- Work in Progress
- Character Bashing
- Explicit Sex
- Hate Crimes
- Violence - Canon-Level
- Action Adventure
- Alternate Universe
- Challenge Response
- First Time
- Science Fiction
Markham’s voice trembled as he finished. Alvez gave his friend a one-armed hug, offering him silent comfort.
The conference room was silent for several long seconds. Even the two mundanes present knew that bond tearing was a grave issue. Beckett squirmed in his seat, and Kate’s wave of reassurance to her mate overflowed off their matebond, filling the pridebond with a warm feeling of belonging. The Empath concentrated the warm feeling around Markham for several long seconds as he visibly relaxed. She then allowed it to dissipate into the background with a last mental caress for her mate.
“Jason,” John waited until his newest pridemate looked up at him. “You’re not alone anymore. Whatever happened, we’ll deal with it together.”
Jason inhaled deeply. “Thank you, Alpha.” He answered, managing a small smile.
“Do you want to continue or should we take a break?”
“Let’s continue,” Markham answered after a few seconds. “I want this out the way.”
“Understood. Continue when you’re ready.”
“I woke up six hours later in the Tower’s… I mean, Ker-Ys, infirmary. My Pack was in the room, and so was Dr. Cole. My matebond was ragged, and it hurt like hell twice over. Dr. Corrigan used his Empathy to dull it as much as he could. It helped, but it was still… sorry, it’s difficult to describe.”
“Don’t worry. I think we all understand it.”
“Thank you, Sir,” Markham inhaled deeply. “Lt. Miller informed me that Corporal Parker had seen the Stargate’s dialing sequence when the Dart left. The database had identified it as an orbital gate.”
“Orbital gate?” McKay asked.
“Yes, Dr. McKay,” Lania explained. A diagram flared in the second screen, showing a Stargate with four devices attached to it. “In Pegasus, my creators placed several Stargates in orbit around selected planets, equipped with stabilizer power nodes. They do not have a dialing device and they could only be accessed by vehicles equipped with one, like the porta navis… Or puddlejumpers, as Praetor Sheppard called them.”
Sheppard smirked at the tone of irritation in the Artifex’s voice. “Spacegates… that’s cool!” Lania glared at him. “Thank you, Lania.”
“Praetor,” she saluted before both screens blinked off.
McKay snorted. “Only you could piss off an AI.”
“What can I say? It’s a natural talent,” he smiled, ignoring the snorts around the table. “Sergeant, please continue.”
The hint of a smile left Markham’s face. “Lt. Miller also informed me that Dr. Weir had specifically forbidden a rescue mission, and that the puddlejumper’s bay was put under guard.”
“She forbade it?” Sheppard’s voice was sharp. “Under which pretense?”
“That we were too valuable to the expedition due to our ATA gene. She even implied that it was selfish of us to put all the expedition at risk for two people,” Markham explained in a clipped tone.
The armrest of Sheppard’s chair groaned as the metal twisted under the pressure of his fist. “She told you to leave your mate, and Dr. Burnham, in the hands of space vampires who would eat them alive?” Sheppard’s voice could have cut steel.
Markham looked at him, the pain still visible on his eyes. “Yes, Sir.”
“Holy Goddess!” Beckett muttered, closing his eyes while, at his side, McKay’s paled, out of words for once. Dr. Porter’s pen crumbled to dust in her hand. Lorne’s forearm spikes ripped through his uniform sleeves, and the fury in his eyes equaled the fiery glow of Teldy’s red Arachne eyes. Sparks of electricity danced around Reese’s hands as he fought to control his Lighting.
“And Colonel Sumner backed that up?” Caldwell asked, his face ashen.
“One hundred percent.”
“Then I don’t know who he is anymore,” he sentenced, slapping his pen on the table. “Certainly not the man I knew.”
Sheppard took up a deep breath, and let the air out slowly. He winced at the state of the armrest.
“Since Stackhouse is now resting in our infirmary, I’m correct to assume you ignored her orders?”
“There wasn’t another option, Sir, as you well know.” Markham confirmed as Sheppard nodded. “We couldn’t leave a Packmate behind, or Dr. Burnham…”
A hand shook him awake. “Jason, Jason!”
“Dress up. We don’t have much time,” Miller whispered while taking position on the door.
“Time?” Jason muttered, trying to brush off the drags of sleep from his mind. A quick look to the clock told him it was five minutes to midnight.
“We’re going after Marcus and Burnham,” Lou explained. That woke him up immediately. The Beretta on Miller’s hand told him what he needed to know about the nature of the rescue, and he dressed up quickly.
As they stepped through the door, he saw the two soldiers guarding his room unconscious in two of the infirmary beds and Alvez keeping guard on the door.
