[identity profile] sgasesa-admin.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] sga_santa
Title: Into Thin Air
Author: [livejournal.com profile] aqualegia
Recipient: [livejournal.com profile] hyperfocused
Pairing: McKay/Sheppard, Lorne/Kemp
Rating: NC-17
Word Count: ~18,200
Disclaimer: I do not own these people. If I did SGA would still be in production.
Author's Notes: Lieutenant Kemp (played by Niall Matter) appears in two episodes: Be All My Sins Remember'd and Tabula Rasa. He looked cute working with Lorne. With grateful thanks to my friend Dusty, who stepped in at the last minute when my original beta reader, Yvonne, was taken ill.
Summary: Set between Intruder and Runner. Teyla has always been accompanied by Sgt. Bates before; now she has Sheppard and McKay plus two people new to the Pegasus Galaxy.

Into Thin Air

1.

On their third day back in Atlantis, the Command Staff met for the first time after their post siege visit to earth. They settled in their normal seats picking up either coffee or tea, biscuits or a pastry on their way past the buffet table.

When everyone had taken their place, and had at least eaten some of their snack, Elizabeth called the meeting to order, then asked Carson to give his report.

Carson drained his cup before looking at the tablet on the table in front of him. "I don't have much to say, really. You've all had updates on the health of the people we took through the gate for treatment from Carolyn Lam. Of the injured that remained here; the majority are already back on duty, and we estimate that the few that are still in physical therapy should be ready to go back to work within the next four weeks. All the new personnel have passed through medical and we have administered the ATA treatment to those who wanted it. I have sent you all copies of the updated lists of who has the gene, natural or artificial, who the treatment didn't work on and who didn't want to take the risk. That's it!"

"Thank you Carson. Rodney, you're next."

"Well, as you probably already know, Hermiod and I crawled all over the inside of the Daedalus while we were still en route and we were joined by Radek once we landed her. The engineers inspected the outside of the ship, and made some temporary repairs to the systems which were destroyed when the Colonel took out the array to silence the Wraith signal we were broadcasting. The programming staff took care of the virus on the drives Sheppard and I pulled from those fighters. We have also beefed up the virus detection and anti-virus programs and put much stronger encryptions in place whilst we were at it." Rodney gulped some more coffee before speaking again. "While Radek and I were unavailable, Doctors Kusanagi and Simpson ran the new arrivals through the "don't touch anything" lectures, and the whatever you think you know is probably wrong demonstrations. Doctor Peyets refused to attend, because - and I quote, "as a veteran of seven years with the S.G.C. there's nothing you can tell me I don't already know" he was therefore escorted on board the Daedalus and sent back to Earth. I doubt that General Landry will be pleased as Peyets was foisted on us by him."

Elizabeth raised an eyebrow. "Foisted? You didn't approve him?"

"No, I didn't. I've had the misfortune to work with him before; I'd rather have that idiot Bill Lee come here, at least he knows his limitations and listens... eventually. But Peyets was still sent out here... despite my objections."

Elizabeth winced. "Then how...?"

Rodney shrugged. "I have no idea. Perhaps someone else with some pull got him on board the Daedalus: Whatever, I don't want it to happen again. Is there some way that you can make sure that it doesn't Elizabeth?"

"I'll send word to General O'Neill, as well as put in a report about Doctor Peyets' actions and attitude. I certainly don't want anyone else like him here, either," she assured him. "Anything else?"

"No, all the trivial stuff is in my report."

"Okay. John?"

"You also have a report from me in your mail. There aren't any teams out at the moment, as most of them need restructuring. There's only really two important pieces of news to share. One, in the absence of both Bates and Ford, I've put Captain Merrick in charge of security; and two, Major Lorne has been appointed as my 2IC. He's a long time member of the S.G.C. and has a lot of off world experience so I intend to take him and Lieutenant Kemp, who will be his new teams' second, off world with us, to start getting them accustomed to the ways of Pegasus worlds which is very different.... In so many ways. There will be a team briefing not long after this meeting as we will be setting out very early tomorrow morning. In the meantime, I'll let Teyla tell you all about the people we will be meeting, and why we will be visiting them first."

Elizabeth hid her grin behind her coffee mug as Rodney and Carson both laughed.

Teyla smiled serenely, and said, "The Colonel asked me to look at the schedule of trades for any we have missed during our enforced cessation of missions. There is only one I believe we need to visit as soon as we can. Nearly a year ago, Halling took Sergeant Bates and his team on a trading mission to Antag during which time trades were made by Halling on behalf of my people and another by Sergeant Bates on behalf of Atlantis. While you were away, Halling went to Antag to talk about the harvest, and Councillor Gosti asked when Bates would be coming to talk about the harvest. Halling explained that he had been severely injured, but not how it had happened, and that someone would be visiting them soon. I shall also be taking my protégée, Marta, with us, as we have some trading to do on our own behalf at this time."

