Illman (illman) wrote,

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SGA Fic: Mindscape Chapters 1-3/15 (FRT-13)

Title: Mindscape

Author: Illman

Category: gen, h/c, post-episode

Rating: FRT-13

Beta: DianeM

Date completed: 11/19/06

Feedback: All comments are appreciated.

Warnings: some violence, drug use

Disclaimer: It's their universe, not mine.

Summary: A mysterious attacker is roaming Atlantis and John soon falls under suspicion, but he is not the only one behavong stranegly. Post The Hive story.


Ira Furor Brevis Est


"What was your first impression of Lieutenant Ford?"

That was an easy question for John Sheppard. It was later that everything had
gone so wrong.

"He was a good marine." It wasn't what John had wanted to say, but it was all
he could say without having to give the doctor insight into his thoughts. Dr.
Heightmeyer would ask more questions. Psychologists got paid to dig deeper,
especially after missions like these where everything had gone wrong. Dr. Weir
had been adamant; John was going to see Dr. Heightmeyer, the number of sessions
to be determined by the psychologist.

"What made you choose him for your team?"

Good. John could stick with the facts. Ford had come to Atlantis with a
perfect record.

"Ford is...was a quick thinker, he had a good service record, experience with
off-world activity." He had made a good impression on John during that very
first mission, when Colonel Sumner had still been alive. But John didn't dare
mention him. Since his memorial service, no one had mentioned him again in
John's presence. John didn't want to discuss Sumner's death with Heightmeyer.
Maybe some day, after enough Athosian moonshine...

"How was your relationship with Lieutenant Ford?" If Dr. Heightmeyer was
bothered by his short answers, she didn't show it, but she probably got a lot of
that in her job.

John had been Ford's CO, but there also had been the video nights, the
Athosian moonshine and that fact that they lived in a closed community on the
lone outpost of humanity in another Galaxy. There had been no contact with Earth
in their first ten months on Atlantis and John had had the impression that Ford
had missed his grandparents a lot. When Rodney had found a way to send a message
to Earth, Ford had volunteered to tape the messages. It had been important to

But because they had been all alone in a strange galaxy, possibly for the
rest of their lives, they had all grown closer together. Ford had been also a
friend to John.

"Ford was a friend."

"When he left Atlantis, how did you feel about that?" Kate smiled, but John
knew she wanted to hear him say that he felt angry about what Ford had done.

"It wasn't his fault. The Wraith did this to him," John began. He didn't know
what had driven Ford to steal a Jumper and flee from Atlantis. Dr. Beckett and
the rest of the medical staff had tried to help him and they might have
succeeded eventually.

When John had become infected with Beckett's imperfect virus, the subtle
changes to his body and mind had frightened him like nothing before in his life.
He had been powerless to stop to transition into a creature he didn't recognize
and couldn't control. The Wraith had changed Ford on a physical level, maybe
irreversibly so. John could understand why Ford might have run from the people
he had known.

"I didn't understand why he ran away. We wanted to help him, but I think he
knew we couldn't," John finally answered.

"So, you did everything you could to bring him back to Atlantis?" Dr.
Heightmeyer asked in friendly tone, which didn't quite fit the question.

The search for Ford hadn't gone ideal. They had soon picked up his trail on a
planet exposed to extreme UV radiation, but finding the missing Lieutenant had
been challenging, to say the least. The arrival of the Wraith at long last had
only been the final straw.

"The conditions were difficult. Ronon took us by surprise and Major Lorne
lost a lot of time searching for us instead of searching for the lieutenant. If
it hadn't been for Ronon, the Wraith wouldn't have shown up and Ford wouldn't
have jumped into the beam."

Difficult conditions were how people got killed.

Ford wouldn't have jumped into the beam if John hadn't pointed an automatic
weapon at him, but damn it, Ford had almost killed McKay. What other choice had
there been?

But that was it about choices. Nobody ever had another choice and this was
where it had gotten them. The Stargate might have sounded like a good idea on
paper, but the universe was not a friendly place. Out there were the likes of
the Goa'uld, Wraith and Genii waiting for them.

"In light of what happened to your team, do you wish you had stopped
Lieutenant Ford from escaping you on that occasion?"

She hadn't asked him how he felt about what Ford had done to them. John had
expected that question first in line, but maybe she wanted him to tell her on
his own. Of course he was angry. Ford had had no right to take them prisoners
and drug his team with the enzyme even if he had planned a strike against the
Wraith. The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

But not if those friends were a gang of megalomaniacs with gung-ho tactics
led by a former marine, hopped up on Wraith enzyme. Thanks, but no thanks.

"I didn't think he'd survive being transported aboard a Dart." John evaded
the question. "At the time, I wouldn't have shot a friend."

