Rating: T, perhaps bordering on M in places
Content Warning: Adult themes, sexual situations, language, some violence here and there.
Main Story Summary: “Never before have I sensed that the future of so many worlds can turn on the actions of so few”. When the continuity of humanity itself is threatened John and Sabina discover it is the core of what makes them who they are that will see them triumph ... together. Established ShepOCship.
Companion Story Summary: John’s patience is stretched to the limit whenever missions don’t go according to plan – especially those involving Sabina. Find out what he’s really thinking during those times! John Sheppard 1st person perspective story.
Classifications: Drama, Romance
Pairings: John Sheppard & Original Character
Main Story Spoilers for: Plot spoilers for pretty much every episode in Season 4. BIG huge honking dialogue spoilers (more than just a few lines) for Doppelganger, Tabula Rasa, The Seer, Outcast, Midway, The Kindred Part 1 and 2, and The Last Man. Also HUGE spoilers for Season 5 Search and Rescue. Finally some minor spoilers for SG1 Season 10 Family Ties and the SG1 movie Ark of Truth.
John's POV Story Spoilers for: Plot spoilers plus BIG huge honking dialogue spoilers (more than just a few lines) for This Mortal Coil, The Kindred Part 1 and 2, and The Last Man. Also HUGE spoilers for Season 5 Search and Rescue.
Acknowledgements: I used Gateworld dot com transcripts to back up my own viewing as I worked through each episode. Anything else I reference will be acknowledged at the point it’s used in the story.
Disclaimer: The Stargate characters, storylines, etc aren’t mine. I am unfortunately not associated in any way with the creators, owners, or producers of Stargate or any of its media franchises – if I was we’d be seeing them on TV for some time to come *sighs dejectedly*. All publicly recognizable characters, settings, equipment, etc are the property of whoever owns them. The original characters and plot and anything else I made up are the property of me, the author. No copyright infringement is intended.
Copyright (c) 2009 ShaViva
There is an inadvertent error in FJS1 that comes into play in this season. I gave Sheppard no siblings and deceased parents ... at the time there weren’t any details on his back story and I didn’t know of the S4 episode Outcast. Now that I do I need you all to forget what I originally wrote and just assume that John said instead that his mother died years ago and he was never close to his father or brother. I just don’t think it would be believable for him to have kept that to himself all this time with Sabina and only now suddenly bring it up. Okay? Also I’ve been calling the place they eat the commissary but I’ve noticed this season that they call it the Mess Hall (did they always call it that?) so I’ve changed my references to call it the Mess Hall too – pretty minor but there you go. Thanks!
Timeline wise this starts in February 2007 – given they’re heading off to Earth in the first chapters it seemed like a good idea to pick something for things like weather etc,. Just assume Christmas and both their birthdays happened sometime during the Elizabeth missing/new planet weeks – since I’ve already done stories for that I didn’t want to revisit them.
There is a companion piece to the story this season, called "The Other Side of the Story: John's Point of View". It’s a ‘fill in the blanks’ story in Sheppard's own words for selected times when we need to know what he was doing and him just telling Sabina all about it doesn’t cut the mustard. This will be interspersed within the main story as separate chapters. I'll put the title "The Other Side of the Story: John's Point of View" at the beginning of each chapter and label the chapters as interludes. They'll also be numbered separately from the main story so hopefully you won't get confused. Also means if you're not interested in that aspect you can just skip those chapters - although there is some good plot stuff for the end of the season you'd miss out on if you don't read them.
“You packed?” John came striding into our room the night before we were due to Gate back to Earth, obviously keen to get moving. “Remember we’re talking February in Colorado – it’s gonna be much colder than here.”
“I think I’ve got it covered,” I replied, looking at him in concern from my position on the bed. “You realise just because you’re talking to them in person, the SGC and the IOA aren’t just gonna cave and go ‘sure you can look for Elizabeth – here’s a Puddle Jumper and a team of marines!’”
“I know the odds are slim they’ll authorise anything,” John said with just a hint of frustration in his voice. “We have to try though ... are you gonna forget about it if we don’t?”
“No,” I admitted. “And neither will you.”
“Exactly,” John came and sat down beside me. “Did you pack something nice?”
“Depends on what you define as nice,” I looked at him suspiciously. “Why?”
“There’s this restaurant I remember going to, just before my Mom died,” John’s expression was wistful as he reached up and absently brushed a stray strand of hair away from my face. “I thought we could go there.”
“You never mentioned it before ... the last time we were back on Earth,” I pointed out softly.
“All that talk about alternate futures ... marriage ... children,” John looked at me seriously. “It got me thinking about family ... my family.”
“What – you want to do the whole ‘meet the parents’ deal?” I frowned in confusion. “I thought you weren’t close to your Dad or your brother.”
“I’m not,” John agreed. “You told me about your adoptive parents and that was hard. I’ve never said anything about my Mom and I should have. I was close to her so I thought ...” he trailed off uncertainly.
“You thought we could go to that restaurant and you could tell me about her?” I asked carefully.
“Something like that,” John’s rueful smile said he knew he wasn’t being exactly logical about the whole thing. “She would have liked you ... while we’re on Earth I want to give you a sense of who she was.”
“If she was anything like you then I don’t need all that to know I would have liked her too,” I rested my head against John’s shoulder companionably. “But I’d love to see whatever you want to show me.”
“Thanks,” John put an arm around me and squeezed tightly. “Wanna catch up with Ronon and the others? We might not get a chance in the morning and the commissary should be all cleaned up by now.”
“Okay,” I jumped up first, holding out a hand to pull John up beside me. “Do you think it went well today?”
“It was perfect,” John kept a hold of my hand and urged me towards the door. “Elizabeth would be very impressed with what you and Teyla did. I was kinda surprised you volunteered to take care of the actual arrangements like that.”
“Well, you’re in charge for the moment and it just seemed like something that should come from us,” I said a bit defensively. “Besides, it was my idea.”
“I don’t disagree,” John looked down at me in amusement.
“What?” I demanded, stopping and glaring up at him.
“Nothing,” John replied, letting go of my hand as he kept walking. When he was a few paces away he turned back to me and added “It was just a very ... wifely thing to do.”
“Oh don’t start that,” I practically ran to catch up to him. “You don’t get to tease me with ‘wife’ comments – especially since we’re not even engaged yet!”
“Okay,” John put his arm around me and steered me down the corridor. “So once we are .... then I get to tease you?”
“I haven’t said yes,” I looked at him sternly. “And if you keep that up, when you ask in the future I might not!”
“No wife jokes ... check,” John agreed in amusement. I tried to resist glancing up at him but I couldn’t. His little boy look with the humour fairly sparkling from his eyes was too much ... within moments we were both laughing as we continued up the corridor.
“Welcome back Colonel, Ms Scott,” General Landry greeted us as we made our way down the ramp at the SGC.
“Thank you Sir,” John replied respectfully. “The place hasn’t changed at all.”
“It seldom does,” Landry replied with a meaningful look. “I assume you’d like to meet with me before you head out?“ With those words the General made it clear he was well aware of what had motivated John’s request for personal leave.
“Ah ... yes Sir,” John raised an eyebrow at me. I nodded, silently letting him know I’d be fine while he went off to put forward his case.
“Sabina, Doctor Jackson asked if you could go and see him when you arrive,” General Landry kindly gave me somewhere to be while he was meeting with John. You might have thought I’d have issues with Landry after my time back on Earth the previous year ... to be honest I wondered myself but once confronted with being back at the SGC I was happy to discover I really had gotten past that.
“Thank you General,” I smiled gratefully, turning to John and adding “I’ll probably be in the commissary by the time you get done.” Squeezing his hand I tried to pass on a host of messages all without words – ‘good luck’, ‘be firm but not angry’, ‘I have faith in you’.
John followed the General to his office and I made my way down to Daniel’s.
“Hello stranger,” I stopped in his doorway, smiling at the state of his office. There was stuff everywhere ... lots of cool looking artefacts as usual and open books cluttering every space. “What are you working on?”
“Sabina!” Daniel rose from his desk with a smile and came over to greet me. “Sorry ... I meant to come down to the Gateroom.”
“I can see why you might have been distracted,” I excused. “This is a lot of research even for you.”
“We’re looking for an Ark ... from the time the Alteran’s first came to this galaxy,” Daniel explained with that light of academic discovery in his eyes.
“You’re joking right?” I said in disbelief. “The Ark? What, of the covenant? What are you, Indiana Jones?”
“An ark ... not ‘The’ Ark,” Daniel corrected. ”According to my research the secret to destroying the armies of the Ori is supposed to be inside ... a piece of Ancient technology that can make anyone who looks into it believe the Ori aren’t gods.”
“Now that would be worth finding Indiana,” I smiled when Daniel rolled his eyes at my casual tone. “So where is it?”
“That’s what all the books are for,” Daniel admitted. “I still don’t know ... as soon as I get a lead we’ll be heading out.”
“Oh,” I looked down at the pile of books with interest. “Can I help?”
“Pull up a chair,” Daniel reached over and pushed one of his books in front of me. “Just look for any reference to an ark.”
“So you’re not out on SG1 missions at the moment?” I asked, sitting down beside him.
“Teal’c is visiting his son,” Daniel replied. “He’ll be back in a week or so. Sam’s doing a short assignment at Area 51 and Vala decided to go with her – she watches too much television and actually thought it might be interesting. Mitchell’s off doing training exercises with a bunch of new recruits starting soon.”
“So they’ve left you here by yourself again?” I smiled, remembering the first time I’d met him.
“And I like it that way,” Daniel said with feeling. “Not all the time of course but do you know how hard it is to concentrate on anything with the whole crew here?”
“I can imagine,” I laughed, sure Daniel’s team had as little patience with his love of books and anything Ancient as my team did of mine. Bending my head low I began to read in earnest, soon captivated by the contents of the book.
We sat in companionable silence for a while, each of us focussed on the Ancient text in front of us, before Daniel spoke again.
“I’m sorry about Doctor Weir,” he said softly. “She was a capable leader ... and a great loss to the SGC.”
“Yeah well we haven’t given up hope yet,” I replied without looking at him. “That’s mostly what we’re here for – John wasn’t getting anywhere on a mission to go rescue her. He thought the ... personal approach might help.”
“Ah,” Daniel nodded in understanding. “The IOA aren’t exactly known for their compassion.”
“I know,” I acknowledged what he was getting at. “Chances are we’ll walk away empty handed but ... John needs this. It was a difficult decision – leaving Elizabeth behind – despite her ordering him to do so.”
“I can’t imagine,” Daniel replied, looking across at me with a smile. “What are you going to do with the rest of your time here?”
“John wants to show me some of his favourite places,” I said lightly. “Stuff we never had the chance to do before.”
“Meet the parents huh?” Daniel raised an eyebrow teasingly.
“That might be amusing except I haven’t got any family and John hasn’t spoken to any of his for years,” I replied seriously. “I’ve gotta admit I’m pretty curious about that but ... I don’t want to push him because he hasn’t even told me why they don’t talk.”
“Sometimes there’s a good reason for that,” Daniel replied. “You wouldn’t have heard that we had Vala’s father here a month or so ago ... he tried to manipulate us just to make a profit. Plus he used Vala’s connections with little regard for her feelings ... I kind of understood after that why she doesn’t talk about him.”
“You’re right,” I agreed. “So you and Vala are ... close these days?”
“Would you look at that?” Daniel ignored my question, making a big production out of looking at his watch before jumping up and pulling me out of my chair beside him. “It must be lunch time.”
Laughing at his antics I let him lead me off to the Mess Hall.
John caught up with us about halfway through lunch. I could tell immediately just from the expression on his face that he was less than impressed with how his morning had gone.
“Doctor Jackson,” he greeted Daniel cordially, putting a hand on my shoulder in a silent hello. “I hope Sabina didn’t give you too much trouble.”
“Nice,” I played along with his obvious desire to not talk about it right there and then. “I’ll have you know that I was helping Daniel search for a very important Ancient artefact.”
“Did you find it?” John asked curiously.
“Well ... no,” I admitted, “but I was only looking for an hour or so. Daniel’s been searching for it for weeks!”
“Hey - it’s been lost for millennia,” Daniel explained. “We were hardly going to find it in the first week.”
“Do you want to stick around and help some more or get started on our holiday?” John waited for my answer like he didn’t know what I’d say.
“Sorry Daniel,” I said without remorse, jumping up immediately to stand beside John. “I’m sure you’ll have no trouble finding your Ark without me.”
“I’m sure,” Daniel said wryly. “Enjoy your holiday. You too Colonel.”
“We’ll try,” I smiled happily. “I’ll catch up with you before we head back to Atlantis ... unless you’re out there you know, doing your thing.”
With a wave and a grin I let John lead me out of the commissary. One brief stop to get our gear later and we were out in the crisp fresh air and on our way off the mountain.
“They said no,” I waited until we’d been in the car for a few minutes before speaking. I’d kept silent even when John gave himself driver duty, realising he needed the distraction.
“General Landry didn’t discount that the new leader might have some power to authorise a search for Elizabeth,” John shot a quick glance at me before turning his eyes back to the road. “That decision is still a couple of weeks away. Woolsey was on base today so I got to speak to him too. He stuck a big pointy needle into the whole new leader deal – said the IOA would insist on approving such a mission. His whole demeanour made it pretty clear there's little chance that'll happen, regardless of who ends up in charge.”
“Oh,” I waited for something inside to tell me how to feel about that but there was nothing ... just this numbness and a feeling of being in limbo. Were we doomed to have Elizabeth’s unknown fate hanging over us forever? “So what now?”
“Now we wait,” John said simply. “We wait for the new leader to be appointed – I can pitch a mission plan to them but we both know that probably won’t fly. We’ll just have to hope an opportunity comes up out on a mission for us to find out what happened to Elizabeth and if there’s any way we can still save her.”
“You know the more time that goes by the less likely that is right?” I stated the obvious because it still had to be acknowledged.
“I know,” John agreed sadly. “It’s out of our hands ... I hate that that’s the case but there really is nothing we can do about it right now.”
“Any idea who the new leader might be?” I asked curiously.
“Landry didn’t give anything away,” John admitted. “Woolsey either. Probably non-military again although the IOA seem very concerned about the possibility of the Replicators attacking Earth. Hard to say which way they’ll go.”
“You?” I had been reluctant to mention it but I couldn’t kid myself it wasn’t a possibility. John had already proven himself in leadership and had more experience with the unique challenges in the Pegasus galaxy than anyone else.
“God I hope not!” John’s reaction was immediate and genuine ... my whole demeanour must have broadcast my relief that he wasn’t thinking down that track because he looked at me with an unreadable expression. “Why?”
