Warnings: Eventual non-con (het), Occasional foul language
Word Count: apx. 2800
Notes: Sadly, this is still a wip I started posting on fanfiction.net. I've set a goal for myself that I will add one chapter a day to LiveJournal, and by the time I'm caught up I must have a new chapter. The gears are finally moving in my head, so I think I might just manage to make it happen!
Summary: A visit to a village covered in mud leads to a captured Colonel, and an unexpected alliance with an old enemy. Shep whump.
Sheppard started awake as he heard the door slowly creak open. That’s funny, the doors in Atlantis don’t creak. Gotta get some WD-40 from Zelenka. Then he remembered he wasn’t actually in Atlantis. This décor was confusing the hell out of him in his woozy state; he’d have to talk to his mysterious captor about that.
Groggily Sheppard tried to recall when he’d fallen asleep, but his reconstructive attempts were interrupted by the force that had opened the door in the first place. Sheppard mentally slapped himself, trying to force his drugged mind into some sense of order. He knew he was in no condition to withstand an interrogation if he couldn’t so much as keep track of the current. Dread filled him as all the possible worst case scenarios came to mind.
The man that entered the room however, was not what he had braced himself to expect. At only a little over five and a half feet tall with messy, brown hair dangling to his shoulders, the middle-aged man before him wasn’t exactly the archetype villain. In fact, Sheppard would go so far as to call him not the least bit threatening; he was skinnier than Sheppard on a bad day, if that was even possible.
Then again, maybe that was why he’d been drugged up so thoroughly, because there was no other way this guy could take him. He was wearing the same brown clothing as many of the villagers had in Nultara, though with a good deal less mud on them, mostly just dried clumps congealed at the cuffs of the sleeves and the bottom half of the knee-high boots.
Sheppard quickly stood to face the man, and was assaulted by a wave of nausea that brought him to his knees. He was prevented from falling however, by the man’s swift grabbing of his shoulders and steering towards the bed; he had clearly been prepared for the move.
“Easy, Colonel Sheppard,” he soothed in a soto voice, helping him sit on the edge of the mattress. The man took a moment to study the Colonel’s eyes, as if trying to determine just how lucid he was. “I must apologize for your current discomfort; Hazzan was a little overzealous in his efforts to bring you here, and I’m afraid he may have used a bit more boffa root than was necessary for your journey.”
So Hazzan was involved in his little predicament, though apparently not the mastermind. Had anyone else in the village taken part in his kidnapping? Finding his voice a little parched and his throat a little sticky, he asked, “Who are you, and where am I? What have you done with my team?” He could just picture McKay waking up alone in an alien room and freaking out. Not good.
The man quickly held up his hands in a non-threatening manner, “Relax Colonel, your team is fine. They returned to their planet through the Great Ring.”
“What did you do to them to get them to leave me behind?” Were they injured? Did they think he was dead? What happened that night in the village? Sheppard did not like having such questions and no answers, and the harsh voice he had delivered them in had landed him in yet another coughing fit.
Repeating his soothing gesture, the man looked Sheppard in the eye, “They are not injured Colonel, I promise you. They were told to leave, and they did. They were upset that you were not with them, but they left of their own free will.” Good, then a rescue won’t be long away. Lorne and Ronon will come back through the Gate and find me, assuming I haven’t been gated off world. Although from the look of this place, I just might have been. The little man caught him unaware again as he was again lost in his thoughts, when he held out a canteen for Sheppard to drink from. Come on Sheppard, concentrate!
His hackles rose at the sight of the canteen. He’d been drugged enough in the past (two?) days. Where were his own supplies? With a huff, the man squatted down to converse with Sheppard at eye level. His knees gave a painful crack as he did so. Unstopping the canteen, he took a good swig of the contents and made an obvious swallow before thrusting it at Sheppard again. Cautiously Sheppard took a small sip. Plain water met his lips. It felt like heaven against his parched throat. Encouraged he took another sip. Before he was even aware of it he’d downed the whole thing.
“There, that’s better Colonel. I apologize again for our methods in bringing you here, for we truly mean you no harm.” He crooned as he took the canteen from Sheppard’s shaking hand and returned it to his belt. “Now, as for your questions. My name is Senzen, I am a farmer, and also in charge of safeguarding Nultara’s future. Hazzan is my mother’s brother, if such information matters to you.”
A small smile fought its way through thin, cracked lips. “And this place Colonel, is an honor most Nultarans have never beheld.” He waved his arms, gesturing to the room about him. “This is the home of the Ancestors, when they lived on our world.”
Gee, I would never have guessed. Sheppard fought the urge to roll his eyes, a wise decision since it just would have made him even dizzier.
