Art By JediKay

Betaed By Court

EMAIL: Winnie

EMAIL: JediKay

 

ACT 1

 

It had been nearly three weeks since the team’s run in with what Sheppard had called a ‘Mad Scientist’ and most people agreed with that title. The man had tried, actually he’d managed to erase all of the team’s memories, but on their return to Atlantis, Carson Beckett had assured them it was only temporary. He was proven right, and in spite of the teasing and jokes, everyone was back to normal and the team would soon be on another mission.

 

Colonel John Sheppard looked at his team seated around the conference table and settled his gaze on Teyla as he spoke. “What do you know about the Marcosians?”

 

“They are a secretive people, Colonel, and very little is known about them except that they are a warrior race,” Teyla explained.

 

“Teyla’s right,” Ronon offered and frowned. “Makes me wonder why they contacted Atlantis.”

 

“All they said was they had something that belongs to us and are willing to open talks in order to return it to Atlantis,” Woolsey explained.

 

“Did they give you any idea what it is they have?” Sheppard asked.

 

“No, but they did specifically ask for your team and that you come through the Stargate and not in one of our ships,” Woolsey answered.

 

“When is this meeting supposed to take place?” McKay asked.

 

“As soon as possible, but if you don’t trust these people then we can postpone it until we have more Intel,” Woolsey replied.

 

“I would feel better if we knew exactly what they had that is of interest to us,” Teyla added.

 

“We all would, but as you said they are a secretive people and will not openly discuss anything until we get there,” Sheppard told her.

 

“Colonel, do you think it’s worth a trip to their world?” Woolsey asked.

 

“We won’t know until we get there,” Sheppard answered truthfully, but there was something troubling him about this mission, something he couldn’t quite grasp.

 

“When do you want to leave?” Woolsey asked.

 

“We can be ready in an hour,” Sheppard assured him.

 

“All right, but if you get there and don’t like the feel of things come back.”

 

“We will,” Sheppard assured Woolsey before the meeting broke up. He caught up with Teyla just before she entered her quarters. “Teyla, what else can you tell me about the Marcosians?”

 

“There is a legend amongst my people, John,” Teyla explained and motioned for him to follow her inside. “The Marcosians are nomadic and never stay in one place very long. It is said that they move around to escape the creatures that haunt the villages.”

 

“What kind of creatures?” Sheppard asked.

 

“That I do not know, but it is said that they feed off the fear they create, but again that is part of their mystery,” Teyla told them.

 

“Teyla, I get the feeling you’re not all that happy with this mission.”

 

“I am not, John, but it is a chance to meet the Marcosians and maybe find a new ally against the Wraith.”

 

“Do you really think they have something that belongs to us?”

 

“From what little is known of their race I can not say for sure, but as you have said we are here to make friends and hopefully gain new allies,” Teyla offered.

 

“I remember saying something like that to Elizabeth once…seems like a lifetime ago,” Sheppard said and walked toward the door. “Be in the gateroom in half an hour.”

 

“I’ll be there, John.”

 

Sheppard made his way toward his own quarters. It wouldn’t take long to get everything he needed and he hoped the tension from this mission would ease up once they reached the planet. How many times had he made trips like this since finding out about the Stargate?

 

He entered his quarters and grabbed the few items he’d need. The rest of his equipment would be waiting for him in the gateroom, but he’d do a quick check to make sure he had everything. With a heavy sigh, he left his room, not all that surprised when he nearly ran into Ronon Dex.

 

“Sorry, Sheppard,” Dex said as he walked alongside the colonel. They remained quiet until they reached the gateroom to find Teyla, Woolsey, and Rodney already there.

 

“Colonel, if there’s anything out of the ordinary…”

 

“We’re going through a Stargate to another planet,” Sheppard said with a hint of a smile.

 

“Yes, well, there is that,” Woolsey agreed and watched as Sheppard led his team toward the gate. “Colonel, don’t forget to check in every four hours.”

 

Sheppard knew it was standard, but something told him Woolsey was as nervous about this mission as he was. There was nothing he could do though to ease the other man’s mind. With a last glance over his shoulder, Sheppard stepped through the Stargate and exited onto a new and possibly deadly planet.

 

John didn’t have time to react to the darkness around him as something drilled into his side and he flew backward into Ronon.

 

“Sheppard!” Dex shouted, but could not help his friend as something slammed into the side of his head and he dropped to the ground beside the colonel.

 

John held his arm against his side, blinking rapidly as lights flashed around him. He looked at his hand, now covered with his own blood, and cursed as a tall figure stood over him. The man’s breath reminded him of sour milk and made his stomach churn. “Guess you people haven’t heard about mouthwash!”

 

“Bring them!” the male ordered.

 

The voice was a rasping whisper that filtered through the pounding in John’s ears. He fought to stay conscious as his arms were stretched out to his sides and tied to a long pole. He could barely make out the unconscious Satedan as two males tied Ronon’s arms and legs to a pole and lifted him between them.

 

“On your feet, Colonel Sheppard!” the male ordered.

 

John struggled to his feet, but didn’t move fast enough for his captors as two of them grabbed the ends of the pole and pulled him up sharply. “Sonofabit-”

 

“Silence or I will have my men gag you!”

 

Sheppard knew there was nothing he could do for now, but when the time came the first thing he was going to do was slug the man and shut the annoying voice off for good. He was forced to walk behind Ronon and wondered what had happened to McKay and Teyla, but there’d been no sign that they’d come through the gate, let alone been captured. John silently prayed the two were safe and back on Atlantis, because something told him they’d need their help to escape.

