Author: kariesue, kickstand75, firedew1, mysra, amycat8733
Disclaimer: Don’t own them, just borrowing them for a bit of fun
Size: ~9,334 (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 12 – Against All Odds by: mysra
Someone bumped into John’s back as their progress was once more halted. The force knocked him off balance and he needed two stumbling steps to get his footing back. Lorne’s hand hovered close to his elbow. He glared ahead at the cramped walkway towards the entrance to the Arena. Why did things always get tight when an entrance was involved?
He kept from turning his head, knowing the movement could screw his tentative grasp on balance even more. As much as John wanted to deny it, Ramirez had been right. His wounds were healed, the blood loss wasn’t. His heart was hammering unusually fast and he was soaked through from the short walk up to the Arena. But he needed to keep going. He could rest later. Right now his team needed him.
He sensed movement again and looked up. This time he looked around carefully, realizing that the team with him had formed a protective semicircle behind and next to him to make sure no one bumped into him again. Lorne was close to his right side while Ramirez blocked his left. He couldn’t see Meyers or Sanders, but he didn’t need to to know they had his back. The two next to him had crossed their arms over their weapons hidden under their togas, obviously making sure that whoever bumped into them didn’t realize just what was hidden under their disguise.
John tried to decide if he was annoyed or not at the team’s move. He would need to have a word with Major Lorne about mothering your CO once they were back home.
John’s thoughts were interrupted when the gate to the Arena came into sight. John tried not to tense too much. Guards were watching as the crowd moved in. Suddenly, they stopped again. Hopefully they hadn’t seen him around to recognize him.
“Sheppard,” Lorne said in a low voice, apparently choosing not to use his rank. “I think we should use the first opportunity we have to look for the best seats.”
“Good thinking, Lorne,” Sheppard said, to both ideas. “I’d like to have a good view.”
“The best places are next to the Dux’s stand,” a toothless man said, standing slightly in front of Lorne.
“Do not listen to him. The best placed are opposite of the Dux’s stand. The arena is an oval and there you see everything,” someone else called from behind them.
A third voice threw his opinion into the round. John looked at Lorne and both rolled their eyes. They started to move again, ignoring the chatter their conversation had started. Once inside, the masses quickly dispersed in different directions.
“Sheppard?” Lorne pointed at an open doorway. John followed his gaze, looking at the sign next to the door.
“Could be a way out,” he agreed.
The team moved on, following a small group down the small corridor.
“Oh boy,” Sanders gasped, walking in front of them.
“Holy,” Meyers agreed, turning to his CO.
John quickened his step. The corridor ended at the foot of a stand that rose behind them. There was a four foot gap to a railing. After that, the arena lay about ten feet lower. As the one guy had said, it was shaped like an oval. To his far right was what had to be the Dux’s stand. The balcony slightly reached into the arena, parting the audience stands. The stands, too, were parted into smaller sections divided by small walls. In the middle of the balcony, two throne like chairs were right behind the stone railing. The one on the left was considerably smaller.
“I don’t think this is the right place. We should hurry.”
John only nodded and took another look around, seeing people quickly filling the sections. Under the balcony was a big gate. From the looks of things, it was the only way in and out of the arena. He turned and followed Lorne.
“Judging from the height of the arena wall, there has to be another level under this. I hope there’s some way to access the lower level from here,” Lorne whispered.
“Me, too. We need a way down.”
“We have enough sheets to knot a rope if needed,” Ramirez pointed out in a low voice, pulling on his toga.
“Now that would be a fun story to tell,” Sanders agreed, studying Meyers’ toga.
John rolled his eyes. “We can save that for later consideration.” To his relief, all further conversation died as everyone concentrated on finding a way down.
John slowed when they reached the end of the hallway. “Dammit,” he murmured, turning to his left to follow another group. They had apparently found a way down, but it was well guarded.
John stepped out and looked around again for the best place to go.
“Lorne,” he said, nodding his head to his right. There was another four foot landing to the front, but unlike the other stand they’d been on, here when you turned left, a staircase led up the ranks. To the right side, several seats were squashed between a couple of columns in the back, the entrance wall and a five foot wall on the other side. There seemed to be gap behind the wall, and a short distance away the balcony of Ducis’ stand rose up.
Several columns on the balcony limited the view of the thrones. John walked to the gap and looked down, hoping to figure out what lay under the spectators ranks. The gap was no bigger than three feet but went down about half the height of the arena, the wall to the arena making it look like a long stretched chimney. Lorne was still at his side.
“Inform Campbell to take position on the other side,” John said in a low voice. “Not even a window,” he grumbled.
“I think the view makes for a good excuse later to leave and look for other seats.”
John turned around and looked up the ranks. There were still a few free seats, but they were filling quickly. He looked into the arena. The ranks were filling quickly.
“Yeah. The show should start soon,” John agreed.
Lorne nodded, sitting down to make the call. Ramirez, Sanders and Meyers stood in front of him joking around while trying to pretend they belonged there. John turned back to the balcony. It was slightly elevated to make sure you could see Ducis, even sitting behind the wall. He could see movement behind the curtain and hoped to get a glimpse of Teyla or Rodney, but so far he had only seen guards.
John startled. His head snapping around, he tightened his hold on the railing as he lost his equilibrium for a moment. Ramirez stepped closer.
“I’m fine,” John groused, suddenly realizing that something had changed. Fanfares sounded through the arena, killing the chatter. John slowly let go of the railing. Ramirez stayed close to his side as he wobbled over and sat down heavily. Lorne quickly slid over to sit next to John.
“With all due respect, sir,” he whispered, using the noise from the playing trumpets. “I think it would be better to get you back to the jumper.” John glared at Lorne. “Just saying.”
