Fandom: Stargate Atlantis
Prompt: #104. Winning may not be everything, but losing has little to recommend it. --Diane Feinstein.
Summary: She was questioning her sanity in ever agreeing to this. She had never seen war as a game.
Notes: Since this is over 10,000 words, I'm posting it in two parts. I've wanted to write this concept for a while - a kind of 'reverse situation' to what usually occurs in the show. Many, many thanks to my betas, pandora_576 and dzurlady, and many thanks to gehayi for organising this round of the femgenficathon!
Around midday, Teyla realised that Ronon was changing his tactics.
Lieutenant Cadman was the one to bring her the news in her 'headquarters'. "He's trying to hold the north-eastern corridors," the young woman said. "We picked off a couple of his guys - two injuries, one kill - and Choi was injured. But they've got Dr. Cooper with them and he did something to the doors in that area, so it's pretty much a deathtrap."
Teyla regarded the map of Atlantis on the hanging screen before her, looking at the corridors her team had attempted to infiltrate. "He is holding a position," she murmured, noting the places where the marines had been cut off or baulked. Her finger reached up and traced the general area. "This set of rooms."
Laura Cadman moved around to see. "Why?"
The rooms were beyond the area designated as Ronon's headquarters, and too far out to be easily protected within the patrols her team-mate would have to maintain to ensure that Teyla's people did not get past him.
Teyla smiled at the other woman. "If I knew that, then I would not be wondering myself."
"If this was a siege, I'd say he was digging in for the long haul," said Laura, leaning her arms on the desk and propping her chin up on her hand.
"If this were a siege, he would be securing his position," Teyla agreed, frowning a little as she looked from the screen to the Lieutenant. "But it is not a siege and I do not understand his actions."
She knew her team-mate well enough to know that he preferred action over inaction, attack over defence. And while Elizabeth's lessons in chess had inspired a certain cunning in him, it was Dr. Heightmeyer's observation that instinct was a hard master to throw off.
Ronon should be attacking, advancing upon the position her team had taken up and trying to reach through her defences. He was not, and Teyla was puzzled.
Unfortunately, she could not allow her puzzlement to occupy her too long. Her own team still had not achieved the goals laid out before them that morning as the participants gathered in the gateroom: acquire the flag and laptop assigned to each team, through means fair or foul, and break into one of the systems Dr. McKay had set aside for the purpose.
All to be done before the moon rose.
"Well," Laura said, smiling as she stood up, "you know him better than anyone else in the city, so if you don't understand him..."
Teyla sighed slightly and, once again, regretted agreeing to Colonel Sheppard's idea.
She did not know what had possessed her to say 'yes' when he presented the plan to her. She did not know what had possessed Ronon to say 'yes' when Colonel Sheppard presented the plan to him.
"Teyla?" As though her thought had conjured him, John's voice came through the earpiece. "How's it going?"
"I am presently questioning my sanity in ever agreeing to this," she replied, her voice light to let him know that she was joking. Or, at least, mostly joking.
"It's not that bad," he told her. "Wargames are fun. It's like a competition to see who's better."
"Perhaps it is only my perception," she said, keeping her voice mild so no offence should be taken, "But war is rarely a game."
There was a pause on the other end of the earpiece. "Has anyone explained to you the concept of practise makes perfect?"
"So these games are designed to make better war?"
"Something like that."
"I see." Teyla didn't ask what kind of 'better war' would be made by stealing a laptop or flag, or breaking into a computer system. Privately, she suspected that Colonel Sheppard simply wanted some entertainment and had somehow managed to coerce her and Ronon into providing it - along with their respective teams.
"Okay, well, I'll drag McKay out of his lab and send him as escort with food to your headquarters. Tell Cadman it's a personal favour."
Across the desk, Laura grinned. Teyla bit back a smile. While she did not fully understand Laura's pleasure in needling Rodney, she took a certain enjoyment in the results. The discombobulation of Rodney McKay did his ego little harm and often made him more liveable - at least for a while.
"The ready-to-eat meals?"
"Unless you want to risk the mess hall."
The mess hall was open and too easily accessible from several angles. "We will take the meals."
"Thought you would. Right. I'll drop in later to see how things are going. In the meantime, I'm going to have lunch. Sheppard out."
Laura grinned. "Best senior officer I've had yet."
