New girl for a new world
All the usual disclaimers: not mine, having fun and will be returned almost unsullied.
Elizabeth found their newest recruit staring out one of the viewing ports on the Daedalus. She took a moment to study the woman. Her file made for some incredible reading. She had gone through so much from a very young age. Most people would have crumbled under the pressures and horrors that she had experienced and yet here she was with a look of innocent wonder on her face.
“Miss Rosenberg?” The woman started.
“Sorry. I was just,” She waved her hand toward the window. “It’s incredible I still can’t quite believe this is real. You would have thought after all the things I’d seen that space flight should be a walk in the park.”
“It’s hardly that, but I know what you mean. I have to pinch myself some mornings to make sure it’s real.” Elizabeth gave her a smile. “I’d ask how your quarters are but sparse barely begins to cover them. Not too bored I hope.”
“Bored! Hardly, I’ve been bugging everyone on the ship who’ll spare a moment to answer my questions. People are beginning to dodge down corridors to avoid a grilling.” Willow gave a rueful smile.
“Well, no one has lodged a complaint to me yet. Is there anything I can help with?”
“Oh I don’t want to take up your time Dr. Weir. I’m sure you have lots to deal with now we’re in communications range with Atlantis.” Elizabeth smiled, it was nice to meet someone who took her responsibilities into account.
“Thank you for your consideration but I can assure you right now I’d welcome the break. Perhaps we could take the opportunity to get to know each other a little better.”
“If you’re sure it won’t be a problem. Please call me Willow, Dr. Weir.” She moved to sit at a table and Elizabeth joined her.
“Elizabeth will be fine here, Willow.”
“Thanks. So,” there was a momentary pause. “leader of Earth’s first colony in another galaxy. Pressure much?” Elizabeth’s laughter rang out through the corridors.
Colonel John Sheppard observed the two women discreetly. It was good to see Elizabeth looking so relaxed. The Rosenberg woman looked radiant as she launched into another tale to her companion. Her face was surprisingly expressive. He’d been included in the briefing as to her abilities but was still having a few problems grasping the idea of magic. Demons and vampires, weird but when he really stopped to examine it not that much different from alien beings, but real, honest to god, magic? It was hard to comprehend. Rodney was still muttering about sufficiently advanced technology was indistinguishable from magic but she didn’t have anything on her or in her, as per her MRI scan. Rodney had only stopped scoffing after she offered to strip naked just to prove she wasn’t using anything. The main thing going for her was a number of reports in her file from men he had since interviewed. They included god fearing, tough soldiers, who each swore to the effectiveness of Willow’s powers despite being unable to go into the full details of the events at the Sunnydale Initiative. It seemed rude to demand a demonstration, for now.
Despite his misgivings the main thing was that they’d take what ever they could for help against the Wraith. The new alliance between the Council of Watchers and the world leaders had lead to the disclosure of the Stargate program and the inclusion of an ambassador, of sorts, in exchange for financial aid as well certain discretion and assistance in covering up events like the LA ‘riots’ a couple of years ago. Seemed like a win-win for everyone except the woman who was going to end up stranded in the Pegasus Galaxy with no friends or back up.
He started in surprise as he found her gaze upon him. Elizabeth waved him over after noticing the reason for her companion’s distraction.
“Hello Colonel Sheppard.” He realised Rosenberg’s smile was a powerful weapon all of it’s own as he found himself smiling in return. “Dr. Weir and I were just getting to know each other.”
“And as pleasant as this has been Willow, I really should get on with my duties. It’s been a pleasure. Please feel free to contact me if there’s anything I can do to ease your stay with us.” Elizabeth stood. Seeing the Colonel’s uneasiness Willow stepped in.
“Perhaps we ought to do the same Colonel. We should at least reach an understanding between ourselves before having to deal with the others under your command.” John itched to make a sarcastic comment but Weir’s look stopped him.
“Fine. We’ll talk.” Elizabeth nodded her approval then left.
John was just starting to feel like a heel as the silence between them lengthened, what the hell was he supposed to say to her? Hi, so you have witchy powers that incidentally I don’t believe in.
“Still having trouble with the witch thing?” Willow smiled at him gently, which turned into a light laugh as his eyes narrowed in suspicion. “Nope, not reading your mind.”
He made to reply then subsided. “That obvious?”
“Fear, suspicion and disbelief. Welcome to my world.” She gave him a sad smile.
“I’m sorry. It’s just,” He couldn’t find right the words in his head that wouldn’t make the situation worse.
“I know. Why don’t you ask me whatever you need to know to start working on building trust between us Colonel Sheppard. If we’re going to work together against the Wraith we need to be able to work together.” She stopped, frowning. “You know that sounded a lot better in my head.”
“Oddly enough I understood every word.” He smiled back at her. “Where to start?”
“I assume clearance isn’t a major issue here, so why don’t we start with what you found out from members of the Initiative.” She saw a hint of surprise from him again. “After you’ve faced hell with someone you tend to keep in touch. Miller and the Finns contacted me.”
“That’s against regs.”
“You don’t strike me as a ‘regs’ type of guy.”
“Have you been taking to Rodney?” John frowned.
“Ha. I can barely get two words from him. He’s really determined not to accept any explanation other than technological.” She paused. “What about you, what will it take to convince you?”
“That it’s magic? How about the lottery numbers?”
“Witch not psychic.”
“We could play 20 questions, or you could just tell me what you can do.”
“Honestly, a lot of it comes down to finding out at the last minute in a desperate attempt to save us and the world.” She watched his face. “I’m not avoiding the question, just setting a few provisos. I don’t want you reprimanding me later for achieving something that I haven’t previously told you about.” He nodded and waited for her to continue.
“Let’s see. Telekinesis, telepathy not mind reading but communication, fireballs, freezing for short periods both people and objects, shielding but only for specific things at a time not a shield against everything, teleportation but I’ll be drained afterwards, unlocking doors, I had limited control of earth weather but I don’t know how well it’ll work on another planet,” she continued on lost in a train of thought that seemed to flow uninterrupted from her mouth.
John was impressed, not only by the list of things she claimed she could do but also by her concise inclusion of limitations. It was almost like she understood the needs of a military leader. He held his hand up as he became concerned about the fact she hadn’t seemed to have taken a breath during the entire disclosure.
“I get the idea.” He interrupted, remaining silent as he still searched for the inspiration to deal with the subject.
“Do you want a demonstration?” She sighed.
“Willow. I believe that you believe in what you can do, and to be blunt I don’t care whether it’s magic, technology or fairy’s just as long as it works and it doesn’t hurt me or mine.”
“Colonel, I think we understand each other better than you think. If I’m to be a part of your team, and even a part of Atlantis, you still need to know me, powers or no powers. I won’t let you down. Sir.” She gave him a cheeky grin at the end.
“You’re not military Rosenberg so you can cut that out.” She was right; he needed to know Willow, not just the Witch, to gain any idea of how she’d stand up in a tight situation. “Let’s begin with why?”
“Why am I a witch or why did I join the fight against vampires and demons during high school?” She cocked an eyebrow at him.
“I hadn’t gotten that far but I suppose the second one, to start with.”
“During my stay in the SGC while waiting for the Daedalus those seemed to be the first questions anyone asked.” She shrugged.
“Sorry for the lack of originality.” John added dryly.
“Oh no I wasn’t, I didn’t mean to insult you or anything.” There was a faint flush building on her cheeks.
“Willow, relax just talk to me.”
“OK. I suspect at the heart of it I’m much the same as you. Now your eyes have been opened to all of this, aliens and other worlds, do you really think you could go back? To sit idly by while others fought and gave their lives to protect us all.” John shook his head ruefully.
“No you’re right I could never turn my back on it now.”
“Besides there are benefits along with the horrors.” John said nothing waiting for her to explain. “Fighting when all you have to rely on is those who share the secret creates a bond. A family.”
John looked more carefully at the woman before him. Wise beyond her years but in a few brief words she’d told him what he needed to know. She’d fit in just fine.
“Samantha Finn mentioned I needed to talk with you about guns.” He didn’t miss the tightening around her eyes but knew he needed to push this subject further than she would naturally want to go.
“Guns and me don’t mix. Bad experience, someone I cared about deeply,” she swallowed thickly “loved. She was shot, died in my arms, another friend near mortally wounded. For a while I wasn’t entirely, sane. But my family, my real family not blood but bound through adversity, they saved me, stopped me. I’ve had time and therapy and while I’m better I still don’t deal well with weapons. The memories.” She stopped and he could see her try to gather her composure once more. He mulled over her description in his mind, not entirely sane. As he heard it she went on a rampage, killed her lover’s murderer before attempting to end the world. On the other hand none of them had stain free souls and Rodney after all had actually succeeded in destroying a world. He watched as she pulled herself together. “Sorry. Anyway while I was at the SGC, working with Dr. Jackson on some translations and the subject came up. He suggested a Zat’ni’katel, as alternative.”
