Hidden Hearts

by Michael Weyer

A sudden addition to this that struck me and will be playing into my "Survivor's Hearts" tale as well. Again, all comments more than welcomed.

"I hate these."

The long list of thing Ronon Dex hated was far too lengthy for John Sheppard to review now. But he had to admit that he could agree with his friend now. He was in his dress uniform, adjusting the tight collar as he waited in the Gate Room of Atlantis. The chevron was spinning about, ready to lock in the coordinates for the Gate. Dex growled as he shuffled his jacket, not liking the tight feel on his usually free and muscular body or how his normally long dreadlocks had been pulled into a ponytail.

"This is important, Ronon," Colonel Samantha Carter stated. She was dressed in her own uniform, the picture of command with her short blond hair, doing her best to keep things calm. She looked over the others of the main Atlantis group as Rodney McKay seemed anxious to just get this over with, the scientist not used to political stuff. Teyla seemed at ease but Carter knew she'd be ready to fight if need be, her long hair done in a nice bun for this event and her uniform fitting well. Motherhood hadn't slowed her down at all, still a warrior at heart. Meanwhile, Jennifer Keller...

No. Not Keller. Hard as it was to accept, Jennifer Keller had never truly existed. She had been a false identity created by one Romana (Carter had given up trying to pronounce her full name weeks ago), a Time Lord (or Lady to be more precise) disguised as a human. It was odd seeing her still, that confident smile, the bearing of someone far, far older than the attractive young brown-haired woman she had known. Despite all Carter had seen and done in her time with the Stargate program, it was still disconcerting to watch.

She brushed that aside to get ready as the final chevron locked. "Look, we've been through this before. This colony just discovered their Stargate when we sent a tactical team there. They're about the same level of civilization as early Industrial Europe on Earth, still need to understand more about the galaxy. A meeting with their ambassador and his party will go a long way to helping that."

The familiar groaning and alarms echoed through the chamber and everyone instinctively took a step back as the Stargate opened, the vortex blasting outward before forming the familiar gate. There was a pause before a trio of figures came through it, two of them seeming jarred at the experience. They all wore simple clothing of jerkins and dark leather pants along with some wide-brimmed hats. "Greetings," the man at the left said in a bright voice.

"Welcome to Atlantis," Carter replied with a smile. "I'm Colonel Samantha Carter."

The man nodded back as he stepped up. "I am Kal'adar." He nodded to the middle-aged brown-haired woman at his side. "My wife and co-councilor, Mat'lida." He then motioned to the man behind them. "And this is our lead ambassador..."

"Oh, no."

At Rodney's voice, Carter turned around. In the last year, the Atlantis team had faced Wraiths, Replicators and numerous other threats beyond the realm of imagination for the most experienced soldier. But she couldn't remember ever seeing her main team with such looks of utter shock, dismay and outright horror as now as they took in the figure stepping forward. He was middle-aged with slicked dark hair, rather paunchy and his clothes seeming ill-fitting but wore a bright smile nonetheless.

"Oh, God, no," Rodney continued to moan.

"Not him," Teyla closed her eyes as if in agony. "Anyone but him!"

"Please, please, please say I can kill him this time!" Ronon growled with a rage usually reserved for Wraith.

Romana seemed as baffled as Carter. "I'm sorry, who is this man?"

It was Sheppard who growled out the answer. "Lucius...freaking...Lavin."

"So, how do you know this..."

"Idiot. The term you're looking for is idiot."

Carter and Sheppard were outside the main conference room, gazing through the window inside it. Lavin was leaning back in his chair, feet propped up on the table with a grin on his face as he sipped a drink. The rest of the team was behind him with sour expressions as they gazed at the man.

Carter frowned. "Wait...I remember now. You filed some reports on him in the past, called him, what was it, oh, yes, the 'Harry Mudd of the Pegasus Galaxy.'"

"I was being kind," Sheppard stated, rubbing his temples. "First irrestible, then he's invincible, who knows what scam this guy's got running this time?"

"Are you sure he's running one?" Romana asked. That got her a quartet of "are you kidding?" looks from the others. "Leopard doesn't change its spots," Sheppard stated.

"Actually, on Raudilon IV, there's a species-"

"Excuse me!" Lavin called out from the room. "I thought we were here to talk?"

