Title: “Atlantis, I'm Here”

Author: lindaljc, linda.ljc

Summary: Her need was great and she didn't care how she won her way home.

A/N: I have no expertise in the area of mental health. This is a very dark piece, so I hope no one is offended by the humorous interludes in the story. I have to admit they helped perk up my own mood considerably while I finished editing. Also, since this has many POV thoughts of a dark nature, if you're someone that suffers depression, maybe this isn't for you.

Category: Angst, Drama, Humor, H/C, Action/Adventure, Smarm

Warning: OC Character Deaths, Violence, Untreated Schizophrenia

Disclaimer: The characters and settings of Stargate SG-1 and Stargate: Atlantis belongs to Showtime/Viacom, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Film Corporation. All other publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of Stargate: SG-1 and Stargate: Atlantis or any other media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.

This story was written by linda.ljc with the love of the show in mind.

….......

The Daedalus... she'd made it. She crowded the observation area with all the other new personnel. She was finally here, and even hundreds of miles away she could see the city floating in the blue of the most vast ocean she'd ever imagined.

She'd worked so hard to make this trip. The scientists and the soldiers that had worked with her for years had made Atlantis sound like something magical, and she needed something in her life to make it worth living. She knew she would find it there. The message had been clear.

All her life she'd schooled herself to be good at hiding her real thoughts and feelings. She had to be very good at it because the medicines that doctors might force on her would show up in her blood work. She couldn't chance that, or she'd never be kept in the program, so she kept her worries and the voices behind as strong a wall as she could build in her mind. Only in her room, in the dark, did the voices dare to speak... only then did she dare to let them have their say. Then, every morning she felt she might shatter until she had packed them carefully away again as one would something precious when going on a long arduous trip. Or something very --fragile.

Even to think about them worried her that it would open a tiny break in her wall. She would cringe inwardly and glance around furtively whenever her mind wandered. So then, as she had trained herself, she would force her breathing to be deeper, and listen carefully to make sure she hadn't missed something vital. Nothing was going to stop her. She was going to make it. She was.

The voices had been pushing her ever since she'd learned of the SGC. Her job at Area 51 gave her access to devices; Ancient devices, that spoke to her. Ever since then the voices taunted her. They wanted her on Atlantis and the only way was through the SGC. They said Atlantis was her home, she would feel welcomed. They told her she would never want to leave; she would never have to leave.

She thought it might be the ATA gene that she carried that compelled her, but what it told her was something she was desperate to hear. She suspected that it wasn't strong like the General's, but it opened things to her that seemed wondrous, miraculous even. So she had worked hard and had - almost - made - the - list.

Devon. Oh, the man made her seethe inside. How could he be on the list? He liked to party, and he was very skillful at knowing exactly what work needed to be completed, and little else.

She didn't like how he acted around her either. He'd often put an arm around her shoulders and lean in to whisper innuendos in her ear. She always brushed off the unwanted advances but he always did it like it was a joke. She didn't dare to make a complaint. She was a civilian in a military work environment. Making waves never furthered your career. So she just made sure she was never alone with him. She didn't trust him at all. And still they chose him over her.

She was good with computers. She'd worked hours of unpaid overtime that she never reported, took all the extra training that they offered, and learned things that were far outside of her current classification. She'd done everything she could to be knowledgeable, to be useful.

But of course, there was another problem. It wasn't enough to study and learn, you also had to play politics, and Devon was good at that, too. And it would never work for her. The voices wouldn't let her have normal interactions. She had to keep conversations short so no one would notice if one of the voices slipped past her notice. She couldn't afford to appear not quite normal. She hoped people just thought she was an introvert. So her best defense was being alone.

The psych evals were the worst. She'd passed although she'd gotten a blank faced look from the doctor when she'd lost her tightest control for a moment. But eccentric was okay, crazy wasn't. But they said she'd passed. And still there was Devon.

Devon had been her major obstacle. But it had gone away, as problems sometimes did. One day he didn't show up to work after a weekend hike. It must have been terrible, to lie broken and bloody at the foot of the cliff. It had taken days for them to find him. She knew he wasn't visible from up above on the trail. Too bad.

But the roster was changed and she managed not to smile when notified. She shouldn't be happy that Devon's place had gone to her. Right? Yes, and she sighed in relief. She could allow the joy in later.

….......

Sheppard slouched his way across the lab to lean backwards against the counter.

Rodney sighed. “Yes?”

“Lunch time.”

“I know, but I'm working.”

“I was working, too, but I made time for lunch with you, so you can do the same.”

Rodney closed his eyes and sighed again.

“What's with the sighing and the eyes there. Open up, let's go. You do remember the Daedalus is due in this afternoon?”

Rodney's eyes flicked open and he turned to stare at Sheppard. “I'm working. And I'm trying to finish before the ship gets here so I can send my finished research report back to Carter. She's waiting for it.”

Sheppard frowned comically, then said, “Well, if you don't want to have lunch with me you didn't have to make something up. I'm a big boy. You can cancel lunch without hurting my feelings, you know.”

Rodney took a huge breath to answer that stupidity but he let it out slow and steady instead. “You're not going to get to me. Sheppard. Carter needs this, and I promised. Go.”

Sheppard grinned and straightened up. “Okay, you had your chance. Hey, Dr. Kusinagi. I wouldn't want you to think you're my rebound lunch date, but I'd enjoy a pretty, intelligent lady to sit with today for lunch. And, if you turn me down, I just may really have my feelings hurt.”

Miko glanced at McKay then grinned. “I would enjoy a pretty, intelligent man to sit with me today at lunch. I am ready to leave now, unlike Dr. McKay who put off this report several times. He needs to better organize his priorities. Some things have deadlines that loom over us more quickly than we expect.”