“Sounds reasonable but we don’t have many zats out in the Pegasus.”
“Oh, I’ve got one. Daniel arranged it through a General friend.” She gave him a tentative smile.
“General friend?” O’Neill, it had to be. “Well that’s good. A zat is acceptable but I need to know if the situation warrants it you’re going to have my team’s back. Would you leave them exposed if your only option was a gun?” He felt a little relief at the look of indignation on her face.
“Colonel Sheppard I would never willingly let someone be harmed if I had a way to stop it.”
“I’m sorry but I had to ask. I’d like to take you out to our range, try a few weapons make sure you’re familiar with them but I won’t ask you to carry one. If you need it we have some one you could talk to, Dr. Heightmeyer’s a great listener.”
“Thank you.” The silence fell between them once more. “So can I ask how you got involved with all this?”
“Well, it’s a funny story.” Sheppard leant back in his chair. “I was flying this General to an Antarctic base,”
Willow stood nervously waiting with the others to be transported to her new home. The meeting with Colonel Sheppard had gone better than she’d dared hope. There was a chance she might actually fit in here not just as the Slayers helper but as an asset in her own right. The final decision to send her rather than anyone else came down to her skills other than a witch, such as computing and her proficiency with languages, and most significantly of all something they referred to as the ATA gene.
“Commander, send us home if you please.” Dr. Weir instructed the ship’s commander to transport them to Atlantis and Willow felt a final thrill of nerves before seeing her new home. She gave a little wave to the bridge crew before finding herself standing in a large beautiful room facing the stargate.
There was an unexpected flare of light and she was suddenly overcome with dizziness as a flood of sensations overwhelmed her. She barely had time to assimilate what was happening before it all subsided and she found her self supported by the Colonel and Rodney.
“Miss Rosenberg? Willow, are you alright?” She could hear in worry in Elizabeth’s tone and was vaguely aware of someone calling for Beckett. She tried to answer but was still reeling from the effects of her arrival.
“Dr. McKay, we’ve just had an unusual energy surge throughout all the Ancient systems.” Willow felt Rodney pull away from her and became aware of the stares levelled in her direction. What an entrance, so much for blending in.
She felt another surge of whatever it was that had affected her build again. She hastily threw up a mental shield and whispered an invocation of protection, automatically including Sheppard who was standing right next to her. She felt him stiffen but before she had a chance to say anything was pulled away from him and found herself looking into a kindly face. The man began to bombard her with questions in a soft Scottish burr.
“It’s Willow, and I’m feeling much better now thank you.” She interrupted gently pushing away from them to stand on her own two feet. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to cause a fuss it was just a little unexpected. When you said I would be able to mentally control functions in the city I wasn’t expecting to have it feed back to me. I don’t remember you telling me that.” She looked up into the confused faces of those around her. “Oh, I take it that was because you didn’t know.”
“You can hear the city?” Another man had materialised near her, he had glasses and scruffy hair. “No one has mentioned this before. Do you hear words or,”
“Radek, that’s enough. First let’s establish Miss Rosenberg is alright.” Elizabeth turned to John but found him staring suspiciously at Willow his hands clasped rigidly at his sides.
“What did you do?” Sheppard ground out.
“I didn’t do anything. There was all this white noise and I could hardly think, so I put up a mental shield and something for, er, protection.” She became a little vague as she didn’t know if the people around her knew of her abilities or how they would react.
“No. What did you do to me?”
“You? I didn’t,” she got a little crease between her eyes as she tried to puzzle out what he was saying. “Oh. Oh! You have the gene. And you do hear the city!” She frowned at him. John began to protest but she continued regardless. “It’s habit to include friends in a circle of protection. It stands to reason that if I’m danger, they’re in danger so I included you automatically. Why didn’t you tell me this could happen? Who else has the gene, do they hear the city too? You’re OK, right. Because I didn’t do anything that could harm you, at most it would only dampen the effects, and you’re still standing, you just look a little pissed but it’s not my fault, no one warned me,” She was cut off as Ronon strode up behind her and gently placed a hand over her mouth.
Willow was still off balance from everything that had happened from her arrival and reacted instinctively. Grabbing the wrist that held her she twisted it away and continued the move with her body finishing with the man on his knees one hand twisted behind his back. She knew it was only the element of surprise that had gotten her this far and she could feel the man bunch below her ready to retaliate. She dropped his hand and stepped back sinking to the floor with her head in her hands.
This was a disaster. As first impressions go she couldn’t think of much worse. The only reason they weren’t going to send her straight home was because they couldn’t. Giles was going to be so disappointed in her .The first ambassador for the Council of Watchers and she had not only shown her powers to a room full of strangers but the effects had unwittingly impacted on another and she’d attacked one their allies. At least Buffy would be proud.
“There, there now lass, don’t get yourself upset. You’ve had quite a shock.” She looked up into the Scottish man’s face. “I’m Dr. Beckett, you just call me Carson.”
“Hi.” She said shyly. She knew her eyes would be shiny and felt embarrassed at how close to tears she was.
“There’s no need to be embarrassed. I can tell you it’s all a bit over whelming, alien cities and discovering the fact you have the power to control them, or not as the case may be.” He gave her a rueful smile. “We’re all friends here Willow, may I call you Willow?” She nodded. “We’ll do all we can to help you adjust. Alright?” She nodded and took his hand as he helped her stand.
“Right then.” Beckett turned to Elizabeth. “I think we should take this somewhere more private.” His tone brooked no question, and Elizabeth nodded her agreement.
“Of course. Do you need to go to the infirmary Miss Rosenberg or shall we proceed to the briefing room.”
“I’m fine thank you Dr. Weir, the briefing room will be fine.” Willow kept her eyes down, she couldn’t face looking at the expressions on people faces. She dropped in beside Carson who took her hand and draped it over his arm.
“Once we’re all done here I’ll take you on a tour of the city. She’s quite spectacular Willow. You’ll love her I’m sure.” Carson kept a gentle flow of talk as they made their way to the briefing room. He felt her start slightly as the doors closed behind them at someone’s unvoiced command.
Dr. Becket ushered her to her seat and she finally gathered her courage to look round the others in the room. To her surprise no one looked really angry with her. There were expressions of confusion and concern, the tall man with dreadlocks looked kinda amused although Willow ducked her head at his regard.
“Let’s begin with a few more introductions. Willow Rosenberg, you’ve met Dr. Carson Beckett our Chief Medical Officer. Dr. Radek Zelenka is one of our leading scientists. Teyla Emmagan and Ronon Dex are both native to the Pegasus Galaxy and two further members of Colonel Shepard’s team.” Willow flushed at the last introduction.
“Willow, would you like to explain what happened downstairs.” There was no accusation in Dr. Weir’s voice just curiosity and Willow felt her self relax slightly.
“I’m really sorry. I’d hoped to make a better impression.”
“You don’t need to apologise, we just need to understand what happened. To you and to Colonel Sheppard.”
“When the transport completed I was, er, assaulted with impressions and sensations. I believe from the city itself. It was dizzying and confusing and when I felt the effect begin to build again I,” she paused looking at the members in the room who were unknown to her.
“It’s alright, everyone in this room is cleared to hear what you have to say and I believe it would be beneficial, both to us and you, if they knew of your abilities.” Elizabeth hoped that Willow would open up to them as the situation posed some intriguing and monumental questions as to the nature of the very city they lived in.
“If you’re sure Dr. Weir.” Willow took a moment to look over the faces of those in the room. Dr. Weir must trust them and believe they could handle what she was about to tell them but it was hard. She spent so long keeping this part of her life secret. Still this was a chance at a new beginning and maybe it could be a life that contained acceptance of all parts of her.
“I erected strong mental shields to prevent the link from the city from establishing itself any further. I have quite a lot of experience in this area. I need good control of my mind to enable me to utilise the powers I possess. I backed up the shield with an invocation of protection. Some people would refer to it as a spell. I included Colonel Sheppard in this spell, because he was near me and as far as I knew this was a form of mental attack and something that he too would need protection from.” She lapsed into silence waiting for the outcry that usually accompanied this kind of revelation.
“Spell, as in magic?” Willow nodded in response to Dr. Beckett’s question.
Most people in the room looked to Dr. Weir and the Colonel for their reaction.
“We have been given significant evidence that Willow’s abilities are real and more importantly will be of invaluable help to us in our fight against the Wraith.”
“My abilities, as Dr. Weir so politely called them, are powers which I can call upon to achieve a number of things. Some have other names such as levitation and telepathy. I can heal and I can harm. All I can say to you is I would never knowingly harm anyone but an enemy. I don’t believe I have harmed Colonel Sheppard, I’ve just temporarily blocked the connection from the city.”
