trekwriter151: (Lorne)
[personal profile] trekwriter151
When Evan opened his eyes, he wasn't completely alone. Pottery and statues occupied the pedestals and an occasional painting adorned the walls. The ache in his head had died to a dull throb, but his throat felt dry. Evan reached for his canteen, unscrewed it, and took a small sip.

That's funny. It's only half full now. What happened? He had a faint memory of someone giving him water...but who was it? Evan frowned; the person's name was on the tip of his tongue, but he couldn't recall who it had been. Maybe it would come back to him later.

The sound of footsteps echoed in the room and brought him unsteadily to his own feet. A woman in a white, sleeveless gown ghosted past him without acknowledging his presence. She stopped at the doorway, swept her hand over the control panel to her right and walked through. Evan scrambled to follow, but the door hissed shut before he got to it.

He reached out with his left hand and touched the control panel, but nothing happened. It's probably keyed to whoever that woman is. What's her name? Nadriya. So how am I gonna get out of here?

Suddenly, the door's surface rippled and Evan felt a hard pull on his body. Before he could react, it had completely enveloped him and spit him out the other side. His reflexes kicked in and he rolled to his knees. His head spun and he had to will himself not to get sick.

“Ow,” he muttered.

He blinked in the low light to see the image of Nadriya at the other side of the room. The outline of a suit of alien armor was visible through her body, so he knew this was probably a hologram of her. Nadriya was bent over a tray of exotic jewelry, carefully noting details on a computer tablet. She straightened up and glanced over his shoulder at him.

“I believe the exhibits over there are suited to your temperament,” she said warmly. “Just be careful when you handle them.”

“Wait a minute---” A sparkle of light caught his eye and he turned his head in that direction. Along one wall was a collection of gemstones rings and necklaces in various metal settings. Nearby were faceted crystal sculptures made of exotic minerals. The lights threw rainbows on the ceiling in ablaze of color.

His jaw hit the floor. He'd gone gem hunting with his uncle's family as a teenager; emeralds in North Carolina, turquoise in New Mexico, diamonds in Arkansas. One of his uncle's friends was a master jeweler who knew how to tumble and polish the raw material and make exquisite pieces. Even those didn't hold a candle to these treasures.

“You specialize in the composition and the uses of the treasures within the earth. The stones hold great interest for you, I can see. They tell stories that most people cannot understand, but you can.”

Evan jumped at Nadriya's honeyed voice in his ear. He hadn't even heard her approach, which was a bad sign. He tried to turn his head to address her, and succeeded with difficulty. It was as if his limbs were stuck in molasses and he felt a flare of pure panic as her breath tickled the back of his neck.

“How'd you know that?” he whispered.

“How did I know you are a geologist by training?” Nadriya chuckled as he shivered. “I know many things about you, Evan. You aren't like the others.”

A drop of sweat slid down his forehead and into his hair. He didn't even bother asking how she knew his name. “How am I different from the others?”

“You protect life, not seek to destroy it. You struggle to understand, not presume superiority. You appreciate the soul, not deny it doesn't exist.” She chuckled again and Evan gritted his teeth against a wash of warmth that set his face ablaze. “And you are not ashamed of who you are.”

“What do you want with me?”

“To understand and to learn about those whom the Lanteans wished to destroy in their quest for knowledge.” Nadriya's tone was hypnotic. “And then to reveal that knowledge to the unenlightened. The Lanteans were not as benevolent as they seemed.”

“Lanteans?” Evan wasn't familiar with the term, but he guessed what it meant. “You mean the Ancients?”

Nadriya chuckled. “I suppose to your people, the Lanteans would seem ancient, yes. The word 'ancient' implies great age, which implies great wisdom. In many ways, they were hardly wise.”

Evan knew that the Ancients had not been perfect; hearing Rodney McKay's complaints about their malfunctioning technology was proof of that. They'd waltzed back to Atlantis and practically booted the Expedition out with little more than a polite, “Thank you, we'll take over from here.” They weren't exactly high on Evan's list, but the fact still was that they had built Atlantis.

The artifacts came from cultures that the Ancients had wiped out. Evan shivered again, this time with revulsion. Why?

