Title: Under Pressure
Author: Saydria Wolfe
Series: Dark Horse, Book 2
Fandom: Stargate: Atlantis, wearing my Sentinel-wolf-gate dress
Relationship(s): Daniel Jackson/Sam Carter, future John Sheppard/Ronon Dex
Content Rating: Mature, to be safe
Warnings: Violence, mayhem, revenge. Altered episode S1E1 and 2
Summary: The Pegasus side of events that happen at roughly the same time as Wake Me Up does on Earth. It starts and ends a little earlier.
Previously posted on Rough Trade November 2014
“Three?” Sheppard balked. “We don’t know if Cadman’s gene is strong enough to fly a Jumper. And Grodin can’t go if Carter is going.”
“Cadman might not be an 11 on a 1 to 10 scale but she’s definitely an 8,” Jackson argues. “And as long as she bonds a 9 she’ll definitely end up a 10 and probably alpha unless she ends up under another 11 like you.”
“Are you making up a potential-scale for the sake of this argument?” John doesn’t bother to keep his awe out of his voice.
Jackson nods abruptly but doesn’t back down.
“Cadman’s not a pilot,” John shoots back.
“Maybe not primarily but she and Ford both qualified on the Tel’tak, Al’kesh and F-302/Death Gliders before we left the mountain. You know that. We know you know that because we know you helped them work on their quals.”
“And do you really think we can get all our strike team, all of our missing soldiers plus the missing Athosians home in one Jumper?” Carter argued alongside her guide. “Or were you just going to leave the Athosians behind?”
“No, we aren’t leaving them behind.” John scratches the back of his head, thinking. “Maybe we shouldn’t limit ourselves to saving the Athosians. I think anyone we can save, we need to.”
“Whether or not we manage to end the threat, we need friends if we are going to survive out here and soon.” Jackson agrees.
“Or at least people that owe us significantly.” Carter nods.
“Okay, you’re right. Now we have to get Kel-”
“You can’t go!” His sister, Major Kelly Gibbs, practically yells as she storms the balcony he and Jackson-Carter are arguing on. It’s well away from the mundanes but there probably isn’t anywhere in or on the tower that the sentinels on the expedition can’t track with their hearing. “You’re in command, you have to stay here!”
“No, you can’t go because you are in command.” John retorts. “I am outside of the Chain of Command. Everett insisted.” The prejudiced bastard.
“You can’t go because you’re mission essential, Sheppard,” Carter latches on to the new argument, the traitor. “You’re the strongest gene we have.”
John glares at the retired Air Force officer. “You and Jackson are both mission essential because of your education and technical skills. So now, no one can go.”
Both female sentinels huff at him.
“An eighth of our military personnel -including our CO!- are in the hands of an unknown, hostile force. We can’t afford to leave them there.” John shamelessly starts the argument all over again. “Not just because we can’t afford the loss of man power but because of the intel that gives our enemy. We can’t allow them to discover this base.”
“Fine.” Kelly agrees. “But you can’t leave the city unprepared, just in case you don’t come back.”
“We’re coming back.” She raises both eyebrows at him and he relents. “Fine, it isn’t ideal but Grodin can cover for Sam, right?”
The blonde sentinel in question nods. “We’ve worked together for years. I brought with us tons of notes on everything Ancient we have ever discovered. Anything he doesn’t know, he can figure them out. I’m sure of it.”
“Alright, Cadman and Beckett are the next strongest genes after me and you’re in charge, so that’s covered.” Kelly opened her mouth to protest. He knows, she doesn’t want to lead a pride much less the expedition. She just wants to protect her guide and shoot things. “We’ll talk about it when we get home. All five of us.”
Kelly nods. “How many soldiers are you taking?”
“Me, Ford and three others? With the five the Wraith have that’s half our forces.”
“We’re going to need more than that.” Carter countered. “We can’t count on putting our captured personnel to work and Ford will need three to set charges with him. We’ll need someone to cover the Jumpers in case we have to leave them somewhere and someone’s going to have to watch your ass, John.”
“Wait. Why do you need to come, then? I mean if we are just going to blow them all up why do we need intel?”
Sam Carter’s face went hard as Jackson’s shoulders drooped. “Because this one installation or ship or whatever it is, might not be the only one the Wraith have and their data on the galaxy should be more current than a ten thousand year old database’s.”
“Besides,” Jackson adds. “The last time we just blew them up and went home assuming we’d won, it didn’t go so well. You might recall that little place we call Abydos and a race call the Goa’uld?”
John swallows and nods. God, don’t let the Wraith be that bad. Surely after several thousand years they have all but died off. Right? Teyla seemed to think there were fewer of them. “Okay, Ford and his three, I’ll keep Stackhouse-Markham with me and we’ll have two to watch the Jumpers. So seven? Nine military including Ford and myself plus Jackson-Carter for our civilian assets.”