Carter sighed. "Look, we need to get through this. Like it or not, Lavin is the ambassador of this world, he's the one they trust..."

"And if that's not a reason to not have anything whatsoever to do with them, I don't know what is," Ronon inserted.

Carter just ignored him as she entered the room. "Sorry about that. My colleagues were brining me up to speed on Mr. Lavin's...achievements."

"More like a rap sheet," Rodney muttered.

"Hey, I get it," Lavin said in that annoyingly cheerful voice of his. "I've had a shady past but I'm trying to make up for it now. When I heard these guys were just finding out about the galaxy, I figured they'd need some help."

"At what cost?" Sheppard sardonically asked.

"Well, do get a nice pad, ambassadorship, decent food and board." Lavin shrugged. "Really, I'm trying to do right here!"

"You couldn't do right if you made four lefts," Rodney remarked.

Kal'adar coughed. "I know you have your doubts. We did as well. But then Mr. Lavin brought us the cybertons and it's made a huge difference."

"The what?" Carter asked.

"Cybertons," Lavin stated, his grin wide. "That's trademarked, by the way. Little thing I developed on my own. Basically, it gives the host a nice upgrade of mental and physical skills. Pretty handy to have in so many ways, helped out a few folks already."

"It's true," Kal'adar stated. "My wife was suffering from Radal's Syndrome, an affliction of our world that affects the mind. She was losing control of her motor functions, her memory would have followed. But thanks to Lucius, she is well and better than before!"

"Really?" Rodney was interested now. "How so? Implants?"

Kal'adar nodded. "A series of them. At first, the implants were visible and clunky but over time, they became more integrated to our bodies."

"See?" Lavin said, spreading his arms. "No harm, no foul. These people are getting help and insisted on wanting to come here."

"My wife was insistent," Kal'dar stated. "Hopefully, she gets the most out of the tour."

"The folks took to them well," Lavin went on. "Hey, town leaders already set up a big factory to start churning more out. I check in now and then but they seem to have it more in hand, not really needing to get my hands dirty."

"I'd still rather have my people check these implants out first," Carter said.

"No problem!" Lavin said, his grin never leaving his face. "Here, I got some samples." He reached into his pocket to pull out several metallic objects. He spread them onto the table, smiling as he showed them off. "Just for you guys, I won't charge you although a possible fee for services isn't out of the question..."

"I will hit you with pleasure in a moment," Ronon growled.

"Where did you find this?"

The tone in Romana's voice got everyone's attention. The woman was holding a piece of the cybertons in her hand, staring at it with wide eyes and an open jaw. "Where?" she hissed.

"Um, I told you, I invented it," Lavin said.

"No. You didn't." Romana moved forward, leaning toward Lavin with an icy glare. "Where. Did. You. Find it?"

Lavin swallowed, feeling very afraid right now. "Um...okay...it's possible I may have exaggerated my discovery of them."

"Lucius..." Sheppard growled.

Lavin threw up his hands. "Look, it was a dealer on Mantau, he told me how they worked, said it'd be safe, gave me a good price! Plus, a bonus if I could help him out with spreading it around and selling it..."

"You...absolute..." Romana spat out something in a language no one recognized but all knew it wasn't anything nice. She stopped suddenly to whirl toward Carter. "Wait...the woman, Mat'ilda...where is she?"

Carter had no idea what was going on but her experiences with SG-1 had given her a sixth sense when it came to danger and it was blaring right now. "On a tour with some guards."

"We have to get her. Now." Romana was heading to the door. "If she's gotten away from her handlers, she can access the systems at any point and..."

She was cut off by a loud alarm ringing. Carter moved to the nearest communicator on the wall and hit it. "This is Carter, what's going on?"

"Someone is accessing the Gate!" a frantic technician called out. "We're trying to lock it out but something is overriding...wait, it's open now and...something..."

