Note: Ok, this part's later than I'd planned - severe life crisis and upcoming exams make for not much writing time. For the same reasons I can't guarantee exactly when the next part'll be up, but hopefully within the week. Reviews help me write faster! :P Thank you very much to everyone who's left one so far, you guys are great :D
Oh, and hopefully this chapter makes sense... but not too much sense, obviously, there're another couple to go yet ;)
Atlantis was dark.
And that was wrong. Atlantis was never dark. Wherever anyone went, at whatever time of the day or night, it lit up ahead of them. Unfailingly. Especially for him, because Atlantis liked him. It also liked Sheppard, possibly more, despite the fact that it wasn't he who ran around doing all the useful things to keep the city functioning and all its current inhabitants safe, but merely happened to naturally possess a genetic combination which gave him an unfair advantage.
Not that he was jealous, of course.
But Atlantis was dark now. And it shouldn't be dark.
Rodney looked around him in confusion, but he couldn't see much. Ghostly moonlight must have been filtering in from a window somewhere, because he could just about make out the barely-noticeable contrasts between the floor and the walls. Instinctively he reached for his radio, but it wasn't in his ear. It should be. He felt strangely vulnerable without it.
Lights, he thought, but Atlantis didn't respond. And that was wrong, too. There must be a power failure. Probably caused by one of his scientists messing about with control systems. He would need to get to either the control room or the ZPM room to see what he was dealing with.
Get… get to…
He blinked, and his eyes suddenly widened, darting around frantically. Where the hell am I?
He was in a deserted Atlantis corridor, in darkness, without the faintest idea of where exactly he was, or how he'd got there. And… he strained his ears, his mouth suddenly dry.
There were sounds.
Not military boots, or civilian shoes, but the soft pad, pad, pad of bare feet. Coming closer.
He spun around in the direction of the noise, and stared into the shadows, his eyes as wide as he could make them, imaging the pupils expanding to take in every filament of light there was, but he could see nothing. "Who's there?" he tried to call, but it came out as more of a squeak through dry lips.
Pad, pad, pad.
"Shh." A sibilant whisper came from the darkness ahead of him.
There was a different noise behind him. A fluttering noise. Like wings.
"Don't move," the same soft whisper instructed him
His breathing was speeding up, becoming ragged, his muscles tensed. Fight or flight instincts rearing, but he was capable of neither, frozen in place.
"Who's there?" he stammered.
"What do you want?" This time it was definitely a squeak which he produced. His chest was knotted tight with fear. The fluttering noise was getting closer, and so were the footsteps. And he still couldn't see anything ahead of him, and the muscles of his neck wouldn't obey him to look around…
Flutter, flutter, flutter, closer and closer and closer, and behind him, long, soft, silky feathers gently brushing against the nape of his neck…
He squeezed his eyes shut and held his breath…
His eyes snapped open and light suddenly flared around him, blinding him, as the presence behind him suddenly vanished and his knees buckled. He dropped like a stone to the floor, not doing anything to lessen the bruising thud of impact, and lay there, curled into himself, sobbing for breath, tremors of heat wracking him, feeling himself burning up, his skin slick with sweat. Nothing there. Had to be a dream. A dream. Just a dream.
Nothing attacked him. There was no sound apart from his harsh breaths and drumming heartbeat in his ears. At length he managed to open his eyes again, once they had adjusted to the bright lighting, cautiously lifting his head. The hard floor was uncomfortable beneath him, and cold. He pinched the skin of his forearm, feeling the little flare of pain. Yes. This was real.
Slowly, he pulled himself upright. His turbulent mind began to take stock of the situation, rationalising it. He was in a deserted corridor, somewhere in Atlantis, his feet bare, shivering now.
"You were sleepwalking," he said aloud, refusing to acknowledge the traitorous shake to his voice. "Stupid thing to do. Should have known better."
But where had he sleepwalked to? He began to follow the line of the corridor, his breathing still unsettled, legs still feeling as if muscles had been replaced with jelly. He kept touching the wall with his hand, its solidity reassuring him. Nightmares were nothing new. He had become used to them in the past few years. But this one – this one had felt so real. And he had never sleepwalked before, as far back as he could remember.
He must be a long way from his quarters. A long way from anywhere, in fact. He reasoned that he was probably in one of the towers, as some of the architecture gradually became vaguely familiar. But he wasn't even sure if he could trust his memory on that point, his mind still playing tricks on him, making him jump at shadows and noises that weren't there. A large window loomed at the end of the corridor, and he uneasily watched his reflection shimmer unfocused , trapped inside the pane of glass, with the blackness beyond. He didn't know what time it was, but there was no hint of dawn in the dark sky.
Suddenly, Rodney froze. He was sure that he could hear something, something real this time, distantly. Not footsteps. A softer sound. It could have been the waves somewhere, but not quite, swish, swish…
And there was something he should know… something to do with a voice, whispering… and ruins…
Isn't there a mission to some ruins in the morning, looking for an energy source? The thought chimed in his head, confused somehow. Like a déjà-vu, if that was the right word to describe a thought…
He looked down at himself. He wasn't wearing the joggers and t-shirt he usually wore to sleep in. He was dressed in infirmary scrubs.
Cautiously, he took a step closer to the glass. And another one. He needed to get his bearings from the rest of the city, but the reflection of the bright-lit hallway blocked anything from beyond. Dim, he silently instructed the lights. They faded, down and down as he continued to peer out. And then they switched themselves off altogether, but he could still see nothing on the other side of the window. "You can work this out," he told himself, trying to sound tough and fearless.
At the sound of the whisper, he spun around instantly around, facing the way he had come, mind numbed, not thinking of turning the lights back on.
Pad, pad, pad.
He backed away a step, aware of the blank window to one side, and the open hall which continued at his back.
Pad. Pad. "Stop."
His feet stopped involuntarily. He seemed to have no control over his own body. This is a dream. This is a dream. This is a dream…
He didn't move. He could hear the speaker advancing. He was swallowing rapidly, his palms slippery as his hands formed ineffectively into fists.
And with a splintering crash, the window beside him suddenly imploded, his blurred image shattering, long sharp skewers of glass launched spear-like towards him, glittering with reflected moonlight. What moonlight? his mind wanted to know, but the thought vanished half-formed as they whistled through the air, reaching him before he had time to do more than bend down, desperately trying to protect his head with his raised arms.
Splinters pierced his skin. And a sword-sharp shard lanced into the unprotected flesh of his abdomen. He screamed, fell without registering it, hitting the floor hard.
Pad, pad, pad. The footsteps halted by his head. He pried his eyes open to darkness and strained them to see anything, anything at all.
And the lights turned up full again. The corridor was empty. There was only him, lying in a shining drift of glass, red blood pooling around the shards. He watched the lake of it grow, watched it spread and touch against the pale skin of one outstretched hand, dispassionately, through half-closed eyelids. That's my blood, he thought, almost surprised at the realisation. Mine.
Something… Something's wrong…