"We'll never make it!"
"He's right, John. There are too many of them."
"I see it."
"They're shooting— We've lost impulse control!"
"Right. I guess we're going down a little early."
"We're too fast!"
Rodney jerked upright with a gasp, sweating in the cold night air. It's only a dream. It's not real. It's not. But the words he'd heard in his dream (nightmare?) echoed around him in the darkness... "We're too fast..." He'd been on too many off-world missions to not know what that meant, even as half-awake (uncaffeinated) as he was.
Which meant... His team!?
Where was his team!?
It took Ronon half an hour to turn the life signs detector (and it was totally the Colonel's fault for naming the energy signal detector something that...urbane) into something that would actually be useful.
He'd have been faster, but, well, he was no Rodney. That, and he kept having to wipe his eyes.
Stupid head wounds. Yeah.
Finding the jumper was anti-climatic.
And not just because she was alone -- although, yeah, that was certainly part of it.
It was the blood.
It was an uncountable time later that the others stumbled over the dunes to join Teyla at the jumper crash site.
Not that it mattered. Not anymore.
Finding the fourth member of their party was easier than they expected. All they had to do was just follow the blood trail.
The campfire burned low in the desert night, its flickering light barely illuminating the faces of those gathered around it.
One of them looked up as another settled down to join the circle. "Well," the woman asked, her voice soft, "how is he?"
The newcomer grimaced in the shadows. "Not good. But then I think we all knew that."
"No. Not with the supplies we have. Better to leave him where he is."
The third member of their group sighed and stared into the dwindling fire. "It's going to be a long night."
As long as the night was, its an even longer day.
Or maybe it was all too short.
Most of their supplies had been in the jumper, but, well.
None of them dared give up the hours it would take to go there and back.
"What about the gate...?"
"You know where it is?"
They don't bother looking up when the rescue team in the jumper finally arrives.
Its already hours too late.
The news spreads fast, almost before the rescue jumper has time to land.
They were too late.
The rescue team are solemn, quiet. Shocked.
There are no answers.
But that's okay. No one really knows the questions to ask anyway.
Woolsey stared at the screen for a long time. Three letters... shouldn't be so hard to type.
Actually, it wasn't just the three letters. Because after the three came the official notice to SGC. The notice to the family (that by all accounts didn't want it but would get it anyway). And then the city-wide announcement...the funeral... the grieving (of the family that mattered)...
Closing his eyes, he slowly typed the letters. 'K...I...A' and pressed return. (And tried to ignore how it sounded like a tolling bell. It was only his imagination.)
They didn't have photos.
But then, Atlantis wasn't a place of physical media. For one thing, they were lucky they had a working pen. Corporal Messing, one the new ones from SGC, had a working one still in his bags – the bag they'd shoved into the ready room amidst all the fuss and had only just now found. And Messing had no qualms donating it. After all, the Corporal was heard to say, what was one pen (one reminder of a lost home), at a time like this?
Small mercies, and all that.
Speaking of small mercies, what they did have was security footage. And plenty of it. The Colonel got around, as much as he also liked his "hiding spots" – times when he'd quietly asked Atlantis to hide him.
Not that he could do that anymore.
Everyone came. People even traveled through the 'gate to come, from all throughout Pegasus. The word had spread of his fall. But in true Pegasus tradition, they came, not to honor what was past and now gone, but to honor the fact that he'd died taking it to the Wraith...and the legacy he'd left for the future.
One thing the Marines did have was tradition. Even though their loss seemed...somehow greater, larger than the traditions that developed during their time in the city.
It was what they had.
All they had.
Which was perhaps why the most somber moment of all was the carving of his name into the Hall of the Fallen. A great hush fell over those gathered (some later said it fell over the entire city, some over the galaxy) as the name was inscribed.
The mood in the ready room was sombre. Quiet.
Those off-duty could only look at each other, and some not even that. The silence in the room was heavy. Thick.
What were they going to do now?
The will, such as it was, was simple.
If there was a body to be recovered, he'd wanted his ashes scattered on Atlantis by jumper.
Lorne stared down Caldwell. As (acting) Military Commander in such a time of grief, he had a certain amount of...leeway. "We'll keep the patrols as they are."
"No. Uh, Sir." Really shouldn't have interrupted there. But what's done is done. "This is Atlantis, General. This is what works for us." Unspoken, he meant that this is what he'd given us, his legacy, and this is what they'd work with.
"—but I don't understand." Teyla stared at Rodney in confusion. "Why give us this... condolence book? What is its purpose? Is it not enough that he is...gone?"
"Because...once we were team."
"Then why? He will not read this... condolence book."
Rodney looked at her for a long moment. "There are things about funerals that are as much for the living as for the dead." He let himself breathe for a moment then picked up his tablet. "Do with the book what you will. I have work to do," he said firmly, and strode away.
At least with his back turned, no one would see his grief.
It was the sharp, mechanical clatter of a rifle landing on the floor that broke the mood in the ready room. Lt. Cadman, who was unapologetically responsible (who knew that throwing a P-90 would cause such a racket?), glared around the room. "Well, aren't you a sorry lot!"
"Ma'am!" "Sir!" "We—" "I was just—"
"I! Don't! Care!" She shouted back, before anyone could really get started. After all, this was for motivation, not because she thought they were malingering. "He wouldn't want this!"
Charlie "Chuck" Wilson stared at the gate console.
Everyone was acting like the Colonel was gone...dead. But he knew better. He was one of the few left (alive) that had been on duty that day, after all. He..knew. Somewhere, somehow, the Colonel...was out there. Trying to get home.
And it was the duty of the gate tech to guard the gate...and their unwritten duty was to watch, and wait for those that had yet to return home.
And so he would watch. And wait.
Because one day, the Colonel would be back.
And he would be here.
When the time comes for the city-wide announcement -- as if there's someone on the city who doesn't know by now -- the speakers hum and crackle for long periods throughout, only certain words coming through.
The new people shrug and say its just equipment needing repair. But the old-timers exchange looks and start paying attention to the walls.
They know better.
Atlantis is grieving.
The first (obvious) ATA failure is the doors. All. Over. The. City.
A few days later its the sprinkler system in Botany. They eventually manage to stop the flow of water after a few hours. But by the plants are ruined.
Eventually the equipment failures become commonplace. Walking past the science wing is more an education in invective, when its not more silent than, well. Yeah. Because the scientists are all over the city trying (failing) to fix her.
In the end the IOA stations General O'Neill at Atlantis -- a semi-permanent semi-retirement -- in an effort to stem the tide of ATA failures.
It doesn't work.
They say her lights dimmed when his team returned without him, and never went back to full strength.
They say that if she couldn't have him, she'd have no one.
They say she chased them off.
They say she's waiting for him to come home.
And she's still waiting.