Warnings: Non-con (het), Occasional foul language
Word Count: apx. 2900
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! Woot woot! Back from vacation (I swear I'm never going to Disney World agan-- gah!). Schedule to resume as planned.
Summary: A visit to a village covered in mud leads to a captured Colonel, and an unexpected alliance with an old enemy. Shep whump.
It was three days of solid rain before Weir ordered Lorne to cut his routine checks to twice a day, rather than every hour. Three demoralizing days after that, it was reduced to once a day.
“Honestly, how long can a storm possibly last?” Rodney McKay was not a patient man. He wanted his friend back, not this useless charade of anticipation. Rodney was not accustomed to problems he couldn’t solve, especially once he really put his mind to it. The problem was, he couldn’t do anything to help until the storm dissipated. It was maddening, and his subordinates were paying the price in boatloads.
Apparently storms on Nultara could last at least two weeks, much to everyone’s growing dismay. The occupants of the Control Room barely paid any attention to the embarkation of Major Lorne’s jumper anymore, it was such a regular event. After several minutes he had not returned. Heads started to rise, and glances were exchanged. It only took a minute or two to determine whether or not the storm was still raging. Lorne had it down to a science at this point. This delay in his return was the most promising sign in weeks.
Elizabeth stepped out of her office and joined the Chinese technician by the gate controls, afraid she had somehow missed Lorne’s return. “Is he still out there?” she held her breath, barely daring to hope.
“Yes, ma’am.” He confirmed.
“This is it!” McKay was practically bouncing in place. “It’s cleared. We have to get started.”
“Just a minute Rodney,” Weir cautioned. “We don’t know for sure yet. Just hold on a little longer.”
They both jumped at the sound of the gate dialing. “Incoming wormhole.” The tech announced. As the last chevron engaged, he nodded at his screen. “Receiving Major Lorne’s IDC.”
“Lower the shield.” She whispered.
All eyes were glued to the jumper that slowly glided through the gate. “Dr. Weir,” Lorne radioed immediately.
“Go ahead, Major.” Please, please, let this be the break we’ve been waiting for.
“Good news ma’am. The storm has finally cleared. Today’s weather report reads clear blue skies and not a cloud to be seen for fifty miles.” He imitated a meteorologist, his giddiness leaking across the line.
“Yes!” shouted McKay. A collective cheer chorused from the personnel. Weir hung her head in relief.
“Very good Major. Report to the Conference Room as soon as you have docked. The science team will be waiting for you.” She instructed, as if they hadn’t prepared for this since day one.
“Yes ma’am.” Always humor the boss, especially when spirits were finally starting to lift.
She tapped her radio. “Ronon, Teyla, and Dr. Litzky, report to the Conference Room immediately.” She turned to the tech. “Dr. Xian, signal Colonel Caldwell on the Daedalus and inform him of our development, if you would. Rodney?” Her chief science officer joined her as they briskly made their way to the Conference Room.
The same thought was running through everyone’s mind at that moment: Finally, today we can bring Colonel Sheppard home.
The benefit of Major Lorne having to do so many practice runs to the planet was that it had given everyone on Atlantis ample time to prepare for when the moment came. Less than fifteen minutes after Lorne had signaled the all clear, the recon team was ready and underway.
The meteorologists, headed by Litzky, were going through first to make sure the storm had truly passed. It wouldn’t do anyone any good to start what would most likely be a timely and broad search and (hopefully) recovery during the eye of the storm. The last thing Atlantis needed was another team missing.
Some of the scientists seemed confused when Major Lorne just let the shuttle drift through the gate, but they were very grateful he did when they were instantly met with a solid wall of brown. “Is that all mud?” One of the scientists asked.
“Yup,” Lorne nodded, “It goes for miles in all directions.” The jumper floated upwards until they were hovering several hundred feet over a sea of mud.
“It almost looks like firm earth from this high.” Litzky joked. “Good thing I’m not the pilot, or I might have tried to land on it.”
“Good thing,” Lorne agreed. “So, this is your show Doc, what do you want me to do?”
Litzky looked out the front window, and indeed there was not a cloud to be seen. “Which direction did the storm go?”
Lorne pointed, “About fifty miles east of the Stargate.”
Litzky nodded, “Then we shall start there.”
Three very long hours passed with quite a few more people than normal hovering about the Gate Room, anxious for news. “Are they back yet?” Rodney asked Teyla for what had to be the hundredth time. Teyla had long since stopped answering his questions. Ronon didn’t even bother to glare at him anymore. It would be impossible for any of them to miss the jumper’s return, but McKay needed to talk, needed to ask the inane questions he so often derided others for. Ronon could swear he could see a track line on the floor where McKay’s pacing had imprinted upon the metal.
“Incoming wormhole!” Everyone’s new favorite phrase left Dr. Xian’s mouth, and heavy silence followed except for the sliding of the chevrons and the whoosh of the wormhole forming. The jumper once again glided through, and it was a mad scramble to the Conference Room.