“No particular reason,” I launched into a babbling explanation, “and I know it might make going after Elizabeth easier if you were in charge but I don't think I’m really cut out to be the ‘behind the scenes’ person for someone permanently in charge of a whole city ... not that I wouldn’t make the effort if they did put you in charge but I wouldn’t be very good at it and I still can’t believe I’ve gotten myself involved with someone in charge at any level since I’m practically allergic to authority figures and I was just thinking ... selfishly ... that it’s be good if they didn’t put you in charge – but only if you don’t want to be in charge because if you do I’d totally support that.”
“You done?” John had listened silently, his expression still carefully blank. When I managed to keep my response to a wordless nod he continued. “I’m definitely not aspiring to be in charge but I can’t guarantee it won’t go that way if they can’t find anyone else. Either way you won’t need to do anything differently. Frankly the thought of you turning into some kind of Martha Washington figure scares the crap out of me.”
I laughed weakly at the image of myself that evoked in my head. “Now you’re scaring me too,” I quipped. “I don’t know where to even begin ... diplomacy, patience ... not to mention the wardrobe,” I shuddered dramatically.
“Let’s not go there,” John agreed. The whole issue of Elizabeth was still there in the background but somehow the conversation had relaxed the atmosphere between us ... it had to be put in the background, there was no other choice. And so we did.
“Where are we going?” I looked curiously at the scenery passing in a blur outside my window.
“Colorado Springs Airport,” John said simply.
“We’re getting on a plane that you’re not flying?” I looked at him in amazement.
“I don’t always have to be the one at the controls,” John dismissed, even though we both knew most times that was exactly how he wanted it. “Besides, I checked at Petersen and they didn’t have anything I can use for personal purposes on such short notice. When we get there I’ll check again just in case something changes in the next half hour.”
“Ah - now it becomes clear,” I teased. “So where are we going that needs a plane to get us there?”
“It’s a surprise,” John smiled at my groan of frustration. “Nothing you can say is going to drag it out of me either so you might as well enjoy the ride.”
Fine,” I grumbled, brain already ticking over as I tried to work out from what John had told me about his life back on Earth the most likely destination. “It’s not Antarctica though is it? Because I didn’t bring anything nearly warm enough for that.”
“No it’s not Antarctica,” John said in amused exasperation. “And you won’t need anything special. Now sit back and relax and let me drive.”
John did all the checking in once we were at the airport, insisting that he wanted to maintain the mystery for as long as possible. Obviously as soon as the pilot did his introductory spiel presumably including the worlds ‘welcome to flight blah, blah, blah direct to destination X’ I’d know but until then John was determined to have his fun. He was such a kid about it that I found myself enjoying the suspense much more than I usually would.
There was a short delay until we’d get to board so we decided to spend it in the nearest bar ... John went to queue for drinks and I sat back to watch the people go by. The thing that struck me the most was the sheer number of people ... I’d gotten used to our relatively small population on Atlantis and it was a bit nerve racking to see so many strangers parading past. I didn’t think much of it when someone sat down at the table behind me because the place was so crowded ... until they spoke.
“Good afternoon Ms Scott,” a gravelly male voice said. “No – don’t turn around. I have someone close to your Colonel ... if you don’t cooperate this will get ... messy and I wouldn’t want that.”
“What do you want?” I asked, resisting the temptation to look behind me only because I was trying to catch sight of John up at the crowded bar through the mass of people in front of me ... without success.
“Why you of course,” gravel voice replied in amusement. “My employer is most interested in meeting you. He asked that I invite you to visit him personally.”
“That’s a nice offer but I have to decline,” I replied casually, glad he couldn’t see the knots twisting in my stomach or how fast my heart was beating.
“Perhaps invite was the wrong word,” this time the tone was much more menacing. “Please stand up and make your way to the door ... I’ll direct you from there.”
“No,” I tried to sound confident but my voice shook with nerves, something I’m sure my assailant picked up on. I was in a public, crowded place – surely he wouldn’t try anything violent if I refused to cooperate?
“Come now,” the man leaned in closer to me, making me flinch away as he pressed something into the small of my back. I’ve never had a gun pointed at me like that before but I still knew straight away what it was, the cold metal of the gun barrel a promise of nothing good. “If you come with us willingly your friend won’t be harmed and my employer will return you once his questions have been answered. If you fight us the outcome for you is uncertain but I guarantee Colonel Sheppard won’t make it out of here alive. I’m fully aware of his ... skills. We won’t be giving him any chances this time.”
What would you do if someone threatened the person you love like that? For me it was a no brainer, and not because I didn’t trust John to be able to defend himself. But he wasn’t invincible ... the place was crowded and although John was never completely off guard it would be easy for someone to get close enough to deliver a lethal blow before he could do anything about it. And I knew these guys meant business.
So I got up and walked to the door, from there following the gravelly instructions given from behind me all the way to the car park. A dark sedan sat waiting, driver already inside. Gravel voice pushed me none too gently into the back seat, getting in after me. Before I could turn to catch my first sight of him I felt a sharp sting in my upper arm ... quickly followed by the sensation of consciousness slipping away.
Interlude 1: My gut was telling me she hadn’t left willingly
It’s taken over three years for me to need a voice in Sabina’s story but this time the necessity is definitely there ... as you’ve probably just worked out after the whole kidnapping thing!
Us taking leave back on Earth was an inspired idea if I say so myself. Sabina wouldn’t admit it but she was still troubled deeply by what had happened to Elizabeth. Don’t get me wrong – I wasn’t exactly happy about it myself but Sabina had the added worry of what that mini NAP device had done to Oberoth and indirectly to Elizabeth. Not knowing ... maybe never knowing ... was driving her crazy and I could only hope some time away would help her deal with that.
I was frustrated after my talks with General Landry and Richard Woolsey and not just for the reasons Sabina knew about. I had another mission while on Earth, part of which necessitated having a less than comfortable chat with both men. I’d gotten part of what I wanted but the rest would have to wait for another meeting of the IOA. Man those guys were annoying ... not to mention obstructive and ... annoying! Needless to say I couldn’t wait to get out of the mountain and start on the first real vacation either of us had had since before we’d met.
I admit keeping our destination a secret from Sabina was fun ... I’d never met anyone so divided about surprises. Part of her loved the idea of it but the rest of her, the part that always had to be in control? Hated surprises with a vengeance. But if I’d said where we were going before she got on the plane Sabina would have jumped to the same conclusion you’re gonna make when I say we were flying to Las Vegas.
Not to get married – hell I hadn’t even asked her yet and I think I’ve got just a little more class than that! But there was something we could do there that we couldn’t do anywhere else in the USA ... well as far as I knew anyway. And that’s all I’m gonna say about it.
“Sir?” I turned to look up at the airport bar tender, realising that I’d been spaced out thinking about my plans. “Can I take your order?”
“Two of whatever beer you have on tap,” I turned back to glance over at our table, not immediately spotting Sabina waiting there. It was busy and even though I could see over most people’s heads my view at sitting level was pretty obscured. There was no reason for it but suddenly the feeling that something wasn’t right swept over me. Not waiting for the drinks I pushed my way back through the crowd, moving faster and more forcefully when our table came into view ... minus Sabina.
I know what you’re thinking. Why didn’t I just assume she’d gone to the ladies? Because her jacket was still hanging off her chair ... and because my gut was telling me she hadn’t left willingly.
“Excuse me,” I interrupted the conversation at the table next to ours. “Did you see the woman sitting at this table leave?”
“She left with a guy,” one of the girls said casually. “A couple of minutes ago.”
“Thanks,” I called over my shoulder as I strode from the room before breaking into a sprint. I took a chance on direction, sure that if someone wanted Sabina they’d be heading for the car park rather than further into the airport. Luckily we hadn't passed through security yet - I had no idea how I'd explain my mad dash through the airport it we had.
Weaving through the sparce sea of people - enough to obscure my view but thankfully not enough to slow me down - I searched desperately for some sign of Sabina.
There! Catching sight of her up ahead I put a burst of speed on trying to close the gap.
And then I was outside the airport ... just in time to see a dark sedan screaming out of the car park too far away for me to do anything.
Grabbing my phone I put a call direct to the SGC.
“This is Lt Colonel John Sheppard. I need to speak to General Landry urgently.”
“Colonel,” General Landry’s puzzled voice greeted me a few seconds later.
“Is the Apollo still in orbit?” I asked quickly.
“They broke orbit an hour ago,” Landry replied.
“I need you to get them back asap Sir ... Sabina was just taken from the airport. We need to locate her subcutaneous transmitter ... have the Apollo beam her to safety.”
“I’ll contact Colonel Ellis immediately,” Landry promised. “Stay put Colonel ... we’ll get back to you when we know something.”
"Thank you Sir," I hung up reluctantly, grinding my teeth in frustration because the Apollo had left already.
Doing nothing didn’t sit well so I used the time waiting to hear from the Apollo collecting statements from everyone in the bar. The result was a not exactly consistent description of a man about Sabina’s height, gravelly voice, dressed in a suit. By all other accounts he was Mr Invisible – I had hair colour anything from dark brown to blond, muscular to skinny build, and every eye colour possible. Still it was better than nothing and hopefully I wouldn’t need it.
I didn’t have my radio and could only imagine how they’d managed to direct a transmission from orbit to my mobile phone but about half an hour later they did.
“Colonel Sheppard,” Colonel Ellis greeted me with a grim tone. Okay – that wasn’t good.
“Have you located Sabina?” I tried not to broadcast how worked up I was over the turn of events even though I knew I wasn’t fooling anyone.
“I’m sorry Colonel,” Ellis replied. “We picked up her signal momentarily but before we could lock on to beam her up the transmission stopped.”
“Can you give me her location before that?” I swallowed hard, putting a hand over my eyes and squeezing them closed tightly.
“I can do better than that,” Ellis promised. “I’ve sent the coordinates down to you with some help ... should be arriving at your position any second now.”
“Sheppard,” a familiar voice drew my attention to the bar entrance.
“That help has arrived – thank you Colonel,” I reported before giving my attention to the new arrivals.
“Guys?” I looked on in amazement as Rodney, Teyla and Ronon walked towards me. It was strange seeing them there so suddenly, decked out in Earth clothes with expressions of concern plastered all over their faces ... in fact I struggled to recall if I'd ever seen Teyla or Ronon dressed that way before. Yeah it was strange but in a 'thank god they're here' way ... I’d never admit it to any of them of course but I felt myself relax just a little bit in relief that they were there – there’d never been anything we couldn’t work out as a team.
“General Landry requested our presence,” Teyla stepped forward and put a hand on my shoulder, doing her silent comforting thing. “We used the Midway station to get to the SGC and then Colonel Ellis transported us here.
“I’ve got Sabina’s last transmission point,” Rodney held up his laptop, “I should be able to extrapolate a likely heading using that and her starting point here.”
“Get on it,” I ordered, looking away rather than facing their sympathetic expressions. Rodney sat down and began doing his thing on the laptop. Teyla sat next to him but Ronon remained standing beside me, a silent pillar of support.
The concern and sympathy, while appreciated, was something I had to force myself to ignore ... I so didn’t need to tap into their emotions. I was barely hanging on to my own ... concentrating on my anger was the only way I could ignore all the rest. You know what I’m talking about – the worry over what the transmission ending might mean although I’d convinced myself they wouldn’t take Sabina just to kill her. More than likely they’d cut the transmitter out of her arm, a picture I didn’t want to examine in great detail since I was pretty sure they wouldn’t have done it under optimal medical conditions. That was followed by the worrying fears of all the things they could do to her before we found her ... drawing on the colourful canvas of my own torture memories the resulting nightmare images were swirling through my head at dizzying speed.
“Why would someone take Sabina?” Ronon asked, drawing my gaze to his reluctantly.
“I don’t know,” I admitted. “Could be like Kolya – bait to get the rest of us to do something.”
“It could be the Trust,” Rodney offered hesitantly. “Their intel on the SGC would be good enough they’d know how unique Sabina is. Maybe they want to use that somehow.”
“Thanks Rodney,” I said with a glare, not missing the glare he got from Teyla too. “I was just worrying about ransoms and torture but now I can add scary medical experimentation to the list.”
“I didn’t ... I wasn’t,” Rodney stuttered. “If we’re gonna find her we have to work out why she was taken ... and it wouldn’t be the first time the Trust did something like this.”
“You’re right,” I let a hint of apology enter my tone. “I’ll get onto the SGC – find out if there’re any Trust rumours doing the rounds right now. How soon ‘till you have a heading for that signal?”
“Ah, should be a few minutes tops,” Rodney promised, bending back over his laptop with a frown of concentration.
I watched him for a few seconds, feeling the headache already starting. God – this was so not the holiday I’d planned!
I don't know if Colorado Springs Airport has a bar outside the secure area but I'd appreciate it if we could all assume it does - thanks! Also just a note re gate travel from Atlantis to Earth via Midway - there isn't a 24 hour quarantine yet because that doesn't get instituted until after Tabula Rasa.
It occurred to me as I slowly came back to myself that I’d never actually woken up after being drugged before. I gotta say it was nothing like I would have expected from watching numerous episodes of General Hospital. I felt dizzy, disconnected and unfortunately on the edge of embarrassing myself by vomiting. Swallowing hard I held myself still for a few moments, waiting for everything to settle, all the time wondering where I was but not really sure I actually wanted to find out.
Squinting my eyes open just a crack didn’t reveal anything familiar. With a groan I forced my eyes open fully, shifting my head from side to side to check out my surroundings. Frowning in confusion I sat up slowly, surprised to find myself not even restrained. When someone grabs you right off the street you’d expect some kind of cell or equally unattractive prison right? Instead I found myself in a ‘guest room’ – you know, the kind of bedroom people keep ready for visitors who rarely stop over? Pristine furniture, non descript decor, all very comfortable and hotel at home.
Putting my hands down on the mattress to push myself up I discovered my next woe. My left arm was stiff and sore, like someone had been digging around in there. Considering I now had a bandage directly over the place where my subcutaneous transmitter was supposed to be, somebody probably had. John had insisted I have that transmitter inserted so that he could find me if there was ever a need – obviously he’d forgotten about thugs with big knives!
The fact that my kidnappers had known I even had a transmitter worried me ... but not as much as the fact that they’d known who I was, who John was. They had a clearly defined reason for taking me which was more than enough to have my mind swirling with unpleasant thoughts. I had no doubt it was me they wanted either ... they could equally have used the same threats to get John to go with them. So there was either some personal reason for taking me or they believed someone else would pay their ransom of choice to get me back.
Finally getting myself upright I walked to the door, not expecting I’d be able to open it. But I could ... poking my head cautiously out into the hallway my confusion grew. There was no one even standing guard. Who the hell were these people and why were they so confident they didn’t feel the need to restrain me? I needed to know more about where I was before I went any further.
Moving back into the room I crossed to the window to look outside.
“Oh that is not good,” I muttered under my breath, taking in the view with a sinking heart. I couldn’t see much, just enough to know I was on some kind of ranch, probably miles from anywhere else, including a public telephone or any kind of help. How was John going to find me all the way out here?
