ShaViva's Stargate Fan ... Stuff

Inconceivable!

The Veil Part One

Author: ShaViva

Rating: T

Content Warning: Mild swearing, adult themes

Season: October, season 5 ... after Outsiders, slightly AU, you’ll see how when you read it.

Summary: The couples on Atlantis begin to suffer episodes of apparent sleepwalking as they are drawn to a deserted part of the city, and it soon becomes apparent that there is something sinister lurking in the city of the ancients. Halloween story! Features the full cast.

Classifications: My best attempt at Horror along with some Romance ... what a lovely combination!

Pairings: John/Teyla; Ronon/Keller; Radek/OC; Lorne/Cadman

Spoilers for: Minor references to Quarantine; Daedalus Variations; First Contact/The Lost Tribe

Acknowledgements: Wikipedia for some very basic information about Halloween.

Disclaimer: The Stargate characters, storylines, etc aren’t mine. I am unfortunately not associated in any way with the creators, owners, or producers of Stargate or any of its media franchises – if I was we’d be seeing them on TV for some time to come *sighs dejectedly*. All publicly recognizable characters, settings, equipment, etc are the property of whoever owns them. The original characters and plot and anything else I made up are the property of me, the author. No copyright infringement is intended.

Copyright (c) 2009 ShaViva

oOo

Chapter 1: John and Teyla

“Teyla?” Sheppard woke with a start, sitting up and squinting into the darkness. It was quiet and for a moment he felt disorientated, like where he was wasn’t where he expected to be. And then he remembered. Teyla was on the mainland visiting what remained of her people. She’d taken Torren with her, leaving John to spend a rare night alone in their quarters. It was Kanaan’s turn with their son and Teyla always lingered, still not used to returning to the city without the boy.

Shaking his head, the Colonel slumped back in the bed. It still surprised him how quickly he’d gotten used to being one half of a couple, even though he and Teyla had been together for six months. After Kanaan and the rest of her people had been returned to their former selves she’d tried to make a family with the father of her child but Kanaan had struggled in the harsh reality of living on Atlantis, separated from the rest of the Athosians. The relationship had floundered and then petered out, Kanaan leaving the city to return to his people on the understanding that the two would share custody of Torren.

John had been concerned for Teyla of course, even though deep down his unrequited feelings had rejoiced that she was once again available for him to ‘admire from afar’.

Things would have gone on as before with neither acknowledging the feelings of the other if not for their mission on the duplicated Daedalus. For some reason Teyla had taken to heart the plight and eventual fate of that other team Sheppard. They’d met to spar soon afterwards, John expecting the session to be like any other. It had been, except for Teyla’s unexpected aggression. She’d met every one of his attacks and countered it forcefully; the two battling silently for a prize John didn’t know he’d been competing for. Eventually she’d tricked him into lunging forward, circling around behind him and sweeping his legs out from under him. Winded, he’d been more than a little surprised when she’d pinned him down with her body over his and demanded he reveal his feelings for her. In the face of her first honest, open request he could do nothing less than give her his honesty in return.

The heat of battle had morphed into a heated exchange of another sort until the two had worked out that they belonged together. From then on they’d been a couple, weathering the brief spout of gossip with calm certainty until it was a given that John Sheppard and Teyla Emmagen were ‘together’.

“You’re getting soft,” John muttered to himself. “Can’t sleep peacefully without your woman around to soothe you.” Chuckling, he settled back into a sleeping position, writing off his disquiet to the fact that he missed Teyla’s presence. A short time later he fell back into a restless sleep.

oOo

He woke early the next morning, hours before he was due on duty. Deciding to check in with the night crew in the control room Sheppard quickly went through the motions of showering and dressing, his boot heels echoing loudly in the corridor as he strode through the city.

“Anything to report?” he asked Chuck as he ran up the stairs to the newly refurbished control room, the other man finishing up the first day of his stint on the night shift.

“No Sir,” Chuck replied. Pressing a few buttons on his console he looked over his shoulder at the city’s commanding officer. “There was a brief power surge in sector five a few hours ago ... I was just finishing up a report for Doctor McKay.”

“Sector five?” John repeated with a frown. “Anywhere near Janus’s lab?”

Chuck called up a schematic of the city, zooming in on the tower where the secret lab had been found a few weeks before. “No Sir,” he said, pointing to the floor one level below the hidden room. “It’s one of the still unexplored areas – there’s a little flood damage but it looks like it could be in pretty good condition considering it was under water for so long.”

“Okay, send the report to McKay,” John agreed. “If he thinks it’s worthwhile I’ll take the team over there tomorrow.”

After Teyla gets back,” Chuck concluded with a hint of amusement.

“Are you trying to suggest something there Chuck?” John asked, his expression carefully bland.

“No Sir,” that hint of amusement dropped away abruptly from the gate techs face.

“Good,” John paused for a moment before continuing. “That fact that I prefer having my girlfriend around is a closely guarded secret you know.”

“Of course it is Sir,” Chuck relaxed again, a faint smile on his face.

“Anything else?” John asked casually.

“No Sir,” Chuck replied.

“Okay ... carry on,” John waved a hand to the other man’s console, nodding once before turning and heading out of the control room again. With any luck they’d be serving breakfast in the Mess hall and he’d be able to get in first for a change.

oOo

“John?” Teyla came abruptly back to herself, her heart pounding loudly in her ears. It was pitch black and cold – her eyes were open but she couldn’t see well enough for that to help. Worse still, she didn’t know where she was, her last conscious thought enjoyment of being back in the city with John as they settled down to sleep.

Unfamiliar sounds competed for attention in the background. Water dripping intermittently. The ocean, faintly from below. Rustling fabric, close by. And breathing ... slow and even.

A wave of fear washed over her and she froze. Someone else was there.

Reaching out a hand blindly, Teyla felt for the wall, stumbling slightly as she moved carefully forward. When she found it, her skin crawled at the damp, slimly feel of cold tiles in the darkness. It was probably just the residue of repeated exposure to water but because Teyla couldn’t see it ... the unknown created the impression of something alien and disgusting.

Pausing, she strained to pinpoint the source of that breathing.

There ... in and out ... slow, steady ... and somehow familiar.

“John?” Teyla called out again uncertainly. “John!” she said it louder, her voice bouncing off the walls behind her.

“Wh – what?” Sheppard was assaulted by a host of impressions as he woke from the depths of a dreamless sleep.

Hard floor. Coldness all around. Darkness.

Where the hell was he and why had he been sleeping on the floor?

“Teyla,” he called out.

“Oh, thank the Ancestors!” her voice shook with nerves and relief.

“You okay?” John asked, straining his eyes and just barely picking out a darker shape a few steps away.

“I am ... well,” Teyla tried to reassure him but her voice was too uncertain to be convincing.

“Where the hell are we?” John demanded, moving forward and reaching out for her hand. When she took it he almost flinched at how icy it was. Wherever they were it was a sure bet they’d been there for some time.

“I do not know,” Teyla replied worriedly. “I awoke only moments before you.” Clutching his hand tightly, she stepped into his embrace, resting her head against his chest and breathing in deeply. The familiarity of his heart beat in her ear, his scent in her nostrils was more calming than anything else could have been.

“Lights,” John said forcefully, actively thinking the command at the city controls.

Nothing happened.

