I got back earlier than expected from London, since my feet were too sore to cope with another afternoon of museums, so am posting this chapter a day earlier than I expected.
Earlier chapters start here: Chapter one
Chapter four: Near and Far
Rodney remembered only flashes of what they told him were the next few days. He remembered sharp pain in his leg, jangling all the way up to his throat, but he also remembered floating in delicious numbness. He remembered Teyla speaking in the sort of voice that made everything okay. He saw glimpses of Ronon, who seldom said anything, but seemed to sit beside his bed for hours on end, and once - but maybe it was a dream - was heard to tell someone quite emphatically that he had no intention of leaving, unless it was to go where Sheppard was.
He remembered drifting between sleep and waking, searching for a Scottish voice that would call him home. He looked for a dark-haired woman, but she never stood over his bed. Several times, when he opened his eyes, he was sure that Sheppard would be there, quick with his insults, but he never was.
When his perception was clear again, he saw Keller leaning over him. "You're past the worst of it now, Doctor McKay."
He remembered waking here before, and remembered the shadow that had hung over the waking. Sheppard? This time he couldn't ask it. "What happened?"
"A secondary infection," she said. "You were quite unwell for a couple of days, but the bullet wound itself is healing nicely. You'll be on your feet soon."
On my feet, and facing what? He still was not quite able to ask it. He knew the answer, of course, because Teyla soon arrived, and her smile was the sort of smile that someone wore at a funeral. Ronon came not long afterwards, and Radek paid a quick visit, but that was all.
Although Keller was not Carson, it seemed that she was right in some things, at least. Within hours, Rodney was sitting up. By the next morning, he was standing. The evening after that, he was able to walk with a single crutch. Flapping at the hovering nurse to send her away, he managed the short walk onto the balcony. He had never been one for cherishing the feel of the outside, but there was something about the ocean air on this particular day that seemed to flow through his veins, and awaken things that had atrophied during his illness.
It was there that Carter found him. "How are you feeling, Rodney?"
He closed his hand on the railing, and tried to remember when she had been Sam. "Fine."
She heard her smile. "That doesn't sound like you."
He whirled round, his back to the railing. Pain stabbed through his leg, but that only made things worse. "Yes, yes. Surprise surprise. Pathetic, selfish Rodney McKay doesn't spend all of his time obsessed with his own well-being. Come on, tell me how much I've changed. Say something patronising about how the old me wouldn't have cared about his friend going missing. No! Say that the old Rodney McKay wouldn't have had friends. Go on. I know you're thinking it."
She moved to the railing, leaning on it, while he stood with the railing at his back. She was close enough that the old McKay's heart would have been fluttering with excitement. "If I was thinking it," she said, "it was with nothing but admiration."
"But you still can't bring me good news." He wanted to edge towards her, to catch a tiny fragment of her closeness, but at the same time, he wanted to back away, and face her over an empty space.
"No." She shook her head. "We've scanned exhaustively while talking to Dareon's people. We've explored all the other worlds that have been dialled recently from there."
He heard truth in the way she finished her last word. "You're calling the search off."
"Scaling it down," she said. "It's been eight days, Rodney. There've been no demands from anyone. There's a very real possibility… Rodney, sometimes there's just nothing you can do."
"What about Sheppard, then?" He snapped his fingers several times. "He's not as stupid as he looks. Are you scanning all frequencies? He always gets himself free in the end. He's probably trying to contact us right now."
She shook her head. "We've tried. There's nothing." She stepped back, leaving only one hand on the railing. Rodney turned his back on her, and watched a bird flying high, revelling in the thermals.
"There's a Wraith hive ship," she said, "closer than I'm happy with. It's probably nothing, what with the Replicator war, but there are still lots of repairs to be done to the city before we're ready to face any sort of combat situation."
He knew what was coming. "Zelenka can handle that."
She tried to touch him, just briefly on the arm. "I understand how you feel, Rodney. I know what it's like when a team-mate – a friend – is missing. But sometimes we just have to–"
"What?" he interrupted. "Have to what?"
"Push it aside," she said, "and do what we have to do. I can't risk the expedition just for one man, even if that man's Colonel Sheppard. I nearly lost a man yesterday on one of the search teams. We need our teams to be out exploring this new sector, and our scientists – you – working on repairs."
The bird passed behind a tower, and was gone. A patch of cloud, like a fist, began to obscure the sun. "I can't believe you're saying this to me," he said. "You. To me."