Ford had been a friend that night and only as a last resort, if Ford pulled a
gun on him, John would have shot him. Colonel Caldwell's orders had been
different; he had wanted Ford recovered at all cost. For him the lieutenant had
become a security risk, but John hadn't agreed, not then. Only later, when he
had looked Ford in the eye and realized that he wouldn't let them go, he had
known that Caldwell had been right. Ford had become a threat.

"How do you feel about the Lieutenant's death?"

"He deserved better. I'm not condoning what he did after he left Atlantis,
but he was a good man."

It wasn't that simple. The Wraith had changed Ford, but the enzyme could only
have amplified what had already been there. Others had joined his group and had
chosen the enzyme and it was also a choice Ford had made. Maybe. On the ship,
when they had run out of enzyme, John had thought Ford was about to die, but he
had hung on to life with determination.

He might have been able to overcome the changes the Wraith had done, if he
had only wanted to. But Ford had relished the increases in strength and speed
the enzyme brought; he hadn't wanted to go back.

"What would you say to him if you could?"

That was unfair.

"We said everything we needed to say," John replied and got up. He had talked
enough. He would never forget Aiden Ford as long as he lived. The young man had
faced a brilliant future, and like so many before him, war had cost him

He would recall them as separate entities. The young, eager lieutenant with a
penchant for naming things. The angry, manic guerrilla leader bent on waging war
against the Wraith. They weren't the same person.

John left Dr. Heightmeyer's office and headed for the gym. He knew he would
see Aiden Ford again.

The gym was empty in the morning during the first shift of the day. John
hadn't slept very well and it seemed like he couldn't even recall the last time
he had felt well rested. In the past two weeks, he had always forced himself to
get by on as little sleep as possible, just enough to remain alert. Sleep meant
loss of control in a situation where control was at a premium. He hadn't been in
a control, Ford had been.

John ignored the headache that had been lingering since their attack on the
Wraith ship the previous day and started to warm up. He hoped that the physical
exertion would finally allow him to get a few hours of rest. He hoped that a
good workout and a few hours of restful sleep would do the trick. He didn't plan
on going to the infirmary because of a headache and, truth be told, he just
didn't want to see anyone for a while, after over two weeks of being stuck
together with the rest of his team or Ford every minute day and night.

John would have to see Dr. Heightmeyer. That had been Dr. Weir's condition.
If the psychologist agreed, he could go back to his desk duties the following
week. Caldwell and the Daedalus were needed back home, so Major Lorne had taken
over the day-to-day duties as military commander. John normally wouldn't have
envied him for the job - the paperwork was a bitch. But right now, faced with
the prospect of five days of unoccupied time, performance reviews and training
schedules sounded exciting—anything to fill the time. Passing time was a skill
the military cultivated, but John had never become very good at it. He had
learned to control himself outwardly. To anyone else, John seemed to master the
art of staying at rest and being ready for action at the same time.

John hated waiting. He had learned to make it bearable by occupying his mind.
At McMurdo, he had spent the first month working out the number of floor tiles
at the base.

Not by counting, that would have been boring; he had measured the size of one
tile in an opportune moment and calculated the rest, in his head. The ceilings
had been next.

Every man needed a hobby and there was only so often that you could watch
College Football Classics.

John's first punch was hard and oddly satisfying. With the tension of the
last two weeks behind him and no other way to unload, John peppered the bag with
punches. He normally preferred running for a workout, but this time, every time
his fist connected with the sand bag, John felt a sense a reassurance and

He was only distantly aware of pain from his beaten hands as he worked
himself into frenzy. He was angry. He hadn't wanted to admit it to Kate, but he
felt anger, even rage at Ford for what his team had gone through because of

Ford could have stopped it at any time, and he hadn't. John hadn't been able
to stop anything. He had been powerless, a pawn in Ford's game. He was as angry
at Ford as at himself as he pummelled the bag mercilessly.

John didn't relent until his strength left him completely. His mind was still
going strong, but his body betrayed him when his knees folded under him.

John hit the floor hard and fell into darkness.


John opened his eyes and was right where he had been before everything had
gone black. The only addition to the scene was Major Lorne, kneeling right next
to him. The usually chipper man was wearing an expression somewhere between
surprise and shock, as he was reaching for his radio. John reached to stop

"Wow, Colonel." Lorne startled, staring at John. "I don't know how to say
this, sir, but is everything all right?"

It was a dumb question. Obviously things were not all right. John recalled
the workout, but he wasn't so sure why he had ended up on the floor. He did have
one hell of a headache and his hands were killing him.

"I think you should see Dr. Beckett." Lorne interrupted his thought and for
once John couldn't find a good reason to disagree.

"Yes. Help me up." John made a move to get to his feet, ignoring protests
from pretty much every part of his body, but Lorne wasn't helping. He looked

"I think I should call for Dr. Beckett." Lorne looked uncomfortable.

"Major?" John wasn't in the mood for this. His head was killing him as was
every muscle in his body. He felt like something big and bad had eaten him whole
and spit him out again.

