Author: kariesue, kickstand75, firedew1, mysra, amycat8733
Disclaimer: Don’t own them, just borrowing them for a bit of fun
Size: ~9,592 (this chapter)
Comments: Team Sheppard travels to Belosia where they discover the origin of the Minotaur, but with everything the Ancients did, the truth is worse than the fiction.
This week: Chapter 10: Of Rulemaking and Inheritance by mysra
Ducis drummed nervously on his desk. His spy had informed him that Dexcian had reached the caves. He had hoped that the Beast would be drawn out of the caves by the strangers. The caves held many secrets and Ducis wanted to keep at least a few of them.
He stood up and started to pace, his thoughts traveling back in time.
“You will be the next.”
His father thumped him on the shoulder and Ducis couldn’t help but grin. He had passed manhood only a short while ago, but he had learned as a young boy that only the favorite got to be the next ruler. But to become the favorite was not an easy task, as his father was easily bored. He had many wives and even more sons from them. But Ducis had learned to hold his father’s attention, being even more ruthless and demanding than his brothers. He had always been an outstanding apprentice, whether in the scholar's tutelary rooms or the bedroom.
“I am pleased to find your approval."
His father nodded and started to walk. “Today you will learn why our family has always been the strongest.” His father hedged as he led him towards his private library. He shooed the slaves and guards away and closed the door behind them. Ducis stopped in the room while his father moved towards his desk.
He waited for his father to tell him to sit, but instead his father walked toward the shelf. Once there, he reached for something.
Ducis jumped slightly when the shelf groaned and folded to the side.
His father turned, grinning. “Now come on.”
Ducis nodded and followed his father into a secret passageway.
Now, Ducis stopped in front of said shelf. He needed to do something. He couldn’t risk Dexcian discovering what lay hidden in the Beast’s lair. It be even worse if the strangers found it.
“Protector Casus,” he yelled as loud as he could. It only took a few moments for the wing doors to this sacred retreat to fly open.
“Master,” his most trusted servant and leader of his guard greeted, getting down on one knee while bowing his head.
“I need you to gather twenty of your best men. The ones you trust the most.”
“Arm them well.” Casus head snapped up. “We are going after the strangers and Dexcian. The Beast lured them into the labyrinth.”
Understanding dawned on Casus face and his gaze moved to the shelf. “I’ll be back in soon,” Casus returned and then gave another nod, his face set in stone. Casus knew that whoever he chose would not come back alive. Only the leader of the guard was allowed to know and live.
John’s arm shot up, and Ronon and Rodney skittered to a stop behind him. He turned to find Rodney doubled over, his hands on his knees as he tried to catch his breath.
John shot an irritated look at Ronon, who shrugged. He hadn’t run that fast, had he?
Rodney straightened, his face sweaty and red.
“Sorry,” John mumbled in a low voice. He turned and looked around the corner. The light grew brighter in the area and John felt the typical tingle of Ancient tech at the back of his mind intensify, telling him that the area in front seemed to be getting more energy, or was at least in active use.
He bit the inside of his cheek, taking in the corridor. There was no cover and he had no idea where the Beast actually was, though the noise of its steps echoed from the room into the corridor. There was no telling if it was further in the room or right inside the door watching out. Did it know or suspect they were coming?
John turned back to find his teammates watching him intently.
“There’s no cover,” he whispered. “Do you get anything Rodney?”
While Rodney fumbled in his pocket, Ronon moved past him to take a look too. He turned back and both looked at Rodney expectantly.
“Nothing,” Rodney groused, glowering at the LSD.
John closed his eyes, thinking hard. It wouldn’t be as bad if they found another way, but the only way in there was the way down the corridor.
“Rodney, stay here,” he ordered. He looked at Ronon. There was no need for words, Ronon just nodded. Rodney looked panicked and clutched his P-90, but nodded too.
Another look around the corner showed a still empty corridor. John slowly crept forward, his eyes trained on the lab entrance. He moved further into the corridor. He sensed Ronon a step behind to his right, his gun visible in John’s peripheral vision.
They stopped right outside the door. John looked back, seeing that Rodney too had crept forward. He waved at him to get back. Rodney looked surprised and turned, apparently just realizing how far he had moved from cover. He jumped and quickly scampered around the corner again and out of sight. John sighed and dropped his shaking head to his chest. He hoped Rodney would stay where he was supposed to be. Ronon shifted, dragging John’s attention back to the task at hand.
John looked at Ronon. His hand in motion communicating his plan, the Satedan smirked but nodded his agreement. They flattened against the wall, lifting their guns. John risked another glance back to make sure Rodney was nowhere in sight. Then he looked at Ronon, again giving a nod.
John tensed and then propelled forward. His P-90 ready to shoot, he passed the door and flattened himself against the wall on the other side. He held his breath for a moment, waiting for a hint that he had been discovered, but everything stayed calm.
Again his eyes connected to Ronon, who had moved into John’s position on the other side. Ronon shook his head slightly, telling John that he too thought they hadn’t been discovered. John took a deep breath. He carefully inched around the corner to look in the room while Ronon moved into the corridor further, his gun trained on the door.
“Clear,” John breathed as he moved through the door, his gun always ready. The room looked like one of the bigger hallways. On the left side was a staircase, leading to a gangway that stretched over the entire hallway directly above him. Could the Beast be up there? He listened again.
Ronon tapped him on the shoulder and pointed to a doorway on their right. John nodded his agreement. The noises of hooves moving over the concrete-like floor were coming from that direction. He was glad to find at least a few hiding possibilities. For a moment, he considered getting Rodney in here. But it would take too much time and the risk of getting caught was too high.
