The others waste no time following McKay, Kenmore bringing up the rear. Almost as soon as they’re in the room, they halt in a sporadic formation, gripping the new walkway’s rails. Their boots clang on the grated flooring of the railed walkway leading to the solid platform that consists of the room’s working area. Kenmore almost runs into half of Ronon’s back. The team has parted in their staggering halts and left a small narrow path between all of them down the middle of the walkway. Revealing an Ancient chair at the end of it in the middle of the work area.
Except it doesn’t look exactly like Atlantis’ operations chair or what had been Earth’s Antarctica chair before a Wraith dart’s kamikaze run had destroyed it last year. It is the same aesthetic design of those chairs, but it looks to be made out of the same gleaming, shiny metal as the walls and the floor of the platform. And rather than having the stained glass inlays that the other Ancient chairs had, this one has inlays of the same solid metal it seems to be made of. It looks like a chair frozen in polished, brushed steel. At the top, above the headrest, is a headset made of a simple metal band with four pinned clamps positioned at the compass directions of NE, NW, SE, and SW. On either side of the headrest, rigged to it by spider leg-like appendages that look like the bigger siblings of the ones that had pulled that head down onto that spike downstairs, is a collection of three really long needles, again like the bigger, and longer, siblings of the ones Keller stuck in your arm to take your blood or hook you up to an IV. The whole thing looks like something out of the Saw movies. And John Sheppard had never wanted to be in one of those movies…
He can’t help but say it, “Holy crap.”
The team and Kenmore walk slowly up the rest of the walkway. Their boots clanging even louder than they had before on the grating then moving into silence as they finally step foot on the solid platform. On the other side of the work area, towards its back corner and proportionately opposite the other ZPM, is another raised dais with a snowflake podium on top of it with another ZPM sitting upside down on the middle of its top. Well, if it didn’t rain, it poured, two ZPMs. John can’t help but ogle just a little before he continues looking around like the rest of his team, although he notices Rodney is pretty much ignoring everything else around them that isn’t roughly triangular in silhouette, glowing orange, and sitting upside-down atop a podium like an idol to be worshipped. And Rodney was certainly more than willing to worship.
A few feet in front of that left side podium is a table, like the Ancient medical beds in Atlantis’ infirmary only without the not really all that comfy padding, shining and gleaming, looking like it’s made out of the same metal as the chair. John falters at the sight of it, the last time they saw a medical bed anywhere near like the ones found in Atlantis in this place it didn’t have a good reason for it, until he notices that there’s no trace of blood on it or anything to indicate there was any place for blood to drain from it nor were there restraints or any signs that any had been there before and had just been removed over the years. Sheppard takes that as a good sign, certainly a different one. And a few feet in front of that, nestled in the front corner of this platform, is a small Ancient work desk with files, papers, and books on it and an Ancient-looking microscope. Now John certainly recognizes one of those regardless of its all-silvery metal material but he stares at it anyway, he didn’t remember seeing paper or real books or real files paired with anything Ancient in Atlantis when they’d first arrived in the city. Of course the place had been mass evac-ed in order to sink it, perhaps they simply took the real papery stuff with them. It’s what the Expedition does in Atlantis now when they feel the whole city needs to be evacuated too.
Rodney walks over to the ZPM on that side of the working area and starts scanning it with his lifesigns detector. Teyla trails a step behind him staring at the table, not believing her eyes. Sheppard right beside her. Ronon stops right in front of the chair, staring it down. Kenmore wanders over to the desk. She starts looking through the papers kind of lazily then she looks into the microscope and, after a few seconds, she refines its parameters.
“I do not want to meet the Ancients who reside here,” Teyla tells John.
“No, you don’t,” Kenmore speaks up from behind them.
Sheppard and Teyla look back at her. Kenmore steps away from the microscope.
“Look,” she gestures at it.
Sheppard steps forward, hesitates a moment to analyze whether or not this is going to be a stupid dangerous mistake, then looks into the microscope. He sees a little round thing, yellow in its outer ring and at its core is a dark circle, black. Other than that there’s nothing.
“And what am I supposed to be seeing here?”
“That’s a dead embryo.”
Sheppard’s head shoots back from the scope, he stares at her. What the hell? Didn’t they teach you something called warning back at the SGC?
