"Last chance to back out."
Sophie glanced over her shoulder at the woman who had spoken. She was standing behind the ramp with an overly enthusiastic smile, which was clearly meant to be encouraging. Sophie, however, took little encouragement from the smile, and rather felt like running, but there was nowhere to go. Pulling up all the confidence she could muster at the moment, she shook my head.
"Thanks Colonel, but I think it's too late for that. I've come this far, and all my bags have already been sent through and everything." Sophie adjusted her cropped gray blazer and straightened out the matching pencil skirt. "I'll be fine."
"We'll be in touch," the Colonel assured her. "Have fun."
Sophie focused ahead, staring hard at the brilliant blue circle in front of her. She took a deep breath and walked forward through the stargate, bracing herself for anything. What she hadn't braced herself for was nothing. Going through the stargate felt like nothing. She had a sensation of complete absence, nothingness, not even breathing, but it was over almost instantly. Sophie soon found herself on the other side of the stargate, catching her breath and fighting dizziness; she silently cursed herself for wearing stilettos. The glowing blue vanished from the stargate, and she found herself in a bright spacious room, not unlike the control room she had just left at the midway station, though this one was clearly much more sophisticated.
"Welcome to Atlantis, Miss Marlowe." A tall woman with short blonde hair approached with her hand outstretched. "I'm Colonel Samantha Carter." "Right, you're in charge," Sophie remembered the brief rundown she had been given before leaving earth. "It's good to meet you," she shook Colonel Carter's hand. "Is it normal for me to be feeling a little...unbalanced right now?"
"Yes, the first time through the stargate can be unsettling," Colonel Carter said, "but you'll get used to it. The first time I went through, I almost got sick." She smiled. "All your bags have been brought to your quarters."
"Now, I assume you'd like to be shown around, get a feel for the place so you'll feel more comfortable."
Before they had a chance to move, the gate activated again. A man up behind the glass beckoned to the colonel.
"It's Colonel Sheppard's IDC," he announced.
"Good, open the gate," Colonel Carter commanded. She stepped aside and motioned for Sophie to do the same.
Sophie watched the gate flicker on again, and decided she had no desire to ever pass through it again. Her dizziness hadn't faded yet. A man suddenly dove through the gate, aiming his gun back towards the gate. He landed on his back and slid across the floor. Not a moment passed before another man hurried through the gate, also aiming his gun. This man's entrance, however, was accompanied by gunfire from the other side. Bullets flew through the gate along with a form of laser beams, which Sophie assumed were an advanced alien form of weaponry. She darted out of the way as yet another man barreled through the gate; like the first he too slid across the floor. She didn't move far enough, however, and though partially hidden behind a short wall, one of the laser beams grazed her arm. Pain seared through her arm instantly, and she wanted to scream, but bit her lip to fight it.
"Everyone's through, seal the gate!"
Sophie didn't know which direction Colonel Carter's command had come from, but the next moment the gate shut off and the gunfire ceased.
"Colonel Sheppard, explain yourself."
The first man who had entered the gate stood and holstered his weapon. "Sorry Colonel, but it was safe when we dialed. They came out of nowhere and we didn't have time to warn you."
"Well, this time you were lucky," Colonel Carter approached him. "Make sure you don't take that risk again."
"Umm, Colonel..." Sophie stood, but the combined effect of the dizziness and the pain in her arm made her lose balance quickly and she stumbled.
"Not so lucky it would seem." Colonel Sheppard approached her cautiously, "who's this?"
Colonel Carter came to Sophie's side quickly. "Miss Marlowe, I'm so sorry! This doesn't usually happen..."
"It's fine. I'm okay."
"You don't look okay."
Sophie looked to the other man who had spoken—the second one to go sliding across the floor—and felt briefly alarmed by his appearance. Everyone she had met so far seemed so clean and professional, but this man looked like an only slightly reformed version of Tarzan, but he did look genuinely concerned, and his bright eyes were mesmerizing.
"It's just a graze," she told him. "I've had worse."
