Thursday, June 28, 2012

Bonus Post: A Note About Chapter Seven

Right. First off. If you are reading Choices and haven't read chapter seven yet, stop now. Go back and read that and then you can come revisit this post. Spoilers.

I can't say that more adamantly, but I will try.


(Also, expression of feminist ideas, potential foul language, and OPINIONS.)

Today's chapter represents a pivotal point in Choices. What happens here is one of the few things that I had intended when I set out to write this story. It was an image, a frightful horrid image, that I had last year while reading something else, and the questions that followed that image: How does a woman come back from this? Why does she come back from this? Where does her life go from that point on? That image and those questions are what led me to write this story.

I have debated with myself quite a bit about whether or not to add a commentary in regards to Laren's rape and subsequent miscarriage. Part of me bristles at the mere suggestion that I should have to justify why I wrote what I did. I think that the work as a whole should be able to stand for itself.

For the record: I am damn proud of this story. Of all of it. I hated writing every second of this chapter, but it was necessary for me to tell the story that I wanted to tell. It wasn't intended to be either gratuitous or exploitative but rather a very important moment in the development of this character's life and the course of it thereafter. I certainly hope it doesn't come across as either of the former. But I know people will read into things what they want to read into things. So most of me believes that there shouldn't be any need for me to defend this part of my story.



In my corner of the world there has been a LOT of controversy right now about the portrayal of women in the media, largely in video games, and the use of rape as an exploitative story-telling cheat. I am seeing this largely in relation to the new Tomb Raider reboot that is on the gaming radar. If you're curious about that issue, this very well-written article over at Tor is a good place to start. So, as I said, I've been seeing a lot of discussion about this game, and about the ways in which rape gets used as a cheap trick to make a woman a more sympathetic character without actually developing said character beyond her external circumstances.

For the most part, these are actually assertions I agree with, and with that all on my radar it got me thinking about my own use of rape in my writing. As I said, I stand by this part of my story, but I also feel like maybe at this point I should explain a little bit of my headspace on why it was included.

There are men people out there who claim that we do not live in a rape culture. To those people I say this: Bullshit.

I have never actually been in real danger (that I am aware) of or threatened with rape. But every time I cross a parking lot alone (or with my child) at night, every time I see a strange man walking just a little too closely to me, I know that twinge of fear. There was this quote circulating around Tumblr (originally appearing in an article on The Root) that pretty much sums up how many women share this fear. Why? Because rape is a very real and ever-present threat. I don't know if it is just the darker side of human nature, one we are unable to evolve away from, but it has always been there and will always continue to be there. We have as a society largely (thankfully) moved on from what I would consider institutionalized or sanctioned rape in that for the most part men and women are now free to choose their own bed partners and there are numerous laws regarding consent and regulating against using positions of power to force someone into a sexual situation.

But it is still that scary monster that lurks in the shadows of every dark corner. It happens all of the time (to men and to women, regardless of age, orientation, color, station, or creed). Laws attempting to prevent it and to punish it are evolving, but they are nowhere near as effective as they need to be. Part of this, I am sure, is because in the majority of cases it is such a hard damn thing to prove. Also because there are so many different levels of rape, and they are not always obvious to those who weren't present when it occurred. Rape turns into a he said-she said crime, and our society is hardwired to blame the woman/victim in most of the cases. There are idiots willfully blind well meaning but clearly missing the point people who will try to claim this isn't true but it is. It is an ugly truth about our culture, but a truth nonetheless. It is pathetic and disheartening and I want to cry just thinking about it.

Add to that the way that rape is glorified (and torture in general) these days in the media and it is understandable why people are starting to push back against its inclusion as part of any given story. It is over used, used poorly, and often used to excite all of the wrong emotions. To me, the idea of being raped is probably the single most frightening thing that I could ever imagine happening to me personally, and I am sure I am not alone in this. So I understand how there is a perception among storytellers that adding in rape or even the threat of rape will dramatically up the trauma and get the audience to either go into protective mode or to want to root for the threatened party to fight back and find a way out. I understand that. I just think it's a crap reason for something to happen in a story. But just because it is so often misused doesn't mean that such an event is not a valid story-telling tool.


Why was my character raped?

At this point in the story Laren has spent her entire life letting others make her big choices for her. She may have told herself she was fighting back and asserting her own independence by doing things like avoiding social functions and husband hunting. But the reality of the world she lives in is that when she refused to try to find someone for herself she gave up the chance to decide who she would marry. She has always known that her parents would arrange a match for her without her actively providing input. She might have hoped they'd just let her be, but given her position within the family, she knew that it was a vain hope.

She thinks she knows exactly who she is, that she's come to terms with where her life has led her. She has already started to see some indications that maybe she doesn't know herself as well as she thought, however. Primarily, we see this in her reactions to Liam thus far. She has ample evidence that she is only a part of his official life, but she continues to hold out hope that he might grow to actually love her despite his disinterest. With the introduction of Kara, she finally learns that will never happen, and she is yet again surprised by how hurt she is by this new knowledge.

She again surprises herself when she questions Nathaniel and Sebastian about their quarrel with Liam. Laren is a creature of logic (at least, she is meant to be, and I hope that comes across as I have written her) and she knows that, in the long run, knowing what is between the three men will not change how she should react to the situation. She is still Liam's wife, still the future lady of the Stag, and despite her hurt at realizing his love for Kara, she is not a petty person. Still, reacting out of emotion and unquestionably accepting their version of events, it is not what she would have expected of herself.

So when she is taken she is already questioning what she knows of herself, and realizing that she has allowed herself to be put in these circumstances by her own inaction. If she had not been taken, she likely would have gone home that evening, made love to Liam (wondering the whole time if he was imagining she was Kara), and later found herself with child. She would have given Liam the heir he desired and be left to live out the rest of her life in comfortable misery, wondering what she could have done differently but still accepting of the life she had been given.

I did not write this rape to make Laren sympathetic or to make you root for her. She is hardly an underdog. Nor was this included to drive home just how villainous Jonah and his cohort are. They are merely pawns (although I suppose this does illustrate how amoral and powerful their employer is that they feel not just entitled to such an action but also secure in the lack of any sort of repercussions).

This was simply the last straw for Laren. Not to break her or to make her come back kicking ass and vowing revenge (this isn't that kind of story). This is the point where she realizes just how completely she has given up control of her own life. To realize just how much she has given up merely through her own passiveness. Like Jonah and his cohort, she is a pawn. Not just in whatever scheme led to her abduction but in her own life, which she now knows wasn't actually hers. Liam's chant of "mine" finally makes sense to her now and she knows it is true, but not how she assumed (or maybe even hoped) it was meant, but for how it truly explains her current role.

She has been violated in what, for most women (certainly to me), is one of the worst ways imaginable. It almost breaks her. She spends all that time afterward just wallowing, on the verge of giving up completely on ever trying to make her life her own. Then, she is violated again, by someone she knows and actually trusts. But it is this violation that pulls Laren back into her life. Once she realizes what Roslyn has done, how utterly at the whim of other people she has become, she knows she doesn't want to spend the rest of her life like that.

So, the question becomes, what does she do about it? She is still married to Liam, and he is still in love with Kara. The welfare of her own family means keeping good relations with Roslyn and maintaining a respectable public image. She will not be allowed to withdraw from society as she did when she was younger and trying to assert her independence. So, given the circumstances she finds herself in, and the nature of her character, how does she find her own path back to a worthwhile life? To happiness, even?

That is what I try to answer in the rest of the story. This isn't about the rape so much as about what happens afterward. It's about how a woman accepts that this horrible thing happened and then tries to just get on with her damn life. It comes in the middle of the story because to understand how she would fare in the aftermath I, as the writer, had to get to know her a little bit before this happened to her.

I was able to satisfactorily answer those questions for myself, and I hope that my few dear readers will find those answers satisfactory for themselves as well.

Choices Chapter Seven

(Previous chapters can be found here.)

I awoke in utter darkness, confused and in pain. My head was throbbing and I reached up to explore a tender spot in the back with my fingers. At least, I tried to reach up. My arm did not move and I realized that my hands had been tied together around a post or column of some sort that I was seated against. Fighting a rising panic, I tried to move my hands again, testing my bonds, but they were secure. I tried my legs next. My ankles were also bound together, although the rest of my lower body appeared to be free.