“The gateship bay!” They dashed down the corridor, empty at that time of the night.
“What about the guards?” Markham inquired, as they took the stairs two at once.
“Medina and Smitty are on guard tonight and in,” Miller consulted his watch as they took down another corridor. “25 seconds, Medina is going to feel so ill that Smitty will have to accompany him to the infirmary.”
They stopped in a short corridor parallel to the one leading to the bay, and Jason used his hearing to track Medina and Smitty until they took the stairs down to the infirmary. They jogged the last stretch and, as they turned the corner to the gateship bay, Jason saw Dr. Zelenka waiting for them. “Come on, come on!” he urged them.
“Dr. Zelenka? You’re coming?” Jason hurried to the jumper.
“Do you know how Wraith technology work?” he raised an eyebrow. “No? Me, I’ve been studying what we brought back from Athos. So, yes, I’m coming!”
“Dr. Weir won’t…”
“Weir může polib mi prdel!” Zelenka exclaimed. Jason thought it was best to not ask for a translation. As they started to climb the hatch, a voice shouted from the outside.
“Who’s here? Medina, Smitty! Where the hell are you?”
They turned around slowly. Sergeant Bates was at the door, looking directly at them.
No one dared move a muscle. The tableau stood frozen for an endless moment until Bates, without saying a word, turned on his heel and waved the door closed.
“He’s a good man,” Zelenka said.
“Yeah, Doctor, he is.” Markham strode into the jumper and straight to the cockpit, finding Dr. Abrams in the pilot seat. “Paul?”
“You need a backup pilot, and Peter couldn’t shake off his guards,” Abrams said, sliding off the seat so he can take it. “I’m not as good as you two, but hey! I’m a Seker! I’m quite sure I can get you back in one piece! Plus, we’re Pack,” he shrugged.
Jason smirked. “Thank you, Paul.” Abrams patted his shoulder before taking a seat beside him.
Dr. Cole took the seat behind him. “Not a word, Jason,” she cut him before he could speak. “We don’t know how we’re going to find them. You need a doctor. And I can defend myself,” She patted the M9 strapped to her leg. Jason held his hands up in silent surrender. Turning to the controls, he ran quickly through the pre-flight check-up.
“Wait! What about the Control Room?”
“During his shift in the Control Room, Corporal Jones provided unequivocal proof that scalding coffee and Ancient crystals do not mix well. Poor Miko had to take the console offline and clean them all out. Long work, it will be,” Radek explained, looking exaggeratedly put on. Jason chuckled.
“Let’s head out!” Lou ordered. “Ross is projecting confusion and disorientation to everyone else but I don’t think he’d be able to keep it up for much longer.”
Jason closed the hatch as Lou and Alex took seats in the back. He activated the drive pods and ascended through the shaft, the hatch whirling open as the sensors detected the jumper.
The flight to the Stargate was short and the gateship slid neatly through the wormhole. Once on the other side, Jason cloaked them as he flew down to the planet. As they entered the atmosphere, Jason hissed in pain and the ship lurched when his control wavered for a moment.
“Jason? You’re OK?” Lou asked.
He inhaled deeply a few times before answering. “The bond is trying to reassert itself, but the ends are too ragged and Marcus is too far. But he’s definitely down there, and alive, blessed Goddess!”
With the help of the ship’s sensors, it didn’t take them long to find the Wraith Hive, a protruding eyesore that dwarfed the surrounding forest. Carefully, he landed the gateship in a small clearing.
The place didn’t look welcoming Dark, heavy clouds covered the sky and a windstorm was raging outside, between the trunks of tall, leafless trees. The Hive loomed in the horizon, its curved, organic shape covered in soil and grown vegetation.
“All right. Paul, Caroline, you stay with the ship. Paul, have it ready to launch immediately. If the HUD detects Wraith, cloak up. If they get close, you fly away like hell, understood?” Abrams reluctantly nodded. Miller turned around. “Dr. Zelenka…” He shut up when he saw Zelenka handle a P90 like an expert.
“I served 24 months in Czechoslovakia’s Army, Lieutenant,” Zelenka smirked. “By conscription. I qualified with M9 and P90 when joined the SGC. You can check my records.”
“I’ll take your word for it, Doctor.”
“Radek,” Lou acknowledged. “OK. You’ll come with Jason, Alex and me to the Hive, but stay in the middle, understood?” Zelenka nodded.
The silence in the forest was haunting. No birds chirping. No insects buzzing. No paws skittering over crunching twigs. The wind howling through dry branches and crackling leaves was the only perceptible sound, even for Sentinel hearing. Their four heartbeats, and the other two behind in the gateship, were the only signs of life. The air smelled of decaying vegetation and stagnant water. It gave Jason the chills.
