Sheppard’s eyes pop open. The smell from the other room and, now that he’s awake, the sizzling sound reaches him as well. God, it’s been a long, and he means a long, time since he smelled or heard that. Sheppard lifts himself up on his elbows. Kenmore’s bed looks boot camp perfect and everyone else…he surveyed the room…is either dead-to-the-world asleep or pretending to be dead-to-the-world asleep, Ronon. Either way, it would only be a matter of time before the smell reached Rodney let alone the sound. Keeping that in mind, Sheppard gets out of bed, didn’t bother making it up, and heads for the pantry ‘door’.
Carefully, he lifts open the fur flap and steps into the brightly lit main room. It was another bright, and judging by the look out the nearest window, it’s a foggy morning on Athosia just like Sheppard remembered his first Athosian morning had been. The half of the main table closest to the pantry had been cleared away and has been set two on each side with stainless steel plates, silverware, and cups, he recognizes them as standard military-issue. There’s even cloth napkins for each of the four settings. Going down the stretch of open table between the sets of settings sitting on top of a warming unit is a stainless steel coffee pot steaming with fresh made coffee, Oh dear God fresh coffee, and a large cast iron skillet full of hot, equally freshly made scrambled eggs, lots of scrambled eggs, scrambled eggs. Sheppard feels tingling excitement in his stomach just like he did when he was a kid and the first one downstairs on Christmas morning beating his big brother, David, by minutes. And for those few priceless minutes he had the whole Christmas treasure to himself. Off to one side, Kenmore, in what looks like a fresh set of her green SGC BDUs, is cooking on something that looks suspiciously like a wood stove and as she moves to set something aside, he sees that she’s cooking in another large skillet. Exactly what he smelled: bacon, lots and lots of bacon. John walks over to Kenmore. Sitting on a plate on a table beside the stove are some already finished strips of bacon. Without saying a word, Kenmore reaches out, picks up a fresh hot, crispy strip, and hands it to him. Sheppard looks at her a moment, judging whether or not it would be a good idea to take something like food from her…but the smell…it’s just too much for his stomach to resist. John takes the strip, leans back against the table beside the stove, and begins happily munching it. Rodney did always say his reactions were Pavlovian. In fact, he believed the exact phrase was: “Look at his eyes, all lighting up again, it’s Pavlovian.” Bet Rodney didn’t think I’d remember that. He looks around with a kid’s Christmas smile. Okay, so maybe she is completely awesome to have on the team. After all, none of them had ever thought to bring breakfast along on a mission with them before. Sheppard’s body jolts a little with a silent laugh to himself.
“Relax, Colonel, it’s a piece of bacon,” she looks over at him, “not my respect.”
And Sheppard’s little ray of sunshine is ripped out of the sky. His smile dies and so does his one-time good opinion of the new Lieutenant. She goes back to cooking the rest of the bacon as McKay pops out of the pantry. He looks at the main table, talk about Pavlovian, and then over at Kenmore and Sheppard. He flails his arms.
“Oh my God, and after all your lecturing me last night about how it was a sentient being.”
Sheppard stops with the half-eaten piece of bacon partially in his mouth ready for his next bite, he takes it back out again, and looks at it. Kenmore reaches back behind Sheppard, picks up the olive drab package bearing the word BACON stamped in big black capital letters on it, holds it up, and looks back at McKay.
“So you didn’t notice the two big ole packages filled with strips of bacon saying bacon sitting over here yesterday?”
