Kate hit the floor with a force that made her bones shake. She felt arms help her into a sitting position and leaned back into Lorne's embrace. She wiped the blood from her mouth and looked up at the person who had just thrown her into the cell.
Caynus looked down at the small group huddled in the corner and scowled. "You may think that you will be able to resist me forever, but you won't," she said. "I will return for you later." And with that she turned on her heel and left the brig, her skirt swishing around her as she left.
"Are you all right?" Evan asked.
She nodded. "I'll be fine."
"What did they do?" Radek asked.
"What we expected."
"Fingers in the brain?" James asked.
Kate nodded. "I think I did an ok job resisting them. We've gotta hope that I did. If they find out about home before the SGC can deliver its payload, we're in serious trouble." She sat up and scooted a little away from Evan, trying to support herself.
"You really think they're going to nuke this place?" James asked.
Kate nodded. "Yeah I do. Look Marty, you and I weren't there when the Replicators terrorized not only our galaxy but the Asgard galaxy and then later the Pegasus galaxy. We don't know what it was like, we only read about it. But Evan and Radek here lived through some of that and I'm sure they'll tell you that it wasn't a nice time."
They were both shaking their heads.
"The SGC can't afford to have this as a problem again; they'll take care of it by any means necessary."
"So what you're saying is either we break out of here or we're toast?"
Kate smiled at James. "I'm leaning more towards toast, but you go ahead and stay optimistic, it's refreshing."
She kneaded her forehead with her knuckles, trying to relieve the headache that was blossoming there. As she massaged her head the world seemed to flicker and she froze.
"Kat are you ok?" Evan asked, moving closer to her.
She shook her head to clear it, then nodded. "Yeah, just a little disoriented."
"Understandably," said Radek.
"Any thoughts on how to get out of here?" James asked after several silent moments.
They all turned to look at Zelenka.
"Why are you looking at me?" he asked.
"Oh please," said Lorne. "You science nerds are always getting us out of tight situations."
"No, McKay is always getting us out of these situations."
"Well McKay's not here is he? So it looks like it's up to you. These prisons are just like the ones back on Atlantis."
Zelenka grumbled under his breath about McKay. "Look," he said out loud, "even if I knew how to break out of the Atlantis prisons, these are different. I don't know if I can get us out of here."
Kate opened her mouth to say something when the door to the brig opened and a woman stepped in.
"Hello," she said with a smile. "My name is Jaina."
Kate recognized her from her interrogation. "She's a replicator," she said to the others.
Jaina smiled. "That I am, but I am not like Caynus. I believe that there are higher goals than domination."
"You're one of those," said Evan.
"I assume you are referring to our brethren in the Pegasus galaxy."
"Yes, we are of the same belief, we aim for ascension."
"What does that have to do with us?" Kate asked.
"They believe that we are the key to them figuring out how to ascend," said Evan. "But it won't work. It never worked for the Pegasus replicators."
Jaina smiled. "But we are different from our brethren." She pulled a knife from her belt, rolled her sleeve up and put the knife to her skin. She dragged the blade across her skin and it blossomed red. They watched as the skin reknit itself and Jaina looked back at them. "As you can see we have evolved."
The group gaped at her.
"We encountered something like this in Pegasus," Radek said. "A small population was trying to advance, they created a duplicate of Colonel Sheppard's team, and they were much like you are. But that faction was destroyed by the others."
"Here in Andromeda we have advanced as a race, all of us."
"I'm sorry, but why are you telling us this?" Kate asked.
"Because I want you to trust me."
Jaina waved her hand in front of the cell door, which opened. "That is why."
They got to their feet, Evan offering a steadying hand to Kate.
"You're letting us go?" she asked the Replicator.
"What's the catch?" Evan asked.
"Catch? There is no catch. Several of us believe that as ensouled beings, capable of ascension, you should not be kept like this."
"So that's it? You're letting us go? How are we supposed to get out when we can't get to the gate room?" Kate asked.
"You do not need the gate."
Kate was confused, and was about to say so, when she was hit with a sudden flash of pain in her head that threw her back into Evan's arms. The world shifted again, and she could almost swear she was somewhere else, but then the world righted itself and she was back in the brig being embraced by Lorne. He was saying her name, with an urgency that suggested he had already been saying it for awhile.
"Katherine," he said.
"I'm fine," she said, pushing herself up to her feet. "You were about to tell us why we don't need the gate room," she said, turning to Jaina.
The Replicator nodded. "Several of my followers have maneuvered to be stationed in the south bay where one of our smaller vessels is docked. You will be able to commandeer it. It may be small but it does have a hyper drive and will get you to your home." There seemed to be a lingering question after her statement.