“Campbell’s view on the balcony and the arena’s entrance is a bit better.” Lorne pointed to the opposite side. John spotted their team in the second section. They were lined up on the side of the balcony, sitting in the second to fourth row.
The people started to cheer and Lorne stood up to see what was happening. The entrance to the arena couldn’t be seen from their position. After a moment, John saw five fighters walk into the arena, waving to the cheering audience. For a moment, John worried their impassiveness would draw attention to them, but they were efficiently covered in their secluded section. Campbell and his men on the other side were taking part in the cheering.
When the fighters reached the back of the arena, things calmed down again and the fanfares started once more.
“Sirs.” The sharp exclamation from behind drove the officers’ attention to the balcony the same moment the people started to cheer and clap again.
Ducis had arrived, Teyla right beside him.
“Teyla,” John breathed, fighting hard to stay in his seat. Her gaze was on the ground. She wore a new set of clothes.
“I can’t see McKay,” Meyers whispered.
“Or Ronon,” Sanders added.
John only let his eyes stray for a moment before looking back at Teyla.
Ducis stepped toward the railing. He lifted his arms, bathing in the worship of his people. Suddenly drums sounded and he shifted his arms making a shushing motion. Apparently he was going to say a few words, not that John cared. He concentrated on Teyla, glad he could see her from this vantage point. He knew that as soon as they sat down they would be behind the columns.
Teyla pursed her lips. She should have foreseen this, as Dexcian should have known as well. Again she was led into the dreaded room.
She looked down at herself, her dress torn and rumpled. “Not very presentable,” she murmured under her breath. Her hand was in her pocket, the knife clutched in her palm.
The guard pushed her right into Grey One as soon as the door opened, not giving her a moment to consider where to hide the precious good. In addition, she had to take out her hand to keep from knocking over the other woman. Grey One caught her and Teyla felt her remove the knife from her pocket in one swift motion. Teyla looked her into the eyes. Grey One’s eyes were firm and telling her not to say anything.
Grey One pulled her up ungently and motioned for the others to move in.
“Do not think you are special just because the Dux has decided to make you his wife. It just means that he will enjoy your company more often.”
Teyla couldn’t help but shudder and feel exposed. Her hands were clutched into fists, but she endured getting bathed, powdered and being covered in sickly sweet smelling oil. That done, she was stuffed into a white dress with golden bindings. Teyla endured everything in silence. There was nothing she could do here anyway.
The only thing left was her hair. Teyla was surprised when Grey One shooed everyone out, so the two were alone. She stood next to Teyla. When Teyla looked at her, she moved her head away and forced Teyla to look into the mirror. Then she started to braid her hair. She leaned down to Teyla.
“Even here the walls have ears,” she whispered. “You will be returned before the Dux takes you to his bed. Be grateful for the honor,” she said straightening herself up again. “The Dux enjoys the company of many, but you will get your own halls and have contact with the other noblewomen. The head of the house, however, is and will be the Dux’s mother, though she is of an old age. If you survive long enough, you will be her successor. This, however, does not allow you speak your mind. The men are our masters and they will always be. You do what you are told and you keep your head down.”
Teyla watched Grey One finish the last braid. She had braided in extensions too and her hair felt heavy. She bound everything together, curling the braids in a half circle at the back of her head. Suddenly, Grey One had the palm knife in her hand and slipped it between the braids. Her eyes twinkled for a moment and then the stone mask slipped back into place. She loosed some tendrils.
“Hersilia,” she called loudly. A moment later, two women breezed into the closed of section carrying trays with jewelry. The whole process hadn’t taken more than twenty minutes, but when Teyla looked into the mirror one last time she didn’t recognize the woman staring back at her.
“Perfect,” Ducis’ voice sounded behind her.
Teyla cringed and closed her eyes for a moment. Grey One grasped her arm and turned her around to face her new husband. Teyla had to pull together every ounce of willpower she had to not jump forward and pull the knife, but this was neither the time nor the place.
“You will be the perfect wife tonight. Keep your eyes averted and your head down. I am not your former master and you will learn to live by my rules, for every time you disobey I will punish Dr. McKay. Do you understand?”
Teyla did as told and nodded, keeping her head down though she had to swallow hard.
“You will walk two steps behind me, and to be sure you do, my guards will keep an eye on you.”
Teyla balled her hands into tight fists to keep the urge to raise her head under control. Again she nodded. To her chagrin, Ducis chuckled.
“I see you learn fast. Now let’s go and watch the games. The quicker they are over, the sooner we will be married.”
Teyla looked up enough to see where Ducis was and slowly walked into the position, again quenching the urge to kill the man. She followed, aware of the guards around. The way to the Arena was short, a short gangway connecting the mansion and the arena. Teyla heard the people talking and then a fanfare started.
Ducis turned. “You will follow, but then stand in front of the smaller chair,” he ordered. There was a long moment of silence. “Is that clear?”
She nodded. Apparently he had waited for her reaction. She could feel his annoyance that he had to ask for her compliance. He turned again and the heavy doors before them opened and again she had to battle the urge to look up. She followed when Ducis started to move again. She stopped where she was supposed to. Ducis walked one more step and paused at the railing. Since she was forced to look down, she couldn’t see into the arena. Ducis started to speak up and told his people his side of the story and announced the capture of the Beast. She ground her teeth together as he made himself the hero.
“Though we have been nothing but forthcoming, I must inform you of a great crime committed by one of the strangers. My great friend and one of my most loyal servants, Dexcian Navis, lord Protector, Commander of the elite forces has been injured by the strangers.” Ducis paused and the people made their anger about this loudly known. Teyla tilted her head slightly so she could see a bit better. Ducis’ hands were raised. “I know and I share your anger,” he announced loudly. “But there will be justice.” The audience clapped and roared. “Bring him out.”