Senzen appeared to be waiting for some kind of impressed response from Sheppard. Unfortunately for him, Sheppard was not new to this routine, and his feelings of caution over road those of generosity. Senzen would have to settle for, “My team looked around your planet. We didn’t see any signs of Ancient structures.” for a response.
Maybe this city’s cloaking system is operational, and that was why we couldn’t detect it? But none of the Nultarans have the gene, so who could have activated it? While Sheppard pondered over this, one thought was loud and clear in his fogged brain. ZPM, ZPM, ZPM. A facility like this would have to have one, and if the cloak was working, then it was at least somewhat charged.
Forcing himself to concentrate again, Sheppard refocused his gaze on the man in front of him. Senzen looked quite satisfied, making Sheppard wonder if he had missed something. Really, it was a very unbecoming look. “We are deep underground, Colonel. As Dr. McKay pointed out when Hazzan showed him the scanner, the Ancestors were very interested in our soil. Where better to study, then in the heart of it?”
“How did we get here?”
“There are a few shafts left behind by the Ancestors located in the caves to the east of the village that lead here. My family discovered this place in my grandfather’s time, and we have been safeguarding it for someone who could make it work since.” Senzen seemed awfully proud of himself. Nothing like a braggart to get information out of. If we are close enough to these shafts, I may be able to make a break for it.
A headache was starting to join the dizziness that plagued Sheppard, making him feel impatient and irritable. Kind of like Rodney. Rubbing his hand across his forehead and pinching the bridge of his nose, he gritted, “And the reason you brought me here was…?”
“As I’m sure Hazzan informed you, what was left to us by the Ancestors can not be used by just anyone. To out shame, the Ancestors have not deemed anyone of Nultara worthy of their gifts. They left us so much, and we are unable to use any of it!” Senzen was literally almost pulling his hair out of his scalp by the end of his tirade. Sheppard was not reassured of the sanity of his kidnapper.
They sat silently for a minute before the man seemed to come back to himself, calmly folding his hands in his lap. “My apologies, Colonel. Nultara has suffered so much, and the key to our salvation is right here at our fingertips, but at the same time forever out of our reach. I’m sure you can understand my frustration.”
“Yeah, back home we have a story about a man named Tantalus who was starving and bound forever to a tree with an apple just out of his reach, leaving him to forever grope for it, and never reach it.”
Senzen snapped his fingers at the Colonel. The gesture reminded him vividly of McKay when he was onto something. “Yes! That’s exactly what I mean, John.”
The switch to his first name was not lost on Sheppard. Now comes the good part where I get to find out what this guy actually wants from me.
“You can help us.” Here Senzen leaned forward, invading Sheppard’s personal space. A fanatical light lit his eyes, disturbing Sheppard more than anything so far. “There is an entire city beneath Nultara, stretching farther than I can even imagine. Underneath all those layers of mud rests a sanctuary that can shelter everyone on this world, and so many more!
Every ten years or so, our population is decimated by the Wraith cullings. Over the course of my life, I’ve had twenty-three brothers and sisters. I am the only one to survive until adulthood. Not all families are so fortunate as to be able to save any of the next generation. That our women are so fertile is the only reason we’ve survived this long.
You can change that, John. If our people could move into the Ancestral City, we’d be safe from the Wraith forever! Can you even imagine such freedom? We’d finally stand a chance at surviving, even repopulating. Imagine, giving birth to a child, knowing it would survive to bear its own. Such a simple dream, yet even that has been out of our reach for so long. Your people could not detect this city, neither will the Wraith! You can single handedly save an entire planet Colonel. Please, I beg you, consider this.”
“You said we were in the Ancie- the Ancestral City right now. If we’re already in it, then what do you need me to do?” Sheppard asked.
Senzen was nodding as Sheppard was talking, having already anticipated his question. “We are only at the entrance of the city. Very few people can be housed here, even for a short while. We do occasionally hide here when the Wraith cull our planet, but that can only save a very few, and it does not protect our homes at all.
We have cleared what cave-ins there are, as deep as we can go into the city, but the air is just not breathable. Our scholars who can read the Ancestral Script have told us that the city is capable of making the air breathable again, but we can not operate the city controls to make this happen.”
Now it was Sheppard’s turn to nod along, though not nodding too much after the first nod, which reminded him painfully of the means he was transported here in the first place. “And that’s where I come in. You want me to turn on the Life Support Systems. And for the record, just how many cave-ins are we talking here?”
Senzen had to stop and consider the strange phrase the Colonel had so flippantly used. Life Support Systems. Deciding it did indeed describe the problem, he nodded in agreement. As for the cave-ins, “Very few really. Mostly they are shallow, and only appear here and there. No one I know has ever been injured cleaning them out.”
