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Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard sat in his prison cell looking out at the surrounding vegetation through the tiny hole that served as a window. He was feeling a bit drafty, having been stripped to his boxer shorts. Had he known he would be providing a strip-tease, he would probably have chosen something other than his trusty Joe Boxers, bright yellow with a smiley right on the ass.

In adjoining cells, the rest of his team was suffering from similar disrobing, Rodney McKay, chief scientist and resident genius, had complained the loudest, probably because his boxers were covered in bright red lips. Given how bright the man had blushed when they were revealed, with a muttered "they were a gift!" John had to wonder just what was going on in those science labs.

Teyla Emmagan and Ronon Dex, the last two members of his team, had the great fortune to have been wearing appropriate underwear.

John wondered how many knives the Sadeatan had hidden up his shorts. Talk about a killer wedgie.

Shaking his head, John brought his thoughts back around to business. The day had started off well, a routine trade run with a people who had seemed amiable to the idea. This was actually the second trip, to cement the alliance.

It was always the routine ones that went horribly wrong. John sometimes felt like he was living in a bad sci-fi television series.

They had come through the Stargate, been met by the nice natives, had even done the whole "eat a big banquet to show we are all friends" thing. He had gone to bed thinking this mission was in the back, he would wake up, shake a few more hands, say nice things about the prowess of their warriors, and then ride off into the sunset with the prize: fresh produce. Well, maybe not ride, since they had left the Jumper home, and probably not into the sunset, since he doubted it would last that long. But close enough.

His satisfaction at a successful mission had quickly faded when, in the middle of the night, he had discovered the "warrior prowess" first hand. He had been awoken to several weapons pointed at sensitive parts of his body, and a quick glance around had shown his team in similar situations.

Before he had a chance to ask if this was some sort of college hazing ritual they hadn't been informed of, the Headman of the clan, Alberich, stormed in.

Accusations of theft and vile treachery had gotten the whole thing off on the wrong foot, and the next thing he knew, the whole group had marched over to a building that had been half-buried in the ground, stripped, and locked in.

Next time anyone suggested no guard was needed in a peaceful village with pleasant natives, he would personally shoot them in the kneecaps.

He musings were interrupted by the return of their current hosts, who had disappeared after apprehending them.

"Where is it?" Alberich's voice had a hard edge to it, his eyes narrow with more malice that he would have given the man credit for.

"Where is what? I think there seems to be some sort of mistake here." As he talked, John moved over to the bars, made from a metal Rodney had yet to identify. "Last night we were all friends, what exactly happened to change that?"

Further narrowing of his eyes was Alberich's only answer. He turned and gestured to someone outside the door. Turning back around he eyed them all, then pointed to Rodney. "You will tell us where you have hidden it, or you will pay." Another warrior walked in, holding what looked like a sword. He advanced on Rodney's cell, which was unlocked for him.

"Hey now! Wait just a minute here!" Rodney backed into the corner, his eyes never leaving weapon. "Sharp pointy objects are not necessary!"

"Leave him alone!" John grabbed the bars and tried to pull them apart with brute strength, even though Ronon had attempted it earlier with no success. "If you have to do something to anyone, take me!"

None of their captors answered, the brute pointing the sword at the nervous scientist. Without warning, a beam of energy shot out, engulfing Rodney.

The screams seemed to last a lifetime.

Then the device–which had to be Ancient, since these people weren't high-tech enough to have invented it on their own–shut off. Rodney slumped to the ground, and John had no idea if he was alive or not.

"Bastard! I told you we don't know what the Hell you are talking about!" John stared down Alberich, wishing he had the power to kill with looks alone.

"You will return the Ring to me. You have until the sun sets to think about it. At that time your friend," Alberich seemed to spit that word out, "will be punished again. If you still wish to withhold that which is mine, He will die, as three doses of the Sacred Blade are fatal." With that, he turned and walked out, his men close behind him.


John had spent the day pacing his cell. Three across, four deep. Rodney had woken up about an hour after Alberich had left, moaning and complaining about a headache. Although he couldn't be sure from this distance, John thought he looked a bit dazed, even now.

He had wracked his brain trying to figure out what the hell had gone wrong here, and how he could get his team to safety. Teyla and Ronon had each tried everything they could think of, but none of them had found any way out of the cells. Once he had recovered enough to stand, Rodney had even tried picking the lock with one of the daggers Ronon had hidden – John didn't question where – but it, too, seemed to be much more advanced than it should have been.

He questioned his team closely, trying to determine what this "ring" could be. None of them had seen anything that looked remotely ring-like either, and John was getting more than a little frustrated. If these people had just come to them and asked, maybe they could have helped them find whatever it was they were missing!

John glanced out the window, and saw that it was starting to get darker. They didn't have much more time until Mr. Trigger Happy Sword came back.

There was a soft noise at the door, and all of them–well, all except Rodney who was still looking unfocused–rose to their feet.

Instead of scowling men in kilts, a young woman crept in. After a moment, John remembered her from the ceremony the day before.

"Brunnhilde." She looked startled that he remembered her name.

"I was sent to help you." She moved towards Rodney's cell first, waving something in front of the lock. John heard the click as it opened for her. "You must come, quickly, before Alberich returns."

As she moved to open his cell next, John rapidly considered several options, including grabbing her and switching places, releasing the rest of his team, and getting the heck out of dodge. But her constant looks back towards the door, her jumps at even the slightest sounds, convinced John that she was very afraid, that if she was discovered, she would pay for her interference.

He made the snap decision to trust her – for now. He had learned his lesson about these people once already, he wasn't about to make the same mistake again.

With a quick shake of his head at Ronon's questioning look, he went over to check on Rodney while the others were released. "How are you feeling?" He was concerned at the slightly hazy look in his friend's eyes.

"Me? Just dandy. I absolutely love getting shot at by natives with Ancient tech they shouldn't have." Grinning, John helped him to his feet. As long as Rodney was snipping, they were still okay.

"Come, this way." Brunnhilde crept out the door, stopping to see if anyone was watching. She darted out suddenly, and John smothered a curse. At least they were free.

He motioned for Ronon to look outside and see what we were dealing with. He stuck his head out and grunted. "All clear. She is standing over there waving her hand."

So she hadn't taken off. Good. "Lets go. Quickly, quietly." As a group, they managed to get to the densely packed forest without incident. Twilight had officially descended, and looking back John saw torches starting towards the prison hut. Time to go.

Brunnhilde led them deeper into the trees, following no path John could see. He glanced back frequently at Rodney, but so far, so good. It was probably near midnight when they finally came to a clearing, just big enough for a small, crude hut.

