So I Married A Chair
Story 13 - Second Wave
“I cannot permit this, Doctor Weir!” Nena snapped.
The city practically shook with the self-destruct alarm, although it mainly wailed out to empty rooms. Evacuation hadn’t taken long, as many of the non-essential personnel were less than thrilled to be hanging around for certain death. Standing in the control room, Nena beseeched, “Please, there is still hope! There are just two left, I am certain we can defend ourselves.”
“I am sorry it has come to this,” Elizabeth said calmly, though her voice shook, “but I will not stand by and let the Wraith use this city to reach Earth.”
Nena turned her attention to Major Sheppard, though she was still reeling from the betrayal of his aiding Dr Weir in setting the self-destruct sequence. She tried again. “Please, John. For my daughter. And Carson…he is trapped here right now.”
John flinched and wavered.
“Carson would want it this way,” Weir commented sternly, gaze hard as she looked at John..
Nena drew herself back, fury glowing dark red in her cheeks. “You presume to call yourself in charge? I AM ATLANTIS! This city is my will! I will fight this.”
Her form shimmered from view, and Elizabeth couldn’t quite fight off the feeling of foreboding. The floor beneath her feet lurched sickeningly, and the alarm began to warble desperately. She turned to Grodin. “Dial the alpha site.”
The technician, still drawn and pale from his narrow escape in space, hovered his fingers over the dialing device, but couldn’t quite bring his fingers down. Rodney strode over and batted his hand away. He stared defiantly at Elizabeth, refusing to back down. “Carson is still here.”
“And we don’t leave men behind,” John announced.
The city’s floor rolled again beneath their feet, and several chairs went flying. A stand-off was brewing in the dangerous atmosphere, building to an unstoppable climax.
“I-Incoming wormhole,” Grodin managed.
“What?” Rodney wheeled around, “Oh my God. We’re saved. It’s Stargate Command!”
Sheppard surged forward. “What are you waiting for? Douse the shield and stop the self-destruct!”
The shield came down instantly, admitting several marines and crates into the gateroom. Grodin tapped a few more keys and the self-destruct faded. He looked uneasily over his shoulder at Dr Weir, whose stunned expression was giving way to veiled anger. Sparing a few looks down to the waiting marines, she said as evenly as possible, “We need to work together, or we are easy targets for the Wraith. Now I might not be an omnipresent entity, but you all respected my authority first. Anyone who objects to my leadership can head out to the alpha site.”
“Understood,” John replied briskly.
As he turned to follow Weir down to the gateroom, he saw the words sparkle across Grodin’s laptop.
Thank you, John.
Over streams of data and fields of glowing circuits, he drifted far into the interior of Atlantis until he lost his own self in the ebbing flow of warm light. His name was unimportant here, carried away on lines and codes that spoke only of lights, heating, oxygen and wormhole travel. Wrapped around the city, he could hear and feel everything that was happening. But somehow it was nothing to concern himself with, because he was not there to form opinion, only to keep functioning.
Door open. Door close. Alarm on. Alarm off. Hive ships moving.
You can’t stay here, Carson.
The systems wavered. He peered through them uncertainly. Wha’…?
You are still human. This is not where you should be. Come back to me.
A voice shouldn’t be there. Not like that. Carson felt curiosity prick his being. Nena…? My wife?
It’s me, yes, was the soft answer sliding comfortingly over him, I know you are afraid of the pain, but you belong elsewhere. With the ones who love you.
A hand touched his, radiating security over him and something else, something indefinable but strong. His heart throbbed into existence again, aching. Carson embraced her form and identified the feeling burning inside him. I love ye, Nena. How could I abandon ye like that?
You overexerted yourself, I understand. But we need to protect the city now. Things are changing with the other humans. And you should be human for them.
Now he could feel the pain that he had tried to shield himself from, blazing over his skin as though scorched by the explosion he had witnessed. But he was alive, standing on his own two feet and fending away the haziness of his vision to focus on Drs McKay and Zelenka as they argued over the chair. Smiling at the sight of them, Carson stepped into existence and braved the pain.
“Didn’t I tell ye I’d see ye later?” he quipped.
Zelenka twitched and dropped one of wires he was holding. He beamed. “Carson! I do not have to put you in the sewage after all!”
Wincing as the lights cut through the last remaining cloudy haze of non-feeling, Carson moved to the chair and rested one hand on it. He paused, frowning as strange sensations flowed back to him. Rodney smirked at him. “Can’t you just feel the power? Some marines from Earth brought along a Mark II naquadah generator. I cannot fathom why, but they thought we might need it.”
“Aye, why would they need it when they have ye,” Carson remarked. “Alrigh’, let’s see if we can’t get this beauty working.”
