Prompt I trust you, and that makes you true; I don't care if it isn't the way it is (The Tragically Hip, 'In View')
Word Count: 14,533 (ish) - split into 5 chapters
Rating: PG13 (to be safe)
Summary: It all begins with a stranger, destined to become a friend...
Notes: This is an AU where Rodney McKay is a Pegasus born native with a slightly altered name. This story starts at the end of 'Poisoning of the Well' (an episode that can handle the lack of Rodney and still have the same outcome). I have borrowed or altered some sentences from 'The Storm', 'The Eye' and 'The Gift' (from transcripts found on GateWorld). This story is written with the understanding that the reader has seen all four episodes. This is not a literal interpretation of the prompt, but hopefully still fits it, albeit loosely. Title comes from this quote by T S Eliot, "Those who trust us educate us".
Beta Thanks to jayne_perry for the beta.
Chapter 1 – Mysterious Happenings
Carson was packing away the medical equipment he had brought to Hoff, his heart sore from the loss of Perna, and from all those who had or would die from the serum he had helped create. And although Sheppard had told him he was not to blame, that the Hoffans were the ones to blame, for not listening to him, to them, deep down he couldn't let go of his part in this.
Hearing footsteps, he looked up, expecting to see Teyla and Ford, who Sheppard was sending to help carry his equipment back to the gate and Atlantis, but instead a stranger stood before him. A tall, blond haired man aged in his early twenties.
"Aye, and what do you want?" he asked wearily, presuming the stranger to be yet another Hoffan come to congratulate him on his work. He'd had enough of those this last hour to last him a lifetime, and more.
The man wandered over to a book on one of the lab benches, idly paging through it and avoiding eye contact, before replying in a scathing tone of voice. "The Hoffans are idiots, willing to kill half their population in the hopes of keeping the Wraith away, and yet this serum will draw the Wraith here! They will destroy this world for daring to make such a weapon against them. The Hoffans are signing their own death warrant and don't care to hear it."
"A serum I helped to make," Carson said sourly.
"You hoped to protect humans from their feeding."
"But instead I've killed this world."
"Yes, well, medical science is not a true science. It's full of inconsistencies. The serum is just an example of that; some live, some die. In real science, if you mix the same amount of two chemicals together the result is always the same, if you push the same object on the same surface with the same amount of force, it always travels the same distance. The outcome is always the same, not like in medicine. Still, you are a scientist of sorts, for all that, and you're not the only scientist that's ever made an error of judgement that's led to death and destruction. At least your error was to not realise how fanatical the Hoffans are. At least your intentions were honourable, not like..." the man's bitter voice trailed off. "Well, that doesn't matter. You're not to blame for their decisions."
"Who are you?" Carson demanded, annoyed by the stranger's attitude.
"Does it matter? You're not about to listen to me, any more than those idiots have ever done. I'll leave you to your packing. And to your guilt." The man left abruptly, and Carson watched him go, frowning. Was that rant supposed to somehow make him feel less guilty? Because it didn't.
Teyla was on her way to the medical lab to meet up with Lieutenant Ford and Dr Beckett when she heard Dr Beckett's voice call her into a side room.
"Dr Beckett?" she said in surprise. "I thought you were in the lab?"
"Aye, but I needed to get something from here first," he answered her, approaching closely before grabbing her unexpectedly and injecting her in one swift move. As darkness came over her she heard the doctor mutter, "I'm sorry, but this is necessary. You'll be fine."
"I am sorry that I am late," Teyla said, entering the lab a few minutes after Ford had arrived.
"That's alright, lass," Carson said, lifting the last of the boxes. "There's not that much to carry really, Ford and I can manage."
"Even so, I am sorry for my tardiness."
"Hey, like the doc says, no problem," Ford said, holding two boxes in his hands. "You're here now."
"That I am. Do you need me to carry anything?"
"Nah, we can manage. Besides, it makes sense for one of us to have their hands free, just in case things turn nasty."
"You think it will?" Carson asked anxiously.
"I hope not, but it always pays to be ready."
"Aye, I guess so. Well, we'd better get moving. Major Sheppard will be waiting for us in the exit chamber..."