"I'm calling Dr. Beckett." Lorne said and tapped his radio. "Dr. Beckett,
this is Major Lorne."

"Major, what is it?" John heard the familiar voice over the radio.

"Doctor, we need you here in the gym. I think you'd better come alone."

John felt grateful. For some reason this had been important, but he couldn't
remember. He remembered working out earlier, but the memory was starting to blur
as his head ached ferociously.

John closed his eyes just for a second, to dim to headache. Lorne was talking
on his radio, but the words were like white noise to John as he drifted off


"Colonel, Colonel Sheppard! Come on, open your eyes." The Scottish accented
voice sounded familiar, which made no sense whatsoever because there were no
Scots in the Air Force. What the hell had happened?

"Come on, Colonel Sheppard, I can tell that you are awake." Colonel Sheppard?
That wasn't right either, but John's head hurt too much to launch much of a
protest. He groaned and gave in to the insistent voice only to regret it

The penlight light trick, he had forgotten about that. Considering how badly
his head hurt, John was surprised that he could remember his own name. His head
felt like it was about to explode. Passing out again almost seemed like a good
idea. Anything to kill the headache.

"Colonel, I need to have a closer look at you in the infirmary." Someone was

"I better call for a gurney." Oh no.



Timendi Causa Est Nescire


Rodney was staring at the ceiling over his bed. He had tried to work, had
tried to play Minesweeper, Battleship, even Space Invaders, but even looking at
the screen for five minutes made his head hurt.

It was pointless. His head seemed to have turned into a useless appendage.
His brain was essential to the survival of not only himself, but at least to the
rest of the City as well and it wasn't working anymore. Ruined, just like that.
Ford and his cronies had ruined his brain for good.

Carson had reassured him that it wasn't so bad and that the light
sensitivity, fatigue and irritability would pass eventually. But what other was
there to expect from the medical profession, except reassurances that everything
would be all right.

After his mind had finally cleared enough to know where he was, Rodney had
fled the infirmary as soon as he had managed to stand on his own legs. His
memory of the two days that had passed in between his arrival through the
Stargate and what passed for sanity was sketchy, but what he did remember
horrified him.

If only a fraction of what he recalled from his time in the infirmary was
true, he'd do good never to cross Carson's path again, which would be a shame as
Carson had been a good friend and they went back a long time. They had met at
Area 51, but Rodney had to cringe at the memory of what he had screamed at his
former friends when the withdrawal had set in. Carson had stayed with him during
the entire time, but for once Rodney wished he hadn't.

It would make things easier for them; he would still be able to be in the
same room as Carson. Right now, staying in his room forever seemed to be the
only logical option. Rodney was thoroughly screwed. He rolled himself on his
stomach and sighed.

There was a knock on the door just as Rodney had flipped back on his

"Go away!" Couldn't they leave him alone for one hour? Everyone knew where he
was and he certainly wasn't going anywhere. He had agreed to see Kate, not that
he had had any other choice. He wasn't going back to work until Kate cleared
him; those were Elizabeth's orders.

"Rodney?" It was Radek Zelenka.

"Forget it, Radek! Go back to work!"

Atlantis soundproofing made it impossible to hear anything more coming from
the corridor, but Radek seemed to have left. Slightly more satisfied, Rodney
rolled on his stomach again.

It should have been over. Their happy, triumphant return to Atlantis. Even
being dragged home by Major Lorne would have been all right, if it had ended at
the Stargate. Rodney had escaped Ford's clutches, but there had been no happy
homecoming, not for him. Sheppard had come out on top, as usual. Even Conan and
Xena had performed up to their usual warrior standards. The smartest guy in the
Pegasus Galaxy had nearly died of an overdose of alien speed. It was unfair and
it made Rodney mad.

Rodney punched his pillow.


"How are you feeling today?"

"Like everybody doesn't know! How should I feel? Can you tell me?" Rodney
crossed his arms in front of his chest and stared at Kate Heightmeyer. The whole
control room had gotten a free show when he had stumbled through the Gate,
stoned out of his mind after escaping from Ford's merry band of junkies. His
memory was hazy, but after having been forcedly high for two weeks straight and
having given himself a massive overdose before managing to escape, he had only
managed crazed ramblings before hitting the ground.

"I can't tell you how you should feel. How do you feel?" Kate repeated her

"I wish it never happened, but we can't have that, now can we?"

God, there was so much that never should have happened: the cancellation of
Star Trek, the awakening of the Wraith, Gaul's suicide...maybe not in this
order. But not even Colonel Carter had figured out time travel yet, and she was
the only person in the universe who was smarter than him and there was that
rumour going around Area 51 that she had gone back in time once.

"No, that is not possible. Do you regret your actions?"

Regret was such an awful word. Hindsight was always 20-20. Everyone could
come afterwards and mince words; being there was another thing. Done was done,
such were the laws of physics. And until they changed, regret was a waste of

"I don't regret what I did." Rodney meant it.