 

SGASGASGASGASGASGA

 

“What the hell!” McKay spat and looked around.

 

“Where are Colonel Sheppard and Ronon?” Teyla asked worriedly. They’d stepped through just after Ronon and Sheppard, but the two men were nowhere to be seen. The planet they were on was lush with green vegetation and the air was scented with wildflowers that grew in abundance near the gate. 

 

“How should I know…they came through just before us,” McKay snapped. “Sheppard! Ronon! If this is some kind of joke, it’s not funny!”

 

“I do not think Colonel Sheppard or Ronon would play a joke, Rodney. Something is wrong,” Teyla said and moved away from the gate.

 

“Maybe there was a mistake in dialing?” McKay said hopefully.

 

“No, I do not think that’s possible, but something’s out there, Rodney…dial Atlantis!” Teyla ordered and pointed her weapon toward the heavy brush directly in front of them.

 

“What about---”

 

“Just do it, Rodney!” Teyla snapped and fired several shots as a large creature exited the brush.

 

“I’m dialing!” McKay shouted, eyes wide at the sight of the creature that reminded him of a tiger and a bear at the same time.

 

“Rodney!” Teyla shouted as the creature lumbered toward them.

 

McKay began shooting as the Stargate was activated.

 

SGASGASGASGASGASGA

 

“Unscheduled incoming wormhole!”

 

“Who is it?” Woolsey asked worriedly.

 

“Dr. McKay’s IDC, sir,” Chet answered.

 

“They only just left! Open the iris!” Woolsey ordered. He looked down as the iris opened and watched as McKay and Teyla hurried through.

 

“Shut it down!” McKay ordered, only slightly relieved when the iris closed.

 

“Where are Colonel Sheppard and Ronon?” Woolsey asked upon joining them.

 

“We don’t know… they didn’t come through on the other side!” McKay answered.

 

“That’s not possible!” Woolsey said.

 

“Obviously it is,” McKay snapped impatiently as he shrugged off his pack and moved toward the main communication room. “We need to run a diagnostic and find out what happened.”

 

“What about the Marcosians?” Woolsey asked.

 

“There was no sign of any Marcosians,” Teyla answered.

 

“The only living thing we saw had saber teeth and claws!” McKay spat. “Something must have happened to divert the gate which means Sheppard and Ronon are probably with the Marcosians.”

 

“Chet, contact the Marcosians and find out if Colonel Sheppard and Ronon made it through!” Woolsey ordered as McKay began checking the computer. He glanced at his watch and silently waited for him to finish what he was doing.

 

“Sir, I have the Marcosian war minister and he says they are still waiting for us to send Colonel Sheppard’s team through,” Chet answered.

 

“That’s not possible,” Woolsey said and stood behind Chet. “This is Richard Woolsey…To whom am I speaking?”

 

“This is War Minister Dri. We are awaiting the arrival of Colonel Sheppard’s team.”

 

“Colonel Sheppard’s team stepped through the Stargate approximately 15 minutes ago. Are you sure they are not there?”

 

“I am sorry, but no one has come through,” Dri answered.

 

“Would you check to see if your gate has malfunctioned?”

 

“We are doing so now, but there does not seem to be a problem with our gate. Perhaps you misdialed.”

 

“No, we dialed the proper sequence,” Woolsey told him.

 

“We must speak with Colonel Sheppard… when do you expect him to return.”

 

“Look, Colonel Sheppard and Ronon Dex are missing…”

 

“Are there not four members of Colonel Sheppard’s team?”

 

“Yes, there are, but only two are missing. Teyla Emmagan and Dr. Rodney McKay are both here.”

 

“I have no idea where they could be, Mr. Woolsey, but I wish you luck in finding them. Is it possible to send Dr. McKay and Teyla Emmagan---“

 

“That is not possible until the gate has been thoroughly checked out,” Woolsey answered.

 

“I give you my word they will not be harmed.”

 

“I will not take that chance.”

 

“Then we have nothing more to talk about! Goodbye, Mr. Woolsey.”

 

“Now just a minute…”

 

“He’s ended the transmission, Mr. Woolsey,” Chet told him.

 

“Damn it!” Woolsey cursed softly. “Dr. McKay, we need to know what happened.”

 

“I’m working on it, but it takes time to go through all the permutations!” McKay snapped.

 

“Yes, well, keep at it!” Woolsey ordered. If anyone could figure out what had happened and where they should be searching for Sheppard and Dex, it was McKay.

 

“Tell Zelenka I need him to run a diagnostic on the gate itself!”

 

“Done,” Woolsey said and turned to Teyla. “I need to know everything you can tell me about the Marcosians.”

 

“Of course,” Teyla said and followed him to his office.

 

SGASGASGASGASGASGA

 

Ronon slowly peeled open one eye and then the other, slamming them shut again as a bright light shone in his eyes. He could hear voices, but they made little sense until the pounding in his skull finally stopped. He tried to move, but found it impossible with his arms tied above his head and his legs secured to a bolt in the floor.

 

He struggled to escape his bonds, but the more he fought the tighter they became and he finally just sagged against the chains holding him to the roof. He could hear haggard breathing on his right and turned to see who it was, not all that surprised to find John Sheppard in much the same position as he was. The difference was that blood was slowly dripping from Sheppard’s shirt onto the stone floor.

 

“Sheppard…Sheppard...” Ronon called the name several times, but there was no response from the other prisoner. Sheppard hung by his arms; eyes closed, and skin pasty white as though he’d been bleeding for some time. “Sheppard…”

 

“Sonof…”

 

“Easy, Sheppard, don’t try to move.”

