The slim body was writhing underneath Elizabeth’s hands. She tried calling
John’s name, but any awareness that he might have regained since the stunner
blast was gone. John was moaning incoherently, but his eyes remained closed.
Elizabeth could tell he was in much pain. His limbs jerked in a frenzied fit and
she was helpless to look on. She needed to help him, or at least prevent him
from hurting himself. She tried to hold him down, while still calling his name
in the vague hope of reaching into the place where he was.
When Sergeant Simmons finally came to her aid and pinned down Sheppard’s
legs, Elizabeth breathed relief.
“Take his head, so he doesn’t hurt himself any worse then he already has.”
Simmons looked grim as he fought to control Sheppard. “Status, Shaw?”
“Dialing her up now, sir.”
The seconds seemed interminable until they moved forwards and the event
horizon swallowed them.
On the other side, everything was moving very fast. They went straight to the
Jumper Bay and before Elizabeth could recover from the shock of the trip through
the wormhole, the military men had already opened the rear hatch and medics were
boarding the Jumper. Simmons helped her up and got out of the way as Carson and
his team closed in on Sheppard’s still form. He wasn’t moving anymore.
Elizabeth leaned dazed against the hull of the Jumper, her mind still reeling
with the events that were unfolding around her. Carson and the two medics
crowded around John, tossing back and forth clipped jargon that sounded like
code words to her ears. It couldn’t be good; they wouldn’t be delaying so long
otherwise. Elizabeth wanted to turn away, but she was drawn to watch whatever
tragedy was unfolding.
“When did he stop breathing?” The head of a blonde woman shot up
Elizabeth stared at her. “I don’t know. I didn’t….he seemed…” The woman
turned back to her patient. Elizabeth wanted to cry, but she hadn’t gotten to
where she was by crying.
With no time for taking a jog or reading a few pages to relax, Elizabeth had
settled for a few minutes on the balcony. Reports of the damages to the City
were still coming in from response teams. To her relief, there had been no
fatalities. Still, the threat of an attack by one of their enemies was now
greater than ever. Right now, Elizabeth was concerned with the welfare of two
individuals from her key staff. Without them, they might not be able to defend
themselves at all.
“We managed to stabilize Sheppard fairly quickly, but I’m afraid that it’s
only for the short term. It seems that he and Rodney are affected by the same
illness. The good news is that I’m fairly certain that Ronon and Teyla are not
affected. They are still experiencing withdrawal symptoms, but I released them
earlier today. Frankly, I needed the room for other patients after what
happened,” Carson said, explaining his most recent finding. Elizabeth had asked
the physician to her office before the emergency briefing. She needed to know if
they were dealing with an internal threat before she made a decision about
managing the crisis.
“I doubt they disagreed with that,” Elizabeth said and smiled. “When can I
talk to Sheppard?” The motivations behind the shooting on M2X-188 were still
unexplained and no one other than Sheppard would be able to shed light on this
act of betrayal.
“This will be difficult, I’m afraid. I suspect Rodney and John might have
been poisoned with acetylcholine, but I haven’t been able to prove it. “
“Can you treat them?”
“Yes, I have started both of them on biperiden. We should see the effects
pretty soon. But I’m worried about something else. I have no idea where someone
got the material to poison them. It’s not anything we brought with us.”
“Are you saying that someone on Atlantis poisoned them?”
“Yes. I can’t find any trace of foreign substances in their blood, nothing to
tell us where the acetylcholine came from. Rodney fell ill three days after his
return from Ford’s men; he was definitely poisoned here. John…”
“Wait, Carson. John was alone on the planet and I was with him all the time
in the Jumper. How could anyone have poisoned him?”
“I don’t know. Are you sure he was alone on the planet?” Carson shrugged.
Elizabeth stopped pacing and looked square at Carson. “Of course, I’m sure.
We scanned for life signs from the Jumper.” She lowered and shook her head.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to yell. I don’t think anyone could have been on the
planet, but it’s certainly possible.” She shook her head again. “I want to keep
this quiet as long as possible. The rumors are going to start flying soon and
the whole City will be talking about the shooting.” Elizabeth sighed.