"We will be safe here. For now." She moved inside, and, wary, John followed her.

Another man was waiting for them, a lantern sitting on a rough table sending his shadow dancing across the room as he rose. "Thank heavens Brunnhilde got to you in time." He placed his hand on her shoulder briefly, and tension seemed to drain out of her slight form.

"I am Wotan, and I fear that you are in this mess because of me. But come, I have managed to regain your equipment, and I doubt Alberich was kind enough to feed you."

Seeing all their clothing and, even better, weapons, immediately made John feel better. It didn't take them long to get dressed and ensure everything was in working order. Since this man didn't seem stupid enough to arm someone if he planned to be an enemy, John was willing to hear him out. "Ok, want to know what you meant by 'this is all my fault'? Cause I gotta say, today has really sucked."

With a slight smile, Wotan motioned for him to sit in one of the chairs around the table. John eyed it a bit suspiciously, wondering how much weight it was rated for, then shrugged and sat.

"Perhaps a bit of history first, so you will understand." He paused staring into the flickering lantern for a moment, seeming to gather his thoughts before he began. "Many moons ago our people made a great discovery. While hunting, our fighters came across an odd building, mostly hidden by the vines that had grown around it, but what they could see they recognized as the writing of the Ancestors.

"The leader of that group was Alberich, a young man trying to prove his worth. Ignoring the advice of his companions, he entered the building and spent several hours inside. Despairing of ever seeing him again, the rest of the group prepared to leave.

"It was then that he emerged, and his eyes were colder, harder. The innocence of youth no longer lay upon his shoulders. He brought with him the objects now known as Sacred Blades, which, with a mere touch, could reduce man or beast to his knees."

Wotan paused, his eyes far away for a moment. John had a bad feeling about this, and the others had perked up at the mention of Ancient technology. That had definitely not been mentioned at the negotiation table.

With a sigh, the older man continued. "There were several of these things hidden inside the building, and Alberich pressed them upon the rest of the group. A few resisted. It was…horrible. Alberich turned his device on one of those who resisted. The others with Blades laughed at the screams, while those who were left took the opportunity to run.

"It was then they discovered the Blades do not just cause pain. They can kill. Unfortunately, those who returned to the village were scoffed at, told to stop making up stories. A few then choose to leave, uneasy about what would come next.

"It did not take long to find out. Those with the Blades came and declared themselves rulers. When they, too, were laughed at, they demonstrated the futility of resistance."

The team sat quietly for a few minutes, all of them lost in thought. Rodney broke the silence a few minutes later, making a few connections John privately admitted he had been groping towards himself. God he hated it when Rodney beat him at something.

"Some Ancient, er Ancestor, was playing with crossing theirs and Wraith technology! The aftereffects of that thing feel close to the reaction the stunners provoke. They even work in a similar way, probably the trigger is in the handle somewhere." He trailed of for a second, then snapped back. "I need to see this base."

John raised an eyebrow, wondering what leaps the man had made in his head. "Um, why? What we need to do is get back to the gate and get home."

"Nonono, we need to find the base." He shot John a frustrated glance. "Look, aren't we supposed to be out searching for Ancient technology left behind? Isn't that one of our general objectives?" John started to respond, but was overridden. "Not to mention, if I'm right, these 'Sacred Blades' were probably created by a rogue of some sort. I haven't come across anything in the database suggesting they ever even considered that line of thought, if anything it was to the contrary. That these people can use the weapons with, presumably, no gene is a problem, probably stemming from the Wraith portion of the technology. Not to mention the personality changes our new friend mentioned. Something had to have caused that. AND," he held up his hand preventing John from cutting in yet again. "There is no telling what is still in there they just couldn't access."

John waited half a second to make sure Rodney was done. But before he could talk, another voice cut in.

"You cannot go there. It is too dangerous." Wotan had snapped back from whatever alternate reality he had drifted in to. His face held a grim determination, and John had a feeling it would be a hard battle to convince him to take them to this base. If he decided they should go.

"Look," John was determined to get a word in edgewise this time. "I agree with Rodney that we need a bit more information about this base. I am also pretty darn curious about this Ring we were accused of stealing. But," he turned a hard gaze on the already-gloating scientist, "I also agree that this place sounds like bad news."

At the mention of the Ring, Teyla decided to join the conversation. "Wotan, you did not mention where this Ring came in during your tale. What is it, and what is its significance?"

Wotan was silent long enough that John wondered if he was going to answer. To his surprise, it was Brunnhilde, sitting so quiet in the corner he had almost forgotten her, who responded. "The Ring gives Alberich great power. It is why the others with Blades do not rise against him, and how he has maintained his authority for so long."

"What kind of power?" Ronon had leaned forward, his voice rumbling out of the near-dark corner he had situated himself in.

She shrugged, and John saw fear flicker through her eyes before she hid it again. "He can raise his hand and call down the heavens to strike anyone who opposes him. It also gives him knowledge; any who come before him with rebellion in their hearts are struck down."

"Call down the heavens, hmm?" Rodney rolled his eyes and turned to John. "So what we are talking about here is probably some sort of weapons satellite in orbit around the planet. This Ring must be some sort of remote transmitter." He frowned for a moment. "But you would think that sort of thing would be keyed to the gene."

"Perhaps that, too, has been crossed with Wraith technology." Teyla's eyes had narrowed.

Rodney snapped his fingers a few times. "If this rogue Ancient was experimenting with crossing technologies, that might, and I stress might, be why there is such a radical personality change. Wraith technology is organic based, so unless our mad scientist was careful, he could have inadvertently accessed something he wasn't prepared to deal with. This just makes it more imperative that I see this base Colonel. There might be some way to disable everything, or at least counter it."

Displeasure had crossed Wotan's face when Brunnhilde had first begun to speak, but now he sat up, interested again. "You can counter the power of the Ancestors?" John was pretty sure he was trying to bore a hole in Rodney's head with his eyes.

"Of course." Rodney's answer was flippant and arrogant. Looked like he was feeling better.

"All right, it is getting late and we have had a long day." John looked around at his teammates, noting the same bone-tired weariness he felt himself. "Wotan, is it safe to stay here after dawn? We can rest up, then make for this base of yours in the evening when we'll have the cover of darkness to let Rodney putter."

He eyed the other man, seeing a flash of the same determination to keep them away, but now he saw a bit of doubt there too. "That is, if you're willing to show us the way. You don't sound too happy about the way things are going, and this is probably your best bet to at least neutralize this Ring"

The doubt increased, but it seemed he was still indecisive. "You will be safe here."

John decided to let it rest, and motioned Rodney to silence. "All right, I'll take first watch. Ronon, you'll go next, then Teyla. Get some sleep, I have a feeling we're going to need it."


