Okay, here we go again! This is the fifth (and last) instalment of the Deliverance saga, so I recommend anyone unfamiliar with them reads the other stories first to put this one in context. Trust me, it will help!

This story is dedicated to my two betas, Sterenyk Strey and lizlou57 who are currently wading through this monster of a story and keeping me on track! This is long one even by my standards, so be warned! Any remaining errors are all mine because I can't help tinkering!

It been a long wait for those of you who have been waiting for this final part, so I hope it's not a disappointment! All reviews that are polite and constructive will receive a response, so if you read and enjoy or see something you think I may have wrong, let me know. I'm only human, so I do make mistakes!

I will be posting slowly for a start, probably once a week, while I finish writing and editing. I have around 46 chapters written, so there's plenty of material to work through, and there's still more to come. As ever, I never leave a story unfinished so you don't have to worry about that.

Now the formal stuff:

Disclaimer: Stargate does not belong to me and no infringement of any rights is intended.

Spoilers: Spoilers for all seasons as the story spans all five. The background story for Sheppard contained in this fic is purely my surmising, and not canon in any way shape or form.

Warnings: Scenes of violence and torture and mature themes not suitable for young readers.

Circles in the Dust

Chapter 1

Wading through knee-high, thickly clumped grass on a baking hot planet was far from the natural habitat of a genius astrophysicist. As a consequence, after just ten minutes of it, McKay was tired, sweaty and out of breath, while Ford trudged on far ahead of him, taking the trek in his fighting-fit and youthful stride. Rodney knew there was a valid reason why he hated marines, several reasons actually, but this one was right up there in the top five; they never made physical allowances for people who weren't in the corps when they were out in the field. For McKay, fieldwork was like gym class in high school all over again. The military were the jocks and he was the geek they were forced to choose to make up the numbers. To add to his misery, the sun beat down incessantly, making his perspiring forehead uncomfortably hot. If he didn't do something about it he would burn to a crisp, cursed with fair skin as he was. This would be a great place to hang out if he were a horse, he mused, but since he wasn't of the equine persuasion he felt more like a fish out of water.

'Hey, wait up!' he yelled after his companion, finally losing patience.

Ford stopped and turned around, frowning back at him. 'I thought we were supposed to be checking out that energy signature you spotted,' he called back as McKay gradually made up the ground between them.

'Well, we are...kind of,' McKay replied enigmatically, halting in front of his team mate and slapping his computer tablet into Ford's chest. 'Hold this.'

Ford took it from him, his frown deepening as McKay pulled his factor 70 sun block from a pocket on his tac-vest and began applying it to his face. 'We're wasting valuable time, McKay.'

'Not really,' he said, smothering the back of his neck in cream. 'I have very delicate skin. If I don't do this I'll be little more than a walking blister by the time we get back to the jumper.'

Ford arched an eyebrow, watching with a look of mild disgust as McKay spread a thick layer of the greasy lotion all over his hot forehead. 'It's just a bit of sun, McKay. It never hurt anyone.'

McKay gave a derisive snort, happy to have the opportunity to belittle Ford after his ten minutes of torturous exertion. 'Tell that to the seventy-five thousand or so Canadians who died of skin cancer last year.'

With a dramatic sigh, Ford looked back in the direction they'd been heading. 'We should probably get moving again and find that thing you're tracking. Wouldn't want you to turn into a statistical blister.'

'We don't actually have to find the source of the power spikes,' McKay now helpfully announced, drawing a puzzled and slightly angry glare from his companion. 'We just need to head off in search of them. Any time now I expect we'll get a call from Teyla telling us to fall back to the jumper and we'll head home to Atlantis. So, in theory, we can just hang around here and wait.'

'In the sun?'

McKay blinked back at him. 'Yes...unfortunately.'

'And what about the major?' Ford demanded, thrusting the tablet back toward McKay as the man slipped his sun block back into his pocket.


'The major...you didn't mention him,' Ford reiterated.