“The answers are here. Let me show you.” She slid her palms down his arms in a seductive manner that made him blush again. He wasn't an innocent, but this blatant show of control both unnerved and angered him. He couldn't stop her, and his voice was frozen deep in his throat.

She isn't a hologram if she can touch me! Dammit, let go of me! She guided his hands to an animal statue carved out of smooth rose quartz and placed his fingers on the surface. His thumb brushed against the symbol on the top of the statue and a jolt of electricity coursed through him.

Oh, hell, here we go again...

Radek Zelenka cursed as Major Lorne's body went into convulsions. He had been unable to rouse Lorne from deep unconsciousness and panic nearly overcame him. Then running footsteps approached them and Carson Beckett fell to his knees beside Radek. The Scotsman swore oaths under his breath as he took charge.

“Careful, Radek, we have to make sure he doesn't hurt himself. Turn the major onto his side; we have to make sure his airway's clear---”

“Carson! The major struck his head and opened a cut. I cleaned and bandaged it, and he woke up briefly, but I wasn't able to keep him awake.” Radek glanced sideways at the doctor. “How did you get in here?”

“I dunno. One minute I was out on the plaza, taking cover behind a marble bench with Elizabeth and the others...the next, I was in a dimly lit room surrounded by broken shards of pottery.” Carson managed a shrug, even as he and Radek held on to Lorne. “There was a burst of light from the door to the building---”

“Yes, that's how we were sucked in too. I've spent some time trying to find a way out of here, but there isn't any.” Radek blew out a breath as he felt the shudders ease, and in moments, Lorne was still. “We need to get the major out of here.”

Carson nodded grimly. “He needs to be in the Infirmary. I don't have my medkit with me and if he's having seizures---” He broke off what he was going to say, but Radek knew what would happen if they didn't get out of here: Major Lorne would die.

A shadow fell over the walls, making Radek jump. It gathered itself into the faint image of a woman wearing an Ancient gown. Her dark hair was tied back in a severe bun, her features hard with determination. Carson sucked in a breath as the apparition hovered a foot or so off the floor, then moved deeper into the room. It stopped and turned expectantly towards them.

“Who is she?” Radek whispered.

“She's wearing the same sort of dress that Elizabeth's 10,000-year-old counterpart wore in the stasis chamber,” Carson whispered back. “She's got to be an Ancient. I think she wants us to follow her.”

“We can't leave Major Lorne, and we can't move him.”

“Aye.” He narrowed his eyes at the Ancient. “I don't know if she understands that---”

The woman raised a hand and pointed at Radek, then made a beckoning gesture. Then she turned slightly to Carson and shook her head. She turned and began floating away from them.

“She wants you to follow her, Radek. I'll stay here with Evan.”

He swallowed hard, but he knew that Carson was more qualified to help Lorne than he was. “Take care of him,” he said.

Carson clapped him on the shoulder in reassurance. “I will. Go, lad.”

Radek managed a smile, then got up and followed the ghostly woman. She paused by the far wall and lifted her hand to a control panel. He frowned, for he could have sworn this was not here when he looked for a way out of the room.

“I don't have the ATA Gene,” he spoke aloud, “but Carson does. Maybe he should---”

The woman turned to him and he could feel her glare. He swallowed again and passed his hand over the panel. The door slid open, much to his surprise. She passed through the portal, with Radek following close behind. The door slid shut behind him, cutting him off from Carson. He took a deep breath and stepped forward.

Rodney had set up several laptops in the Ancient laboratory to process the information from the laboratory's computers. He programmed others to cross-index that information with the main Atlantis database. So far, what he, Zeina El-Hamra, and Elizabeth had analyzed was just short of amazing.

His screen currently displayed a manifest from an Ancient ship. It listed artifacts that matched many of those in the laboratory archive. Vases, tapestries, jewelry, pottery...a virtual treasure trove of items from many worlds in the Pegasus galaxy.

Daniel Jackson would die if he saw all this, Rodney thought. Then he mentally sighed and added, Again. Geez, the man's come back from the dead enough times...

“I wonder what Daniel would say about all this.”

