Fortune's Favor von Offworlder

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Story Bemerkung:

Tabula Rosa was a great story, but I couldn't see Carter standing around saying, "Dr. Keller will find a cure before that happens," and actually waiting around for her to do it...I figured even with her slate wiped clean, she'd be at least trying to do something. So this is a what-if Carter had been able to act like the Carter we used to know. My apologies to Atlantis fans-I made the transition with the colonel and am, like her, still learning the ropes.
She hated the job. It sucked the life out of her and gave her nothing back in return. She didn't even get a chance to play with all the fancy new toys that came with it...no time for science or tinkering. The pressures and demands of command ate up every moment. No more trips through the Gate. She was stuck behind a desk trying to fill the shoes of a much-missed, much-loved predecessor and not accomplishing the task to anyone's satisfaction-- especially her own.

Early days yet, she tried to encourage herself. She'd known it wouldn't be easy. She'd seen Jack endure the same struggle after the general left; and Landry after him. And, of course, the great Dr. Weir herself during her brief stint as commander of the SGC. Only, Carter hadn't exactly been paying attention that time. She'd been too tied up desperately trying to keep the ultimate sacrifice of a good man from being in vain. The change in her command structure had been just one more obstacle to overcome at the time, and once the world and Jack had been brought back from the edge of certain disaster, Elizabeth had already been as good as gone. It was here in Atlantis she'd made her mark and earned the regard and love of those under her leaving behind her a gaping hole. A void Carter couldn't fill, an ache she couldn't assuage, and expectations she was destined to never meet...early days or not.

She hated the job, and she wasn't too fond of the surroundings either. If she'd wanted to live at sea she would have joined the Navy. She shook her head. The last was just her irritation talking...the city and its surrounding waters were more than beautiful. The fact that they were on another world...she should have loved it. But she didn't. The open, soaring vistas of the city had their own sort of beauty, but they made her feel exposed and vulnerable. Even on the best of days, working in Atlantis' soft, alien lighting gave her a vague headache and a wish to be happily working under the harsh, bright lights back in the concrete, rabbit warrens of the SGC. But, then everything did. She missed home.

Missed the people back home. Her team who were busy 'out there' doing her job...the one she loved and had given up for this one she hated. And everyone else as well: Siler, who could read her mind and knew just what needed fixing without her having to explain every move; Walter, who knew to start dialing, or dropping the blast doors, or brewing the coffee before she'd even started to give the order, no question asked; even Folger.

There had already been too many people no longer a part of her day to day life before this quasi-exile in the Pegasus Galaxy: General Hammond who been gone long enough she shouldn't still expect to see him at the head of the briefing table, though she did; Janet, whose loss still hit her like a physical blow every time she woke up in the infirmary under a stranger's care; and of course, Jack. Jack who should never have given up the team, never left it for her to try to take his place, never have not been the one to lead the team through the Gate and back again.

Jack. Why had she let him talk her into accepting this assignment? "Come on, Carter," he'd cajoled, "it'll be fun." He'd smiled his most sincere smile, but his eyes hadn't joined in on the fun. She'd had no idea why he wanted her to take the job, but nevertheless it had been apparent he did. And far be it for her to disappoint General Jack O'Neill...so here she was and here she'd remain and hate the job or not, she'd do it.

Until she couldn't remember how anymore. She flopped back in her chair and let out a long sighing breath. Command stunk. Back home in such a crisis, she'd be knee-deep in theories and possibilities to combat whatever problem came up, but here she was stuck directing and ordering people until there was no time for anything else. She should be busy coming up with solutions instead of listening to others reporting one more discouraging failure after another. Or worse, listening to them restate the obvious for the upteenth time and wait for her to order them to do what they should have already been doing in the first place. Or even worse, seeing them look to her for reassurances and promises that all wouldn't be lost, that they'd find a way out of this mess...they always did.

False assurances had never come easily to her. Hers were less convincing than Jack's old 'plenty of time, Carter' which hadn't even fooled Teal'c. Especially when she had her own doubts. Not about the Atlantis personnel. They'd held out against a galaxy of bad guys more or less on their own...for all her frustration at them, they'd do.

