It was so loud John almost jumped. Sheppard and Lorne’s heads suddenly snap back to the open door of the room. McKay looks up at the door too. The others look at them.
“What? What is it,” Teyla asks urgently. Her eyes dart from man to man.
“Ursula,” Lorne says breathlessly. The terror is so deep in his voice it’s frightening.
Teyla stares at the open door as well. Ronon eyes them. He doesn’t like this. It’s the first time he’s ever seen Lorne look scared. And Sheppard…Sheppard looks horrified. Ronon likes this even less. Sheppard never cracks. It’s the one thing he has confidence in his friend for. The ability to keep the confident, unwavering calm of command in the face of anything.
“What is it,” Ronon asks.
“You can’t hear that,” Sheppard asks.
Wait, what? Ronon and Teyla exchange glances. What was going on? She was not hearing anything. She is sure of it. She tries to listen, but no, nothing.
“Hear what,” Teyla asks.
“Kenmore’s screaming,” Sheppard answers and she can see his breathing building and building in his chest. His heart must be pounding. It was happening again. He was not forgiving himself for letting Lieutenant Kenmore go off alone, chased by three Wraith drones, and running the chance of encountering an enemy that even they feared beyond belief. He had abandoned her. The same way he felt he had abandoned Lieutenant Aiden Ford.
“It sounds far away,” McKay pipes up. Teyla looks at him and indeed Rodney looks as though he is straining to hear something.
Sheppard turns and stares at him.
“What do you mean? It sounds like she’s in the next room.”
Teyla stares at the two of them. But how could Rodney hear something she could not? It was notorious that Teyla and Ronon were usually the ones to hear something first. Both Sheppard and Lorne had good ears too, she could trust their hearing, but how could Rodney, who was usually the last to know when it came to things like this, hear something, anything, she and Ronon could not? And how could he hear something that Sheppard and Lorne said was so extremely close? Teyla stares at the door again.
“What’s wrong with her,” Ronon asks.
“Michael’s got her. Ronon and Teyla, you’re with me and Lorne. The rest of you stay with McKay. Rodney, keep going.”
Without needing to hear the order to go, Lorne runs out of the room, letting the echo of Kenmore’s voice in his head lead him to where she might be. Sheppard was hot on his heels. Leaving Ronon and Teyla to do nothing but follow them as fast as they could.
Extraordinarily Teyla’s breath is short. Her blood was rushing. It did not normally rush. Her heart was pounding, roaring, in her ears. Her body had only ever done that once before when she carried her infant son in her arms, running from Michael’s search parties in the heart of Atlantis and even then that was only due to one thing: she was scared.
* * *
Where was it coming from? The screaming had stopped and Lorne was running solely off of the echoing he could still hear, but that was dying fast. Lorne bursts back into the warehouse room containing the barricade with slain Wraith bodies behind it. He charges around the front of the barricade, turns right, and charges down the entryway Ursula had taken and the long stretch of hallway ahead of him, them. They were losing valuable time. He sees a hallway junction up ahead. Which way? Which way did she go? Lorne closes his mouth, tries to shut out the sounds of his own heavy breathing, his own thundering heartbeat, their pounding footsteps. There was still a little bit of echo left. He enters the junction and follows the echo. After a few more junctions, they stumble across the bodies of three slain drones in the middle of a hallway. It was the first sign that he had been choosing the right way the entire time. They slow down and examine the bodies. Teyla kneels down to examine one more closely but the others don’t have to.
“They’ve been scavenged,” Sheppard says as he looks over another body.
Lorne nods as he surveys the last one, “Standard operating procedure for the SGC. If you’ve got the time, scavenge what you can from the bodies of the enemy to see if there’s any technology that would prove useful to our cause.”
Sheppard nods. He had been right, she was a good little soldier.
