Disjice Compositam Pacem, Sere Crimina Belli
There was silence at the other end after Elizabeth had explained their
predicament to Dr. Kavanaugh.
"Are you still there, doctor?"
"Uhm, yes. I'll be right back. I'll confer with Dr. Zelenka. He's the
engineer. But he should really have alerted me to such a serious system
"It might just be a glitch." Elizabeth didn't think so, but she wasn't
interested in hearing Kavanaugh berate his co-worker. It was public knowledge
that there was no love lost between him and Radek.
"That's highly unlikely..." The chemist started, but broke off. "I will be
Elizabeth sat down on the only chair on the room, suddenly feeling exactly
how many hours she had gone without sleep. The night seemed to have made way to
day without her noticing at all, but the pale grey sky above the always quiet
ocean outside announced another day.
"Why would Mars be taking Lorcet?" Elizabeth had been thinking about that
since she had found the bottles.
Carson shrugged. "I don't know. If he was a habitual user, someone would have
known. Everyone who goes off-world has to undergo regular blood tests and the
Ancient scanners pick up substances no test on Earth would reveal."
"That's reassuring at least in one way." Elizabeth agreed. "Still, I'm going
to get to the bottom of this as soon as we get out of here. Lately, too many
things have been going on that I didn't know about." Elizabeth glanced at
He glanced back at her. "So, what do you think?"
"Hell, I don't know what I'm supposed to think. We sure have our share of
enemies here, the wraith, the Genii and just about every planet Sheppard ever
visited. But it looks like we brought the bad guys along with us this time."
"We never needed aliens to help us kill each other." Carson remarked sadly
and sat down on the edge of Mars' bed.
Radek Zelenka wanted to sleep, but somebody wouldn't let him. With annoying
persistence, they kept trying to nudge him awake and no matter in what direction
he turned, they wouldn't leave him alone.
"Wake up! Come on!" The voice sounded impatient, but also concerned, almost
panicked. Rodney? The world was always ending in Rodney's mind. Radek opened his
eyes and stared a blurry face.
"Oh, crap!" The face muttered now utterly panicked.
"Dr. Taylor?" Radek recognized the voice of the young Canadian. He never
could tell all the English accents apart. "Where are we?" Radek glanced around,
taking in the surrounding as well as possibly without his glasses. They were in
a confined, dark space. Beyond the storm light a few feet next to Taylor, Radek
couldn't make out anything in the darkness.
"Here. You'll need those." Taylor handed Radek his glasses.
"Where are we? What happened?" Radek now saw that they were inside a Jumper.
The lack of engine vibrations told him that they were still on the ground. There
was no one in the front section of the craft.
"Do you know how to open the roof of the Jumper Bay?"
"Theoretically, yes. Why?" Realization started to dawn, but not before Taylor
drew a weapon. Radek stared at the ornamental, snake like weapon.
"You are not going to use this?" The truth was Radek had no idea what 'this'
did and he didn't want to find out.
Taylor flinched as if the thought of actually firing his weapon hadn't
occurred to him. "It won't kill you. Not on the first shot anyways."
"I assume this is how I got here." Radek was stalling for time but Taylor
"The roof of the bay, you have to get it up." Taylor demanded again.
"That's not going to happen and I'm not trying to be trouble. We have no
power in bay." Radek half-expected Taylor to shoot him with the energy weapon,
but Taylor was wrestling hard with himself.
"You have to do it, Dr. Zelenka. There is no other choice." Taylor's grip on
the gun was wavering. Radek eyed him carefully, trying to stay out of direct
"There is always another choice, Dr. Taylor." Radek didn't think that Taylor
alone was behind this. If he could get him to talk, to trust him, Radek didn't
think that Taylor had any intentions of harming him. But his plan backfired.
"You don't know anything! You get by agreeing to everything McKay says. You
let him rant on and on and you just nod. Doesn't it bother you that he is the
most self-absorbed person in this galaxy?"
Radek wasn't sure if he should take the bait. It could buy him time, but it
could also provoke Taylor quicker than anything. The choice was made for him
when the rear hatch of the Jumper started to open. Both Radek and Taylor turned
towards the man who entered.
"What are you still doing here? I told you to wake him and get started
immediately. Phase two is complete, I just watched it myself." The man, a
lieutenant by the insignia on his uniform informed Taylor.
He grabbed Radek by the elbow and pushed him toward the front of the Jumper.
"Get to work. You have fifteen minutes."
"I...I don't have the gene." Radek protested, stunned and scared.
"Didn't Taylor tell you? He stole McKay's little program." The man thrust a
laptop at him. "In reality, McKay just copied what Ford did when he stole the
Jumper - setting up a remote control."
"Even if this works, there is no way I can fly Jumper..." This was insane.
They were going to crash, or bump into a planet, this was never going to work.
Radek didn't believe how short-sighted his captors were.
"Don't worry about it, Doc. We will be out of here within the hour, I can
assure you." The lieutenant slapped him hard on the shoulder.
Radek swallowed. He had no idea if what the men were asking was even
"Is the panel lighting up on your side at all?" Dr. Kavanaugh's slightly
nasal voice came over the radio. Elizabeth and Carson had been standing in front
door, inside the quarters of the late Leon Mars for five minutes.
"It's still dead." Elizabeth replied, her patience wearing thin. Earth's best
and brightest were out-smarted by ten-thousand-year-old door?
"I told you, it's not responding to me." Carson sounded unusually annoyed as
Elizabeth sighed and sat back down. Slowly, the footsteps disappeared from
A few minutes later, noise returned to the corridor and a new voice was on
"Dr. Weir. This is Dr. Kusanagi. We want you to check something. Can you take
off the cover panel?"
"You mean, pry it off?"
"We can try." Elizabeth didn't think the Ancient had built their City for
easy disassembly. It had lasted for ten thousand years in remarkable condition
after all, but the opaque milk white panel came loose easily. Elizabeth stared
at blinking lights.
