Thank you to everyone reading these adventures and anyone who has left reviews and/or favorited my previous stories. Writers love to hear from readers!

This story takes place between S2E11 The Hive and S2E12 Epiphany. It also takes place two weeks after my previous story, The Ties That Bind, so you might want to read that one first if you haven't already as there is some carry-over and you may be confused otherwise.

A million thanks to Lyn for the beta reading.

Teyla knelt, examined the ground where the passage of several animals had churned up the soft dirt, and nodded to herself.

"We are close," she said in a low voice to Telus crouched behind her.

Telus nodded and passed the message on to the four other hunters with them.

It felt good to be out in the forest, breathing in the spicy scent of the pine trees, feeling the soft ground give slightly under her boots as she walked. As much as she loved Atlantis, there was a sterility to the city with its metal and glass architecture and filtered air. A beam of sunlight broke through the trees, and Teyla closed her eyes as the light warmed her face.

A branch snapped ahead of them, breaking her out of her reverie, and Teyla glanced at the small group of men and women behind her.

"I believe the herd went in this direction," she said, and jerked her chin off to the right of the path they followed.

Teyla stopped at the edge of a clearing a few minutes later and carefully parted the branches of a tree as she watched a group of deer feeding on berries. She nodded to Telus, who checked the clearing and smiled. "You always were an excellent tracker," he said and turned to the group waiting behind them.

Telus directed the others to take up positions around the clearing. The men and women nodded and silently moved through the low scrub.

Teyla waited for the other archers to move into flanking positions on either side of her, then calmly raised her bow and waited for the right moment to shoot. Her hunting party had spent most of the morning tracking the small herd; now it was merely a matter of patience. She took a deep breath, slowly blew it out, and just as her chosen animal raised its head, she released the arrow.

More arrows flew into the clearing, and three of the deer fell as the rest of the herd ran for the safety of the trees.

"Well shot," Telus congratulated her as the others hurried into the clearing and surrounded the downed animals. "There should be enough meat to last the village for several weeks."

Teyla smiled in agreement as Telus prepared the animals for transport back to the village.

She had to admit it felt good to be back out in nature, doing something productive for her people. As promised, Colonel Sheppard and Doctor Weir had arranged for her to spend the time while the science teams conducted their exploration of the mainland with the Athosians. The last two weeks had been a welcome chance for her to reconnect with her people. And the efforts by Rodney's science teams had benefited the village as well.

It had only taken a few days for Doctor Volkov and his team to complete their geologic survey of the land surrounding the village. Not only had Doctor Volkov reassured her there was little chance of more sinkholes, his team had also helped find a better water source and dig a new well for the village.

Teyla had also met with the village council to plan the crop rotations for the next year and decide which planets would be suitable for trade as the harvest neared. She had even had time for Charin to give her a few cooking lessons, including how to make tuttle-root soup.

Teyla smiled at the memory of eagerly trying her version of Charin's recipe. The soup had been bad, no question, but they had both laughed at the attempt.

"You did not completely peel the roots," Charin told her as they tried not to gag on the bitter soup.

"I think it is more than that," Teyla said as she set her bowl aside. "I will simply never be as good of a cook as you are."

"It only takes practice, my dear," Charin said with a smile and stood. "Come, we will join the others in the main tent, instead. We can try again tomorrow."

"I think we're ready to head back," Telus said, shaking Teyla out of the memory.

Teyla glanced at the carcasses tied to long poles ready for transport back to the village and nodded. She picked up one end of the pole, waited for Telus to take the other end, and led the way back to the village.

It was early afternoon when the hunting party arrived at the edge of the village. Teyla watched another of the jumpers lift off from the field behind the tents, the sunlight glinting off the cockpit windows, and she raised a hand in farewell. The ship circled the village, then flew out over the forest.

The sight of the ship reminded her it had been several days since she had heard any updates from the science teams exploring the mainland. Rodney had promised he would keep her informed of any new discoveries made by the various science teams, but he had been spending more time on Ymber with Colonel Sheppard the last two weeks than on the mainland or even in Atlantis.

Teyla felt a stab of guilt at the fact her team had been on another planet without her and adjusted her grip on the pole.

"They are fine," she told herself. "They are only there to examine the dart. There was no need for you to be there."

She watched the jumper sail out over the trees, sighed, and made a mental note to check in with Doctor Brown, the head of the research teams exploring the area, for an update.

Once the jumper disappeared, Teyla nodded to Telus and walked into the tent village with the rest of the hunting party. Several people milling around the village square hurried forward, relieved the hunters of their heavy burden, and carried the animals to the cooling tent on the far side of the village near the trees.

"A good hunt," Teyla said to Telus and the others as they hung the deer from frames attached to the roof supports of the tent.

"We will send some of the meat back to the city," Rada said as she stepped back from one of the animals. "In thanks for Doctor Volkov's assistance with the well."

