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Rodney McKay walked with a lighter step down the halls of Atlantis these days. As the head of the Science department he was known for his hot temper, arrogance and quick judgments against his team if he felt they weren't moving at a speed he deemed appropriate for whatever project they were working on. Having just returned from Earth the week before, a smiling McKay was a noticeable difference. Second in command of the science team, Radek Zelenka had taken to hiding a smile whenever Rodney walked in with his own half smile and obvious personal thoughts. It was becoming well known that McKay and Keller, Atlantis's Chief Medical Officer, were now an “item”, so to speak and Zelenka was more than happy to have a much more contented Rodney to work with.

Looking up from his computer, Zelenka watched McKay sit down across from him and boot his laptop up, coffee cup in hand.

Zelenka raised his own coffee cup to his lips and studied his friend. Any normal day would have seen Rodney blowing into the room in a caffeinated state balancing his third or fourth cup of coffee along with his tablet and, on occasion, a hand held scanner while he bellowed directions to whoever had the misfortune of being the first to run into the head of the science program first thing in the morning. In fact, one of the technicians at a corner workstation had gone silent and still at the first sign of Rodney, waiting for those snapping fingers and an order. Zelenka saw her shoulders visibly lose their tension when all Rodney did was concentrate on his screen and smile into his coffee cup.

After a few moments of uncharacteristic silence, Zelenka almost spilled his coffee when Rodney finally noticed him and looked over the top of his laptop to address him. “Radek, have you had a chance to look at my findings on the energy signal the Daedalus came across when they stopped over near M9R-557 to drop supplies to Carson's team?”

Setting his coffee cup down next to his computer Zelenka's hands moved over his keyboard, “As a matter of fact, I was hoping you had nothing too pressing on your plate today because I believe you are correct.” Pressing a few more keys, he turned his screen towards Rodney to show a section of what the Daedalus recorded that Zelenka had magnified. “I have been studying them thoroughly.”

 

Rodney moved to study the readings and Zelenka stood up, giving Rodney his seat and moving to pour a fresh cup of coffee at the coffee pot near his workstation. “Ancient database did have a little information on what we have named P3X-459; atmosphere, climate and vegetation as well as basic mapping of its terrain but little else. But the intriguing part is that there used to be more to it.”

Glancing away from the screen Rodney frowned, “What do you mean 'there used to be more' what more? And how can you tell that?”

Radek had a habit of using his hands when he spoke so he set his cup on the table to explain. “Within the Ancient database, the search algorithm is able to pick up anomalies. For example, when I search the very last entry the Ancients made as they evacuated the city, because the data was not altered after being entered considering they left, there is nothing there but the report. When I first noticed it I ran test. I altered a small entry by one word and ran the search again. The search showed the same anomaly as I found on the reports of P3X-459 but on a much smaller scale, meaning that we can see how changed the data is based on the scale of the anomaly.”

Frowning Rodney looked from the screen to Radek, “I didn't know it could do that. Why didn't I know that!”

“Yes... I was surprised too. It makes sense though, as sensitive as Ancient database is I'm a little surprised we didn't make the connection before this. Although, to be fair, I had seen this anomaly once before but had no idea what I was looking at.” He shrugged and picked his cup back up.

Radek pulled another stool next to Rodney, sat down and pulled the computer towards him. “And look here” he said, bringing up a new screen showing the actual energy readings. “Look familiar?”

As Rodney scrutinized the screen, his eyes darted back and forth over the information Radek had delved into. They then grew wide as he turned to Radek, “These energy levels...”

“Yes.”

“These are Zed-pm level readings.”

“I thought you might recognize them.” Radek frowned at the screen. “However, you need to see this.” He pulled up another screen to show Rodney the anomalies he came across in his search of the Ancient database.

“See here... here.... and here” Radek pointed to the areas on screen. “These show where information that used to be in database has been removed.”
Rodney frowned at the screen, “OK, I've seen this before. How can you be sure that it's erased data? It could be anything, what if....”

“Where did you first see this anomaly Rodney? Try to think back.” Radek knew that before his boss would even begin to follow him he had to show him his proof.

Rodney frowned at him, stood up and walked away from the workstation. Radek was about to speak when Rodney turned with an incredulous look on his face. “The Asurans” he said astonished at the thought. “It didn't make sense... at the time anyway, that the database was so...” he paused, “...wrong. I mean we know now...” He trailed off as thoughts and memories of the replicator home planet and their loss of Elizabeth in the end flashed through his mind. He visibly winced, as he did every time he thought of her death. My God, he thought. If only we had this information then...Elizabeth might not...

“Yes,” Radek interrupted. “I wish we had known then as well.” he said sympathetically as he followed the thoughts and emotions taking place on Rodney's face which was always an open book to anyone who really knew him.

Radek led Rodney back to the computer to show him his tests. Sure enough, it could be the only explanation for what Radek had discovered.

“OK, so if we have no way of pulling up the deleted data...” Rodney glanced at Radek at that, hopeful look on his face. “No, of course not” he said at the slight shake of Radek’s head. 'With all the screw ups they've come across with Ancient technology and their so-called experiments, why should this be any different', Rodney thought. “There's only one way to find out what those readings really are.”

Radek smiled and handed Rodney a tablet. “I've downloaded everything. Think Sheppard and Woolsey might let us find out?”

“I'll take this information to Sheppard... see if we can convince Woolsey and we'll go check it out”.

Rodney stood up, shut his laptop and started out of the lab.

Rodney grabbed the edge of the open door leading out of the lab and turned. “Oh, Radek... If we get a green light on this project, you should be ready to monitor anything I can send you about this... whatever it is causing the energy signal. Search the database and all.” Rodney said waving his hand in the air.

Zelenka raised his eyebrows and sat up straight as he noticed that Rodney didn't just issue the order and leave. He was actually waiting for a response from him.

“Of... of course. Yes. That makes sense, of course I'll do that. I'm actually creating a new search algorithm that will narrow search diameter of... whatever irregular thing we always seem needing to find.”

“Good…Good. Good idea.” Rodney pointed at Radek, smiled and headed out of the lab finally.

Radek stared at the now empty doorway for a second before shaking his head as if to clear it and muttering to himself in his native Czech as he bent over his computer once more, smiling again at the change in McKay and half wondering how long this change was going to last.

_____

Rodney took a quick detour to the infirmary before searching out Sheppard. As he walked in, Jennifer was sitting at her desk obviously absorbed in something on her computer screen. He stopped and just watched her for a minute feeling like the luckiest man in two galaxies. She was so beautiful and she loved him, he thought, his chest swelling with emotion at the idea. He was still leaning on the door jamb watching her when she noticed him.

“Rodney!” she said, smiling at him.

“Am I disturbing something?” he asked, smiling as he walked to her desk. She smiled and stood up to give him a quick peck on the cheek.

“Yes. But I'd really like the break. Are you on your way to lunch? I could use a little something. This virus that two of the marines came back with is a bit of a puzzle.” She looked over in concern at the beds where the two marines in question were currently situated.

Rodney stiffened, “Oh?” He was trying hard to overcome his fear of simply being in the infirmary when he wasn't sick or injured. He knew of his hypochondriac tenancies of course but he couldn't help it. “Is it contagious” he asked as he looked towards the beds containing the two in question.

Jennifer smiled knowingly, “No, Rodney, it's not. It doesn't appear to be airborne.” she said reassuringly and placing a hand on his arm she steered him towards the infirmaries entrance, “Not that I can see anyway which is why it’s such a puzzle.” Knowing of his phobias, she walked him to what she felt would be a safer area of the infirmary knowing it would lessen his anxiety. “How they contracted it, its incubation period... all of that is unknown right now. I'm searching the database but coming up with nothing.” She looked back towards her charges and sighed. “At least the virus… disease... whatever this is, is acting flu-like and not life threatening at the moment. And so far, no one else has come in with any similar symptoms.”

Rodney smiled down at her and squeezed her arm. “Well, how about I run to the mess and bring you back something. We can have a little picnic at your desk and maybe I can help. Zelenka is working on a program you might be able to use.”

“Thank you Rodney but are you sure you want to be in here? I know how anxious you are around people who are ill...” she broke off and cocked her head in confusion at his smile.

“I trust you. I'll be back!” he said as he turned and headed out smiling back at her as he left. He reached up to tap his headset, “Sheppard, come in...”

_____

Still smiling after his impromptu early lunch with Jennifer, Rodney headed back to his lab to meet up with Sheppard when his headset went off in his ear.

“McKay. Change of plans... I'm in the gym with Ronan and Teyla if you want to meet me here.”

Rodney, anxious to get going on this project, first thought to protest as he slowed his pace and tapped his headset to respond. “Ugh... Sure thing.” he said after a pause. He'd been waiting for Sheppard to let him know he was on his way to Rodney's lab for the past 20 minutes. Rolling his eyes, he made an about turn and headed off in the other direction. Of course, he thought to himself, always in the gym sparring with Ronan or Teyla when there was important work to be done. Not that Sheppard's skill hadn't saved his ass once or twice; his mind traitorously ventured into remembering various scenarios where Sheppard had rescued him. He wondered where that thought came from. 'I'm not always getting into trouble' he thought defensively. Of course, there were several times where Rodney's knowledge saved the team as well as the whole city. He thought back a couple of weeks where, back on Earth, he came up with the solution to shut down the matter bridge his old colleague created by stealing Rodney's work. Not only did he save the day... granted, he thought, Malcolm was the one who actually shut it down 'but it was my idea', he thought rapidly. Besides, he was busy saving Jennifer. Heroically saving Jennifer, he revised to himself.

Almost lost in the recent memory of playing the hero for Jennifer he was uncharacteristically all smiles when he walked into the gym to see John, Ronan and Teyla standing together. At the look on their faces, and knowing they were a bit amused by him he dropped his face back to his usual stern 'let’s get down to business' look.

“So what was so important that you had to keep me waiting? Do you have any idea how important this could be?” he rebuked, lifting his tablet to show the readings he'd been going over to emphasize to them just how much more important he felt his work was than John's little sparring session.

Sheppard, rolling his eyes at Rodney's arrogant attitude, “Relax, McKay this was important too.”

Looking from one to the other Rodney noticed that none of them were dressed for sparring or training.
“What were you doing in here?” Rodney just began noticing the others milling about in the gym and the fact that no one was working out or dressed for the usual gym activities.

Teyla turned to a few who were leaving and thanked them for coming before turning back to Rodney. “Ronan was giving a lesson today did you not get the message? You would have been welcome to join us”

Rodney looked from Teyla to Ronan, “Lesson?” he asked incredulously. “What on earth is Conan teaching anyone? How best to kill wraith? I think we all have had a bit of experience there” Rodney said with as much bravado as he dared.

Ronan ignored Rodney's slight insult, exchanged a look with Teyla and moved to pick up his things from the floor.

Sheppard started for the door, prompting Rodney to follow him out. “If you bothered to show up you might have learned something McKay.” They headed for the nearest transporter and Rodney strode ahead, determined that they would discuss his plans on the way back to his lab where they both should have been an hour ago.

John smirked at the back of Rodney's head when he saw the scientist trying to take control of their destination. “Teyla was giving a talk on how to resist the wraith mind control and Ronan was teaching the newbies all the tactics the wraith use... you know.. Where they make you see things that aren't really there?”