Teyla froze. She so wanted to see, but she couldn’t. Rodney would be the one to pay for her mistakes. It felt like hours, but it couldn’t have been more than a few moments. As soon as the door opened, the terrifying howl of the Beast could be heard and, despite the fact that Ducis had already announced its capture, a collective gasp could be heard.
“I am relieved to see you up, Lord Protector. It would have been a shame if you hadn’t been here to bring your attacker to justice.”
Dexcian didn’t answer, but whatever he did was cheered by the audience.
“Ronon Dex, you have been found guilty of attacking one of our own. In accordance to our laws, you will be granted the chance to repute yourself by winning in the Arena. The Ancestors will protect you if you have done nothing wrong.”
Teyla closed her eyes. That was their justice? Prove your innocence by killing and fighting for your life? Though the audience was anything but silent, Teyla was sure she had heard Ronon snort.
“Start the games.”
Ducis ordered. He stepped back and leaned close to Teyla.
“You will look down into the arena. You will watch as your friend dies. And if you turn away even once, Dr. McKay will need help to walk for the rest of his days,” he hissed at her, grabbing her at the arm to pull her with him as he sat down.
Ronon was pushed out a few steps and then forcefully turned around. His head spun for a moment and his stomach did an uneasy flip. But the fury of being manhandled quickly took over.
“Look up,” Spartacus commanded. Hitting him in the back, Ronon made a show stumbling a bit. He heard the mercenaries bark with laughter. If Ducis was surprised to see Spartacus, he didn’t show it. He continued with his speech.
“... Lord Protector...” That drew Ronon’s attention to Ducis again. He had heard that before. It had to be Spartacus’ title. For a second, Ronon wondered what his real name was.
He turned his head slightly. Dexcian stood a step behind him and then suddenly drew his sword and raised it into the air. Dexcian turned to the audience and he used his other hand to draw a line against his throat.
The crowd cheered. When he turned back to Ducis, Dexcian got down on one knee. He lowered the sword to his face first then turned it, both hands resting on the handle as he bowed.
Ronon looked back up to Ducis, who was smiling into the crowd.
Dexcian got to his feet and passed Ronon, bumping into him. “I’ll be close,” Spartacus suddenly whispered close to his ear.
Ronon watched him hurry into the entrance and vanish behind a corner. First, Ronon thought he had gone for good, but then he saw a shadow move. He couldn’t help but grin.
Ronon looked up at Ducis again, his eyebrows raised, wondering what was coming now.
“You have been found guilty of attacking one of our own.”
No surprise there.
“In accordance to our laws, you will be granted the chance to repute yourself by winning in the Arena.”
Ronon snorted. Let them come. He didn’t need weapons to fight off five drunken mercenaries.
“The Ancestors will protect you if you have done nothing wrong.”
“Whatever,” Ronon mumbled.
“Start the games.”
The mercenaries studied him from the other side of the arena. If they wanted him, they would have to come. Movement registered out of the corner of his eye. Usually he would quickly look around, but he wasn’t sure that would help his already pounding head. The two soldiers Spartacus had introduced to him to, Cadmus and Aerod, moved further into the arena and stopped about in the middle, leaning casually against the wall. They looked almost bored, but Ronon knew better. They were ready to break the fight if needed.
Ronon turned his attention back to the mercenaries. Groper and Ratface had separated from the group, slowly advancing on Ronon, while Acrisius, White Eye and the last guy stayed back. They started to circle around him wielding rods. Ronon ducked their strikes left, right, left, turning and twisting. He wanted them to grow impatient and he didn’t need to wait long.
Their aim was not to kill, just to hurt him, weaken him. Groper also held a net.
But not with him.
The moment Ronon was in striking distance, he grabbed the net and pulled Groper close. Groper looked at him dumbfounded, but Ronon didn’t waste any time. He fisted him across the temple. In a smooth move, he pushed the dazed mercenary away and took the guy’s rod. Now they were even.
Ratface paused in stunned disbelief, his rod hanging in midair, and before he could react Ronon slugged his chin, snapping back his head. He went down too. To Ronon’s chagrin, Groper had recovered already, and as he was on his way up, something shown in the settling sun. Groper had pulled his sword and struck at Ronon’s legs. Ronon jumped up and then rolled over the ground coming to a halt behind Ratface, who had recovered again too.
He grabbed Ratface’s arm from behind, turning him. He brought his knee up and a snap as well as a broken cry told him he had broken the limp efficiently, but it wasn’t enough. He needed to take him out. He took the second rod and brought it down on Ratface. The guy’s head snapped back again and there was another snap telling him some bone had broken. Ratface gracelessly hit the ground, unmoving.
It had been almost too easy, but he didn’t have the time to dwell on it as Groper was already on him again, this time accompanied by White Eye. Ronon lost them for a moment when the pounding in his head reared up and was rewarded with a stinging on his bicep when Groper’s sword found its goal. This, however, helped. The fury over his own mistake helped him concentrate again. He swung his rods and drove the two away a bit. Before they could regroup, Ronon launched at them. This time Groper fell to his knees, his hands on his throat as he gasped for air. He wouldn’t get it. Ronon’s strike to the man’s throat had hit point blank, most likely crushing the man’s larynx.
With an angry shout, Acrisius and his friend ran towards them. Yeah, they had underestimated Ronon, but now they knew and would be more careful. The three circled Ronon, but kept their distance. A quick gaze at Cadmus and Aerod let Ronon know that the soldiers were ready to get in on the fight, no longer leaning against the wall. Ronon concentrated back on the three around him. He kept moving to not lose anyone from sight. He felt the tension in the air.
