Chapter 5: Hericus and Lore
It took longer than Lorne was happy with but eventually Rodney had what he needed and radioed one of his people to go and pull the ZedPM. In the intervening time Evan had explained the full situation to Laura, getting exactly the classic Cadman glare he'd expected that he hadn’t mentioned what had been going on at night before they'd been caught up in it's effects.
“And there’s nothing in common between the incidents, apart from it being couples?” Laura confirmed, frowning.
“Not that we can tell,” Jennifer replied.
Laura started to shiver slightly, her attire not suited to an hour spent standing bare foot on a cold floor.
“Here,” Evan made to remove his shirt – he didn’t care if he had to stand there bare-chested as long as she was warm enough.
“Don’t even think about it,” Laura put a hand over his. “I’m halfway to frozen but it’s not gonna kill me.” Her eyes twinkled as she shot him a teasing grin. “Just be thankful it was cold tonight otherwise we’d have revealed a lot more than we already have – assuming stopping to put some clothes on was out of the question.”
“Laura,” Evan flushed, noticing Jennifer trying not to laugh.
“Evan,” Laura retorted. “We came down here together in the middle of the night and you’ve already told everyone how long that’s been going on. I don’t think anyone’s gonna be shocked to hear that I usually sleep naked.”
“Fine, since we’re being all open here I guess I can tell everyone how many times you’ve said no!” She’d gone from swearing him to secrecy on pain of death to cavalierly airing their intimacy in public which struck him as particularly ... annoying. It was close to 3 am and Evan was cold too ... that had him letting some of his frustration show which he immediately regretted. Gathering Laura close he rubbed his hands up and down her arms. “Sorry,” he mumbled.
“It’s okay,” Laura said softly. “I know you just want to get us out of here,” she looked across to where Jennifer stood watching them, helpless to do anything until the shield was lowered. “Evan doesn’t like waiting for someone else to fix his problems,” the Lieutenant stated something everyone in the room already knew. Looking up at her partner she continued “and for the record Major, ‘not yet’ doesn’t mean ‘no’.”
“Have you got any idea what they’re talking about?” Rodney muttered to John, an unwilling witness to the personal exchange, eyes half on his computer and half on the scene in front of him.
“Not really,” John admitted.
“You two are hopeless,” Jennifer exclaimed. “It’s obvious that Evan asked Laura to marry him and she said not yet ... more than once from the sounds of it.”
“Really?” Rodney looked at Evan in surprise. “You want to hook yourself up to Cadman forever – no offence Lieutenant.”
“None taken McKay,” Laura smirked. “Amazes the heck out of me too.”
“See, now you’re just making me angry,” Evan glared over at Rodney who gulped and quickly bent back to his laptop. Pinning Laura with an intent gaze Evan continued. “We’ll be talking about this again ... once we’re out of here.”
“Fine,” Laura barely restrained herself from shivering, this time not because of the cold. Evan Lorne all angry and purposeful was a serious turn on ... "not the time Laura," she mentally reminded herself.
“We could make a killing with this kind of information,” John told Rodney in a low tone, smirk firmly in place.
“You’re the military leader,” Rodney pointed out. “Isn’t it your job to stomp on that kind of thing?”
“Morale McKay,” Sheppard said smugly. “It’s all about morale.”
“We’re ready to pull the ZPM Doctor McKay,” a nervous voice reported in over the radio just as Rodney made to reply.
“Did anyone think to just try turning this thing off?” Laura asked before Rodney could tell them to proceed.
Evan looked at John who then looked at Rodney. “Did we?” he asked.
“Ah ... no,” Rodney admitted. “You try it – your super gene usually works when nothing else does.”
Frowning, Sheppard concentrated on thinking off ... but nothing happened. Evan and Laura were still trapped. “You try,” he told Lorne.
“Okay,” Evan looked sceptical but closed his eyes and gave it as much focus as he could muster.
“You did it!” Laura’s voice had his eyes snapping open in surprise even as she hugged him exuberantly.
“What do you know!” He frowned, looking over at Rodney. “Should I have been able to do that?”
“I don’t know ... maybe,” Rodney said uncertainly. “Could be because you were on the inside ... some kind of fail safe, maybe.”
“Well whatever it was, they’re free now and due in my infirmary,” Jennifer said insistently.
“We’re fine,” Evan and Laura spoke in unison.
“Let’s leave diagnosing to the experts,” Jennifer countered.
“This is payback because we kept our relationship a secret, isn’t it?” Laura narrowed her eyes at her friend suspiciously.
“I would never sink that low Laura,” Jennifer said piously.
“Do you believe that?” Laura asked under her breath as she and Evan followed the doctor from the room.
“Not for a second,” Lorne returned just as quietly.
“Okay, I know what the room was trying to do, including why it didn’t release Major Lorne and Lieutenant Cadman,” Rodney announced late the following afternoon. “Unfortunately the why doesn’t really enlighten us a great deal.”
The conference room was busier than usual ... in addition to team Sheppard, Woolsey and Doctor Keller, Radek Zelenka, Katya Artamova and Laura Cadman were also in attendance.
“What did you find out Doctor?” Woolsey asked patiently.
“It’s a myth,” Rodney said simply.
“A myth?” Sheppard asked uncertainly.
“Am I not speaking aloud?” Rodney shot back. “Yes ... a myth. Teyla and Ronon might even know of it.” Tapping out a command on his laptop, Rodney brought an image to the display screen for them all to see. “This is Hericus and Lore,” he said, nodding at the hand drawn picture of a man and woman standing arm in arm, dressed in ancient attire. “They’re reputed to have lived in the city 15,000 years ago, before the Wraith when life here was probably pretty idyllic. As the myth goes, they discovered something sinister while out on a romantic rendezvous through the outskirts of the city. After a pretty scary night they managed to trap it ‘behind the veil between worlds’ – that’s what the ancient database called it. As the legend goes once every two thousand years the veil thins and the creature reaches through to seek its revenge.”
“Looking for this Hericus and Lore?” Woolsey asked disbelievingly.
“Apparently,” Rodney shrugged. “It’s a myth – pointing out that they’ve been dead for thousands of years doesn’t exactly lend itself to drama.”
“And yet the fact remains that couples have been lured from their rooms in the dead of night,” Teyla pointed out mildly.
“You’ve heard of the myth?” John asked her curiously.
“I have,” Teyla admitted. “It is a much told story popular with young women on many worlds I have visited.” Ronon nodded wordlessly ... he'd heard the legend on his home planet years ago.
“When is this veil supposed to thin?” Sheppard asked.
“I’m glad you asked! This is the good bit,” Rodney said with a smirk. “Based on the date in the database for the origns of the myth, translating things to our calendar and taking into account the longer days here, my best guess is October 31st.”
“Tomorrow night,” Laura said.
“Halloween?” Jennifer spoke at the same time, her tone disbelieving.
“Yeah, I know – that’s some coincidence, right,” Rodney retorted.
“Halloween?” Ronon asked, looking to Jennifer for an explanation. He’d discovered there were a lot of things people from Earth celebrated, including some that made little sense - it was a little hard to keep track.
“Ghosts and monsters, trick or treat,” John reminded him. “Not something we celebrate much here but it’s pretty big back on Earth.”
Lorne had listened intently, keeping quiet as Rodney explained his findings. “You said you’d worked out why Laura and I weren’t released like everyone else,” he reminded the scientist.
“Ah, right,” Rodney motioned back to the hand drawn images on the screen. “It’s a little hard to see just based on this but ... I’m guessing it held on to you Major because there’s a physical resemblance between you and Hericus. Based on physical stats it’s almost uncanny ... that combined with the fact that you have the gene, and played the hero in stopping it scanning the Lieutenant before it could work out she doesn’t caused it to hang on to you ... I think.”