He rolled his eyes at Zeina El-Hamra . “Daniel? What, you two on first name basis?”

El-Hamra chuckled. “I worked with him at the SGC before coming here. The man is a certified linguistic genius.” She gave him a sideways look. “Of course, you are a genius of two galaxies, while he is of only one.”

“Flattery isn't going to go far with me, Hamster.” Despite his words, Rodney felt honored by the sincerity of her tone. He was horrible with names, and hers was no exception, but he'd stuck her with that nickname after an incident with Carson Beckett, a mouse retrovirus, and mutant killer rodents on PXU-398. At least, Rodney used the nickname consistently, which said something. After all, it took months before he got Zelenka's name right.

The thought of Radek sobered him. Who knew what kind of horrors the Czech was experiencing in that building? Evan Lorne and Carson were also trapped in there; how much longer before someone elsegot sucked into that Ancient equivalent of a black hole?

The laptop he was working on beeped, indicating it had found something. He scrolled down the screen and shook his head. “Oh, no. This is so not good.”

“What is it?” El-Hamra asked.

“This inventory has more than just a list of antiques. Look here---” He pointed at one set of symbols. “That look familiar to you?”

She nodded. “That looks like a Gate address.”

“And it's not just any planet.” Rodney split the screen into two, with the inventory on the left and a star map on the right. “MRF-197.”

“Wasn't that the one with the Ancient device that nearly sucked your brains out?”

Rodney huffed, exasperated. “Thank you for the reminder, Hamster. The next one's PXJ-533---”

“The random personality switcheroo thing?”

He winced. Now he knew how it felt to be within Ronon's body, with some of the Satedan's more caveman personality traits. It was not an experience he wanted to repeat. Ever. At least he'd been spared being stuck in Teyla's body, unlike Sheppard. The colonel still refused to talk about the ordeal.


“The fire suppression system that nearly drowned Lorne's team and half a city with them?”

Rodney huffed again. “That's the point. On every planet on this list, there was an Ancient device that didn't work the way it was supposed to, and half of those things nearly killed an important member of the”

“You mean they left a booby trap for anyone who came after them. That way, no one could scrutinize their actions too closely.”

“Precisely.” Rodney snapped his fingers. “The question becomes, what were they hiding?”

Elizabeth's voice came from the doorway. “I might have a piece to that puzzle, Rodney. “I looked up the name 'Nadriya' in Atlantis's database. Turns out she wasn't exactly Public Enemy Number One to the Ancients, but she was close enough to it.”

“Really? The Ancients hated her?” Rodney frowned as Elizabeth came over and pulled up her research on El-Hamra's screen.

“She was a pretty big thorn in their side,” John Sheppard said. Rodney jumped; he hadn't even heard Sheppard enter the room after Elizabeth. “Didn't exactly agree with their rules. Sounded like she was somewhat of a rebel.”

Rodney's mouth twitched upward. “Ah, something you're quite familiar with, Colonel?”

“Let's just say she was very spirited, Rodney.”

Elizabeth cleared her throat, then read aloud, “She was a vocal critic of the Council during the war with theWraith. The Ancients had sought allies in their fight, but only succeeding in alienating many of those potential allies. Skirmishes broke out, resulting in the destruction of countless civilizations. Nadriya and her followers wanted to preserve the remnants of those dying cultures, against the Council's wishes.”

“Heartless,” El-Hamra said.

“Look at it from their perspective, Zeina. The Ancients devoted all their resources to their war with the Wraith. They didn't have the manpower to spare. They were already losing by the time Nadriya entered the scene.” Elizabeth shook her head. “It didn't stop her from trying. She got caught in a Wraith attack on PXV-784---”

John narrowed his eyes. “That's the pheromone booby-trap planet, isn't it?”

“Thanks for the reminder,” Rodney shot back, his face red from embarrassment. “As I recall, everyone was affected by the pheromones, including you.”

“I wasn't the one who decided skinny-dipping in the hot springs was a good idea---”

Elizabeth fought to keep a straight face. “Nadriya's group was either killed or culled in the attack. She was the only survivor. The Ancients found her and brought her back, but she'd been severely injured. Her mental state was fragile, and the Ancients provided her with the best of care. They allowed her to live in the rooms above her studio, permanently.”