"Elizabeth, take a step back, now!"
Carson pulled her backwards, nearly taking them both down in a tumble.
"Carson?" Elizabeth stared at the physician. "What is going on?"
"I recognized it from the fragments Dr. Zelenka and I examined. It's a bomb,
hidden beneath the door panel."
Elizabeth was aghast. The thought that she had been leaning inches away from
a live bomb almost made her sick. "Are you sure?"
"Sure enough not to risk touching that thing again," Carson said and
"Try not to think at it either." Elizabeth reactivated her radio. "Dr.
Kusanagi, this is Dr. Weir. We removed the panel and found something that looks
like an explosive device." Elizabeth forced herself to remain calm as she
relayed the information to the scientists on the other side of the door.
"Dr. Weir? Can you please repeat?" The panic in Dr. Kusanagi's voice told
Elizabeth that she had understood her fine the first time.
"It looks like the device Dr. Zelenka described." Carson joined the
conversation. „We can't see all of it, some of it is hidden underneath the wall
panels, but it appears to be basically shaped like a spider. The arms are
literally growing out of the wall. It definitely part organic in nature."
Elizabeth admired the ease with which Carson described the spider-bomb to Dr.
Kusanagi. He didn't seem to feel the least bit frightened.
"It looks like it is actually alive. It's moving."
"It is moving? Can you explain that?"
"It looks like it is breathing, which makes no sense since the fragments
Radek and I examined were Naquadah..." Carson trailed off and stared at the
creature in shock.
"Elizabeth, I think we have a bigger problem than I realized. We should get
the window open."
Elizabeth startled. "I though we were in as much trouble as we could be. What
is going on?" She followed Carson to the far end of the room.
"Radek and I were examining the bomb fragments in the medical lab, the
fragment of a bomb that looked exactly like this one. Those fragments were made
of Naquadah and an organic substance. It wasn't in our or the Ancient database,
but as soon as it came into contact with the scanner, it almost blew up at
Elizabeth immediately reached for her radio. "Dr. Kusanagi. Stop whatever you
are doing right now. Our scanners could set this whole thing off at any
"Understood, Dr. Weir. What do you want us to do?"
"Evacuate this wing; have them use the stairs, not the transporters. I want
all electronics on this level switched off now, including anything you are
using, Dr. Kusanagi," Elizabeth ordered. She tried to remember how many rooms
were occupied in this part of the City. Too many. There was no vital technology
on the entire level, this bomb had been set to target people?
"What about our radios, Dr. Weir?" Dr. Kusanagi's voice came over the radio
"So far, nothing has happened, and we'll need to stay in contact, so I think
we can risk it." Elizabeth decided. "I need you get me Dr. Zelenka down here.
Tell him to bring everything he has on the bomb fragments. Tell him to leave his
laptop at the lab."
"I will. Kusanagi out." The radio fell silent. Elizabeth looked around. The
moderately sized room suddenly seemed very small. Elizabeth sat down on the bed
and massaged her temples. She could fell a massive headache lurking beneath the
John couldn't rest. While his body craved sleep, his mind kept him awake with
reminders of what he had done. He had killed a man. John had hardly known Leon
Mars. It wasn't his face he kept seeing. Every time he closed his eyes, he saw
Colonel Sumner’s face, frozen in time the second before he had shot him. For
months he had not been haunted by those dreams. He would never forget what he
had done, but with time, the dreams had faded.
John sat up in bed. He felt slightly dizzy, but he couldn't stay in bed.
There was no chance he could sleep; he needed to get the persistent images out
of his mind. One look around the bare isolation room confirmed that his clothes
were no where to be seen.
John decided he didn't care. Even though he didn't have a problem with small
spaces normally, he needed to get out of the tiny room where he was captive
along with his thoughts. He eased his legs over the side of the bed and
carefully got up. His legs were fairly steady and he made it to the door without
falling on his face. It took him a second thought to open to door; he was
definitely not at the top of his game.
John stumbled out into the corridor and nearly fell when he stepped into
darkness. He caught hold off the wall and slowly his eyes adjusted. There was
faint light coming from the direction of the infirmary.
"Are you all right, Sir?" Suddenly a figure stepped out of the shadows. She
had to have been standing there, in the dark without him noticing her
Cadman turned on a portable storm light. "Sir. Should I get Dr. Beckett?" She
sounded genuinely worried. John had to look worse than he realized. He
unconsciously tried to ruffle his hair into its usual bed-head style.
"What's our status?" John asked. He didn't think that Cadman was carrying
around a storm light for the fun of it and the only reason he could think of
involved Atlantis without a ZPM.
"Everything is under control, sir." Cadman flinched.
John suddenly had to urge to laugh. It had to be Beckett's drugs. "Frankly,
I'm surprised you still call me 'sir'."
"I have not idea what you are talking about." Cadman smiled grimly, the
expression on her face distorted by the shadows of the storm light.
"How is Rodney doing?" John changed the subject.
"I don't know anything official, but I heard it's looking up for him. I'm not
telling if you sneak in for a moment." Cadman nodded towards the isolation room
across the corridor.
"I appreciate it. I won't be long." The truth was John didn't feel too well
on his feet.
Someone had been visiting Rodney earlier. There was already a chair beside
his bed, a book upturned on the seat. John carefully put the book to the ground
and sat down. Rodney was sickly pale, sweat matting his hair. His left hand was
loosely tethered to the bedrail, preventing him from accidentally ripping out
his IV line as he moved restlessly. John hadn't put together any words in his
head and when he saw Rodney, he was stunned and at a loss for words. Rodney
looked very ill. Elizabeth had told him that the scientist was improving; John
didn't want to know how bad he had looked before,
John was surprised when Rodney seemed to settle and his eyes fluttered open
"Rodney? Come on, open your eyes."