“You said you believe the city communicated to you.” Dr. Zelenka spoke up.
“I felt something that did not come from another living person. I don’t know whether it could be called communication, it was just data and it was overwhelming.” Willow looked hesitatingly at Sheppard. “Did you hear it too before I blocked it?”
“I,” John rubbed the back of his neck. “I didn’t realise that’s what it was until it had gone. It’s not words, or data, it was just a connection a hum in the back of my head. I didn’t realise was there until you took it away.” Willow flinched.
“I’m sorry. I can remove the invocation now if you want.” Willow was prepared to do whatever it took to gain the trust of these people.
“Hang on Rosenberg. If you take it back, what happened in the gate room will happen to you again won’t it?”
“Probably but I shouldn’t have taken liberties with you. It’s not right. I’ll be expecting it this time, I’ll be OK.”
“No. Wait. I can still close doors and stuff so all things considered we’ll keep you out of harms way for now.” There was something in his tone that made Willow frown.
“Buffy threatened you didn’t she.”
“And Xander and Mr Giles. And a few other random young women who were fairly graphic with what they’d do to me if anything happened to you. Not to mention the Finn’s and their team.”
“You were threatened by girls!” Rodney snorted.
“Strong girls! Supernaturally strong women who can bend rebar without breaking a sweat I’d like to add.” Seeing that Ronon was about to add something John jumped in. “At least I wasn’t taken down by one.” Willow blushed bright red.
“I’m so sorry Mr Dex. You caught me by surprise.”
“And you’re not super strong are you Willow?” Willow felt her anger rise at Sheppard for baiting the man she had to work with.
“No but I’ve had training with Slayers including knowing when you can’t win a fight. Mr Dex would have taken me down with his first move. How did you know how to stop my babble though?” Willow added with puzzlement turning to the man in question.
“I had a younger sister once.” Willow was vaguely aware of a ripple of surprise in the room. “You’ve had excellent training, I would be honoured to help you continue with it if you wish.”
“Thank you Mr Dex.” Willow gave him a huge smile, which he received with a nod.
“Yes right fine, everyone is happy and making friends. Can we get back to your ‘powers’ and how it’s going to affect the city.”
“I don’t know Rodney. When I first started practising magic I always required an external source, a request usually framed as a prayer to my Goddess.” She silenced Rodney’s attempted outburst with a look, amazing the others in the room. “I have since come to realise this is simply a method of focus. I can now channel my abilities without the need although it gives me comfort and confidence to still call upon my faith.”
“What about candles, herbs and chanting?” Rodney sounded oddly disappointed.
“As I said they only really serve as a focus and occasionally a power boost.”
“The Wraith are extremely powerful, and in your terms, the evil beings of this galaxy. Don’t underestimate them; you’ll need all the power you can get.” Rodney sneered.
“Trust me, boosting is not required.” Willow looked down to her hands that were twisted in her lap. John sat up and smirked at Rodney.
“What? When you grin like that it usually means you think you’ve got one over on me. I emphasise think. Does no one feel the need to tell me anything important?” Rodney glowered at the woman across from him. “Oh, unless! I take it this means you’re quite powerful then Miss Rosenberg?” Willow once again began to flush.
“Actually I believe the words were ‘the most powerful wiccan alive today’. Which coming from the people she worked for is no small thing. And I don’t think Mr Giles is prone to exaggeration.”
“Will you stop using me in your games of one-upmanship Colonel!” John had the decency to look chagrined. “Suffice it to say the powers, on both our sides, believed I alone would be more than enough. You only need worry that it’s more grunt than finesse.” She added the last part in a lower tone.
“Don’t put yourself down Rosenberg. People say glowing things about you.” John made a mental note that they needed to work on her attitude although it made a nice change for someone not to be bragging about their skills.
“Maybe they were just glad to see the back of me.” She shot back and John just chuckled.
“Well, thank you for your honesty with us Miss Rosenberg. I’m sure we’ll need to discuss things further but after all the excitement we’ve been remiss in welcoming you to Atlantis.”
“That’s OK Dr. Weir. I quite understand. I’m sure it won’t take me long to settle in.”
“No, I noticed you didn’t bring much with you.” John commented.
“Or did you miniaturise it with your wand.” Rodney added snidely.
“I would like to point out that before mocking a witch you should at least discover if they’re adept at transfiguration.” Willow raised one eyebrow pointedly.
Rodney swallowed nervously. “Are you?”
“Well, I did have to find a sitter for my two rats before coming here.”
John looked at her sceptically. “I thought witches did frogs and toads.”
“Not this witch.” Willow shuddered. “Any way miniaturising is far too complicated in terms of balancing energies and such. I prefer to just fold space/time.”
John couldn’t help himself and burst into laughter as Rodney choked while Zelenka gazed at their newest addition with a rapt expression on his face.
Willow strode along the corridor trying desperately to keep calm. Not the easiest thing seeing as she was stranded millions of light years from home, surrounded by people she barely knew and being hounded by quite possibly the most annoying person she’d ever met.
The city’s murmur in the back of her head at least allowed her to navigate without getting hopelessly lost. It had taken a bit of getting used to but the more contact she had with the ancient city the better she could interpret the information she was receiving.
Her musing at the incredible situation she was in was disrupted as her pursuers voice broke through her focus. Willow finally snapped and spun to face him.
“Dr. McKay, I will NOT participate in any testing of my powers. You may not take a few moments to study me and if you continue with this harassment I will not be responsible for my actions.” Willow could feel her magic surge through her as her emotions got the better of her.
Rodney swallowed nervously frozen to the spot. He finally allowed himself to breathe after the redhead growled at him before turning and continuing on with her journey.
Twenty minutes later Rodney finally found John working out with Teyla in the gym.
Sheppard looked his scientist over with a critical eye. Rodney was even more flustered than usual and appeared to have undertaken an unusual amount of exertion.
“Are you alright Rodney?”
“She, she.” Rodney waved them off as he sunk to one of the benches.
“Who Rodney?” John shot Teyla a worried glance.
“Willow.” Rodney squeaked out glancing around nervously. John sighed knowing that what ever followed wasn’t going to be pretty.
“Were you stalking her again McKay?” The glare was all the answer he needed. “I thought she’s made her views quite clear plus Elizabeth told you to lay off. What did you do?”
“Me?” Rodney huffed. “That woman, she. We met in the corridor and I may have been checking to make sure she hadn’t changed her mind, after all it would be for the advancement of mankind.” John’s face made him skip past that bit. “Anyway she stopped and yelled at me and then she, well I knew I had to tell someone right away, so I tried the comms but they wouldn’t work nor did the transporter. I’ve had to walk the whole way and manually operate all the doors. Radek’s been running diagnostics clearly he’s messed something up that I’ll have to fix - as if I didn’t have enough on my plate.” John realised Rodney was getting sidetracked.
“Oh God yes, that’s what I came to tell you. They checked she wasn’t a Goa’uld right?” Rodney exclaimed grasping John’s upper arm.
“Yes Rodney. Willow definitely isn’t a Goa’uld.” Curiosity got the better of him. “Why do you ask? Again.”
“Her eyes, they, they turned completely black.” Rodney felt himself slip into a deeper state of panic at the expression on John’s face. “What? What! Oh my God, she’s going to kill me then everyone else isn’t she?”
Sheppard didn’t answer as he hurried to the door. His departure was halted as Ronon entered the room.
“Hey, have you seen Willow.”
“I’m right here Colonel.” John took a moment to look at her as she stepped out from behind the big man.
“Are you,” He wasn’t quite sure how to finish his question but was relieved to find a hint of sparkle in the redhead’s green eyes.
“I take it Dr. McKay found you.” She quirked an eyebrow at him. “Ronon’s agreed to help me let off some steam.” She caught John’s glance back into the room.
“I promise not to cause him permanent harm but perhaps a little bit of space would be a good idea for now.” Willow gave him a bright smile and he realised the words were more for Rodney’s ‘benefit’.
“Rodney, get out of here. I think you need to run some diagnostics don’t you?” Rodney didn’t say a word and kept his eyes down as he rushed out of the room.
“I’m sorry Willow.” John wondered if he’d ever stop having to apologise for Rodney’s insensitivity.
“It’s alright. I’m trying to be understanding, actually I do understand. I mean I might have spent a little bit of time following Teal’c around back at the SGC coz wow alien, but Dr. McKay never shuts up does he. And he’s very detached so it just makes me feel like a high school science project.”
“We know. Rodney’s well, Rodney. He takes some getting used to but I’ll have a word.” He cut off Willow’s protest. “It’s necessary to tell him several times before it sinks in. Do you mind if we watch your session?”