"Then we should not keep him waiting," Teyla suggested politely.
Chancellor Druhin had delivered the verdict of the vote to them in the exit chamber, where the gate was situated. Despite further warnings against giving the serum to all of their people, the Chancellor was resolute and unmoving.
Sickened by the events, as much for Beckett as for the people of Hoff, John had told Druhin that they would not be back and not to expect further help from them.
Returning to Atlantis was a relief, even though he dreaded the debrief with Elizabeth. He'd been the one to push this research, more than once, and now... He sighed.
Still, that would have to wait until after the post-mission check-up and, hopefully, also after he'd had chance to grab something to eat. He was starving.
Teyla seemed rather subdued on their way to the infirmary, but he'd put it down to sorrow at how things had turned out. It wasn't until he'd had his check-up that he realised she wasn't in the infirmary. That was unusual, if anyone tried to avoid post-mission check-ups it was Zelenka, one of the scientists who occasionally came offworld with them. Or himself, if he had other, more important things he needed to do.
When his attempts to contact her via the comm failed, he started to get concerned. Checking with the medical staff he confirmed that she hadn't arrived for her check-up, and decided to try and find her. Perhaps recent events had affected her more than he had realised.
An hour later and he was truly worried. No one had seen her since she'd left the gate room, and she wasn't answering her comm. Having reported his concerns to Elizabeth via his radio, he headed to the control room in the hopes that they could locate her with the internal sensors.
"Still no answer?" he asked, coming up to Grodin and Elizabeth.
"No, John. Peter says there's no one outside of the inhabited areas, so we're going to have to ask people to stay where they are and contact us with their locations. Hopefully we'll be able to find her."
"I hope so, this isn't like her."
"No, it's not..." Elizabeth was interrupted by the gate activating.
"Unscheduled activation," Peter said automatically. "I'm receiving an IDC... It's Teyla's," he said in surprise.
"But she came back," Elizabeth said, brows furrowed in confusion. "Did she give her IDC to someone?"
"She wouldn't have done that," John said with certainty.
"Atlantis, this is Teyla. I have not received a response to my IDC. Is there a problem?"
"She didn't go offworld again?"
"No, John, the gate hasn't been used since your team returned."
"Should we answer her?" Peter asked.
Elizabeth looked to John, and then nodded.
"Teyla, this is Sheppard. We need to confirm your identity."
"Well, you came back with us from Hoff so..."
"I am still on Hoff. Dr Beckett drugged me."
"What? Why would he do that?"
"I do not know. Chancellor Druhin was surprised to see me as well, perhaps now I know why. I do not know who returned with you to Atlantis, but it was not me."
"Okay, well, if you're Teyla then tell me what you said to me on Ne'dir when no one was listening?" John asked.
"That there were times when the Ne'dirans could be extremely tedious," Teyla replied swiftly. "You agreed, stating they were more tedious than a group of anthropologists enthusing over their latest discoveries."
"Yep, I did," he said with a small sigh. He had a feeling he would be receiving a lecture from Elizabeth about respecting other people and their interests after this was all over. Turning to her now, he ignored the raised eyebrow pointed in his direction. "There's no reason either of us would have mentioned this conversation to anyone else. It's Teyla."
"Are you certain?" Elizabeth asked.
"As certain as I can be."
"Okay. Let her through," Elizabeth told Peter, who disengaged the shield and sent the message to Teyla's GDO to say that it was clear to come through.
John went down the steps to meet Teyla as she exited the gate.
"Hi. Look, we need to be absolutely certain that you are, you know, you."
"I understand, Major. If I was in your place I would do the same."
"Okay, well, we'll go to the infirmary, get a scan done, take some blood, that sort of thing."
Teyla nodded, removing her tac vest and weapons and allowing herself to be guided to the infirmary by John, along with Stackhouse and Markham, who he'd indicated should accompany them.
Carson approached them worriedly as they entered the infirmary, clearly having been forewarned of their arrival by Elizabeth. "Teyla, lass, I didn't drug you. I was in the medical lab until you came in, or at least who we thought was you came in, that is, if you're you," he said, looking confused as he came to a stop and sighing.
