CHAPTER TEN: HERE THEY COME
"Sir!" Dunne's voice came in sharply over the radio, "Major Sheppard, come in!"
The Major raised a hand as he saw the illusory mesa come into view, and the two green-clothed guards waiting for him, but his grin was forced. So much for radio silence. "Yes, Corporal? What is it?" he said into the radio, the back of his mind adding 'this had better be good.'
"The Stargate just activated, sir! I think...oh shit! Weathers, get back in here now! Move!"
Sheppard didn't think, he just started running towards the two Deucalion guards. They perked up, confused by his sudden sprint in their direction.
"The Wraith, sir! Wraith darts! Two...three...four...They just keep coming...seven...eight… Oh, sweet mother of God...."
"Sir...there's a massive ship...it's descending from the sky above our heads...."
"Stay inside the ship, Corporal, you hear me!"
"Sir!" Markham's voice came next. "I can see the mother ship! Lord, it's huge! The readouts coming up on the display...Christ, it makes n' aircraft carrier look like a tugboat, sir! Should I come...."
"Stay where you are, Markham! Tanner, Stackhouse, get back to the ship! I may need cover fire getting Ford and the others out of here!"
"Yes sir!" Tanner's voice replied. "Heading back sir!"
"Watch your backs! Stay under the trees and watch for shadows!"
The Major skidded before the two now very nervous Deucalion guards, his voice nearly a shout now. "The Wraith are here! They've come back! Alert your governor and take me to my people, now!"
Ford stared at the radio on Teyla's shoulder, while she gripped her hand around it, as if wanting to block the sound out. They'd heard it all, and the chills the Athosian was feeling made the reality of it even harsher. Colonel Luphron's eyes were wide before them, and he turned to the people he had clearing the rubble. They all stood like statues, staring at the two Atlanteans as if they'd betrayed them somehow, trapped by their fear.
"Hurry!" he shouted, jumping past the them to start tearing away at the fallen concrete himself, the action setting his people in motion again. "We need to get the doorway to the Great Eye clear now! We can't risk the shield coming up again. This is it!"
Teyla and Ford didn't even think as they dove in to help.
The darts bee-lined for the mesa, not in the slightest bit fooled by the Illusion. The mother ship followed more slowly, waiting for the smaller fighter ships to do their work and make sure the hidden gray city was secure before heading in after them.
The Wraith sensed the hundreds of thousands of people hiding inside that false hill, cowering inside the hollow rock. As if such a pathetic trick of the light would fool them. Did they really think they wouldn't be found? May as well try hiding a sun behind a moon.
The massive ship drifted towards the cloaked Puddle Jumper. It sensed a few small singular human presences below, but compared to the feast inside that Illusion, it was nothing.
Tanner and Stackhouse stopped, pressing themselves against trees as the first dart whipped past over their heads, their eyes glued on the dark shape through the thick branches. Both men sighed in relief when it didn't bother to slow down, obviously not concerned with them.
"Keep moving!" Tanner called, turning and running once more for their cloaked craft. Not far now.
The Major and a couple of Deucalion guards sprinted down the dark gray corridors of Deucalion, trying to get to the hall of ages before the Wraith ships breached the Illusion.
"We're through!" Lieutenant Che called, jumping back from the gap they'd created. "I can get inside."
"Then go!" Colonel Luphron shouted.
She nodded, scrambling back up the rubble and slipping in through the gap. Teyla and Ford moved to go after her.
"It can only fit a handful of people inside that room," the Colonel called after them. "Some of us...."
"Too late," Ford called back, sliding in after Teyla as she disappeared through the gap.
The Colonel grimaced, his hands gripping themselves into fists. Shaking himself out of it, he looked at the other personnel around him.
"All right, go man your stations! We will defend this City, understand? We will not let the people hidden below be lost without a fight! Sergeant Cusp, stay here and wait for Major Sheppard, tell him where his people are. I have to get to the Governor."