“Yes, yes I'm sure that was very helpful but if we can get back to this..” he turned and held up his tablet pointing at his work, “we may be able to finally fight the wraith without actually have to get close enough where they can mind-control us... or suck the life out of us...” He trailed off suddenly remembering that John had first-hand experience with that. Softening his tone he looked up at John with real concern. “You, more than anyone, know how important that could be for us”.

Rodney's expressive face clouded over as he thought back to that horrible time when Kolya had captured John and tried to use him to get back at the man who had usurped the Geni leader, Cowan. Laden Radim had sworn he had nothing to do with John's disappearance although it was discovered that it was one of his men who was responsible for the attack on their team that day. John managed to tell them not to give in to Kolya's demands before he was gagged again and Dr. Weir, grudgingly and with great heartache, complied. They were then forced to watch as Kolya allowed an imprisoned Wraith to feed on him several times, each time threatening to do it again if his demands weren't met. It was only by joining forces with the Wraith that both were able to escape. Despite the fact that the event led to a tenuous alliance with the wraith Todd as well as learning more about Wraith and their abilities to heal and give back the life they stole from their human victims, the entire event had been traumatic for everyone.

John recognized Rodney's change of voice and glanced down at his friend mid stride. For all Rodney was an arrogant, self-important pain in the ass at times, John knew just how much Rodney's team meant to him. He truly wanted nothing more than the safety of his friends and had shown he would do almost anything when it came down to a life and death situation.
Arriving at the transporter, Rodney was still waiting for John's response when John punched at the panel. He half smiled at the scientist who was looking up at him in a combination of defiance, concern and determination and his expression softened a little. “You're right. Let’s see what you've got”.

_____

Richard Woolsey was sitting at his desk trying his best to multitask while finishing his coffee before it grew cold. More times than not he ended up drinking the last of it cold. The half-finished report to the IOA was staring at him, daring him to make a mistake and he was scowling at it when Sheppard poked his head in and knocked at the frame of the open door. He looked up in surprise at Sheppard in the doorway with Dr. McKay hovering behind him.

“Yes, yes, come in... have a seat. Dr. McKay...” he acknowledged the addition to the meeting, closed his computer and waited for his chief military commander to explain the change up as he folded his hands together on top of the laptop.

“I've asked Rodney to join us as this really is more up his alley and I don't know how much I'd be able to explain it but I think he's on to something here”. John gestured to Rodney as he took a seat and gladly handed the floor to the scientist. While McKay's report was intriguing, he really hated this part of his job. Hell, he thought as Rodney began a speech better suited for a board meeting than an off world request meeting with the Atlantis Commander, he much preferred handling conflict using a more direct approach. 'All I need to know is where to point my gun', he thought stoically.

Something Rodney said caught his attention and pulled him away from his thoughts.

“Wait... did you say ZPM?” John asked incredulously. He looked at Rodney accusingly and pointed at the head of sciences, “I don't recall you saying there might be a ZPM there?”

Rodney rolled his eyes and turned towards John, “And what did you think 'Ancient ruins' and 'high energy readings' meant, hmm? Weather anomalies?”

“OK, but you didn't actually say ZPM” John chastised.
Rodney frowned at John and looked at him with his characteristic cock of his head, “Have you just met me? Seriously...”

Dr. Woolsey watched the familiar back and forth between his head of military operations and his head of science and held up his hands to stop the banter before they delved into actual insults.

“Gentlemen, please.” He looked at Dr. McKay. “Is there anything in the ancient database regarding this planet, do we know if it’s inhabited by... anyone or anything?”

Rodney glanced down at the tablet in his hand and made a few swipes at the screen. “Not much beyond finding the coordinates as well as atmosphere, vegetation and some mapping of the area around the energy signal. I have Zelenka using his new search algorithm he’s just finished creating. Seemed like a good place to test it out, as he just finished the coding half an hour ago.” He looked up, hopeful expression on his face and waited for the go ahead. He was mentally out the door already, eager to get his gear together. “But there is something you both should know” Rodney said looking from Woolsey to John, “Zelenka and I”, he paused, “OK Zelenka discovered it but he's not going to get very far without my expertise in this area... after all I do have...”

“McKay!” John's teeth were clenched as he brought McKay back to the present with his interruption.

Rodney paused mid gesture and lowered his hand back to his tablet, “Right, right... there's a chance the Ancients wiped out some information in the database about this planet based on an anomaly we...” he emphasized looking at John with an expression that dared him to correct, “..were just studying.”

“What. You can tell there's data missing? How is that possible?” Woolsey stood up and walked over to the door where the two men were poised to leave. “And how can you think of just walking through the gate with that information missing?”

“It doesn't necessarily mean it's another replicator planet.” John said before turning to Rodney and demanding, “Right?”

“We can send a M.A.L.P first but no, not based on the Intel we have from the Daedalus. As an ancient outpost it could be as simple as a failed ancient experiment...” Rodney trailed off at the look on Johns face. “We can pack the hazmat suits just in case.”

John could see Rodney was chomping at the bit to go and would come up with any placating answer that Woolsey, or John for that matter, might need to hear in order to be allowed to check out those energy readings.

Woolsey looked to his military commander whose face was going through the transitions of obvious thought, concern, internal mental argument and then decision before he looked equally anxious to gear up and go through the gate. “We'll be extra careful.”

Richard Woolsey glanced between the two men for a few moments before making up his mind. “Alright, you have a go for tomorrow morning.” he said moving to his desk and dropping back down to his chair in front of his laptop. “But” he said as both men stopped just outside the doorway and turned around. “I want no chances taken. Since neither you, Dr. McKay, or the Daedalus can neither confirm nor deny the presence of inhabitants of any kind on the planet, in addition to your team I want two extra marines going with you.”

Rodney just nodded and continued out of Woolsey’s office not caring if he decided to send a whole commandment of marines as long as he could get out to the planet and investigate.

Sheppard however stayed behind. “Is that really necessary? I mean… it’s not like this is our first rodeo here…” He trailed off at the look on Woolsey’s face.

“I’m only asking for two. Not an entire complement, Colonel. I'm well aware that you are more than capable of watching out for your team but in this case we have so little Intel that I must insist.” Woolsey opened his laptop up again signaling that the decision was final and the discussion over. John, never one for military protocol just turned and went off to find a couple of marines who were available the next day.

Woolsey shook his head at the retreating Lieutenant Colonel and returned to his report to the IOA, hoping that he wasn't going to have to add anything to it that would have them reconsidering his position here.

_____

Jennifer walked into the ready room where Rodney and the rest of the team were gearing up to go off world.

“Hey you.”

Rodney straightened up from attaching his thigh holster and flashed her a smile that lit up his face. “Hey you” he reached for her affectionately and clasped her hand in his.

“I was going to radio you to let you know we were heading out but first Woolsey wants a report from the M.A.L.P we're sending through ahead.”

“Are you sure you shouldn't have a member of my medical team with you?” Jennifer asked, sneaking a look towards John as she asked.

Rodney also glanced towards John, letting him make that decision. Personally he would have loved to have Jennifer with them but he needed his focus to stay on the energy readings and not be worrying about Jennifer's safety off world. After their last experience back on earth he was still feeling uncharacteristically protective of her. It was still so new to him to extend his personal 'shield' as he liked to think of it, around another person and not just himself.

“We're good.” John said as he finished clipping his p90 to his tac vest. “It's mainly re-con at this stage and once we see what we're dealing with we may come back with a few more people. Depending on what we find, I may want a member of your team with us then.”

Rodney relaxed at John's non-committal response and squeezed Jennifer's hand as he turned and picked up his radio. “See you when I get back.” He leaned in for a quick kiss and Jennifer stepped into it, turning it into more than just a quick peck, much to the amusement of the rest of the team. She let Rodney go with a smirk at his flushed and surprised expression, turned and left the ready room.

Rodney was still watching the now empty doorway when Sheppard walked past him and leaned in, “Let's go Romeo.”

The rest of his team brushed past him as Rodney sputtered, “I... she..." sigh "...right.” and made to follow the rest of his team.

Standing in the gate room, Sheppard called for Chuck to dial the gate as Rodney made a few final adjustments to the M.A.L.P.

“Dr. McKay!”

Rodney straightened up and looked towards the control room where Woolsey was standing.

“Remember, this is re-con and fact finding. With data missing from the database I want all of the information you can learn of the planet as well as that energy reading before you attempt to extract any ancient power sources.”

“Yes, yes, of course.”

John wisely refrained from comment as he ordered the M.A.L.P sent though the wormhole and Rodney headed up to the computer where Radek was working to check the readings. The two scientists were both staring intently at the data but only Radek jumped at Woolsey's terse, “Well?”

“Um, viable environment, breathable air, temperature readings ideal...” Radek paused to turn back to the computer readings Rodney was staring at.

Rodney adjusted the M.A.L.P’s camera to rotate around the immediate area. He manually moved the camera to sweep the area twice more before sharing a look with Radek.

Pushing his glasses up on his face Radek shook his head. “This could be problem Rodney.”

As if he could magically make a DHD appear Rodney swept the area one more time, frowning at the screen.

Woolsey moved closer to the two scientists to see the screen. “What is it?” He asked as John started up the stairs a look of concern on his face.

“No DHD. At least not anywhere we can see.” Rodney said looking up at John as he arrived at the console. Snapping his fingers Rodney turned to Woolsey. “So we take a jumper. Then we’ll have a way to dial home or..” he paused “..anywhere else we may need” he added mindful of the fact that there were times they couldn’t gate straight back to Atlantis for security reasons. Rodney turned and looked expectantly up at John hoping he would back up his idea.

Nodding John seemed to agree. “We’ll bring two more Marines and leave them with the jumper cloaked. That way we have a relay back to Atlantis through them if we run into any trouble.”

Woolsey appeared to consider this plan as John and Rodney watched him expectantly. “Alright, if nothing else looks out of the ordinary…” Woolsey trailed off looking from Rodney to Radek as they both turned back to the monitor.

 

“No life signs in the immediate vicinity, I'd say we have a go people.” Rodney paused at the look Woolsey was giving him. “Um, if you agree... that is.” he said gesturing to Woolsey as he stood and shifted on his feet in anticipation.

“You have a go. I want a report in 3 hours.”

_____

Rodney had his head buried in the hand held scanner he was carrying as they walked towards the energy readings, occasionally stumbling over a root or rock so that Sheppard had taken to walking next to him so he could haul him up by his tac vest each time he stumbled too badly. John was just as anxious as McKay to bring back a Zpm or find a potential new power source or, hell, anything that will help them fight the Wraith. He'd set Ronon to take point and maneuvered Teyla to their six when McKay proved to be so engrossed in the power readings that John was afraid the man wouldn't even notice if he fell and broke an ankle. The two marines with them, Nelson and McGuire, were in the middle with him and McKay and were taking their job seriously, as alert as they should be. Both were new to the Pegasus Galaxy and had been on only a handful of missions, mostly trade agreements. Neither had seen much action yet.

The planet wasn't much different from most of the planets they'd encountered in the Pegasus Galaxy: trees giving plenty of shade and average ground cover for the most part and the temperature was similar to a Colorado spring. It appeared to be morning on the planet when they arrived and they'd been walking for 30 minutes now. Sheppard snuck a look over at McKay when he realized that Rodney hadn't uttered one word of complaint yet. 'Huh', he thought. Thinking back on the last week, McKay had been acting a little different. He was still their same resident genius with an ego to match but he was a bit more subdued than usual, he seemed to think first before speaking and was generally a little bit easier to get along with. 'Keller must really be making an impact on him. Who would have thought those two would end up together. Honestly,' John thought, 'I had my bet set on Ronan.'

