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Rodney jerked reflexively at the muted grunt that escaped Sheppard when Kolya’s goon jabbed him in the arm. All thought flew out of his head and he nearly dropped the handheld computer again as he recalled vividly his own run-in with the same knife.


“Where is the C4, Major?” The question that Kolya had been asking over and over reached his ears. The Genii leader was calm and unaffected by the suffering he so casually caused.


“Where you’ll never find it,” Sheppard replied, his voice strained.


Kolya’s man moved in again, and Rodney cried out. “Can’t you see he’s not going to tell you anything? If you’re going to take over Atlantis, you’ll find it eventually, anyway!”


“Why would I expend such effort, Doctor McKay, when the solution to the problem sits before me?”


“B-Because . . . .” Rodney cast around for an answer. “Because he can help you in other ways. . . .”


“Rodney –.” Sheppard interrupted, his tone suggesting that he didn’t need to be defended, but Rodney kept talking. He wouldn’t stand by and watch another being tortured.


“He’s the one carrying the ATA gene,” he blurted the same argument that Sheppard had used earlier. For all of the times he’d envied the Major’s affinity with using the Ancient technology, it felt odd to be using it as a bargaining point – ignoring the little white lie, of course. “And he uses it like he was born to it, almost instinctively. He’s the best chance you’ve got of getting this city to work for you.”


“Better than you?” Kolya asked, focusing cold eyes intently on him.


Rodney faltered mentally, and fought the urge to take a step backward. Then his natural inclination kicked in. “Of course not,” he responded. “What I’m trying to explain to you is that through some freak of nature, he’s the key to everything.”


“I’m flattered . . . I think.” He heard John mutter.


“All the more reason to break him, now,” Kolya said, and refocused on John, clearly demonstrating that the conversation was of no more interest to him.


“He isn’t some animal to be broken,” Rodney argued, panic at the possible return of the knife bearing down on him. “He’s a human being who deserves to be treated with respect and dignity.”


Kolya’s gaze didn’t waver from John. “His worth is yet to be seen.”


-- -- --


“Is this not unusual?” Teyla’s curious voice sounded.


Carson looked to where Teyla was looking, and his heart dropped into his stomach. For a moment he could only stare in the hope that he was hallucinating. Just when he’d been getting used to the autopilot thing, everything was going to pot. This was why he didn’t trust himself with this sort of technology. He didn’t like it and it clearly didn’t like him.


“That is weird.” Ford spoke from the opposite side of the console, the nervous quaver in his voice not entirely camouflaged. He tapped a few keys on the console, none of which responded. “What did you do, Doctor?”


Carson’s breath was beginning to come in quick gasps and he hoped that he wasn’t headed for full fledged panic. “I didn’t do anything!” he forced the words out. “The jumper was doing all of the work, remember?”


“So explain why we’re about to crash into the ocean!” Ford demanded.


“Arguing will not help the matter,” Teyla reminded them. “Is there not something more we can do? Can we not fly the ship, Doctor?”


“What?!” Carson demanded, incredulous. “I’ve no idea how to make it stop. He’ll, I’m not even clear on how I started it. We’re going into the water in the next thirty seconds and there’s nothing I can do about it!”


“Everyone, brace for impact!” Ford yelled back into the passenger section.


As the waters came ever closer, the thoughts of Gilligan’s Island returned with guilty force as the roiling waters rushed up to meet them.


-- -- --


Elizabeth set the pace with the guards at her back, as she made her way back to the Command Center. She had no idea as to why Kolya wanted her back before even allowing her to complete the final channeling rod reconnection. It was worrying, and as little as she wanted to bow to his demands, she also needed to know what was going on.


She faltered half up the stairs when her eyes settled on the tableau there, then continued along more slowly, needing to confirm the situation. John was tied to a chair that more or less faced the steps. Kolya sat across from him, his back to her, while one of his men stood alongside John with a huge knife in his hand. There was blood on the knife. Her mind stuttered over that realization for several moments before her gaze drifted toward the growing area of darkened wetness on John’s arm that had nothing to do with his having been out in the rain. There was another area, she realized to her horror, on his leg. Her eyes slowly rose to meet John’s.


