Over their heads the undulating shadows split open to reveal the gold disc within light grey. It comes alive, the red dot tracking to each of them in turn. Looking them over, scanning them. It’s disconcerting. The Stargate unit keeps still. Sheppard hopes that this thing might be like the T-Rex in Jurassic Park, maybe if they stay still and stay silent, it won’t be able to track them as well. Then again maybe not. He and Kenmore had stood still in the center of the hallway and it still tracked them. He tries to dissuade himself about that by pointing out to himself that Kenmore’d moved to touch the thing and they talked and, more importantly, the hallway had been narrow. It was single-mindedly designed for the creature to do anything other than come at the two of them.
The eye starts sliding down the wall. Now that is just downright freaky looking. Like someone’s gotten their eyeball stuck in between a pair of elevator doors and the elevator starts moving down to the ground floor with the eyeball still stuck in between them. John responds to his urge to shiver at the gross idea by narrowing his sights down the barrel of his P-90. Bullets may be worthless against this thing but he can’t shake the feeling that they might be able to dent the energy creature or manage to slow it down with enough lead pumped into its cloud-like body. Or at least get that freaky looking eye to stop staring at them.
The eye gets to the height it was when Sheppard and Kenmore had run into it in the hallway, eye level—where’s the bah-dum bah when you need it—and starts coming towards them.
The SG-team begins stepping backward. Ronon, Teyla, and Rodney keeping the urge to form a solid straight line of armed and ready team to stop the one-eyed shadow from getting any closer at bay. The fresh, summer-colored green grass begins disappearing beneath the black mass of dark energy as it crawls towards the humans. Coal-black tendrils snake out towards the soldiers the way an octopus uses its tentacles to crawl across the sandy bottom of the ocean in search of the prey that knows to stay clear of the predator’s den. Except this prey has accidentally walked straight into said den, now the octopus is playing with them. Cat and mouse. How comfy. Some of the tendrils pull themselves away from covering above Crom-Crúach’s eye, unveiling the cloud of white energy that crowns the Worm God like hair. Rather than helping it’s dark counterparts pull itself along, the white tendrils flare straight up like the hackles of a very pissed off animal. White fire. The shadows finally pull fully away from the walls, slinking in behind the approaching eyeball and exposing the ebony stone that composes the mountain around them. The jagged and ragged surface twinkling where the light from no obvious place catches its facets. Giving the impression of a wondrous star-filled night. It was like being on an island in space. Or on another world entirely.
The team continues retreating, measuring pace with the Demon God’s approach. The God is corralling them into the center of the grassy island field. John feels his own hackles start to rise, he doesn’t like this. How many times is he going to be led to do something? When is anything going to be his choice? He told Kenmore he didn’t like being handfed like this. Now it’s looking like they’re about to be handfed to something they can’t possibly shoot. He feels trembling… he can’t be shaking, John Sheppard doesn’t shake in front of things like this. But he feels it in his boots. Then he hears the roar building in his ears. An earthquake? Now? Crap.
Pillars of stone unexpectedly come up out of the ground around them. Engraved and painted with red symbols. Some of the pillars are henge formations. Daniel grins. The Stargate team is surrounded by concentric circles of stone pillars and henges. Now this might be a fair fight.
“Are those what I think they are,” he hears Sheppard ask, detecting the unmistakable relief bordering on joy in the Colonel’s voice.
Daniel Jackson nods. “Yes, yes they are.”
“Great. Now does anybody know how to use them?” McKay rains on their parade.
“How about you and Jackson get right on that,” Sheppard offers, “Fall back to the nearest of the stones behind us and start reading.”
The scientists do but Rodney can’t help pointing out that, “There might be something important on the stones nearest to the creature too.”
Well if that’s true, John and the rest of them will figure out a way to bait the shadow creature away from those stones whenever they need to have a shot at reading those after they’ve finished reading the safer ones. Till then…
“Kenmore,” Sheppard orders next, “Reach into my pack and pull out that Silver Arm. If things go south, I want you to figure out how to use that thing and start healing us as fast as you can with it.”
“I could just use my hands. I decked you then healed you, remember? That turned out alright. Unless that isn’t how your nose looked before?”
