Chapter 1

Teyla Emmagen panted slightly as she eyed her opponent over her upraised arm. Sweat streamed down her face, plastering her hair to her head. Seeing a slight flick in Elizabeth's eyes, Teyla quickly moved to block the woman's attack. A loud CRACK-CRACK echoed around the room as the wooden staffs slammed together.

Circling slowly, Elizabeth eyed Teyla just as carefully, looking for an opening. She feinted a lunge to the left, then pivoted quickly and, using all of her weight, she attacked Teyla from the right. Teyla, moving unbelievably fast, adjusted her balance, and blocked the blow. Giving Elizabeth a short nod, she stepped back, signaling that this practice was over.

Teyla walked over to the side benches, grabbed a towel, and plopped down. Smiling gently up at the exhausted Elizabeth, she said, "You are improving greatly, Dr. Weir. I cannot believe you have been training for only four months."

Dr. Elizabeth Weir, leader of the Atlantis expedition, only nodded her thanks. She was shaking from the exertion; grimly she resolved to spend less time at her desk, where the only strenuous activity she performed was turning her laptop on.

Elizabeth joined Teyla on the bench, both women enjoying a companionable silence. Teyla wiped her face with her towel, glancing over at the older woman. Elizabeth had approached Teyla four months ago, asking the Athosian leader if she had the time to train Elizabeth in the art of self-defense. Since her run in with Kolya and his men during the hurricane, Elizabeth had vowed that she would never again feel helpless, or defenseless.

Surprised, Teyla had readily agreed. "Why do you not ask Colonel Sheppard to train you?" she had asked, puzzlement clear in her voice. Elizabeth had paused, a slight blush coloring her cheeks. Hesitatingly, she had confessed to Teyla that she would have felt awkward, being touched and thrown around the room by John. Teyla was just as capable at defending herself as John and the other soldiers, and Elizabeth felt more at ease learning from the patient Athosian.

Dr. Weir glanced at her wrist, noting the time. She stood, saying to Teyla, "Thanks for the session, Teyla. I'll see you next week?" Teyla nodded her agreement and watched as Elizabeth headed out the door. Taking one last swig from her water bottle, Teyla rose and made her way to her quarters.

Showered and changed, the Athosian leader walked gracefully to the conference room. Elizabeth had called a special meeting of the staff, and, as part of the SGA-1 team, Teyla's presence was expected.

She entered the large room, noting that Dr. Weir and Colonel Sheppard had their heads together, animatedly discussing something. To Elizabeth's left was the taciturn Colonel Steven Caldwell, the commander of the Daedelus. As Teyla took a seat next to Caldwell, nodding the man a cool greeting, Dr. Rodney McKay bustled in, his face red and excited. Following him was Dr. Radek Zelenka, whose hands were cradling a laptop computer. Trailing the two scientists was Dr. Carson Beckett, Atlantis' chief medical officer, and Ronon Dex, the fugitive runner, and, since Lieutenant Aidan Ford's escape from Atlantis, the newest member of SGA-1. She glanced up as he took a seat next to her, his stoic face grim and serious.

Elizabeth looked up, noting that the entire senior staff was present.

"Good morning everyone. I called you here today because Dr. McKay and Dr. Zelenka have some information they want to share. Rodney?" Elizabeth smiled at the agitated scientist, who rose from his seat.

"Yes, yes. Thank you, Dr. Weir." Rodney rubbed his hands together. "As you are all aware, Atlantis requires an enormous amount of power to function. One of the reasons we go off-world is to try and locate more power sources. Most of these trips have been unsuccessful."

Teyla watched as John sighed, boredom already setting in. She smiled to herself as the boyish Colonel started fidgeting in his chair.

"In addition to the thousands of other jobs I perform," Rodney continued, his statement receiving a sour look from Dr. Zelenka, "one of my responsibilities is to examine Atlantis' computer system. Although it took some time, I managed to decode some pretty amazing information." Rodney paused, a smug smile on his face.

"Okay, Rodney, let's hear it, " John said wearily. Rodney opened his mouth, a finger upraised, but his announcement was interrupted by Radek.

"We've found blueprints and instructions on building a ZPM," he stated. Teyla held back a laugh at the disgruntled look Rodney shot at his colleague.

John shot forward, his hands slapping on the table. "You're kidding! We can actually build one of these things?"

"Oh no. Not just one – as many as we want, really." Rodney started pacing nervously behind his chair, his excitement apparent. "And not just power for Atlantis, but for Earth, as well."

"That's all well and good, Rodney, but what does building one of these ZPM things involve?" Carson asked. The doctor's brow furrowed with worry; the last time Rodney had extolled an energy source, it had ended badly, destroying three-fourths of a solar system.

"I've examined what seems to be a parts list, and most of the items can be reverse-engineered with Earth materials," Radek offered. "They're actually pretty basic elements, nothing very dangerous," he added hastily at Elizabeth's doubtful look.

"But…." John began, his eyes glaring at Rodney. The astrophysicist fidgeted for a moment, then huffed impatiently.