The usual cocky grin was not in evidence. He was pale and perspiration beaded on his brow. He didn’t seem happy to see her. As the soldier with the knife started toward her, she began to understand why. Her heart plummeted to her toes.


“No!” Rodney’s outburst from a far console drew her gaze. He was quickly subdued by another of the guards.


The other two guards were still at her back. Kolya remained seated, never turning to face her, and the one with the knife was before her. There was nowhere to run to, as if she would. She looked back toward Major Sheppard and steeled herself for what was to come. Both he and McKay had already suffered at the hands of this merciless Genii soldier; it was her turn, now, it seemed.


The soldier grabbed her arm. Refusing to be dragged, she walked alongside him until she was standing in Kolya’s line of sight. Still, the Genii leader didn’t look in her direction, not even when the soldier pressed the point of the knife into the skin at the back of her throat.


“Where is the C4, Major Sheppard?” Kolya asked tonelessly.


Elizabeth could see the struggle on John’s face, but she knew ultimately what his response would be.


“I have to show you,” he said, “It’s not a place I can explain.”


For the first time during their acquaintance, she thought she saw Kolya smile.


Part Five


Beckett squeezed his eyes shut and gripped the armrests for dear life as the waters closed in over the puddle jumper. A litany of impolite words played through his mind and he vaguely noted the way the shuttle seemed to rebound after its initial entry. The beating that the shuttle was taking from the winds was immediately gone, leaving them surrounding by a cocoon of near stillness that was almost as unnerving as the storm had been.


Carson open his eyes a notch experimentally, immediately thereafter his jaw dropped.


All thoughts of death were forgotten as he gaped at the previously darkened view screen. The clear surface had changed. Transparent once again, it allowed them to look out upon the simple beauty of the ocean beneath the city. All of Atlantis clearly wasn’t above the surface.


Carson imagined that if not for the darkened skies and the storm raging overhead, the sunlight shining through the water might have reflected like brilliant gems through the intricate designs that extended from the edges of the city. The segments were reminiscent of the stained glass windows that the Ancients appeared to favor.


A thrill of excitement washed through him at the thought that he was one of the first to see this section of the ancient abode in tens of thousands of years. The rest of the scientific teams were going to be beside themselves when they learned that the puddle jumpers were viable under ocean vehicles as well.


“Wow.” Ford’s surprised murmur drew him out of his awed observations. He spared the younger man a glance.


“Yeah. Wow’s the word for it.” He was transfixed by all that there was to see. The jumper steered itself smoothly amid the many vari-shaped surfaces and odd protrusions. Lights were coming on, shining down into the waters illuminating their way as they went. It was as if the underside of the city was welcoming them just as inner portion had when they’d arrived from Earth.


“Might that be the area to which we are going?” Teyla asked the practical question and pointed toward a large rectangle of dim light ahead.


Carson shared a look with Ford.


“Sounds good to me,” Ford volunteered.


“We’ll soon find out,” Carson commented as the jumper began to slow. It came to a stop in what seemed to be the center of the light. And then the jumper began to rise through the waters upward into an opening beneath the city.


There was a small thump as they settled against something and then continued to rise. The waters drained away quickly and the door release at the back of the shuttle hissed as it opened.


“Looks like we’re here,” Aiden said.


“Wherever here is,” Carson added.


“So we stick to the plan,” Ford said, picking up his gun and standing.


“We stick to the plan,” Carson agreed, following Ford and Teyla’s lead.


--


“Stop.” Kolya quietly called a halt as he took the walkie-talkie from one of his men.


John limped the extra paces which carried him to the wall and leaned against it. He completely ignored the guard who had moved beside him, and tried to ignore Dr. Weir’s eyes on him. He knew the look he’d see there, it was the one that silently asked if he was okay.


