BUT WHAT ABOUT THE BORG?
By Lorraine Anderson
"So," Sheppard said to Rodney as they walked down a forest path, "I understand that your technician, Cheryl, was playing tonsil hockey with my squad leader, Joe."
"I don't," Rodney grumped, "see what this has to do with our mission on hand."
"Tonsil hockey? What is tonsil hockey?" Teyla said. She looked at Ronon, confused. Ronon grinned. "Is this a game that you've played?"
Ronon smiled again. "Not me," he said. "At least, not lately."
"Is this something the two of you have played?" she asked John and Rodney.
John and Rodney looked at each other.
"Well," John said, "certainly not with each other."
"Oh, God," Rodney said. "Certainly not."
Ronon laughed out loud. "Let's put it this way," he said. "It's a game played with a man and a woman."
"Not all of the time," John said, "but usually."
"And it involves the tongue."
"Ah," Teyla said. "Ah!" She smiled. "I, too, have engaged in 'tonsil hockey' by a different name."
"Really?" John said.
"We call it 'tongue tying,' " she said, serenely.
Rodney choked. "Really?!"
John looked contemplative. "So that's why you looked so puzzled when I said that Zelenka was tongue-tied."
"You do not have the same meaning to that phrase?" Teyla said.
"No, I meant that he couldn't think of anything to say," John explained.
"I wondered," Teyla said. "But then the moment was past and I forgot to ask."
"What else have we said that you don't understand?" John said.
"What does it mean when one is on a 'Mickey Mouse' assignment?"
A small boy stepped out of the trees in front of them.
"Hold that thought," John said. He stepped forward. "Hello. Are you lost?"
The boy stared at him.
"He may be older than we think," Teyla said. She stepped forward. "We come in peace," she said. "We are looking for new trading partners. May we speak to whoever is in charge?"
He continued to stare at them. Suddenly, Teyla grabbed her forehead and staggered back. "Stop. Stop!"
"Teyla!" John said. "What's going on?"
"He's shouting at me. Stop!"
A woman came out of the forest and looked at the boy, stretching out her arms. The boy ran to her.
Teyla straightened up and stared at her. "Yes," she said.
"Yes, what?" Rodney said.
"I understand," she said. "Thank you."
"What?!" Rodney said.
"Rodney. Be quiet," John said.
"Why? They're not saying anything."
"I think they're talking."
Rodney's eyebrows went up. "Telepathy? That doesn't exist …"
Ronon grabbed Teyla's arm. "Teyla. Don't trust them. I just remembered. I've had dealings with these people before."
"Now you tell us," John said lowly. He rolled his eyes. "So that means you can you understand them?"
"I didn't hear the boy," Ronon said, "but the woman is speaking so that I can hear."
Rodney and John looked at each other. "But we can't hear anything."
They woman stared at them, then closed her eyes. Can you hear me now? she said.
John stared at the woman. "How did you do that?"
This is the way we speak, she said. I know that most other people can't understand us.
"What's going on? I can't hear anything," Rodney said
"Telepathy?" John said.
"Telepathy is a …" Rodney started
John shushed him.
We call it mind-speak, she said. She closed her eyes and concentrated at Rodney. Can you hear me?
"I can hear something now," Rodney said.
"Are you reading my mind?" John said.
She laughed. I can't read your mind, she said. Can you read mine?
"No," Rodney said. "Of course not, because telepathy doesn't …" his voice trailed off.
"Rodney," John said. "Face it. Does she look like she's moving her lips?"
"I had heard," Teyla said, "that while friendly, your people never talked to your trade partners."
None of the others understand me; I'm at a loss to explain why you and your companions can.
"Teyla," John said. "Did she say something?"
I did, the woman said, but apparently you can understand me only when I'm speaking to all of you," She glanced at Rodney, or speaking very loud.
The child was begging for her attention, and she absentmindedly picked him up and balanced him on her hip. I shall try not to keep you out of the conversation.
"Why did Teyla understand your child and none of us did?" John said.
I do not know," she approached and held out her free hand. I am Lonna, leader of the Sinnim, and I'm sorry to be neglecting my duties. Won't you join us for supper?
"I'm John Sheppard, and this is Rodney McKay, Ronon Dex, and Teyla Emmagan."
And you come from?
I would just as soon not say right now—for your own safety," Teyla said. "I'm afraid we've made rather bad enemies of the Wraith."
Who isn't, these days? the woman laughed. You are still welcome, and we shall see what each other has to offer.
Lonna led them silently through the woods, leading to what seemed to be a cliff wall. She parted some vines, then pulled at a rock. A door opened, and the group slipped through a small door to a valley. We know this isn't much protection if the Wraith come, but it makes us feel safer, she said.