There was no need to tell Ronon what to do; the two understood each other without a word. They carefully moved forward. There was a small corridor, once more leading into a bigger room. This one, however, was stuffed with Ancient tech. Consoles and tables lined the walls. In the middle of the room stood an ancient exam bed with work stations at both ends.
A growl had both men diving for cover. They clearly were on the right track. They heard heavy breathing and the sounds of hooves coming closer. John hoped the Beast wouldn’t smell them or something. He looked out from behind a chair tucked under the table he'd hidden beneath. Ronon had dove into an alcove across the room. The bad news, however, was that a light had turned on the moment Ronon had ducked in, and closing the door would also attract attention. John fervently hoped Ronon would find the light switch and fast.
Before John had even finished his thought, the light died and Ronon was safely hidden, better than him anyway. He pressed against the wall. His hair stood at attention. The Beast had entered the room. It was growling. John held his breath. Was Teyla with it?
Suddenly, the Beast’s hooves came into view. John tried to melt into the wall. He wouldn’t attack without knowing where Teyla was. The Beast stopped and John heard a sound that reminded him of his horse sniffing the air.
Oh crap, he thought. He gripped his P-90 tight and was just about to bring it forward when what sounded like an alarm back home went off.
The Beast howled angrily.
“My home. Not welcome,” it growled as it set off, hurrying toward the exit and Rodney. He quickly crawled out from under the table. He heard Ronon mumble, apparently warning Rodney to hide.
“Teyla has to be here somewhere,” John said in a low voice.
Ronon nodded keeping an eye on the corridor they had come through and the beast had vanished into a moment ago.
“I think we’re clear,” Ronon said moving further out of his hiding.
John eyed the opposite door that lead deeper into the Beast’s lair. Raising his hand to signal Ronon wordlessly.
The two quickly moved forward and took position on the door’s side, using the minimal cover it gave. John raised his P-90 and after another nod from Ronon he flew into the next room, while Ronon covered him.
“John,” Teyla called as soon as he was on the other side. The relief was easy traceable in her face and John could only agree. He moved closer to the pedestal that was surrounded by light bars. Ronon took position just inside the door now looking out for any signs of the return of the Beast. John took in the consoles; one had to be the control to switch the energies bars off, trapping Teyla.
“He was at that …” Teyla started to say as she pointed at a console, but the bars flickered and then vanished. John couldn’t help grin. Before he could walk towards Teyla, she was down the platform throwing herself at him. His arms closed around her automatically as he hugged her back.
“I feared ...” she started to say easing back a bit to take him in.
“Well, I have a hard head,” he smirked.
A cough reminded them where they were and that they weren’t alone, so they quickly let go.
“We should go before that thing comes back,” Ronon stated. He grinned at his teammates. John nodded, thoughtful. “Here,” Ronon said, handing Teyla her P-90. “Think it’s broken?”
John took the weapon gave it a quick once over. A howl had him looking at the door. “Should be ok,” he said, handing the weapon back to Teyla.
“You still want to kill that thing?”
“I’m certainly not planning on handing it to King Crazy up there alive. But I don’t think our weapons will do.” John fished in his vest, glad the Belosians had been ignorant and left his C4 with him. He broke the block into half and then half again. “No need to bring the whole building down on us.”
“That would not be a good idea,” Teyla agreed from her position next to the door. Ronon was on the other side looking out too. Again a howl echoed from the outside.
“Ok, let’s go,” John said, putting all items away again, though he kept the prepped C4 block in easy reach. He handed Teyla the remote control. She watched him intently and he was sure she was wondering how he planned to get the C4 close enough to the Beast without getting any of them killed. But she also knew there was no time to discuss the finer details right now.
When they reached the small corridor again, new sounds filled the air. People yelling and the Beast growling, as well as the sound of metal weapons hitting something.
“I told you this was a bad idea!” Rodney’s voice carried clearly through the air.
John froze for a second and then started to run, knowing Teyla and Ronon were right behind them. They burst into the hallway and into chaos.
There already lay several people along the walls. About fifteen were around the Beast, Spartacus right next to Rodney, obviously trying to keep him safe. The Beast howled again and John realized that some of the men held the black cylinders he’d seen Ducis use. Teyla’s hand grabbed his arm and her nails dug through his jacket. Her eyes were wide open in terror, her gaze fixed on the black cylinders. God help him if that had been used on her.
“Teyla?” he asked.
It took a moment before she reacted. “I have seen Ducis use it on some poor woman.”
John nodded, relieved. He turned back to the fight. The Beast swung his arm in an attempt to get the attackers off it.
“Shoot,” John ordered. “Rodney!” John yelled and the scientist’s gaze snapped to him. “Shoot!”
Rodney looked surprised for a moment and then fumbled for his P-90. Rodney looked at the Beast, then at the people around. Spartacus grabbed the gun, obviously understanding that Rodney was’t very confident that he wouldn’t kill someone he hadn’t meant to. The Belosian warrior lifted the gun and aimed at the Beast’s head. Teyla and John did the same.
“Take cover,” John yelled. He heard Spartacus repeat the order to his men. The men dove away.
The Beast roared again. It grabbed one man that had tried to get away and threw him into Spartacus and Rodney. When it grabbed for a second despite being shot at, John was sure that bullets were barely doing any harm, most likely ricocheting off its hard skin and hitting the men on the ground. With the attackers on the other side incapacitated, it turned and froze. Its gazed fixed on Teyla.
“Mine!” it yelled. John let his gun drop to his chest, grabbing for Teyla as the Beast lunged in their direction.
