Chapter 1: Collision
Chapter 1 – Collision
The first time I woke up was to the unsettling sound of metal screeching against metal while I was trying to get a hold on something, anything. A heavy smell of burnt plastic was hanging in the air that was only partly able to wash over the smells of blood and panic. I realized too late what we’ve actually been facing. I had passed out for a few seconds or so, enough time to let go of whatever I was holding on to.
The second impact, the one that I had to face now, was hard. The forces of physics threw me all the way from one wall to the opposite wall without giving me a bit of a chance to grab whatever passed my way. When I smashed against the wall, I passed out again.
The second time I woke up in this incredible mess, I found myself being trapped under a heap of rubble. I tried to check myself and was partly relieved that I still felt every part of my body. Everything hurt and felt as if my whole body was one huge bruise, but I knew that as long as I could feel all my limbs, not all hope was lost.
After finally having come to this conclusion, I suddenly realized the silence all around me. Before I had passed out, there had been people in here. Many of them. I remembered the impact and the forces it had let loose. Every fibre of me tried not to think of the possibility that everyone around me was dead. I kept telling myself that they were just unconscious while I brought up every little bit of strength inside my bruised body to move the rubble that was covering me. I failed, of course.
‘Goddammit’ I muttered to myself and fell back. There was not the slightest chance to move anything from my position. My legs were stuck under a huge piece of metal and the blood all around spoke a very clear language of several injuries that I wasn’t even aware of yet. I couldn’t even see all parts of my body, because there was so much rubble around, covering me. Thanks to the amounts of adrenaline in my system I luckily didn’t feel all too much pain. Yet.
Suddenly, when I didn’t even hope anything would happen anymore and thought that my life would end here, I saw a little bit of movement right beside my left shoulder. I turned my head as far as I was able to and felt a tiny bit of relief. There were long, slender, grey fingers poking around, and just a moment later I heard a voice from outside the mess I was stuck in.
‘Dr Talvi, can you hear me?’
This was definitely the voice of Hermiod, our Asgard engineer, and it fit, because the hand was obviously his, too.
‘Yeah’, I mumbled, my voice low and hoarse, ‘Can you get me out of here?’
The hand of the alien rested on my shoulder for a moment as if he tried to comfort me. It was almost funny imagining Hermiod comforting someone, because by now he had acted like an asshole most of the time. At least whenever he had let himself down to even talk to any of the human engineers. Still, this was better than nothing at all, so I was thankful.
‘The ceiling caved in.’ Hermiod informed me. ‘Your current situation is that I don’t know if it’s possible to move any of those pieces of metal.’
‘Crap.’ I cursed.
There was a while of awkward silence while Hermiod’s hand was still lying on my shoulder. I managed to move my right hand from somewhere under a piece of metal and put it over his. He flinched, surprised, but didn’t move.
‘Anyone else out there?’ I finally dared to ask. Part of me didn’t even want to know, but I had to be sure.
‘No.’ Hermiod said after a few seconds, seemingly figuring out whether it was a good idea to tell me the truth. ‘The few who had survived the first impact had run out of engineering in panic as long as it was still possible.’
‘And what about you?’ I wanted to know after having taken a few seconds to digest the information.
‘I only have a few bruises, but otherwise I’m alright.’ He said, hesitating, and it sounded like a lie.
‘I was stuck behind my console.’ He went on. ‘But in the moment of panic all around nobody thought of…’ He trailed off.
‘…of looking back if anyone’s left behind.’ I completed his sentence, squeezing his hand.
It was an odd feeling lying underneath the remnants of the ceiling and holding on to an alien’s hand, but I was glad he was there, keeping me from losing my nerve in all this mess.
‘What happened?’ I finally asked. ‘Why were there those two impacts in the first place?’
‘The Daedalus suddenly dropped out of hyperspace without a reason.’ Hermiod reported. ‘It wasn’t possible to avoid crashing on the planet that appeared in front of us. The ship hit the ground heavily, moved forward driven by inertia and crashed against an obstacle full front. I couldn’t do anything.’
The normally so cold and distant voice of the Asgard shivered when he spoke the last part. I realized that he felt guilty for what had happened.
‘Nobody is actually able to keep a ship from crashing onto a planet that appears right in front of it when dropping out of hyperspace.’ I reassured him. ‘It’s not your fault, Hermiod.’
He remained silent for a while but didn’t move an inch. I took the chance to process everything I’ve come to know. Of course there was always the odds of hitting a planet when dropping out of hyperspace, that’s why those calculations were so difficult. I knew that the Asgard core of the Daedalus’s computer system was a very advanced machine that didn’t make mistakes out of the blue, especially not when an experienced engineer like Hermiod was running it. We could consider it good luck that we hadn’t ended up inside of the planet, so this was a bad case but definitely not the worst case possible.
‘Would you mind trying to help me get out of here?’ I asked after I had put my train of thought to a forced hold. I didn’t want to hang around here doing nothing while there were maybe still people aboard the ship who might need help.
The slender grey hand disappeared and I heard Hermiod taking a few steps back, obviously trying to find out if and how the pieces of debris could be moved. I was fully aware of the fact that this was some kind of horrible Mikado, but if there was anyone who’d be able to calculate how to move those pieces without causing further damage to me, it would be the Asgard. He had more brains than the whole Atlantis science team together, after all.
Suddenly I heard footsteps, not the light ones of Hermiod’s naked feet but the ones of heavy military boots. I heard Hermiod hurrying in the direction the sound came from. The footsteps came to a halt and I heard Hermiod and another voice talking frantically. Then the footsteps came closer and I relaxed a bit.
‘Dr Talvi?’ I heard a very familiar voice.
‘Carson?’ I had never been that happy to hear the doctor’s voice, ‘So good to know you’re alive.’
‘Ah, sounds like you’re in quite a good mood despite your situation.’ Carson stated and I could almost see the friendly smile on the Scot’s face.
‘Can anyone get me out of here?’ I asked hopefully.
‘Hermiod just went to get some personnel over here, so we can dig you out.’ Carson reassured me while I heard him sitting down right outside the heap of metal, right there where the Asgard had stood minutes ago.
‘He actually saved me from losing myself in pointless panic.’ I’ve told the doctor who now had moved his hand through to my shoulder, obviously using the same hole in all this mess that Hermiod had used before.
‘We often only see a character’s qualities when lives are at stake.’ Carson stated. ‘Can you give me an overview on your injuries?’
I could hear some voices closing in from somewhere outside Engineering and was glad that the rescue team was near. Of course we had to find out what had happened, but first we had to attend to our people – that’s what I’ve learned from the Atlantis mission reports I had read in my spare time.
‘I still can feel all parts of my body, but my legs are stuck under a beam that looks too heavy to be moved.’ I informed the doctor.
‘Let that be our problem, Dr Talvi, just don’t move. We’ll get you out of here.’ I heard another familiar voice.
‘Colonel Caldwell.’ I sighed, relieved. Even though most people had their problems with the Colonel, I had always felt kind of safe whenever he captained the ship. He was indeed no friendly man, but he knew what he did and what had to be done, and he always tried his best to keep his people safe.
‘Alright, sir.’ I confirmed his statement in a firm voice.
‘I have calculated how to move the pieces to get her out of there without causing further damage to her body.’ I now heard Hermiod say, who sounded more than concerned. It warmed my heart that he took all those efforts.
‘You’ve heard the man.’ Caldwell said to whomever was standing around him ready to help.
The next minutes were a chaotic mess of people slowly moving heavy pieces while I closed my eyes and tried not to breathe. Finally the worst was done and I could take a look around.
There was Caldwell with a deep cut on his forehead that was still dripping blood, there was Carson who attached an IV to my arm, most likely pain killers, there was Malcolm, Caldwell’s second in command with his left arm in an improvised plaster, there was Dr Zelenka with broken glasses but otherwise seemingly uninjured, and there were also a few young soldiers whom I didn’t know but who obviously had helped to dig me out of the rubble. And then there was also Hermiod, and if I hadn’t known his face so well from all the hours we had worked together, I’d never have been able to read the concern in his expression. It’s difficult to read Asgard faces, because their ability of having facial expressions is quite limited, but when you get to know them better, you realize there’s more to their expressions than expected.
‘Alright. Now let’s move that beam off and we can free her.’ Malcolm said, eying the beam over my legs suspiciously.
‘It’s too heavy to move it away, sir.’ One of the young men objected. ‘But we can lift it a bit, so you can move her out.’
‘Is that possible or will it hurt her any further, doc?’ Caldwell wanted to know.
‘I’d need a pair of additional hands to move her out.’ Carson finally said after contemplating a while.
I knew it was a risk moving me out, because nobody could tell if I had one or more of my vertebras broken, but I decided that it was now or never, and that I couldn’t lie around here the whole day.
‘Yeah, get me outta here.’ I confirmed the doctor’s words.
Caldwell kneeled beside me and put his hands under my back carefully, so he could move me without sliding my possibly injured back over the uneven floor. Carson did the same from another angle and cleared his throat.
The Colonel understood the sign and nodded at the men who already stood at the beam. Now they all got a good grip and lifted the heavy piece of steel just enough to give Caldwell and Carson the chance to carefully move me to a safer place.
‘Holy crap!’ I mumbled when I took a first glance over my body. There was so much blood! I wondered how long it took for an average person to bleed out completely. In the corner of my eye I saw Carson’s face – and he didn’t look happy at all.
He began to examine me briefly, tugging here and there, poking at some spots and checking my reactions. I’ve realized just now that I felt as if at least every second bone in my body must be broken. Everything hurt, but some parts hurt less than others.
‘There are a few broken ribs.’ Carson began to count on his fingers. ‘A broken arm, a broken leg, some open wounds, some pieces of metal stuck in your body, one of them frighteningly close to your heart… ‘
I hadn’t even noticed that chunk of metal by now that was stuck in my chest, but now I at least knew what it was that made everyone stare at me that concerned.
‘It’ll take a while to attend to all of this.’ Carson went on.’ Has any of you ever gone through medical training?’
‘I have.’ Caldwell replied. ‘So I’d like to volunteer as a nurse.’
‘That’d definitely be the highest ranked nurse that has ever attended to me.’ I said with a crooked smile. ‘But don’t they need you to run… whatever has to be run?’
‘We have a huge spaceship that has crashed on a planet. That means we won’t go anywhere for quite a while. I’ve ordered people around to organize what has to be organized and I have them report to me every once in a while. You’re my best engineer and I want to see you on your feet anytime soon. I think you can guess my priorities.’ Caldwell said briskly, so none of us saw a point in objecting.
‘Malcolm.’ Caldwell turned to his second in command. ‘Take charge of everything we’ve been talking about on the way over here.’ Then he turned to Zelenka. ‘Try to get this emergency radio bark running. That’s top priority. And if you come across any medical personnel tell them I’m down here with Dr Beckett and that he could use some extra hands.’
‘Alright, sir.’ Malcolm confirmed, turned around, waved at the other soldiers and left engineering after them and Dr Zelenka. Now there were only the four of us.
‘Can I be of any help?’ Hermiod asked, seemingly feeling uncomfortable without having anything to do.
‘You could, for example, see if you can get your computers running and find out what the hell happened to my ship.’ Caldwell suggested in his harshest military way of speaking.
‘It’s not his fault.’ I said quietly. ‘He surely hasn’t knocked us out of hyperspace.’
Caldwell wanted to object, but Carson raised his hand to stop him in his tracks.
‘I’ve given you some pain killers.’ The doctor then explained to me. ‘They’re strong, so you shouldn’t feel all too much pain while we’re doing this surgery.’
‘Surgery?’ I asked, suddenly startled. ‘What surgery?’
‘We have to get this piece of metal out of your chest without causing any further damage.’ Carson told me. ‘That’s where you’re bleeding the most. We have to close that wound first in order to stop the bleeding.’
While talking he had already torn my shirt apart and eyed the whole disaster of a piece of metal at a place where it definitely didn’t belong. In the meantime, Caldwell had already attended to my broken leg. I’d never have thought the Colonel had medical training, but he was surely not the first one who had had a life before the military.
‘My head is hurting as hell and I’m dizzy…’ I told Carson. Well, that was a great understatement, because, actually, the room was spinning in various directions and my sight grew blurrier by the minute.
‘You apparently have a concussion.’ Carson explained. ‘I’d be surprised if you hadn’t one after all that rubble dropping down on your head.’
I nodded and closed my eyes, hoping that at least the spinning would come to a halt.
‘I’m giving you a sedative.’ I heard Carson say, but he already sounded like being very far away.
The third time I woke up was caused by people who were arguing loudly right beside me.
‘Maybe it’s not his fault, but it’s his goddamn computer that failed!’ I heard a very agitated Colonel Caldwell shout.
‘Why the hell should he sabotage a ship that he’s on? I haven’t heard that the Asgard are famous for their suicide bombers!’ Carson Beckett objected just as agitatedly. ‘They’re peaceful people, Steven, they wouldn’t even hurt a fly!’
‘I’m going to find out what distorted the data processing, and for your information, I’m still in the same room with you.’ I heard Hermiod say, and he sounded hurt, as hurt as an Asgard can sound. I had a feeling that it was time for me to make the others aware of the fact that I was awake. My head still hurt, but at least the world didn’t spin any longer.
‘Hermiod.’ I called, annoyed by how raspy my voice sounded. Of course I wasn’t heard by the passionately arguing men.
‘Hermiod.’ I called once more and this time they took notice.
The Asgard scurried over to my place and looked at me with the same concern on his face that I had already seen before the surgery. Surgery. I had to attend to that topic later, now there was an argument to be settled.
‘I know it wasn’t you.’ I reassured him. Of course I didn’t have any evidence, but my gut feeling had never betrayed me. ‘I trust you. It couldn’t be you.’
Slender grey fingers touched my hand and I got a hold of them.
‘I know you wouldn’t do that.’ I reassured him once more and squeezed his fingers.
‘Dr Talvi.’ Carson had also rushed over to me. ‘How do you feel?’
‘Numb.’ I said. ‘Was the surgery a success?’
‘Indeed, it was.’ The doctor told me. ‘We could remove the piece in your chest and end the bleedings. Though, your right leg and left arm as well as some ribs are broken. You won’t be able to move that much until help is here.’
‘Is there any chance for help anyway?’ I asked sternly, my voice full of my natural fatalism.
‘There’s a huge blizzard outside that makes it impossible to send or receive any transmissions.’ Hermiod told me. ‘Though, Atlantis should know by now that we’re lost, and if Dr McKay is able to calculate where we’ve dropped out of hyperspace, there is a chance they might find us.’
‘Yeah, around Christmas or so.’ I grumbled sarcastically.
Caldwell, who had finally come over to my place too, raised an eyebrow. ‘We won’t give up hope, will we?’
‘What have you been arguing about?’ I changed the topic because there was no point in discussing the odds of when or if they’d find us. ‘You’ve mentioned sabotage?’
Carson got up. ‘While you’re delivering the news, I’ll go to attend to the other patients, if that is alright with you, Colonel.’
‘Yeah, sure.’ Caldwell nodded. ‘Keep moving.’
After Carson had left, Caldwell turned back to me. The expression on his face more serious than I had ever seen it on him.
‘The computer that runs the hyperdrive system is faulty. It’s an Asgard device, so it’s almost impossible that it would fail just so. Someone must have laid their hands on it and I’m trying to find out who that is before they cause us further problems.’ He said in a hasty voice.
‘That’s why you’re suspecting Hermiod.’ I made the logical conclusion. ‘Thinking that only an Asgard can manipulate an Asgard system, but that isn’t so. I could have done it just as much. The same applies on most of the engineers who worked here. Hermiod’s actually here to teach us how to work with Asgard technology. It could have been anyone.’
Only now did I realize that I still held Hermiod’s hand in mine. I considered the Asgard a friend, I’d never suspect any Asgard plotting sinister plans, especially not if there was a chance of their own death in the process. They weren’t suicidal and even if there had ever been psychopathic potential in their race, they’d have eradicated it from their DNA centuries ago. That’s what I also told Caldwell.
‘Then who?’ Caldwell insisted.
‘There’s still a chance of the computer just being… broken.’ I suggested.
Hermiod raised what worked as an eyebrow for him. ‘Every computer can fail.’
‘There you have it.’ I told Caldwell.
The Colonel sighed and got up from where he was sitting.
‘Dr Talvi, to be honest, I don’t believe in Asgard computers just failing, so I will keep my eyes open for any signs of sabotage, but I’ll exclude the both of you and the computer from my list of suspects.’ He gave me a crooked smile and then turned to Hermiod. ‘I want you to get back to working on the problem. I want you to get as many systems running as possible and to find out what caused the computer to malfunction like that.’
Then he turned around and went through the shattered door before any of us even got the chance to object.
‘Why the hell do they always blame the aliens first?’ I muttered to myself and shifted to find a more comfortable position.
‘Xenophobia is a very wide spread problem in your race.’ Hermiod told me, let go off my hand and went back to the mess that had once been his console.
Seeing that small grey creature moving around in all that chaos was almost heart breaking. I knew he was the only one who was capable to unveil whatever mystery was happening on the Daedalus. But he looked so alone, so lost in all that mess. In all the daily routine aboard the Daedalus, I had never spent much thought on how Hermiod must feel under all those humans pushing him around. I imagined how I would feel in his place and suddenly felt a wave of loneliness, and along with it came compassion. I shifted again to get into a sitting position from where I could watch him better. When I took a closer look, I saw that his whole body was shivering. And just now I realized that I was shivering myself, because it was really cold inside this room. The first time ever since the impact I glanced around. Someone had moved the bodies out, if there had been any, but what was much more disconcerting was a huge hole in the wall. I didn’t wonder any longer why it was cold in here. Outside it was snowing like crazy.
‘Are you cold?’ I asked after my eyes had wandered back to Hermiod who was working frantically on what was left of his computer.
‘The cold is indeed very distracting.’ He admitted without looking up from whatever he was doing right now.
‘You can have my blanket if you like.’ I offered.
Hermiod finally looked at me and I could have sworn there was a look of surprise on his face.
‘Then you will feel cold.’ He said with imperturbable Asgard logic.
Getting a hold on the wall with one hand and on the beam that had been lying on my leg with the other, I carefully got up. The world began to spin again but I ignored it, just closed my eyes for a moment, inhaled and exhaled. Then I slowly made my way to Hermiod’s workstation.
The blanket was just lightly hanging over my shoulders where Carson had placed it. My arms and ribcage were wrapped up in bandages which made me look like a mummy. A very tired and dirty mummy, that is.
When I finally reached Hermiod, I was completely exhausted and leaned against his console, breathing heavily. The Asgard looked at me as if he wanted to ask if I’m nuts.
‘Take it.’ I said and shrugged the blanket off my shoulders, picked it up from the floor (not without wincing because of my broken ribs reminding me of their existence) and carefully put it around Hermiod.
He gave me an incredulous look and tugged the blanket closer around him, holding it in place with one hand while continuing his typing with the other.
‘Thank you.’ He said. ‘But you really shouldn’t…’
I raised a hand to make him stop talking and let myself slide to the ground once more. Standing was absolutely no good idea at all.
Only moments later my headset sprang to life when Caldwell informed me and the others of the next unpleasant fact. ‘The Daedalus has come down on a glacier and she’s started to move. Get hold on something and prepare for another impact.’
‘Oh crap.’ I mumbled and cowered at a place between the computer console and the next bulkhead, burying my head in my arms. ‘Hermiod, come over here!’
The Asgard was a tad too slow. He managed to come over to me, but he didn’t have the time to sit next to me before the ship began to move, turn on her side and crash against whatever obstacle. Then the Daedalus turned upside down and sent Hermiod flying through the room. I tried to get hold of him but couldn’t. Just a moment later I’ve realized the mistake of removing my hand from where I had got hold to the wall before. I went slithering in Hermiod’s direction and had to make a grotesque move to not land right on him. I heard something inside me crack, then everything went still.
After the noise had died down and there was no further movement, I turned around to look at Hermiod who was lying curled up next to the wall, unmoving. I panicked and tried to get up, but to no avail. It took me several tries to move towards the Asgard while ignoring all the pain that was raging inside my body.