Her doubts were about herself, her command abilities, and her not failing the men and women entrusted to her care. Such doubts were normal enough with a new command but unwelcome and disheartening in the circumstances. She couldn't help wondering if things had always worked out before because there'd been a competent leader who knew what she was doing in charge, instead of Sam Carter who couldn't think with the press of the responsibilities of the job resting so heavily on her shoulders, the needs of the entire Atlantis expedition screaming out for her to do something, and a wracking headache threatening to wipe away everything she knew and understood.

She had no answers to those kind of questions. No more than she had solutions to the current pressing problem. Sighing, she rose to leave her office. Sheppard and McKay were on their way up; time to pretend she was in control and confidant in it.

"We've stocked the mess with food, water, and blankets to care for the incoming," she informed them. "There won't be nearly enough beds, but we'll just have to make do."

"Well," McKay said, "we may need to think about ordering all non-essential personnel to report to the Mess Hall. I mean, they're gonna wind up there anyway and this way we won't have people with no memories wandering the hallways." She didn't care for the suggestion at all herself. The hall would already be overrun with the overflow from the infirmary. And she'd been taught by the best to not voice pessimistic thoughts-she'd rather think they weren't all 'gonna wind up' anywhere without their memories. Jack wouldn't have stood for that kind of talk, but he wasn't here. And as much as she hated the idea, it did have merit.

Sheppard agreed with it as well. "I'll send Lorne and a team out, make sure those orders are followed," he said.

She bit her lip and debated with herself the right course of action. People were going to be confused and frightened enough without a show of military might. She thought it would be a huge mistake to send armed soldiers after them, but letting them mill about in the halls touching who-knows-what and doing who-knows-what surely wasn't the answer either. In the end, she let things stand as the people from Atlantis outlined them. They were good people...with the exception of McKay, of course.

She led them back to her desk though neither she nor the men following her really thought of it as belonging to her. Still someone had to keep the seat warm, and for unfathomable reasons Jack and those over him had decided she was the one. She handed out the bottles of stimulants.

McKay began to fuss, "Do we know what's in these?" No, McKay, she wanted to say, doctors always hand out medication they know nothing about--makes waiting for the results all the more exciting. Heedless of her growing irritation, he went on, "Because I'm allergic ..." Of course, he was. Carter bit back her exasperation. Finding his niche at Atlantis had gone a long way towards making McKay more human. At times he even seemed almost tolerable, especially since he'd dropped the whole 'sex' thing. He hadn't given her any of the trouble she'd expected--she hadn't even had to pass on Jack's threat to send him on a one-way trip through the Gate if he so much as caused her an iota of trouble. But he was still a pain.

Sheppard saved her having to fight through her headache and vertigo to shut him up. "Just take it," he ordered. And they got back to the business of saving the city. One more thing not to like about the job. Used to be she got to save the world, now she was down to one, mainly-uninhabited city. She would have been glad for that particular change but the weight of her responsibilities weighed, if anything, more, much more, than they had with the SGC. For obvious reasons. Being 'the man' wasn't all it was cut out to be--and she didn't even get the parking space that went with it. She outlined her actions cutting Atlantis off from contact through the Gate and that pretty much wrapped up the meeting.

"What happens when we all start losing our memory?" McKay asked her, and she brushed him off with the hope that Dr. Keller would find some cure before that happened. He wasn't fooled and neither was she. They couldn't just sit around expecting the good doctor to pull them out of this one.

First off, damage control. One: Keep people safe. How did you reassure a city full of frightened people who wouldn't know their own names let alone who they could trust, who they should turn to for help? Certainly not by sending out the troops against them, but they couldn't be allowed to wander the city. As much as she hated the thought of her troops firing on their comrades, altercations were bound to happen. Stunners then. And reassuring messages playing throughout the city.

Two: Keep people oriented. They had approximately six hours from the onset of the headache and dizziness to complete memory loss. Everything that could be had been shut down or placed under computerized control, but that wouldn't last long without maintenance. The city couldn't function without oversight and involvement. People wouldn't know how and where to find their basic needs if the disease progressed through the city population at the rate it appeared to be spreading. The search for a cure would come to a complete standstill if the doctors and researchers lost their specialized knowledge. And those put totally down by the disease couldn't be cared for without that expertise, as well.

