Volo, Non Valeo
Radek Zelenka eyed the basket of Athosian fruit rolls. Even with the Daedalus making supply runs, Atlantis still traded for most of its food from planets in the Pegasus Galaxy. Green fur berries weren't strawberries after all. Radek put a yellow berry fruit roll on his tray and went to look for a seat. It was just after five a.m., the night shift was still at work and most of the day shift hadn't gotten up yet.
Radek took a seat in the back by one of the large windows. First light was showing over the ocean announcing the coming sunrise. It was going to be a long day. With Rodney in the infirmary once again, the leadership of the science department fell on Radek's shoulders. The news of their survival had leaked out, as it had been inevitable. Lieutenant Ford had only pushed up their timetable by a few months. Radek hoped that months were all that they needed. None of them had worked on this scale before. Bioweapons yes, Radek had worked on weapons' research before. What government wasn't paranoid? But they were thinking about wiping out an entire race. It was the Wraith who thought of Earth as the 'new feeding grounds'. They had to be stopped before they reached Earth or more humans would die. But many people in history had thought they had no other choice. Some days Radek wondered whether the world, if they knew about the Stargate program, wouldn't think that they, who had brought the threat home in the first place, weren't the devil incarnate.
"Do you mind if I sit there?" Dr. Beckett came walking up to his table. He looked tired and his clothing was rumpled. Radek wasn't sure whether the doctor had just gotten up or was going to bed.
"No, no, sit down," Radek said, nodded and bit into the fruit roll. He swallowed quickly to avoid the awful taste lingering in his mouth. Radek hurriedly sipped form his coffee, but it was far too hot.
"Green fur berries?" Carson asked sympathetically.
"I was sure I picked one with yellow berries, but you can never tell. Deroche is a little dilettante, trying to poison us." Radek wasn't a fan of the cooking on Atlantis, but he had eaten worse. It least there was enough coffee now that they had contact to Earth again.
"I don't think it's that bad, Dr. Zelenka." Carson's smile didn't reach his eyes. Radek could tell that it was more than the stress of the past few days weighing on him.
"How is Rodney doing?" Radek asked, afraid of what he might hear.
"Not so good, I'm afraid. Initially I thought he'd experienced the same neurological changes as Colonel Sheppard. I can't explain the Colonel's condition anymore than I can explain Rodney's, but at least the colonel is conscious and appears to be out of danger. I can't say the same for Rodney. He hasn't regained consciousness since yesterday and reads of his neural activity have steadily been dropping since he collapsed. Not even the Ancient equipment has been able to find any external or internal injuries that could explain that." Carson sighed. "I hate this part. We run into things we don't understand and then this happens! If we had had a clue about what we were dealing with we could have helped Aiden!"
"You should get some rest."
Radek didn't know what else to say. He would have liked to reassure Carson that he was confident in his ability to find a solution, but Radek didn't believe in lies.
"You are right. Elizabeth and Kate have been telling me the same for days," Carson said and took a sip from his coffee. Radek said nothing.
"I will come by to see Rodney later." Radek didn't have the time. He should have been up an hour ago, but he was going to make time to visit Rodney.
Nick Lorne carefully eyed the man standing next to him. Colonel Sheppard was back in uniform, a welcome sight after his CO had been missing for two weeks, but the way Sheppard was staring blankly ahead into space made Lorne uneasy. It was just going to be a quick trip. Nothing was going to happen, M2X-118 was a safe planet, or rather a moon. They had briefly considered setting up the alpha site there, but the prospect of a four-month-long rainy season had deterred them.
"We are good to go on our end, if you are ready, Major," Dr. Taylor told him. Nick was ready and so was Corporal Mars, who would accompany them, Nick wasn't so sure that Sheppard was ready to take the step through the Gate. His first journey through the Gate had been one of the most baffling experiences of his career. He hadn't been able to grasp it working until he had stepped out on the other side in another galaxy. He wasn't so sure yet whether he liked the Pegasus Galaxy. It was definitely interesting and unusual. Alien planets, exotic food, some of which he could have done without tasting, cool space ship and being able to switch stuff on with his mind. That was all cool. But paranoia was in vogue in the Pegasus Galaxy and seemingly for a good reason. Everyone was trying to get them.
"Are you ready, sir?" Nick asked Sheppard. Sheppard only nodded.
"Dial it up then."
Dr. Taylor entered the dialling sequences and the wormhole kawooshed into existence in a spectacle that still amazed a part of Nick Lorne. This time, he wasn't watching, though, he was discreetly watching Sheppard's reaction. The colonel hardly blinked as the deadly wave washed into the room without warning. Of course they were standing at a safe distance, but Sheppard didn't even appear startled the slightest bit or he had himself very well under control. Nick had already noticed that Sheppard liked to come across as just another flyboy, even though his brains and guts had pulled Atlantis out of some hot spots.