“So who’s next?” he growled.
Teyla jumped when Ducis’ fist hit his armrest for the third time. Mindful of his threat, she kept her eyes on the arena while fighting the smug smile that wanted to break out, despite everything.
Her fear for Ronon was still great, but he was more than holding his own, despite the fact that he had been injured by the Beast.
Again Ducis growled. The fight was not in any way what he had expected, that was sure. A broken cry echoed through the arena efficiently silencing the cheering crowd for a moment. The first fighter went down in a lifeless heap.
Another joined in, but both were forced back when Ronon struck out at them.
“Casus,” Ducis hissed angrily. “Free the Beast,” he ordered in a low voice. The man to his right bowed and vanished.
Teyla had to force herself to continue to look into the arena. Apparently, Ducis didn’t trust his servants any longer. So he needed to act fast.
Lorne had John’s arm in a strong hold, keeping him from jumping up and attracting attention. The five fighters that had been introduced and celebrated before Ducis had shown up had moved to the far end of the arena wielding their weapons.
What were they supposed to do? They were surrounded and three more soldiers had entered with Ronon. It would be a massacre.
But suddenly John realized just who was with Ronon and then Dexcian hit Ronon in the back. John couldn’t help snort when Ronon reacted overdramatically, stumbling a bit.
Lorne looked at John.
“That is Dexcian,” John whispered.
Lorne’s mouth formed a perfect O. “I hope he’s on our side.”
“I think he is.”
Lorne nodded. “And Ronon is in on whatever they plan.”
John nodded too. They turned back to the arena to watch the show.
John tensed again when Dexcian left. What now? The fight started and thankfully Ronon was more than capable of handling himself. Not that John had any doubt on that, but he remembered the Satedan had been knocked out by the Beast. After the second man went down, he had seen enough.
Quintus watched his men move the cage with the Beast into place warily.
“We should kill it now,” Gaius hissed into his ear.
Quintus just shook his head. “Then kill me here and now. What do you think Ducis will do? He will feed lies like he has for so long. People need to see the horror of the Beast themselves. See that it can’t be controlled like he has promised.”
Gaius grumbled, but didn’t say more knowing Quintus was right.
“Is everyone in place?”
“Was there any trouble?”
“No, everything worked out.”
“Good.” Everything was finally coming together. Ducis’ move to capture the Beast instead of killing it had finally united the ranks. Everyone wanted it gone and worked together. Of course, everyone but Ducis’ personal guard.
Quintus looked behind the cage to the far left. Dexcian was watching what was going on in the arena, his hand resting on his chest where he had been injured. He hoped his friend would survive today and forgive him for what they were about to do.
“Mine,” the Beast howled, running into the cage’s bars. The men jumped back. After a moment, they returned to their places. One more push and the cage slipped into the construction that would lead the Beast directly into the arena. Only a small door to the left side let anyone in or out of the arena.
“Free the Beast,” Casus’ voice echoed loudly through the room.
The men around the cage looked horrified and no one moved for a moment.
Quintus looked around, but the voice had come over a speaker; the man in question was not here.
“Do not stand there. Do it,” Dexcian ordered, looking away from the arena for a moment.
The men jumped into action.
“Time to see if we can get down,” John whispered to his men. “Major, let Campbell know to meet …”
John stopped when he heard a very familiar howl. A second later, the Beast burst through the opening gate, going for the first man it could reach.
Fortunately, it wasn’t Ronon.
John jumped up, but suddenly all hell broke loose. A man that had run in from the hallway pushed him back down. John’s men tensed but stayed seated as an unfamiliar weapon was pointed at them by a second lanky looking man.
John glanced around as the Arena was stormed by soldiers. On the ranks, men stood up to keep the audience in check. Some were apparently blocking the exits, while a few pointed very familiar looking P-90s down the arena.
“Everyone leaving will be killed,” said the burly looking soldier that had pushed John. The second only nodded. The two slowly retreated and vanished into the corridor. He looked across the stands toward Campbell. The soldiers had retreated there too.
“Colonel, our weapons,” Lorne whispered.
“I know.” He needed a plan.
“Mine,” the Beast howled and John’s attention snapped back to the arena. The Beast stood in the middle of the arena, growling at the slowly approaching invaders.
“Campbell, help Ronon now,” John barked into his comm link. “Knot your togas to a rope and get down there.”
So much for stupid ideas, but they needed to act and risking killing guys that most likely were on their side seemed like a bad idea. He looked back at the balcony.
“Dammit, I wanted to do that,” Meyers complained.
“I’m sure you’ll get your chance to do something stupid,” John threw back, walking to the wall.
Ducis stood protected by his loyal servants, looking very angry. His mouth was continuously moving as he probably shouted orders. His voice was too faint to carry over the panicked shouts and battle noises. Teyla was struggling against the two meat-mountains holding her. They needed to help her.
He eyed the distance to the balcony railing. Teyla and Ducis were also their only chance to find Rodney, who was still nowhere to be seen.
“Major,” John barked, starting to climb up the wall. “Here’s your chance, Meyers.”
Ducis was led to safety and Teyla was being forced along. Lorne touched his leg.
“Sir, you …” The words died on his lips and he let go. John studied again and then leaped. He almost missed, and for a moment white dots blurred his vision as his chest connected with the stone railing, but he pushed past it using the adrenaline flooding his system. He pulled himself up and quickly climbed over the balcony railing. He took a moment to see if Lorne managed to follow, readying himself to grab for his 2IC.
