John and his team search for Cassie and the missing children, eventually finding them aboard a hive ship. The wraith had begun to induce her labour and the race is on to get her back to Atlantis i...
For a long while John stood looking at the empty patch of ground where he had last seen Cassie and he sought to physically pull down a layer of ice to cover the overwhelming pain that threatened to drop him to his knees. He let Ronan take Layton, knowing that if he came within touching distance of the man now, he would kill him with his bare hands, on another level, John recognised that they needed him... for now... for the information that he could provide.
He did not speak on their way back to the gate and Major Lorne cast anxious glances his way, but did not feel sufficiently suicidal enough to break the icy calm that seemed to surround the Colonel. Layton sensed this also, and his cocky nature became subdued as the gate neared. He knew his questioning session would not be an easy one.
One look at John's face and Elizabeth knew the mission had gone bad. She went to speak and John silenced her with a look and it was Major Lorne who came up to her quietly and told her they would undergo the debriefing as soon as they had secured their prisoner. Without a word to anyone, John made his way back to the infirmary. His wound had opened and he was feeling extremely light headed and knew that he would have to get Carson to patch him up again, or he wouldn't last the rest of the day. And by God, he had work to do.
While others had backed away from his anger, Carson did not, feeling considerable anger of his own. “Of all the stupid, irresponsible things Colonel, this is one of the worst. Lie down right now – I will not be responsible for your death through your own stupidity.” He ignored the anger on John's face and pushed him back onto the bed. John closed his eyes briefly as he settled back on the pillows, quickly pulling them open again as he reached for the paper that was beside the bed. “She risked this Carson.” Holding out the picture from the ultra sound, he indicated his baby. “Damn it all to hell, she risked this... and now it's gone. What am I going to do?”
And then the damn broke and he collapsed and it was Carson who held him, crying deep wracking sobs that shook Carson to his very core and when John eventually collapsed back against the pillows, he was more than just exhausted, he looked like a man on the edge of a precipice about to plunge to his very death.
“What are you going to do Colonel? I'll tell you lad – you're going to let me help you, and you're going to let youself heal a little... and then... you're going to get her back!”
John groaned “you really believe that Carson. The wraith have her, how the hell do I get her back from that.”
“For one thing Colonel, we have in this city, some of the finest minds on earth and if I know them, they are already working at 150% to find a solution and to find a way to get her back. Let them do their jobs for just a little while and let your body heal. The wraith want the baby and they want the baby alive. They'll not hurt her, at least until after the baby is born. Consider that Colonel.”
John covered his eyes with his hands and took another shuddering, calming breath. “You know Carson, you are the only one who has had the guts to stand up to me and talk me down... you're a brave man.” he ended on a half sob and Carson rested a hand on his shoulder.
“Not so brave Colonel... my knees are still knocking!” and managed to get a half laugh out of the Colonel, who sank back weakly against the pillows and closed his eyes as he started the process of letting his body heal.
It was Ronan and Lorne who interogated the prisoner and Lorne, while trained in interogation tactics, had to turn away from some of the methods that the Satedan favoured. He was ruthless with no compassion for the fear that Layton showed and after subjecting him to two days of interrogation, Lorne was convinced that he had told them everything he knew, which amounted to very little. At the end of the second day, John was released from the infirmary, his wound had managed to heal enough to allow him to get up and about, but he was still confined to base unless they received information about where Cassie and the children were being held. He came into the interrogation area and stood back from the cell and looked at Layton, a broken figure of a man who sat crumpled in the lone chair that sat in the middle of the cell.
“We've got everything we can out of him Colonel. He doesn't know that much, the wraith have used him as a pawn, and like all small fish, he was told very little.”
John glanced briefly at Lorne in acknowledgement then came closer to the bars. Lorne noticed that John was wearing his handgun and that his hand was resting near the weapon and he felt a small measure of nervousness.
“So Layton, woman and small children eh? Looks like some of Kolya's habits rubbed off on you. Tarred by the same brush so to speak.” John's eyes narrowed as Layton attempted to raise his head and look John in the eye.
“Some unsavoury alliances are necessary in life Colonel, you of all people should know that.”