 

“What the hell happened?”

 

“I don’t know… I remember stepping through the Stargate, but don’t remember anything after that.”

 

“It’s ob… obvious we’re not in Kansas anymore.”

 

“Where?”

 

“Sorry, fr… from an old mo… movie I saw as a k… kid,” Sheppard answered.

 

“You must have watched a lot of movies…”

 

“What’d you do for fun?”

 

“Learned how to dismantle a weapon and hunt a Shrelian,” Ronon answered.

 

“A what?”

 

“A Shrelian…kind of looks like one of them raptors from that park movie you showed me,” Ronon answered but grew quiet when someone entered their cell.

 

“So, you are finally awake…”

 

“All things considered I’d rather still be asleep,” Sheppard quipped.

 

“Or in Kansas,” Dex added and heard a soft chuckle from his fellow prisoner. “Who are you people?”

 

“We are the true Marcosian people…”

 

“As opposed to?” Sheppard managed weakly.

 

“The people that contacted you,” the man spat. “They must learn the consequences of bringing in strangers.”

 

“We came here be… be…”

 

“It does not matter why you came here, Colonel Sheppard, what matter is what your people will give up to get you back.”

 

“My people won’t negotiate---”

 

“Then you will die,” the man said and quickly stood in front of Sheppard.

 

“Been told that a few ti… times,” John spat.

 

“Not by me!” the man warned and pushed against the wound in Sheppard’s right side.

 

John clenched his teeth, but was unable to stop the cry that escaped his throat. He could hear Ronon cursing his tormentor, but there was nothing he could do as the man continued to press his fingers into the raw wound. He struggled for control even as his body slammed back into the rough stone wall of his cell, but nothing could save him from the fiery torment heaped on his body by the Marcosian.

 

“Let him go! You’re killing him!” Ronon snarled, but the man simply turned his head slightly and showed gaping holes where teeth should have been.

 

“He will die eventually, but not today… not until we have what we need. You and he do not belong to the same race. He has an old marker that speaks of the Ancients. Is he one of them?”

 

“What does it matter to you?”

 

“There are others who would pay handsomely for an Ancient, especially one who has the strong genes that have shown up in this one,” the man said and finally released Sheppard, showing his bloodied hand to the Satedan as he spoke. “There are stories that the new people on Atlantis have discovered a way to give others the Ancient gene, but it is also said that it is not as strong as those who come by it naturally. Is this true?”

 

“I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Ronon said. He could barely see Sheppard as their captor stood before him, but there was no doubt that John was bleeding badly. “Look, he needs help…”

 

“He is not your concern.”

 

“Do you really want him to die?” Dex asked.

 

“Eventually,” the man answered.

 

“Then let me help him… he’ll bleed out if you don’t let me help him! What good is a dead Ancient to you?”

 

“Perhaps you are right, but I must warn you that he will suffer if you try to escape.”

 

“Why would I want to escape such hospitality?” Dex asked sarcastically.

 

“Your friend bleeds a lot,” the man said.

 

“Happens when someone digs around your insides as if they were planting something!” Ronon snarled.

 

“Yes, I’m sure it does. You will take care of him.”

 

“Bring me what I need and release me and I will,” Ronon answered.

 

“Very well, but remember my warning,” the man said and left the two men alone.

 

“Sheppard…”

 

“I’m here,” John managed.

 

“How bad?”

 

“Bad enough… Bastard likes digging around,” Sheppard answered.

 

“Least he is going to let me take care of it,” Dex said, shaking as the pain in his head reminded him he’d also been injured.

 

“You okay?”

 

“Yeah, just hit my head… Keller said it was the safest place,” Ronon quipped.

 

“Is that a joke… ’cause right now I’m not in the mood to laugh,” Sheppard told him.

 

“I bet,” Dex said as two men entered and quickly released him. He dropped to his knees and rubbed the circulation back into his hands as they unlocked Sheppard’s arms. He heard a sharp cry from his friend, but could do nothing until the men released Sheppard’s legs. Once that was done they left without a word, but the lights grew brighter as he stood up and moved to help the injured colonel to his feet.

 

“Remind me not to ignore my in… instincts anymore,” Sheppard managed as Ronon lowered him onto a small cot in the corner.

 

“You and me both,” Ronon said and lifted Sheppard’s shirt to reveal the savage wound in his side.

 

“How’s it l... look?” Sheppard asked, painfully aware of Ronon’s hands touching the wound.

 

“Bad enough, I need to see if it went through,” the Satedan said and pulled Sheppard onto his left side, ignoring the barely muffled cries from the injured man. “Damn!”

 

“Crap…guess that means I set off the metal detectors.”

 

“The what-never mind, tell me later,” Dex said. “I don’t have anything to take it out.”

 

“Leave it… Keller can handle it when we get back,” Sheppard ordered and tried to sit up.

 

“Be still. I need to clean this,” Dex said and turned as the door opened and two males entered. Neither one spoke as they placed a bowl of water and some medical supplies on the floor just inside the door. He stood up to retrieve them even as the Marcosians left. 

 

“Any morphine in that thing?”

 

“Sorry… just water and bandages,” Ronon answered and wet a piece of cloth.

 

Sheppard held his breath as Ronon cleaned the blood from the wound. It amazed him that the big Satedan was remarkably gentle as he eased the cloth over the wound. John knew the bullet in his side posed a problem because it would cause an infection if left there for too long.

