might be able to sense things from you too?”
“I have no idea,” I said irritably. “Much as I hate to hide from the Wraith, I’m thinking it might not be a bad idea for me to go up to the Daedalus until the Wraith leave. I would hate to give away anything about the TED just by being here and I really have no idea how much a Wraith Queen could pick up in close proximity like this.”
“I’m sure Rodney could use your help to work through the jamming program,” Doctor Weir said briskly. “Colonel Sheppard, why don’t you help Sabina pack up what she’ll need?”
“Thanks Doctor Weir,” I said, grateful for her giving me a reason to go to the Daedalus without making it seem like a retreat, as well as for giving John and I the chance to talk alone before I left.
“You okay?” John asked once we’d put a bit of distance between us and Doctor Weirs office.
“Maybe Doctor Heightmeyer was right,” I said reluctantly, “maybe I do have some lingering effects from what happened on that Hive ship.”
“Anyone would be freaked out to come face to face with an enemy like you did,” John discounted. “That doesn’t make you weak.”
“No, it just makes me feel weak,” I pointed out, “which is almost as bad!”
We’d arrived at my quarters and I quickly gathered together enough clothes to see me through a few days.
“So I guess I’ll see you when the Wraith leave,” I looked at John hesitantly.
“I’m sure I can find something on the Daedalus that’ll require my personal attention before then,” John drawled.
“That’d be nice,” I went over and hugged him. “Be careful.”
Chapter 41: Now we just have to work out what to do with that
John made it up to the Daedalus once during the two days I stayed up there. Strangely enough we then did a position swap, with John on the Daedalus for a mission to test the retrovirus gas on a real Hive and me back in the labs on Atlantis. I was on edge the whole time John was gone, expecting some kind of subterfuge from the Hive Queen. Colonel Caldwell reported in on the way back to Atlantis that the Wraith delegation had been searched and killed when the retrovirus canisters had been found. Our Hive had sustained damage in the failed attempt and their transport ship had been destroyed.
“This alliance is becoming more like blackmail every day,” John complained to me later. “Now it’s not enough that we’ve handed them a weapon to defeat their enemy Hives, they want us to work out how to deliver it effectively too.”
“The Hive Queen is deceiving us about something,” I told him. “I’ve been thinking about what I sensed the day I bumped into her and I’m convinced she’s hiding something – I just don’t know what.”
“The good news is that Rodney was given the mother lode on Wraith Hive ships – everything you ever wanted to know about schematics, power distribution, life support configurations, the whole lot,” John grinned when I jumped up excitedly. “Maybe you can find some use for the information too.”
“Who’s got the data?” I hastily gathered up my laptop and the TED and turned to see John grinning at me. “Why is it you’re always amused by something I’m doing?” I asked irritably.
“If I knew that it probably wouldn’t be so amusing,” John teased me. “Radek’s working on the data – he’s expecting you.”
“Cool,” I jumped up and ran out the door, stopped and then poked my head back into the room when I realised I hadn’t even said goodbye. “Thanks John – I’ll see you later.”
Doctor Zelenka had designated one of his workstations for my use and I quickly connected the TED, crossing my fingers that some kind of transfer would take place even though the TED wasn’t connected to an actual Wraith Hive ship. Lights flashed on the TED and images started scrolling rapidly on the workstation screen.
“It’s doing something,” I commented to Zelenka. “Hopefully something good. This is gonna take a while – is there anything you want me to work on while I’m waiting?”
“You can assist team A with locating a place to put the gas canister,” he suggested.
“Sounds good,” I moved to another workstation and started looking at the Hive ship schematics. The organic nature of the Hive ships was a definite weakness, just as the Ancients had supposed. If we had actual samples and scans of the organic components then maybe some time in the future Doctor Beckett could design a biotic virus like I’d suggested months ago.
A couple of hours later the team I was assisting hadn’t had any luck finding a spot that would ensure delivery over the entire ship in one go. The TED had finally stopped flashing and I returned to see what I’d got. I put my hand on TED to check out the status of the telepathic pool – if my transfer had been successful I should be able to detect a second mechanical thread.
“Is that safe?” Doctor Zelenka looked across at me, clearly concerned I was activating the device without seeming to even prepare myself.
“Its fine,” I reassured him. “I’m not trying to make any connections – I’m just gonna look at the threads TED has available. I should be able to tell if it’s picking up the Hive ship now.” I put my hand confidently on the device, had a quick look, and then deactivated it.
“And is it?” I turned quickly when John spoke from the doorway.
“It is!” I smiled triumphantly. “Now we just have to work out what to do with that.”
“How’re the Wraith data files coming?” John turned back to get an update from Doctor Zelenka.
“Ah. Oh, it's-it's phenomenal,” Radek stammered excitedly. “It's-it's like being handed a Wraith encyclopaedia. It's hard to know where to start.”
“When I was a kid and I got my first encyclopaedia, I started with the letter “S”,” John confided with a faint smirk.
“I bet you did,” I chided him.
“Yes, well, while I'm sure that Wraith sexuality is interesting,” Radek said good naturedly, “we've decided to split into two teams. “Team A over here is trying to find the best place or places to plant the gas canister,” Radek gestured to his left, “Team B over there is trying to come up with some fixes for the damage that the Wraith Hive sustained during its last battle.”
“And you?” John asked curiously.
“Um, mostly I'm just skimming the index,” Radek admitted.
“Anything exciting?” John quizzed.
“Oh, yes,” Radek replied with a pleased grin.
“Such as?” John looked hopeful.
“Well, the ships are massive,” Radek shoved his chair across the floor to another computer, “but because of their mainly organic design, they have a number of external weaknesses.”
“I've got a weakness for external weaknesses,” John’s tone was light hearted but I could tell he’d registered the implications.
“Any word from Rodney yet?,” Radek looked at John with a hopeful expression.
“I'm sure he's fine,” John replied, trying to reassure himself as much as Radek and me. “I’ll leave you to get back to your searching ... let me know if you find out anything else useful.”
“Of course Colonel Sheppard,” Radek sat himself back at his computer and squinted at the screen.
“Are you done?” John turned back to me.
“I could stay and help one of Zelenka’s teams,” I suggested. “As far as my work on TED goes, there’s nothing else I can do unless I’m actually gonna use the device for real.”
“I’m heading up to Doctor Weir’s now so I’ll fill her in on your status,” John offered. “Rodney and I are gonna talk strategy once he gets back. I’ll fill you in on the plan ... once we have a plan.”
Chapter 42: That double crossing bitch!
“I want to be on the Daedalus when you head out,” I told John. It was early evening and we were sitting at our usual table in the commissary. John had just finished explaining the plan he and Rodney had come up with to test the retrovirus gas on another Hive.
“Why did I know you were gonna say that?” John looked away and ran a frustrated hand through his hair.
“Because deep down you can see the advantage having me there could give us,” I replied reasonably.
“We need you here on Atlantis, just in case things go pear shaped,” John said heatedly.
“No,” I retorted. “You want me here on Atlantis so you can go off with one less thing to worry about!”
“That’s not,” John paused with a grimace, “entirely true ... it would give me less to worry about but it also makes strategic sense. You’re the backup plan – you can’t be that if you get wiped out with the rest of us if this thing goes really, really, wrong.”
“Your mission will have a greater chance of success if I’m there,” I said boldly. “If communication is cut off for example I can make a connection and find out what’s going on. If the other Hive ship tries to attack I can jam the Wraith inside so they can’t even aim properly.”
“You said the other day that you weren’t even sure you could do any of those things because they haven’t been tested,” John protested my claims. “Now you’re telling me you can do them, no sweat?”
“I don’t think Colonel Caldwell will have a problem with me being on his ship,” my tone suggested that John’s main concern really was just the personal angle.
“So you’re gonna go over my head again,” John looked angry now.
“Not unless you get really stubborn about this,” I admitted honestly. “Please don’t make me do that because I really hate it.”
“I’m just waiting for the one time when we’re in this kind of situation and you actually do what I want,” John grumbled.
“And I’m waiting for the one time you have faith enough in me to see things exactly the same way I do,” I replied in disappointment.
“I do have faith in you,” John insisted. “I’ve seen - hell I’ve felt – the strength of your mind.”
“Then trust me to know the best place to put myself,” I almost begged. “Besides, this is supposed to be a routine mission – I’ll probably spend the entire time being bored on the Daedalus.”
“Why do I get the feeling I’m gonna regret this?” John muttered under his breath.
“I can go?” I asked hopefully.
“You can go,” John agreed, still reluctant. “But you follow mine and Colonel Caldwell’s orders to the letter!”
The next morning I loaded up my gear and had myself beamed aboard the Daedalus in time to do some work setting up the Wraith Dart, just in case. I’d decided that if things really did go wrong I should have the TED set up somewhere with separate systems and an independent means of surviving in space. That would give me maximum flexibility should I need to call on its functionality. The trip to the planned rendezvous was interminable and I’d exhausted every minor idea for tinkering with the Dart while we were still in hyperspace.
I noticed immediately when the hyperspace engine disengaged and we returned to normal space. Almost immediately the ship shook with what could only be direct hits to the hull.
“John,” I yelled into the radio. “What’s going on out there?”
“The Hive ships are firing on our position,” John revealed grimly. “The enemy Hive as well as our friendly.”
“What?!” I growled. “I knew that waxy faced Wraith bitch couldn’t be trusted!”
“We’re making evasive manoeuvres while we give McKay and Ronan a chance to beam back over here,” John said. “Stay where you are until you hear back from me.”
“Acknowledged,” I confirmed.
Once I’d signed off I cleared my gear away from the Dart and then rigged myself into the cock pit. Checking to make sure the TED and my laptop were properly secured, I steeled myself to wait to hear back from John. If he came back telling me Rodney and Ronan were still on that Hive I wasn’t waiting for orders – there was no way that Queen was taking my friends anywhere.
“Sabina,” John radioed me only a minute or so later. “Hermiod can’t beam through their jamming program ... looks like that was bogus too. Can you do anything with TED to help?”
“How much time do I have?” I asked grimly.
“Maybe another couple of minutes, tops,” John admitted.
“I don’t know,” I said hesitantly. “I’ll try ... stand by.”
I activated TED and perceived all the possible optimal connections in the telepathic pool. Locking in the command to bombard them with mental noise, I radioed back to John. “Get Hermiod to try it now,” I said, grimly holding the TED to the target.
“No luck,” John replied a few seconds later.