There was a blast of energy and a loud scream before the line went dead. Carter was fast to move to nearby computer, her hands flying over the keyboard to call up an image of the Gate room. Stepping through the now-open Stargate were a small platoon of figures that she at first thought were men in armor. However, the stiff movements they made, as well as the uniform precision of their march made her reconsider. They were each tall and broad-shouldered, their metallic coverings silver with multiple plating over them, a circular emblem of some sort at their chests. Their heads were totally silver with blank eyeholes and a wide slit at the area the mouth would be. From where the ears should have been was a large module that rose up and connected at the center of the helmets. Several of them bore blasters that seemed to emerge from their wrists to fire at nearby guards, whose own bullets bounced off the armor.

"What the hell?" Rodney gasped. "Is that a new style of Replicators?"

"Worse," Romana hissed. She slowly looked up to glare at a stunned Lavin. "Congratulations, Mr. Lavin, my fine idiot. You've just rearmed and rebirthed a new race of Cybermen."

"What are we dealing with?" Carter asked. She was in the central armory of the base as Sheppard and Ronon led soldiers in gathering weapons. "We've got the Gate Room locked down..."

"That won't hold them for long," Romana stated as she went through a computer system. "I'm trying to block it as long as I can with an algorithm but if there's one thing Cybermen are good at, its adapting fast."

"Just what are they anyway?" Sheppard asked as he loaded a rifle. "Robots?"

"They were once human," Romana stated. "A race that decided to remake themselves into robotic shells in order to avoid pain. Along the way, they also did away with their humanity and now see it as a weakness. They're now committed to spreading their unique ideology across the rest of the universe. Basically, think the Borg, only less personable."

"Offensive capabilities?" Ronon asked, all business.

"Standard laser blasts from a distance. They can also unleash a fatal electric shock by touch so do not engage in hand-to-hand with them." That last part was emphasized in Ronon's direction.

"Weaknesses?" Teyla asked.

"They'll adapt quickly to whatever weapon you use on them," Romana said. "Zat guns may get a few down but they'll adjust themselves quickly. The one thing they don't have a defense against is gold."

"Well, since we can't gate to Fort Knox, we'll need something else," Sheppard stated.

"I might be able to whip up something," Romana stated. "But I'll need time for it."

"We'll give you what we can," Sheppard said as he moved to the door, Ronon and Teyla following him with a trio of soldiers.

"Listen, maybe I should just-" Lucius began as he rose up. Without breaking stride, Ronon lashed out with his fist to smack him right in the nose. He collapsed in a heap as Teyla and Sheppard followed with satisfied looks. Romana just sighed as she went back to her own computer and clicked on keys. Carter was getting her own weapon out as Kal'dar looked frantic. "Wait...my wife...We have to find her..."

"We do," Romana confirmed. "But because she's the advance agent for them."


Romana looked up with a sad expression. "I'm sorry. But it's the only explanation. She was the first to be converted by them, paving the way for the creation of the factory. Have you noticed any suspicious disappearances of people in your area?" At his look, she nodded. "They've been doing full on conversion, then. Slow but now that they have a lock on Atlantis, they'll be starting up full production of your entire planet."

The man moaned and whispered a prayer as Carter leaned toward Romana. "You could have broken it a bit nicer," she whispered.

Romana shrugged. "Sometimes, brutal truth is the best medicine." She clicked on her computer and studied as a bevy of equations flashed onto the screen. Despite her degrees and her experience with sciences far beyond the general public, Carter had no idea what she was looking at. Romana's eyes flickered, taking in the data in just a second before shutting the computer off and rising. "Right. I'm going to need a laser torch, a fire extinguisher, eight feet of tight and preferably conductive cord and a cup of tea waiting for me when I get back."

Carter just stared as Romana brushed by her to start going through a supply closet.

It took Sheppard roughly five seconds to realize how he loathed Cybermen.

The blasts of rifles affected their skin not at all so zat guns were the next step. However, while a few went down, it didn't take long for others to step up and the zat beams had no effect. Pulse weapons were next but it didn't take long for the Cybermen to adapt to that as well. And for every moment the Gate remained open, more were arriving. A half dozen soldiers lay on the ground dead, the rest backing up and trying to avoid the laser blasts the Cybermen fired at them.

Hearing a beeping at his chest, Sheppard pulled up his communicator. "We're not doing that well holding them back!"

"Just a few more minutes," Carter stated. "Romana has something she wants to try."