“Great,” John muttered. Fumbling for his ear piece he was dismayed to find it missing - of course he didn't sleep with it on but had been hoping he'd instinctively picked it up back in their room. “Damn it!” he said loudly. Without lights or a radio, finding their way back to somewhere familiar was going to be a problem.

“What is it?” Teyla asked, concerned.

“It’s okay,” John rubbed a hand down her back in comfort. Realising that she was wearing only a brief singlet and long sleeping pants, her arms and torso completely bare and covered in goose bumps, he quickly pulled off his shirt, glad he had a t-shirt underneath. “Here,” he said, draping the still warm shirt over Teyla’s shoulders.

While she gratefully slipped her arms into the sleeves John looked around the room again. His eyes had begun to adjust to the darkness ... with the small amount of moonlight coming through the narrow window he had just enough visibility to see that it was what looked like an abandoned lab. Grabbing Teyla’s hand he moved over to the console, bringing her with him. Waving a hand over the activation panel he wasn’t surprised when nothing happened.

“No power down here,” he commented lightly. “I don’t suppose you’ve got your radio on you?”

“No,” Teyla said simply.

“Me either,” John admitted. “Can you remember anything about how we got down here?”

“Nothing,” Teyla said starkly. “My last recollection was kissing you goodnight in our bed ... in our room.”

“Mine too,” John pulled her closer, putting his arm around her. “I’m sure there’s an explanation here that’ll have Rodney talking a mile a minute. All we need to do is find our way to the nearest transporter so he can start looking for it.”

“It is very dark,” Teyla said worriedly, wrapping her arm around his waist.

“I can see a little,” John countered. “Come on ... if we take it slow we should be fine.”

“Very well,” Teyla kept her body close to his as they walked slowly across the room, John trailing a hand against the clammy cold wall to guide their way. When they hit a corner he turned and continued forward until finally they found the entrance.

The corridor outside was also dark ... John could see just enough to find the wall again. As before they walked slowly forward, keeping close to the only thing that wasn’t completely unknown.

“How’re you doing?” John asked, instinctively speaking in a low tone even though there was no real need for them to be quiet.

“I find the darkness to be most disturbing John,” Teyla admitted.

“Yeah, it’s a little creepy,” John agreed. They'd been spoiled - the city automatically turning lights on when it sensed their presence and then off again when they were gone. “Don’t worry – we should get to the end of the corridor soon – hopefully there’ll be a transporter there.”

Teyla nodded, letting John guide her forward again.

Thankfully John’s words proved true ... they found the end of the corridor only moments later. It didn’t have a transporter but John managed to find the stairs, deciding to go up one floor at a time until he found somewhere with enough power to contact the control room.

He recognised the floor above immediately ... standing in the corridor the memory of seeing metal suited aliens taking Rodney and Doctor Jackson was still vivid in his mind. “Finally we’re getting somewhere,” he said, urging Teyla to walk faster now they had more light to see.

Reaching Janus’s lab he strode inside and straight across to the console.

“Rodney, this is Sheppard,” he accessed the comms to call his team mate, not sure what the time was but not really caring if he woke the other man up.

“3am?” Rodney’s grumpy voice came back abruptly. “Don’t you have anything better to do than call me at 3am?”

“I need you down at Janus’s lab McKay ... right now,” John ordered, his tone waking Rodney up in a hurry. “Bring a blanket and a torch.”

oOo

Hours later John and Teyla sat in the conference room, going over the events of the early morning as they knew them. Present was Richard Woolsey, Rodney, Ronon, Jennifer Keller and Evan Lorne. Details were sketchy ... although they’d taken Rodney back to the room they’d awoken in there was nothing to indicate why they’d been there nor how they’d managed the trip down there while sleeping.

“No signs of anyone else being present Sir,” Lorne reported, having checked out the scene in detail personally. “It’s unlikely someone could have taken the two of you there without being noticed anyway. I’m accessing video surveillance records but that won’t help us much – most of the likely route from your quarters to that room are outside security coverage. It should show you leaving your quarters which might give us some idea of what was going on.”

“Your physicals came back as normal,” Jennifer reported next. “I can’t see a medical reason for you to forget how you got down to that room. Unless you both have a history of sleep walking?”

“Not me,” John replied, looking at Teyla quizzically. She shook her head wordlessly. “Teyla either,” John answered for her.

“There might be something in that room that could explain it,” Rodney broke in, looking up from the laptop he’d been tapping away at. “I had a report from the gate techs about a power surge there – about the same time yesterday in fact. That might be a coincidence but it’s worth checking out further.”

“Agreed,” Woolsey nodded. “For now I suggest Colonel Sheppard and Teyla retire to get some rest. Major Lorne will see if there’s an explanation on the security footage and Doctor McKay will look for a scientific explanation in the room itself. Let’s wait until we have the results before we draw any conclusions.”

Calling the meeting to a close he pushed his chair back and walked unhurriedly from the room. Major Lorne nodded to Sheppard before following Woolsey out, Rodney close at his heels.

“You okay?” Ronon looked from John to Teyla and then back again.

“Apart from having a blank spot where we apparently walked half the city while sleeping, we’re just great,” John shrugged. “I hope to hell Lorne or McKay find something.”

“As do I,” Teyla said, stifling a yawn.

“Come on,” John rose, pulling her to her feet. “Let’s get some sleep,” he urged, nodding a farewell to Ronon and Jennifer as he led Teyla away.

 

Chapter 2: Ronon and Jennifer

Ronon met Jennifer’s gaze, noting her worried expression as she watched John and Teyla walk away. “Let’s get some breakfast first, “ he said firmly. “Then you can redo all those tests.”

Chuckling, Jennifer let him wrap an arm around her shoulders, pleased that he knew her so well. That fact still gratified and amazed her. That Ronon saw something in her worth putting aside his life of no attachments for was something she never took for granted, no matter how long it had been since their first date.

Not that you could call being trapped together in the infirmary ... alone ... during a false quarantine lockdown a date as such. It had been the first time they’d taken the time to share something of themselves. To Jennifer’s mind that made it the beginning of their relationship, even though it had taken time to move from that to the closeness they now shared.

“You’re worried,” Ronon commented once they were sitting together at a table in the still quiet mess hall, their breakfast mostly finished.

“I am,” Jennifer admitted. “Assuming Evan is right and there was no outside interference the only explanations that come to mind are medical – I can’t think of anything else that would explain why both Teyla and John were affected.”

“But you didn’t find anything,” Ronon reminded her.

“Not yet,” the young doctor agreed. “But I only did the standard tests ... there are still plenty of other procedures I need to run before I can rule out all the pathogens, viruses, and diseases that could cause memory loss.”

“You’ll work it out,” Ronon said with complete confidence. Her intelligence, her ability to think outside the normal and come up with solutions had always impressed him. Sometimes he wondered why someone as smart as her had settled for him ... an ex runner with no formal education. He’d said as much early in their relationship, suggested she and Rodney McKay were a match that made a hell of a lot more sense. She’d laughed and said they’d bore each other stupid inside of a week before grabbing Ronon and kissing him with enough passion to have him forgetting his own name. He’d stopped questioning after that, content to enjoy and protect the woman he loved more than he could find words to describe – a gift he didn’t think he’d have again after his years alone.

“Maybe it’s just a one off,” Jennifer said it in a tone that suggested she didn’t really believe it. “John and Teyla have both been working hard to fix all the problems created by the Attero device. Who knows what that kind of stress does over an extended period.”