Accessing the Hive was ridiculously easy. The Dart bay hatch was opened and unguarded, no Wraith in sight, and they exchanged questioning looks. They crossed the bay at a run, taking cover on the far wall. While Radek tinkered with the organic controls to open the bay doors, Jason closed his eyes to do a sense scan. Lou clamped his hand on the back of his neck to provide grounding.
Despite the massive size of the Hive, it was relatively silent. Some kind of liquid gurgled through the walls, like blood or sap did in living beings, mixed with the low hum of electric current. About three dozen heartbeats were sparsely spread through the ship, their beating noticeably slower than the average human. Only in two places on the ship could he detect heartbeats with the rhythm and cadence he was used to hearing on humans, but he couldn’t tell which group included his mate. Their bond sizzled and cracked, like a radio out of tune, still ragged and rough, and he had to force himself to tune it out.
The bay doors clicked open.
“Jason? Do you have them?” Lou whispered.
“I have human heartbeats on two points of the ship,” he answered, dialing his hearing down. “A couple decks up and towards the bow, about 700 meters, there’s a cluster of nine people, no Wraith around. The other two are in the deck above this one, about 300 meters towards the center, but there are at least five Wraith with them.” He looked down, clutching his P90. “But I can’t tell where Marcus is.”
Lou squeezed his friend’s arm. “Alex, Radek, you get to the cluster of nine. I’d bet that’s the jail. Take the life signs detector with you. Once you have them, get them to the gateship immediately. Jason, you and I will get the other two. Don’t engage the Wraith unless you don’t have any other option.” He turned back to Alex. “If you haven’t heard from us in 30 micks, you go back to the Tower.”
“No buts, Alex! Saving people is the first priority.”
Alex turned to Jason, who shook his head. “Lou’s right. We’re here to save lives, otherwise all of this would’ve been for nothing.”
Alex clenched his teeth, but nodded.
“OK. Let’s get going.”
The Hive’s interior didn’t resemble any ship they have seen before. It flowed around in no distinguishable pattern, round ceilings supported by angled walls and rib-like pillars, and only illuminated with muted lights embedded into the structure, barely enough for a non-Sentinel to move around. A dense fog covered the ground and curled around their feet as they advanced, the organic material giving in slightly with each step. An indecipherable organic smell permeated every part of it.
Jason felt the matebond frizzle as they got nearer to their destination. “He’s here, Lou. The bond’s reacting.”
“Good,” he smiled, as they pushed against the wall at the sound of steps. A burly Wraith with a strange mask walked through, without paying any attention to them. They fox-walked down the corridor and took the left one at the next juncture.
Suddenly, a sharp, incisive pain flooded through the ragged bond into Jason’s mind. He fell to his knees, pain radiating through him like his nerves were on fire. His hearing spiked up out of control, turning the heartbeats into resounding drums. Blackness swam in front of his eyes, already blurred with the tears he couldn’t prevent escaping. He felt the adrenaline flowing into his system, increasing his heart rate as his energy flowed unchecked through the bond to his mate.
It stopped as suddenly as it started. Jason fell to the floor, painting heavily, a dull ache spreading throughout his body.
“Jason!” Lou knelt at his side, trying to help him stand. “What happened?”
“Marcus… something happened to him and he sucked out energy from me…”
“Shit! Can you stand?”
Jason got slowly into his feet with Lou supporting most of his weight as his Healing worked to increase blood flow to deal with muscle soreness and his metabolism worked to replace the lost energy. He inhaled deeply as he got back on his feet. “Let’s go.”
They sprinted through the ship, following the threads of Jason’s rebuilding bond. As they rounded a corner, they came upon several tall but very narrow windows that overlooked a room dominated by a big food-laden table. And seated on it, was Marcus. Jason pressed against the narrow frames, focusing his senses on his mate.
His heart was beating fast, and he was panting shallowly. His skin looked clammy, with streaks of white on his hair, and his eyes were tightly shut as his hands clawed on the chair’s arms. His pain was a sharp blade on Jason’s mind.
“Impossible,” a strange voice said. “What are you?” The voice belonged to a tall red-haired female, with greyish skin and strange markings on her face. In her right hand, red with Marcus’ blood, was a strange, teethed opening. It couldn’t be anything but a Wraith. “Are there more like you?” she all but purred, her long nails sliding over Marcus’ face in the twisted parody of a caress. Marcus shivered.
Next to her, stood two of these masked, burly Wraith, carrying a sort of long, strange-shaped rifles. In the high-backed chair just in front of Marcus sat the mummified remains of a Bassanian, still wearing their characteristic saffron, blue and red celebration clothes.
“Dear Goddess…” Lou whispered at his side.
