My next visitor was Teyla and I could see after only a few moments of conversation that something was troubling her.
“Sabina,” she greeted me with her usual grace as she took the seat next to my bed.
“Teyla, how are you feeling?” I asked, hoping everything was all right with her pregnancy. She was about four months along, now with a baby bump visible no matter what she was wearing and that radiance they say all pregnant women exhibit that I’d never noticed before her.
“I am well,” Teyla replied firmly. “The sickness is long gone as has the need for additional sleep ... in fact I am feeling just a strong as I always do.”
“Ah ... okay,” I looked at her in concern, not used to such a vehement response from her. “Is something bothering you?”
“The mission,” Teyla admitted reluctantly. “I asked Colonel Sheppard to be included and he refused.”
“Did he say why?” I carefully didn’t comment on whether I thought John had made the right call or not.
“He believes that my desire to continue off world missions has more to do with finding my people, with finding Kanaan, than it does with continuing to work now that I am expecting a child,” Teyla revealed.
“And what do you think?” I looked at her curiously, wondering what she’d admit to.
“Perhaps there is some truth in his opinion,” Teyla said with a sigh. “But Athosian women in general do remain very active throughout their pregnancies. It would not be unusual for us to use the ring of the Ancestors even in the days leading up to giving birth.”
“I don’t think John’s concerns stem from the risks of Gate travel,” I said mildly. “Going on a trading mission to people you know is just a little different from heading out to what could be a Wraith trap, don’t you think?”
“The risk of contact with the Wraith was always there,” Teyla reminded me of the cloud her people had always lived under.
“Still ... this is a lot different,” I insisted. “I’m not defending John’s actions here because he could have talked to you about everything instead of just ordering you be taken off the active duty list. But if you’d asked for my opinion I would have agreed with the sentiment. Going out seeking the Wraith is dangerous at the best of times and I can’t believe you’d willingly put your child at risk like that.”
“Of course not,” Teyla insisted. “But not every mission will carry that same risk.” Before I could say more Teyla leant forward and put a hand on my arm apologetically. “I should not be burdening you with my concerns."
“You're not burdening me," I returned insistently. "I know it's hard to see the emotion behind some of John's actions at times but ... your friendship is very important to him Teyla. You're important to him."
"I know Sabina," Teyla smiled at my attempts to reassure her. "Do not be concerned ... John and I will resolve these issues in time and our friendship be as it was." Changing the subject she looked at me closely before continuing. "You are looking much better than the last time I sat with you. It is good to see you doing so well.”
"Sorry I can’t remember your last visit,” I said with a self deprecating smile. “Apart from today the whole thing is just a little fuzzy.”
“You do not recall what happened before you awoke?” Teyla asked in surprise.
“Everything up to the point the Wraith beam swept over us is crystal clear,” I explained. “It’s whatever’s been happening since then that’s not all there – I might have had moments of consciousness but it’s all a blank to me.”
“Perhaps that is for the best,” Teyla said with a smile.
“I guess,” I agreed reluctantly. “Tell me what else has been going on around here the past couple of days.”
Teyla stayed with me chatting amicably until we heard that John had returned to Atlantis ahead of schedule and alone. Teyla headed up to the control room to find out more without having to ask John directly – a blatant avoidance strategy I didn’t call her up on. I sat back and waited for John to stop by and tell me what was going on.
It didn’t take long ... he must have gone straight from reporting in with Sam to the infirmary with no stops in between to get to me so fast.
“You look good,” John greeted me with a pleased smile, putting a hand behind my head so he could raise me up for a kiss hello.
“And you look somewhat pained,” I said when he sat back and looked at me. “How come you’re back so early and where’s Rodney and the others?”
“The Hive ship was completely deserted,” John explained. “It’s damaged – they had a battle with another Hive ship, reason unknown. Needs a good cleaning too – don’t ask why – but with a little bit of work it looks like we’ve scored ourselves a new ship.”
“This is just typical!” the frustration kicked in immediately as I worked out all the implications at lightning speed. “You pick now – when I’m out of action big time – to find a Wraith ship? I could have flown it and helped fix it but instead I’m stuck here!”
“I knew you were gonna react like this which is why I came back instead of sending Lorne,” John replied, putting a hand over mine and squeezing firmly. “I know you want to be the one to do this but there is no way you can so you’re just gonna have to deal with it.”
“You’ll have to ask Teyla,” I commented, frowning in concern. “Is that such a good idea? It takes a lot out of you to control Wraith technology ... what does Jennifer say?”
“Yes I’ll be asking Teyla and no it’s probably not a good idea but we don’t have another one,” John returned. “I haven’t had a chance to ask Jennifer for an opinion yet and I’m not sure I want to, given she has nothing to go on.”
“I’m gonna feel so guilty if this has any kind of negative impact on Teyla,” I warned him. “Plus I think she’s still mad at you for not letting her go on the mission in the first place. Asking her to do this is gonna hurt just a little.”
“I know that too,” John sighed reluctantly before getting up again. “No point in putting it off. Listen ... we might be out there a while. I don’t know how long it’ll take to get the ship flight worthy enough to make it back here. Just ... do what Keller says, okay?”
“Of course I will,” I promised. “Please be careful.”
“Always am,” John bent and kissed me once, leaning his forehead against mine with a sigh before reluctantly straightening again. “I’ll make this a quick as I can,” he promised, nodding to a returning Jennifer on his way out.
“He’s heading out again already?” Jennifer asked in surprise.
“After he talks to Teyla,” I replied. “Do you think there’s likely to be a problem if Teyla operates Wraith technology while she’s pregnant?”
“Ah ... I don’t have anything concrete to back this up but I’d guess no,” Jennifer replied thoughtfully. “The neural aspect of Wraith technology is based on a similar concept to Ancient technology. You couldn’t have lived here in the past without making use of the ATA gene and I haven’t seen any evidence to suggest they restricted pregnant women in any way.”
“That makes sense,” I said in relief.
“Is Teyla going somewhere with Wraith technology?” Jennifer asked curiously.
“They found an abandoned Hive ship,” I revealed. “Rodney and the others are back there getting it ready to fly. I’m stuck here and the only other person who can operate it is Teyla.”
“Yes you are stuck here,” Jennifer said sternly. “And I think it’s about time you had another rest. Don’t forget this is your first day back from unconsciousness.
“Fine,” I shifted back down in the bed with a sigh. “Only this time don’t give me the drugs okay – they make me loopy and I can rest without them.”
“See that you do or I’ll come back with the big needle,” Jennifer returned with a smile. "If you're good I'll move you to a private room first thing tomorrow."
Lying back with my eyes to the ceiling I thought about John talking with Teyla, about them all being on a Hive ship for who knew how long. Somewhere in the midst of those thoughts I drifted into sleep.
The next day passed without contact from John’s team ... we were half way through the following day before I got word that they had returned. Impatient to see him I had my legs half out of bed to go find him when John finally arrived at the doorway of my private room.
“Where do you think you’re going?” he scolded. “Back into bed!”
“You’re okay,” I let him fuss with tucking me back in as I cast a glance over him, happy to find no new injuries. “What happened? Where’s the Hive ship?”
“Good to see the gossip machine is working nicely,” John quipped. “We crashed the ship into a Wraith facility we stumbled across in their database ... huge Wraith cloning facility which explains how they were able to win the war with the Ancients through sheer force of numbers. Todd stayed back at the Replicator home world and picked up three ZPM’s – enough to power the facility for the first time in 10,000 years. We had no choice but to use the Hive ship as a bomb before they could produce a new mega army. Todd escaped or got captured, we don’t know which.”
“Todd?” I queried with a frown.
“Our Wraith friend,” John explained.
“Todd?” I said again, looking at him expectantly.
“Yes I named him,” John admitted. “I knew a Todd in college – he was very pale.”
“Well it’s a step up from calling him ‘our Wraith friend’,” I commented. “I never liked that.”
John sat down then and gave me a run down on the entire mission, including the fact that Teyla had baby enhanced Wraith tech control and that she’d taken over the mind of the Queen with apparent ease to rescue them.
“It’s lucky I wasn’t there then,” I admitted thoughtfully. “I don’t know if I could have done that as easily even under the best of circumstances, meaning ...”
“Meaning Rodney would have been Wraith food already,” John finished. “The whole thing was a little creepy. Lucky for Teyla I shot the Queen just in time. Teyla said just a moments hesitation and that Queen would have killed her baby.”
“Oh my God,” I exclaimed in horrified disbelief. “They can do that?”
“Apparently,” John agreed. “Teyla was pretty upset but Jennifer's already checked her out and everything is fine. She was lucky ... this time.”
“Sounds like you were all lucky,” I pointed out.
“Yeah, well the end result is Teyla said she understands why I took her off the team now,” John concluded. “Not the way I would have chosen to get to that position but I’ll take it. We agreed I would have the final say on what missions she goes on and in return she gets some chances to be out there gathering intel on her people.”
“I can’t believe we missed out on yet another chance to acquire new technology,” I added. “Anyone would think there’s some kind of conspiracy to prevent us from advancing too much.”
“Maybe,” John allowed, humouring me. He was silent for a few moments before speaking again. “It’s a boy.”
“Teyla’s having a boy?” I smiled at the idea, knowing how pleased she would be. “I thought she didn’t want to find that out until the birth.”
“He told her,” John revealed.
“Okay now I’m officially freaked out,” I said incredulously. “I can’t see how that’s possible! Not that I think Teyla would mislead us or anything.”
“She seemed pretty certain,” John replied, “so I think we have to take it at face value. Enough of that - tell me how you’re doing.”
I settled back, happy to humour him.
And now we see part of the reason I had to injure Sabina ... I really wanted Teyla to be the one to fly that Wraith ship but there's no way Sabina would have allowed it ... unless she couldn't do it herself!
Chapter 42: If you can respond, now would be the time
It took another three weeks but finally I was cleared for light duty ... which basically meant John and Sam agreed I could start spending a few hours each day in the Ancient library. After a week or so of that hopefully they’d clear me for full duty ... not that I cared that much. I’d been out of action for a whole month already and being able to do anything other than sit around ‘recovering’ had me almost dizzy with anticipation.
As soon as I sat down at the viewing chamber and spotted the book I’d left inside I remembered that interesting titbit of information I’d found just before everything went to hell. I’d meant to tell John about it but in all the confusion of getting injured I’d completely forgotten. Rereading the passage that had caught my interest I nodded at the confirmation of what I’d originally deduced. The passage was referring to a room on Atlantis where it was possible to gain access to their transformed ancestors.
To me that could only mean one thing ... Ascended Ancients.
The passage referred to the room as having many purposes, describing it as a place of ‘experiential learning and wisdom’. Again I didn’t think it was much of a stretch to work out that meant the Hologram Room.
It was an easy walk from the Library down there and I couldn’t see the harm in just taking a quick look before I told John about it. In all likelihood it would turn out to be nothing anyway ... if they could have spoken with their ancestors then surely they’d have been able to convince them to help save Atlantis from the Wraith?
Closing down the viewing chamber again I stood slowly and made my way towards the doors. Before I could get there an alarm started blaring out and the doors slammed shut.
“What the?” I muttered under my breath, standing next to the control panel and swiping my hand over it to no effect. “John?” I tapped my earpiece to make contact. “I’m here in the library and the doors just locked.” There was no reply, no static, nothing to indicate my words had been transmitted anywhere. “John, are you reading me?”
Okay, so the radios weren’t working either ... the alarm had been a familiar sounding one. When I thought back I realised it was the same one I’d heard way back in our first year when the nanovirus had made its original appearance – the quarantine lockdown. The city had detected some kind of biological threat and sealed off sections of the city to protect everyone. For some reason communications had also been affected.
Moving back to the viewing chamber I accessed the control console located beside it ... normally it was just for book cataloguing and searching but it was a fully functional console so I’d be able to tap into the main systems and find out what was going on.