Rodney glares at her and she puts the package back down behind Sheppard. Feeling it was safe again, Sheppard takes that next bite. Rodney stalks over to the table, sits down, and begins dishing out a large portion of the eggs to himself, a Rodney-sized large portion. Sensing that this Christmas morning breakfast is about to be taken away from him by the astrophyscist’s incomprehensibly massive appetite which the scientist blamed on his supposed fast-acting metabolism, Sheppard rushes over and grabs a seat himself. As the two men dish themselves up eggs, Kenmore brings over the plate now containing all of the strips of bacon and sets it down and the two men immediately set upon it. Silently, she walks out the front ‘door’ of the hut. Sheppard and McKay watch her go. In a corner near the door, Sheppard sees Kenmore’s backpack with a plastic bag poking out of it containing what looks like a set of green BDUs, apparently the dirty ones Kenmore had had on, and right next to the backpack is Kenmore’s tacvest, likewise clean. Apparently the Lieutenant had done laundry before making breakfast. Sheppard takes note, Whoever taught her did a damn good job, her efficiency went above and beyond the call of duty for a friggin’ boy scout, and goes back to breakfast with McKay.
“Remember to save some for Teyla and Ronon,” John warns as he takes a bite of egg.
“I do. I never take anymore than is my fair share.”
“Yeah, well your fair share is enough for three.”
“Hey—,” Rodney takes offense.
“I’m just saying.”
Teyla and Ronon walk in for breakfast and take their own seats then the team turns their collective attentions to breakfast.
“You know…I think we finally found a use for her,” Rodney says through a mouthful of eggs.
Even Ronon nods at this as he scarfs down some eggs. Sheppard glances at the door. Teyla nods as she pours herself some coffee and offers to pour for Rodney, which he of course accepts with a happy nod of his head and a gesture with his fork to his cup. Sheppard stares at the door again.
“Well I doubt she’s gonna be able to bring this fare along every time she goes AWOL,” Sheppard says.
“Every time? You expect more of this?”
Ronon looks at Teyla then back at Rodney.
“I agree. We’ve been on just three missions with her. Three. And she has run off to do whatever she thinks needs to be done each and every time. I mean,” he swallows the food he’d been talking around, “last mission she ran off and assassinated someone.”
Teyla nods her acknowledgement of that fact and Rodney adds without missing a beat…
“And would you please stop staring. She probably already ate.”
Suddenly Sheppard looks back at him, snapped out of whatever he was thinking of. He looks at his team. He hadn’t realized he’d been staring.
“Don’t you think she’s been gone a long time,” he asks.
“No,” the scientist goes back to his eggs and Sheppard goes back to staring at the door.
After a few bites, McKay gets fed up with his leader, yanks the napkin from where he had it dangling over his chest by his blue shirt’s collar, and slaps it and his utensil down on the table.
“Fine. I’ll go check on her,” Rodney says getting up from the table.
McKay walks out the door; well if having her around was all it took for Rodney to get up and do something rather than let somebody else do it first, that was better than breakfast. There’s a moment where the rest of the team get to go back to their breakfasts for another bite before Rodney’s exclamation came…
“Oh my God!”
They drop everything and run out the door.
Just outside the door is Rodney staring at Kenmore, wearing a standard-issue military rain parka and a set of latex gloves, standing in front of another table she had apparently set up before they had gotten up as well this morning. Only this time the table isn’t laid out for dinner, the little pig’s body is laying spread open on it. There’s blood on Kenmore’s gloves and some smears of it on the rain parka. Sheppard, Teyla, and, of course, Rodney can’t believe their eyes, well except for Ronon. Kenmore’s actually staring back at them like nothing unusual is going on.
“What the hell are you doing,” Sheppard gaps at her.
This is too much for Rodney…
“You lectured me—“
“They do autopsies on people too Doctor McKay, even children.”
Rodney scoffs then he cringes in repulsion as Kenmore reaches back into the carcass and starts moving it’s organs around again. Suddenly her face quirks, she dips her head down disgustingly close, it was Sheppard’s turn to cringe, to the animal’s open belly, peers up into its chest cavity, and “Humphs” then straightens back up. She keeps her eyes focused down on the carcass.
“You’re the one dating the Doctor, aren’t you?”
Rodney glares at her and takes the stance he takes with all people he’s had enough with. Kenmore moves some organs aside.
