Disclaimer: The real ending will probably be much better, more logical and ten times more exciting. But I couldn't get this out of my head, so I had to write it down. To that end, please note that I own nothing, know nothing, am not making any profit from this and never intend to, and hope that it doesn't bother anyone. Stargate Atlantis is the property and creative child of all the hard working people who bring it to us, plus their corporate giant, MGM (Sony).
Spoilers: All episodes through Siege II
Acknowledgement: NT, of course. She blames me for everything. I'm proud of that.
Description: An alternate ending to The Siege
…In search of some rest,
In search of a break
From a life of tests where something's always at stake.
Where something's always so far,
What about my broken car?
What about my life so far?
What about my dream?
What about everything?
What about aeroplanes and
What about ships that drank the sea?
What about the moon and stars?
What about soldier battle scars,
And all the anger that they eat…?
What about aliens? What about you and me and
What about gold beneath the sea?
What about when buildings fall? What about that midnight phone call,
The one that wakes you from your peace?
I am not in need.
Carbon Leaf – pieces from What About Everything?
PART ONE: DON'T PANIC
"The weapon is armed and ready," John informed Atlantis quietly, "I'm going in."
"Thank you, John," Elizabeth answered with a forced coolness, looking over Rodney's hunched shoulder at the sensor display. The lights flickered on the screen, alternating flashes of white and red, hope and blood, life and death. "How long until impact?" Her eyes tracked the white light with "PJ-03X" on it, headed on a collision course with the two Wraith hive ships, pretending it was only that: A white dot. Not Sheppard. Not her friend.
"Three minutes," John answered.
He spoke in the same monotone as Elizabeth, emotionless and cool.
It was a tone which spoke more for the severity of the situation than any amount of screaming or yelling could have done.
Listening to the two of them, Rodney felt like he was drowning. He was tired. Very, very tired. Sleep had been non-existent over the last week, and the tension in the room, underscored by the morbid tones of Elizabeth and John, only seemed to make it worse. He could feel Carson's stimulants coursing through his veins like battery acid, keeping him moving but only barely.
If he'd been allowed to sleep, maybe he'd have another idea. Maybe his brain wouldn't feel like it was wrapped in fog thick enough to cut with a knife. Maybe he'd see another way. But he just couldn't. Carter…she'd probably have an idea, would know how to save the day. She'd be whipping around the room, her brilliance shining through. It should be her here. Not him. He wasn't good enough. He knew that now.
He wasn't even sure what time it was anymore, though it might be evening.
And all around the constant barrage of weapons fire. It had almost become like white noise.
He closed his eyes.
"Two minutes," John noted. "I am targeting the main power generators visible on the base of the ships."
Elizabeth didn't answer, not taking her eyes from the screen. Everyone else in the control room watched it as well, morbidly fascinated as the white dot moved closer and closer to its destruction.
All except Rodney, his eyes still closed, the words "power generators" bubbling inside his head.
"Plan Z," he said softly, so softly no one else heard it, and his eyes opened, finally sparking again. Even Elizabeth, only a foot away, didn't react to his words. It wasn't until Rodney suddenly snapped his fingers and popped his fist that she even remembered his presence by her side. But Rodney was already moving away from her, the bounce back in his step.
He had moved around the console and onto the balcony, looking down to the Gateroom floor, where people were still moving quickly in from the side corridors towards the open wormhole, dragging the last of the equipment for the evacuation. Soldiers carried in weapons and supplies from side rooms, where the new arrivals from earth had stowed the items brought with them three days ago. Rodney focused on two new boxes in particular, at the sequence of the USMC numbers on the side of two of them, guessing instantly at what they contained.
"Are those generators?" he asked suddenly, pointing down to the floor below, looking at the closest soldier to him up in the control room. It was a younger man wearing lieutenant stripes, wearing the black and white camouflage of the new arrivals. The soldier looked over the edge, then back at Rodney.
"We brought several with us sir. What you see there are the last two that are transporting through to the Alpha—"
"Stop your men!" Rodney stared back down at the Gateroom floor, "You!" he yelled to the soldiers preparing the generators for transport, "Stop!"
"Sir?" one of them asked. They both looked past Rodney to the lieutenant.
The young man nodded. "Stop," he affirmed, though he was looking questionably at McKay.
Rodney reached up, touching his radio, "Major, can you hear me?"
"Yeah," John replied quietly. "T minus one minute, ten seconds out," he added.
"Stop what you're doing; stop right where you are."
Sheppard audibly sighed, "McKay, no, it's too la—"
"I have an idea. All I need is five minutes."
"Rodney?" Elizabeth was watching Rodney carefully, "What are you doing?"
"I have an idea," Rodney emphasized. "I can the get the chair to work, I just need to get those generators down to the chair room." He glanced at the display as he spoke, and gripped his hands into fists when he saw that "PJ-03X" was still moving. "Major! I said to stop, damn it!"
"I can't, Rodney," John replied. "I'm sorry."
"He's right, Rodney," Elizabeth echoed, still using that frighteningly calm voice of hers, "we don't have five minutes."
"The hell we don't," McKay shouted. "Major, stop that jumper now!"
Beckett and Weir followed his gaze to the display screen, at the white dot.
"Less than one minute to impact," John informed them tonelessly.
"You damn well give me five minutes!" Rodney shouted at the screen. "Do you hear me?!"
John didn't answer.
Still no answer.
"Five minutes, Major," Rodney implored the white dot. "Five minutes and I can save you and Atlantis!"
"Are you sure, Rodney?" Elizabeth asked, her eyes on the agitated scientist.
"MAJOR!" McKay looked like he was going to rip the screen off the wall.
"McKay," John's voice was very quiet, "A lot of people can die in five minutes."
"And a hell of a lot more than that can be saved! Please, Major, don't start doubting me now."
A small, wry laugh came over the comm. link at the statement, followed by another sigh.
"Do it, Major," Elizabeth said suddenly, her eyes on McKay. "Stand down. Give him his five minutes."
"And distance yourself from the hive ship," McKay added forcefully.
All eyes were on the display again…watching as the white dot slowed…and stopped. It almost seemed to hesitate on the screen, blinking in and out like a heart monitor, until it started to move away from the Wraith ship.
"You've got five minutes, McKay," Sheppard said darkly. "No more."
McKay was already moving, running down the stairs to the floor below.
"Sergeant!" he yelled, pointing at Stackhouse, who was standing just to the side of the gate, taking inventory, "Grab that generator and follow me." He pointed to one of the two boxes being watched over by the two USMC that Rodney didn't know. Stackhouse didn't question, handing a clipboard to the man next to him, and jogging to the box. Rodney had already grabbed the other, hefting it by its handle and running towards the door. With a quick salute up to the balcony, Stackhouse grabbed the second generator and took off right behind him.
Elizabeth watched them leave, then looked at the young lieutenant. He hadn't said a word, though he had technically been in charge of the assignments of the men below. Clearly, he didn't feel quite comfortable ordering Stackhouse to either agree or disagree with McKay's order. And, for his part, Stackhouse had obviously learned to respond to McKay almost as he would Sheppard or Weir.
And McKay obviously wanted someone he knew at his back.
Elizabeth sighed, hugging her arms to her chest and looked back at the screen.
And at the white dot, hovering still frighteningly close to the Wraith hive ships.
"No, no, Rodney," Zelenka's voice was shaking with worry over the radio, the Czech still up in the jumper bay, "It is craziness! You can not do it. There is no buffer. The moment you try to combine their power, it will set of a chain reaction! Two atomic bombs! You know that!"
"Yes, theoretically," McKay shot back over the radio, chugging down the corridor from the transporter at a brisk clip with his crate, Stackhouse at his back. The chair was practically on top of a transport station, probably so it could be easily accessed by the people in the control room, and he was already in sight of the entrance. "But there is also a chance that it will work! We know that the Mark Two was enough to power the chair. Two generators powers combined will—"
"Blow up in your face! You can not combine them!"
"Theoretically, I can!" As he said those words, he rounded the doors into the chair room, placing his box next to the dead Mark Two. "You know we worked on the simulations, and there was a chance—"
"A twenty percent chance that it would work, yes! But also an eighty percent chance that you would set off a nuclear explosion…two of them! Eighty percent, Rodney! Especially if you try to double each of their outputs, as I know you will try to do!"
"Aren't we blowing up the City anyway?" McKay snarled back, hands quickly disconnecting the Mark Two. "Besides, if it doesn't work, I should have enough of warning to disconnect them before—"
"Should doesn't mean you will!" Zelenka shot back. "You could destroy us all the moment you connect the wires."
"I'm doing it, Radek." McKay pulled out the wires to the dead generator and pushed it to the side. Turning, he cracked his box and reached in for the pristine new generator.
"Rodney! Please! Don't do this!"
"Get out of the jumper bay, then. Go through the gate, now." Rodney stated coldly, pulling out bits and pieces of equipment. Stackhouse hovered nearby, still holding his box. He was watching McKay nervously, his eyes wide as he listened to the disagreement among the scientists. McKay met the young man's eyes, then bobbed his head to a space next to him. "Put that down there, and get out of here. Back to the Gateroom."
Stackhouse opened his mouth to answer, but Zelenka spoke first over the comm. link.
"You need someone in the jumper bay, to tell you that it's working. No. I stay here."
"I'll know if it's working, Radek," McKay sighed, "from the people in the control room. Now, get out of there."
"You stay. I stay." The Czech's tone was steel. "You crazy. Then I crazy too. That way, you don't get all the praise when it works, right? You share with me."
McKay snorted, the tiniest smile on his lips as he finished preparing the first generator. "Sure, Radek. Whatever you say." He looked up at Stackhouse again then. The sergeant was still watching him with questioning eyes, fingers still gripping the crate's handles in his hands.
"Stackhouse?" he called softly. "Put it down."
The sergeant came alive then, moving forward and putting the crate on the ground next to McKay. The scientist was already opening it before the sergeant had even let go.
"Now get out of here," McKay added, not looking up as he pulled the second generator from its box.
"No sir," Stackhouse stated.
McKay's hands stilled for a second, before moving rapidly again. He started unlooping wire from inside the box, using it to connect the two generators together.
"Sergeant, I don't have time for this. Zelenka's right. There's a very high possibility—or probability—that I will trigger two simultaneous nuclear explosions doing this. You don't need to be here. I can handle this on my own. You should go with the others through the Gate to the Alpha Site." Still crouched down, McKay bounced over to the laptop near the back of the chair, connecting another wire from the generators to the laptop.
"No offense, sir," Stackhouse replied, watching McKay work, "But there are Wraith in the city. If they come here, and you are not protected…."
"The doors can be sealed," McKay replied, typing rapidly onto the computer, calling up the code from their simulations when they first thought up this idea two weeks ago—and then quickly dismissed as too dangerous.
"It hasn't stopped them elsewhere, sir."
Rodney found the correct program, in a file marked, "Plan Z – DON'T PANIC," smiling a little at Zelenka's homage to the great Douglas Adams, and initialized it. The name had been a joke—a program never meant to be used. He sighed.
"I'll be fine," he said, watching as the code appeared on the screen. A few keystrokes, and it was running itself.
"Humor me, sir."
McKay's jaw tensed, then released, his eyes still not lifting from the work at hand. He bounced back to the two generators, their key units still lying next to them, stopping them from powering up. He looked at them for a moment, then started quickly building the connections between them, the laptop and the control chair. Part of him was ticking down the clock in his head, recognizing that he didn't have much time left.