"There are a couple of items on the list that I…we…haven't heard of," he finally admitted. John crossed his arms and leaned back in his chair, shaking his head.

Colonel Caldwell also looked doubtful, while Elizabeth's face was thoughtful.

She leaned forward in her seat, and asked, "Rodney, if you haven't heard of them, how can you begin to try and find them? What if these items are dangerous? Look, I understand your excitement ," Elizabeth spread her hands in appeal to the irritated scientist, "but I need some more information before we go traipsing around the galaxy looking for God knows what!"

Teyla watched as the physicist's elation suddenly withered. Taking pity on the man, she spoke up.

"Dr. McKay. Perhaps if you and Dr. Zelenka could tell Ronon and I what these unknown items are, we could point you in the right direction." Teyla glanced at the runner, but his face remained impassive.

Teyla watched with amusement as Rodney's face transformed from morose to hopeful in a second. He apparently wasn't aware that of all the members of the staff, he was the one who wore his emotions on his sleeve. Only Carson Beckett, and sometimes John Sheppard, could be as transparent.

"Thank you Teyla. And Ronon," Rodney added hastily. Teyla watched as Radek switched on the laptop, and began to scroll through the Ancient writing. Rodney hovered over Radek's shoulder, his eyes scanning the screen.

"Okay, here it is," Rodney announced. Quickly, he started firing out the missing elements.

"Rolonium." Both Teyla and Ronon shook their heads.

"Mass spectral seralium." Negative.

"Pure extract of hygrate sodium." Rodney frowned as Ronon and Teyla continued to shake their heads.

"Gemon crystals." Teyla froze, her eyes wide. Next to her, Ronon looked down in surprise, sensing the sudden tension in her body.

"You know of this crystal, lass?" Carson asked gently. Teyla didn't answer, her hands curling into fists in her lap. Memories she thought were long-dead suddenly rose in her mind, and she shut her eyes tightly.

"Teyla?" Elizabeth's voice cut through the roaring in her ears, and she opened her eyes to the concerned gaze of the Atlantean leader.

Slowly, Teyla nodded her head. Across the table, Rodney's eyes lit up. He snapped his fingers excitedly, ignoring the look of apprehension on Teyla's face.

"Excellent! What is it, and more importantly, where is it?" Rodney barked. Radek shot him a look of warning, which Rodney promptly disregarded.

"Teyla? Is something wrong?" The concern in Colonel Sheppard's voice penetrated Teyla's fog, and she sighed. The past was the past. She could handle this.

"No, Colonel Sheppard," Teyla replied. John didn't look convinced, but allowed the matter to drop.

"Gemon crystals are mined on a world known as Caldron. The Athosians have maintained peaceful relations with the Caldronians for many years. I know the gate address where you can find these crystals," Teyla said softly to a delighted Rodney.

"Good, good, good. When do we leave?" Rodney looked up at Colonel Sheppard, who was eyeing the scientist with disdain. It was obvious to John that Teyla was upset, and as usual, Rodney didn't have a clue.

"Is there something we should know about this Caldron, Teyla?" asked Colonel Caldwell. He, too, had picked up on Teyla's discomfort.

"No, no. As I said, they have been peaceful allies with Athos for quite a while now," Teyla replied. Still, her body remained tense, her hands clenched.

Elizabeth eyed her silently for a moment, then turned to John.

"I suppose it wouldn't hurt to have a look," she said reluctantly. "However, I want everyone to be extra cautious. Are we agreed?"

She watched as Rodney impatiently nodded his head. Both John and Caldwell remained silent, their eyes on the subdued Athosian. Ronon, too, was gazing at Teyla, his face unreadable.

The meeting over, the staff filed out the door, Rodney and Radek arguing as they left. Elizabeth and John exchanged a glance, then Dr. Weir left the room. Soon, just Teyla and Colonel Sheppard remained in the room. John got up and slowly circled to where Teyla was seated.

"Okay, Teyla, what's going on?" he asked. He had never seen the Athosian leader so shaken, and his nerves were humming with warning. She raised her eyes to his, then took a deep breath and smiled shakily.

"As I said, Colonel. The Caldronians are friendly with Athos. You should have no problem acquiring these crystals Dr. McKay requires. However," Teyla paused, then stood, her hands planted firmly on the table. "I am afraid that I cannot accompany you on this mission. I will ask Halling to take my place."

John's eyes widened in surprise. Teyla had never refused to go off-world. He watched her face as she continued, her voice growing stronger.

"Halling has represented Athos for the last few years during trade negotiations. He is more aware of the …..customs…. of the Caldronians than I. I am sure he can barter for these crystals." Teyla looked at John, the determination apparent in her eyes. She wasn't going anywhere near that planet.

John held her gaze, Teyla's eyes alternately pleading and resolved. He placed a gentle hand on her shoulder.

"I don't like not having you with me, Teyla, but if that's the way you want it…" John trailed off, watching her shake her head.

"Yes, Colonel. That is the way it has to be," she said firmly. She turned and gracefully made her way out the door, aware of John's eyes on her the entire time.