“Sheppard!” Ronon yelled. Luckily, John was fast enough to grab the C4 from his pocket and throw the block at him. The Beast flung its arm out. John turned his arms, surrounding Teyla in a protective circle. He felt something tug at his vest and then pain exploded through his back.
He tightened his grasp on Teyla and then they were flying.
“This was a stupid idea,” Rodney groused for the hundredth time. He should have gone with them, but no, he had to stay behind. It was like being picked last in high school and then having to sit on the bench most of the time, since there were too many to play anyway. He looked around the corner yet again.
“Do not move.”
Rodney jumped and couldn’t help a squeak of surprise come out. He turned slowly to come face to face with Spartacus and his men.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” he huffed, his head falling to his chest.
“Be quiet,” Spartacus barked.
Spartacus slapped his hand over Rodney’s mouth, the other grabbing his arm.
“You do not wish to get the Beast’s attention? Do you?”
Rodney slowly shook his head. Spartacus nodded and took his hand from Rodney mouth, but he kept a tight grasp on his arm. He spun the scientist around.
“Now,” Spartacus whispered. “Where is your leader?”
Rodney just pointed forward and Spartacus started to move, dragging him along. They quickly reached the door.
“I don’t think we should go in there,” Rodney whispered. To no avail. The hallway was empty, to Rodney’s relief. His relief quickly faded when Spartacus dragged him further into the hallway. The group moved slowly, obviously impressed by the sight. Suddenly Rodney’s comm crackled.
“Get your butt safe, McKay.” Ronon’s voice was low and urgent, sending shudders down his spine.
“Uuhhh, I think we shou …” Rodney didn’t get to finish. They heard the Beast howl and it sounded close, very close. Rodney froze.
For a long moment, nothing happened. Then suddenly the Beast burst through a doorway. Rodney was surprised when the group quickly found a formation and started to fight. Spartacus kept Rodney close, grabbing him every time he wanted to bolt and pulling him behind him.
Rodney was impressed when they hadn’t all died within minutes of the Beast’s arrival. He watched from behind Spartacus as his men fought, circling the Beast. They had what looked like little black cylinders. These seemingly had quite an effect on the Beast, though it didn’t stop it from knocking people out of its way. Most hit the wall and stayed where they landed on the floor.
Time seemed to pass slowly and Rodney couldn’t tell if two minutes had passed or twenty.
Rodney’s gaze snapped up to the direction John’s voice had come from.Right, he had a gun. He took aim, but then realized all the people standing around. What if he hit them instead?
Before he could aim again, Spartacus grabbed the gun and Rodney had just enough time to unhook the gun and hide behind Spartacus. The next things passed in a blur and then Spartacus was pushed into him, taking him down too.
When Rodney managed to get free again, he realized what exactly had brought him down. He scrambled away. Looking up, though, proved to be a mistake. He caught the Beast striking out at John. He could make out Teyla in John’s arms. At first, it looked like the Beast had missed, but suddenly John was airborne. He skidded to a stop with Teyla on top of him.
Rodney’s gaze snapped to the Beast, and he was horrified to see Ronon tackle the thing. Of course, it threw him off and he landed close to John. The Beast closed in on John and Teyla, when suddenly the sound of a P-90 sounded again. Spartacus had moved without Rodney realizing it and was now trying to get the Beast away from his team members. Rodney wondered what to do. There were barely any people moving anymore.
The Beast turned on Spartacus and closed in. Suddenly, the fire stopped and Spartacus looked at the gun in his hand. The Beast used his distraction and Spartacus too was sent flying. He stopped in front of John and Teyla. Teyla was crouched over John, getting up again when Spartacus didn’t skid closer. She looked at him for a moment and then at the Beast, relief written on her face that Spartacus had at least succeeded in getting the Beast away from them.
Her gaze snapped to him. “Rodney, hide.”
He didn’t need to be told twice and he dove into the closest staircase. For a long moment, there was absolute silence. The next he heard was a small explosion. It wasn’t strong enough to shake the structure, but something impacted outside on the wall. He didn’t even want to think about what it was.
“Rodney?” Teyla’s voice sounded.
He quickly left his hiding spot, his gaze fixed on his team. Teyla sat bent over John, her hands ghosting over him. Rodney moved through the sea of bodies on the floor, purposefully looking away from the still smoking and hopefully very dead Beast’s cadaver.
“Rodney,” Teyla called, her voice urgent. “Make sure Ronon is alright.”
“Is Sheppard alright?”
Teyla heard the anxiety in Rodney’s voice, but there was nothing she could say that would appease him. She hadn’t had the time yet to really check him through. John was barely conscious and writhing weakly on the floor in obvious pain. His breath hitched as he tried to breathe through the pain. She finally put her hands on John’s chest, until now too scared to hurt him even more, but she needed the connection.
She gazed over her shoulder, glaring at Rodney. “I will tell you when I know. Now see to Ronon and our friend.” She nodded in Spartacus direction. Rodney nodded once and then finally turned. Teyla watched for a moment. Suddenly, she felt John’s hand touched hers on his chest. She quickly turned back.
John was watching her, his eyes glassy with pain. “Beast?” he gasped.
Teyla turned away for a moment. “I believe we succeeded in killing it.”
“Good,” he breathed. His eyes closed and he stopped moving.
Teyla panicked for a moment, her hand quickly travelling to his cheek. “John you have to stay awake,” she pleaded. His eyes opened to slits.
“I’m awake,” he said, his words ending in a hiss and a groan.
“I need to know where you are hurt.”
John looked at her, a smile playing on his lips. “Back, probably busted my ribs. Nothing too bad.” His words were contradicted only a moment later when he squirmed and his body stiffened in pain. His eyes were pressed and his breath grew fast and shallow.
“I need to take a look at your back. Can you move to your side?”