Even if they proved effective in staving off the worst effects of the disease, they simply didn't have the resources to make stimulants available to everyone in the city. The doctors, the soldiers, and her top personnel would max out the supply rapidly; the Daedalus would eventually arrive to transport more down, but then, quite likely, their lack would already have wreaked havoc with all their minds.

She began her own stop-gap measures and issued the order for everyone to record the bare essentials of their responsibilities both on paper that was to be posted around their work areas and on computer recordings that were set to play over and over again. They wouldn't keep the city going for long...there wasn't time to record the detailed instructions that would really be needed, but maybe, just maybe they'd be enough to prolong the inevitable long enough for a solution to be implemented before it was too late.

Before the disease ran its course and left them like Linea had left the people of Vyus. Mentally children lacking the basic knowledge of how to survive in this alien world let alone the wisdom to regain what they had lost. If that's where it ended. The report of Dr. Baxter's death she'd just received meant the disease might not leave any survivors behind it. Though she wasn't sure the loss of all their memories wasn't its own sort of death. Without the memories of a lifetime of experiences and relationships, weren't the people they had been as lost as though they were dead?

It was all more than she could think about. She needed to get her own recordings made while she could. She'd covered as much of the technical aspects that she thought would be helpful and not just overwhelming to herself in a confused state. At least she thought she had...she'd begun to catch herself forgetting things and couldn't be sure she'd sufficiently covered anything. But, there was so much more she would have liked to record...things that weren't so very vital to the running of her command, but still very vital to the person behind the command. The memories of the people who had touched her life, made her into the person she was. Daniel and Teal'c...her father and mother...Jack. A lifetime of experience had brought her to this point...what would she be without them?

And. And...hadn't she been here before? Her thoughts were running in circles, and the room with it. She lay her head down on her desk and waited for the wave of dizziness and nausea to pass. A call from Dr. Keller woke her. She shook her head to clear it of the fog eating away at her mind and found she'd lost time. It was apparent the doctor's stop-gap measure was failing...and so was her own. There were gaps in her memory large enough to step through and people were dying down in the...place where sick people went-the mess hall. No, the mess hall was where you went for jello and ...coffee; the infirmary. That's where people were dying...in the infirmary. Where Janet worked-only Janet was dead. So the infirmary was where the dead people were, so where was it the sick people were before they died?

Maybe she should ask the Dr. Not Janet. The one that was still alive. The one, she realized with a jolt, who was saying she knew what was wrong with them. With an effort, she listened to Dr. Keller's discovery of the root of all their problems. A childhood disease. The chicken pox of the Pegasus Galaxy. No, not chicken pox. Small pox. Deadly, nasty, virulent...but treatable...treatable with a common, everyday variety of weed-like scurvy and dandelions. Hurray for weeds, hurray for dandelions...

"Let's go get some," Sheppard said, and she wondered why he wasn't already on the way. "Take a jumper," she ordered.

He looked at her oddly, "Um...didn't you have the Gate disabled?"

"Did I?" she asked. No, she'd never do that. Kinsey. If the Gate was shut down it had to be Kinsey...he was always to trying to shut the program down. Well, just as well. It would ground them for a few days, and she'd have time to go sleep off whatever bug she was coming down with and Janet wouldn't be the wiser. She watched as the people in the room wandered off to do whatever they were doing and was vaguely aware she had things to be doing as well.

What was it she was supposed to be doing? Oh, yeah. Making recordings. To remember by. Who am I? I am Sam...but though I like green jello, I'll pass on the green eggs and ham...and how am I ever going to get everything that I need to remember recorded if I can't think any clearer than this and how is Sheppard going to get back here with...the dandelions, if his mind is as clouded as mine? And who's going to remember what to do with them if he does make it back?

Teyla. And...the one guy. That's right, the two of them were clean. No sickness. No mush for brains. No pain eating through their skulls. Hurry up then, because I'm losing it...losing everyone I know and love.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

The screen on the wall behind her was talking.

She cautiously moved closer and, cocking her head curiously to the side, listened to what it had to say.