“One thing I do know Layton, is that you doublecrossed us twice, you'll not get a third chance.” At that, John reached for his weapon and shot Layton once in the forehead and his head slipped forward to rest on his chest. Holstering his weapon, John turned to Elizabeth's shout as she walked in the door.
“For Goodness sake Colonel, was that necessary? We have a commitment to the rules of the Geneva Convention for all prisoners of war.”
“Don't give me that crap Elizabeth. Geneva Convention rules do not apply in this galaxy. The rules of this galaxy are made up as we go along.” John shot her a scathing look.
“Foremost John, we are human beings, and we will live by that code, whether on earth or in this galaxy and as head of this city, I will not condone capital punishment without fair trial.”
“He lost the right to a fair trial when he double crossed us a second time, there are no more chances Elizabeth. You need to grow up and take a good look at where we are living.” John's eyes shot angry sparks. “It's time we let some of these world's know we are not here to take any crap!”
“And you John, need to get that arrogant head out of your ass!” At Elizabeth's tone, Lorne cringed slightly. She did not lose her temper often. John however, continued to face her with equal anger.
“Did you even consider your actions. I imagine the Genii live by a simple code, one like say, 'an eye for an eye' – could be that now you've done grievious harm to two of their leaders, they may come in larger numbers seeking retribution. Your actions could have jeopardised both our overall plan and your rescue mission.”
“I am in charge of base security Elizabeth. He was a threat. It was my call.”
“Well, John – I hope it was the right one for yours and all of our, sakes.” Elizabeth whirled away, feeling that things were progressively going from bad to worse.
John, temper still flaring dangerously, went down to Rodney's lab. “So, are we any closer to finding our where she is. Damn it Rodney, it's been two days, two bloody long days, surely you have found something by now.” Rodney cast a worried look at John as he walked in. Considering the man had been confined to a hospital bed for two days, he looked exhausted and wondered at the demons that must haunt him whenever he shut his eyes to sleep.
“Colonel – we've looked into all the planets where there is considerable wraith activity and with some discreet checking, I don't think they are being held at any of the locations we have found to date. It's possible they are on a hive ship, which is a little like looking for a needle in a haystack. The hive ships are spread throughout the galaxy, and while we can use our locator beacons to find the children and Cassie, we have to have a general idea of which ship as the locator beacons only work at relatively close range.”
John leant back tiredly against one wall. “Rodney, the Aurora has beaming technology, is that correct?”
“Yes...” then stopped and clicked his fingers when he saw where the Colonel was going with his thought. “Yes, yes it does! If we could at least find out where they are being held, you could fly the Aurora in close, cloaked of course, fix onto their locator beacons and beam them up.”
“I was thinking something along those lines Rodney, but the children won't have the beacons, and we will need them all very close in one group to beam them up together in one go, using Cassie's beacon as a tag. Someone will have to beam down and gather them together first – that is if they are all being held together.” He thumped the wall in frustration.
“Rodney! Could you scan the area around where the Genii planet is and track any unusal wraith activity skyward – we know she was beamed up from there and they have had two days to hide her – map out possible trajectories using the Genii planet as a starting point then target all the hive ships in that vicinity.”
Rodney said thoughtfully. “We were focusing more on the fact that they had been taken to a planet, but it is possible, even probably that they are being kept aboard a hive ship. That would give them the time to hold her securely until the baby is born with less chance of them being discovered.” Rodney looked cautiously excited now. “Your plan may just work Colonel.” He keyed his mike. “Zelenka, get down here now, with a team of your scientists, we have a search grid to establish.”
“Actually Rodney, let's move this down to the chair room. I can input your data into the chair using mind interface, it'll give us a larger visual area to work with.”
John leaned over a little holding his side. “Are you sure you should be up and about Colonel, you are not looking too good, just saying...” Rodney, concerned, wondered if he should reach out a hand to help John, then thought better of it when the Colonel righted himself and took a deep breath. “I can't lie in that bed a minute more knowing Cassie and the kids are out there somewhere. I'll meet you in the chair room Rodney, just give me a few minutes. There's something I need to do.”