The sun was low in the sky and we’d arrived at the airport just after lunch so I was guessing at least four hours, maybe more had gone by since they’d drugged me. Rescuing myself seemed just as likely as expecting a rescue from John - how could I find my way to anywhere when I had little information to help me? I didn’t know what method of transport we’d taken to get there or even if we were in the same state anymore!
Realising I’d just have to brave whatever I might find outside that room I headed back out into the hallway again. There were other doors but I didn’t bother checking any of them out. At the end of the hall were the stairs leading down to the ground floor ... and the front door.
The sight of a way out spurred me onwards. I ran down those stairs and had my hand on the door knob in seconds. Again it turned when I tried it ... this was getting more and more worrying by the second. Hoping my captors were just really, really bad at holding someone prisoner I took the opportunity presented and walked through the door, onto the porch and then down into the front yard. I no longer had my jacket and shivered slightly in the early evening breeze. I’d forgotten how cold it got at night out of the city – it was too late to go back for anything so I’d just have to hope the physical exertion of walking out of there would be enough to keep me warm.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” a too familiar voice grated out. Great – Mr Gravelly Voice had decided to hang around after delivering me.
“Why is that?” I asked casually, turning to get a look at him.
He was sitting in a wide backed chair on the porch ... it was almost dusk but I would have noticed him if I’d bothered to look around before dashing off the porch. Apart from that distinctive voice he was pretty non descript – a trait I’m sure came in handy in his profession – brown hair, average build, and eyes a colour I couldn’t see from my position.
“Because Doctor Walker won’t like it,” Gravelly replied complacently.
“And I could care less what he wants,” I retorted snidely. “It’s been nice and all but I have to be going now.” With that I turned away and started walking across the yard - I say yard but really it was just an expanse of dirt with a few shrubs on the outer edges. To be honest I had no idea where I was going ... just that it was away from that house and that guy.
Gravel Voice had silent moves to go with that non descript exterior ... I didn’t hear him come up behind me until he was almost on me. Turning swiftly I faced him just in time to deflect the arm he’d reached out to grab me. He stumbled before straightening and turning back towards me.
“You don’t want to do this,” he said grimly.
“Oh but I think I do,” I replied just as grimly, already setting myself into fighting position. I didn’t have fighting sticks which would have made me feel much more confident ... but since the whole testing thing with Major Lorne I’d concentrated on improving my hand to hand skills enough to at least take this guy on.
Gravel launched a kick towards my midsection much faster than I would have expected but I was able to evade him. The next few minutes involved more of the same – him attacking and me evading as I assessed his skills and looked for a weakness. Unfortunately, apart from a slight height advantage it seemed we were pretty evenly matched.
The next kick Gravel launched caught me off guard, slamming into my side hard enough to throw me to the ground. Scrambling up quickly I spotted something in the shrubs guaranteed to give me an edge. Ducking the next attempted blow I grabbed the rake handle - minus metal bit at the end - that someone had carelessly left behind. It was too long to make an effective fighting stick and after John had admitted to hurting his leg trying to break a branch I knew I wouldn’t be able to break it without assistance.
The next few moments were all about me avoiding Gravel voice’s attacking moves as I searched for a way to turn one rake into two sticks. The only thing I could come up with was the old lever trick ... sprinting in a sudden change of direction straight for the porch I slammed the rake handle between two porch rails hoping they’d hold. My opponent followed me as expected, launching a swivel kick straight at me. I moved the handle at the last minute and was rewarded with the sound of splintering wood as the kick meant for my stomach slammed into the rake instead. Ripping both sticks from the railings I jumped off the porch and reset myself back in the middle of the yard.
Swinging each stick in a flowing circle of motion to get a feel for their weight I watched in amusement as Gravel voice looked on, appearing confused at the sudden turn of events. Keeping the left stick swinging I held the other in my right hand, motioning for him to attack me ... if he dared. I know – it was a pretty smart arse move straight out of the Matrix but I couldn’t resist – I needed to get this guy off stride somehow, and nothing else I’d tried evoked any kind of emotion in him. Beckoning him over seemed to do the trick though – with a yell of rage he surged away from the porch and charged me.
Of course I took great delight in stepping aside at the last moment, hitting him in the arse on his way through and sending him sprawling into the dirt.
“Not so easy now is it?” I taunted him. “You should just let me go before I hurt you.”
Instead of replying Gravel strode back to his seat on the porch and reached down for something underneath it.
“Okay, mystery escalating here,” I thought as I caught sight of what he had. Fighting sticks ... and if the way he was rotating them was any indicator, he knew what to do with them.
I stood silent and still as he approached me. Rather than wait for his attack I launched one of my own, fast enough that he blocked the first few moves but couldn’t block them all. I got a nice hard hit in to the thigh and another to the shoulder before he could get himself clear.
The next move was his – he swung the sticks in a series of alternating strikes. He was fast, but I was faster and easily evaded every hit ... those daily practice sessions were paying off in a way I’d never imagined they would. We took it in turns for the next few minutes – he took as many hits as he blocked from me while I continued to evade all of his. Obviously he knew about my arm wound ... for all I knew he'd been the one wielding the knife. Like any good bad guy he focused on that weakness, trying more than once to hit me there over any other target. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't feeling the injury, but the longer the fight went on the more limber I got and the easier it was to ignore the pain. I’d even held a bit back up till then, hoping he’d tire enough that I could finish him off.
That turned out to be the right plan ... I’d never used the fighting sticks to bring someone down like that before, most bouts ending in an unbreakable hold and someone conceding. Gravel Voice wasn’t going to concede though ... he just kept getting up for more, forcing me to turn brutal in an effort to get him to stay down. In the end I resorted to luring him to drop his defences below chest level ... a hit to the thigh blocked by him, and a turning hit to the knee also blocked left him open for me to ram an elbow into his gut. When he was doubled over I slammed the fighting stick across the back of his skull and was rewarded with him crashing face first into the dirt without another sound.
Panting harshly my heart skipped a beat when the next thing I heard was the sound of someone clapping. Getting control of my breathing first I turned slowly back towards the porch. He hadn't been there the whole time but it was clear he’d watched for long enough to observe most of my stick fight with Gravel Voice. Still clapping he rose from his chair and walked down the steps until he was standing in front of me.
After giving him the quick up and down glance his identity seemed obvious – pin striped expensive looking suit, polished shoes also expensive, general air of blonde polished grooming, gaudy class ring on one pinkie finger. Even his unusually vivid blue eyes looked like he’d purchased them from a high priced catalogue.
“Doctor Walker I presume,” I said sarcastically.
Interlude 2: And how reliable are these contacts?
“Thank you for sending my team Sir,” I spoke to General Landry via my mobile a short while later. Rodney was still tapping away, trying to get a likely heading for Sabina ... until he did there was nothing the rest of us could do except hover around him, trying not to look impatient.
“I figured you could use the backup,” Landry returned. “Just keep an eye on Ronon and Teyla – we wouldn’t want an intergalactic incident and neither of them is used to Earth customs.”
“Of course Sir,” I smiled in spite of the seriousness of the current situation, well able to imagine what sort of incident Ronon would be responsible for. “McKay’s tracing the signal before it was lost, trying to extrapolate a likely heading. We need to figure out who’s responsible for this ... McKay mentioned the Trust.”
“This is certainly within their usual modus operandi,” Landry admitted. “I’ll speak with our NID contact, Agent Barrett. He’ll know whether the Trust has been active lately. We should have something for you within a few hours.”
“Thank you Sir,” I replied gratefully.
“I understand the personal element here Colonel,” Landry said seriously. “For that reason alone I know how driven you’ll be to resolve this quickly. But don’t forget Sabina has information that represents a significant threat to national security – the longer it takes to find her the more risk there’ll be negative fallout from this. I trust you’ll do what’s required to see that doesn’t happen.”
“Understood,” I replied reluctantly before signing off. I stood for a moment, staring into space as I contemplated the implications. I wasn’t happy with the suggestion Sabina might be put at risk to get a quick resolution ... but I guess the fact I was still on the case despite my very personal connection was something to be grateful for. Not that I would have let them take me off the case but that was a whole can of worms I was glad not to have to open.
“Is everything all right John?” Teyla put a hand on my arm to draw my attention back to her.
“General Landry just pointed out that Sabina’s a walking threat to national security,” I said grimly. “He didn’t say it explicitly but the message was pretty clear. We’ve got free reign to do whatever it takes to get her back before whoever’s got her finds out more than they bargained for.”
“I’ve got it,” Rodney's announcement drew everyone's attention instantly.
Teyla and I moved to look over his shoulder as he explained what he’d found. “The Apollo picked up a few seconds of movement before the signal cut out. Coupled with the point of origin here and taking into account probabilities based on frequency of route the most likely destination is Denver.”
“Okay, let’s check out the road between here and there, see if we can pick up any clues,” I motioned for the others to follow me, waiting impatiently while Rodney packed up his gear, and then leading them to the car park.
It was a confusion of motion before finally I had us all in the car and heading off down Highway 87 towards Denver.
“Why do I have to sit in the back?” Rodney complained, despite the fact that Teyla was back there with him.
“You don’t want to turn your back on me McKay,” Ronon advised with an amused grin.
“Yeah right,” Rodney muttered. “We’re on Earth Conon – this is my home turf and your Wraith killing skills aren’t quite as valuable here.”
“Rodney,” I ground out impatiently. “Why don’t you concentrate on letting me know when we get to the last place Sabina’s signal registered?”
“Fine,” Rodney muttered, bringing up the laptop readings and comparing them to our GPS numbers. Silence reigned for a few minutes until Rodney called out “We’re close enough, pull over here.”
The spot Rodney brought us to had my heart sinking as we all got out of the car. There was no turn off road, no structures in the distance, nothing that would suggest a reason for bringing Sabina this way.
“There’s nothing here,” I muttered, turning to stare back down the highway.
“There might be nothing significant about these coordinates,” Rodney reminded me. “It may have taken this long from the airport for them to, you know, remove or otherwise disable Sabina’s transmitter.”
“So we’re no closer to finding her,” I concluded grimly.
“Sheppard,” Ronon called me over to his position, pointing out what looked like fresh tire tracks in the dirt. “Someone parked here.”
“And that’s significant because?” Rodney asked sarcastically.
“Because when they were done they headed back that way,” and Ronon pointed back the way we’d just come.
“So not Denver then,” I felt the anger rising inside as the meaning became clear. “They could be anywhere – including another state if they went back to the airport.”
“Um ... I guess,” Rodney said miserably.
“Okay, let’s head back to the SGC,” I decided abruptly.
Teyla and Ronon reacted immediately by taking their former places in the car but Rodney hesitated, waiting for me to move first.
“I shouldn’t have left Sabina alone,” I said angrily, kicking one of our rear tires because there was nowhere else to direct my frustration.
“You were just at the bar getting drinks,” Rodney said incredulously. “Are you gonna escort her to the ladies in future?”
“I knew this was a possibility,” I insisted. “I should have been more on guard.”
“Back in the Pegasus galaxy I’d have to agree,” Rodney replied. “But here on Earth? No one even knows her – she was anonymous before she went to Atlantis and she’s only been back here twice since then. Apart from your brief foray into domestic bliss Sabina’s done nothing to even create a paper trail of her existence, let alone drawn attention to herself in any kind of obvious way.”
“I know that Rodney,” I growled, “and yet here we are with her missing and us scratching our heads because we don’t even have any leads!”
“Yet,” Rodney retorted. “We don’t have any leads yet. Even the fact that they knew about her transmitter - enough to turn it off anyway - could end up being just the clue we need to find her.”
“She went with them willingly,” I couldn’t help but point out something that was probably obvious to everyone.
“They threatened her with hurting you?” Rodney concluded weakly.
“Yeah – she didn’t fight them because she was protecting me,” I turned away, looking back down the road rather than see his expression. How did you deal with that sort of knowledge - that the person you loved had subjected themselves to who knew what kind of torture willingly to keep you safe? I couldn't - I had to bury it deep along with all the other worries buzzing for a place inside my conscious thoughts.
“We’ll find her John,” Rodney promised softly, putting a hand on my shoulder before getting into the car.
“You hear that Sabina?” I thought determinedly. “Hold on because we will find you.”
Taking my place in the drivers seat I got us back on the road, all the while suppressing the rest of that thought ... hopefully before it's too late.
“Colonel Sheppard this is Agent Malcolm Barrett.” Back at the SGC General Landry introduced me to a tall lean man wearing a suit and a serious, intent expression.
“Agent Barrett,” I held out a hand for the requisite handshake, all the while wondering if ... okay and praying that he’d have some good news.
“Colonel Sheppard,” Barrett replied, shaking my hand with a firm confident grasp. “I’ve checked in with our contacts within the Trust. There were some rumours about a contract they’ve put out to tender for what they’re calling warfare enhancements. Nothing that would suggest a kidnapping.”
“And how reliable are these contacts?” I asked grimly.
“About as reliable as it gets,” Barrett replied promptly, not put out that I was essentially questioning the quality of his intel. “If they’d hired someone to kidnap Ms Scott we might not have found out before hand but we’d certainly know about it by now.”
“You said warfare enhancements,” Rodney said curiously. “What does that mean?”
“We’re still chasing it up,” Barrett admitted. “At this stage all I can tell you is that it’s got something to do with personnel, not equipment.”
The worried glance I shared with Rodney at those words said we were both on the same wavelength. Barrett was pretty observant for a suit ... he picked up on the silent communication and immediately called us up on it.
“I take it that’s not news to you?” he asked.
“Oh it’s news,” I denied the conclusion he’d made. I exchanged a glance with General Landry, registering his subtle shake of the head. Agent Barrett didn’t know about Sabina’s background and at this stage the General didn’t want him to. “Let’s just say there’s a reason there could be a connection between that and Sabina’s disappearance.”
“I have the highest level clearance,” Barrett complained, irritable about the obvious secrecy.
“Not this high,” Landry replied in a tone that clearly suggested Barrett should drop it. “Find out what you can about that project Agent Barrett – get back to me as soon as possible ... with some leads.”
“Of course,” Barrett agreed, looking intently in my direction before striding quickly from the room. Once he was gone I couldn’t help but comment on what we were all thinking.
“I guess we know why they took Sabina now,” I rubbed at the back of my neck, worried even more despite us now having something we could follow up.
“They are interested in Wraith DNA?” Teyla queried.
“Not just that,” Rodney offered weakly, casting a concerned glance my way before continuing. “If they’re talking enhancements for our soldiers then they need a way to artificially merge Wraith and human DNA.”
“And for that they need the only person from around here who’s already got both,” I concluded grimly.
“Thank you for that demonstration Ms Scott,” Walker said in a smooth cultured voice.
“You set that up!” I shook my head as all the pieces fell into place – the easy exit from the house, a rake just lying around for me to use, Gravel Voice having his own set of fighting sticks.