“It’s the talk of the infirmary already.” Carson had heard the nurses
chatter. There was always talk during the post-mission check-ups. Atlantis
wasn’t a normal military base. They were an isolated City in the middle of a
strange galaxy, everyone knew everyone and there were no secrets. “Corporal Mars
just got out of surgery with Dr. Biro, and Major Lorne is sedated. Neither of
them has given any details of what really happened, besides what Corporal Mars
told us on the planet. It’s going to be a while.”
“I need to talk to them as soon as possible, even it’s just for a few
minutes. We knew that Sheppard shot at them, but we don’t know why. The poison
couldn’t have accounted for that.”
“No, certainly not. But the colonel is probably just as much a victim as
Rodney in this.”
“We can only hope so, Carson. We need to get to the bottom of all this.
Miller is off-duty anyways right now and I have been thinking the investigation
should be in civilian hands, at least for the moment. If there is a chance that
Sheppard is really involved, Stargate Command is going to hear about it. They
are going to wonder how objective Sheppard’s own chief of security was.”
“Sheppard is pretty popular with most of the people here, as far as I know.
He’s easy to get along with, at least that’s how most people see him.”
“You don’t agree?” Elizabeth was surprised. Carson seemed to be amiable with
“I can sympathize with him, but I don’t know how he lives with himself. But I
shouldn’t be one to talk. This galaxy doesn’t always bring out the best in us.”
Carson avoided looking at Elizabeth, but she knew what he meant. They had all
made their share of mistakes, out of ignorance or ill judgment.
“I think Radek’s view is differentiated enough to run the inquest. He is good
with people and he knows a lot more than he lets on. I’ll tell Dr. Taylor to
help him with the surveillance footage and the computer logs.”
Radek was stirred from sleep by a distant voice. He instantly reached for his
glasses, expecting to find them beside the bed, but nothing met his hand. He
opened his eyes with a start and then he remembered that he had been in the
infirmary to catch some rest. He found his glasses on a table near the bed.
Looking for the source of the voice that had woken him, he didn’t see anyone
around, but his headset was next to his glasses. He had just put it back on when
Dr. Taylor called for him again over the radio.
“Dr. Zelenka, are you receiving me? Dr. Zelenka?”
“Dr. Taylor. I’m here. What news do you have?” Radek stretched his arms.
“I have just returned from a briefing with Dr. Weir. She ordered us to pursue
the investigation into the sabotage.”
“Someone should have woken me for the briefing.” Radek put on his glasses. He
shouldn’t have fallen asleep in the middle of a crisis.
“Dr. Beckett thought it better to let you rest. I can meet you in the
infirmary. I have downloaded the surveillance footage from the system. We should
be able to view what has happened prior to the explosions. I concentrated my
search on the last four days. There is an enormous amount of footage recorded
everyday by the security systems, but it would take days to sift though it
“Then we better get to work.”
Radek pulled the blanket off him and folded it neatly at the end of the bed.
He found his shoes under the bed. A well-meaning nurse must have taken them off
him after he had fallen asleep. Radek had just put on his shoes when Dr. Taylor
entered the infirmary, a laptop under his arm.
Radek got up to meet Dr. Taylor when the technician stopped him. “Are you
sure you are well enough to get up, Dr. Zelenka? We can go over the footage
here. I brought the laptop with me.” Taylor seemed nervous, as he passed the
laptop from one side to the other.
“I’m fine.” Apparently Taylor thought every scientist was as big a baby as
Rodney. “We’ll go to the medical lab where we don’t disturb anyone.”
There was a whole lot of nothing on the surveillance tape. Radek had wanted
to see the footage of Rodney’s office first. Starting with the day of Rodney’s
return to Atlantis, the men scanned through the video in reverse. Rodney’s
private lab, which served his office at the same time, was located at the end of
a long corridor, far from the nearest transporter. Aside from Rodney and the
maintenance staff, no one had reason to pass by this corridor. The first day of
footage passed by without a living being crossing the sights of the camera. It
was well into the night of the day after Rodney’s return when for a few brief
moments a dark figure flitted across the screen.
Dr. Taylor immediately paused the video and replayed more slowly. The figure
was only a vague outline in the dark corridor as it slid past the camera and
into Rodney’s office.
