Sheppard blinked foggily at the Priestess as the serum took effect, then sat back heavily on his heels. Grasping his chin, she tilted his face upwards and stared into his eyes. Apparently satisfied with what she saw there, she dropped her hand and stood upright.
Imperiously, she began the questioning. "Who are you?"
Sheppard answered immediately. "Major John Sheppard."
"Where are you from?"
"The United States of America"
While that obviously meant nothing to the inquisitor, she didn't seem to care. "Why are you here?"
"Because we were captured by your men."
She smiled wryly at that; while not lying, it had neatly avoided her question. "Why were you in the building where we found you?"
"We were looking for technology to either help us against the Wraith or to help us get home."
She nodded in sympathy; these were goals she could understand. The Wraith were the enemies of all living creatures, and who wouldn't want to return to their home, wherever this 'United States' might be? Now for the important questions, though.
"Have you, to your knowledge, angered our Goddess?"
Succinct and to the point. "Have you been sent by our Goddess?"
Again, no apparent need for elaboration. Next, the vital query. "Did you cause the ground to shake?'
"Absolutely not." His gaze was steady as he awaited her next question. The relief of tension in the chamber was a physical sensation.
The native Priestess smiled gently and nodded to her men. "That is all we needed to know. Go in peace. My guards will show you the way out."
As she turned to go, McKay called out, "Excuse me, ma'am?"
She turned back, eyebrow arched at his temerity. "Yes?"
"Uh...when should we expect side effects, if there are going to be any?"
She looked at Sheppard sadly. "Probably within the hour."
Sheppard interjected; "We are looking for allies against the Wraith. We'd like to be able to count your people among those."
The Priestess realizing the truth serum was still quite active replied;" I think we'd like that, we will talk later when you are not at so much a disadvantage." Conversation over, she swept out of the room.
"We'd better get out of here, then," muttered Ford. Taking one elbow of their somewhat bemused commander, he gestured McKay to take the other, and the two of them muscled Sheppard out of the room.
True to her word, the Priestess's guards showed them through the maze of corridors until they suddenly found themselves blinking in the sunlight of late afternoon. Keying his radio, Ford called the Jumper.
"Jumper One here. Where have you guys been?!" The young man's relief was palpable.
"Tell you later; right now we have a medical emergency. Can you pick up our transponder signal?" He hit the locator button on the side of the radio; the 'Send' light began blinking on and off at regular intervals.
"Got it, sir! Be there in ten minutes."
"Out here." Ford turned back to where Sheppard was swaying on his feet. "How do you feel?" he asked, grasping the Major's shoulder gently.
Despite his desire to keep them from worrying, the Elixir forced the truth from his lips. "Like hell. My head is pounding, my muscles ache, and my stomach is turning somersaults. And you?"
Ford chuckled. "Oh, I'm all right. Let's sit you down while we wait for the Jumper."
An hour later the ship was emerging through the Stargate into the Atlantis Jumper Bay, to be met by an anxious Weir and the Medical team. Halfway home, Sheppard had begun vomiting, and soon afterwards lost consciousness. Having learned the details of the injury, followed by a potential poisoning, it was a grim Scotsman who finally boarded the craft as the hatch opened.
"Pulse 136, respiratory rate 32, BP 95 over 40." Dr. Beckett was not a happy man. "Alright; he needs fluids, and he needs them now. Simpson, get that IV started, run it wide open, then let's move him to the medical unit. Jones, have a dopamine drip ready when we get there, just in case he temporarily needs pressors."
Rodney paced as Beckett worked and the rest of the team looked on. "Got the line; Ringers running," declared the medtech.
A dicey 12 hours, and an exhausted Dr. Beckett finally made his way out to the anxious group waiting for word on the Major. Slumping into a chair outside the treatment area, he ran his fingers through matted hair and closed his eyes for a moment before speaking. "He was badly dehydrated, and it took hours to settle the dry heaves, but there is no neurologic deficit and he's finally stable and resting comfortably. He should be fine in a few days."
Weir spoke for them all when she murmured, "Thank God."
"Thank his ox-like constitution," muttered the doctor under his breath. He stood again, "I'm going to check on him one last time, then catch a quick catnap. I'd suggest that you all get some sleep as well; you've had a hard day."
"You can say that again," grumbled McKay. "I'm completely wrung out." Ford and Teyla just exchanged a smile and stood as well.