“Hang on,” I demanded, closing my eyes to look more closely at the connections TED had perceived. My stomach dropped sickly as I realised there was only one type of mechanical connection available – the Darts. Looking more closely at the reams of information TED had hovering in the background I discovered why.
“That double crossing bitch!” I complained bitterly.
“What?” John demanded impatiently.
“Those files they gave us have self destructed,” I revealed angrily. “I can’t do anything about the Hive ship itself because TED can’t find it anymore.”
“This just keeps getting better and better,” John drawled, angry too. “What about the Wraith in those Hive ships?”
“Already jamming them,” I replied. “It’s causing some confusion over there but they’ve obviously got the ship set on a firing sequence since they’re still attacking us. Either that or TED isn’t working quite how I’d planned. I’m sorry,” I said in disappointment.
“Not your fault,” John countered, “and any confusion you can cause is a bonus. I’m taking the F302’s out to target their hyperdrives ... stay in contact just in case I need you to try something else.”
“Be careful,” I whispered, taking a deep calming breath when John cut off the connection.
With the aid of TED I was able to perceive the battle taking place outside the ship. I knew which F302 was Johns – I tried to help him and his squadron by targeting the Darts closest to their positions for extra jamming. I knew the instant John disappeared from the sensors, although I could still pick up his telepathic signal.
Once I worked out why that was I powered up the Dart and flew it out of the hangar and into space. I’d timed my exit perfectly ... John’s small squadron of F302s had destroyed most of the Wraith Darts and the remaining few had retreated back to the Hive ship. As soon as I got close to our supposedly friendly Hive ship the automatic pilot took control just as I’d hoped. I sat back and let it take me into the Hive ship along with the other Darts. John was somewhere on that ship and I had the horrible suspicion that without me he wouldn’t survive this time.
Chapter 43: This human demanded to speak with you
It seemed to be my week for idiotic behaviour. I had thought I’d have a chance to exit the Wraith Dart once in the Dart Bay before I was discovered. What I didn’t consider was the other Darts also returning to the bay on autopilot. The Hive parked all the Darts in the same part of the Bay so when my canopy opened there were four or five Wraith nearby. Before I could think to activate the TED they drew their stunners and motioned for me to climb down from the Dart.
“Take me to your Queen,” I demanded imperiously, hoping they’d think I was part of the betrayal against Atlantis. The Wraith glanced uneasily at each other before motioning me to follow them. My time spent helping Doctor Zelenka proved useful in a way I hadn’t expected. I’d spent hours studying the Hive ship schematics, enough to know they actually were taking me in the direction of the Queens chambers. I was cut off from John and I had no idea where on the ship Rodney and Ronan might be ... my mind was racing furiously as I considered and discarded a number of actions I could take to get us all out of this.
“Why do you interrupt me?” the Queen hissed furiously at my Wraith escorts when we arrived at her chambers.
“This human demanded to speak with you,” one of them was brave enough to reply.
“You imbecile,” the Queen stepped down and backhanded him furiously, sending him careening into the nearest wall. She turned back to the other Wraith, glancing at me for the first time.
“You,” she growled menacingly.
“Me,” I smiled condescendingly but quaked nervously inside. “I wondered if you recognised me back on Atlantis ... I guess the answer was yes.”
“I am Wraith,” she hissed and arched her head mockingly. “We do not notice our food ... one human is much the same as another.”
“Now that hurts,” I deliberated turned my back on her and made a show of looking around the chamber. “Got rid of the disco lights I see ... kind of looks a bit boring now don’t you think?”
“Leave us,” the Queen commanded the other Wraith, “and take that with you.” She gestured towards the Wraith she’d rendered severely unconscious.
“You intrigue me,” the Queen mused, stalking towards me. She was almost as tall as Ronan and I couldn’t help but feel intimidated as she loomed over me.
“I wish I could say the same about you,” I looked her in the eye with a glare, “but we both know I’d be lying.”
“There is much that I could offer someone like you,” she said in invitation.
“Someone like me?” I queried. “I thought you said one human was just as good as another?”
“I saw you on Atlantis,” the Queen admitted, “I know that you possess the gene of the Ancients.”
“So you did notice me,” I shook my head at her. “You know lying is really not very nice.”
"You may think yourself superior," the Queen turned to glare at me, "but you gave away much at our last meeting. I know that you possess Wraith genetic material also ... a rare combination indeed."
"I flew a Dart into your ship," I scoffed in disbelief. "Any idiot could have worked that out!"
“Don’t you want to save the lives of your friends?” the Queen went down the blackmail path again.
“We’ve already had this conversation,” I pointed out, as I continued to stroll around her chamber like I owned the place.
“But this time I really do have Doctor McKay and his ... bodyguard,” she hissed again, pushing her chin out and looking down her nose at me. “They are waiting in our food storage chambers this very moment.”
“If I know Ronan,” I taunted her, “he’s already escaped with McKay. He’d be insulted if I gave you anything in exchange for his life.”
The Queen growled in frustration, stalking back to her throne and throwing herself down on it. She arranged her posture regally, clearly struggling to control her temper.
“Why are you here?” the Queen demanded suddenly.
“You betrayed Atlantis,” I said heatedly, “and that pissed me off. I knew we should never have trusted you ... you’re evil and a civil war isn’t gonna change that.”
“It is unfortunate Doctor Weir did not consider your opinion before agreeing to the alliance,” the Queen smiled mockingly. “If she had listened to you we would not be heading for Earth and our new feeding group.”
“You’re going to Earth?” I asked sickly, thoughts whirling as I tried to decide if she was bluffing. “The data you send ... you used it to mine our database for information.”
“That is correct,” the Queen hissed in pleasure, rising again and striding arrogantly towards me. “With the information we stole we were able to modify our engines. Within days we will arrive at your planet and then ... we will feed.”
“I don’t think so,” I yelled, slamming a mental blow at her before she could raise her defences.
The strength of my mental attack along with the element of surprise caught her off guard. I succeeded in bringing her to her knees briefly, before she rallied and slowly struggled to her feet. Even though I didn’t have TED to expand my abilities I still had my Wraith gene. And I had the burning anger I felt towards her – for her initial treatment of me months ago, her deliberate betrayal of the alliance with Atlantis, and most especially for her plan to spread the plague of her race on Earth.
Just hitting her mentally wasn’t enough – I badly wanted to beat the crap out of her too and in her weakened and distracted condition I thought I’d even have a chance against her far superior strength. Taking advantage of the small window presented to me while the Queen regained her composure from my first mental blow, I slammed a second one her way, accompanying it with a spinning roundhouse hit of my right arm across her chest. She staggered backwards as I spun again, slamming my left elbow into her spine, all the while bombarding her mind with telepathic daggers.
It wasn’t going to be that easy of course. Roused by the sounds of battle from the Queen's chamber, the guard stationed in the corridor nearby came to investigate. Sensing his presence through the mind of the Queen I let go my attack on her briefly to turn and deal with the guard. His mind was weak in comparison to the Queen and it took only seconds for me to render him unconscious without having to lay a finger on him. Whirling back to face the Queen I discovered those few seconds were enough for her to recover some of her equilibrium.
My head rocked back as her fist connected with my jaw. It was my turn to stagger back as she followed her first hit with a kick to the gut. Gasping for breath I looked up to see her raising her hands to either side of my head. I felt the force of her mind against my own ... bracing myself I pushed back. The physical combat ceased as we each slowly straightened until we were facing each other in the centre of the room only a few steps apart. She pushed and I pushed back so that neither of us made any ground in bringing the other down.
“Listen, Wraith bitch,” I growled. “You are not gonna bring me down. I held you off last time we met and I’ve been practising since then.”
“We shall see,” she hissed, narrowing her eyes as she renewed her attempt to squash my mind.
“Is that the best you can do?” I taunted her, hoping to distract her enough that I could get another sharp mental dagger through her defences.
The Queen did a hissing kind of roar and increased her attack on my mind. I was convinced at that point that she was giving me everything she had ... but somehow I was holding her off. I’d been taunting her when I said I’d been practising but clearly I actually had improved in mental strength. My experiments and research with the TED must have had the added bonus of enhancing my use of the Wraith genes in general.
I let her push against my mind for a few moments, hoping to wear her out. There came a point at which I felt if I held her off any longer my final strike wouldn’t be as strong as I could possibly make it. Again I felt the need to make the defeating blow both physical and mental. I did a spinning kick into her midsection at the same time as I sent the sharpest, fastest telepathic dagger I could construct at her mind.
The kick knocked her on her arse and the mental blow made her eyes roll back in her head. As if in slow motion the Queen fell sideways and lay motionless on the floor. Not waiting to see if I’d actually killed her I ran from the chamber and made my way into the depths of the ship. My plan was to get back to the Dart Bay but first I had to find Rodney and Ronan because there was no way I was leaving without them.
Sometime during my fight with the Queen the Hive ship had dropped out of hyperspace - I knew it was a weakness in their technology because they had to stop and give the organic components time to recover. As I ran down the first corridor the ship shook with the force of an explosion on the hull. Someone was firing on us ... John! Wishing I had some way to contact him, I sent up a silent pray that he’d managed to disable the hyperspace engines to give us more time to stop the threat to Earth for good.
Wraith were running around the corridors in far greater numbers than the last time I’d toured a Hive ship. I was forced to duck into corners and behind pillars repeatedly, making for a much longer journey to the food storage chambers than I would have liked. I was heartened after visiting three different chamber locations to find two individual units that had clearly held captives now escaped. Of course Ronan would have had his knife – that’s where John had gotten the idea before giving me my knives!
Now what did I do? John was outside the ship in an F302. Rodney and Ronan were running around somewhere inside the ship. And none of us had any way to contact each other. Could there possibly be anything more frustrating about this situation? Leaving the food storage section I headed back towards the Dart Bay. I wasn’t going to fly out of the Hive without doing something for the others but maybe with TED I would be able to communicate with everyone.
I hadn’t even made it half way to the Darts when the ship started shaking again with external weapons fire. This time I didn’t think it possible that John was inflicting the damage – I could sense the ship listing slightly at what must have been severe systems failures. Doctor Weir must have sent the Daedalus, and maybe even the Orion to stop the Hive ships before they were out of range of Atlantis. The ship shook and I had trouble steadying myself as I tried to increase my pace.
Wishing Wraith ships had windows so I could at least look outside to see what was happening, I briefly considered tapping into the system to get an update. The risk that I’d alert the Wraith to my location and maybe in the process mess up whatever plan John and the others were enacting was too great so in the end I decided against it.
