Qui Habitat: Chapter Ten

by Domenika Marzione

"You got everything you need?" Sheppard asked Cam, wading through the last of the marines milling around the gate room floor. Sheppard's remarks to the assembled group -- Cam's sea of cammy-covered humanity, plus the group readying to go to the site they'd chosen as an interrogation planet -- had been, as usual, mercifully brief and to the point, and Cam was grateful. He'd have to do his own bit of talking once they were on-planet and he didn't want anyone tuning him out because they'd had their quota of listening to officer soliloquies for the day.

"One standard prior-grabbing kit, a couple of Wraith stunners, and a company-plus-one of marines. I'd say we're packed to go," Cam answered. He'd gotten everything he'd asked for, which had included Jonas (and his geek squad) but not his off-world team. "I really hope this doesn't turn into the OK Corral."

"Me, too," Sheppard agreed with a grimace. They both knew that the odds of this ending without a shot fired were somewhere between slim and laughable.

Behind Sheppard, the stargate activated as the sergeant at the dialer began the sequence to open a wormhole to MR9-552. Cam looked around, finding Jonas (discussing something with McKay, who wasn't leaving Atlantis), Captain Armstrong (listening to his first sergeant and nodding), and then Lieutenant Osgeny (adjusting his holster). Everyone looked ready for whatever they encountered on the other side of the wormhole.

"Get 'er done," Sheppard said, patting him on the shoulder and then moving off to where his group was parked, backed up near the stairs and the rear entrance to the gate room. There wasn't much floor space.

As the wormhole was established, Cam looked up to where Weir was standing with Lorne, Caldwell, and Radner. She gave him a nod and he nodded back. He hadn't been party to the discussion between Weir and Sheppard, but he understood that she was willing to accept the probably-messy outcome so long as he gave a good faith effort at diplomacy first. Sheppard had implied that she perhaps thought that Cam was better suited to that than other possible candidates.

"Let's get a move on," he said and jumped up on to the gate platform, not looking behind him to see that everyone was following.

It was just after civilian dawn on Cordinar when they arrived, the sky still pink and purple and everything in the not-quite-shadow of early morning. It was cold enough for Cam to see his breath, but he figured he'd be fine once they started moving. He waited off to the side for everyone to come through the gate and assemble.

Jonas's team was the remainder of the group he'd worked with back in the Milky Way, although there might have been a couple of Atlantis people added. Cam had worked in parallel with Jonas rather than in partnership with him and so while Cam could recognize a few of the faces of Jonas's people, their names and exact purposes were still a mystery more than a year on. Most of the time, he didn't care and this was one of them -- all he ultimately wanted to know was that he returned to Atlantis with the same number he'd left with. Ditto for the marines, of course, but Cam wasn't as worried about them.

The wormhole closed behind the last of the leathernecks and he waited for them to be settled before he went over what needed to be gone over. Reviewing the rules of engagement and the mission parameters was brief and a little nostalgic. The very concept of RoE felt a little quaint; it was a relic of combat against an enemy unlike any they faced anymore (in truth, one they hadn't faced in generations), a system of restraint and honor that bound -- and hobbled -- only one side. Cam knew he'd been fighting dirty for too long when he started bristling at the cost of maintaining civility. He kept his reservations to himself, however, as he spoke to the collected marines.

The plan for the morning was to take a platoon into the town, leaving Armstrong with his marines to guard the stargate and wait for word whether they would be coming in as support or rescue force. A platoon of marines was going to be unsubtle enough; if he was going to make a good faith effort at the diplomacy thing -- and he had no doubt that Weir would be able to tell if he lied about that -- then leaving the bulk of the marines behind was probably imperative.

"Lieutenant, which way're we going?"

Osgeny look startled -- he always looked a little startled; Cam thought it was the eyebrows -- but he pointed off to the east, toward the rising sun. "It's about half a klick, sir."

