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Box of Dreams, Part IV

Box of Dreams, Part III

 

When Mayel walked into the meeting room it looked like a camping site filled with people, their computers, data pads and notepads. The atmosphere resembled a war room, though, and there was an unmistakable sense of racing against time. Cups of coffee were scattered around the long table, and people were working quietly, yet frantically. Even Ronon was there, reading and writing things down, and Kanaan was sitting next to him, simultaneously checking readings on a computer and data pad he held in his hand. Mayel’s eyes searched out John, and he looked up as if on cue. She smiled, and he stretched his mouth rather unenthusiastically. His eyes looked tired and worried. Mayel walked over to him, which was when Kanaan and Ronon noticed her and they exchanged greetings. 

 

“Are you making any progress?” she asked after Ronon found another chair and she sat down between him and John. 

 

“Some,” John sighed and rubbed his face. “It seems that Pandora wasn’t very popular among the important people in the city.” 

 

“She and Janus were not very welcome among their colleagues,” Kanaan observed. 

 

“That’s putting it mildly,” Ronon said, frowning at the text on the screen in front of him. “She was put on trial.”

 

“What — really?”

 

“See for yourself,” Ronon handed John his pad, and John scanned the text quickly. 

 

“Huh. Seems she disregarded an official ban of the supreme scientific committee of Atlantis,” John read, the sarcasm coming through in his voice. “I can’t imagine why anyone would want to ignore a ban from a panel of supreme Ancient scientists.  Those guys were always reliable.”

 

Mayel smiled, then got up and walked behind him, to lean over his shoulder. “See? Right here —” he pointed to a section of text. She read the bit of text John was pointing at; it was like a short notification of an event that happened, but there weren’t any details about it. 

 

“Hm. There isn’t much about what happened in this text,” she said. 

 

“No, I think this is something like a newsfeed archive,” John said and looked at Mayel. She, Ronon and Kanaan frowned confusedly. “Crap. I keep forgetting you guys aren’t from Earth.”

 

Kanaan’s mouth quirked a little. “We shall take that as a compliment,” he said. 

 

“As you wish,” John said dryly, but grinned a little. “I think we should look up the legal databases. They documented everything, they must have documented trials and things like that. Are you two any closer to being done with your texts?”

 

“Not by far,” Kanaan said. “Janus had made many notes, but he was not very organized. It is hard to tell if something is Pandora related or not, which is why I have to open each of them —”

 

Ronon took his pad back and just shook his head. 

 

“We’ll have to request more volunteers,” John said. 

 

“Well, I volunteer,” Mayel offered. “I’ll gladly help.”

 

John, Ronon and Kanaan exchanged looks. Mayel understood their hesitation, but in some way it felt like a painful little pang in her chest. She looked at John who looked back at her; it was a short moment of wordless communication between them, and she understood what bothered him. 

 

“I’ll check it with Woolsey, but as far as I’m concerned —” he paused and everything she could see in his eyes made the painful feeling go away. “I trust her.”

 

*

 

Pain

 

She woke up and felt it like an ambiguous sensation that coursed through her limbs, her body, and finally settled in her chest. Teyla opened her eyes and sat up slowly, feeling a little disoriented and lost. She wasn’t certain what happened, or where she was, and it took her a couple of moments to focus and assess her surroundings. 

 

The tent, she concluded, recognizing the familiar objects around her. This place had a breath of home, it filled her with longing as she recognized its scent, its colors and shapes. It was Charin’s tent; she could see the neatly folded clothes and the old woman’s belongings that Teyla knew through most of her life. 

 

She could hear a multitude of voices on the outside. Athosian tents were made for shelter, but not for privacy, like the rooms on Atlantis were. There, she sometimes felt isolated and alone, here she always had a sense of connection. She belonged to these voices outside, these sights and smells. 

 

Suddenly there were voices outside the tent. Then someone walked in, several people following. 

 

“I’m telling you, Carson —”

 

Teyla recognized the voice. It was Rodney who was speaking, and he and Carson were the first two people she set her eyes on. 

 

“There she is. Doing fine,” Rodney said, gesturing somewhat nervously towards her. Teyla had an uneasy feeling as she looked at him, but she couldn’t understand why. John’s head showed up, and following him — Elizabeth’s. Teyla felt a rush of surprise — not completely pleasant, but she smiled when Elizabeth smiled at her. Still, the presence of the other woman seemed strange, and Teyla decided to ascribe this to the feeling of distress. 

 

“Rodney, I’m sure she’s going to be fine, but why don’t we let Carson check on her? She did hit her head,” Elizabeth reasoned. 

 

John grinned and lightly elbowed Rodney’s side. “She’s got a hard head, trust me,” he said, but Rodney still looked guilty. Teyla was just confused. She didn’t remember hitting her head, nor did she feel any soreness to prove this. 

 

“Aye,” Carson’s smile was benevolent and his eyes mildly worried. “I’m glad you have so much confidence in Teyla, Colonel, but she lost consciousness. I need to check how she’s doing.”

 

“I assume that look means everybody out,” Elizabeth smiled. 

