John places the device aboard the wraith hive ship, meanwhile back in Atlantis they defend the city against wraith attack.
John left the atmosphere of Atlantis and found himself in the calm darkness of space, Cloaking the jumper he called up the co-ordinates for the hive ship and the blue prints for the ship itself to familarise himself further, with the layout. It was some time before the hive ship came onto his radar. Rodney had told John that wraith ships did not possess either cloaking or shield technology so he had the distinct advantage of being able to fly in very close, and he did so cautiously, amazed at it's sheer size. In silent mode, he levelled himself underneath the ship, where he knew the transport doors to be and calmly waited until they opened, manoevouring the ship inside silently and quickly, before the doors closed again. He remained cloaked and invisible to the occupants within. Once inside, he knew that he would have to move quickly. While his ship was invisible to the wraith awaiting his return in the transport bay, he and the bomb most certainly weren't and it would take a great deal of stealth on his part to make it to the control room undetected.
Fortunately, the transport bay was empty of wraith, and he cautiously shut down the jumper, leaving the cloak in place and picked up the specially designed backpack containing the bomb, and slowly, so as not to jolt it unnecessarily, manoevered it into place on his back.
He had memorised the ship design and in stealth mode himself, moved swiftly but cautiously down the first tunnel. He passed the cocoons that Cassie had seen in her mind link and knew that while there was no hope in rescue for these people, the death he was about to offer them should his plan succeed, was preferrable to the one planned by the wraith.
Hearing footsteps, he ducked into a darkened alcove and pressed himself as tightly as he could against the wall, without putting undue pressure on the backpack. He felt the slight 'give' in the wall as he pressed against this, and placing a hand back there, felt it to be slightly wet and coated with a sticky substance.
Four wraith soldiers in face masks walked past but did not pause and as soon as their footsteps faded, he eased away from the wall and continued to the control room. The ship was massive and if not for Cassie's 'mental map' it would have been an almost impossible task to find it. Her lovely face rose unbidden into his mind, but he pushed it away, needing no distractions.
He reached the control room, thus far undetected and easily found the control panel he had seen clearly in the hologram. Three wraith manned the control room and he quickly drew his weapon, having the element of surprise and fired a large burst of shots into them before they could raise the alarm, firing long after they were down, having learned from Teyla, their advanced biological system allowing for rapid healing and regeneration.
Having eliminated the immediate threat, he dropped down onto one knee, working at speed now as he knew there would be very little time before the noise his weapon had made, alerted other wraith in larger numbers. The cover was removed easily, it was obvious that through arrogance, they did not expect their ship to be compromised. He carefully removed the backpack and took out the device, securing it in the darkened recess behind the cover, before arming it just as Rodney had carefully shown him. Hearing rapidly approaching footsteps, he knew it was time to go and a fleeting thought in the back of his mind pondered at how it had all been just a little bit too easy.
As he got up to exit the room and return to the transport bay, he walked straight into a wraith woman, taller and more imposing than the male wraiths that accompanied her, and he assumed, thanks to intel from Teyla, that she was the Queen.
Her long red hair contrasted starkly with the paleness of her wraith skin, and yellowed eyes glittered as they look deep into his own. “Human! You dare to board my ship? Where are the others. and where is one you call... Cassie?”
At the flickering surprise that crossed his face she went on “Yes human, I know of Cassie, I felt her in my mind. She had the audacity to enter my mind and assume that I would not sense her? She is stronger than most I have fed on... I shall look forward to saving her. Tell me where she is...” John's anger sharpened his eyes and he looked at her steadily, refusing to look away, refusing to answer her. “I don't need you to use words, human, I have other ways to to get the information I need. Growling now, the Queen shot out her hand, using a powerful mind energy to force John to his knees. Pain shot through his head as he attempted to resist, feeling her tendrils of cold hatred inside his head, seeking, questing, searching. Her hand hovered closer to John's head. “...Ah yes, Cassie... I see her...” John closed his eyes, shutting Cassie's image out of his head and the Queen chuckled. “So... she is close to you... interesting... Perhaps I may have need of you. I will use you to bring her to me.” She gestured to the wraith guards. “Put him in a holding cell and despatch darts to Atlantis. Destroy the city, but not the girl. Find her and bring her to me.” John broke her mind control and threw back his head as he was pulled to his feet.