"No." He heard her sigh. "But it has to be said."
The cloud edged ever further across the sun. "Elizabeth wouldn't have given up."
"That isn't fair." There was only the slightest hesitation before she answered. "It isn't true, either. I didn't know Doctor Weir well, but I know that she was not afraid to make hard decisions."
He thought of Sheppard being killed before their eyes by the Wraith, and remembered how Elizabeth had stood there and watched, refusing to give Kolya what he wanted. "Sheppard wouldn't give up, if it was one of us," he said.
The hesitation was longer this time. "No, he wouldn't… until he had no choice, but I believe that he would recognise when that choice came, like he did with Doctor Weir."
"No!" He groped for his crutch, and found it on the third attempt. "You don't really know either of them, do you?" The wind was cold fingers on his face, and his leg was hurting, and his eyes were stinging, and he pushed past her, and she let him go. He pushed past her, but he had nowhere to go, because Carson was gone, and Elizabeth was gone, and Sheppard had gone, and Ronon had wanted to leave, and now even Sam was gone, and there was nothing he could do about any of it.
Between the eighth meal and the ninth, he tried desperately hard not to try to measure time.
Smell became his torment then. His senses had been straining outwards, trying to catch every breath of a whisper that spoke of the passage of the minutes. As soon as he stopped trying, it was as if he took a step away from himself, and was able, for a while, to see things dispassionately.
The stranger in the mirror agreed.
He stank. He had used the water in the tub to wash, but he had not taken all his clothes off to have a proper bath. He was still wearing the clothes he had put on days ago. Weeks. Eight days? Ten? His fingers moved, but told himself that he wasn't doing that any more. He wasn't counting the seconds, fingers drumming on the side of the bed. One, two, three… He snatched the fingers back into a fist, and drove it into the metal bed. Stop doing that.
When he stood up, he scattered trays. From the fourth meal onwards, when the weakness of hunger was becoming more of a problem, he had started licking every last smear of blood and sauce from the plate, and swallowing every last piece of gristle. Gristle and congealed blood from the first few meals were rotting on the plate.
With a harsh cry, he pushed the tray out through the gap, then another, then another. Each tray pushed the other one further through, until he felt resistance on the seventh, and then once more he gave a silent, mirthless laugh, because he'd proved that whatever lay outside was no wider than seven trays, and look at me, McKay, I can do an experiment, too, but it wasn't an experiment at all, was it, but an attempt to map out his environment in order to obtain a tactical advantage, and so was the sort of stuff he should have been doing all along, though I'm in prison, for God's sake, and they won't talk to me, so how in hell am I supposed to have a tactical advantage?
He found himself in the middle of the floor, not entirely sure how he got there. Bath. The word was slow to articulate itself in his mind. "New clothes would be good."
He tried not to look at the stranger in the mirror, the bottom half of its face covered with darkness, like the scarves of men who had tried to shoot him, once, in a world far lost from here.
He ran water into the bath, and heard counting in the rhythms of its landing. He closed his hand on the edge of the bath just for a moment, then looked up, plastering a smile on the mask of his face. "If you're watching on your cameras now, give a guy some privacy, okay?" He had scoured the whole place and found no obvious cameras, but he had to accept that they were probably inevitable.
Stripping naked in front of your enemy… He remembered his classes, and things said about torture that gave every one of them nightmares afterwards. It's not about pain as much as it's about humiliation. Injuries heal, but the knowledge that you grovelled naked in your own shit and begged them not to hurt you… That never leaves you.
He had often wondered - because you had to, really - what it would be like to be stripped of his clothing by someone who meant him harm. Now he was stripping himself. Did that make it a worse humiliation because I'm complicit in my own assault, or was he keeping control of it. Doing it as and when I choose, refusing to be broken by it.
"Yes," he said aloud, as the last of his stinking clothes fell to the floor. Something only breaks you if you let it. "No different from the locker room, really." But, although he stepped into the bath with his head high, and with an attempt at a smirk, he washed as quickly as he could, with hands that trembled, because what if they came when he was in the bath? What if this is what they've been waiting for? What if they come in and take me naked? Because even the strongest of men were shorn of their strength when naked, and he would fight – Oh, God, he would fight – but they would already have stripped away half his chance of victory.
