The first thing they notice is there are no deafening sirens splitting their ears. Then they notice, as they look out in the shortened hallway that opens up, the perimeter walkway on this level is railed. Really unlike all the other levels of this place they’ve been on even though everything still appears to be made out of the same shiny, silvery metal. There are no precisely spaced out red lights flashing from the smooth pristine walls like the level they had just left. They all stay frozen for a moment and when nothing further happens, Sheppard takes a step forward. Suddenly the arm comes out of nowhere and its hand clamps down over his mouth. He freezes and almost immediately the sound of his muffled distress brings Ronon’s gun back to point at Lieutenant Kenmore’s head. Teyla thankfully holds her gun where it is and simply looks back at the semi-silent commotion. Kenmore stares straight ahead and a little up, John keeps muffling, and Kenmore, using her other hand, brings up a finger to her lips and shushes him. It’s so close to John’s ear, it’s so quiet, such a smooth hiss that Sheppard falls silent and eyes her out of the corner of his eye.
“Quiet. The walls are different,” she whispers.
She let’s go of Sheppard’s mouth but only lower’s the offending hand to his chest, actually John kind of likes the feel of her hand on his chest, it’s…pleasant, but he sets the thought aside as she points the finger that had been against her lips a few moments ago straight ahead and up to where she had been staring, to where the bright lights of the area picked up the curve and smooth shine of the metal walls. Sheppard looks, they all look. He can’t see it. Then…
“The light,” Ronon says in a low volume.
“What,” Sheppard whispers.
“No, he is right,” Teyla whispers, “The light on the walls…it is like Atlantis.”
Sheppard looks again. He strains to see what his friends and the Lieutenant see. All the other levels they’d been on in this place had walls polished so smoothly their figures were reflected in them but here…The light is stark where it directly hits the wall, showing the texture of the metal. Every flaw in it like the occasional knick that’s so tiny there with just the barest reflection off of it that it shows up to them as this tiny speck of light all its own. And where the light didn’t directly hit, it diffuses into a hazy glow the way a car’s headlights light up fog. It was like Atlantis; there the light, multi-colored or not, caught every texture of the city’s walls but from a distance it became this foggy, smooth glow, practically heavenly. It gives the area, although it looked exactly like the other areas below it at first glance, a feeling of a clean home rather than sterile death.
Kenmore edges silently past him, slipping her hand gently into his holster and drawing his pistol. Like a cat, she smoothly skims down the middle of the hallway floor, keeping down low. Her eyes intent on the wall ahead of her, as she moves more of it comes into view, then, with two large steps to go, she makes one quick, smooth slide into the open while simultaneously straightening up. Her arm extends with the pistol aimed to her right while she stares intently to her left. There was barely a flush of hair and no sound. Sheppard stares at her, God she is a weapon. Then every part of her body untenses, she lowers the weapon, and sighs.
“Clear,” she tells them.
With all due respect—or perhaps not, Sheppard still gives the silent cue to Ronon’s waiting eyes and, at the Satedan’s movement, his team stalk slowly up the hallway until they themselves come into view of the railed-perimeter area. Kenmore was right, it’s clear. They come out into the open with her.
This area is almost exactly the same as the areas below it. Except for a railway following the round perimeter, there is a great gapping maw in the middle of the area leading all the way down to a darkness that nothing seems to pierce, doors, and ceilings that extend…McKay looks up—Well apparently there was another difference here than the levels below. The texture of the walls was hiding it, tricking the eye to think the ceiling extended out of sight, but it doesn’t. About three stories above them the walls finish their curve upward and cap themselves off in a dome. The diffusion of light and the glitter of stark light are hiding it. He wonders if the same could be said about the maw at the center. McKay looks down at the darkness beyond the perimeter’s edge. Yep, it too is designed to look like it extends out of sight like the levels below it but really it just tricks the mind into thinking that when in fact it curves off and ends thirty feet down. Making this level an entirely closed-off environment all its own. Great, just great, maybe we can slide down into the bowl and blend into the dark when they come to get us. Even snakes have a barrel.
McKay looks around again. There’s a single door, closed, and unlike the others they’ve encountered so far, this one is not right ahead of them. It’s on the opposite wall and it’s so far off to the left that from the hallway’s narrow confines, they couldn’t have seen it till they were out here in the open like this. Rather spooky and convenient all at the same time. And the only other door is a little off to the right and again out of the direct view from the hallway. Actually, Rodney isn’t sure he would define it as a door anyway. It is door-shaped but the more he looks at it the more he sees the average-human height rectangle wave and shift and warble, bend and stretch, shrink, bulge. It never stops moving. Rodney walks up to the railing and put his hands on it, it feels familiar. It hits him almost immediately, it’s just like the ones in the outer levels of Atlantis. A top level T-bar with periodic flat rods that look like a flat strip of metal sandwiched between a lightly shorter and fatter strip of metal folded in half with lines of thick metal rope running in three equidistant lines between the rods bottoming in a four-inch tall toe-kick. Rodney looks over at the closed door, because the warbling one didn’t seem to have a frame, it was just it and watching its movements was starting to get a little seasick-making. The closed door’s frame is exactly like the ones in Atlantis except no side panel of crystals. It is so strange to see deco here with what they’d seen of this place so far. He looks back at the rest of his team.
“I think this place is Ancient. I think this part of this place is Ancient.”