"I am sure the gift will be appreciated," Teyla agreed.

She left the cooling tent and walked back through the village, enjoying the warm weather, and guilty feelings regarding Sheppard and the others aside, the time she could spend with her people.

She smiled at a group of children seated on the ground in front of Olette as she told stories about the history of Athos and of their people.

"Jeeta! Come back here!" Isla called from one of the nearby tents.

Teyla turned and saw a small boy dart out of a tent, giggling as he toddled toward her with Isla in pursuit. Teyla scooped the boy up and held him in her arms.

"And where do you think you are going?" Teyla asked the boy with a smile as she tickled Jeeta's knee.

"Tree!" Jeeta told her and pointed at the nearby forest.

"I think you are a little young to explore the trees," Teyla replied with a smile.

Jeeta stared at her for a moment, then clapped his hands together, and held his arms out to Isla as she stopped in front of Teyla.

"Mama!" Jeeta called and giggled again. "Tree!"

"Thank you for catching him, Teyla," Isla said with an exasperated smile as Teyla handed over the toddler. "I think I liked it better before he started walking."

"I do not know how you manage alone," Teyla replied as they walked back to Isla's tent.

"Mother helps," Isla said. "As do many of the others. I do wish …" Isla's voice trailed off and she wiped her eyes.

Jeeta stared at her for a moment, then patted her cheek and wrapped his arms around Isla's neck.

"Julen was so excited when he found out he would be a father again," Teyla said. "He would be so proud of you. And of his son."

Isla gave her a watery smile as Jeeta squirmed in her arms, and she turned toward the tent. "It is time for someone's nap," She said as Jeeta tried to worm out of her hold on him. "I will see you later," she said and ducked under the tent flap.

Teyla stood outside the tent for a few seconds, listening to Jeeta babble about the trees as she thought about Julen and their six-year-old daughter, Idun, taken in a culling only a few months before Sheppard arrived on Athos. Thanks to that meeting, her people were safe from more cullings which was not something that could be said for any other planet in the galaxy. It was one of the many reasons she wanted to maintain her role on Colonel Sheppard's team. It was her way of ensuring no more children would suffer the loss of a parent to the Wraith.

Teyla strolled back through the village, acknowledging the greetings from the men and women with a wave and a smile. She stopped to speak to more than one group, hearing the latest news about illnesses, achievements, and the general village gossip. It was a welcome change from two weeks ago when she had felt more like an outsider than a member of the community.

"Teyla!" Halling called and waved to her from where he sat outside another of the Athosian tents. Several tools were laid out on the table in front of him along with a whetstone and a small pail of water. A pair of crutches lay on the ground next to him.

"Halling," Teyla replied with a smile and a wave as she walked over to him.

"The hunting went well?" he asked.

Teyla stopped at the end of the table and nodded. "Three good-sized animals," she replied.

"Well done," Halling told her, and Teyla thought she heard a hint of pride in his tone.

She watched him sharpen one of the knives on the table then asked, "How are you feeling today?"

Halling shrugged. "The bones ache," he replied as he set the now-sharp knife to one side and picked up another.

"Do you still have the medicine Doctor Beckett gave you?"

"I do, as well as a poultice Olette says should help, but they can only do so much."

Teyla started to say something else, but Halling stopped her with a raised hand.

"There is no need to be concerned," he told her and thumped the cast on his leg. "I will be fine."

Teyla turned away and stared at the sinkhole near the edge of the forest. Doctor Volkov had told her there wasn't much they could do to fill the hole since it was so deep. The news did not come as much of a surprise to her. She was still amazed Halling and Beckett had survived the fall into the pit with only a few broken bones.

She had proposed using wood from the trees felled at the same time the pit had formed to build a cover over the hole, preventing anyone else from falling into the pit by accident. The council had agreed, and Kanaan had led a group of young men into the forest to retrieve the needed wood. Now the trees sat off to one side awaiting additional manpower and tools from the city before the work could commence. Sheppard had assured her they could have a cover built in a matter of days thanks to the power tools the Earth people had with them.

Halling glanced up at her as he sharpened another knife. "Teyla? Is anything the matter?"

"No," she replied with a smile. "Everything is fine." Halling gave her a measured glance, but before he could say anything, Teyla continued, "I was on my way to see Doctor Brown. Is there anything you need?"

Halling shook his head. "Jinto should be along soon." He waved a hand at the newly sharpened knives and tools on the table. "And I am almost done."

"In that case, I will see you later," she replied.

Halling nodded, and Teyla headed for a large tent near the clearing used for the jumpers.

"Doctor Brown?" Teyla called from outside the tent a few moments later. "May I come in?"

"Teyla!" Doctor Katie Brown replied and pushed back the tent flap. "I'm glad you stopped by. I'm just wrapping up my latest update on our research for Doctor Weir."