“It was fertilized but got left in the dish and died. I was right. Not all the captured were used by the Asgard,” she picks up a batch of the papers lying easily on top of the rest of the desk, “The…pregnant women were sent here…to be experimented on by an Ancient. He used paper so the Asgard couldn’t gain any access whatsoever to what he was doing up here.”
“And what was he doing,” John asks, not entirely sure he wants to hear the answer she’d either come up with or discovered.
She hands him the papers, “He was experimenting on the fetuses inside of them and he would also extract the women’s eggs and fertilize them.”
“With what,” Sheppard asks, taking the papers; not that he could read them of course, not that he wanted too either, but Kenmore didn’t need to know that he couldn’t really read Ancient beyond what the jumper could tell him just yet.
John stares at the microscope, and he thought the ghoulish work with the spider legs and the severed head had been gross.
“Apparently it was all part of a genetics project called ‘Veritas’,” Kenmore continues, “it means ‘life’.”
“What life could be here,” Teyla begs to ask, disgusted.
Kenmore shakes her head.
“Yeah the Ancients always did have a sick sense of humor. Something tells me this lost it’s funny at concept—tion, sorry no pun intended,” Kenmore looks back at the rest of the papers still scattered across the top of the desk, Teyla stares at the microscope. Okay, John had had enough of this place, not that he wasn’t already fed up with the freakiness before this room. But bad guy Asgard are one thing, bad guy Ancients are another…
“Rodney, what’s the verdict on that ZPM? Can it get us home?”
“It isn’t just one.”
“Well I can see that, there’s one over there too,” John gestures towards it.
“There’s eight here.”
The rest of the team and Kenmore stare at the scientist.
“Eight,” John gapes at him.
McKay nods and begins, “Each one of these podiums is like the ZPM podium in Atlantis. Contained inside of them are three ZPMs, but unlike Atlantis, they have another ZPM on top. These things are putting out enough power to keep Atlantis in full operation with the shield up constantly and flying around between galaxies for at least, at least ten thousand years.”
“You mean it requires that much power to run this place,” John can’t imagine something, someplace, any place, requiring that much power.
“Not exactly,” Rodney says, “It requires that much energy to power this room.” He gestures around the room.
Their jaws drop as they look around the cavernous room again.
“What,” Teyla exclaims.
“This rest of the facility is being powered by Asgard resources, but this part is powered by the ZPMs exclusively. In fact, a predominate amount of their energy is being channeled into that chair.”
“How predominate,” Sheppard asks.
“Exactly ninety percent.”
They look at the chair.
“All of that,” Sheppard gestures at the chair, “for that? But our chair doesn’t require nearly that much? I mean we had a MACH II generator powering it at one time. We only needed the ZPM to power the shield, not the chair.” What sort of weaponry did this thing release? And worst yet, considering what the Asgard are using this place for, who are those weapons pointed at?
Rodney nods, “I haven’t got a clue what this thing does, but whatever it does, it doesn’t do anything like what our chair does.”
Sheppard feels individual goose bumps raise the hairs on his arms. Usually whatever Rodney doesn’t know can get them all killed.
“Do you need more time to figure it out,” Sheppard asks.
“You could ask,” Ronon interrupts.
The rest of his team and Kenmore look up at him. The Satedan is pointing with his gun at an open doorway across from them so seamlessly finished it blends in with the wall so that only the shine on the more textured metal betrays its presence. They tense up, like Teyla said they didn’t want to meet the Ancient that could live here and that was before they discovered what he was doing up here. Kenmore cautiously walks behind Ronon to the other side of the chair and steps closer to the door. Ronon doesn’t stop her, doesn’t even try; he steps back closer to his team. If any of them were going to get attacked by anything that suddenly came out of that door, he wanted it to get Kenmore first. He’ll protect his team.
“Hello,” she calls out, “is someone there?”
There’s no answer. She looks back at the team. Neither of them know what to do.
Kenmore suddenly looks back at the door for the source of the surprisingly feminine voice and ends up looking down at the tiny Asgard figure wearing a wig of human, shoulder length, strawberry-blonde hair lopsidedly on its head. Kenmore stares at it. Okay that is new.
