John sat on the edge of the bed the next morning as Carson probed the edges of the incision in his shoulder.
"This is starting to heal nicely," Carson said as he taped down a clean bandage. "How are you feeling?"
"Better," John said with a nod. "Pain is less at least."
"Good. You need to keep that arm in the sling for at least another week. I'll give you some pain medication to take with you as well as antibiotics," Carson told him. He nodded to the clothes waiting on the chair next to the bed. "Once you're dressed, you can go."
It took longer than expected, and Carson had to help with the sling, but once he was dressed in khakis and a button-down shirt, John left the infirmary, tugging at the strap for the sling as he headed for the nearest transporter. He needed to give Elizabeth his report on the mission to Rivis. He also wanted to find Rodney and talk to him about a few things, not the least of which was to give him a bit of warning about Ronon's plan with the knife.
He debated with himself for a few moments, then decided Elizabeth needed his official report sooner rather than later and tapped the section of the map with the control room. He nodded to Chuck at the control console and walked across the bridge to Elizbeth's office.
"John," Elizabeth greeted him with a smile when John tapped on her door. She waved him into the office and added, "How are you feeling?"
"Getting shot is never fun," he replied as he sat in the chair in front of Elizabeth's desk and adjusted the sling. "But I'll live."
Elizabeth pursed her lips as she closed her computer. "I've already talked to Teyla and Ronon about what happened." She shook her head. "I still don't understand what the Genii hoped to accomplish with any of this."
John shrugged, then winced when the movement set off the ache in his shoulder. "From what I saw, I doubt Cowen knows what Calum is up to," he replied. "Calum was only interested in two things. Finding out what we knew of Kolya's whereabouts, and forcing Rodney to fix that device he and Ronon found."
"Calum wants to find Commander Kolya?" Elizabeth asked. "Teyla didn't mention anything about that in her report. Ronon didn't say anything about it, either."
"They didn't know much about it," John replied as he rubbed his jaw. "Calum and I had a … private conversation."
John shifted in the chair as his shoulder twinged. "I get the feeling the Genii might be in for a regime change soon. And if Calum is any indication, I don't think they believe in a peaceful change in leadership."
Elizabeth gave him a startled look. "You think Calum is planning a coup?"
John nodded. "Or he's setting things in motion so Kolya can take over. Take your pick."
Elizabeth pursed her lips. "Perhaps we should send a message to Cowen, warning him. We do have a truce of sorts with him."
John grunted. He didn't have any particular feeling of camaraderie where Cowen or the Genii were concerned.
"How do we explain how we found out about it?" he asked and tried to keep his tone as neutral as possible. "You're the one always saying how we need to keep a low profile."
Elizabeth studied him for a moment, and John was reminded she had been a diplomat before joining the expedition. Not only had she seen her share of petty dictators, but he was fairly sure he wasn't fooling her for a moment.
"You may be right," she said, and John thought he saw a glimmer of agreement with his feelings in her expression.
After a moment of silence, she sat back in her chair. "Since the Genii appear to be setting up some kind of base on Rivis, I won't be authorising any return trips any time soon. We don't need more of our people captured or worse." She nodded at the sling.
"Have you told Rodney that?" John asked.
Elizabeth smiled. "I thought I'd leave that honor to you."
"Gee, thanks," John said with a sarcastic smile as he stood and left the office.
He glanced at his watch and decided the best place to start looking for Rodney was in his lab. Neither Teyla nor Beckett had mentioned any issues where Rodney was concerned, but John had been a bit surprised he hadn't visited while John was in the infirmary.
Was he caught up in some project, or was he brooding about the Ancient power source? John wondered as he exited the transporter and rounded the corner to the hallway with the lab.
He let out a silent breath when he saw the door to the lab was open. At least Rodney wasn't hiding or trying to avoid him, John thought to himself.
He started to tap on the door and froze when he saw the state of the room.