My eyes were starting to adjust to the darkness around me and I turned my head from side to side, trying to make out what I could of my surroundings. I thought that I might be in a warehouse of some sort--as far as I could tell I was in a very large open room filled with crates and boxes. That explains the column. Such a large open space would need supports throughout the room to keep the roof stable. That meant I was likely in the Quarter of Industry. I supposed the Quarter of Trade was possible as well, although the warehouses numbered far fewer in that part of Pelos. Assuming I was still in Pelos. There was also that to consider.

I tried to remember how I had ended up in this rather dubious position but I could not come up with anything past parting ways with Sebastian and Nathaniel at the party. Could they be responsible for this? It was possible, I supposed, but did not really believe it. I don't know why, but I had truly believed what they had told me, and that they meant it when they said they would leave me out of their games. They could have been just stringing me along, but some instinct told me this was not the case.

As I sat there, pondering my situation, the room began to gradually lighten. I looked around once more and saw that high up on the walls ran lines of windows to my left and right. The light seemed to be stronger to the right, but that told me little about my location, as the building could have been located anywhere in the Quarter regardless of its orientation to the rising sun. I did know now that it was early morning. But of which morning, I had no way to be certain. Had I been unconscious for one evening? More? As I could see more clearly I was able to better judge my location within the building itself. I could not discern whatever might be behind me, but I thought I was right about in the center of the warehouse. If I craned my neck all the way to left I could just make out a walled off room extending into the rest of the warehouse, likely the supervisor's office.

A door clanged open behind me, echoing softly throughout the open space. I grew very still, afraid once more, and waited. The fall of footsteps moved toward me, accompanied by voices, two of them from the sound of it. I did not recognize them. I was unsure if that boded well for me or not. I strained my ears and was able to make out some of what they were saying.

"...well he says to sit tight and keep an eye on her until we know the message has been received."

"How long does he think that will take, Jonah?"

"How am I supposed to know? And keep your voice down you idiot! What if she's awake?"

"Relax! She should be out cold for a while longer. You knocked her out pretty good, and that concoction he gave us was supposed to last until past sunup."

The footsteps had stopped just behind the post and I could hear them clearly now. I closed my eyes and tried to relax my body, evening out my breathing in case they decided to check on me. The more of their scheme that I could overhear, the better I would be able to assess my own position. Already I was fairly certain it was only the morning after the party. I did not know what to do with that information, but having it comforted me nonetheless.

"Are we gonna have to end up killing her, do y'think?" It took all I had to repress the shudder of fear brought on by that simple question.

"I dunno," the one called Jonah replied. "There's no telling with him. He just wants to send a message this time, I think, so that might be better accomplished if she leaves here alive." I was flooded with relief at that. I had no idea who the mysterious "he" calling the shots might be, but it sounded like I might have a chance to survive this ordeal.

"But what if we let her go and she tells them who we are? I've heard stories about that Roslyn bitch, she'll hunt us down."

"She's not going to know who we are if you can remember to be careful! No names, stay in the shadows, and we bide our time until he tells us what to do next. Although..." Jonah sounded as if he had just had an idea.

"What?" His friend asked.

"If we do end up letting her go alive, I bet we can make a tidy profit for ourselves."


"Why not? I bet the Stag would pay handsomely to have their prize breeding filly back." The words stung, but I didn't have the luxury of being able to react to them. Besides, after last night, I feared that the description was accurate enough. I had little time to think about the comment though because Jonah barked out a command to his companion, "Go check on her. Make sure the bonds are holding, and then we'll wake her up, eh?"

"Sure thing, boss." I heard one set of footsteps move off toward the office and another came around the column towards me. It was harder than I would have believed to continue feigning unconsciousness, but I knew that my life likely depended upon doing so. I heard a soft rustling and then felt the man's presence very close to me. He had knelt down for a better look. Apparently he was satisfied with what he saw. I heard him stand up again and a few moments later more footsteps as Jonah rejoined him.

"Still out?"

"Yes boss. Why do you wanna wake her up?" I was wondering the same thing. Jonah obligingly answered us both.

"She's gonna wake up sooner or later. If we control when and how, then we establish our control right at the start. We put the fear in her real good and she's less likely to cause any trouble for us." I heard more rustling and felt another presence. It was different from the first, this must be Jonah.

I steeled myself. There was no hope that any part of this experience would be pleasant. A few moments later I gasped in shock as an entire bucket full of icy cold water was dumped over my head. My eyes flew open and I shook my head, forgetting my bonds for a moment in an effort to sit forward. Remembering I was supposed to be only just waking up, I looked around frantically, and upon seeing the two men looming over me and chuckling I began to struggle against my bonds as if I was wriggling to get free.

"Now, now, none of that my lady." Jonah knelt back down and placed a hand firmly against my mouth, pressing my head back to the column. Despite the light from the windows, the warehouse was still dim and gloomy and I could make out very little of his face. I subsided a little, staring at him with widened eyes, darting my gaze at the other man a few times. I could make out even less of Jonah's companion. Damnation!  "I'm going to remove my hand now, my lady, and you're going to sit there nice and quiet-like, you understand? Any screaming or other trouble and my friend and I are going to have to take measures to stop you. You don't want us to have to do that, now, do you?"

I shook my head no and stilled. He nodded and moved his head, standing back, well out of reach of kicking range, I noted. I had heard enough to believe that if I was patient, they would likely let me go. I had no intention of causing any sort of trouble or trying to escape unless a real opportunity presented itself. I was well aware of how defenseless I was and I had no desire to provoke them into harming me.

"Good girl," Jonah's companion said.

"I am very sorry for the inconvenience my lady," Jonah started up again, "but we have need of a little...leverage, and you are just the thing for it. But if you play nice and behave yourself, why, once we've gotten what we wanted from other parties, you'll be able to get back to your life. As long as you don't give us any excuse not to let you go, that is. Do you understand?" I nodded again. "Good," he said. "My colleague and I have some business to attend to for now, and we're going to step away, but we will be keeping an eye on you, so be on your best behavior."

He looked at me for a moment and I returned his gaze, my eyes still wide and frightened. I didn't exactly have to pretend to be terrified. Still, I had hope. If they really thought to ransom me back to the House of the Stag I was probably safe enough. Roslyn might not like being strong-armed, but she hated scandal even more. She would pay dearly if it meant she could keep such a breach in her security quiet. Jonah and his friend retreated into the office and I could just barely see them through its windows. They were far enough away that even with the lamps they lit, I could still not make out any details of their faces. I made every note I could of their builds, though. Just because I was willing to play along so that I could get home didn't mean I wasn't going to catalog as much information as possible to give Roslyn so that she could have them hunted down later. 

Eventually my neck started to pain me from being craned at such an awkward angle and I turned my head back around. I moved my gaze to study the crates around me, looking for any labels I might be able to make out to give a hint of where I was being held. Any information I could gather might be important later. So I sat, and I looked, and I waited.


It was nearly impossible for me to judge the passing of time as I sat there tied to that column. The warehouse never got any brighter than it had at dawn. Outside the windows the sky was grey and overcast, and Jonah and his lackey never lit any lamps other than those in the office. I could find nothing in my surroundings to tell me where I was, or to point the way back here later. Frustrated, I let off searching and rested my head against the column, fighting back tears. I was scared, I was in pain, I was thirsty and hungry. I had no idea why these men had taken me or for whom they worked.

Anger welled up inside of me and I wanted more than anything to lash out with it. But I had no target at hand, and an outburst from me would likely only tip my situation past precarious and into downright dangerous. I hated this feeling of helplessness. In the name of the Ancestors, what had I done to deserve this? Eventually I drifted into a fitful sleep. It was, at least, a way to pass the time.

When I woke again it was night once more. I could hear my captor's voices through the door to the office, which I saw had been left open. I could not make out what they were saying, but they seemed in rather good spirits about something. Jonah glanced over in my direction, and seeing that I was awake, he grinned at me. In that moment I almost had a clear view of his face, but I was too startled to pay attention. That grin chilled me to the bone. Something had changed, and whatever it was, I feared my circumstances were about to deteriorate rapidly. I glanced around frantically, looking for anything that might aid me in escaping whatever was to come. Jonah left the office and walked toward me. I caught a glint of light off of something in his hand. A knife.

