Universal Truth # 101: Ignoring It Won't Make It Go Away.
"What is it Rodney?" John spared Rodney a distracted look before returning his attention to his laptop screen. The fact that it had been the third time McKay had called his name wasn't lost on John; he'd simply been ignoring him.
McKay's reaction would have been worth it if John was able to take his usual perverse pleasure in tweaking his friend. But the email response he was laboring over was sucking the life out of his sense of humor. Even the unintentional mental Wraith pun barely registered.
- - - - -
Subj: Best Man?
I would be honored if you can. Dad would be so proud. Date
and details are below. Please tell me you can make it.
- - - - -
"Are you coming or not? I thought you said you were ready. I'm dying of starvation here. Brain cells need nourishment. Big brain cells need even bigger nourishment. I'm sure you're aware of that fact that ..."
Rodney's voice faded to the background as John scanned the rest of the electronic missive. The wedding was soon, and the email was sent back on.... His eyes bugged a bit as he realized just how long he'd been putting this reply off.
David was going to be pissed that he hadn't responded yet, and he had sort of promised that he'd make an effort. So far Dave had been doing all of the work. Since explaining that he was stuck off world due to the latest alien-inspired SNAFU was off the table, he was at a loss.
He pressed and held down the delete key. Maybe something would come to him while he watched the last useless half sentence disappear. Could it be that he was over thinking the whole thing? This shouldn't be this tuff. This was Dave. His brother. He could do this.
Re: Best Man?
Congratulations. Sorry—I won't be in country so won't
have the pleasure of meeting the unlucky girl.
And there he faltered, feeling like the fraud he was. He stared at the half finished response and was suddenly overwhelmed by guilt. Maybe he should take out the apology? Maybe he should add another one for being so late responding in the first place.
A shadow appeared over his shoulder as Rodney rounded the table. "What are you doing, anyway?"
John drew the computer closer. "Do you mind? Just give me a sec. The mess isn't going anywhere."
"Yeah, but Ronon is already there and it's meatloaf day." Rodney sounded pathetic.
"Fine." He could finish this later. It wasn't as if he was getting anywhere anyway. He quickly scanned the contents of the email and hit send. It would sit in queue until the next time Atlantis dialed earth, which wasn't scheduled to happen for two days. He had plenty of time to come up with a better response. Satisfied that he had a logical plan of action, John shut the computer down and stood to follow McKay.
Universal Truth # 42: There's No Place Like Home
John didn't bother calling up the lights. There was no point. With everything that had taken place in the past forty-eight or so hours, he didn't care that he hadn't technically seen his quarters in days. All that mattered was that his bed was still where he'd left it.
He vaguely registered the sound of the door sliding shut behind him as he trudged toward the shadowy form of the bed and bumped his boot against something at floor level. The feel and sounds of the city were the same, even though the moonlight that reflected through the Ancient-made glass was no longer alien. There was a wrongness to that that he would have to ponder some other time. Tonight, he just wanted to sleep.
He settled onto the mattress and heaved a tired breath. Finally. He honestly could not remember the last time he'd slept. He reached to remove the radio ear piece just as a familiar voice sounded.
John's head slumped between his shoulders before he tapped the connection open. "What is it, Rodney?"
"You need to get up here, now." The demanding tone rankled.
"Can it wait eight hours?" The day had been mostly saved last time he'd checked. Everyone was supposed to be getting some rest before the larger repairs began in earnest the next day.
"No, it can't." Rodney was insistent.
"Why not?" John demanded, not caring that he sounded whiny to his own ears. Though Rodney was prone to over-exaggeration, he knew he was going to end up meeting him in Ops anyway. But out of sheer orneriness he was going to make him explain himself first.
"Because," and now Rodney sounded peeved, "I've detected an anomalous reading. It appears to be coming out of San Francisco. Is that good enough to raise it on your list of priorities?"
John was beginning to forget he was tired. But not completely. San Francisco was a city; it had to have plenty of signals. "What kind of signal?"
"It's weak, and sort of intermittent. But it could maybe possibly be a Wraith signal."
"Wraith? Are you sure?" He got to his feet and headed for the door. "The city touched down over twelve hours ago. Why didn't we detect anything before now?"
"Because we didn't have anything to detect with before now. Everything is on the fritz, if you'll recall. I've only just now gotten external systems even marginally operational. Hence, weak signal, not sure."
"Right, okay." John knew that to be true. The city had gotten pretty banged up on its return trip to earth. "How long do we think it's been out there? I didn't think any part of the battle was over San Francisco."
"It wasn't. It could just be some debris that didn't quite burn up in the atmosphere—who knows? But we had a bad feeling about it and thought we should check it out."
"Teyla, Ronon and I?"
John scowled. "You called Ronon and Teyla first? Ronon's in the infirmary, recovering."
"Uh, not so much," Rodney countered.
"What are you talking about?" John had left Ronon in the infirmary right after dinner. He was probably catching the zzz's John himself was missing.
"Well, Amelia is on the night shift and, well, Ronon just happened to be visiting when the—."
"Okay, so Ronon happened to be hanging around." John didn't need any more of the picture painted for him. "And Teyla?"
"Well, she was here, trying to convince Ronon to get some rest."
John sighed. "Does Woolsey know?"
"Oh, no. I didn't want to wake him. Wanted to get your feeling on it first."
"Call him, and tell Ronon and Teyla to gear up. My feeling is that we're going to have a mission soon. Meanwhile, I'm going to swing by Todd's. Maybe I can find out if he's made any mental contacts that he hasn't been sharing with the rest of the class."
Universal Truth # 15: The Truth Is Out There
In your mind you have capacities, you know, to telepath messages through the vast unknown. Please close your eyes and concentrate with every thought you think. Upon the recitation we're about to sing.