“The rumours about your abilities are impressive but I always like to confirm these things for myself,” Walker replied in a casual tone like we were talking about the price of milk instead of classified information he shouldn’t have had access to. He turned and walked back to his chair on the porch, waving a hand to invite me to sit in Gravel Voice’s chair. Deciding to play along for the moment I strode up the steps and threw myself down beside him.
“I’m not sure how ordinary martial arts skills could possibly be of interest out here,” I commented nonchalantly, stretching my feet out casually in front of me, “unless you’ve got some recalcitrant cows you’d like me to whip into line?”
“Your ... personality quirks were also well documented,” Walker said with an amused smile. “Mr Brown might have been provoked by your attempts but you can rest assured I will not be so easily led.”
“Mr Brown huh?” I glanced across at Gravel Voice, still stretched out unconscious in the yard, in feigned amusement. “I’m guessing that’s not his real name.”
“Aren’t you interested in why I brought you here?” Walker asked when I didn’t say anything else.
“My only interest lies in being anywhere else,” I admitted. “I’m not sure what you think you’ve got but you’ve been misled ... I can’t see any reason why you’d want me here. But if you let me go now I'll forget I was ever here.”
“Come now Ms Scott,” Walker seemed amused by my continuing act of innocence. “There’s no need to be modest. If my sources are correct you could be the most unique person on this planet.”
“You’re joking right?” my laugh was genuine as I found myself unexpectedly entertained by this guy’s smarmy Doctor Evil act.
“Oh I assure you Ms Scott,” Walker’s expression turned suddenly grim and ... deadly. “This is no joke ... unless you know of someone else with both Wraith DNA and multiple Ancient genes.”
Crap! I struggled to keep my expression blank as I registered what he’d said. This guy was more than just well informed. He knew things only a handful of people knew – a very small handful at that. Most people at the SCG and IOA knew I had the ATA and Wraith genes but it wasn’t common knowledge that there was actually more than just one Ancient gene responsible for the skills of the Ancients ... or that I had at least two of them.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” I said innocently.
“Of course you do, but let me spell it out for you anyway,” Walker was suddenly amused again. “You arrived back on Earth through the Stargate this morning from the Pegasus galaxy – your home of the past three years. After spending only a few hours at Stargate Command you and your soon to be fiancé Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard of the United States Air force travelled by car to Colorado Springs Airport, thereby making yourself available for my employee to issue an invitation to visit here.”
“Well you certainly are well informed aren’t you?” I frowned, trying to compile a list in my head of all the people who had the level of knowledge he’d demonstrated. The most confusing detail was the soon to be fiancé part. To my knowledge no one but John and I knew that detail ... and maybe Rodney could work it out if he put two and two together based on other stuff he already knew. “I don’t suppose you’d like to tell me who your source is?”
“I am very well connected and information is always available to those with the resources to pay for it,” Walker replied, smugly evasive.
“You may think you’ve got yourself something valuable in me but you should know the Air Force won’t negotiate for my release,” I informed him in all seriousness.
“And Colonel Sheppard?” Walker raised an eyebrow at me quizzically.
“He’s career military!” I said incredulously. “I’m not saying he wouldn’t try to meet your demands but you’ve probably spent more already on getting information than he’d have available to bargain with. That doesn’t exactly spell profit for you.”
“Perhaps you don’t know your fiancé as well as you think you do,” Walker replied in amusement. I frowned at that – was this guy trying to imply that John had significant financial resources he’d never mentioned?
“You’re mistaken,” I said, trying not to let him know that what he’d said had found its mark. “And he’s not my fiancé – yet.”
“Semantics,” Walker dismissed. “It doesn’t matter in any case – you’re not here to earn me a ransom.”
“Okay I’ll bite,” I gave in abruptly, shooting an intent gaze across at him. “Why am I here?”
“My company is in competition for a very lucrative contract with one of the most powerful organisations in the country,” Walker revealed.
“So it is all about money,” I said insultingly. “And there I was hoping you had some kind of noble sentiment, like trying to save a life.”
“Everything is about money Ms Scott,” Walker drawled in a voice that said he was schooling me on the harsher points of life. “And you, well your unique blend of genes in any case, are the key to ensuring we get a contract that will earn us rather a lot of it.”
“That doesn’t sound very attractive from where I’m sitting,” I admitted freely.
“My title of doctor isn’t just for show Ms Scott,” Walker replied. “I’m fully qualified to extract the information we need from you.”
“Assuming you did this,” I put a hand over the bandage on my arm, deliberately insulting him since I was pretty sure he hadn't been the one to remove my transmitter, “I’ve already had a sample of your ... skills. I think I’ll pass.”
Without pause or warning I surged from my chair and slammed an elbow into his face, breaking his nose and causing a satisfying stream of blood to appear. While he was occupied with screaming in pain I jumped off the porch and sprinted across the yard. Skirting warily past Brown, already up on his knees and moaning himself to wakefulness, I headed towards a large shed I’d noticed before. Fingers crossed there’d be some kind of vehicle inside.
Another unlocked door ... gotta love the arrogance of this guy ... and the pleasant discovery that yes there was an impressive four wheel drive parked and hopefully ready to go. The driver’s door was open too but that’s where my luck stopped. No ignition keys under the seat, in the glove box, or behind the sun visor. Damn! Luckily my misspent youth had included the requisite lessons from ‘the bad boy’ on how to hotwire a car ... if I could just remember how that went. Bending low over the steering wheel I pulled out all the wires, searching for the ones I needed and ripping them apart so I could reconnect them and hopefully start the engine. I was almost done when I heard an ominous clicking sound directly above me. I looked up reluctantly; already pretty sure I knew what I’d see.
Crap! Doctor Walker stood on the other side of the door, blood soaked tissue still held to his nose and an expression in his eyes that sent chills running down my spine. Not the good kind – the ‘as soon as he’s done with me I’m dead’ kind. He wasn’t the one responsible for that clicking sound though. That was Gravel Voice .... sorry Mr Brown, and another guy who was a cookie cutter version of him ... no idea where he'd been lurking. Brown distinguished himself from his copy by looking bruised, dusty, and extremely pissed - I was certainly doing a great job of ensuring none of these guys went easy on me! Both men held shotguns, primed and ready to shoot me. Although at that close range any shots fired would more likely splatter me all over the inside of Walker's impressive vehicle ... not an image I needed in my head right then.
“Doctor Walker would like for you to exit the vehicle,” Brown said almost pleasantly. “Doesn’t matter to me if you do it – I get to hurt you if you don’t cooperate and to tell you the truth I’m almost hoping you don’t.”
Keeping my eyes on them I slowly opened the driver’s door and got out of the car. Mr Brown’s cookie cutter colleague grabbed me roughly and turned me so that I was facing away from them. They then proceeded to do something else I’d seen on numerous televisions shows – pushing me harshly up against the car Mr Brown searched me for weapons, even though the bastard knew I didn’t have any. And then he handcuffed me – another first I could have done without – before pulling me back around to face them.
“Mr Brown, Mr Smith, take Ms Scott back to her room,” Walker ordered in a thick, nasally voice. “We’ll let her sleep on it, give her time to consider her circumstances.” And then he got right up in my face. “Let us be clear Ms Scott. No one knows you’re here and no one is coming for you. If you’re hoping for a rescue from your precious Colonel think again. I have created a false trail more than sufficient to fool a military grunt – even one as deceptively intelligent as Colonel Sheppard. Having said that I am prepared to treat you fairly ... if you cooperate.”
“Forgive me if I don’t believe you,” I spat out, trying to jerk my arm out of Brown’s grasp.
“You expect retaliation for this?” Walker gestured to his own face almost casually. “And well you should ... a lesson learnt now will ensure mistakes are not made in the future. Brown, Smith – see to it.”
And then he walked away, leaving me alone with his grunts. My stomach clenched with fear, made only worse by the anticipatory grin on Brown's face. This was gonna be bad.
I dragged my feet and made myself as much of a dead weight as I could the whole time Brown and Smith were dragging me across the yard and back into the house. Instead of going up the stairs I knew, we went down a different set to the basement – and what a cliché that was. Yes, they actually had a cell set up down there, complete with chains on the walls and bars on the windows. I didn’t get a chance to check out the whole room because Brown tied a blind fold on me as soon as we stepped inside. That was enough to send the fear ratcheting up another notch. I was still trying not to let them see they had me scared, still trying to convince myself they wouldn’t do anything too dramatic because they needed me alive and presumably well enough to participate in their little experiments.
And then they switched from the handcuffs to using those wrist restraints I’d glimpsed on the wall. So now I was chained up and blind ... as well as shit scared and probably doing a poor job of hiding it.
“Doctor Walker has already given me carte blanche on any punishments,” Brown informed me casually, “as long as I don’t do anything that spills too much of that valuable blood of yours.”
“Anything you do to me will be done to you tenfold when Colonel Sheppard catches up with you,” I promised, proud that my voice shook only slightly. And maybe that was a cliché too – my boyfriend’s gonna get you – but I totally believed it. I had to believe it to brace myself for what I feared was coming.
“Ooh I’m scared,” Brown laughed, his companion joining in. “I was going to gag you too but your witty little comments, not to mention the screaming you’ll be doing soon are too entertaining to miss out on.”
“If you bore all the ladies like this then it’s no wonder you’ve been reduced to consorting with the likes of these guys,” I taunted stupidly. “Just get on with it already!” I’d gotten into that self destruct mode – you know, where you can’t believe the crap coming out of your own mouth but at the same time you can’t seem to stop it.
“If you insist,” Brown replied snidely. “Mr Smith, perhaps you could begin.”
“Sure,” Smith’s voice was deeper than Browns, less gravelly, but no less frightening, especially when I realised he’d moved silently and was now standing directly in front of me. His breath wafted down the side of my neck as he leant in too close. “You know, you’re attractive ... for an Air force whore.” He ran a finger down the side of my neck and had me pulling desperately at the chains trying to get away from him. Grabbing my head he forced his lips down on mine in a sickening parody of kissing. Fighting the urge to gag I used the fact that my legs were still free to good purpose, going for half of the SING principle by slamming one foot down on his instep and then punching my knee up into his groin. The sounds of him groaning in pain and writhing on the floor satisfied me at a deeply primal level.
“Not entirely unexpected,” Brown laughed at his colleague’s condition. “Don’t worry – I won’t make the mistake of getting that close. Besides, you’re not my type!”
“I’m crushed,” I spat out.
“You’ve never heard the one about making more friends with honey than vinegar have you?” Brown laughed again at my futile attempts to pull free from the chains.
“I’m really picky about my friends,” I replied grimly. “I kind of like it if they’re not psychotic hired grunts incapable of independent thought.”
“Enough,” Brown said purposefully, obviously tired of humouring me. The feel of his knife slashing a long gash across my right thigh came with no warning. “That’s for my head,” he ground out as I struggled to contain the overwhelming urge to cry out in pain.
Another slash just below the last registered before I'd dealt with the first one. “And that’s for my friend’s manhood.”
“What, nothing for your boss?” I got out, shifting uncomfortably at the pain but otherwise giving no outward sign that my leg was on fire. The pain was intense, the feeling of blood flowing from both wounds making me shudder weakly inside.
“If this alien DNA you possess is what makes you capable of belligerence under these circumstances I’m not surprised Doctor Walker wants to study you,” Brown commented almost academically. Again there was no warning as he drew a painful line of fire across my right cheek just below the cheekbone. “The good doctor prefers a more visible reminder for his retributions,” Brown revealed. “You'll see the scar every day for the rest of your life ... however short a life that might be.”
This time I said nothing ... I’d either run out of smart arse remarks, or the distraction of trying not to cry like a baby made it impossible for me to think of any.
“Ah, silence at last,” Brown laughed. “Mr Smith, perhaps you’d like to make the final comment before we take Ms Scott back to her room.”
A fist immediately slammed into my stomach ... I wanted to curl up against the pain but of course I couldn’t because I was still chained to the wall.
And then my hands were free and I dropped to the floor, struggling to regain the breath Smith’s fist had forced out of me. At that point I did curl up, clutching my stomach as I tried not to vomit. That turned out to be a losing battle and some detached part of my brain wondered if one of these guys would be charged with cleaning up my mess. Before I was ready they dragged me up from the floor and back up the stairs. This time I was a real dead weight, hanging limply from their hold as they ‘escorted’ me to my room and threw me to the floor inside.
“There’s a first aid kit in the bathroom,” Brown said before the door closed quietly behind him.
Pushing the blindfold weakly up and off my head I decided it was finally okay to cry. Curling up on the floor where they'd dumped me, I did just that.
SING – I saw this first in Miss Congeniality although I’m guessing it’s a principle wider than just that movie. SING refers to the four sensitive areas of the male body. Solar plexus, Instep, Nose, Groin.
Interlude 3: How the hell do you think I’m doing?!
Waiting was never my strong suit which probably explained why I had so many reprimands on my record. Still, the frustration of waiting to go and rescue a team mate when you know the longer they leave it the harder it’ll be was nothing compared to what I felt while waiting for Agent Barrett to get back to us.
“Can’t you just sit down for five minutes?” Rodney complained when I stalked past him on what felt like my hundredth circuit of the SGC main conference room.
“No,” I replied grimly, knowing if I stopped moving I’d end up putting my fist through something ... although I was getting to the point where that was a possibility even with the pacing. “What are you doing anyway?”
“Searching through all the records Walter could direct me to looking for anything Trust related that might be linked to this,” Rodney reminded me. “If you’d followed Ronon and Teyla down to the gym instead of hanging around here I might have gotten a bit further.”
“Too risky,” I said dismissively, leaving it to Rodney to work out what that meant. Just like you shouldn’t take your anger behind the wheel of a car I’d learned at an early age that you also shouldn’t take it into the sparring ring either. Too easy to take it too far – injure instead of teach. Sabina would be less than impressed if I damaged someone because I was pissed off she’d been kidnapped.
“Oh,” Rodney looked up at me quickly before bending back to his work. “Are you ... you know, doing okay?” he asked awkwardly.
“Sabina’s missing McKay,” I shot back. “How the hell do you think I’m doing?!”
“I don’t know!” Rodney complained. “I just thought I should say something because ... well you know why!”
“I appreciate the effort,” I relented, dreading a slight grin up from somewhere over the classic pained expression Rodney was wearing.
“So ... you never said where you were going, before ...,” he broke off, waving a hand vaguely in the air.
“Can you keep a secret?” I asked quietly.
“Probably not,” Rodney admitted, “but tell me anyway.”
“Vegas,” I admitted abruptly.
“Oh you weren’t gonna do the whole Elvis Chapel of Love elopement thing were you?” Rodney looked faintly sick at the idea.
“Of course not,” I retorted, insulted that he’d think so. “I’ve got a lot more class than that!”
“Really?” Rodney looked surprised and more than a little sceptical.