"Well, my lady, we've received word. Our employer's message was received and he has gotten what he wanted. Not that there was ever any doubt. He almost always gets what he wants." He knelt down beside me, next to the column, but still out of kicking range. His companion came out of the office as well, stopping behind him. "Our orders are to let you go alive," I released a breath I didn't realize I had been holding in. Jonah smirked at that. "Of course, it wasn't specified what condition we leave you in, other than alive." My eyes widened. "You were so very troublesome to procure, you see," he went on, "that husband of yours so rarely lets you out of his sight." I turned my face away, ashamed at the flush that flooded my face when I remembered why Liam had been less than attentive the night before.

"It's only fair that we get some compensation for our trouble," the other man piped up.

"You could ransom me," I suggested frantically. I knew they had been considering it already, it had been my one reassuring hope. If they wanted to ransom me surely they wouldn't harm me. "I am sure that Roslyn would pay you handsomely for my return!"

"Oh, I am sure she will, too," Jonah replied. "And in return we'll see to it that you're still more or less whole for her to find in the morning." He leaned forward and I shrank back into the column as far as I could, terror mounting inside of me. "But just in case she decides to double-cross us, we're going to make sure we get our pay from you as well."

"Please, no..." I whimpered. Jonah laughed cruelly.

"Grab her hands!" He barked to his companion. I felt rough hands clamp down on my wrists like a vise and then Jonah sliced through the bonds holding me to the column. Before I could pull free, each had grabbed one of my wrists and pulled me back from the column. Then they started dragging me toward the wall, away from the office and the false safety promised by the light. I screamed then and struggled, but they held on and I could not break free. I tried to kick my legs, to get them under me so I could stand, but with my ankles tied together I could do little more than flop around as I was dragged. Both men were laughing now.

I was lifted onto a rough wooden surface of some sort--a table, or a bench perhaps. My arms were pulled over my head, each man tying down one of my hands. I continued to thrash and scream but my protests did little good. They took their time, clearly secure that no one would find us. They moved down to my legs and the bonds were cut, but as before I had no chance to break free, and they quickly spread my legs apart, tying each ankle separately down to keep them open.

I sobbed uncontrollably when my dress was torn away and discarded on the floor. My undergarments were similarly disposed of and then I felt a heavy weight settle on top of me. I turned my head and closed my eyes, refusing to look, but I did not need to in order to know that it was Jonah who took me first. He slammed into me and I screamed again and again, until my throat was raw and I could do no more than whimper. When he was done his friend took his place. He seemed angered that I did not scream anymore and slapped me roughly several times, unsatisfied until my face was bruised and bloody and swollen.

When they had both finished they wandered back to the office, laughing and clapping each other on the back. They left me where I was, naked and tied down and exposed. I felt as if I had been torn in two and my entire soul ached. I feared they were not finished with me and those fears proved to be true. They returned several times throughout the night, taking their turns with me, mocking me with their cruel laughter that I could not shut out no matter how hard I tried. Eventually they left and did not return. Every tiny sound in the warehouse made me twitch in fear, but sometime around dawn I finally succumbed to sleep again, overcome by sheer exhaustion and pain.


I surfaced hazily from my sleep to find that hands were touching me, pulling me, gathering me up. Instinctively I tried to jerk free, despite knowing it would do no good. Though still not fully conscious, I was quite surprised when my limbs moved freely.

"It's alright, my lady, you're safe now, you're alright." I did not recognize the voice, but it was soft and reassuring. A blanket was wrapped around me and I felt myself gathered up into strong arms. "I've got you, my lady," he told me quietly, lifting me off of the table and carrying me away, "you're going to be alright. We're taking you home." Soothed by the soft voice and sweet promises, I buried my head into his shoulder and drifted once more back to sleep.


I resurfaced a few times during the carriage ride back to the House of the Stag. Each time I began to wake that soft voice was there, reassuring me that I was safe. He held me the entire way home, stroking my hair gently as one does with a frightened child whenever I started to wake once more. It seems strange to me to remember that I did not struggle more to find myself being held by a stranger, especially after the ordeal of the night before. Truth be told, I think was just too tired to disbelieve him. He told me I was safe, and he was kind and comforting, and that was all I needed in that moment to hold on to my sanity. He could have been carrying me off for his own nefarious purposes and I wouldn't have objected one bit at that point. Did I truly know I was safe, or had I just given up completely? I wonder about that, even now.

In the end, it didn't matter. I woke fully when the carriage came to a halt and when I was carried down its steps I looked around to find myself ensconced in the inner courtyard of the House of Stag. I quickly buried my face into the shoulder of the man carrying me, the bright light was painful to my eyes after so long in the gloom of the warehouse. I found myself wishing the carriage had not pulled inside of the estate but had instead stopped outside the main entrance. All of the windows around the courtyard seemed to be accusing eyes, watching me and taking in my shame, judging my inability to defend myself. At the very least, I was certain that most of the household stood behind those windows and balcony screens, observing my less than glorious return. New voices sounded around me, distracting me from my paranoia, and I turned my head toward the people rushing to meet the carriage.

"Laren!" Liam ran up and took me from the arms of my rescuer. I felt an irrational flicker of annoyance at that, but it passed almost before it had begun.

"My lord," the voice said respectfully and I finally thought to try look at its owner, but Liam had already turned back toward the manor, crossing the courtyard in great strides, and my rescuer had turned to the carriage. I caught a sight of short dark hair and broad shoulders and then I was inside the manor. I rested my head against Liam's shoulder, breathing in his familiar scent. I finally let myself believe that it was over.

"Are you alright, my dear?" Liam asked quietly. I tried to answer but found my voice was still gone and shook my head instead. "They should not have hurt you," he whispered, "Mother paid them every cent they asked for. There is no honor in this." I wanted to laugh. Or cry. Honor? He was worried about honor? The men had abducted me and held me for at least two nights, and his first thought was to be angry that the Stag had gotten the worse end of the deal?

"Laren! Ashes! What have they done to you?!" Roslyn had arrived, and I was relieved to hear the concern in her voice.

"What do you think they did to her, Mother?" Liam's voice shook with anger now. I wondered what he was actually angry about.

"There's no need for that," she told him sharply. Then, softening her voice, "Laren dear, I am glad to have you home safely once more." She reached out and stroked my hair. "Let's get you cleaned up and seen by the doctor, alright?" I nodded and she ordered Liam to take me to my bathing chamber. When we arrived a portly little man was waiting for us. I had met him once or twice since I had joined the household. Doctor Carson was always a friendly and boisterous man, though now he was quiet and his open face was serious.

"Hello there, my lady," he said kindly. "I know you've been through quite a lot these past few days, but I need to give you a quick examination to make sure we get you on the proper path to recovery. Is that alright with you?" I nodded and he indicated that Liam set me down on a bench over which a towel had been draped. My husband put me down gently and stepped back. The room was very well lit, more so than it usually was, and for the first time I could see that my wrists and ankles were raw and bloody from being bound. There was quite a bit of blood dried on my legs and thighs as well, and I could see where large bruises were beginning to form in many places on my body. Some of them were in the shape of handprints. I glanced away quickly upon spotting those.

"Liam," Roslyn's voice was quiet still, but there was no denying the hint of steel in it, "go back to your rooms. Get some sleep. I will let you know Laren's condition after the examination." Liam stiffened.

"I am staying," he said. "She is my wife, I have every right to know--"

"You do not need to see this!" Her voice was still calm, that same even hard tone. "I am not asking you, I am telling you. Go. You do yourself or her no good by staying. She's back where she belongs now. Go sleep. You look terrible." I glanced at him and realized that she was right. He was clearly freshly bathed, but other than that he looked as if he had been up for days. Maybe he had truly been worried about me. Maybe his earlier reaction was just a misdirected attempt to channel some of his own anger. He stood there for a moment, his hands clenched in fists at his sides. He looked at each of us and then bowed his head to Roslyn.

"As you wish, Mother." With that he whirled around and strode from the room without looking back. Roslyn walked to the door and shut it behind him, the corners of her mouth turned down in disapproval.

"May I, dear lady?" Doctor Carson asked after a moment, indicating the blanket still wrapped around my nakedness. I nodded and he unwound it gently from my torso, dropping it gently on the floor. Behind him Roslyn inhaled sharply.

"Blood and ashes!" She swore. Doctor Carson's reaction was not quite so acute, but it was clear he did not like what he saw either. His perennially jovial face now wore a large frown, and he tutted quietly to himself as he checked me over. I held myself as still as I was able, but could not help flinching several times as he probed a particularly bruised site or found another cut or scrape.

