The klaxons had been immediate and blaring. Radek had already been in the area and had charged in with little Michael Kenmore right behind him; he had been showing the boy the finer points of transporter maintenance, part of his to-do list from Rodney, when the sirens sounded. Radek had just enough time to take his seat at the console next to Chuck and Michael hurriedly dive under the console and take refuge clinging to the front of Radek’s bent legs when Richard Woolsey entered Atlantis’ Command Center and Atlantis’ Stargate flushed to life then sucked itself back in to a stable wormhole.
“Who is it?”
Everyone worked frantically at their controls in order to answer their leader’s question. Chuck shook his head, he wasn’t getting anything immediate.
“Put up the iris,” Woolsey ordered.
Chuck reached for the button and had no sooner pushed it and sealed the wormhole over with its peacock iridescent shield then suddenly the gate shut down.
They all stared at it. Each one of them frozen in place.
“I said put up the iris not deactivate the gate,” Woolsey leaned over to Chuck, “Someone might have been in there.”
Chuck, wide-eyed and slack-jawed in astonishment, shook his head slowly from side to side, “I didn’t do it, Sir. It deactivated on the other end.”
They keep staring at the sealed over hollow gate, the tangible feeling of ‘Oh dear God’ in the air now. If that had been one of their teams, something really, really terrible met up with them before they could escape into the relative freedom of the gate back to Atlantis. Only Zelenka took comfort in the feel of Michael’s tiny little hands wrapped around the fabric of his pant’s leg. He carefully lowered his eyes and saw the little boy’s brown ones staring cautiously back up at him and trying to angle to see Woolsey standing in between Zelenka and Chuck. Quietly, Radek slid his foot forward, scooting the child back further underneath, and returning his eyes to his console. His part of the answer to Woolsey’s question had finally come up on its screen. Radek tapped a few buttons, the staccato clicking sounds of his working drawing all eyes to him. He glances up and catches Woolsey’s attentive stare, the question repeated in the intensity of the man’s shoulders beneath his crisp Atlantean uniform.
“All I can tell you is that the dialing sequence came from a jumper,” Zelenka answered in surrender, pushing his glasses back up the bridge of his nose.
The wave of everyone exchanging confused looks with each other spreads across the darkened, computer-lit room. Woolsey looks at the Stargate again…But the only jumper out is Colonel Sheppard’s.
Michael leans closer to the front of Radek Zelenka’s legs again and carefully peers out from underneath the lip of the console at Richard Woolsey.
* * *
The gate shuts down just before Ramses and Ramirez break into the area. They stare at it and immediately split up, Ramses going to the clearing’s edge and looking into the forest and Ramirez moving to stand in front of the gate. There’s no one here. Ramirez hisses and makes a rude gesture at the empty gate. Then he bows his head and sighs. Not a single thing. He reaches up to his shoulder radio…
“Ramirez to Major Lorne.”
Teyla and McKay kneel beside Shiana’s body while Keller checks the fallen leader as Sheppard looks on. Jennifer looks up at him, shock jarring her smooth semi-porcelain features.
“What,” Rodney gapes, “But all a Wraith stunner can do is just that, stun?”
Sheppard eyes Jennifer then the body then turns and steps back over to Lorne listening to his shoulder radio. Ramirez’s voice was coming through loud and clear with the bad news…
“We were too late, Sirs. They gated out just a moment before we got here. I’m sorry.”
Lorne and Sheppard look at each other then Sheppard looks back at Shiana’s body again.
“That’s okay, Ramirez,” Lorne tells him, “You and Ramses keep a lookout just in case they decide to come back. I’m coming to you.”
“Will do, Sir. Ramirez out.”
Lorne releases the transmitting button on his radio.
“Rodney,” Sheppard calls out, “you go with him. Do whatever you have to do to the DHD to figure out where they came from. I’ll send Ronon with you. If anyone can find some Wraith left behind,” Sheppard reaches up to his shoulder radio…
And discovers there’s nothing there. He looks at the empty pocket.
“Where’s my radio,” he asks. Then starts looking around the ground, more than a little bit confounded. He hadn’t thought the frenzy of the Wraith attack had caused him to be physical enough to dislodge and lose the damn thing while going for cover…
He vaguely recollects the sound of tearing…Suddenly Sheppard freezes. His eyes go wide. Immediately he bolts full tilt up the avenue into the heart of the village. Teyla and Rodney run after him, leaving Lorne behind with Keller kneeling over Shiana’s body.
“Colonel,” Teyla yells after him, “John! What is it?”
Ronon maintains his surveillance from his post when a frightened old woman hobbles into the area and croaks…
“The Wraith! The Wraith have killed Shiana!”
Ronon stares as the villagers all descend into mourning. He’s not sure he believes that. If Wraith had really fired on the village, his teammates would have called him into action. Someone would have told him. Someone would have come and gotten him…At least that was what he’d convinced himself of. He reaches down and wraps his hand tightly around the handle of his weapon. But still, he’d heard the blasts and the screams and had instinctively coiled his body and ran a few gigantically long strides away from the hut’s door when he stopped himself and looked back at its abandoned door. A sudden returning vision of Kenmore running past him, unchecked, in that warehouse then running away from their team past a barricade of Wraith. He had wanted to stop her then, trip her maybe, but he had fought the urge to put the Lieutenant in her place himself and had let Sheppard handle it. What a disaster that had been. He regretted not intervening then, he would be damned if he didn’t trip the little brat up given this second opportunity.