Teyla walked into the tent and looked around. Tables lined one wall of the tent. Clear plastic bins sat in rows on the tables, each containing a bundle of plants. Papers, a laptop computer, and what looked like several large maps were strewn across another table that Teyla assumed Doctor Brown used as a desk.

Teyla walked over to the desk and picked up one of the maps. "This is what the landmass looks like?" she asked as she studied the map.

"The continent is huge," Brown said as she stopped next to Teyla. "We still need to do the topographic survey, and I want to suggest to Doctor Weir that we consider a long term expedition to explore the landmass in greater detail than what we could get from aerial surveys alone."

"Such an expedition would take months," Teyla said.

"More like years," Brown replied. "But I think it would be worth the effort. Imagine everything we could learn!"

Teyla saw the excitement in Doctor Brown's expression and smiled. "Where is the village?" she asked as she studied the detailed drawing.

"We're here," Brown said and pointed to a corner of the map near the coast. "This area is mostly temperate rainforest."

She pointed to another section of the map lower down and near the middle of the map. "The landmass through here stretches beyond the planet's equator where the ecosystem is tropical. Sergeant Stackhouse reported several sandy beaches when he did a flyover of the area last week." She smiled and added. "He said he planned to suggest to Doctor Weir that the expedition needed to build a few cabanas on the beach in case anyone wanted to take a vacation from the city."

Teyla studied the map for a few seconds, then set it aside and wandered over to the rows of plastic bins of plants lined along a table against the back wall of the tent.

"You have added to your collection," she said with a smile.

"I could spend months just in the forest near the village," Brown replied.

Teyla smiled at the eager enthusiasm in her voice. Rodney often sounded the same whenever he discovered the purpose for one of the Ancestor's devices.

"Did you know many of the plants growing here," Doctor Brown waved her hand toward the trees visible from the tent, "are also common to the Pacific Northwest of the United States?"

"I did not," Teyla replied.

"It's amazing!" Brown said. "It will take us years to sort out the genetics between the genus' here and those on Earth." She walked over to the table and picked up one of the bins.

"Huckleberries, ferns," Brown said as she pointed to the different bins sitting on the table. "This one looks exactly like shallon," she said, holding out the bin in her hand.

"We call it gaultheria," Teyla said, picking up the carefully tied bundle from its bin. The leaves were small and attached to a woody stem. "When brewed into a tea, the leaves are good for coughs. The berries are often baked into bread."

Doctor Brown nodded and pointed to the other end of the table. "While there are several plants in common with Earth, I have never seen examples of plants like these before," she explained.

Teyla looked over the bundles. "You should take care with this one," she said and pointed to one of the bins. The leaves of the plant inside were a bright, glossy green while the berries were small and yellow. "Both the leaves and the berries are highly toxic."

Doctor Brown untaped the card attached to the front of the bin and made a note. "Thank you," she said. "If you don't mind, I would really appreciate any help you could offer with this project."

"I am happy to help in any way that I can," Teyla replied. "You may also wish to speak to Olette and Rada. Both know of many more plants in the forest, both beneficial and dangerous than I do."

Doctor Brown nodded and taped the card back in place. "I'll do that," she replied with a hesitant smile.

She glanced at Teyla then focused on the bins in front of her as she nervously pushed the containers around, making sure they were perfectly squared along the back of the table.

"Doctor Brown? Is everything all right?" Teyla asked.

"Yes, yes, of course," Doctor Brown replied. "This is the opportunity of a lifetime." She twitched another of the bins into place and smiled, but Teyla heard the false note in her tone and saw the way she hunched her shoulders when Teyla looked at her.

"I am certain you will make many new scientific discoveries, thanks to your research," Teyla offered. She frowned when instead of agreement, Brown gave her a hesitant glance before she focused on one of the bundles of plants. "You do not believe this to be the case?"

"It's not that," Doctor Brown replied, with a tiny smile. "I …" She paused and shook her head. "I, umm …" She took a deep breath and faced Teyla. "Do you know why Doctor McKay put me in charge of the planet survey?"

Teyla shook her head. "I would assume because you are the best qualified." She nodded her head toward the bins of plants. "You have made great progress in just the short time you have been here."

"Maybe." Brown tucked a loose piece of hair behind her ear. She tapped one of the bins and added. "I can't help but wonder if it was to get me out of the city."

"Why would Rodney choose to do such a thing?" Teyla asked.

Doctor Brown looked over at her in disbelief. "You and he are on the same team," she said. "Everyone in the city knows how close-knit you all are. Surely he said something to you about what happened on our date a few months ago."

Teyla thought back to the week she had spent on the mainland when Charin was ill. At the time, she'd had no idea what had happened to Rodney and Lieutenant Cadman on Thenora. By the time she returned to the city, Rodney and Lieutenant Cadman were back to their usual selves. Colonel Sheppard had told her a little of what had happened, but Rodney had refused to say much about what had occurred while he was sharing his body with the Lieutenant.