The ground near the stargate was well-trod and hard to get directionality from, but once they got past the trees it was easy enough to see which way to go. The road wasn't paved, but it was wide and pretty flat except for what were probably wagon furrows. Trading planets were all alike in certain ways no matter what galaxy.

"Your marines ready?" Cam asked Osgeny as they walked. Well, Cam walked. Osgeny loped.

"Yes, sir," Osgeny replied.

The best case scenario was to get the prior to the interrogation site, preferably without too much of a fuss but Cam would exchange fuss for answers. The more likely scenario involved having to get whatever questions they could get asked right here before the prior did whatever he was going to do. Either he'd go flambé or else he'd start taking out other people and then the marines were going to have to try and kill him and that would get messy fast. If the odds were in favor of Cam failing spectacularly in meeting his mission objective, he'd rather just have a barbecued prior than collateral damage and dented marines.

They had to squint as they walked directly into the sun and Cam tried to look down, but it wasn't much help.

Maybe it was the sun in his eyes distracting him or maybe it was that he was a little out of practice, but he finally got a grasp on what had been bothering him since they'd come through the stargate. "A question, Lieutenant."

"Sir?" Osgeny jogged up. He had dropped a little behind, partially out of respect, partially out of fear that he'd have to carry on polite conversation with a superior officer, and mostly in case he had to run interference between the marines and Jonas's scientists. Who were not McKay's scientists and thus tended to play nicely with the boys with guns, but it made Osgeny feel useful, so Cam had let it slide without comment.

"Does this place seem a little quiet to you?" Cam had been to his fair share of market towns, both in the Milky Way and here in Pegasus, and they were all open for business with the dawn. Before the sun was up, off-world merchants were already on their way in, locals were already setting up, and the business of the day had already begun. As far after first light as it was and they should be seeing travelers' wagons, hearing voices, smelling both breakfast and the fresh manure of beasts of burden. There was none of that here.

Osgeny tilted his head as if to listen. "It could be a day when there's no market," he said, not sounding convinced. "Their sabbath?"

"Could be," Cam agreed, but called a halt anyway and leaned back to see where Jonas was standing; Jonas gave him a questioning look then came trotting up to the front.

"What's up?" Jonas asked.

"It's what isn't up," Cam replied, gesturing over his shoulder toward the town, now backlit on the horizon. "Quiet as a church mouse."

Jonas nodded absently and looked around. "It's not the right time of day for prostration," he said. "Wraith?"

Cam hadn't even thought about that possibility; he wasn't sure whether or not to be embarrassed by that oversight. He'd been trotting around Pegasus for a few months and his default bad guys were still from the galaxy he'd left behind.

"I don't think so, Mister Quinn," Osgeny replied, shaking his head. "It's not usually this quiet right after a Wraith attack and we haven't been gone long enough for the dust to settle."

Cam looked at the young man, who shrugged with something like self-deprecation; this was the sort of experience no one wanted to acquire and yet did anyway. They all did.

"We've been a few hours too late a few too many times, sir."

"Know the feeling, Lieutenant," Cam sighed. "Know the feeling."

They were silent in thought for a quick moment, the only noise the quiet rustling of the marines as they waited for Cam to review his options. He didn't especially care for any of them.

"You could be right and this could be their day of rest," he told Osgeny. "But I'm thinking that we're not gonna like whatever we find when we get there."

Next to him, Jonas shook his head in disgust, then turned away to go back to where his team was standing, not waiting to hear if Cam had any orders for him. Cam let him go. Jonas had been hoping that they'd be able to save this place from the Ori, this place that was maybe not even worthy of being the one where they got it right. This galaxy was their do-over after the Milky Way and if Gauhan had been a failure, maybe it had just been a slow start and not the continuation of past patterns. But now Cam suspected that it wasn't and he ignored his own disappointment as he had ignored Jonas's. There'd be time for that later; regrets were what AARs were for.

They started moving again, less faux-casually and more like a patrol through a bad neighborhood. Jonas's team had been permitted to tag along at the rear, but now they were turned into a middle column so as to be protected by the better-armed marines. Jonas's people weren't new to fighting their way out of situations or running from trouble, but they really hadn't ever fought their way in to trouble and Cam was trusting Jonas's judgment by letting them do so this time.

