Seraph stepped in front of him, "He's almost there. I have already encouraged him, continue on your way."

The glowing wraith balls backed away, and Seraph turned to face him.

"What the HELL is going on here!" Sheppard exclaimed, fear tightening his voice, but anger surged past it. "Wraith?"

"I was wondering when you would figure it out."

"Then what are you?" He scornfully looked her up and down.

"As of the immediate present, I am the manifestation of them trying to communicate with your subconscious."

"So you are them?" He shoved her back. "And where the hell am I? Some wraith lab?" He started pacing, mid-air of nothingness.

"No, I told you the truth, you are on the path to ascension." Seraph's cheeks were flushing to a deep pink, fear and anger in her tone.

"What?" He stopped to stare at her.

"See, the Wraith found an ancient device used for ascension. They figured they could move on to the next plane of existence, and continue their war with the Ancients. But they…" her voice trailed off.

"Hit a snag? A snafu?"

"Snafu?"

"Sorry, military term."

"They have ascended but they aren't… on the same level."

"They got off before they were supposed to?"

"They don't know what happened."

"And what am I? Obviously they didn't want me for a midnight snack."

"They figured the one with the strongest ancient gene might lead them the right way. And I am used as the recording device."

"So how do you know all this? Are you real? Like an individual?"

"I don't know what I am. I have no memory before I entered your mind. I just have their knowledge, and all of yours. The issue with you is you don't know how to ascend. So they decided to make you ascend, but sedate you so they could track your brainwaves and such. And use me to transmit the knowledge and the path."

"So do they know I know?"

"No. What I am saying to you is your subconscious figuring these details out, with a slight advantage that the manifestation of your subconscious is connected to wraith technology. You are slightly self-aware, and your mind is processing your surroundings."

"So I am in a wraith lab." He rocked back on his heels, deciding his next move.

"That won't work." Her blue eyes flashed as she read his mind. "You are too heavily sedated to become conscious."

"I don't like you reading my mind. So how do I get out of here?"

"I do not know."

He started to rub the back of his neck, and caught himself. "How do you get out of dreams?"

"Wake up."

"Yes, but how do your dreams usually end? The alarm, right?"

"But you are sedated. How do you set an alarm? Would you not be conscious at that point? Does that not defeat the purpose?"

"Hey, I wasn't finished yet. Does my subconscious really sound like McKay? Don't answer that." He sighed a soft moan before he resumed his pacing. "What if I jump off a cliff? That always jerks me out of a dead sleep."

Seraph opened her mouth, and then clenched it shut.

"What?"

"What if it kills you? You are sedated. What if…"

"I separate my consciousness from myself. It's a risk I gotta take. I can't sit here, weaponless, waiting to ascend."

"But you are on the process of ascension. If you do not.."

"I know. If I don't meet the requirements, I don't ascend, I die. But I am not going to show these damn wraith the way to continue fighting the Ancients. So how do I find a cliff?" Seconds later, he was standing at the very edge of a crumbling granite rock face looking down into the churning waves below. "Oh crap."

Seraph looked up at him, "You wanted one, didn't you?"

"Uh, yeah." He cocked his head, eyeing the ocean and swallowing hard. "I just didn't expect it that…fast?"

"Jump."

"Hey, it's not that easy. It is a very real thing I'm experiencing here. I can't just go sailing off the end of the earth."

"You like to fly."

"Yeah, with an engine strapped to my butt." He took a deep breath, and looked over the edge of the drop-off. "You know, if I don't make it. I gotta say this, my mind created a very pretty image for you."

Seraph turned and blushed.

"I don't know how it works and all, but hey, if you were real. I'd ask you out." He smirked his signature sideways grin. A prick to his finger had him looking down, and seeing a single red rose in his hand. "That's cheating, you know."

"I know." She grinned as he handed it to her.

His eyes widened as a thought hit him square in the forehead. "You said you were a manifestation of them communicating with me. But how do they know the connection exists, unless…"

"Those glowies, are them checking in, seeing how things are going, except."

"Except what?"

"There's more than one way to check in. Everything you see is suggestive, meaning I could be them at any time."

"Oh, great."