David Sheppard looked up from his iphone screen and focused out of the back window of the hotel's courtesy car. Surely he hadn't heard what he thought he'd heard.
Though it was late in the evening, San Francisco's streets were teeming with people—a high percentage of whom, he realized, were abnormally dressed. Even with the crowds, it didn't take long to find the source of the music.
The band, consisting of a saxophonist, a guitarist and a drummer were set up on the corner a few yards from where the car waited at a traffic signal. A woman dressed suspiciously like a Klingon sang with sultry enthusiasm.
Calling occupants of interplanetary craft. Calling occupants of interplanetary, most extraordinary craft.
Dave closed his eyes briefly and tried to purge his mind of the sight. He had much more important things to occupy his thoughts. But once he'd seen one brightly clad individual, waving and swaying to the music, he couldn't not see the rest, nor the banners proclaiming thanks and welcome to the extraterrestrials.
"How much farther to the hotel?" he called up to the driver. It wasn't that he didn't believe in 'to each his own', it was just that the traffic signal seemed to be taking an inordinate amount of time changing from red to green.
"Another two miles," was the response. "With current traffic, we should be there in about ten to fifteen minutes."
If we ever get through this light. David glanced around the intersection. Two miles was farther than he wanted to walk on foot after the day he'd had. Running in the night air always worked wonders for clearing his head back home, but amid the party atmosphere and increasing numbers of UFO buffs pouring into the city, it would only serve to increase his stress.
The light finally changed. Just as the courtesy vehicle edged out into the intersection to join the line waiting for the next light, David caught a familiar flash from the corner of his eye.
He did a double take. No, it couldn't be. But it was. The flowing dreadlocks and stature marked the man as John's 'government contractor' friend.
The driver edged the car up a foot, and Dave had to lean back a bit to keep his eye on the man. He didn't remember his name, but he certainly remembered how close he and John had seemed. Today he was with a woman with a similar skin tone who was half his size. He had obviously caught them in the middle of an intense moment judging by their expressions.
He wondered if the man still worked with John, or if he might know where he was or what he was doing. Other than a couple of brief, uncomfortable email responses, he hadn't had any contact with his brother since their father's funeral. He had hoped that John would find a way to be there for his wedding, but the stilted response he'd received just a few days earlier had put an end to that.
Dave decided asking a near stranger for information on his own flesh and blood was more desperate than he wanted to appear. John had made his position clear enough. As he started to look away, someone appeared from among the crowd right in front of the tall man and the woman.
Dave's mouth might have dropped at his surprise, but that surprise was quickly dashed away when traffic eased and the car surged ahead.
"Stop!" he called, then immediately winced. That was probably not the best way to alert someone who was driving in heavy traffic.
"Sir?" The driver glanced calmly over his shoulder, unperturbed by the outburst.
"I need to get out. I've—I've just seen someone I know."
"Of course," the driver was noncommittal. He double parked alongside another vehicle and allowed Dave to climb out. He might have said something about waiting, or about how to go about contacting the hotel if he needed another vehicle sent, but Dave wasn't listening any longer.
He hated to admit it, but he often imagined that John was trapped in some war torn country on the other side of the world, injured or dying. Seeing him alive and well had knocked him off balance.
He couldn't pass up the opportunity to speak with his brother face to face.
Universal Truth # 17 Things That Can Get Worse, Will
"McKay? Anything?" John asked for the fifth time in as many minutes. They had been in the quiet area between abandoned buildings waiting for McKay to give them a direction.
"What? Do you think annoying me is going to make this go any faster?" Rodney asked.
John shrugged. "Usually does."
Ronon, standing across from him, smirked in Rodney's direction.
"Shouldn't you be in an infirmary somewhere?" McKay jabbed.
"Nope. Good as new." Ronon's smirk remained in place.
"Colonel." Teyla's soft voice interrupted the by-play. "I would like to explore in that area." She gestured to the left toward a darkened alley.
"Do you sense something?" John wanted to know. Teyla's senses were often more reliable than technology.
"I am not certain." A look of intense concentration shown on her face. "I would like to check it out while Rodney completes his calculations."
"Ronon, you and Carlton go with her. Check in every five minutes." He watched them head off. As they disappeared in the darkness of the alley, he turned back to McKay, gave it a good ten count, then, "McKay? How's my Wraith-maybe-signal detector coming?"
"My answer is the same as it was the last twenty five times you asked me."
"What do you mean seven?"
"I've only asked you seven times," John clarified.
"You seriously kept count?" Rodney stopped and stared at him.
"Counting to seven isn't all that difficult, McKay. Speaking of difficult, you picked up a couple possible locations of the Wraith maybe-shrapnel stuff when we were back in the city. Why are you having such a hard time out here?"
"If I knew the answer to that don't you think I would have told you or at the very least done something about it? Besides, I don't think I was supposed to be able to pick up anything at all. Obviously whatever it is is malfunctioning."
"So, it's probably a piece of the hive or something?" John didn't want to even think of the problems that could be caused by the general public stumbling upon Wraith tech.
"Yeah, maybe. I'd just feel a lot better if I was sure it wasn't moving."
John spun on McKay. Nightmares of what had happened after in the city after the explosion in Michael's lab flashed through his mind. This was bad. Very bad.
Teyla's voice over their radio link interrupted whatever his response might have been. "Colonel Sheppard, I sense the Wraith. They are here."
Oh, crap. That was worse. "Where?" he demanded.
Rodney pressed several buttons on his tablet, then flipped it and showed it to him. Ronon & Teyla's transmitters glowed brightly on the screen.
"We're coming to you," John said as he gestured Rodney toward a cross street. The foot traffic began to increase as they encountered a handful of people. One big reason that Earth wasn't the best place to go Wraith hunting. Too many opportunities for collateral damage. The cross street should get them back to where Ronon, Teyla and Sgt Carlton were patrolling.