John went to their private quarters and paused in the doorway, just breathing in her scent which still lingered in the room. He hadn't been back there since she was taken and noticed that someone had removed her bag and packages from the gate room that she had abandoned there after she arrived back from earth. He picked up one of his shirts that she had last worn to bed on a night that seemed so long ago now, and inhaled the scent that was so inherently Cassie. Dropping onto the bed, he put his head in his hands and noticed the newspaper that was folded neatly on top of one of the bags. Reaching for it he opened the front page to look at the large colour picture of Teyla and Cassie taken at the show they attended in New York with the headline “Where in the World is Cassandra Devon?”. Tossing the newspaper aside, he rose to leave the room wondering himself 'where in this galaxy is Cassandra Devon?'
John interfaced himself with the chair, comfortable now with his abilities. Zelenka had also set up two computers in the room that were running simulations and John fed these same simulations into the chair interface while Rodney stood in front of the giant holographic screen, discarding unlikely areas and taking co-ordinates for the ships that fit within the search grid. It was a long slow process and John had to constantly shut his mind to the incessant bickering between Zelenka and Rodney who both had a brilliant but different approach to solving the same problem. At one point the interface slipped and John abruptly sat up in the chair. “Will you guys just shut the hell up! You may be able to solve 15 different problems using just one part of your damn giant brains, but this interface is using up a very large part of mine and I'm finding it extremely difficult to focus when all you do is ARGUE!”
Zelenka held up his hands in a defensive gesture and Rodney seemed about to argue but thought better of it and resorted to silence.
“Thank you!” was John's response as he activated the chair again. Two hours later they had compiled a list of all the likely hive ships and after discussions with Elizabeth arranged to leave aboard the Aurora at first light. John was exhausted, and managing to take in a little dinner, he went back to his quarters early, dropping down heavily onto the bed, pulling her pillow close to him to inhale her scent.
“Oh Cass, hold on love, I'm gonna find you.” He rolled over and felt metal digging into his leg through his pocket and reached down to pull out the ring she had tossed back through the stargate at him. “And I will put this back on your finger, damn you. You're mine, nothing will change that now.” He slept, the ring clutched possessively in his hand, a deep dreamless sleep.
It was an expectant team that boarded the Aurora the next morning, Rodney and Zelenka to provide technical advice, Ronan and Teyla, Lorne and six marines in case military muscle was required, Carson was also there with medical equipment. Ronan took second seat after dropping a hand on John's shoulder. “We'll find them my friend. Hold that thought.”
John signed. “I have been Ronan, I've also held the thought that my last words said to her were in anger, and that doesn't sit too well with me. It's been three days...” he didn't finish, just commenced pre flight checks and powered up the ship after checking that everyone was seated and equipment stowed away.
The rose above the Lantian sky and looked down as Atlantis diminished below them. “Opening a hyperspace window.” John said and they fled, into the darkness of space.
The ship remained cloaked throughout the day as they dropped in and out of hyperspace, completing each journey at around 20 times faster than the speed of light, using just the sublight engines. The had come up reasonably close to six hive ships, all of them a great distance from Atlantis and they were not able to locate the presence of Cassie using the locator beacon. The crew began to grow discouraged, there was a lot of space to cover and a lot of ships, and at least fifteen more in the simulations that could possibly be the one they were looking for.
John, at the controls, was exhausted. It took a great deal of mental energy to fly a ship of this size, and while he had Zelenka and Rodney checking for all system functionality and any discrepancy in flight capability, the onus to fly the ship fell on him alone. It was evening now, and Carson came up to John, worried at the exhaustion on his face. “I think we should head back now son, and begin the search fresh in the morning. You still need to be able to get this thing back, and you're not 100% from the shot you took.”
“I'm fine Carson, just one more ship, then we'll head back, just one more...”
Another hyperspace jump, another hour and they were cloaked in front of yet another hive ship, this one accompanied by cruisers with transport bay doors open as though darts had either recently just returned or were leaving. “Oh oh, lot's of activity here, wonder what's going on? I'll go in for a closer look.” John maneovered the big ship closer, careful to stay out of the path of the transport bay doors in case darts should arrive.