“Thanks for the vote of confidence Rodney,” I glared at him some more. “If you think about it my reasons for taking Sabina to Vegas will come to you.”
“No! You’re not leaving it at that,” Rodney actually took his hands off his keyboard and gave me his full attention. “What would you be doing in Vegas apart from getting married?”
“Getting a legal licence inside of fifteen minutes,” I revealed, hurrying into further explanation before he could throw in any more smart arse remarks. “Sabina’s not the long engagement type and the frequency of our trips back here means it’s pretty much now or next year to do the legal, paperwork side of things. I don’t wanna wait that long. I was hoping she’d agree to sign the documents while we were here and then we could do the deed back on Atlantis sometime in the next year.”
“Don’t you need permission for that?” Rodney for once didn’t take the obvious opportunity to get in a few digs at my expense.
“Not if we were doing it here,” I explained. “Because Atlantis is classed as foreign soil it’s a bit more complicated – there’s usually a tonne of paperwork for American soldiers marrying foreign nationals outside of America. Sabina and I are both Americans of course but I still had to talk to General Landry and Richard Woolsey about the foreign soil part.”
“General Landry knows you want to marry Sabina?” Rodney looked faintly insulted now.
“He is my commanding officer McKay,” I reminded him. “You think that’s bad – try having a conversation about something that personal with Woolsey. It wasn’t pretty.”
“What’d they say?” Rodney asked curiously.
“Landry gave his permission without question, told me he’d get Walter to check out what paperwork I needed,” I admitted. “Woolsey couldn’t make a decision to save his life – he has to take it to the IOA so they can give their permission for a wedding to take place on Atlantis.”
“Man that’s gotta suck,” Rodney commented somewhat snidely. “I mean, there’ll be representatives from like four countries talking about your personal life. I can only imagine how that conversation’s gonna pan out!”
“Yeah – it does suck Rodney ... thanks for pointing that out!” I raised an eyebrow at him until he looked suitably guilty for making light of things.
“Well that’s what you get for being military,” he excused. “Personally the idea of having to ask anyone for permission to marry, no matter where you want to do it, sounds completely ridiculous to me.”
“Then it’s lucky you never joined the military isn’t it,” my tone made it quite clear the conversation was finished. Rodney turned back to his laptop for a few minutes before he couldn’t resist asking another question.
“Are you worried she’ll say no?” he rushed out.
“What, you don’t think we’ve already talked about it?” I asked in amazement. “Who asks someone to marry them without at least having some idea of getting a positive response?”
“Good point,” Rodney smiled before adding “and of course she’ll say yes, right?! I mean technically you’re already married anyway – at least according to Ancient custom. Not that Sabina knew she was agreeing to that before you did the ceremony thing ... but still, that has to count for something right?”
“McKay,” I growled, “I really don’t need to be thinking about this now.”
“Of course not,” Rodney muttered apologetically. “Sorry.”
We lapsed back into silence, my mind now engaged with worrying about Sabina and reliving all the conversations I’d had with her and anyone else over the whole marriage deal. I should have known not to tell Rodney!
We were already well into the evening with no new leads to pursue when I was forced to call it a night. I sent the rest of my team to get some much needed rest, promising I would do the same even though they all knew I wouldn’t. Sitting up in the darkened Mess Hall worrying about things I couldn’t change was a dismal way to pass the night ... but it was all I had.
Agent Barrett finally returned to the SGC in the early hours of the following morning, carrying a stack of files and an even more confused expression. We commandeered a conference room on level 22 so that Barrett could share what he'd learned with the whole team at the same time.
“These are all the companies currently vying for that Trust contact,” Barrett announced, pushing the pile across the table towards me. “Turns out warfare enhancements for personnel doesn’t have anything to do with weapons or equipment, including protective gear.”
“Yeah, what does it have to do with then?” Ronon asked.
“Ah ... human genetic enhancement,” Barrett replied, looking at Ronon like he was suddenly wondering what kind of unnatural enhancements Ronon might have be subjected to in the past.
“And all of these companies want a slice of that?” Rodney looked at the large stack in dismay.
“The contract is worth billions,” Barrett revealed. “The Trust is very keen to develop a worldwide defence should the Wraith make it to Earth. They’ve gone with the popular ‘super solider’ approach. The first company to come up with something viable will be set for life.”
“So if this Trust does not have Sabina, one of these other companies may?” Teyla queried.
“It’s the only lead I can offer you at this stage,” Barrett wasn’t making any promises we’d get anywhere.
“Then we should begin our study of each of them,” Teyla announced.
“There are like fifty of these files,” Rodney complained. “That’s gonna take hours, if not days!”
“Then it’s lucky I brought in some outside help,” General Landry announced from the doorway - clearly Agent Barrett had already filled him in on his progress. Behind the General stood Daniel Jackson, Walter and two other guys I didn’t recognise. “Between the nine of you, you should be able to work through those files quickly,” Landry explained. Without another word he turned and left us to it.
Walter introduced us to Daniel, Lieutenant Baker and Doctor Issacs. I stood to greet our helpers gratefully, acknowledging each name as Walter said it. When I got to Daniel, I added "I appreciate the help Doctor Jackson.”
“Daniel, please,” Jackson replied, moving quickly into the room and sitting in the chair next to me. The others followed closely behind, each taking the file Rodney gratefully handed out. “As soon as I heard what happened I approached General Landry to see how I could help.”
“As you can see we need it,” I replied. It didn’t surprise me Daniel would want to do something – he and Sabina hadn’t spent that much time together but they’d hit it off big time, having a love of all things Ancient in common to fuel every conversation between them. While that might have caused a small amount of jealously the first time we’d come to Earth I was well past that point over a year later and just grateful Sabina had a friend here who wanted to help.
I didn’t know the others well either, but the fact they were there was enough and I could already feel some of the tension leave the room as everyone got down to business. Taking my own file I started the long process of reading through it looking for something – I didn’t know what it was and could only hope that if something was there to be discovered, it would jump out at me.
Giving in to the tears, while satisfying in a girly way, wasn’t going to get my cuts attended to. So after a few minutes of snivelling I dragged myself up from the floor and into the adjoining bathroom - the one I hadn’t noticed when I'd been in the room that afternoon. I grimaced when I got a look at myself in the mirror. One side of my face was a mess of dirt and congealed blood overlaid with a fresher layer of the brighter red stuff. My eyes were red rimmed, my hair was a complete mess, and I was far too pale. Rather than give in to how that image said I should be feeling I turned determinedly away, opening almost every cabinet before I found the elusive first aid kit.
There wasn’t a lock on the door but I did have a wooden chair – probably easily broken if someone really wanted to get inside, but enough once wedged under the door knob to have me feeling comfortable treating myself.
First up was my leg ... I struggled out of my jeans, a process that almost had me vomiting again at the pain of ripping denim away from an open wound after it had become partially stuck to said wound.
Parking myself on the toilet seat with my leg stretched out in front of me I opened the kit and started with the disinfectant, pouring it over the still bleeding wounds resolutely.
Oh God that really, really hurt – no one would willingly do that to themselves ... which explained the whole need for doctors! Sucking it in bravely I rummaged around until I found some of those little butterfly bandaids used when stitches aren’t required. I probably did need stitches but there was no way I was doing a Rambo and stitching myself up. Instead I used the strips along each cut, glad that because the knife had been so sharp the edges fused together easily. Covering the strips with some gauze and then wrapping the whole thing up with a long bandage was the best I could do. As long as I didn’t jump around too much the wounds should heal with little scaring, despite what Brown had said.
Leg done I moved on to my face. I had to wash it first to see how bad it really was – eyes watering at the sting I threw handful after handful of water against my face until the run off seemed relatively clean. Once again I did the same disinfectant followed by butterfly stitches routine. As with my leg, the wound was deep enough for stitches but clean enough that the alternative would do instead. A thick white gauze bandage over that one would only make me look like a freak so I left it as it was ... the stark white of the strips helping my skin look not quite so pale in contrast.
Once I’d finished first aiding myself I relaxed the control I'd been keeping over myself, shuddering as bone deep weakness immediately descended over me. I’d lost more blood that was probably good for me and hadn’t eaten in more than five hours so that wasn’t a surprise. Hoping Doctor Walker’s form of punishment didn’t include long term starvation I walked unsteadily back into the main bedroom. There was no way I was putting on those dirty blood stained jeans so the last thing I forced myself to do before resting was look for clothes. Turns out Walker was one step up from the completely heartless thug I’d thought him – a number of comfortable plain tracksuits complete with serviceable underwear were packed away in draws – all in my size which caused another major freak out on my part.
Sitting down abruptly on the edge of the bed I struggled to get control of my churning emotions ... the session with Brown and colleague had been bad enough, but the idea that Walker had planned in advance to keep me there for some time was so much worse. Eyes on those clothes I sat there thinking too many negative thoughts to admit to.
"Get it together Sabina!" I coached myself sternly. I’d only be making myself uncomfortable not to use those clothes and it would bolster my confidence to appear unaffected by my treatment so in the end I almost gratefully changed out of my ruined clothes and into a set of theirs.
Energy reserves pretty much depleted I stretched out on the bed on my back, closing my eyes tiredly.
My minds eye flashed images at me frantically - I saw a knife glinting in the light, Brown’s face enjoying the thrill of cutting me, Smith looking at me lasciviously – images straight out my imagination. The reality shots were there too – Walker’s eyes filled with evil intent towards me, Brown feeling me up as he searched me for weapons, the feel of Smith breathing down my neck, the sickening taste of him forcing that kiss on me.
Snapping my eyes back open I sat up fast enough to make myself dizzy. Putting a hand over my mouth didn’t stop the urge to vomit and so I ended up in the bathroom again, this time bending over the toilet instead of using it for a seat. It was pretty much dry retching since my stomach was long past empty but I still had to do a lot of it before my muscles unclenched and I began to recover some of my calm. Making my way slowly back to bed I lay down again, this time conjuring up as many happy memories of John and Atlantis as I could, clinging to them mentally to get me past the point of terror and into sleep.
Early the next morning I discovered Walker’s punishment didn’t include depriving me of food. Strangely, after my initial difficulty sleeping I’d stayed asleep for the entire night ... exhaustion and blood loss assisted of course – not a combination that would be a popular treatment for insomnia.
I was already stirring when another henchman I’d never seen before woke me all the way up with a tray of basic breakfast fare. I wondered briefly if it was drugged in some way, considered what John might say or do in the same situation, and decided to just eat the food. They’d been very up front in their intentions so far and going the sneaky route at that stage of the game didn’t make sense.
Doctor Walker gave me enough time to clean myself up and check my wounds. I’d only just gotten myself into another set of fresh clothes before an insistent pounding knock sounded on the door.
“Doctor Walker would like you to join him for coffee,” Brown’s voice caused nervous shivers to run down my spine, even through the closed door.
“You can do this,” I muttered under my breath, steeling myself to give the appearance of being unconcerned in Brown's presence, despite what he’d done to me the day before. Opening the door with a hopefully natural smirk in place I quipped “I was gonna try out the local Starbucks but I guess instant will do.”
“This way,” Brown turned without even attempting conversation and led me down the stairs and across to a dining room. Walker was sitting at the head of the large dark oak table that dominated the room, reading the paper. There were six chairs available but the only one occupied was Walkers - obviously no other places had been set. I guess henchmen never dined with their bosses. It was all very surreal ... being treated like a guest in such a pleasant environment while feeling the underlying current of menace that permeated the air.
“Ah good morning Ms Scott,” Walker greeted me pleasantly. “Or can I call you Sabina?”
“No,” I said abruptly, sitting down in the adjacent chair Brown pushed me towards. Glancing at Walker quickly I couldn’t help the smug smile that appeared on my face when I got a good look at his bruised and still swollen nose.
“I see a night of rest hasn’t improved your disposition,” Walker said in amusement.
“Yeah well having your goons play knives on me left a bad taste in my mouth,” I replied, “not to mention the whole self doctoring thing.”
“You appear to have done an acceptable job,” Walker directed his gaze towards the cut on my face. “Perhaps you would like me to check your wounds – as I said yesterday I am a fully qualified medical doctor.”
“Perhaps not,” I returned dismissively. “Brown mentioned coffee – I hope you can do better than freeze dried instant.”
Walker exchanged a glance with Brown, presumably ordering him to get someone to fix me up, before turning back to me. “You’ve had a night to consider your situation. Are you feeling more cooperative this morning?”
“I don’t get why you even need my cooperation,” I gestured around the room and added, “not to mention the gilded cage routine. You said you needed my blood to do some tests – we both know I couldn’t stop you if you decided to just take some.”
“True,” Walker agreed, “but we’re civilised humans, not savages. You’re stay with us is likely to be protracted and it would be helpful to me, not to mention safer for you if I had your agreement to do what we ask. That way we can avoid repetitions of yesterdays failed escape attempt and resultant punishment.”
“You don’t want to damage the goods too much,” I concluded.
“Do I have your agreement?” Walker asked, looking at me with a warning clearly evident on his face. I waited as Brown returned, steaming mug in hand and set is somewhat resentfully down in front of me. He then took up position behind Walkers right shoulder – even without the humiliating stick fight it was pretty clear he was never gonna be one of those thugs you could talk around to your side.
“What are you planning on doing to me once you’ve got what you wanted?” I asked instead, turning my mug in a slow circle but not drinking from it. “Because the flagrant revelations on your and your hired goon’s identities doesn’t say you’ll just let me go at the end.”
“That depends entirely on your level of cooperation,” Walker said evasively.
“Yeah right,” I laughed harshly before shaking my head sadly. “I’m not a fool Doctor Walker and I’m thinking you and I both know exactly where this is ending. So I’m gonna have to decline your gracious offer for a pleasant experience here before you kill me. There’s nothing in it for me to make things easy for you.”
“What about the continuing well being of your precious Colonel Sheppard?” Walker threatened harshly. “Would you be so cavalier with that?”
“You want me to believe you can get to John?” I asked incredulously. “You seem to know a lot about us but obviously not enough if you think your hired goons would stand any chance against him – John will be on his guard and you won’t get past him again.”
“You underestimate the levels at which actions can be taken to get the desired effect,” Walker threatened. “Did you not wonder how it was I knew of your imminent marital plans?”
“Lucky guess?” I suggested. “And not exactly out there if you know as much about us as you say you do.”
“So it would surprise you to learn that Colonel Sheppard spoke to high ranking members of the SGC and the IOA before you left for the airport?” Walker's smugness resurfaced as the casual look dropped off my face.
Crap, crap, crap! It didn’t surprise me at all because John and I had already talked about him having to ask for permission (something that personally I thought completely ridiculous!). The timing was something I hadn’t considered but then I guess John decided to take the opportunity while it was there – knowing the IOA they’d probably take months to decide so it made sense to ask now rather than when we actually wanted to do something about it. The worrying part was that Walker clearly had someone very high up giving him eyes and ears at the SGC.