Rodney took his equipment back and glanced at his watch. 'Oh, I'd say Sheppard is being captured by the locals right about now.'

Ford look first horrified and then furious in quick succession. 'Captured? So what the hell are we doing standing around here? We gotta help him!'

'Slow down, GI Joe,' McKay sneered, holding up a hand to stop him before he could start running back the way they'd come. 'Getting captured is exactly what's supposed to happen to him. He's expecting it.'

He saw Ford relax his stance slightly, but the young marine remained caught somewhere between bewilderment and annoyance. 'It's supposed to happen? And Dr Weir knows about this?'

'Yes, yes...of course.' Rodney checked his watch again. 'We should be getting that call from Teyla any time now.'

'Do we get him out?'

What was it with this guy and all the questions? McKay rolled his eyes. 'Just trust me, Ford. Everything will work out fine...in a few days.'

'A few days! Anything can happen in that time. Why do we have to wait that long to go get him?'

Losing patience, Rodney jabbed a finger into the air to silence him. 'Yours is not to question, Ford. You're a marine and you follow orders. Didn't Sheppard tell you to stick with me?'

'Yeah, but...'

'But what?' he snapped. 'Nothing's changed. Sheppard knew he would be apprehended when he gave you your orders so you need to do as he asked. Can you manage that without going all gung-ho?'

Clearly far from happy to be pulled up that way, Ford cast him a murderous look. 'You'd better be right about this, McKay, 'cos if you're not I will have no trouble kicking your ass all the way back to the jumper.'

'Oh, yes, because threats and violence solve everything,' McKay drawled with a lop-sided smirk. 'You wait and see; by the end of the week we'll all be home and you'll know I was right all along.'

'And then we'll never hear the end of it,' Ford muttered under his breath, adjusting his grip on his P-90. 'There must be something else we can do other than just standing here.'

'Well, I suppose we could start heading back now...slowly...It'll save rushing later,' McKay offered, thumbing back over his shoulder in the direction they'd already come. The suggestion was a purely selfish one, in no way meant to placate his anxious companion. Once the call came in from Teyla, Ford would want to run back to the jumper as fast as they could. Starting back now would reduce the distance he would need to cover at speed.

'Fine, as long as I don't have to stand here listening to any more of your self-important yammering.' Ford shouldered him aside and took point, following the slight track they'd made in the grass behind them.

McKay sighed, once again disappointed by his companion's thuggish behaviour. Marines...they were just so...rude.

'What I don't get is why we even bothered trekking all the way out here if you knew we'd never find the power source. We might as well have just headed back to the jumper and sat it out there,' Ford complained over his shoulder at him.

'Well, monumental waste of time as I'll agree this trip was, we had to stick to the original situation as closely as we could. The first time this trip happened, Sheppard and Teyla headed to the village while you and I hauled our sorry asses out here. If we'd gone back to the jumper ahead of time we might have met someone we shouldn't have and changed the flow of events as they are supposed to happen.' He checked his watch again, feeling just a niggle of concern. 'Talking of which, I was expecting Teyla to have radioed through by now. Maybe they take her radio and we just end up back at the jumper together.'

'If they took her radio the first time you'd have had no reason to head back to the jumper yet because we'd still be hunting that energy spike,' Ford grunted, stopping suddenly and turning his way. 'Are you sure you know what you're doing, McKay?'

'Well, Sheppard never actually saw this part of the events...we kind of had to best guess how all the separate incidents fitted together. But he did say they let Teyla go after they jumped him, so I just assumed she called us to raise the alarm and that's why we weren't caught too.'

The jut of Ford's jaw told McKay he wasn't happy with all the guesswork involved. 'What if you're wrong?'

Ford's eyes searched McKay's face, showing more than a hint of worry. McKay just smirked. 'Me, wrong?' He huffed out a laugh. 'Please!'

Ford just shook his head and carried on.