“Maybe,” Ronon shrugged. “No point in guessing.”

“You’re right,” Jennifer quickly drained the remaining coffee from her cup and got up. Moving around to his side of the table, she wrapped her arms around his chest from behind, leaning her head down next to his. “I’ll see you later,” she pressed her cheek to his, sighing quietly and then straightening up.

“Take it easy Doc,” Ronon smiled in that way of his when she rolled her eyes at the usual reminder not to work too hard.

“You too,” she returned. “If you turn up in my infirmary with sparring injuries today I’m sending you to Doctor Cole.”

Chuckling, he nodded, knowing she didn’t really mean it. Waving, Jennifer hurried towards the infirmary. She had a mystery to solve.

oOo

“Ronon?” Jennifer’s voice was shaky in the darkness. She’d opened her eyes moments before to a scene that was only familiar because of Teyla’s description from the previous morning.

Somehow she’d gone to bed after a fruitless day of investigation in the infirmary and woken up in a deserted lab on the other side of the city.

“Ronon?” Jennifer called out again, nerves and fear chasing chills all over her body. She might know where she was but that didn’t mean she wasn’t still creeped out by the whole thing. Because of Teyla and John’s experience she expected Ronon to be there but as the silence continued she began to worry that she was alone ... or worse yet that Ronon was somewhere else, hurt ... or worse.

Staggering to her feet, Jennifer swayed dizzily. “Teyla didn’t mention that,” she thought, struggling with the effects of blood moving too slowly to her head after standing up too fast. She had to keep still for a few moments before she began to feel steady again. Frozen in place like that it still took her a while to realise what she was hearing. Breathing, coming from the floor in the opposite corner.

“Ronon!” Caution forgotten, Jennifer hurried to him, dropping down to his side. In the darkness she couldn’t assess his condition by sight. Instead she carefully felt for his face, running her hands over his familiar features but not getting a response from him. He was breathing, and his pulse was steady. In fact there appeared to be nothing wrong with Ronon, except for the fact that she couldn’t wake him up.

She needed help ... the darkness was making it impossible for her to do anything for him. Getting to her feet again she stretched out her hands and shuffled forward slowly until she literally bumped into the console in the centre of the room. Hoping that Evan had followed his usual practices and left a radio behind she fumbled blindly, cursing when she brushed against something and heard it crash to the floor.

“Damn,” she muttered, dropping to her knees and searching across the cold floor. Fingers brushing plastic, she quickly grabbed up the radio, thumbing the controls and hearing a burst of static. “Oh thank god,” she exclaimed, turning the channel dial and trying to raise someone.

“Colonel Sheppard, Major Lorne this is Doctor Keller,” she began. “Can you hear me?”

There was nothing, so she turned the dial and repeated the words again.

“Jennifer?” John’s puzzled voice greeted her first, followed quickly by Lorne’s a moment later. “Jenn – you okay?” the Major asked.

“Yes and no,” Jennifer replied. “I don’t know how but I think Ronon and I are in your room John – the one you and Teyla woke up in yesterday. Ronon hasn’t woken up and it’s too dark in here for me to assess him properly.”

“We’re on our way,” John promised, his tone making it clear he was already on the move.

“Under the console Jennifer,” Evan instructed. “I left a torch in an empty slot ... can you find it?”

“Hang on,” Jennifer put down the radio, knelt and felt quickly along the underside of the console. The torch was a welcome weight in her hands. Switching it on she’d never been gladder to see a beam of light in her life even though the brightness stabbed into her eyes. Grabbing up the radio she spoke. “Thank you Evan!”

“You got it,” Evan concluded in satisfaction. “How’s Ronon?”

“Ah ...,” Jennifer paused in shining the torch on her partner, frowning. “As far as I can tell there’s nothing wrong with him,” she reported back, her tone worried. “I need to get him under a scanner as soon as possible.” She didn’t say it but Lorne knew she was thinking about all the reasons Ronon could be unconscious that wouldn’t be obvious from the outside.

“We’re almost there,” John promised, matching his words to actions when he ran into the room a minute later, large torch lighting his way. “Doc,” he greeted Jennifer, noting her pale features and worried eyes. Holding up the fold away stretcher he’d grabbed on the way he continued. “As soon as Lorne gets here we’ll get Ronon to the infirmary.”

“Right behind you Sir,” Lorne announced his arrival. Unlike the casual, bedtime attire John had on, Evan was wearing his Atlantis uniform, the shirt rumpled and untucked as though he'd dressed in a hurry. Attempting to smooth his messy hair down he grabbed the other end of the stretcher and helped his CO to place it next to Ronon’s unconscious body. They carefully rolled the other man onto the stretcher, Jennifer doing her best not to hover too much. With John at his head and Lorne at his feet the two men lifted Ronon carefully and headed for the door, Jennifer walking quickly beside them.

oOo

“How is he?” John strode into the infirmary at 7am the next morning, quickly spotting Jennifer and heading straight for her.

“Impatient to get out of here,” Jennifer replied. Ronon had awoken on his own a few minutes after they’d arrived in the infirmary the night before, while he’d been under the scanner in fact. After a moment of disorientation where Jennifer had been convinced if he’d had his gun he’d have stunned everyone in the room and destroyed the Ancient device, he’d calmed. His expression had gone from confused to angry when he’d realised that Jennifer had been left alone in the dark while he’d apparently slept through whatever had gotten them both down there.

Jennifer had insisted he remain in the infirmary for observation, taking a bed herself in the bay next to his to keep him company. It had been almost 3am by the time they’d settled down to sleep - luckily Jenn was used to the effects of so little sleep, well able to still do her duties.

“Shep,” Ronon’s voice called out loudly from across the infirmary.

“How you doin’ buddy?” John asked, walking over with Jennifer at his shoulder.

“I’m fine,” Ronon said insistently, shooting an impatient look at Jennifer. “Ready to go find the bastard behind this and make him regret it.”

“You know something we don’t?” John asked pointedly.

“No,” Ronon grumbled, frowning.

“Look, Rodney was monitoring the room overnight, hoping to get another one of those power surges,” John explained. “He’s been down there for an hour or so analysing everything – surely he’s got something by now.

“Let’s go find out,” Ronon proposed, looking at Jennifer expectantly.

“Fine, you can go,” Jennifer agreed. “But I’m coming with you.”

“No you’re not,” Ronon shot back.

“I was down there pretty much by myself last night Ronon,” Jennifer pointed out. “I hardly think going there in the daylight with three men in attendance to protect me is going to be anywhere near as bad.”

Ronon frowned but nodded wordlessly. Jennifer went to get his clothes, placing them on the bed as she smoothed the sheets over his legs. “You’re sure you feel okay?” she asked. Seeing him unconscious for so long had clearly shaken her ... probably because it had never happened before. Ronon had always been invincible in her eyes and it galled to have that illusion crushed so blatantly. She knew as a doctor it was silly to feel that way ... but in this case it was more Jennifer Keller the woman who was running the show as far as her emotions were concerned.

“I’m fine,” Ronon insisted, grabbing her hands and holding on tightly until she looked at him. He let his eyes speak for him, watching as Jennifer read his expression, nodding slowly as she visibly relaxed.

“We’ll wait for you outside big guy,” John spoke up, having kept silent during their exchange. Nodding towards Jenn’s office he waited for her to move before following her, leaving Ronon a little privacy to get dressed. “He’ll be fine Doc,” John said reassuringly.