I moved on arms and legs because there was no way of really getting up and walking. There was only one thought in my mind that had pushed everything else in the background, including the pain.
“Let him live. Please.” I prayed to whomever may be concerned.
When I finally reached him I felt as exhausted as if I’d had run a marathon, but I didn’t give in to my body’s needs to take care and relax. Half kneeling, half lying I put a hand on Hermiod’s shoulder and turned him around as carefully as possible. He looked at me through small slits of his eyelids. The torment on his face made him look almost human.
‘Hermiod?’ I asked, worriedly. I didn’t give in to this stupid urge of asking him if he was alright, because he clearly wasn’t.
It took him a lot of strength to lift his hand and touch mine. ‘Pain.’ He said softly. ‘Everywhere.’
Then he closed his eyes and I panicked. My hand flew to my headset, but it wasn’t there. I seemed to have lost it somewhere on the way from one end of Engineering to the other. I looked around frantically but couldn’t see it at first glance.
‘Dammit, dammit, dammit.’ I cursed, still ignoring my own pain while crawling around between all the chaos. When I finally found the headset, I was so wrung out that I just kept lying right there and activated it.
‘Caldwell? Carson? Anyone?’ I asked, full of hope that the others had survived this wonderful glacier ride.
‘Dr Talvi? This is Carson. What is it?’ I heard his familiar but tired voice. I didn’t dare to feel relieved in any way.
‘I need you down here.’ I told him. ‘It’s Hermiod. I… I’m afraid he’s dying, sir.’
‘Crap.’ I heard Caldwell curse, he seemed to have heard my calling too. ‘Beckett, get down there, I’ll take care of the rest.’ I heard some talking in the background that didn’t make its way through the headsets.
‘On my way.’ Carson confirmed. ‘There’s just a lot of extra rubble everywhere, so it’ll take a few minutes. Try to keep him awake if that’s possible.’
‘Will try.’ I replied without knowing to the least how to do that.
I crawled back to Hermiod who was still lying there the way I had left him when searching for my headset. His black almond eyes followed my every move until I finally got back to him and lay beside him.
‘You’re bleeding again.’ He pointed out in a very small voice and made me look at my chest. The bandage that should hold the wound together was soaked in red.
‘Crap.’ I said weakly. There was nothing else to say and even less to do.
‘At least I won’t die alone.’ Hermiod said after a long while of silence. I couldn’t figure out if he was serious about that or if it was just natural Asgard fatalism speaking out of him.
‘You won’t die, you hear?’ I told him sternly. ‘I don’t allow you to die.’
‘I didn’t know you’re able to work medical miracles.’ He said. Was he trying to be humorous? I’ve never thought I’d ever hear him make a joke, but he obviously did. It surprised me to realize that he did it only to make me feel better.
I moved a bit closer to him to wrap my uninjured arm around his small shivering body. The cold, that was almost unbearable for me, must have been murderous for this frail Asgard body, but all I could think of to keep him warm was to share the warmth of my body. I didn’t know where the blanket had gone that I had given him before the last impact.
‘You won’t leave me.’ I whispered in his tiny ear. ‘I won’t forgive you if you leave me alone in this mess.’
I pulled him even closer, not only because I wanted to give him as much warmth as possible, but also to show him that I was dead serious about my words. After all, he was one of the very few persons who had always treated me with honest respect. Plus he had held my hand when I was buried under a heap of rubble, so I owed him one.
I didn’t want to lose him.
My body seemed to be willing to finally take its toll for all the damage I’d caused it throughout the day, but as the stubborn person that I was famous for, I fought against passing out. I ignored the pain, the smell and taste of blood, the throbbing headache, and kept telling myself again and again that I had to stay awake. If not for me, then at least for Hermiod…
The fourth time I woke up was to the sound of beeping medical machines and the typical hospital smell. There was busy movement all around me and people were talking in low voices. For the first time in what seemed to be forever I didn’t feel any pain, but I needed several minutes to come to the conclusion that I couldn’t be on the Daedalus any longer. I had to be back in Atlantis.
I opened my eyes and looked around. This was indeed the infirmary of Atlantis. I even heard the ocean outside and smelled the salt in the air. It took a bit to realize and understand that I was at home, that I didn’t lie in my own blood any longer somewhere inside the mess that had once been the proud spaceship Daedalus.
‘Dr Talvi, it’s nice to have you back.’ I suddenly heard a voice from behind me. Carson’s face swam into sight. ‘How do you feel?’
‘I…’ Suddenly all the memories came flooding back loud and clear, and I remembered the last moments before I obviously had passed out although I’d tried so hard not to.
‘Hermiod!’ I exclaimed, suddenly panicking. ‘Is he…’ I didn’t dare to complete that question.
‘Don’t worry, he’s alive.’ Carson reassured me. ‘His injuries were bad, but I daresay you saved his life.’
‘How come?’ I wondered. ‘I didn’t do anything but holding him, because there was nothing else I could have done.’
‘You kept him warm.’ The doctor said with a smile. ‘And in the end that’s all that matters, isn’t it? That we have someone who keeps us warm.’
He pointed to the bed that was situated right next to mine. I turned my head in said direction and saw Hermiod sleeping peacefully, my blood-stained blanket still around his shoulders.
‘He didn’t want to let the blanket go.’ Carson informed me. ‘He always mumbled that if you didn’t make it he’d at least have that.’
‘Really?’ I asked, puzzled.
Carson nodded. ‘Never underestimate an Asgard. They may seem cold, but they actually do have a heart.’
I couldn’t help but smile at the thought of an Asgard heart that was beating for me of all people. I suppose I still smiled when I fell back asleep.
Chapter 2: Decision
Chapter 2 - Decision
That morning I was standing on one of Atlantis’s balconies watching the Lantean sunrise. I loved this city, heart and soul, because for me it was the closest to home I could get. Although I really liked my job on the Daedalus, I always looked forward to returning to Atlantis for a few days.
But now that the Daedalus was lying on a distant planet, most likely way beyond repair, I felt a little lost. There were so many losses to mourn, co-workers I appreciated a lot, crew members, some of them friends.
I wondered what Colonel Caldwell was planning. I hadn’t seen him in the last few days since they had brought us back to Atlantis. I didn’t even have a clue how they brought us back in the first place. Carson had told me that when he finally had reached Hermiod and me, we’d both been unconscious and on the verge of dying. It was due to good luck that we had survived this disaster, even more so because many hadn’t.
Hermiod… whenever my train of thought stopped at the Asgard, I felt a little twitch in my heart that I couldn’t quite put a finger on. I knew that I would have taken it more than bad if he hadn’t made it. Working hand in hand with him for months had made him become one of the best friends I’d ever had, but I was afraid that didn’t have much of a meaning, because I had never been good at making friends.
My thoughts kept wandering back to the Daedalus. I decided that I had to make contact with Caldwell anytime soon to find out what would happen concerning the ship. We surely couldn’t leave her in pieces on this faraway planet. Not with all the Wraith out there who were eager getting their hands on Earth technology. Especially the Asgard technology on the ship would be of their advantage. We couldn’t let that happen.
After waking up again on the infirmary, I had spent a lot of time sleeping, because my body obviously needed the sleep in order to recover. At some point when I had woken up the other day, feeling much better, Hermiod had been gone, I don’t know where to. Supposedly he was already making plans with Colonel Caldwell and Dr McKay what to do about the Daedalus. I wanted to join in, but Carson had ordered me to stay another day. He was of the opinion that people with an insane number of broken bones weren’t ready to work. Who would disagree with a doctor?
At least he had allowed me to spend some time on this balcony where I was standing now, because being inside drove me nearly insane. I hated having nothing to do.
Lost in my thoughts, I didn’t realize that I wasn’t alone on the balcony anymore. I only noticed when the person who had joined me started to talk.
‘Dr Talvi, I’m glad to see that you’re feeling better.’
I turned my head and looked down at the grey alien who looked back at me with unblinking black eyes. I couldn’t help but smile.
‘Hermiod.’ I greeted him shortly. ‘I’ve already been wondering where you had gone.’
‘Asgard bodies heal much faster than those of humans.’ He let me know. ‘That’s the reason why I was able to leave the infirmary earlier than you. Colonel Caldwell wanted to talk to me about how to retrieve the Daedalus from M4X-773.’
Apparently they had given the planet a name.
‘Is there even a possibility to move this wreck?’ I wanted to know, instantly excited.
‘It is very unlikely.’ Hermiod destroyed my hopes. ‘But we have to retrieve the Asgard technology, because it wouldn’t be to our benefit if it fell into the hands of the Wraith. We also have to wipe the Earth computer’s databases.’
‘True.’ I confirmed his statement. ‘It’s sad, though. She was an amazing ship.’
‘Colonel Caldwell wants you to join the rescue team.’ The Asgard told me. ‘Your expertise would be of great help.’
‘Yeah, thought so.’ I muttered. ‘You and I are the only ones who really know how all that Asgard stuff works.’
I looked at Hermiod again. Lately I always had a weird feeling somewhere in my stomach whenever I talked to him. That had already begun weeks ago, but since we’ve almost died in the arms of each other, it had increased.
‘What happened to my blanket?’ I suddenly voiced a question that I even hadn’t planned to ask.
‘It’s in my quarters.’ Hermiod replied. ‘If you want me to give it back…’
‘No, no…’ I said slowly, wondering why he still kept that dirty thing.
The conversation was followed by an awkward silence that was only broken when Carson joined us on the balcony.
‘Ah, I see you have a visitor, Dr Talvi.’ He said with a smile.
‘Yeah.’ I confirmed. ‘I’ve heard that social contacts are important on the way to recovery.’
‘I can’t deny that.’ The doctor said, smiling even wider. ‘Unfortunately you have to recover even sooner, because Caldwell keeps nagging that he wants you to be back at work anytime soon.’
‘Fine.’ I exclaimed, delighted. ‘When?’
Carson sighed deeply with this expression on his face that clearly said how much he was annoyed by commanding officers who always expected medical miracles from him.
‘You know how severely injured you were, right?’ He probed.
I nodded. ‘Don’t worry, I still remember all the pain I’ve been through, but if I may be honest, I’d rather get back to work and do something useful instead of hanging around here all day, bored to death.’
Carson’s eyes lay on me for a few seconds, then wandered to an eager looking Hermiod. ‘I ask you to take care she won’t do anything stupid, you hear?’
I could have sworn I saw amusement on the Asgard’s face.
‘Yeah, alright.’ I grumbled. ‘Just let’s all team up against someone who can’t defend herself.’
Carson just winked and went back inside. I stared at Hermiod who just stared back at me. I should have kept in mind that in a staring contest the Asgard always wins.
An hour later I attended a meeting in Atlantis’s main conference room. It was still hard to walk with a broken leg, even when using crutches, because it wasn’t only the leg that hurt, but also my broken ribs. I decided to ignore all of that, because there were more important matters to care about than whining over some non-lethal injuries.
When I entered the room I found Colonel Caldwell, Dr McKay, Dr Zelenka and Hermiod as well as Dr Weir and Lt. Colonel Sheppard. It always came down to exactly this group of people when serious problems had to be solved. I had worked with all of them in the past, so I knew that they were really competent at their respective fields and more.
‘Ah, Dr Talvi.’ Weir said with a warm smile. ‘I didn’t expect Carson would really let you go.’
I just shrugged, returning the smile. ‘Maybe I annoyed him a tad too much.’
‘Yeah, either you or Hermiod.’ Caldwell folded his arms and gave me an encouraging nod.
‘However.’ I changed the topic with a surprised glance at the Asgard. ‘Please fill me in with the news.’
McKay pointed at some overview sheet on an Ancient monitor at the wall. ‘As you can see, the Daedalus is lying at the bottom of a glacier amidst a Himalaya-like range of mountains. When we’re going back there, we first have to check if it’s even safe to enter her. The ground is very uneven and therefore dangerous.’
‘Is there a chance to get her flying again?’ Zelenka asked doubtfully.
‘We’re only going to find out if we take a look.’ McKay said, shrugging. ‘It’s a real miracle that she’s still in one piece, but as the hull is broken in countless parts, I’m not sure if we’re able to fix her at least enough to go from there to Atlantis.’
‘Without the hyperdrive we’ll be going nowhere.’ I threw in. ‘Last I’ve heard is that the computer malfunctioned, so we can’t rely on it.’
‘Indeed.’ Hermiod nodded. ‘I would have to fix the computer first. From what I’ve seen in the few minutes I had the chance to work on it, there’s a faulty circuit, but it will take some time to figure out which modules will have to be changed and whether we have enough spare parts in order to do so.’
‘Can’t we contact the Asgard?’ Sheppard wanted to know.
‘We can always contact the Asgard.’ Hermiod replied. ‘I suppose it’s in our mutual interest that this technology may not be retrieved by the Wraith.’
‘Concerning Wraith.’ I interrupted him. ‘Is there anyone who protects the wreck?’
‘We have a group of Marines on M4X-773.’ Weir reported. ‘Though, they won’t be able to defend the Daedalus against an attacking hive ship.’
‘We actually have nobody and nothing in order to succeed in that.’ Sheppard muttered. ‘That’s why our main goal should be to get the Daedalus away from that planet.’
‘I will contact the Asgard.’ Hermiod confirmed his former statement. ‘I suppose Supreme Commander Thor will be very interested in keeping the Wraith away from our technology.’
‘It’d surely be of help having one or two Asgard motherships around.’ Caldwell said, relieved.
‘Do you expect them to send an army?’ I asked smiling, construing the look on Hermiod’s face.
Sheppard raised an eyebrow towards me. ‘As far as I’m informed, the war with the Replicators is over and done since the Asgard killed off all those bugs before it got a real big problem.’
‘There are still Goa’Uld to fight in the Milky Way.’ I reminded him. ‘And don’t forget about the Ori. The Asgard can’t be everywhere at the same time. Their fleet may still be huge, but I’m sure they have other matters to attend to as well.’
There was a moment of uncomfortable silence in the conference room while everyone thought about the range of enemies humanity still had to fight all at once. It was really insane, especially when I came to think about the fact that without the Stargate, things would have gone way easier for everyone. Or at least differently. But then again, without the Stargate, we’d never have met the Asgard.
I felt Hermiod’s eyes resting on me again. I realized that he did that quite often and wondered why. It seemed to me as if he expected something from me, but I couldn’t figure out what it was. Of course I’d help him to find out what had gone wrong with the hyperdrive, but there was something more in that gaze, something substantial. But as I didn’t want to agonize about the Asgard’s thoughts at the moment, I shrugged it off and put my attention back to the current discussion.
‘I think we should board a puddle jumper and go back to the Daedalus.’ McKay suggested. ‘We’re going to have a brief look at what could be done and then meet up and discuss our possibilities. Though, I don’t have a feeling that we’ll get her flying again.’
‘Don’t be so pessimistic!’ Caldwell objected. Of course he wanted his ship back, because he wouldn’t be a good captain if it was otherwise. I remembered what he had told me in Engineering when we were talking about the odds of getting rescued: “We won’t give up hope, will we?”
Indeed, we wouldn’t give up hope. No way.
‘Well, then it’s settled.’ Weir approved. ‘Get your stuff together. We’ll meet at the jumper bay in an hour.’
On my way to the jumper bay an hour later, I came across Hermiod, who was heading in the same direction. He seemed to be worried.
‘Hey.’ I greeted him. ‘Any problems?’
For a moment he looked as if he didn’t want to tell me, but then decided otherwise.
‘On the Daedalus communication is so much easier.’ He complained. ‘Here you have to give your message to the gate operators. They’re relaying it to the SGC and the people there send it to Othala. That means we have to wait until they’ll be dialling Earth the next time before my message to Thor gets through. In the meantime the Wraith have all the time possible to occupy the Daedalus.’
I didn’t wonder any longer why he looked that frustrated. Bureaucracy was indeed a problem I had no understanding for, but on the other hand, Atlantis had just one ZPM and dialling Earth took a lot of energy.
‘Did you ask Dr Weir?’ I wondered.
Hermiod just made a gesture that meant a clear no. I didn’t ask any further because he surely had his reasons. Still, I’d have preferred the message being forwarded to the Asgard home world rather soon than later. We all knew perfectly well that we couldn’t stand a chance against the Wraith. On the other hand, though, we knew that the Asgard weren’t willing to take part in another war, especially not in a galaxy that wasn’t their business at all. But as their technology was in danger to be stolen by such a powerful enemy as the Wraith, they’d maybe change their minds and make at least this one exception.
‘Maybe we’re able to disassemble the Asgard components and bring them to Atlantis.’ I mused. ‘Then at least your people don’t have to deal with that problem.’
‘We still have to make a decision concerning the databases on the Earth computers nevertheless.’ Hermiod reminded me. ‘We can either destroy the complete ship or take it to Atlantis. Either way will be very complicated if not impossible. There are so many interconnected systems that we can’t be sure whether the Wraith would be able to restore any data, no matter how much we delete and destroy.’
He definitely had a point there.
‘Well, then we’d better keep moving and get ready before the Wraith find out we’re there.’ I suggested.
We arrived at M4X-773 a few hours later. At least it wasn’t very far to go, because there was a Stargate in a system nearby. The planet that appeared in front of us now looked like a huge snowball with a lot of mountains poking out of the cloudy surface here and there. It was no wonder that Sheppard had named it Hoth right at the moment he had seen it first on the rescue mission a few days ago.
When the jumper descended through the clouds towards the surface, it got more and more clear that Sheppard was completely right with the name he had given the planet. On our way we saw only ice and snow, huge mountains with massive glaciers and snowfall all around. It was snowing so heavily that we almost missed the Daedalus.
And there she was, almost buried under tons of snow, but still good to see. She lay at the foot of a glacier, her hull broken on many places, but as a whole she seemed to be quite intact.
‘That’s a lot of repairs to do.’ Zelenka groaned when he saw the whole disaster.
‘I don’t think it’s possible to get her flying.’ McKay added pessimistically.
‘We’ve got to look if we can close some of the bulkheads and doors.’ I suggested. ‘I don’t want to give up hope that we can take her home in one piece.’
Caldwell, who was sitting next to me, nodded, seemingly in shock about the state of his ship.
‘You can land over there, Sheppard.’ McKay pointed at a certain spot near Engineering. I really hoped we could go down there, because I so totally didn’t feel like climbing around on icy mountains. I’ve never been a mountains person anyway.
It was indeed a moment of shock when we entered the Daedalus to see the true scale of destruction everywhere. Hermiod and I went straight to the computer core while everyone else attended to whatever they’ve come here for. I remembered that Hermiod had already tried to solve the computer problem right after the crash but didn’t have much of a success.
‘What do you think?’ I asked him after he had taken a brief look at all the components that were lying in shatters all around. The third impact seemed to have destroyed everything that miraculously hadn’t been destroyed during the first and second impact.
Hermiod, who had always seemed to me like a wizard of technology, activated the computer despite the fact that it seemed to be lying in pieces all around us. Lines and lines of Asgard code flew over the screen, status reports and the like.
‘It seems that at least the main core is still intact.’ Hermiod finally let me know. ‘We could use some modules from systems we don’t need at the moment to replace the broken parts.’
Hermiod spent some time rummaging around in the computer’s remnants without saying a word. I didn’t want to push him, so I waited patiently while looking around the room. Nearly everything was shattered, all the interfaces and monitors were in a really bad condition and it totally didn’t look like we’d ever have a chance to get any of this ever running again. The whole picture was bad enough to lose all hope.
‘I have found it.’ Hermiod exclaimed after a while and pointed at a certain line of code on his screen.
‘What the hell is that?’ I asked, surprised, because it didn’t make any sense to me. It obviously wasn’t Asgard.
‘I don’t know what it is, but I’m sure it hadn’t been there when I performed the last system check back on Earth before we left for Atlantis.’ Hermiod’s face looked more than worried.
‘So it’s really sabotage.’ I concluded the obvious.