But as they approached the forest where they'd parted company with the rest of their team and they still hadn't heard anything from Teyla, Rodney had to admit to being a little worried, even if he did only admit it to himself. 'You know...it might be prudent to contact the others...make sure they're okay,' he said quietly to the back of Ford's head.

Ford spun now, glaring. 'Are you saying this isn't turning out the way you thought...even though you're never wrong?'

'I'm sure there's a perfectly rational explanation...maybe Teyla waits and radios us when she gets to the jumper.'

'Leaving us wandering out here and potentially in danger the whole time it takes her to get back there? I don't think so.'

'Unless they took her radio and she has to use the spare we keep on board...that would explain it.' Behind Ford, a single female stepped out of the trees about a hundred yards away. 'Oh, nononononono...I'm sure that's not supposed to happen.'

As Ford turned, three more women emerged, the marine instantly lifting his weapon in defence of their position. 'I take it they shouldn't be here either?' he hissed from the corner of his mouth.

'I don't think so,' McKay whimpered, clutching the tablet to his chest as if it would somehow protect him from them.

More women broke free from the tree line, at least twenty or so, though McKay couldn't be sure there weren't more still lurking in the shadows. Each one of them was armed, the group carrying an eclectic variety of guns, harpoons and knives.

A lengthy silence ensued, a standoff without a single word spoken. McKay's eyes darted from them, to the back of Ford's head numerous times while he waited for the lieutenant to come up with a plan.

'What do we do?' Ford eventually hissed, holding steady.

'Why are you asking me? You're the marine!' McKay squeaked edging further behind him. 'Isn't this your area of expertise?'

'And you're the one who supposedly knows how this should all be turning out, so what do you want me to do?'

McKay felt his panic mounting. He knew things weren't right, but he didn't see any way they could get back to the jumper without risking serious injury. 'Well, I know I'm no strategic expert, but considering we have, let me add it up, oh yes, all of one person experienced in combat, and they apparently have enough ammunition to turn us both into human pasta strainers, I'm going to suggest we surrender...but I'll leave it in your hands, Ford.'

'Dr McKay...Lieutenant Ford...drop your weapons,' the first female called over to them.

They knew their names? McKay briefly considered the notion Sheppard had given up their names and position when captured, but having seen and heard about what tortures Sheppard was capable of withstanding, it was mere seconds before he dismissed it as absurd. He was certain Teyla wouldn't have given the information away so quickly either. The alternative reason was more plausible and altogether more disturbing.

The Medulsans had known they were coming.


'He's waking!'

Alishia's bellow thumped around inside Sheppard's skull like a pinball as he strained his eyes open, taking in the sideways view of the room he was lying in. It was too dark to see anything clearly, but he could tell the floor was rough and made of stone, and the place smelled of dust and stale air like most of the places he'd been posted to in Afghanistan. The pair of thick legs planted on the floor only a foot away from him, however, were pretty distinct. No wonder her announcement had rattled his braincells so much.

'Sit him up,' someone else replied.

Now that voice was chillingly familiar. A hand grabbed his hair and pulled him up into a sitting position before he was fully ready for the movement, sending the room around him reeling. He'd just about got everything lined up again when a bucketful of water smashed into his face, its shocking coldness instantly cutting through any lingering mind-fog.

Left sputtering and coughing, he barely had chance to catch his breath before he was yanked up and onto his feet by what had to be a collar now fastened around his neck. The unnatural sensation of added weight at his wrists and ankles, and the distinct clank of chains, told him he'd also been shackled, though he couldn't lower his head to see them. The Medulsans clearly intended to hold him securely for the duration of his stay, however long that turned out to be this time.

Alishia said nothing as she dragged him out of that dark, bleak, musty room through a dingy kitchen area and out into the blazing Medulsan sun. The transition from gloom into brilliant daylight proved too sudden and stark, his eyes stinging so much he was forced to shut them against the intensity. As he blindly stumbled on he felt bodies pressing in around him, pushing, punching, grabbing, tearing and jostling, his skin bruising and grazing, and the fabric of his uniform tearing under the onslaught, while both Sarayah and Alishia yelled the order for everyone to stay back and let them pass. He was able to blink his eyes open by the time he arrived at the centre of the village, where he was pushed down onto his knees the the dust in front of what appeared to be the entire village population. Wow, they'd really pulled out all the stops.