The sergeant snapped to attention as everyone else around him ran out of the room, followed by the Colonel, who gave a half salute back before disappearing as well.
The first Wraith dart penetrated the illusion...and took aim at the first small gunnery firing at it that it came across.
"Yes," the hologram nodded, "you can communicate with the people in the Great Eye."
Rodney's face lit up, and he grinned, "Why didn't you tell me I could—"
And suddenly the world exploded.
The first blast rocked the entire room, shaking the foundations and sending Rodney harshly forward into the console as dust and silt came down from the ceiling.
"The Wraith!" the hologram hissed as the scientist levered himself back up, shaking dust from his hair. "It must be! You have to fix it! Now!"
Rodney just stared back at the projection nonplussed, not immediately responding, still feeling the aftershocks of that first hit in his knees. The hologram flickered more.
"Please," it begged. "The Weapon must work! It's our only chance!"
How does a hologram now how to beg? Rodney wondered.
Another blast rocked the room, and bits of concrete dust floated down from the already fragile ceiling.
It galvanized Rodney into action. Shoving the rest of the rubble off the console with a mighty heave, he pulled the knife from his belt and started trying to reconnect the damaged parts of the motherboard, to replace the crystals and reconnect the wires....starting with the green one.
CHAPTER ELEVEN: WHEN THE DEVIL DRIVES
Despite its name, the room of the Great Eye was tiny, no larger than a small, dark closet. Lieutenant Che sat down on a chair before a small square table about the size of child's school desk, which was the only furniture in the room, and passed her hand over it. Teyla and Ford squished inside with her, standing on either side and watching as six yellow buttons formed on the smooth surface of the table. At the same time, the walls of the room around them vanished….
"Wow!" Ford exclaimed, grabbing at the back of the lieutenant's chair as the floor seemed to disappear, replaced by a bird's eye view of the City of Deucalion. Except for the chair and table, they appeared to be standing on thin air, staring out at the entire surface of the planet, the Wraith darts looking like small birds far below them winging towards the City. Teyla reached her hand out, seeking the wall she had seen a second before. It was with some thanks that she felt its cold, concrete surface still there, even though she could no longer see it.
The Deucalion lieutenant didn't react to the change in perspective—her hand passing over a section of the table above the yellow buttons. If Ford didn't know better, he'd swear she was steering an invisible wheel.
Sure enough, the perspective changed, and they appeared to drop hundreds of feet in seconds—Teyla had to close her eyes for a moment from the vertigo, and even Ford looked a little green despite the fixed jaw—until they were right above the city, watching as the first Wraith dart swept through the Illusion, easily dodging the shots being fired from below.
Lieutenant Che flinched as the Dart fired a shot at one of the gunnery positions, and the soldier inside disappeared in an explosion of fire and blown rock.
Her hand hovered over the first yellow button, shaking slightly.
It suddenly occurred to her that she didn't know if it would work.
McKay finished with the green wire, watching as the green crystal connected to it come to life and stay lit. Without pause, he moved to the white wire, which was intact….and severed it.
A bright flash overhead and he looked up at the damaged ceiling.
Sunlight poured in through the now open hole, and McKay grinned.
The way out!
The hologram looked up as well, its expression obviously unhappy.
Turning back to the console, the huge smile still on his face, McKay passed his hand over the green light formed by the crystal just as another explosion rocked the city.
"Hello! Anyone out there! Can you hear me?"
"Doctor McKay?" Ford's voice replied, obviously surprised. "Is that you?"
"Lieutenant! How wonderful to hear your voice!"
"Doctor McKay!" Teyla said, looking around her for the source of the voice. "It is good to hear yours as well! We were not really sure that they...." She shook her head, changing the subject from the Deucalion's honesty, "Are you all right?"
"Teyla! Yes, yes, I'm all right. A splitting headache but otherwise….Are you all right? Where are you? Are you in the Great Eye?"