"Atlantis has been exposed to an unknown disease causing memory loss. If you are viewing this program and have memory loss, please push the large button under this screen labeled, "Enter."

She listened to the woman repeat the message three times, but even though she was most definitely experiencing memory loss she didn't push the button. She might not remember her name or anything else, but that didn't mean she'd stopped thinking. Pushing the button might alert others that she was there...wherever that was. From the safety of the upper corridor, she'd already watched two groups of armed and deadly serious soldiers herding people along. She'd rather stay free with a chance to find her own answers than be gathered up like a stray.

She left the woman on the screen vainly repeating her message and moved on down the corridor. So much of this place-Atlantis?--was open or glass that she was exposed and vulnerable and barely had time to breathlessly duck into an open door to evade yet another contingent of soldiers. Cautiously stepping back into the hall once she'd determined it was safe again, she came face to face with her reflection in the opposite glass wall. She blinked at it and it blinked back. It was the face that had spoken to her from the screen, she was the woman in the recording.

She drew back into the safety of the open doorway and pondered what she had discovered. Did it make any difference to her situation? Did it make pushing the 'Enter' button any safer? Could she trust herself? She didn't know. She moved through the room and out into another corridor. Passing through it, she averted her eyes from two more screens with her face entreating her to push that button and evaded yet another group of soldiers. Or perhaps it was the same one, gathering victims, dumping them somewhere, and returning to the hunt. It occurred to her that she could follow their progress and find out, but she wasn't certain that it really mattered.

It was food and water and a place to lie down to rest and let the pounding in her head subside that she really needed. Then she might be able to think clearly, might know what she should do, and have a clue how to do it. Unfortunately, she had seen nothing to meet her needs, and her fear of the soldiers kept her wearily moving.

More than once she stumbled over others with no more memory than herself. One of them had seen her, turned tail, and fled without a word. One, standing by a console with blinking lights, had spoken to her briefly. "These papers here say someone has to watch these lights...it is important that they don't go red." She looked at the outthrust papers and agreeing the lights must not go red, promised to bring the man food and water if she should find any. It was a promise she repeated twice more to others who with painstaking concentration were carrying out instructions scribbled down near other consoles or machines. With that promise in mind, she averted her eyes from other papers taped on equipment she passed. If she read them, she might also find herself required to stay put and do what they said...and how would she fulfill her promise? She couldn't do both and so chose not see the posted notes.

She found two others wandering purposelessly through the hallways more or less together. Apparently deciding there was safety in numbers, they latched onto her and she was at a loss as to how to lose them. Being together made it all the more likely she'd eventually find out just where the soldiers dumped their captives. But, they did prove useful. The taller of the two had only recently passed a room with food and water. After only a few misturns and restarts he led them to it.

Its shelves were full of packaged food, more than she could imagine. Stacks of boxes near the door held bottle after bottle of clear, much appreciated water. She gulped down a bottle and ripped into a package of food and stuffed its contents untasted and barely chewed down before stowing as many as she could in her pockets.

Her companions watched her quietly (she'd made it clear from the start she wouldn't abide them giving away her position with their babbling) and then grudgingly followed suit. They wanted to stay close to the food, close enough they might accidentally wander back to it if they forgot where it was. She offered to leave them to it and moved silently down the corridor only to find they'd chosen to stick with her instead. She glanced back at them and nodded her head in resignation. It didn't occur to her that she could abandon them there and go on alone, and so they traveled back along her previous route distributing promised piles of food and bottles to two people and wandering about trying to find the third until she was no longer certain there ever had been a such a person.

After which they drifted on more or less aimlessly until the sound of muffled shouts and bangs met them as they turned into a corridor. They approached nervously. Her companions stood before the door and debated what they should do. Tall man thought they should hurry away and forget they'd been here; Short Man thought they should attempt to open the door and free the people behind it.

Their hushed arguing did nothing to help her think clearly, not that the banging on the door and that in her head weren't already making that next to impossible anyway. She was tempted to slide down to the floor and let whatever would happen happen...but she couldn't. No more than she could send these others who had attached themselves to her away. Of all things to remember, she had to retain the knowledge she was somehow responsible to both these two in the hall with her and to whoever was on the other side of the locked door.