"In the months since then …" Brown sighed and looked out the tent flap. "I think this is just another way for him to avoid me," Brown admitted softly.

"I am certain that is not the case," Teyla replied.

Brown gave her a tiny smile and shook her head.

Teyla started to say something else when she was interrupted by the radio.

"Sheppard to Teyla," Sheppard said.

Teyla nodded to Brown and stepped out of the tent. "This is Teyla. Is everything all right, Colonel?"

"Everything's fine. McKay wants to make another run out to Ymber to play with the dart. Wanted to see if you were interested in coming along."

Teyla looked around at the activity in the village. She had planned to check in with a few of the other villagers, and there was a council meeting planned for that evening. On the other hand, she reminded herself, her team had made two other trips to Ymber over the last two weeks, and she had begged off joining them.

"You can say no," Sheppard told her. "We're not expecting any trouble."

Teyla smiled. While she had enjoyed the time on the mainland, maybe it was time to return to the city. For a few days, at least.

"I believe I will join you and the others," Teyla said.

"Good," Sheppard replied, and Teyla could imagine the smile on his face. "I'll let Elizabeth know."

"Do I have time to speak to Charin and a few of the other villagers before you arrive on the mainland?"

"Shouldn't be a problem," Sheppard replied. "Stackhouse is ferrying out another group of scientists. They should be ready to leave in an hour. Will that give you enough time?"

"That will be more than enough. Thank you, Colonel."

"Okay, then. We'll meet in the gateroom once you get back."

"Understood. Teyla out." Teyla tapped her earpiece and turned back to Doctor Brown.

"Go," Brown said with a tiny smile. "I will speak to Rada and Olette as you suggested and we can go over my findings once you return."

Teyla nodded. "I am certain everything with Rodney will work out in time," she said.

Brown stepped back and braced one hand on the table with the maps. "Maybe," she muttered.

Teyla wasn't sure what else to say, and merely nodded in farewell. She stepped outside and turned toward Charin's tent. It seemed her next cooking lesson would be delayed.

~*~*~*~ SGA ~*~*~*~

Rodney walked into his lab and dropped the bottles of water and power bars he'd picked up from the mess hall on the desk and tried to ignore Zelenka talking behind him.

"I still think you should wait until the Daedalus can bring the dart back to Atlantis before you attempt any flight tests," Zelenka said as he followed Rodney into the room, holding a tablet computer in one hand.

"I've already had this discussion with Sheppard and Elizabeth," Rodney retorted as he pulled his backpack out from under the desk and stuffed the laptop computer inside. "The Daedalus isn't due to return for almost a month. I'm not going to wait until it gets back here to start on the important research. Material samples and a data dump from the dart's computer are no match for actual in-the-field flight tests."

He added the bundle of cables from the corner of the desk to the pack and looked around for his roll of tools.

"Colonel Sheppard agreed to assist with the tests?"

"Of course, he did," Rodney replied, and scowled when he heard Radek snicker. "He's the only one who can fly it. He doesn't get a lot of choice."

"I know the feeling," Radek muttered under his breath.

Rodney glared at Zelenka who merely stood near the work table watching Rodney pack. "Any news from the research teams on the mainland?"

Radek tapped something on the computer screen. "The survey teams are expanding out from the village to the rest of the continent. The geologists are requesting a long-term expedition into the mountains to the south. Their initial survey recorded a number of impressive mineral readings."

Rodney nodded. "Saw those during Sheppard's little field trip."

"They have also found a few fossilised bones in some of their testbeds. Doctor Volkov has put in a request for a palaeontology team to check the sites."

"Oh, the SGC will love trying to explain that in a non-disclosure statement." Rodney shook his head. "Anything else?"

"The seismic sensors are all in place, Sergeant Stackhouse is readying a jumper to fly the next group of biologists out to the mainland to start a census of the various animal species."

Radek looked up from the computer, giving Rodney a knowing glance. "And Doctor Brown believes she has discovered several new plant species as well as many that appear common to the Pegasus galaxy and Earth."

Rodney grunted at the news and tried not to think about Katie Brown. He still had no idea how to interact with her since their disastrous date. She had tried to start a few conversations with him both in the hallways outside his lab and in the mess hall since then. Each time he had mumbled an excuse and left as quickly as he could. He kept hoping she would take the hint and let any idea of a relationship between them drop.

He walked back to his desk and picked up the bottles of water and power bars. "What about the repairs to Jumper Six?" he asked as he stuffed the extra food and water in the pack and zipped it closed.

"Tsao is already working on repairs to the secondary systems. We cannot do anything about the drive systems until Daedalus returns with the materials we need. If everything goes to plan, we should have the jumper flight worthy a few weeks after that."

Rodney nodded even though he hated the prolonged delay.

