John Sheppard, Jacob Carter, and Teyla Emmagan step into the pel’tak, bridge, of the Goa’uld Mothership. It only takes a moment to tell that the room is clear. They lower their weapons and Carter dashes past the throne draped in black shiny fabric to look like it was made of pure cooled molten obsidian to the central computer. He slides his hand underneath the computer platform’s sensor pad and concentrates hard and quickly. Then he opens his eyes and begins pushing what few buttons there were on the platform’s small center console furiously. Sheppard and Teyla stick by either side of the ornate slab of hieroglyphics covered wall hiding the door from the rest of the room. Sheppard calls back over his shoulder to Carter.
“Make it fast General. I didn’t just make our way here listening to my friend dying just to put the brakes on.”
“That may be a problem,” Carter tells him.
Sheppard and Teyla look back at the former General.
“What,” Sheppard asks.
“He’s locked us out.”
“What,” Teyla repeats.
With his focus still on the pel’tak’s computer screen floating in front of its large window out onto the empty void of space just outside the ship and the readouts the screen’s giving him, Jacob answers them, “All the main access pathways have been disconnected and all the secondaries have been rerouted back onto each other. He’s got control of every part of this ship.”
“That’s bad,” John says needlessly. What the hell? They were only separated for a few minutes. What, ten at most? How could he do this much? Rodney was good, but he wasn’t this good.
“It’s worse,” Selmak suddenly adds.
“How so,” Teyla asks the Tok’ra.
“Why has he not removed life support from this room,” he replies with a question of his own, “He’s been tracking our movements. He knows we’re here. Why was the door not locked? Why is it not locked now? Why are we still alive?”
The realization comes to Sheppard, “He needs us. He needs hosts.”
“Would not a ship of this size require many to crew it? Where are they,” Teyla tries.
“From what I’m allowed to gather from the computer, the crew committed suicide rather than be taken as hosts. Clearly, they didn’t like their boss,” Jacob tells her, finally looking up from his screen to meet her eyes.
Teyla feels the panic stir inside of her. There has to be more options. It also dawns in her the realization that the one who usual came up with options for them was Rodney. Getting rid of the energy creature when they believed Jinto to be lost in the City of the Ancestors or the devising a way of using the Ancient weapons platform to defend the city against two encroaching Wraith hiveships. Devising a way to combat the Wraith computer virus that had infected the Daedalus’ computer systems or coming up with a way to save John from a portal that kept him trapped in a time dilated sanctuary with a group of Ancestors. Creating a way to track down Ronon using the tracking device the Wraith had implanted in him again when they had captured and retaken him to Sateda or fixing an abandoned Wraith machine that caused everyone of the team plus two other teams as well as Rodney himself to hallucinate. Finding a solution to saving both the Atlantis and all those who reside in her when they were forced to send the ship into space after the Asurans had sent a weaponized satellite to attack them or coming up with a means of destroying the Asurans once and for all. Being able to reverse the sudden transportations of a different Daedalus from a different universe before the team suffered the same fate as another universe’s versions of them had onboard or formulating the extremely dangerous super hyperlaunch jump that sent Atlantis just in time to the rescue of her homeworld Earth. Returning Atlantis to the Pegasus and bringing her home to her people. Even another timeline’s Rodney had spent the rest of his long life turning himself into a hologram in the city’s systems to talk to John accidentally sent forty-eight thousand years into the future and tell John how he can return to his original time and ultimately save both her and her son and subsequently Kanaan. And those were only a very few times that Rodney’s intellect had saved them over the past six years. Each and every time, each and every new mission, it was Rodney. It was always Rodney.
“But what about the symbiotes in the tanks,” she adds to her attempts.
“Perhaps he removed the crew’s symbiotes in order to attain new hosts,” Selmak counters.
Yeah, yeah, Sheppard starts nodding. He liked this line of thinking.
“Taking out the competition,” he adds, “that’s sounds like a Goa’uld.”
“If so, then why keep the symbiotes alive?”
Sheppard shrugs at Teyla’s suggestion.
“Sick sense of humor,” he offers.
Carter shakes his head, “That doesn’t fit. If the Goa’uld sense competition, they annihilate it.”
Suddenly Jacob’s eyes start to glow, “Not necessarily so. If the Goa’uld sense competition, they try to dominate it. The symbiotes may simply be there as a visual source of power to warn others who dare go against their God.”
Sheppard smiles dryly. It was kind of nice to see, know, that there could be a division of opinions in the same body. He was beginning to like these Tok’ra, at least if General Carter and Selmak was any decent measure of them. But still…
“Even on death’s door, you really believe this guy would keep some people around just to lord existence over them,” Sheppard asks him.