The day passed quickly, most of them sleeping through as much of it as they could. Rodney privately admitted to himself that there were some lingering aftereffects of the stunner, mostly tingling in his toes and fingers, but it wasn't anything debilitating and it was slowly fading. He made a mental note to make sure Sheppard, and maybe Ronon, was in between him and the people shooting weapons at them at all times from here on out.

Some time in the afternoon either Wotan or Brunnhilde had brought a selection of fruits and nuts, similar to what they had been served at the feast before things had gone wrong. Rodney absently nibbled on a few things that looked vaguely like almonds while he pulled up information on his laptop, which had been among their recovered gear.

"Find anything?" John's question made him jump, coming out of the comfortable silence that had fallen over them for the past few hours as they waited for full darkness.

"Nothing you would understand." He shot the pilot a haughty look, marred by chuckle that managed to escape when Sheppard wiggled his eye brows in response. "I have a few theories; some of the science staff had made some suggestions about crossing technologies, and had even come up with a few simulations. We never moved ahead because it never worked."

"What could account for the personality change?" Teyla joined the conversation, and in the shadows he saw Ronon shift slightly so he could keep watch and listen.

"Wraith technology is organic, I think I mentioned that before." Rodney tried to keep the irritation out of his voice. He hated repeating himself.

"Yes, but what does that mean?" Sheppard shot him a hard look. "Come on Rodney, give us an idea what we might be dealing with."

With a dramatic sigh, he fell into lecture mode. "Look, organic means that to a certain degree it is alive. Everyone with me so far?" He shot a look around the room, daring someone to interrupt. When no one did, he snorted and continued. "We can't fly the hive ships because they don't recognize us, in the same way the Wraith can't use Ancient devices because they don't have the gene. If some imbecile decided to try to cross them, they would have to incorporate both a gene component and a living one. Now, the reason I wouldn't let the fools who proposed it to me try any cross-technology of their own is because in every simulation the Wraith component overwhelmed the Ancient one, with a variety of results. One had the city sunk back into the ocean, another had us all being sucked into the Wraith mind-meld, etc. So the lesson for the day: Ancient and Wraith don't mix."

"Wait, how could cross technologies pull them into the group mind?" Sheppard had leaned forward, intent, trying to make what Rodney was saying gel in his head.

"Kavenaugh was trying to mix it with our communications systems," he let the disgust show on his face. "Any time someone would attempt to use a comm., they would have gotten the Wraith instead."

"Not a good idea," Ronon rumbled.

"No, Captain Caveman. Not a good idea at all." Rodney rolled his eyes. "I, of course, pointed that out to him and he ran back to his cronies to cry about being mistreated. I swear that man is going to make me kill him one day."

"Rodney, focus!"

"You don't have to take that tone with me Sheppard." He huffed a bit and continued to fiddle determined this time, not to be the first to break the silence. He lasted all of three seconds.

"Ok, look, I need to get to this base and check it out. I can't really give you much more than idle speculation right now, which, while fascinating and almost always right, doesn't really get anything accomplished. Go bat your eyes at the pretty girl and find out where this thing is."

"McKay…" Sheppard's voice had dropped several octaves and came out more as a growl.

"You can chant my name all you like Colonel, but you won't have much luck seducing me like you do the women. Now, go make yourself useful."

After a hard stare and what looked like several attempts to think of something clever to say, Sheppard rose and went to the door. Rodney made sure to smirk at his back the whole way. Honestly, when would the man realize he was never going to win a verbal sparring match with the smartest man in two galaxies?


As the group hiked through the woods, Ronon Dex listened. He quickly identified the sounds of his team and their guides – and really, you would think Sheppard at least could move through a forest without sounding like a pack of large animals. He would never have survived as a Runner.

Once he knew what sounds they were making, he ignored them and turned his attention outwards. He knew the people of that village would not have simply given up looking for them. His shoulders prickled a bit, his only warning.

"Down!" He shouted into the quiet, pulling his gun from its holster, turning and shooting in one smooth motion. He noted almost absently the body that fell to the forest floor, a moving shadow among the still trees, even as he found his next target.

"McKay, get to the base! Run!" Sheppard barked the orders, even as he and Teyla brought their weapons up and started providing cover fire. They fell into a familiar pattern, the front shooter falling back behind and turning to cover the other two as they retreated.

Ronon hoped they had been close to this base. If they could get inside, at least there would be a chance of defending themselves. Out here, he could sense more of the enemy moving in.

"Here!" He heard McKay's shout from nearby, and sensed, more than saw, Sheppard angle their retreat in that direction.

It was a few more minutes, the bullets and energy blasts getting more thick around them, until Ronon felt ground beneath him change. It was hard, slick, compared to the spongy earth. "Sheppard, we found it." Firing blasts continuously, he covered Sheppard and Teyla as they moved inside.

"Everyone, inside the doorway!" McKay had that laptop of his out and already wired to a panel he had found. As soon as Ronon drew his arm in, a door slid out from the wall, hitting the other side with a loud clang. For a few minutes they all stood in the darkness, McKay's laptop giving off enough glow to show the scientist's face and nothing else. He was concentrating hard, on what Ronon didn't know.

"McKay…" Sheppard had turned, his voice both questioning and warning.

"Don't distract the physicist, Colonel. I'm working on it."

"Working on what, McKay?" The sound of projectiles bouncing off the doors had suddenly stopped, to be replaced by the faint sounds of someone poking around."

"Someone's trying to get in." Ronon didn't take his eyes off the door as he said it.

"There!" McKay had a note of satisfaction in his voice. As he said it, the overhead lights suddenly flickered on, and from outside Ronon heard a chorus of yelps and curses.

Before anyone could ask, McKay was talking again. "I interfaced with the system. It is similar to Atlantis, but there are some differences. I found the controls for the basic systems and," Ronon sometimes wondered how the man had survived to adulthood with those smug looks, "got the shields up."

He turned back to the door, giving it a few more heartbeats of hard looks, listening for activity outside. When he heard none, he slipped his gun back into the holster, and relaxed his muscles, staying tense enough to react, but letting the battle lust fade from his system.

He let his eyes roam over everyone, checking for injuries or signs of betraying them, at least in the two villagers huddled behind McKay. Teyla had moved to them and was speaking in a low voice, probably trying to comfort them. McKay had stood up and unplugged his machine, looking ready to move further into the base. Sheppard, he noted, had been doing the same thing he had, and when their eyes met, he gave his team leader an imperceptible nod. Sheppard nodded back.

