Book One starts here
Book Two - part one is here
It was getting worse. Ever since the ‘Bug Incident’ – as Rodney thought of it – all their missions had gone wrong. They had been out to various worlds where Miss Teyla had friends and where they had been welcomed with open arms. However, in two thirds of these missions the Wraith had turned up - sending the Athosians’ allies into the hell that came after a culling, and the Lanteans running for home.
Rodney was getting good at running.
To make matters worse, every time they came back from a mission there were too many armed soldiers waiting for them to return, Dr Weir hovered and tried to get his Master to talk.
And then there was Bates.
Bates. He was waiting again this time and Rodney sighed as he headed into another confrontation he couldn’t control, and he certainly couldn’t win.
“Ego! Tell me what happened!” Bates ordered as the Major ascended the steps again to debrief Dr Weir.
“Nothing, sir,” Rodney reported. “We turned up at the village, Miss Teyla introduced us, we had some food and then the gate dialled and the Wraith arrived.”
“Did Teyla leave you alone at any point?” Bates demanded, and Rodney bit back an angry, sarcastic retort. He so desperately wanted to tear into the stupid sergeant and rip away his suspicions, but Rodney had to control himself if he valued his back.
“No, sir. She was with us at all times.”
“Did she speak in a different language? Signal to anyone?” Bates pressed.
Rodney really wanted to push the idiot out of the way, but he couldn’t. “She didn’t, sir. She just wants to help us find allies! Sir, she’s losing friends she has known all her life!” Rodney argued.
Bates almost spat his derision. “She’s selling us out and the sooner we get this trash off our city, the better.”
“Can I go to the infirmary now, sir? It’s where I was ordered to go by my Master,” Rodney asked as humbly as he could.
“I might suspect you too… if I wasn’t watching every move you make,” Bates threatened, and Rodney shivered at the pure menace behind the security officer’s words.
When the next mission had Rodney in the infirmary, hit by a Wraith stunner, he knew that his Master would be up against it. The Major had said as much the night before, and Rodney worried for Miss Teyla and the Athosians.
“Are you well, Rodney?” Teyla asked, appearing as he was being released from the infirmary.
“I can’t feel my fingers properly… but I think I’m ok, ma’am,” Rodney smiled.
“May I accompany you back to your quarters?” Teyla offered and Rodney nodded, unsure what to do.
They walked in silence for most of the way, but as they reached the room that the Major had taken over, Teyla asked.
“Do you resent our presence in Atlantis?”
“What? No, ma’am!” Rodney responded in alarm. “It’s not your fault you are here and you’re helping us with food and things! No! No way!”
“There are others who do not see it as you do,” Teyla told him.
“Sergeant Bates,” Rodney nodded.
“And others who form a group around him. He does not trust us. I believe he thinks of us as savages,” Teyla told him bitterly.
“He’s wrong!” Rodney replied, adamantly.
Teyla smiled her wise smile. “My people do not feel welcome here, and they do not approve of my friendship with your… Master.” Rodney had noticed that she had always had difficulty acknowledging his status. “They believe that I am deluded when I say that I am convinced that your people are the answer to ridding us of the Wraith.”
Rodney palmed the door open and led her inside, urging Teyla to sit while he settled on the floor.
“We are not your Ancestors, Miss Teyla, but we do have Science and we do have the gene. We don’t understand all of the technology that the Ancients left behind, but we are making progress.”
“I know this to be true, Rodney,” Teyla agreed, “and I know that you are not the Ancestors returned to us, but I do know that your people are the only ones who can stand up to the Wraith. I have lost so many friends and many allies to the Wraith… your people can help me fight back!”
“The soldiers are brave and not afraid to fight,” Rodney acknowledged, “I… I would fight too if I could.”
“If you would like to learn to fight, then I should be honoured to show you,” Teyla offered and Rodney chuckled.
“I’m very fortunate that my Master allows me to take a gun on our missions. If I were to even attempt to hit a free person, even in training…” Rodney shuddered theatrically.
“Thank you for your friendship, Rodney. I must return to my people and discuss these events.”
There was land on the planet – a vast continent and the Athosians were going to live there and raise crops. Teyla was excited, but fearful and she had sought Rodney out again, telling him of her desire to remain and fight and how this meant that she was practically rejecting her people. Rodney wasn’t quite sure why she came to him and told him these things. He really wasn’t very good at people and had no idea how to reassure her. He had tried to awkwardly pat her on the back once and she had frowned, puzzled… so he hadn’t tried that again.
The scent of suspicion and mistrust was strong in the city and there was hostility between the Athosians and the Lanteans. Even those who had not thought about the implications of the Pegasus natives’ presence in their home, were now being confronted with hateful glares from their guests. The Athosians were strongly united and it was clear that they no longer felt welcome.
In the meantime, Rodney’s Master was stuck in a hard place, as he explained, pacing around the lab where Rodney was working.
“I really understand where Elizabeth and Bates are coming from, but it makes no sense that the Athosians, who really hate the Wraith, would be signalling them and helping them!” the Major groused. “What do they have to gain by it? And when, exactly, are they supposed to be doing this?”
“Miss Teyla went off on her own on that planet with the shy people, Master,” Rodney reminded him.
“I know, but… not Teyla! Not even Dr Weir thought it could be Teyla! And she brought Ford back! I can’t see it! Not Teyla! Bates thinks that I’m not good enough for his men… I’m not his precious Sumner!” the Major ranted.