Kelly frowns. “That leaves me with twenty-five soldiers. That’s not enough to secure the entire city.”
“You think 40 was?” Kelly obviously does not appreciate Jackson’s incredulity. “Every scientist we brought is a field scientist. They all have gate experience and each can fire a number of weapons. You can probably count them as a soldier each.”
“Half a soldier.” Kelly gives Jackson a reluctant smile. “Fine, go. But you better come back and you better make us some goddamn friends.”
The inside of the Wraith ship is hot, humid and holy smell, batman! It’s all the worst parts of a boys’ school locker room in one place. A locker room where the boys haven’t all figured out hygiene, definitely. So, middle school? Maybe?
The walls are layers of meat-webs shot through with round metal support struts. The lighting is low and non uniform. Color-coded maybe? Different halls seem to have different colors but John can’t readily discern a pattern, yet. But then they just entered and he hasn’t seen many hallways at this point.
The floors cling to their boots and squish with every step any of them take.
Grossest. Place. Ever.
So far no one had thrown up.
This has to be sentinel hell for the four unbonded on the mission. They all look green around the edges. John’s pretty sure that’s not just the light. Wrong hallway for it, anyway.
John focuses and places a hand on the back of Ford’s neck. The younger officer has both hands ungloved and grasping a support strut. Ford is stretching his sense of touch throughout the alien structure, looking for the necessary weaknesses to bring to blow the ship right to hell. John can’t follow much or really any of sentinel’s sensory input through the tether he’s created but he gets the feeling of trying to watch someone making a schematic on the other side of colored, distorted glass. It’s kind of cool.
“This place is huge, sir.” Ford’s voice is soft as he closes his eyes and pushes himself further.
Jackson-Carter are a few steps away. She has cords coming out of her laptop into… well it looks just like wall to him but she swears it’s a control panel. She’s muttering either to herself or to her guide. Jackson seems to be translating what he can on the fly over her shoulder.
Ford is reaching too far. He’s starting to slip. He’s on the edge of a fugue state.
John spoons up behind him, wraps one arm around the other man’s waist as his other hand wraps around the jaguar on Ford’s right wrist. John starts whispering in his ear, varying the sentinel’s input to keep him from getting lost in just one sense. Ford stabilizes and reaches further. After that it isn’t long before Ford is pulling back and John can step away.
The young sentinel is flushed. Whether its exhaustion, embarrassment or arousal is anyone’s guess. Okay, probably not a guess to the other sentinels but John’s tether isn’t strong enough to outright tell him and he’s not interested enough to actively scan the younger man. He tells himself that he’s just giving the sentinel his privacy.
Ford moves away to his three team mates. He divides them into two pairs of two. He puts one sentinel in each set to help evade the Wraith, not that they were having a hard time dodging the few they had seen. They start discussing placement, shape and number of charges they all need to set.
John turns to Carter. “What do you have for me?”
“Looks like they use some sort of RFID to control doors and a number of other systems that I can’t yet identify. There is an override that can be entered manually for all hatches and doors and should work on the cells. Here, let me show you.” And she does. By the time Ford and his team have all their C4 shaped and ready to go, they all knew how to find the appropriate panels and enter the code.
The strike force splits up.
Jackson-Carter found mention of a data core that they think will contain the information the Expedition needs and go after the data.
Ford and his team move out and start setting charges.
John nods to Stackhouse and Markham. They start moving toward the hotspot John can positively identify as his fellow guide Teyla Emmagan. She’s frustrated, agitated but not afraid.
The two mated sentinels only have to stop John from walking face first into a Wraith guard once before he starts to recognize the heavy wave of strangely cold hostility that indicates the impending presence of a Wraith.
Teyla is standing at the cell gate flanked by Bates and Benning. There aren’t many Athosians in the cage. Halling and the one Teyla had introduced as her mate’s brother Toran, are both missing. So is Everett.
“Where’s Everett?” He asks Bates, certain the sentinel kept tabs on their CO.
“They took him. About a klick and a half down. They followed the hallway to the right but didn’t turn until the end.”
“How long ago?”
“Ten, fifteen minutes.”
“Alright, get them out.” John gestures to Stackhouse and taps his radio. “Ford, how long?”
“18 minutes, sir.”
“You got 20 to get to the Jumpers.”
He clicked it again. “Carter.”
“We are almost there sir.”
“20 minutes and we’re blowing this joint, be at the Jumpers.” Sam acknowledges and John turns back to the people with him. “You got ten minutes to find everyone you can and get them moving then I want you all out of this ship. If you don’t make it onto a Jumper you’ll be stuck here with the Wraith. Got it? I’m going for Everett.”