They were lucky the jumper was in any condition to be repaired at all. Stackhouse's team had run into a Wraith outpost while on a simple planet survey and the ship had been grazed by a lucky shot from a Wraith dart as Stackhouse approached the stargate on P2Z-845. The dart had caught them only a short distance from the 'gate, and Stackhouse had managed to keep the jumper under control long enough for the automatic systems to engage, allowing them to escape, and more importantly, not lose the shuttle.

As it was, the ship had sustained serious damage to the drive system from the initial hit. Most of the secondary systems were overloaded as Stackhouse fought to keep the jumper airborne long enough to get home.

"At least two more months with the jumper out of commission," Rodney muttered to himself.

"It cannot be helped," Radek replied.

"No," Rodney agreed. He shook his head as he picked up the pack and walked toward the door.

They had already lost one of the ships on Lurra and another on Olesia due to crashes. They had lost a third ship when Markham was shot down defending the city. Needless to say, they couldn't afford to lose any more. It wasn't like they could call up the manufacturer and order new ones.

"You're starting the exploration of the next tower today, aren't you?" Rodney asked.

Radek nodded as he followed Rodney out of the lab. "Yes. According to the database, that tower should have some worthwhile research or technology. There are what appears to be several large, open spaces. They could be research labs or some sort of testing facility."

"Fine," Rodney said as he swiped at the sensor for the transporter. "I should be back in a couple of days. If you find anything interesting over there, wait for me to get back before you go tampering with it."

Zelenka made a face and Rodney grinned. "Don't blow up my city while I'm gone," he added as the transporter door closed.

He walked into the gateroom a few minutes later, adjusting the holster for his Beretta, and looked around. "Are we leaving or not?" he asked Sheppard as the 'gate remained quiet.

"We're waiting for Teyla," Sheppard replied. "Stackhouse just landed, so she should be here soon."

"Oh, umm, okay."

"Problem?" Ronon asked.

"Hmm? No, just surprised Teyla decided to come with us," Rodney replied. "She's been spending a lot of time on the mainland recently."

"She has responsibilities to her people, too, you know," Sheppard said.

"Yes, yes, yes, I know that," Rodney retorted. "I, just … You know what, never mind."

It was a few more minutes before Rodney heard footsteps coming from the direction of the armoury, and Teyla walked into the gateroom.

"Colonel," Teyla greeted. She smiled at Rodney and Ronon. "I apologise if I have kept you waiting long."

"No need," Sheppard said and looked up at the control room. "Chuck, dial us up."

"Yes, sir," Chuck called back, and Rodney watched as the lights ran around the 'gate.

A few seconds later the wormhole formed with a whoosh.

"Colonel, we'll see you in a few days," Elizabeth said from the railing overlooking the gateroom.

"Roger that," Sheppard said. He stepped through the 'gate, and Rodney followed a few steps behind.

"Something's wrong," Ronon said as soon as the 'gate shut down. He pulled out his particle weapon and stalked over to the DHD.

Rodney looked around at the empty clearing. "There's no one here," he said.

"No, Ronon is correct," Teyla said, raising her P-90. "Something has frightened the insects and animals. Everything is too still."

Rodney gave the clearing another wary look and felt his heart speed up.

"Fan out," Sheppard ordered as he readied his P-90.

Rodney unholstered his Beretta and started to follow Sheppard, but John pushed him down behind the DHD.

"Stay here," John said. "If we need to make a quick exit, you need to dial the 'gate."

Rodney swallowed and nodded as Sheppard, Ronon, and Teyla paced across the clearing to the nearby trees.

"Anything?" Sheppard asked over the open radio channel a few minutes later.

"Nothing," Teyla replied.

"The ground is bad for holding tracks," Ronon added. "Someone might still be here, but there's no way to tell who or how many of them there might be."

Rodney stood up and walked over to John. "So are we staying or not?"

Sheppard studied the trees for a moment then waved at Ronon. "Take point," he said. "Keep your eyes open."

Ronon nodded and led the way into the woods.

It was a thirty-minute walk to the clearing where they had moved the dart on their first return mission to Ymber, and Rodney kept one wary eye on the surrounding trees as he followed Sheppard.

"Don't say it," Rodney ordered after they had been walking for a few minutes.

"Say what?" John asked, and Rodney heard the note of false innocence in his tone.

"You were right, okay? It was a good idea to move the dart away from the 'gate the first time we came back here."

John turned around and grinned. "Told you."

"I said, don't say it!" Rodney exclaimed, and Sheppard chuckled.

Rodney was still grumbling under his breath when Teyla fell into step next to him and said, "Have you learnt much about the dart yet?"

Rodney glanced over at her and shook his head. "Not really. I dumped the computer on our first trip back, but to get any real data," he glanced at Sheppard's back and raised his voice, "I need to take readings while someone is flying it."

John turned around. "And I agreed."