"All right, I'll take point. Ronon, you next, and Teyla, take our Six. McKay, stay behind Ronon with Wutan and Brunnhilde. Lets be careful here people. We already know this is hostile territory, so stay alert." Sheppard started moving down the hallway as the rest took positions, not even McKay complaining. He moved slowly, weapon up and ready. Ronon drew his once more, eyes and ears alert for trouble.

Why was it he seemed to get into more trouble with these Atlanteans than he ever did as a Runner?

He had to admit, he was having way more fun though.


As the group moved into the main portion of the small base, Teyla kept herself focused. So far she had neither heard nor seen anything coming from behind them, but that did not mean nothing would come.

She took a brief moment to glance around the room, unable to suppress a shudder at the obscene room. It was as if a Wraith hive ship had merged with the Atlantis Control Room, leaching out everything good and leaving behind a almost palpable evil.

"Colonel…" She wasn't sure what she wanted to say, only wanting to express her distaste with this place.

"Okay, whoever created this was a sick bastard." Sheppard had done a full sweep of the room and returned to Rodney's side. "All right, McKay, figure out how to shut down this place, and lets get out of here."

McKay merely grunted in return, already absorbed in his data. Ronon moved to replace her at the door, and she shot him a grateful look, moving to their two guides.

"It will be all right." She sat back on her heels, bringing herself to their level where they had hunched on the ground. Wotan had his arms around Brunnhilde in a gesture that seemed far more protective than lustful. Teyla briefly wondered if perhaps she was his daughter, but let it slip away as not important right now.

"This place…" Wotan looked around, letting his voice trail off. She could almost feel his fear. Reaching out, she placed a hand on his arm. He flinched beneath her, but focused back on her.

"Doctor McKay and Colonel Sheppard know what they are doing," she sought to reassure them, bring them some measure of comfort.

Before she could say more, Rodney's voice drifted over to her, distracted, but commanding at the same time. She had to hide a slight smile, knowing he did not even realize he was doing it. "Teyla, come here for a minute?"

"Yes, Doctor McKay. I will be right there." She turned back to the pair on the floor before her. "Please stay calm. We are all here and will allow no harm to come to you." She only hoped she would be proved a liar.

When she arrived next to Rodney, he looked up, noted it was her, then glued his eyes back to the screen in front of him. "Teyla, good. Look, you can sense Wraith, right? And this place gives you the willies, right?"

"You know that I can sense Wraith presence, yes. But I do not understand 'the willies.'" She felt a confused frown cross her forehead as she tried to make sense of his words. Sometimes these Earth people still managed to confuse her with their strange phrases.

"The willies. You know, uncomfortable, like something is bad, evil, not right." He looked up again to give her a slightly annoyed look, which she ignored.

"Then, yes, I have these 'willies'. There is an evil feeling to the area, especially in this room." She felt the urge to look around again, make the sign of protection her father had taught her so many moons ago, but she resisted, keeping her features calm and curious.

"Yes, good." Rodney had gone back to being distracted.

"Ah, Rodney, why exactly is that a good thing?" Sheppard leaned over, trying to see what was on the screen. He was casually swatted away, as the scientists fingers flew across the keyboard. Suddenly, he came to a stop and gave her an intense stare."

"Has it changed now?" His gaze was unwavering, so she closed her eyes, allowing her to concentrate. "Yes." She drew the word out slightly, trying to focus on what her senses were telling her. "It is, less evil, and yet.." She stopped, opening her eyes again, and unsure how to describe it.

"As if part of the 'Wraith' portion had been turned off, with an 'Ancient' portion to replace it?" He seemed to be trying to find non-technical terms. She knew he could probably explain it better with his science language, but she would not understand it.

"That is it, but the, as you put it 'Ancient' portion does not feel right either." The feeling of 'willies' had reduced slightly, but she was still uncomfortable.

"Well, that's probably because, as our esteemed leader put it, 'whoever created this was a sick bastard.'" McKay had gone back to his laptop, already working again.

"McKay…" Sheppard, she had noted, reverted to using the scientist's last name when he was irritated, calling him by his first when he was concerned or happy. She doubted he even realized it.

"Yesyes, working here." Before Sheppard could reply, he had already turned back to Teyla. "Okay, if you feel the Wraith presence getting stronger, tell me. I'm hacking into some of the protected databases, and if I set off any traps, you'll likely be the first to know."

She suppressed another shudder at the almost casual way he said it. She knew Rodney McKay had a healthy love of his own life, but in situations like this, he had been known to put science over safety.


Rodney was amazed at the intricacies of this system. If it wasn't so colossally stupid, it would be beautiful. It was nice in an ego-boosting sort of way to know that he was smarter than at least one Ancient.

I mean, come on, he had to have known what would happen when he tried to cross the technologies! Wraith stuff was organic for goodness sake! Just because it didn't think the same way sentient beings did, didn't mean it was just going to sit there passively and let you muck it up.

From what he was able to see, that was exactly what had happened. The database showed tests going well, a satellite put into orbit just as he had thought. The trigger was an advanced control, one Rodney hadn't seen either Wraith or Ancients use before – a dense set of pressure-sensitive circuits linked together in a ring. Ingenious.

However, after that, things had started going wrong. Rodney kept scrolling through the test results, seeing more and more failures, even of things that had worked previously. Finally, he came to a rather interesting entry.

"Colonel, I think you should see this." He scrolled back to the top, moving slightly to let Sheppard get a view of the screen. He re-read the entry along with him, letting some of the details sink in that he had skimmed over the first time.

"Rodney, is this saying what I think its saying?" Sheppard's voice sounded slightly strained.

"If you think it is saying that the Wraith part of this base decided it was tired of playing with the Ancient part and simply took over all the systems then, yes." Rodney started to turn around to face him as he spoke, but was brought short by the console suddenly seeming to swallow his hand.

"What the…" Before he could say anything else, the entire console seemed to come to life, pulling him in to what was essentially a Wraith cocoon. He heard his teammates yelling something – to him? – but then there was another voice. Whispering. Convincing. Telling.

There were interlopers in his base. He could not let them hurt the Master. These people, they were here to destroy the Master. He must destroy them first.

His brothers were outside. The Evil Ones, who had taken the Ring, they had locked his brothers out. But he knew how to let them in. They would destroy these intruders; take back what they had stolen.

The cocoon retreated slightly, letting Rodney move his arms. He reached for the machine the Master said was used to hurt his brothers. One of the Evil Ones saw him move, saw his goal and snatched the prize away from him.

She would suffer!

The warmth surrounding him, sustaining him, caressing him, drew back, promising to hold him in its loving embrace for all eternity if he retrieved that which the Master desired. Longing to once more be one with his Beloved, he turned his lip up in a snarl, lunging for the witch who had taken the Master's possession.