Nevertheless…if it were true…if he had only been there, but no. He felt it was more important to keep the little uniformed brat out of the mix. They needed to help the people of this world, not worry about Kenmore pulling another one of her stunts that always put herself and others in even greater danger than they were already facing. And besides if she tried to make a move to get out, then that meant he got to shoot her…
If he had only been there, the Wraith would not have gotten the chance to attack this village, kill this village’s leader. He could have helped, he could have done something. When he’d been a Runner, he’d witnessed a lot of leaders who’d faced death at the hands of Wraith when they had hunted him from planet to planet. He had been powerless to save them then, his only help was to lure the Wraith with him through the Stargate but that never worked, only a few would follow him through, the hive ships and darts would stay and wreak their vengeance on those that would help their prey…He had a lot of favors to return to people who no longer existed. At least one favor he could have returned today…Damn this little brat. Ronon’s already dark glare darkens even further. An old sense of murdering menace shadows back into them as he stares blindly ahead of him. His thumb flicks his weapon over from stun to kill. Suddenly Sheppard races up to him followed distantly by Teyla and McKay.
“Where is she,” Sheppard shouts at him.
Ronon stares at Sheppard. That was not the question nor the expression he had been expecting. Sheppard looked like…
“Where is she,” Sheppard yells at him again.
“In there,” Ronon, confused, points back at the door behind him, “She was running her mouth, but she shut up a while ago. Why?”
Sheppard suddenly yanks at his friend’s arm, clawing to get him out of the way. Ronon obliges, but looks to Teyla for help as she and McKay finally reach them. Her expression tells him she doesn’t understand what’s going on with Sheppard any more than he does and neither does McKay. Sheppard yanks open the door and looks inside. He freezes in the doorway, rendered motionless by shock, like his worst fears were confirmed. Ronon stares at him.
“What? What is it?”
Sheppard can’t speak. His jaw works inside his closed mouth. He wants to speak. He just can’t bring himself to do it. They’ve never seen him do that. Never. Gradually, his team form up around him and stare inside.
The room is empty except for Sheppard’s radio…duct-taped and standing on the table just across from a window…with its cut ropes dangling uselessly from its mud and hay-made frame.
No, Ronon stared at it, No, she couldn’t have done this. He could have sworn the window had glass in it. I couldn’t have—I can’t have let her do this. She could not do this to me! Me!
“Where is she,” McKay asks, perhaps his mind couldn’t process what he was seeing properly or perhaps the scientist wasn’t about to admit to that.
“Where did those villagers come from, the ones that were armed,” Sheppard finally manages to demand. Sheppard was seething, the last time Ronon saw him seethe like this Sheppard had scolded Teyla for being pregnant, it had taken him a while to find the words then too, at first Sheppard had thought Teyla was joking, and threw her off the team in the very next breath. Ronon had had to escort a shocked and hurt Teyla away to the infirmary to be checked out.
Ronon points, just as reticent at the sight of Sheppard this way and unwanting to get in the man’s way as he had been then, “Over there.”
Without hesitation, Sheppard bolts again and the others follow.
Sheppard runs up to the hut with the rest of his team a few feet behind him and without hesitation flings open the door. He freezes on its threshold again. The others join him as they had before and are stalled by the sight. Inside Lieutenant Kenmore sits quietly on the table with her packaged set of screwdrivers laid open beside her, one of them in her hand, as she carefully fiddles with the splayed open interior of a Wraith stun pistol.
“Modifying that, are we,” McKay asks grimly.
Kenmore doesn’t even bother to look up from her work, “Nope.”
“Then what are you doing,” he asks.
“Putting it back the way it was.”
Then she holds the screwdriver aside in her fingers, pinches a mechanism inside the pistol, and turns it. The tiny high-pitched whine that had been coming from the weapon lowers down to the hum that it usually emitted in the hands of its user. Then Kenmore slips the organic casing back over the weapon’s energy converter/stun emitter and starts wedging it back into place underneath the weapon’s more bone-like materials with the tip of her scrawny little eyeglass’ screwdriver.
Sheppard’s stun turns, making his words come across as more restrained bristling rage than flat-out anger, “And what episode of MacGyver did you get this from?”
“Actually I got it from a book.”
“And whose book would that be? Gavrilo Princip? Or André Dallaire maybe,” McKay snarks. Both were young psychos, to Rodney’s way of thinking; the first had assassinated the Archduke Ferdinand and started the first World War, the other had tried to assassinate Canada’s Prime Minister and was just plain nuts. Either description fit the Lieutenant to him.
With the last click of the final piece of casing slipping back into place, Kenmore finally looks up at them.
“Actually it’s a page from Sam Carter’s book.”
Rodney suddenly pales, looking decidedly uncomfortable with the idea of that. Sheppard swallows hard, suddenly he found it far more rattling that their, yes he would go so far as to call her beloved, Colonel Samantha Carter, their one-time leader of a year, had a metaphorical book in her military/scientific repertoire that included assassination, and it was a book, a repertoire that Kenmore had been drawing on. The team continues to stare at her in silence.
Kenmore puts the screwdriver back in its little slot, closes up the tool case, and puts it back in her vest. Then she gets off the table and walks the pistol back over to the damaged chest it had been in. To anyone on the outside, it’d look like an overzealous villager had panicked in the firefight and broke into the chest, but far too late to have done them any good as defender of their beloved leader Shiana. Kenmore opens the chest up and lays the pistol and it’s ammo vials, she had only needed one of them, back inside it. And shuts a lid on the whole thing.