"Hovering a couple of meters off the ground is not what I meant," Rodney retorted.

"Well, it's the best you're going to get until we have the dart secured back in Atlantis."

Rodney glowered at Sheppard's back and muttered under his breath.

"I saw Doctor Brown on the mainland this morning," Teyla said with a smile.

Rodney glanced at her, then focused on the surrounding trees.

"She believes you have sent her to the mainland to avoid any contact with her," Teyla continued.

Rodney grunted and refused to meet Teyla's eyes.

The truth was he had put Katie in charge of the science teams on the mainland in part to avoid any more awkward conversations in the hallways. He didn't know what to say to her, he didn't want to hear anything she had to say to him, and he just wanted the whole embarrassing problem to go away.

"You should speak to her," Teyla said. "Tell her why you are avoiding her."

"I'm not …"

Teyla pursed her lips, and Rodney tried again.

"There's nothing to say," he muttered and hurried to catch up with Sheppard.

Ten minutes later they walked into another clearing and Rodney stared in disbelief at the empty field in front of him. "Where's -" he started to ask.

"Down!" Ronon shouted as several Wraith stun beams shot out of the surrounding trees.

Rodney ducked and fell back as one of the beams flew over his head. "Where did they come from?" he exclaimed to no one in particular as Ronon, Sheppard and Teyla returned fire. "This planet is deserted!"

"Worry about that later," Sheppard replied as he fired another burst into the trees. "Get back to the 'gate!"

Teyla fired at another Wraith drone coming out of the trees behind them, then led the way back to the clearing with the 'gate.

Rodney started to follow her but froze when another drone blocked his path. The drone arched its back as Rodney heard gunfire behind it. He instinctively ducked when a red beam of light passed by him and looked up in surprise when the energy beam hit the Wraith drone.

The drone fell to the ground with a neat hole in its chest. Rodney saw Teyla drop her aim at the same time Ronon shouted, "Run!" behind him.

Rodney needed no more encouragement. Teyla turned and ran through the trees, Rodney only a few steps behind her. He heard Ronon and Sheppard shooting behind him, glanced back, and saw two more drones fall to the ground as three more took up the chase.

The thirty-minute hike to the clearing was a heart-stopping race back to the stargate. Rodney heard another burst of fire behind him from Sheppard's P-90 along with the whine of Ronon's particle weapon as he dodged around a tree. The tree disintegrated a few seconds later when a Wraith blast hit it.

He was fumbling for the Beretta on his hip when Sheppard and Ronon caught up to him.

"Keep moving," Sheppard ordered, and pushed Rodney in the direction of the 'gate.

Rodney waited until Ronon dropped another of the drones then ran after Teyla. He burst out of the trees a few minutes later and found four more Wraith drones standing guard at the DHD.

Teyla was already crouched behind a boulder, returning fire, and Rodney ducked down beside her as more stun beams shot in their direction. He pulled out the Beretta, fired in what he hoped was the vicinity of the Wraith, and heard the sharp report from Teyla's P-90 next to him.

One of the Wraith fell, Rodney wasn't sure which of them had hit it. He fired a few more shots before the Beretta clicked empty and he fumbled for the extra magazine.

He had the gun reloaded, looked up, and saw another of the drones drop and lie still as Teyla shifted her aim toward one of the two Wraith still near the DHD. Rodney pointed the Beretta and was ready to shoot again when he heard a noise behind him. At the same time, several red beams shot over his head, hitting the two remaining drones as Ronon and Sheppard ran into the clearing.

"There's still a few of them behind us," Sheppard said as he turned and fired behind him. "Rodney, dial the 'gate!"

Rodney scurried over to the DHD, punched in the address for Atlantis, and watched as the wormhole formed. As soon as the event horizon settled, he punched in his IDC and ducked as more Wraith blasts flew into the clearing.

"Go!" Sheppard ordered. "We're right behind you."

Rodney glanced back, saw Sheppard, Ronon, and Teyla backing toward the 'gate and made a run for it.

He skidded to a stop in the gateroom and ducked as a stun beam hit the wall near the steps leading up to the control room. The guard detail for the gateroom surged forward as Rodney bent with his hands braced on his knees as Teyla, Ronon, and Sheppard followed him a few seconds later.

"Raise the shield!" Sheppard ordered.

The shield flared, and Rodney grimaced when he heard several impacts against the energy field before the 'gate shut down.

"Was that Wraith or more stun beams?" he asked, standing up straight and staring at the 'gate as the shield disengaged.

"Doesn't matter," Ronon replied and holstered his particle weapon.

"What happened? Are all of you all right?" Elizabeth asked as she ran down the steps from the control room.

"We walked into an ambush," Sheppard told her. He glanced from Ronon to Teyla, and finally to Rodney. "Any ideas on why they were there?"

"Scouting for a new base?" Teyla suggested.

"Bad luck," Ronon offered. "For them anyway."