Teyla smiled. The Lieutenant's enthusiasm made her sometimes seem far more youthful than she was. In fact, she was within a few years of Teyla's age, when one counted the differences between Earth's rotation and that of Athos. "One who provides a victim for your teasing?"
"Yep. So what are we going to do about Ronon and the area he's fortifying?"
Teyla considered the map of that section of the city. "Is it not possible to...tap in to the Atlantis videocameras and see what they see?"
"It's possible," Laura admitted. "Not SOP, though. And I don't know that there are any videocameras in that section of the city, anyway."
She discarded that idea.
Teyla leaned her elbows down on the desk, briefly feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of the task before her - determine what Ronon was doing, and move to counter it. What came instinctively to Colonel Sheppard - the strategy and tactics of attack - was more difficult for her.
People were easy to understand. Teyla had dealt with people all her life as a member of a close-knit community. Athosian society's daily interactions were not as tricky to navigate as the ways of the Lanteans, true, but Teyla had learned to deal with the complex and confusing Lanteans, even if they had not always bothered to learn in response.
But military stratagems, the offensive strike against an enemy - those came less-practised to her. Before the Lanteans came to Athos, there had never been need of such knowledge. And now Teyla must draw upon the knowledge of others to bring her team - for the purpose of this exercise, her people - to success over Ronon.
"We'll get there," said Lieutenant Cadman, comfortingly. "It might take a bit of time, but we'll work out what he's doing."
Teyla glanced up at the younger woman, smiling. "Thank you."
She turned her eyes to the map of the city yet again. Ronon's motives were still veiled to her, but there were other things to be done in the meantime.
Paging through the communication channels of her earpiece was the work of a moment. "Dr. Bedner, has there been any progress on the break-in?"
"Define progress," said the woman, sounding like someone had salted her tea. "We've managed to get through the first firewall, but McKay's a tricky bastard. He seems to have set up several firewalls - we've managed to get through two so far, that's two including the outer one - and they've got impressive learning curves, too. Have you ever seen a-- Well, no, actually you wouldn't have." The woman paused, "Sorry. I must sound really geeky."
"I did not understand much beyond that Dr. McKay has managed to set up several blockages one in front of the other, and you are working through them," Teyla confessed.
Dr. Bedner laughed. "Well, that's about it, really. Like you said, we're working on them. Did you have any preferences for how we should leave our calling card?"
This, she knew! "Have you ever seen the Macandrian hamali?"
Laura glanced up from her laptop, her smile broad and slightly wicked. She knew.
"Don't think I have."
"The Macandrian hamali bears a genetic strain that is...quite close to your Earth lemon." It had never been ascertained that Rodney was allergic to the Macandrian fruit - he had refused all tests or attempts to determine if the hamali induced the same reaction in him as lemon - but even the sight would gain the response they desired.
And Teyla loved the fruit, to the point where John would tell their team-mate that she had been eating hamali just to watch Rodney edge away from her. Even when she reassured him that she had done nothing of the sort, he would keep his distance, using John or Ronon as a bulwark against possible allergens.
There was a brisk chuckle from Dr. Bedner. "Do you have an image of the thing on your laptop, ma'am?"
"I may have one somewhere..." While she had learned to navigate her way around the computer, she was not so sure of the filing system on the Air Force-issue laptop. At various times, Rodney had taken her laptop to do various things with it, or possibly to it. Dr. Zelenka usually returned the laptop, but Teyla had learned that things tended to move around - and that Rodney had a tendency to snoop.
"I've got one," Laura offered cheerfully. "You need it, Bedner?"
"Mail it over and we'll have McKay in mental anaphylaxis by the end of the day."
Teyla smiled as Laura began typing out the commands to attach a file to an email. "Let me know if there are complications, Dr. Bedner."
"Oh, believe me, if there are complications, you'll be the first to know. Anything you need us to keep in mind?"
"Lunch will be brought around in a little while," she said. "Ensure that the people with you have something to eat."
Bedner snorted. "We're not all obsessive, you know."
"I know." But it was a leader's job to both assign tasks and care for her people. "And yet I would feel better to know that you and those working with you are refreshed."
"Thanks, ma'am. We'll be good. I promise."
On that promise, Teyla changed the channel. "Captain Kilmer?"
"Ma'am?" There was the distant sound of weapons fire - not the stuttering jabber of projectile weaponry, but the energy-shot blasts of the guns the Lanteans called intars. "We're on retreat from objective one."