Rodney glared at the woman. “Don't forget, I know where you work, Kusinagi.”

She smiled sweetly, “And I found your secret coffee stash.”

“What!”

“Come, Colonel Sheppard.”

“Yes, ma'am, lunch awaits.”

…........

The Daedalus was flying in on the glide path that was becoming old hat. Caldwell could see the city from a hundred miles out, easily. The ship's crew landed the Daedalus by the numbers and without a noticeable thump, and how cool was that.

He'd bet Sheppard couldn't do that, not that he'd ever flown one of these. But those jumpers, Caldwell would give anything to be able to fly one of those with his mind. That would be extraordinary. Unfortunately he didn't have the ATA gene, not even the recessive. He'd envy Sheppard if he didn't know what it had taken for him to stay alive out here. Maybe he'd just stick with his boxy, old, Earth spaceship that was good enough to fly between galaxies. Yeah, this was good.

“Colonel Caldwell, sir?”

“Yes?”

“Atlantis is ready to accept offload of supplies and new personnel, sir.”

“Are the new personnel packed and ready to leave?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Then proceed to offload personnel. Then coordinate with Atlantis to offload supplies.”

“Yes, sir.”

Caldwell sighed to himself. Yup, deliver the coffee and everyone would be happy.

….......

She didn't think she could wait one minute more. She didn't think she looked any more excited than anyone else but still she tried to keep calm. Calm was a necessity, if she couldn't maintain that then she was lost. She gathered her things and left with the others, trying not to step on the heels of whoever was is front of her. That wouldn't be good. Maybe eccentric but not quite normal.

On Atlantis she was led to Tower 4, down a corridor to level 3. Hers was the farthest room, and she took a shuddering breath when faced with the door to her quarters. She reached out surely, but in awe. She'd touched, and used Ancient tech on Earth so this should be much easier, much better. Her finger grazed the surface and she thought, //open//, and it was like magic.

She entered her room eagerly. This would be her sanctuary and she looked around greedily. It was hers. She was here. She dropped her duffle and spun around. //Atlantis, I'm here.//

She stopped turning as her giddiness subsided and she started to really inspect her quarters, and she waited. //Atlantis?//

Her eyes blinked rapidly as she felt a presence. Yes. That was Atlantis.

//I'm here, Atlantis. I'm home.//

Atlantis withdrew from her mind.

//Wait! Come back!//

error error ~ discrepancy detected ~ correction required ~ error error

She screeched till her voice failed her. It couldn't be true. Atlantis wouldn't turn on her. It couldn't. It was home. The voices said she would be welcome. She sank into a sobbing, writhing puddle until night fell.

In the darkness she thought about so many things. The voices in the still screeching part of her mind battered at her walls but she fought them back. She somehow knew if she let them out to roam tonight she might never rein them in again.

She thought back to her family. Her mother had wandered off when she was just ten years old. They'd found her in the warehouse district in the middle of a major conflagration of her own doing. They said she'd been gleeful. She said she did it to make the voices happy. She'd finally listened and acted. It had made them happy. She'd kept screaming about the voices when they'd finally subdued her saying they would come for her if she didn't make them happy again.

She'd visited her mother in the care home, but the drugs made her mom unable to focus on much of anything. She did usually remember her though. Those were better visits than most. Other times, she'd just rocked and mumbled conversations that made no sense, and she'd just be grateful to watch TV with her mother for a while. She had hoped that with treatment she'd get her mother back, but drugs had only stolen her away again. Drugs were a thief. Drugs needed to be avoided.

But those were only some of the old, depressing thoughts from her past. There were so many others that battered her thoughts. Oh, why hadn't she watched her mother that day? It was her job when she wasn't in school. Her father had beat her, but she was only ten. She'd tried so hard.

Her teachers never had complaints about her school work except for her art. They'd always ask who all the faces were. There were always too many twisted faces to be a real family. But she learned fast. She'd learned to always finish by scribbling over the pictures until they were unrecognizable, because that way the teacher would never see what she saw.

There had been people all through school that had mocked her, stolen her work, bullied her, even stole her food. But those she came to expect. The hardest part were those that pretended friendship only to laugh behind her back, lie to her, trick her.

And then Devon, with his creepy hands; his scream as he fell; and that last look of betrayal as he knew he was going to die. The Devon memories always made her end up screaming. Stop it. Stop it. Stop it. Stop it. Go away. Make it go away. Shut up! Shut up! Shut up! Shut up! Shut up! Until she either ran out of breath or voice.

But she was better than that. She deserved to be here, the voices had assured her that she deserved Atlantis. Maybe, maybe she can change the city's mind? If she could just bide her time, prove she's useful even damaged as she was. Maybe Atlantis will let her in? Let her stay? She needed Atlantis. She, she could work hard. She'd done it before. She'd made it this far. She'd made the list and obstacles could be overcome. She'd learned that with Devon, and he hadn't been that difficult to remove.

She was cold and stiff when she finally climbed into her bed. She'd missed meals but she didn't care, it had happened before. She wasn't hungry anyway. But she needed rest. She needed to be ready for her duty shift in the morning. It was only orientation, so she wasn't too worried. But she would be there. There would be no fault with her work. It's what she had. It was all she had to offer. She would be so good that Atlantis would have to relent. Atlantis would have to learn that even from error could come redemption.

…..

“Kusinagi!”

The doctor refused to jump at McKay's bellow. She wasn't sure if he did it on purpose to discompose his minions as he called them, but it could be surprising to someone that wasn't used to it.

She gave him a side-eye and replied silkily, “Yes, Dr. McKay?”

“Oh, there you are.”

She sighed and simply shook her head. “Where else would I be? You haven't assigned anything to my work lately that would take me out of the lab.”