My luck at avoiding the Wraith soldiers running all over the ship had to run out sometime. I rounded a corner only a few metres away from the Dart Bay entrance and slammed into a two man Wraith guard detail. They’d obviously been warned about my mental prowess because they stunned me before I had a chance to do anything.
Waking up hours later in the Wraith cell was just a little too recognisable to be comfortable. I opened my eyes to that familiar ceiling and groaned at the stunner headache I’d acquired. A guard appeared at my door almost immediately, glancing at the door control to retract the door.
“The Queen wants to see you,” he hissed, urging me to follow him from the cell.
“Are you sure?” I asked nonchalantly, “because the last time I saw her she was lying unconscious and bleeding on the floor.”
“If you attempt anything I will stun you again,” the Wraith ignored my comment, pushing his stunner into the middle of my back and poking me every time he thought I was moving too slow. The bombardment of the ship had stopped and from what I could tell as we walked towards the Queens chamber, the Hive was in dismal shape. Praying that meant the Daedalus had won the fight I allowed myself to be taken before the Queen again.
“We’ve got to stop meeting like this,” I uttered the cliché with a nasty smile, feeling a sense of pride when I realised the Queen was much the worse for wear after her encounter with me.
“The only reason you have not been drained of life,” the Queen hissed, “is because of your Ancient gene. You will serve the Wraith as we plan our next attack against Atlantis.”
“What makes you think I’d ever serve you,” I looked her up and down distastefully.
“You may have been able to resist the will of one Queen,” she replied, “but it will be a different story when my sister Queens join me in controlling you.”
“That might look like a good plan from your side,” I counselled her, “but it won’t work. When Atlantis discovers I’ve been held captive by you they won’t let me anywhere near anything Ancient.”
“You are valuable to the Lanteans,” the Queen countered. “They will try to rescue you.”
“No one is –“ I broke off when the sounds of Wraith screams of pain began echoing from the corridors. The Queen hissed in fury. Glancing a command at the Wraith who’d escorted me to the chamber and remained to stand guard, she strode towards the door.
I looked at the guard just in time to see the flash of stunning blue shooting towards me.
Chapter 44: You’re mad aren’t you?
“It didn't work on her,” a voice somewhere off to my right partially roused me from unconsciousness. Frowning in puzzlement at why I’d be hearing Major Lorne’s voice, I shifted slightly and tried to open my eyes and sit up only to find to my great concern that I couldn’t - in fact when I tried instead to call out I realised that I didn't have any motor control whatsoever. Being Wraith stunned twice in such a short time frame was clearly not a good thing. “Don’t panic,” I thought. “They’ll search the room – they’ll find you.”
“Oh. Beckett wondered if the females would be immune,” Rodney mused.
“Yeah,” Major Lorne replied. “Something you might have mentioned before she almost killed me, Rodney.” That sounded like something Major Lorne would say, reassuring me that I wasn’t dreaming.
“I only thought of it now,” Rodney’s voice took on his classic complaining tone.
“Colonel Sheppard,” a disembodied voice called. “So far we haven't run into a single Wraith, sir.”
“Understood,” John was close by! “Please look over here” I yelled in my head. “Sheppard to Daedalus.”
“Go ahead,” Colonel Caldwell replied.
“You can start sending people over, sir,” John reported. “They're all human and the air is good. I think we're out of the woods.”
I suspected the Daedalus had followed through on the original plan and beamed over the retrovirus canister. It was the only thing that could have explained the pain filled cries I’d heard and the fury on the Queens face before she’d left her chamber. Lucky for me that Doctor Beckett had perfected the retrovirus so that it had no effect on humans!
Hearing footsteps nearby I strained to move something, finally managing to scrape my boot against the floor. After a short pause rustling sounds issued nearby and I felt someone standing beside me.
“Ah ... Sir?” Major Lorne called out in a dazed voice.
“What is it Major?” John’s footsteps echoed through the floor to my ear.
“There’s something over here that you need to see.” Major Lorne reported reluctantly.
There was a short pause and then the sound of confident boot steps striding towards me. I cringed internally, not really looking forward to John's reaction when he realised I was on the Wraith Hive ship instead of being back on Atlantis.
“Sabina?” John whispered, dropping down near my head. I felt his hand at my throat and heard his sigh of relief on feeling my heart beating strongly. “She’s alive,” he said in relief. More steps issued from around me.
“She’s been stunned,” Ronan said.
Straining with everything I had I slowly opened my eyes to the sight of John Sheppard kneeling near my side. Ronan, Major Lorne and Rodney all stood behind him wearing expressions of concern mixed with surprise. Shifting my head from side to side I realised that I was lying on the floor, squeezed against the wall behind a large shape I could only assume was the Queen's throne.
“Hi guys,” I slurred, relieved to finally feel sensation returning throughout my body. “What’re you all doing here?”
“What are we doing here,” John asked incredulously. “What the hell are you doing here?”
“You mean no one noticed I wasn’t on the Daedalus?” I pretended to look hurt, which wasn’t hard because with the return to full wakefulness the pain from all the hits I’d taken from the Wraith Queen was starting to register.
“Of course I noticed,” John growled. “The Wraith Dart was gone too and I assumed that you were back on Atlantis.”
“I guess Colonel Caldwell didn’t have time to tell you I’d disappeared,” I let him off. “Can someone help me up?”
Ronan reached down and pulled me easily to my feet. I staggered a bit before finding my balance. Spotting the Wraith Queen starring up at me with dead eyes immediately, I glanced at Ronan with a raised eyebrow.
“Yeah I shot her,” Ronan admitted easily.
“Thank you,” I hugged him quickly, stepping back before I got all teary. “I really hated that bitch.”
“Are you injured?” John pulled me back towards him. He touched a hand lightly to my face, tracing the bruises the Queen had left on me.
“Minor injuries,” I dismissed. “You?”
“No,” John’s voice was still bordering on anger at finding me where I shouldn’t have been. “Can you give us a run down on what happened?”
“Okay,” I said reluctantly, telling them everything that had happened as succinctly as possible. I was careful not to look at any of them because I really didn’t want to see their reactions until I’d finished.
“Is that it?” John asked in a neutral voice. I shot a look up at him and spotted the clenched jaw and grinding teeth – he was seriously pissed off at me.
“You’re mad aren’t you?” I whispered.
“Let’s see,” John’s voice moved from neutral to heated in a heartbeat. “You disobeyed my order to stay where you were, flew the Wraith Dart without permission – giving them the TED device in the process, and provoked the Wraith Queen into a fight. And then when you had the chance to escape you decided to play the hero and go looking for us instead of getting out of here like you should have,” John paused. “So yes I am mad!”
“That’s a little harsh, Sir” Major Lorne tried to defend me.
“Shut up Major,” John growled before turning back to me. “Don’t you have anything to say?”
“I didn’t disobey you,” I offered lightly. “You told me to stay in contact so technically I had to go with the Hive ships to do what you said.”
John turned away with a frustrated look ... it was the maddest he’d ever been towards me and I could feel my more girly emotions starting to rise to the surface.
“Aren’t you the least bit glad to see me?” I asked miserably.
“Since I’d prefer to be seeing you safely ensconced on Atlantis I have to say no!” John replied irritably.
“Okay,” I said meekly, really struggling to hold in my emotions. “I think I’ll just ... ah ... I should check on TED.” Before anyone could protest I turned and strode through the Queens chamber towards the corridor.
“I’ll go with you,” Major Lorne announced in his 'team leader do what I say' voice.
I just kept walking, knowing he would catch up with me before I’d gone very far. Major Lorne said nothing as I led him silently through the ship to the Dart Bay.
“It’s this one,” I finally spoke, stopping beside my Dart. ‘My Dart’ – how strange did that sound!
“You okay?” Lorne asked me, watching as I laboriously dragged myself up and into the Dart cockpit. I went through the motions of checking my laptop and the TED readouts.
“Everything looks fine,” I reported, ignoring his last question. “The ship got jostled pretty good in the battle but the Dart seems to be unharmed.” I sat motionless, making no attempt to get out of the Dart.
“Need a hand getting out of there?” Major Lorne correctly guessed that I was hurting a little bit more than I’d let on with John.
“I’m just tired,” I excused my exhaustion as nothing more than a long day. I did let him help me out of the Dart though, looking around the Dart Bay as I tried to work out what I should do next.
“You gonna cry now?” he asked curiously, like it wouldn't matter to him one way or the other.
“What would be the point?” I looked up at him with an almost harsh look. “I wouldn’t take back anything I did and neither would Colonel Sheppard.”
“That doesn’t mean you’re not upset about it,” Evan pointed out.
“True,” I smiled ruefully. “He was really angry ... I’ve never seen him like that.”
“You can’t have strong feelings and expect to limit them only to the good ones,” Evan glanced at me when I shook my head.
“Strong feelings about keeping me ‘safe’,” I said bitterly. “That’s not a true partnership.”
My head was throbbing and the pain in my stomach from where the Queen had kicked me had notched up a level since I’d manoeuvred myself into the Dart. Realising I would need to sit down soon before I collapsed I turned and walked quickly out of the Dart Bay. Stopping in the corridor with a hand to my aching head I realised there really wasn’t anywhere on a Hive ship to sit – what did these guys do when they weren’t hibernating or culling innocent humans for food?
“You okay?” Major Lorne frowned when I slid down the wall where I stood and sat on the floor.
“Exhausted,” I mumbled, putting my head back against the wall and closing my eyes. Major Lorne sat down next to me, close enough to feel me trembling slightly. He said nothing though, letting me rest in silence.
“Major Lorne, what’s your situation?” John’s voice jerked me from the sleepy state I’d been drifting in.
“I’m just outside the Dart Bay, Sir,” Lorne’s voice rumbled close to my ear and I realised I was leaning against his shoulder. Sitting up straight I looked at Evan to find him watching me carefully.
“Where’s Sabina?” John demanded harshly.
“Here, Sir” Major Lorne said shortly.
“Put her on,” John ordered. Lorne unhooked his earpiece and handed it to me, ignoring my frantic head shaking.
“John?” my voice shook as I steeled myself to find out if he was still angry.
“The Daedalus medical staff have set up a makeshift infirmary in the Queens chamber,” John’s voice was all military professionalism – I could feel my anger resurfacing as I realised he was still angry.
“Thanks for the update Colonel,” I said harshly. “If I run into anyone requiring a Doctor I’ll point them your way.”
“Report in with Doctor Anders to get checked out,” John ordered, ignoring my smart arse remark.