“Sir!” All three sentinels start to object.
“No, they need you to find the taken and get them to the Jumpers. I got this.” He holds up the electronic sandwich box the Jumper had given him. “I’ll be there in 20 minutes.”
Using the sandwich box, like turning it on and viewing the display, is easy. Deciphering the data it displays is harder than John had anticipated. It doesn’t seem to register ceilings and different levels, maybe that’s a different setting? Once he figured that out, finding Everett is easy. Mostly.
He ends up crawling on to a balcony overlooking a room. In the room is Everett, a few mummies, a few guards and a female Wraith. The first female Wraith John has seen and if he was going to be honest the female version in her pretty white dress and blood red hair is actually scarier than the males. Even the hulking faceless ones.
The female Wraith is bombarding Everett with questions about Earth. It’s size and location. She’s getting pissed but Everett remains silent on his knees in front of her. His hair is whiter than John remembers it being, his face looks strangely hollow and his chest is bleeding. Everett is swaying slightly and looking nauseous. It takes John a stupidly long moment to realize Everett is staring at him like he’s willing John to understand something.
John mentally reaches out to the man.
Kill me. Kill me. Kill me. KILL ME!!
It’s a mantra playing in Everett’s head. Both a prayer and a demand.
“How many years must I take from you before you tell me what I wish to know?” The creepy multi-tonal female voice comes. It’s compelling, almost like the guide voice, and isn’t that just the most fucked thing? “Perhaps I will just take them all!”
She brings her arm back like she’s going to slam it onto Everett and John shoots. Not her. He should just on general principle but not her.
John feels the flash of Everett’s satisfaction as his commanding officer collapses, dead before he even hits the ground.
The female whips around. Her eyes quickly find John in his hiding place. If looks could kill, John would be dead. Probably vaporized by the heat of her hate.
Hands grab Johns ankles and pull. He manages to turn enough to see Stackhouse is the one with his hands on John, pulling from the ledge. Markham has engaged one of the male Wraith that has a face in combat.
Once John is relatively safe, Stackhouse joins his mate. The two sentinels kill their prey and start herding John towards the Jumper.
About halfway out of the ship they both stop, tilt their heads to one side and start herding John slightly to the right. With “Bates needs you,” as their only explanation.
They find the taller sentinel frozen, staring transfixed at a web-covered wall. The web in this section is different. Not meaty but more like a spider’s web. John can barely make out a face and two -are those arms? pressed into the web.
John touches Bates’ shoulder and the man starts. His eyes are wide as he turns to John. “He’s yours.”
The fuck? The thing in the wall is John’s? How could that possibly-?
Stackhouse moves forward and starts cutting the web. Markham pulls a knife and quickly joins him.
It’s a man. He’s huge. He has to be half a foot taller than John and broad, very well muscled. He’s asleep, or something. He seems to be talking very softly but he isn’t reacting or interacting with them.
He is a sentinel.
John’s mouth goes dry with want. This man is John’s sentinel. Finally.
He reaches forward to help Stackhouse-Markham but stops himself just short of contact. Touching his sentinel could start the bonding process and that’s not something he can just decide on his own. Consent is something John firmly believes in.
He pushes Bates into action.
The three expedition sentinels get the alien sentinel out of the wall and start dragging him to the Jumpers.
Five minutes. They can make it.
They are the last ones to the Jumpers, right behind Jackson-Carter.
The bonded pair is working together to carry an honest to god stalagmite. It looks slimy, more than a little furry and is still attached to the PC in her shoulder bag. John almost laughs. They stole the Wraith data core like a pair of thieving magpies!
Refugees and soldiers alike, they all load into the Jumpers and get cloaked in time for the first Dart to buzz by. John frowns, the Wraith must have given up on searching the ship.
Roll call proves Everett to be the Expedition’s only loss.
As they take off John gives Ford the order and the sentinel hits his detonator. First small wave of explosions do the Wave across the Hive. Then a second, larger set follow in the first wave’s wake. The Hive collapses.
The civilian escapees’ elated cheers echo between the two Jumpers. Most are shouting war cries similar to but different than those of various tribes on Earth. Some break down and cry, overcome by hope mixing with relief and the new possibility of a pro-human reality. A few just stare, helpless and confused.
Teyla is touching everyone she can reach in their Jumper. John isn’t sure if she’s comforting them, comforting herself or just making sure this isn’t a dream.
John starts to move the his ship towards the gate in orbit when Ford’s voice comes across the still open radio. “Wait for it.”
John turns the Jumper back around in time to see a third wave of explosions shoot straight up through the spine of the collapsed ship. If there were survivors, there aren’t now.
The move was ruthless and probably unnecessary but that is exactly what happens when you sincerely piss off a sentinel.