Never had the Gateroom’s Command Center been so haunted during the night shift. Richard Woolsey paces up and down the center of the small room. Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard and Teyla Emmagan standing to one side of him, Major Evan Lorne and Lieutenant Ursula Kenmore standing on the other, and Doctor Jennifer Keller standing at one end of his short path with Doctor Radek Zelenka at the other. The former litigator looks strained, more strained than either Sheppard or Teyla have ever seen him before, and that was saying a lot considering all that the straight-laced, constantly rulebook carrying, uptight man has been through since taking over command of the Expedition of the Lost City; even Lorne and Kenmore with their dealings with him at the SGC have never seen Woolsey this on the brink of actual anger. Maybe even rage.
“And none of you knew about this,” he isn’t yelling at them, it’s his regular volume, but his tone is tense and sharp. And on the knife’s edge.
“We were all sort of distracted, you know, not trying to get blown up,” Sheppard comments, hoping that if he spoke in his usual mordant manner then Woolsey’s mentality would follow his lead. Instead…
Woolsey does a snap turn on his heels and bears down on Lieutenant Kenmore. She holds her ground, instantly snapping to stiff attention and stares through Woolsey’s throat just like Sheppard remembered being trained to do when a drillmaster was in your face.
“You are trained to observe even when wounded, did you forget that?” He shouts in her face. Practically spitting.
“No Sir,” her reply crisp, “McKay stayed at the computer, Sir. He never left it except to apparently plant the explosives meant for Colonel Sheppard and the rest of the mission team, Sir.”
“I don’t know if he did anything else during that time, Sir.”
“Could he have sent a transmission to other Goa’uld?”
“I don’t know, but he did take his computer tablet with him, Sir.”
“You don’t know? Why don’t you know!”
Kenmore’s gaze suddenly breaks from its distant look and she stares directly into Woolsey’s dark eyes. Her brows pinched in confusion.
“I was tending to Specialist Dex, Sir,” she said it like wasn’t it obvious.
Woolsey isn’t backing off, “You couldn’t reach the computer in the room?”
“No Sir. Anubis put up a forceshield between it, Specialist Dex, and I. He also blocked the Specialist’s gun from us. The only direction he left open was the door.”
“And you didn’t follow him?”
“I was trying to drag Specialist Dex with me, Sir.”
“We don’t live our teammates behind.”… even if they don’t like you.
She said it as firmly and from the heart as would any other soldier of the SGC, and John was proud of her for it. Woolsey goes back to pacing. She’d uttered the one thing he couldn’t possibly argue with a soldier about.
“Perhaps you should have paid more attention to the computer while you had the time,” he barks at the floor.
Kenmore steps towards him, “My first priority was getting Specialist Dex out of there.”
Woolsey freezes and looks back at her, “And perhaps you were shot because you weren’t paying attention,” he reprimands.
Kenmore just stands there. Taking the hit. Woolsey goes back to pacing.
Teyla looks over at the Lieutenant, feeling that Woolsey’s last comment was too harsh. Yes, it had been a part of Teyla’s own biting comment minutes ago, but even then Teyla believed she herself had been out of line. Taking out her intense feeling of betrayal and the lingering sentiments of shame she’d had on the one person who believed so confidently in what they were doing that she never seemed to slow down this entire time. And Richard was right, he did not have the mission reports yet. None of them had had a chance to get anything written down before the connections were made and the evacuation was called for. He did not know the circumstances in which Kenmore had been shot. None of them truly did save for Lieutenant Kenmore, Ronon, and Rodney. In truth, no one was at fault here; the circumstances are just too stressful for them all to handle properly and the leader in Teyla sought to calm the situation and take Kenmore out of Woolsey’s line of fire. Ironic considering that she, John, Jennifer, and Ronon had just allied against both her and Lorne to protect Rodney from them. But… again… the Lieutenant had been right in questioning Rodney about Anubis’ motives, and she had… again… uncovered information that they had not previously known that was proving exceptionally important to them.
“Could the Wraith have captured them? We would not have had reports of other Goa’uld ships if they had,” Teyla offers.
“No,” Zelenka cuts in to her endeavor, “I am certain that there are no other Goa’uld in the Pegasus.”
Everyone looks at him.
“How do you know that,” Lorne asks.
“You said it yourself,” Radek tells him, “Anubis is not a Goa’uld anymore. He is an Ascended Being. I believe that he is trying to get back to the other Ascended.”
Kenmore steps towards him, “How do you mean?”
Zelenka walks back over to his computer console and sits down at it again. The others crowd around him.
“I have been tracking his movements, what systems he has been accessing, and they are all one of only two types of systems. Power or communication.”
“Communication? He’s trying to reach outside the city,” Woolsey asks, not understanding why Anubis could possibly be doing that if no other Goa’uld were here in the Pegasus Galaxy either with him or for him.
