trekwriter151: (Lorne)
[personal profile] trekwriter151
Elizabeth Weir stood in the Ancient laboratory, after John, Rodney and Zeina had left at Sergeant Stackhouse's call. She breathed a sigh of relief at Radek's unexpected appearance, but worried about both Evan and Carson. Radek had said that Evan was injured and that Carson was taking care of him.

Hang on, Evan. We'll get you both out of there. She didn't want to think about Atlantis without the no-nonsense military officer and her CMO. Her mouth quirked upward in a grin despite herself. Who's going to keep John in line?

She shook her head and continued to look at the list on Rodney's details described vases, paintings, sculptures, musical instruments, weapons, electronic equipment and utensils. Point of origin, the artisan's name, the colors of each item, the dimensions, even if there were any flaws in the piece. Whoever had made the account had been thorough. Rodney's star map confirmed his theory of planets that the Expedition had visited before, and had encountered “malfunctioning” Ancient technology.

Could the Ancients have left those faulty items behind on purpose? Elizabeth had her suspicions, considering how much trouble the Expedition had been in, thanks to that Ancient tech. She remembered Peter Grodin had once complained that the Ancients must have taken everything of use with them to Earth and left the rejects behind. Maybe Peter had been right.

She felt an old pang, like she always did, whenever she thought about Peter. One of many victims of the Wraith. Elizabeth sighed and returned to the information. There was one important detail missing from the records. The estimated, or actual, cost of the items in question. Elizabeth found that rather odd. Wouldn't the owner want to know exactly how much her belongings were worth? Unless that was simply not important.

“These have no monetary price. It's all that's left of the people who are gone,” she murmured. Elizabeth felt another pang for so much culture, so much knowledge lost.

“You are quite perceptive for one so young. You surprise me.”

Elizabeth turned to see a dark-haired woman dressed in a white Ancient gown. The intense blue eyes reminded her of Carson's whenever he was tackling a medical mystery. Her smirk was eerily like Rodney's, the lazy stance like John's. They just stood there, gazing at each other, for a long moment.

I've seen her before. Where? Elizabeth racked her brain, but couldn't shake the nagging feeling. Instead, she said aloud, “Nadriya, I presume?”

Nadriya bowed her head slightly, but the eyes didn't lose their edge. “And you are Elizabeth Weir. You are the expedition leader. Evan said you could be trusted, that you would be willing to listen.”

Elizabeth felt a stirring of hope. “Is Major Lorne all right? And Doctors Zelenka and Beckett?”

“He is fine. Carson is watching over him, and your people are in the process of recovering them.”

Elizabeth let out a long breath of relief. “Thank you.” Then she noticed she'd called Carson and Evan by name. Nadriya's mouth stretched into a tight smile

“I know of the others who have Lantean blood, like Evan and Carson. It is obvious that the Lanteans have passed down their talents in varying degrees.”

“Yes, the Ancients did leave something good behind when they returned to Pegasus.”

Nadriya narrowed her eyes. “Tell me, Elizabeth, for one who does not possess the blood, how do you view them? The Lanteans, whom you call the Ancients? Do you believe they were infallible? To be worshiped like gods?”

She inclined her head. Nadriya had referred to her own people as “Lantean” and not “my people”. From what Elizabeth had found out about her, Nadriya carried a huge grudge against the ones who ultimately imprisoned her in her own home. Elizabeth knew she had to tread carefully, for it was obvious that Nadriya was not completely sane.

You wouldn't be, either, if you'd spent the last ten thousand or so years in a computer archive. Elizabeth's mouth twitched again. And being in a stasis pod isn't so much better, but at least my other self still possessed some of her faculties.

“They were Human, just like us. Granted, they built Atlantis, invested themselves in technology, and did wondrous things...but they could also be capricious, petty and cruel. They weren't perfect by any means.”

“Indeed. Yet they fascinate you to no end.”

“I'm an explorer. That's what brought me here in the first place. Learning about different people and cultures, extending the hand of friendship and trade, that's my calling.” Elizabeth waved a hand to encompass the lab and added, “This is different from where I come from, and so it does fascinate me.”

“Even though you know about those cruelties they imposed on others in the name of their survival?”