“Oh, right. Ah, just wondering if you're ready with an assignment for the new tech, whoever.”

“You mean, Karen Ohmenheim?”

“Yes, yes. Olemine.”

“If you please, it's Ohmenheim. If she's going to be here for at least a six month rotation I would prefer that her name not be mispronounced a hundred and eighty times.”

“Oh, come on. A hundred eighty? Where'd you get such a preposterous number?”

”Six months and thirty days each. I am sure I must be underestimating.”

“I don't mispronounce names. Not on purpose anyway.”

“Prove it.”

“Olymheim.”

“Nope.”

“Olemmer.”

“Nope.”

“Oyl... no that's not it.”

“Give up?”

After a grumpy sigh, “Yes.”

“There's no “l” at all. It's Ohmenheim.”

“That's what I said... at least once.”

“Nope. You have heard of Simon Ohm, have you not?”

“Of course, the physicist! What does that have to do with this?”

“Her name begins like his sounds. Ohm. Then add -men and then -heim. Simple as that.”

“I don't have trouble with names. I have seen it on the reports you know. It's... like you said.”

“Yes, you do have trouble with names. So, what is her name?”

“Ohm-menheim. It has a lot of m's.”

“As many as it needs.”

“You sure there's no “l”?”

“Nope. Phht. Don't even think of it.”

McKay scrunched up his face and muttered none too softly, “As if Kusinagi and Zelenka aren't bad enough now I have an Ohm-menheim.”

“Yes, very good. And she should be here after orientation.”

…..

Karen Ohmenheim had heard a lot about Dr. McKay. She wouldn't say she was too impressed by the stories. Someone that blustered and tried to intimidate was too impressed with his own intellect. She hoped he wasn't as bad as Devon. But she had heard good things about Dr. Kusinagi and Dr. Zelenka. She knew she should be working most directly with Dr. Kusinagi, so hopefully McKay's effect would be mitigated, and she could find a firm standing in the small group.

She'd been surprised that most of the top scientists worked in one lab. It seemed almost a dangerous thing to risk all the high ranking minds in one room. Dangerous things happened all too often. She pondered obstacles for a moment, but had no clear subject to worry her, and so finally decided that since the disposition of the scientist's lab assignments was not her decision to make, it wasn't something she needed to concern herself with for now. She just had to do her work and do it well and in a timely manner. Too much depended on it.

…..

She was so relieved that she'd been right about Dr. Kusinagi. She was easy to work with. She'd shown her around the various labs Karen would assist in at various times, had helped her set up her station with equipment she would be comfortable with, and had given her a rudimentary survey type of project to get her acquainted with procedures and the vagaries of Ancient tech.

She'd haltingly begun to explain to the doctor that she'd been disappointed by her lack of connection to the city, but Dr. Kusinagi hadn't been concerned with her lack of connection to Atlantis. She'd gone on to explain that she herself found her connection adequate for most experiments and told her not to worry about her own lack. Some people just could not adapt.

Then she explained about Dr. Beckett and how he seemed afraid of his connection to the city. He rarely was able to make even cooperative equipment be of use. This was a great relief to Karen. If she lacked control, no one would expect it of her. She almost felt faint for a moment with the lightening of that fear.

She'd also been relieved that Kusinagi wasn't a chatty kind of person. She saw that she was very friendly with Dr. Simpson and Dr. Zelenka, but they had known each since the “first wave”. It only made sense that they were fairly close.

Once or twice she made sure to leave close to on time, to pretend to join someone for supper. Someone she'd met on the ship. It was easy since they didn't know anyone from the ship, and she made sure the names she mentioned were in different departments.

But it was a very lonely existence. Every night after supper she would return to her room and sit in the middle of her bed and compose herself as best she could. Then she tried to forge a slight connection with Atlantis. It never went far, but she did her best to tell her side.

But all the long lonely nights gave her other ideas, too. The Atlantis AI wasn't sentient, but it did learn and corrected itself as needed. So she began research on her own. She knew that her own research and training background had more depth than anyone else suspected.

How compartmentalized was the AI? Was it in all essential systems, or just as needed? That was important. The sheer volume of space that it took up in the mainframe could be twice, or half, what they thought. No one had done that type of survey. It was so difficult to know where the city systems existed and where the AI “lived”. This was something that was worth knowing, and worth her time and effort, and she was astonished that no one had taken the time or at least proposed a deep survey to answer these questions.

She traced access ports; power conduits; connections with the Control Chair and the Gate; transporter hubs; maintenance drones; water systems; air filtration; security systems. Everything stopped short of the core. Everything. She began to wonder if the AI was simply in a box deep in the core. If she could find that box, what would she learn? What could she do? Would it be what she needed?

…..

She'd turned the survey assigned by Dr. Kusinagi into a major project. When she'd explained some of the things she'd discovered, Kusinagi had seemed impressed and encouraged Karen to continue, but report any developments even if she thought them minor.

And most things were minor, though she did pass on the information dutifully. But then... she found it. The home of the AI. She'd traced everything she could. After weeks of searching there was simply no where else it could be.

She arranged to take some time off the next day. She knew it was right there. It had to be there, and this was the day she would find it. She knew now that it had a physical location. It physically existed and she had to see it. She needed to touch it. Maybe if she could just touch it Atlantis would know she had proven her worth. Maybe any error that existed in her would be forgiven. It had to work. It had to be enough.

The way to the core wasn't particularly well guarded. She was sure that no one knew what was there. It was near the Chair but not in the exact same location. But it made sense for the easy access of Chair conduits and power relays. She'd taken tools with her, but she didn't think it would take any major power tools. It was just a box, hidden behind panels. She was astonished to think how the Ancients could leave the AI so undefended.