"Tell her to make it fast." Sheppard fired another burst as they backed up. One soldier was too close as a Cyberman grabbed him by the shoulder, a flash of electricity erupting from his hand, the soldier screaming before collapsing. Wincing, Sheppard led the team back toward the rear exit, knowing that this was a delaying action at best.

Most Time Lords had no concept of trying to be stealthy. They didn't need it, committed to their place in the halls of Gallifrey and not caring what others thought of them. Romana hated to admit it but she had been much the same in her youth. But a few centuries with the Doctor traveling the universe had given Romana skills she'd found quite necessary. Added to her time as a human in Atlantis and she was well versed in how to plan a sudden assault, no matter how unthreatening the target might seem.

She peeked around the corner to see the sight she had expected: Mat'lida standing by a computer terminal with a wire extending from her temple to the outlet. Her eyes and face were devoid of any emotion whatsoever and the cybernetic implants at her temples were flashing brightly. Romana sighed. She hated to be right sometimes, she really did. But her suspicions were now proven right. And, as much as she hated it, the course of action was set.

She didn't hesitate. She didn't pause to make a witty comment or a plea or something like that. That was something he would do but she knew action was far more effective in cases like this. Romana stepped out of hiding, raising the makeshift weapon in her hands. She pressed on the handle of the fire extinguisher, firing out the cord toward Mat'lida. The woman gave no sign of hearing as the cable swung out, the pressure driving it on as it circled about her tightly. Romana rushed her, knocking her down, the woman finally reacting but Romana was already swiftly securing the cable around her.

Romana moved to pluck the cable from Mat'ilda's head and run it back toward the terminal. Her eyes scanned the graphics and then fingers flicked over the keypad to enter a series of high-speed commands. She spared a pause to glance down at Mat'ilda, who shook on the ground, trying to break free. "For what it's worth," she softly said. "I am so very sorry. You didn't deserve this." She entered her commands, the code she had just come up with. She bit her lip as it began to work its way into the system, flowing out through the connection Mat'ilda had to the other Cybermen. It was a variation of the virus Romana had used on the Wraith weeks before, altered in case of Replicator attacks. Romana was confident it could work on Cybermen as well but there was still that little piece of doubt to make her nervous.

Her fingers tapped on a separate command to open up a window showing video feeds of the base. She saw the Cybermen advancing on the defenders who were hard pressed keeping them back. Suddenly, the robotic beings froze in place, arms still raised for combat. They shook hard, a few with sparks flying from their bodies and heads. Several began to collapse to the ground, falling to knees or right on their faces with loud slams of metal on metal, others simply slumping motionless. With its usual flash of sound and sight, the Stargate shut down, two Cybermen literally bisected as the connection was cut off. The soldiers were baffled, Sheppard carefully moving forward to stub one Cyberman with his toe to no effect.

Romana smiled as she stepped back. It wasn't pretty but at least the incursion was dealt with. Of course, they still had to get to that planet to upload the virus and stop the conversion of the rest of the world. However, the hard part was over which was all that-

She gasped at the shock that ripped through her from her shoulder. Spinning, Romana saw Mat'ilda broken free of the cable and moving toward her, the electric implant in her palm sparking. The woman's face was still blank even as she moved in, the sparking hand touching Romana again. She cried out in pain as the electricity flowed through her, stumbling back on the wall. Her hand reaching to her hip to close around something at her belt. She disliked weapons, especially such crude ones but this was hardly the time to stand on her standards. Lifting it up, she pulled the trigger to unleash a zat bolt into Mat'ilda. She hadn't done so before for fear the shock would disrupt her mental circuits and harm the virus upload. But now, she was letting it loose, the woman shuddering before collapsing onto the ground.

Romana slowly slid down the wall into a sitting position, heaving for breath. The zat gun fell from limp fingers as her body began to go into shock. Romana raised her hand and saw the telltale glows of golden energy start to flow outward. She groaned out as she realized what was about to happen. She didn't want it, she had been rather fond of Jennifer Keller and those lovely features of hers. But, it looked like fate had finally caught up to her and given her no choice in this.

And then the blast of pain and pleasure, of change and death and rebirth, came over her in a brilliant light that consumed all else.

