Entaillen 6

by Domenika Marzione

The first time he had ever been interrogated for real (as opposed to the SERE training), it had been on board a ha'tak and he'd held out for as long as he could before telling the Jaffa tasering him what he wanted to know. Years later and it still felt like he'd given in too easily, although with enough hindsight he could agree (intellectually, at least) with the shrink that he'd done all right under the circumstances. The second time had been kind of a wash because he'd been concussed and wasn't making any sense and the dumb bastards who were trying to trade SG-11 for relief from Olokun's minion's minion's tithes had come to realize that only too late and died for the mistake. By the third time, lying on the floor of an al'kesh cargo hold with blood in his mouth and a broken pinky, he'd almost gotten the rhythm of it and spent his energy focusing on what to tell (nothing useful) and how (before they got sadistically violent) instead of on the feelings of failure or how maybe he should have stayed with Big Air Force because the POW ratio among Stratotanker pilots was really damned low.

Now, years later and a galaxy removed, the lessons still apply and are all that much easier to recall. Don't get frustrated. Don't believe what you're told. Don't forget that the important thing is to survive, not to be a hero.

(After the third time he'd been interrogated, after they'd been rescued by SG-1 and SG-3, Lorne had accepted a careful hand up from Jack O'Neill and a pat on the shoulder and an appraising look. "It sucks when you get used to it, doesn't it?")

He has spent his time in the chair thus far reacquainting himself with his hearing, something that's far more disorienting than he'd have expected. Even without the man hovering in and out of his personal space. The man (Sid, Lorne decides to call him) circles around him, sits down, doesn't keep still long enough for Lorne to get his bearings on the room. It's like being underwater, everything distorted and slow to reach him. Lorne closes his eyes to listen without seeing, but Sid makes sudden loud noises -- slapping a table, snapping his fingers by Lorne's ear -- that keep him from finding center. It's part of the game, he understands that even as he's not able to quite overcome it. He twitches and reacts every time.

"We came in peace," he says again, for what must be the fifth time. His voice is probably little more than a whisper, but it feels loud in his head. "We came to explore. We meant no harm -- we mean no harm. Just let us go and we'll be gone."

Sid laughs, an ugly sound. It grates in his ears, making the headache worse, and he closes his eyes again.

His headache, constant and annoying and there for the last however many weeks (he knows that time bends and folds when you're in captivity; SERE taught him the hard way that under the right conditions, three hours can feel like twenty-four) isn't going away now that he can hear. He's been dimly hoping that the two were related and is disappointed that it isn't. He has no good explanation for the way his skin always feels like it's on fire; he's stopped scratching because all he was doing was making himself bleed.

"Peaceful explorers," Sid muses from somewhere behind him, dry sarcasm dripping from his voice. "You were very well-armed for 'peaceful exploration.'"

Lorne sighs. "Well, sometimes we run into situations like this."

It's not a helpful answer -- snark is not what is called for here. But he's on his edge and he knows it and better to let it out now instead of later, when the pressure is on.

"Your playground is no longer so much fun?"

It's Lorne's turn to chuff a laugh. "My playground. If it were my playground, I'd stop getting kidnapped and tied to chairs."

"Don't mock me, Lantean," Sid warns, a spike of menace underneath the silky words. And then he say something in a language Lorne can identify, but not understand. Which doesn't ease him any because why is Sid speaking Ancient?

Lorne isn't sure if he's supposed to respond to whatever Sid said (he can't) or admit that he doesn't understand it. Or if the wise course is to not even confess that he knows what language it is. If in doubt, play dumb. Because he's starting to suspect that this is yet another time when those oh-so-wacky Ancients are going to end up being more of a pain than a help.

"Why have you brought your menagerie to Thador, Lantean?" Sid continues when Lorne says nothing. "Did you think that we would not know you after so many generations? Did you think to hide yourself among your creations and we would not see the danger?"

If Sid thinks he's an Ancient, then how did he draw that conclusion? From interrogating one of the others or through technology -- Lorne has long ago passed the point where it's old hat to be identified by his damned ATA gene. And is Sid an Ancient? Have they come across the descendants of some enclave that hid from the Wraith? Was there some Ancient schism? Is Sid angry that his ancestors didn't get Atlantis in the divorce? And what's up with the animal references? Considering that they've got werewolves patrolling their forests, Sid really shouldn't be one to talk. Even if Lorne knew what the hell he was referring to.

Fingers snap by his left ear and Lorne jumps (as far as he can being tied to the chair) and opens his eyes. "Answer me."

"I don't know what you're talking about," Lorne says after taking a deep breath. "So I can't answer you."