“You want to watch me?” Willow looked nervous.
“Think of it as a tactical assessment.” John realised his mistake by the look of panic on her face. “We don’t have to right now, I just thought.”
Willow took a deep breath. “No, it’s alright. I’m just not keen on the whole show type thing, performance anxiety you know. But in a crisis situation I’m good, all peachy honest.” She added hastily.
“You’ll be fine Willow.” Ronon stood beside her offering her strength. She looked up at him over her shoulder.
“Thanks. Shall we.” The pair of them took up positions in the middle of the floor and Ronon took her through a number of warm up routines that John had watched him use before. There were some similarities to martial arts kata’s that he’d seen on Earth but the Sedatan showed a surprising combination of grace and power. He watched impressed at the speed Willow picked up the moves, she was surprisingly lithe but he supposed it was inevitable considering her past. The duo finished with a bow and Willow startled everyone by leaping up to hug Ronon. She dropped back to her feet looking embarrassed, apologising.
Once again Sheppard was shocked at how little they really knew about Ronon as he bent quickly to return the hug quieting the redhead.
“Willow, could we spar?” Teyla stepped forward with a hopeful smile.
“Um sure. What do you usually do?”
Teyla wordlessly handed her a pair of *sticks*. “Are you familiar with this style of combat?”
“Kind of, just go gently with me, please?” Willow looked nervous but handled the poles with a firm grip. If the session with Ronon had been unexpected then the fight with Teyla was astounding. John had to reluctantly admit that she was doing a lot better than he had on his first try. As they watched the two women Ronon leant over to whisper.
“Her style is unusual, she tends thrust more than slice.” John nodded in agreement but it took him a moment to realise the likely reason.
“The creatures she used to battle could be defeated by a weapon through the heart.” Comprehension showed on Ronon’s face.
“I’ll train that out of her in no time.” The other man’s face was determined and John didn’t envy Willow in the coming weeks. Ronon’s training session tended to be harsh.
Willow and Teyla came to an unspoken agreement to rest, and after bowing briefly they both broke into smiles.
“That was fun!” Willow enthused to the guys as they joined them on the bench. She winced as she found a tender spot. “Although I’m going to be black and blue by tomorrow.” She stopped Teyla’s apology. “Don’t worry they fade, it’s better to be prepared.” At John’s nod of approval she fixed him with a look.
“So are you going to challenge me next Colonel?”
“How about we take this over to the range?” Willow grimaced.
“If we must, can I go change first?”
“Sure, one hour OK? You want one of us to pick you up, show you the way?” They started to gather their things as they prepared to leave.
“No it’s fine. East pier deck 2, right?” She looked up at their silence. “Oh, um well, my connection with the city has been improving ever since I lowered the spell. I’ve managed to make a kind of a mental filter and I’m just making the links one at a time. Finding my way about seemed like my first priority. Navigating is real easy now I don’t even have to ask for the map so to speak I just let my feet do the walking.”
“Your link with the city is strengthening?” Teyla queried.
“Yep. With practise it’s become more of a subliminal link, like an internal heads up display.”
“You think it’s safe?” John couldn’t help but be concerned, the Stargate program didn’t have the best track record with mind control.
“You’ve spent the last couple of years linking with the city whether you realised it or not Colonel.”
“Yeah but we always thought it was more of a one way thing, the whole information downloaded into your head is just weird.”
“But effective. I adapt quickly, I find it’s the best way to stay breathing.” John shrugged making a mental note to inform Elizabeth of this latest development.
“So an hour then?” Willow waited for his confirmation before they all set off.
The team gathered at the improvised firing ranged on schedule. Willow looked particularly nervous.
“This isn’t pass fail, relax.” John couldn’t help but feel a little guilty but they had to know that they could rely on her.
“Easier said than done, Colonel.”
“John or Sheppard is fine Willow.” At her nod he continued. “Let’s start with a side arm and we’ll work up to a P90.”
“Actually I’d feel better if we could start with something that wasn’t a handgun.” She caught his questioning glance. “That’s what he used to kill her.” Her voice broke towards the end.
Ronon stepped up beside her and placed a hand on her shoulder. “If you want I can go to Earth and kill him for you.”
“That’s really sweet but er. Oh man, I suppose you’d better know the whole truth if I’m going to be working with you.” Willow swallowed nervously. John nodded to her in encouragement.
“He’s already dead. I killed him. Drove a bullet into his chest then skinned him alive with a thought.” Despite knowing what had happened John looked shocked.
“It is good that he paid for his crime.” It was Willow’s turn to be shaken at Ronon’s unexpected approval. Ronon looked in askance to Teyla who was looking thoughtful.
“I believe that on Earth such action would be frowned upon.”
“Oh, well, they have a funny way of looking at things.” Ronon shrugged and moved into position on the range.
“You skinned him alive?” John asked weakly, it was all could think to say.
“I may have overreacted a little, I wasn’t really thinking straight. Tara wasn’t the only one he’d killed.” Taking in John’s expression Willow started to babble. “I was high on black magic, just saved Buffy’s life on the operating table and had drained the man who got me hooked, he really wasn’t a nice person. I’m not trying to excuse what I did, I’ll never be able to atone for my sins but I’ve dedicated my life to the side of light.” She fell silent. “Sorry will never be enough.”
“Willow I’m not judging you we’ve all done things we’re not proud of.” John ran his hands though his hair. “Look I suggest that we don’t mention the details to Rodney, he’s a little highly strung.” They all nodded their agreement, Willow a little more reluctantly.
“Shall we move on to what we came here for?” Willow drew in a breath and straightened her shoulders.
“I’m ready Colonel Sheppard.”
Rodney entered the mess room to find the other members of his team laughing and joking whilst proudly showing a target to Lorne and his men. His approached the table cautiously barely taking his eyes off Willow.
Ronon was the first to notice him of course. “McKay, she shoots better than you do.”
“That’s not exactly hard Ronon, no offence Willow.” John added.
“None taken. Don’t worry Dr. McKay I’m sure it was just beginners luck.”
“Luck! I don’t think so Rosenberg even the Marines were impressed.” Willow blushed at the praise. She noticed that Rodney had placed himself as far away from her as possible and she couldn’t help but feel a little guilty.
“I’m sorry for loosing my temper earlier Dr. McKay.”
“Don’t apologise to him Willow. Even Elizabeth is pissed at him so he must deserve it.” John cut her off.
Rodney glared at Sheppard before sinking down in his seat. He straightened suddenly as John elbowed him.
“I’m sorry too Miss Rosenberg. I’ll try to restrain my curiosity.” Willow gave him a smile but John sighed. As Rodney’s apologies went it wasn’t that bad but it was hardly gracious.
“Perhaps we could come to an agreement, I still have some curiosity myself about my abilities but I’ve never really had the equipment to study them.” Willow offered. Hope flared on Rodney’s face and Sheppard knew he had to restrain him before he put his foot in it again.
“Rodney, you are not to start anything without one of us present.” At the look of disgust on his face John added firmly. “You have a tendency to forget the needs of human beings McKay. One of us will be there, understood?” Rodney nodded grudgingly.
Willow sat serenely in the middle of the lab surrounded by a wealth of instrumentation. John watched from the door as Rodney flitted from one piece of equipment to another muttering under his breath. Radek sat at a terminal monitoring the readouts with an awed expression on his face. Moving further into the room to get a better a look at Willow he started as he noticed the metal bar floating in front of her. It was one thing to be told some one could levitate objects but it was quite another to actually see it.
Ronon moved to join him keeping one eye on Rodney. Sheppard had noticed that Ronon had taken the woman under his wing and all of these sessions so far had taken place under his watchful eye.
“OK Rosenberg we’re ready for the test.” McKay instructed.
“What?” John was surprised and turned to Ronon. “I thought they were testing her levitation.”
“That was yesterday, today Zelenka has convinced her to demonstrate the ability to fold space and time.”
“Are we sure that’s safe?” He wasn’t happy; something like this should have been run past him and Elizabeth, it sounded dangerous. He didn’t have the chance to say anything more as the air seemed to warp around the bar like an intense heat haze.
The walls flared as they had on Willow first arrival to Atlantis and a number of alarms began beeping. Rodney gave a yelp and moved towards the disturbance. Ronon dived forward grabbing the scientist around the waist and dragging him harshly back. He quickly silenced Rodney’s outburst pointing to the woman in the centre of the room.
Willow was sat in the middle of a swirl of debris panting slightly with a sheen of sweat on her brow. John noted that her hair was bleeding white from the roots and mentally breathed a sigh of relief. He could see her lips moving but no sound reached them. The effects seemed fairly contained for now and John was just about to radio the control room when Willow’s voice rose to a shout and every thing collapsed in on itself.