She wearily began to find a way to release them. It was easy enough-a paper by the door explained how. With the door opened, she understood this was where the soldiers brought people. The sight and smell and body heat of a large number of people rushed out of the open door to meet them. Then the people themselves were pressing through, all asking her questions as though they expected her to have answers. The food she'd eaten earlier threatened to force its way back out under the stark need in their faces. She wished she was back wandering the halls alone or just with Tall and Short. She didn't know how to help herself, how could she possibly help this great number of people?

They surged out around her with enough racket to bring soldiers from all over the city rushing after them. She stepped against the far wall to give them room to escape their prison. A woman grabbed her arm and said, "There are sick people here. We can't leave them. The papers say we have to stay with them and help them."

She frowned at the woman. Why tell her? Did she really look like she needed one more thing to worry about? It was obvious the soldiers would return sooner or later. They had to get away. If they couldn't leave the sick alone, then there was only one alternative. "Bring them," she said shortly.

Another, a short, dark haired man, grabbed her arm and said insistently, "I've got to get out of here...I've got to find..." he stared wildly at her a moment and then at his arm. She could see it was covered with scribbled writings. He stared at it and then continued, "Teyla...a woman named Teyla."

She shook his hand off her own arm. "Why?" she asked.

"Because it's important," he said as though that was all the explanation he could manage to come up with. Looking at the mess on his arm, she thought it might be.

"I haven't seen a woman named Teyla--at least not that I remember," she told him and turned from him to find most of the people had emptied out of the room but were now merely milling about in the corridor. Easy hunting for the soldiers. She stifled a wave of irritation and addressed the lot of them. "You can't stay here. The soldiers will return...go, hide, get away." The only effect her words seem to have was to cause them all to once more look her way. With a growl of frustration, she accepted they weren't going anywhere unless she led them.

She hurried through the echoing corridors as quickly as the group could move and knew it was useless. They'd never be able to outmaneuver the soldiers. She found a large room and desperately turned and motioned the others to squeeze in. They filled it so tightly she found it difficult to breath.

"Someone has to know what is happening," she said. "Doesn't anyone know anything?"

They stared back at her in dismay and then all spoke at once. "We'd hoped..." "I mean...""You came for us..." "You're the woman in the wall--you must know!" She watched the realization that they'd pinned their hopes on the wrong person wash over them.

She had no answers for them, but maybe they had some for her. "Has anyone pushed the button and seen what happens?" she asked.

Many of them nodded affirmatively. "It shows pictures of a great many people and tells you to push the button again if you see yourself," one answered for them all. "Then it tells you your name and then it starts to tell you what happened here-why we don't remember things--"

"What did happen here?" she cut in. She'd thought she was too worn down to care, but found she very much did want to know.

The people that had admitted listening to the message looked hesitantly around at one another. Finally, one said uncertainly, "A...sickness. Yeah, a sickness." And the others nodded encouragingly. But she'd already known that. 'An unknown disease' as the woman on the screen who was herself had said.

"Is that all it told you then?" she asked discouraged.

"Oh, no. It went on a bit...people are looking for a cure. We have to stay calm...report...somewhere. Umm, I'd have to listen to it again to remember where. Oh! Where we were when you found us, that's right, that's where!" The unofficial speaker finished triumphantly. But what he'd said was no help at all. They didn't want to be locked back up...they wanted answers, solutions.

"And, more than that," someone else interjected, "it has a map of the place and where to find food and water and medicine. I went there...needed something for this headache. There's another screen there showing pictures of people with different problems and if you push on one that has your problem it shows you different pills you might take to help and where they are in the cupboards in there. I found some--only they didn't help, not really. And...well, I don't think anything will-there were dead people there. No one working on a cure, no one there but me and the dead." The group heard this news with silence. They threw uneasy glances at the sick they'd carried to freedom with them. If there was no help, no cure...there was no hope.

She shook her head against their willingness to accept their fate. They needed to find that room with the medicine. Needed to find out how to stop this sickness before it was too late, before the hallways were littered with their dead. She opened her mouth to say so, but the insistent man who'd grabbed her earlier forcefully said, "Don't even think it! Before anything, we have to find..."