“No,” the scientist ends the train of that thought again, “He is trying to reach in.”
The scientist starts working on his laptop. When he stops, the others lean in. Some stare at the screen in confusion, others surprise, everyone taken aback a little.
“What,” Woolsey gapes, dumbstruck.
“He’s trying to activate the schoolroom?” Sheppard’s brows furrow at the screen. What the hell? All it ever does is bring up a nice looking woman who talks to you like you’re the dumbest child ever or some other nice looking woman who tells you how the Wraith kicked the Ancients’ asses during the war.
“It would make sense,” Radek says, “According to Doctor Jackson’s report, Vala Mal Doran’s report, and even Elizabeth Weir’s own report, that room is a gateway to wherever the Ascended Ancients reside.”
“He’s trying to go, well, home again,” Kenmore asks.
Zelenka nods, “He is rerouting every possible bit of power he can access towards that room.”
Sheppard starts nodding too, “That makes sense. It takes a lot of power to run it. We found that out our first half-hour here.”
“And if he gets it up and running…,” Lorne trails off, begging either his commanding officer or Zelenka to fill in the blank he couldn’t right now.
“I don’t know, but I don’t like the thought of it,” Sheppard leans forward, putting a hand on the back of Zelenka’s chair, “Is there any way for you to get ahead of him, start cutting him off at the passes?”
“I can try,” Radek shrugs.
He starts typing furiously. The screen starts showing random power systems shutting down. Suddenly the Atlantis’ central tower’s power systems start to flash red.
“He’s drawing power from the medical wards,” he announces, “I can shut them down, if you think Rodney is well enough to survive without them?”
He looks back at Jennifer. She considers it for a moment then nods her head. She reaches up to her earpiece as Zelenka returns to typing.
“Ronon, this is Jennifer.”
“Yeah,” he asks in his usual blunt manner.
“We’re going to shut down the medical equipment.”
* * *
The medical wards were a ghost town at night… and creepy too. Their isolation rooms weren’t any better. There was too much equipment that was foreign to him crowded into too small an area in the very center of the room. Only one way into the room. But someone could look in on you if they wanted to. In fact, the whole area reminded Ronon of being trapped in a cage. No, he didn’t feel comfortable here. Everything in this room, every part of it, kept reminding him how vulnerable he is in his current medical condition… And he hated that. Ronon sits in his bed staring over at the closed door and feeling the muscles in his neck already tense and tingling with the itching idea that someone, something was going to come through it at any moment and there wasn’t going to be anything Ronon could really do about it. And that sensation was only competing with the constant urge to check the observation gallery too. Sheppard would say that Ronon’s predicament was meant to make him think about how he ended up in here with Rodney, how he got shot… and how he got Kenmore shot. The predicament she had been put in where they had to rely uncomfortably, that was not a thing they liked to have to do, on her natural Ancient DNA-given ability to regenerate in order to save her arm from the very imminent threat of amputation it had been under. They were lucky… she was lucky… he was lucky she had the ability to regenerate. He knew these people were his friends and that this place was his home, but he hated to think what they’d do to him for shooting one of their own no matter how many people, which he’d come to discover was not as many as he’d thought, disliked her… Damn it, it was making him think about how he’d got shot.
The lights and his and McKay’s medical equipment screens start flickering like crazy. This must be what it looked like when Jennifer’s computer started to shutdown. Even with his feelings about where he was and what’s going on around him, he still caught on to the concern in Jennifer’s voice.
“I’ll still keep an eye on McKay,” he tells her surprisingly gently. He hadn’t meant it to sound like that.
After a moment of silence, the medical equipment shuts off followed shortly by the lights. The entire room is plunged into blinding darkness. And he knows the radio connection’s been severed. It takes a moment for Ronon’s eyes to adjust to the practically sensory depriving blackness. He looks around himself. There is no comfortable, natural hum through the walls of the city running at night that usually lulled him to sleep, although he had fought off giving in to such a comfort when he first stated living in Atlantis. All he can hear is McKay’s labored breathing now that his respiration equipment’s been shut down. Ronon looks over at McKay. Sitting here in the dark, looking over at him… like this… It all reminded Ronon of when Rodney was dying of that parasite that had been in his head and quickly stripped his friend of his memories rendering the scientist into a state of second childhood. It had been hard then… to watch. Less hard than now. At least then Rodney had been awake, alert enough, to let them know what was going wrong. How far things were going downhill for him, how fast. But this… No, this is much worse. Rodney’s body is so weak he needed to keep it in a perpetually state of sleep just to keep both it and him going, alive.
“Hold in there, Buddy.” Now he meant that to come out as gently as it did.
* * *
Zelenka stops typing, looks up at Woolsey, and nods.
“Keep going,” Richard tells him.
Radek goes back to typing. His screen shows more systems shutting down… and others trying to start back up. John points to one of them.
