The Arms of Hydra

Lorraine Anderson

Radek sat back in his chair, waving his fork as emphasis. "Rodney," he said, "I realize that going off planet is dangerous, but sometimes exploring around Atlantis is just as dangerous." Rodney snorted, then bent to take another bite of his sandwich. John smiled and took another bite himself. Radek glared at John. "You don't believe me?"

"Moi?" John said. He took another bite of his own sandwich. It had an odd taste—not unpleasant, but somewhat of a cross between blueberry and trout. He supposed—he hoped—it came from one of their trades and the cooks weren't experimenting again. "I believe you, Radek. I've done enough exploring in Atlantis. I'd rather explore around Atlantis than go on another trade mission."

"Now, John," Teyla said, "trade missions are very essential." She shrugged. "Not all trade missions are dull."

John snorted. "You have to admit, though, they have been lately."

Ronon looked amused. "I slept through the last one," Ronon said.

"We know," Teyla smiled. "Fortunately, I explained that you had been a Runner and were still recovering from your ordeal."

"The music they played in the background was rather deadly, wasn't it?" grinned John. "If they hadn't had that coffee substitute, I don't know what I would have done. Of course, I didn't sleep for two days after that …"

"Really?" Rodney said. "I didn't have any trouble."

"Oh, yes, you did," Radek said, "you just don't remember." Dr. Beckett walked by, carrying his tray. "Didn't he, Doctor?"

"What?" Carson said.

"Didn't you have to drug Rodney to get him to sleep?"

"Yes," Carson said. "I had never seen quite an extreme case before." He turned to Rodney. "You don't remember because you were actually sleepwalking."

"What?"

"But we're getting off the subject," Radek said. "Don't the explorers around here find dangerous things?

Carson snorted. "You haven't treated some of the injuries I've treated. If you think that your team is the only one that gets hurt …"

"John," Elizabeth said through his headset.

John cocked his head to one side. "Yes, Elizabeth?"

"Could you and your team meet me in my office?"

"Right away," John said. "Okay, guys, stuff your faces. We have a mission."

"Now?" Rodney whined. "I just started eating."

"Danger," John said mysteriously, "doesn't wait for lunch." He winked at Radek.

Radek sighed and turned back to the book he had placed beside his plate.

When they had left the dining hall, Teyla turned to John. "Did Elizabeth say why she wanted us?"

"No," John said, "has anybody done anything wrong lately?"

Ronon frowned. "Besides short sheeting Rodney's bed? No."

"That was you? I thought that John did that," Rodney said.

"Is that why I found rocks in my pillowcase?" John asked.

Rodney shrugged. "It could be worse."

John regarded Rodney. "I don't think I want to know how."

"You probably don't."

Teyla walked on calmly, but John swore he could see her roll her eyes.

They walked into Elizabeth's office. She was staring at her computer and looked up. "Ah, good. We're getting reports of some problems down on the southwest pier."

John felt a shock of alarm. "Where the drones are?"

"Below the drones, apparently."

"Below the drones?" Rodney said. "I didn't realize that there was much below the drones."

"Well," Elizabeth said. "Apparently there are a few hatches. One of them led to an Ancient lab."

Rodney perked up.

"Underwater," Elizabeth clarified.

"Oh." Rodney deflated.

"And it's full of some sort of life forms."

"So," John said, "how are we involved?"

"Doctor Abbas thinks there might be a ZPM interface in the room, but he couldn't tell if there was an actual ZPM in the interface."

"And," John said, raising his eyebrows, "you want us to dive for it?"

"Not exactly. Dr. Abbas has just been taken to the infirmary. One of the creatures in the room stung him."

"Oh," Ronon said.

"I want you to figure out how to empty the room," Elizabeth said.

"Us?" Teyla said.

Elizabeth smiled. "I would like you and Ronon to watch. Apparently these creatures aren't entirely aquatic."

"Nice," John said. "Probably jumping poison snakes." He shook his head. "Snakes. It had to be snakes."

#

Carson stared into the water. "Actually, son, I believe these creatures are closer to Hydras."

"Hydras?" Teyla said.

"The mythology or the creature?" John said.

