He didn't know who he was. He didn't know where he was. He wasn't sure how he'd got there either. He was lost, and he had a rapidly developing headache, and he was so warm he was starting to sweat.
It didn't seem like a good way to be, hurrying through corridors with no real idea where he was going, so he stopped, hesitating, and looked around. There was something in his hands, and he held it up, tilting it to catch the light, admiring it for a moment. Some kind of crystal - valuable maybe? Certainly, it was pretty, sending coloured rainbows through the corridor as it refracted the light.
He didn't have the slightest idea where it had come from, but something at the back of his mind insisted that it was important, that he needed to protect it. Remembering so little only made that one thing he could hold onto seem more significant, and he hugged the crystal to his chest. Maybe it was the reason he was down here? It seemed likely.
Voices made him startle, and he skittered nervously away still clutching the crystal. Friends or enemies? It was difficult to tell, although friends down here would be most welcome. Still.. his hands tightened around the crystal, instinctively protecting it. What if they'd come to take it from him? He peered into the nearest room, found it empty, and slipped inside. The crystal he hid in a cupboard, tucking it safely away. He could come back for it later, when they'd gone.
That task completed, he hurried back out, following the sound of voices. He could hear a male and a female, and as he got closer they started to sound almost as lost as he was, their tones holding clear confusion as they wound their way through the corridors. He listened carefully before making his decision. Maybe they wouldn't be so much help then, but at least they could be lost together.
He called a greeting as he neared them, sure by now that they were at least not a danger. They looked up, frowning, not seeming to understand, and he tried again, more hesitant this time.
More frowns, and the pair glanced at each other, then back at him. "I'm sorry," the man said apologetically in English. "But we don't understand."
English, and he understood it, and that was surprising because he was certain it wasn't his native language. His brain took the words, and translated them, changing them back to -- what? For a moment he almost had it, and then it was gone again, slipping out of his reach.
"Is this understood better?" he asked slowly, the words feeling oddly familiar in his mouth, even if he had to search for them a moment. Whoever he was, he was certain, he spoke English often.
The pair seemed relieved, even smiling a little, and the woman spoke up shyly. "Do you know where we are? We just... we found ourselves here."
He shook his head, glancing around the corridor again as though it might seem more familiar on a second look. "I don't know," he admitted. The two of them seemed to be dressed in some sort of uniform and, looking down at himself, he realised that his own clothes were similar. "Do we know each other?"
"I think --" the man started, looking at his own clothes, "I -- I think we are --" For a moment, he almost seemed to grasp it, struggling as though if he only concentrated enough he could finish the sentence and pin the knowledge down. Then he shook his head helplessly, and whatever it was slipped away. "It's gone. I'm sorry."
"Maybe we live here?" the woman suggested, her forehead wrinkling. "But.. this does not seem like a place where people would live. Not well."
It was true, he had to agree. It was too dimly lit, there was nothing -- no food, none of the amenities which his mind couldn't quite get a hold on right now, but which he was certain should exist. There should be more to life than a dim corridor filled with dark storerooms. If you lived here, it wouldn't be happily.
His brain leaped at that thought, pulled at what it must mean. He couldn't remember, perhaps, but he did not feel as though he ought to be unhappy. So, wherever he came from, he was happy there? That was barely enough to count as knowledge at all, but it was a start.
"Not here," he agreed slowly, "but perhaps we could be living close by?"
"Yes!" The woman seemed grateful for that idea, her face lighting up. "Yes, I don't think it can be far, wherever it is. And.. there would be people there, surely?"
People with memories. People who could tell them who they were, what had happened to them. It seemed strange that they all seemed to be having problems with their memories. He nodded, glancing up and down the corridor. "Which way should we be searching?"
"Split up?" the man suggested. "Save a bit of time looking. If we find someone, we'll come find you, and if you find someone --" He looked hesitant a moment. "You won't forget, will you? That we're here?"
"I will remember," he said firmly, determined to fix it in his mind.