He slid into the chair and powered it up. A spark or two hurled themselves up from the chair, but apart from that, blissful silence reigned. Until Rodney studied his PDA and said, “Oh no.”
“What?” Zelenka asked, leaning over Rodney’s shoulder. “Oh no.”
McKay’s face pinched. “I don’t suppose you could make drones out of thin air? No? I didn’t think so. Great, we’re down to a few dozen drones. We’re so screwed.”
Carson quietly approached Elizabeth Weir, hoping not to draw the attention of the marines. Carefully, he touched Elizabeth’s arm, noting that she didn’t even start or show any other sign of surprise. He spoke softly, “I am back, Elizabeth. I jus’ want ye to know that if it had come to it, I would have wanted ye to set off the self-destruct.”
“You might try telling your wife that.” Her tone was uncompromising.
Carson sighed. “I am sorry, I didn’t mean for this to get so out of hand. But things are going to get fairly nasty, love, and I need ye to know that I trust ye. It means a lot to us that ye didn’t tell the marines our situation.”
The moment the words had left his lips, alarms began shaking throughout the control room. Grodin’s face leapt up from the console, where it had been threatening to sink into with exhaustion. The technician blinked nervously. “We have darts incoming.”
“John, can ye get to the chair room for me?” Carson tapped his radio.
“Will do, Carson. Good luck.”
Atlantis was in pain, screeching beyond the audio spectrum of most of those within it. Shots from the darts landed wildly all over the city, far more it seemed than the missiles being fired up into the sky towards them. An explosion rocked the control tower as one dart’s shots hit its mark. Feeling the primary systems slip out of his grasp, Carson fought to keep his mind linked but was thrown out, until he physically knelt on the ground beside Dr Weir.
Concerned, Elizabeth rested a hand on his shoulder. “Carson, where are we worst hit?”
The lights in the control room flickered out, and he aimed an apologetic half-smile, half-grimace up at her. Then he narrowed his eyes and stabbed at some of the laser-based guns dotted throughout the city, until they fired steadily up into the sky, weaving around the drones that Sheppard also started hurling. Carson quickly followed the connection down to the primary chair and found himself communicating on some level with the Major. A pattern began to emerge from both their weapons, closely matched.
Transporter beams flashed all over the city, scooping up those unaware of them until too late. Dozens more explosions coursed through Atlantis, until a fell silence smothered the air. Every breath they knew was tainted with thick smoke, pouring out of gaping wounds in the structures.
Panicked, he reached out to Nena and found her weak, fluttering between system and connections, barely able to process information. Carson murmured, “Come on, love, ye can do this. We can do this.”
We cannot survive another wave, we cannot possibly…
“Shh, it’s alright. We’ll think of something.”
“We need to be more aggressive,” Elizabeth said suddenly. “It doesn’t sound like Atlantis can take another beating like that.”
Carson wearily got to his feet. “Aye, it hurts…it hurts everywhere. We need to find another way, fast.”
Four men stood around the primary chair system, all evaluating its darkened form uneasily. After a moment, John settled back into the chair and leaned back as it activated. He shook out a few kinks in his neck and closed his eyes. “Alright, Carson, what am I doing here?”
“Can ye locate the Puddlejumpers by themselves?” Beckett prompted, accessing the chair and pulling out the coding so that it floated above John’s head in bright blue holographic lights.
Zelenka gawped up at the display. “I see, so you are saying that a physical connection between the ‘Jumpers and chair is not enough. Connection is also needed through the gene, yes?”
John made a short, sharp nod to Carson and thought of linking up the systems that were usually meant to be kept apart. Once satisfied that the Major was on the right track to remotely controlling the ‘Jumpers, Carson turned to Rodney. “Come with me a moment.”
Leaving behind Zelenka to fuss over some readings, Beckett led his friend down a few corridors into a room that took a couple of minutes to pry open. As they stepped inside, dust assaulted them and Rodney sneezed loudly. “That was pleasant. Let’s do it again.”
“Nena thinks the Wraith will make it into the city,” Carson said seriously, “and if that happens, I don’t want ye to be caught off guard. Hold still.”
The CMO reached over and pulled out one of Rodney’s hair. The victim howled. “Carson! Do you know how few hairs I have left?”
Carson grinned at him and held the hair out in front of the machine. After a moment, the strand began to shiver and shake, warping into the size of a gnarled finger. He held it out to Rodney. “Careful with this. The moment it touches a Wraith, ye don’t want to be too close.”
“What is it?”
“The Ancients were working on incendiary devices,” Carson explained a little guardedly, “formed out of living tissue, although it would often mutate what they were trying to transform.”
Rodney stared. “So what you’re saying is, they made exploding tumours?”