“It’s only a few people, Master, not the whole expedition and Dr Weir thinks that you’re the best person to do the job! Lt Ford would follow you anywhere!” Rodney reassured.
“Ford’s like a big puppy! Feed him and take out for walks regularly and he’ll do anything for you!” the Major smirked. “The others think I’m just a pilot.”
Rodney watched his Master pace around again, unsure if he was supposed to say anything.
Rodney’s Master suddenly banged a steel cupboard behind Rodney with his boot and growled.
“I don’t wanna lose Teyla… but she thinks I have betrayed her. Bates just dragged her off like some… some criminal!” he thumped his fist down on the surface. “And now they want to just dump them on the landmass… we don’t even know what’s down there!”
“I thought the Athosians wanted to go, Master?” Rodney argued.
The Major looked at him. “Without access to the Stargate? Dumped to farm for us? Cut off and dependent? I don’t think so! I’m going to see if Ford’s woken up yet!”
The Major stormed off again and Rodney sighed and went back to the simulation he was ‘observing’. He had already surreptitiously changed it twice to improve it, but he was still stuck just watching.
Rodney started at the sound of Bates’ bark, then he resigned himself to more problems. “Yes Sir.”
“I want these things scanned,” Bates commanded, dumping a bag of Athosian stuff on Rodney’s desk.
“Scanned, sir?” Rodney questioned. Then he realised that he had seen some of these things before. “These belong to Miss Teyla!” he protested.
“Yes, they do and I want it checked and re-checked for hidden weapons, transmitters, recording devices…” the sergeant ordered.
“I can’t do this, sir…” Rodney tried to wriggle out of it, but Bates stepped closer.
“Your Master knows about this and you will do it!”
Rodney quailed under the threatening stance of the sergeant and Bates stepped back, mollified and certain that his orders would be carried out. Rodney sighed and started looking through Miss Teyla’s personal stuff.
“Master?” Rodney called querulously on the radio.
“Rodney? I’m with Ford, can this wait?” John answered.
“Not really, Master,” Rodney sounded scared.
John jumped off the bed and shook Ford’s arm.
“No more head-bumping!”
“No Sir,” Ford answered sheepishly, rubbing his head where he had hit it.
John trotted off to the lab where he was met by his slave kneeling with head bowed, surrounded by things that could only be owned by…
“What the hell is this?” he demanded, furiously.
“Please, Master, I know how it looks, but…” Rodney tried to explain.
“How it looks?” John growled. “Did Bates put you up to this?” he demanded. “I’m gonna bust his ass! Then I’m gonna whip you so hard you won’t be sitting down again for a month!”
“Yes Master,” Rodney nodded unhappily, “but… please, Master…”
“Teyla has NOTHING to do with this!” John grabbed the ring on Rodney’s collar and hauled him up, shaking him.
“I know, Master! I know! But… he was right! He was right!” Rodney cried, flinching.
“What?” John stopped shaking his slave, but didn’t release his grip.
“This, Master… it’s a transmitter!” he held up the locket thing that John had found.
“What? But… but I found this. I gave it to her!” John took the locket. “I found it on her planet, in the ruins… we have to go and show Elizabeth.”
When John got back to his room, after speaking to the Wraith they had captured, he found Rodney kneeling again. His slave was prostrate in the middle of the room and shaking, almost as badly as he had been during the mission. His head was on the floor and his hands were by his head and he was clearly expecting the worst.
John was unsure what to do. On the one hand his slave had violated Teyla’s privacy in the worst possible way and had deliberately searched through her stuff, but on the other, he had been intimidated by Bates and he had acquitted himself well on the planet.
He circled the terrified slave, wondering what to do.
“Get up!” he commanded. He had made a decision and he was going to implement it.
Rodney got to his knees and looked up pleadingly at his Master, but he obviously didn’t dare to speak.
“Why did you do it?” John demanded. “You knew that I would never condone searching through Teyla’s stuff like that!”
“Sergeant Bates told me that you knew about it Master,” Rodney replied miserably. “I should have known he was lying.”
John picked up the leash that he had bought for his slave and hooked it onto his slave’s collar. He then crouched down and looked Rodney in the eyes.
“You’re on a short leash, Rodney. There must be someone holding this at all times, or I want it tied to something solid. We both know you can undo it, so there’s no danger to you, but you are not going anywhere unaccompanied. There are two reasons for this. I want to know that I can trust you and this is punishment.”
“Yes Master,” Rodney acknowledged.
“Also I don’t want you going anywhere with Bates or his cronies.” The Major gave the leash a shake. “This will be handled by people I can trust – Teyla, Elilzabeth, Carson, Zelenka and maybe others – we’ll see.”
“Yes Master,” Rodney responded again.
“Get up and get my wash things,” John commanded and was surprised when Rodney hesitated. “Well?”
“Should I b…bring the whip, Master?” Rodney asked, holding up a short, whippy crop.
All the tension left John as he saw his slave offering himself up for punishment. At the end of the day, Rodney had been coerced by Bates and it had been Teyla’s locket that was to blame. John smiled and ruffled Rodney’s hair, picking up the leash’s handle.
“No, I think the short leash thing is going to be horrid enough. Come on, before the hot water runs out.” The Major started towards the bathroom.
Rodney stood and looked at his Master with such admiration and devotion that John blushed. Then he reasoned that Rodney would soon realise that his Master was just a guy and things would be back to normal.
Rodney knew better and followed his Master with a heart full of love.