Something else he had to remember - something important? Something he'd meant to go back to. He frowned for a moment, half-memory tickling his brain, then turned to start exploring. It was gone.
He didn't know who he was. He didn't know where he was. His head ached, and it was too hot - hot enough to leave him sweating and miserable. He wasn't sure how he'd got there, but he was fairly certain he was meant to be looking for something. People? Yes, that was it. Looking for people.
The sound of footsteps made him hurry to investigate, hoping he had succeeded in that at least. He poked his head out into a hallway, seeing a man in a white coat, ready to shout to him.
He didn't get time to. Someone else had seen the man too.
There were shouts, and as he stared in horror a group of four - soldiers? they seemed like soldiers - came hurrying around the corner after the man. One of them called after him - a name, Dr Parrish - but the man glanced over his shoulder, not seeming to recognise them at all, and only quickened his steps.
It was understandable. He watched, eyes wide with horror, as the man started to hurry down the hallway towards where he was hiding. Close enough, perhaps, and he could grab him, pull him away, they could flee together. A new memory was emerging - or, not a memory perhaps, but a piece of knowledge, too deeply buried for him to be able to recall what laid behind it. A dark instinct stirring under the surface of his mind, a recollection of fear that seeped formless into his bones - you did not leave people to face the soldiers.
Closer, and he tensed, his heart starting to hammer, ready to move as adrenalin spiked. It was dangerous to risk the anger of the soldiers, dangerous to go against them, but to do otherwise was more than that, it was wrong. His inability to remember why that should be did not lessen his certainty that it was true. Some things you did not have to understand to know they were the truth.
But there was no chance to help. Before the man had reached him, one of the soldiers raised his gun. He could only watch as the man was hit in the back, stumbled, and fell. There was no blood - perhaps it should have made it seem better that whatever they had shot the man with was not to kill him, but it only awoke fresh horror. Whatever soldiers did to you when they took you away, some part of him was certain, it was not better than being shot and left for dead.
They were lifting the man now, two of them ready to carry him away between them. The man hung limply as he was carried - not dead, but certainly unconscious. The other two soldiers came on.
He backed away from the hallway, hands shaking, mouth suddenly dry as his stomach threatened to rebel. Closer and they would notice him, know that he had seen what they had done. Closer, and he would be next. Closer and he would be found. His foot nudged against something and he stumbled, almost tripping, managing only by luck to right himself without making a noise. He looked down, seeing a length of iron piping between his feet, and picked it up. It was heavy, uncomfortable in his hands, and he clutched it close to his chest. That it would make a good enough weapon, he was sure of, it was simply that he was not comfortable carrying a weapon at all.
Sometimes though, maybe you didn't get a choice and in the absence of choice and the presence of fear the cool metal weight in his hands was reassuring. He waited, back pressed close to the wall, barely daring to breathe, knowing that any moment now one of them would think to look down there.
"Sir--" When they did he was ready, moving with more speed than he thought he was capable of, as soon as one of them looked around the corner. The pipe connected with the man's head, and he almost dropped it as he felt the jarring impact. The man slumped to the floor, folding into a heap. Dead? Some part of him hoped not, but there was no time to check now.
Not when the other soldier wasn't too far behind. "Hey! Dr Zelenka!"
Dr Zelenka? Was that his name? Why did the soldiers know his name? It sent a jolt of alarm through him, even as he bolted. Soldiers just looking for an easy victim were dangerous, soldiers who knew your name were so much worse. Someone who knew who you were was likely to be looking for you for a reason, and when it was a soldier, that reason was rarely good.
Keep running and they would catch him, shoot him, take him to -- wherever they were taking people. There was a hatch close by and he scrambled through it instead, grateful for the small size that let him squeeze through to safety. They would not be able to follow him there.
He didn't know where he was. There had been a narrow sort of hole and he'd squeezed through, clutching an iron pipe to his chest. His name was - no, it was gone again, although he was certain he had known it a mere second ago. His head ached in a way that made it difficult to think around, difficult to focus on things he ought to know, and it was far, far too hot. He just knew he had to avoid the soldiers.
