"We need to go back."

"Excuse me?" said Weir. She and Sheppard were having coffee in her office. "I don't think I heard you correctly."

"We can't leave a jumper on that planet -- especially on that planet. The Goa'uld love Ancient technology. They figured out the gate system and how to use it to subjugate an entire galaxy. Do you really want to leave a full-functioning jumper on that planet?"

Weir pursed her lips, momentarily stymied and Sheppard pressed his advantage. "Elizabeth, I know you have reservations about this," he held up a hand as her eyebrows disappeared into her hair at his understatement, "but you also know what the Goa'uld are capable of."

She shook her head. "Assuming I approve this mission – and I'm not saying I am, is Rodney even up to it?"

"I was planning on taking Zelenka instead."

Weir frowned at his tone, something told her it wasn't concern for McKay's health that led Sheppard's decision. "Why?"

"Well, like you said, Rodney's leg…" he said, lamely.

She narrowed her eyes. "Fine." He was obviously avoiding the real issue but she was not ready to draw him into a full-fledged battle at the moment. She doubted Carson would have approved of Rodney's participation anyway. "If you can get one of the scientists to go with you, you have a go," she said, knowing he'd never get Radek or anyone else from the science department back through the gate to that planet. After all, they read mission reports, too. Most had heard how badly their department head had been injured on his last mission.

-o-

Crutches clunked against the floor rhythmically as Rodney struggled to catch up to Sheppard in the hall. "I hear you're going back for the jumper."

"Yeah."

"Stop for a second, will you?" he called, panting. He was relieved when the colonel halted and let him catch up. "When do we leave?" he asked, still puffing and wincing as an injudicious movement sent a stab of pain through his thigh.

"We don't. Zelenka is coming."

"Oh, yeah, right. He was in the infirmary when they changed my dressing one day, you're not going to get him within thirty-two thousand light years of the place, which -- what do you know? -- is exactly how far away we are right now."

Sheppard gritted his teeth and paced, knowing McKay was right and hating it -- no amount of gentle persuasion or outright threats had managed to move the Czech. He stopped suddenly and spun around, pinning the scientist to the wall with his forearm and ignoring Rodney's yelp of pain as he lost his balance and put too much weight on his sore leg. "Fine, if Beckett okays it, you can come. But let's just get one thing straight: It's my job to walk in front of bullets. It's your job to fix jumpers, not participate in misguided heroics -- fix jumpers, make nuclear bombs, and blow up solar systems," said Sheppard, ticking the items off on the fingers of his free hand. "You got that?"

Rodney cocked his head at him, searching his eyes, and finally understanding. "Got it," he said simply.

Sheppard seemed a little taken aback by the unexpectedly amenable response. "Good." He released Rodney, helping him catch his balance. "It's not like you're going to get Beckett to agree anyway," he muttered.

-o-

Carson was on the verge of questioning the scientist's sanity. "Rodney, you're barely out of the infirmary, and still on crutches. There's no way I'm clearing you for a mission."

"First of all, it's not really a mission. It's more of a scoop and run."

"Semantics."

Rodney rolled his eyes. "The point is -- we need to get the ship back. We can't do that with a shield around it and I can't remove the shield unless I'm there." He tried a different tactic. "Look, there will be a whole jumper full of marines with us, armed to the teeth." As Carson drew a breath to argue, he continued, "And we'll use the lifesigns detector on the ship before we land, to make sure there's not an army of natives hiding behind the rocks waiting to ambush us. What could go wrong?" There was a stunned silence as both men processed the last statement. "Forget I said that," Rodney quickly amended.

"Why can't Radek go?"

"It's not a matter of can't. He won't."

"Have you even asked him?"

"He told Sheppard the only way the colonel was getting him to that planet was to…" He paused, trying to recall the exact wording. "'…take cold, dead, rotting corpse through gate, kicking and screaming'. So I'm guessing that's a 'no'."