This did not bode well...

It was then he also realised that his leash had now changed hands. It pulled tight, the collar pressing hard on his Adam's apple and almost choking him as Alishia stepped forward and forced back the massing crowd standing only feet away from him.

'Show some respect. Sarayah wishes to address you all,' she shouted above the chants and insults being hurled Sheppard's way.

The voices quieted almost instantly, not that the tense silence made his situation any less disturbing. He could feel the hatred oozing from them as if it had presence of its own, lurking on the periphery, urging them on to close down the space between them. If it weren't for the apparent authority of the two women standing there with him, this crowd would undoubtedly tear him apart like a pack of hungry dogs.

The air of contained violence crowded in, stifling him. His mind, still battling the after effects of being stunned, raced with unanswered questions. But even though he wanted to know where Teyla was and how Sarayah had known he was coming, Sheppard maintained the presence of mind to recognise that now was not the right time to push what tiny bit of luck was preserving his life.

'As you see he has come today, just as I predicted,' Sarayah called out to those gathered around them, setting a rumble of discourse loose around the crowd. 'He has come here to take away the device the Ancestors gifted us to protect our planet against the Wraith and leave us vulnerable.'

You lying bi –

That thought was cust short as a small girl child at the front of the crowd spat in Sheppard's face, her pretty young features twisted by pure hatred. He wiped the spittle from his cheek with his restrained hands, only to have the woman behind her, perhaps her mother, spit on him too. That one almost goaded a rise out of him. The ignorance of the child he could forgive, but the disrespect of this woman was harder to tolerate.

'To save ourselves, we must stay calm,' Sarayah continued, pulling on the leash until his head rested back against her, as if she suspected he might be about to react. 'Others will come seeking this thief, and we must all deny that he was ever here.'

'Kill him!' someone further back yelled. And then they were all jeering again, calling for his blood.

Sheppard's heart skipped at least a couple of beats. Mob mentality was as unpredictable as it could be violent. He'd witnessed a crowd turn nasty in just a fraction of a second more than once in Afghanistan, a heated atmosphere and misconstrued words igniting already smouldering ire into a blaze of fury and insanity. This was close...it would take only a nudge to tip the balance.

Alishia ordered them all to be silent again.

'No,' Sarayah responded, her voice firm with resolve. 'Killing him goes against the prophecy. The scriptures say he must remain amongst us and be punished. He will live no better than an animal in our village and suffer the humiliation that brings with it.'

She was sticking to some scriptures, huh? That was lucky since death really didn't appeal to him. But why was she so determined to keep him alive? If he was the liar and thief she said he was, surely he deserved to die no matter what those scriptures said? It made him wonder just how much she knew about their future. Did she know the death of either one of them could set time back to its original course? The fact she'd been expecting him was odd enough, but knowing everything their future entailed...that made no sense...No, actually none of it made any sense. Although...theoretically this was the same woman he'd put in a containment device back on Earth a little over a year ago. Did that have something to do with it? He wondered who he was kidding, pretending he had any idea what was unfolding here. His head was still spinning from the stunner blast if this wasn't confusing enough already. He needed McKay to figure this out, and right now he was heading to the Wraith defence weapon these women were so keen to keep from him. In other words, both he and Ford were potentially heading into a trap.

'You all know what to do when the outsiders come. You continue with your lives as if you were not expecting them and you answer no questions. I will deal with them and this one will be placed in the hole we prepared, so there will be no way for him to draw attention to himself. No one will find him there and eventually his kind will give up the search for him.'

'He will bring trouble to this village,' a voice cried, the anxiety sounding out loud and clear in their tone.