"It's a bit more than just a graze," Colonel Sheppard decided. "I know how those rays burn. You're brave, but you should get to the infirmary." He glanced at Colonel Carter. "That is assuming she's someone we're on friendly terms with?" He lowered his voice. "Again I say: who the hell is she?" Sophie's dizziness won out, and she stumbled forward, but Colonel Sheppard caught her instantly.
"Colonel, this is the newest member of your team," Colonel Carter explained.
"Damn, that was happening today?"
"I forgot," he said, "I thought she was coming tomorrow." He looked apologetic. "I should have been here to greet you."
"It's fine," she assured him. Sophie still wasn't exactly sure who he was or what position he would have in her new career.
"Save the apologies," Colonel Carter demanded. "Help me get her down to infirmary, and we can make proper introductions there."
"Yea, sure thing," Colonel Sheppard agreed. He hesitated for a moment, seeming to consider the best option and finally decided to lift her into his arms and carry her.
"This isn't necessary," Sophie argued. "I can walk." She didn't want to be a burden on her first day. "Put me down."
"You can't even stand," the wild man pointed out.
"Yes I can," Sophie persisted. "Please put me down."
"Don't argue," Colonel Sheppard demanded. "It's my fault you got shot, the least I can do is get you safely to the infirmary."
"It's just my arm. There's nothing wrong with my legs," she pointed out. "Please let me walk."
He set Sophie back on her feet, but stayed closer than was necessary as Colonel Carter led the way down to the infirmary. The wild man, and one other followed. As they walked, Colonel Carter used her earpiece to inform the infirmary of their approach and a young woman, clearly the doctor, greeted them at the door.
"Sheppard, what did you do?"
"It wasn't me," he protested. "Well, sort of, but only accidentally."
The doctor turned to Sophie and smiled. "Hi, I'm Dr. Keller. It didn't take long for you to be initiated, did it?"
"Being shot at," she explained. "It's like a right of passage here on Atlantis."
"Oh," Sophie nodded, "then I guess I'm flattered."
The doctor shook her head, "don't be. It'll get old fast."
The idea of being shot at frequently had not been mentioned when Sophie took the job. There had been mention of risk, of course, but this wasn't what she had been expecting. She hoped the insecurity didn't show on her face.
"Come and sit down," Dr. Keller instructed. "I need to have a look at your arm and probably give you stitches."
"Stitches?" Sophie grimaced.
"Yea," she smiled, "depending on how deep the wound is."
"It's just a graze," she repeated. "It really feels fine."
"It might feel fine, but that doesn't necessarily mean it is fine. Sometimes the wounds that feel the best are actually the worst." She motioned Sophie onto an examination table and she hopped up obediently. "Can you remove your jacket for me, please?"
Sophie reached to unfasten the buttons, but her arm burned suddenly and she winced.
"Fine, huh?" Dr. Keller shook her head.
"No, really," Sophie insisted. "It's just when I move suddenly...it's a little sore."
"Sore how?" she asked.
"Umm," she hesitated and tried to think how to describe it properly. "It sort of burns. Like the inside of my arm is on fire."
"And yet you feel fine?"
"Yea right," she smiled a little patronizingly. "I'm going to remove your jacket now and get you stitched up."
Sophie glanced around at the others, wishing they weren't all just standing there, staring at her like she was a helpless child they needed to protect. None of them seemed likely to leave though. Then she noticed that one of the guys who had followed them was bleeding from a cut in his forehead.
"What about him?" Sophie asked quickly. "He's hurt too. His injury is probably much more serious than mine."
Dr. Keller glanced at the man in question and rolled her eyes. "Major Lorne, didn't I just patch you up yesterday?"
"It's been three days at least," Major Lorne argued.
"Sit on that table," she instructed, "and I'll have someone take care of you." She beckoned to one of the other doctors that had been hanging out in the background. Sophie didn't need anyone to tell her that Dr. Keller was the doctor in charge.
"It's not as bad as it looks." Major Lorne reached up to touch the wound, but pulled his fingers away with fresh blood.
"Like I said, sit down." Dr. Keller briefly glanced around the rest of the group. "Anyone else need attention?"
"I think we're all good," Colonel Sheppard answered. "Just get her taken care of."