M2X-118 was balmy in the evening hours of local time. The area was quiet except for the sounds of insects. The first survey hadn't revealed any dangerous wildlife, so Nick wasn't worried; this was a safe planet. He and Mars were armed as a precaution only. The Wraith could always show up. Sheppard had finally taken an interest in what was going on. He was standing over the DHD, examining the symbols. Lorne had never cared much about the whole mythology of the Stargate. He left that up to the scientists.
"This is the device that activates the Stargate?" Sheppard asked.
"Yes. Each Stargate has an address of seven symbols and you dial it like a telephone number," Mars went over to Sheppard and explained.
"If I hadn't walked through it before, I wouldn't think this was real. So, this is another planet?" Sheppard tried to make conversation, but Nick got the impression that the man felt uncomfortable.
"We are on a small moon, about twenty light-years away from Atlantis. The Stargate allows us to travel there almost instantaneously. That's how we got to Atlantis in the first place," Mars eagerly explained. He too appeared glad that Sheppard was starting to ask questions. Maybe Dr. Weir's idea was working after all.
"But that's not how you are going to get back there." A shot followed before Nick could turn around to the DHD.
"Drop your gun!" Sheppard's voice was icy. He was pointing a 9mm at Nick. Mars was on the ground, his face contorted in pain, but he was still alive, pressing a hand to his right shoulder.
"You know I can't do that. Give me your weapon and we can go back to Atlantis and sort this all out." Nick wished he were a better negotiator. He barely got alien village elders to give him a sack full of beans; how was he supposed to talk down an amnesiac Air Force colonel?
"He's right, we can talk!" Mars winced from the ground.
"Listen Colonel, Mars needs to see a doctor. Let him go back and we can talk this out, just the two of us." Nick was getting desperate. Mars' wound wasn't in a necessarily fatal spot, but he couldn't see how heavy he was bleeding.
"You're going nowhere because you are going to be dead." It was then that Nick knew Sheppard wasn't going to let them go, no matter what he said. Nick aimed and fired the only shot he had, hoping that he would make his target before Sheppard hit him. He had no other choice. Just before he pulled the trigger, there was a shot and something exploded with a deafening sound. He managed to squeeze the trigger blindly before he was pulled into blackness.
Normally Rodney would have easily out-talked the monitoring equipment. The only time Rodney ever shut up were the times when he was immersed in deep concentration studying an Ancient artifact? At others times, Rodney was a whirlwind of fury. Radek had been at the receiving end of Rodney's wrath many times before. He questioned the motivation, intelligence and parentage of his hand-picked staff on a daily basis, but he rarely meant it. Rodney was too self-absorbed to hold a grudge, even against Kavanaugh, for a long time. Only one time, during the work on the Doranda project, there had been genuine mockery in Rodney's voice as he had yelled at him and called him names. That time he had meant it. Radek had accepted Rodney's apology. Life was going on and they had to continue working together. If Rodney's only failing was that he couldn't control what came out of his mouth, then so be it. He had saved Atlantis and Earth with his plan to hold off the Wraith ships during the siege on Atlantis.
Still, Radek wasn't going to forget the instant where Rodney McKay had shown what perhaps was part of his true feelings.
Right now, it didn't matter. They needed Rodney on Atlantis. He was a brilliant scientist, no matter his personal shortcomings. Dr. Millhouse's face had been grave when she had shown him to Rodney's bed in one of the isolation rooms behind the infirmary. His condition was still deteriorating and there was nothing anyone could do. Radek gladly would have let his own work be if there was anything he could do to help. Unfortunately there was nothing in his expertise that would be of any help to Rodney in his present state, so he had continued his work on the weapons delivery system. But instead of taking a few minutes to wolf down the stew of the day, he had gone to visit Rodney in the infirmary.
"This shouldn't have happened, Rodney. Not after you did all that to come back to Atlantis." Radek admired what Rodney had done to escape Ford's men. He wouldn't have thought Rodney had it in himself to risk his own well-being for the sake of others.
"You surprised me with all your heroics in last months. You almost blow up yourself and Colonel Sheppard, and then you escaped alone from Ford and his men. Maybe you are more than brains on short legs. Colonel Sheppard has picked you for team for reason. You say you are the smartest man in the Pegasus Galaxy, but we know better..."
A sudden change in the beeping of the heart monitor, an acceleration of the steady rhythm jerked Radek out of his babbling. He slammed down on the call button, praying that Dr. Millhouse would get there quickly.
"Rodney, Rodney. Can you hear me?"
For the first time since Radek had arrived over an hour ago, Rodney moved. His hands twitched and his head rolled restlessly.
"Radek." Rodney was looking at him through half-lidded eyes, but Radek was overjoyed at hearing recognition in Rodney's voice.
"Dr. Millhouse is going to be here in a moment." Radek assumed that Rodney was in pain.
"No. Sheppard...he did this," Rodney whispered. Radek had heard but didn't understand. How could Sheppard be responsible for Rodney's condition?