A small tunnel led to a green valley. Various people looked curiously at them.
"Were you the guard?" John asked incredulously.
Oh, no, said the woman. The guards were following you until we could determine that you were innocuous. If my son hadn't slipped away from me, you would never know we were there until I showed myself to you. We've mastered the art of moving silently.
"I've never been innocuous," Ronon rumbled. He looked a bit discomfited.
We listened to your conversation, Lonna said. and I apologize for that, for eavesdropping. She looked at Ronon. And by innocuous, I mean innocuous to us. She smiled at him.
"Can you talk?" Rodney said. "Out loud, I mean?"
"Yes, of course," Lonna said out loud. Her toddler looked at her, startled. But we generally don't.
"How is it that you can speak telepathically?" Teyla said.
We are not sure, she said. We came to this planet because of the last wave of Wraith. None of our records ever indicated that we had this ability before coming here.
"If you can talk, why do you speak to us mind to mind?" John asked.
"We talk out loud only when we need to." Lonna shrugged. Some of our trading partners can never understand us if we mind speak.
"I think," Rodney said, "that it's creepy. And I can only understand you part of the time."
"Right, Rodney," John said. "So how did you know what we were talking about?"
"I said part of the time," Rodney said. "And where are we going?"
I'm taking you to the council, she said.
"And what gives you the authorization?" Rodney said.
"I'm the head of the council," Lonna said out loud. "At least, for this year, Dr. McKay."
"And that gives her the authorization," Teyla said, calmly.
"I think you'll find we have a lot to offer," John said.
I'm sure we will, she said, entering a village. The council was already assembled. It's our custom to offer a dinner before getting down to business. She looked up. Since it's so late, shall we get to business tomorrow morning?
Teyla looked at John, who nodded. "Sounds good to me."
Lonna motioned, and a couple of people came forward. They'll lead you to our guest quarters.
"Thank you," Teyla said.
The two men led the foursome to a stone house where a woman looked up. "Welcome!"
You speak?" Rodney said. "I didn't know anyone else here could speak."
"Rodney," Teyla said.
"That's all right," she said. "I have difficulty with mind speak, so I'm generally the interpreter." She chuckled. "I remind them to speak out loud when they forget. But they tell me you won't need an interpreter, so today, I'm your host." She got up and held out her hand. "I'm Aya."
"I am surprised," Teyla said, "that they let you take strangers into your home."
"Ah," Aya said, "There are guards outside, but trust me, you've been judged."
Rodney looked around. "What? How? Did they read my mind?"
"Doubt if they found anything," John said.
"Ha, ha," Rodney said. Ronon grinned. "Laugh it up, furball."
"No," Aya smiled. "They don't read your mind. We've had a lot of visitors, and we've gotten pretty good at judging people. As I'm sure Lonna told you, you wouldn't have seen us if we hadn't trusted you already." She looked at the team. "Shall we get you settled in?"
"I am," Rodney admitted, "a little tired." He looked out the window, then back at Aya. Suddenly, he looked a little distracted. "I'd like to go to bed now."
John looked at him. Rodney jerked his head to one side and John raised his eyebrows.
Aya smiled. "All right." She led him down the hall to a room. "I have three rooms."
"Rodney and I will share a room," John said.
"As long as we don't have to share a bed," Rodney added.
"No, no." Aya laughed. She opened a door. The bedroom had two beds paralleling a window. "If you need something, let me know."
"Thank you," John said. As she closed the door, he added, "Rodney, what's up?"
"I'm trying to fill my mind with inane show tunes."
"To block them out," Rodney said. "Don't you get it? They can read our minds."
"And, Rodney? Not like there's a lot you're going to reveal."
Rodney rolled his eyes. "Only the most important secrets of …" He shut his mouth.
"Yeah, I think we're pretty safe, even if they can read minds. Unless they're experts on our technology, how could they understand what you're thinking?"
"Was that," Rodney said, "a compliment?"
"Not necessarily," John said. "A fact. I usually can't understand what you're thinking."
"Sounds like a compliment to me."
"Think what you like," John said. He spread out over a bed. "MRE?"
"Why would I want a MRE?"
"Because you just put us to bed before supper."
Rodney blinked. "Oh. Yeah." He moved to the door.
"Don't you dare," John said. "Not after you claimed to be so tired."
"Yeah, but …"
John handed him a MRE.
"Oh, all right." Rodney chowed it down. "Happy?"
"Guess I'll do a little reading." Rodney laid down, a tablet in his hand. Two minutes later, he was snoring.
John looked at him, sighed, then blew out the candle and rolled over.