As soon as Lorne was over, John moved on to the door. It was locked. John took a step back to search for an easier way in. Suddenly Sanders flew past John and hurled himself into the door. With a loud crack, the door gave way and tumbled inside taking the marine with it.
“Thanks.” John took a moment to consider the downed marine, who was holding his shoulder. “Ramirez, take care of Sanders and then help kill the Beast.”
John turned and then sprinted down the corridor.
He skittered to a halt at the corner when he came face to face with a handful of soldiers, stunners trained on him.
Apparently the waiting force hadn’t expected him either and he used the second of confusion to dive back and scramble behind a column.
“Take cover,” he shouted.
“Don’t shoot! Just don’t shoot!”
John was surprised to hear Rodney’s voice.
“McKay?” he called, spying the hallway from his hideout. He quickly looked at Lorne to see if the Major had heard the same.
“Oh my God,” Rodney’s voice answered and a moment later the rumpled looking scientist wobbled around the corner. “You are alive. I knew it,” he said, relieved. “What the hell took you so long? Have you any idea what I had to endure?”
John left his hideout unsure what to think, but if this was a trap Lorne and Meyers had their backs. “What’s going on?” he asked as he hurried to Rodney’s side, supporting the scientist who looked about to fall. “What the hell happened?”
“The question would be what didn’t,” Rodney said, looking around bewildered. “Two? Is that all?” he asked, having spied Lorne and Meyers.
John kept his eyes trained on the corner, but nothing moved. Trying to decide what his best move would be, he started to slowly back away. Why was no one following Rodney? John was sure he had at least counted five weapons pointed at him. At first Rodney didn’t resist, but suddenly he stemmed against John stopping them.
“Why are you not dead and what happened to your clothes?”
“Long story, McKay,” John said, getting nervous. Where had Ducis gone? Why were the soldiers not following? “We need to keep moving.”
“What? No, we have to get back and wait for Ducis.”
“Ohhhkay, don’t worry we’ll find him, but we have to get away now.” Had Rodney been brainwashed?
“What? No no no,” Rodney yelled, surprising John when he jerked himself free from John’s hold.
“McKay,” John growled.
“No, we need to hide or Teyla is lost. They’re here to get her and me to the Gate.” Rodney flapped his hand back in the direction of the corner. Suddenly Rodney grabbed John and started to drag him towards the corner. “Quintus said that Ducis comes this way to get into the safety of his house.” Rodney snorted and stopped, looking seriously at John. “How is it that we not only managed to find some crazed leader yet again, but somehow also managed to stumble into a full blown revolution? I tell you, next time I’ll stay home and you can go wherever you want.”
“Revolution?” John asked bewildered, glad they had stopped, though uncomfortable as they were closer to the corner again.
Rodney nodded. “Looks like Dexcian’s men are less than happy with Caligula and decided he has to go.”
“Spartacus’ men?” John asked surprised, but before Rodney could answer, a voice interrupted.
“Many of our fathers, brothers and sons have died fighting the Beast. Ducis has spit upon their memories and disgraced their sacrifice. We cannot accept this.”
John’s head snapped towards the lone man that had rounded the corner, the movement making him dizzy again. Lorne and Meyers reacted, their weapons trained on the newcomer. John grabbed Rodney to keep his balance and cover him.
“Oh please,” Rodney snorted again, stepping around John. “Cornias, this is Colonel Sheppard.”
“You are not dead?” Cornias asked surprise evident in his tone.
John just shrugged.
“Apparently not,” Rodney answered. “You look like hell. You sure you should be running around?” John looked at Rodney, his eyebrows raised. He was one to talk.
“We need to …” Cornias started to say, but he stopped abruptly when he looked down the corridor for the first time to see the opening. He took several steps towards the broken door. “No,” he gasped angrily.
“Ok, what’s going on? Short version. And where’s Ducis?” John groused. They were running out of time.
“We were here to ambush him and free the woman,” Cornias said curtly.
“Spart - Dexcian - How did you know his name?” Rodney asked. John just raised his eyebrow. “Anyway, he and Quintus are in the Arena to kill the Beast and get Ronon. We were to meet them at the gate.”
“Lorne told me about Dexcian. And Quintus is?” John didn’t really care for names, but he was confused.
“Quintus is his left hand,” Rodney elaborated.
“Ok, but where did Ducis and his men go? Is there another way?”
Cornias shrugged. “There are many secret passageways, but only the Dux and his guard know all of them. I do know of a door in the mansion that was said to be a secret passageway to the Arena. It is our best chance.”
John thought for a moment, looking at Rodney. He looked awful. “Meyers, get McKay out and tell Jones to pick you up.”
“One of my men could help them to get out faster.”
John regarded Cornias for a moment. “Your enemy's enemy is your friend,” he murmured under his breath. “Thank you.”
“But,” Rodney started to protest.
“No, Rodney,” John barked, effectively killing whatever his friend wanted to say. “Meyers,” John said. The marine stepped forward.
“Marius,” Cornias called. A man appeared. “Accompany them out of the city as fast as you can.”
The man nodded and wordlessly passed, taking the lead. Rodney followed grumbling, Meyers hovered closed to the scientist. He turned away.
“Lead the way,” he told Cornias.
I’m coming, Teyla, he thought hurrying after their new friends, hoping it wasn’t a trap.
Dexcian ground his teeth. Quintus had started down the path of rebellion.
At least he had made sure that no one could leave the Arena to call for help from the manse. That meant it would only be Casus’ men fighting them.
He shook his head. A rebellion, what nonsense. What would the difference be? A new ruler, the same rules. Their society was still too stuck in their traditions. He wasn’t a politician, he was a soldier.
Dexcian shook his head.
It was too late now and he had a promise to fulfill.
Movement caught his attention just when he was about to join the fight in the arena.
