Title: The Queen
Author: Keira Marcos
Art: FanArts Series
Series title: The Sentinels of Atlantis
Series Order: 17
Fandom: Sentinel/Stargate Fusion
Beta(s): Ladyholder & Chris King
Word Count: 12,700
Pairings: McKay/Sheppard (many secondary pairings)
Warnings: Explicit sex, violence, adult language
Summary: The expedition finds a geothermal drilling platform on Lantea during the final leg of their planetary search that Rodney insists be investigated for potential use for the city and wake a hibernating Queen. On Earth, David Sheppard moves to Denver so that his son will be close to his father and Jack O’Neill.
– – – – –
David Sheppard shoved his hands into his pockets and frowned as he glanced around the house. “I fully expect to have to do heavy renovations on any house I purchase, Mr. Jordan, but I thought I was pretty clear with you about my needs on the phone.”
“Mr. Sheppard…” Jordan trailed off at the glare he was offered. “Yes, you were clear and I’m doing my level best to meet those expectations. All of the houses we’ve visited today are at least three miles off any major road way, all built within the last ten years, and situated on no less than four acres.”
“And no foam insulation.”
“It is a very difficult requirement to meet, I’m afraid.”
“There is no choice in the matter,” David shook his head. “This house is a no. I’d have to gut the walls and the floors.”
“The floors were just refinished six months ago.”
“Yes,” David grimaced. “I can smell it. I can’t even imagine what it would do to my kid if I can still smell the chemicals.” He pulled out his cell phone and checked his messages. “I have a meeting in an hour in Colorado Springs, so I have to go. Let’s try this again tomorrow and keep in mind, Mr. Jordan, that you are searching for a Sentinel friendly house. There are three online Sentinels in my family and I’d like to provide them with a safe environment when they are on my property.”
“Of course, Mr. Sheppard.”
David frowned at the floors again and then with a nod left. Andy was at the Sentinel-Guide Center in Denver, participating in a few classes on managing his senses, and the college-aged Guide who was assigned to monitor him during the day while he was there was sending hourly reports as requested. The kid had been all amused smiles and bright eyes when David had requested hourly text messages on Andy’s progress but he was adhering to the demand without fail.
Matt kept sending him whiny, coded messages about his man-crush on Chase Harris, which amused David to no end. Matt had always been rather free in the sexuality department, his lusting after another man wasn’t a surprise. The fact was that Patrick Sheppard’s entirely fluid sexuality had made it easy for all three of his sons to explore a variety of relationships. David had dabbled with a few guys in college, before joining the Navy and had exchanged hurried sexual favors while he’d been in the military with more than one guy. He enjoyed men but on the whole he preferred the soft, sweet femininity of women.
He grimaced as he merged onto the highway and headed for Cheyenne Mountain. The move to Denver hadn’t set well with Sharon but then things hadn’t been all that great on the Sharon front for the last few months. He knew Andy was threatened by his relationship with the young attorney and hadn’t gone out of his way to welcome her into their lives. For the most part, Andy ignored her unless he was commenting on how much he didn’t like her perfume.
Sharon had made it clear that she’d be willing to move to Denver but that it was going to require a definite, exclusive commitment on David’s part before she’d uproot her life for him. It wasn’t something he hadn’t expected and he didn’t even blame her for taking that position. The problem was that the moment she’d started talking about engagement rings and putting her name on the deed to the next house he purchased—he’d realized that there was just no way in hell he could marry her and he was pretty sure she wasn’t the woman that could fill his bed for the rest of his life. To be honest, he didn’t figure it was in her to stick with one man either. They’d both been up front about wanting an open relationship in the beginning but now that she was angling for marriage—things were different.
Andy barely tolerated her and never let close enough to touch him. They’d gotten all together as a family for a meal and Jack O’Neill hadn’t been unkind or ill-mannered with her, but David got the distinct impression that he didn’t approve of her.
David really wasn’t entirely certain when his Father’s Sentinel had maneuvered himself into a position in their lives where his approval was so important, but he was rolling with it. O’Neill didn’t like Sharon, Andy didn’t like Sharon and that probably meant she was a jerk and neither one of them wanted to state the obvious.
He pulled out his credentials as he approached the main gate for the mountain and rolled down his window. The guard lowered his weapon only slightly as he accepted his photo id and clearance card for the mountain. “I have an appointment with General O’Neill.” Also known as my step-Daddy-Sentinel, David thought ruefully and wondered if Matt had let that slip out within Jack O’Neill’s hearing yet.
“Yes, sir, we’ve been expecting you.” The guard handed his stuff back to him, and with a hand gesture he was waved through the check point.
By the time he’d parked, a pair of Marines were lingering in the doorway to escort him into the mountain. While David had clearance for the SGC, there were parts of the NORAD base that he wasn’t cleared for. He left his vehicle and retrieved his brief case and a laptop case. By the time he’d turned, one of the Marines had started toward him. David checked him out more out of habit than anything else and offered the young man a grin when he smirked while he returned the favor.
“Your whole family made out like bandits in the looks department,” the Marine said with a wry grin. “We didn’t officially meet the last time we saw each other. I’m Chase Harris. The General is actually off-world at present but is expected to return within the hour.”
“Thanks for your help with my Dad.” David passed him the computer bag. “Matt said you liked the Guardian.”
“Great plane,” Chase acknowledged. “Best ride I’ve had since I came online. The Major said you did most of the design work on it.”
David nodded as he closed the doors on the SUV and shouldered his bag. “It got to the point where I couldn’t travel with my son because plane trips were agony for him. Seeing my kid hurt like that was motivation enough to sort of…” He trailed off and waved a hand. “Change manned flight as we know it, to quote Forbes magazine.”
Chase grinned. “Yeah. It’s cool that you guys donated so many to the Center.”
“It’s kind of hard to deny Blair Sandburg anything,” David admitted. “And they’ve done a lot to help Andy and that puts them in my good books forever.”
“Yeah, understood.” In the elevator, Chase swiped a card through a security sensor and picked the floor. “How is Andy?”
“Good. We’ve moved into an apartment in Denver while I look for a house. I’ll be flying back and forth to Virginia for a while but I wanted to get him settled so he could imprint and get comfortable before he starts school. Him and my Dad are so close that moving was necessary.”
“Right.” Chase took a deep breath. “Dr. Sheppard has probably been acting as a pseudo-Guide for him since Andrew came online.”
“He’s very attached,” David admitted. “Is my Father off-world with O’Neill?”
Chase shook his head as they exited the elevator. “No, O’Neill went through the gate early this morning before Dr. Sheppard arrived.”
“Should he be doing that?”
“Yeah, he’ll be fine. He’s very well-balanced, all things considered. Besides Colonel Carter went with him and she’d raze a whole planet before she’d let someone hurt the General.” Chase opened a door and motioned David in with a gesture of his head. “It’s just a diplomatic meeting with the new government on Langara. Nothing too dramatic should happen.”
– – – – –
Rodney frowned as he watched the Jumper approach and then bank gracefully before lowering with precision. It slid into the water like a hot knife in butter. His radio connection with John didn’t even crackle which was a relief. “How is it going, John?”
“Good, the jumper is responding very well and several systems came online automatically to handle the change in pressure. It feels slightly different—but it’s not so different that I would have a hard time tolerating it.”
“Right.” Rodney crossed his arms. “Come back up and get me. I want to run some diagnostics.”
“Go down to the East Pier and I’ll pick you up.”
– – – –
“I really don’t like that,” Evan Lorne muttered as he watched the Jumper slide into the water for the second time. “He should have let one of us test it.”