"We are approaching the side of a large building," Teyla replied. "The sense is getting stronger."
"Hold position until we get there," John ordered, then, "Jumper one? You getting anything on the HUD?" He turned his attention to the other man involved in the mission.
"I think I might have spotted a couple robbery attempts and a few other ... things, but otherwise, no." Lorne's voice came back at him.
"Alright. Stay cloaked, but move in closer to Teyla and Ronon's location."
"Acknowledged." Lorne signed off.
The new street was older and worn and bore a smell that was not unique to Earth. "If we take this street, we'll probably come up on the back end of the alley," Rodney chimed in.
"Got it." John automatically took point, with McKay and Harrison following behind. Within several minutes they met up with Teyla, Ronon and Carlton.
Words weren't needed. John met Teyla's gaze, then, off her nod gestured that they others fall in behind her. As they moved along into a more deserted part of the city, John's Spidey senses began to tingle. Either Teyla was rubbing off on him, or he had spent a little too much time around Todd.
The sounds of nearby traffic began again as they stepped out of the alley and on to a sparsely populated side street. Teyla turned thoughtfully, taking in the buildings all around them, hearing in a way the rest of them couldn't. Then with a look of absolutely certainty, she pointed up the street toward yet another narrow section between buildings. "They are there."
"Can you tell how many?" Ronon asked, and John waited for that answer as well. That would be good intel.
Teyla shook her head. "I cannot. I only know that there are more than one."
"Alright." John made sure he had a good grip on his hidden weapons and headed for the new alley. "Harrison, you and Carlton, stay here, make sure no one comes this way."
"Yes, Sir." The two marines parked themselves just inside the alley as ordered.
"Let's do this."
Rodney stowed his computer and got his gun.
Dave crept along the side walk in the direction that he'd seen John and his friends go. There was something strange about the way they were acting; like they were on some kind of mission. Dave knew about the types of bars that were to be found in this area of San Francisco. Surely his brother could take a break from partying long enough to speak to him.
He moved on along the street. As he walked, a thought came into the back of his mind. Maybe this wasn't such a good idea. Maybe it would be better if he waited until later to speak to John. But, how was he going to do that? He didn't even have a phone number. It had taken two entire weeks before he'd gotten an email response.
He balled his fists against the chill as he continued along the street. He thought he saw a man standing at the head of the alley where he'd seen John go, but when he reached it, there was no one there. He paused again, trepidation holding him back.
He looked back the way he had come. This street was deserted now. There was even an eerie misty fog wafting along the alley. It seemed entirely too quiet and still, leaving him feeling all alone. Hairs raised on the back of his neck and a cold sense of dread trickled through him.
"Sheppard!" A yell came from down the alley, startling him nearly out of his skin.
He ducked instinctively, cowering alongside the building. Then another instinct surfaced, the desire to get out of there. The sounds of a struggle echoed from out of the foggy-enshrouded darkness and it occurred to him that his brother might be in trouble. He had to do something to help.
Without a moment's hesitation he pulled out his cell phone and started to dial for help. As he waited for the call to connect, he started down the alley. Perhaps he could warn whoever was causing trouble that he was calling the authorities.
As he inched along, the operator came on the line.
"Hello, yes, my name is David Sheppard and I believe I've come upon an ...." The words died on his lips as a body appeared out of the fog and landed at his feet. It was a man with a crew cut dressed in a bomber jacket. Something about his bearing screamed military.
Before he could look more closely, something else appeared right in front of him. He only had a moment to register long white hair, green skin and teeth before he was slammed back into the side of the building.
He thought he might have heard his cell phone clatter against the dirty pavement, or felt cold fetid breath in his face before he saw a large clawed hand with something imbedded in its palm coming toward him.
John stumbled to a halt in front of the man on the ground. He looked out of place against the filth of a San Francisco alley ripe with the smells of another kind of life. He wasn't sure he believed what he was seeing.
"He might have caught a piece of it," Ronon was saying at his side, gesturing with his blaster. "I switched it to stun before I fired."
John looked up at his Satedan friend, then toward the unconscious Wraith, then back to Dave. There was really no time for this. There were at least three more Wraith that had gotten away.
"Lorne," he called to the jumper. "Do you think you can squeeze the jumper in down here? I figure we only have a few minutes before someone shows up." He looked around to where Teyla and Carlton were helping Harrison to his feet.
"Yeah, might get a couple of scratches, but I can do it."
"Alright. Come on down, I've got a few passengers for you."
"Harrison, Carlton, you'll be watching over our new friend here," John gestured to the Wraith. "McKay, you go, too. See if you can figure out what this is and maybe find out what they were up to." He pointed toward the flashing band the Wraith wore around its wrist. "It looks like Ancient tech."
"Oooh," Rodney looked down at the device like a prospector who had just discovered gold, only to find that there was something disgusting on it.
"Wait a minute." Ronon fired another shot into the Wraith. "Okay, go ahead."
Rodney shot him an odd look. "Thanks," he said, then bent and quickly snatched the device from the creature's arm.
"What about him?" Rodney asked as he retrieved a still glowing cell phone which lay a few feet from Dave's fingers.
"He's going in the jumper, too." John said.
"He's a civilian," Rodney objected. "The cops'll find him. From the looks of him, he probably has plenty of people who'll bail him out."
"We don't have time to argue about it," he said tightly. This was not an occasion he wanted to debate.
He could already feel the tingle of the jumper's proximity as Lorne managed to wedge it into the alley. Rodney looked like he might argue further, but John tuned him out and watched Ronon heft Dave over his shoulder. It was surreal to see the man dressed in a power suit, gold watch poking out beneath his cuff, being carted up the back ramp of the jumper. Suddenly, John was overwhelmed with uncertainty. He wanted to protect Dave, but was he doing the right thing?