Rodney snapped his fingers several times. "Homing beacon," he said and glanced from John to Elizabeth. When both of them gave him a blank look, he added, "The dart. It had to have some sort of homing signal. The Wraith just followed the signal. The planet is deserted, there's no other reason for them to be there. It had to be something inside the dart."

Elizabeth gave him a startled look. "We've had the dart from Thenora in one of the large hangers for months now. Are you telling me the Wraith can track it?"

"There was barely anything left of that dart," Rodney told her with a dismissive wave. "We're lucky we got what little information from it that we did." He shuddered at the memory of him and Carson trapped in a buried Ancient ship after the Wraith attacked Drellim. "That's one of the reasons I wanted to study this one."

"What about the dart Lieutenant Ford found?" Teyla asked. "Why did the Wraith not discover his encampment?"

Rodney shook his head. "Who knows how long that one had been sitting on that planet waiting for Ford to come along with his crazy plan. There were so many damaged systems it was barely flight-worthy."

"Now you tell me," John grumbled.

Rodney ignored him. "The point is, the beacon must have been damaged in that one as well." He glanced back at the 'gate. "I guess it was a good thing the Daedalus didn't have time to pick up the dart before returning to Earth."

"I think it goes without saying there won't be any return trips to Ymber any time soon," Elizabeth said.

"Too bad, I was getting used to the place," Sheppard said. "Wasn't half bad when it wasn't raining."

"Doesn't matter now," Rodney replied with a shrug. "The dart is gone." He shrugged off his backpack as he walked out of the gateroom. He hoped Radek was having a better day than he was.

~*~*~*~ SGA ~*~*~*~

Radek glanced up from the computer on the work table as Sergeant Thompson and his team walked into the lab, followed by several additional Marines.

"Hey, Doc," Thompson said as he nodded to the huddle of scientists already in the room. "We're ready to go whenever you are."

"Yes, yes, Sergeant, thank you," Radek replied and turned back to the men and women in front of him. "Each of you has your assignments. This is survey only, please. Film the rooms you find and note any items of interest. Once we have an idea of what is there, we can prioritise which rooms are worth a closer look."

He waited until the scientists in front of him nodded, then turned to Thompson. "Sergeant?"

Thompson nodded and stepped forward. "Two Marines will accompany each team," he said. "They need to clear any rooms before you enter," he said with a glance at the scientists huddled around Radek's work table. "Let's keep everyone safe."

Radek smiled as the teams in front of him gathered up their gear. "Each team has someone with the ATA gene, however, I must say again, do not touch any items you may find in the rooms."

"Yeah, wouldn't want to find something interesting before McKay," someone at the back of the room muttered a little too loudly.

Radek glared at the back corner. "Those of you with the gene are only to trigger doors and lights. As Sergeant Thompson said, stay safe."

As each scientific team prepared to leave, Thompson assigned two Marines to each group until only he, Sergeant Garcia, and Radek's team of scientists were left.

"Lead the way, Doc," Thompson said as they headed back to the transporter.

Once the transporter opened on the floor of the new tower Radek had assigned to his group, Thompson and Garcia stepped out and checked the hallway.

From what Radek could see, the transporter opened into a sort of atrium with hallways leading away in three different directions.

Thompson glanced at Garcia a few moments later and both men lowered their weapons. Thompson turned and nodded to Radek, who led his group into the atrium and pulled the tablet computer out of his pack.

"Where do you want to start?" Thompson asked.

"That way, I believe," Radek replied and pointed down the hallway to their right. "According to the Ancient database, there should be several large rooms that may be of interest."

Thompson nodded to Garcia. "Take point. I've got our six."

"Yes, Sergeant," Garcia replied and led the way down the hall to the first room.

It didn't take them long to work out a system to quickly search the rooms dotting the corridor. Doctor Marcus followed Garcia as they checked each room, triggering the controls for the door and the lights allowing Garcia to clear each room. Once Garcia gave the all-clear, the rest of the group followed him inside.

The first few rooms they checked held little of interest. Most of them were empty, though Radek did find a supply of what looked like spare parts for various systems in one of the rooms. He waited until Doctor Matthews finished filming the room, then nodded to Sergeant Thompson.

"You sure you want to keep going, Doc?" Thompson asked as they left the room. "There doesn't seem to be much on this floor."

"There are only a few rooms left down this hallway, Sergeant, and Doctor McKay wants a thorough record."

"You're the boss," Thompson replied. He gestured to Sergeant Garcia, who led the way to the next door.

"Looks like a military barracks," Garcia said a moment later as the lights came up in the room.

"I do not believe the Ancients had such basic living quarters, Sergeant," Radek replied as he walked into the room with his head down as he made a few notes in the computer. "Then again, I could be wrong," he finished as he gazed around the room.