“I know ... I just ...,” she trailed off awkwardly. “He looked ... smaller somehow ... I don’t like seeing him like that.”

“We’ll work this out Doc,” John promised.

“I hope so,” she replied.

oOo

“I have no idea what this room is supposed to be for,” Rodney began when the three descended on him a short while later. “It’s been drawing power intermittently for a couple of days but it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.”

“And yet four of us have ended up here in the middle of the night with no memory of how,” John said pointedly. “Surely that’s not a coincidence.”

“I never said it was,” Rodney shot back. “Just because I haven’t worked out how it works yet doesn’t mean I won’t.”

“Could you do it before anyone else ends up here?” John suggested sarcastically.

“We can rig up some temporary lights Sir,” Lorne suggested. “Make sure if it does happen again at least whoever’s affected will be able to find their way out of here.” He’d appointed himself Rodney’s protector, unwilling to let the other man work so far from the main tower alone.

“Do it,” John ordered. He didn’t like planning for the problem to be ongoing but they’d be stupid to assume it would just go away on its own.

Lorne nodded, touching a hand to Jennifer’s shoulder on his way out the door.

“He’s worried,” Jennifer commented, watching the Major disappear down the corridor.

“We all are Doc,” John returned. “So far it’s been pretty harmless but it’s only a matter of time before someone ends up getting hurt.”

“Yeah, and knowing my luck it’ll probably be me,” Rodney muttered under his breath.

“So, do we know anything useful Rodney?” John questioned.

“Ah ... not really,” Rodney admitted. “Radek’s trying to trace the power usage coming out of the room but it’s a little like trying to track a single raindrop in a thunderstorm.”

“Why us?” Ronon’s question fell abruptly into the room.

“Sorry?” Rodney’s expression was sceptical, his first impulse always to see the Satedan only as a warrior rather than the intelligent man he must be to have survived seven years on his own against the Wraith.

“Is there a reason it was John and Teyla, and then Jenn and I?” Ronon clarified. “Seems a little odd to me.”

“It does,’ John’s eyes narrowed, his mind clearly working the angles.

“What – like some kind of selection criteria?” Rodney queried sharply, his brow furrowed in thought. “The only similarities I can see are hardly going to fit that description. Apart from the fact that your rooms are probably amongst only a handful with more than one occupant. Maybe whatever is doing this needs two people to do whatever it's trying to do.” Rodney had his classic ‘I’m only playing along with this to humour you’ face on ... he might not know what the room did yet but he wasn’t buying into any theories that made the ‘victims’ anything other than random.

“Find out how many multi-occupant rooms we have in the city,” John ordered abruptly.

“What ... me?” Rodney complained. “No, no, no ... I need to keep researching the data here - get someone else to do it.”

“No - you do it Rodney,” John insisted impatiently.

“Fine,” Rodney muttered, turning back to his laptop and tapping on the keys harder than was strictly necessary.

oOo

“I never realised there were so many people cohabitating here,” Rodney announced as he walked into Woolsey’s office a few hours later. John, Ronon and Teyla were already there. Jennifer had elected to continue her work in the infirmary, adding the samples she’d collected from herself and Ronon to those she already had from John and Teyla. Major Lorne was also absent, still down in ‘The Room’ supervising the installation of lights and a radio connection that would work on a generator independent of the Atlantis systems.

“We have in excess of two hundred people living here Doctor,” Woolsey pointed out, “and there are no rules against forming attachments, as long as they don’t violate the militarie's non fraternisation provisions. It’s only natural for people to be drawn together.”

“Perhaps it is just that you had little reason to notice before now Rodney,” Teyla suggested gently.

“Ah ... I guess it doesn’t matter either way,” Rodney regrouped. “Aside from you guys and Ronon and Jennifer there are another fifteen couples who’ve registered for a joint room. There could be more than that of course – they’re just the ones we know about.”

“More?” Woolsey looked at Rodney questioningly.

“Yeah – um ... people who haven’t made it official or um ... one night stands, stuff like that,” Rodney actually looked a little embarrassed as he elaborated.

“Of course,” Woolsey nodded. “So we assume we have at least 30 people at risk here?”

“At least,” Rodney agreed, “although I’m not convinced that really has anything to do with this. We really need to capture one of these events while it’s happening. Did Major Lorne have any luck with the security footage?”

“He did,” Evan strode into the room on the tail end of Rodney’s question. “Sir,” he acknowledged his CO, making his report succinctly. “We’ve got lights, radio and cameras set up – if anything happens tonight we’ll capture it. I also took the liberty of setting up a surveillance room on the next floor down ... we won’t spook whatever’s behind this before we work out who they are but we should be able to get there pretty quickly if it becomes necessary.”

“Good work Major,” Sheppard complimented his second in command with casual ease.

“What did you find on the video Major?” Woolsey asked expectantly.

“This,” Lorne nodded towards Woolsey’s laptop, looking for approval to use it for his own purposes. When Woolsey nodded, Evan displayed a video file on the large screen across from the circle of seats, and hit play.

They all watched as a door to someone’s quarters slid open and first John and then Teyla appeared. They walked down the corridor together, holding hands, appearing much as they did every day, apart from the fact that they were wearing their night clothes and seemed oblivious to that fact. There was nothing to indicate they were being coerced in way ... it was only when you looked really closely that you realised their eyes looked vacant, as though they were there but not there at the same time.

“That’s a little disturbing,” John commented, moving instinctively closer to Teyla.

“I have no memory of that,” Teyla said, frowning at the screen. The video continued unchanged until the walking couple moved outside of security camera range.

“That’s it,” Evan said. “I can show you something pretty similar for Jennifer and Ronon but you get the idea.”

“Maybe sleepwalking is the answer after all,” Rodney suggested weakly.

Collective sleepwalking?” Evan queried sceptically. “That sounds unlikely McKay.”

“You got a better explanation Major?” Rodney shot back.

“No, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t one,” Lorne replied mildly. “I hate to say this but we may have to hope that someone else gets lured to that room tonight. Otherwise we might never find out what caused this.”

“Indeed,” John agreed, his expression grim.

 

Chapter 3: Radek and Katya

“Do we want to narrow it down some?” Rodney asked later in the evening. Team Sheppard were having a late dinner as they discussed where the investigation was at, in preparation for the night ahead.

“What, you want to issue an order for everyone to sleep alone tonight?” Sheppard’s brow rose sharply. “Who’s gonna police that?”

“Isn’t that what we’ve got a military for?” Rodney queried snidely.

“To keep the peace,” John countered, “not act as the no dating police! Besides, didn’t you want to ‘catch them in the act’, so to speak? For that we need to test out your theory that it needs more than one person present.”

“Should we be issuing some kind of warning then?” Rodney changed tact slightly.

“Since it’s hardly threatening bodily harm I think that’s overkill,” Sheppard decided after thinking about it for a moment. “We don't really have any evidence to suggest there's anything malevolent going on here. Maybe it's just trying to tell us something.”

Who’s just trying to tell us something?” Lorne approached, nodding towards the empty seat questioningly.

“Join us Major,” John invited, shifting slightly to make more room.

“Thank you Sir,” Lorne sat, casting a glance around the table. “Who’s trying to tell us something?” he asked again.

“Whatever it is that has otherwise normal human beings walking the city in their sleep,” Rodney explained. Shooting Evan a sly look, he continued. “It’s lucky you’re not hooked up Major – given your prior experience with sleepwalking in the city you’d be a prime candidate.”