"Thank you, Doctor Beckett." Elizabeth Weir smiled her gratitude, then headed for the control room.
'I swear that woman doesn't sleep.' Beckett thought enviously.
"Now you're off duty until I say otherwise." Beckett admonished his recalcitrant patient. "I mean it. I hear about you even thinking about work before I've cleared you, and you'll spend the rest of your recuperation in this bed. Understand?"
John Sheppard sat on the edge of the cot, feeling for all the world like a truant child. Unfortunately, the alien truth serum was still circulating through his bloodstream, so he was forced to answer, "Yes, I understand." Unfortunately, he was also compelled to add, "But if I think I can get away with it, I might do a little paperwork."
Beckett laughed. "Well, you won't be doin' more than that for a while; at least not until you can fib jus' a wee bit." He became serious again. "I've told Weir about the serum still in your system; she's instructed everyone not to ask you any questions, even rhetorical ones, until we're sure it's worn off. It's the serum combined with the questioning that produces the nausea." He held out a small bottle of pills. "However, as it is hard for people to remember not to say phrases like, 'Hi, how's it going?', these Zofran should help."
Sheppard grimaced. "Well, the lady did say that there would be side effects. I just hope they wear off soon."
"You could always stay in your quarters until it's over. I'd be happy to have your meals delivered; just say the word."
"Nah, that won't be necessary. I'll manage." As much as he liked the doctor, he wanted some non-medical people to talk to.
"I expect you to check in daily. When you can tell me a lie, I'll let you go back to duty, but not before."
Despite John's optimism, he almost did confine himself to quarters. After an hour of being literally forced to answer all the well-meaning queries about his health, he fled. While he wanted to avoid any more inadvertent questions, he still craved human contact; so, he did the next best thing – he headed for McKay's lab. The astrophysicist was certain to be immersed in assessing the devices they had retrieved from the planet during his stay in the medical unit, and would either remain completely silent or would regale him with the details of his most recent brilliant discovery. Either way, no questions were involved.
Reaching the lab, he was chagrined to find Kavanagh and Zelenka in hot discussion with Rodney concerning the physics behind the potential function of the device currently sitting on the lab table. It was a sign of his desperation for even impolite human company that he rapped on the doorframe.
"No, I told you before; I don't care what your 'number-crunching' says, there's no way that...Oh, hello John. Come in." McKay glanced up long enough to acknowledge his existence before resuming his argument with Kavanagh. Sheppard smirked and sauntered into the room; this was just what the doctor ordered. These guys would completely ignore his existence until their dispute was resolved, and he would have background human chatter to remind himself that he was still alive and part of the Universe.
"Irritating as it may be, McKay is right." Zelenka pored over the sheets of formulae littering the table. "Despite your figures, there is no way that the instrument can perform in that fashion. Still, I can't find the flaw in your equations." He shook his head in frustration, then picked up the device. "Maybe we missed something here..."
John wandered about the lab, letting the words wash over him meaninglessly. He randomly picked up one item after another, turning each in his hands for a few moments before carefully returning it to its initial position.
McKay found the solid 'wandering spirit' distracting, and was in danger of losing track of the discussion he was embroiled in. He knew better than to ask, 'Can I help you?' or even, 'Would you like a cup of coffee?'. In fact, he suspected that the Major was here in order to avoid simple questions like that, as he was still compelled to answer them in mind-numbing, nausea-inducing detail. Perhaps a statement, then.
Rodney announced, "While you two are debating the math, I'll get us all coffee." He stood and headed for the mess hall. There were fewer things Sheppard could fiddle with while holding a full cup of coffee.
John had wandered over to the lab table by the time McKay had returned. He nodded his thanks as Rodney first handed him a full cup, then passed around the rest. Not much had been resolved in his absence.
"All right then, Zelenka; if you're so certain that McKay's right..." Kavanagh, having clearly forgotten the morning staff meeting and the prohibition on questions within Sheppard's hearing, pointed at the papers on the table. "Where are my equations wrong?!"
Rodney's eyes widened. If Sheppard got nauseated at being coerced to answer simple questions like 'How are you?', what would happen with a query that he didn't know the answer to? He was so busy figuring out the fastest way to reach Beckett that he almost missed the answer.
Sheppard, clearly against his will, shouldered between the two scientists and pointed at an equation halfway down the third page. "There."