‘Indeed.’ Hermiod confirmed. ‘I’m not an expert on the Wraith, but this doesn’t seem to be Wraith code. There was definitely a human behind it.’
I shivered because of such disconcerting news. It meant that from now on everyone could be a saboteur, or at least everyone who had ever worked with an Asgard computer.
‘Why?’ I asked myself more than anyone.
‘It’s either to sabotage the mission as such or to discredit the Asgard.’ Hermiod suggested.
I didn’t even want to think of a person who wanted to discredit such an important ally as the Asgard. I mean, honestly, why should anyone do that? They were friendly and peaceful, they always tried to help, at least in a way that didn’t interfere with their treaties.
‘No.’ I said, suddenly angry. ‘I can’t believe in anyone trying to discredit your people. There must be a deeper meaning in this mess. Let’s just go through the rest of the code and let’s also take an overview on all the hardware we have. We will find the culprit’s true reason, because then, maybe, we’ll also be able to find the culprit.’
Hermiod looked at me worriedly, seemingly startled by my sudden outburst. ‘We’re going to unveil this mystery.’ He promised. ‘Please do not worry.’
It was almost cute how he tried to reassure me, although he perfectly knew how hard it was to find out the truth. We still had a very long way to go and there was not the slightest reason to believe in any success.
‘We should talk to Caldwell.’ I suggested. ‘I think he should know.’
Caldwell wasn’t happy at all about the news. After Hermiod had told him everything he’d found out, the Colonel started pacing angrily. He didn’t care that there was still a lot of rubble lying around, because with his heavy boots he simply cracked a few of the bigger pieces without even noticing.
‘Let me get this straight.’ He said with a low voice that was almost frightening. ‘We have some human engineer among our people who sabotaged the Asgard system? What for?’
‘I could only guess the reasons.’ Hermiod told him. ‘But the evidence is very clear.’
‘And you’re sure it wasn’t an Asgard?’ Caldwell objected.
Hermiod looked at him sternly. ‘Is there anything you want to tell me, Colonel?’
I could see the hurt in the Asgard’s expression and it made me angry.
‘Why the hell do you keep accusing him?’ I shouted, a bit too loud and a bit to disrespecting.
Caldwell glared at me for a few seconds, then exhaled. ‘I have to take every possibility into account, Dr Talvi, and as I can’t believe any of my people sabotaged my ship, I have to ask questions.’
‘Hermiod is one of your people, too, sir.’ I retorted.
Caldwell was clearly taken aback by me telling him this fact that he obviously had just ignored. Until now.
‘Indeed, he is.’ He finally admitted. ‘And I remember that I had already promised you that the two of you are not on my list of suspects. My problem is that it’s too suspicious to not be taken into account.’
‘Have you ever thought about the possibility that somebody wants it to look like an Asgard could have done this? I mean, for example, to paint over the truth?’ I said with raised eyebrows.
‘So what do you suggest?’ Caldwell asked, his voice low as if he was trying to hold back his anger.
‘Get together everyone who’s able to work with an Asgard computer.’ I suggested. ‘Maybe it’s someone new who boarded the ship shortly before we left Earth. Someone who joined us after Hermiod had done all the system checks. Though, we should remember that many of the engineers died when we smacked into the planet, so maybe the culprit isn’t even alive anymore. We also have to take into account everyone who had left the Daedalus before we went on our way.’
‘That could be a whole lot of people we can’t even think of right now.’ Caldwell mused. ‘I will check with the SGC as soon as we get back to Atlantis.’
‘Alright.’ I nodded. ‘But may I ask you for something?’
‘Please stop accusing Hermiod and also take care that others don’t do it either. If necessary I’d stand surety for him.’ I asked, almost pleading, but at the moment I couldn’t care less for letting down my dignity in front of my superior. I wanted people to handle Hermiod with fairness.
Caldwell raised an eyebrow, obviously surprised. ‘What is it about the two of you that you stand up for each other all the time?’ Then he turned around and left the room, most likely because he wanted to fill in the others with the news.
‘An interesting question.’ Hermiod said as soon as we were alone again. It made me almost jump.
I had no answer for him, because I didn’t know, honestly, I had no clue.
An hour later, after we all had collected a brief overview on all the damage, the whole group assembled in Engineering for a powwow. Everyone looked worried and tired. To see all the destruction and to know that retrieving the Daedalus was as good as hopeless, gave us an uncertain feeling of frustration and insufficiency.
‘So, Hermiod, how’s the status of the hyperdrive.’ Caldwell wanted to know first. ‘Is there at least a tiny chance to ever get it running again?’
The Asgard didn’t look happy, not at all. ‘At least we can try to use some modules from other systems to make an attempt, but I’m not very positive about the outcome. The impact was hard and the computer is unreliable, so if we activate the hyperdrive again, there’s a chance of colliding with another planet or worse. I’m still hoping the SGC will forward my message to Othala anytime soon, because my people might equip us with a new computer core. I don’t trust this system any longer, even more since I know it was sabotaged. I can trust nobody on this ship except myself and Dr Talvi.’
I felt quite honoured by how much the Asgard trusted me, even more as he didn’t have any reason to do so. I hadn’t done anything different than all the other engineers, except the fact that was the one who’d been working closest to Hermiod.
Sheppard looked at me, obviously surprised by Hermiod’s words. ‘Well, at least we have two people who trust each other, right?’
‘How likely is it that the Asgard provide us with a new computer core?’ Caldwell wanted to know, completely ignoring Sheppard.
‘It depends on the High Council.’ Hermiod stated. ‘It depends on the likelihood of the Wraith being able to retrieve anything useful from the Daedalus. Though, when I look at the current state of the computer, there is indeed a chance that the Wraith may find it useful.’
‘Well, then I’d say you’d either get the hyperdrive running, so we can leave this horrid place, or you destroy it in a way that makes it completely useless for the Wraith.’ Caldwell ordered.
‘I’d prefer to wait for the Asgard’s answer to my request.’ Hermiod objected but was put down by an almost hostile look on Caldwell’s face.
‘Get me enough people from Atlantis that can help getting the ship space-ready anytime soon, in case our Asgard genius finds a way to get us out of here.’ He told Sheppard who gave me an apologetic look before he turned into the direction of the jumper.
I didn’t like the accusative stare at all that Caldwell gave Hermiod before he left to follow Sheppard. The way the whole situation developed right now was so wrong in so many ways.
In a sudden rush of compassion I went over to Hermiod and put my arms around him, just to reassure him that no matter what anyone might think, I’d be on his side, come what may. He looked at me with surprise in those big black eyes.
We didn’t get a chance to talk, because in the very same moment we were swept off our feet when the Daedalus was hit by something that definitely wasn’t a mountain.
This time I acted more on instinct than anything when I fell back and took Hermiod with me. As long as I shielded him with my own body (that reminded me very clearly of all my yet unhealed injuries) he couldn’t smack against a wall again. I didn’t quite know what kind of instinct that was, though, but it was definitely helpful.
‘What the hell!’ I cursed, trying to stagger back on my feet and failed because of Hermiod who tried to steady himself and failed as well.
‘I don’t think it’s another movement of the Daedalus.’ Hermiod told me, still holding on to me.
‘You don’t say.’ I retorted sarcastically. ‘That was weapons fire.’
After the ground had finally stopped shaking, I was able to stand up. I lent Hermiod a hand and helped him back on his feet as well. Whatever had happened seconds ago, it was not good. In the Pegasus galaxy, whenever someone fired at you, there was imminent death ahead. No warning shots, no beating around the bush, no parley. Just death.
Hermiod scurried over to his computer and I followed him, hoping we were able to get the sensors online and find out what had just happened. Though, just a few seconds later we didn’t need the sensors anymore, because through the huge crack in the engine room’s wall I could see some tall figures passing by.
‘Wraith.’ I whispered. ‘How did they find us that soon?’
‘I have no idea.’ Hermiod told me as expected. The look in his big eyes spoke a very clear language of the thoughts that were going on in his massive Asgard brain. I knew that a feeding Wraith could kill a human within half a minute, and I was sure they’d take even less time on a small and frail body as that of an Asgard. I had to keep him safe at any cost. That was all that counted at the moment, at least for me.
‘Get away from the computer and hide.’ I told him sternly. ‘You wouldn’t stand a chance against them.’
For the first time ever I saw fear in the Asgard’s eyes, substantial fear. He seemed to expect to die in here, of course, because we had absolutely nothing to withstand an attacking Wraith.
‘You won’t stand a chance either.’ Hermiod reminded me of the obvious. ‘I won’t hide like a coward and leave you alone.’
Why the hell were the Asgard such overly stubborn people?
‘It’s OK, Hermiod, it really is.’ I reassured him and tried to give him a little encouraging smile. ‘You don’t need to be a hero to impress me.’
By then we both had sat down somewhere behind the Asgard computer console, a place that couldn’t be seen in by someone who came through the crack in the wall. I prayed to any powers that might be of help that the Wraith would ignore us and just disappear. Of course, we should have kept in mind that we were hiding behind the exact piece of technology the Wraith were after.
When one of them finally entered Engineering, I expected certain doom. Hermiod put his hand into mine and looked at me in a way that almost broke my heart.
‘At least I won’t die alone.’ Hermiod said, and I was painfully reminded of the moment a few days ago when he had said the same words exactly.
‘I hate your fatalism.’ I let him know, staggered to my feet, pushed Hermiod behind me and gave the Wraith an angry glare. There was nothing else to do, because I was completely unarmed. I was an engineer, not a soldier. I hated carrying guns, but at this exact moment I wished I had one.
The Wraith came closer, growled and stared back at me. I felt Hermiod holding on to me with all his might. It took me a second to realize that he tried to pull me away, but I kept standing there, unwavering and most likely with the most stupid look on my face that I was able to produce.
‘Is it just the two of you or are there others?’ The Wraith asked. I realized that at least for the moment he wasn’t about to kill either of us.
‘We have an army back there inside the ship.’ I didn’t even try to hope the Wraith would believe the lie. I was an absolutely untalented liar, after all.
‘I don’t believe you.’ He confirmed my doubts. ‘Either way, at least I’ll have a little snack while I’m working here.’
‘You can have me for dinner, if that’s what you’re out for.’ I told him bravely. ‘But you won’t lay your hands on him.’
I seemed to have fallen into a weird and desperate state of heroism, because otherwise I wouldn’t have said something that stupid and suicidal, but I felt kind of protective about Hermiod, so I at least had to try to keep him from harm.
In the very same moment I heard gun fire, and I swear that I’ve never before been that happy to hear it. The Wraith, though, needed a good handful of bullets to go down.
‘Are you guys alright?’ John Sheppard asked when he came into sight behind the suddenly diseased Wraith.
‘Yeah, I think so.’ I uttered carefully. ‘But I suppose he didn’t come alone.’
‘Unfortunately not.’ Sheppard confirmed. ‘They’re swarming all around the ship, but it seems that they’re just a small group.’
‘I’m sure that when there are a few of them who found something interesting, it won’t take long until their hive ship shows up.’ I said pessimistically.
Just as if the other Wraith had only waited for my cue, another impact hit the ship. It was a much heavier impact than before, so I was almost certain that this time it wasn’t just one of those small cruisers the Wraith often used, but one of the bigger ships.
This time, though, I was prepared for the impact and already held on to the wall, Hermiod right beside me. Sheppard was much better at not losing his balance, because although he stood in the middle of the room, he didn’t fall, not even struggle. He’s been trained for situations like these, after all.
I was fully aware of the fact that we had only a few Marines who ought to protect us. That was by far not enough, because when fighting the Wraith, that much I knew, you really needed an army. And some spaceships, armed to the teeth.
Hermiod looked up at me and I met his gaze. We both knew that, as matters stood, we were very unlikely to see Atlantis again. Or anything else, that is.
Chapter 3: Abduction
Chapter 3 - Abduction
The next thing I saw was a blinding light that engulfed me completely. Sheppard, who was still standing ready to fight against whatever might attack us, disappeared and was replaced by whole new surroundings. I glanced around frantically to find out where I was and what had just happened. There was only Hermiod, me and the remnants of our broken Asgard computer inside a huge room with bad lighting and even worse smell.
‘We’re not on a Wraith ship, are we?’ I asked hopefully.
Hermiod tilted his head, the Asgard version of a no. ‘It is most unfortunate, but we are on a Wraith ship, indeed.’
‘I hate being abducted by aliens, you know?’ I grumbled, trying to figure out what kind of room we’ve been transported to.
I can frankly say that I absolutely dislike Wraith design. Everything here looked so organic as if we were caught in the belly of a beast. It was a most unpleasant feeling. Added to the smell it was simply disgusting.
‘Well, well, well…’ I heard a deep, distorted voice right behind me and spun around, startled to the bone. I regretted that move right away, because the Wraith queen I was faced with now scared the hell out of me.
It took only a few seconds to settle, though, then my brain began working frantically. First thing I did was stepping in front of Hermiod, second thing was glaring daggers at the queen.
‘You have the computer, you don’t need us! Send us back!’ I demanded and sounded much braver and calmer than I actually was.
‘Dr Talvi…’ Hermiod said in a low and warning voice. Obviously, he wanted to prevent me from saying something even more stupid and get us into even deeper trouble than we already were.
‘As far as I’m informed, we’re dealing with Asgard technology.’ The Wraith queen began to speak patiently. ‘We don’t have all too much experience with the hardware nor the software. And as you seem to be very experienced with this kind of technology, we decided that you could both be of use for us.’
Then again, not so crap, because by now she at least hadn’t wanted to feed on either of us. There was still time to plot an escape. As if plotting escapes was a specialty of mine. Training as an engineer didn’t include the chapter of ‘How to be a hero’ in the famous book of life. I was much more experienced with the chapter of ‘How to be a coward’. But I had to think of something, because I didn’t want to leave Hermiod in the hands of those hostile creatures.
‘And what is it exactly that makes you think we might be willing to help you?’ Hermiod asked, his voice firm and determined.
‘Well, let’s put it this way, little Asgard.’ The Wraith queen replied with dripping arrogance. ‘My Wraith can be very convincing when it comes to retrieving information.’
I desperately glared at Hermiod, not understanding why he dared to be so bold talking like that to a person who could kill us in the wink of an eye. The Asgard just blinked at me and didn’t waver.
‘I’m not willing to give you any kind of information as to how you could read the data on our computer core. Neither will I assist you in connecting it to your own system.’ Hermiod fully ignored the queen’s threat.
I instantly knew this wouldn’t end well. Behind our backs appeared two Wraith warriors, one of them grabbed my arm and pulled me away.
‘She is your prize.’ I heard the queen tell Hermiod. ‘Assist us and she will live. Deny your assistance and she’ll die the most unpleasant death you can imagine.’
Hermiod turned to me, the look on his face told me clearly that he was sorry, but also that he wouldn’t give in to anything the Wraith wanted from him. I knew that it was the Asgards’ top priority to save their advanced technology from enemies, that’s why I had an instant vision of myself ending up as collateral damage.
And I had thought this day couldn’t get any worse…
A while later I found myself in a Wraith cocoon, unable to move and completely alone. I’ve stopped both struggling and panicking, because it wouldn’t help me anyway, and just waited for what was about to happen. I admit that I felt kind of betrayed by Hermiod, but I could understand his motives very well. The protection of his people had top priority while I was of no worth for anyone. I silently hoped that the Atlantis team would come up with a good idea to save us anytime soon. They were experts at rescue plans, after all.
I wondered why I wasn’t dead already, because the Wraith who had dragged me away looked really hungry, but I suppose his queen’s bidding overweighed his need to feed, at least for now. After he had put me in this hideous place, he had turned away and left. First I had struggled to free myself, but to no avail. I wasn’t a fighter, goddammit, I wasn’t made for staying alive on a ship full of hostile aliens who wanted to have me for dinner.
After a while of silence, I suddenly heard voices from the direction where the Wraith guard had disappeared. They were too far away for me to understand or even distinguish some words, but they were definitely angry. I strained my ears, hoping to at least get a glimpse of what was going on, but it seemed like sound wasn’t carried far in this disgusting organic structure of the hive ship.
Though, I didn’t have to wait long to find out what was the reason for the argument, because a moment later I saw two Wraith coming around the corner, dragging Hermiod between them, who was protesting loudly against his treatment. He struggled with all his might and made me realize that although he looked so frail, there was a lot of strength in him, even more so as he seemed to be furious as hell. I’ve never before seen an angry Asgard! But then again, besides Hermiod I hadn’t seen any Asgard so far, so it wasn’t on me to judge. Of course, I knew that Hermiod liked to curse, preferably in his own language, when he was annoyed by something, especially humans, but I’ve never seen him throwing a tantrum before.
The argument stopped all of a sudden when one of the Wraith, obviously annoyed and losing his patience, smashed his weapon on Hermiod’s head, knocking him unconscious.
‘Do you have to be that brutal?’ I shouted before I even thought about it.
While one of the Wraith put Hermiod in the cocoon next to mine, the other glared at me, licking his lips as if he wanted to tell me I was already on his menu. I had read enough about Wraith feeding to know that it was painful and most unpleasant, so I’d gladly miss that experience. He seemed to read my thoughts, growled at me and came closer, but just before he could slam his hand in my chest and start feeding, he was held back by his companion.
‘Don’t.’ He just said. ‘The queen still needs her as a bait for the Asgard.’
They both glared at me for a moment, turned around and left.
I turned my head as far as I could to check on Hermiod. He was lying in the cocoon next to mine, still unconscious. Although I had felt betrayed by him minutes ago, I now felt deep compassion for him. He looked so tiny in this huge cocoon that was actually designed for humans.
‘Hermiod!’ I shouted out for him after I had waited a while to be sure the Wraith couldn’t hear me anymore. He didn’t react at all.
‘Hermiod!’ I tried again. And again, until he finally got aware of me.
He slowly opened his eyes and looked around, tried to free himself from the cocoon, but was just as unsuccessful as I had been before.
‘Dr Talvi.’ He said quietly. ‘Are you alright?’
His worried undertone touched something in me that made me refrain from reproaching him for anything that had happened on this dreadful day. It wasn’t his fault anyway.
‘Aegeti.’ I managed, giving in to a sudden feeling of affection. ‘Call me Aegeti, and yes, I’m fine… except that I’m stuck in this horrible cocoon, that is.’
The Asgard raised a brow and looked at me silently for quite a while. ‘I’m sorry.’ He finally mouthed.
‘For what?’ I asked, surprised.
‘For getting you into this unfortunate situation.’ He explained. ‘I never wanted to put you in any danger, but I had to make the queen believe that you meant nothing to me.’
‘Oh, that…’ I nodded gravely. ‘Well, yeah, that was kinda… rude, you know.’
We remained silent for a while before Hermiod began to speak again. ‘They forced me to work on the computer and I took the opportunity gladly.’
I wasn’t sure if I understood that right. ‘You mean you helped them?’ I asked, unbelieving.
‘I pretended.’ Hermiod explained. ‘It gave me time to find out what actually happened to the system that led to such enormous disaster.’
I’ve always liked the Asgard’s way of speaking. His choice of words often sounded kind of old-fashioned, yet charming.
‘Did you find anything?’ I was instantly interested.
‘Indeed.’ He said darkly. ‘The saboteur was undoubtedly good at his profession. I’ve already told you about the piece of code that I had found after the crash. It’s indeed been written by a human, but it wasn’t meant to make the Daedalus collide with a planet. It was only there to drop us out of hyperspace and send a signal to the Wraith where to find us.’
‘Oh, crap.’ I closed my eyes and exhaled. ‘But… why didn’t we detect that signal?’
‘It was hidden inside the automatic distress signal that was sent to Atlantis.’ Hermiod looked absolutely unhappy.
‘Who would have done that?’ I wondered.
‘Is it possible that there are Wraith supporters among the Atlantis expedition or the Daedalus crew?’ He wondered. ‘What do you think?’
‘I have no clue.’ I mused. ‘If so, they’re indeed good at hiding both their actions and themselves.’