"We're not going to tell you where we're from," said Kate.
Jaina smiled. "Then if you will follow me?"
They followed the Replicator woman out into the hallway. She led them along a convoluted path to avoid the sentries posted all over the city. They finally made it to the docking bay and onto the vessel.
"Won't you get into trouble for this?" Kate asked Jaina.
Jaina smiled. "Most likely, but I am willing to risk Caynus' wrath. Go home, and do not return here.
Kate nodded, and the world shifted a little again. This time she could swear she heard a voice say, "This one is strong."
"Did you hear that?" she asked Jaina.
The Replicator woman shook her head. "I did not hear anything, but perhaps you should not linger any longer."
Kate nodded again. "Thank you."
Jaina inclined her head. "You are welcome," she said before turning and exiting the vessel.
Kate closed the door behind the Replicator and made her way up to the bridge.
"Do you know how to work this thing Radek?" she asked.
"It's very similar to the Aurora-class vessels, only smaller."
"Does that mean that you know how to work it?"
"Then get us the hell out of here."
He and Lorne complied and soon the ship was away from Praesidium and heading into hyper space.
"As soon as we're close enough to the edge of the galaxy start radioing the Daedalus. They should be stationed between the galaxies."
Kate sunk into the captain's chair and put her head in her hands. It was still throbbing away.
"Kate, you should go lie down," said James.
She sat up and looked at him.
"We'll call you when we get through to the Daedalus."
Kate was reluctant, but another sharp flash of pain had her agreeing. She stumbled off the bridge and soon found some living quarters. She barely managed to make it to the bed before she passed out from exhaustion. She had terrifying dreams and woke up in a sweat. She tried to remember the dreams but couldn't, only the fear. There was a tap on her door and Evan entered.
"We were able to contact the Daedalus and we're on our way to rendezvous with them."
Kate sat up. "How long was I out?"
"Only a few hours. This ship has very long range communication, and the Daedalus was a lot closer than we thought."
"How long before we rendezvous?"
"8 hours or so. James found the commissary if you're hungry."
"These things eat?"
He shrugged. "Apparently."
Kate sighed and ran her fingers through her hair. "I think I'll go to the control room and see what I can't learn about our friends."
Evan nodded. "All right. I'm going back to the bridge."
He left her sitting in the dark, feeling that something was wrong, but not quite able to put her finger on it. She got to her feet and the room lurched. She fell to the floor from the pain in her head. It passed once again and she was left panting on the floor.
"What the hell is going on?" she asked to now one in particular.
She got to her feet and waited a moment to see if the world would shift again. When everything stayed as it should she made her way to the door and out into the hallway. She stumbled around aimlessly before she finally found the control room. She went inside and went straight to one of the computers.
"Well this doesn't make any sense," she said, looking at the display screen. "It's all gibberish."
The room lurched and pain blossomed again in her head.
"Kat?" came a voice from behind her.
She turned to see Evan standing in the doorway looking concerned.
"When did you get here?" she asked.
"Only a minute ago, but we tried radioing you and you didn't answer."
"I just got down here," she said.
"Kat, you've been down here for almost 8 hours."
Kate looked down at her watch. Sure enough 8 hours had passed.
"I must have…fallen asleep," she said.
He was still looking at her in concern. "We've rendezvoused with the Daedalus," he said. "We should be docked by now."
"Wow, I really was out for awhile."
Evan smiled. "Colonel Caldwell is waiting for us."
"Right," Kate said, glancing back at the computer display. "Lead the way."
They met up with the others on the way.
"Are you all right Kate?" asked Radek.
Kate nodded. "I'll be fine once we get back to Earth."
The world lurched again, more violently than before. She fell to the floor and rubbed her head, feeling that it would burst. The pain kept building and she suddenly knew what was wrong, what had been wrong all along. She began to fight against the pain in her head and her surroundings changed.
She was back in the brig of Praesidium, on her knees in front of Caynus, who had her fingers in Kate's head. The Replicator removed her hand, pulling with it a scream from Kate. Without the steadying force of Caynus, Kate fell backwards. Strong arms caught her before she it the floor. Evan pulled her close and cradled her in his arms.
Caynus laughed. "Your race is pathetic. You are the ones more prized over us? I will enjoy wiping you from this plane of existence." She turned on her heel and left the brig.
"Kat," said Evan softly, pulling her even closer. "Katherine, please."
Kate didn't respond.
"She's in shock," said Radek.
"This is bad," said James. "We need to know what they showed her."
"He's right Lorne," said Zelenka. "They may know about home, they may know how to get there."
"It won't matter soon."
"I hope you're right," said Radek. "I sure hope you're right."