Author's Note: This is the sequel to The White Room and you really should read it first if you haven't. Basically . . . on with the story.
Disclaimer: We don't own anything and aren't making any money, blah, blah, blah.
FADE TO BLACK - Part 1
"But . . . but . . . he's dead," sputtered Rodney, pointing at the screen as his face drained of color.
John clenched his jaws together so hard he expected his teeth to shatter. "Kolya," he breathed out in a hoarse whisper.
Kolya smiled, but it was an intimidating expression, his eyes glittering in a way that suggested madness. "Colonel Sheppard. I imagine you're a little surprised to see me. News of my death was a bit premature, as you can well see." He chuckled as if laughing at some inside joke that no one else heard.
"What do you want?" asked Elizabeth sharply.
Kolya chuckled again. "I believe I have learned a few things about negotiating with your people from my past mistakes. This deal is offered to Colonel Sheppard and Dr. McKay. I will trade the people I have taken for the two of you."
"No," said Elizabeth. "I told you before, we don't make deals with terrorists. That policy has not changed."
Kolya shrugged his shoulders. "That's too bad. Who do you prefer I kill first?" He leaned out of sight of the camera and pulled Teyla up next to him by her hair. Her bruised face grimaced, but she did not cry out. Kolya pressed the barrel of his gun next to her temple and smiled from behind her. "Do you have any last words for your friends in Atlantis?"
Teyla looked firmly into the camera and her expression calmed. "John, do not even consider trading yourself or –"
Kolya smacked her across the face, jarring the camera and knocking her clear of the lens. They heard a thud and a groan that was unmistakably Teyla.
"Kolya, wait!" John yelled, grabbing Kolya's attention and stopping his motion as he had been bringing up his gun. "Look, just talk to me a minute. I know why you want me, but what do you need McKay for?" He ignored the way Elizabeth was looking at him like he'd lost his mind and shaking her head.
Kolya paused a moment as the smile crept back across his face and adjusted the camera so that it was level again. "I can assure you that no harm would come to Dr. McKay. As I'm sure you are aware, my forces are somewhat limited these days. I have formed an alliance with another government and we are assisting one another in fulfilling our needs. I wish retribution against you for the Genii you have killed and the trouble you have caused me. They have a wealth of devices left by the Ancestors and need someone to both repair and activate them so that they may be of use. Dr. McKay will be given over to them. If he is as interested in Ancestor technology as he seems, he may even be happy in his new life."
Rodney rolled his eyes. "Oh, yes, my secret dream has always been to live a life of slave labor after watching a friend die a horrible death. How are you even alive? We saw Sheppard kill you."
Kolya grunted and chuckled again. "Let's just say I was prepared for such an event. Some special webbing woven into my uniform and a capsule I carry to mimic the effects of death for several hours enabled my survival. When my body was returned to my people, they simply revived me."
"I should have had Carson do an autopsy," mumbled John.
"Yeah, well, we know to do that next time," added Rodney.
Kolya's smile disappeared and his expression hardened. "I need your decision, Colonel. I have four of your people I will trade for the two of you. Otherwise they die immediately."
"Four?" asked Elizabeth. "What happened to the other two?"
Kolya's expression did not change. "I regret that they were killed in the initial encounter. Now, do we arrange a trade or do you watch your friends die?" The camera rotated to lock onto Kolya's arm and then the gun trained on Teyla as she lay sprawled in the floor. John couldn't help but be proud of her has she held herself up, leaning against her elbow as she stared at Kolya defiantly.
John glanced over at Rodney, his eyes wide with fear as he nodded. "No," said Elizabeth. "John, you can't do this. He'll kill all of you."
John looked back at the screen. "Kolya, wait. We'll trade. But I have some conditions to make sure you actually release your hostages."
The camera came back to focus on Kolya and his smug smile. "As I would have expected."
"John!" Elizabeth moved so that her face was close to his. "Don't do this."
He looked at her and remembered another time she had tried to talk him out of his duty. "I have to." She flinched. "He will kill them, Elizabeth, and you know it. This way, Rodney and I have a chance."