“Tell me what you see,” she tells him.
“Guts,” McKay replies with absolutely no effort and no enthusiasm.
“Tell me what you don’t see,” she modifies.
Rodney’s face quirks at her, his stance shifts a little, then he reluctantly leans over from where he is and looks. Suddenly he steps forward and gets just as disgustingly close to the opened body as Kenmore had and with far more interest, which means a hell of a lot for Rodney considering during quarantines he usually was King of the Germaphobes and Captain Panic Attack all rolled into one and that was with a hazmat suit on. It sure as hell gets Sheppard’s interest. Still cringing, Sheppard steps forward too. Whatever she’d found, he didn’t want to be left out of it again.
“What? What is it Rodney?”
McKay suddenly pops up and looks at him.
“It doesn’t have a heart. Someone took its heart.”
“Might not another animal have taken it,” Teyla offers and John appreciated her always trying to be the optimist but he’d never heard of any predator attacking its prey and taking just its heart and leaving the rest of the carcass to be fed on by other animals.
“The edges are smooth,” Kenmore tells her, “It implies a surgical cut.”
“She’s right,” Rodney adds, “Animals tear, the edges of the wound aren’t shredded. Someone cut this thing open while it was still alive and took its heart out.”
Sheppard stares at the poor little pig’s body. Well that doesn’t sound good. Did that mean that there were other people here? Athosians still hanging around the planet…those ruins?
Rodney turns to Teyla, “Are there any Athosians still living here?”
She shakes her head, “No, all of my people have relocated. I know of no Athosians remaining here.”
Well that didn’t bode well, John continues to stare at the body on the table, that meant somebody’s moved in during the Athosians’ absence or were at least visiting and were very territorial about their vacation spot. Perhaps Kenmore had stumbled onto something here.
“Did you know a pig’s heart is the closest in complexity and structure to the human heart,” Kenmore suddenly pipes up.
“Yeah, Jennifer told me that once. It’s why the SGC sends them for her to conduct experiments and autopsies on.”
Sheppard stares at Rodney and wanted to ask him what experiments Keller is doing that requires pig hearts to fill in for human ones, as Kenmore slowly looks away from the pig with that same quirked expression on her face that Rodney had had on his and she looks right over at Teyla.
“I hope you don’t mind a personal, really intimate, question.”
Teyla’s sour smile returns, two in John’s lifetime, “No, I do not mind.”
“I wasn’t asking you I was just giving you a heads-up.”
Teyla’s smile disappears gracefully enough but John can see that the sour’s taken up residence in her eyes and the muscles in her face have tightened as she faces the Lieutenant.
“What do you want to know,” Teyla asks her.
“Are you sure your father was taken by the Wraith?”
It’s such a personal question and so out of the blue that there’s a moment of stunned silence. Teyla recovers first thankfully, but she sounds as pissed as Ronon looks, like she’s trying very, very hard to restrain herself.
“Yes,” she answers, “I am.”
“Are you sure you’re sure,” Kenmore asks again.
“Are you sure you’re sure you’re sure?”
John actually sees Teyla start to tremble with restraint. She quickly and smoothly hides her balled fist away behind her as her other hand tightens its grip just a little bit harder on her P-90.
“Yes,” her polite voice tingles slightly with the strain.
There’s a moment’s pause then…
“Are you sure you’re sure you’re sure you’re sure?”
Teyla finally becomes exasperated with the Lieutenant and Sheppard jumps in before she can answer…
“Yes she’s sure. It happened when she was a kid, you don’t forget things like that when you’re that age.”
“No, I know you don’t forget. That’s exactly what I mean, do you remember it exactly as it happened?”
Kenmore lets go of the body’s organs, takes off the parka and ungloves as she heads back into the hut amid the confused looks of Sheppard’s team. They look at each other. What the hell did that mean? Then Kenmore comes back out of the hut with the video camera in her hands. She’s looking through the camera’s footage for something then she finds it and pauses. She looks up at Teyla.