“And I thought the Wraith were bad,” John quips.
“I have never wished to become a Wraith worshipper nor do I intend to be a host for the Goa’uld,” Teyla announces. Her voice strong and clear and distinct.
“I’m with you,” John looks over at Jacob, “Is there anything you can do General?”
Carter checks the computer again and shakes his head, “You’re Doctor McKay is good. According to this, he’s systematically locked everything down.”
Suddenly the computer beeps at him. Carter leans forward to the screen, analyzing the new readout even more closely. Sheppard doesn’t like the look on the General’s face.
“What is it?”
“He’s systematically locked everything down except a single path to the computer room Specialist Dex and Ursula are in.”
“He’s playing cat-and-mouse with us.”
Selmak looks over at him, “He did refer to them as bait.”
Well John didn’t need that, “I don’t like playing games,” John stares the Tok’ra straight on.
She doesn’t back down, “For your friend’s sake, you should,” he tells John.
Sheppard looks to Teyla for further appeal.
She nods her head, “I agree with Selmak.”
“Okay,” as long as they were all in agreement about what they were up against here, “then we at least play by my rules. Exactly how locked out are those systems?”
Carter slides his hand under the platform interface again. Suddenly the whole computer shuts down. He looks over at John and Teyla again.
“Very,” Jacob remarks.
“Clearly, he is growing impatient with us,” Selmak says.
“I like that,” John tells him, “How much of this place are you familiar with?”
“All of it.” Jacob was back in control.
“Good,” Sheppard nods, “Teyla, you watch our backs. General, you’re up front with me.”
Carter nods and Sheppard leads the rest of his mission team back to the room’s only entrance and only exit. He angles himself to face the door behind the slab, lifts the barrel of his P-90 back up, and steps towards the door. It slides apart, open. Flawlessly. Sheppard moves to its threshold and peers up then down the corridor. Nothing. He steps out with Carter right beside him. Jacob looks up and down the hallway too before moving on with Sheppard. As soon as the two men are clear of the door, Teyla steps out into the corridor behind them, immediately turning on her heels to cover any threat coming at them from behind. Sheppard starts to run up the left side of hallway with Carter beside him. Teyla takes one last surveying look down the corridor then abruptly turns and runs after them, keeping her mind and the corners of her eyes all the while back on sensing what might be coming up behind them. They come to the end of the corridor with a heartbeat of lagtime between them.
“Okay, General, which way if I wanted to blow the power generator in this place?”
Sheppard, Jacob, and Teyla break down the left side of the junction of hallways into a whole new corridor. They’re almost at the end of it when part of the rightside wall a few yards ahead of them explodes into the center of the corridor. The trio skids to a halt as they reel their bodies back from the danger, covering their faces in recoil. When some of the dust and smoke begins to clear, the three come back up and look on the scene. Parts of the ruined wall crowd the floor now lightened from black to gray by the settling dust and broken debris, and no longer shiny in its lacquer but entirely a matte finish now. Suddenly the left side of the wall a couple of feet closer to them blows into the corridor. Sheppard doesn’t have to give the command, the trio pull their bodies back again. This time turning away from the explosion and running back down the corridor. The right side of the wall blows inward a couple of feet closer to them. And so it goes. Systematically, like rhythmic footfalls, explosions stomping off left to right behind them, like a giant hunting them back down the corridor. Teyla is the first to break back into the corridor they had apparently only thought they had just left. Carter joins her. And finally Sheppard.
After a few yards, Sheppard slows down to a jog.
“Whoa, whoa, wait,” he calls to the rest of them.
After a few feet more, he jogs to a complete stop. The others stop as well.
“What is it,” Teyla asks him breathlessly. She knew he would not do something like this without good reason.
Sheppard looks back up the hallway to where smoke and dust are still clouding out of the left turn corridor that must be in shambles by now.
“The explosions stopped,” he tells her.
He eyes the hallway, gears in his mind spinning. He takes a single step back up the hallway… towards the blownout corridor. Another explosion sounds off from the left side of the start of the ruined corridor in answer. Sheppard retracts his step. Well damn Rodney…
“We could try the…”
At the corridor’s junction, the right turn explodes in answer and the trio watch as the blast is enough to block it off for good. That end of their corridor is dead.
“We have nowhere else to go but where he wants us to,” Teyla breathes, sounding grim.
Sheppard turns around and all three look down at the free and clear end of the corridor. Suddenly, the junction at that end lights up with a spotlight of a single golden, heavenly overhead light.