Bringing up a map of the city the scope of the lockdown revealed had me sitting up worriedly. This wasn’t some little isolated incident I’d been caught up in. In fact the city had categorised it as a level five quarantine. I didn’t know the specifics of how a biological threat qualified for the various ratings but I was pretty sure level five was very serious because it looked like the whole city had been affected. Wishing I’d been somewhere with other people around I sat back and considered my options. No radios meant no one could communicate to coordinate any kind of response. Everyone would assume that Rodney and the rest of the science and medical teams would be responding but they’d be cut off too. Even with full access to everything they needed they might not be able to resolve whatever had caused the lockdown and return the city to normal status.
What to do? It’d be handy if I could find out what the specific threat had been so I could work out if there was anything I could do from my position. I was on one of the top floors in the South Tower which was still part of the central complex but a long way from the Control Room if all the doors between here and there were locked. It was unlikely I’d be able to do much but I still thought it worth checking things out.
After a few minutes of digging I was no more enlightened even though I had a better idea of the situation. There had been ionising radiation detected in the atmosphere above Atlantis earlier in the day and it seemed to have affected the systems. That meant there probably wasn’t even an outbreak although I couldn’t confirm it one hundred percent.
Someone in the Control Room would have already worked all that out ... the only problem was that if Rodney himself wasn’t there and he didn’t have access to a computer no one would be able to shut off the lockdown and reset the systems because they wouldn’t have Rodney’s password. Although ... a vague recollection of a conversation with John floated up from my memory. He’d mentioned Rodney telling him his password because he’d been complaining about a staff member who continually had to have theirs reset when they kept forgetting it. Rodney had been showing off his memory system by explaining his own password which John said was a series of key years in scientific history plus a tongue in cheek reference to The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. Rodney wouldn’t think so but I knew John would remember ... if it was anything to do with numbers he had scarily good recall.
Not knowing what was going on was actually pretty stressful. I spent the next half hour waiting anxiously for the lockdown to be switched off. When it wasn’t I could only think that the people needed to shut it down were too cut off ... which included John. He’d been planning to play a few games of computer golf with Rodney that morning so in all likelihood he was in Rodney’s lab – surely they’d be able to fix things from there. Unless the quarantine was real and something was wrong with them.
“Don’t go there,” I urged myself aloud, actively turning my thoughts away from that disturbing direction.
Should I try to do something more than just sit and dig around in the computer? That was the question ... and I didn’t have an answer so I turned back to the computer and looked for anything that would tell me what was happening elsewhere in the city.
That’s when I discovered that the beacon was broadcasting a ‘stay away’ disease alert through subspace. Crap! We’d have Hive ships descending on us if someone didn’t switch that off.
And then I froze as the thought finally occurred to me.
Just because the usual communications were down didn’t mean I couldn’t communicate – with John at least! Cursing the fact that I hadn't done it as soon as I realised the main system was offline ... had all that blood I'd lost weeks before scrambled my brain too? ... I put my hands on the console hand pads and linked myself in mentally. Using the sensor system to find John amongst all the other signals being detected, I locked on to him and tried to make contact.
“John?” I thought as strongly as I could. I waited a few seconds before continuing. “John ... I know you may not be able to respond and I don’t know if you’re near a computer or anything but the subspace beacon is broadcasting a disease warning. Someone has to switch if off ... I hope you can remember Rodney’s password because you’ll need it to get access ... plus it has to be someone in the Control Room who shuts it off. I might be able to give them the password via you but that relies on you being able to give it to me mentally so ... if you can respond, now would be the time.”
Waiting a few more seconds without getting anything back I had to give it up as probably a lost cause. Things had been different on Larrin’s ship – John had been sitting in the control chair when I’d initially made contact mentally and reusing what I’d shown him even when he wasn’t had been difficult but he’d done it because it was all fresh in his mind. That had been months ago and we hadn’t practiced since then so I could hardly expect him to be able to do the same thing here. Atlantis was a lot bigger too – that shouldn’t make a difference but for an untrained person the scope of everything available if you just let yourself be open to the whole city would be overwhelming. Even if John managed to get that far he’d probably struggle to find me amidst the vastness that was Atlantis.
We were more than an hour into the lockdown when I decided to do a general check of life signs, see if anyone was located close by – I hadn't done it before because I knew I wouldn't be able to get to them. Now that I'd been stuck in the library by myself for so long I was thinking it would be reassuring to know I wasn’t the only person in the South Tower.
Calling up the map of Atlantis I requested life signs and watched as little yellow circles appeared dotting across the whole city. Naturally I looked more closely at the main tower first ... and spotted one little yellow dot appearing to move from one floor to the next up the tower. Since I knew that was impossible from the inside it left only one possible explanation.
Someone was climbing up the outside of the tower.
There was only one person I knew with both the skill and the gutsy stupidity to think they could pull it off. Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard.
“Talk about crazy, stupid, ... crazy stunts!” I complained aloud. I wanted to get back on the mental communication channel and blast him but that would hardly be helpful given his current position. Instead I was forced to watch helplessly as the dot that was my reckless husband made steady progress up the tower, arriving a few minutes later on the main level and joining the other dots inside the control room. Sinking back to my chair in relief I promised myself I’d have a few choice words to say to him when I saw him next!
Looking at the rest of the life signs map I noticed a dot on the same level as me but one tower over. The only reason it drew my attention was because Atlantis had put a red circle around it. Zooming in on that section I drew a sharp breath at what the map was apparently telling me. It looked like the dot was on top of one of the quarantine bulkheads ... the only way that could have happened was if someone had been unable to get out of the way when they’d slammed into place. The red circle must be some kind of signal to alert us to a weakness in the quarantine lockdown.
They were too close for me not to want to help ... only trouble was I was still stuck inside the Library. Frantically I tried to think of something ... anything that would help.
The retractable walkways! There were walkways that could be extended between the main towers - we never kept ours up but I vividly recalled the sight of Asuras retracting theirs in preparation for flying their city. I was on the top floor so there should be a walkway I could activate to connect me to the next tower.
Hurriedly putting my hands on the console I called up the program and tried to get the walkway to extend. With the lockdown in place a simple request didn’t cut it so I went in deeper and tried to communicate with the city on a more personal level. Caritas had said I’d be surprised at what I could do if I opened myself to the city and I relied on the promise in that to do what I needed. It wasn’t actual words but somehow I explained what was needed and that the risks to anyone else were minimal because the walkway would be outside and I’d only have access to that one room on the other side. I wasn’t up to full strength so I was shaking with the mental effort required, throwing everything into pleading with the city to do what I wanted.
Finally I got confirmation and heard the welcome sound of mechanical movement outside the closest external door which swung open a second later, revealing a walkway leading to the next tower. Just in time too because the computer in the Library suddenly shut down at the same time that the self destruct sequence began.
“Great!” I yelled, running out the door and across to the other tower as fast as I could.
The door on the other side was open too and I rushed into what turned out to be a small storage room used by the kitchen staff.
“Help?” a tearful voice called out from the doorway. Shifting around the shelves I spotted Private Amanda Jones, one of the air force personnel permanently assigned to the kitchen, lying on the floor. One leg was trapped under the bulkhead door along with a large metal storage container that was crushed to half its usual height. Without that Amanda’s leg would have been amputated by the bulkhead and with the rest of her on the storage room side she would have bled to death before anyone had gotten to her.
“Amanda,” I dropped down beside her with a reassuring smile, hardly noticing when the self destruct alarm switched off because my focus was entirely on the situation in front of me.
“Oh Sabina - thank God!” Amanda looked up, her face tear streaked and pale with pain. “I tried to get free but I couldn’t get my foot clear.”
The sound of metal groaning was too loud in that little room and we both glanced worriedly at the door.
“That’s been happening the whole time,” Amanda admitted weakly. “Every time it does I feel the door pressing down on my leg a little harder.”
“The storage box is being flattened by the pressure?” I asked worriedly, frowning when she nodded unhappily. “Okay, let me see if I can find something to use as a lever so you can pull yourself clear.”
Looking around I quickly worked out the only thing useful was the shelves themselves. It took me a few minutes to dismantle one enough to make in manoeuvrable, the sounds of that box steadily being crushed urging me on.
“Okay, let’s try this,” I announced, going over to wedge one end under the door. “As soon as you feel the pressure ease try and pull your leg clear. Ready?”
“Yes,” Amanda said nervously, raising herself onto her elbows and getting ready to pull herself clear.
“Three, two, one,” I counted down before leaning my entire weight on my end of the lever. “Come on,” I grunted out, straining to apply all my strength to the task.
“It’s working!” Amanda exclaimed. “Just a little more ...”
Working even harder I could feel the pressure all the way through to my face and I’m sure I was red and a little scary as I practically growled at the effort.
“Yes!” Amanda cried, shifting herself clear of the door. Quickly kicking the box out from under the door I dropped the lever and slumped down on the floor next to her, breathing hard. “Thank you,” Amanda said tearfully. “I really thought I was going to die trapped under that door. I don’t know how you found me but I can’t tell you how grateful I am you did.”
“I was in the Library in the next Tower – checked the life signs just to see who else was about,” I told her, still recovering from the exertion. Four weeks away from my usual routine had taken a lot off my fitness level. Along with the physical therapy I was already doing on my shoulder having to build myself back to full fitness really sucked. Not that I’d actively complain about it of course – didn’t mean I had to like it though.
“Well that was really lucky for me,” Amanda said with a smile.
“I should check your leg,” I shifted to kneel down beside her, raising her trouser leg after getting a nod of permission from her. Her lower leg was swollen and badly bruised but there was no sign of bleeding which was good. “I know this probably hurts a lot but it looks like you’ve been really lucky – I don’t think it’s broken although the bruising it pretty bad. We’ll get Doctor Keller to check you out as soon as we get out of here.”
“Wasn’t that the self destruct alarm just before you got here?” Amanda reminded me.
“Yeah, but they've switched it off now,” I said casually, not telling her they could do that without actually deactivating the device. “Look, there’s nowhere else we can go for now so we might as well sit back and relax.”
“I guess,” Amanda leant her head back against the wall and sighed tiredly.
“Got any chocolate in here?” I asked hopefully after a few moments of silence.
“Top shelf over there,” Amanda said with a laugh. “I think you’ve earned a life time pass for chocolate whenever you want it!”
“Cool!” I shared a big grin with her as I reached up for a couple of bars. Sitting back down and offering her one I added “don’t tell John though ... he’s not above using chocolate as a Rodney McKay management tool which would seriously deplete your stores.”
“Of course,” Amanda replied in amusement.
I have no idea how heavy those doors that slammed down during Quarantine would actually be, not how much downward pressure they'd exert ... in all likelihood the 'storage container stuck and holding the door open' premise I used in this chapter is unrealistic BUT still ... haven't you always wondered what would happen if someone didn't get out of the way fast enough? On the show those doors appeared to activate pretty rapidly and usually with little warning. So I decided to play with that idea a bit here ...
Chapter 43: I saw your climb up the tower
Having Amanda for company made the waiting more bearable – it was probably another half an hour before my radio finally crackled to life simultaneous with the door shooting upwards and ending our captivity.
“Sabina, are you okay?” John’s voice sent relief coursing through me.
“Yes,” I replied quickly. “What about you?”
“Of course,” he said casually. “Stay there - I’m only a minute away from the Library now.”
“Ah, I’m not exactly in the Library anymore,” I admitted reluctantly ... not that John would mind I'd come over to help Amanda. When he realised how hard I'd had to exert myself though ... well, that would be a different story.
“What?” John demanded. “The place was locked down – where the hell are you?”
“Long story,” I looked at Amanda with a shrug. “When you get to the library look out the external door.”
Getting up I went to my side of the doorway and waited for John to appear, motioning him over when he did.
“This wasn’t here before,” John announced when he got close enough.
“I made it happen,” I said proudly. “Cool huh?”
“Ah I guess,” John said with a confused expression. “Why didn’t you just stay in the Library?”
