“Did you see Teyla today?” John asked me the next evening. We had the entertainment room to ourselves and were ensconced together on the couch watching a movie.
“No,” I looked at him in concern. “Everything all right?”
“As far as I know,” John replied. “Rodney just mentioned she was distracted at lunch, that she’d had a dream about Kanaan begging for help, only she called it a vision.”
“What do you think?” I asked curiously.
“That it’s been six months since the Athosian’s were taken and the closer it gets to her due date the greater her desperation to find them,” John said reluctantly. “I don’t want to tell her to give up on her people but the trail’s been cold for too long – not that I think she’d listen anyway.”
“Since Davos told her they were alive but shrouded in mystery she’s believed she’ll find them,” I commented with a shake of my head. “Maybe she would have accepted this by now if not for that”.
“Yeah well on top of the current epidemic I could do without the additional complication,” John admitted.
“How bad is it?” I’d already heard that the planet Team Sheppard had visited that day had been affected by the same illness we’d recently found on other planets but I hadn’t had a chance to catch up with Jennifer on the specifics.
“Keller estimates deaths to the order of 200,000 galaxy wide,” John replied starkly.
“God, that many?” That familiar ‘this is bad, should I panic now or later?’ feeling swept over me.
“I know,” John ran a hand down my arm as if he’d sensed that panicky wave and was trying to sooth it away. “Jennifer’s working on a cure but it won’t come soon enough for some of the planets we deal with.”
“And we can’t even warn them,” I commented frustratedly, “because the next outbreak is impossible to predict.”
“We just have to be patient and help out as best we can,” John concluded.
Settling back against the couch together I made a mental note to myself to talk to both Jennifer and Teyla the next day.
Teyla made that easy for me by turning up at our door early enough the next morning that John and I were both still there.
“May I speak with you?” she asked John hopefully.
“Sure, come in,” John stood aside and motioned her in. “Is something wrong?”
“I had another vision last night,” Teyla said urgently. “Kanaan held out the pendant I gave him before they were taken and begged me to come and find him. I know you are sceptical John but this was not a dream.”
“Why is the pendant significant?” I asked Teyla curiously.
“He held it out as a clue for their location,” Teyla explained. “I purchased it from an artisan in the village of Croya. I believe he was asking me to go there, that somewhere in the village are the clues to finding him.”
“Don’t you think it’s unlikely they’d have anything to do with the disappearance of your people?” John pointed out reasonably.
“Croya is a peaceful settlement,” Teyla agreed. “Still I believe the clues are there.”
“If this is a vision, if it’s Kanaan really making contact, then why doesn’t he just tell you where he is?” John asked practically. “Why the cryptic puzzle?”
“I do not know,” Teyla said impatiently. “All I know is that I must go to Croya and speak to the artisan. I cannot rest unless I have pursued every angle, no matter how unlikely.”
“I can understand that,” John agreed with the sentiment. “Let me speak to Colonel Carter. All the off world teams are busy providing assistance because of this sickness so we’ll have to be quick but I should be able to convince her.”
“Thank you John,” Teyla said in relief. “I will wait to hear Samantha's decision.” Sending a smile my way, Teyla turned and took her leave, her gait slow and careful.
“Should she be going off world so late in her pregnancy?” I asked worriedly. “Seven and a half months is still a long way from full term but she’s not exactly her usual mobile self.”
“I’ll check out the planet first, make sure it’s safe,” John promised. “I should do that now ... speak to Colonel Carter before she gets too busy with other stuff.”
“Okay,” I nodded, “but can you let me know what she says, whether you’re going or not?”
John agreed readily, finishing the usual morning get ready activities quickly so he could get moving. Coming over to where I was still stretched out on the bed he kissed me goodbye.
“You staying in bed all day?” he queried semi seriously.
“I’m up,” I held out a hand for him to help me, taking the opportunity to hug him before I released him. “Go talk to Sam – I’ll catch up with you later.”
“Later,” John agreed, ruffling my hair before dancing out of reach. Throwing a wave to me at the door he disappeared down the corridor.
“Sabina,” John’s voice issued from my radio a few hours later. He’d already radioed me once that morning to tell me he was taking Teyla to Croya and I assumed this was the follow up call to tell me how they went.
“Any luck with Teyla’s vision?” I asked hopefully.
“No and I’m not calling about that,” John replied briskly. “Jennifer’s located the source of the sickness. It’s not natural – it’s a variant of the Hoffan virus Beckett helped create. Someone is deliberately distributing it randomly throughout the galaxy, probably in the food and water supply. Colonel Carter wants us to go to Hoff, see if we can find out how they got a hold of it.”
“Wasn’t Hoff destroyed by the Wraith ages ago?” I couldn’t see what Sam hoped to find in the wreckage.
“Yes and it’s unlikely we’ll find anything in what’s left,” John agreed. “But we have to make sure of that before we try a different angle.”
“Of course,” I nodded even though John couldn’t see me. “Okay, well I guess I’ll see you at dinner instead of lunch. Be careful.”
“Always am,” John returned with the smile evident in his voice.
“Sabina,” it was Major Lorne’s voice over the radio this time.
“I’m here,” I replied, eyes still on the text I’d been reading. Ever since I’d discovered my true origins I’d been spending the odd hour here and there searching the database for any personal records on Cato and Levana (even in my head I couldn’t bring myself to call them my parents).
“Gear up,” Lorne ordered. “We’re taking Teyla to M2S-181.”
“Wasn’t she there just this morning with John’s team?” I frowned in surprise.
“Yeah but she needs to go back again,” Evan explained. “Get your gear and meet us in the Gateroom asap.”
“On my way,” I was already shutting off my laptop as I spoke.
Ten minutes later I walked into the Gateroom where everyone else was already gathered, just as the wormhole stabilised.
“Sorry,” I muttered even though I couldn’t have gotten there any quicker.
“Head out,” Lorne ordered, taking a position next to Teyla. I quickly hurried into position on her other side and kept pace as we all stepped through the Gate.
“Did you see anything different this time?” I asked Teyla about her vision as we walked slowly towards the village.
“It was much the same as the others,” Teyla explained, “except I was definitely awake. I am sure that this is where I need to be, that Kanaan leads me here for a reason.”
“I hope you’re right,” I said easily, genuinely wanting her to have some good news about her people after so long.
“As do I,” Teyla returned, returning to her silent thoughts for the rest of the journey. Teyla wasn’t sure what to look for specifically so once in the village we just meandered amongst the stalls, hoping something would jump out at us. Lorne and I walked with Teyla through the busy market with Brown and Parker following closely behind.
“Hmm! Kind of reminds me of the flea markets they used to have back home,” he commented conversationally. “Every Sunday, stroll down to the Bay area, find pretty much anything you wanted.” He looked at some of the wares on display ruefully. “And a lot of things you didn't.”
Teyla had stopped listening though, all her attention on a stall nearby where the merchant was holding up a black pendant to a customer.
“What is it?” Lorne queried, looking from the stall back to Teyla.
Teyla didn’t reply ... well not verbally anyway. Instead she reached for the small knife she carried at her belt and walked purposefully forward.
“Teyla?” Evan called again but she ignored him completely. Motioning for me to follow he trailed after her.
“Leave,” Teyla almost growled at the customer, her tone stern and her expression glaring.
After a quick glance at the knife she was holding the man high tailed it out of there without a backward glance. Before I could blink Teyla had grabbed the merchant’s hand and had her knife pressed to his throat.
“I will ask you once and you will answer me truthfully,” she threatened grimly. “Where did you get this pendant?”
“From a trader,” the merchant said nervously. “If you like it that much, it's yours with my blessings.”
Teyla pulled the knife away from the man’s throat, snatching the pendant from his hand and looking at it with a strange mix of anger and despair.
“Is that the pendant?” I asked.
“It is,” Teyla agreed. “It belonged to Kanaan.” Looking at the merchant again she continued with her questions. “What else did you acquire from this trader?”
The merchant reached back for a small wooden box, setting it on the table in front of Teyla wordlessly. She opened it and began riffling through the contents.
“You know, I don't wanna be difficult here,” the merchant was obviously feeling more relaxed now Teyla didn’t have a knife at his throat, “but I acquired that merchandise for a price and, while I really don't mind gifting you with an item, from a purely business standpoint, it really doesn't make sense for me to part with my ...”
“This necklace belonged to Balera,” she held up the item, talking over the merchant as though he weren’t even there. “It was a gift from her parents to mark her coming of age.” Holding up a ring she continued. “And this ring belonged to Halling.”
“The trader you say you got these things from: when's the last time you saw him?” Lorne asked the merchant, who could see which way this was going to go for him now it seemed his goods were at best stolen property.
“Several days ago, but he comes through here quite regularly,” the merchant offered. “In fact, it's more than likely he may pay me a visit today. It would be my pleasure to make the proper introductions.”
“Yes it will,” Lorne agreed companionably. “My friends here are gonna wait down the walkway. I’ll be over at that stall,” he pointed to a spot close enough he could keep watch without being too visible. “When our man makes an appearance signal me without making it obvious. We’ll do the rest.”
“Of course,” the merchant agreed. “I assume you’ll be taking these items with you ... perhaps we can talk about compensation since I am helping you to apprehend the culprit.”
“We can talk later, after we have what we need,” Lorne countered, making it clear if we weren’t successful the merchant would be getting nothing.
Nodding with an air of resigned disappointment the merchant went about his business. Lorne set Teyla and I up on opposing escape routes so that one of us would be able to stop the trader if he tried to run before Lorne could grab him.
I kept a low profile, close enough to the stall that I could see Evan as well at the merchant but not close enough to hear anything. I saw the trader arrive, saw the merchant signal Evan and watched as he approached casually.
“Get ready Teyla,” I whispered into the radio.
I could have hoped that the trader ran in my direction but instead when he bolted he headed straight for Teyla. Happily she’d armed herself with a really big stick and she used if very effectively to render him unconscious with just one hit.
Parker and Brown had been busy finding us a room we could use for interrogating our trader friend. Lorne tied the guy to a chair himself, secure enough there was no way he was getting out. We could have waited until he regained consciousness naturally but we didn’t have that kind of time, plus I think Evan took a perverse delight in throwing a bucket of cold water on the guy.
He woke up spluttering and coughing, disorientated in the unfamiliar surroundings.
“Wake up!” Evan ordered. I handed him the wooden box so he could show it to the trader. “Look, we need to know where you got this merchandise.”
“I do trade so much, it's often hard to keep track of it all,” the trader prevaricated.
“Oh yeah?” Evan said in disbelief. “Well, according to the merchant you do business with here, the stuff you've been bringing in lately has been a hell of a lot nicer than your usual crap.”
“He said that?” the guy was confident enough to appear insulted by that.
“Yeah. He said that.” Lorne reiterated, not impressed with the act.
“Well, there's no accounting for taste,” he shook his head sadly. “I can't give up my sources – they're trade secrets.”
“I don't give a damn about your trade secrets,” Lorne said impatiently. “We wanna know where you got this stuff.”
“And if I don't tell you, what are you gonna do?” the trader asked scornfully. “I recognise those uniforms; I've heard the stories. People from Atlantis – do-gooders of the galaxy. You wouldn't hurt me.”
“I wear no uniform,” Teyla stepped out of the shadows, approaching the trader and smiling unpleasantly.
“A pregnant woman!” he laughed and I could almost hear him chanting ‘ooh I’m so scared’. “Very intimidating.”
Teyla lifted her trusty branch and put the end of it gently against his chest, pushing hard enough to topple him and the chair over backwards.
“I will inform the villagers that you are a Wraith-worshipper and let them mete out their own justice,” she announced almost casually. Looking at us she motioned that we should get moving. “Let's go.”
Playing along we all turned and made for the door.
“Wait. Wait!” the trader was suddenly much more interested in dealing. Teyla stopped and looked down at him expectantly. “I got it at an off world dumping ground,” he admitted in a rush.
“Dumping ground?” Lorne queried. “For what?”
“Corpses, mostly,” the guy said it like the idea of rifling dead bodies for valuables wasn’t as disgusting as it sounded. “Loose ends that need to be disappeared.”