"Yes, how did you…."
"You'd have to be, to be able to hear me. What's happening out there?"
"The Wraith, doctor," Ford answered. "They've returned. There's already a Wraith dart…."
"Two," Lieutenant Che added sadly, looking at where a second dart penetrated the Illusion.
"Two Wraith darts are attacking the City. They're…destroying all of the defenses the Governor set up."
McKay didn't answer immediately, and Ford looked at Teyla.
"I was afraid that's what you'd tell me. Is Major Sheppard back yet?"
"He should be here any minute," Teyla promised him. "Doctor, tell me, is the Weapon damaged?"
"Can you fix it?"
McKay stared at the green blinking light, then back at the hologram. It simply stared at him. It was unnerving.
"Doctor?" Teyla's voice called. "Can you fix the Weapon? Can you make it work?"
His jaw tensed, and he closed his eyes, "Teyla…yes, I can fix it, but…."
"Then do so. As quickly as you can. We are here, ready to fire it as soon as you have finished."
Blue eyes opened again, "F…fire it? As soon as I've….But…."
"Doctor, you must hurry. The darts are already….Look out!"
Another explosion rocked the room McKay was in, and he ducked out of the way as more of the ceiling fell. Luckily, it didn't hit either him or the console, but it spooked him anyway.
"Teyla," he gasped, "Listen, I have a way to get out of here. I can just climb…."
"Three darts are inside now, Doctor! You have to do this!"
"But I don't think I can! Please! I can fix it, but can't someone else...?"
"It has to be you, Doctor. According to the Deucalions, no one can take your place."
Another explosion. McKay gripped the console, his eyes glued on the broken black wire--the one that connected the chair to the controls.
"Doctor, we know the Weapon can only be fired six times, and that it will drain you, but there is no time to find someone else, we…."
"You mean you know what it will do to me?" he asked softly.
"We have been told, yes. Doctor McKay, I am sorry. You and we were tricked into this position, but there is no choice now. We can not let these people die, not knowing we could have done something to stop it. You must fix the Weapon and guide it. Please Doctor, hurry!"
McKay took a deep breath, not quite believing her.
"Ford? You agree? And Major Sheppard does to?"
"Yes, Doc. I don't like these people, but they don't deserve to be Wraith food. And, Teyla and I aren't very safe either. The Major isn't here yet, but I know he'd agree."
Rodney felt like he was going to choke. It took him a couple of seconds to realize it was because he'd stopped breathing. Gasping in some air, he turned and looked one more time up at the opening in the ceiling, at the sunlight and blue sky above. At his last chance. All he had to do was climb up and he'd be free….
He realized then that he could see black smoke rising from somewhere, drifting past the opening.
Another explosion rocked the room.
"Doctor?" Ford's voice asked. "The Major is outside. He says if you don't fix that Weapon, we'll probably be trapped here with the Deucalions. You have to fix and ready the Weapon now!"
"He said that?"
"Yes. Doctor McKay, he said that."
Sheppard was willing to let him die! Hell, he was ordering him to! He closed his eyes again. He never thought the Major would allow it, not without a fight.
Well, who was he kidding anyway? In the end, did he matter so much? Only in his own mind, he supposed. He wasn't really one of Sheppard's men, now, was he? Not like Ford…or even Teyla now….Deep down, he always knew he was the one who would be left behind when push came to shove. Why did he ever think he could be part of their team? To have…to have people who cared about what happened to him….
He turned, staring up once more at the hole in the ceiling. So why shouldn't he just go?
Another explosion. He grimaced. He knew the answer already. Suck it up, Rodney. A far, far better thing…remember your Dickens....
"Okay," he sighed finally, his voice losing all its edge as his head lowered. "I'll be your Sydney Carton. I'll fix it." Swiping a hand back over the green light, he turned off the communicator.