“Because there was someone over here who needed help,” I explained, grabbing his hand and drawing him fully into the room. “Amanda was caught by surprise when the bulkhead lowered – got her leg stuck under the door and was lucky enough one of the storage containers she was moving got stuck under there too. It wasn’t that far away so I ah ... convinced the city to let me come over here.”
“You convinced the city?” John raised an eyebrow expectantly.
“It likes me, remember?” I dismissed casually, not wanting to go into details with Amanda as a witness.
“Okay,” John turned to Amanda questioningly. “How you doing there Jones?”
“Better since your wife arrived Sir,” Amanda replied.
“She tends to have that affect on everyone," John quipped, shooting a teasing glance my way before he refocused on Amanda. "Well, let’s get someone down here to check out that leg,” he turned away and made radio contact with the control room, requesting a team come up to collect Private Jones.
I noticed immediately when he spotted the lever I’d used and worked out how I’d actually gotten Amanda free. “You levered the door up?” John asked quietly.
“I had to,” I insisted defensively. “That storage box wasn’t going to hold much longer – she could have lost her leg!”
“And you’re still recovering from a serious chest wound!” John retorted irritably. “Did you even think about that?”
“Not really,” I admitted. “I’m fine though, see?” I raised my arms out from my sides and swung them back and forth, wincing as muscles pulled uncomfortably. Seeing John’s knowing look I quickly lowered my arms again and shrugged. “Okay so maybe I might have put a little more strain on myself that I should have but I really am okay.”
“We’ll let Jennifer be the judge of that,” John used a tone that made it clear there was no point in arguing. “I’ll take you there myself.”
“Okay, but not until the medics get here,” I insisted, acquiescing good naturedly.
We stayed until help arrived and I knew Amanda was being taken care of ... only then did I let John draw me away.
John escorted me purposefully to the infirmary where Jennifer examined me, checking both wound sites and frowning when I couldn’t help but groan a little as she tested my muscles much as I’d tested them myself.
“Let’s get you under the scanner,” she decided thoughtfully.
I’d been in that scanner too many times over the past weeks but lay still without protest while the blue lights flashed over me. Jennifer left us alone for a few minutes to go over the results.
“I saw your climb up the tower,” I told John while we waited.
“Huh?” John looked at me in surprise.
“I was checking life signs,” I explained. “That’s how I found Amanda. Before that though I saw one lone dot moving up the outside of the tower – that was you right?”
“It was the only way I could get up to the Control Room,” John pointed out. “I’d already spotted the subspace beacon when you made contact – I tried for a few minutes to give you Rodney’s password but when you didn’t reply I knew it hadn’t worked and I didn’t think there was time for me to keep trying so I came up with a different plan.”
“Yeah well at the time all I was thinking was how crazy you are and how I was gonna blast you as soon as I saw you,” I admitted ruefully. “Funny thing is I don’t feel like doing that anymore.”
“We both did what we thought was necessary,” John acknowledged in understanding.
“Sometimes the necessary comes over as insane,” I added. “I don’t even want to think about the risks you took today and I’m glad I didn’t have to watch you do that climb in person.”
“But I was good,” John said smugly, obviously still very pleased with himself. “Very Spider Man. And you should have seen Lorne’s face when I turned up in the Control Room. Of course I also set off the self destruct by breaching the quarantine but we had to shut off that beacon.”
“How did you shut it off?” I asked curiously. John was about to answer but he didn’t get the chance.
“Well Sabina,” Jennifer returned with a pleased smile. “You did strain a couple of muscles but you haven’t done any damage around either wound site. You’ll have to ease up on your recovery program so it’s set you back a few days but you’re good to go.”
“Thanks Doc,” John spoke for both of us, grabbing my hand and helping me off the examination bed.
“You too tired to get something to eat?” John asked as we walked down the corridor.
“I am a bit tired but it’s been a pretty lonely day,” I told him. “I wouldn’t mind some busy time in the Mess with everyone else.”
We took our usual spot and were joined soon after by Teyla and Ronon and then by Radek.
I listened with delight as the story of Radek’s heroics were relived, pleased to see him in the spotlight for a change. Teyla had been stuck in Rodney’s lab the whole time and Ronon in the infirmary with Jennifer so they were hearing the story for the first time too.
“You crawled the entire way there in those tiny vents?” Teyla asked him incredulously.
“I'm surprised he even fit in there,” Ronon commented.
“Oh, he fit, all right,” John said with a smile. “There's plenty of room.”
“Well, not plenty,” Radek disagreed, enjoying his moments of heroic fame.
“You should have seen him,” John talked it up. “He looked like one of those little hamsters in one of those ...”
“Yes, yes, yes, yes,” Radek interrupted. “Listen, the important thing is I was able to make it and shut off the power in time.”
“Hey, d'you hear?” Ronon turned to Teyla with an amused smirk. “McKay thought it was a real outbreak. He even started getting sick! Thought he was, um ...”
“Interesting,” I thought, watching as Ronon stopped talking, his expression almost uncomfortable as he took his feet off the chair beside him. The reason became apparent when Jennifer arrived at our table with a smile.
“Hey, uh ...,” It was the first time I could recall Ronon actually wanting to say something but not having the words.
“Hi,” Jennifer smiled at everyone. “Mind if I join you?”
“Sure, go ahead,” John invited.
Jennifer glanced at Ronon with an unreadable expression before sitting down next to him. Ronon looked uncomfortable, even more so when he noticed we were all watching him curiously.
“What?” he demanded belligerently.
“Nothin',” John glanced at me with an amused look. We were bothing thinking the same things. Ronon had a thing for Jennifer? Closely followed by - what had they gotten up to stuck in the infirmary together for so many hours?
More subtle Ronon ribbing probably would have continued but Colonel Carters’ approach put an end to it.
“Well, it's been several hours now and there’s no indication that anyone out there's picked up our alert beacon,” she announced with a relieved smile. “I think we're in the clear.”
“Well, we should keep an eye out, just in case,” John advised.
“Great work, Radek,” Sam complimented, patting him on the shoulder. “Everyone on this base owes you a debt of gratitude.”
“Oh, thank you,” Radek smiled up at her, equal parts admiration and pleasure at her attention.
“McKay would love this,” John turned to me with a grin.
“Probably not,” I agreed with a smile. “But it’s about time someone else got the chance to show what they can do ... and it’s about time Rodney got a break from always having to be the one to come up with the last minute solution.”
“Yeah it certainly was different,” John agreed, putting his arm around me and pulling me into his side.
Later that night when we were stretched out together, tired but not sleeping, I remembered what I’d found out about the Hologram room. For the second time something had distracted me from sharing it and I really wanted to tell John before anything else could happen.
“I found something interesting in the library,” I said softly into the darkness, my head resting on John’s shoulder. “Well actually I found it before M7G-677 but I never had a chance to tell you ... I forgot all about it until this morning.”
“What’d you find?” John asked curiously.
“The suggestion that the Ancients had a way to talk to their ancestors,” I revealed.
“Ascended ancestors?” John leaned up on an elbow and looked at me in surprise.
“If I’m reading it right, yeah,” I confirmed. “It was another function of the Hologram Room – at least I think it was. Of course it probably never worked – otherwise they would have asked for help instead of abandoning the city like they did.”
“Maybe they did ask for help,” John suggested grimly. “The Ascended aren’t exactly known for their compassion.”
“I was gonna go try it out just before the quarantine happened,” I admitted. “Even though I don’t think anything will eventuate.”
“It sounds harmless enough ... might as well give it a go,” John agreed after considering the risks for a moment. “What would you say if an Ascended Ancient actually responded?”
“Now there’s a scary thought,” I joked. “God, I don’t know! Maybe I should prepare something before I try it. No sense looking like an idiot for someone with an eternal memory!”
“Ask around, see if anyone has any burning issues only an Ascended could answer,” John suggested casually.
“I might do that,” I yawned widely, snuggling into John tiredly. “It was strange Rodney didn’t turn up for dinner tonight.”
“He had something going on this morning,” John replied cryptically. “I’m guessing the quarantine had an adverse effect.”
"By something I'm guessing you mean you can't tell me," I said, my curiosity roused.
"He'll tell you himself if he wants to," John returned. He yawned, running a hand almost absentmindedly down the arm I had rested over his chest until his hand covered mine.
“I guess I’ll stop in on him in the morning then,” I decided, getting a sleepy nod from John in reply.
“Hey Rodney,” I walked into his lab early the next morning, still keen to check up on him.
“Sabina,” Rodney greeted me with no obvious signs that anything was wrong.
“We missed you at the Mess last night,” I commented, taking a seat across from him. “Everything okay?”
“Um ...,” Rodney frowned for a moment. I watched him thinking before his shoulders slumped and he looked across at me dejectedly. “How’d you know John was the right person for you?”
“I didn’t at first,” I admitted, not letting my surprise at his choice of subject show. “Well, no I guess I did know but I didn’t want to admit it to myself.”
“Yeah but how did you know?” Rodney persisted.
“Ah ...,” I thought for a moment, searching for something to explain what wasn’t really explainable. “Because from day one he accepted everything about me – both good and bad,” I offered. “Because he loves the real me ... I know I can be a pain sometimes but I don’t think he ever sees me that way." I stopped, thinking some more before offering a blanket summary statement that explained it as best I could.
"Because I can be myself with him.”
“You can be yourself,” Rodney repeated sadly, nodding like he’d expected something like that.
“Is this about you and Katie?” I asked hesitantly.
“I almost asked her to marry me yesterday,” Rodney admitted.
I raised an eyebrow in surprise. "You did?"
“I was going to but then the quarantine happened and I ah, I wasn’t at my best and ... well, we just didn’t work well together under pressure like I thought we should – nothing like you and John do. In the end I had to tell her I wasn’t ready to take that step – that I needed time to work on improving myself. I showed every one of my most annoying flaws yesterday – she deserves better than that.”
“Rodney,” I admonished. “You can’t go into a relationship resolved to hide parts of yourself like you have with Katie,” I told him firmly. “You have to give her the chance to love all of you, not just the bits you think are worthy.”
“Yeah well I don’t think that will be happening any time soon,” Rodney said weakly. “She said she wasn’t ready either but ...”
“You think she was just saying that to let you off the hook,” I concluded.
“I don’t know ... but I’m pretty sure our relationship won’t recover from this,” Rodney was being negative but under the circumstances I couldn’t blame him.
“Just give it time,” I told him gently. “You never know how things could turn out.”
“I guess,” Rodney agreed reluctantly. “How’d it go for you during the quarantine?”
Respecting his desire to change the subject I told him my story plus as much as I knew of everything else that had happened on what had turned out to be a long and unusual day.
I deliberately changed the timing of when John would have needed Rodney’s password to after he discovered the subspace beacon was broadcasting – because it didn’t make sense they could see what was locked down and all the life signs and practically everything else without Rodney’s password but not that a subspace beacon was broadcasting. Why? I could understand not being able to mess with things set off by the quarantine so needing a password to turn off the beacon, but not just to see what each system was doing.
And yes I am aware Sheppard references Batman in the episode but seriously, climbing up a tower like that is totally Spider Man!
Chapter 44: Don’t you think it’s time?
As soon as Jennifer cleared me to begin working myself back to complete fitness I resolved to do it as quickly as possible. Of course I wanted to get back to full duty but I also wanted John to stop treating me like a delicate piece of glass too. At first it had comforted me but as I improved I began to see it as John no longer relaxed and comfortable in my presence, almost scared that something would happen to me. I’m not sure he even realised he was doing it and I didn’t want to confront him verbally because the image of how upset he’d been when I’d regained consciousness was still too vivid in my mind. No, I decided the best way to convince him I was back to my old self was to prove it.
Teyla had conceded soon after her pregnancy had really started to show that she couldn’t lead sparring sessions anymore which meant my choices to get back to speed there were John, Ronon or Major Lorne. John was out of the question because I’d already asked him a few times and he’d put me off with a vague promise that he’d help me when I was ‘better’. Ronon knew more about coming back from injury than Evan so I decided to try him first ... finding him practising alone in the gym seemed like a good sign.