A blue, blood-like liquid ran down Jason’s arm, seeping from the piece of window frame he had crushed in his fist.
Another Wraith ran into the room below. Although also seemingly a male, he was unmasked and slimier that the ones they’ve seen so far, and the tails of a black leather coat brushed his legs as he moved.
“My Queen! We have intruders inside the Hive!” The Queen turned to look at him with narrowed eyes. He froze on the spot.
“How?” she asked.
“We don’t know, my Queen, but they’ve blown up one of the cells and the newly culled are gone.” It seemed like Alex and Radek’s part of the mission was going well.
“Lock the ship!” She ordered. “I want them caught and if you don’t, I’m going to drain you until the last drop instead.” The four Wraith walked out the room, as a distinctly paler shade of grey swept over the newest male’s skin.
“Jason…” He raised his hand, signaling Lou to be silent. He kept his eyes glued on his mate, counting each breath he took, but allowed his hearing to follow the departing Wraith.
“Now!” he said when they were far enough. They gripped two of the narrow window frames each and pulled with Warrior-enhanced strength, feeling them rip from the wall with a squelching sound as more of that blue liquid was sprayed everywhere. Jumping down into the room, Jason ran to his mate’s side.
“Marcus! Marcus! Can you hear me?”
Sluggishly, his mate turned his head to him and opened his eyes, a faint smile sketching itself on his mouth. “Jason… you really here?”
“Yes, babe, I’m here,” he pressed a quick kiss onto his lips. “Lou’s here too and we’re getting you out here.”
“Don’t think… can move…”
“I’ll take you. Until the Goddess calls us to her side and beyond, remember?” He tried an encouraging smile, but was afraid it looked more like a grimace. He took Marcus up in his arms bridal-style, as he was afraid a fireman’s carry may induce further damage.
“… love you…” Marcus whispered as he haltingly moved his arms around Jason’s neck to help.
Jason turned around and he saw Lou snapping a pendant from the mummified remains. “His family…” Jason nodded. Bassanian oath-pendants were unique to the individual and devotedly kept by the family after their passing. Lou hid it in one of his pockets and moved to protect Jason and Marcus’ six as they advanced through the dark, mist-filled corridors with Jason’s Sentinel senses as their only guide.
The racketing sound of P90s firing alerted them that their friends were in trouble. Lou moved in front of them as they neared the last corner before the Dart bay, and signaled Jason to stay covered before turning the corner and unleashing hell himself. Jason leaned on the wall, shifting Marcus up to a better position. He counted three human heartbeats in the corridor beyond. All their friends were alive, though he could also smell the sharp metallic tang of blood. Wraith heartbeats were dropping off his hearing one after the other with the bitter coppery smell he already identified as their blue-tinted blood, until the P90’s racketing stopped. He pushed off the wall and jogged down the corridor.
Alex was pushing a Wraith’s body off a cursing Radek while Lou kept his P90 pointed to the corridor. He ignored the blue blood oozing from the walls and splashed on the floor as he walked.
“Jason! Marcus!” Alex called. “Is he —”
“Alive, for now,” Jason cut him off with an apologetic look. “Five more Wraith, half a click that way,” he informed Lou.
“Then we better hurry!”
They sprinted through the Dart bay, Alex in front with Radek and Lou covering their six. As they crossed the bay’s outer door, Alex was the first to climb down, and reached out for Marcus. After a second’s hesitation, Jason shifted Marcus to him so he could climb down himself.
“You’re tired,” Alex said when he tried to take Marcus’ back. “I’m not. I can run faster with him.” He saw Jason hesitate and looked at his eyes directly. “Trust me, please.” Jason took a deep breath and nodded.
They ran through the forest, this time with Jason in front while Radek and Lou covered the rear. He could hear Wraith behind them, but their running was heavy and relatively slow.
“They’re here!” one of the rescued Bassanians yelled as they entered the clearing. The gateship shimmered into view, hatch already down. The Bassanian ran up first, gesturing at them to hurry. As he stepped inside, some of his people got up from one of the benches, allowing Alex to lay Marcus down on it. Lou jumped into the ship half-carrying a wild-haired Radek.
“Take off, now!” Lou ordered.
The drive pods activated and the ship was already airborne before the hatch had finished closing.
“Jason, we need you in the pilot’s seat,” Lou told him.
“No! I can’t -”
“I’ll take care of him,” Caroline knelt by Marcus’ side, stethoscope in hand. “But we need to get him to the Tower as soon as possible, Jason.”
Jason looked between her and Marcus, undecided, but finally got up after pressing a quick kiss to his mate’s forehead. He and Paul exchanged seats and Jason put the small ship on full throttle upwards as the HUD signaled several Darts flying out the Hive.
