Kenmore can hear Ronon continuing to slam himself over and over into the portable force shield she had erected over the main cave’s front entrance as she stands on top of a chair she had brought with her with a soft brush in her hand dusting a small part of the wall. Then the slams stop, she hears the force shield turn off, and Sheppard’s team walk in. She turns her head slightly to gently blow away some dirt, dust, whatever, covering the brick she was trying to uncover and sees Sheppard look around out of the corner of her eye. She turns her face back to the wall.
Although the entrance into the cave is dark, the room is well lit by the lamps sitting on top of the three tripods Kenmore had brought with her placed in a triangle formation around the room. Her tacvest and backpack, which had some tools and clear plastic bags pouring out of it, sat in a corner. There was another chair like the one she was standing on in the middle of the room with a little handheld video camera sitting on it. The walls, given a whole bizarrely archaeological-sort of homey vibe by the lamps’ lights, were exactly as Sheppard remembered them and John could tell by the look in Teyla’s eyes that she thought the same way too. The walls were constructed of sand-colored stone bricks and at the center of each of the four walls was one large smooth square brick with a dark mural carved into its smoothed surface. Some murals depicted the hunter gatherer lifestyle of Teyla’s people. Other murals depicted geometric renderings of giant hiveships and smaller darts culling, depending on the wall, either a city or a village and there was writing specially carved into the corners of the murals. John always figured that was like the metal placards at art galleries telling you what the name of the work was and who the artist was. Here it was much different though, the murals showed the culling of Teyla’s people going back thousands of years, so he figured the ‘placards’ said what the year was. Some of the bricks themselves had symbols, words, just painted on them in all sorts of colors. Kenmore brushed some dirt away from one of the higher up bricks and blew on it again, revealing the brighter red of the painted symbol underneath.
“Well you’ve certainly made this cozy,” Sheppard comments.
And he wondered how? This place was far from the village and he hadn’t thought they had taken up too much time back at the Beta Site planet. They had dialed Atlantis to inform Woolsey of the change in plans then dialed here as soon as the gate was ready. That hadn’t been that much time, had it? Kenmore didn’t respond, she just kept working on recovering the brick’s symbol from both dust and dirt. McKay’s jaw, however, had dropped to his chest and his eyes were practically straining to bug out of his head as he slowly turned around, taking in everything he could about the room.
“How could you not report about this place?”
Sheppard looks back over at him.
“You didn’t report it like this,” McKay then slips into a voice that sounds like a Muppet, “At first glance they looked like the scratching of a child, blah blah blah,” he said finished in a normal voice then returned to his Muppet voice, “They were no innocent childhood sketches, but the brutal history of a people,” he finishes then returns to his normal voice again, “Do you know what we could’ve learned from this place?”
John wasn’t sure Teyla was going to like Rodney making fun of her people being culled by the Wraith.
“See what happens when you go back and check things,” Kenmore comments from the wall.
Sheppard and McKay look over at her. You could practically see the smile through the back of her head. She made some big sweeps with the brush over the brick’s newly revealed red painted symbol, gave one last blow refining its exposure, then climbs down off her chair, and walks over to her backpack. She put the brush down on her tacvest then rifles through her bag until she came back up with a black marker and a page of small white sticker labels. She wrote a number down on the next available sticker, peeled it off, then grabbed the camera from its chair as she passed by it, went back up on her chair, and labeled the brick. Then she held up the camera and John saw the little red light on the thing come on.
“Okay Daniel, this is number thirty-seven of the brick paintings. And like before, your guess is as good as mine,” she began.
“Sorry about that Doctor Jackson, it’s Doctor McKay. I figure you can kinda guess the rest already,” she sighs and you can tell she was rolling her eyes.
McKay frowns at her, “Oh gee I’m so sorry I’m not Danny-boy.”
She looks back at him.