“They kept her a prisoner in her own dwelling,” El-Hamra read. “I still say they are heartless.”

John shook his head. “But what does all this have to do with Lorne, Zelenka and Beckett?”

'No, not you. You are like the others. You take and take and take, and never give. One day, you will reap the seeds of your arrogance.' I think she was referring to the Ancients, but she also directed it to us.” Elizabeth's voice was quiet. “Think about it. What do Evan, Radek and Carson have in common?”

John frowned. “Carson's a doctor. Zelenka's an engineer. Lorne's a soldier. Not much in common there.”

“All three give of themselves selflessly, John. Yes, Carson's a doctor, but he does it because he wants to. Radek does it when he helps you when Atlantis is in a crisis, Rodney. The same with Evan; he's your executive officer, and how many times has he saved your skin when you're in trouble off-world?” Elizabeth raised a quizzical eyebrow at both men. “And they're so quiet about it, we hardly notice it.”

Rodney flushed and studied the screen in front of him, while John shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot. She was right, of course she was right, but neither man dealt with emotional issues well. El Hamra said nothing, for she felt this was an awkward moment among the senior staff.

“All right...maybe you have a point, but it still doesn't answer why Nadiya took them.” Rodney tapped keys on his laptop as he spoke, “or how we'll get them back.”

“We have to contact Nadriya again and get her to release them.” Elizabeth said in a resolute tone. “We have to find out what is it she wants and how we can settle this.”

“How are you planning to get this woman to talk to us again? Every time she shows up, all she does is complain about how selfish and arrogant we are.”

“Rodney's got a point. What if she won't talk with us?”

Elizabeth pressed her lips together and glanced at El Hamra. “She'll talk to us. It's obvious she wants something, but if we don't know what it is, we can't do anything. I have an idea that might work.”

Language notes: Czech (Zelenka and Marta Cezivic): Ježiši, neuvertielny, [Jesus, unbelievable.] Zatracený dvere! Damn *** door!, Ty vole! [Damn it! or something mildly stronger than that], Radek, co je vàm? Nehybejte se! [Radek, what's wrong? Don't move!/Stay still!]Ne, màm se dobře![ No, I'm all right/I'm okay], My to máme. [We have it.]

Evan could only watch in horror as scene after scene played in front of his eyes. He stood at the top of a hill, overlooking the entrance to a mine located deep in the mountains of some long-forgotten planet. Its natives were forced to dig, sift and carry loads of mineral ore to the processing plants in the nearby valley. Evan glanced sideways at Nadriya, who glared at the people below.

“This is what the Lanteans wanted from them,” she told him. She held a sparkling gray-green powder in her cupped hands. “This is lyktorium. When it is mixed with other metals, it becomes impenetrable by laser beams and explosive devices. As a soldier, you can appreciate the advantages of controlling the production of such a substance.”

Evan nodded in agreement. “Yeah, I can. So, they enslaved these people to get the lyktorium?”

“Desperate times call for desperate measures,” Nadriya said, though her bitter tone made it clear she was only quoting. “In times of war, we find ourselves doing horrible things. We only convince ourselves that it is justified.” She laughed shortly. “The natives used it to construct their dwellings and temples and to make their holy relics. They depended on the lyktorium so much; they couldn't live without it.”

“So the Ancients found them easy pickings.”

Her brow furrowed at the strange expression, but she understood the meaning. “Yes. Too easy. When they retreated and made the decision to flee through the Stargate, they destroyed everything so the Wraith could not use the lyktorium or the knowledge of how to process and refine it.”

Evan swallowed hard as he watched a young boy, maybe only six or seven years old, struggle with an overflowing basket of powder. The boy's father put out a steadying hand and helped his son on the path to the processing plant. He shook his head. “Makes strategic sense, but...”

Nadriya's eyes glittered as she put a hand on his arm. Again, Evan shivered at her touch. A poisonous warmth flooded his body and he found himself paralyzed to the spot. “Let me take you away from here, Evan. Let me show you things as they should be.”