Yes Sir,” I would have saluted if we’d been in the same room.
“Just in case you were thinking about taking your time, Major Lorne’s gonna hang around to make sure you get there,” John informed me grimly.
“Whatever,” I said, suddenly weary of maintaining my composure. Without another word I threw the earpiece back to Lorne and slowly got myself back on my feet. I started walking, knowing he’d catch up with me eventually.
“You’re pushing her too hard Sir!” I heard Major Lorne almost growl into the radio. John’s reply was indistinct but I was sure he was telling Lorne to shut up and follow orders.
Major Lorne escorted me all the way back to the Queens chamber and hung around in the background while the doctors checked me out. A fractured cheekbone, two cracked ribs, and some internal bruising coupled with the lingering effects of two stun blasts certainly explained why I had been feeling so ordinary. I submitted without protest to being treated, and then curled up miserably in one of the beds they’d beamed over from the Daedalus. It was a relief when I finally fell asleep a short time later.
Chapter 45: I get that you’re angry with me
It was going to take a few days to get back to Atlantis on the Hive ship. The Wraith, Michael, was piloting the ship – the Daedalus would remain crewless and in tow until the final approach to Atlantis to conserve what little resources both ships had. Life support on the Daedalus would be reinstated only enough for landing in the usual spot.
I slept for ten hours straight at the start of our journey home, snapping awake instantly when a nightmare convinced me the Hive Queen was near. The temporary infirmary was in near darkness to simulate night time – as my eyes adjusted to the gloom my heart rate returned to normal when I remembered that Ronan had killed the Queen.
It was the first time I could recall waking in the infirmary and not finding John beside my bed. My breath hitched at the wrongness of that ... I needed to make things right and I didn’t think I could wait until John finally came to seek me out.
“Doctor Anders?” I called out.
“Yes Ms Scott?” the Doctor from the Daedalus approached my bedside.
“Is there any chance I can get out of here?” I asked hopefully.
“Your injuries are all minor in and of themselves,” Doctor Anders admitted. “I would prefer to keep you here under observation.”
“How about I just check in with you on a regular basis?” I offered that compromise.
“Well ... yes I suppose that would be sufficient,” he agreed. “But make sure you let me know immediately if any new symptoms present themselves.”
“Thanks Doctor,” I replied, keen to get moving. Doctor Anders set me up with a spare uniform and radio from the Daedalus crew and set me loose on the Hive ship.
“Ronan?” I radioed, “Are you awake?”
“I am now,” he grumbled. “What do you want?”
“Do you know where John is?” I asked hopefully.
“Try the Bridge,” Ronan advised. “Sheppard was still up there keeping an eye on Michael when I left.”
“I’m surprised you’re not up there intimidating Michael yourself,” I commented.
“Sheppard ordered me to get some rest,” Ronan admitted.
“Probably for the best,” I said lightly. “Thanks Ronan,”
Okay ... Bridge. Nerves were zinging in my system as I walked briskly through the ship. I was actually scared of how John might behave towards me because of what that would tell me about the damage to our relationship. And I was apprehensive about being confronted with a Wraith so soon after being slammed by the Hive Queen.
“Colonel Sheppard,” I greeted him formally in front of Michael, not wanting a Wraith to know anything personal about either of us. “Do you have a moment?”
John glanced at one of the Marine guards stationed in the room, nodding towards Michael at the ships controls, before making his way silently across to me. Once out of earshot I turned and looked at John, trying to judge his current mood towards me. He didn’t seem overly welcoming but he wasn’t yelling or actively telling me to go away either.
“I get that you’re angry with me,” I began. “I’m just not sure I understand why.”
“Do you think now is really a good time to be talking about this?” John questioned in a neutral tone.
“Probably not,” I admitted. “But I don’t think I can continue all the way back to Atlantis with this ... black cloud hanging over us. I need to know how much damage I did to our relationship ... to your opinion of me,” I said, my voice shaking with unshed tears at that last bit.
“Sabina,” John softened a little. “You didn’t damage our relationship! Yes I’m angry at your flagrant disregard for your own safety ... and frustrated at my inability to keep you out of trouble.”
“It’s not your fault I ended up here,” I refuted. “My plan was only to remain close by in case I could help out with the TED ... everything just went wrong ... somehow.”
“But,” John's tone went all serious again, “if you’d done what I asked, the spirit and not just the letter of it, then you could have avoided all of this.”
“I don’t think I’m ever going to be able to do that if it means I leave you in a life threatening situation when there’s a chance I could do something to help,” I admitted starkly. "Who knows what might have happened if I hadn't distracted the Queen while the rest of you were escaping?"
“I don't know,” John replied reluctantly, looking away. “I was thinking about it after you left the Queens chamber ... and I realised this sort of thing is just gonna keep happening because of who we both are.”
“Is that why you stayed away from the infirmary?” I asked hesitantly.
“I did come and see you a few hours after we found you,” John admitted apologetically. “I just needed some time to think and I didn’t expect you to be up and about so soon.”
“Doctor Anders released me on the condition that I check in regularly,” I confided, wanting to make it clear that this wasn’t another one of my episodes of disregarding authority.
We looked at each other for a few moments, neither of us sure of what to do next. John turned away, running a hand through his hair angrily.
“I don’t know what to tell you,” John looked back at me in frustration. “What do you want from me?”
“I want you to not be angry with me anymore,” I said simply. “I want you to understand why I had to take that Dart out, why I had to try to protect you if I could. I want you to see that me doing that is no different from you doing the same thing for me!” I was almost panting with emotion by the time I got to the end of that.
“I don’t know if I can,” John admitted sadly.
“You said, after your last run in with the Genii, that me loving you was enough,” I reminded him in a quiet serious voice. “Did you mean that?”
“I wouldn’t have said it if I didn’t, “John replied in a slightly grumpy tone.
“You can’t put conditions on that John,” I said earnestly. “If anyone does, I know how hard it is to love someone who’s always getting into trouble! But I see you, John Sheppard – your irreverence, your smart arse bravery, your intense loyalty, your tendency to put the really hard things you’ve done to the back of your mind rather than deal with them. I see you and that’s the John Sheppard that I love, because of all those things rather than in spite of them.”
“Sabina, I ...” John broke off, clearly not knowing what to say to me in return.
“You can’t just have the parts of me that are easy ... you have to accept the parts that make me difficult and stubborn and sometimes rebellious too. They’re all part of the person that I am – the person you say you love. If you can’t do that then the person you love is just a figment of your imagination ... because sure as hell it isn’t me.”
“It -“ John broke off when I held up a hand to stop him from just reacting without thinking about it.
“Don’t say anything now,” I told him in a tormented voice. “You need to think about this ... think hard ... because I’m not going to continue this relationship unless I’m convinced that you really see me as I am ... that it’s the imperfect, stubborn, pain in the arse person I am that you love. The next more is yours.” With that I turned and almost ran from the room.
I made up Dr Anders ... I'm assuming a ship as big as the Daedalus would have at least one permanent member of medical staff ... I didn't give him any physical characteristics so you can imagine him any way you like really.
Chapter 46: It’s a huge drain on power
The trip back to Atlantis was difficult and draining on all the crew. Finally though the ship broke out of hyperspace to the welcome sight of the Ancient’s home planet. I stood with John and Rodney on the Bridge as we made orbit. John and I had come to an unspoken agreement to leave our problems on the back burner for the remainder of the trip home. Even Rodney seemed aware that things were strained between us but no one said anything to bring it out into the open. I hadn't become any more comfortable in the presence of Michael either ... I kept a strong block around myself but even so imagined his mind as a slimy touch against the edges of mine.
“Atlantis, this is Sheppard, come in.”
“John?!” Teyla’s voice was both happy and incredulous.
“They made it?!” Doctor Weir exclaimed.
“We're out of food and water and we haven't slept in days but, yeah, we made it,” John reported tiredly. “So now would not be a good time to fire on us ... after all, wouldn't wanna damage our new Hive ship.”
We all smiled at the surprise that comment would have evoked back on Atlantis.
“What now?” I asked, once a stable orbit had been established.
“Rodney needs time to analyse the ship, work out what we need to do to get it to fly,” John said. “I need to get Carson up here so we can work out what to do with all those Wraith we’d got stored in stasis.”
“Should I leave the Dart here?” I asked. “I’ve got everything I could for the TED when I plugged it in yesterday – fixed all the corrupted data from before.”
“Leave it all here,” John instructed after thinking for a minute. “We might need it if Rodney can’t think of any other way to get the Hive operational.”
“So ah ...” I paused, looking at John, reluctant to just leave without anything else being said. “I guess ... ah I guess I’ll see you back on Atlantis ... sometime.” God, could that have sounded any lamer? Even Rodney looked at me sympathetically and we all knew how disjointed and stuttery he got when he was nervous.
Passing Ronan on my way out I muttered “Please shoot me now ... put me out of my misery.” Ronan just laughed.
Even though the Daedalus still required a vast array of repairs, the beaming technology was working perfectly, which proved useful in relocating everyone where they needed to be. I was beamed into the usual spot in front of the Stargate and Teyla came down from the Control Room to greet me.
“Sabina,” she said with a gracious smile. “It is good to have you back ... we feared the worst when the Daedalus could find no trace of you.”
“Thanks Teyla,” I replied gratefully. “It’s been a difficult week.”
“I can see that,” Teyla gestured to my face, still clearly advertising the battle I’d fought with the Queen.
“You should see the other guy,” I joked, happy when she rewarded me with a faint smile. “I wondered ... if you have time later ... maybe I could talk to you about it?” Teyla would understand better than anyone else the baggage I carried after facing the Wraith Queen again – having seen into the evil core of her, doubting whether I’d actually be strong enough mentally to resist her, feeling that horrible almost connection to the Wraith simply because I had the Wraith gene.
“Of course Sabina,” Teyla agreed readily. “I will come and see you later.”
“Thanks,” I smiled gratefully. “I’m gonna head down to my lab ... let me know if you need help with anything, especially with Doctor Weir still being en route back to Atlantis.”
Teyla nodded before making her way back up the steps to the Control Room.
I went through the motions of analysing the data I’d collected from the TED but I was beginning to doubt its usefulness. I had been right there on a Hive ship and yet had still been unable to find a way to use it. I would have needed the device physically on my person when things went downhill for it to have helped me. The original plan of the Ancients had required many of the devices to be permanently mounted in the Puddle Jumpers. And they’d never intended the device to be the weapon itself – the biotic virus was supposed to be the actual weapon, TED was just part of the method of delivery.
