A/N: Thanks for the wonderful reviews. They make this story even more fun to write.
Non Defendi Homines Sine Vituperatione Fortasse Posse, Neglegenter Defendi Sine Scelere Non Posse
Nick became aware of something heavy resting on his neck. It was pressing him down, cutting off his air supply. Nick tried to draw a breath, but the vice around his neck only tightened further. He was being choked. His eyes flew open and were assaulted by the bright white lights of the infirmary. Pain shot through his brain and squeezed his eye shut again instantly. Nick tried to bring up his arms to pry loose the unseen hands of his assailant, but he was being held back and he couldn't move his arms up more than a few inches. He was in panic; he was going to die if he couldn't breathe. Nick opened his eyes again against the offensive light and tried to sit up. He hadn't moved an inch up when pain stopped him. The pain was everywhere—in his neck, flaming down in his chest and up his head. The seconds of effort had him panting and sweating hard as he waited for the pain to fade away. The constricting force on his throat had lessened, and he could finally get some air. It seemed a fair exchange for the crippling pain.
Nick only then noticed the voice at his side. He couldn't make out soothing words at first, but the tones were soothing. A blurred face appeared above him and suddenly the pain started dimming rapidly, pulling him down back to sleep.
Radek sighed with frustration. His hearing was improving as Beckett had promised, but much of what his colleagues were saying was still being drowned out by the persisting noise in his ears. He had finally retreated to solitary work in one of the Ancient labs. Illuminating his workspace with a storm light, he was bending over a tray of bomb fragments that had been secured from Rodney's lab. Radek was the only one who had seen one of the bombs before it had gone off. Dr. Taylor was still working on recovering footage from the security camera. Radek did not hold out much hope. If the bomber was still in the City, and Radek suspected as much, he probably hadn't left a trail leading to their identity.
The bomb fragments were tiny, but uniform shards of metal, not more than five millimeters long with pointed ends. Like fragments off a grenade, they would slice into anyone near the explosion, amplifying the damage done. Someone had wanted more than just to harm the City; the bomber had wanted to inflict maximum damage to its inhabitants.
Radek passed the scanner over the fragments, careful to know as much as possible about them before examining them more closely and exposing himself to possibly more danger.
The scanner clearly identified the fragments as Naquadah with an unknown organic substance. The Ancients had used Naquadah in their technology, most importantly to create the Stargate technology. The bomb had looked Wraith in an eight-arm spider-like design, blinking green from a single eye. It had reminded him of the organic Wraith technology, but he supposed it could just as well be of Ancient origin. Atlantis was hexagon shaped with its six long arms reaching out into the sea.
Radek rubbed his forehead. He was getting nowhere sitting at a desk, pondering the container of bomb fragments. Radek grabbed the container firmly with both hands and headed for the infirmary.
Radek found Carson nearly asleep at the desk in his office. Dr. Millhouse and Dr. Biro were still patching up the last of the victims of the explosion in the infirmary. When Radek came in and didn't see Carson, he was surprised and wondered if he was with someone more severely injured or if something had happened to Rodney while he had been gone. Dr. Biro quelled his concerns by pointing to Carson's office. With a stern look, she said something and Radek caught some of the words, understanding he should be resting in his quarters and not wandering around. Radek decided to pretend that his hearing hadn't started to recover yet and headed for Carson's office.
Carson was startled as he came in and he stared at Radek. "Radek...rest…here?" Radek heard Carson speak, but couldn't make out all the words yet over the buzzing sound.
"Carson, I'm sorry, but this is urgent." Radek set down the container on Carson's desk. Carson eyed it and its contents warily, but said nothing.
"I have been looking at bomb fragments. They are Naquadah, coated with organic substance. We have to find out where the bomb came from." Radek tried to make Carson understand why the situation tolerated no delay. They had to find the identity of the bomber before they could cause any more damage.
Carson nodded. "I... If…you…to bed." He looked like he needed some sleep himself.
"I can't go to bed. There is a theory I have to check out. I promise, once I'm sure, I will rest." Radek meant it.
Carson wrote his question down with an expression of alarm on his face. What do you know?
"Yesterday, I was seeing Rodney. It was just me talking to him, when he woke up. He was conscious less than a minute, but he claimed Colonel Sheppard attacked him. When I asked Rodney how he did it, he only said energy. I didn't say anything because I didn't believe Rodney's mind was clear when he told me and I didn't want to accuse Colonel Sheppard without verifying first. I went to check out the sensor logs and I found an energy discharge in Rodney's quarters the morning before he collapsed. But before I could tell anyone, the bomb went off." Radek's hands went flying.