That thought stuck there, glued perhaps by terror, even when everything else seemed to have slipped away. Had to avoid the soldiers. If the soldiers saw you, they would shoot you and take you away to who knew where. Nothing good ever happened when soldiers took people away. Better to avoid, to fight if you had to but to find somewhere safe to hide away from them. Maybe then the soldiers would go away again. If you waited long enough, silent in the dark, holding your breath until there were spots in front of your eyes, sometimes the soldiers went away.
Footsteps made him startle, gripping the pipe more tightly. Had the soldiers found him?
Maybe he had to find them first. He walked softly, tracking the footsteps, ready to steal up behind and surprise them. He had a pipe. That was going to have to be enough.
Something stopped him from striking the man he found bending over someone though. He just didn't look like a soldier, and that was enough to make him stop and hesitate.
"What are you doing here?" he demanded, still nervous of this stranger. Why did he use English? It wasn't a conscious decision, just the language his brain seemed to reach for as he started to speak.
The man jumped as though afraid - perhaps they were all afraid here - and straightened, turning to face him. Bigger than he had expected, big enough to make him shift again nervously. People who weren't soldiers could still be dangerous sometimes.
"I- I don't know." And that didn't sound threatening, but then the man stepped towards him, and he found himself raising the pipe warningly, just in case. Just in case, though he wasn't actually sure what he meant to do with it. He might have a weapon, but he wasn't sure he could actually use it, at least on anyone who was actually ready to fight back.
"What are you doing?" he asked again, unsure whether to break and run, because maybe it was a soldier after all. Soldiers didn't always look like you expected them to, and who knew what had happened to the man slumped on the floor?
But soldiers didn't stop and raise their hands, soldiers weren't scared of people who only had a length of iron pipe to defend themselves with, and that made him look at the man more closely. No gun, no weapon at all that he could see, so maybe it was safe.
"You're not a soldier," he decided after a moment, relaxing a little.
"If you say so." And the man looked less than convinced of that, but then maybe he couldn't remember anything either, although it seemed that being a soldier was the type of thing you should remember, just like you should remember if you were a murderer or rapist. He was certain he would remember, if he was one.
Not-a-soldier meant the man was not a danger, but it also meant that maybe he should be protected. He seemed lost, and helpless, without even an iron pipe to defend himself. If he stayed here the soldiers would find him.
"You should come with me," he said abruptly, lowering his pipe as he made a decision. "It is safe." Or it would be, at least. They could hide away together in one of the dark little storage rooms, and stay there until the soldiers had gone. Safer than leaving him here. You did not leave people to face the soldiers.
He turned to hurry away, assuming the man would follow, but the man just stood there, not seeming to understand the urgency. "No, no - slow down," he protested, as though there were all the time in the world to stand out in the open and discuss things. "What's going on here?"
He stopped reluctantly, looking back, lothe to waste time on explaining. "It's the soldiers," he said quickly, hurriedly, "they're after us. If they catch us, they'll take us away." That much remained a solid certainty, a fact he could cling to in a sea of things he could no longer remember.
Yet it didn't seem to satisfy the man. "Take us where?" he demanded. "Why?" As though soldiers needed a 'why', or it mattered where. No-one ever knew where you were taken when the soldiers took you, they just knew that it was bad. That was enough knowing. "What soldiers? What is this place?"
It was too loud, and it set him anxious all over again, sure that they would be caught at any moment. "Ssh!" he ordered frantically. "You shut up!" He glanced about, keeping his own voice down. "The soldiers will hear us."
"What the hell is going on here?" Did the man have no sense of survival at all? He didn't even lower his voice - just kept talking, loudly and angrily, as though he wanted the soldiers to find them. "Why can't I remember anything?"
"I don't know!" And if the man wouldn't have been so obviously doomed on his own, he would have left then, run away and left him to fend for himself. "No-one can."
