Kenmore, a little ahead of Teyla, runs around a corner of the hallway, she’s further into the city with the help of a transporter, and suddenly skids to a halt. Teyla ends up a few steps ahead of her before Teyla herself comes to a stop, realizing that Kenmore has. She looks back at the Lieutenant. Kenmore’s eyes are wide and suspicious, looking from side to side as though she’s searching the walls for something. Does she see whatever it was again? Teyla’s eyes look around as well. There is nothing suspicious here. Nothing to draw attention. They are just in a hallway a few steps from being in front of the room with the holographic program of a woman that the Ancients had used as an instructional device for children. Around the other end of the curving hallway comes Sheppard with Doctor Radek Zelenka and another soldier. The men pause. Teyla looks at them, she has no idea what is going on.
“Did you see it,” Sheppard asks her urgently.
“See what,” Teyla repeats to him.
Kenmore takes slow cautious steps forward past Teyla, eyeing the wall to her right. Ronon Dex comes hobbling up to Teyla from the same direction both Kenmore and she have just come from with Jennifer and a couple of nurses chasing after him. Teyla looks back at her injured friend.
“What is it? Who’s here,” the Satedan demands.
But Teyla’s expression makes it clear she’s at a loss for both words and insight.
Then Rodney comes up behind John and Zelenka with Lorne and Woolsey.
“Did you see that,” Rodney exclaims, “It was like some sort of spatial distortion then it was just gone.”
Lieutenant Kenmore stops just in front of the door to the holographic room. She’s staring at it. Then slowly turns her body towards it.
Suddenly the door swings open. Faster. More out of control than anything Teyla has ever seen before in the city. The distortion is there for all to see just inside the room. Kenmore unexpectedly slams back against the floor like her feet have been abruptly yanked out from underneath her. She yelps. The distortion quickly begins sucking her in.
“Urs,” Lorne yells and dives for his friend’s hands.
He hits the ground latching onto her forearms, she latches onto his. Then it’s like the distortion is pissed off it might be losing its meal. It sucks Kenmore in faster. Dragging Lorne with her. Sheppard dives and catches Lorne’s ankles just as Kenmore disappears into the distortion and Lorne’s head disappears. Teyla braces back. It would do no one any good if she fell to the came trick this, this thing is deploying by luring friends in to save other friends. There must be another way…The monster’s appetite, at John’s attachment, hits overdrive and before Teyla can even think to dive for her friend and team leader or figure something other help out, he’s sucked whole into the distortion as well with Evan.
Ronon hobbles forward, trying to retrieve him. But Teyla puts a hand against his casted slung arm to stop him. Everyone is shocked. They’re all gone…So fast.
But the distortion is still here. An ominous floating whirlpool waiting for another unsuspecting ship of sailors to pass within reach of its warping vortex.
Rodney takes timid steps forward, careful to be as far away from the opened doorway as he can possibly get. His computer tablet in hand, staring down at the device. Working on it. Shocked by what it’s telling him.
“That’s amazing. Internal sensors indicate nothing’s there. No heat readings. No anomalous energy signature. No abnormal environmental readings. Not even any signs of stress of any sort on the city’s infrastructure.”
He comes to a stop as much against the opposite wall from the opened doorway as he can get without becoming a part of the wall. He looks over at Teyla.
“The city says there’s nothing there,” he tells her, floored. He gestures at the opened doorway, “Nothing.”
She looks over at their waiting intruder, what is that that it can hide in plain sight? The whirlpooling distortion flairs a little as if to threaten Teyla for her mere thoughts of it.
Abruptly Rodney’s feet are ripped out from underneath him. He holds on to his laptop. Trying to claw some sort of hold into the marble flooring as he slides across it with his other hand. It’s happening faster again. All of it.
