“Okay, so the transponder signal is being jammed.” Rodney pursed his lips as if he had three thousand more things to say and John figured that he did so he said nothing while the scientist prepared his next volley of intolerable information. “I concur with Major Lorne that the men that attacked them were probably in a ship—and that ship is probably the reason behind the jamming. It’s also interferring with sensors in the Jumper so it’s practically useless. I doubt we’ll even be able to find a place to land it out in that mess.” He gestured towards the forest that spread out around the gate.
“Is there a ship in orbit?”
“I’m not picking up any communications traffic. That doesn’t mean anything, however, for all we know they don’t have any one on the surface to communicate with OR they know we are here and purposely not communicating.”
John motioned for Lorne to join them. “Go back through the gate and brief Sam personally. We’ll need to access as to whether it’s a good idea to bring the Daedalus anywhere near this place. Also, now would be a great time to check all Wraith activity in this sector. Let’s see what we can find out from our friends about this situation.”
John watched Lorne dart off towards the DHD and then focused on Rodney. “Okay, what else?”
“It stands to reason that if they brought a ship down here, that there were more than six men on board.”
“If Lorne is right, and those men are with Michael…. then we can assume that he decided that giving up Carson was a mistake so he thought he could take Keller as a replacement.” Rodney averted his gaze after saying it.
“So Michael might have her already.”
Rodney snorted. “What ever idiot is still on this planet trying to take Keller from Ronon deserves what they get.”
“Yeah.” John looked out into the words that separated him from his people and sent a couple of profoundly vicious thoughts Michael’s way. “Carson always said it was a mistake… questioned if it was the right choice.”
“We’re at war. He understood the experiment was a necessary step.” Rodney cleared his throat. “Why is it that our worse enemies are the ones we create?”
“Because we have a habit of creating the very thing that fucks with us the most.” John frowned, pissed off that he’d answered the question seriously and irritated with Rodney for asking. “Find that signal, Rodney. Find that signal and give me a target so we can find Keller and Ronon and get off this Star Wars knock-off planet.”
Rodney looks around. “Endor? It was a moon, you know?”
She was going to be the death of him. Of that, he had no doubts. He pushed back her hair from her face, pleased that she’d surrendered to sleep. All of her off-world experiences had been nightmarish, he was surprised that she hadn’t demanded passage to Earth after the incident with the big giant whole in the ground.
Ronon’s thoughts went back to what she’d said about noises. He knew nothing had followed her directly, because the only prints he’d seen had been her impossibly small boot prints. He wondered, really, how SGC had managed to find a boot in her size. The darkness surrounding them offered plenty of cover, but he would know if he was being watched.
In his mind’s eye, he replayed the ambush and the battle that followed.
“Dr. Keller, you’ve been off world a whole two days and nothing has happened.” Major Lorne shot her a grin. “You cost me twenty bucks but I’m not mad.”
Jennifer shot the soldier a dirty look but then laughed in spite of herself. “Laugh it up, you and your whole platoon just got physicals with Nurse Conrad.”
Ronon gave a small shudder. Nurse Conrad had the coldest hands of any woman he’d ever met in his life and they sort of matched her mean cold eyes. She was the one nurse in the entire infirmary that actually gave him pause.
“Who do you think I lost the bet to?” Lorne wiggled his eyebrows and on that cheeky question all hell broke loose.
Weapons fire. The unmistakable sound of a P-90 laying down a field of fire threw both men off for a split second. Ronon dived for Jennifer, catching her, shielding her body with his all the while he fired his weapon and pushed her towards the shelter of one of the trees.
“Hostiles at 3, 6 and 12 o’clock!” Lorne had shouted.
Ronon pressed Jennifer between him and the tree, gauging the situation. “When I move I want you to turn around and run. Run. Don’t look back. Don’t stop until you can’t hear gunfire and don’t you dare come back.”
“What if you get hurt?”
“Don’t argue with me. Run!”
It had happened quickly. One minute she’d been laughing and promising revenge and the next she was gone as he’d demanded. It had taken him and Lorne nearly an hour to kill the men that had ambushed them, inspect their bodies for clues about who the hell they were, and then go back to the gate. Then they’d searched for her for more than two hours, figuring she was hiding near the gate. Never guessing that she was four hours of brisk walking away from the gate.
He activated his radio as he had every hour on the hour since he’d found her. “Major Lorne? Sheppard, do you copy?”
He didn’t doubt for a minute that John Sheppard was on the ground looking for them and that he knew that the men who had ambushed them could only be men of Michael’s. They’d had SGC weapons and ammunition but were certainly not Genii. He pressed his lips into a thin line, he had a good idea of why they’d attacked and what their goal had been. Teyla’s child was due soon and perhaps Michael had decided that he needed a doctor’s help after all.
He hadn’t really gotten his head around the return and the near immediate loss of Carson Beckett, but it was certainly no coincidence that Michael had left one SGC doctor behind and within weeks had tried to procure another.
Lorne and he had taken out the six men who had ambushed them and from the lack of activity at the gate… Ronon knew they hadn’t come through it. Which meant that the men had come to the small forest planet on a ship and there were probably far more than six.
Jennifer jerked awake in his arms, her breathing heavy. “Don’t die!”
“Easy.” He pulled her closer. “We’re fine.”
Jennifer’s fingers curled into his shirt, but it was the only outward sign of distress she offered. “I’m a total diasaster with this off world stuff.”
“The ambush was not your fault. From what Lorne and I could gather, they were Michael’s men.”
“You got them all?” She asked softly.
“Yes.” But, now he’d wished he’d left one alive to ask some questions. It wasn’t his habit to think like that. He was more of a shoot first, and forget questions kind of guy – as John had told him more than once. Since John was of a similar nature a great deal of the time, Ronon hadn’t been offended by the assessment.
“I guess Nurse Conrad lost that twenty after all.”
Ronon laughed then. “Seems so.”
“Someone did follow me, right?”
Lying to her wasn’t an option but as his gaze shifted around the darkness that surrounded him he was torn between being vague or scaring the hell out of her. “I don’t know. The men who tried to… the men that attacked us are all dead.”
“None of them shot at me.” She rubbed her cheek against him as if she was trying to distract herself from her own words. “They meant to take me?”
“I don’t know.”
Jennifer snorted. “I’m not weak, Ronon.”
“I never said you were.”
“Then stop beating around the bush and tell what the hell is going on!” She sat up and glared at him. The small distance she’d put between them made seeing the details of his expression difficult.
“Six men attached us on the way back to the gate – all six were carrying SGC weapons but were not Genii. They appeared to make a conscious effort to kill Major Lorne and I and never fired a single shot in your direction once you started running. All six of those men are dead. When we returned to the gate and realized you hadn’t gone back through, it also became clear that those men had not come through it either.”
“They came by ship.” Jennifer eyes welled with tears. “I’m really not up to being kidnapped again, Ronon. I haven’t even gone through the survival training course or the anti-interrogation classes. I mean I keep meaning to go, but they are always scheduled when I’m working and needed most in the infirmary.”
He touched her lips gently to stop her. “Do you trust me?”
“Then know this – there is nothing on this planet that could take you from me.”