“Let me go,” a woman demanded. The confident tone now familiar to Dexcian, he took a step back and caught a glimpse of a group moving through a passageway he had never seen before.
“Ducis,” he growled. He looked back at the arena. His fight lay there. He was sure Quintus hadn’t known of this escape route, as he hadn’t either.
“Quintus,” he hollered.
“I can explain,” the man in question answered from behind the cage.
“Listen,” Quintus started.
“I do not have the time,” Dexcian interrupted, walking around the cage. “Dux Ducis just left.”
“My men,” Quintus started again.
“Are waiting for nothing. He used a secret passage.” Dexcian pointed at the corner.
“I’ll get her back,” Quintus promised.
Dexcian just nodded. He didn’t watch him leave, but turned and headed to his own fight. It might have been wiser to send one or two of the men with Quintus. One against Casus and six of his best men. Quintus was armed with a stunner and the modified Aranea. Maybe the moment of surprise he had would be enough to free Teyla. He had seen her fight. Together they stood a better chance. He had no doubt Quintus would make the right choice.
Dexcian stepped into the arena and the chaos. He was surprised to see more unfamiliar fighters wearing the same attire as Sheppard and McKay.
Where had they come from?
“So who’s next?” Ronon growled.
He watched the three men, considering who was most likely to attack next and who was the easiest for him to take out. His gaze landed on White Eye. He obviously was the oldest and his best option. He stopped moving to let White Eye get behind him. He tensed, waiting for him to make a move.
Suddenly, the right gatewing to the arena opened. Acrisius and his friend stood in front of Ronon with their backs to the gate. Before the gate fully opened, a dark shadow burst through. Ronon instinctively took a few steps back, passing White Eye, who stood unmoving, gaping at the opening.
A terrifying scream echoed through the Arena and bounced off the high walls. Ronon crouched down and held his head as the pain from the concussion he had most likely suffered spiked again. White Eye, catching the movement, copied him as Acrisius dove to the side. Only the last one stood rooted in place.
The Beast didn’t think twice about grabbing the mercenary. The man’s mouth was open in a silent yell.
Cadmus and Aerod were behind the Beast. Ronon saw more soldiers bleed into the arena through a small door in the left wing. They crept along the wall. Cadmus too started towards Ronon. Shouts from the ranks drew his attention up to the stands. Armed soldiers had stormed the ranks too. Three P-90s were pointed into the arena. Ronon hoped Dexcian had told them not to shoot.
The Beast turned and moved towards the middle of the arena, dragging the captured fighter with it. He looked strange and Ronon realized what exactly was wrong. The fighter had aged considerably. His hair was turning white. The Beast was feeding on him.
“Mine,” it roared again, looking around. Searching.
Ronon slowly crept to the wall to meet Cadmus.
Ronon tried not to move too abruptly at hearing his name. Again he let his gaze travel up the wall and to the stands. To his surprise, he found Capt. Campbell and his three teammates looking down at him. Campbell held out a P-90 and dropped it into his hands.
On the ground, Cadmus sidled up to him. “More of your people?”
“Yep,” Ronon said grinning.
Cadmus handed Ronon his blaster, just when a rope of white line sheets dropped from above. A moment later Campbell stood next to Ronon.
“Those won’t do much good,” Ronon stated, handing Campbell the P-90 back.
“The Colonel said that,” Campbell pointed at the Beast that still stood in the middle of the arena. “But it sure works better fighting the guys from before.”
Ronon looked around spying Acrisius and White Eye fighting their way to the door while their partner was still being fed upon. Suddenly something clicked.
“You saw Sheppard?” Ronon turned back to Campbell, fearing the hope that was surging through his chest.
“The Colonel and Major Lorne are after …”
A howl ended the conversation abruptly. Apparently, the Beast was done feeding. It held the mercenary up and huffed at it. But instead of just letting him drop, it flexed its arm and hurled the dried body into the opposite stands. To Ronon’s surprise only women seemed to occupy the space, they scrambled away from the body to the sides and exit, screaming.
On the other stands, the men too seemed done with the show and were fighting for their way out.
The Beast roared and then started to run. About ten feet in front of the wall, it lunged into the air. Its claws grabbed the top of the railing of the stands. The soldiers in the stands holding the P-90s started to fire.
“Stop,” Ronon roared, but already people started to fall, hit by stray bullets.
“Reed,” Campbell shouted up to the only man of his team still in the ranks. “Try to stop them.”
Reed nodded. He turned and climbed over the first wall separating the ranks.
“Don’t shoot,” another voice barked. Ronon turned his head. Dexcian was moving through the arena.
“The nets,” Dexcian ordered. “Stop the Beast.”
Nets and ropes were thrown at the Beast. Dexcian threw something black at the Beast. It howled and then fell back to the ground mere moments before climbing over the railing. It growled and withered on the ground, striking at everything getting close.
The Belosian soldiers attacked with spears and swords, but either couldn’t get close enough or the weapons broke upon touching the Beast’s skin.
“Campbell, you got any C4?” Ronon asked.
“Sure, how much do you need?” Campbell returned, starting to pull the blocks from his vest pockets.
“All you have.” Ronon held out his hand as Campbell and his team emptied their vest pockets.
Ronon grinned taking in the eight blocks. “Let’s go,” he grumbled.
“What do you want us to do?”
“You said Sheppard’s alive?”
“Yes, sir, chasing after Ducis and Teyla.”
Ronon’s grin widened. “Good, let’s kill the Beast so I get to see him.”
Ronon started forward. The Beast was fighting off its many attackers just like in the cave. Dexcian stood back shouting orders, obviously awaiting a chance for a deadly strike.