"Well nothing is broken, so at least there's that," he said after a while stepping back and surveying me with a sad look on his face. "There is, um, one more thing I'll need to check, my lady," he seemed embarrassed now. "If you would lie down, please." I realized what he was asking. I did not want to submit to this part of the exam, but I knew it was necessary. I moved as he had asked. Roslyn moved over to us and grabbed my hand. I was grateful for her presence. I knew that Doctor Carson intended me no harm, but I still jumped and flinched when his hands began to probe gently between my legs. My breath hitched in my throat but the doctor was quick and when he stepped back he picked up the blanket, handing it to me so I could cover myself back up.

"You'll be quite a sight for some time I'm afraid, my lady, but the good news is that I believe you will heal fully. If we treat those abrasions on your wrists and ankles properly you shouldn't even see any scarring." A small table had been brought into the chamber and was covered with bandages and other implements of the doctor's trade. He walked over to it and washed his hands in a basin on the table. "Let's get a bath running and I will step outside so you can clean yourself up. Once you've dressed, I can clean those abrasions and the cuts on your face more thoroughly and then see to bandaging them up for you."

"Thank you Doctor," Roslyn said, moving to open the valves that would fill the tub. We will let you know when we are finished in here. There should be a maid outside, please send her in." He nodded and left the chamber. A few moments later there was a discreet knock on the door. "Come in," Roslyn called. One of the maids who tended to my rooms entered carrying a bundle of clothing.

She and Roslyn guided me to the tub and set about bathing me. The water was hot enough that it stung my whole body, but I did not care. I sat there and let them get on with it, a feeling of numbness creeping up over my mind and body. They dried me off and dressed me in a loose sleeping gown and soft slippers were placed on my feet. I found myself sitting on the bench once more, the towel now gone. Doctor Carson returned and finished cleaning my wounds, stitching up cuts on my lip and over my eye, and wrapping my wrists and ankles in soft gauze bandages.

"Now, those are going to need to be changed regularly, and I will want to keep an eye on your stitches as well. It looks like a little bit of infection has set in, but I have a brew that will take care of that," he told me. The maid held out a robe to put over my sleeping gown and when I did not move to take it, she simply put it on me herself. "I am going to have some food and tea sent up to your room, along with a draught to fight that infection and help you sleep some more." I did not respond, but he continued as if I had. "Now, I know you might not feel too much like eating anything right now, or even sleeping, for that matter, but you will need to do as much of both as you can to aid your recovery. The tea will be good for that poor throat of yours." He seemed to have realized that I kept silent partly because of the damage I had done my throat by screaming. "Eat as much of the food and drink as much of the tea as you can, but you drink every last drop of that draught, before you take in anything else, do you understand me?"

"I'll see to it," Roslyn told him when I did not respond. She and the maid helped me up the private stairs to my rooms and seated me at the table. No one spoke, but Roslyn sat beside me and held my hand, stroking it softly. She appeared to be thinking very hard about something. Normally such a look from her directed at me would have me extremely worried, but I could not bring myself to care. I was withdrawing into myself. 

Eventually the food came. Roslyn held the cup of medicine to my mouth and tilted it back so that I had to swallow or choke. I drank it all. She then fed me the soup that had been sent up, holding up the cup of tea for me to drink after every few spoonfuls. After a while she stopped giving me things to put in my mouth and pulled me away from the table. She guided me into my bedroom and tucked me into bed, giving me a small kiss on the forehead before turning to leave.

"I am truly sorry this happened, dear," she whispered from the doorway, "truly." Then she was gone.

I did not think that I would want to sleep. I feared what I would likely relive in my dreams. But Doctor Carson's draught had done its work and I quickly fell into a deep sleep, blessedly devoid of dreams or nightmares.


For three moons I did not leave my rooms, except to use the private stairs to go to my bathing chamber and return. I saw no one but Roslyn, Liam, Doctor Carson, and two maids. It was almost a moon before I spoke again. Even then, I only spoke when spoken to and said very little. My mind slowly began to clear and I started to return from wherever I had retreated to after my abduction. No one tried to convince me to come out of my self-imposed confinement. Roslyn and Liam, in fact, seemed relieved that I chose to stay shut up. As the doctor had feared, I was spectacularly covered with bruises and it was not pretty. My wrists and ankles healed slowly, the cuts on my face more quickly. My abduction had, I learned with little surprise, been kept quiet. No one outside of the household (and my abductors, of course) knew that I had been kidnapped. Fewer still knew about what had happened during the time I had been gone. Roslyn put out the story that I had fallen gravely ill and was undergoing a lengthy recovery.

Liam did not spend his evenings with me, but he did make sure to take every lunch and supper in my rooms. He spoke as little as I did, watching me with a curious sort of trepidation. Summer approached and with it the anniversary of our first cycle of marriage. There was no discussion about moving into shared apartments. Had I given it any thought, I would have known that there was no longer any chance of that happening. I spent most of my time on my balcony, with the screens closed until I knew that the angle of the light would shadow me from the sight of those in the courtyard. Then I would open the screens and watch them as they went about their lives, happy and secure. I envied them greatly. Perhaps if I had been forced to get back on with my life immediately, I would have been able to and things would have turned out much differently.

We all seemed to be waiting, Roslyn, Liam, and I, though I could not have told you for what until it had happened. I did not know I that I was with child until I miscarried. Had I been in my right mind I suppose that I would have realized sooner. Maybe something could have been changed--but maybe not. I had thought my growing appetite was a sign of my strength returning to me, and the fact that I could so often keep little of it down as my body's reaction to the sudden gluttony.

Roslyn was on hand when it happened, and perhaps I should have noticed how completely unsurprised she was. Within moments of the first pangs, Doctor Carson had arrived. He seemed concerned and angry and kept shooting disapproving looks at Roslyn. But I did not think anything of that until later. Afterwards, I lay curled up in my bed, crying over what had been lost, and I heard raised voices in my sitting room. The door between the rooms was shut but the argument carried through the fireplace that serviced both.

"Why didn't you call for me?! I should have been here!" It was Liam, his voice was shaking with anger.

"You would have been no help, and it was no concern of yours," his mother answered with icy calm.

"No concern of--my wife just lost a child! I didn't even know that she was pregnant!"

"Of course you didn't, because the child wasn't yours." There was stunned silence from the other room. I closed my eyes, suddenly relieved, and then ashamed of the emotion. Liam's or not, the child had most certainly been mine. Still, if it wasn't his, that left only two other options. Could I have reared a child that had come out of such a horror? I still don't have an answer for that question. In the other room, Liam seemed to have recovered himself.

"Explain." The chill in his voice far outstripped his mother's.

"When she returned from her..." a slight hesitation as she sought for a delicate enough word, "ordeal, don't you think that was one of the first things I thought of? I asked her about her cycles and the last time you two had been together. She was not with child before she was taken." I furrowed my brow in thought. I vaguely remembered the conversation, it had been only a day or two after I had returned. I had still been in a haze then, too lost to think her questions odd or to be dishonest with her.

"You can't know that for certain Mother! that why you ordered me not to...?" I had assumed Liam had been giving me space and time to heal mentally as well as physically before coming to my bed again. Apparently, that had not been the reason. I felt a stirring of annoyance at Roslyn's interference.

"I had to be certain, Liam." She answered.

"How long have you known?"

"A week."

"Why didn't you tell me, Mother? Why didn't she tell me? How were you expecting to keep this hidden?"

"I don't believe Laren knew," Roslyn replied, "I've had Doctor Carson perform the tests regularly every moon since the incident. She likely didn't even realize what they were for. I didn't tell you because I had hoped you wouldn't find out. If you hadn't come back from your hunting trip early, you need never have known." That last statement fell like a glass shattering in silence. I think Liam realized what she meant in the same moment I did.

"I wouldn't have.... Mother, tell me you didn't." Silence. "You forced a miscarriage? Without telling either one of us? What if you were wrong? What if it was mine?"

"I couldn't take that chance. I am certain enough it belonged to one of her rapists. I did this for both of you, Liam, whatever you might want to believe. You could not have another man's child as your heir, and do you really think she could have lived with herself once she realized who the father actually was?"

"There are other ways. A discreet adoption, perhaps. That would have--"

"That would have meant keeping her hidden for moons more at the least. People are already starting to talk about her absence from society. Her father has been very insistent on seeing her. No, this was the best way. Doctor Carson says her body is as whole as it ever was. She is starting to come back into herself. Once she understands what really happened, she will accept that it was necessary and move on with her life." And if she doesn't, I will make her. The unspoken sentence hung in the air. Even in another room I could feel the tension between them. "You know I am right in this, Liam."