Elizabeth stared at him for a moment and then moved away, turning her head. He thought it ironic they had all worked so long and hard to help him recover, to get himself back, and now he was handing himself over to Kolya. He knew the man undoubtedly had a relatively quick execution planned for him and there probably would be little chance to escape. He was counting on Rodney's ingenuity to get himself back to Atlantis, though. He had faith in the scientist. John turned back to the screen. "Okay, Kolya, here's the deal."
John stepped through the stargate with his P90 up and ready. He was met by the guns of five men dressed in old Genii uniforms, as well as another five in dark green uniforms he didn't recognize. He paused and looked around, finally locating Teyla, Ronon, Lorne, and Lt. Davis. They all had bruised faces with dried blood smeared on their skin and their dirty, torn clothes. Tired expressions indicated they probably hadn't slept since their capture the day before. John gave them a short nod.
John was beginning to worry when he finally heard the blip of Rodney exiting the wormhole, followed by his limping, uneven steps. A quick glance proved that the scientist was definitely there, favoring his right ankle, which was now supported in a brace. Carson had traded the cast for the brace a few hours ago, stating that Rodney's ankle was healed enough for the change. No one had stated out loud that the change was to keep Rodney from being stuck in the cast in case they ended up not being able to get back to Atlantis for a while.
John tapped his radio while keeping an eye on Kolya. "Elizabeth, we're both here, along with about ten enemy soldiers, Lorne, and the others. We'll contact you when the others are ready to return to Atlantis so you can shut the gate down for them to dial out. Be sure you keep it open until then so no surprises can dial in."
"Understood. John . . . good luck."
"Thanks. I'll see you later."
Kolya stepped out from the line of soldiers. "Nice sentiments, but it's not going to happen. I will have satisfaction very soon now. And when I show the Genii that I have avenged the deaths of their loved ones, it will be easy to take control from Ladon."
John snorted loudly. "Still living in fantasyland, I see. I want my people released now."
Kolya eyed the two men, standing side by side on the platform. "Move away from the gate and we will release them."
John nodded and leaned over toward Rodney. "Okay, just like we talked about." John moved slowly forward, careful not to get too far ahead of Rodney's limping gait. As they moved away from the ring, they placed their backs together, their guns aimed at the soldiers around them.
Kolya grinned as he watched them. "We have you outnumbered, Colonel. All I would have to do is give the order and none of you would return to Atlantis."
John smiled, his expression dark and humorless. "And all I'd have to do is pull the trigger and you'd be dead. You may have noticed that I'm keeping my gun trained on your big head. One false move and you die."
Kolya's grin faded away. "And then you would die."
John chuckled. "I could accept that, knowing that I killed you first. I'm funny that way." He glared at Kolya with an expression he hoped assured the man knew he was serious.
"Don't worry, Sheppard. I will honor our agreement."
Ronon grunted and spit on the ground, growling under his breath. Kolya just looked amused. "Better keep your dog on a leash, Colonel. My men might get . . . nervous."
It was then John noticed that several of the soldiers were almost as bruised as his people and that made him almost swell with pride. His people had obviously given as much as they'd taken, but their wounds were more noticeable because they had not been cared for. When they were far enough from the gate, John nodded at Kolya.
"Okay, they go home now or we start shooting."
Kolya laughed out loud, nodding to his men. "Release them."
John tapped his radio as his people moved toward the gate. "Okay, they're going to the DHD. Shut it down."
Teyla gave him a frowning nod as she passed, a look bordering on disappointment crossing her face. Ronon was outwardly scowling at him.
"You shouldn't have traded, Sheppard," commented the former runner as he passed.
John just looked at him. "I had to big guy. I don't leave my people behind." He looked away from Ronon to lock eyes with Lorne. "Get them home."
Lorne just nodded, looking as defeated as John had ever seen him look. "Not your fault, Major." Lorne looked away as he reached the DHD and watched Teyla dial, his head hanging low. The gate flared to life and they watched as the puddle belched forward and then drew back.
"Elizabeth, they're coming through. Shut it down as soon as they get there," said John. Ronon looked back, as if contemplating launching an attack. John shook his head. The big man clenched his jaws together and took Teyla's arm, gently guiding her to the gate as she allowed herself to lean against him. The two of them stepped forward, followed by Lorne and Davis. The gate shut down immediately, leaving only the sound of the breeze in the trees for a moment.
