Atlantis’ medical ward during the day was among the most angelic sights the city had to offer. At one end of the ward’s main room stood a giant floor-almost-to-the-ceiling stained glass window representation that mimicked the appearance of a Zero Point Module standing on its flat part. The bright, brilliant sunlight outside shooting beams of its warm intensity through the outskirting pieces of yellow glass, projecting undiluted rays of honey-colored light into the area complete with accenting spears of amber. Where the glass was clear, it allows streams of pure light that highlighted parts of the teal walls and added to a whole sense of warmth and oceanic hominess to the whole place. A sense of comfort and safety.
Earth-made chrome grated shelving lined the walls here and there and the not-exactly-comfy-looking-but-actually-are-comfy Ancient medical beds were placed about every ten feet or so and when the space had run out of Ancient medical beds but definitely not space, the Atlantis Expedition had filled in with their own Earth-made medical beds of even-less-comfy-looking chrome metal frames and thoroughly-fluffy-looking white mattresses and crisp white bed linens. There was the threat of the beds with their sharp edges and sharply geometric shapes and angles making the area look sterile and unwelcoming, but the beautiful clean Tahitian ocean teal color of the walls, the red, not quite terracotta, clay color of the stone tile floors, and the imbued happiness of the sunlight coming in through the giant stained glass window’s honeycomb of colors more than abolished the threat and staved it off.
Kenmore lazily walks through the medical ward with her hands in her pockets, watching the details of the massive floor tiles in front of her pass by beneath her. Her eyes admired the rust-colored alien granite that bore a striking resemblance to the rust-colored granites that came out of Italian quarries back on Earth. It was scuffed now by the ten thousand years of dust and disuse that the city had undergone while “buried” beneath her original planet’s ocean until the Expedition arrived and then the almost six years of continual semi-emergency use the Expedition was. Some tiles were cut into large wedges, others into giant squares, and others cut into other polyhedron shapes as the floor’s geometric design dictated. Each side of each shape outlined by strips of what looked like silver, but time and the Expedition had done a good scuff job on those as well, so there was actually no telling whether or not the stripes really were silver or even genuinely metal for that matter anymore. Her eyes watched her boot lay itself down across the width of a silver border strip. It looked so scuffed that her body almost felt as though it should register a crunch emanating from the planted foot. But it didn’t and she took another step, her mind elsewhere.
“Lieutenant Kenmore,” she hears her name called from somewhere up ahead of her.
Kenmore stops and looks up. Teyla walks up to her.
“How is your arm,” the Athosian woman asks.
Kenmore touches her shirt where the wrapping still around her shoulder joint is hidden underneath and gingerly rolls her arm in its socket.
“It’s a little tight yet, but it’s healing,” she answers.
Teyla nods. That was good to know. She had not mentioned it before, but back in the Goa’uld mothership’s computer control room, she had uttered a silent prayer in her mind that the Lieutenant’s Ancestor DNA had blessed the woman with as swift a healing process as the Wraith had. And considering that two of her teammates were responsible for the injury: one for instigating the act, and the other for actually committing it…
“I have just come from seeing Doctor McKay.” She considerately used Rodney’s more formal title around Kenmore, acknowledging that the Lieutenant did so because she did not know the others quite as intimately as Teyla did. The Lieutenant did not yet consider them more than just co-workers where Teyla considered them as close a family as she has ever had in her life.
“How is he,” Kenmore asks.
“He is still very sick.” The Athosian’s face and voice downcast.
“Yeah, somebody should have told him that a Goa’uld symbiote releases a toxin into the host’s body if the symbiote doesn’t leave willingly.”
Teyla nods, but catches the downcast look on Kenmore’s face and in her voice as well. She was genuinely sorry that Rodney had been the one to suffer through this. Even being in the Lieutenant’s company for such a short time, Teyla already knew the young woman was very much like John Sheppard. Teyla’s acute hearing could detect the slight intonations in her words, the minor distinct variance in her diction that signaled the Stargate Command soldier was thinking that if she had been the one that the Goa’uld had infected, things might have gone much differently on this mission. That her Ancestor advanced healing would have been able to deal with its vacating toxin, the ensuing sickness. That Ronon may not have been shot. That no others would have been in any greater danger than they had been crawling through the ducts of the Goa’uld vessel and running down it’s corridors… That the Lieutenant should have taken Rodney’s place and kept the others safe. But Teyla also senses something else in the droop of the Lieutenant’s shoulders, the fact that the Lieutenant was letting so much of her feelings show; it was not like her.