Teyla got a horrified look on her face as the possible implications registered.
“Occasionally they may still have some valuables on ‘em, and valuables they obviously have no use for,” the trader continued when none of us reacted.
“This merchandise – you removed it from the dead?” Lorne tried to clarify we understood the guy correctly.
“No – not that merchandise,” the trader explained. “The last time I was back at the planet, I spotted what I thought was a fresh grave – a potential new opportunity. But when I dug it up, instead of finding a body, I found a box containing those items. I suppose somebody was just trying to get rid of ‘em. It was odd to me at first, but I wasn't just about to ...”
“You will take us to this world,” Teyla interrupted to order sternly. “You will show us where you found them.”
“Of course,” the trader replied suddenly all too helpful. “Whatever you say.”
“Get him up,” Lorne directed Parker and Brown, who responded by taking an arm each. They untied the guy and, keeping a hand on him, followed Evan, Teyla and I out of the room towards the path leading to the Stargate.
Lorne took the lead and after putting a hand on Teyla’s arm reassuringly I quickened my pace so I could walk beside him.
“You can’t let her do this,” I uttered in a near whisper. “It’s too dangerous.”
“Try telling her that,” Evan whispered his reply, glancing back to Teyla quickly before looking forward again. “She’s still got that stick you know!”
“And John will have your head if you let her go and something happens,” I retorted harshly.
“I know,” Evan looked pained as he realised he really was between a rock and a hard place.
“You don’t want Teyla to get hurt,” I reminded him of those feelings he’d always held for her, reminded him they should be just as much about protecting her as they were about giving her what she wanted.
“You’re right,” Lorne agreed reluctantly. “I’ll speak to her.”
Dropping the pace until we were walking with Teyla again Lorne began. “First thing we do when we get to the Gate is radio back to Atlantis,” he told her, “let ‘em know where we're going, OK?” He waited until she nodded before broaching the more difficult subject. “Listen, Teyla, I know you're looking for answers to what happened to your people, but I'm thinking maybe it's better if you let us check it out, okay?”
“Major ...,” Teyla tried to protest.
“Look, just let us scout ahead, all right?” Evan interrupted before she could get going.
It never occurred to me that this might be the day a ‘companion’ was taken by the Wraith ... until we heard that familiar whining sound coming from the sky some distance away.
“What is that?” Evan looked up, his expression going hard when he worked it out. “Dart!” he yelled.
We ran down the path as the Dart came into view between us and the Gate. I saw the transporter beam activate and sweep the ground in front of us, saw the trader grab Teyla’s arm and hold her in its path.
The choice was easy ... in fact there was no choice at all. Instinctively I threw myself sideways, grabbing Teyla’s other arm just as the beam swept over us.
Interlude 11: The question was, guilty of what?
I couldn’t recall a day when I’d been through the Gate so many times. First to M2S-181 so that Teyla could pursue her vision ... without success. Then on to Hoff where we discovered that someone had deliberately removed everything to do with their anti-Wraith inoculation. Picking up yet again the subspace signal from the ‘thorn in my side’ Wraith I’d dubbed Todd had us leaving almost immediately. That’s where we worked out that the Wraith themselves weren’t responsible for distribution of the Hoffan drug, that they’d been dying indiscriminately across every faction until they’d worked out their food supply was contaminated. Todd believed he knew the culprit and in exchange wanted access to what we knew of the drug so he could counter it with an antidote available only to his allies.
Once the Wraith were out of the picture as the perpetrators we didn’t need Todd to tell us who had become suspect number one.
I could have hoped that he died along with all the other converted Wraith Sabina had hit with the telepathic expansion device but I guess that was always too good to be true.
Even with Todd’s bargaining chip removed he still argued for our research, making it clear he believed he could counteract it faster than us which would be in our interests too because it could help us save our own species from being inoculated too.
It was another ‘let’s work together’ offer that had me cringing as every instinct I possessed yelled DON’T DO IT!
Unfortunately it wasn’t up to me so, back on Atlantis without giving Todd an answer, I listened as Rodney gave his reasons for going along with Todd’s request. It didmake sense – even if they weaponised the Hoffan drug it wouldn’t be smart to use it against humans. What would they feed on? The only thing they could do was use it as another way to fight amongst themselves.
“So, when you put it that way, giving them our research could be a good thing,” I commented once Rodney had concluded, getting a shrug of agreement in return.
At that moment the Stargate began a dial in sequence and I had my first active thought of Sabina since I’d told her we were on the way to Hoff, a kind of ‘I wonder what she’s up to?’ internal conversation.
“Incoming wormhole,” Chuck announced.
Colonel Carter seemed unusually interested in the arrivals, leaving her office and heading for the stairs down to the Gateroom, so I tagged alone. When I saw it was the military part of Lorne’s team I felt it – that first shiver of instinct inside that said trouble was coming.
Lorne walked towards Carter, his whole demeanour shouting out ‘I’m guilty!’ ... the question was, guilty of what?
“Major, where's Teyla?” Carter asked in concern, which was bad enough until she added her next question. “Where’s Sabina?”
Reluctantly Lorne lifted his head and met Carter’s eyes. “I’m sorry Ma’am,” he said regretfully. “We were following a lead on the Athosians but it turned out to be a trap. On approach to the Gate a lone Dart appeared – I saw our informant deliberately step into the beam with Teyla in tow.” Glancing at me for the first time he visibly winced at my expression. “I’m sorry Sir – Sabina threw herself in with Teyla before I could stop her.”
“She willingly stepped into the beam?” I asked flatly.
“Yes Sir,” Lorne agreed. “Like I said Sir, it was clear when the Dart appeared that it was a trap to capture Teyla. I believe Sabina knew that too – she was the closest, the only one of us in a position to be any kind of help to Teyla.” Meeting my eyes squarely, Evan continued. "I'm really sorry Sir ... I should have stopped her."
“I’m sure you did what you could,” I excused Lorne of any guilt, knowing how compelled Sabina would have been to stay close to Teyla, no matter the circumstances. Turning I looked at Colonel Carter grimly. “We need a decision on Todd’s offer. If this is part of the same plan he might have intel we can use to track them.”
“You think Michael did this?” Rodney asked weakly.
“Who else?” I tried not to let my impatience or my anger show but it was difficult. “But we need to act quickly before the trail goes cold.”
“Rodney, load up a tablet with just enough information on the Hoffan drug to get Todd started,” Carter ordered decisively. “We’ll offer him the rest in exchange for information on Michael, including whether he’s responsible for taking Teyla and Sabina.”
“Thank you Colonel,” I said gratefully. The worry was there, bubbling to close to the surface .... focusing on Todd and what he could tell us was the only way I could ignore it for a time. If Todd couldn't help us ... "Don't go there John," I thought firmly.
“John, come up to my office while Rodney’s doing that,” Carter invited casually, turning and expecting me to follow. Once inside she turned to me in concern. “We can’t afford to make this personal,” she warned me. “I understand you want to find Teyla and Sabina as quickly as possible but we have a bigger mission here too – those 200,000 humans who will perish if we don’t stop the distribution of this drug.”
“The two motives aren’t mutually exclusive,” I argued. “If Michael’s behind this then progressing one should help us with the other.”
“And if he isn’t behind this?” Carter asked quietly.
“He is,” I insisted, sure to my gut that I was right.
“Very well,” Carter nodded once, “go see Todd, find out what you can.”
“Thank you Colonel,” I said again, making my exit quickly before she could change her mind.
When we got to the derelict cruiser there were Wraith guards shifting the dead bodies we’d seen before. Todd appeared just as I was aiming my weapon in preparation for taking them down.
“Ah, don't mind them,” Todd dismissed in his creepy 'jovial' Wraith voice. “They're just here to help with the clean-up.”
I motioned for Rodney and Ronon to lower their weapons and stepped aside for the guards to drag the body away.
“I assume you've agreed to my terms,” Todd commented casually.
“Not exactly,” I admitted.
“You do not wish to know who is responsible for these unfortunate events?” Todd queried in surprise.
“We already know – at least, we have a pretty good guess,” Rodney supplied.
“We call him Michael. Don't ask why,” I continued. “He used to be a Wraith. Now he's a ... I'm not sure what the hell he is.”
“I know the one of whom you speak, and I believe you are correct,” Todd revealed.
“Confirmation without us giving you anything,” I acknowledged. “That's very generous.”
“Obviously there's more you want from me, or you would not have come,” Todd said complacently.
“Maybe we just came to kill you,” Ronon suggested, his feral grin firmly in place.
“Did you?!” Todd returned without fear.
“Unfortunately, no,” I let him off the hook on that score, sending a glance Ronon’s way that said 'tone it down'.
“Well, there's always next time,” Todd seemed amused at the thought.
“Two of our people – Teyla and Sabina – were taken by a Dart today,” Rodney explained at my urging.
“Your ... mate?” Todd pinned me with a sharply interested look. I must have looked surprised that he knew that detail because he added “I met her during my most recent stay on Atlantis.”
“My wife,” I confirmed, my voice tight with a host of emotions I wouldn’t have been able to name individually.
“I am sorry John Sheppard,” Todd did seem genuinely regretful as he made the comment. “Under normal circumstances they would have already become a meal for their captors.”
“This was no culling,” Rodney looked at me in concern as he disagreed with Todd’s assessment of Sabina and Teyla’s circumstances. “Teyla was targeted. Someone set a trap.”
“And you suspect this ... what do you call him? Michael?” Todd concluded.
“Well, if not, the timing's a hell of a coincidence,” I returned impatiently. Todd acknowledged the logic of that so I went on to what I wanted from him. “I need you to tap your intel sources, find something useful.”
“This tablet,” Rodney reached around for the computer he had strapped to his back, “has the address of an off world relay station. If you leave a message for us, we'll get it. It also has our research on the Hoffan drug.”
Todd took the tablet and immediately activated it with apparent ease. Teaching him about Earth based technology had been another one of those 'not a good idea in hindsight' mistakes we’d made lately.
“Just enough to whet your appetite,” I pointed out. “You find something we can use, we'll give you the rest.”
“Well, I'll see what I can do,” Todd smiled one of those unpleasant toothy Wraith grins that had us glaring back at him in annoyance.
There was nothing else we could do but wait for him to find us something ... no choice left but to return home with our figurative fingers crossed.
"Colonel?" I turned to see Major Lorne striding quickly down the corridor to catch up with me. We'd been back in the city only a few minutes so he hadn't wasted any time.
"Major," I acknowledged, slowing so that he call fall into step beside me.
"Have you got a minute Sir?" Evan asked. I glanced at him, noting the blank expression on his face that didn't match the misery in his eyes. I wasn't sure I wanted to hear what he felt compelled to tell me but I knew Sabina would have my head if I didn't give him the chance.
"Sure," I replied, changing direction and leading the way to the nearest balcony.
"My team ... I need to be a part of any mission to rescue Sabina and Teyla ... Sir," Lorne rushed out quickly, thankfully skipping repeating the apologies he'd already uttered in the Gateroom.
"You don't think I'd assign you?" I asked curiously.
"I'm not sure I deserve the chance to help make this right Sir," Evan admitted grimly. "I should have realised it was a trap ... us finding that guy so easily after your team found nothing only hours before. Him agreeing to show us where he found that necklace. It had set up written all over it and I should have seen that."
"Easy to think so in hindsight Major," I said lightly, leaning on the balcony with my back to the ocean. "Was Teyla suspicious? Or Sabina?"
Lorne winced when I spoke Sabina's name. "No," he admitted. "Not that they mentioned anyway. I can't believe I let her get taken in a culling beam again," Evan looked down at the ground for a moment before meeting my eyes again. "It all happened so fast."
"It usually does," I returned wryly, "and Sabina has a mind of her own ... a strong mind. You wouldn't have stopped her even if you'd had prior warning."
"No Sir," Lorne replied, relaxing just a little, although his eyes still showed how upset he was. I knew he and Sabina had formed a strong friendship - it was inevitable with team mates, particularly those who'd been through what Evan and Sabina had together. So I found myself in the odd position of feeling the need to reassure him ... most of that was because to do otherwise would disappoint my wife ... not a position I wanted to be in at any time, but especially not right then.