She took him on a whirlwind tour of images and sounds. They attended a coming of age party on PXC-155, with the guest of honor singing her own songs that she'd created herself. A visit to a glass factory on MJX-760 came next. Evan watched as the master glass blower fashioned sculptures, mugs and intricate pieces. He recognized them from the pedestals in Nadriya's gallery.

A painter on PXM-334, who used light as his medium instead of acrylics or watercolor. A seamstress on MXR-452, whose silk creations caught the rays of an alien sun and sparkled like diamonds. Artists and artisans from long ago, who no longer were alive, but still present through the artifacts in Nadriya's gallery.

All of them had been wiped out, their cultures obliterated by either the Wraith or the Ancients.

“Why are you showing me this?” Evan whispered. “Why me?”

“You and I are kindred spirits, Evan, despite the unfortunate defect that nature bestowed on you.”

He turned to her with a scowl. “What defect? What are you talking about?” Insight dawned on him and everything fell into place. “The ATA Gene. You're calling it a defect?”

She chuckled, but it sounded harsh to his ears. “You are one of them, Evan. One of the Lanteans' children who returned to the City, but you are not like them. There are others like us who do not deify what the Lanteans did here in this Galaxy. You do not follow blindly in awe, or believe in their great omnipotence.” Nadriya's eyes shimmered with hate as she gazed at him. “Together, we will exact our revenge for all the crimes they have made against the natives of this Galaxy.”

He took a step back. “Nadriya, the Lanteans as you knew them are gone. They---”

“Not all of them. As long as the defective gene exists, they will always exist. Some of your people possess it, so we will start with them.”

“Killing them all won't bring back the dead.” Evan took another step back as she advanced toward him.”As long as you keep the memories of those lost people alive, they will never die. Don't you thumbed your nose at the Ancients by preserving their artwork, preserving their culture. In the end, you've won.”

Nadriya froze and tilted her head as if listening to something Evan couldn't hear. He thought he heard something on the wind, faint but noticeable. A voice. No, voices. Plural.

Damn it all, lad, don't die on me! You hang on, Major!”

Nadriya, if you're here, I would like to talk with you. I'm unarmed and alone. You have nothing to fear from me.”

Evan felt a surge of hope. The first voice sounded like Carson Beckett; there was no mistaking that heavy Glaswegian brogue. The second was the cool and collected tone of Elizabeth Weir. “That's Doctor Weir, the leader of our expedition, Nadriya. She will listen to you and what you have to say. At least, give her a chance.” Evan paused and added, “Doctor Weir doesn't have the ATA Gene. She isn't one of Them.” He deliberately capitalized the word to make his point.

Nadriya flashed him a look of disbelief. “She is one of those who think the Lanteans do no wrong.”

Despite the situation, Evan laughed and shook his head. “I don't think so. I can't count the number of times Doctor Weir has to deal with situations when someone's stumbled over some Ancient technology that doesn't quite work the way it's supposed to. She's aware that the Ancients aren't perfect and I can tell you she doesn't worship them.”

“She tries to learn the language---”

“To understand Them better. She likes meeting different people and learn about different cultures. That's her job. Like I said, give her a chance. You might be pleasantly surprised.”

Nadriya still didn't look convinced, but she nodded. “Very well. I will talk with your Doctor Weir. I will give her a chance, as you phrase it.” She reached over and put her fingers on his temples. “Your physician---Carson, isn't it---is another one who has outgrown the petty narrow-mindedness. Tell him what you have experienced, what you have seen. Let him assist you in not letting our hopes die.”

Evan nodded back. “I will.”

“Then we will see each other again soon.” Her voice echoed as if she was far away, and Evan felt as if he was falling down a dark well...

...and with a start, he found himself lying on the floor of a circular room, with Carson hovering over him. He blinked, disoriented for a moment, then it all came back to him. He tried to sit up, but Carson pushed him back down.

“Thank God, Major. I nearly lost you again.”

Again? What do you mean, 'again'?” The pain in his head, while still there, was a lot more tolerable. “What happened? Where's Doctor Zelenka? How'd you get in here?”