"You went too far this time, Mother." The words were quiet. There was no defiance in them, but there was resolve. "You should have at least told me what was going on." Just him? I buried my face in my pillow. I had heard enough. I knew now where I stood. Jonah's words about my role as a "breeding filly" came back to me, mocking me in their accuracy. Liam's next question reinforced this. "How long must I wait?"

"Two weeks before she will be recovered enough to venture out of the estate, a moon before you can return to her bed." Roslyn's voice was smug. She was satisfied that she had won. My reaction to the event was moot.

"Very well, then. Good evening, Mother." He did not slam the door as he left, but I could hear it close with decidedly more force than was necessary.

My mind raced. For the first time in moons I felt truly myself again. It had taken one horrible event to sink me into despair, and another to bring me back out. I felt hollowed out. Where did I go from here? Did I pretend I didn't know the truth? Did I confront either one of them? Both? Did I truly have any choices left to me from here on out?

Doctor Carson arrived a short while later with a draught to help me sleep. I drank every bit of it willingly and welcomed the dark abyss that it brought me with open arms.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

SGA Rewatch: Brain Storm

Well well, we've made it Wednesday and that means it's time to rewatch another episode of Stargate Atlantis! Today's episode is season five's fantastic installment "Brain Storm." Lots of laughs ahead, and spoilers of course, as always.

What Happened

John and Ronon are in the mess and we learn that Rodney and a bunch of other people are going to Earth for leave but John is staying behind on Atlantis. Instead he is going camping with Ronon. John sees Rodney and Jennifer eating together and asks Ronon if he thinks Rodney will ever makes a move. Ronon makes a grumpy "who cares" reply and stalks off.

Rodney, meanwhile, asks Jennifer (very awkwardly) if she would be willing to attend a super secret science presentation with him while they are on Earth. She teases him that he doesn't have to come up with some big hoopla to ask her out, he can just ask her on a date. He stutters and then asks her if she'll go with him and she smiles and says yes.

On Earth, a scientist named Malcolm is getting ready for the aforementioned presentation. Another man comes in and asks if he is sure everything is good to go. Malcolm assures him that everything will be fine and the man says that some of the other scientists are worried there is a chance of bad things happening. Malcolm assures him again that nothing will go wrong.

Jennifer and Rodney are all dolled up and on a private plane headed to the presentation. Jennifer oohs and aahs over the accommodations and Rodney tries to shrug them off. She tells him he should be happy for his friend and Rodney says he and Malcolm were never really friends and that Malcom's really just showing off. Jennifer reminds him to just enjoy the moment.

They arrive at the facility and are given huge non-disclosure and confidentiality agreements before they are let in. Rodney balks but Jennifer tells him to just sign. They proceed through to a reception area with food and lots of people mingling. They are approached by Bill Nye and Neil deGrasse Tyson who flirt with Jennifer and tease Rodney about his lack of published work. Rodney makes their goodbyes and they find their seats. He grumbles that this was a bad idea and she reminds him that not everything is a competition. He doesn't have to remind everyone how smart he is, he could try being humble for once. She points out that they are on their first date and she agreed to come to a physics lecture, he could bend a little too. He agrees and they sit back as the presentation begins.

Malcolm begins with a video about global warming and then gives a speech about his research. He is very full of himself, so much so that even Jennifer points it out. He says with financing from his friends at Kramer Innovations he has come up with a way to cool the planet in a safe and controlled way. Rodney sits forward, intrigued. Malcolm explains that he has created a heat sink that draws heat from the environment and then vents it from the environment with a space time bridge that vents the heat into an alternate space time. Rodney starts to get agitated, recognizing the bridge as his own dangerous design.

Malcolm says that he's surrounded the complex with a plasma grid to seal it off from the surrounding environment and will demonstrate his new tech by lowering the temperature in the facility by ten degrees. Rodney flips out, realizing that Malcolm means to activate the bridge while they are all there. He is unable to remain quiet despite Jennifer's urging and stands up, interrupting Malcolm's speech and claiming that turning on the heat sink is a Very Bad Idea. Malcolm dismisses Rodney's objections, pointing out that the NDA included consent for the experiment. Rodney says they just need to go over the data first because he has some experience with this and of course no one believe him. It has been made clear that he is a bit of a joke among the community.

Rodney tries to explain that bridges to other space times can be very unpredictable but without any papers or evidence to support his claim, no one will believe him. Malcolm turns on the heat sink and the audience adjourns to the lobby for hot chocolate while the experiment is in progress. Rodney looks over the brief with the data that Malcolm hands of out and realizes that it really is based on his own work. He wonders how Malcolm got hold of it and he and Jennifer sneak off to Malcolm's office so that Rodney can hack into his computer and find out.

In the lobby an assistant finds Malcolm and pulls him aside. She says he told them to turn off the heat sink once the temperature reached the desired level and he says that's right. She says that they've tried but they have been unable to turn it off. He races back to the lab to try to find the problem. The man from the previous evening is on hand and very irate but Malcolm brushes him off. He sees that the bridge won't deactivate, though he doesn't know why. The man, Kramer, suggests shutting down the facility's power, Malcolm says no go, the bridge powers itself once activated. Then he suggests shutting down the containment field so they can evacuate. That won't work either, it is tied to the basic operations of the device. As a safety protocol it can't be shut down until the bridge is. The temperature will continue to drop. He's turned on the facility's heat to try to buy time to figure out how to fix the problem before they all freeze to death. He claims that someone has messed with the system.

In the lobby, Bill Nye is trying to convince Rodney that he was out of line interrupting Malcolm's speech. Rodney says he didn't have a choice, he had to say something before the device was turned on. He still maintains that Malcolm stole his work. A security guard comes to their table and tells Rodney and Jennifer that Malcolm would like a word with them, Rodney thinks it is to apologize to him. They are taken to a conference room and Malcolm and Kramer come in.

Malcolm says that Rodney is the one who should be apologizing. He tells them that the device won't shut down and he and Rodney start squabbling and Kramer cuts in, asking what they did. They defend their innocence and Kramer pulls up footage of Rodney in Malcolm's office. Rodney explains that he was looking for a paper he published a little over two years ago dealing with a matter bridge. Malcolm scoffs that Rodney hasn't published anything in ages and Rodney says not that he can take credit for, no. He lays out a scenario: Malcolm was working with the government and someone let him see something he wasn't supposed to see, a paper about a matter bridge that was shut down due to a problem with exotic particles. He realized that the exotic particles wouldn't be a problem if the matter bridge was used to get rid of something rather than draw something in. So he took the science as his own and jazzed it up a little and totally ignored the original author's warnings about how dangerous matter bridges are.

Kramer retorts that Rodney's suggestion is ridiculous but Malcolm is just quiet for a moment. Rodney looks at Malcolm and says that was his work. Malcolm says Rodney may be able to help them. They take Rodney to the lab and he looks over the situation. He declares it bad. Kramer asks about the sabotage and Malcolm admits he may have rushed to judgement. Kramer asks Rodney if he can turn the bridge off and Rodney says he isn't sure. They notice that the bridge isn't drawing a consistent level of energy from the heat sink, it is wavering. If they can find a way to overload the heat sink then the bridge should shut down.

In the lobby there is a flash of light and a man hit by it is left half frozen. Malcolm is sent for and Jennifer examines the injured man while Malcolm and Rodney discuss the occurrence. They believe it was caused by the irregular power draw from the heat sink and dub it freeze lightning. Jennifer asks if this is the first time it happened and Rodney is afraid it is just the first time anyone's been around to notice it. It is definitely going to keep happening and probably with more frequency, which will definitely hamper their efforts to shut down the bridge (if it doesn't end up killing them outright).

Rodney wants to call in the military and Jennifer and Malcolm agree. Kramer refuses, however, worried that the project would be shut down for good. Jennifer asks for Malcolm's cell phone but he says it won't work inside the containment field. They try the land line in Malcolm's office but the phones are dead. Malcolm and Rodney get to work on solving the problem. Jennifer points out that they have a room full of geniuses available and talks them into getting everyone to work on the problem together. This goes...about as well as you'd expect. Everyone starts squabbling and Jennifer has to shame them into playing nice with each other. Rodney thinks he is on to something so they all take a look at that. Jennifer goes to work on Kramer next, convincing him that his work on saving the planet is really about saving lives and begs him to let her call in backup. He agrees and they head to the communications room but the freeze lightning has already struck and the equipment they need is destroyed. They are completely cut off.