“Those damn Darts are fast!” he cursed, putting the ship through several evasive maneuvers. Paul started dialing as soon as the spacegate was on sight. One Dart appeared in front of them and started shooting, but Jason nose-dived and dodged it. As several shots shook their shields, Jason traced an upwards arc and flew them through the gate.
They went through three gates before dialing the Alpha site and then the Tower. The two guards on the gate looked up at them as they flew by. The short flight to the Tower was uneventful and silent. Nobody contacted them. The hatch whirled open when it detected the gateship’s approach. Jason’s descended the shaft carefully and landed without a hitch. Jason and Paul joined the others at the hatch. Silently, Lou and Jason stood on the front, as the highest ranked officers. Taking a deep breath, Lou hit the lever that released the hatch.
As the hatch descended, Weir, Sumner and a bunch of soldiers started appearing in front of them. The soldiers pointed their weapons at them when they took a step down the hatch.
“You’re under arrest,” Weir smiled.
“She arrested you?” Sheppard asked, nostrils flaring.
“Yes, Sir. They allowed Dr. Cole to take Marcus… Sgt. Stackhouse to the infirmary, but threw the rest of us in the cell. They did allow the Bassanians to return to their planet, though. They took Dr. Cole in a couple of hours later. ”
“What?” Beckett straightened in his seat. “Who was attending Sgt. Stackhouse then?”
“Dr. Cole said Dr. Keller herself took over.”
“She isn’t licensed!”
“Not officially, no,” Markham squirmed in his seat.
“Officially?” Beckett’s eyes narrowed.
“Dr. Cole said that she knew too much. Things only a Bloodfire-licensed doctor should know. But that was before they took her and Dr. Zelenka away. They kept us in the cell for about two weeks, no explanations given, until one day…”
Jason woke up groaning. His headache was only a dull ache, which meant Marcus was sleeping. Thank the Goddess!
An arm was thrown over his waist, belonging to the person currently snoring behind him. A quick sense check confirmed it was Alex.
“You were shivering again.”
Lou Miller was seated on the cell’s floor a few feet away from him, leaning heavily on the cell bars.
“And I feel like I haven’t sleep in a year,” Gently, he extricated himself from Alex’s embrace, pushing his pillow in his place — which Alex immediately curled around — and pushed himself to sit beside the Lieutenant. “I’m afraid, Lou. If Marcus needs to pull so much energy from me… I don’t want to imagine what she’s doing to him but I can’t stop these images…”
“Blackburn Falls,” Lou muttered.
“Yeah.” He looked down the floor, trying to expel the nightmarish images from his mind.
A loud thud pulled them out their reverie. The room’s door slid open and Medina dragged inside the unfortunate, and currently unconscious, Marine on guard. Miko slid in after him. Lou jumped to his feet while Jason shook Alex awake and Paul scrambled out the cell’s only bench.
“We don’t have time,” Miko interrupted him and clicked her radio. “Ready.” After a moment, the force field disengaged and the cell’s door slid open.
“What are you doing?” Lou asked while Medina passed them M9s.
“Nurse Pierce came to us,” Miko explained instead. “She says Marcus is in very bad shape, and that Dr. Keller is more interested in analyzing and prodding him than in healing him, and that Caroline is kept under lock and guard. So, Peter used the communication system to listen in…” She gulped down, trembling slightly. “He heard Keller tell Weir that if what she found is what she thinks it is, it may be the key they needed and they wouldn’t need Keffler’s disgusting experiments anymore, but that she needed to do further tests with Marcus.”
Jason paled visibly. “I thought O’Neill had dealt with that shit.”
“Seems some slime got through,” Miko muttered.
“Guys, we don’t have time,” Medina whispered from his surveillance position on the door. “We need to go, now! Grodin is keeping the sensors switched off but someone is going to notice!”
As they scurried out the cell and towards the door, Jason did a quick sensory check. “Clear!” Medina took point, guiding them to the infirmary through rarely used corridors. Two floors up, Jason grabbed his arm and pulled him back, using the hand sign for ‘hostiles ahead’. They walked back to the corner and waited, pressed up against the wall.
“Don’t,” Medina interrupted him. “You guys have saved my ass enough times and what they’re doing to Marcus…” Jason squeezed his arm, nodding quickly.
“How’s Radek?” Paul asked in a whisper, while two armed Marines walked through the corridor beyond.
“Don’t know,” Miko said. “Weir has him under lock and key too, and only she and Kavanaugh can enter the room.”
Jason signaled for them to move.
“Weir has given him Radek’s position,” Miko explained while they climbed up a set of stairs.
“I’m a dead man,” Paul sentenced. “That bastard is going to make me mincemeat.” Miko threw him an apologetic look.