"Thank you, Teyla." Elizabeth replied with a smile. "Please would you thank Halling for us as well."

"Of course, Doctor Weir. As far as other, less urgent, suggestions are concerned; I have sent you all a list of planets which I suggest we visit, and the reasons why I believe we should go."

Elizabeth then turned to face John. "I agree with you and Teyla, John, this will have to be your first mission."

"I think just about everybody loves the apples we get from the Antagii so you won't get any arguments from us." John looked at his two team members in turn and got nods from both of them. John looked at his watch, then said, "I scheduled the team briefing for 20 minutes from now. Teyla, if you want to bring Marta along with you, we can introduce all the new people to each other at the same time. Our departure is set for oh eight-thirty tomorrow morning, which will guarantee our arrival about mid-afternoon on Antag."

Elizabeth got to her feet. "I'll put it on the mission schedule, and be back here in twenty minutes. The Antagii are a very friendly people and, if I remember correctly, you have a feast to look forward to tomorrow night."

"That is correct," Teyla replied. "We will need to take extra gear as we will be expected to stay overnight and talk about the final details of the trades, mostly about pick up and delivery, on the second day. Once those details are finalized, we can return to Atlantis at our leisure."

"Thank you, Teyla. I now declare this meeting closed. John, I'll see you and Rodney again in about twenty minutes. In the meantime, I have some reports to update for the dial out tomorrow."

John nodded. "I'll stay here anyway to finish my coffee and sandwich in peace," he replied. "I suspect that Rodney will be staying here as well, as he hasn't finished his food or coffee either." He raised an eyebrow at McKay, who nodded vigorously whilst still chewing the bite he had just taken.

Elizabeth laughed, and wandered away. She was followed, almost immediately, by Carson, who had finished his mug of coffee, and he gave them a wave and wished them "Good Luck" as he went out the door.

Teyla finished her tea, then said as she left her seat, "I will fetch Marta and return in a few minutes."

Once his mouth was empty, Rodney asked, "What do you think of your new second in command?"

John shrugged. "Major Evan Lorne has been with the S.G.C. for a number of years. General O'Neill thinks highly of his abilities, and recommended him for the 2IC position. He, in turn, recommended one of the S.G.C.'s seasoned volunteers to come here: A Lieutenant Mark Kemp. As they had been members of the same Gate team for over a year, I concurred with his suggestion that he be included in our expansion of the Military contingent. I think they should work out well. In fact, our new intake contains quite a few S.G.C. veterans, for which I am very grateful."

Rodney nodded. "I'm glad we're getting some more experienced people coming here, at least we will be able to send out more teams for exploration as well as for food. I assume you will be leaving Lorne and Kemp serving together on the same team."

"Definitely! It would be pointless to do otherwise," he replied as he got to his feet and snagged a full carafe of coffee and refilled his, and Rodney's mugs, before sitting down again.

A few minutes after Elizabeth rejoined them, he nudged Rodney and got to his feet as Teyla ushered Marta into the conference room, closely followed by Lorne and Kemp. Urging Rodney round the table to stand beside Elizabeth they greeted Marta as Teyla introduced her young protégée to them. John then introduced Major Lorne and Lieutenant Kemp to the rest of the group.

Elizabeth directed the newcomers to help themselves from the buffet, and retook then took her seat, raising an eyebrow at John, who nodded.

John waited until they were all seated comfortably before beginning the briefing about what they could expect from their visit to Antag, plus the things they should avoid doing in case they upset their hosts... all things he had learned from reading the mission reports written by Sergeant Bates after his team's visits to the planet.


_______
2.


The early morning sun shining through the window behind the Gate was almost blinding as AR-1 started to assemble under the balcony where Elizabeth stood watching. John was, as usual, the first to arrive; checking over his pockets and backpack, then radioing to Rodney to make sure he was on his way. Teyla and Marta arrived next, and she and John checked over each other's tac vests to make sure the straps were correctly tightened, as Marta, rather nervously looked on. Major Lorne, Lieutenant Kemp and Rodney arrived simultaneously from different directions, and they did their checks together. When they signalled that their equipment was correct, John looked up at the balcony and reported that they were ready to leave.

Elizabeth nodded and told the Gate tech to dial Antag, then stared at the whirling symbols on the gate as they locked into position, and the wormhole whooshed into existence; as soon as the event horizon had settled, she called out, "Colonel Sheppard, you have a go."

The Team started forward then, just as he'd always done, John half turned and waved moments before he stepped through the Gate, as Elizabeth said, "Be safe."

They stepped out of the cool of the morning on Atlantis into the afternoon heat of Antag, the dissonance of taking such a step was, as always, a little unsettling.

Teyla, as the only one who had been to this planet before, led the way across the small open area round the gate and through the trees to a narrow pathway which would, eventually, take them to the village, talking quietly to Marta as she did so.