Rodney blinked slowly at John. His gaze was glassy and John wasn't sure
Rodney realized he was even there.
"Rodney." John squeezed Rodney's right hand. "It's me, John."
The motion was weak, but Rodney jerked his hand away from John's. Rodney's
lips were moving but there was no sound coming out. The expression on his face
was one of terror as he shifted as far away from John as possible.
John was anxiously eying the door to Rodney's isolation room. Dr. Millhouse
had politely, but firmly, shoved him outside when he had called for her, near
panic at Rodney’s terrified response to his presence.
He was relief to see Dr. Millhouse come out of the room was calm face.
"Is he going to be all right?" John got up to meet her.
"We will need to run further tests." Dr. Millhouse replied. "You should go
and lie back down. Dr. Weir didn't authorise any visitors for you or Dr. McKay
yet. Anyways, it's probably best if you stay here for the moment." Dr. Millhouse
didn't say anything but John could tell she was scared. Something very bad had
happened, worse than what Elizabeth had told him.
"I don't think I can rest now." John admitted.
"Then you might as well join me in the infirmary. I need to take some blood
and see about another dose of biperiden." Dr. Millhouse decided.
"Well, if you could find me some clothes while we are there, I won't mind."
John agreed and followed Dr. Millhouse towards the infirmary. He was getting
cold in the thin burgundy scrubs. The metal floor of the city was leaking ice
into his bare feet.
John almost had to close his eyes at the bright lights in the infirmary.
There the lighting was at normal levels. Whatever power problems they were
having must not have affected this part of the medical wing. Most of the beds
were occupied, but the curtains were drawn around them and Dr. Millhouse quickly
led John forwards to the treatment area. She was speaking rapidly with curt
gestures. John was sitting on an exam table, hands folded in front of his
"I'll drop off your blood sample at the lab and see about getting you
something to wear. There should still be a pair of sweatpants around." Dr.
Millhouse gave him a thin smile. She seemed to feel sorry for him. Not what John
had expected after he had killed a man. First Cadman and now Dr. Millhouse, they
were treating him like he might shatter into pieces any minute. While John felt
cold and rather dizzy, he had fought hand to hand with a Wraith feeling worse.
But sitting here, not knowing what was going on, expect for the piecemeal of
information he was being given, he felt much less confident.
Dr. Millhouse was taking her time dropping off his blood at the lab. John
shifted nervously, he was tired, from the drugs no doubt. The few minutes he had
been on his feet had drawn his strength. He longed for a warm blanket and a cup
of coffee. Beckett was always sipping from a mug, so he probably kept a machine
around, but John wasn't even sure of Beckett was drinking tea or coffee from his
ever present mug.
John slipped to his feet. He was going to see about that coffee machine
before his fingers froze off. He rubbed his hands together and made his way
towards Carson's office. He nearly turned back the locked door, but then he saw
the light blue glow of the laptop screen through the glass. John stopped and
stared inside. The laptop was facing away from the door, so he couldn't see what
was on screen, but it was very unusual that Beckett would have left the screen
on after his shift, especially if he had locked the infirmary behind him. Then
he spotted something else, under the desk, sticking to the desk plate from
underneath. It looked like a gigantic spider, but it had a metallic shine and
John unlocked the door with a thought. For a second, he considered calling
for back-up, but without knowing why he had killed Mars and why Atlantis had
lost power, John had to assume the worst - the City had been attacked.
John didn't bother to sit down. The laptop was running only a single
application. John had never seen it before, but it was clear what its purpose
was. Files were being transferred somewhere. 98 complete, John clicked to
cancel. The blinking light under the desk changed from green to red. Oh shit.
John reflexively reached under, trying to remove the metal spider before anyone
His fingers made contact with the metal and John screamed and pulled his hand
back. His fingers were reddened, burnt, where he had touched the device, but the
pain receded quickly. John winced; he was turning into Rodney, touching Ancient
toys without thinking. John was examining his fingers which were now rapidly
blistering when he heard noise outside. Footfalls, but oddly slow and
John cast a quick, futile look around. There was nowhere to hide and nothing
he could use as a weapon against a potential assailant. He was trapped in
Beckett's office. Any way out would lead him past whoever was coming towards
him. A heavy thump outside interrupted his frantic considerations. John
carefully snuck outside.
A figure was slumped on the floor, blond hair spilling over the back of a
grey uniform jacket. John stepped over her, remembering Beckett's first aid
lessons. Laura Cadman was on her left side, eyes closed. It looked like she had
struggled, her hair had come undone, but what made John pause was thin metal
dart sticking in her throat.
"Cadman. Lieutenant!" John forgot about keeping his voice down.
Laura opened her eyes and found John. She tried a raise a hand, but John held
both of her arms down. She struggled against him, until John noticed what she
was trying to show him. In her right him, Laura was gripping a silvery cylinder
about two inches long. John gently took it from her and pocketed it. He could
examine it later.
"Don't move. Stay still." John was not going to tell her that everything was
going to be all right. After Dr. Gaul, he had stopped making that particular
Cadman's lips were moving, but no sound was coming out.
"Don't. Don't try to talk." John released her hands.
At least John couldn't see any blood. That had to bee a good sign. He knew
better than to try and pull out the dart. Beckett had taught them to leave
foreign object where they were until a medical professional could take care of
them. John instinctively reached for his radio, only to recall that he was still
dressed in scrubs. He searched for Laura's radio, but the small device in her
pocket was shattered. Dr. Millhouse was still nowhere to be seen and John had a
very bad feeling that whoever had gotten to Cadman had gotten to the doctor as
Cadman was missing both her weapons, John hadn't noticed before searching for
her radio. There was an assailant out there, armed with an automatic weapon. He
needed to find Dr. Millhouse before it was too late, but he couldn't leave
Cadman behind. He had made a career of leaving no man behind and it had cost him
dearly - Afghanistan, Athos.