She thought about the crystals it must contain, as memory crystals were everywhere on the city. She tried to imagine the beauty of a mind laid out in an array of crystal. The mind of the AI. The home of everything she searched for, everything she needed. The thought left her breathless.

But the simple box she'd been expecting was defended much more securely than she had thought it would be. The removal of the last panel revealed lines of power arcing silently to encase the entire box. The box still had physical connections but the lines of power left no doubt that death would result if someone tried to breach them.

This was not going to be as easy as she'd hoped. She felt ridiculously naive to think that the mind of Atlantis would be laying behind a panel, ready to open up like a box lunch. This was going to take time and planning. At the very least, somehow the lines of force that fed the force field would need to lose their supply of power. Only a total blackout of power would allow her to get to the box.

But she had time. She would plan. But for now she would continue to try to connect. She had never been so close, but even when she chanced a fleeting touch it left her gasping. It fought her harder than ever before. Not just the force field was a barrier, but it also launched a mental attack on her mind.

stop error stop ~ end connection

But even though it left her shaking and numb, she persisted. The push-back was intense and got worse with each attempt until she was nearly unconscious. Noooo.

This couldn't happen. She'd tried so hard. She would connect. She would come back. Every morning. Every night. Atlantis had to see she was persistent. That she wouldn't give up. That she couldn't give in. She would make this happen even if she had to block the force field's power to be able to touch the box itself.

That might be the answer. She must touch the box itself. She looked around the box from every angle she could see. It was nothing special to look at. There were only two visible physical connection points. She located the in-going access surrounded by the lines of force. It must be what powered the AI. Then the other, out-going, must be how the mind directed the city. But the lines of force seemed to be a power unto themselves. Cutting them seemed a more and more formidable undertaking.

She formed her plan of attack and began her work by starting beyond the reach of the lines of force, in an area where it's one physical connection had sprouted into many connections for the AI to serve the many needs of the city. She began unshackling the box from those myriad connections to the city systems.

But there were so many, many connections that she finally decided to split her time between that and tracing the lines of power for the force field. Blocking the force field had at first seemed the more insurmountable task, but tracing the inner workings of it began to reveal patterns that lead her to a better understanding. Yes. Yes. The force field had fewer physical connections, and it was slowly becoming clear what was necessary to block that field.

She'd been working and testing the connections over and over during the last several months. She didn't mind the time or the work because she felt she was making progress. There would come a time, soon, when she would touch the mind of Atlantis. This was her plan, and she would not fail.

…..

“McKay, wait up a minute.”

“Hey, Sheppard. You know I'm busy so make it quick.”

“Yeah, uh, I've been getting this weird vibe from Atlantis lately.”

Rodney managed not to roll his eyes as he answered abruptly. “Well, I know I may not have as close a connection as you to Atlantis...”

“Wait. Wait. Just listen for a moment. I keep getting the sensation that sometimes the connection with Atlantis feels weaker in some places than others, which I've never noticed before. So I sat in the Chair and there's this confusing... something... that comes through. It sounds like the city is trying to point out an error somewhere and it wants it corrected but I can't get a location.”

“Well, that's not very helpful, but Atlantis isn't exactly great at straightforward conversation. You couldn't get something more exact than that?” McKay's worry increased at Sheppard's cringe.

“It's kind of feels like... fear. Can the city be afraid of something? Is that even possible?”

“Huh. Well, it's a learning computer, we know that much about it. But afraid... Have you checked the long range scanners?”

“Yeah, of course. First thing I checked were the scanners. It doesn't seem to be outside of the city.”

“Hmm. Something it's afraid of inside? That would be weird. I'll check out what I can. Diagnostics might tell us something. You're not thinking it's some kind of sabotage, are you?”

Sheppard's shrug just confirmed his confusion. “I just don't know. But if the city needs something fixed and it can't communicate it, that's a problem that could turn serious pretty quickly. Anything you can check out might help. Let me know if you find anything.”

“Absolutely.”

…..

But Karen Ohmenheim, wrapped in her obsession, had forgotten something. It was an important part of her plan that had slipped further and further from her notice. It was the part where she would appear normal.

Dr. Kusinagi noticed first and began a more careful observation of Dr. Ohmenheim. Karen was tired at times, which was understandable. People were often caught up in their work on Atlantis. Miko couldn't say how many all-nighters had been spent in search of a missing link of research.

The science itself could be overwhelming, and sometimes people neglected their own needs. But sometimes Karen looked disheveled. Disruption in her personal hygiene was a disturbing sign. Some mornings would be worse than others but her appearance continued to be less and less neat and clean until finally Miko decided to make a gentle inquiry.

“Karen, I've noticed that you've been tired lately. Perhaps you would appreciate a day off, you know, just to sleep in, have a day for yourself.”

And at first Karen thought it would be great to have a whole day to pursue her investigations. Then suddenly she felt uncomfortable. What was the Doctor really suggesting? She thought quickly, and wondered if it might be a trap. She happened to glance into the glare of her computer screen and noticed that her hair was not tidy, and her shirt was wrinkled. She'd let her guard down.

She slowly straightened and politely turned down the offer. “I just need to attend to things other than work. This project has preoccupied me. I will do better, Doctor, but thank you for asking.”

“I meant it, Karen. Even if you don't need a day off, sometimes it's just nice to have a little breather. If you change your mind, let me know.”

“Thank you. I think I will be fine.”

She was appalled to see that Dr. McKay had taken notice of their conversation. He stared for longer than she thought necessary. Please, please, please, just look away. Even when he did she would catch him glancing her way more often. No, no, no, no, no. She couldn't let him think she wasn't right, wasn't normal. He was dangerous if he thought that.