"No-one can?" If anything that seemed to encourage him to stop and ask more questions. "You've seen others?"
"Yes." He could remember them, although only vaguely, their names and even their faces escaping him. There had been others, he was certain of it, although he was not sure what had happened to them. "One or two others, apart from the soldiers."
The man reached for something, and it looked familiar, as though he should know what to do with it. The picture he showed him on the front though, did not.
"What about her? Was she there?"
He peered a moment at the picture of the woman - long-haired, smiling a little - and felt no jolt of recognition. "No," he said firmly, unsure whether he would know if she had been but needing mostly to get both of them out of there.
It didn't work. The man just seemed to get more agitated. "I have to find her."
"Why?" Because if he knew that, maybe he'd know other things - who they were, what they were doing here.
"I don't know." It seemed they weren't going to be that lucky. "It's important."
Maybe it was a relative? She didn't look similar enough to be a sister, but a wife, a girlfriend.. it barely mattered now. He was risking too much already standing here, trying to convince the man to come - there was no way they could go searching for anyone else. "Look, the soldiers probably have her by now, okay?" It wasn't the gentlest way of putting it perhaps, but it was reality. Those the soldiers took must be regarded as gone forever if the survivors were to keep surviving. "Come on!"
But the man just didn't understand somehow. Didn't understand the danger, didn't understand why you had to keep running and hiding. "Well, can we ask them?"
"Are you crazy?" And maybe he really, really was because the shouting was bad enough, but why would you even suggest such a thing? "If the soldiers see you, they shoot you, they take you away." And it felt to him as though that much should be obvious -- that you shouldn't have to see the soldiers doing such things, as he had, to know that they were bad.
Weren't all soldiers bad?
The man just stared at him again, seeming exasperated - why should he be exasperated? "Again with the taking away!"
He took a deep breath. You had to make exceptions for the crazy and the stupid. They couldn't protect themselves, so somebody had to protect them, make sure the soldiers didn't get them. "Look, you should come hide with me," he said, more gently, because clearly the man was not to blame if he could not understand. "It's safe."
"I can't." It seemed there was no looking after those who didn't want to be looked after. "I have to keep looking."
"Fine!" There had to be a limit, after all. There was no way he was large enough to make the man come with him, and no-one said you had to commit suicide helping people who clearly were not at all grateful for it. "Suit yourself. You want to get yourself killed -- I don't care."
But he did care, which was what put an angry set to his shoulders, what made him complain under his breath as he walked away, cursing the man quietly in his own language. He had done everything he could reasonably expected to -- and more. He could hardly drag the man to safety.
Still, the thought of what he was leaving the man to left him uncomfortable and guilty. You did not leave people to face the soldiers.
He didn't know who he was. He didn't know where he was. His head was starting to ache to the point where thinking became impossible, and it felt as though he had been wandering the corridor for hours - miserable, lost, and over-heating. He had to find somewhere safe - somewhere away from the soldiers.
How would he even know if he was doubling back on himself?
There was a noise ahead, and he froze in place for a moment, listening. It sounded like a struggle.
He didn't dare to investigate until the noise moved off, footsteps moving away. Then he approached warily, ready to run if he had to.
The soldiers had gone. It had been them though, it had to have been, because on the floor lay one of their guns.
He remembered that, them using the guns. Funny what stuck, but maybe some things were just too dangerous to forget. He picked it up carefully, as though expecting it to explode, to shoot him of its own accord. It fit uncomfortably in his hand, feeling unfamiliar and wrong in his grasp. Still, if you wanted to survive against the soldiers, maybe you had to use their weapons.
There was something else -- a blocky sort of thing, and that hadn't belonged to the soldiers because, because -- no. The 'because' was gone again. He picked it up anyway, clutching it to his chest possessively. Something told him it might be important, too important to leave.
There was nothing else there, so he kept walking, still holding the gun awkwardly in one hand. Maybe with that he could fight against the soldiers.