"I know," she said, "a woman named Teyla."

"Right!" he said with relief. "It's important."

"And they're not?" she asked, her voice rising in anger.

"No! They're not! Well, yes, they are...but, this woman can help them. Help us all. We've got to find her!"

"How? Where?" she yelled at him. "And what difference does it matter whether we go looking for her or the medicine? We won't remember what we're looking for long before we find either of them!"

He glared at her and then waved his arm in her face. She looked once more at his scribbles and nodded her head. With them, they just might remember. "Where's...the...thing you did that with?" she asked.

He shrugged. It was lost, forgotten like everything else. No matter. There wasn't enough flesh on all of them to record everything they'd already lost, and probably they could fit all they could collectively remember on her open palm. "What does it matter?" he asked, echoing her thoughts. "We don't need it. We need..."

"Teyla," she finished for him.

"Right, let's go!"

"Where?" she asked again.

He threw up his hands. "Listen, this is important. She can help us. I know she can!"

Beside all her own fears and questions, his certainty shone like an exploding star. "All right," she said. "We'll search room by room if we have too!"

"Right!" he said again, "Let's go."

"All of us?" she asked dubiously. He looked about him at the full room as though he'd forgotten the others even existed. "Right," she said. "We'll go. And some of you should go push the button, find the way to the medicine-food, supplies. Bring them back...find something to do that with," she added pointed at the scribbles on the man's arm, "so you can find your way back with...the stuff." A small group pushed their way forward to nod their heads at her instruction and duck through the door and off on their mission.

Turning to those left, she said, "Until they get back, stay quiet. The...men with..." she threw up a hand in frustration and someone supplied the word she was searching for 'guns.' Comprehension flitted across their faces briefly, and she knew she'd done all she could for them...well, almost. "There was a room," she said, "with...stuff to eat and...water...the...wall should tell you how to find it when...if-"

"If they forget us," the woman who wouldn't leave the sick finished for her. She nodded her head in reply.

The insistent man muttered, "Come on, come on, we've got to find her." And feeling like a deserter she turned her back on the sorry group and followed him out the door. They were in the middle of a labyrinth. They hurried from room to room, avoiding the soldiers and occasionally catching glimpses of others hiding or scurrying through the halls. One of them might have been the woman they were looking for, but they had no way of knowing.

"How will we know?" she asked him.

"We'll ask any woman we see her name," he answered, clearly thinking she was an idiot.

"And you think she'll know? We don't?"

He shut his mouth and grimaced. "OK...so how will we know?"

She shrugged in reply. They stumbled to a standstill. There was no reason to keep moving now, no reason to find the woman they were looking for. Another man came around the corner. He made as though to dart back, but her companion suddenly hollered, "Hey! I know you." He pulled his sleeve up and skimmed his notes. "Yeah," he said pointed to a spot just below his elbow, "Right here...you're right here."

The man glared suspiciously at the two of them, "I've got a gun, and I'll use it!" he said. He waved a deadly looking weapon in their direction.

"We don't," her companion answered.

She added, "And you don't need one with us. We won't hurt you. We're just looking for someone-"

Her companion interrupted her pointing excitedly toward the newcomer and saying, "Hey, what's that thing under your arm? I need to see that!"

The man tightened his hold on the flat, black shape he held close to his chest. "It's mine. I found it."

"What is it?" she asked.

The men continued as though she hadn't spoken. "Let me see it," her partner demanded. When the man shook his head, he added, "You don't even know what it is."

"And you do?" she asked at the same time the other man said, "It doesn't matter. I found it."

"No! I don't know what it is, but I know it's important...come on, let me see it." The other man shook his head again, but when he kept his hand held out expectedly toward him he slowly handed over his prize.

"Mine though...you can see it, but it's mine."

"Right, it's yours." He turned the object over a few times and frowned at it. "I know it's supposed to do something...but what?" He shrugged and began to push the buttons along one side. One of them brought the screen to life. A picture of a woman looked out at them. The words 'This is Teyla. Find her.' showed clearly along its lower edge. "That's her!" he said excitedly.

She smiled at him, "So now we'll know her when we find her."