“Preaching to the choir,” Cameron responded. “You know he redefines stubborn when it comes to safety. I’m surprised McKay agreed to stay on the city for the first submersion.” A small smile slipped over his lips as he remembered the rather loud and completely vicious argument Sheppard and McKay engaged in over that particular portion of the testing. “You know he asked me to go back to Earth.”
Lorne nodded. “How do you feel about that?”
“Good. I didn’t like leaving O’Neill and Carter the way we did but I thought Vala needed the city. I wasn’t wrong about that. We’re both in a really good place and now that we know about the psionic keys it makes sense that she’s been able to resettle her mind so easily here versus how much she struggled with it on Earth. I don’t like the idea of leaving here either to be honest. It’s difficult to be in two places at once but I can do a lot for this mission on Earth. We can prepare the others for the Wraith. Vala and McKay have spent a lot of time going to over what happened when he killed the Wraith. She thinks she can teach others.”
Evan didn’t want Jennifer to learn how to do it but it was stupid to even think about preventing his Guide from learning how to defend herself from the biggest enemy she would ever have in her life. Jennifer was delicate and soft and he didn’t want to ever see a situation where she had to kill.
“Sometimes I hate myself for bonding with someone so innocent and soft.”
Cameron blew out a breath. “She is a startling breath of fresh air. Vala finds her enchanting and I think McKay wants to corrupt her a little—at least make her curse a bit.”
Evan chuckled. “I don’t know how I’ll ever be able to reconcile the desire to teach her and the desire to protect her from what’s out here.”
“Right, but circumstances have already proven to you and I both that getting separated from your Guide is horrifyingly easy. Leaving her defenseless would be morally reprehensible.”
Evan sighed. “She’s good with the 9mm but she shakes like hell when I try to put a P-90 in her hands. She’s pretty good with stunners and the ZAT-like weapons the scientists are developing. She’s actually quite scary with a combat knife but I think that comes from being a surgeon. She definitely knows how to take someone out of the game with the knife.”
Cameron chuckled. “Yeah. I watched her giving Vala and Teyla pointers on the anatomy of both humans and the Wraith. It was kind of scary how much she knows about how to make a man wish he was dead without actually killing him.” Mitchell laughed. “Teyla was of the firm opinion that it would be easier to just kill the target outright but did eventually agree that they might need to take a prisoner for interrogation at some point.”
– – – –
There was a shadow in her mind. She couldn’t be certain when it had appeared, but with every passing day it grew stronger and harder to ignore. Hiding hadn’t even been a choice. Altering Dr. Keller’s results before she even had time to process all that data had been the only logical decision she could make.
Miko remembered her older brother in an indistinct and vague way. She remembered his laugh and the gentle touch of his fingers on her face before the government had taken him away. Akiro had been tested—like everyone in Japan was tested and they’d found the marker. The genetic twist of fate that had marked him as the property of the government and her parents had been encouraged to have another child to replace him. As if their child could be replaced in such away. Miko had been four and after her fifth birthday, a government man had come to their house to take her blood. She remembered how her mother had sobbed with relief when the results came back negative.
She knew differently now, but she could not risk being exposed. She wore the flag of her country on her expedition jacket and mourned the brother she never saw again after his fifth birthday. Her parents had refused to speak of him after he was taken away and they’d clutched Miko to them as if she would never be safe again.
She’d stayed with them even when her college boyfriend had asked her to marry him. He’d promised her the world—travel and research with a life partner. But her parents had come to America with her and they waited each night for her to come home from her classes. So, when she finished her first PhD, Miko had turned down the job offers that would have taken her all over the world and turned away from the man who loved her.
The people at the university had been pleased to keep her as a researcher and a professor. Eventually, she’d found herself enrolled in another PhD program. It was her life and while she had not been happy, she had been content. Her parents had been secure in the knowledge that she would never leave them. Her mother went first, a stroke when Miko was just twenty-five and in the middle of writing her second dissertation.
Her father had mourned the loss of his wife so extremely that Miko wasn’t at all surprised to find him dead when she went to wake him six months after they had buried her mother.
She finished her second PhD and for once in all of her life—her future belonged to her. Miko didn’t have plans, didn’t have any idea what she wanted to do with the rest of her life but it was hers, it finally belonged to her. She remembered sitting in her office at MIT, going over lesson plans and thinking about quitting her job when someone had cleared their throat. It had been so startling that she’d thrown a handful of papers in the air and scattered them all over her desk. She’d looked up and her gaze had connected with a pair of amazing blue eyes.
McKay had smirked at her, his beautiful eyes bright with laughter and interest. He’d inclined his head in a way she’d seen him do hundreds of times since she’d met him and said, “I’m here to change how you look at the universe.”
As pick-up lines went, it had been entirely effective. Miko had moved to Colorado Springs a week later and when the chance to step through the gate to Atlantis came up—it had never crossed her mind not to follow McKay. She’d been following him for five years so it seemed ridiculous to let him go off to another galaxy to learn new things without her.
She’d heard the whispers—the mundanes on the city speculated that something about the city was activating previously undocumented and latent Sentinels and Guides. The rumors were more expressions of curiosity than anything else and she listened to them all—concerned. It hadn’t taken much to hack into Dr. Keller’s research files. She’d avoided the medical records of individuals due to her own personal ethics but she’d learned enough to know that she was coming online as a Guide because of the city.
Every day she wondered when the stargate would open and her Sentinel would step through it. Peter had come online for Tyre. Surely, she was coming online because there was a Sentinel who needed her. But she couldn’t ask for more information—she didn’t dare ask anyone for help. Light years separated her from Earth but she held no illusions about what her government would do if they discovered she was online when they reconnected with Earth.
The regret for not applying for US citizenship weighed heavy on her but her parents had been patriots, even in the face of losing their son to the government program. Miko washed her face briskly and stared at her reflection in the mirror. She had tried to push it away for a while, and for a few weeks she’d been successful but now the gifts she’d never wanted were rushing at her conscious mind like a wicked and unpredictable river. Once she came online, she’d never be able to hide what she was from the other Guides on the city. The idea was so uniquely horrifying that it choked her—made it impossible for her to think.
Today was a mission day—a mission on world. Officially, she was part of SGA-4 but she’d been co-opted for the mission to the geothermal power plant. Simpson and Keener had both bitched about her being chosen but Radek Zelenka had shut them up with a hard look. At the SGC, Simpson had implied more than once that Miko received special attention from McKay because he was fucking her.
Strictly speaking, she wouldn’t have been opposed to that. She’d heard more than once that he was gifted in bed but that wasn’t a surprise. She couldn’t imagine who would be a better lover—an empath or a Sentinel. It was a complete toss up but sometimes when the night was long she did let herself fantasize about being taken to their bed. McKay with his quick mouth and greedy hands. Sheppard with his soft smile and powerful body. She didn’t hold any hope of such a thing but the thought of it was enough to get her off. So what if she blushed and had a hard time looking at the two of them for days afterward?
She brushed her hair quickly and pulled it into a French braid which she tucked up and pinned to keep it out of the way. Miko liked wearing the BDUs and the t-shirt that was normally the uniform of the military. She’d been pleased when McKay had insisted that the science teams have the same uniforms as the military. It had meant the expedition had been easier to supply but more importantly it meant she had plenty of pockets for her stuff.