"Did you acquire the flag?"
"It was a setup," came the blunt reply. "We were trapped and ambushed."
Teyla closed her eyes and rested her hands on the desk. The prize had, indeed, been too easy. "How many?"
"Two men down."
The rules dictated that once a player was shot, the man or woman wasn't allowed back into the game until four hours had passed. The one exception was Teyla herself; if either leader was shot, the game ended. It was the primary reason she was at team headquarters overseeing the team efforts instead of out in the city.
"Sergeant Bergen and Lieutenant Derrick."
Teyla grimaced and made a note on the table of personnel along with the time. "Would you be willing to attempt another infiltration?"
"As long as it's not another trap," the Captain said with a touch of sharpness. More firing sounded in the background. A moment later, he added, "Sorry, ma'am."
"Return to headquarters, Captain," she said, keeping her frustration from her voice. "We are pulling back."
On the other end of the line, the silence was deafening. Teyla waited for the protest and was not disappointed. "Ma'am, is that wise?"
She reflected that if she had asked him to hold his position, he would have protested. Captain Kilmer was a recent arrival to Atlantis and less accepting of Teyla's influence in the city.
"Something is not right about this scenario," she said. "I would like--"
Her earpiece buzzed suddenly - an override signal.
"--Do you think you're doing?" Colonel Sheppard said clearly into her ear. Laura's head reared from studying her laptop, and Teyla realised this was an open channel. John was not speaking to her, or any of the people with the earpieces, but with someone near by him - and broadcasting it across the city. "The mess hall's out of bounds..."
The sound of the weapon discharge seemed overly loud in her ears. Not one of the intars - a deeper, heavier noise; Ronon's personal stunner.
Laura's eyes were as huge as the moons of Metros at midsummer. "Tell me Ronon didn't just--"
There was a slight scraping sound, like the microphone edge was being shifted across a lightly-stubbled cheek as the person wearing it was moved. A moment later, her earpiece crackled. "Teyla?"
Teyla answered the call. Judging by the sound of it, she had little choice if she wished to know what was happening, shocked though she was. "Ronon. What are you doing?"
"Changing the rules," he said, and she could hear the smile in his voice, clear as though he stood before her with the knowing grin on his lips. "Ge lathayan mateda ko makaryan."
Teyla's eyes narrowed as her mind provided the translation for his words. She responded without thinking through her words. "Hurt him, and seven years running from the Wraith will be nothing in comparison to what I will do to you!"
Across the room, Laura blinked, shocked. Teyla flushed slightly, embarrassed by her irrational outburst.
Ronon barked with laughter. "His skin will be intact. His pride? I can't promise that." Whatever he thought of her warning, her team-mate sounded amused. "Catch you hunting."
And with that jaunty rejoinder, the communication between them shut down.
By the time Elizabeth called on a private channel, two minutes later, shock had given way to anger, and anger had given way to acceptance.
Ronon was right.
However, Teyla was still going to take him down.
"Teyla? Was this planned?"
"Not by me," she replied, her voice dry.
"All right." There was a pause as Elizabeth collected her thoughts. "Technically, Ronon's violated the rules of the game - or so Major Lorne informs me. We can call the game off--"
Teyla interrupted before the other woman got any further. "Elizabeth. While Ronon has broken the rules, he has made his point."
"Those words he said...they were Satedan?"
"Yes." Teyla sighed. "It is a Satedan proverb. There are no winners. Only survivors."
Elizabeth took a moment to work her mind around that. "You think he would hurt--?"
Teyla hastened to reassure her. "I do not. Ronon respects and admires Colonel Sheppard. However, I believe he feels that this exercise was unnecessary."
She didn't need to see Elizabeth's face to know that the other woman winced before she answered. "War isn't a game." There was an audible sigh before Elizabeth wryly said, "I guess he made his point. So you want to continue?"
"Ronon waited to issue a challenge before he and his team departed the mess hall with Colonel Sheppard. While I do not have to answer it..." Teyla paused, wondering if the expedition leader would understand. "It was in the nature of a dare."
"Catch me if you can?"
She knew of the phrase, even if it was not one she would have used. "Yes."
Silence from the other end of the communication device. Then, "Whatever happened to 'there are no winners, only survivors'?"
"I have lived in Atlantis several years now," Teyla said, a smile touching her lips. "You have corrupted me."
