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Box of Dreams, Part II

< Box of Dreams, Part I

 

It took her ten minutes, or more, to find the lab according to Rodney’s instructions. She just could not sleep, and she was too restless to stay in her room and meditate. Teyla was thankful that one of her teammates was born with a desire to work without pause, even if that meant neglecting sleep, and she was doing her best to find the spot that Rodney described for her.  

 

Once she got there, Teyla was glad she had the patience to give it a proper try. 

 

“Ah, you’re here,” Rodney said when he glanced at her as she entered, then returned his attention to a panel in front of him. “This is so weird.” He was typing away on his pad, completely missing the way her face looked. Everything that Kanaan noticed, Rodney did not, not because he didn’t care, but because his complete attention was fully devoted to the task at hand. Teyla was so incredibly thankful for this at the moment. “Nothing I tried has worked, and trust me, I tried a lot of things,” he said. 

 

“Ah,” Teyla answered, too stunned to even move from the entrance. “I see.” And she did see. She had a lot to look at. 

 

Rodney had said this laboratory was vastly different than anything they’d encountered so far, but still, Teyla wasn’t was not prepared for what she saw. The walls were plain, they were just walls, but the remarkable thing about them was the writing. Handwriting, to be more precise. There were words, notes everywhere, except the high ceiling and highest parts of the walls, everywhere a human hand could reach from the floor or presumably a chair — there were words written in Ancient. Hand–written. Someone had written these thousands of years ago, and the words were still here, immaculately preserved. That notion alone helped her push her concerns aside. She was turning around, observing, while words were jumping off the walls at her, and she recognized them — time, sleep, returning. Box. 

 

Box of dreams,” Teyla read, staring at the writing directly above Rodney’s head. Rodney looked up, then down onto the data pad in his hand. 

 

“Yes, um, that term seems to repeat a couple of times.” Rodney turned to her and looked at her like he was acknowledging her presence only now. “Didn’t know you could read —” he gestured around the room. 

 

Teyla felt the familiar pang of regret as she looked at him, as she could safely guess what he was thinking while he was giving her that uncommon, vulnerable look. 

 

“Elizabeth taught me,” she smiled sadly. “She was translating various files from the Ancient database, and she often asked me about various matters or phrases. Most of the languages in Pegasus come from Ancient, in one way or another. My people were familiar with some things mentioned in the database. That is how she started teaching me — well, actually, I knew the basics from before, but —”

 

Rodney nodded quickly. “Yeah, I get it. Lingua Franca.”

 

“A what?”

 

“It’s an Earth expression,” Rodney moved forward, perhaps to avoid her gaze, and Teyla didn’t really mind. There was too much sorrow around them as it was. “It means universal language. On Earth it was called Latin, and it is related to Ancient.”

 

“That just reaffirms what we learned a long time ago,” Teyla supplied, walking toward a rear wall and touching the writing lightly. “We are all connected through our ancestry.”  

 

“A fraction of our culture,” Rodney said, “is also right here. Amazing. I mean, I knew it before, but every time we find something like this —” His smile was distant and almost sentimental. Like many scientists, Rodney loved knowledge. 

 

“And a fraction of cultures here. And languages. Scattered pieces,” Teyla said thoughtfully. 

 

Was it so hard to imagine — so far fetched and unacceptable — that Rodney’s people were her own people as well? Weren’t their destinies connected, just like their languages, like sounds they used to communicate, like legends that spread across galaxies, merely changing shape, but not the most important meaning? Was it truly fair to mark her as a traitor of her people? 

 

“What is this box of dreams?” Teyla finally asked, wishing to change the subject of their conversation. She encountered the term again, written in bold letters above a console that remained lifeless, no matter what she touched. 

 

“I assume it’s some kind of machine, but I have no idea what it does,” Rodney said. “I am trying to figure out a way to access this. There has to be some kind of database,  but no matter what I try, I can’t find a way to activate any of it,” he sighed. 

 

“Well, you seem tired,” Teyla remarked. 

 

“I am,” Rodney stretched and yawned. 