He didn't know who he was. He didn't know where he was. He had a gun, a strange blocky thing which didn't seem to do much, and an aching head, and he was hotter than he thought could be healthy for anyone. Maybe he was ill. Maybe the soldiers had made him ill. How did you know what to trust?
The gun, though. That would make him safe, wouldn't it?
Voices around a corner made him raise the weapon nervously. What if he suddenly forgot how to use it?
"I know you're out there." That was what you were meant to say, wasn't it? Something like that? "Drop your weapons and come out slowly." Or what? He'd shoot them? Or they'd shoot him first - which seemed more likely as they could see him and he could see... no-one. He waved the gun unhappily, searching for a movement.
What if they didn't even understand English?
He nearly pressed the trigger out of sheer panic when a man stepped around the corner, raising his hands. "Don't shoot!"
Right. Right, now he had a prisoner. He'd never wanted a prisoner, but now he had one, and what did you even do with those? He aimed the gun at the man, trying to look as though he knew what he was doing. He suspected he was failing.
"I don't have any weapons," the man reassured, and it didn't seem as though he were lying. A woman followed, her hands also in the air, and he stared from one to the other, wondering what he was supposed to do now. It wasn't as though he could point the gun at both of them.
"Who are you?" he asked, trying to inject an authorative tone into the question.
"We were captured by the soldiers," the woman answered him. "We escaped."
"Really?" And that was surprising, enough that he almost lowered the gun. No-one ever escaped from the soldiers. They took you away, and then no-one ever saw you again.
"Listen, what is that?" The man gestured at the blocky thing, and he backed away a couple of steps, clutching it protectively to his chest in case they tried to take it. Remember not to trust people. Perhaps he could just have shot them if they tried to take it, but that probably wasn't a plan he should rely on. The idea of just pointing the gun at them and firing.. he wasn't sure he could.
"I found it," he said defensively, because he hadn't stolen it or anything -- he was certain of that.
"Let me see," the man said insistently, and he shook his head, gripping it more tightly because it was his. When you owned very little else, even strange blocky things were valuable.
"What is it?" the woman asked, and he was glad that she seemed to be looking at the man rather than him, because he couldn't have answered.
"I don't know," the man admitted, "but something tells me it's important."
"Why?" he asked, because, if you were letting someone near one of very few things you possessed, you at least wanted a good reason.
"I don't know," the man said again. He held out his hand, his expression pleading.
He shouldn't have trusted him, probably he should have just shot him and run away, but something made him hand the blocky thing over, giving it to the man.
The man took it, pressing something in the side which he hadn't noticed before. The thing lit up immediately, a picture displaying across the front.
It had never done that before - or at least he didn't remember it doing that - and it was difficult not to stare. "Hey! How did you know to do that?" he demanded, surprised and maybe a little suspicious, because maybe the man had forgotten less than he said.
There were few answers to be had here though. "I don't know," the man said, as though that was the only answer he had to anything. "I just did."
The woman, meanwhile, was peering at the device. "Well, that's her!" she announced suddenly. "Teyla."
"You know her?" He looked back at the picture, at an image of a long-haired woman with a slight smile. She didn't look familiar. Nobody did.
"Well, not exactly," the woman admitted. "We're looking for her. We think she can help us."
"Huh!" He looked more closely, reading the words beneath the image. "It says "find her"," he pointed out. "How are you going to do that?"
The pair looked at each other helplessly, and he stifled the urge to sigh. Looking for someone when the soldiers were out there seemed like a sure way to get caught.
Still, this seemed important, and he couldn't remember what else he was meant to be doing. These two would undoubtably get caught on their own. Even he had caught them, and he wasn't a soldier!
You did not leave people to face the soldiers.
"We keep looking," he said resignedly. "Maybe we find her."
He didn't know who he was. He didn't know where he was. He didn't know who the two people with him were. His head was aching in a steady throb, and they seemed to be as uncomfortably hot as he was, judging by how much they were sweating. They were looking for someone.