Carson's expression went from disbelief to shock to anger and then he unleashed a fiery tirade on Radek. He only seemed to recall Radek's temporarily impaired hearing when Radek stood and watching him yell was unmoved.
You should have told me! You nearly got two people killed!
Some of the effect was lost in print, but the words still hit Radek hard. He hadn't meant to hurt anyone. He merely hadn't wanted to accuse an innocent man.
Carson had scribbled down more.
Sheppard took Mars and Lorne hostage, he shot both of them and now he's missing on M2X-188. Elizabeth is there with some of the marines, they are looking for him.
Radek flinched. He'd had no idea how bad it was. His recent actions made Sheppard look a likely match as the bomber. He had tried to flee the City at all cost, even risked killing his own men.
"How are Lorne and Mars?" Radek asked after a pause when he had himself under control again.
Lucky. They are going to be fine. Carson wrote the clipped reply. Let's go to the lab.
Carson led the way to the medical lab behind the infirmary. He didn't say another word and averted Radek's gaze. Radek felt hurt, but he understood why Carson would be so upset. Rodney was a good friend, and Carson would have had no reservations to trust his word. Rodney's recent brush with the enzyme had instilled caution in Radek and he had wanted to make sure there was more to Rodney's claims, were more than semi-conscious ramblings.
The lab was a jumble of Earth and Ancient technology. The Ancient devices were often superior, but it would take centuries to catalog and study every piece of technology found in the City. Even Colonel Sheppard, who had the strongest ATA gene, couldn't figure out everything.
Carson set the clear container down on the scanner bed and the scanner above activated, sending down a red line passing over the container. They realized what was wrong within moments. The container started to vibrate as soon the scanner beam made contact.
"Shut it down," Radek yelled at Carson as the scanner beam stuttered and the fragments started dancing inside the container, bouncing against the walls. It was no use; Carson was white-faced staring at the container. He showed no reaction to Radek at all. Radek was powerless, without the gene; he had no way of controlling the scanner. Radek shook Carson by the shoulder as the scanner beam crept further over the container, millimeter by millimeter and the Naquadah shards were slamming hard against the inside of the vessel containing them. It was going to shatter if he didn't stop this. They were drawing power from the Naquadah generators. Unfortunately, this was a medical lab and was powered by emergency power in case something needed to by analyzed quickly.
The shards continued to hammer against the walls of the container. No matter what material the transparent container was made of, the Naquadah shards would destroy it.
Radek had to do something and he wasn't the sort to engage in self-sacrificing bravery. He left that to Colonel Sheppard. Radek gathered speed and knocked down Beckett, who, thanks to superior body weight and strength, only stumbled backwards, and then he lunged for the container. He tried to avoid the scanner beam as he grabbed the box firmly. Still it felt like a knife was cutting through his hand. It took only a painful second, and then he held the case in his hands. The box was still rattling with shards trying to escape, so Radek ran. He ran as fast as he could for the door. Panicking, with a potentially deadly weapon in his hands, Radek raced along the darkened corridor. Without the ZPM, the City wouldn't be able to protect them from whatever was on the Naquadah shards. If it was some sort of toxin, or worse, a virus, it might already be spreading and they had no warning. Radek raced towards the infirmary. He was hoping to make it to the isolation rooms at the back of the infirmary. The Naquadah generator powered the essential isolation protocol, which was the only choice Radek could think of if they were to survive.
Finally, Radek reached the last isolation room. He managed to press the door panel and throw the box inside before he slumped to the floor. Radek heard a muted blow from inside, and breathed a sigh of relief.
Thousands of hot needle pricks brought stings of pain to John's limbs, but he still welcomed the return of feeling, of any sensation in the darkness surrounding him. The recovery from paralysis hadn't been so painful the last time. This time, his muscles contracted under the pain and he was powerless to do anything. The voices of the others in the Jumper were an anchor tying him to reality. He'd had time to listen. There was Elizabeth. She was sitting to the right of him, reassuring that he was going to be all right and was going to be back on Atlantis soon. The two men in the Jumper spoke little, but enough to let John know that they were there.
John was starting to feel Elizabeth's touch on his forehead and arms, another indication that his nerves were starting to recover from the blast.
"John, we are going to be in Atlantis any minute now. Lieutenant Shaw is about to dial Atlantis. Dr. Beckett will be waiting in the Jumper Bay. You are going to be fine."
John forced his eyes open to catch a glimpse of Elizabeth, needing to connect a face with the voice. Elizabeth looked down on him with a deep furrow of concern on her face. John didn't understand why she was so concerned over a stunner blast. John wanted to reassure her that he was all right.