That elicited a laugh from Elizabeth. "All right. This exercise will continue, I suppose. Major Lorne will take Colonel Sheppard's place as military leader of Atlantis - at least until we get news back from Ronon about his intentions." There was another pause. "You're going to attempt a rescue?"
"As well as the other goals?"
Teyla bit back a smile. "If we must. It will give my team and Ronon's team something to do."
"All right, then. I'll make the announcement through the city that the game is still going. You're sure Ronon doesn't intend to harm him?"
"No more than would I," she said.
"All right. Let me know if there's anything I can help with."
Teyla ceased the connection, reflecting that there was very little Elizabeth could do at this moment. It occurred to her that she had not asked if Ronon had cleared this action with Elizabeth before he executed the capture. And while her team-mate was independent after many years of running alone, he was also trained military, accustomed to taking orders and seeking appropriate authority through the relevant chains of command.
She looked back up at the map of Atlantis, thoughtfully.
"Well, we know why he was digging himself in, now," Laura offered. "I've got Kilmer on the comms - he sounds grumpy."
Teyla paged through the channels again. "Captain Kilmer?"
"Ma'am, what's going on? We've just heard some falal about Colonel Sheppard being kidnapped by Dex."
"Ronon has managed to capture the Colonel as part of the game. It is now our job to rescue him."
Captain Kilmer snorted. "I'm sorry, ma'am. We're...rescuing Colonel Sheppard?"
"In addition to taking the flag and the laptop and the system break-in?" Teyla heard the mutter of one of the Captain's men in the background - quiet, but not so quiet that the microphone could not pick it up and transmit it. She narrowed her eyes, but did not comment on what was said.
After a moment, Captain Kilmer answered again. "All right, ma'am. We're returning to headquarters as ordered."
An idea came to her as she regarded the map once again. "Can the life-signs detector detect degrees of the Ancient gene?"
Laura frowned. "I heard that it could be configured to show Wraith wandering around the city. I'll find out who did it--"
"You even have to ask?" Rodney asked as he entered the room with several marines towing a large cart behind them. "Of course it was me!"
"Then you can do it again," Teyla said firmly, overriding Laura's instinctive retort.
"What? I'm not in this game for a reason, Teyla!"
"And Colonel Sheppard has been captured by Ronon," she told him, as Laura began calling in personnel to collect their food. "So the rules have changed, and I am co-opting you into this exercise."
A smile at the marines was her way of thanking them for bringing the food; she was otherwise distracted with Rodney.
"Are you going to hold me hostage, too?"
"Would you prefer that I did?" Teyla suggested. "I am sure the Lieutenant would hold an intar on you if you require incentive."
"Yes, McKay, that is an intar in my pocket, and yes, I'm happy to see you," said Laura with a grin that was decidedly suggestive.
Teyla bit back a smile as Rodney went scarlet. "Wonderful." He looked grumpily from one woman to the other. "I was going to work over some of those power conversion routines Radek's been doing and now I'm stuck--"
"Oh, stop whining, McKay," said Laura. "Zelenka's equations are always fine."
"They are not fine! They never work--"
"Because you keep poking holes in his theories!"
"The theories never work in the first place--"
"He seems to manage to come up with ones that save your ass most of the time!"
Teasing was one thing, but amused or not, this was a little more than Teyla had bargained for. She was beginning to feel the stirrings of a headache. "That is enough!"
Both Rodney and Laura paused, surprised. They weren't the only ones. Beyond Rodney, Teyla could see the open mouths of the marines, staring at her in astonishment. It was rare that she raised her voice - only when she was exhausted, or when things were very stressful did she allow her control to slip so far.
Ronon's unexpected actions had jarred her more than she thought.
"Rodney," she said, keeping her voice firm and even, and her temper controlled, "please assist Lieutenant Cadman in the necessary adjustments to the life-signs detector."
"Or what? Cadman here will shoot me?"
"I would prefer not to go into the necessity of 'or what,'" Teyla said with the kind of calm that always put the Lanteans off. "But if you require the necessary goading, then, as said, Lieutenant Cadman will be pleased to provide the kalten arhonne."
Rodney would most likely remember the term - their team had spent an afternoon debating various colloquiallisms among each culture. While the Lanteans were more than willing to share their own phrases, both Ronon and Teyla had required a little more encouragement. The kalten arhonne was the pointed end of a staff or branch, applied to the withers of a beast to get it moving. According to Colonel Sheppard, this was known to the Lanteans as a 'cattleprod.'