"Both, actually," Carson said. "Hydra are many-headed creatures that can reproduce asexually."

"He means without sex, Chewie," Rodney said to Ronon.

"Thanks, Rodney," Ronon said, ironically. "I figured that out."

"So how can we get past them? Pesticide?"

"Anything you dump in here is probably going to go into the ocean. Do you want the responsibility of poisoning a world?" Carson pointed out.

"Um," John blinked. "It's an awfully big ocean, and such a small amount …"

"There's a reason we're not dumping our waste into the ocean, son."

"Oh."

"Do those creatures have ears?" Rodney said.

Carson looked reflective. "You're thinking sonics?" He gazed into the pool. "Could work."

"Quite frankly," John said. "I'm more concerned about how those creatures got into the room. We've seen other submerged rooms before, but none of them were filled with creatures like this."

"Well," Rodney said, "after all, we're floating in an ocean and this city is thousands of years old. That couldn't have anything to do with maybe the city having a few holes in it?"

"Yeah," John said, "we've seen some of those holes. I've never seen anything like those things come into the city." He leaned closer to the water, and the creatures grouped closer to him. He backed away, and they wandered off, listlessly. "And they seem to like me."

The rest of the crew stared at him. "It's your Ancient blood."

"Can't be," Carson leaned towards the pond. "They don't react to me, and I have nearly the same amount of Ancient genes as John does."

"So," John said. "It's my irresistible personality?"

"Well," Carson said, "we could experiment on them …"

"Much as I would like to see John be experimented on," Rodney said, "we need another working ZPM. Which means that we need to get these vermin out of the way."

"Vermin?" John said. He leaned closer to the water. "I think they're kind of cute." One jumped out at him, and he jumped back. "Ouch!"

"What happened?" Ronon said.

"He bit my hand!"

"Told you," Dr. Abbas said, coming up behind them.

"Impossible," Carson said. He reached out towards John's hand. "Those things don't have teeth. But they do seem to have some kind of an irritant on their skin."

"Let me shoot them," said Ronon. "It'll be like shooting fish in a pond."

Carson looked startled.

John nodded. "Do it." Ronon raised his gun, and John stared at the creatures. "But just try it with one and let's see what happens."

"But what if we're committing genocide?" Carson started for Ronon's arm. "Don't …"

Ronon shot one of the creatures. The creature shuddered for a second, then split into pieces. The pieces shot out and hit other hydra, causing them to shudder and break up. Soon the pool was crammed with smaller hydra filling the pool. Others shot out of the water towards the crew surrounding the pool, causing them to draw back.

John stared at Rodney, who was trying to merge with the back wall. "Are you sure there's a ZPM in there?"

"They're tribbles!" Rodney said.

"Huh?" John said.

Carson snorted. "No, they're hydra. They're basically large versions of one celled organisms that propagate by splitting."

"They're not born pregnant then?" Rodney said.

Carson rolled his eyes. "They're not even mammals."

"What," Teyla said, "are tribbles?"

"They're a fictional creature," John said, "from a television show. The animals spread quickly through a starship by reproducing every few hours."

"Could be worse," Carson said.

"How?" Rodney said.

"Could be a space herpe."

In spite of the pain in his hand, John snorted. He glanced at Carson, who smiled back. "Doctor Beckett, you are a bad man." He turned to Teyla and Ronon. "That's from a bad movie."

"I'd like to see that," Ronon said. "Sounds interesting."

"Hopefully," Rodney said, "no-one brought that movie along."

"I have an idea," Teyla said. "Is the chamber next to this one flooded?"

John turned around to look at Dr. Abbas.

"No," he said, "it's not flooded." He shrugged. "We didn't see anything of importance in there."

"I'll make that determination," Rodney said.

"It's a …" Dr. Abbas started.

"As I said," Rodney spouted. "I'll make that determination. Show me."

Teyla looked at John, who shrugged.

They exited the chamber and went down the hall, following Doctor Abbas. He opened the door next door, then went down the stairs. The lights came on.

John blinked.

"As I said," Dr. Abbas said. "Nothing of importance."