"You've been busy," John said as he walked into the lab and looked around.
The desk had been organised with all of the scattered papers now in folders and the folders neatly organised in the dividers along the back of the desk. The various Ancient devices that had been cluttering the work table were back on the shelves, the cloaking generator sat on another shelf, and Rodney sat at the table, his laptop open in front of him as he read something on the screen.
Rodney looked over at him and then glanced around the rest of the room. "Did you come all the way down here to see if I'd cleaned my room?"
John grinned as he hooked the spare stool with his foot and sat down across the table from Rodney. "I just came down here to see how you were doing?"
Rodney frowned. "Haven't we had this conversation before? I'm fine." He nodded at John's shoulder. "I wasn't the one who was shot."
John leant back on the stool and tried to adjust the sling as McKay went back to studying whatever was on the computer screen.
Rodney could deflect all he wanted, but John remembered what had happened after he'd been shot. He could only imagine the sort of pain spike that would have left Rodney on the ground, only semi-conscious.
"Maybe if we'd finished that conversation we'd started about the link you would have known everything was fine," John said with a pointed glance at Rodney. "Before I was shot."
Rodney shrugged. "Carson had already shown me his so-called evidence. I didn't believe him."
John shook his head. "I'm not talking about that," he said and paused, unsure how much he should say about the battle with the Other.
He still wasn't sure how much he really believed about what happened during his dream or vision or whatever it was. Rodney was far more analytical. Would he listen or merely scoff at the idea?
"Okay," Rodney replied and stared over the top of the computer at him. "What are you talking about?"
John tugged on the strap for the sling and took a deep breath. "Before I woke up in the infirmary." John stopped when he saw Rodney flinch. "Before I woke up in the infirmary, I was in this other … place."
"Pretty sure we took you from the cave directly to the infirmary," Rodney told him with a frown. "Carson was telling us we were too late --"
John glared over at him, and Rodney stopped talking.
John waited a beat then continued, "In this dream or whatever, there was this thing, this other version of me. Bug me." John picked at the edge of the table. "I knew I had to beat it if I wanted to escape the dark place," he muttered. He glanced up at Rodney, surprised to see he was actually listening.
John sat back on the stool and focused on his lap. "It was a long fight," he admitted, "and I was about to give up and let it win when this white light appeared." He looked up and met Rodney's eye. "I think that light was you … and the link."
Rodney crossed his arms over his chest as he hissed in a breath.
John gave him a steady look. "There were some other things, too, but without that light," he paused, "I don't know if I would have been able to beat that … other me."
Rodney sat hunched on his stool, and John saw he wasn't ready to believe anything John said about the dark place or the Other. Rodney pulled one arm free from his protective huddle and rubbed his forehead.
"I … that's …" He looked over at John. "You know that sounds completely crazy, don't you?"
John frowned, stood from his stool, and took a few steps away from the table. He should have just kept his damned mouth shut, he chastised himself.
"Of course," Rodney drawled a few moments later, and John turned to face him. "You could say the same thing about someone using magic energy to heal someone's hand."
Rodney held up his hand, and John saw the fading scars on his palm. Rodney turned his hand over and rubbed one of the scars. "I did try, you know," he said and glanced up at John, "to fix your shoulder. I tried, but …"
John shook his head. "I get the feeling that's still something way beyond either of us," he said. "Like I told you before, I'm pretty sure it was Yana who did most of that."
He took a step closer to Rodney. "Speaking of Yana, did you forget already that she told us there was only one way for the link to be broken?"
"Yes, well, I thought ..." Rodney wrapped his arms back around his middle. "What came out of that cave ... wasn't you." He gave John a sideways glance. "And before Ronon shot you, there was nothing from the link. No headache. No tingling. Just nothing."
He shook his head and swallowed. "Once we had you back here." Rodney reached for the computer. "Thinking back, I get it. Carson had you pretty sedated."