Lorne moves on to the end of the hallway and the new junction. He stands there, closes his eyes, and listens under Ronon’s watchful gaze. Suddenly Lorne’s eyes shoot open, wide open. Nothing. Lorne didn’t hear anything. Even the echo is gone now. He has nothing to go on. No, no, he calms himself. He has to be tricking himself out of hearing it. He wasn’t listening hard enough. Lorne slams his eyes shut again and calms everything about his body he can. No breathing, no raging heart rate. Just the silence of where he is, and…nothing. His eyes shoot open again, no, he was not going to be left with nothing. He frantically looks up the hallway to his right and then to his left. Back and forth. Which one? Which one did she chose? Where did she go?
Sheppard, still looking down at the body, has to admit, perhaps just to himself that the crazy kid was a good shot. He had to admire the burst of gun fire, it was all controlled and focused in the middle of the Wraith’s chest, each and every one. A perfect grouping. You couldn’t get more textbook than if you wrote the textbook yourself and applied Hollywood camera tricks to it. She had caught them all off guard and kept them off guard. Had rendered them just like the paper targets they practiced on: at a standstill. He figured she’d got off three bursts in about, oh what was the standard timing ratio of Wraith drone reflexes, four seconds. She had taken out three armed Wraith drones in four seconds. Pretty good. Something nudges Sheppard’s shoulder and he looks over at it. It’s the tip of Ronon’s gun, but Ronon isn’t looking over at Sheppard. Ronon nods in the direction he’s looking, straight ahead. Sheppard looks and sees Lorne looking left and right over and over. Oh no. Lorne, who had been leading them, has no idea which way to go and Sheppard realizes suddenly neither does he. He can’t here the echoes anymore either. Sheppard nudges the side of Teyla’s boot with the tip of his, she looks up at him, follows his line of vision, and sees the same thing her teammates do. She stands up. They approach Lorne. He still doesn’t know which way to go and it was driving him into a crazed panic. John can pretty well understand how he feels. If picking a direction was all that had stood in between him and Ford…don’t go there, he told himself, just don’t…him and Teyla when she had been captured by Michael, John would have been just as nuts, had been just as nuts, just as stubbornly determined to get to her and save her. Luckily for John, all that had stood in between him and Teyla was a Wraith hive ship full of hybrids, Doctor Jennifer Keller worrying over Sheppard’s warehouse collapse wounds, and the command of Lieutenant Colonel Samantha Carter. Those were easy things to get past to get to their friend in time though. If Lorne picked the wrong direction, game over permanently.
As though she had been thinking the same thing at the sight of Lorne, Teyla pipes up, “She has consistently picked a particular direction.”
Good girl, Teyla.
That was all the help Lorne needed. He bolts to the right. And they follow him.
It takes some time, time Lorne didn’t want to spend, time he feels he’s wasting just running towards the crisis. Was he getting any closer? Why wasn’t he getting any closer? Suddenly the hallway opens up onto another room just like the one the barricade was in and a level of gangways. From here he can see a pair of shattered crates at the top of some stacks and the parts of bodies of more downed Wraith sticking out from behind the stacks. Sheppard is too proud to nod his approval. This kid wasn’t just good, she wasn’t even pretty good, she was pretty damn good. It was sheer dumb luck that he managed to pull something like this off with a team on his first day with the Atlantis Expedition, but here she had done this single-handedly and he had a feeling with Kenmore that this was all training so taken to heart it was second nature to her. Okay, so maybe they did need someone like her on the team…maybe.
Lorne spies some feet sticking out of the top corner of his line of vision. He angles his head and sees the body of a Wraith lying on the floor of another entryway leading into still another part of the rest of the warehouse. They must be on the other side of the damn thing by now. Lorne angles again and can see the drone clutching a piece of some fabric that trails even further into the entryway. That’s it. Immediately Lorne bolts for the stairs off to their left and starts pounding down them. Teyla and Sheppard waste no time following their friend and Ronon is forced to follow as well although he notices a set of SGC-grade bootprints in the dust on the gangways heading for another doorway across the room on this level and another much bigger set of definitely not SGC-grade foot apparel scraping across the gangways in pursuit as well. This was not good.