"I believe there is more to this than we know," Teyla said simply, sitting on one of the beds as a nurse took a blood sample.
"Aye, that there is. Let's run the scanner over you, then."
During the scan, they were joined by Ford and Zelenka.
"Sir," Ford said, "Is this Teyla?"
"I reckon so, the scan will hopefully confirm it," Sheppard replied.
"But how could someone fool us into thinking they were Teyla?"
"Perhaps they are not human," Zelenka suggested. "Or perhaps they have a cloaking device, such as the SGC has encountered, one that projects an image."
"I haven't read that report yet," Sheppard admitted, and Zelenka went into a short summary of the situation regarding aliens, cloaking devices and foothold situations, before being interrupted a few minutes later by Carson.
"Well, having compared this scan with a previous one taken a few weeks ago, this is Teyla. The blood tests are a precaution, but I'm sure they'll confirm it too."
"Well, that's good," Sheppard said, relieved that Teyla was back with them. "But that means we have an intruder on Atlantis. One who it would seem has the ability to look and sound like other people."
"Ach, how are we supposed to we find someone like that?" Carson asked.
"If it is a device, perhaps I can configure the internal sensors to detect it," Zelenka suggested, pushing his glasses up his nose nervously.
"Who are you?" Teyla asked suddenly, her eyes on one of the nurses in the room.
"That's Marie. You know her," Carson replied, casting anxious eyes to Sheppard and using a calming tone.
"No. One moment I saw Marie and then the image faded. Now, I see a man."
Sheppard pulled his gun, not pointing it directly at Marie as yet, but making sure it was ready in case it was needed. He noted that Ford, along with Stackhouse and Markham, had followed suit.
"I don't know what you're seeing," Marie said, licking her lips nervously. "I'm me. You can see that, can't you?" she asked Carson.
"Aye, I know what you look like, but that doesn't mean anything." Carson opened his comm. "Nurse Holden, could you tell me your whereabouts please?"
A moment later, Marie answered her comm, telling him that she was in the mess hall and asking if he needed her in the infirmary. "Hang on a moment, lass, and I'll let youknow." He turned to Sheppard. "She's in the mess hall, or at least someone claiming to be her is."
Sheppard's eyes narrowed dangerously, bringing his gun up to cover the nurse-possible-intruder before him.
"Yesterday, Marie and I were talking about the pet she left back on Earth," Carson said, turning his attention to the possible interloper while reopening his comm. "Long story, but could you remind me the name of your dog, Marie?"
The eyes of the person in front of him widened in panic, as Marie answered the question over the comm in surprise. "Yes, his name was Frisbee."
"Thank you, lass, I'll explain everything later." He looked at Sheppard. "That's not Marie, she's in the mess hall."
"Okay, I think you need to come with us," Sheppard said to the... boy of about ten looking at them with big frightened eyes.
"Don't hurt me," the boy said piteously.
"Do not be fooled, Major, he is not a boy but a man, in his mid to late thirties," Teyla warned.
"You can still see him?"
"No, I see a boy now, but I saw a man earlier and believe that was the true person."
The boy's eyes clouded with anger, before widening in realisation. "You can sense the Wraith, can't you? You're one of those Gifted ones, with Wraith genes spliced into them."
Teyla looked shocked and then angered by his words. "I am not Wraith," she stated hotly.
"You think you're not, but my people found a lab where a Wraith was conducting experiments to make humans more 'tasty'," the boy/man grimaced over that word. "The other Wraith stopped him, but some of his experiments lived. They were left with the ability to sense Wraith, and my people believe they can also tap into the Wraith telepathic network too, that's why the other Wraith didn't like what he was doing."
"Is it possible?" Sheppard asked Carson.
"I suppose it is, but the DNA must be a small fragment or else I'd have picked up on it by now," Carson replied thoughtfully.
"I... do not wish to believe it," Teyla said, looking grief-stricken at the thought of it.
"It's like the Ancestral gene that a few of my people have, small and seemingly insignificant, but there."