"It's not that much work, McKay," Laura said. "For a genius like yourself."
"You only say that when you want something," Rodney sulked. "You know I can't do any more than reconfiguring the computers to pick up the Ancient gene. It won't let you know the degree of strength of the gene. And it won't differentiate between the injected gene and the natural one."
Teyla nodded. "Make the changes, Rodney," she said. "Then you may leave at your leisure."
"That's what they all say," he grumbled. However, Teyla noticed that he did not complain once he'd appropriated Laura's computer.
She left him to it and turned to the distribution of the MREs to the people of her team. The meals were handed out and Teyla made sure that Laura got one herself.
"Ma'am?" Captain Kilmer and his group had returned. "What do you have for us?"
Teyla indicated the meals, noted who'd been left behind on sentry duty and did a mental calculation of the number of meals left, then slipped an MRE out from beneath Rodney's hand.
"You may eat in the mess hall when you have finished the reconfiguration," she told him.
"Hah. That won't take very long."
"Then you are in no danger of starving." Teyla turned to Captain Kilmer. "You said Ronon set a trap?"
"We walked right into it - Falwell and Kemble were 'dead' a second in - direct hit on the torso. The rest of us have assorted 'injuries', but we backed out of there fast enough not to lose anyone else." The captain shrugged. "So, what's this idea you have about going after Sheppard? That's not in the rules of the game."
"Kidnapping the Colonel was not in the game," said Teyla. "Ronon has changed the rules on us, it is time for us to change the rules on him."
Captain Kilmer frowned. "Speaking frankly, ma'am, that's bullshit. If these were real wargames on Earth, Dex's actions would have ended the game by now."
Behind the captain, Teyla saw Cadman's eyebrows rise. It was the faintest of movements, nothing that any of Captain Kilmer's men could see. Rodney frowned but kept typing.
Teyla considered several answers before she replied. "This is not Earth, Captain, and the game is still in progress." She was careful to make the statement as neutral as possible. The Captain was difficult, but not an enemy. She did not intend to make him one, either. "Before I last spoke with you, it seemed that Ronon was settling himself in for a siege of some kind. We did not know why."
"And now we do." Captain Kilmer huffed loudly as he peeled open his lunch. "So what? If Colonel Sheppard got himself captured..."
"Oh, and as though Ronon didn't take him by surprise," said Rodney without looking up from his keyboard. "The man's sneaky."
Captain Kilmer gave the scientist a withering look. "If the Colonel was that good then he shouldn't have been caught out."
The tapping of keys on the keyboard was unceasing, but Rodney sniffed. "You obviously haven't been up against Ronon before."
"Uhuh." Captain Kilmer was neither impressed nor pleased by Rodney's interruption. He turned back to Teyla. "Look, ma'am, I think we should stick to the main goals. It's unfortunate that Sheppard let himself get captured, but that's not in our objectives for this war game. That means getting hold of the flag and the laptop and leaving the hackers to do their hacking job."
"Which, I might remind you, I am under no requirement to assist you with," Rodney added.
"I would not have asked you, Rodney," Teyla said, her voice quietly emphatic enough to warn him against another interruption. "Please continue, Captain."
"Actually, that was it, ma'am," the captain said, shuffling his food around the MRE container. He still hadn't started his lunch. "In a war game, you follow the objectives - getting the items we've been assigned to get. Chasing shadows is a job for Special Ops, and that's not in my training."
Teyla nodded, accepting his estimation. She disagreed that John's rescue was not an objective of the exercise, but now was not the time to press the point. "While you are eating lunch, Captain, please study the layout of Ronon's forces and let me know your recommendations for dealing with them when you are done."
Teyla turned to distribution of the food among her personnel. If Captain Kilmer was best at direct confrontation, then that was where he would be best applied. An axe could not be used as a skinning knife and she did not intend to abuse either.
Still, as she made sure that everyone was fed, and that Rodney did not steal someone else's, her mouth thinned with quiet determination.
Ronon would not know what hit him.
It was nothing on which she could put her finger, no reason for her to feel that this was a mistake.
Her team were, by all accounts, quite successful.
Rodney had configured the life-signs detector, and it showed at least one person with the Ancient gene placed unmoving in one of the central rooms of Ronon's headquarters. With some careful planning by Captain Kilmer, and keeping in mind the structure and cross-structure of the city, Teyla's team had boxed Ronon's team into his headquarters.
