The toe of John Sheppard’s black combat boot wiggles slowly, lightly, in the air as John wedges his thumbnail in between his teeth and stares down at the gateroom from one of the visitor’s chairs in Richard Woolsey’s office. It was all he could do to keep his body distracted, he had a feeling if he paced anymore in here one of two things would happen: he’d fall through the floor from the path he’d worn in it or Woolsey would order a couple of marines to hold him down just to keep everyone else from losing their sanity. But his mind wasn’t distracted.
The gateroom was quiet, not anything like it had been a couple of hours ago when Doctor Keller and her team rushed his newly returned jumper, John blinks, or this morning when Lieutenant Kenmore had stepped through the gate among the other newly arrived. John closes his eyes. The gateroom had been alive and busy then, filled with dozens of people running. He opens his eyes again. It was deserted now with the occasional tumbleweed of a marine or some other personnel that crossed into view but otherwise…
The sound of rustling papers reached his ears again…or he wished it was. Woolsey wasn’t here yet. That was John’s punishment, sitting in Woolsey’s office alone to think about what had happened. John closes his eyes again. It had been a weird flight back, a haunting flight back. Lorne had ridden back with them, leaving his own jumper to be piloted back by his second…
John looks back at Lorne. The marine was sitting in the back on a bench staring down at…
John opens his eyes again, looks down on the gateroom, swallows, breathes, and closes them again.
…her laying in the middle of the floor of the rear compartment. The Major, his friend, looks just frozen. John turns back around and watches the trees and fields pass quickly away underneath the jumper as he flies it as fast as he can back to the gate. He knows what Lorne is thinking back there. How do you tell a child his mo…
John gasps and opens his eyes again. He gives in to the feeling inside of him. He huffs and puffs and starts to look everywhere around the office except down into the gateroom. He blinks back tears. In all his years as part of the SGC and as a soldier in the Air Force, he had never had to tell a child—
Finally, he heard it, not paper rustling but footsteps. John closes his eyes, this time thankful. He opens them as the footsteps clearly bring themselves behind him and start to walk around him. Richard Woolsey comes into view out of the corner of John’s eye, comes around his desk, and sits down with the most terrifying grin Sheppard has ever seen…
* * *
With Ronon standing behind her, Teyla sits quietly and soberly on the end of a bed in Atlantis’ infirmary. There isn’t any true hustle and bustle going on around her, not anymore; it is just business as, regretfully, usual. Her eyes look to the pair of dirt-covered boots beside her then the tattered set of green BDU pants coming out of them and her eyes trail up the fatigues to their head. Lieutenant Ursula Kenmore sits up in bed as Doctor Rodney McKay works at a bank of computers a step or two away to the left of Kenmore’s bed. Teyla watches as Doctor Jennifer Keller stands on the right side examining the soldier’s newly healed head wound. Jennifer’s fingers press against the Lieutenant’s temples and guides and directs Kenmore’s head around so the Doctor’s astute eyes can catch the glinting light off of every angle of its surface. Kenmore does not even have a scar. Teyla has always admired the doctor’s craft but this was exceptional. After a moment, Keller nods.
“That’s doing nicely.”
Keller let’s go of Kenmore’s head. She picks up a clipboard from the desk she rolled up beside her and makes a note on it. The doctor puts the board back down then walks around the end of the bed, passes politely in front of Ronon, beside Teyla, and quietly steps in between Rodney’s back and Kenmore’s other side.
“Okay, now let’s take a look at how that broken arm of yours is healing,” Keller takes Kenmore’s arm in her hand, the one that had been slumped up by the Lieutenant’s head, holds it out, and starts to slowly roll it from side to side and rotate it at the elbow. Her eyes measuring every part of this critical test.
Teyla looks back down at the hands she has been wringing in her lap for the past hour. She is not sure whether or not she should ask this question, but she cannot restrain her curiosity any longer.
“Lieutenant Kenmore, may I ask you something?”
Kenmore looks up from watching Keller checking on her held out arm and nods rather carelessly at Teyla.
“Why did you take the card with you?”
“In my Mother’s culture, we have a saying: Those that walk with Death—“
One of her usual quiet smiles crosses Teyla’s face and she begins nodding…
“Do not fear it,” she finishes for Kenmore, “We have the same saying among my people as well.”
Kenmore nods back.
Keller rolls Kenmore’s arm the other way in her hands, rotates it a few more times. She seems content with how it’s healed and nods at Kenmore then walks back around to her clipboard and makes a few more notes. Kenmore rubs her chilly elbow as McKay adds a few finishing touches to whatever he’s working on.
“Okay, I think I’ve got it,” he says.
