Daniel keeps his P-90’s aim trained for anything trying to ambush them from down below as he takes steady deft steps down each stair of the spiral staircase as Teyla follows closely behind him, occasionally losing ground as she looks behind her while guarding their six, but she always quickly closes any gap that forms between them just as soon as her honing eyes made sure that nothing has followed them down here.
Daniel’s keen blue eyes keep searching the metal spiral staircase. It’s grating, only the first handful of steps had been composed of the computer room’s flooring then changed into metal grating. The black paneled walls are like those in the deepest sections of Atlantis’ piers, giving the idea of advanced elegance in their stark gloom. There are ovoid Ancient wall sconces dimly glowing on either side of them, barely illuminating their faces and the immediate area of the stairwell. He looks for anything again. Any symbols. Any more hidden seams. However his eyes are catching nothing. Absolutely nothing. Doctor Daniel Jackson feels the short stubbly hairs on the back of his neck prickle and not in the enticing, tingling way they do when Vala tickles them when she’s teasing him in the mess hall back at the SGC when either she didn’t care who might be looking at them or, at night, when they’re lying in bed together and she’s stroking them absentmindedly in her sleep; lovingly, gently, like he could feel every care she has for him in her fingertips, a sweet gesture that has often lulled him contentedly to sleep. No, this is creating a very different feeling. He’s being led, they are all being led somewhere. This isn’t like in the tunnel or the Lantean-like hallways that they’d traversed in order to get here. Although there, yes, they were being led, but Daniel had felt different about that. He’d felt like humans had traversed it before and then seeing Crom-Crúach, he knew humans had traversed it before. Yet, this… he feels undeniably that no human has traversed this passageway before, regardless of the fact that it is a tunnel sized perfectly for a human being of average height to be in. All he can sense around them, all he can feel up ahead are booby traps. He knows this sort of sixth sense well. You develop it quickly and season it equally as fast when you’re a key member of a flagship field team of the Stargate Program; if you don’t, you die. They weren’t meant to come down here. Well, at least not all of them. He can’t shake the suspicion that somehow they’ve made a very grave mistake in coming along with Urs. She was meant to do this alone, Lugh had.
After a handful of minutes further, Daniel’s combat booted-foot steps off of the loudly clanging, metal grating and onto soft, muffling sod. He freezes and looks down. He tests his foot again, not daring to take the other off the grating quite yet. Yep, grass-covered dirt. The walls still stand and their appearance hasn’t changed. He brings his other foot down on the turf.
“Well this is certainly different,” he comments.
Teyla looks down as well before stepping down off the grating a step behind him. Daniel looks at her. Her brows are furrowed, knitting. Suddenly Daniel remembers a scene from Teal’c’s favorite movie trilogy…
Daniel shifts his weight rapidly from foot to foot. Testing again, but for something else. Well the ground’s not squishy. He pops off a single deafening-crack shot and the dirt spits up fresh dark earth and small chunks of grass blades with their roots still attached. Teyla stares at him, wide-eyed, skin tight over her cheekbones. Shocked at what he’s done. He looks up at her.
“Just checking for mynocks,” he answers her expression, “And making sure we haven’t landed in a giant space slug.”
She still stares at him… then finally replies, “Your world has some very strange customs.”
“Actually it’s not our world,” he looks back up their grassy path. He can’t see the end. From his vantage point, it looks like endless grass-floored tunnel with polished black stone for a ceiling like with the spiral stairwell, “it’s our movies.”
“Is there a difference,” she asks as he walks a few more steps forward, walking the path.
He pauses then turns his head towards her, “Actually no, now that you mention it, I really don’t think there is.”
She nods, he turns back, and they continue walking.
The glow of the lifesigns detector is starting to freak him out.
“Can’t you dim that thing,” Ronon growls, looking behind them, then in front of them.
“Yes, in fact I can.”
He looks at McKay, he hadn’t actually thought Rodney could. He’d been thinking that it would be nice if Rodney turned the ‘useless thing’ off.
“And I can also get it to play music too. What would you like to hear? Rap? Rock n’ roll? Some nice light jazz courtesy of Ella Fitzgerald?” Rodney mocks.