“What is it,” Teyla asks her.
“I’ve just come from seeing off General Carter, he’s taking the symbiotes back to the Milky Way. We got the DNA results back from the symbiote I killed. According to our records, he wasn’t a Goa’uld, he was a Tok’ra named Malek. He was a very proud defender of his people… a very close friend,” the Lieutenant paused, feeling the loss deeply as Teyla could only imagine. Teyla had never actually killed a friend in order to save them; came close once, John during the assassins, but she had never actually pulled the trigger, “That must be why he came out to me, but then he… that screaming. I’ll never forget that screaming. He was being tortured, but a symbiote can’t take control of another symbiote. It doesn’t work that way. It’s not physically possible.”
Ah, that was it. Teyla’s natural maternal instinct came forth in the understanding calm set of her face. She was indeed a lot like John Sheppard. Rather than embrace the feelings she let show through, Lieutenant Kenmore chose to find shelter in some other aspect that presented itself in her… and hiding her feelings there. The Athosian lifts her head with a single inhale of breath then let’s her head fall back to its normal position. Yes. She understood now, it was not being downcast necessarily at all the sad news accompanying them from their mission back to Atlantis so much as “being confused by what had happened.” It was the Lieutenant and General Carter that knew more than the rest of them the possible circumstances in dealing with the Goa’uld. Teyla puts a hand on Kenmore’s shoulder. Kenmore takes Teyla’s hand off her shoulder, politely but firmly enough to let Teyla know never to do that again. Teyla accepts the warning.
“They had all been abused and tortured,” the Lieutenant goes on, “When we pulled the first tank into the hallway to take it to the gate, they all came out of the walls. They must have sensed Selmak’s presence so close to the ship and those that could crawl out of the tanks did and hid in the walls until we got on board and they could see who we were.”
“How many were there?”
“We lost count at ten thousand.”
The shock overwhelms Teyla.
“So, so many,” she breathes. The only time she had ever heard of so many people was Earth. And for that many to be put through what Lieutenant Kenmore says they were… Her mind could not fathom it.
“There were so many in a tank that there wasn’t enough environment to nourish them properly so Jacob borrowed a few similar tanks from the Daedalus since she also ferries people from both races back and forth, and that gave them all enough room. But just barely. A few are already starting to heal themselves, but others are still too sick. They’ve been given a sort of jerry-rigged version of their own individual tanks from what we could scramble together on the Daedalus.
“Woolsey let us put one of the symbiotes into a volunteer though. Seeing as how they were so weak, if it was a Goa’uld, it wouldn’t have been strong enough to pose much of a threat so he allowed it. It turned out it wasn’t a Goa’uld, it was another Tok’ra, Zarin. And according to her, they were all Tok’ra. We got a name count. Some had disappeared years ago and others we thought have been dead for years, like her. She was too ill to get out much more than that, but that was more than we could have expected or hoped for.”
The Lieutenant’s mind wouldn’t stop wreaking havoc with her though; she looks down at the floor again, thinking it through, “The Goa’uld must have put the dead in sarcophagi and healed them then the symbiotes were put into those tanks and made to watch their hosts die,” it sounded plausible to Teyla’s ears and thinking, but the Lieutenant shakes it off and looks back up at her, “Selmak doesn’t think any of them are really ever going to recover from this, physically barely. And mentally… never. They were all prisoners of war for far too long.”
“Do they know who did this to them,” Teyla asks. Picking up on Kenmore’s urgency by how much emotion she was skipping over, all the feelings she was hiding in her determination to figure out the machinations of how the Tok’ra symbiotes came to harm.