It took a moment before John reacted and slowly nodded once. He started to move his arms, but the movement stopped abruptly and another groan slipped past his lips. His face lost the little color it had left.
“John?” Teyla asked, not able to contain her fear any longer.
“Need a moment,” he said through clenched teeth. Teyla looked down. His arms were pressed to his side, his hands in fist. She hated the thought of hurting him, but she needed to check his back. That was the moment she realized that a pool of blood was slowly growing under to him. She froze, shocked. This couldn’t be happening.
She took a deep breath.
“Teyla?” Rodney’s panicked voice tore her gaze from John. Rodney was pressing both hands down on Spartacus’ chest, right under the collarbone on the left side. “I think a bullet hit him,” he said, his eyes wide. Blood was quickly pooling through Rodney’s hand. So much to do and so little time.
Teyla felt John’s arm flailing against her. Her head snapped back. He was watching her. “Go. Help.”
Teyla shook her head, afraid John would not be here anymore if she left even for a moment.
“No, you are not.” She couldn’t help but huff, amused.
Teyla knew he was right.
“Ronon?” John asked a bit louder.
Teyla took his hand, straightening it out and squeezing it once before laying his arm on his chest. This way she could monitor if he was still with them. She moved over to Rodney and pulled a pressure bandage from her vest.
“Hit his head and is out cold, but you know he’s got a hard head,” Rodney answered, his eyes on his friend. Teyla watched his face transform to horror when his eyes strayed to John’s side, spying the blood there.
“Do not let go,” Teyla warned.
“Like me,” John breathed behind her, distracting Rodney and probably himself. It helped Teyla to know he was conscious.
“That’s debatable,” Rodney returned. “You tend to get loopy.”
“Not. Mr. I Do Not Faint,” John mocked, his voice barely above a whisper.
“I passed out,” Rodney groused. Teyla slipped into Rodney’s place and applied the bandage. “There’s no exit wound,” Rodney whispered, his eyes on John. He fumbled in his vest, pulling out more bandages.
“Whatever, McKay.” John’s chuckle ended on a cough that had John arch his back, which set off a chain reaction. Rodney and Teyla were at his side in seconds, pressing him down to keep him from curling in on himself. Teyla moved behind John, his head in her lap while Rodney held his legs. After a moment, he stilled. His breathing was ragged and fast.
“That sucked,” he gasped.
Teyla bent over him, her lips skimming John’s. She heard Rodney gasp.
“Get a room,” he added in a low grumble. “Seriously now?” he trailed off.
John’s eyes opened in surprise. “That helps.”
“You will not get out of that talk you promised me,” she threatened lightly.
“Wouldn’t dream of it,” John whispered.
“Care to explain what’s going on?” Rodney asked, his voice disbelieving.
“I would like to know that too. I believe we had an agreement.”
John groaned, surely not having a problem recognizing Ducis’ voice. Rodney’s head snapped around so fast Teyla had no doubt he would complain over it later.
Her concentration was on her P-90. Would she be fast enough to grab it and shoot Ducis and whoever was with him? She felt John’s head shift and looked at him. He was looking at her, pleading with her. Her head snapped up when she heard Rodney squeak. He lay in a heap on John’s leg. Then everything went black.
Ducis started to pace again. He had no idea how many of the men sent down there still lived and there was a possibility that he needed them to get the Beast out. The door opened and Casus entered, followed by his men. They lined up and the last closed the door. When he stopped next to his comrades, they got down on one knee, right arm crossed over the chest, head bowed.
Ducis looked over the men. They were loyal and wouldn’t need to be told what to do, they just followed. They were strong, but not very intelligent. He passed the line and stopped in front of Casus.
“Protector Casus, get more men and bring them to the entrance of the cave. They are not to enter.”
“Understood, Dux,” Casus answered. He knew what was expected of him. Anyone that came out of that cave who wasn’t Ducis or the strangers would be killed immediately. Ducis wasn’t stupid enough to have the strangers killed by his people. The equipment they carried suggested that they came from an advanced society. If they came to the conclusion the Magistrate had something to do with their deaths, he would have another enemy he didn’t need.
The men still kneeled on the floor.
“Follow me,” Ducis boomed. He turned and walked toward the secret passageway.
The staircase ended at a big hall that also was the entrance to the Beast’s cave. The hidden facility stretched through the underground on two floors. Luckily the upper floor was too low for the Beast to maneuver, but the corridors led to many staircases that brought you to the lower level and one staircase ended in the room with the healing water. This was the way he and his forefathers had always been able to move through the hidden rooms and explore without having to fear running into the Beast.
There were soft voices when Ducis and his men reached the end of the stairs, but no sounds from the Beast or that of a fight. Ducis quickened his step and froze for a moment, taking in the sight before him as he looked down from a balcony on the upper floor. The Beast lay unmoving, surrounded by what looked like most of the men sent down to capture it. On the far side, he made out a small group of five people. It only took him a moment to recognize the strangers and that was Dexcian lying there.
His blood boiled over. He turned to his men.
“You,” he pointed at one in the back. “Take your water skin, follow the left corridor to the end and walk down the stairs. There’s a fountain in the room. Empty the skin, fill it up again and bring it as fast as you can. Do not mix it with the water in it. Do you understand?”
The man, who really was more of a boy, nodded and scrambled away. He pointed at more men, ordering them to go ahead and make sure he was safe to follow and enter the lower level.
When they moved closer, Ducis could decipher more of the scene. The big warrior accompanying the Colonel lay in a crumbled heap close to the wall, obviously unconscious. Dexcian lay between the strangers and the Beast, also unmoving. That could only have one meaning: Dexcian had tried to stop them from killing the Beast.