“Can I interrupt?” I asked him from the doorway.
“Sure,” he held the fighting stick he’d been swinging in both hands behind his back, using it to stretch his shoulders and back.
“I was wondering if you’d have some time to spar with me,” I began. “Just beginner level to start with ... maybe once a day?”
“Jennifer cleared you?” Ronon asked.
“Of course,” I agreed easily. “You know I usually train with Teyla but obviously that’s not an option right now so it was either you or John and he’s being a bit ... stubborn in noticing that I’m pretty much back to normal now.”
“And you want to show him with sparring?” Ronon deduced.
“Something like that,” I admitted. “So will you help?”
“Okay,” Ronon agreed easily. “When do you want to start?”
“How about right now?” I suggested hopefully.
Ronon lobbed the fighting stick to me with a grin, nodding approvingly when I caught it easily.
I worked hard over the next two weeks to get back up to speed physically, pushing myself enough that Jennifer admonished me more than once not to rush my recovery.
John had relented on one front, not commenting the first morning I’d rejoined him for our morning run or any other morning after that. Along with a daily session with Ronon it wasn’t long before I could stop pretending not to be tired at the end of the day. Even though John could see I was fit again he still seemed to be holding back with me ... in all areas. So I took matters into my own hands, issuing him an invitation to meet me in the gym one evening six weeks after my injury.
I’d been pacing the sparring room for a few minutes before he finally showed up with a puzzled look, holding up the note I’d left him.
“I got your invitation,” he held up the paper curiously. “Kind of a strange place for dinner isn’t it?”
“I wanted to show you something first,” I said resolutely. Walking to my bag I removed two sets of fighting sticks. Approaching him silently I held out his set, waiting for him to react.
“You want to spar?” he looked from the sticks in my hand to my eyes with a blank expression.
“Don’t you think it’s time?” I asked gently. “You don’t seem to have noticed that I’m all better now ... I couldn’t think of any other way to show you.”
“You’ve been practising,” John deduced. “Who with?”
“Ronon,” I admitted. “And before you get annoyed remember that I asked you first. You seemed to be waiting for some kind of announcement from on high that I was up to it and I got tired of waiting.”
“You don’t have to spar with me to prove yourself,” John took his sticks and turned back to where I’d left my bag. “I jog with you every morning – I’ve noticed you’re back to giving me a run for my money.”
“Being fit enough to exercise is different from being fit enough to do my job off world,” I pointed out, When he went to put his sticks away I slotted one of my sticks underneath, locking my arm so even if he pushed it he wouldn’t be able to finish. “Don’t,” I said firmly.
“What do you want from me?” John asked with an impatient frown. “You’re better – I believe you.”
“Then prove it,” I said heatedly, grabbing his sticks and pushing them into his chest. “We used to spar all the time – this shouldn’t be any different. Or are you worried I’m gonna beat you? I have had two weeks of special one on one training with Ronon after all.”
“I think I’m safe,” John said with a laugh. “You’re not going to dare me into this.”
“Fine, then how about a wager?” I suggested in exasperation. I’d been standing close but I took a step forward and pressed every part of me that I could against him. “We spar ... if I can hold my own I win and you start treating me like a real person again instead of like I’m gonna break any second.”
“I don’t do that!” John said in surprise.
“Yeah, you do,” I disagreed. “I understand why but ... I’m about to be cleared to go off world and I can’t do that knowing you’re still so worried about me. Take the wager – let me prove you don’t have to worry anymore.”
“And if I win?” John asked curiously. “What happens then?”
“I won’t go back to full duty until you’re ready,” I offered reluctantly.
“Wow,” John’s eyebrows shot up in surprise. “You must be feeling confident.”
“Ronon thinks I can take you,” I said with a teasing grin.
“Let’s find out,” John gave in suddenly, unzipping his jacket and throwing it on the bench. Grabbing his sticks he swung them a few times as he walked back to the centre of the room.
He let me take the lead, still underestimating me. I punished him for it, using a new frontal attacking sequence Ronon had taught me. John was fast, dodging quickly as he shifted his sticks to block mine but I still managed to get one stick past his guard.
“Ouch!” John danced back, putting a hand to his shoulder and rubbing it with a pained expression.
“I’ll kiss it better later,” I promised unrepentantly, raising my sticks and waiting for him to attack.
We settled into a familiar dance of advance and defence, neither of us gaining any ground on the other. John was grinning after about ten minutes and I knew I’d won, regardless of the final outcome. At last he’d remembered what it was like to do this, how well matched we were and how much sheer pleasure there was in pitting ourselves against each other.
“Are you ready to concede?” I asked him smugly, breathing just a little harder than usual.
“No way,” John rushed forward suddenly, locking sticks as he shifted us both towards one end of the room. Leaning in with me pinned between him and the wall he grinned again. “How about you?”
“I’m not beaten yet,” I promised, pressing myself fully against him and going up on tiptoes. Ignoring the sticks pressing into my chest I kissed him, putting as much heat into it as I could. I felt his attention shift, felt him lower his guard. Grinning against his lips I pushed forward and then rotated until I had his back against the wall instead.
“Fighting dirty huh?” John looked down at me in amusement. “Two can play at that game.”
He wrenched the sticks from my hands abruptly and threw them to the floor. His followed a second later and then his hands were in my hair pulling me up to his lips before I could blink.
Finally! My insides leapt with excitement as I received the first roughly passionate kiss followed quickly by another. This was what had been missing since I’d recovered enough to be engaged in intimate activities – John letting go of that formidable control and just existing with me in the moment.
“Is this ...?” Breaking away John looked at me with concern.
“God yes!” I pulled him back to me impatiently. “Don’t stop. Just, you know – lock the door first!”
“Yes Ma’am,” John glanced at the doors with an intent expression.
Then he took me at my word, getting us naked and sweaty and meshed together in every sense with that same rough passion. Once we’d travelled the familiar path and made it to the other side I lay slumped contentedly against him, thinking that now my world really was back to the way it should be.
“Feel like a trading mission to see Flora and Mardola?” Rodney asked John hopefully at breakfast the next morning.
“We had a late night,” John offered, looking at me with a secretive twinkle in his eye. “I’ll pass. Take Lorne – he always enjoys catching up with Flora.”
“Fine but remember what you’re missing out on,” Rodney returned. “They always treat us like royalty.”
“I’ve got plenty here to keep me entertained,” John said complacently. “Go, enjoy yourself. But don’t mess up our trading agreements!”
“As if I would!” Rodney protested irritably. “I’ll see you when we get back. Sabina.”
Nodding a goodbye to both of us Rodney headed off to find Major Lorne.
“I take it he’s given up on Katie then,” I commented quietly.
“Or she gave up on him,” John replied. “Rodney said things have been very strained and he’s not sure what to make of it. I guess it’s easier for him to think about someone new than to try and work out what Katie’s thinking.”
“Maybe she really isn’t the right one for him then,” I concluded. “Wouldn’t he be happy being himself instead of hiding his ‘Rodney’ traits – if he was with the right person I mean?”
“I’d hope so,” John agreed.
"I really thought Katie did appreciate Rodney for who he is," I offered with a puzzled frown. "I don't think he was as different around her as he seems to think."
"Maybe Rodney can't see that right now," John suggested. As I nodded thoughtfully, he looked at me expectantly. “What do you have planned for today?”
“Rodney gave me a couple of Ancient devices from the lab you found a few missions ago,” I replied. “He wants me to see if I can find them in the database, work out what they do. It’s a pretty simple task but a good way to get back into the ATA side of things. I mean, I did do that thing with the extending walkway and convincing Atlantis to let me out but I could still do with the practice. I feel like it's been month instead of weeks since I did anything real like that.”
“Never hurts,” John returned. “You know, you never explained exactly how you managed to do that.”
“That’s because I’m not really sure,” I replied with a frown. “I just kind of let myself be open to the systems, imagined that the walkway wouldn’t be a risk because the quarantine at that bulkhead had already been compromised and then thought lots of pleading thoughts at the city to let me go over there.”
“And it did,” John concluded before redirecting the conversation. “You’re not planning on trying out the Hologram room?”
“Still haven’t worked out what I’d say if I actually do make contact with an Ascended Ancient,” I shrugged casually. “It’s not like we need something like that right now. Anyway, speaking of practice we should probably find time to do some. There’ve been a couple of times now where directly accessing the Ancient systems for mental communication came in handy. We should work on strengthening your ability to respond so we can get the most out of it.”
“Yeah, okay,” John agreed thoughtfully. “Not today though. Sam’s been at me to finish my midyear staff evaluations. With Rodney off world I might actually be able to make some progress.”
“No marking everyone the same?” I reminisced fondly.
“Ah ... not this time,” John smiled with just a hint of sadness, both of us thinking of Elizabeth and how annoyed she’d gotten when John had given everyone excellent and above average ratings last year.
“All right, well I’ll leave you to it,” I rose, leaning down to press a quick kiss to his lips. “See you at lunch.”
Major Lorne radioed in a couple of hours after he and Rodney had left to request an extension on their mission. The royal princesses had asked for their help with a quest and Evan hadn’t seen any reason to refuse. They’d be back sometime the following day which meant my triumphant return to off world duty was delayed for another day.
The following night I joined John and the others, including Major Lorne for dinner just in time to hear Rodney recounting the highlights from their mission. He’d actually managed to win over the thirteen year old Princess Manipulative Brat (his words) aka Harmony with his bravery. He did admit that all he’d done was accidently protect Harmony from a Genii attack and then restore their Ancient mini drone device to operation. Apparently Harmony had been very impressed and started making noises about alliances and securing the royal line. Rodney couldn’t wait to get out of there after that.
When I asked Evan what impression he’d made he looked across at Rodney with resignation, letting him field the question.
“The Princess had a major crush to start with, no pun intended,” Rodney took delight in sharing. “It all went downhill at the end though when Evan activated their drone device, including reinitialising the royal pendant that proves who’s next in line for the throne. Harmony was pissed at him after that – threatened to hang him for treason. It was actually rather amusing.”
“So you’ve said,” Lorne returned tiredly, “a number of times. What are the chances of you forgetting about this one?”
“You’re kidding right?!” Rodney chortled. “The geek actually got the girl ... admittedly a thirteen year old brat, but it still counts.”
“You’re not exactly a geek these days Rodney,” I pointed out. “No coke bottle glasses or protractor and pens in your top pocket. You carry a gun! Maybe it’s not that the geeks won the day but that you’ve switched sides.”
“Don’t even think like that!” Rodney retorted, giving every appearance of being offended I’d tagged him a goon instead of a geek. Everyone else must have thought it was funny because his reaction just made them all laugh harder.
“Thanks,” Evan muttered to me when the laughter had died down a little.
“You’re welcome,” I smiled, happy to have completed some successful Rodney teasing and that John had dodged a difficult mission for a change.
Even though I had no real idea on what to use contact with an Ascended Ancient for I couldn’t get the Hologram Room out of my head. The idea of it - wondering if what I’d read in the Ancient library was even true - was eating at me to the point of obvious distraction.
“Just go try it out for God’s sake,” John exclaimed after another breakfast conversation where I’d been saying something and just trailed off without finishing, my mind engaged in 'what if?'.
“Try what?” I asked distractedly ... if an actual ascended ancient did appear, would it be someone familiar like perhaps Morgan Le Fay herself?
“The Hologram Room,” John said firmly, his tone sharpening my focus back on him. “I know you don’t think it’ll work but the wondering about it is driving you ... and me crazy. Just go try out what it said in that book – answer the question so we can move on to something else!”
“Fine,” I muttered, getting up right there and then. “There’s no need to get grumpy you know. I’ll go do it right now!”
“Good luck,” John offered in amusement.
“I’ll let you know how it goes,” I put my arms around his chest from behind, pressed a kiss to his cheek and then headed off.
