This started as just a little drabbly thing I wrote for fun, but then became sort of a prequel to Safe and Sound. Hope you enjoy!
I still don't own Atlantis, but I still love it even though Disney's buying Fox and now I don't know the fate of my favorite new show The Orville.
Anyway, on to...whatever this is.
Lyle Rourke almost missed the last member of the team, until Mr. Whitmore called him over and the smallest young man Rourke had ever seen eagerly greeted him. He figured this must be Whitmore playing a practical joke, as he sometimes did. He had to be. No way could this tiny, frail, toothpick of a person be the one who would lead them to Atlantis.
"Milo! I want you to meet Commander Rourke. He led the expedition that recovered the journal from Iceland."
Or maybe he could. Yes, there was the Shepherd's Journal in his hands.
"Milo Thatch. Pleasure to meet the grandson of old Thaddeus." Thaddeus Thatch hadn't been one of Rourke's favorite people, being an academic, but Rourke had still respected him and found him to be resourceful in a crisis. Unlike most academics, Thaddeus wasn't a know-it-all shoving his knowledge down others' throats.
The young man before him looked exactly like the many photos Thaddeus had always carried with him of his grandson. The boy was without a doubt Thaddeus' favorite subject, and he had endless stories to tell about him. Lyle remembered one Thaddeus had told where the little boy had found what he thought was an arrowhead in a creek. The child had been so excited and overjoyed that Thaddeus didn't have the heart to tell him it wasn't an arrowhead after all. From the photos, one could track the boy's growth, from tiny baby, to puny toddler, to runty child, to scrawny teenager, and finally to the stick figure before him. The two must've been very close, for even Rourke could see the sadness that ghosted over Milo's face when his grandfather was mentioned.
Great, thought Rourke, he's an emotional one. Just what we don't need on this trip. Still, his instincts told him to protect the young linguist, and Rourke had learned long ago to ALWAYS trust his instincts.
"Well, whatever it was, it's gone now." Helga said. Rourke nodded and started to issue an order when something slammed into the sub, sending everything into chaos. Alarms blared, people shouted, and Rourke spat out the orders he was trained to issue, even as they were relentlessly attacked and he saw Milo fall backward over the railing. The linguist lay stunned for only a second before realizing the glass of the sub was the only thing between him and the blood red eye of the Leviathan, which shrank as it focused in on him like the aperture of a camera.
"...it's a MACHINE!" he heard Milo yell. The sub rocked again, and Milo was thrown back up onto the deck. Rourke grabbed him by his collar before he could smack into the wall and possibly end up dead. At that time, the order to abandon ship sounded.
"Let's go, people, MOVE!" Helga yelled.
"Move? Move where-AH!" Milo stumbled amid the other crewmembers, confused and panicked, his eyes wide, as people mercilessly ran into him, buffeting him back and forth.
"Come on." Rourke said, finally grabbing the scholar's hand and practically dragging him along the corridors and pushing him down into the EVAC shuttle.
"Everybody grab a seat and buckle in!" Helga ordered. Rourke saw Milo fussing with the restraints and finally getting the harness fastened over his tiny body, stuffed between Sweet and Audrey, clutching the Shepherd's Journal against his chest. His eyes were still wide with fear, and Rourke could see him shaking as Helga fought with the EVAC's controls to get it free from the main sub, which was taking a brutal beating. Though no one said it, they all knew no one left on board that sub would survive much longer. A few seconds later, an energy burst from the Leviathan exploded the sub and probably vaporized anyone still on it.
He managed to get Milo to identify where they would go, before a burst from the Leviathan rocked the craft and sent the linguist into hysterics, screaming with every bump and hit the craft took. He was shaking violently now, hugging the book against him like he thought it would save his life. Even when they finally surfaced in calm water, Milo still shook hard, even when the others exited the craft. Lyle had seen this look before, on new recruits in the military, getting their first up close look at the horrors of battle. Because of this, he took pity on Milo, unbuckling him once everyone else had left the craft.
"Come on, Thatch, you've got a job to do. Show us the way to Atlantis." Milo simply nodded and left the vessel, but Rourke could tell this disaster would plague him for a while longer.