"Do you guys think you can give me some space to work?" Dr. Keller requested of the team as she finished unfastening the buttons on Sophie's jacket. "It's not that bad, but definitely more than just a graze, and you standing around isn't going to get it done any faster." She set he jacket aside and began inspecting the wound on Sophie's arm. None of the others moved though.
"Colonel Sheppard still hasn't been introduced," Colonel Carter explained. "We came to the infirmary in a rush."
"Colonel, I respect formalities, but I think introductions should wait until after I've stitched her up."
"Actually," Sophie interrupted, "if it's all right with you, I wouldn't mind them staying."
"Really?" Dr. Keller looked uncertain.
"I could use the distraction," she explained.
Sophie felt her cheeks growing warm. She hated that their first impression was of her being so weak. "I don't do well with needles."
The wild man smirked. "You were ready to completely ignore the gunshot wound, but needles you can't handle?"
Sophie shook her head. "It's definitely not easy."
"Good," Colonel Sheppard spoke up, "it's decided then. We'll stay and get acquainted."
"Fine," Dr. Keller accepted their presence and started cleaning the wound.
"Miss Marlowe," Colonel Carter nodded to Colonel Sheppard, "Colonel Sheppard."
"Colonel John Sheppard," he reintroduced himself and then motioned to the wild man. "This is Ronon Dex, one of my team. You'll meet Teyla later. She wasn't on mission today because she's spending time with her baby."
"Baby?" Sophie repeated. "You guys have time for babies here?"
"It isn't exactly recommended," Colonel Carter explained. "Of course if anyone chooses to, however, we won't stand in their way. Teyla's baby has been a great joy for all of us here."
"And that's Major Lorne," Colonel Sheppard motioned to the guy being stitched up on the table next to her. "He's not a part of my team exactly, but he's one of my men just the same. He leads his own team though. You'll also meet Rodney later. He's off world on another assignment right now."
"It's good to meet you all." Sophie kept her eyes focused on Colonel Sheppard so she wouldn't see what Dr. Keller was doing with the needle. "Umm, can I ask though...what exactly do you mean by teams?"
"Sorry, Miss Marlowe, it's military terminology," he explained.
"Yea, I mean, I got that part, but I'm confused as to why I will be a part of your team. From what I can see, you seem to be pretty military-focused."
Ronon and Colonel Sheppard exchanged glances.
"How do I fit in?"
Colonel Carter stepped up to explain: "You will be part of Colonel Sheppard's team any time they venture off world for research or socializing. Naturally you won't be part of their combat missions," she smiled.
"Oh," Sophie nodded, "okay."
"What exactly do you do?" Ronon asked.
Colonel Sheppard glared at him. "Ronon..."
"Miss Marlowe is an anthropologic writer," Colonel Carter explained.
"She writes about people—cultures. She will be studying and documenting all the experiences we have with people from other worlds."
"Don't we already do that?"
"Not to the extent that Miss Marlowe will be doing. Command thinks we've been neglecting the details of the people and focusing too much on how Atlantis can benefit from them. Miss Marlowe will be researching the people and understanding how their cultures function differently from our own."
"That's really cool," Major Lorne spoke up. "I'm sure there's a lot to know about all these people that we haven't learned yet."
"Hmph." Ronon shrugged. "Sounds boring."
"Ronon!" Colonel Sheppard swatted his arm, but Sophie laughed.
"I'm sure a lot of people would agree with you," she told him. "It's more interesting than it sounds though, I promise. Perhaps when I start my work, I can explain it to you better and you'll find it less boring."
He looked doubtful.
"Regardless of your interest level, Miss Marlowe will be joining our team, and we are pleased to have you," Colonel Sheppard assured her.
"Thank you," Sophie tried to sound as confident as he did, but Ronon's skepticism hadn't helped much. She still wasn't sure how she would fit in exactly. Sophie glanced down at my arm and grimaced as Dr. Keller pulled the needle through her skin. "Almost done?"
"Just about," she promised. "Only a couple more."
"Before you guys showed up, I was going to have someone show Miss Marlowe around and help her get situated," Colonel Carter told them. "Since you're back now though, maybe you'd like to show her around yourself. It would give you a chance to become better acquainted."