“Colonel, I'm getting something!” Zelenka held out his computer screen. “It's a locator beacon, it has two life signs.. it must be Cassie and the baby!”
John closed his eyes briefly and when he opened them again, there was determination in them. “Ok team, here's the plan. We don't know if the children are with her and we can't risk just beaming her out without scoping the ship. Ronan?” The big man stepped forward. “Take Lorne and 2 marines down there with you, take a hand held locator device so that you can track her beacon from within the ship. You need to establish that the children are with her and if they're not, you'll need to do a full reconnaisance of the ship to find out if they are being hidden elsewhere. Everyone copy that?”
“What do you wish me to do Colonel?” Teyla stepped up towards John, knowing that the Colonel had been very cool towards her since she had returned to the Genii planet with Cassie to assist in locating the children.
“Once we hear from Ronan and Lorne and know where the children are, I'll send you down with the rest of the marines to get them out. I don't want too many of my team running around on the their ship until we know where everyone is.”
“As you wish Colonel.” said Teyla, pleased that he no longer seemed angry with her.
The first strike team were beamed down aboard the wraith ship and once they had heard the all clear from Ronan, they sat back to await the team's instructions.
Ronan and Lorne moved through the hallways, avoiding wraith patrols and using the hand device locator device to track the strengthening signal. They heard her cries of pain before they came to her and Lorne closed his eyes briefly to block the sound. They had arrived at a laboratory of some sort. The doors were guarded by foot soldiers and these were despatched without preamble, their bodies dragged into the room and door shut again behind them. Ronan and Lorne looked in horror at the vision of Cassie, strapped to a bed, beaten and bruised where she lay panting and sweating and crying out in pain. Ronan was beside her in seconds, loosening the straps that bound her to the bed and carefully lifted Cassie's head to support her as another cry of pain came.
“Cassie! It's me Ronan, where are you hurt?” She only vaguely registered his presence and he ran his hand over her brow, noting that it was hot and sweating. “What have they done to you Cassie?”
“Ronan, god Ronan help me.” She finally registered who was holding her and reached out a hand to him which he took and held fiercely. “The baby's coming Ronan. They started labour, oh god, it hurts.”
“Oh sweetheart, hold on, we'll get you out. Where are the children Cassie – do you know?”
She was barely coherent now, the pain was beginning to overwhelm her along with the trauma of the past few days, however she managed to divulge their location to them, and Lorne and the marines were gone quickly, after touching her gently on the brow.
Ronan held her, pushing back the hair from her face and quickly keyed his mike to alert the rest of the team on the Aurora. “Sheppard, we've found her and Lorne has just gone to round up the children – you need to beam Cassie and me up now, is that clear? Lorne will let us know when he has the children, they can be beamed up separately.”
Ronan picked Cassie up into his arms as another spasm went through her. The Aurora's beam picked up their beacons and seconds later they were on the bridge of the Aurora, John out of his seat and by Ronan's side in seconds as he took in the bundle he held.
At that moment, Cassie let out another shriek and John reached instantly for her hand. “Cassie, what is it? What have they done?”
Ronan was brusque. “John, they've started labour. The baby is coming. Get Carson in here now and you need to get us into hyperspace as soon as the children arrive and get this ship home. I don't know how much time we've got before he comes.”
It was only a few short minutes later that Lorne and the children were beamed up along with the marines, and John took a moment to offer some comfort to the children, knowing that they were in shock and likely terrified.
His focus then was to get them home, and being the only pilot on board at present who could fly the ship, he knew that he had to concentrate and let others help where he was not able. Carson came running onto the bridge having been alerted by John and looked in shock at Cassie. “Oh lass, I wasn't expecting to do this on a battleship... let's take a look at you. Bring her back here into the room I have set up as an infirmary. We'll have a look at you lass, see what this young man is doing … hmmm?”
Cassie clutched his hand. “Carson, please save my baby...” John heard Cassie's anguished cry as she was swept out of the room and felt a fear so deep that he lost concentration and almost missed the hyperspace window he had opened up. Priority, fly this ship home, he thought, then I can be there for her.