She nodded slowly. “My race isn't known for their complete benevolence, either. We've also things that are shameful, things that hurt other people. As I said, none of us is perfect, despite what some might believe.”

Again, Nadriya's smile held no humor. “Humility is a trait that was surely lacking among my kind. Even the ones who meant well. Like Janus.”

Elizabeth remembered the man who had built the time-traveling jumper, and who had made it possible for her to save her expedition and change history. “Yes. I knew Janus briefly.”

“I know.” For the first time, genuine mirth quirked her lips upward. “I saw your Other self, from afar.”

It didn't surprise Elizabeth. “You did?”

“Yes.” Nadriya chuckled. “My sanity was nearly gone by the time Janus and the others prepared to leave, but he knew he couldn't take me with him, so he made it possible to download my consciousness into my archive computer. I did so, while the others made the final arrangements to go to Earth. I am not surprised they did not tell your Other about me; I'm sure they had other important issues on their minds at the time.”

Elizabeth winced at the bitter tone. “I didn't know. If I'd had---well, what brought your consciousness back?”

“Evan discovered my gallery. I wanted someone who shared my love of the aesthetics on more than just an intellectual level; I needed someone who understood it on a spiritual level. Most of the others are just interested in numbers and so-called facts and just would not understand.”

She nodded again. “That makes sense; Evan is an artist. And Doctor Zelenka?”

“Radek?” Nadriya's smile became wolfish again. “He is capable of solving some of Atlantis's mysteries without the 'assistance' of the one who thinks he is superior. He discovered the exit by himself, by doing the work, and not expounding on the details while others do the work.”

Elizabeth winced again. Ouch. To the point. “You really don't like Rodney, do you?”

“From the first moment he stepped into my office and accessed my archive, his actions reminded me of some of my less-than-flexible colleagues.”

Elizabeth shook her head as she defended McKay's good nature. “We've all changed since we've gotten here. Rodney's mellowed a lot since he stepped foot in the City, Nadriya. Give him a chance; he might surprise you.”

Nadriya only shrugged. “Strange, Evan said the same thing about you, and you have pleasantly surprised me. I was expecting a woman who hid behind smoke and mirrors, who used words to manipulate others to do her bidding.”

“There are those who would use those exact words to describe what I do,” she said with an honest laugh. “Unfortunately, it's true to an extent, but I can reassure you, when it comes to issues that matter---” Elizabeth held the direct gaze, “---sometimes actions speak louder.”

The Ancient woman seemed to mull over that for a long moment, then she nodded briskly. “Very well. I will allow your people access to all the information I've gathered and stored. I ask that you do all you possibly can to keep these people alive.”

“'As long as their stories are told, they are not really dead, only slumbering, till they are awakened again.'.”

“Yes.” Nadriya's eyes became a dark stormy blue, and again, Elizabeth was struck by how much she resembled Carson. “I trust that your people will never suffer the same hubris as mine?”

Elizabeth shook her head. “That I cannot promise you, but I can promise that as long as I'm alive---and others like Evan, John, Carson and Rodney---we'll do our best to keep humble. No one's perfect, even the Ancients, Ascended or otherwise.”

For the first time, Nadriya smiled. “True. You are a treasure beyond price, Elizabeth Weir. I bid you farewell, and perhaps, we may meet again sometime.” She nodded once, then faded from sight, leaving Elizabeth alone in the laboratory.

She took a deep breath and let it out. Somehow, she knew that she'd meet Nadriya again. “Perhaps,” she said softly.

******


Carson eyed the artifacts with a skeptical look. Evan knew the doctor was skittish around most Ancient technology, but one that could transport you into another time and place, and make you experience that other location...Evan didn't blame Carson one bit. Carson nodded after Evan finished telling him about it.

“You think I could do the same thing?”

“Nadriya implied that anyone with the Ancient gene could do it, Doc. Apparently, she wanted her people to know the consequences of their actions.” Evan sighed and shook his head. “She's got a grudge against those who wronged her. Now that covers anyone with the gene.”

“If you ask me, she's gone a little daft.”

Evan snorted. “You're telling me. Anyway, she agreed to talk with Doctor Weir, while I 'convince' you of the Ancients' great folly.”

“You don't need to convince me, lad. They did great things, but they also did stupid things as well.”

