The forest is quiet. It’s so pristine out here, so…untouched. The smoke hasn’t covered the sky yet, sunlight streams through the tall pine trees and floods the open path. He could see the finely trodden blades of grass and the branches that looked due for their trim out of the line of traffic from behind the dark tint of his sunglasses. There was no bird song, no sounds of other diurnal animals wandering the forest grounds or the tree’s barks. It made sense. Animals still don’t go anywhere near the concentration camp sites in Europe; the smell of death clung to the soil still, permeated it too much. It’s like when people say “The ground has developed a taste for blood” because of all of the bad things that have happened on it but only the animals can sense it, only the animals seemed to take the saying seriously.
Clank, clank, clank, clank, clank…
Then Sheppard slumps down into the pilot’s seat of his jumper and starts picking at the controls in front of him. In the silence he had focused on the sound of his boots walking up the fairly inclined grassy path. Now…He looks up and watches the bright and happy woods outside the jumper’s window for a moment. All of it washed in golden sunlight. It was so peaceful out there, so…unlike what he had to do. Finally, he sighs, reaches over, and starts dialing a gate address.
Several personnel are milling about the dark as usual Command Center of Atlantis, going about their daily routines of sitting at consoles eyeing the city’s systems or playing gopher for those sitting behind the consoles and running things down or up to their various departments, when their Stargate in the gate room below starts to come to life. Klaxons immediately begin to sound as the gate rapidly begins to lock in its incoming chevron sequence. Chuck, the technician who mans the DHD console and lovingly nicknamed amongst the Expedition as the Chucknician, starts confidently working at his station as he announces over the city-wide communications system…
“Unscheduled off-world activation. Unscheduled off-world activation.”
The Stargate’s glacial-iridescent iris closes across the hole at the center of the gate as Richard Woolsey, Commander of the Atlantis Expedition, walks into the Command Center from his office just across the small walkway bridge between the two rooms. The wormhole activates. The brilliant undulating silvery light of the active Stargate seems even more extraordinary due to the fact that the overcast, almost stormy sky outside will not permit any sunlight to shine. Rendering the cities normally exquisite light mosaics cast by her autumnally colored stained glass windows null and the windows themselves extraordinarily dower and foreboding with their unusual backgrounds of indigo-grey clouds coming through the clear parts of the glass and their tinted parts looking like various shades of shadow ascending into the dark.
“Do we know who it is yet,” Woolsey asks urgently, looking down into the gateroom below.
“Receiving the I-D-C now, Sir…It’s Colonel Sheppard,” Chuck answers.
“Very well then, let them in,” Woolsey orders.
Chuck looks up at Woolsey, confused.
“It’s a radio transmission, Sir,” he tells him.
“What,” Woolsey looks shocked at him.
“Patch him through then,” the administrator amends his order as he runs a hand over his bald head, stress tensing the muscles in his neck. He told himself to hold off first on saying to himself ‘Not again’ just yet.
Woolsey waits for Chuck to do his work then the technician looks back up at him and nods.
“Colonel Sheppard, we were expecting your team to return in about an hour. Your check-in is early. Is there anything wrong?”
“Yeah,” Sheppard’s voice came over the radio, “we’ve hit a little snag in that.”
“‘Little snag’,” Woolsey repeats.
“Yeah, Lieutenant Kenmore sort of interfered.”
Woolsey’s face sets into a glare even though Sheppard nor any other member of his team was there to see it, “I see. How so?”
There was a pause…Oh God…
“The village near the gate was having a bonfire or two to bury their dead from the Hoffan virus…,” Woolsey instinctively lowers his head out of respect for the mere thought, Sheppard continues, “Kenmore sort of freaked out and pulled some of the bodies out of the fires.”
“I see,” Woolsey’s voice deepens into its School Principal tone of voice. This was not going to help their relations with the Pegasus’s Coalition of Planets and this leader in particular. Woolsey could think of nothing more invasive, insulting, and disrespectful than interfering with another culture’s burial rites.
“There’s more,” Sheppard announces.
Of course there is.
“The bodies Kenmore pulled out were still alive.”
“What,” Woolsey was dumbfounded.
“And we’ve found more survivors in the bonfires.”
“There’s more,” Sheppard informs him again.
“What,” Woolsey exclaims. How much worse could this get?
Sheppard runs his hand through his hair, scruffing it up even more than it already was; he doesn’t really know how to explain this.
“Kenmore had another…accident,” is the only way he can figure to explain it. He’d never seen anything like it before. And even when he had seen things similar, like Chaya’s white electricity or Rodney’s ability to jam enemy weapons just by thinking about it when he accidentally Ascended himself, John had never been the one to try and describe things. That was Rodney’s job, even when it involved Rodney. But Rodney wasn’t here, he was helping the injured. Reporting what’s happened so far is John’s job.
“What type of accident,” the cautious worry in Woolsey’s voice, even over the jumper’s comm system, only helps to amp up John’s anxiety even more.
“When she freaked out, she kinda set some of the gathered villagers on fire.”
There’s dead silence on the other end. Sheppard turns his chair to look out the open back end of the jumper to the sunbathed, glittering Stargate surrounded by tall healthy, green alien pine trees. He still wasn’t sure how to describe what he’d seen or what he’d heard. The sound of her voice…John supposed he could try, but right now all he could think of was simple words that just sounded too simple and too stupid to be accurate.