This time Teyla does not hesitate, she reaches for Rodney. He sees it. Rolls onto his stomach, reaches for her too. But he’s being sucked into the distortion too fast. Teyla tries desperately to reach him, getting on her hands and knees, while still keeping herself out of the distortion’s apparent reach. Jennifer screams for Rodney, tries to dash for him herself, but Ronon is in her way. His fingers aren’t catching on anything. Rodney digs in his heels. His boots catch on the barely perceptible lip of the change in floor tile design on the threshold of the room. It’s Teyla’s chance. She stretches out for him.
Like it can sense its prey about to be snatched out of its grasp, the distortion yanks on Rodney. He’s flung up. Airborne by the power of the pull. The distortion sucks the rest of him away as he keeps reaching…
The door slams shut with a speed and a power that she feels its shuddering reverberations in the very bones of her palms and knees. The strength of it tells her she had no hope of pulling her friend away from whatever that thing was without being dragged away by it herself, just as John and Evan have been. But no hope has never stopped Teyla Emmagan before. She desperately scrambles up off the floor for the door, but it remains slammed shut in her face. She digs her fingernails, her very fingertips, into the seam of where the door’s edge meets the wall. Trying to pry the door back open. Ronon tries to rush forward to help her, but Jennifer and the nurses hold him back. The other soldier that had accompanied John and Radek comes up and tries to help her. But it is no use even with both of them. She looks over at Richard Woolsey and Radek for anything, any order the Expedition’s leader can give her, any information one of its top scientists can give her. But the men are silent. Dumbstruck.
Suddenly the door begins to swing open at its usual speed with its usual pneumatic hiss when it senses a presence before it. Teyla’s head immediately snaps to look over at it. The soldier beside her jumps away from it. Inside, the room is empty. No distortion. It looks as it always has. A peaceful waiting place for those who come seeking its kept knowledge. The door’s wall is exactly like the briefing room’s wall of fan doors except that the hologram room’s fan wall has only a single door, the center door panel of the fan, for a doorway. The rest of the room’s walls are again exactly like the briefing room’s and the floor is the same rust colored marble bisected by strips of silver forming random geometric shapes as the rest of Atlantis’ floors. There is a difference between the briefing room and this room. The very center of this room, surrounded by a four-foot wide perimeter border of flooring, is a twelve-sided, one step high, raised platform. And very much unlike anything else in Atlantis, the platform is made of silvery grey marble trimmed and bordered and bisected by two-inch wide strips of rust-colored marble, ornamenting the surface of the platform with a wheel and spokes design dividing the sides up evenly between the rust-colored marble ‘spokes’. Immediately adjacent to one of those sides, almost opposite the room’s sole door, is a podium computer console. The podium comes up midway of an average man’s chest and has its own polygon, step-high platform to support both it and its operator. The podium itself is a trapezoidal thing that’s made of the same textured copper as the wall’s trimmings and moldings are and it’s top is a crystalline, glassy touch surface, that when lit shows a beautiful Caribbean Ocean blue, teamed up with a few cog-shaped textured copper pieces for refining the hologram’s imaging and program settings. Stunned, Teyla looks back over at Richard and Radek. They still have nothing for her.
* * *
Dark. Black. Rodney falls back screaming, landing on the rock ground and something squishy that he really doesn’t want to know anything about just yet. He finally stops screaming though as soon as he realizes that his landing was nowhere near as harsh as he had expected it to be. His computer tablet slams harshly on the ground beside him. Rodney narrows he’s wide eyes back to their normal focus and size and looks around himself…and kind of wiggles his butt against the squishy part of his landing. What is that?
“That wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it was going to be,” he says out loud to himself.
“That’s because you landed on me,” Sheppard’s voice comes seemingly out of nowhere.
Rodney looks over to his left and sees Sheppard prone on his stomach with one of his legs leading underneath Rodney. And just beyond Sheppard is Lorne finally, apparently, pulling himself up off the jagged edged, dark reddish brown rock ground. Apparently Sheppard had landed on the Major. Ahead of Lorne is Kenmore, at the edge of what of their rocky landscape Rodney can see, getting herself up off the ground. She’d apparently landed stomach down too, but Rodney doesn’t think it looks like Lorne had landed on her though; it seems Rodney is the only one to have landed on his butt…And its pitch black all around them beyond the rock. Yet there’s oddly enough more than enough light for him to see around their rock landing zone.