“Yeah, I agree with you. Nadriya's connected with her gallery in some way; that's how she was able to know whenever I accessed any of the artifacts' information.”

Carson nodded again. “So you're sayin' that she'd know if you'd kept your word and let me see what all this is about.”

“Pretty much.”

He sighed and managed a smile. “Well, I suppose it's worth a try. All right, how do you do this?”

Evan glanced around the room at the empty pedestals. “There's an electronic strip embedded into the base of each pedestal. Pick one and touch it. You'll see an image of the artifact. Somewhere on it is a symbol that looks like an upside down “v” with a circle in the middle. Touch that, and it'll send you where you need to go.”

“All right.” Carson licked his lips nervously. “And how do I get out?”

“Once it's done, it automatically kicks you out. If you seem to be in any trouble, I'll get you out.”

“I'm holdin' you to that, lad.” Carson's eyes made a slow circuit around the room, until he saw a low marble table in the corner. “How about that one?”

The rainbow shell insert extended down the entire length of the table. Carson took a deep breath, then ran his finger on it. Almost immediately, Evan saw the flickering image of a book on the table. It was open to a page of intricate writing, held fast by a golden bookmark.

“I see it, Doc. The symbol's on the bookmark.”

“Aye.” Carson took a deep breath and said, “Here goes.” He brushed his hand on the symbol...

...and unexpectedly, Evan found himself pulled along with him.

Darkness. Nothing but darkness. Evan couldn't even see his hand in front of his face. He took a cautious step backward and bumped into someone, someone who muttered an oath in Gaelic.

“Doc?” he whispered.

“Here,” Carson replied in a low tone. “Where are we? I can't see a bloody thing.”

“ I don't know, but...hey, you smell something burning?”

“It's comin' from over there.”

The light of a candle illuminated a corner of the room, and Evan would have sworn it hadn't been there before. He could see the dim outline of Carson as the doctor moved toward the light. Evan followed, all of his senses alert for trouble. Then he realized what was going on: the looming bulk of a bookshelf hid most of the light. They were in some sort of library or archive.

Evan peered around the end of the row of books. On the other side of the shelf sat a woman dressed in white, her auburn hair pinned up in a tight bun. She scratched something on parchment paper with a quill, then dipped the quill into an inkwell near her right hand. The woman looked up, sighed, and rubbed her temple with her left hand.

Carson cursed softly as he pressed himself against the bookshelf. Evan glanced sideways at the doctor's expression of pure grief. “Doc?” he asked. “What is it?”

“I know where we are. We're on Hoff.”

“Hoff?” Evan searched his memories before he remembered why the name sounded familiar. It was before he joined the Expedition; Carson had helped with a retrovirus that would protect the Hoffans, but that 'cure' ended up killing half of the people inoculated with it. “Oh, no.”

“Aye.” Carson still had his eyes closed. “I remember they'd been almost obsessed with preserving the work of their ancestors; they stored it all in multiple archives, so if one fell to the Wraith, the information wouldn't be lost. This must be one of them.”

“And the book---?”

“One of the volumes in their archives.” He shook his head. “I should've recognized the writing.”

“What happened wasn't your fault, Doc.”

Carson opened his eyes, but the anguish in them was awful to see. “I dinna think that---”

The walls shuddered, sending some of the books flying to the ground. Evan managed to dive out of the way, grabbing Carson by the shoulder just in time as the shelf came crashing down. The woman at the desk stood up in alarm, her wide eyes focused on the ceiling as the dust rained down on her.

A man burst into the room. “They are coming! We must go now!”

She nodded and slammed the book shut, heedless of the drops of ink that splattered everywhere. “Help me carry these.”

“There's no time! Leave them!”

“If we do that, all of our work is lost. Now, help me!”

The man cursed, but picked up several small folios and stuffed them into the pocket of his jacket. She took several fountain pens from a tray and put them into a pouch at her waist. Then she clutched the huge volume she was working on to her chest and ran in Evan and Carson's direction. Screams echoed from the shadows of the archive.

She rounded the corner and collided with the two men. The impact knocked Evan flat on his face and he lay there, stunned. Carson struggled to untangle himself from the woman, who tried to push him away. Then she looked up at the doctor, her gray eyes wide with surprise and wonder.