Of course he wasn’t okay; he had two holes in his body that didn’t belong there. Kolya’s man had known what he was doing, too. The wounds were deep enough to slow him down, but not enough to put him completely out of the action. But that didn’t mean that they didn’t both hurt like hell.


Bending slowly, he checked on the pieces of cloth that had been tied around the leg wound. He didn’t even want to think about the medical procedures Beckett would have to perform on it when they got out of this. Not if, but when. As far as he was concerned things were proceeding exactly according to plan. Well, sorta exactly according to plan. What he’d had in mind hadn’t included two stab wounds, being tied to a chair, or having Elizabeth along for the ride. In the grand scheme, plans had gone far worse. It was always the details that sent the plan into the toilet.


Moving back into an upright position, he looked across at Weir, trying to get a subtle message to her. She stared steadily back. He hoped that meant that she understood that she needed to be ready when he made his move.


Sora’s disembodied voice sounded across the radio link. She said something about needing more troops for reconnaissance in the section of the city where the channeling rods were located and named the men she wanted. Kolya agreed, and then clicked off the connection.


“What more lies in that section of the city?” The Genii commander asked.


“We haven’t explored all of those areas yet,” Weir answered him coolly. “We believe them to be predominately maintenance sections.”


“Could be monsters,” John piped up. “Or rats. Great big ones.”


Kolya ignored the comment, and ordered one of the guards to go to the area and to report back what he saw. He added something more that was too low for John to hear, but it still piqued his curiosity. Was all not peace, love and harmony in the Genii camp or was Kolya just being cautious?


John didn’t really care. He was just glad that he had one less guard to deal with.


“Continue,” Kolya ordered as the guard started back in the opposite direction.


John gathered his strength before he pushed himself away from the wall and continued to move painfully down the corridor with Kolya’s remaining flunky shadowing him. The Genii commander moved along behind them, keeping Weir close by his side.


--


“What the . . . ?” Rodney tapped rapidly on the computer keyboard, going through his calculations once more. Something just wasn’t right. And it had been before. He would not accept the idea that he’d miscalculated.


One of the guards that Kolya had left behind moved in closer. He wasn’t the madman with the knife, but he was equally annoying. With a suspicious look, the soldier looked over all of the active screens.


“Do you mind?” Rodney asked, shooting the man a disgusted look. “Trying to save the city remember?”


The guard stared at him a long moment before returning to his previous position a few steps away. But he continued to watch closely as if in warning.


Rodney rolled his eyes. As if one of Kolya’s lackeys could possibly have any clue what he was looking at. Or understand the magnitude of the project that was being undertaken. Atlantis wasn’t just some military outpost to be fought over. It was a living scientific marvel. It needed to be preserved at all costs.


The final channeling rod had been put back into place, and if with the lightning and the winds and the debris that would follow, the city would be completely vulnerable.


If lightning was to strike now, he wasn’t exactly sure what was going to happen. And Atlantis was far too big a target to go unscathed for long in a storm of this magnitude. The survival of the city was on his shoulders. Everyone, even the bad guys, was depending on him.


Panic teased at the edges of the adrenaline that kept him going. Always before his teammates were there to keep him on task. But now he was alone. No one else to --


What was that? What was that odd reading? Refocusing, he typed several commands into the keyboard and tracked the power drain, displaying it on a smaller monitor. He surprised a start of excitement. The drain was emanating from a portion of the city that had sacrificed itself centuries earlier when the shield had begun to fail. Could this mean?


A brilliant flash of lightning shown through the large window overhead, reminding him that there was little time. Determined, he took a final reading and went back to his calculations, this time allowing for the changed energy consumption. Perfect.


He transferred the new algorithm to the program he and Zelenka had created and executed it. Now they were ready.


--


Elizabeth knew that John was tiring. He was favoring his right leg more, and his steps were slowing noticeably. Making matters worse, the corridor they were taking was on a slight incline, no doubt increasing the strain on his injured leg. He had earlier taken to walking with a hand along the wall, but Kolya had insisted that he remain the center of the walkway.