"Fine," he snapped. "Do want you want, sergeant. Guard one of the doors. I don't care which one."
Stackhouse nodded, lifting his hand to his comm. to inform the lieutenant upstairs that he was staying with McKay down here.
"Sergeant," the lieutenant replied, "Are you certain? There is still a lot of work needed to make sure everyone still here is evacuated."
"Yes sir, I'm certain." Stackhouse had not lifted his eyes from McKay's rapid movements. Rodney looked like he was on speed, his hands moving so quickly and deftly, they almost looked unreal. "Doctor McKay needs me."
"I see," the lieutenant replied. "And…his plan…it will work?"
Stackhouse lifted his P90 to his chest, as McKay leaned down beneath the control chair to connect the wires into some mechanism in the chair's base.
"Yes sir," the sergeant replied. "Doctor McKay's plans always work."
McKay paused, just briefly, but enough that Stackhouse knew that he'd been listening. Without waiting for a response, Stackhouse looked at the door leading back to the transport alcove, then across the room to the other doorway, leading towards the west pier. Gritting his teeth, he stepped off the chair's dais and headed towards it.
McKay finished connecting the wires as the doors whooshed open, and Stackhouse stepped through, checking the outer hall in both directions, relying purely on his own senses to determine danger. Rodney stared at Stackhouse's back, his lips parted slightly. A moment passed, and Stackhouse turned to meet the scientist's gaze. He nodded back at McKay…and then the door shut, sealing Rodney in and Stackhouse out. And Rodney knew that Stackhouse would not move from his position, guarding that door, until this was all over…or he was dead.
"Two minutes, Rodney," Elizabeth broke in, breaking McKay's reverie.
"Yes, yes," he replied, returning to his work.
Deep in the heart of the City, she hunted.
The Wraith she tracked was not far ahead, moving with an arrogance that only made her fury grow. The creature was on its own now, the drones with it sent to attack the last lines of resistance in the City. But this Wraith was heading somewhere, towards something. She wasn't sure what…but she had an idea.
She hefted the borrowed P90 up closer to her chest, feeling comfort in the weapon despite the fact that her last one had jammed on her. Helpless, she'd watched as her people had fallen, overcome, her weapon failing her at the last moment. In the end, the flaw had saved her. She'd been forced to dodge outside of the line of fire, to seek safety in a small alcove so that she could pull out the berretta strapped to her thigh, but in that same moment…the Wraith stunners had taken down the last of her men.
So she'd stayed hidden inside her alcove, watching as the Wraith drones walked over her people as if they were ants. To be collected later. Prizes for the victors. Her fear was overwhelming, drowning her as she tried to make herself smaller. Helpless, she was completely helpless.
And then one had turned…and looked right at her.
She still didn't know why she had done it, why it had even occurred to her to think it, but she did.
She had looked directly back at the drone, and told it to leave her alone. I'm not here, she told it, you do not see me.
Except she hadn't used words.
The drone had turned away. Left her alone, as if blind to her existence. She didn't understand, but she also didn't question. One by one, they all left, except for the one Wraith leader. It walked amongst the bodies like the God of War across a battlefield, tallying his successes. It swooped down, a poisonous finger swiping at one of the fallen, leaving a line of blood across the man's face, along his jaw-line. Teyla closed her eyes, shuddering in revulsion.
When she opened them again, the Wraith leader was gone as well. Leaving nothing but the bodies, the empty bullet shells, and her failure.
Her fear and her revulsion changed then, turning inwards to become something much uglier. Standing, she emerged from her little alcove and walked over to the man the Wraith had marked. Kneeling, she stared at his motionless face for a moment, and the stripe on his jaw, then down his body to the still working P90 in his grip.
An icy resolve stole her then, her entire body shifting to reflect the new confidence she felt. With a terrible calm, underscored by a ferocious anger, she took the weapon from his hands and a spare magazine.
Standing again, she hefted the P90 in her arms and looked in the direction that she knew…knew…the Wraith leader had gone. Headed down into the City depths.
Whatever the Wraith planned, she told herself, moving to follow the creature, he would not succeed.
He would not succeed.
PART TWO: JUMPSTARTING A CAR
"One minute," Sheppard said, looking down at the display in the jumper, at the damage the darts were wreaking on his city, his home. Each second was painful, watching as more and more life signs disappeared from the numbers protecting Atlantis.
Five minutes had never felt so long a period of time in his life as right now.
"Rodney?" he demanded, his voice rough with impatience.
"Almost there!" Rodney called back. "I've almost got it!"
"What good is the chair anyway?" John asked suddenly. "Even if you get it working, I'm already here."
"Will you just let me save your life, you arrogant jerk!" Rodney shouted back. "Now shut up and let me work!"
John had to smile at that, closing his eyes and imagining Rodney rushing around the chair room, trying to reignite the control chair. The smile faded as he tried to guess at exactly what Rodney was doing. If the Mark Two was dead, then what…?
It wasn't going to work. If it was, they would have tried it already. Rodney was just delaying the inevitable. And more people were dying.
"Rodney," he called quietly, opening his eyes again. "I'm not waiting anymore." And with those words, he put his hands back on the flight controls.
"John?" Elizabeth's voice quavered as she finally joined in the conversation.
"Good luck, Atlantis. God speed." And he pressed forward on the controls, accelerating the jumper forward.
"Sheppard, you complete ASS HAT!" Rodney yelled, plugging in the last wire. Bounding over to the laptop, he made sure the program was running, integrating the systems. It beeped…complete.
With a nod, he skidded next to the two generators and picked up the two keys. Holding one in each hand, he held them over the two generators, to slide them into place and turn the machines on simultaneously. His hands shook, and he mentally tried to calm himself down.
"Like jump starting a car," he promised himself quietly. "That's all I'm doing, just jump starting a car…a really big, powerful, dangerous car…."
"One minute to impact," John said over the radio.
"Damn it!" Rodney shouted, shoving the two keys down at the same time…and fell back with a wince, his eyes on the two generators, half expecting the end of the world. Instead, they lit up, initialized…and started to shake. Swallowing down his terror, he reached forward and started hitting buttons, trying to level out the power levels to keep them equal, lessening the shaking. The laptop funneled them information, and the generators started to spin faster, brightening, their respective outputs doubling….A tinny whine started to emit from both machines.
Rodney's eyes checked the readouts, watching as the levels grew rapidly past normal levels.
"Forty seconds to impact."
As soon as Rodney knew there was enough power, he jumped up onto the dais and sat in the chair. He never even questioned as it powered up, blue light bursting forth around him. He just shut his eyes and focused his mind on John's puddle jumper.
John glanced at the readout from the city, eyes narrowing as he saw power flare up on the screen. His lips parted slightly, and he nearly let go of the controls. Had Rodney really….?
And suddenly, the jumper shut down.
"Hey!" he shouted, turning the handles to no avail. "Hey! Something's happening!" He let go the controls as the panels came back to life…and the jumper began backing away from the Wraith hive ship he'd been targeting, seemingly of its own volition. "Hey!"
"You just couldn't wait, could you!" Rodney challenged suddenly, his voice crackling over the radio link like lightening. "Well, now you're going to have to, if you want your ship back."
"Rodney?" Elizabeth's voice chimed in. "What's happening?"
"McKay?!" John was angry, "What the hell are you doing?"
"Controlling your ship, Major. What do you think I’m doing! And in less than five minutes, I might add."
"I'm sending the other jumper up…or I should be…now…Radek?"
"Yes," Zelenka responded to the call, "It's working. Puddle Jumper Five is…it's heading up. Careful of the walls, Rodney. Move more to your right. The other right! Yes, yes, there you go. Now, cloak it…Ha…yes, well done, Rodney, you've done it. It's on its way."
"Careful," Rodney groused, "He tells me to be careful. Now get to the Gateroom and through the Stargate, Radek."
"You're welcome, Rodney. But I'm not going through until you go through with me. Elizabeth, I'm coming down there."
"Understood, Doctor," there was no hiding the joy in Elizabeth's voice. "Good luck, Rodney. John, are you all right?"
"I will be, when that jerk gives me my ship back," John answered, though he couldn't resist a small smile of his own. If Rodney pulled this off, maybe, as he'd hoped, the other hive ship would back off….
He looked at the screen, and smiled more to see a new white dot appear on the screen.
PJ-05X was indeed on its way.
The sun seemed to mock Aiden Ford as he and his men found themselves surrounded with Wraith on all sides. Just four or five Wraith would send a whole team of Atlantians running when they were off world, and here there were fifteen of them...and only six men at his back.
The Wraith before him smiled that sickly smile the Wraith wore, all gross teeth that reminded Ford of those old Listerine commercials, the ones that showed a mouth before being washed out with the fluoride laden liquid. For some reason, the idea of offering the Wraith a bottle of Listerine suddenly made Ford smile, and he snorted a short laugh.
The Wraith faltered, the smile fading for a brief second, before it came back in full regalia.
But Ford had seen it; had seen the uncertainty in the creature's eyes. And a kernel of hope touched him.
My God, he realized, this Wraith was scared of him. Maybe not a lot, but for some reason....
"Boys," Ford said quietly, his confidence leaping to new levels, "I for one, am not going down unless I take three of these bastards for every one of us. What do you say?"
"Ditto, sir," said the sergeant behind him.
"Just say the word, sir," the young corporal in the back agreed soundly.
Ford's smile stayed fixed, and he saw the hesitation in the Wraith's eyes grow.
"Welcome to Atlantis," he intoned darkly. "Take 'em down, boys!"
Machine gun fire lit the balcony.
Elizabeth watched the same screen as John, eyes tracking the same white dot with "PJ-05X" on it. Down below, people continued to move swiftly to get the last of the supplies through the Gate, but she barely noticed the movement anymore.
Carson stood a few feet behind her, his arms across his chest, eyes looking across at a different screen, the one attached to the biometric sensor, distinguishing the life signs still in the City. There were many, but, now, almost all of them were Wraith.
"Almost everyone is through the Gate, Elizabeth," he noted quietly.
Dr. Weir flinched a little at his voice, having forgotten he was there. She turned to look back at Carson, then over at the other display.
Her jaw flexed, seeing the same completely disproportionate levels in the population.
Her eyes focused on the locations of the remaining humans, the bulk showing up here in the control room or in nearby areas. A handful of strays also roamed the outer halls, but not many. Her breath caught in her throat at what appeared to be a group of about seven men on a balcony surrounded on all sides by Wraith not far from here. It was the section of the City that lieutenant Ford was supposed to be protecting, the wing just outside the room holding the generator powering the Control Room and leading to the jumper bay upstairs. Without thinking, she looked up towards the stairs in that direction…just in time to see Doctor Zelenka jogging down from the jumper bay.
The Czech saw her looking, and nodded at her gaze as he continued down, hitting the floor below with a soft touch.
Gritting her teeth, she tapped her radio.
"All remaining personnel, fall back to the Gateroom," she ordered, "and seal all the bulkhead doors. We will make our last stand here," she added. Next to her, the young lieutenant quickly confirmed the order. Elizabeth looked at Zelenka as he came up alongside Beckett, eying both of them. "The two of you should go through the Gate now."
"I'm not leaving until Rodney does," Zelenka stated, his tone brooking no argument.