Another of the Evil Ones grabbed him from behind, turning him around. It shouted at him, vile curses he was sure. Rage burned through him. How dare they? How dare they interfere with the Master! They would pay!

He drew what the Master told him was a weapon from a sheath on his leg. This would destroy them, kill them. They would regret this intrusion, this interference, for all eternity.

As he brought the weapon up, the Evil Ones continued to shout at him. The witch had taken the machine to the other side of the room. Another Evil One was moving behind him; this time they would not surprise him so easily. He would destroy the first, then the others.

The Evil One in front of him had its own weapon pointed at him. How DARE he threaten the chosen of the Master? He advanced, feeling the rage moving beyond all reason to comprehend.

They. Must. Die.

A loud noise rang through the sacred halls. These infidels had not only profaned the Master's home with their presence, now they had broken the perfect silence! He did not notice the pain in his leg, did not feel the warm liquid running down. He was beyond such physical concerns.

Another noise - How could they? – and now he noticed that the arm which held his weapon was dropping slowly. Growling, he advanced again, determined to destroy them. Another noise, and his other leg spouted a new hole.

Then suddenly, a new noise, a whine, and the world around him went dark.


"Why the HELL didn't you stun him sooner?" Sheppard dropped down next to Rodney, pulling out his med kit to try and stop the bleeding. He glared at Ronon as he did.

"Didn't have a clear shot." The Sateadan shrugged. "You were doing okay."

"I had to shoot him!"

Teyla had moved over to them, herding the terrified Wotan and Brunnhilde before her. "Is he okay Colonel Sheppard?"

"I tried to hit non-vital areas, but I shot him THREE times. The idiot wouldn't stop advancing. It was like he didn't even feel them!"

"Just before he was pulled in to the console, I felt the Wraith portion of this base became much stronger. Even now, it is watching us, and it is very angry, Colonel."

"Yeah, well, I'm pretty pissed right now myself." Sheppard had efficiently wrapped the three wounds, then stood up. "Ronon, watch him. If he so much as twitches until we figure this out, stun him again. If I have to shoot him again to stop him, you're getting one too."

Ronon just grunted, and moved in to guard position over McKay.

"Everyone else, stay clear of the Console of Death over there." He took the laptop, flicking it open and trying to make sense of what Rodney had uncovered. After a few minutes, he gave up.

"All right, Plan A didn't work. On to Plan B." He pulled his gun back up.

"Colonel Sheppard? What do you intend to do?" Teyla was looking at the gun a bit warily.

"This consciousness or whatever is just a machine right? Well, in my experience, machines don't work very well with holes in them." Before anyone could stop him, he opened fire on the now-writhing console.

For a moment there was nothing.

Then a shriek, part living part mechanical, ripped through the room. All of them fell to their knees, grabbing at the sides of their heads. John forced himself to let go of his head and pull the P-90 up again. As he fired, he saw the sparks of bullets hitting metal, but he also saw the sickening splash of bullets spilling blood. Or something close to blood.

After a few more seconds, suddenly the shrieking stopped, taking with it the lights and other systems. For a few heartbeats, no one moved or said anything. He felt around on the floor around him, fingers finally finding the laptop. Flicking it open, he turned it around, using it as a make-shift flash-light.

"Everyone okay?" John managed to get to his knees, using the light of the computer to find the actual flashlight hooked to his vest. Once he had it, he used it to sweep the area, studying the damage.

"I believe so Colonel Sheppard." Teyla rose up from where she had moved protectively over their guests. Ronon rolled to his feet near Rodney, who was still down for the count.

From down the hall, they heard a clanking noise, metal hitting metal.

"Sheppard. We have company." Ronon was already moving to the door, gun drawn.

Muttering a curse under his breath, John leaned over and hitched Rodney up on his shoulders. "Teyla, go take point with Ronon. I'll bring up the rear and Rodney, Wotan and Brunnhilde. Try not to kill any of them if you don't have to."

With a nod, she moved quickly to the door. John looked at the terrified pair still on the floor nearby. "Look, we need to get out of here. Whatever this thing was, I think its pretty safe to say its dead now." He gestured with his free hand to the console, which was oozing what still looked disturbingly like blood.

"Colonel Sheppard!" Teyla's voice drifted back to them, jerking him towards the door. "Now! Move!" He used his 'command voice', which had the desired effect. It wasn't long before they caught up, and he expected the worst.

He was pleasantly surprised at what he found.


Ronon rounded the corner, weapon drawn, ready to fight the villagers to the death if necessary. In the half-second before he started firing, he noted that most of them had dropped their weapons at some point, and the few who still had one let the crude guns dangle limply from their fingers.

What the hell?

He managed to stop himself from shooting them, skidding to a halt from the full run he had been in seconds before. Instead of crying out, or attacking, the group shuffled past him, moaning, many with tears running down their cheeks.

Again, what the HELL?

Teyla came up next to him quietly, the only reason he knew it was her in the dim light was the lack of moaning.

She looked around at the villagers, and seemed to make a decision. "Colonel Sheppard!" She called back, her hands still on her weapon, ready, but not worried at the moment.

Before either of them could say anything more, Sheppard came around the corner, McKay flung over his shoulder, with Wotan and Brunnhilde right behind him. He looked ready to battle, but, like Ronon had, he skidded to a halt at the sight of the mindless creatures trying to get past him.

"Okay, who invited the zombies?" Ronon had no idea what Sheppard meant, but assumed it was another Earth thing. They had some weird ideas sometimes.

"I think they invited themselves." He was still hesitating on killing them all or putting away the gun. They weren't really a threat now, but these were the same men who had been shooting at them not too long ago. Best not to take chances.

A stern look from Teyla, however, and he reluctantly put it back in its holster, loose so he could get it again quickly if necessary. He swore the woman could read minds sometimes.

"What now?" He looked at Sheppard, content for the moment to let the other man lead again.

Sheppard seemed to be weighing the odd behavior of the villagers against the need to get Rodney into Doctor Beckett's care. The field dressings were holding – Sheppard had been careful not to hit anything vital – and the man was still unconscious for the moment under the influence of the stunner.

"Right. Ronon, take McKay out to the entrance and wait for us there. If any more villagers want to come in, don't stop them unless they seem dangerous. Stay in radio contact, and if Rodney wakes up and is himself let me know. If he wakes up and goes berserk again, keep him asleep." While talking, Sheppard had shifted the scientist to Ronon. He grunted a little – the man was heavier than he looked.