He glanced back over his shoulder. The dim lighting seemed to accentuate his pallor which, alongside dried blood mixed with perspiration, only added to an increasingly grizzly appearance. But it was the shadowed eyes, utterly devoid of humor, that resonated with her.


“We should let him rest,” she spoke up, turning on Kolya. “Nothing is gained by driving Major Sheppard to exhaustion. The C4 isn’t going anywhere.”


Kolya completely ignored her request, continuing along the corridor. It was as if she hadn’t spoken at all.

“What did you expect, Doctor?” John asked, his words ever so slightly slurred, his voice not nearly as strong as it had been when they’d left the command center. “Mercy for one’s enemies is what our Genii neighbors might call a tactical disadvantage.”

“That’s a very shortsighted viewpoint,” Elizabeth couldn’t resist saying. “We have a mutual enemy. If we work together we can defeat him. Together we are stronger, we could form an alliance with other words and form a formidable force. There is a saying on our world ‘United we stand.’ That is the way we can stand against the Wraith.”

“We also have a saying, Doctor,” Kolya replied, though he didn’t look at her. “An army of many is only as strong as its weakest link. Without Atlantis, you have nothing to offer.”

Elizabeth thought she caught a half snort from John, and then, “I think he just called us the weakest link.” He stumbled slightly, but continued on, listing again toward the wall, uneven steps placing him on a crooked path toward it. “Probably better than being called the missing link. Why don’t you tell him some of the great examples of how people on our world worked together for the betterment of mankind?”

Elizabeth’s eyes were locked worriedly on his back, and for several moments she struggled over the question. Then, to Kolya, “Eventually your people are going to have to change their way of thinking. A world cannot survive . . . .”

Suddenly, she caught a view of John from her peripheral vision. One minute he was limping along, the next, he went down heavily. “John!” She called his name, and instinctively tried to move toward him.

Part Six

The floor had come up a lot quicker than John expected, and pain resonated throughout his body. Despite the adrenaline that coursed through his system, every reaction felt sluggish and weighted down. He heard Elizabeth cry out and approaching footsteps as he grabbed for the contraband that he’d stashed behind an ornate section of the wall.

He rolled, pulling the pin as he went, and then tossed the smoke bomb beyond Elizabeth, into the space between Kolya and his man. Thick smoke began to pour out of the narrow canister. He inwardly cheered as Weir continued running until she was on his opposite side, allowing him to use the small advantage the smoke bomb afforded to gather several more items from their storage spot.

He twisted back toward the two Genii, and aiming through the growing smoke cover, squeezed off one shot with his .9mm. A surprised gasp of pain registered distantly as he moved on to the next target. Before he could pull the trigger, an iron fist slammed into his chest. John only vaguely registered the jarring motion of being slammed backward onto the floor.


-- --


The life signs reader registered four persons somewhere up ahead. Aiden knew that all of those dots could not represent friends as Major Sheppard had clearly communicated that only he and Doctors McKay and Weir remained alive in the city. That was only three friendlies.

He glanced back toward Teyla and Beckett. Teyla was a solid warrior, Beckett looked a little nervous. Still, three against four really wasn’t bad odds, especially with the element of surprise and superior fire power on their side.

“We need to get in closer,” he whispered to his two friends, “find out who they are.”

“How do you propose we do that?” Beckett asked. “I’d be surprised if they don’t know we’re already here what with all the noise that was made when we landed in that underwater bay thing.”

Ford couldn’t argue Beckett’s assessment, but they had to move forward with what they had. They had gotten out of what he had already dubbed the lower jumper bay as quickly as they could and were winding their way through the lower levels of the city.

“It appears that they are moving toward us,” Teyla pointed out. “Why do we not lie in wait until they approach?”