"I’m not leaving either, lass," Beckett added, glancing back at the biometric screen where the seven men with Lieutenant Ford had become five. The Wraith were not just stunning the Atlantians anymore. Beckett's chin lifted, his eyes steeling. "And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by, from this day to the ending of the world," the physician suddenly quoted, as another white light went out, "But we in it shall be remembered. We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; For he today that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother...." He glanced at Elizabeth again, his bearing sad but proud, and, strangely, he smiled. "How could I leave?"
Elizabeth gave him a truly grateful smile, nodded, and turned back to the screen. Her eyes were drawn to the two motionless dots in the area of the city where the control chair sat.
"Okay, Rodney," she said quietly, "We're all watching. Make us proud."
And that was when the power to the control room shut down.
"NO!" Elizabeth screamed, looking around at the darkness, "Not now!"
PART THREE: VISUALS
Teyla lowered her head, hearing Elizabeth's shout over her comm. link. She paused and turned slightly in the hall, battling with herself over her options. Did she return to help Lieutenant Ford; head back to the control room to help Doctor Weir; or continue on, to follow her prey to wherever the Wraith led?
Had she known that Sora had been torn by a similar decision all those months ago, she might have been amused by the irony.
Her eyes lifted from the floor, looking down the corridor, still feeling the pull of the Wraith before her, drawing her on.
The generator was doubtless broken beyond repair, as they had done with the other generators supplying power to the City. And if she went to the control room now….
She'd never know what this Wraith was doing.
And she'd never get the chance to kill it.
Her eyes narrowed.
She wanted to kill it. Desperately.
Almost of their own power, her feet turned and sent her deeper into the shadows of Atlantis.
"Get me power back! I need those displays! I need to know what's happening!" Elizabeth shouted at the hapless gate technician, the poor boy sliding crystals in and out of the matrix as he tried to find a way to patch the sensors into the primary functions.
"I…I can't," he said weakly, "I don't have the means. I need power to even begin trying to find a way around—"
"Rodney," Elizabeth called into her radio, "Tell Paul how to bypass the systems and get me my information. I need to be able to help you! And to see what's going on in the rest of Atlantis."
"I…I am a little busy here…Elizabeth…." Her chief scientist's voice was clearly strained.
"I've got it," Zelenka was already alongside the technician, on his knees next to the console. "Get out of the way," he ordered the young man, though not unkindly. "I need room." He was beneath the console now, fiddling with a panel. "Doctor Weir, I can only get one screen functioning. You must choose—the external sensors in space, or the city's internal sensors?" As he spoke, he wrenched a mess of wires down from beneath the panel, and started stripping and crossing them. The tech had stood up to get out of his way, watching with wide eyes.
"Major, Elizabeth's blind. Can you tell me how am I doing?" Rodney asked over the radio, "Can you see my jumper on your screen?"
"Clear as day on my sensors, Rodney," John replied. "You're doing fine. What's your perspective?"
"I, uh, I'm inside the jumper, sitting at the controls. Or at least, that's where I am looking out from."
"Go outside it, if you can. Guide it like you're pushing a toy boat across a lake from behind…can you do that?"
"I…Oh God…It's…I can see everything…and nothing…this is…this is…really weird…."
Sheppard chuckled over the radio, "Not so easy using the chair, is it?"
"I'm having serious vertigo here," Rodney even sounded queasy. "If Carson's there, tell him to get me some motion sickness pills next time, okay?"
"No problem, Rodney," Carson said, smiling into the radio. "Next time, I'll even put a Dramamine drip in your arm." The not so subtle promise that he believed there would be a "next time" earned a grateful silence from Rodney in return.
Meanwhile, Elizabeth had turned doe eyes on Zelenka. "Radek?"
"I still need you to choose, Doctor Weir," Zelenka leaned out from under the console to see her. "Which sensor array?"
She stared at him a moment, then looked back at the two dead screens. Without the internal sensors, she couldn't see how her people were doing with the evacuation, or how close the Wraith were, or if Lieutenant Ford still held the upper floor. Without the external sensors, she couldn't help Sheppard and McKay, and might not be able to detonate the nuclear bomb on PJ-5 at the right time when Rodney needed her to.
"Elizabeth," Carson said, holding up something for her to see. She turned to him, and her eyebrows lifted at the sight of a life signs detector in his hand. "It's not as useful," he admitted, "but it'll help some. I can monitor the internal life signs with this."
Elizabeth smiled at him. It wasn't as powerful as the biometric display, as it didn't distinguish the life signs, but it helped. It would do…for now.
She made her decision. Right now, she needed to help McKay and Sheppard more.
"External," she said, and Zelenka nodded, leaning back under the console. "But…can you switch to internal when I need you to?"
The Czech flexed his eyebrows, though she couldn't seem him now, "Not easily."
"But you can?"
"I think so."
"Okay." She turned back to Carson, "Keep an eye on that thing for me, as best you can." He nodded, and started fiddling with it, to monitor the outer corridors beyond the Gateroom more effectively. "Can you tell me how Lieutenant Ford is doing?"
Beckett fiddled, then, finding the right location, grimaced. After a moment, he shook his head. "All I can tell you is that it appears they are still fighting and...oh dear...."
"More Wraith just beamed onto the balcony."
Elizabeth did not respond to the information, just accepted it. She watched Beckett a moment longer, as he started checking for more life signs in the area, then looked back at Zelenka's legs sticking out from the console. As she watched both men work, Elizabeth realized how glad she was that they had both stayed after all.
A shower of sparks and some colorful sounding Czech swears, and the external sensor display was back up.
She breathed a sigh of relief, her eyes noting how close "PJ-05X" was to the closer of the two hive ships to the planet.
"Okay Rodney," she said, "I've got you." Her eyes narrowed, "But you're not going in a straight line any more…."
"I know," Rodney groused, his eyes tightly shut. "I can't control it as easily from outside the ship. Damn it, all the toy boats I ever made sank in the pond, Major. Ducks, you know? They'd cause ripples on the pond with all their greedy, breadcrumb seeking ways, tip the boat over and water would..." he swallowed, realizing the metaphor had really begun to suck. "Point is, Major…I think I have to go back inside."
"Alright, McKay. Go back in, but…try not to still have your mind in there when you hit the Hive ship. And watch out for all the darts around you. You were getting awfully close to them before."
"I'll try," Rodney swallowed. Above him, the same displays he was asking Elizabeth and John to monitor for him were being depicted in three dimensions against the ceiling. But he couldn't open his eyes to see them, couldn't take his attention from his control of the jumper, even for a second.
He was barely controlling it as is.
And the two generators were whining even louder now.
The power levels on both were touching the red zones, and getting hotter.
The one on the right started to shake again.
Stackhouse gripped his P90 tighter, never lowering it from his shoulder, trying to keep his breathing slow and even…and quiet. His ears were focused now, even more than his eyes, as he tried to distinguish movement from the general sounds of Atlantis.
The skin on the back of his neck tingled, and he thought he saw something move out of the corner of his eye.
Turning, he refocused the P90 in that direction.
His neck hairs continued to tingle. The slightest tremor lit at his hand, and he turned again, certain now that he was not alone.
He took a couple of steps out into the center of the hallway.
And suddenly, the world disappeared in a flash of white light and he collapsed to the ground. He never even got a shot off.
John sat perfectly still, not breathing, not swallowing, not doing anything except watching the display on the screen.
He couldn't see the puddle jumper McKay was guiding, but he knew where it was. He knew it was very close now.
"Two minutes to impact, Rodney. Lower your trajectory. Come from beneath. Understand?"
Rodney didn't answer, but the little white dot on the screen with PJ-05X attached to it dipped a little on the screen, clearly following the direction John had just given.
And John looked through the display, to the view from the window of the universe beyond. Darts continued to swarm all around blue world below. He imagined he could see the nuclear device laden jumper, creeping between them, dodging the multitude as it maneuvered for its final run.
Inside the silent, remote controlled puddle jumper, the nuclear weapon sat perfectly still, the inertial dampeners creating a motionless world for it.
The remote detonator on the side of the jumper began to flash red.
And the jumper angled upwards, aiming towards the power cells clearly visible on the underside of the closer hive ship. The jumper began to accelerate.
Hive ships still blew down through the atmosphere, careening towards the defenseless City below. They no longer had to worry about weapons fire. All but the central tower had been cleansed of danger.
The darts started to circle, like vultures around a corpse.
They awaited the order to start scooping up those humans knocked out and prepped for transport.
Ford was alone now, firing everything in his clip, aware that it was almost empty. The rest of his men were either unconscious...or dead. Wraith guards and two Wraith leaders were down, but more just appeared where the others had been. There was just no way to stop the darts from sending more and more down. But Ford did not have time to think about how to stop the darts; how to defeat an enemy as regenerative as the mythic hyrdra; how to do anything except to keep firing...keep firing....until either they got him or....
His heart lodged in his throat as the weapon in his arms clicked on the empty chamber.
And as the stunner weapon pointed at his head, he faced it without flinching.
It was up to McKay and the Major now.
In the control room, Radek nodded to Elizabeth. He'd set the nuclear weapon on puddle jumper five for detonation. He held up the remote in his hand, ready to start the implosion, and turned to watch the screen. They needed to time this just right.
And down in the chair room, Rodney continued to guide puddle jumper five, seeing nothing but the hive ship in his mind's eye.
Around him, the room practically vibrated with power, lights flickering as both generators reached dangerous levels.
He heard the high pitched whine, its noise overpowering everything else, but he ignored it. He was amazed no one else had remarked on it over the radio.
Okay….just a few more seconds….
And standing over him, the Wraith reached its right hand back…preparing to feed.
PART FOUR: HIGH PITCHED
Rodney's scream of pain echoed over the radio waves, causing them all to flinch, and Zelenka even pulled his earpiece away from his ear.
"Rodney!" Elizabeth shouted, "Rodney, what's happening?!"
Sheppard's eyes widened at the sudden scream, grabbing his controls as the display showed puddle jumper five going dead in space, and the cloak disappeared.
"Rodney! The cloak's down! Rodney! RODNEY!"
"What's happening!" Elizabeth turned to Beckett, to see him fiddling with the scanner in his hands, trying to find the chair room on it. He was shaking his head. He didn't know, his eyes lifting to meet Elizabeth's as John's shout about the cloak turned all their heads to the display, where PJ-05X was practically on top of the hive ship.
And suddenly, the comm. link came alive with the powerful sound of a P90.
Teyla fired and fired, never blinking, never lowering her aim, pumping the Wraith that had attached itself to Rodney's chest with every single bullet in the chamber. It fell back, Rodney's wide eyes staring after it.
The room was alive with the whine of the generators, gunfire, and the shouting of people over the radio.
McKay turned back, watching with bright blue eyes as Teyla moved further into the room, walking past him, still firing on the Wraith that had been flung towards the corner.
"…Cloak's down!" John shout echoed into Rodney's reeling mind.
He quickly shut his eyes, his whole body shaking something fierce, and mentally stabbed the jumper right at the hive ship like a knife, all its weapons hatches open. Rodney started firing every drone in the jumpers arsenal at the underside of the hive ship, seeking to confuse the weapons fire now aimed at the very visible jumper as it sped to its destruction.
He never even realized he was yelling as he felt the jumper ram right into the hive ship's bulkhead, still surrounded as he was by the deafening report of the machine gun and the generators screaming on overload.
