Sheppard woke up, the familiar dull ache of the stunner infusing its way through his body, and worse, into his head. He blinked opened his eyes, realizing his options were nil. He was face down on the floor in the rear of the jumper, his wrists bound tightly behind his back. Damn plastic restraints. Those things were impossible to break free from unless you had a knife. He focused his vision in front of him. A pair of rough boots were situated a few feet away from him. Gazing up, he saw Ronon staring impassively down at him from where he sat on one of the jumper’s rear benches. It reminded him eerily of that first time that Ronon had stunned him and tied him up on that awful too-sunny world where they’d encountered an enzyme-altered Ford. Crap, he hated repeats.
His stomach felt sore, if not a bit nauseous. Probably got slung over Ronon’s shoulder like a sack of old laundry. Been there, done that. Loud voices filtered from upfront. Rodney – he had to be flying the jumper – and probably not in a straight line either. Teyla and Beckett. Crap. Beckett sounded like Alvin the Chipmunk, all happy happy again. Shit, and Sheppard had thought the man was making progress in the right direction. He’d sounded clear right before Ronon shot him. Of course, he had made the suicidal move to grab the gun, but still…
A hand dug into the back of his vest and yanked him into an awkward seated position. Ronon peered down at him in a manner that made Sheppard feel like a cockroach about to be squashed. “You going to behave?” he asked gruffly.
Sheppard just grimaced, then let loose with a loud sneeze. God, he hated this cold, but it was really the least of his problems.
“Oh, you can’t have him on that freezing floor!” admonished a thick brogue. “Lucius wouldn’t want the poor man catching his death of cold.”
“He’s already got a cold,” replied Ronon flatly.
The next thing Sheppard knew, Carson had grabbed a blanket from the emergency supplies, shook it out and wrapped it around Sheppard’s shoulders like a mother tucking in her child. “I’m fine,” Sheppard ground out. Damn, the doctor was back to smiling like an idiot. How long would it be before he looked just like that?
Carson just beamed at him while Ronon regarded him suspiciously. He supposed he should count himself lucky Ronon had had his weapon on stun and not kill, although if the Wraith arrived while they were all in their blissful drugged-up ignorance, he might rethink that sentiment. The doctor continued his annoying shifting of the blankets until Sheppard just snapped. “Do you mind?”
The physician pulled back, then suddenly punched Sheppard hard in the arm. “Buck up, Colonel,” he ordered so cheerfully it almost made Sheppard forget the new ache in one arm. “You’re going to be fine.”
Sheppard just stared, mouth open like a guppy floundering out of water. Or maybe there was hope for Carson after all. If he wasn’t affected anymore – just faking the obnoxious cheerfulness - there was a snowball’s chance in Hell of getting out of this mess. A sneeze suddenly caught him again. He sniffled. Oh man, his kingdom for a tissue.
Unfortunately the Wraith prison cell wasn’t the most comfortable of places. Nobody thought to even toss him a blanket, but knowing that until he knew what was really going on, he couldn’t sleep anyway. At least they’d cut off the plastic bindings and had given him a chair, one of those damned uncomfortable plastic waiting room things someone had brought along on the Daedalus, probably for the sole purpose of torturing people with its uncomfortable mold.
It was really bizarre - being imprisoned in a place normally reserved for the confinement of Wraith. While Steve had lasted weeks in there with no creature comforts, he knew he couldn’t. He didn’t figure Lucius was the kind of guy who would starve him till he was too weak to resist – not if he had no problem in having Ronon hold Rodney to the wall for Lord knew how long till he succumbed to the herb’s effect. No, while his friends might be under the influence, nasty behavior wasn’t in the cards, except maybe for Ronon and his gun, and somehow, Sheppard should have suspected it would come to this after nearly being shot over the damned bags in the gate room.
Being stuck in the cell wasn’t so bad. Nobody was torturing or taunting him. In fact, nobody was visiting him. He had all the time in the world to dwell on everything that had gone wrong, as well as why no one was coming by. Stare into the darkness of the surrounding room and listen to the dead silence. He wasn’t sure if he wanted visitors, because everybody was technically insane. Elizabeth wasn’t the competent leader he’d come to know and respect. She’d glommed on more makeup, was unzipping her shirt to its extremes, while Rodney was more obsessed with alien animals than solving scientific problems.
And Beckett… the only man who might be his ally, was mysteriously absent. Wait a minute. Maybe Carson was okay. If he’d been clearing up on the mainland, actually developing a plan on how to combat the drug, then how could he revert back to “Lucius needs me” crap on board the jumper? Unless just having a bunch of fellow converts around to give him the Church of Lucius spiel was enough to tip him back over?