“The lights should have been triggered as soon as anyone walked in. Atlantis
automatically reacts our presence since it’s been awakened. It’s not just a
simple motion detector you can turn off; it’s actually a heat trigger.” Taylor
wondered as he tried to enhance the contrast of the video image. “Maybe someone
with the ATA gene…”
“Last year, a Wraith managed to hide for several weeks in the City. There are
a lot of smart people on the expedition, and anyone could have figured out how
to deactivate the lights.” Radek didn’t mention that anyone with the know-how to
take out the heat-sensor would have hardly left the security cameras alive and
risked detection. “At least we can rule out all women and Ronon probably too,”
Radek said instead.
“That’s right. The way he is hunched over, it’s impossible to tell how tall
he really is, but I will try to get a better idea of what he is wearing. It
looks like a dark sweater and possibly jeans.” Taylor squinted at the
The clothes would prove a futile track; Radek was sure of that. This had not
been the work of an amateur. Whatever the bomber had worn was long gone. Maybe
tossed into the ocean, or burnt.
“We should take the control room footage next.” It was possible to sneak into
a lone corridor at night, but the control room was another matter. Guards were
posted at all hours and technicians were monitoring the City day and night.
Taylor nodded and opened a new video file. “This is the camera filming the
dialing computer. It should have caught him in action.” Taylor started to play
the video, but after only seconds, it fizzled and there was only static.
“I have no idea what happened. There must have been a camera malfunction.
That couldn’t have been a coincidence.” Taylor sounded genuinely panicked, but
Radek wondered why Taylor only now noticed that there had been no recording of
the dialing computer. In times of paranoia when their mere existence was a
secret, not a minute in the control room went unmonitored.
“There are other cameras, right? We can see their footage,” Radek said with
mock cheerfulness. He had the feeling that Taylor was playing dumb with him, but
he didn’t want to confront him before he knew more.
It turned out that all cameras had conveniently blackened out ten minutes
after the mystery man had placed the bomb in Rodney’s quarters. Radek would need
to try it out himself, but he didn’t think many people would have been able to
disengage the cameras within ten minutes, including walking the distance from
the lab to a secluded terminal.
“He must have turned them off to stay undetected. The control is under pretty
tight security, just in case. I heard that the Genii tried to take over the City
“I know. You were in the control room most of the past two days. Did you ever
notice someone sneaking around?” Radek specifically was wondering whether
Sheppard was sneaking around. He hadn’t crossed the colonel off his list of
suspects yet. Weir and Beckett were keeping an open mind, too open in his
opinion. Sheppard had tried to kill Rodney for reasons yet unknown, but he
was a path of destruction, possibly as agent of one their enemies. The
thought deserved consideration in Radek’s mind.
“You are asking me about Colonel Sheppard?” Taylor looked at Radek with an
expression of bewilderment. “You don’t think he could ever betray us, not after
all that he’s done.”
“I didn’t say he has and neither should you. Did you notice anyone?” Radek
asked, already knowing that the whole City would be talking about how he could
“I hate to say it, but I only saw the colonel.”
Perhaps Taylor wouldn’t squeal after all.
“But he was with Dr. Weir all the time, if I recall right.”
Radek made a mental note to talk to Dr. Weir about their visit to the control
room. Taylor seemed to be as good as a witness as an investigator. Radek
couldn’t help but wonder how he had gotten on the expedition. But there was
Kavanaugh after all…
Time seemed to stand still in the small isolation room. The steady twilight
was only punctured by the steady beeps of the heart monitor that had thankfully
found their way back to an even rhythm. Carson had come under the pretense of
having to check up on Rodney, but it was a task his competent staff could
complete with efficiency. In truth, he needed to see Rodney. Not so much for
Rodney sake, as for his own well-being. Rodney had made remarkable progress
towards recovery in the last six hours. He had recovered stability, giving
Carson much peace of mind, but he still had a long way to go.
Rodney looked at peace and showed no sign of outward injury. Sheppard had
done damage that was impossible to detect, both physically and emotionally. None
of them would know the full impact until Rodney woke up. He was going to wake
up; Carson had to force himself to believe at times when he was treating his
friends. Atlantis needed Rodney for the scientist he was, but some, albeit few
needed him for the person he was. Rodney was a complicated man. His exceptional
mind made him special. He viewed the world like very few people did. Carson
could only begin to understand the depth of possibilities Rodney had to be
seeing in any situation. Rodney was always ahead a few steps of the others; he
just sometimes forgot to factor in the human element. People weren’t as
predictable and Rodney couldn’t figure them out as easily as a piece of alien
technology. Carson knew that Rodney was at times truly frustrated with people,
even though he pretended not to care at all. The SGC had given him much leniency
as they recognized his potential, but even Rodney had to work with others.