He could feel the tension among the group as they approached the first vestiges of civilization. The town, like pretty much every other world in Pegasus that he'd seen so far, started from nothing. There was no such thing as a walled city in this galaxy, or at least one that had been well-maintained over the millennia; there was no point in battlements and redoubts when the threats came from the sky with vastly superior firepower and the Wraith didn't let anything worth maintaining stand.

There was a turn in the road so that they were no longer walking straight into the sun and it was instead a blinding presence to their left. It allowed them to see (so long as they didn't look left), but there wasn't much to see -- and that's what worried him. He'd been speaking the truth to Osgeny; he'd arrived too late to save anyone more times than he'd like to count (but he did, remembering each planet). Even when the Ori had come in with armies and in no mood for anything but immediate submission, there were always stragglers -- sometimes shot down in mid-flight, sometimes perishing of the plague on the road to the stargate, sometimes still alive (by some very poor appraisal of 'life'). But there was none of that here.

"Okay," Cam said as they walked by an empty wagon parked in front of a small house. "This is officially not good."

The streets were empty. Not near-empty, but absolutely deserted. And silent. There were stables here and goat pens there and he couldn't hear a whinny or a snort or the shuffling sounds of animals awake before their masters. He looked down side streets, but nobody was carrying water from the wells or emptying chamber pots into the sewers Atlantis had helped build.

"Lieutenant!" One of the marines called out from behind Cam and Osgeny jogged over, followed by his gunny. The rest of the marines halted and slid into a defensive posture and Cam moved about its periphery, availing himself of the protection more to appease the marines than out of any real concern. He wasn't sure there was anything left here to hurt them.

It was still pretty dark in the town proper, the sun not yet high enough to be of any real use beyond not walking into walls and while there were lamps and sconces, their fuel had burned up hours ago. Holding his flashlight in one hand, he lifted up what turned out to be the lid of a cistern for rainwater and put it back down. Jonas, Cam, and Osgeny were carrying vials to collect blood and water and a few other substances -- testing for inactive plague -- but that could wait. Or might not be necessary after all.


Cam crossed through the murmuring marines to where Osgeny was standing. Osgeny gestured down with a tip of his head and Cam followed with his eyes to where Gunny Jenkins was pointing the beam of his flashlight.

"Ah, hell," he sighed. Mostly hidden by the dawn shadows, a young boy and a goat were lying on the ground, clearly dead. There were no signs of violence, at least no blood or bruising obvious without moving the bodies. The boy couldn't have been more than nine or ten, eyes wide open in fear, and Cam looked away for a moment to compose himself.

"He's still warmer than air temperature, sir," Osgeny said, voice not hiding his own reaction. "If he's been outside, then he should have cooled off faster."

"Which means that this happened not too long ago," Cam finished, watching as Gunny Jenkins knelt to close the boy's eyes. They were all wearing gloves as part of their combat gear, so Cam wasn't worried about contagion just yet. "And probably means that he's not the only one. Let's do a sweep to make sure. If this was prior plague, then there should be survivors somewhere."

The survivors would either be the converts (and with the converts, maybe the prior) or else they'd be the unfortunate souls left to bear witness to the awful power of the Ori and the equally awful price of resistance. The former would need to be met with guns and the latter with emergency medical care. The one positive of just missing the boy's death was that the survivors would probably still be in good enough shape to be transported to someplace they could be treated.

Osgeny gave the orders to his platoon to split into squads and search the town. Cam radioed Armstrong and told him to keep what he needed to defend the stargate but send everyone else forward to help search. Once he was done, he walked over to Jonas, who already seemed to know the details if the stormy look on his face was any indication.

"This doesn't make sense," Cam said as they watched the marines head off. "They only really started killing entire worlds once they were already established in the galaxy, once everyone knew who the Ori were and that they were coming. Nobody here knows but us."