"Lieutenant." John touched Laura's hand for a second. "I'll just get a
blanket. Then I'm going get a doctor. I'll just be a moment." John struggled not
to let his own insecurity creep into his voice. Laura just blinked weakly. She
was drifting away. Maybe the dart had been poisoned, but John couldn't afford to
think about that.
John pushed himself to his feet and raced to the nearest cupboard. John
rummaged through supplies, cupboard after cupboard. It seemed to take an
eternity until he found a pile of neatly folded blankets. He took the top one
and rushed back to where he had left Laura. He called her name, but she didn't
react. With relief, he still felt a pulse and spread the blanket over her.
John took one last look back then he ran towards the direction of the
isolation rooms and the medical labs. he passed through the small ward, but he
didn't have time to check on anyone, he didn't have any skill to help anyways.
Rodney. He was out there as well. But he needed to find Dr. Millhouse first.
The storm light was tipped over on the ground, broken, the glass shards
scattered across the hallway. John only noticed after the first piece of glass
cut into the sole of his left foot. John curse, but he couldn't afford to stop.
It was nearly dark in the corridor, the dim light coming from the infirmary was
too far away and the medical labs were lying in darkness.
John trailed one hand along the wall, finding his way to the lab. His
thoughts brought on the lights, overly bright so that he had to close his eyes.
He immediately saw Dr. Millhouse on the floor, in a mirror image of Lieutenant
Cadman. A thin silver dart was protruding from her chest; it seemed to have gone
through her lab coat and uniform easily. She was already unconscious, but her
pulse was strong. John breathed a sigh of relief and looked around. The lab was
empty, no sign of the technician on the night shift. If the assailant or
assailants had though here, on the search for data, drugs or something else, why
hadn't they overwhelmed the technician right here in the lab? Had they taken a
hostage? But where had they gone. They had passed Cadman in the hallway between
the infirmary and the lab, but the only thing in between was the isolation
rooms. Rodney?! Damn. John picked up Dr. Millhouse’s radio and hurried back to
"Zelenka, its Sheppard." John activated the radio. Zelenka's skills wouldn't
help Cadman or Dr. Millhouse, but if anyone knew what was going on, Zelenka did.
He knew everything about everybody and Radek didn't believe in lies.
After a few seconds Zelenka replied. "Yes, John?" Zelenka sounded nervous.
Since when was he on first name basis with Dr. Z?
"I'm having a problem with the heating system in my quarters, I was wondering
whether you could come and have a look at it." John decided to not give away his
actual location. He needed to talk to Zelenka face to face. Something was
"Yes. Uhm, yes. I come meet you there. I have to go." The connection was
closed from Zelenka's end. John stared at the radio. He wasn't sure who would
show up at his quarters, but he had the suspicion that it wouldn't be Zelenka.
John couldn't risk trusting anyone right now.
The infirmary seemed safe for now. The attackers seemed assured that all
threats had been eliminated already. Cadman and Dr. Millhouse. That left him and
he still needed to check on Rodney.
The door to the isolation room opened at his thought. John stepped inside.
Rodney was still in bed, but his face was turned towards John, his eyes fixated
John saw the fear on Rodney's face and raised his arms in defence. "Are you
all right?" He took a slow step forward.
Rodney nodded. "What are you doing here?"
"Checking on you. I wanted to see if you are all right." John repeated but
Rodney only frowned.
"I can't. I need your help," John pleaded. He needed Rodney to tell him what
the metal spider's purpose was and his help to disable it. If there were two of
them, they could better help Cadman and Dr. Millhouse.
"I want to be alone." Rodney turned away from John.
"I need your help. It looks like we have invaders in the City. They are
attacking people, apparently looking for something. One of them broke into
Beckett's office, to steal data, I think."
"Call the jarheads, but leave me alone," Rodney snapped.
"They left a device behind, in Beckett's office. I tried to remove it, but it
bit me instead." John held up his reddened fingers. The wounds looked almost
like burns and hurt as much, but John tried to ignore them.
"You just touched it?" Rodney was incredulous and finally he sounded like his
usual self. John had to suppress a smile.
"Yeah, heat of the moment and all. I need you to take a look at it. I think
it might be a homing beacon."
"Or a bomb." Rodney sat up and started removing the EKG leads from his chest
with shaking hands. "Is that your blood?"
John followed Rodney's gaze to the blood smears on the floor.
"Forgot to tell you, there are glass shards all over the corridor and we
don't have any shoes."
Elizabeth stared at the white tile ceiling. Twenty minutes ago, Dr. Kusanagi
had left to find Radek and since then no word. Trapped with a bomb at the door
and no way to go at the other side, time was stretching painfully.
"Do you reckon Dr. Biro has finished the autopsy of Mars yet?"
"She should have. I'd be interested in his tox results. I don't have the
illusion that there are no drugs on Atlantis, but Mars..." Carson sighed.
"You didn't think he was the type to do drugs?" Elizabeth asked curiously.
She hadn't thought they had a drug problem at all.
"No, not really. I don't know who the type is. That would make my job a lot
"Carson, is anyone on Atlantis caught up with drugs?" Elizabeth suddenly
realised what Carson had been hinting at all along.
"You know I can't tell you." Carson avoided looking at Elisabeth.
"So there is something to tell?! Drug smuggling is not a medical matter; it
is a matter of base security. I need to be informed. I can't believe you held
out on me!" Elizabeth wrought her hands in exasperation.
"I was not aware of anyone being able to smuggle drugs into the City. I swear
I would have told you immediately. But what my patients tell me in confidence; I
can't just tell you without their approval." Carson argued his case.
"I don't care about their approval. I want too know if anyone is a potential
danger to the security of this base." Elizabeth said sharply. She couldn't
believe Carson was that stubborn? In the Pegasus Galaxy different rules applied
and usually Carson understood the need for compromise.