She went to her quarters that evening and took stock of her situation. The work was important, but so was looking normal, fitting in. She looked closely at her quarters. “No. I've let this go. I can't.” She got out a bucket and water and scrubbed all the surfaces. She packed clothing and linens away to take to the laundry. While those were cleaning she took a long vigorous shower, washing her hair twice before being satisfied. When the laundry was folded and put away she made herself sit quietly for fifteen minutes just to regain a calm demeanor. Then she walked slowly to the mess hall for supper. She didn't allow herself to rush, but she steered clear of people she knew, also. She didn't quite trust her calm just yet. When done, she left for her quarters.

Should she continue with her work? She still had hours before she had to sleep. She didn't want to waste it. Her six month tour was half over. She still hadn't breached the box of the AI. And she was so very close. So she decided to allow just two hours of work. She couldn't chance being tired, it had made her inattentive. So she gathered up her small tool kit and headed to the site of her endeavors.

…..

Karen let herself out of her quarters and shifted her tool box to her other hand. She headed to the area of the Chair Room. It wasn't unusual for techs to be going and coming from there often. It had been easy for her to slip in and out of the area of her interest that was located just a short distance away from the Chair, in corridor 6.

…..

Miko Kusinagi was doing her best to keep out of sight of Karen. She was spying on her newest tech and it made her feel a little guilty, but the woman was just acting strangely. She'd seen her heading in this direction a month ago and had wondered why, but it had slipped her mind until after her chat with Karen this morning. But the more she she thought about it the more unease it was causing her.

This area that Karen was heading toward was not anywhere the techs normally worked. The normal areas were nearer the Chair Room. It could have something to do with her research project, but she had never mentioned a survey that included corridor 6.

She hesitated briefly, wondering if she should continue. But she had no real evidence of wrong-doing so calling security felt a little over-the-top. It was probably something Karen was investigating. She did seem to be a hard worker and was very knowledgeable, and if she was having some personal difficulty, too, Miko didn't want to get her in trouble.

Karen stopped at an odd junction of panels and slid one aside. She climbed in without hesitation.

Miko was shocked. Karen hadn't asked for authorization to open sealed panels. She hurried forward and followed after Karen.

“Karen? What are you doing in here?”

“Dr. Kusinagi!”

“What are you doing? This is a sensitive area. You have no authorization to open and enter an area this near the core. Your survey was to trace any connections that might lead to the core, the locus of the AI. Have you found it? If you have, your instructions were to inform me or Dr. McKay of anything this major.”

Miko looked deeper into the area that Karen had opened up. She gasped at the glow of the lines of force. “Karen, what have you done?”

Karen seethed with anger. This was for HER. Kusinagi couldn't be allowed to interfere. Karen needed to be here with Atlantis, not her. The core was hers. This was the Atlantis' AI. The AI would connect with her. All she had to do was finish the shutdown and route the connection to her, to Karen.

Karen rose up and grabbed some small tools. She swung them at the Doctor trying to force her back. “NO. Get away from the core. It's not for you, it's for me!”

But Miko maneuvered to put herself between Karen and the core. It was too precious. She could not leave it defenseless. She glanced back quickly to see the core directly behind her. The lines of force were gyrating wildly. Falling into them could kill her but she would not step aside. She fought against Karen as she continued to pummel her with the tools, but she was dazed by the blows and was being forced back even further, and the closer Miko got to the core, the more enraged Karen became.

Miko was astonished to hear Karen screeching like a madwoman, and it was accompanied by a crazy woman's strength. Her blows ultimately forced Miko to stumble back into the lines of force.

The screeching crescendo-ed when the darkness descended. Miko didn't hear the grief-filled sobbing. She didn't hear the wailing. “You killed it! You killed the AI. You killed it...” She also didn't see Karen scramble away from the core and disappear into the near blackness of the hallway.

Alarms were blaring but Miko never heard them. Luckily Radek was working nearby in the Chair Room checking the diagnostics that were running... because McKay said Sheppard thought the city was afraid. Radek didn't question the implications but he did have disturbing thoughts about the city and the significance of the connection to those with the ATA gene. Atlantis was far beyond the understanding of this mere scientist.

…..

“McKay! What's happening with Atlantis?”

Rodney McKay stood swaying in dead silence.

Sheppard grabbed his arms and shook. “McKay. Something's wrong. Tell me what you know!”

Rodney looked devastated. He spoke in barely a whisper. “Don't you hear... no, there's nothing to hear. She's not there anymore.”

Sheppard let go of his friend like his hands were burning. Such a look of loss filled his face. “She's gone? But she's Atlantis.”

McKay simply nodded.

The radio crackled to life with urgency. “This is Dr. Zelenka. Dr. Beckett, Dr. Kusinagi is in trouble. Medical assistance is required in corridor 6, near the Control Chair. Hurry please. Dr. McKay, Colonel Sheppard, Dr. Weir. There is an emergency in Chair corridor 6. There is much damage.”

Miko wasn't a heavy burden. The medical team had her in the infirmary in short order.

McKay and Sheppard both hovered as near the bed as Dr. Beckett allowed. She had many superficial burns, lines criss-crossed her shoulders and back with minor touches on her face.

After Beckett checked her thoroughly, “From what we saw it seems she came into contact with the lines of force from a field surrounding the core. She is in shock, but 'ah don't believe she's in danger of dying. That field, the force field, I think it redirected the power away from direct contact with her. It must have. If she'd taken the full load, she'd have been dead before we got there.”

They heard a rustling on the bed. To their surprise Miko had sat up. She was in a relaxed lotus position and when they turned to see her, her eyes were downcast. She slowly raised her eyes and a startling glow surrounded her. It cast a pale radiance around the whole room.