“Whatever is controlling this thinks that we’re Hericus and Lore?” Evan glanced at Laura worriedly before looking Rodney in the eye. “Is that what you’re suggesting?”
“Pretty much,” Rodney admitted. “Look, it’s just a myth. I haven’t confirmed it yet but I think we’re looking at a malfunctioning subroutine that’s tapped into a children’s story and is now behaving accordingly. Sure, its accessing a number of other systems, some we didn’t even know were there, but there’s no sinister being waiting on the other side of some barrier to come and pounce on us!”
“If that’s the case, why did it shut off the shield just because Evan asked nicely?” Sheppard asked.
“I don’t know!” Rodney protested. “What part of ‘malfunctioning’ do you not get?!”
“And the hypnotic state,” Woolsey added. “How does a malfunctioning system achieve that?”
“It is the Ancients,” Radek said as though that were explanation enough. “We’ve barely scratched the surface of their capabilities.”
“And it is not without precedence,” Katya volunteered. “The Puddle Jumpers ... their neural interface technology does something similar. It is not inconceivable for control to be given to the system rather than its operator.”
“I ran the same tests on Evan and Laura as I’ve run on the rest of us,” Jennifer revealed. “I hate to say it but from a medical standpoint there’s nothing that explains this. No unusual brain wave patterns, no evidence of increased stimulus. Certainly nothing chemical or pathological. I’m fresh out of ideas beyond concluding that whatever’s responsible for getting us down to that room, it’s completely external.”
“So we’ve got an Ancient myth and a malfunctioning system capable of making us walk around in our sleep,” Sheppard summarised. “What’s gonna happen next?”
“I’m not omnipotent,” Rodney said impatiently, “but if I had to guess I’d say we’re done with the random couples being lured down there part. Now it thinks it’s found what it’s looking for it’ll move on to the revenge part of the myth – whatever that is.”
“Great,” Evan muttered grimly.
“It might be nothing,” Rodney pointed out. "Just because whatever's behind this can access enough systems to get you down there doesn't mean it can impersonate a 15,000 year old monster."
"It can control us McKay," Lorne said, exasperated. "That doesn't concern you just a little?"
“Don’t worry Major,” Sheppard put in, his tone confident. “Rodney will disable this subroutine thing before we need to worry about that.”
“He will?” Rodney queried in surprise. He caught sight of John’s pointed look. “Right, yes, yes, of course I will.” Standing he motioned to Radek. “Come on Zelenka ... Doctor Artamoya, you too,” he ordered impatiently, not waiting for them to follow before he disappeared out the door.
“It’s an interesting myth,” John commented to Teyla, walking with her towards the Mess Hall a short time later.
“Yes,” Teyla said simply. “Rodney did not convey the ... flavour of the story.”
“Tell me,” John invited, pulling out a chair for her and then sitting down beside her.
“Very well,” Teyla smiled, shifting so that she would watch him as she told the familiar story. “Hericus was a soldier ... charged with protecting the city of Atlantis and the people of this galaxy,” she began, her voice soft and melodious. “Dedicated and honest, he allowed no time for forming personal attachments beyond the bonds of friendship with his colleagues. Atlantis was a place of reflection and study ... great minds exploring the meaning of existence. Hericus believed that his purpose was solely to protect those who would drive the direction their race would develop in.”
“Sounds like someone we know,” Sheppard commented, thinking of his 2IC.
“Yes ... Evan bears more than just a physical similarity with Hericus,” Teyla agreed. “In that regard I believe he models himself on you John.”
“Maybe,” John shrugged self deprecatingly. “So Hericus was a career soldier. Go on.”
“He was,” Teyla smiled faintly, amused as always at his inherent modesty. “Lore was the opposite ... a scholar who only fought when pressed by circumstances to do so. She was strong and confident and spoke her mind ... and when those close to her were threatened, would fight just as fiercely as any warrior.”
“Again, sounds a lot like Cadman,” John said, “apart from the scholar thing.”
“Laura is much interested in academic matters John,” Teyla corrected him. “I believe she is studying to further her skills even now.”
“She is?” John was surprised, only because Cadman wasn’t under his direct command and Colonel Caldwell hadn’t mentioned it. Frowning as the thought occurred to him, he spoke before Teyla could answer. “You know ... when you think about it, those descriptions fit each side of the couples this thing chose to examine. I’m military and you’re the leader of your people. Ronon’s the biggest warrior of us all and Jenn could be Lore from what you said. Even Radek and Katya – he served in his countries military and she’s as academic as it gets. Maybe the fact that it was us wasn’t random at all.”
“Perhaps,” Teyla agreed. “Although the obvious question then becomes how did this information about all of us become available to the subroutine Rodney spoke of?”
“Well, putting on my ‘Rodney’ hat I’d say it’s because all the systems are interconnected,” John replied. “Most of that information is public record ... hell, our security scans, personnel records, mission reports – they’re all backed up in the Ancient database ... just in case.” He let that sink in for both of them before looking at her expectantly. “So, Hericus and Lore – not an obvious match on the surface. How’d they hook up?”
“They ‘hooked up’ as you call it when Hericus was charged with protecting Lore during an off world journey,” Teyla continued with her story. “An unexpected storm blew in shortly after their arrival. Lore was separated from the rest of the party and Hericus braved the conditions for hours in an effort to find her. When he did she was gravely ill. He carried her back to Atlantis and stayed by her side until she regained consciousness. They fell in love but Hericus did not believe that he was good enough for Lore. She persisted until eventually he agreed to try, but only on the understanding that their relationship remain a secret.”
“Ooh, that’s interesting,” John’s brow rose sharply. “Is it only me or does that feel like the kind of coincidence that has chills running down your spine?”
“It is a ... disturbing similarity,” Teyla agreed. “I believe for Hericus it was due to his belief that Lore would eventually see him for what he believed he was – a simple warrior – and realise that they did not belong together. Lore agreed because to do otherwise would mean she could not be with the man she loved. They were together for many months ... it was not a smooth relationship as each was strongly held of their opinions. One night they went walking in the late evening. Lore discovered something unusual in the outskirts of the city and moved immediately to investigate. Hericus believed they should wait for others before proceeding. Lore didn’t listen, storming off and forcing Hericus to run after her. When he caught her they argued fiercely – Hericus determined that she would take her direction in matters of strength from him and Lore convinced that he did not trust her intellect.”
Teyla stopped for a moment, her expression thoughtful as she considered the rest of the story. “It is said that beyond this world exists another where evil resides in hideous forms, intent only on destruction and dominance. In their anger Hericus and Lore weakened the veil between worlds, allowing an evil presence to sense them. It could not come through completely – it needed them to give in to their anger, to destroy their love with words and actions before the veil could lift completely. Lore sensed the truth first ... the battle was as much about getting Hericus to see it too as it was about them sending evil back behind the veil. She made herself vulnerable, gave him her love unconditionally, intent on sacrificing herself to close the breach just to save him. Only then did he truly believe that she really did love him. At that moment their strength was multiplied beyond the sum of their abilities. Together they forced the evil creature back and trapped it in a cage of the same material as the barrier. They knew that letting it roam freely would spell disaster, that it’s knowledge of their existence would drive it forever to seek entry to this world.”
“Do you believe it really happened that way?” John asked after a few moments of quiet reflection, taking one of her hands in his and stroking it absently.
“I do not know,” Teyla admitted. “For me it was always a tale encouraging young girls to be strong, to fight for what they believed was important.”