Not more than 5 minutes later McKay stopped and pointed ahead and off to the side. “Right here” he said heading in the direction he'd pointed to. The group changed direction and headed closer towards the small rise they'd been traveling parallel with.

“Are you sure, McKay? It doesn't look like there could be anything there it's just a...” Sheppard paused as they came up on what appeared to be a cave entrance that wasn't visible until you got closer.

“Definitely in here.” Rodney pointed as he finally looked up from the scanner.

Sheppard edged past McKay and paused at the entrance to radio Redmond and Usher, the two Marines he’d left to guard the jumper. After informing them of their progress, location and plan as well as leaving orders to contact Atlantis at the agreed upon time should they not hear back from the team, he signaled for Nelson and McGuire to follow him in. “Teyla, Ronan, out here with McKay until we check it out”

Rodney shifted on his feet, impatient to explore but also not wanting to be the first one inside either. He may be anxious but he wasn't stupid enough to plow headfirst into an unknown location, he thought. Ronan obviously would have preferred to have gone in with Sheppard. In fact he was visibly tense with the desire to just ignore the order and head in to cover their six but he stayed next to McKay as he'd been ordered. Teyla had her P90 ready and aimed, reassuringly, in the direction they had just come from.

“I do not understand why the Ancestors had no information on this planet.” Teyla directed the comment to Rodney while still keeping a sharp eye on their surroundings. “It seems, by all appearances, to be ideal.”

Rodney was concentrating on the energy readings again but he looked up and around almost like he was just noticing his surroundings for the first time. “Well, looks can be deceiving in the Pegasus Galaxy. Who knows why or what might be here... or used to be here. Could be that whatever it was, if it was a threat, is long gone by now.”

Teyla never stopped her surveillance of their immediate area. “Perhaps.” She said without conviction.

Sheppard came back to the entrance just then and said it was clear. “Rodney, you won’t believe this.”

Rodney followed Sheppard in with Teyla and Ronan taking up the rear. The cave began as he expected, rock and dirt but not too noticeably confining enough to affect his claustrophobia. 'Yet, anyway, he thought. It was when the cave walls started to look decidedly wraith-like that had McKay confused. He stopped and turned, 'Wait... what?' looking back at the rock entrance and back again as the walls appeared to morph into what looked like the walls found on a Wraith Hive ship.

Holding his scanner up he made some adjustments and held it in both directions and began to take readings. He was about to walk further into the Wraith part of the cave when Sheppard grabbed the back of his tac vest stopping him from moving forward. “Hold up there McKay.” Still holding on to Rodney he turned to Teyla, “Are you sensing any Wraith?”

Eyes wide as she tried to process what she was seeing it took her a second to answer. “No, nothing.” Her gun, which had been slightly lowered as she walked was brought up as she took a protective stance towards the direction they had just come from. Ronan moved past Sheppard and McKay with his gun ready. “Are we on a ship? Could one have crashed into the mountain here?” he asked keeping a watchful eye in the corridor ahead.

“John, I'm getting Wraith technology readings now as well.” Rodney looked wide eyed at Sheppard who was still holding on to Rodney's vest.

“There's a reason for that.” John said as he let go of Rodney and moved past Ronan and into a section just to the right of the tunnel, gesturing for the others to follow. Nelson and McGuire were there at the ready and since Teyla sensed no Wraith he sent them to investigate further down the tunnel which had turned into a corridor.

“Radios open and only go a few hundred yards before reporting back what you see.” John instructed as he tilted his head towards the corridor.

The room was a confusing mixture of Wraith and Ancient. Rodney had never seen anything like this. Setting his pack down next to what looked like a table he might have in his own lab he pulled out his computer and the interface cord. An Ancient looking terminal of some sort was on the table along with a few unknown small items that looked like ancient technology, all of it very dusty but surprisingly in fairly good shape based on a casual glance. The room itself was a mix of cave and wraith as if the two had collided.

“Sheppard, don't touch anything until I see if I can access what's on this computer.” Rodney admonished as he set his computer up next to the ancient console. With Sheppard’s stronger gene who knew what could happen if he touched one of the ancient devices before Rodney knew what it did. Ancient technology always seemed to call out to John whenever he was near.

Sheppard was at the entrance to the room with Ronan and shot back a “wouldn't think of it” over his shoulder before going back to his muted conversation with him.

Teyla moved next to Rodney, her gun slightly lowered but still ready as she watched him boot up his computer and begin powering up the ancient terminal. “Could these devices have been stolen by the Wraith or could this place have been found by the Ancients and appropriated by them for some reason?”

“We'll know soon enough.” Rodney had managed to turn on the ancient terminal and was beginning to interface with it. Data scrolled down Rodney's computer faster than Teyla could keep up with, not that she would have understood what she was seeing anyway but she relaxed a bit that Rodney would soon have the answers they all needed.

”Sheppard. Nelson here. At least one more room like that first one and attached to the main corridor we're in. Want us to head back or we can search further. No signs that anyone has been here in a while.”. Sheppard looked at Ronan who nodded in agreement before answering. “Go ahead, same instructions and report back after a few hundred more yards. Sheppard out.”

Just then there was a low rumbling sound that appeared to come from deep within the mountain. The ground shook slightly and dust fell from the part of the ceiling that was made up of the same type of rock that made the tunnel entrance. Everyone looked up in surprise and McKay had started to bend down as if to move under the table if necessary before it stopped just as suddenly as it started.

“OK, that's not good.” He said as he checked his equipment.

“Nelson, McGuire report! You ok?” After a tense few seconds John appeared to be listening before ordering them back to their position.

“McKay, was there anything in the database or the M.A.L.P readings about tremors?”

“Oh yes, I just forgot to mention that I guess.” McKay snarked, looking at John as if he had just grown two heads. “Look, I just downloaded quite a bit of information and I need some time to go over it before I’ll know anything. And according to my readings, we aren’t anywhere near the power source I’m looking for yet.” Rodney turned back to the terminal and his tablet that was connected to it.

A few minutes later, just as he was disconnecting his tablet, there was another, slightly stronger tremor. This time Rodney did slide under the table and reached to pull Teyla with him. John and Ronan stayed in the safety of the doorway although John wasn’t sure just how sturdy a hybrid Wraith/cave door was going to be. He breathed a sigh of relief when the shaking stopped.

“Ok, that’s enough for me. McKay, you’ll have to be satisfied with what you’ve downloaded. We’re heading back out.” John moved into the corridor and looked towards the direction Nelson and McGuire should be coming from as Rodney and Teyla left the safety of the table and moved to join them.

“Nelson... McGuire, come in!” John waited for confirmation over his radio that the two marines were ok. Hearing no response, John shared a look with Ronan that seemed to convey an entire conversation, John turned to Teyla and Rodney. “You two head back to the entrance, Rodney you can start going through the data. Look for information on quakes first. We may need that little bit of Intel. We can look for the power source after we have more information on this place.” He and Ronan started to move off in the other direction to find the Marines when Teyla stiffened and lurched for John’s arm.

“Colonel! I am sensing wraith!”

_____

They all froze at that as Teyla concentrated on listening to the feeling coming from within. She looked from John to Ronan and the two took up positions on either side of where Teyla and Rodney were standing.

Eye’s wide and clutching his tablet to his chest Rodney looked in both directions. “You didn’t sense it before… are you sure?”

“The feeling is very strong now, Dr. McKay. I am certain of it.”

Just then, a shadow appeared to move across the wall of the corridor near where the entrance was. Ronan took a position between the shadow and his team and aimed his gun. “If they’ve just arrived and know about this place we may be safer further in” he suggested as he spared a glance back at Sheppard.

“Ok, we need to find Nelson and McGuire so Ronan, you’re on our six and I’ll take point. Teyla, you’re with McKay.” John started forward then stopped and turned back towards McKay taking the tablet from his hands and turning the scientist around to take the pack from his back.

“Hey, what are you...” Rodney started to protest.

“I want this in your pack and your hands free in case you need to move fast or shoot something, McKay.” John admonished as he zipped the tablet in and helped Rodney get the pack on his back again. “And don’t hesitate to drop that if it causes you problems. We can take care of the Wraith and come back for it.” He ordered.

Rodney just nodded, Sheppard’s instructions making sense as he tried to shove his rising panic down a bit. If the tremors grew worse… he gulped at the scenarios running through his mind and tried not to think of large chunks of cave tumbling down on to him and his team as he made to follow John, Teyla and Ronan close behind.

Nothing stopped them as they made their way further into the cave. The walls were decidedly more Wraith-like and less cave as they moved in. John paused at the entrance of the first room Nelson had mentioned and quietly checked it out before motioning that they should move on. Ronan was alternating between following and turning his attention behind them, gun ready.

The corridor opened up into a large room and Sheppard motioned Ronan to take up a position at the entrance to the corridor they had just come from. John caught Rodney’s attention and made a quiet ‘stay here’ motion by pointing at a spot against the wall next to Ronan while signaling Teyla to do a quick sweep of the room with him.

Rodney tried to get his breathing under control and realized that, despite his trust in his team to protect him, he would feel much better with a gun in his hand. Shrugging out of his pack and leaving it next to the wall, Rodney fumbled for his thigh holster as his eyes swept from Ronan to his other teammates searching the rest of the room. When he spotted what stood in the middle of the room, he stopped reaching for his gun and instead, moved towards the equipment he hadn’t noticed when they first entered. John was also moving towards it and Rodney caught his eye to ensure that John wasn’t going to order him back to his position next to Ronan.

John still had his p90 ready and aimed away from anyone on his team and Teyla had moved to a position near Ronan. John didn’t like this one bit. Not only was he feeling trapped now, they still hadn’t come across either of the Marines yet. The room had two doors leading out, one on either side, and he hadn’t been successful in opening either.

“Can you try to get those doors open Mckay?” John asked him quietly, nodding at the obvious Wraith computer and not wanting to alert anyone to their position if someone were in the corridor. “I don’t want to take up a defensive position here, it’s too dead-end for my peace of mind.”

Rodney’s hands were already skimming over the computer, putting his past knowledge of Wraith technology to use as he brought what qualified as a monitor up.

“Give me a minute.” Rodney said taking a second to shoot a look over his shoulder at the entrance.

John moved to stand between the corridor entrance and Rodney as his eyes darted around expecting Wraith to come out of the walls any minute. Then his eyes lighted on something on the ground near the wall. It was the ear piece to a radio, standard Atlantis issue.

_____

From her position, hidden from the Lanteans’ but with a full view of what was taking place in the next room, the Wraith Queen watched the man at the console intently. He was trying to open the doors she had shut when she woke just a short time ago. Her hunger, upon waking, had been too strong to attempt to gain any information from the two humans who had entered her lab. She glanced over at their bodies in the corner before turning her attention back to the man at the console. He appeared to be quite knowledgeable of the Wraith computer. She knew she’d been hibernating for a very long time by the growth of the hive ship that stretched out, hidden beyond the walls of her lab. The last time she had awoke, the ancients had only sent a small number of their scientists to the lab to conduct their experiments and she had been able to gain the upper hand, taking her fill on two of them before extracting information from the others. A battle was being waged and Wraith were winning more battles than the Lanteans’ the scientists had been forced to reveal as she entered their minds.