 

Ronon had seen wounds like this before, but not since he was a young man on a hunting trip with friends. They’d been using projectile weapons when Jonad had accidentally wounded their trainer. They were two days from help and the wound had festered until the adult was overcome by fever and died before reaching the city. Jonad never got over causing the older man’s death and refused to lift another weapon no matter the cause.

 

“Ronon, it’ll be okay,” Sheppard said softly when he saw sadness come over his friend’s face.

 

“Had a friend shot like this…bad…”

 

“What happened to him?” Sheppard asked, yet somehow he knew what the answer would be.

 

“He died… we didn’t get him help in time,” Ronon answered and felt John’s hand on his arm.

 

“I’m not him, Ronon,” Sheppard said through clenched teeth as the Satedan lifted him forward and wrapped the bandage around his waist.

 

“Good, got enough ghosts haunting my ass already,” Ronon said with a grin.

 

“We need to get w… word back to Atlantis…”

 

“Any idea what happened to Teyla and McKay?”

 

“They never came through the gate,” Sheppard said.

 

“Think they’re okay?”

 

“Hope so,” John said, swallowing convulsively in an effort to quell the mounting nausea churning through his gut. He held his arm tight against his right side and tried to stand, but Ronon stopped him.

 

“Stay put or you’ll start bleeding again,” he warned.

 

“We need to get out of here,” Sheppard told him.

 

“I know, but right now, you need to rest. I’ll check this place out.”

 

“Ronon, if you find a way… don’t wait for me… get help.”

 

“I’m not leaving you behind, Sheppard!”

 

“Ronon, we’ve had this argument before.”

 

“You lost then too… should be getting used to it by now,” Ronon said and moved to the door.

 

“Stubborn…”

 

“Aren’t we all?” Ronon asked, turning when he heard a cry from the injured man. “Told you to stay put!”

 

“Yeah, well I told you to go without me!” Sheppard sputtered as Ronon latched onto his arm and steadied him.

 

“There’s just the one door,” Ronon said, purposefully ignoring Sheppard’s comment.

 

“Locked?”

 

“Don’t know yet… was going to check, but some hard head decided…”

 

“According to Keller, you’re the one with the hard head remember?”

 

“Funny,” Dex said and helped Sheppard lean against the wall while he checked the door.

 

“Locked?”

 

“Yeah,” Ronon answered. “You might as well sit down before you fall down.”

 

“You’re one to talk. How’s the head?”

 

“I left it on the floor… figured I’d pick it up later when we need someone to think of a way out…”

 

“You sound like McKay,” Sheppard said, relieved to have Dex to lean on as they made it the short distance across the floor. He clenched his fists as Ronon helped him sit down. “Thanks…”

 

“Any time,” Ronon said as the door opened and four Marcosians entered.

 

“You are to come with us!” the larger of the four ordered.

 

“Come on, Sheppard.”

 

“Not you… only the Ancient one,” the man said.

 

“I don’t think so!” Ronon spat and found himself facing down a dangerous looking gun.

 

“It’s okay, Ronon… he said he wouldn’t kill me.”

 

“Yet,” Dex finished for him, but stared at the man who’d spoken. “He’s hurt… he’ll need help!”

 

“Arbu, Sobon, pick him up.”

 

“Yes, Durelli,” Sobon said and moved toward Sheppard.

 

“Leave him…”

 

“Go to hell!” Dex said and cried out when the gun was slammed into his chest. 

 

“Ronon! Look, just leave him alone and I’ll go with you!” Sheppard said, relieved when Durelli moved away from the Satedan.

 

“Bring him,” Durelli ordered as Sobon and Arbu grabbed his arms and dragged him from the room.

 

John could hear Ronon cursing as he tried to get to his feet, but the door was closed behind them even as Dex slammed his body against the inside of the barrier. Sheppard tried to ignore the pain in his side, and gritted his teeth with each step he took. He lost track of how many twists and turns they made before stopping in front of an ornate door that Durelli opened with a touch of his fingertips.

 

John looked around as he was dragged inside and spotted the Marcosian who thought his side was fertile ground for digging in. His escorts quickly shoved him onto a chair and secured his arms and legs with metal clamps before leaving him alone with the bigger man.

 

“Colonel Sheppard, I am Prager and since my brother invited you here I thought it only right that I meet you first. There are some things I need to know before I turn you over to the scientists,” Prager said and sat on the edge of the desk Sheppard was placed in front of.

 

“Got nothing to say!” Sheppard spat.

 

“Perhaps not yet, but what if we were to bring your friend here and make him suffer for each wrong answer you give?”

 

“Ronon’d understand.”

 

“Perhaps, but could you sit there and watch his suffering without speaking?”

 

“Ronon’d understand,” Sheppard repeated and noted the fury in the Marcosian’s dark eyes.

 

“You will tell me what I want to know!” Prager said and placed his hands on the arms of the chair so that he was face to face with Sheppard.

 

“Already said I got nothing to say!”

 

“How many Atlantians are there?”

 

“More than one… less than a million… give or take a few,” Sheppard said with a lopsided grin. “I never was very good at math… Sorry.”

 

“How many?” Prager repeated and slammed his fist into Sheppard’s right side.

 

“Told you…”

 

“Do not lie to me, Colonel…”

 

“Not lying… just not sure how m… many there a… are,” Sheppard lied as he tried to ride out the pain.

 

“Do you know how to use the Ancient weapons?”

 

“Forks and knives are about all we have… Cut myself shaving once so the knives are really sharp,” Sheppard answered.