He wasn't sure how long they had been looking either. It might have been a few minutes, it might have been for hours. It was difficult to track the passage of time when memories dripped away as quickly and inevitably as water through fingers, impossible to hold onto for more than a few seconds. He stopped in the doorway to one of the rooms, regarding it for a moment before they went inside. It had been left a mess - boxes spilt over the floor, tossed about.
Soldiers, his mind whispered, there was a struggle here. He tried not to shiver. Who had been taken this time?
"What is this place?" he asked, and wondered if he should have said 'was'. Whatever it had been, it was not fufilling that purpose any longer.
"I don't know." The man looked around, seeming a little dismayed by the mess. "Looks like they left in a hurry."
"She's not here," the woman said, as though that wasn't obvious - if the person they were searching for had been here, she was no longer. "Let's.."
The shout cut her off, seemed to freeze him to the spot, sending a chill through him. "Down here! This way!"
They had been so good, so careful.. but if the soldiers had been tracking them, there was no way to run out without being caught.
"Quiet!" the woman whispered, breaking through his panic. "Go! Go!"
He went. There were no good hiding places in the room, not really, but it was better than staying out in the open. He crouched down by a cabinet, hiding behind it, heart in his mouth as he curled up. There was no way they couldn't be caught - no way - any minute now.
He felt physically sick when the soldiers came in - a whole group of them, too many to fight or to run from. They were caught, trapped, it could only be a matter of time.
"All right, everybody spread out. They've gotta be in here somewhere," the leader ordered, and that confirmed his worst fears. It wasn't chance, or bad luck. The soldiers were looking for them.
He clenched his fists as the men started to search, held his breath trying to make himself as small as possible. They were closer now - so close it seemed they had to be playing with them, some awful game where, any moment, they would reveal that they had known where their targets were all along. Then they would be dragged out and then -- then..
He didn't know what happened after that, only that the thought of it made his stomach turn with fear.
"Sir!" Just when discovery seemed inevitable one of the soldiers called, and they all seemed to pause in their search, looking away. He watched, disbelieving that they could escape now. "Found'em."
The soldier was taking some bottles out of the cabinet - was that all they were looking for? Just some bottles? He stared, not quite daring to breathe out in case they returned to their searching.
But it seemed they were safe, at least for now. The leader was looking pleased. "Good," he said decisively, and snapped his fingers. "Let's go, let's move out. Come on."
He stayed where he was as they left, even when the other two scrambled out of their hiding places, unable to quite believe it was safe. Any minute now, the soldiers would return, it would be a trick to get them to expose themselves, it had to be.
But it seemed it was not.
He looked up at the other two plaintively, still not quite daring to straighten up and step back out into the open. "Can we get out of here, please?"
A sensible person would take that as enough of a warning, a sign that they should skitter back to somewhere safer and stay there. But the woman was looking around thoughtfully, in a way which made his heart sink.
"What is it?" the man asked, also noticing her expression.
"I have an idea," the woman announced, and he winced because he didn't need a memory to know that kind of announcement never ended well. "Come on."
He didn't know who he was. He didn't know where he was. He wasn't sure who the people he was with were either, and he wished his head would stop aching long enough for him to just cool down and think for a moment, because every instinct he had was shouting that following them was such a bad idea.
It was difficult to see how anyone could think that tracking after a soldier was a good idea, unless you wanted to get yourself killed or worse, captured. But the pair of them seemed to think it was, the woman holding a gun with a confidence that unnerved him, and what was the other option? Just leave them to get into trouble alone? Maybe that would be the most sensible option, but it didn't make it feel like the right thing to do.
They were going to get caught. There was no way they could do this and not get caught. But there was no way he could walk away from it either.
They could hear an angry voice as they got closer. A soldier's voice, and he could taste bile in his mouth, feel his hands starting to shake, because that was what soldiers did, they captured people, and questioned them, and --
"Quit stalling. I wanna know what you were doing in the hallway..."