“Now get your fat ass off my leg,” Sheppard adds, giving a mean but stifled kick under Rodney’s butt with his trapped leg.
“Fine, fine, fine,” McKay mutters.
He starts to heave himself up, freeing Sheppard’s leg which John quickly takes back underneath himself. As Sheppard pushes himself up on all-fours and Lorne manages to lift himself back to sit on his own heels, which Kenmore is doing too, Rodney sits up and finally notices the thin filthy dusting of dirt his tablet’s gotten from its hard landing. He picks it up disgustedly and irritatedly starts brushing it off. The machine’s not damaged, not even scratched, but it’s the point…
“My God. Would you look at this? There is a reason these things normally come with cans of air duster in their regular size.”
“I don’t think that’s our biggest problem McKay,” Lorne warns him, “Look.”
Rodney absently looks over and sees Lorne and Sheppard staring ahead of themselves with open mouths…and shock-and-awed eyes. For a moment, Rodney’s heart skips a beat. Is the anomaly back? He really doesn’t want to look behind him, but Lorne and Sheppard just can’t stop staring. Reluctantly, Rodney turns his head further…and his own jaw falls open.
Yards away from him is what looks like a massive grey-stoned Medieval castle complete with lowered wooden drawbridge over what looks like a moat—is that really a moat?—and a giant pair of closed wooden and iron fastened doors that come to a pointed arch at their top. It suddenly occurs to Rodney, this is what Camelot on Earth must have really looked like…Or was it Camelot on that one planet SG-1 went to? A far less refined outward appearance compared to that one the Ancients, well Merlin, had built on that other planet in the Milky Way. So probably no on the SG-1 Camelot. This one is so, so…primitive. So…humanized. So cobbled together at the last second looking compared to the fortress that the other Camelot had been described as and photographs Daniel Jackson had taken had confirmed about it. That’s it! This place is just the castle not the sort of fortified city that Camelot was supposed to be. It’s like someone had recreated a medieval village but only actually managed to get the main, ‘important’, part done before anybody got here. And where is here exactly?
“Does anyone have any clue what planet we’re on,” the theoretical astrophysicist asks.
“I don’t think we’re on a planet,” Kenmore suddenly pipes up.
The three men look back at her. Kenmore’s peering over the edge of their rocky landing pad. Lorne simply scoots over to her as the other men crawl over and the three of them look over the edge with her.
Below them, looking small and tiny, but each with their own exceptional light are not exactly stars spread out in the impenetrably thick oily blackness that surrounds them, but whole galaxies and random handfuls of what must have been enormous stars at one time before they literally ate themselves to death and formed spectacular nebulas that the Hubble Space Telescope took fantasy-making photos of. But it still sticks out to them how all of those unfathomably massive things look so tiny. It’s because they’re all so distant. All of those things must be incredibly far away. Exactly like the countless images of the Universe from the Hubble that Rodney had downloaded from the NASA website onto a flashdrive back on Earth for his computer in Atlantis. Then it dawns on him. No, they are definitely not on a planet. No, those things are definitely not far away from them. They are far from those things. He remembered that when Hubble had taken those photos, the telescope was actually reducing its magnification in order to take in the scope of the Universe…they’re taking in the scope of the Universe now. Sheppard, Rodney, Kenmore, and Lorne continue to stare down into the galaxy studded darkness beneath the rock oasis they’ve found themselves landed on. Oh God, Rodney knows where they’re at.
“What is that down there,” Sheppard asks, the tone of his voice definitely making it clear that he already knows the answer, he just doesn’t want to actually know it.
“The Universe,” Rodney tells him, not obliging the man with the courtesy of a lie, “We’re looking down at the Universe.” Holy crap.
Feeling his tablet in his hand, Rodney instantly consults his computer. But it won’t respond to his touch. Won’t work at all. McKay sits back on his heels.
“It’s dead,” he announces with an exasperated sigh. Of course it would be. Seriously the battery life on these things is totally impractical.
