Sheppard, Teyla, and Carter stare at the lit up junction at the end of the corridor.
“I really hate playing games,” Sheppard says.
“Well you’re going to have to start liking to play them real quick,” Jacob tells him.
“Is there nothing we can do,” Teyla asks.
“Not really, McKay’s with us on practically every mission. There isn’t a move I can make without him knowing it already.” God, they really were stuck without Rodney on their side, weren’t they? John’d always lorded it over the astrophysicist that they could make it without him. It was something just to goad Rodney a little, but now it was goading John. He couldn’t believe it. They actually were stuck without Rodney.
But Jacob catches on to something John hadn’t.
“You said ‘practically’. What missions were you on that McKay wasn’t?”
Sheppard starts running through them, “There was that time when the Genii took over Atlantis during a storm and then there was that time…”
Sheppard trails off. Teyla straightens up.
“What is it,” she asks him.
“I can’t fight like me.”
“You remember that time when Weir and I had those assassins in our heads?”
“McKay wasn’t with me then. He wasn’t even tracking me. Elizabeth and her assassin were messing with Atlantis’ computer systems. McKay was focused on what she was doing. And…,” Sheppard turns his attention to Carter, “and I got Weir to shoot Ronon and I put in a call to medical before I left him for dead.”
Jacob nods at him. “That’s a good place to start,” he agrees.
“Do you remember enough of the assassins’ tactics,” Teyla asks him. That had been a long time ago. And it had not actually been John doing all of those things although the alien entity did admit to both Ronon and later Teyla that John’s own consciousness had been present if only in the background of his own mind.
He nods, “I think so.”
“You think so,” Selmak reconfirms cynically.
“Hey, it’s a plan.”
Selmak retreats back, These humans… Jacob nods.
“What do you want us to do,” he asks.
* * *
Rodney McKay sits with his back leaning against a wall in another corridor. One of his legs bent underneath him comfortably with the other bent up in front of him, helping support the forearm his computer tablet is leisurely propped up on. He’s smiling and tapping. The computer’s screen is showing a map much like the one the lifesigns detector would normally show him… if it were working. And that was the best thing of all to him: the others were left blind. All of them except for that Shol’va Tok’ra—Selmak, he had heard of her, met her, encountered her a number of times; that Tok’ra was a formidable foe—, but the others, yes, they were without direction. Lost in an environment they did not know as well as he. In much ways it was like there was only one against him. Me, McKay laughs out loud, of all gods, Me? McKay’s laugh descends into a condescending chuckle with a gentle shaking of his head. These humans… these feeble minded slaves.
Three blue dots in a distant corridor slowly move to the end of their corridor and split up. One dot takes the left corridor and the other two move into the right. McKay presses a few ‘buttons’ on the tablet and brings up video of the left corridor. It’s the Shol’va Tok’ra, zat’nikatel gun out in front of him and moving like the old soldier both Selmak and her host were. McKay brings the lifesigns detector map up again. The other two dots come to the end of their corridor and split up again. McKay brings up video again, this time from that new left corridor one of the dots was in. It’s the leader of this group, what did the host say his name was… Sheppard. McKay presses a single button and watches as a part of the left wall a few feet ahead of Sheppard explodes into the corridor. Sheppard immediately runs back out of the camera’s view. The Goa’uld’s host’s body jolts a little with the sudden chuckle he made to himself at the sight of the frightened human scampering away from the explosion like an insect frightened of the nearing heat of magnified light.
He brings the lifesigns map back up again. The two dots that had just split up meet back up at the junction again and split again. McKay brings up the left corridor camera again. This time he sees the female human… Teyla… walking cautiously down the hallway. She picks her way around the debris on the corridor’s floor. For a moment the Goa’uld zooms the camera’s focus in on her face. His smile turns from one of amused condescension to one of appeased admiration. He types in further instructions to the camera and the hidden device begins a slow analyzing descent of her prowling body. McKay nods, yes, very sufficient. He had never had much use for a Queen before, just base DNA, but what he knew of this specimen from his host’s knowledge of her, she would be a fine thing to have at his side. Especially since she was already gifted with part of the DNA of the threat to the humans in this galaxy and she had already born a child just as strong and gifted as she… and her offspring was a male. How perfect, the Goa’uld laughs again, this time the amusement slipped past his lips and he caught the sound in his ears, A host to raise in exactly his image.