"Elizabeth, I don't think you understand. These patients are struggling
hard..." Carson sounded desperate
""I want to know you everything." Elizabeth needed to know. Carson was a
perceptive physician, but he had not relayed his insights to her. Elizabeth
wondered when he had lost faith in her.
"I really resent this. Dr. Kusanagi, Dr. Tiding and Dr. Taylor. I don’t know
about anyone else, but not anyone confides in me."
"And you?" Elizabeth asked quietly.
It had taken Radek thirty seconds to find the bay door controls and three
minutes to find out how to reroute the power from the Naquadah generators. He
hadn't figured out yet how to get out of the Jumper alive. He had no doubt that
he would be killed as soon as they had left Atlantis.
The radio call had riled his captor. Radek was sure that his squeaking voice
must have given him away. He hadn't dared saying anything other than directed by
the lieutenant holding the energy weapon.
"Give me the radio." The lieutenant took the radio from Radek and made sure
it had been switched off. Radek hadn't taken the chance; he was not that sort of
"How long until you have the bay roof open?" The man demanded to know.
"I should go to meet the colonel; he will be suspicious if I don't show up."
Radek insisted, hoping they would let him leave if he just completed the work
"I'll take care of Sheppard. Taylor, stay here and keep an eye on him.
Contact me if she shows up." The lieutenant handed Taylor the energy gun and
slipped out of the Jumper. Taylor clutched the gun tightly. Radek was wondering
what he was more afraid of, getting caught or being stuck alone with Radek in
"Who are you waiting for?" Radek asked, trying to sound casually.
"You'll see soon enough." Taylor got up to pace the narrow space. "You need
to get the roof open."
"I understand. I'm working on it." Radek frantically searched for
possibilities - any way to raise an alarm or send a message to warn to others.
There wasn't enough time to program a virus to spread a message to every single
computer in the City. Jam the Bay roof? Radek wasn't sure what that would
accomplish, except getting him killed very fast. His only chance was to
overwhelm Taylor while he was still alone with him. He had control over the
Jumper, but no experience with manipulating the craft. He had only one shot at
"I think I got it. I managed to access the bay door roof controls." Radek
turned to Taylor.
"Let me see." Taylor walked up the Radek in the front of the Jumper.
Radek lunged at Taylor the moment the Jumper took off, but he didn't bring
the heavier, taller man to fall. Radek simply clung to him. A punch to the side
of his head dislodged him. The last thing Radek saw was a flash of blue energy
racing towards him for the second time the day.
Coming to was an extremely unpleasant experience. It beat being dead, of course, but that was the best Radek could think of in that moment. He was on his back, aware of the hard metal floor of the Jumper on him, but he couldn't move a muscle. His senses seemed to work all right. He couldn't see, as he couldn't will his eyes to open, but he could hear voices telling him that his situation hadn't improved by his attempt at stupid bravery.
"I think we got everything. Someone interrupted the transfer in Beckett's office. I ran into Cadman; maybe it was her," a feminine voice said. Radek thought she sounded British and vaguely familiar, maybe someone from the lab. Just how far did the conspiracy go?
"Are you sure she didn't alert anyone?" a male voice said. Radek recognized him as the nameless lieutenant who had taken him prisoner.
"Positive, but I'm done now."
"You're backing out now? You promised..."
"I did what I promised. You have the disc. I don't want to die."
"You are as much in this as we are. It's too late now; we have to step up the plan. I think Sheppard is on to us."
"Impossible. He is under watch in the infirmary. Dr. Weir's orders. She thinks he killed Mars." The woman laughed silently.
"You underestimate Sheppard. He must have gotten out somewhere, but he's all alone. No one is going to trust him now. Weir and Beckett are otherwise occupied at the moment, but Taylor is keeping tabs."
"I don't even want to know," the woman replied.
"You are in way to deep, Sandra."
There was a slap and then an angry reply. "Don't ever do that again." Footfalls approached.
"How far are you?" Sandra was speaking again. Radek tried to open his eyes. This time he managed. The ceiling of the Jumper came into view. Whatever numbing effect the energy gun had had must be wearing off because Radek's head was starting to hurt from the punch to the head he had taken.
None of his captors were paying any attention to him. Radek saw Taylor and the lieutenant hunched over the control console, along with Dr. Faraday, the chief lab technician. Sandra? Radek hadn't made the connection before. Now it was obvious. He could only guess what kind of files she had stolen from Beckett's office. The gene therapy, the retro-virus research, the Hoffan vaccine.
"He must have figured it out. How else would he have managed to turn on the engine?" the lieutenant asked impatiently. "Wake him up already."
Radek quickly closed his eyes. A second later, a slap landed on his face, followed by another when he didn't react immediately.
"Stop! Stop!" Radek protested and struggled to sit up. His head ached like someone had taken an ice-pick to his skull, but he tried to ignore the dizziness as the lieutenant pulled him to his feet.
The lieutenant pushed him towards the front console. "Don't think we won't notice if you try to screw us again."
Radek nodded. He was frantically going through the available options in his mind, but kept coming up short. He couldn't let the traitors escape Atlantis with a Jumper, not when they had information that could be devastating in the hands of their enemies. They had to be stopped. Radek had hoped that Sheppard, who seemed to be back on his feet, would figure it out. But now that he had been framed for murder what good would that do?
“Any idea what this could be?” Rodney had been staring blankly at the device attached to the underside of Beckett’s desk for ten minutes.
“No.” Rodney didn’t look at John.
John watched Rodney with concern. The scientist had barely said a word, yet John could see that the scientist was struggling to stay on his feet. Normally Rodney would have moaned and complained, exaggerated his symptoms, but this time, he was oddly silent, responding to John’s question with as few words as possible.