“Well, what did you find?” McKay jumped on Litzky the instant he and his team entered the room five minutes later.
“Mud. Lots of mud.” Litzky couldn’t help needling the man who had been such a pain to everyone for the last fortnight.
“Dr. Litzky, please.” Dr. Weir was in no mood for squabbling on either side, not when there might be news that could finally lead them to John.
The Russian nodded. “Well, good news first. The storm has definitely passed. We can begin sending teams to look for the Colonel.” Oh, this man is so getting promoted. Rodney might actually have to reward him with some peace and quiet for a week. And maybe let him try that experiment he’d been denying him for the past month….
“Everything around the gate is still covered in mud, making it absolutely impossible to travel by foot there.” He continued. “However, when we flew over parts of the planet where the storm passed by several days ago most likely, we noticed massive drainage. I don’t know how, but somehow the planet itself is naturally compensating for the flooding. The flora that was buried beneath the mud, particularly the trees, is rapidly regenerating. I’d say that it less than a week, there will be no traces of this storm left.”
“How is that possible?” To say Rodney was astounded was an understatement. That storm had been a natural freaking disaster.
Litzky just shook his head. “As best as I can tell, this storm is a natural part of this planet’s ecology. I would not be surprised if it happened several times a year.”
Everyone took a moment to let that sink in. “If that is the case,” Teyla pointed out, “Then the Nultarans would have expected it, and had measures in place for when it struck. They are most likely still out there, possibly with Colonel Sheppard.”
Lorne nodded. “From the looks of it, the top of the mountain range just west of the Stargate was never even touched. I saw a few caves from the jumper. They most likely sheltered there. I recommend we send several jumpers full of search teams to investigate the caves, and look for any survivors. Even if Colonel Sheppard is not with them, chances are they’ll know something.”
“What level of resistance can we expect the Nultarans to offer?” Elizabeth asked. She didn’t want to send too many jumpers to search for one man if it were too dangerous.
“They avoided direct confrontation when they took Sheppard. They’re sneaky, not fighters.” Ronon supplied.
“I agree ma’am,” Lorne added, determined to get his way, “Confrontation should be minimal.”
“It can’t be too minimal if Colonel Sheppard hasn’t managed to return as yet.” She chastised their quick assumptions. “Take two jumpers to start with until we have a better understanding of the situation.”
“Yes ma’am.” Well, he tried; he would have to make due with that.
Rodney was ready to kill Lorne by the time they had risen above the mud. “You call that flying?! I can fly better than that. Are you trying to get us killed?!” Lorne wasn’t flying poorly at all, but with every slight bump McKay was convinced they’d crash and get lodged in the sludge surrounding them. He never fully appreciated the skill with which Sheppard flew the jumpers with until he was forced to endure another pilot. No matter how skilled, none of them were Sheppard.
“Settle down, McKay.” Lorne deadpanned.
The two shuttles made several laps around the mountains, searching for life signs on the HUD. Occasionally one or two would appear, and the jumper would set down only to discover it was just a squirrel, or the local equivalent.
Finally more and more life signs started registering, and the crews disembarked to investigate them on foot. Again and again they were disappointed to only encounter wildlife. Unfortunately the mountains stretched for a good distance, and six hours later, they had barely covered a quarter of the area. As the sun set, the jumpers returned to Atlantis. “We’ll be back tomorrow.” Lorne promised.
But the next day proved no more fruitful, nor the next. Another jumper had been authorized to aid in the search, but they still were unable to find any trace of human occupation.
“Shouldn’t we have at least run across some primitives by now?” McKay grumbled.
“It could be a good thing that we haven’t.” Ronon offered.
McKay looked at him like he was crazy. “And how’s that? There’s no one here!”
“It’s too suspicious to find nothing at all. There should be some signs.” The runner hadn’t found any tracts at all even in the fresh, impressionable mud that even McKay should have been able to see. “They’re hiding. Which means if we keep looking, we’ll find them… and Sheppard.”
McKay clung to this theory desperately.
Teyla suddenly tensed. “Wraith!” One of the marines shouted over the radio.
Immediately the group ducked for cover, their eyes raking the sky. Two darts swept across the newly re-emerged field, their engines whining ominously. “Did they come through the Stargate?” One of the nameless marine grunts asked.
“No, they came from above.” Teyla answered. “We must leave. A Hive-ship is approaching.”
They had foolishly left the jumpers uncloaked, lulled by four days of inactivity. The darts easily located them and fired on the teams as they hastily retreated to them. Explosions threw tufts of dirt everywhere, striking the team on all sides as the darts fired. White flashes indicated the Wraith were beaming down to chase them on foot. Stunner fire added to the explosions.
Ronon grinned and took the opportunity to release his frustration of the last two, almost three, weeks. He felled Wraith right and left, but more kept coming.
“McKay, look out!” Lorne called out to him as he felt a stunner hit him square in the back. McKay toppled to the ground and remained unmoving.