His face held no expression at all as he quickly moved to rejoin the rest of the damaged wires, connecting them with their crystals. He specifically didn't touch the white wire—he wanted the sky to be one of the last things he would see. The black wire he left until last, and his hands shook as he finally got to it.
"Is he fixing it?" Major Sheppard's voice asked over the radio, still a little winded from his run.
"Yes sir," Ford replied, holding onto the radio on his shoulder, watching as Lieutenant Che kept her hand over the first button, obviously itching to depress it. "He didn't sound happy about it though. He said something about having found another way out of the Weapon."
"Other than being released after six shots?"
"Why would he not want to guide the Weapon? Seems to me he would love the chance to do something like that?"
"I'm not sure, but I think it has to do with the fact that he knows it will take a toll on him. The Governor told us it drains you of energy. He'll be really tired when he finally gets out."
"It takes a toll? You mean, it could hurt him?"
"No, at least, not permanently. But, like I said, he'll probably want to sleep for a while." Ford cracked a smile at Teyla, who had her arms crossed as she listened to him. She didn't look happy with any of this, despite what she had told McKay.
"Oh, okay. And you're sure I can't come in there?"
"It's too small sir. With you, I think we'd be too crushed. If you like, you can take my place."
"That's okay, Lieutenant. I'll keep watch out here—cover your back. The holes in the ceiling out here'll let me see anything coming."
Sheppard sighed, looking around the rubble of the former hall of ages, trying to see if there was anything else interesting about this place other than it was the entrance to this supposed Great Eye place. His fingers gripped the butt of his P90 as he moved around, ignoring the boyish Sergeant Cusp as the young man followed him like a puppy. He could hear the whine of the Wraith darts as they sped over the city, firing at the positions where the Deucalion Guard were doing their best to defend themselves.
He stopped as he came to a section of the wall which, oddly enough, looked as if someone had deliberately tried to cover it up. The piles of stone were stacked instead of naturally fallen, and it was obvious that something was behind them.
"What's this?" he asked, looking at the Sergeant.
In response, the boy backed away.
"I…uh…I didn't do it!"
"Didn't do what?" Sheppard's eyes narrowed.
"We had no choice. I'm sorry, sir! I really am, but you have to understand—"
"Why do you people keep telling me I have to understand something?" Sheppard snapped back. He looked back at the neatly stacked "rubble"…then started tearing it down.
McKay watched as the console lit up, stepping back as the tinny noise in the background reduced itself to a steady hum. The mirrored wall separating this room from the other turned into glass, and he found himself seeing clearly into the white room on the other side. The room really was a hexagon. Turning, his eyes caught the now perfectly intact hologram watching him, the smile back in its face.
"Thank you," it nodded.
"You're not welcome," Rodney replied. He turned the rest of the way around, staring at the black chair with a pained expression. After a moment, his thoughts became resigned, and he turned back to the console, passing his hand over the left hand section again where the green light was.
"Yes doctor, we're here."
"Thank the Light!" a third voice said, one which McKay didn't immediately recognize, though it sounded a little like the young female lieutenant they had first met.
"Just let us know when you're ready, Doc," Ford's voice said.
"Ha, ready for this?" Rodney snorted, then drew in a shuddering sigh. "Sorry. Just need a minute more."
Rodney gripped his hands into fists, ignoring the rocking as yet another explosion hit the city, and he turned to the chair. Shakily, he sat himself down, resting both his arms and legs inside the open metal braces.
He jumped as they snapped shut, and a white glow enveloped him.
His breathing quickened and he looked up, blue eyes widening as the ceiling became a sort of projection screen and the city outside was reflected on it. He found he could see everything within the inside of the dome of the illusion just by tilting his head to one side or another….meaning he could clearly see the devastation the three Wraith darts were causing. Fire, smoke and ash filled the air, and he could see people running along the ground, trying to get out of the path of the Dart's weapons.