“No, they’re either too weak to tell us or too afraid. I’ve never seen the Tok’ra, any Tok’ra, this scared of a Goa’uld before, never.” There’s still the look of complete confusion keeping Kenmore’s neck muscles taut and the utter lack of being able to comprehend any of it spread all over her face. Except in her eyes. In there Teyla can see such deep feelings threaten to show much, much more than the Lieutenant was probably ever willing to show to anyone other than herself in total privacy. There was great fear and pain. Her friends had suffered much and that they were so deeply scarred, and would remain so for the rest of their as, Teyla understood it, very long lives, was a personal anguish that would cut deep… perhaps too deep.
There’s a moment of uncomfortable silence between them as the Lieutenant tries yet again to figure it all out, to put every part of this puzzle together, and Teyla allowing her the time, silence, and patience to make the attempt again… Suddenly Kenmore throws a smile on her face. Again, how so much like John Sheppard.
“So how’s Specialist Dex? I heard that Doctor McKay might make it out of here before he does. That’s gotta be pissing him off. I expect he’s tearing the roof off his side of the wing.”
Teyla’s surprised that the Lieutenant would change the subject to Ronon and with such a jovial and friendly spirit as well. But…
“Actually, he has been quite quiet. I think the situation was too emotionally taxing for him,” Teyla informs her.
“Yeah, he did get really emotional during the mission.”
“I meant at the end of the mission,” Teyla tries to lead her on, seriously.
But Kenmore quirks her head at Teyla, totally confused but for a different reason than before, “Huh?”
Before Teyla can speak again, Doctor Jennifer Keller, Atlantis’ Chief of Medicine, walks up to the two women from the same direction Teyla had come from.
“Hey Doc,” Kenmore greets.
“I’ve got Rodney’s test results,” Jennifer says, a slight quaver in her voice that indicated she still had a hell of a time dealing with her boyfriend being injured on missions even after being together for almost a year now. Our anniversary is coming up soon…
“And,” Teyla inquires gently.
“It wasn’t symbiote poisoning. From what I can tell there are no signs of a symbiote having ever been in Rodney.”
“What? But he shot Ronon and Lieutenant Kenmore.”
“Are you telling me that was all really Doctor McKay?”
“No,” Teyla chides Kenmore, “Doctor McKay would not harm anyone.” She looks to Jennifer for confirmation.
But Jennifer looks like a wounded deer more than she ever has here, “All I can tell you is that we found no signs that a symbiote was ever in him.” And that meant that she had no clue how to help her lover, her closest friend, all she could do was treat his symptoms when what she really needed to do, what she wanted most to be able to do, was cure their cause. He shouldn’t look like that in a medical bed. Our anniversary is coming up soon. He shouldn’t, he shouldn’t… Suddenly the image that’s been haunting the fringes of her memory comes floating back into her mind’s eye’s view: Rodney sitting in a chair in the middle one of the empty operating rooms, still part of the medical ward but located deeper, closer to the core of Atlantis interior sections. Wearing a bathrobe with blue squares outlined by white stripes on it and a brown-Army green t-shirt. His head shifting from side to side in lazy seeming, uncontrollable movements. His mouth slackened, almost as though drool were about to come dribbling out of its drooping slightly more than its other side corner. His speech broken and childlike. Not being able to remember his own name. And becoming so agitated, so angry with her telling him that he’d missed the “Doctor” part of it and him telling her, his head movements, his tortured agonized facial contortions, seeking solace in his hand rubbing against the side of his neck, that he wasn’t Doctor McKay anymore because he wasn’t smart anymore. Telling her how he used to be the smartest person in the world. She told him they were trying to fix that. No, no. No, you can’t. You can’t. You can’t. She’d relented, told him okay, asked him what he was supposed to say next. But he was already too agitated, too far gone… Where, where’d John go?… John!… Where are you John?… John! She tried to tell him she was his friend, she was right there with him. But he was already too far gone. Past needing her help. Past her being able to help him period. Suffering from a parasite nesting in his brain that mimicked the effects of Alzheimer’s. And now… God damn it, he can’t even call for John. He can’t call for me. He can’t call for anyone. He’s in trouble and he isn’t even conscious to tell us when something helps or takes him even farther away… from me.