“It’s a story about love too,” John pointed out, his eyes locked on hers. “It’d be easy to let the harshness of existence in this galaxy stop you from pursuing a normal life ... why bother forming relationships when a Wraith culling could be just around the corner?”
“You believe it encourages us to ‘further the species’ – to ensure our future existence?” Teyla looked dismayed by the thought.
“No!” John held her hands firmly now. “I think at the heart it means that love is never a waste of time ... that it can mean more than just two people being together so they don’t have to be alone. Love is the thing that distinguishes us from evil like the Wraith – the capacity to put someone ahead of yourself even when it means you die so they can live. That aspect of humanity is what we’re here fighting to protect.”
“You surprise me sometimes John Sheppard,” Teyla put her hands on his shoulders and pulled him forward until their foreheads touched. They held that pose for a few moments before she pulled back, moving her hands to his face and leaning in to kiss him.
“That’s a good thing right?” John asked after she’d pulled away again.
“It is,” Teyla agreed with a loving smile.
“I hate to interrupt your romantic scene here,” Rodney’s voice was a harsh intrusion, “but we’ve made some progress you need to know about.”
“What is it McKay?” John turned to glare at the scientist, as much for his faintly mocking words as for his interruption.
“We’ve isolated the code running when Lorne and Cadman were scanned last night,” Rodney explained, “and found something you’re not gonna like.”
“Just give it to me Rodney,” John demanded impatiently.
“It turns out there might be an element of truth to that myth,” Rodney revealed starkly.
Chapter 6: Myth and Reality
“Let me get this straight,” Sheppard cut in. They were in the conference room again – the same crew as before – and Rodney had just finished explaining his and Radek’s findings. “You’re telling me there might actually be some kind of creature trapped somewhere in the city?”
“Yes,” Rodney said sickly. “And not just any creature ... this one seems to have the ability to tap into any of the ancient systems and use them to manipulate things so it can bring us to it.”
“How do we know that?” Woolsey asked curiously, his expression tinged with concern.
“We tracked a variety of systems in use but there’s no overriding subroutine – malfunctioning or otherwise – running the show,” Rodney explained.
“It is being activated manually, from an external source,” Radek clarified succinctly.
“There’s some kind of intelligent creature lurking in the city ... for real?” Lorne instinctively shifted closer to Laura as he looked to Rodney intently. “I mean right here, not in some other plane of existence or alternate reality?”
“I’d say yes but to be honest we don’t really know,” Rodney admitted.
“We know how it was able to do what it did because the manipulation of our systems left its traces,” Radek continued the explanation. “For example Katya was right in thinking the neural interface technology could be behind our being drawn to that room while asleep.”
“The mental component of using Ancient technology being used against us,” Katya clarified.
“But I don’t have the gene,” Jennifer pointed out. “Neither does Ronon, Radek either.”
“For some systems it only takes a gene holder to activate them,” Katya reminded everyone. “From there anyone can use them ... in much the same way a gene holder would. We use a mental element to control the ancient systems ... there is a two way side to that which we believe the creature uses to control us.”
“There’s evidence of personnel records and city schematics being accessed too,” Rodney added. “Then there’s the shield and scan itself ... a component of that specific room which might explain why you were all directed there instead of somewhere else. As I said earlier, the scan was pretty simple in terms of what it was looking for. Hericus and Lore – described by a series of physical and personality statistics that unfortunately for us too closely match Major Lorne here. Cadman’s not as close a match but the Major’s hero act stopped the system from working that out. If it had scanned and rejected every likely couple in the city this thing might well be over for good.”
“So it’s my fault then?” Lorne raised a brow at Rodney, his expression bland.
“Ah ... not exactly,” Rodney tried to back track.
“Why now?” Laura asked, her eyes narrowed. “And why leave us to wake up in that room? If it had returned us to our quarters we’d be none the wiser.”
“It only has partial control,” Radek replied. “Each night it was able to do more but we believe it was cut off in some way before it could fully complete its objective.”
“Kind of lends weight to the ‘one night every two thousand years’ thing ... where it gets the chance to act,” Sheppard suggested.
“It is gaining in strength,” Teyla concluded.
“Probably,” Rodney admitted. “Something about its location must be cyclical – at some point whatever stops it from getting out must reach an optimal weak point but obviously in the lead up it can still act to a lesser degree.”
“Can you stop it from getting control?” Woolsey had been uncharacteristically silent as he listened to the circling conversation.
“We don’t know where it’s coming from,” Rodney explained. “I’ve used the city's scanners on that room myself more than once but there’s nothing there – no hidden chamber, no ancient cage device – the city is too big for us to be able to search all of it to that degree. Whatever this thing is it could be anywhere – it doesn’t need to be physically located close to that room to do what it’s been doing.”
“I’ll take that as a no,” Woolsey replied. “What about from our side? Doctor Keller, you mentioned something about letting the people affected retain some measure of awareness?”
“That was when I thought it was hypnosis,” Jennifer explained. “This is something entirely different. Off the top of my head the only thing I can suggest is a stimulant – but that carries some risk and we’d have to know in advance when to administer it and to who.”
“It wants Hericus,” Lorne said quietly. “I say we give him to it.”
“Us,” Laura corrected grimly. “It wants Hericus and Lore – if you’re doing this then so am I!”
“That’s not up to you Lieutenant,” Evan’s blue eyes were stern as he looked at her with his military facade firmly in place. He never pulled rank but keeping her safe was something he’d do anything to achieve.
“It’s not up to you either Major,” Sheppard pointed out mildly. “Now, before you have us all witnessing your lovers spat perhaps we should work out some kind of plan because I’m not giving it anyone unless we’ve got a guaranteed way of defeating it.”
“Yes Sir,” Evan looked at Laura out of the corner of his eye, knowing she was thinking “So there!”
“How do we defeat it, assuming we can get someone close enough and in command of their faculties?” Sheppard opened the question up for debate.
“In the myth the creature was contained by the strength of the love between Hericus and Lore,” Teyla spoke first.
“That’s a nice story but I hardly think all the touchy feely stuff is going to influence this in reality,” Rodney scoffed.
“Every myth has some basis in fact,” Woolsey surprised everyone by voicing that opinion.
“We only need to lure it out of hiding,” Ronon concluded, correctly deducing that the city’s leader was suggesting they use the myth to their advantage. “Then we blast it so it never comes back.”
“Actually, he’s right,” Rodney opened his laptop and accessed a file. Turning it so everyone could see the screen, he explained. “If Mr Woolsey is correct and there’s truth to the myth then we’re looking at something like this.”
Evan looked at the image dispassionately. The now familiar pencil drawn images of Hericus and Lore – arms around each other and surrounded by an ill defined shape bigger than both of them combined, streams of darkness swirling around them.
“Piece of cake,” he said confidently. “I can lure it out and Ronon can shoot it. End of myth.”
“I don’t think it will work that way,” Radek frowned worriedly. “The creature is focussed on something very specific ... if we do not provide it with precisely what it wants it may not act at all.”
“But that would be a good thing, right?” Jennifer asked.
“We’d never be able to relax again,” Laura said lightly. “I’d rather do what it wants so we can get rid of it than wonder when it’s going to try this on someone else.”
“You said October 31st Rodney,” Jennifer persisted. “We only have to avoid it tonight and it will have missed its chance.”
“If the myth is accurate in that detail,” Rodney clarified.
“And what happens in another two thousand years when it tries to come back again?” Radek asked. “We won’t be here but our descendants very well could be.”
"No – we do something about this tonight,” Sheppard decided, his expression determined.