"Yes! Let's go." Half tossing the object back to its finder, he began to quickly move off.

"Wait!" she called. "We need that...we won't remember without it."

The other man shrugged philosophically and held the instrument out to her. "It says to find her...I guess you better take it."

"Thanks," she called clasping it to her and hurrying after her departing companion. Their search was no less overwhelming and impossible now, but they were both instilled with hope which gave them a second wind. They rushed along all but forgetting the threat of men and guns in their excitement, and only by the sheerest luck caught a glimpse of the soldiers ahead of them before their noise could give away their own position.

Ducking into a shadowed doorway, they waited breathlessly, their bodies tense with the urge to run. There were only three of the soldiers, and they were moving without the intimidating purpose with which they'd marched through the corridors earlier. They've been at this longer than I have and they are just as tired, she thought. And quite possibly, almost as sick. One of them wasn't walking straight, he weaved and from time to time bumped slightly against the wall. Both the others didn't seem to notice. They all stumbled to a stop not far from them to discuss tactics in hushed, scratchy voices. She couldn't make out much of what they said, but she was almost certain she'd heard 'Teyla' at least twice before they moved off.

"Come on," she said urgently.

"Just a minute," he hissed back. "Wait. They're not gone yet."

"No," she said, "they know where she is. We need to follow them."

"Follow them! Are you crazy?"

"You're the one who wants to find her-"

"Find who?"

"Teyla!"

"Oh! Teyla...yeah. And they know where she is?"

"I think so."

"Well, then come on. They're getting away!" He rushed out. Shaking her head, she followed him a good deal more cautiously. They spotted two of the soldiers at the end of a hallway; the third was nowhere in sight. She thought these two were supposed to be guarding a door. They wouldn't win any medals for the job they were doing though. She took down one with a bang to the head with the instrument she was still carrying before they ever noticed they weren't alone. His partner reacted so slowly to her attack that together she and her companion easily brought him down.

The third soldier was inside the door. Intent on threatening the woman they'd been looking for. He never knew they were there. She'd taken one of the guns from the men outside and shot him with it without much hesitation. It wouldn't kill him...or at least, she didn't think so. Knock him out, keep him from doing the same to someone else, but not kill him.

The woman, Teyla, was locked up in a barred, central cell. "Rodney!" she said with delight. "Colonel Carter! I'm happy to see you."

She and-Rodney?-exchanged glances and then he spoke, "Teyla? You're Teyla?"

The joy at seeing them slipped slightly from her face before she answered, "Yes, I'm Teyla...you don't remember me?"

She-Colonel Carter?-held up the instrument and pushed the button so the woman could see her own picture with its caption. "I see," she said. "Well, you've found me--can you release me?" She motioned to a panel and added, "Can you work the shield controls?"

Carter and Rodney tentatively stepped up to the controls. A yellow bit of paper was stuck above them and fluttered to the floor at their approach. Picking it up, Carter could see it was a diagram...instructions on operating the controls, but they weren't needed. Rodney was already reading a scrawl just below his left wrist and pushing a button here or there. She let the note flutter back to the floor as the shield collapsed.

Teyla stepped out of the cell, "Quickly," she said. "We must act quickly. Rodney, did you finish your work?"

"My...work?"

"Yes. The override program for the ventilation system?"

"Why would I want to override the...what ever you just said?" he asked her.

"To allow us to put the cure for the sickness through the city...once we have it."

"There is a cure then?" Carter asked.

Teyla gave her a half shrug, "Maybe. A plant. John and Ronon went to try to find it...they should be back by now?"

"Who?" Rodney asked.

Carter shook her head. For every answer they received there would be only more questions "It doesn't matter. You know, right?" she asked Teyla.

"Yes," Teyla said, "My memories are unaffected. Come. This way." She rapidly led them through corridors to yet one more room and parked Rodney before a computer screen. "Here. Sit," she commanded him.

"Maybe you better do it," he told her, trying to pull away.

She forced him towards the seat. "I do not know how."

"Oh, and I do?" he asked incredulously.

"You created it...you said you were almost done."

"Oh, then it should be easy," he said with a snort of disbelief.