“But the symbiote should still be inside of him. John said he never saw anything leave Rodney’s body and he was by Rodney’s side the entire time after we entered the control room.” Teyla couldn’t believe this, what Jennifer is saying.
Jennifer shrugs, but only half of her was in it. The other half was spending its effort in concern. There had to be a way. Had to be a cure.
“There’s nothing there,” she says. But there should be, what had she missed? What test had she screwed up on that was now condemning Rodney to pain and suffering?
“But what about the change in his voice and his eyes,” Teyla presses on, “Both Lieutenant Kenmore and Ronon said his eyes glowed.”
“The Goa’uld can speak with the host’s voice and don’t have to do the eye thing. They’re just parlor tricks,” Kenmore tells her.
“He has no memory, is that not an effect of the Goa’uld?” Teyla Emmagan is not about to give up. Rodney, of all her friends, was not a murderer either attempted or otherwise.
Kenmore stares at Teyla then past her. A memory flashes through her head of one of the missions that she didn’t have to be off-world to be a part of. A time when a Goa’uld had invaded the SGC using a visiting Russian scientist as a host after abandoning its original Russian host, a cosmonaut that the Goa’uld had attained in Earth’s own orbit. She remembered Daniel Jackson talking to the man in a sickbed in the SGC’s own infirmary while she was given her mandatory regular physical behind a screen of navy blue curtain and thick steel rod frame. Even though their voices were quiet, in the silence of the practically empty room, they carried she’d figured much more than either one had either known or intended. They had been discussing the man’s illness, which seemed to be contagious, and the man asked Daniel to deliver a message to the man’s sister. Kenmore had thought it a rather sad notion as she had bent over in the process of tying one of her bootlaces after the nurse had noticed it had unraveled itself loose.
“No, Rodney should remember everything he did. The Goa’uld symbiote doesn’t suppress the awareness of its host. Rodney should be able to remember everything he did,” Jennifer answers frustration seeping into her words. What few moments he was awake, she had pressured Rodney for anything he could tell her about his condition. But he had nothing. She had nothing except useless information from the SGC’s records about the Goa’uld.
“No,” Teyla still wasn’t giving up, “Rodney would not harm anyone.”
Kenmore remembers that the man had become very sick due to the Goa’uld, the SGC personnel had been informed of later. In fact, everyone that had played host to the Goa’uld had become ill. The shorter the time the lighter the illness, memory loss and a rise in their white blood count, but the longer the time, the Russian’s whole immune system had been affected. She flashes back to another of her required physicals during that time; Samantha Carter, apparently still unaware that no matter how low you’d try to speak in that damn concrete room you’re voice carried, telling Daniel on the other side of the room and behind a halfway drawn light blue curtain dangling from the ceiling between Daniel’s medical bed and the Russian’s, again it did nothing for any actual privacy for them, that Doctor Brightman— the temporary fill-in for Janet Frasier until they could get hold of a permanent replacement for the beloved Doc—couldn’t do anything more for the Russian other than treating his symptoms and making him as comfortable as they possibly could in his final hours.
“Parlor tricks,” Kenmore says distantly.
“What,” Teyla asks looking over at the Lieutenant. Jennifer and she’s discussion had been so two-sided that the sudden vocalization of the third party present had been rather startling.
But as Teyla and Keller stare at Kenmore, the Athosian quickly realizes that the Lieutenant, her expression and focus distant, was not necessarily talking to them anymore. Teyla begins to wonder whether or not the Lieutenant is even present with them. Kenmore ignores their looks, absorbed by her own memories. She flashes on what the Goa’uld that had taken control of the SGC looked like, a floating whispy, black cloud. A black cloud that could go through walls and floors. Kenmore turns around and begins to walk away from the other women. Teyla’s eyebrows furrow. She calls after her.
Kenmore flashes, in succession, on the many in that mission that the Goa’uld had shot in order to attain his goal: getting back to his homeworld in order to reassemble his armies and reforge his throne, to rebuild a body for himself because he could no longer take human form. Kenmore breaks into a jog as she tries to talk herself out of her conclusion.