Kate looked at him and said nothing for a while. "You took a great risk for
the sake of your team when you escaped. What were you thinking when you injected
yourself with the enzyme?"

Rodney shook his head. He knew what he should say. That he had wanted to save
his team. Sheppard would say that he was the kind of guy who was willing to give
up his life for others. He would shoot up to help his team escape, so why
shouldn't Rodney do the same? But it wasn't that easy. For Sheppard maybe, he
was a professional hero. Want somebody to save the world? Ask Colonel John
Sheppard. He had thrown himself at the opportunity to fly the Jumper into the
Wraith ship when the remote control had failed work.

Well, maybe he hadn’t thrown himself; he just knew what needed to get done.
Rodney had been thinking about his own ass.

"I don't remember."

Oh he did. He had been scared and desperate—a mixture that had inspired many
stupid actions in the history of man. He had probably been lucky that he had
only provided a spectacle, the news of which would soon reach Earth, and had
killed off some invaluable brain cells in the course of his desperation actions.
But it was better than being dead.

"What can you tell me about the time Lieutenant Ford was holding you
prisoner? What do you remember about that time?"

Too much. It hadn't been bad. Ford could have done a lot worse, a lot if he
had wanted to make them suffer. He had certainly picked up a couple of tricks in
the marines. Kolya had gotten Rodney talking within thirty seconds. One deep cut
was all it had taken; his mind had done the rest. But the Genii were hardly
pioneers; they had been going at this on Earth for a lot longer.

"I'm sure everything is in Sheppard's report."

"Yes, I have read Colonel Sheppard's report, and I know that you were under
the influence of the enzyme."

Yes, Ford had the enzyme and in a way it was worse than what Kolya had

"Just tell me what you remember. It doesn't matter if it is just an
impression or a feeling," Kate encouraged.

"Warm, it was always too warm."

It had been the enzyme. He had felt the wash of heat shortly after every
injection, filling his body with a burn that had continued for hours. It had
felt like being trapped in the Nevada desert heat, midday.

"What else can you recall about those two weeks?"

Rodney didn't want to talk about it now, anymore than he wanted to talk about
it when Carson had asked him three days ago.

"It's all in my report and the parts I missed because the truant lieutenant
thinks a stoned scientist can do a better job than a sober one are in the
major's report. He obviously managed to play the military card."

Kate was impassive at his anger. "What do you think Colonel Sheppard could
have done differently?"

"What should I know? Ford was listening to him, not to us! He stood by and
watched us get drugged."

"In the end it was you who was in the position to get a message through to
Atlantis. Maybe there was just nothing the colonel could have done to change the
situation. Your team was vastly outnumbered and outgunned by Ford's men. You
should talk to Colonel Sheppard."

"You know, I probably should." Rodney didn't smile. He got up from the

"That's a good idea," Kate said and nodded. "Tomorrow at the same time?"

"I don't have much of a choice there." Rodney shrugged. He was suddenly
tired; much of the fight had left him. Carson had said that fatigue was one of
the withdrawal symptoms he still might have to deal with over the next few

"I think you still have quite a bit to talk about. So I'll see you

Rodney walked out the door without reply. He couldn't face anyone, as the
awareness of his all too public enzyme addiction and withdrawal hurt more than
the lingering symptoms. Rodney took the opposite direction from his quarters and
headed for the eastern part of the City.

The Eastern Pier was deserted. It was a cool morning and the sea was
restless. Rodney sat down against one of the massive support beams, pulled his
knees close and wrapped his arms around them.

He would be lying if he said he regretted injecting himself with the enzyme.
Ford's junkie friends probably wouldn't have killed him. They had been sharp
enough to realize that he was an asset. If he hadn't taken the massive enzyme
dose, he would still be where he had been a week ago. He would be a prisoner.
Only now, he would be alone.

He had to admit it, he had felt a lot safer, even held prisoner in a camp of
guerrilla warriors while his team was around. His only asset was his mind, and
once Ford had messed with it, he'd pretty much become useless. He would probably
have been of more use to them if he hadn't been jumping out of his skin at every
turn. It had been a tool to control him and it had worked. Rodney resented

Rodney didn't hear the footfalls until Radek was almost besides him. When he
did turn and spotted him, he was furious.

"What is it! Leave me alone!" Rodney jumped to his feet.

"Rodney. Dr. Beckett was worried when he didn't find you. He just wanted to
know where you were." Radek spoke deliberately slow.

"That's none of his goddamn business. And neither is it yours. I did what I
had to do. Would you rather I was stuck back on the planet with Ford so that you
can keep my job? Is that it?"

"You know that's not true. Come back with me to the infirmary. Carson has
discovered a new side effect, and he is very worried. He needs to see you."
Radek pleaded and took a step closer to Rodney. Rodney let him approach.

"What side effects?"