Evan pushed himself up to a sitting position. She actually sees him, he thought. The first time, at the potter's kiln, I got hit on the head, but when I was with Nadriya, we were observers, not participants. The woman sees the Doc, but she doesn't know I'm here.

“I-I'm sorry, lass---”

“No, it was my fault,” she stammered. “The Wraith are close by, and we can't afford to lose---” She gazed up at Carson, then seemed to come to a decision. “You carry the burden of the Ancients; I can see it in your soul. You grieve for what was, now you must protect what will be.”

“What are you talkin' about?”

She pushed the heavy volume into his hands. “Take this. Read it, study it, use it. Don't allow our legacy to die. You've carried the guilt, no matter how misplaced, for long enough. This will be the means for your redemption.” She smiled at him. “Our redemption.”

“Layna! Hurry!” her companion shouted.

“I am coming!” Layna got to her feet, but hesitated for a moment. Then she bent and kissed Carson quickly on the cheek, turned and ran out of sight. Stunned, Carson could only stare after her, one hand on his cheek, the other on the book in his lap.

The sound of Wraith stunners was close. Evan scrambled to Carson's side. “You okay? We gotta get out of here!”

“Aye,” Carson rasped, as Evan pulled him to his feet. “Oh, crap---!”

Two Wraith soldiers appeared from behind the piles of fallen books. Evan pushed the doctor backward as one of the Wraith saw them and headed in their direction. Neither Evan nor Carson were armed; Evan knew he had to buy time for Carson to escape.

“Get out of here, Doc!” A cold, rational part of Evan's mind was aware of his physical body, lying on the floor of Nadriya's gallery. He knew he wouldn't survive another injury; another seizure would kill him, but he was a soldier, and it was his duty to protect civilians like Carson. Evan felt a strange, peaceful calm come over him. Whatever happened, he was ready.

Of course, he hadn't depended on how resourceful the doctor was. As the Wraith snapped his arm out, palm aimed at Carson's chest, Carson swung the heavy volume in a wide arc and caught the Wraith in the side of the head. The pure adrenalin lent extra strength to the blow, and the Wraith went flying.

Kneel before me. Evan tried to resist the command, but his knees buckled. He found himself in front of the second Wraith, unable to move as it bared its teeth, its hand mere inches from his skin. You and your friend will die this day. I believe you will be quite satisfactory.

“Go to hell,” Evan gritted through his teeth.

The Wraith laughed. “You first.”

Evan braced himself for the agony, but it never reached him. Sharp buzzing noises passed close to his ear, and suddenly, he was free. He hit the floor at an awkward angle, and pain shot through his right arm. He managed to scramble backward until he hit someone's legs.

“Get off my foot, Major! How am I supposed to get you out of here if you're flattening it into a pancake? I swear, you're as bad as Sheppard when it comes to being the hero! Carson, help me get him up; I sure as hell can't carry him!”

Evan glared up at one irate Chief of Science and fought a smirk. For some reason, it was amusing to see him so flustered; Evan remembered that day on the planet where'd they first met Ronon Dex. Since then, Evan couldn't help needling him.

McKay? About time the cavalry got here.”

“Yes, it's me, Major, and if you want to get out of this house of horrors, get up!” McKay swore again and fired his P-90 repeatedly into a Wraith that had popped up out of nowhere.

“Nice to know you care,” Evan groused as he tried to get to his feet. His arm hurt like hell; he must have broken it when he went down. McKay pulled him up and supported him on one side, while Carson did the same on the other side. Evan caught the quirky expression that Carson gave Rodney.

“Knew you'd come for us, Rodney.”

“Of course I'd come and get you! If I didn't, I'd have to go to Doctor Biro for my check-ups, and would you go to a woman who does autopsies for a living? Don't think so.”

“Milena's not that bad...”

“Would you go to her?”

Carson paused, then replied, “Aye, you might have a point there.”

Evan tried to cover his snort of laughter, but wasn't successful. He caught McKay's exasperated look, but the Canadian's eyes twinkled in humor. Maybe Rodney isn't too bad after all, Evan thought.