They could see the soldier now, see a woman trapped behind bars, and the urge to break and run was almost unbearable. He clenched his fists, fighting it, forcing himself to stand his ground though he could feel trembling creep over him.
You did not leave people to face the soldiers. Even if doing otherwise was nothing less than foolhardy and suicidal.
The man glanced at him, seeming to notice his condition, and opened his mouth as though to say something. He shook his head, motioning to stay quiet. A kind word now, welcome as it might be, might end in their capture.
There was little point in being embarrassed about being afraid. It would be forgotten in a moment.
Only the woman seemed able to keep her head, and she raised the gun with a steady hand, and shot the soldier in the back as though it were nothing at all.
The soldier collapsed gracelessly into a heap without a struggle. He was glad, watching, to see there was no blood. It seemed like a bad thing to kill anyone, even a soldier.
The woman in the jail had long hair, and stared at them, seeming both surprised and delighted as they entered.
"Rodney!" It seemed the man had a name, and he looked at the woman as though he knew her too.
"Teyla." The man - Rodney - greeted, and he tried hard to hang onto those names, not wanting them to slip away again, needing them as concrete labels in a misty, confusing world.
"Yes!" The long-haired woman seemed delighted to be recognised. "It's good to see you. Colonel Carter, Doctor Zelenka, you as well. How did you find me?"
He had a name. He had a name, he was Doctor Zelenka, and he clung to that identity, obscurely relieved by this evidence that he existed, he mattered, he was more than a nameless entity who had been wandering lost for an eternity.
It occured to him for a moment that there was something that should disturb him about the title 'Colonel', but the worry passed, forgotten almost as soon as he thought it.
"Uh, well, we were having trouble finding you by ourselves," the woman - Colonel Carter? - admitted. She gestured to the man on the floor. "So we followed him."
The long-haired woman - Teyla, and he had to get used to thinking of people by their names or he would forget them again - glanced at the ma- Rodney. "Did you finish your work?"
Rodney stared back at her, confused, and he felt a jolt of sympathy because who remembered anything that had happened more than a minute or so ago? "What do you mean?"
The answer seemed to disappoint Teyla, and she sighed deeply before she tried another question. "Can you disarm the force shield?"
She walked to the corner of the cell, and he watched as Rodney followed her, his eyes widening a little at the controls there. He had the vaguest feeling that cells ought to involve a lock and a key somewhere. This seemed far more complex.
Rodney seemed bewildered by them also, staring at them unhappily. "I-I don't know," he admitted.
He was just about to get nervous again - had he been nervous before? He had, hadn't he? - for who knew when the other soldiers would come back, when Rodney seemed to have an idea. He pushed up his sleeve, peering closely at writing on his arm before typing into the controls. It seemed to work - something vanished away, and Rodney stared for a moment before tentatively trying the cell door. It slid open easily at his touch.
"Quickly," Teyla said, and he didn't need that instruction to know they should hurry out of there.
He was Doctor Zelenka. He was in the laboratory with Teyla, Colonel Carter, and Rodney. He knew that, because every time one of them seemed ready to lose that information, another would remind them.
It didn't lessen his headache, or take away the hot, shivery feeling, but it helped.
"Here," Teyla coaxed Rodney over to a complicated-looking machine. "Sit."
"Are you sure you wouldn't rather do it?" Rodney was not looking so well. Perhaps his head was aching also.
"I do not know how." Teyla was firm, and he was glad that the knowledge that she needed was not in his head. He would not have liked explaining that he could not get it out again.
"Oh, and I do?" Rodney sounded plaintive, looking lost as he sat down in front of the machine.
"Yes," Teyla seemed certain of it. "You created the override programme. You said you were almost finished."
"Oh, then it should be easy." Odd, how he still remembered what sarcasm was. For a moment, that tone from Rodney seemed so familiar, as though he had heard it a hundred, maybe a thousand times before. He tried to follow that feeling, to remember specific occasions, but his mind could come up with nothing more than that vague familiarity.