"Did Sheppard attack you? How?" Radek leaned in closer. He couldn't believe that Sheppard would have harmed Rodney.
"Energy." Rodney gasped and his eyes drifted shut. A sudden shudder went through Rodney's body and Radek was powerless to watch as the heart monitor squealed in alarm. The seconds until Dr. Millhouse and the nurse on duty arrived running seemed endless.
"Dr. Zelenka, you have to leave now."
"Try contacting them again," Elizabeth ordered. "It's been over two hours; they should have been back by now. Or left word that they were staying out." She blamed herself for not noticing earlier that Sheppard, Major Lorne and Corporal Mars were long overdue from their quick trip to M2X-118. But for once, Elizabeth had taken two hours of private time. Just enough for a shower and to catch up on her correspondence, but it had been plenty of time for disaster to happen.
"Still no response on their end, Dr. Weir."
Elizabeth tapped her radio. "Sergeant Simmons, this is Dr. Weir. Please report to the control room."
The sound was familiar but Nick couldn't place it. A gigantic wave hitting a beach, but he couldn't smell the salty air or the water. Suddenly the sounds of the ocean had been replaced by a quiet humming. He tried to open his eyes, but there was something wrong. Everything was dark. He couldn't see anything. After endless seconds dark shadows formed in front of his eyes. He couldn't make out what was there, but he could see.
When he heard footsteps a few seconds later, he hoped those were his people from Atlantis coming for him, and not the Wraith or the Genii.
"Major Lorne." A concerned voice accompanied the hand brushing over his neck. The mere touch sent fire-like pain running though his neck .
"I'm sorry. Can you open your eyes again, just for a moment?" The voice asked the impossible.
Nick blinked at a vaguely familiar face hovering above.
"That's good. Now I want you to concentrate. Have you hit your head?"
"Don't think so." His head didn't hurt. Something bad had happened to his neck. He remembered shooting. Sheppard had shot Corporal Mars. "Sheppard...You have..."
"We know major. We know. It's all right. Corporal Mars told us. I need you to focus a little bit longer."
"Can you feel that?"
Before Nick realised the importance of the question he answered. "No." Oh God.
"You have to stay calm now and let us evaluate your injuries, Major."
"No..." His mind protested against the possibilities and he involuntarily twisted away. Immediately, intense pain surged through his neck. Hands were trying to hold him steady, and eventually the pain eased away.
Elizabeth had to control herself not to start pacing in her office. The team around Sergeant Simmons had been gone only ten minutes, not enough time to report back yet, but she could feel that they were going to bring bad news. Elizabeth got up from her chair, and then she sat down again. She couldn't bear the waiting anymore.
It seemed like hours later when there was a knock on her door, announcing news from the search team.
"We have a radio connection established with the team on M2X-118. Sergeant Simmons wants to talk to you," Dr. Taylor let her know. Elizabeth couldn't tell whether he had bad or good news for her. Her instincts told her that Simmons had found nothing good on M2X-118.
Elizabeth followed Dr. Taylor out into the control room and activated her radio. "Sergeant, please report."
"Dr. Weir, I'm afraid we ran into some problems. Corporal Mars and Major Lorne have been both been injured. They are not good shape, but they are still alive. We need a medical team over here; Lieutenant Ritter doesn't want to take the risk transporting them before a doctor has had a look at them."
"Where is Sheppard?"
"We are not certain yet. The DHD has been damaged, so he still has to be on the planet. Luckily we brought the Jumper, so we can dial the Gate from there."
"Back up a few steps, Sergeant." Elizabeth was confused. Why was Sheppard not with the others and how had they been injured? A cold feeling settled between her shoulder blades. Something had gone very wrong.
"I'm not so sure myself what happened. According to Corporal Mars, Sheppard did the shooting. He is adamant about it. He says that after Lorne damaged that DHD, Sheppard ran off. That's all we know so far."
"What do you think? Is the information solid?" Elizabeth asked, hoping against hope that it was all just a misunderstanding. First Ford had turned on them and now Sheppard. She couldn't help thinking that it was all connected somehow to the Wraith enzyme.
"The DHD has been damaged. It looks like someone took a P90 to it. Mars got one in the shoulder, but he is on the up-and-up. We need more people if we are going to start a search for Sheppard." Simmons's voice came over the radio.
"I'll assemble a team and we'll be with you in ten minutes." Elizabeth
"You are coming as well? I don't think this is a good idea, Dr. Weir. If what Mars says is true, Sheppard is capable of anything. He got a gun and he knows how to use it." Simmons sounded concerned.
"I'll be all right," Elizabeth said decisively. "We'll see you on the planet. Atlantis out." She hoped she knew what she was doing. There had to be a way to persuade John to come back to Atlantis.
Kate would probably say she was trying to make up for dropping the ball with Ford. They had all failed to reach Ford before it had been too late, or maybe they couldn't have kept him on Atlantis no matter what. Elizabeth was determined to get to John and bring him back to Atlantis.