Once in the Hologram Room I looked around a bit nervously. If this was a place to communicate with Ascended Ancients did that mean they were watching it somehow?
Stepping up to the dais I put my hands on the control console and waited for the hologram to appear.
“Please state the nature of your enquiry,” the image of Morgan LeFay intoned.
“I seek guidance from the ancestors,” I replied. “Could you maybe send one down here for a chat?”
“Your query is not recognised,” the hologram replied blandly.
Okay, so a straight request wasn’t the way ... either that or it wouldn’t work no matter how I asked the question. What else could I try ... I thought for a moment and then had another idea.
“Ah ... ego quaeso regimen ex preteritus,” I spoke the words as I’d read them in the text. Literally they translated as ‘I ask for guidance from the past’. The hologram didn’t respond this time, at least not verbally. Instead I felt a tingling in my hands where I had them resting on the console.
Looking down I frowned at the blue light glowing brightly enough to illuminate the bones in my hands ... when the tingly, clinging feeling followed quickly after, flashbacks to the fountain on Aprost had panic clawing at my insides. I quickly pulled my hands from the console but it didn't shut off the new light display.
“You know what?” I announced loudly to the silent hologram. “I think I’ve changed my mind ... I don’t need guidance after all so if you could just cancel that request I’d really appreciate it.”
Nothing happened, the hologram standing frozen and unyielding in front of me.
“Please,” I called out insistently. “I don’t want to do this!”
“And yet guidance is sorely needed if you are to fulfil your purpose,” the voice came from inside my head as well as from all around me, my ears reverberating at the deep ringing tones.
“My purpose?” I asked aloud incredulously.
“The purpose for which you were created, that brought you to the city from so far away,” came the reply. “Do you not wish to know more about your origins?”
“If I want to know more this isn’t the method I’d choose,” I replied angrily. “Who am I speaking to anyway? Is this a part of the hologram program because I think a little reprogramming might be in order.”
“The hologram program merely acts as a conduit,” my unknown conversant replied. “I am nativitas, commissio, originis ... the reason you are here.”
“What the hell does that mean?” I asked grimly, that nervous butterfly feeling fluttering up from my stomach pinning me in place without me even attempting to just leave.
“You will have to work that out for yourself,” came the reply. “I will respect your wishes ... for now.”
The presence inside my head disappeared along with the lights and the original hologram, leaving me standing alone in the darkened room.
“Okay, that didn’t go how I expected,” I muttered, rubbing hands across my forehead as I tried to think. “John?” I tapped my radio, hoping he’d be available.
“Sabina?” John replied instantly. “You okay?”
“Have you got a minute?” I asked hopefully. “I could really use you up here in the Hologram Room.”
“I’m on my way,” John promised.
I spent the few minutes wait pacing around, getting myself more worked up and more confused.
“Finally,” I jumped on John the instant he arrived, dragging him over to the dais so I could show him what I’d seen. Calling up the hologram program I gave my request before she could even speak. “Please replay everything that happened since I first stepped into the room this morning.”
We both watched as the Hologram disappeared and then reappeared again, asking for the nature of my enquiry. She then stood there for a few minutes completely silent and still before winking out of existence again.
“No,” I said insistently. “Replay what the other part of the hologram said to me.”
“There is no record of any other interaction during the time frame you specified,” the hologram replied.
“What? That’s impossible,” I protested. “There must be something there.”
“This program experienced a processing glitch and was frozen for approximately 3 minutes,” the hologram reported. “The glitch was rectified and the program returned to active status.”
“I heard something,” I gave up on the easy replay option, my expression pleading for John to believe me. “It wasn’t a physical representation and I don’t know if it had anything to do with Ascended Ancients or if it was just a part of the hologram program.”
“What did it say?” John asked calmly.
“That I needed to know more about my ‘purpose’,” I admitted with a puzzled frown. “John – she made it sound like there was a reason - something I’m supposed to do - that explains why I ended up here on Atlantis. When I tried to find out who she was she spouted off a few Ancient words and then said she was the reason I was here. What do you think that means?”
“I don’t know but let’s not panic just yet,” John replied. “What were the Ancient words?”
“Ah – nativitas, commissio and originis,” I recited. “The first word means birth. The second one could mean perpetration or execution but it also means action. The last one, originis is like the source or the beginning but it can also mean ancestor.”
“Does make for some interesting interpretations doesn’t it?” John commented without any obvious worry in his tone. “Did you try to get the hologram to reappear?”
“I thought I’d wait for you to get here,” I admitted.
“Okay, well give it a try now,” John instructed, stepping back to give me space at the dais.
Hesitantly I put my hands on the console again and said the words “ego quaeso regimen ex preteritus.”
“Try it again in English,” John suggested.
“I seek guidance from the past,” I said firmly, looking down at my hands in anticipation. Again nothing. “It’s not gonna work,” I announced grimly. “Great – now I’ll look like a complete nut job when the others find out about this.”
“I don’t think we should tell them,” John countered. “It’s not clear where the message came from but it wouldn’t be a bad guess to assume it was meant specifically for you. Maybe it’s because I’m here now that it’s not reconnecting you or maybe you only get the one shot at it ... in either case I can’t see the point in having Rodney down here poking around in the systems when we both know he won’t find anything.”
“I guess not,” I agreed hesitantly. “Are we allowed to keep stuff like that to ourselves?”
“This from the girl who kept a Wraith killing machine and her own nanite production line a secret from everyone,” John pointed out teasingly. “Don’t worry about it – I think Carter will understand why you didn’t offer this one up should it prove relevant in the future. Come on, I’ll walk you back to your lab.”
“I don’t mind telling you this is all freaking me out a bit,” I admitted once we were in my lab with the door closed. “First that thing with Jennifer and the Pegasus virus antibodies and now the hologram program suggesting I’m here for a reason? Doesn’t that worry you a little?”
“Maybe,” John admitted in return. “I don’t know what we can do about it though ... apart from you going back to the hologram room in a few days and trying to get back that connection so you can ask more questions. Let’s wait for that before we decide on a course of action here.”
“You’re right,” I agreed. “I need more answers before I can figure this out. Thanks John.”
“All part of the service,” John quipped with a pleased smile.
“Well come over here and get your reward kiss,” I ordered with a smile of my own. “That’s part of my service.”
“Yes ma’am,” John gave me a mock salute that had us both laughing.
John and I were on our way to breakfast a few mornings later when Colonel Carter caught up with us just before we entered the transporter.
“Colonel,” she called out. John stopped, pulling me around with him so we’d be facing Sam. “I was just coming to see you. Do you have a minute?”
“Yeah, sure,” John shared a puzzled look with me, Sam’s concerned demeanour sending out the red flags.
“I received a message from Stargate Command,” she said, looking at John intently. “I'm afraid I have some bad news.”
“Okay,” John tensed but otherwise gave no reaction.
“Your father suffered a heart attack last night,” Sam announced compassionately.
My eyes shot to John immediately, and I could feel my insides plummet as he looked at Sam with a dazed expression, poised for the rest.
“I'm sorry, John, but he passed away,” Sam finished sadly.
John said nothing, his face wiped of all expression and his eyes stony. Not sure what to do myself I stepped closer and put my hand gently into his. He squeezed tightly for a moment and then held on, waiting to hear what Sam would say next.
“Your brother got the message through to the SGC via your old unit commander at Peterson,” Sam explained. “You have plenty of time to get to the wake, even with the 24 hour quarantine on Midway, so I’ve cleared you and Sabina to take as much time back on Earth as you need.”
“Thanks Sam,” I spoke for both of us when the silence extended beyond what was comfortable for any of us.
“Ah, yeah,” John cleared his throat and swallowed hard before speaking. “Thanks Colonel.”
“Let me know it there’s anything else I can do,” Sam replied, giving us both a sympathetic look before turning and leaving us standing in the corridor.
“Let’s go,” I pulled on John’s hand, dragging him around and back towards our quarters. John didn’t protest, letting me guide him, obviously distracted by his thoughts.
Once we were inside John dropped down to the bed, lying fully stretched with a hand over his eyes.
“It sucks to lose a parent,” I sat next to him, drawing my legs up to so I could face him. “I’m guessing that applies even if you weren’t close and haven’t spoken to them for a long time. Maybe even more so.”
“You’re not gonna do the ‘so sorry for your loss’ speech?” John asked in surprise, taking the hand away so he could make eye contact.
“I never understood why people say that,” I replied, happy to let John distract himself with more general conversation. “That’s one of the things I remember from when my adoptive parents were killed. Everyone was telling me how sorry they were and all I could think was that it was hardly their fault unless they thought they could have done something to make it different. In the end I decided that what they were really saying was that they felt sorry for me – and I didn’t want their pity.”
“I never thought about it like that,” John nodded in understanding.
“I do feel for you though,” I said softly. “I can take a stab at some of what you’re thinking right now. You might not have recent memories to dwell on but I bet a few from before things got so screwed up are doing the rounds in your head, along with the ‘should I regret anything?’ conversation you’d be having with yourself. Maybe you’re even kicking yourself you didn’t try to fix things but you thought you had all the time in the world.”
John looked at me in mute disbelief so at least some of what I’d said must have been accurate.
“Oh, and I’m forgetting the parts that make you feel really selfish,” I added. “Wishing that you didn’t have to put yourself through a funeral you could easily do without plus in your case dread because you’ll have to confront a whole bunch of people you didn’t like under the best of circumstances and pretend you’re happy to see them. I’m guessing you’re almost hoping right now for an urgent mission that means you can legitimately get out of it.”
“I never realised I was quite so transparent,” John muttered, putting his arm back over his eyes so I couldn’t see his expression.
“You’re not,” I said bluntly. Shifting to lie down beside him I insinuated myself into his space and reached up to draw his arm down around me. “Everything I said could just as easily describe my own feelings,” I offered softly, laying my head on his chest with a sigh. “I wish I’d pushed you to tell me about your family, told you that I really wanted to meet your Dad even though I understood you had issues. Then I’d have some memories of my own rather than a big load of regret that I never got to meet him, even if it was only to confirm that you were right to cut him out of your life.”
“I’m sorry,” John said in a low tone tightening his arm around me.
“I don’t want you to be sorry about that,” I countered. “I could have asked you to tell me what happened with your Dad ages ago but I didn’t because I didn’t think it was my place. Only now am I thinking that it actually was ... if I’d had the nerve to take it. That’s where the selfish thoughts come in because if I’m honest part of the reason for not pushing it was because I let nerves get the better of me.”
“Nerves?” John shifted to look down at me in surprise. “You?”
“Of course me,” I said somewhat irritably. “I think it’s only natural that I worried your family wouldn’t like me or that they’d secretly be thinking that Nancy was a much better match for you.”
“Sabina,” John protested with a half laugh. “That’s just ridiculous. No one would think like that!”
“You’d be surprised,” I muttered before continuing with what I’d wanted to get across. “I can’t deny that I felt nervous, or that I still do thinking about going back to Earth with you for this.”
“You don’t have to come with me,” John offered.
“I know,” I agreed, “but I want to just the same. I’d never let you do something like this alone anyway so don’t bother saying anything else.”
“It will be difficult,” John admitted, “and I am thinking an urgent mission would be a convenient out but ... I still have family and ... I guess I do need the whole ‘closure’ thing with my Dad.”
“It’ll help,” I agreed simply. Turning so it was me leaning over him I leant down and kissed him gently, hoping he’d get the compassion and understanding and support I was offering without putting it into words. Breaking away I sat up again and slapped his leg in a ‘get moving’ gesture. “We should pack,” I said, getting up to pull out a bag for us.
We’d packed most of what we needed before the door chime interrupted us. John went to answer it while I continued with the last few items.
“Hey,” Rodney greeted John awkwardly. “I, uh, heard what happened. I'm very sorry.”
“Thanks,” John motioned for Rodney to come in, moving back to the bed and handing me more things to pack.
“You okay?” Rodney asked in concern.
“Yeah, I'm fine,” John insisted.