Mostly those collaborations ended in mutual loathing and only grudging respect,
if that, but on Atlantis, Rodney seemed to have found at least a few friends.
They had joked about needing to get out more their first evening on Atlantis,
but apparently Rodney had meant it. He and Sheppard got along much better than
Carson could ever have imagined Rodney getting along with anyone, let alone with
someone in the military. Having worked around Rodney and around the US military,
Rodney’s opinions about the military were no secret.
Rodney and Sheppard exchanged barbs, but they never argued, at least as far
as Carson knew. Working for the team had done well for Rodney, who had never
dreamt about getting out into the field, let alone going through the Stargate on
a regular basis when they had been working in research at Area 51. Rodney had
even started to get back on his feet after his last mission. He had complained a
lot, but he had been past the worst of the enzyme withdrawal. Carson, Kate and
Elizabeth had kept a not-so-distant eye on Rodney after his return from Ford’s
men, but Kate had only backed up what Carson had been thinking himself. Rodney
was for once reacting normally--he was angry. Angry at the world, angry at Ford,
but he was dealing with what happened. It was unfair, a cruel blow of life that
just then, when Rodney had turned around to gather his life back together
someone had tried to kill him. Carson was convinced that Sheppard would never
have harmed Rodney out of his own free will. He might have misgivings about the
military man’s methods, but Carson didn’t doubt John’s loyalty to Atlantis and
his friends. Rodney and John were an unlikely pair, but there was no doubt that
they were very close.
Right now, Sheppard was in an isolation room across the hall, under heavy
guard. Only Carson and Dr. Millhouse had access to him, until they knew how
Rodney and he had been poisoned. Elizabeth refused to take any chances.
There was a knock at the door and it slid open with a soft noise. Dr. Faraday
leaned in hesitantly, the light from the corridor falling into the room from
“Dr. Beckett, I’m sorry to disturb you. I need to show you something.” Dr.
Faraday sounded hesitant; she was gripping a sheet of paper in her hand.
Carson shot a last glance at Rodney, and went to meet Dr. Faraday
“Did you finish the blood analysis?”
“That is what I wanted to talk to you about.” Dr. Faraday was nervous. “Dr.
McKay’s and Colonel Sheppard’s blood contains high levels of synthetic
acetylcholine. That’s what we expected to find.”
Carson started to get the feeling that there was something they hadn’t
expected to find.
“I analyzed the synthetic acetylcholine. The presence of different isotopes
shows the poison comes from Earth, not the Pegasus Galaxy. That means-“
“I know.” Carson stopped her. “I know what it means. We have a traitor in
Dr. Faraday stared at Carson in shock. “That makes no sense. Why would
anyone…Why would anyone want to play into the hands of the Wraith by destroying
Atlantis? There is nothing to gain from that. If the Wraith ever make their way
to Earth, we are all doomed.”
“You are right; there is nothing to gain from working with the Wraith. I
can’t imagine them agreeing to an alliance with anyone. We are nothing but food
for them. But maybe destroying Atlantis isn’t the point of all this.” Carson
hadn’t had the chance to think about the motives behind the attacks. He had been
too busy treating the many injured expedition members. “There are a lot of
people and Earth, including at the SGC, who think the Atlantis mission is
creating more problems than answers. We came to find technology to defeat the
Go’auld. They are gone and we have made new enemies.”
“I never thought even you had doubts,” Dr. Faraday mumbled. “Sorry, I didn’t
mean. I just thought…. you developed the gene therapy that made it possible for
a lot of us to come here, so I didn’t think you ever wondered whether we were
doing the right thing, being here.”
“I do wonder at times. Maybe we should have stayed on Earth before trying to
sort out intergalactic conflicts, but we are here now.” Carson shrugged. He
wished it were that easy.
There was a tense silence. Dr. Faraday finally nodded. “I should go back to
“Dr. Faraday, I need you to hold off on your report, until I have spoken to
“Spoken to me about what?” The two scientists turned at hearing Elizabeth’s
voice from the direction of the door. Elizabeth looked like she had fallen
asleep in her clothes, but she had probably not been to bed yet. None of them
had had the time yet.