"We'll get them back," I said it with firm surety. "Request accepted Major ... when we hear from Todd, you and your team will be included in the mission."
"Thank you Sir," Lorne said gratefully.
Nodding, I turned and left him standing on the balcony. It was hard to control my own emotions, even harder to allow for the emotions of others, to allow that others had a claim on Sabina's affections too and would therefore be feeling some of what I was feeling. Having nothing else to do, I went in search of what was left of my team.
A short while later I sat with Ronon and Rodney in the Mess Hall, watching Rodney shoving food in his mouth like he’d been starved for a week.
“How can you eat right now?” Ronon asked with a hint of distaste in his voice, even though Rodney’s capacity to think of his stomach even during a crisis was well documented.
“Kidding?” Rodney talked through a full mouth. “It's the first decent meal I've had all day. Besides, we're not gonna help Teyla or Sabina at all starving ourselves. I'm just trying to keep my strength up. I suggest you two do the same.”
My face went blank at the mention of Sabina’s name ... the worry and anger a constant presence not quite at the back of my mind.
“Hey,” Ronon looked at me in concern. “We'll find them.”
“This sitting around waiting is driving me nuts,” I ground out. “I've gotta do something.”
I looked up and saw Sam approaching our table ... something had happened.
“Colonel,” she greeted me.
I was standing before I registered the movement ... bracing myself as I waited for her next words.
“Looks like Todd came through for you,” she continued.
“He did?!” Rodney asked incredulously.
“We just got a message from the relay station,” Sam explained. “Apparently there's a rumour going around amongst certain Wraith-worshippers about our people being held captive. We've got the coordinates.”
“All right,” I was all business as I quickly worked out what we’d need. “I want to take Lorne and his team.”
“Agreed,” Sam replied. “You'll gate to the nearest planet where the Daedalus is en route to pick you up.”
“Let's go,” I urged, not waiting for Ronon and Rodney to get up before I was striding from the Mess Hall.
Arriving on the Bridge of the Daedalus I watched as we approached the target coordinates, dropping out of hyperspace near a small planet. We moved to stand in front of the view screen, my incomplete team and Lorne’s forming a circle ready for beaming down. I knew I was imagining it but it seemed I could almost see the gaps where Teyla and Sabina should have been standing.
“We’ve already scanned the surface,” Caldwell reported. “We were unable to get a lock on Teyla's subcutaneous transmitter. Sabina’s either.”
“Well, there's no surprise there,” Rodney commented. “I'm sure Michael got rid of those.”
“Guess we'll have to do things the hard way,” I added grimly.
“Good. Let's do it.” Ronon was as eager for action as I was.
The transporter beam swept us up and deposited us in the only building on the planet’s surface. Doing a quick check of our surroundings revealed no immediate threats so I turned to Lorne with orders.
“All right. Stay in touch.”
“Yes, sir,” Lorne looked at Parker and Brown. “Let's move out.”
They went one way as we went the other, beginning a search of the facility. We came across nothing as we walked down corridors until we came to a junction with a closed door.
I opened it and stepped inside with Rodney beside me.
A sudden stun blast slammed into the wall between Rodney and I – a couple of inches left or right and it would have hit one of us in the head. We each dived for cover as Ronon leapt across the corridor and fired his blaster in the same direction as the shot.
Taking position I opened fire where the guard had been. The shooter leaned out from around the corner, getting off a couple of shots before ducking back again.
‘Not Wraith’, my brain catalogued that detail as I continued to fire. Ronon twirled his blaster so it was facing backwards, bent his arm around the corner and shot blind. We heard the shooter cry out, saw him stumble back from cover. I fired rapidly until the man fell to the floor, no longer a threat.
Distant fire announced that Lorne and his team had also run into resistance. Moving cautiously forward we passed the man I’d just shot, not dead and trying to drag himself away across the floor.
“Sheppard, this is Daedalus,” Caldwell’s voice issued over the radio. “We've been engaged by a Wraith cruiser.”
“How's it going?” I queried.
“We're more than holding our own,” Caldwell replied. “Just thought you might want to pick up the pace.”
The injured man was still trying to get away and it suddenly occurred to me that he could be useful.
“Who's your boss?” I demanded, standing over him.
He didn’t reply. Kicking him over onto his back I squatted beside him and put my pistol to his chest. He was in pain but I didn’t let that concern me ... just stared menacingly with the pistol threatening his quick demise if he didn’t cooperate.
“You're too early,” he groaned out.
“And what the hell does that mean?” I retorted angrily.
“We're expecting him back,” the guard replied. “He's on his way with important prisoners.”
Crap! He was talking about Teyla and Sabina! The possibility that they were on the Wraith cruiser slammed into me and I activated my headset urgently.
“This is Sheppard. Come in. Daedalus, do you read?”
“Sheppard, this is Daedalus,” Caldwell replied.
“Do not destroy the enemy ship. I repeat: do not destroy the enemy ship. Sabina and Teyla may be on board.” They didn’t acknowledge my message so I tried again. “Did you hear me? Sabina may be on board.”
“We heard you,” Caldwell finally replied.
Leaving the injured guard behind, we waited to hear their progress as we continued towards Lorne’s position, where gun fire was still echoing. We could see a guard had them pinned down – Ronon ran forward and gunned the guy down from our flanking position. Lorne peered out at the abrupt cease fire and relaxed when he saw it was us.
“Bad news, Sheppard,” Caldwell reported in grimly. “The Cruiser made the jump to hyperspace. It's gone.”
Now Michael would be all the more cautious, aware that we had intel enough to get to him, closer and faster than he would have expected. Resisting the urge to put my fist through the nearest wall at being so close without success I waited for Major Lorne and his team to walk towards us.
“Any sign of them, sir?” Lorne asked hopefully.
“They’re not here,” I ground out blankly.
“Are you sure?” Evan asked in surprise. “That guard was protecting something.”
We turned and looked at the closed door – he was right, something had to be behind it for such a level of resistance. The door was bolted and locked – making sure everyone was well clear I fired a single shot at the lock, blowing it out. Rodney turned back to the door and quickly pulled back the bolt.
Stepping clear Rodney gave me the room I needed to kick the door open. As one Ronon, Rodney and I stepped into the doorway with weapons ready.
What we found inside was so completely unexpected, so impossible on the surface that it had us frozen in stunned disbelief.
A man sat on a bunk inside the room, dressed in grey.
I watched his face shift into an expression of relief ... his familiar face.
“Finally. It's about bloody time!” Carson Beckett exclaimed, standing up. “What took you so long?”
I woke up on the floor in a Wraith cell ... alone. Scrambling up I rushed to the door, craning my head to see if there were other occupied cells nearby. Putting a hand to my arm I registered the sore spot covered over by a bandage with grim humour. What was the point of having a subcutaneous transmitter if every bad guy in both galaxies knew about it?!
“Teyla?” I whispered harshly, and then again more loudly when she didn’t respond.
“She cannot hear you,” the words announced my visitor before his face came into view.
“Michael?” I could feel my mouth drop open at the surprise. He was Michael but not exactly as I remembered. He looked human and Wraith in a mix that seemed different from the last time I’d seen him ... and he looked something else, some other indefinable genetic ingredient that changed him from Wraith into something else.
“Sabina Scott,” Michael replied blandly, “or should I call you Mrs John Sheppard?”
“Ah ... I don’t mind either,” I replied, my mind distracted by the realisation that Teyla had already revealed information to Michael in the short time we’d been captive.
“Don’t blame Teyla,” Michael stepped closer and looked at me with clinical detachment. “She revealed your connections to save your life ... I was determined to take my revenge for what happened on M8G-352 by having you put to death, a fact I shared with Teyla when she questioned your whereabouts. I believe it will be that much more satisfying to use you to bait Colonel Sheppard instead.”
“So I’m just a bargaining chip?” I asked weakly.
“For now,” Michael agreed. “Give me trouble and I may decide to revise that assessment. I can always use another ... test subject.”
“Is Teyla all right?” my question halted him just as he turned his back on my cell.
“I would not harm her,” Michael admonished, giving me a sense that he was insulted I’d think otherwise – hello, captive on a hive ship doesn’t exactly spell tropical vacation! “She carries inside her a child of utmost importance to me. For this I set the trap that brought you both here.”
“You want her baby?” I looked at him in horror.
“He is necessary to complete my plan,” Michael revealed.
“Let me guess,” I couldn’t help the sarcasm that fairly dripped from my voice, “galactic domination. It just never gets old does it?”
“I will rid this galaxy of both its human vermin and the scourge of the Wraith,” Michael preached righteously. “Those strong enough to survive will join my ranks and become my army.”
“It was you,” I realised the full magnitude of his plan. “You distributed the Hoffan protein on all those planets. You’ve killed thousands of people already!”
“It was necessary,” Michael said dismissively, turning to leave. He took a few steps before glancing back over his shoulder at me. “Remember ... I am what your people made me.”
“We make ourselves,” I said sadly. He paused for a moment with his back to me before continuing on his way.
Taking a seat on the floor I leaned against the wall tiredly, thinking about my options. Michael believed I was worth keeping only because I was John’s wife ... I’d never had much to do with him prior to being captured so he didn’t know about my own Wraith connections. That was my advantage, the fact that I had skills Michael was unaware of – it was just a matter of working out how best to use that.
My first thought was to try to communicate with Teyla using the Wraith telepathic ability we both shared to a degree. The only trouble with that was it’d been a while since I’d tried it and I wasn’t confident I could hone in on just Teyla unless she knew I was trying to make a connection. If I ended up dragging in even one of the Wraith on board it’d be all over so I decided to reserve that option as a last resort.
That really only left escape. Since any time was as good as another from what I could work out I didn’t bother waiting, focussing my attention at the door controls and forcing my way into the Wraith neural network. It was a buzz of Wraith commands, conversations, systems traffic all zinging at speed so one little command to open a door wouldn’t register enough to cause suspicion.
“That’s more like it,” I whispered, grinning as the door webbing contracted open silently.
Creeping from my cell I made my way down the corridor, listening for the guards but not surprised when I didn’t see any. The Wraith were notoriously arrogant about their captives, even with those instances when we’d escaped in the past to warn them they should be otherwise.
I suspected we were on a Wraith cruiser, not as big as a full Hive ship but it was still unlikely I’d just stumble across Teyla by wandering around. I needed to access the controls, see if I could find her that way. Peering around the next corner I spotted a guard in the corridor ahead.
“Great!” I muttered, ducking back out of sight. The Cruiser schematic I recalled from my study of the Wraith database (before it had self destructed) said there was an access console down that corridor. Could I take a single Wraith guard with the element of surprise on my side? Peeking quickly around the corner again I saw the guard with his back to me. Turning back I glanced around, looking for anything big enough that I could expect the Wraith to go down when I hit him over the head with it. Being a Wraith ship of course there was nothing. Reaching a hand down inside my boot I felt for the knife I always kept there.
Yes – thank God the Wraith never searched their food for concealed weapons!
So I was armed ... it improved my position a little but I wasn’t John. There was no way I could sneak up behind someone, even a Wraith, and stab them in the back or worse yet slit their throat. But I had to do something.
Checking that the Wraith Guard hadn’t moved I tried to work out an approach with a better than even chance of success.
“No guts, no glory,” I muttered under my breath, taking a few quick breaths before easing my way out into the corridor. I was holding my breath as I took each careful step closer to my target. What I didn’t factor in was the other guard who appeared in the corridor ahead of me.
Giving one of those Wraith growls he raised his stun riffle and fired it. Luck was with me though because I had just enough time to anticipate his move and I was close enough to the first guard to grab him quickly. He took multiple stun blasts in my place and would have fallen had I not braced myself against the wall, groaning at his weight as I raised his stun rifle and fired back in quick bursts.
Less than a minute later I stood there panting, one stunned Wraith guard at my feet and the other stretched out in the corridor a few feet away. That’s when I took the time to look closely at my victims. They weren’t the usual Wraith sentries with masked faces – in fact they didn’t look like Wraith much at all. They were hybrids, like Michael only with more human and less Wraith characteristics. That explained why it had taken so many shots to bring them down – they’d been enhanced by Michael’s genetic manipulations.
