Title: "Finders Keepers" Gen
Author: Kristen999
Character(s): Sheppard...Some Team.
Genre(s): Stargate Atlantis: H/C.
Rating: T
Words: 10,600
Spoilers: Season 4 "Travelers"

Summary: Sheppard needs to write a handbook about being held captive. AU version to "Travelers" where John wasn't returned at the end.

Notes: Holidays tend to mess with the writing process. Will try to post the last half tomorrow night when I get it back from beta. Thank you to Julie for the quick pinch hit!

This is self indulgent, what can I say!

Rodney knew his computer didn't hold any answers and staring at the view screen of empty space wasn't going to reveal a magic trail for them to follow. The silence inside the jumper was heavy which defied all logic since sound or the absence of sound really didn't contain matter. A rash of Satedan obscenities, or even a demand for them to do something more, no matter how irrational, would be welcomed. Ronon fumed in his seat reaching a conclusion Rodney had not accepted yet---that there was nothing to be done.

Sheppard was gone.

Lorne busied himself with the other jumpers, radioing orders about returning to Atlantis because really, where would they even begin looking? They had just spent twelve hours searching in a grid based on a really big 'what if' and it just blew up in their faces.

Or disappeared into a hyperspace window.

These people had advanced technology; he'd seen it with his own eyes with the data collected after Sheppard had been abducted.

Stupid, stupid, stupid. He should have been prepared for something like this. Every lesson in the Pegasus galaxy stated to expect—the unexpected.

He looked to Teyla for something---anything. She always had a proverb or a saying collected from Athosian versions of Chinese cookies. This time however, there was no mask or air of confidence. Only sagging shoulders and dull eyes.

Major Lorne didn't turn around; he had the distraction of flying. "Dr. McKay, do you have any other leads that we can follow?"

His team's eyes were on him and it was totally unfair. Where were they when he needed the reassurance? It wasn't like he could get a Ouija board and ask it where the ships had gone.

The urge to lash out, to insult the Major or sneer in his response, was palpable, but there what was the point? It wouldn't make him feel better. Sheppard had been the one to provide them with their only lead and that stung enough. Leave it to the colonel to resort to old-fashioned S.O.S.

"Dr. McKay?" Lorne turned this time.

Served him right. Why was he allowed the distraction of piloting when the rest of them could only wallow in defeat?

"I don't know," he said.

There it was again. Maybe he was wrong...silence wasn't heavy...it was hollow.

He really should write a manual about being held prisoner, not the stuff the military tells you to do when caught behind enemy lines. That training was only useful to a degree. Aliens don't understand or give a damn about words like Lieutenant Colonel and he never bothered with his serial number. What was the use of that really? There was no Internet to look up personal information to use against him.

No, it was the mundane stuff, the fundamentals so to speak.

Ignore the confinement. Ignore how the walls taunted and the doors teased a means of escape. Know the reasons for the incarceration. It varied but it always boiled down to the same things: information or one's value. The latter always made things worse.

Be aware that there were no negotiations for release, not that it mattered in his case. The other really crappy thing about his current situation was this time, he couldn't count on his Team for help.

Sheppard made a mistake; it never occurred to him that her people would get here first. He didn't know where in the galaxy he was and any attempts at escape would be insurmountably difficult after his success from earlier. He thought about pacing but his belly ached. It was just one of the fun after effects of being stunned at point blank range and he forced himself to sit on his bunk.

And wait.

Another thing he might add to his manual. Don't ever lower your guard with the person who kidnapped you even if she was beautiful.

He sighed. Maybe the stupid pins and needles would recede soon or his throbbing headache might dull to less annoying levels. He didn't mean to fall asleep but he couldn't recall the last time he gave in to exhaustion.

Larrin stood outside his door after shoving a tray of food inside.

"Room service?" He asked cockily.

She rolled her eyes. "Please. I came by to tell you to rest up, you have a long day tomorrow."