Ronon saw his teammate fall, and left his satisfying, if unproductive, attacks on the Wraith to run to his side. Teyla joined him, and together they managed to drag the unconscious scientist to the jumper and lay him on the floor. “Go, go!” Teyla called the instant they were on board.
Not needing to be told twice, Lorne hauled to the gate. The ship rocked as it took fire, but the shields held. One of the other jumpers made a sudden U-turn and began firing on the nearest dart. It was an unexpected move, and it caught the dart unprepared. Several shots later, and it went spiraling to the ground.
“Nice job, Stackhouse.” Lorne called.
The other dart, now vastly outnumbered, fled. Lorne was relieved. Ronon, however, became angry at Lorne’s complacency. “Go after it. It will report our presence to the Hive-ship!”
“Ronon, they will have already realized I was here.” Teyla pointed out. “Let us return to Atlantis before anyone else is hurt.”
As Lorne dialed the gate, Ronon sat by McKay prone body, and seethed in frustration at not getting to kill more Wraith and avenge his friend, both missing and injured. But at least he did it quietly.
Softness supported his back, and a warm weight covered his chest. It was nice, safe. He lay there taking in the comfort of his cocoon, until a voice disturbed him.
“Come on Rodney, I know you’re awake. Open your eyes now.” Huh, that’s a funny voice. Who actually talks like that? Whoever it was wouldn’t leave him alone. A hand lightly tapped his cheek, and he groaned in frustration. Just leave me alone. Sleep pulled at him, but the voice pulled harder with a hint of impatience. “Wake up, Rodney.”
A faint pain suddenly registered and Rodney woke up fully with a jerk. Beckett rested his hands on Rodney’s shoulders, and pushed them down the half inch they had risen. “Easy lad, your safe here.”
What? Oh, Wraith. Come on genius, keep up with it. The pain was actually just an annoying tingle trickling down his arms and legs, making them feel like they were stuck between that painful state of fallen asleep and just waking up. It was actually quite annoying. Maybe Beckett would give him some morphine.
Damnit, this was what Sheppard was for. Save the scientist and take the hit yourself. For which he would be yelled at for later, but damnit, this taking his own hits thing did not work for him.
“Hey Carson.” He looked around the infirmary and saw that they were the only two in there. “I take it no one else was hurt?” Typical, only he gets shot. He definitely needed Sheppard, if only to make him look good.
“No, they made it through alright. Bloody lucky too.” He gave him the once over. “How are you feeling?”
McKay looked at him like he had three heads. “I was stunned! I hurt of course. I thought you were supposed to know this stuff?” Beckett just smiled at Rodney’s tirade. Aye, he’s fine.
“Rodney, glad to see you’re finally awake.” Elizabeth materialized from nowhere and joined Carson with her own quick appraisal. Fortunately stunners were a lot less messy than guns.
“So what’s the plan? When are we going back to the planet?” McKay was all business right away. This incident was clearly just a demonstration of why he needed his bodyguard back pronto.
Weir sighed. “Wraith are a slightly different matter than insurgent locals Rodney. We have to be more careful with this now. I’ve ordered Major Lorne to lay low for a few days, and let the Wraith do whatever it is they want and leave. Hopefully we can avoid another encounter.”
McKay gaped at her. “Wait a few days? Elizabeth, he’s already been gone three weeks! Who knows what they’re doing to him.” He paused, his thoughts running ahead of him in a direction he did not like.
“Oh, no,” he gasped, “you don’t think the Nultarans were Wraith worshipers do you? I mean, why would the Wraith just suddenly show up now? Amazing timing, I have to say. What if the Nultarans waited until the storm was over, then called the Wraith? Maybe they gave them John. The Wraith could have him! Elizabeth, we need to check out that ship!” He was almost panicked by the time he was done.
“Rodney, calm down.” Beckett tried to calm his patient, but he had eyes only for Elizabeth.
“You can’t leave him.” He demanded.
“I don’t intend to Rodney.” Her voice was firm, but it reminded Rodney too much of the time Sumner was captured, and she had almost refused to let Sheppard go after him. “Colonel Caldwell, Major Lorne, and Dr. Zelenka are strategizing all the best infiltration scenarios as we speak. I’m sure they’ll think of something.”
Rodney snorted. “Yeah, I’m sure Caldwell’s working real hard on that.”
“He is.” Her tone brooked no argument. “We don’t leave men behind.”
Unless they turn psychotic like Ford. He silently added. He stared at her angrily, not quite believing in her conviction. Ever so occasionally, he wondered if Kavanaugh was right, and Weir was too cautious at the wrong times. Kavanaugh’s reasoning was beyond doubt flawed, but his results weren’t always dismisable. She had abandoned Ford, and he was afraid that John would be next.
Sensing his acusations, Elizabeth made her excuses and left. Carson checked Rodney’s vitals one last time before leaving him to rest. Finally allowed to sleep again, McKay drifted off to visions of Sheppard trapped on a Hive-ship, cocooned and alive, screaming for release, for a rescue that would never come.