PJ-05X put on a sudden burst of speed, and evidence of its weapons being put to use had Elizabeth staring at Radek.
"Now!" she shouted.
The engineer nodded, triggering the nuclear bomb.
Sheppard flinched as white light filled the window where the jumper had just exploded inside the hive ship, throwing up a hand to protect his corneas.
The entire Wraith ship seemed to crumple in on itself, then burst outwards in a massive explosion of fire and white light.
Down in the control room, the Atlantians still there erupted in cheers as the large red light depicting the closer hive ship disappeared from the screen. About a quarter of the Wraith darts also blipped off screen, too close to the large explosion from the nuclear weapon to survive.
"It's gone," John confirmed, still stunned by the extent of the devastation. "You did it, Rodney."
"Rodney?" Elizabeth tapped her radio, turning back to Beckett, "Are you all right?"
Carson held up the life signs detector, showing two life signs within the chair room, and one without, next to the doorway.
Three life signs?
"Rodney!" Elizabeth called again. "Answer me! Are you all right? Who's with you!"
Teyla stared down at the dead Wraith, her lips curled in a sneer. It stared lifelessly back, its frozen eyes still fixed on her face. Slowly, she lowered the still warm P90 and nodded in satisfaction.
Taking a deep shuddering breath, she came back to herself mentally then, and turned.
Rodney was sitting in the control chair, gasping for air, his chest a bloody mess.
Her breath caught, and in two steps, she was on the dais, turning his drawn face to her. It was pinched in pain, but, thankfully, appeared no older. The Wraith had not attached itself to the doctor long enough to steal any of his life…at least, she hoped not.
"Doctor McKay," she urged, tapping his cheek, "Doctor McKay, can you hear me?"
The eyes opened slowly, looking horribly dazed and disconnected. Teyla turned his face more, trying to get them to focus on her.
She smiled at the softly voiced question. He still didn't seem to see her, but at least he could hear her.
"Yes," she promised, her voice thick with gratitude, "It is me. Can you see me?"
"Teyla," he coughed, then lifted a shaking hand to touch her arm, "The…generators….must shut down…."
"Too much…they'll explode…."
Her eyes widened, and, as if for the first time, she noticed the high pitched whine echoing through the chamber. Stepping to the other side of the chair, her eyes widened at the sight of the two naquadah generators shaking and flashing. She had seen the power one of these exploding had done before, when Sheppard had detonated one in the atmosphere to stop the nanovirus. Turning to look again at McKay, he finally seemed to be looking at her.
"How do I turn them off?"
"Keys," he said, his voice incredibly coarse. "Pull out…simultaneous….must be…same time…both."
She nodded, "All right." Leaving him still lying in the chair, she jumped over to the two generators and, gingerly, drew them closer together. Her head turned once more to see McKay leaning over the arm of the chair, watching her. He nodded, his eyes barely slits as he tried to stay awake.
Her hands rested atop the keys on the top of both generators, her eyes seeing the displays on both well in the red. Swallowing, she gripped the two keys, lifted and twisted, pulling them both out at the same time….
"Rodney?" Elizabeth was trying so hard not to start begging, "Please answer. Please."
"What happened?" John asked. "Is he all right?"
Elizabeth shook her head, her eyes beginning to tear. It was just too much.
A large bang echoed through the hall, and they all looked up towards the stairs leading to the upper hallway and the jumper bay.
Beckett quickly reconfigured the scanner in his hands, and grimaced at the screen. At Elizabeth's questioning gaze, he simply nodded.
"It's the Wraith; it has to be. There are too many for them to be our people, plus they'd know the code." He looked up at the stairs, "They're ramming the doors, trying to get in."
"Lieutenant Ford," Elizabeth whispered, her chest tightening.
John frowned, watching as the power signature from Atlantis suddenly dipped.
The chair's power, he understood, had just gone out.
"Elizabeth," he called, "The power's gone from the chair room. Please tell me Rodney did that. And did I just hear you say Ford's name?"
"Standby, Major," Elizabeth replied softly, noncommittally.
The Major's knuckles turned white around the controls, his hands tightening in frustration.
Teyla breathed in and out slowly, holding the two keys in each hand, the metal faintly reflecting the soft glow from the Atlantian walls. All other lights in the room had gone out, including the chair. The two generators powered down instantly, their twin threat gone.
Gently, she placed the components on the floor and stood up. Brushing her hands off on her trousers, to get rid of the slickness, she looked back at Rodney.
He was still leaning over the arm of the chair, his head bowed, his face no longer visible to her.
Heading back to him, she knelt next to the side of the chair, took his limp hand in hers, and smiled up at him. His eyes blinked open at the touch and lifted to look at her, the blue irises focusing intently on her, as if mesmerized by her face. He gave a small smile back.
Reaching up, she tapped the radio on her ear.
"This is Teyla. I'm with Rodney in the chair room."
"Teyla!" Elizabeth practically shouted the name, her relief clear over the link. "Thank God. It is so good to hear your voice. Are you all right? Is Rodney all right?"
"Yes, I am well enough. Doctor McKay is, however, wounded and not quite…cognizant. A Wraith attacked him while he was using the chair." Teyla ignored the soft gasp over the radio, not sure who it originated from, since it didn't sound like Doctor Weir, and added, "Sergeant Stackhouse is also unconscious. He was hit by the Wraith's stun weapon, but is otherwise unharmed."
Doctor Beckett's voice suddenly spoke up, "Did the Wraith manage to—"
"No. I believe he did not have time to cause any permanent injury to Doctor McKay."
"Thank God for that," Beckett breathed over the radio.
"Okay," Elizabeth answered, "Thank you, Teyla. And tell Rodney he succeeded."
Teyla smiled, and Rodney smiled back. He'd heard that over his own radio.
"That is good to hear," she said. "We shall make our way to the Gateroom now."
"No, Teyla, I'm sorry, but that is not possible right now. The Wraith are in the halls outside the Control Room. They've blocked the access ways to the transporters. We will…we will try and come and get you, when we can."
Teyla's smile fell at the news, and she lowered her eyes from Rodney's clear blue ones to his hand, which had shivered. It was ice cold to her touch, and she squeezed it tighter. His own smile was gone now, and he leaned back on the chair. He gave a soft sigh, then reached up to tap his own radio. He really only had one question now, prefaced by one word.
"Major?" he called quietly.
"Rodney," Sheppard replied, grinning happily to hear his friend's voice. "Next time, try not to scream in my ear, okay?"
John's smile fell as Rodney didn't respond to his joke, and it reminded him that there was still another hive ship out there. Truth be told, he hadn't wanted to look.
He closed his eyes for a moment, then returned his gaze to the view outside his jumper. Fragments of the destroyed hive ship drifted around, blocking and confusing his line of sight to the other one. Frowning, he mentally switched the screen from the one monitoring Atlantis to the one monitoring the Wraith ships.
He stared at the display for a few moments, his eyes tracking the information calmly.
Down in the control room, the lieutenant was yelling orders, sending men to watch each of the doors, ready to blow away anything that made its way through into the Gateroom.
The bulkheads creaked and groaned as large objects were battered against them.
"We need to get you through the gate now!" the young soldier said, turning his dark eyes on Elizabeth and the rest of the scientists and technicians in the Control Room.
She shook her head, "Not now. Not yet," she said.
"There's no time," the lieutenant replied. "You must evacuate now, or we will all perish when those things break through the doors!"
Elizabeth grimaced, and turned back to the display. "Not yet, I said!" she stated again.
"My name is Doctor Weir, not ma'am!" she snapped back, rounding on him. "And I am not leaving!"
The lieutenant's jaw steeled, looking a little like he would tackle her and force her through the gate. He even took a step towards her, but suddenly Zelenka was by her side…and Beckett. The three of them stared back at the young lieutenant, unflinching.
The soldier literally growled, and pointed at one of the doors visible from their position. "The moment one of those doors are breached, you go through the Gate, understand? I will not risk my men for you any longer than that!"
Elizabeth lifted her chin, "Fine."
Still growling, the lieutenant turned and ran for the stairs leading up to the jumper bay, to where the largest force of Wraith seemed to be, according to Beckett's life signs detector. But there were more, gathered at other doors, including the one leading to the transporter. Soldiers had lined themselves up before each door, prepared to hold the Gateroom for as long as possible.
Shaking, Elizabeth turned to the display showing the external sensors, and tried to make sense of the readings.
She realized it at the same time that John finally replied to Rodney's question.
"The third hive ship," John informed them tonelessly, "Is not backing off."
PART FIVE: THANKS FOR THE RIDE
"Can you move?" Teyla asked, drawing Rodney up into a sitting position. He still looked horribly disoriented, like he had just been put through hell, and she hated the fact that it wasn't over yet. "Doctor McKay, can you move?"
He blinked slowly, and met her eyes. With a nod, he pushed himself forward off the chair…and fell forward into her arms. Propping him up, she got an arm around him and steadied him on his feet. After a moment, he seemed to be standing on his own and he pushed her away.
"Stackhouse?" he said quietly.
Teyla nodded, stepping away from him. As she watched, he raised his hands to his face, bracing them on the sides of his head, then roughly ran his fingers through his hair, rubbing his scalp as he did so. When she was sure he wasn't going to collapse, she turned and headed to the still open doors to the outer hallway. Readying herself, she checked to the left and right for danger before leaning down and grabbing Stackhouse's inert form by his vest. With a grunt, she pulled him inside the chair room and sealed the doors.
When she turned around, she saw Rodney had somehow made it to the small laptop behind the chair, and appeared to be typing on it. He looked better, though still very pale. At least his eyes seemed focused again.
"What are you doing?" she asked, leaving Stackhouse where he was so she could join the doctor.
McKay didn't answer, just continued to type. She watched over his shoulder, but didn't understand the meaning of any of the information sliding past. It was just numbers and symbols—all meaningless to her. After a moment, the screen shut down and he closed the laptop. With shaking hands, he undid the wires attaching it to the base of the chair and held it up to her.
She looked at it a moment, questioningly.
"Information," he said, as if that explained everything, "about the chair."
She frowned, but took it, still not understanding. When she looked back at him, he appeared puzzled by something.
"You have blood on your face," he said, his eyes almost dissecting her. "Are you all right?"
Teyla's eyebrows lifted, and, resting the laptop in one palm, she reached up with the other hand to touch at the wetness she felt on her face. Pulling her fingers forward, she marveled at the red. She blinked once, then realized: "It's yours," she said, looking back at him. "When I caught you. Your…." She swallowed, then shrugged, "I'm fine."
McKay's eyes lowered, but didn't look all the way down at his chest. Fact was, he didn't want to—feeling it was bad enough. Instead, he just said, "Oh. Well, good. I was…." He shook his head, not finishing the statement.
He stood then, his shoulders looking like the weight of the world was on them, and walked carefully over to Stackhouse, as if unsure that he was walking in a straight line. Squatting next to the downed soldier, McKay pulled out a lump of what Teyla recognized to be C-4 from Stackhouse's vest, and a detonator. Still frowning, he turned and headed back to the chair.
She understood then, as he affixed the lump to the chair and attached the detonator. Satisfied that he'd done the job well enough, he looked back at her, where she still held the laptop to her chest with one hand, and her P90 with the other.
"Just in case," he shrugged, smiling weakly. "It'll make me feel better, in any case. I know there's not much point."