Carson sighed and told him all that had happened since he'd become unconscious. Bits and pieces returned to him: investigating the plaza, the beam that had swept him and Zelenka into the building, the injury that had knocked him out. Evan's eyes widened as Carson told him about the Ancient who had taken Zelenka out of the room, presumably to find a way out.

How can Nadriya be in two places at once? How could she have been with me and Zelenka at the same time? Is that one of Nadriya's abilities, as a hologrpahic projection? Or is there something else she isn't telling me?

He set his musings aside and asked, “How long has it been since Zelenka's been gone?”

“It's hard to tell time in here, but I'd say at least half an hour.” Carson felt the bandage at the back of Evan's head; he didn't even flinch. “For a man who's had a severe concussion, you don't seem to be doing too badly.”

“I remember I was feeling pretty lousy.” His eyes widened again. “I had a seizure, didn't I?”

Carson looked unhappy, but he nodded. “Two, actually. The second time, you almost died.”

Nadriya must've repaired whatever was causing those seizures. She may be a little obsessed---okay, a lot obsessed and not thinking straight---but she did try to help me. Evan sighed and rubbed his temples; he could still feel her touch. “Doc, I'm gonna need your help with something. I know it's gonna sound fantastic, but---”

Carson's mouth quirked up into a dry smile. “Son, this whole experience is quite unbelievable to most people, but I've learned to expand my horizons in my old age.”

“Uh...I'm not gonna comment on your age, Doc. You've got the needles.” Evan's smile faded as he remembered how serious their situation was. “Like I said, I'm gonna need your help with this...”

If there was one thing Radek Zelenka hated, it was not knowing what he was walking into. He swore under his breath as he trudged behind the glowing Ancient, and avoiding the various pedestals and tables in the process. As he went through room after room, the whole place reminded him of Prague's grand museums, except here, all the exhibits were missing.

“How much farther?” he asked.

The apparition turned and shook its head. It lifted a hand to a heavily locked door. Radek noticed a series of panels inset into the door frame; they looked similar to the ones that housed control crystals. Immediately, he examined the panels, talking aloud to himself as he did.

“Ježiši, neuvertielny,” Radek muttered to himself as he surveyed the tangled wires and relays that sprouted from the panels like overgrown weeds. As he tried to move a bundle of wires aside to get at a crystal, the panel sparked and made him jump backward. “Zatracený dvere!”
Far behind him, Major Lorne was dying, and his life depended on whether or not Radek could find a way to open this damn door. He shook the uncomfortable tingle out of his fingers, crouched down and went back to work. It reminded him of a series of Christmas lights; if one connection didn't work, nothing worked. If he had his equipment, he could zero in on the non-functional circuit. As it was, he was forced to do it the old-fashioned way.

He paused several times to wipe the sweat off his forehead, but didn't stop. He focused on the task at hand and not on the memory of Lorne's body arching in a seizure. At least Carson was there to help him.

Radek didn't know how much time had passed, but finally, he found the faulty connection. He swapped the burned-out crystal for a whole one that he'd found in a nearby console. The doorframe lit up as power hummed from it. Radek shouted with joy, but it died when he realized that power was gathering for something really, really big...

Ty vole!” He barely had time to brace himself and think, Why do these things always happen to me, when the door expanded around him, pulled him through, and dumped him on the other side. He lay there, unmoving for a moment, as he tried to catch his breath.

The warmth of sun on his face. A cool breeze off the ocean. His eyes widened in disbelief. He was outside. He'd escaped the building. He could get help. The knowledge spurred him to action. Radek unsteadily got to his feet and staggered across the plaza.

He ran headlong into Doctor Marta Cezivic. She caught him before he tumbled to his knees. “Radek, co je vàm? You look terrible...Nehybejte se!”

Ne, màm se dobře!” He tried to shake off her grip, despite the fact she'd helped him to a sitting position on the ground and was trying to keep him still. “I am fine---”

“Doctor Zelenka!” Radek recognized the burly form of Sergeant Stackhouse. . “Are you all right? Where are Major Lorne and Doctor Beckett? Whoa, careful now---”

Radek was close to a panic. “ time, Sergeant. The major, he's seriously hurt. Hit his head, went into a seizure---” Stackhouse's features darkened at that last detail. “Carson's gotten him stabilized, but for how long, I don't know...I need to talk to Elizabeth, now!”