He steps back and shows the screen of the computer he was working on to them. It has a freeze-framed image of hybrid Michael the last time he was in Atlantis standing in the light of Woolsey’s office when he had taken over the city and held Teyla and her infant son hostage. Teyla averts her eyes, uncomfortable at the sight. It is not something she wants to relive and if Michael is indeed still alive, it is not a realization she is prepared to face right now.
“Is this the guy you saw,” Rodney asks the Lieutenant.
Kenmore leans forward and looks the image over. She crinkles her brow at it.
“Kinda,” she finally says unconvincingly after a moment’s silence.
Rodney and Teyla immediately start at this.
“Please, what do you mean by ‘kinda’,” Teyla begs.
“Well the guy I saw looked like that but he didn’t look so…sick.”
“Yeah, well, he’s been experimenting on himself,” McKay informs her.
Kenmore leans forward and peers at the image.
“No…that’s not it,” she shakes her head.
McKay stares at her. He of all people would know what they were talking about, “Oh really? So what’s the big difference?”
But Kenmore ignores him as she continues to stare at the frozen computer screen, McKay appeals to the others as Kenmore gives him the silent treatment. Teyla doesn’t know what to say and Ronon just shrugs at him with the same look he had given Sheppard back in that first big room of the warehouse, ‘What had he expected?’ Rodney throws his hands up in the air then, finally, Kenmore does break her silence.
“This is the guy that created the clone of Beckett, right?”
It’s such an odd question that McKay bends down a little to try and look Kenmore in the eyes, but she’s so close to the screen he can’t really succeed, but he tries.
“Carson,” he corrects her as he tries to figure out what’s going on in her head, what she thinks she sees by the dart of her eyes left and right as they examine hybrid Michael’s image over and over again.
“Yeah…and you say he died here?”
“Yes,” Teyla leans forward too, trying to peer at Michael’s image and also at Kenmore from her position behind the Lieutenant. What is it exactly that the young woman thinks she sees?
Kenmore’s eyes suddenly dart to Keller.
“Did you do an autopsy?”
Without looking up from her clipboard, Keller answers, “Yes.”
“Go get me the report Cupcake,” Kenmore goes back to staring down the image of Michael.
Keller slowly looks up and gapes at her. McKay’s jaw drops at the unruly woman then he tries to work through his indignation, maybe lifting a warning finger at the Lieutenant might help convey his feelings more emphatically, “Excuse me but you do not, do not, give any orders around here, especially to her,” he points at Jennifer, “and you especially don’t talk to her like that.”
Sensing she isn’t going to get what she wants anytime soon this way, Kenmore reaches behind her, draws the Beretta left nestled against the small of her back during the rush of medical assistance as soon as the jumper got back to the gateroom, no one had bothered to remove this particular weapon from her person, and points it at Keller. Jennifer steps back, McKay’s eyes go wide, Teyla leans back away from Kenmore, and Ronon’s hand immediately slips down to the ever easily accessible handle of his weapon. He switches it on with his thumb.
“Okay let’s all just calm down here,” Keller tries to diffuse the situation.
Kenmore doesn’t seem quite as interested in diffusing as Keller does.
“Give me the autopsy report.”
Keller isn’t buying this, “I’ve had guns pointed at my face lots of times with people demanding all sorts of things—“
Kenmore rolls her eyes as the Doctor continues with her little speech then lazily aims the gun a little askew of Keller and fires. The blast shatters a hole through the top of the Doctor’s mobile desk. Keller flinches as does Rodney and Teyla and Ronon draws his weapon, already fully charged, and aims its barrel at the back of the Lieutenant’s head. The rest of the infirmary freezes in scared silence.
“And I bet none of them ever actually pulled the trigger too. Now go get me the report Sweetcakes,” Kenmore orders her.
Rodney can feel himself want to scoff, but he can’t bring himself to actually do it. He had come to the opinion that the new Lieutenant was a crazy loose cannon when she dove full tilt past a barricade of armed Wraith into the rest of an unknown and shielded warehouse, although none of them actually knew there were Wraith hiding behind all those crates at the time but they had known they were stumbling around the place basically blind. And that was furthermore to Rodney’s point, who in their right mind charged around any place in the Pegasus Galaxy like that? Well, Sheppard when Rodney first knew him and now for that matter, General O’Neill when he led SG-1 for that matter too, and Sam Carter displayed the odd impulse every once in awhile…With a glance at Rodney that snaps him back from how far his mind had wandered and Ronon, Keller turns and leaves. Kenmore puts her gun back behind her, nestles it comfortably back underneath her waistband, and goes back to analyzing the image of Michael just as intently as before like nothing had happened.