Rodney was next in the line, and could be heard muttering about not being able to take a Jumper to avoid the heat; and John explained, again, that there wasn't enough room for the Jumper to exit the gate.

"Oh... yes, I remember you telling Bates that when he and Ford, plus a lot of Marines, had to go through to collect our share of the harvest last year," Rodney replied looking back at John who was flanked by his two new subordinates. "At least this time we're more prepared for trading, having introduced them to the concept of wheeled carts rather than sleds on those stupid narrow skids."

John laughed. "And the Marines really liked that, a lot!" He turned to the two newcomers and said, "You'll find that Rodney really hates inefficiency; and although we try not to interfere too much in a people's development, they were already part way to the wheel with the curved skids they had put on the waggon bed."

Lorne smiled back. "We've done pretty much the same kind of thing on some of the Milky Way worlds; especially when it comes to mining naquadah. Have you found any naquadah deposits on any of the worlds here, Sir?"

John shook his head. "No; something close apparently, but not pure enough for us to use." He saw Teyla and Marta turn to their right, and called out, "Rodney, you need to turn right... now."

Startled, Rodney looked up, then turned to follow in the women's wake along another path he couldn't see.

Jphn continued his conversation with the newcomers without missing a beat. "Obviously I know only what I have gleaned from reports about going to planets in the Milky Way. It would seem, however, that most of the scientists on S.G. teams are drawn from the Military; here, where over ninety five percent of the scientists are civilians, we are unable to do that. You'll find, gentlemen, that most of the scientists walk along with their eyes glued to almost anything other than the path on which they are walking. As our team has not been here before, Rodney is taking the opportunity to scan for power signatures since the first teams that came were looking to trade for food." He grimaced. "Let's face it, none of us were prepared for what we found here. When I was told we were going to find the lost city of Atlantis, I pictured a deserted city, something like ancient Rome, surrounded by farms.... Even if they were abandoned. Actually, I think most members of the expedition expected it to be on land. Consequently, errors were made in the planning stages which meant that the rations we brought through the gate with us were woefully inadequate. So, instead of teams going to planets to search for Ancient technology they had to go looking for food. We've found that helping to bring in the harvest guarantees us a share of it; and although they complain the Marines seem to enjoy the exercise."

John paused for a moment, watching Rodney as he swerved around a tree, following Teyla's warning. He shared a grin with the two men, then went on with the briefing. "I know that you have already been briefed about the people we've encountered..."

"Yes, sir, plus I've also read all your mission reports. Lieutenant Kemp has also read them as we shared the same cabin on the Daedalus," Lorne replied with a grin.

"Good. That means I don't have to recount the number of problems we encountered over the past year... And that sometimes my ATA gene is a curse rather than a blessing. You'll find that Carson, Doctor Beckett, hates having the gene and doesn't hesitate to curse it at every opportunity."

Lorne shared a wry look with Kemp, then said, "Both the Lieutenant and I are natural gene carriers, Sir."

John laughed. "In that case try not to touch anything until you're sure that it's safe to do so, or your assigned scientist asks you to 'touch this, Major'. Not that this strategy always works; as sometimes things switch on while you're still quite away from... the door, the lights, the machine, alarms.... Well, I expect you get the picture. Things lighting up unexpectedly can cause problems with those races who actively worship the Ancients... or as they call them - 'The Ancestors'. Some of them are so sure that they are indeed their ancestors, but we have yet to meet a Pegasus Galaxy native who has any expression of the gene. I don't think Bates ever used any of our 'Ancient tech' to test any of the Antagii. If he did, or didn't, it's not mentioned in any of his reports. We usually got Lieutenant Ford to do that for our team, as he didn't even have the recessive gene that Carson could 'turn on'. Doctor McKay did, and his 'mouse gene' as he calls it, turned out to be quite strong."

"Mouse gene?" Kemp asked.

"Doctor Beckett, used white mice to develop the gene therapy. He keeps a colony of them as a reservoir of the mouse retro-virus, so that he has a supply readily to hand." John cocked his head and was silent for a few moments, then half turned to address his new officers quietly. "While we're talking of having things readily to hand, if you go off world with McKay without myself, or Teyla along, you will need to get Carson to give you a supply of Epi-pens to carry. Doctor McKay is deathly allergic to citrus, so try to make sure that no one tries to feed him anything that has citrus in it; nor should anyone be allowed to approach him, or touch him, if they are carrying anything, or have been touching citrus fruits themselves. Lastly, make sure you don't barter for any citrus fruit at all. With rotating kitchen staff, we've had a few too many close calls of people not thinking and using fruit juice for flavoring. McKay has often been the only person standing between us and disaster, we need him to stay alive and healthy.... Understood?"

Yes Sir," the two men answered in unison.

"Good. Every newcomer goes through Carson's 'first aid for scientists' course which includes how to give doses of epinephrine and other medicines; so you will be getting your invitations very soon."