Beds lined the wall opposite the door, each partitioned from the next by a wall that reached three-quarters of the way to the ceiling. Along with the bed, each space contained a narrow desk, a chair, and a small storage cabinet. Another row of beds stood along the wall with the door. A long table stood in the middle of the room with ten chairs on each of its long sides.

"It is strange, most of the living quarters we have found are private rooms, like the ones we are using in the central tower," Radek said as he walked down the row of beds. "Why would this tower be different?"

"There doesn't seem to be anything else here," Doctor Matthews said. "Do you still want it filmed?"

Radek looked up to see Matthews standing in the doorway, holding the small video camera in his hands. "Yes, yes, go ahead." He glanced at his watch and made a note on the map displayed on the computer.

Once Matthews was done filming, Thompson led the way out of the room. There were three more doors along the hallway. Behind each one was another room with the same layout of basic accommodations.

"Well, that was pretty much a bust," Radek heard Doctor Marcus mutter as they left the last room.

Radek couldn't help his silent agreement at the sentiment. "Perhaps the next corridor will be more interesting," he said with a glance at Marcus.

Marcus grunted and fell into step behind Garcia.

Radek brought up the rear of their little procession with Thompson beside him. He really hoped the next corridor would yield something of interest. He would never hear the end of it from Rodney if the only thing the exploration teams found in the tower was floor after floor of dormitories.

They walked back to the atrium, and Garcia glanced from one hallway to the next. "Any preference?"

"We may as well see what's down the middle corridor, Sergeant," Radek replied.

There were fewer rooms along the second hallway. Radek followed Garcia and Marcus into the first room and let out a breath when he saw rows of tables in the middle of the room and counters lined along the walls. A few Ancient devices sat on the counters, and Radek saw more stored on shelves behind glass doors.

"This remind anyone else of college Chem classes?" Matthews asked as he filmed the room.

Radek nodded. "There is a resemblance, yes," he said with a smile. "It would make sense. This was a city. There had to be a way for the Ancients to educate their young."

"So we found the boarding school?" Thompson asked as they walked out of the room. "I don't think Doctor McKay is going to be impressed."

Radek smiled. "No, I do not think we will be returning to this section of the tower any time soon." He turned to Sergeant Garcia and added, "We may as well -"

"Doctor Zelenka? Come in, please," Doctor Kusanagi called over the radio.

Radek glanced up at Thompson as he tapped his earpiece. "Yes, go ahead, please," he said.

"Sergeant," Thompson said to Garcia and motioned for Garcia to wait.

"We found something," Kusanagi said.

"What sort of something?" Radek asked.

"It is," she paused, and Radek heard muted voices over the radio. "I really think you need to see it for yourself."

Radek pursed his lips. "All right, we will be there shortly. Zelenka out."

"Doc?" Thompson asked as Radek turned back toward the atrium and the transporter.

"Doctor Kusanagi's team found something she thinks I need to see," Radek explained as he checked the map on the tablet computer. "They are several floors above us."

"Change of plans," Thompson said to Garcia. "Freddo, we're heading up to meet Baker's team. The scientists up there think they have something."

"Hope it's better than what we've got down here," Garcia muttered and headed out the door.

Radek saw Thompson's smile and couldn't disagree with Garcia's assessment.

They headed back to the transporter and Radek tapped the section of the map assigned to Kusanagi's team. The transporter opened on a wide hallway with a bank of windows overlooking the ocean far below.

Doctor DeCampo stood near the windows, pacing back and forth. "Doctor Kusanagi is down this way," she said as she led the way down the hall.

"What is so special about this room?" Radek asked as he followed her.

"It's …" DeCampo rounded the corner of the hall where two wide doors stood open. "Well, see for yourself," she said and stepped into the room.

"It's beautiful," Radek whispered as he stopped just inside the door.

There was no obvious source for the lighting in the room, no fixtures in the ceiling or along the walls, but a warm glow lit the room, reminding Radek of afternoons spent exploring the botanical gardens near Cambridge. The walls of the room were textured stone as opposed to the metal and glass in other areas of the city and were a light tan in color. Ancient text, painted in a darker brown covered the wall to the left of the door. Narrow stained glass windows ran along the top of the wall abutting the ceiling, tinting the walls and the floor in a rainbow of colors as sunlight filtered through the glass. A line of narrow compartments, each separated from the next by what looked like an etched glass partition, stood against the wall opposite the door.

It was what stood in the middle of the room that captured Radek's attention. The clustered-together consoles were smaller than the ones in the control room. Instead of the panels set out in rows, the consoles surrounded a tall column that resembled many of the city's stained glass windows and reached nearly to the ceiling.

"What could it be for?" Radek asked more to himself than the gaggle of scientists and Marines standing nearby.

"No idea," DeCampo replied. "That's why Doctor Kusanagi thought you would want to see it."

"Not only me," Radek said as he walked around the consoles and the pillar. "Rodney is definitely going to want to know about this."