After a moment, Teyla gently, silently, puts a hand over Ronon’s. He can feel it, he bet if he looked at her he knew exactly what he would see: her eyes asking him to put his gun away. He glances at her. Yep, he was right about her eyes, and he also knows how right he feels he is. He glances at the back of Kenmore’s head then back at Teyla. The Athosian’s eyebrows lift for emphasis and Ronon hesitates for another heartbeat before he relents to his trust in his longtime friend and returns his gun to its holster but he doesn’t charge it down. He trusts Teyla’s judgment, but there was no way he trusts anything about Lieutenant Ursula Kenmore.
“Don’t ever do that again,” he growls at the back of Kenmore’s head.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, bite me Lurch.”
Ronon starts to approach her but Teyla puts out an arm to block him. She focuses temporarily on the polished Lantean floor and, if anyone could have seen them, her eyes said it all. Should Lieutenant Kenmore stay, this was going to be difficult. She feels Ronon strain a little against her hand, can feel his chest vibrate against her fingertips. Very, very difficult. Teyla lets out a gentle, silent sigh then looks back up again to see Jennifer coming back with a folder. She hands it to the Lieutenant.
Kenmore immediately flips it open and starts reading. McKay rolls his eyes. She could have at least said ‘Thank you’ to Jennifer, he says ‘Thank you’ to people despite what Radek Zelenka says—and everyone else for that matter.
“Is there something in particular you’re looking for,” he snipes.
“He fell off the top of the jumper bay tower. His liver was mush as was the rest of him.”
“Cellular damage in his liver.”
McKay starts at this.
“All clones show a natural ten percent cellular degradation due to the cloning process itself.”
“We know this,” Rodney was not stupid. But, oh wait…No, she was not going there with this.
“And for every full year after the initial birth year, the clone will decay another ten percent which results in a clone having a normal lifespan of nine to ten years after which it goes insane and has to be put down. For some reason doctors can’t explain yet, the liver is the organ that usually shows the cellular decay the most.”
McKay doesn’t like this. Accelerated aging and health deterioration due to a failing liver. An organ sacrificed for the sake of science among other things. Oh, he really doesn’t like this.
“Whoa, whoa, wait. He was not a clone. I mean Ronon fought him, granted he kicked Ronon off a balcony and almost killed him, but he still held his own against the guy.”
Kenmore looks at Ronon from over the brim of the folder. Her ridicule is clear, “You got your butt kicked by a clone?”
He glares at her. A dark glare that his team hasn’t seen from him since he first joined them.
“He was not a clone,” Rodney is not about to let this drop. He of all people, Jennifer of all people, Carson too, would know what to look for.
“His liver shows thirty percent decay,” Kenmore says.
Rodney’s jaw drops. She hands the open folder over to the shocked genius and gestures at the image of hybrid Michael on the computer, “That guy’s a three-year old clone.”
Teyla stares at the computer screen as McKay starts to read the file. This cannot be true. This could not possibly be true. She closes her eyes…
Please do not let it be true.
“Oh my God, you’re right.”
Teyla opens her eyes, already starting to brim with tears, and faces the image of Michael. No.
It’s a rare enough thing that Rodney would admit something like that out loud, even if they have been working on encouraging it in him, that Keller demands the folder from him and he dazedly gives it to her. She checks it and starts to sputter…
“Oh my God. How, how did I miss it?”
“It’s true,” Ronon doesn’t believe Keller could be wrong. Not about this, not about something so important as whether or not hybrid-Wraith Lieutenant Michael Kenmore was really alive or dead. They all care about Teyla, Torren, Kanaan, and their people too much to not get this right. He cares too much not to have gotten this right.
Keller looks up at him, meets his eyes, and nods. He could have figured it just by the look in her now wide eyes anyway and Teyla’s shock engulfs her entire body. She cannot hold her eyes up any further. She stares down at the sheets of Kenmore’s sickbed. The arm she has been leaning on is trembling just slightly. Not enough for the others to really see but more than enough for him to notice it. Ronon thinks about reaching out and putting a hand on his friend’s shoulder, but Teyla doesn’t look like she particularly wants to be touched by anyone other than her partner, Kanaan, or their son, Torren and he knows there’s no amount of patting her shoulder that can make her feel better right now. She needed her family right now and right now that family did not consist of her friends. Ronon’s shoulders tense and he keeps his arms folded over his chest. He nods at Keller. So…it isn’t done yet.
“You had to be looking for it. Like you said the guy’s liver was mush,” Kenmore pipes up, either oblivious to or not caring about the turmoil going on around her.
“Oh but you were looking for it,” McKay bites with his usual venom. How could she not give a damn about what she just told them? How dare she not at least try to look like she cared? But she was oblivious.
“According to the files, this guy tested everything out to within an inch of its existence to make sure it was right. Doctor Beckett was a test run on his cloning process. He proved viable with the help of an enzyme probably used to subvert whatever side effects this guy’s cloning process’s technique has. And when Beckett proved safe to you guys, this guy sent the clone of himself in.”