 

“Perhaps you should rest, and try to find something in the main database about this. And in the meantime I could try translating some of this,” she offered, feeling just a little guilty because she realized that she wanted to be alone, and she was trying to get rid of Rodney. 

 

The scientist gave her a thankful smile. “You would do that?”

 

“I could use some distraction,” Teyla admitted. “I do not feel very tired.”

 

“Well, okay then. Just —” Rodney looked around the room and sighed. “Don’t touch any buttons,” he instructed. 

 

“Do not worry,” she smiled. With that Rodney offered her good night and left. After the doors closed behind him, Teyla sighed. The quiet settled around her, and she looked around the room. It looked as if someone’s screams were frozen, written down on these walls, and the thought gave her some kind of dark comfort. Knowing that sorrows, guilt and regrets were a part of everyone made her feel just a little better and a little less alone. 

 

*

 

John walked into the science lab, which was at its worst in the mornings. Commotion, chaos and curses in several languages, and a bunch of scientists fueled by freshly brewed coffee warranted nothing short of chaos. However, he learned how to make his way around the lab, which was probably a more dangerous place than the shooting range full of nervous Marines.  

 

“Hey, McKay!” he called and the person of interest turned around. 

 

“Oh, it’s you,” he said. 

 

“Yeah yeah, I know, nobody epic. Just me,” John said, walking over to him, and avoiding Doctor Romanov who carried something explosive-looking on some kind of tray. “Should he walk around with that stuff like that?”

 

“It’s perfectly safe,” Rodney said in his characteristic arrogant, how-dare-you-question-our-methods tone. “What’s up?”

 

“Have you seen Teyla?” John asked. 

 

“Last night, why?”

 

“She didn’t show up for sparring practice,” John said. “And Kanaan told me she was translating something for you.”

 

Rodney frowned. “That was last night.”

 

“Kanaan is acutely aware of that,” John crossed his arms. “Where did you —”

 

Rodney’s face fell slightly. “The new lab —”

 

“McKay.” John’s voice gained a threatening undertone which caused the scientist to raise his arms. 

 

“It was all fine! Nothing in there was working anyway, and all she was doing was translating words written on the walls, and besides -”

 

“McKay! How many times have we run into something that looked harmless only it turned out it was anything but!  How could you —?”

 

“Oh you know what, shut up! I was in there for three hours, all alone, and I don’t see you getting worried about what could have happened to me!”

 

“Because you’re fine!”

 

“Pobogu! Hoćete li se vas dvojica stišati!”

 

Rodney and John turned around abruptly toward Doctor Kovach, standing not too far from them and giving them both an utterly ugly look. 

 

“English, please, Doctor,” John said. 

 

“If you want to know, he told you to shut up,” Radek explained. 

 

“Essentially.” Mihovil Kovach, one of the new scientists of the expedition moved from one console toward the other, giving the two other men a glare. John wondered if grumpiness was a regular course taught in various science studies. 

 

“He’s Croatian, not Czech,” Rodney observed. “And I’m the boss of both of you!”

 

“Croatian is similar to Czech, I’ve been there, I speak it a little, and besides, you, as our boss will demand results,” Radek said. 

 

“Right,” John would snigger if he wasn’t concerned about Teyla, but he did relax slightly. At least here things were going on as usual. “I suggest we take our discussion elsewhere. Like toward that lab.”

 

Fine,” Rodney growled. 

 

 

Rodney followed John through the corridors, practically racing to catch up with him as the panic rose inside his chest. Nothing could have happened, right? He checked, double checked and triple checked the entire lab and hadn’t found the way to power up anything in there. Ancient technology was nearly flawless, when it worked, but not everything within the city walls was a finished project. Or functioning, for that matter. It was something that saddened Rodney, but as Radek often said, it was an opportunity to learn, and they knew pretty well that the Ancients were capable of making major mistakes. 

 

But no, nothing inside the lab was even remotely suspicious, and he was the leading expert on the stuff. He wasn’t reckless and he was nothing if not meticulous... and there was the door. Rodney held his breath as it slid open — and there was nobody inside. 

 

“Not here,” John said, and his voice sounded even more worried. 