After forcing them to initialize their technology and ensuring she was able to access it, she began taking out her anger and frustration, at being their captive for so long, on the two left. Experimented on and forced into hibernation between their experiments she was planning on using their own ship to escape after securing the lab as her own. She recalled her rage at learning the ship that had brought the scientists was forced to leave the planet. Finding no way to dial the ring, she had no escape and the planet appeared to be uninhabited save her. Waiting had proved to be fruitless as no one, Lanteans nor Wraith arrived from the sky or through the ring. Knowing her only way off the planet was to grow the hive ship she would need but knowing that the growth of a hive ship would require one of her prisoners and time she didn’t have without feeding, she began her plan.

She made adjustments to the equipment in the lab, forced more information from the humans and decided that she would hibernate until her adjustments woke her when the Lanteans returned. It would give the ship time to grow and she could feed on whoever made their way into her lab until it was ready. She worked until she felt her hunger again, moving equipment into the cell she’d been held in, making it her lab and adjusting the force field to be operated from the inside. After setting the sensors to wake her at the appropriate time, she drained one scientist and planted the seed with the other and began her sleep.

Watching the Lantean from her side of the force field she knew they couldn’t see her. It would appear to be solid wall from their side but to her, it was a large floor to ceiling window into the other room. Her eyes narrowed and she knew what her next plan would be.

_____

Rodney was close to figuring out how to open one of the doors when Sheppard hissed at him to hurry up.

“I’m working as fast as I can under the circumstances, Colonel!” McKay hissed back at him. Just as he was turning back to the console, both men saw the shadows in the corridor.

“Here they come, McKay get one of those doors open now!” John moved to take up position with Ronan and Teyla. As the shadows moved closer to them they opened fire on the Wraith they feared were closing in on them.

Rodney turned back to the Wraith computer in a panic to work on the doors as his team fired on Wraith behind him. Expecting stunner blasts to start whizzing past his head at any moment, he moved around the console to open the back and make an adjustment in a connection that he remembered from working with Todd. As he stood back up he felt the presence behind him just before he was grabbed.

A feeding hand had attached to his chest from behind, claws biting into his chest and he was being held against what felt like a very large Wraith with another hand at his neck. Too scared to make a sound and his breathing so fast his vision was beginning to go dark at the edges he watched his team concentrating on the corridor, not realizing the danger he was in.

When the movement in the corridor came to a stop the trio stopped firing. Ronan was tensed to take off after them but Teyla’s hand on his arm stopped him as the two waited and listened.

“They appear to have backed off for now John.” Teyla said, her eyes in the direction of the corridor as she waited and listened for more Wraith to advance on their position.

“John?” She called and turned when he didn't respond. She gasped when she saw where Sheppard’s attention was as he stood ridged, his p90 aimed in the other direction. Beyond him and on the other side of the Wraith console, was an opening that wasn't there a moment before and in front of it a large Wraith Queen with Rodney in her clutches, her feeding hand on his chest.

John cautioned a step towards the Wraith Queen and Rodney. Rodney’s eyes were wide with fear and locked on John’s.

“Sheppard!” Rodney’s breathing was very fast and his hands moved up to grasp the Wraith’s feeding hand as if he could physically remove it from his chest. This only caused the Queen to tighten her hold on her captive and she moved them back, closer to the entrance she had emerged from as Rodney gasped at the tighter hold and the movement.

“Wait!” Sheppard yelled, hoping to buy them some time before she could back them both into the room she had managed to hide from them. His mind was racing as he tried to keep one eye on McKay, search the direction she had come from for weapons and tried to think of a way out of this all at the same time. He flashed back to the beginning of the expedition when he’d been forced to shoot Sumner as he was being fed on by the queen acting as the ‘keeper’. Remembering what it felt like to be fed on, courtesy of Kolya, remembering that sensation of having his life taken from him slowly, he knew he would spare Rodney that if he was forced to. The way McKay’s eyes were locked onto his, he could see that Rodney knew that John would save him from that as well if he had to. Before he could even ask who she was or attempt a shot that might miss McKay, the Queen backed up into the room, dragging Rodney with her as the wall turned opaque again.

John was at the wall before Teyla and Ronan and he threw himself at it with a shout, “McKay!”. Finding it solid, they began searching for a way to open it, sliding their hands around searching for seams. Ronan pulled a knife, intending to cut through.

“McKay!” John yelled through the wall. ”Rodney!” He paused with his ear against it. “I can’t hear anything.” He said as he watched Ronan try to slice into it.

Their efforts yielded no results however and John ordered the others to step back. Firing his P90 at where he thought the seam of the opening was turned out to be equally fruitless as the wall appeared to all but absorb the bullets. He was about to fire again when he felt a hand on his arm.

“Sheppard, it’s no use.” Ronan said as he attempted to pull John back. “We need to find another way in there. Now.”

Teyla headed towards one of the doors and tried opening it as John moved to the Wraith computer in the center. Studying the console in an attempt to see how close Rodney had been in getting the two doors to open he realized they were going to need help and this mission had now turned into search and rescue.

“Sheppard to Jumper 1, come in.” John said into his radio, his voice full of tension.

”Jumper 1 here Colonel.”

“I need you to dial Atlantis and radio in for reinforcements. McKay has been captured by a Wraith Queen and I want Zelenka here along with a team of Marines, full gear. Have them bring another Jumper and I’ll give them our location when they arrive on the planet.”

”Yes sir!” Lieutenant Redmond replied and the communication cut off.

John began pacing the room unsure where to begin. He moved to the Wraith console again wishing he knew what he was looking at and wishing Zelenka could just materialize here right here, right now. He didn’t know what the Wraith Queen wanted with McKay or what he might be going through right now. For all they knew she just needed another meal but John was hopeful that she chose Rodney for his obvious technical value to her. That at least meant they had a window of opportunity for rescue as she would need him alive for whatever she needed him to do.

As an afterthought John tapped his radio again, “Usher, come in.” he barked.

”Usher here sir.”

“Lieutenant, have you seen any activity on the planet? Any sign of a ship in orbit?”

”No sir, no Stargate activity other than communication with Atlantis and scans show nothing in the nearby vicinity.” Usher responded as John could hear Lieutenant Redmond in the background speaking to Atlantis.

Sheppard glanced knowingly at his team, “Acknowledged, radio in if you detect any activity on the planet or from space, Sheppard out.”

“So we fell for it.” Ronan stated matter-of-fact like.

Realization showed on Teyla’s face as she came to the same conclusion. What they were firing at was nothing more than the Queen projecting a distraction in front of them so she could take them by surprise and grab Dr. McKay. Her shoulders slumped at the realization that they had left Rodney unprotected unknowingly.

“Right.” John appeared to come to a conclusion as he turned towards his teammates. “There’s a very good chance she’s the only one here. You two head out the way we came in and search, together, for another entrance to this place. Whatever you do, do not split up!” He ordered.

“And you, John?” Teyla was anxious to search for Dr. McKay but her obvious concern at leaving John alone had her hesitating.

“I’ll be fine.” John placated. “I won’t let anything get between me and the corridor out of here but if she opens that door again I need to be here. Another team will be here soon with Zelenka who might just be able to get these other doors open.”

Teyla acknowledged the need for one of them to stay in the room where Dr. McKay had disappeared and she placed one hand on John’s arm. “Be safe.” She told him before turning to follow Ronan out.

Watching them leave, John reached up and tapped his radio, “Sheppard to Jumper 1, what’s the status on the rescue team.”

_____

Woolsey hurried into the control room after he was paged and informed that SGA1 had run into some sort of trouble off world. “What do we have, Chuck.” He asked the Sergeant. Chuck looked up from the controls, “Message from Jumper 1 requesting backup and Dr. Zelenka. Seems Dr. McKay has been captured by a Wraith Queen they didn’t know was on the planet and..” Chuck left of as he caught sight of Jennifer walking up behind Dr. Woolsey, having heard the page, her face turning white at what she heard. “..and.. they” Chuck stuttered as Woolsey turned to see Jennifer standing behind him. He steadied her with a hand on her arm as they both looked expectantly for Chuck to continue his report. “Uh, Colonel Sheppard requested a team of Marines for rescue. Dr. Zelenka is prepping a few more scientists to accompany them. No request for any medical as of yet sir.” Chuck finished with a look in Jennifer’s direction.

As the team of Marines began to enter the gate room, Woolsey looked at Jennifer. “Let’s hold off until we know more about what we might be walking in to.” She nodded in agreement, her stomach in a knot as she headed down the stairs towards the team leader. She looked him in the eye and, with as much professionalism as she could muster, informed him that he was to contact her with any information on Dr. McKay’s condition when they found him as well as anyone else who might need medical attention. “I’ll have a medical team ready to move if you need one.”

“Yes ma’am” Major Lorne told her, his eyes knowing and reassuring. Jennifer knew he wouldn’t hold any information back from her that she would need and she placed one hand on his arm in acknowledgment before turning to leave.

Jennifer hurried down the halls towards the infirmary with a cold hard lump in her stomach at the thought of what Rodney might be going through right this minute. ‘Captured by a Wraith’, the words kept running through her mind and the horror and implication at what that might mean stopped her in her tracks. One hand on the wall she paused to catch her breath which was coming out fast enough that she knew she had to get it under control. She may not be used to all that the Pegasus galaxy seemed to throw their way on a regular basis but she’d seen enough that she knew now was not the time for personal feelings to interfere in her job even if this was Rodney.

'God, Rodney..' She thought as her chest constricted with pain. 'I can’t lose you now!' It wasn’t that long ago that he had saved her life back on Earth. Determination seemed to straighten her spine as if it had a life of its own and she continued down the corridor. Entering the infirmary she first checked on her two patients with the confusing symptoms. Seeing no change and setting the nurse in charge to monitor them further, she began putting together field kits. She would be ready to go herself if Rodney needed her. She wasn’t about to let him down.

_____

Rodney, having been drug backwards to the lab they hadn’t been able to see from the other room was let go as the Queen dropped him at her feet. Still attempting to get his breathing under control he steadied himself with one hand and the other went to rub his neck where she had squeezed and then to his chest where she’d embedded her claws into him but, apparently, hadn’t fed on him even a little. He cautioned a look at the Wraith Queen and found her back to him at a computer. As quietly as Rodney could, he attempted to stand as he looked around the room for an escape. If she wasn’t going to watch him, maybe he had a chance at escape. When his eyes lighted on the shriveled corpses of the two marines in the corner he froze and let out a small gasp. As the Queen turned towards him he started to step backwards away from her but came up short against a table of some sort.
“What.. what do you want!” He yelled. “Sheppard! John! I’m in here! Ronan!”

“They can’t hear you, human.” The Queen was in front of him now and Rodney was frozen in place. She brought her hand to his face and hissed as he felt her enter his mind and force him to kneel before her.

Rodney went to his knees hard but his mind was trapped by the Queen and he couldn’t even wince as his body froze. As she entered his mind he tried everything he could to keep her out, tried thinking about anything but Atlantis or his team but he wasn’t prepared for just how strong she was and she pushed past his attempt to block her as if he’d made no attempt at all.

“Yesss..” She hissed at him, baring her teeth. “You’ll do nicely.” She said as Rodney trembled before slumping to the ground unconscious.

_____

Lorne and his team entered the jumper bay and saw Zelenka and two other scientists already there and waiting in their own off world gear and each carrying a case of tools and their laptops. After herding the scientists and his marines on board Lorne began his pre-flight. Within minutes the jumper was in the gate room and heading through the gate.