At the next juncture, Jason stiffened and signaled them to halt, but relaxed after a moment. Ross peeked around the corner and sighed in relief.
“Come on!” he said. “I pushed them to sleep, but I don’t know how long it will take for someone to come looking!”
As they walked into the corridor, they saw the two Marines on guard snoring on the floor, with the door of the infirmary open wide. Jason raced inside, following his senses to his mate’s bedside. He gasped when he saw him. Marcus’ skin looked pale and blotchy, covered in sweat, and his breathing was shallow. He was connected to a heart monitor with an IV dripping down to his arm.
“Marcus? Can you hear me, love?” He caressed his cheek softly.
Marcus’s yellowed eyes blinked open, flashing in pain until he recognized him and softened.
“Don’t make him talk,” Jason turned around quickly, pointing his M90 to the voice’s owner. Nurse Pierce stopped short but looked calm. As he lowered the weapon, she walked slowly but firmly to Marcus’ bed. “Yesterday, they made him scream for several bloody hours,” she fed Marcus an ice chip, “and he’s not healing as he should.” Jason glared at her when her hand approached the IV. “I’m not a Sworn Companion, Sergeant, but I’m Bloodfire-licensed and I’ve signed the Agreement. Not that it matters much to those two bitches,” She grumbled as she cleaned the skin near the IV’s port with an antiseptic solution, before gently pulling the catheter out of Marcus’ arm. She applied an ointment over the wound, an antibiotic one as Jason read on the tube, and dressed it with sterile gauze and transparent dressing.
Near them, someone groaned. Jason saw a male nurse lying down in a bed over the aisle, but Ross dashed to his side and pushed him back to sleep before he could fully wake. “A Resistant. Nice,” he grumbled while Pierce switched off the heart monitor.
“Marcus?” Jason asked. Marcus opened his eyes with difficulty. “I’m going to carry you out there, OK?” His mate just nodded. Jason pulled the sheet off Marcus’ body and carefully lifted him on his arms. Marcus groaned as he curled into his mate’s chest.
“He’s burning up!”
“He’s been running a fever for several days,” Nurse Pierce confirmed, as she pushed a bag into Alex’s arms. “There are Bloodfire-strength antipyretics and painkillers in the bag,” she turned to Jason. “Keep the dressing clean. Change it every 24 hours, clean it and apply the antibiotic ointment. His Healing is not working properly so the more you can do to help it, the better. I’ve added antiseptics and some general-purpose antibiotics, also glucose pills and protein bars. I’ve also written a list of instructions. Bland diet the first few days, it’ll take him a bit to flush that shit out his system. Understood?” She threw Jason a glare until he nodded, then she turned towards Ross, inhaling deeply “Ready.”
“Thank you for everything, Pierce,” Jason managed to say, before Ross pushed her to sleep. He took her in his arms as she fell unconscious and carefully laid her down onto a bed.
Miko’s tablet pinged. “Change of guard in the gateship bay in three minutes,” she informed them. “Peter’s going to mess with the transporters. Let’s go!” Medina passed a M9 to Ross and another to Paul. The scientist eyed it warily, but finally took it, shaking only slightly.
They moved out the infirmary, and ran through the corridors. Lou and Medina were on point with Alex and Ross on their six, with Miko and Paul covering their sides. They took the stairs two at the time, until Jason stumbled and only Alex’s reflexes prevented his fall.
“Do you want me to carry Marcus?” Alex asked.
Jason shook his head. “Just give me a moment,” he asked, leaning on the wall for support. They hadn’t been feeding them properly in the cell, and his body was protesting the effort. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath and reached inside himself, visualizing the switch he’d learned to picture when his Gifts emerged. He turned it on, and a flood of energizing adrenaline rushed through his system: his heartbeat increased, fatigue melted away, and his muscles felt infused with new strength. Adrenal activation had a price, but he’ll pay it later. Pushing away from the wall, he straightened and shifted Marcus to a better position on his arms. “Let’s go!”
They kept moving through back corridors and though they had to stop twice to keep themselves from being noticed, they made it to the bay’s corridor in time. As the two soldiers on guard walked to the transporter to greet their replacements, Lou and Alex moved quickly and knocked them out. The bay doors slid open even before they reached them, and one of the gateships was already powered up and ready.
“Stop and put your hands up!” Someone shouted behind them. Lou, Alex and Medina turned quickly, pointing their P90 at the five Marines that were aiming at them. “They shouldn’t be here!” Miko hissed just before her tablet flashed red. “Peter’s off the system,” she muttered, dejectedly.