"Great. And here I thought you came bearing gifts after thinking over my offer of an alliance."

Larrin's facade cracked a little but the emotionless mask was back. "I was impressed and I told you it really made me re-evaluate my opinion of you."

"The saving your life twice wasn't enough?"

"You have my word in a few days you'll be returned."

"After I play lab rat for all your new shiny toys."

"You'll be helping thousands of my people. Maybe one day when this is all over, you'll understand."

She was gone and he was still left in a cell. Charm and reason were out the window. Being a guinea pig was not an option and once again he was left contemplating the rules of imprisonment.

Try to escape. Again.

Keeping his strength up was definitely a cardinal rule. He looked at the nutritional blob that these space nomads called food and frowned. It was like a cross between jello and plastic, but he ate it, or half of it. His body was still unhappy about the whole stunning issue and the taste of jelly-crap only made his guts churn uncomfortably.

Staying alert to changes in his environment should be a given. He heard two sets of footsteps and his new guests unlocked the door quickly, pointing stunners at him. Sheppard was no fool and stood up, backing up a step even while he weighed the options of taking them out.

Not yet. He didn't have a plan.

"You here for the turn down service? I'd like an extra blanket."

Both men were taller, about his age and except one had a gut. They had to smuggle food somehow, no way did any of them eat enough to be overweight. The one with the metabolism problem had thinning dark hair and bushy eyebrows. His buddy was the spitting image of Fabio from those cheap romance novel covers with his thick, long hair and blue eyes.

"Hey guys," he said, smiling.

Pudgy glared at him. "We were friends with Silas."

Sheppard tried to look remorseful even if that was the guy who enjoyed making him bleed. "Sorry, about what happened."

Fabio circled around to stand behind him, which was never a good sign.

"I'm sure you're both upset. You have a right to be," Sheppard said, sounding as calm as possible.

"You got him and Nevik killed," Pudgy snarled, curling massive, calloused hands that would make a mason envious.

Alarm bells went off in Shepard's head. "Look, the Wraith attacked. It was very unfortunate, but I really think your leader Larrin would be very unhappy about ...you know about whatever you're thinking of doing."

"Don't worry. We're not going to ruin your face more than it is. She'll never know," Pudgy declared.

Before Sheppard could react his back exploded from a jab from the pointed end of a stunner. His muscles turned to taffy and Fabio took advantage by pulling his arms behind his back.

"Guess...you guys...never heard of the Geneva Convention," Sheppard panted.

The first punch to the gut knocked the wind out of him. The second and third ones buckled his knees making it easier for the real punishment. Fists hardened by manual labor sent blow after blow to his ribs. The world buzzed and his vision became gray, then stark white. He didn't realize he was a pile of broken limbs on the floor until one of the guards kicked him between the shoulder blades.

"Just so you know, you mention word of this. And you're dead."

Footsteps clomped away leaving him in a daze of pain and disorientation. There was a sarcastic voice in the back of his head chiding him about killing friends of the guards. No, that never came up in their training classes either. Then the blissful darkness took him away.

Larrin wasn't taking any chances this time around, Sheppard's escort included Fabio and two other twitchy guards who watched his every move. He was glad he'd made such an impression, not that he could have taken them all on if he wanted to. His ribs were sore, every muscle in his back twinged and he was lucky that he wasn't pissing blood from that nasty kidney shot.

There were more scientists crawling around where he was lead to the engineering section of the Ancient warship.

"You're quiet," Larrin said, breaking up the silence.

Sheppard glanced at Fabio before speaking in his flippant tone. "Didn't get much sleep last night. You need to hire new maids; your current ones don't know how to fluff my pillows the way I like them."

Larrin made another introduction, acting as if this was true partnership without duress. "This is Dr. Lance. You'll be working with him today, getting propulsion on line."