John’s eyes flit to her direction for a moment. There isn’t anything wrong with the way his nose looked before she’d punched him… Was there? His eyes quickly snap back to the approaching Evil Eye.
“Maybe the Arm works better and faster,” John defends the order and feels the prickling in his shoulders returning. The muscles tightening. Even now she has to question, has to start things. She’s always going to do that, isn’t she? And there’s nothing wrong with his nose, it looks perfectly fine. Plenty of women in the city have no problem with the way it looks then and now, plenty of civilian women especially.
“Like the healing device,” Daniel calls out from behind them. Reminding her.
As Sheppard, Kenmore, Teyla, and Ronon fall back, they get close to their friends analyzing the stones. Too close.
Silently Kenmore relents. She shifts her P-90 to her left hand and reaches over with her right. Sheppard feels her hand at his back. Then he hears the Velcro give as the Lieutenant’s fingers pry their way into his tactical vest’s single large pocket. His body tugs back towards her as she wrestles the silver gauntlet out of his vest. She falls in step behind him, using him as cover as she abandons her P-90 to dangle by its clip in front of her as she slips the gauntlet on over her right arm, the arm according to legend that Nuada wore it on.
It may have felt cold on the outside, but it sure feels warm on the inside. As soon as she fits its top rectangular piece against the back of her hand, the gauntlet clamps down on her arm. Sealing itself against her flesh like a second skin. Kenmore panics. She stares down at the thing as she tries to pry it off of her. Clawing. It won’t come. The Silver Arm’s fine gold engravings light up. The teardrop ruby center piece glows blood red. Like the control crystal of a Goa’uld ribbon device.
Immediately Crom-Crúach’s eye widens. He roars.
Sheppard opens fire. So does Teyla. And Ronon. The metal bullets pierce the Evil Eye’s ‘hide’ in puffs. The lead goes in, but does absolutely nothing to the enraged creature. Ronon’s blasts crackle against the Worm God’s surface. Dissipating. Harmless.
Crom lunges for Sheppard. Kenmore throws him out of the way.
Ursula cringes behind her Silver Arm as the shadow’s black tendrils lash out and catch the gauntlet’s surface. There are flashes of lightning and an enormous crack of thunder that shakes the whole plain followed by a shrieking howl.
The tendrils retreat, Crom retreats. Kenmore grabs her right arm, holding it close against her body. She fights the yelp in her mouth. Slamming her eyes shut. Vibrating with the pain. Her legs buckle then she goes down.
Crom begins pacing the outside of the circles of stones and henges like a caged animal waiting for its prey to make a mistake, a single mistake.
Sheppard sidesteps over to Kenmore. Before he can even begin to kneel down beside her, Crom whips a tendril at his head. It doesn’t come anywhere near close to touching John, but it succeeds in forcing him to keep his attention on the Worm God. Not on the Lieutenant. Teyla takes the chance instead and rushes to Kenmore’s side.
“What are your injuries,” Teyla asks.
“I don’t know yet. It’s just pain. A lot of pain,” Kenmore grits yet her muster falters during her last sentence. Her voice warbling. Sheppard glances down at her.
Crom takes the opportunity. Ronon does too. The Satedan pumps five blasts into the tendril, forcing the coil to retreat from Sheppard again. Crom-Crúach returns to pacing outside their cage. He’s not going to give them a chance like that again. He’s not going to back off to the harmless energy blasts of Ronon’s gun. The Worm God has shown them something in his toying with the human warriors.
“I thought you said it couldn’t hurt you,” Sheppard calls out.
“Apparently the Silver Arm changes that,” Kenmore grits again. Suddenly, finally, she manages to breathe, it’s a ragged exhale and intake of air. Again Sheppard’s gaze flits at her.
Crom doesn’t take the opportunity, Ronon’s gaze hasn’t shifted.
Kenmore finally eases her body up a bit. It’s enough to let Teyla try and examine the potential injuries. The Athosian reaches out for the gauntlet… and sharply yanks her hand back from it with a hiss.
“Are you hurt,” Sheppard doesn’t chance an actual look back, Crom is starting to growl. A low rumble that sounds like an oncoming thunderstorm.
“No,” Teyla answers him.