Kolya stood looking expectantly at John, who sighed and nodded. "Okay, Kolya." He let the front of his P90 fall forward and handed it to the large soldier next to him. Rodney hesitated before reluctantly handing his weapon over as well.
Kolya took the weapon from the soldier and looked at it. "Don't worry, Colonel, we'll make good use of this."
John shrugged his shoulders. "Not for long. Gee, I forgot to bring any extra ammo for it and there isn't much in there." Kolya smiled and grunted as he looked down at the gun.
"I can't say I expected less, but still, I was hoping." He looked around at the men as they took the two Lantean's side arms and vests. "Bind their hands behind them. Colonel Sheppard has a tendency to be less than cooperative."
"Where are we going?" John asked as his wrists were pulled tight, fighting the urge to wince from the burning pain.
"You get to meet my new ally when we deliver Dr. McKay. And then it is time for you and I to return to my base of operations where you will die a slow and agonizing death." Kolya stepped closer, putting his face just inches from Sheppard's. "I have ways of stretching death out so that it takes days. I look forward to watching you suffer."
John didn't flinch as he shifted forward until their noses almost touched. "Bring it on, Kolya."
They stood glaring at one another for several seconds, no one else daring to move, before Kolya finally backed away and waved his hand at the two prisoners. "Bring them. Adala waits." He marched over to the DHD and dialed, leading the way through once the wormhole had established.
John walked through the puddle to emerge in a flat field, neatly trimmed with a roughly paved road through the middle. Two vehicles that looked like enlarged golf carts sat waiting on them, each with a driver. As he and Rodney were herded into separate cars, he looked up to see three towers rising from a city less than a mile away. Although much smaller than Atlantis, the design was unmistakably Ancient. John looked over his shoulder to find McKay looking at him with an expression that said he'd noticed it too.
"Turn around!" barked the soldier behind him, cuffing John on the side of the face with the butt of his gun. John felt the burn of the cut on the side of his mouth and tasted the blood that confirmed the injury.
"You could have just asked," he murmured, leveling his gaze at the city as the carts lurched forward with a jolt. As they approached the city, he became more and more convinced that it was a small replica of Atlantis. The towers were much less numerous and definitely shorter, but the shape of the city seemed the same. The transport vehicles took them to one of the entrances near the center of the star-like shape.
They were roughly helped out of the vehicles and pushed toward the door. Guards in matching green uniforms admitted them and they were escorted to what appeared to be a replica of the gateroom, but without the gate. The lighting was dim and most of it came from windows or support lighting that had been added to the room. As soon as they entered, the lights of the city came on and control panels at the edge of the room began to light up. Everyone but John and Rodney looked around, babbling in surprise at the city coming alive.
A woman seated in what could only be described as an elaborate throne stood and began walking toward them. She had long brown hair that shimmered almost like silk as she glided across the room. The long blue dress that she wore seemed to almost flow around her. As she got closer, her almond-shaped brown eyes and delicate features caught John's attention. She was unmistakably one of the most beautiful women John had ever laid eyes on.
"Commander Kolya," she cooed, making a small sound similar to a cat purr as she stopped to inspect the prisoners. "You have truly honored your word. So, which one of these is mine?" She stopped in front of John and raised her hand to stroke her long fingers down the side of his face. "I hope it's this one."
"I'm afraid not, Lady Adala. That is Colonel John Sheppard, the man responsible for the deaths of many Genii. He is mine. The other is Dr. Rodney McKay and he is the one I was telling you about. He is able to fix anything, if he is to be believed, and he is able to activate the devices of the Ancestors."
Adala pouted and put her index finger under John's chin before dropping her hand. "Too bad. This one is very handsome." She turned to Rodney and smiled. "But he is not bad either," she breathed out, slinking close enough for Rodney to smell her soft, musky scent. "So, was it you who made my city come alive? I will have to properly thank you."
Rodney stepped back nervously. "Well, as much as I'd like to take credit, it was probably gene-boy over there." He nodded toward John.
Adala stepped back a few steps and looked at them. "I thought Commander Kolya said that you were the one who could make things work."