"You could have said that it was a shower room," Rodney complained.

"You didn't give him a chance," John said. He turned to Teyla. "So—you think that we can empty the flooded room into this room?"

"I do not know the mechanics of such a thing, but if you fill this room with water, open up a hole between the two rooms, and lure the hydra over here …"

"We should be able to retrieve the Zed PM," Rodney said.

"I'm not really sure," John said, "that I want to be used as bait."

"I did not say that, John." Teyla smiled.

"Well, if I'm going to be over here, away from the action, I want Carson here, too." John stared at Rodney. "And you can't be over there, either, Rodney."

"Why?"

John punched his arm. "The Ancient gene, remember?"

"Oh, all right. I'll get Radek." Rodney turned away, mumbling.

#

"Well," John said, looking down into the water of the shower room, this is fun. When is our little herd supposed to come through the hole?"

"Radek said that they had just about cut through the wall," Rodney said. "I asked him what was taking so long."

"Well," John said, "maybe if you didn't leave the room every two minutes, they might get things done faster. And I imagine it's a bit hard to do it remotely."

"You don't know them like I do," Rodney muttered under his breath.

"I think I see something," Carson said.

John looked down. A light started to shine in the water, then a round piece of wall floated lazily to the bottom. "I don't see any of the buggers coming through."

"Give them time," Carson said. "They're simple organisms, in spite of their size."

They waited what John felt was forever. "I don't think they're coming through."

"I don't …"

"Maybe they need my scent," John said. He reached swiftly down to the water, then leapt back.

"That did it!" Rodney said.

The hydra swam through the hole. John thought they looked rather frenzied, then …

"Oh, shit!" Hydra started jumping out of the water, landing on any surface they could find, which included the arms and legs of the three men. In spite of the long slacks and long sleeved shirt he was wearing, John could feel the things burning through the fabric. He brushed them off, then retreated to the door, making sure that Carson and Rodney were clear of the room.

"They're starting to come back over here," Radek yelled out.

John closed his eyes and went back in the door. The hydra flowed back into the room, leaping for him, but none of them touched him. He could feel Carson in back of him, and he wondered where Rodney was.

"Have you got the ZPM?" he yelled.

"Just about," Radek yelled back. "A little more …. A little more. Got it! Got the artifacts, too. Clear the room! Now!"

"Let me know when you're clear over there!" John yelled.

A moment passed. "Clear!"

John stepped back, and closed the door. He turned to Carson. "Well, that was …" Then he could feel himself collapse and knew no more."

#

"Well," Carson said. "I guess you're allergic to hydra venom."

John shifted uneasily on the bed. "I still feel like crap," he said.

"That will go away."

Radek walked in, followed by Rodney. "How are you feeling?" Radek said, glancing at Carson.

"He'll recover," Carson said.

"I just wanted to tell you that we tested the ZPM," Radek began.

"It had a little bit of power," Rodney said, "and we can use it as a backup, but it was about depleted."

John sighed. "Crap. All that for nothing."

Radek shrugged. "Sometimes that happens around here." He smiled. "I told you, Major Sheppard, that being around Atlantis was as dangerous as being on a mission."

"Well," John said, shifting his arms behind his heads, then winced and moved them down to his side. He grimaced at the rash. "I'll have to give you that this mission was dangerous."

"I didn't get touched," Rodney said.

"Neither did I," Carson said. "But then again, we were standing behind you."

"I hope we never see those creatures again. Where did they come from?"

Radek and Rodney looked at each other.

"As far as I can tell," Rodney started.

"From what we retrieved from the room," Radek continued.

"The Ancients invented the things themselves," Rodney said.

"But they didn't become active until the room was flooded," Radek said.

"Which," Rodney said, "according to the city computers, just happened last week."

"And," Radek said. "They all seem to be dead now."

"Dead?" John said.

"No food," Carson ventured.

"So if we had discovered this room next week?"

Rodney shrugged.

John rolled his eyes.

"Dangerous," Radek said. "Dangerous."

"I'll give you that," John said. "Now get out of here."

The two left.

John sighed and laid his head back on his pillow. Even with the trade missions, life was never dull on Atlantis.