"Look, whoever you are..."
"He looks like the man I saw earlier again," Teyla said suddenly.
"Seems he can only fool you for a short while then," Sheppard said. "Which is good."
"It's because she has the Gift," the intruder muttered sourly. "The Wraith see through my... ability, within seconds."
"I'd like to know more about your ability," Carson said eagerly. "Is it hereditary? How does it work? Do you change shape or project an image?"
"Do you have technology or is it natural?" Zelenka added.
"I don't change shape, that's impossible," the boy/man answered scathingly.
"Then it is an image you project?" Zelenka said, fascinated.
"Yes. And yes, it's natural, no technology, and no I'm not telling you any more than that." The boy/man crossed his arms and glared at them.
"Why did you come here? What do you want?" Sheppard asked suspiciously.
"The Hoffans were about to commit mass suicide and I decided it was time to move on. Seeing as they guard the gate I had to disguise myself. They don't just let anyone come and go, unfortunately. Besides, you live in Atlantis! The technology here, the knowledge..." The boy/man's eyes shined with avarice. "I'm a scientist and this place... My people can only dream of living in a city like this."
"And are your people waiting for you to contact them?" Sheppard asked, his voice dangerous.
"What? No! I haven't had anything to do with them for years!"
"You know, we only have your word for that," Sheppard pointed out, "And I'm not sure I'm inclined to believe someone who drugged a friend of mine to gain entry to our home."
"I had no choice! I couldn't stay on Hoff and I couldn't pass up the opportunity to come here. It's not like anyone got hurt. Your friend even managed to get back here, unharmed. I just, I hadn't realised how few people there would be here, and I certainly didn't realise she had the Gift."
"This isn't the way to make friends," Sheppard pointed out.
"It's the way things have to be for me. I have to hide amongst the crowd, to survive. If anyone knew what I could do..." His eyes widened again, this time in fear. "Oh no, you... What are you going to do to me?" He looked around the room, frantically searching for a way out. "Torture me until I agree to use this ability for your purposes, whatever they might be? Study me like some interesting specimen? Both?"
"We don't torture people. But we do need to be sure you're telling the truth."
"He'll want to study me," the boy/man pointed to Carson. "It's what medical scientists do, not that medicine is much of a science, really..."
"You!" Carson said suddenly. "You were the man who talked to me before Ford turned up! You disparaged my profession and then told me I wasn't to blame for what the Hoffans are doing."
"I needed to see you so I could use your image to approach her." He pointed at Teyla. "And, well, it's stupid to think you're to blame for the insanity of the Hoffans. Though you'll be to blame if you turn me into some sort of experiment and hurt me," he finished with a defiant lift of his chin.
"I have no intention of doing anything like that."
"I only have your word for that," he said, flinging Sheppard's words back at them vehemently.
"Look, just settle down," Sheppard said sternly. "Yes, we'd like to know more about you, your people and your ability, but right now I just want to make sure you're not a danger to the city or the people in it. So, you're going to come with us to the holding cells for the time being. I assure you that we will not hurt you or experiment on you."
The boy/man shut up, scowling.
"And one more thing, quit it with the boy image. Let us see you."
The scowl deepened, but the boy was replaced with a man in his mid to late thirties, with short dark receding hair, piercingly blue eyes and a slightly crooked mouth. "Happy?" the man asked darkly.
"Ecstatic," Sheppard answered in the same tone, looking to Teyla. "Is he who you saw?"
"Yes, except that he has a scar down the right side of his face."
"Vanity?" Sheppard asked the man, raising his eyebrows.
"Is that a problem?" the man grumbled defensively.
"Not really. Come with us, and please don't try anything. Teyla is coming with us and you know you can't fool her."
Carson watched as Sheppard, Ford, Teyla, along with Stackhouse and Markham, escorted the intruder out of the infirmary.
It occurred to him suddenly that they hadn't thought to ask the man his name.
Chapter 2 – The Not-So-Calm Before The Storm
When the forcefield for the holding cell was activated, their guest's eyes lit up with curiosity, chasing away for a few brief moments the worry and fear that had been there before. John noted the lack of surprise, suggesting the man wasn't unfamiliar with this level of technology, and filed the information away for future use.