In slow motion, her eyes morphed from the crisp blue, the pupil lengthening and narrowing into the hideous yellow slits of a wraith, her teeth growing longer and translucent. Hissing, Seraph lunged forward and collided into Sheppard, who staggered back, his heel breaking off the last bit of edge of the cliff. As he started scrambling, reaching out to catch whatever he could, she shoved him again, at last breaking his connection with the solid ground. The sensation of falling made his stomach turn over as he desperately lashed out, trying to grab hold of something to slow his accelerating decent. A gnarled root stuck out from his mentally created cliff side, and he snapped his fingers shut, hoping the tendons connecting the hand to the rest of his body held strong. Wrenching pain raced down his arm into the strained socket keeping his limb connected to the rest of him as his body came to a halt in its plummet. A shout of pain escaped his lips as he looked up to see the white haired devil peer over the edge to look at him, "Damn you to hell!"

"If I already am the devil, wouldn't I be in hell?" She asked, her voice reverberating like so many wraith queens he had met in times past.

"So? Just making sure you stay there, and not in my life!" he snarled back, anger keeping his hold firm on the splintering root. He felt the fibrous wood give an inch, and dirt crumbled around it falling past Sheppard's feet to the depths below. A split second later, John was joining the clods as his root snapped from the added weight. The wind rushed past his ears as he watched the water come to meet him way too fast.

Xxxx

Sirens and screams filled the dazed colonel's ears as he thrashed around, trying to stop his falling. Ugly life sucking hands reached out to hold him back, keep him from leaving, but adrenaline was giving the man the benefit of the doubt. He leapt up, shoving past the devils incarnate, and he ran from the room. He darted into a shadowy area, watching as the drones ran past looking for him. Shaking his head, he tried to figure where he was.

"You are in a wraith lab." Came the whispery breathe inside his head.

"Whaa? You never leave, do you?" He growled, and then realized he might want to take his conversation mental, and not give his place away. "God, I'm crazy." He ran a sweaty palm down his face, listening hard for the heavy footsteps of his pursuers.

"You aren't crazy. The human psyche cannot handle two consciousnesses that easily." Her voice developed a very placating tone, like McKay trying to explain quantum physics to Ronon, aggravating the already half-crazy Sheppard.

"Just shut up." He peered around the edge of the stringy wall, glancing to see any enemies.

"You cannot just leave this hive."

"And why not?" He growled, tired of being told what to do, darting back when he saw two drones approaching. He slunk deeper into the shadows, shivering off the chill creeping up his legs and back. Looking down, he was in nothing more than a simple wraith version of a hospital smock. Heaving a deep sigh, he glanced around for some sort of clothing. "Where would wraith keep their slimy wardrobes?"

"I can help with that. But also, there is another reason you cannot just escape this hive without some forethought. And no, stealing a dart is not the planning I was referring to. You cannot remember how you arrived at this location?"

"No, I can't." Squirming slightly as he felt her literally rooting around in his memories, and then the door shifted open, and the flashbacks started.

"Teyla, get Rodney out of here!" Sheppard had growled, shoving them forward and spinning to cover them with his p-90. He let fly a few dozen bullets to withdraw the wraith worshippers, but despite several of them falling to their deaths, the masses following them running over the corpses, with little more than a grimace. Ronon shot a few energy blasts, but with the team cut off from the jumper and McKay having a broken ankle, the chances of survival weren't good. Best bet, Sheppard thought to hide in the woods until dark which couldn't be more than a half hour away. Hopefully the sun followed a similar time pattern as most did. Unfortunately, the sun did not honor their wishes to set. With the odds stacked against them, they had been captured and held until the wraith had shown, the queen even gracing the worshippers with her loathsome presence.

The images after that became hazy, but Sheppard had the gist, the rest of his team had been with him when he was captured, and hopefully were still on board and not somebody's snack.

"Do not worry; they had talked about using them as an incentive for your cooperation. They are alive, albeit in a cocoon."

"Why are you helping me?"

"The attack earlier, it was not from me. It was them trying to access your mind simply because there was a shift in your brain patterns and the ascension process had slowed."

"How do I know that you are not trying to belay my suspicions now?"