" ... Stargate Command isn't going to ..." Rodney was still going and didn't appear to be anywhere near out of steam.
"He's my brother, Rodney," John said softly, effectively ending the scientist's rant.
"Your...? He is?" Rodney looked as stunned as John felt when he'd first realized who they had just saved from a Wraith. "How the ...?"
"I don't know," John said. "But there are still three Wraith out there that we know about."
"Right." Rodney nodded and joined Lorne, the two marines, the unconscious Wraith and David Sheppard in the jumper.
Universal Truth # 7: Ignorance Is Bliss
He was lying on his side against something flat and hard. That didn't seem right—why was he laying on his side? And why did his brain feel disconnected from the rest of his body?
Cautiously, he peeled his eyes open. For several moments the sight before him made no sense. Then it registered that he was staring at a pair of very large feet bound in ankle chains. He followed the feet up black leather-clad legs to arms that were bound to the chains that attached to the feet.
When his gaze reached the man's face, it was to see a green skin wreathed in long white hair. His eyes were closed.
Dave was reminded of the UFO buffs he'd passed on the street. Since that flash in the sky, they had been coming out of the wood work.
David blinked, wondering if he could find the energy to do more than stare at what was right in front of him. Suddenly, the green man's eyes opened revealing slitted cat-like green pupils. A malevolent smile blossomed across his features, revealing a set of sharpened teeth. It was like something out of a nightmare. Evil intent gleamed out at him, holding him in its gaze.
The green man jerked suddenly, yanking roughly against the chains as he lurched in Dave's direction.
Dave didn't remember moving. But between one thudding heartbeat and the next he was in an upright position as far away from the deranged looking science fiction fanatic as he could get.
His body revolted at the motion and he nearly went back down. Pins and needles pricked mercilessly beneath his skin. It was as if his entire body was just regaining circulation.
"Major, he's waking up." A calm no-nonsense voice spoke to Dave's right, drawing his attention to two crew cut young men just behind and to the right of him. One was standing, and the other was sitting, but they both wielded what looked like space-age ray guns. The guns were pointed in the direction of the green-skinned trekkie.
What was wrong with these people? Were they all on drugs?
Before he could voice any of those questions, a door slid open beyond the men with guns. Two middle height men stepped out, one carried a computer, the other drew a nine millimeter and pointed it at the big green guy still chained to the bench.
"Oh, crap. This isn't good," the one with the computer said softly to the one with the gun. Dave didn't like the way computer guy was eying him. He wasn't the one dressed like a fool or carrying Star Wars weapons.
"Too late, now, Dr. McKay. We're here," nine millimeter said, pausing to look beyond the green guy as the back wall on the opposite of the room began to move. He gestured with his head toward the green colored man. "Might as well make it easy on ourselves. Stun him."
A beam of light erupted from one of the ray guns and with a snarl the green man slumped against the back of the seat.
"Maybe we should stun him, too," the one called McKay muttered through the side of his mouth as if Dave wouldn't be able to hear him.
Nine millimeter fixed him with a look, then put his own, pretty real looking, gun away in a holster strapped to his thigh.
"If you have a better idea, Major, I'd be happy to hear it." McKay sounded testy.
"No," the major grinned at McKay. "And I don't have to. You're the genius." He followed the others as they dragged the green guy down the ramp.
Dave was left standing in what he now realized was some kind of a vehicle, looking at McKay. He was utterly out of his element, so he sought a way to gain control. "I don't know what sort of operation you're running here, but you need to tell me where I am and what's going on."
McKay rolled his eyes and muttered something under his breath that sounded suspiciously like 'Sheppards', then more loudly, "The answer to both of your questions is classified."
"Lt. Colonel John Sheppard is my brother. Is he here?" Dave tried another tack. Tossing around official titles and name dropping might help in what he was beginning to think of as some kind of top secret military facility.
"No, he's not here at the moment. But, come with me. I've got just the place where you can wait for him."
Jennifer Keller brushed her bangs out of her eyes in an attempt to completely wake. The news that she would need to perform surgery to remove a subspace transmitter from a Wraith prisoner had been surprising considering their location. But, as it turned out, she had missed quite a few things during the three hours she had managed to sleep.
The thought that there were Wraith running around loose on Earth was giving her the heebie jeebies. The overall quietness of the city wasn't helping matters.
In Pegasus, even during the night, Atlantis was abuzz with activity. But a downtime had been called, and most of the city's occupants were off duty. The stillness in the remote lab as she awaited Lorne's arrival was downright eerie.
"There you are, lass," a voice sounded, startling her from her thoughts.
"Carson!" She jumped in fright even as she acknowledged the doctor.
"Didn't mean to scare you," Carson apologized.
"No, it isn't you. Nerves," she tried to explain.
"Aye. I understand. It was such a quiet walk down, it reminded me of the early days when there were fewer of us about the city."
"Really?" she settled onto one of the stools. There was really nothing to do but wait at this point. "I can't imagine what that must have been like at the beginning of the expedition."
Carson smiled at her. "Exciting doesn't begin to cover it. There was this one time ..."
Richard Woolsey reigned in his frustration. If he had hair, he would be pulling it out right now. Dealing with the IOA had a way of making him feel that way lately. Perhaps he had been in the Pegasus Galaxy too long. Drawing in a deep cleansing breath, he requested to be patched through to Sheppard's team.
"Colonel Sheppard, this is Mr. Woolsey."
"I take it our guests have arrived in the city?" Sheppard's voice sounded clearly in his earpiece.
He paced away from the control room, toward his office. "Yes, both of them," he replied, dryly. He was sure Sheppard would get his meaning. But there would be time to deal with that later.