"Why have you come here?" Sid repeats and there's no more cajoling, just coldness. Lorne braces himself because this is the end of the soft sell and the hard sell usually begins with something that's going to leave him with an aching jaw.

"We're peaceful explorers, just wandering around the galaxy," he replies, looking straight ahead. He doesn't want to close his eyes any more, even if it's still too much to see and hear at once. "You can like the answer or not like the answer, but it won't change."

As if on cue, cool fingers grip his jaw hard enough to hurt as Sid turns his head to face him. "The half-breed monster is comely, granted, but we know her for what she is. Just as we know you for what you are. Now, what is your purpose here? Before my patience is tried beyond repair."

Lorne yanks his chin free (or, rather, Sid lets him go) and he turns away. Sid means Teyla, means her Wraith DNA, and Lorne tries to adjust, to make all of this make sense. To focus on the fact that Sid said "is" and not "was."

"What do you want me to say?" Lorne asks, tired all of a sudden; his headache is only getting worse with all of this stress and aural input. His adrenaline surge is AWOL, gone with the realization that this isn't going to be cleared up by some simple explanations, that this isn't just a mix-up -- or, rather, it is a mix-up and the other folks aren't interested in unscrewing it. "If I'm going to have to lie, I might as well come up with something that makes you happy. So tell me what you want me to say."

Sid laughs.

"Are the others safe?" Lorne asks when nothing else is forthcoming. "Are they being held here, too?"

"Your compatriots are here," Sid replies, surprising Lorne, who wasn't expecting an answer. "Your followers as well, even the half-breed monstrosity."

"She's not a monster," Lorne bites back. He wonders if Sid would care if he knew that Lorne isn't an Ancient, isn't even a descendant of one the way Sheppard and Reletti are. That he is as much a creation as Teyla. "She's a better person than you'll ever be."

Sid pulls the chair he was sitting in close to Lorne, then sits again so that their knees are almost touching. "Has time taught your people humility, Lantean?" he asks with what Lorne is almost tempted to call curiosity. "Has the weight of years and failure dragged you down from your thrones? Pulled you down from your would-be godhood to see the wreckage of your hubris?"

Lorne wonders, not for the first time, what sort of history the Ancients conveniently lost when they packed up Atlantis. They confessed to the big oopsie that was the Wraith, but how much more is there? Was this planet, Thador, once part of their empire gone rogue or were they always enemies? Because that's what this has to be -- a grudge that spans millennia. He knows better than to think that old enmities would fade with time. These people have hated the Ancients for at least the last ten thousand years and the odds are that their current reasons are only peripherally related to the original ones.

"Can I see them?" Lorne asks.

"When you tell me why you are here."

They go back and forth, around and sideways, sometimes with inveigling and sometimes with a fist, until they are back where they started.

"We will kill them," Sid tells him calmly, standing up. "Starting with the half-breed monster, moving on to the men who believe you their gods."

The irony of spending his first years in the Stargate Program saying the very same thing (except for the threats of murder) does not escape him. But the right answer is, repeatedly.

"Don't you think I'd have changed my story by now?" Lorne asks plaintively. He's tired, he's sore, he's thirsty, and his nerves are as raw as the skin under his bindings. "We came in peace."

"You could not have come in peace," Sid says calmly. "We simply have yet to discover why you have come."

Sid says something in another language to the two giants by the door and they approach and Lorne is too wrung out not to shrink back a little in his chair. Hans presses a button on a control attached to his belt and Lorne's wrists are free, at least from the chair. Franz grabs them before he can do anything and Lorne winces and stifles a groan at the firm pressure on sore skin. The cuffs are soft, but they come together like magnets and might as well be steel for all that Lorne can get them apart.

While Hans aims a weapon at Lorne's chest, Franz pulls him up and pushes him toward the door, one beefy hand on his shoulder. Lorne is frankly too relieved that he hasn't been knocked out again that he stumbles along. They stop in front of Sid.

"I hope that you are more forthcoming when next we talk," Sid says.

The walk back to his cell is unremarkable. He's not blindfolded, but it makes no difference. The halls are identical and unremarkable and while Lorne does his best to keep track of his right turns and his left turns, Hans and Franz are bypassing enough locks and alarms that it almost seems pointless.

They come to a door and stop and Hans pushes Lorne toward it without it opening up. Lorne holds out his bound hands to protect his face, but there's no impact. Instead, he goes through the door, stumbling as his hands come apart and he stops, off-balance in more ways than just literal, and looks around at a large room and the occupants inside.

Sheppard, looking far worse than Lorne feels, smiles weakly. "Was wondering when you'd show."
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26 December, 2006