She nodded, understanding the need to feel just that small piece of control. Just in case.
"You seem better," she noted.
"Yeah," he agreed. When he didn't add to the simple statement, Teyla sighed. It was very unlike him, but it was better than nothing. After all, she wasn't exactly thinking clearly herself. Her eyes looked again at the dead Wraith, her blood thirstiness from earlier seeming very foreign to her now. As if it had been someone else.
"I'll carry Stackhouse," he said then, drawing her attention back to the scientist. He walked back over to the unconscious soldier and pulled him up by his vest.
"Where?" she asked.
"To the Gateroom," he answered. He clenched his jaw, muscles bulging as he pulled Stackhouse up…then over his shoulder. He grunted as both he and the man he was trying to carry listed sideways, Stackhouse nearly slipping off his shoulder. Adjusting, he managed to achieve an awkward balance, panting a little at the exertion.
"Doctor Weir told us to stay," she stated.
"Why?" he replied, clenching his teeth against the spinning of the room. "We can't do anything here." He already sounded stronger as he spoke, and there was more energy in his movements. The lethargy still pulled at him, but he was clearly not ready to give up just yet. "I'll take Stackhouse's P90—can you get it for me? Then we'll transport to the corridor outside the Gateroom. If there are any Wraith there…." He arched an eyebrow, his meaning clear.
She nodded, then smiled, the look wolfish on her face. "We take them out," she finished. She stepped across the room to him, and handed him her P90. Then she bent down and picked up Stackhouse's from off the floor. Her eyes met his as she straightened again. "As the major would say, works for me."
McKay nodded back, and let Teyla lead the way to the transporter.
"John?" Elizabeth looked at the screen, grimacing as it proved the major correct, and doing her best to ignore the thudding sounds from the outer doors. "There has to be another way."
"Oh really?" John asked, sarcasm dripping from his tongue, "I think McKay's pulled out his last rabbit, Elizabeth. He's been a miracle worker, but he's not God."
"Maybe…," Elizabeth looked at Zelenka, "Maybe Sheppard can drop the bomb near the ship, and we detonate it from here?"
"Not enough time," Zelenka explained, his tone dark. "The major will need to be out of range of the explosion. You saw what it did to those darts in range of the hive ship."
"So," the Czech shook his head, "he drops it off, we can not wait for him to fly away. They will detect it the moment it is outside of the jumper's shielding. They will simply blow it up, before we can detonate the weapon."
Carson shook his head, "But, won't their blowing it up…?"
"No," Zelenka lowered his eyes, "It doesn't work that way."
"So," Sheppard said, "What you're saying is, either way, I'm a dead man."
"Yes," Zelenka could feel Elizabeth's anguished stare, and he couldn't meet it.
"Then I'm going to have to go through with it. Nothing's changed."
The thudding was getting louder, and metal began to creak. Elizabeth closed her eyes.
"Do what you have to, John," she said finally, her heart breaking in her chest. "And thank you."
"Why not just attack the main hive ship with what jumpers we have in the air?" Rodney suddenly asked over the radio, his normal clipped tone back.
Elizabeth couldn't resist a small smile, and when she looked over at Zelenka and Beckett, she saw relief on their faces as well. How odd that they should be so happy to hear McKay's voice.
"What?" That was from John. "Rodney?"
"Are you all right?" Carson asked into his radio. "Teyla said you'd been wounded."
"I'm fine. Now listen to me, the jumper's weapons are damn powerful, Major. Fire all of them at the hive ship, and do some real damage to it. Maybe it'll be enough to send it packing, or even destroy it. Jumper Four is still up there too, isn't it?"
"Yes," Elizabeth answered, her eyes glancing at the white dot on the lower right hand side of the screen. Jumper four was still running reconnaissance. It would be called back at the last minute, as soon as she set the self-destruct to go.
"Then have them work together. Major, send everything you've got at the hive ship. Jumper Four can do the same. And while you're at it, drop the nuclear weapon as close to the hive ship as possible. Then, as soon as you're far enough away, assuming that it hasn't been destroyed by the hive ship, Radek can detonate it."
"I'll have to decloak to do that, McKay. We both will, me and Jumper Four."
"So? Think Top Gun, Major, just don't pull a Goose."
John snorted, "And you make fun of my movie references?"
"Major, you know what I mean."
"Yes, but here's the difference. My way, I die, but the hive ship is definitely destroyed, and you, Jumper Four, and everyone else have a better chance of surviving until the Daedalus gets here. Your way, nothing's definite, except that me and Jumper Four could both still die, and no one gets any extra time. Doesn't seem like much of a choice, Rodney."
"Major, it could work. You…you just have to—"
"Rodney," Elizabeth interrupted, her tone colorless, "John's right."
"No, Elizabeth. It could work. All we need is time. It's been almost four days…."
She shook her head, "John," she said, "Go ahead."
"Elizabeth!" Rodney begged, "Please! We just need to wait a little—"
"Going," John affirmed Elizabeth's order.
"No!" Rodney shouted, fully angry.
Suddenly, machine gun fire sounding from the outer hallway split the tension in the Gateroom, and everyone looked towards the doors leading to the transporters. The six soldiers positioned defensibly before them held an array of both P90s and M-16 rifles up high, waiting stoically for whatever was coming.
"Elizabeth," Carson said, pulling on her arm. He held up the life signs detector.
She watched as the five or so white dots gathered just outside that particular door disappeared….leaving three dots standing a little further down the corridor, one of which appeared to be practically on top of another one.
"Open up the doors," Teyla commanded. "It is us."
"And they're alone," Carson confirmed, looking towards Elizabeth.
"Open the doors," she ordered, looking over at one of the techs.
The marines didn't let down their guard until Rodney staggered through with Stackhouse over his shoulder, and Teyla watching their back, climbing over the bodies of the dead Wraith drones in the hallway. As soon as they were in, the doors were resealed, and Beckett was reaching to help take Stackhouse from Rodney's shoulder. As soon as the weight was gone, Rodney stumbled and landed on his knees…then onto his hands. Beckett quickly placed Stackhouse on the ground and checked his vitals, then swiveled around to check on Rodney.
McKay brushed him off, practically smacking his hand, and lurched back to his feet. When Beckett tried to help him again, he shoved him back and turned to glare at Elizabeth. He was a mess – paler than a ghost, with so much shadow under his eyes that he looked like a ghoul, and blood all over the front of his blue shirt from where the Wraith had touched him. His eyes were red, his lips blue and he was visibly trembling.
"He doesn't have to die," he threw out, his voice coarse despite the anger fueling it. "Only one hive ship left. He doesn’t have to do this! There's time to wait now…."
She stared back at him, then looked up as the banging continued against the other doors. When she looked back at the scientist, she had steeled her jaw.
"That's the Wraith, Rodney," she said, pointing vaguely upwards. "According to Carson's life signs detector, there are close to thirty of them trying to get inside here. And even if we manage to take those down, they'll just send more. But if we destroy that other hive ship now, we might be able to kill these…and they won't send more. They'll run away with what they have. I have to believe that."
Rodney grimaced, "But the Daedalus—"
"Is not here. And we don't know when it will arrive. It could arrive in minutes…or hours…or even tomorrow. We don't know. And we don't have the time to wait anymore." She grabbed the mic by her mouth, not taking her eyes from Rodney's, "John, what's your status?"
"Forty five seconds to impact. Get ready to detonate the bomb, Zelenka."
Over by the display still, Radek closed his eyes, pulled the second detonator from his pocket, and nodded. "Ready."
Elizabeth continued to stare at Rodney, until he shut his eyes to her and turned away so as not to look at her any more. Elizabeth watched him a moment longer, then put her head down.
The banging got louder, and suddenly gunfire lit inside the control room. Above them, they heard the lieutenant shouting orders at his men to stand fast. Flashes of white light from overhead told them that the Wraith had breached the upper doors.
No one inside the control room moved.
Teyla stared between McKay and Elizabeth, at their solitary poses, then past them to the display screen.
At where PJ-03X closed in on the other hive ship.
"Thanks for the ride, Atlantis," John said over the comm. "It was the greatest of my life."
John shut off the radio then, not wanting to hear them reply.
He pressed forward on the controls, accelerating the jumper and angling towards the bottom of the last remaining hive ship.
And closed his eyes.
PART SIX: LAST STANDS
The Gateroom was alive with the whine of stunners and firepower. McKay, Teyla and two more soldiers were on the stairs, shooting up at the Wraith guards that had made it past the first line of defense and were now trying to move down to the control room. The last of the technicians from the control room jumped through the gate, just as the first of the Wraith drones forced open one of the set of doors to the main floor below, only to be pelted instantly by machine gun fire from the line of soldiers defending it. Stunner flashes burst across the floor, trying to get lucky without aiming.
The only non-military left on Atlantis now were Carson, Rodney, Teyla, Zelenka and Elizabeth, and not one of them was willing to leave until Sheppard hit the last hive ship.
The remaining soldiers, now under the command of a burly sergeant with a reedy voice (the lieutenant was out cold on the floor above, one of the first to go down), stayed only to protect these people…and hold Atlantis until the absolute end.
Which seemed to be, well, now.
Zelenka and Elizabeth stood shoulder to shoulder, watching the display intently. The Czech's hand hovered over the panel on which he'd placed the detonator for the bomb on Sheppard's jumper, trembling ever so slightly as his ears tried to block out the horrific sounds echoing from all around him. His eyes, meanwhile, were focused only on the little white dot. It was practically on top of the hive ship. And he knew, if he looked to his left, he would see Elizabeth just as intense and unwavering.
"Ten seconds," Zelenka said quietly, almost unnecessarily. "Until the major….What the…?"
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw it. A brief flash of light, and a new energy signature, showing up as bright yellow off to the side of the screen.
"UN-01?" Zelenka said, reading the display.
Didn't UN mean…unidentified?
"Abort!" Elizabeth screamed, faster on the uptake than the Czech, "JOHN! ABORT! The Daedalus! It's here!"
John's eyes flew open, and he shoved down on the controls, trying to change the momentum of the ship…but it still continued upwards.
"Down!" he shouted at the jumper, willing it to respond, "Go down!"
The jumper shuddered, and for a moment, it seemed he was weightless as the jumper attempted to respond to his command, but it was only in his mind. He was still hurtling straight at the hive ship, the jumper's rate of speed giving it a momentum that was not easily turned.
With a quick mental flip, he dropped the cloak and raised the shield, just in time to feel the impact against the base of the hive ship. The jumper, protected inside the shield, skidded across the underside of the hive like a large rock scraping along the undercarriage of a car, and, if there had been sound in space, he was sure it would sound even worse.
Weapons fire, now that he was visible, started raining on the jumper's shield, just as he managed to regain control and send the tiny ship plunging back into deep space. His mind begged the jumper to aim for the Daedalus, wherever she was, hoping it would know since he had no clue.
Glancing down, he saw that the shield's integrity was at twenty percent, having taking a massive amount of energy to avoid complete collision, and was losing more and more integrity as both the hive ship's weapons and a mess of darts started chasing him down.
With a growl, he dodged and weaved, and fired a couple of rounds for a distraction…and flipped the shield back to the cloak.
Pulling up as tightly as possible, he managed to avoid three separate beams from three different darts converging on his last position, but only barely.
A moment later, and he was out of their range, flying across empty space, checking to make sure that…somehow…he was not only alive, but away.
