The dark cloud seems paused as though it’s evaluating those handful of marines watching it from the corridor entries leading into the Gateroom and the other remaining personnel in the Command Center looking down on it. Abruptly the cloud lifts, turns, and dives straight down into the floor. Sheppard starts.
“Let him go,” Kenmore tells him.
Teyla and Sheppard stare at her. “What,” the Colonel breathes heavily.
“Let him go,” she looks at him, “All he’s doing right now is sizing up where he is and what systems he has access to.”
Sheppard angrily turns on her, “And isn’t that a bad thing?”
“Not necessarily. We know that there are certain systems that are activated by presence alone like the lights for instance and the doors. We found this out when we first came to Atlantis,” Zelenka offers.
“So he can just start messing with the city at will now,” Sheppard snaps.
“No,” the scientist says firmly, “those systems are minor. But there are systems that do require physical access. The DHD for instance and the chair.”
“And he cannot access those,” Teyla asks hopefully.
Radek shakes his head, “No.”
Some relief spreads through Teyla, but it doesn’t reach Sheppard.
“So we just wait here until he’s done going through the systems? How long is that going to take,” the Expedition’s Military Commander continues to fume.
“Atlantis redefines the meaning of the word complex,” Radek replies calmly, “She has thousands upon thousands of systems. Where it has taken us years to just scratch the surface of what the city has to offer, it could take Anubis just hours. He knows what he’s after.”
“And we’re just supposed to sit here and wait,” Sheppard keeps harping on the issue.
“No,” Kenmore finally snaps.
“Well then what,” he snaps back, “what are we supposed to do in the meantime?”
Kenmore looks over at him. She’s had enough obnoxious little kid playing for today.
“Plan,” she says like it was the most obvious thing in the world. Like it was something so obvious, how in the hell—“Why in the hell hasn’t anyone from this team ever thought of that before? Is it always McKay that comes up with the damn plans? Is it always McKay that points out the obvious to you freakin’ people?”
John Sheppard glares at her, takes a step backwards then walks behind Woolsey’s back, behind Kenmore’s, and out of the room. The Lieutenant watches him go only until he passes behind her then she looks down, feeling that she has indeed crossed a line within the team, with Sheppard, but also knowing her SGC background supports her even if the Atlantis team she’s the fifth member of doesn’t. These people didn’t know what they were up against here. They’re thinking too much how they normally do things, and they can’t keep doing that here. Anubis is not a Wraith; he’s much worse. They needed to trust the people they know that have a firmer history with this stuff, with him. They needed to trust the people who weren’t a part of the team they have always had since their second year here. They needed to trust Lorne and her and Woolsey. Ursula glances up at Teyla. Teyla Emmagan may not be glaring at her, but the Athosian leader looks no less uncomfortable with the situation. She trusted John and felt the same as he about letting an enemy so frightfully powerful into the city, but in this moment the Lieutenant is right, even if it hurt John’s feelings about it. She would rather this terrible danger not inhabit the body and mind of a Wraith or worse yet, a Wraith Queen. And… Rodney was the person who they always went to. It is always Rodney… The Athosian lowers her head.
* * *
If the rest of the city was darker than usual, even if it is nighttime, then Atlantis’ medical ward, never the most highly lit area in the city during the night let alone during a skeleton crew situation, was downright out of a horror film. It’s sparse lighting from spotlights of overhead, triangular-shaped Ancient recessed ceiling lights or those floor-almost to ceiling sconces sporadically dotting the walls or Earth-made lamps strapped to the headboards of the only two medical beds left in this area made it look like the best place for some lawnmower-wielding psychopath or fully transformed werewolves or zombies or something fatal to humans to pop out of a shadow or from around a corner, still in shadow. And there was a hazy blueness all around due to the lighting and a moonless night. The minimal illumination casts glows over Ronon’s bed that reminded John of a hospital wing at night when the patients were supposed to be sleeping and the night staff was supposed to have an easy night. Like a bizarre island of calm and warmth and ease in the middle of Jaws’ ocean.
Sheppard sits at the foot of Ronon’s bed, thoroughly frustrated and venting at the one person he knows would be just as frustrated with the situation as he is… just as frustrated with Lieutenant Ursula Kenmore.