And in this galaxy, where entire worlds were wiped out with terrifying regularity by the Wraith, who would even appreciate the message?

"Maybe we're the ones they want to warn," Jonas suggested, eyes on the tiny shrouded body by the door. One of the marines had found a blanket and wrapped the boy in it, setting down the tiny bundle in front of a doorway before running off to join his squad. "And they killed the Sodan pretty early on."

"The Sodan were punished for apostasy," Cam replied. Punished cruelly and inventively and made to suffer in ways that wounded far more profoundly than the physical injuries that had actually killed them. But Jonas knew all about that. "And if this was a message for us, then what was it? That they can reach here? We knew that. That they're ruthless? We knew that, too."

Jonas closed his eyes and rolled his neck. When he opened his eyes, Cam could see that he was finished with his grieving and his sympathy. This was the Jonas he'd come to know, the one Sam had said broke her heart a little every time she saw him. "We can't assume that they know who we really are. It makes sense that they do, but there's a lot about the Ori that doesn't make sense."

Cam nodded because Jonas was right. They couldn't afford to hope that the Ori would show up in Pegasus and not know who was in Atlantis, but nothing about this incursion so far had gone the way they'd expected and this was just one more thing. "We should look around."

Taking Jonas's team, they went down one of the streets the marines hadn't gotten to yet. Cam had turned down Osgeny's suggestion of keeping some marines for protection; Jonas's team wasn't the usual collection of soft civilians, but in the eerie silence, a few extra rifles held by hands that instinctively knew how to use them would have been nice. Conversely, without any marines around, nobody was there to give him dirty looks for going through the doors first.

They found pretty much what they'd been expecting. Most of the dead were still in their beds, although, judging by the bodies in kitchens and washrooms, some of the Cordinarians had apparently started on their day when whatever it was had struck. It didn't look like the usual kind of prior plague -- not enough sputum and the bodies didn't look flushed and sweaty -- but Cam wasn't going to rule it out. He'd only ever seen its victims after they'd been suffering for a while -- and what little he remembered from his own infection. A new variety, one that was so quick to kill, was not a cheerful thought. Nor was the thought that they were possibly infecting themselves with something they couldn't cure.

There was nothing to say, so they bore witness silently, looking around for anything that they recognized as related to the Ori. They found a couple of what they assumed were local translations of the Book of Origin -- it wasn't a picture book, but the iconography was the same. Unless they found a survivor, however, it was going to be an educated guess about a dead language.

By the sixth house, Cam was ready to radio Armstrong and tell him to report in to Atlantis and to the gamma site where Sheppard and Safir and the others would be still setting up camp. They would have to search the entire town to make sure that the prior wasn't anywhere with converts, but Cam was pretty sure that if anyone was around, someone from Atlantis would have encountered them by now. There was no reason for them to hide.

"Sir?" Osgeny's voice came over the radio. Cam thought he sounded a little angry, but there was plenty here to be angry about. "We've got some live ones."

Cam stepped outside of the house he'd just entered. "They locals?"

"No, sir," Osgeny replied, definitely angry. Contained, calm, but clearly angry. "They're traders from another world who came to run a stall at the market, took a look around, and saw a business opportunity."

"Fantastic," Cam sighed. In the corner of his eye, he could see Jonas watching him from the doorway, but Cam didn't acknowledge him. "Where've you got these stellar examples of humanity?"

Osgeny gave him directions, but they were pretty useless considering that neither Cam nor Osgeny knew the layout of the town well enough to be able to identify their positions relative to each other. They agreed to meet by where they had entered the town.

Cam turned to Jonas. "The marines have picked up some scavengers," he said. Jonas made a disgusted face and Cam shrugged in agreement. They knew this sort of thing happened in Pegasus the way it had happened at home -- the Wraith culled a planet and people came in to take what had been left behind. But there was something especially low about rifling through the possessions of the dead before they were even cold. "You want to come or to keep looking?"

"Keep looking," Jonas replied. "The faster we get done, the faster we get out of here."