"I don't know. Something has happened to Colonel Sheppard. Carson is worried
that the same might happen to you and the others."


Ronon and Teyla were already gathered in the infirmary, sitting on opposite
beds in the main hall. Rodney couldn't see John anywhere. He wondered whether
the colonel had already been released if Carson was that concerned.

Carson sat down, crossed and uncrossed his arms, as if steeling himself for
the conversation ahead.

Rodney was impatient. Radek hadn't been able to give him any detail, and the
matter concerned Rodney personally. "What's going on?"

"I'm aware that there has been a lot of fall-out from the last two weeks, but
there might have been something else affecting you that I didn't know about
before. I assumed that the symptoms you were experiencing were due to your
exposure to the enzyme, but there might have been other factors involved."

"What kind of factors?" Ronon asked.

"I have no idea yet, but Colonel Sheppard came in with highly abnormal
patterns of neurological activity. I can only attribute them to the some sort of
environmental exposure at this point, but I can't rule anything out. That's why
I need to check all of you out. Symptoms include aggression, severe depression
and memory loss. It's normal that you are feeling somewhat down after coming off
the enzyme, but the aggression should have passed after it's out of your

That was basically how Rodney felt—minus the memory loss. He couldn't help
the fear sneaking into his thoughts as Carson continued.

"I can't tell you how severe this problem is. I wish I could. Colonel
Sheppard seems to be stable right now, but he did quite a bit of damage and his
neural activity is still off the charts. Hopefully we'll be able to prevent or
at least control any episodes, should they be a result of something you all have
been exposed to.

The fear was cold and hard now. Until now, his memory had had least been
shaded by the drug, providing a faint comfort. It hadn't been much, but it had
given him something to cling to. Now it might start all over again and there was
no chance he could avoid Carson while being in the infirmary.

"Rodney?" Carson walked up to him. "We should get started. We'll start with
the MRI. You had one of those before at the SGC."

"You don't need to patronize me," Rodney replied acidly, but didn't look at

"I know this isn't easy for you, Rodney. But we are here for you, even if you
don't want us around right now," Carson said gently.

"Let's just get it over with." Rodney slipped off the bed he was sitting

"All right. You know the drill. Take off your uniform trousers and anything
metal you have on you."


Carson handed Rodney a small towel. Rodney wordlessly accepted and started
wiping the biogel off his forehead, only to rub it into his hair.

"It washes out. Until you get a chance to shower, you might have to take a
leaf out of the colonel's book." Carson grinned, but the levity in his voice
sounded forced.

Rodney sat back, exhausted after three hours after tests. "What's the

"Well, the EEG looks fine; that's good news. Your brain activity seems to be
within normal parameters. The MRI turned up nothing, but I wasn't expecting
anything. The PET scan showed activity patterns that have been connected with
depression. That is what concerns me. Colonel Sheppard had a pretty severe
episode earlier this morning."

"Is the colonel all right?" Rodney was starting to worry, despite his own
fear and exhaustion.

"I don't know. He is stable for now, but that's pretty much all I can say for
now," Carson replied and sat down on the exam bed next to Rodney.

"You probably won't like this, but it would be a good idea for you to stay in
the infirmary, at least until I have a clearer idea what is going on."

"That could take days." Rodney hadn't meant to say that aloud, but Carson
didn't comment.

"I want to run a scan with the Ancient Bio Analyzer on you and since it only
works on people with the gene, Teyla and Ronon aren't candidates. It will take
some time to evaluate the results. In the meantime, to confirm to PET scan
results, I'm going to do another blood scan to do evaluate your brain chemistry.
The first blood scan turned up nothing probative, but I was looking specifically
for infections, trace of toxins and signs of allergic reactions," Carson

"I'll stay until you are done with the lab work, but I can stare at the
ceiling just as well in my quarters." Rodney fidgeted nervously. He needed to
get out of the infirmary. The past three hours had taken up every bit of
self-control he had.

The prospect of a MRI made Rodney nervous under the best of circumstances. He
hated small spaces.

Wide open fields. Wide open fields.

Rodney had kept repeating his mantra during the scan. When it had finally
been over, he had been trembling. He had hoped Carson wouldn't notice but there
was probably no chance of that.

"What did you have to eat today?" Carson's question came out of nowhere.

Rodney hesitated. "I can't really remember."

"You were in such a rush to leave the infirmary this morning that you missed
breakfast and we have been here since before lunch time." Carson's voice didn't
carry any reproach even though Rodney knew he deserved it. He didn't need to
wait for the inevitable blood sugar test. The routine was familiar.

Fifteen minutes later, he was sipping apple juice. For the moment, things
were improving. Carson had disappeared for the moment; one of his minions had
delivered the juice. The effects of the sugar were kicking in fast, and Rodney
started to feel less shaky and the wooziness was clearing up.

Finished with the juice, Rodney put the container down on the table and
hopped off the bed.