“Do you have an appointment,” the Asgard asks them in its decidedly female voice.
The Asgard stares at the Lieutenant, blinking. Kenmore doesn’t know exactly how to approach the situation, Asgard didn’t usually look like that let alone sound like they had a distinct gender specification like that. Kenmore glances back at Sheppard. Sheppard meets her eyes and she reads the same thing she already knew was in her own, so, Kenmore looks back at the Asgard. She tries what’s usually the best thing in these sorts or situations. She takes a casual, bouncy step towards the Asgard…
“Uh, hi, my name is—“
“Did you schedule an appointment,” the Asgard calmly asks again in its feminized voice.
“Did…you…schedule…an…appointment,” the Asgard repeats slowly like it thought Kenmore perhaps had not understood what it had said.
Kenmore looks back at Sheppard again. His eyes tell her to keep going, but frankly with what, she didn’t know. She looks back at the Asgard.
“Um, no, we didn’t schedule an appointment,” she answers.
“If you didn’t schedule an appointment, I’ll have to check and see if the doctor can fit you in today.”
Doctor? Oh that is bad. Nobody said anything about the Ancient still being around. Rodney didn’t say the Ancient is still here. As John looks on, the Asgard walks over to the ZPM podium behind it and starts working as though it’s accessing a computer but nothing’s happening. There isn’t even any signs of a computer console of any sort underneath its small, lithesome fingertips. Kenmore looks back at Sheppard’s team. They look to McKay. He already has his detector up, scanning what the Asgard is doing. Sheppard leans over to him.
“What is it doing,” John whispers.
“Nothing, it’s faking it,” Rodney whispers back, “There’s no computer there.”
Sheppard straightens back up and, still tense and more than a little freaked by the prospect of maybe running into the Ancient, nods at Kenmore, she returns her attention to the crazy Asgard calling up a computerized day planner out of its imagination. After a few moments, the Asgard turns to Kenmore.
“You’re very lucky,” it chirps happily in its feminized voice like a deranged ‘50s Betty Crocker housewife, “He can just fit you in now. Please, sit down.”
The Asgard gestures at the chair. Kenmore glances at it. There is no frickin’ way in of or out of Hell I am sitting in that thing.
“Um, no, thank you,” she answers politely instead.
The Asgard suddenly lunges at Kenmore, jutting one of its bony hands at the chair, and roars with a sharp ferocity that none of them had ever heard come out of such a peaceful race as the Asgard before, frankly none of them thought any of the Asgard could produce such a voice…
Kenmore jumps back from the psychotically, super-aggressive Asgard, trips over the chair’s jutting footrest and falls into it. Suddenly a teal-colored force field activates all the way across the platform separating the team and that desk and ‘examination’ area from Kenmore. Clamps come out of the chair’s footrest and pin down Kenmore’s ankles. Sheppard starts.
The scientist is already taking out his computer tablet.
“I’m working on it.”
Kenmore reaches down and tries to pry the clamps off of her ankles. Her fingertips start to dig successfully underneath the cold and, of course, smooth metal of the clamps and between it and the rugged, worn leather of her combat boots. The crazy Asgard looks on as it calmly reaches out to its ZPM podium and presses down on what on Altantis’ ZPM podium was simply an ornate geometric shape. The chair suddenly tilts back into its deep awkward reclining position. The movement suddenly tosses Kenmore back against the rest of the chair. The chair’s headband clamps down around her forehead. Kenmore reaches up frantically, “No. No.”
Oh dear God, Sheppard slams his fist against the force field as Ronon looks for a way to bring down the thing from either the floor or the railings, as Teyla and Rodney rush over to the desk to see if it has any mechanism that might help.
“Rodney,” Sheppard shouts again.
“I’m trying,” the scientist snaps back while frantically searching the desk for at least anyplace to plug in his computer.
Suddenly the Asgard puts a cold, clammy hand over Kenmore’s wrist and leans over her. The lieutenant freezes and stares at the alien. They all do. John watches intently.
“I’m Doctor Apotherias and I’m going to give you an examination you’ll never forget,” it says in that sweet, calm Betty Crocker tone of voice again. Stepford Wives.
Kenmore’s eyes go wide and she starts screaming.