 

“She couldn’t have disappeared,” Rodney countered as John tapped his earpiece. 

 

“Sheppard to Banks. Can you please locate Teyla?” he asked. There was silence, and John’s frowning face as he waited. “What?” he asked then in disbelief. 

 

“What,” Rodney echoed. John gave him a confused look which didn’t placate Rodney in the slightest. “She says she cannot locate our lifesigns either,” John clarified. 

 

Rodney stared at him for a moment as thoughts started to take form in his head. No, it couldn’t be. There would have been something written in the database about this —

 

“This section was under water when we first came here, correct?” Rodney asked, but he already knew the answer. John looked at him like he usually did during missions when Rodney was tasked with dismantling a ticking bomb or doing something similar. “Well, this was under water for a reason,” he said, starting to dart around the room, but the inscriptions on the walls made no sense, just like they didn’t make sense last night. “Also, it was sealed off, but we’ve opened a lot of rooms that were sealed off in the beginning as we’ve looked for storage —”

 

“And we have scanned all,” John added. “No immediate threat was found and it was put on the list of locations we should explore. Besides, those Replicators were handy for needed repairs -”  

 

“Need I remind you how we explored one of those labs without obvious immediate threats back in the first year? And how we should trust Replicators as well?”

 

“No, you don’t need to,” John answered tartly. “I remember quite well.”

 

“I am so glad you do,” Rodney said as they walked around the lab. “A secret lab that prevents the scanner from reading out lifesigns —”

 

“We’ll seal it back up again,” John said when they both almost made a full circle along the wide and narrow room. “Because as harmless as it looks I don’t want to take — oh crap!”

 

“What?”

 

“Tell me you didn’t see this?” John pointed toward the back wall, the far corner almost hidden in shadow. 

 

“I saw that but it was closed and locked and —”

 

When they both came closer Rodney realized that the space behind the tinted glass, or what he thought was tinted glass, wasn’t any sort of storage room, or another lab compartment.  It was a stasis pod. At least it looked like a stasis pod. 

 

An occupied stasis pod. 

 

Teyla was standing upright inside, with her eyes closed and her palms pressed against the glass wall. Rodney stepped closer, because his scientific curiosity always got the better of him, and something happened. There was a quiet rumble through the room, at which John nearly jumped behind him, and then the lights inside the pod flickered to life. They were faint and blue, but they were there. 

 

“What did you touch!” John yelled, and Rodney couldn’t really blame him, but this attitude didn’t help. They shouldn’t be freaking out; they should find a solution to get her out of — whatever that thing was she had gotten into. How did she get inside? Rodney poked pretty much everything inside this lab and nothing worked. Nothing even twitched. 

 

“I didn’t touch anything.” He glared at John, and when he turned around to do so, he noticed a panel against the wall behind them powering up. “Crap! Look!”

 

John turned around in the direction of Rodney’s pointing finger. 

 

“Crap is an understatement,” John said, trying to move away from both the panel and the stasis pod. Rodney was busy with his hand-scanner. 

 

“The energy is at low levels, and I can’t get a distinct reading on where the power source is,” he muttered. 

 

“How is that even possible?” 

 

“I’m not sure, but whoever built this place probably wanted one thing.”

 

“Let me guess. Win in hide and seek?” John asked darkly.

 

Rodney didn’t comment on that; he moved towards the stasis pod where Teyla was trapped. She looked like she was sleeping, and he could see that she was breathing. He tapped his earpiece, keeping an eye on his scanner, which wasn’t telling him anything out of the ordinary. She was alive and her lifesign was beeping strongly on his little screen.

 

“McKay to Keller?’” he said into the comm link and a moment later a familiar voice replied. 

 

“Rodney? Did you forget that you were supposed to —”

 

“No, I haven’t, but I’ve run into a situation here. I think you should come down and bring Radek along the way.”

 

“Calling Zelenka?” John obviously couldn’t resist. 

 

“Merely asking for a second opinion,” he said to John. 

 

“Oh, you already have an opinion about this? Weren’t you claiming a moment ago that this place did nothing and couldn’t even be powered on?”