She dressed quickly and dropped various tools in the pockets of her pants before strapping on the empty weapon’s holster. Miko had qualified with a variety of weapons when she’d first joined the SGC and regularly re-qualified for the 9mm that she carried. Other scientists, perhaps especially the other females, shied away from learning to use weapons but Miko remembered when Dr. Simone Franks was brought back through the gate.
She remembered the screams before the medical staff had sedated her. She knew the story of how Dr. Franks had been taken prisoner off-world and how she’d been used by her captors before her team could rescue her. The men of the SGC didn’t like to use the word rape. Didn’t like to hear it. Didn’t want to consider that the women that served with them were more vulnerable to that horror. But Miko repeated the word in her head whenever she became hesitant about target practice and it made picking up a gun easier.
She also remembered how O’Neill had gone through the gate with four teams—all men after Dr. Franks was rescued. She remembered how he and all the men that went with him came back bloody and so grimly satisfied that she could do nothing but smile at them for the justice she knew that they’d wrought on behalf of another woman on an alien world. Miko held that vengeance close—content with the belief that the men on the expedition would do the same for her if the unthinkable happened.
When she was assigned to Team 4, the Marine in charge of it had looked her over—assessing and obviously wishing she was someone else’s responsibility. She remembered how Stackhouse had sighed and asked her if she’d had any weapons training at all. He’d been surprised by her answer. Even more surprised by her scores on the target range. The men on her team shielded her physically as much as possible when she was in the field. They put themselves between her and the universe it seemed, and some part of her loved her soldiers fiercely for it.
She put on her jacket and then pulled her mission pack out of the closet. Her tablet battery was full but after some thought she pulled three extra batteries out of the supply box on her desk and dropped them into a side pocket of the backpack.
The door chime sounded on her door and she thought it open without checking to see who it was. The action was followed by a sigh. Stackhouse and Markham eased into the room, both of them offering her the same little glare.
“Doc, you should ask who is at your door.” Stackhouse frowned at her. “Seriously.”
“Everyone in the expedition was thoroughly vetted for assholery and I don’t think a Wraith would ring the chime.” She smirked at him and accepted the handgun that Markham offered her. “I was going to the armory to sign out a weapon.” She motioned towards the holster. “See.”
“Sure, Doc.” Stackhouse crossed his arms and lifted an eyebrow. “Did you lighten your load and pack extra power bars?”
“I added a crate of MREs and power bars to the supplies list for the mission specialist.” She checked the weapon as she’d been taught and then holstered it. “I know better than to spend more than an hour in a confined space with McKay without an adequate food supply.”
“Right.” Markham frowned at her. “Another headache, Doc?”
Miko paused and then shrugged. “Nothing big. I’ll tell Dr. Keller if it does not get better.”
“You should get more sleep,” Stackhouse muttered. “You’re up all hours of the night.”
She pointed a finger at him. “I told you not to spy on me.” The grin came easily when he laughed. Stackhouse had imprinted on his entire team, had, in fact, focused special attention to her so she knew he really couldn’t help but pay attention to her when they were on the city. “I am due in the Jumper Bay now.”
– – – –
John settled in the pilot seat and glanced back into the cargo bay of the Jumper. The decision to leave all of his Sentinels on the city had been a difficult one but he knew that there was some resentment especially among the mundane scientists about research opportunities off-world being so restricted. He couldn’t really help himself—not knowing how dangerous and fucked up the Pegasus Galaxy was. Picking Team Six and three civilian scientists had been the best choice for the expedition but he could tell that Mitchell and Lorne both hated it. Ronon had raised an eyebrow at him and then had suggested they keep another Jumper prepped and ready for a rescue operation if it became necessary.
Miko was seated in the chair behind McKay, a tablet PC in her lap. She remained a pretty big mystery for John—her powerful natural ATA gene had given Jennifer fits when it had come to the retesting of the population for Sentinel/Guide genes. He knew she’d tested Miko upwards of six times and each time the results had been very perplexing for them all. Miko should’ve tested positive and she hadn’t. Then there was the anxiety that had started pouring off of her during the testing phase and the little wiggle in the back of his mind that told him she wasn’t a mundane at all.
John swallowed back a sigh and turned to his Guide. “Ready?”
“As ever,” Rodney muttered. “I’m not sure I want to spend six hours in a Jumper with these people.”
Miko casually shot him the bird and the Marines in the back of the Jumper laughed. “We love you too, Dr. McKay.”
Rodney huffed and eyed the beautiful Japanese scientist with an amused gaze. “You’re lucky you’re so pretty, Kusanagi, I’m entirely sure that’s why I hired you.”
“You hired me because I’m as smart as you,” Miko responded primly. “It would make you very sad if I were not here to challenge your mind—which gets less stunning by the day, by the way.”
– – – –
The geothermal power plant was exactly where it had been when one of the Jumper’s doing the ocean scan had found it. Three thousand meters down and tucked up against a large underwater mountain. They all took a deep breath as Colonel Sheppard prodded the Jumper through the shields of the underwater facility and into the small landing bay. Five hours together had made them all really irritated with each other and the mission but no more so than for Sheppard who was a little pale even as the backdoor to the Jumper opened.
He stood abruptly and stalked out of the craft, leveling his weapon as he did so. McKay held up a hand when everyone started to follow and shook his head. “Give him some room, people, he’s not thrilled with the smell of the place.”
The small landing bay was dark for a few seconds and then lit by degrees as John moved around. “McKay, the air quality is pretty poor. We need to find the control room on this thing and get the ventilation system online.”
“Yeah, not a problem.” Rodney moved back into the Jumper and activated the HUD. “Miko, get the Jumper to give you the plans for this place and transfer them to my tablet while I get John settled.”
Miko nodded and settled down in the pilot seat to handle the task. “Of course.”
Dr. Phillip Cord joined her in the front of the Jumper after a few minutes. “It’s pretty odd, right?”
“Odd?” Miko questioned.
“That you have the ATA gene but you aren’t…” He trailed off and shrugged. “I mean, the rumor is that all of the latent Guides on the city have ATA genes and we know all of the online pairs do.”
Miko had never liked Phillip Cord. He was handsy when he drank too much and his respect for women was transient at best. It was true that he’d been on his best behavior on the city but with as many Sentinels as there were on the mission—it would have been stupid of him to try to harass someone.
“The latent status of the identified Guides on the city was restricted for a reason, Dr. Cord.” Miko focused on the tablet and prodded the Jumper mentally to send her the plans McKay wanted.
“I’ve heard that Guides are really… sensual.”
“You’re an idiot,” Ian Wilkes said from the back of the Jumper. The Marine raised an eyebrow when Cord glared at him. “Seriously, an idiot. It’s none of your business if she’s a latent Guide and you can’t believe that Sheppard isn’t able to hear you.”
“He’s very distracted right now.”
“Not that distracted,” John said from the ramp of the Jumper. “Cord, I don’t believe Dr. Kusanagi needs your help.” He inclined his head. “You should join Dr. McKay. The control room is just next door to the landing bay.”
Cord hastily gathered up his equipment and hurried off.
John’s jaw tightened as he watched Miko working. “Dr. Kusanagi.”
She turned to look at him. “I’m one of thirty-two single females on the mission, Colonel. I’m perfectly capable of fending off a sexual advance.”
“Don’t hesitate to tell me if you encounter a problem you can’t handle.” John shot the Marines in the Jumper a hard look. “Review the plans and start a grid search of the facility. This place smells dead to me. I think that means we’re going to find a few bodies down here.”
“Bones?” Wilkes questioned.