Okay, he thought inanely, you can breathe now….
"John!" Elizabeth's repeated shouting of his name over the comm. finally made it through the ringing in his ears. He swallowed to wet his dry as sandpaper throat before answering.
"Still here," he croaked, still not quite sure if it was true.
"I told you!" McKay's voice fairly bristled over the radio, and John frowned when he realized he could hear gunfire ricocheting loudly in the background. "But you just couldn't wait, could you?! No, no, not the mighty know-it-all Sheppard! Rather die than admit that, maybe, you don't have to save the day in some heroically melodramatic fashion! We have to do it 'my way,' Rodney, because I know better, he says. Ha!"
But Sheppard only listened to what was apparently going on behind the snark, as Rodney's voice shivered in reaction to the bullets he was obviously firing from a P90 at the same time.
"Rodney!" he called, "You can yell at me later. What's happening? Is that gunfire?"
"No, we're just having some new curtains put up," McKay answered, his words almost as rapid as the fire. "Unfortunately, the Wraith don't like the new color scheme."
"Just hurry, Major," Elizabeth put in, her tone tense. "They've nearly breached the control room."
"We will survive this wave, Major," Teyla's voice added, "But not a second."
"So, we need that third ship destroyed, now, to convince the Wraith here to get the hell out of my City," Elizabeth finished. "And take as many of those god damned darts as possible with you, will you?"
Sheppard grinned at the smart response, and finally had the wherewithal to call up a display.
"I'll try," he promised.
With a nudge, he sent his ship straight for "UN-01," frowning a little as he saw a good sized contingent of Wraith ships were following, including the three mid-sized battle cruisers as well as a mess of darts. He had a good head start on them, but not by much.
"Daedalus," he called, channeling his communication now to all frequencies, "This is Major John Sheppard. Do you read?"
"Loud and clear, Major," a voice replied. "This is Colonel Steven Caldwell. We're locating you by your radio frequency. We've got a hanger bay open for you, so come on in."
"But no buts, Major. You get your butt in here, and we can talk about finishing off that pesky little wasp problem you've got."
Sheppard tried not to smile, he really did, because over-cocky colonels seemed to die pretty quickly in the Pegasus Galaxy, but…hell, he was still glad they were here.
"Yes sir. Coming in," he called, calling up the schematics of the still titled "UN-01" on his screen and locating the open hanger.
PART SEVEN: MOMENT OF CALM
Elizabeth leaned heavily against the console, breathing deeply and just trying to stop shaking. Around her, the gunfire had stopped, and she turned to see Zelenka leaning fully over his console, practically bent in half, his head buried in his arms.
Turning a little further, she saw Carson was darting around, quickly examining the soldiers in the room who were unconscious, making sure they were just stunned. Of the thirty or so soldiers holding the Gateroom, about eight were knocked out, and, once examined by Beckett, were dragged closer to the gate, to be placed on carts with the last of the supplies and pushed through when the wormhole was reestablished. The gate had shut down, as 38 minutes had passed by without anything passing through. Rodney quickly redialed the Alpha site and opened it again, before the Wraith could take advantage and block them out.
Meanwhile, the rest of the soldiers were quickly moving to stack up dead Wraith soldiers by the doors, as barricades. It was gruesome, but two sets of the doors leading to the Gateroom floor below had been breached and wouldn't reseal, and the Wraith, to put it bluntly, were handy. Obviously, the doors at the top of the stairwell leading up from the control room had also been breached, and several dead Wraith now littered the steps—those doors would have to be barricaded as well.
Turning to voice that thought, she found Teyla already advancing slowly up the stairs with two soldiers, clearly having had the same idea. Her hair was wild, but her eyes were eerily calm as she stared unblinkingly upwards, watchful for hidden dangers. Her steady, unflinching step as she climbed gave Elizabeth a boost of confidence. The two soldiers followed her without question, as if they had always been a single unit.
Turning a little further, she saw McKay was now pacing, walking up and down the room, as if looking for something more to do. His P90 was still held tight in his right arm, his left hand twitching and twisting by his side, demonstrating the roller coaster of emotions roiling within. He was on the edge, she knew. She couldn't even imagine the depth of his exhaustion, well aware that he had not been allowed any rest at all this week, and combined with whatever had happened down in the chair room….
Her eyes involuntarily lowered to the bloody mess that was his chest as he turned to head back in her direction, the scientist moving to look down to the Gateroom floor below at the damage done. How much did the Wraith steal from him? Teyla had told Carson it had been for a second, only, but even so….the pain and fear he must have felt, on top of everything else….His heart-wrenching scream ripped through her memory again, and she had to look away, her eyes turning to the display behind her again.
So many red dots converging rapidly on just one small yellow one. Where their last hope lay.
She raised a shaking hand to her forehead, then lifted it away. She stared at the limb for a moment, watching it shake, then set her jaw. The hand gripped into a fist and steadied.
Not yet. She was not going to fall apart yet. She couldn't. This was still far from over.
"Right," she snapped, her voice sharp as Doctor Elizabeth Weir returned to herself, "Doctor Zelenka?"
"Hmm?" Radek stood up a little too quickly, and almost lost his balance. If she didn't know better, she would have thought she had woken him up. Rodney wasn't the only one who was exhausted. "Sorry? What?" He blinked rapidly at her, pushing his glasses up his nose from where they'd slipped down.
She pointed to the display, just as PJ-03X merged with UN-01.
"We can't help the Daedalus anymore," she said. "They will let us know if they succeed…or don't." She grimaced, feeling more than seeing that Rodney was watching them both, and listening as she continued to talk to Radek. "Please reconfigure the sensor to display the biometric, internal sensors again. We need to know what is happening here in Atlantis. I want to be more prepared next time the Wraith try to get in here."
Zelenka blinked, trying to get some clarity back in his fatigue fogged vision, "But, what if the Daedelus doesn't—"
"We still have the jumpers," Rodney said matter-of-factly, his eyes intense.
"Yes, of course," Radek straightened further, his eyes brightening, "Someone could bring one down here, and we could hook up one of the displays to the jumpers power source…." He nodded, stepping down from the dais as if to head towards the jumper bay.
"Doctor Zelenka," Elizabeth called softly, stopping the Czech before he went more than a few steps. "The biometric sensors first?"
"Oh, right, right," Zelenka turned around and walked back.
"I'll get the jumper," Rodney said, glancing at something behind Elizabeth, before turning to the stairs.
"Oh, no you don't," Carson called, walking past Elizabeth, coming from the main stairs leading down to the Gate where he'd just seen to it that the unconscious soldiers, including Stackhouse, were sent through to the Alpha site, "I'll get it." He reached the scientist and crossed his arms, as if challenging Rodney to deny him. "I wouldn't trust you to control a tricycle right now, Rodney, much less a jumper. Fact is, I'm not even sure you're fully conscious at the moment, so…I think I'll bring it down, if you don't mind."
Rodney simply stared at him for a moment, then shrugged.
"Fine with me," he said, heaving a sigh. "Better take this then." He held out the P90.
Carson stared at it for a moment, then, with a grimace, took the machine gun.
"It's a little low on bullets," Rodney indicated the magazine, "Might want to get more from someone before going up there. Oh, and, don't worry about the dead Wraith everywhere up there. I'm sure there's more coming." He smiled wryly, then hit his radio. "Teyla?"
"Yes?" she replied from her position now in the hall above the control room.
"Beckett's going to try and get a jumper and bring it down here. Protect him, will you?"
"Of course. The corridor is clear so far. However, Doctor Beckett, if you would please bring a life signs detector with you, that would be most helpful."
Carson arched an eyebrow at Rodney, then, holding the P90 closer, still looking horribly uncomfortable with the thing in his arms, he sighed.
"You coulda said no, you know," he reproached the other man.
Rodney shrugged back, "What? And ruin your chance to make up for the whole Sora-concussion incident? I wouldn't deny you that."
Beckett snorted, his dimpled smile growing as he looked away. A soldier still guarding the bottom of the stairs held up an extra magazine. He nodded, and it was lobbed to him. Catching it easily, he stared at it for a moment, then shoved it in his pocket. He looked back at Rodney, and found the scientist had already walked away, pacing again, his now free hands both twitching, like a pianist practicing on an imaginary piano, eyes unfocused. A second later, he was down underneath one of the consoles, prying open a panel, muttering to himself about something.
Carson glanced at Elizabeth, saw the same worried look on her face about Rodney's current state of health, both mentally and physically, and shook his head. He wanted to tell Rodney to go through the Gate. To get to safety. But Rodney knew how best to connect the jumper's systems to the City's. Elizabeth nodded at Carson's silent communication to her, the same thoughts obviously running through her mind as well.
"You going to go, Carson?" Rodney suddenly snapped from where he was now tugging out wires, "Or are you going to keep standing there like a marionette, waiting for someone to pull your strings?"
Carson sighed again, "I'm on my way," he stated calmly, not responding to the snide remark. Turning, he jogged over to the stairs, calling up to Teyla that he was on his way. The physician continued to hold the P90 like it was a dirty diaper--a little away from him and with an expression that he clearly wished he wouldn’t have to use it.
PART EIGHT: WELCOME TO THE DAEDALUS
Sheppard jogged after the air force lieutenant that had met him when he landed on Daedalus, the woman setting a pace that brooked no argument. It wasn't long before they were moving through the bulkhead doors on to the bridge, and the lieutenant stopped dead, snapping to attention. Sheppard was a little slower on the uptake, but he also saluted the Colonel who was peering over his shoulder at them from the command chair.
"Major John Sheppard, sir!" the lieutenant called before Sheppard could speak.
"Thank you lieutenant," the colonel acknowledged, before looking back at Sheppard. "Welcome to the Daedalus, Major."
"Thank you sir," Sheppard replied, walking forward, his eyes already taking in the holographic display showing the Wraith cruisers and darts bearing down on them. It looked far more advanced than any military technology he'd seen.
"Like it?" the Colonel grinned. "We've learned a few things from our allies, the Asgard. That, and they've let us borrow some of their technology as well."
"Oh, uh, yeah, nice." Sheppard had turned his head, to see the Wraith darts swarming like bees around Atlantis on another screen. "Oh God. We have to—"
"I know what we need to do, Major. First things first, though. I've been told there is something leaking serious radiation in the back of your puddle jumper. Please tell me we didn't make that monstrosity."
"What? Oh…the bomb. No, sir. We—"
The colonel cut him off with a wave, "No matter, does it work?"
"We were going to use it to destroy that last hive ship, sir. A similar one already destroyed—"
"Ah, that explains the almost kamikaze suicide move you were about to make, yes?"
Sheppard's jaw tensed, the muscles flexing as he contemplated his answer to that question. The colonel met his eyes, and nodded.
"I see. Tell me, how were you not obliterated? I thought the jumpers didn't have shields?"
"This one does," Sheppard replied. "Courtesy of a Wraith we blew up once. Now, Colonel, I mean no disrespect, but…" He jabbed a finger at the screens. "Do something!"
The colonel arched an eyebrow, then, oddly, smiled. He turned around to stare back at the display screens before him, "I'll let that slide, Major. Now, what say we finish your little mission."
Sheppard's eyebrows knotted, "What?"
"Captain," the colonel looked towards a dark haired man sitting at another console to his left, "Don't raise the shields yet. I don't want those bastards to know what we're doing until the last minute, and I certainly don't want them to know how powerful we are." He glanced up at Sheppard, arching an eyebrow, "That was Doctor Weir asking you to take as many Wraith ships as possible with you, wasn’t it?"