Cam nodded. "Keep an eye out," he warned. "Anyone walking around without a P-90 can probably be assumed to be hostiles."

Jonas grimaced, then turned back into the building and Cam trotted back in the direction they'd come. He found Osgeny, Gunny Jenkins, and one of Osgeny's squads already waiting, a half-dozen men (although upon closer inspection it proved to be five men and one woman) on their knees in the dirt with their hands flexicuffed behind them. The prisoners looked up at him with fear unalloyed by defiance. Cam wondered what the marines had done or said. He drew Osgeny off to the side.

"They think that we're part of the cartel and that we think that they killed everyone, sir," Osgeny explained, correctly interpreting Cam's expression. "We haven't disabused them of the notion."

That would explain the terrified looks. Hanzis had pulled together intel on this association and it sounded a little more like the Lucians than maybe they had first thought -- opportunistic and vaguely menacing, not enough to galvanize a resistant response but enough to ease their way. And apparently with enough of a reputation that nobody was surprised to see armed men checking up on one of their members.

"May be useful," Cam said, mostly to assure Osgeny that they were on the same page. "We should probably send them on to the interrogation site, let Colonel Sheppard and the others see what they can get out of them. And test them for the plague -- we don't want them carrying it back to wherever they came from."

Osgeny made a face. "If the prior was here for three days -- four days -- before this happened, sir, then I think we're probably far too late on that score."

"I know it, Lieutenant," Cam sighed. The plague had spread like wildfire on Earth, where there had been a short incubation followed by a quick quarantine. Here, they were looking at asymptomatic transmission over Lord knew how many planets. "All the more reason to get done here as fast as possible. Take our new friends to Captain Armstrong and tell him to punt 'em through to the gamma site and that it's probably safe for the med squad if they want to come through. And then get back here."

"Aye aye, sir," Osgeny said, pausing before he turned. "What are we going to do with the bodies?"

Cam shrugged. He'd been thinking about that, too. "Bury 'em, I guess. It'll have to be mass graves."

Cam had gotten this mission because prior-napping was something he'd done before, but he had done this -- cleaning up massacres -- before, too, and it wasn't really any easier. They'd look around, see if there was any way to tell how Cordinar had handled their dead. Back in the Milky Way, picking up the local burial practices hadn't been hard, but in Pegasus most deaths weren't ones that left a body -- or weren't really even deaths, depending on how long the Wraith kept you in their fridge.

Osgeny nodded and left him, ordering his marines to get their prisoners to their feet and en route to the stargate.

"So does this mean we're not immune anymore?" Byrd asked as they ambled down the road from the stargate. Byrd, as usual, was not watching where he was going. However, he was watching where Jonas was going, a compromise Cam was willing to accept.

"Not necessarily," Jonas answered, not looking up from his PDA and thus requiring Byrd's attentions. They were trying to track down a community of refugees from a planet that had been culled by the Wraith the previous year and Atlantis had helped re-settle. This wasn't the first group who'd upped and disappeared and while an initial theory had been that the Wraith had found the Torani again, the Ori arrival on Gauhan had given them cause to reevaluate. "It means that we might not be, but that we can't tell for sure."

Medical had been doing whatever it did for the last not-quite-three weeks since most of Cordinar had woken up dead and come up with no definitive answers. Most of Cordinar, since while there'd been no survivors on the planet, they hadn't found as many bodies as they'd expected and weren't sure where the others were. They could have left Cordinar with the prior, they could have been off-world when the plague hit (nobody had returned to Cordinar from abroad, although the marines had turned away many traders during the clean-up), it could have been some combination of the two or it could have been something else they weren't imagining right now.

"I'm sure Doctor Safir or Doctor Beckett would have said something if he thought we were at risk," Cam said, mostly because Byrd was still looking worried. "They don't think the plague on Cordinar was that different from the ones we've seen before. It just moved a lot faster."