“Naw, he’s dead,” Kenmore tries to wave off her ideas.
Her mind flashes on the memory of the repossessed ailing Russian scientist walking through the activated Stargate from her view in the SGC Command Center as General O’Neill lays on the floor, freed from being the Goa’uld’s previous host. Sam and Teal’c crowd around him as he reawakens and Sam tells him that she managed to redirect the gate from the Goa’uld’s destination to a frozen planet.
Kenmore’s mind even lights on what must have happened to the scientist afterward, transported to a frozen planet with no protection except for some thin hospital pajamas. The man couldn’t have made it more than a few steps from the Stargate before the cold brought him to his knees and froze him there.
Suddenly, Kenmore’s mind flashes on the time when Teal’c and Cameron Mitchell running through the halls of the SGC carrying a round Ancient device with a blue crystal on the top making the whole thing look like a giant, metallic blue genie’s bottle and screaming for people to get out of their way. She’d braced herself against the wall just across from the stairway leading up into the Command Center. Following the commotion with her eyes. The Stargate activating and the two men hurling the device into the initial flush of the wormhole, destroying it, then Mitchell and Teal’c clasping forearms in what T referred to as a warrior’s handshake in celebration. The mission in which Daniel and Vala had discovered, with the help of putting their consciousnesses into the bodies of two other people via two black stones plugged into that device, the Ori.
She imagines vividly the frozen planet’s Stargate activating from some random dialing in the same way that the SGC did their own exploration of the gate network. She imagines the flush engulfing the scientist’s fallen body, destroying it, and then sucking back in on itself, unknowingly releasing the indestructible black cloud from what remained of its host’s body. Then it taking a new host from whatever exploring group that had come through next and passing into the wormhole with them when they leave the frozen inhospitable planet… Escaping… until the next time Daniel met him… The Ancients don’t kill no matter what— Kenmore breaks into a full tilt run. Yelling at anyone in her way.
“Move! Move! Make a hole!”
People dive out of her way as she runs through Atlantis’s corridors— They only contain. Upon hearing the shouts, he couldn’t quite tell from who, and seeing people dart off to the sides like the Red Sea was parting, Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard’s military muscle memory kicks in immediately. He slams himself flat against the wall. It’s a moment before his mind can even process what was going on. He sees Kenmore barreling past. Shouting for people to move their asses.
“Move! Move! Move!”
John stares. Wait, what? Why?
Then he sees Teyla. She chances a glance at him as she too races past him as fast as she can. Teyla never raced, except when Wraith were after them and even then it was only when she was bringing up the rear and the rest of them had a healthy lead on her… The look on her face. Her cheeks are tight. Her brow is tense and furrowed. Concern. Worry. And her eyes.
“Lieutenant Kenmore,” she calls disappearing down the rest of the hall.
Aw crap, he races after her.
Finally Kenmore breaks into the gateroom. She runs for the stairs and makes the first flight easily. She trips on the second and desperately begins to pull and claw her way up them into the Command Center. Behind her, just breaking into the gateroom themselves are Teyla and Sheppard in pursuit. They watch their fifth team member desperately crawl up the second set of stairs. Bad. This is bad. Sheppard shouts at her.
“What is it?”
Kenmore ignores him. She makes it to the top of the stairs and regains her footing in the Command Center. She runs through the darkened room of shocked people, across the bridge, and bursts into Woolsey’s office. The glass door had already automatically opened at her frantic approach at the start of the bridge. Richard Woolsey and Colonel Steven Caldwell, who had been talking, jump in their seats at her arrival. She barrels to Woolsey’s desk and gets her hands on its surface as Sheppard and Teyla are coming across the bridge.
“It’s Anubis,” Kenmore rushes out breathlessly, “Anubis did it. And he’s still there.”
Woolsey and Caldwell stare at her. Mouths hanging agape slightly. Bodies suddenly stiff from the shock of her entrance and tightened by her words. And all Richard Woolsey can think of is Bad. This is bad.
TO BE CONTINUED…