"Brunnhilde, go with him. Teyla, you and Wotan are with me." He turned and headed back toward the control room, a leery Wotan and alert Teyla right behind.

Ronon turned to the young woman who was now standing very close to him. He could feel her trembling. "Lets go." They got back out into the night air, which seemed sweet after the musty, dank smell of the base. Wraith stink mixed with the sharp smell of metal he associated with the Ancestors.

Dropping McKay to the ground, he made himself comfortable. She fidgeted for a moment, then settled on checking the injured man's wounds and dressings, making sure they were secure and he wasn't bleeding too much.

Ronon settled against a tree that gave him views of both the base entrance and the surrounding woods. He could hear other people moving towards them, but they were making no attempt to hide, making the same moaning noises the others had.

He hoped Sheppard didn't take too long. This place was starting to creep him out.


There was not much in two galaxies that could make John Sheppard, Lieutenant Colonel in the US Air Force, uncomfortable. Wary, yes. Scared as hell, sure. But uncomfortable in that what-the-hell-is-going-on kind of way? Not so much.

Villagers who tried to kill him turning into a bad re-enactment of "Night of the Living Dead", well, that was fast rising to the top of the weird-shit-o-meter.

When they arrived back in the control room, the men had gathered around the still-bleeding console. Their moans had turned into a keening wail, creepy and disturbing at the same time.

"Teyla, can you still feel the Wraith presence you felt earlier?"

She looked startled for a moment. "No, actually I cannot. It is as if it is gone."

"As if it had been shot and was now being mourned by creepy zombie people?"

"I do not know what zombie people are, Colonel Sheppard, but yes, I believe the presence disappeared when you disabled the panel controlling Doctor McKay."

Right. Good. So now what?

The moans and wailing suddenly changed as they stood there trying to figure out what was going on. Alberich walked in, desperation, fear and grief staining his features, although he didn't seem disabled by it as the others were.

John held up his hand, signaling his group to stay quiet. The villagers had brought candles, decorating the room with stuttering light. They drew back into the shadows, watching, waiting.

After a few moments of mourning in front of the dead Wraith-Ancient monster thing – John would name it later – Alberich stood and turned to face the crowd.

"The Master is dead." The wail increased, rising to almost painful levels. He looked around, and for a second, John thought his eyes would pass right over his team.

"Murderers!" Seeing them seemed to fire the fanatic up, and he suddenly lunged across the open space. John raised his P-90 in an automatic motion, taking aim and firing at the incoming threat without really stopping to think about it.

He had been aiming for a shoulder, hoping to incapacitate without killing. He didn't anticipate the jerky, erratic movements his target would make as he dodged around the assembled mourning party. The shot missed its mark. It hit his head instead.

With a gurgle, momentum carrying him forward, Alberich toppled over, falling heavily at John's feet. Shit. Next to him, he felt Teyla tense, ready to retreat and provide cover fire if the natives decided to get restless.

But before anyone could do anything, Wotan stepped up from behind John, holding his hand up. "Your former leader led you astray!" The voice which had been quiet and tentative suddenly boomed, filling the chamber, and silencing all other sounds.

A glint of gold winked in the candlelight from his aloft hand.

"Behold the Ring you all worship and fear! You were told to believe it granted great powers and dominion! But you were misled! This place, this creature you called leader," he nudged Alberich with his toe, "Were nothing more than lies."

John tried to control his shock at the sudden change. He felt Teyla grow more tense, and a quick glance back showed she was as stunned as he was.

Wotan turned to John, his voice quieter, his expression pleading. "Please, I am sorry I was forced to mislead you. I stole the Ring along with Brunnhilde's help. We had no choice, Alberich was destroying our people. When you arrived, Brunnhilde observed you, noted that you were familiar with the technology of the Ancestors. Please," he saw John's eyes going from shock to something harder. "please give me the chance to explain."

John rapidly considered all his options, and was weighing heavily on cutting his losses and running. It was Teyla's quiet voice from behind him that changed his mind. "I believe we should hear him out. Perhaps he will have information to help Doctor McKay."

Rodney. Shit. He had almost forgotten.

He let his mistrust and distaste at being lied to show in his features. "Fine. You have the walk back to the gate to explain."

With that he turned and started leaving, hoping Wotan would suddenly sick his new followers on them.

"Come," the man boomed once more. "Let us leave this evil place!"

Behind them, John heard the shuffle of lots of feet. This could go wrong in so many ways.

They finally found the entrance, and John was a bit shocked to note how light it was. It was dawn already. Ronon stood from where he was leaning against a tree, and John absently noted that he had his gun drawn and pointed at McKay.

Stupid, stubborn scientist didn't even have the sense to stay unconscious when he was possessed by whacked-out Wraith-Ancient living technology monsters.

Shaking his head, John bent down and got Rodney back on his shoulders. "We're leaving. Now."

He vaguely heard Wotan speaking with Brunnhilde, then the man turned and joined them, the rest of the villagers following her back in the direction of their homes.


Teyla wasn't sure why, but she trusted Wotan, trusted his sincerity. She did not think he would try to cross them. Had he wanted to harm them, he had ample opportunity already.

As they walked, she divided her attention, staying alert just in case her instincts were wrong, but paying attention to the conversation as well.

Wotan explained that everything he had told them before they left for the base had been true. The only thing he had left out was the identity of himself as the Ring thief, and the fact that he had been snooping a bit and determined that the base was the source of all their problems.

With John making non-committal noises, the older man finished filling in the holes from his previous story as the Stargate came into view on the hill.

"I had no choice. Colonel Sheppard," he was pleading for understanding. "I knew you were the only ones who could help us, but I didn't know if you would be willing to if we just asked. I realize that was a mistake, but I was desperate. I am sorry your friend was injured, I did not intend for that to happen. Please believe me."

Teyla saw John make up his mind. Saw the slight softening around his mouth that indicated he was accepting this as truth. She let her own muscles relax in an almost imperceptible shift.

"Look, I understand. I'm not happy but…" His eyes drifted to Rodney, still out on the Colonel's shoulder.

Wotan saw the gesture as well, letting his own eyes drift to the unconscious scientist. "If it helps at all, while I have never seen anyone so totally consumed by the one they called Master, I did manage to capture several of my fellows and interrogate them, many months ago before you came. That is where I learned much of what I know about the creature that controlled them." He hesitated, then continued.

"All of the men I held, after several days away from both the Ancestor's base and Alberich's Ring, began to get sick. They became incoherent and ran very high fevers. Brunnhilde tended to them, but they all died within short order. I do no know why, but you have said that great medicine is one of the things you wished to trade. With the death of the Master, I do not doubt that its hold will fade in time, but those who were most effected could be in danger."