“I attempted to touch the Lieutenant’s gauntlet. I did not even get near it. The heat is too intense.”
“Heat,” Daniel’s head pops out from behind the pillar he’s trying to examine.
Teyla nods at him.
“Yes, heat, Daniel,” it’s Kenmore’s turn to growl, biting back the extreme pain, the damn thing flared up again when Emmagan tried to touch her, “where do you think the pain is coming from.”
“Didn’t your family tell you that was going to happen,” Ronon asks.
“Our history really wasn’t that detailed,” she winces.
“Excuse me,” Rodney chimes in, his head also popping out from behind a standing stone, “you mentioned naked, starlight, the four elements, a crimson flame, and coiling blue lightning and now you’re claiming none of that is detailed enough?”
“Well there wasn’t a friggin’ mention about how much this hurts. In fact Nuada was said to feel no pain after he got the Arm.”
Something occurs to Teyla but before she can open her mouth, Crom tries lashing out at her. She ducks. Sheppard and Ronon cover her. Crom goes back to pacing, starts growling again. Low and guttural this time, more animalistic. Warning them. Sheppard eyes the massive energy creature, this thing isn’t going to back down the next time it takes a chance to strike at them. They’re running out of time.
“Perhaps,” Teyla returns to voicing her occurrence, “it is your human DNA that is causing the problem. You indicated that Nuada was most likely an Ancient.”
Ursula starts nodding, forcing herself to mentally shake off the sensation of burning veins of blood; it feels like the metal is actually melting itself to her flesh. Emmagan might be on to something. Kenmore looks at the woman. Teyla tries to smile at her, trying to encourage her. Okay. Okay, I’ll play along. Anything to make the pain stop or at least for my mind to not register it anymore. Ursula knows herself too well, she has to talk it out for the personal distraction to work.
“That, that coil thing didn’t happen so, uh, maybe, uh, the Silver Arm isn’t fully activated. Or, um, it’s not on right,” she tries to get up but her legs buckle, shake too much; Teyla braces her petite frame against the Lieutenant’s full figure and helps Kenmore uneasily to her feet, “The red flame is definitely here and if this heat is anything to go by, I am so feeling the radiant energy part.”
“And what of the starlight,” Emmagan tries to help, “Was there any starlight when you put the Silver Arm on?”
Kenmore shakes her head, biting her lower lip no longer in the cutely trapped in a corner way. “No,” she groans.
“So what was supposed to happen when you put that thing on, hasn’t,” Sheppard clarifies, “I’m thinking that it was a bad idea now that you put that thing on.”
Enough talking, Crom-Crúach the Worm God lunges at the team again. Sheppard takes aim…
“No,” Kenmore’s voice echoes unnaturally as she suddenly lunges forward. Shoving Sheppard out of the way again.
The wall of black energy slams into the Silver Arm. The flash is blinding. The bone-penetrating crack deafening. Quickly the contact lightning coils, not around Kenmore’s Silver Arm, but around the concentric circles. The symbols on the pillars and henges start glowing. And glowing brighter. And brighter. Building power.
Daniel abandons his pillar and yanks McKay away from his, throwing both of them back into the center just before the power reaches full capacity… but it doesn’t. The symbols’ light’s flaring but all that happens is the electrical current travels from stone to stone. Circuit to circuit. There’s no shockwave. None at all. Daniel and Rodney scramble to their feet and retreat back to the safety of the rest of the group. Well, relative safety. The scientists start to ask what Sheppard plans on doing next, but get caught with their mouths open. There are tiny pinpricks of…
“Starlight,” Daniel breathes. Awed at the sight.
The glowing lights suddenly prickle across the ceiling and walls. They’re not the glittering facets of obsidian anymore. They are dozens maybe even hundreds of constellations. Some Daniel recognizes from Earth’s skies, the Milky Way’s Galaxy. Others from Atlantis’ original homeworld and its second one, the Pegasus Galaxy itself. As the hideously screaming Evil Eye recoils and gathers all of itself in, the ‘stars’ descend and pool around Kenmore’s outstretched gauntlet.