Doctor Lance was a typical carbon copy scientist, awkward on social niceties and over hyped about circuit boards and math equations. Sheppard decided that the table of contents for his taken prisoner manual would include a chapter for people with the ATA gene.

They were a special breed of prisoner after all.

"Please touch this."

"Could you concentrate on the forward drive."

"Now think about the fuel conduits."

Sheppard would make contact with panels, let his hand hover over others. The past few required a much higher level of focus; lights flickered off and on causing the tingling in his fingertips to increase. The cool thing about Ancient technology was it could be very self sufficient, requiring only his presence to make it operate. The downside of a biological interface with equipment that was ten thousand year old was that it relied on the human connection too heavily when it was broken.

By hour three a dull throb developed around his temples, spiking like a knife in his left eye. He unbuttoned his uniform top when the t-shirt underneath began sticking to his skin. He leaned on the console before him, his beat up body protesting the extra strain upon it.

Dr. Lance ran a hand through his curly hair and fussed with his glasses as he checked between his tablet and the panel. "Yes, there, whatever you're doing. Just..um..." the scientist pointed to a schematic on the screen. "See if you can get those two energy bars to merge."

Sheppard took his hand away and glared at the mousy man who shrunk back at his intensity. "You could say please every once in a while," he drawled.

There were three guards and a team of geeks running around. This wasn't the time for an attempt at grandstanding, but he would be damned if he bowed and curtsied to every whim of these people.

"Would you please?" The researcher asked, checking the guards who eyed them.

Sheppard thought about the lines on the screen and focused on them becoming one. The sensitivity in his hand increased, tiny ants crawled over his skin and thousands of legs ghosted over nerves. A warm feeling creped up his arm and droplets of sweat ran down his face and pooled at his armpits.

He lost himself in spirals of color and shimmering light.

"Mr. Sheppard?"

"Mr. Sheppard!"

Someone shook his shoulder and his eyes snapped open as he took a swing at whomever had startled him. The guard easily dodged the blow, aiming his weapon at Sheppard who swayed on his feet before the room swam back into focus.

Dr. Lance waved the guard away and approached in front of him. "That was unexpected."

"What happened?" Sheppard asked.

"You zoned out there for ten minutes and didn't respond. One of the security people became suspicious and tried to snap you out of it."

Not good John.

Sheppard wiped at his brow acting dumb. "Weird."

The researcher squinted at him through his glasses. "That ever happen to you before?"

"No," Sheppard lied.

Never admit weakness to those holding you hostage. It was something drilled into him during training exercises and mock POW camps. It was just common sense. No need exposing a vulnerability that might intrigue those so enamored with his genetic makeup.

The researcher clutched his hand held computer. "Very well. Now let's see if we can get these energy signatures all at the same level," he gestured at another grid on the overhead screen.

On hour seven he gave in and sat in the chair in front of the panel since his feet were going to give out on him. A tight band of pain wrapped a circumference around his head, forcing his eyes closed because the light only magnified his migraine. He curled his hand into a fist anytime he felt it tremble and the kaleidoscope of color behind his closed lids danced and morphed as he re-routed pathways in his mind.

Dr. Lance never stopped talking adding credence that all uber intelligent people channeled their energy through their vocal chords.

"I never knew that the gene could actually work like this. Activate things sure, but bonding to this level and depth with the actual process is fascinating. We need to have Dr. Chauklin conduct tests and observe tomorrow so we can study it in more detail."

"He's been busy with the blood work analysis but I'm sure he'll love to be involved."

That was Larrin's voice and Sheppard cursed himself for loosing track of time again. "I'm not your little gerbil," he growled.

He forced himself to sit up from his slouched position to glower at her. "I agreed to help you get this ship operational and that's it."

She smiled, knowing she held the upper hand. "And we'll do as much research as possible in the mean time."

"I think I've punched my time card for today," he said, getting to his feet.

"How about dinner, then?"

The thought of food made his insides squirm. "Not tonight," he managed to sound stronger then he felt.