"Absolutely," Colonel Sheppard agreed. "That is if you're up to walking around a bit, Miss Marlowe..."
"Of course," she agreed, "but you really do have to stop calling me 'Miss.' My name's Sophie. 'Miss' sounds strange."
"Sophie," he repeated, "works for me."
"There," Dr. Keller finished the stitches, "all done. Now just let me cover it."
Sophie let out a breath as Dr. Keller set aside the sharp instruments. "You're very good. I barely felt it."
"I'm glad." She carefully placed a gauze bandage over the two-inch wound and secured it in place with surgical tape. "Now, I put some ointment on it to reduce the burning sensation, but if it persists, make sure to let me know."
"I will," Sophie promised.
She helped Sophie put her jacket back on gently, trying to move her arm as little as possible. "I'm sorry about your jacket."
Sophie glanced at the substantial tear in the sleeve. "It's not important," she lied. She decided not to mention that it was new and had taken hours to choose, wanting to have the perfect outfit for her first day.
Dr. Keller finished refastening the buttons and stepped back. "You're good to go."
"Thank you." Sophie slipped off the table, landing unsteadily on her stilettos.
"All right," Colonel Carter nodded, "I'm going to leave you in capable hands here, and return to my duties." She offered Sophie a final smile. "It's good to have you on board, Miss Marlowe."
"Thanks," she returned the smile, and the colonel left.
"Okay, so tour?" Colonel Sheppard motioned for Sophie to step ahead of him. "Ronon, you coming?"
He looked uninterested, but followed them out of the infirmary and down the corridor.
"Do you know anything about Atlantis yet, Miss Marlowe?"
"Please, I told you it's Sophie," she reminded him," and yes, I know some. All I could learn from the files. I know the history of the ancients and I have some grasp on their language, and..."
"You know the language?" Colonel Sheppard interrupted.
"Not fluently," she explained, "but I've been studying it, and I have an understanding of the basics."
"Wow," he stared at her, "that's impressive."
"Languages are one of my specialties," Sophie told him. "Well, sort of. I find studying languages to be very beneficial to my anthropologic research."
"Good for you." His tone suggested that he had little patience for that field of study. "So, do you know anything of the layout of the city?"
"I've glanced over the schematics," she answered, "but they were hard to follow."
"Yea, it's a bit of a mess in here, but you'll get the hang of it eventually." He pointed to a metal door directly ahead of them. "I'll show you the most necessary parts of this place, starting with transport."
On the wall beside the door was a narrow row of three crystals, which glowed blue like the stargate. "These are the locks," he waved his hand over them and the door parted. "It's that simple." The door opened on a room no larger than a small closet. "This is a transporter," he explained. "You can think of it like an elevator, but the science is much more complex, and it is much more efficient." He stepped inside, and Ronon and Sophie followed, then the heavy doors snapped shut. "This map shows the entire city and the red spots show where the other transporters are located. You select the one closest to where you want to go, and you're transported there instantly."
"Instantly?" Sophie repeated.
"Yep," he nodded, "it's pretty damn instant."
"Where're we going?" Ronon asked.
Colonel Sheppard glanced at the map and touched a red spot on the screen. "Let's show her the mess hall. It's pretty essential."
A moment later the doors opened on a completely different corridor, though strikingly similar in appearance. The group exited the transporter and Colonel Sheppard led the way down the hall.
"Are we gonna eat?" Ronon asked.
"I wasn't planning on it," Colonel Sheppard responded. "You hungry?"
"I could eat," he replied.
"If you two are hungry, please don't let me stand in your way," Sophie spoke up quickly.
Colonel Sheppard seemed to consider it for a moment before shaking his head. "No, we should continue with your tour. Get you comfortable."
"It's fine," Sophie assured him, "really. If you're hungry, please eat. I don't need a tour."
"Yea you do," Colonel Sheppard insisted. "Like I said, this place is a maze. If you aren't shown the way around, you'll get lost every time you leave your room."
Sophie noticed Ronon looking towards the mess hall longingly. "Are you sure?" She asked them.