“Let’s cut to the chase shall we,” I leant forward to get my point across. “The only thing that will be driving my behaviour is John’s opinion of me when he eventually finds out everything that went on here ... and he will. He’d be disappointed in me if I just gave in and helped you create god only knows what. So I’m not – giving in that is.”
“Very well,” Doctor Walker rose from his chair abruptly; glancing back at his right hand henchman. “Mr Brown – take our guest to the labs.”
“You could have at least let me drink the coffee first,” I complained as Brown pulled me roughly up from the chair and dragged me away.
Interlude 4: Give me the phone
“This isn’t working!” I pushed away from the table impatiently, standing and running an agitated hand through my hair. We’d been at it for hours and still had nothing ... hours during which Sabina was being subjected to ... frankly I didn’t want to let my mind go there. We were only a couple of hours from the 24 hour mark, a painfully significant milestone I’d hoped we wouldn’t get to.
“John,” Teyla got up and put a hand on my shoulder, I’m sure not missing how tense I was.
“Sorry,” I muttered, turning back to the others apologetically. I usually had better control than to let my frustrations be so apparent but after hours couped up in that room on top of no sleep the night before I was down to the thin end of the rope.
“Don’t apologise,” Daniel replied for everyone. “I know it’s slow going but we have made progress – we’ve ruled out more than half of these companies.”
“Which still leaves twenty, any one of whom could be responsible,” I pointed out grimly.
“I can narrow that done some more,” Rodney promised.
“Then General Landry will authorise for teams to check out each location,” Walter finished.
“And if none of them turn up anything?” I cut to the heart of my concerns - after all we really had no idea what we were looking for and could easily have eliminated the wrong company in the first five minutes.
“Then we look again,” Daniel promised. “We keep looking until we find something.”
“I still have my contacts actively searching for anything to point us in the right direction,” Agent Barrett reminded me. “No one can keep a secret of this magnitude for long – someone will talk if we offer the right incentive.”
“Perhaps you should take a break,” Teyla suggested to me.
“Yeah, okay,” I took the hint for what it was – my irritation was distracting them and I was getting discouraged, neither of which was helpful to Sabina. Maybe some fresh air would help.
Pacing around in the trees wasn’t any more satisfying than pacing in the conference room had been. Throwing myself down on the ground I stretched out on my back. Looking up at the sky I tried for the first time to actively think about how Sabina would be handling this. She’d be scared but she wouldn’t want her captors to know that which meant she’d probably be taking a big page out of the John Sheppard Book of Smart Arse Remarks. My girl took way too much pleasure in having someone say she was like me! I could only hope she didn’t provoke a response with a too well aimed barb but hopefully these guys were professionals not so easily manipulated.
No, my main concern was what they’d do to her when she didn’t cooperate – and I never doubted for a minute that she would. Sabina would do everything in her power to make things as difficult for her captors as possible. She’d see it as a matter of pride ... my pride just as much as her own. And she’d get hurt as a result ... in fact if I knew her at all she’d probably already pushed it too far and been punished for resisting. It was that thought that had me so uncomfortable in my own skin I could hardly sit still.
“I’m trying to find out more but it’s a closed room,” an unfamiliar male voice drifted to my position through the trees.
There was a pause before the voice came again, this time with more than just a hint of exasperation. “I’m sure they don’t know where she is or they’d be out there instead of still here.”
I sat up abruptly as the meaning of that registered.
They were talking about Sabina.
Getting quietly to my feet I crept through the trees towards the source, listening carefully for the next instalment.
“I’ll do my best to find out more but I’m not making any promises ... unless you’d like to up my fee of course.”
Someone had sold Sabina out for money! I felt the rage clamouring for a voice inside my head ... it was only years of surviving situations guaranteed to make even the mildest mannered person angry that gave me the control to use that rage rather than let it use me.
Silent footsteps carried me towards the informer ... “Come on,” I thought. “Say something!”
“I’m taking the risks you’re paying me for,” his voice sneered, much closer than before. “Yes - I’ll make my next report in two hours.”
Okay, that conversation was clearly over. I had to sacrifice a bit of stealth for speed otherwise he’d be out of range before I could see where he went next. If it was inside the mountain I’d be set because I could just look at the sign in sheet. But if he went somewhere else first I’d never find him.
Sprinting through the trees I burst out into the car park beside the rear entrance ... the favoured place for personnel needing a quick trip outside ... just in time to catch the back of someone heading towards the check in point. Rather than alert my target and possibly give him a chance to get away I kept a reasonable distance, letting him clear the check point and head back to wherever it was he worked inside the mountain.
“Sergeant Pierce, who was the last person you signed in?” I asked the check point guard in a tone that made him sit up to attention.
“Jason Rogers Sir,” Pierce replied quickly.
“Who is he?” the name wasn’t familiar to me, not surprising since I was stationed in a whole other galaxy.
“Secretary to the IOA Sir,” Pierce explained. “He comes in sometimes with Mr Woolsey, especially if there are a lot of meetings.”
“Any idea where he was going?” I asked casually.
“No Sir,” Pierce replied. “But Mr Woolsey uses a conference room on level 25 – he might have gone there.”
“Thank you Sergeant.”
I signed myself in before heading down to level 25, tapping the earpiece I still wore on the way.
“Ronon, grab Teyla and Rodney and meet me outside the conference room on level 25,” I closed the channel without further explanation, knowing he’d follow my order without question.
I must have got the next lift after Rogers’ because I spotted his back heading down the corridor only a few metres in front of me when I exited on his level. Stalking after him I barely registered the personnel passing me, giving distracted nods as I kept my eyes firmly on my target.
He disappeared into a room just up ahead, my arrival in the doorway taking place only a few seconds later.
“Ah Colonel Sheppard, any news?” Richard Woolsey looked up from the stack of papers he’d been reading and saw me standing there.
“No,” I replied shortly, looking at the man now sitting across from Woolsey.
“Was there something else you wanted?” Woolsey asked in confusion.
“A word with your secretary ... in private,” I slammed a fierce glance straight at Woolsey, everything in my eyes telling him to leave NOW! For once he picked up on the signals and did what he was told without the need for a big discussion.
“Colonel Sheppard?” Jason Rogers looked at me with innocent confusion once Woolsey had closed the door behind him. “You wanted to speak to me?”
“No, but you’re gonna speak to me,” I said grimly, walking over to his position and yanking him roughly up from the table. Slamming him up against the nearest wall I leaned into him threateningly. “You can start by telling me who you were talking to up on the surface.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Rogers eyes skited away from mine, making a mockery of that statement. He knew all right and he was scared.
“Do you know how close to the edge I am?” I asked menacingly. “You don’t want to push me right now.”
“You don’t scare me,” he said bravely.
Grabbing him by the throat I squeezed hard. He was a typical office type – light on mass – which made it easy for me to lift him off the floor by his neck. “How about now?” I growled. I was close enough to see every nuance of expression in his eyes, close enough for him to read the determination and intent in mine. He believed I’d follow through on the implied threat if he didn’t cooperate but still he hesitated.
“John!” Teyla’s shocked voice broke into my concentrated focus.
“What?” I ground out, still keeping my hold around Rogers’ throat.
“Oh God - he’s lost it now,” Rodney muttered, crowding into the doorway with the rest of my team.
“Sheppard?” Ronon rumbled, pushing past the others to stand at my shoulder. He was the only one to deduce immediately that there was a valid reason for me choking the life out this guy, and so the only one to stand beside me in support.
“This guy sold Sabina out,” I shot a glare at Rogers before glancing over at Ronon. “He’s getting paid to pass on information about us too – presumably to warn them off if we get too close.”
“Leave him with me for a few minutes,” Ronon suggested with a feral grin. “He’ll talk.”
“O – k ... k,” Rogers tried to say something.
“John, at least loosen your hold so he can speak,” Teyla urged.
“Oh – right,” I let go of Rogers abruptly, watching with a fair amount of pleasure as he slumped down the wall to sit gasping on the floor.
“I can’t tell you anything,” Rogers held a hand to his throat, voice shaking with nerves. “You know they’ll kill me if they find out.”
“I thought we’d already established that I’ll kill you if you don’t,” I leant down and hauled him back up, slamming him down into the closest available chair. “Anything that happens to Sabina from this point I’m holding you personally accountable for - until you give me what I need to put a stop to this.”
“Do I get a deal?” Rogers was still looking out for number one.
“You get to live,” I looked at him in disgust. “Be grateful for that because I’d be just as happy to feed you to the Wraith and call it a good day.”
“I don’t know his name,” Rogers capitulated with sudden ease – thank god the bad guys never stuck together. “I get a call on the phone he gave me ... he sets the time for the next call.”
“Give me the phone,” Rodney strode over to the guy, holding out a hand and clicking his fingers impatiently. Once he had it he hurried from the room, explaining as he went. “I’ll access the phone’s records; see if I can track his last call to a server. Once I’ve got that I should be able to trace the next call.”
“How’d this guy you say you don’t know approach you the first time?” I demanded.
“I got an SMS asking me if I was interested in making a little money on the side,” Rogers explained defensively. “I ... may have sold the occasional piece of information in the past so he probably got my contact information from that.”
“You’re a credit to the IOA aren’t you?” I shook my head distastefully. “And I thought the members of the committee were bad enough.” Trying to get a lid on my emotions I paused for a few moments before turning back to Rogers.
“I want to know everything you told your contact,” I said sternly. “Start talking or I’ll let my friend here have a chat with you instead.”
“He already knew about the girl,” Rogers admitted. “Said his sources had provided him with information about her medical background that was of great interest. All he wanted from me was a heads up if either you or the girl turned up here, plus a report on anything I might overhear while you were both around.”
“And what did you overhear?” I asked grimly.
“Just that you weren’t staying very long,” Rogers replied defensively. “He said he had someone tailing you ... asked me to keep an ear out for anything else relevant.”
“What else did you pass on?” I demanded angrily.
“Woolsey asked me to arrange a special meeting of the IOA,” Rogers looked up at me, checking to see if I was following.
“And you told your contact what it was for,” I concluded, frowning as I realised whoever had Sabina had even more ammunition to taunt her with. It would appear this guy knew more than she did – she’d be off balance. God only knew what other background information he’d dredged up to use against us.
“Is that all?” I looked at him in disgust. This guy hadn’t been solely responsible for Sabina being taken but he’d done more than his fair share as an accomplice. I could barely stand the sight of him, especially since I wasn’t allowed to rough him up now he was being so cooperative.
“I was supposed to let him know if you looked like you had a lead,” Rogers replied. “I couldn’t get close enough to give him anything useful beyond the fact that you were all still here.”
“Okay,” I stood behind the guys chair and put a hand on his shoulder, squeezing hard enough to make him cry out in pain. Leaning down close to his ear I whispered “be glad I checked my weapon in when I got here.” The little whimper he let out was enough to know he’d got the message. “I find out you’ve lied to me or did anything else to jeopardise Sabina’s rescue? I’ll come back and make you regret it.”
Straightening I turned away, rubbing a hand over my face as I considered what we should do next.
“What do you want to do with him now?” Ronon stood beside me, silently lending his support for whatever I might want to do.
“Put him in the brig,” I said, slumping down at the table tiredly. “If that phone doesn’t pan out we’ll have to lean on him some more – see what we can squeeze out.”
Ronon muscled Rogers out of there, leaving only Teyla and myself behind.
“Teyla, head back upstairs and fill in Doctor Jackson and the others on what’s happened,” I requested. “Tell them we appreciate the help and we’ll let them know if we need anything else.”
“Very well,” Teyla agreed graciously. Rather than head out she walked over and sat down beside me. “Are you all right?” she asked in concern.
“She wouldn’t cooperate would she?” I looked up at Teyla reluctantly, not wanting to see the worry I knew would be on her face.
“Sabina has a strong sense of right and wrong,” Teyla replied evasively. “She will hold on until you find her John.”
“Well, let’s just hope we don’t make her wait too much longer,” I replied grimly.
"Rodney will work his usual magic," Teyla said confidently. "When the people who did this call again we will know who is responsible."
"And then we go get Sabina," I promised, "whatever it takes."
I’d thought the height of helplessness would be being chained blindfolded to that wall in the basement.
I was wrong.
Even worse was the helplessness I felt as I lay on an examination table in Walker's lab ... on top of the humiliation of Brown 'escorting' me and then manhandling me into position it was difficult not to feel scared, and discouraged. Not that I didn't believe John was coming for me, because I did ... 100 percent. Would it be before Walker did something we couldn't take back? The negative possibilities in that were thoughts I struggled to suppress.
The room was very bright, sterile and too cold, the decor putting me very much in mind of one of those high priced private clinics. The cold of the room extended even to the metal slab I was stretched out on ... and restrained to. My wrists were strapped inside leather restraints which made me think of mental asylums and a whole host of other nightmarish images. Of course I tugged on the restraints and of course they didn't budge. I'd given up on them and on finding anything I could reach that might help and still no one arrived. I think Walker deliberately took his time turning up, making the most of my overly active imagination as I waited alone, conjuring up a stream of ever worsening visions regarding what he was going to do with me.
“Ah, I see you’re ready,” Walker commented jovially as he walked into the room. He’d gone the full hog on his role as mad lab doctor too – swapping his expensive jacket for a white lab coat. Brown had returned with him and somehow that just made the whole thing worse – as if having a witness really made that much difference.
“Did I mention that Colonel Sheppard will make you pay for hurting me?” I asked weakly, shivering slightly and telling myself it was just from the cold.
“Just lie back and relax,” Walker advised in smarmy Doctor Evil helpfulness.
Yeah like I was really gonna do that! I didn’t know what to say, where to look, how to be – the situation was so completely outside my experience I just had no basis to even attempt a contrived reaction. Looking away as Walker approached I missed the bit where he injected me with something.
“What was that?” I demanded.
“Just a little sedative,” Walker excused. “This first examination will go better if I don’t have to fight with you.”
“You really are a slimy bastard aren’t you?” I blinked deliberately, feeling myself spacing out and trying to stop it from happening.
“There’s no need for language my dear,” Walker spoke like he was some kind of benevolent uncle.
“Fuck ... you,” I slurred.
“She really is quite remarkable,” Walker commented over my head. He was swimming in and out of my vision but I was still with it enough to understand what was going on.
“How so?” Brown asked curiously.
“The shot I gave her should have been enough to fell someone twice her size in seconds and yet she still retains some measure of consciousness,” Walker explained, his tone making it clear he was genuinely fascinated by the whole thing.
“Is that because of that alien DNA stuff?” Brown tried to sound like he knew what he was talking about ... stupid goon that he was.
“That is part of what we must determine,” Walker replied. “For now I believe an additional dose is required.”
I registered that second injection just barely ... my vision started to grey out around the edges ...