Again we remained silent for a while, following our own thoughts. There was nothing much to talk about anymore and I wasn’t a small talk person anyway. I wondered how this whole mess would work out eventually. Would we really die here? Were the Wraith even able to feed from an Asgard? I remembered that I had read a few things about them only feeding on humans or humanoid species, but I didn’t know how much this description applied on an Asgard. Sometimes I really hated myself for not having better memory.
I wondered what would happen next. I was sure that the Wraith weren’t done with us yet. They’d surely try again to make Hermiod work for them, but from what I knew about him now, he would rather die than help them. One of the unpleasant facts about this was that I would have to die first in the Wraith queen’s attempt to convince him to comply. My future, of that I was sure, was going to be dark, painful and very short.
We didn’t get much of a choice to relax (yeah, as if we could do that anyway!), because the Wraith queen was seemingly impatient. The two hungry looking Wraith came back after a while and took us to her, not without shoving us around and insulting us in the rudest of ways. They were not so bad towards me, though, because they still seemed to have me on their menu, but they treated Hermiod like crap. While I got the chance to appear in front of her in dignity, they just threw the Asgard at her feet.
‘My, my, poor little thing.’ The queen snarled and bared her teeth. ‘Did you spend your time thinking over what you’ve done?’
Hermiod staggered to his feet and gave her a really frightening glare of doom, but she wasn’t impressed. I had disliked her from the beginning, but now my discomfort turned into hate, because if there was one thing that I absolutely couldn’t tolerate, it was when people were treated like they were worth nothing. But I only gritted my teeth and remained silent. For the moment.
‘I have tried to find out what parts of the computer system are still operating.’ Hermiod said, his voice firm. I admired him for his unwavering attitude. He was so much braver than me.
The queen rose to her full and most impressive height to tower over Hermiod. She was really tall! Even I, who’s a rather small human, was taller than the Asgard, naturally, but this… female was really frightening as she stood there glaring at Hermiod as if he was just a little fly on the wall that she could crush with her thump any time now. And still, Hermiod didn’t waver. He just stood there and glared back at her as if it was nothing. For this I admired him even more.
‘You have tried to destroy the database contents!’ She shouted at him. ‘You have tried to betray me!’
Honestly, did she really think he’d comply? Just so? I wasn’t quite sure whether she was arrogant or just plain stupid.
‘Do you really think I would leave Asgard technology at your disposal?’ Hermiod asked calmly. It was so amazing to see him outsmart the queen on every level.
I didn’t see the queen’s reaction come when she turned around and hit me in the face with all her strength. I fell backwards, slithered through the room and only came to a halt at the opposite wall where I hit my head painfully. Shaking off the daze I tried to get to my feet, but one of the Wraith guards was faster and pinned me to the ground with his boot. I spat blood and realized that my nose must have been broken. “Fine.” I thought. “One more broken bone for my collection.”
Hermiod wanted to help me, but the other Wraith guard held him in a firm grip. His big eyes widened when he saw the mess that my face surely was. I saw realization in those eyes. He knew he had gone too far.
The queen turned to him and laid her ugly hand under his chin. ‘This is just an example for what will happen to her if you continue to work against me, little Asgard. Either you give me what I demand or she’ll suffer even more.’
‘To hell with her!’ I yelled, angrily. Of course, I regretted my audacity in an instant when a heavy Wraith boot hit my chest. My still broken ribs didn’t take that well.
‘Crap!’ I spat some more blood.
While one of the Wraith kept his boot on my aching ribcage, the other dragged Hermiod away. That wasn’t good. I had hoped that we’d at least stay together now, but there seemed to be nothing that would ever go well on this damned day.
Being back in my cocoon I wasn’t that unhappy to be alone for a moment to try and sort out my thoughts. Somehow my whole body hurt. All the broken bones that had just begun to heal, seemed to be in a worse state than ever, a fact that I could do absolutely nothing against. My head hurt and breathing was problematic, too. I was sure that if I didn’t get away from the hive ship anytime soon, the Wraith wouldn’t have to kill me. I’d just die from exhaustion.
Of course, they didn’t give me much time to get myself together. The blood on my face had just dried when they took me again. This time the queen was nowhere to be seen, but there were a lot of Wraith gathering in the room where they kept the Daedalus’s computer core. Hermiod cowered on the floor, typing on an improvised keyboard. Surprisingly enough the guards let me sit with him.
‘How are you?’ I asked in a low voice.
Hermiod looked up at me, tired and somewhat broken. ‘Aegeti.’ He said in an even lower voice. ‘What have they done to you?’
‘Me?’ I wondered distractedly. ‘Oh, I’m fine. Don’t worry because of all that blood…’
‘I know you’re in pain.’ Hermiod’s voice was shaking with emotion, something that I hadn’t experienced with him before. ‘I know the sound of breaking bones.’
‘Don’t worry about me.’ I reassured him and took his hand in mine. ‘It’s you I have to take care for.’
Not for the first time did I realize how different the Asgard body structure was from mine. His fingers were even longer than mine, therefore his four-fingered hands looked somewhat strange on this small and frail body. Hermiod was quite tall for an Asgard. I remembered from working with him that when standing normally, he reached to my chin. I’ve never felt like a giant when standing next to him, despite everything I had been told by other people who had the chance working with an Asgard, but they were all taller than me and had dealt with Asgards smaller than Hermiod. Thinking of this I couldn’t help but smile.
‘It’s a sign of a strong character when you’re able to smile in a situation as dangerous as this.’ Hermiod let me know. He most likely thought I was slowly going nuts.
‘I’m not smiling because of the situation.’ I put things right. ‘I’m smiling because I was thinking of something nice.’
‘That doesn’t change my opinion about you.’ He let me know, pulled his hand back and continued his typing on his improvised keyboard.
‘What are you doing?’ I whispered, hoping the Wraith wouldn’t hear it.
‘Procrastinating.’ He whispered back. ‘I don’t want to risk that they hurt you again.’
‘They’ll find out rather soon than later.’ I couldn’t help but being Captain Obvious once more.
‘I’m sure that help is on the way.’ He let me know. ‘We just have to survive as long as possible.’
What did he think I was trying to do? But my hopes for a rescue team coming in anytime soon weren’t high. The longer this whole ordeal took, the less likely we would be saved.
‘You keep surprising me, you know.’ I told him after a few minutes of him typing on his keyboard and me looking around, enjoying the fact that nobody wanted to inflict any pain on me and that I was just left alone.
‘Why is that?’ He asked distractedly.
‘I’d never have guessed that you’re so brave and unwavering.’ I explained. ‘You don’t seem to be afraid of this horrible Wraith queen.’
‘My body doesn’t produce the large amounts of hormones human bodies tend to produce.’ Hermiod let me know. ‘I can’t feel anguish as intense as humans do.’
‘But you do feel something.’ I objected. ‘I saw it when you were looking at me while that Wraith shoved me around.’
‘I’ve never said I’m not able to feel anything.’ Hermiod explained. ‘I’m not afraid about my own well-being, but I do care for you. I don’t want you to be treated so terribly because of me and my duty to save my race’s technology. It isn’t fair. You’re a good person, you don’t belong in a place like this. If I could, I’d get you out of here.’
‘I wouldn’t go without you.’ I muttered. ‘It’s either the two of us or none.’
Hermiod looked at me, surprised, as if he’d never thought anyone would actually do something like this for him. His incredulous gaze made me smile.
‘Have you finished your little chattering already?’ One of the Wraith threw in impatiently. I flinched and backed away. Why hadn’t I seen him come? Note to self: Don’t get caught up in a conversation while my life is in danger, for it could be the last thing I’d ever do.
‘I’m sorry.’ I snarled sarcastically. ‘Won’t say anything anymore.’
He glared at me, then kicked Hermiod with his boot. ‘Get working! The queen won’t be amused about the two of you chatting instead of getting this computer running.’
‘Work would be way easier for him if you just stopped mistreating him like that.’ I hissed, helping Hermiod to sit up again. He winced and pressed one of his arms against his chest.
It was really about time this nightmare came to an end, if not for me, then at least for Hermiod’s sake. All of this was plain crazy.
I think I’ll never forget the day when I met Hermiod for the very first time. I had just been promoted to being the chief engineer on the Daedalus, when General O’Neill told me that we would not only have Asgard technology on the ship, but also a live Asgard to operate it and teach us how to use it. I was overly excited about this new technology, but pretty anxious concerning the Asgard himself, even more so as I’ve never met one of his people before.
I only knew the Asgards from what I’ve read on the SGC intranet. For example, I was aware of the fact they had been the initial spark to the Norse belief system on Earth. My grandmother had told me many of the old legends when I was a child. When living on Iceland, there’s no way not to come across the stories about Odin, Thor and the other deities at some point. But, of course, the real Asgard were nothing like that. They were a very advanced and highly superior alien race who helped us pathetic humans on our first steps of intergalactic space travel. Therefore, I respected them by all means and was nervous about having to work with the engineer they had sent us.
However, I had to deal with this, because as a team leader I could hardly ignore him. So, after the first meeting with Colonel Caldwell and the other team leaders, I entered the engine room carefully. The other engineers’ arrivals were announced for the next day, so there was only me, the Asgard and a lot of awkwardness.
He didn’t even look at me when I walked over to the computer interface he was working on. There was a workstation where he pushed some of those Asgard control stones around while he mumbled to himself in a language that sounded stranger than anything I’d ever heard before but also oddly familiar in its intonations.
The first fact I noticed was that he was smaller than me, but his long limbs and big head made him look taller than he actually was. Big black almond shaped eyes were focused on a screen full of strange letters and diagrams, hands with oddly long fingers lay on the control stones. He looked so completely alien to me, so totally out of this world. I immediately thought of science-fiction movies and shows that I had seen, like ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ or ‘The X-Files’ that presented little grey aliens that looked astoundingly similar to the being I was observing right now. It was clear to me that I had to read much more about the Asgard than I had already done.
I walked over to him hesitantly while I wrung my hands awkwardly. Being as nervous as I hadn’t been since my graduation, I tried to avoid getting one of my famous hiccups and cleared my throat.
‘Uhm, hello?’ I greeted him carefully. He looked up at me, wondering. It seemed like he hadn’t even noticed that I had entered the room.
‘Good morning.’ He replied. ‘Dr Talvi, I assume?’
‘Yes, yes, indeed.’ I confirmed, still feeling awkward.
‘Nice to meet you.’ He turned back to his workstation.
‘Uhm, you know that I’m the chief engineer and that we have to work together?’ I asked. ‘Together as in ‘talking to each other’ and things like that?’
‘I will talk to you whenever it is due to tell you something of importance.’ He retorted, seemingly impatient. He obviously didn’t have a very high opinion of humans.
I wondered why they had sent us this specific representative of their people. Were they all arrogant like that or were they just happy to get rid of him and give him to the humans to deal with? According to General O’Neill, the Asgard were friendly and helpful people, but this one would most likely turn out to be neither.
“Fine.” I made a note to self. “Let’s just pretend he’s not that bad.”
‘What are you thinking of?’ I was pushed back into reality when Hermiod spoke to me. Now he didn’t sound arrogant and unfriendly at all, only worried. ‘You looked… so lost for a moment.’
‘I was actually thinking of you.’ I let him know. He looked at me questioningly, so that I was obligated to say more. ‘Our first meeting, you know.’
‘I haven’t been an example for the friendly and cooperative co-worker, I suppose.’ Hermiod mused with surprising self-criticism.
‘No, not really.’ I couldn’t help but giggle.
I realized too late that giggling was an absolutely bad idea when surrounded by a bunch of hostile and unfortunately hungry Wraith. One of them came over, and before I got a chance to back away, I got another smack in the face. I was slowly growing tired of that.
‘Is that all you have!?’ I spat at him. ‘Beating people up for no particular reason? Is that all you can?’
‘Don’t keep him from working.’ The Wraith growled, his face unnervingly close to mine. His bad breath, most likely caused by his horrible teeth, almost made me throw up. Why did those folks have teeth anyway?
He let go off me and turned to Hermiod who had let his keyboard fall and just stared at my obviously blood-stained face. I winced when I touched my nose, grumbled something to myself and somehow managed to crawl back to the place I had been before the Wraith had hit me. My gut feeling told me clearly that it was important now to take care for Hermiod.
I didn’t have much time, though, as I’d already foreseen what would happen next. The Wraith guard was about to give Hermiod another kick with his boot, but I was fast enough to get in his way to save the Asgard from further injuries. Instead, the guard kicked me right in the stomach.
‘Ouch.’ I groaned, curling up and biting my lip.
‘Enough with fun and games!’ I suddenly heard the voice of the obviously angry and very impatient queen who was just striding into the room. I tried to sit up, ignoring that my stomach hurt like hell, and glared at her.
‘I wasn’t into that from the start anyway.’ I hissed. Gosh, those creatures were annoying!
I put a protective arm around Hermiod who had lost his cool eventually. He looked like it didn’t take any hormones to scare an Asgard to hell. I felt sorry for him, because he looked so small and frail between all those Wraith.
‘The two of you, you’re really a sweet couple.’ The queen purred mockingly, lowering her head to let her eyes wander from Hermiod to me and back again. I’ve never known the levels of hate intensity that I was able to feel.
‘I would recommend you to finally finish the integration of your computer core into our system, Asgard, because if you don’t, you’ll regret it for the rest of your life.’ She spat at Hermiod. ‘Although, I have to admit that you wouldn’t have to regret long.’
Hermiod, seemingly getting some of his self-confidence back, got up from the floor. The way he stood there, almost proud and very dignified, showed me clearly that nobody should ever underestimate him. The Asgard had guts, that much was sure.
In great contrast to this, I just kept sitting on the floor, perfectly knowing that I wouldn’t be able to get up anymore. My stomach really hurt, maybe a sign of internal bleeding, my ribcage hurt and everything else hurt too. I’ve actually never felt that beaten and ill before. Tiredly, I pushed some hair out of my face and winced when I accidentally touched one of the surely enormous bruises. To be honest, if I didn’t take Hermiod as such a good example, I’d have long lost myself in self-pity, but as long as he withstood, I wouldn’t back down either. At least as long as my body let me. Given the fact of my all over condition, I wasn’t sure how long I’d be able to hold on, though. I really wasn’t made to last in a situation like this.
I shifted to sit a bit more comfortably, but regretted it in an instant, because I was forced into a heavy coughing fit that ended up in me spitting some more blood. A definite sign of internal bleedings. Oh, crap.
‘Get her back into one of the cocoons.’ The Wraith queen gave one of her guards an order. ‘It seems she needs a little rest. She has to hold on a while longer, because if she dies too soon, we have nothing left to control the Asgard.’
‘No!’ I objected, when the Wraith wanted to grab my arm. ‘Don’t you dare touching me! I’m gonna go nowhere.’
‘It’s almost cute to see your hopeless attempts to save him.’ The queen said haughtily. ‘Well, if you want to do something for him, tell him to work faster. I’m really starting to lose my patience with the two of you.’
I wanted to object, I wanted to tell her she should push her demands to where the sun doesn’t shine, but I had grown way too tired to even make any further attempts, even more so as it was pointless anyway. Come to think of it, we hadn’t had the slightest bit of a chance from the beginning. I told myself not to give up, to keep fighting for Hermiod, but another coughing fit told me clearly that there wasn’t much to do for me anymore. I spat some more blood, inflicting some more pain in the process. I could have cried but held back the tears. I’d maybe lose my life in here, but I wasn’t willing to lose my dignity also.
After coughing up even more blood and desperately trying not to panic, I suddenly felt Hermiod’s hand on my shoulder. ‘I’ll comply now, Aegeti, just please don’t give up yourself.’
My sight grew more and more blurry, but I could still see his face right in front of mine. I could see the pain in those big black eyes. ‘Nobody should ever die for me.’ He said softly, let go off me and went back to his computer, while I tried to find a position that allowed me to breathe more easily.
‘Don’t.’ I told him in a raspy voice. ‘I’m not worth it, and you know that. I’m not important for the mission nor the Asgard people.’
‘It doesn’t count what you think is important or not.’ Hermiod objected.
‘Are you done already?’ The queen huffed, her voice dripping with annoyance.
I coughed again, not giving a damn on what she said, just keeping my eyes on Hermiod who, accompanied by a Wraith guard, began to connect his computer to the Wraith ship. But I was so powerless already that I couldn’t muster any more objections. It was one of those ‘all’s too late’ situations that I couldn’t get out anymore, not even for Hermiod. I was done with fighting.
And right before I lost consciousness the world went white…
Chapter 4: Attachment
Chapter 4 - Attachment
The snow fell lightly to the ground, covering everything in immaculate white. I just stood there, arms spread white, pretending to catch snowflakes like when I was a child still, enjoying the beautiful weather by all means. It was peaceful here, far away from the city with all its noise and stress. I’ve always loved this sole place somewhere faraway the coast of Iceland where nobody ever came around, because the little house was hidden in a small valley that couldn’t even be found on the usual tourist maps. Tourists weren’t likely to sneak around here anyways because of the sometimes quite active volcano that was situated in the near vicinity of the house.
It was some time around Christmas. The sweet smell of bakery hung in the air while my grandmother was busy decorating the living room for the small family gathering. My grandparents had only started to celebrate Christmas when I had moved in with them after my mother’s passing, because they were of the opinion a childhood without Christmas just wasn’t right. Though, they didn’t really connect it to religious beliefs, just to tradition. Grandpa wasn’t the religious type of people anyway and grandma was, occasionally, part of a local Asatru community.
I hadn’t come here for presents or anything material though, but for the peace and the silence, for the respect and acceptance that I’ve always experienced with my grandparents. At this place, the world was perfect. None of my everyday sorrows could follow me into this little valley.
I’ve never had an easy life, but I’ve also never complained about it. I suppose people like me were always victim to all sorts of bullying. Maybe it sounds pretentious, but I had easily been able to outsmart the rest of the school, and even at the university I was one of the brightest minds. Unfortunately, all the bullying in my past had left me with a really annoying tic. Whenever I got nervous or overly anxious I got a hiccup that couldn’t be cured. I either found a way to calm down or it would haunt me for hours. There had been so many occasions when the hiccup ruined very important job interviews and the like. I hated myself for it, because it made me feel totally insecure about myself. What were all the brains for, if you couldn’t get a job because of something as ridiculous as that? I never had hiccups at my grandparents’, though, and that was one of the many reasons why I came back here as often as I could.
Standing here amidst the snowfall, I hadn’t noticed that my grandfather had silently closed up to me.
‘This is not your place, Aegeti.’ He said calmly. ‘And you know that. As soon as Christmas is over, I want you to stop hiding and instead find yourself a place where you belong. You’re too smart to spend your life with boring applied science. I know that you could be a great explorer and researcher.’
‘Grandpa.’ I objected. ‘You know how I feel, what I think of myself. I’d love to do some great exploration stuff and the like, but as long as I don’t get rid of… that problem, I’m only going to get myself into countless super embarrassing situations. Nobody would ever take me serious.’
‘Believe in yourself, like I’ve taught you.’ He replied solemnly. ‘You’ve got so many good talents and you’ve got brains. There’s nothing in the world you couldn’t achieve, Aegeti. Just go out there and do it. I know that if you only get yourself some self-confidence, you can change the world, but you can only find it when you take risks.’
From his mouth it sounded so easy, as if I just had to put on my boots and walk into a beautiful and amazing future that was just waiting for me. A future that bore the label ‘Aegeti Talvi’ in bright and shiny letters. I appreciated that he kept fostering my self-confidence at any occasion possible, but it was also tiring.
‘Haha, grandpa.’ I pretended to be funny, because I wanted to wipe this annoyingly encouraging look from his ever worrying features. ‘You just sound like me getting hired on the Starship Enterprise to boldly go where no one has gone before.’ I couldn’t help but throwing in one of my science-fiction quotes I never got tired of.
He smiled at me thoughtfully. ‘Well, if that’s so, then I’d recommend you to get yourself some pointy ears, so they’ll add you to the science crew right away.’
‘Yeah, sure.’ I grumbled, hating not to be taken serious.
‘Hey.’ He said, rubbing my back encouragingly. ‘I know you can make it, I have confidence in you. Aegeti.’
