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Wherever You Go, There You Are

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The Emmagen stood in the middle of the practice mat with her arms crossed, staring at John as he walked in and slipped off his sneakers.

“You are very cavalier with your future.”

“Lady, I don’t have a future.”

She nodded in agreement. “What do you believe will happen if you fail this test?”


“Elizabeth made it clear that I am your last hope. She cannot invest her resources in a security risk.”

It was pretty much what he figured. “I guess they’ll give me a long walk off a short pier.”

She considered the statement for a moment, as if she had never heard it before. John realized that she probably hadn’t. “They’ll execute me. Hell, Lorne’s itching to pull the trigger.”

“Is that what you desire?”

“It would solve a lot of problems.”

“Yours or theirs?”

John glared at her, unwilling to answer.

“You must answer that question, or I will go to Elizabeth now and tell her this is pointless.”

“You willing to make that call?”

“The decision to execute you would be Elizabeth’s, not mine.”

It was a nice deflection, John had to admit.

Her body relaxed a little, but her gaze sharpened. “Would death solve your problems, or theirs?”

John stepped back a little, rubbing the back of his neck. “No matter what McKay told you, I’m not suicidal.”

“Nor are you very invested in being alive.”

That was pretty inarguable, so he just shrugged. John thought joining the Air Force would be a way for him to pay back what he owed. His life had been forfeit since David drowned, and John had hoped that giving himself over to the military would be sacrifice enough to make up for being alive. He was glad he could fly, but that was just a selfish perk. In the end it had turned out worse than boarding school, worse than spending the summers at home with his grieving and bitter father. In the end, John had gotten people killed trying to rescue a dead woman.

But she was dead, and with her their unborn child, and John hadn’t even known, and everyone died for no good fucking reason because John Sheppard had a savior complex that always seemed to be a day late and dollar short. He really wasn’t suicidal; he wanted to die for a damn good reason, not because he just gave up. In the end, he was never the martyr since he always had the bad luck to survive. Alone.

“You are a study in anger and self-loathing, John Sheppard.”

John looked up. “Why do you care? Really? Aren’t you more important than this?”

“Yes, I am. But I owe Rodney my life, and he has saved many of my people on numerous occasions with his technological abilities. My people would not be as strong as we are without Rodney McKay, not with the Wraith awakened early. He asked for my help.”

“What’s he getting out of this?”

“Have you asked him?”

“Like that son of a bitch would tell me?”

The Emmagen smiled. “Most likely he would not. Still, much can be discerned from his prevaricating.”

John couldn’t help but smile at that. “You’re pretty sharp.”

“In my role, I must be so. But my question to you is: what must you be?”

John opened his mouth to answer, but then closed it again after a second of silence.

The Emmagen nodded. “I see. Perhaps this is where we start.”

“Start what?”

“Today, your warm ups. Stand here and do as I do. If you fail to follow me exactly, we will repeat the motion until you fall down.”

John raised his eyebrows in surprise, but figured he had lived through boot camp, so he could handle some kind of alien yoga taught by a small woman in a skirt.

Three hours later, the Emmagen dropped a towel on his face as she walked out with a bounce in her step, leaving him covered in sweat and panting for breath on the floor, wondering if the Geneva Convention applied in foreign galaxies and whether it would hurt his street cred to call the infirmary and beg for a wheelchair.