It wasn’t over though ... I had to work out what to do with the two of them so they couldn’t raise the alarm. I needed to be able to move about the ship as freely as possible which would be difficult with additional patrols out looking for me. Even on a Cruiser they had the chambers used to store their victims between capture and feeding ... I was pretty sure I’d seen one back close to the cell I’d awoken in. It was a risk to hang around but I decided it was worth it as I dragged first one and then the other guard to the chambers and muscled each of them into place. A quick stabbing thought to the controls and both guards were preserved in cocoons until someone noticed and released them.
Back to business, this time armed with two stun rifles I headed towards the auxiliary control console that had been my original destination. This time I made it without coming across any other guards. Propping both rifles up next to the console I put my hands in place and brought up the internal security schematics. They didn’t have a “Teyla is being held here’ flashing sign but there was an occupied holding cell on the next level which looked promising. It took a few minutes for me to be confident that I’d memorised the shortest route there, including the positions of sentry posts along the way.
Shouldering one rifle and carrying the other poised in front of me, I headed to what I hoped was Teyla’s position. With no further run ins I made good time.
“Teyla?” I approached the cell hopefully, looking in all directions before I moved across to the doorway.
“Sabina!” Teyla surged to the front of the cell.
“You’re okay,” I checked her over quickly, seeing nothing to indicate she’d been mistreated.
“I am well,” Teyla replied calmly.
“Stand back and I’ll get you out of there,” I moved across to the door controls, getting ready to activate them.
“Do not!” Teyla protested. “I cannot leave.”
“What?” I looked at her incredulously.
“Kanaan is here – I saw him,” Teyla insisted intently. “I cannot leave without him and the others of my people forced to serve Michael.”
“We can come back and rescue them later,” I protested. “Bring a team and a heap of weapons.”
“You go,” Teyla urged. “Get back to Atlantis and tell them where I am.”
“That plan has so many flaws I don’t even know where to begin,” I retorted grimly. “The worst of which is that I have no idea where we are apart from the fact that we’re travelling through hyperspace which means the ship won’t be wherever here is by the time I get back!”
“With one of us free the odds of everyone being rescued increases,” Teyla argued.
“I won’t leave you here alone like this, and I don’t mean just because you’re almost eight months pregnant although that’s certainly a motivator right now,” I argued back heatedly. “Michael is crazy Teyla! Did you see – he’s eliminated his need to feed on humans, taken away what could be seen as a vulnerability – what’s next? I can’t begin to imagine John’s reaction if I come back without you and have to admit I chose to leave you behind ... not to mention what Ronon or Rodney would say. But I wouldn’t do it anyway, even if I could be assured they’d believe I’d done the right thing, not when Michael is so unpredictable.”
“It is my choice to stay,” Teyla said resolutely. “You cannot go against my wishes.”
“Oh but I think I can,” I replied sarcastically, activating the controls to retract the webbing. Walking in I held up my stolen weapon. “This stun rifle says I can break you out of here and drag you to a Dart unconscious if I have to. You’ve been stunned recently so we know it won’t hurt the baby. I’m hoping you won’t make me do that.”
“Sabina, please,” Teyla looked at me pleadingly, her eyes filling with tears.
“Isn’t the safety of your baby more important than anything else?” I questioned earnestly.
“Michael will not hurt me or the baby,” Teyla insisted.
“For now,” I agreed grimly. “He told me your baby is key to his plans, but we have no way of knowing how ... did he tell you why he wants your son?”
“Just that he had great plans for him,” Teyla admitted. “He took them Sabina. Michael took my people but I still do not know where they are ... only that he is using them to create his army.”
“I can have us in a Dart before Michael even suspects,” I promised. “Now that we know it was Michael we can revisit our allies, find new leads ...Teyla?”
“He is ... changed,” Teyla said sadly.
“Kanaan,” she explained. “Michael has altered him, made him a hybrid of human and Wraith DNA. When Michael brought Kanaan to see me he didn’t even know me at first. But I saw something Sabina, in his eyes. He mouthed the words fed to him by Michael but there was torment ... and hope in his eyes. I cannot abandon him.”
“Fine!” I turned away, exasperated at her stubbornness, suddenly appreciating John’s position when I’d been stubborn like that in the past. “So how do we save him and the others?”
“We bide our time,” Teyla replied firmly. “We wait for an opportunity to act ... and we trust that Atlantis will come for us.”
“Listen, you know how much faith I have in John,” I returned, “but this is a tough ask. They don’t know where we are or who took us. It’s a big galaxy ... it could be a while before they find us and we don’t have that kind of time,” I looked pointedly at her large bump.
“We can revert to your plan if my due date draws near,” Teyla pointed out.
“So what?” I raised an eyebrow in disbelief. “I just go back to my cell and play along?”
“If you do not they will search this ship until they find you,” Teyla insisted. “Michael will not hurt you now he knows of your importance to Colonel Sheppard.”
“Maybe not,” I conceded, still thinking. “You’ve got heightened Wraith skills at the moment right?”
“I have not tested them recently but I was able to access the damaged Hive ship controls with ease,” Teyla agreed.
“Do you think you could talk to me telepathically, without alerting the other Wraith?” I asked, revealing why I’d wanted to know about her Wraith abilities.
“We will need a way to communicate,” Teyla nodded her understanding. “I will try.”
“Okay, wait a while, give me a chance to get back to my cell,” I looked at her for a moment, torn with the horrible sense that I was about to make a colossal mistake. “If I don’t hear from you I will be coming back and getting you out of here, no arguments.”
“It will work Sabina. Do not worry – I will be fine,” Teyla promised, sensing my continuing reluctance.
“You better be,” I said it sternly but then ruined my tough girl facade by hugging her quickly before hurrying from the cell, pausing to reactivate the web closure. “Try the telepathic link in a few minutes,” I reiterated before turning and running back down the corridor.
It galled to retreat like that, to wilfully reimprison myself in that Wraith cell but I didn’t see that I had a choice. I could have dragged Teyla off, sure – and then she’d never have forgiven me. As it was, a part of me was already dreading my return to Atlantis because I knew Major Lorne would have told John I jumped into the beam after Teyla. When I had to admit I had the chance to escape but didn’t, his anger was only going to be worse. But I also dreaded the reaction I’d get if I couldn’t save Teyla ... she was as a sister to John and he’d be devastated to lose her. I couldn’t do that to him, couldn’t bear to think of the damage it would cause to both of us. Somehow I had to make this work.
The change in motion let me know that we’d exited hyperspace just as I returned to my cell. Almost immediately the ship was shaking from what could only be weapons fire. We were under attack.
My heart leapt at the thought that perhaps John and the others had found us already. Of course if it really was them and they were there for us it was unlikely they’d be firing away so indiscriminately and my hopes settled back into what was more realistic – that the Cruiser was under attack from a rival Hive.
The battle was brief, our damage minor enough not to be apparent from inside the ship, and then motion returned to the characteristic hyperspace feel.
“Sabina?” Teyla’s voice echoed in my head, familiar but much stronger and more tightly focussed than I recalled from the last time we’d communicated that way.
“Teyla,” I sent my thought back to her. “It works!”
“Of course,” Teyla agreed. “You are back in your cell?”
“Yeah,” I said glumly. “Did you feel that shaking before? The ship was under attack but it looks like we escaped before they could do much damage.”
“You believe it was Atlantis?” Teyla queried.
“I’d like to,” I admitted, “but it’s more likely it was one of Michael’s rivals.”
“I wonder where Michael is taking us?” Teyla thought.
“If he runs true to form it’ll be one of his little outposts,” I returned. “Like that place you guys found with those monster hybrids, although hopefully there won’t be more of them.”
“He will keep us separated,” Teyla said worriedly. “He will not risk any attempts for us to collaborate.”
“I know,” I sighed, thinking it through. “It’s gonna make opportunities to do what you wanted, to rescue everyone, more difficult to manufacture but at least we – .”
“Michael approaches,” Teyla interrupted urgently. “Do nothing!” she added before slamming closed our connection.
I waited but Teyla didn’t get back to me ... pacing my cell worriedly, I fervently hoped her silence was because Michael was still talking to her and not for any of the other grimmer reasons I could come up with.
A short while later the Cruiser was out of hyperspace again ... moments after that the ship shuddered and came to a rest, the kind you’d only get on land.
Wherever it was Michael was taking us, we had arrived.
Interlude 12: Death isn’t what it used to be!
We took him back to Atlantis, the Carson who’d apparently returned from the dead. Doctor Keller and the others descended on him in hazmat suits and began to run their tests, leaving us to fill Colonel Carter in on the mission. It gnawed at me to admit how close we’d come to Sabina and Teyla, how we could have rescued them if we’d just gotten there a few hours later than we did. Especially since we were back to square one ... with no new leads to pursue.
“How is this possible?” I asked Rodney as we stood with Ronon an hour later, watching Carson in the isolation room below.
“Do you want me to make you a list of all the ways he could be here?” Rodney asked sarcastically. “It’s surprisingly long – death isn’t what it used to be!”
“It's weird,” Ronon grumbled his succinct complaint.
Down in the Isolation Room Jennifer was conducting test after test on Carson, who was cooperating in an understanding Carson Beckett like manner. Ronon was right – it was weird.
“You sure he's not a Replicator?” I checked with Rodney again.
“No, the scans would have picked it up right away,” Rodney insisted.
“Well he can’t be the Carson we knew so who the hell is he?” I demanded irritably.
“I don't know!” Rodney protested the view that he’d always have the answer on hand. “Look, I'm as freaked out about this as you are!”
“You don't really think it's him, do you?” I asked incredulously.
“No!” Rodney shot back immediately before hesitating and admitting he had considered the possibility. “Well, I mean ... maybe. Look, so we've ruled out advanced robotics but like I said that still leaves us a half a dozen possible other explanations.”
“Like?” Ronon questioned.
“Well, like alternate timeline, parallel universe, cloning – you know, take your pick,” Rodney gave us the main highlights from that list he’d mentioned.
Jennifer entered the observation room quietly, removing her Hazmat helmet before updating us on what she’d found. “Well, we've completed the preliminary exam.”
“And?” Rodney looked at her impatiently.
“Every test we've run confirms it,” Jennifer said simply. “That man down there is Doctor Carson Beckett.”
“Who’s gonna tell him,” I looked from Jennifer to Rodney pointedly.
“What?” Rodney swallowed convulsively as he immediately got my drift. “Oh no, no, no. I’m not telling him we weren’t looking for him because the real Carson Beckett is dead!”
“You were his best friend Rodney,” I put the emotional pressure on without remorse, mind focussed solely on using what could be our only chance to help find Sabina and Teyla. “He’ll take it better coming from you,” I insisted. “We need information and he was Michael’s captive for who knows how long. I need to know everything he can tell us and I need to know it right now. We don’t have time for you to ease your way into this.”
“Great,” Rodney muttered grimly. “Don’t break it to him gently. Anything else?”
“Just ... don’t be too harsh but you know, get it done,” I ordered briskly.
“Fine,” Rodney squared his shoulders like he was about to face the lion’s den or go into battle. I watched him enter the Isolation Room and begin talking before I left them to their relative privacy.
The next couple of days were just frustration stacked upon frustration as we searched for news of Sabina and Teyla, including getting back to Todd to see if he knew anything else that could help us.
Another trip to his ship proved useless when he insisted he’d given us everything he had.
“Do you think he’s telling the truth?” Rodney asked as we made our way back to the Stargate empty-handed.
“Lying bastard knew more,” I returned angrily. “He’s just gonna wait until he thinks he can exchange it for something from us.”
“I could go back, lean on him a bit,” Ronon offered hopefully.
“We’ll keep that one in reserve buddy,” I slapped his shoulder in appreciation. “Let’s get back to Atlantis. I need to talk to Colonel Carter about using whatever Carson can give us.”
“You spoke to your Wraith contact?” Sam asked when I reported to her office as soon as I got back.