 

“You’re absolutely right,” Carson answered. 

 

“Okay, off we go,” John grinned cheekily and pretended to push Rodney out. Rodney was still grumbling, and his eyes still looked guilty. Elizabeth was the last to leave, turning around to cast Teyla an encouraging smile. It didn’t help to assure her, though. She couldn’t shake the feeling that something bad had happened just a moment, before, yet she couldn’t remember what. 

 

“Teyla? You look —”

 

“I feel fine, Carson,” she said quickly. Her head did feel fine, it was her mind that felt confused, but she was reluctant to point this out to Carson. He took a seat on the edge of her bed, his pen light ready in his hand. 

 

“I can’t decide who’s the worst of you lot,” he sighed. “You, Sheppard, Ronon or Major Lorne. One would think you wouldn’t complain even if a tree trunk hit you on the head. Look at me. Good.”

 

“Well, you have Rodney for compensation,” Teyla smiled, trying not to blink against the light. 

 

“Well, thank you for pointing that out.” They exchanged grins. “I was going to talk to you about Charin,” Carson lowered the pen light. “But right now I want to talk to you about you too. Are you sure you’re feeling okay?”

 

“I — I’m — Charin? Why?”

 

“Teyla, have you forgotten? You told me yourself you’re worried about her.”

 

“I — did?” she frowned. Her mind raced in opposite directions; she could vaguely remember conversations about harvesting and how she visited Charin, and the old woman didn’t seem very well. Teyla discussed it with Carson during  a team lunch, only to conclude that she was probably feeling tired because of the preparations for the harvest. She remembered a conversation she had shared with her friends not too long ago —

 

”You’re forgetting she is very old,” John said then. 

 

“She is old, but she is healthy,” Teyla had countered. 

 

“Teyla, I think he is saying that old age will eventually make someone weak,” Carson had  added, and his face said what his words did not. “I could do some tests and see if there was something to help her. It might even prolong her life.” 

 

“No. She is fine,” Teyla had remembered saying the words, and it felt like swallowing something rough and bitter.  “She believes in the natural course of life, like all of my people do.” Like Teyla did as well. But she had seen what Earth medicine was capable of, and Carson had helped her with so many injuries and things that wouldn’t ever be treated on Athos. Maybe she could — 

 

“What does that mean?” Rodney had frowned over the sandwich he was eating, and his voice brought Teyla back to reality. 

 

“That we are thankful for every minute of our lives, no matter how short they may be,” Teyla had said. Then suddenly her eyes were on her half full plate, and she had lost her appetite. She remembered feeling hurt and leaving the table.</i>

 

As she looked at Carson now, she could vaguely remember something else as well. Any goodbye left a certain mark on the soul, hard and painful. She could see herself in an azure blue dress, singing to a circle, still wishing she could hold off the inevitable, while at the same time her friends were trying to fight off some kind of danger. She did not remember more, and the feeling of loss was prevailing her thoughts. She didn’t understand how she could remember it. Perhaps it was a premonition? A warning? Some among her people believed in things like that, even though it was said to be dangerous. 

 

Teyla put her hand on Carson’s, holding his gaze steadily. All she knew was that she didn’t want to say goodbye. She thought of it and felt alone, and even afraid, and if it could be stopped, if Charin’s life could be any longer —

 

“How silly of me,” she smiled then. “Of course I remember. I am probably just feeling shaken up right now.”

 

“I see,” Carson smiled. 

 

“I would appreciate if you check if everything is all right with Charin.”

 

*

 

“Sandra? Could you please come and look at this?”

 

Doctor Hannah Hampton had been standing in front of one of the walls for half an hour now. Rodney didn’t dislike the new psychologist, but he didn’t like her either; and technically she wasn’t new, but she simply wasn’t Kate Heightmeyer, and she had this weird habit of staring and wordlessly thinking over things. Even during sessions, which unnerved Rodney to no end. Sheppard and Ronon did their best to hide as far away as possible whenever they had a counseling session scheduled. 

 

Doctor Brie got up from her chair beside Rodney and walked to the opposite wall. Rodney turned around and rubbed his eyes — he’d been staring at the computer for several hours without any break, and his eyes were protesting. Zelenka was typing next to him, attempting to figure out what kind of process controlled Teyla’s basic bodily functions. His frustrated attempts were paused as well, as Doctor Brie made a non committal sound that generally sounded like an indication of trouble. 

 

“It doesn’t look like her handwriting,” Hampton continued. “But when you take a closer look —”

 

Brie nodded. “The way she writes capital letters —”

 

“But look at her phrases —”

 

“Yes, it’s almost like a personal note,” Hampton concluded. 

 

“It is a personal note. The structure of her sentences is different, it’s more confusing, in a way —” Brie looked at the wall as two of them continued to talk in half codes. Rodney was annoyed, because he couldn’t follow the wavelength of the conversation, when the two women seemed to understand each other without even finishing their lines. “But the <i>way</i> this was written makes me think she was doing worse.”