The flash of disappointment was there and gone before Larrin cocked her head in nonchalance. "Suit yourself. If you prefer your cell." She eyed him critically for a moment. "Maybe you should rest, you look...tired."

No one should ever be surprised by prisoner abuse; it's a major tendency in guards. The thing to take in consideration was how much to endure to stay alive and when to fight back and suffer the outcome.

Pudgy and Fabio reappeared only an hour after he collapsed on his bunk feeling depleted and weak. He recognized the footsteps, measured the beats before they entered the cell. He'd been gathering his reserves for this and watched the shadows cross the floor. He jumped up and plowed a fist into one stomach, doubling that person over. Then he connected with the jaw of the other guard before popping the same guy on the chin with a right hook.

Sheppard spun around to stay on the offensive when his body spasmed from a stunner blast to the chest. His body crumpled to the floor, every nerve ending was on fire and his limbs twitched uncontrollably. It took a few seconds to realize he wasn't unconscious and laid on his back helpless and unable to move.

Pudgy rubbed at his jaw ruefully and loomed over Sheppard with his gun pointed at him. "We forgot to tell you about the plan tonight. See these weapons have settings and half power really hurts but doesn't knock you out."

His buddy laughed like a circus seal. "Yeah, we decided not to beat on you tonight. This is more fun," Fabio taunted. "So, do you want to next blast in the shoulder or the stomach?"

"I was thinking the head myself," Pudgy said pointing the weapon at his skull.

"What is going on here?"

He felt half-dead but recognized Larrin's sharp command.

"We came to check on the prisoner and he attacked us, Commander."

There were more footsteps and the cell filled with two more security people. He didn't know which moron was trying to cover their ass but the firecracker of a women leaned over him. "Why would you do such a stupid thing?"

Sheppard wet his lips with a numb tongue. "Better question...should be... Do you always let...your guards, beat up your house guests?"

He heard the Terrible Two try to backpedal, but Larrin held up her hand to silence them. "What are you talking about? Don't try to pull one over on me. I have no problem with putting you in shackles and pumping you full of drugs to get you to cooperate properly."

"Let's just say," Sheppard had to take a breath and struggle to keep from slurring his words. "Twettle Dee and Twettle Dumb...like to get their licks in...to avenge their buddy Silas."

The air was thick, the silence brought on by his accusation was palatable. All he wanted to do was keep his plastic dinner on the inside. Larrin took his chin between her fingers, twisting his face one way then another, scowling in doubt. She trailed her finger down the side of his cheek then slinked it over the fabric of his T-shirt. His body quivered from the touch and he tried to wiggle away when she pulled up the hem of his tee to reveal his stomach and chest.

Larrin had a temper and the fire that raged in her eyes reflected in the venom of her voice.

"We do what we have to in order to survive. Some of our methods may not be nice, but I don't approve of this," she hissed.

Sheppard had a tough time staying awake between the stunning and his day playing a human operating system for an ailing ship. He heard the whine of weapons, the shuffling of feet and his body was lifted up and placed on his bunk.

"Black and blue isn't a good color on you," Larrin said, pushing his hair away from his forehead.

"Neither are prison stripes," he said, breathing heavily.

"I can't release you yet."

Despite feeling like he'd been wrung out to dry, he forced his eyes open to lay an angry gaze on her. "We made a deal. A few days."

Larrin's expression was regretful but her words didn't earn her any sympathy. "We have to keep you for long as it takes. I'm sorry...I'll have a doctor take a look at you."

"No, just go away," Sheppard said bitterly.

When the person in charge of his incarceration reflected remorse in her otherwise dangerous eyes then he knew he's just failed a basic principle.

He trusted Larrin to keep to her word and now he was going to pay for it.

Teyla lit the candles that surrounded her room, allowing the warm glow to provide a sense of tranquility. This outer atmosphere did not reflect how she felt inside and the wicks burned endless trails of wax before she folded her legs to meditate. Closing her eyes to the world did not banish the negativity residing in her soul and she took deep breaths to try to excise them. She needed to be clear minded to be able to help John.