“He claims he's given us everything he knows about Michael, but I assume he's lying,” I reported. “Until we can come up with something that he can use, he's not much good to us.”
“So we need to find our intel somewhere else,” Sam concluded.
“Yeah, that's what I wanted to talk to you about,” I didn’t have to say more, she got where I was heading.
“You mean Beckett,” she said simply.
“He has been inside Michael's operation and he may know something,” I pointed out.
“Or he could have been planted there for us to find,” Sam countered. “Look, for all we know, this whole thing could be a set-up.”
“Well, sure. Anything's possible,” I said impatiently.
“John, the Carson Beckett you knew was killed,” Sam said gently. “You were there – you all were. I'm sorry to say it, but you need to remember that.”
“I know that,” I returned forcefully, getting up and pacing away from her desk. “I’m not looking at him as my friend returned from the dead! I’m looking at him as a valuable source of information on the whereabouts of my wife and my team mate! Set-up or not he knows something and he’s enough Carson to want to help.”
“I understand your impatience,” Sam responded in that same gentle tone.
“Do you?” I demanded harshly, letting just a little of the intense emotion I’d been feeling the past few days break out. “You know how desperate I am to find anything ... just one thing we can use to take the next step? Because from where I’m standing right now we have nothing ... and that’s not a position I can accept graciously.” Turning away I concentrated on getting myself under control, reigning everything back into its box with difficulty.
“John,” Sam got up and put a hand on my shoulder companionably. I didn’t miss the way she frowned when she realised how tense I was – obviously I’d been doing a bang up job convincing everyone I was more relaxed than I actually was. “John,” she said again. “We’ll find her, find them both. But you have to be patient. I’m not saying we won’t use what Carson can tell us, just that we have to be cautious and not take anything at face value.”
“Of course,” I nodded once, seeing the wisdom in that. Seeing that for now there was nothing more I could add I turned to leave. Pausing at the door I didn’t look at her, just offered up the one thing that had been gnawing at me constantly. “We’ve all assumed that Michael won’t hurt Teyla because he wants her for something, enough to go to so much trouble to lure her in. What no-one’s saying, what’s been eating away at me every damn second since this started is that the same isn’t true for Sabina. She’s a stowaway and there’s nothing in it for him to keep her alive. You don’t know Michael, you don’t know what he’s capable of. Unless Sabina gives him something she’s as good as dead ... the longer this goes on the more likely it is she’ll be forced to go down that road, and we both know what that means.”
Not waiting for Sam to respond I strode quickly away, down the steps and across the Gateroom floor. The gym wasn’t my usual haunt but punching something always seemed to help Sabina so I was willing to give it a try.
The other occupants quickly left me to my solitude as I went at the punching bag with single minded purpose, imagining Michael that close to Sabina and then trying to wipe the image away as forcefully as I could.
“You gonna do that all night?” Ronon stood in the doorway, arms folded over his chest.
“Unless you want to volunteer your services, yeah,” I returned, not even breaking stride.
“You know Sabina does this all the time, right?” Ronon took a step inside, letting the door close behind him.
“I might have heard something like that,” I stopped suddenly and turned to face Ronon. “If you’ve got something to say just say it – I can take it.”
“I got nothing,” Ronon shrugged. “Just wanted to remind you that your wife is uncommonly resourceful ... she’s got skills I don’t even understand and she’s on a Wraith ship where she could use some of them.”
“I know that,” I turned away and grabbed my towel, rubbing it over my face tiredly.
“Do you?” Ronon returned. “Because you don’t seem to be taking it into account. Sabina’s not some helpless captive – you taught her well and you’re gonna have to trust that she’ll work something out.”
“Oh I’m taking it into account,” I let him see my frustration ... and my fear. “I’ve gone way beyond that. You know she won’t leave Teyla even if she gets an opportunity – right now she’ll be working out how to save her ... and taking stupid risks because she’ll rate Teyla and the baby as being more important than she is.”
“You’re right,” Ronon agreed, his expression letting me know he understood. “And Teyla’s not in any condition to help much.”
“Hence my impatience and general crabbiness,” I glanced over at Ronon gratefully. “I appreciate what you said though, and the faith in Sabina.”
“She earned it,” Ronon said simply. “Listen, Rodney said he had something. He wanted me to find you – since he couldn’t raise you on the radio.”
“I turned it off,” I admitted, grabbing it from the bench where I'd thrown it and hooking it back over my ear. “Rodney, you got something?”
“Finally!” Rodney exclaimed irritably. “Jennifer worked it out – about Carson – he’s a clone.”
“That was on your list,” I reminded him, not sure how I should feel about it.
“He’s still Carson,” Rodney insisted. “He’s got all the memories, all the experiences of the real Carson Beckett ... and he knows things about Michael we could use. I think we should talk to Sam.”
“Agreed – I’ll meet you at her office,” I signed off, grabbed my gear and after a quick nod to Ronon, rushed out the door.
“Carson’s got information we can use,” Rodney began. “I think we should listen to him.”
“We're talking about someone who was – for all intents and purposes – manufactured by one of the most dangerous individuals we've ever come across,” Sam pointed out. “Fundamentally, he's not that different from those hybrids, and I doubt very much we'd be arguing about whether we can trust them.”
“Yeah, but there's no denying the fact that he's no ordinary clone,” Rodney argued. “I mean, somehow Michael has managed to reproduce his memories, his thought processes and his personality. I spent some time with him, and I'm telling you, he-he's Carson!”
“It doesn't necessary mean it's safe to act on any information he might give us,” Sam insisted. “Look, he may genuinely believe that he's helping us and still be playing right into Michael's hands.”
“She's got a point, Rodney,” I had to concede. “What exactly is he offering?”
“He knows the layout of at least four facilities that Michael has on different planets,” Rodney revealed. “Apparently he likes to move around a lot, stay one step ahead of the Wraith.”
“What about Gate addresses?” I persisted.
“Well, they blindfolded him every time they moved him, so he couldn't see the DHD, although he did catch a glimpse of an address dialled by one of Michael's mercenaries,” Rodney looked at me hopefully. “It could be a place to start.”
“Okay,” Sam decided after thinking about it. “Take a team of marines and go check it out, see if the information is good. Take Carson with you.”
“I’ll go get him,” Rodney offered, leaving me to get everyone else moving.
Shortly after we’d geared up and were headed through the Gate. I’d had to suffer an awkward conversation in the locker room with Carson first, covering Ronon’s less than welcoming demeanour and how we’d already endured an apparent 'return from the dead' experience with Elizabeth that hadn’t ended well.
It was early evening when we arrived on yet another off world planet. Carson believed the man we were looking for was most likely to be at the village tavern so that was our first stop. Conversations died the instant we entered the room and I swear the temperature dropped several degrees our welcome was so chilly.
“Hmm, just in time for happy hour!” I quipped looking around casually. Conversation picked up again and I focussed my attention on the barkeeper. “I was hoping maybe you could help us. We're looking for a friend of ours who's been known to stop in now and then.”
“You've come to the wrong place,” the barkeeper tried to dismiss us abruptly.
“We haven't even told you what he looks like,” Rodney protested.
“You misunderstand me,” the barkeeper explained flatly. “No-one here cares what he looks like. You've come to the wrong place if you're looking for information.”
Deciding some bribery might be in order I leaned in and lowered my tone. “Look, I know you're trying to keep up appearances here for your friends, but I think we can make it worth your while.”
All I got for my efforts was a very unpleasant smile as the guy flipped me off in the verbal sense. “I think it would be best if you turn around and be on your way.”
“Gun!” Ronon yelled suddenly, diving for the bar. Ducking down I heard the distinctive sound of an automatic firing rounds from the upper balcony.
Whoever was up there was shooting at us with our own weaponry!
The barkeeper paid for his intractable nature, the first hail of bullets ripping into his chest and taking him down, Ronon and I both rolling over the top of the bar beside his dead body, using the bar for cover.
“That’s P-90 fire!” I called out to the others, just in case they’d missed it.
Now I had cover I fired up at the balcony, frustrated because the guy had position to keep us pinned down. Until his clip ran out. Then it was all over, Ronon standing up with a roar and taking the guy down with a single shot from his blaster. Hit him dead centre in the chest ... in slow motion he teetered on the edge of balance before toppling over the balcony and crashing to the floor below.
Carson was there in an instant, just like the original one would have been, checking him over professionally.
“Is he dead?” Rodney asked weakly.
“No, but we need to get him back to Atlantis as soon as possible.” Carson replied briskly.
“Get our guys back from the Gate,” I instructed Ronon. “We’ll stretcher him out of here.”
Jennifer’s team responded promptly when we returned, injured assailant in tow. The surprising thing was when she recognised him as Nabel, the guy she’s already saved once before on New Athos when Teyla’s people had first gone missing.
It was touch and go but they managed to stabilise him, enough that Jennifer was confident he’d survive.
Rodney, Ronon and I met up with Sam in her office to debrief ... she was less than impressed at how quickly the mission had turned sour and couldn’t help but point out the obvious.
“It was Doctor Beckett's idea to go there,” she reminded us.
“Well, if we hadn't have gone, we wouldn't have captured one of Michael's operatives,” I pointed out, making it clear I thought the risks had been well worth it.
“You also wouldn't have been nearly killed in an ambush,” Sam retorted incredulous that I’d smooth it over so casually.
“It wasn't that bad,” Ronon said simply. Sam looked at him pointedly and he added “It was one guy.”
“Firing at you with one of our own weapons!” Sam said impatiently.
“He was Michael's spy in the Athosian village!” Rodney exclaimed. “Look, he got the P-90 from the weapons cache we left there.”
“It doesn't change the fact that you were led into an ambush, intentionally or not,” Sam insisted. She might have said more but we were spared having to defend Carson’s involvement when Jennifer contacted us over the tannoy.
“Colonel Carter, this is Doctor Keller. You'd better come down to the Infirmary. There's a problem with Doctor Beckett.”
“Oh, what now,” Rodney muttered, casting a worried glance my way as he jumped up and followed Sam out of the office.
When we got there it was pretty clear the situation was serious. Carson was lying in a bed with an oxygen mask over his unconscious face.
“He was assisting me with the surgery and he just keeled over with no warning,” Jennifer explained. “After he collapsed, I did a scan and found evidence of necrosis in several of his internal organs. His cells aren't renewing fast enough to sustain tissue function.”
“Any idea why?” Sam asked, her eyes on Carson.
“I can only assume it's a complication due to the fact he's a clone,” Jennifer proposed. “I've given him a course of treatment to try to stimulate cell growth but it's a bit like trying to find a cure for old age.”
“What are you saying?” I looked from Carson to Jennifer, pretty sure none of us were gonna like the answer.
“On the outside he looks fine, but on the inside ... well, he's – he's dying,” Jennifer revealed sadly.
“You can fix it though,” Rodney looked to Jennifer pleadingly, “right?”
“I’m not sure,” Jennifer evaded giving the answer I could see in her eyes. She couldn’t fix it and we were going to lose Carson all over again just like we had Elizabeth. On top of all the emotions I was already holding in I felt like the additional knowledge was suffocating the oxygen from the room.
“I need some air,” I announced to no one in particular, not waiting for a response before I strode away.
Standing on the nearest balcony helped me breathe better but it didn’t resolve any of the issues, didn’t get me any closer to finding Sabina and Teyla so I gave it up after only a few minutes. Nabel was out of surgery and potentially available for questioning – there was no reason I couldn’t pursue that, see if I could get another lead to follow ... with Sam’s permission.
“Regardless of how he got here, Nabel is a source we can’t ignore,” I spoke from Sam’s doorway, drawing her eyes to mine. “I should go question him,” I looked at her expectantly. “This isn’t a coincidence – he was there when the Athosian’s disappeared and now he turns up again. He knows where they are – maybe he knows where Teyla and Sabina are too.”
“Tomorrow,” Sam shook her head when I made to protest the wait. “No John. It’s been a long day and it’s late – too late for you to Gate anywhere else today. You can talk to Nabel in the morning.”