Back in the lab they reassess. They are alarmed to find out that the containment field is starting to die. Jennifer thinks this is good but they explain that if they turn it off before letting the temperature normalize within then it will cause a brutal storm once the cold air inside meets the desert air outside the facility. Worse, if it dies before the heat sink is shut down, the sink will continue drawing heat from the rest of the planet. But they do realize that with the field weakening, if they get someone in the right place, they might be able to punch a cell signal through and make a phone call. Jennifer volunteers to go make the call so that Rodney and Malcolm can keep working on getting the bridge dismantled.

The idea is to overload the heat sink when the bridge is drawing its peak amount of energy to cause the bridge to collapse. The problem means that they will need to dial up the heat sink to full power, which means it will get super cold super fast and cause a proportionate increase in freeze lightning. As they are going over this, they learn that the facility's furnace has given out. They just lost their protection against the cold. Rodney says the plan is the only one they've got so they need to make sure they are ready to implement it at the first available opportunity, they might not get any more.

Jennifer goes hunting a cell signal and calls the SGC. Walter answers but he can't hear her, all he is getting on his end is static so he hangs up. Jennifer loses the signal and curses, then moves on.

Malcolm, Rodney, and Bill dial up the heat sink, wondering if they should tell everyone what they are about to do. They reason that it is probably a bad idea since they can't move everyone to a safe area and there's no way to know where the freeze lightning will hit. Lightning strikes in several places, including the corridor Jennifer is in. It hits a water pipe on the wall, spraying her and shorting out her phone. In the lab Rodney says that the plan seems to be working, they just need to hold out until the bridge collapses. The lightning continues however and Malcolm turns the sink back down.

Jennifer tries to leave the corridor but the door is frozen shut. She radios Rodney to update him on her situation. Malcolm sends a security team to try to break her out of the corridor. She tells them to hurry. The hall is flooding, she's already soaked, and with the temperature dropping like it is she doesn't have long before she succumbs to hypothermia. The containment field around the facility dies and a storm starts to surge around the facility. They are all running dangerously low on time.

Rodney and Malcolm talk over the situation and try to approach it from another angle. Rodney thinks instead of overwhelming the generator they should try to starve it. If they open another space time bridge it will be too much and the whole thing will shut down. They get to work on reconfiguring the system to let them do that.

Jennifer radios Rodney that she is starting to be in trouble. Rodney asks Malcolm how long until the rescue crew gets there and Malcolm says they are cut off. It will take them time. Rodney looks at a floor plan and sees that he has a straight shot though. He leaves Malcolm and Bill Nye to implement the plan despite Malcolm's objections and goes to find Jennifer. He grabs an ax from the fire-hose case and chops down the door to Jennifer's corridor. She is unconscious but he does CPR and is able to revive her. Meanwhile Malcolm and Bill Nye are able to use the second bridge to shut down the first one. Everybody celebrates and Jennifer tells Rodney she loves him.

Jennifer and Rodney, wrapped up in blankets, head home on the private jet. Rodney grumbles that everyone thinks Malcolm is the one who saved the day. He says he knows he is supposed to be humble but that kind of thing matters to him and that's something she should know about him. She tells him if he really feels that way then he should quit and join the private sector so everyone can see his work. He says he has been thinking about it and she says he'll never do it, no one loves their job more than he does. She then changes the topic to point out how much privacy they've got and they move on to more pleasant pursuits as the screen fades to black.


Man, poor Rodney. I can only imagine how hard it must be to do so much amazing work and make so many technological breakthroughs and not be able to tell anyone in the scientific community about it. Add to that an ego like Rodney's and, well, is it any wonder he's looked at so askance by his fellow physicists? That's gotta be hard. It goes back to the discussion he had with Daniel in "First Contact," doesn't it? Why would anyone looking for fame and glory get involved in top secret super duper classified research? As Jennifer says though, Rodney is a man who clearly loves his job. Also, I think this episode demonstrates that while some of his rivalries with other physicists might be more friendly than with others, there is no way he would have found the family among them that he has found in Atlantis. There are just too many egos to get in the way for that kind of thing.

Speaking of which, I love the appearance of Bill Nye (the Science Guy!) in this episode, as well as Neil deGrasse Tyson. Though Bill Nye clearly shines in his much larger role as the episode gets underway. Plus, the casting of Dave Foley as Rodney's long-standing academic nemesis was just freaking brilliant. This is probably one of my favorite episodes of the entire series for the casting alone. Also, I really want to learn how to make GIFs just so I can make one of that moment where Bill Nye slaps Dave Foley. Because, seriously. Just, yes.

Also, we do get the demonstration that a) Rodney in the private sector would probably be insufferable, and b) he is so not the most arrogant man in the field by a long shot. (This is probably good for Jennifer to see too.)

Like season four's "Miller's Crossing" and "Outcast," "Brain Storm" also gives us another glimpse of how the work done in the stargate program filters through to the rest of Earth's science community, and the dangers inherent in taking away the original creator's ability to claim credit for their work, I think.

Also, this episode officially seals the Rodney and Jennifer Are Dating story line. We see Ronon is still a bit sore about losing out, but I think we can all agree it worked out like it was supposed to. And if we can't, well, I won't bash your ship if you don't bash mine.

Favorite Quotes

"Some of these worst-case scenarios are terrifying." (Kramer)
"Of course they are! They're worst-case scenarios. They are the worst possible thing that could happen ever!" (Malcolm)

"It's amazing what a nice smile and a PowerPoint presentation will get you." (Rodney)

"What could he possibly be doing back there that needs to be kept two hundred pages secret?" (Rodney)
"If you want to go inside, sir, you need to sign the agreement." (Receptionist)
"Dinosaurs?" (Rodney)
"Excuse me?" (Receptionist)
"Do they have living dinosaurs back there? Because I'll sign this if he's brought dinosaurs back to life..." (Rodney)

"Why don't we just destroy it, just bash it apart?" (Bill Nye)
"Because that could create a tear in our space time?" (Rodney)
"Never mind then." (Bill Nye)
"Yeah." (Rodney)


So there we'll wrap up another week's rewatching. See you back here on Monday as we plow forward with "Infection."

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

I Really Wish I Wore Hats

Because they are so quick and fun and easy to make. Seriously.

On my road trip to Illinois a few weeks ago I of course took a few projects with me to work on during the drive. One of those I started and finished in a day, because it was a hat.

Supplies for a hat...

Enrique by Cori 2012.

Pattern: Really Easy Slouchy Beanie by Jennifer DiMaria
Yarn: Southwest Trading Company Llama Luxury in Brown (two skeins)
Hooks: US G and US H

Luckily, while I might not wear hats very often, my husband absolutely loves them, so this one was for him. It is named Enrique because when I was entering the finished project in Ravelry and wondering out loud what to name it, that is what he tossed off at me. I shrugged and figured it's his hat, might as well let him name it.

As the name of the pattern suggests, this truly was a very easy project to make. I did alter it a little from the pattern as written. I stopped at row twenty-two instead of twenty-eight before changing to the smaller hook (largely because I realized I probably did not have enough yarn for the full pattern). I also did half-double crochet instead of single crochet for the band to allow for my husband's not small head. Also for the band itself I only made three rows instead of six.

He seems pretty happy with how it came out.

Hat model!

I think this was my first project using llama fiber and it was very nice and soft, though it sheds something fierce. I think I might try a hat for myself with this pattern before winter approaches, I really do like it.

That isn't to say I will actually wear the thing though. Sigh.

Monday, June 25, 2012

SGA Rewatch: Remnants

Hello there. Welcome to another installment of the Stargate Alantis Rewatch! Today's episode is season five's "Remnants." Spoilers for the episode and any that came before, as always.

What Happened

Teyla, Ronon, and Rodney are eating and Teyla tells them that she feels sad for Mr. Woolsey, worried that he is lonely. Teyla asks him to join them when he walks by but he declines saying that he has some prep work to do for his upcoming I.O.A. performance evaluation. He admits that he is a bit nervous about it. Teyla assures him he has no reason to be and that he has done a good job in charge of the expedition thus far.