"If I were them, would they not have found you by now?"

"True." He thought it through for a moment, "So, I still don't understand exactly what you are. My subconscious talking to me, the wraith communicating with my unconscious mind, and what else? Oh, that's right a transmitter. Why haven't I ever seen you before if you are my subconscious mind?"

"Simply because you have never needed so much access to that part of your brain or the quantity of wraith drugs flowing through your veins. Perhaps it is also the advancement of your mind through the ascension process. I cannot explain it all, simply because you don't understand it all yet. I do not know any more than you do."

John sighed at her vague and obscure answer. "Alright, so I trust you again? How do I know when they'll hack my mind?"

"They cannot anymore. You are no longer attached to their equipment. Their telepathy has not been able to find you either. You are human, therefore able to hide in shadows. Any more questions?"

"Yes, where's my team?"

"Follow me." She whispered.

"How?" The soldier's brow wrinkled with confusion when he suddenly got the urge to go a specific direction. Skulking about in the dark crevasses that a hive ship is so abundant in, he made his way to the starboard side of the ship, to the storage compartment. Slowly following the aisles around, he recognized three faces of his compadres. Fighting the urge to rush up to them and yank them free, he turned to Seraph.

"Now what?"

"The timing of when we are here is perfect; it's the quietest time of day. You can walk up to them, and slice them out."

"First, how do you, er, I know this, and second, what am I slicing them out with?"

"I believe your 'gut' reasoned this one out and there's a drone's blade lying there."

"This is too easy." He murmured to himself as he cut through the cobweb-y material holding Ronon at bay. As the cold air hit the bare chest of the warrior, he sucked in a deep and painful breath before surging forward. Sheppard had to leap backwards to avoid being tackled by the angry man.

"Easy, big guy. It's just me." John whispered harshly, catching the dazed man's stare. Ronon shook his head hard, as if clearing his vision and mind. "Good. Now help me get Rodney and Teyla out."

Ronon stormed forward, tearing and shredding Teyla's cocoons as John finished freeing Rodney.

"Where am I?" shouted Rodney, his voice higher than normal as his body convulsed with shivers, eyes rolling back in his head.

"Shh. I'm getting you free." He whispered, rubbing Rodney's goosebumped arms, and fighting the nagging feeling the crap was going to hit the fan.

"Sheppard?" Teyla murmured as she was scooped up into Ronon's arms, ready to carry her to freedom.

"Ah, yes. Sheppard, the traitor for all Ancients," hissed a lone wraith as he sauntered from around the corner. "Did you even think for a moment we'd let all our hard work slip literally through our fingers?"

Sheppard stood square to their new threat, assessing him. The blade in his hand burned to be driven into wraith flesh, but in the corner they were backed into, there was no telling how many drones were around the corner. The wraith stood taller than the average creature, his eyes missing little. This monster had age under his belt, and was not trying to prove anything to his queen. He had a secure (well, as secure as you could get being wraith) position on the hive, and they were simply experimenting with concluding the battle they had been stalemated in.

He continued in his ghoulish voice. "Of course we anticipated your possible realization and see through our facade, although it took longer than we had expected from the hero the rumors have painted. I don't see why the galaxy seems to fear you so. Such a simple man, easily swayed by our planted information."

This was a severe game of chess, where the other party had the moves considered and countered them. A feeling of desperation tightened the colonel's throat that he fought to stuff back down. He shifted his glance to his team. Rodney was leaning again the cocoon he had just inhabited, and Ronon was glowering at the wraith while protecting Teyla, who seemed to be having an adverse reaction to whatever they had been drugged with. Her head lolled back on her neck, and her form was completely limp in Ronon's hold. Swallowing hard, he engaged the enemy.

"I did not start any of those rumors. I have nothing to live up to."

"But you do realize; you are ascending. Your body is going through the chemical changes; the physical manifestation of your consciousness will become superfluous and cease to exist. The question remains, will your mental activity mete up to the requirements for the superior beings plane of existence?"

"What do you want from me? I'm sick of your games and your stupid spy." He spat out the last few words, tired of being the sucker of a pretty face.

"We will let your friends go, if you stay and ascend properly and allowing our monitoring of you to continue."