Rodney stared down at the food at breakfast the next morning and John nudged him in the side.
"What?" John said
Rodney kept his voice low. "They're trying to poison me."
"Rodney," John whispered. "They're not trying to poison you." He stared at the spread in front of them. "If anything, they're trying to overfeed us." He sighed.
"Don't you taste it?"
"I don't taste any …"
"Try it again."
John took another bite. "Oh, yeah, I see what you mean." He chewed some more. "Actually, I think it's rather good." He smiled. "Very good."
"What is the problem?" Teyla whispered.
"Rodney thinks he tastes lemon."
"Ah," Teyla nodded. "Let me ask." She turned to their host. "Lonna," she said, "The food is delicious. What do you use to flavor the meat?"
Lonna smiled. We use an herb that we call nilron. We use it to flavor most of our dishes.
"I am afraid," Teyla said apologetically, "that Rodney fears that he may be allergic to it. Would you have any dishes without nilron?"
Of course, Lonna said. She gestured to a server. "We'll fix some without nilron," she said out loud.
"Thank you," Teyla said.
John nudged Rodney again.
"Yes, thanks," Rodney said.
"If you're really hungry," John said. "You could have another MRE."
"Gee, thanks," Rodney grumbled. "Now you're trying to kill me."
MRE? Lonna asked.
"Meals ready to eat," John said. "Prepackaged from our home planet."
"Usually," Rodney said. "It should read 'Meals not fit to eat.' "
Lonna laughed. Thankfully, we don't have anything like that here.
John took another bite. "This is delicious," he said. "Lonna, can we include some of this herb in our negotiations?"
Lonna shrugged. You may have all you like without any of the negotiations. The herb is very common around here.
"Thank you." John said, around a bite.
"Great," Rodney muttered, "I may never eat again." His stomach growled.
"So," Elizabeth said. "How would you say the negotiations went?"
Teyla smiled. "I would say they went well."
"They have no technology," Rodney groused.
"Yes," Teyla said, "but what they lack in technology, they have in basic resources, such as vegetables, fruit, game …"
"And herbs," John added, with a sly look towards Rodney.
"I still say they tried to kill me," Rodney insisted.
"He thought the herb tasted like citrus."
"Like lemon," Rodney corrected.
"That sounds like marjoram," Elizabeth said. She smiled. "I do like marjoram."
"What's marjoram?" Rodney asked.
"Well, off-hand," John said, "I'd say it was a herb that tasted like lemon."
"Thanks," Rodney said.
"They sent back a supply," Teyla said. "I must admit that I enjoyed it, too."
"Well," Elizabeth said. "Run it by Carson first, and if he passes it, you have my permission to give it to the cooks." She looked around the table. "Anything else to add?"
"Good cooks," Ronon said. "No weapons."
Rodney stared around the table. "You are all forgetting the most important thing."
"That they are all telepaths?" John said "We covered that in the beginning."
Elizabeth looked at Rodney. "I hadn't forgotten. I would like to send a scientist to study their ability, but I don't believe we have any to spare for something like this. We have to concentrate on defending ourselves from the Wraith, but I don't believe this will help."
"Well," John said. "After a while, I didn't even notice they weren't talking out loud."
"Yes," Teyla said. "They are all very personable. I forgot that they didn't even move their lips."
"I couldn't," Rodney said. "I couldn't even 'hear,' " he said, using his quoting fingers, "them half the time."
"I am surprised you didn't say more," Teyla said. "You did not say anything during the negotiations."
"That's because I wasn't concentrating on the negotiations," Rodney said. "I was trying to figure out why jumper number four wasn't flying."
"So that's why you were so quiet," Ronon said. "I thought you had fallen asleep."
"Well, you did fall asleep," Rodney said, "Unless you've suddenly taken up meditation."
"Gentlemen," Elizabeth said with a sigh. "Do you have anything to add, Teyla?"
Teyla shook her head. "I don't believe so."
"I still think," Rodney said as they exited, "that you're taking that creepy—ability—much too lightly."
"You worry too much," John said. "They're perfectly fine people."
"Yeah," Rodney said. "I'm sure that's what Colonel O'Neill said about the Goa'uld, right?"
"I need my food," Rodney said to the cook, "nilron free."
The cook stared at him. "It's bad enough that we have to keep every bit of citrus ten feet away from your food, we can't even put spices in it?"
"Look," Rodney said. "You keep Kosher for Goldman and Springer, and you're worried about a little spice in my food?"
The cook snorted.
"You want me to get Carson down here?" Rodney toggled his communication device. "Carson, could you tell the cooks that they need to keep citrus away from me?"