Lorne had decided to cloak upon exiting the wormhole, not knowing what to expect. He flew to the coordinates given to him by Lieutenant Redmond and hovered above, scanning the area before contacting the other jumper.

“Lt. Redmond, this is Major Lorne, do you have a status update?”

”I’m transmitting the coordinates of Colonel Sheppard’s location to you now. He requested that you land as close as is safely possible. Recommend you scan the area before de-cloaking although we aren’t detecting anything at the moment.” Redmond responded.

“Copy that, receiving now. Maintain position for now and contact me if you see any gate activity. Lorne out.”

Zelenka sat in silence during the trip through the gate and while Major Lorne was in contact with the other jumper. His worry for Rodney was obvious and he covered by opening his laptop and connecting to the jumper from his position behind the co-pilot. Lorne glanced over at him a few times as he scanned the planet a bit deeper than the Marines were likely to.

“Got anything Doc?” Lorne asked, turning towards the Scientist.

After a few seconds with the Major waiting patiently for an answer all Zelenka could say was, “Huh.”

Lorne rolled his eyes at that and preoccupied scientists in general and pressed further, “Is that a good “huh”, a bad “huh” or an ‘I don’t know’ “huh” doc. Come on, I’m about to land. Can I de-cloak or not?”

Zelenka looked up with a look that almost made the Major feel that he’d forgotten that anyone else was there before dropping his eyes back to the computer. “It’s just that the energy source has changed since we first noticed it and…” looking up at the Major’s face he switched gears, “Yes, yes landing is ok and can probably de-cloak as well. I’m not reading any other ships in the immediate area.” Zelenka went back to his readings as Lorne touched down near the cave entrance.

“Doc, finish up your scans but be ready to go in a few minutes.” Lorne directed as he and the other Marines left the jumper. Lorne instructed two men to stay with the jumper. Both men had the gene so they could cloak if they needed to and, if worse came to worse, take off and go for help.

As Zelenka and the other scientist exited the jumper, Lorne tapped his radio. “Major Lorne to Sheppard.”

”Sheppard here.”

“Colonel we’re parked at the coordinates, ready to assist. Want to tell me what we’re walking in to?”

John had been pacing the room, alternating between trying to open the two doors to looking the computer over to checking the disappearing wall again for any seams or signs of weakness but he’d found nothing and there was no word from Rodney or the Queen. Ronan and Teyla had just radioed in that they could see no other entrances after walking first one direction and then in the other, past the entrance and were both on their way back. John practically slumped with relief.

“Leave two men with the jumper. You bring Zelenka and two more Marines to me. If you walk towards the mountain you’ll see an entrance to what looks like a cave. Leave two more Marines at the entrance. Teyla and Ronan should be making their way back to you. If they aren’t there yet, follow the corridor until it ends and that will bring you to me. Have the other scientists Zelenka brought take a look at the first room on the right, there’s equipment there that might be of help.” John instructed. “And set a marine to watch them.”

Ronan and Teyla had appeared at the tail end of John’s instructions and they took point, showing the Marines the direction of the cave entrance. Setting two of the Marines to watch at the entrance, Lorne followed Ronan in, the other Marines at their backs while Teyla covered their six. Reaching the first room that Sheppard’s team found he set one marine to guard and after a quick search of the room to assure himself it was safe enough, he allowed Zelenka to put his scientists to work on the computer and devices that McKay had first began to study before moving on to Sheppard's position with Zelenka and the remaining marine.

At the sound of their entrance to the room, John swung around and leveled his gun at the approaching group. He quickly lowered his weapon and beckoned Zelenka over to the computer. After explaining what happened, Zelenka began his work on the Wraith computer system while John and Lorne conferred near the entrance.

Zelenka quickly came to the same conclusion that Rodney apparently had when he noticed the same panel that he knew would need accessing was already open when he stepped around to the other side of the computer. He froze for a second, coming to the realization that this was where Rodney was grabbed from behind, and glanced to the wall and then back towards Colonel Sheppard and Major Lorne.

Sheppard, noticing the scientist’s reluctance, moved to stand near the back of the computer system, his gun aimed at the opaque wall and nodded his assurance to Zelenka that nothing would happen.

Feeling foolish in a room full of military personnel, Zelenka shook off his fear as much as he could and bent down to make the adjustments required. He breathed easier once it was finished and he was back on the other side of the system.

Anxious to do something other than stand around waiting, John prodded the scientist into giving them an answer.

“So can you open the wall?” Sheppard asked.

“Quiet please, I will have answer for you in moment.” Zelenka admonished quietly, his eyes and fingers never leaving his computer.

Sheppard was about to threaten to start shooting up the place when he heard a click. All eyes turned left as one of the doors slid open.

_____

Rodney woke up in pain. His head was pounding and he wondered just how much of Radek’s rotgut he’d consumed the night before. He started to bring his hand to his head, not daring to open his eyes yet but his hand felt heavy. 'Odd..' He thought. He’d never had a hangover make him feel weak before. As he opened his eyes and focused on the ceiling above him, realization came flooding in. Energy signal.. Planet… 'in the clutches of a Wraith!' It was that memory that pushed him to sit up. He had been lying on the cold floor which explained why he was feeling pain in his back. A look at his hand showed the reason it felt heavy. A manacle was locked on to his wrist with a chain leading to a locked bolt of some sort on the table next to him. He tried pulling at it to see if he could free himself but it was secure. There was no one in the room with him but he could hear movement in the hallway that led out from the room. He stood from his position on the floor and surveyed the table he was attached to. There was a Wraith computer as well as a handful of components he didn’t recognize but looked vaguely ancient. An odd feeling of pressure on the right side of his neck prompted him to reach for the area. As his hand connected with a rectangular device near his carotid artery he froze. 'Oh no.' He thought as he moved his fingers over the edges of it. It felt embedded in his neck. 'Oh this is so not good.' He thought, his panic rising. The movement was getting closer and he reached for his thigh holster only to find it empty. He looked up as she entered the doorway and he froze in place.

The Wraith Queen walked towards her captive, confident that her time on the planet was almost at its end. He would be the component she needed to finally get her ship operational. As she moved towards him he stiffened.

“What do you want?” the human asked as he pulled at his restraint.

She glared at him and bared her teeth. “You will get this ship operational for me.” She hissed, her order leaving no room for argument. “Or you will feed my hunger.” Her look was unmistakable and Rodney cringed in her presence.

The Wraith Queen turned towards a table in the room and picked up a device.

“Do you know what this is?” She asked.

Rodney had backed as far away from her as his chain allowed. “No.” He replied, moving his hands in front of himself as if to stop any attempt she might make at feeding on him.

She hissed in his direction and decided he should be shown that she was now in charge.

As she pressed a button on the device, Rodney dropped to his knees. Pain radiated from his neck to his spine and into his head. It was like a thousand pins pushing into his body and paralyzing him without letting up. He dropped to his hands and knees as the pain increased, unable to even vocalize his pain and fear.

“That, human, is just a taste of what you can expect if you don't obey.” the Wraith Queen sneered at him as Rodney's senses attempted to come back online.

The small device appeared to have a strap on it and Rodney looked up from the floor where he’d dropped to the Wraith Queen as she affixed it to her wrist. Breathing hard as the pain receded he shakily reached for the table to pull himself up. As he got to his feet the Queen crowded him against the table and her non-feeding hand went to his neck.

“You are Lantean.” she said as she applied just enough pressure to his neck to prove she could control whether or not he was able to breathe. The statement was not a question but sounded, to Rodney, like an accusation.

Desperate to talk his way out of his predicament and hope that she needed him alive were the only emotions driving him as he worked to push his fear down enough that he could speak.

“Nonono, well.. yes, well, sort of. You see…” Her hand squeezed his words off and her anger was a physical thing in the room as Rodney grasped at the hand at his throat.

“You…” she said as she squeezed just hard enough for Rodney to begin seeing spots as he desperately tried to bring air into his lungs, “are Lantean.” She released his throat in disgust, pushing him back against the table. Rodney caught himself on the table as his knees had plans otherwise and would have dropped him had he not had any support. He brought his free hand to his throat as if that would protect him from her odd penchant for choking rather than feeding. Her look was cold and he felt pinned by it.

“Ok, ok..” Rodney held his hands up in surrender, “I get it. What do you want from me?”

The Wraith Queen produced a key that released the manacle from Rodney's wrist and dropped it to the floor, leaving the end connected to the table. His hand went to the device on his neck and he understood. It was all the restraint that she would need.

She walked towards a bank of wraith computers on the far side of the room and commanded him to follow with a curt, “Come”.

“Do you know how long I have been in this room?” She asked, turning towards him as they stopped in front of one of the consoles. “Over ten thousand years.” She hissed without waiting for him to guess and Rodney flinched at the anger in her answer. He glanced over the computer system as he waited for her to explain what exactly she wanted of him, trying to make sense of what he was seeing. The room was fully wraith but it had an ancient feel to it that he couldn't make sense of. His eyes cut to the Wraith queen at her next words.

“Your kind captured me... experimented on me.” She hissed in anger and disgust. “That restraint on your neck was mine for many years.” She lifted her wrist and tapped at it. Rodney had started to stiffen in panic at the first sign that she might be activating it again but instead of the blinding pain that dropped him to the floor the first time, the pain was just enough that he felt his heart rate elevating and his breathing hitched with it. It was much like the beginnings of a very bad migraine. He could still move and think through the pain. He could see the console and the room clearly, but it didn't completely disable him.

“Please.” He said between breaths. “Don't.”

The pain eased and Rodney took a deep breath. 'Where the hell was his team?' He thought frantically.

The Wraith Queen continued her explanation as Rodney attempted to get his breathing under control. “They thought I was contained. That I was fully under their control.”

“Obviously they were wrong.” Rodney ventured cautiously, his hand protectively over the device embedded in his neck. He wanted to keep her talking and give his team the chance to find their way in. Stay alive as long as possible...that was the rule. But even if they did, how was he going to keep her from killing him with that thing?

She leaned in to him as he stumbled back a step and the device started again. “They were wrong.”

Rodney gasped at the pain. “What do you want from me?”

Turning to the console and bringing up a wraith computer screen she navigated to a section that Rodney recognized all too well. “My ship is complete, as you can see. You possess knowledge on the inner workings of wraith technology, do you not?” She demanded and Rodney tried to scan the display while breathing through the pain. He recognized it all right. It was very similar to Todd's ship, fully organic: alive but not really sentient. Her impatience at his slow response prompted a spike in the device and Rodney winced and squeezed his eyes shut. “Yes! Yes, I do.” He answered trying to resist the urge to beg her to turn off the device.

“You will fix the problem or I will feed.” She placed her feeding hand on his chest and set her claws to show him his choices. With the low pain coursing through him and the pain from her claws Rodney was helpless to do more than stand there gasping, his hands clutching the table.

Releasing him, she lowered the setting on the device to a level that would remind him of just how much pain she could cause. Rodney turned towards the screen and began a diagnostic. She watched him dart his eyes towards the opening in the back of the room.

“You do not want to try to escape human.” The words hissed in his left ear as she stood behind him and Rodney trembled at her proximity. “You are a scientist are you not?” She questioned. “Would you care to experiment on just how little freedom you have?”

Rodney turned towards her, wide eyed as she made a show of not touching the device and began backing away, towards the entrance. When she was about 20 feet away and without touching the control on her wrist, Rodney felt the device begin radiating pain. The further she moved from him the more intense it became. He dropped to his knees as she began to turn the corner, the pain almost unbearable. He drew in a ragged breath. “Stop.. please!” was all he could say as his world began to fade to black.