McKay doesn’t answer her. She turns back to the wall, films for a couple more seconds, then turns the camera off and climbs back down again. She puts the camera back then puts her hands on her hips and, apparently, for once takes a breather. That explained to Sheppard how quickly this operation got setup. The kid just simply didn’t stop. Kind of like what he thought of her attitude. She was a bulldozer. It reminded John of her full tilt run off to the left in a warehouse booby-trapped by Wraith. Who does that anyway? Who runs that blind in a situation like that? The sudden vivid memories of John taking a puddle jumper out on its first mission came to mind and that nasty little voice that he had managed to stay silent for awhile was back…You did, remember? A ghost of Sumner swam up before his mind’s eye and he pushed it away. That was different, John hadn’t been wrong about going after Sumner, his people, or Teyla and hers. The little voice chided him. She hadn’t been wrong to go the way she did then. And John’s actions afterward had proved that more than her own, he’d walked his team right into a booby trap. Now it looked like the same thing if McKay had anything to say about it. Oh God, John was never gonna live this down.
“Why are you taking video of this stuff for Daniel Jackson?”
“Because he’s the SGC resident expert on the Ancients.”
“Excuse me, I am the Atlantis resident expert on the Ancients.”
“Ancient technology, not Ancient archeology.”
Sheppard glances at McKay, she had him there, and in true Doctor Rodney McKay fashion, the scientist wasn’t going to admit it.
“If the ruins are so important to you, then why are you here and not there,” ha, he was going to go after her that way.
“Because if that place is booby-trapped, I want to know about it first and when both Miss Emmagan’s and Colonel Sheppard’s reports detailed the drawings of a city I figured I’d come here first. This place might show me some things.”
“The drawings depict the city being destroyed.”
“That doesn’t mean it isn’t depicting contingency plans being enacted.”
John almost winces as he looks over at McKay. Oh and she scores another one. Rodney isn’t about to let her get the chance to make another point at his expense, instead he just looks away and back at all the drawings surrounding them. But he wasn’t quite done being snarky just yet…
“Well have you found anything yet?”
They all look at her. Hell it caught Sheppard’s attention.
“Maybe,” Rodney inquires.
“Yeah, I don’t know how to read Ancient and without a complete sentence, I can’t decode it either,” Sheppard lights onto that, but lets it slide. It would have been the primest opportunity to go after Kenmore with but, “So if someone wrote something down, then yes but until I know that for sure, maybe.” She looks around again with a sigh then starts for her vest.
“Have you discovered anything in the drawings yet,” Teyla asks.
“Maybe,” Kenmore answers picking up the brush.
And the Lieutenant leaves it at that again. She gets back up on the chair against the wall and starts brushing at a brick right at the ceiling. Teyla sighs, for once, and looks around her again, giving up on getting anything out of the Lieutenant. The rest of the team follow her lead and John was only too grateful to see that from McKay, although he figured Rodney wasn’t too anxious to get in another argument with the Lieutenant for fear she’d score another point at his expense. But who was keeping count?
“There’s some sleeping bags set up if you need them,” Kenmore offers.
Teyla nods to Kenmore’s back and looks off to her own right. Against the bottom of two connected walls there’s only a small standard-issue lantern in their corner with two sleeping bags split open and spread out to make four beds. Sheppard wasn’t missing the fact of four. He glances over at Ronon and met the same look from his friend. And neither one was particularly going to stand for it. Teyla doesn’t hesitate to walk over to a sleeping bag, she sits down, and leans her head back against the wall. She looks tired and stressed. Even though you can’t hear it, John sees her chest rise high slowly then fall quickly. She had sighed. He walks over to her and kneels down in front of her.
“You know if this is hard on you, you should take the rest. We’ll cover you.”
Behind him, McKay picks up the sentiment, “Well since you’re offering.”
Sheppard looks behind him with a frown aimed at Rodney but the scientist is blissfully unaware as he walks over to the other sleeping bag and gets comfortable against the wall. Sheppard looks back at Teyla. She smiles her kind and knowing smile at him and nods. As Sheppard stands back up and backs away from her, she too gets comfortable closest to the wall. Sheppard walks over to Ronon. He lowers his voice just for the two of them.
“You know you could get some sleep too.”
“No, not with her around,” Ronon is firm.
Sheppard looks back at Kenmore. Yeah, with the crap she’s pulled in the last two hours, there is no way Ronon’s gonna back down from this. His trigger finger is still tense, not itchy anymore but still tense. Sheppard looks back at him.
“Okay, just lie down and fake it.”
Ronon looks at him.
“I’ll be fine and it’s not like Teyla isn’t on alert either.”