“I agree,” Woolsey nodded. “Doctor Keller, prepare that stimulant. Colonel Sheppard, have teams ready to guard Major Lorne and Lieutenant Cadman at all times. They will lure the creature from hiding at which point your team will destroy it. ”
“But ...,” Lorne broke off when John shook his head subtly. “Yes Sir,” he said reluctantly.
There was more discussion on the specific details before the plan was fully formed.
“Off to bed Major, Lieutenant,” John said as the meeting was breaking up. “You look tired,” he added, eyes full of amusement at Evan’s pained look.
“I’ll come by in a few minutes to give you that stimulant,” Jennifer added. “It should last for a few hours ... I’d like to monitor you both but anything I do could interfere with the neural control – I’m not entirely sure the stimulant itself won’t do that anyway.”
“We’ll be fine Jennifer,” Lorne said reassuringly. “This will work.”
“I hope so,” Jennifer murmured, giving them both a concerned look before letting Ronon draw her from the room.
Only Evan, Laura and John remained, Teyla following Ronon when John gave her a silent request to leave him alone with the couple.
“Permission to speak freely Sir,” Evan said immediately.
“Of course,” John waited, pretty sure he knew what Lorne was going to say.
“I think it’s a mistake to risk more than one person to this,” Evan’s tone was considered and calm. “At the very least we should try it with just me – there’s no reason to think it wouldn’t still be interested. Revenge is revenge, even if it’s not complete.”
“Permission to speak freely too Sir?” Laura got in before John could respond.
“Go for it,” Sheppard took a figurative step back, expecting some fireworks.
“That’s bullshit Sir,” Laura said, her temper a sharp contrast to Evan’s calm facade. “Evan doesn’t believe it any more than you do – he just wants to keep me out of it.”
“I got that Lieutenant,” John said mildly.
“And Laura only wants to be there to prove that she's as tough as anyone,” Lorne countered, getting a little riled up.
"That's not true!" Laura glared at Evan, her anger hiding the hurt she was feeling because that was all he thought it was. She had only herself to blame though - it wasn't as if she'd given him reason to think differently, something she promised herself she'd fix once their current mess had been cleaned up.
“I can see you both feel strongly about this,” Sheppard looked from one to the other. “Now what I think is that having you both there represents the best chance to finish this tonight. Ronon will be tracking you every second, as will I. All you have to do is let it happen – we’ll do the rest.”
“Right,” Evan was resigned, knowing he wasn’t going to convince his CO to change the plan.
“You can trust us to watch your back,” John got to the heart of it.
“I do,” Evan insisted. Turning his gaze to where Laura stood, her annoyance still plainly visible, he lowered his voice. “But I’m trusting you with something a lot more important than that Sir.”
“I know,” John acknowledged, “and in your position I’d be hesitant too. But I can’t see any other way to finish this.”
“Yes Sir,” Evan nodded resolutely. Holding out a hand to Laura he said “shall we?”
“We shall,” Laura smiled, pushing her anger aside with the inherent sweetness of his action. Taking his hand she let him lead her from the room.
“What are the side effects?” Evan watched as Jennifer prepared two syringes, he and Laura already in bed and dressed for a night that was hopefully going to include a stroll through the city.
“You’re probably going to feel pretty jumpy,” Jennifer admitted, moving to his side of the bed. “It’ll take a while to kick in though – I’ve included a fast acting sleep agent – mild so it’ll do nothing more than help you fall asleep. The stimulant is slow release – eventually it’ll counter the sedative and you should become aware of what’s happening.”
“Okay, do it,” Evan held out his arm, his eyes locked to Laura’s. He didn’t move as he felt the sting of the needle going in. “Your turn,” he told Laura, keeping his eyes on her as Jennifer repeated the same process.
“That’s it,” Jennifer packed up her kit and stood for a moment, looking like she had something to say.
“What is it?” Evan asked.
“You make a nice couple,” Jennifer said with a smile. “When this is all over maybe you could tell me about it. I think you owe me that after keeping me in the dark for so long.”
"You got it Doc,” Lorne promised with a faint smile.
“Don’t blame him Jennifer,” Laura told her friend. “Evan wanted to advertise the change in our relationship by walking through Atlantis holding hands – that would have been around the entire base inside of five minutes. I’m the one who insisted we keep it a secret. Evan did that for me.”
“I know,” Jennifer said gently. “Maybe you should think about that some more.”
Laura nodded wordlessly.
“Right,” Jenn looked around, making sure she had everything. “Good luck,” she said as she took her leave.
Evan thought off at the lights, leaving them in the darkness, only a faint glow from the moon making it through the curtained windows.
“This is weird,” Laura said a few minutes later.
“What – us in bed together?” Evan asked, turning to face her as his eyes adjusted to the darkness.
“No – us in bed together trying to sleep with everybody out there awake,” Laura corrected.
“You know, I’m kinda surprised you’re not spitting anger at me over getting us busted like that,” Evan admitted.
“It’s done and it was hardly your fault,” Laura returned. Shifting closer she rested a palm on his chest and gave him her best glaring look. “But don’t think I’m not mad at you for trying to exclude me tonight.”
“You can be as mad as you like,” Evan grabbed her hand and shifted to lean over her. “I’d do the same thing in a heartbeat to protect you.”
“And who gets to protect you?” Laura shot back. Real anger was bubbling inside her again but it didn't have the chance to take hold in the face of the huge yawn that swept over her.
“We should sleep,” Evan ignored her question, rolling onto his back and gathering Laura in close. “We can talk about it tomorrow.”
“Fine,” Laura said a little ungraciously. She waited a few moments in the darkness and then spoke again. “Aren’t you at least going to kiss me goodnight?”
“Never in doubt,” he teased, leaning over her and lightly touching his lips to hers.
“That’s not a kiss,” she protested, holding on to him when he made to move away. Pulling his head down to her, Laura initiated another kiss that had them forgetting the mission they’d signed up for. That was until Laura broke away with another jaw cracking yawn.
“Damn! If Jennifer hadn’t drugged us I could be having so much fun right now,” Laura almost slurred her words, the sedative taking real hold.
“You and me both Honey,” Evan returned, slumping back to lie beside her. “Now ... time to go to sleep,” he mock ordered.
She didn’t mean to follow that order so precisely, but between one breath and the next she was asleep. Evan listened to her for a few minutes, having no awareness of when he followed her into dream land.
Surfacing, Evan became aware of two things. His heart was hammering and he felt hot ... beside him Laura was shifting in sharp, jerky motions that said she was feeling the same. Clearly the sedative had worn off and the stimulant taken over.
The wash of an awareness outside his own came gradually ... he felt it like a faint breeze on a mostly still day. It was disquieting ... the way the imperative to get up began echoing in his head.
“Laura,” he whispered, putting a hand on her back and shaking her lightly.
The imperative to move was there ... Laura must have felt it too because she sat up abruptly, her eyes vacant as she looked at him before shifting to get out of bed.
“Hey,” Evan leapt from the bed after her, grabbing her shoulders and leaning until his face was only millimetres away from hers. “Laura.”
“Evan,” Laura blinked a couple of times, her eyes sharpening as she returned to herself. She stood for a moment. “Do you feel it?” she asked quietly.
“Hell yes,” Evan put his arm around her, turning them towards the door.
“It’s stronger than I thought it would be,” Laura admitted, taking an involuntary step forward. “I’m not sure I can resist it.”
“We don’t have to,” Evan reminded her. Urging her to move, he led them from his room and down the corridor. He knew where the creatures scanning room was in relation to his quarters but wouldn’t have needed to – the pull of outside control was leading them in the right direction.
Their escort hung back to avoid detection, just in case that was possible, but Evan knew Ronon was somewhere behind them, following. A few minutes later they arrived.
“It wants to scan us again,” Laura said suddenly as they stepped inside.