Somehow, Daniel can’t even begin to fathom how, the stars suffuse into the gauntlet and the whole thing shines like new polished silver. The filigree work pulsing silver and gold. The red stone embedded at the center of the piece on the back of Kenmore’s hand glowing a violent blazing red. Every part of the Silver Arm looking less like a healing device, more like a weapon.
“Mental component like the ribbon device,” Daniel shouts over the energy creature’s shrieking.
“Yes it is,” Rodney tells him, “Her voice does that weird echo thing any time she taps into her Ancient abilities.”
Lieutenant Ursula Kenmore isn’t moving though. Sheppard peers at her. She isn’t trapped in a moment of time, she’s trying to keep herself from breaking. The Lieutenant is standing there with Silver Arm outstretched at Crom-Crúach. Eyes squeezed shut. Tears streaming from them. Face contorted in openmouthed silent torture.
“Kenmore!” He shouts.
She loses her personal battle and crumples to the ground.
“Ursula!” Daniel dives for her.
He puts a hand on Ursula and brings up his P-90 as the Evil Eye charges again. Sheppard, Teyla, Ronon, and Rodney charge forward to Daniel and Kenmore’s sides. They hold their fire. Letting it get closer. Crom barrels towards the perimeter of the outermost circle. They’re fingers poise over their triggers. Suddenly Crúach slams into a net of electric blue lightning invisibly erected between two standing stones. A whole fence of blue lightning shimmers between the stones of the stonehenge like the forcefields in between the bars of Atlantis’ brig’s cells. The SGC soldiers are protected.
Daniel immediately turns his attention down to his friend, the young woman he’s known since she was sixteen. Her eyes are still squeezed shut. Her face still grimacing in suffering. He shakes her.
She finally answers him. The anguished wail erupts from her mouth. She starts squalling. Sheppard, Rodney, and Teyla stare down at a woman in her own private Hell. She keeps screaming with every part of her body straining. Pressing the gauntlet against her body. They all can feel the heat of the Silver Arm’s radiant energy coming of her like a wall of fire shoving itself in their faces with Kenmore at its center. They can only imagine what it’s like to feel like your entire body is on fire within your own flesh. Kenmore writhes but keeps the gauntlet away from them.
Suddenly Ronon opens fire. The others look up. His blast dissipates against the henge’s lightning field. He lowers his weapon.
“No good,” he shrugs.
The rest of his team and Daniel gape at him. He looks down at them.
“Ronon,” Teyla gasps. He startles at the expression on her face…it’s disgust.
“I,” he begins but the slow shaking of her head finishes him before he even starts. “Teyla,” he tries again but she looks away from him.
Sheppard does too. This is getting out of hand. Way too out of hand. John drops down to one knee beside Jackson and Kenmore. He tries to reach out to her the way Jackson had and again he doesn’t even get a handful of inches to her before the heat of the Arm overwhelms his skin.
“Ow. Damn,” he shakes his hot hand. He’ll never sear meat again after this.
“You shouldn’t do that, it’s easier for me to. Sam was exposed to heat like this on a mission once. When Odin and I got her out of it, I had to pull her clothes off of her. Part of her skin came off with them, the heat had fused her skin to the fabric.”
Sheppard looks at him.
Daniel doesn’t look back, “Valhalla,” the Doctor says quietly.
Kenmore’s wailing starts to ebb. She manages to close her mouth, pull herself together a little. John hopes that means her Ancient ability to heal is kicking in. Otherwise, it’s shock and if it’s at the level where the body’s no longer feeling any pain, then Kenmore is too far gone in whatever injuries the gauntlet is doing to her for any of them to be able to save her… except if they get that damn healing device her bloodline’s meant to wield to work—That’s it!
“Bloodline,” Sheppard says to himself.
Ursula begins curl herself up into a fetal ball. To Sheppard’s eyes, she’s confirming that it’s shock pouring into her system. Her time is running out. Sheppard hopes that his idea works. If not, he will have to give a child the message that his mom is never coming home, if they ever manage to make it back to Atlantis themselves afterwards.
He draws his diving knife and fights through the Silver Arm’s radiant heat to press it against Kenmore’s chest. Almost immediately his skin reddens, but he keeps the knife against her chest, making sure she knows it’s there. He leans down to her. He can barely breathe from the high temperature, his hand and arm start blistering.