Ronon takes one last look at Kenmore then relents with a nod to his friend and goes to sleep right next to Teyla. Two guns are better than one. Sheppard knew that, Ronon knew that. Sheppard takes a glance at Kenmore then nonchalantly walks over to the chair in the middle of the room, picks up the camera, and sits down. And three are even better. Again Ronon knew that and Sheppard knew that.
John Sheppard looks back at the cave system’s entrance. It’s getting darker. Dusk is starting to creep in from outside. It was making the light in the room seem brighter and the stone made it creamier. The whole place looked even cozier than before like a darkened cabin lit by a roasty, toasty fire. Rodney had started snoring about an hour ago, basically two minutes after his head hit the cushy part of the bag. It’s been awhile now too that Sheppard thought Teyla might actually be sleeping. And Ronon, John knew, was wide awake and on standby. John continued to play with the camera in his hands. Twisting it, turning it, coming close to breaking it a couple of times by nearly dropping it on the dirt floor but he recovered well, Kenmore never wavered for a moment or gave the slightest hint she was concerned with what damage he might be doing behind her back. She was just about done revealing a purple symbol. She was working at brushing dirt away from the top of the symbol’s brick. John went back to the camera. She’d only borrowed it about four times from him and had asked him for it in a nice, pleasant even tone each time. John consented each time, frankly shocked as hell she was being so nice and watching Ronon out of the corner of his eye each time. His alert friend kept getting slightly tense each time Kenmore approached Sheppard, his finger wrapped just a hair more securely around the trigger of his weapon, which John had also noticed was back to being set to kill. Ronon…but he never jumped the gun…But still, kill? Really? So she took them from the lap of alien Tahitian luxury to go on some mind-numbing archeological dig, John glanced up at her back, Okay so I can understand ‘Kill’.
Kenmore continues cleaning, unawares. Her brush sweeps right at where the wall meets the ceiling and a long segment of dirt drops away. Kenmore stops and stares at it. She leans in and under a little bit and sees the distinct and dark, just a little bit bigger than hairline, gap between the end of the ceiling and the wall. And she can see that the wall goes up further than the ceiling is letting on. Suddenly another segment of dirt, smaller than the one Kenmore had dislodged, falls away of its own accord. Dislodged. Kenmore climbs carefully but quickly off of the chair. She rushes over to Sheppard, kneels down in front of him, and puts her hand on his knee. That certainly catches his attention…and so does the look on her face, a very worried and urgent look. He didn’t think the kid could look like that.
“We need to start packing up. And we need to do it very quietly and very quickly,” she whispers to him.
“What is it,” he whispers back.
“No time. Just get them out of here fast okay.”
Sheppard nods, keeps a firm grip on the camera, and starts to get out of the seat when he suddenly realizes he just took an order from the Lieutenant. He had agreed to it though and for some reason he felt he had to. Maybe it was the look on her face or the hand she’d put so carelessly and yet so confidently on his knee, whatever. He’d have to deal with that later, John knew Ronon was listening in. Big and massive as he is, Caveman Rodney liked to put it, but dammit his hearing was downright Vulcan sometimes. Now was something else. Sheppard continues to get out of his chair as he watches Kenmore carefully but efficiently close up the one she’d been standing on. Sheppard gingerly picks his way over to Ronon and before Sheppard’s knee can even hit the ground near him, his friend is already lifting himself up.
“What is it,” Ronon asks in his normal volume voice, gruff and low though it is.
A little dust falls from the wall the Lieutenant had been working on. They look back at it. Kenmore temporarily stops breaking down John’s chair to shush them. Some dust falls off the wall again. She glances back at it as the two men go back to each other.
“I don’t know but whatever it is, it’s freaking her out,” John whispers, “So let’s just get us and this stuff out of here okay. And let’s do it quietly. That seems to be key.”