"Just…do me a favor. If you can avoid it…don't fire six times. The…the Weapon…it doesn't have to…just…please don't fire it more than five times if you can avoid it."
There was a pause, then Ford's voice returned.
"Are you saying the Weapon may not be able to fire six times?"
Rodney closed his eyes again. "Please…Aiden. Just try not to. I realize, in the face of all this, that you may have to make a choice but….please. Do me that favor."
Ford paused a moment before replying, "I don't understand but….Okay Doc. We'll try not to."
"Thanks. All right…go ahead. Let's get this over with."
CHAPTER TWELVE: WHITE LIGHT
"Okay," Lieutenant Che said, leaning forward over the console, "Doctor McKay, this is Lieutenant Che. There are three ships. Can you see them all?"
"Latch onto each and think about destroying all three—I believe that's how it works. All right, here we go," she licked her lips. "Firing One!" she shouted, hitting the first button.
A high pitched whine filled the room of the Great Eye, causing all three people inside to wince at the overwhelming sound.
McKay focused on all three Wraith darts that he could see, his mind trailing each one and merging them together.
The white light intensified around him, building in heat and pressure, to the point where he couldn't breathe because it was crushing him.
He didn't even know he was screaming as the Weapon's power burst upwards out of the room.
Sheppard pivoted on one foot, jaw dropping as he saw the massive white flare erupt upwards from some location near the heart of the City, filling each of the holes in the ceiling above with such intensity that he actually had to shut his eyes to protect them.
Above the city, the three Wraith darts didn't even know what hit them. As soon as the white light of the Weapon touched them, they disintegrated.
On the ground, the Deucalion Guard erupted in cheers.
Governor Borin fell against the side of her window, thanking whatever gods had sent the Atlanteans here.
"Damn!" Ford grinned, impressed as the whine disappeared along with the light and the Wraith darts. "Well done Doc! That was amazing!"
"Two more Wraith ships are coming up fast on the Illusion," Lieutenant Che stated formally. "They won't know what has happened to the first three until they are inside."
"How many are there altogether?" Teyla asked, trying to count the number of ships she could see through the Great Eye.
"I count nine more," Che replied, looking out from her seat, "not counting the main hive ship."
"Oh, we're taking that sucker down," Ford grinned, his eyes bright. "Keep it up, doc! Only ten more ships to go!"
Rodney barely heard Ford's voice, his ears were ringing too much. Every muscle in his body felt like it was on fire, twitching and cramping with the energy he'd just directed from the Weapon.
Oh shit. He wasn't going to survive this five times. He barely survived one!
Sheppard had returned to his digging, ignoring the weak protests from the Sergeant. The Weapon had startled him, but more it had worried him. That was a lot of power. If Rodney was standing at the nexus of that….It wasn't harmful, Ford had said, just draining, but if they had been told that by that snake of a Governor….
How could something that powerful not be harmful?
They were lying again, he just knew it. Something was very, very wrong.
"Teyla!" he hit the transmitter on his radio again, pausing in his boulder shifting, a sudden thought coming to him.
"Did Rodney say anything else?"
"About anything. What exactly did he say?"
"I…Lieutenant Che, two more ships!"
"Firing two," Lieutenant Che called, reacting to Teyla's shout.
The white light burst upwards again, hidden from sight to those outside the Illusion's walls, but not to those inside. Most of the Deucalions were forced to cover their eyes from the blinding glare, but it didn't stop them from celebrating the rebirth of the Weapon.
Two more Wraith darts were obliterated just as a third passed through the Illusion.
"Catch it!" Ford yelled. The third dart had clearly seen what had just happened, and was executing a sharp turn to get out and warn the others.
"Firing Three!" Lieutenant Che responded, her fist slamming down on the third button.
Rodney channeled the power, grabbing onto the tail of the escaping Wraith ship, riding the wave of energy as it exploded up through the ship piece by piece. He saw the three Wraiths piloting it turning to look at the Weapon's force as it blew them apart. Every jolt, every pain, every explosion, he felt everything.