Now, according to Captain Kilmer, it was merely a case of picking them off until there was time and space to take the fort.
Teyla thought they were succeeding. This small group, originally of eighteen, now reduced to twelve, had held this corridor for the last twenty minutes, carefully counting the number of opponents as they were reduced one by one.
It was a risk to be out here, but she owed it to her people. Laura had argued about her vulnerability. Teyla had pointed out the change in rules. Their sole objective was no longer the original intentions laid out this morning; she intended to go after Ronon herself. To do so, she must be in a position to take advantage if it was presented.
And advantage was rarely presented from behind.
Still, as Teyla set her shoulder against the wall and waited for the break in intar fire that would give this group an opportunity to restart their offensive, the wrongness of the situation jarred her.
Dr. Beckett had once suggested that what he considered her extraordinary skill at fighting was an extension of her ability to sense the Wraith. "You're not telepathic, I think, but your sense of people is what gives you the edge in a fight."
As she listened to the fire up and down the corridor, Teyla did not know about her 'sense of people'. She did know that things were not right - that this course of action was not gaining her team any advantage. It was not something she could prove, had Rodney required a reason for it, but she knew it was so.
She tapped her headset on. "Captain?"
"I-7 is clear, ma'am. They've retreated and we're holding it. Headcount stands at fifteen, not including injuries."
Teyla was impressed. So far, the group under direct command of the captain had suffered the least 'casualties'. "Are there any captures?"
"None, ma'am. Sergeant Donovan said something about one of the rooms along this corridor 'leaking' into another."
Sergeant Donovan provided the explanation in Captain Kilmer's background. Apparently, during the storm, that section of the city had sustained damage, to the point where the integrity of some of the walls had given way. There was no reason to repair them, so the damage had remained. And the gaps were large enough for people to slip through and escape.
"Ma'am, I'll need two from each of the other groups to help hold the corridor while we press forward." It was not a request, but neither was it quite a demand.
"I will ask for volunteers," she said, nodding at one of the technically-minded sergeants, who started contacting the others of their team. "If they are hard-pressed, then there may not be personnel spare among the attacking groups--"
"If we don't hold this corridor, then anyone in Dex's group with the faintest particle of strategy in their training is going to double-back and cut us off, ma'am."
Teyla waited a moment for the sergeant to take the report from the others and give her the response - a shake of the head. "We lack the personnel to spare you from those pressing the attack," she said. "However, Lieutenant Cadman has just reported that there are personnel whose tasks are completed, who have little to do."
"Those guards are needed at--" Captain Kilmer broke off. "You want me to take scientists into a war zone, ma'am?"
The term 'scientists' did not wholly encompass the skills of the personnel in question. A handful were military - if not commonly 'in the field'. "They are weapons-competent, captain."
"Ma'am, if those civilians are weapons-competent then I'm the Queen of Sheba!"
The sergeant communicating with the other groups snorted and muttered, "He'd better find a coronet, then. At least two of the scientists coming in were born and bred on a ranch. I wouldn't want to face them down the barrel of a gun. And, ma'am, the other groups report that they're wedged or without the spare personnel. He's going to get scientists or nothing."
Teyla nodded. On one hand, she regretted what she was about to say. On the other, the captain seemed oddly belligerent about this issue. "Captain, there are presently no personnel to assist you but those I have suggested. You will receive weapons-competent support, if not military-trained. If you have concerns over their tactical skills, then perhaps they might be partnered with someone in your group who possesses those skills."
On the other end of the channel, silence lingered. Then, "Yes, ma'am." And there was a bite to the words sharp enough to make those around Teyla blink in surprise.
She did not comment on it. "Have you seen any sign of Ronon?"
Teyla nodded, almost to herself. "Thank you."
The communications sergeant regarded her as she terminated the call and stood. "Ma'am?"
Air was cool and refreshing in her lungs as she inhaled deep. "Something is not right," she said. "Please call in to the other two groups and ask if they have seen or heard Ronon since we began this attack."
With a quick, querying gaze, the sergeant did so, snapping out words in a manner that was brisk but not unkind. "Negative, ma'am."
As Teyla had thought. "I am returning to headquarters," she said. "Captain Kilmer will continue to oversee this operation."