The sudden silence was almost as shocking as the chaos before. Rodney went to move forward again but Ronon restrained him once more.
“Wait.” John looked between the woman buckled in a heap on the floor and the stern faced warrior unsure what to do.
“She is bleeding.” Radek’s slightly shocked voice called out from the other side of the room.
“You OK Zelenka?”
“I am fine Colonel Sheppard but I believe Miss Rosenberg needs assistance.”
“Don’t go near her.” Ronon barked out the order.
“Look Ronon, she’s hurt and we need to find out what the hell just happened.” The Satedan gave him a look before drawing a knife and throwing it toward Willow. There was a loud crackle and smell of ozone wafted throughout the room.
“The magic is still active. Even if you did break through you would cause her more harm.”
“How did you know?” The big man just shrugged.
“Her hair’s changing.” Rodney’s voice carried a note of alarm. John was relieved to see the woman’s hair returning to it’s normal red colour. She let out a small moan and at some unseen signal Ronon darted forward sweeping her up into his arms.
John and Rodney followed in his wake as he strode off in the direction of the infirmary. Rosenberg was just beginning to stir as they entered.
“What happened?” Carson glared at Rodney as Willow was laid on a bed.
“It wasn’t me. She said she could contain the effects but something went wrong.”
John returned into the room. “Nobody else in the city has reported any problems.”
“Hello there. Back with us?”
“Ow.” Willow brought her hands us to cover her eyes, barely reacting as a nurse cleaned her bloody nose.
“Is there anything I can do for you Willow?” The concern in Carson’s voice drove Willow to concentrate on those around her.
“Just some aspirin and couple of hours rest.” She smiled weakly.
“What happened?” Willow winced at the accusation in the Colonel’s voice.
“Um, we were monitoring the effects of magics that bend the fabric of reality.”
“We were?” Her description startled Rodney. She frowned before continuing.
“What did you think we were doing? Anyway the city tried to help and I lost control of the energies momentarily. Fortunately the wards I had set up provided sufficient containment.”
“Fortunately.” John added dryly.
“Yes well I hadn’t anticipated a well meaning shove from the inanimate object I was occupying.” Willow snapped. “No offence.” She added glancing at the nearest wall.
“What was that?” Rodney asked suspiciously.
“I didn’t want to hurt her feelings. She didn’t mean to make the spell go wonky.”
“You talk to the city.” Incredulity dripped from McKay.
“It’s not like she answers back exactly but a bit of gratitude doesn’t go amiss. She looks after us after all and we, those of us with the gene, clearly have a mental link so it stands to reason she might be able to hear us.”
Everyone in the room except for Ronon looked disturbed by that idea.
“OK, that’s going to make for uneasy sleeping this evening. So Atlantis is capable of magic?” John tried to get the conversation back on track.
“Not exactly she just,” Willow paused looking for the right words. “She’s like a catalyst I suppose. The earlier spells must not have reached a level that the city picked up on but this time there was a surge that I wasn’t prepared for.”
“Like a booster rocket part way through a run.”
“Exactly.” Willow tried to pull herself up but groaned as her body protested. Ronon reached out and pinned her down.
“Rest, let Beckett check you over.”
“I’m fine Ronon. Or I will be.” She sagged back as she felt the effects overwhelm her again. She cracked an eye open. “Am I in trouble?”
“I’ll check with Elizabeth but I wouldn’t worry too much I’m sure we can pin most of this on Rodney.”
“Oh that’s alright then.” Willow barely got the words out before passing out.
“Doc?” John was alarmed at the speed she lost consciousness again.
“Don’t fret as far as I can tell she’s sleeping it off naturally.” He turned from the monitors to the others in the room. “We’ve had a brief discussion of the probable effects from spell casting and, while I suspect she understated the risks to herself, low energy is a likely result. I expect her to be like this for a while so off you go and I’ll let you know when she wakes.” They all began to shuffle reluctantly out of the room. “You too Ronon, she’s fine.”
“I should have kept a closer eye on her.” Carson began to reassure the big man but Willow’s faint voice interrupted.
“Not your fault Ro. She was just trying to help that’s all. Don’t be mad.”
“See now you’ve woken her.” Even Carson wasn’t above using a bit of emotional blackmail when it came to the well being of one of his patients. “Off you go lad.”
“That was mean Carson.” He rejoined the young woman’s bedside.
“I know that lot out there better than you and it takes all the leverage to hand to remove them from a team mate’s bedside.”
“Team mate?” The hope in her voice tugged at his heart.
“Yes lass you’re one of us now. Sleep. They’ll be back before you know it.”
John didn’t know whether to get really pissed or just laugh. Willow was proving to be a whole lot more trouble than her innocent looking exterior let on. He paused briefly at Elizabeth’s door before deciding to simply let Willow’s words do the talking.
Taking in John’s expression Elizabeth was nervous as she took the letter from his hands. Unfolding the note she felt her stomach sink as she recognised Willow’s handwriting.
Dear Colonel Sheppard & Dr. Weir,
I have tricked Ronon in accompanying me on a trip to find out more about the city. I really wanted to ask you but was pretty sure you’d say no so I decided if I didn’t ask then you couldn’t say no and so I wouldn’t have to disobey you, ‘cause that would have made me feel really bad. Ronon probably thinks I asked so I just want to make it clear it’s totally not his fault.
We’ve got snacks and I promise I’ll bring him back safe and sound.
PS I really am sorry.
“Is this a joke?” John shook his head.
“Appeared out of nowhere when I asked Carson if he’d seen Willow today.”
“I suppose we should be thankful that she did at least leave us a note. Clever to keep it hidden until someone enquired about her.”
“You’re taking this better than I expected.” John felt some of his tension ease, if Elizabeth wasn’t concerned about their wayward redhead then perhaps it wasn’t as bad as he thought.
“You’ve tried using the sensors to locate them?”
“Not much point. Rodney has determined that the city is taking unbidden action to Willow’s moods. Before the two of them worked things out whenever Willow got really pissed at him he found that he experienced glitches with the city, doors not working at his mental command, comms intermittent. Nothing serious, just inconvenient. He and Zelenka have done extensive research but Willow hasn’t given any direct commands to the city. The city has shielded Willow from the sensors when Rodney’s been looking for her on a number of occasions even though the rest of us were able to trace her. This time I’m pretty sure Willow doesn’t want to be found so,” He held up his hands in defeat. They sat in silence for a moment.
“They make such an unlikely pair.” John shrugged.
“Ronon seems to look on her as a little sister. Willow described him as a big huggie bear, something that I shall never, ever repeat within his ear shot.” John failed miserably to suppress a grin. “She also mentioned that it was nice to meet some who took her abilities at face value and without fear.”
“We do have a tendency to question everything suppose. Do you think we’ve pushed too much? Has Rodney been, well, Rodney again?”
“She accepts it as our human nature.” Someone cleared their throat from the doorway.
“Radek come in.” He shifted nervously for a moment before entering.
“I did not mean to eavesdrop but Willow and Ronon also work well together as she finds him magically, er, inert. As I understand he grounds her abilities much like the earth wire in a plug.”
“Willow told you this?”
“We, Willow, Ronon and I have spent many evenings discussing her abilities and their effects. I was quite afraid to continue with our studies after the incident with the, er, bending of reality but she took the time to reassure me that it was quite safe.”
“Were you aware of their ‘unplanned’ trip today?”
“Trip? They have gone offworld?” He reached out to take the proffered piece of paper, paling as he read.
“Oh dear. I fear this may be my doing.”
“Your doing? How?”
“In the course of our conversation last night we discussed the city’s greater interaction with Willow. I postulated that with the combination of her magic and the gene, that if she could find the right interface she could perhaps communicate, directly, with the city itself.”
“OK now you’ve laid it out it seems pretty obvious but why would that drive her to take off in secret today.” John knew there had to be more to it than that. Willow was simply too concerned with making a good impression at the moment.
“Well I also pointed out that unless the miscommunication between her and the city were clarified there was a risk of someone getting hurt when it failed to obey a command.”
“And the idea of being responsible for harming someone even inadvertently is a complete anathema to her. Have you any idea where they might have headed?” Elizabeth felt some relief that at gaining some understanding in Willow’s decision and the reason for the subterfuge had been explained. Radek shook his head regretfully.
“We didn’t have a chance to speculate as she left in a hurry. I did not think. I should have known the subject would distress her.”
“Don’t blame yourself. Willow most certainly wouldn’t want that. I think it’s time for us to show our newest addition some trust. Ronon’s with her and between them I doubt there’s anything they can’t handle and I’m sure they’ll be in touch if they need help.”
“Wow this is amazing. I mean Carson’s tour was great and everything but it’s so cool to be able to just let your feet do the walking.” She smiled up into Ronon’s glowering face.