Suddenly the Goa’uld’s mind blanks; he comes back quickly enough, blinking the infringement away. The host is fighting him. The idea of using the female’s child as a host seemed to illicit a great surge of emotion and strength of will from this Doctor Rodney McKay. The Goa’uld had chosen him because of the human’s intellect, but he had not expected this from the scientist. In Goa’uld society, and the human societies they controlled, Thinkers were not normally known for this type of strength of mind. But no matter, the God had quickly stifled it down and now he knew to keep a tight leash on this host. Perhaps more threats to those he cared about would keep him in line.
The other female… She is half Ancient. The Goa’uld could sense it in her, practically smell the offensiveness in her bloodstream, in her flesh… and bone, the Goa’uld thought putridly. According to the host, she had been brought to this galaxy as a weapon to use against the threat here. Her…and her child. So she had offspring as well… another male child. This one older than the other one’s child. Another host, one I can turn.
The Goa’uld felt the blood in the host’s body suddenly run cold, the flesh become pallid. He could see it in the reflection of himself on the computer tablet’s screen. Feel these things the host called goose pimples rise in the flesh on his arms. He smiles darkly at the reflection in the reinforced glass. Yes. That’s it. The sudden physical reaction recedes; he feels it in himself. This host, he is no God.
McKay commands the computer back to the lifesigns map and follows what he now knows to be Sheppard’s movements. McKay pulls the map back to a wider view. The walls of Sheppard’s path are boldly glowing, indicating that it is the way McKay is allowing him to travel. Sheppard follows the path properly up until his third corridor junction alone. There he stops.
McKay waits… and waits. Nothing. His smile vanishes. McKay brings up the videos of the left corridor of the junction and the right simultaneously. Neither one can show him the junction itself. McKay goes back to the lifesigns map. Sheppard still hasn’t moved. Why wasn’t the human moving? He had no tolerance for this. Slaves should not defy their masters. These hosts were not their Gods.
McKay reaches beside him, draws his sidearm from its holster, and gets to his feet. He heads down the pathway he had dictated for Sheppard. He takes sure strides at first, but the closer he gets to Sheppard’s still unmoving position, the slower he walks, the quieter, and the more he stops at the corridor junctions and peers around their corners first before he moves into them and chooses the corridor he needs. Although he is a God, this host’s body is frail… human… and growing frailer by the minute.
Finally, McKay’s at the junction that directly connects to the same corridor that Sheppard’s own junction leads into. McKay checks his computer one last time, Sheppard still hasn’t moved. The insubordination was insufferable. He puts the tablet behind him, slipping it into its large pocket on the back of his tactical vest. In one bold move, McKay steps out into the corridor bringing his gun to bear in Sheppard’s direction. He can’t tell what’s there at the junction at the end; the light is so sparse down there compared to where he’s standing where the overhead light shines down and around him like a halo of dispersed aerosol gold. But something is. Sitting on the floor as though it had given up. Unflinching, McKay slowly walks towards the waiting mass. The closer he gets the more he realizes it’s crumpled. The closer he gets the more he realizes that it’s just Sheppard’s own tactical vest heaped there.
The Goa’uld freezes. McKay aims ahead of himself then back down the corridor he had come up, the same stretch of corridor Sheppard had come down, then turns around. He’s alone. McKay reaches back for his computer tablet, pulls it out, and checks its readout again. According to the lifesigns map, Sheppard is here… with him.
McKay looks around again. He doesn’t see anything. He checks the computer again. The other two dots are closing in on his position. He looks around. Nothing. The dots meet. Right next to him, according to the map! But… nothing was here save for a pathetic piece of reinforced clothing and the God himself.
Rapidly it dawns on him. He looks up at the ceiling. McKay aims up and opens fire. Immediately the three dots separate, going in different directions again. After emptying his clip etching a raw jagged hole into the ceiling, McKay checks his computer again. He tries to bring up the security video in the ceiling conduits but all he gets is a screen of white noise. He tries to bring up security video of the corridors and again gets nothing but a screen of white noise. The rage explodes out of him, echoing in the corridor and all the others it leads into…
* * *
Goa’uld McKay’s yell echoes up into the ceiling and the biggest, most mischievous grin Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard has ever had breaks across his face as he crawls as fast as he can through the conduit lined on all sides with multi-primary-colored and clear wiring and black and gold piping.
“Well I guess someone doesn’t like shooting out his own advantage,” Sheppard smirks.
At the junction in the duct, Sheppard crawls to the right. He’d always wondered when the foxhole training back in Basic would come into play out here.