‘Aegeti.’ I heard a faraway voice that definitely wasn’t my grandfather’s, but it sounded similarly familiar. I clearly remembered that I had talked with the voice’s owner quite often before, but right now I couldn’t put my finger on who that was, actually.
‘Aegeti!’ The voice sounded more urgent now. Someone obviously wanted something very important from me, but there was an emptiness in my mind that didn’t allow me to find out what that was either.
‘Aegeti, please!’ The voice insisted, getting slightly worried
Suddenly my memories came back full front at high velocity and almost made me choke. I immediately knew the voice’s owner and that I still had to be trapped in a hopeless situation full of violence and pain. Honestly, I didn’t feel like being ready to go back there right now or anytime soon. But then the most important part of the whole mess found its way into my consciousness eventually.
‘Hermiod!’ I gasped and my eyelids flew open. Why the hell had I passed out! I instantly remembered that I had promised the Asgard that I’d protect him, but instead I had nothing better to do than passing out like a whiny teenager! With all my heart I hoped he was well.
Looking around frantically, it took me a few seconds to realize that I wasn’t surrounded by Wraith anymore. In fact, my whole surroundings had changed tremendously. Everything looked bright and clean, definitely alien, but not Wraith.
A huge wave of relief washed over me in the moment I got aware of Hermiod standing at the side of whatever I was lying on.
‘Welcome back.’ He greeted, seemingly similarly relieved.
‘Where am I?’ I asked the most urgent question after I had checked that he didn’t seem to be injured, at least not at first glance. ‘That doesn’t look like the hive ship anymore. Have we been abducted by some other aliens now?’
I realized how impatient and most likely impolite I sounded and felt instantly sorry for it, but this day had been filled with so many bad news that I didn’t dare to hope anything better to come anytime soon. My natural paranoia always let me see enemies and danger around every corner.
The way Hermiod looked at me was somehow strange. If I hadn’t known better, I could have sworn there was amusement in those big almond shaped eyes.
‘In your case, yes. In my case, no.’ He replied enigmatically.
‘Oh gosh… wait… WHAT?’ Now I was totally confused, because for a moment his words didn’t make sense at all. We’ve just been on a ship full of hostile aliens and now we were, obviously, on another alien ship. That were too many aliens for one day, in my opinion.
It was slowly dawning on me that I’ve miraculously been saved from certain death in the last second possible. Things like that normally only happened in movies, that’s why I was slightly uncomfortable. I usually didn’t put trust in things that sounded too good to be true.
‘We’re on the Beliskner.’ Hermiod told me patiently. ‘Supreme Commander Thor’s flagship.’
‘An Asgard ship…’ I sighed, exhaled in relief, and closed my eyes in a sudden rush of sheer happiness. I couldn’t believe that we had come out of Wraith abduction alive and well. Though, the Asgard really could have shown up an hour earlier or so.
After I had sorted out my thoughts, I sat up and observed the room. It was definitely some kind of infirmary, and only when I came to that conclusion, I realized that I didn’t feel any pain any longer.
‘How long did I sleep?’ I asked cautiously, avoiding the term *being unconscious* intentionally.
‘You were unconscious.’ Thank you, Hermiod! ‘But only for a few minutes. I’ve had enough time to stabilize your worst injuries, though. It would take many more hours to heal all your internal injuries and broken bones, but unfortunately we don’t have time to do so right now, so this will have to be sufficient for the moment.’
‘You were able to attend to my worst injuries in just a few minutes?’ I asked, dumbfounded, checking myself. ‘I don’t even feel any pain anymore!’
‘We have very well working pain killers.’ Hermiod explained. ‘And our medical technology can heal all kinds of wounds much faster than yours. I can’t explain these things to you now, because, as I said, we don’t have much time.’ Seemingly even Asgards were able to grow impatient.
As if the universe had just waited for a cue, an impact hit the Beliskner, but it wasn’t nearly as hard as every impact that I had experienced aboard the Daedalus. The shields seemed to be much more efficient and obviously working well.
‘Are we fighting the Wraith?’ I wanted to know, carefully trying to get up from the sort-of-sickbed I was lying on, excited to be updated on the latest news, but as I still felt a bit drowsy, it was difficult not to lose balance.
‘Indeed.’ Hermiod confirmed. ‘This is also the reason why we don’t have much time to talk at the moment. Supreme Commander Thor wants to see you on the bridge. Also, I suppose that you want to witness the battle.’
‘You bet!’ I approved. ‘I don’t want to miss a minute of kicking the Wraiths’ butts!’
He lent me a hand to steady me in my attempt to get up. I got a firm grip on it and dropped to my feet. The world started to spin in various directions instantly and made me struggle for balance. Hermiod put his free hand on my belly to steady me while I put an arm around his shoulders in order to get my balance back.
As soon as I was able to stand upright, I pulled my hands back and looked at him awkwardly. I knew that the Asgards didn’t like physical contact in any way.
‘I’m sorry.’ I mumbled, checking if his frail body had taken any damage from holding someone who was much heavier than him. ‘Are you alright?’
Our eyes met for a moment. I smiled at him shyly while he raised an encouraging eyebrow.
‘Don’t worry.’ He reassured me. ‘I’ve taken no damage.’
Then the world went white once more when we were embraced by an Asgard transporter beam that sent us directly to the bridge, a place that was literally swarming with lots of Asgards. Those who got aware of our arrival looked at me interestedly. Supposedly most of them had never seen a human before, so I seemed to be some kind of a sight to see.
I smiled at them awkwardly, then I looked ahead and was completely dumbstruck by my surroundings. Everything here looked so much more elegant (and alien) than the Daedalus. Here I saw the unmistakable proof that the Asgard had been space travellers already when humans were still sitting on trees throwing bananas after each other.
A great part of the wall was an actual window that allowed an exquisite view on the Wraith hive ship that was firing seemingly everything they had at the Beliskner. In a chair that was situated in the middle of the bridge, there sat an Asgard whom I assumed to be Thor. General O’Neill had told me about him, especially about the fact that he considered himself a friend of the humans.
Thor gave one of the other Asgards a very complex order in his own language before he turned to me and gave me a long and interested look as if he wanted to check first whether it had been worth saving me.
‘Dr Talvi, I assume.’ He finally spoke. ‘It’s nice to meet you.’
I was really glad about the approving look on his face.
‘The pleasure is all mine.’ I replied nervously, asking myself how he could know my name. Did Hermiod have the time to fill him in about me or was he simply informed about who among the humans was allowed to work with Asgard technology?
‘As you humans would say: Take a seat and enjoy the show!’ Thor told me, raising his eyebrows encouragingly while pointing at a seat right beside his. His way of talking told me very clearly that he had spent way too much time in the presence of General O’Neill.
I sat down carefully, not taking my eyes away from him. ‘How’s business?’ I wanted to know.
Another impact hit the Beliskner. Thor threw orders all around, then looked back at me. ‘The Wraith are of the ludicrous opinion they could win against two Asgard motherships. I am going to teach them otherwise.’
I couldn’t help but grin widely at Thor’s obvious badassery, while I watched the Beliskner’s plasma beam weapons take severe damage on the hive ship. My smile turned into an almost insane grin when several parts of it exploded. I had a really hard time keeping myself from starting to cackle like a maniac. I appreciated Thor a lot for kicking those hideous creatures’ butts.
Only now did I realize that Hermiod was standing right beside me, having his hands clasped behind his back, watching intently. Though, he wasn’t watching the battle. His big black eyes didn’t move an inch away from me. He had most likely seen many more space battles in his life than humans who were grinning widely while their enemies were torn to pieces by powerful weaponry. I admit, I enjoyed the fact that this horrible Wraith queen didn’t have all too much time anymore until she got what she deserved for the treatment she had given us. The tables had turned, now it wasn’t us anymore who’d die an unpleasant death. I responded to Hermiod’s gaze with a smile.
‘Don’t you think they deserve it?’ I wanted to know.
‘They deserve to be punished for everything they did to us and many others over the centuries, indeed.’ Hermiod confirmed. ‘But I honestly don’t care about them, I just find it extraordinarily relieving to see you smiling and enjoying yourself after everything you’ve been through on the hive ship.’
I couldn’t answer right away, because my attention was drawn back to the window. The Beliskner fired again and this time the Asgards had aimed for the perfect target. The hive ship dissolved into a huge ball of fire, making me jump to my feet, clapping my hands. It felt good to see all the debris floating away into space. Though, getting up that quickly was a very bad idea. It reminded me all too clearly of quite a few of my injuries. So I sat down again carefully to watch the progress of the show.
‘Target is neutralized, Commander.’ One of the weapons operators said, his voice calm and even.
‘Very well.’ Thor replied. ‘How is the Mjolnir’s status?’
‘Commander Njorir confirms they haven’t taken any damage.’ Some other Asgard informed him.
‘Looks like it’s been a full success.’ I stated, smiling widely at Thor.
‘I’ve always admired the humans’ ability to be enthusiastic about almost everything.’ Thor said, amused. ‘But I know that the Wraith are the greatest plague of this galaxy and have taken far too many innocent lives, so your reaction is understandable.’
‘I could actually write an extensive book about all the losses that had to be suffered because of the Wraith.’ I confirmed. ‘They know no mercy and they don’t expect any mercy from others either.’
‘Then we obviously arrived in time to intervene.’ Thor said, looking kind of satisfied.
‘Sadly it was just one hive… who knows how many are still out there.’ I mused, but didn’t want to linger on the subject.
At this very moment I was so overflowing with relief and thankfulness that it really took me a lot of self-control not to hug Thor.
An hour later we all met up in Atlantis’s main conference room. It was a gathering of the usual suspects, joined by Thor, who looked both pleased and curious. I couldn’t wait to hear what made him decide to interfere at Hoth himself instead of only sending one of his ships.
‘I’m really thankful that you’ve decided to show up and help us out, Supreme Commander.’ Dr Weir said with an honest and very relieved smile on her face. It was obvious to me that she was somehow nervous in front of the high ranked Asgard, but she had enough self-confidence to cover up for it.
‘You may call me Thor.’ He first told her generously, but didn’t wait for her surprised confirming nod. ‘I’ve received Hermiod’s message almost too late, as it seems. It arrived many hours after he had given it to your people to forward it. I would have expected that the security of your own people weighs heavier than the levels of bureaucracy and classification messages have to surpass on the way to your allies.’
I wasn’t the only one who had to stifle a giggle, because Thor had spoken everyone’s thoughts. It was neither the science department nor the military who were so keen on all this bureaucracy and classification. Actually, it was the IOA’s fault, and nobody liked those office sitters who had never participated in a fight or in the fear of dying a gruesome death.
‘I’m sorry for this.’ Weir said openly. ‘But luckily you were able to arrive before anyone was killed.’
‘The Wraith kidnapped two people and stole a very valuable piece of Asgard technology.’ Thor cut her off. ‘Especially your engineer had been in a disastrous medical condition when we teleported her to our infirmary. If we hadn’t given her long overdue and undoubtedly necessary medical aid, the damage on her body would most likely have been permanent.’
While everybody seemed to be uncomfortable about what had happened to me, it was the first time that I really thought about it. I knew that I had been unconscious for a few minutes only, but those minutes were seemingly enough to stabilize the worst injuries. The medical knowledge and technology of the Asgard were incredible.
‘Is Thor implying you’ve saved my life up there?’ I whispered in Hermiod’s tiny ear who was sitting next to me. He just gave me a slow nod, his eyes told me we’d talk about it later.
Weir gave me an apologetic look that told me clearly how much of a bad consciousness she had concerning me. Though, I didn’t hold a grudge towards anyone. We all knew about how dangerous our various professions were, we had all signed up knowing the risks very well.
‘Well.’ Weir went on after a moment of awkward silence. ‘Are you planning to assist us any further, Thor, or is your job already done by retrieving the Asgard computer core and our kidnapped people?’
One of the many things I admired about Dr Elisabeth Weir was her talent of always switching back to her business way of speaking, no matter how terrible news she had just received. She was one of those people who were level-headed most of the time. Atlantis needed a leader with such capabilities, someone who was able to use their brains even in the face of certain death. I knew she had a big heart and cared for each and every person who was part of her team, and that was actually everything necessary to know for not being offended when she spoke her mind so clearly from time to time. Thor seemed to sense that, too.
‘The High Council gave me an assignment to help you retrieve the Daedalus from, as you call it, M4X-773, to supervise the repairs and to install new Asgard hardware into the ship’s systems. We’re also assigned to assist you fighting the Wraith in case they’re going to return for another attack before the repairs are finished.’
That was indeed the best news I had heard in quite a while. We’d have two Asgard motherships to guard us at least for a few weeks. I hoped that the tremendous loss of one of their hive ships earlier that day would make the Wraith think twice before they dared to get back at us anytime soon. The Asgard ships were able to overpower them easily.
‘Don’t you have to attend to any other problems in the Milky Way or your own galaxy?’ McKay threw in, wondering. ‘I mean, there are still Goa’Uld and the like.’
‘We’re of the opinion that your people are able to fight them on their own for the moment.’ Thor answered, sounding a bit haughty. ‘There are much more urgent problems to attend to in the Pegasus galaxy right now. The Asgard have their own problems to work on back on Othala indeed, but the fleet is not needed there.’
We all looked a bit puzzled about that hint, but Thor didn’t seem to want to elaborate on it, so it clearly wasn’t our business to ask further questions.
‘Rodney, Dr Talvi.’ Weir looked first to him, then to me. ‘I want you to overview the repairs on the Daedalus…’
‘Not yet.’ She was interrupted by Thor. ‘Dr Talvi first has to undergo important medical treatment aboard the Beliskner before she’s able to follow your orders. Her injuries are by far more serious than they might seem.’
Weir looked a bit shocked when she turned to me. ‘Yes, of course you do. I’m really sorry, Dr Talvi. We’re all a bit too selfish at times.’
‘It’s alright.’ I shrugged her apology off. ‘There’s a lot to keep in focus these days.’
‘What’s the reason why you want to do her medical treatment aboard your ship?’ Carson now wanted to know, his whole expression full of surprise. He was Atlantis’ head physician, after all.
‘She’d take many weeks to recover if you tried to cure her with your primitive medical knowledge.’ Thor said matter-of-factly. ‘We’ll only need a few hours.’
Carson glared at Thor, more surprised than offended, but obviously not happy about the fact that his profession was belittled in such a rude way. I knew that Thor didn’t want to be rude. The Asgards just had this unnerving attitude of always speaking the truth, no matter what feelings they caused in the humans they dealt with. They were oblivious of such sensitivities and therefore couldn’t care less for people who couldn’t handle the truth.
‘There is something else we need to talk about first.’ I ended the argument before it had even started. ‘Hermiod has found out the truth as to why the Daedalus had dropped out of hyperspace, and I can tell you, it’s most disconcerting.’
At these words the room fell into complete silence. Even Carson forgot to object. I had all eyes on me when I nodded at Hermiod. He caught my encouraging smile and turned to his eagerly waiting audience.
‘I’ve luckily had the chance to check some log files while we were on the Wraith ship.’ He began slowly. ‘There I’ve found evidence that the original Asgard program was altered by a subroutine that definitely doesn’t belong there. One that has obviously been written by a human.’
Everyone stared at Hermiod in total exasperation.
‘Can Asgard software really be altered by human-written programs?’ McKay wanted to know. ‘Is that even possible?’
‘Not on an Asgard ship, of course, but In case of the Daedalus it is possible.’ Hermiod confirmed. ‘We have implemented some programming interfaces for your software to interact with ours. For an experienced programmer it wouldn’t be problematic to add any kind of malicious code.’
‘What was it for?’ Caldwell wanted to know, undoubtedly worried. ‘To make my ship smash into a planet? That’s insane!’
‘Not exactly.’ Hermiod said patiently, closing his eyes for a moment, seemingly unhappy with what he had to talk about. ‘It was only there to drop us out of hyperspace and send a signal to the Wraith. That we hit the planet was a mere accident.’
‘An accident?’ Caldwell shouted angrily. ‘You call that a mere accident?’
He was cut off by Dr Weir who glared at him impatiently. She obviously had other priorities.
‘To the Wraith?’ She then asked Hermiod, seemingly uncomfortable. ‘How?’
‘There was a hidden signal inside the standard distress signal the Daedalus started to send automatically after the crash.’ Hermiod explained. ‘It could only be found if someone took a closer look at the malicious program, because it was hidden very well. Luckily, I had the time to take said closer look.’
‘Crap.’ McKay cursed. ‘But who would do that? Who’s even capable of that? Not even I can do that without studying the Asgard programming languages first.’
McKay admitting that there was something he wasn’t able to do was indeed something that should be noticed and written down, just in case he needed to be brought back down to earth next time he had one of his “I’m better than anyone else in the universe” moments. Dr Zelenka chuckled quietly and I, too, couldn’t stifle a smile.
‘Would anyone in this room be able to write such a program?’ Caldwell, who apparently had calmed down a bit, wanted to know. Although he didn’t look at me, I perfectly knew who he was thinking of.
‘Besides myself?’ Hermiod challenged him. ‘No.’
‘Alright.’ Caldwell said, exhaling nervously. ‘And you’re sure you didn’t do it?’
‘Of course he didn’t.’ I objected before Hermiod was even able to defend himself. ‘Why should Hermiod do that? The Asgard have no business with the Wraith.’
Caldwell glared at me. ‘At least except for the fact that they’d want to set a foot in the Pegasus…’
‘No!’ I interrupted him. ‘No, no, no! Let’s not even think of something as ridiculous as that!’
‘Colonel Caldwell.’ Thor reminded Caldwell of his presence in a low but very determined voice. ‘The Asgard have no interest in the Pegasus galaxy except the protection of the Atlantis expedition. We’re not conquerors, as you surely know.’
Caldwell lost the staring contest with Thor, shoved his hands in the pockets of his pants and sighed. ‘I’m sorry.’ He managed. ‘I shouldn’t have said that.’
‘Indeed.’ Thor just replied and turned his attention back to me.
‘There must be a Wraith supporter somewhere among our people.’ I suggested. ‘Someone who has access to the Daedalus’s most important systems, someone who’s experienced with the programming interfaces of the Asgard software.’
‘There were hundreds of people involved in the system checks back on Earth.’ McKay mused. ‘I’m going to check with the SGC. They surely have a list of the personnel that was working on or had access to the Daedalus. That’ll be a long list, though, which means we’ll have to interrogate a lot of people.’
‘We must find the culprit as soon as possible.’ I insisted. ‘As long as they’re running free, we can’t be safe anymore.’
‘True.’ Weir approved, nodding slowly. I’ve never seen her looking so worried before. ‘We’ll start with it right away. Rodney, dial Earth and tell General Landry about our latest intel. Ask him to send us said list as soon as possible and to start interrogating everyone who had access to the Daedalus on Earth at any time. Sheppard, round up everyone who can be of help interrogating people here. Caldwell, I need a list of every person that could have had access to the Asgard computer. We need to proceed fast before the saboteur can take any further action.’
‘We will protect Atlantis from the Wraith until the saboteur is found and put to trial.’ Thor confirmed his earlier offer. ‘As long as there’s a possibility this person still has access to the Daedalus’s systems, there’s no use in implementing a new Asgard computer core. Hence we won’t start working on it until this mystery has been solved.’
‘Good.’ Weir confirmed. ‘Then it’s settled. Let’s get to work.’
Not long after this disconcerting discussion in Atlantis, I found myself back on the Beliskner, situated in one of their medical pods that had been altered for me to fit in. I knew that Thor didn’t do this for me because of friendship duty, but because he knew I was the only human engineer available who could assist Hermiod in installing the new Asgard computer on the Daedalus. Of course, I didn’t care about any selfish reasons on his part, because I was no less selfish when approving to be treated aboard the Beliskner. It was great for a change to just spend some time among Asgards, because I’ve come to like their down-to-earth way of speaking and acting. It was just a bit awkward to be completely naked while lying in this medical pod, but on the other hand, it wouldn’t have been different on a human operation table, and those aliens didn’t care for such sensitivities anyways.