Rodney looked smug and he smiled and gave a short nod. "Well, I can fix pretty much anything and I do have the gene, but . . . " He noticed the confused look on Adala's face. "Uh, it's the part of our makeup that allows us to interact with the Ancient technology. I have it and can activate most things, but Sheppard has it stronger and he can turn on anything that isn't totally broken." Realizing the opportunity to rescue Sheppard from Kolya, Rodney continued. "Yeah, you would be much better off to keep both of us. I can fix things and he can activate and run them."
"Why do I not just keep Sheppard then?" she asked Rodney.
John stepped forward. "Well, because Rodney is the guy that fixes things. All I can do is turn them on." Real hope was stirring in him for the first time since he'd stepped through the gate. If they could stay together, then their chances of surviving and getting home got exponentially better.
Adala turned quickly to Kolya, who was beginning to look uncomfortable. "Is this true? Is Sheppard the better one at turning things on?"
Kolya sighed. "They are just trying to save Colonel Sheppard. McKay is the only one you need. Sheppard is mine, that was the deal we made."
Adala walked around in a tight circle and then motioned to one of the girls standing at the edge of the room. The girl hurried off and returned a few seconds later with a device that looked like an extra large life signs detector, being about twice as long. Adala motioned for the guard to untie Rodney and then took the apparatus and handed it to him. "What is this?"
Rodney looked down at the rectangular instrument as it glowed faintly. The screen tried to come on for a moment, then flickered and went off. He had felt a slight surge of power, but not enough to tell what the thing did. Adala grabbed it from him and he shrugged his shoulders. "I'm not sure what it does yet."
The woman walked over to John, who the guards had already untied, and handed him the device. It lit up immediately, the screen flashing on and Ancient text appearing. "It's a medical scanner." He touched a corner and held the thing over his arm, the bones of his forearm appearing immediately. Rodney had moved over to look over his shoulder.
"Wow, that is cool."
John nodded. "Look, you can even see where I broke my arm when I was ten."
Rodney squinted and then nodded. "Oh, yeah, you can. How did you break your arm?"
"I jumped off the garage to impress Judy Claymore."
Rodney chuckled. "It figures, injured trying to impress some girl. Why am I not surprised?"
"Hey, it worked. She gave me a kiss and said it was the bravest thing she'd ever seen and then she held my hand . . . until my mom came out and saw me and just about had a heart attack."
"Enough!" roared Kolya, jerking the instrument out of Sheppard's hand and handing it back to Adala. "Colonel Sheppard had a debt to pay to me and to my people. He will be coming with me."
Adala's eyes narrowed and her soldiers around the room immediately stiffened, obviously making the Genii nervous. "It seems Dr. McKay was telling the truth about Colonel Sheppard. And it would appear that he can also read the language of the Ancestors, something that I'm sure will be useful. I wish to keep both men."
Kolya's scowl deepened and a dangerous smile formed on his lips. "So you do not plan on honoring our agreement?"
Adala's features slowly morphed from dangerous to seductive as she stepped closer to the Genii, arching one eyebrow at him. "Actually, I was thinking we could work out a new deal to replace the old one. I told you there would be extra funds and equipment for your men if I liked the product you brought me. You have exceeded my highest expectations, so I am prepared to double the bonus I offered. Also, I have a proposal about the Colonel that I think will make both of us happy."
John frowned and slid a glance at Rodney, who was looking a bit nervous himself. Anything that was going to make Kolya happy couldn't be good for him.
Kolya tilted his head a little. "I'm listening."
"Well," she drawled, moving over to circle John as she ran her finger down his collarbone and around his neck. "I'm getting the impression that John, here," she leaned forward, her lips to John's ear. "You don't mind if I call you John, do you?" Without waiting for an answer, she patted his cheek and moved back over to stand in front of Kolya. "You seem to think John is a dangerous man."
"He killed over sixty of my men in one night," replied Kolya.
"That was self defense," said Rodney. "You invaded our city and tried to take it over, what did you expect?"
"We were only attempting to take back what was ours," countered Kolya. "A device your people took by force after we attempted to work together to defeat the Wraith."
John felt his anger rising as he clenched his fists by his side. "Tell the truth Kolya. Cowan lied to us to get our help and then he's the one who tried to ambush us and take our ship and weapons. And when you invaded Atlantis, you killed my men first, men you didn't have to kill. Then you tortured Rodney and threatened Elizabeth in attempt to take the city for yourself. If you and Cowan hadn't been so impatient and greedy, we could have been strong allies."