His agonized scream faded as his eyesight started to dull.
The hologram watched him from one side. It showed no expression at all anymore.
"Here come three more!" Lieutenant Che said, her hand already hovering over the fourth button.
"How can they not know something's wrong?" Ford marveled. "Six of their ships have just been smoked, and they still seem oblivious."
"It is our hypothesis that, when it wants to, the Illusion can block more than just light," Lieutenant Che informed them, not taking her dark eyes off of the ships. "We think it somehow inhibits their ability to communicate with each other."
"Teyla," Sheppard's voice came over the radio, "Back to my question. Did McKay say anything else?"
Teyla frowned, looking across at Lieutenant Ford. He wasn't paying attention, focused instead on the images around them. She took hold of her radio, trying to remember if she had left anything out, when it came to her.
"Just that he asked us not to fire the Weapon six times, unless we absolutely had to. And I think he used another of your idioms. He said he would be our, I think the name was, Sydney Carton? Who is Sydney Carton?"
"Here they come," Ford said, gripping the back of the chair. "You ready Doc?"
"Sydney…Carton?" Sheppard replied to the Athosian. "That's not an idiom, Teyla. But I know that name.…I think it's an allusion…."
"Doc?" Ford frowned, as McKay hadn't responded to his question. He looked down at the console as if for answers. "Doctor McKay, you ready? In a couple of seconds, three more ships will be inside the illusion's walls."
"Ford, please…" McKay's voice was very quiet, and for the first time, Ford heard the pain in it, even over the communication system, "I…I can't…."
"Firing Four!" Lieutenant Che interrupted harshly, hitting the fourth button.
McKay's whole body lifted off the chair, barely restrained by the metal now cutting into his wrists and ankles as the Weapon seared through every fiber. The purpose of the restraints was all too obvious now—without them, he would never be able to keep his body willingly in this chair.
Three more Wraith ships inside his mind, three more to grab and destroy.
Destroy….that's all it wants to do. Destroy, eradicate, annihilate, and remove from existence everything it can see….
No! Just the ships! Just the Wraith!
Oh God it hurt!
"Stop!" he begged as the light faded once more, "Stop please!"
The whine died down from the fourth shot, and Teyla frowned. For a second, she'd thought she'd heard Doctor McKay's voice asking for something as the sound faded….
"Doctor, what did you just—"
"The main hive ship," Ford breathed.
Teyla froze, staring as the massive ship touched the edge of the illusion. Four more darts covered its back, staying outside the illusion, covering the perimeter. After all, for all the mother ship knew, nine darts were already inside…that was more than enough to make sure Deucalion was defenseless and ready for the culling to begin.
Lieutenant Che's hand shook again, hovering over the fifth button.
"The mother ship, Doc," Ford said to the air, "it's entering the illusion. My God…it's massive."
CHAPTER THIRTEEN: FIRING FIVE
Sydney Carton, Sydney Carton….
Sheppard attacked the rubble with renewed vigor, nearly able to see the images painted on the wall behind. They'd been deliberately covered, he knew that now.
Pausing to wipe the sweat from his forehead, he grabbed his radio.
"Stackhouse, Dunne, anyone….Does the name Sydney Carton mean anything to you guys?"
McKay stared up at the ship appearing inside the illusion through bloodstained, watery eyes; tears ran down his frozen face that he couldn't feel.
"This is will be the fifth shot," the hologram said softly, turning off the intercom with a "thought."
Rodney tilted his head, turning it to the side in order to see the hologram's face. It took a step forward.
"You were not ready for this, Doctor Rodney McKay. I am sorry for that. I admit…I have been monitoring your condition. I don't think you will survive this fifth shot, especially not considering the size of the hive ship, but you must try to. Even after you destroy the mother ship, there are still four more Wraith darts out there."
The doctor gave a weak smile—it was all the muscles around his lips could manage.
