Disclaimer: Stargate Atlantis is in no way, shape, or form mine, nor do I make any profit from the following story. It is a work of fan fiction necessitated by the three-plus month hiatus between the first 10 episodes and the remainder of the first season!

Ghosts of Prague

By Kerr Avon

The Golem

"All right, Major, follow my finger." Carson held up the index finger on his right hand and moved it first side-to-side, then up and down. Sheppard's eyes dutifully followed despite the stabbing pain shooting through his skull. He had started waking up at the worst possible moment - about halfway up the vertical shaft. Fortunately, knowing the Major's affinity with Murphy's Law, Beckett had used triple the normal number of straps to secure him to the stretcher, and had arranged for Ford to ascend the shaft alongside him. Still, by the time he was hauled through the trapdoor, he was half out of his restraints in his confusion and panic. Both he and Zelenka were transported rapidly to the infirmary, where they remained overnight under Carson's watchful eye.

Beckett pulled a penlight out of his pocket. "All right, look straight ahead." He flashed the light into the left pupil and away, then repeated the procedure on the right, grunting in satisfaction. "Well, no permanent harm done. Be grateful you have a hard head; that robot could have done a lot more damage." Carson pursed his lips unhappily. "As it is, you're going to be our guest for a few days at least."

Sheppard shot him his 'Oh, pshaw, I'm fine' look, closing his eyes and tilting his head to the side. "Come on, doc, I'll rest better in my own quarters."

"I have tried to explain that to him already," piped up Zelenka's voice from the next bed. Dropping his tone, he grumbled, "Particularly after last night."

Beckett glared at them both disapprovingly. "You both experienced significant head trauma with a witnessed loss of consciousness for more than three minutes. Believe me when I tell you that rest was not really in the agenda; you both had to be awakened every two hours to check your mental status for deterioration."

"But McKay is having all the fun!" Zelenka blurted, dismayed. By the time I get out of here, he will have completed an analysis of everything."

"Don't worry, there's plenty of 'fun' to be had," came a pained sigh from the doorway. The three turned to see Rodney standing there, holding his previously 'good' hand out in front of himself.

Beckett rolled his eyes. "Don't tell me you've burned your other hand?" He gently pried open the clenched fist. "Oh, Bloody Hell! Rodney, what did I tell you about using tools instead of your fingers to make electrical connections?" He grabbed him by the elbow and escorted him to a chair. "Sit here and don't move. I'll go get my supplies." Shaking his head in disgust, Beckett left the room.

Sheppard couldn't resist. "So, Rodney, what'd you do to yourself?"

McKay shot him a disgusted look and sarcastically replied, "I didn't 'do this to myself'; All I did was pick up a piece of equipment on the table in the upper room..."

"That held a charge after ten thousand years?" Zelenka raised a skeptical eyebrow.

"Hey, the lights came on when we first arrived!" responded McKay indignantly.

"Yes, but they were hooked up to the base power source." Even Sheppard was dubious now.

Rodney rolled his eyes. "Oh, all right. I hooked it up to the base power before I got burnt; happy? How was I supposed to know that it would get so hot?"

Beckett had returned with a basin, saline, and a debridement kit. "I though that we agreed you weren't going to do that anymore."

"Hey, I don't remember any 'agreement'. I remember you trying to tell me my job..."

"And I was right, too." Beckett interrupted, raising his eyebrow.

Rodney had the grace to back down at that point. "Yes," he mumbled under his breath.

"Wha' was that? I dinna think I heard you." Carson was truly enjoying himself as he finished setting out his equipment and lay McKay's hand on a treatment stand, palm up.

"You were right, all right? Owww! Take it easy!" Beckett had begun to debride the worst of the burn. To take his mind off his hand, McKay turned to Zelenka.

"You were right about how the robot is activated, by the way. Apparently, tracing the pattern on the thing's forehead activates it, while touching just the far left portion turns it off." Rodney was truly curious at this point. "How did you know?" He looked at his hand in sudden pain. "Ow, careful!"

The Czech shrugged. "It was an educated guess."

Sheppard creased his eyebrows, confused. "Educated in what?"

Zelenka's eyes lost their focus as he stared at something far away. "So many of the things we've encountered since finding the Stargate are related to Earth legends...and I had been thinking about the stories of my youth..."

Rodney was impatient. "What does that have to do with anything?"

Sheppard shot him a warning glance; he was interested in the engineer's story. Beckett, applying the bandage to McKay's new injury, pressed slightly harder than necessary as well. "Hey, be careful there!" was Rodney's response, forgetting his earlier impatience.

Zelenka grinned widely, and continued with his narrative. "My childhood was steeped in the legends of my city, many of which are somewhat...macabre. One of these tales concerned Rabbi Loew and his creation. The rabbi lived in a time of great unrest; the people of the Jewish quarter were worked almost to the point of slavery, and there were frequent raids by the nearby Christian community that resulted in violence and death. He prayed every night for a way to protect his people and help them with their work.

"One night, his prayers were answered. God told him how to make a Golem. The next morning he went to the river and made the man-like creature out of clay per the instructions in his dream. The last thing he did was to carve the word 'Emet', meaning 'justice' into its forehead, bringing it to life. Each day he placed a paper in its mouth with instructions for the day's tasks: 'Wash everyone's windows', 'Cook everyone supper', 'Weed everyone's gardens', and so on. At night, the Golem had just one task; patrol the streets and keep the rabbi's people from harm at the hands of others.

"This worked quite well, at first. The people were safe and happy. The creature, however, was not. Rabbi Loew had made him too lifelike. The Golem became jealous of the people he served; he could never laugh, or play, or sleep. He became increasingly violent, and ultimately insane. The rabbi had to stop the Golem before it hurt someone, so he approached it carefully. The Golem knew his intention however, and a battle ensued in which the rabbi was gravely injured. As his creation was squeezing the life out of him, he reached up to its forehead and erased the 'E', leaving only 'Met' inscribed. 'Met' means 'death', and so the Golem died. Unfortunately, so did Rabbi Loew, of his injuries.

"When I saw the Ancient word for 'life' on the android's forehead, I took a wild guess; after all, if you erase the first letter..."

McKay's eyes widened. "It's the Ancient word for 'death'."

"Major Sheppard couldn't stand much more anyway, so what did he have to lose? I told him to press that letter, and it worked." Zelenka concluded in his own self-effacing way.

Sheppard snorted. "Hey, I for one am glad it did." Heartfelt, he added, "Thank you."

Zelenka inclined his head. "You are welcome." He leaned back and closed his eyes as Rodney began to complain about both hands being bandaged. Smiling to himself, he reflected that most legends have their basis in truth. He had once met a man whose favorite saying was "The truth is out there". In this case it was. Way 'out there'.

AN: Congratulations to everyone who recognized the Golem story in earlier chapters; it really did originate in Prague. The details vary, but it's mostly like what Zelenka describes. Also, thanks for all the wonderful reviews; sorry I didn't do more injury, but I think that's enough for one story. I'm considering another Beckett-whumping...opinions? Or do you have a different preference? Let me know!