Teyla finally breathes, “But…why? Why not do it himself? Why use a clone?” It sounds like she has gone past being frightened for herself or her family, now she is angry. The sort of anger no one had seen before she sat in a medical bed in Atlantis’ infirmary under Jennifer’s advisement and all she could do was muse and let the frustration and pain at the loss of all of her people, of Kanaan, engulf her. Later that moment, Jennifer informed Teyla that her and Kanaan’s union had rendered Teyla pregnant. And with the hope of new life, Teyla’s anger turned into a sheer, stark determination to recover all that she had lost, not just for herself but for the child that was going to come to her and Kanaan. Then she would have torn down the city to get to Kanaan, but now…with her family together with her as well as her people, she is more than willing to tear down the galaxy.
“First rule. Why put yourself in the line of fire when you can put someone else there instead. And besides, according to your report of that mission,” Teyla looks up at Kenmore, she had not expected the Lieutenant to have paid such close attention in so short a time as she had had with the mission reports supplied to her in the mess hall, Kenmore continues without noticing Teyla’s reaction, “his authority was visibly questioned by an inferior. First First rule, no one questions the boss. He wasn’t the real guy, but my guy from the warehouse…that was the real guy and he looked in a helluva lot better health then that one,” Kenmore gestures at the image again.
The team exchange worried looks, how many ways could you say that that was the worst statement of all in this whole new revisited hell of a situation, that clone had been more than enough trouble for them, as Richard Woolsey happily walks up to the group with a not necessarily happy nor unhappy Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard trailing a step or two behind him.
“Well, Doctor Keller, how’s our patient,” Woolsey beams.
“‘Our patient’,” Ursula repeats.
Jennifer answers Woolsey, feeling more in her element and less deficient in it, “She’s doing fine.”
“Excellent,” Woolsey claps his hands together, smiling, but Keller shakes her head.
“Actually, no it’s not.”
That isn’t exactly a new one. And here it is, that second shoe Sheppard had been waiting for.
“What do you mean,” he asks.
And it’s everyone else’s turn to stare at Jennifer oddly and wonder what she’s noticed that they hadn’t, but Rodney bows his head as though he’s waiting for something then it dawns on him that that might look suspicious. He looks up.
“She’s healing fast,” Keller tells them.
Kenmore shrugs, “That doesn’t surprise me. I’ve always been a fast healer, I told you that.”
“But you’re healing quicker than normal.”
Kenmore stares at Keller like the doctor’s crazy, “Isn’t that what ‘fast healer’ means? That I heal faster than usual?”
“But that’s just it, you shouldn’t be here. According to the injuries you sustained, numerous contusions and abrasions, a broken arm, three broken ribs, a punctured lung, along with several bone fractures, a fractured skull, massive brain trauma, you should have been in one of the operating rooms the moment you got back. Two hours ago. In fact,” Keller checks her watch, “You should still be there. You’re healing too fast. You didn’t even need to be in an operating room when Colonel Sheppard and his team—“
“Her team as well,” Woolsey helpfully pipes up but Keller ignores him.
“I’d say it borders on the regenerative capabilities of the Wraith.”
Rodney finds solace in staring at his feet as Ronon and Sheppard stare at Kenmore and Teyla eases herself away from the Lieutenant.
Ronon hadn’t figured it was exactly that, but he had figured that there was something going on here. And now the Satedan had it. Woolsey had been conducting experiments behind their backs, had brought back to light the project that had created their Lieutenant Michael Kenmore in the first place. Somehow Atlantis’ permanent commander, perhaps through an under the table order to another team, perhaps Lorne’s considering that only Lorne so far had managed to refer to her by a nickname and the two’s interactions made it clear there was a history between the two of them that was friendly, after all their Michael honestly thought Teyla was practically his best friend, captured a Wraith Queen and the result was sitting with a snotty attitude right in front of them. Ronon eyed her dangerously. His mouth worked, the only problem was he had no idea how to explain Michael Junior. Michael Junior…perhaps one of the other teams had caught a child Wraith under covert orders again. They knew only a handful of Wraith males were born as children, those personally created by a Queen. So perhaps that covert operation had involved the infiltration of another Wraith cloning facility, the Wraith Sheppard called Todd had said there was more than just the one they had found and destroyed? And that infiltration involved the capture of that facility’s Queen and the capture of a male Wraith child?
Kenmore stares at Keller.
“Are you saying I’m a Wraith?”
Sheppard, Ronon, and Teyla look at Jennifer. With a single word, all of Ronon’s idea about Kenmore was gone. If she wasn’t some covert-op cook-up, then what was she?
“Then how is this possible,” Teyla asks her friend.