Sheppard snorted a wry chuckle, "Like I believe you'd let them go. As soon as I give to your demands, you could very well kill them and I couldn't do a damn thing about it."

"That is very true. But one has to realize. We are desperate. If you do not get to the optimum level of brain activity, you will cease to exist. That is something we cannot let happen, not to one who so strongly carries the Ancient's gene. We are willing to barter with you. We have just pulled out of hyperspace by a portal; I believe you refer to it as a "stargate"." His mouth formed around the word as if it had a bad taste in his mouth. "We still have your transport ship in our dart bay, and they can fly out of here and through the stargate before your very eyes, if we were to have your full cooperation."

"And what happens after I ascend?"

"You are free to find your own way back to the land of the tangible."

Seraph appeared suddenly before him, "You cannot agree to this."

Rodney started squawking in the background. "If they ascend, then they wipe out the Ancients, and nothing holds them back from attacking us, or going anywhere in the galaxy. All humans are at danger."

"You cite a very valid point for argument, but this war does not involve the current Lanteans in any way. You might not've thought of the fact, if we are no longer physical, we won't have the needs to feed as we do now." He hissed and licked his lips with that last part, eyeing Teyla and Ronon.

"Wraith are not to be trusted. You have Michael to show for your efforts to trust Wraith. He is the worst bane to the galaxy, even worse than the creatures you are bartering with right now. They are not favorable to humans, viewing them as nothing more than cattle to herd and slaughter. The ancients do not have contact with humans because of their morality holding them back. Despite their insufferable holier-than-thou ways, they still have guidelines that they do not cross. Do you see these wraith ever upholding their end of the bargain?" Seraph was practically screaming at him, in a very controlled voice of course.

"Alright. I suppose I deal." He uttered his race's death sentence with the softest breaths, causing Rodney to sputter, "You cannot make deals with the devils in a hospital gown and your whole backend is hanging out for the world to see!"

"Rodney, if you have a p90 stuffed up your sleeve, now is the perfect time to pull it out. Until then, shut up and let me…"

"Make the dumbest of moves since you woke the wraith? I don't think so. Whatever is going on in that ascended head of yours, it is not reacting like anything I experienced. Where is your intelligence? Why hasn't it hit yet?"

Seraph popped into view again, "You might be right," she agreed before fading back out again.

He muttered under his breath, "Of course you're no help."

The wraith, Keith, had somehow signaled for his backup and four drones came around the corner, stunners in hand.

"March." One ordered, his breaths heavy into his mask and gesturing with his badly manicured hands. Sheppard had never noticed how disgusting green cuticles look in the light of a hive ship, kind of like moldy sausages. In fact, the whole hive reeked of a damp mildew-y bathroom. Sighing heavily, Sheppard nodded to his friends to head out to the puddle jumper. They slowly made their way to the dart bay, Ronon scowling his disapproval and McKay explaining in 10,000 words why this was going to end badly.

He tried to tune them out and focus on formulating a plan when his back tightened as he noticed how the heavy steps of the drones squelched into the soft ground covering. It rather sounded like the squish of a doctor playing around with ones insides, though how he knew that was exactly what it sounded like, he didn't want to know. Seraph whispered into his ear, "Anesthesia does not knock you completely out, your senses still pick up everything going on around you, just because you cannot recall it, does not mean you do not know it."

"I did not need to know that!"

Rodney spun around so fast that the one of the drones let out a stun blast, missing him by inches. Shouting a rather harsh expletive, McKay hit the deck with Ronon rushing forward, a menacing bulk of angry muscle ready to thrash some wraith hide, despite holding a full grown woman in his arms.

Sheppard watched all the reactionary movements of the green demons as if they were moving in slow motion; as their stance turned defensive and their fingers tightened on their triggers. He dove forward, shoving Ronon and Teyla to the floor and behind a corner, and then rolling into a preparatory spin to finish on his feet. Dragging McKay by the arm, he hauled him over to where he had just deposited Ronon.

"I thought we had a deal." he snarled, lowering into an attack crouch, thankful for all the hand to hand sparring he had done with Ronon. The drones ceased firing, and Keith looking all pissed at their shooting at his prized experiment.