Carson thought about this for a moment and laughed, nodding. The scientist pinched the mutated hair between his fingers, hesitantly poking it. He flinched in revulsion as it increased in size, ballooning from where he’d touched it. Rodney told him, “This is the most disgusting and weirdest thing you’ve ever showed me.”
“Maybe it will be somewhat useful,” Carson defended. “Ye could even use it to amplify the effects of bombs.”
A light shone in Rodney’s eyes. “Carson, if I say you’re a genius, will you forget I ever said it?”
“Second wave incoming!”
Scowling at this radio, Rodney raced into the chair room and demanded, “What are you waiting for, John? We’ve got the Genii bombs loaded.”
“Slight problem, Rodney!” The Major snapped back. “We’re out of gas!”
Zelenka supplied nervously, “We have depleted the Mark II generator.”
Rodney took an involuntary step backwards, panic beginning to sweep over him. One of their greatest plans had just fallen with an almighty splash. His hands found his pockets, and rolled over the mutated hairs awaiting there. He might just have to use them after all, and that wasn’t comforting in the slightest. Sheppard slipped out of the chair. “Okay, take five and smoke ‘em if you got ‘em. I have an idea.”
He raced out of the room.
“John, what are ye doing?” Carson exclaimed as he materialized outside the ‘Jumper that the Major was hurriedly prepping.
Sheppard barely paused as his checked the bomb, and the strange boxes that Rodney had insisted on placing around every single one. He replied, “I would give my life for you and your family, Carson. I mean it.”
Beckett moved forward into the ‘Jumper, frowning. “No, I won’t let ye do this.”
“You have to,” John stopped at last to say firmly. “It may be our only chance. And I’ll be damned if I won’t let you bring your daughter into life.”
He clasped Carson’s hands in his and said nothing more, turning back inside the jumper. Carson drew back outside, shaking as he realized he was going to lose the first person he’d ever trusted to protect his secret. He called, “I’ll never forget, John.”
The ‘Jumper rose through the hanger and disappeared into the sky above. Through the open ceiling, Carson could see the bright tangles of missiles and darts, swarming around like angry bees. He found himself shaking even more violently than before, knowing exactly where the deadly shots were landing, feeling the vibrations through his feet and his very being. Closing his eyes, he directed his mind to latch onto the worst affected areas, if possible.
He staggered. “Oh Lord. Oh…Lord.”
The city smoked and shook as the fiery hail continued to pour down from the sky. It didn’t matter when Sheppard – or even if – arrived to blow up a hive ship, there was no time. No time. Carson vainly tried to sustain the damaged parts of Atlantis, but it was too much. And there was no time. No time.
He cried out in anguish and disappeared to the post he should have taken long ago – the infirmary.
The scientist jerked his head up from his knees, finding the watery image of Nena in front of him. He scrambled to his feet and gestured uselessly, knowing he couldn’t help her in any physical way. Rodney fired at her, “What’s the problem? What do you need?”
Her gaze was panicked. “My baby…”
That was all Rodney needed to hear before he was bolting down flights of stairs, somehow not noticing how the soles of his shoes heated up with the friction he exerted on them. He skimmed over the water logged halls towards Nena’s home, seemingly avoiding the slow slosh through sediment and water. Rodney flew into the first room and stopped, seeing the lights flashing all over the pod.
“She’s coming now?” he snapped. “Don’t you Ancients have any sense of timing?”
Nena’s voice was dry from the chair room. I am sorry to be so unaccommodating. But I cannot reach Carson…lines are down. You are the only one I could find.
Gulping, Rodney stood in front of the pod. After a few moments of wordlessly trying to meet a situation that terrified him perhaps more than Wraith, he lifted his chin. “Tell me what to do.”
As the skies darkened once again, the darts had almost run their course. There was a great fireball in the sky, expanding out into two brilliant storms of red and orange brilliance, burning amongst the stars like a dancing flame. Cheers echoed throughout Atlantis, mingled with the yells and screams of those still tangling with rogue Wraith. But buried deep away from all of this was Rodney McKay, holding a bundle in his arms. Another time, he might have complained that there were far better uses for jackets than wrapping up newborns – such as, keeping oneself warm on places like Antarctica, or for a parachute when the gravity in your satellite has suddenly come back online and nearly snapped your spine.
Wait, that was Grodin’s fault wasn’t it?
“She’s so small,” Rodney said in awe, “and kind of like a big pink prune. Except prettier. Maybe.”
The baby showed just what she thought of that statement – with a great big wail that drowned out every groan of a city under attack, and assorted screams. That was a plus. Maybe crying babies could be used to drown out stupid noises. The chair hummed a pale blue. Carson and I…never thought of names…would you do the honour?
Rodney baulked. Him? Name a pink prune thing? Then a slow grin spread on his face.
Who else was he supposed to name the girl after?
“Meredith. Meredith Beckett.”