"Homeworld Security, the IOA and SGC are convening a meeting within the hour. When that meeting is over, it is very likely that Atlantis will no longer be in control of this ... incident. As you can imagine ..."
"You'd rather have the threat neutralized before we reach that point," John finished for him.
"Yes." Woolsey hesitated before continuing. Sheppard was unorthodox, but he got things done. The odds would be stacked more than usual this time. He continued, "In the interim, the IOA has requested that your team return to base."
He heard the deadly stillness in Sheppard's voice. "What? Why?"
"They feel that there is imminent risk to the public if a combat situation should occur. Also, they have other concerns." He waited for Sheppard to get the hint.
"What other concerns? Like if we don't eliminate the threat as soon as possible we will have a bigger problem on our hands than we already do?"
"They feel it best that only those ... familiar with typical Earth ... behavior... participate in this mission. You are free to select another team." The words were bitter coming out of his mouth; he knew personally how invaluable Ronon and Teyla's help was.
As expected, Sheppard didn't take that news very well. "Are you telling me that—" The rest of his response was cut off. Richard could just hear Teyla speaking to Sheppard.
"It is okay, John. The sense I initially felt is fading. Deeper meditation may help me to get a better idea of their location. In the meantime, perhaps Doctor McKay has made some progress."
Sheppard's sigh echoed along the link. "Send Lorne to pick us up."
"He is already on the way. Oh, there is one other matter. Todd has been anxious, insisting that he needs to speak with you and I. As you can imagine, I've been a little busy to visit with him, and ..."
"I'll bet I can guess what it's about," John replied. "He'll have to get in line."
Dave looked around the ornate, colored walls of the sparsely furnished room and wondered how long they were going to keep him there. McKay had, after speaking with someone named Mr. Woolsey, deposited him here and told him to wait.
The single entry into the room slid open and a man wearing a white lab coat stepped inside. A stethoscope poked out of a pocket in his coat. He smiled what appeared to be a genuinely friendly smile and extended his hand. "Hi, I'm Dr. Carson Beckett."
David hesitated only minutely before accepting it and returning a firm handshake. "David Sheppard," he responded.
"Pleased to meet you," Beckett said. "I'm here to check you over. I understand you had a bit of a run-in."
"You could call it that," Dave agreed, remembering the initial attack that had landed him wherever he was. "The most unsettling thing is that no one will answer any of my questions."
"What questions did you ask?"
"Well, for one, where am I? When can I leave? Why am I being held here in the first place?"
Carson chuckled. "I see your problem."
David decided that he liked Carson. "Do you know my brother? He's a Lt. Colonel. John Sheppard."
"Aye, I know the colonel very well. He's a good friend of mine."
David brightened. "Is he here?"
Carson looked thoughtful. "I don't rightly know. But, I'd imagine that if he isn't he'll be back afore too long and he'll be right in to see you as soon as things are safe."
"Safe?" David didn't like the sound of that. "Are things unsafe?"
"Oops. Sorry, that might be one of the questions that you'll not likely get an answer to. Okay, now, can you tell me if you have any pain anywhere? Any residual numbness?"
"I'm okay, really. I think I've just bruised my back a little bit. Nothing to worry about."
"Why don't you let me be the judge of that?" Carson asked. "I think I'm beginning to see the resemblance between you and Colonel Sheppard," he added with a smile.
Dave's brows rose. "How's that?" He was certain that he and his brother were absolutely nothing alike.
"Down playing your injuries." Carson spoke while he felt along Dave's shoulder and checked it for range of motion.
"You helped John when he was hurt?"It made sense that John hadn't managed to remain unscathed all of these years, but it was odd to have it confirmed.
"Aye. Many times."
Many times? Dave felt as if he had been knocked off balance. The tone behind Carson's words spoke of the weight those past injuries had on him as a physician and as a friend. Dave needed more details. He needed to know everything that happened to his brother in the five years since he had seemed to drop off the face of the Earth.
"What happened? How was he hurt?"
"Sorry, lad." Carson gave him a sympathetic look. "I can't tell you that. But I can tell you that John Sheppard is one of the bravest, most selfless men I know."
Tell me more, Doc, Dave thought. Please tell me more.
Universal Truth # 47 No Matter Where You Go, There You Are
John could hear Zelenka and McKay bickering before he even reached the lab level. He hoped that meant they were making progress and that they could give him something that might help wrap this thing up faster.
"Alright, McKay, tell me that you've found a way to track these Wraith."
"We do have a way. Her name is Teyla."
"The IOA disagrees. We were recalled to the city. They would prefer to have people not-Ronon and not-Teyla on the ground."
"Uh Oh," Zelenka said. "Is not good."
"Yeah, well, maybe they'll change their minds when the Wraith start feeding on people."
"No," Rodney said, "They'll just figure out a way to blame someone else."
"So let's see what we can do to fix this already," John urged.
"That could be a problem."
"Why?" John demanded.
"I was right about the wristband we took off the Wraith."
"Right how?" John overlooked the fact that it was he himself who suggested that McKay check out the wristband.
"It's the source of a dampening field that is masking Wraith signals."
"So, un-dampen it."
"No, you don't understand. One of them was malfunctioning. This one." Rodney held the device up. A red light continued to flash on the device. "Since we got it, all the other signs of the Wraith signals have disappeared."
"What are you trying to tell me, McKay? That this is an impossible task for you?" Maybe a little goading would create the encouragement Rodney sometimes needed.
"No, you don't understand. This is very specifically designed to block Ancient technology. It has a, shall we say, distinctly hybrid technology flavor to it. I checked with Carson, it's very possible that Michael may have also had a hand in designing these."