"Eight dead," Sheppard said in a somber tone. "Fourteen wounded, two serious." The team had assembled in the main Gate room to begin discussing the aftermath of the attack. Various technicians were already seeing to the fallen Cybermen, Carter having ordered no one to examine them in any way until Romana told them to. The bodies of the dead and wounded had been taken away for storage or treatment. The Gate was finally off with soldiers covering it in case it fired up again.

"We need to find out what happened on that planet," Carter stated. "If more of those things are there, it could be a problem in the future."

"I can rework some weapons," Rodney said. "Romana mentioned something about gold, I wonder..."

"If you even think of suggesting we use gold bullets..." Sheppard paused. "Actually, that would be damn cool."

There was a cough as everyone turned to see Lucius Lavin entering. "Hi there. Listen, I know this was kinda upsetting and all but I think it's time I got going. I obviously can't go back to that planet but maybe you can Gate me somewhere else? I was thinking of this place, it's by an ocean, would be the perfect place for a resort and-"

Ronon was already getting his gun out and aiming it at Lavin but Sheppard grabbed his arm. "Dammit, Ronon, no! Anything this much fun, I want to do myself!"

Carter was glaring at Lavin. "You brought a force that may have converted an entire village of innocent people and then attacked us and you think you're getting away?"

Lavin gave that goofy smile of his. "Hey, meant no harm but it all worked out in the end."

Carter waved a hand to some soldiers, who grabbed Lavin by the arms and dragged him off. "Does this mean I'm not getting paid?" he called out as he was pulled away. As he exited, he brushed past a woman entering with a slight stagger to her step. She was a bit over five and a half feet tall, thin but not too much, her features elegantly beautiful and framed by lush red hair that fell to her shoulders. Her eyes were a bright blue and highly intelligent although they appeared a bit dazed at the moment.

"Are you okay?" Carter asked. She didn't recognize the woman but she wore a uniform so she may have been one of the many supporting crew members who had worked at the base before Carter arrived.

The woman came closer, allowing everyone to see a light golden glow about her hands, which she shook off like dust. "Well...That was rather bracing." Her voice had a light brogue to it that seemed a strange mix of both Scottish and Irish. "I usually plan...wait a minute..." She rubbed her throat. "New voice...Oh my, it's a brogue, I have a brogue!" A strand of hair brushed at her face and she grabbed it to examine it. "And I'm ginger! I'm ginger and I have a brogue, I'm a leprechaun!" She shook her head. "No, no, no such things as leprechauns, not since they left Earth."

"Who the hell are you?" Sheppard demanded, instantly suspicious.

She blinked at him and smiled. "Who am I? Well, quite the question, isn't it? I woke up today as one person and now I'm another, not the first time that's happened."

"Um, are you all right?" Rodney asked with a confused frown.

"Again, such a question, it does take a while to get it straight but are any of us all right, really?" She let out a bright laugh. "I'm sorry. I'm usually not like this right after a regeneration, I've been able to control it much better, even able to choose in the past but beggars can't be choosers, I suppose."

"Regeneration?" Carter frowned, her eyes narrowing, then widening. "Wait...Oh, my God...Romana?"

She grinned and nodded. "Yes, indeed, that's it! Thank you so much, needed to get that in track." She rubbed her temples before looking at her now somewhat saggy uniform. "Oh, dear, have to get this fixed up and my hair must be a mess." She frowned. "Huh. I'm a bit vain this time around, that'll be interesting."

"What the hell is going on?" Teyla demanded.

Carter waved to the woman. "I know this is crazy but...this is Romana. She...changed."

"Yes, got a nasty shock from Mat'ilda, reminds me, she's in a hallway a level down." Romana brushed her hair back. "I know this is confusing but really not much time to talk about it now, have to get the virus to that planet, might be able to stop conversion of more people and I'm utterly famished, does anyone have a donut, good heavens, I like donuts now and I'm babbling, I never babble!" She smacked her head, golden dust flowing about as she shook her head, far calmer. "Ah, that's better." She smiled. "So, then, just give me a half hour to change and then we'll be able to save a world."

She turned on her heel to walk out, leaving the crew of Atlantis once more baffled at this turn of events as a very different Time Lady was now among them.

For those wanting a visual reference for the new Romana, imagine Rose Leslie of Downton Abbey and Game of Thrones. All comments welcomed of course as this will play into "Survivor's Hearts" down the line.