Entaillen 10

by Domenika Marzione

They move through the hallways silently and surprisingly quickly once they get their rhythm going, especially now that McKay has figured out that every locked door is opened by the same key. Suarez is in front, checking every doorway and intersection and never moving too far ahead. McKay is next, since he's got the remote, and Lorne is with him because even if McKay isn't saying anything, Lorne can still see the fear in his eyes and so he tries to be a presence, if not necessarily actual protection armed only with a spoon and half a decade of haphazard hand-to-hand training. He feels naked in a way that has nothing to do with his bare feet. It's like a cross between a horror movie (don't go in there!) and those nightmares where you're walking around your high school without your pants.

Yoni and Sheppard are behind them, Yoni more guiding than supporting Sheppard, and behind them are Ronon, Ortilla, and Reletti. Reletti isn't steady enough on his feet to avoid being mostly carried by the other two, but they haven't had to stop for him to be sick, so Lorne will call it even. Teyla is bringing up the rear, although Lorne can't see her past the trio in between.

They don't know if the building is underground or just the floor they're on or if it's just windowless. No matter why, they have no real way of telling directionality or progress. Reletti is their team's best scout, but Suarez knows what he's doing and he's being careful not to lead them in circles. (Ronon isn't as good indoors as out, Lorne knows, plus he's half of Reletti's forward momentum.)

A raised fist signals a stop and Suarez indicates that he's going to check out what's inside an open doorway to their right. Lorne moves up to cover him, gesturing for McKay to stay where he is. Yoni leaves Sheppard leaning on the wall next to McKay and joins Lorne in the doorway. Suarez circles around the desk of what looks like someone's office; the lights are off, which would be odd in normal circumstances, but Lorne's gotten too used to Atlantis turning off the lights in his office when he goes down the hall to find someone or gets sidetracked en route to the supply closet.

Suarez moving carefully and in absolute silence and Lorne respects his skill even as he wishes Suarez would move faster because he is heading toward a window. Suarez finally gets there and looks out and around and down, then turns and gestures for Lorne to join him. Yoni nods that he'll stay put and Lorne goes directly to where Suarez is standing.

They are definitely looking to go down rather than up or out. Definitely not out. Lorne can't even see the ground, can only see the night skyline of a city that looks closer in size to Anchorage than Atlantis. There are a few other buildings as tall or taller, but he can't even guesstimate how far up they are. It's not as tall as looking out from the balcony behind the control room, but it's got to be at least fifty stories. Maybe twice that. It looks like they're in the middle of the city, which is just not helpful, and he can't see any place that might have the stargate. Granted, you can't see the stargate in Colorado Springs, either. There are identical tall, well-illuminated buildings at the edge of the city and Lorne tries to commit their upper features to memory so that they'll maybe have a landmark when they're lower down and outside. If they can't find the stargate, then maybe they can at least get out of the city until they do find it.

Either way, finding a hostage who can get them out has gone from 'good idea' to 'necessity.'

He sighs quietly and nods to Suarez, who is watching him and they both head back to where Yoni is waiting in the doorway. At Yoni's cocked eyebrow, he points downward and frowns and Yoni nods, like bad news is what he is expecting. Probably is.

Everyone is up against the wall when he emerges, eyes on him. Lorne goes over to Sheppard, tells him what he saw, and gets pretty much the same look as he'd gotten from Yoni. Neither Sheppard nor Reletti are improved any, so it's just a matter of getting everyone propped up before they continue on, looking for some way down from this skyscraper.

It's another hallway before they find a stairwell. It's not ideal, or even practical, but apparently all of their luck has been put toward not being found out instead of, say, finding an elevator. McKay helps Yoni with Sheppard and Ortilla and Ronon just pick Reletti's legs up and they start down. They stop when a spoon clatters to the floor, echoing loudly. They wait a moment to listen, but there's either nobody in the stairwell with them or no one thinks the noise is that unusual. And so they continue down.

Ten flights down and the stairs are no less impractical and Sheppard is getting too dizzy to move easily on his own.

"Scout the next floor," Lorne tells Suarez. They collect in the stairs below the landing, Sheppard and Reletti seated together and everyone else resting nearby.

"Five minutes," Lorne tells Suarez. They don't have watches, but they can one-Mississippi-two-Mississippi it close enough. "Try to find an elevator or a transporter."

"Aye aye, sir," Suarez replies, nods to Ortilla (Reletti is sitting with his eyes closed), and goes.

Lorne knows staying in one place isn't wise. Even if this is an office building after hours and there's nobody in the halls, they're going to be missed in their cell soon, if they haven't been yet.

"Did you see the stargate from the window, Major?" Teyla asks. She is sitting two steps below him and looks up.

"No," he replies. "My guess is that it's indoors somewhere."

Ronon looks skeptically at him. Back in the Milky Way, there are enough stargates tucked inside of temples or otherwise hidden from the sky that it's a viable notion, but in all of their adventures in Pegasus, the stargate has always been outdoors and Atlantis's interior gate is an oddity.

"Or perhaps it is back where it was when we passed through it," Teyla suggests, clearly not sold on the sheltered gate idea.

"Either way, we have to figure out how to get to it," Sheppard says in a low voice, barely audible.

They haven't discussed hostage-taking with anyone, although he's sure it has crossed at least Ronon's mind by now.

"Or our gear," McKay says. He's down at the bottom of the staircase. "The PDA can lead us to the gate through the energy readings."

"If it works here," Yoni points out. "It didn't work in the forest. If they are using technology to disable the Ancients," he gestures with his hand toward Reletti and Sheppard, "then it stands to reason that they are also disabling Ancient technology."

McKay sags and Lorne thinks that he forgot that the PDAs didn't work.