‘I have programmed the necessary actions into the pod’s computer.’ Eir, the head medical officer, told me in an indifferent voice. ‘As soon as I close the lid you will fall asleep and only awaken as soon as the treatment is finished.’
Eir was the first Asgard with a female personality that I’ve ever heard of. Of course they didn’t have any genders at all, being asexual and only keeping their numbers constant by cloning. That’s why the necessity of such archaic distinction of genders had become completely meaningless in their society, but they still had distinguished personalities and voices that showed that there actually still were differences between genders. Both personality and voice were definitely female concerning this particular Asgard.
‘How long will the procedure take?’ I wanted to know, not admitting that I was indeed worried. This was alien technology, after all, and I couldn’t be sure of how dangerous it could actually be for human physiology.
‘About ten to twelve hours.’ She said, still totally indifferent. ‘Concerning how severe the damages actually are.’
‘And this is really safe for me, right?’ I asked uncertainly, because I couldn’t keep myself any longer from voicing my worries.
‘It has been tested on humans in various occasions.’ She let me know, now becoming a little bit impatient. I didn’t even want to know what occasions those were, given the fact the Asgard actually resembled the Roswell Greys in their looks. Of course I knew that the aliens of human science-fiction movies and conspiracy theories had nothing to do with the Asgard, but still I felt a bit uncomfortable about the fact that some alien technology was about to mess with my body.
Forcing my worries into the background of my mind, I raised my head a bit to look around the infirmary, my eyes searching for someone special. Hermiod was standing near the door, not wanting to disturb the medical officer at work, but when he met my gaze, he came a bit closer.
‘I’m able to start the process, too.’ Hermiod told Eir in a firm voice. ‘Please give us a few moments.’
The medical officer just tilted her head in surprise and wonderment, then left us alone. I was glad that I finally got the chance to talk with Hermiod about what had happened on the Wraith ship.
‘Thank you.’ I told Hermiod as soon as Eir had left. ‘I really appreciate that you got me out of that mess alive.’
‘Without your encouragement I wouldn’t have lasted in front of the Wraith queen. Your courage showed me it was worth fighting. You were just there for me, and I can’t remember that someone has ever been just there for me.’ He told me earnestly. ‘I suppose the truth is that we’ve saved each other’s lives.’
‘When I look back at the last days, I realize that we somehow need each other to survive.’ I told him with a wink, smiling. ‘It seems there’s been a very wise man who put us on the Daedalus together.’
‘The Asgard don’t believe in fate.’ Hermiod let me know, totally not having understood the joke I made. He was most likely simply oblivious of human humour, but there was also the chance that he instinctively knew that I didn’t want to be funny in the first place, at least not from the heart.
‘Neither do I.’ I just replied. ‘But I do believe in luck, and it was great luck that we got through a lethal mess together twice in just a few days.’
Hermiod tilted his head, the look in his eyes a mystery to me. I’ve spent so much time with him on the Daedalus, but still I couldn’t read every of his expressions. I couldn’t study him with human measures, I had to study him using my gut feeling and a lot of patience, because there was no instruction manual on “How to study an alien”.
‘It’s time for me to get some sleep.’ I broke the awkwardness. ‘The pain killers seem to decrease and I really need to get rid of all the mess inside my body. We need to get back to work anytime soon, after all.’
I could have talked with Hermiod forever, to be honest. Being with him gave me an odd feeling of belonging, of being in a place that was actually meant for me. I shrugged off the thought, though, because this was neither the right time nor the right place for it.
Hermiod took my hand in his and quietly held it for a while. My puzzled look seemingly making him try hard to find an explanation that wasn’t awkward. ‘I’ve noticed that humans do this to both encourage and comfort someone.’
‘That’s true.’ I confirmed. ‘But we also do it to show affection.’
‘I’ve already suspected that.’ Hermiod confirmed.
As I didn’t know how to react on that, I carefully pulled my hand back, smiled at Hermiod’s wondering expression, made myself more comfortable and closed my eyes. I fell asleep as soon as the lid of the medical pod closed.
Chapter 5 - Awakening
One of the most awkward moments in my life took place on the day when I found myself standing in front of a certain grey office door on a similarly grey corridor situated inside of an expectedly just as grey building that’s known as the Pentagon. I had received an, in my opinion, quite obscure letter from a department that called itself ‘Homeworld Security’, an authority that seemed to be answering directly to the U.S. President. The letter included an invitation to a job interview, which made me wonder, because I never even had sent an application to the U.S. military. I didn’t even know they employed civilians from other countries. And, to be completely honest, I absolutely couldn’t imagine myself working for the military, because I considered myself being way too clumsy to ever be successful as a soldier. The thought of war was enough already to cause another annoying hiccup. Still, I was curious enough to attend said job interview, especially because I had never heard of a department with the name ‘Homeworld Security’ before. Everyone knew ‘HomeLAND Security’ since they were quite prominent on the news from time to time, but something told me that those two authorities were working on entirely different matters.
So I was standing there, my hand already raised to knock at the door, but completely unsure as to why I’ve even travelled to Washington D.C. It took me a lot of self-confidence to finally allow my fingers to knock.
‘Come!’ I heard a hard voice that was almost enough to make me just turn around and run. I decided otherwise, though, and opened the door carefully, peeking into the room.
‘Don’t be shy, come in.’ The voice’s owner spoke in a friendly way and therefore made me feel a little less uncomfortable. I saw myself confronted with a three star General whose face, for unknown reasons, bore the inviting smile of a man much younger than him.
So this was the fateful day when I learned to know General Jack O’Neill, the very same day when my life was about to change forever. Of course, at this very moment I couldn’t have known that yet.
I entered the room carefully and stood in front of the General respectfully, absolutely oblivious of how to handle this situation. I’ve always had great respect in front of authorities. Everyone has, I suppose, just not everyone admits it. And honestly, here I was, little Aegeti Talvi from Iceland, just promoted, not special in any way, standing in front of this man who obviously wanted to offer me a job. Me. A job. At the Pentagon. Yes, of course.
General O’Neill shook my hand, still with this enigmatic boyish smile on his face, and pointed me to sit down on a chair in front of his desk. I complied, not taking away my eyes from this quite reassuring smile and not daring to utter a word.
‘Do you have an idea why I wanted to see you?’ He asked, his voice friendly and encouraging.
I shook my head, trying with all my might not to hiccup.
‘I’ve read all your essays and scientific works, Dr Talvi, and I’m most impressed by your deep understanding of complex systems.’ He began to praise me. ‘I daresay you’re indeed capable of excelling at the job I have to offer.’
I’m sure my face showed shades of red that I wasn’t even aware of. It was hard to decide what to feel about and how to react to his words. Indeed, I had written some papers that had drawn some attention, and yes, I loved what I did, but this speech of appraisal scared the hell out of me. I knew that when the military gets word of a person they consider a genius, said genius isn’t likely to get out of the whole story alive. Luckily, I didn’t consider myself a genius, so there was still a chance.
‘General O’Neill, sir.’ I managed carefully. ‘I’m just an everyday engineer who’s quite good at… creative thinking.’
‘Indeed.’ He nodded gravely. ‘And this exact creativity and the success you’ve already had with it, is the reason why we got interested in you. I can promise you that if you sign our contract, you’ll be able to work on machinery that you most likely wouldn’t even dream of. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance, Dr Talvi, and I’d recommend you to take it.’
‘Just so?’ I wondered, honestly feeling displeased by his hinting on signing a contract that I didn’t even know existed.
‘Well.’ He said slowly, raising his brows. ‘I have knowledge that you don’t really have anything to leave behind, as you don’t have a family or other obligations to attend to. Oh, and your internet access profile tells me that you’re going to be very interested in what I have to offer.’
‘Wait!’ I cut in. ‘You’re reading my internet activity?’
‘Don’t tell me you didn’t expect it.’ He replied with one of his boyish smiles.
Honestly, when it was about governments in general, I’ve learnt to expect even the unexpected, that’s why I didn’t even bother with him knowing about every website I’ve ever accessed and every email I’ve ever written. We were living in a brave new world of paranoid secret services, after all.
‘Alright.’ I muttered hesitantly. ‘What is it that you have to offer?’
He nodded encouragingly, leaned back and gave me a somewhat self-satisfied look before he voiced the question of questions. ‘Tell me, Dr Talvi, do you believe in the existence of extra-terrestrial life?’
When the lid of the medical pod opened, I felt like having slept forever or just for ten minutes at the same time. I avoided the term ‘feeling like newly born’, though, because being born includes lots of blood and inconvenience. Instead, I felt refreshed and at the best of my moods, wondering whether it would be possible to use this very comfortable Asgard spa again every once in a while.
I opened my eyes and breathed slowly, letting all my memories invade my mind once more, and realized that I felt at complete peace with myself and the world alike.
I noticed Hermiod still standing beside the medical pod, exactly like he had stood there before I had fallen asleep. It made me wonder about how much time I had spent sleeping. I decided that it couldn’t have been all too much, because I was sure the Asgard had more important business to attend to than hanging around at the infirmary all day.
‘Good morning?’ I asked carefully, not knowing what time of day we actually had.
‘Good morning, Aegeti.’ Hermiod greeted me with sudden relief in his expression. ‘It’s most fortunate that you’re awake and well.’
‘How am I?’ I wanted to know. ‘How long did I sleep?’
‘You’ve been asleep for about eleven hours.’ Hermiod informed me in his business voice. ‘As for what the computer tells me, all your injuries could be cured and you haven’t taken any permanent damage. I would prefer Eir to check on you anytime soon, though.’
Hermiod went to turn to the computer and call her, but there was obvious hesitation in his movement that I couldn’t quite figure out. I didn’t hold him back, though, because I, too, was of the opinion the medical officer should check me first.
Eir entered the room only seconds after Hermiod had called her. She looked at me interestedly and then turned to the readouts on the medical pod’s computer display.
‘Did everything go right?’ I dared to ask the very serious looking Asgard.
She looked at me, raising her brows. ‘Each of your injuries was attended to in the expected manner. Your broken bones and damaged organs have been healed completely. That means you’re of best health now and therefore can return to your duties again.’
I had to bite my lip hard in order to keep myself from laughing about her quite pretentious way of explaining the obvious to someone whose intelligence was presumably inferior to hers. I couldn’t care less, though, because the Asgard just were like that and didn’t mean any harm. The most important thing about her information was – and I was more than glad about it – the fact that I was doing fine again.
‘Thank you.’ I therefore said, lowering my head in respect.
‘You can put on your clothes now.’ She let me know, pointing at a pile of clothes sitting on a chair nearby, but not reacting in any way to my thankfulness. I wondered if it was even possible to make an Asgard show any kind of emotion that was readable to a human.
‘Alright.’ I mumbled and got up very carefully. I was still a bit drowsy after more than ten hours of sleep, that’s why I just picked up the clothes and sat down on the chair instead.
Both Eir and Hermiod watched me putting on my clothes very interestedly. For those constantly naked aliens, it was surely quite incomprehensible why humans were so eager about covering their bodies. If they had asked me right now, I wouldn’t even have been able to explain. We just had this natural shamefacedness that sometimes felt like it was coded in our very DNA.
‘You can leave the infirmary anytime you wish.’ Eir told me. ‘Your business here is done.’
She turned around and left quickly, leaving me dumbstruck by her rudeness. I couldn’t get rid of the feeling that some Asgards were prone to xenophobia, too.
‘I’m sorry.’ Hermiod said, sounding a bit sad. ‘She doesn’t mean to appear rude. We’re just not used to the subtle ways of human communication.’
‘It’s OK.’ I shrugged it off. ‘She’s done enough already in curing me from all the damage, so I’m really thankful and all. There’s no need to apologize, really.’
Hermiod tilted his head, looking at me questioningly for a moment. Then he turned around, ready to leave the infirmary. I had a feeling that he, actually, wanted to talk about something more but seemed to be of the opinion that I was eager to get back to work anytime soon. Without even thinking I reached out my hand for him.
‘Wait.’ I said in a low voice. ‘Just for a moment.’
He turned back to me, wonderment in his big black eyes, and, following an idea incomprehensible to me, put his hand in mine. I still had no idea what it was that I could read in him, in his eyes, his facial expressions, his body language, because all of it was still so alien to me, but I had a gut feeling there was something that should be discussed. Better now than later.
Still holding his hand, I sat down on that small Asgard chair again in a very uncomfortable position. Now I was on eye-to-eye level with Hermiod who looked back at me, puzzled. I needed to get an information from him now. One that was more important to me than anything else at this particular moment.
‘Have you been here all the time?’ I asked carefully, almost dreading the answer. ‘Did you watch over my sleep?’
Hermiod tilted his head in approval. ‘I could not risk you to be without supervision. Of course, Asgard medical technology is very powerful and not prone to fail, but I wanted to be sure…’ He trailed off and broke the eye contact with me.
I realized that I still held his hand in mine, and as he hadn’t protested by now, I plucked up the courage to take the other hand too.
‘I somehow feel that this isn’t the whole truth.’ Honestly, I have no idea where the courage came from that moved me to this audacity. Of course, we’ve become friends by now after all we had gone through together, but that still didn’t give me the right to be so prying.
‘I care for you.’ Hermiod said very hesitantly. ‘I don’t want you to be hurt again, especially not by my people. I don’t want to lose your trust.’
I felt my heart beating a tad faster. Still, I had no idea what to do with this information, because I saw absolutely no reason as to why Hermiod should care for me. Or for any human, that is. What I knew was that I cared for him too.
‘You are holding my hands.’ He pointed out the obvious after I hadn’t said anything for quite a while. I wasn’t able to manage speaking about my thoughts and feelings, to be honest, because I had no clue what I could tell him that didn’t ruin this moment completely. That’s why I only nodded to confirm his statement.
‘Are you doing this because of… affection?’ He asked, curiously.
I let one of his hands go to put mine under his chin, carefully and gently forcing him to look at me. I still couldn’t read Asgard body language, not to the least, and I knew that even if he felt affection for me, there would be no point in it, given the fact that the Asgard didn’t chose partners and the like. Still, there was something in his eyes that I wasn’t able to comprehend. Something of which I suddenly knew that I wanted to find out.
‘Yes.’ I said softly. ‘Humans do that when they’re thankful, you know. I mean, you have spent more than ten hours of your precious time just watching over my sleep. I know that there’s a lot of work to be done on both the Beliskner and the Deadalus, but still you’ve wasted your time for something that’s apparently unnecessary. I’m really touched by it, you know. It’s among those things that humans see as a proof of true friendship.’ The hell, why was I so nervous all of a sudden, and why did I talk way too much when I was nervous?
‘I couldn’t lose you.’ Hermiod told me matter-of-factly. ‘You’re too important… to the Atlantis expedition...’ He trailed off again, and I could have sworn there was insecurity in his voice.
‘Or to you?’ I asked, admittedly hopeful.
‘Or me.’ He confirmed.
My brain started to work frantically, processing and evaluating new information. How the hell had I never noticed it? When I thought back on the last two years, I realized that Hermiod had always been acting differently when he was around me. While he treated everyone else with sarcasm and arrogance, he was really likable and friendly around me. I blamed it on the mere fact that I was his actual superior, but then again, he even treated Colonel Caldwell like a hopeless retard. There were, obviously, facets of our Asgard engineer that I always simply ignored because they didn’t matter or even make sense.
But I did feel affection for him, right? I did feel that special kind of chemistry that only occurred when we were working alone, trusting each other completely in situations where trust was more important than anything. I remembered when, after the Daedalus had collided with Hoth, I was holding the Asgard in my arms to keep him from freezing to death. I remembered how bad I’d have taken it if he hadn’t made it back to the safety of Atlantis. I’ve always known it, but still it came as a surprise.
‘Then I suppose I’ll take care you won’t ever lose me.’ I finally told him to break the silence, a silence that wasn’t awkward anymore, just full of insecurities. ‘Because you’re important to me as well.’
He looked at me in wonderment, his eyes full of warmth, and something about his body language told me my words had hit home.
‘I will do the same for you.’ He confirmed. ‘I’m glad we’re thinking alike.’
Looking into his eyes, I wondered about the road I was just about to follow. How was this supposed to continue, where were we even heading too? I was sitting at the infirmary of an Asgard spaceship holding hands with a being that was more alien to me than anyone I had ever encountered, including the Wraith. But naturally, when an avalanche has already started to move, there was no way to stop it. Avalanches, that much I knew, were able to change everything.
Carefully, to not loose balance on that small chair I was sitting on, I leaned forward and placed a soft kiss on Hermiod’s forehead. His skin tasted somehow bitter and nothing like anything I had ever tasted before, but it wasn’t unpleasant in any way, just… alien.
Hermiod looked at me in utter surprise, obviously not having understood what I had just done. There was even a hint of fear in his gaze.
‘That’s what humans do when they like somebody very much.’ I explained, smiling awkwardly. ‘It’s just another sign of affection, like… holding hands and the like.’
The Asgard tilted his head in comprehension. I knew that he was very interested in human rituals and customs, that’s why part of me hoped he’d also file my kiss somewhere among his notes concerning human behaviour.
‘I… OK, listen.’ I kept talking nervously when he remained silent. ‘I didn’t want to offend you or anything… I know that Asgards don’t like physical contact, so I shouldn’t have been that bold. It’s my mistake and I apologize… ’
‘Please stop talking.’ He interrupted me sternly. ‘I have taken no offence.’
‘Oh…’ I managed, totally thrown off my tracks. ‘OK.’ I didn’t know how to react on what he’d just said, honestly not. I was completely taken aback and didn’t know what to do. A great part of me hoped that Thor would just beam me out of here by accident and that somewhere in the process my mind was wiped. An even greater part, though, hoped for something entirely else.
‘I’m observing that you feel uncomfortable, Aegeti.’ Hermiod said, completely oblivious of the turmoil that was raging in my head. ‘Why is that?’
‘Dunno.’ I mumbled awkwardly. ‘I just… This is… I don’t….’ I couldn’t help but stammer like an insecure teenager, because at this very moment I wasn’t anything but that. I couldn’t handle compliments, I couldn’t handle situations on such an intimate level.
Hermiod let go of my hands and moved a step backwards. Although I knew that the Asgard didn’t have all those irritating and confusing hormones that caused all those contradicting feelings in humans, I realized that I had hurt him somehow.
‘Hermiod.’ I almost shouted. ‘Please, I… Oh, goddammit.’
I was so upset that I totally forgot how imbalanced I was sitting on the chair. In a typical clumsy Aegeti manner, I lost balance and almost fell. It was on pure luck that I reacted fast enough not to take any damage in the process.
So I found myself sitting on the floor, my head leaning at the medical pod I had been sleeping in not long ago, while I was trying to at least find my inner balance. Hermiod watched me with blank eyes. I was fully aware of the fact that I had ruined this situation in every way possible. All I wanted to do now was to save what still could be saved.
I reached out my hand to the Asgard and exhaled in relief when he really dared to come closer again. He sat down on the floor as well, never turning his eyes away from me.
‘I’m so sorry, Hermiod.’ I told him, couldn’t prevent the sadness in my voice. ‘I’m just not good at this, you know, I suppose I’m the one human with the worst social skills.’
‘My social skills regarding the interaction with humans aren’t good either.’ Hermiod comforted me. ‘Why don’t we try to better them together?’
I was dumbfounded by the way he built a bridge across all the crap that I had done because of my damned insecurity. To my positive surprise, this seemed to be really important to him in one or another way.
‘What do you suggest?’ I asked carefully, hoping not to overwhelm him with my sudden compliance.
‘I’ve heard that your people are assuming that the Asgard have no need for sharing their lives with someone, and I can confirm the assumption is correct. Due to our incapability to reproduce, we’ve unlearned how to set up and maintain any relationships, but we’re not incapable of understanding the concept.’ Hermiod began to explain in his calm and down-to-earth way of speaking that I’ve come to appreciate so much. ‘First of all, the Asgard are explorers and researchers, and I see no reason why I shouldn’t explore something as important and crucial as this with you, even more so as you seem to be interested in it as well.’