McKay’s time has come. He looks up…
“I might have the answer to that.”
They all look at him. It was amazing how all eyes snapped to him whenever he spoke, he always got a thrill out of that, shame he couldn’t get a thrill out of it now even though what he had to say was probably the most important information he had ever had to say the entire time he’s been in this city. They had been hoping for something like this ever since they came to Atlantis…before, actually. He still remembered the excitement when they had found an elderly woman in Ancient dress suspended in a stasis pod in the bowels of the city. They were so excited to think that an Ancient had survived Atlantis’ siege and subsequent evacuation only to discover that it was, in fact, an over 10,000-year-old Doctor Elizabeth Weir that the Ancient Janus had helped survive the Expedition’s first First Arrival so that their second would not result in all of them dying as soon as they stepped foot in Atlantis like it apparently had the first time. He felt a moment of bitterness. Elizabeth would have loved this. He returns his attention back to the bank of computers and starts accessing information from them, setting something those gathered around him couldn’t see, then turning back around and addressing Sheppard.
“Remember when you told me to download everything I could from the computer we found in the warehouse?”
“Well, the warehouse had surveillance cameras. I’ve got video.”
McKay steps slightly off to the side of the computer he had been working on so that the others can see what he’s been doing, what he’s been setting up, this entire time. He’d brought up two black-and-white video feeds. One is of the two teams in the computer room. The other is of a seemingly empty main warehouse room. He presses a few buttons then steps back completely as the warehouse feed plays.
Wraith-hybrid Michael runs in and he’s almost out of frame when Kenmore steps into frame with her gun aimed at his back. They listen to their conversation. McKay stops the video after Kenmore informs Michael that his echo hadn’t work on her, although, funny enough, they can’t hear the echo on the video tape. Teyla, stunned, looks at Kenmore.
“His telepathy did not work on you?”
“Is that what that was,” Kenmore had no idea Wraith telepathy worked that way on humans, she had only ever encountered the alien telepathies of the Milky Way variety, “No,” and if the Milky Way was any measure of telepathic powers, the Wraith’s sucked, “Was it supposed to?”
Before Teyla can reply, McKay stops her with a raised finger, “Wait there’s more.”
Rodney returns to the computer, and so does their attention, he presses a button, and the video starts to play again. He stands back. There’s roaring. They watch Kenmore suddenly turn her back on Michael, falling to her knee, and start firing at the roaring Wraith approaching from off camera somewhere. After the bursts of fire, she looks back at Michael’s fleeing form then they hear rustling from off camera. Kenmore looks back in the direction she had been firing except she looks up this time. Suddenly a Wraith appears, arms outstretched, dropping into the camera’s view. Sheppard can see it. With the Wraith drone’s sheer weight and the almost Earth-like gravity of the planet and the fact that it obviously was diving specifically for her, the huge Wraith was just plummeting like a rock towards her. She couldn’t have fired even if she had wanted to, there just wasn’t enough time. Kenmore turns away, Sheppard couldn’t blame her, he wouldn’t want to see the end happen like that either, and suddenly a massive burst of white light explodes from her. Sheppard’s eyes widen and he’s sure his aren’t the only ones. He knows that light. As they watch, the Wraith is engulfed by the brilliant light and they can hear him scream. The Wraith is actually screaming. It sounds like his meat is being stripped off his bones and he’s aware of every moment of it.
“I cannot believe it,” Teyla says and she’s not the only one with that thought, except for maybe Ronon and Kenmore neither were here at the time. Although they could have read the report on that mission but, knowing Ronon’s disposition towards paperwork, Teyla doubted he knew the file and, knowing that Lieutenant Kenmore had only gotten access to a fraction of their reports at lunchtime, Teyla had seen it with her own eyes, and had had such little time with them that Teyla doubted Kenmore knew that particular mission report as well. It was a mission from her first year with the team members of the Atlantis Expedition, it was so long ago she barely remembered it now except for that swath of electric light that seemed to come from Kenmore was so familiar. Too familiar. Teyla had seen it then coming from a planet to destroy Wraith darts that were pursuing their jumper as they passed near the planet, a planet guarded by an Ancient. An Ancient named Chaya.
Rodney lets the video keep playing. Kenmore looks back at Michael, scared and panicked, then the unmistakable sounds of little things hitting the floor somewhere. Kenmore looks back behind her and Michael starts to run again as things start to rain down around the Lieutenant. A paint can slams into the floor next to her, an awl hits the floor, hammers, finally a screwdriver. The Lieutenant looks from side to side, trying to dodge the flare up from each item, but there’s more tools coming down and she can’t keep up. Respectably, Sheppard had to admire, she wasn’t letting go of her gun for one damn moment. Tiny things start pelting her and Sheppard thought the storm was about to let up then the creaking started. He watches as Kenmore rolls away onto her back, an attempt to see if she could get out of the way in time, but it fails and she only has time left to try and cover her face, but still, Sheppard noticed, she was holding on to her gun. McKay presses a button and the video pauses.