“Move it!” yelled John. The colonel shot an energy blast at a fourth Wraith as Sergeant Stackhouse picked up a random book and chucked it at another attacker. Stackhouse nodded at one of the shelves and John's face lit up with grim humor. The two men positioned themselves at either end of the shelf, then shoved it at a whole line of Wraith who'd just charged through the door. Books went flying as the heavy shelf fell onto the Wraith with a sickening crash.

“C'mon, Vic. Time to leave this party.”

Stackhouse nodded. “Yes, sir.” The two soldiers covered their escape. Evan felt a pang of guilt, for he should be helping them, not slowing them down.

“How'd you find us?” Evan shouted, as they retreated into the darkness.

“Zelenka,” Rodney replied tersely. “He found a way out, then discovered how to get back into the building without getting trapped again. Elizabeth chatted with that Ancient woman and convinced her that even though some of us have the gene, we aren't set on rampaging and pillaging the universe.”

Evan closed his eyes and sighed in relief. Radek had made it out, he was safe. Then Evan's eyes popped back open as another thought occurred to him. “Um, you do realize that this little trip is all in our heads, right?”

“If this is what you dream about, Major, I'm never going to go through another mind meld with you ever again.”

Carson snorted. “Rodney!”

“Nadriya allowed us to come get you, but it only works with people who have the gene,” John explained as he caught up with them, “which is how we were able to get into your heads, so to speak. She warned us the transition's pretty rough--”

“Yeah, tell me about it,” Evan muttered.

Carson's grip tightened on his arm. “Don't worry, lad. We'll get you through.”

“Too stubborn to give up,” Rodney grumbled, just loud enough for Evan to hear.

“Thanks for the vote of confidence, McKay,” Evan said, with a grin.

Stackhouse saw it first, a slice of sunlight surrounded by glowing Ancient technology. “Colonel, there's some sort of doorway ahead of us.”
“That's our way out,” John drawled. “Hold on, we're almost there. On three. One, two—-”


Evan felt a vicious tug propel him forward and spit him out the other side. There was the sensation of falling, then pain hit him. He was dimly aware of people shouting above him, something about not breathing, about needing an electric shock. He thought he heard McKay yelling at Carson, that if the Scotsman died on him, McKay was going to kick his ass so hard it was going to bounce off the Ascended Plane and end up somewhere on the edge of the universe. Then again, that wouldn't be good, because then McKay and Sheppard would have to take a Jumper to get him, and waste time better used elsewhere...

Nice to have someone who cares, Evan thought fuzzily. He managed to raise his head a little to see Sheppard kneeling at his side. The intensity in the colonel's eyes made it quite clear.

“Stay with us, Evan. That's an order.”

He managed a smile and whispered, “Yes, sir,” before he sank into a dreamless sleep.


“How long am I gonna be in here, Doc?”

Carson Beckett rolled his eyes as he noted something on Evan's chart. He replied, “Until I say so and not a moment before.”

Evan grinned and sat back in the infirmary bed. “Fine with me, Doc.” At Carson's skeptical expression, he added, “Hey, I'm not gonna try to sneak out, like a certain Colonel we both know.”

John Sheppard's squawk of protest could have been heard a mile away, even though the Colonel leaned on the wall next to Evan's bed. “Hey! I don't sneak out. I just, um...quietly leave to take care of pressing business.”

It was Carson's turn to snort in derision. “Right, Colonel.” He grinned over at Radek Zelenka, who had appeared a few feet away with his trademark stealth. “And how are you feeling today, Radek?”

The Czech chuckled and said, “I am fine, Carson. I just wanted to let Major Lorne know that I will have to cancel our chess game for tonight.”
Evan raised an eyebrow at Radek's flushed expression and couldn't help but tease him. “Got a date?”

Radek's faced reddened even more. “Not a date. Marta's laptop is not working correctly and she asked me to fix it. Very important medical data, the repair cannot wait.”

“Ah. In that case, we can play chess another time.” Evan's grin grew wider. “Whew. Saved by a malfunctioning laptop.” He exchanged looks with Carson, who only shrugged.

“Aye, well, Marta's research is pretty important, so I'm glad you're helpin' her, Radek.” He inclined his head. “Go then, son, don't keep her waitin'.”

Radek ducked his head. “Thank you, Carson. Get well soon, Major.”