"Rodney," she said. "Listen to me. You must do this-it is our only chance. The knowledge is there, you just have to find it." He looked hopefully up and down his arm but didn't find anything to help. Reluctantly, he reached out and touched a key.

"Whoa!" he said as a diagram popped up on the screen before being replaced with columns of funny symbols flying along the screen. He pulled his finger quickly back from the keyboard, and with the others stared at the screen as the symbols were replaced with a bold 'PROGRAM COMPLETE.' "Well, there then," he said. "All done."

Carter wasn't sure what was more amazing. That he'd actually happened to randomly find the right button or that he had the audacity to take credit for it. She smiled happily at him anyway and turned to Teyla, "Now what?"

"Now we wait. We wait and hope that Colonel Sheppard and Ronon completed their side of the mission."

"Mission? What mission?" she asked feeling as though she'd just forgotten something important.

"Don't worry, Colonel Carter--" Teyla began but was cut off by a radio transmission.

"Teyla, are you there?" Carter and Rodney jumped at the sound, but Teyla smiled and calmly answered.

"I am here, Ronon. Were you successful in obtaining the enchuri?"

"We were. We are bringing it to you now."

"Excellent," Tayla answered smiling at her uncomprehending companions.

The 'we' when they appeared were a very tall, imposing man; a dazed man who appeared, if anything, to know even less then she and Rodney; and the soldier she'd shot-very much alive and, judging from his lack of interest in them, unaware she'd been the one. She didn't see the need to inform him. Teyla and Ronon moved with competent efficiency, and she just tried to stay out of their way. Rodney peered suspiciously at their activity, but quickly lost interest.

"I'm really not feeling well," he complained. They were too busy to take much note. Carter didn't feel much better, however she took a look at his clammy, pale face and helped him to lie down in an out of the way corner. He was decidedly worse now that he'd succeeded in his mission, and Carter was suddenly reminded of the dead people down...wherever they were. She slumped to the floor beside him and lowered her head onto her knees.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~~*~*~*~*~*~*~

She was still there when she awoke later. She was chilled, cramped and stiff. Feelings she was not all that unfamiliar with, and with a sigh she raised her head expecting to see bars or at the very least guards. At least, it hadn't been a shock grenade this time: the pain in her head was fading quickly and she wasn't blind. Though she wondered if she wasn't hallucinating. She wasn't in an alien cell and there were no captors in sight. Only McKay who lay to her side, pale but breathing. She sat quietly a minute longer waiting for her mind to clear. Teyla arrived before it did.

"Oh, good, Colonel Carter, you are awake," she said coming in with two airmen looking slightly shaky on their feet. "We were coming to take you and Rodney to the Mess Hall." Mess Hall. That seemed an odd place to take unconscious folks-the Mess Hall. Right. She stiffly climbed to her feet and rested against the wall while they loaded Rodney carefully onto a stretcher and the fuzz in her brain drifted away.

"The cure was effective then?" she asked.

"Yes. Very," Teyla told her with a smile and offered her a shoulder to lean on, "Unless you'd rather ride?"

"No. No," she said, accepting the offered support and walking shakily towards the door. "The cure...it's a hundred per cent? No residual memory problems?"

"None readily apparent," Teyla assured her. "Those who were effected last are awake and seem to have no problems with their memory. The others seem to be resting more comfortably and there have been no new deaths."

Deaths. On her watch. The ultimate measure of a commander. "How many?" she asked and staggered against the answer.

Teyla caught her and pulled her upright. "It could have been worse, Colonel."

"Yes, thank you. Good work. You and Ronon..."

"We were fortunate in many ways," Teyla said shrugging off her gratitude. "Fortunate Doctor Keller was able to identify the sickness as Kirsan fever while she could. Fortunate this planet was home to the enchuri plants. Fortunate in many ways," she repeated.

Carter nodded her head in agreement. Fortune smiled on the brave...but if she was going to remain in command (and until the powers that be changed their minds, here she was) she'd need a lot more than its occasional, friendly grin. She would spend who knew how many upcoming hours reviewing her decisions and actions during this crisis, trying to understand what she could have done, should have done differently. So that next time, they wouldn't have to rely on fortune's favor.

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