He couldn’t help a surge of enjoyment when he realized that the Colonel was apparently hurt too. The Colonel’s head rested in his wife’s lap. She was bent over, skimming her lips over her husband’s. Ducis felt jealous. They exchanged a few words that were too low too truly understand. What Ducis did hear was the doctor asking what was going on.
“I would like to know that too. I believe we had an agreement,” he asked, not hiding his anger. He heard the Colonel groan. The doctor’s head snapped towards them. Only the Colonel’s wife’s head stayed down, but it tilted slightly and Ducis saw one of their weapons laying next to her. Before he could say something, a bolt passed him and hit the Doctor who squeaked surprised and then crumpled over the Colonel’s legs. The wife’s head finally snapped up, but another bolt was already on the way hitting her in the chest. She glared at him before tilting to the side.
The Colonel started to thrash weakly on the ground. “Teyla?” he called softly.
He started to lift himself, but only managed a short distance before crumpling back to the ground, unable to stop a whimper passing his lips. Ducis realized that the Colonel was laying in a puddle of his own blood. He grinned and moved closer, confident that the Colonel was unable to harm him, even though he continued to move. The more he moved, the more sluggish he became.
Ducis turned away for a moment, looking at his loyal servant. There was blood on Dexcian’s chest. A white cloth covered part of his chest and blood was already seeping through. They had done that to him. He had tried to stop them.
Ducis took a deep breath. He turned to his men, who were checking on the various bodies lying around, keeping their distance from the Beast. The boy he had sent to get the water ran into the room.
“Any survivors?” he asked, snatching the water skin from the boy as he passed. His answer was collective head shakes. He moved to stand directly next to the Beast and the men gasped, still keeping their distance. Ducis hoped there was enough life left in it for the water to take effect.
He opened the skin and stopped next to the Beast’s head. There was a gaping hole in its side and Ducis wondered where it had come from. He tipped the skin, making it look like he was pouring water in its face, while he made sure most of it landed in the Beast’s open mouth. When nothing happened, he poured the rest over its body, again making sure a big portion landed on the Beast’s wounded side.
He stepped back and watched for a moment. The men sighed in relief. The Beast truly seemed to be dead. Ducis ground his teeth. He dropped the skin and turned back to the man who had ruin everything for him.
Suddenly, he heard exclamations. Several of the men were suddenly pulling him away from the Beast. He turned and had to fight to keep his face passive. The Beast stirred slightly and then its breast started to heave.
Ducis freed himself and took a step to the Beast. The wound seemed much shallower already.
“Hurry. Get the Beast to the cave entrance before it wakes further. There’s a cage for it.” He moved back to the smaller group. “Take Dexcian, the woman, him and him.” He pointed at Ronon and Rodney. This was a dream come true. He would own the Colonel’s wife and make her his.
The men nodded and quickly set to work, though they were still hesitant to close in on the Beast. The Colonel twisted and squirmed as one of the bigger men pulled his wife away from him. After a moment he faltered, his hands clenched in fists. His body was rigid with pain. The men moved to the door and stopped, obviously waiting for him.
“I will come in a few minutes.”
The men looked unsure.
“Hurry, before the Beast wakes,” he added. The Beast twitched again, giving the men the right incentive to get going. Now Ducis was alone in a room with the dying Colonel. He sauntered over, aware that the Colonel was watching him. A big grin spread on his face.
John wanted to kill him. Wanted to wipe the smug smile from his face and rip his heart out. But he was trapped in the agony swallowing his whole being in waves. Ducis crouched next to him, just far enough away so John couldn’t slug him.
“Colonel, Colonel,” he said, shaking his head. “Did you truly believe you could fool me that easily?”
John snorted. “We killed the Beast,” he pointed out.
Ducis’ chuckle unnerved John. He had to admit that he hadn’t realized much around him, other than Teyla being taken away, as well as Rodney, Ronon and Spartacus. His concentration had mostly been on staying awake.
“You know, Colonel, I could let you die still thinking you did.” He paused. “But then I would miss seeing the realization in your eyes that you failed, wouldn’t I?”
John growled. “Screw you.”
“Na, na, Colonel, keep your manners. Though I’m not sure what exactly you just said. I guess on your world it is taken as rude.”
John glared at Ducis. His fist tightened. “Cut the crap.”
Again Ducis chuckled. He looked over his shoulder and then leaned closer to John.
“Though you did kill the Beast at first, it will live.”
John ground his teeth.
“You see this?” Ducis moved his arm to indicate the Ancient facility. “This was once the home of gods and they, apart from the Beast, have left many wonders. Some are lost to us and some are not. For example, we have a machine that shows us the DNA of everyone walking through the Ring. That was how we knew you were different and needed your wife. It showed us that she shared the Beast’s DNA. They also gave us weapons. The little black cylinders and the ones that helped us capture you.”
“Nice little story. Get to the point.” John interrupted.
“The point, Colonel, is what they left in one of the rooms. One of my forefathers discovered it and it’s the reason my family has ruled for as long as it has. It makes us stronger and live longer than most of our people. It’s a water fountain that can heal and even give back life, if consumed in time. It’s a secret only the ruler and the leader of the personal guards knows, in case I die before I can tell my successor. And before you ask, yes, I was able to give it to the Beast in time. It already showed signs of waking when my guard took it to the cave.”
“You won’t win.”
“Oh, I will. See, now I’m a savior, thanks to you. I freed my people of the Beast and saved your team. Too bad I was too late to save you. But you just wouldn’t listen when I told you not to come here.”
“My people won’t believe you.”
“Oh, they won’t have to. I’m sure they will believe my next wife. Of course, at the moment she is still yours.”