Aiden rolled the idea around in his head and decided he liked it. “Okay. But let’s split up a bit.” He pointed toward the device. “They’re going to have to come up this cross-corridor. We can hide on either side here.”

Both Teyla and Beckett nodded in agreement and they made their way quietly to the designated areas. Teyla and the doctor occupied one side of the hall, while he took up the other side. He kept the life signs indicator with him.

As the four dots drew ever closer, he nodded across the small expanse to his companions, notifying them that it was nearly time. Teyla nodded in understanding. Beckett swallowed hard and gripped his weapon more tightly. Aiden looked into the doctor’s eyes, willing him the strength to get through this. He then flattened himself against the wall, preparing to wait out the few seconds before the group of four would appear.

He was preparing to signal Teyla and Beckett when he noticed that something was changing around them. The other two seemed to recognize it as well. All eyes were drawn upward in confusion as it dawned that the lights were getting noticeably brighter.


-- --


The world was hazy and insubstantial. But he felt an urgency that prodded him to fight against the desire to just quietly let himself be taken under. The sounds which floated about above him began coalescing into recognizable words.

“. . . .can't do it, Doctor. You are not a warrior.” Kolya’s voice. As cold and nasty as ever.

“I’ll do what I have to to save my people.” That was Weir. That must mean. . . .

John’s eyes shot wide. He blinked several times to be sure that the sight that greeted him through the rapidly clearing smoke cloud wasn’t an illusion. Dr. Elizabeth Weir was standing, in a perfect policeman’s stance, with his .9mm pointed toward Kolya.

The Genii had one foot under him as if he’d been on his way back to his feet. Blood was splattered along the side of his face, which confused John until he noticed that Kolya’s weapon was a couple yards away and that there was a bloody looking tear near the shoulder of his uniform. That was when he remembered the shot he’d fired just before he’d gone down.

He’d been shot!

He struggled into a half-sitting position with a grunt. His chest, and every other part of his body, protested mightily making their complaints known. With all the dizziness, pain and nausea flying around, never mind the complete lack of a big bloody hole in his chest, no way was he dead.

A stiffening in Elizabeth’s body revealed her awareness that he was back among the land of the living. “You okay?” she asked over her shoulder, never looking away from Kolya.

“I’m not dead,” he managed, deciding that he’d take the pain if it meant that he was still alive. Then confusion settled in. “Why am I not dead?”

“Flak jacket,” she replied. “Their technology is about the same as WW2.”

“Oh. Good.” The nausea and dizziness were starting to abate, and John figured it was time that he crawled back into the fray. He got his uninjured leg beneath him, braced his uninjured arm against the wall and levered himself into a semi standing position. He gave things a moment to steady themselves before straightening completely and starting to walk.

“And you thought we had nothing to offer,” he chided Kolya as he checked that the downed Genii soldier would not be causing them any more trouble. He took his gun for good measure. The weapon didn’t even rate compared to his P90, but Elizabeth was looking pretty comfortable with the 9 mil, and he had no intention of dividing her attention away from Kolya to retrieve it.

He turned back to face Kolya. “So, how about we give you a tour of what we like to affectionately call the brig?”

“You should kill me.” Kolya told him, not moving.

“Thanks for the advice,” John snapped. “But that’s not the way we do things around here.”

“I will be your enemy forever, and I will always come back.”

“Aw, threats. How touching.” John gestured with the muzzle of the Genii weapon. “Get up. Slowly.”

He held his finger on the trigger and his eyes locked on the other man as Kolya began to rise. He knew given even half a chance, the other man would try something. He almost hoped he did; it would give him a reason to make sure that he never had a chance to fulfill his words.

As he contemplated exactly what they would do about Kolya once they’d completely taken Atlantis back, the overhead light inexplicably began to brighten. He wasn’t sure what it meant, but he had just enough time to register the really bad feeling he had about it before the corridor was suddenly plunged into complete darkness.

He knew in the milli-second before the breath was knocked out of him that Kolya had made his move."

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September 2010

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