"It's not the citrus," the cook said, speaking into Rodney's microphone. "It's the spice that he's objecting to."
"Rodney," Carson said. "You're not allergic to the spice."
"Still," Rodney said, "if I don't want say … cinnamon … in my food, don't I have the right not to have it?"
"Or—you have the right to avoid the food that it's in."
"Yeah, but they're putting it on everything."
Carson sighed. "Rodney, give the microphone to Charley."
He peeled it off with a smile.
"Yes. Yes, sir. Yes, I can do that." Charley handed the microphone back. "Dr. McKay, Dr. Beckett has told me to do what you wish." He frowned.
"He said that I was right," Rodney gloated.
"No," the cook said, "He said to humor you. It would make you happy. And a happy Rodney would get us home faster."
"Harumph," Rodney said, exiting the kitchen, running right into John.
"Are you harassing the cook again?" John asked.
"Just watching out for my health," Rodney said. "Which some people don't seem to care about."
"What is the latest problem?"
"The nilron? What's wrong with that?"
"I told you. It tastes like citrus."
"And the cooks are putting it on all of the food."
"Well," John grinned. "There still are the MREs."
"I may be forced to go to those," Rodney said. "Besides, I'm kinda getting to like them."
Rodney rolled his eyes. "I need to get back to work."
"You mean," Charley said, looking out the door at Rodney. "After harassing me, you're going to get a MRE?" He rolled his eyes and went back to the kitchen.
Rodney pursed his lips. "I'm going back to work."
John shrugged. "Fine. I'm going to have pot roast."
As Rodney left the cafeteria, he saw people lining up. Just like sheep, he thought, and went down to his lab.
Rodney, concentrating on a physics problem, only left the lab for sleep and to grab some MREs. Occasionally Zelenka poked his head in, then left him alone. On the third day, Rodney raised his head. "I think I have it. Zelenka?"
"Geez, first he's underfoot all of the time, now when I need him, I can't find him." He made another note in his journal. "It has been quiet lately." He got up and stretched. "Maybe I should take a walk."
He walked down the corridor. First one, and then another. He didn't meet anybody, which he thought seemed rather odd. Curious, he walked to the control room.
No one there.
The Stargate started up, and Rodney ran to the computer, but he couldn't get to it in time to put up the barrier. He swore, then ducked under a control panel, peering around the desk to see who walked through.
"And they told me that the …" Ronon started as he came through the gate, then stopped.
"Hello?" Teyla said.
"Where is everybody?" Ronon said lowly.
"I'm here," Rodney yelled. Knowing Ronon, he had probably pulled his pistol, and, as Rodney straightened up, he saw that he was right. "Don't shoot."
"Rodney," Teyla said. "What's going on?"
"That's what I was going to ask you." Rodney glanced around at the empty room. "Is this some elaborate trick?"
"If it is," Ronon said, "then we're not in on it."
"Rodney, we went off-world two days ago," Teyla said. "And everything was fine then. Where have you been?"
"I, um …" Rodney started. "Two days?"
"I took some MREs and I've been holed up in my lab." Rodney stared at them. "I did wonder why I didn't see Zelenka today." He paled. "Are they all … dead?"
Ronon looked grim. "Let's have a look around." He led the way to the infirmary.
He approached it as if he expected a Wraith to leap out of the door. His eyes roamed around, glancing at all of the corners. Cautious, he entered the infirmary, Teyla and Rodney hanging back. "No one here."
"Carson is always here," Rodney grumbled.
"Do you see anything out of place?"
"I dunno. I'm not here enough. You look."
Rodney walked in cautiously, then looked around. "It looks fine." He looked over at Carson's desk. "Look at this. It looks like he stopped in the middle of a sentence. Like he was interrupted. Or snatched up."
Rodney shivered. "Did the Wraith come?"
"And left you?" Teyla said. "They're more thorough than that."
"I would have left him," Ronon said.
Ronon grinned slightly. "Just sayin'."
"Thanks. Maybe I'll just forget to rescue you next time you need my expertise," Rodney said.
Ronon shrugged. "Since there's nobody here, have you tried anybody's rooms?"
"No," Rodney said. "I just went straight to the control room."
Teyla cocked her head. "They're not in their rooms."
"What?" Ronon said. "How do you know?"
Teyla looked a little troubled. "I'm not sure, but I think that they are in the cafeteria."
Rodney blinked. "The cafeteria? Everybody got the munchies at once?"
"It's also big enough to accommodate almost everybody in Atlantis."
Rodney cocked his head. "Good point."
As they approached the cafeteria, Rodney could hear a slight humming. He glanced at Ronon, who looked back at him, then cocked his head. They looked at Teyla, who had her eyes closed.