“If you touch her, I’ll kill you.” John hated that his voice wavered. It was an empty threat and nothing more. John was sure that if he didn’t get help soon, he wouldn’t wake up ever again.
“You shouldn’t make promises you cannot keep,” he mocked.
“She’ll never be yours,” John returned and was satisfied to see real anger cross Ducis face before he could hide it.
“Another mistake you make, Colonel,” he continued lightly. “On my world there’s a tradition. If a husband dies, the family has until sunset to claim the wife. If they don’t, she is sold to the highest bidder the next day. As there is no one to claim your wife, I am the one to decide her fate, and as it is, my former wife passed away not too long ago.”
Anger surged through John and he threw a punch at Ducis. He grazed the man’s chin and, despite the fact that it was a weak try, Ducis fell on his back cursing. John lay on his side, panting through the agony radiating from his back.
“My wife will rip you to pieces,” John told him.
“She will learn. And I still have two incentives to make her more accepting.”
John started to drag himself to reach Ducis. Adrenaline shot through his system at the thought of Teyla, Ronon and Rodney in the hands of this maniac. Ducis scrambled to his feet and put what he seemed to deem a safe distance between them. As quickly as it had appeared, the surge of strength failed John and he collapsed on the floor. He felt Ducis watch him and hated that he couldn’t keep the groans from moving past his lips. Suddenly, he felt tired and cold. He tried to fight his closing eyelids. Tried to stay awake, but it was no use.
“Only a few nights in my bed and your wife will forget she ever met you,” Ducis fading voice taunted.
John had failed. It was the last conscious thought flitting through his mind, before darkness claimed him.
One moment there was nothing, the next Teyla was falling. The sensation stopped abruptly as her feet hit something solid. Her knees gave way and pain shot from her wrist and shoulders as something pulled at her arms. Her eyes shot open. She quickly brought her feet under her again and the pain stopped. She blinked against the glaring light. It took a moment for everything to come into focus.
The stone was shining white grey in the almost blinding sunlight. She looked up. Her wrists were shackled in iron clasps fixed above her. What was going on? Her brain felt sluggish as she tried to make sense of her situation. What was the last thing she remembered?
She turned her head to her left. Ronon and Rodney too were shackled to white grey stone pillars. But they were still unconscious and settled on the floor, their backs leaning against the pillars. The picture of her friends triggered her memory and they snapped in place in painful clarity. They were back in Ducis’ household. John? Where was John?
She turned her head and recoiled, coming face to face to the man she would love to kill with her bare hands. He pushed his nose into her hair and inhaled deeply. Teyla shuddered.
She twisted, hoping to use her legs to give him a taste of what she thought about him being this close, but to her horror her legs were bound and her mobility limited to a minimum. That didn’t mean she couldn’t use her head. But it was too late. Ducis had already stepped back to a safe distance.
“We will have so much fun together,” he gloated, a wide grin on his face.
“I believe my husband already told you that I am not available,” Teyla said in an icy voice, playing the only card she had. Her breath caught in her chest when Ducis’ grin widened.
“It is with great sadness that I have to inform you of your husband’s much too early demise.” The joy in his voice contradicted the sad meaning of his words.
“I do not believe you,” Teyla spat, her eyes sparkling in anger.
“You will. The sun will soon start to leave for the night to come, and when the last ray of light vanishes behind the far horizon, I will claim you as my new wife as it is tradition for my people. Of course, I will offer a suitable price to your people. But they won’t be awake in time to claim their right to you.”
Teyla swallowed hard. “I will not agree to this.”
A dark smile graced Ducis’ face. He was twisting something in his hand. He stepped over to Ronon and Rodney, taking both in. Then he turned back to her and showed her the black cylinder.
“No,” Teyla gasped. What would it do to someone not even conscious? Could it kill? The smile grew even darker as he bent to Rodney.
“You will stand beside me tonight and you will accept my gracious offer to take you into my home.”
Teyla shook her head, a lonely tear streaming down her face.
“And just as a reminder not to forget, every time you disobey I’ll punish them.” Another sinister smile appeared as he attached the cylinder to Rodney and set it to work. Rodney’s body went rigid and his eyes flew open. His mouth opened and a scream tore from his mouth.
“Stop! Please stop!” she screamed as Rodney started to convulse and whimpering replaced the screaming. Ducis nodded once, seemingly satisfied with her. Rodney stilled and his eyes closed, his head lolling to the side. She frantically searched his chest for movement. She almost collapsed in relief, but the tug of her shackles reminded her that it wouldn’t be a good idea.
Ducis stopped in front of her.
“I can’t wait to make you mine,” he told her.
“Never,” she answered, glaring at him. “My people will come.”
Ducis nodded. “Yes, and you will be a good wife and tell them how grateful you are that I saved you from the Beast and that your husband made a mistake taking you down to the caves to explore. If you do that, I’ll allow your warrior to return home. Of course, first he will have to survive the trial in the arena.”
Ducis looked at her, his eyes leering on her curves.
“Now I will leave you to mourn your husband.”
“My husband will come and kill you.”
Ducis shook his head and smirked gleefully. “We returned from the caves several hours ago. The last time I saw him, he was bleeding from the cuts of the Beast’s claws. I am not a monster and will allow you tonight to mourn his loss. Tomorrow night, you will join me and by the next dawn you will have forgotten him.”
“Never,” Teyla said, her voice strong.
“Wait and see.” Ducis turned, not awaiting a reply. As soon as the heavy door behind him closed, the shackles opened. Teyla quickly dropped down next to Rodney and pressed her fingers to his neck.