 

“Worse in what way?” Rodney interrupted. It was bad enough, that this machine was made to manipulate the brain, or the mind, or whatever. It was more like medical voodoo, only worse, because one could put a body under a scanner. The mind was a tricky matter. 

 

“I’m not sure. Just — worse. When you look over there —” Hampton pointed towards the beginning of the opposite wall, the spot near the door, which was marked as the “point of origin,” the first handwritten entry near the very door. “You can see the handwriting is different.”

 

Rodney refrained from rolling his eyes. 

 

“It’s much neater,” Zelenka was more cooperative, as usual. 

 

“Not only that, Doctor.” Hampton walked over there and started pointing at various words. “Her letters are bigger, much bolder, just as her lines are. The writing over there —”

 

“Is a mess,” Rodney said. “Okay, we see it. How does that help us?!”

 

“That doesn’t help us much, but what she’s written could. Or maybe not.” Brie was staring at the text with her hand floating in front of her mouth. Rodney stopped himself from yelling — yes, he was extremely annoyed, but if these two could provide any useful information — 

 

“What does it say?” Zelenka asked. 

 

“This bit here —” Brie pointed at the last two paragraphs of the text. 

 

“I’m not sure if I’m reading that bit correctly.” Hampton looked at Brie, and the look that Brie gave her was anything but encouraging. 

 

“Look, Doctors, with all due respect, will you tell us what’s up with the writing over there? I appreciate that you’re trying to be certain, but —”

 

“Calm down, Doctor McKay,” Hampton sighed. “This is just not good. I wanted to be sure I was reading this right —”

 

“According to this, Pandora’s work was shut down,” Brie interrupted. “And since she couldn’t find a person willing to participate in her research —”

 

“— she experimented on herself,” Hampton finished. 

 

*

 

“What does it mean, she experimented on <i>herself</i>?!” Woolsey wasn’t calm any more. The number of people inside the meeting room had doubled, and Richard Woolsey was in there as well, helping out with the database search during his off hours. 

 

“We can only guess,” Rodney said. 

 

“Actually, we can make educated guesses,” Doctor Hampton took over. “The note we just translated isn’t the only personal note marking the progress of Pandora’s research and work. Her previous notes were confident, some of them even optimistic. This one was, actually, the last one she had made —”

 

“What are you saying, Doctor?” Woolsey asked. 

 

“I believe she did experiment on herself. She seemed and sounded desperate enough to do so, and I think that is the last thing she’d done,” Doctor Hampton finished. 

 

Everyone present shared a heavy, pointed look. 

 

“If she didn’t survive her own experiment —” Zelenka started but didn’t finish. Everyone looked at Kanaan, who pressed his lips into a tight line. 

 

“Then we must find out more about this machine,” Kanaan said gravely. “As quickly as we can.”

 

*

 

“What happened?”

 

The gravity of Carson’s eyes was pulling Teyla down to sit on a chair nearby, and Carson knelt in front of her. 

 

 “Carson?” Teyla prodded, and a feeling of regret was already spreading its fingers through her chest. She convinced Charin to go through heart surgery, a procedure that was not uncommon on Earth — that was what Carson had told her and she had believed him. But it took Teyla quite a long time to convince Charin, and not only that. She had used her love for the old woman as a bargaining chip, and ultimately, Charin agreed because her love for Teyla was greater than anything else. 

 

“’It’s not good, love,” he said first, and his face carried an apology. Teyla didn’t want him to apologize, she felt exclusively responsible for anything that might have happened. She was the only one responsible. It was her choice, she spent two weeks talking Charin into the heart surgery; Charin, who was still healthy enough, and Teyla was wondering what her mind was doing to her. She was raised in a community that believed in prayers and visions, and now she wondered if it was wrong to trust such a sentiment. Perhaps she should have talked to someone, someone like Elizabeth or Rodney and allow them to convince her that things which couldn’t be proven were probably unlikely to exist. But many times she felt torn between her old knowledge and the new one, and two worlds she was living in. “Her heart stopped during the surgery. We managed to revive her but —”

 

Sometimes Teyla felt like she walked through a rift between two worlds. Like she didn’t belong to either of them.

 

“But? Carson? Did she die?”

 

“No, love. She is alive, but she is in a coma, and we don’t know if she will wake up,” Carson’s eyes were heavy and sad, still apologizing, still filled with compassion Teyla didn’t think she deserved. Couldn’t he see that it was her fault? That she should have let things go the way they were supposed to, that one couldn’t belong to two different worlds at once? If she pulled herself between them, it was by her own choice, but Charin didn’t want that. 

 

She swallowed through her tight throat and pushed the tears back. No. She wouldn’t cry. She felt she didn’t deserve it. 

 

“Can I see her?” she asked instead. 

 

Carson nodded. “Certainly, love. I’ll take you to her.”

 

As she stood up, her steps were uncertain. Teyla felt she had lost her balance — if she even had it to begin with; and she started to wonder if her choice to live here, to essentially leave her people, was the right one — and with that thought she felt weak and dizzy and everything turned into darkness. 

Box of Dreams, Part V >

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