Given the very small number of scenarios in which having a telepathic expansion device would be useful, I decided to shelve my project and go back to assisting Rodney and Radek with theirs.
A few days after our return to Atlantis John called a meeting and included me as a required attendee. I’d deliberately kept a low profile since I’d been back, content to find out what was going on in the city and on the Hive ship from the gossip that still freely travelled through the city. Doctor Weir was still on the way back to Atlantis, meaning that John had command responsibility for both military and civilians.
“In the course of my investigations on the Hive ship I’ve discovered that more than half of the ship’s power generating capacity is gone,” Rodney informed us. “We can’t fix it and if we want to have any hope of flying the Hive with weapons capability we need to cut back on our current power consumption.”
“The Hive is parked in orbit,” Colonel Caldwell pointed out. “Where’s the big drain in power coming from?”
“The stasis pods,” Rodney replied. “There are two hundred prisoners being maintained by the Hive and it’s a huge drain on power.”
“We can’t keep them in there forever,” John summarised it for us. “That being the case there’s no point in keeping them in stasis any longer. We need to work out what we’re gonna do with those men.”
“Dump them on a deserted planet,” Ronan suggested. “Let the other Wraith find them.”
“They are human,” Teyla protested. “We would be no better than the Wraith if we abandoned them defenceless.”
“Teyla’s right,” Doctor Beckett said. “I created the retrovirus to free the Wraith from what I saw as an unnatural side effect of the Iratus bug feeding process. I don’t think we can ethically abandon these men to die horribly at the hands of the Wraith.”
“Would anyone accept them freely into society, knowing what they used to be?” I asked quietly. “Did any of you truly accept Michael while he was here?”
“They’re Wraith,” Ronan’s voice was heated. “You can make them look human, but their Wraith instincts will play out over time.”
“I’ve made refinements to the retrovirus since Michael,” Doctor Beckett insisted. “We don’t have any proof that the Wraith instincts will return as they did with him.”
“What do you suggest then,” John directed the question at the room in general.
“Can we not set them up as a settlement, give them supplies, teach them how to defend against the Wraith?” Teyla asked.
“We’d need to teach them how to administer the daily drugs they’d need to prevent the Wraith characteristics from returning,” Carson pointed out. “If we’re to have any hope of finding a permanent solution I’d need to study their progress over time.”
“Colonel?” John turned to Caldwell, seeking his opinion.
“A POW camp on a deserted planet is a workable solution,” Caldwell allowed, “assuming of course there’s no Stargate and no means for them to send subspace communications.”
John looked around the room to see if anyone had a differing view. “All right – we’ll search out a suitable planet as soon as possible.”
“We still need the Hive ship to be operational to take them anywhere,” Rodney pointed out impatiently. “All the essential systems like navigation and sub light engines respond only to the Wraith neural interface. It’s a similar failsafe to the Ancient ships only being controlled by people with the ATA genes.
“We need a Wraith to fly it?” Caldwell asked incredulously.
“I'm working on a manual override,” Rodney admitted somewhat wearily. “Look, it took me days to crack a Wraith Dart which is like a paper plane in comparison to this Hive ship. I haven’t had much luck and I’m not likely to in the time we have left before the power reserves reach critical levels.”
“Sabina will fly it,” John stated like it was a done deal.
“What?” I said in surprise.
“You have the Wraith gene,” John pointed out the obvious.
“So does Teyla,” I replied, “and she’s been actively using it for a lot longer than I have.”
“Teyla has no experience with operating Wraith technology,” John said impatiently. “You’ve shown with the Dart that you can use the neural interface to fly something ... we can rig up the TED to the Hive ship to give you extra support so the mental task doesn’t overtax you.”
“Yes,” Rodney said excitedly. “That would work. Sabina, I need you to come back to the Hive with me – we’ll need to run a few tests first just to make sure this’ll work like we want.”
“Okay,” I replied somewhat dazed. John was volunteering me for a mission? When had that ever happened in the past? I was caught off guard – I looked across at John to find him looking back at me with an expectant look on his face. I nodded slightly, even though I wasn’t completely sure what I was agreeing to.
“What about Michael?” Teyla asked reluctantly. “He wishes to make his way on his own – he said he would rather be killed than be subjected to the retrovirus a second time.”
“I know he saved all our lives by giving us the jamming codes and by flying us back here,’ Caldwell acknowledged. “As much as I’d like to reward that assistance, we can’t allow him to leave Atlantis in possession of the intelligence he’s gained about us.”
“I agree - he goes with the others,” John said, leaving no room for argument.
Chapter 47: What if we leave right now in the Hive ship?
“Sabina?” John stopped me before I could leave the conference room with the others. He waited until we were alone before continuing. “Are you okay with flying the Hive ship? I know I didn’t check with you before the meeting.”
“I’m fine with it,” I reassured him. “I was just a bit surprised that you were volunteering me to do it.”
“No matter what our personal issues might be,” John looked at me intently, “I have no doubts about your skills or that you’re the best person for this particular job.”
“Oh ... okay,” I said hesitantly. We looked at each other silently for a few moments ... being that close to him and feeling so much distance between us was torture. And standing there lost for words when our conversations usually flowed with ease saddened me. I looked away despondently, suddenly feeling close to tears as I realised how much we'd lost so quickly.
“I should ...” I made a move towards the door.
“Don’t,” John said urgently.
I glanced back at him questioningly, feeling my pulse quicken when I realised he was intending to move our conversation into the personal right there and then.
“I took the time you said I needed, thought about everything you said,” John told me intently. “From the first day I met you I knew you were gonna be trouble ... nothing that happened after that changed my mind and yet I still let myself get involved with you,” John paused, “no not ‘let’ myself, I pursued it, I wanted to get involved with you. I never put on rose coloured glasses to look at you – I have always been fully aware of what I was getting in to –“
I opened my mouth to speak but John held up a hand “No – it’s my turn now and you’ll listen to what I have to say.”
My mouth closed with a snap. John waited a second to see if I was going to try to interrupt again before continuing.
“You are stubborn – in fact you give a whole new meaning to the word; you have strong opinions and you fight for what you believe in; you’re a contradiction because you’re loyal and supportive and friendly without reservation but at the same time you hold everyone at a distance; even with me you hold something of yourself back because you’re afraid that if you let yourself rely on me too much you’ll lose me. I do see you Sabina and I know exactly who it is that I love.” John stopped talking and I waited to see if he’d say anything else.
“Can I speak now?” I asked hesitantly.
“If you’re just going to refute everything I said, then no,” John replied. When I said nothing he gave a wry smile. “It seems I’m not the only one who needs time - you need to do some thinking too,” John told me. “You need to look back over the last few months and then ask yourself which one of us is taking only the easy parts and ignoring the difficult ones.”
“Do I have to?” I asked in a tone that suggested I couldn’t think of anything I’d like to do less.
“If you genuinely want to fix this,” he gestured vaguely between the two of us, “then yeah, you do.”
I looked down at the ground, nodding dejectedly.
“Let’s get this mission done,” John put an arm around me and pulled me into his side companionably. “When we get back we can talk some more.”
“’Kay,” I said, still dispirited. Enjoying John’s closeness after so many days without it I couldn’t resist resting my head against his shoulder for a moment before pulling away. “Rodney’s waiting for me ... I’ll ah .. I’ll see you on the Hive ship.” Feeling that even the slightest kind word from him would send me into tears I turned and quickly left the room.
I felt depressed and troubled after talking to John and I had to struggle to get my mind to focus on the task ahead.
“Come on Sabina!” Rodney said impatiently. “I just want you to access navigational control ... it isn’t exactly rocket science.”
“Sorry Rodney,” I apologised, rubbing tiredly at my head. “I’ve been a little vague since my fight with the Queen.”
“You mean since your fight with Sheppard,” Rodney muttered under his breath.
“And since my fight with John,” I admitted openly. Rodney looked taken aback that I was actually admitting my performance wasn’t up to scratch because of a personal relationship. “You’re right – I’ll try harder.”
“Um ... okay,” Rodney said uncertainly. “Do you want to ... ah if you want to ... talk ...” Rodney broke off awkwardly.
“That’s really nice of you Rodney,” I said sincerely, touched that he’d offer when it clearly made him uncomfortable. “Lucky for you I’m not gonna take you up on that offer. We’re working things out so ...” I trailed off.
“That’s ... good,” Rodney said relieved, probably because he wasn’t going to have to be subjected to a personal conversation. “Sheppard’s been a pain since ... since the Hive ship – I think we’d all appreciate it if you two ... you know.”
I smiled – I was actually happy that John hadn’t been going about his business with his usual ease. It was petty but it did make me feel better. “Okay, let’s try this again,” I suggested, turning back to the Wraith console with renewed concentration.
Within a few hours I had demonstrated sufficient control of the neural interface for Rodney to be confident we could get the ship where it needed to go. The mental pressure was familiar and not as uncomfortable as my initial trip in the Wraith Dart had been, in part because I had recovered from the mental blows inflicted by the Queen during our first encounter and because I had become much more skilled at the type of control needed for Wraith technology.
The trip to the planet we'd chosen for the POW camp passed without incident. I remained on the Hive ship resting for the return journey while everyone else set up camp and then transferred all two hundred human Wraith to the planet’s surface. Within a few days John was ready to pull out all the troops and leave the POW colony to fend for itself.
“Where’s Doctor Beckett?” I asked Rodney when they’d returned from the planet without him.
“He insisted on staying,” Rodney admitted. “Said he wasn’t convinced they wouldn’t revert into Wraith and that he wasn’t ready to abandon them.”
“And John agreed to that?” I frowned in confusion.
“Left a security team down there to guard Carson,” Rodney reassured me. “Sheppard will insist he come back after the first resupply mission. Now, can you get sublight engines on line so we can head back to Atlantis?”
Our return to Atlantis was met with the welcome sight of Doctor Weir finally returned from Earth. She’d called a meeting of team Sheppard in the conference room and this time I was happy to have been included.
“We've all logged more than a few miles these past few weeks,” Doctor Weir acknowledged. “I'd just like to say that seeing you now, sitting across from me, looking at your faces ...” Elizabeth paused, gazing at each of us in turn. “... it makes me feel very ... “ Elizabeth paused again, this time seeming on the brink of tears. The last she had known only Teyla had been safe and accounted for.
“You don't have to say it,” John tried to let her off the hook.