“Dr. Faraday finished the test results for Rodney and Sheppard. She was able
to confirm that they were poisoned with synthetic acetylcholine. That’s not very
surprising, I expected that. But we also know now that it was synthesized either
on Earth or with supplies from Earth.” Carson repeated what Dr. Faraday had told
him to Elizabeth. Her face showed that she came to the same conclusion as he
“I need names. I need a list of everyone who has the skills to synthesize
“That’s going to be a long list. Half my staff has more degrees than I do and
we have an extensive electronic library of reference texts on just about every
subject. Someone could have read up on the subject.”
“Great.” Elizabeth sighed. “Give a copy of the list to Radek and Dr. Taylor.
Unfortunately there is no way to trace what was smuggled in, which would have
been the easy way to bring it aboard Atlantis.” Elizabeth sat down on a nearby
chair and ran a hand through her hair, bringing only more disorder to it. “At
least we know how Rodney and Sheppard were poisoned. Now the question is who
poisoned them. I need to talk to Major Lorne. Major Sheppard’s behaviour is
connected to all this and I need to know what really happened on M2X-118.”
“All right, you can talk to him. But I can’t promise anything. He is still
slightly sedated and on pain medication. But you can try.” Carson led Elizabeth
across the infirmary. Elizabeth pushed aside the privacy curtains drawn around
the bed and approached. There was already a chair beside the bed. Someone had
been visiting earlier.
As she came closer to the bed, Major Lorne opened his eyes.
He blinked, and then finally seemed to take in where he was and who she
“Major, are you up to answering a few questions about what happened?”
Elizabeth asked. She was worried. The major didn’t look very good. He was pale
and seemed hardly able to keep his eyes open. A neck brace kept him fairly
immobile, but he seemed to hardly notice.
“I think so, ma’am.”
“That’s good,” Elizabeth said and smiled; she remained standing for the major
to be able to see her. “What happened on M2X-118?”
“M2X-118?” Major Lorne echoed, no recognition ringing in his voice.
“You were visiting the planet with Colonel Sheppard and Corporal Mars when
you were injured.”
“I remember.” The major spoke in slow, measured tones. “The colonel shot
“Can you remember why he shot Mars?”
“Nothing happened. He just shot Mars. He said nothing.” Major Lorne frowned
as if he was now remembering something.
“Sheppard damaged the DHD. He didn’t want to go back, he kept saying.”
“When did he say he didn’t want to go back?” Elizabeth was puzzled. Had
Sheppard shot Mars without any provocation?
“I tried, I tried, but he shot me. He shot me,” Lorne repeated softly and his
eyes drifted shut.
“Dr. Beckett says that you are going to be all right, Major.” Elizabeth
didn’t know what else to say.
The alarm came on shrill and sudden just as Elizabeth was about to leave the
area around Major Lorne’s bed. Shouts and rapid footfalls followed and Elizabeth
stepped out into the main infirmary to see what the commotion was all about. Dr.
Millhouse, Carson and Dr. Faraday were all crowded around a bed on the opposite
wall. Everyone appeared to be talking at once.
“Someone shut off the alarm!”
“Oh God, he’s dead.”
“I was only gone for a minute. I would have heard if…”
“It’s simply not possible…”
Elizabeth couldn’t see what was going on. The alarm fell silent. Elizabeth
pushed herself a way through to the bed of Corporal Mars. The man's face was
swollen and discoloured and a piece of IV tubing was wrapped around his
"He's dead." Carson looked as shocked as everyone else, but he seemed to have
the most presence of mind. "It looks like he was strangled."
"I can see that." She shook her head. "I'm sorry, Carson. How could this
happen? I was right across the room."
"I hate to be the one to point this out, but we have a lot of people here who
have been trained in killing other people." Carson shrugged.
Carson was being cynical, but he had a point. Someone had strangled a man in
a room full of people and nobody had heard a thing. Overpowering the sedated man
had probably not taken a lot of physical strength, but to remain undetected had
taken careful planning. There was a plan being executed with cold efficiency.
Elizabeth couldn't tell what the objective was, but it was happening all around
them and it was happening fast.
"Have Dr. Biro examine him." She turned to Carson. “I don't want a word about
the details leaving this room. As far as anyone is concerned, Mars died as a
result of his injuries."
"You aren't serious?" Dr. Millhouse stared at her.
"Was there anything not clear about what I said?" Elizabeth asked sharply.