"But you wanted to warn us about it today, just in case." Lorne stated.

"Yes, especially as we will soon be arriving at the village and need to be on our toes.... Just in case!"

"He won't get poisoned if I can prevent it, Sir," Kemp assured him, and Lorne murmured his agreement to the statement as Teyla stopped when she, Marta and Rodney were almost at the edge of the village, where they waited for the rest of the team to join them. Once the rear guard had caught up with the vanguard, Teyla led them forward through the last of the trees and into the village itself.

As soon as they left the cover of the trees, the headman, whom they recognized from the description of his dark green ceremonial robes that Bates had provided, and his guardsmen, hurried forward to arrange themselves between the strangers and the unarmed villagers. "Halt! Who goes there?" the headman demanded.

Teyla had reminded them at the briefing about Bates' report on the greeting ceremony, so they all stood perfectly still for a moment, then Teyla took one step forward. "I am Teyla Emmagan, daughter of Tagan of Athos. My companions are: Lieutenant-Colonel John Sheppard, Doctor Rodney McKay, Major Evan Lorne, Lieutenant Mark Kemp and my protégée, Marta - who is also Athosian." She pointed to each person in turn as she named them. "We come in peace to trade."

The headman looked skeptically back at her. "Peaceful traders don't usually arrive so heavily armed," he stated.

Teyla stared at him for a moment, then replied, "With the Wraith so active, it is not prudent to step through the gate unarmed, as I am sure Halling and Sergeant Bates would have mentioned when they traded some wheels for goods with you a few moons ago."

The headman smiled happily at that. "Ah yes! The people who made the wheels. We have been able to plant, and harvest much more produce than ever before... Welcome, welcome friends! I am Gutag, and I welcome you on behalf of my people. Come join us in the tea garden and we will talk of many things."

Lorne and Kemp both grinned, and Rodney hid a chuckle with a cough, when they heard Sheppard mutter, "Of shoes, and ships, and sealing-wax. Of cabbages, and kings."

Teyla half turned and raised an eyebrow at them, then turned back to face the headman when John mouthed 'sorry' at her. "We shall be pleased to accompany you to the tea garden for talks and refreshment on such a beautiful afternoon." Then she and Marta were led forward by the headman surrounded by his guardsmen, while the Lanteans drifted along in their wake.

The tea garden turned out to be a very pleasant place to sit during the heat of the afternoon: it was set in a clearing, surrounded by tall trees, and the long table was further shaded by a thatched roof, with latticed walls. It was a comfortably cool place to sit.

When everyone was seated, some servers brought them tea and spiced cakes. John quickly sampled everything, then nodded to Rodney to let him know that it was okay for him to eat and drink. Rodney grinned his thanks, and started to eat and drink, while still surreptitiously taking readings on his PDA.

Later, whilst Gutag's attention was on Teyla, John leaned slightly towards Rodney and asked quietly, "Have you had any interesting readings while we've been here?"

Rodney shrugged. "Nothing significant so far. According the original mission report, they have some shallow oil deposits which they use for lighting, apparently they look rather like hurricane lamps. We also helped them to repair a water wheel which hadn't been used in god knows how many years since it was partially destroyed in the last great Wraith culling. Bates' team seemed to think that occurred about a hundred and fifty years ago."

John grimaced. "Yeah, that would match what Teyla told me during our visit to Athos, and I picked up her necklace."

"You've got to get over that, John, it wasn't your fault."

"Intellectually I know that. It was just bad luck. You know... Sumner didn't actually pick me for the mission to Athos. Elizabeth ordered him take me with them. Maybe if I hadn't gone on the mission the Wraith wouldn't have been alerted as there weren't any other gene carriers in the away team."

Rodney grimaced. "We'll never really know, unless we meet ourselves from another universe, where you didn't go on the mission."

John gave a soft chuckle, and Rodney shrugged, before saying, "SG-1 has met other versions of themselves in the past, so it's not as far fetched as you might think."

Their conversation was interrupted as both Teyla and Gutag stood and bowed at one another. Gutag and his guards then left the tea garden, leaving a white robed lady to address them. Taking that as a cue to leave their seats, they gathered in a semi-circle behind Teyla and waited for the lady to speak.

When the woman was sure she had their undivided attention, she said, "My name is Maga. If you will follow me I will take you to your quarters so that you may refresh yourselves and be ready to join us at dinner this evening."

Teyla thanked her and they fell into line behind their hostess. Once they were inside the building, she led them along a few passages, and eventually stopped outside a door. Throwing it open, she waved Teyla and Marta inside. Turning around she opened the door facing it on the opposite side of the corridor, and told the four men that this was their room, their bathing facilities were through the door to their right, and that one of the servants would come for them when it was time for their evening meal.

Teyla and John both thanked her for her kindness in showing them to the rooms, and she went on her way.