Everything was finally ready to begin the long underground journey. All the trucks were started up and in line...and an annoying horn sound caught Rourke's ear. He turned toward it and had to fight hard to keep his straight face. It was Milo, playing with the horn on his truck as avidly as a child played with a new toy, a happy little smile on his face, his eyes sparkling with delight. It was such an unexpected sight that the only way Rourke managed to keep his resolve was to break the horn off. And even then it was hard, because the look Milo gave him was so sweet and innocent that Rourke had to resort to talking in a condescending manner to the young man to cover up how badly he wanted to smile at this.
Oh damn, I'm calling him "cute" now. Rourke thought. Milo was going to be the death of him, he was certain of that.
Everyone knew Cookie's food was basically inedible. Everyone except Milo. Rourke noticed that everyone pretty much ignored the linguist throughout the trip, shutting him out of the group. Rourke actually felt sorry for him. He knew what that was like. As he watched, Milo suddenly stood up and ran for the edge of camp, a hand over his mouth. Alarmed, Rourke got up and followed him.
Milo wasn't hard to find. All Rourke had to do was follow the horrible retching sounds he was making, and he found the young man on his hands and knees, puking into a hole most likely dug by the geologist. Milo's small form was almost convulsing with every heave he took. Rourke peered into the hole and was alarmed at the amount of vomit that came from the tiny man, who stood panting and gasping on all fours.
"No one told you not to eat that, did they." Milo shook his head.
"No," he squeaked, "but I won't eat it again." Rourke nodded and held out the sandwich that was going to be his dinner. Hr figured Milo needed it more now, since the linguist hadn't known to bring his own supply of food to eat instead of Cookie's...whatever it was.
Milo gratefully took the sandwich and ate it slowly under Rourke's watchful eye. The commander wanted to be sure the scholar wasn't actually ill and in need of medical care.
"Thank you." Milo said when he was done, and Rourke felt something warm in his chest. He stood up before the feeling made its way to his face.
"Don't eat that stuff anymore." Was all Rourke said as he walked away, thankful to the darkness for concealing his smile.
Rourke could only stare in disbelief at the city of Atlantis before them, even as they drove across the bridge, with Milo chattering a mile a minute.
"Someone's enjoying themselves." Helga remarked, rolling her eyes at the oblivious Milo. Rourke only nodded and kept his gaze straight ahead. He'd distanced himself from the woman the closer they got to Atlantis. The same feeling that told him to protect Milo also told him not to get close to her, and it had never failed him before.
"Commander," she said, quieter, "there were not supposed to be people down here. This changes everything." A chill ran through him at the lust in her voice. Lust, Rourke had learned long ago, was never a good thing to hear in someone's voice, for it usually led to deception, betrayal, and people dying. None of which would be good for this trip. Especially for Milo. As Rourke had grown more wary of Helga as they neared Atlantis, he'd also grown more protective of Milo, his heart nearly stopping when he called Milo's name after the bridge fell and the scholar didn't answer. Inside, he'd feared Milo lay crushed to death under the trucks and rubble. Only when the digger broke through the rock and he saw Milo staring at the city did he relax. He learned Milo had been knocked unconscious from the fall and thus hadn't heard his name being called.
The young linguist had quieted and was now hanging out the side of the truck, staring in awe, his eyes sparkling in wonder at the city he had dreamed so long of finding. The place his grandfather had told him so many stories of. Rourke allowed the left corner of his mouth to curve up into a smile at the innocence and joy in Milo's face. Rourke's smile faded when he thought of what the news of their discovery would do. More people from the surface would come to Atlantis, plunder its resources and wealth, and leave only destruction in their wake. If Milo got to return to the city, he'd be heartbroken. On their journey, it had become clear that unlike everyone else on this trip, Milo wasn't interested in the money they would receive for this job, nor did he care what sources of wealth he might find in Atlantis. Someone (Helga was the first person that came to his mind) could easily manipulate the naive scholar into pointing the way to such treasure. He hated the thought of that happening to Milo and decided that as long as he was in command of the team Milo was part of, it was his job to make sure that didn't happen, no matter what.
"This changes nothing." Rourke growled. Especially not my thoughts about you.
He was determined to keep her away from Milo at all costs.
After the audience with the king, who had agreed to let them stay in Atlantis for one night at Helga's persuasion (which both Rourke and Milo found uncomfortable), Rourke pulled the linguist aside, ducking into a small, dark alley behind a building.
"What is it, Com-"
"Shhh!" Rourke hissed, peering out to make sure no one was around, "Keep your voice down, Thatch. I pulled you here because I need to warn you about something. Someone, actually."