Ronon placed a hand on her shoulder. "Teyla."
Teyla shook her head and opened her eyes. "They are in there."
"How can you …" Rodney started.
"I know. I just know," Teyla said.
Cautiously, they approached the door, which swished open. At first, everything looked normal. People were sitting at tables and standing around. Then Rodney realized that they were all looking out the window at the ocean. At the noise of the door, they turned in unison and stared at the group coming in the door.
"Um," Rodney said. He looked to one side and spotted Sheppard. "John, what's going on here? If this is a joke, it's not very funny …" His voice trailed off.
"Rodney," Teyla said, her voice flat. "This is not a joke."
Ronon looked at her.
"I can …" Teyla shook her head, "hear them. In my mind. All at once." She shook her head again and folded her arms tightly around her body. "They are … all connected."
"Like ants?" Ronon and Teyla looked at Rodney blankly. "Like a group mind?"
Teyla nodded slowly. "Yes. But there is no coordination."
Rodney noted some people coming back from the restroom. "What about them?"
"Everybody, Rodney," Teyla said. "Some needs seem to overcome the general consensus to stay still, but that seems to be the overriding thought. Stay still. Don't think. And … and eat nilron."
"Oh. Oh, my God," Rodney thought of what he had been doing the past couple of days. "I've been eating MREs. That's why I've been eating them. They have no nilron."
Ronon shrugged. "We've been off-world, but we ate some of it. And I have no overwhelming desire to commune with them."
"But," Teyla said, "we're from this galaxy. Perhaps you have a natural immunity to the herb." She shivered again. "It seems that I do not."
"So—we'll throw all of the herb away," Rodney said. "And wait for them to get back to normal."
The crowd rose as one and moved to block the kitchen door.
Rodney walked up to John, Elizabeth, and Carson, who were standing together. "Carson, John, Elizabeth. Listen to reason. You can't eat any more of that …"
"Rodney," the crowd said as one. "Get away from the kitchen door."
"I/we will not allow you to throw away the nilron."
"Why?" Ronon said.
"I/we need it."
"Teyla," Rodney said. "Look at their eyes." He glanced around. All of their eyes—the pupils were all black. Because," he suddenly yelled. "You've all been drugged!"
"I/we feel good." They all shrugged. "This is calming."
"Why? None of you want to be individuals anymore?" Rodney said.
"You can't throw away the nilron. I told you, you're being paranoid," the joined voices said.
"Well," Rodney muttered. "That's John talking."
Teyla pulled him back. "Don't push them."
"They won't hurt me." Rodney pushed forward, trying to head for the kitchen.
John pushed back at him. "No, Rodney," the crowd said.
"I want to go into that kitchen." Rodney pushed forward again.
The crowd pushed forward. For a second, Rodney had a vision of zombies, and he stumbled backwards. Immediately, Ronon and Teyla grabbed his arms, and they turned around and ran out of the cafeteria. When they realized they weren't being followed, they stopped and turned, Rodney panting loudly.
"They didn't follow," Ronon said.
"Thank you, Captain Obvious," Rodney said, with the barest edge of panic in his voice.
Ronon ignored him. "Still," Ronon said, "they must realize that we're friends."
"How do you figure that?"
"Because," Teyla said. "If they had wanted to overpower us, they could have captured us easily."
"Why were they all looking in the same direction?" Rodney asked, and Teyla opened her mouth. "Because," he answered himself, "because they're linked, they're not used to multiple points-of-view. So when they look the same direction at the same things, it's easier on them."
"We need to separate one of them from the others," Teyla said definitively, "and take him off-world."
"John?" Ronon said.
"He would be my choice," Teyla agreed.
"You seem to be somewhat connected to them," Rodney said. "Can't you infiltrate the group mind?"
She shook her head. "It's not quite the same. It's almost akin to the sense I have when I sense Wraith." She shook her head again. "I know it makes no sense …"
"So why will getting John out of the group mind help us?" Rodney said. "Why can't the two of you just sneak into the kitchen and …"
"Because they would know that we don't belong to the group and would prevent us."
"And getting John out would help us how?" Rodney repeated.
"Well," Ronon said, "at least we would find out whether this effect will go away." He strode back towards the cafeteria. "You coming?"
"You're nuts," Rodney said, but got up and followed after them. "We should get Carson, too."
Ronon stopped. "That's a good idea."
"But if we take them together, won't they keep communing with each other?"
"Maybe at first," Teyla said. "But I'm hoping this will wear off."
"Sedatives," Rodney said.
"Good idea," Ronon said. "Have any on you?"
"No, but the infirmary would have some," Rodney said.