McKay glanced at Beckett and Sheppard, but neither looked like they had a clue what was going on. When they said nothing, he cleared his throat and asked softly, “Are you Miko?”

“Rodney, who else would I be?”

“Well, you're really glowing. That's really not like you. It's-it's very pretty though.”

Sheppard glared at him and Rodney just shrugged. “What? She is. Ah, why are you glowing?”

The voice changed to a cascade of rising then falling notes. “Because I am Atlantis.”

“Oh. Why are you in Miko, can I ask?”

“Karen Ohmenheim is insane.”

Sheppard muttered, “Oh, boy.”

The AI continued. “She must be stopped. She meant to force me to connect to her, but there was too much error. Correction was needed. She nearly succeeded in her attempt until Miko Kusinagi arrived. She was very brave. She fought her, and her interference kept me from destruction. From disintegration. Now, if the core can be repaired, the locus can be re-instituted.”

“Can-can Miko be repaired?”

The glow faded and Miko slid back to the bed, one of the stunned nurses catching her before she landed badly.

Beckett looked grim. “Don't look at me, lads. I don't know. Ye know I'll do ma best, but she's possessed by a computer core AI. I'm just not sure what I can do ta' help her.”

Sheppard looked grim as he dragged McKay out with him. “Where can we find Ohmenheim?”

“I-I don't know where her quarters are but she came in on the last Daedalus trip so it must be out at the end of level 3. But I don't know if she'd go there. She obviously knows a lot about the core... I just don't know. Wait.” He tapped his mic. “Simpson, report.”

“Yes, Dr. McKay?”

“Simpson, you heard about the emergency. It was Ohmenheim... she attacked Miko. Do you know where she hangs out? Does she have any friends? Anything, or anywhere she might be?”

“Oh, my God. Is Miko okay?”

“Not really. Think. Where might she be?”

“I'm sorry. Ah, Miko and I tried to invite her to breaks and stuff and she never accepted. I don't remember seeing her with anyone more than once.”

“Okay, okay. Thanks. Sheppard, get Chuck checking the life signs system. Tell everyone to congregate in the mess hall or in barracks. We need to find her fast. I'm heading to the lab. Maybe something on her computer can help.”

…..

“Dr. McKaaayyy.”

Rodney had almost reached the lab but he jumped as the whispered call startled him. “Karen? Is that you?”

Sobbing. Broken sobbing echoed down the corridor.

“Karen? You, you didn't mean to hurt Miko...”

“Yes. Yes. Yes. She was like Devon. She was in the way. The AI was mine. I found it. It was for meeee.”

“I-I don't know Devon, but Miko wouldn't hurt you. You know that. If she did, it-it was a mistake. An accident.”

“She's no better than Devon, but he was just an obstacle, and obstacles can disappear.”

Rodney gulped. It sounded like Devon may not have ended well. “Well, I'm not Miko. And I'm certainly not Devon. I don't want to be an obstacle. I-I'm sure there's a right thing to do. Maybe you can help if I help you?”

The screeching came suddenly up behind him and he turned in time to see the wrench that knocked him out cold. He didn't wake up soon. He missed being dragged into a transporter. At first he missed the rain and wind as he was dragged onto the deck. But the cold of the waves washing over the deck revived him enough to know her plans for him. He could see her standing over him. She was just staring down at him with feverishly bright eyes. She was shaking from the wet and cold and didn't seem to notice that she was probably in shock. Then she actually smiled.

“You're like Devon. I knew it today when you kept staring at me like I wasn't like everyone else. But I'm just as good as you and all the others. I'm normal. I-I can be normal. I've worked at it so long. Atlantis was going to know it as soon as I had her box. I would have finally had my connection with the AI if not for Kusinagi.

“Atlantis would have had to acknowledge that I had worth. That I could be valuable and useful... but you looked at me. You saw the break in the wall didn't you? I hoped it was just Miko, but it was you, too. I... I tried so hard.” Her eyes slid out into the wildness of the ocean and then they slid back to Rodney, and she smiled. “I know how to remove obstacles.”

“No, Ohmenheim, Karen you can't do this. Too many people know. Not just Miko and I, but-but Simpson, Radek, even Sheppard. And, and Beckett. And all the nurses. They're taking care of Miko. They all know.”

“But obstacles can disappear.” She smiled down at his predicament. She saw his weakness, the blood he wiped from his face after the wash of the waves. She still had the wrench in her hand, and she swung it around and down, but he partially blocked it. She could see that the pain of it connecting with his wrist sapped more of his strength, and she smiled wider.

Rodney was too dizzy to stand, and with one hand out of commission that left only his feet for defense. So, he backed away in the only direction he could, toward the waves that crashed ever closer, and he tried to kick at her legs trying to unbalance her. But even though she was contending with shock she was still stronger than Rodney, and he was still disoriented by his recent unconsciousness. But still, trying to keep her unbalanced was the best defense he could come up with.

She finally came at him screaming in frustration at having to dodge his attempts to delay her. He was just an obstacle in her way and she knew what she had to do. She finally rushed him and tried to bodily push him over the edge. It was only at the last minute that he made a wild grab at her ankle as he slid off the deck into the water.

Her gleeful face as she watched him slide over the side was short-lived. The screeching wildness of her fury was unbounded because McKay's grip with his good hand was secure, and he dragged her kicking and screaming with him to the cold waves below.

Rodney couldn't hold her wildness though. Not her fury. She kicked and kicked at him, as she also dug and clawed, but that didn't last because Rodney knew if she got a solid hold on him then they would both drown.

He soon lost sight of her and settled on treading water. He remembered a survival trick about using his pants to hold air like a life jacket. All he had to do was manage to tie big knots in the legs and kick high enough out of the water to get air in the legs. He was astounded that he actually made it work. For now he could breathe between waves. Now he just had to wait, until he got too cold and too tired to fight any more.