“Are you sure—“
Kenmore get’s immediately cut off by Sheppard and McKay’s scoffing and the rolling of Ronon’s eyes. Teyla’s jaw makes it look like she’s freezing.
“We have already covered this,” McKay complains, “Yes, yes she does.”
Teyla doesn’t object though, she gets angry.
“I remember everything about my father being culled by the Wraith,” her voice trembles with anger.
“How old were you,” Kenmore asks.
“I remember everything—,” Teyla seethes, but Kenmore cuts her off.
“Are you sure,” she gets more scoffing, “you would have been able to tell the difference between Wraith beaming technology and say other beaming technology?”
“Oh come on—,” McKay begins then it dawns on him what exactly she just said, “wait, what?”
Even Teyla is caught off guard. Her anger quickly flees her.
“What do you mean?”
“Would you have been able to tell the difference between a Wraith culling beam and, say, an Asgard beam?”
“Wait, what? Where do you get an Asgard ship took Teyla’s father?”
“From this,” Kenmore turns the camera around for them to see.
It shows the first mural Sheppard had examined when Teyla had first taken him to the Temple. Kenmore points to a small part of the image, a crescent shaped sort of bowl thing hanging in the sky topped with these sort of star shapes with people hiding underneath it and a trail of dots and then a brilliant sun and then a new moon shape with a dark crescent in it trailing down from what John had figured was an abstract art representation of a wraith scout ship eyeing fleeing prey for its hive ship and darts underneath the crescent moon beneath the stars.
“You cannot possibly be claiming that that is an Asgard mothership,” McKay objects.
“Oh and like that big ole honkin’ thing looks exactly like a hiveship,” Kenmore objects right back, “It’s abstract art Doctor McKay.”
“You can barely see that. And it doesn’t prove anything.”
“Just think about it. Both are sweeping beams of brilliant white light. Except for how they sweep and how large an area they cover. And from the reports I read—,” Ronon scoffs dismissively, “cullings are tumultuous times.” She suddenly turns to Sheppard, a surprising turn to everyone but Ronon perhaps, but considering that this morning, by Atlantean time, she had turned to Woolsey for help in an argument, “I read the report about the siege of Atlantis your first year here and how you and Miss Emmagan went to scout out the ships that were heading for you. Now in that report, you both reported that there was some sort of freaky mass beam thing the Wraith just set in the middle of the village. Now none of you had seen anything like that before and none of you have seen anything like it since, as far as I can tell. But what if that means something unto itself? Just because you haven’t seen it doesn’t mean someone else hasn’t? And what if rumors of those weapons have traveled from planet to planet? Would you have been able to distinguish an Asgard beam from some other Wraith beam you weren’t familiar with but might have heard rumors about? We’ve all played telephone before.”
“I’ve never played telephone before,” Ronon quips.
Sheppard glances back disapprovingly at him before returning his attention to Kenmore.
“We know how rumors can get distorted along the grapevine,” Kenmore presses.
Sheppard looks at her. She is unabashedly pleading with him…in front of his team, people she frankly liked about as much as they all liked her. He had to admire her conviction, her passion about something she barely even knew and, by her own admission, barely had a working knowledge of. But she meant this, every word of this. Aw, crap…Sheppard knew he is gonna catch hell for this, serious hell at the very least from Ronon, but…
“Why would the Asgard take my father,” Teyla suddenly asks.
Kenmore turns to her.
“Back at the SGC, Jack was taken once by an Asgard named Loki.”
“You are not serious.”
Kenmore turns to McKay at his exclamation, “But Daniel’s report indicated that they were doing the same thing that Loki was doing.”
John looks back and forth between the two of them. Clearly Kenmore and McKay were on the same wavelength but John needed some help.
“What was Loki doing?”