“Thanks, Radek.” He watched as the Czech beat a hasty retreat past John Sheppard, who only grinned and stuck his hands in his pockets.

“I need you up and around as soon as possible, okay?” He clapped Evan on the shoulder. “Good to have you back with us.”

“Thank you, sir.” He would have saluted if his right arm hadn't been in a cast, but John seemed to understand. The colonel ambled out in Radek's wake.

“I'll be in my office if you need me, Major,” Carson said. “Try to get some rest. You've had a stressful day.”

“Thanks, Doc.” Carson walked out of view as Evan tried to settle back onto the pillows. He was almost asleep when he heard her voice.

“Evan? Do you hear me?”

He turned his head to see Nadriya sitting at his bedside. She smiled at him; it transformed her face, softened it. There was no trace of the bitterness in her eyes and her voice. “Elizabeth has agreed to allow all of your people to see, catalog, and examine the artifacts in my gallery. She has also promised to protect them, and appoint a temporary curator. I will refrain from interfering with any of Lantean blood and with the functions of Atlantis.”

She inclined her head in the direction where Carson had gone. “Your friend is a hardy sort; I believe he told me that it's a common trait among his people.” Her eyes sparkled with humor. “He has agreed to fulfill his promise to Layna, and release her knowledge to the world. He is an honorable sort, as you are.”

Evan blushed, despite his best efforts. “I'm not---”

“Oh, you are, as well as the rest of your people. The colonel, the scientist, the sergeant, they risked their lives to bring you back. Although they also have Lantean blood, it seems that there is hope for us yet.” She laughed at his nonplussed look. “Even the ones who do not have the gene, like your engineer and your leader, you all work toward a common goal of peace.”

“We try.”

“In any case, I will not be remaining long; I believe that my work here is finished.”

Evan nodded. “Where will you go? Join the others?”

“Ascend?” Nadriya wrinkled her nose in an expression of distaste. “And not be able to help those who need it? That is one rule I cannot abide by. I think my old colleagues put that rule in place so they wouldn't have to fix anything they had broken.”

He chuckled. “Rebel. Doctor Weir was right.”

“A wise woman, in many ways.” A sudden mischievous grin spread across her face. “Oh, and before I go...tell Radek that item you thought was a waste disposal unit is actually an regulator that controlled energy flow to that area of the city. He'll want to examine it a lot more closely.”

Her non sequetur confused him, until he remembered how Zelenka had complained about the items they'd found that morning before they'd stumbled over the gallery. Evan chuckled and shook his head. “I'll tell him.”

Nadriya's eyes softened. “Farewell, Evan. And every time you touch your canvas, think of me.”

And she vanished from sight, leaving him alone in the Infirmary.


A year later...

He concentrated on the spectacular view in front of him as he tried to get the colors just right. The city was gorgeous today, on his day off, and he wanted to do it justice. Radek had asked him if he was interested in playing chess with him, but Evan knew better. So Evan had left the Czech on his one-man sweep of the hapless Chess Club, and came here to this pier with his canvas and paints.

His mouth quirked upward in humor. He wondered what Nadriya would have thought of his latest painting. Evan was so absorbed in what he was doing he didn't hear Carson Beckett come up behind him until the doctor spoke.

“You paint!”

He turned and grinned at Carson. “Hey, Doc. Yeah, I paint.”

“And you’re good, too.”

Evan shrugged good-naturedly. “My mom was an art teacher. It’s what we did on weekends. Stopped for a while---didn’t really have time for it during basic training, first couple of years on duty---but I’m picking it up again. Hard not to with views like that, huh?”

Carson smiled as he looked out into the distance. “Aye.” Then he hesitated and went on, “Um, I don’t suppose there’s any chance you’d like to come fishing with me on the mainland, is there?”

Evan chuckled and shook his head as he touched up on his painting. “If you’d got to me earlier, maybe, but I kinda wanna finish this up.”

Carson frowned. “Och, it looks done to me.”

He glanced sideways at replied with a smile, “ That is why I am the painter and you a doctor.”

Carson laughed. “Very good point. Enjoy the rest of your day, Major.

Evan grinned, “You can count on it.”

After the doctor left, he gazed once more at the view and he thought he heard Nadriya chuckling too.

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trekwriter151

May 2012

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