John remembered the device Cadman had tried to give him. He pulled out the silver cylinder. It had ten smooth buttons, bearing no descriptions and reminded John of a remote control of some sort. He tapped Rodney on the shoulder.
“Listen. Cadman gave me this. I have no idea what it is, but maybe it belongs to whoever left this little present.”
Rodney gave him a questioning look, and then nodded and took the ‘remote’.
“Just don’t press any buttons,” John cautioned, but Rodney had already turned back around. John just hoped that Rodney was going to be all right. Dr. Millhouse had assured him that he was going to be all right, but she had also mentioned further tests and John would feel a lot better if she had gotten around to running those tests before all hell had broken loose. He couldn’t mess this one up, not after what he had done.
He was startled when Rodney suddenly got up. He had to brace himself against the wall, but he slowly started to walk towards the main infirmary.
“Rodney, where are you going?”
“Getting a scanner.”
“Stay here. I’ll try to find one in the med lab. Just stay here in the office.” The blank look on Rodney’s face made John question whether he was even getting through to the scientist.
Rodney ignored and scuttled ahead. John followed and stopped when he saw Rodney standing against the wall, staring at the still form of Laura Cadman.
“Did you kill her?” Rodney turned to John. For the first time John had known him, Rodney looked at him with fear on his face.
“No, Rodney, no. What gave you that idea?” John was shocked, that Rodney could ever think for a moment that he could have killed Cadman. Rodney had never told him how he felt about what had happened to Sumner. If it bothered him that John had blood on his hands, he had never said.
John kneeled down to check on Cadman. “She’s alive. But we better hurry.”
Rodney just stared at him.
John grabbed him by the shoulder, harder than he had meant. “Rodney, I need you to trust me. I understand why you might think that, but I didn’t hurt Cadman or Dr. Millhouse. I need your help with figuring out what this is and whether it is going to blow up in the next five minutes.”
“I can work with that,” Rodney replied calmly. “It looks like Naquadah, but the design certainly isn’t Ancient. Show me your hand again.” He grabbed the wrist of John injured hand and turned it palm up. John could feel Rodney shaking.
Rodney dropped John’s hand. “That’s good.”
“Hurt’s like hell. Since when is this good?”
“It’s not a radiation burn. If it were, we would be in very big trouble right now. You were probably poisoned, though,” Rodney explained calmly and bent over Beckett’s laptop.
“Poisoned? With what? What are you doing?” John’s hand had been hurting, but he had had other things on his mind--like a bomb blowing up the entire city.
“I’m saving our collective asses.” Rodney typed frantically. John leaned in, trying to glance at what he was doing. He recognized the elegant characters of the Ancients language filling the screen.
“It’s obviously not radioactive, so it’s not Genii. It doesn’t like you, so it’s not Ancient; that leaves us with Wraith. But I have seen this before,” Rodney muttered and shook his head. “God, you are talking to yourself, Rodney.”
“You could talk to me. Remember, I’m the one who was poisoned.” John wasn’t an alarmist, but all this talk about radiation and poison had him slightly concerned. He thought of Cadman and Dr. Millhouse. Both had been taken down by a tiny dart, probably poisoned. John didn’t plan on joining them. He sat down on the floor, resting his injured foot. Rodney was right; the metal spider was familiar. It had been on the planet initially discovered by Lorne’s team. John and his team had spent two weeks there during the local rainy season, baby-sitting the scientist. Someone was always dragging John into the cave to touch a potentially Ancient device. It had turned out that the cave-dwelling settlers had not used Ancient technology, but John could remember clearly that he had seen a fairly similar device, consisting of a flat octahedral body and eight thin, organic-looking legs.
“P3X-987. Supposedly settled by early Wraith worshippers.” Rodney interrupted John’s thoughts.
“What?” John was puzzled.
“That’s where I have seen it before. The wall drawings, no actual artifacts, they would have gone straight to my lab, unless Tiding squirreled them away again because of their ‘cultural importance’.”
“Tiding? He’s on Lorne’s team. Mid-fifties? Long grey hair?” John asked. “He had me try and activate some things, including one of those little metal creepies.”
Suddenly Rodney’s face lit up. “What do you see?” He thrust the remote at John.
John thought for a moment, and then he understood. “Standard keypad. Three by three, nine keys, plus one. Nine digits plus zero. Earth engineered no doubt.”
Rodney nodded in approval. “Exactly.”
“Assuming this really goes with our little eight-legged friend, I assume we have to…”
Sheppard was interrupted when the device started ticking softly.
Radek was making mistakes. Stupid mistakes. The gun pointing at the back of his head was screwing with his nerves – his hands were jittery, he couldn’t concentrate or remember the simplest things about Jumper technology. Everything seemed to take endless seconds. He was sure that they would lose patience with him any moment. The effects of the stunner shot had worn off-quickly enough, but he clearly recalled the warning that the next time, he would not merely be stunned.
For the first time, Radek was starting to have an idea what Rodney went through on some of the missions with his team. He couldn’t figure out how he did it. Rodney was all doom-and-gloom when nothing happened. How could he deal with an alien who wanted to kill him?
Radek wanted to stop the traitors. He knew he had to, because if they got away with the Jumper and their stolen information, then not just Atlantis was at risk. The Wraith wanted Atlantis so badly because it was the portal to Earth and a whole new galaxy to feast on. He couldn’t fight his way out, even against Taylor, who by no means was particularly big or muscular. Radek had earned himself a punch to the temple that still had his head ringing. He could refuse to help them. They would probably not kill him straight away. McKay probably would figure out how to rig the Jumper’s engine to explode and Sheppard would actually go through with a plan like that. Radek had thought of doing that, but the Ancients hadn’t believed in a self-destruct mechanism. Instead, everything had a fail-safe. Radek wouldn’t be able to guarantee the engines would overload in time. Right now, he even wished for Rodney to be around even with all his sharp comments and derogatory remarks.