John rested a hand on Rodney's shoulder. "And you might not have been thinking too clearly?"
Rodney shrugged. "After everything Yana had told us, I seriously thought I was going to go nuts." He looked over at John. "Just don't ever do something like that again."
"I'll do my best," John replied. He sat back down on his stool and grimaced as his shoulder throbbed. He saw Rodney wince and John pursed his lips.
"You doing all right?" John asked, his tone serious. "I know what it's like, you know."
"I'm fine," Rodney replied with a fleeting smile. "Just don't stop taking the pain meds I know Carson gave you." He glanced at his desk, then back at John.
"What?" John asked.
"I might have found something." Rodney shifted on the stool. "Technically, the linguistics team found something, but since I'm the one who saved the book on Mendar, I guess you could say --"
John raised his hand and waited for Rodney to stop talking. "What did you find?"
"Oh, umm, Zelenka brought me a report right before we left for Rivis." He gave John another wary look. "One of those books we brought back from Mendar, could be a journal of some kind."
"Okay," John drawled.
"The linguistics team hasn't finished it, well, actually they really haven't even started it …"
John gave him an exasperated look.
Rodney took a deep breath and said, "The section Radek showed me mentioned following different paths … along The Way."
John swallowed. "Did it say anything specific?"
Rodney shook his head. "Chaudhri's team is still working on it."
John nodded. "Any idea how long it will take them to translate all of it?"
"No way to know for sure," Rodney replied. "I'll, umm, I'll keep you in the loop though. Just in case they actually have something."
John shifted on the stool and tugged at the strap for the sling. On top of everything else, he was going to have a stiff neck before he managed to get rid of the blasted thing.
"Not so fun now, is it?" Rodney said with a crooked smile as John pulled the strap away from his neck. "How many times has Carson threatened you with the tied down version?"
John let go of the strap. "Just once, so far." He watched as Rodney tried to hide his grin as he typed something on the keyboard. "Is that the data dump from Rivis?"
Rodney nodded as he checked something on the computer.
"Finding anything interesting?"
"Hard to say," Rodney replied. "I'm still decompressing the files." He looked up from the computer. "I did find one thing. It's interesting, but I'm not really sure what we can do with the information."
Rodney nodded. "You know the stargate system in the Milky Way is thought to be millions of years old, right? Maybe tens of millions."
"No, I didn't know that," John replied. "I came into all of this kinda late, remember?"
Rodney waved off the comment. "The important thing to know is the stargate network here in the Pegasus is much more recent, relatively speaking than the Milky Way network."
"Okay. So what you're telling me is the Milky Way 'gates are the analog version, and Pegasus is digital."
"Sure, fine, whatever works for you," Rodney replied with an exasperated sigh.
John smiled when he heard the edge of impatience in Rodney's tone. He suddenly realised he had missed this. Just sitting, talking, yanking Rodney's chain a little.
Rodney looked over the computer at him, and John saw the moment he caught on to what John was doing. "Carson follows through on that threat to stuff you in that other sling, you can find someone else to help you get out of it every night."
John gave him a cheeky grin in reply.
Rodney held his mock glare for a moment longer, then smiled and continued, "Part of the reason we went to Rivis was to find any research on how the Ancients built the 'gate system here."
"Are you telling me you found something about how the Pegasus 'gates were designed?" Teasing aside, John could see the value in such information.
"No, not yet anyway," Rodney replied and turned the laptop around so John could see the screen. "But according to this, there's another network out there," he flapped a hand over his head, "somewhere. Something even older than the Milky Way 'gates."
"How much older?" John asked, studying the screen.
"Let's put it this way, in your analogy, this older network would be akin to a 19th-century phonograph player."
John looked up at him in surprise. "Is there any information on where this other 'gate system could be?"
Rodney shook his head and turned the computer back around. "Like I said, I'm still decompressing the files. But there's a lot of other useful information in here, too. The science teams will be going through this for months."