“You hope,” John cautioned. “This place is sealed air tight. I can’t imagine what that sort of situation offers in the way of body decay options—even after ten thousand years.” Sheppard lingered on the ramp as the Marines left and cleared his throat to get Miko’s attention.
Miko turned. “I’m almost finished, Colonel.”
“Is he a problem?”
She shrugged. “He has a history of being less that polite about his sexual interest in women but he’s been on his very best behavior since the expedition started. Dr. Cord is an arrogant man but something of a coward. He rarely approaches me on the city because Marcus Stackhouse makes it a point to visit my lab often.” She winced as she watched the Colonel process that information. “I don’t consider him a threat, Colonel. If I’d thought he was that kind of man I would have told Dr. McKay a long time ago. He’s worked at the SGC for many years.”
John nodded. “You know you only have to say my name, right? It would be enough to get my attention no matter where I am on the city or what I’m doing. I can’t really turn off the sensory input but I can dampen it down unless something catches my attention.”
Miko nodded. “I’m aware. I wouldn’t hesitate to ask for help if it were required.”
“Right.” John frowned at her and then sighed. “Not ever. I won’t… you can trust me with everything, Miko.”
She turned to the HUD and continued the project McKay had assigned her without another word, aware that the color had drained from her face. In the beginning, when she’d started to alter her results before Keller could see them—she’d had a small moment of guilt. Miko knew she could trust Sheppard to protect her but she didn’t know what he could do for her once they established regular contact with Earth.
– – – –
The people at the SGC were as bad as the doctors at the Sentinel-Guide Center when it came to asking David Sheppard to fork over his blood for testing. He understood why but it was irritating on many fronts, most of all for the way Andy’s eyes would go wide and he would insist on seeing where his father was bleeding. The first time David had come home smelling of his own blood after his son had come online, after a small accident in one of the R&D labs, Andy had gotten so freaked out that he’d nearly had a panic attack.
Even just a little prick of a needle for blood work would leave the scent of blood on David’s skin and Andy would be absolutely unreasonable until he saw for himself that his father wasn’t gravely injured. David didn’t ask if his Father had endured the same thing with John. The subject of the middle child in their family had always been a touchy one but in the weeks since their father had come online—David and Matthew both had noticed that whenever John’s name was mentioned their father’s hands would tremble and his eyes would go dark with some strange mixture of grief and anger.
David pulled his dress shirt back on but didn’t bother tucking it back in or buttoning it over his t-shirt as the pretty doctor with great eyes and the very nice ass walked away with a few tubes of blood. He turned to Matt after he’d thoroughly checked out Dr. Carolyn Lam. “Do they use you as a human pin cushion, too?”
“Yeah, just research stuff.” Matt shrugged. “They are doing a lot of heavy genetics research on the Sentinel/Guide genome and its relationship to the ATA gene but they are being very careful with the data. General O’Neill is going to bring in some guy from Scotland in a few weeks come in to take over the research and he promised the Center that the findings would be turned over to them exclusively.”
“Bet that’s going to piss some people off.”
“Well, there are laws in place to govern what kind of research can be done and who can do it. This guy that they’re bringing in is approved by the Sentinel Guide Center for genetics research.” Matt shoved his hands into his pocket as they walked out of the infirmary. “They have Captain Harris down the hall in a lab playing with stuff that SG2 recently brought back from what looks like an Ancient lab. Wanna check it out?”
“O’Neill said your security clearance covers all of the SGC’s operations here and Nevada so yeah, shouldn’t be a problem. Dr. Lee will kick us out if we get in his way. He’s kind of militant about his space.”
– – – –
McKay watched his Sentinel return to the control room out of the corner of his eye. John’s irritation with Cord was bleeding all over him. The scientist had settled down at a control panel to run diagnostics after Rodney had activated it for him. He’d stopped shaking only a few minutes before John returned so Rodney wasn’t at all surprised to find Cord’s fingers trembling again.
“For fuck’s sake, Phillip, he’s not going to attack you!” McKay glared at the man until the scientist nodded and returned to his work. “Get me a diagnostic on the power systems. I want to know if this place was properly mothballed by the Ancients or if we have to spend the next year fixing it.”
“Right.” Cord pulled another tablet out of his backpack and started to work.
“John.” McKay turned to his Sentinel only to find that John had his head tilted slightly, his eyes shut. “John?”
“They’ve found a body,” John murmured. “I need to go check on it. Get Miko and Jakes in here and lock the door behind me.”
– – – –
The halls of the facility lit around him as he moved—waking up and greeting him much the same way the city had when they’d first arrived. The technology wasn’t hungry the way the city had been—it didn’t pull and demand his immediate attention. He wondered if McKay noticed the difference—the psionic feedback from the city was the one thing they never discussed. He didn’t know if it made McKay uncomfortable because the technology seemed to mimic the presence of a Guide or if the scientist wasn’t half-convinced the city was sentient. The last time he’d seriously tried to discuss it—McKay had turned to him after a few minutes and asked for a blowjob which had started an entirely different kind of conversation.
Two flights of stairs down near a large lab he found Team Six with a body. He scrunched up his nose and turned down his sense of smell to almost zero as he squatted down next to the remains. He’d seen a mummy once—in a museum. The trip had been a disaster, really, because the smell of death had been overwhelming for John and several other kids in his class.
His teacher had never considered him and his gifts when she’d planned activities. In her defense, most Sentinel children weren’t taught in public schools but John’s father hadn’t wanted to expose John to people who might realize what he was hiding. The best part of that day was that she’d called his father and Patrick had come for him immediately. They’d had lunch together and gone to see a movie. Even then, he’d been surprised how willing his father had been to blow off work to take care of him—to make him feel better about getting sick in front of his entire class.
John cleared his throat and reached out hesitantly.
“Sir.” Wilkes squatted down beside him and pulled on a pair of latex gloves. “Let me. There is no telling what the body decay process has left behind in the way of containments.”
John nodded and watched as Wilkes carefully pulled back the remnants of a torn shirt. The skin was dark and seemed to almost be evaporating in front of them, the bones of the rib cage we exposed on several places. “The life support was off until we entered the shield with the Jumper. This body is going to fall to pieces quickly with the oxygen circulating. Woods, get a body bag from the Jumper’s medical supply and pack him for the science department.”
Sheppard glanced towards Steve Woods briefly as the Marine divested himself of his field pack and then trotted towards the stairs toward the small Jumper Bay. “Watson, finish sweeping this floor. West, head back up to the control room and keep an eye on the geeks.” He turned and focused on Wilkes. “Okay, kid, I need you to keep an eye on me while I catalog the body with my senses. You’ve been paying attention to McKay, right?”
Wilkes nodded. “Yes, sir.”
John paused. “Any particular reason why everyone on your team has a last name that starts with a ‘W’, Lieutenant?”
“General O’Neill has a quirky sense of humor, sir; we’ve been together for a couple of years and signed up for the expedition together. Colonel Mitchell didn’t see any reason to separate us.” Wilkes shifted to his knees. “If you zone am I allowed to touch you, sir? And if so, where do you prefer it?”
John took a deep breath. “Yes, and the wrist only please. Does your team know about your latent status?”
“Yeah, I told them. I have trust them to take care of me if I blow in the field. I kind of figured that really isn’t a problem because there are no unbonded Sentinels on the city but… ya know. Better safe than sorry. My ATA gene sort of flipped on last week.”
“Saw the report,” John murmured. “Okay, no signs of being fed on or any kind of weapons fire. There is some scoring down most of the wall—looks like electrical discharge of some kind. There are no loose panels in this area so I’m kind of at a loss as to what killed this guy. Surely if there was someone on board to finish whatever he was working on, they would have taken the time to take care of the body.”