Which was the truth, even if it maybe underplayed the uncertainty a bit. Safir, the one doing most of the work on the plague front, had actually said that they were always at risk of something happening and that he didn't consider the mutated plague strain to be enough of a threat to justify doing anything radical like restrict off-world activities. This would have been comforting if he hadn't then suggested that the new plague was perhaps the reason why Cordinar had been chosen by the Ori -- if they had been looking for a place to expose as many people as possible to a highly contagious virus, Cordinar was a fantastic choice. A market world would generate traffic, but Cordinar wasn't big enough commercially that most of the vendors didn't also go to one of the other market worlds, thus spreading the inactive virus far and wide.

"Which means it won't matter if we are immune anymore," Becanek said, looking up at the sky for the sun and then looking at his watch. "Either we are or we'll be dead too fast to do anything about it."

Cam grimaced. "Do you have to be so practical, Staff Sergeant?"

Becanek grinned cheerfully at him. "Sorry, sir," he replied, then turned to look at the map they were using. "Veer to port, Horton."

According to the files, when Atlantis had been looking for a place to resettle these particular refugees, they'd chosen this planet for the distance from the stargate. Cam was starting to regret not having a jumper -- he'd had the option, but he'd chosen a walk. It was as much out of habit (SG-1 hadn't had access to a ship) as the combination of his not-quite-fear of Jonas's driving skills and the fact that Cam was never comfortable in a craft someone else was flying. This wasn't the kind of mission where time was of the essence, however, and a long walk in the sunshine and the chance to breathe air that didn't smell of salt-water was a bit of a treat.

"Are there people here, Mister Quinn?" Cam called out after they'd walked for another kilometer.

"Not in range, but we're about half a klick from the village, so we might as well check it out," Jonas replied. Jonas had spent the time since Cordinar mostly in his lab working on the prior-napping schemata. Cordinar was bothering him more than Gauhan had and Cam could appreciate that even if he didn't understand it. There was nothing they could have done about Cordinar -- Lieutenant Osgeny (another one with unwarranted guilt) had done what he could and there had been nothing in the Ori's playbook that would have prepared them for an entire world getting wiped out in a few hours with no warning.

The village appeared on the horizon after a few more minutes of walking. The marines had been through this place -- the planet hadn't had a name before and the Toranian refugees had not yet decided on a new one -- a few times after the resettling and everything had been going fine. The Torani had been agrarian types and they'd accepted help in starting crops and building shelters; Lieutenant Salker had reported that they had been settling in fine and were working out a complicated plan for choosing soil-appropriate crops for future growing seasons. Which meant that there was no reason for them to have packed up and left, despite every bit of evidence pointing that way. When Salker had returned a couple of weeks ago, the place had been empty, completely deserted with no signs of either haste or destruction.

"I don't get it, sir," Byrd said once they were in the village, seeing for themselves what Salker had reported. "Why leave a place like this? It's got food and shelter and safety and that's pretty much the only things anyone ever hopes for in this galaxy. The Wraith haven't been here, so why go?"

There hadn't been anyone here since the Torani had disappeared, Cam didn't think, not just the Wraith. He was still learning to read the kind of destruction that the Wraith brought -- the forensics of predators and prey that the people who spent time in this galaxy all seemed to master -- but this place was far too peaceful. Becanek had explained to him that a culling was like any other kind of violation; you could clean up the obvious wounds, but the effects remained. Here there were no overturned stools, no sense of life cruelly interrupted, and Cam didn't see the sorts of metaphorical holes that had been filled by humans before they were suddenly not there. It wasn't even a ghost town -- the place didn't feel haunted.

Salker and his men hadn't had the kind of time to do a thorough search -- they'd looked around, found no signs of either violence or life, and left to go on to the next planet on their long list of places to check for Ori infestation. Cam's team could be more thorough, but he didn't think there was much point in spending a lot of time here. The Torani hadn't left a "gone fishing, back later" note and, short of that, there wasn't much chance in figuring out what had happened to them.