“Senzen, why the kidnapping? We clearly have services to offer each other, so why act like an enemy? We came to Nultara looking for friends; we would have been happy to bring this city back on-line together.” While Senzen’s motives appeared noble, his reasoning was more than a little questionable. If the Nultarans were paranoid of strangers, which granted, Sheppard had encountered many times before, why show him now, rather than allowing him to leave?
Senzen studied the Colonel, assessing the truth in his words, nibbling his abused lip as he thought. Slowly, he began, “We were led to believe you would not be so benevolent….” he trailed off and seemed reluctant to finish.
“And just who has led you to believe this?” Granted, after spending five minutes with McKay (yesterday?), he wouldn’t blame Senzen for doubting Atlantis’ generosity. Rodney would certainly tell John to find the ZPM and run off with it to Atlantis, leaving the Nultarans to their Wraith-ridden fate. However, Sheppard also had a mini-Weir on his other shoulder arguing that he should be ethical and negotiate a mutually beneficial partnership with these people. Good thing he didn’t have a third shoulder for Caldwell.
Shaking himself out of his contemplations, Senzen focused on Sheppard again with that fanatical heat. “So you are willing to do what it takes to help us?”
Oh, Sheppard really didn’t like the wording to that one. But with the exit supposedly so close, Sheppard was willing to gamble a little if it would aid in an escape. At the same time, he desperately did not like the feeling of dread that welled up in his stomach under Senzen’s gaze.
Feeling almost as if he was signing a deal with the devil, he agreed, “I’ll take a look at your Life Support Systems and see if I can get them operational again. But I have to warn you, they may have been damaged, and if it’s broken, I can’t fix it.”
Wojciech Kilar could have written the theme music to the burning grin that encompassed the mud man’s eyes, and the insanity deeper within.
Dr. Weir’s gentle knocking on the glass door jolted Carson Beckett from the exhausted sleep he’d fallen into at his desk. “Elizabeth!” He looked around quickly, obviously a little disoriented from the abrupt wake-up. If she weren’t so concerned about her missing Second-In-Command, she might have laughed a little.
“Sorry to wake you, Carson.”
“S’alright, dear. What can I do for you?”
“I just wanted to inform you Major Lorne’s team is leaving for the planet in fifteen minutes, and to be prepared in case they find John, and need you.”
“Aye, I’ll be ready, ‘though I hope that’s not the case.” Beckett indeed looked amazingly wide-awake and ready for action now.
“Good.” Turning towards the exit, Weir appeared to hesitate. Turning back around, she asked, “How’s Rodney?”
A little smile of amusement quirked the corner of Beckett’s mouth as he watched the master diplomat fail to conceal her obvious concern for a friend. There were only so many people on Atlantis, and often those people were the only people the expedition members saw, so he didn’t understand the reluctance and guilt so many of its leaders felt when they started to care deeply about certain individuals. Really, I ought to sick Heightmeyer on the lot of them.
“He’s going to be fine. He probably already is fine; I’m just keeping him here overnight for observation.” Dr. Weir seemed relieved to hear this.
“I’m still a little concerned about how out of the loop he was, when you reported Ronon and Teyla fully recovered hours ago.” Weir confessed.
“Aye, well, part of that is my fault. It’s an alien drug, so I can’t always know what to expect. At first I thought Rodney was just extra groggy from consuming more of it, but when he started becoming disoriented while under my care, I checked his blood sugar levels. They were severely depleted. The drug somehow sapped almost all the sugar from Rodney’s body. He wasn’t too far from a coma before I realized what specifically was wrong.” Beckett hung his head in shame. “It should have been one of the first things I checked. I just overlooked it.”
Looking at Dr. Weir out of the corner of his eye, Beckett shook his head. “No need to chastise me any further though. I’ve already apologized to Rodney and received a good chewing-out from him. I’m studying every last piece I’ve data I’ve gotten from this drug, and I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to create a counter drug to fight its effects should we come across it again.”
Knowing Carson was berating himself more than Weir and McKay could possibly do when combined, she decided to let the issue slide. Rodney would be sure to cover any follow-up harping, whether Carson needed it or not.
“He’ll be okay though?” She just needed to hear it, one more time.
“Aye.” Beckett confirmed. “I gave him a large glucose injection and a good chunk of my chocolate stash. He’ll be just fine.” Ah, so apologies had indeed been made. “He’s under strict orders to drink a lot of juice once he’s released, but at least I can trust him to take care of himself when I do. Unlike a certain Colonel….
Weir nodded. “Keep up the good work Carson.” She then left to see Major Lorne and Company off.
Beckett stood by himself for a minute, offering up a prayer for the safe return of John Sheppard.