As the wormhole disengaged behind him, Carson Beckett thought about how this was one of the few places he actually didn't mind gating to. The sun was almost always shining, and the temperature was that of an early autumn day in Edinburgh. A small cluster of buildings surrounded the stargate, which sat atop a steep hill overlooking a beautiful lake.
All in all, it was an excellent place to have a clinic for dying Genii.
After the dust from Ladon Radim's coup had settled and the last of the "hostages" were released from the infirmary, Carson still couldn't get Dahlia Radim's words out of his head:
"It's no use. The doctors on our world have tried to cure all of us.... I know what you're trying to do."
"There's really nothing sinister about it, love."
"Why? Why would you help us?"
"Because I'm a doctor. That's what I do."
She'd been afraid to let him help her and her friends. No doubt Genii physicians weren't nearly as concerned about the health of enemy "patients." In the end, though, he'd convinced her to trust him, and he was cautiously optimistic that they'd cured her lung cancer. But what about the many other Genii who were no doubt in similar situations because of long-term radiation exposure?
A few days later, Carson had asked Elizabeth for permission to start a cancer clinic for the Genii as a gesture of good will. They would treat who they could and make the rest as comfortable as possible. Both Elizabeth and Ladon had loved the idea – after saving Ladon's sister, Carson could do no wrong in his eyes – and they quickly came to an agreement. Atlantis would provide medications, training, and some of the medical personnel. The Genii, in turn, would be responsible for the day-to-day operation of the program.
That had been nine months ago. He himself hadn't been back for awhile, having delegated the responsibility to one of his division heads. But now one of the junior medics had asked him for a second opinion on a patient she was caring for.
Carson nodded to the two soldiers guarding the gate and started walking toward the compound. He walked through the doorway of the main building into a high-ceilinged room with large windows. A stone fireplace sat in the center of the room. It was unlit now, but the nights often got cold enough to make a fire necessary. Although this building was already here when they found the site, someone had added some decorative touches since his last visit. There were tan rugs on the floor and a light brown sofa, piled high with cushions, sat in front of the fireplace.
The physician was pleased to see all of this. A therapeutic environment could work wonders for the healing process, and the Atlantis infirmary didn't always live up to the ideal. Carson was reminded of this every time John or Rodney snuck out when his back was turned. (He still wasn't going to let them off the hook, though.)
A small desk stood next to one of the windows overlooking the lake, and a blonde woman sat there working. She looked up as Carson entered the room and smiled. "Dr. Beckett!" she exclaimed. "I had no idea you were coming, but it's good to see you."
Carson smiled back fondly. "Hello, Dahlia. You look wonderful."
As preparations for the Genii project had got underway, they quickly realized that they needed a clinic administrator. That person would both oversee the program and serve as a liaison to Atlantis. It had to be someone reliable and dependable, and someone with whom they could easily work. Carson hadn't had to think very long before suggesting Dahlia for the position. He'd talked with her quite a bit during her recovery and had been impressed by her intelligence and spirit, once she allowed herself to hope again. She needed some convincing, but now things ran smoothly under her direction.
"What brings you here?" she asked. For a minute there was a look of fear in her eyes. "Are there problems with the latest test results?"
The physician was quick to reassure her. "No, no. You're fine, love. Dr. Grayson asked me for help with one of her patients, and I wanted to come in person."
Dahlia relaxed. "Now that I think about it, I do remember her mentioning something about that. She's quite worried." She stood up. "If you like, I can show you where she's working right now."
Dahlia led Carson to a work room in one of the outlying buildings. Dr. Diana Grayson, a young family practitioner with experience in oncology, was sitting at a table reading charts. She looked up at him, and an expression of relief passed over her face. Diana was relatively new to Atlantis and was still a bit overwhelmed. "Thanks, Dr. Beckett," she said. "I appreciate your coming."
"Of course," he replied. He sat down across from her and leaned back in his chair, trying to put her at ease. "Tell me about your patient."
"I've never seen anything like this," she said. "It looks like Hodgkin's disease, but it's so aggressive it's almost virulent. And look at these tumor markers." Diana handed him a sheet of paper. "They're all wrong for this type of cancer."
"Aye," Carson said softly. "The Genii have managed to mutate some of their diseases beyond recognition. Let's see if we can figure this out."
Diana began to give him more details about the case. The patient was a young woman, age approximately 28 Earth years. Like most of her people, she spent the vast majority of her time in the underground bunkers. But because she was in the military, her quarters were located in close proximity to the nuclear labs. Both of her parents were dead. Her mother had died of some wasting disease when she was a child, and her father had been killed by the Wraith about a year ago. The patient herself had been feeling fine until three months ago, then had started experiencing fevers, night sweats, and weight loss. "The physical exam, though, was what really made me concerned about Hodgkin's. Lymph nodes in almost every chain are enlarged."
Carson nodded. "The diagnosis certainly sounds reasonable. What tests have you done so far?"