“Yeah ... lucky,” Lorne returned dismissively. Turning back to Colonel Sheppard, he got to the reason he’d wanted to talk to his CO. “I stopped in at the infirmary on my way down here. Jennifer hasn’t found anything yet but she’s not giving up. I tried to get her to come down but she shrugged me off, told me to tell Ronon hello and then went back to ignoring me.”

“Hello huh?” Ronon got up abruptly, his intentions clear. “I’ll just go and encourage her to take a break,” he announced as he turned and strode away.

“That’ll be interesting,” Evan joked. “My money’s on Jennifer ... she’s mean when she digs her heels in.”

“I don’t know,” John countered. “Ronon knows a few tricks ... he’ll have her thinking a break was her own idea.”

Lorne laughed, nodding his agreement.

“Who’s taking first watch?” Sheppard asked, referring to Lorne’s surveillance schedule for their targeted room.

“I was thinking to do that myself,” Evan admitted. “With backup of course.”

“Did you get any sleep after Jenn called us this morning?” John asked.

“Ah ... not exactly,” Lorne replied with a shrug. “I’m good to go though.”

“I don’t doubt that Major,” John commented, frowning. “Doesn’t mean you have to do it all yourself.”

“If we can believe the pattern after two nights, whatever this is will be influencing someone new tonight,” Lorne said easily. “I want to see it for myself.”

“That’s what we’ve got cameras for Major,” John pointed out with a faint smirk.

“So ... I assume you’ll want to take a turn at watch too Sir?” Evan said, straight-faced.

“Put me down for the one after yours Major,” Sheppard said, amused.

“Yes Sir,” Evan agreed.

oOo

Nothing happened during Lorne’s watch and he reluctantly handed over the reins to Colonel Sheppard at 2am, heading off to his quarters admitting, if only to himself, that he was tired.

Much to John’s surprise Rodney insisted on sitting in with him, citing the need to be in the room - get the data first hand to further his research. Sheppard had shrugged – back up was back up, even of the complaining scientist variety.

They’d been sitting in the surveillance room for half an hour when John saw two figures appear at the end of the corridor, cast in the green glow of the infrared cameras they were using.

“Here we go,” he said softly, leaning forward slightly, eyes intent on the screen.

They watched as the figures got nearer, becoming more recognisable. They walked as though they could see where they were going even though it was very dark. Dressed much as the others had been the two previous nights – clothing too thin for the cold conditions, feet bare – the couple seemed almost oblivious to their surroundings.

When Rodney switched the camera to the one covering the room's doorway they both saw the faces of the two who entered.

“Huh!” Rodney exclaimed.

“What?” John demanded.

“Oh ... n-nothing,” Rodney stuttered slightly. “I’m just surprised that Radek has a girlfriend. He never said anything.”

“Maybe they haven’t got that far yet,” John suggested with a smirk at Rodney’s expression of distaste.

Please,” he protested. “I can do without those kinds of imagines in my head thank you very much!”

“Who is she?” John asked curiously, watching as Radek seated himself in the middle of the room, a few paces back from the console. He pulled the woman down in front of him, the pair sitting cross legged facing each other, their knees lightly touching.

“Ah ... Karma ... Kata,” Rodney snapped his fingers suddenly. “Katya! Doctor Katya Artamova. Systems engineer. Radek brought her in to help with the design of the Puddle Jumper hyperdrive. She worked on the Daedalus with our Asgard friend – came highly recommended.”

“She looks more your type,” John said jokingly. On the surface it was true – the Russian scientist was blonde, blue eyed, and diminutive – pretty in a businesslike kind of way. She’d be smart too, something Rodney had made no secret of finding attractive.

“She’s Russian,” Rodney stated as though that were explanation enough. When he realised John was looking at him with a raised brow he explained. “After my first experience with the Stargate they transferred me to Russia. I still have nightmares about that place ... grim ... very grim.”

“Radek doesn’t seem to have the same problem,” John commented, watching as the Czechoslovakian scientist leaned towards Katya until their foreheads were touching. Both had their eyes closed and seemed to be in some kind of meditative state.

Rodney and John both started as abruptly the green glow of the infrared was swamped by white light, blinding them momentarily.

“Switch to normal cameras,” John ordered, on his feet, eyes pinned to the screen.

Rodney complied, standing up himself when he saw what was going on in the room. Radek and Katya were enclosed in a column of light ... inside it a swirling disk of brighter, blue tinged light was slowly travelling down their bodies. Their expressions shifted into troubled - discomforted but not in real pain - otherwise both seemed unharmed.

“Is that what I think it is?” John asked.

“If you think it’s a version of the Ancient scanner then you’d be correct,” Rodney said. He’d tapped into the Atlantis systems and was trying to track the power back to the source. “It’s accessing the ZedPM directly but the power usage is minimal. We could pull the plug on it by pulling the ZedPM though which is good to know.”

“Shouldn’t we go in there and turn it off?” John queried, his expression grimly determined. Based on the previous night he was thinking Radek and Doctor Artamova would probably be okay but still it didn’t sit well to leave them at the mercy of the ancient machine.

“Ah – I’m not sure we could,” Rodney admitted. He pointed to his laptop, where he’d displayed a diagram of what they were seeing in real life. “The inside seems to be pretty similar to the scanner in the infirmary but this column around the outside is some kind of shield, designed to contain the scan. It’s probably for safety but that doesn’t help us to turn it off without pulling the ZedPM.”

“Then we pull -,” John began when as abruptly as it had appeared the light was gone. The walls closest to Radek and Katya’s shimmered and shifted as the light floated away and slowly dissipated into nothingness.

Rodney didn’t wait for orders this time, switching them back to infrared now the room was dark again. They watched silently as first Katya and then Radek slowly toppled sideways until they were lying together on the floor. As far as John and Rodney could tell they were simply sleeping.

“Turn the lights on in there and call Doctor Keller,” John said as he headed out the door. “I’m gonna go wake them up – if we can.”

oOo

Whatever had pulled Katya and Radek inside that walking sleep was strong enough that Sheppard had to wait for the latest two victims to wake up on their own. They'd been transferred to the infirmary and examined by Jennifer before that happened. Katya was the first, frowning in confusion when she found herself in the infirmary instead of the bed she’d gone to sleep in.

“What happened?” she looked around, spotting Radek sleeping on the bed next to her, her frown deepening. “Is Radek well?” she added, her voice only faintly accented with shades of Russia.

“You’re okay Doctor Artamova,” Jennifer moved in to reassure her. “Doctor Zelenka too.”

“Then why are we here?” Katya finally noticed Colonel Sheppard and Rodney standing nearby, her face paling slightly. “Have we done something wrong?”

“Of course not,” Jennifer put a hand over the scientists, patting it gently. “Let me get Colonel Sheppard over here to explain.”

John had only just begun his explanation when Radek awoke, going from asleep to fully awake in an instance. His keen glance took in his surrounds and he immediately looked to Sheppard for information.

The Colonel obliged, taking the story back to the beginning with his own experiences two nights before.

“You say we were scanned?” Radek asked once John was finished, his accent more pronounced the only clue that he was troubled by the night’s events.

“From head to toe,” Rodney confirmed.

“Why?” Radek met Katya’s eyes for a moment before looking back to Rodney as the most likely source for an answer.