"Excuse me?" asked Kavanagh. Rodney wondered if the man had slept through the staff meeting that AM.
"You inverted the denominator when you transposed the line above." The Major's teeth were actually gritted closed in his attempt not to speak, while Kavanagh stared at him incredulously.
"And just when did you discover that you were an expert in mathematics?," the pony-tailed scientist inquired sarcastically.
McKay, finally convinced that the man was simply an idiot, rounded on him. "OUT!!!! Get OUT of my lab! He'll vomit all over the artifacts if you persist in this stupidity!" He forcibly grabbed the larger man by the shoulders and practically threw him through the door, slamming it shut behind him. Kavanagh, concluding that Rodney was deranged, retreated wordlessly in a snit.
Turning back into the room, McKay found Zelenka staring at the page in question and Sheppard retching in the sink at the far end of the room. After a brief mental debate, McKay decided to wait on summoning Dr. Beckett; the physics, he had to see. As he approached the Czech, he overheard him murmur, "He's right; that was the error..."
Sheppard finished vomiting and was rinsing his mouth with water as Rodney examined the document. After looking at the line Zelenka pointed out, he looked disgusted. "Of course; why didn't we see it earlier?"
Sheppard returned at that point. He still appeared quite ill, until he grated out the words, "Third grade."
Rodney blinked at the apparent non sequitur, until he recalled Kavanagh's last heretofore unanswered query. 'What the Heck? He's some sort of expert in mathematics?' Well, he wouldn't ask about it right now, but this would certainly need follow-up after Sheppard had recovered from the truth serum. Anyone who could find an error in Kavanagh's work as easily as that...well, those were skills the expedition could use. For now, however...
"We'll talk about this some other time." He stated this with quiet assurance.
Zelenka finally abandoned his perusal of the papers and helped Rodney maneuver Sheppard to a chair, all the while grinning like an idiot. "I cannot tell you how thankful I am for your intervention." The Prague native carefully avoided questions as well. "You saved me hours, possibly days, of work, not to mention numerous interactions with...that man." He almost spat the last two words. "I am sorry, however, that it came about in this fashion. We would be happy to go get Beckett, if you'd like." Zelenka phrased his offer as a statement.
Taking a few deep breaths, the pilot shook his head. "No, I'll be fine. Thank you for kicking him out, McKay." He sighed and took a few more shuddering breaths. "I guess I owe you an explanation."
"No, you don't." Zelenka was quick to reassure him.
"However, anyone who can correct Kavanagh's formulae would be of immense usefulness to the base..." McKay was quick to add, wanting to investigate a potential asset.
"Anyone who can read Kavanagh's handwriting would be of immense usefulness to the base!," added Zelenka in muttered agreement.
Rodney and John both snorted at that. Kavanagh was not winning a lot of friends this day. The competition for 'Most Disliked Scientist' would be fierce, but Sheppard suspected that Kavanagh would win.
"I'll take it under advisement," the Major conceded, straightening. "I'm embarrassed to admit it, and probably wouldn't if it weren't for that damn truth serum, but I was considered a math prodigy as a child. However, mathematicians aren't well known as girl-magnets, and equations can't fly at more than 200 MPH. It wasn't the career for me."
"Fair enough." Rodney decided to drop the subject for the time being. "Still, it was nice to see him revealed for the imbecile that he really is. You really did save us a lot of work and time wasted arguing." 'And if we run into a similar situation in the future, I'll just threaten to run the math by Sheppard to check it over. That'll frost Kavanagh's jets!'
"I'm happy to help, but keep it quiet, OK?" He stood to go, then added as an afterthought, "All this happened because I insisted that I drink that truth-serum. Rule number four, McKay: always accept responsibility for your actions...and their consequences." With that, he strode out of the room.
'If I killed off Kavanagh, I wonder if I could get away with it? Probably not. Still...' Smiling at that amusing thought, he turned back to one of the few people he did get along with, and asked, "Let's get back to work, eh?"
AN: Were the updates fast enough for you? The idea that Sheppard is good at math comes from the Official Stargate Website, which states, "He presents a tough exterior and hides his mathematical ability. He has a wry sense of humor and likes to pretend he's not as smart as he really is." Kavanagh and Zelenka were both in "38 Minutes", which is easily my favorite episode so far. Also, thanks to my Beta, my husband, who managed to keep McKay's motivations truly consistent with McKay.