Ronon nods. He doesn’t like that Kenmore’s calling the shots right now and his expression shows it, especially when he shoots a quick glance at her, but he still gets up and starts breaking down the nearest tripod. John says a silent prayer for that as he inches forward to Teyla’s side. Kenmore, with the two chairs already hefted on her back, starts breaking down the tripod nearest her. Damn the kid is fast. Sheppard nudges Teyla’s shoulder and she starts a little but quickly comes around. He nods towards Ronon, Teyla looks at her Satedan friend then at Kenmore, then nods at John. He could always rely on Teyla without words. She and Sheppard silently get up and Teyla starts rolling up the sleeping bag she and Ronon had shared as John walks over and kneels beside Rodney. John nudges his friend’s shoulder. The scientist swipes at Sheppard’s hand and rolls even further over on his side, mumbling something incoherently. Sheppard rolls his eyes as the sound of McKay’s voice suddenly catches Kenmore’s attention. Her head shoots up to stare at them and she freezes. Ronon keeps working but his eyes are entirely focused on her. Teyla is a little bit more subtle but she keeps an eye on the situation as well. Sheppard nudges Rodney’s shoulder again and again McKay slaps his team leader’s hand away.
“Five more minutes,” Rodney says loud and snappy.
A little bit of dirt falls from the wall behind Kenmore. Ronon side glances at it but she doesn’t look back at all. She stalks over to the two men then suddenly reaches out and yanks McKay up to her face. Undoubtedly, Rodney snaps fully and wide-eyed awake frozen in fear as he stares eye-to-eye with the Lieutenant. At least that was one good thing about her, she could scare the crap out of Rodney. Sheppard looks back at a temporarily frozen Teyla, with the sleeping bag under her arm and had been reaching down for Kenmore’s tacvest and backpack, and Ronon, with a tripod and lamp slung over his back and was frozen in the middle of working on dismantling the third.
“We don’t have five more minutes,” Kenmore whispers a little bit louder than she had with John, “Now get up, start helping us get this stuff as well as your own butt out of here fast. And do it silently. Not your version of ‘silently’ but my sort of,” she drops her voice down to a lower whisper than she had used with Sheppard, it was more like she was mouthing words than actually saying them, “silently.”
McKay looks panicked.
“Oh my god, are you nuts,” he exclaims. He hadn’t whispered.
Suddenly a lot of dirt falls from the ceiling down the wall she’d been working on. Kenmore’s head snaps back to it. More dirt starts falling like the sprinkles before a downpour. That was it! Cave in.
“No time,” she says.
“Move,” Sheppard shouts.
They all bolt for the entrance with what they had or had been reaching for.
Ronon’s the first out followed by Teyla then Sheppard and Kenmore, dragging McKay with her by a two-handed grip on the chest straps of his tacvest, has no hope but to make a dive for it with him as the cave roars from the ceiling finally coming down inside. Kenmore and McKay hit the ground with the point of their boots just inches from the threshold of the cave’s entrance as a storm of dust and dirt and perhaps broken stone rushes over them. And the roaring goes away.
It’s done. Kenmore coughs as she gets to her feet. Sheppard and Teyla, also coughing, step forward and help Rodney get to his. Lieutenant Kenmore looks at the dark entrance to the cave system and the slab of rock, the ceiling of the entrance presumably, that had come down as well to cover and replace the dirt that had been the floor there before. Then she walks over to the entrance, reaches down, brushes some debris away, and picks up the force field generating device, a sort of black suction cup looking thing with a big bright red button in the middle of it with a black cord that was just long enough to span the width of the entrance connecting it to another black suction cup looking thing. She folds the device together in her hands then pockets it in her BDU shirt pocket and sighs. To Sheppard’s surprise, she looks bummed, just bummed. Not really pissed off or in any way really distressed at the situation. Just bummed.
“It’ll be getting dark soon,” she says, “We should head back.”
Sheppard feels himself start to slowly nod as his mind is blatantly covered in a thin film of shock at her unexpected reaction. Why wasn’t she pissed off? He’d be pissed off. Twig cracks nearby and Rodney, like the panicked armed madman he is, immediately draws his pistol with reflexes frankly no one thought he had, and aims. Before he can fire, Kenmore turns, grabs his wrist, and shoves his hands into the air. The shot goes harmlessly off into the treetops and out of the shadows where the twig-breaking had come from darts a small pig. It disappears squealing back into the darker parts of the forest undergrowth. Kenmore sighs.
“Please don’t shoot the local wildlife, Doctor McKay. They live here.”
With that, Kenmore let’s go of his wrist, readjusts the position of the chairs on her back with a bouncy heft just like she had when she ditched them on the Tahiti planet although they didn’t know that’s what it had looked like, and starts heading off into the forest. The team glances at each other then follows her.