Agnus Dei

by Domenika Marzione

Rodney finds Ancient tech that stores Ancient plague. One wellmis-placed ATA touch and it's let loose into the city. Discuss.

He came through the stargate and entered a world that felt more foreign to him than any he'd stepped foot in over the past year.

"Welcome home, Major," General O'Neill said with subdued warmth. Behind him was a crowd of brass and scientists and a few who were both and one or three who were neither.

He smiled weakly and awkwardly. He didn't feel welcome and this didn't feel like home. But everyone was watching him, especially Sergeant Leary, who was looking up at him from the gurney he'd accompanied through the gate.

"Thank you, sir," he replied. He didn't say it was good to be back because, frankly, it wasn't.

They took him to the infirmary along with Leary, but he wouldn't let them look him over until he'd seen everyone else who'd been taken back before him. Most of the serious cases had been farmed out to the local hospital's trauma center, but there were still a dozen or so marines, half of whom were his and the rest had come with Everett. They were wounded defending his city, however, and they might as well have been his. He thanked them all, joked with the ones who could, and simply held the hands of the ones who couldn't. They all had questions about how the battle had fared after they'd been evacuated to Earth and he told them what he could: Atlantis was safe for now.

They finally got him to the clinic where the pretty Filipina doctor carefully undid the makeshift sling and didn't bother to hide her reactions to the ragged wound that had been inexpertly bound and covered. He was a walking bruise, more or less, but the burns weren't too bad and the rest of the gashes and scrapes had scabbed already. She told the generals who'd come to see him that he was exhausted, a little dehydrated, and his arm would heal with one hell of a scar. He was getting off easy, but the news didn't cheer him any.

They gave him clean BDUs and assigned him a room where he could sleep, shower, and change in whatever order he wanted. The doctor gave him an expanse of plastic to keep his arm dry. He felt like a prisoner being escorted to his cell and tried not to believe that he might have to get used to the feeling.

"Tell me about the plague," O'Neill said as they watched the children play in the distance.

Three days buried under NORAD, visiting the wounded and organizing and editing the endless reports he'd dutifully written up while in Atlantis. Finally O'Neill had told him that they were going out, that he should see the sun he'd been born under at least once before they got dragged into days upon days of meetings. They'd gone out for a lunch notable for its good hamburgers and awkward silences and then ended up in a park, sitting on an isolated picnic table.

"Three day incubation period. First symptoms are flu-like and by the time you get your first bloody nose, you've got a week until you're too delirious to care that you're dying." He answers in a monotone, the litany burned into his brain like the takeoff protocol for a helicopter -- a list that defines everything that comes after it. "Survival rate's under 9%. Survival rate with your faculties intact's lower. Passed on through bodily fluids as well as airborne, but it doesn't live long outside the body, so it pretty much required proximity."

"Did you get sick?"

"No," he answered, unable to keep the emotion out of his voice. "I brought back reports on why some people were immune. Nothing to do with the ATA gene."

"I saw," O'Neill admitted. "Jonathan Safir...?"

He shook his head. Safir, the primary author of all of the early plague reports, had died along with most of the medical unit, working until the dementia set it. It had been Safir who'd told him to forcibly quarantine Beckett and a few of the other doctors to make sure they had someone to tend to the survivors. Yoni had been dead ten months and Carson hadn't forgiven him yet even as he'd forgiven McKay, who in turn would never forgive himself.

There was a lot of guilt in Atlantis. Sometimes it felt like it wasn't the waves that would drown them.

"They're going to ride herd on you about Sumner," O'Neill said after a long silence. "Not too badly, I don't think. Everett scared the crap out of us all and everything you had to do afterward has earned you the benefit of the doubt."

He nodded, unsure of how he felt. He'd been expecting the worst -- accusations leading to charges of fragging, of cowardice, of murder. He'd been packed along as the Spicoli of the expedition, out of the chain of command and just along for the ride. He'd had no orders to obey, no expectations to meet. He'd expected the brass to look at what he'd done, come up with a list of what he'd failed to do, and then he'd learn the hard way what they did with prisoners who knew too much classified information to be let near anyone else. He hadn't expected mercy because he'd never offered it to himself.

In the course of three weeks he'd gone from spare part to sole commander and there hadn't been time for mercy.

On the first day, he'd killed the commanding officer. On the fifth, they'd tricked an energy sucking entity through the wormhole. On the tenth day, they thought they had their first round of allergies and flu. On the thirteenth, they realized that it wasn't the flu at all and was instead a plague of unknown provenance (that had turned out to be an Ancient jar opened by an overeager McKay). On the twenty-first day he'd sewn up the shroud of Elizabeth Weir, the seventeenth of seventy-one deaths.

"Do you want to go back?" O'Neill asked curiously.

"I didn't want to leave, sir," he answers automatically. Because whatever else, that much was certain. "It's home."

feed me on LJ?

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27 May, 2006