Once Maga was out of sight, Teyla said, "I have stayed in this room before, Halling and the men shared the room you have been allocated, they said it was very comfortable."

"Thanks Teyla, we'll see you both later." John replied as he ushered the other three men inside the room, and shut the door behind him. Leaning back against the door, John studied the room with interest. The total space was quite large, the walls were of plain wood, and it contained two very large beds, each of which had two bedside cabinets, and a large, built-in set of closets and drawers on the walls either side of the door. Lorne and Kemp had already claimed the bed to his right, and Rodney was unpacking his possessions on the bed to his left. Beyond the beds, directly opposite the door, was an oval table with six wooden chairs placed around it.

He wandered over to the bed he would be sharing with Rodney, and asked. "Comfy?"

"Seems to be: I'll let you know my opinion of the bed in the morning." Rodney replied without looking up.

John just grinned, then addressed his two subordinates. "The device Doctor McKay is setting up, is an Ancient portable safe that only ATA gene carriers who know the password can use. Once it's locked it gains mass, which makes it almost impossible to move. We can safely leave our P-90s in there as we really don't want to take them into the banqueting hall - whatever they call it. We will, however, retain our side arms." He helped Rodney pack the four sub machine guns, and their spare ammunition clips inside, then they moved the odd looking box to the bottom of the deepest closet. John then touched the locking mechanism, muttered something, and the box glowed briefly before fading into the shadows. Now all they had to do was get ready to attend the feast.

When they were all ready, John opened the door and went across the hallway to knock gently on Teyla's door. When the door was cracked open, he advised Teyla that they were ready whenever she and Marta wanted to leave.

Teyla thanked him, and said that they would be ready in another ten minutes.

"Okay, I'll leave our door open and you can call when you are ready to go."

"Thank you, John, we will not be long," Teyla replied with a grin, and shut the door again.

Less than ten minutes later, Teyla and Marta were standing in their colleagues' doorway. "We are ready to go to the banqueting hall now," she told them, smiling at the way three of them were lounging around the table, whilst Rodney was, as usual, tapping away at his computer, which he shut down as soon as he heard Teyla's voice. They all got to their feet and followed the two women along the corridor. Lorne, as the last our of the room, closed and locked the door behind them.

When they reached the room leading in to the huge banqueting hall they were all introduced to the trade delegation led by Councillor Gosti, and to the wives and children of other notables who helped to keep their fields and orchards remain efficient and profitable. Harvest time was fast approaching and feeding the people who came to trade was their way of relaxing before the really, really hard work bringing in the harvests.

With the introductions over, the large doors were opened and they were escorted inside the hall itself; and now John and the others realized just why everyone referred to by such a grand title; it was indeed a huge and ornately decorated hall - there were no other words that could possibly do it justice.

Their small group was allocated a table, and encouraged to pick up a plate and help themselves from the buffet which took up most of the wall at the opposite end of the room from the door through which they had entered.

Just as John and the others had been warned, no business was discussed at all and they found it very difficult not to show how extremely bored they were. Lorne, after admitting that he painted pictures in oils in his spare time, tried to find out more about the murals on the ceiling of the hall - in fact anything about the hall really, but no-one seemed to know when, or by whom, the hall had been built.

When the party finally broke up, they were each told to take a plate of sandwiches, fruit and anything else they fancied to their rooms to eat for breakfast. The trade talks with Councillor Gosti would start mid-morning in the tea garden.

Being the guests, they were invited to be the fist to choose their breakfast goodies. As they walked forward, Teyla said to them, "Do not take only a small amount of food, please take one of the large platters each and put as much food on it as you can manage; it would be considered ill-mannered if you do not do so. If you can't eat it all, put what is left over in your packs to take home with you. You'll find a special cupboard in your room to store the platters over night."

Obediently they walked behind Teyla and filled their plates to capacity, then bidding their hosts good night they went back to their assigned rooms.

The men said good night to Teyla and Marta, waiting in the hallway until they heard the lock click into place. Lorne then gave his platter to Kemp and unlocked their door, and pulled it open to let the others inside, he went in last pulling the door closed and locking it behind him, he then pushed the inner door shut. While he was seeing to the doors, the others easily found the cupboard that Teyla had described and put the platters inside. Then, as it had been a long and tiring day, followed by a huge meal and some strong alcoholic drinks, they were soon fast asleep in their beds.


_______
3.


Teyla was the first to wake the next morning. She was quite a few years older than Marta, and was therefore more used to drinking strong spirits - especially when on trading missions. She used the facilities and got dressed before waking the younger woman; and while she was using the washroom, Teyla retrieved their food from the cupboard. Marta fetched the water for them to drink with their meal.

When they had eaten their fill, the returned the platters to the cupboard, and decided to go for a walk, before they would have to sit, perhaps for many hours, talking about trading with Councillor Gosti and his aides.