'Trouble I will rid us of,' Sarayah assured them all.

'I still say we should kill him,' the female who had previously called for his death repeated.

Sheppard couldn't help thinking the woman was crazy to even consider questioning Sarayah like that. She wasn't the type to welcome constructive criticism.

'He. Will. Live!' Sarayah's assertion cut through the mounting dissent like a cleaver, that final word hitting hard and splintering the icy atmosphere. He could see they weren't happy, but they didn't dare say anything more. Their expressions spoke volumes about what kind of a leader Sarayah was. These women feared her, and it was that fear, not respect, that kept them obedient.

'I have been guiding this village now for the past five revolutions,' she continued, her voice lower now that she wasn't competing against them. 'Have I ever steered us wrong?'

The women in front of him all looked to one another, shaking their heads.

'Have I?' she demanded, adding more emphasis to her question.

Again he saw it – fear. Some of them hid it better than others, but it was as plain as day on most of their weather-beaten and anxious faces.

They shook their heads, collectively muttering, 'No.'

'And neither will I now,' she asserted. 'This is how it has to be. This beast will remain with us and serves us for the rest of his days as the scriptures prophesied, separated from his own kind, and stripped of his position and status. This is the punishment his crime against our people deserves and it is the punishment that will be delivered.'

He couldn't help the rueful smile that flickered on his lips for just a few seconds. Stripped of his position and status. Of course that was a suitable punishment in her eyes. That was what she felt he'd done to her counterpart back in the box, and this was his atonement at last.

'Now you've seen all you need to see of him for today. Go back to your duties and Alishia and I will settle this one into his new role.'

Sheppard felt the pull upward on his collar and got to his feet as a narrow pathway through the crowd split open in front of him. A sharp thump between his still aching shoulder blades set him stumbling onward through them, and this time the women managed to restrain themselves, keeping their derision to whispered insults rather than the brutality that had greeted earlier his emergence.

Within a minute, he was back in the more comfortable shade of Sarayah's home, the door slamming shut behind them and closing out the others from any further developments.

Out of the view of the masses, he now felt it an appropriate time to ask the priority question that had been burning away at the back of his mind. 'Where's Teyla?'

Alishia promptly delivered a forearm slam to his jaw to rival anything meted out in WWE, knocking him off balance so he collided with the wall behind him. 'You don't speak unless spoken to,' she warned him.

He watched her pacing before him, trying to spot any sign of the level-headed woman who had apparently helped him out the last time he'd run through this time line. All he could see was anger and mistrust. There wasn't a glimmer of anything for him to appeal to. That didn't stop him wanting an answer to his question, though.

'Well, if you tell me where she is I'll stop talking,' he pointed out.

This time she grabbed his shirt front and slammed him back against the wall, setting his brain rattling inside his skull. 'I told you to shut up, scum!'

'Thank you, Alishia. You can go now,' Sarayah told her, coming to stand at her right shoulder. Her calm demeanour seemed oddly out of place in the madness of the situation, but Sheppard was glad at least one of them was keeping their head.

Alishia, on the other hand, didn't look like a woman about to leave the room. Her wild eyes drilled into him, the threat of a battering present in their unwavering focus. 'Are you sure, Sarayah? I'm not happy leaving you alone with this...man.' She spat out that last word as if it was an insult in itself. Sheppard tried hard not to take it that way and retaliate with a smartass retort that could earn him the pummelling she so clearly thought he deserved, but it wasn't easy to hold the wisecracks back. That was his usual defence...his way of diffusing volatile situations... but right now he figured the result might be more like throwing a can of gasoline on a campfire.

'I'm armed and he isn't. Plus he's shackled. I think I can handle him, don't you?' Sarayah told her, stepping aside to clear the path to the doorway so Alishia could depart unimpeded.

The woman very slowly released her grip on his clothing, leaving her eyes locked on his as she backed away, only turning as she finally headed out through the door. Sarayah closed it behind Alishia, then leaned against it, regarding him over her folded arms.