He stepped from the bath, and reached for the clothes that had seemed repulsive only moments before, but now felt welcome. That was when he noticed it. Something else had been pushed under the door, and lay on the floor like a goad and a threat.
He moved towards it, skirting it as if it was an angry snake. It looked like a set of clean clothes. That meant that they were definitely watching. That meant that they had come to his door, their footsteps entirely concealed by the noise of the running water. That means that they could have come in, and he would have had no warning. That meant… That meant…
"No." He stopped himself with an effort. They hadn't come in. Once again, they had left him alone… And there was a feeling there - a tiny, faint shadow of a feeling - that he shied away from. They'd brought clothes. Clean clothes were better than dirty ones. "After all, I'm the one who has to live with myself."
He picked them clothes up, and shook them out. They appeared to be pants and some sort of tunic thing, made of a fairly soft wool. He pulled the pants on; made himself smile wryly at the relief he felt to be clothed. "Well, I'm decent, at least."
But it felt like one more thing stripped away. He was accepting food from their hands. He had been naked before them. His face was turning into the face of a stranger. And now he was even forced to wear their clothes. It was ridiculous - but true. Sad. Pathetic. But true - how much of your identity was bound up with the clothes you wore.
An image came, although he tried to drive it away, of a frozen lake. You could strike at it again and again, and each time, almost unseen, a tiny crack opened up. It could stay like that for weeks, until at last there came a crack, no bigger than the others, that caused the entire ice sheet to shatter.
They were sitting in the mess hall, the three of them and one empty chair. "Are you eating that?" McKay jabbed towards Teyla's plate with a fork. "Because, if not, there are starving masses…"
"By which you mean you."
Ronon looked beyond them – beyond the hunched form of McKay, attacking his food as if someone was about to steal it; beyond Teyla's indulgent smile. The sun was sinking in a blaze of fire, and even the city looked as if it was burning.
"Zelenka stole my coffee this afternoon." McKay sounded as outraged as if Zelenka had assaulted his mother. "It was definitely mine. That…" He clicked his fingers repeatedly. "Short woman. Brown hair. What's her name? Well, it doesn't matter. I'm sure she made it for me."
"I'm sure she did, Rodney."
The first stars would be appearing soon, and it would be yet another night. Sometimes Ronon wondered how many of those worlds up there he had run to, and how many were lifeless because of the Wraith. Now he had another question. Which speck of light held Sheppard, alive or dead? He thought these things, but he kept them wrapped inside him.
The mess hall was almost deserted, and the only other people in it were far away, their conversation impossible to discern. He listened to the sound of McKay's fork scraping the last scraps from his plate. When he turned back from the ocean, he saw that Teyla was looking at him.
He wondered afterwards what she had been about to say. McKay spoke first, though, the words half-hidden behind a mouthful of food. "Are you two going to stay? If he never comes back, I mean."
No need to say who the 'he' was. The empty chair was presence enough, as were the gaps in conversation that should have been filled by the ghost who sat there. Sometimes Ronon heard Sheppard's responses quite clearly in his head. Several times, he had almost said them aloud himself, but he knew they would sound wrong coming from him. McKay continued to dance half a dance, without a partner. But that, too, was something Ronon would never say aloud.
"I will stay," Teyla said. "I still believe that I can best help my people by aiding you here on Atlantis."
"Nowhere else to go," Ronon said, "not any more."
"Oh." McKay's smile looked uncertain. "That's good. I mean… Not that I… I… Everything's changed. Elizabeth's gone, and now Sheppard. I wondered if the team–"
"What I mean to say, Rodney, is that you have all become friends, and Atlantis has become as much a home to me as anywhere else could be." Teyla touched McKay's sleeve. "I have no desire to leave you."
Ronon grunted. He had said as much just weeks before, and there was no need to say it again. He had gone with his old comrades, but now he knew that the past could not be brought back. As soon as he had heard the sound of gunfire, he had known. His place was here, with these people, and it was no longer just by necessity. Sheppard was the one who had asked him to stay on Atlantis, and Weir had won his respect, but his ties to these people went far deeper than that.
"But we're not going to accept it, right," he said, not bothering to frame it as a question.
McKay froze. "What?"
"Sheppard being gone," Ronon said. "We're going to look for him. Right?"
"I am sure that Colonel Carter has done everything–" Teyla began.
"But she's not us." Ronon looked at them, first Teyla, then McKay, as the empty chair gazed at them all. "She's not even Weir."