They went out to the hallway. Having locked their door, Teyla stood outside the room opposite with her ear against the wooden door, and listened for a couple of minutes before pulling away. "I can not hear any movement, they must still be asleep. We must wake them before we join the talks in the tea garden, as protocol insists that we be accompanied by them when the talks start."

Ninety minutes before the talks were due to start, Teyla was again standing outside the door opposite their own. She listened for a moment, then knocked loudly... and waited. When there was still no response, she used one of the metal cups on the door, hoping the sound of metal would be more penetrating. Frowning in frustration, she asked Marta to stand vigil outside the door, in case the men had already left, she would go to the tea garden to see if they were already there. If they did open the door while she was gone, Marta was to bring them to the tea garden as soon as possible.

Teyla then hurried away to the tea garden, hoping that her colleagues were either already there, or someone had seen them this morning. It was going to be very embarrassing for them if they had slept this late into the day.

Spotting Maga overseeing some of the servants setting the tables ready for the meeting, she approached her warily. "Good day to you Maga."

"Good day, Teyla. You are a little early."

"Have you seen Colonel Sheppard or any of his companions today?"

Maga shook her head. "No, I have not."

"I have knocked on their door and did not get an answer, which is why I was wondering if they had perhaps gone to get some exercise."

"Wait here, Teyla, I will enquire on your behalf".

Teyla bowed her head, and said, "Thank you." She moved to stand in the shade of one of the tall trees in such a position as to have a good view of all the paths which approached the building in which they were staying as well as the tea garden.

It was quite some time later that Maga returned to her side. "I have asked both the servants and the guards, and they have not been seen by anyone since they left the hall with you last night."

Teyla looked increasingly worried as Maga spoke. "Do you, perhaps, have some way of opening the door to their room?" she asked tentatively.

"I will get some workmen to take the door off, in case the lock has broken. Come with me and we shall find out together what has happened." Maga hurried away with Teyla following closely behind her. Fortunately for Teyla's peace of mind, Maga wasted no time in gathering the people she needed, and when they met up with Marta in the hallway less than an hour had passed since she had left the girl there.

The group of four workmen made short work of getting the door off. One man worked on taking the lock off, two men worked on taking the hinges off the door, the fourth carried tools to whichever man asked for a particular one. When both the hinges had been removed and the lock disengaged, they levered the door out of the frame... and gaped at what they found waiting for them. The inner door was missing, and the room was completely bereft of the people, the panelled walls and the furniture that had been there the night before, even the wooden floor was missing. Now the walls and the floor were just plain, dark, dirty metal.

Teyla was first to find her voice. "What have you done with my friends? Where are they?"

"I - I don't understand...." Maga sounded seriously freaked out about the empty room.

Teyla turned and looked around. Every single face was showing the same shock and disbelief as she was feeling.

When one of the men started forward, Maga reached out to stop him. "Do not go inside," she said. "We do not know what has caused this. Wollon, stay here on guard, do not let anyone inside. I must tell Gutag and Gosti what has happened."

"And I must go to the Ring of the Ancestors and advise our leader that the four men are missing, Teyla stated. "She may wish to send a scientist to help with searching for an answer."

"Should you not wait..."

"I am duty bound to tell her that the four men she sent here with me are missing.... That both her Military Commander and her Chief Scientist have vanished." She took a deep steadying breath. "Plus their escort."

Maga and the workmen all looked horrified as the magnitude of the loss to the Lanteans was thus laid bare.

"We must do everything we can to help find them," Maga stated. "Tarl, accompany Teyla to the Ring, make sure that you go the quickest way. Teyla, if you would collect what you need from your room, you can be on your way in moments."

"Thank you, Maga." She unlocked the door to their room then gave the key to Marta. Lock this after me, then stay with Maga until I return." She quickly picked up her pack, and left the building with Tarl, and the good wishes of those staying behind.

They made good time to the gate, where Teyla dialled Atlantis and spoke to Chuck before disappearing into the event horizon.

______
4.


John woke slowly, wondering why his head was hurting so much; he hadn't had that much to drink last night. He rolled over and felt around on the bedside cabinet for his watch; picking it up, he pressed the illumination button, and did the math to work out the time on their current planet. He frowned slightly at the result - if it was as late as he thought it was, someone should have been knocking on their door about an hour ago at the latest.

Throwing the covers off, he sat up and lit the lamp on his side of the bed, and turned up the wick so he could see where he was walking. Making his way to the bathroom first, he opened the door and walked into a metal wall.

"Ouch!," he exclaimed loudly. "What the Fuck?"

"Are you all right sir?" Kemp asked, having been startled awake by the exclamation.

"No, not really. When I opened the door to the bathroom, I walked into a wall."

"A wall?"

Kemp lit his bedside lamp, and brought it to where his commander was standing. In the combined light of the two lamps, they examined the obstruction, but could find no purchase to push the barrier aside. They then turned their attention to the main door, opening the inner door revealed that the same problem existed there, a completely blank metal wall, with no obvious means of getting past it.