He glared at her, then, when she didn't speak, asked again, 'So, where's Teyla?'

He saw her heave in a sigh, rolling her tongue around her cheek as she watched him a while. Then she said, 'After everything that's happened today, is that really the most important question you have to ask me, Major?'

'Hard as this may be to believe, yes it is,' he drawled, adjusting his uncomfortable position a little while waiting for an answer.

Again, she rolled her tongue inside her cheek, and he tried really hard not to visualise ripping the damn thing out of her head and slapping her with it. He was going to stay calm. He wasn't going to let her get to him the way she had back on Earth. There, he'd lost his cool and made a lot of dumb mistakes. Here, he was determined to stay one step ahead of her game playing wherever he could.

After watching him a while longer, Sarayah pushed away from the door and headed through to another room, still without furnishing him with an answer. He stared at the empty doorway, resisting the urge to stomp through it after her and demand that she answer him. She was obviously trying to provoke him into reacting and he wouldn't let her manipulate him that way. For a moment he considered an escape bid, realising he wouldn't get far, but hopeful he might catch a glimpse of his missing colleague before being recaptured. Unfortunately, Sarayah was back before he could put that plan into action. She tossed a pile of clothing at his feet.

'Strip,' she ordered, folding her arms again, keeping the gun she carried continually in view even though it wasn't pointed his way.

Sheppard looked at the clothes, then at her, arching an eyebrow. 'Not wasting any time, huh?'

She stared back at him, no emotion registering on her younger features. It was odd seeing her like this, and he experienced a little empathy for how she must have felt when he'd sent her back to Earth and everyone she'd ever met before had regressed in age. Not that that empathy lasted for long.

She tilted her head and said, 'You have to wear them because it's part of the plan. Nothing more.'

That hadn't been the response he'd expected. 'The plan?'

'Yes, the plan,' she repeated. 'You do understand what that means, don't you?'

He squinted, annoyed at her condescension. 'I know what plan means. I just don't know what your plan is.' Then he muttered, 'And I'm not sure I want to.'

'The others have to think you're my prisoner. Now put them on.'

The squint turned to a frown. 'So...I'm not your prisoner?'

'Hurry. You have to be seen to be obedient or the others will want to punish you. I just need to keep you safe for a few days, then you can have your old clothes back if you wish.'

He looked at the pile of stained and tattered clothes again, not ready to give up his uniform so early in the proceedings. 'Don't suppose you feel like elaborating any on that plan of yours, 'cos I'm kinda at a loss here.'

'There's no time. Now do as I ask.'

Although she seemed in earnest, he knew enough not to ever trust Sarayah at her word. Sure, she wasn't the Sarayah who had made his life a living hell for several days back in Afghanistan...not yet...so maybe her motivation at this point was to see this plan, whatever it was, through. And she clearly knew things about their future. What he didn't understand was how she knew. So yes, she was right, perhaps there were other more pressing questions he should be asking about his situation, but right now, all he needed to know was that Teyla was safe.

'Answer my question and I'll put them on,' he offered, hoping to bargain for just a little information.

Again, she gave no flicker of a reaction, her demeanour remaining chillingly cool. 'You're in no position to make demands of me, Major Sheppard. Now do as I ask...please.'

Major Sheppard? Please? Well, he supposed it was a step up from the 'pretty one' crap he'd been expecting, but it sounded oddly formal compared to their previous meeting. It was almost...respectful, and that wasn't something he was used to where Sarayah was concerned. She was actually being nice, in a slightly twisted way. It all set his internal alarm bells ringing loud and clear. He reached up to adjust the collar slightly, a horrible thought striking him, one that he'd temporarily forgotten after the stunning. In Afghanistan, Sarayah had joked that she might travel to meet herself in Medulsa and they would keep him as their pet. Had she somehow managed to do that?

Heart now pumping fit to burst, his promise to himself to stay calm instantly exploded into barely controlled panic. 'Where is she?'