“Kenmore,” she’s not hearing him. He raises his voice, “Kenmore! When we back up, I want you to cut your hand like you did back at the first tunnel. Okay?” Maybe she’s understanding. Maybe not. He can’t tell. He shakes the knife pressing hand against her chest, “Understand, Lieutenant!” It’s an order.
Finally she nods. Understanding.
He nods. Grabs Jackson and yanks the man back with him as John runs away from Kenmore. “Back up! Move! Come on move!”
Teyla looks at him then at Kenmore. Her mouth opens to try and voice objections, but all she finds is that she trusts in John Sheppard’s judgment. The Athosian leader falls back. Ronon goes with her. Rodney does too but…
“You cannot just leave her there like that. I know that none of us really like her except for Daniel, but that’s still no reason to just abandon her to that thing in the condition she’s in. We’re better people than that.”
John looks at him, “Yes, we are.” He looks back at Kenmore. Watching. Waiting. Come on, bloodline. Come on, blood. Come on.
Rodney turns to look at Kenmore too. She’s moving. God, it looks like it’s taking everything out of her, but she takes the knife from against her chest in hand. Her body’s quaking—or is it looking like it is because of the intensity of the heat waves? She turns away from them. Curling up again.
“Kenmore!” Sheppard shouts. She’s moving but he’s not sure what she’s doing, “Lieutenant!”
Suddenly the lightning field starts crackling. Snapping all over. The group looks around. The tendrils of black and white energy beat against the forcefield. Hit after hit. Crom-Crúach is trying to wear down the lightning field’s strength. That doesn’t bode well for them. With how big this creature is, he can easily do it. No question.
John looks desperately back at Kenmore. The others do too. Slowly, shakily, she raises her arm. The Silver Arm. Even from this distance and with the heat, John can see the gauntlet is smeared all the way down with dark red blood.
“John, what have you done,” Teyla breathes.
What he was supposed to, he hopes.
Kenmore’s outstretched hand contorts into a claw. Her arms drops. Slamming down onto the ground in front of her. Instantly the henge goes critical like it’d been waiting to all along. The lightning field shockwaves out from the henge. Tsunami-ing against the chamber’s walls and Crom-Crúach, the Demon God of Death.
Energy interacts with energy. Sheppard, his team, and Daniel cover their ears, sinking to their knees under the strain of the cacophony of a God being torn to shreds by light itself. Sheppard’s mind races to the video of energy lightning erupting from Kenmore and incinerating a Wraith in midair over her head. He’d hoped that’d been the key, that there was more than one way for an Ancient to produce lightning. That it’s in their blood. And this bloodline likes a lot of blood if that first tunnel is anything to go by. Even the very ground requires a drink of it.
Within a minute, the black and white energy creature dissolves. It’s eye melting away in a really disgusting similarity to how the Ark of the Covenant in the Indiana Jones film melts the faces of Nazis. Immediately everything that once seemed solid about this thing suddenly liquefies. The colors meld everywhere like a kid handful of their crayons in their mom’s oven. Rivulets streaming down into drips that’re incinerated before they can hit the ground in puffs of red-colored mist. John actually has to swallow part of last night’s MRE down all over again, the taste of which alone re-tests his gag reflex. God that’s disgusting. He passes the test again, not losing his lunch on the grass or his black combat boots. In a matter of seconds, the monster is gone.
Sheppard runs back over to Kenmore, he doesn’t care if anything else is going to happen next. Doctor Jackson outpaces him out of nowhere and beats him to her first. The archeologist rolls his friend towards him, onto her back. She’s breathing heavily, but there’s no more heat coming from the Arm. Normally Daniel’d take that as a good sign if it weren’t for the fact that the mysterious weapon is humming contentedly still in its place on her right arm. Her hand is healed though, if that’s where she’d drawn the blood Colonel Sheppard had told her to, and other than her windedness, she seems fine. Perhaps seeing the insatiated concern in his baby blue eyes or maybe to confirm how fine she seems to be to herself, her mahogany brown eyes look up at Daniel and Sheppard’s faces. She smiles. It’s a weary smile. But it’s still a smile. The two men smile back. Relief, John Sheppard feels relief coursing through him. Not for the first time in this galaxy he’d thought, feared that he’d made a horrible, horrible mistake that’d cost a valuable Expedition member their life. Now for once in this galaxy, his choice may have been crazy but it was the right one. One he can look himself in the mirror about tonight when he’s brushing his teeth in his quarters back in Atlantis and one he’ll be able to sleep on tonight. A first in a long time. The rest of the group crowds in around them.