“I’m not done,” Rodney goes back to the computer and plays the feed of the computer room.
On the video, suddenly Lorne and Sheppard look back at the door. Rodney presses a button and the video pauses. He addresses Sheppard again…
“Now you and Lorne said you heard Kenmore scream the name ‘Michael’ loud. Like she was in the next room.”
Sheppard nods, “Yeah. Even you said you heard it. It just sounded far away to you.”
“But you don’t hear it on the video. You can hear everything else but the scream,” Rodney points out.
Although it bugs him to have to say this, “Maybe you were right. She was too far away,” Ronon pipes up.
McKay holds up a finger, “You would think that but…”
Ronon rolls his eyes as McKay trails off and goes back to the computer and plays the other video feed of Kenmore on her back. The video continues on to when the collapsing scaffolding finally lands on Kenmore, crushing her. McKay pauses the video again.
“Now there, right there,” he points at the bottom of the computer screen, “Look at the time stamp on the videos.”
Sheppard leans in and nods at it.
“They’re the same. So?”
McKay stares at him.
“Where’s the scream? It should be on this video, if any video, but it’s not.”
“Maybe the sounds of the scaffolding crashing drowned it out,” Sheppard offers. It sure as hell was loud enough.
“But it didn’t.”
“How do you know that,” Teyla asks.
McKay offers a glance at Jennifer that everyone catches on to and everyone also catches that he didn’t necessarily want to give the answer, but felt he had to…
“Because Jennifer was watching Kenmore’s son here in Atlantis, giving him his physical,” they all look to Jennifer and she looks completely taken aback and stares at the screen, “And according to her, Kenmore’s son heard his mother scream his name so loud he thought she was in the room with him at the exact same time.”
“But how is that possible,” Teyla seems to ask Doctor Keller as though her friend, by Rodney’s visual insinuation, would be able to answer her just as best as he could.
“It’s not,” Sheppard answers instead.
“It is,” McKay counters.
“How,” Kenmore asks.
John notices her eyeing McKay warily, as though she’s watching a very diabolical trap being set up right in front of her and she knows the very diabolical trap is meant for her and she has absolutely no choice but to walk right into it. Sheppard shifts his weight to his toes then back again. He didn’t particularly like the look. He knew Rodney wasn’t trapping her, it wasn’t Rodney’s style, but…
“The Ancient gene,” McKay says and that immediately recaptures John’s attention.
“What,” John exclaims.
McKay goes back to the computer and starts typing again. John steps closer.
“The Ancient Gene isn’t a gene so much as it’s a collection of genetic markers,” Rodney recites as he works then he steps back and shows them the computer screen. It’s a genetic helix revolving in front of a black background with a label at the top of it saying that the DNA strand belonged to: Lorne, Major Evan L. McKay presses a few buttons and the helix freezes as yellow arrows point at four flashing parts of the helix, “We know that some of us have these markers naturally like Lorne,” McKay turns back around and brings up another rotating helix. This one’s labeled: Sheppard, Lieutenant Colonel John A. As before, the helix is instructed to freeze only this time, several more arrows appear pointing at its parts than had on Lorne’s, “And some have more markers than others like Colonel Sheppard’s,” Rodney nods at John, John nods back, and McKay stoops back over the computer and blocks it from view again.
Sheppard was getting tired of this. Why couldn’t Rodney just say whatever he meant rather than a show and very slowly dance around the point of the whole subject tell?
“So? We already knew that,” Sheppard says harshly, hoping his tone of voice will encourage his friend to speed things up. It usually pissed Rodney off to no end when John did that but he’d eventually rush just like John wanted him to. Not this time though. McKay doesn’t respond. In fact Rodney doesn’t speed up at all. He just keeps going at his own pace. And that peaks John’s interest even more. What was so important that the findings couldn’t be rushed and needed to be shown let alone told at this pace? For God’s sake, Rodney breezed through blowing up solar systems and Hive ships.
Finally McKay straightens back up, stands aside, and shows them the computer screen. It’s a new helix, labeled: Kenmore, Lieutenant Ursula B., already frozen and with a lot more arrows and glowing parts than Sheppard’s helix ever thought of having.
Sheppard gapes at it, “Holy crap, what is that like fifty-something percent?”
“You’re close. In fact, it is exactly fifty percent,” McKay looks at Kenmore full on, “She’s half Ancient.”
