By Leesa Perrie & Jayne Perry
Guild - 1. an organization of persons with related interests, goals, etc., esp. one formed for mutual aid or protection.
Chapter One: Lab Rat
Rodney McKay had never been so afraid in his life before. He'd been kidnapped from his home three, four or more days ago - it was hard to keep track of time - by masked gunmen, and then drugged and transported to here, wherever here was. Since then, he'd been x-rayed, scanned and had his blood taken, amongst other tests and examinations.
He was being studied like an intriguing lab rat, unable to fight them as he was restrained to a hospital gurney by straps over his ankles, calves, thighs, chest, wrists, arms and forehead - ensuring his ability to move was severely curtailed. When he wasn't in the lab, he was frog-marched to his cell by thugs armed with tasers - well, cell was rather a grand term for the cage that they pushed him into. It was little larger than a closet, with bars all around that gave him no privacy, especially as he was constantly watched.
The lack of privacy had been humiliating at first, but right now it was the least of his concerns. He'd been escorted back to the lab yet again, and securely strapped down once there. Behind him, he could hear them talking - their voices lowered to a hushed whisper that somehow still managed to carry to his ears.
"We've finished the tests," a man's voice stated. "Everything looks to be within the parameters that we need."
"Good," a woman's voice answered. "Time to move onto the first stage of the experiment."
That word - experiment - was terrifying. Visions floated through his mind, all of them bad, bad and even more bad. He pulled at the straps, knowing it was futile, but fear gripped him, sending him into panic. He wanted out of this place - out, out, out!
But there was no escape for him, and no one coming to his rescue. No one to even notice he was missing, and certainly no one to care if they did.
When the doctor, researcher, or whatever she called herself appeared beside him, his struggles became frenzied and wild. He cried out in fear, thrashing against the straps holding him down.
"Don't do this, don't hurt me."
He was ashamed of his pleas and the fear he couldn't hide. It didn't do him any good anyway, as the woman ignored him, injecting him with a pale blue liquid.
"What is that? What are you doing to me?"
She didn't answer, merely watched with cold eyes, waiting.
And then there was pain. Agonising pain that swamped his nerves with a white heat that wouldn't lessen. Screams rent the air - his own he realised - screaming in pain and fear until his voice gave out and he felt like he was drowning in fire and pain and hurt.
But even when his voice was gone, still he screamed - silent screams, as the fire flickered on, relentless. He writhed against the restraints, his skin reddening where the straps rubbed against him. Distant voices noted his vitals with unfeeling calmness, and hours seemed to pass - though time had lost all meaning to him - but finally the fire started to cool, the pain to recede and he wept in relief.
Shaken and shaking, he was aware of more blood being taken and stats being discussed. And then the straps were removed and two burly guards grabbed him, pushing him into a wheelchair as he was too weak to stand.
They took him back to his cell, his cage, where he curled up on the poor excuse of a bed - a thin mattress on the floor that was doing nothing for his bad back - to try and sleep and not think about the next experiment.
It didn't work.
It had been a sunny day in Colorado Springs but now, at last, the heat was abating. Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard stood and stretched, easing tired muscles. He'd been working on his newly acquired 1947 Indian Chief for most of the day, hiding from the sun inside his garage - if not from the heat - and now decided it was time to have a shower, grab a beer, order in a pizza and settle down to a college football game.
He had just entered his home when the phone rang. Sighing in annoyance, he decided to ignore it. The shower was calling him and they could leave a message if it was important. The phone stopped ringing as he slipped off his t-shirt, but no message was left.
Couldn't have been important, he thought to himself, even while wondering idly who it had been.
"John, please answer the phone."
Teyla's voice resounded in his head unexpectedly, causing him to jump in shock. Damn it, he was never going to get used to her telepathy.
The phone began ringing again. Rubbing a hand across his brow, he went back downstairs and answered the call.
"This is my day off, you know," he protested, albeit mildly. He knew it must be something important - well, it had better be! - but damn it, he'd been looking forward to a relaxing evening.
"Sorry, John," Elizabeth, his boss, answered him, sounding tense rather than apologetic. "We have an emergency."
"You want me to come in? Teyla could have told me that..."
"No, I wanted to brief you on the situation myself, you know how using her telepathy over long distances tires her. She's just left with Ronon and Carson to pick you up, they should be with you in about thirty minutes."
"Okay. So, what's up?"
"Our contact at the NID received information from an agent inside The Foundation for Genetic Advancement. There is a small group of them conducting experiments on an enhanced person not far from here."