All the while Atlantis grew further and further away.

…..

“Dr. Zelenka, report.”

“Yes, Colonel Sheppard. Have you seen Dr. McKay?”

“No. Not since he said he was headed to the lab to search Dr. Ohmenheim's computer, but I haven't heard from him since. Where are you, Doc?”

“I am in the core. Karen Ohmenheim actually found it but it is terribly damaged. I fear the AI may have been damaged, also.”

“Zelenka, this is important. Can you fix the core? The box that the AI was in?”

“I will try, Colonel.”

“Radek, the AI is hiding out in Miko.”

“I do not understand how that is even possible.”

“Well, Miko was able to speak a few words, and then the AI spoke through her. It said we need that box.”

“Yes. It has protections set around it also. I think these are also necessary.”

“Look, if you can fix it, maybe get it to the infirmary, to Miko... or Miko to it... I don't know if it will save her, but try. As fast as you can.”

“Yes. Yes. Can Rodney help?”

Sigh. “We can't find him. Or Karen Ohmenheim.”

“You checked the life signs on the city?”

“Yes, of course.”

“Off city?”

“Off? Well, that's worrying but thanks. See you later, Doc.”

…..

“Chuck, I've got a new perimeter for you to check out.”

“Yes, Colonel. Everyone I've scanned is in one of the lock-down areas. I really hope you have a new idea.”

“Well, Radek suggested to search off Atlantis.”

Chuck's eyes gave him a dreadful glance. “I really hope you're wrong, sir.”

“Well, if one or both are in the water, it might be too late for either of them.”

Chuck settled grimly to the new task. “There's a lot of wind, so much so that the waves are kicking up over the edges of the decks.”

“Check the area near the deck nearest the Chair tower. Ohmenheim's little secret project was located in that section.”

“Yes, sir.”

Sheppard paced for a few minutes. “Chuck, I'm heading up to the jumper bay. If you find a life sign I'll need to get there fast.”

“Who are you taking with you sir?”

That stopped him for just a moment. With a click of the radio, “Lorne, meet me in jumper bay three. We may have a rescue to attempt.”

“On my way, sir.”

Sheppard hurried so fast he found himself fumbling with a rescue harness. He stopped long enough to take a shuddering breath. He knew how much McKay hated the water, and with good reason. Being trapped in a sunken jumper, and how it got that way, had to leave a whole host of horrible memories. He had finally gathered the harness to be ready for use just as Lorne arrived, and a radio call came in from Chuck.

“Colonel Sheppard, sir?”

“Chuck, what did you find?”

“There's a faint sign about a mile out. The wind and waves are swamping the figure and I can't tell who it is. And Colonel...”

“Yes?”

“There's a cluster of Lantian fish-types nearly a mile south of there that seem to be feeding on something about human size. There's no human life sign identifiable in that direction but you'd better hurry, sir.”

“Right. Dr. Weir, permission to launch?”

Elizabeth wasted not a second. “Permission granted, John. Please, find Rodney.”

…..

Oh, oh. He'd completely forgotten about the whales. How do you forget something that could swallow you like a bit of caviar on a cracker? He felt a bump, and froze. Was being still good or not good? He'd try for still because there was no way he was going to fight one off. Pants-less, at that. He wondered how many jokes they could make if they rescued him without pants? He really didn't care as long as he was rescued.

There was a long gentle brush along his leg and he gasped. It seemed like there was more than one. Were they circling him? It was dark as a night could be with rain and no moon to ease the dark. But there was a trace of light in the water. “Yes, yes, yes. Phosphorescence*. The whales, and the waves are stirring up the water. It's a mechanical process. Stirring the water causes plankton forms to emit light. That's-yeah that's good. Any light would be good.” That's when the waves in front of him parted to let the nearer whale surface. The eye of the whale was mostly dark but had a glowing ring and the whole eye was as big as Rodney's head. His breath shuddered but he kept as still as possible. He only yelled when he felt an up-welling beneath him. He held onto his inflated pants and rode the whale above the surface; above the waves even. He felt himself spreadeagled but pretty stable. The whale blew water over his head.

“Oh, great. Whale snot. Thank you very much. You didn't by any chance see a crazy lady out here? She'd probably have screamed and punched and kicked, but I'm not going to do that. I kind of like being up here above the waves. It's much easier to breathe, so whale snot and all, thanks. You haven't seen a certain Colonel with one of those really nice flying jumper things either have you? I'm really ready for one about now.”

Out of the wind and waves he saw a set of lights. Jumper lights. And someone was hailing him. “You ready for a ride home, McKay? The whales kind of drew our attention but if you'd like to stay and play a while, well... I'll just say no. Coming in on your left. Be ready for the harness.”

“I'm ready! I'm ready.” The harness was wet, like he was, and was giving him a hard time but he got it on. As he lifted off he yelled, “Wait!” He managed to grab his pants at the last second.

…..

After McKay was warmed up, dry, and clothed again and with an elastic support on his wrist, he set out to find Radek.

At the look on the man's face Rodney felt himself freeze up all over again.

“Rodney. I can't do it. I've tried to fix the box. I've powered the lines of force. But the locus stays... dead. If the AI cannot repopulate the box, reinitialize the crystals, then the locus is useless. The AI is dead. Am I wrong? Tell me I am wrong! What do I tell Miko? Will she survive if the AI does not?”

Rodney dreaded what the outcome might be. Could he fix it? If Radek couldn't? They would certainly try, but he needed to ask Beckett how much time they had. How long did he think he could keep Miko alive?

They didn't have long before events moved without their help.