Quamquam Longissimus Dies Cito Conditur


Carson walked out of the isolation room after checking up on Colonel Sheppard
again. The memories of the nanovirus incident still too clear in his memory, he
had immediately thought of a contagion when Major Lorne had reported the
colonel's bizarre behaviour. The fear was always there. It was a virus that had
wiped out the Ancients and it was still out there somewhere. A few years ago, a
research team had stumbled across it in Antarctica. The virus was fast and
deadly and there was no cure.

But all tests, conventional and Ancient had failed to reveal the presence of
a virus or other pathogen.

Carson had no idea what had caused John Sheppard's episode that had started
with violent behaviour and had continued with neurological irregularities and
disorientation. Carson had yet to run a full neurological exam; he would have to
wait with that until the effects of the sedative had worn off to get accurate

Carson headed back to the infirmary. He had been on feet for almost
forty-eight hours, and then he had only had a four hour nap before.

Since Rodney had come through the Gate after his escape from Ford's men, he
had stayed with him in the infirmary, ignoring Rodney's insults, pleas and
scream. He had needed to see Rodney through this. And the others as they had
returned to Atlantis. He had been up for three days, with only naps in between
and he knew he was nearing the end of his strength. There was going to come a
point where his mind became too frazzled and his body too tired to continue

Teyla and Ronon had both been reluctant, but they had agreed to stay in the
infirmary for observation.

Teyla was lying back on her bed, eyes closed. Maybe she was sleeping, Carson
couldn't tell. Ronon was sitting on the bed next to her, staring at the wall.
They seemed all right for the moment. He hadn't been able to determine anything
conclusive from the tests.

Dr. Weir was already waiting in his office. The tension of the last two weeks
was showing on Elizabeth's face as she sat down in a chair opposite his desk.
When Major Lorne and his team had come up empty again and again in their search
and not even Dr. Zelenka had managed to come up with a way to trace where they
had been taken to, Elizabeth had been forced to call off the search. No one had
wanted to believe that they were really gone, but with a galaxy full of planets,
Elizabeth had done the only thing she could.

"What are we dealing with, Carson?"

"To tell you the truth, I don't know. The only thing I can pretty much rule
out is a pathogen or virus. The City would have gone into lock down as soon as
they came back. So I don't think the rest of us are in any danger." Carson
decided to go with the good news first, they all could use it.

"I hate to ask, but you are sure that this is connected to what happened on
the mission?"

"At the moment, I don't know, it seems like the only reasonable assumption.
Blood scans haven't turned up anything yet, and according to his report, Colonel
Sheppard was at no point exposed to the enzyme."

"You doubt that?" Elizabeth sounded both surprised and shocked.

"No, I don't," Carson said simply. He wasn't sure what to believe. Not
everything ended up in a report, especially when it came to situations that
weren't supposed to happen.

"Is it possible that Colonel Sheppard is suffering from post-traumatic
stress? He was being held prisoner for two weeks." Elizabeth considered.

"That might have played a part. His PET scan indicated a patter that has some
commonalities with what's associated with depression, but there is also
heightened activity similar to what Teyla experienced last year when she started
having dreams about the Wraith. I'm not sure this means anything. We know very
little about psychic abilities and frankly, that's out of my field of expertise.
Colonel Sheppard spoke to Kate this morning. If she thought he was in danger of
harming himself, she would have told me. Otherwise, their session is
confidential," Carson told her. He had been thinking about the psychological
ramifications, but to the test results couldn't be explained away by
post-traumatic stress.

"I'll authorise Kate to hand over her notes on their session as well as
Sheppard's file from the past year," Elizabeth said. "I want to know what we are
dealing with. If there is any possibility that this is going to spread, the SGC
needs to know."

"I think we can rule that out at this point. As I said, the City would have
caught any pathogen even before we would. But there is strong possibility that,
Teyla, Ronon and Rodney could be affected by the same agent the colonel has been
exposed to. Dr. Millhouse and I started a series of test, so far without
conclusive results." Carson paused, not sure how to explain his suspicions that
despite conclusive proof, caution was warranted.

"What was the last time you slept? Or ate for that matter?" Elizabeth's
question made sense, but still caught him unaware.

Carson shook his head. "Lunch. I caught an hour of sleep in between shifts
yesterday. It's been a crazy week. But we got everyone back. That's what
counts." Carson might have been afraid to go through the Stargate, but he didn't
leave the infirmary on Atlantis until the work was done and this time was no

"Yes, almost everyone," Elizabeth agreed. "I'll send Kate along. I haven't
ordered Teyla and Ronon to see her. Kate may be experienced, but she said
herself that she isn't trained for aliens from another Galaxy."

