Commander Kolya had long been rather partial to underground bunkers – spending his entire life living in one was something of a factor in this, naturally, though it was not the whole truth of the matter. There was a distinct sense of security, of control, involved in a life spent below the surface.
Underground, you made your own world, and forced those less powerful than you to live in it.
But this particular chamber – far too small to class as a bunker, and far too artificial to be called a cave – was one Kolya rapidly found himself detesting. His mind was still controlled by a single image, a single memory – staring down the barrel of his own gun into Major John Sheppard’s eyes.
Kolya knew eyes like that. Saw them all too often. Sometimes in others, sometimes in the mirror. It didn’t take much to read cold, detached, triumphant hate when it shone so plainly in an expression of that kind.
He remembered, almost hazily, the events leading up to all this. The explosion, the battle, the one second when he thought he’d got the upper hand… and then this.
Oblivion had never seemed so welcome. Even a lifetime spent in battle, interrogation, and a pragmatic need to protect his people at all costs… even that wasn’t going to be enough forever. Not to overcome the ever-present memories of the Atlantis mission, of the cold taste of failure and resentment and mortality.
But he’d fought on. He always did.
Until this moment. For now, alone at last in the underground chamber on Dagan, Commander Acastus Kolya finally understood something he’d seen so often but never truly experienced.
He wanted to die. And to make matters worse, the very man who had the ability – and the ruthlessness – to kill him had chosen otherwise.
John Sheppard had let him live. And somehow, that was far, far more terrible than if the man had simply pulled that trigger and killed Kolya on the spot.
When the last lingering effects of the Atlantean shock-grenade wore off, Kolya slowly dragged himself to his feet, allowing himself at last to survey the chamber as it now stood.
It was littered with bodies. The bodies of his men, his team… another squad ripped apart. Another long list for the records of the fallen.
And Kolya, once again, was not dead. This time, though, he felt as if he was. He felt almost as if Sheppard had indeed killed him, had indeed ended it all right here.
Dead, dead, dead and gone…
This was not happening. Not again. It couldn’t be. No. No. He wasn’t going to have to go back to Cowan, again, to explain what went wrong, again, to find some way to save his career…
But Kolya knew himself and his situation too well to let any kind of denial sink in for more than a few seconds. And as soon as he pushed it back, something else surfaced, something raw and heated and very, very real.
How could this be happening? Anger flaring beside the hate, Kolya thumped the wall without thinking, getting a sharp jolt of pain in his still-damaged shoulder as a result. Once again, he wasn’t working matters through clearly, wasn’t making sensible decisions… he was ruled only by this. Ruled only by the emotions he’d fought so long to keep controlled.
All he wanted was vengeance – for Atlantis, for this, for everything he’d endured in the name of his people with no acknowledgment beyond how terribly he’d failed. He wanted to face John Sheppard in a proper battle – and whether he lived or died, he wanted that man to pay for what he’d done.
But no. No lasting vengeance, no resolution… not even death. Now he was stuck waiting to be retrieved from this forsaken pit by a bunch of Daganians whose loyalties were fickle and whose value was now minimal due to recent events.
Kneeling beside one of his fallen men, Kolya at last retrieved a gun – needing to be armed, as if any moment he might get a chance for the revenge that all his being was yearning for. His fingers closed around the cold metal of the weapon, so welcome and reassuring… and yet empty, too.
Surely there was some way to deal with how this was happening? Something he could do… something to secure some sort of resolution. A way to give reason to all these deaths – and to his survival.
There had to be. He’d proven himself once, and he could do it again – could prove that he’d survived for a reason, because the battle was not over and he still needed to fight it.
He stood up, pacing the length of the chamber with the gun still in hand, pausing when he came to one of the collections of candles. They burned defiantly on, filling the room with flickering, golden shadows… but they could not endure forever. Eventually they would burn right down, and be lost once more to the darkness.
Why was this happening? Kolya had spent his whole life fighting for the benefit of his people, doing what was necessary to ensure their survival. And he was good at it. He’d made mistakes, yes – who hadn’t? – but nothing had ever prevented him from righting them, from dealing with situations until everything worked out the way he wanted it to.
But now… now there was nothing he could do. He’d lost Atlantis, lost the ZPM, lost so many loyal men… lost Idos… and no victory, no resolution, could ever bring them back.
Nothing. Nothing. This was powerlessness, and he hated it, hated himself for letting it take hold when all his life had been a struggle to prevent it.
There was nothing he could do. Nothing he could do.
The commander closed his eyes, blotting out the light from the still-dancing candles, withdrawing deeper and deeper, with that one sentence rolling around and around in his mind.
Nothing he could do.
It would have been easier if he’d died.
Then, all of a sudden, a voice cut the silence. The Daganians were here, here to retrieve him from the cold darkness. And as they set about doing so, as the rope was lowered to lift him up, a thought struck Kolya all of a sudden.
There was nothing he could do. Yes, he couldn’t change what had happened, but he could make a decision, here and now, to resolve all this. The past was fixed… yet the present was not. He may have been defeated this time, but he was still alive.
He’d survived twice… for a reason.
And accepting this at last, he was reborn into the light.
Summary: Alone in the underground chamber on Dagan, Kolya considers his second failed mission and wonders if death is preferable.