Sheppard blinked, realizing that the colonel must have overheard his communications with the City. "Uh, yes sir, it was."
"Well, I've never been one to turn down a lady when she's asking for help." He smiled, turning to a red-headed ensign sitting to his right now, the woman watching him with a steady gaze, obviously waiting for orders. "Head towards the hive ship, Ensign. With luck, the three cruisers aiming for us and the rest of those darts will follow, probably hoping to overcome us before we get there." He looked back at the blond man, "And captain, as soon as you think we're close enough, and there are as many of those damn Wraith ships as possible within range of the nuclear bomb's power, send it over and raise shields."
"Send it over?" Sheppard just felt very out of his element, like he was about ten steps behind.
"Yes sir," the captain called out over Sheppard's question, rapidly typing away on his keyboard. Meanwhile, the red-headed ensign typed in a few commands of her own, then reached forward to take hold of the ship's main steering controls. A tiny smile graced her face as she judged the distances to the cruisers, and beyond them to the main hive ship.
"Hang on," the colonel grinned up at the Major. "Ensign Perkins is one of the best damn pilots I've ever seen, Major, but she's a little reckless."
The Daedalus suddenly burst forward, playing chicken with the Wraith cruisers, as the ensign expertly dodged and weaved…sending them straight to the hive ship.
Sheppard grabbed at the back of the colonel's command chair, even though he hadn't actually felt the motion. Somehow, it just made him feel better as the displays turned red with danger.
Zelenka sighed, dragging his tired carcass out from under the console and looking at the one working display screen. Whatever power was left in the consoles was now going to run the biometric sensors, and only the area around the control room.
Unmoving white dots representing humans littered the areas around the five generators, all of which had clearly been destroyed. More white dots littered the halls around the control room, where many soldiers had taken their last stands. None of them moved, except for four up in the jumper bay overhead.
Thankfully, it appeared that there were not that many yellow dots still on…no…wait….
He heard Elizabeth sigh as two new clumps of yellow dots appeared on the balconies, obviously just beamed there by the darts overhead.
Within moments, a sizeable force of Wraith, at least two dozen, were moving from the balconies to the halls.
"We have maybe five minutes," Zelenka noted morosely, "and they'll be on us again."
"Yes, but at least this time, we'll know which direction," Elizabeth answered, her voice back to its previous hyper-calm. "We just need to keep holding them at bay, until the Daedalus does…whatever it is going to do."
The sounds of the hanger overhead opening up turned both Zelenka's and Weir's heads…and a jumper descended from above. Weir couldn't help but smile as it bobbed a little.
Rodney peeked out from his torn open console, peering through the wires and other guts he had pulled out from it. He smiled as the jumper came to a hover just next to the balcony, turning so that the main window faced the control room, showing a smiling Beckett in the pilot's seat.
"Great, Carson, keep her there," Rodney called out, ducking back beneath the console.
"What?" Carson replied over the radio. "Keep her where?"
"Right there, where you are," Rodney replied, not even bothering to look out again. "Zelenka, can you rip one of the main power cords from one of the other consoles? These ones aren't long enough."
Carson's voice crackled over the radio again, and Elizabeth could see that he now looked very confused as he held the controls. "What do you mean, hover? I thought I was going to land this and—"
"Nope, I need you exactly there, though, if you don't mind, could you turn it around and open the rear hatch?"
Carson's mouth was wide open, "But Rodney, I can't do anything while I'm in here. If I have to keep her hovering like this, I won't be able to help if—"
"Oh, stop your whining," McKay snapped, dragging himself out from under the console. He took hold of the thick black wire Zelneka had pulled out for him, and looked towards Carson, waving it in his direction. "You're probably the safest person in Atlantis right now. When the Wraith attack again, they won't be able to get to you in there. And, if it all goes to hell, you can just escape through the wormhole, or cloak and fly up out of here. What's there to complain about? You're the luckiest man here." Turning, he knelt down and pulled out a similar thick black wire and worked to attach it to the one in his hand.
Carson's eyes widened as Rodney spoke, then suddenly narrowed.
"You radge bastard!" he snarled. "No wonder you agreed so quickly! You knew this would happen! Did you guess I'd volunteer as well?"
Rodney shrugged, not answering, intent on his patching.
"You did, you tosser! You saw me coming up behind Elizabeth and....How could you!" Carson raged, causing the jumper to sway a little as he jerked the controls. Elizabeth and Zelenka both took a step back from the balcony, but Rodney simply stood up and turned to face Beckett. He wasn't smiling anymore, he simply stared. Carson's anger faded in the light of that dark expression.
"Turn the jumper around, and open the rear hatch."
The underlying menace in his tone and the dead stare was so un-Rodney like that Carson couldn't maintain eye contact. A moment later, he did as he was told, the rear hatch opening as he turned. Rodney proceeded to direct him, as if teaching a student driver how to parallel park, until the rear hatch was flush with the balcony.
"Zelenka, can you get in there and configure the jumper's controls while I patch it in here?" Rodney asked, turning to look at Radek.
The Czech stared at him a moment, then, slowly, nodded, walking towards him from the console next to Elizabeth. "The detonator for the second bomb is on the console."
Rodney handed him the end of the black wire, "Got it. Once in, stay in there, in case the Wraith attack again."
Radek didn't reply to that command. He just took the wire, then climbed over the balcony rails into the jumper.
In moments, he was calling out that they were all set.
Rodney nodded, tweaking a few more wires, then watched approvingly as the console lit up. He and Elizabeth turned at the same time to look at the heretofore dark display screen, to where the external sensors were back on line.
To see UN-01 practically on top of the Hive ship.
Several hits had shaken the Daedalus, causing several showers of sparks inside the command room as certain outlying systems were damaged, but, for the most part, it had made it through unscathed.
"Sir," the captain called, "They're all in range, sir."
"Atlantis," Colonel Caldwell hit his radio, "This is Colonel Caldwall on the Daedelus. Do you read me?"
Elizabeth Weir's voice echoed over the comm., "Yes, Colonel, we read you. What is happening up—"
"Are you prepared still to detonate the nuclear bomb the Genii provided?"
Surprise was evident in her voice as Elizabeth replied, "I…yes? Of course. But how—"
"Be prepared to do so on my mark. Captain, are you ready?"
"Yes sir," the man replied, hand hovering over a control.
"Ready," Elizabeth replied.
"Captain, send it."
Inside the jumper bay, the large black bomb disappeared in a flash of white, as Asgard technology transported the bomb directly to the center of the Wraith hive ship.
"Now, Atlantis!" the colonel yelled over the radio. "Captain, raise the shield!"
McKay punched the remote on the console, detonating the bomb, his and Elizabeth's eyes, and everyone else's in range, fixed on the display.
On the biometric sensor, yellow dots continued their unerring march towards the control room.
The last Wraith hive ship split in half, like a broken cookie, silent white light tearing it into hundreds of pieces. The three battle cruisers in range disintegrated, caught in the blast, and close to thirty darts disappeared as well.
Shielded with the power of a ZPM, the Daedalus watched it all happen around them with a grim satisfaction.
"Wow," Radek breathed, watching what was happening in space unfold on the display that Carson had called up on the jumper. Red dots disappeared from the screen like filth washed from a dashboard, leaving only a handful that hadn't been close enough to the blast…and the bright yellow dot staying constant in the middle that looked as beautiful as the sun to them all.
Elizabeth just looked at Rodney, and the scientist looked back. He smiled at her, the first truly happy smile she had seen on his face since this had all started.
"Look!" a soldier called, pointing towards the other biometric display. Sure enough, the dots representing the Wraith were disappearing rapidly from all over Atlantis, as the remaining darts pulled their soldiers back up. "They're retreating! And the darts are all leaving!"
"We've won," Elizabeth said, leaning on the console between her and McKay. "I can't believe it. We…they…we did it. Rodney…." She turned to the scientist, just in time to see him step down from the dais to the floor below, his eyes on the ground. He swayed suddenly, alarmingly, and Elizabeth tried to reach over the console to catch him. "Rodney?"
"What's the matter?" Carson called from inside the jumper. "What's wrong with him? Radek, unhook those wires!" Zelenka, who'd been staring out the back of the tiny ship jumped, turning quickly to do as he was told.
Rodney lifted pale blue eyes to Elizabeth, their color seemingly faded inside the bruised and stretched face. "You know," he said, as if discussing the weather, "I think I need to sit down."
And then his eyes rolled up in his head.
"Rodney!" Elizabeth yelled, as McKay collapsed into a heap on the floor.
PART NINE: THE END FOR NOW
Powered by the ZPM, the Daedalus made quick work of the remaining darts, many of which seemed aimless without the hive ship to command them. They tried their swarming technique again, but against the shield, they had no means of causing any further damage to the Earth ship. Eventually, those that were not destroyed turned to flee, to run away, back to wherever they had come from.
Puddle Jumper Four, still cloaked, was sent to follow them. As the darts were only short range fighters, with limited power supplies, it was hoped that they would be forced to land on a nearby planet, and the Daedalus, once it had dropped off the ZPM, could execute a rescue of those personnel that had been captured.
No one wanted to think about the humans who had undoubtedly been on-board the destroyed Wraith ships. It didn't bear thinking about, since there was nothing that could be done, except to mourn.
The Daedalus landed on Atlantis, setting down on the flat northern pier which had probably been a launching pad for larger Atlantian ships. John was off and running into the City, even before the rest of the people on-board were prepared to disembark. Colonel Caldwell had tried to call after him, but all John cared about right then was making sure that his people were all alright.
He arrived in the Control Room in time to see Elizabeth directing people in from the Gate, as the scientists and the soldiers sent to the Alpha Site were brought home.
He skidded to a halt a few feet from her, and she turned to face him. For a moment, neither spoke.
She looked pale, wan, but her eyes were bright with happiness.
John's own lips lifted into a smile, and his eyebrows lifted.
"We're okay," she promised him, answering his unvoiced question. "And we're still here, thanks to you."
He shook his head, "Not just me."
She agreed with a nod, "I know."
John took a step back then, as if afraid he would not be able to stop himself from hugging her--it had been his first impulse when he saw her standing there. Hell, he wanted to hug them all. Suddenly, he was laughing at the absurdity of the idea that he shouldn't do exactly that, since they had come so close to never having that chance again. Screw etiquette!
Elizabeth was startled by both his laughter and when he suddenly lunged forward and wrapped her in a tight hug, but she was soon laughing as well, easily returning it. She held him tightly, never wanting to let go.
But John wasn't done yet.
Abruptly letting go, the Major turned, to see Beckett coming down the stairs from the control room. The Scot barely had time to grin a hello before he too was enveloped, and more laughter burst through the ruined room. As if a dam had suddenly been broken, everyone started hugging everyone, laughing and cheering and hollering hellos as the realization that they had survived echoed through all their weary souls.
Zelenka appeared at a side door, his expression a little bewildered as he took in the impromptu party going on. John spotted him and jogged over, grabbing the Czech's hand, pumping it enthusiastically. Zelenka grinned, and then let himself be hugged. Then John pulled back and looked around for a moment, one hand still on Radek's arm. His smile faded a little, confused, and he looked back at Radek.