"I wouldn't..." he said, just as the man touched one of the bars of light and pulled back with a loud 'ow', shaking his hand, "...touch them," he finished lamely, receiving a glare from the prisoner. He merely shrugged and offered a wry, "Sorry." Perhaps the man wasn't as familiar with this technology after all.
Still glaring, the man looked around the cell, his shoulders slumping in defeat as, presumably, he noticed the lack of escape routes.
"So," Sheppard said airily, "What's your name? I'm Major John Sheppard, in case you hadn't picked up on that, Head of Military on Atlantis."
"Maredith NcKay," came the subdued answer.
"Well, NcKay, I'd like to know more about your people." When there was no reply, he tried again. "You say they found a Wraith lab, and clearly they were able to both read and understand what the Wraith was doing, so at a guess I'd say your people are at least as advanced as the Hoffans."
"They'd be highly insulted if you told them that," NcKay answered with a sneer, which turned to a speculative look as he added wryly, "I'd pay to see that, actually."
"So, more advanced then? Well, we're interested in making allies of people in this galaxy, and your people certainly sound like they're worth investigating..."
"My people would take Atlantis from you. They don't share with others and they'd want the city for themselves. They'd think it was their right to rule here. You'd be better staying away from them and hoping that none of the few planets they deign to trade for food with tell them about Atlantis, or they will try to infiltrate and take this place from you."
"Infiltrate? Like you, maybe?"
"No!" NcKay hotly denied. "I left my people years ago and have had nothing to do with them since! But I know that if they hear that the city of the Ancestors has been found, they will do anything to take control of it. Anything."
"Well, then, even more reason to know about them, so we can try and avoid that situation occurring."
"No. I'm not helping people who lock me up and... and who knows what else you'll do to me!" NcKay said, the panic tight in this voice. "Let me leave, and once I'm safe, I'll give the information to one of your allies."
"We're not going to hurt you," Sheppard reiterated.
"Why not? They did," NcKay stopped suddenly, looking fraught.
"Your people hurt you?"
"I'm not answering any more of your questions. Not until you let me go," he said, trying to sound defiant but sounding desperate instead as he turned away from them, shoulders heaving as he tried to slow his panicked breathing.
"Okay, okay, calm down. Just... take it easy."
"Perhaps we should talk to Dr Weir," Teyla suggested calmly.
"Yeah," Sheppard agreed and ordered Sergeants Stackhouse and Markham to keep watch before heading for the control room with Teyla and Ford.
Sitting in the corner of the cell, well, box really, Maredith hunched his shoulders and tried not to shiver. He was trapped and he was scared and angry and... uncertain. The things he had heard about these people on Hoff, the way they had tried to stop the Hoffans from committing mass suicide, the way that doctor blamed himself, it had made him think that maybe these people were okay. And maybe they were, but how could he be sure of that?
Life had been difficult since he'd left his homeworld; never daring to show his true self to those around him, always hiding behind the images he could project. On some worlds, with close-knit villages or towns, fading into the background wasn't really possible and he had to move on quickly; passing himself off as a stranger passing through, using an image from another world and trying to avoid using a local's image unless he really felt he had too, because that was just too risky.
Other worlds, like Hoff, with large towns or cities and thousands of people were easier to hide on. He could take a face from another world, claim he'd moved from one area of the city to another and no one would ever know differently, and so on those worlds he stayed on for months, even years sometimes, before moving on.
But he always moved on, always looking for somewhere better, somewhere more advanced, somewhere he could use his skills and maybe, just maybe, be respected and liked. No, not liked, that was stupid and unnecessary, being respected would be enough.
This could have been the place, maybe, but he'd miscalculated. He'd thought it would be like Hoff, with thousands of people to get lost in, not the hundred or so he had found. And yes, he knew they would figure out that something odd had happened, but they wouldn't know about him or his ability and in the thousands he could disappear and, hopefully in time, the strange events would be forgotten.
Oh trantan, how he had miscalculated!
