The hallway’s windowless but familiar looking architecturally speaking. It’s the same design as the more water damaged lower levels of Atlantis’ piers are. That’s good, works in their favor. Sheppard and Kenmore keep their P-90s up and aimed, the shiny gold of the new metal latch that’s been made for his weapon catching his eye for a moment. He wonders if that’s going to be a distraction from now on or not. It’s pretty to be sure and he’s really honored that let alone did the villagers make him a new latch, but that they’ve done it out of solid gold, the real stuff, the real good quality stuff. It’s, it’s—well it’s shiny. Really shiny.
They’re walking a quicker pace than John would like, but they’re still managing to keep a good eye out around themselves regardless. Their boots aren’t sounding too loud on the matte-finished cement gray floor. He isn’t sure why he thought they wouldn’t be able to keep their steps quiet and their eyes keen considering that the hallway doesn’t have any other doors than the one they’d entered through. It really is like the Janus hallway in Atlantis. All they have to do is follow the hallway’s lead, that’s it.
And that’s bad on so many levels from so many past experiences. Especially Rodney and Jackson discovering the hallway’s secret in the first place. Usually in predicaments like this the only choice you’re given leads straight into a trap, that’s why you’re being corralled. Forced to go the one ‘perfect’ way. That’s why John wanted a slower pace than this even though it’s not like they’re racing down the hallway. But still, he keeps wanting to go over to a set of the sconces, tap on them, and race to the end of the hallway into the wall to see if it’ll let him run through it into a hidden room. Another thought keeps occurring to him too, he hopes there isn’t something on the other side of the wall panels that might be able to do the same thing on its side and come through the walls and attack them.
They keep following the hallway for all its turns and bends. Another thought nags him, he hopes there aren’t bad guy Asgard here too. That’s all they need.
Elsewhere in the mountain’s Ancient facility, the others are doing the same. Rodney gabbing the entire time and desperately holding on to his detector the way he had in Michael’s underground facility where the mad scientist Wraith hybrid had killed the Taranans. Daniel meanwhile takes his cues from Teyla’s lead, her eyes search the walls for any indications of upcoming areas, both hidden and otherwise, like she’s used to seeing in the same sort of hallway back in Atlantis.
Heading towards another right turn at the end of their hallway, Sheppard and Kenmore see an extremely tall shadow suddenly fill up the end of the hallway. They stop and break to the side walls opposite each other. Covering both flanks. At first they think it’s a Fomorian, a left behind guard, but the shadow quickly proves way too tall. It fills the hallway from floor to ceiling in less than a heartbeat. No Fomorian they’ve seen so far is anywhere near that big. At second thought, it might be their own shadows fusing into one. But why would that happen now when it hasn’t happen before in the hallway? The light hasn’t changed any. And why would their unified shadow still be moving, still be getting larger like that when they’ve stopped moving? And the third thought is always the unknown.
They aim down the hallway. Prepared to fire. A tendril of black smoke-like something curls around the hallway corner like an octopus tentacle reaching out of its hiding hole. Sheppard stares. Of all the things, he hadn’t expected this. Oh no…
Another tendril curls around the corner then another. Looking even more like an octopus coming out of its den as more and more of a large black cloud fills up the end of the hallway, coming around the corner. Holy crap, Sheppard rushes into the middle of the hallway. Providing a line of defense.
“Kenmore. Kenmore, get behind me. We have to go back.”
The Lieutenant stays where she is, watching.
More of the energy creature comes around the corner. Sheppard knows what happens to you if one of these things gets to you. He remembers what had happened to Lieutenant Aiden Ford, the original fourth member of his team. The dark entity hadn’t killed the young man, but it had made a good try at it. The damage it did to him made it like Ford got hit by lightning. Even though technician Peter Grodin and Elizabeth had thought at the time that the creature was going after one of the naquadah power generators they were using at the time and Ford had the simple misfortune to get trapped in its way, John always believed the thing had simply gotten pissed at them for making it go in circles chasing after generator after generator because every time it got near one, Peter shut the generator down and forced the entity to move on to another greater power source to feed on. He still thinks the reason it trapped Ford and another marine in that hallway was to specifically show them all, it had to have known sentient as it was that they were watching it with the city’s internal sensors, that if they kept jerking it around, it was going to go after humans despite the fact that the generators had more power for it to absorb than the electrical charge generated by the human body. Attacking Ford was its way of telling them that their shell game with it wasn’t going to attract its attention elsewhere anymore. Now John knows there’s no other power source in this hallway and—wait, why aren’t the lights reacting to it? When the energy creature had passed through a hallway back in Atlantis, the lights either flickered or went out completely because the creature was feeding on their minimal energy outputs as it went after bigger and better power sources. Shouldn’t this thing be feeding on the lights’ energy here too? There’s plenty of it—What the…?
Sheppard peers at the energy creature as more of it fills up the hallway. He starts seeing something substantial. Something more than just a black energy cloud. Something with scales. Black scales. Then some sort of large emerald green disc, gleaming like a… there’s another much smaller disc inside of it. That one’s light grey like marble or granite, with another slightly smaller gold disc inside of that and a dot of red inside that one with another smaller dot of white inside of the red one. It takes John a moment to put all the colors he’s seeing together. An eye. It has eyes. Well, an eye. And atop the creature like a crest of hair are white tendrils of the thing’s smoke-like body. White energy.