“And Woolsey let this happen,” Ronon growls.
“He didn’t even hesitate,” Sheppard’s exacerbated.
John shakes his head. Looks down at his boots slightly rocking back and forth in their dangling over the medical bed’s edge due to an unconscious will on his part to move them. Ronon had practically ordered him to stop pacing like a madman and sit the hell down before Ronon made him stop and sit. And if he couldn’t move to this little extent, then John was going to tear the place apart.
“We evacuated the city only to hand it over to him,” John says to his boots, who were now practically shivering in their rapid little movements.
“It’s a controlled setting,” comes the feminine voice of reason from somewhere in the shadows ahead of them.
Sheppard and Ronon look up to see Jennifer Keller walking up to them. She had been at her desk in one of the darker and farther corners of the wing when John’d burst in and took his anger to Ronon for nourishment and back up. She’d waited in the dark only lit be the minute power of her little, Earth-made overhead desk lamp until even Ronon had become so agitated with the Colonel’s pacing that he’d demanded Sheppard sit down. And when Sheppard relented, she still waited in the darkness until she felt that he’d suitably calmed down enough for her to step in. She’d heard every word of his complaints.
“You agree with this?” He accuses.
For a moment Jennifer’s taken aback at the blatant hostility she was getting from him, perhaps she should have waited in the dark a lot longer, but she supposed she hadn’t expected any less from him nor from a lot of the other remaining personnel in the city. She had already heard rumblings from scattered pairs of marines, who thought they were alone in the darker halls of the city, patrolling the hallway outside her door. Many were not happy with the decision to take this course of action, including her…
“Not really,” she answered honestly and with her usual tone of voice, “but I was checking through our database on the files from Anubis’s last attack on the SGC. I was looking over their medical files to see if there was anything I could use for Rodney.” That was why she hadn’t liked this course of action, there were people she cared about still here. That Anubis could still use… Or wasn’t done with yet. And Anubis had a hideous track record with his hosts… and now with her lover.
“Did you get anything out of them,” Sheppard asks, suddenly polite and caring yet still urgent at the change of subject to someone whom he got along with.
Jennifer nods her head, but her expression is still somber.
“Sort of. I’m hoping it’ll work for Rodney,” she admits, “The Doctor at the time noticed that the patients who hosted Anubis showed an extremely high white blood count like Rodney has. It’s what the body does when it senses an infection so she tried a few things and when they figured out it was Anubis, it was too late for one of her patients. But she did recommend a course of treatments combining the treatments for a viral infection, the treatments for Goa’uld symbiote poisoning, and the treatments for exposure to a high level of energy-based radiation.”
“Is it working?”
“I don’t know yet. It’s still early. And her treatment plan was never tested in the first place, she only guessed that this might be a combination of treatments that might work.”
Sheppard nods at her. There’s a moment’s silence… Three people, friends, just standing around; in an uncomfortable and awkward situation for them. Ronon was normally in the middle of all the action, not stuck in a bed as far away from it as possible. John was always the one leading the charge, on the frontlines of the combat, always in the thick of it; not told to just wait and wait around and do nothing while the enemy was right in here with him. Jennifer puts an awkward smile on her face, as was her trademark in abnormal moments like this, just put on a happy face and the patients’ will think everything is fine; she stands there with her hands clasped in front of her turning lightly from side to side. This is so weird.
“Apparently Colonel Carter tried something like this when they found out that Anubis was on base,” she speaks up finally, hoping she was helping to give their friends in the command center the benefit of the doubt, “Originally they thought it was a viral outbreak until the first victims started to come around and had no memory of what had happened to them except for Doctor Jackson. He realized he had been Anubis. Then they realized they had to lock the place down. Samantha came up with a way to step up the lockdown procedures too as a means of stopping Anubis.”
“So what did Carter do exactly,” although he was willing to listen to her, which was a step forward, the Colonel’s tone of voice didn’t exactly sound like it, which was a step back.
“I don’t know, the computer started to phase then it just shut down,” she reluctantly admits.
John looks away from her.
“Anubis,” he says bitterly.