The Wraith Queen was at his side hauling him upright by his arm as his senses began coming back online again. She shoved him towards the computer hard enough that he would have gone flying across the room had the console not been there to stop him.

It was all the incentive he needed and he began to work in earnest.

_____

John and Major Lorne both flicked on the tac lights of their p90’s and cautiously checked out the open doorway. It appeared to be another corridor of wraith design. Indicating silence and using military hand signals, John told Teyla to stay in the room with Zelenka and the marine and told Ronan to cover their six as he took point and they entered the corridor.

Looking at the wraith design of the corridor John had the feeling he had just stepped onto a hive ship. But without the hum of the organic engines and the feeling that he was still walking on solid ground the environment seemed off to him. The further in he went the stronger the feeling became until he realized he could ‘feel’ the ship. He stopped the group with a hand signal and listened. The feeling was there alright, at the back of his head. Like a hum, or a whisper trying to get his attention and the hair on the back of his neck stood up. Something wasn’t right but he couldn’t put his finger on it. Lorne moved up to his position and John looked at his second in command. The look on Lorne’s face told him he felt it too.

“Colonel, do you feel that?” Lorne whispered as he glanced back towards the direction they had come from.

“Yeah, Major, I do.”

John swallowed hard and shook his head as if to clear it. “Try not to listen to it because it feels…” he left off not sure how to vocalize it.

“Ancient.” Lorne finished, saying what John didn’t want to believe. “It’s a lot like a damaged puddle jumper, isn’t it.”

Ronan looked between them, not really following and obviously not feeling what they felt since he didn’t have the ancient gene. “What is it?” he asked looking between the two of them. “And how could something wraith be ancient?”

“I don’t know. But we need to find McKay. Now.”

John took point again and led them further down the corridor.

_____

Teyla paced in the room where Zelenka was continuing to examine the wraith computer. Her gaze kept returning to the open door, listening for any sign that her teammates were in any danger. She was resisting the urge to enter the mind of the wraith she felt. She knew it to be a Queen and when she first realized it she shut her mind off to any potential invasion by her. She couldn’t let her know where she or the rest of the extraction team were or what they intended to do to retrieve Dr. McKay once they found his location.

Doctor Zelenka was absorbed in the data he was looking at on the wraith computer. It appeared to Teyla they he had managed to get further into the system than Doctor McKay had before he was taken. Teyla felt a twinge of guilt at her inability to have protected Rodney and sent a prayer up to the ancients that Doctor McKay would be found well and whole. Much as she didn't want to rush him, she was anxious and worried and couldn't help but wish that he would find the solution as soon as possible.

“Have you found anything Doctor?”

Zelenka pushed his glasses further up on his face and turned to her with a sad look. “Is very confusing” he said as he turned back to the wraith screen. “I've never seen anything like this.”

Teyla's shoulders dropped in defeat at that and turned away so Doctor Zelenka would not see the defeated expression on her face. As she turned she spotted Doctor McKay's pack on the floor near the entrance where he first stopped next to Ronan.

Rushing over to it and hefting it up she turned to Radek with the pack in her outstretched hand. “Perhaps this would be of help?”

She handed it to him to open, keeping her gun securely in hand. “When we first arrived, Doctor McKay said he managed to download data from the ancient console in the first room. Perhaps it holds information you could use?”

Radek took it eagerly, pulling the tablet out and accessing it immediately. Teyla watched as he read through the data, pushing his glasses up further on his nose. Watching his animated expression, Teyla began to have hope that Doctor Zelenka would be able to find the information that would help them free Rodney and, hopefully, take care of this Wraith Queen before she could escape the planet. She prayed to the ancestors that it was not too late.

_____

The Queen moved to another console nearby as Rodney pulled up what he could of the schematics of the ship. Darting his eyes in the direction of the Queen he almost hesitated to ask but he was going to need some information if he was going to fake helping her until he could be rescued by his team.

“So.... how did your ship come to be here, in this mountain. Did you crash? Is that why we were able to walk on to it from the surface?”

“No.” she tossed over her shoulder without looking at him as she continued to work.

Sighing Rodney turned back to the wraith screen to pull up what systems were operational. He pulled up the hyper drive system thinking that it might be a good idea to see if he could sabotage it without her knowledge. If he could keep her from entering hyperspace, and assuming he might just have to help her get as far as getting the ship off the ground, at least she wouldn't be able to get very far. As he accessed systems deeper in the wraith computer system a ghost of a presence was felt in the back of his mind. He paused, his hands stilling and his eyes darting around as if to search out the presence visually. The Queen noticed his pause and turned on him with a hiss. Rodney jumped as she advanced on him and raised her hand to the device on her wrist.

Feeling the beginnings of the pain the device was capable of inflicting he winced and held his hands up defensively.

“No! I just...” The pain dropped him again to his knees and this time his vision blurred.

“Do not play games with me Lantean.” She spit out as she eased the device to where it emitted a low level pulse of constant pain. “Or would you like me to capture one of those who came with you and watch me feed on them?”

“I'll work. I will, I just..” Rodney stood putting one hand on his head as he did. “I just need more information, please. This ship isn't like any other hive ship I've ever encountered.” 'Damn it Sheppard,' he thought, 'where are you?'

“I watched you Lantean. You know more than you're letting on, do not attempt to persuade me otherwise.” She backed him into the console with her presence and Rodney couldn't help but cower against it. “You will find the problem with the ships power or I will feed.”

She moved away from him but left the device throbbing in his neck. A steady reminder of her power over him. Rodney turned to the computer and brought up the drive again and wished John, Ronan and Teyla would burst through the door and shoot this bitch of a Queen soon.

_____

Radek made quick work of reading through the data on Rodney's computer as he moved between it and the wraith computer in the room where Rodney disappeared.

“This is odd.”

Just as Teyla was about to ask, he looked up and tapped his radio. “Colonel Sheppard this is Radek, come in please.”

“Sheppard here, what have you got Radek?”

“A curiosity. I am needing a gene carrier at my location if you please.”

“You manage to figure out how to open that door?”

“Not as of yet but I believe I may have answer. A gene carrier if you please. Radek out.” The Czech ordered. What Radek wanted was Colonel Sheppard himself but he did not want to distract the man from his search. But if he was seeing what he thinks he is seeing... Radek moved from the computer to the Wraith console and back again as he quickly put the puzzle together... he began to think that Rodney was still alive despite the circumstances. The terminal was linked to something much, much larger. Something that, by all rights, shouldn't be there. And if he had a gene carrier who could confirm his suspicions he might just be able to direct the search teams to McKay's location

_____

“Doc must be on to something if he's giving you orders Colonel. That's not like him.” They had stopped at Radek’s communication and Major Lorne waited to see if Sheppard himself would go back and lend the scientist a hand. They still had no idea where the Wraith had Doctor McKay but maybe that solution lay with whatever Radek had discovered.

Sheppard appeared to be of the same mind. “Let's head back. We could be going in circles here. Maybe whatever he's found will help us find him faster than blind searching. And if we can't have McKay's help figuring this out Zelenka is the next best thing.” Sheppard turned to take point heading in the other direction.

Ronon couldn't help but want to continue down the corridor. It went against his grain to retreat but the Colonel and the Major both appeared to sense something he himself could not. That didn't sit well with him either so he took up position on their six and followed back the way they came.

_____

Radek's hands were flying over both the Wraith console and his tablet computer muttering to himself in Czech as he worked. Teyla couldn't make out most of what he was saying but every so often he would delve into English and phrases like, 'this can't be' and 'how is this possible?' would crop up and she furrowed her brow at the possible implications.

“Radek, what is it you have..” Teyla was interrupted by the arrival of Colonel Sheppard, the Major and Ronan.

“Whatta you got, Radek?”

Hands still flying over the Wraith console, it took Radek another half a minute before turning towards Colonel Sheppard.

“Is very confusing but I do have theory.” the Czech explained as he pushed his constantly slipping glasses back up on his face and turned to hover his hands over the Wraith console. “Looks to be Wraith, no?” He didn't wait for Colonel Sheppard to respond before pulling up the equivalent of a Wraith screen.

Sheppard recognized the Wraith writing, not that he could read it all but it contained elements that were familiar to him.

Gesturing to the screen Radek explained. “I have never seen Ancient incorporated into Wraith readings Colonel. This is reason for gene carrier. What do you feel when you think at the console?”

John was both disturbed and relieved to hear that the ancient-y 'feeling' wasn't just in his and Lorne's heads. He concentrated at the console as he would if he were in Atlantis trying to determine what an unfamiliar piece of ancient equipment was in McKay's lab. It was already on and operating so he didn't have to try and turn it on, which made it easier so he just concentrated on it's content.

Lorne, not having been asked to use his gene kept an eye on Sheppard's expression. When John began to frown and appear to show signs of pain he moved towards him, intending to help if the equipment were exerting some sort of hold on Sheppard that he couldn't get out of.

“Radek..” John opened his eyes and frowned down at the scientist. “Tell me this isn't some kind of Wraith/Ancient hybrid..” he paused waving his hand over the console, ”whatever this place is.” The feeling didn't just make John feel ill, the whole idea of combining anything Ancient with Wraith tech just made him sick.

“Is exactly what I am telling you.” Radek turned back to the console and accessed his tablet that was connected. “I am able to connect and download as I can ancient tech. Just as Rodney did in first room you found.”

John frowned at the scientist. “How can something Wraith feel Ancient too?”

Turning back to Rodney’s tablet that was connected to the console, Radek pulled up another screen and turned the display to the Colonel. “Look familiar?” he asked.

John’s blood ran cold at the sight and the Major stiffened beside him. Teyla came to look at the tablet as well and let out a gasp at what she saw. “John! Are we on…”

“Yeah.” John said as his hand hovered over the screen. “Somehow we’re on a Wraith ship.”

_____

Rodney worked at the Wraith console trying to assess the issue the Wraith Queen was having. He’d figured out that they’d stumbled on to a Wraith ship sitting within the mountain somehow. He had his suspicions about that and they sent chills down his spine but he needed more information before he could confirm what he thought he was looking at within the Wraith computer systems. He was trying to stall for time as well as appear to look as if he were trying to fix the problem. The real problem was that if his suspicions were correct, he seriously doubted this ship would respond to the Queen, let alone fly for her. His mind had never felt so overwhelmed with trying to stay alive in the presence of a Wraith, listening and waiting for rescue and worry about his teammates. Thankfully Jennifer was back on Atlantis and safe. He tried not to let his mind wander into that territory though. She was safe and that was enough. Even if he never managed to…. ’No!’ he thought. He couldn’t afford to think that way. His team would come, he just had to bide his time.