"Colonel Carter did what she had to do," Teyla said. "She is not our enemy, Ronon."
McKay still hadn't moved.
Ronon pressed his hand into the table. "We're his team, but we're just sitting here. It's been…"
"Twelve days," McKay said quietly.
Behind him, the last trace of the sun set into the ocean, and the faces of his team-mates were suddenly dark. Across the mess-hall, someone stood up, their chair scraping on the floor, and a tall man waved to his friend. Ronon could never stop being aware of such things. Small movements on the fringes of his vision could spell danger, even death.
"I understand Colonel Carter's reasons." Teyla's face was turned towards Ronon, but her eyes were on McKay.
"She'll never let us go," McKay said. "It's like with Elizabeth. Sheppard tried and tried, but they wouldn't let him go." He was staring at the empty chair. Did he, too, see the ghost that sat there? "People just keep going, and there's nothing we can do about it."
Movement flickered out over the ocean, and he saw a puddle jumper returning from a scan of the planet, heading home at the end of the long day. All three of them watched it pass.
"There's always something we can do about it," Ronon said.
The jumper vanished behind a tower. High in the sky, the first few stars had appeared, and the light of Atlantis shone upwards and outwards, calling people home.
"Yes. Yes. Yes, there is." McKay raised his head, and light shone in his eyes, too.
Sheppard began to fear that he would be too weak to fight them. They fed him, but not enough. He slept, but only in fragments. Even if his body retained the ability to fight, he began to fear that his brain would forget how to do it.
Some time after the twelfth meal, he started up and began to exercise. Just because he was a prisoner, there was no reason to let his body go. He had to be ready to fight when the footsteps no longer brought just food, but entered his room. He had to be ready to throw himself at a crack in the door, to elbow his way out, to wrestle for a gun, to run.
This is something they can't take away, he thought, as he did press-ups - twenty, twenty-five, thirty. He stood in the positions Teyla had taught him, and when he let his mind go blank, he could almost see her, moving fluidly opposite him, always ready to counter no matter where he moved. He fought Ronon, and he bullied Rodney into taking exercise. He ran across the room from wall to wall, from corner to corner. He counted steps, reaching two thousand, then tried to work out how many seconds that was.
His vision started to blur. He was pouring with sweat, his clothes clinging unpleasantly to clammy skin. Muscles screamed, grown lax with lack of use. Soon he was panting breathlessly, the pounding of his heart louder than he had ever heard it before. It filled the world, counting out the seconds, faster and faster, time accelerating into a blur, a flash, a Black Hole, while he was stuck behind, unable to keep up with it, no matter how hard he reached.
More exercise. More. More. It passed the time. It was practice. It was a vestige of real life. It was normality. It was control. He ate their food, he wore their clothes, but this was something he did because… because…
Head dropping. Hand on the wall, sliding with sweat. Spots before his eyes. No. No. He curled his hand into a fist, and lay down on his back on the floor, sitting up again and again, feeling his muscles pull… And then there was moisture on his face, dripping down into his eyes, dripping down from his eyes…
And then footsteps - not faint, behind the pounding of his heart, but louder than anything - a tiny whisper of a sound that penetrated, and stopped everything.
He leapt to his feet, but everything lurched. He made it to the door, but everything stopped.
It was two days before they were able to go. Rodney was in favour of elaborate subterfuges and tactical sabotage, and had come up with increasingly elaborate schemes. Ronon just wanted to stun anyone who stood in their way. Saddled with the task of reining the two of them back, Teyla had no time to consider the preferred manner of their departure.
Rodney selected which jumper they would take. "Sheppard's favourite," he admitted, when Ronon questioned him. Ronon seemed to understand the concept better than Teyla did. She understood Rodney's sentiment, but to her the jumpers were dead pieces of technology, for all that they were built by the Ancestors.
As Teyla watched Colonel Carter, during those last days, she wished she could apologise to her. We have to do this, she would have said, for ourselves, if not for John. It is nothing to do with you.
Rodney spent an entire afternoon worrying loudly about food. "We don't know how long we'll be. We need to stock up. What if we run out?"
"Then we hunt some more," Ronon told him.