“We feel the same way you do,” Teyla added with a gentle smile.
“Oh, she feels hungry too, hmm?” Rodney quipped, smiling in pleasure when Doctor Weir grinned.
“Sabina, you were able to operate the neural interface with no ill effects?” Doctor Weir asked me in concern.
“I won’t deny that the effort of controlling the Hive ship for so many hours was draining,” I admitted.
“And that was just flying in a straight line,” Rodney pointed out. “We didn’t even attempt to pull off anything complex, like combat manoeuvrability, weapons control ...”
“How many manoeuvres can you pull off with your manual interface?” John asked pointedly.
“Well, does, um, standing still count as a manoeuvre?” Rodney asked hopefully.
“No,” John replied sternly. Doctor Weir smiled at their familiar banter. She was about to move on when the doors to the Conference Room opened and a familiar man came hurrying in, carrying a briefcase. I watched in horror as he headed to Doctor Weir’s side of the table – it was that weasel of a man I’d overhead talking to Doctor Weir back at the SCG.
“Sorry I'm late,” he said. “My interviews are running a little longer than expected.” He set down his case and looked around the table.
“And ... you are?” John asked with pointed curiosity.
“Richard Woolsey,’ Doctor Weir announced. “He's chief liaison to the international committee that oversees the Atlantis expedition. He will be conducting individual interviews with each of you.” The smile she wore at the end of that statement made it clear that none of us should look forward to that.
“As well as observing all senior staff meetings,” Woolsey added. He took some files out of his case, sat down and then deliberately moved his chair into a position that forced Doctor Weir to make room for him at her part of the table.
“Right!,” Doctor Weir said with a forced smile.
“So - what did I miss?” Woolsey looked in interest across at the members of team Sheppard.
“Rodney was about to run down all the progress he's made adapting the Hive controls,” John happily dobbed Rodney in to put Woolsey off.
“Excellent,” Woolsey looked expectantly at Rodney. “Please continue.”
“Hmm!,” Rodney said, glancing at John before muttering a snide “Thanks!”
I sat through the rest of the meeting without uttering a single word, which was unusual enough that John called me up on it as we were leaving the conference room.
“You were pretty quiet in there,” he commented. “Something you want to tell me?”
“I don’t like that guy,” I replied. “I didn’t want to give him anything he could use against Doctor Weir ... or you.”
“You know him?” John frowned at my attitude.
“Not exactly,” I admitted. “I overheard him talking to Doctor Weir the last night we were at the SCG – he was overly judgemental about you and especially about your decisions regarding me.”
“Which you’re only mentioning now?” John asked with a bit of heat in his voice.
“There was no point,” I defended my decision to keep quiet. “You’d just taken command officially – with an active ZPM the military were gonna be looking over your shoulder every five minutes. I didn’t think you needed to know that some weasel attached to the IOA might be doing the same.”
“Doctor Weir will handle him,” John let the matter drop without further comment. “Don’t worry about it.”
He was singing a different tune a day or so later after having a personal interview with Richard Woolsey.
“You were right,” he said angrily. “Richard Woolsey is a weasel. I had the overwhelming desire to knock him stupid only a few minutes into the interview.”
“What’d he say?” I asked curiously ... I had managed to avoid so far the pleasure of speaking with Woolsey myself.
“Only questioned every decision Elizabeth ever made ... and me for agreeing with them,” John said, still angry.
“It’s his job,” I pointed out. “Remember, you said Doctor Weir would handle him.”
“She will,” John reiterated. “Just ... be careful if he asks to speak to you.”
“Of course,” I agreed.
"Ms Scott?" I groaned at the sound of Richard Woolsey's voice behind me before reluctantly turning to face him.
"What can I do for you Mr Woolsey?" I tried to make my voice friendly but realised I'd failed miserably when I heard his next question.
"You don't like me do you Ms Scott?" Woolsey didn't appear to be overly bothered by the prospect.
"Is it a requirement?" I raised an eyebrow expectantly.
"Of course not," Woolsey replied. "I've been trying to catch you for the last three days to arrange an interview."
"I know," I said abruptly. When I offered no further explanation Woolsey nodded ruefully.
"Perhaps you have a few minutes now," he suggested. I looked at him silently, waiting for whatever questions he might want to ask me. "You have the Wraith gene as well as the ATA gene?"
"I'm sure you've read enough reports to know the full story," I replied, not willing to get into a conversation where he had me confirming facts he already knew. "Why don't you do us both a favour and get to the point?"
"The IOA are concerned that someone with a ... connection to the enemy also has such a close ... connection to the leadership of this expedition," Woolsey laid it out in black and white.
"The IOA?" I replied. "Don't you mean you?"
"I'm here as a representative of the IOA," Woolsey said somewhat irritably. "Just answer the question."
"I will as soon as you actually ask one," I said in a smart arse tone. "Make it quick though 'cause Doctor McKay is waiting for me back at the lab."
"Is it possible for the Wraith to gain intelligence about this base through a connection with you?" Woolsey asked.
"No," I replied. "Anything else?"
"Even when you're connected to this telepathic device?" Woolsey persisted in disbelief.
"Look, if you've read the reports like you said then you'll understand how the TED works ... unless I activate it and choose to draw out a connection from it no form of communication is possible." I ran a hand tiredly across my face, waiting to see what else he'd say.
"Do you think it's appropriate for the military leader to be involved so closely with someone like you?" Woolsey changed tact to the subject I suspected he really wanted to talk about.
"Someone like me?" I took a step forward and grinned evilly when he actually flinched. "You know ... I think my feelings might actually be hurt by that," I paused and put a hand over my heart, "... no wait, they're fine."
"You may very well joke Ms Scott," Woolsey said piously, "but the IOA have the power to affect the placement of staff on Atlantis."
"Colonel Sheppard has the full support of Dr Weir and the leadership back at the SGC," I pointed out. "I think I'll take my chances. Now if there's nothing else I've got important things to attend to."
Without waiting for his reply I turned and headed off down the corridor. I'd intended to tell John straight away what Woolsey had been implying with his comments but before I could a situation emerged that required all of our attention. We met in the conference room, once again in the presence of Richard Woolsey.
“As you all know,” Doctor Weir began, “there’s a Wraith Hive ship headed straight for the planet where we left Beckett and the prisoners.”
“There is no reason for the Wraith to be interested in that planet,” Rodney complained, like Wraith behaviour had to be somehow logical. “It doesn't have a Stargate, and there's no indication that it ever supported a human population. It is completely off the grid.”
“I think we have to consider the possibility that we have a leak,” Woolsey interjected.
“You mean a spy,” Ronan stated.
“Not necessarily in the city itself,” Woolsey qualified. “Without ruling anything out, I would begin by focussing on our contacts within the various indigenous populations, including ...”
“If you believe any Athosians ...” Teyla interrupted heatedly.
“Let's not jump to any conclusions here,” Doctor Weir cautioned both of them. I was kind of surprised that he wasn't trying to imply that I'd somehow given the location of the POW camp away.
“Isn't it true that there are humans in this galaxy who serve the Wraith, even worship them? How hard would it be for them to infiltrate one of our allied groups?” Woolsey asked.
“Mr Woolsey,” Doctor Weir said impatiently. “Do you think we post this kind of information on the city bulletin board?”
“If the Wraith had that level of inside information,” John went even further in showing Woolsey how idiotic his assertions had been, “they'd be on their way to Atlantis, not some nameless planet with a couple of hundred people on it.”
“For the time being, we need to focus on getting those people out of there, because if the Wraith find them and figure out what they are ...” Doctor Weir let our imaginations fill in the rest.
“We've got a problem. Again.” John drawled.
“How much time do we have?” Ronan asked.
“Two days,” Rodney said grimy. “Well, we could ... oh, you could beat them there in the Daedalus.”
“Their hyperdrive is still offline,” Doctor Weir scotched that idea. “Hermiod needs at least another twenty-four hours.”
“We should light a fire under his bony little ...” John threatened.
“That still might not be quite good enough,” Doctor Weir pointed out.
“What if we leave right now in the Hive ship ...?” John turned to Rodney with an expectant look.
“Oh,” Rodney thought for a second, “it'd be cutting it close.”
“What are our chances of surviving a ship-to-ship encounter?” Doctor Weir asked him.
“If I link the TED straight into the Hive controls,” I jumped into the conversation, “we may be able to hold them off for long enough.”
“There are still systems that are untested,” Rodney pointed out. “Weapons, manoeuvrability, ... the chances are still less than slim.”
I watched as John and Elizabeth exchanged a long look before Elizabeth came to a decision.
“Do what you can on the way,” she told Rodney.
We all got up, Woolsey’s presence completely forgotten, and quickly left the room.
“I’m surprised you didn’t try to tell me you didn’t need me on the mission,” I commented to John as we headed off to get prepared.
“That would have been ridiculous since clearly you’re the only person who can pilot the Hive ship,” John refuted. “Now stop talking and go get your stuff!”
“Yes Sir” I replied with a cheeky grin.
Chapter 48: You did what I ordered you to do
The journey back to the POW planet was as difficult as it had been last time. Although it wasn't painful it did take most of my mental capacity to maintain control of the various systems while the ship was in hyperspace. That left Rodney alone trying to make the necessary repairs to give me some chance of operating the weapons should we need them.
When the ship broke clear of hyperspace I established a stable orbit before relaxing my control of the ship.
“Nice work,” John complimented before turning to Rodney. “Any sign of the other Hive ship?”
“No. We're clear.” Rodney reported.
“Alright. Patch me through to the camp,” John requested.
“Just give me a second,” Rodney turned back to his laptop to tap out a few commands. “Wait a second ...” he muttered as a series of screeches went off. “A bunch of secondary systems just came on line.”
I put my hands back on the controls and then groaned.
“What?” John turned to me in concern.
“The ships sensors have been activated automatically,” I replied grimly. “There are Wraith down on that planet.”
“How many?” John demanded.
“Between twenty and thirty,” I replied, “along with over a hundred humans.”
“Some of them reverted,” John frowned.
“They’ll be feeding on each other,” Ronan pointed out grimly.
“What about Doctor Beckett and Lieutenant Morrison's team?” Teyla asked in concern.
“They could be amongst the human life signs,” I looked across at her, grim faced with worry. “I have no way of telling.” Picking up something else from the systems I groaned in frustration.
"Sabina?" he looked at me questioningly.
"This just gets better and better," I complained. "They've broadcast a distress call ... a Hive ship is on it's way here." Rodney started muttering as he punched in commands on his laptop interface.