They head across the room, past the body and the fabric, which happened to be some sort of rust-colored hooded robe, and down the hallway. There isn’t any junction at the end, it just turns. No guesswork. Finally, no guesswork. Just go as fast as you possibly can. And they were.
Major Lorne, followed by Lieutenant Colonel Sheppard, Ronon, and Teyla, bursts out of the entryway with the bodies of two dead drones with bullet wounds in their chests braced across its floor and onto the scene of devastation. The shock overwhelms Lorne. He stumbles up the hill of rubble a little before his feet finally heed the commands of his stunned brain and he staggers to a stop.
“Oh my God,” he gasps, staring into the heart of it all.
Sheppard, Ronon, and Teyla slow behind him, no less shocked. Although the building itself is still standing around them and looks unscathed except for the ravages of time, it looks as though the entire place had caved in on the center of the room. There is a hill of broken, shattered concrete, bent, ripped, rusty piping, chunks and fragments of splintered wood, and destroyed scatterings of what must have been at one point in time tools and other building materials. Staring at it, they knew it was a hill but somehow their perceptions changed it and it looked more like a mountain. The scene, the circumstances, are so eerily familiar to Lorne, Sheppard, and Ronon’s own just a year ago when they had raced against time to hunt down Michael and save Teyla and her soon-to-be-born baby from him only for Sheppard right beside Ronon and Lorne right next to McKay to end up buried beneath a building that Michael had booby trapped to collapse. Bad memories. So many bad memories came flooding back. They were all lucky to have survived then. Distraught, Lorne shouts out…
Overtaken by the shadows now surging forward to engulf their minds, Sheppard, Ronon, and Teyla race past Lorne. Ronon easily scales the debris with his large strides, reaches the bulging heart of the rubble, and starts pulling the larger pieces of broken scaffolding away. Sheppard and Teyla get on their hands and knees beside him and start yanking away the smaller pieces of debris. All the while Sheppard screams, it may be a different name, but he couldn’t help but feel he is screaming for every soldier the Expedition has ever lost…
“Don’t call her that,” Lorne suddenly cuts John off sharply, finally coming to his senses, and charges forward, “She hates being called that.”
Lorne viciously pushes his way between Sheppard and Teyla, gets on his hands and knees, and begins to claw through the debris, frantically calling out to his friend the entire time…
“Hold on Urs. We’re here. We’re getting you out. Urs?”
Sheppard and Teyla hang back from Lorne for a moment, allowing the man his insanity, then they stick to shoveling out the debris in front of them. With a final straining heave of a large piece of scaffolding by Ronon, they finally uncover Lieutenant Ursula Kenmore. They stare down at her. One of her arms is flung up at an odd angle beside her head and the other, clutching the trigger of her P-90, is holding the weapon at an angle across her stomach and chest. The P-90 is dented so badly it’s practically broken in half. Sheppard is surprised the stupid thing wasn’t shattered. Her head is lolling to the side, her face, with closed eyes, is looking into the debris off to her right. She’s battered, filthy, dirt-contaminated blood pours from a wound on her head, and her body is covered in dust. She looks like a broken ragdoll, if a ragdoll could be broken. Yeah, Atlantis has real crappy luck with lieutenants. After seeing what damage the kid could do, Sheppard thought she of all lieutenants could have survived. Should have survived. If it were anybody else, he’d have been proud to have her on the team as soon as possible.
Teyla starts to look down the rest of Kenmore’s body as the three men continue to look at her bloodied face; even though they probably already know the outcome, Lorne reaches down and presses his fingertips against the side of the Lieutenant’s throat anyway. As he does so, the Athosian woman notices, battered and covered in dust as well, the Hanged Man card sticking out of a pocket torn open on Lieutenant Kenmore’s vest and it suddenly hits her. The Hanged Man. She realizes that the Hanged Man card that had been sitting above the DHD had not been there when Lieutenant Kenmore had left the jumper. Teyla, slack-jawed, looks back up at the Lieutenant’s face. The Lieutenant had said that she had come here to die.