“Unless they died before they had a chance to come back for him,” Ian murmured. He caught a delicate looking chain that was tangled in the bones of the man’s neck and carefully pulled it out of the chest area. A single charm hung from the chain. “That’s familiar.”
“Yeah.” John grimaced. He almost reached out to touch it but curled his hand into a fist instead. “I’ve seen some of the archive footage—Guides and Sentinels wore that symbol on their uniforms and on chains.”
“It’s the point of origin for the city,” Ian murmured. He let it fall back on the body as Woods returned. “This guy must not have been military, he’s not wearing the military uniform.”
“Which means he was probably a Guide.” John stood abruptly. “That means his Sentinel is dead on this thing somewhere.”
“Are you sure?” Woods questioned.
John turned to stare at him. “A Sentinel would never leave his Guide’s body like this—not unless he died, too.”
“Maybe…” Ian took a deep breath. “Maybe he died first. I’ve heard stories of Guides dropping dead when their Sentinels go down, sir.”
“In those pairs that achieve primal bonds, yes.”
“A primal bond is what, exactly?” Woods asked with a raised eyebrow.
“When spirit animals bond, too. Sometimes it takes years for a bonded pair to achieve that level of synergy,” John explained roughly. “Take care with the remains, Ian. He’s one of us.”
– – – –
They found the Sentinel three floors down from the Guide—with two dead Wraith drones. John surveyed the scene with a frown and clicked his radio. “McKay, do you have internal sensors up, yet?”
“Still working on it,” Rodney admitted. “You found him, then?”
“Yeah, with two dead drones. He took two in the back, either one of which would have been enough to put him down.”
“You think there is a third Wraith on the drilling platform?” Rodney surmised.
“How far was this platform from the city when everything was operational?”
“No way to know. I know that six months prior to the submersion of the city, they unhooked the platform and set it on course for a vent on the other side of the planet. It had a team of six on board for research purposes. Records show that team was evacuated three days before the Ancients abandoned this galaxy and returned to Earth. It was mothballed but its tether to the ocean floor was severed about a thousand years ago and it drifted until the currents pushed it up against the cliff where it currently is.”
“Okay.” John took a deep breath. “Refresh my memory on Wraith physiology. Could a Wraith survive pressures this deep without a ship?” He ignored the shocked gasps of the scientists on Rodney’s end of the conversation. “McKay?”
“We haven’t had a live test subject so we can’t be certain. I can’t even begin to guess, John. I don’t sense anything either. If there is a Wraith on this thing then it is hibernating.”
John frowned and moved away from the dead Wraith. “My sense of smell is saturated due to the corpses. I can’t hunt one down that way and if it’s hibernating—smell is my only real option on the senses front.”
“Understood.” McKay cleared his throat. “We’re powering up the platform now—it’s going to take about three hours to fully come online. Its power supply is full but there is no ZPM in place which sucks wide. Regardless, I think we’ll find something interesting here.”
“What do you mean?”
“The only reason I can think for the Ancients to want to use geothermal power is for something that is a true energy hog and the only thing that requires that kind of raw power is the city itself. This thing is meant to hook into the bottom of the city, John. There is a natural geothermal vent under Atlantis.”
“Then we need to get this thing cleared, secured, and back on the job,” John muttered. “Would it produce enough power for us to dial Earth?”
“At full power, this thing is the equivalent a full ZPM.” McKay paused. “So, yes, after about six months of repair and reintegration we should be able to dial Earth.”
Six months. It wasn’t ideal but it was better than nothing. John took a deep breath. “Okay, I need to you devote some of your big brain time to monitoring our situation on a psionic level. If there is a Wraith hibernating on this thing—it will wake and you’ll feel it before I do.”
– – – –
Miko’s fingers were trembling as she continued to work with the console in front of her. The rate of decay between energy harvesting and actual output was appalling but the mobile geothermal power plant could put out enough raw power to provide energy for her entire country.
The headache was worse—harsher than it had ever been and the shadow was growing exponentially. She glanced briefly at McKay and found him working intently. Did he have the shadow, too? More than ever she was beginning to regret hiding. It had been a stupid and reckless thing to do. She was in another galaxy and the fear of government slavery had made her a complete idiot. She’d be lucky if McKay didn’t have her removed from the program entirely for the breach of trust.
Her shoulders slumped and she went back to her calculations with a frown firmly in place. Was it too late to confess to him what she’d done? Would it be better in the long run if she went to Sheppard and McKay to tell them what she’d done and why? Maybe they would forgive her more easily if she owned up to her deception before it was discovered.
Rodney sat down beside her then and was silent for longer than she’d thought him capable of. “You’re very upset.”
Miko cleared her throat. “I have a headache.”
“Yes.” Rodney rubbed his hands on his pants casually. “I noticed. I’ve been noticing a lot of things about you lately—so has John.”
“No,” Rodney murmured. “Don’t lie to me, Miko. We don’t have to talk about it but I won’t tolerate you lying to me on top of everything else. It’s not like I don’t understand on an intellectual level. It’s not like I don’t feel your fear pouring out of your mind every single fucking day. You’re in my lab, fifteen feet from me eighteen hours a day. I’d like to think you consider me somewhat intelligent.”
Miko blushed furiously. “I’m not sure what to say.”
“Don’t say anything until you’re ready. Eventually, you’re going to have to explain yourself but for now…. I need to know what’s going on in that beautiful head of yours.”
“There is a shadow in my mind—it’s been there for weeks and over the last few hours it’s grown so quickly that I can barely think for it. I’ve never known anything like it,” Miko whispered.
“How does it feel?” Rodney questioned. “Can you assign any emotional characteristics to it?”
Miko took a deep breath to calm herself down and then closed her eyes briefly. “Angry. Desperate.”
“Hungry?” Rodney questioned.
“Ravenous,” Miko corrected.
“Before Peter Grodin bonded he had a similar experience,” John said from the doorway of the small control room. He glanced towards the two civilian scientists and Cord flinched.
Miko barely kept the smirk off of her face at that. It was rather sadistic how much she enjoyed Cord’s fear of Sheppard. She let her gaze drop to her hands then and took a deep breath. “I don’t know what to say. How long have you known?”
“Over a week,” John said and leaned against the console. “We can discuss the rest later in a more private setting. For now, I need some theories on why you’re sensing something that McKay isn’t.”
Dr. Malcolm Jakes cleared his throat to get their attention. “Dr. McKay said that Dr. Grodin felt something similar before he bonded and Dr. Kusanagi isn’t bonded. Perhaps the bond is enough to buffer whatever it is that Miko is feeling.”
“We are in a confined place with a great deal of psionic crystal,” Cord offered. “Between her unbonded state and the large amount of psionic conductivity in her immediate vicinity, it could be that she’s vulnerable to some shift in the psionic field. Some kind of psionic communication.”
Miko really didn’t like being discussed as if she was an experiment and it must have shown on her face because all four men started to speak at once and then closed their mouths abruptly. “If it’s some kind of communication—there is nothing specific.”
“More empathic than telepathic?”
“She’s still latent,” Rodney finally said. “Her mental landscape hasn’t expanded enough to articulate what she’s being exposed to.”
“It’s worse here, in this place than it ever has been on the city,” Miko murmured.
– – – –
Ian Wilkes was shaking his head, confusion drifting over his face before Sheppard could even finish the question. “No, sir. Nothing like that. I would have… said something.” He glanced towards Miko who was tucked into the front of the Jumper in the co-pilot seat as if she couldn’t get far enough into the craft that would take them off the power plant.