“I think we should go back,” Rodney said, slowing.
“The Colonel said to get you to the jumper.”
“I know that, but he might need my help.” Rodney stopped and turned toward Meyers. The guide too stopped, walking a few steps back.
“I’m sure the Colonel …”
A clanking noise stopped any further discussion. Meyers and Marius quickly surrounded Rodney.
“What was that?” the scientist whispered after a long moment of silence.
“Quiet,” Marius hissed.
Glaring at the soldier, Rodney shut his mouth. After another moment of tense silence, he relaxed and started to move again. After two steps, Marius turned to Rodney, his fingers touching his lips.
“Didn’t know there was a universal gesture to be quiet,” Rodney grumbled.
“Wouldn’t have guessed,” Meyers hissed from behind. “Now be quiet.”
“This is a freaking maze. We’ll never find the Arena in time.” The voice came so abrupt and loud Rodney almost bolted. “Your shoulder’s broken. The only thing you’ll be doing is watching.”
“That’s Ramirez,” Rodney squeaked.
“Shushhh,” Meyers hissed again. Silence greeted them. “Please stay with the doc,” Meyers asked Marius in a low voice as he crept forward. He pressed himself to the wall, his P-90 pointed on the corner. Something moved and Meyers jumped in front of the corner.
His stance immediately relaxed and he dropped his P-90, chuckling.
“We can’t take you anywhere,” he stated, waving Rodney and Marius over.
“I told you it was Ramirez,” Rodney blurted.
“You did, Doc.”
“We should go,” Marius stated, nervously looking around.
“Right,” Meyers agreed
“You’re going to the Arena?” Sanders asked enthusiastically.
“The Colonel ordered Dr. McKay out to the jumper. Marius here is our guide. I think you should come with us.”
Ramirez regarded McKay. The Colonel had said he should go to the Arena, but he had a feeling he should check McKay first. The man was beyond pale and looked like he was about to fall down any moment.
“I should check Dr. McKay,” Ramirez agreed. “Lead the way,” he added to Marius.
The guard’s hold lessened for a moment and Teyla freed one of her arms. She very seldom resorted to this means of defence. Now that she thought about it, she didn’t think she had bitten anyone since that one time her cousin had sat on her, using his weight to pin her down so his brother could pull out her loose tooth. She should have simply asked her father then to make the pain go away, but she hadn’t wanted to bother him and her slightly elder cousins had said it would prove that she was all grown up.
Now, she was as desperate as she had been that day. She had tried to free herself for the past few minutes, but the grunts only tightened their hold on her. Her head was bent in a way she couldn’t just throw it back, but she could turn it and the guard’s bicep had been there.
She flung her arm out and it connected with something solid. The guard holding her upper body yelped. Suddenly his hold on her vanished.
She had hoped the other guard holding her legs would let go of her too, but he didn’t, robbing her of her chance to twist and ease her descent to the floor. She tried to brace for the impact, but things happened too fast and her shoulder crashed into the ground. Her head snapped back, hitting the stone floor with full force.
Quintus hurried down the narrow corridor, listening for sounds ahead. The light down here was far worse than he had feared. Still, he refrained from starting a light. The darkness gave him additional cover. Suddenly, the light of torches flickered ahead of him. He slowed enough so his footsteps would be swallowed by noises of the group ahead. Only a few more moments and he saw them.
Casus and Ducis were already way ahead of the second group, which was directly in front of him. Two guards were missing, most likely sent ahead to make sure the Guard in the mansion were ready to fight any rebels daring to attack there.
All the better for him.
Quintus concentrated on the smaller group. Two guards were holding the woman, Teyla Emmagan. Surrender obviously wasn’t a word she had ever heard. The tiny woman was bucking and twisting in her captors’ grasp, slowing them down further. The guards muttered angry expletives.
The guard in front held the woman’s legs. He would have to knock him out first.
But things suddenly happened all at once and Quintus could only react.
A cry echoed off the wall and the guard holding the woman’s upper body twisted. The cry was replaced by the sound of flesh meeting flesh. Quintus aimed at the guard in front, but he was too late. The guard holding the woman’s upper body recoiled and let her go. Though she tried to turn, the other guard didn’t let go of her legs, efficiently trapping her. There was no sound other than the woman’s body connecting with the stone floor.
Quintus was stunned for a moment.
“Idiots,” Ducis yelled angrily, turning with Casus and hurrying back.
Quintus didn’t think. He pulled the trigger. The blue bolt cast an eerie light for a moment and the guard holding the woman’s legs fell to the ground.
“Rebels!” a guard yelled and turned, throwing his torch in Quintus’ direction.
The torch was followed by energy bolts as Casus fired blindly. “Stand down,” he ordered.
“Never,” Quintus shouted back, trying to see the woman, but the torchlight had now gone.
At the far end of the corridor behind Ducis and his men, he could make out daylight. If he shot now, he would give away his position.
Scrambling noises and dark shadows moved against the faint light. He heard murmuring, but couldn’t make out the words. He holstered his gun and readied the modified Aranea. He slowly crept forward listening for any noise.
Two shadows moved in the light, one carrying a still third.
Quintus closed his eyes and let his instincts take over. A grin spread over his face as his eyes snapped open.
An arm swung his way. Quintus ducked and then struck out, letting the Aranea do its job. A piercing cry told him he had hit his aim. He let the Aranea drop. The cry died quickly behind him, probably with the guard that had issued it.
Quintus took a moment as he crept towards the exit to mourn the worthless bloodshed caused by misplaced loyalty. He knew it couldn’t be avoided. Ducis had chosen the men for his guard carefully, loyal and strong, but not smart. They followed, and as soon as their current leaders were gone, they would yield to whoever came next. He just hoped they won before they were weakened to a point that made their city vulnerable to attacks from rivaling cities.