John tapped his fingers on the metal, before leaning his back against it and addressing his companions. "The only explanation that makes sense to me is that their council offices and guest accommodations are built within an Ancient facility; and that this room was built within a freight transporter; like those big ones we've come across on Atlantis...."

"And having four strong gene carriers inside it for hours, somehow turned it on and sent us to another location," Rodney finished the thought for him. "It's a valid hypothesis. Now all we need to do is find the door here, take a leak and a shower, and eat some breakfast... er... I assume that's still in the cupboard at the other end of the room."

Lorne took the hint, and went to take a look. "Yes, the platters are still here, and still full," he said as he walked back to join them again.

Pushing off the wall and stretching his back, John said, "He's what I suggest we do. One: Find a bottle so we can all take a leak. Two: Use the hand sanitizer sprays so we can eat breakfast. Three: Get dressed, including tac vests and P-90s as we have no idea where we are. Four: When we're ready, we should all take cover behind the beds - and I will use one of the P-90s, as their velocity and damage ratio far exceeds a handgun, to take individual shots at the walls. If this is a transporter... when they arrive at their destination they open their doors... with any luck those doors are still open, and the lack of an immediate clang on metal should be enough to give us a hint."

"Where are you going to start, Sir?" Lorne asked.

"I've been thinking about that... the corridor outside the door we used to get in is quite narrow, and it looks as if there were rooms either side of it in that location, so I'm going to try the back wall; starting from the middle."

"That's where I was going to suggest we start," Rodney stated. "It might even have open air the other side..."

An hour later, they all crouched down behind the beds and John took his first shot... there was no clang, and a dim light appeared to be shining through the hole.

"Well, that was a bit of an anticlimax," John muttered as he stood up.

"Are you complaining?" Rodney wanted to know.

"No, not really. I just wasn't expecting it to be that easy. It could have been in one of the walls on either side."

"True. Anyway, as we have no idea where we are, I suggest we only make the hole large enough to comfortably get in and out. We can then use the door from behind us to close the gap if necessary."

"That makes sense. So do I shoot lines of bullets so we can knock the wood out of the way, or do you have another idea for getting rid of it."

"Well the first plank could be done that way, but after that we should be able to use those saw things you carry for cutting up firewood to make the vertical cuts, and then be able to lift the planks out of the way without too much trouble." Without further ado, Rodney opened his pack and got a black pencil out of one of the pockets. He looked at the comparative heights of John and Lieutenant Kemp, then drew a line across where he considered the top of the opening ought to be. He then drew lines down each side to delineate the width of the new door. "Start at a comfortable height, and we can move up and down from there. Once the hole gets bigger, we can have people either side helping with the sawing."

It took them just over two hours to complete the hole, working in shifts so that none of them got too exhausted. Then they made their way out of the building to see where they were. One thing was immediately obvious, they were not anywhere near the Antagii council buildings. The landscape was completely different. Instead of the lush surroundings, here the ground was arid, the trees stunted, and the buildings in the nearby village were falling apart and deserted.

"I wonder how far we are from where we started," Rodney muttered consulting his PDA.

John, catching the movement of some large birds, looked up at the sky. "Um... I don't think we're on the same planet any more, Rodney. I'm pretty sure you couldn't get this view from anywhere on Antag."

"Oh my god! We're on a moon somewhere."

"Yup." John replied, quietly.

Rodney swung round and glared at him. "Yup. Is that all you've got to say, John? Yup?" Rodney yelled at him. "We're not on Antag any more... we're on a moon orbiting a strange, alien planet. We have no idea where we are or even if we are still in the Pegasus galaxy.... And all you can say is - yup!" He turned away in a huff to stare at the planet again.

With an almost inaudible sigh, John stepped forward and placed a comforting hand on his best friend's shoulder, and gave it a light squeeze. "I figured you were perfectly capable of freaking out enough for both of us; so I felt it was my job to stay cool in front of the children." He jerked his right thumb in the direction of Lorne and Kemp who were both staring in a kind of horrified fascination at the blue colored planet that was taking up more and more of the sky as they stood there.

Lorne raised an eyebrow. "We're not exactly young, or inexperienced."

John nodded. "I know.... However, do you remember what I said about the ATA gene and Ancient technology lighting up even if you don't touch it? Well, here is a prime example. We didn't touch anything that lit up. Yet, here we are having been transported while we slept!"

Lorne looked at Kemp who asked, "Has it happened in Atlantis?"

Both John and Rodney laughed. "Yes," they said in unison. Then John went on. "We hadn't been there a full day when the phenomenon first occurred. One of the scientists, needing some storage space for some of the cases we'd brought through the wormhole, opened what he thought was a closet and got some of the marines to put the cases inside. That night, two of the Athosian boys decided to play hide and seek, one used the closet and it took him almost to the other side of the city. We did find him eventually, and found the transporters at the same time. If we hadn't already found the public address system, we probably wouldn't have found him at all."