“I know,” Evan moved to the same spot they’d stood in the night before.
“It’ll work out that I don’t have the gene,” Laura said worriedly.
“Then we’ll just do what we did last time,” he returned. “Sit down.”
Laura sat, tucking her legs up to her chest. Evan knelt behind her this time, enfolding her in his arms, surrounding her with his heat. “This would be kind of hot if we weren’t being controlled by the evil creature thing,” she joked.
“And I’m sure Colonel Sheppard and Ronon got a kick out of hearing that,” he said, chuckling despite the situation.
“What, you don’t want them knowing I want to jump your bones the entire time I’m on base?” she teased.
“It’d be too late if I said no, now wouldn’t it?” Evan tensed suddenly as the shield fell into place around them. “Get ready,” he said, holding her tightly and bracing himself.
The scan had looked painful when he’d been watching himself on the video ... experiencing it when he was aware was ten times worse. He stifled the need to growl as the swirling disk of bright light swept over him, jabbing pins and needles deeply everywhere it touched. At the back of his mind that worried Evan ... that the way they were scanned seemed to be increasingly painful the more strength the creature gained. He was vaguely aware of Laura worriedly calling his name but ignored her, everything focussed on getting through it without letting her go.
When it was over he slumped back, barely avoiding touching the shield.
“Evan!” Laura turned, running her eyes over him rapidly, her eyes fearful.
“I’m okay,” his voice came out weaker than he would have liked.
“You’re not!” she said angrily. “You should have -,”
“We had no way of knowing what that thing would have done when it worked out you're not Lore,” Evan regained enough of his strength to get up slowly, holding out a hand to pull her up next to him.
“Now what?” Laura let it go, looking around the room uncertainly.
“Now we see if I can still switch this shield off,” Evan suggested, closing his eyes and concentrating. When he opened them a second later it was just in time to see the shield dropping away. “Okay, we’re getting somewhere,” he said, pulling Laura away from where they’d been standing.
“Where’s the creature then?” Laura let go to take a few steps towards the console.
“Ah ... I think it’s over there,” Evan pointed to the adjacent wall. As they watched, the faint spark of light Lorne had first noticed pulsed as it grew larger and larger. Quickly it took over the whole wall and then moved out towards them.
That’s when they discovered their first mistake. They’d assumed the confrontation, if there was one, would occur on their home turf. It didn’t happen that way – instead the veil bulged out and engulfed Evan and Laura, drawing them into the gap between what they knew and the place where the creature existed.
One second they were in Atlantis, the next somewhere alien and strange. The lighting was oddly flat and grey, as though the yellows had been leached out of the spectrum. The space was ill defined around the edges, making it seem like nothing existed outside the range of sight. And they weren’t alone.
They saw it just like in the drawing Rodney had shown them ... a large, amorphous darkness with streaming bands swirling and snapping around it.
“Fuck!” Evan grabbed Laura’s hand and spun around, looking for the way they’d come in. He could just make out the room back on Atlantis but it was as if there was an invisible barrier between them. He tried to walk through it but couldn’t. They were trapped.
“What’s happening?” John spoke into his earpiece as he ran down the corridor towards the room that was the source of their current problems. Beside him Teyla ran as well, her expression a mix of concern and determination.
“Nothing much,” Ronon said grimly. “The barrier’s shrunk back to where it was. Lorne and Cadman are still nowhere to be seen.”
“Crap,” John picked up the pace, Teyla keeping up easily. “Did you call the others?”
“Yeah,” Ronon replied. “Jennifer just got here. Radek said he’d grab Katya and be here in a few minutes.”
“Okay, good,” John turned the corner. “Teyla and I are almost there.”
Running the last few metres, he burst into the room, heading straight over to where Rodney was manning his laptop. “Show me,” he demanded, nodding towards the computers.
“I knew this was a bad plan,” Rodney muttered as he got the surveillance video running. John said nothing, noting Teyla’s presence beside him as they watched the nightmare unfold.
“I thought you said it wasn’t an alternate reality or dimension?” John accused once the video had reached its grim end.
“I said I didn’t think so!” Rodney corrected. “And we don’t know that it’s either of those things.”
“How’re we going to get in there?” Ronon cut straight to the point.
“It’s solid,” Jennifer had been standing close to the wall that had swallowed Evan and Laura. Before Ronon could stop her she put her hand over the spot where the light had first appeared.
“Jennifer!” Ronon rushed forward.
“I’m okay,” Jennifer took her hand away, holding it up for him to see.
“Rodney, give me something here!” Sheppard looked to the scientist, his expression grim.
“I don’t have anything ... yet,” Rodney had that look on his face that said an epiphany was just around the corner. “Just give me a minute to think!”
Radek and Katya rushed into the room, Radek taking in the scene, his expression shifting immediately into concern. “Major Lorne ... Lieutenant Cadman?”
“Through there,” John gestured the wall.
“We must hurry,” Teyla moved closer to John, taking his arm. “If the story is true the creature will be intend on gaining entry to this world.”
“And the only thing standing in its way is Evan and Laura,” Jennifer concluded, her face pale.
Chapter 7: Love and Consequence
Evan turned to face the creature, pushing Laura behind him as he did.
“What are we going to do?” Laura grabbed the back of his shirt, pulling herself up so she could see over his shoulder.
“No idea,” Evan muttered, “but not getting us killed is pretty high up on my list.”
“Good to know,” Laura tried to keep the nerves from her voice.
“YOU WERE FOOLISH TO RETURN HERICUS.” The words boomed, surrounding them as it resonated harshly. “NOW I WILL FINISH YOU AND CLAIM YOUR REALM AS MY OWN.”
Lorne flinched, sure his eardrums had suffered damage the volume was so loud. Behind him Laura clutched at his shirt convulsively, her breathing quickening.
“Ah ... I’m not Hericus,” Evan was pretty sure talking the creature down wasn’t going to pan out but stalling until he came up with a better idea was the only plan he had.
“Major Evan Lorne, United States Air Force,” Lorne introduced himself. “I’d say I’m pleased to be here but then I would be lying.”
“Evan, what are you doing?” Laura tried to move around him but he held her back, crowding her against the wall they’d somehow passed through.
“Whatever it takes,” he spoke out of the corner of his mouth, his attention on the figure in front of him. As he watched, the shapelessness started to coalesce into a more recognisable form ... humanoid, a hell of a lot taller than Lorne, still a well of black from which nothing reflected. Streamers of the same darkness shifted and flowed around it and Evan couldn't help but wonder what would happen if one of them touched him, not that he wanted to find out anytime soon. As the figure moved closer, Evan grimly held his ground.
“WHAT IS THIS TRICKERY?” Evan held his breath as the face, if you could call it that, dipped down to his level. It was a cliché but Lorne really did feel colder the closer it got.
“No trickery,” he returned strongly, standing still so the creature could work out the truth of that itself. “You’ve got the wrong guy.”
“WHERE IS HERICUS?” the creature demanded, ribbons of darkness snapping the walls angrily.
“I’ve never met him so I can't say one hundred percent but I'm pretty sure he’s dust,” Lorne replied. “To us he’s a character in a 15,000 year old legend.” He’d have backed away at that point if he could, but there was nowhere for them to go.
“IMPOSSIBLE!!!” The darkness lost form abruptly as it turned away from them. “I COULD NOT HAVE BEEN TRAPPED HERE FOR SO LONG.”
Lorne had obviously been involved in one too many Team Sheppard rescues, the urge to say ‘time flies when you’re having fun’ almost irresistible.