Jennifer nods. Knowing now not to add her two cents or provide her own sort of oddball brand of comfort just this second. She waits for someone else to make the first move, she hoped it would be Ronon… and she hoped it wouldn’t be further condemnation of the Lieutenant for basically going with a plan that Colonel Carter had come up with in the same situation too, especially since Jennifer knew Colonel Samantha Carter was a woman both men respected and admired without question.
After a moment, Sheppard sighs and looks back down at his boots again. Their movements are slower now, almost lazy. Ronon eyes the profile of his friend and team leader’s face, he hopes that doesn’t mean that Sheppard is giving up. In his opinion, Sheppard had been doing too much of giving into their new Lieutenant ever since she arrived in Atlantis.
“Well whatever it was, it was a temporary fix. Anubis got out. He got away.” Then Sheppard looks up at Jennifer again, “Look, I know it’s too early to tell if the treatment is working, but is Rodney awake again yet,” John asks her.
“Nope, I don’t think he’s likely to for awhile. Usually when the body fights a viral infection, the idea is for it to get a lot of rest and put all of its energy into fighting off the infection. He still needs a lot of rest. I’m letting him come around and go back to sleep whenever he feels like he needs to.”
“And those… burns on his skin?” John hadn’t even noticed them until he’d come in here to check up on Rodney a few minutes after disposing of his gear in the locker room and the medical staff had removed Rodney’s own clothing. There had been these little burn looking marks on his chest and arms and legs. They were small but still… they were there.
“Still there. I keep treating them with a topical and some antibiotics, but that’s about all I can do about them right now. They won’t go away until I deal with what Anubis has done to his system first.”
John takes the information with a nod. “Is there any way to keep an eye on him if Anubis stops messing with the computers and starts moving on to the medical equipment?”
“No,” she says slowly, and that was another thing that Jennifer hadn’t liked about this way of doing things, “I’ll have to sit with him in his isolation room when the power starts to go. Just in case.”
“But we’ll need you when Anubis starts taking hosts,” Sheppard objects. And it would be damn hard to pry her away from Rodney by then. It was damn hard to do it now.
“I can’t leave Rodney,” she is resolute. No one was going to shake her on this and she means no one, “He’s still touch and go. One minute he’s awake, groggy but awake, and the next minute he’s asleep and he can’t tell me whether he’s in pain or not. I just have to guess,” she snaps at him.
Sheppard stares at her. That last handful of words, it wasn’t like Jennifer to bite someone’s head off like that. She wasn’t telling them something, something that was bothering her. There was something in the sound of her voice—
“Put me in the room with him,” Ronon pipes up.
“What,” Jennifer looks at him.
“You have to keep an eye on both of us and I have to stay in this bed so let me watch McKay while you help the others.”
There was a lingering of something more there; Jennifer is hesitant, “I’m not sure…”
Perhaps it was her imagination, but it seemed, it sounded like an offer he would have made back when he was flirting with her, trying to date her… court her… back before she chose Rodney over him.
“I’m stuck here. Let me help.”
Jennifer eyes him, he looks so sincere. Perhaps it had been Jennifer’s imagination, perhaps what she had mistaken for a latent tendency towards affection for her was in actuality a simple, hardcore desire in him to never be useless. To always look around himself no matter how bad his personal predicament was and find a way to still be a help to his team. Keller looks from Ronon to Sheppard.
“We don’t know how big a disaster this is going to become. We need you Jennifer.”
She eyes John for a moment too. It wasn’t like the Colonel to call her by her first name. It just… wasn’t his personality around her. His style in a tense situation like this. He usually called her ‘Doc’ like Kenmore does. She looks back at Ronon again.
“Okay,” she agrees but makes it abundantly clear by the look she’s leveling at him and the moment or two of further hesitation before she agreed that this decision is entirely reluctant on her part. She didn’t really think so but she might even go so far as to say it was against her will… and perhaps even her better judgment.
Jennifer walks around to the side of Ronon’s bed but she doesn’t look at him.
“Help me move him,” she says then bends over out of sight.
Sheppard nods then hops off his friend’s medical bed and bends over out of sight on his side of Ronon’s bed too. Both Keller and Sheppard pull the brakes up on the medical bed, pull it forward a few inches, get behind it, and then as a team start to push the bed with one hand and drag his remaining medical equipment behind them with their others.