Ronon lay on the table and watched Michael advance on him. He was completely helpless: straps bound his limbs, forcing them against the cold metallic surface. He strained at them, but they held firm.
"Be still," Michael hissed. Ronon immediately stopped struggling, but he didn't want to lie there; whatever Michael was holding, a syringe or a scalpel or some other instrument, whatever it was he knew it would cause him pain and he didn't want to lie there but Michael had told him he had to so he had no choice –
A hand touched his wrist and the paralysis broke. He catapulted off the table…
…and woke in Atlantis as his knees hit the cold, hard floor. He blinked and paused, taking in Doctor Rodney McKay sprawled beneath him, the tangled bedding behind him, and the knife clutched in his hand, raised to plunge into the scientist's chest.
"Sorry," he said blearily, getting of McKay.
"SORRY?" the man squawked. "SORRY! YOU ALMOST KILLED ME, YOU MANIAC! WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU!"
"I thought you were Michael," Ronon said. "Why are you in here?"
"BECAUSE SHEPPARD TOLD ME TO WAKE YOU!" McKay was in no way placated.
"Why didn't you knock?" Ronon asked, standing and replacing his knife under his pillow.
"I DID AND YOU DIDN'T WAKE UP! WHO SLEEPS WITH A KNIFE UNDER THEIR PILLOW?"
"Sorry," Ronon said.
"THAT'S ALL YOU CAN SAY, SORRY?"
"Stop yelling at me," Ronon advised.
"Unbelievable!" McKay began storming from the room, then hesitated and turned back. "Did you say you were dreaming about Michael?"
"Well, it's just, Teyla said she dreamed of him a few nights ago too."
Ronon frowned at him. He would never understand how the man's mind worked. "So?"
McKay stalked from the room, muttering under his breath. Ronon caught the word "Unbelievable," a few more times.
Sheppard looked up as Ronon entered Carter's office. "I heard about McKay."
"I said sorry already." Ronon was tired and in no mood to debate the matter. His tone was accordingly curt.
"You might want to say it a few more times," Sheppard advised. "You're the one who has to go on a mission with him, and Teyla and I are the ones who have to listen, and we all know how fun he is when he's in a mood." Teyla grinned, but Ronon thought that she looked tired as well. There were deep shadows below her eyes, and her smile was tighter than normal.
"Ok, I am not in a mood, I am in a completely reasonable state of trauma after being attacked by a knife-wielding madman!" Rodney announced as he entered with Carter. "Who is supposed to be a friend!"
"Why don't we focus on the mission, for the moment." Carter seated herself and looked at Ronon. "We'll discuss the knife incident later. Now, we sent Doctor Gerard's team plus an escort out to P3X-999 two days ago, and they've failed to report back in. Could be communications failure, could be something else. I need you to go and look for them."
"P3X-999, that's what, the water planet?" Rodney asked. "No Wraith activity in that area that we know of."
"That we know of," Sheppard said with subtle emphasis.
"That's why I said it's probably communications failure." Carter raised an eyebrow at Rodney. "It shouldn't be a long mission."
"Fine, but Ronon has to promise to leave his knives at home!" Rodney jabbed a finger in the Runner's direction.
"Not a chance," Ronon told him, turning to follow Sheppard and Teyla out of the room.
"Excuse me, Ronon," Carter said, raising her voice to get his attention. Ronon paused. "Rodney informed me of what happened. I don't want to force you into anything, but if you feel you need to talk to any of the psychiatrists–"
"I don't," Ronon said immediately.
"Well, it's up to you," Carter said, clearly realising this was a futile matter to debate. "If the dreams continue, you should consider talking to one of our psychiatrists. A lot of people don't want to admit it, but they do help."
"I don't need help," Ronon said. "I gotta go."
"Good luck," Carter said.
Ronon gave her a nod of farewell and strode out of the room.
"These dreams you have been having," Teyla said finally, seated behind Sheppard in the Jumper an hour later. "How do they begin?"
If it had been Rodney or Sheppard asking, Ronon wouldn't have responded. Teyla, however, was different. She had always been nothing but sincere to Ronon, and in fact everyone. Besides, from the marks on her face, he wasn't the only one having trouble sleeping.
"They're about Michael," he said shortly. "I see him... in my dreams. It's like he's–"
"Operating on you?" Teyla interrupted softly.
"Yeah. Your dreams..." Ronon trailed off.
"They are the same," Teyla agreed. "I have been having them for several weeks now. I am beginning to wonder if they are simply dreams."
"Michael can't be reading your mind or anything, can he?" Sheppard asked, concerned.
"No," Teyla said reassuringly. "We are surely too far out of range, and I have never before heard of a Wraith who is not a Queen entering someone's mind in such a way, without any warning."
"Are you sure? I mean, in a dream state, you'd be less alert, your mental defences would be weakened, wouldn't they?" Rodney asked, suddenly looking worried.
"I am quite positive that Michael has not been accessing our minds," Teyla said firmly. "All the same, these dreams are...troublesome. Perhaps we should speak with–"
"I'm not talking to Heightmeyer," Ronon said. "I don't need to."
"These dreams keep coming, you're gonna need to do something about them," Sheppard said. "And that's not a suggestion, that's an order."
"They'll stop," Ronon said. "I just need to ignore them."
"That's kind of short-sighted, ignoring them won't make them go awa–"
"We're here," Sheppard interrupted, cutting Rodney off mid-sentence.
The surface of the planet below them was a flat, still plane of water, scattered with small islets of black, glassy rock. In the distance was a broad, flat black beach of the same material.
"Why was Doctor Gerard out here with a science team?" Teyla asked, peering over John's shoulder out the window. "There seems to be nothing here."
"Ah, well, preliminary test shows that these rocks had the ability to emit harmless radiation. Gerard and his team were here to see if we could harness a new energy source." Rodney pulled up a screen and began tapping icons, trying to get a clear reading. "The annoying thing is that the energy is the type to, well, mess up a Jumper's life signs detectors."
"We'll be doing this the old-fashioned way, then," Sheppard commented.
Ronon and Teyla exchanged glances. For them, the 'old-fashioned way' was only a few years old.
"Co-ordinates sent by the security detail said that everyone should be camped right here," Sheppard murmured. "So," he continued, setting the Jumper down as delicately as if he lowered a wine glass, "Where the hell are they?"
He was right; the beach was completely deserted. There were no signs of any sign of human life. Sheppard couldn't even see any camping equipment.
They carefully cloaked the Jumper, and exited down the ramp. Ronon took point, his gun up and steady. "I can make out tracks," he said, scanning the ground carefully. "A lot of them, right here. Looks like they were standing around for a while. They went to the water, set up camp. Patrolled. Then... nothing."
"Nothing?" Teyla repeated, stunned. "Where did they go?"
"No tracks leading from the campsite that don't lead to it. They should be here," Ronon said, kneeling. "They vanished."
"That's not possible," Sheppard said. Stooping, he picked up a piece of rock and held it up to the light, trying to work out if it was transparent.
"The ground doesn't lie," Ronon said, standing. "No tracks, nothing to follow. No way to trace them."
"Hey, does this place feel kind of..." McKay shuffled uneasily. "Unsteady, to you guys?"
Instinctively, everyone looked down.
At that moment, with a thunderous roar, the ground split beneath their feet, and they plummeted into the darkness.