“You know, I requested to go back with you, but the Ancient device at M7G-677 is still malfunctioning,” Rodney offered.
“I thought you went back and fixed it,” I commented with a frown.
“It was only a temporary patch,” Rodney admitted. “I thought it’d hold for longer than this but it didn’t.”
“So you’re off to spend more time with the kids,” John commented.
“Yeah,” Rodney grimaced at the thought.
“Well, that should be fun for you,” John quipped.
“Yeah, well, believe me, I'd get out of it if I could, but without the E.M. field they're an easy target for the Wraith,” Rodney pointed out. “I guess it's just bad timing.”
“Hey, don't worry about it,” John insisted. “Sabina and I will be fine doing this together.”
“I’ll look after him,” I told Rodney with a smile.
Rodney stood awkwardly looking from John to me and back again before he spoke again. “If you wanna ... you know ... talk or ...,” he offered uncertainly.
“Rodney. I'm fine,” John insisted again. I almost scoffed aloud at that because everyone in that room knew John wasn’t fine – he didn’t want to talk about it with Rodney and I could understand that – he was still working out how to feel about it himself and it was too soon to attempt to describe that to anyone else.
“Right,” Rodney nodded, hesitated again as though about to say something else. In the end he gave up with an uncomfortable cough, turning and leaving the room without another word.
“I’m gonna have to put up with a lot of that, aren’t I?” John commented grimly.
“More than you could ever want,” I confirmed. “They all mean well ... they just want you to know they care about you.”
“I guess,” John looked around the room once before picking up our bag in one hand and holding out his other hand to me. “Time to go.”
We walked all the way to the Gateroom like that, standing silent as the dialling sequence began. A moment before the wormhole was established Ronon walked over to stand beside us, bag in hand.
“Where are you goin'?” John looked at him in surprise.
“With you,” Ronon’s tone shouted ‘don’t even think about arguing.’
The kawhoosh shot out from the Stargate before settling into its usual shimmery puddle. Ronon didn’t even wait for a response, walking resolutely through the event horizon.
John looked at me with a raised brow.
“I guess he doesn’t think I’m enough protection for you,” I shrugged philosophically. “I won’t take that personally.”
“Or maybe he thinks you need support too,” John suggested.
“Maybe,” I agreed tugging on John’s hand to get us moving. We walked through the Stargate together.
The twenty four hours on Midway passed too slowly, John and I both conscious of the delay in getting him where he needed to be and how it would seem to his brother that it took so long for us to get there. Which raised a question I hadn’t even thought to ask before.
“Do they know about me?” I asked John. We were pretty much smack in the middle of the designated night time hours although neither of us was sleeping. The rooms on Midway were tiny and the beds tinier still but I’d insisted on sharing with John anyway. He hadn’t protested the exceptionally close quarters when I’d spooned myself into him - my back to his chest - and pulled his arms around me, so I’d decided he was happy for the comfort.
“Um ... are you gonna be annoyed if I say no?” John asked reluctantly, his breath wafting through my hair and giving me a nice tingly feeling.
“Well that answers my question,” I said in amusement. “I’m not annoyed – I was just wondering how you were going to handle it if you hadn’t told anyone you got married again.”
“I intended to tell them,” John excused with a pained expression, “just ... when the time seemed right.”
“It’s okay,” I hugged his arms into me reassuringly. “If it makes it any easier you don’t even have to go down that road. I wouldn't mind ... now hardly seems like the right time for that kind of news.”
“I’ll introduce you as my wife,” John said firmly. “I haven’t spoken to Dave in years – he probably won’t even be surprised.”
"Okay," I agreed, not sure he was right about that.
Silence reigned for a while before John spoke again.
“I was thinking about what you said,” he said in a low tone, “about questioning whether I have any regrets. You know I left to join the air force against my father’s wishes ... he had a different future mapped out for me before I’d even finished high school and no matter how hard I tried to get through to him, to explain what I wanted, he just wouldn’t listen. He thought he knew what was best for me. We didn’t fall out completely over that though. That happened after my Mom ... died.”
I was so close to him it seemed I could feel his emotions too – the grief over his mother still so fresh that it had John swallowing back tears.
“You don’t have to tell me this now,” I said softly, feeling the sadness welling for him because of parental experiences that weren’t what they should have been.
“She was sick but he didn’t tell me until it was too late for me to get back,” John continued like I hadn’t even spoken. “Nancy knew but we were already having problems – she was pissed at all the secrets, at the way I’d have to just leave with no notice and no explanation. She said she tried to reach me but ... it felt like payback, like punishment because I was never open with her. I was so angry ... with her, with my father, with everything. I guess my Dad was too because he didn’t take kindly to me railing over not getting to say goodbye to Mom – said my air force career had always been the most important thing to me and that I should just go away and concentrate on that. He had Dave to run the business and look after everything ... he didn’t need me. So I did ... I left and I never went back, never contacted him again.”
“You think that was what he really wanted?” I asked when he didn’t say any more.
“I’ve believed it for the past six years,” John said simply. “I thought I was doing exactly what he wanted. Should I be regretting that I went along with it without protesting? I don’t know.”
“Is that when you split up with Nancy too?” I asked, thinking that was a lot of emotional stress in a very short space of time.
“We limped along for another year or so,” John admitted, “but I was hardly there and everything only got worse. In the end I came home from a mission to an empty house and a set of divorce papers. Can’t argue with that – not that I wanted to by that stage. Last time I spoke to her was just before I left for Antarctica – she always got on really well with my Dad and I knew she still saw him from time to time so I asked her to keep an eye on him, get in contact with me if there was something I should know.”
“You still cared even though you thought he’d forced you to leave,” I pointed out gently, seeing clearly that if he’d felt enough to set that up then he was hurting a lot more than he was letting on.
“Dumb huh?” John tried to sound casual but the slight quaver in his voice gave him away.
“Never,” I said firmly, pulling his arms even tighter around me and squeezing hard.
John nestled his head in close to mine, letting out his breath in a rush and then inhailing deeply to replace it. We did the calm, even breathing thing together in the silence until sleep came to claim us.
From Midway we arrived on Earth and from there took a flight to Richmond, Kentucky. John hired a car and drove us to a large property a few miles from the city. It was beautiful, green and picturesque, with a tree lined drive leading to a huge ranch style house complete with large stables and actual horses. It was a lot bigger than I’d been expecting even with the impression I’d gotten via Walker on the Sheppard family capacity to pay out a kidnapping demand.
“This is it?” I asked nervously when John pulled up behind a train of other upmarket cars.
“This is it,” John agreed, looking across at Ronon who’d been taking it all in from his position in the back seat. “You ready to experience more of our weird planet?”
“Lead the way,” Ronon replied.
John pulled on his suit jacket to straighten it out before holding out a hand to me. I was wearing a simple black dress which now seemed too simple in comparison to the apparel I’d already spied on men and women alike. We walked towards the house slowly, part of the crowd milling around the property.
“Lot of people,” Ronon commented.
“Yeah,” John agreed, looking around without seeming like he recognised anyone. “The old man was pretty well connected.”
I knew immediately when John saw someone he did know – he straightened and held on to my hand just that little bit tighter as a man in a suit came down the steps and walked towards us.
“John,” the man greeted him simply.
“Dave,” John replied in the same even tone. This was his brother? I looked closer but I couldn’t really see the resemblance. I knew John looked like his mother and guessed Dave must take after his father.
“I wasn't sure you were gonna make it,” Dave commented, holding out his hand. John let go of mine to complete the handshake. “It's good to see you,” Dave continued. “I contacted your unit commander at Peterson but sometimes those messages don't seem to reach you.”
“Well, I came as soon as I heard,” John explained.
Dave nodded and an awkward silence threatened to descend. Then Dave looked at Ronon and I with a curious expression.
"Ah ... sorry ... this is Ronon," John started with the easy introduction first. "Ronon - this is Dave, my brother.”
Dave held out his hand, waiting until Ronon had shaken it in a way that made it obvious he wasn't accustomed to the hand shake greeting - at least to me anyway.
“Yeah. Nice to meet you,” Ronon said awkwardly.
“Pleasure,” Dave returned. “You work with John in the Air Force?
“He's a civilian contractor,” John explained dismissively.
“Right,” Dave looked at Ronon with a hint of disbelief. "And you are?" he turned his gaze to me with a raised eyebrow.
“Sorry,” John grabbed my hand again and drew me forward. “This is Sabina. Sabina Sheppard ... my wife.”
“You got married?” Dave seemed more than a little shocked by that news.
“Yeah, earlier this year,” John agreed simply.
"And of course you didn't bother to tell anyone!" Dave turned away, gazing out over the lawn at the milling crowd, his shoulders tense with anger. I wanted to jump to John's defence ... explain the circumstances ... but it didn't seem apppropriate. And besides, what could we say that wouldn't sound contrived and needlessly cryptic because of secrets that couldn't be revealed?
"Would you really have been interested?" John returned, angry himself. "Dad made his wishes pretty damn clear Dave!"
"You've been gone a long time John," Dave turned back and looked at John sadly.
"Well, it's too late to do anything different now," John pointed out. "And Sabina wasn't a part of that.”
“You're right - my apologies,” Dave recovered quickly, turning to me graciously. “It is nice to meet you Sabina,” he held out a hand and I stepped forward to shake it quickly before shifting back beside John. “I regret that it couldn’t have been under happier circumstances.”
“It’s nice to meet you too,” I replied as sincerely as I could. "I know this must be a difficult time for you.”
“Yes,” Dave agreed. “Anyway, John, I think we should probably talk.”
“Yeah,” John agreed reluctantly.
“I'll catch up with you later,” Dave promised before turning and walking back across the lawn.
“That wasn’t as bad as I expected,” I said as soon as he was out of ear shot. I don't know why I'd been nervous ... Dave hardly even saw me, all his attention focussed on his brother and the history between them.
“Dave is nothing if not civilised and controlled,” John said a bit snidely. “We should ...,” he trailed off with a gesture to the stairs and the house they led to.
We’d been at the house about half an hour without John seeing anyone else he knew. The only difficult part had been when I’d accompanied John to stand before his father’s closed coffin in one of the rooms leading off to the courtyard. There were flowers and a large picture of Patrick Sheppard proudly displayed. I looked at that photo closely, trying to deduce something of the man in the image of him left behind. All I could conclude was that I’d been right ... John looked nothing like his father.
I remained quietly by John’s side as he stood there contemplating that coffin. I don’t know what was going through his head but at the very least he’d have closure from the point of view of believing his father was really gone. It was a confronting image – I wasn’t sure why it was customary to display the dead like that because it seemed to create the wrong lasting image in ones head. Surely you’d want to be left with a happier picture in mind, rather than that dismal and depressing canvas?
“Let’s go and find Ronon,” John announced, giving the coffin one final glance before turning resolutely away.
“You okay?” I asked as we made our way back across the lawn. I spotted Ronon at the catering table loading up a plate so we moved off out of the way to wait for him.
“I don’t know,” John admitted. “He’s been gone to me for years so I shouldn’t feel any different right?”
“The possibility for reconciliation was always there,” I pointed out gently. “Now it’s not – that’s a big difference you need to give yourself time to get used to. And he was your father John ... no matter how things stood between you at the end that's a place in your heart no one else can ever fill.”
"Yeah," John agreed roughly. He might have said more but for Ronon's approach and interruption.
“Lots of food over there,” Ronon joined us, talking around a full mouth.
“I'm good,” John said with an amused look at Ronon’s overflowing plate.
“This the house you were raised in?” Ronon asked curiously.
“One of them,” John agreed. “It’s nice but ... I couldn’t wait to get out of here.”
“Why?” Ronon looked at John with interest.
“He had everything planned out for me since I was about fourteen,” John tried to explain. “I couldn’t get him to see that I wanted something different. We just ... we could never get around that.”
“So what do we do now?” Ronon looked around at the milling crowd.
“Mostly people sit around, drink ... eat – some more than others,” John looked down at Ronon’s plate in amusement. “Mostly they talk. They don't know what to say, but they talk.”