"Rodney, listen to me," Teyla said firmly, refusing to give up. "You must do this. It is our only chance."
Rodney blinked at the screen, gazing at it silently. It did not seem as though, whatever Teyla said, he knew what was needed.
"The knowledge is inside you," Teyla insisted "You just have to find it."
He was about to suggest they find another plan, perhaps one which involved running away and hiding, when Rodney reached out to touch the machine hesitantly. He barely seemed to do anything at all, but the front of the device seemed to change instantly, scrolling lines and lines of text written in letters which he could not recognise.
He recognised the end text though - 'PROGRAM COMPLETE' in English. Whatever Rodney had needed to do.. it was done.
"Wow." Rodney seemed to have shocked himself as much as anyone.
"He did it," he announced, feeling suddenly proud of his new friend. Old friend. He might not understand what had been done.. but it had been done, somehow.
"When I said I was almost finished, I guess I wasn't kidding," Rodney seemed surprised still, glancing back at the screen as though waiting for a catch. He knew that feeling, the feeling that they could not be this lucky.
This time though, it seemed that they were.
"Now what?" Colonel Carter demanded, looking back at Teyla.
Teyla seemed calmer now, relieved that their part in this was completed. "Well, now we just have to hope that Colonel Sheppard and Ronon completed their side of the mission."
"Right. Right," Rodney nodded, as though he understood what that meant, as though it made sense.
He glanced at Colonel Carter, catching her blank expression, and then at Rodney, seeing his expression shift back to confusion. It was a moment before Colonel Carter said what they were all thinking.
He was Doctor Radek Zelenka. He was back at work. The headache had gone, the fever vanished with it. It was almost a relief to have Rodney's familiar rambling in one ear as he tried to focus on his work, too much to complain about it.
"So, I asked Teyla why it was she knew I'd remember how to do things, and she said it's because underneath everything else I'm a scientist," Rodney continued, oblivious to the way he was frowning over his laptop. "And I can't decide if that's a good thing or a bad thing, you know? I mean, it does mean I'm incredibly dedicated, of course, but shouldn't I remember, I don't know, people after everyone else? Katie, or something?"
He wasn't really listening, and didn't respond, startling when Rodney prodded him in the shoulder.
"What do you think?" Rodney said insistently.
"I do not suppose it really matters, Rodney," he said absently, most of his mind still on his work.
"But don't you think it means something? What's there under everything else?" Once Rodney was stuck on a subject it was difficult to get him to drop it. "What did you remember, anyhow? I mean, obviously, Sam remembered how to shoot, and work out a plan -- with my help, of course, but I didn't see you programming anything. Still, I suppose we can't all retain our brilliance when the chips are down."
It was a typical Rodney jibe, and he was too accustomed to them now to do much more than brush them off or, at worst, curse the other man out in language Rodney would complain at even if he couldn't understand it. He raised his head from his work, exasperated, and then stopped.
What had he remembered?
Soldiers, and terror, and hiding, and being afraid. Fear so strong it could eat its way into the soul and leave an indelible stain that even a washed clean mind could not erase. Soldiers who shot people, and took them away, and then you never saw them again, and were too afraid to ask what came after. Soldiers who were their own law, who could take your house, your money, your friends and family and torture or rape without provocation until all you could hear was screams, begging and tears as you huddled with your hand stuffed in your mouth praying oh god, oh god, let it be over soon. Soldiers, and a code of conduct, a neighbourhood code of honour that persisted no matter the danger, no matter how old you were… You did not leave people to face the soldiers.
What did it mean, that part of you buried too deep to forget even when everything else had drifted away?
"What did you remember?" Rodney persisted, and he must be bored because he wasn't wandering away, far more engaged with bothering him than getting on with his own work.
"My childhood," he answered briefly, and there was a warning in his tone.
Rodney's blue eyes widened slightly and he saw him glance down at his hands and for a moment he felt the sense memory of a cold, bitter weight of crowbar steel against his fingertips.
Rodney did not ask again.