 

“You think you’re smart…”

 

“Rodney thinks so… at least he did when he found out I passed the MENSA test.”

 

“What is the correct sequence to the gate on Atlantis?”

 

“967-11-11,” Sheppard repeated the number for the pizza joint McKay raved about. He’d never had the pleasure, but someday McKay was going to make good on the promise of a party size pizza with pepperoni, cheese, and Canadian bacon.

 

“That is not correct, Colonel…”

 

“It’s not? Damn, how will I get home now?”

 

“I will send you home… at least I will send your body home, but not before I get what I want. You will contact your people and tell them to send weapons for your return…”

 

“I can do that. I’m sure Mr. Woolsey can part with a few dozen forks and knives… maybe even send someone along to show you the proper use of both,” Sheppard said and again saw the Marcosian’s eyes darken with anger. He tried to set his mind and body for the attack he knew was coming, but the man was faster than he’d thought possible. Several blows landed on his abdomen, while two connected with his face and darkness swam at the edge of his vision. He chuckled softly when he noted the way his attacker’s nostrils flared, but darkness won out and he descended into the waiting abyss.

 

SGASGASGASGASGASGA

 

Ronon paced the narrow confines of his cell, slamming his fists into the wall as he thought about John Sheppard and what their captors were doing to him. He had no way of knowing how much time passed since Sheppard had been taken away, but it was way too long as far as he was concerned.

 

Ronon slammed an open palm against the heavy door, cursing at the Marcosians and hoping they would open it, but so far there’d been no sign that anyone had heard. He made his way to the back of the cell and slid down the wall as pain hammered through his skull.

 

He closed his eyes in an effort to ease the torment, but tiny flashes of light continued to bother him and he could hear Keller berating him for not resting. He leaned his head back against the wall, listening for anything that would tell him the Marcosians were returning with Sheppard, but it wasn’t long before he drifted into the nightmares he often had about Sateda and the family he’d lost.

 

He wasn’t sure what woke him, but he slowly opened his eyes to the near darkness of the cell. He could make out the deeper shadows in the darkness and stopped when his eyes lit on what could only be a body just inside the door.

 

“Sheppard?” Ronon whispered and tried to stand, but the pain caused by the quick movement sent daggers through his head. Ignoring his own discomfort, He crawled to where his friend lay. By the time he made it across the short distance, he thought his head Would explode, but again he ignored it when Sheppard didn’t move. He reached out and gently turned the man over, cursing when he noted the bruises on his face and fresh blood on the bandage around his waist.

 

“I’ll kill them!”

 

“Ro… Ronon.”

 

“I’m here, Sheppard, you’re not looking too good right now,” Dex offered.

 

“Not feeling too good either,” Sheppard said and tried to sit up. “Bastard’s heavy handed.”

 

“Looks like it… you’re bleeding like a stuck Quava.”

 

“A what?” Sheppard asked weakly.

 

“A small animal I hunted as a boy…”

 

“Thought you only hunted big animals?”

 

“Well, it did have two inch fangs and talons that could gut you with one swipe.”

 

“Damn, Ronon, were there any friendly animals on Sateda?”

 

“A few, but mostly there were predators,” Dex said and eased the bandage away from the wound. “What did they want?”

 

“The usual… how many people are on Atlantis and how many weapons we have.”

 

“What did you tell them?” Ronon asked, wincing sympathetically as he looked at the wound.

 

“I told them there were more than one and less than a million…”

 

“Pretty vague?”

 

“Just a little,” Sheppard said with a grin. “Told them we’d gladly send them a few forks and knives and show them how to use them properly.”

 

“I bet that went over well.”

 

“You o… okay, Ronon?” Sheppard asked softly.

 

“I’m fine,” Dex said and forced a smile to his face. “We need to get out of here.”

 

“I’m open for ideas,” Sheppard said and let his eyes close once more as the darkness reached for him.

 

“Don’t you go dying on me, Sheppard.”

 

“I’m not planning on check… ing out just yet.”

 

“Good, hate having to break in a new colonel.”

 

“You’re all heart,” Sheppard said with a grin, but kept his eyes closed as Ronon cleaned the wound and re-bandaged it.

 

“Wish Beckett or Keller was here.”

 

“Not me… no telling what these bastards would do to them.”

 

“That’s not what I meant…”

 

“I know… nothing you can do about it so let it go and get some rest,” Sheppard ordered softly as Ronon shifted position so that he could lean on him. It wasn’t long before his head was resting on Dex’s leg and he heard the bigger man’s soft snoring. “I got your back, Ronon,” John whispered, but soon lost consciousness.

 

SGASGASGASGASGA

 

Rodney McKay had never felt as frustrated as he was right now. No matter how many sequences and permutations he keyed in, the answer remained unchanged. John Sheppard and Ronon Dex should have exited through the same gate as he and Teyla, but they hadn’t. Woolsey had sent Lorne’s team to the planet, but they’d reported back that there was no sign of the missing men. The only inhabitants they reported seeing were large creatures that the team said reminded them of dinosaurs.

 

“Rodney, are you sure you’re inputting the data properly?”

 

“I’m not some freshman, Radek, I know what I’m doing,” McKay snapped impatiently.

 

“I know that, Rodney, but you’ve been at this for hours and maybe you need a break…”

 

“Sheppard and Ronon may not have the time,” McKay said and keyed in another sequence, watching as number after number crossed the screen.

 

“We could be missing something important,” Zelenka observed.

 

“We are, but I can’t figure it out. See this series of numbers?”