"We have. These were too quick to fire and will be dealt with." he hissed and dismissed with a wave of his feeding hand.

As soon as the immediate threat was slipping away, Sheppard suddenly saw a crack of white light and went down, desperately pressing against his temples as if to push away the pain. The light continued to grow and envelope him until he was standing at the shores of Atlantis looking out over the ocean. Seraph touched his shoulder gently, causing his heart to leap in his chest as he turned around to face her. Her mouth was drawn into a tight line of concern.

"Crap, did I ascend?"

"No. However, you are running out of time. Your body is going to start decaying rapidly. If you are to save your team, you are going to have to do so immediately.

"How? I just collapsed into my subconscious!" He shouted, feeling his blood pressure spike, unsure if it was the frustration or his chemistry changing, but as hit a level he had never experienced, he knew his time was short.

"Do you feel that?" She murmured into his ear, her breath hot against his already feverish skin.

"I feel like my body is outta control speeding off like the delorean about to blow at 88pmh, and there is no way for me to back off the throttle and save my friends."

"I was not referring to that. I meant," she paused looking for the right word. "The buzzing."

Sheppard rolled back onto his heels. He could faintly make out the puddle jumper in the back of his mind, the ancient gene connecting to it. "How? I am nowhere near it."

"I believe," she stopped, looking over his shoulder at the sea.

"What? They are out there on their own, and won't leave without me." He snapped his fingers in front of her face.

Her eyes flashed, "Time passes slower in your mind. I believe your ancient gene is pulsing stronger and causing your connection to any ancient tech even shaper."

"So, you're telling me.."

"Activate." Her sentence cut off as he snapped back to reality. He was currently being dragged by his arms, behind a stunned Ronon and Teyla. Rodney was trailing behind, eyes wide with fear knowing he was about to fly the jumper and doubting his ability to fly in a straight line. Sheppard could almost see his mind whirling in a thousand different lines of thought trying how to figure to take everyone with him, not leaving his team leader behind.

Closing his eyes again and thankful for the squishy floor his backside was being dragged across, he reached out for the jumper controls. Imagining himself in the jumpers cockpit, he thought up activating the HUD, checking the entire ship over. No sign of tampering, he pulled up the weapons system and calculated the amount of weapons in reserve. He let a drone loose in the dart bay, making sure it headed away from the jumper's location. The ensuing explosion set off alarms of all sorts.

Sheppard dropped to the ground as the drones started running toward the cause of the alarm, leaving Keith hissing his frustration after them. Sheppard immediately leapt to his feet, patting down Ronon's hair and pulled out a recently sharpened blade. Tossing the knife into his right hand, he stood erect facing the wraith's back. Uncertainty filled him whether or not to creep forward, or try to find another weapon.

An anger spread in him causing him to surge forward and plunge the blade deep into the Wraith's back causing the monster to roar in agony. Yanking the blade back out through sinew and tissue, Sheppard dug the blade in again, into where the creature's life sustaining organ beat in his chest. The last stab wound was already starting to heal as Sheppard twisted the blade in the fresh laceration causing "Keith" to writhe and spin around to swing desperately at his antagonist. Sheppard danced back as he watched the wraith's flesh close over the end of the blade, but the damage had already begun to occur. Blood started running freely from the wraith's mouth as he staggered toward Sheppard and collapsed as water started to mix with the bloody discharge. His death rattle couldn't have been a more distressful relief.

Free of wraith at the moment, he finally removed himself from "battle mode" and began taking in stimuli again in time to hear the constant babbling of a very in-shock McKay.

"Help me wake them." He cut through the blathering and started shaking Ronon awake. The man slowly came to but then jolted up snarling. "Come on, let's go." Ronon scooped up Teyla and a wraith stunner and started running toward the other end of the dart bay. John and Rodney respectively both armed themselves and followed suit.

As they ran through the corridors of the hive, Sheppard started to feel light-headed and he staggered into one of the walls. Rodney shrieked for Ronon to stop as John slumped to the ground.

"Hurry," he slurred. "I'm ascending." Then the world went black.

A/N: So, i ended up deciding that the rest will be posted as another chapter.