Carson knew Elizabeth's doubted not Kate Heightmeyer's skill, but
psychologists in general. It was a luxury for easy times. Elizabeth had made
hard decisions before as a UN diplomat, but before coming to the Pegasus Galaxy,
she had never actually seen the people die as a result of her decisions. She
wasn't career military like Sheppard and Lorne, they had come better prepared
for what had awaited them, and they had seen war before.

"I'll ask her to talk to them. It can't do any harm if they at least tell
someone how they feel. I doubt Ronon will talk to her, but you know him, he's
not very talkative," Carson said with a tired smile.

"Dr. Millhouse can take over for a few hours, Carson. You picked her
yourself, let her do her job," Elizabeth said firmly. "Don't make me make this
an order." Elizabeth got.

"Let me know when there is anything new."

Carson just nodded. Elizabeth had a point. He was dead on his feet. His back
and neck had been bothering for hours, he couldn't recall how long exactly.

He had prescribed himself a Tylenol earlier, but he knew it wouldn't help.
Every pill checked out was documented in the records. That was a good thing. It
was too easy fall into the trap of substituting drugs for rest and recuperation,
even for professionals who knew better.

But to draw the line between being needed and personal needs was near
impossible when other lives were on the lines. He was replaceable. There were
other physicians on Earth, physicians with some field experience than he. His
passion was genetics; his career focus had been on research. He had wanted to
help people with his research. He had hoped of finding the means to improve
existing gene therapy.

Carson had achieved more than he had ever dreamt about. The ATA gene had been
the discovery of a lifetime. It had shown him that there were still wonders
waiting to be discovered. Yet he had seen the other side of science. It was a
tool of the powerful. Years of his research were collecting dust in the filing
cabinets of Area 51, deemed classified by the US government.

The gene therapy, which allowed forty percent of patients to receive the ATA
gene, had the potential to help hundreds of not thousands of people afflicted by
genetic diseases. There was a lot of research to be done, but that was not going
to happen, not on Earth anyways. Carson had been denied permission for human
trials. Rodney had been his first test subject, in the Pegasus Galaxy where the
need for gene carriers overruled laws from a far away Galaxy.

Rodney had been eager to volunteer. When the therapy had taken at the first
attempt, Carson had been overjoyed.

But it was a bittersweet triumph. He could live with not receiving
recognition for what would probably be the biggest achievement of his

It was better that way. People wouldn't judge him kindly, they'd see all the
deaths he'd caused and then, they'd put him right up there, together with some
of the worst examples of his profession. It was harder to accept that the
results of his research would remain a military secret. It could have helped
people, but Earth needed soldiers with the ATA gene. There weren't enough humans
born with the gene and it was easier to give people the gene afterwards, than
train people who had the gene naturally. Carson had come to the only place where
he could research the ATA gene, but there were days when he wished he had never
heard of the Stargate. Today was one of those days.

Carson reached down and opened the bottom shelf of his desk. He kept a box of
black tea in there, a small piece of Earth in a galaxy far from home.

While he really longed for some Scotch right now, his drinking days were long
behind him. He hadn't been an excessive drinker, but when he had finally taken
that first step, he had quit all forms of self-medication. Carson hadn't thought
about that time for a long time. With the passing years, he had stopped looking
back to that dark time in his life. The Wraith enzyme had brought everything
back. All the times he didn't want to remember.

Carson got up to heat some water for a cup of tea. He was watching the water
come to a boil when Kate entered his office.

"Kate, can I make you a cup?" Carson asked.

"Thanks, I'd appreciate it," Kate said and sat down.

Carson pulled out a second cup. He used cup he'd brought from Earth, not the
standard issue aluminium cups.

"They are beautiful." Kate commented.

"Yes, they are from a small pottery in my hometown. I picked them up when I
went to see my family before we left Earth. They remind me of home," Carson
explained and poured water into their cups.

"It's important to remind ourselves of where we come from. We have come very
far, but we are still explorers from Earth and we are very far away from

"It's just that some of us seem to miss home more than others." Carson sighed
and slumped down in his chair. He stretched out his aching legs.

"Is everything all right at home?" Kate asked.

"That's not it. My folks are fine, last I heard. My mom was already assuming
the worst when she didn't hear from me for months after I had left for Atlantis.
She's still worried, despite my letters. I don't think she was buying the
official story for a minute, but she knows that I have been doing classified
research for the military. She's stopped asked me what I'm doing years ago and
there's hardly anything I can tell her anyways, except reassure her that
everything is fine. I don't want to lie to her."

Officially Carson was involved in a vaccination program in the rural
communities of Central Africa. The paperwork was solid, he would pass a
background check, but anyone who had a closer look at his research background
would be wondering what am expert in genetics was doing out in the field.

"It's a price all of us have to pay," Kate agreed and nodded sadly.

"How long have you been with the Stargate program? Five years?"

"Around that. Back then, the Ancients were more of a myth than anything else.
We didn't know where they had come from or where they had gone, but everyone
wanted to find them because we knew they had they knowledge to once build the
Stargates. I never expected to find this." Carson shook his head. "I don't even
know how I ended up in another galaxy."