Adala raised her eyebrows as she watched the exchange, observing the anger in each man's demeanor. "I have seen enough. I am not here to judge the previous actions of either of you. You could both be lying for all I know. But I do know I need both these men to get our city running properly. John did not deny killing your men, so I accept your word that he is dangerous, which means I will have to use manpower to keep him in line. My proposal will fulfill your need to punish him, as well as help me keep him from causing trouble."
"You know . . . if you hurt him . . . he can't help with the city," stammered Rodney, his voice weak and slightly high pitched. John gave him a small smile, appreciating what his friend was trying to do.
Adala turned to look at John, appraising him from head to foot. "He's a bit pale and skinny."
"He's been sick for a while," offered Rodney.
"McKay!" scolded John. He appreciated Rodney trying to help him, but not enough to let the man work at making him look weak in front of his most hated enemy.
"Well, you have. We didn't work all these months to get you back and have you almost returned to normal only to have Kolya kill you over some stupid vendetta." In his anger, Rodney inadvertently shifted his weight to his injured foot and almost fell over. John caught him and helped hold him steady while Rodney regained his footing.
"How very touching," said Kolya sarcastically before turning back to Adala. "Now get on with it. What is your suggestion?"
"We often punish our criminals with lashes. I propose one lash for each of your men killed."
Kolya seemed to consider it for a minute, staring at John the whole time. "You do know that over sixty lashes would probably kill him," he said with a smile.
Adala moved over to stand beside Kolya and took his arm. "Only if you gave them all at once. What if you gave him twenty lashes, wait for him to heal, and then return to give him twenty more. If you divide his punishment into three parts, then he will be injured and in pain so that he cannot cause me trouble for a while and you will have three opportunities to inflict punishment by your own hand." She leaned closer to the side of his face. "Just think, you will be able to feel the leather break his skin and draw blood at each strike. You will control the power of the blow and therefore, his pain. Three separate times, you can watch him bleed and hear him cry out. Does that not . . . excite you?" she asked, her voice low and husky, her lips only an inch from his skin.
Kolya had a feral grin on his face and a mad glint in his eye. "Yes, it does, but he will still be alive when I am done."
"Yes, and he will be scarred for life by your hand. And because of you, his life will be one of service to me. He will have no control over his days or his nights, only what I command. Surely, for a man like him, that is worse than death."
Kolya was grinning now, obviously growing to like the plan. John didn't know whether to be relieved or not. Neither option sounded very pleasant to him.
Adala stepped away from Kolya and put her hands on her hips. "All right, I see you are going to drive a hard bargain. I will triple the bonus for you and your men and I will give you an option. After you have given John the three sets of lashes, if you do not think the punishment is enough, I will consider letting you choose another form of punishment. I emphasize the word consider. The final decision will be mine, based on what I think is fair, John's condition at the time, and how valuable he has been to me." She turned to furrow her brow slightly at John. "If he has not pleased me, then perhaps I will let you kill him in the manner of your choice."
Kolya sighed and nodded. "You are a hard woman to negotiate with, Lady Adala, but I accept your terms. When can we begin Sheppard's punishment?"
Adala clapped and smiled. "Oh, good, I'm glad that is over. Bargaining is such a weary process, don't you agree?" She looked at the sun streaming through the window. "I believe we have time for you to conduct your first lashing of John and then we can enjoy a splendid dinner to celebrate. Guards, please escort John to the proper room and secure him." Two guards grabbed John by the arms and began pushing him toward a door. After a few attempts at pulling away, he quickly decided he wasn't getting out of their iron grip, especially since he still wasn't exactly up to full strength. He was already so tired he could barely stand on his own.
Adala looked at Rodney a moment. "Take Rodney too. He should probably watch so he knows what to expect if he gets out of line."
As the guards hustled Rodney past Adala, he turned to look over his shoulder. "That's Dr. McKay to you."
"He is rather amusing." Adala smiled and held out her arm to Kolya. "Would you care to escort me?"
Kolya looped his arm through hers and then placed his other hand on her forearm. "I'd love to, Lady Adala. I have a feeling we are going to have a long and mutually beneficial relationship."
"As do I, Commander Kolya," she cooed.