‘So this is all for the sake of science?’ I asked, clutching for every straw to put things right.
‘It is for whatever you want it to be.’ He let me know. ‘I suppose you’re much more an expert on this matter than me.’
I couldn’t help but chuckle. ‘Actually, I’m not an expert either. I never really wanted to get in any kind of relationship at all, because, well, I suspect something’s clearly wrong with me. I don’t have certain… desires. I could never go that far… you know.’ I fell silent, feeling more awkward than ever.
‘It is no shame to have no interest in sexual intercourse.’ He said matter-of-factly. ‘The Asgard aren’t capable of it anyway.’
To hell with the Asgard habit of always voicing the facts so bluntly, no matter the difficulties it might cause. Everything about this situation right now was embarrassing, and I was sure that the momentary colour of my face was very similar to that of a tomato.
Without even noticing my inner struggles, he went on talking. ‘I’ve been watching humans aboard the Daedalus for about two years now, and I can tell you that you are in many ways different from them. While most of them are part of ever-changing and very complex relationships, you’re oblivious to every male and female that has ever tried to ask you out on a date so far. Of course, I could only guess the reasons, but your reluctance concerning the mere thought of a situation that’s more intimate than just holding hands, is very explanatory, to be honest. So, if you’re not interested in any kind of mating rituals anyway, I don’t see a reason why we shouldn’t give us a chance. I would never expect something from you that you’re uncomfortable with. Also, I’m an asexual alien.’ He said the last part with a smirk.
I wondered if anyone had noted the licence number of the truck that just had hit me. I found myself trapped in a situation with an Asgard who was obviously wooing me and telling me in the same sentence that he didn’t expect any human, as he called it, mating rituals from me. I’m certain I’ve never had a conversation as weird as this.
‘Hermiod.’ I said carefully after failing to sort out my thoughts. ‘Is that an offer? I mean, do you want to date me or anything?’
‘Positive.’ He confirmed.
Oh. My. God. I didn’t know what to say, because right now even my sarcasm failed.
I was quite lucky (or unlucky, depending on how I’d make up my mind later) that I got my chance to chicken out without making any kind of decision, because suddenly we were both beamed to the Beliskner’s bridge. I’ve already been informed by General O’Neill that Thor didn’t care the least about privacy and that he never bothered to ask before he used his transporter. I found this attitude of his quite annoying, but right at this moment, I couldn’t care less. I stood up from the ground slowly, lending Hermiod a helping hand. Thor gave us a very interested glance.
‘I hope my interference isn’t inconvenient in any way.’ He wanted to know, raising a brow.
‘No, it’s OK.’ I reassured him, being glad for the chance to postpone the discussion with Hermiod to another day or so. ‘But, if I may ask, why are we here?’
‘I have word from Atlantis.’ Thor informed us. ‘They were successful in finding the presumed saboteur and want you, Hermiod and me to assist in her interrogation. They need an expert’s opinion on that person’s capability of altering Asgard software.’
Thor didn’t even wait for an answer when he beamed us down to the city. Only now did I realize that we hadn’t been in Hoth’s orbit anymore. I really should find someone who could update me on the latest developments.
Thor’s transporter beam took the three of us directly to the main conference room of Atlantis, a place where I had participated in too many unpleasant discussions lately. It somehow felt like the room was cursed in a way that made suppressed hostility break through to the surface in all the wrong moments.
Right now I found myself opposite to a table where a young woman was nervously fidgeting and playing with her hair. The word ‘guilty’ seemed to be written on her forehead in big blinking letters. Unfortunately, I knew this woman very well, because she was working on the Daedalus engineering team. Her name was Monica Burbank, and it hit me hard that she was one of those I’d never have suspected to be the saboteur.
Hermiod and I weren’t alone with her, of course. We were accompanied by Thor, Dr Weir, Dr McKay, Colonel Sheppard and Colonel Caldwell, the latter looking furious and obviously barely able to control his anger.
‘Thor, Dr Talvi, Hermiod, thank you for participating in this interrogation on such a short notice.’ Dr Weir greeted us. ‘I know that you’ve just left the infirmary, Dr Talvi, but unfortunately we couldn’t wait any longer.
‘Never mind.’ I shrugged her apology off. ‘I’ll be glad when this is over and done. May I ask to be filled in with the latest news?’
‘Dellingur, one of our systems programmers and expert on the programming interfaces we provide for human computers to our software, has decompiled the complete program that was responsible for the Daedalus’s unfortunate collision with M4X-733.’ Thor informed us. ‘He was able to find evidence of every access to this specific program down to from what console it was entered, at what time this happened and whose user credentials were involved.’
‘Fascinating.’ Hermiod interrupted. ‘I didn’t see this in the log files. It should have appeared there.’
‘It was very well hidden.’ Thor reassured him. ‘After all, it was especially written to deceive both you and Dr Talvi. The culprit knew your routines very well and therefore was able to adapt the program to those particular needs.’
It took me a lot of self-control not to jump up and smash Burbank’s face in. I only refrained from it, because I believed in ‘in dubio pro reo’ whole-heartedly. As long as I didn’t know every detail, it was not on me to judge.
‘That’s the problem when having a ship full of geniuses.’ Sheppard threw in sarcastically, looking at Caldwell with a quite smug expression.
‘I can’t believe it.’ I finally managed to utter in Hermiod’s ear. ‘How could we be so blind?’
Hermiod didn’t show any reaction, but I could sense he was similarly appalled, but most likely not as pissed off as me.
McKay threw a page filled with lines of code on the Ancient display at the wall and began to point at several parts, while he explained how perfectly this piece of software had actually been written. Burbank didn’t say a word, a fact that disgusted me more and more until I couldn’t restrain myself any longer, got up and walked over to the young woman who looked at me with an undefinable glare.
‘Why?’ I asked her the simplest of questions. ‘Why the hell did you risk all of our lives in order to hand us over to the fucking Wraith?’
She closed her eyes and swallowed hard, obviously trying to gather up what was left of her courage. 'Everyone here is only out to kill the Wraith.’ She then spoke in a low voice. ‘But it’s us who are the intruders. We have no business here whatsoever. The Pegasus galaxy is the Wraith’s feeding ground. It’s their home! How dare we try to commit genocide on them?’
We all exchanged surprised glances, because what she said did actually make some sense, at least from a very twisted point of view.
‘It’s not their territory either.’ Thor objected. ‘They came into existence by mere accident as you might probably know. The Wraith would never have evolved from the Iratus bug, if the Ancients hadn’t put humans on the planet in question. They were trying to merge human with Iratus DNA in order to find a vaccine against the bug’s poison. The Wraith were never meant to exist.’
‘But they do exist!’ Burbank fired.
‘Indeed.’ McKay said, his voice dripping sarcasm. ‘Just like cockroaches. But they’re nothing more than a nasty lab accident. One that the Ancients weren’t able to terminate, unfortunately. But as the Ancients’ descendants it’s our duty to rid the galaxy of them, and I’ll happily do so, once the occasion arises.’
‘But don’t you see how amazing they are?’ Burbank stubbornly kept to her twisted reality. ‘We must learn to evolve to be such perfect beings. It actually is our duty to study them and give them what is theirs.’
‘What exactly do you mean by what is theirs?’ I couldn’t help but interrupt her.
‘In my opinion they’re the next step on evolution’s ladder.’ She exclaimed, a certain kind of insanity in her voice. ‘They must survive and we are there to feed them on their way to greatness and immortality.’
‘I’ve honestly never heard anything as stupid as this.’ Weir admitted, disgust written on her face. ‘And I’ve heard a lot of creepy nonsense in my life.’
‘Let me take this straight.’ Caldwell cut in. ‘You’ve sabotaged my ship to hand it over to the Wraith. Is that correct?’
Burbank didn’t answer, seemingly afraid of the Colonel who had left his seat and walked over to her, leaning on his knuckles and looming over her like a hungry vulture.
‘IS THAT CORRECT!?’ He repeated his answer, giving in to his (in my opinion truly understandable) anger. Burbank flinched and tried to duck away from him.
After Caldwell had stared at her for another ten seconds, her self-confidence finally broke. Maybe she learned a lesson right now – the lesson of never causing any damage on something that’s important to Colonel Steven Caldwell. The young woman began to shake like a leave in the storm.
‘Seven people died in the crash.’ Weir said quietly. ‘They were good people, trustworthy people, dear friends and co-workers… Don’t you have a conscience? Is causing innocent death so easy for you?’
Burbank burst into tears all of a sudden, burying her face in her hands. Caldwell exhaled and let go of her. He was of the obvious opinion that his job was done, that’s why he sat down again, crossed his legs and glared at her in a very hostile way.
‘Did you work alone?’ Hermiod asked, seemingly in shock about the young woman’s audacity to mess with his computer.
Burbank remained silent and kept her eyes buried in her hands. Her silence was extremely disconcerting.
‘Hermiod asked you something!’ I confirmed his question, stood up once more and walked over to her. ‘It would be much appreciated if you had the decency to answer him. He’s had nightmares because of that bullshit.’
The young woman raised her head and looked up to me. I had no idea how to read her expression, but it was frightening indeed.
‘Doesn’t it bother you that your little Asgard friend was completely oblivious of what I’ve been doing?’ She challenged me. ‘Also, doesn’t it bother you that he’s oblivious of some other things too?’
‘What the hell do you mean?’ I wanted to know, giving her my most hostile glare of doom.
‘He’s such a stupid little prick.’ She continued. ‘Spends so much time looking at you that he forgets to look at his stupid little programs. It was so easy to deceive him.’
Her insane grin distorted her face in a very ugly way. It was really hard to refrain from beating the living hell out of her. I could cope with people insulting me, I could cope with people jerking around with me, but I couldn’t cope with people offending my friends.
‘There’s one thing you should keep in your bright head.’ I drawled. ‘Hermiod never risked anybody’s life. None of the Asgard ever would. He always tears himself up to help and assist us all. Unlike your oh-so-glorious Wraith who are constantly out for a kill. I want you to think about the fact that you’re worshiping the wrong kind of aliens, and I know that you’ll have a lot of time to think about this fact somewhere in a dark hole after they’ve put you to court martial. The Air Force sees no fun in sabotaging their property or in collaborating with the enemy. Your life, bitch, is over. And you can count yourself lucky that it won’t end at the hands of a feeding Wraith.’
Burbank swallowed hard, her eyes full of tears, but still with a very odd expression on her face. ‘The Wraith are perfect.’ She spat. ‘They’re glorious. I wish they would take me with them.’
I gave up, because as soon as someone has arrived at this particular level of delusion, there’s nothing more that could be done.
‘Well, it’s a bit sad, then.’ I thought out loud on my way back to my seat. ‘Thor shouldn’t have blasted that Wraith hive to hell right away. Maybe we could have arranged a meeting.’
‘There are still enough Wraith out there.’ Caldwell shrugged. ‘We can still arrange a meeting.’
‘I could ready a Jumper anytime.’ Sheppard offered.
I totally loved the turn this whole meeting was taking now, because some people, people like Monica Burbank, only learned the hard way. Though, I was almost sure that there was no way to cure this level of delusion.
‘You would hand me over to the Wraith?’ Burbank asked, a mix of fear and hope in her expression.
I heard someone chuckle and was surprised that it was Hermiod of all people. He squinted at me, but didn’t say a word. I could almost read his thoughts.
‘Well, if that’s what you want…’ I drawled, focussing on Burbank.
‘You can’t do that!’ She suddenly yelled, her face distorted by panic. ‘I have a right to be put to trial. You can’t just speak a verdict over me!’
‘Wait.’ I scoffed. ‘There’s something I don’t get right now. Didn’t you just tell us lots of bullshit about how you admire the Wraith and the like? Didn’t you even just say you wanted to be taken by them? I’ve already suspected my ears played tricks on me…’
‘That… that’s different…’ She stammered, helplessly.
‘Call me stupid.’ Caldwell interjected. ‘But I don’t understand this. You want to feed us all to the Wraith except yourself?’
‘Don’t bother, Caldwell.’ McKay laughed. ‘Her support doesn’t include being their dinner. It’s always the same with that sort of people.’
‘She still hasn’t answered a very important question.’ Thor interrupted the discussion and turned to Burbank. ‘Did you work alone or are there others that need our attention, too?’
‘How am I supposed to tell a little grey alien something as important as that?’ She spat at him. I wanted to jump up and rush over to her again, but was held back by Hermiod who placed his hand on mine. Not for the first time he obviously wanted to keep me from doing something stupid.
‘I’d recommend you to answer to me, then.’ Weir said calmly. ‘This is no fun and games, Ms Burbank. Lives are at stake. You know that very well. So would you finally answer Thor’s question, so we can get done with this and pay attention to the repairs on the Daedalus again? My patience doesn’t last forever.’
Burbank lost the staring contest against Weir in a historically short time. She looked away in almost an instant. Then she lowered her head, her body language telling clearly that she gave up eventually.
‘I’ve worked alone aboard the Daedalus.’ She whispered. ‘But I’m not alone when it comes to leading the Wraith to greatness. There are forces among the Trust that want to try to win the Wraith to fight alongside the Goa’Uld. It was them who gave me the assignment and the software to sabotage the Daedalus. Together they’ll be able to take out Earth’s defences easily and they’ll even be able to beat the Ori.’ She looked up again, glaring directly at Thor. ‘And the Asgard.’
This was one of the moments where I regretted that someone had asked, because the new information was more than disconcerting. If the Wraith teamed up with the Goa’Uld, we’d really have a problem. Big time. The Asgard were our only protective force against whatever threat lurked out there in the universe, but even they would have a hard time when it came to fight a war against the Wraith and the Goa’Uld at the same time. And I hadn’t even counted the Ori in that equation.
‘This is not very likely to happen.’ Thor broke through the haze of my worried thoughts. ‘The Trust has much less influence than you might think.’
‘I agree to that.’ Weir confirmed gravely. ‘Someone has told you a lie, a very well thought out lie, indeed, but a lie nevertheless.’
I suspected that both Thor and Weir weren’t telling the whole truth either in order to take a little revenge on all the insults we had heard from Burbank today, but on the other hand, I couldn’t really tell, because I didn’t know most of the intel about the Trust.
It worked perfectly well, though. I could almost see how Burbank’s self-confidence caved in in an instant. Her eyes widened when she realized the full truth (or what she was told to be the truth). I couldn’t stifle a grin anymore when it dawned on her that she had lost in every way possible, and that fact actually made my day. To know that we’ve found and convicted the culprit was relieving, because now we could finally start our work on the Daedalus without having to fear some more bad surprises to occur, at least for a while, until the Trust came up with another sinister plan. This whole meeting, that much was sure, was as near to a big success as could be.
I wasted no more time on looking at Burbank again when they brought her away to lock her away somewhere in the darkest parts of Atlantis, where she would have to wait until she was brought back to Earth, whenever that would be, given the fact that the Daedalus wasn’t ready to fly and that Earth was only dialled for important reasons due to the constant energy problem. I was sure the Asgard wouldn’t give her a ride either, as long as they knew the Atlanteans kept her in a safe place.
Though, there were still questions to be answered concerning Hermiod.
The theory about the Wraith being the result of the Ancients having tried to merge human DNA with that of the Iratus bug is never addressed in the TV show, but Dr Beckett is talking about it in the novel 'The Lost', considering that the Wraith are genetically related to both humans and the before-mentioned bug. The same goes for the existence of Wraith Worshipers.
Chapter 6: Revelation
Chapter 6 - Revelation
Long after the Lantean sunset I had finally found some time to be completely alone, abandoned by every other person in the city. Now I was standing on one of Atlantis’s balconies and gazed out into the night. I loved the silence and peace I’ve always felt under the rich star-specked Lantean sky, a sight that was able to sooth my soul more than anything.
Thor and Hermiod had returned to the Beliskner right after the interrogation. Now that we could be sure not to be disturbed for a while, we’d be able to start working on the Daedalus again tomorrow. A lot had still to be prepared by the Asgard engineers to equip the Earth ship with new Asgard technology, and as I wasn’t needed there for the moment, I had gladly taken the time to spend on my own.
First I had taken a long shower that I enjoyed by all means, then I had put on some casual clothes and walked around the city for a while. Later I had allowed myself a really huge dinner in the cafeteria, because only then did I realize that I was literally starving. I couldn’t even remember when I had had my last real meal.
Here, in the silence on top of one of the city’s towers, I finally came to peace. All stress fell away from me, so I could allow myself not to think about the horrible Wraith abduction any longer, at least for a while. I couldn’t get the queen’s laughter out of my mind, and it was hard to forget how ruthlessly they had treated us.
There was not one single moment when I didn’t think about Hermiod, about how much he had to suffer, and even more about how much the conversation at the infirmary earlier that day had shaken my foundations. Somehow it was impossible for me to figure out what all of this meant, where all of this was about to lead to, simply because I was completely unsure about my own feelings. I had never given much of a damn about being with someone. Being totally appalled by the mere thought of sexuality, I had never bothered to get a boyfriend, even more so as I had never found out how to handle having one anyway. Maybe I was meant to be wooed by an asexual alien, I thought bitterly.
Suddenly I felt I wasn’t alone anymore and turned around to find out who had decided to disturb this rare moment of peace. Luckily, it was only Dr Weir, because I wouldn’t have been able to handle another conversation with Hermiod right now. Not before I had sorted out my mind.
‘Good evening.’ She greeted me with a smile. ‘I hope you don’t mind my company.’
I shook my head, feeling a bit awkward in the presence of such an important person. ‘Not at all. It’s a beautiful night that wants to be enjoyed.’
She came over to the railing and we spent some silent minutes gazing out at the horizon, just listening to the waves rolling in.
I was born on Iceland, surrounded by active volcanoes, and grown up in a small town in Sweden, far away from the sea. That’s why I had always wished to live somewhere in a city at the coast where the ocean was peaceful and the weather was always sunny and warm. But of course, I’d never have dreamt that this utopia, where I finally came to live at, would be situated in a galaxy millions of light years away from home.
‘How are you?’ Weir broke through my thoughts.
‘I’m fine.’ I answered thoughtfully. ‘Sort of.’
‘You’ve been through the worst mess imaginable in just a few days, Dr Talvi, it would be OK not to be fine.’ She said softly, not knowing how much her presence and encouragement really meant to me.
Some people indeed seemed to have a talent of reading thoughts and emotions like an open book. It took a lot of empathy that most people didn’t have, but Dr Weir obviously had it.
‘Aegeti.’ I said automatically, then swallowed hard. ‘And maybe you’re right.’
According to the turmoil that was still raging inside, I was everything but alright. But didn’t they teach us to fight, to deal with that sort of inconvenience? Wasn’t that part of our job, after all?
‘Elisabeth.’ She answered, just as automatically. ‘If you’d like to talk, I’ll be there for you whenever you’re ready.’
I nodded slowly and spent some more minutes gazing out at the ocean in complete silence. Elisabeth didn’t move an inch either, as though she was instinctively feeling that I had a shipload of stuff on my heart that needed to be talked about, and that I just needed time to make up my mind about where to start. I was thankful that she decided to be a friend in a moment I really needed one, even more so as she didn’t have any reason to do so.
‘What is it about the Trust?’ I finally managed. ‘Are they as dangerous as Burbank wanted to make us believe?’
‘That’s a difficult question with an even more difficult answer.’ Elisabeth sighed. ‘We know they’ve infiltrated many government departments, but we can’t be sure about their ranks there. They’re very subtle in everything they do, so we often only find out about their actions when it’s already too late. I wish it were different, easier, but it seems we’re not safe here yet, regardless of the fact that we caught the saboteur.’
‘Thought so.’ I mumbled, feeling a bit lost. ‘But as long as we don’t get new personnel from the Milky Way, we’re at least safe here, at least for a while.’
Elisabeth nodded, suddenly looking endlessly tired, as though she had been through all of this for too long and too many times.
‘How do you do this?’ The question had just popped up in my mind. ‘How can you survive being terrorized by the Wraith all the time? I’ve just spent a few hours on a hive ship confronted with the threat of never getting out of there alive, and I know I can’t go through this again. So how do you all handle it?’