After he leaves Rodney asks where John is and Teyla and Ronon explain that he flew some astrobiologists to the mainland for a gathering expedition and volunteered to stay with them overnight. Rodney wonders why John would do that and we cut to John talking to one of the scientists, who is a very attractive woman. His eyes have glazed over at her explanation of some sort of botany thing. He is startled out of his daze when Parrish cries out nearby. John and the other scientist run to see what has happened and Parrish delightedly tells them he's discovered some new rare exotic plant. John just rolls his eyes and says he is heading back to the jumper, disappointed when the other scientist stays behind, as excited about the find as Parrish.

On his way back to the jumper he hears a rustling and turns only to be hit with the blast of a stun gun. He wakes up on the ground with his hands and feet bound. He sees a rock nearby and starts rubbing the rope at his wrists against it in an attempt to free himself.

Woolsey arrives at a transporter, his hands full. A voice from behind asks if she can help him and he willingly agrees. He notes that she is very attractive and asks if they've met, not recognizing her. She introduces herself as Doctor Vanessa Conrad and tells him she is new to Atlantis, having just arrived on the Apollo. He welcomes her to the city and they part ways when the transporter arrives at his quarters. Woolsey clearly wishes the encounter had not been so brief.

Back on the mainland, John has freed himself and made his way back to the jumper. He finds it gutted on the inside, clearly sabotaged to prevent his escape back to the city.

Rodney is working in his lab when Radek comes in. Rodney remarks that he thought Radek was offworld but Radek says the mission ended early. He tells Rodney that he thinks they should do a scan of the ocean floor, he has noticed some anomalous readings. Rodney dismisses the suggestion and Radek in short order, thinking the project a waste of time.

John double checks the jumper but it is clearly grounded, having been sabotaged while he was unconscious. He ventures out, and finding some tracks, follows them.

Woolsey greets the I.O.A. representative Xiao as she is beamed down into the gate room. He welcomes her warmly, the two seem to be on friendly terms. She tells him she is looking forward to the grand tour.

John reaches the camp he and the scientists had set up and finds it has been rifled through. He hears movement in the foliage and goes to check it out.

Woolsey gives Xiao a tour of the control room, chatting amiably with Amelia and then calling Chuck "Chet."

Radek refuses to give up on his idea and hounds Rodney until he gives approval for Radek to continue. Radek does a little bit of reverse psychology to peak Rodney's interest in the project as well.

Woolsey concludes Xiao's tour and she tells him that he's done a good job and as a result has been promoted to a new position back on Earth. She tells him "congratulations, you're going home." The look on his face makes it clear that he is not so excited about the reassignment.

Radek and Rodney get the scanner set up and much to Rodney's chagrin they find something almost immediately. Something is giving off strange energy readings about fifteen hundred feet below sea level.

John stalks through the woods and is quite surprised to find Kolya. While he is trying to process this information, another Genii sneaks up behind him and knocks him out.

Xiao is surprised at Woolsey's unhappiness at the announcement. She says nine months ago he was dreading going to Atlantis. He says a lot has changed in that time. He likes it there, and he doesn't like the idea of leaving the job unfinished. He asks what's really going on and Xiao admits that the I.O.A. is concerned about some of the decisions he's made. They feel his judgment has been compromised by the stress of the position. Translation: He is not being as obedient a lap dog as they had hoped.

Rodney and Radek have their discovery recovered from the ocean. It is a metal tube of some sort. They get to work trying to figure out what it actually is.

John wakes up to hear Kolya giving orders to his men over the radio to hunt down the scientists. John wants to know how Kolya is alive and Kolya says he had some Ancient tech on hand when he and John had their showdown. John wants to know how Kolya got to the planet, how they found the city. Kolya says that Atlantis' secret is out, their offworld contacts aren't as trustworthy as they think. He says that he and his men will take the city by boat and Atlantis will never see them coming. Especially not after they cripple the city's defenses by sending a bomb through the gate, for which he will first need John's IDC. He puts on his gloves and begins to try beating the information out of him.

Woolsey is looking in his mirror, holding up a suit and comparing it to his Atlantis uniform sadly when his door chimes. He answers it to find Vanessa. She asks him if he would like to catch a movie with him. He tells her he's not really in the mood for a movie. She asks what's wrong and he tells her he is being relieved of command. He fears he was only appointed because they thought he would do what they wanted, not on the strength of his record. Vanessa tells him that if he doesn't want to leave he shouldn't, he should fight the decision. He tells her it's too late for that but she's not so sure. She asks why they would bother sending Xiao on a three week trip to the Pegasus galaxy to tell him that when they could have just sent a communique ordering his return.

Woolsey finds Xiao in the mess and calls her on it. He says she wasn't sent there to fire him, she was sent to evaluate him and make a recommendation. The I.O.A. might be leaning toward removing him but hasn't made up its mind yet. Which means someone in the I.O.A. wants him gone and is using her to make that happen. He asks what's in it for her and realizes that she's been promised the Atlantis command. She tells him he should just give up, this isn't a fight he can win.

Kolya stops beating on John, disappointed at not having gotten the answers he seeks but impressed at John's resistance. Kolya tries a different tactic, taunting John that he is a failure at keeping his people safe. When John still isn't willing to talk, Kolya says he will have to make other plans and radios for two of his men to join them.

Rodney and Radek continue to study the object retrieved from the ocean. Rodney is about to give up when Radek reminds him that he's brilliant and Rodney returns to the data with renewed vigor.

Kolya's men join him and he pulls out a blade, having the men hold John down. He cuts off John's hand.

Rodney has discovered that the device is giving off a low level but harmless radiation. Radek says that is interesting but they should be focusing on the data. Rodney is still stumped by that though. Radek makes an offhand comment about figuring out passwords on alien laptops. That comment gives Rodney an idea and he realizes the key to figuring out the encryption on the data.

Woolsey goes to this thinking spot and is surprised to find Vanessa there. He tells her he took her advice. He doesn't think it will save his job but at least he will know he went down swinging. He asks her if she would like to have dinner with him and she agrees. Before they can make their plans though Amelia comes by and says that she tried calling but he is off radio and Rodney needs to speak to him right away. Woolsey excuses himself and leaves and as he goes we see Xiao lurking around the corner, a curious expression on her face.

Rodney presents his findings to Woolsey. The device contains the records of a long-dead civilization, as well as the chemical building blocks for an alien life form. He thinks it was meant to seed the beginnings of life on a new world and once the life form was sufficiently developed, they could learn from the information of their long extinct ancestors. Woolsey asks what went wrong and Rodney thinks it crashed or stalled in its journey, but with the Daedalus they can send it along to its target destination. Woolsey nods and says okay, copy the data and do that. Rodney says therein lies the catch. Accessing the data would do irreparable damage to the biological samples. They can't take the data and send the device on its way, it's either or.

Using John's hand Kolya's men manage to get the jumper operational. John takes advantage of Kolya's distraction to escape. Kolya's men say they can deal with John after they take Atlantis but Kolya says no, John first.

Woolsey drops by the control room and asks Amelia to send Vanessa a message rescheduling their dinner in light of Rodney's findings. Amelia looks her up in the system and asks Woolsey if he is sure about the name. Woolsey changes his mind and just asks where Vanessa's quarters are, thinking he should tell her personally, but Amelia shakes her head and says she isn't finding anything. There is no Dr. Conrad on Atlantis.

The Genii track John and he gets the best of one of them, stealing his radio and gun.

Woolsey says Vanessa is the woman that he was speaking to on the balcony earlier. Amelia shakes her head and says Vanessa must have left before she got there, he was alone when she found him on the balcony.

John leaves his stolen radio as a lure for the Genii and takes out two more of them.

Woolsey goes to see Jennifer to have himself scanned, realizing he has been seeing things. As he is doing this Vanessa shows up and tells him Jennifer won't find anything. Jennifer turns around and says according to the scans he's fine. Everything looks perfectly normal. Woolsey asks what's going on, asks Vanessa why her name isn't in the database and Amelia couldn't see her. Jennifer, puzzled, answers that she is in the database and Vanessa tells Woolsey that Jennifer can't see her. Jennifer asks Woolsey to list his symptoms and Vanessa tells him they need to talk somewhere private. Jennifer thinks he just needs a full night's sleep and gives him some medication. He thanks her and leaves, trying to run away from Vanessa as well.

Rodney is analyzing the radiation readings from the device. Radek thinks he is wasting his time. He thinks that Woolsey will definitely decide to keep the data and Radek seems concerned at that. Something beeps on the computer and Rodney realizes that he's seen something similar to the frequency given off by the device before. He is very concerned.