“Okay, we’re going to sweep this entire thing. Every room, closet, whatever gets cleared. If there is something on board we’ll find it.” John looked at McKay who was punching moodily at his tablet and shooting Miko concerned looks. “McKay, I’m going to need you more than she does.”
Rodney glanced between Miko who was shaking and his Sentinel. “Of course.” He set aside his computer and buckled his TAC vest. He took the P-90 John offered him and clipped it into place. “Jakes, Cord—you’ll stay here with Miko. She’s going to close the Jumper after we’re gone. You don’t open it until you get word from one of us. I don’t care what you hear and if we lose radio contact with the Jumper.” He took a deep breath and focused on Miko. “You’ll have to pilot the Jumper to the surface immediately and put out a distress call.”
Miko paled. “Right.”
“I’m sure they already know something is fucked up. Teyla has a unique connection with the psionic field and our collective anxiety is probably making her twitch. They’ll be on standby waiting for a signal or really any opportunity to come out here and check things out.”
“Right.” Miko’s hand strayed to her 9mm and for once, since she’d left the city, she really wished her team was on the mission. She curled her fingers briefly around the strap of the holster and then took a deep breath. “How long should I wait if we lose radio contact?”
“Fifteen minutes,” John said shortly. “There is nowhere in this station that I can go that I can’t get back to you in fifteen minutes if I’m physically able.”
– – – –
Putting the mostly desiccated corpses in body bags hadn’t done much to eradicate the smell as far as John was concerned. It still lingered in his nose and if he was going to be entirely honest, his mouth. Being able to taste everything he smelled was probably the worst part of his gifts and it had been his most severe stumbling block as a child. He wondered how his nephew dealt with it and called himself ten kinds of a fucking idiot for going there in the middle of a mission.
He didn’t even know what Andrew looked like. Didn’t know a damn thing about him and it gnawed at him—persistent and painful. A part of John realized that he would’ve never been able to leave Earth if he’d known about his nephew. He probably wouldn’t have been able to leave Earth if he’d allowed himself to connect with his family again in those final weeks.
Now, his father was bonded with Jack O’Neill and it got on John’s last fucking nerve to know that if he ever was able to return to Earth that his own father would be shielded against his mental touch. He didn’t doubt that O’Neill’s instincts or the strength he probably had as a Sentinel. The protection of his Guide was so integrated into John that he figured shielding McKay’s mind against intrusion was as automatic as breathing.
Sheppard shook his head. “I’m fine. Just thinking about things I shouldn’t. I’m not getting anything beyond our own team with my hearing and my sense of smell is just fucking useless. I’m practically neutralized on that front because of the body decay.”
“Not abnormal,” Rodney reminded gently. “Olfactory saturation is a problem for all Sentinels.”
It had never been much of a problem for him—unless he’d found himself in the battle field. “Right.” John took a deep breath as he listened to the radio chatter coming from McKay’s headset. “Can you turn that off? The echo is driving me batshit.”
McKay clicked off his radio and sighed. “Just keep an ear on Miko. I’m really worried.”
“I’m really pissed,” John admitted ruefully. “When we felt her last week, I thought for certain she would fess up to someone. It’s irritating that you had to confront her.”
“I know.” Rodney sighed. “But her fear so overwhelming sometimes that I can’t hold it against her. Japan is one of the countries that bowed out of the UN rather than sign the Sentinel/Guide Accord. She’d be a slave in her home country, John, if they ever find out what she is.”
“Let’s be clear.” John stopped and turned to glare at his Guide. “She’s in my pride and she’ll be no one’s fucking slave.”
Rodney lifted an eyebrow at him. “Going to declare war on her whole country?”
“If I need to,” John snapped moodily and started moving again. He flicked his hand over a door sensor and did a visual inspection of the lab that he believed to be empty. “I don’t see how the Sentinels in those countries tolerate it—being treated the way they are treated.”
“Radek walked out of his country on foot to escape and they’d probably lodge a formal protest to retrieve him if they found out he’s a Sentinel.” Rodney sighed. “It’s not an ideal situation on Earth, John, and I can’t see how it will change as long as the world at large is in the dark about the threats we face.”
“Maybe it’s time for declassification and maybe it’s time that the Sentinel/Guide Center has an international presence. If the Wraith find Earth before we can stop them… our efforts will have to be united.”
“Let Ellison handle that—you’ve got your plate full with this galaxy.”
John offered his Guide a grin. “Let’s hit the next level.”
– – – –
Miko frowned and glanced at Phillip Cord who had gone perfectly still. The man had been fidgeting for the last half hour as they’d listened to the teams call off each section as secured. The darkness pressing on her mind had gotten thick and rigid just seconds before Cord had gone still.
“You okay, Phil?” Malcolm nudged him carefully.
Cord took a ragged, painful sounding breath. “Yeah, I’m fine. I think we should open the door. The air is stale in here.”
“The Jumper is cycling the air,” Miko responded. “Are you feeling unwell?”
“It’s just stuffy that’s all. We should open the door.” Cord stood and walked towards the manual release for the Jumper’s back hatch and Miko drew her weapon without hesitating.
“No. We were ordered to leave the door shut until Colonel Sheppard returned.”
Cord stared at her, clearly startled by the weapon. Neither Cord nor Jakes went off world and therefore had never bothered to qualify to carry a weapon. “Put that down, Kusanagi, you aren’t going to shoot me.”
“Don’t think I won’t,” Miko flicked on the laser sight. “You’ve always been something of an asshole, Phillip, so shooting you wouldn’t be too much of a hardship for me. Sit back down on the bench next to Dr. Jakes and calm down. Colonel Sheppard will be returning shortly.”
“I just want some goddamned air!” Cord shouted and hit the manual release swiftly.
Over the radio in the Jumper they could all hear Sheppard shouting—telling them to close the door even as it clinked gently against the floor of the landing bay and the Wraith stepped onto the ramp. It grabbed Phillip Cord before Miko could even grasp what she was seeing and all but shoved its hand into the man’s chest—draining him in seconds.
Miko pulled the trigger. And then she fired again as Malcolm Jakes scrambled into the front of the Jumper and started searching frantically for something to use as a weapon. She kept firing until her weapon was empty and the Wraith stood there and took every single bullet in the chest.
Miko inclined her head and frowned thoughtfully. “Were I to survive this, I believe I would practice taking headshots.”
The Wraith smiled then, revealing a sharp set of truly wretched teeth. “I want to leave this place. If you take me to the ring—I will let you live.”
“Said the spider to the fly,” Miko murmured.
“Yes, fine, we’ll take you to the ring!” Malcolm promised wildly and prodded Miko towards the pilots’ seat.
“You idiot,” Miko hissed. “Don’t you know you’re her in flight meal?”
The Wraith laughed. “He does look delicious and your friend was hardly enough to fill me.” She took a step forward and then paused her eyes widening in shock.
Miko felt the flare in her mind—sharp and so breathtakingly painful that the scream that burst from her own mouth was alien to her. The female Wraith sprung forward, throwing herself at Miko and the moment they made physical contact Kusanagi stopped screaming.
“Die!” She whispered fiercely and slapped the Wraith across the face with her empty weapon. “Die! You bitch!”
They both crashed into Malcolm and the console under their combined weight but Miko kept hitting her in the head with the gun and telling her to die while Jakes had taken over the screaming part.
“Just die!” Miko shouted and then pushed at the female mentally with everything she had.