Rodney looked horrified. "It's all right for you rugged barbarian types, but I have very specific dietary needs. I–"
Ronon stalked out impatiently half way through the afternoon. I understand, Teyla wanted to tell Rodney. Rodney was not accustomed to caring for people, but in recent months, he had lost half of the small number of people whom he might, if pressed, call friends. And then, when Ronon sparred with her, ruthless despite his still-healing foot, she wanted to say the same to him. His old friends had betrayed him, and he had turned back to this, his new family, only for it to be ripped apart. He thought he had betrayed his old comrades by not being there when they were taken by the Wraith, and of course he would fear that the same thing was happening again.
And I need this, too, she thought, for she had seen so many loved ones and friends get taken before their time. She was still Athosian, but these were her people, too. She could not stand by and watch them suffer, not without a fight.
We have lost so many, she thought. We have all lost so many. We cannot lose John, too, not so soon after Elizabeth, after Carson; not at all.
Even while he worried about food, Rodney was working without a break. "They'll come looking for us, so we'll need some way to block their sensors. That's where these little things come in." He held up a small flat box. "Yet another miracle created by the genius of yours truly. Though Radek was persistent, sniffing around. I had to lure him away with coffee. No! No, you idiot! Don't switch it on yet!"
Later that evening, he assured them that he would be able to over-ride any attempt to stop them from going through the Gate. "Piece of cake," he said. "At least, it is for me. And I have the Gate addresses right here." He also had a pair of crutches, and a dazzling array of pills and tablets, most of which were precautionary, but some of which were prescribed. His leg was healing, but he still walked with a limp. Ronon showed no sign of his injury, but she knew it had to hurt him still. Her own injuries had healed completely, leaving only a few residual headaches, and yellowing bruising to her upper chest.
On the morning of their departure, a young Marine came to them as they left the mess hall. "You're going after the Colonel, aren't you?"
Rodney looked around nervously, the very picture of suspicious activity. "Why? Who told you that? Why do you think that?"
"So what if we are?" Ronon stepped forward, his arms folded, his muscles bulging.
"It's just…" The young man looked nervous. "Can I come with you, sir?"
How high did it go, she wondered. She saw two off-duty Marines watching them from a far table. She was sure they had been discreet, but it seemed that even people she thought were strangers knew them all too well. If these men knew, did their officers?
"No." She shook her head, pre-empting anything Rodney had been about to say. "This conversation did not happen."
"Why not?" Rodney hissed, when she had led them away. "I know he's only a grunt, but hired muscle has its uses. Look at Ronon."
"Because we have nothing to lose," she said. Nothing to lose? No. We have everything to lose, but only if we do nothing. "If he came - if any of them came - he would return to face a… court martial? Is that the term? Ronon and I are guests, and you are a civilian. We might be forgiven, but I doubt the military masters will forgive."
Then later, when she passed Major Lorne in the hallway, when he nodded at her, she wondered if he knew, too. She hoped he did not. After Elizabeth, she had not expected to like Colonel Carter, but then had come that moment of understanding beside Rodney's bed. It would be a terrible thing of all of Carter's officers were silently condoning a conspiracy. And then she was back again to the urge to apologise. It is nothing to do with you. This is all about us, and about what we need.
She saw Carter herself, barely an hour before they were due to leave. She nodded at her, and smiled. Carter nodded back.
Unless she knows, too, Teyla thought, but she decided to keep that thought to herself.
Pain filtered through the darkness, calling him back. "Ow," Sheppard murmured, shifting a little, but not opening his eyes. "That was a lucky shot." Ronon was silent. "Help me up, will you? Think I passed out."
There was still silence. Ronon was standing over him, watching him, so he opened his eyes… and of course Ronon wasn't there. White room. Footsteps. Seconds like hours. Had they finally come? Had they finally opened the door and…? No. Blinking slowly, each time seeing the shimming whiteness of a room that never changed. The pain was just the pain from falling; that was all. You fainted, McKay told him.
"Passed out." The retort was a reflex. It helped him feel a little stronger. It helped him remember that he had exercised too hard without adequate food to sustain his body. McKay was jubilant about that, too. See? I've always told you it's necessary to eat while running for your life. Brain power uses up calories, too - did you know that? Of course, with a brain as big as mine…
"Shut up, McKay." He pushed himself up onto his hands and knees, his head sagging as he struggled to keep himself steady. His heart was still racing, and his skin was still slick with sweat. He couldn't have been unconscious long. Just long enough to…
The footsteps! He snapped his head up, and his racing heart sent ice through his veins… No, it sent hot coals, prickling and burning, goading him to fight. Was the person still there? They could have come in when he was unconscious, and done anything they liked to him, and…
No. No. Concentrate on the now. He edged forward towards the door, straining to listen. He heard his own breathing… but there it was – a tiny whisper of sound, as loud as a shout. Someone was outside. Someone was outside!