"I'm going to take the more direct route," Ronon said. He walked into the cafeteria, walked Carson out of the room, then handed him over to Rodney. "Here," Ronon said. "They don't seem to care if we take people. It's the drug they care about."
"What am I supposed to do with him?"
"Take him through to the Alpha site," Teyla said. "We'll follow."
"Why don't we all go together?"
"Because I suspect John will put up more of a fight," Ronon said, "After you take Dr. Beckett through."
"Oh." Rodney said. "And what makes you think he won't put up a fight when he sees the gate?"
"Cover his eyes," Ronon said, "then give him some sleeping pills."
"I can't …"
"Here," Teyla said. "They'll wait. I'll help."
With Teyla's help, Rodney walked Carson to the infirmary, then dissolved a couple of sleeping pills in a glass of water. Carson, still attached to the group mind, stared at a wall while they prepared him, and docilely drank the cocktail. When his eyelids closed, Teyla put a blindfold over his eyes, and they took him on a stretcher to the gate room.
"This is never going to work," Rodney said.
"Of course it will," Teyla said calmly.
"Do you know how to dial out?" Rodney said.
"John showed me," Teyla said. "He didn't want us to feel like prisoners."
She went up to the gate room and started the gate dialing.
"Join me soon," Rodney said, as the gate whooshed up, then he pushed the gurney through the gate.
On the other side, the gurney stuck in the dirt, and Carson spilled out onto the soft ground. He grunted slightly, and rolled over, but didn't wake up. "Great," Rodney said, and pulled him over to one side. He sat down beside him to wait.
He kept checking his watch. Fifteen minutes. Half hour. Hour. Finally the gate swooshed open again, and Teyla and Ronon manhandled a fighting John through. They fell down.
"What took you so long?" Rodney said.
Ronon looked up, and Rodney could see the shiner over his left eye. Teyla was bruised around the arms. "They weren't quite so cooperative this time."
"What the hell?" John said, his face stuck down in the dirt. "What the hell happened?"
"John?" Teyla said.
He lifted up his head. "Where the hell are we?" Ronon let him off the ground, and he sat up and turned around. He shook his head.
"We're at the Alpha site," Ronon said.
"What's the last thing you remember?" Teyla squatted down and looked at John. He was squeezing his eyes shut and massaging his forehead.
He glanced up. "Eating dinner."
"Anything after that?" Ronon asked.
"No …" John shook his head. "Yes. I dreamt I was somehow connected to the city and everyone else in Atlantis …" His voice trailed off. "That wasn't a dream."
"No." Teyla said gently.
"Oh, hell," John said, rubbing his forehead. He looked over to Carson, who had turned over onto his side. "And Carson?"
Rodney shrugged. "We thought we might need a doctor to counteract the effects of the nilron."
"The nilron? What does an herb have to do with this?" John was puzzled.
"We think that's what created the telepathic bond," Teyla said.
"Really?" John looked thoughtful, then nodded his head. "Makes sense, I suppose, unless we come up with another theory." He pointed at Carson. "What happened to him?"
"He's having weird dreams," John said.
"You can tell?" Rodney said.
"Yeah," John said. "Something about a figurine in his mother's house. A clown on a unicorn. Ugliest thing I've ever seen."
"You're still connected."
"Yeah." John said. "But since there's just the two of us, it's not so … overwhelming." He shook his head again. "I feel like a Borg."
"Huh?" Ronon said.
"Cultural reference," John said. "I'll show you a little Star Trek later."
"What did it seem like?" said Rodney, curious.
John shook his head. "We were overwhelmed. Not only were we sensing each other's thoughts and feelings, we were seeing through each other's eyes. It became less confusing when we gathered into the cafeteria. And we craved the nilron."
"I thought Carson said it was non-addictive."
"I said," Carson said sleepily, "that it wasn't medically addictive."
"He just woke up." John shook his head. "Do you know how weird that feels?"
"How long before the nilron leaves your system?" Teyla said.
"I don't know," Carson yawned, his eyes still closed. "Could be one to two days. Could be weeks."
"Weeks?!" Rodney said.
Carson opened one eye. "Probably less." He closed his eyes and started snoring again.
"So," Teyla said. "I believe we'll need to scout out the Alpha site and make sure everything is fine." She got up. "I'll go."
"I'll go with you." Ronon said.
"Oh, yeah," Rodney said. "Leave me with the Borg."
"Hey!" John said.
"Your word!" Rodney said.
"Yeah," John said. "Doesn't mean I like it."
"Well," Ronon said. "The alternative is that we carry Carson."
Rodney looked at John. "Sounds good to me," said John.
