The plan had been simple and remarkably, it had worked like a charm and had been put into action before Sheppard had been rescued. Lure Lucius to the jumper under the pretense of the ATA gene therapy, where Sheppard would capture him. Beckett then went back to the infirmary and began inoculating people – some lame story about saving people from catching Sheppard’s cold. Because that would take a bit of time, Sheppard had to spend several hours on the mainland until Beckett radioed him back with the okay to return.
By the time he’d flown back to Atlantis and handed Lucius over to some rather ticked-off looking Marines, Sheppard realized it had been over 24 hours since he’d managed a decent wink of sleep. He’d caught a brief catnap on board the jumper – maybe two minutes tops before his mind conjured up a horrible image of him telling Lucius that sure, he’d be glad to take him anywhere in the jumper, including any Hive ships in search of herbs. He decided to leave Lucius securely tied up to a tree outside just so he didn’t have to listen to the man trying to talk himself out a really bad situation. The more the man talked about how he’d done no harm, the more Sheppard was tempted to commit harm. Lucius needed a serious reality adjustment, one that was gonna smack him in the face if they returned him to his homeworld. He’d leave that decision to Elizabeth as right now, leaving the man tied to the tree indefinitely sounded real good.
He’d been wary when he’d let down the jumper’s rear hatch upon arriving back in Atlantis. He held the stunner pistol in hand, just in case. Beckett had been waiting there in the bay, smiling, but it wasn’t the idiotic worship smile he’d had before, but more of a satisfied grin, one that grew broader and more meanginful as those four Marines dragged a protesting Lucius off to a not-so-deluxe suite in Wraith-cell central. With that damned uncomfortable plastic chair that hey, was probably too small for Lucius’ much larger bulk. Payback was a bitch.
Elizabeth and his team were waiting in the jumper bay as well, looking a bit harried but also deservedly embarrassed.
“John,” said Elizabeth with a weak smile.
Sheppard just cocked his head. He noticed she'd zipped her shirt all the way up. “Dr. Weir.” Oh, he didn’t need to be so formal and catty but he just couldn’t help himself.
Elizabeth’s lips thinned out as she held her crossed arms tighter against her chest. “Thank you for saving us from this…. “
“Disaster,” finished McKay bluntly, finding the floor and the walls much more fascinating to look at than Sheppard.
“Uh huh,” muttered Sheppard dryly. He sneezed loudly. “Damn. Carson, how much of the city is clean?”
“Over half,” said the physician. “All your men received the injection and have those still under the influence under control, although they’re all feeling some of the withdrawal symptoms but by tomorrow morning, everybody should be back to normal.”
Sheppard hated to think of any of his people going through what Lucius’ people had to going through right now on that distant planet. “How long will it take you to whip up enough to dose all of Lucius’ people? He’s not going back there till his influence is gone.”
Beckett frowned. “At least a day, another to inoculate.”
“You’re sending him back?” said Ronon.
“I thought about making him walk the plank off the south pier,” said Sheppard, “but I’m sure Elizabeth would bring up the Geneva Convention.”
Elizabeth just arched an eyebrow. “Then he’ll be our houseguest for the next two days at least.”
“Prisoner,” corrected Sheppard sharply. “I don’t want him leaving that cell at all. And no visitors unless you get my approval.”
“He can’t harm anyone anymore,” said Carson.
“He’s done enough damage, wouldn’t you say?” Sheppard countered with a grim smile.
There wasn’t a single word of protest. Part of him had almost expected to hear it – Lucius’ legions of worshippers had aggressively defended him against the one lone person who hadn’t fallen under the influence all because he had a simple cold. God, it had all happened so fast, and so easily, that he doubted anyone would really sleep easily the next few days thinking about what could have happened.
He watched Elizabeth rub at her neck. The vision of how intimately that damned Lucius had touched her there came to mind, and his anger at how quickly they’d all caved to Lucius evaporated. “Are you okay?” he asked quietly.
She pulled her hand away, blushing slightly as she realized the implication of his worry. “I’m fine. It’s just my pride that’s wounded. I can’t believe that we let this happen.”
Sheppard switched his glance to Teyla, who had an expression similar to Elizabeth’s. No, Lucius hadn’t tried anything, except for the obvious marriage proposals. The way Elizabeth had been all over Lucius made Sheppard wonder if the damned man had decided to make her wife number eight. Oh, he was so not going there. He’d throw up his lunch, that is, if he’d had any. Had he? Oh yeah, half a blueberry muffin.
Ronon just shrugged in response. That was probably going to be all he’d have to say about the mess. The less said the better, that was the way the Satedan was, and Sheppard knew everybody wanted to forget the last day.
Rodney just looked depressed. Beckett had mentioned something about Jell-O runs.
“In a nutshell,” continued Beckett. “The herb’s effect is concentrated and very strong. And the smaller the body mass, the quicker the effect.”
“But we are all now all right,” said Teyla. She nodded confidently at Sheppard.
“And believe me, that’s all I want to hear,” admitted Sheppard tiredly. Everybody’s pride was shot to hell, but there was no physical damage.
The abrupt sound of the gate’s klaxons blared, startling everyone. Sheppard automatically brought up his P90, feeling a surge of adrenaline and the worry that the Wraith had followed Ronon’s team back to Atlantis after harvesting that damn weed.
“It’s Major Lorne’s team,” came the technician’s level voice over their headsets.
Sheppard went immediately to the gateroom with everybody following him. Normally that would be fine and he might not have even been really aware of the action, but right now it was sort of unnerving as it seemed they were all trying to make up for something that really - if he thought about it through his cold-stuffed head - wasn’t their fault. If someone slipped you a mickey and you drank it unwittingly, it wasn’t your fault that you passed out on the floor. This situation wasn’t much different.
Even Lorne had detected something wrong when he came through the gate and saw everybody’s faces. Sheppard gave him the Reader’s Digest version of the whole fiasco. Lorne was pretty much ‘bright-eyed and bushy-tailed’ (Rodney’s acerbic expression when he saw the soldier step through the gate) so he could deal with the mess for the next several hours. Sheppard was going to catch some ZZZ’s before his head just imploded from the cold. However, he couldn’t stop himself from spending the rest of the afternoon checking out everything, particularly his own men. He’d simply instructed the men (and women) that this herb was an unknown hazard of the Pegasus Galaxy but next time, let’s all be more aware of what’s going on around them. Any scientist under the influence wasn’t that much of a threat – except for Rodney, who had already blown up part of a solar system – but his men had weapons and the knowledge to use them. Once satisfied – all the downtrodden expressions were a definite sign that Lucius’ little reign was over – he turned over the ‘reclamation effort’ to Lorne, sneezed, and went back to his room.
The door to his room shut behind him. He stared at the skateboard off in the corner, then slid it slowly in front of the door. No, he wasn’t being paranoid. It was just… he didn’t know what it was, but what he did know was what now greeted his ears: blissful silence. No insufferably grating voices spinning deception and anarchy, or the fawning responses. A hot shower was definitely in order. He stared at the bathroom door, but it just seemed too far. He simply sat down on the bed, popped open the pill bottle Carson had given him and downed a couple of pills. The warning of ‘operating heavy machinery’ didn’t apply right now. The gate harvesting could definitely wait. He gingerly rubbed fingertips at his throbbing temples. A moment later, he fell back on the bed and shut his eyes.
TO BE CONTINUED…