Carson Beckett rubbed the back of his neck, digging at the tension locked around base of his skull. Balancing the tablet in his other hand, he walked and read, nearly colliding with Marie.
"I found it," she exclaimed, trading her tablet for his.
“A’acatin," he pronounced carefully, reading the description presented on the screen. "You're sure this is it?"
"The Genii sent over samples of the root," she confirmed. "I had Dr. Dayer run them against every plant in the database. This is it."
Skipping over the basics, Carson scrolled through the history and biology of the plant's root, confirmed the symptoms were the same as what he'd been told, then searched for any mentions of cures or counter actions.
"It says here the Ancients found the chemical compound in the plant's root was a fantastic holistic pain-killer," he summarized.
"In small doses," Marie confirmed. "In larger doses the chemical was found to alter short term memory, breaking the connection between the memory and recall. Patients are left with holes in their memories, stretching anywhere from a few hours to a few days."
Carson kept reading. The drawback to using the root was the length of time it took to clear the blood. A single use was harmless, perfect for emergency survival or if no other solution was available. But back to back use left a build up of the compound in the blood stream, turning the helpful painkiller into a poisonous toxin circulating through the body.
If the user didn't allow the proper length of time between uses it caused an overdose, starting with incapacitating headaches and peaking with permanent memory loss. The list of symptoms increased with every dose taken. Without the proper cleansing period between doses, the affects of toxin multiplied. The longer the use, the less chance there was to ever return from the abyss. The only constant throughout the Ancient’s research was the length of time the poison needed before it was irreversible.
Carson re-read the last paragraph of the database entry. The Ancients had created a compound that would counter-act the poison of the root—an antidote that would dilute and dissolve the toxic buildup—but it was only found to work if the patient hadn't crossed the seventy-two-hour deadline, and it had to be administered within twenty-four hours of the last dose. If they waited any longer, the antidote wouldn't work.
"Didn't Rodney say they believe Jennifer made it out of the village sometime last night?" he asked.
Marie nodded. "Only we don't know exactly when. Or how much she's even had to begin with."
There were too many unknowns! Jennifer had been gone longer than three days. If she'd been given the root since the start...
Marie's expression revealed the thought was also worrying her. "Dr. Dayer started working on the antidote, just in case.”
"Yes. Of course." Letting the unanswered questions fall aside, Carson concentrated on the details he could gather. "How much more time does he need?"
Fifteen minutes wasn't nearly enough time to plan for the what-ifs, but if it was all he had to work with, it would have to be enough. He stepped past the nurse and headed into the corridor. "Contact me the moment it's ready," he called over his shoulder.
"Where are you going," Marie asked.
"I need to make a phone call."
John walked into the open clearing and stopped dead. Evan, Teyla, and Laura paused beside him, all eyes on a long line of bodies strewn through the grassy field. Several lumps were unmoving, a few moaned, and one was unsuccessfully trying to drag himself into the foliage alongside the trail.
"Aww, isn’t that sweet? Ronon left us a bread-crumb trail," Laura said, gleefully.
John started forward, pausing to check the first body for a pulse. The man was breathing, but from the bloodied look of him, he was going to be in a hell of a lot of pain when he woke up. He stepped over the villager and continued forward.
Half way through the carnage they had to step around the hulking girth of a pair of very large men who were half lying on top of each other in a twisted mess of blood and broken body parts.
"Not much of a fair fight," Evan muttered.
"For them?" Laura asked, swinging her arm across the carnage. "Or Ronon?"
John moved further down the body-trail, making a beeline for the only villager who was physically moving. A dark-haired man wearing torn and bloody overalls was dragging himself beneath a cluster of leafy ferns.
John grabbed the man’s ankle and yanked him back onto the open.
"Please," the man begged, wheezing through the blood that trailed down his face from his broken nose and split forehead. He crawled backwards, dragging his broken leg until he was cowered up against the trunk of a tree. "It wasn't me. I didn't take her. It's Tomas you want. Tomas took her."
"Where?" John demanded.
"The village." The man pointed through the trees. "He took her back to the village."
"We'd better get a move on." John urged the others forward. "Before Ronon destroys the entire town."
Laura started to follow, paused, then turned back to the man on the ground. She leaned down and smashed her fist into his jaw. The man toppled over into the dirt and lay still.
John sighed. "Lieutenant..."
Laura hurried to catch up to them. "Didn't want him to sound the alarm?"
"More like you didn't want Ronon to have all the fun," Evan countered, grabbing her hand and double checking she didn’t re-injure it.
Laura grinned. "I admit nothing."
Tomas lifted his chin over the embarrassment of having to carry Calara into the village square and faced Thea's disapproval head on. After all, it wasn't entirely his fault his future wife fainted. Thea and her soup were at the top of the list of reasons. Not Tomas.
"Well it's about time," Thea called out, turning away from the group of men she was giving new orders to. "You have no idea the trouble this one has caused."
"I am well aware of the issue," Tomas argued.
Thea waved one of the men forward. "Jak, take Calara to the cellar," she ordered. "And make sure this time she is unable to leave."
Tomas almost argued with Thea about putting Calara in the windowless storage bunker below the store, but bit back his comment. Thea was angry enough. No need to make her more-so. Truth be told, the cellar was as close to a permanent lockup as they had in the village. There was absolutely no way Calara could disappear from a rock walled hole in the ground.
He handed Calara over to Jak, scowling when the farmer flopped Calara across his shoulder like a seed sack.
"Carefully," Tomas ordered.
Jak walked away without commenting. Tomas waited until he could no longer see his soon-to-be wife before turning back to the village leader.
"Two more have followed your wife's example and left," Thea snapped.
Tomas gaped at Thea. "What? Who!"
Thea tipped her head towards the man on her left. "Hick's wife is gone. She hasn't been seen since breakfast."
Tomas immediately pictured the headstrong redhead Thea had gifted to the young man. Hick's wife ruled his house with an iron fist, and Hick was perfectly happy to let her do so. It was no wonder the woman left. She probably tired of having a weak-minded husband.
"Who was the second," Tomas asked.
Hick stepped forward. "She took Mina with her."
Tomas felt the weight of the name bow his spine. Mina belonged to Codder, and Codder took his possessions very seriously. If Thea felt it necessary to place the blame for Mina's disappearance with someone, then that person was due an excruciating amount of pain. Since Thea was glaring directly at him, Tomas had a sickening feeling he was going to be the one Codder came after.
Unless he could find a reason to avoid it.
He puffed out his chest and turned on Hick. "What have you done to find your wife? My task has been completed. Why are you still here?"
Hick shifted his weight from one foot to the other. "Thea needed us here."
Thea waved Hick away. "Go then. Find your wife. And you'd best be bringing the child back with you as well."
Hick didn't wait for any further instructions. He herded the other two men along with him across the square.
Thea turned on Tomas. "You're lucky you think well on your feet, Tomas. Codder is going to be very angry about Mina. You had better hope Hick finds them both. And quickly."