John takes out some more Genii.

Woolsey returns to his quarters to find Vanessa waiting for him. She apologizes for making him doubt his sanity. He asks who or what she is and she says she is a manifestation of something blah blah blah. He realizes that she has something to do with the device Rodney found in the ocean. Before she can explain more Xiao comes by. She says she thought she heard him talking to someone and tells him she saw him talking to himself on the balcony earlier. She says such behavior might be a concern to the I.O.A. She changes the subject to the device and asks why Woolsey has delayed in giving the go ahead to retrieve the data. Vanessa points out that it doesn't belong to them and Woolsey tells Xiao that there are a lot of angles to consider. Xiao says that the civilization that built the device is dead but theirs is very much still alive and they could benefit from that data. Woolsey points out that they would be robbing a civilization of the opportunity to rebuild itself. Xiao says there is no guarantee it would succeed and they would be throwing away a great opportunity. Xiao says she can't believe that Woolsey is even debating the issue. Follow procedure and save his job.

John gets to Kolya and the two fight, resulting in John going tumbling over the edge of a cliff. He manages to grab a hold with his remaining hand and Kolya peers over the edge.

Woolsey bristles at Xiao's threat and she says it's just a simple fact. Rodney runs into the room and exclaims they need to get rid of the device. It is giving off a frequency similar to the one that induced mass hallucinations, causing people to kill each other. Vanessa tells Woolsey that it can also be used as a communication device between two very different species. Xiao says they need to act quickly, salvage the data and destroy the device. Woolsey thanks them both and dismisses them, telling him he will think it over. He turns to Vanessa and asks her to explain.

Kolya tells John that this has gone on long enough. He urges John to use his other hand and climb back up. John looks down to find his missing hand restored. Kolya says he has no intention of letting John dies and repeats the order to climb back up. John does so and asks what the heck's going on.

The scene cuts back and forth between Kolya and Vanessa explaining about a race called the Sekkari that existed thousands of years ago. When facing extinction they built several seed carriers and sent them out to give their civilization a chance at survival. Fifty were sent out but none reached their targets. The one Atlantis found malfunctioned and Kolya says he guided it to this planet and it landed in the ocean. It remained dormant there for two thousand years, until it was awakened by readings from a submerged puddle jumper, the one Rodney used when Michael was invading the city. Vanessa tells Woolsey she scanned the city and linked with him. Woolsey asks what she is and she explains she is the seed carrier's artificial intelligence, her purpose to protect the device and assess the people it encountered to see if they could be trusted to help.

Koyla explains to John that as the military leader of the expedition he was a threat, so the AI connected with him and distracted him with the Kolya scenario to keep him from returning to the city and ordering the destruction of the device. Everything he experienced was a hallucination. John is appalled at the scenario it chose but Kolya maintains that it was John who chose his distraction. The AI didn't have full control of the hallucination, it just helped John's mind manifest its darkest fears.

Vanessa tells Woolsey now he knows the truth and has a decision to make.

John heads back to the intact jumper to find Parrish and the other scientist waiting, wondering where the heck he has been. He tells them to pack up.

In her quarters, Xiao receives word that she has just received a secure message from Earth. She has it patched through and opens up a video conference from another I.O.A. member. He tells her that the rest of the council has decided to go with a different person as the new lead of Atlantis over herself. She closes the computer in anger. Later in the gate room she tells Woolsey she is heading back. She tells him that she gave him a glowing review and he isn't going anywhere. Like him, she is nobody's puppet, and the I.O.A. should have thought about that before sending the previous day's update. She leaves and Woolsey asks Amelia, "yesterday's update?" Amelia says she doesn't know what Xiao meant, they haven't had a scheduled dial out in days. Woolsey looks over and sees Vanessa smiling at him. She says to consider it a going away present.

Rodney arrives in the gate room with the device and Woolsey asks Vanessa what happens next. She says she'll start the process to give life to the Sekkari and then go to sleep until they are ready to meet her. She turns to John and apologizes for his experience. Rodney grumbles about not being able to interact with the AI and she shows herself to him, then reveals the true alien form of the Sekkari before the device is beamed up and she leaves.

Later in the mess, the team is eating and Woolsey comes by. Teyla asks him to join them again and he takes them up on it. They discuss the events, Rodney saying he figured that the AI knew better than to try to fool him so just concentrated on Woolsey and John. John says it is a heck of a coincidence that the AI appeared in the morning and Rodney didn't find the device until the afternoon. Rodney tells him it was no coincidence, just hard work and a little help from Radek. John asks what he's talking about, saying Radek is offworld. Rodney says no, he came back early and everyone kind of looks at him. He realizes that Radek was the AI all along.


Overall to me this episode seems to be about firmly establishing Woolsey as not just belonging on Atlantis but as being part of the team. He is one of our people. Despite his past annoying behavior, he is a man we can and should be rooting for to stay in charge of these people. He is doing what is best for his people and for the other races of the galaxy.

I really like how we got to see him make a stand to the I.O.A. here too. You can't get a much clearer sign that he's come over to Atlantis' side of the fence than his interactions with Xiao. After what we saw from him in "Inquisition" this also firms up that as clueless as he may seem about things at times, he can play the bureaucracy game, and play it well. He definitely knows how things go there. I almost don't like that he had to take the inspiration to realize what was really going on from Vanessa, but it makes sense. He was so gobsmacked at the idea of being forced to leave Atlantis that he did need the reminder of exactly why he should be the one to stay. It makes sense in my head anyway.

Something else about this episode that I really enjoyed was the delayed reveal that the Radek Rodney worked with during the episode was also a manifestation of the seed carrier's AI. I know that the first time I saw this episode I definitely did not pick up on that until it was made clear at the end. But now, it is very interesting to watch Rodney's interactions with Radek throughout and notice that no one else ever actually talks with Radek or looks at him. It was very well acted by everyone involved to clearly telegraph that Radek wasn't actually there for anyone looking closely enough to pick up on it without actually giving it away outright. It also amuses me to think that to the rest of the people he was interacting with during that day, Rodney must have seemed even more crazy than usual. Although I guess we all should have known when Radek told Rodney he was brilliant, come to think of it.

I don't have a whole lot to say about the whole bit with John and Kolya, except that when I first watched this episode it freaked me right the heck out. Both because Kolya was supposed to be dead, damn it, and because of the whole hand chopping off thing. I couldn't believe they had actually done that. It is pretty clear that John is a person who holds onto his old demons and has all kinds of self-doubt and self-recrimination going on. I do find it interesting on rewatching, however, that when John asks Kolya how he got to the planet, the AI manages to completely evade answering the question while also distracting John from that fact. That was pretty dang impressive. Because seriously, there is no answer to that question that doesn't open up several new cans of worms with lots of unpleasant implications.

I do find the idea of the seed carrier and its AI's communication attempts very interesting. It is not entirely unlike the basic premise of Stargate SG-1's fourth season episode "Scorched Earth," although the execution was, of course, very different indeed. It is a wonderful bit of science fiction dressing for a very character-driven piece.

Also, it was nice to see Parrish again. He's totally my favorite Atlantis botanist. Plus, the reminder that he usually works with Lorne amused me. For reasons.

Favorite Quotes

"Look at this! Huh! It's a plant not unlike begonia eiromischa!" (Parrish)
"Oh God. Lorne warned me about this." (John)

"Yeah, FYI, this conversation ended six seconds ago." (Rodney)

"You realize it's highly unlikely you're actually gonna find anything?" (Rodney)
"Well. Then I will have wasted an hour of my time and you'll be able to tell me, 'I told you so.'" (Radek)
"Hmm!" (Rodney)
"If, on the other hand, I do find something, perhaps they'll name something after me for a change." (Radek)

"Well, you'll think of something." (Radek)
"Really? What makes you so sure?" (Rodney)
"Well, because you're brilliant." (Radek)
"It's true. Doesn't mean I'm gonna sudd--wait a minute. What did you just say? Why did you say that? What, are you sick? Am I sick? What have you heard?" (Rodney)

"You're an interesting man, Sheppard. You travel to another galaxy, risk your life defending a bunch of people you don't even know. You ask me, you're either someone with a death wish or someone running away from something. So tell me: what are you running away from?" (Kolya)


Well, that wraps up today. Join me on Wednesday for the spectacularly guest-star filled "Brain Storm."