"Who?" Milo asked, quietly now.
"Helga." Rourke said, "Don't trust her, and don't be alone with her."
"What? Why?" Milo said, confused.
"I just have this...really bad feeling about her. I was always taught to trust my instincts, and they're telling me she's bad news. And they have yet to be wrong."
"One of us? I thought so at first, but now I'm not so sure, and I'm trained in this stuff." Milo nodded
"So what do I do?"
"Just don't trust her." Rourke said, "Stay alert and watch your back with her. Can you do that, son?"
"Yes sir." Milo agreed, "Consider it done."
Just to be on the safe side, Rourke made sure to keep Milo in his sights, following stealthily as Milo went with the princess on a tour of the city. Since he was alone, he didn't worry about hiding his smiles at the adorable (he had to admit that was the only way to describe it) way that Milo kept tripping over things or stumbling because he was too busy staring at the sights around him. He even found Milo's awkwardness with the princess cute to watch, though he did feel a tinge of jealousy toward her.
At dinner that night, he sat near Milo and Kida, listening to them still talking about the crew's names.
"...and the little digging animal called Mole...he is your pet?" the princess asked. Rourke snickered to himself as Milo answered.
"Close enough." Mole chose that moment to belch loudly, much to the annoyance of everyone, Atlantean and foreign.
They never should have trusted her.
That was all Rourke could think as he watched Helga's goon yank Milo roughly out of the water by his hair, ignoring his cries of pain. She'd just revealed that she had the missing page to the Shepherd's Journal AND that everyone-except Rourke, whose hands were tied behind him with a soldier on either side-was in on her plan to steal the Heart of Atlantis. Another soldier yanked Kida out when she surfaced. The two got dressed with guns pointed at their heads.
It made Rourke sick to know that everyone had finally started acting friendlier toward Milo, and making him think he was accepted, only to now reveal that they were just using him the whole time, that they never really cared about him at all. They had double crossed him, and the poor linguist hadn't been prepared for it. With a gun trained on the princess, she shoved the page in his pace again and this time Milo obeyed, knowing that was the only thing he COULD do, as hie and Kida both had their hands bound. Helga took the lead, grabbing Milo's arm and roughly dragging him toward the palace, where Vinny blew the doors apart. Rourke didn't hear much of what was said, though he cringed when Helga kicked the old king hard in the gut and sent him crumpling to the floor, Sweet declaring that this was not part of the plan. Rourke was watching Milo try and fight the tears that wanted to fall. He was surprised how much it hurt him to see the scholar like that. It was more than just the feeling he should protect him, it was the fact that seeing Milo hurt made HIM hurt as well. He watched helplessly as Helga and her big goon dragged Milo and Kida down into the crystal chamber with them.
When they returned, Kida was now a crystalline version of herself. She was sealed into an airtight, watertight container and winched up into the back of one of the two trucks. Milo tried one last time to plead with everyone that what they were doing was wrong. They gave him sad, apologetic looks, but continued their tasks. Helga then told Milo he could stay and become "part of the exhibit". Which, of course, really meant he could stay and die. The sergeant announced that they were ready to go as Helga ran through a checklist out loud. Only then were Milo and Rourke freed from their bonds. Helga gave a nod to the goon after they were freed, and the huge man suddenly whirled around and slammed his fist into Milo's face, earning a collective gasp from the Atlanteans as the scholar flew backward, his glasses flipping off his face. Milo landed sprawled on his back, his lip and nose bleeding as he felt around searching for his glasses. There were big bruises on his arms from being so roughly dragged around. His treasured photograph of his grandfather came out of his bag, the goon stepping on it with a mocking sneer on his face as the glass crunched under his foot. He dropped Milo's glasses on the ground beside him. Immediately, Rourke was at his side, carefully handing them to Milo while glaring daggers at the traitors. He took hold of Milo's hand, helping him up. A slamming door caught his attention, and then Audrey was at Milo's side too. A second later, Vinny joined them, followed by Cookie and Mole and finally Packard. He couldn't believe it. Milo had gotten through to them. Or at least seeing his face still so determined even with blood dripping down it had. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough to convince Helga as she tried to argue the others back and they held firm in their protests. Finally, she gave up.
"If that's the way you want it, fine. More for me." she declared. With that, she climbed into one of the trucks and signaled to the driver of the other.
I want to thank my friend pankeiki-pandemic for giving me the idea for the thing with the car horn.