“I still think we should have told Sheppard at least which sector we were heading out to.”
“I told you if we‘d mentioned anything he’d have wanted to come too and I need to be able to connect to the city without any interruption from others with the gene.” Willow frowned at his unchanging expression. “Anyway I left a note explaining it wasn’t your fault.”
He snorted his disbelief.
“Oh, oh! Tell them I put a spell on you!”
“I am not going to lie. Beside they won’t like that idea either.” Willow sighed nodding her agreement. She stopped and turned to face him looking up into his face with a twinkle in her eye.
“Don’t worry I’ll protect you Ro.”
“Why do you insist on using that name?”
“I like it. It’s mine to call you. You don’t mind do you?” It was the big man’s turn to sigh.
“No it’s fine. Will.” She beamed at him before moving off determinedly.
“Come on I can barely feel the others any more. We’ll find somewhere comfortable and I’ll try and make contact.” Ronon resettled the pack on his shoulder and followed the energetic woman. Unexpectedly an innocuous wall panel slid back as Willow approached. Cautiously they peered in.
“Look this is perfect. Isn’t it pretty?” They entered a room unlike any he’d seen before. The walls were covered in an opalescent crystal that hummed with enough energy to make the hair on his arms stand on end.
“You sure it’s safe?”
“Definitely.” She’d been drawn here and trusted her subconscious link to the city enough to know it wouldn’t intentionally harm her. She took the pack from him strode to the centre of the room. Laying out a mat she placed a candle in the centre. Ronon joined her sitting opposite, their knees touching.
“Ready?” She looked into his eyes seeking his strength as much as she giving him reassurance.
“I’ll be waiting right here for you.” She gave him a smile, full of unhesitating trust, before closing her eyes and relaxing into a meditative state.
“Colonel Sheppard to the control room.”
John gave Evan Lorne an apologetic grin that fooled neither of them. He always sought any excuse to avoid the day-to-day administrative duties.
“You’re doing a great job Lorne. Do we really need to pick this up later?”
“No Sir. I think we covered the main points.”
“Excellent.” Sheppard joined him by the door, pausing before they left. “Our red-headed sprite has gone AWOL in the city with Ronon. Perhaps you could run a drill with a search and rescue team, eh Major.”
“Yes sir.” Ever since coming to Atlantis, Lorne had come to realise that while you couldn’t be prepared for everything Atlantis’s unseasoned military commander had an almost supernatural instinct for anticipating and finding ways out of trouble.
John hurried off to find out what the latest crisis had to hold. He found Elizabeth waiting as he reached the top of the stairs.
“No, Radek has picked something up on the sensors.” They joined the Czech at his console.
“I don’t believe so it’s far too small, even for a dart which is why we didn’t pick it up sooner.”
“What do you mean sooner?”
“I estimate at its current speed it will be here in two hours.” John stared in disbelief for a moment before sighing and looking for McKay.
“Do we have any idea what the hell it is?”
“No Colonel. Rodney is working on scans from his lab but the city’s sensors are currently unable to give any more information than it’s rough dimensions.”
“Approximately the size of a naquadha generator.”
“It’s plausible but we simply do not have the information at this time.” John looked at Elizabeth.
“We need to find out more,” John broke off as Rodney’s voice broke in over the radio.
“That’s exactly what I’ve been trying to do.”
“I think we should be concerned.”
“That’s not helpful McKay.”
“Well, nor are any of the readings we’ve been able to obtain. It appears to be practically undetectable to Atlantis’s sensors. Most of the information we’ve obtained has been using systems integrated with Earth technology.”
“So you’re saying what ever it is has been specifically designed to evade Lantean detection.”
“Perhaps I failed to make myself clear. This thing isn’t even showing up on half of the city’s systems I can’t tell if it’s designed to avoid detection or if it’s simply a solid block with nothing to detect. Under normal circumstances technology from Earth doesn’t even come close to what we’ve been able to achieve here so understandably we have relied on the Pegasus systems. As such there is nothing else for us to use.”
“I can take a jumper up.”
“It’s of Lantean design what more could it possibly tell us.”
“I can look at it Rodney, take pictures. I should be able to tell if it’s a benign bit of space debris if nothing else.”
“Oh well I suppose there’s that.”
“Do you think it’s safe?” Elizabeth queried.
“I don’t think we have a choice.” Finally she nodded.
“Very well Colonel you have a go.”
Willow slowly opened her eyes.
“Are you alright?” Concern marred his features when she failed to reply immediately.
“Sorry Ro. It’s just so, amazing. She’s incredible, so much more than I think even they intended.”
“The ancients, Lanteans, whatever you want to call them.” She rose gracefully and began to pace before him. “She’s AI for sure, not quite fully sentient, I don’t think so any way. Wow that’s a deep question, I’ll leave for the philosophers. Anyway I don’t think that even they anticipated what could occur over 10,000 years and so much of it alone.” Willow stopped suddenly over come with the deep solitude she’d experienced when linked with the city.
Ronon noticed the change in her instantly and stood reaching out to grip her firmly.
“You are not alone Willow.” She stood blinking for a moment before smiling gently.
“No, I know. It was just for a moment I felt like I could grasp eternity and it is more than a little scary.” She suddenly threw herself forwards into his arms properly. “Thanks.”
“So what else did you learn, was it worth the trouble? You know Sheppard won’t let this slip by quietly.” Ronon watched quietly as she started pacing again becoming steadily more animated.
“Oh I think it’s worth it, whether he agrees is another matter. While the Lanteans designed the ability to instruct the city mentally, it has evolved. I believe because it was seeking someone to connect to. The Colonel must have a very disciplined mind to achieve the level of interaction he has, his mind is compatible with the city’s ability to read intentions and so reacts better with him. My connection is boosted by my years of practicing magic. I don’t believe the Lantean’s practiced magic the way I do but they were certainly capable of channelling their energies. The unexpected power boost may have been the city’s way of showing me how to channel some of that energy.” She suddenly fell silent.
“Something’s wrong.” She cocked her head to the side as if listening to something.
“We have to get to the control room.” Ronon began gathering their things.
“No time. Hang on.” She moved in close placing her hands on his arms, closing her eyes as she gathered herself.
Ronon waited trustingly. He felt the now familiar tingle of Willow’s magic over his skin before abruptly finding himself stood before the gate. Willow swayed slightly and he ignored the shocked gasps from the others in the room while he waited for her to gather herself.
“Alright?” He waited for her reply before releasing her.
“Peachy. Dr. Weir, what’s going on?” She nimbly moved up the stairs grabbing a shell shocked Rodney, who had only just arrived in the gateroom, by the arm and dragging him with her.
“Willow.” Elizabeth tried to shake herself out of her momentary stupor, trying to refocus on the problem at hand rather than the unexpected display of Willow’s power. Radek having spent many hours discussing possibilities with the pair took it all in his stride.
“We have detected a small object that until now has evaded the city’s sensors. The Colonel has taken a jumper to try and assess if it is a threat.”
“Damn if I’d gone too maybe I could have picked something up.” Willow frowned the possibility of having endangered the people here by her absence.
“Couldn’t you,” Rodney waved his hands vaguely. “poof?” Willow looked at him sceptically.
“I am still bounds by the laws of physics Rodney, have you any idea how hard it would be to teleport into an object moving that fast. Just locating an object that size in the vastness of space would be a drain. Oh.”
“What. What?” McKay
“Hello John.” Willow had an odd smile on her face as Sheppard’s voice came over the radio.
“Willow. How are you doing that?”
“The city is linked to the jumper so finding that isn’t a problem after all.” She blinked then explained to the others in the room. “I’m using the internal systems to speak to the Colonel and I’m just running through the options on the heads up display. You’re going to take me on a trip in one of these soon right?”
“Sure Willow, we’ll take a flight in a jumper once the prospect of our imminent demise has passed.”
“What do you mean imminent demise, what have you seen?”
“Calm down Rodney, he’s just teasing you.”
“Rosenberg, quit spoiling my fun. I should be in visual range in a few minutes. You turned anything else up McKay?”
“Nothing. The sensors just seem to skip over it not matter how I try and focus them.”
“Fine. Okay it’s just coming into range now.” The radio fell silent.
“He’s fine, guys.” Willow leant against Ronon’s side with a look on concentration on her face. “It’s not space debris. It’s blocking the communications with the city, some kind of EM field. Damn.”
“What?” Rodney began frantically tapping on his laptop trying to route around the block in the transmissions.
“Jumper’s lost power.” Willow was now gripping Ronon’s arm tightly. “John’s OK he says we should to wait and see if power returns once the object has moved on.”