Sheppard takes a step towards the railing, looking around too.
“Are you sure Rodney? I mean,” he gestures at the shifting door with his hand still holding his P-90, “I’ve never seen a warbly door in Atlantis or any other Ancient place we’ve come across.”
With a sigh, turning the pistol over in her hands, Kenmore slaps it against Sheppard’s stomach. Sheppard grudgingly takes it and with another sigh turns her back on the railing and the maw and flails her arms in frustration. All of that with the head and still no way out. The moment her right hand passes in front of the right-side wall, even though she’s steps away from it, a panel where and what would be equivalent to the panels next to the doors in Atlantis reveals itself. Kenmore jumps back with a yelp and stares at the panel. Rodney walks over, still maintaining a safe distance from both the panel and Kenmore, and holds up his lifesigns detector sets it to scan the panel. It’s just like the panel Kenmore had put her hand over to get a floor podium to display a map of Atlantis for her the first day she arrived in the city but this one has a crystalline grid behind it’s pretty white circular lines indicating where it wanted her hand to go. Kenmore takes a step towards it as McKay scans. It lights up with sounds that Teyla remembers the ghost of an Ancient woman wandering the halls of Atlantis speaking to her in when whales were trying to save the city from what Rodney had called a “mass coronal ejection.” Kenmore steps back and glances at the others. They keep silent but as soon as the Lieutenant’s attention returns to the panel, Teyla raises her eyebrows knowingly over at Sheppard. Kenmore steps closer, it sounds again, and she leans in and peers at the panel to see what the grid might be telling her. Suddenly a beam of Atlantean oceanic blue light shoots out of the center of the circle, causing the whole panel’s grid to light up the same color, scans her eyeball then retreats back into the circle. Kenmore straightens up, the panel continues to sound its strange warbling language, then the whole thing lights up red and the circle displays a short scrawl of Ancient language in its center. Rodney steps cautiously forward, angles his body a little to stay out of the little panel’s range and reads it.
He looks at the others. They stare back at him.
“Maybe I’m not the right sort of Ancient,” Kenmore wonders.
Without hesitation, McKay pushes the Lieutenant out of the way and steps into the panel’s range. It sounds, lights up, scans his eye, and lights up red again and displays the same thing it told Kenmore. He looks over at Sheppard. Although Sheppard doesn’t like it, the fact that constantly-scared-as-hell, freaked-out-by-anything-that-could-possibly-destroy-us-if-we-sneezed-wrong-around-it Rodney McKay didn’t think anything of letting this thing scan his eyeball, Sheppard figures maybe he can give it a try without too catastrophic a set of consequences thereafter. John walks forward and steps in front of the scanner, lets it do its thing, and it comes back with the same results it gave Kenmore and Rodney. John looks over at his teammate and shrugs, rising on his toes slightly and lowering.
“Well so much for your God’s gift to Atlantis gene,” McKay snips.
Sheppard was about to say something when…
“Or the IOA’s gift of a bioweapon gene,” Kenmore says.
Sheppard glances back at her, she’s still staring at the panel, before returning his gaze to his team. He saw the same sentiment he’s thinking aimed back at him: Well wasn’t that awkward.
“Miss Emmagan,” Kenmore suddenly pipes up, “come here.”
Teyla takes one look at Sheppard then politely walks over to Kenmore’s blindly beckoning hand and Sheppard gives her credit every step of the way. Either one of the guys of Teyla’s team would have had to think twice about killing the Lieutenant before going, maybe not Rodney right now. But if it had been Ronon Kenmore ordered like that, he would have shot her without thinking. After all, John’s noticed the extra time’s the weapons specialist’s been spending on their makeshift firing range back in Atlantis. John figures his big Satedan best friend has already relegated the combination of the urge to kill the Lieutenant and his physical capability to do the act to muscle memory. He’s just waiting for the chance whenever it may present itself to release the coil and let the spring do its thing.
“Yes,” the Athosian asks in a patient tone.
Kenmore, still staring intently at the panel as though she sees something just out of her eyesight’s range in its circle, points at the panel. Teyla peers at her for a moment, the Lieutenant is unflinching, then Teyla peers at the panel alongside of her. Suddenly the beam shoots out, scanning Teyla’s eye with startling swiftness before retreating again. The Athosian woman straightens up with a gasp. Apparently it’s one thing to see it happen to someone else, it’s another thing entirely to experience it yourself, John figures, judging by his friend’s reaction. The panel makes its sounds again, but this time they’re different, they’re saying something else. The rest of her team tense slightly, ready to come to her defense, but the panel remains blue with a single Ancient word in its middle and suddenly the closed door on the other side of the maw slides open. They all look back over at it. Sheppard’s stomach drops. Every fiber in his being tingles. He points.
“Is that,” he asks.
Through the doorway, they can see a brightly lit room with the same coloring and aesthetics as this area but so familiar it looks like home. There’s a small raised dais with just enough room for one person to stand around a large podium that’s top seems to bloom into a three pronged snowflake, just like Atlantis’ piers bloomed from the city’s center, and where Atlantis’ spire resided, in the center of the podium’s top stood a single lit, active vessel of glowing orange light, upside down by Rodney’s reckoning. Its tips’ jagged angles making it look even more like Atlantis’ central spire. Rodney nods and starts bolting around the perimeter towards the door…
“It’s a ZPM.”