Abruptly the hands that had been tearing at her throat stilled and they all three slid to the floor of the Jumper under the dead weight of the Wraith.
“Oh, Jesus, Miko.” Jakes shoved at the Wraith until her body rolled off of them. “You… you…”
Miko collapsed back against Jakes and sighed. “I totally kicked her ass.”
Malcolm laughed a little hysterically. “Fuck.” And then he screamed a little as Sheppard entered the Jumper, skidding to a halt at the feet of the Wraith body. “Colonel! Good of you to come! Miko kicked her ass!”
“Wow.” John took a deep breath and glanced briefly at Cord’s body with a grimace. “Fuck.” He clicked his radio. “McKay, hmmm, Miko definitely needs you. She’s going into psychological shock and Jakes isn’t far behind her. Cord is dead and we’ve got what looks like a dead Wraith Queen.”
– – – –
“This is dead, I think.” Chase set aside an oblong pen-like device with a frown. “It’s like it’s telling me ‘no’ or something. I can’t explain it.”
Matt picked it up and shook it a little. “Yeah, nothing.” He dropped it in the box in front of David and turned to watch Chase pick up a ball like device. “That’s cool.”
“Ancient DVR,” Chase said with a little smirk. “You can see the recordings in your head. Unfortunately, I’ve yet to encounter a single Ancient that saved something useful or interesting on one of these things.” He handed it to Matt. “It’s like they didn’t even know what porn was.”
David laughed and reached out casually to pick up the pen-like thing that Matt and Chase had already discarded. It vibrated gently in his hand and then made a sound like a purring cat. “Whoa.”
“Let’s put that down,” Chase murmured, seriously. He slid off the stool he was sitting on and moved around the counter slowly until he was standing beside David. “Can you let go of it?”
David frowned and took a deep breath. “I think you’re going to have to take it from me.”
Chase reached out hesitantly but Matt’s hand stayed his. “We need to get it out of his hand, sir.”
“Let me.” Matt released Chase’s wrist. “There is no telling what it might do to an online Sentinel now that it’s active.” He reached out and very carefully grasped the end of the device and pulled it from David’s fisted hand.
The moment it was no longer touching David—it went dark and stopped purring.
Matt frowned. “How do you feel, Dave?”
“Fine.” David rubbed his hands on his slacks and cleared his throat. “It was just weird when I was holding it… like I needed to keep it or something.”
Dr. Lee cleared his throat. “In the database we recovered from the lab, the device is on a list of projects that were in development for educating and entertaining their children.”
“Ancient pacifier?” David questioned with a small smile.
“Similar, yes, I think so. The project notes are only half-translated because I’m not as fluent as Dr. Jackson in Ancient but it appears the researchers were developing a device to search for…” He paused and consulted his notes. “Those who are gifted.”
Matt chuckled. “I’ve always thought you were special.”
David sighed. “Fuck you.”
– – – –
“I found a downed Wraith cruiser about a thousand meters to the east of the power plant. Both it and the Queen must have been hibernating during the planetary scan because now it’s pinging all of our sensors. We need to find some way to destroy it.”
“Could I target it with a drone from a Jumper?” John questioned.
“Maybe but I’d like to move the power plant before you try it. It doesn’t have the power for a long range distress signal and it’s pretty damaged. I’m not sure what kind of explosion will result if it’s hit with a drone but I don’t want to damage the power plant.”
“Right.” John rubbed the back of his neck and leaned on the infirmary bed across from where Miko was sedated. “Did you see that Wraith Queen’s face? I think Miko must have hit her with the gun half a dozen times.”
McKay snorted. “Jennifer pulled fifteen rounds out of her chest. Miko was muttering something about practicing headshots before we got her sedated.”
“I think we should let people think that the bullets killed her,” John murmured. “Jakes is so out of it—he’s not going to be able to say one way or another.”
“Right.” McKay rubbed the back of his neck. “She’s pretty powerful.”
“Easily a six,” John murmured. “I’ve never encountered such a strong female Guide before. It’s kind of stunning how powerful she is.”
“It also helps explain how she hid from us for as long as she managed it. Her natural defenses must be really strong.” Rodney rolled his head on his neck. “Okay, we need to shower now.”
“Do you think being around all of this psionic stone made her more powerful when she came online?”
“I don’t know. Ronon said there were really strong females on his planet even if they were sheltered and treated like they were made of glass,” Rodney reminded him as they left the infirmary. “We don’t have a Sentinel for her. If she came online as a response to the threat—why didn’t any of the other Guides come online with her?”
“I can’t even begin to guess,” John admitted ruefully and then sighed as he caught sight of Stackhouse and Markham coming out of a transporter.
Stackhouse frowned at him. “You can’t play with our geek anymore, sir.”
John laughed sadly. “You should’ve told me your geek liked to pick fights with Wraith Queens.”
Markham shoved his hands into his pockets. “I didn’t feel her coming online. I should have, right?”
“I’ve only been able to pick it up for the last week,” Rodney admitted. “And I spend hours with her every day. You guys haven’t had science mission in about three weeks and I imagine she’s worked very hard to keep it to herself around us.”
“Because of her country, right?” Stackhouse questioned. “She can’t go back to Earth.”
“We’re not going to list her as a Guide,” John admitted. “I’ve already spoken to Jennifer about her medical records. We’ll get O’Neill to start citizenship papers for her first chance we get and we’ll make sure she’s a US citizen before her government realizes what she’s become. She’s part of my pride, Marcus, and I think you realize how seriously I take that.”
John watched Stackhouse relax. “Refresh your imprint on her when she wakes up, coming online has changed her body chemistry. The others will be around to do theirs as well. Miko doesn’t leave the infirmary until every Sentinel in the pride has a full sensory imprint on her.”
– – – –
John let his head rest on the shower stall wall as McKay’s soapy hands glided over his body. For the first time in hours, he had his sense of smell dialed into the normal range and he was grateful all he could smell was his Guide and the soft, almost-neutral soap they shared. “The Queen didn’t feed on Miko.”
“It didn’t even look like she tried to hook into her to feed,” John murmured. “Tyre said they never fed on him either—the entire time they were hunting him. Even when they caught him, they only taunted him and then let him go again so he could run some more. They never fed on him.”
“I don’t think they can feed on us,” Rodney murmured. “We can’t find the proof but I think they feed on psionic energy and since we use it… they can’t take it from us.”
“But mundanes have psionic energy in them that lays… untouched.”
“Yes.” Rodney turned his Sentinel with firm hands and shifted to his knees. “How do you feel?”
“Like I failed,” John admitted as he leaned against the wall. “Like Cord is dead because I failed him. Why couldn’t I fucking find her, Rodney?”
“She was old—probably the oldest Wraith we’ve ever come across and she… was very powerful mentally. I didn’t even feel her until she lost control and attacked Miko. The other Queen we felt—she was young and uncomplicated. Her mind was narrow and hungry but very immature. The one today—she was nothing like that. I can’t even say how old she must have been.”
“And that makes a difference.”
“The older they are—the more powerful they are mentally. She coaxed a mundane into opening that door. I’ve never been able to influence a mundane like and that I can’t even say what that means for the Wraith’s abilities. Teyla says they can make people hallucinate so they are easier prey. Even the young ones can do that.”
“So Cord was a sensitive?”
“Makes sense. Jakes said he didn’t feel anything during the entire thing.” McKay chuckled. “Before we sedated him he said he wanted to pick Miko some flowers for saving his life.”
John grinned. “Who knew?” He touched his Guide’s shoulder. “I think it’s my turn to wash you.”