"Sir?" Becanek called over from across the room. He was holding up the bronze-tipped pike the Torani had used as their primary defensive weapon. "This is the fourth house we've found where the wardrobe's empty and the weapons are still here. Who takes their clothes and nothing to protect themselves?"

Cam shook his head, not having an answer. They'd found shields and knives and the occasional sword in previous dwellings, but no stores of food or clothes. Empty pantries and empty closets were the signs of an organized departure. Full armories were not.

He tapped his radio. "Mister Quinn, what are you finding?"

Jonas had taken Horton and Byrd and started at the other end of the village, which wasn't that big.

"Empty pantries and full weapons chests," Jonas replied after a moment. "Wherever they were going, they weren't worried about their safety once they got there."

"What about the sanctuary, sir?" Horton asked over the radio. "The one Colonel Sheppard got stuck in a couple of years ago? If they were going there, they wouldn't need weapons."

Cam vaguely remembered reading about the incident, the same way he remembered everything before the Ori vaguely, and thus not enough to make a useful statement in reply.

"How do they know it exists?" Byrd asked. "We didn't know about it until the Colonel tumbled through. If regular people knew about it, why wasn't it more crowded than it was?"

"Maybe there's another one," Becanek suggested. "No reason why there shouldn't be."

"What sanctuary?" Jonas asked, sounding more confused than Cam felt, but that was because Jonas hadn't ever heard the story while Cam had merely forgotten it.

Cam let Horton -- interrupted by Byrd -- tell the tale while they continued searching. After another half-hour, Cam decided that enough was enough and they were just finding confirmation of a pattern instead of expanding on it. The Torani were gone and not returning, probably off to greener pastures instead of the great beyond. It was maybe a little inconsiderate not to let Atlantis know for all of the work they'd put in to settle the Torani, but, well, they obviously thought they would be safer and better off where they were going and Cam really didn't have it in him to begrudge them that. He'd recommend that the settlement be turned over to other refugees and that would be the end of that.

It was 1945 AST on Cam's watch by the time they got back to the stargate and Cam was very much looking forward to dinner as the whiteboard in the commissary had promised fried chicken when he'd checked it at lunch. He'd make a quick report to Weir if she was still in her office (even odds; Weir worked long hours) or send an email to her and Sheppard if she wasn't -- after he ate.

Dreams of spicy battered drumsticks evaporated upon arrival back in Atlantis, however. It may have been a different galaxy, but Cam still knew how to read the mood after stepping through a wormhole and this wasn't good. Weir's office lights still being on was nothing shocking, but Sheppard visible through the glass, Lieutenant Cardejo standing on the balcony instead of playing games on his laptop, and the invisible heavy weight pressing down on the marines in the gate room was enough to set off a few alarm bells. Not just for Cam -- he looked over his shoulder at his team and they had the same apprehensive expressions Cam thought he was probably wearing.

"What's going on, Sergeant?" Cam asked the nearest marine.

"Found another town full of dead folks, sir," he replied.

"Ah, hell," Cam sighed.

He wasn't sure whether he had the right to barge into Weir's office and expect to be given an update. Once upon a time, he'd known that if he'd come back home to a crisis, he could stroll into the briefing room but not into Landry's office itself. But that time and that comfort zone was long gone and while Cam didn't think Weir had the same kind of death-grip on privilege of rank that Caldwell had had on the Daedalus, he didn't want to piss off his hosts. Again. He would have gone up there if she'd been there and nothing was going on, but now that there was and he knew about it, telling her that the Torani were gone-baby-gone really wasn't that important that it couldn't wait.  

"Colonel Mitchell?" Cardejo called down from the balcony. "Colonel Sheppard would like you and Mister Quinn to join him in Doctor Weir's office."

"Go," Cam told his marines, unclipping his P-90 and handing it to Byrd, who was waiting for it. "I'm sure you'll get the details in the barracks."

Becanek gave him the same dubious look he always gave Cam when he didn't think they should be dismissed just yet, but the three followed orders just the same. Jonas gave Horton his rifle and followed Cam up the stairs toward the control room and Weir's office.

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31 July, 2008