"Teyla, Rodney and Lieutenant Ford are all in the infirmary, Major," Zelenka said softly. "They are all—"
But Sheppard didn't wait to hear the rest of the statement, running full tilt down the hall past Zelenka for the infirmary.
Sheppard entered the room slowly, looking around at the many wounded soldiers littering every available bed. He could see marks on the clipboard hanging next to each bed--triage colors. Beckett's lab had been expanded into several neighboring rooms, to house not only the wounded, but the paralyzed, who were slowly coming around. John had peeked in every room, waving at the gasps and smiles from the various doctors and nurses who spotted him on his search. Finally, he reached the main room, and much of his good humor faded as he looked around.
His men, many unconscious and bound in bandages and hooked up to monitors, filled this place to the brim.
He paused at the end of one bed, looking at the young corporal Dunne, the boy sporting red speckled bandages around his left leg, right arm and one around his head. From the looks of it, it was amazing he was still alive. As if sensing his presence, the boy's hazel eyes opened. Dunne blinked up at the ceiling for a moment, then looked down to the end of the bed, at the Major.
Without prompting, a wide smile graced the young face…and he lifted his uninjured arm to give his major a thumbs up.
Sheppard couldn't not return it. "Well done, Corporal."
"Thank you, sir," the boy replied softly. Then, oddly, he looked to his left.
Sheppard followed the gaze…and saw them.
Teyla was sitting next to Rodney's bed, leaning over with her head cradled on her arms on his mattress. She looked asleep. There was blood on her face, but from this distance, Sheppard couldn't determine if it was hers or not. She was also clearly asleep.
So was Rodney. The scientist's shirt was missing, and his chest was wound round with bandages. Sheppard's jaw tensed as he guessed why. Rodney's face was turned away from him, but, like Teyla, he could tell that the man was dead to the world.
Almost as an afterthought, he patted Dunne on the leg and walked over to his teammates. Looking beyond Rodney's bed, he saw Ford on the next cot. The young man looked like he had been through hell. He'd obviously put up one hell of a fight before going down. But, Sheppard knew, Ford had gone down. The Wraith wouldn't have reached the Gateroom otherwise.
Silently, the major walked to a spot between both beds, looking down at the three slumbering members of his team.
And he suddenly felt incredibly tired.
Turning, he saw there wasn't an empty chair, which was a little frustrating. With a sigh, he moved over to sit on the edge of Ford's bed, resting an arm lightly on the lieutenant's. Ford didn't stir.
Sheppard closed his eyes, intending to keep them closed for only a moment…just a moment…that's all….
Slowly, very slowly, Rodney returned to wakefulness. The molasses of sleep didn't want him to, but something far more powerful drove him to it. Anxiety. He couldn't be asleep; he couldn't afford to sleep. He had to wake up.
His eyes rolled, and he grimaced as his eyelids seemed to stick to them. With great will power, he cracked the lids, forcing them to open. His corneas were incredibly dry, and he had to blink rapidly to get his eyes to respond to him and focus.
His mouth opened, and he drew in a deep breath, and, finally…he was able to see where he was.
He groaned a little, and coughed.
Something soft stirred by his left hand, and he titled his head to look down.
The tiniest smile touched his lips as he saw Teyla sleeping on her arms, looking decidedly uncomfortable, the top of her head nearly on top of his fingers.
Lifting his hand, he reached out and brushed some of her hair from her face. She made a small sound, but didn't wake, her head shifting a little on her arms. The hair he'd pushed back fell forward again.
He smiled, and gingerly, so as not to wake her, pushed himself up, ignoring the pain that flared across his chest as he shifted. Blinking some more, he looked around, absorbing the chaos of the infirmary. People were bustling around, though they did it remarkably quietly. Turning his head to the left, he saw something which made him smile even more broadly.
Ford was lying a little on his side, facing away from Teyla and himself. A little further down on the same bed, Major Sheppard was asleep sitting up, precariously perched on the edge. He looked about ready to fall off.
Major Sheppard…the Daedalus…the ZPM!
Rodney's eyes widened with sudden realization, and he shot bolt upright, the wound on his chest responding by acting as if it were on fire, and he let out a loud groan, pressing his hand to the bandages there.
Teyla came awake with a start, her expression startled and afraid, completely lost. She backed off the bed as Rodney shook off the pain, and started fighting with the covers of the bed. Teyla stood up a little clumsily, staggering a little before she had her equilibrium back.
"Doctor?" she asked, coughing a little at the dryness in her throat.
"The ZPM!" he answered her, looking half joyful and half in pain, "I have to install the ZPM! Oh, I hope they haven't tried to do it without me! There's a certain sequence that needs to be followed. How long have I been here?" He lifted his wrist to look at his watch, then blinked when the numbers meant nothing to him. When was the last time he had checked the time? "Crap, damn, hell, how am I supposed to—"
"Rodney?" Sheppard's voice was groggy, but loud enough to stop both Teyla and Rodney's movements. Together, they turned to look back at Ford's bed, where Sheppard was sitting up more fully and stretching. Once done, he favored them both with a patented Sheppard grin. "Hi guys."
"Major!" Teyla bounded over to him, and, before either John or Rodney had time to think, was laying a heavy kiss on his lips. She pulled back, grinning, "I am so glad you are well!"
John blinked, too surprised to even speak. He looked at Rodney, who looked a little miffed that he hadn't received such an enthusiastic hello. The scientist shook his head at the major, then moved to put his bare feet on the floor. Teyla turned then, saw Rodney's annoyed expression as he considered how cold the marble tiles would be, and laughed some more. Suddenly, she was at his side and giving him a kiss as well. To say Rodney was flabbergasted as she pulled away would be an understatement.
"We have much to be thankful for!" she cheered, smiling between them.
Suddenly, her smile fell, spotting Ford for the first time. Rodney and the Major turned, looking at the still unconscious lieutenant. Teyla's jaw firmed, her normally calm demeanor returning as she moved around the end of the lieutenant's bed.
Walking up to stand right by his head, she reached out and touched it lightly.
The two men watched her gently brush along the boy's forehead, neither able to articulate their thoughts. Finally, Teyla looked up and graced them both with a kind smile.
"You should go, both of you," she said. "I will stay with him. Major," she looked at her team leader, "You will be needed to debrief and organize the new arrivals, yes? And Doctor McKay, " she turned soft eyes to Rodney, "I believe they are waiting for you."
Sheppard nodded, and looked back at the scientist. With a weak grin, he moved to shuck off his gear, divesting himself of his vest and weaponry quickly. Pulling off his jacket, he tossed it to Rodney. The scientist caught it, and nodded a thanks as he quickly put it on over his bare torso. Thankfully, McKay found he was still wearing his own trousers. Looking around, he soon caught sight of his boots, shoved beneath the bed. He had them on quickly and was standing, swaying a little, barely noticing as John helped him regain his balance. In the same time, John had put all his gear back on. Turning, both men gave one final nod to Teyla, who smiled approvingly in return. Then, with John supporting a still shaky Rodney a little, they turned to leave the infirmary.
Sheppard knew Teyla was right. He should be heading to the Gateroom to meet with Colonel Caldwell, but, instead, he dogged Rodney, often keeping a hand resting lightly on the scientist's back. McKay was heading unerringly towards the main power room deep in the City's heart, though his movements were clearly clumsier than usual. He kept losing his balance, nearly hitting walls a few times, and Sheppard would have to catch him. Rodney never said a word about the support.
Finally, as they turned a corner, entering the hallway leading to the transporter that would take them down, Sheppard spoke up.
"How do we know it'll be there, for you to install?"
"Oh," Rodney slowed, and he looked at the Major, "Um…I didn't think about that." He reached up a hand to his ear, then let it fall when he realized he had no radio.
Sheppard obligingly tapped his own, "Major Sheppard to Doctor Weir."
"Yes, Major?" Elizabeth's still elated voice replied, "How are they?" She didn't need to say exactly who "they" were. "And are you—"
"Where are you, Major," Colonel Caldwell's voice cut in. He didn't sound happy.
"I'm with Doctor McKay, sir. We're on our way to the main power room. Doctor McKay would like to know if—"
"The ZPM has been delivered to the room, yes. However, though we have repeatedly asked for it to be installed as soon as possible, so that we can get this place cleaned and working again, no one here seems capable of doing so. They all tell me that this Doctor McKay of yours is the only one who can. Tell me, Major, there are well over fifty scientists on this expedition. How is it possible that only one man can install a ZPM correctly?"
Sheppard was grinning so broadly, he thought his face would crack. McKay's brow was furrowed, annoyed because he could not hear what was being said, and deadly certain that, for some reason, they were talking about him.
"What's happening?!" he snapped at Sheppard.
John arched an eyebrow at him, and spoke into the mic, "Sir, as I said, I have Doctor McKay with me. We will see that it is installed momentarily." Across from him, McKay's face lit up with a glow.
Caldwell huffed, then sighed. "Fine. See that you do, Major. Caldwell out."
"Major," Elizabeth said, "Before you go, you did not answer my question. Are you and Rodney all right?"
Sheppard looked at McKay, who had lifted an arm so he could tap his watch at the major, looking impatient. Sheppard rolled his eyes at the other man, a sardonic smile on his face.
"Yes, Elizabeth," he replied, "We're going to be just fine. Sheppard out." He lowered his hand from his radio.
"Come on!" Rodney said, spinning around and, again nearly losing his balance. Sheppard set him upright again, and Rodney swallowed a little at the tightness in his chest. Through tearing eyes, he smiled back at the major, "Thanks. Now, let's go." And he started to walk briskly away.
Sheppard jogged a little to catch up with him, "Damn, you're impatient, Rodney."
"Me?" McKay shook his head, "Please! Impatience is your failing, Major, not mine. That, and the fact that you need to listen to me more. When I tell you to wait, you wait!"
Sheppard rolled his eyes, "Now McKay—"
"Oh, don't you 'now, Mckay,' me." Rodney replied, as they headed further into the corridor, walking side by side, "What did you say to me? 'So long, Rodney?' After everything we've been through? That's all I get? What crap is that?! I yelled at you to wait, but, oh no, you didn't even give me a chance! You just took off, not waiting for me, as per usual…."
"I was trying to save the City! Your idea wasn't working and—"
"So? So! That doesn't mean you go suicidal on me!"
"Suicidal! Ha! That's rich coming from you. I had a plan, a good plan. A plan that would have worked and saved everyone!"
"So? It was still a stupid plan! My plan was better, but, oh, Sheppard's way is the only way, isn't it? Because Sheppard's the only one in this City who knows the right way to do things. Well, ha! You…."
Up in the control room, Elizabeth listened to Rodney's ranting over Sheppard's radio, the Major having forgotten to turn it off, and smiled happily. It was better than music to her ears. As the two continued to bicker, her eyes lifted to look out over the Gateroom, to where the Gate was finally shut down, now that everyone had returned home. The sun filled the vast room through the majestic windows with a warmth and heat that felt richly deserved. She felt blessed.
She felt hope.
For now, that was enough.
Hope you liked it! Drop me a line if you did!
Oh, and someone pointed out to me that the jumpers don't have shields. Sadly, I learned this *after* I wrote this. So, in this little AU world, they retrieved the Desert Wraith's bracelet which, miraculously, wasn't vaporized, McKay and Zelenka worked their magic, and now PJ-03 has a shield. Meanwhile, only two and a half months left until the real thing! Hooray!