She saw the quick glances exchanged between them, knew that they were wondering what had changed. But the sergeant only said, "Yes, ma'am."
As she ran through the corridors, she kept an eye out for any sign that Ronon's patrols might have eluded Captain Kilmer's group and switched to a channel that Dr. Bedner had encoded for this exercise. "Laura?"
"Teyla? How's the siege going?"
"It goes well."
"But there is no sign of Ronon."
"Maybe he's hiding?"
Teyla shook her head, once again forgetting that her conversation partner could not see her. "Ronon does not like inaction. When patience is required, he will exercise it. But if it is not, he will be in the fray." Seven years had ingrained movement into Ronon's habits, as if he had not been a man of motion in the first place.
"You think he's got Sheppard holed up somewhere else?"
"That is what I would like to know." Teyla moved through the corridors, turning once when she saw a shadow of movement. It was only a scientist - one of those who had chosen to stay out of the conflict - and she turned back. "These devices we wear for communication - Rodney has explained a little of it--"
"He condescended to tell you?"
"It was very condescending," Teyla said, smiling. "But what he said... There is something that...indicates not only what is being said into the device, but also who should receive the words?"
"A new way of describing it," Laura said, "But yeah, that's the gist of it. The comms send out signals: both the signals that make up our words and signals about the messages being sent, including which device the message is meant--" She stopped in what Teyla supposed was astonishment. "You want us to triangulate Ronon's position based on the transmission from his headset?"
Teyla had no idea what 'triangulating' was, but she guessed that Laura had realised her intent. "If you mean that I wish to find where Ronon is, then, yes."
"Wow." Laura paused. "That's... That might be a workable idea. Hang on. I know a bit about the systems, but not half as much about these comms devices as other people around here. Let me go grab one of them."
By the time Teyla had reached the designated headquarters of her team, there were four people clustered around one of the desks, gabbling at each other in incomprehensible terms. She looked to Laura to see if the other woman understood.
"It's confusing me, too," Laura admitted. "And I'm good with computers. Just not this good! Although don't ever tell Rodney I said that!"
Teyla felt laughter well up within her. "It is not your specialty," she pointed out. "So, you believe the idea might work?"
"Oh, it'll work," said one of the techs, glancing up from his computer with gleeful enthusiasm. "We're going to have to make some modifications to one of the headsets, though, stripping out the message signal and leaving the metadata behind. Then we'll need to send a signal that will make his headset send back a signal that the transmitters in the city can pick up, and with a bit of adjustment, the transmitters will let us know exactly where he's holed up." The guy paused at the end of his stream of speech, looking a little embarrassed. "You didn't understand a word I just said, did you?"
This time the laughter bubbled out, too strong for her to suppress. "I understood that you can locate Ronon, Dr. Metcalfe. That is all I wished to know."
"Right." The scientist - he could not be much older than she - ran a hand through his hair, his face and ears pink with embarrassment. "Uh, so, we'll have that, uh, for you...well, hopefully in the next, uh, hour, Ms. Emmagen."
"Just Teyla," she told him. "And thank you." She made sure that her gaze encompassed all four technicians so Dr. Metcalfe was not unduly embarrassed
They shrugged off her thanks and went to work.
Several hours was longer than Teyla liked. It was midafternoon, tending towards sunset, and the day was mostly gone. They would have some time after the sun set - the game was to play out until the rise of the moon, a little while into the night - but not as much as she liked. The original plan had been for Colonel Sheppard to call the game to a stop, but with his capture, it would most likely be Major Lorne who determined the ending.
Ronon had not stuck to the original plan.
Exasperation rose, mingled with admiration. She understood his irritation with the game - the fight against the Wraith was not anything they had ever taken lightly - but she would not have reacted as he had.
It had, however, made things interesting. So perhaps she would forgive him.
Perhaps she would outclass him instead.
In the meantime, she still had a campaign to oversee and people to manage.
Captain Kilmer reported steady progress, and if he occasionally sounded annoyed to Teyla's ears, she did not comment on it, but encouraged his progress. Fractious scientists quibbled and squabbled, and Teyla gently drew out their anger until they were ready to return to work.
And nearly an hour later, Dr. Bedner brought the news that they'd succeeded in reaching the server Rodney had assigned them to hack. She brought her laptop over to show Teyla and Laura.