“He’s floating powerless in space! Of course he’s not OK.” Willow ignored Rodney’s rant. The Colonel had enough air to keep him alive for a while, long enough for her to mount a rescue if necessary.
“Radek can I use your laptop? We’ve managed to gather some data.”
“Of course Willow, here.” Most people in the room watched in silence as Willow began typing at a speed that rivalled Rodney’s. Zelenka stood reviewing the data as a flowed across the screen.
“My God. Rodney.” Radek moved to his side and forcefully moved him out of the way of his station typing in a few commands to slave the terminal. “Look.”
“Really?” Rodney retook his place and the pair of them began re-examining the data. Elizabeth wanted to scream her frustration. It was incredibly irritating when they got like this, so focussed on the problem that they forgot to inform anyone else what was going on.
“Rodney. Willow?” She moved toward the redhead’s side but was blocked by Ronon.
“She’s concentrating.” Elizabeth looked in askance at him. “Data to McKay and keeping in touch with Sheppard too.”
“How do you?” Ronon just shrugged making her want to throttle him in turn. Before she had a chance to reply Rodney broke in.
“You’re sure this data’s correct.”
“Yes Rodney.” Willow’s voice sounded oddly distant.
“Elizabeth you may want to evacuate the city.” Rodney’s comment was offhand as he immersed himself once more in the data.
“Will someone please tell me what is going on?”
“What ever that thing is it’s emitting a signal that disrupts the power flow in the crystals that the Ancient technology uses. The Colonel couldn’t say if it was Wraith or not.” Willow turned to face Elizabeth. “The sensors were picking it up but it’s very nature corrupted the information and the city compensated by blocking it off, preventing the damage spreading kinda like a virus.”
“OK but why do we need to evacuate.”
“Because when it gets here it’ll affect the whole city. With the power disrupted I can’t guarantee the city will stay afloat or even whether it’ll affect dialling the gate. Plus there’s the EM field that’s blocking the Colonel’s radio. There’s not enough time to check the effect of these results.” Rodney added with out looking up.
Elizabeth hesitated for only a moment. “Begin evacuation procedures. Give me an open channel.” Receiving the nod the channel was open she delivered the news.
“Ladies and Gentlemen. We have discovered a threat approaching the city and unfortunately we’ve had very little warning. As a precautionary measure I’m ordering an emergency evacuation of the city as many personnel as possible within the next hour. This is not a drill.”
As the alarms began to sound she turned to the expectant faces in the control room. “Rodney, what about the Athosians on the mainland?”
“They shouldn’t be affected aside from being stranded without access to a gate of course.”
“The Daedalus is due in two weeks we can render aid then. Dial Earth we’ll brief them and get as many back as possible. How long can we hold the connection without completely draining the ZPM Rodney?”
As the preparation for dialling Earth began Willow stood to one side slightly bemused as the flurry of activity continued around her. She knew she should be paying attention to what was going on but she’d only just got here. There was no way she was leaving. She wouldn’t abandon the city to loneliness again. She glanced around relieved that no one was paying her attention. Her best bet was to find somewhere to hide as she had little doubt that they’d try and make her leave.
As she reached the bottom of the stairs she felt Ronon’s hand on her arm.
“I’m not leaving Ro.”
“I know. We should stick together.” She gave him a relieved smile. “What about Sheppard?”
“He’s trying to restart the jumper at the moment, but he’s fine. I can get him if need be but I don’t know what else may be required of me. He’s safe for now.” At his nod of agreement they made to leave the gateroom. They heard the gate connect but Willow suddenly stiffened.
“Oh my God. It’s a trap!” Willow darted around Ronon and rushed to stand before the gate.
“Shut it down!” Her cry brought a number of people to the balcony staring down in surprise.
“It’s a trap they’ve forced us to contact Earth.” Willow looked pleading at them willing them to act. Sheppard’s voice broke in suddenly over the radio.
“Atlantis, come in. The object just exploded. McKay, are you picking up it up? There was a cloud of something and it moved off at incredible speed straight toward the planet.”
“Shut it down now Rodney.” Rodney was already moving before the order had been made but everyone could tell from his frantic efforts something was wrong.
“I’m trying. It’s not responding.” All the consoles and lighting flickered and died. Willow cried out at the loss. There were shouts of surprise as the unidentified cloud burst through the vast windows showering the room with glass.
There was only time for a few brief bursts of fire interspersed with red blasts from Ronon’s weapon before it surged toward the gate coupled with frantic shouts for back up before people realised the radios were down.
Willow stood immediately before the gate practically glowing with power, an unexplained breeze ruffling her hair. She shouted out a scream of defiance as the phenomena enveloped both her and Ronon.
Elizabeth stood fists clenched at her helplessness watching in horror as the thing made its way towards an unprepared Earth. Seeing the small woman and her ever-present protector stood in its path nearly made her heart stop. As it shrouded the pair she realised with a start that it was not passing though the gate. The moans coming from others below forced her to tear her eyes away from the events she could not control and concentrate on those injured by its entry into the city.
Few could keep their eyes away for long as the roiling cloud flickered with lighting like flashes. The wounded were treated and slowly the room cleared until only essential personnel remained.
“How long have they been in there?” Elizabeth looked to those who now stood around her.
“A little under half an hour.” Rodney added dully. “Any word from Sheppard?”
“Nothing since his last transmission, now it is within the city not even radio communication is working. Any luck with restoring power?”
“Equipment from Earth is relatively unaffected but we’re experiencing some problems with things still connected when that thing hit us. The city is dead.”
They all fell silent once more waiting for the outcome of the battle for the gate.
Slowly Elizabeth became aware of Radek chanting quietly under his breath beside her. Rodney stood beyond him barely able to take his eyes of his watch.
“Come on. She can do it. Just a few more minutes.” Finally she managed to pick up what Radek was saying but it just added to her confusion. Rodney caught her questioning gaze.
“38 minutes.” Of course. She was so preoccupied she hadn’t stopped to consider that.
“Do you think she can do it? Does she know?” Hope flared.
“Yes, she showed a surprising grasp of the principle of wormholes during our discussions.” Radek interjected.
“That’s it.” McKay looked expectantly at the gate. Everyone flinched back as the cloud began to swell alarmingly. The way it pulsed made it almost seem to be breathing; a swirling malevolence that made the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end.
Abruptly it contracted once more then exploded with a noiseless concussion. As they slowly regained their feet all eyes were drawn to the tableau before the now dormant gate.
“BECKETT!” Ronon’s bellow galvanised them into action and they rushed to their side.
“She’s not breathing.” The naked fear in the normally resolute mans eyes was overwhelming.
Carson gently removed her from his arms and began CPR, issuing instructions to the med team as they arrived.
Ronon stood over them, a daunting figure glaring at anyone who approached him. Rodney winced at the apparent accusation in his eyes. Radek simply moved to stand beside him not saying a word to the warrior.
A commotion from the window caused them to turn and everyone was relieved to find Sheppard in his jumper hovering before them.
“Rodney. You have to get the city powered back up. She was linked, or something, I couldn’t understand what she was trying to say. The jumper bay’s not responding so I’ll land on the east pier. I’ll meet you in the infirmary.”
The scene outside the infirmary was bleak. Rodney and Radek were huddled in a corner working on restoring the city fully. They’d managed to restore basic functions but there were still outages across various areas. Elizabeth sat watching John pace restlessly. Teyla stood near Ronon whose eyes had yet to leave the doorway into where Becket was working.
Finally the door opened revealing a despondent looking man. He glanced briefly at Ronon who had gone stiff at the sight of him.
“I’m sorry.” Everyone in the room had frozen. “There’s nothing more I can do, she’s being supported by machines but she’s showing no signs of,” He broke off unable to continue.
“What are you saying Carson?” Elizabeth’s voice was full of disbelief.
“She wasn’t breathing on her own and her heart is being maintained by an external pacemaker. I can’t detect any brain activity. She’s, she’s gone.”
“No!” Ronon’s outburst startled them all as he lashed out and struck the wall. Teyla waved them all off before they could approach him taking a protective stance between the distraught man and the rest of the room. Sheppard resumed his pacing drawing a surprised glance from several of the others in the room.
“Is there no hope Dr. Beckett?” Teyla’s soft query caused even John to pause.
He shook his head slowly his eyes glistening with tears.
“No.” Everyone turned to where John stood fidgeting restlessly. “We’re missing something. She said, she told me we had to revive the city.”
“Willow loved this place Colonel. She gave her life trying to save it and Earth.”
“No. It was more than that, I could feel it. I can still feel it.” Ronon strode across the room and grabbed him roughly.
“Why!” The others tried to pry him from the Colonel but he just threw them off.
“Why what?” Radek tried to be the voice of reason knowing they stood more chance of harming the Colonel if they tried to tear the big man away.