Fear and the unknown were dangers in her life before Atlantis and a constant since joining the lead off-world team. They all knew the risks, made choices in the heat of battle and suffered the fallout from those decisions.

This wasn't the first that the colonel had seemed lost to them. She had tasted helplessness when confronted with the iratus bug attached to his neck, or the retrovirus that slowly stole his humanity. Each time she stood by his side as they fought an enemy without a soul.

They lived day-to-day aware of the growing number of groups that sought their destruction. The last time they had been made to feel this impotent was through a camera lens. Koyla had done the unthinkable, crossed a line no one ever dared in his blood feud. But Koyla had a face, he was a known enemy, someone to target.

This time, they had nothing at all.

The next morning, after she'd managed five hours sleep, Teyla arrived to the meeting, focused and determined. They were on day three and if they were changing strategies there was much ground to cover.

"We don't have a way to track Colonel Sheppard since there is no point of origin to go by. I think our best option is to begin approaching planets that are involved in heavy trading. We're dealing with a new race or group of people who have capable technology to our own. Someone, somewhere must know of them," Colonel Carter explained.

"That's your plan?" Ronon asked, unconvinced.

"Do you know how many planets that involves?" Rodney huffed.

"We can count those." Carter explained, "We can't search every sector of space. We ask questions, offer incentives for information, maybe even pressure." With the last, she eyed the Satedan speculatively.

"Another needle in a hay stack," Rodney grumbled.

Teyla did not know what that meant, but the defeatists' attitude was obvious. "We will do whatever it takes. Do we have enough people?"

Major Lorne dropped a PDA on the table. "We have teams already assembled, including many volunteers. If we work efficiently, we can cover a lot of different posts. We'll keep to only major hubs."

"Colonel Caldwell is lending assistance in whatever we need as well," Carter added.

Teyla headed to the armory to get her gear with more purpose. Last night they came back empty, today was what they called a long shot.

It was something.

He felt beat to a pulp, like he'd been tossed down a ravine and hit every rock and bolder on the way down. Something woke him up and he swung his legs around at the sounds of approaching footsteps. Larrin shut down the force field and entered his cell a new guy trailing behind her.

"Time to make the donuts?" Sheppard asked.

"This is Dr. Chauklin, he'll be studying your neurological responses today. You'll be working in the control chair," Larrin explained.

"My next dental check up is six weeks away." Sheppard laid the sarcasm on thick because it hid how crappy he felt. He resisted the urge to massage his temples and rid the vice trying to crush his skull.

Dr. Chauklin looked like his uncle Pete who used to give him a lollipop as a kid every time he visited. The Doc had thinning silver hair that was mostly bald on the top and spectacles. "The tests today are vital to the success of perfecting our interface. The more you cooperate, the closer we'll get where we won't need your assistance."

"The definition of cooperation includes the words mutual agreement, so forgive me if I don't share your enthusiasm," Sheppard snarled. The guy reminded him about a nicer time in his childhood but at the moment he was just another mad scientist.

"Let's go," Larrin commanded.

When it came to behavior and interacting with the enemy there were loads and loads of subtext about being uncooperative. He was going to test the bounds and limitations of that today.

There was a larger security detail in the chair room to study his every move.

"Are they here in case for persuasion if things don't go right?" He gestured towards the four guards.

"You've proven quite resourceful before and I won't take any chances when you're working on so many systems at once." Larrin took a spot in the corner.

Dr. Lance joined the party and the two docs babbled and circled him like a prized specimen. For six hours they asked him to search for programs, track down anomalies and communicate with inactive protocols. Each directive he blocked, stalled and buried code too deeply for the white coats to find.

"No, no. This isn't working at all. Are you paying attention to the graph?" Lance asked, pointing at the computer screen. "You're causing a power flux!"