Dr. Bedner and her team had been busy. As well as breaking into the computer, they had put together a design for a computer site. "The idea in hacking," Dr. Bedner explained, "is to go into a set location and...cause mischief. In some cases, it involves changing the site details, setting the server to redirect elsewhere, or just bringing down the system. In this case, there's a website attached to the server we hacked, and we're going to replace the site McKay designed with our own." She sounded gleeful as she showed the design. "Ta-da!"
Teyla took one look and laughed.
Macandrian hamali decorated the background, an image repeated over and over, while little spinning cross-sections of lemon formed the markers beside the various groups of words. In one corner of the screen, a hamali sprouted legs and arms and waved them about in a bizarre little dance, while in the other corner, a lemon - similarly limbed - mirrored the hamali.
"It is...most decorative," she said, smiling.
"And guaranteed to send McKay into spasms," Laura added.
"Not much of a challenge," Dr. Bedner murmured, grinning at her work. "We decided to layer the changes - we'll put our change on the bottom, do a bit of creative timestamping so it's the backup, then put a copy of the original page on top. Unless McKay goes in to check the actual server, he won't notice it's not there and we'll leave a trojan on his server to pick up the 'backup' files a little while after sunset. Voila!"
"Well done," Teyla told the scientist. "And thank you."
The woman grinned. "We get a win out of this, too, you know."
"Uh, Ma'a-- Ms. Emmage-- Er. T--Teyla?"
"The modifications are done." Dr. Metcalfe scrubbed a hand through his hair, spiking it even further. "We sent out a test signal and we've managed to triangulate Dex's headset. You're right. He's nowhere near where we thought he was."
Teyla nodded. "You are sure?"
"We triangulated Sheppard's headset, too," added another of the scientists. "Same location. Or within five metres, give or take."
"Show me." She indicated the screen, and Dr. Metcalfe transferred the data to whatever device controlled the screen.
"Here's Dex's signal." The pulsing dot was in the middle of the screen, and a moment later another appeared close by. "That's Colonel Sheppard's. In the broader scheme of things..." The view drew back, showing several wings of the city and Dr. Metcalfe pointed at one side of the screen. "Here's the section of the city Kilmer's been trying to take."
There was significant distance between the two areas. "That's a pretty impressive decoy," Laura commented.
"Dex is a pretty impressive guy," Dr. Bedner said.
Teyla pressed her lips into a line, trying not to smile at the faint innuendo of the programmer. "It was a successful ploy," she said, acknowledging that.
"But why take him at lunch, then? Why not at dinner? I mean, holding onto someone for eight hours is more difficult than holding them for, say, three."
Instinct answered, "Opportunity. There was opportunity and Ronon took it." That was like her team-mate; to recognise a moment and seize it when it was presented.
"Guess Atlantis taught him a few things," said someone else.
"Oh, I don't know," Laura commented. "Dex wasn't a completely ignorant savage before Atlantis took him in and straightened him out."
Teyla's mouth twitched at the other woman's deadpan tones, but didn't join in as one of the technicians began arguing the degree of influence Atlantis had exerted on Ronon - or on her. She was too busy trying to envision the rooms where Ronon held his captive.
It was difficult. Atlantis was built in repeating patterns, the design of the rooms echoing each other in size and form. She recalled a conversation - or lecture - from one of the scientists regarding the design of the city back in the earliest days of her time in the city. Teyla remembered the lecture as much for what the scientist had said as for what she learned not to mention around people whose verbal tendencies were as endless as the flow of the river out of the mountains in the spring.
Dr. Metcalfe came alongside her. "You're really going to try this rescue thing?"
"I should at least attempt it," she said, smiling, before quoting one of her uncle's sayings. "'There is no gain in making no effort.'"
The scientist ran a hand through his hair. "Hm. Well," he murmured, "that's the south-western corridors - the I5..." He glanced sideways. "It's a highway - a path for cars - our 'jumpers--"
Teyla interrupted him, striving to keep the impatience from her voice. "I have seen pictures. I am aware of the names given the thoroughfares through the city."
"Yes. Of course." He went a little pink. "Um. Well, the south-western wing of the city is pretty much mirrored by the I25 - the western wing."
"And there is a connecting corridor close by," Teyla said with dawning understanding. She looked from the screen to him, pleased. "Well thought of, Doctor."
He mumbled something about it being no trouble, and Lieutenant Cadman broke away from her argument with the other technician. "Teyla?"
Teyla smiled. "I have an idea."