 

Rodney settled for a frustrated glare. “Yes, as a matter of fact I was. We’ll need a linguist,” he said and turned to John who kept looking at him. 

 

“What?”

 

“I said we’ll need a linguist,” Rodney repeated. 

 

“And I should go and get one?!”  

 

“You are the military commander, and this is a situation of potential risk,” Rodney said. John glared back at him and Rodney shuddered inwardly as his friend left the room. “And what about weapons? What if we need those? Someone needs to bring them and I am obviously a better choice to stay here and —”

 

John glared at him and wordlessly left the room. 

 

Rodney was left alone with an unconscious Teyla — at least she looked unconscious. He tried calling her, chanced knocking on the thick, glass-like material, but she didn’t move. Her breathing was even, and the lights on the panel opposite her glowed steadily. He sighed, beginning to form questions in his head. Why would someone need a  lab completely hidden off the scanners? Who would need one? He moved through the room, and whenever he got physically close to one of the panels, they powered on as if they were offering themselves to curious hands. Rodney didn’t touch them, instead he tried to shake John’s expression from his mind. It was a familiar expression. 

 

No such luck. Even as he studied the panels in front of him, scanning them only to find they were now working, he couldn’t help but feel like he was experimenting on his friend. 

 

Again. 

 

 

*

 

“We can’t be certain what happened.” Radek talked slowly, trying to maintain the calm inside the room, but to no avail. Everyone inside — Richard Woolsey, Kanaan, John, Rodney, Jennifer, Doctor Brie, their expert on Ancient, and Doctor Kovach, Radek’s newest assistant, looked nervous.  John didn’t bother hiding it as he tapped his fingers against the conference room table. “But Rodney’s readings are conclusive —”

 

“Of course they’re conclusive,” Rodney muttered. 

 

“Doctor, please,” Richard was starting to feel a beginning of a headache. Rodney quieted down, but there was a frown fixed on his face — nothing unusual, but the scientist kept glaring in Sheppard’s direction. Sheppard, in turn, seemed to completely ignore Rodney. “Please continue, Doctor Zelenka.”

 

“As I’ve said, the readings taken last night are conclusive. There was no activity or energy output whatsoever —”

 

“We think whatever Teyla did, it caused the stasis pod to activate itself,” Doctor Kovach supplied. “The question is, what did she do that Doctor McKay didn’t.” 

 

Richard nodded sharply and looked around the table. Sheppard shifted uncomfortably, McKay stared at his hands, Doctor Keller looked concerned. When she looked up, Richard nodded at her. “Please, Doctor, can you tell us how Teyla is doing physically?”

 

Jennifer looked at Kanaan first, then the rest of the people present in the room. “Well, all my readings indicate that she is asleep. Blood pressure, breathing, heart rate and brain activity, everything looks like data you would gather if you scanned people who normally fell asleep in bed. Other than that, she seems fine, and at this point I am positive that her health isn’t in immediate danger.” 

 

“At this point,” John repeated. 

 

“Yes, Colonel,” Jennifer replied. “We can’t be sure about any long term effects. Or how she will be doing in just a couple of hours.” The young doctor pressed her lips together. 

 

“Which means we should take steps and try to find a solution to this problem as soon as possible,” Richard said. He wasn’t afraid of decision making, but the good thing about his work was the fact that he worked with extremely skilled professionals, and they rarely lacked suggestions. 

 

“Mister Woolsey, if I may.” Kanaan leaned slightly forward. Even though his concern was obvious, he maintained his usual calm. “Teyla contacted me after Doctor McKay left the lab last night. She told me she was going to work on translations of the Ancient text written along the walls of the room. She sounded fine, if a little distressed.”

 

“Why was she distressed?” Jennifer asked. Kanaan took a deep breath and connected the tips of his fingers before answering. 

 

“There is a ceremony held in honor of any child’s first birthday among our people,” he  began. Richard frowned, realizing why Teyla could have been upset. 

 

“But Torren is well over a year —”

 

“Yes,” Kanaan nodded patiently. “However, Jinto came to me with the offer to perform the ceremony nevertheless. Our people consider it the official entrance into our society and perform it only after the children live through their first year.”