“Lieutenant Kenmore,” Teyla inquires urgently, her voice conveying her anxiety about Kenmore’s condition.
Before Kenmore can answer, the ground starts shaking again, rumbling. Earthquake. Daniel and Teyla’s instincts cause them to cover the downed Lieutenant with their bodies while Sheppard, Rodney, and Ronon look around to see what’s coming at them now. Returned Fomorians? Genetically engineered flying mutant monkeys? No, it’s the stones. No longer needed, no longer powered up for use, they’re receding back into the grass-covered plain. In exchange, rising up about ten feet behind their position, back in the central spot they’d retreated to while Kenmore wielded the Silver Arm against Crom-Crúach, is a familiar and definitely friendly device: a set of Ancient transporter rings. Shiny like new and completely inviting. The ready-for-use way out.
As soon as the last tip of stone pillar and flat of henge disappears back into the earth of the verdant plain and the top of the ring system is glistening in the still bizarrely coming from nowhere they can see interior light, the rumbling dies away as does the shaking. Experience tells them to not buy the reprieve for a second. Sheppard, Ronon, and Rodney keep their eyes peeled. But for once that seems to be it. It’s done. Over with. The men look at each other as Teyla and Daniel pull themselves off of Kenmore and look at each other too. Then Kenmore holds up the Silver Arm. The group look at her and the gauntlet still grafted to her arm, she’s grinning with a twinkle in her eye that even after knowing her only for a short time Sheppard recognizes all too well. Daniel grins back. Oh yeah, she’s fine, she’s back.
“Wanna go kick some Fomorian ass,” she asks.
Sheppard grins, Hell yeah.
Daniel extends out his hand to Ursula. She takes it with her un-gauntleted hand and he helps her up to her feet. Her body seems weary from the ordeal, but it also seems to be quickly rebounding like her spirit already has; her grin is contagious. Teyla is beaming, Rodney looks goofily relieved, and Ronon, well, Ronon hasn’t caught what’s catching.
Ursula and Daniel look over at the ring system and marvel at how relieving and soothingly comforting it makes them feel to see such a familiar sight. They’re aiming the same look at it as the look they had given each other when they’d first met at the start of this whole business back in Atlantis a few days ago. It’s the cheering sight of an old friend and oh how sweet a cheering sight it is. The grinning is contagious.
Without hesitation, the two Cheyenne Mountain old hats head over to the Ancient ring transporter system with Atlantis’ flagship team following them. They step over the shining naquadah threshold and settle into the center of the rings. They retake up their P-90s as the familiarly unique hum of the rings coming online sounds all around them. A beam of stark light suddenly shines around them, seeming to come from their beneath them and spotlighting them in the center of the compact metal circle all at the same time. All five rings rise up around them one right after the other in equidistant segments ranging at the top of Ronon Dex’s height with the last ring staying down on top of the grassy ground beneath their feet. They’re trapped inside when the transporter system’s own unique version of the Stargate’s chevron’s ka-chunk sounds, this is more like ka-thum ka-thum ka-thum ka-thum ka-thum with the ambient background sounds of a Transformer changing shapes in a nice baritone pitch rather than tenor. Then the screech, not unlike traversing the threshold of the wormhole and again as familiar as the coziness of home, comes as their minds and bodies are broken down to the very molecules that make them and elongated into six solid beams of energy that has the same hues of the skin tones, the tones of their hair, and the clothes that they’re wearing. The molecular beams are sucked down into the ground with a wide, brilliant, single flash of light whose ray flares out for a second or two beyond the confines of the rings as its prominence descends into the ground. Once gone, the rings sink back into the ground as systematically as they’d risen with the same baritone Transformer-changing ka-thum for each ring’s grand exit. The rumble is only minor this time as the plain reclaims one of its secrets for the final time.