That feeling was back in his head though. It was decidedly Ancient and it felt all wrong. Rodney had manage to avoid dwelling on it but the further he pushed into the Wraith’s systems the harder it was to avoid. With a covert look back to where the Queen was and assuring that her attention was elsewhere for the moment, Rodney put his hands on the console, closed his eyes and concentrated. For a brief moment there was the feeling of relief. From the ship? He cocked his head and tried to ascertain where it was coming from. The Ancient feeling was unlike Atlantis but yet so similar. It was almost as if the ship were trying to get his attention and was sighing in relief that it finally had. Rodney’s ATA gene wasn’t as strong as John’s so he had to really concentrate to hear it. As he did he could feel that it was wounded. Crying for help. Something else was there and he tried to focus a bit more. Was it…? Did it just ask him to…? No…that can’t be! Rodney opened his mind up as much as he could to the Ancient tech and heedless of his surroundings sought it out. Asking it what it wanted. What came back to him had him recoiling in grief and disgust. He focused more and tried to convey that he would do what he could to help but as he reached out with his mind one last time a blinding pain shot through him and he dropped to his knees. Writhing in pain his hand went to the implant on his neck and he fell back completely helpless to stop the pain. It felt like it went on for hours and when it finally began to subside he was able to open his eyes. Above him the Wraith Queen stood, staring him down and hissing her displeasure.

“Did I tell you to stop working!” She actually bent down to his level where Rodney had fallen, clutching his head in pain as he tried to make his senses come back online. As his vision cleared he looked up at her in abject horror at what he knew she had done all those thousands of years ago.

_____

“Is not all Colonel.” Radek took back the tablet that he had just used to show John the schematics of the Wraith ship they were apparently on. “I believe I have located Doctor McKay as well.” Holding the tablet in one hand Radek accessed the Wraith console with his other hand. “It would appear that McKay was not taken very far beyond this wall.”

“Well that doesn’t help McKay any if we can’t get through it does it!”

John turned to Lorne and Ronan. “C4. Start planting.” With a nod both men headed back though the door that Radek had managed to open. Turning back to Zelenka John focused on the scientist. “Can you get the wall open?”

Radek, to his credit, was already working on the Wraith console. “I believe I have access to some of the controls. Just let me…” Suddenly the wall the Queen had dragged Rodney though began to shimmer. John moved closer to it, his p90 ready. Looking back at Zelenka he saw the scientist looking wide eyed at the wall before dropping back to the console. Within a few seconds the wall had lost it’s opaque look and appeared to disappear. They all turned to the opening to see Doctor McKay on the ground with the Wraith Queen above him. Teyla gasped and raised her p90, aiming at the Queen. John started into the room only to hit the transparent wall. Cursing he demanded that Zelenka get the wall completely down as he visually accessed the situation. McKay was on the ground with the Queen standing over him. He was alive and not fed on, that was a relief. Apparently John was right, the Queen did want McKay alive for what she thought he could do for her ship. Raising his own p90 again he hoped like hell the bitch could hear through the wall.

“Let him go now!”

The Queen looked up at her now transparent wall and stood, hauling her captive up with her. John could see that Rodney was in some kind of pain. ’Crap’ he thought and tapped his com to contact the jumper. “Radio Atlantis and have a med team sent here. Full guard.” John ordered.

The Queen touched something on her wrist and McKay sagged against her. From the table nearby she pulled a weapon. John recognized it as McKay’s sidearm as he watched her point it at Rodney.

“You will not interfere!” The Wraith Queen dragged McKay back to the console and all but threw him at it. Her eyes were wild and she kept the weapon at McKay’s head. “After 10,000 years I will leave this planet!” she raged. “I will have my revenge!”

Rodney, beginning to recover from the last burst of pain he’d received from the implant was face down over the console, the controls swimming back into view as he gained his eyesight back and the pain subsided. Planting his hands on the surface he rose to fully stand, letting the table take just some of his weight and with a sigh turned to face the other room where his teammates were. With his own weapon at the back of his head and locking his gaze on Sheppard he prayed to gods he didn’t believe in that John would understand his signal.

“It’s ok, John… Teyla.. I’ve almost finished. Just one more connection to make and she can go.” His voice was strained and his hands shook but as his hand moved back to the controls he kept his eye’s locked on John’s.

John narrowed his eyes at McKay. There was no way he was letting this Wraith get away and McKay damned well knew that so what did… ’The shield!’ he thought and his attention shifted to the transparent barrier between the rooms and waited.

_____

Jennifer was ready so when the call came for a medical team she had her gear and 4 members of her staff along with a collapsed field stretcher in the jumper bay within minutes. Her heart was racing and she had no idea what to expect but she did her best to shove it to the back of her mind that it was Rodney in trouble. She wouldn’t be any good to him if she let her emotions take over and so it was with a professional emotional detachment that she asked for details.

“I’m sorry ma’am but whatever is going down is happening as we speak. The Colonel didn’t take the time to give details.” She left the airman to the jumper controls and stood behind the second row of jumper seats as they made their way down to the gate room and prepared to go through the gate. She could hear the blood rushing in her ears as she attempted to gain control of her fear at what she might face on the other side of the wormhole. Woolsey was speaking to the airman piloting the jumper but she barely heard his voice let alone what he was saying. All of her thoughts were on Rodney and what she might find when they arrived. She barely saw the wormhole engage or the landscape of the planet as they navigated to the site. The second they landed Jennifer gathered herself together and began issuing orders to her staff. As she followed the marines out of the jumper she gave a quick survey of the area. Other than marines on alert the area appeared serene and idyllic. A few feet away one of the marines was speaking over the radio. Jennifer moved towards him intending to find out where she and her team were needed.

“Yes sir. Miller out.” Turning to Jennifer he nodded to her team waiting behind her. “I’ve instructions for your team to wait here until the threat has been neutralized.” Seeing she was about to complain about that he added, “Near the jumper if you would, just in case we need to move from the area quickly, ma’am.”

Jennifer sighed when his posture and tone told her there would be no argument on this and she moved back to her team to wait feeling like her heart was in her throat.

_____

Rodney could feel the device in his neck powering back up as the pain intensified. He dropped his head at the first pangs and clenched his teeth. “I’m working! I’ll get it done!” he ground out. Instead of backing off though the bitch upped it a notch. The pain was constant now, not debilitating but felt rather like working through an intense migraine. Rodney was in the section he needed and hoped like hell John would be ready. Using his ATA gene he communicated with the ship. Running his hands over the wraith equivalent of a keyboard interface he was attempting to accomplish two things at once. Praying the ship would cooperate he found what he needed to lower the transparent shield between the two rooms. ’Yes.’ He silently told the ship. ’I promise.’

Teyla was next to John and both were watching the scene playing out in the next room. Lorne and Ronan had returned and both had weapons up and trained on the Wraith Queen as well. Radek, after his shock at the scene in the next room, had returned to the console attempting to lower the shield from his side of it. Teyla moved slightly away from the other men. Her weapon still trained on the Queen she prepared herself to attempt to enter the Queen’s mind. She had purposely kept her out before so as not to compromise the safety of Doctor McKay and the rest of the team and she was concerned that such an old Wraith Queen might prove to be more powerful than she could handle but if Rodney could get the shield down her attempt might just give the others the time they need to take her out, even if it were just for a few moments. She took several deep breaths and steeled her mind for the ordeal.

John took a quick look at Rodney before turning his attention back to the shield. He appeared to be in pain again but couldn’t tell what might be causing it. McKay was a bit of a hypochondriac but when things got serious he always came through and powered through any injury he received in the field. He couldn’t worry about that now. He’d sent for a med team and whatever it was, as long as he could get McKay away from the Queen they’d deal with it.

Stealing a glance towards John, and hoping that was enough of a signal, Rodney prepared to drop the shield. John caught the glance from Rodney and, hoping Rodney had the sense and ability to move out of the way, prepared for a head shot on the Queen.

It was almost anti-climactic when it happened. The Queen’s attention was on Rodney and she didn’t see the shimmer that alerted John that the shield was down. Rodney, despite his own gun aimed at him, took a dive to the floor. At least he tried for a dive, his pain was so great that it was really more of a stumbling drop. John’s shot hit his target first followed quickly by Lorne and Ronan. Teyla, seeing that she wasn’t needed instantly moved to pull Radek away from the console and stood between him and the scene playing out in front of her.

The Queen went down. And stayed down. John’s headshot’s did the job even as the other bullet wounds inflicted by Lorne and Ronan attempted to heal themselves, the Queen’s body not yet catching up to the fact that she was dead.

Both John and Ronan were at Rodney’s side in an instant while Lorne kicked McKay’s sidearm away from what he hoped was a very dead Wraith Queen and positioned himself to cover her should they be wrong. Teyla, still placing herself between Radek and the Wraith called for the med team over her radio.

Rodney had let the bullets fly past him without concern, knowing his team would take care of the Queen. Concentrating on breathing through the pain his hand went to the device embedded in his neck. He vaguely heard someone call for a med team and in the back of his pain-filled mind hoped Jennifer would come for him as well as hoped she was safe away from this horrific planet. If they only knew what this place was… but there was no time for that, Rodney thought, he had to explain the device the Queen wore… had to make them understand how it was affecting him. Forcing his eyes open he looked up at John.

“Get that med team in here! Lorne, get two marines and get that thing out of here. Make damn sure she’s…” John paused when McKay tried to make a grab for his arm. “Keller’s on the way Rodney just hang on. Where’s the pain, I don’t see anything…”

As Rodney turned his head and tried to reach his hand up to his neck Ronan saw it first. “Sheppard.” He nodded towards McKay’s neck as he holstered his gun and pulled Rodney’s hand away from it. “What is that?”

“Damn it.” Sheppard stood and was about to activate his radio when two marines followed by Doctor Keller and her team entered the first room. “Over here!”

Jennifer knelt down at Rodney’s side and quickly checked him over for bleeding wounds or broken bones and was pulling out a penlight to check for concussion when Ronan pointed to the device on Rodney’s neck. Moving his head to the side to get a better look at it, Jennifer called out to one of her team for her scanner.

A couple of marines had begun to drag the body of the Queen out of the room when Rodney seized up and gasped in pain. Trying to hold on to her scanner and calm Rodney at the same time, Jennifer was confused at where his pain was coming from. Readings showed his heart rate increasing and she looked up to John.

“Hold him, Colonel. Rodney, can you tell me where the pain is?”

The pain was so great that his vision was practically gone and he flailed his hands out to reach for Jennifer. “Wrist...” he gasped. “Queen...” he begged them to understand.

John was the first to make the connection. “Stop! Drag her back in here!” he ordered as he jumped up, leaving Rodney with Jennifer and Ronan. He met the Marines as they were hauling the body back in and searched the Queen's wrists. Finding a device he'd never seen a Wraith wear before John pulled it free and brought it back to where Jennifer and Ronan were kneeling over McKay and held it out for Jennifer to inspect.

Handing her scanner to John to hold, Jennifer turned the wrist device over in her hand and inspected the face of it. Rodney appeared to be in less pain than he was when the device was moving away from him but he was still in obvious pain. Reaching for the scanner in John's hand she scanned the device.

“Sheppard, what is that?” John looked over at Ronan and just shook his head. They'd never come across anything like it in this galaxy yet.

“Ok it appears to be emitting a signal to, I assume, the thing in his neck.” Jennifer could see that Rodney was coming back online after the burst of pain that being separated from the wrist device must have caused. As Rodney was beginning to open his eyes Jennifer ran a hand over his forehead and smoothed back his hair. “Rodney, I need you to keep your head turned towards John for minute... let me look at the implant, can you do that for me?”

Rodney looked up at Jennifer with relief in his eyes. “Jennifer...”

“Shhh, it's ok. I'm going to fix this, I promise.” She soothed. As she turned his head she could see that the device was embedded below his ear in the sternocleidomastoid muscle. Rodney hissed in pain and flinched as she moved it to see if she could tell just how far in the device went. “Sorry, sorry.” She needed the scanner on Atlantis. It would show her exactly what she was looking at and whether it's removal would be an easy task or require surgery but first they had to find a way to turn it off.