“Stay away from Atlantis!” he managed to grind out. “And stay away from Cassie. You touch her and I'll hunt you down and kill you!” The Queen paused briefly to speak to him as he was dragged away. “Atlantis is no longer under the control of the Lantians, and you do not possess the ability to either stop or resist us. We have been awakened early and need to feed, however sufficient time has not passed and the human herds have not grown enough in numbers to sustain us. We know that you have come from another galaxy and this will provide a new feeding ground for us. Your mind is strong Colonel John Sheppard... but not that strong!” With that she strode away and John was forced into a cell.
Her mind probe had left him feeling weak and a little disorientated and he remained on the floor of his cell, head resting despondently in his hands, mentally berating himself for just how wrong this mission had gone.
Meanwhile, in Atlantis, Zelenka in the control room, warned of the approaching darts. Elizabeth and Lorne co-ordinated flight personnel to take up all available jumpers to destroy as many of the darts as they could. While the city shield would repel most of the dart fire, it was not known how long it would last so they needed to try and destroy as many of the darts before the shield power was drained. Land based military personnel were to be set up at strategic locations around the city, notably the power rooms and other areas of sensitive nature in case the shield failed and darts broke through to Atlantis.
Cassie stood with Zelenka, Rodney and Elizabeth in the control room. “Do you know if he has placed the bomb yet Radek?” Cassie hovered nervously behind his chair. “Has his jumper left yet?”
Radek Zelenka felt the small sparks of energy flitting off Cassie where her hands rested on the back of his chair, and he briefly shuddered, his own nervousness increasing. “No Cassie” he replied, “he has not left yet, he has however activated the bomb and according to my calculations he has little under an hour to get himself off that ship.”
Cassie turned to face Elizabeth, removing her hands from the back of Zelenka's chair and he breathed with relief as she took the slight energy charge with her. “Give me a jumper, let me go after him!”
“No Cassie, we need all the available jumpers for defending Atlantis. And the wraith will sense you, you need to stay here.”
Nervous energy crackled in waves around her, and Elizabeth, fascinated in spite of herself, watched the tiny sparks emitting from her. “The chair. I can take the chair, and operate the weapons platform from there. There are plenty of drones.”
It was Rodney who exclaimed excitedly. “Yes Elizabeth, look at the energy she is emitting now, she has more than enough power of her own to fire up that chair.” He turned to Cassie. “Eliminate as many of the darts as you can, and if the hive ship does not explode in say, 50 minutes, save a few drones for that!”
“We can't attack the hive ship Rodney, until we know John has gotten safely away.” Cassie dragged her hands through her hair. “Cassie...” Rodney's voice had gentled. “If he is not off that ship in 50 minutes it is likely that he has been captured or killed and we have to hit it with everything we have got. It cannot reach Atlantis.” Cassie slumped slightly and closed her eyes, picturing him as she had last seen him. Lying sprawled on his bed, head turned towards her, face softened in sleep with the contented look of someone who had been loved. The lowered sheet had just covered his hip and his beautifully sculptured chest breathed easily and deeply, a tanned muscular arm slung possessively over her waist. She had had to disentangle herself gently from him and had stood looking down at him for a long while before dropping a feather light kiss on his cheek, leaving her small gift on the pillow and walking out that door.
Rodney's glance was apologetic and in a very non characteristic gesture, he gave her a brief slightly awkward hug, drawn in spite of himself to the pain on her face. “We'll do our best Cassie.”
“I know you will Rodney...” Abruptly she turned and strode out of the control room, Elizabeth gazing after her, marvelling at just how much she had grown as a person since her arrival in Atlantis.
The darts began their onslaught and Elizabeth and Rodney watched from the meager protection that the balcony outside the control room afforded. The city shield had been raised and the dart firepower bounced harmlessly off it, but Rodney had expressed his concern, more than once, that he did not think the shield would hold indefinitely, especially with this continuous onslaught from the wraith. And this did indeed appear to be their motive for they did not give up once they realised that the city shield was operational, rather they appeared to increase the intensity of their onslaught. The cloaked jumpers fought a valiant air battle, managing to destroy many wraith darts. However Rodney thought it may be too little, too late and suddenly the skies outside the shield were filled with the tiny deadly lights of the drone weapons and Elizabeth allowed herself a brief smile. Cassie had indeed managed to get the weapons platform online and operational.