…..

Beckett called over the radio. “Something is happening. Miko is awake, but she's not herself. I mean the lass is the AI, I think. She's glowing blue all over the place. Come to the infirmary. I don't know how to help her. And I don't know if I can or should stop her if she attempts to leave.”

Sheppard and all the members of his team, Radek and Simpson and others from the labs, and Marines of every rank. Everyone knew what had happened to Miko, that she had fought off Ohmenheim to protect the AI. The scientist was known to be kind-hearted as well as feisty and she could and did stand up to McKay on occasion. She was as well liked as anyone on the city. They were surprised to see her, like she was sleep-walking, but surrounded in a blue glow. Miko didn't even slow down when Dr. Beckett whipped off his lab coat and dropped it onto her shoulders. She walked barefoot, in her hospital gown, through the Gate Room and down corridors she knew well.

McKay, Radek, and Sheppard and others were surprised when she didn't go to corridor 6. She went directly to the Chair. She swayed for a moment but easily climbed the one step before sitting.

Around her the glow that had surrounded her swelled. People that had followed her into the Chair Room backed out hurriedly, but the glow stopped at the entry.

She spoke softly but clearly. “Atlantis, I give you back your AI. She was only mine to hold, to keep safe. Now she may wake from death and return to life: 起死回生 .*”

The blue glow swirled around Miko and she sighed. When the blue glow was gone, she awakened as if from a dream.

She sat up slowly and wondered at all the people that looked so happy. She thought for several moments, and her memories seemed to coalesce appropriately.

Beckett stepped forward, “Ah, Miko-love, are ye feeling yourself? It's been a very weird day. I'd like you in the infirmary to make sure that … being the uh, container for the AI didn't do you any harm.”

Miko nodded once. “I will be happy to go with you for now.” She stood up and looked startled as she grasped the lab coat that started to slide to the floor. “Did... did I walk all the way here like this?” And she sounded scandalized.

“Now, now, it's not nearly as bad as the old gowns. It's merely very short. And my coat is even longer. No worries, lass, for your dignity.”

Miko's lips pressed firmly together and she gasped a couple of tiny gasps as she slid fully into the doctor's coat.

There were far too many averted eyes, and blushing grins for her to feel comfortable.

Sheppard strode forward and gallantly offered his arm, “Dr. Kusinagi, you saved the Atlantis AI, you may have just saved Atlantis, and fought off a psychopath to do it. And you did it dressed in a lovely little gown and a coat gallantly offered by the blushing Dr. Beckett. Please let me escort you back to the infirmary.” The Colonel glared/smilingly at the entire complement of people in the area. “And no one could be more proud than your many friends and colleagues.”

Beckett grinned at Miko before she finally accepted Sheppard's arm. “I believe I am ready, Colonel. Thank you. And thank you Dr. Beckett.”

The salutes from the Marines surprised her into stopping for just a moment and added a sweet blush to her face, but it seemed to make her feel better, and she didn't see the Colonel nod his approval.

….. Epilogue

The story of Karen Ohmenheim was complicated. She was an ATA carrier that was insane. That was something they'd never encountered before, and it left everyone concerned that something worse might happen some day.

Rodney's report asked for an investigation into a man he knew only as Devon. He explained Karen Ohmenheim's dying declaration that the man had been an obstacle, and she knew how to take care of obstacles. His death was investigated once again, quietly, but the SGC left the findings as reported officially: an accidental death.

They would be more careful in the future about such things. Notification announcements could be left to slightly later dates, and made confidential until absolutely necessary to shift personnel. After all, it wasn't unheard of for ambition to result in murder, whether someone was insane or not.

…..

But the real answer to everyone's fears was provided by the Atlantis AI. Miko had requested a meeting with Dr. Weir, Colonel Sheppard, and Dr. McKay. An idea had been offered to her during a maintenance visit to the Chair. If they approved, the AI could produce a device. This item could be sent to Earth to “test” the psychological health of an ATA gene carrier. After all, if insanity could be hidden from humans, but not from the AI, it made sense to use it's ability to prevent what had already happened once, and could happen again, to even worse effect.

The device left some people wary of the “fix” but those on site, on Atlantis, tested it with no ill effects so it was passed on to Earth and added to the psych evaluations. All the psychologists had to do was hand it to the one being tested and instruct them to see if they could turn it on.

Someone with the ATA gene would be normally eager to interact with anything that the gene could activate. This device would not turn off the gene, as some originally worried. This device simply erased the pathological need to connect. To those that were so damaged, any connection to Atlantis would lack any feeling of comfort. It left no overwhelming promise of a welcoming home that so many on Atlantis felt was the biggest gift Atlantis offered.

If there was actual need or danger the person could still activate some Ancient device to keep safe, but the obsession was gone. The AI could not offer correction, but it could give solace in the form of calmness of mind and spirit. And those who were truly just a bit eccentric or true introverts were not affected at all.

It was hoped that the psychologists could then offer their own forms of therapy, and healing could truly begin. Karen Ohmenheim never got that chance, and the AI did not want to lose another of the descendants for any reason especially not someone that was so damaged they could not help themselves.

End

*

https://red-cedar.ca/2005/08/09/facts-about-phospherescent-algae/

"Ocean "phosphorescence", commonly seen at night when the water is disturbed, is largely due to the dinoflagellates; they occur ubiquitously in the oceans as planktonic forms, responding to mechanical stimulation when the water is disturbed by emitting brief bright light. Light emission may be seen in the wake of a large ship for some 20 miles.

*

http://www.linguanaut.com/japanese_sayings.htm

起死回生 (kishi kaisei) Literally: Wake from death and return to life
Meaning: To come out of a desperate situation and make a complete return in one sudden burst.