Nodding reluctantly, I acknowledged that the wait was necessary, no matter how much it killed me to suffer any kind of delay. Hours later Atlantis was silent and dark as everyone slept ... everyone except me that is. I sat on the balcony in our room and tried not to think about all the ways Michael could hurt Sabina. It was a long night.
At first light I was pacing the infirmary, waiting for Nabel to regain consciousness. In the end it proved too easy to convince him to give Michael’s location up – just the promise of a new life an entire galaxy away. Not only did he give us the gate address but he assured us both Teyla and Sabina would be there. Sam gave the go for us to proceed with all haste.
There was some debate over whether Carson should come along, given his deteriorating condition and the fact he and Jennifer had spent the entire previous evening trying to recreate the magic juice Michael had been feeding him for two years to keep what was currently happening from happening ... without success. His knowledge of the layout was too valuable, his desire to help too strong for me to deny him.
We gated to Michael’s planet and Carson immediately motioned us forward in one direction.
“I'm reading a bunch of life signs up ahead,” Rodney reported, eyes on his portable scanner.
“Maybe it's the Athosians,” Ronon suggested.
“Yeah? Maybe it's a herd of those Frankensteins,” Rodney suggested less positively.
The place was huge ... it was gonna take time and I was suddenly glad I’d let Carson come along.
“Doctor?” I looked at him for further direction.
“It's this way, I think,” he sounded less certain than I would have liked and I frowned at Rodney worriedly.
“Carson,” Rodney urged him for a more definite answer.
“No, no. I'm certain,” Carson nodded more confidently. “It's this way.”
“Teyla?” I tried to make a connection of my own but got only static for my efforts ... a deliberate kind of static from someone holding up a block. I smiled in relief – Teyla was all right but in Wraith company and so unavailable to my call.
I waited ... and waited, and then waited some more but I didn’t hear back from Teyla and I couldn’t make contact with her either. It was unnerving because it began to feel like I was the only person on the Cruiser. Had Michael forgotten I was there? Should I be taking advantage of that somehow? What would John do in my position? That only led me to thoughts that weren't helpful since there was no way John would have stayed on the ship just because Teyla asked him to. If this turned out badly I had a sick feeling that was the turning point - that place I'd made my crucial mistake.
"Don't think like that," I urged myself. "You have no way of knowing what John would do if he were here." God, I so wished he was there ... well, not there as in captured too, but there as in guns blazing, plan of attack in place, no need for me to figure anything out myself.
The temptation to escape as I had before was overwhelming, the only thing stopping me was the possible consequences to Teyla if I got caught. Eventually I lapsed into a restless sleep, curled up on the hard floor with my hand clenched around the handle of my knife.
I was awoken some time later when two ‘human’ guards approached my cell door and opened it silently, each taking an arm and escorting me from the room.
“You guys don’t have to follow Michael’s orders you know,” I tried. “In fact I’d recommend you don’t - he’s not quite right in the head, if you catch my drift.”
“We follow his cause willingly,” one of the guards said blandly. “He will rid the galaxy of the Wraith and make it ours.”
“You’ve bought into the propaganda,” I persisted, pulling on my arm as they dragged me down the corridor. “But did you know that making the galaxy yours includes murdering thousands of innocent humans ... humans just like you used to be?”
“If not for Michael they would all be food for the Wraith,” the other guard said complacently.
I wasn’t going to get through to them so I gave it up as a lost cause. Their reaction wasn’t encouraging from the point of view of achieving some kind of mass rescue as Teyla hoped ... if I’d had that intel before I let Teyla talk me into waiting we could have been out of there already. It wasn’t about laying low anymore and letting Teyla do her thing on Kanaan ... I no longer believed that strategy was going to work so I needed to come up with a new one.
Deciding there was no point in playing along with the change in prison venture I took the opportunity presented to me when we walked past the spot where I’d stashed one of my ‘borrowed’ stun rifles. Doing the classic pretend to stumble trick I grabbed the rifle and slammed the butt into one guards stomach, ducking around him and quickly stunning the other one. They both faltered but weren’t down so I fired again, and then again until they were both sprawled out on the floor.
Continuing with my ‘put them in storage’ plan since there was no point in giving away just what I was capable of if I were caught, I was finally free to exit the ship and check out the situation on whatever planet we were on. I’d added to my weaponry too, now sporting a M60 pistol from our very own stores, probably via the weapons cache on New Athos.
The Cruiser was parked at the edge of a city crumbling in ruin from Wraith attacks. I didn’t know for sure but it felt abandoned, lifeless. It was certainly depressing ... I couldn’t help but watch the shadows apprehensively, jumping at the sounds of small creatures shifting in the dirt.
There were faint footprints just evident on the path in front of me and I followed them cautiously all the way to a group of buildings, where I lost the trail. Having no other choice I started with the first building and began my search for Teyla.
Creeping around wasn’t really my strong suit but I applied myself to the task, doing a lot of duck and peek around corner manoeuvres as I systematically made my way through each level of each building.
It took longer than I wanted and I was long past the point of frustration before I heard distant voices on the walkway above me and the sounds of gunfire from nearby. Sprinting forward I searched for some sign of Teyla.
There! Two hybrids had Teyla corralled between them as they walked her along.
I was about to call out when another figure appeared behind them. He shot four times, killing the first hybrid, and then twice more to take out the second.
From my vantage point I could see and hear everything, see Teyla turn and gasp in shock at the identity of her rescuer.
“I know. I'm the last person you expected to see.” I felt a leap of something inside, happiness maybe along with panicked disbelief as Carson spoke with his much missed accent ringing true. Teyla was obviously panicked too because she stepped back when he approached her.
“It's all right. I'm here to help you,” Carson tried to reassure her.
“It's not possible,” Teyla protested.
“I'm sorry – I don't have time to explain” Carson insisted. “Colonel Sheppard and the others are waiting back at the lab. We have to go – now.”
John was here! Oh God, I so wanted to leave right there and then, find the lab and give up all my burdens for John to take care of. I was turning to do just that when Teyla’s words hit me.
“I can't,” she cried.
I knew what was coming ... the same protests she’d thrown at me, the reason we were still in this mess. Her belief that her Kanaan still existed somewhere within the hybrid version we were forced to deal with. In a way I couldn’t blame her – in the same circumstances I’d never give up on John, no matter how changed he appeared on the outside. Flashes of his brush with the retrovirus appeared in my head as if to urge me to cut Teyla some slack.
“Teyla!” Carson grabbed a hold of her wrist and tried to pull her along with him.
“Kanaan, the father of my son – he is still here,” Teyla explained. “I am not leaving without him.”
“There's no time,” Carson protested. He tried again to tug her away ... I saw the third figure approach, had one brief second to decide if I should call out a warning and then it was too late. Michael was there in front of them.
Creeping silently under them I made my way around and to the same stairs Michael must have used. Taking each one with deliberate slowness I could just make out what they were saying, even though I’d lost sight of them.
“Quite correct,” Michael agreed with Carson. “You should have run when you had the chance, but you let your feelings get in the way.”
“Stay back. I'm warning you,” Carson’s voice shook as he faced Michael bravely.
“Shoot him, Carson,” Teyla’s voice was full of savageness as she urged him to take action. “Shoot him now!”
“He doesn't want to shoot me,” Michael shared casually. “Or, to be more precise, he'd like nothing more but – like all of my creations – he is open to my influence.”
I was at their level now, able to see Carson snarl as his hands shook, as he tried to make the shot but couldn’t.
“Carson,” Teyla pleaded.
“I'm sorry, Teyla,” Carson said in anguish, all of his focus on her and Michael such that he didn’t see me approach.
“He might not want to shoot you but you won’t get the same consideration from me,” I pressed the muzzle of my pistol to Michael’s temple and cocked the trigger. My voice had been quiet but my words stopped everything dead.
“Ah, Mrs Sheppard,” Michael acknowledged conversationally. “You were supposed to have been transferred to our holding cell here but I see you’ve managed to elude my guards.”
“I’m like that sometimes,” I looked across at Carson in confusion. “How can you be here? You died on Atlantis two years ago.”
“I cloned him myself, after your failed attempt to destroy me along with the other human Wraith,” Michael boasted, answering before Carson could. “His work has been invaluable in advancing my plans for the galaxy.”
“Clone or not, it’s good to see you,” I told Carson softly, ignoring Michael’s words.
“This is all very touching but I’m a little pressed for time,” Michael directed the full force of his attention on Carson. “Shoot her,” he ordered grimly, looking from Carson to me and then back again.
“I’ve got a gun to your head,” I reminded him, not really thinking Carson would actually hurt me. “I can still get a shot off, one your Wraith healing abilities won’t be able to fix.”
I should have realised that he wouldn't just cave to my demands, that he'd attempt something, but I didn't - off balanced by Carson's presence and my fear for Teyla ... by the fact that I was so close to seeing John again.
“I do not believe you would risk the life of your friend,” Michael countered, reaching forward suddenly and grabbing Teyla close to his chest. We were like some sick conga line, with Michael sandwiched between us as Carson looked on helplessly. Putting his hand around Teyla’s throat Michael squeezed hard enough to have her gasping for breath. “If you shoot me now my dead hand will contract around her neck and strangle the life from her before you can save her.
“Sabina,” Teyla forced out pleadingly.
“Shoot her,” Michael ordered Carson again.
I lowered my weapon reluctantly, knowing I couldn’t shoot Michael with even a small risk to Teyla and the baby. “Don’t listen to him Carson,” I urged.
“You cannot resist the force of my mind,” Michael had everything focussed on Carson. “Kill her ... NOW!”
Carson’s hands shook violently as he raised the gun towards me against his will.
“I’m sorry lass,” the tears gleamed in his eyes, his hand shaking as his finger slowly squeezed the trigger.
The gunshot echoed loudly in the open space. I flinched hard at the impact in my right shoulder, had a hand pressed to the wound even as I fell to the ground.
“You let me down Doctor,” Michael glanced down at me with a frown. “But wounded will do for now.”
“You’re a sick .... bastard,” I ground out painfully, lifting myself up onto my good elbow.
“Perhaps,” Michael raised an eyebrow in mild interest at the insult. “But you are still alive to be of use to me again in the future.” Reaching down he pulled me to my feet, ignoring my wound and the pained yell I couldn’t hold in. Then he was grabbing my gun and pointing it at my heart purposefully. “I won’t miss.”
Turning back to Carson he shook his head in pretended concern. ”You don't look well, Doctor. You should have stayed with me. I'd give you an injection, but I don't have any with me. Anyway, you've served your purpose.”
Redirecting his aim of my pistol to point at Carson instead, he squeezed the trigger, getting an empty click instead of the kill shot he’d been after. Throwing it away in disgust he pulled out a stun pistol instead and shot Carson without hesitation.
Teyla and I watched helplessly as Carson gave a pained groan and then crumpled to the ground unconscious.
“Time to go,” Michael urged us both forward impatiently. Kanaan intercepted us at the end of the corridor. “Take her,” he pushed me forward, dragging Teyla and expecting Kanaan to follow along. “We must get to the ship.”
Things got a little fuzzy there for a while, what with the whole gunshot wound and loosing blood and such. I must have been close to the edge because I spent an inordinate amount of time as Michael hurried us along trying to recall if I’d ever been shot before, giggling because for some reason doing a mental inventory of my past injuries struck me as particularly funny.
“Shut her up,” Michael ordered when we were again in his Cruiser and about to take off.
I felt the prick of the syringe in counterpoint to the motion of the Cruiser leaving the surface and then it was lights out Sabina.
Interlude 13: I shot her
Carson led us through the complex without us finding any resistance, until we turned a corner and were greeted with P-90 gun fire from two mercenaries guarding an open doorway. Diving for cover I glanced around at Carson.
“I'm tired of getting shot at with our own guns,” I grated out irritably.
“I'm generally not fond of it regardless of the weapon,” Carson replied.
I ducked low, firing a rapid burst that took down one of the guards. Ronon blasted the other and the coast was clear. Proceeding cautiously we moved slowly into the room.
“Hello! Is anyone there?” The voice issued from further inside the room. “You must help us!”
“D'you hear that?” Ronon looked at me with a raised brow.