Meanwhile John, recovered somewhat from the wraith mind probe, paced ineffectually in his cell aboard the wraith hive ship. With less than twenty minutes before the bomb was due to explode and unable to find an escape, he held the 'living' bars of the door and hung his head, knowing he had done the best he could and at least given Atlantis a fighting chance. His thoughts were interupted by the approaching footsteps of wraith guard and his cell was abruptly opened and he was grabbed on either side. “The Queen wishes to speak to you again.” Knowing this was his last chance, John mentally calculated his enemies weaknesses, and pulling out the small knife he had concealed earliler after his weapon had been taken from him, he used one hand in a flawless motion, stabbing deep the guard on his right, then using the momentum of the thrust, he pulled the impaled wraith around to slam him into the second guard. He then followed up with a powerful head butt that left him feeling slightly dizzy, but at least caused the second guard to drop his weapon and with lightning reflexes, John grabbed the downed weapon and fired a lethal burst into both wraith and took a deep breath. The playing field had just been evened.
John knew that there was little time to spare. He made his way quickly back through the bowels of the ship, giving little thought to stealth, just concerned with escape. Arriving breathless in a transport bay he realised that he had miscalculated when he found that his jumper was not there, and that there was likely more than one transport bay on the ship. Time was almost out, and spotting the wraith dart that stood there with it's hatch open, he sent up a prayer to anyone who would listen, and giving little thought to anything but escape, he climbed aboard the dart, enabled the mind interface and swiftly exited the hive ship, intent on putting as much deep dark space between him and the hive ship before detonation.
Twenty minutes later there was a massive explosion over the skies of Atlantis, but is was subdued cheering in the control room, as with the visual of the explosion, came the termination of the beacon that they used to track the jumper, signifying that John's jumper had been destroyed. Rodney hung his head. “So, who's going to tell her?”
Elizabeth found her in the chair room with Teyla, lying quietly in the chair that was still activated. She was dry eyed but very pale and Teyla was holding her hand between her two hands, rubbing as though to put some of her life force into Cassie.
“The hive ship has exploded Cassie...” Elizabeth began. “I know” said Cassie, “I felt it, I felt them just... disappear from my mind, and the darts, they have lost their interface. Without the Queen they have no communication, no sense of purpose... they have just gone.” Elizabeth looked at her surprised, and a little in awe of her ability to know what she knew. “I need to tell you Cassie... John...” Elizabeth didn't finish.
“I know Elizabeth...” abruptly she righted the chair, running from the room.
Ronan found her hours later in her 'dance room' as John called it. Keisha was with her – they had had to evacuate the Satedan's from the mainland to Atlantis just before the wraith attack. She had put on a beautiful sad song, whose words Ronan didn't really understand, but the melody made him blink back a sadness of his own and for a short time he just watched her, saddened for both of their losses and wishing he could take away some of the pain and absorb it into his own. She saw him watching and faltered. She had been performing a particularly moving lyrical move and her body extensions were elegant and graceful and he could have watched her for an eternity. Keisha ran to Ronan and he hoisted her up high. “Is Colonel John not coming back Ronan?” the little girl asked. Ronan heard a sob and just held out his hand to Cassie and she flew into his arms and he was able to wrap both Keisha and her into his massive body, burying his face into her hair.
“He made me promise to look after you both if he didn't make it back. He was my best friend Cassie, a good man, a good soldier and in his memory, I”ll pledge my life to you both. You'll not be alone.”
It was several days before Atlantis was put to rights and most of the Satedan's had been taken back to their home on the mainland. Cassie had chosen to accompany Keisha there the previous day and was intending to spend a few days there to give herself some time to grieve. She refused Ronan's offer to stay with her, citing the excuse that he was needed on Atlantis. Truth be known, he was smothering her a little and she wanted some time alone to live a little in her memories of John.
On Atlantis, Rodney and Elizabeth went over the power levels for the city, checking that everything was back up and online again after taking the strain of the shield during the wraith attack. They were interupted by the sirens sounding, and the gate technician called over the intercom “We have an incoming wormhole... unscheduled offworld activation... and it's... Colonel Sheppard's IDC!” This last was said in shock and both Rodney and Elizabeth turned as one and ran to the gate room. Over her shoulder she yelled “lower the shield and alert security and Ronan!” A team of marines rushed into the gate room and stood weapons ready as the gate activated and the event horizon settled. It was a tense few seconds before a tired, bedraggled, and slightly battered Colonel John Sheppard stepped through the gate, and stood still, gazing around him while the stargate deactivated behind him.