"You…really…are…evil…." he whispered hoarsely.
"But when you do, and I know you can, you will have saved an entire people. That is an amazing thing. You will be honored. The people of Deucalion will—"
"I…am…not…going to…die. Ford…won't fire…the sixth shot….he promised…."
"He will have to, Doctor Rodney McKay. Even though those four darts are not as dangerous as the hive ship, they still must be destroyed, or they will bring back more. And he didn't promise, he only said he'd try."
"He will. I am sorry." The hologram's eyes lowered.
The hologram looked up, a hint of confusion in its eyes. Then it frowned. "I don't understand."
The projection tilted its head. "I don't understand," it said again.
"You…and the Weapon," Rodney breathed in, pain wracking his chest as he did so. "You're…too…conscious…to just be a computer…."
The hologram said nothing to that. After a moment, it took a step closer, so that its brown eyes seemed to stare directly into the scientist's blue ones.
"I am programmed to make this easier for you, that is all."
"You're programmed…to kill me."
The hologram stared at him a moment longer, then, it nodded. "In the end," it shrugged, "yes."
Rodney closed his eyes at the admission and tilted his head away.
The hologram leaned back, "Is there anything you would like to have me relay to anyone before you—"
The hologram stared at him, then bowed and stepped back, and turned the intercom back on.
"Doc? Doc, can you hear me?"
Ford was leaning over the Deucalion lieutenant, worried that he had not heard from the doctor in about a minute, though he'd been calling.
"Lieu…tenant….Yes, I'm…I'm still…here."
Ford grimaced at the weak response—it barely sounded like him. "Doctor, the hive ship is almost through. Can you…are you…?"
"Just…fire the…damn Weapon…Ford."
Ford's grimace became a real frown. There was real resentment underlying that voice. McKay always sounded mean when he was tired, but, despite the sharpness of his tongue, you still knew he didn't actually intend to hurt anyone. But Ford felt cold fury this time—McKay's anger was directed squarely at him.
"Doc…Are you okay?"
"FIRE THE WEAPON!" McKay shouted back, impatience giving him strength.
"Yes sir!" Che shouted, slamming her hand down on the fifth button, "Firing Five!"
The hive ship knew, as soon as half of it was through the Illusion, that something was very wrong. Rear engines were shut down, and thrusters in front turned on. It had to get out of there.
But it was too slow.
The Weapon released the full force of its power, white light flaring so brightly that anyone looking directly at it felt like they were witnessing a supernova.
In her window, the Governor cried out, turning away and covering her eyes. Colonel Luphron squinted, watching through his lashes as the bolt impacted the edge of the hive ship, then closing them the rest of the way. Even he couldn't handle that much light.
Rodney chased the white light as it grabbed the edge of the ship, then boiled around the edges, not letting anything get in its way. It surrounded the entire ship, expanding beyond the Illusion for the first time in order to encompass the whole of the hive.
Then the Weapon boiled inside the ship, wiping out everything in its path, erasing the faces it came across, ignoring the screams of the innocent on board as they were trapped inside with the Wraith. The vampiric creatures themselves didn't scream, at least, not vocally. They just let the power envelop them without making a sound…and eradicate them from existence.
White light swelled and ripped through metal and flesh without discrimination, like a tsunami…nothing could stand in its path.
And through it all….Rodney screamed until he had no voice left.
In the Great Eye, the three people watched in awe at the power they were witnessing—both thrilled and terrified at the same time.
Rodney pulled it back, grabbed hold the power and wrenched, stopping it from doing any more damage as soon as the hive ship was obliterated. The Weapon resisted, angrily fighting the mind directing it. It turned, looking down at the gray city, wanting to erase everything it could see, to destroy it all.
The doctor bellowed noiselessly, bending it back, forcing it to retreat.
Until, finally, the white light allowed itself to fade.
After all…there was still one more shot to go.