Ronon rolls his eyes and goes back to covering their backs and their fronts, “Just turn the stupid thing off, McKay.”
“I’d love to… but I can’t.”
“I can’t turn it off anymore. It won’t obey me.”
“So we’re just supposed to go through this tunnel with a light on? Like we aren’t big enough targets already?”
“I’m not doing it intentionally.”
“Are you sure this isn’t a nightlight thing?”
Rodney turns and looks back at him.
“You’ve been talking to Sheppard, haven’t you,” the scientist turns back to the front and keeps walking, hoping that this grass lawn isn’t going to turn into boot sucking mud when they aren’t looking. That would be all they needed. “And no, I’m not using it as a nightlight.”
Ronon smiles, “Really? And it wasn’t Sheppard, it was your sister when we first met her in the mess hall.”
Rodney’s jaw drops. “She, she, sh-sh-sh…,” he sputters but words fail him as his eyes bug out of his skull.
Ronon keeps grinning as he passes Rodney and retakes the lead. As he past the scientist, his eyes intentionally dropped down to notice the lifesigns detector’s screen’s map showing only energy signatures. The wall sconces barely show up, their signals staticky and easily flickering on and off. The Ancient device isn’t actually showing lifesigns at all, but it is handy to know that that energy creature doesn’t appear to be up ahead of them. Maybe later, but not for at least the next hundred yards. And the least McKay could have done was say so.
“I did not use a nightlight!” McKay’s voice is so sudden behind him that Ronon jumps. It’s loud too, echoing in the tunnel. The dirt and grass must have muffled his obviously quick approach behind the Satedan in order to catch up with him.
Ronon resumes the lead with Rodney biting at his heels.
“Yeah,” Ronon grins again, “you’re right.”
Rodney losses some of his fluster.
“She said it was something called a lava lamp.”
“No it wasn’t,” Rodney denies.
“It was not.”
Ronon thinks about it a moment, “Uh… no.”
Rodney grumbles at the ground in front of his feet as he continues following closely behind Ronon, “Damn it Jeannie, I’m gonna punch her the next time I see her.”
Ronon glances at him, “You wouldn’t.”
Rodney looks at him, “Hey, it’s not like I haven’t hit her before.”
Oh he’s not buying that for a second, Ronon Dex stops and looks at the man, “Really McKay? You’ve hit your little sister before?”
That’s what Ronon thought. The Satedan turns away from him.
“I said ‘punch’. I was very specific on that.”
Ronon re-turns around to face the scientist with a confused expression on his face, “You punched Jeannie?”
“Well, it wasn’t punched so much as I cold-cocked her in the eye with my elbow.”
Ronon keeps staring at him.
Rodney tries to explain, “I was really trying to punch this other girl named Moira.”
Ronon keeps staring.
“We were kids,” Rodney exclaims.
Ronon keeps staring.
John puts one foot down on it and, “I don’t like this.”
Kenmore looks down at the grass from her spot a couple of steps above him on their spiral staircase, “Yeah, well, we don’t have a choice. This is it.”
“I hate this.”
Ursula looks at him, “Why?”
Sheppard steps fully onto the grassy ground, turns, and looks up at her. “I don’t like being fed all of this,” he gestures around at the staircase, at the tunnel, at the only way they have left to go, “We’re not choosing any of this.”
She tilts her head, still confused by him, “Yes we are.”
“What?!” Did he just hear that right?
“We chose to come down here. We chose to go back to that pod and find out what those clicking sounds meant. We chose to go into that damn room in the first place. We chose to come to this mountain. We chose it all.”
“No, we didn’t have a choice.”
“Yes, we did.”
“And what choice was that exactly,” he yells at her. His aggravation peaking to boiling.
She steps off the staircase. Getting in his face, “We could have done nothing. We could have just stayed there and never come!”
“That’s not a choice!”
“That’s because we’re good people!”
He stares at her. Stunned. Does she realize what she just said? The compliment she’s given them, these people that she detests. He remembers that she’d mentioned that she has friends in Atlantis. Those friends may not be John or Rodney or Teyla and definitely not Ronon, but they are friends, people she’s known since joining the Stargate Program. People like Lorne and others that transferred to the city from Cheyenne Mountain.