"Your leg is barely healed…"

"I don't need to run a marathon to fix a shield on a jumper. It's mostly just laptop work. I'll probably get less exercise there then I would here." Beckett was still shaking his head, unconvinced. "Look, Carson, we can't leave a jumper in the hands of a Goa'uld. They're really good when it comes to scavenging technology, especially Ancient technology. It might even be able to override the gene requirement. Who knows what it'd do with a fully working jumper? I've destroyed their power source and cloaking system, so now the Wraith will know there's a smorgasbord waiting for them on the planet. What if it tries to form an alliance with them when they arrive? The navigational data in the jumper will lead them right back here to our front door. Not to mention that neither Sheppard nor I remember what we might have said under the influence of that hand device."

"Now you're reaching," said Beckett. "What are the chances it would be able to form some sort of alliance with the Wraith?"

"Are you willing to take that risk? Did you really enjoy the last Wraith attack on Atlantis so much that you'd like to do the whole thing all over again?"

The doctor looked a bit uncertain as the memories of the last Wraith siege came screaming back. "Surely there's someone else…"

"No, there isn't. Look, I want to finish what we started. I -- I need to do this, Carson," he finally admitted.

-o-

"I'm reading only one lifesign nearby," announced Lorne from the co-pilot's seat.

"Okay, I'm putting her down."

A slew of marines exited, taking up positions on either side of both jumpers.

Sheppard put an arm out when Rodney would have followed them and checked his handheld lifesign detector before he tucked it in his vest, stepping in front of the scientist. "Come out with your hands where I can see them," he called, gripping his P-90.

Melosh appeared, hand out at his sides. "I am unarmed."

Lorne cautiously patted the man down, confirming he carried no weapons. "I killed you once, I have no problems doing it again," said the major quietly before backing away, his P-90 still trained on the man.

"Maybe Beckett could, you know, with the Asgard beaming technology," began Ronon softly to Rodney.

The scientist shook his head, remembering their last encounter. "This is different. I think Melosh is happy he can serve his god in this way."

Sheppard nodded for Rodney to get to work on the other jumper now that he knew Melosh was no threat. The former Athosian's eyes had never left Teyla's form.

Teyla returned his regard for a moment. "What do you want, Melosh?" she finally asked.

He began walking toward her. "I came to talk to you. I knew you would come back."

"That's far enough," said Sheppard, raising his P-90 at the man, who stopped.

Teyla shook her head sadly. "We have nothing to say to each other."

Melosh's eyes glowed. "I could be very helpful to you," said Denwen. He turned to include the entire company in his glance. "All of you."

"We don't need the kind of help a Goa'uld could provide," said Sheppard

Melosh lowered his head, then looked back up. "You know what is wrong with you, Teyla Emmagan?" he asked in his normal voice. "You have no faith."

"I have faith, Melosh -- faith in my friends." Her wave encompassed her team.

Rodney looked up in surprise to find himself included in her gesture, but then gave a small, pleased harrumph as he turned back to his laptop. With the entry of one last command, the shield glowed blue for a second, then vanished. "That should do it."

Melosh took another step forward, realizing his time was running out. "Think of what we could accomplish, Teyla."

"You're a Goa'uld," said Sheppard.

"I am the sum of the best of both." He turned to Teyla. "With you at my side, we could rule an empire. I could cover you with jewels and bend entire worlds to your every whim. You would be a queen!"

"Are you ready to go?" Sheppard asked Teyla quietly.

"Yes," she said, turning to follow him.

Melosh stared at her in disbelief, unable to fathom her refusal.

She turned back toward him and paused a moment before entering the jumper. "You never really knew me at all."

END


AN & Credits:

From the Gods and Mythology of Ancient Egypt website:
Denwen - The Fiery Serpent
Wadjet - The Serpent Goddess

Ronon's hair comment provided by hubby :-)

I actually started working on this before "Critical Mass" but then I had to do some editing to make it fit with the current canon once I saw the episode. Hopefully it has all been integrated seamlessly but if you find a glitch, lemme know.