Stackhouse nodded and began speaking into his radio mike. “Colonel Sheppard, Doctor Zelenka's here...dunno, he just appeared out of nowhere, sir...said that Lorne's severely injured and Beckett's with him...hold on, lemme ask him.” The sergeant put his hands on Radek's shoulders and looked him in the eye. “How'd you get out, Doc? Can we get to Lorne and Beckett through the same way?”

Dvere, through a door, just like how we got in.” He shook his head. “There, on the side facing the plaza, and not the front door. Had to fix the circuitry, it took a while, but I got it to work.”

One of Stackhouse's men approached them in time to hear Radek's explanation. “Are you sure, Doctor Zelenka? There's no door on that side of the building. I just checked.”

“Yes, I'm sure, Corporal!” Radek used his hands to demonstrate. “The door just expanded, swallowed me up and spit me out into the plaza, just like the first time.”

“Can you show us where the door is? Maybe it's just hidden from us, so we can't find it.” Stackhouse tapped his mike. “Yes, sir. So, Doctor El-Hamra's already on her way here and you're leaving the lab now? We'll hold position till you and Doctor McKay arrive. Stackhouse, out.”

“Is not far. Over here.” Radek led them around the corner, then stopped so abruptly that Stackhouse ran into him and nearly knocked him over. “Do prdele! It's gone!”

The corporal shrugged and said, “I told you, Doc. It isn't there anymore.”

“Wait!” a feminine voice interrupted them. Zeina El-Hamra came up to them, out of breath; she'd been running. She pointed at the ornate design on the wall. “There's an inscription here. It translates roughly to 'Come in'.”

“Come in through where? Do we just clap our hands and say 'abracadabra'?”

El-Hamra shook her head, not bothered by Radek's sarcasm. “There is a control, hidden somewhere on this wall...unfortunately, it doesn't say where---”

Radek narrowed his eyes at the deceptively smooth wall. He tried to visualize a door somewhere within it, tried to remember how the Ancient (if it had been an Ancient) had directed him to it. The network of twisted wires and crystals inset in the doorframe, the outburst of power as it literally threw him outside. There had been one circuit that prevented the door from operating properly.

“The designs on the wall is part of inscriptions, yes?” At El-Hamra's nod, he reached forward and touched the ridged indentations set in the stone. “Perhaps the control circuits are also embedded within, so that the entrance is more difficult to find.”

She slapped a palm gently on her forehead. “Of course! Why didn't I think of that?”

“I just thought of it myself, Zeina, don't feel bad. Sergeant, will you inform Doctor McKay of this possibility? He will want to know.”

Stackhouse nodded. “Of course, Doctor Zelenka.” He went off to do just that as Radek continued to slide his hands along the ornamentation etched into the wall. El-Hamra did the same, from the opposite direction, and together, they searched for the control panel that would activate the door.

Finally, there was a large, warm spot under his palms that rapidly expanded to include his section of the wall. Radek braced himself for yet another violent entrance, but the wall only glowed under his fingertips. It formed a door wide enough for them to enter single-file.

My to máme. We found it!” For the first time since this whole crisis began, Radek broke out into a wide grin.

Stackhouse efficiently took over the rescue mission. “Doctor Cezivic, get your medical team together. Let's get Lorne and Beckett out of there.”

There was a chorus of “Yes, sir”s as everyone scrambled. The sound of running footsteps interrupted the jubilant celebration, and Colonel Sheppard and Rodney McKay came flying around the corner.

“What the---”Rodney said, his jaw dropping. “You found a way in?”

“Doctor Zelenka did,” Stackhouse confirmed.

“Good job, Radek,” Sheppard told him as he clapped the smaller man on the shoulder.

McKay glanced at Radek and nodded to himself. Radek saw the relief in the scientist's eyes, although McKay wouldn't say it aloud. That's all right. I know him better. He does not have to say it. Instead, Rodney said, “I hope you'll explain just how you managed to do that.”

“Later, Rodney, I promise.” At Sheppard's nod, Radek motioned the medteam and the Marine escort forward. “This way.”


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