“Thank the Ancestors,” she huffed, making him comfortable. She moved over to Ronon and tried to wake him, but it was to no avail. She didn’t dare try to wake Rodney, his agonized scream still fresh in her memory. Was John really dead? Wouldn’t she feel if he was? But Ducis was right. John had been bleeding badly and she hadn’t managed to tend to him or apply a bandage to stop it.
She looked around, wondering where Spartacus was. She couldn’t help cringe over the name John had given the warrior. She didn’t even know his real name. Was he dead too? He had been shot, and if he hadn’t been tended to, he had most likely died too. Teyla wondered if his wife now faced the same fate as her. Had he been married?
Suddenly, she sobbed and tears started to stream down in earnest. She was not John’s wife. It had been only a play and, though he had shown great interest and promised to talk and she had a strong feeling they would finally become more than friends, it might be too late now. She had waited too long. If only she just could tell him how she truly felt.
“I love you, John Sheppard,” she murmured quietly, closing her eyes as she saw him in her memories whole and alive. Was that all she would have left of him? Memories of what had great potential? She leaned back as she let her mind replay the memory of the last night they had spent together. She would never forget. Never.
Unaware, she drifted off to an uneasy sleep.
The voice was low and distant, barely recognizable. He felt dizzy. There were more and more words floating into his ear, but he couldn’t make them out. He was just too tired and cold. He wanted to drift off again. He lay unmoving, waiting for darkness to claim him. But a nagging thought didn’t let him. There was something, someone needing him, counting on him, but he had failed. Shouldn’t he be dead by now? The thought awakened the pain in his back, pushing him further into wakefulness.
“Colonel Sheppard, please come in.” Lorne’s voice held a trace of desperation mixed with a note of resignation.
John open his eyes, surprised. How had they found him? He opened his mouth to call out, but all he managed was a barely identifiable “I’m here” followed by a painful cough. They would never find him. For a long moment, there only was silence and John even held his breath to see if he could hear anyone.
“Colonel Sheppard, is that you?”
“No. Batman,” John mumbled. Lorne voice had sounded closer, but there was no one around.
“Well, sir, I’m not sure Colonel Carter would be too impressed, but I know what you can do, so I’d agree.”
“What?” John tried to turn, embarrassed his 2IC had heard him. He tried to lift, but the pain in his back exploded again and his arms crumbled under him.
“Sir … Colonel ...” The voice was louder than before and directly in his ear. It sounded urgent and worried.
“Still here,” John sighed.
“Where are you, sir?” It was then John realized that Lorne wasn’t there. The Major’s voice had come through the comm link tucked into his ear. He tried to remember when he had put it on vox, before he realized it didn’t matter.
“Lorne,” he said, his voice sharp. “Need to be careful. Get Jumper and Marines.”
“Already in one, sir. Ten Marines ok?”
“Can you tell us where you are and where’s your team? How bad are you hurt?” Lorne shot the questions without pause. John took a moment to consider how to transform as much information as needed with as little effort as possible. He knew he wouldn’t be able to stay awake much longer.
“Team captured,” he said. “Ancient facility under city.Entrance several clicks southwest from the main gate.”
“Ok, we already see the city and the main gate.”
“How bad are you hurt, sir? We have Ramirez here. He would like to prepare a few things.”
John could hardly tell them that he didn’t think he had that long left. It could take hours for them to find him. Suddenly, the conversation he’d had with Ducis came back. He had said something about healing water.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” he mumbled to himself as he realized that it must be true. He had felt awful and deep down he knew there’d been more to him not feeling his legs anymore. But then Ronon had gotten them water and, waking up again, he had been fine. The realization flooded his system with adrenaline.
“Still here.Listen, Major. There’s a meadow in front of the cave shouldn’t be too hard to miss.”
“I think we found it. We already landed and on the way. Oh wow.”
“What?” There was an unnerving moment of silence. John’s patience was wearing thin, so he barked “Major? What?”
“There are bodies, sir, just inside the cave. From the look, I’d say around fifteen maybe twenty.”
John shuddered. He wasn’t sure, but there’d been around that many men down here with Ducis. “Sounds like you’re actually on the right path.”
“Would’ve preferred bread crumbs though.”
John’s chuckle turned into another cough. The vibration brought tears of pain to his eyes. He couldn’t help the groan slip past his lips.
“Colonel … Colonel?”
It unnerved John to always wake again hearing Lorne’s slightly panicked voice.
“‘m here.” His voice sounded strange and faint even to him. He needed to tell him. “Listen, Major, there’s a lab with a water fountain. Get that water and, when you find me, pour it over me and make me drink some.”
There was a long moment of silence where John was sure his 2IC was considering that his boss had lost it.
“I know how it sounds. Do it or you’ll need a new boss.”
“On it, sir. Just try to stay awake.”
“Can you tell me where you are?”
John sighed, getting tired. “Pretty deep inside.Big hallway.”
John heard the Major issue the orders, but his voice grew distant again and then the blackness was back. But this time he knew there was hope.
“Colonel, Sir? Can you hear me?” Lorne asked yet again. He stopped. Waiting.Hoping.“Sir?” But this time there was no answer. The team moved further into the complex, which looked completely deserted.
“Dr. Zelenka, did you manage to get a reading on the team’s transmitters yet?”
“No, Major, but I do read your transmitters,” Radek returned. “I’m trying to locate any energy source that would hint of the fountain the Colonel talked about.”
Lorne looked down at the LSD in his hand. “There’s one life sign deep in the facility. Could there be a shield or something? We haven’t seen any Ancient structure yet.”
“I can’t tell you from the jumper.” There was a short break. “I could be with you in a few minutes.”