Dr. Millhouse ducked at her angry words. "I didn't mean..."
"I assume we all understand the seriousness of the situation. Someone killed
Corporal Mars while we were all here." Elizabeth forced a smile. Her people
didn’t trust her right now. "That someone is still in the City. After what
happened today, people are bound to panic once they hear what happened, so the
longer we keep this calm, the better."
Everyone nodded in understanding. Dr. Millhouse looked frightened and
Elizabeth wasn't sure how well the young woman was dealing with the day's
events. She had been with the expedition since their contact with Earth a few
months ago, after their battle with the Wraith. This was her first real test in
the Pegasus Galaxy.
Dr. Faraday and Carson were only pale and tired, but if they were shocked by
what had just happened, they had managed to set the emotions aside. Elizabeth
had to force herself to do the same. As the expedition leader, she couldn't
afford to feel angry or betrayed.
Radek Zelenka was unaware of the events in the infirmary as he walked down
the corridor of the living quarters, flashlight in one hand, and the duty roster
for the control room in the other. The cameras had been off-line at the critical
time, so Radek had decided to reconstruct the events in the control room the old
fashioned way - by finding witnesses.
Radek heard a door open somewhere down the corridor, but no light appeared.
Everything remained dark. Radek switched on his own flashlight and rounded the
corner. In the dark, Atlantis seemed like a gigantic maze. Radek's shin made
painful contact with something solid and he dropped the flashlight.
Radek groped around for the flashlight on the ground and again bumped against
the object. It was large and wooden. A crate? What was a crate doing in the
middle of the corridor?
A loud mechanical noise made Radek whirl around, but it was too late. He saw
a flash of blue energy, then nothing.
All the isolation rooms looked depressingly the same. Four seamless grey
walls, the smooth grey door with a deceiving control panel - anyone with the
gene could lock the door with their thoughts. Sheppard would be able to keep her
from leaving the room without lifting a finger, if he were awake. Carson had
assured her that between drug treatment and the stunner blast, Sheppard wouldn't
be going anywhere for a while. Still, Elizabeth felt better with the armed
guards standing outside, carrying stunners. She wasn't going to make the same
Sheppard was a man in deep trouble. The shooting wasn't public knowledge yet,
but Atlantis was due to check in with Stargate command in thirty hours and she
simply could not omit a shooting involving several officers. Elizabeth kept
hoping there was another layer to be peeled off. She was going to talk to Major
Lorne again, in the morning, which was rapidly approaching with no sleep in
sight. But it was possible that Lorne knew nothing more than he had already
said. Maybe there had been nothing more than he had said. Only Sheppard could
tell her why he had shot the two marines. Elizabeth was convinced it hadn't been
the result of any injury or psychological stress. Corporal Mars' dead body made
her believe otherwise.
The mechanical whoosh of the door drew Elizabeth's attention away from
Sheppard. Elizabeth nodded to the marine guard and he let Dr. Biro pass
"Not what I expected to see in the Pegasus Galaxy." Dr. Biro crossed her arms
in front her chest.
"So, it was murder."
"Yes, Leon Mars suffocated. Someone who knew what they were doing. They broke
his hyoid bone, probably with a blow of the side of the hand." Dr. Biro
demonstrated. "A nice and quick hand-to-hand move. The rest was mainly for
"There is no doubt?" Elizabeth didn't think so.
"No, it's definitive. I'm sorry."
"Is there any way you can run more tests, on the tubing that was used to
strangle the corporal for example?" Elizabeth had never dealt with the details
of a criminal investigation. Her area of expertise was mediation and
negotiation, not fact finding. Elizabeth wasn't even sure what protocol said in
case of a homicide on Atlantis. She had hoped never having to deal with that
kind of event.
"That's more Dr. Beckett's area of expertise. He has been working on
compiling genetic profiles of the humanoid races we have met so far. I doubt
that the Genii willingly gave up a blood sample..." Dr. Biro trailed off.
Elizabeth raised an eyebrow. She would need to have a word with Carson. The
project was news to her. Carson was supposed to study the Wraith DNA for his
retrovirus, but having data about their few allies and many foes would help them
rule out the possibility of an intruder having killed Mars.