"Four minutes, sir," Ortilla announces. Lorne nods.

"Maybe we'll find a lab," Sheppard says. "There's enough technology involved in keeping us prisoner that they'll need to have some sort of repair room. You can cobble something together there."

McKay looks like he's going to say something snarky back, but whatever it gets swallowed by the opening of the door above them and the half-beat of held breaths and stopped hearts until they see that it's Suarez.

"I think I've got us something that'll get us downstairs, sir," Suarez says, dropping into a crouch to talk to Lorne even as everyone else is already working on standing up. "Not sure if it's an elevator or a transporter or something in between. But it's got sliding doors and buttons with stuff on them and it's the size of a closet."

Lorne grins wryly. "I guess that'll do," he says, pushing himself into standing up. "Good work, Sergeant."

"Thank you, sir." A grin accompanies the words and Lorne realizes that it's been a long time since any of them have had cause to smile for something that wasn't sarcasm or irony.

As they get everyone up again, Lorne wonders if the break did Sheppard and Reletti more harm than good. Neither looks especially well right now and Ortilla threatens Reletti with dire consequences if he hurls on him. Nevertheless, they get them back up the stairs mostly under their own power -- Reletti growls at the suggestion that he be lifted to the landing -- and through the door.

"It's two hallways over, sir," Suarez explains once they're all in the hallway, gesturing to the left. They start down the corridor, slowly at first until Sheppard and Reletti get used to moving again.

They make it down the first hallway and are about to turn into the second when Suarez halts them. From his hand signals, he sees someone.

Lorne looks over at Sheppard, who nods.

"Armed?" Lorne asks quietly. Suarez shakes his head no without turning around. "Can you take them?"

Suarez turns his head for a quick look back, as if to judge the seriousness of the request. "Sir?"

"Capture, not disable," Lorne explains. "We want someone who can get us out of here. If you need a hand, I'll send someone with you."

Suarez has turned back to face forward. "I'll take care of it, sir."

"Be careful," Lorne tells him, then pats his shoulder and Suarez slips around the corner. He turns back to the watching group.

"Ronon?" he gestures with his chin for Ronon to come over. Ortilla takes the bulk of Reletti's weight and Ronon does. "If you hear anything, go help Sergeant Suarez."

Ronon takes a look around the corner, then turns back and nods. There's a hard gleam in his eyes, almost predatory. He watches and waits and Lorne ignores the questioning looks coming from everyone not Sheppard until they hear a muffled whimper and Ronon disappears around the corner, appearing a moment later, followed by Suarez, who is guiding a terrified man with one hand twisted behind his back and the handle of one of Suarez's spoons pressed up against his throat.

Behind him, Lorne can hear Teyla gasp and Sheppard muttering directions to someone else. Lorne turns to Ronon. "Hold him."

Ronon grins at the man, who is probably in his fifties and who visibly quails as Ronon passes him, taking over for Suarez.

"I don't--" the man begins and Ronon clamps a huge hand over his mouth, squeezing his shoulder hard with the other.

"Speak quietly," Ronon tells him in a flat growl, "And only the truth."

He waits for the man to nod before removing the hand that was effectively covering both his nose and mouth. Taking a gasping breath, he looks at Lorne. "I don't know anything," he pleads in a desperate whisper. "I can't help you. Please. I have children."

Lorne holds his hands up, both to stop the begging and to keep Ronon from muzzling him again. "We don't want to hurt you," he says. "We just want to go home. Same as you do. You help us, we help you."

He ignored the illogic of that proposition.

"I can't--" Ronon squeezes his shoulder and the man freezes.

"Do you know the way out of here?" Lorne asks, making sure to keep his voice calm, despite the fear that they'll be discovered, that something will go wrong.

The man nods.

"Then you can help us," Lorne tells him. "Do you know where the stargate is?"

Where there'd been a flash of hope, now the man looks only fearful and confused. "The what?"

"The Ring," Lorne says, gesturing appropriately. "The Lantean transporter."

The man shakes his head, tears falling down his cheeks. "We have no Lantean technology here."

"Big circle, symbols around the edge, usually stays in the forest with the creatures?" Lorne prompts, although he's pretty sure the guy doesn't know what the hell he's talking about.

"Anything that comes from the planet is brought to the fifth sublevel," the man says in a tremulous voice.

So much for them being on the same world.

"Can you get us there?" Lorne asks quickly. They have to get moving.

"Yes, I guess, but I don't have the authorization," the man protests. "You need keys and--"

"Will this do?" McKay comes forward, holding the remote.

If it's possible, the man pales further. "Y-yes."

"Then let's go," Ronon growls, squeezing the man's shoulder until he whimpers, then letting go. Lorne glares at him and Ronon looks back challenging him.

"Go help Staff Sergeant Ortilla," Lorne tells him, not flinching. He knows this is mostly adrenaline on Ronon's part, maybe some reflex from when he was a Runner. It's not useful now. "Sergeant Suarez, escort our friend, please."

Ronon moves past him and McKay with body language that is both proud and sullen. He knows he's gone too far. Lorne doesn't care whether he's sorry, just that he stopped.

"We just want to go home," Lorne tells the man. "We don't want to hurt you -- or anyone else here. We just want to go. Help us and nothing is going to happen to you. Scream, fight, or fail to warn us about an alarm and we will hurt you. Do you understand?"

The man nods, too shaken to speak.

"Sergeant, let's go."

Sheppard comes off of the wall himself, grinning at Yoni, who looks unimpressed and ducks so that he can pull Sheppard's arm across his shoulder. Ortilla and Ronon steady Reletti and Lorne gets a nod from Teyla, so he turns back to Suarez to give the go-ahead when there's a click and the lights go out.

"Fuck," Sheppard mutters.
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26 December, 2006