"Well, you saw the bloodwork," Diana said. "The bone marrow results were also inconclusive. I'd like to do some imaging studies and a lymph node biopsy, but I wanted to run things by you, first."
Carson smiled and stood up. "Sounds like you've done everything right. Let's go see her."
Diana hesitated. "She got very upset when I told her you were coming, and practically begged me not to call you. Apparently she almost didn't even come to the clinic. I can't figure out why, though. You and she have never been here at the same time – she shouldn't even know you at all."
Carson froze as a sudden suspicion filled his mind. "What's the patient's name?"
"Ah. Sorry about that. Her name is Sora."
The blow came from out of nowhere, knocking him flat on his arse. Through a haze of pain and dizziness, he could hear Teyla and his unknown assailant yelling at each other.
"Drop it! I'll kill him."
"I have known you for most of your life. Why are you doing this?"
A metallic clinking sound. "You left him to die!"
"Your father killed an innocent. He alerted the Wraith to our presence."
"And you escaped!"
"If I am to die by your hands, Sora, I die knowing there's nothing I could have done to save Tyrus."
Diana noticed his hesitation. "Dr. Beckett? Is everything all right?"
Carson forced himself to relax. "Everything's fine. I was just reminded of an... incident. From before your time."
He must have briefly passed out, because the next thing he remembered was the sound of fighting. "This is not what your father would have wanted. Our people were destined to be allies!"
A voice in his ear. "Teyla and Beckett! Fall back to the control room." John sounded calm, but his voice held an undercurrent of desperation.
Teyla had obviously heard it too. "This must end. NOW!!"
"Then end it!"
Teyla yanked him to his feet a moment later. The sudden motion caused a spike of pain to drill through his head, and he almost fell. But then another set of hands steadied him. Together, the three of them headed off at a near run.
Wasn't something important (and deadly) supposed to happen soon?
They stopped just as his vision began to blur again, but he was able to figure out that they were in the control room. Rodney was bent over one of the consoles. He looked up at the physician and nodded. "Carson."
"Just in time to see how this ends, huh?"
And that's when he passed out again.
Carson was glad he didn't know at the time how close he'd been to death by electrocution. After the dust had settled, Rodney was hit with the realization that he'd almost killed two of his friends. He'd been deeply shaken, and Carson had a hard time convincing him that he didn't blame him. The physician had finally resorted to desperate measures and brought out the Scotch and shortbread he'd been hoarding, in order to calm Rodney down.
For the first few days after the storm, all attention was focused on assessing the damage and starting repairs. (Carson hadn't been pleased about losing some of their irreplaceable medications, but otherwise the infirmary had escaped unscathed.) There was no time to deal with their Genii prisoner, so they left her under guard in a set of empty quarters.
When things returned to a semblance of normalcy, the senior staff met to decide what to do with Sora. Elizabeth was afraid she would face harsh punishment if she returned to her own world, so she decided to keep Sora in the city and hopefully show her that their peoples did not have to be enemies. But to do that, they needed to be sure she was in good health.
Lieutenant Ford brought Sora to the infirmary. He looked ill at ease, and he departed quickly. The Genii woman was left to sit on an exam table while two Marines stood watch behind her. She wouldn't meet anyone's eyes, keeping her own fixed firmly on the floor.
When he was informed of Sora's arrival, Carson had to suppress a brief surge of anger. After all, his head still ached from the concussion she'd given him. But his ire quickly vanished as he saw how scared she obviously was. He looked over at the guards and gave a subtle nod of his head. They didn't look happy about it, but they quietly left to stand just outside the infirmary door.
"Hello, Sora," Carson said. "I'm Dr. Beckett." Sora didn't respond, so he decided to risk a small joke. "We never were properly introduced."
She flushed at that, but still refused to look at him or say anything.
"I'm not going to hurt you," the physician said. "I promise." Sora finally did look at him, and Carson was shocked by the loneliness and despair he saw in her eyes.
"I'm sorry we haven't had the chance to talk earlier," he said softly. "I know this must be very overwhelming for you. Has everyone treated you all right?"
"Yes," she answered, in a voice that was almost a whisper. "Why? If things had gone differently..."
"But they didn't," Carson said firmly. "And in the end, you did help us. Whatever your reasons, you convinced Kolya not to kill two friends of mine – Elizabeth and Rodney – and you helped Teyla save my life."
"After endangering it to begin with," Sora said, almost grudgingly.
Carson smiled slightly. "Considering I almost killed Major Sheppard when we first met, I'd say there's precedent for beginning a friendship that way."
Sora had calmed down a bit after that, although she didn't completely warm up to him. Medically she was fine, except for a minor thyroid abnormality which would require periodic monitoring. Over the next few months, Sora gradually adjusted to the routine of the expedition, but she was never really happy. After the coup, she'd asked to be allowed to return home, and both Elizabeth and Ladon had agreed.