“No idea,” Rodney admitted. “You don’t remember anything?”

“Nothing,” Radek confirmed. “The last I recall we had ...,” he trailed off, flushing.

Katya smiled slightly, obviously more comfortable with the embarrassing side of their predicament than Radek was. “I too can remember nothing beyond that,” she concurred.

“Well, there’s no need for either of you to stay here,” Jennifer announced.

“I’ll organise someone to retrieve some warmer clothes and shoes from your quarters,” John offered.

“Thank you Colonel,” Katya said graciously. Radek nodded, distracted by his thoughts.

oOo

After they’d both dressed and been cleared to leave the infirmary Radek put a hand on Rodney’s arm. “I will escort Katya to her quarters,” he said in a low tone. “After – I would like to see the video footage, yes?”

Rodney nodded. “Section five, two floors down from Janus’s lab,” he said simply.

Nodding, Radek held out an elbow for Katya. She took it and the two walked unhurriedly from the infirmary.

oOo

“What was it looking for?” Radek muttered, rewinding the tape and starting it again.

“I don’t know,” Rodney said irritably, “and watching it for the fifty first time isn’t going to give us the answer!”

“The information collected must have gone somewhere,” Radek insisted, swivelling slightly to access the ancient systems again.

“And as soon as we isolate the subroutine running the show we’ll find out where,” Rodney replied impatiently, clearly having said the same thing at least once already. “Listen ... I hate to say it but I’m tired. Maybe we should come back to this tomorrow.”

“You go Rodney,” Radek said absently, eyes still on the screen.

“No, no, ...,” Rodney backpedalled. “It’s still early.” He refocussed, not to be outdone by the other scientist.

Radek nodded, muttering to himself in Czech as he turned his attention back to the video again.

“So ... how long have you been seeing Doctor Artamova?” Rodney asked.

“A month, maybe two,” Radek said distractedly. “Tonight was our first ...,” he trailed off, letting Rodney work it out for himself.

“Well, she’s certainly going to remember it now,” Rodney pointed out weakly.

“I would like to think she would have anyway Rodney,” Radek said, exasperated.

“Right, of course,” Rodney stuttered awkwardly. He let the silence go for a moment before speaking again. “Well anyway ... I ah ... I’m happy you found someone,” he said, uncomfortable with the implied social intimacy but feeling compelled to say something anyway.

“I have you to thank for it, to a certain extent,” Radek surprised him by admitting. “I’m sorry Rodney but, were it not for your experiences with Doctor Brown I probably wouldn’t have acted. When Katya arrived a few months ago ... I couldn’t help but think about it and well ... it seems that time should not be wasted, yes?”

“Ah ... I guess,” Rodney shifted uncomfortably, shooting Radek a quick look before directing his gaze back to the screen. “Well um ... hopefully this experience won’t have put Doctor Artamovo off.”

“Katya has a very enquiring mind,” Radek said almost proudly. “I suspect she has already given thought to how such a scanning device would be created.”

“Sexy brainy?” Rodney couldn’t help but ask.

“Oh yes,” Radek grinned. “Jeden ostrý mysl is dokonalý horký, ano?”

“I’ll ah ... I’ll take your word for it,” Rodney returned with a grimace. When Radek resorted to his native language it usually meant you didn't want to know.

oOo

“What troubles me the most is that whatever is going on here, it has the ability to control our minds,” Woolsey said. “To the point Doctor Zelenka and his companion were able to navigate unfamiliar corridors in the dark. How do you explain that?”

“I can’t explain it,” Jennifer admitted. They were in the large conference room, all of those who’d been affected so far along with Rodney, Major Lorne, and Richard Woolsey. “I did a brain scan on both Radek and Doctor Artamova only minutes after their experience and found nothing out of the ordinary. There’s no pathogen, or virus or anything else foreign to the human body that the Ancient systems are capable of picking up to explain this.” She hesitated and then finished it. “It’s as though we were all hypnotised somehow.”

“Is that even possible while you’re asleep?” Rodney asked disbelievingly.

“Before this I would have said no,” Jennifer admitted, “but at this stage I can’t see any other explanation that makes sense.”

“What about the ones that don’t make sense,” John muttered, getting a raised eyebrow from Teyla for his troubles. “Sorry,” he said.

“So ... what do we do next?” Lorne asked. “Is there any way we can find out what information the scan collected?”

“Already working on it Major,” Rodney said smugly. “I’ve got my best people digging through millions of lines of code – everything that was running somewhere in the city at 2:30am this morning. Once we’ve crossed out everything we know should have been running, whatever’s left will be our little scanning subroutine. Once we’ve isolated it we’ll be able to see where it sent whatever it was it sent.” It was vague – he knew it – but they didn’t have a lot to go on, forcing him to speculate and gloss over things in the absence of real details.

“How long is that likely to take?” Woolsey asked.

“Ah ... a day, maybe two,” Rodney said uncertainly. When Richard raised an eyebrow in surprise, Rodney shrugged. “A million lines of code,” he restated. “Not exactly a walk in the park.”

“So we still need a plan for tonight, assuming this happens again,” John concluded grimly.

“Right,” Rodney nodded. “And anything we do is going to be next to useless since we can’t really predict who’ll be next – and there are still too many potential candidates.”

“We just have to let it happen again?” Lorne frowned, not liking that idea.

“Unless you have a better idea, yes,” Rodney confirmed.

“Great,” Evan looked at Sheppard. “Permission to take the 2am watch Sir?” he asked hopefully.

“Denied Major,” John said immediately. “You’re rostered off tonight ... let someone else take over. You get some sleep – we all need to be ready for tomorrow night – assuming Rodney has something we can try by then.”

“Because of course it all comes down to me!” Rodney muttered grumpily.

“That’s right,” John grinned unrepentently.

“I’ll see if I can come up with something we can use to retain some awareness during the hypnosis too,” Jennifer added. “Assuming we get to the stage where we can direct attention in a specific direction we might need a way to take control.”

“Good idea,” Woolsey agreed. “All right everyone ... it’s business as usual until we find out more about what the scan was looking for. You should all take any opportunity to get some sleep before tonight.” It was a given that they were all assuming something would happen.

Meeting concluded, everyone rose and left the room. Lorne and Sheppard were the last to leave, Evan stopping his CO just inside the door.

“You sure I can’t do surveillance tonight Sir?” he asked hopefully.

“Lorne,” John looked at him pointedly. “Go - do what you normally do! I have a feeling there’ll be plenty of chances to miss out on your sleep before this thing is over.”

“Yes Sir,” Lorne agreed reluctantly.

Authors Note:

Translation of Radek’s Czechoslovakian from translation-guide dot com - “A sharp mind is very hot, yes?”

Chapter 4: Evan and Laura

He shouldn’t have done it. With everything that was going on in the city Lorne knew he was skirting the edges of discovery but when Colonel Sheppard had said ‘do what you normally do’ his thoughts had turned immediately to Laura. They'd been interrupted when Jennifer had called two nights before – Laura had thought it the height of amusing to see him scrambling into his uniform at two in the morning and he’d counted himself lucky no one had seen it as odd when he’d turned up fully dressed and with hair that proclaimed pretty loudly that someone had been running their fingers through it.

Evan hadn't been able to see Laura at all the previous night and didn’t want to make it two nights in a row. The Daedalus would be returning to Earth in a week, taking Laura with it – they didn’t have much time before they’d be separated again for 6 weeks.