The hologram watched, impressed to see the doctor's chest still rise and fall once the Weapon retreated again. He had survived after all.
"Well done, Doctor Rodney McKay," it soothed, inspecting the slack features. "Just one more now. One more and the Weapon will be sated."
One more, and I won't care anymore, Rodney added silently.
CHAPTER FOURTEEN: FINALLY, HE GETS IT
"Major, it's gone. The hive ship," Stackhouse's voice was filled with disbelief. "I saw it happen from here. But, sir, there are still four Darts up there. They're still coming—I don't know what they're thinking but…sir, I think they're going to try one last time to destroy Deucalion, even after witnessing that destruction. Speaking of which, Sir—what did that? I've not seen anything that powerful before, except on old footage of the New Mexico nuclear tests…."
Sheppard frowned, grabbing at the final bit of rock to pull it away from the wall. "That's their Weapon, Stackhouse," he answered without concentration. "And those four Wraith Darts won't survive it when…." He removed the last stone, and looked at the unobstructed wall for the first time, "….What the…?"
"Sir?" Stackhouse asked.
Sheppard's eyes narrowed as he absorbed the meaning of the images in front of him. The wall held a series of panels, depicting the way the Weapon worked. His eyes lit on the last panel in the bottommost corner and his breath caught.
"Sir, sir, I remember who Sydney Carton is," Dunne's excited young voice said over the radio. "We had to put our heads together, but he's the hero from…."
"The Tale of Two Cities," Sheppard finished, his voice soft, as the meaning of the last panel sank in. "The one who gave up his life to save….Oh my God." The major whipped around and ran for the entrance to the Great Eye, "Ford! Teyla, don't let it fire again!"
"Sir?" Ford was looking at his radio. "Why not?"
"There are still four more Darts," Lieutenant Che retorted, her hand over the sixth and final button. "We can take them all out with the final shot. I just have to time it right."
"Major Sheppard said not to fire it," Teyla said quietly, firmly. Che turned her head to look at the Athosian.
"But I have to. We can't let the Darts get away. If they do, they'll just go back and return with more ships. They'll—"
Ford grabbed her wrist, pulling it away from the button. "We're not firing it."
She glared at him, then twisted her wrist out of his grip and stood. "This is my city, not yours! And I will defend it!" Her hand raised to slam down on the sixth button as she turned back to the console.
The 9MM in her face stopped her mid-strike, Major Sheppard's eyes backing up the deadliness of the weapon in his hands. Because of the illusion of the Great Eye, none of the three people inside had seen him slide through the opening until he was right in front of them.
"You move, woman," he hissed, his voice the quality of death, "and you won't be able to defend a toaster." He nudged his radio as she backed up, her hands raised. "Markham, Dunne…get those Jumpers in the air. You've got four bogies to take down. And be quick about it."
The hologram frowned, staring up at the images over Rodney's head. For his part, the doctor's pale blue eyes were open, but only barely. He watched the screens showing the four Wraith ships though half lidded eyes, without seeming interest.
"I don't understand," the hologram said suddenly, "why haven't they fired? Those four darts have been inside for long enough….They should have fired!"
"Rodney? Rodney, are you okay? Can you hear me?"
The doctor's parched lips gave a tiny smile. He knew that voice…what was it saying?
"John?" his voice was barely above a whisper.
"Hell yes, it's me, you asshole! Why didn't you tell us that thing would kill you? Sydney Carton? We were supposed to figure it out from that? You moronic, idiotic, stupid piece of—"
"John," he said, not really hearing the words Sheppard shouted at him as his eyes slid closed for the final time, but he could guess. He'd failed somehow. The last Wraith ships would finish the city, and they'd all be killed. "I'm…sorry," he pleaded hoarsely, "I…tried….Wasn't…strong enough…."
"Rodney? No! Rodney! Don't you give up on me! We're coming to get you! Rodney! Damn it, hold on!"