John frowned. "That doesn't change the fact that there has got to be something we can do. So, you're having trouble with Ancient tech—well, what else have we got? Asgard? Hell, even good-old planet Earth tech? Throw everything we've got it at it."
"Colonel, we have tried everything we could think of. There is nothing." Radek looked defeated.
"I hate to say it," McKay said, "But he's right. There's nothing."
"Nothing ..." Radek muttered.
"I already agreed with you," Rodney groused.
"No, Rodney. There's nothing." Radek's face lit with growing excitement. "We're looking for nothing."
Rodney obviously got it, because his face lit up to. John figured he was beyond tired, because they had both stopped making sense five sentences earlier.
"That could work!" Rodney exclaimed.
"Yes. And if we ...." Radek rejoined.
"Oh, definitely. And then ...." Rodney responded.
"Oh, yes, great idea. I will get started right away." Radek bustled toward one of the consoles on the opposite side of the room and frantically began to push buttons.
John blinked. "So we have a plan."
"Yes. You see, the wristband so effectively dampens everything, even things that would normally be there, so essentially what we need to look for are areas of 'nothingness,' where there should be something and that'll be where Wraith are."
"Good. How long is that going to take?" John dared to be hopeful.
"It will take just few minutes to reconfigure ..." the Czech glanced at John over the rims of his glasses before pushing them up and refocusing on the control panel in front of him. "It will be even faster if McKay is not standing around talking and is working instead."
Teyla opened her eyes and gazed out over the darkened waters toward the bright lights of the cities of California. Amelia, who had spent some portion of her childhood in the area, had given Teyla and Ronon a quick geology lesson earlier in the day. Those lighter moments felt so distant now.
She had felt so confident when she and Ronon decided to remain with Atlantis. She had lived and fought beside these people for so long. Deep bonds had been forged. Every instinct had confirmed that her decision was the right one, regardless of the outcome.
But now, due to reaction of the IOA, she was worried for her and Ronon's future here. They were but two against so many. She had not thought that she would have to fight again so soon for her position on the team.
A frustrated half-sigh escaped her.
"What's wrong? Can't concentrate?" Ronon stood with his back to the railing. He had been watching over her while she tried to get a deeper sense of the enemy.
"I sense them; I know that they are there. But all that I'm getting is a feeling of urgency and movement. I cannot tell where they are. And yet ...."
"What?" Ronon prompted.
Teyla looked up at him, her eyes widening. It was time to follow her instincts again. "I must speak with Colonel Sheppard." She got to her feet and headed toward the transporter.
John paced thoughtfully as McKay and Zelenka continued to work. Once he had a location on the Wraith, he would need to pull together a team. They would need to be very careful. The Wraith might not care about revealing themselves to the population at large, but the SGC, the IOA, Home World Security, the President and every other agency he could think of did.
"Got it!" Rodney's triumphant exclamation interrupted John's battle planning. "Ready, Radek?"
"In just one ... moment. There." Zelenka hit the last control with flourish.
"It's coming up, now." All eyes focused on the large view screen above them. A grid containing the green outlines of the city appeared. A variety of colored lines and dots appeared in and near the city.
"Oh, no ..."
John dragged his eyes away from the screen. "Oh, no, what?"
"See those red dots?" Rodney's voice squeaked. "Those are Wraith. They're here. They're in the city."
"Crap!" Now that he knew what color was what, he could see that there were three Wraith signals several levels below them. John tapped his radio earpiece. "I need security to the East tower lab levels. All available—" The rest of his transmission was interrupted by earsplitting feedback.
"What the devil ..." Carson looked from his patient to the closed lab door. Something had definitely gone boom, and that didn't bode well. The power had flickered briefly before settling at the dim half-level of emergency back-up lighting that McKay had programmed for the medical levels.
He tapped at his earpiece. "Beckett to control room." There was complete silence on the other end of the radio connection.
He shot a worried look toward his patient and tried again. "Beckett to anyone. Come in please." No response.
"Wait here," he told David Sheppard as he started for the door. "Do not leave this room."
John flexed his jaw against the ringing in his ear and blinked in the sudden darkness of the room. "What the hell just happened?" he demanded of the two scientists.
"We've lost communications, and there has been an explosion which appears to have knocked out main power," McKay's voice was coming from near the window where the light of the moon was providing faint illumination. "But it appears that's a problem only in this tower."
"Right where we last saw the Wraith," John filled in. "How did this happen? How did they get so far into the city?"
"Cloak, no shield. Remember?" Rodney provided the answer he didn't really want to hear.
"I believe I can access auxiliary power from this room, and find a way to reroute power to this tower. I am not yet certain what has happened to communications." Zelenka was busy plugging a lap top into the back of one of the consoles. Within moments the large display above the console illuminated at half power.
"Terrific." John focused on the display. It showed the scan that they had been viewing prior to the explosion. "Wait, go back!" John called out as the screen changed to a schematic of the city systems. He thought he'd seen more flashing red dots than had been there previously.
"Is that what I think it is?" The screen displayed a pattern of four red dots in the water near the east pier. The dots were closing in on the city.
Rodney squinted at the dim display. "If you think it's more Wraith and that they're going to reach the city at any minute, then yes."
John grimaced. This just kept getting better and better. "Get that power back online, then lock out all outer doors. Rodney, do what you can on communications, then get a security team out to the east pier to meet our uninvited guests. I'm going to find a security team to help head off their buddies that are already in the tower."
"How about us?" Ronon skidded into the room with Teyla right behind him. They were both armed and ready to fight. Teyla handed John the extra weapons that she was carrying.
John looked at her in astonishment. How had she known?
"I ... had a feeling ..." she tried to explain. "Call it woman's intuition. It seemed odd that we were able to capture one of the Wraith so easily and that the others did not fight for him. I was on my way here to discuss it with you."
"I'm glad you did and that you came armed."