Sheppard, Teyla, Keller, and Ronon look at Kenmore, who stares at the computer screen in shock. Woolsey looks down at his feet. Was that a grin? Is he actually grinning? Rodney shifts his eyes to stare at him. There it was again. It really was a grin. It came and went but it was a grin. And everything falls into place for Rodney. Slowly he recites the gravity that’s starting to settle on him, his shock can’t be hidden.
“It explains everything. How she could access things in the jumper we never even knew were there before, why Wraith telepathy doesn’t work on her, how she can heal herself faster than any way we can. It even explains the scream. We know the Ancients were capable of telepathy, both SG-1 and our own experiences attest to that. According to the video feed, she never actually screamed but we three heard it and so did her son. It would only figure that Michael would have inherited Ancient DNA from his mother. Sheppard, Lorne, and Michael Junior heard it louder because they have the gene naturally and I heard it far away because I don’t have the gene naturally. I only have it because of the Ancient Gene Therapy.” McKay falls silent as the information sinks in for everyone else.
After a moment, Sheppard turns to Woolsey. Yeah there was grin, a slight one.
“You knew this already, didn’t you,” Sheppard’s tone is accusatory, “You found out she was half-Ancient from the DNA database back at the SGC. That’s why you brought her here…and her son.”
Everyone’s attention shifts to Woolsey and he finally looks up to face them, grin gone but all the confidence in the world in place of it.
“Yes, yes I did,” and Woolsey falls into the same mannerisms he did when giving a formal speech to plead his case or any case for that matter, John remembered it well from when Woolsey pled their case at an Inquisition for crimes the Atlantis Expedition had hypothetically committed against the Pegasus Galaxy, “I had Lieutenant Kenmore’s transfer put in as soon as I found out that I was to take over command of Atlantis. I had originally intended her and her son to arrive in Atlantis with me, but her paperwork was slow. My conference table arrived instead,” he genuinely sounded bummed about the table thing and Sheppard feels the urge to step back from him, “When Teyla was undecided in whether or not she wanted to return to your team after giving birth to Torren, I took the opportunity to push Lieutenant Kenmore’s paperwork through faster, and it was moving faster, but when Teyla decided to return to your team, Lieutenant Kenmore’s paperwork slowed back down again…until a few weeks ago, when the SGC granted my request for her and her son’s transfer.”
Richard Woolsey’s following smile only inspires horror and he watches as it starts to creep into the others’ expressions except for Rodney who had already guessed everything out the moment he saw Lieutenant Kenmore’s DNA when he was helping Jennifer save the Lieutenant’s life by manning their database with Kenmore’s brand new medical information logged into it but not researched and he just had it confirmed by Woolsey’s grin. Teyla seems to blend her horror with hurt. She knew she was considered expendable by the Earth’s IOA. Both Ronon and she had been required to go up before the IOA’s evaluation committee. Teyla had barely passed and it took an invasion by the Wraith into the SGC itself to pass Ronon. It had all been surprisingly difficult. Teyla had been warned by both Colonel Sheppard and Colonel Carter that the International Oversight Advisory would be particularly judgmental and Teyla understood that. Ronon and she were alien to their planet as well as the Expedition they oversaw after all, but she thought that, with regards to Mister Woolsey, she had proven herself well worth the consideration, perhaps not nearly as expendable as previously thought maybe. But apparently she was wrong then and wrong now.
“They’re human beings Richard. They’re not a mahogany conference table. They are a mother and her son for God’s sake,” Sheppard tries to convey to the man.
“I know that,” Woolsey answers as regularly as though he were discussing the finer points of SGC rules and regulations with John over a tray of food in the mess hall.
John looks shocked at Woolsey for admitting that he would actually do this to people he acknowledged as definitely more than laboratory animals and Woolsey knows it. Richard decides to continue to plead his case…
“It is for the best,” no one looks like their buying it, but Richard Woolsey isn’t giving up yet; he was an appellate lawyer, it was his second nature not to leave a courtroom without a verdict in his favor, “If Atlantis falls, that means the whole Pegasus Galaxy has fallen to our enemies and after that how long do you think it will take for those enemies to reach Earth again,” he had to emphasize that, it would work in his favor. They barely survived that last time and were forced to take the whole city to the Milky Way Galaxy to defend their homeworld from the Wraith, but still no one is buying it. He gestures towards Kenmore with a plead in his eyes aimed at his top team, a last ditch attempt at making this a unanimous agreement, closing arguments, “Lieutenant Kenmore may be just what we need to turn the tide,” he turns to her as he had to dozens if not hundreds of judges, “You will be our most effective weapon against our enemies here in the Pegasus Galaxy.”
Sheppard glances over at Kenmore and sees the same fire brewing in her eyes that brewed in them when she challenged Woolsey at the mission briefing table and Woolsey sees it too. Sheppard glances down to see whether or not she was balling her fists again.