Of course, maybe Lucius had banned visitors. Didn’t want Sheppard being a bad influence. This was like sending the bad kid in the classroom to the corner of the room, only what if everybody got so caught up in whatever the hell was going on in the rest of the base that they forgot about him? He hadn’t seen any food or water since waking up. And the Daedalus would be dropping by Atlantis when…? He could be a corpse by then. Just remembering how everybody had turned against him in the gateroom sent a chill down his spine. It was like that Twilight Zone with the woman covered with bandages. Everybody else was normal and she was the odd one out trying desperately to fit in. Or maybe Rodney’s analogy of ‘pod people’ from Invasion of the Body Snatchers made more sense. They walked, talked and looked the same, but weren’t the same. Under the influence. Batman. Catwoman. Just how far would his friends go to protect their new leader?
Hours later, the force field turned off and Lucius entered the room, looking even more arrogant than before, if that were even possible. The man was more than eager to tell Sheppard precisely how he’d come to his current position of power. He’d been a simple baker who discovered the herb’s bizarre effects by accident, and soon had everybody fawning over him and wanting to help him. Nobody got hurt, Lucius insisted, and it seemed the man either truly believed that or perhaps was so caught up in his own delusions of grandeur he didn’t care. And that’s why Lucius sent his people to a Wraith-occupied world to get his damned drug. They could have been killed, could have brought the Wraith right back to Atlantis’ doorstep or worse. Sheppard seriously doubted that Lucius’ six wives were going to be all lovey-dovey once the drug wore off. And he had designs on both Weir and Teyla? Over Sheppard’s dead body!
The man was deluded and dangerous and manipulative beyond belief and had plans to convert Sheppard over to his mindless flock of followers. Was the man a sociopath? Sheppard wasn’t sure, but as long as he had that drug in his body, he was a downright menace to anyone with clear sinuses. When he told Lucius that if they had any one on one time, he wasn’t joking about it being the last time. If eliminating one man to save Atlantis was his only option, he’d take it.
If the field hadn’t been turned back on after Lucius left, Sheppard would have somehow squeezed through the cell’s bars, stolen a jumper and gotten help from the mainland, or hidden somewhere in the city until Lorne’s team came back from their mission. They were due back in less than a day. If he could reclaim the city back from the Genii, surely he could get it back from one arrogant whacko.
Half an hour later, the field shut off again. Great. Lucius was back to crow about Beckett giving him the gene therapy, but instead, the door slid open and Beckett came into the outer room, smiling like an idiot. Oh yes, handing out flowers at the airport would be his next job.
“Just wonderful,” Sheppard muttered, not caring who heard him.
The door shut behind Beckett and the smile evaporated. “Are you all right, Colonel?”
Sheppard stared uneasily at the doctor, wondering if his earlier theory held any water. “Carson?”
The door to the cell opened and Beckett stepped in, at first hesitantly. “You have no idea how truly, truly sorry I am about all of this.”
That could be good or bad. “Are you—?”
“Because I’m not joining—”
“Oh, for pity’s sake, we don’t have much time.” Carson stepped over and quickly drew a stunner from within his jacket. Sheppard instinctively backed up a step, wondering if he was going to be stunned – again – but Beckett didn’t react. “Just promise you won’t shoot me with this.” The doctor handed the alien gun over to the colonel.
Sheppard nodded as he accepted the weapon, relief shoving down his earlier worries. “You’ve got the antidote?”
“Aye, and it works very well, as you can see,” Beckett said with a brief grin as he pointed at himself. “I’ve got a batch in process right now that should cover most of Atlantis. I’ve already inoculated several members of my staff so it’s in process. It’ll take a day to whip up the rest.”
“Just make sure you do Elizabeth and my team as soon as you can, then my men.” Sheppard was glad to have a weapon back in his hands. He’d felt naked without it, and now, he had no compunction in stunning anyone who got in his way.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t let you know, but when Ronon stunned you…” trailed off Beckett.
‘Yeah, that was a bonehead move,” agreed Sheppard, but then he saw a flurry of dark emotions flitter over Beckett’s face. “No no, not you. Me. Trying to steal his gun was like trying to take a bone away from a Rottweiler.”
“I couldn’t just tell you I was clear of Lucius’ influence,” continued the physician, looking over his shoulder worriedly at the closed door. There was at least one still under-the-influence guard on the other side.
“The punch in the arm was a hint,” assured Sheppard.
“I’d hoped it would be.” Beckett rubbed his hands together, obviously nervous.
“Next time, don’t punch so hard,” Sheppard admonished lightly. He stepped out of the cell, a part of him registering the act as reclaiming his freedom, but they had a long way to go to get back the city.
Beckett looked at him with a confident expression. “Now, as to the plan….”
TO BE CONTINUED…