“What can you still feel? Is it the city, is the city trying to tell you how to save her.” John just stared dumbfounded at the other man. “She said your mind was more compatible with the city as was hers, that’s why you both could communicate with it so well. Is the city trying to tell you something?”
“When did she say this?” Elizabeth tried to catch Ronon’s eye but he was entirely focussed on Sheppard.
“This morning we left because she wanted to make sure that the city wouldn’t harm anyone by misreading her thoughts. She said she needed to be alone with it far from others with the gene. We found a room,” He was preventing from continuing as Sheppard cried out as the lights flared as they had when Willow first arrived.
“Colonel.” Becket reached round Ronon to check on the disorientated man.
“That’s it. That’s what the city has been trying to tell me. We need to take Willow there.”
“It told you that?” Rodney’s incredulous tone caused Sheppard to snap at him.
“It’s like she said, its not words but I know that’s what it wants. Ronon can you find the room again.” John paled suddenly. “Oh Jesus, that’s weird. Don’t worry I know where it is.”
“John?” Elizabeth couldn’t help but be concerned at the effect this was having on Atlantis’s military leader.
“Map. Planted in my head.” John repressed a shudder. “We’ll worry about that later. Carson, can you get her ready to move?”
“I don’t know if that’s a good idea.”
“You just said she was dead how much worse can she get.” Rodney’s bluntness jolted them into action.
They had the air of a funeral procession as they made their way through the corridors of Atlantis. Elizabeth supposed she shouldn’t be surprised at the number of people who had made their way to catch a glimpse of the redhead that had made such an impact on the city in the short time she’d been here. Willow had a way of making you feel that she had known you for a long time and that whatever you had to say was important to her.
She looked over the others escorting Willow to the mysterious room. They’d already lost one team member to loose another would be devastating. Willow had made a huge impact on all of them particularly Ronon and John. The Satedan had one hand on the woman’s shoulder; he’d barely said a word since Carson’s pronouncement. Sheppard refused to look at her after his first glimpse of the inert form. He was using the excuse of leading the way but Elizabeth knew him well enough. Teyla was right beside Rodney who still continued to work even as they walked.
“This is it.” She was shaken out of her reverie by Ronon’s assertion.
“What now?” Carson looked between John and Ronon.
“We’ll take her in.” Ronon glanced at Sheppard to see his assent.
“She won’t make it, son. These machines are all that are keeping her alive.”
“Like Rodney said she’s essentially dead anyway.”
“John.” Elizabeth frowned. “Maybe we should wait and contact her friends back on Earth.”
“And how long is that going to take. We can’t dial Earth, the Daedelus isn’t due for weeks and then they’d have to carry any message to Earth and back and we don’t even know if they’d be able to help.” John shook his head. “I know it seems crazy but this is the right thing to do. I’m sure of it, trust me.”
She looked in his eyes surprised to find no doubt.
“Elizabeth!” Carson’s exclamation went ignored as they detached her from the some of the machinery. Elizabeth heaved a sigh of relief as the redhead began breathing albeit shallowly on her own but her face fell as it became steadily more irregular. Ronon gently lifted her from the gurney with John carrying the pacemaker and together they entered the room.
John felt an urge to clear away the centre of the room and went with his instincts. He had to move back swiftly as the floor retracted and a device that looked similar to a command chair rose from the floor. At his nod Ronon lowered the unconscious woman then stepped back looking expectantly at him.
“I don’t know. I’m not getting anything that makes sense.” He looked panicked as Willow stopped breathing. “Carson, get in here!”
“I told you,” He moved swiftly to the centre of the room but stopped suddenly as everything lit up. “Oh.”
“It’s a,” He frowned. “I don’t know what it supposed to do but I think it might be used to heal her if I can just.” He gasped and Ronon moved to support him. John prevented the others from entering.
“Give him a minute.”
Carson moved closer to the chair blocking their view of the red head before suddenly collapsing, Ronon going down with him to prevent him from hurting himself.
Elizabeth managed to drag her eyes away from the pair on the floor to look at Willow. She was surprised to find herself looking into a pair of green eyes.
“Hi. Is everyone OK?”
“We’re fine Willow. You did it.” John answered firmly.
“Cool. Mall tomorrow? Post apocalyptic party time.” They didn’t have a chance to reply as the redhead passed out once more.
“Help me up.” Carson sounded shattered but swiftly assessed his patient. “She fine, heart rate and breathing stable. She’s just sleeping.”
“Are you alright Doc?”
“That was singularly the most unpleasant thing I’ve ever had to go through. I don’t think that contraption was meant to heal but she used my knowledge of the human body as a template to restore Willow. I think. It’s all a bit confusing and I’d really like a few hours rest to try and assimilate it all.” He waved his staff in. “Let’s get her back to the infirmary.”
Willow and Carson were whisked out of the room leaving a slightly bewildered team of people behind.
“Never a quiet day in the Pegasus galaxy eh?”
“Stop looking at me like that.” Willow squirmed uncomfortably.
“Well, we thought you were dead.” Rodney had been sneaking glances at her all night Carson had finally released her from the infirmary and they’d insisted on having a team movie/post apocalyptic party night.
“I was only mostly dead.” She shrugged sighing as Ronon shifted beside her. His need for close proximity was sweet but also very claustrophobic. “Anyway I got better.” John snorted from the other side of her before nudging her.
“Guess that makes Carson Miracle Max.” John whispered. Willow chuckled quietly. “McKay must be the Sicilian.” Even Ronon broke out into a smile at that one.
“Why are you all grinning at me like idiots?”
“Because we know something you don’t know.” Willow and John chorused together.
“I am not left handed either.” Ronon’s rough voice chimed in before either of them could answer him. Unfortunately for Rodney it meant he couldn’t get any kind of response from anyone as Willow and John’s hysterical laughter set everyone else off.
“Of course he’s not left handed I think I would have noticed something like that.” Rodney exclaimed exasperated. “I don’t get it. I know he’s not left handed. What’s so funny?” Finally Zelenka took pity on him.
“It is from a film Rodney.” At McKay’s look of surprise at him knowing the answer he went to explain. “Willow made Ronon and I watch the Princess Bride a couple of weeks ago. It was quite entertaining actually.”
“And you invited Sheppard and not me?” Rodney had a hurt look on his face.
“The Colonel did not join us. Besides you were working on the device that SGA4 had brought back so I doubt we could have persuaded you to leave.” Rodney looked a little mollified by that but still frowned at the other across the room.
“Do you believe the city is sentient?” McKay had unconsciously lowered his voice as he asked the question and Radek was unable to prevent a wary glance at the wall around them.
“I am unsure but all the evidence points to the fact that if it is she approves of us. She has protected us many times Rodney.”
“Oh yes very scientific ‘she’ has protected us.” Rodney sneered but paled as the lights began to flicker. “Something that we of course appreciate and I hope will continue into the future.” The lights dimmed further. “You’ll explain I didn’t mean it right Willow?” He finally looked over to the couch only to find Willow curled into a shaking ball cradled in Ronon’s arms.
“Oh my god, what happened? Beckett!” Rodney tapped his radio on to call for medical aid.
“Cancel that Carson, everything is fine.” Sheppard countermanded. Rodney made to protest but Willow finally began to uncurl. His first glimpse was of her tear strained face.
“Ow.” She grasped her sides. “I’m still convalescing Colonel. Carson definitely told me to take it easy.” Willow mock glowered at him. She looked across at Rodney and gave him a bright smile. “It was very sweet of you to be concerned though Rodney.
“What happened?” Willow untangled herself from Ronon and rose to join Rodney at the table. “The city isn’t mad at you, John made the lights flicker.”
“Why you!” She cut off his protest with a gentle hand on his arm.
“Don’t worry, I’ll help you come up with a suitable revenge after all he made me hurt my sides.”
“Because you were laughing so hard.” John protested.
“Yes but it was your fault.” Willow stated matter of factly.
“I am perfectly capable of,” Willow forestalled Rodney’s protest.
“I have no doubt you are proficient in exacting your own revenge however together I believe we can be much more creative.” She gave him a sweet smile and leant over to whisper into his ear.
The others in the room had to smother their own smiles as Rodney became enraptured with the redheads conspiratorial manner. They broke apart and Willow continued normally.
“Obviously we don’t want to rush this. The anticipation of his forthcoming come-uppance can be nearly as satisfying as the event it’s self.” Their volume dropped again as they began their planning. The amused silence it the room was only broken by John’s exclamation.
A/N: Well that’s it for now. I hope to write more but judging how long this has taken me to finish don’t hold your breath.
I had inspiration from a story where Rodney gets attacked by a wraith device and ends up having to put himself in stasis but I can’t remember who wrote it or what it was called, I read so much! If you recognise anything please take it as flattery not theft….