“The Asgard were dying of a genetically based disease due to the fact that they were using cloning as their form of reproduction,” John already knew that, but whatever, “Some Asgard, like Loki, found a way to cure the disease by taking human DNA and using it to fill in for the deterioration of the source DNA due to the cloning process. The Asgard High Council never used this process because they found it to be just as invasive on human life as Goa’ulds taking a host. They outlawed everything and anything even remotely related to that sort of experimentation,” McKay explains.
“And the Asgard you met here didn’t agree with the High Council’s ruling, did they,” Kenmore adds.
“No, in fact they advocated against it because they were all still alive and all the other Asgard are dead.”
Kenmore turns back to Sheppard.
“And what better cover than a Wraith culling? They’re already taking people, what’s a few more, and they take all the blame.”
Sheppard looks in her eyes, this kid is relentless. He was already convinced of this before Teyla provided the bell that saved his ass the first time, but now he’d have to finally say it out loud. He looks at Rodney, but public back up was better especially to alleviate a ring or two of the Hell Ronon was going to put him throw for this judgment call.
“Is this possible,” John asks Rodney.
Ronon scoffs again and starts to walk away, not a surprise. Ooh, Hell is soooo going to be an understatement…
“The Asgard took my father,” Teyla asks.
Rodney looks back at her. She’s distressed. He knows this, he feels this, but he has to say this, “I’d have to get a better look, but maybe, and I stress the ‘maybe’ part.”
They all look back to Sheppard for confirmation, even Ronon. Well, McKay could back up her beliefs even if he wouldn’t put the evidence together quite that way, he was willing to try and she did have Teyla somewhat on her side now, with Rodney’s help.
“What else do you need,” he asks Rodney.
“Well another look—“
“The Temple,” Kenmore says so finitely McKay looks at her. Her eyes never break away from Sheppard’s and likewise, “I need to go back to the Temple,” she tells him, “I didn’t finish checking out all of it.”
“There can’t be much there considering there was a cave in,” McKay points out.
“You’ve got it,” Sheppard says.
Without hesitation, Kenmore runs for the forest. McKay stares at him.
“You can’t be serious?”
Sheppard doesn’t answer him, he just runs after Kenmore and hopes his team follows him.
* * *
Kenmore skids over the hill and a few seconds behind her is Sheppard as he skids on his butt—falls—down the hill. As soon as he lands at the bottom, Kenmore turns around and grabs the flashlight off of his vest. Before he can say anything, she runs away again. Sheppard has no choice but to follow her, but as he gets up, he can hear his team behind him. He starts running after Kenmore again, this time with a smile on his face. Despite the circumstances, he at least still had their trust. Kenmore slows up at the entrance to the cave system, enough for Sheppard to catch up to her. She tests her foot on the slab of fallen ceiling. It’s stable, she turns his flashlight on, and starts to head in. Sheppard tries the slab behind her then takes his first step in and stays there in the threshold to wait for the rest of his team. Kenmore uses the light to guide her back to the mural. Sheppard calls back to her.
“Are you sure about this?”
“Are you sure about alien abductions?”
Sheppard actually smiles, thank god no one was around to see it.
“How did you know about the roof?”
Kenmore follows the trail of light across the wall to the next mural.
“When I brushed dirt away from it, there was a gap. It was big enough to let me see that the edges of the roof were smooth. The ceiling was meant to come down. For what reason, I don’t know.”
The mural’s just a picture of a dart flying over a village of huts. Nothing to help her. She points the flashlight at the next mural, nothing, and the next, still nothing. Kenmore stands up in exasperation. She was sure something would be here. With the ceiling falling as one solid piece, she was sure. The flashlight’s light falls across the floor and lighter, practically white, stone glints by in sudden contrast to the sandy-colored stone around it. Kenmore catches it. She points the light all over the floor. There’s more of it. They’re designs, she thinks, but the area is too big and the flashlight’s beam is too small for her to see all of it. Kenmore stands back in the corner and angles the flashlight to cast as much of its light as it can over the whole floor. Her jaw drops.
