See Chapter 1 for disclaimer. Thanks to corkieshome, Delka, twinchaosblade, faldo, and Jack-rocks for your reviews of Chatper 10! I had a great time writing this over the last few months, so I'm glad you've all enjoyed reading it. Thanks again. :)

Chapter 11 / 11

2Smart4U: They just gave up.

JumpersRCool: Really?

2Smart4U: Yep. Fired a couple times at the shield and it didn't go down, so they left.

JumpersRCool: Huh. I wonder why…

2Smart4U: Who cares? They're gone and that garden is being exterminated with fire as we speak.

JumpersRCool: It's a pity, really. I mean, some of that stuff would've been good eating.

2Smart4U: You would say that, until the tomatoes started making your hair fall out or something. I say good riddance. The botanists got all the samples they wanted to study. They can figure out what the Wraith were up to, and I don't have to get killed by Wraith-enhanced lemons in the process. Besides, I have important work I need to get back to.

JumpersRCool: Like comparing notes about this incident with that cute brunette botanist?

2Smart4U: Bite me, Kirk.

JumpersRCool: LOL

2Smart4U: So Carson finally finished practicing his voodoo on you?

JumpersRCool: Yep, early this afternoon. Speaking of Carson, have you been to see him? Surely you've started to reject the pollen by now.

2Smart4U: No, thank you. I'd much rather deal with my upset stomach alone in my lab than become the witchdoctor's prisoner.

JumpersRCool: Agreed. It's good to officially be a free man…well, officially free to be resting in my quarters.

2Smart4U: But you're not, are you? Wait, don't tell me. I don't want to be an accessory.

JumpersRCool: I'm resting on the balcony. It's not that different.

2Smart4U: Tell that to Carson.

2Smart4U: Dammit! Now I have to delete this log or there is evidence!

JumpersRCool: You save our IM logs? Rodney, I never knew you cared. grin

2Smart4U: I save them for purposes of blackmail only!!

2Smart4U: Just for that, I should Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V this right to Carson…

JumpersRCool: Don't waste your time. You've already spoken of the devil enough to summon him. We'll talk about this later. G2G.

John quickly ended the conversation and closed his laptop when he heard the door to the balcony slide open and saw Beckett step out. "Carson," he greeted.

"Colonel. Why is it that I wasn't surprised when ya weren't in your quarters just now?" Beckett was clearly not happy.

"Because you know me so well?" John's attempt at humor fell flat when Beckett continued to glare at him. Sheppard sighed. "I just needed some fresh air, Doc. Look, I'm resting, but it seems like all I've done for the past two days is sleep."

Beckett considered the truth in his words. John had been utterly exhausted after the ordeal in the chair room, both from illness and the effort of fixing the drones, and he'd slept for fourteen hours straight after they'd gotten him settled in the infirmary. His fever had broken during the night and the residual congestion was quickly clearing now that the pollen was completely out of his system. Aside from being a bit too pale, the man sitting in the lounge chair before him looked relaxed and remarkably better. Not one hundred percent healthy by any means, but healing. Nodding to himself, Beckett asked, "How're you feeling?"

"Sore. My back gets stiff if I sit too long," he held up a hand to forestall the imminent question, "and yes I'm taking the painkillers you gave me when I need them. It's coming along."

"Good. I thought ya might like ta know that Kehrig's been released. Ronon and Teyla are flying back ta the mainland with him tonight. Teyla plans ta alert her people of what took place, and Kehrig will be watched closely in the months to come, although they don't anticipate any problems. I ran some tests on Kehrig after Teyla and Ronon theorized what was going on with him, and the results were consistent with Teyla's condition while under Wraith influence. The Wraith were indeed controlling Kehrig, they just had much more control over him than they had over Teyla."

"I thought the Athosians had to try really hard to establish a link with the Wraith. How did they manage to forge such a deep connection with Kehrig?"

"Well, we know that once contact has been made all bets are off. After talking with him at length, Teyla thinks that Kehrig formed the initial link somewhat by accident through meditation and then wasn't strong enough ta fight the connection, allowing the Wraith to assume complete control of his body and his mind. His basic personality traits probably remained intact as much as the Wraith deigned necessary, allowing his interaction with our people and the other Athosians ta appear fairly normal. I imagine that's why no one noticed he was here. They just passed him off as another Athosian visitor. Also, with his knowledge of the layout of Atlantis, the Wraith could control his movements rather easily without drawing too much suspicion."

"As a kid I always imagined what it would be like to have telepathic powers, to be able to read minds. I never really considered mind-control as a possible consequence." Sheppard rubbed his chin pensively, "Any idea what caused him to realize he was being controlled? He tried to warn us about the sabotage when we found him in the chair room."

Beckett shook his head. "I'm not entirely sure how he was even able ta sabotage the chair as he's not a carrier of the ATA gene. Kehrig remembers little of the past three months so he wasn't able ta offer much insight, but Rodney thinks that interacting with the chair somehow disrupted his connection with the Wraith just enough that he was able ta communicate briefly. Rodney also believes that the Wraith may have had deep enough control of Kehrig's body ta temporarily mask his life signs as they do their own during hibernation. That may be why we were unable ta track him on the sensors at times."

John frowned. "Is that even physically possible?"

"I don't know, lad. The Wraith are a strange species. It wouldn't surprise me in the slightest if they had a way ta make that happen."

"Me neither." John looked up at the evening sky, wondering not for the first time—nor for the last, he was sure—what the Wraith were up to. The idea that he and the rest of the people in Atlantis had apparently been slated to be test subjects for Wraith trying to nullify the ATA gene was profoundly disturbing, even if the experiment had been conducted through the unaware actions of an Athosian named Kehrig. Possibly even more disquieting was the fact that they had been left with more questions than answers. Presumably the Wraith had genetically engineered the plants themselves, or did so through the hands of Kehrig, but where had the initial work been done? They had found no evidence of a lab on or near the pier. Did the Wraith intend to finish their experiment in the future? Would more Athosians be at risk of being manipulated? Why had his own nightmares resembled the actual course of events? There John stopped himself. That was getting a little too close to Twilight Zone material, though so was the Pegasus Galaxy in general most of the time. Rod Serling, eat your heart out, he thought.

"Don't stay out here too long," Beckett cautioned, drawing John out of his ruminations. "I meant what I said about you taking it easy, and that includes resting in your quarters. You're still recovering, even if ya don't feel tired right now."

"Okay, Mom," John drawled, and grinned at the doc.

"Cheeky bugger," Carson muttered, shaking his head in feigned annoyance as he turned and left the balcony. John's grin widened at Beckett's comment and he relaxed into the chair as the sky faded from orange to a dusty purple. If this was the Twilight Zone then he supposed he liked it just fine, Wraith mind-control be damned.