“You can’t be in this program and do a damn good job at what you do without being at the very core of you a good person. I don’t care if you or Specialist Dex or anyone else shoot me in the back,” John’s about to object, they wouldn—well, he wouldn’t—, “just as long as you don’t let even a single one of those people suffer or die. That’s not who we are. That’s not why you join this program. That’s not what we represent.”
John nods. Damn good orator. Maybe he’ll let her handle all the first contacts from now on. Teyla. Okay, well, at least he plans on letting Kenmore plead their case whenever they get their asses in a sling again, and there’s always an again. Shiana. Alright then, at least he’s going to let her open her mouth from now on on missions. Yeah, that one sounds the best. So far, and it’s not like she doesn’t do that already but at least next time he’ll, he’ll… he has no idea where he’s going with this but he knows he started going somewhere, he can’t remember where exactly. Damn good orator.
“Okay,” he starts following the tunnel’s path.
Kenmore falls in behind him. The silence holds for a couple more heartbeats before he can’t hold it back anymore, “You do realize you just gave us a compliment, don’t you?”
“Regretting it already.”
He smirks, But you can’t take it back. God he wants to say that so bad right now, but he’s getting the feeling that the silent gloating thing might just rankle her just as badly… of course he could combine the two. Say it and gloat. That way she’d still be rankled and he’d still—
Suddenly Kenmore gasps and latches onto his arm. He grips his P-90 harder and turns towards her. Aiming at the wall beside her, nothing. Aiming someplace else, still nothing. What the hell had she’d seen?! He looks around them. Trying to see anything.
“What? What is it? What did you see?” The words surge out of his mouth.
“You can’t tell Doctor McKay,” she begs him breathlessly.
He stares at her, “That? That was what that was all about?”
“To paraphrase one of my favorite shows because I believe they put it the most succinctly, he’s like the William Shatner of theoretical astrophysics.”
Sheppard considers that then starts nodding, “Yeah, I’d say that’s a pretty accurate assessment.”
“There’s more. The last thing the William Shatner of theoretical astrophysics needs is an ego boost.”
They turn and start down the tunnel again, accruing more and more distance between them and the staircase.
“He get’s that and his head’ll explode,” Sheppard says.
There’s a heartbeat.
“Are we so sure that would be a bad thing, I mean his head exploding? It might be kind of nice not having to listen to someone bitch and moan about having to walk more than two steps from a Stargate in order to reach a village. Or have a mental breakdown at a hang nail.”
“Yeah, that would be nice for a change, but then something would go wrong in the city and wouldn’t you know it, we’d need him.”
“Yeah, I guess we do kind of need him around for that… Damn.”
A hundred yards pass in silence. Sheppard thinks about starting a conversation almost a dozen times, but he didn’t know where to start. It’s actually thrown him to hear the Lieutenant give he and his people a compliment. We’re good people.
“Thank you,” he finally says.
“Don’t mention it.”
“Actually, I could care less.”
He turns his head to ask further about that when he it comes into view. The walls, the sconces, and the ceiling all end up ahead. Another forty yards or so. The grass still continues though, he’s not entirely sure what to make of that. He doesn’t have to gesture at Kenmore, she’s caught sight of it too. Their pacing ebbs as they approach slowly. The grass continues into an open—lawn? He glances over at Kenmore. She may not be looking at him, but her expression looks as confused by the sight as his is. They step out of the tunnel onto the grassy plain. It’s a tri-level grassy plain at that, really wide and long. Somehow they’ve managed to come out on what apparently is the main level with the whole of the vast field stretching out before them and as they walk out onto it, it stretches out around them also. Their eyes turn upward, the place is high too; they can’t see a ceiling but they know it’s there, it has to be. It’s way too dark up there for there not to be ceiling.