"How long?" John demanded.
"Hours, minutes," Rodney looked up with a sick expression. "They could be here any time."
“Teyla, Ronan, you’re with me,” John ordered, “Rodney, Sabina – get me weapons.”
“How could they contact the ship so far out?” John kept Rodney and I in the radio loop as they made their way to the Puddle Jumper.
“It is possible that a group of them acting together could communicate over much larger distances.” Teyla admitted.
“Should I try jamming them with the TED?” I asked John, kicking myself that I hadn’t thought of it sooner.
“The Hive ship’s already on the way but I guess it couldn’t hurt,” John replied. “Do it.”
I activated the Ancient telepathic device and quickly tapped into the nearest Wraith signals – selecting the commands to send a constant stream of noise down those connections I left the device to continue until it was time to deactivate it.
“What about the failsafe device?” John asked Rodney. “What kind of kill zone are we looking at?”
“Everything in a three mile radius is toast,” Rodney said grimly.
“You sure about that?” John demanded. “We've got no margin for error.”
“The blast radius doesn't just stop at three miles,” Rodney pointed out.
“What about the ones that are still human?” Teyla asked the question I’d been thinking myself.
"There's nothing we can do for them,” Ronan admitted.
“If Michael got his memory back, they could all know about Atlantis by now, and how to find Earth,” John explained the necessity. “We can't take that chance. Once we get our people out, we'll give you the signal, you set off the nuke.”
Rodney looked at me with sick horror.
“I hate this too,” I told him. “If there was another way ...”
“There isn’t,” Rodney said grimly. “Let’s get to work on those weapons.”
We worked in silence for some time, not really expecting to hear back for at least half an hour. When that time had elapsed Rodney started pacing the Bridge in agitation.
“Oh, come on!,” he said nervously.
“Rodney, come in,” John finally reported in.
“What's happening?” Rodney demanded.
“We've got Carson,” John replied. “Morrison and his team are dead. We're headin' back.” We waited a few moments and then John reported in again. “We're clear. Light it up.”
“Understood,” Rodney said grimly. He moved over to a different console and activated the controls. “Failsafe detonation in three ... two ... one.”
When nothing obvious happened I knew immediately that something was very wrong.
“Rodney?” John demanded.
“I don't understand it,” Rodney said sickly.
“What happened?” John asked.
“You mean what didn't happen?” Rodney corrected grimly.
“Are you telling me the bomb didn't go off?” John’s voice had taken on an angry edge.
“They got to it,” Ronan said without emotion.
“We cannot leave the Wraith here to be found by the Hive,” Teyla pointed out.
“Get back to work on those weapons,” John ordered Rodney and me. “We're not goin' anywhere.”
“This is so bad,” Rodney complained as he rushed hurriedly between consoles, trying to get the weapons systems back on line. I tried to help through the neural interface but my control of the systems was not the problem. Rodney finally managed to get power flowing where it was needed, just in time for the rest of team Sheppard to arrive back on the Bridge, Doctor Beckett in tow. Teyla moved to assist Carson to a spot where he could rest while Ronan and John approached the main console.
“How are we doing with weapons,” John asked, looking from me back to Rodney.
“Sabina has control of the weapons,” Rodney reported, “but it won’t do us much good because the targeting system isn’t functioning. We can fire but it’d be blind luck if we actually hit anything.”
“I have an idea,” I dropped that into the silence that followed Rodney’s announcement.
“Let’s hear it,” John said, the look on his face telling me he had a vague idea of what I was going to say.
“I already have TED sending noise down to everyone on that planet,” I said. “I could make that more aggressive – render them all unconscious. We could pick up the human survivors and then I could ... ah I could use TED to make it more ... permanent.”
“We don’t have time to make enough trips down to the planet to save even a fraction of those humans,” John told me grimly. “That Hive ship will be here any minute and we need to make sure there’s no one there for them to find.”
“There's still over a hundred men down there that believe that we are their saviours,” Doctor Beckett said desperately.
“Can TED send a killing blow to everyone down there at once?” John asked me.
“You mean can I kill everyone down there at once,” I returned. “It’s just the same as that old adage – guns don’t kill people ... people kill people.”
“Can you do it?” John demanded.
“I honestly don’t know,” I replied. “It depends on the strength of the mind ... clearly some of them are stronger than the others.” I thought for a moment before continuing. “The ones who are still human? Definitely. The ones who’ve reverted? Maybe most of them. But Michael? He’s strong and I’ll only get one shot at it.”
“Okay,” John came over to me and put a hand on my shoulder. “This is my call ... and I’m sorry Sabina but I’m gonna have to order you to use TED to send down the strongest killing blow you can manage. Take out as many as you can. Then we’ll switch to the Hive weapons – you’ll need to bombard the surface with as many hits as the ship can produce before we lose power.”
I looked at him sickly, tears welling into my eyes, before turning away.
“Sabina!” John pulled me around and got up right into my face. “Can you do this?!”
“Yes,” I pulled away and stalked grimly over to the telepathic device. “Accessing the telepathic pool now ... sending killing blow ...,” I reported emotionlessly. I slammed the device with as much mental force as I could muster, TED expanded it and shot it down all the Wraith connections I’d perceived. As soon as it was done I carefully deactivating TED before stepping away. I staggered slightly ... John was there in an instant but I shrugged away from any kind of human contact. Putting my hands on the Wraith Hive ship controls I tried as best I could to target the camp site and then sent down as many hits as the ship could produce. We were still firing when our own Hive ship shook with the force of external blows.
“It's the other Hive! We're taking multiple hits!” Rodney reported with a sick look.
“What about the target?” John demanded.
“It's hard to say for sure how accurate our fire has been,” Rodney admitted. “The interference from weapons fire means I can’t tell whether there are life signs still on the planet.”
“Sabina - blanket the entire area,” John ordered. “We can't afford a mistake.”
I kept the Hive ship firing down on the planet as the Bridge shook violently again.
“Engines are offline!” Rodney yelled. “We're venting atmosphere! Power's about to fail.”
I staggered back as the Hive controls went dead under my hands. John grabbed my arm and hauled me against him.
“Get to the Dart Bay,” he yelled to his team, pulling me with him as the others preceded us from the Bridge.
“NO!” I tried to pull away from John. “We have to get the TED!”
“There’s no time,” John shouted.
I pulled against his hold a second time. “I can make it! It’s too valuable to let it be destroyed.”
“It’s not worth your life!” John shouted, dragging me away from the Bridge. I glanced back despairingly and realised that he was right. The Hive ship was shaking violently, the noise of multiple explosions roaring all around us. I clung to John's hand as we sprinted after the others. We got to the Jumper and threw ourselves inside just as the ship started listing to one side.
“Hold on” John instructed grimly. “This is gonna be close.”
He activated the Jumpers cloak and sent us powering out of the Dart Bay ... the roar of explosions chased us from the Hive ship and we watched in horror as only seconds later the whole ship blew apart, spreading debris over a huge area. Silence reigned as we watched the other Hive ship do a brief sweep of the planet before opening a hyperspace window and disappearing from sight.
“That was close,” Rodney muttered, staring in sick fascination as pieces of our Hive ship floated past the Jumpers forward window.
“Too close,” John glared at me. “What were you thinking, trying to go back for that device?”
“About the future of Atlantis,” I said expressionlessly, “and how much better it would have been if we still had the TED.”
John glanced over at me and turned quickly back to Rodney. “Take the controls,” he said. For once Rodney did what he was told without questioning why.
“Sabina?” John squatted in front of my chair and looked at me closely. Doctor Beckett appeared at my other side, putting a finger to my throat and checking my pulse.
“Mmm?” I said dazedly. I watched with little interest as Carson shone his little penlight into my eyes. He felt my hands and asked me if I was having any trouble breathing. When I shook my head Carson turned to John.
“Pulse is slightly weak, but not of concern,” he said in a quiet voice. “Pupils responded well and she’s not cold so I don’t think it’s shock. Perhaps the amount of mental effort she expended –“
“Did I kill all those people?” I interrupted their whispered conversation. “I did, didn’t I?”
“You did what I ordered you to do,” John tried to reassure me. “It wasn’t your fault.”
“Wasn’t yours either,” I pointed out. “Who’s fault was it? What would Doctor Weir say? Or Colonel Caldwell? Or Woolsey – I can just imagine what he’ll have to say,” I laughed mirthlessly.
“Don’t do this to yourself,” John pleaded with me. “What you did saved everyone on Atlantis – if that Hive had captured those men every Hive ship in this sector would have come bearing down on the city.”
“Should that make me feel better?” I asked curiously. “Because it's ... not.”
“We couldn’t have done anything else,” John reiterated.
“Maybe,” I replied emotionlessly. “Did I ever tell you what my names means? Sabina – it means peace maker ... isn’t that the biggest joke right now!”
I lost some of the emotional armour my detached state had been lending me when I looked into John’s eyes and saw the guilt and anguish he was feeling. That was enough to break the dam – huge tears started pouring from my eyes as my breath hitched erratically.
I tried to turn away from everyone watching me unravel but John wouldn’t let me. Without a word he stood and picked me up, taking me to the back section of the Jumper, and sitting down with me on his lap. Everyone else made the pretence of going about their business but since we were floating in space none of them really had any business.
I cried and cried until my throat felt raw and my eyes were swollen so much that I could hardly see out of them. John continued to hold me as Doctor Beckett came back to scan me with his portable scanner.
“It’s going to be a long trip back to Atlantis,” Carson said softly. “Let’s get her stretched out back here so she can get some sleep – recover some of the energy she used up on the Hive ship.”
I was stretched out and tucked into blankets, drifting in a haze but not asleep when the Daedalus arrived.
“Daedalus, this is Sheppard, come in.”
“Sheppard,” Colonel Caldwell replied with what sounded like relief. “Where the hell are you?”
There was a pause before John responded “Oh! Right. Sorry,” as he realised he’d left the Jumper cloaked. “You got here in good time, Colonel,” John continued. “We were looking at a long ride home.”
I chose Sabina as a name because it’s the feminine form of Sabinus, a Roman cognomen meaning "Sabine" in Latin. The Sabines were an ancient people who lived in central Italy, their lands eventually taken over by the Romans after several wars. According to legend, the Romans abducted several Sabine women during a raid, and when the men came to rescue them, the women were able to make peace between the two groups. The source for this was behindthename dot com.
Chapter 49: No time like the present
Instead of a long Jumper ride we ended up with a short hyperspace jump. Once I was transferred to the Daedalus infirmary I let myself switch off and slept practically the whole way home.