John had been dreaming for a long time. He had been dreaming about flying
silently, without effort, without hearing the noise of engines. He had been one
with his craft as he had flown high over snow-covered mountains, green fields
and deep blue lakes. John was perfectly at peace. This was what he had always
wanted. He had wanted to fly. The dream seemed to last forever, but suddenly the
silent perfection was disturbed by an annoying beeping sound. John tried to
ignore it, but he couldn’t. He opened his eyes.
For a moment, he was confused. He didn’t know where he was. Everything was
grey and concrete in the dim light.
“John, take it easy. Everything is all right.” A strong hand caught his. John
looked up and found Elizabeth sitting in a chair by his bed. She looked liked
she had slept very little lately, but she was smiling.
“Elizabeth.” John fell back on his pillow, waiting for the pain to ease.
John lowered his hand, and Elizabeth finally let go. His confused mind was
slow to process and only now he noticed that he wasn’t in the infirmary, but in
one of the isolation rooms. “Why am I here? What happened?”
“What do you remember?” Elizabeth evaded his question.
“Not much really. Nothing that might explain how I got here. The last thing I
recall is my session with Kate.” The memory was slow to come to the surface.
John knew that there was more, but he couldn’t pull the image out of the
“That’s good to hear. Carson has been worried.” Still, Elizabeth seemed taken
aback at his answer. Her smile wavered as she answered.
“What happened? How long has it been since I went to see Kate?”
“It’s been three, no, almost four days since. But it’s good that you
remember. Carson was worried…,” Elizabeth repeated before she hesitated and
broke off. She folded her hands nervously.
John was starting to get worried himself. “Are the others all right?”
“Ronon and Teyla are fine. Rodney has been very ill, but Carson thinks he is
on the road to recovery.” Elizabeth avoided looking at John. John knew there was
something she wasn’t going to tell him about.
“That’s good to hear. I’m feeling pretty tired. Can you send Carson along
later?” John wasn’t lying about feeling tired. The brief conversation had
exhausted him. He wouldn’t last much longer, but he needed to speak to Carson
before he went back to sleep.
“Are you sure?” Elizabeth’s gaze lingered on him.
John nodded softly, forcing himself to stay awake.
The footfalls that woke him only minutes later belonged to the physician.
John opened his eyes and saw Carson settle in the chair where Elizabeth had just
“Doc. I must have drifted off. How long has Elizabeth…?”
“Only a few minutes. How are you feeling?” Carson’s smile didn’t reach his
John thought for a minute. “Giddy. Drugged. I feel like I have been out a
“Around twelve hours. You should be feeling more like yourself in another
John nodded. “That’s good news.” Then he remembered. “What about Rodney?
Elizabeth said he’s ill?”
Carson stared at him with shock. “She didn’t say…Rodney’s recovering a bit
more slowly than you, but he should wake up within the day as well.”
“Elizabeth didn’t say what?”
“She didn’t mention you didn’t remember anything, but it makes sense, I
guess. All your scans have returned to normal after the poison wore off.”
“Carson, I want it in English and I want it now.” Scans? Poison? There was a
lot Elizabeth had neglected to mention.
“Rodney and you, you were poisoned with a synthetic neurotransmitter. It took
us some time to find that out, but luckily we brought drugs to treat-.”
“Wait a minute, Carson. Why would the Wraith…? Did Kolya do this? Did the
Genii get a hand of us again? I swear I should have killed him when I had the
chance.” John couldn’t believe that of all the things to happen to him in a
foreign galaxy, he had been poisoned.
“It wasn’t the Genii. At least we don’t think so. You fell suddenly ill the
day after your return from your unfortunate mission with the lieutenant.”
“That’s pretty much all I remember. But I don’t recall anyone poisoning me.”
John suddenly realized what Carson was saying. “Someone here did it? One of our
“It looks that way, but we don’t know who.” Carson looked like there was more
to the story, but he was keeping silent to spare him the stress.
“Rodney is going to be all right, isn’t he?” John asked, suddenly suspicious
of what the doctor wasn’t telling him.
“He is going to be fine, as is the rest of your team. You shouldn’t worry.”
When people said that, John knew it was time to get concerned. “What else
happened in the last four days?”
Carson sat down with an expression that told John that he didn’t want to know
what had happened.
“Do you want the bad news first or the good news?” Carson asked jokingly.
“The bad news.” The Wraith weren’t standing in the control room, it couldn’t
be so bad.
“Corporal Mars died a few hours ago.”