"And we're going to rescue the enhanced person?" John said, not able to hide the deep anger and hatred welling up inside of him. Those bastards had killed his mother in the name of research six months ago, and the only reason he had survived was because the newly formed Guild had rescued him. The ones directly responsible for his mother's death had been dealt with, and he was glad that illegal experimenting on humans (or aliens, though the general populace was unaware of their existence as yet) was treated the same as predetermined murder.
Though that had been little comfort to him at the time, or now even. Nor was the fact that they hadn't started their experiments on him, having decided to concentrate on his mother first. He still had nightmares of watching her suffer, wishing it was him instead, but being unable to help her.
"Yes," Elizabeth said, and he could hear the sympathy in her voice even if she didn't put it into words - something for which he was grateful for. The anger helped to keep the grief at bay and being consoled was the last thing he needed right now.
"Tell me what you know."
"The person in question is a Dr Meredith McKay, an astrophysicist who, according to the NID agent, the Foundation have been watching for several months. His job was terminated recently, and as he lives alone, it seems they decided this was a good time to take him. Certainly no one has reported him missing as yet."
"Any idea what his ability is?"
"According to his medical files he has gills as well as lungs, which enable him to breathe underwater."
"Not heard of that one before," John said, but not sounding too surprised. They were often coming across new genetic mutations. Most were able to live reasonably normal lives, others were recruited to one of the military contingents, while others were recruited either to the Stargate Program or, more recently, to the Guild. Criminals, of course, were placed in special jails, designed to keep in even the most tricky of 'enhanced people' in.
Mutants, freaks, genetic mistakes; he'd heard them all, and worse, but the government preferred its more politically correct term. Personally, he believed himself to be a freak of nature, and no amount of counselling would change his mind on that.
"No, not one we've run across before," Elizabeth agreed. "And one that can be easily hidden, depending on where the gills are situated. The NID have spoken to some of his former co-workers and none of them were aware of his enhancement."
"Kept it a secret, but the Foundation found out and decided to target him, poor bastard." John hoped that the Foundation hadn't gone beyond taking some base readings, otherwise who knew what they might have done to the guy? "Whereabouts are we heading?"
"A mansion situated in a secluded area about ten miles outside of Burlington. It's rented under the company name 'TA Pharmaceuticals'. You should arrive there at dusk."
"Right. Standard procedure I presume - recovery of the victim, capture of the personnel and recovery of their data, if possible. In that order of priority."
"Yes, the usual. Take care."
"I will," he replied before ending the call. Moving quickly, he headed to the bathroom. He had just enough time to have a shower before his ride arrived, so long as he was fast.
John, fresh from his hurried shower, was waiting on the porch when the van pulled up in front of his home. The side door of the van slid open.
"Hey," Ronon greeted him from inside the van.
"Hey," John replied, climbing into the van and sitting down next to Carson. "Who's driving?"
"Sergeant Stackhouse," Teyla told him. "We will meet up with Major Lorne and his team when we get closer."
"Good." John nodded, they were good people. Stackhouse was normally part of an offworld team, but often helped out if available. He had the ability to freeze anything he wanted to, to whatever temperature suited his needs. Major Lorne was also part of the Stargate Program, with his own team. Lorne was the opposite to Stackhouse, able to warm things up to whatever temperature he wanted. His other team members weren't enhanced people, but they were solid and dependable nonetheless.
He pored over the building blueprint that Teyla had handed him, mapping out the mansion and working out a plan of attack. He was always amazed at how much information the Guild had access to - amazed, but also grateful, as it made his task much easier.
"Doc, you coming in with us or sitting this one out?" Sheppard asked. He could see that Carson was nervous, but also knew that Carson was capable of overcoming his fear if he felt he needed to. Still, John wouldn't hold it against him if he chose to sit this one out.
"Ach, you might need me to be on hand for the poor bugger they've got in there. No saying what they might have done to him."
"Okay, doc. You're with Teyla. I'll send Stackhouse and Smith in with you." Lieutenant Smith was one of Lorne's team, the other two being Sergeant Markham, an experienced marine, and Dr Miller, a computer geek extraordinaire.
"Ronon, you're with me. We'll take Lorne, Markham and Miller in with us."
Ronon nodded his assent.
"The Intel we received says the rooms we're looking for are in the basement," Teyla informed him.