 

“Yes, as a matter of fact I have seen them a few times. What do they mean?” Radek asked.

 

“That’s what I’m trying to figure out. As near as I can tell they are a second set of symbols for the gate on the Marcosian home world, but not to the same gate…”

 

“Are you saying they have two working gates?”  Zelenka asked.

 

“I think so, but that still doesn’t explain why Teyla and I ended up on Jurassic Park,” McKay said, shuddering at the thought of the creatures on the planet. Lorne’s description had described them as a cross between a T-rex and a Triceratops and Rodney had no wish to see if it was an apt description or not.

 

“Perhaps it was just a glitch in the system.”

 

“Maybe, but if it was, why did the Marcosians say Sheppard and Ronon hadn’t come through the gate,” McKay said and looked at the screen before rubbing at his eyes.

 

“What if they didn’t come through that gate? What if the second gate is operational and Colonel Sheppard and Ronon went through that one?”

 

“It’s possible, but it would mean these people are far more advanced than they let on.”

 

“Like the Genii?”

 

“Don’t remind me of them,” McKay said. He knew the Genii were allies now, but there were those amongst them who didn’t like the Atlantians and would act if they thought they could take the city by force. Ladon Radim had made it known to his people that he wanted to keep peace between their worlds and had stepped up to the plate when Acastus Kolya had kidnapped and imprisoned John Sheppard. The worst part was that Kolya had allowed a half starved Wraith to feed on Sheppard before they’d finally escaped.

 

“Rodney, if we can prove the Marcosians are involved, we might be able to force their hand,” Zelenka suggested.

 

“By forcing their hand we might end up getting Sheppard and Ronon killed,” McKay said and turned to find Teyla and Woolsey striding toward them.

 

“Did you find anything that might help?” Teyla asked.

 

“Nothing concrete, but we think it’s possible that there’s another gate on the Marcosian planet,” McKay said and went on to explain what he and Zelenka had discovered.

 

“War Minister Dri didn’t mention a second gate,” Woolsey explained.

 

“He could be lying or he may not know of the existence of the second gate,” McKay told him.

 

“How do we find out one way or the other?” Zelenka asked.

 

“We need to go to Marcosia and speak with War Minister Dri directly,” McKay suggested.

 

“That could be dangerous considering they may already be guilty of kidnapping Colonel Sheppard and Ronon,” Woolsey said.

 

“What choice do we have?” Teyla asked seriously.

 

“There’s always another choice,” Woolsey offered.

 

“Yes, but do we have the time to come up with them?” Zelenka asked.

 

“I don’t think we can take any chances. War Minister Dri may not be involved in their disappearance, but he should be able to shed some light on whoever has them if…”

 

“If we’re right about them being on Marcosia,” McKay said.

 

“Exactly, plus War Minister Dri did not think much of our policies and I doubt he would welcome us with open arms,” Woolsey explained.

 

“Perhaps we could take a cloaked Jumper through the stargate…”

 

“What if we wind up on that planet of horrors, Teyla?” McKay asked.

 

“We’ll be safe as long as we’re in the Jumper…”

 

“Not if there are flying reptiles like the ones from the Jurassic era on Earth,” McKay told her.

 

“Cloaking would keep them from discovering our presence,” Teyla offered.

 

“The only problem I can see is getting the correct dialing sequence for Marcosia if the one we have is wrong.” Zelenka said.

 

“We just have to find the glitch and that should give us the correct dialing sequence, but it will take time to find out where the mistake was made and how to correct it so we don’t get sent to the wrong address again,” McKay explained then frowned.

 

“Rodney, what is it?” Teyla asked.

 

“What if the second gate was activated and Teyla and I went through that one while Sheppard and Ronon went through the other one,” McKay said and turned to Teyla. “Didn’t you say the Marcosians moved around a lot?”

 

“Yes, they do, because of the creatures on their world,” Teyla answered and knew where McKay was going with this. “So you think we really were on Marcosia?”

 

“It’s a distinct possibility. It happened on Earth.”

 

“To Carter and O’Neill, but when the gate was activated, didn’t they get what Dr. Jackson called a busy signal?” Woolsey supplied.

 

“Yes, they did, at least that’s the best explanation for what happened,” McKay supplied. “We’ll need to verify a few things, but the best way to do that is with a fly by and---”

 

“I’ll have Major Lorne’s team ready to go as soon as we have confirmation,” Woolsey assured him. “Meanwhile I will contact War Minister Dri and insist on meeting him face to face.”

 

“Just be careful, he may or may not be involved, but until we know for sure it’s best to err on the side of caution,” McKay said and knew wherever Sheppard and Ronon were, they needed help or they would have found a way to contact Atlantis.

 

SGASGASGASGASGASGA

 

Prager knew he would get nowhere with John Sheppard or Ronon Dex. The two men were military types with special training that went far beyond anything his world provided, yet they could still be of use to him. If he could contact Atlantis and give them an ultimatum then he could get the weapons he needed to take control of the city and kill War Minister Dri. That would leave only him as the sole survivor of his line and it would be within his rights to take control of the city.

 

Prager looked at the screen before him and studied the two men closely. Ronon Dex seemed overly protective of Colonel John Sheppard and that was something he might use to his advantage when the time came. John Sheppard had the Ancient gene and would be studied by his personal scientists to see if they could figure out a way to reproduce the gene artificially. He knew they probably had some kind of tracking device on them, but his scientists assured him that they had effectively dampened the signal so that it would be unreadable to anyone searching for the two men.