“Agreed,” Rodney said with a little smirk and stood up.
– – – –
“She’s not awake, yet.”
Rodney nodded. “The drugs will hopefully keep her down for a few hours. Vala and I both need to rest and meditate before we start working with her on her shields.” He crossed his arms and viewed Miko’s still form with a frown. “Why is she online, Jennifer? There are no latent Sentinels left on the city. Do you think she’s compatible with one of the bonded ones? Maybe John?”
Jennifer took a deep breath and glanced around the room at the rest of the pride before centering on Miko who was so still it felt unnatural. “She is strong and could certainly have bonded with the Colonel in a different situation but then so could’ve Wallace, Teyla, and…” She trailed off. “Me. I’m probably very compatible with the Colonel on a psionic level. Alpha Sentinel Primes are hardy psionically and very attractive to a lot of Guides. It’s stunning he was unbonded when the two of you met.”
John flushed and shoved his hands into his BDUs. “I’ve never had a problem getting Guides into bed if that’s what you’re implying.” The small amount of laughter was relieving and some of the stress bled out of the room. “But I’d never felt the need or even the urge to bond until I met McKay. There had been times throughout the years where I’d felt someone brushing over my mind—trying to connect with me. We both believe it was him. After a few discussions we discovered that there were several times over the last ten years when we were literally only a few miles apart.”
“That sucks,” Tyre muttered. “I’d have gone crazy looking.”
John laughed and shrugged. “I was doing my best to suppress everything. I think if I hadn’t pushed it all down deep to hide what I was—that McKay would’ve probably found me when we were much younger.” He sobered and focused on Miko. “It doesn’t explain Miko though. Jennifer, you said the Ancient research implied that unaltered Sentinels and Guides only came online when they were on their home world around someone compatible.”
Jennifer settled into the lotus position at the end of Miko’s bed and shrugged. “It’s what they were lead to believe by the native population on Sateda. That being said, evolution is a tricky bitch. Even without the Ancient meddling, there are subtle differences in the Sentinel/Guide genome that Elizabeth and Bates carry.”
“The problem with you lot,” a voice began dryly and then Bastien appeared leaning in the doorway of the isolation room. “Is that you’re very literal.” He strolled into the room, looking as alive as any of them. “Marius sends his regards—he would have come but he’s too busy pitching a fit.” The Guide reached out and touched Miko’s face gently, his fingers glowed briefly as their skin met and he sighed. “I’m sorry I could not help her this day—her experience was a trying one.”
Rodney frowned at him. “Will you tell us how she did it? How I did it?”
Bastien inclined his head. “It has been argued for many weeks but the Alterans have agreed that they have no right to determine what information regarding the evolution of our people I’m allowed to give you. So, yes, I will tell you.”
“Right.” McKay’s gaze narrowed. “So, spill it.”
“The Wraith feed on psionic energy and Guides are the strongest force in the universe when it comes to controlling, harnessing, and wielding psionic energy. You killed that Wraith soldier by taking his psionic energy much like Miko did with the Queen.”
“Okay. All life in universe has psionic energy.”
“No.” Bastien shook his head. “Not true, Dr. McKay. Some life forms in this galaxy have no natural reserve of psionic energy so they must take it from others.”
“The Iratus bugs and the Wraith,” John murmured. “That bug couldn’t feed from me.”
“I imagine it wanted to badly. The thing is that Sentinels and Guides are rich sources of psionic energy but because we use it—it can’t be taken from us.” Bastien frowned and glanced away from them. “The psionic plane is everywhere and it is everything. It doesn’t run through the hyperplane like a thin ribbon in the wind. It’s like an ocean—a never ending ocean and the universe itself is immersed in that ocean.”
McKay’s mouth dropped open briefly but he snapped it close with an audible clicking of teeth. “What does that mean when it comes to our bonds?”
“The only limits you have with your Sentinel are the ones you set yourself,” Bastien said evenly. “There is no time, no distance, no beginning and no end when it comes to the psionic plane. The past, the present, and the future are blended together so seamlessly that the knowledge of the known universe is spread out in front of me—endless and at times incomprehensible.”
“So,” Rodney said and then paused. “You know how it will all end?”
Bastien nodded. “Yes.” He rearranged Miko’s blanket and glanced around the room—taking in the silent members of the pride and the intense attention they were gifting him with. “Such knowledge creates apathy if one is not careful. The psionic plane brims with life and passion and love. For some of us that is enough to keep us tethered to the lives we left behind.”
“I came online when I was four years old,” Rodney murmured. “John apparently came online on a few weeks after me.”
“He was needed,” Bastien offered. “As Blair Sandburg is fond of saying… nature provides.”
“But not really nature—the psionic plane provides.”
“Yes, it seeks balance whenever it can. The large amount of unbonded Guides on Earth has created an eddy in the plane but there are events in play on Earth that will fix that problem.” Bastien inclined his head. “Marius is finished venting his considerable temper on the Alterans and requires my attention.”
Rodney opened his mouth to ask another question but Bastien disappeared abruptly and he sighed. “Great.” He turned to Miko and frowned. “Just great!”
– – – –
Miko turned her head and her gaze centered on Stackhouse. The Sentinel was staring at her with an intense frown. She blushed and averted her gaze. “I don’t know how to apologize.”
“You don’t have to apologize.” Marcus smoothed her blankets carefully and cleared his throat. “The doc says you’ve got a few scratches but the Wraith didn’t feed on you.”
Miko nodded. “I kicked her ass.”
“You did,” Marcus agreed. “Jason is getting us some food. He’ll bring you a tray, too.”
She wasn’t hungry but she nodded. “I could eat.”
Marcus took a deep breath. “You’re safe here and Sheppard… will take care of the rest.”
“If he can.”
“He can. He will,” Marcus assured. “You won’t be put on an auction block and sold like cattle. I’ve seen documentaries on the things that happen to Guides in your country.” He closed his eyes. “It’s just not going to happen to you, Miko. So you don’t need to worry about it.”
Miko nodded. “Yeah, okay.”
“Yeah.” Marcus agreed. “We’ll find you a Sentinel.”
Miko took a deep breath and let her mind go just a little—reaching out and searching for the Sentinel that would fill the empty place inside her. Now that the Queen’s shadow was gone, a terrible weight had been lifted off her mind. The lights around her brightened briefly and just for a second something reached back for her and it was wonderful.
– – – –
David Sheppard woke from a dead sleep to find his son standing beside his bed. He reached out hesitantly, wondering if Andy was sleep walking. “Hey buddy.”
“Daddy.” Andy curled his fingers around his father’s, his eyes wide with shock.
David frowned. “What is it? Are you hurting? Did you have a sensory spike?” He pulled gently and Andrew scrambled onto the bed and buried his face against the side of his neck. “Looks like we need to find you a conservator, huh?”
Andy sat back on his knees and tilted his head just so. It was a gesture that David had always found interesting in his brother John and watching his own son do it was both a source of wonder and heartache. He couldn’t believe he’d let John’s argument with their father ruin his own relationship with his little brother.
“Sounds like one of the neighbors got a drum set, huh? I’ll call the manager tomorrow and complain.” The temporary apartment he’d arranged in Denver had great security and was Sentinel friendly but he missed having a house.
“Daddy.” His voice trembled with excitement as he took David’s hand and placed it over his own heart. “You can hear my heart beat.”
David’s eyes widened and he took a deep breath to steady himself. “Yeah, buddy, I sure can.”
Read the next episode: The Spirit