"Good thing you got what you did," John replied. "I just left Elizabeth's office, it doesn't sound like we will be making any return trips, so make the most of what you managed to find."
Rodney made a face. "No real surprise, I guess. I know I'd rather not have another encounter with Calum." He glanced at John's sling, then went back to the computer.
"About that," John said and waited for Rodney to look at him. "Teyla told me what you did. How you managed to fly the jumper back to the 'gate even after getting hit with one of the tranq darts."
Rodney shrugged and looked away.
"Hey," John said and tapped Rodney's arm. "You did good. I guess this means you're about ready to fly solo," he added, but his smile faltered when instead of acting pleased, Rodney's reaction was to pull away from him.
"I am certain Rodney knows he has yet to earn back your faith in him." Teyla's words echoed in his mind.
"What you did, not just flying the jumper back here, but dealing with Calum and …" John took a deep breath. "And taking care of me. I just … I just want to say, thank you. And I'm proud of you, buddy."
Rodney studied him for a moment, and he must have found what he was looking for as he gave John a quiet smile. "Umm, thanks."
"You're welcome," John replied and glanced at his watch "You know what I could go for?"
"Lunch?" Rodney asked.
"Sure, why not," John replied and stood from his stool.
They walked out of the lab, and John casually draped his free arm over Rodney's shoulders. "So there's probably something I should warn you about," he said as they stopped in front of the transporter.
"Oh?" Rodney asked.
"Yeah," John replied. "Ronon brought something back from Rivis …" He started to explain as the doors to the transporter closed.
~*~*~*~ SGA ~*~*~*~
There was a tap on the office door, and Cowen looked up from the report he was reading.
"Leftenant Calum," Cowen greeted, his tone cool as Calum entered the office.
"Commander Cowen, sir," Calum replied and stood to attention in front of Cowen's desk.
Cowen set down the report and leant back in his chair. He had suspected before giving Calum the Rivis mission that he was not the man for the job. Reading the casualty list, he realised he should have gone with his gut feeling. Seven men dead, another six still in the infirmary recovering, and for what?
He let Calum stand and stew in front of his desk for a few more moments, then said, "Tell me, Leftenant, do you know what you did wrong during your last operation?"
Calum glanced at him with a puzzled expression before his eyes went back to the wall behind Cowen's head. "I don't understand, sir. We brought back solid intel on Sheppard and his people."
Cowen stared at him, letting Calum hang himself.
Calum swallowed and said, "We were able to confirm the Satedan is still working with Sheppard. And it appears he has joined the other Lanteans and is now a member of Sheppard's team."
Cowen rubbed his chin. "And you think that was worth the lives of seven of your men?"
"Umm, no, sir," Calum replied, and Cowen saw the line of sweat beading across Calum's brow.
"Were you able to learn anything about our secondary objective, at least?"
Calum pursed his lips and shook his head. "Colonel Sheppard --"
"Oh, he's a colonel now," Cowen muttered. "Well, well, well."
"Umm, yes, sir," Calum said. "Colonel Sheppard claims to have no knowledge of Commander Kolya's current whereabouts."
Cowen squinted up at Calum. "And you believe he was telling you the truth?"
Calum jerked his head in a nod. "Yes, sir."
"I see." Cowen pursed his lips. He had hoped to use the Lanteans to remove a persistent thorn in his side, but if Sheppard didn't know where Kolya was either … Cowen shook his head. "Were you able to accomplish your primary objective?"
Calum glanced at him and nodded. "Yes, sir. I can now confirm Doctor McKay possesses the ability to use the Ancestor's technology."
Cowen nodded. One more name to add to his list, he thought to himself as he tapped a finger on the edge of the desk.
"And how were you able to discover this?" he asked Calum.
"They had one of their ships, sir." A sneer crossed Calum's face. "And Sheppard was in no condition to fly it when we let them escape."