Woolsey’s ice to her fire returns, last ditch effort done. His tone turns frosty, “Besides, you can’t go home. Neither I or the IOA nor the SGC will allow it. You don’t have a choice.”
And those comments send so much rippling through all of them that no one answers for a moment. John couldn’t help but notice how the man had lapsed over referencing Kenmore’s son; he probably thought it was best not to stoke that particular fire the way he had earlier, no matter how well it had worked on the Lieutenant then. Sheppard watches Kenmore because he can’t stomach to look anywhere near Richard Woolsey right now; again he was getting the feeling that the Expedition’s commander was holding off on saying something he wanted to, like ‘You don’t have a choice. Neither of you’, maybe? She continues to stare down Woolsey for a few more long moments. Although John doesn’t want her here, he likes the fighter’s spirit she’s got. Then she looks back at the image of Michael still on the screen of one of McKay’s computers and John’s stomach bottoms out and he hopes it’s because he could understand why she would turn her eyes away from Atlantis’ commander, but her time spent looking at the image before speaking is shorter this time and she suddenly pipes up…
“You say this guy’s killed thousands.”
Don’t do it, it’s all John can think as Woolsey suddenly perks up. They both know what this means. Don’t do it. John’s praying. Despite all the bad times this place has been through, that they’ve been through, he’s never prayed in Atlantis before. He’s never felt he had to.
“More. Hundreds of thousands,” Teyla says.
Teyla, that didn’t help. He glares at her.
Kenmore still eyes Michael’s image.
“And you haven’t been able to get rid of him?”
Don’t do it. He goes back to staring down at his boots. He couldn’t watch this happen and know that there’s nothing he can do to stop it either.
“We’re doing just fine,” Ronon growls and Sheppard says a silent prayer that his friend’s grumpiness might just kill this.
Kenmore aims a sarcastic look at Ronon, “Yeah I can see that.”
Dammit, she’s as stubborn as General O’Neill is.
Kenmore turns back to stare once more at the screen with hybrid Michael’s image on it.
“So you need me,” she said finally.
And John can tell by the sound of her voice…Damn.
“We don’t need you,” Ronon repeated.
Nice try, Buddy, but it’s not going to work anymore.
“Yes,” Woolsey answered.
Kenmore considers Woolsey. Sheppard looks up at Woolsey too. Neither one of the soldiers looks particularly happy. Sheppard knows that it’s highly unlikely that Kenmore or her son will ever return to Earth via anything other than a black plastic bag or a flag-draped metal box and Kenmore knows she’s trapped her son here with her too. It’s not just herself she’s bargaining with. Woolsey had threatened to remove her son from her custody through a jail sentence only this afternoon. She has no other choice. Dammit, she has no other choice.
“So it’s just temporary then? I take care of this guy and me and my son can go home.”
They all look at her. Woolsey looks practically relieved at the change in her attitude. He nods his head.
Sheppard looks back at Woolsey with a warning look in his eye for his superior. He knows Woolsey just told a bald-faced lie. And the mean sonuvabitch didn’t even have the consideration to hide that he knew he had either. Sheppard saw him in a whole new light that he wasn’t particularly fond of. Who was this guy? This wasn’t the Richard Woolsey he had come to know. Although…John thought back to the time Doctor Elizabeth Weir had shown up on their door as an unseeable ball of Replicator electricity then took human form and Woolsey almost let one of her fellow Replicator buddies sink the city. Perhaps this was the Richard Woolsey he had come to know all along. John saw the light with which he viewed Woolsey shift horrifically back to the light he had viewed him in before. Woolsey nods at him and John wanted to vomit.
“Just so long as you know it’s temporary,” Kenmore says.
Sheppard doesn’t like having to do this. Let alone doesn’t he like the circumstances under which she came here, he didn’t what someone on his team who was tricked into coming here and was trapped on his team. It didn’t exactly make for team bonding and trust-building, but, taking into account her actions today, he thought of her as a reckless liability to his team, more like himself and Jack O’Neill when they entered this whole shebang than John would frankly like to admit. He had ‘grown up’ here, although he still wasn’t sure that he would technically define it as that way, but he was definitely sure that they did not need to take a step back like that in order take more forward. He was confident that he didn’t need a reckless liability on his team but…Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard steps forward and extends his hand out to Lieutenant Ursula Kenmore.
“Welcome to Atlantis.”
Kenmore eyes him. He’s familiar with the look. He’s given it himself numerous times. It’s the look of knowing you’re being betrayed by your superiors and you still have to work with the bastards anyway. It’s the look of distrust.
“Temporarily,” she reaffirms with a slight nod of her head.
Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard nods back, knowing it’s a lie, “Temporarily.”
She takes his hand and they share a single shake.