Rodney grinned. "Until then we'd been walking miles of hallways and climbing up and down the towers using the stairs. It was after that incident I started the don't touch anything, before you've researched it in the database lectures. Unfortunately, none of that is going to help us at the moment."

"Have you detected any power readings at all?"

Rodney shook his head. "No; but then I didn't get any on Antag either. My guess would be that our presence in the room for an extended period of time, also known as while we were sleeping, set off the process; and the actual move between there and here may well be what woke John up."

"What we have to decided before anything else is: What goal we are going to pursue. Do we search the facility to see if it has any power sources, and hope that we can get it working to send us back to Antag. Or, see if we can find out if this planet has a Stargate, and if so, where it is. I'm not saying we should discount either option at this moment in time, but please bear in mind that using either of these options will entail foraging for food and finding a reliable source of water."

John stood looking at his three colleagues who were all staring intently at the ground. When no-one spoke up he raised one eyebrow and asked, "Well?"

When there was still no response, even from Rodney, he took a deep breath and said. "Okay, I'll go first. I'm not sure I would be willing to trust what had to have been an automated system that brought us here to get us back in one piece; therefore I belive our time would be better spent looking for a Stargate."

The tension went out of Rodney's shoulders. "I think you're right, John. If there isn't a Stargate, then we won't have a choice, but I would rather bring back a team, mostly made up of people who don't have the gene, which would be safer for everyone."

Lorne and Kemp were both smiling now. "I'm with you, and the Colonel, Doc," Lorne stated, and Kemp nodded vigorously in agreement.

"Okay," John went on. "In that case, our first job should be to find accommodations which have windows and some proper doors. Then we should do an inventory of the supplies we have with us, which I'm guessing won't be much, and how soon we need to supplement our diet with the local flora and fauna. Talking of which; and judging by the general lack of green growing things around here, I think we need to start looking at what is available as soon as possible. I also want us to keep working in pairs, in case of accidents."

"We'll need to test the radios to make sure there's nothing in the atmosphere to inhibit them." Lorne said. "It wouldn't be the first time that I've had problems on strange planets."

"Thanks for reminding me, we've had a few problems with that ourselves in the past," John grinned. "We'll do that test straight after moving our stuff from the transporter to a safer location. Let's go back inside and get that done first."

They went back inside the way they had got out, which proved to be the main door, past the opening they had made to escape the transporter and after some fun opening doors which hadn't been used for a long time, they found the perfect place to set up camp. A fair-sized apartment with a living room/kitchen and two large bedrooms with big beds in them.

Rodney looked around, then muttered. "I doubt that the kitchen will work or the showers for that matter, but I am really ready for a good surprise today instead of the crappy ones we've had so far."

Kemp, who standing next to the sink, turned on one of the taps. There was some gurgling and loud bangs, but eventually a trickle of water started flowing. "Artesian well, do you think?"

Lorne nodded. "Possibly. If so, that could at least solve one of our problems. So far, it would seem that whomever mothballed this place did a good job."

"I saw what I think might be solar panels on the roof," Kemp added. "So we could still have some electricity. We might want to look into that before it gets dark. Though I did bring the small lamps out of the transporter. I put one in each bedroom, and the bathroom, the remaining three I spread around here - just in case."

"Good thinking, Lieutenant," John told him. "My toes got abused enough when I walked into a wall that shouldn't have been there this morning."

"You didn't break any, did you?" Rodney asked worriedly.

"I don't think so, I had a feel round them before I put my boots on. They still feel a bit sore, but it's not a debilitating pain."

"Well, don't kick anything with that foot just in case."

"Yes, dear," John replied with a grin, and got scowl from Rodney in return. Changing the subject, John asked, "Do you think the control room will be anywhere near the entrance we were using?"

"If it's not in the area around the door, it's probably not far away."

"It's just a thought, but what if that's the back door, and the main doors are around the other side?"

John got another scowl from Rodney. "Will you stop borrowing trouble. We'll find out... eventually. In the meantime, let's take one of these lamps with us, just in case, and have a look at the area around the door now. Then we'll know if we have to start searching somewhere else: Tomorrow."

Lorne cleared his throat to get their attention. "Colonel, while you and the Doc are looking for the controls, perhaps Mark and I could take a walk to the village and test the range of the radios at the same time."

John nodded. "Good idea Major. Check in at fifteen minute intervals; if it starts to get dark out there, advise us and return immediately"

"Yes, Sir," Lorne acknowledged the order, then clapped the Lieutenant on the shoulder. "Come on Mark, let's get going."

"Just be careful, and don't touch anything," Rodney warned them as they walked out of the door.

( Into Thin Air - Part 2 of 2 )
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