“You mean we’re stuck here,” Lorne stares at him.
“No, he means we’re stuck out here,” Sheppard points back at the big castle, “We could be stuck in there.”
The group looks at the megalith that looked like it was plucked from the 1100s. Instantly for two, what should have been three really, of them a flashback happens…
…standing at the precipice of the world’s biggest waterfall—well, at least this world’s biggest waterfall. Again Teyla walks close to the bone grey-white cobblestone platform’s edge and looks down over it, the spray gently misting her face. Rodney comes up beside her, getting sprayed too. He bet if it were summer, this would be nicely refreshing like getting spritzed by one of those little spray bottles with fans on the top of them. He looks up at the sky, so overcast with thick, definitely not cotton ball storm clouds it looks dark slate gray, and shivers, drawing the open collar of his black Atlantis field ops bomber-style uniform jacket closed tightly over his Adam’s apple. But today the spray is freezing cold, probably run off by some glacier somewhere. Although there had been no indications of mountains in the area, that didn’t mean anything necessarily. Scans from the Daedalus in orbit showed just a plateau-like landmass a fifth the size of Atlantis’ original homeworld’s landmass.
Rodney turns to look back at the rest of their group; he sees Sheppard and Kenmore standing at the opposite end of their rather prettily and au-natural-disguised Asgard beaming platform with Ronon standing exactly in between the two pairings of Rodney with Teyla and Sheppard with Kenmore, the very middle of the beaming platform. The Satedan eyeing the Lieutenant like he’s just waiting for her to make a move that would justify in anyway him putting a bolt from his big blaster pistol in the back of her skull. For Rodney’s part, as Sheppard’s, he’s taking his cue from Teyla, until she wants to kill Kenmore with her bare hands over all of this stuff about the Ancients and the Athosian, Teyla’s, people herself then he isn’t going to be bothered by the obnoxious Lieutenant or any of her repulsive discoveries.
Both Kenmore and Sheppard are staring up at, from what both the Daedalus’ sensors and the team’s handheld lifesigns detectors could report as, the only structure on the entire predominantly ocean-covered planet of Amna. Rodney abandons Teyla on the platform’s edge and walks past Ronon over to the Colonel and Lieutenant. He joins them in staring up at the place from Sheppard’s other side.
“Not what we expected, is it,” Rodney says.
“No,” Sheppard answers.
“According to other reports Zelenka’s managed to recover about this planet while we were en-route here, it being predominantly ocean results in huge storms like the one in the middle of our first year in Atlantis, you know, super hurricanes, occurring practically all the time. It isn’t so much that this planet has a winter, spring, summer, fall, so much as it has one perpetual hurricane season.”
“Is one of those hurricanes heading our way now,” Sheppard asks, looking up at the looming sky.
“No,” Rodney answers, “this is apparently one of Amna’s regular sized storms. But still,” Rodney looks up at the storm clouds then back down at the structure about thirty yards away, “we should probably get inside. Even if they are regular and nowhere near the intensity of it’s bigger storms, according to Zelenka, they can still get pretty nasty and a lot meaner than anything we’d consider ‘regular’ on Earth or Atlantis’ planet.”
A pause falls between the three Atlantis personnel continuing to eye the structure.
It’s typical Ancient architecture has all been bleached white by probably the millennia of severe storm winds stripping it bare and no one being here to repaint it…or put it back together. It’s weird to look at something that looks so similar to something they see every day only here it’s nowhere near the regular color, not even a pale version of the usual colors. And it’s falling apart. It wasn’t just that there aren’t any more windows in the place nor are there any doors left for that matter, and even then only about half of the doors that remain—if you could call that remaining— have remnants of their doorframes still standing, it’s that the barely there doorframes aren’t the only things that are barely there…
“Kinda makes ya’ think there’s more to what’s left of the Parthenon,” Rodney comments.