 

“Survival,” muttered John from his seat. 

 

“Precisely, Colonel. Jinto had told me that Teyla is allowed to attend the ceremony, but that I, as the sole parent who is a member of the society, can introduce Torren to the rest of our people.”

 

The grim mood in the room took a turn for the worse. 

 

“No wonder she was distressed and wanted some distraction,” Radek said. 

 

“Was she able to translate anything?” Richard asked. 

 

“Well, yes,” Rodney shifted with an uncomfortable expression on his face. “When she came to the lab, the first thing she noticed — what anyone would notice — were the writings. She started reading some of them and I asked how come she could —”

 

“Because Elizabeth was teaching her.” John’s voice dripped darkly into the silence that Rodney’s unfinished thought left behind. 

 

“Doctor Brie?” Richard turned toward the linguist. Sandra Brie, one of the linguists from Doctor Weir’s era gathered papers that lay scattered on the table in front of her. 

 

“At first it seemed like a mass of unconnected notes, sir,” she began, “I wasn’t able to do a more thorough analysis because the entire room is covered in writings. But from what I could take a look at, I can say that it is a scientific jargon, and that some of it is written is some form of shorthand. I think we are dealing with someone’s notes.”

 

“Notes?”

 

“Yes, sir. As a matter of fact, I would like it if a psychologist could take a look at those.”

 

“Why, Doctor?”

 

“Why do you write your notes along the walls in a society that is capable of storing more information than all Earth libraries put together?” 

 

“Point taken, Doctor,” Richard said. 

 

“Other than that, there are changes in the handwriting... the phrasing... some things repeat constantly, like the writings inside the Alhambra palace, but those were prayers.” The linguist frowned. “I am not an expert, but to me it looks like something you can find in psych wards.”

 

“Crazy scientist. Just great,” John’s frown deepened as he sank into his chair. 

 

“All right. I’ll send Doctor Hampton to assist you,” Richard said, then looked at Rodney and Radek. “I suppose the next logical step should be determining what this machine is supposed to do.”

 

“Yes,” Radek pushed his glasses back up his nose. “Doctor Kovach will be assigned with searching the database, while Rodney and I will be working in the lab.”

 

“I want to help with the database search,” Kanaan said and Richard nodded. 

 

“I will be working on the translations,” Doctor Brie added. 

 

“That sounds good. Colonel?”

 

“I need to hand out assignments for the rest of the day. I would like to help —”

 

“If there is any way we can include you, we will,” Radek said. John chanced a glance at Rodney, and the brief and unspoken interaction between the two felt very uncomfortable. Jennifer looked at John then. 

 

“He couldn’t have known, Colonel. Nobody could have.”

 

“That is true,” Kanaan spoke up and Rodney looked at the other man, badly hiding emotions on his face. The tension loosened just one bit. 

 

“Okay, you’re dismissed,” Richard said, but even before he was able to fully stand up, John Sheppard marched out of the conference room sans goodbye. 

 

 

*

 

“I have committed a crime.” A clear, familiar voice carried through the silence, and John was abruptly taken out of his thoughts. 

 

“Mayel,” he said when his eyes met her face. She was wearing a mild smile as she stood in the doorway of the room where he was the sole occupant. Well, it was him and a bunch of ghosts from the past — a large room filled with photographs, with small things and personal belongings of all the people they had lost along the way. Life in the city was frantic and chaotic and sometimes this room felt like the only proof that they even existed. John turned his eyes back to the wall, looking at the pictures he and Teyla had placed here. Three familiar smiles, several photographs, a ruined pair of dog tags. 

 

Aiden, Carson and Elizabeth. Ronon asked once if Carson’s photograph should be removed, all things considered, but John denied it. He wasn’t very articulate about it, but part of him still clung to the memory of loss and how it hurt. 

 

“What kind of crime have you committed?” John managed an amused tone as she continued to observe the room from the spot where she stood rooted. 

 

“Espionage, mostly. I was in the infirmary and overheard Rodney’s conversation with Doctor Keller.  Or, more precisely, I overheard the beginning of it and intentionally listened at the rest.” She finally walked inside, taking measured steps toward John. 