When he reached the edge of the shadows, just outside the light that led into the hallway, Quintus drew his sword.
One moment Teyla had been on the floor, the next she was hauled to her feet. There was no light and she had no idea what was going on. Whoever was with her was not very gentle and dragged her with him, her feet stumbling over the floor. She heard whispering, but couldn’t make sense of the words. All of a sudden, light blinded her, she blinked hard and after a few tries everything came into sharp focus.
“Take her,” Casus ordered, pulling her arm and roughly pushing her over to two guards. Teyla barely managed to catch herself and for a moment the world twirled around her. The right guard took her arms in a death grip making it impossible for her to strike out.
“Braius, go and have the guard assemble in the Great Hall.”
Three and Ducis, she thought wondering where the other guards had gone. There had been more. She regarded the guards on the left. Casus would be the hardest to overcome, but all she actually needed to do was free herself and run to return to the Arena. As the guard’s hand painfully dug into her arms, she looked back at the corridor leading to where she knew her friends were.
A terrifying scream sounded from the corridor.
Casus and Braius tensed, pushing Ducis gently behind them. They watched the corridor, but for a long moment nothing happened.
All of a sudden a man burst out wielding his sword. Quintus.
Before Casus and Braius could react, Braius crumpled to the floor.
“Quintus,” Casus growled and drew his sword to parry Quintus’ attack.
Teyla didn’t wait to see what happened next. It was now or never.
The guard lessened his grip only for a moment, but it was enough. Teyla twisted. As soon as her arm was free, she swung her elbow back. The guard howled, tearing on the arm still in his hold. The force pushed her to the floor. Teyla tensed ready to strike out, but before she could, a hand tangled in her hair, painfully wrenching her head back. Teyla felt like screaming but didn’t, unwilling to show any weakness.
She felt a another tug. A cry sounded behind her and the hold vanished. The guard in front grabbed her again and his arms closed around her neck.
Ducis stood before her, his face an angry mask. His eyes were downcast, so Teyla followed his gaze. There was a strand of her chestnut brown hair in his hand. Blood welled up around it from two small cuts. The palm knife Grey One had hidden in her hair.
The thought spurred her into action again. She let go of the guard’s arm around her neck and threw her head back. He grunted, his arm closing around her neck. But Teyla had just one aim. The guard tried to catch her hands with his free hand, but she was faster, and after the second try she finally felt the comforting form of the knife’s handle. She pulled, feeling painful tugs as she pulled a few of her hairs out with the knife.
She tightened her grasp and aimed for the arm choking her. She brought her hand down once, twice. After the third stab, the hold on her vanished and the guard let go with a grunt. Teyla pivoted around. It was a short fight. The guards mouth opened in a silent scream, his hands clutching his throat. Blood flowing freely over his hands.
Teyla whirled around again. Ducis stood a few feet away, his eyes wide. He looked around. Only Casus was left, but he was too involved in his fight with Quintus and the two had moved away quite a bit. He looked back at Teyla and suddenly his whole demeanor transformed.
“Dr. McKay will suffer greatly for this.” He took a step closer, raising his unhurt hand. “This is for hiding a knife, and since there’s only one person that could have help you place it there, she will be punished for her betrayal as well.”
He swung his hand towards Teyla and she quickly ducked out of the way. She spun and kicked her right leg out in a low circle over the ground. Time slowed as Teyla’s leg swept Ducis and he flew into the air.
Ducis hit the floor like dead meat. His breath rushed out in a pain-filled gasp as Teyla rose to her feet.
“You will pay for this,” Ducis growled, turning to his side only to find himself face to face with Braius’ dead body. He shrank back a bit.
“The only one who will pay is you,” Teyla returned, watching Ducis carefully. Could she just kill him? Maybe she should leave that part to Quintus or Dexcian. But he killed John. Teyla moved forward.
“This is for my husband,” she hissed, kicking Ducis onto his side. He rolled closer to Braius. Though she knew she wouldn’t be able to kill Ducis in cold blood, she wanted him to suffer. She took a step closer, readying herself for another kick. The more she thought about John and what could have been between her and him, the colder she grew inside.
All of a sudden Ducis twisted and grabbed something from Braius’ belt. Teyla tried to dive out of the way, but it was too late. Something cold touched her skin and intense pain enveloped her, pressing her to the ground. She tried to fight it and get up. The pain lessened and she managed to bring her hands and knees under her. Something connected with her side. She landed on her side as pain radiated from her ribs.
“I had hoped to break you the hard way, but I’m over it,” Ducis said, looming over her. “See this?” He held out one of their stunner weapons. “When you wake, you won’t even remember your husband.”
He pointed the gun at her, not giving her time to answer before he fired. For a moment her vision greyed, but Teyla fought it and started to move. She managed to lift her upper body off the floor.
“Never,” she spat.
Ducis took aim again. “We’ll see.”
The intense pain from before returned. Ducis pulled the trigger of the weapon. Once. Twice. A third time. Teyla wanted to fight, but she couldn’t any longer. She closed her eyes waiting for darkness to finally claim her.
A single shot rang out. Teyla’s eyes snapped open with renewed will to fight, the sound too familiar not to recognize.
“John,” Teyla breathed, lifting her head up.
“Drop your swords,” Major Lorne’s familiar voice called. As indistinct shapes moved and drew closer, she recognized Lorne right away.
Teyla laid her head back down, all energy gone. She had been foolish. John was gone. He had died alone, lying in his own blood.
Maybe forgetting wasn’t so bad after all, she thought, closing her eyes and giving in to the darkness.