Sheppard and Kenmore just nod their heads…
…And Rodney wished he really hadn’t suggested going in there, not with what they went in there and saw. Not that it was anywhere near as bad as what they’d found at the desert planet’s structure, but still, it was one of those things that, frankly, made you wish you’d gone blind. Rodney looks over at Sheppard.
“You want us to go in there,” he exclaims, “Sure. Like there’s an energy source for this in there.” Or that there’s nothing in there we want to forget for the rest of our lives.
“I’m just saying that there might be some weapons in there we can use.”
“And did it escape you that whatever brought us here might be in there primed and waiting for us with those weapons?” Or recordings of that!
“Gee, I don’t know, Rodney, when was the last time you saw warped air wield an axe,” Sheppard mocks.
“Tales from the Crypt,” Rodney quickly bites back.
Sheppard stares at him for a moment then, “You made that up.”
Ignoring the children having their usual snark session, Kenmore, still looking down at the Universe splayed out beneath her, asks, “What is this place?”
“It’s the Void,” McKay answers way too confidently for comfort. Or belief.
She looks at him, “What void?”
McKay suddenly becomes sheepish, acting like he knows something but doesn’t want to say it.
“Rodney,” Sheppard warns, “what aren’t you telling us?”
“I remember being here,” the scientist confesses, “This is the Void. The Void I was in when I was dying from the effects of the Ascension machine.”
As he expected, the others freak out.
Sheppard, “Dammit Rodney.”
Kenmore, “You mean we’re Ascended?!”
Lorne, “You mean we’re dead?!”
“No, no…at least I don’t think so. Look, the last time I was here I don’t remember seeing that,” McKay points back at the castle, “And I certainly don’t remember any of this.” He indicates the whole rocky area.
Okay that is somewhat believable, John looks around them again and catches Kenmore eyeing the Universe again. But it’s the way she’s eyeing it.
“Kenmore,” Sheppard speaks to her low enough that the conversation is just between them.
Her head snaps to him.
“Don’t,” he warns her.
“You don’t have a son,” she just as quietly bites back at him, “If jumping out there gives me a chance to get back to him, I’m takin’ it.”
“‘If’,” he repeats to her, their eyes lock, “‘if’.” He grabs her arm to stop her from doing anything her own brand of quintessentially crazy that usually never proves to be stupid, but none of this is usual, and looks over at Rodney. “Rodney, are you saying there might be Ancients in there,” Sheppard, using his free hand, points at the castle again.
Rodney McKay looks at it again. This time he weighs the odds, “There’s a pretty good chance there might be. But like I said, I don’t remember this place being here the last time.”
John Sheppard looks back at the castle and as soon as he feels Kenmore fight his grip, he decides.
“We’re going in.”
Rodney sputters and Sheppard glares at him.
“We’re going in there,” he tells him sternly.
Sheppard feels Kenmore keep fighting him, getting more yanking about it. He looks over at her. She stops. They’re glaring at each other. “We are all going in there,” he orders.
She yanks her arm out of his grip.
John stands up and starts heading for the castle. After a moment, Rodney follows him. Lorne and Kenmore stand up and look at the edifice.
“That kinda looks suspiciously familiar, doesn’t it?”
“Mm-hmm, Avalon. Only the dark and dank version.”
Lorne nods, “So I think it’s the best bet that they’re not going to find the Ascended beings in there they want to find?
“These aren’t the droids you’re looking for,” Kenmore quips.
They exchange looks then Lorne starts after his commanding officer and his Expedition’s lead scientist. But he notices after only a few feet that he’s the only one doing so. Evan stops and looks back. Ursula is looking over the edge again.
“Urs,” he says her name quietly.
She looks over at him.
“We’ll get back to him,” he tells her, “I promise.”
She touches her stomach, the way an expecting mother singlehandedly covers her womb during moments of danger and fear for her unborn child…and looks back over the edge again. Evan waits her out. Her eyes search the Universe, her fingers pinching and fidgeting the black, cotton fabric over her stomach. Her breathing picks up, the movements not audible but definitely physical in the depth and speed with which her chest is rising and falling. Then she turns and walks to her friend’s side and they head after Sheppard and McKay.