"Okay," John said, looking at the blueprints carefully. "Teyla, you and your group take the entrance to the left here. I'll take my team in from the back entrance and head down this staircase. That way we have one group coming at them from the left and one from the right."
"So they have no way to escape," Teyla said.
They continued planning as the van took them to their destination, hoping to cover all possible contingencies, anxious to make sure the mission went well.
Rodney shivered in the restraints, the pain receding slowly. This was the third time they'd injected him with the blue liquid. The third time his body had reacted with intense pain for what seemed like forever, before gradually subsiding. Hours of pain followed by a few of rest, followed by tests and then another injection.
Behind him the scientist recorded her observations. The bitch didn't care about his pain, only about the results. Whenever she looked at him, her eyes were cold and calculating, making him wish she'd look away.
Behind him, hidden from his view, he heard someone enter the room and ask her for a progress report.
"The scans of the subject's brain are showing a slight alteration. We believe a mental ability is starting to manifest itself, but so far it is very weak, possibly too weak for the subject to be aware of or use. However, each time the injection is given, the scans show further development. Over time, we believe the ability will strengthen."
"Is there a way to increase the efficiency of the serum?" the man asked.
"Richards is working on it, but it will take time."
"What about the pain? We can't subject our enhanced friends to that."
"No, of course not. We're concerned that any pain medication or anaesthesia may interfere with the serum, either adversely affecting the subject, possibly harming or killing him, or else slowing down the serum's effectiveness even more. We wish to track the serum's ability to alter the subject further, maybe another three or four injections, before introducing any possible complications pain relief may cause."
"Hmm. Can you speed up the process? One injection every fourteen hours seems a little over cautious to me."
"We need to give the subject time to recover or risk weakening him too greatly, potentially causing his heart to give out on us. We also need time to gather the data we need from tests and scans." The woman sighed. "But perhaps we are being a little too cautious. I'll speak to the Richards, we may be able to give the subject an injection every, say, ten hours instead? It would help if we had another subject too."
"It's hard to find suitable subjects - you know they need to be isolated enough not be missed for a while. However, I'll see what I can arrange."
"That would be good."
Rodney didn't hear any more as he was released from the restraints by two of the guards and roughly manhandled into the wheelchair. The pain flared up again at the mistreatment, swamping his thoughts until he was back in his cage, lying on his side and curled up as best as he could. As the pain receded to a dull roar, his mind started to process the information he'd overheard. It was the first time anyone had talked about what they were doing to him while he was present, and it sent chills down his spine.
The idea that they were trying to stimulate another mutation within him, a mental one at that, was scary enough without hearing that it was working, albeit slowly. He didn't want another mutation, didn't really want the one he had but had grown used to - well, used to hiding. He'd learned early on in his life that it was better to hide his gills, because no one wanted a freak. Hell, his parents had taken one look at their newborn child and walked away, leaving him to be cared for by the state.
He supposed he'd been lucky in some ways. The home he'd grown up in had been well maintained, and the people who ran it seemed to care - when they weren't too busy or harried to spend time with him, which all too often they were. It was hard watching other kids being fostered or adopted while he was left behind. He knew it was because he was a freak - something he was never allowed to forget by those kids that knew. So he learned to hide his gills - though not his intellect! He wouldn't hide that, even when it made things difficult for him at school.
When he was fourteen he'd tracked his parents down, not sure what to expect, but not really surprised to find hatred and loathing. He still couldn't work out what had possessed him to do that. But it didn't matter - he ignored the part of him that said it did, that it hurt to be rejected - he was better than them. His intelligence got him a full scholarship to college and he earned his first doctorate within four years, his second a year later.
Of course, people were jealous of his intellect, something he knew that all too well. His so-called friends usually wanted something from him in return for pretend friendship, dropping him when they had what they wanted - or discovered they weren't going to get it.
It was better to remain alone.
Only it appeared that remaining alone had gotten him into this mess. There was no one to report him missing. Not one person to notice or care.
He shivered again. More injections, at least three, possibly four, without any kind of pain relief. And even when, or if, they introduced pain meds, it could make him ill, harm him, kill him even.
Maybe that wouldn't be so bad. It'd be better than this; being experimented on, tortured for the sake of medical advancement.
Part of him hoped for death, but most of him wasn't there yet. Most of him still wanted to live, to escape, though he had no idea how.
Huddled in his cage, he tried to take his mind off his predicament and the painful future he faced by working out long complicated equations, thinking up new theories, designing computer programs - anything that kept his mind distracted.
It didn't really work all that well, but he tried.