It was a crappy way to run a relationship but Evan had quickly worked out shortly after meeting Laura that he wouldn’t have a choice. For him it had been instant attraction followed pretty quickly by something a lot deeper. It still surprised him that he hadn't tried to ignore it or push aside what he knew he was feeling. Maybe he'd been taken with outstubborning Laura to begin with - determined that he'd get her to look at him in a different light because she'd been so determined not to - that before he knew it he was in too deep to want to get out.

A relationship between them wasn’t against regs ... Laura was a marine stationed on the Daedalus. She reported to Colonel Caldwell which put her as far outside Lorne’s chain of command as she could get while still seeing some time in Atlantis. No - they didn’t need to keep it a secret but it had been more than a year from meeting Laura to convincing her to give them a real chance. Evan hadn’t wanted to jeopardise that by protesting too much when she'd asked him not to tell anyone they were together. Now, after a year of that everything had become a jumbled mess of secrecy. He loved Laura and he had to believe she loved him too, even though she’d never said as much. Yet they were still creeping around the city, leaving each other’s quarters in the early hours, and pretending they were nothing more than friends whenever they were with their colleagues.

It was a situation that had grown steadily more annoying ... despite all his attempts to convince her otherwise, Laura had consistently insisted they needed to remain a secret, citing what Lorne considered to be an incredibly ridiculous argument that it would make things easier when they broke up if no one knew they'd been together in the first place. That usually had him responding in one of two ways ... with anger or determination. If it was anger he'd give Laura the stoney Lorne face and a few days of space that ended up being just as hard on him as it was on her. And if it was determination ... well, then he did whatever it took to convince Laura that as far as he was concerned they weren't breaking up ... ever. Needless to say, Evan had put a lot of thought into how he was going to fix it, contrive for the truth to be revealed without it being his fault.

Waking up in a circle of light in his pyjamas with Laura sitting in his lap hadn’t made the top of his list.

Lorne had noticed the pattern of course ... that in three nights it had only been couples who’d taken a midnight walk against their will. And at the back of his mind he’d known he and Laura were at risk, even if no one else had them on the list ... but for some reason he'd thought it sensible to decide it was unlikely they’d be the next ones affected. Until he’d come to in ‘The Room’ of course. Then it seemed pretty bloody stupid on his part to have put them both at risk by asking Laura to stay ... something he knew he'd cop flak from Laura about once she worked out that he'd known what was going on in the city and hadn't told her.

“Damn,” he muttered, turning his head to take in their current situation. Someone had turned on the lights he himself had seen rigged up ... and wasn't that another thing to chuckle ironically at, that in his efforts to help someone else he'd ended up helping himself! He probably wouldn't much time before whoever was on watch showed up ... looking around Evan noticed immediately that things were different this time. He’d watched the footage from Radek’s night time stroll ... instead of waking up on the floor with Laura already awake ahead of him, Lorne was sitting, his legs crossed. They were inside the column of white light he’d seen on Radek’s video but there was no sign of the extra bright scanning lights. Looking down at the woman in his arms highlighted the second difference.

Radek and Katya had sat facing each other, only their knees touching. Evan held Laura firmly on his lap – he couldn’t know whether they’d started out like that but it felt like a protective embrace to him, like he’s been trying to keep Laura safe from ... something. What, he didn’t know. She seemed to be asleep ... Evan touched a hand to her cheek gently. Her eyelids fluttered and she sighed lightly, nestling her head more comfortably against his chest. The way she whispered his name would have been the final straw for anyone observing them still in doubt about the nature of their relationship.

“Laura,” he shook her lightly, hoping she’d wake up before anyone arrived. “Honey - last chance to stop me from blurting out our entire history,” he said, his mouth at her ear so that only she would hear him.

She didn’t wake up, leaving all the decisions to him. Standing up, Laura’s slight body held lightly in his arms, Evan shifted so that he could check out the light surrounding them, see if it was something they could get through. Reaching out a hand he edged carefully closer.

Fuck!” he pulled his fingers away, shaking his hand and grimacing at the painful tingling, hanging on to his precious cargo through grim determination. “Just so you know,” he told Laura even though he knew she probably couldn’t hear him, “that really hurt.”

“That’s because it’s a shield Major,” Rodney McKay strode into the room, looking like someone had just dragged him out of bed. Colonel Sheppard was one step behind him – the way Rodney shot him a glare made it clear John had been the one doing the waking.

“Sir,” Evan straightened, greeting his CO as though being found in his pyjamas with a woman in his arms happened every other day. Inside he was thinking that it just had to be his CO and McKay who'd had front row seats while his personal life was being plastered all over the surveillance footage. It couldn't have been one of his own subordinates that Evan could later order to keep quiet about the details ... no, it was one of only a few people on Atlantis he couldn't order around, and McKay who didn't know how to keep quiet to save himself. This would be all over the city before daybreak. The only good news was that he could hear them okay and they could hear him. The shield was clearly only designed to keep people in or out, not everything else.

“At ease Evan,” John said in amusement. “Given the circumstances I think we can drop the military protocol for the time being.”

“Yes Sir,” Evan grimaced, realised what he’d said and then shrugged. “Sorry.”

“What do you remember about your evening Major?” Rodney asked, his laptop hooked up to the control console and his fingers flying over the keys.

“Ah,” Evan glanced down at Laura, shifting her slightly to ease the strain on his arms. If she would just wake up this would all be a lot easier.

“Off the record, if that helps,” John added. “Not that it needs to be.”

“Okay,” Evan steeled himself resolutely. If Laura protested he’d just have to think of some way to make it up to her. “Laura came to my quarters at 1900 hours last night – I’d guess we were asleep by around 2300 hours ... I’ll let you fill in the blanks. Next thing I know I’m waking up here.”

“You don’t remember walking here, or being scanned?” Rodney asked.

“Ah ... no,” Evan returned. “Was it the same as Radek’s?”

“Rodney’s gonna play the video so you can see it for yourself,” Sheppard replied.

“Okay, but you’ll have to bring the screen a little closer,” Evan said. “In case you haven’t noticed, it’s a little bright in here.” He could see okay but the edges of everything were a little blurry with reflected light.

Something drew his attention to the door before Rodney could comply and he groaned silently. “You called Jennifer?” he tone was just shy of accusing as he looked at Rodney and John. Jennifer rolled her eyes, putting her kit on the floor beside the control console and removing her portable medical scanner.

“You’re trapped inside a big glowy column of light Major,” John pointed out. “Medical attention kind of goes with the territory.”

“Right,” Evan sighed, knowing his night was about to get a lot harder. “Hey Doc,” he greeted Jenn with a weak smile.

“Major,” Jennifer stood only a step away from the edge of his prison, her expression bland. “I see there are a few things you haven’t shared with your friends,” she said, eyes on the readout she was getting.

“Jenn,” Evan waited until she looked up. “I’m sorry,” he said sincerely. “I’m not blaming Laura but if had been entirely up to me I would have told you about us.”

“We can talk about that later,” Jennifer dismissed. “For now I need to know how you’re feeling - the shield is blocking me from scanning you.”

“I’m fine,” Evan insisted. “It’s Laura I’m worried about.”

“Any signs of consciousness from her?” Jenn asked, back to concerned doctor mode.