He put his hand to the gap, feeling the tiny change of temperature there, cool on his fingertips. The noise came again. A shadow flowed onto his fingers like a spreading stain. He edged his hand forward, intensely aware of the feel of the floor beneath his fingers, rough and cold. The back of his hand scraped against the bottom of the door. He counted slowly, and he no longer noticed that his shoulder hurt, no longer noticed the pain in his other arm. Everything that he was had flowed into that hand. It was his eyes, his body, his soul, and it was edging forward, edging forward…
The fingers hit something. He reached further, and found the smooth curve of the front of someone's shoe. Someone! Someone! This was a person, separated only by a thin layer of leather. He held it, his fingers curling in, and it felt like holding the sun.
"Who are you?" Far away from his hand, his lips framed the question, but fingers could not give voice. There were eyes in his fingertips. Touch bled out from his hand, and gave shape to a man. He saw legs and a body, clothed in unadorned black, and he saw a face. It was Kolya, with the eyes and the hair of a Wraith. "I'll call you George," said those faraway lips, still without sound.
George began to move. Don't go away! Sheppard wanted to cry. Then part of him pointed out, in quiet voice, that he could grasp this person by the ankle, could try to pull them down, try to grope through the gap with both hands, try to get a key, to get a knife. It was a hard voice to listen to. It was hard to try, to reach… but the gap wasn't big enough for his hand to go any further through, and he was already so far through that the door pressed painfully on the back of his wrist, and to get the other hand through, he would have to prostrate himself utterly, and…
George stepped back. The foot withdrew, and he opened his hand, all his fingers reaching, but there was nothing there, only cold air on his palm. George walked away, and the hand saw it. It saw his retreating back. It saw and winced at every footstep. Then it saw him dwindle and go.
It was a long time before he drew the hand back through the gap. It rose as if of its own accord to his face, and found it wet.
"Right." Rodney flexed his hands nervously. "Here we go."
He had expected more opposition. He had been all ready to use subterfuge to gain access to supplies, and had been prepared to lock down the jumper bay while they loaded what they needed. He had half expected Carter herself to be blocking the hatch, and he had even prepared a noble, defiant speech in which he told her to stand aside and let him do what was right. You don't leave people behind, even if it costs you your career. You can shoot me or threaten me, but you can't stop me from leaving.
He had been prepared for a fight. He was armed with a stunner, in case teams came surging into the jumper bay, determined to take them down at all costs. He had dreamt, the night before, of being cut down by bullets emerging from the façade of a Wraith stunner, and of lying in his own blood in the entrance of the jumper, as Sheppard faded ever further away beyond the windshield. He had been nervous about the prospect of a fight, but ready for it, too.
The jumper bay had been empty. As his hand hovered over the controls, it remained empty.
Ronon was pacing in the back, still clutching the blaster that he had not had cause to fire. "Go," he said. "Go."
Once he powered up the jumper, everyone would know. Once he dialled the Gate, no-one would be able to stop him. He remembered leaving Earth in a stolen jumper, heading back for Atlantis, as General Landry's voice had threatened Sheppard with the end of his career. This felt bigger, for some reason. It also felt more right, but at the same time, less.
Should we really be doing this? he wanted to ask Teyla. It was the quietness that brought doubts. He was never more sure of himself than when fighting for his life, overflowing with adrenaline, pouring every ounce of brain power and energy into solving a problem. Right and wrong were clear when the bad guys were the ones trying to kill you. Nothing at all was clear when they stepped back and let you go.
"Go!" Ronon jammed his blaster into its holster, and smashed his fist into the wall. He threw himself down into the seat, then surged up again. Teyla was just sitting very still, her hands clasped tightly on sides of the seat.
We don't leave people behind, he thought, but we did. We already have.
He closed his eyes just for a moment. Before he opened them, he powered up the jumper, and opened the hatch that led to the Gate. As he manoeuvred the jumper into position, he saw them watching. He saw someone start up from a bank of controls. He saw Carter emerge from Elizabeth's office. Someone pointed. Carter's mouth moved. "Rodney," he heard her say through the radio.
Goodbye, Sam, he thought, and then they were gone.
End of chapter four
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