“Dave seems to be handling it well,” I nodded over to where John’s brother was laughing with a group of businessmen.
“That's what he does – he handles things,” John replied complacently.
“How come you never mentioned him to the rest of us?” Ronon asked, working out that I at least had known John had a brother back on Earth.
“It's complicated,” John returned evasively.
“You don’t know any of these people?” I asked curiously.
“Haven’t been here in more than ten years,” John replied simply. “Even then I was never interested in all the wining and dining.” John looked like he’d been about to say something else but then he froze, his face a mix of dread and disbelief. I followed the direction of his eyes and saw a woman in a simple black dress approaching us.
“Great,” John muttered under his breath.
“Who is it?” I asked in concern.
“Nancy,” John looked at me apologetically. Turning to Ronon he explained. “I told you I’d been married before, right?”
“Yeah, why?” Ronon asked expectantly.
“My ex-wife is here,” John announced. “She’s on her way over.” Grabbing my hand again John turned resolutely to face her.
“Hi, John,” Nancy said casually. She was average height, maybe a couple of years younger than John and pretty – damn it!
“Nancy,” John returned the greeting just as casually. “I didn't expect to see you here.”
Nancy moved a step closer as though she’d been about to hug John, saw the way he was holding onto me and stopped, offering her hand instead. John took it reluctantly, shaking her hand quickly before letting go.
“I'm very sorry,” Nancy said sincerely, stepping back and looking at Ronon and I.
“Ah Nancy, Ronon. Ronon, Nancy,” John made that introduction first, waiting while they did a hand shake, nice to meet you greeting. “And this is Sabina ... Sheppard.” He let Nancy make her own conclusions from that.
“You got married again?” Nancy asked weakly, her surprise cutting off any kind of courtesy greeting directly to me.
“Ah yeah,” John agreed. “Earlier this year. I probably should have ...,” he trailed off with a vague wave of his hand.
“You never told your Dad either?” Nancy queried, the look on her face saying she wasn’t surprised. She probably thought it was John and his secrets again and I really wished I could have disabused her of that notion ... if not for the whole national security thing. It was one of those times when keeping the secret was so difficult ... having information that would put Nancy and her assumptions about John's life in their place but not being able to use it. It was frustrating but ... giving Nancy the benefit of the doubt I listened without comment to their conversation.
“I meant to,” John said a bit defensively, “the next time we got leave.”
“You’re in the air force too?” Nancy looked at me in surprise.
“No,” I replied openly. “I’m a civilian stationed at the same base where John works.”
“Oh, of course,” Nancy nodded, still looking a bit dazed that John’s circumstances were not what she’d obviously assumed they’d be. “And what do you do there?”
“A variety of things,” I replied evasively. “Research mostly ... translating, that kind of thing.”
“How long're you here?” John changed the subject before Nancy could ask more questions.
“Just for today,” Nancy replied. “I have to be in Washington tomorrow, so ...”
“Still with Homeland Security?” John queried. That had me raising an eyebrow – I hadn’t known John’s ex had such close ties to the Stargate program. It wasn’t inconceivable that if she got high enough up the ladder she’d eventually find out what John had been doing the past three and a half years. Part of me actually wanted that just for the impact it would have ... and of course because it would prove her views about John to be as wrong as they could possibly be! It was petty but to my mind completely understandable ... even though without Nancy being the way she'd been with John they might never had ended up as ex spouses ... which would have left me ... nowhere.
“Yeah. I just got promoted. I'm a director now,” Nancy explained with just a hint of self pride.
“Oh, congratulations,” John returned awkwardly. I could see him scrambling around mentally, trying to come up with something else to say. “How's – how's Greg?” he finally asked.
“Grant,” Nancy corrected simply.
“Nice one John” I thought, “forgetting the ex-wife’s new husband’s name!” There was no cliché in that, right?!
“Grant,” John repeated apologetically. Ronon must have found the cliché amusing too because he moved out of hearing range, focusing on his plate rather than on what John was doing. I wasn’t sure I shouldn’t have made myself scarce too ... when I made to pull my hand away from John’s he clamped down tightly, answering that question for me. He didn’t want to be standing there talking to Nancy alone, even though I had nothing to add to the conversation.
“He would have come, but he's trying a case in Phoenix,” Nancy explained her husband’s absence. “You know, your dad was always very good to me.”
“Yeah well I was pretty convinced for a while there that he liked you more than me,” John quipped. “Certainly approved of you more. He didn’t blame you for not settling me down.”
“You seem pretty settled now,” Nancy commented.
“I am,” John agreed with conviction.
“I’m happy for you,” Nancy said with a smile. “It's good to see you again, John. Take care of yourself.” Looking at me she smiled again. “It was a pleasure to meet you Sabina.”
“You too Nancy,” I smiled back, relieved the awkward conversation looked to be over.
“It's nice to meet you,” Nancy called over to Ronon.
“Oh, it's nice to meet you,” Ronon repeated awkwardly.
And that was it – Nancy turned and walked away.
“Drink?” I looked at John with understanding.
“God yes,” John agreed fervently. “Come on buddy – let’s go find the bar.”
We walked into the bar and across to the counter but before we could ask for anything a young woman approached us.
“Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard?” she asked.
“Yes,” John looked across at her without expression.
“My name is Ava Dixon,” she introduced herself. Looking at Ronon and I she continued. “I know that you’re Sabina Sheppard and you must be Ronon.
“Do I know you?” John asked with a frown.”
“No, we've never met, but you knew the man I used to work for – Henry Wallace,” Ava threw that familiar name down expectantly.
“Doesn't ring a bell,” John lied with a shrug.
“Look, I realise you have to keep up appearances in public, but I don't have time to play games,” Ava leaned in close and spoke quietly. “Henry Wallace was the man who kidnapped your colleague, Doctor Rodney McKay, and forced him to work on a highly illegal research project involving alien technology ...”
Before she could continue John reached out and grabbed her arm, pulling her in closer. “Who the hell are you?” he demanded.
“We need to talk, but not here,” Ava insisted.
“Okay, then where?” John let her go, crossing his arms and looking at her grimly.
“There’s a coffee shop in town we could use,” Ava suggested.
“Fine, we’ll take you there,” John motioned for Ronon and I to precede him out the door. We walked across the garden towards where John had parked the car. There were still a number of people standing around outside, including John’s brother. When he spotted Dave, John stopped with a sigh, handing over his keys to me.
“I should speak to him,” John announced. “Take her to the car.”
Nodding reluctantly I followed Ronon and Ava, glancing back to see John and Dave talking. It didn’t take long – when John got to the car he looked troubled and somewhat annoyed too.
“You okay?” I asked softly, watching him start the car and pull out of the drive.
“You mean apart from the fact that Dave thinks I came back because of the money?” John laughed grimly. “Kinda funny given what happened the last time we were back here, don’t you think?”
“He doesn’t know you anymore if he thinks that,” I said firmly.
“Six years doesn’t change the core of a person,” John refused to let his brother off the hook.
“He’s angry too,” I pointed out gently. “He seems too ... civilised to just blast you with a few curses ... maybe his comment was driven by that more than what he knows or doesn’t know about you.”
“Maybe,” John conceded reluctantly. Looking in the rear view mirror he made eye contact with Ava. “Where’s this coffee shop?”
With Ava directing we journeyed into Richmond and to an out of the way cafe on a quiet city street. It was late and all the lights from restaurants and clubs glittered in the dusk darkness. We all sat at a table and waited for Ava to speak.
“I would have come to you sooner, but you were a hard man to find,” Ava began.
“All right, you've got our attention,” John returned. “What's this all about?”
What it was about was not what any of us had expected. Ava had been working with a Doctor Richard Poole indirectly for Devlin Medical Technologies – you guessed it, on nanite based research. And not at the individual nanite level like Henry Wallace’s work. No, they’d been working on creating a human form Replicator, not one that could self replicate but that hardly made it right. Ava had believed the research to be authorised because Poole had been like a father to her until the day he’d come to the lab and tried to shut the whole thing down, including the Replicator.
“He killed to escape,” Ava explained. “If he's threatened, he could kill again. You have to do something.”
“You're telling me there's a Replicator loose on Earth?” John stared at her grimly.
“That's right,” Ava confirmed.
“How long?” Ronon asked.
“Well, he escaped three weeks ago,” Ava admitted. “We've been working on a way to track him, but so far had no success. He could be anywhere by now.”
“We should be able to speed that up,” John pulled out his cell phone and dialled the SGC. “First we need to pick up Poole.”
Up on the Apollo it was all action as John and Ronon prepared to storm Stanton Research and grab Ava’s mentor and all the data files about the Replicator. They didn’t even change, just went back down there in the same clothes they’d worn for the wake. There wasn’t really anything for me to do except watch and wait for them to get back.
It didn’t take long ... only minutes after they’d beamed down to the research facility they were back with a reluctant and protesting Richard Poole in custody.
“What now?” I asked John, standing just inside the doorway of the area where he, Ronon and Ava were meeting.
“Now we get Poole to give us the codes to unlock his data files so we can track the Replicator,” John announced.
“You think he’ll do that voluntarily?” I queried sceptically.
“Probably not,” John admitted, “which is why the SGC recalled Doctor Lee from vacation.”
“Poor him,” I commented, feeling genuinely sorry for Bill. When it looked like John was going to return to discussions with Ava I put a hand on his arm to hold him back. “Listen, there’s nothing I can do to help with this search, right?”
“Not really. I could get them to beam you back to the hotel,” John offered. “I don’t know how long it’ll take us to finish this so you might be waiting a while.”
“I could use the time to do a little digging of my own,” I suggested, looking at him almost pleadingly. “Who knows when I’m gonna get another chance to be back here like this.”
“You want to go check out that address Rodney gave you?” John offered.
“You brought the note with you?” I asked in surprise, only continuing when he nodded his assent. “I don’t think I’m ready for that but ... I could use the time to look into my adoption records. We’ve got the hire car,” I pointed out. “I could drive to Washington and be back before you have a chance to miss me.”
“It’s an eight hour drive from Richmond to Washington,” John pointed out. “I’ll get the Apollo to beam you closer in the morning.”
“What, car and all?” I asked in surprise.
“Size matters not,” John quipped his Yoda impersonation with a grin. “I’ll go speak to Colonel Ellis.”
“Thanks John,” I hugged him quickly and then let him go.
“Go get some sleep,” John urged. “I’ll be with you in an hour or so.”
Knowing he’d convince the Colonel to help me out I rushed off to the quarters we'd been assigned to organise my gear, mind churning so much it was hard to get to sleep. John eventually arrived and finally, with his arms around me close in the darkness, did I let my mind rest, hoping my presence was doing the same for him.
I hadn’t forgotten what we were there for ... my concern over John and how he was handling his grief ever present. But he was completely focused on the Replicator problem, maybe using it to distract himself or just as likely purposefully pushing it to the background so he could do his job. I had to respect that so for the moment I let everything else settle into the background too, to be dealt with again once the current concerns were resolved.
The Apollo beamed me down to the hotel first the next morning so I could pick up the rest of our things - we'd spent only the time it took to register there before heading to the funeral the previous day and no time since then so it was no wonder the clerk at the desk gave me a strange look when I checked us out.
John and Ronon were also heading out that morning to search for the Replicator in the square of buildings and warehouses that Doctor Lee had identified as it's location. Sitting in the rental car a few miles out from the hotel I waited for them to beam me across three states in the blink of an eye, without anyone bearing witness. It was a little freaky I’ll admit but also kind of cool to be sitting in the driver’s seat in Kentucky one second and then be in Washington D.C. the next. Grinning to myself I put the car into gear and pulled out onto the road, heading into the city.
My first stop would be to check out the legal firm that had handled my adoption. If I could find out what I needed without having to resort to Rodney’s note – meaning a possible confrontation with people I wasn’t sure I even wanted to meet – then all the better.