“She said my name just after I woke up,” Evan revealed. “If I didn’t know better I’d say she was just sleeping. Except for the fact that she never sleeps this deeply.”

“Sounds similar to our experiences with Radek and Katya,” Jennifer said reassuringly. “Don’t worry – I’m sure she’ll wake up on her own soon.”

“Can we make that before my arms fall off?” he joked, trying to rotate his shoulders to ease the strain. Laura wasn't heavy but if you carried it for long enough even the lightest pack would weigh you down eventually.

“Oh for god’s sake,” Rodney exclaimed. “Just sit down Major ... it’s not that hard!”

“Yes – don’t stand on ceremony on our account,” Sheppard added, his smirk firmly in place.

“Right,” Evan nodded, carefully lowering himself back to the ground while making sure that no part of Laura brushed even close to the edges of their glowing prison. He was painfully aware of three sets of eyes watching as he gently arranged Laura back in his lap, her head nestled against his chest.

“Yes, very touching,” Rodney said irritably. “Can we get back to how you got in there now?”

“Show me the video,” Evan motioned with his head for the other man to bring it over. For once Rodney did as requested without further complaint.

It was a surreal experience to watch yourself doing things you had no recollection of doing. His prior self had his arm around Laura, the two of them walking unhurriedly towards their present location. Once there they had followed the same path as Radek. Evan had sat down first and then urged Laura to sit across from him.

That’s where things went south. He felt a wave of useless adrenalin coursing over him as he watched the column they were now trapped inside rise from the floor to surround their prior selves. The ring of brighter light began from the roof, moving swiftly downwards. As soon as it touched Laura she began to writhe as though in pain. Evan shifted uncomfortably as he watched his own reaction. He’d leapt off the floor, grabbing Laura’s hands and shifting her into the centre of the column. Moving behind her, he had literally used himself as a shield, folding her against him and crouching so that she was protected – the light unable to touch her directly. It didn’t stop the scan and it was Evan who began to exhibit clear signs of being in pain. He made himself watch as his prior self held on, his expression grimly determined until the circle of light faded ... then his body slumped back slightly, Laura still held in his lap ... the two of them asleep. He watched himself wake up only a moment later before Rodney stopped the replay.

There was a moment of silent before Lorne roused himself. “Well, I guess that explains how we got here,” he said lightly.

“It seemed like you were aware of what was going on,” Jennifer commented. “You really don’t remember any of that?”

“Not a thing,” Evan admitted. “Like I said it was off to bed one instance and then the next I’m waking up here.”

“So it was instinct taking over,” Rodney surmised.

“I guess,” Evan waited for a moment, expecting some further comment but getting none. “So what now? Are you gonna turn this thing off so we can get out of here?”

“All in good time Major,” Rodney returned.

“Oh come on McKay! I’m cold and tired and ...” Evan looked down at Laura, still sleeping and then back to the scientist. “And I need to get Laura out of here ... preferably before she wakes up and realises we’ve turned into a side show!”

“You said if we pulled the ZPM it’d switch everything off,” John reminded Rodney. He empathised with Evan – if it were he and Teyla in there like that John would be more than a little worried too.

“It will,” Rodney insisted. “The only problem with that is it’ll in all likelihood wipe any record of Major Lorne’s experiences as well. We know something was different this time – if we don’t take the time to study why it’ll take us that much longer to work this out.”

“How long?” Evan asked with a resigned sigh.

“I just need to download the most recent logs,” Rodney said, tapping a few keys and then hitting enter with a smug expression. “Shouldn’t take more than a few minutes,” he added.

“Right,” Evan shifted again, resettling Laura in his lap.

“So, how long has this been going on?” John said with a faint smirk. His 2IC was traditionally a professional facade behind which who knew what kind of emotions and thoughts lurked. He didn’t get rattled and he didn’t fly off the handle. In fact this was the first time Sheppard could remember seeing the more personal side of the Major. It had taken a bizarre set of circumstances to reveal it and John was curious to see how much he could get out of Evan before the mask was reasserted.

“For me – since we met,” Evan shrugged. There was no point in prevaricating – they’d all seen the video. “Once Laura was permanently stationed on the Daedalus it took me a while to convince her so I guess officially, just over a year.”

“You’ve been sneaking around with Laura Cadman for over a year without getting caught?” Rodney asked, surprised and a little impressed.

“It’s not that hard if you know what you’re doing,” Evan explained. “Laura’s only in the city two weeks out of eight so that probably helped. Lately I’ve been thinking getting caught would solve a lot of my problems ... this is a little over the top though.”

“Evan Lorne and Laura Cadman – who would have thought?” Sheppard smirked. “How about we keep this to ourselves ... just until I can get my bet into the pool?”

“You’re not ... angry Sir?” Evan had to ask. He respected John more than any other commanding officer he’d ever served under. Not telling him something so important could be taken as a lack of respect, not the message he wanted to convey.

“That you didn’t tell me?” John queried. Evan nodded wordlessly. “No – what you do in your own time is your business Major, as long as it doesn’t violate the regs. Do I think you should have told me? Sure, but I think I get why you didn’t.” He shared a conspiratorial look with Lorne. “Women can make your life pretty damn difficult if they set their minds to it, can’t they?”

“They can,” Evan agreed, eyes twinkling with humour. “Thank you Sir.”

“You’re welcome,” Sheppard returned. “And its John, remember. How any times do I have to tell you to drop the military protocol when we’re off duty?”

“A few more times yet ... Sir,” Evan replied, straight faced.

“Evan?” Laura’s confused voice had Lorne’s eyes shooting to her. She blinked a few times, frowning, and then opened her eyes fully, taking in the scene instantly. “Please tell me this is just a bad dream,” she begged in a low tone, her green eyes locked to his blue ones.

“Sorry Honey,” Evan brushed a strand of hair back from her face. “This is as real as it gets.”

“Oh God,” she buried her head in his chest, realised how that would look to her audience and quickly straightened again.

“Relax Lieutenant,” Sheppard said lightly.

“That’s a little hard under the circumstances, Sir,” Laura replied. She looked closely at Evan, noting that he didn’t seem concerned beyond their being trapped. “I want to get up,” she told him.

“Sure,” Lorne shifted to free his hold, “just don’t touch the barrier.”

“Hurts?” Laura looked at him closely as she put her feet firmly on the floor and used his shoulder to push herself up.

“Like a sonofabitch,” Evan admitted, getting up behind her with one arm still around her just in case she wasn’t as steady as she was expecting.

“Oh,” Laura swayed, grabbing at his shoulder.

“Laura?” Evan and Jennifer’s concerned voices overlapped.

“I’m okay,” Laura straightened, shifting away from Evan slightly so that she was standing unaided. “Just a head rush ...,” she looked at Evan, “and am I the only one with a killer headache?”

“Nope,” Evan smiled, delighting in seeing the no nonsense Laura Cadman reasserting herself.

Evan,” Jennifer glared at him. “I asked you how you were feeling and you said you were okay!”

“He’s a guy Jenn,” Laura pointed out with a teasing look. “Admit no pain and all that.”

“Like you’re any better!” Evan shot back. “Isn’t the Marines motto something like unless you’re in pain you’re not trying hard enough?”

“Very funny,” Laura was used to his teasing. Patting his chest she turned and looked around, narrowing her eyes as she stepped closer to the edge of the shield. “So, apart from being outed by an ancient machine, what else did I miss? And when are we getting out of here?”

 

On to Part Two