"Liz'th." The name came out a slurred whisper.
"Yes, John, I hear you."
There was pressure on his chest, and at first John assumed it was Elizabeth's hand touching him, but the pressure intensified, sending pain along his stunned nerves. He let out a sound of protest, but the pressure did not ease. Elizabeth's voice disappeared beneath the rushing and sluggish, rhythmical pounding that began to fill his ears. John tried to hang on to her concerned words, but his hearing faded away as pain threaded its way through his recovering muscles. John screamed.
"I don't think you managed to do any additional damage with your little stunt. The isolation room is sealed off for now, until they can figure out what mean little surprise you discovered."
Carson was back on his feet and finished examining Radek for the second time that day. Carson tried to shut out the infirmary, filled with injured expedition members. He fought to focus on just a single patient; he could hardly recall the last time he had had the chance to sit down. The day had been an endless stream of wounded pouring into the infirmary --any doctor's nightmare.
Radek nodded. "Has Dr. Weir returned yet? I need to speak to her urgently."
"No, she isn't back yet. I wonder what is keeping them. But it is good to see that your hearing has returned to full capacity. Still, I'd like to keep you here for a few hours."
Before Radek could protest, Carson held up his hand. „I know you are a busy man, but you do have a head injury. Working yourself into the ground won't do anyone any good. Just lie back down and try to rest. I will let you know if anything new develops."
Radek said nothing and leaned back on the pillows. He didn't look too happy, but at least he appeared to accept Carson's advice. Carson shot one last look at the scientist before he turned away.
He was thinking about what Radek had told him. He was still angry about Radek holding out on him. He should have notified him immediately when Rodney had regained consciousness. Any data about Rodney's illness could help him create a treatment strategy.
It was just one word and there were many reasons Rodney could have said it to Radek. Carson's first thought was energy weapon, but they didn't have any in the armory, except some Wraith stunners they had managed to pick up. A Wraith stunner couldn't have the effects they were seeing in Rodney. Rodney would have been disabled right away. Instead his decline had been gradual. There had to be some clues about the cause. Scans, blood work, Carson had worked through it all, but he would go through it all again, if there was a chance that he might discover the crucial piece of data.
Retreating to his office, Carson gathered the exam results of both Sheppard and Rodney, fervently hoping to find a common link. He pushed a white board in the already crammed space and tacked the scan images up in consecutive order. If there was a common patter, he had yet to find it. Carson had speculated that John had developed increased activity in a region of the brain that was responsible for the psychic ability of some of the Athenians but he had never gotten the chance to follow up on his theory. Was it possible the colonel had attacked Rodney through mental powers? The Ancients had mastered the transition between the corporeal and the energy state, so it was possible, but it had taken them millions of years of evolution and genetic tampering. There had been cases of mere humans achieving similar abilities in the SGC files, but without evidence he wasn't going to go there just yet.
Rodney's scan patterns showed just the opposite. Carson stared at the scans, going over them from back to front, and the other way around, hoping for the revelation. When nothing would come to him, he got up to pour himself a cup of coffee from his long cold pot he had brewed hours ago. The smell of the cold coffee nauseated him, so he decided to brew some fresh coffee after all. Carson filled the small machine. As he saw the first drops drip into the pot, it struck him. He had been missing it all along. The bigger picture. Carson abandoned the coffee without a thought and was back at his desk in an instant, spreading out EKG printouts. He had been monitoring Rodney's heart when he had first returned under the influence of the enzyme. Carson had worried about the stimulating effects, but Rodney had been all right, physically at least. After Rodney's collapse, Rodney had started to display signs of intermittent bradycardia. The issue had been secondary at the time in Carson's mind; he had focused on finding a neurological cause for Rodney's illness.
With the seizures Rodney had been experiencing when he had first fallen ill, a suspicion was forming in Carson's mind. He had performed every conceivable test for venoms know to Earth and a few known to the Ancients, but nothing had turned up.
Acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter, naturally occurring in the human body, it would be an untraceable poison, at least if they were on Earth. He still had the blood samples taken from Rodney during the last few days. Maybe the Ancient technology would help shed some light on Rodney's mysterious illness after all.
Carson was about to rush to the lab when his headset radio activated.
"Dr. Beckett, you are needed in the Jumper Bay. Major Sheppard has been injured," Dr. Taylor informed him over the headset.
"What's his condition?" Carson wanted to know to be prepared for the emergency.
"Unknown, all Dr. Weir said was that he's unresponsive and seems to be in pain."