“Is that Halling?” Rodney queried incredulously.
Moving quicker we headed towards the source. “Halling?” I called out when we were close enough to see a locked door ahead.
“Colonel! Through here!” Halling shouted, prompting us to run towards him. “Colonel Sheppard. It is very good to see you.”
“Likewise, my friend,” I smiled at him through the bars before stepping back so Ronon could shove the door open.
“Are you all right?” Carson rushed forward in concern, with good cause. They were bruised and looked half starved ... and more than half way to beaten.
“We're fine – those of us that are left,” Halling replied. “Teyla said you would come.”
“Where is she?” I’d already done a survey of their group and knew that both Teyla and Sabina were absent.
“Michael has taken her,” Halling revealed urgently. “You must go after her.”
“What about Sabina,” I asked quickly. “Did you see Sabina?”
“I am sorry Colonel,” Halling said compassionately. “Michael brought only Teyla to see us. There was little time to speak of anything before he came for her.”
“Oh, okay,” I felt blank for a moment and unsure what to make of that. Shaking myself back to the present I looked up at Halling. “Take your people. We'll meet you in a little while.”
“It doesn’t mean anything you know,” Rodney ran beside me as we followed Carson towards the central lab.
“What doesn’t?” I shot a glance at Rodney before looking forward again.
“That Halling hasn’t seen Sabina,” Rodney clarified. “Michael wouldn’t see it as a way to coerce her – he was using them to torment Teyla.”
I said nothing, just nodded once and then picked up the speed a little.
Carson looked exhausted by the time we ran into the lab – a creepy vault of a room with racks upon racks of shadowy outlines obscured behind thick plastic.
“My God,” Carson intoned, looking around with a horrified expression. Moving over to the nearest platform he reached in and felt for a pulse. “They're dead,” he confirmed.
There was a table in the centre of the room that gave us all an ominous feeling, looking too much like the Wraith version of an obstetrician’s set up. An empty syringe completed the picture and I had to caution Rodney not to think the worst.
There was no sign of Sabina ... “but it doesn’t mean anything,” I told myself firmly.
We didn't get the chance to search far beyond that lab ... more enemy fire converged on our position, this time Wraith stunner blasts from the upper level. We took cover as the ones responsible ran down the stairs for cover of their own. Upstairs they were replaced with more guys with P-90’s dividing our attention.
“I don't mean to rush this, but I'm picking up an energy reading,” Rodney called out urgently. “Someone's firing up the ship!”
We fired in tandem, trying to flush the enemy out. In the background I heard Rodney calling out for Carson but I couldn’t take attention away from the fight long enough to see why. I had to focus on getting rid of these guys – they were standing between me and the chance of finding Sabina and Teyla.
Rodney managed to take out the upstairs mercenary but the downstairs ones were proving stubborn and I could almost hear the clock ticking on stopping the Cruiser from taking off. We needed something else – glancing quickly out of my cover position I spotted just the thing.
“Take a look,” I said to Ronon. “East wall. Those things look like gas containers?”
“Yeah,” Ronon agreed. “Worth a shot.”
“You take the tanks, I’ll pin them down with cover fire,” I instructed. As one we surged up out of hiding, executing the plan with precision until the roaring gas had knocked the mercenaries off their feet. Before they could get back up Ronon and I had finished them off.
Looking for Rodney I demanded an update. “Where's Beckett?”
“This way,” Rodney pointed forwards. We ran through the complex until we reached a section with a second level walkway. I saw him immediately, Carson lying unconscious with two felled hybrid guards nearby.
Ronon and I took care of disarming them while Rodney ran to Carson, shaking him awake.
“What happened?” Carson was at first disorientated.
“You ran off – that's what happened,” Rodney explained irritably.
“Teyla,” Carson looked at me, “Sabina.”
“Did you see them?” I demanded.
“Oh, no,” Carson looked at me in horror, not the expression I needed to see right then.
Before I could quiz him though, the roar of an engine resounded from outside the building, loud enough that it seemed to shake the whole structure.
“What the hell is that?” Ronon demanded.
“It's the ship!” Rodney returned grimly.
I had Ronon stay to help Carson down while Rodney and I pursued the ship. A rapid descent down a flight of stairs and through an external door and we were just in time to see Michael’s cruiser lift up into the sky.
“Damn it!” I yelled, slamming my clenched fist against the doorframe before leaning my forehead against the wall with a pained groan. I felt the disappointment like a physical pain, like an elastic band clenched around my chest.
I had to get out of there.
Shrugging off Rodney’s hesitant hand on my shoulder, I surged out the door and down towards the trees.
Kicking at tree stumps wasn’t satisfying and I’m pretty sure only made me look ridiculous but it did ease the pressure in my chest a little. Slumping down against a tree trunk I stared blankly into the forest, wondering what the hell I should do next.
“How’re you doing lad?” Carson’s footfalls announced his presence before he sat down next to me.
“Wishing I had a set of golf clubs so I could beat the crap out of something,” I returned with grim humour. “How’re you doing?”
“I came to apologise,” Carson ignored my enquiry about his health. “Michael had a way of getting me to do things even when I’d resolved I wouldn’t cooperate. I thought it was just a combination of the drugs he was feeding me and the fears because he held Atlantis as a threat over my head every single day. Only it wasn’t ... he did something to me. I had the gun pointed right at him, had the clear shot but I couldn’t do it. I could hear his voice in my head telling me not to shoot ... I wanted to but ... I didn’t.”
“It’s not your fault,” I excused lightly.
“There’s more Colonel,” Carson said despondently. “I saw Sabina too. She’d managed to get free and snuck up behind Michael – put a gun to his head as calm as you please. You’d have been proud if you could have seen her face down Michael like that.”
“So why isn’t she still here then?” I knew this was the bit that had put that horrified look on Carson’s face and I wasn’t sure I wanted to find out why.
“I shot her,” Carson said it forcefully, his face screwed up with misery. “Michael’s voice was in my head, demanding over and over. Shoot her. Kill her. I tried to resist but he wouldn’t stop, like a knife twisting in my head. I couldn’t help myself. I had to obey.”
“How bad?” I asked starkly.
“Shoulder wound, right side, mostly ... hopefully a flesh wound,” Carson admitted. “My hand was shaking so much and I never was that good a shot.”
“She’s gonna be steamed,” I looked over at him with a forced smile. “Same shoulder she took a Replicator spike in a couple of months back.”
“I am so sorry Colonel,” Carson said again, looking like he was about to cry. I couldn't hold him responsible ... he was as much a victim as anyone.
“Not your fault,” I said again. “We wouldn’t have been here at all without your help.” We sat for a few minutes in silence before I roused myself to action, opening a channel so I could get things moving. “Ronon, round up all the prisoners – we’ll take them back to Atlantis for questioning. I’m heading back to search that place from top to bottom – maybe there’s a clue in there somewhere.”
There wasn’t, and no trace of Teyla or Sabina either, forcing me to return to Atlantis empty handed again. I could barely contain the frustration I felt at being so close to Sabina but having the chance to rescue her slip through my fingers. It had taken too long to take out Michael’s forces, his hybrids proving smarter and more resilient than I would have imagined ... something else that worried me. How many of those things did Michael have under his command? How many were on the ship with Sabina and Teyla?
“We have made progress,” Colonel Carter insisted later when I stopped in at her office to find out how the Athosian’s were doing.
“Not that I’m unhappy seeing Halling and the others again,” I returned, expression grim, “but it’s not exactly a consolation Colonel ... the longer this goes on the ...,” I broke off, unable to say it.
“I know this is difficult John but at this point I think we can assume that Michael will keep them both alive,” Sam offered.
“He wanted Carson to kill her!” I shot back, the stark reality of that making my voice choppy and harsh.
“I’m not so sure that’s really what Michael wanted,” Sam suggested. “He’s worked with Carson for two years ... he knows what Beckett is capable of. More than likely Michael just wanted Carson to know that he could control him ... could still force him to do his bidding even without being a captive.”
“Mind games?” I suggested, frowning as I tried to convince myself that was all it had been. Believing otherwise would only have me imagining Sabina at the whim of every hybrid Michael controlled, living on the edge every second of every day. I couldn’t do that day in day out and focus on getting her back so I did my best to buy into Sam’s belief.
As if the situation with Sabina wasn't bad enough, another difficult situation awaited us a few hours after our return. Carson was sinking too fast to find the formula he needed and he’d agreed to Jennifer’s stasis pod idea. Rodney was distraught to lose his friend for the second time but doing a surprisingly good job of hiding it, even with Carson’s self diagnosis that entry into that pod was probably a one way deal.
It was difficult to stand there and watch him say goodbye, although I guess on the plus side this time he actually was getting the chance to do that. When he stopped in front of me, hand outstretched I shook it firmly.
“Don't you worry, Doc,” I reassured him. “We're gonna have you out of there in no time.”
“Colonel. You bring her home, now, you understand?” he urged intently. “You bring them both home.”
“Count on it,” I promised, earning a nod from him in return.
The others said their goodbyes too and then there was nothing left but for Carson to step inside the chamber.
“I want you all to know that seeing you again these last few days – it was all worth it, no matter what happens,” he looked at us all with a smile.
On agreement with Rodney that this wasn’t goodbye, he raised a hand. “See you all later.”
It was disturbing to see the stasis field sweep over Carson, leaving behind his frozen figure, and it felt like that goodbye Rodney had been so determined not to say. Leaving the room mutely I walked aimlessly until I ended up on the East Pier. It was easy to picture Sabina there, sitting on the edge with her legs dangling over the side.
Sitting down beside her spot I looked out over the ocean and thought. Carson was in a stasis pod and we had multiple prisoners to interrogate but nothing concrete to pursue. It felt like we were settling in for the long haul, like the urgency of the past week had run out and we’d given up on finding Sabina and Teyla quickly.
My soul felt heavy as I acknowledged that it could be weeks before I was reunited with my wife ... although I promised myself that it would happen – I would see her again.
“Ouch,” I moaned, coming back to consciousness slowly. The first thing I noticed was that my shoulder hurt like hell.
Then everything came back to me in a rush ... Carson somehow alive, pointing a gun at me; Michael with his hand around Teyla’s throat ... and worst of all the fact that John and the others had been there but I hadn’t managed a way to get to them.
I was feeling so sorry for myself, I could actually feel tears welling in my eyes ... God, talk about pathetic!
“Suck it up Sabina,” I urged myself in disgust.
Raising myself up from the floor on my elbows I craned my head to look ... Michael had put me back in my cell but he’d also taken the trouble to treat my bullet wound, if the bandage was any indicator. So clearly he still had plans for me.
“Sabina?” The whisper inside my head had me lurching to my feet unsteadily, putting a hand on the wall until the head rush of dizziness had passed.
“Teyla!” I thought back. “Are you okay?”
“Thank the Ancestors!” Teyla’s mental tone was heavy with relief. “I have been trying for hours to contact you.”
“Sorry,” I replied. “I was ... occupied being unconscious. Michael patched me up though so I’m good to go.”
“We are in hyperspace,” Teyla informed me, “and I have been unable to get through to Kanaan, although there have been moments I was sure he would help us. Back on the planet he would have freed me, had Michael not returned too soon.”
“You have to give up on that!” I meant to make that gentle but my frustration and anger must have leaked through.
“You should have escaped while you had the chance,” Teyla said dismissively.
“I didn’t mean that the way it sounded,” I thought apologetically. “I just ... I have to get you out of this Teyla. You said it yourself, Michael wants your baby and it’s pretty clear there isn’t anything he wouldn’t do to achieve his objective.”
“It is the gift ... the Wraith DNA,” Teyla explained. “Both Kanaan and I have it, and so does our son. Michael believes him to be genetically unique.”
“And he wants that for his hybrids,” I concluded.
“He has not hurt me,” Teyla reassured me. “He injected me with something but he said it was to help the baby. I felt nothing ... no different than before the injection. I believe he will continue to treat me well for the good of my child.”
“You’ll tell me the instant that changes,” I ordered sternly. “No arguments.”
“You sound like John,” Teyla said in amusement. “Be assured, I will inform you if my circumstances change.”