"Absolutely," Colonel Sheppard elbowed Ronon in the stomach. "We'll finish the tour, and then we'll all come and eat dinner here together."
"Thank you," Sophie smiled.
"Let's see, you've been to the medical bay, unfortunately," he grimaced, "and the gateroom..."
"Gym," Ronon suggested.
"Right, the gym," Colonel Sheppard nodded. "Let's go there."
They took the transporter to what Sheppard labeled the "east pier" and then led the way down the new corridor to a stairwell. He headed downward and the others followed.
"There are stairways like this at the end of almost every corridor," Colonel Sheppard explained as he descended. "Not as good as transporters when you've got a long way to go, but convenient for short distances."
Only a few steps away from the bottom, Sophie's heel wobbled and she slipped down the remaining steps. Ronon automatically reached out and lifted her up from beneath her arms, placing her back on her feet effortlessly.
"You okay?" Colonel Sheppard had turned around to help her, but Ronon had reacted first. "What happened?"
Sophie sighed, "nothing. I just slipped."
"Are you dizzy? Is it your arm?"
"No," she assured them, "I'm fine."
"Positive." Sophie smiled up at Ronon. "Thank you for the help."
"Okay, no more stairs," Colonel Sheppard frowned. "Flat surfaces only."
Sophie blushed, feeling immensely stupid for exhibiting her habitual klutziness in front of her new coworkers. She followed Colonel Sheppard down the hall silently, watching her steps carefully so she wouldn't trip. Ronan, she noticed, was staying closer to her than before, and she feared what he was thinking of her stability. At the end of the corridor, Colonel Sheppard stopped and waved his hand in front of another row of crystals to open another door.
"This is the gym," he explained.
Sophie peeked into the room to survey the equipment. From a glance, it proved to be very complete with all desired gym equipment, including a selection of free weights and mats. "Impressive," she mused.
"We also have a training gym," Colonel Sheppard told her.
"A training gym?"
Ronon stepped across the hall to a door directly opposite and opened it. "Combat training," he explained.
Sophie followed him and peered into the other room. This was an empty, circular room, supplied with mats and a variety of weapons mounted on the walls, clearly meant for sparring. "Cool," she pursed her lips together and pretended to be interested.
"Okay, next." Colonel Sheppard beckoned with his head and Ronon motioned for Sophie to follow. "What else do you want to see?"
"Umm, I'm not sure," Sophie shrugged. "What else should I see?"
"Don't know. A lot of it you'll discover for yourself. As long as you know where the closest transports are to the main locations, and the safe places to be in case there is any kind of emergency..."
"Somewhere in the center tower," he decided. "Most likely. It'll depend on the emergency."
"Yea, this isn't helping very much."
Ronon smirked. "Don't they have a welcoming committee for this sort of thing?"
Colonel Sheppard looked momentarily reproachful, but then shrugged. "They really should. I'm good at action—not explanation."
"That's fine," Sophie told him. "Why don't you show me where I'll be staying? From there I can figure out what else I need to know."
"Not a bad idea," Colonel Sheppard agreed. "We mostly live in the towers closest to the central tower. It saves energy. You're in the south tower, level four."
"Same as me," Ronon told her.
"Right, same as Ronon," Colonel Sheppard confirmed, "so if you have any questions you can go to him for help." Ronon didn't seem quite as eager to offer the same assistance, but he shrugged and didn't argue. "The most direct way to that tower would be to take the stairs back up to the third level, where the transporter is, and then take that to the south tower." Sophie nodded, trying to memorize everything he was saying, but he was speaking quickly. "From there you can take the stairs to the appropriate level."
"Okay, so the stairs are back this way..." Sophie started heading in the correct direction, wanting to find the way all on her own. The guys followed her, letting her lead the way back up the stairs. At the top of the steps, she paused. "Umm..." there were three direction options, and Sophie couldn't remember which was correct. She took a guess and turned left, but a hand on her arm pulled her back.
"Other way," Colonel Sheppard told her.
"Oh, right," she turned right instead and the guys followed her down the corridor.
"I know it's hard at first," Colonel Sheppard said. "They all look the same."