And now... Now they didn't trust him, and he couldn't be sure of their intentions, and even those with the best intentions might hurt him; study him as an interesting specimen at the very least, and if their intentions weren't good, then, well, who knew? Maybe they would torture him into obedience. Like Cowen had.
Unconsciously, his hand traced the scar on his face. He could almost feel the knife again, slowly sliding through his skin. Pain, hot, so hot, and fear. He'd been beaten badly and half-choked and then... Cowen had come and the knife...
Breath hitching, he tried to stop remembering, but the memories would not leave him be.
The pain, the fear, the threat from Cowen to cut out his tongue, then one of his eyes...
He'd broken, agreed to Cowen's plans. Used his ability, his so-called 'gift' to implicate Cowen's enemies, those that stood between him and the throne, with crimes they hadn't committed.
It had almost been a relief when Kolya, one of Cowen's supposedly most loyal men, had exposed the plot to the royal guards, gaining power in doing so, and Cowen had been executed for his crimes. Almost a relief, except he was also slated for execution, and if not for his father's bribing of the guards to let him escape, he would have been. It was perhaps the only good thing his father had ever done for his illegitimate son, but he was grateful.
The memories released their grip on him, but the fear remained.
What would these people do to him?
"Carson, you said you'd finished the DNA test?" Elizabeth asked, as John, Teyla and Ford joined them and Bates in the conference room.
"Aye, I have."
"What have you found?" Teyla asked, uncertainty lacing her voice.
"I'm sorry, love, I know this isn't what you want to hear but he was right; you have a small amount of Wraith DNA. I'm sorry I didn't pick up on this earlier, but it was very easy to miss. I couldn't make the kind of comparison necessary to isolate the specific strand before we got hold of some Wraith cells, and even then we needed a full mapping of the genetic code contained within those cells..."
"But I am part Wraith?" Teyla interrupted, obviously upset.
"Aye, but no more than Sheppard or myself are part Ancient."
"And it does allow you to sense the Wraith, which has saved countless lives," John tried to reassure her.
"That does not make it less hard to accept."
"I'm not sure how I'd respond to something like this myself, however, I do know that this does not change who you are," Elizabeth added.
Teyla didn't look entirely convinced.
"According to NcKay, that's his name by the way, people with the Gift might be able to tap into the Wraith neural network, whatever that means," Sheppard said.
"My people have long believed that the Wraith can communicate via thoughts."
"A form of telepathy, aye, I remember you mentioning that once," Carson said, nodding thoughtfully. "If you could tap into it then maybe you could gather information from it."
"Or they could gather information from her," Bates added darkly.
"I have never tried and do not believe I would ever wish to," Teyla assured them.
"And we're not about to ask you to," Elizabeth said, turning to Sheppard. "Did you find out anything else from NcKay?"
"Yes, according to what he told us he left his homeworld some years ago. Apparently his people are more advanced than the Hoffans, possibly quite a bit more at that."
"Could they prove to be allies?"
"If he's to be believed, then no. He said that if they find out about us they will do anything to wrest the city from us."
"Do you believe him?"
"Well," Sheppard looked to Teyla, who nodded. "My instincts are that he's telling the truth, but we can't be certain."
"I also believe he is not lying. Certainly, he seems very afraid that we will torture or experiment on him."
"Like his people did," Ford added. "Or at least, that's what I got from what he said."
"You mean his own people did that to him?" Carson looked appalled. "Bloody hell, and it's perfectly possible too. If they're advanced enough, they could use the information they gained from the Wraith's experiment to try some of their own, but that's..." Carson shook his head, unable to express his disgust.
"We only have his word for this," Bates pointed out suspiciously. "He could have been sent to infiltrate the city and bring his people here, and even if that isn't the case, if we let him go he could return to them, offer his knowledge of us to help them launch an attack."
"We need to know more about his people, for a start," Elizabeth decided.
"He says he won't tell us anything unless we let him go," Ford informed her.
"And we can't do that, not until we're sure we can trust him." Elizabeth sighed. "Okay, for now, he stays in the cell. I want you, Carson, to get a blood sample and see if he has Wraith DNA."