“You wouldn’t believe we’d fell for the same trick twice, wouldn’t you?” Corporal Sherman smirked, waving a handheld white noise generator at them. Jason cursed himself for falling for that trick, while Lou’s face twisted in disgust. Sherman was one of Sumner’s minions, a smarmy snake who’d taken special delight in the Bloodfire’s fall from grace, especially Lou’s due to the official reprimand he put on his file.
“Markham, take Stackhouse to the gateship,” Lt. Lou Miller ordered. “Alvez, Dr. Kusanagi, go with them.”
“Don’t you dare move!” Sherman snarled, taking a step forward, but Miller and Medina quickly moved to obstruct their view. Behind him, one of the Marines fell to the floor, pushed to sleep by Corrigan, but his partner swung a Zat at the anthropologist before he could do anyone else. Corrigan’s body shook from the discharge, before falling unconscious to the floor.
“Your adventure ends there,” Sherman smiled, a cruel light shining in his eyes.
“Don’t be so sure,” Abrams spoke up. Besides him, the door’s control panel lay open. He twirled a crystal around and pushed it back in, and the doors started to slide close.
“No!” Markham shouted.
“Keep Marcus safe!” Lou yelled before the bay doors closed and locked with a metallic click.
“Come on, get on the gateship,” Miko told Jason.
“No! We can’t leave them there! They—”
“- did this for Marcus!” she interrupted him. “He’s the one that matters now! We can’t leave him in Keller’s clutches and you know the fuck why!”
Jason took a surprised step back. Miko never cursed. Never ever. Though she’d never snarled or glared daggers at him, either. He clutched Marcus closer to him, allowing the unique scent of his mate to calm him down. He inhaled deeply and opened his eyes.
“OK, let’s go!”
They walked up the ramp of the still powered up gateship. Jason gently laid Marcus down on one of the benches.
“Ja…son…” Marcus murmured, trying to grab hold of his uniform as he moved away.
“I’m here, beloved,” he whispered, combing the sweaty hair off his mate’s face. “I’m not going away but I have to fly the gateship out there. Just a few minutes and I’ll be back, OK?”
Marcus nodded slightly. “Love… you…”
“Love you too,” Jason laid a quick kiss on Marcus’ lips, tucking the sheet Miko gave him around his mate.
Sitting on the pilot’s chair, he ran a quick pre-flight checkup. “Shit!”
“What’s the problem?” Miko asked.
“The hatch’s sensors are offline and it’s refusing the ship’s commands too!”
“There’s an emergency manual release,” Miko informed him. “I’ll do it.”
“Miko, no!” He twirled around, but before he could move, the scientist dove through the narrow space left by the closing hatch and vanished into the darkness of the bay. The hatch closed with a metallic sound that had a final ring to it.
When he tried to get up, Alex pushed him back onto the seat. “Alex…” he snarled.
“Don’t belittle their sacrifice, Jason.”
“You’ll do the same if it was one of their mates in Marcus’ place.” Alex said, looking directly at his eyes. Jason kept the glare for a few moments, but finally slumped back on the pilot seat. Alex was right.
With a shaking hand, he pushed the drive pod’s control and they flared to life. “I’ll stay with Marcus,” Alex said, squeezing his shoulder in support before moving to sit on the floor before his sick Packmate.
“Now, Jason!” Miko’s voice ordered though their radio. “I don’t know how much I can keep it open, they’re trying to override it!”
The gateship rose up from the bay’s floor, and Jason kept it stable as it ascended through the shaft.
“Thank you, Miko,” he mumbled.
“Ki wo tsukete, Jason-san.”
The short flight to the gate was uneventful. Midway, he felt the effect of the adrenal boost ebbing out and pushed the ship to go faster. The two Marines on guard pointed their P90s up as the gate started dialing, but they didn’t pull the trigger. Jason didn’t dare look at them as the gateship slid through the event horizon to emerge in open space.
“Where are we?” Alex asked.
“Orbital gate on… M3R-428,” Jason told him between gasps. The adrenaline boost had definitively run out, burning the last dregs of energy he had left, and exhaustion was rushing in. He shook his head to try clear it and concentrated on turning the ship around to face the gate again. “This way they… won’t be able… to pull our… destination… from the DHD,” he explained while dialing the seven glyph address.
“Where are we going?”
“The only place… they would never… look for us.” The orbital gate flared to life. “Athos.”
“They all sacrificed themselves to save Marcus,” Markham said, his voice choking, while Alvez squeezed his arm in silent support.
“Do you know what happened to them?” Sheppard asked gently.
“I only managed to speak with someone once, several months later, on Belkan. Sergeant Bates told me that they were alive, but that was the best he could say. He also warned me not to contact anyone else. He said that it was getting impossible to tell friend from foe.”
“You know what he was talking about?” Colonel Caldwell asked, not without compassion.