“Oh my God.”
From the doorway, Sheppard didn’t quite make out what Kenmore’s just said, he’s too far away from her without her talking louder than that, but he does see Teyla coming, leading the trio, followed by McKay, and lastly, shocking and yet not shocking, Ronon, being a part of the team and yet not wanting to have anything to do with this going along with Kenmore and all.
“We’ve got company,” he calls back to Kenmore.
Just as the others race up to the entrance, Sheppard turns to come in and they take a moment to catch their breaths before following him.
“Okay, now what did you say about this?”
“Don’t! Stop,” Kenmore dives for him as he begins to cross the floor.
Suddenly, there’s a beam of white light in the middle of the room, Asgard beaming light, and both are gone. Wide-eyed, Teyla, by gut instinct, puts out her arm and slams her and Rodney back against the wall next to the entrance, Ronon stands still in its threshold. Lieutenant Colonel Sheppard and Lieutenant Kenmore are gone.
Kenmore comes to on the dark charcoal grey floor, the texture of a charcoal briquette, of a cell. She looks around her. The room is pretty close to exactly like the room Doctor McKay and Daniel Jackson described waking up in in their reports about when they were taken by the new tribe of Asgard last year. An even darker shade of black than the floor, an almost impenetrable darkness engulfs beyond the rows of thin, bright green laser light connected at key points by a sort of vertical bar made out of some sort of metal it’s too dark for her to be able to make out what type it is. That would have been helpful but…The whole thing comes together in a large, but deceptively cramped seeming, diamond formation. She sees Sheppard a few feet away from her just coming to as well. He doesn’t have his tacvest on anymore, he doesn’t have any weapons and she didn’t have any of those things to begin with this morning on Athosia. Oh this is going to be lovely. She immediately gets to her feet and starts for him when suddenly another set of cell bars slide between them and the cell’s green force field activates with a flash between the bars then vanishes from sight. It snaps Sheppard to wide-eyed awake attention.
As Sheppard gets to his feet, the two SGC soldiers look around the apparently empty looking room again for the owner of the voice. With the added light of the new set of cell bars, they can see an almost more armored Super Soldier looking figure standing in the semi-shadows next to a door. Frankly Kenmore had hoped he’d simply been a prop she just couldn’t quite make out the definition of yet, an unmoving shell that an Asgard had left behind while it had gone someplace else to tend to something far more important than the two of them locked in this cell. Kenmore narrows her eyes at the figure, she didn’t like anybody telling her what to do, and if somebody is actually in that suit, she intends to test this prop’s limits. Kenmore, while keeping her eyes on trained on the Asgard super soldier, tries to reach between the green laser bars and her hand slams into the force field. It flares brilliantly as she yanks her hand back with a gasp of pain and shakes it.
“No interaction,” the Asgard soldier repeats.
Then it reaches out and slams its fist against a panel on the wall next to the door. Suddenly the field between the bars becomes visible. Smoky and glittering and, as far as she can see, absolutely impenetrable.
“Force field amplified. No interaction.”
Then the soldier hits the panel again. The door opens and outside Kenmore can see a massive, a friggin’ huge, room that’s hollow in the center and only has a walkway without railings lining the perimeter. There was a door, simple in design, human in design. There might be some help there. Wherever the ceiling is or the main floor for that matter, she can’t see it. And whatever else might be lining the walls out there, all she knows is everything outside this door is bright and shiny, highly reflective silvery metal. The soldier walks out and the door slides shut behind it. Kenmore looks over at Sheppard. Sheppard walks away from the bars separating them, shaking his head and running his hands through his hair.
It would figure. It would just figure. Especially with her. Why did I have to give her the benefit of the doubt? Why the hell did I do it? Way to go, John, trust the whack job kid for a moment.