 

“What will Atlantis part with to get you two back?” Prager whispered, yet he knew there was no way he would give up the possibility of discovering who and what Sheppard was. He touched the screen and smiled when he noticed Sheppard was moving around and on the verge of waking.

 

SGASGASGASGASGASGA

 

John shifted and tried to sit up, but stopped when his body shook with pain. He touched the bandage covering the right side of his abdomen, not really surprised to find it tacky with blood. He held his breath, managed to sit up, and turned to look at his fellow prisoner.

 

Ronon looked like hell, with a bruise visible on the left side of his face while the rest of his skin looked paler than he thought possible. He knew Ronon had been struck a couple of times and knew he’d been suffering from one hell of a headache, but right now there was nothing he could do to help. He shifted slightly, and noticed a blinking red light in one corner of the cell and knew they were being watched.

 

‘Probably Prager,’ he thought and tried to stand, but found he lacked the strength and agility to do so. He glanced toward Ronon and knew what he had to do, but he also understood how stubborn the Satedan could be. Ronon was their only hope of escape, but could he convince the man it was the right thing to do?

 

“No.”

 

The word was so soft Sheppard thought he imagined it, but one look at Dex told him the man was awake. “You don’t even know what I was going to say,” Sheppard said and leaned heavily against his friend.

 

“Don’t need to… The answer is still no,” Dex told him without opening his eyes.

 

“Then we---”

 

“Get out of here together,” Ronon told him.

 

“We’re being watched,” Sheppard observed and motioned toward the blinking light.

 

“I see that,” Dex said with a slight grin.

 

“Maybe we could bore him to death,” Sheppard suggested.

 

“Need McKay for that, he could talk him to death,” Ronon said and heard a raspy chuckle from Sheppard. “How’s the side?”

 

“Still there,” the Colonel answered.

 

“I should take a look at it.”

 

“It’ll keep,” Sheppard told him. “How’s the head?”

 

“Don’t know… hurts too much to think about,” Dex said, but continued to watch the red light Sheppard had pointed out. He felt Sheppard leaning against him and helped ease him down until Sheppard’s head rested against his leg before returning his attention to the camera and whoever was watching them.

 

SGASGASGASGASGASGA

 

War Minister Dri knew who was behind John Sheppard and Ronon Dex’s disappearance, but there was nothing he could do about that now. He knew his only course of action was to contact Atlantis and ask for their help.

 

Prager was a part of his linage and had just as much right to the leadership of the city as he did, but fate had seen him be the lucky one and placed in charge. Now Prager seemed to have found a group of followers and had interfered in his plans for John Sheppard and his team. He wanted an alliance with Atlantis, but he wanted it forged in blood as was the rite of his people because an alliance where there were hostages was one that could be upheld with an agreement signed in blood.

 

“War Minister, Atlantis has requested permission to send a representative to talk with you,” Brackle advised.

 

“What do they want?” the war minister asked of his second in command.

 

“They wish to speak with you about their missing people.”

 

“I know nothing about them.”

 

“Is it possible Prager intercepted the signal from Atlantis?’

 

“It is possible, but there is no proof that he found a second gate,” Dri told him.

 

“There have been rumors amongst the troops.”

 

“Rumors only, Brackle. Until there is proof we must believe our Stargate is the only one available on Marcosia.”

 

“What should I tell the Atlantians?”

 

War Minister Dri thought about the possibility of securing a hostage, but he knew the Atlantians would not allow that to happen, especially if they believed he had something to do with Sheppard and Dex’s disappearance. For now he would simply open talks and allow the Atlantian representative to feel at ease.

 

“What should I tell them?” Brackle repeated.

 

“Tell them I will allow them through the Stargate, and bring them here once they come through,” Dri told him.

 

“Yes, War Minister.”

 

Dri walked to the window and stared out as the sun dipped below the horizon and knew it would not be long before darkness overtook the land. The city would shut down and be blanketed with fear until daylight. The creatures that often foraged into the city had made it necessary to stay inside after the sun disappeared for the night. His people had always moved around, but that had changed some time ago, yet he knew the stories about his world still circulated amongst the other planets in this system.

 

“Where are you, Prager?” he thought angrily.

 

SGASGASGASGASGASGA 

 

“Mr. Woolsey, War Minister Dri has agreed to meet with you,” Chuck explained after knocking on Woolsey’s door.

 

“Very well,” Woolsey said and shut down his laptop. “Have Dr. Zelenka join me in the gateroom.”

 

“Yes, sir,” Chuck answered and left the room.

 

Richard Woolsey sighed heavily and left his office. McKay and Teyla would be joining Lorne’s team and taking a Jumper to Marcosia while Radek Zelenka accompanied him and Major Grant’s team to Marcosia to speak with War Minister Dri. If McKay was right, they should be able to access the second gate by using a series of symbols that mirrored the first set.

 

Woolsey made his way to the Gateroom and hoped Major Grant could handle the Marcosians. The man was rather large, built like a football player, and as tough as nails. He spotted the man speaking with several of his team and hurried toward them as McKay piloted a Puddle Jumper through the gate.

 

Woolsey nodded to Grant as Zelenka joined them and they were soon surrounded by the off world team. He knew they could be walking into a trap, but if Teyla was right then the Marcosians were not very advanced in weaponry. He wondered if that was the real reason for Sheppard and Dex’s disappearance. Did the War Minister honestly expect them to hand over weapons or was there another reason for his request? What was it the man had that he thought Atlantis needed? Right now the only thing he wanted was the return of Sheppard and Ronon.