“Honey... I'm home!” he quipped, relief at being back in Atlantis causing humour to lace his words.
“Oh my god John, you're alive.. how?...what happened?... it's been days... oh my god, it is so good to see you!” Elizabeth reached him first and hugged him, and as the news spread throughout the city, heralded by the happy gate technician, before long the gateroom was crowded. Ronan beamed a huge smile at this friend as he folded John into a massive hug.
“Where is she...?” John's voice was quiet, but conversation and the noise level immediately dropped in the gate room as the atmosphere changed. “She's on the mainland John... she took it pretty hard, as we all did... but Cass, you know how tough she is right?... this just about broke her.”
Knowing that a debriefing was expected on how he had escaped, his only thought was seeing Cassie, but Elizabeth pre-empted him. “Jumper One is standing by John... go!”
He did not recall any of the flight over, just knew that he had landed. He left the jumper near the Satedan village, knowing where she would be and that is exactly where he found her. Sitting on the beach, knees bent, chin resting on her knees, that glorious hair streaming softly behind her in the sea breeze that came off the sparkling water. He stood quietly and just watched her, and she sensed him then,a radar that bore no description and she stood, slowly as if not sure whether her imagination had conjured him up.
“Cassie...” John breathed her name and with a sob Cassie turned and ran away from him, running down the beach as fast as she could, hair streaming out behind her. John reacted and was in fast pursuit, catching her before she reached the end of the beach. He caught her at the waist and pulled her back towards him, thigh to thigh, chest pressed to her back, feeling the perfect way she fit against him. “It's me... Cass?” Her body stiffened, and as she turned in his arms, struggling and raising her hands to punch him in the chest, he caught her tiny flailing fists and groaned at the misery on her face.
“You left me alone!.. you left me alone for days... I thought you were dead... I grieved for you John, I grieved for you...” She dropped her fists, no longer angry and he wrapped his arms around her, holding her tight against him, breathing in her scent, her skin, her essence, and saying nothing, nothing at all. His face dropped to her neck and he nuzzled the skin there, tasting her, needing her and she clung to him, drowning in emotion. His hands lifted the teeshirt she wore and he hungrily ran his hands across her smooth abdomen and upwards towards the swelling of her breasts.
“This is what kept me alive...” he drew her down to the sand and she pushed him back so that he lay beneath her and she sat astride him, his hands still spanning the smoothness of her stomach, thumbs gently stroking. She bent, hungrily kissing his face and lower, hands fumbling with his jacket, tee shirt and lower... and he acknowledged the fierce need between them, staring at the hunger in her eyes and knew that his own mirrored it. “So beautiful...” he framed her face and in a smooth motion she pulled her tshirt over her head and his hands instantly dropped lower, featherlight on her breasts as she groaned at his touch. Soon her shorts were gone and there was only skin, sun and sand and a fierce passion that erased... nearly... the agony of the past few days.
They lay quietly together as the sun slowly set and until that moment there had been little words between them. Feeling a chill, not just from the air, Cassie sat up and reaching for her clothes she quickly dressed and resumed her previous position, knees bent with chin resting, her face turned slightly to look at him. Unable to break their connection, his hand snaked out to wrap lightly around her ankle.
“What happened John?” she finally asked. Idly rubbing his thumb across her ankle, he rested himself on one elbow and her eyes could not help but rest on his beautifully muscled body.
“I escaped in a dart Cass, managed to get it airborne, but without a suitable interface, I couldn't navigate, essentially I was flying blind. I saw the explosion, god I felt the explosion, it was that close...” Her breath hitched. “I thought you were dead... we all did!” His hand moved higher, massaging her calf lightly.
“I know sweetheart, but I couldn't control the dart. It kept turning me in circles and eventually I managed to reach a planet, but without interface I couldn't land the dart, so sort of crashed...”. Only then did she register the barrage of scrapes and bruises that adorned his body. “I was sort of out of it for a few days, when I managed to get out of the dart and make it to a village where I could get limited medical attention. I wasn't in any condition to look for a way out until today, and found that there was a stargate on the planet... and well... here I am!” He pulled himself up and quickly dressed before sitting beside her and pulling her in close. Taking her chin in his hand, he turned her head slightly and dropped a fierce kiss onto her mouth which she hungrily returned, then dropped her head onto his shoulder to watch the final setting of the sun.