Sarayah rolled her eyes. 'And still you will not comply.'

'I'm not talking about Teyla, I'm talking about her...I mean you...the other you. The one who travelled back to my home world.'

Now Sarayah looked as puzzled as he was. 'What do you mean? She's not here...'

'So what's with the leash and calling me an animal? You have to have known she said that. And how else would you have known we were coming if she hadn't told you?'

'All will become clear over time, but I can assure you that Sarayah isn't here.'

'No disrespect, but you would say that, wouldn't you? Screwing with my head is all part of the game!'

She glanced over her shoulder toward the door. 'Keep your voice down before the others hear you!'

'I don't give a crap about whether they hear me or not. I'm not doing a damn thing you say until you tell me what's going on here,' he yelled, the sound echoing back from stone walls surrounding them in that sparsely furnished home.

A second later the gun she held was trained on him. 'Yes, you will, because if you don't your friends will pay for your disobedience.'

'Friends?' He'd mostly been worried about Teyla, but Sarayah's use of the plural now had him panicking that he'd been right about that trap he thought the others might have been headed for. "Friends" suggested more than one friend, and one thing he had learned about Sarayah was that she rarely used the wrong word.

'You didn't think you and Teyla were the only ones I knew about, did you?' she asked, her gaze losing none of its intensity. 'Right now, Dr McKay and Lieutenant Ford are settling into our prison encampment. If you do as you're told, the worst that will happen is they'll be forced to do a little hard work. Continue to draw attention to yourself and...well, I don't believe I need to go into details, do I? You saw how angry my fellow villagers are. I don't know if I would be able to contain them if they thought you were intent on causing trouble. All you have to do is cooperate and your stay here could be ...comparatively easy.'

Sheppard felt his defiance faltering. He knew now that McKay and Ford hadn't made it back to Atlantis the way they were supposed to, even if Teyla had, and that was a pretty big if. Sarayah clearly planned to change how this whole encounter played out, and if that meant holding onto all four of them indefinitely or maybe even killing his team, he knew she'd have no qualms at all about doing it. She might be trying to convince him she was different, but he wasn't dumb enough to fall for it.

He looked down at the tattered clothes lying at his feet, wondering if there was any point in playing along with the original time-line now. Everything had changed. Sarayah knew too much for him to keep things moving as they should, and if he couldn't keep things on track anymore, he might as well play it how he thought was best. Right now, getting out of there and back to the jumper to try to mount an effective rescue seemed like his best option.

'I can't change my clothes until you take these chains off me,' he pointed out, holding his arms outstretched toward her.

She eyed him suspiciously, but it wasn't as if he was lying. If she wanted him out of his clothes, she would have to let him out of the chains, too. She stepped up closer, swapping the gun she held to her other hand while she rifled the key to his manacles out from a pocket concealed within her clothes. She aimed the key at the rusty lock, but stopped just short of putting it in.

'You wouldn't be planning to attempt an escape, would you?' she asked, twirling the key tantalisingly in her fingers. 'That would be ten lashes if you did and you were recaptured. You need to seriously consider whether you can handle that.'

That gave him pause for thought. The pain of the lashing he'd taken in Helmand was still pretty fresh, and he didn't relish the thought of willingly put himself forward for that again. But on the other hand his friends needed him. He had to take the risk.

Now, for the first time, she smiled that leering smirk that made his skin creep. 'You know what? Maybe I should save you from yourself, because we both know you can't resist the draw of a possible escape opportunity.'

She stepped back and lifted her arm, levelling the stun gun at his chest. He raised his chin and waited for her to fire. She was going to knock him out whatever he said – had probably planned to all along. 'Atlantis will send people to find us. You can't keep us here like this,' he told her.

She lifted her chin now too, mimicking his body language to belittle his bravado. 'They won't find you, Major. They won't find any of you. That's all part of the plan. '

A surge of power thumped into his body, dropping him where he stood before he could he expend even one more second of time on wondering what exactly that plan might be.