Carson sighed. Diana, of course, knew nothing about any of this. To her, Pegasus was a remote and dangerous assignment, but the later waves of personnel had never known what it was like to be completely cut off from Earth. The Genii invasion of Atlantis was ancient history as far as they were concerned, and so were the players involved.
Aloud, he said only, "I first met Sora during the big storm. I'm just sorry she's not doing very well." He gestured towards the door. "Shall we?"
When they got to Sora's room, Diana went in first. Carson could hear her talking in a low, soothing voice. He followed her in a few minutes later and his heart sank.
Without a doubt, Sora was gravely ill. The Genii woman, never heavy to begin with, had lost quite a bit of weight. Her skin was pale, and her red hair had lost its luster. Her eyes were dull and listless. Worst of all, she looked horribly depressed. Carson's great-aunt had looked like this after her husband died, and she didn't live very long afterwards. "Oh, lass..." he breathed sadly.
Seeing him, Sora moaned and tried to turn her head away. She hissed as the movement caused her some pain and closed her eyes tightly. A few tears soon leaked past her clenched eyelids.
Carson stepped into the hall and gestured to Diana to join him. "You've done an excellent job so far, but let me handle this for now," he said to the other physician.
She hesitated a moment, then nodded. "Please let me know what happens," she said wistfully. Carson smiled and squeezed her shoulder encouragingly. New though she might be, she was going to be a fine addition to his staff.
After Diana had left, Carson walked back into Sora's room and sat down in a chair by the bed. "Why didn't you ask for help sooner?" he asked gently. "There's no reason for you to suffer like this."
"Afraid," she whispered. "I don't want to have to go back to Atlantis. I'd rather die."
Carson chose his words carefully. "Although a few of your people have needed to stay in our infirmary for a little while, the vast majority have been treated here or on your home world. But why would you be afraid to come back?"
"I thought people might... might hold a grudge." She stumbled over her words. "I don't want to give them the... satisfaction... of seeing me like this."
Carson was stunned. Her statement was short and to the point, but it spoke volumes about her frame of mind. "Sora, you lived with us for almost a year. In all that time, did anyone ever give you the impression that they'd be happy to see you in pain?"
A little of the old spunk returned. "Does the name Bates sound familiar?" Sora snapped.
The physician sighed. "Sergeant Bates wasn't exactly the friendliest person, I agree. But I never knew him to be a sadist." The young man had been extraordinarily suspicious while carrying out his duties, and was zealous almost to a fault. But even when sniping at Teyla, he never seemed to get any personal pleasure from hurting anyone. "In any case, he's no longer with the expedition."
Sora shrugged. "I'm sure there are others like him."
Carson opened his mouth to correct her, then stopped as a sudden flash of intuition hit him. "Have your own people treated you like that?"
He saw from her eyes that he'd scored a hit. "They're not really my people anymore," she said in a low voice. "Those who support Ladon look down on me for working with Kolya, and those who still secretly support Kolya think I'm a traitor."
Carson shook his head. Elizabeth had been afraid that Sora might be ostracized, but they didn't think it was an issue after the Genii leadership changed. He wondered if Ladon knew of Sora's torment. "I'm so, so sorry," he said.
"I don't want pity!"
"It's not pity. You're hurting, and we're at least partly responsible." Sternness crept into the physician's voice. "You bear some of the responsibility, too, so now you have a decision to make. You can give up, and let this disease you have kill you. We can help keep you comfortable if that's what you choose. Or, you can come back to Atlantis and try to fight. It's the more difficult choice, but I think it's worth it."
Sora glared at him for a minute, then looked away. "You said most people got treatment here," she finally said.
Carson let his tone soften. "I don't think that would be a good idea for you. We've got better facilities and more specialists back in the city. Did Dr. Grayson explain what she thinks is going on?"
"She said something's wrong with my blood. I didn't understand it all," Sora admitted.
"That's not surprising. It's a lot to take in at once." He gave her a sad smile. This was not the same woman who almost killed him two years ago. Despite himself, Carson found himself missing the old Sora. She'd been shrill and obsessed with her father's death, but at least she hadn't looked beaten. "You don't have to decide right away. I'll need to inform Dr. Weir and Colonel Sheppard, and I also want to confer with some of my colleagues. If you do choose to take the treatment, we'll need to come up with a coordinated plan."
Carson held out a hand, and a moment later Sora grasped it. "Speaking for myself, now, I hope you'll come back to Atlantis. It won't be easy, but I think there's a good chance we can cure you. I'd like the chance to convince you that we aren't a fate worse than death."
With that, the physician walked out of the room. Diana was waiting for him back in the main area of the compound. "How did it go?" she asked.
"What a mess," Carson sighed. "She doesn't fit in with the Genii anymore, and she doesn't trust anyone. I think I've convinced her to let us help her, but it's still going to be an uphill battle." Teyla would be a good person to enlist, he realized. All three of their lives had touched during the hurricane, and although the rain had stopped, the storm clouds still loomed on the horizon.
Perhaps, if this worked, the sun would finally appear.