Cowen gave Calum a sharp look. "And just why was the good colonel unable to fly the ship?"
The line of sweat had made it to the edge of Calum's forehead, and Cowen watched as it slowly trickled down the side of his face. "Because I had shot him. Sir."
Cowen sat in stunned silence for a moment. Of all the stupid ideas Calum had had over the last few months …
"You shot Sheppard?"
Calum glanced down at him. "Yes, sir. I thought it was necessary at the time."
Cowen shook his head. "You're an imbecile."
"Sir?" Calum asked. "Sheppard and his people killed my entire squad on Suna. My men deserved vengeance."
"If you had followed orders on Suna your men wouldn't have needed avenging," Cowen told him and let his displeasure show in his expression. "You were supposed to observe only, Leftenant. You were the one who decided to fire on the Lanteans, prompting Sheppard to retaliate in the first place."
Calum scowled, and for a moment Cowen wondered if he would throw discipline to the four winds and try to justify his actions.
"And what will the Genii do if the Lanteans decide to seek a little vengeance of their own, Leftenant? You do realise the only thing you've managed to accomplish by shooting Sheppard is put the Lateans on alert to try to find out what we are trying to accomplish."
Calum focused on the wall and said nothing as the dribble of sweat reached his chin.
Cowen shook his head. Calum was quickly becoming more of a liability than he was worth. Perhaps it was time to find some sort of high risk mission for Calum to die on, preferably one where the 'Lanteans would find the body.
"Get out, Leftenant." Cowen waved a hand toward the door. "You're dismissed."
"Sir," Calum replied. He clicked his heels, saluted, and left the office.
Cowen waited until he no longer heard footsteps in the hallway, then stood and closed the door to his office. Unbeknownst to him, by mentioning Sheppard's team had escaped in the ship, jumpers they called them, he reminded himself, Calum had confirmed something Cowen had suspected for quite some time. It was why he had ordered the surveillance of the Lantean refugees in the first place.
"So, Doctor Weir, you're more clever than I thought," Cowen said to himself as he turned back to his desk. "How long did you think you could keep the continued existence of Atlantis a secret from the Genii?"
His initial plan had been a simple one, he would take the people Weir needed most, the ones who could operate whatever technology they had stolen from the Ancestors, and hold them hostage for whatever weapons the Lanteans still possessed. Now that he knew Atlantis was still intact, Cowen smiled to himself. Why take a few rifles when he could have so much more?
Ladon Radim had been working on a way for the Genii to use the Ancestors technology for months. If he could perfect his formula, there was no reason to stop at mere conventional weapons, Cowen realised. With jumpers and any other technology Weir was hoarding in Atlantis, the Genii would be a force to be reckoned with in the Pegasus galaxy.
Cowen walked over to the tall filing cabinet in the corner of his office and opened a drawer. He leafed through several folders until he found the two folders he wanted and carried them back to his desk.
He sat and opened the thicker of the two folders which contained surveillance photos of Lantean personnel the Genii had gathered over the last several months. He rifled through the stack of images, pulled out the picture of Doctor McKay, and studied it for a moment.
"And you, Doctor McKay, you are just full of surprises," Cowen muttered as he stared at the image.
He opened the other, thinner, folder that also contained pictures of various members of Weir's group as well as a list of names. Cowen picked up the list and a pen. Thompson, Daley, Masters, Garcia, Torrell, and several other names were scratched out. Others such as Sheppard's name were circled. Cowen circled McKay's name on the list and glanced at the images of Major, now Colonel, Sheppard as well as a few other Lantean soldiers that he now knew possessed the ability to use the Ancestor's technology. He smiled and added McKay's image to the file.
He had enough information now. He knew precisely who Weir would pay the most to have safely returned to her not-so-lost city.
He had warned Sheppard not to make an enemy of the Genii, now Sheppard would find out why he should have taken Cowen's advice.