Sophie was silent until they found the transporter, wanting to make sure she didn't make any more mistakes, but there were no turnoffs and she managed to find the way there easily. Glancing at the crystals on the wall, Sophie held out her hand and hesitated only a moment before waving her hand across them as she had seen Colonel Sheppard and Ronon do. The metal door parted and she stepped in proudly. The guys followed her in and waited for her to make the next move. The map appeared on the screen, and Sophie contemplated it carefully.
"Okay, so this is the control tower—the central tower," she pointed on the map, "and if we want the south tower, it must be this one here..."
"No," Ronon muttered.
"Oh," Sophie pulled her finger back before selecting the incorrect transporter location. "Then, this one..."
Sophie pursed her lips together and hesitated with her finger hovering above the screen. Ronon grunted and pushed her hand aside, selecting the correct location himself.
"Oh," Sophie nodded, "that one." The doors snapped shut and they were beamed to the appropriate location.
When the doors opened again, Sophie stepped back and allowed the colonel to take the lead again. He led the way down the corridor to another flight of stairs and this time headed up. Sophie started following and suddenly felt a hand on her elbow. Glancing down, she realized Ronon had taken hold of her. She frowned.
"In case you slip," he explained simply.
"I'm not going to trip again," she insisted.
He released her, but didn't look at all convinced, and they followed Colonel Sheppard up four flights of steps. At the top of the steps, they stepped into a slightly wider corridor, though similarly monotone. They encountered a few more people in this corridor, and Sophie felt as though they were all staring at her, evaluating her. She kept her head held high and hoped she appeared intimidating enough to quell any doubts they may have been forming of her.
The hall dead-ended at a glass door that led out onto a balcony. Two metal doors faced each other on either side of the glass door, but Sophie ignored them both and stepped directly up to the glass door. She let out a breath and her nose bumped against the glass gently.
"Come on," Colonel Sheppard opened the glass door, and she lost balance briefly. "You should see the view."
Sophie followed him outside eagerly.
"There are better views," Ronon told her as he brought up the rear.
"I haven't seen the outside yet at all," Sophie explained, "so any view is amazing."
Colonel Sheppard motioned her up to the railing and she leaned out over it. "It is pretty amazing," he agreed.
"Wait until night," he grinned. "Then it'll really take your breath away."
"I can't wait," Sophie took a deep breath, taking in as much of the refreshing sea air as possible, before abandoning the view and following the guys back inside. She was delighted to find that her room was the door directly to the right of the balcony.
Colonel Sheppard opened the door and motioned her inside. "It's not much, but hopefully it'll be everything you need."
"It's great," she decided as she wandered the room.
It was larger than she had anticipated, much larger than an average dorm room, which was what she had been expecting. It was shaped like an "L" and there was a large window on the outside wall, revealing almost as great a view as the balcony. There was a sizeable bed against the back wall, with a small table beside it and shelves above. Against the left wall, there was a desk, with a tall bookshelf beside it. Around the corner, Sophie found a large closet built into the wall, as well as plenty of drawers, more shelves, and a floor-length mirror. The room wasn't at all cramped, and she could imagine it being quite comfortable with a few personal touches.
"I'm sure you'll want to unpack and get settled in," Colonel Sheppard pointed to her luggage that had been set in one corner of the room. "Do you want some help?"
"No," she shook her head, "I can take care of it."
"Okay," he nodded, "then we'll leave you to it." He stepped back towards the door. "Think you can find your way back to the mess hall on your own?"
Sophie nodded, "I think so."
"Good, then we'll meet you there at five," he glanced at his wristwatch. "That gives you about two hours to settle in."
"All right," she smiled, "sounds good."
Colonel Sheppard nudged Ronon and they left. The door shut and Sophie collapsed on the bed, grateful to have a moment alone to process everything she had just seen. Thanks to Dr. Keller's treatment, Sophie no longer felt the burn in her arm, and her dizziness had faded completely. She now felt strangely energized, despite the fact that she had barely slept in almost 36 hours due to anxiety. She was eager to unpack though and make herself at home; she wanted to become adjusted as quickly as possible.