“What the hell,” he whispers, not believing his eyes.
The creature completely fills up the end of the hallway plus a few feet in their direction. Kenmore suddenly rushes to Sheppard and wraps her arms around him. The embrace reminds him of when he caught Larrin when she was still tipsy on her feet from having her life returned to her by a Wraith. But this is different. It’s closer. Tighter. More life and death than relief at getting life stolen back from the brink of death. And her arms aren’t under his, they’re around his biceps. And she isn’t facing him, she’s looking over at the creature. Fear. He can feel it in her. She’s afraid of this thing.
“You know what it is,” he asks her.
“Don’t move,” she whispers at him, her voice wavering slightly. He feels a slight tremor shiver throughout her body like a wave that surges then quickly dissipates.
“Don’t move. Just please don’t move.”
They remain still as the creature approaches. One of its black tendrils comes off the wall, unfurling and reaching out to them. A creeping octopus limb lulling prey.
Kenmore swallows hard against his chest. Her tremor comes back and doesn’t go away. Her mouth’s gaped enough that let alone can he feel her equally quavering breath against his chin, he can hear it. Then Kenmore starts reaching out towards the energy creature.
“Don’t,” he hisses.
She doesn’t stop extending her arm. Against his better judgment, John drops his P-90 and wraps one arm around her waist and cautiously lifts his other to try and catch her reaching arm…
“Don’t. Let me.”
“What,” he can’t believe he’s hearing this and reconsiders whether or not he should have asked ‘Are you crazy?!’ instead.
She shushes him and fully extends her arm out to the creature. Its approaching tendril suddenly stops. Pausing, perhaps it’s thinking over that Kenmore’s seems to have made the first move. But Rodney said that these things don’t think on the same level as humans do. Even if Teyla proved that one of them had enough intelligence to not want to be in Atlantis anymore after being trapped there for over ten thousand years, Rodney said that trying to reason with it would be like trying to reason with a shark. They may be really intelligent, but all they really do is eat… Come to think of it, that’s all Rodney really does either. So maybe these things do think on the same level as humans. Or at least Rodney’s level. Suddenly the tendril snaps out at Kenmore’s hand. The viper striking.
There’s a flash of blinding white light when the tendril comes into contact with Kenmore’s hand. Nothing happens to her, but the flash of light apparently hurts the creature like hell. It screams the same way the wampa did when Luke Skywalker cut off its arm. A deep, penetrating, baying howl overlapped by a shrill shrieking like a frightened baby screaming it’s lungs out. Graaah! Deafening. The shadow creature rushes back the way it came. The octopus sucking itself back into its lair. It disappears as though it’d never appeared in the first place. Kenmore and Sheppard stay embraced, staring at the end of the hallway, still freaked out by…
“What the hell was that,” he breaths. It definitely wasn’t what he thought it was. Or is it the fully grown adult version of what he thought it was. Had they dealt with a child back in their first year in Atlantis?
“Crom-Crúach the Worm God. The Demon God of Death. Balor’s backup,” she answers breathlessly.
“Does that mean this Balor guy’s still alive?”
“I don’t know.”
Kenmore and Sheppard allow themselves a ten-count and a lot of hoping the Evil Eye entity is really gone before they come out of their embrace. Silently the two soldiers retake up their P-90s, finding comfort in the feel of the weapons in their hands even if they would prove completely useless against the thing just like they had with that first year creature.
What Sheppard and Kenmore don’t know, due to the shielding’s interference blocking any radio contact, is that the rest of the creature had come down the other two hallways towards the other members of their mission group.
Like with the Colonel and Lieutenant, the height of what they thought was an approaching enemy halted the others in their tracks. Then the black creeping tendrils folded over their hallway’s corners too. Rodney and Teyla recognized immediately the first signs of the black energy creature that Sheppard remembered oh so well too.
“Fall back,” Rodney and Teyla ordered harshly. Simultaneously.
“Quickly,” Teyla added.
“What,” Ronon asked McKay. Confused. While Daniel hadn’t hesitated to do as ordered by the more experienced in this galaxy teammate he’s paired with.
“Get back as quickly as possible,” Rodney re-ordered, backing up.
More of the creature came around the corner. Filling up the end of their hallways and starting to overflow towards them. But unlike with Sheppard and Kenmore, neither Rodney and Ronon nor Teyla and Daniel see anything indicating that the creature had a face of any sort. All they saw were the black tendrils of its body. It’s considerable, considerable body. Rodney and Teyla retreated their duos to the back wall of the corner they had taken in leading their companions to this point, but stop.
“It will do us no good to fall back any farther,” Teyla told Daniel, focusing her P-90 on the dark cloud in front of her for all the good it will not do them.