Rodney sighed. "I'd rather carry Carson then spend another hour out here."
"Rodney," John said.
Rodney kept his eyes closed. "It's not time to get up yet."
"Rodney!" John said, and pulled the blanket off of him.
"Hey!" Rodney gazed around at the hut. Suddenly, he remembered why he was there and stared at John. "So," he said. "Are you still part of the Borg collective?"
"Well," John drawled, "I've been trying to probe Carson's mind for the last half hour and haven't found anyone there yet."
"Very funny," Carson said, sounding annoyed. "That still doesn't mean it's safe for us to go back to Atlantis."
"You are up," Teyla said, walking into the hut.
"But I'm not decent," Rodney squeaked, grabbing his blanket back from John.
"Then," John said. "We need to go and see Lonna to learn what the effects are."
"Don't you think that she might have drugged us on purpose?" Rodney said.
"All of my trading partners say that her people are honest—almost to a fault. After all, the nilron wasn't part of the deal. They let us take it for free," Teyla said.
"Well, then," Rodney said, looking to John. "Are you really sure that you and Carson should go there? Isn't that a little like throwing the cat some catnip?"
John chewed his lip. "Quite possibly."
"But I suspect," Carson said. "That since none of us want to be connected with each other, we can resist whatever addictive properties this herb has."
"Well," Rodney said. "I warned you."
"Yes, you did," John said.
"We will watch you," Teyla said. "And will bring you back here if we feel that something is happening."
"I suppose," Rodney muttered.
No, Lonna said. We've never found it addictive.
"Can you please speak out loud?" Teyla said.
"Of course," she said. "I apologize." She stared at the duo. "And you believe that nilron is what causes our mind-speak?"
"I believe they are correct," Ava said, walking into the circle. "I've never been able to mind-speak, and you know that I'm allergic to nilron."
"Yes," Lonna said. "You are." She frowned and turned to the team. "I am sorry that we caused you distress."
"That's fine," John said. "You didn't know that your herb would interact with us this way."
"Do you suppose that your people are still under the influence of our herb?"
John barked a laugh. "Well, we took quite a bit. So, yeah."
Teyla looked around. "Do you possibly know whether there is a natural antidote to this herb?"
"Oh," Lonna said. "No." She shrugged. "But we've never looked."
"Then we have to destroy our supply." John said.
"How are we going to get past the walking dead?" Rodney said.
"Well," Carson said, "they can't do anything if they're unconscious, can they?"
"How," Rodney said, "Are you going to sedate the entire complement of Atlantis?"
"Well, sonny," Carson said, "you forget that the two of us have the strongest complement of Ancient genes." He looked at John, who started to smile slowly.
"We lock them in the cafeteria," he said.
"We introduce a sleeping agent in the ducts …"
"… we go in in suits and throw the herbs overboard …"
"… then we wait for them to come out of it."
Rodney stared at them. "You two are still connected, aren't you?"
"I don't think so," Carson said although John looked a little troubled.
"That may take a while to plan," Teyla said. "Are you sure they won't detect us?"
John shrugged. "We can't leave them like that. And I don't think it's a good idea to wait."
Rodney frowned. "Why do I feel this is a bad idea?"
Ronon shrugged. "Because you think every plan you don't think of is a bad idea?"
Rodney glared at him.
"Still, something's going to go wrong."
John shrugged. "It wouldn't be Atlantis if it didn't."
"I told you so," Rodney said, hiding in the hall.
John shrugged. "Just a temporary setback," he said. "How could I have known that they started sending out patrols?"
"My question," Rodney said, "is why? Are they expecting a few Wraith to drop in? Maybe a couple of Genii or Goa'uld?"
John closed his eyes, then opened them again. "Yes."
Rodney blinked. "Yes, what?"
"All of the above." At Rodney's stare, he glanced away. "I can resist it, but it seems I'm still connected with them. Something like an itch I know I shouldn't scratch." He looked back at Rodney. "Rhetorical question. Who do we have more of in Atlantis, scientists or soldiers?"
"Soldiers," Rodney said, automatically. "And a few of the scientists are both."
"And soldiers are always on the alert for enemies."
"Elizabeth is not a soldier," Rodney said.
"No," John said. "But she has the protection of Atlantis on her shoulders." He stood up. "They're gone."
"Shouldn't Carson and Ronon be back by now?"
John looked troubled. "Yeah."
"We're here," Ronon said.
"What took you so long?" John said.
"The patrols." Ronon looked at Carson. "Rather freaky."
"I guess we're fortunate we can still sense…"John started.
"What are you doing here?" a familiar voice demanded.
"Major!" John said, whirling around. "Lorne?"