The creature’s dark streamers circled tightly around the central part of its form, making it seem as though it were spinning on the spot. Turning in on itself, it seemed to have forgotten Lorne and Cadman were there. Evan wasn’t sure what it was doing or how long they had to act but the focus was off him for the moment so he turned to look at Laura. Her face seemed pale even in the grey light but her eyes glittered with determination.
“Can you make out what they’re doing?” he asked in a low tone, nodding his head towards the wall and Atlantis.
“I can’t tell,” Laura whispered. “Everyone’s there now though. Do you think they’ve got a plan?”
“I hope so because I’m shit out of options here,” Evan admitted grimly. “Just make sure you stay behind me ... it's primary interest seems to be Hericus but let's not give it any reasons to branch out.”
“I’m not hiding if that things comes at you,” Laura countered insistently.
“You’ll do as ordered Lieutenant,” Lorne shot back grimly.
“Oh please,” Laura rolled her eyes in exasperation. “We’re God knows where and cut off from the base. I’m pretty sure rank no longer applies.”
“Laura,” Evan’s tone was low and intimate. “Whatever happens I need to know you’re okay. Please ... do this for me.”
Laura’s expression turned mutinous, her eyes locked to his as she considered his words. With a sigh she relented, nodding. “Fine ... I’ll stay back for now. But if you let that thing hurt you to protect me I’ll make you regret it for the rest of your life.”
“Noted,” Evan smiled, reaching out and smoothing his hand over her hair. “We’ll get out of this ... Colonel Sheppard and Rodney will think of something.”
“Their turn to rescue you,” Laura joked bravely.
“Yeah, and even then they’ll still owe me big time,” Evan returned with a grin. “Not that anyone is keeping score.”
“Evan,” Laura’s eyes shifted from his face to the space behind him.
Turning, Lorne had just enough time to register the creature’s return to its vaguely human shape before one of those dark ribbons was slamming him across their prison.
“Oh God,” Laura whispered, eyes fixed on Evan’s still form, silently pleading for him to get up.
“How is it weakening the barrier between where it resides and here?” Radek was thinking aloud, he and Rodney bouncing ideas off each other in an effort to come up with something that would help.
“You’re thinking maybe we can do the same from this side,” Rodney commented.
“Perhaps,” Radek pushed his glasses back into position, other hand on one hip as he stood behind Rodney, watching as the other man entered commands into his laptop.
“It was drawing power from the ZPM even before it began bringing us down here,” Sheppard reminded them. “Could it have been using that somehow? Doesn’t the legend say the veil is weak leading up to tonight? Maybe it was hitting the barrier with power from the city.”
“You mean like breaking through a shield when you know where the weak points are?” Rodney turned to look at John assessingly.
“Exactly,’ John nodded. “You hit a shield with enough force and you can get something through, even if the rest of it remains intact.”
Snapping his fingers excitedly, Rodney looked at Radek. “We need to scan for energy displacement ...,”
“... yes, yes, as we do to detect shielded craft in space,” Radek finished excitedly. He turned to Katya who was nodding too. “The Jumper prototype?” he asked.
“That could work,” she agreed.
“What prototype?” John asked.
“Ah ... the new hyperdrive unit we are working on Colonel,” Radek explained hurriedly. “We thought it best to incorporate separate shielding technology rather than bastardising the Jumper’s cloak. From inside a shield testing its voracity is much the same as detecting a shield externally.”
“You use the same method to test the strength of your shield as you do to detect someone else’s,” John concluded.
“Yes, exactly,” Rodney took over, looking smug. “It is very simple actually ... we bounce energy off the shield and measure the power in the return beam. The rate of decay indicates shield strength – the weaker the shield, the more energy that gets absorbed, leaving less energy to be returned.”
“And you can use this to work out where Laura and Evan were taken?” Teyla asked hopefully.
“If the Veil has enough similarities to a standard shield then yes,” Rodney said simply.
"If we direct enough energy where they disappeared, wouldn't that be all they need?" Jennifer queried.
"Maybe," Rodney allowed the possibility, "but without an understanding of what we're dealing with here it might make things worse." Turning to Radek and Katya he continued. “Go get your prototype. We’ll set it up in here and see what we get.”
“I will accompany you,” Teyla looked to John and got a reluctant nod of agreement.
“Me too,” he added, motioning for Radek to lead the way.
The four hurried from the room, leaving Rodney, Jennifer and Ronon to wait impatiently.
Thankfully it didn’t take long for Sheppard to return with Radek, Katya and Teyla, the scientists carrying a small Jumper module between them. John had a naqahdah generator as well – for when they got to the stage of needing that burst of energy. Rodney pounced on them the second they arrived, all three scientists immediately shifting into geek mode as they worked to connect the system to Rodney’s laptop.
“I feel useless,” Jennifer said to Ronon in an undertone, her eyes fixed on the scientists working.
“Now you know how I feel half the time,” Ronon smirked slightly. “Don’t worry ... the team thing has already kicked in so we’ll have something to do soon.”
“The team thing?” Jennifer looked at him quizzically.
“Yeah,” Ronon shrugged. “Sheppard comes up with a crazy idea, Rodney works out how to make it happen, Teyla keeps the peace and I shoot the bad guys. Then you come in and patch us all up so we can do the same thing again tomorrow.”
“The team thing,” Jennifer smiled, amused at the accuracy of his assessment. “I like that.”
“Just the way it is,” Ronon shrugged.
“Do you think they’re okay?” Jennifer couldn’t help but ask, crossing her arms over her chest, her gaze back on the wall Evan and Laura had disappeared through.
“Lorne’s resourceful,” Ronon put his hands on Jennifer’s upper arms, rubbing them lightly. “And Cadman isn’t a pushover. They’ll hold on long enough for us to get to them.”
“And what if we let the creature out along with them?” Jennifer persisted.
Ronon shifted to pull out his gun, twirling it quickly before putting it back. “The team thing,” he reminded her.
“Right ... you shoot it,” Jennifer said, her expression saying that for once she wasn’t comforted by that fact.
“We’ve got something!” Rodney’s announcement drew them all over to him.
“What is it?” Sheppard demanded.
“This,” Rodney shifted the laptop so they could all see the diagram displayed. “That’s Atlantis,” he pointed to an outline of the city,” and this is a trans-dimensional bubble just barely intersecting it,” he rotated the diagram so they could all see the flat oblong disk cutting through the outer edge of one of the towers. “It’s rotating slowly around a central axis point which explains the 2000 years it takes to go all the way around. This point,” he tapped the screen where the two shapes connected “is where we are right now - the fact that it's intersecting our dimension is the only reason we can detect it - the rest of the time you wouldn't even know it was there. I’m guessing that at some point a long time ago the Ancients in their wisdom decided to mess with other dimensions. They got more than they bargained for and tried to stuff it all back in the box. Only trouble was a small part got left behind, complete with at least one angry resident.”
“And this is what Hericus and Lore discovered?” Teyla asked.
“I guess so,” Rodney agreed. “They must have stalled the creature breaking through until the weak point rotated out of alignment with the city again, effectively trapping whatever’s in there until the next time it rotated around.”
“Why didn’t it just break through then?” Jennifer frowned.
“I don’t know,” Rodney admitted. “Guessing again, maybe it can only get through if it’s got someone on this side of the connection to help it. There’s no telling how aware it is either – just because we know there’s a chance every 2000 years doesn’t mean it does. That’s a long time between drinks. Maybe it’s not even the same creature ... other dimension doesn’t necessarily equate with immortal, myth or no myth.”
“So we know the what and the how,” Sheppard summarised. “Can we break through from this side?”
“Yes, at least partially,” Rodney replied. “Enough for Lorne to get them back through ... I think.”
“You think?” John looked incredulous.