"That was my idea," Ronon piped up.
"If she's right, then they are probably headed for the medical isolation labs two levels down. Jennifer's there now removing our new friend's subspace transmitter." Rodney looked distinctly uncomfortable as he shared that revelation.
"That is probably how they found the city. They tracked him here. We need to get down there and fast." John was putting it together, too. "Once you get those systems back online make sure that there are no other Wraith left anywhere except in the vicinity of Atlantis."
"Colonel ..." Rodney called John back just as he was prepared to head out with Teyla and Ronon.
"There is one other person in the medical isolation wing. Carson's with him."
John didn't need to ask who Rodney was talking about. He had taken his brother out of San Francisco in an attempt to protect him. Instead, he had placed him directly in the path of danger.
John took off at a run.
Universal Truth # 23 Be Careful What You Ask For
Carson's words filtered back into Dave's memory. He'd said that John would come as soon as things were safe. There had been complete silence since Carson had left the room, and yet David didn't feel very safe sitting there alone. He felt the need to get out of there.
He headed for the door, forced to stop just inches in front of it when it remained tightly closed. This was getting ridiculous. They were holding him against his will and he was tired of it. No one had shown him a badge of any kind or told him that he was in custody. He wanted out of this room, and out of where he was and he wanted out now.
The doors slid obediently open. He blinked, unsure if he had just imagined a minute tickling in the back of his mind before the doors moved apart. Not wanting to give them a chance to close on him, he moved cautiously out into the dimly lit corridor.
Unsure of which way he should go, he set off to the right. He thought that might have been the way they brought him in. The narrow corridor broadened into a more open area after veering to the right. He followed as the corridor curved, then stumbled to a halt at the sight before him.
Two men dressed in military uniforms lay on the floor unmoving outside of a door. More frightening, he was pretty sure he recognized one of them from his arrival in the shuttle. As he stood, frozen to the spot, wondering what he should do, the door opened. The green man who had attacked him earlier stepped through, followed by three others just like him.
David didn't hesitate. He turned and ran.
He could hear pounding footsteps behind him as he rounded the curve in the corridor and found himself directly in the line of fire of the barrels of three guns.
There was no time to think. One moment he was running for his life, the next he was being tackled to the ground. Weapons fire flew past him on either side all the way down, and then the loud sound of more bullets as he was shoved behind someone who crouched in front of him firing along with the tall man and the one on either side of him.
And then the sounds ended and he opened his eyes. He was shoved up against a wall in a room off the corridor. Someone he had been dragged into a room that he hadn't even known was there. John, Ronon and a woman were grouped along the wall with him.
"How many did we get?" John asked.
"I saw one of them go down," Ronon said.
"I believe I may have gotten one as well," the woman put in. "We will need to be certain before he awakens."
"So that leaves two more," John said. When John focused on him, it was the most intense look Dave had even seen in his brother's eyes. "You're going to stay with Ronon, and you're going to do exactly as he tells you. No questions asked."
Dave felt so out of his depth, he would have agreed to anything. "No questions, John."
John turned away. "Okay, Teyla. Let's go."
Dave watched them leave, then turned back to Ronon to find that the tall man was heading out of the room, too.
"Come on," he directed.
Dave followed, then started as Ronon shot a ray of light into each of the green men sprawled on the floor.
"You okay?" Ronon asked as he grabbed an arm of each of the green men and began dragging them down the hall.
"Yes." The answer was more automatic than honest. The green men were obviously more than overly zealous Star Trek fans. There were bullet holes in their clothing, but there was no blood. There was a sense that emanated from them that felt almost otherworldly.
His mind balked at the thought, but he asked the question anyway. "Are they ... human?"
"No," Ronon said with a disgusted grunt. "They are Wraith."
"What are ... Wraith?"
"The enemy." Ronon dropped the arm of the one of the Wraith so that he could drag them one at a time past the two unconscious guards outside of the still open door. Dave followed him though and was surprised to find himself inside what looked like a high tech medical suite. Another man with a weapon lay on the floor just inside, Carson and a woman were on the floor on the other side of one of the long medical tables.
"What happened to them?" Dave asked.
"Stun grenade." Ronon seemed to have no compunction about answering questions, so far. "They'll wake up soon." He hefted first one of the Wraith then the other onto the medical tables before strapping them down with metal clamps.
"Is this what you and John do?"
Ronon pierced him with a look. "Sometimes."
"So John's your ... boss?"
"Sheppard is my friend. He saved my life. Gave me a home." Ronon's words were simple and to the point, but David heard so much more behind them. Where he had initially dismissed Ronon as another of his brother's questionable associates, he was beginning to see that there was something more there.
Before he could ask any more questions, the lights brightened with an audible hum. Several clear glass surfaces lit up and a foreign looking text began to scroll up the screen.
"Now what?" Dave asked.
But Ronon wasn't listening, his eyes were focused elsewhere. "Got it," he said after activating a radio receiver in his ear. He then turned to Dave.
"Now we get ready. We're about to have company."
Ronon took a weapon off one of the Wraith. "You know how to use this?"
"Finally." Rodney grumbled as he made the final connection which brought communications back online. Sheppard must have been waiting because his voice sounded in Rodney's ear almost instantly.
"Talk to me McKay." Sheppard's voice sounded like he was on the move, which was, of course, logical considering Wraith were involved.
"We've got problems." Rodney just blurted it out. No point in sugar-coating it. "The other Wraith penetrated the city before we could get a message to security. They're on their way to you now." Rodney eyed the tracking console. "Looks like they're all heading back to the medical isolation labs."
John cursed softly. "You mean they're all doubling back? There must be something there that they need. Where are they exactly?"