He hesitated again, then pulled the Ring off his finger and pressed it into John's free hand. "Perhaps this will ease his pain. When he is recovered, please, destroy it. That evil has no place here."

Another hesitation, then without another word he turned and began the walk back to the village.

They all watched him go for a minute, then what he had told them sunk in. "Teyla," John's voice was now sharp. "Dial the gate."


Carson Beckett, chief medical officer for Atlantis, no longer paid any attention to the noises that accompanied an incoming wormhole. Some part of his brain noted them, then filed the sound away while the rest of him stay focused at whatever task he was currently engaged in.

Unless, of course, those alarms were accompanied by the call over his radio that never failed to send his stomach plummeting down into his toes: "Medical team to the Gate room."

He jumped up, the nurses who were on duty at the moment jumping into action as well. He was out the door with his basic kit, knowing they would follow shortly with a gurney and additional emergency equipment.

When he arrived, he saw John's team coming through the gate, an unconscious figure draped over the Colonel's shoulder. His eyes quickly noted who was standing and who wasn't. Rodney.

Then his medical training kicked in. He had the physicist on the floor, listening and John gave them a quick summary of what had happened. He got the make-shift bandages off the bullet wounds just as his nurses arrived. With their help, he got the heavy body up onto the gurney, and started the long run back to the infirmary, the rest of the team trailing him, minus John. The part of his brain not focused on cataloging injuries noted that the team leader was probably giving Elizabeth a slightly longer version of the story. He had no doubt he would have the full set before too long.

Motioning to one of the nurses who wasn't involved in stripping Rodney and getting him hooked up to various pieces of equipment, he made arrangements for someone else to give the rest of the team their post-mission checks. He generally did them himself, but he didn't want to wait in case there were more injuries they were ignoring in favor of Rodney's more serious ones.

He arrived as they finished prepping, and began to note all of the readings. Before he could get too far, however, Rodney's eyes flew open, pupils highly dilated. With an odd keening noise, he suddenly started to struggle, no recognition in his face, only fear and…hatred?

Ronon and Teyla were suddenly next to him, having heard the commotion. "We must restrain him! He is not himself!" Teyla had taken one leg when a nurse had been kicked across the room, Ronon shouldering the other nurse aside to grab his other leg.

Carson stood in shock for only a few second before reaching for the restraints that hung loose on the sides of the bed. Quickly, efficiently, he had Rodney securely strapped to the bed, fighting to get free.

Once he couldn't thrash anymore, another IV was quickly set up, and Carson got a tranquilizer flowing. Another few minutes and the figure on the bed was still. Ronon and Teyla released him and stepped back, concern written all over their faces.

"I think you had better tell me what's going on." Carson had a feeling he wasn't going to like this.


Elizabeth Weir sat by the bed of he chief science officer, who was tied securely to it, leather straps tight across his arms, legs, and chest. Over the past several days he had experienced what Carson called acute withdraw. Any time the tranquilizers were eased up, he began to struggle. One restraint not secured correctly had given way, and John now sported a terrific black eye received while trying to hold him back down.

They were monitoring everything possible – Carson had told them in the morning meeting that he finally thought he had isolated the rogue energy wave in his brain scans, and they were trying a lot of things Elizabeth didn't even pretend to understand to eliminate it. The only good news was that it was slowly fading on its own, which meant if they could keep his body from going into shock, he would probably be okay.

She had sent her chief medical officer off to bed for a few hours, knowing he hadn't really slept since Rodney was brought in. Another attempt to reduce the level of tranquilizers was scheduled for later than afternoon, and she wanted him alert and focused, not bogged down with sleep deprivation.

She heard a noise behind her, and turned slightly to see Teyla coming in. The graceful warrior moved to the other side of Rodney's bed. Resting her hand on his arm in much the same way Elizabeth was.

After a nod of greeting and a few minutes of silence, each woman lost in her own thoughts, Teyla finally spoke. "Doctor Beckett believes the alterations to his brain are finally beginning to fade. It is possible he will not need to be kept unconscious for much longer."

"I hope so, Teyla, I hope so." She refrained from adding that they all needed him too much, that knowing he wasn't there to offer a sarcastic counterpoint to meetings and save the day made the world seem a little more evil, a little darker. She didn't want to know what Atlantis would be like without her primary translator there to smooth the way.


Slowly the darkness eased. He kept still, cataloging the sounds around him. There were life forms nearby, he could sense them close, although the presence of the Master was no longer there, comforting him, guiding him.

Beeps. Pings. The hiss of breath being drawn in and pushed out. What Hell was this?

Infirmary, a corner of his mind whispered. Home. Atlantis. That rogue consciousness pushed forward, taking control for a moment, opening his eyes. Several people were gathered around. One saw the flutter of eyelashes, and in a strange accent – Scottish? How did he know that word? – called to the others.

"Colonel Sheppard, Elizabeth, he's awake." Turning back to him, the man continued to speak. "Rodney? Can you hear me lad?"

Rodney? What was that? Me? No. I am the Instrument of the Master.

He surged forward, needing to know, only to be pulled down by some sort of restraints around his body, holding him down.

The rage obliterated the other in his head. He would destroy them.

He roared, pulling taking fierce satisfaction at the fear that sprang up in the eyes of the one who had spoken. He pulled back, another man taking his place.

He knew this one.

This is the one who had tried to destroy the Master. He was the one who must pay!

No! That was John. Colonel Sheppard! "Colonel…" he got out before anger took over again. He continued to struggle, straining against the bonds that held him. He must kill them all.

"Rodney, fight it! That thing injected some sort of chemical into your brain! You have to fight it!" The one – John? – was standing in front of him, yelling at him. He hissed, feeling the other mind again, stronger this time.

"Help…." No! He would not allow himself to be set aside! He must kill!

Suddenly the one in the white coat, the first man, was back again, pushing something into his arm. He tried to twist, to fight off the intrusion – HOW DARE THEY! – but felt the anger fading, felt the other getting stronger.

For the moment.

"John. Carson." He rasped out. "Help. Anger. Kill you…" Then the darkness took him once more.


"What the hell was that?" John Sheppard had Carson Beckett pushed against a wall. "You said the drug or whatever was fading! That he would be fine!"

"John." Elizabeth had moved to him, resting her hand on his arm, her eyes urging him to back off.

"Aye, lad. The chemical is fading, but apparently is still strong enough to have dominate control." Carson looked haggard, tired, the circles under his eyes deep and dark.

John forced himself to back up a pace, give the other man some breathing room when what he really wanted to do was hurt something. Someone. But it wasn't Carson's fault. He kept that in the front of his mind. "What do you mean, dominate?"