When I came back to myself I was in my cosy little guest room, tucked up in the bed. I could have believed the whole morning had been a bad dream but for the fact that I hadn’t been relaxed enough to sleep under the covers the night before, ending up stretched out on top of them instead. Sitting up abruptly caused a head rush and dizzy spell that had me flopping back down again. Waiting a few seconds and then taking it much slower I got myself out of bed and across to the window. The sun was still high in the sky so only two or three hours had gone by ... still, that was plenty of time for them to have done who knew what.
I wasn’t sure I really wanted to see evidence of what had happened while I was unconscious, but nothing unpleasant ever went away by avoiding it. Walking slowly to the bathroom I had to take a moment to prepare myself before I looked in the mirror. The guy had actually replaced my butterfly strips with stitches, and a lot neater looking than I would have expected. He really must have been thinking about keeping me there long term and that sent a sick feeling of dread rushing to the pit of my stomach. Apart from the fact I was paler than before there was nothing in my face to indicate what had happened in that lab.
Okay, easy part over – next up was the rest of me. That sick feeling returned when I realised I was wearing a different set of clothing than I’d gone in there with – oh God don’t go there Sabina! I tried not to let it bother me but still found myself sitting on the floor breathing much too fast as my body shook in nervous reaction.
“Get a grip,” I coached myself hoarsely. “You can do this – just get up and finish it.”
Next I systematically checked the rest of myself over, looking for anything that would tell me what Walker had done. My thigh wounds had also been stitched and re-bandaged ... I glossed over thinking about that and moved on. He’d taken blood – quite a bit from the number of marks I had on the inside of each arm. I’d known he was going to do that so no surprises there.
And that was it – I wasn’t carrying any further evidence of the mornings captivity – outwardly anyway. I didn’t think the taking of blood would have me feeling so strange – either the sedative hadn’t worn off or he’d given me something else along the way.
I’d always thought it a bit clichéd when characters in movies would rush to wash off the figurative dirt from contact with the bad guy ... after what I’d been through I couldn’t get into that shower fast enough. And yeah, I did scrub much harder than warranted trying to remove the horrible imagined feeling of Walker’s hands on me. The water had gone cold and I still didn’t feel ready to get out – only the suddenly remembered fear that they could come back any time had me scrambling from the shower.
Fixing up my wounds with new bandages and getting myself into clean clothes didn’t take long. I sat on the bed for a time, staring into space while inside my mind just wouldn’t shut up. Rather than think about what I’d gone through that morning I couldn’t help but focus on what Walker had said about John.
I knew with complete certainty that John and whoever else he could get from the SCG were working on finding me. I’d been gone for more than 24 hours now, enough time for John to go from pissed off to angry with deadly intent. You know what I mean – the kind of anger that had resulted in more than 60 Genii soldiers being splattered against the Stargate shield while John barely blinked.
He was good ... more than good. But if Walker had someone high enough, someone unexpected, then it was possible they could get to John without him suspecting. It was bad enough they’d taken me because of what I was ... the idea that John could suffer too because of me, that they might be able to hurt him if I didn't cooperate, on top of all the other things I was struggling not to think about had the tears streaming beyond my ability to control them.
Turning my face into the pillow to muffle the sound I sobbed bitterly until I had nothing left. Turning over I gazed sightlessly up at the ceiling, feeling thankfully numb. After doing more crying in a day than I'd done in years I was feeling impatient with myself ... apart from the first few hours I hadn't even attempted to find a way out of there. I was being pathetic and suddenly that was just unacceptable.
It was a relief to feel my own anger surging to the surface. I’d been taken against my will, attacked with a knife, abused, and had my blood stolen away for some evil purpose. They’d scared the crap out of me and made me feel weak willed and pitiful – not to mention the fact that they’d ruined the first holiday I’d ever had with John. Somehow they were gonna have to pay for that.
Deciding to make someone pay and coming up with a way to make it happen are two different things. I checked that room over in fine detail without coming up with anything. The window was a possibility if I was really desperate – the second storey was high enough I couldn’t just jump and there was no lucky pipe, trellis or anything else I could hold on to within reach for climbing down.
I hadn’t actually tried the door since I’d woken up ... stupid as it turned out because it was actually open again. Taking the now familiar route down the steps I headed for the front door. This time it was locked – and not just locked. There was some kind of electronic security system in operation, an LCD screen installed by the door flashing the word “armed” accompanied by five red lights all lit up.
That couldn’t be the only door in the place so I did a one eighty and headed into the house. I didn’t get far though – Mr Smith from yesterday was standing guard in front of a door down the corridor. He saw me straight away and immediately spoke to someone on his radio, obviously reporting in that I was awake and on the move.
Deciding the best offence was a casual disregard for the circumstances I turned away without saying anything, installing myself in the dining room to wait for someone to find me. I had my feet up on the table and was half way through one of the apples they kept in a bowl on the table before Doctor Walker appeared in the doorway.
“I am pleased to see you suffering no ill effects from this morning Ms Scott,” Walker greeted me pleasantly.
“Are you planning on telling me what you got out of your little performance?” I asked, continuing to eat the apple because once I’d taken one bite I’d realised how hungry I was.
“This morning was about collecting some baseline information,” Walker surprised me by actually answering. “I took a number of measurements, completed a full scan, and of course took a number of blood samples for further analysis.”
“And that’s it?” I asked in disbelief. “You had to drug me into unconsciousness just for that?”
“Scans require the patient to be completely still,” Walker said dismissively. “You would not have submitted willingly. Rest assured Ms Scott, I have no interest in anything of a sexual nature. Your virtue, such as it is, is safe while you remain under my roof.”
“Good to know,” I replied flippantly. Not having anywhere to dispose of my apple core I tossed it back in the bowl, not missing the way Walker winced in distaste. “So ... what now?”
“You are free to do as you please until your blood work comes back this afternoon,” Walker offered. “You have free reign of the house but please note that all exits have been secured. Should you even touch them an alarm will alert my men – there are sufficient numbers here to restrain you with ease. Ask the kitchen staff for anything you require.”
“So – back to the gilded cage approach then,” I muttered under my breath, watching him leave with a heavy heart.
Interlude 5: You’re not gonna believe this
Everything inside me was screaming "hurry - it's already been too long" and still we were forced to wait for action. Rodney had managed to track Rogers’ phone to a remote server. It was supposed to be completely untraceable – would have been for anyone without Rodney’s experience at hacking into systems much tougher than this one. As it was Rodney had worked out a way to trace the untraceable just as soon as the next call came through.
All the players were gathered in the main conference room a few minutes before Roger's contact was due. We'd come up with a plan ... the kind that could be toppled with one false move ... and I admit I was nervous because I knew we wouldn't get a second chance if everything went pear shaped.
“I’m good to go,” Rodney announced confidently, fingers poised as we waited for the phone to ring. Rogers’ had agreed to cooperate after I’d promised we’d talk about a deal if everything went well. Since I fully intended to take out everyone remotely connected to Sabina’s disappearance I didn’t think much else would be required. And talking didn’t necessarily equate with doing, something Rogers was going to find out to his detriment.
Rogers sat nervously at the conference table, biting his nails and generally convincing me relying on this guy was a disaster waiting to happen. Rodney had assured me it wouldn’t matter – that he’d be able to get what he needed within seconds. I’d worked out a scenario for Rogers that should convince his boss the nervousness was natural.
The phone rang dead on the two hour mark.
“Here we go,” I muttered, motioning for Rogers to pick it up like usual.
“Rogers,” our guy spoke first. We had it connected to speaker phone so the rest of us could hear the other side of the conversation. Rodney tapped away in the background, already doing his thing as the rest of us sat silently listening.
“Have you managed to find out anything Jason?” a surprisingly cultured male voice enquired.
“No,” Rogers said defensively. “This place is like a fortress – I can’t get closer and I think they’re getting suspicious.”
“You are simply not trying hard enough,” cultured voice admonished. “I pay you a considerable retainer for your services Jason.”
“I ah ... I don’t think I can do this anymore,” Rogers said weakly. “They’re gonna catch me and then I’ll end up in prison and all the money you’re paying me won’t mean shit.”
“But at least you’ll be alive Mr Rogers,” the threat in that was evident to all of us. Rogers gulped nervously, shooting an uncertain glance my way. I circled my hand in the air, motioning for him to continue as rehearsed.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Rogers demanded, voice shaking with real nerves. “Are you gonna send your goons after me now?”
“Your lack of imagination disappoints me,” the other man replied.
“Yeah well you can’t do anything because you need me – how else are you gonna get the kind of information I can provide?” Rogers turned slightly avaricious as we’d agreed.
“Now the real motives become clear,” cultured voice said with amusement. “You want more money.”
“I think I deserve it,” Rogers whined. “This place is getting more and more risky ... I need a nice little nest egg, just in case I have to retire suddenly.”
“Get me the information I need and you’ll get double your normal fee,” the other guy replied. “And Jason – this time, don’t let me down.”
“I won’t,” Rogers promised.
“In two hours then,” cultured voice agreed, hanging up without warning.
Rogers slumped back in his chair, cringing when Ronon pinned him with the silent, threatening stare. I could see him about to speak, probably wanting to talk deal, but Ronon's hand squeezing his shoulder was an effective deterrent.
“Well?” I looked at Rodney hopefully.
“I got it,” Rodney said triumphantly. “You’re not gonna believe this – she’s practically still in Colorado!” I looked over Rodney’s shoulder as he pointed to a section of the map he had on screen. “The signal’s coming from a ranch here – just outside of Shiprock, New Mexico - halfway between us and Vegas. That’s about 7 hours by car but you can get us there much faster right? This is the air force after all.”
“I’ll speak to General Landry - take Rogers back to the Brig.” I ran from the room, barrelling down the corridor and then skidding to a stop outside the General’s door.
“We have a location Sir, 380 miles south east of here,” I announced. “If you can hook me up with transportation we can be there inside of three hours.”
“Walter, get someone from Peterson on the line,” Landry ordered. Turning back to me he added another order. “Get your team on the road Colonel. I’ll have something waiting at the base, along with suitable backup, when you arrive.”
“Thank you Sir.”
Forty five minutes later I found myself behind the controls of a HH-60G Pave Hawk, the air force’s multipurpose combat search and rescue helicopter. Teyla was beside me in the co pilots chair, her face filled with a combination of apprehension and wonder because this was a lot different from being a passenger in a Puddle Jumper. Rodney had reluctantly seated himself at flight engineering, leaving the gunners spot for Ronon. We even had back up, two teams of marines in the back section ready to assist once we landed. Daniel had wanted to come too – only my request he stay in case we needed more information from Rogers and my promise that I’d have Sabina call him once we’d rescued her convinced him to stay at the SGC.
It occurred to me as I took the most direct heading that I’d never actually flown any of my team in a conventional aircraft before. Rodney had done that mad dash in the F302 when we were being chased by the Wraith virus but that was an alien enhanced inertial dampened vehicle. This was loud and ... real - you could feel the motion all the way down to your stomach. I glanced back quickly and noted that Rodney actually looked a bit green around the gills. Ronon on the other hand looked like he was having the time of his life, despite the slightly ridiculous edge the radio headphones gave him.
“You okay McKay?” I asked over the radio everyone was tuned into.
“We’re doing close to 200 miles per hour in a giant tin can without inertial dampeners,” Rodney retorted sarcastically. “So no, I’m not okay.”
“Sabina will appreciate the sacrifice,” I said softly.
“Yeah, well she better,” Rodney muttered back.
“Can you get me any information on what we’re heading into?” I got us back to business abruptly.
“It’s a cattle ranch registered to Doctor Ethan Walker,” Rodney reported. “The ranch is pretty high tech but it looks like more of a hobby than a profitable business concern. Turns out Walker owns a number of enterprises, including BioGen – a company that specialises in genetic engineering which coincidentally happens to be one of the companies in Agent Barrett’s list.”
“I remember that one,” Ronon revealed. “They worked on another Trust project a while back. Barrett crossed them off the list because of some screw up with that. There was no mention of this Walker guy.”
“That’s because he’s quite good at altering his paper trail to hide himself,” Rodney replied. “Luckily not as good as me. Once I had Shiprock as the destination it wasn’t hard to find the owner – linking that back to BioGen? Now that was hard!”
Rodney glanced at me after he’d finished patting himself on the back. “You know, without you catching Rogers red handed selling information we wouldn’t have made Walker. Without the direct link to him, BioGen doesn’t look like a likely suspect. We’d never have come out here to look for Sabina.”
“I’ll thank Rogers for being a big mouth later,” I promised mockingly. “Do we know anything else about Walker?”
“Just that he’s a fully qualified medical doctor who specialises in genetics,” Rodney admitted. “According to Barrett’s contacts he’s ruthless and driven – the NID didn’t know about the connection between Walker and BioGen but they still had him on their watch list for Trust contracts dealing with genetics. Presumably this time Walker promised the Trust something the competition couldn’t match.”
“Access to Wraith enhanced human DNA,” I concluded. “Listen McKay, we won’t get any intel on this place before we get there so things could get a little rough. I’ll understand if you want to wait it out in here.”
“I’m good,” Rodney countered just as I’d expected. “Besides you might need me to help you break in. This guy’s the type to have a state of the art security system.”
“How long will it take to reach our destination?” Teyla asked.
“Sunset ETA is seventeen fifteen hours – about twenty minutes from now,” I reported. “Our ETA at Shiprock is nineteen hundred hours.”
“Isn’t that a kind of disadvantage for us?” Rodney asked worriedly.
“What – that it’ll be dark?” I queried. “Not really – we’ve got forward looking infrared night vision – should help us locate enemy positions before we get on the ground.”
“Do we have a plan?” Ronon asked.
“Depends on numbers,” I admitted. “We’ll do what we can to target specific positions from the air but in the end it’s probably gonna be a run and gun approach until we can get inside.”
“So pretty much business as usual then,” Rodney quipped. “Except we’re back on Earth and the enemy isn’t Wraith ... which is an advantage because once they’re down they’ll stay down.”
“Yeah, except for that,” I agreed.
“What was the purpose of the special IOA meeting?” Teyla’s question fell into the silent darkness when we were still about half an hour out from Shiprock.
“Huh?” I glanced across at her curiously before turning my gaze back to my instruments, suddenly even more grateful it was dark.
“When you were questioning Jason Rogers,” Teyla clarified. “He mentioned a special meeting Mr Woolsey was calling – you seemed to already know what it was about.”
“This’ll be good,” Rodney muttered that under his breath but it came through loud and clear over the radio. I glanced back, meeting his eyes as he looked up from his laptop in anticipation.
“Does it matter?” I asked dismissively, turning back to Teyla.
“It is clear that you do not wish to tell us,” Teyla replied. “For that reason alone it does matter.”
“It’s not like that Teyla,” I protested. “It was just a ... personal matter I needed to talk to Woolsey about. Clearly he can’t make even a simple decision without checking it with the IOA first!”