Everything that had happened had obviously been some sort of master plan to incapacitate the Atlantis’ leadership. Rodney was barely hanging on to life after an assassination attempt, Sheppard had been discredited as a murderer, Weir and Beckett has at least been temporarily taken out of action, Lorne was in the infirmary, Mars was dead, and Cadman had been ‘taken care of’ as well. Who was left?
The City had not faired much better – no ZPM and damages to the control room and labs. They would need the help of the Daedalus to repair all the damage, not to mention her firepower in case the Wraith attacked while they were defenceless.
“How much longer?” The lieutenant leaned to see what Radek was doing, but kept the energy gun trained on Radek.
“I’m ready.” Radek nodded nervously. With the last tap of the key, he switched off the engine cooling system. There was no going back now.
“That’s good for you. Here is what is going to happen. You are going to open the roof and take us up, nice and slow. No tricks. If Atlantis contacts us, you leave that to me. You do exactly what I tell you to do. Understood?”
“Yes,” Radek nodded fervently. He had never been this scared in his life. With trembling hands he opened the roof and slowly manoeuvred the craft towards the opening. They seemed to move at a snail’s pace, as Radek didn’t dare to go faster. The entire time, he waited for one of them to shoot him from behind, but none of the three said a word as they flew towards the open sky above Atlantis.
Radek could breathe a bit easier as they had cleared the City. He wondered why no one in the City had noticed their departure, but recalled that the ZPM was off-line at the moment, leaving the City blind.
Rodney was sure he was losing his mind. Something was wrong with him. The drilling headache was the least of his problems. He could remember the disaster with Ford and his junkie gang, the awful withdrawal he would rather not remember, but after that everything dissolved into shattered fragments that didn’t make sense. He kept seeing Sheppard, lunging at him, grabbing his head with both hands. The expression he kept seeing on Sheppard’s face had been pure hatred. It didn’t make sense. Nothing made sense now. Sheppard had dragged him out of bed into a horror movie version of Atlantis. Rodney had never liked horror movies, especially not the ones starring him.
“Assuming this really goes with our little eight-legged friend, I assume we have to…”
Sheppard had suddenly broken off. Rodney could hear a mechanical ticking sound in the silence of Carson’s office.
“I guess that solves the mystery. It is a bomb,” Sheppard remarked with a grin that seemed misplaced to Rodney, but he sobered up immediately. “We need to get out of here and we need to get Cadman away from the door. Who knows what kinds of blast radius this thing has.”
Rodney didn’t reply but followed Sheppard out into the infirmary. Blood was smeared on the floor where Sheppard had bled from the cut to his foot. Cadman was lying a few feet away from the door of Carson’s office. She was mostly covered by an emergency blanket, but now that Rodney saw the bruises on the side of her face, he wondered if she had not struggled with someone. Cadman wouldn’t go down without a fight.
In joint effort that left Rodney trembling and panting, he and Sheppard moved Cadman to an empty bed in the small ward of the infirmary. He had gotten another look at Sheppard’s hand, where he had said he touched the device. What had looked like a chemical burn earlier had now turned purple. He had seen how he had avoided putting any strain on the injured hand. Sheppard hadn’t said anything, but even Rodney could tell that the wound had to cause significant pain.
Sheppard wouldn’t have touched the bomb if he had known it was poisonous. Rodney had to repeat that over and over in his mind. No he wouldn’t have. He would have left him to touch it. Rodney couldn’t stop his mind from tormenting him with the memory of Sheppard attacking him. Even in his memory, the pain of whatever Sheppard had done to him was terrible.
“Rodney, you need to have a look at this.” John brought him out of his musings as he called from Carson’s office.
“What?! Are you crazy? We have to get out of here! This thing is going to blow up any second and we’ll be fish-food.” Rodney protested, ready to bolt.
“Not for another four minutes and twenty-three seconds, it isn’t.” Rodney found Sheppard standing behind Carson’s desk. His face was devoid of any emotion; even his eyes seemed cold. Rodney had never seen this John Sheppard. He had known that somewhere within him, Sheppard had a dark side, but this was the first time he showed it in front of Rodney. Rodney was afraid.
On the desk was the cylindrical device, which Rodney had assumed was a remote, but he had been wrong. Projected from it was translucent structure, a holographic-projection. Not as life-like and sophisticated as the Ancient hologram they had found in the City. This was cruder; it didn’t manage to create the illusion of a solid mass. Then, Rodney saw what had disturbed John. The projection spawned a green-blue pyramid. One face showed the countdown, another displayed a schematic of the spider bomb; the third face of the pyramid was covered in alien writing. Wraith writing.
“Can you read it?” Sheppard’s voice was completely flat. With his good hand, he was clutching the edge of Carson’s desk. He was trying hard, but Rodney could tell that Sheppard was running on willpower alone.
“Yes. It’s a manual for the bomb.” Rodney frantically scanned through the text. “The bomb can be armed and disarmed from a remote location, which is very bad for us, but really doesn’t matter anymore, since it is already armed. To disarm the bomb, you need the right code, which we don’t have, and the remote, which we have. And you were right; the bomb contains a poison, only deadly to the Ancients, which is potentially bad as well, given our genetic ancestry.” Rodney rattled off. The countdown was at one minute and fifty-eight seconds.
Elizabeth's headache was starting to launch into a full blown migraine by the time Dr. Kusanagi finally returned.
"I'm sorry this has taken so long, Dr. Weir," the young woman apologised. "But I was unable to find Dr. Zelenka. However, I think we might have discovered more about where this device came from. We started to search the Ancient database right away with the description you gave us, but so far we haven't come up with anything. When I spoke to Teyla about what happened, she thought she recognised these devices."
"Dr. Weir, this is Teyla." A second voice joined Dr. Kusanagi on the radio.