‘It’s hard to explain.’ She said thoughtfully. ‘It may sound like a stupid cliché, but I think it’s because we always have people to defend and take care for. As long as you know what you’re fighting for, you’re able to carry on.’
I nodded slowly. ‘That makes a lot of sense, actually.’
‘You’ve had something, someone worth fighting for up there in the hive ship.’ Elisabeth spoke again after a few minutes of comfortable silence. ‘Or am I mistaken?’
I closed my eyes and inhaled deeply before I managed to speak. ‘What do you mean?’
‘It’s quite unusual for an Asgard to take a human’s hand to calm her down and keep her from beating someone up.’ She said with a smile, winking. ‘It’s actually even quite unusual for an Asgard to react on human actions in the first place.’
Oh, crap! Was it really that obvious? That came so unexpected that it made me choke. It took a while until I got my mental and emotional balance back.
‘It’s nothing to be ashamed of.’ Elisabeth reassured me. ‘It’s just… it really warmed my heart that none of you was fighting just for themselves.’
‘We somehow kept each other going.’ I said quietly. ‘I’m sure they’ve told you about all the injuries I’ve come by while being on the hive ship. I’ve got many of them in my attempt to protect Hermiod. He’s so…’ I was lost for words for a moment. ‚He’s so frail, you know. The Wraith would have killed him so easily and I couldn’t let that happen.’
With the back of my hand I wiped away some tears that had found their way into my eyes. At no cost did I want Elisabeth to see how much this revelation moved me. The realization had just started another avalanche, as though I hadn’t had enough of those already.
Elisabeth put her hand on my arm, carefully caressing it. ‘To care for others is what defines us as human beings, Aegeti. We wouldn’t make it a single day in this galaxy, if we didn’t care for each other. It’s our innermost need not to be alone when times get rough. Everyone deserves a soul to connect to.’
Maybe she was right, but I just didn’t know.
‘It’s just that I’m not very likely to connect to anyone.’ I told her quietly, still having a hard time holding back stupid and useless tears.
‘Or you just haven’t given yourself a chance to connect yet.’ Elisabeth suggested, taking her hand back, and moved to stand with her back against the railing in order to observe me better.
I remained silent for a long time, because it was anything but easy to calm down and get my head back together. It were moments like these that made me doubt all the decisions that had led me to this particular time and place. Maybe I should have answered General O’Neill’s question with a no, turned around and left. Maybe I should have declined the assignment to the Daedalus and instead stayed at my boring laboratory at Area 51. Maybe I should have stayed back in Atlantis instead of going to Hoth while I wasn’t at my best health yet and there was still the danger of attacking Wraith out there. In moments like these everything felt so wrong as though I had walked in the wrong direction for a long while without noticing. But it was also a direction that had led me directly to Hermiod, and I was so not ready to connect with him.
‘It sometimes appears to me that life in space changes people in many ways.’ Elisabeth began musing after I hadn’t said anything for too long. ‘We seem to be getting closer to each other in the knowledge that certain death is waiting just around the corner. On the Daedalus, I often thought about the fact of only a few centimetres of Trinium between us and the vacuum, and it’s indeed a symbol for what we’re doing here, isn’t it? We’re constantly walking on a very thin edge where we have to risk our lives again and again. But on the other hand, we’re also at a place we never even dreamt to belong to and would most likely never have found out if there hadn’t been a handful of circumstances that brought us here. A few years ago we didn’t even know we’re the ancestors of one of the most advanced races of all times, but we have it in our genes. Atlantis reacts on us because of those genes. It welcomed us when we stepped through the Stargate. We’re part of something that is so much bigger than us, larger than life, and we have all that’s necessary to live up to what we’re capable of. It never really counted where we came from, it’s only important where we are now, who we are and who we want to be. There’s no wrong or right. In the moment a path shows itself to us, why not be brave and take a step onto it? Why not take those with us that make a difference in our lives, no matter how alien they seem to us?’
Wow, now that was some incredible speech. I took all of Elisabeth’s words, inhaled them deeply and let them settle in my brain.
‘That’s the true explorer’s spirit, isn’t it?’ I finally managed. ‘To take a risk and go with it?’
Elisabeth smiled widely, understanding how very well she had aimed and hit the target. I just hadn’t expected such an emotional speech at an accidental late night meeting.
‘Indeed, it is.’ She patted my shoulder amicably. ‘I’ve experienced that we get along best as long as we trust ourselves. Here in Atlantis it doesn’t count what we left back on Earth.’
I’m admittedly a big fan of people who are able to come to the correct conclusion without lots of talking. Maybe she had read my file, but that didn’t tell much about the life I had led before I had joined Stargate Command. Still, she seemed to know enough to analyse my shyness and hesitation.
‘They told me you’re one of the best at what you’re doing.’ She changed topics, completely aware that I wasn’t able to contribute anything to the current discussion.
‘I don’t think so.’ I said honestly. ‘But as people keep telling me that, I must admit that it’s maybe not totally wrong.’
Elisabeth laughed quietly. ‘Unnecessary humbleness is something that the Asgard definitely don’t understand.’
I stared at her in bewilderment, but she just kept smiling, then patted my shoulder once more and turned to leave. ‘Have a good night, Aegeti.’
And off she went, leaving me alone to deal with what she just had told me. When it had finally settled, I spun around swiftly and ran after her.
‘Elisabeth!’ I yelled down an empty corridor, closing up to her. She stood and turned to me, a warm smile on her face.
‘Would you…’ I breathed. ‘Would you please not tell anyone… you know…’
‘My lips are sealed.’ She promised, her smile even warmer.
Walking back to my quarters, I began wracking my brain as to how I should carry on with this whole situation. Though, first I had to get a good cup of sleep, because tomorrow was going to be a busy day aboard the Daedalus.
It was already noon when I arrived at Hoth the next day. I had taken the chance to sleep in and have a very opulent breakfast that included three cups of coffee to get awake. As the Beliskner had already left in the morning, I went with one of the Jumper teams. I was OK with that, because for the moment I wasn’t ready to see the Asgard anyway, any Asgard. I still hadn’t made up my mind how to proceed in terms of Hermiod, because I was still completely overwhelmed by his very determined offer to be my, lacking a better word, boyfriend. That was indeed too much to cope with in just one night, especially one night that I had slept like the dead, given the fact that all the injuries and the healing of them had exhausted me to no end. Colonel Caldwell had told me the evening before that I should take it slow and not feel obligated to show up early in the morning, and I was honestly thankful for that. Now I was wide awake and eager to get to work.
Around and inside the Daedalus were lots of people, the whole place was buzzing with life. Some of those people carried all the rubble out of the damaged ship, while others were already busy doing repairs and replacing broken components. I felt a little lost, to be honest, because everybody, except myself, seemed to have an assignment.
I decided to have a look at Engineering first before I tried to find Colonel Caldwell somewhere, who was surely at a hundred places at the same time, because there were lots of decisions to be made. When I entered the room I saw with delight that the huge cracks in the wall had already been replaced with brand new bulkheads and plates. There was a lot of hardware all over the place, some from Earth and others obviously Asgard. Though, besides two men, who were mounting an array of monitors to one of the walls, there was no one to be seen. Even Hermiod, whom I would have expected here, was notably absent. On one of the Asgard devices that were standing around loosely, I saw something that definitely didn’t belong in an engine room. It was way too organic.
When I stepped closer, I realized it was a bunch of flowers, shining in brilliant shades of blue. I’ve seen that sort somewhere at the Lantean shore but never had enough time to go there and actually pick some, although I liked them very much. I picked the flowers from the console to find out how they smelled, then I saw a piece of paper that was lying right underneath the bouquet. I unfolded it carefully with my free hand and saw myself confronted with Asgard runes. I should have suspected that. Although I had learnt to understand all the technical terms necessary for running the Asgard computer system, I hadn’t managed yet to learn the language itself. Right now I regretted that deeply.
I carefully turned to the men who were still busy mounting the monitors and cleared my throat. They didn’t belong to my team, so I had no idea who had sent them and how I was supposed to address them.
‘Uhm, excuse me?’ I managed timidly, and when they both looked at me, I had to be brave and ask my question. There was no chance anymore to just leave and ignore that I had just found some flowers in my engine room, obviously put there by a certain Asgard.
‘Has anyone else been in this room before I came in?’ I asked in a firm voice, not showing how awkward I actually felt.
‘You mean besides that scrawny grey… whatever?’ One of the men asked.
‘He’s an Asgard.’ I retorted, slightly annoyed by the disrespect. ‘His name is Hermiod.’
‘Yeah, exactly, that guy.’ The man went on, ignoring my rush of anger completely. ‘He put some flowers on the console, mumbled something about that he had to check whatever somewhere and left. That was about an hour ago.’
‘Wait.’ The other man said, scratching his head. ‘He told me that we should keep our fingers from that bunch of flowers and allow nobody but Dr Talvi to take them. I assume you’re Dr Talvi?’
‘That I am.’ I confirmed, raising my brows. ‘And that’s all he said?’
‘Well, I’ve been wondering, actually.’ The first man mused. ‘I mean, an Asgard? Leaving flowers for a human? How weird is that?’
I glared at him, admittedly feeling uncomfortable at the thought of upcoming consequences in form of all sorts of rumours. Oh, well…
‘I’ve never heard anything like that.’ The second man let me know. ‘You know, Asgard… they don’t even have…’
‘I perfectly know what they have and don’t have.’ I cut in, getting more and more irritated. ‘Is there a place in your head for the possibility of giving someone a present out of friendship?’
The two men looked at each other awkwardly, but didn’t utter any further words.
‘Now, now.’ I shooed them away. ‘You’ve got work to do, right?’
Suddenly they seemed to remember that I was head of Engineering and therefore their boss. That’s why they got back to their array of monitors in an instant, while I was still standing in the middle of the room, holding a bunch of flowers in my hand, presumably Hermiod’s, and felt pretty lost. I had absolutely no clue how to react on his present, even more so as I didn’t understand the Asgard runes on the piece of paper. First, since when did the Asgard use paper anyway and where did he get a pen, and second, why didn’t he just write English? Did he want me to play Sherlock and go solving weird riddles while I had much more important matters to care for?
I put the flowers back to where I had found them and let the piece of paper slip into one of the pockets of my jacket. Later, back in Atlantis, I would use a translation program to figure out what those runes meant, but for the moment I preferred finding Colonel Caldwell.
I decided to head to the bridge, because that was the most likely place to expect the Colonel’s whereabouts, and I was lucky, indeed. He was just throwing orders around, when I closed up to him and cleared my throat.
‘Dr Talvi!’ He greeted me with enthusiasm. ‘It’s really good to see you. Is everything alright?’
It was clear to me how much he enjoyed the fact that we were finally able to start the repairs on the Daedalus. I knew how much the spaceship actually meant to him and how much this disastrous event had hit him. To see him in such good mood today was indeed delighting.
‘Thanks, Colonel. I’m fine.’ I reassured him. ‘I’ve just been down at Engineering and saw that a lot of work has already been done without me, but there’s still a lot to do. Though, I was wondering if I could get some more personnel. There are only two guys down there who are not even part of my team. I know, we lost a lot of people, but still… where are all those I can rely on? Also, there’s a lot of Asgard hardware all over the place, but not one single Asgard to be seen. Without them it’s impossible to add their hardware to the Daedalus’s systems. I suppose I need a bit more info to really get back to work.’
‘Now that you say it…’ Caldwell mused thoughtfully. ‘I’ve talked to Thor who told me to contact him as soon as you’ve arrived. I’ve also seen Hermiod scurrying around earlier this morning, carrying a bunch of flowers. I have no idea what they’re good for, though, maybe he wanted Engineering to look a bit friendlier.’
I stifled a laugh because of his cluelessness. Obviously, many people seemed to read more into my friendship with Hermiod than there actually was, but Caldwell wasn’t one of them. I was honestly glad about that.
‘Well then.’ I ignored the flowers part completely. ‘It’s time to call Thor, right?’
Caldwell had ordered one of his officers to call Thor and then decided to accompany me to Engineering. He seemed to be of the opinion that there wasn’t a single part of the Daedalus that didn’t need his attention, but I was OK with it, because as long as Caldwell was there, drawing all attention to him, people expected less from me.
When we arrived, the engine room wasn’t as empty anymore as I had left it a while ago. The two guys, whose names were still a mystery to me, were currently busy mounting servers into a rack and therefore didn’t pay any attention to our arrival. To be honest, the two Asgard who had gathered behind one of the alien workstations were much more interesting to me anyway. There was Hermiod, of course, who looked extremely eager today, and there was another Asgard whom I had never seen before.
‘Hermiod, Dellingur, good afternoon.’ Caldwell greeted them both, obviously having received more information from Thor than me. I remembered Dellingur’s name from the discussions about the saboteur. He was one of the system programmers and an expert on the interfaces between Asgard and Earth technology. He had most likely come here to supervise the installation of their computers and other systems on the Daedalus.
‘Colonel Caldwell.’ Dellingur just said. ‘I need to talk to you on the matter of retrieving the Daedalus from this planet. According to our calculations, the Beliskner would be able to tow the ship back to Atlantis as soon as the hyperdrive is running again and all outer damages are remedied. It would be much more convenient for all of us to continue our work on Lantea, given the fact of the warmer climate.’
‘That is awesome news!’ I couldn’t help but blurt out. ‘Let’s get away from here, better now than later.’
‘This is good news, indeed.’ Caldwell approved. ‘Our technicians are almost done with fixing said outer damages. I think we’ll only need one or two additional days. As soon as we can be sure the Daedalus won’t fall apart in the process, I’ll be more than glad to move her out of this freezing hell.’
‘Confirmed.’ Dellingur tilted his head in approval. ‘We can begin with our activities right away. I’d appreciate your assistance, Dr Talvi. As far as I’m informed, you’re familiar with Asgard technology.’
‘Sure.’ I acknowledged. ‘Right on duty.’
‘Fine.’ Caldwell nodded in my direction. ‘Keep going. If you need anything, don’t hesitate to call me. Oh, and nice flowers there.’
And off he went, leaving me alone with those two Asgards and the two technicians on the other side of the room who were secretly glancing in my direction every once in a while. It seemed like they were still pondering about Hermiod giving me flowers.
Concerning flowers… the bouquet was still sitting on the console, untouched.
I went over to Dellingur who instantly began to fill me in with tons of information what he wanted to do, how and when he wanted to do it, what he expected from me and the like. He was talking at such speed that I had no chance to intercept at any point and therefore just could listen and nod. In the meantime, I was watching Hermiod who stood a bit in the background, obviously already knowing what Dellingur was telling me.
Hermiod’s eyes were focussed on the flowers for a while, then on me. After a few minutes he went to inspect them closer and looked quite satisfied when he discovered that the piece of paper was gone. I really had to find out what those Asgard runes meant and put it quite on top of my list of priorities.
I got my chance when Dellingur sent Hermiod to check some interfaces on the bridge, and I decided to take it as long as it lasted.
‘Dellingur.’ I spoke carefully, walking over to the Asgard whose head was, almost literally, stuck inside the control station for the hyperdrive. ‘May I ask you a question?’
He looked up interestedly and tilted his head, a sign for me to proceed.
‘I have a piece of Asgard writing here.’ I handed the piece of paper over to him. ‘I don’t understand your language well, neither am I firm with reading the runes. I wonder if you could maybe help me out.’
Honestly, I had no idea where the courage came from that made me let Dellingur in on this whole embarrassing matter, but he was my best choice for the moment, because I wanted the riddle to be solved now, and it would take many more hours until I got back to Atlantis to ask the computer. Also, Dellingur wasn’t involved in anything and would most likely not even be interested enough to ask awkward questions. I wondered if he was even able to talk about anything else than computers and hyperdrives and transporters.
Now he took the piece of paper out of my hand and read it carefully, raising his brows.
‘It’s an invitation.’ He finally let me know, puzzlement in his expression. ‘It’s from Hermiod.’
If this whole matter wasn’t so serious, I would have laughed or said something sarcastic, but I decided to remain silent and listen to what else Dellingur would tell me.
‘He wants you to meet him on the balcony of the seventh floor of Atlantis’s west tower.’ The Asgard continued emotionlessly. ‘At 9 p.m. He also writes that he wants you to be on time.’
I realized that the whole room had fallen into complete silence. The technicians had stopped working on their servers and Dellingur looked at me with what I read as surprise.
‘Can’t Hermiod discuss matters here?’ He wondered. ‘Why first go to Atlantis? There’s no business there before the Daedalus hasn’t been brought to Lantea.’
The Asgard’s obliviousness was hilarious, actually, and I had no clue how to explain to him that Hermiod wasn’t out to talk about work but wanted to actually date me. None of his people had spent as much time studying humans and their weird rituals as Hermiod. I assumed that it wasn’t even possible to explain something like a date to any Asgard that wasn’t Hermiod.
‘Mike, I’ve told you he wants to date her.’ One of the technicians finally said to the other, whose only reaction was snorting. I had a hard time not to start laughing as well, because this whole situation was ridiculous in so many ways. Hermiod didn’t have the slightest clue what he was doing, he seemingly just went along with a standard list of how to woo a girl.
‘I suppose it’d be best, if we all just started to act like grown-ups again and get back to work!’ I hissed in the men’s direction. Mike raised his hands, mockingly trying to apologize. The other (I didn’t even want to know his name!) turned around to the server rack. They were obviously enjoying this.
Dellingur, though, still looked at me in bewilderment, waiting for an explanation.
‘Look, this is just some… human thing.’ I tried to wriggle out of this most embarrassing situation. ‘Some kind of… you know, private meeting.’
‘I actually know what a date is.’ Dellingur put me off. ‘Though, I wonder if Hermiod really knows what he’s doing. Either way, let’s get back to the hyperdrive. We have work to do.’
I was honestly thankful that he decided not to torment me any longer and instead do what we were both here for. I trusted Dellingur not to tell everyone what he had witnessed. But I totally didn’t trust those technicians who’d surely leak the latest news to everyone on the Daedalus and in Atlantis, and start lots of gossiping. Sometimes, especially in moments like these, I hated humans.
On the other hand, now that Mike and his co-worker were about to tell the world about me dating an Asgard, I could as well just go with it. I suddenly had an epiphany.
The dating history of Aegeti Talvi is most impressive, especially because it’s as good as non-existent. I’ve been out with one or two guys back at college, but one of them was an asshole who just wanted someone to pay for his drinks, and the other one had a bet running with his buddies whether it was possible to get me laid or not. He lost the bet and I wasn’t laid. There was also that guy at university who really seemed to like me, and I somehow liked him back, but I was just not ready for being in any sort of relationship. I’ve always preferred spending my time with computers and technical magazines instead of people. I had always been extremely self-insecure, but when this annoying habit of my hiccups started, I had lost my interest in social interacting completely. That’s why I excelled at my job and epically failed at socializing. To be honest, I was of the firm opinion that some people were made to grow old alone, and I saw myself as one of them.
Of course, in my mind I had always dreamt of a knight in shining armour who’d just come along to ride with me into the sunset. In my heart I was longing for romance, but I considered it so unrealistic that I had shut down my interest in other people in general. I had a few friends, but that’s all. I was completely immune to all kinds of sexual interest, that’s why I was oblivious to respective attempts. I knew the knight would never come, and I had grown comfortable with it, considering it a fact I had to live with. And that’s the reason why not even in my wildest dreams I would have suspected Hermiod of all people to woo me. The thought alone was so absurd that I’d never have taken it into account, and now I had to realize that Hermiod had some kind of crush on me, not only since yesterday but for quite some time already. He obviously had studied me, otherwise he hadn’t known that I loved flowers and the colour blue. I wondered what else he had found out to surprise me in the evening.
I had mixed emotions concerning the evening. Part of me was dreading it, part of me was looking forward to it. But the greatest part of me just wanted to get lost in hyperspace to never be found, just to avoid an epic fail.
No, there were no knights in shining armour out there, but obviously there were aliens in shiny spaceships, and that was maybe exactly what I was meant to find.