Rodney's breathing had evened out and the pain had receded back to migraine strength. He glanced up at John who had sat back on his heels now that he wasn't trying to hold him down through the writhing he was obviously doing when they moved the Queen.

“I think I can sit up... it's.... don't move that thing away again though.” Sitting up with the help of John and Jennifer with Ronan at his back he winced and looked around. “You got her?”

“Yeah, buddy, she'd dead. I assume you know this is a hive ship?” John was hoping Rodney had learned a bit more about this place while he was in the control computer.

Rodney winced again at the pain and his hand fluttered near his neck as if he wanted to rip the implant out but afraid to touch it at the same time but he looked up at John with wide expressive eyes. “You don't know the half of it. It's....” he paused to take a gasping breath when the pain spiked and his hand went to Jennifer's.

“What this place is can wait, I need to get him to the infirmary but I'd rather get this turned off first.” Jennifer held the device out. “Rodney, I assume it's causing radiating nerve pain? Can you see a way to turn this off? How did she implant it?” Out of all of them, she knew Rodney was the most qualified to study the device and shut it off, if he could concentrate that is.

Gasping a little as he sat up further and reached for the wrist device, Rodney inspected it as well as he could. “I was out cold and woke up with it.” he said as he chanced pushing a button on the side, hoping it would bring up a screen of some sort. “I knew about the distance thing because she showed me. It's the only reason I didn't try to escape... Ah!” A screen popped up and he was surprised to see the interface was written in Ancient. Thumbing through the screens he found what he was looking for and visibly slumped in relief, his head dropping onto Jennifer's shoulder, as the pain faded.

Jennifer held him for a moment before pushing him back and pulling a pen light from a pocket to check his pupil reaction. After checking his heartbeat she sat back on her heels and regarded him critically.

“I don't want to try removing the implant here. I'll need you under the scanner and then I can remove it surgically. Do you think you can make it to the jumper?”

Rodney nodded and moved to stand accepting both Jennifer and Ronan's help, holding onto the wrist device with a tight grip. No way was he letting that thing move away from him until Jennifer could remove the implant.

“I promised him I would destroy the ship.”

Lorne had come back into the lab and Rodney looked from him to John. “Can you feel it?” he asked them.

John frowned and glanced at Lorne who nodded and held up the dog tags of the two marines the Queen had fed on. “I was planning on it. Lorne's been planting c4. What do you mean, you “promised” him?”

“You were able to communicate with him?” Radek held Rodney's abandoned tablet in his hand as he moved closer to the group around Rodney and visibly shuddered at what he knew the hive ship to be. “How is that even possible?”

“It wasn't so much that I was communicating with him, at least not verbally. I felt it first before searching the data archives.”

“Yeah, Lorne and I felt it when we were searching the corridor off the main room. How can a Wraith hive ship have an ancient feel to it?” Even now John could feel the shadow of ancient technology tickling at the back of his mind where he'd been keeping it at bay since he first noticed it. Closing his eyes he concentrated and opened his mind to it. Lorne's gene was weaker and Rodney already knew what it was so they just watched John's reaction. With his much stronger gene it didn't take long to see his reaction when realization hit him.

John felt sick. “Holy sh..”

'Colonel! We're tracking a Wraith cruiser in the area!'

John's hand went to his radio. “How far out?”

'It just entered the atmosphere on the other side of the planet, I don't know how we didn't catch its approach, Sir, but it's coming.'

“Ok, time to go. Lorne, Ronan, plant at least one more c4 in this room and the corridor on the way out. Teyla, help Radek with his equipment, we'll want that data on Rodney's tablet. Grab his pack by the door too. Jennifer, stay with Rodney in case that thing kicks on again.” John motioned for one of the marines to stick with Rodney and Jennifer and then issued orders for everyone to move to the jumpers.

Jennifer looked frightened so Rodney reached down and picked up her medical bag and helped her replace the contents before zipping it up to carry it for her. The wrist device he shoved into his front pocket. As they made their way out John was in communication with the jumpers as well as the marines on the outside of the complex and the one watching over the other scientists. If he could get his people to the jumpers they could cloak and then detonate the c4. He called for the jumper closest to the Stargate to dial the alpha site before the explosion alerted the Wraith to their presence and dialed the gate to keep them trapped.

Rodney was moving under his own steam, that much Jennifer was thankful for as they left the cave and her eyes went automatically for the sky. She directed him to the closest Jumper, the one she and her team came in and Jennifer was relieved to see Ronan and Teyla right behind them. Radek and the other scientists made it to their jumper with Lorne and the other marines. John waited until all of his people were inside before running up the ramp where his team was.

“All Jumpers, cloak and move towards the Gate, we're going to light this thing up. Lorne, confirm you still have the detonator.”

'I have it, Sir. Once we're clear I'll hit it.'

“We don't have much time Lorne, I'm getting a visual of the cruiser now.”

Rodney couldn't help but move to the co-pilot seat, despite Jennifer's protest and attempt to pull him back down beside her. He urged the Ronan out, who moved without question, and pulled up the HUD. “John, wait. Are you tracking it's course? If you wait just a minute...”

“I'm already ahead of you. Lorne, we're going for a two-for now. Hit that detonator on my mark.” John could almost hear the smile in his voice when Major Lorne responded. 'Yes Sir'

“Jumper 3, when this goes it'll be big so don't worry about the 'gate. Move into the atmosphere as far and as fast as you can.” John tracked the location of his people while Rodney monitored the Wraith cruiser as John and Lorne's jumpers stayed within range for the detonator.

“Now Colonel!”

“Hit it Major!”

John only wished they could stay and watch. With the Wraith cruiser so close to the mountain that contained a well hidden yet fully formed Hive ship, that explosion was going to be spectacular. The second they could though, both jumpers headed away and John and Rodney tracked the explosion on the HUD. Neither of them could help the smiles as they looked at each other as if to say, 'did you see that?' Rodney's faltered slightly though and John could see that he was still in pain. With the cruiser and that despicable excuse for a hive ship out of the way John ordered all ships back to the 'gate to dial Atlantis. It was time to go home and let Jennifer patch Rodney up.

_____

The antiseptic smell was the first thing Rodney noticed. The beeping of a nearby machine and low voices came next and then the feeling of an extremely dry mouth. It took him a few minutes to urge his eyes to open. John and Teyla were sitting near the foot of his bed with Ronan standing at the foot as if he were on watch and when he looked up to his right, Jennifer was there adjusting an IV bag.

“Back with us, are you?” Jennifer smiled down at Rodney who was attempting to move his arm. “No, no. I got it.” She pushed his arm back down which wasn't difficult considering how weak Rodney still felt. “It's completely gone and there were no complications. I gave it to Radek so you two could study it later.” She reached for a cup that was sitting on the bedside table and directed the straw to his mouth.

It took a few swallows before he felt he could form words. “Thank you... again.” He smiled up at her.

She smirked down at him. “Well you did save my life recently so turn about is fair play and all. Although...” She regarded him critically, “what with the parasite and the whole 'Indiana Jones' thing in the Geni mining facility, I'm not sure who's ahead now, me or you?”

Rodney smiled as her hand, which was laying on his arm, moved to clasp his hand and he squeezed it.

“Lets call it even and hopefully we don't have to rescue each other again.” Rodney smiled again as Jennifer swept her other hand over his forehead and smoothed his hair back. She leaned in and her lips were just about to make contact when they both heard a throat being cleared.
Jennifer moved back as if she just realized she was the doctor on duty and Rodney was a patient after all.

John was smirking at both of them as he stood on the other side of the bed, hip against it and arms crossed.

Radek chose that moment to peek his head around the privacy curtain. “Is he awake yet?” Moving fully into the cubical Rodney saw the tablet in his hands and he hoped it was what he thought it was.

“I have moved all of the data from the Ancient Wraith ship to your tablet Rodney.” Radek set the tablet on the side table. Rodney made to reach for it only to have his attempt blocked by Jennifer.

“It can wait an hour or so for you to get a little stronger after surgery, Wait..” she said turning to Radek. “Did you say “Ancient” Wraith ship?”

Rodney lay back against the raised bed and took a deep breath. “Yeah, Ancient.” He shuddered at the memory and noticed that John and Radek looked just as bothered. “You remember M2S-445?” he said looking up at Jennifer. Rodney saw the memory filter across her face and reached for her hand. She grasped it as she remembered the experience. The pathogen that took over her body and mind and threatened to turn her, and the city, in to a hive ship.

Rodney, knowing it was a difficult memory for Jennifer, squeezed her hand as he explained. “The database had information on what had happened 10,000 years ago. Plus the Queen herself filled me in.” Looking at Sheppard he asked, “Did you feel it?”

John nodded, a pained look on his face.

“The Ancients were experimenting on the Queen who grabbed me.” Rodney explained. “As she told me...” he said, his hand moving to his neck where she had implanted the restraining device, “they would force hibernation when they left the planet. She got the upper-hand one day and...” Rodney paused, looking up at Jennifer... “planted the same pathogen, the seed, in one of the Ancient scientists.” He watched the realization on Jennifer's face. “Yeah, the hive ship was created from an Ancient scientist. That's why anyone with gene could feel it. Kind of like we feel Atlantis but....”

“Pained... Definitely in pain.” John broke in.

Nodding, Rodney had to agree. “I felt that too. That's why I had to have it destroyed.” Rodney normally hated the idea of the destruction of anything Ancient but this.... this was something that he couldn't, in good conscience, allow to suffer. To have your conscience live for so long in severance to the Wraith... Rodney couldn't imagine how torturous that must have been.

Visibly shuddering, John pushed away from the bed as Teyla lay a hand on Rodney's leg in support. “Well, I have a report to give to Woolsey.” Placing a hand on Jennifer's arm John said, “Take care of him, Doc. We'll need him operational for the next mission.”

“Oh, ha-ha, lets all mock the dying man.” It was Rodney's go-to response at being teased in the infirmary and he said it with a half smile.

Smirking down at McKay John tipped his head to Ronan and they both left the cubicle.

“I am glad to see you awake and feeling better Rodney.” Teyla moved to the head of the bed and leaned down, pressing her forehead against his in the traditional Athosian way. Rodney closed his eyes and accepted the gesture for what it was. She smiled at both he and Jennifer before leaving the infirmary with Radek trailing behind leaving just him and Jennifer.

Jennifer fiddled with the IV bag and the computers at the head of the bed that would alert the nursing staff when it would need changing and Rodney could see her hands shaking. Reaching for her he managed to get her attention and he pulled her to him. She sat next to him on the bed, minding his IV lines, and let him pull her head down to his chest. She let out a sigh and held on to him, listening to his heartbeat and trying to control her breathing and trembling and just generally attempting to bring herself under control as she lay against his broad chest, Rodney's arms encircling her. Rodney was shaking just a little too and while she knew this type of thing was par for the course for him and his team, it was fairly new to her to have someone she loved put himself in danger on a regular basis. Rodney's hand began stroking her back as if he could tell what was going on in her mind. If they planned on staying on Atlantis and planned on staying together this was something they were both going to have to get used to. A visit to the new counselor might not be a bad idea, she thought. Taking a deep breath she said the words that had been circling her mind since his team had left this moring... “I love you.”

“I know.”

She smiled into his chest and then raised up. Matching his smirk with one of her own.

“You geek.” she said as she leaned down and kissed him.