“Look, this isn’t exactly a run of the mill situation and time isn’t on our side – we don’t have the luxury of researching every aspect,” Rodney said impatiently. “The longer we delay the closer Lorne and Cadman are to getting trapped on the other side.”
“Right,” John nodded. “Okay – do what you have to.”
Radek and Katya stepped up to the controls on the portable generator, Radek checking readings before nodding at Rodney. “It is ready,” he said simply.
“Here goes,” Rodney muttered, pressing the enter key.
“Evan!” Laura called out more urgently.
Lorne groaned, rolling over with a pained cough. “Ouch,” he got out, sitting up slowly, hand over his abdomen.
The creature had been moving towards Lorne ... until Laura’s call. Swirling swiftly it turned and moved back towards the barrier.
“Laura – move!” Evan leapt up, ignoring the protest from all the sore places he’d acquired.
Skirting the edge of the space on her way towards Lorne, Cadman shrieked when the creature wavered and then reformed in front of her, blocking her path.
“YOU ARE NOT LORE,” it stated, anger pulsing off it, the darken around it shifting threateningly.
“No, but I’m still gonna kick your ass,” Laura growled out. “What I wouldn’t give for some Composition B right about now,” she muttered, referring to the explosive nitroamine mix of TNT and RDX. “Hell, even a block of C4 would do the trick!”
Behind them, Lorne hadn’t been still. As Laura talked it up he’d crept around behind the creature towards her, not sure what he intended to do without any weapons but knowing he wasn’t letting it hit Laura as it had him.
“YOU CANNOT DEFEAT ME!”
Evan lunged, pushing Laura out of the way just as the creature struck. He hit the wall hard, slumping to the ground a few feet away. Cadman rushed to him, dropping down at his side, relieved to see him conscious.
“I thought we agreed you weren’t going to get hurt protecting me,” she accused, using anger to hide her fear.
“That’s not how I remember it,” he ground out. Behind her he saw the creature moving forward again. “Get up,” he urged her, taking the hand she held out and letting her haul him off the floor.
They managed to avoid the next strike but Evan knew it wouldn’t be long before they’d run out of steam. He needed to do something. Pulling away from Laura abruptly he stepped into the path of the creature, his unexpected move causing it to pause.
“Let her go and I’ll stay here willingly,” he offered grimly. “You can take your revenge for what Hericus did from me.”
“No!” Laura protested.
“Be quiet Lieutenant!” Lorne ordered, his gaze on the creature.
“YOU AMUSE ME,” the strands of darkness lifted and slowed in time with the creature pausing in its approach.
“Yeah, well maybe I can keep you entertained for a while,” Evan proposed, “because one thing I know for sure? You try to step through that barrier and our people will cut you down before you can go two paces. We’re not like the race you knew and we’ve had 15,000 years to develop technology you can only imagine.” It was a bluff of sorts – Lorne didn’t know if their Earth weapons could defeat the creature. He was counting on it not knowing either – and valuing its own existence enough not to take the risk.
“Evan,” Laura’s voice shook, her eyes glinting with unshed tears. “Please ...”
“Let her go - she'll tell them not to destroy you,” Lorne insisted resolutely, ignoring Laura. “That way you get something for your troubles.”
“OR PERHAPS I WILL TORTURE YOUR MATE UNTIL YOU REVEAL YOUR WEAPONS CAPABILITY,” the creature proposed with a chilling laugh.
“Okay, that was a bad idea!” Lorne dived and rolled across the floor, feeling the energy from the creature’s streamers brushing over him. Grabbing Laura’s hand he headed for the adjacent wall, behind which Atlantis lay waiting. “Any time you want to rescue us Colonel,” he muttered sarcastically.
As if in answer to his request, the wall in front of him began to swirl with light, a small point of colour in the otherwise gloomy space.
“Get back,” he pushed Laura behind him, one part of his mind tracking the creature heading straight for them and the other watching the wall.
The light grew rapidly until they were flinching as it cut through their vision painfully.
“WHAT IS THIS?” Finally the creature changed its tack, its attention on the barrier.
“Our people,” Evan grinned mockingly. “You should have taken me up on that offer when you had the chance.”
Laura pulled on his hand forcefully. “Totally not the time to be a smart ass,” she told him warningly.
With no warning the light from Atlantis burst through the wall ... it didn’t break it so much as stretch it out of form, pushing the barrier out into the creatures prison.
“Come on,” Evan dragged Laura towards the centre where the barrier seemed thinnest.
“Stop!” The mental imperative hit him hard and he stopped. The stimulant Jennifer had given them was still effective but the neural control was stronger. The competing demands of stimulant and control had his heart pumping rapidly and his head pounding.
“Evan,” Laura pulled on his hand, urging him to keep moving.
“I can’t,” he growled, trying to move his feet but feeling like they were encased in concrete.
“You can!” She pulled harder, breathing harshly, her eyes desperate.
“Go,” Evan told her. It was an odd feeling – having an entirely lucid conversation while at the back of his mind he continued to hear the command to stay where he was.
“No!” Laura shook her head, not looking at him.
“Laura,” Evan shook her until she met his eyes. “Go ... before it tries to control you too.”
“I’m not leaving you,” Laura insisted. “If you want me out of here then you have to come with me.”
“Please,” the expression in his eyes, the open anguish in those blue depths had tears rising in hers.
“No,” she swallowed hard, swiping at her face impatiently. “Now stop wasting energy trying to be a hero and move your goddamn ass Major!”
“HOW TOUCHING,” the creature had clearly decided that nothing threatening was coming through the barrier and turned its attention back to them. “HERICUS AND LORE WERE JUST AS PATHETIC, BELIEVING THEIR LOVE COULD STOP ME.”
“Go to Hell!” Evan yelled, redoubling his efforts to override its control. He knew the creature was torturing them – holding him still and leaving Laura free to torment them.
“Come on,” Laura ignored everything but the need for Evan to break free. He was straining now, veins bulging in his neck and his face reddening as he pushed against an unseen force.
“Okay, I’ll make you a deal,” Laura put her hands on his face, pulling him close. “You get us both out of here and I’ll make that not yet a yes.”
“Really?” For a moment he forgot the severity of their situation, all his attention on her.
“Really,” she confirmed seriously.
“Okay, I’m holding you to that.” Lorne looked at the creature and then at the barrier back to Atlantis. And then he grinned. “Get ready,” he told Laura casually, abruptly dropping to the floor and taking her down with him.
“The barrier has expanded into their dimension,” Radek exclaimed. “Why haven’t they reappeared?”
“Because they can’t,” Ronon said grimly, drawing his gun.
“Wait, won’t that hurt Evan and Laura?” Jennifer asked worriedly. “What if they can’t get clear?”
“Then they’ll want us to defeat whatever’s holding them,” Ronon said simply. Stepping forward with his gun raised, he fired at the centre of the energy beam still coming from the generator. Over and over, expression fierce, until his weapon ran out of power.
“My turn,” Sheppard took Ronon’s place, P-90 at the ready. Before he could fire a single shot the barrier bulged in the opposite direction, just barely missing him. When it settled back into place Evan Lorne and Laura Cadman were standing in front of the wall, Lorne with an arm firmly around Laura's shoulders.
“Perfect timing Sir,” he said blandly, eyes briskly checking his companion to make sure she was okay.
“I aim to please,” Sheppard replied just as blandly. “Good to have you back Major.”
“You have no idea how good it is to be back Sir,” Lorne returned.
“Thank God,” Jennifer rushed forward then, hugging Laura and Evan before stepping back and shifting into doctor mode. “Are you hurt?” she asked, looking for signs of injury.
“I’m okay,” Laura reassured her. “Evan took a beating though – you need to check him out.”