"Sorry, not sure why it isn't working," Sheppard feigned ignorance.

"Mr. Sheppard, when you activate systems do they appear to you as concepts or do you receive visual pictures of everything?" Dr. Chauklin inquired.

"A little of both, I guess," Sheppard answered truthfully.

"And if you don't know how to do something what do you do?"

"I think about it some more."

"It's subconscious communication that takes place. Even if you have no knowledge of quantum algorithms used in certain sub-routines. You can still command them to do something or alter them, correct?" Chauklin pressed.

Sheppard shifted in the chair uncomfortably, the pressure in his head was trying to push his brain out his ears and it was harder to think clearly. "Yeah, something like that."

"Then we all know you can realign the power output without a problem and I bet find a way to streamline it in the process. I'm monitoring you, so stop wasting our time, son. You're only going to prolong your time with us."

Sheppard chewed on his bottom lip. He was a prisoner no matter how these people sugarcoated it. "Even animals rebel inside their cages, Doc. No matter how you justify things, this is just another set of bars."

"Animals are rewarded when they behave, Sheppard. You'll stay in that chair all night unless you do as you're told," Larrin warned.

Sheppard didn't have a flashy comeback, he was sweating through his T-shirt again and his entire body ached from head to toe. He wasn't making the progress they wanted but he was still hooked into every major system, fighting hard to resist all the urging from the mainframe to repair things. He closed his eyes; it took more energy to repress the directives from the ship and he just wanted to crawl away.

It felt like giving in and letting them win if he followed through with things, but he was running out of options.

"The power output?"

Sheppard didn't know which one of them was prodding him but the interface was more powerful then any of their threats. "Clearing the pathways," he replied, begrudgingly.

He immersed himself in equations, linear and non-linear, turning on code and fixing broken links. There were mental nudges and extreme concentration at times, more often then not it was just his brain acting as a conduit.

It hurt. He felt sick and hot. His migraine became the epi-center of a massive shock wave of pain and he had a difficult time finding his way back to conscious thought.

Larrin stayed in her corner feeling useless but knowing that one of the most important missions was taking place right in front of her. There was too much at stake to hope for the kindness of a stranger. Life was hard, survival required tough choices and a stomach to tolerate all the consequences.

Nothing was ever black and white. She did what it took to get results and the key to one of her biggest problems resided with a cocky, stubborn frustrating man. She could have broken his fingers, starved him or any number of devious things to gain what was needed. Despite what the pilot thought, she wasn't that barbaric.

Munch and Stopsky floated out in space as proof.

There were rules of conduct and no leeway when it came to abuse of prisoners or anything that undermined her leadership. People lives depended on her orders.

"We should probably give him a break. It's been eight hours," Chauklin whispered.

"He's tried to sabotage things by stalling." Larrin hissed, her eyes never leaving Sheppard, "We've only made two hours of headway and that's because of his own actions. Tomorrow we'll give him one, but right now we need to make a point."

"You didn't let me examine him before this," the doctor challenged. "You did use unsavory methods on him the other day and if he's been beaten and stunned on top of that."

"He didn't want one," she snapped. "Besides he's tough."

A man whose opinion greatly mattered to her simply studied her face. "I think you're trying to distance yourself a little too much. I understand why. Don't try so hard to detach that you lose sight of things."

"Point taken."

The physician shook his head. "His color isn't good, Larrin. He looks ill. We know nothing about how the gene of the ancestors works."

She shook her head. "We have to create some discipline with him. I'll even let you give him a check up afterwards." Larrin smiled, she wasn't evil. There was a job to do.

Hours dragged on, it was time to check in with her skeleton staff. After dinner time she returned and Chauklin glared at her, his expression thunderous. She looked at the time, at the man totally unaware in the chair and exhaled a long breath.

"Let's call it a night. We're done, Sheppard," she commanded.