Radek, listening in, quickly overlaid the screen with the city grid coordinates. Rodney relayed them to Sheppard. Then, "But if you're thinking of isolating them with the force fields, that won't work. Those systems are down, and no amount of sweet talking is going to get them running again until we can replace the crystals."
"Fine. Just get some help up here as fast as you can."
"Right." Rodney looked at the slow pace of the security teams as they made their way through the stair wells. Once they reached the next level, they were a minute or two away from the nearest transporter. That meant four or five minutes until they could get to the isolation level to back up Sheppard, Teyla, and Ronon. Rodney could be there in less than half that time.
He grabbed the nine millimeter that sat atop the console and headed for the door.
"Rodney, where are you going?" Zelenka demanded.
"To help." Rodney stalked out into the corridor.
David never got an opportunity to respond to Ronon's offer. Between one breath and the next, there was a muted explosion on the other side of the door. Almost immediately, several green hands appeared as the doors were forced apart.
David was roughly grabbed and shoved behind Ronon's much larger physique, and then they were both on the floor beside the door. Ronon crouched at the side of the door and ducked out ever so often to fire off a round of light from his ray gun. Dave's eye caught on the weapon Ronon had tried to give him. For one wild moment, he considered grabbing it and jumping into the fray.
Reason returned withe the sound of additional gunfire. These were conventional weapons; the ones that Dave was used to. From the sheer number, it sounded like the Calvary had arrived.
After that everything happened so fast, that Dave would never be completely sure of the exact order of events. Ronon jumped up and swung around the door and out into the corridor, his ray gun blazing. The already chaotic sounds of fighting intensified, but the worst of it seemed to focused away from the room he was in. It gave him courage to peer around the door and into the corridor.
His attention was immediately drawn to a small sound in the midst of the chaos. It was a hard, rolling noise, like the sound a heavy metal tube makes when it is rolled across the floor. Sure enough, someone was heading right for him. A red light flashed on its side.
A body seemed almost flung in his direction, but it was John. He half slid, half skidded to the open doorway. He snagged the darkly colored device just inches from where Dave was crouched. He was so close that Dave thought he felt the wind he generated in passing. Then he was off and running back along the corridor away from the bulk of the fight.
Dave registered the yells and sounds of dismay from McKay and the Teyla, even as Ronon seemed to be firing additional shots into a couple of Wraith who were already down. Unconscious green men were scattered across the area.
An explosion erupted from farther down the corridor where John had run. The floor shook beneath his hands and knees. Realization settled over Dave like a weight. The thing that John had grabbed from right in front of him had been a grenade.
His brother had just saved his life.
He didn't remember getting to his feet or running in the direction of the explosion like everyone else had. He only knew that when he blinked next, he was standing several feet away as Ronon, McKay and Teyla leaned over his brother. John lay on the floor near an ornate wall as if he had been tossed there like a rag doll.
"He's alive," Teyla spoke after checking his pulse. "We must get him to the infirmary."
"I've got him." Ronon hefted John as if he weighed little more than a sack of potatoes. "Beckett or Keller should be waking up any minute now."
"Aye, that I am. Bring him right this way, lad." Dave could hear Carson's voice behind him, probably near the door that Dave had minutes ago been hiding behind.
He could only watch, stupefied, as Ronon carried his brother past him. He felt frozen in place and more than a little bit overwhelmed. A light hand settled on his arm, and he looked down into Teyla's exotic features. Something about her was very soothing.
"Do not worry. He will be fine."
Even her voice was calming.
Dave blinked. "How can you be so sure?"
"John Sheppard is strong, and has proven himself a fighter. How can you not?"
Dave wasn't sure how to respond to that. Oddly enough, it did make him feel somewhat better.
Teyla smiled. "Come. We will all wait to hear from Dr. Beckett together."
"That was the last of them," Rodney said as he approached Sheppard's bedside. Ronon and Teyla were already there. "I've scanned everything inside scanner range—which is currently 6000 kilometers in every direction—and found zero anomalous signals. All seven Wraith are accounted for. Determing what to do with them ... that's another matter."
Taking in the serious expressions, he continued, "I take it you haven't heard anything yet?"
Sheppard shook his head, looking tense. He had been moved to a regular infirmary bed and according to both Carson and Jennifer would be spending the next twenty four hours there.
"Don't worry, it'll be fine." Rodney tried to reassure him. "What's the worse they can do? A memory wipe? Oh, I forgot. We don't have those."
At that moment the doors slid open and David Sheppard stepped into the room, followed by Mr. Woolsey and another man dressed in Air Force blues.
They were all smiling.
Dave moved away from Mr. Woolsey toward his brother. Teyla and Ronon made quick excuses and stepped away from the bed. Teyla said something under her breath to Rodney when he hesitated in leaving.
Dave appreciated their attempts to give him and John a bit of privacy. His head was still spinning a bit from the things he'd learned over the past 12 hours, but it also helped him to see his brother more clearly. He would need a little more time before he was truly ready to discuss it with him. He decided to ask about something else.
"I asked you a question a few weeks ago, and I think I understand why you answered the way you did. In light in recent events, I hope you'll reconsider."
John made a face, but Dave knew he didn't mean it. "I could probably do that."
"Please feel free to bring a guest. Or three." He smiled at his own joke, then sobered. "You know, Dad really would have been very proud."
John chuckled. "You mean because I'm actually considering being your best man?"
"No," Dave shook his head, then gestured toward John's team. They were all gathered across the room. Teyla looked placid, yet mildly annoyed, while Ronon and McKay were clearly arguing about something. "He would be proud of what you're doing and what you've accomplished. You're making a real difference, John."
John looked away, as usual uncomfortable discussing himself. "Well ... sorry you had to find out about it the way you did."
Dave couldn't argue that point. "I'm not sorry I found out. I'm sorry I never asked."
"You know what they say. Be careful what you ask for."