An hour later I arrived at the law offices where Roger Scott had practiced law twenty years before. Scott and Sloan Associates. It was still there, a fact that thrilled me on the most basic level. Roger would have been happy to see the firm he’d help create still going strong three decades later.
Walking into reception I looked around curiously, hoping it would seem familiar. Of course after so long the place had probably gone through more than one revamp and looked modern and nothing like I remembered. Noticing a plaque on the wall near the door I moved over to have a quick look, delaying that moment when I’d have to start explaining what I was doing there.
“In remembrance of Roger John Scott, co founder and friend.” It was dated just a few months after the accident. I stood for a moment just staring at the words, memories bubbling to the surface along with a sheen of tears.
‘Sabina?” a male voice asked hesitantly from behind me.
Quickly wiping my eyes I turned around with a forced smile that turned instantly genuine when I realised who’d called my name. He was in his late fifties with the requisite greying hair and slight paunch but his blue eyes still twinkled as I remembered them.
“Mr Sloan,” I took the hand he held out and shook it firmly. “I can’t believe you recognised me after so long!”
“There’s still enough of that little girl in you, the one who used to treat this office like her own personal play house,” Jason Sloan returned fondly. “I’m sorry I lost track of you after the accident.”
“It’s okay,” I dismissed lightly.
“It’s not,” Jason replied firmly. “I don’t know if they ever told you but I tried to get them to release you into my custody. At the time a single male with no child rearing experience was low down on the list of suitable foster parents.”
“They didn’t tell me,” I admitted sadly. “I’m sorry I never kept in touch Mr Sloan. It was ... tough the first few years. I ah ... this place held a lot of memories I couldn’t handle at the time.”
“Please, call me Jason,” he invited, looking at me with a curious expression. “What brings you back here now?”
“I was hoping you’d be able to help me with something,” I explained.
“Come back to my office,” Jason invited, putting a hand under my arm to guide me down the corridor.
“This place has changed so much,” I commented, looking around his office with interest. Noticing the family portrait picture on his desk I smiled. “You finally settled down?”
“You still remember how your Dad used to tease me about that?” Jason asked in surprise.
“Of course,” I smiled. “That along with all the other things you used to rib each other about.”
“He was a great friend,” Jason said softly. “The best I’ll ever have.”
“I appreciate the plaque,” I smiled a bit tearfully. “I know he would have too, especially after all this time.”
“You don’t forget friends like Roger,” Jason said simply. “Now tell me, what can I help you with?”
“I need to see my adoption record,” I launched straight in without laying any ground work.
“If you’re looking to find your natural parents I’m not sure the file will help,” Jason replied. “I handled the details for your parents and while I can’t remember the specifics I know an extensive search was done before the adoption went through. They didn’t find much – certainly not enough to chase your biological parents up for legal action.”
“Can I look at the file?” I asked hopefully.
“I’m sorry Sabina,” Jason said apologetically. “The adoption was registered here which means the only way for you to gain access is through a court order.”
“But there weren’t any birth parents around to insist on a closed adoption,” I said incredulously. “Who are we protecting?”
“There might not be specifics but something in that file could lead you to them just the same,” Jason explained.
“They abandoned me!” I said, starting to feel angry, “and they’re the ones that get the protection? How is that fair?”
“It’s not,” Jason said simply. “But it is the law and I can’t go against that. I’m sorry.”
“Could you look at it then?” I persisted. “All I want to know is if there’s anything in the file worth following up. If there is I can do the whole court order thing.”
“I suppose I could review the file for you,” Jason agreed thoughtfully. “That far back the files would probably be buried deep in basement storage but I can get someone to go down there, search it out ... I should have something for you within a couple of days. Where are you staying?”
“I haven’t picked anywhere yet,” I replied without thinking, getting a frown when he realised my first stop had been his office. “I’ll check in with you tomorrow and let you know where you can contact me.”
“We have a spare room,” Jason began before I held up a hand.
“That’s very generous but I ‘m not planning on staying that long,” I said evasively, hardly able to tell him that actually I already had a room up on an orbiting space ship.
“Will you at least be stopping by the cemetery?” Jason raised an eyebrow when I grimaced at the thought.
“I should, I know,” I acknowledged, standing and moving over to look out his window. “They’re not there though ... I used to go when the first foster parents let me but ... it was hard enough to hold on to their images in my head without putting those headstones in there as well.”
“They loved you, you know,” Jason came over and put a comforting hand on my shoulder.
“I know,” I agreed.
“They were so happy when you came along and gave them a chance to be parents,” Jason continued. “Without you they would never have experienced that. Gwen was just as giddy as any mother when they were preparing to bring you home from the hospital. They never regretted making a place for you into their lives.”
“Thank you,” I kept my eyes firmly fixed on the view so I wouldn’t have to look at him and let him see that even after all this time thoughts of Gwen and Roger could still bring me to tears. He let me compose myself in companionable silence, understanding without me needing to say anything.
Sighing softly I turned to him with a grateful smile. “I should let you get back to work.” Stopping by his desk I carefully wrote down the cell phone numbers of both the phones John and I had appropriated, hoping I wouldn’t have to wait too long to hear back from him.
“It was wonderful to see you Sabina,” Jason reached out to hold my hands, one in each of his. “I always wondered how you’d turned out, if you were okay.”
“I wasn’t for a long time,” I admitted. Pulling my left hand free I held it up so he could see my ring finger. “I am now ... finally found somewhere I belong and someone to belong with.”
“That’s great!” Jason smiled proudly. “You never said what you do ... what does your husband do?”
“He’s a Lieutenant Colonel,” I smiled at the look of surprise on Jason’s face. “Air force fly boy,” I added with grin. “He’s stationed somewhere very remote but I managed to get a civilian post there – doing research and translating plus a bit of computer work. The only down side is we don’t get to the States very often.”
“Well that’s just great,” Jason said again. “I hope if you’re out this way on your next visit you’ll bring your husband in to say hello.”
“John’s busy with work or he’d be here now,” I explained. “I can’t promise I’ll be out this way any time soon but sure, if we find ourselves near here we’ll stop by.”
“In the meantime I’ll let you know if I find anything that would make a court order worthwhile,” Jason promised, turning to escort me from his office.
Five minutes later I stood out on the pavement, looking up at that building and wondering if there really was anything in my file worth looking at. If I were to believe the vision Davos had given me then I would get to see it as some stage although the circumstances for getting to that point weren’t clear from what I’d seen.
Pulling out my cell phone I dialled the SGC and asked to speak to Walter.
“Mrs Sheppard ma’am,” Walter greeted me with his usual brisk manner.
“Hi Walter,” I greeted him in return. “I was wondering if you could check something out for me. I might need a court order to get access to my own birth records. Is that something the air force can expedite?”
“I’ll need to look into it,” Walter advised. “I can call you back when I have something?”
“That would be great,” I said thankfully. “In the mean time can you patch a call through to Colonel Sheppard?”
“Of course,” Walter replied. “Stand by.”
“Sabina,” John’s voice came through strongly a few seconds later.
“Hey, how’s it going up there?” I asked.
“Slowly,” John admitted. “It takes time to evacuate five city blocks without alerting the target but we’re almost set to head out. How are things at your end?”
“Adoption records are sealed here,” I reported. “Can’t access mine without a court order. Walter’s checking to see if the air force could put a rush on one. I saw my Dad’s old law partner ... brought back a lot of memories.”
“You okay?” John asked in concern.
“I guess,” I replied. “You?”
“Welcoming the distraction,” John admitted. “I’ll have to go back and speak to Dave but a little bit of distance after that last conversation won’t have done either of us any harm.”
“We’ll go back and speak to him together,” I corrected. “I should be done here in a day or so.”
“You still want to pursue this, even though it’s proving more difficult than you expected?” John queried.
“Can you truly know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve come from?” I countered. “I used to think I couldn’t which is why I drifted from thing to thing with no purpose. You know I feel differently now – I’m only following this up because I have a bad feeling there’s more to this than a standard closed adoption.”
“Sure you don’t want that address Rodney gave you?” John asked curiously.
“Not yet,” I replied. “I know it could turn out to be the easy way but ... what are the chances the same people will be there after thirty years? And if they are, I don’t think I’m ready to meet them. I just want the information without having to get all personal about it.”
“Fair enough,” John agreed. “If you end up with that last resort – I’ll go with you.”
“Thanks,” I smiled fondly, wishing I was up there so I could thank him more personally. “I’ll call again when I’ve made some progress here.”
“Likewise,” John promised. “Take care of yourself.”
“You too!” I signed off, knowing I probably had a goofy grin on my face but not caring if anyone saw.
With nothing else to do but wait for call backs from Jason and Walter I spent the rest of the day driving around doing a kind of memory lane tour. To be honest nothing really looked that familiar except for the school I’d gone to which seemed to have been frozen in some kind of time warp.
In the hour before twilight I found myself at the cemetery. I spent the time until night fell sitting in a chair across from Gwen and Roger’s graves, thinking about life and how different mine could have been if they hadn’t been killed. Would I have suffered from such a restless soul, travelled from place to place so frequently? Probably not. It was more likely that I would have settled on some kind of path, studied hard to please them, and be married with kids and living in the suburbs by now. For certain I wouldn’t have made that journey to the Pegasus galaxy and John’s side. While I regretted their deaths I couldn’t regret that ... the string of events that led me there were necessary, no matter how much they’d hurt at the time.
Shivering at the sudden cold I realised I’d been there too long ... it was dark and I had no place to stay so I put in a call to the SCG and five minutes later was beamed back to the Apollo.
“How’d it go today?” I asked John as soon as I’d located him in the ships Mess.
“Not good,” John admitted, looking at me closely and then wisely deciding not to comment on how late it was. “Poole tricked us to get to his Replicator without an escort – a costly mistake because the Replicator decided to eliminate him. So now we don’t have him and we don’t have his codes. Worse than that he must have told it how we were tracking it because that method isn’t working anymore. We searched every building twice but didn’t find him. In the end I had to ask Nancy for anything she could find out about project Archetype - that's what Poole was calling it.”
“You were in Washington too?” I asked in surprise.
“Only for a few minutes,” John pointed out. “The Apollo beamed me in and back out again before anyone else knew I was there.”
“Is she going to help?” I looked at him curiously.
“Doesn’t look like it,” John admitted. “She used the opportunity to point out that she no longer had to put up with my secrets.”
“Oh,” I grimaced at how that would have felt from John’s point of view. "That was ... harsh." After the meeting yesterday I'd felt almost benevolent towards John's ex-wife ... not so much now he'd revealed her ungracious behaviour. She hadn't needed to say that ... she could have just told him she was unable to help and left it at that ... particularly given the fact that she knew John was still dealing with his grief.
"I guess," John agreed with a shrug, clearly not wanting to put too much thought into anything Nancy had said.
“So what now?” I queried.
“Bill’s still working on the encryption code,” John replied. ‘Hopefully there’ll be something in those files that can help. How did your afternoon go?”
“It didn’t,” I admitted. “No one’s got back to me yet so I spent the time wandering around looking for anything familiar. There wasn’t much. I’ll head back down tomorrow, maybe check in with my Dad’s old partner again and see if he’s got anything.”
“You look tired,” John commented in concern.
“You don’t look exactly well rested yourself pal,” I replied smartly. “Are you done for the day?”
“I guess,” John watched as I stood and held a hand out to him. “Bed time?” he queried with a raised brow.
“Definitely,” I returned. “And I don’t know about you but I could really use a hug about now.”
“That I can accommodate,” John promised, putting an arm around me and squeezing fondly.
Working out what happens when in this episode was a nightmare so I made a few executive decisions – one of which being that the scene at the end of their first search for the Replicator and then the following scene where John asks Nancy for information both took place on the same day (Nancy does say two John Sheppard encounters in two days which does support that). It is dusk at the location the Replicator disappeared from and still light in Washington so I’ll just assume that was due to shifting time zones – given the Apollo could beam them anywhere instantly.