“Nice try, Doc. No, you stay in the jumper. It’s too dangerous and you heard what Col. Carter said,” Lorne paused, looking at the walls that suddenly changed from bare rock to smooth surface. “Ok, we found the facility. Keep quiet, in case Colonel Sheppard talks again.”
There was no answer, only distant grumbling and then it was silent.
“Ok,” Lorne said calling his men to attention. “You heard what the Colonel said, somewhere in these rooms has to be a fountain or something like that.”
He sent teams of two to search the rooms along the way.
Lorne turned to Ramirez. “Should we really use the water?” he asked in a low voice. Ramirez looked torn, which wasn’t surprising the Colonel’s statement still echoing in their minds. It had to be bad when the Colonel resorted to using untested Ancient experiments.
“I’ll help look for the water that way I can test it right away,” Ramirez said. “Call me if you need me.”
Lorne nodded,and while Ramirez followed the others in their search, he, Meyers and Sanders hurried down the shown path in their search for the Colonel. Lorne ran around the last corner and through a door where he stopped dead. Meyers and Sanders almost knocked him over.
“Shit,” Meyers spat, taking in the bodies lying on the floor. Lorne was already scanning the room for the shapes looking different. At the far end of the hall lay a single still heap.
“Colonel,” he yelled, running as fast as he could. “Damn it,” he hissed, falling to his knees next to the Colonel. Something wet soaked through his pants and he realized that it was blood.
“Meyers, call Ramirez,” he ordered as his hand hovered over the unconscious man. The Colonel lay partly on his stomach, his arms twisted under him. The back of his uniform was torn and blood welled up from three deep gashes on his back. His pallor was beyond pale. The slight wheeze in the Colonel’s breathing told him that they weren’t too late. But he wasn’t sure how much time they had left. He pulled gauze from his pockets and spread it on the Colonel’s back. Sanders kneeled down on the other side doing the same.
“Major, we found it,” he suddenly heard on his comm.
“Bring it now,” Meyers bellowed.
A few minutes later, the room was flooded with people. Ramirez studied the gauze they had placed to the Colonel’s back, but it was quickly soaking through. He looked at the canteen held to him and then at Lorne. He hadn’t been able to check the water before.
“Do it,” Lorne ordered. What harm could it do? The Colonel was as good as dead from the look of things. “He said to make him drink some and pour it over his back.”
Ramirez nodded and took the canteen. “Remove the gauze,” he ordered Sanders. “Major, I need you to turn him on his side so we can make him drink. I’d rather not have him on his back.”
Lorne nodded, he, Sanders and Meyers took position to hold the Colonel on his side.
“On three,” Ramirez ordered.
“Holy,” Lorne gasped from his position. He could see the Colonel’s back. In the few minutes since they had used the water, the gashes had closed almost completely. The Colonel’s body had stopped convulsing a moment ago. “Healing water.”
“I think Dr. Keller would love to get her hands on this.”
Lorne nodded, sending the men who’d found it off to get more and bring it to the jumper right away. A groan from his Commanding officer had him look at the Colonel’s face. The man’s eyes fluttered for a moment, but closed again.
“The gashes are closed,” Ramirez reported, spreading an emergency blanket on the ground, before moving around to face the Colonel. “Put him on his back, but be careful.”
It only took a moment and the Colonel lay flat. “Ok, people make some room,” he ordered, sure Sheppard wouldn’t be too thrilled to find himself surrounded like that.
“Colonel, can you hear me?” Ramirez tapped the Colonel’s cheek. The reward was the man turning away, swatting at the medics hand. “Come on, sir. No sleeping on the job.”
The Colonel’s snort turned into a groan as he started to move. His eyes opened, but needed a moment to focus.
“Great, you brought the cavalry,” Sheppard grumbled, struggling to get up. “I’m so going to kill that …” He left the end hanging in the air.
Ramirez pulled the Colonel up into a sitting position. Though the wounds were closed, he was still deathly pale.
“We should get you to the jumper, sir. You need the doc.”
“I need to get my team before they get killed,” Sheppard contradicted.
“You have been injured, sir.”
“The operative words here are ‘have been’. Not anymore.” Sheppard got up on wobbly legs and stretched his back.
“I know the water healed the wound, but you still lost a lot of blood,” Ramirez said, his gaze pointedly traveling to the floor. Sheppard followed his gaze, his face impassive.
He shrugged. “I’m fine. Let’s get to the jumper.” He took a careful step and, when he stayed vertical, he took the next and the next until he settled into a brisk walk. The team hurried after him, Lorne and Ramirez at the Colonel’s sides to make sure he didn’t fall. “My team’s held hostage in the city and the sick bastard of a ruler thinks he can claim Teyla now that I’m supposedly dead.”
“What’s your plan, sir?” John threw a sideways glance at Lorne.
“Get them out, kill Ducis, and see if Spartacus is up there too. Good thinking, taking a jumper.”
“Yeah, well, we had a little help. We were warned about your situation.”
“A woman turned up on our doorstep, so to speak. Her husband, a guy named Dexcian, sent her to us. She knew Teyla’s name and told us that she and you had been captured.”
“Oh, that must be Spartacus.” Lorne’s confusion must have shown on his face. “It’s a long story, Major,” Colonel Sheppard added. “The short version is: there’s a monster the Ancients left here, and the big boss here decided he wanted to have it as his pet. He persuaded us to help by threatening to use Teyla as bait. Now he has the monster, Teyla, whom he’s very interested in keeping, and Ronon and Rodney, who are hopefully still alive.”
Lorne nodded. “So what’s the plan?”
“First of all, we need a change of clothes.”
Lorne stopped for a moment. Then he hurried after the Colonel. “What?”