“No matter how far back we go, it will follow us and we don’t have any doorways to try and put between it and us,” Rodney braced with his back against the wall, not bothering to raise his weapon. But Ronon isn’t someone who can just lay down his arms so easily in the face of an opponent, no matter what opponent.
“So what do we do,” Ronon and Daniel asked.
The creature came as close to them as it had dared to to Sheppard and Kenmore. When it’s reaching out to Kenmore backfired, its body had screamed as well. The terrible screeching forced Rodney to wince, cover his ears. Teyla and Daniel slammed their backs against the wall behind them and braced to open fire, but as the creature retreated from Kenmore and Sheppard, its body retreated from the other hallways as well. Much to the shock and fear of the remaining mission members.
“What was that,” Ronon asked and Rodney had no answers for him. For several long moments, Teyla and Daniel do not move.
Kenmore and Sheppard, like their other mission members, eventually slowly and cautiously stalk up to the end of the hallway they’re in. They look around the corner. Nothing’s there. Sheppard gestures forward and he and Kenmore move around the corner, maintaining their guard of either side of the hallway. The others do as well.
* * *
It’s maybe another half hour of stalking down more long, winding, empty, windowless hallway before they come to a door. Finally. The only door they’ve met since stepping through one to get into the hallway in the first place. And thinking of that first door, this one is the first door they’ve come to that actually looks like a door. A real door, like the ones they have in Atlantis, not a hidden door disguised as just another piece of wall paneling.
Sheppard and Kenmore hang back for a moment. The Lieutenant’s thinking being what if Crom-Crúach had crawled into the hallway from there or retreated from the hallway through there, either way this isn’t good; Sheppard’s thinking being that the wall has no crystal slat sensor panel next to it to swipe their hand over which means that the door opens via sensors that detect a person’s presence standing in front of them, which also means that as soon as they walk up to the door, it’ll open and the two of them will be screwed by the energy creature waiting just behind the door for them. The thing could have slithered back here and still be here for all he knows. Hiding… But it’s the only door they’ve come to…But the entity is still running, well slithering or whatever it does, around here somewhere… But it is the only door they’ve encountered so far. Damn, he hates having to hedge his bets like this. Why is there never any other options—Then another option occurs to him.
“Back there,” he whispers over to Kenmore from his position right up against the left side wall, “why couldn’t it touch you?”
Kenmore doesn’t answer. Sheppard looks over at her. Her eyes aren’t focused on the door. They’re distant. She’s remembering something.
“Kenmore,” he whispers, trying to draw her back to the present.
A smile, faint and happy but he can see that one of its corners is downturned with some sort of sadness. He recognizes that sadness. He’d felt it, looked it when he’d looked down at his father’s closed casket. So many unresolved issues that would go on being unresolved… Loss. She’s remembering some sort of loss. A considerable one if John’s own loss of time with his father is anything to go by.
“It’s something my mother used to tell me,” she finally says, “something she’d learned from her grandmother. My great-grandmother. The one from Ireland.”
Unresolved parental issues, John knew it. She looks over at him from her position against the right side wall, “What the light has laid claim to, the darkness cannot touch.”
John starts nodding… and keeps nodding. That’s actually good to know. Something useful.
“So what does that mean exactly,” he presses.
Her unresolved-issues-smile turns rueful, she gives a mirthless laugh, “It’s in my blood.”
Ahh, “I bet you’re getting tired of that? The whole half-human, half-Ancient, Project Veritas stuff being brought up all the time.”
“Actually, this isn’t pissing me off. Or hurting quite as bad.”
His brows furrow at her.
“I’ve been raised with this knowledge of my bloodline all my life. I am a proud Tuatha Dé Danann. My mother’s people, my people, are good. We are benevolent. We have always pledged our swords to the land, to the people first and a tyrant with a pretty little headpiece sitting on a cushy big ass chair second. It is something that has been passed down from one generation to the next: ‘If ever the people should need us, we will answer their call.’ If ever the land should need us, we will answer her call. I have never been ashamed of that in my blood. Ever.”
She speaks so passionately even when whispering to him that he kind of feels he’d follow her lead anywhere. Passion has always been an attention-getter to him. It’s hard for him to turn away from. To ignore. John looks back at the door at the far end of the hallway, and in this case it’s a big help too. He hopes it means that she’ll back off the recklessness a little.
“It’s my Dad’s blood that I’d rather not acknowledge,” she grumbles.
He looks over at her again.
Her eyes remain on the distant door, “But it’s a little hard to do that considering he was the Hispanic one and I’m not porcelain, day-glo, could use my body for headlights white like my Mom was.”
Sheppard smiles and returns his eyes to the door. Daddy issues too. Great. Gees, they make the perfect couple… uh, wait, he doesn’t mean it like that.
For his own comfort and distraction, he reshifts the butt of his P-90 to snuggle closer into his shoulder joint. Works his mouth a little.
“We approach the door together, okay? Whatever’s behind it might not be able to take the both of us out at once and if it’s that Crom thing, he can’t touch you so if he’s there, I’ll dive behind you and you take the lead.”
She nods, “Guinea pig time.”
He glances at her, there was no call for that, then he refocuses on the door and starts moving. Kenmore twinning him.