 

“Mr. Woolsey, you and Dr. Zelenka should stay here…”

 

“We need to meet with War Minister Dri, Major Grant,” Woolsey told him and motioned for the other man to move out.

 

“Just don’t take any chances. My team knows what they’re doing so stay between us,” Donald Grant ordered as they moved toward the swirling whirlpool and stepped through.

 

SGASGASGASGASGASGA

 

Rodney McKay flew the cloaked Puddle Jumper while Major Lorne sat in the seat next to him. Teyla and the other members of Lorne’s team were in the back, but each person was ready for anything. McKay had watched for any signal that would tell them Dex and Sheppard were nearby, but if they were then something was interfering with their subcutaneous trackers. 

 

“Anything, Rodney?” Teyla asked as she joined them.

 

“Nothing… either they’re not here or something’s interfering with the signal,” McKay answered.

 

“Or the Marcosians could have removed them,” Lorne offered.

 

“Exactly,” McKay agreed. “Keep watching for those creatures that attacked Teyla and me.”

 

“Are you sure this is the same place?” Lorne asked, jumping when a large birdlike creature flew across their path.

 

“I think that would be a yes,” McKay answered sarcastically and pointed to a clearing on their right. “Teyla and I would have been food for one of those things.”

 

“Thank god for cloaked Jumpers,” Lorne said.

 

“Any idea what direction we should check?” McKay asked.

 

“The Marcosian city is south, and if we’re right about there being a secondary faction then I’d say we check north and then east and west before we check in with Woolsey,” Lorne answered.

 

SGASGASGASGASGA

 

Ronon heard movement outside the door as it opened and a young woman entered carrying a tray with what he hoped was food and water. Two males stood just inside the door, both holding weapons trained on him and Sheppard.

 

“You must eat,” the woman said, her eyes downcast as she moved toward the door. The two guard remained where they were until she was gone, then they followed her out and locked the door behind them.

 

“Sheppard, food’s here.”

 

“Huh…what?” Sheppard muttered.

 

“Food’s here.”

 

“Steak and ribs?” Sheppard asked.

 

“No... let’s call it mystery meat,” Dex told him as he helped the injured man sit forward.

 

“Think I’ll pass.”

 

“Wish we could, but if we’re going to get out of here we need to eat and drink,” Ronon said and handed Sheppard a bottle of what he hoped was water.

 

John took several sips, surprised to find the liquid had a sweet taste and was ice cold. He held the bottle against his forehead and felt it cooling him down. He shifted slightly and was quickly reminded of the bullet lodged in his side, but he managed to muffle a gasp as Ronon reached out and placed a hand on his shoulder.

 

“Try not to move around,” Dex warned.

 

“Does that mean you decided to go for help?”

 

“We go together,” Ronon told him and handed him a warm biscuit. “Eat.”

 

“Yes, Mom,” Sheppard said and bit into the biscuit, again surprised at how good it tasted. His stomach rumbled as he took another bite and he watched as Ronon chewed his biscuit with little interest. Ronon seemed fixated on the flashing red light and John knew he was thinking about how they could hide their escape if they were being watched.

 

“We need to get rid of that,” Ronon said softly.

 

“I know,” Sheppard agreed. “Maybe there’s a blind spot.”

 

“A what?”

 

“A blind spot… a place where the camera doesn’t reach. It always works that way in the movies,” Sheppard told him.

 

“So how do we find it?”

 

“Move around… watch the blinking light and see how far it goes,” John explained quietly and hoped whoever was watching couldn’t pick up on their conversation. He watched as Ronon stood as if stretching and began walking around their cell. The camera seemed to follow him until he reached the far corner near the main door before it panned back and stopped on Sheppard once more.

 

It didn’t move again until Ronon moved back into the room and slid down next to Sheppard.

 

“It probably works by motion sensor,” John observed and knew he needed to convince Ronon to escape without him if possible. He turned to his teammate, and sighed heavily.

 

“No,” Dex said.

 

“You don’t even know what I was going to say.”

 

“We leave together, Sheppard… End of story!”

 

“Ronon…”

 

“Another biscuit?”

 

“Ronon…”

 

“Water?”

 

“Damn it!” Sheppard cursed and knew he was getting nowhere and accepted a biscuit from Ronon. “Okay, since you won’t go without me we need a plan to get us both out.”

 

“Exactly,” Ronon said with a self satisfied smile.

 

“You’re stubborn.”

 

“You said that already… So any ideas on how we get out of here?”

 

“No, maybe we could rush the guards… Crap, that won’t work.”

 

“Why not?”

 

“I don’t think I’ll be rushing anything…”

 

“Point taken, but if you can keep them occupied, maybe I can surprise them,” Ronon explained.

 

“You’d have to stay out of the camera’s range,” Sheppard said.

 

“No problem, but you’ll need to be able to move…”

 

“Now, that could be a problem,” John told him seriously.

 

“Suck it up, Sheppard,” Dex said and finished the last biscuit. He studied Sheppard’s face and realized the fine sheen of sweat spoke of the fever already raging in his friend’s body.

 

“Trying, Ronon, but if---”

 

“Don’t! We’re in this together… we get out together… Deal?”

 

“Ronon…”

 

“Deal?” Dex repeated.

 

“Deal - as long as we can move before I pass out!” Sheppard groused.

 

“Do that and we’re both stuck here,” Ronon said and watched as his friend closed his eyes. He knew Sheppard was in rough shape and needed help fast, but for now they were both prisoners. They needed to escape before the bastard came back for Sheppard, because the man had already suffered enough at Prager’s hands.

To Act II