“Yeah, it’s pretty bad out here,” he fills in the silence with something kind of on topic but still nowhere near describing what new uncontrolled Ancient abilities Kenmore had exhibited yet again.
“Should I send Doctor Keller and her team?”
“Yeah, a lot of teams,” John answers, relieved to not have the subject be so explicitly on ‘How the hell do we get out of this mess this time?’ nor the Lieutenant’s super powers, “I don’t think they’re the only village doing this.”
And John wondered if that was a comment on the more than one village thing or on the Keller needs to bring a lot of teams with her thing.
“And,” he really hated having to add this, “Kenmore pissed off Shiana.”
Again there was a long dead-air pause on the other end then…
“I think you better start at the beginning.”
Sheppard nods, that wasn’t what he had wanted to hear but he’d figured he’d hear it anyway, and settles into a more comfortable position in his chair. He was going to be here awhile considering how he believed he was going to stumble around probably repeating himself, looking for the right words to describe Kenmore’s telekinesis—or was it pyrokinesis? Was that even a word? Well Rodney made Carson float in the air with his mind and a gesture of his hand. It had been pretty freaky to see him do it in the jumper bay after mocking him over the firefight. That was a good place to start, ascending Rodney floating Carson like a piñata in the jumper bay had been freaky…
* * *
The day’s threatening storm clouds passed without so much as a rumble or a drop of rain. Warm sunlight glittered through the stained glass windows and glared through the open balcony doors with a strong, fresh, salty breeze. The mess hall was pretty filled. But what could you expect when this actually was the time most of Atlantis was on lunch break? The voices of the people were so loud and carried so far in the cathedral-like room that Major Evan Lorne practically had to shout to be heard, even when he was leaning down right next to the ear of the person he was trying to talk to.
“Okay,” he yelled, “they’ve got Salisbury steak, chicken caccia—,” Oh dear God, what is that stuff, “cacciatore,” his eyes looked over the table some more, “chicken fried steak—“
“Chicken steak,” little Michael Kenmore shouts.
Lorne smiles and reaches over for the tray of said food; thank God the little guy’s voice was high-pitched enough to carry over all the racket of Lorne’s fellow hungry Expedition members. He hands the slightly warmed banana cream pie yellow-colored plastic tray to the little waiting hands. Michael carefully balances the tray on his short forearms, his fingers reaching up and latching over the tray’s lip tightly. Lorne turns him straight ahead and scoots him a few steps further to the next table’s group of food. He leans down next to Michael’s ear again.
“Okay, there’s apples, oranges, bananas, and gelatin.” He wasn’t about to dignify what an SG mess hall defined as jell-o by calling it jell-o.
“They’ve got yellow, green, red, and blue. Which color do you want?”
Lorne reaches over and picks up a clear plastic cup of the blue wiggly stuff with a dollop of white fluffy whipped cream on the top, there again Lorne wasn’t sure he’d dignify that by publicly calling it cream. He fits it, balanced awkwardly, on Michael’s tray between where his drink would go and the entrée’s side of glazed baby carrots. Lorne starts to shoo Michael on to the table of drinks when the call comes in over his earpiece…
“Major Lorne, this Woolsey.”
Lorne reaches up and touches his earpiece, activating it…
“Lorne here. Yes, Mister Woolsey.”
“Assemble your team and report to the gateroom immediately for an emergency medical mission.”
Lorne looks down at little Michael eyeing the new lunch selection in front of him: drinks. His little eyes glazing over at the bottles of water, cartons of chocolate milk, plain milk, and bottle of pretty priceless out here soda pop.
“I’ll be there as soon as I can, Sir. Lorne out.”
Lorne eyes the top of Michael’s head for a moment then starts looking around at all the assembled. There has to be someone here that he knew both he and Ursula would trust to take care of Michael just the way they would. He turned, still searching through face after face in the crowd. He completes the one-eighty to find right behind him was a certain scientist with a chin-length mane of disheveled sandy-colored hair that gave him the look of Beethoven and wearing glasses that had slipped down the bridge of his nose a little as he stared down at his own banana cream pie-colored plastic tray of food…a certain Czech scientist. He was perfect. Lorne couldn’t think of or see anyone better for the job.
Doctor Radek Zelenka’s head shoots up at the mention of his name.
Lorne smiles and scoots Michael in front of him.
“Have you met Michael Kenmore, Ursula’s son?”
Radek looks down at the little boy grinning up at him. Before the scientist could say anything…
“Could you watch him for me? Woolsey’s got an emergency medical situation he needs my team for,” again before Zelenka could say anything, “Thanks.”
Lorne leans down and tells Michael, “Michael, this is Doctor Radek Zelenka. He’s going to watch you until either your mommy or I get back, okay,” with a couple of claps on top of the boy’s shoulders and then he was gone.
Zelenka watches the Major rush away then looks back down at the little boy in front of him.
“I’ve got blue gelatin,” the happy little face announces proudly.
Zelenka tries to smile at him.
“I like white milk. Could you help me with it, please?”
Zelenka looks over at the table of drinks. He supposed that wasn’t too much to ask. Radek pushes his glasses up to their proper position then reaches over and picks up a carton of milk and puts it on the child’s tray. The boy eyes his little pint-carton of milk like it was gold. And Radek flinched, the children on M7G-677 got the same dangerous look in their eyes when they saw chocolate. It reminded him of what he always imagined the children looked like in The Lord of the Flies when they killed Piggy. Wait, didn’t Piggy where glasses? Radek’s glasses slip down the bridge of his nose again.