Doctor Beckett let me go to my quarters instead of the infirmary when we arrived back in the city. It was cowardly but I begged off the debriefing with Doctor Weir and Woolsey on the pretext of needing to recover from the effects of operating the TED and the Wraith weapons. I don’t think I fooled anyone but I didn’t have to attend the meeting so ... mission accomplished.
“Sabina, you awake?” John called me on the radio. I hadn't been sleeping but I was still feeling grouchy enough to not let John off the hook too easily.
“Well if I wasn’t I am now,” I pointed out, glancing tiredly at the clock. It was only mid afternoon in a day that had seemed endless.
“Good,” John said. “Meet me at the five star room.”
“John?” I tried to respond but he’d closed off the channel.
Grumbling about arrogant Colonels I dragged myself up and dressed haphazardly in whatever I could lay my hands on. I walked down to the nearest transporter slowly, still feeling a little like my mind was disconnected from the rest of me. Within minutes I was standing outside the door of the room John had shown me a lifetime ago.
“You’re here,” John appeared suddenly at the door and pulled me quickly inside.
“Are you gonna start yelling at me?” I asked tiredly. "Because if you are, I have to tell you I’m really not in the mood.”
“I wasn’t planning on doing any yelling,” John told me, “so unless you do something deliberately to provoke me you should be right.”
“Good to know,” I strolled around the room aimlessly, touching things here and there. “Why are we here then?”
“I thought you might want to talk about what happened,” John admitted. “This place is far enough away that people won’t hear you yelling at me.”
“Why would I yell at you?” I asked, genuinely puzzled.
“Because I gave you the order to kill over one hundred civilians,” John replied, not pulling any punches.
“You had to, I understand that,” I excused him. “When it comes down to it I have to believe that none of them were civilians – it’s not the first time I singlehandedly took out a Hive ship and when I did it before it didn’t bother me that I’d killed thousands of Wraith." I turned away, glancing sightlessly out the window. "I won't lie and say I’m not upset that in the end it was me who killed all those Wraith, human or otherwise, but I’ll accept it eventually and I will get over it.”
“You had me worried when we were in the Jumper,” John admitted.
“I had me worried too,” I admitted. “I used up everything I had when I activated the device, put more into it than any other time I've used the mental stuff to do something," I glanced over at John before turning back to the window. "I don’t know where I got the reserves to follow that up with the Hive weapons ... I wasn’t myself.”
“I want you to talk to someone else about this when you feel ready,” John requested in a firm tone that told me it wasn't an idle suggestion.
“I’ll talk to Teyla,” I promised him. “I usually do when I tangle with the Wraith in some way ... she understands on a level no one else can.”
“You have the Wraith gene in common,” John commented, seemingly happy with that as the plan. I nodded wordlessly and the room descended into silence for a few moments.
“I know I almost threw my life away trying to go back for that device,” I finally broke the silence to say. “But I’m glad we don’t have it anymore. All that power shouldn’t be in one person’s hands ... if I could do what I did with just a thought ... and I suspect I could have worked out how to do a lot more ...," I broke off with a troubled sigh. "It wasn’t what the Ancients intended when they designed it.”
“I would have carried you out of there if I had to,” John admitted.
“I don’t know what I was thinking,” I admitted. “Well obviously I wasn’t thinking.” I looked at him curiously – he’s stretched out on the bed and was watching me pace around the room. “Speaking of thinking, can we agree I’ve done enough so we can talk about us?”
“You want to talk about that now?” John asked in surprise.
“No time like the present,” I pointed out. “You said you weren’t sure you’d ever understand why I followed you to the Hive ship in the Dart – is that still true?”
“I was angry when I said that,” John admitted. “I did think about it after and I realised you were right – it shouldn’t have been any different because it was you trying to save me instead of the other way around.”
“I thought about what you said,” I walked to the window and stood looking out at the ocean. “You were right too – I do hold people at a distance, even you. You know what my biggest fear is?”
“Losing someone you love?” John guessed correctly.
“Losing you,” I returned. “If something bad was gonna happen to you I would rather just be there and have it happen to me too so I wouldn’t have to go through the pain of still being here without you.”
“I wish I could promise you nothing bad was ever gonna happen,” John said softly.
“I know you can’t do that,” I smiled sadly. “I realised something during the time we’ve been apart lately ... even if someone came and told me right now that something would happen to take you away from me I would still want to be here.”
“And yet you’re keeping something back.” John smiled when I turned back to him in surprise.
“Since I was ten,” I told him softly, ‘I never had anyone who loved me. I never had anyone to love. I tried when I was first in foster care but they didn’t seem to want that from me. Now I’m here and you want that love, and not just that but so much more from me ... I never learned how to give that much.”
“You never learned how to accept it either,” John pointed out sadly. “It bothers me when you talk about your past because I want to fix it and yet I know nothing ever can.”
“You’ve gone a long way to fixing it” I countered, “but I still find myself looking for reasons outside of myself for why we’re together. When you look for reasons you can always find something that seems to support your argument.” I moved back to where I’d left my jacket, slowly removed the scroll I’d found in Otho’s Tower office and wordlessly handed it to him.
“What’s this?” John asked curiously, unrolling the scroll slowly. “This is in Ancient,” he said, frowning in confusion.
“I found it in Otho’s office,” I admitted. “It documents how the Ancients seeded the families that would become the royal court with the ATA gene so they’d be able to use the city to protect their people.”
“What does that have to do with us?” John frowned as he looked at some of the family tree diagrams that were easily recognisable.
“The Ancients seeded those people with the gene,” I reiterated, “and then they made sure the gene would be carried down -”
“By arranging advantageous marriages,” John completed my sentence. “I know – I was there too.”
“The arranged marriages only began when the ATA gene started to become diluted,’” I corrected. “Before that, they didn’t need to arrange the best matches because the gene did it for them.”
“Are you trying to tell me you think our ATA genes are somehow making us want to be together?” John looked at me with an incredulous expression. “I thought we discounted that theory months ago!”
“Otho measured both of us,” I reminded him. “Our genes were stronger than they’d seen in twenty generations. I checked - that puts us back in the times when they didn’t need to arrange the matches.”
“So what?” John almost scoffed. “An Ancient gene isn’t gonna explain all the reasons why I find myself so attracted to you! I love your beautiful brown eyes – should I discount that because it’s genetics that gave them to you? I love that you’re smart enough to keep me on my toes. Oh wait, that’s just genetics too!" John ran a hand through his hair, almost glaring at me in frustration. "What is there about any of us that can’t be traced back to the unique combination of genes that makes us who we are?”
“I hope you love that I can take a whole bunch of random facts and turn them into an irrational picture” I quipped, sitting down on the bed beside him, “because I do that all the time ... and I’m pretty sure there aren’t any genes I can blame for that.”
“It amazes me how you did something like put together all the clues that pointed to there being a telepathic device and then actually found it, but at the same time miss other bigger pictures that are just staring you in the face,” John said , looking at me with a baffled expression. He stood and went to the windows, looking out at the ocean, I guess waiting for me to say something.
“Did you mean it?” I asked out of the blue.
“Did I mean what?” John frowned at my apparent chance of topic.
“'The Passionate Shepherd to His Love' – did you mean it?” I reiterated.
“Ah,” John replied with a smile. “I guess that’s your way of telling me you didn’t miss a thing.” John turned from the window and glanced towards me. “Yeah I meant it – I want you to ‘come live with me and be my love’.”
“Before that day you just threw a remark in here and there – usually flippantly – I wasn’t sure if you were serious,” I explained. “After that day I couldn’t pretend anymore and I got scared. You were right – I was trying not to rely on you too much just in case someone took it away. If we were living together I wouldn’t be able to pretend that this isn’t the most important thing in my life.”
“And now?” John asked hopefully.
“Now I’m thinking living together would be kind of nice,” I admitted, getting up and joining him at the window. “Not to mention convenient!”
“I’ll take that as a compliment,” John laughed.
“We need to find new accommodation though,” I reminded him. “If I’m sleeping in the same bed as you every night then I’m gonna need that bigger bed we talked about.”
“I already asked Elizabeth if I could have this room,” John admitted. “Not that I was presuming anything ... just that I didn’t think I should ask you unless I had somewhere for us to actually live.”
“I love this place,” I threw my arms around him exuberantly. “This is so cool!”
“I love you,” John held me close, running his hands down my back before pulling me into him. I put my hands behind his neck and pulled him down to me, kissing him passionately as I tried to press myself closer.
“We should really try out this bed again first,” I said between kisses. “Just to make sure it’s ... big enough.”
“I completely agree” John lifted me into his arms, turned and dropped me onto the bed. I laughed as he dropped down beside me and stretched himself out. “So far so good,” he pronounced. “Are there any other tests you think we should do?”
“I can think of a few,” I rolled over on top of him, pulling at his shirt, desperate for some skin to skin contact especially after so many days apart. “The mattress has to be ... firm enough,” I rocked against him, smiling when I discovered that at least something in the room certainly was.
John rolled us both over, aligning us in exactly the right spots. He kissed his way down my neck, grabbing my shirt and rolling is slowly up my body. “It’s gotta have a good view too,” John said, leaning up to admire the view of me that he’d acquired for himself.
Things progressed at a frenetic pace until the moment when we finally got back together in every sense of the word. We paused, smiling at each other in welcome.
“We need to check out the ... noise too,” I shifted slightly, smiling as John reciprocated with a move of his own. We did everything possible to shake that bed, moving hard and fast against each other, until we’d given everything we had.
“Did it pass?” John muttered a few minutes later, after our heartbeats had returned to normal.
“I think so,” I replied. “Although I was kind of ... distracted at the end there. We might have to repeat the tests a few times just so I can be sure.”
“I’d be more than happy to help,” John pulled me closer and I felt his smile before he pressed a kiss into my shoulder. “First though I think we should retest the bed for sleeping in.”
“I could sleep,” I rested my head on his chest, yawing deeply as though to prove the point.
I drifted for a time, thinking about how we’d started out at the beginning of the road, taken a few scary detours along the way, even turned around and headed back the wrong way. Despite all that I felt we’d made some real progress on our journey together. It was enough for me right then, and more than I’d ever thought possible.
“Stop thinking,” John grumbled. “You’re keeping me awake.”
“Sleeping ... right,” I yawned again and finally relaxed enough to drop off. I didn’t know it but John smiled at me fondly before doing the same.