"Teyla, good. What can you tell us?"
"It's a Wraith device. Its purpose is to gather information by attaching itself to the enemy's systems and once it has gathered all the information the Wraith want, it is used to destroy its target. I have heard of it being infused with a poison lethal to the Ancients. I had not known that they really existed until I saw the cave drawings on P3X-987. I had only heard stories about them."
"Do you know how to remove them?" Carson joined the conversation.
"I have not heard of this being possible."
"Teyla, you said you saw drawings on P3X-987? Did you actually see any of these spiders?" Carson asked. Elizabeth had been thinking the same thing. It would have been too much of a coincidence.
"Not as such. I did see Lieutenant Shaw and Dr. Tiding pack a crate. I could not see what was in it, but it seemed they didn't want to be seen. I didn't think anything of it then," Teyla replied.
Elizabeth suddenly saw it all. The pieces were coming together, revealing a picture Elizabeth hadn't imagined in her nightmares. She should have realised much earlier who was behind the series of attacks. Now it all made sense.
"Carson, remember how you said that John had to have been poisoned shortly before we got back to Atlantis?" Elizabeth recalled the horrifying moment in the Jumper bay when she had watched helplessly how John had nearly died.
"Yes, I did."
"I should have drawn the right conclusion then and there. The assassin was aboard the shuttle. But with everything that was going on, I never got to think it through."
"That was probably deliberate. Divert our attention," Carson agreed grimly.
"The assassin had only been after people who were on the mission to P3X-987 and only those with the gene--Lorne's team and John and his team. Lorne was shot, Mars was strangled, and John and Rodney were poisoned."
"What about Dr. Tiding and Lieutenant Shaw?"
"I can't prove it, but I think they are involved. Teyla saw them taking something on P3X-987. Dr. Tiding speculated it was a planet settled by cave-dwelling Wraith worshippers. He asked me to approve an anthropological mission to examine the cave drawings for any intelligence about the Wraith."
"You think he and Lieutenant Shaw stole technology instead."
"It looks like it. Shaw was the only one, aside from me and Simmons who could have poisoned Sheppard. The explosions were conveniently made to look the Sheppard was the blame."
"Are you so sure he isn't involved?" Carson questioned. "He hasn't been himself the last few days. He did shoot at Mars and Lorne as far as we know."
"I don't know," Elizabeth confessed, massaging her temples. "Maybe something else happened on that planet. We need to get out of here."
"Dr. Kusanagi, any progress?" Elizabeth asked.
"None thus far, but we are still searching the database," the scientist replied.
"In the meantime, get whoever from security is still on their feet. I need to know where Lieutenant Shaw and Dr. Tiding are. But do not contact them on their radios," Elizabeth ordered. Her headache was starting to make her nauseous.
There was a pause at the other end, and then Dr. Kusanagi replied. "Of course. We are also still looking for Dr. Zelenka, but I'm not sure we have that many people available to search. Many were injured in the explosions."
"Concentrate on Dr. Tiding and Lieutenant Shaw for the moment." Elizabeth hated making that call. Radek could be in serious trouble if she was right. If his investigation of the bombing had led him to the party responsible, they might have harmed him. The image of Corporal Mars, strangled, a length of tubing wrapped around his neck appeared before her eyes, engraved forever in her memory.
Elizabeth had just finished speaking to Dr. Kusanagi when she heard a fine ticking sound. She looked at Carson and he nodded. A rush of cold fear washed through Elizabeth. They were going to die.
It didn't happen. Radek had been stealing away glances at the status panel, watching for the engine temperature to go critical. He had watched the numbers creep up for thirty minutes as the Jumper headed towards the co-ordinates the lieutenant had given him.
Radek knew that it would take them almost six hours to get the binary system in Atlantis' neighbourhood. The Jumpers weren't fast crafts. The engine was going to overload long before they reached their destination and whomever they would meet there. Radek knew it was for the best, yet he was terrified. He wondered if this was how Sheppard had felt when he had flown a Jumper packing on atomic bomb straight into a Wraith ship or how Rodney had felt when he had given himself an overdose of Wraith enzyme. Radek knew he was going to die and he found himself everything but facing his end calmly and peacefully. He thought of all the little things - the bottle of Athosian moonshine Halling had promised him for the next week, the surprise party he and had been planning for Rodney's birthday at the end of the month and the letter he had been planning to send to his sister with the next run of the Daedalus. He wouldn't get around to any if it.
Radek watched the engine status indicator. His captors were oblivious for the moment: Faraday and the lieutenant were working on a laptop in the back, speaking in hushed voices if at all and Taylor had been assigned to watch him. Radek had taken periodic glances behind, the prospect of a gun pointed at him making him inherently nervous. But after Taylor had hit him against the back of the head when he had turned once too many times, Radek kept his eyes to the controls.
The indicator went up another notch and the numbers kept climbing. Any second now, the engine was going to overload. A shrill alarm sounded and Radek shut his eyes, aware that it wouldn't make any difference anymore.
It didn't happen. The Jumper lurched, rocked hard, and then stopped dead. The alarm fell silent and Radek opened his eyes only to be smacked in the face a second later. The lieutenant shoved him hard against the wall.
"You sabotaged the Jumper. What did you do?" Radek saw the rage on the lieutenant’s face and knew he was finished.
Radek didn't reply. His plan had failed. From here on, there was no way out. Another smack landed in his face.
"Taylor, find out what he did and fix it." Taylor ducked and hastily headed to the controls. The alarm died a few seconds later, but Taylor had only bad news.
"I'm not sure I can. We brought Zelenka in because he knows his way around a Jumper."
"I guess you better tell him what you did then." The lieutenant eased his grip on Radek. "Your survival depends on it, Doc."
"I can't fix it." Radek fought to keep his voice from shaking. He had chosen to go down this road,
The lieutenant raised his weapon and fired.