“The Mad Tau’ri,” Alvez muttered.
“The what?” McKay asked.
Alvez squirmed in his seat. “Around here, the Tau’ri soldiers have gotten a reputation for being… unpredictable, Sir. They say that they are easily angered and become violent when they are. Also, they’re said to be impossible strong, Sir, and it’s not our people,” Alvez rushed to add. ”It’s the Mundanes.”
“Are you sure?” Sheppard asked.
“As far as we know, none of ours has been seen outside the Tower since we escaped, Sir.”
“Understood. And do you believe it?” Sheppard questioned.
“That day in Belkan,” Markham intervened. “I saw Summer punch a hole through a solid brick pillar, Sir. Also, Ford’s left eye… it was almost completely black, Sir.”
“Are you sure, Sergeant?” Carson asked.
“I zoomed in, Doctor. There was barely a hint of white at the sides. It was like the pupil was covering all the eye.”
“What could cause that, Doctor Beckett?” Caldwell asked.
“I don’t know, Colonel, but a’m sure it’s nothin’ good.”
Caldwell jotted down a note. “Is there anything else, Lance Corporal?”
“Well, there’s a rumor going around Pegasus, Sir.” Alvez bit his lip and looked down to the table for a moment, before addressing the Colonel again. “They say that the Tau’ri are hunting Wraith alive, even offering bounties for them.”
“Live Wraith?” Lorne asked in disbelief. “What for?”
“Nobody knows, Sir.”
“Marvelous,” Sheppard muttered under his breath. “Anything else to add?”
“Well, you know most of it already, Sir,” Markham said. “When we arrived at Athos, Teyla’s people were wary of us, but she agreed to let us stay after we took a Blood Oath. With time, they warmed up to us. They realized we weren’t like Weir. They and the Bassanians… are almost the only friends we’ve got in this galaxy. We helped them as much as we could in exchange, but kept our heads down off world, so no one could report back on us to Weir’s people. Everything else, is mostly rumors and hearsay, Sir.”
“OK, write a report about it. Add in also any possible allies, hostiles… anything you can remember.”
“Wait!” McKay interrupted. “What about the puddlejumper you stole? Where is it?”
“Hidden on the Athosian’s Old City, Dr. McKay.”
“In working shape?”
“It was, last time we checked.”
“Good!” McKay turned to Sheppard. “Colonel—”
“I’ll talk to Teyla about it, McKay,” he interrupted him with a grin.
“You’d better,” he warned him, but Sheppard frowned at the lack the scientist’s usual snark.
“Does anyone have any more questions?” Sheppard asked, looking around the table.
“I think we’ve got enough for today,” Caldwell answered.
“Understood. Formal debriefing of Staff Sergeant Jason Markham, USMC, and Lance Corporal Alex Alvez, USMC, regarding the First Atlantis Expedition finishes here. Any further information would be added to the written report. Sergeant, you may stop the recording.”
“Yes, Sir.” Sergeant Campbell got up from his seat, pushed the stopping button on the camera, and started to pick up the equipment as people headed out the conference room.
“But Carson, I have a lot of work to do!” McKay complained, trying to dislodge Dr. Beckett’s grip on his arm, with no luck.
“Yer work will still be here after I finish yer checkup!” Beckett replied, his Scottish brogue getting more pronounced, as he pulled a complaining McKay towards the transporter. Sheppard chuckled.
After the room’s doors slid close, Lorne reclined on the table next to him, arms crossed.
“You know, I don’t think we’ll be able to keep that under wraps for long, John,” he said, using his given name since it was Pride business.
“Yeah, I know,” John sighed.
“Does anyone know apart from us?”
“No one else is Master Kin, but I don’t know how far Carson has delved into the archives since he became Prime Healer.” John reclined back on his chair, looking at his Beta. “But I’ve got a feeling we’d have heard about it if he had.”
Evan snorted, but sobered quickly. “Something else is bothering you.”
John looked at the ceiling and sighed. “I’ve got a feeling we haven’t seen the worst of this yet.”
“Instinct or Foreboding?” Evan asked. John looked at him pointedly, eyebrow raised. “Shit!” he swore and John snorted. “Do you think this is part of the prophecy?”
“Since Jackson opened the Stargate, everything seems to be a step towards it,” John answered. “According to Silke, at least.”
“And who’s going to contradict her?”
“Not me, that’s for sure! I don’t need her crossed at me again!” Evan raised an eyebrow of his own. John smile was a bit sheepish. “Let’s just say being family to the Seer has its downsides,” John added, squirming on his seat while Evan smirked.
“Colonel Sheppard, we have an emergency!” Becket shouted through the radio.
John clicked his on. “What’s the problem, Doctor?”
“Dr. McKay has collapsed.”