“A personal matter?” Rodney laughed. “That’s a good way of describing it.”
“McKay,” I grumbled warningly.
“What?” Rodney protested. “It’s not like you’re not gonna tell them anyway!”
“Yeah but I’d prefer it is Sabina wasn’t the last to know!” I pointed out irritably.
“Oh - right,” Rodney said weakly. “I didn’t think of that.”
“You were gonna ask her to marry you?” Ronon made the connection a few seconds before Teyla, probably because he’d asked me when I was getting married months ago. He’d worked it out without an actual response from me.
“Maybe ... yeah,” I kept my eyes fixed firmly in front of me – didn’t need them to know the others were all exchanging sympathetic looks and thinking ‘Poor John’ right about then.
“I am sorry,” Teyla put a hand on my arm consolingly.
“Me too,” I shot a quick glance at her before looking away again. “Doesn’t matter – we’ll rescue Sabina and then be back on track – just a couple of days behind schedule.”
“Yes we will,” Teyla said reassuringly, squeezing my arm before letting me go.
As soon as we got there I flew the helicopter over Walker’s ranch in a wide sweep, checking the layout and getting a reading on infrared. There were about twenty signals down there, more than I would have liked but not enough to have me looking for a different plan. I decided to land right in the front yard, ordering our marine backup to be ready to make positions as soon as the doors opened. Hopefully the blatant arrival of the Marines would be intimidating enough to put most of the hired guns off trying anything stupid.
“You guys ready?” I made eye contact with each of my team, seeing what I needed in each set of eyes. We were ready. “Okay, Ronon you cover me. Teyla, wait until we’ve made it to the porch – we’ll cover you and Rodney. McKay, stay behind Teyla – I need you to open that door. Let’s do this.”
My information about the locations for everything, including distance, directions, and how long it would take to get places by car came from Google Maps. The helicopter nformation came from the www dot af dot mil factsheet on the HH-60G pave hawk, which said it was used often for civil search and rescue. Weather information came from www dot wunderground dot com historical records. Sunset information came from www dot timeanddate dot com – again their historic records.
Being left alone for so many hours was just another strange thing to add to all the other strange events of the past two days. I'd toured the whole bottom floor of the house, drawing the attention of the ten guards I'd counted on the premises but no one had approached me or spoken to me. The only time one of them had even acknowledged my presence was when I'd gotten too close to the front door. The nearest guard had just casually drawn his weapon and held it ready as he looked at me expressionlessly ... the impression being that he had orders to shoot me if I tried to escape. It was too soon ... I was a long way from being desperate enough to test out those orders so I'd found a place to retreat, although I was never out of the direct line of sight of at least one guard.
It was early evening before Brown appeared in the doorway of the library - my chosen hiding place - where I'd been pretending to read for the previous two hours.
“Don’t tell me,” I began reluctantly. “The blood results are in.”
“Doctor Walker’s waiting in the lab,” Brown confirmed with a cruel smile.
I was nowhere near the point of just getting up and following along meekly – Brown knew it too because he didn’t wait for me to get up. Instead he strode into the room, yanked the book out of my hands and threw it onto the table. Next thing I knew he was dragging me back down the hallway.
“Doesn’t it bother you, what you’re doing?” I pulled back hard on the arm he was holding, making him work for every step.
“Not particularly,” Brown surprised me by replying. “From what Doctor Walker said there are enemies just waiting to get here and wipe us all out. One person suffering to make sure that doesn’t happen is okay with me.”
“The ends justifies the means?” I queried. “Even though that makes you just as bad as those enemies? No – actually it makes you worse because at least they’ve got the excuse of biological need.”
Brown growled low in his throat but refrained from saying anything else, the tightening of his grip on my arm enough to broadcast his displeasure at my words. The rest of the trip to the lab was silent, as was the time it took for Brown and Walker to get me back up on that examination table, strapped in just like before.
“Your blood results were just as interesting as I’d hoped,” Doctor Walker said conversationally, smiling down at me like I should be pleased about that. "Isolating the Wraith elements however was not as easy as I'd hoped."
"Maybe that's because your intel isn't as good as you think it is ... I mean, how can you be sure I even have Wraith DNA?" I tried to plant the seeds of doubt ... a long shot but maybe he'd feel the need to check his sources if I could create enough uncertainty. It wouldn't delay him much but maybe it would buy some time for John to find me.
"Oh I assure you my sources are very reliable," Walker replied, clearly amused by my attempt. "In fact I don't think you've made any friends at the IOA ... one member in particular seemed far too keen to volunteer you specifically to be a part of my bid for the Trust contract."
"You've bought someone on the IOA?" the fact surprised me deeply, as did the knowledge that I was only there because someone in a position of great trust had abused that position ... for money. It was disheartening and actually a little bit hurtful to think I'd been betrayed like that.
"Everyone is available for hire if the price is right," Walker confirmed before bringing everything back to his research. “As I said, the Wraith elements were difficult to isolate ... the serum I spent the past few months developing should have assisted in locating the Wraith parts of your DNA. Unfortunately it proved less than satisfactory in a test tube, forcing me to take a more direct route.”
I raised my head as much as I could, trying to see what he was doing, feeling sick because I suspected I knew what he was going to do next.
“Please don’t do this,” I said softly, watching as he walked towards me with a syringe all ready to go. “You have no way of knowing what that will do to me.”
“I expect it will seek out Wraith elements and place markers at the DNA level ,” Walker replied casually. “We’ll take another sample of your blood once it’s had a chance to take effect and hopefully be able to extract enough Wraith DNA to begin synthesizing.” He stood over me with an expression that had panic clawing in my throat, ready to get out if only I’d give it voice. He was enjoying this ... what’s worse, he didn’t see me as a human being – just a tool to help him win that contract. “I’m sorry my dear,” he apologised with a smarmy smile. “I’m afraid this could be quite painful.”
I turned my head away, resolutely focussing on the opposite wall as I felt the needle pierce my skin, delivering his serum in a painful rush of sensation. It didn’t take long ... probably less than five minutes later I began to feel the effects.
At first it was just a kind of itching sensation – not on my skin, but inside where I couldn’t get to it. The itching escalated into needles stabbing everywhere, making me twitch and groan despite my attempts to remain still and silent. The needles became daggers, and then the daggers fire that raged everywhere my blood flowed. I couldn’t get away from it ... there was no part of me that wasn’t affected. Even it that there were degrees though ... I could handle the sensations over arms and legs but inside my head, through my eyes? It was the worst pain I could imagine and it went on and on until I was screaming – not for it to stop but just because I couldn’t not.
You’d think with that much pain my brain would have done me the service of just shutting me off for a while but something about having fire blood flowing through my head just made that switch unavailable. I was conscious for the whole thing, although not really aware when Walker got his precious blood samples and approached me with a new syringe.
“We have what we need for now,” Walker commented to Brown. “This will neutralise the effects of the serum. After all it wouldn’t do to damage our subject just yet. We may need to do this a number of times before I get what I require.”
He might have injected something to turn off the first thing but it wasn’t taking affect yet. I was still screaming, only peripherally aware when one of Walker's men appeared at the door, speaking to Walker in a low tone. I didn't catch what they were saying but the expression on Walker's face spoke volumes. He was majorly pissed about something - in fact he and Brown didn’t even give me a second glance as they ran from the room, leaving me strapped to the table and still in agony.
I don’t know how much time passed before I finally felt like I was beginning to return back to myself. It still hurt like a son of a bitch but I no longer needed to scream. That gave me mental space to start focussing on what was happening outside the room ... I could hear gunshots, automatic weapons fire and lots of shouting. And suddenly I knew.
John had found me.
Emotions swirled up inside as I began straining against my restraints. I knew that if John found me like that he’d have a meltdown and even though there was little chance I could get myself free I still had to try. By that stage I was crying in frustration, yanking at those restraints as hard as I could but they just wouldn’t budge.
“Sabina,” John stood in the doorway looking at me, his expression strangely blank and difficult to read.
“J – Jo – hn – n,” I stuttered in a voice so far from my own as to be almost unrecognisable. My throat was raw from screaming, clogged up from crying and choppy because no matter how hard I tried to control it I was still twitching and shivering because of Walkers serum.
And then he was beside me, quickly undoing the restraints at my wrists and ankles before pulling me up and into his arms. I clung to him in a rigid hold, burying my head in that space beside neck and shoulder. John didn’t say anything, just let me cry and shake and twitch while he anchored me.
“Sheppard,” Ronon’s voice came from the doorway. I looked up suddenly – I’d been so focussed on John I couldn’t have told you whether he was alone or with a whole team of marines. “We've secured the ground floor but there are still men holed up on the second floor.”
"Twelve," I stuttered out, meeting Ronon's eyes and hoping he'd understand the message I was trying to convey - that there were ten guards inside plus Walker and Brown.
"Six men on the second floor," Ronon revised, his expression a mix of approval and murderous rage. Whoever those six men were, they'd better hope someone other than Ronon came to apprehend them. Ronon continued when John nodded wordlessly. "Teyla questionned the ones we've captured ... none of them is Walker."
“Make sure they can't get off the second floor," John ordered. "I’ll be there in a minute.” Ronon nodded once, shot an unreadable glance my way, and then left us alone.
John returned all his attention back to me and I could see how torn he was. Part of him wanted to stay but the rest wanted to be out there exacting revenge on the people responsible. In the end it was the second part that was driving him the most. “I need to finish this ... can you hold on for just a little bit longer?”
Not trusting my voice I nodded an agreement. Now that he was there, now that I believed the whole nightmare was over, I found some of that core strength I’d lost during the day. Walker was still at large and although I hated to admit it to myself, that fact made me nervous - and all I wanted was for John to take care of everything so I'd stop feeling that way.
"Teyla" John radioed, giving her directions to the lab as soon a she responded. Neither of us spoke for the few minutes it took for Teyla to arrive.
Hugging me tightly for a few seconds John reluctantly pulled away. “I’ll be back in a few minutes,” he promised, gazing at me wordlessly for a moment before turning and running from the room.
Teyla said nothing at first, putting her P90 on the table so she could help me across to the nearest chair. Kneeling down in front of me she watched with concern for a few moments. “Are you well Sabina?”
“I don’t k- know,” I admitted, my voice finally almost stutter free. Not wanting to talk about that I quickly changed the subject. “How did you guys f-find me?”
“Doctor Walker had an informant inside the SGC,” Teyla revealed. “Rodney was able to trace a call to this location.”
“Did John -,” I broke off, not sure what I wanted to ask.
“Rodney managed to bypass the security system on the front door,” Teyla explained. “Our arrival from the air was quite ... loud and most of Walker's men had already retreated inside the house before Colonel Sheppard landed. We heard you screaming ... John proceeded immediately to your position, leaving Ronon and I, along with two teams of marines, to subdue Walker’s forces. I believe Rodney is accessing the computer system as we speak.”
“Oh,” I frowned worriedly, “so John didn’t confront any of Walker’s men?” That put a different spin on things ... I'd assumed John had already had the chance to vent some of his anger breaking in and getting to me. The fact that he hadn't sent nerves charging through me ... God, what would he do if he was the one to find Walker?
“I assume he is confronting the rest of them as we speak,” Teyla confirmed my own thoughts.
“I need to get out of here,” I announced suddenly, already dragging myself to my feet.
“You should rest,” Teyla advised, putting a hand under my elbow to steady me when I swayed dizzily.
“I should -,”
“Ah Ms Scott,” Walker’s voice greeted us from the doorway. “How nice that you’re still with us.”
Crap! I looked up to see him standing there, shiny gun pointing right at us. Teyla’s abandoned P90 sat on the table out of reach, mocking us for not being on guard as we should have.
“You surprise me,” I ground out, letting my anger crowd out the nerves. “I would have thought a man like you would run away at the first gunshot.”
“Ever the antagonist,” Walker took a few steps into the room, keeping the gun trained on both Teyla and I. “I decided some insurance was warranted to guarantee my safe departure.”
“Of course,” I kept my eyes on Walker instead of the doorway where John had silently reappeared.
“Please move away from your friend,” Walker ordered. “I will kill her if you don’t cooperate.”
“Okay,” I agreed easily, closing the distance and putting myself between Teyla and the point of Walker’s gun. “What now?”
“Now you come with me,” Walker smiled confidently. He gestured with the gun for me to get moving. That’s when I deliberately looked straight at John, knowing Walker wouldn’t be able to resist turning to see what I was looking at.
He took his eyes off me for a second. I didn’t give him a chance to register John’s presence, using his moment of inattention to snap a high kick at his wrist that sent his gun flying. Of course I wasn’t really up to that level of activity and the pain radiating all over me when I landed had me groaning weakly.
Walker was fully focussed back on me, anger pulsing off him as he used my less than stellar condition to make a grab at me.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” John’s voice was deadly and sure, his own weapon now pointed at the back of Walker’s head. Walker froze, realising my glance behind him hadn’t actually been a ruse after all.
“Colonel Sheppard I presume,” he sneered mockingly. “Just in time to witness the end of your girlfriend’s life but not in time to save her.”
John shot a worried glance at me ... I shook my head, letting him know without words that I was okay, that Walker was just bluffing – well at least I hoped he was bluffing. John’s response was to press the butt of his gun harshly into Walker’s head.
“Nice try,” he drawled. “I’m sure your future cellmates will find you particularly entertaining.”
“There is nowhere you can send me where money will not buy my release,” Walker laughed smugly. “Given your own background I’m sure you can appreciate the power my resources command.”
“I wouldn’t be too sure of that if I were you,” John retorted. I deliberately smiled a smug smile of my own, right in Walkers line of sight because surely he had no idea of how far away from his money and his thugs we could send him.
“There are other ... personal favours one can bestow with the right incentive," Walker shifted tack, sharing a conspirators glance with me. "Something your girlfriend appreciates ... isn’t that right Sabina?”
I felt the red haze of anger swamping me when I worked out what he meant. He was suggesting to John that I’d tried to bargain my way out of there with sexual favours. That slimy scumbag bastard! Charging forward I was brought up short when Teyla grabbed me from behind, holding me back.
“No,” she said in that low commanding voice she uses. I struggled to break free but she was too strong.
The sound of John’s gun cocking was loud enough to stop everything.
“I was already this close to pulling the trigger,” John spoke in a harsh quiet tone, snapping his fingers sharply in Walker’s ear.
Walker froze, his expression suggesting he hadn’t expected that response – did he really believe John would be taken in by the crap he was spinning?
“The only thing stopping me was not making a mess in front of Sabina. But now? Take a look Walker,” John taunted. “Sabina looks like she’d kind of enjoy the show – doesn’t she?”
“You won’t shoot me in cold blood in front of witnesses,” Walker wasn’t quite as confident now.
“What witnesses?” John laughed harshly, pushing Walker down to his knees and pressing his gun firmly to Walker’s temple.