Zelenka doesn’t miss a beat in his typing to answer Sheppard, “He’s trying to access systems that have already been shut down.”
“Can he do that,” Teyla asks.
Radek shakes his head, “No, those systems require physical activation.”
“But they’re flickering,” Sheppard echoes Teyla’s concern.
“I did not say he could not try,” the Czech scientist keeps his focus on his work.
His computer screen shows more and more systems shutting down and more and more trying to reactivate. More systems are shutting down than can be reactivated though. Radek is winning. He smiles. Suddenly his computer screen’s map of the city and its systems show one wall starting to glow brighter and brighter with power. His smile disappears.
“There is an energy spike in the north pier of the city, the east corridor, one of the walls,” he says.
“Are there any security cameras in that area,” Sheppard asks.
“Yes. It is pointed right at the wall.”
“Show us,” Woolsey orders.
In a few short taps, he brings up the camera’s view.
* * *
The hallway’s dark stained copper, block-style lights are on and starting to glow brighter and brighter, surging with the power in its sea green textured walls. Just when the lights’ clear crystal slats seem so bright that you’d think the bulbs, if there had been bulbs in them, were about to explode, a giant cloud of shadow bursts out of a segment of the wall between two solid cement-colored beams. It hangs there for a moment, undulating in midair like an evil version of the Stargate’s event horizon, then starts to float down the corridor.
* * *
The group stares at the view of the cloud in front of the wall then the cloud starts to move and it travels out of the camera’s view.
“Are there any more cameras in that corridor,” Woolsey orders quickly.
“Yes,” Radek nods.
“Bring them up.”
Several small windows come up on the computer screen in columns and rows, each with a different view of the corridor Anubis is traveling through. Sheppard points at the top right corner screen.
“There he is.”
The cloud moves out of view of that camera and is picked up on another. Kenmore leans in.
“Is there any way you can use the corridor junction forcefields to trap him?”
“I think I can.”
Sheppard looks over at her, “We have those?”
Kenmore nods, “You should. The Ancients liked to trap things or haven’t you taken a look at your brig lately?”
As Zelenka works, his computer screen shows an energy build up at halfway down the hallway Anubis is traveling down. When the two wall ends of the junction start to glow brightly on his computer screen indicating an optimal power build up, Zelenka presses a button.
* * *
The black cloud glides down the hallway heading towards the end of it when a pale lavender-blue forcefield several feet ahead spreads across the hallway, blocking the rest of it from Anubis. The cloud stops and waits as though it’s considering what it’s ‘seeing’. Then it starts to back up, speeding back up the hallway it had just come down.
* * *
Teyla starts, her eyes bulge. Lorne and Woolsey stare at the computer screen surprised, that hadn’t expected Anubis to do that. The last time he was at the SGC he was more of a combination of deception and direct aggression. And Zelenka eyes the screen as though what he were seeing is a trick, that there has to be more to this, something else going on here that he didn’t know about and wasn’t going to like finding out later when it was too late.
“He’s running away,” Sheppard can’t believe it. Wasn’t this guy supposed to be a big bad? A really big bad.
Kenmore leans even further forward. Her hand now on the back of Radek’s chair too, alongside Sheppard’s.
“Is there another junction ahead of him we can block off,” she asks, keeping her eyes on the screen.
Radek nods as he returns to controlled-frenzy typing, “I am already there.”
* * *
Another forcefield suddenly spreads across the far, far end of the corridor ahead of the black cloud. Anubis slows slowly down to a stop. Then he hangs there in midair for a moment. Pausing once more as though considering the forcefield. Then backs up a few feet and dives to his right down a whole new hallway.
* * *
Everyone closes in around Zelenka. More hands now on the top of the back of his chair than the top of his chair can fit. This is a very ironic game of cat-and-mouse to everyone present. For all the Goa’uld were, for all the threat that each one had individually presented themselves as and presented as a group to Earth and the SGC, especially Anubis himself, for it all to be rendered down to this, a simple labyrinthian game of capture… it was mind-blowing. It was like taking Ocean’s Eleven or Twelve or Thirteen and making them play a shell game in a casino’s pit. An elaborate setting with plenty of ways to get out with plenty of top players on either side, but the simplest rules and object of the game ever. There was something very vast and dangerous about all this, but also something so insanely inane that it evokes the sort of gut reaction of butterflies in your stomach from playing a game of chicken with a couple of cars on a desolate stretch of back road in the middle of nowhere. No help if something goes wrong, people waiting for you back wherever you came from or wherever you’re going to when you decided to start playing this stupid game. Just you and the other car. Isolated. So many things that could go wrong. Straightforward.
“Block that one,” Kenmore orders.