“What happened?” I asked in a more reasonable mental tone. “I was here on the Cruiser for hours before they finally came for me.”
“I saw them,” Teyla’s tone was tearful but also happy. “My people – Halling and some of the others. They were on that planet Sabina.”
“Which means that John and the others have already rescued them,” I smiled for the first time in days. At least something good had come from our ordeal.
“Yes,” Teyla agreed somewhat sadly. “I was relieved to see them but ... their numbers were much depleted.”
“Michael?” I asked gently.
“He took them and he experimented on them ... and he killed them or worse converted them into his hybrids,” Teyla confirmed. Her tone turned harsh as she continued. “One day I will make him pay for what he has done.”
“I’m sorry Teyla,” I said softly, not sure what else I could say to comfort her. “Just ... concentrate on winning over Kanaan. But don’t do anything to provoke Michael.”
It wasn’t much but I didn’t have anything else ... despite the hours I spent trying to come up with a new plan.
That’s the way things were for the next week, Teyla bearing the brunt of all Michael’s attention while I was ignored in my cell, only seeing others when one of the hybrids brought me food. I used those visits as my marker of time passing, taking us ever closer to Teyla’s due date.
She was true to her word, letting me know after each session with Michael that she was okay, showing me flashes of his visits and the way he was monitoring her unborn son.
It was all disturbing at the deepest level and I couldn’t help but worry about the strain on Teyla and wonder how much more she could take before she broke. Every time he visited, every time he made her feel like nothing more than a vessel for his sadistic purposes, I heard the pain and despair in her mental voice.
“Have you made any progress with Kanaan?” I asked after one such session.
“Michael lets Kanaan escort me to and from my cell,” Teyla admitted. “He knows how much it tortures me to see Kanaan like this.”
“Are you getting through to him?” I persisted.
“At times,” Teyla replied. “But then Michael returns and I am back to square one.”
“The mental control Michael programmed into all his hybrids,” I acknowledged grimly. “We need to do something about that.”
“I am stronger with my pregnancy but nowhere near enough to oppose Michael openly,” Teyla said worriedly.
“I wouldn’t want you to do that anyway,” I denied, thinking hard. “I’ll come up with something.”
“He talks continually of my son’s future,” Teyla admitted. “Of how he will use what he is to shape the future. He means to take my child from me ... and I am not a part of his plans.”
“I won’t let that happen,” I promised.
It took me about two days to get desperate enough to have an idea, and another four days before I’d convinced Teyla there was no other choice. I had to divert Michael’s attention away from her, give her a chance to recover some of her emotional strength. Give her more time to win Kanaan over without Michael always around to enforce his mental controls and undo any progress she was making. The only way to do that was to give him something else he’d hopefully decide was even more interesting.
Not the me he thought he had ... Mrs John Sheppard, bargaining chip and possible test subject for his hybrid treatments ... something I was sure he’d eventually get to once he got sick of feeding me.
No, I was thinking the only thing that would divert his interests was if he knew everything ... that I was a full Lantean, with multiple gene skills. That I had Wraith DNA too and Wraith skills I’d been able to use in ways even Teyla hadn’t managed before her pregnancy.
It was thinking about Diamantia’s words that had given me the idea. Not that I believed her when she’d said there was something about me that could save all the humans in the galaxy. But she had urged me not to hide what I was ... perhaps it was as simple as revealing secrets I’d become so accustomed to holding tight to.
“Very well,” Teyla finally agreed reluctantly. “I will reveal your true nature to Michael.”
“You’ll need to make it look like he’s forced it out of you,” I pointed out insistently. “Otherwise he won’t believe you; he’ll think you’re just trying to divert him.”
“That is in fact what we are doing,” Teyla returned.
“Yeah, but with something true,” I countered. “Once he takes the bait I fully intend to show him that.”
“You will be careful,” Teyla said sternly. “John will not forgive me should something happen to you because of this attempt to spare me.”
“Back at you,” I grinned before adding, “You know you sounded like someone’s mother just then.” She didn’t say anything but I felt her sadness and buried down beneath everything else her fear that she wouldn’t get to be a mother to her son. “I shouldn’t have said that, I’m sorry Teyla. But I know this will work,” I said confidently. “If you can win Kanaan over then the next time we land he might help us escape.”
“It is the only plan we have and so we will make it work,” Teyla agreed.
Neither of us said it but with all the jumping into and out of hyperspace along with the very short stints at each of Michael’s outposts we’d given up on the idea of Atlantis finding us in time. If we were going to get out of this then it would be up to us.
I didn’t hear what Teyla said to Michael, didn’t see what she let slip to out me as a Wraith gene carrier but I knew almost immediately that she had been successful.
“You have the gift!” Michael strode into my cell and got right up into my face angrily.
“What gift?” I asked innocently, putting on a puzzled expression as I tried not to flinch away from him.
“There is no point in lying to me,” Michael smiled triumphantly. “Teyla did well to hide the knowledge from me for so long but I took it directly from her mind. You share more in common than I would have guessed.”
“She wouldn’t have ...,” I began grimly, getting into the spirit of my role.
“I can assure you that she did, despite her struggles to keep your secret,” Michael interrupted. “Now all that remains is for me to see how adept you are at making use of it.”
I knew what he was going to do next ... I’d been preparing the whole time he was standing there congratulating himself on finding out my secret.
His mental strike hit hard but bounced harmlessly off the noise I was projecting... my own little version of sticking my fingers in my ears and chanting ‘I’m not listening ... I’m not listening’.
“You have some skill,” he acknowledged in surprise, breaking off his attack.
“You’re not the first Wraith I’ve had a conversation with,” I smiled casually. “Although in the past it was Queens so this is a bit of a step down for me.”
“You think to provoke me,” Michael laughed almost as if he was delighted with the prospect.
“Not really, but I have to get my entertainment somehow,” I pushed out forcefully with my own mind, seeking to make a connection with him. He wasn’t expecting that – in his arrogance he’d assumed there was no one who was a match for him. I saw glimpses of his thoughts before he blocked me ... the future as he imagined it devoid of both Wraith and humans alike, filled only with his own sick and twisted army. A host of thousands, all created in his own image.
“That’s a part of it isn’t it?” I said intently. “You’re different ... we made you different and the Wraith spurned you for it. You’re just a lonely hybrid who doesn’t want to be the only one!”
“Are you not just a hybrid too?” Michael snarled angrily. “Do your own people truly accept you despite your differences? And Colonel Sheppard – did he know what you were before he got involved with you?”
”If you’re trying to suggest that I deceived John, that he wants to get out now he knows the truth about me you couldn’t be more wrong,” I smiled complacently.
“I have seen inside Teyla’s head,” Michael countered. “I know the Gift sets you apart ... they trust you but they are wary.”
“Maybe the Athosian’s feel that way but it’s not the same for my people,” I retorted. “Of course it helps that Teyla and I aren’t out there killing thousands of innocent people! Maybe if you’d tried to work with us instead of twisting the entire galaxy to suit your purposes you wouldn’t be so pathetic.”
“You did not want to work with me,” Michael denied grimly. “You only wanted to force me into your own image ... can you really stand there and claim your retrovirus is any different than my own alterations?!”
“I never said I agreed with that,” I said quietly. “But was what you had with us so much worse than where you are now?”
“I grow tired of this,” Michael tried again to gain control of my mind but again I blocked him out.
“That’s not all I can do,” I knew the mental thing wasn’t enough – if I was going to divert him from Teyla I’d have to give a full demonstration.
Flicking a glance at the open doorway I accessed the ships neural network and commanded the webbing to close.
“How did you ...?” Michael glanced at the controls. I kept a firm hold, feeling him trying to reopen them but getting nowhere as I held them closed. “Impossible!”
“I’ve flown a Hive ship,” I began the list of skills I knew would tip the balance. “Stood up against more than one Queen, bested one in physical and mental combat.”
I paused to let him digest that before making the check mate move.
“I’ve killed with a single thought.”
I saw his eyes widen as the implications registered. “Yeah, that’s right,” I bit out. “It was me, that day on that planet we abandoned you and the other converted Wraith on. I used an Ancient device we stumbled across so I could take out as many of you as possible sure, but it was my thought that killed them, my control of the Hive weapons that destroyed your camp.”
“You?” He looked shell shocked for a moment but I knew it was coming, the moment when his disbelief turned into calculation. “This is ... interesting.”
And there it was.
I could practically see the wheels turning in his head as the possibilities registered and overrode his anger.
“Release the door controls,” Michael commanded. “Release them or I will hurt your friend.”
“You won’t hurt her and risk the baby,” I countered. “Despite what you might think I can do for you, you still need her.”
“There are many ways to hurt,” Michael approached me slowly, running a finger down my cheek assessingly. “Many that will preserve Teyla as a vessel for the life she carries.”
“Well, since you put it that way,” I leaned away from him, raising an eyebrow, silently letting him know I wasn’t doing anything until he’d gotten out of my face. Laughing mockingly he stepped back and waved a hand towards the door.
I let the controls go, watched the webbing contract again, knowing that my easy run was at an end. It would be all downhill from there.
It wasn’t that bad to start with ... Michael took a perverse pleasure in strapping me onto his examination table and hooking me up to his devices but all he did the first couple of sessions was take readings and lots of blood samples.
Of course I had the past to contend with, flashes of Walker and my treatment back on Earth making me shake inside. I held to everything tightly to give the outward appearance of being relaxed because Michael would jump on anything that looked like a weakness, and exploit it for his own purposes. It was hard to start with but as the days and sessions with Michael passed I began to feel numb ... was it really possible to get used to something like that or had I just buried it so deep I couldn't access it anymore?
Michael was still keeping tabs on Teyla’s condition, but not every day like before. Teyla had made some progress with Kanaan as a result, and had got him to admit that Michael was spending a lot of time by himself, presumably analysing my DNA and working out how he could use it.
There was a moral dilemma in that I hadn’t considered prior to coming up with the plan ... the fact that for all intents and purposes I was helping Michael make his army stronger. That hardly sat well with what Diamantia had said about me – that I would help stop human suffering in the galaxy.
“You cannot hold yourself responsible for what Michael perpetuates,” Teyla advised during one of our daily mental check-ins. Luckily for us Michael hadn’t made the connection between my obvious mental strengths and Teyla having the gift too. Maybe he thought she wouldn’t be strong enough – she’d kept a secret the fact that her pregnancy had enhanced those abilities. “Just as you would not hold John responsible for what the Wraith have done since he awoke them.”
“Of course not,” I dismissed. “Still, helping someone so dangerous as an individual is a little different than waking a familiar enemy. I’m helping Michael create something he might not have done otherwise. John did something that only sped up the timetable – the Wraith would have come eventually without his interference.”
“There is no assurance your DNA will help Michael,” Teyla pointed out. “Kanaan let it slip today that Michael is becoming frustrated ... perhaps because he is unable to do what he was hoping.”
“I don’t know whether that’s a good thing or not,” I admitted glumly. “From a purely personal view I don’t want him getting too frustrated because then he’ll come after me.”
“Do not give up hope,” Teyla urged. “Atlantis is looking for us and we have many allies. Someone will have seen us and get word to them.”
“They’ll be playing catch up,” I shook my head at the thought, knowing how much that was gonna piss John off. “Michael’s changing locations too quickly.”
“I must go,” Teyla broke in quickly. “Kanaan comes.”
Sighing at the usual interrupted conversation I sat back against the wall of my cell dejectedly. My plan was working, Michael was distracted and leaving Teyla alone. But it had been almost two weeks and I was missing John so badly it was like a constant ache I couldn’t ignore. A girl had to be strong in the Pegasus galaxy but she should also know when to all right to let out a little emotion.
Now seemed like as good a time as any so I put my head on my raised knees and had a good cry.
Timing wise there seemed to be a gap from the end of The Kindred Part 2 to the beginning of the next episode where Atlantis followed up leads from allies and then John is missing for twelve days during The Last Man ... Teyla must have been close to eight months pregnant when the Kindred begins so I guessed about a month goes by before the beginning of Search and Rescue.