 

“Then you know what happened.”

 

“Mmm-hmm,” she nodded. “After that, I’m afraid I blackmailed Amelia Banks to find out where you are. So there, espionage and blackmail. You are welcome to punish me.” She was serious, but there was a playful glint in her eye and despite everything, John did smile. Briefly. 

 

Mayel clasped her hands behind her back and studied the faces that filled the wall, looked at the messages, dried flowers, postcards, keychains. “This is fascinating,”she said, frowning slightly. “And sad.”

 

“Yes,” John agreed. 

 

“Who are they?”

 

“Well, Carson you know,” John started. “But the fact that we’ve lost him in the first place—” his voice dropped and something twisted inside of his gut. Mayel nodded, like she understood precisely what he meant to say. 

 

“It still hurts all the same,” she said, and John could see a shadow pass her own face. She was probably remembering herself. She had lost people in this war too, and that thought made him feel somehow closer to her, somehow connected. 

 

“That is Aiden Ford,” John omitted the rank purposefully. He looked back at the unofficial memorial wall; nothing like the military styled one they had in another room. John preferred this one, filled with photographs that were fading and memories which didn’t. He looked at Ford, there on the picture was that kid who jumped backwards into the wormhole and laughed. He always had a smile to spare and he could have been so, <i>so</i> good. “One of my soldiers.”

 

“What happened to him?” Mayel shifted, and now she was close enough for John to practically sense her; her movements and her warmth. 

 

“There was a siege of the city. You’ve heard of that, I believe?”

 

“I have,” Mayel nodded, her eyes trained on the pictures on the wall. 

 

“During the siege a Wraith latched itself on Ford, but they fell overboard and into the ocean which should have killed Ford, but he ended up overdosed on Wraith enzyme. We... failed to cure him and he ran away, hunting Wraith. He was addicted to the stuff.”

 

Mayel didn’t say anything to this, she simply observed John, and her face reflected his feelings. 

 

“What happened to him? Do you know?”

 

“He was lost,” John said. His eyes drifted to the third face in the small group of photographs, the hardest one to look at.

 

“Elizabeth Weir,” John said. 

 

“I did not have the chance too meet her, but I have heard of her,” Mayel’s voice turned quiet. “She looks strong. Looked.”  

 

“Looked,” John repeated and there was finality in his tone. Mayel’s fingers lightly wrapped around his bicep, and he tensed at the touch at first, but then relaxed. It was Mayel. He was — he was safe. It was all right. 

 

“I’ve heard about her, about what happened,” Mayel offered and John crooked a half smile. “You don’t have to retell it.”

 

“There’s not much to tell,” he said. And there wasn’t. Everything came down to one thing, really. “I failed her.”

 

“Perhaps.” Mayel turned and looked at him sharply, and this was new. Most people he knew, including his teammates, acted as if they were trying to absolve him of the sin. Mayel didn’t; she allowed the possibility that he indeed failed to save Elizabeth Weir, and it allowed John to take in a deep breath and allow a feeling of responsibility to fill him. And with it came firmness, and some kind of dark comfort to settle around the rough edges of his thoughts. “But you have to consider her position as well. She sacrificed. She had every right to do that, John.”

 

He remained silent at this. She was right and in that moment he wanted to lean forward and closer, and kiss her. He didn’t, though, he just looked at her, returned the firm look she was holding. 

 

“Teyla isn’t lost yet,” Mayel said then. 

 

“Why do I feel like I’ve let her down?”

 

“Because you always feel responsible,” she answered softly. “But you shouldn’t take it out on Doctor McKay. He’s feeling bad.”  

 

“He’s being a drama queen,” John rebuffed, because he wasn’t ready to face the scientist just yet. For some reason it felt like Elizabeth and the nanites all over again. 

 

“Yes, but he’s also hurt. And worried,” Mayel noted seriously. 

 

“Duly noted,” John sighed. “I will apologize to him. Later.”

 

“Good decision,” she said and briefly stood on her toes to reach his cheek with her lips. And then she was gone. 

 

Box of Dreams, Part III >

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