She starts trying to rip the headband off.
The Asgard calmly heads back for its door. As it passes back by the ZPM podium, it reaches out and presses what was presumably just another geometric decoration. Suddenly the ZPMs of both podiums start powering up with a sound like the meanest table saw ever heard revving up fast to cut through God-knows-what. The team stares at the ZPM podium on their side, just out of reach on the other side of the force field.
“Rodney what’s going on,” Sheppard snaps.
“All the ZPMs are coming online.”
“Why? What are they going to do?”
The mean looking spider legs suddenly stab their needles into Kenmore’s head with a sickening clean pop of pierced skull. Kenmore screams in a way John honestly believed no one not even a Wraith deserved to scream like. Her grip on the band is fierce. She’s straining. Sweating. Tears are streaming down her cheeks from her squeezed shut eyes. And suddenly Rodney’s voice sounds behind John, quiet and horrified…
The ZPMs’ glows brighten and the chair suddenly electrifies. Its inlayed paneling changes from metal to glow a bright lavender purple. Lavender sparks and lightning ripple over and through the spider legs and into Kenmore’s skull. And John thought her agonized screams couldn’t get any worse. Even Ronon starts slamming his fists into the field, trying to overload it and get at her. After eight seconds, it’s over. The ZPMs rev down, the legs snap their needles out of Kenmore’s head, the headband releases her skull, the footrest clamps retract, and the chair shifts back into its regular upright position, pitching Kenmore out of it. She stumbles to stay up on her feet instead of crashing to the floor then starts staggering down the grated walkway leading out of the room, disoriented and trying like hell to get away. Sheppard watches her struggling and he itches to run through the field and help her.
“Rodney, tell me you’ve got something.”
“Look I’m trying, okay, I’m trying.”
Sheppard watches Kenmore stagger then stumble, slamming her shoulder brutally into the left side of the doorframe. He winces with her. Then she slides across the inside of the frame, slips onto its outside wall, and out of the room. John moves his fingers around in his clenched fist. He can’t help her—Dammit—he can’t help her.
Kenmore staggers, stumbles. Her legs feel like jelly. Her vision is distorted. It keeps warbling like someone is taking her eyeballs and stretching and pulling their sight like it’s flubber. And there’s bright lavender at the edges. Her lungs feel like they’re being squeezed to death. She gulps air, trying to get them to refill, but it’s not working. Kenmore reaches out ahead of her to try and keep herself from doing too much damage to herself. It’s odd how well her mind is working despite what just happened. Hard as it is to get her body to move properly, she keeps trying to get away as fast as she can. If she could draw that crazy Asgard after her, it might give the others a chance to get the hell away and not be subjected to that thing.
When John didn’t think he could take it anymore and was about to grab Rodney by the collar and start screaming in his face to get a fu**ing move on, the field suddenly deactivates with the same flare it had activated with. Ronon charges out first without hesitation, John’s a heartbeat’s lag behind him, then Teyla, and Rodney quickly unplugs his computer and brings up the rear.
“Good job, Rodney,” John calls back.
“It wasn’t me. It shut down automatically.”
John really didn’t care who did it as he ran out of the room.
They can see Kenmore further down the perimeter walkway near that warbly door, staggering with her arms out in front of her like Frankenstein’s monster. They all bolt for her, Ronon easily outpacing the others. Sheppard calls out…
Ronon catches up with her as she was trying to turn around and she almost staggers into the railing. John could only imagine that fall and immediately wishes he hadn’t yelled after her. Ronon reaches out and touches her hand as she tries to continue to turn around to face the rest of them coming after her. Even though the Satedan hates the girl, his concern is gentle and touching the same way he had consoled Rodney’s sister when they thought that their friend was dying of an organism embedded and growing in his brain and putting him through something like Alzheimer’s. John wishes she looks like Rodney had then. Her eyes are wide and her blinking is exaggerated like there’s something wrong with her sight and she’s gulping for air like a fish suffocating on land. God he hopes she doesn’t start going into convulsions. Instead she catches her boots on each other, suddenly losing her balance in mid-turn. She stumbles back. John’s eyes go wide…No…And she falls through the warbly door. Ronon reaches out for her, tries to follow her. John calls her name again…like that could bring her back.