Sheppard and Kenmore turn and about thirty yards ahead from where they entered and about five feet up from their level is a steppe of grassy ground, obviously level two, where Doctor Rodney McKay and Ronon Dex are standing, again obviously having come out of their own tunnel. Rodney is bug-eyed and gaping around at the field, he looks like every part of his body wants to bolt out there and see what’s on the other side of the field. Ronon is blatantly eye-balling John and the Lieutenant. A dark glower that’s… suspicion.
Before Sheppard can say anything, Daniel Jackson and Teyla Emmagan arrive on another steppe of grassy ground about nine feet above where Sheppard and Kenmore had entered. The group looks at each other. Daniel walks the two-person wide path of the third level then hops down off the edge where their level trickles away into the last few feet of the second level. He turns and helps Teyla down from the four-foot height, Ronon and Rodney walk over to meet them as do the Lieutenant Colonel and Lieutenant. Sheppard and Kenmore wait as the other four make the jump or climb down five feet from the second level to the main one. Once the group reassembles, the first time since picking one of three ways into the Ancient part of the mountain facility, they survey the new area again.
It’s indescribable how tiny they feel in comparison to the expanse they now find themselves in. It isn’t like they’ve shrunk, especially Ronon, the third level hangs above them by a good solid three feet still, but maybe that’s it. The shade of the third level is covering them so much that they feel like they’re being protected closely by something much bigger than they are from something even bigger than itself. Like the chin of a mother as her child nestles under it while she cradles it, protecting it from whatever has driven it into the safety of her arms in the first place. Shade. Shade, Rodney looks up at the dirt and exposed root system bottom of the third level above them then down at the grass of the main level underneath their feet. They have shadows. His eyes return to the ‘ceiling’.
“Where’s the light coming from,” he asks.
The others turn to him, he meets their eyes, and points down at their shadows.
“How can we have shadows when there isn’t any light coming down on us from above,” he points up at the ‘ceiling’, literally pointing out the anomaly.
“He’s right,” Daniel says.
“Of course I’m right. Look this place is lit up like—“
“Like a football stadium,” Sheppard finishes, scanning the ceiling for anything that could possibly be emitting a light source as strong as full-on stadium lights geared up for a night game, but there’s nothing there. “Everybody keep close,” he orders and steps out from under the overhang of the third level, heading out into the very center of the plain.
The others do as ordered and fall in behind Sheppard; Rodney trailing a step or two behind John’s right side, Daniel doing the same on the left, Kenmore in the middle, and Teyla and Ronon pairing to bring up the rear. They keep their eyes peeled around themselves. Giving up on the ceiling for any indications of the light source and changing their strategy to searching the ground and the—
“Where are the walls,” Teyla asks. To her eyes it is as with the ‘ceiling’, something must be there, has to be there but it looks as though nothing is really there. It is simply black, like shadow.
Rodney’s jaw abruptly slackens. He slows down and taps Kenmore just above her elbow, “How big did legend say this Worm God energy creature was?”
Everyone stops. Sheppard’s combat-ready demeanor turning into ‘Holy crap’ unholy quick. Teyla’s eyes widen, creating a somewhat unattractive appearance of bugged eyes paired with her tensing and tightening facial muscles; she grips her Earth rifle tighter, shifting her fingers to get a more comfortable and effective hold for discharging the weapon quickly. Ronon looks at the walls and prepares for a fight, aiming his blaster with his customary spinning flourish like some sort of space cowboy in a high noon showdown. His black eyes as formidable and keen for the fight as his weapon, clearly not considering how the possibility of fighting energy with energy would bode and having absolutely no problem with finding out. Daniel faces the ‘wall’ and retreats a step back into the center of the group, instinctively taking up the same posturing that he had when SG-1 was facing down a mutated bear in the woods near General Landry’s rented cabin. On this occasion, however, he is genuinely feeling afraid, very afraid.
“Massive,” he says, “Very. Massive.”
Quickly the rest of them shift on the balls of their feet to face the walls and step back towards each other, forming a tighter circle of defense. The whole group stands shoulder to shoulder together. That’s what Stargate Command does.
The troops wait. Watch. They don’t have to wait long, sure enough the black above them starts rippling like wind blowing hard across the surface of a deep lake. Gradually something appears, the Evil opens its eye.