The systems powered down and the chair returned to its normal position. The pilot sat there for a few minutes breathing heavily before getting to his feet shakily.

"I'm...complaining to my union rep," Sheppard complained, slurring his words.

The pilot took two steps before his eyes rolled to the back of his skull and he crumpled in a heap on the floor.

Chauklin ran over and searched for a pulse. "Mr. Sheppard?" He slapped the man's face gently without a response before he took the man's head between his hands. "He's burning up."

Larrin ran over, her breath caught in her throat. Sheppard's pallor was gray, his hair plastered to his forehead slick with sweat. "What do you need?"

"His pulse is racing. Get the guards to carry him to the medical bay. I don't want to waste time taking him back to your ship."

She nodded, her security detail snapping to her orders. "Take it easy carrying him. If one of you so much as rattles him too hard, you'll be scrubbing the insides of the engines for a cycle."

Larrin didn't like surprises and she hated waiting but there was nothing for her to do except get in the way. She occupied her self with Dr. Lance's reports on their progress and looked up when one of her men approached.

"Commander, you have a transmission from Overseer Burskaia."

"Thank you," she said, dismissing him.

She walked over to the computer screen where her temporary command area was situated and entered in her security codes until the image of superior appeared.

"Commander," the man said stiffly.

"Overseer Burskaia, what can I do for you?"

"I've been going over your developments and wanted to bring to your attention to some additional intelligence."

"Yes, sir?"

The Overseer didn't look pleased. "The group who we think have occupied the city of the Ancients have been causing waves with a few of our trading partners in search of their missing man."

"We have made leaps and bounds in repair to the ship and Dr. Chauklin is making headway with--"

"Do you know these people posses warships of the same class as our Destroyers?"

"I was unaware of that."

"Our spy satellite caught one coming out of an orbital ring and I must stress their ship is in much superior shape then ours. We have no idea how many might be out there. Its involved in a serious search and rescue mission."

She didn't understand. "Sir, Sheppard is a pilot. I don't see the logic in using so many resources in--"

"A pilot. Oh yes, he is indeed a pilot. Let me ask you this, Commander. Did you take the time to find out who you kidnapped in your little plot?"

The medical bay was empty except for a single bed and Larrin glanced at the lone patient before walking over towards Chauklin as he monitored one of the machines.

He looked up at her, waving her over. "Good thing this was one of the secondary units I had Mr. Sheppard activate or I'd have little to go by besides my kit."

Her eyes drifted over towards the source of so much annoyance and she blew out a breath, speaking in a voice much softer than belied her anger. "How is he?"

Chauklin looked worn out with dark circles under his eyes. "Exhausted for one. He's running a low-grade fever, suffering from dehydration. His blood pressure and his pulse are too high. I just got his blood tests back and they're confusing, but I don't have the faculties to really understand the results."

Larrin turned from the physician to Sheppard's prone form on the bed. "Keep it simple," she said, her fingers hovering above the prisoner's pale face.

"He's pretty sick. I can keep him on an IV, try to give him something that'll help bolster his electrolytes. I think that's where the problem lies but without the right equipment. I don't know," he said looking at her.

She withdrew her hand and folded her arms. "And what about interfacing with the ancient systems?"

"We can't allow any more. We don't know what we're dealing with. Even on our ship we're limited to treating triage, but only the hospital vessel has the labs needed for this."

"He could just recover, right? After a period of rest," she said, searching for any good news.

"If you want to play with his health like that. Maybe."

"I have to consult with Overseer Burskaia. Seems Sheppard's absence has really stirred things up. We may end up having to keep him as a guest permanently to avoid any possible retribution. We don't know how large their war fleet is."


"Also put him in soft restraints, he's still a security risk."

"Now wait a--"

"That's an order, doctor."

Larrin walked away, not wanting to see one her best confidant's expression. Guilt was a heavy burden of leadership and she couldn't allow emotions to influence the whole picture.