Kate slowly fished the teabag out of her cup, and then she looked at Carson.
"You need some sleep, but you know that better than I do. What's really
bothering you? Everything you tell me is confidential."

Carson realized that Kate had come as a psychologist, not as a friend.

"Everything that happened, it made me look back on the last few years and I'm
not sure I can live with what I see." Carson admitted.

He could have brushed Kate off with a lie or an excuse and she would have
left him alone, but he had kept to himself for too long.

It had worked, as long as the memories had stayed buried, but as the cruel
scenes had played out in front of him in the infirmary, the past had come back
in Technicolor.

"Do you regret coming to Atlantis?" Kate sounded sympathetic.

"The people on Hoff would still be alive if I had stayed on Earth. Elia
wouldn't have had to die like she did and Colonel Sheppard wouldn't have been
infected with the virus. There is hardly any more that I can do to violate the
oath I took."

"The Hoffans knew what the vaccine did and still wanted to use it. It was
their choice to make, not yours."

"If a patient was intent on harming himself, would you give him a knife?"
Carson returned. He knew it wasn't that simple.

"No, I wouldn't. But even as a doctor, you can't save everyone. The Hoffans
have found their solution that we might not be able to accept, but the majority
of their society agrees that it is the best way for them. I agree with you, it
is a terrible and barbaric thing to condemn half a world to die to save the
other half, but we can't judge the decisions of a culture we have been in
contact with for only a few weeks. The Hoffans made the choice, knowing the
price." Kate argued. Carson knew she had a point. The Hoffan society was a
democracy and a public vote had ruled in favour of the vaccine. He had been
stunned and horrified.

"Perna didn't want to die, but she wanted to save her people from the Wraith.
She was willing to go all the way and so the Hoffans. I'll never understand how
they could do what they did, but I understand now why they were so desperate. drives us to the worst of things." It wasn't an excuse, more an
observation. Living under the threat of the Wraith in the Pegasus Galaxy had
made him understand how desperate scientists must have been in times of war,
when the enemy seemed impossible to defeat. It was so easy to cross to line.

Kate waited, taking sip from her tea. She was letting him decided whether to
continue or not.

"With Elia, it was an accident, the virus wasn't ready to be used, but
eventually, I would have had to do it. I would have had to test it on a living
Wraith. I keep telling myself that they are Wraith and that they won't stop
killing humans because they have to, because it's their nature. Still, it feels
we have stepped back in time. I didn't come here to develop biological weapons.
I became a doctor because I wanted to help people, silly as that sounds now. But
as Rodney is fond of pointing out, I could have said no. We have to live with
the choices we make."

"That is true. Are you worried about Rodney?" The question came unexpected,
but Kate read people for a living and the recent events had hardly been a

"Yes, I am. He's had a hard time the last few months. Rodney is undoubtedly
the most intelligent person I've ever met, but you know he's difficult enough to
get along with when he's in a good mood. I met him at Area 51, long before
anyone knew Atlantis even existed." Carson paused. It was not something he felt
comfortable talking about without revealing detail Rodney had told him in
confidence or details of his own past that might ruin him.

"Rodney was pretty bitter, especially when he was sent Siberia to help with
the Russian Stargate program. Nobody wanted the job and Rodney wasn't exactly
popular with the SGC at the time. I think that here on Atlantis, he's finally
found his challenge. Sheppard made a good choice when he picked Rodney for his
team. But with everything that's he's gone through in the last four
months...I've noticed that he's shutting himself off from people." Carson forced
the words out, but he was worried about his friend and this time, Rodney
wouldn't listen to him. He had seen how the scientist had avoided his gaze
earlier in the infirmary.

"Right now, Rodney feels hurt and embarrassed at what happened."

Carson stopped her before she could continue. "I know that Elizabeth waived
the privilege, but I'm sure that Rodney wouldn't agree to this."

"Rodney is directing a good deal of his anger and anxiety at the outside. He
is suffering from some post-traumatic stress in reaction to the events, but he's
dealing in his own way," Kate told Carson.

"I'm still going to keep a close eye on him, even if he doesn't like it."

"Give him a bit of space. Rodney has spent almost three weeks with absolutely
no privacy. It's natural that he's pulling back right now," Kate reassured him.
"We've got another session tomorrow."

Kate meant to dispel his concerns, but Carson still worried. Rodney was
suffering from the unpredictable physical after-effects of the enzyme and at
least to him, Rodney had seemed withdrawn, if not depressed.

"I'm afraid I can't tell you much about Colonel Sheppard. He wasn't very
forthcoming during our session. In retrospect, I should have pushed him harder.
I let him choose where he wanted to start, because I was hoping he would open up
that way." Kate sighed. "But I didn't see any signs that he was severely

Carson shrugged. "At this point, it's just a theory. I don't have any


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