“He was shot. You shot him.” Carson didn’t look at John.
“I didn’t…I can’t remember anything. What happened? He must have threatened
me; I would never shoot…” Images of Sumner bubbled into his conscious mind. He
did shoot a fellow officer before.
“Calm down, Colonel. That’s not so important right now.”
“Not so important? I killed a man and you say that it is not so important? I
try not to kill the good guys. Killing Sumner was damn hard. I know everyone
thinks I hit it big with him dying the day we get here.”
“Colonel, I didn’t mean to imply-.” Carson tried to soothe.
“Just leave.” For the first time in years, John had to fight back tears.
Leon Mars had kept his quarters tidy, only the bed was unmade. For a room
that had been occupied for three months, the place looked hardly lived in.
Except for a laptop, there was nothing on the desk; a lone stack of magazines
were sitting on the shelf.
Elizabeth wasn't even sure what she was looking for. Corporal Mars had been
dead four hours and all Elizabeth was certain off was that he had been murdered.
As for the motive, she could only speculate that it was connected to the rest of
the wave of seemingly random acts of violence that had taken place during the
past seventy-two hours. Mars didn't have the gene and he hadn't been privy to
any special classified information—at least he shouldn't. But he had had one
piece of information that Elizabeth herself had been curious about. Why did
Sheppard shoot him? Maybe Sheppard had somehow realized that Mars was a threat
to Atlantis. But it was all just speculation, unless she found something linking
Leon Mars to the poisonings or the bombings.
Elizabeth opened the wardrobe. Uniforms, work-out clothes, some civilian
clothes. At the bottom of the wardrobe, with no effort made to conceal them,
were two bottles of pills, unlabelled. One was almost empty, the other about
Carson arrived ten minutes after she had called him on the radio. His gaze
immediately fell on the two bottles of pills she was holding.
"Did you find these here?" Carson seemed neither shocked nor surprised.
"In the wardrobe, yes. Did you prescribe them?" Elizabeth eyed Carson
carefully. She would have known if Corporal Mars had had a serious health
problem. Dr. Biro had mentioned nothing earlier.
Carson took and examined the bottles. "That's Lorcet, the other, I can't
tell. I didn't prescribe them." There was something in Carson's eyes that looked
almost like fear to Elizabeth. She had the feeling he knew more than she
"But they came from the infirmary?" Elizabeth was thinking of the poison that
had mysteriously made its way into the Pegasus Galaxy.
"Certainly not. I keep track of all prescriptions that are filled."
If the drugs had come over the Daedalus, Elizabeth didn't want to think about
the number of people who had to be involved at the SGC, aboard the Daedalus and
possibly even in Atlantis.
"Maybe someone snuck them out." Elizabeth suppressed a sigh. Carson was
making her spell it out.
"The supply cabinet is locked at all times and like everywhere in the city,
there is visual surveillance."
"What about someone from your staff, could they-?" Elizabeth abandoned all
pretences of tact.
"I don't believe you are asking this. I trust my staff. None of them would-"
Carson rarely yelled, but he seemed genuinely angry at Elizabeth.
"I'm not accusing anyone, but Mars must have gotten those somewhere."
"He didn't get them from anyone in the infirmary. He would know if any were
missing. I don't even know what those other pills are. They must have come from
somewhere else." Carson sounded less angry than a few seconds ago. He was still
firm about the innocence of his staff.
"Dr. Biro should be done with the blood analysis soon. We'll know for sure if
Mars was taking any drugs, prescribed or not." Elizabeth changed the topic. "Do
you trust your lab technicians?"
Carson hesitated a second. "I trust Dr. Faraday."
"Good. We need to get these tablets analysed as soon as possible," Elizabeth
decided and headed towards the door. She pressed the control panel, but the door
"The door won't open." Elizabeth, mildly alarmed, turned to Carson.
"I can't open it with the gene either." Carson joined her at the door and
tried the control panel as well. The door refused to budge.
"According to Dr. Kavanaugh, the Naquadah generators should carry us through
at current power levels for several months." Elizabeth was starting to get the
feeling that something else had happened.
Elizabeth activated her radio. "Dr. Kavanaugh, this is Dr. Weir. Please
"Yes, Dr. Weir?"
"What's our power status?
"The City is running on emergency power, no breakdowns reported. Is there a
“You could say so.”