"That won't help to garner his trust," Sheppard warned.
"I know, but we need to know. If that bit is true, then maybe the rest is as well. Once you find a suitable room that can be secured, then we can move him out of the holding cell. I don't want to leave him in there too long unless we have to."
The conference room doors opened as Grodin rushed in.
"Sorry to interrupt, but Sergeant Miller was returning from the Mainland when he spotted a hurricane heading towards both the Mainland and Atlantis."
"A storm?" Elizabeth asked, clearly not understanding the urgency she could see in Peter's eyes.
"Not just a storm, but a massive one. He says it covers about twenty percent of the planet's surface."
"And it's headed straight for us? Can Atlantis survive a storm that big?"
"Not without the shields, no."
"How long before it hits?"
"Ten hours before it hits the Athosian encampment, and then about an hour and a half before it hits Atlantis itself."
"Contact Zelenka, we need to know our options."
"He's already on his way."
"Good. Carson, can you ready the infirmary in case we need to evacuate?"
"John, we need to organise a place to evacuate to, and Teyla, you need to contact your people and ask them to get ready too. I hope Zelenka will be able to come up with a solution, but we need to be prepared for the worst."
Over the next two hours, Sheppard managed to negotiate with the Manarians to allow the Atlantis personnel and the Athosians to take temporary refuge on their world, but Zelenka was unable to come up with a solution to save Atlantis. The storm would cause major structural damage, and there was a strong possibility of a tsunami sinking the city.
Beckett was busy acting as a reluctant pilot to help ferry the Athosians back to Atlantis, leaving his staff to pack up as much of the infirmary as was feasible to take with them, and the evacuation was in full swing within another hour of that.
With only half an hour before the hurricane hit the Mainland, John headed down to the holding cells. NcKay was sitting hunched up in a corner, looking bored out of his mind and John felt a slight pang of guilt at not finding something to occupy him. After all, they were trying to gain the man's trust and leaving him to brood was probably not a good way to do that.
At his approach, NcKay stood up, shifting nervously in place though he seemed calmer than earlier.
"What's happening?" NcKay asked. "I heard your guards talking about having to abandon the city."
John sighed, sending a look to the two sergeants that suggested he'd be talking to them about not letting prisoners know too much. They at least had the grace to look sheepish. Deciding that keeping NcKay in the dark wasn't much of an option anyway, he explained about the storm that was heading their way.
"So why is that a problem? A city like this must be protected by a shield," NcKay said after the brief explanation.
"We can't raise the shields," John admitted.
"Why? Are they damaged?"
"Hmm, well then..." NcKay looked thoughtful and then suddenly clicked his fingers a few times and started talking rapidly. "Power, that must be the problem. According to the legends, Atlantis was submerged beneath the ocean, which means the shields must have been active for the last however many thousands of years it's been since the Ancestors abandoned this galaxy to its fate. And keeping a shield active that long must take enormous energy."
"Ten thousand years is a long time," John managed to interject before NcKay carried on, hands waving and sketching out images in the air.
"Right. Now we know they used some type of power crystal but the only one of those we ever found had run out of energy, so we know they don't last forever. But if the power crystals..."
"We call them ZPMs."
"Okay, if the ZPMs are depleted, then what are you using to power the city?"
"Not sure I want to answer that."
"Oh. Well, I guess it doesn't matter. The fact is, you don't have enough of them to power the shield, so... Hmm, yes, that is a problem."
"Dr Zelenka is trying to find a solution, I'm still confident he'll come up with something."
"Our Chief Scientist."
"Oh, right. I'm guessing he's considered solar, wind and wave power? Not that I know if the city is capable of using them anyway, it might not be set up for it, and from the experiments my people have been doing with them, they don't provide much energy..." A frown covered his face, as he paced agitatedly back and forth. Then his face cleared as he snapped his fingers rapidly again. "Lightning! There was a discussion about using lightning. The Hoffans had been looking into it, but really, lightning storms aren't that common or predictable, so I think they gave up on it. Is the storm passing over any land before coming here? If so, that will increase any electrical activity. There'll be plenty of lightning, so it's just a case of seeing if the city's capable of collecting it."