"You need to join us," Lorne said. His face was impassive.
"And," John said, "you are still one of the Borg Collective."
"We can only be better together," Lorne insisted.
"But," Rodney said, "some things are only done better by myself."
"Like," John said with a wicked grin, "things done by hand."
Rodney ignored him. "My best theoretical work is done when I don't have other people yammering in my ear."
"Rodney, you can't argue with the Borg. They just want to bring you into the collective," John pointed out.
"We are not unreasonable," Lorne maintained.
"No, just drugged," John said.
Lorne closed his eyes. He opened them again, and his face changed. "John?" he said in a higher voice than usual.
"Elizabeth?" John guessed.
"Elizabeth and Teyla. John, do what you have to do." Lorne blinked his eyes again and stood still.
John waved his hand in front of Lorne's eyes. He didn't blink. "Quick," he said, shushing the rest in front of him. "Go."
They headed quietly down the corridor toward the cafeteria. "Why am I here?" Rodney said.
"I told you. You're the most technical person here who hasn't ingested the herb. So if Carson and I go all Borg on you …"
"I wish you'd stop comparing Atlantis to a Borg ship," Rodney muttered. "I prefer to think of it as an ant colony."
John shrugged. "You have your analogy, I have mine." They turned into the corridor beside the dining room. "You ready, Carson?"
Beckett looked grim. "Yes." He handed the package off to John. "When you get in the room, hand the package to Teyla, point out the button," he pointed to the button, "then run like hell before the crowd starts moving and the package releases the virus."
"Got it." John nodded.
"I so do not like this plan," Rodney said.
John took the package from Carson, nodded to the group, then walked into the dining room calmly. The crowd stared at him. Teyla, standing in front of them, opened her eyes, met John's, and nodded briefly. She nodded again. John sprinted out of the cafeteria, but the doors closed before he could exit. He nodded to Carson, then closed his eyes as the room was flooded with an anesthetic, designed for crowd control.
"That virus should keep the room closed for a while," Carson said, "and the anesthetic should keep them asleep. So all we'll need to worry about is the patrols …"
"Doctor Beckett?" Major Lorne said. He held his hand to his head. "What's going on?"
"Never mind," Carson said. With a few quick words, he and Ronon updated Major Lorne, who was looking more and more grim.
"And what were you going to do with the nilron?"
"Throw it overboard."
"We brought quite a bit," Carson said. "I'd like some for my laboratory." He reflected. "It never seemed to be addictive."
"Not in that way," Lorne said. "But it was … comforting … " He closed his eyes. "Ward and Cox are on their way," he said. "They'll help."
Rodney closed his eyes. "I'm never going to get over how freaky that is."
"I agree," Ronon said. They stared at each other.
"That may have been the first time we've agreed," Rodney said.
"Don't let it go to your head," Ronon growled. "Let's get working.
Rodney dragged his hand over his eyes, then realized that he was lying down. His eyes felt swollen, and he tried to open them. What little he saw …
"What am I doing in the infirmary?" he said out loud.
"Oh, good," Carson said. "You're awake."
You were dumping the weed. One of the cartons was open, and some flew back into your face." He hesitated. "Anaphylactic shock."
"I thought you said I wasn't allergic to it," Rodney whined.
"You weren't allergic to small amounts but this overwhelmed your system."
"You've been out a day and a half," John added.
"I had the weirdest dreams."
"And you and you and you and you were there," John said in a high voice. "Well, Dorothy, that's what it felt like being part of the collective. You were so sensitive that it affected you immediately."
"Everybody else started coming out of it within a day. Took you longer."
"You've also been sedated," Carson said cheerfully.
"You sound disappointed."
"Well," Rodney said, "I am. I entirely misjudged the power of many minds. I had the answer to my physics problem right there in my dreams, and I had just about worked it out …" He sighed melodramatically. "Now I'll never figure it out."
"Well," John said. "We could get another shipment of nilron …"
"No!" Rodney said. He was just now realizing that if he was in everybody else's mind, they might have been in … He shuddered. "Thank you. I'll think up my theories by myself, thank you." He squeezed his eyes shut.
"Well," Elizabeth said, walking in. "Sounds like he's back to normal, too."
He squeezed his eyes open. "Not really,"
"Thank you, gentlemen," she said. "I've already thanked Teyla and Ronon." She smiled at Rodney. "I'll expect your reports soon."
John sighed. "Yep, everyone's back to normal."
"In triplicate," Carson sighed. "In some ways, it was much more fun being a Borg."
Rodney was appalled. "Not you, too!"
"Resistance is futile," Carson said.
"I'm going back to sleep." Rodney closed his eyes.