Zelenka keeps typing, his focus never leaving the computer screen. He brings up the map of the city and her systems again. The walls of the end junction of the new hallway start to glow. Swiftly close off. The glowing cloud of raspberry pink light indicating Anubis’s lifesign on the map of the city starts to retreat from its closed off exit again. The speed of the hazy dot… it’s just barreling back up the hallway to the old one it had fled. Zelenka brings up the small grid of the views from the four cameras that monitor that area of corridor. Another junction, one in clear view of one of the cameras, starts to glow as Anubis’s indicator quickly closes in on it. The junction reaches its maximum point and Zelenka activates its forcefield.
* * *
The lavender-blue forcefield bursts across the hallway and in the split of a heartbeat, Anubis slams on the brakes.
* * *
Everyone’s startled, Sheppard and Kenmore reeling back from Radek and his computer screen. Then Kenmore cagily, as though she thought the black cloud might be able to come through the computer’s screen and grab her, extends out her finger and reaches out to point at the view.
“Did you see that,” she says.
“Do not forget that Anubis can go through the floor,” Teyla warns, her espresso eyes sliding over to look at the back of Radek’s eager head.
“And the walls,” Lorne nods, warning his friend too.
After a few moments of computer keys clicking, the floor on the map begins to wave gently with blue-green light like the surface of a lake being gently rippled by a breeze caressingly gliding over it. In the camera’s view, Anubis begins to leisurely veer dangerously close to a wall. Then the map’s lines of the walls start to appear to be reverberating in the same blue-green light as the floor. Anubis quickly juts back into the middle of the hallway. Waiting there again.
“He doesn’t like the forcefields,” Kenmore says slowly, “… It’s the energy. It’s gotta be.”
“What,” Sheppard looks over at her.
She returns the favor, “Ancients when they Ascend just become energy, right. Remember. What are the forcefields made of?”
He nods, catching on.
“They’re made up of energy too. He can’t go through them.”
“Maybe the energies don’t mix. Different frequencies. It might tear him apart if he tries.”
“Well then, for the time being, that means he’s trapped,” Sheppard finally straightens back up, crossing his arms over his chest, and feeling for the first time this entire mission-gone-awry a sense of confidence and security; control, “About time we had some good news.”
Then Anubis’s indicator on the map starts glow brighter. And brighter. Fast.
* * *
The black cloud floats in the middle of the corridor just paces away from a shimmering pale lavender-blue forcefield. Without warning giant bolts of white hot electricity trimmed in brilliant sky-blue bursts from it. Their ragged tips slam into the walls and floors, sending up explosions of golden-white sparks.
* * *
Radek squints his eyes, turning his head away slightly at the bright flashes almost whiting out the screen. Kenmore reels back too, wincing. The others around them just recoil a bit.
“My God,” Woolsey mutters, bringing up his hand to try and block the searing light from his eyes while still trying to see the computer screen whenever the rest of its view comes back into focus.
Kenmore straightens up, her eyes narrowed against the same brilliance, “Aw, let him throw his little temper tantrum.”
The walls and floor on the computer screen’s map start to glow brighter. A look of panic shoots across Zelenka’s face, he practically throws himself at the computer. Furiously typing again.
“He is trying to overload the forcefields. It is causing massive feedbacks throughout the entire power grid,” he blurts.
A computer console behind them suddenly explodes in a shower of sparks. They all duck and look back at it. Suddenly the console right next to it explodes. Then the one next to that. With each explosion, the group retreats step by step further into the middle of the room. The computers blowing in a clockwise semi-circle around them. Kenmore turns around and yanks Zelenka to his feet back away from his console moments before it explodes right in front them, annihilating the laptop he had been using sitting on top of it. There aren’t any more exploding computers after that one. Apparently Anubis felt he could stop after he finally found the one computer in Atlantis giving him trouble and taking it out. They look around themselves. Half the room’s computers have been blown out.
“Apparently he can still effect the forcefields, he just can’t touch them,” Sheppard raises his voice over the noise of exploded computers still sputtering their destruction.
“Did he bring down the forcefields,” Woolsey asks.
Radek runs over to one of the remaining unexploded computer consoles, the second level one nearest the entryway to the bridge leading to the door to Woolsey’s office and the only other one in the room with a laptop already connected to it. He leans over the laptop and presses a few buttons, staring tensely at its screen. Then relaxes.
“No,” he says and even though it’s loud enough to be heard over the din, it stills sounds breathless. Thankful.
Kenmore looks over at Sheppard. “Well, apparently, he can’t,” she says.
Sheppard nods at her. Lucky for them. Woolsey continues to address Zelenka…
“Did any other power surges happen in the city?”
Zelenka goes back to typing. This time when he stops, he doesn’t relax.
“Yes…,” the dread in his voice, he looks up at them, “The medical wards.”
Lorne and Woolsey stare at him. Keller, Sheppard, Teyla, and Kenmore all run for the exit.