"I'll... mention it to Zelenka," John said, sounding sceptical that it would be of any use.
"You will? You're not just saying that to appease the crazy scientist guy?"
"I will, I promise."
"Good. I mean, it's a long shot and might not be possible, but..." NcKay shrugged. "It might be something."
"Are you... if it doesn't work out and this Zelinda..."
"Yeah, if he can't save the city, what then? You're evacuating?"
"Be stupid to do otherwise," John said dryly.
"Yes, of course it would." NcKay nodded, looking anxious. "You, ah, you wouldn't leave me here, would you? To die, I mean."
"Of course not," John said, frowning at the idea.
"Oh, good, good. It's just that, well, some might think evacuating prisoners is a waste of effort..."
"Not us," John assured him. "I actually came here to tell you we're going to be moving you in the next hour."
"Oh, right. You know, I might be able to help. I have a good grasp of Ancestor technology..."
"I just, I don't do sitting around and doing nothing well, you know?"
"I'll get you something to occupy your mind, after you've been evacuated. Now, I need to find Zelenka. Tell him about your crazy idea."
"Hey, it might work and then who'll be crazy?"
John merely smirked before leaving. This NcKay guy was certainly a character, he thought with a shake of his head, feeling somewhat bemused by what he'd just witnessed.
And yet strangely, quite likeable too.
When they came to move him offworld, Sheppard had the decency to tell him that Zalenda, or however it was pronounced, had come up with a plan to save the city using his lightning idea. He couldn't help but smile smugly at that. Maybe they'd realise he was a genius and not just some freakish curiosity, and that being nice to him was in their interests.
Of course, they could just decide to torture him into submission, but... he was beginning to consider that possibly, maybe they weren't like that.
Not that he was going to stick around and find out.
Sure, the city of Atlantis was everything, and more, than he could have dreamed of, and yes, he'd love to have the chance to learn about its systems, delve into its database, but although he was beginning to think these people were not bad and that maybe they wouldn't hurt him or use him in experiments, he couldn't be sure. So if he got a chance, he'd escape his guards and go to another planet. Perhaps Sateda? He'd heard it was in ruins, had been for many years, but there might be something there worth scavenging. Something he could use in trade wherever he chose to go next.
It was not long after he had been moved to their offworld refugee camp that his opportunity came when his guards were temporarily distracted by a loud argument between two of their people. He quietly slipped away from them, taking the face of an Athosian and heading for the gate, hoping he would be fast enough to escape before any of the Atlantis people caught up with him and stopped people from leaving this planet until they could ascertain their identity.
At first, he thought luck was on his side, but as he came to the edge of the forest clearing the gate sat in, his heart sank at the sight of Athosians in front of the gate.
Only no, that wasn't right. He looked closely at the people gathered there and spotted one person who was dialling the gate under duress. The man who held the Athosian was dressed as one of them but...
Oh trantan, it was Kolya!
The prisoner took out a device, pressing some buttons on it, and Maredith recognised it as one of the devices that allowed entry to Atlantis.
His people were about to attack the city, and he couldn't...
Using an image of a man from Hoff, but clothing him in Athosian attire, he used the distraction of Kolya killing the unfortunate prisoner to join the back of the raiding party. It was reckless, dangerous and stupid; if Kolya counted his troops, he'd realise there was an extra person; if he looked too closely, or one of the others did, they'd see a stranger amongst them.
But he couldn't let them take Atlantis. He just couldn't. Not them, not his people, they didn't deserve it.
Steeling himself, he followed them through, hanging at the back of the group and watching in horror as the two Atlantis soldiers were gunned down by Kolya in cold blood. He took the opportunity to slip away shortly after under the pretence of securing the area.
He couldn't believe he'd done it, that he'd slipped past Kolya and his Genii cohorts. But what now?
Now, he had to find whoever had been left to execute the plan to save the city and warn them. And, oh trantan, hope that they didn't think he was part of the attack, that he had brought his people here; or even worse, that he got trapped on a sinking city if the plan to save it didn't work.