“Laura – I’m fine,” Lorne protested, for form more than anything. He had a colossal headache and had struggled to contain his groan of pain when Jennifer had hugged him.
“You’re not!” Laura said angrily. “And don’t think I’m not going to ream you out just as soon as you are.”
Evan frowned but didn’t deny that she had cause.
“I take it you’ve got quite the story to tell us Major?” John commented, looking from in 2IC to Cadman and back again.
“Ah ... yes Sir,” Lorne said reluctantly.
“Infirmary first,” Jennifer announced insistently.
In the face of her determination and Laura’s mix of irritation and concern there was nothing Evan could do but go along meekly.
In the early hours of the following afternoon, after infirmary visits and the chance to catch a little sleep, they all met in the conference room again. This time the atmosphere was relaxed, the mystery solved bar everyone hearing the parts of the story they hadn't been present for. Evan sat next to Laura ... he had a couple of cracked ribs and a boat load of bruising but all things considered was in pretty good shape, with the help of the pain killers Jennifer had pressed on him before letting him leave the infirmary.
The debriefing was as interesting as it got – the others very keen to hear what had taken place on the other side of the barrier.
“You wounded it,” Evan told Ronon with satisfaction once he’d filled them in. “I’m not sure it can be killed but the energy from that gun of yours stopped it in its tracks, distracted it from us. If you hadn’t done that I don’t think we’d have broken free.”
“That’s Ronon’s job,” Jennifer joked. When they all looked at her she grinned at Ronon teasingly. “He shoots things,” she said simply.
Lorne laughed, nodding his thanks to the Satedan. He stopped for a moment and then asked the question that had troubled him since they’d come back through the barrier. “What I don’t get is why it was able to hold on to me so completely, but not Laura. I thought maybe it was deliberately taunting me but that’s just ... disturbing.”
“It wasn’t because you were weak Major,” Teyla reassured him, her tone gentle. “The legend of Hericus and Lore tells of sacrifice ... Lore was willing to do anything to be with the one she loved. She lived in secret and accepted what Hericus was willing to give ... when faced with defeat she was willing to die to save him.”
“It’s a good story,” Evan hoped like hell his face wasn’t as flushed as it felt.
“You know what this means?” Rodney’s expression was smugly teasing and Lorne knew he wasn’t going to like whatever the other man was going to say.
“What?” he demanded, the warning clear.
“You’re the girl,” Rodney concluded triumphantly, grinning. “In the story ... you might look like Hericus but for the rest of it you were Lore.”
Lorne chuckled good naturedly along with the rest, carefully keeping his eyes from Laura’s. He wanted to know what she was thinking ... just not right then when they were surrounded by people who suddenly seemed too interested in their relationship.
“Don’t feel bad Major,” Radek said in an undertone. “Katya and I studied the neural systems the creature was using to control you. We believe it was able to hold you back because you have the gene naturally – the stronger and more able a person is to use the Ancient systems, the more tightly the creature could hold on.”
“Thanks Radek,” Lorne said gratefully.
“Rodney’s already working on a way to permanently shield that room,” Lorne announced as he joined Laura on the balcony closest to his quarters late in the evening. It had been a long day on top of a difficult night but strangely Evan didn’t feel that tired, despite only getting a few hours of sleep after the Doc had released him from the infirmary. Laura wasn't exactly avoiding him but she hadn't been forthcoming in talking about anything either ... hence him tracking her down.
“That’s nice,” Laura replied distractedly.
“Something wrong?” Evan asked, going for innocent even though he knew exactly what was bothering her.
“Is something wrong?!” She turned incredulous eyes on him. “You offered yourself up as some kind of sacrifice without even asking me if I wanted you to save me and you’re wondering if something’s wrong?!”
“I’m not going to apologise,” Evan took her hands and held on tightly when she tried to pull away. “I’m only gonna say this once and then it’s done. You are the most important thing in the world to me Laura Cadman ... I couldn’t live with myself if anything happened to you when I could have done something to stop it. If that means I’m dead then so be it ... I’d do the same thing again ... in a heartbeat. I wouldn’t stop to think about it – that’s just the way it is for me.”
“Arg,” Laura growled. “You make it so hard to stay angry at you!” she complained, keeping her eyes on their joined hands.
She fell silent and Evan felt her trembling ... and then a single tear drop landed on his wrist. “Laura?” he let go, using his hands to gently urge her head up so he could see her face.
“Don’t,” she cried, trying to move away.
“Don’t cry,” he almost begged, the sight of the usually unflappable and often a little scary Marine upset unnatural and disturbing.
“I’m trying not to!” she exclaimed, wiping her hands over her face. Taking a few deep breaths she got herself back under control, turning away to stand at the balcony railing, looking out to sea. “I was so scared,” she admitted after a few moments of silence. “Not of the creature, not because I thought I was going to die.” Turning she met Evan’s eyes. “I really thought it was going to kill you and I just ...,” she swallowed hard. “Don’t do that to me again okay?”
“I’ll try not to,” Evan promised.
She launched herself at him then, pulling his head down and kissing him like there was no tomorrow, like she’d wanted to when she’d thought there wouldn’t be. He let her take the lead, returning her passion with his own.
“I do love you,” she broke away to declare before moving in to kiss him again.
“Does that mean you’re going to live up to that deal?” Evan asked, holding her back a little. “Are you going to say yes this time?”
“Ask me and find out,” she challenged.
“Fine,” Lorne took a deep breath, holding her hands and looking into her eyes. “Marry me,” he said simply.
“Okay,” Laura grinned. “Now, kiss me again.”
“Yes Ma’am,” Evan grinned back at her before giving in to her demands.
“Did I hear right?” Rodney queried, sitting down across from John and Teyla in the Mess Hall. Ronon and Jennifer were already there, along with Radek and Katya. It was a post ‘we survived another weird encounter in the city of the Ancients’ celebration of sorts – a chance to reflect on their experiences now that things were back to normal.
“Depends on what you heard McKay,” John replied casually.
“You scooped the pool on Lorne and Cadman,” Rodney accused.
“John,” Teyla’s voice was a warning.
“What?” John tried to look innocent.
“I can’t believe you used inside information to win a bet!” Rodney retorted.
“You’re only mad because you didn’t get in first,” John said mildly.
“That’s beside the point – I thought you were supposed to be setting a good example,” Rodney pointed out sarcastically.
“Yeah – about using every piece of intel available to you,” John said smugly. “I think I’m in with a good chance on the new Lorne Cadman pool too,” he added, nodding towards the entrance.
They all turned to see Evan and Laura walking hand in hand into the Mess Hall. Something about their posture and expressions announced that things had changed between them beyond their relationship no longer being secret ... for the better.
“She said yes,” Teyla said with a smile.
“Looks like it,” John agreed.
“Well at least something good came out of this then,” Jennifer said, smiling. “This is certainly the most memorable Halloween I’ve ever had.”
“And we didn’t even have to dress up,” John joked. When Ronon and Teyla looked at him quizzically he shrugged. “That’s a story for another time,” he said.
“Sir,” Lorne and Cadman had seen the others sitting at a table and made their way over.
“Major, Lieutenant,” Sheppard grinned. “Join us.”
“Thanks,” Laura sat first, looking around curiously. “What’d we miss?”
“Nothing much,” Sheppard said innocently. “What’d we miss?”
“Nothing much,” Lorne replied just as innocently.
This story was inspired by one of the aspects of Halloween, as discussed in wikipedia. It says that the ancient Celts believed that the border between this world and the Otherworld became thin on Samhain – all hallows eve - allowing spirits (both harmless and harmful) to pass through. Thanks for reading!