"When you brought him in, he didn't speak, didn't give any indication that he knew who we were or where he was. All he had was that anger. This time…" He trailed off for a moment, letting his gaze drift to the once-more unconscious form strapped to the bed. "Anyway, this time, he spoke, he recognized us. From the radical shifts in personality, as quick as they were, I'd say we're dealing with two different people trapped in one body."

"You're saying Rodney has some kind of multiple-personality syndrome?" Elizabeth had moved back over to look at Rodney, not glancing up as she spoke.

"Aye, lass, that's pretty close. And they are fighting for control. Hopefully as the chemical continues to fade our Rodney can beat it, but…" He trailed off once again, and John fought the urge to shake the man.

"So basically," he ground out between his clenched teeth, repeating over and over that pounding the chief medical officer into the floor wouldn't solve anything and would, in fact, probably make things worse, "All we can do it wait and see?"

Carson expression was understanding. "Aye."


The darkness once more faded to grey, and this time, Rodney McKay knew immediately he was in the infirmary in Atlantis. He could hear the rustle of fabric nearby, the Gaelic mutters a clear indication of who it was.

"Car-son?" He choked it out, the words feeling unfamiliar in his mouth, as if a part of him resisted speech. That part of him was angry. Why?


That wasn't Carson. That was… "John?"

"Yeah. How ya feeling buddy?" The Colonel's face hovered into view above him. A surge of rage, hatred ran through him as the familiar features came into focus. After a brief moment, however it was gone. Sheppard must have seen something though. "Rodney?"

He ignored the question, instead trying to piece together what had happened. Why was he in the infirmary? Why did he hurt so much? "What happened?"

The lazy, deceptive smile ghosted over the Colonel's lips. That wasn't good. He only used that smile when trying to impress beautiful natives or tell someone everything was fine when really the world was about to end. And since he didn't think he qualified as a beautiful native… "Oh my God. I'm dying."

Carson huffed, joining the conversation before Sheppard had a chance to answer. "Why is it you always think you're dying? You get a splinter and the world is ending." The fond exasperation did more to ease his mind that any protestations that he was just fine would have done. Carson couldn't lie to save his precious sheep.

John shot the doctor a glance Rodney couldn't read – traitor, he is going to try to kill me! I must kill him first! – then looked back. "You've just had a rough mission, Rodney."

What the..? Where were these thoughts coming from? Rodney frowned slightly, trying to pin down what was wrong. He tried to raise his hand to help him think, only to get jerked back. Restraints?

"Aye," was Carson reading minds now? "Lad, those are necessary for now. Until we're sure you're back to yourself at least."

"Back to myself?" Rodney tried to raise himself up a bit, suddenly chaffing at the restraints he hadn't even noticed a few moments before. "What, exactly, is wrong with me?"

"You sorta kinda got taken over by a hostile alien presence." John was looking closely at him, trying to gauge his reaction. "You tried to kill the team. Ronon had to stun you to get you home."

"WHAT?" Rodney sat up as straight as he could, disbelief all over his face. Surely he would have remembered something like that! "Look, I feel fine. Can you at least let me have one hand?" He pulled at one of the restraints. He always thought better when he could move.

Carson hesitated, then, after some sort of unspoken voodoo passed between him and Sheppard, he reached over and untied Rodney's right hand. With relief, he finally scratched a non-existent itch on his nose. Nothing like being tied down to make you think you itched.

He tried to piece together what he remembered. The rapid villagers? Check. The creepy base? Check. The…

The anger surged again as Carson stepped closer to check his IV. Rodney watched in horror as his hand closed around the doctor's neck, pushing him down. He heard Sheppard shout, felt someone pulling at his arm.

He fought the compulsion, his mind screaming at his hand, telling it to stop. Then, without warning, the rage was gone, all at once. He dropped his hand, the deep red mark on Carson's neck as he scrambled up was vivid even in the dim light of the infirmary.

"Carson… I'm sorry… I don't know…" Then, as if that anger had burned through every bit of energy he had, he slipped once more into the welcoming darkness.


It had been a long couple of weeks. John Sheppard was exhausted, but at least he could finally rest. Today, finally, Rodney had been released with a clean bill of health. His self-aborted attempt to strangle Carson had been the last flare up of the other personality.

Between the dungeon, rescue, base, then Rodney's little problem, John didn't think he had gotten more than an hour or two of rest at any given time since stepping through the Stargate for P3X-987. Add to that the difficulties they had destroying the damn ring Wotan had pushed on them. He had finally taken it in a jumper, flown out to the remotest, deepest part of the ocean he could find, and dropped it out the back hatch.

He collapsed on his bed, face down, letting his muscles start to release. Just as he was starting to drift off to sleep, his door chimed.


Couldn't people just leave him alone for a few hours? Let him sleep? I mean, he had just nursed one of his team back from insanity, couldn't a guy get a break?

He debated ignoring it, but whoever was there was persistent, so he finally forced himself up and over the door.

Rodney was standing there, a screwdriver in his hand, the locking mechanism to John's door already pried off.

"Oh, hi." He said, looking up at John. "It's about time."

"Rodney." John wavered between laughter and exasperation for a moment before giving in to laughter. It was good to have Rodney back to normal. "What the hell are you doing?"

"Well, ah, you see…" Rodney fidgeted for a moment, looking uncomfortable, before just blurting it out, his words coming fast, tumbling over each other. "I'm sorry! Look, I just wanted to say sorry. I don't really remember much of what happened, but I guess I attacked you and ah.. Sorry."

He looked at John for a moment, who was a bit too surprised to respond. I mean, how often did you get an apology from Doctor Rodney McKay, genius of the known universe?

Taking his silence as an accusation, Rodney took and deep breath and continued. "Look, I know I made a mis…mis... I just should have known that thing might be dangerous and took precautions."

"Rodney, are you actually admitting you screwed up?" John wanted to relish this for another few minutes. It didn't happen often.

He got a disgusted look for his efforts, mixed with a bit of guilt, so he decided to let up. "Look, there was nothing you could have done. We didn't know, and hey, I SHOT you, so I think that makes us even."

Rodney's eyes got wide. "YOU'RE the one who shot me! Three times! You could have permanently damaged me! I take it all back."

"You were attacking us! I made sure I didn't hit anything vital!"

"You shot me. With your gun! And I bet you enjoyed it!"

At that, John couldn't help himself, he doubled over, letting laughter claim him. Rodney gave an irritated snort, made a few comments about sadistic military minds, then stalked off, no doubt off to terrorize the labs after his long absence.

It was good to know everything was back to normal. At least until the next mission.